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 (Manna 86: Go and Make Disciples of All Nations)
An Equal Right to Salvation
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Vincent Yeung—Cambridge, UK

Across the world, we are witnessing a growing gap between the super wealthy and the rest of society. Oxfam reports that eighty-two percent of wealth created in 2017 went to the richest one percent, while the poorest half of the human race gained nothing.[1] This extreme imbalance between rich and poor is evident even in the specter of climate change: the effects of greenhouse emissions from more developed countries are wreaking havoc on poorer nations that are ill-placed and ill-equipped to survive extreme weather and rising sea levels.

Those advocating for the powerless against inequality, social injustice and corruption have brought such scandals to wider attention. It is important to fight for justice and equality for all, regardless of gender, race and social status. The question is, if we all deserve the right to life and equal opportunities, what about the right to eternal life?

The human ideal of equality finds a pleasing parallel in the impartial nature of God’s love: we are all undeserving of His grace, so we all have an equal right to salvation. With this logic, perhaps Christians of different denominations should not be so uptight about their differences and, instead, celebrate their shared values.

Ecumenism is the culmination of this belief. The ecumenical movement began in 1910 at the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh,[2] promoting unity within the Christian world. It seeks to bring diverse groups of Christians together to enact wider social and political change. The ecumenical movement has also gained traction in a broader context, promoting unity across all religions to work towards the common goals of freedom, charity, and peace for all.


The liberal, pluralistic Western society champions the moral standards of tolerance and inclusivity. While these principles afford us the freedom to thrive and to worship, political correctness can begin to seep into religious belief, to its detriment. In one BBC radio interview, the interviewer challenged the Christian belief that only faith in Jesus can save, calling this belief offensive. When the Christian interviewee pointed out that it is the teaching of the Bible, the interviewer retorted that this was a matter of opinion. We are now in a relativist, “post-truth” environment, where there is no absolute truth, only opinions. No wonder some Christians try to reconcile the unwavering and timeless teachings of the Bible with the inclusive attitude of liberal society. This leads to the belief that the blessing of Jesus applies to all; that every family of the earth will be blessed (Gen 12:3; 28:14), and that all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Lk 3:6).

The message of the True Jesus Church has become politically incorrect and diametrically opposed to the general direction of mainstream Christianity. The message of one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God (Eph 4:4–6) is outdated and backwards. The true church is seen as a sect, stuck in the past and irrelevant to the modern world.

And yet, we still carry the commission to preach to the ends of the earth. Should we dilute our message and join wider Christian and interfaith communities to promote social justice? Surely, this openness would not only make our lives easier, but also attract more souls to our fold and quicken our spread throughout the world. Before going down this path, we need to address two questions: Since God is all-loving and merciful, are biblical doctrines irrelevant to salvation? And what is the church’s role in making the world a better place?


To address the first question, let us look at the concept of universalism—the belief that all human souls will ultimately be reconciled to God, through His divine love and mercy.[3]

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples were eager to find out if the kingdom of Israel would be restored at that time (Acts 1:6). This question was borne of the misconception that the fallen Davidic kingdom (Amos 9:11) would be physically restored on earth. This idea was wholly rejected by Jesus, who emphatically proclaimed that His kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36). His kingdom arrived with power, as He foretold (Mk 9:1), when the Holy Spirit established the apostolic church at Pentecost (Acts 2).

Later, after healing a lame man at the temple, Peter spoke of the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). This has different connotations, depending on your interpretation. The original Greek is ἀποκατάστασις (apokatastasis), meaning “reconstitution, restitution or restoration to the original or primordial condition.” The Bible depicts the coming of the Messiah as the inauguration of a utopian period where there is no pain or destruction (Isa 11:6–9; 65:25). Death entered this world through Adam (Rom 5:11–12), but the “gift of righteousness” and “justification of life” came to all men through Jesus (Rom 5:17–18). The concept is clear, but its application is equivocal. Does the restoration of “all things” include the material world, as well as the whole of humankind—the good, the bad, and the indifferent?

According to universalism, the “restoration of all things” applies to all humankind, because God will “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10). God is love, and love never fails (1 Jn 4:8; 1 Cor 13:8). God commanded us to forgive, so if He were to cast sinners into endless punishment, would that not make Him a hypocrite? The punishment of hell depicted in the Bible must be temporary and remedial, not merely punitive, because nothing can overcome the love and compassion of God. Therefore, at some point, all human souls will become holy and know the joys of heaven.

Humanism: Logic and the Sanctity of Life

To understand the concept of universalism, we must recognize its debt to humanism. This is a philosophy that emphasizes the value of human life and individual agency, and that has a positive view of human nature. Modern humanism is fundamentally atheistic, and expresses itself in these terms:

Humanists are people who shape their own lives in the here and now, because we believe it's the only life we have. We make sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us with warmth, understanding, and respect [4]

These uplifting ideals have not only influenced society but also permeated the hearts and minds of modern Christians. This has led some Christians to reassess the Bible and their faith in a new light. They ask: How can an absolutely loving God be absolutely just—rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked (Rom 2:6–8)—at the same time? How could a merciful God allow the poor souls of sinners to suffer eternal torment?

