Dear Brother in Christ,
As I said in my earlier reply, I am assuming that your “red letter Christian” friend who only believed the “words of Jesus” was probably one who used the King James Version of the Bible, and I have used it in the study of whether or not Jesus Christ taught “universal salvation.”
When we look into the context of several remarks by Jesus, which would appear to teach the damnation of many, do we get a clear understanding of what he really meant? Or, is it shrouded in the descriptive language of the Middle East? It is imperative that we understand whom Jesus was speaking to, and the why of what he said, as well as the Greek meanings of several words. However, at this point, we can only touch upon Jesus remarks that indicate his attitude, and his teaching concerning the salvation of all.
While it may seem good to want to pay attention only to the words of Jesus, we must be mindful of the fact that Jesus said that he would send the Holy Spirit to teach all things and of course to bring to remembrance what he had himself taught. John 14:16-20, 25 -26 speaks of this. These words of Jesus clearly indicate that there was something to be heard by the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
John 14:16-20 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”
Verses 25-26 “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” KJV
The final words spoken to the disciples are recorded in Acts 1:1-8. In verse Three we learn that for forty days he spoke to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. What he said is not recorded, but it may have been some of the things that the Spirit would later bring to their memories and they would speak of them.
Matthew 1:21 The words here are not the words of Jesus, however, they are the words spoken by the Angel of the Lord to Joseph.“ And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” The purpose given for his name Jesus indicated his mission - to SAVE.
Luke 3:4-6 quote the words of Isaiah. “As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.” Clearly this speaks of more than just a few, or that just the Jewish people of his day are included in this grand statement. The word “ALL” is from Greek PAS, meaning the whole, everyone, all. The Baptist scholar A.T. Robertson said, “all flesh. Used in the N.T. of the human race alone.”
It must be asked, WHO is the SALVATION of GOD that ALL flesh was to see? In Luke 2:24-31 one reads about Jesus being taken to the temple to fulfil the ritual required by the Mosaic Law. (His whole life was lived under the LAW until he established the New Covenant) Now at the temple there was a man called Simeon. Luke 2:28-31 records what happened, “Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen THY SALVATION, Which thou hast prepared before the face of ALL PEOPLE;” Please notice that SALVATION is ALL inclusive.
We are mindful of the earthly ministry of Jesus which really upset the religious folks in his day. “And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:9-10 Jesus the person of SALVATION, came to SEEK and to SAVE the lost, such as Zaccheus. The word LOST is from the Greek APOLLUMI and in the KJV has been translated as destroy, perish or lost. It therefore can be said, by Jesus himself said that he came to SAVE the ones who were destroyed, or who would perish, the LOST! What a Savior!
Luke 15:8-9 “Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” The Greek word APOLLUMI is used in these verses for the word LOST. As earlier pointed out it also has been translated as destroy etc The question becomes, IF something that has been APOLLUMI can be found, then how can the same word mean absolute total destruction?
In Luke 9:54-56 we have a comparison between the attitudes of the disciples and that of Jesus.“ And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” Jesus came to SAVE not to destroy.
The parable of the ninety and nine sheep again gives Jesus” attitude towards sinners - the lost ones. Matthew 18:13-14 “And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” The question becomes, IF he rejoiced over “one” found sheep in this parable, why would he not rejoice over the many sheep gone astray that he would save? Certainly if he took time to find just one, why would he not search for, and save the many?
Luke 6:35 “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” Notice the attitude in this verse toward the unthankful and the evil. The Greek word CHRESTOS has been translated as kind, good, goodness, gracious and better. What an attitude towards the evil ones!. Does this seem like someone who would cause untold, never stopping pain?
Before going into the Gospel of John, we need to consider Matthew 22:43-44, Mark 12:35-36, and Luke 20:43. These are all quotations from Psalm 110. We will quote Matthew. “He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?” This statement, also quoted by Peter in Acts Two, makes clear the totality of the victory of our Lord Jesus. ALL enemies were to be his footstool, UNDER HIS FEET.
John the Baptist made a positive announcement concerning his cousin Jesus. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1;29) As the earlier announcements (The Angel of the Lord and Simeon) had said, he CAME TO TAKE AWAY the sins of the WORLD, and this without limitation.
Jesus said in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up. Those who looked lived. Jesus declared in John 12:32 “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” IF the lifting up of the serpent caused those who looked to live, how much more beholding the ONE who came to save would give life! Now, let us look at one word in this verse. “Will DRAW,” is from the Greek HELKUO which means TO DRAG. Thayer’s Lexicon says; “to draw, to attract; to drag (in connection with coercion). The point here is that the “lifting up” of Jesus would result in the drawing, the dragging, the attracting (think of magnets) toward Jesus the Christ.
While not the KJV, Jonathan Mitchell in his excellent translation puts It this way, "And I, if I should be lifted up from out of the earth, I will drag [as with a net; or: draw, as drawing water with a bucket, or a sword out of a sheath] all men (or: everyone) to (or: toward) Myself." Dare we limit his power, his will to save?
The verse, John 3:16, that many know so well reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The important fact here is the GOD LOVES! He LOVED enough to send his best - his only begotten Son. Was God’s best only good enough for a few? Is this all that God our Father cared for, the small percent of the world’s population deemed to be Christian? Is this limitation act of a “loving” Father? Or, does it exist? The truth is, GOD LOVES the WORLD - not hates. God gave his OWN son his best. So the question is, is his best a waste but for a handful of humanity?
Our Father did not send the Son to condemn the world, but to save. John 3:17 “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” The word used for condemn, Greek word KRINO means to act as a judge and to sort out. This in not why Jesus came.
Verse 18 tells us why some were subject to the judicial process. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” They had not come into the proper relationship. Why? As Jonathan Mitchell puts it, “because he has not believed so that he trusts into the Name [note: “name” is a Semitism for the person, or his authority, or his qualities] of the uniquely-born Son of God (or: into God’s Son – the only-begotten One).”
There is peace in knowing that, as John 6:37 says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” IF the Father loved ALL enough to send the Son to save ALL and that his lifting up (on the cross) would cause all to come to him, how many did the Father give?
Jesus declared (6:38-39) “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” What was the Father’s will? Endless suffering for the vast majority of his creation, or grace, love, mercy and peace?
While more could be said, I trust that some of the above verses and comments will prove of use to you as you share the love of God with your friend.
In the love of Jesus the Christ!