The following is a simple, clear syllogism supporting Universalism. This syllogism is an argument built on premises taken directly from Scripture. Although it has been posted here before, I repost it with a more thorough look at the key underlying Greek word for desire.
Premise 1: God desires all be saved. (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:4: “[God] who desires (thelo) all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”)
Premise 2: God accomplishes all He desires. (e.g., Isaiah 55:11: “So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire (thelo, from the Septuagint), And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”)
Conclusion: All will be saved.
Some have rejected the conclusion of this syllogism by contending that God has two wills, one akin to a determination but another to a commandment. They contend that God’s will or desire that all be saved is not something that God determines to happen but is instead more of a commandment that can be defied. Thus, they say, this argument does not necessarily hold.
John Piper has written about the subject here. The Greek word for will or desire in verses cited by Piper to support his case is thelema. That word has very different meanings. It can mean “determine,” in which case, if God determines it, it will happen. Humans are powerless to change whatever God determines to happen. But it can also mean “command.” Consequently, if it means “command,” what is commanded by God may not happen, for humans can and do freely choose to ignore commandments. So, here we have different interpretations, even opposing ones, depending on which definition is used: a determination is not a commandment.
To support his case, Piper’s points out Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven,” in which will, translated from thelema, seems to mean “determine” and 1 Peter 4:2, “so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God,” in which will, translated from thelema, seems to mean “command.”
There is a serious problem in rejecting the conclusion of the syllogism based on Piper’s logic that God’s will or desire does not necessarily mean that all will be saved. That problem stems from failing to observe the original Greek wording in the particular verses supporting the syllogism premises above. These verses do not rely on the word thelema that Piper uses to help establish the idea that God has two wills, but instead on the word thelo. Thelo does not have disparate definitions, as does thelema. The definition of thelo, especially when it refers to God, is “to sovereignly decide a matter” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). Thus, in this case, it does not refer to a commandment or anything else that can be defied.
But actually, one does not need to consult a theological dictionary to discern that the meaning of thelo when referring to God is a determination, not a commandment. One need refer only to the above Isaiah verse in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, or the Septuagint: “It [my word] will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire (thelo), And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
When thelo is the underlying word for will or desire, as it is in the verses supporting the syllogism premises, whatever God desires, He accomplishes. It is a determination. Thus, there is no rational basis to reject the conclusion of the syllogism–that all will be saved–in the language of the verses supporting the premises.