To such Christians, the traditional teaching of heaven and hell has become irrelevant. To satisfy their human logic, these Christians attempt to bridge the perceived gap between God’s righteousness and mercy. The result is the belief that, at some stage, all believers, non-believers, sinners and saints will be forgiven and saved. Nothing is impossible for God, and in the big scheme of eternity, even a billion millennia would still be temporary. This is a comforting thought, but is it based on sound biblical teaching?

Contradictions: Theories Falsely Called Knowledge

Paul reminded Timothy to guard the faith by “avoiding…contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20). Persuasive though it is, universalism is an unproven theory. Much of its reasoning comes from the Scriptures, but we know that even the devil quotes the Scriptures (Lk 4:10–11). Throughout the ages, humankind has attempted to rationalize God’s nature and deeds, using human logic to explain any apparent contradictions. They either invent new language to blur or distract from the issue, or find some other way to explain it.

A classic example of this relates to Jesus’ dual nature—His simultaneously human and divine status as both the seed of David, according to the flesh, and the Son of God (Rom 1:3–4). In contemplating how the divine could exist in fallen flesh, the human mind has conceived such ideas as docetism and adoptionism. The former is the belief that Jesus’ body was not human, but some kind of phantom; He only appeared to suffer, while not experiencing physical pain. The latter is the belief that Jesus was merely a man, but was adopted by God because of His virtue. Not only are both of these theories heresies, they also fail to explain the so-called contradictions in Jesus’ nature, which is ultimately a mystery beyond human conception.


One Path to Salvation

Humans have a tendency to play with words to make unpleasant truths more palatable. God’s word, on the other hand, is absolute and immutable. When it comes to salvation, the Bible is unequivocal: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The only way to find God and salvation is through Jesus; as Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). In simple terms, no religion except Christianity can lead man to God.

Further, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Mt 7:21). Jesus foretold that many would enter the broad gate leading to destruction, and that few would enter the narrow gate leading to life (Mt 7:13–14). These verses indicate that not all Christians will be saved. In fact, Jesus declared, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5). It is clear that one needs to meet certain conditions in order to enter God’s kingdom. Whether one is saved or condemned (Jn 3:16; 5:29) depends on one’s actions. No amount of euphemism can nullify the gravity of God’s word.

There are Christians who accept that hell is a final destination, but argue that God would not allow the suffering of sinners to be eternal—they would just eventually cease to exist. This belief is called annihilationism. Again, this attempt to cast God’s judgement in a “friendlier” light is misguided. The Greek word translated as “perish” (ἀπόλλυμι, apollumi)[5] can indeed mean “total destruction,” but the word translated as “destruction” (ἀπώλεια, apóleia)[6]  also has connotations of being “completely cut off.” The latter better describes the “torments in Hades” experienced by the rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:23; cf. 2 Thess 1:9). 

The Urgency of the Gospel

Biblically, the concept of universalism does not hold up. If everyone will eventually receive salvation and enter the kingdom of God, what is the point of preaching the gospel, and with such urgency?

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2; 4:17; cf. Mt 10:7; Mk 1:15). This phrase is repeated throughout the Gospel books, and the message is clear: the kingdom is near and hearers must respond immediately, believe and come to the light (Jn 3:18–20). If universal salvation had been accomplished through Christ’s death on the cross, there would be no need to proclaim the gospel to all creation. There would be no need to preach that “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16; also see Mt 28:19–20). We would all be able to sit back and relax because, at some point in the future, everything and everyone, including Satan, will be restored. There would be no need for Jesus to point out the many criteria for being saved and the difficulty of entering the kingdom (Mt 18:3, 35; Lk 13:3, 5; Jn 3:5; 6:53; 13:8; 15:4; Mt 19:23). And there would be no need to cultivate our salvation with “fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).

Contend for the Truth

Salvation is, indeed, open to all humankind, since Jesus sacrificed Himself “once for all” (Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10). But does that mean we can continue to do and believe whatever we like, and still expect to receive salvation?

If doctrinal disputes are redundant, why did Jude encourage us to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3)? Why would Paul be willing to suffer in order to defend the faith (2 Cor 11:26–27; Gal 5:11; 1 Cor 15:20)? Why would he encourage Timothy to “hold fast the pattern of sound words,” keep “that good thing which was committed to you,” and “commit these [things] to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 1:13–14; 2:2)? If there is no resurrection, if Christ has not come in the flesh, and if circumcision is required for salvation (1 Cor 15:12–13; 1 Jn 4:3; Gal 5:3), why would the apostles dispute these beliefs? Why would the apostles warn against sin and unrighteousness if they were of little consequence (Rom 6:1–2; 1 Cor 6:9)?

The fact is that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). The church is not a cafeteria where you can pick and choose items according to your personal taste.

Do not be mistaken—in Matthew 25:46, “everlasting” punishment and “eternal” life are both based on the same Greek adjective: αἰώνιος (aiónios). Paul also describes the punishment as “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:9). In this verse, the original Greek word for “destruction” (ολεθρον, olethron, “ruination”) does not imply “extinction,” but total and everlasting separation from the Lord and His glory. There is no way back.

