In theological terms, 'universalism' is the belief that all humanity is 'saved' & headed for 'Heaven'. Most or many Christians deny this of course, some most voraciously, while others have embraced this theology & call themselves 'Christian Universalists'. Christian Universalism, in general terms, teaches a Universal Reconciliation, in essence, that all humanity will eventually be saved. Numerous different Scriptures ( I Timothy 4:10, I John 2:2, et al ) seem to indicate that this is true insofar as the Creator God has reconciled the world to Himself ( II Corinthians 5:19 ( Romans 11:5 ), though the world, in its totality, has not ( yet ) reconciled itself to the Creator God
The Wikipedia article on the subject puts it this way; 'Universalism is a theological and philosophical concept with universal application or applicability. Universalist doctrines consider all people in their formation.' In other words, while the Gospel, in terms of the Scriptures, was presented, or revealed, to the Hebrew nation, or Israel, its message was given to spread from there throughout the world, to all of humanity. The Gospel, or 'Good News' is that the Creator God invested Himself into His Creation, by placing His Image in them, thus making them His Living Temple. Again, because all have not ( yet ) reconciled with their Heavenly Father, it should be clear that not all fulfill or realize this function!
The Story that we read in Scripture is indeed the Story of Israel:the 'Good News of Salvation' was a message primarily for the Jews, although it included the Gentiles as well. With the fulfillment (
filling up ) of the Gospel ( Colossians 1:23 ) & thus the fulfillment of salvation, the question has surfaced about whether it is proper to continue the use of this terminology ( 'salvation' ). The traditional Christian doctrine of salvation, including the doctrine of Heaven & Hell is thus brought into question, since the salvation that Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, brought, was primarily for them. Thus, it could well be argued, were the constructs of Heaven & Hell. It has been shown that the traditional doctrine of Hell is not so much a biblical construct as a mythological Greek one.
Evangelical Christianity teaches, in other words, maybe, that Jesus came to save us from our sins & an eternity in Hell; more correctly, though, it should be noted that He came to deliver the Jews from their self-imposed Exile & to save them from the biblical 'Lake of Fire'. In Jewish literature, this has been shown to be 'gehenna', or the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem & mistranslated as 'hell'. As this was all accomplished in the first century with the destruction of Jerusalem, the leading question of whether people today are saved from Hell, is rendered all but moot!
The Salvation that Jesus the Christ brought to the Jews was thus fulfilled; those chosen 'before the foundation of the world' ( Ephesians 1:4 ( Matthew 25:34 ) having escaped to the mountains, as Jesus instructed ( Matthew 24:16 ), while the rest perished in the fiery 'hell' of AD70. The doctrine of Salvation, then, or Soteriology, must be understood, not as salvation from the traditional concept of 'hell', but as a deliverance from the bondage which exists, ultimately & only within our own minds!
People, in particular, those suffering from religious indoctrination, to whatever extent, often feel separated from their Heavenly Father when they fail to live up to their calling. Although there is something to this, it is not so much an actual separation as it is simply a feeling of guilt, a self-imposed exile if you will: this feeling might be likened to our earthly fathers whose presence we tried to avoid when we knew that we had failed them in some way. Sooner or later, usually sooner rather than later, they found us & reassured us of their continued love for us, even though we may have been 'reprimanded', however harshly, for our mistake.
The Story of Israel, as we have noted previously, is the Story of Humanity. Although we skate on thin ice when we endeavor to place ourselves in their Story, we can see many similarities. Since the Advent of the New Covenant, though, there is much that has changed; for one thing, we are no longer under Law, though many Christians seem to think we are, but we are under Grace, to use Scriptural terminology. We are not waiting for a Messiah, political or otherwise, to show up & deliver us from the 'hell' we created; in the same 'vein', we are not waiting for all things to be made anew, for we are, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'a new creation' ( II Corinthians 5:17 ). Here too, we must remember that in speaking of being found 'in Christ', Paul was speaking directly to his contemporaries, both Jew & Gentile, not to us!
Both 'Heaven' & 'Hell', in some sense, exist, here on earth! In the sense that we enjoy the Presence of our Heavenly Father, we live in 'Heaven'. However, there are those who purposefully flout the Laws of Nature & Nature's God; more often than not, these find themselves in their own private 'hell' ( although sometimes, it's not very private ). In some sense, then, we might almost understand 'salvation' today as deliverance from 'hell', while those who enjoy the Blessings of the New Covenant do not have to die in order to enter 'Heaven'!
With the fulfillment of the Story of Israel came the Fulfillment of Salvation! Though, as we have borne witness to, there are those who have committed such acts of atrocity that there seems to be no hope of reconciliation. Some even, who still cling, however tenaciously, to life, seem to stubbornly refuse to reconcile with their Heavenly Father & with His Son, the Christ. For such as these, we may only dare to hope & pray, with Love!
The Hope for Salvation to which most, if not all people cling, to whatever extent & in whatever form, is a universal construct. Many seek such 'salvation' outside themselves , but it is only to be found through the Christ Within, for it is through the choices we make that one lives in 'Heaven' or 'Hell'!
'Universalism' then, TRUE 'universalism', is not so much the belief that everyone will eventually be saved, as it is the belief that it is our own choices & our acceptance or rejection of the Good News of the Christ Within which determines whether or not we enjoy the Blessings of our Inheritance. The Scope of the Gospel, or Good News to Israel was, ultimately for all mankind; it was not, as many in Israel thought it should be, exclusive to those within Israel. The inclusiveness of the New Covenant is ultimately freeing & truly Good News; only those who realize & accept its blessings will enjoy them, it is true; however, one cannot simply place limits on something that is limitless!
Charles Haddon Shank