Here we continue with another chapter from Charles Weisman’s book Is Universalism of God? — with his important critique of the so-called “universal church” promoted by literally every mainstream “judeo-Christian” church.
The Universal Church
One of the main arguments among Universalists — and humanist Christians — is that after the [crucifixion], Jesus supposedly established a “universal church” of which “all peoples” of the earth are — or can be — members.
After the crucifixion — as the argument goes — there no longer remained any restriction to the “seed of Israel” as God changed His mind and was now accepting people of all races as His “chosen people” — and all they need to do is accept Jesus Christ as their “personal Savior.”
They will also use the Great Commission as a main part of their universal, multi-racial church, but they also rely on other issues and topics to justify their position.
Let us then look at some of the verses which are used to support this universalist position:
“And there were dwelling at Jerusalem .Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven….Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians.”–Acts 2:5-11
In referring to these verses, many humanist Christians and Universalists will proclaim their belief in the so-called “internationality of the cross.” They claim that “internationality is one of the prime glories of the New Covenant.”
They further claim that at Pentecost (in Acts 2) the Spirit spoke to all nations and races — Cretans and Arabs, Egyptians, Lybians and Asians — as “proof” that many different races were a part of this early church gathering.
But they always miss the fact that this international congregation consists of “Jews, devout men out of every nation” (Acts 2:5). The term “Jews” here would be more correctly rendered as “Judeans” which was at that time was synonymous with “Israel” (Acts 13:16,42).
In other words, this was an international gathering of devout Israelites who had come out from many different nations — which explains why Peter addresses them as “Ye men of Israel” (Acts 2:22) — and not as “Ye men of many races.”
Yes, the scope of Christ’s mission is international, but “internationality” does not necessarily mean inter-racial.
America was originally founded by men from out of the nations of England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Germany, and France. They are of different nations, but still of one race.
And so it was with the first church assembly on Pentecost.
Universalists will often quote Malachi out of context to support their position:
“Have we not all one father? has not one God created us?”–Malachi 2:10
Upon this text Universalists base their argument of “universal paternity” — that God is the father of the whole human family — and consequently He will save or redeem everyone. This “fatherhood of God” concept is also found in the New Age religion and many Gnostic teachings.
However, if God is the “father” of all human types simply because He is their creator, then He must also be the “father” of toads, catfish, bacteria and grass — as the Hindus seem to believe.
This, however, is clearly not the idea conveyed in this verse in Malachi. The roles of “father” and “creator” describe two different relationships with God. Obviously the “we” in this verse cannot mean everyone on the planet.
The subsequent part of the verse — which Universalists have no choice but to ignore — identifies who the “we” is speaking here:
“Why do we deal treacherously with one another, by profaning the covenant of the fathers? Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem.”–Malachi 2:10,11
It should be quite clear that the “we” here was limited to only those of Judah and Israel. Now if one has God as his father, then — and only then — are they a “child of God.”
Paul describes the “children of God” as the “children of the promise.” This promise, he says, is the one given to Abraham — that he would have a son by Sarah, and that son was Isaac (Romans 9:8:9).
Universalists will also cite Revelation 5 and 7 in hopes of bolstering their position:
“And they sung a new song, saying, ‘Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.’”–Revelation 5:9
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”–Revelation 7:9
They claim that these verses describe God’s “universal” and multi-racial Church containing every race and nation. They will even insist that the verses leave no room for disputing that these are the redeemed from all races of the world.
It is easily verifiable that the English word “kindred” in these verses is derived from the Greek word for “tribes” as it is rendered in most other translations.
The word for “kindred” in the Greek is phule (#5443) which means:
“…a tribe; in the New Testament all the persons descended from one of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob. Or a race, a nation, people.”–Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, p.660
Thus the word “tribe” in these verses refers specifically to the tribes of the Israel people as a race — and does not mean the entire population of the planet. Also, the term “people” here — like the word “tribe” — is often used to describe the Israel people.
Further, Revelation 5:9 is not describing every race as being redeemed, but only the “us” who are singing in this verse — and this “us” would be the “twenty-four elders” and the “four living creatures” mentioned in the previous verse (Revelation 5:8).
