To continue with the Scriptures used to refute universal salvation, let us look at John 3:36: “He that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” There was a time when all of us were unbelievers and were without a knowledge of Christ, but when we became believers, and came to be in Christ, we received life. Can we say this Scripture teaches that those who die in their sins will never see life, or will never be resurrected? Revelation 20:15 says they will, as do John 5:25-30; Acts 24:15, 21; 26:8 and the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. John 3:36 is speaking of not seeing “eonian life,” or “life of the ages,” not “eternal life.”
The Emphasized Bible (Rotherham) translates the verse, “He that believes on the Son hath life age-abiding; whereas he that yieldeth not unto the Son shall not see life, but the anger of God awaiteth him.”
The Emphatic Diaglott (Wilson): “He believing into the Son has aionian life; but he disobeying the Son shall not see life, but the anger of God abides on him.”
Young’s Literal Translation: “He who is believing in the Son hath life age-during; and he who is not believing the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God doth remain on him.”
Concordant Version: “He who is believing into the Son has eonian life, yet he who is stubborn as to the Son, shall not be seeing life, but the indignation of God is remaining on him.”
The Greek word menei, a 3 person singular, present active indicative form from meno, means “remaining,” or “abiding,” and has no meaning of endlessness. Should it have meant so, then our Lord would still be abiding wherever He was when those came to question him, as recorded in John 1:38, for the same word is found in that verse, and was translated “dwellest” in the KJV.
That the Scriptures declare an end to God’s anger should dispel the notion that God’s wrath will abide upon a mass of people “forever and ever.” Psa. 103:9 says: “He will not always chide, neither will he keep His anger forever.” His anger is “age-abiding,” “age-during,” or “eonian,” not “forever.” Even leaving the incorrect “forever” in this text proves an end to God’s wrath.
Believers in Christ have eonian life, life through the ages. The ones not believing will not see that life, but will be raised, judged and sent into death a second time. The second death of Rev. 20:14 and 21:8 is not endless, for Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:26 that death will be destroyed. “Therefore, we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Savior of ALL mankind, specially of those who believe.” (1 Tim. 4:10) God is the Savior of ALL, but in this eon He is offering a special salvation, that of life throughout the eons, to those who believe. At the end of the eons, the remainder of mankind will also be made alive in Christ. Those who believe that have no difficulty with John 3:36.
Second Thessalonians 1:9 says (KJV), “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord…” The Greek text says, olethron aionion, “eonian extermination.” The word does not imply extermination beyond recovery, for it is limited to the eons by the adjective modifying it. The word is used at 1 Cor. 5:5, where it is recorded that Paul delivered “such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” There is no word in all of Scripture which even suggests annihilation, eternal destruction, loss or death from which there is no recovery, or a condition from which salvation is impossible. Always such terms as “destruction,” “perish,” “be lost,” and “death,” are relative to a period of time during an eon or during the eons.
The fire the KJV says “never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43-44) and “where the worm dieth not” are regarded by some as the most terrifying of all found in the Scriptures. To many this verse is “proof” for the endlessness of “hell-fire” (Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17; Mark 9:43-46,48). But of what was the Lord speaking? The word “worm” is correctly translated here, as well as at Isa. 66:24 and Jonah 4:2. It in no way can be construed to mean it destroys the spirit, for that returns to God upon death (Ecc. 12:7; Luke 23:46; Acts 7:57). Neither can it destroy the soul, for it can be destroyed in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28). Rather, the thought expressed here is that just as worms feed upon partly decayed flesh, they will feed upon the unburned portions of the bodies of the dead who are cast into Gehenna during the millennial eon when some fail to observe the kingdom code. Those will not be allowed to continue, lest they contaminate the kingdom. But notice also that it is never said that any living being will be cast into Gehenna.
The word “unquenchable” occurs four times in the N.T. (Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17; Mark 9:43, 45). An unquenchable fire is one which is not put out, but continues to burn until all is consumed. In the past God brought unquenchable fire against Jerusalem and other places (Jer. 4:3,4; 7:16-20; 21:11,12, and Eze. 20:45-49). Those fires are not burning today. Those who are cast into Gehenna will be suffering their first death, and that for specific acts of wickedness. Some will pass directly into the kingdom from this eon without dying first. This was the secret Jesus revealed to Martha, as recorded at John 11:26. But those who are cast into Gehenna will be raised after the thousand-year reign of Christ, at the time of the white throne judgment, and will be judged and requited for their deeds. Then all whose names are not found in the book of life will suffer a second death (Rev. 20:1-5; Rom. 2:1-16), after which they will be raised at the consummation of the eons, when death will have been destroyed, and ALL will have been reconciled to God. The judgment of Gehenna has nothing to do with the final state, nor are its consequences endless, nor of eternal duration.
Another common argument against Universal Reconciliation is the case of Judas. Advocates of everlasting punishment quote the KJV, Mark 14:21, “The Son of Man indeed goeth, as it is written of him : but woe to that man by whom the son of Man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born.” The first question which must be settled is whether Jesus uttered these words as translated in the KJV. As the last clause in this verse is used in opposition to Universal Reconciliation, let us look carefully at the Greek text: kalon ên auto eiouk egennêthê ho anthropos ekeinos, “Ideal were it for Him if that man were not born” or “It were ideal for Him if that man was not born.” The question is asked, Who is the Him? The answer is in the preceding clause. There we have the pronoun autou, “Him,” and anthropo ekeino, “that man,” both referred to in such a way that we cannot mistake them. “The Son of Man indeed goeth as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” “Him” is the Son of Man, “that man” is Judas. The Him cannot refer to Judas, therefore the text can be paraphrased as, “Ideal were it for Him (the Son of Man) if that man (Judas) were not born.” Notice how the following versions translates this clause: The ASV, 1901 margin, “Good were it for him if that man had not been born;” Rotherham’s version, “Well for him if that man had not been born;” Murphy’s edition of the Douay Version and the New Testament translated from the Latin Vulgate, 1898, “It were better for him, if that man had not been born;” (the following three versions are quoted in the original spelling) Wiclif, 1380, “It were good to hym if thilke man hadde not been borun;” Tyndale, 1534, “Good were it for him if that man had never bene borne;” Rheims, 1582, “it vvere good for him, if that man had not been borne.” Therefore, Mark 14:21 does not contradict Col. 1:15-20; 1 Tim. 4:9-11; Rom. 5:18, 19; etc., all teaching the ultimate salvation of Judas. John Albert Bengel in his New Testament Word Studies, vol. 1, p. 290, says about this clause, “This phrase does not necessarily imply the interminable eternal of perdition.” Dr. Bengal was a German Lutheran theologian.