The God Who Punishes: Universalism & Matthew 25:46

“. . . while to those who have proved of inferior merit, or of something still meaner than this, or even of the lowest and most insignificant grade, will be given a body of glory and dignity corresponding to the dignity of each one’s life and soul; in such a way, however, that even for those who are destined to ‘eternal fire’ or to ‘punishments’ the body that rises is so incorruptible, through the transformation wrought by the resurrection, that it cannot be corrupted and dissolved even by punishments.” 1

Origen of Alexandria, On First Principles, Chap. X. Sec. 3.

I’m an odd case in this debate. Though I now lean towards annihilationism, I consider the above quote to be one of my favorites, especially since I consider it a fine piece of patristic literature. With respect to the current debate on the eternality and function of eschatological post-resurrection punishment, all three views must put forth somewhat speculative arguments in support of refinement, torment, or death. Having been immersed in evangelical universalist literature for over a year,2 I think I’m in a good position to offer the universalist some grist for their theological mills. This post will specifically focus on the singular proof-text3 containing a statement by Jesus in Matthew chapter twenty-five and verse forty-six. I am not entirely settled on my interpretation of this verse, as I find the narrative-historical interpretation generally offered by Andrew Perriman4 to be quite compelling. However, for the sake of this discussion, I will assume that this climactic point concerns post-mortem final judgment. For the most part I find the universalist interpretation of this text rather strained so my intent is to offer a constructive critique that will hopefully add some light instead of heat.5 Continue reading “The God Who Punishes: Universalism & Matthew 25:46”

  1. There is a gap that follows this sequence, left by Rufinus []
  2. Indeed, I was one before I discovered far more evidence in favor of the eternal death of mortal men and women []
  3. Usually cited, erroneously, by traditionalists []
  4. The Coming of the Son of Man: New Testament Eschatology for an Emerging Church (Wipf & Stock, 2012), 282 pp. []
  5. There are multiple authors I could engage but since Tom Talbott has the most influence within an evangelical universalist context I will limit myself to engaging with him. Also, many universalist Christians use Talbott as an exegetical and theological springboard []