They are the ones singing the new song of Revelation 5:9. These “twenty-four elders” represent the heads of the Old Testament, the twelve patriarchs of Israel, and the heads of the New Testament — the twelve Apostles [see Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary on the Bible, vol. 2, p. 564].
These then are the headships for the Israel people. The “four living creatures” are said to look like a lion, a calf, the face of a man, and a flying eagle (Revelation 4:7). These creatures symbolically represent the “four standards” under which Israel encamped in the wilderness.
To the east was Judah (lion) — to the north, Dan (eagle) — to the west, Ephraim (calf or ox) — and to the south, Reuben (a man) [see Numbers 2].
In their midst was the tabernacle containing the Shekinah symbol of the Divine presence. In Revelation 5, the living creatures represent the whole body of the Israel people — all twelve tribes. The creatures and the twenty-four elders surround the throne of the Lamb of God.
Thus in Revelation 5, we are given a picture of that blessed period which Hosea foretold of when “the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head” — which, of course, is Christ the Lamb (Hosea 1:10).
As for Revelation 7:9, it is not describing the entire population of the earth as clothed in white robes, but rather a “multitude” which has come out OF all nations, tribes, people and tongues. This multitude includes the 144,000 of the twelve tribes of Israel that were “sealed” (verses 5-8). The 144,000 is not a literal quantity, but is used to signify the completeness of Israel [see The Abingdon Bible Commentary, edited by Eiselen, Lewis & Downey, NY, 1929, p. 1381].
So the 144,000 is representative of the regathered Israelite tribes that have become a great multitude from all nations, and tribes, and peoples and tongues. They are the ones who chant together a hymn of praise ascribing salvation to God and the Lamb.
Universalists will always quote Romans 11 to promote the universal church — while ignoring what the olive tree actually represents:
“And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree.”–Romans 11:17
Christian humanists and universalists always claim that all races can be grafted onto the olive tree, and thus are members of God’s elect; however, this verse actually disproves the notion of a multi-racial church.
The only thing being grafted onto the olive tree — which represents Israel — are olive branches, either “wild” — the lost Israelite tribes — or “natural” branches — the Israelites in Judea.
There are no branches from apple trees, fig trees, pine trees, almond trees, maple trees, or chestnut trees grafted onto the olive tree.
The olive tree is one of the symbolic figures used for the Israel people:
“The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.”–Jeremiah 11:16
“His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.”–Hosea 14:6
Universalists claim that the “wild olives” are “gentiles” to justify the adoption of non-Israelites among God’s people. But the “wild” olive is not a different type or species from the natural olive:
“The wild olive is a kind of reversion to the primitive plant — and it takes place whenever the growth of the olive is neglected. Groves of wild olives are always the descendants of cultivated trees long ago destroyed.”—Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, NY, 1909, p. 667.
The “wild” olive branches are the divorced house of Israel which were “scattered abroad” and neglected by God.
They were not part of the original (natural) olive tree which God has preserved, delivered and protected up to this point in time. The two types of olive branches are now being united — while some of the natural branches (Judean Israelites) are rejected.
This is metaphor or parable of the prophesied regathering and reunion of the house of Judah and the entire house of Israel:
“In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.”–Jeremiah 3:18
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.”–Hosea 1:10-11
The two olive branches are like the two sticks God had Ezekiel identify as Judah and Israel and join together (Ezekiel 37:15-28).
Note that under the New Covenant, the grafting of the two olive branches involves the salvation and forgiveness of all the Israelite tribes — not just the “natural” branches, as Peter first believed:
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”–Romans 11:26-27
Despite these facts, universalists will never the less claim that redemption and salvation will be extended to all types of “branches” regardless of whether or not they are olive by citing this passage from Luke:
“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shalt be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”–Luke 2:10-11
They take this passage out of context to show how Christ allegedly came to save and redeem “all people” of the earth — not just Israelites. But bringing “good tidings” is hardly an act of salvation or redemption. Also, it is one thing to bring good tidings of great joy to a man, and it is another thing for him to accept them.