The truth and validity of God’s words remain the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Human theories and logic have no place if they contradict the teaching of the Bible. The Bible does not change, and neither does the message of the true church.


To address the question of what the church’s role in society should be, let us examine the forces driving the ecumenical trend. Given that modern society has become more liberal and pluralistic, and churches are seeing a decline in membership, it seems Christianity needs to become more relevant to attract believers. The most obvious method of reinvention is to downplay traditional doctrines in favour of something everyone can agree on: social justice, making the world a better place, and providing charity to those in need. By emphasizing the endeavors and issues they are similarly passionate about, theologically divergent groups can be drawn together.

Many Christians who interpret the Bible strictly hold a strong pro-life stance, a traditional view of family, a commitment to care for the homeless and sick, and a desire to see justice in the world. It would make sense for these Christians to set aside their differences to create a global organization to push for the change they wish to see in the world. But should the true church join with other churches to promote such charitable causes?

As a church, we should not forget our responsibility to care for our members and broader society. When there is a natural disaster, the church should address the immediate needs of those suffering and comfort the bereaved. But we should not forget the primary mission of the church: to preach the gospel of salvation. Jesus, out of compassion, healed all kinds of sickness and disease (Mt 4:23; 9:35), performed miracles to feed the crowds (Mt 14:14–21; 15:32–38), and, when He sent out the twelve, commanded them to heal the sick, cleanse lepers and raise the dead (Mt 10:8). But we should note that He always prioritized preaching the gospel above addressing the physical needs of the people (Mt 10:7–8).

The Spiritual Mission of the Church

When Jesus’ anointing at Bethany is retold, the emphasis is often placed on the woman’s unreserved sacrifice for Jesus—her willingness to give up a precious flask of costly fragrant oil. But notice the reaction of the disciples, who indignantly asked, “Why this waste?” (Mt 26:8).

Today, we could point to the many hours spent on church administration: repetitive discussions about human and financial resources, fundraising for local church buildings, event schedules, and so on. The humanitarian efforts of our church fall into this list, and, just as Jesus reminds us that we will always have the poor (Jn 12:8; Mt 26:11), these administrative and humanitarian tasks will continue indefinitely.

We need to pray for the wisdom of Mary—to be able to serve God unreservedly and in a timely manner (Jn 12:3, 7; Mt 26:12). The Bible tells us that the angels rejoice over one repentant sinner (Lk 15:10), not when a road is built or a well is dug in a developing country, and not when a food bank is stocked in the developed world. Time is short and opportunity is fleeting (Rom 13:12; Jn 12:35–36), so we should preach the gospel while it is still day.


Proponents of universalism would have us believe that we will all be saved eventually. But the apostle Peter tells us to “be even more diligent to make [our] call and election sure,” to secure our entrance into the “everlasting kingdom” (2 Pet 1:10–11). Our salvation is not a given. The Bible warns us not to be swayed by philosophy and vain deceit, beguiled by persuasive words, or carried about by strange doctrines (Col 2:8, 4; Heb 13:9; Eph 4:14).

This diverse and liberal society is the ideal environment for wide-ranging ideas to flourish, but True Jesus Church members should beware of human philosophies creeping into their faith. These philosophies can seem logical and persuasive, but they are not the truth of God. For example, consider the well-known philosophical conundrum: can the Omnipotent God create an immovable object that even He cannot move? By the logic of this conundrum, no matter if the answer is yes or no, God’s omnipotence is disproved. This logic is circulatory and hermetically sealed. But God cannot be reduced to fit a human definition of omnipotence; it is not possible to apply cold logic to God’s nature and existence.

God says, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Rom 9:15), yet humans judge this to be unfair. God says, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14) and calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 22:13), yet humans yearn to remake God in their own image. We are His creatures, and should remember that we cannot question His sovereignty (Rom 9:20).

Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). There is only one body, one hope, one faith and one baptism (Eph 4:4–5), and only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21). From a human perspective, these words are offensive to members of other religions and Christian denominations; but to believers, they are words of salvation. We do not condemn those who do not believe and remain in darkness. It is the gospel that judges (Jn 12:46–48; 3:18); it is the gospel that evokes and demands a response. Jesus’ salvation is effective only for those who believe, and restoration is granted only to those who respond (Jn 3:19–20). With this knowledge, believers of the gospel should not hold back, but go forth confidently to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).

[1] “Richest 1 percent bagged 82 percent of wealth created last year – poorest half of humanity got nothing,” Oxfam International, January 22, 2018, https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2018-01-22/richest-1-percent-bagged-82-percent-wealth-created-last-year.

[2] “Ecumenism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed April 26, 2018, https://www.britannica.com/topic/ecumenism.

[3] Alan Richardson and John Bowden, A New Dictionary of Christian Theology (London: SCM Press, 1983), 591.

[4] Humanists UK website, accessed April 26, 2018, https://humanism.org.uk/.

[5] John 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

[6] Matthew 7:13; Romans 9:22; Philippians 3:19.

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Author: Vincent Yeung
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 09/28/2018