A problem with the universalist idea of punishment after death though the sins have been forgiven

by Matt Slick

The Universalists typically say that Jesus bore the sin of everyone who ever lived and canceled out the sin debt for all people. Therefore, everyone will end up being saved.  Two of the common verses the used to support this view are:

  • Colossians 2:14, "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."
  • 1 John 2:2, "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

But, there's a problem. In universalism when a person dies who is not a believer, he must go into the afterlife and be punished for a period, or some say just suffer, until he comes to a place of repentance. But, if the sin debt has been completely canceled then why do they go suffer at all? If the sin that does not exist anymore, then for what is the person being punished? It doesn't make any sense.

Think of this. Let's say that a man is about to be arrested and punished for a debt he has not paid. He gets his money together and heads to a business to make the payment.  On the way there he gets in a car accident and ends up in the hospital in a coma for a month. A philanthropist hears about the man's situation and decides to pay off the man's debt. He goes to the business and writes a check and pays off the debt in its entirety. The debt is now canceled. The man in the coma wakes up and after a miraculous recovery rushes to the business to pay his debt. To his surprise, he finds that the debts were canceled. Now, we have an interesting situation because his legal debt has been canceled and there is nothing that can be held against him as far as the debt goes. He is free from that debt.  Can he then be punished for the debt that does not exist anymore?  Of course not.

Likewise, in the universalist scenario if Jesus canceled the debt of everyone who ever lived, then nobody should go to any place of suffering in the afterlife or any form of punishment because that would mean they are suffering for a debt that does not exist.  This is a problem the Universalists can't address because their universalism is unbiblical.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.