Further, are universalists certain that “all people” means every person in the world? This is not the case in other verses:
“And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other.”–Deuteronomy 28:64
The Israelites, as a punishment for their sins, were never scattered among the Japanese, the
Polynesians, the Eskimos or pygmy tribes.
“And no man could withstand them [the Jews], for the fear of them fell upon all people.”–Esther 9:2
The fear of the Jews fell upon only a small fraction of the inhabitants of the globe at that time.
“And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations and languages trembled and feared before him.”–Daniel 5:19
Did all people of the planet tremble before Nebuchadnezar? Obviously not.
Christ’s advent was certainly not “glad tidings” to most of the Pharisees or priests of His time. Nor is it to Jews of our time — who have despised Him for centuries.
And Universalists even go so far as to suggest this verse from Acts supports their thesis:
“But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”–Acts 10:28
This text is concerning the vision of the sheet, which Peter saw let down from heaven, full of “all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (Acts 10:12).
Universalists contend that these living creatures represent the whole human family — and that Peter was told that none of them were to be regarded as “common or unclean.” Furthermore, Universalists even go so far as to claim that before this vision Peter thought that only Israelites were the concern of God’s salvation and the Gospel message — but God gave him this vision to straighten him out about his non-universal position.
Yet Universalists will quote what Peter said years before this in Acts 3:21, regarding “the restitution of all things,” as an example of Universalism and the restoration of all races and people.
Further, years after this vision, Peter speaks of a “chosen race” (1 Peter 2:9) — so obviously the Universalists have entirely misunderstood the design of this vision and Peter’s intentions.
Universalists assert that this episode shows that all races are now admitted into the church or congregation of God, but the whole word of God does not bear this out. When the vision of the various animals was presented to Peter, he was told to eat them. Peter said that he had never eaten anything that was common or unclean.
The response was, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common” (v. 15). Peter then realized that these animals represent men (v. 28), which were made clean or holy by God.
To make clean or holy is an act of sanctification — so who was it that God sanctified under the New Covenant? Jesus had sanctified those whom He calls “brethren”:
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”—-Hebrews 2:11-12
This verse is derived from Psalm 22:22 where the Messiah says He will declare God’s name “to My brethren” — and the next verse (23) identifies His brethren as “All you descendants of Jacob”:
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.”–Psalm 22:22-23
These different animals Peter saw represent the dispersion of Israel in different nations — those who have been cast off, rejected, divorced from God, uncircumcised, and not members of any tribe.
As such they would be regarded as “unclean” or “common” (unholy) by a Judean Israelite at that time. But by the blood of Christ all of Israel was sanctified and made holy in the sight of God — not just the Judeans.
The vision given to Peter was not to show that there are no longer any distinctions between clean and unclean foods — but rather it showed that the barriers between Judeans who were still God’s people, and the divorced house of Israel (the so-called “Gentiles” or nations) are no more.
This regathering of all Israel is the true meaning of this verse from Galatians which is the most often — and falsely — quoted verse from scripture by Universalists:
“There is neither Judean nor Greek, for they are all one in Christ.”–Galatians 3:28
After the vision Peter went on to preach to Cornelius in Acts 10. Yet since Cornelius was a Roman and not one whom they would call an Israelite, Universalists state that his acceptance of Christ and his baptism now signals admission of all races into the church of Christ.
Thus they use this as a pretext for the integration of blacks, Asians and Indians into White churches and communities — thus jumping to a bizarre conclusion and making an analogy not supported by the text.
The Romans at that time — especially the aristocratic class such as Cornelius — were descendants of the Etruscan civilization — the founders of which were Phoenician and Hebrew immigrants to the land, as revealed by their similar alphabet and other archeological evidence.
If we look at the sculptures of a Roman from the first century A.D., we see that they were clearly a white, Nordic cast.
One could not have told the difference between an Israelite and a Roman at this time period. The Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25, 27), as were other Israelites. There was not a difference in race involved here — only a difference in nationality.