Among the universalist motifs in Revelation, these 2 texts stand out:
(1) Implicit universalist themes in NT Christian hymnody continue in Revelation 5:13:
"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To the One who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’’”
Again, are we to assume that the damned worship God and Christ only to await a lever to be pulled that opens the gates of darkness and sucks them down, screaming back to Hell? Presumably their praise and worship are expressions of gratitude for their ultimate redemption. But how do John’s visions perceive the mechanism of their redemption?
(2) Rev. 21 portrays the descent of the New Jerusalem which never actually lands on Earth and which is therefore clearly an image of Heaven. Its gates remain eternally open:
“Its gates will never be shut by day–and there is no night there (21:25).”
This image of eternally open gates implies traffic coming and going. But coming and going for what purpose? On what missions? The answer must surely be sought from John’s vision of what lies outside the gates: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (22:15).”
So the traffic coming and going through the eternally open gates involves soul retrievals of the repentant damned, who are destined to join the heavenly chorus of 5:13.
The next 2 Christian apocalypses after Revelation reinforce this glorious hope in their depiction of the reaction of deceased saints to the absence of their damned loved ones from Heaven. These saints intercede for soul retrievals or outright reclamation of the damned from Hell and their petitions are granted (see Apocalypse of Peter 14 (125 AD); Sibylline Oracles II, 331-335 (150 AD)).
John’s imagery implies this glorious but never stated principle for God’s fulfillment of His redemptive purpose: Heaven cannot be Heaven for the redeemed whose essence is love as long as they remain aware of loved ones languishing in Hell. Your success is my success, but your failure is my failure.
More on universalism in Revelation in a future post.
1st resurrection (19:5)
2nd death (21:8)