Statesboro, GA, USA
The parable of the sheep and goats, as told by Jesus, seems to rule out universal pardon on the day of judgement. You can read the whole passage for context, but below I have included the scriptures of interest ...
When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom, prepared for you since the creation of the world...
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me...
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels ...
I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
(selected from Matthew 25:31-46)
Saying this is only a parable does not take away the sharpness, for parables were always meant to describe realities.
Also, in the parable of The rich man and Lazarus, when the rich man, who had died, wanted to pass from torment to "Abraham's bosom", Abraham replied:
...between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.
(v.26 selected from Luke 16:19-31)
Also consider this passage in Revelation:
If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever ...
These are just a few, there are actually many more passages which seem to deny universal pardon ... but only in the sense that many refuse to recieve what has been provided for. If nothing else, this serves to show us the gravity of the whole question of personal salvation and forgiveness of sins. The consequences are eternal. If everyone will be saved in the end, unconditionally, then we have no persuasive thrust from scripture to urge them to live for God. As a Van Halen song once expressed, there are many who want "The Best of Both Worlds", wanting the pleasures of sin and at the same time the guarantee of escaping eternal punishment in the hereafter. Even Jesus said that for Judas, it would have been better for him if he had never been born. That saying is hard to reconcile with an unconditional pardon of everyone.
I've rambled long enough against universalism. But on the other side of things, my heart is with men like William Barclay when he wrote that he would "pay any price to be able to say truthfully 'All will be saved'". He also wrote that "Ever and again there shines in Scripture the glint of the larger hope. We are not forbidden to believe that somehow and some time the God who loves the world will bring the whole world to himself.". Though I see clearly where his heart was on the matter, Barclay did seem to stop short of a dogmatic univeralism. But my heart is with his, and yours, all the same.
After all consideration, I still have to land where C.S. Lewis did in his thinking. He found the doctrine of Hell abhorrent, yet to some degree necessary.
I am not going to try to prove the doctrine tolerable. Let us make no mistake; it is not tolerable ...
The problem is not simply that of a God who consigns some of His creatures to final ruin. That would be the problem if we were Mahometans. Christianity, true, as always, to the complexity of the real, presents us with something knottier and more ambiguous—a God so full of mercy that He becomes man and dies by torture to avert that final ruin from His creatures, and who yet, where that heroic remedy fails, seems unwilling, or even unable, to arrest the ruin by an act of mere power. I said glibly a moment ago that I would pay "any price" to remove this doctrine. I lied. I could not pay one-thousandth part of the price that God has already paid to remove the fact. And here is the real problem: so much mercy, yet still there is Hell.
(From "The Problem of Pain")
Not at all an easy topic to discuss.
And, by the way, I think it is dangerous to imagine that Hell is only for the "incorrigibly wicked", if for no other reason than that we too quickly dismiss the possiblility of our own depravity ... We wouldn't, after all, do the things that Hitler or Judas did, so that makes us okay.
[This message has been edited by Stephanos (12-29-2003 05:29 PM).]