Patristic Universalism 

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Mercy Beyond the Grave

The assumption that death necessarily terminates hope – even for God – is unfounded. Why should we assume that death is an insurmountable obstacle for the Lord when his most definitive act involved defeating the one who had the power of death and overcoming the grave (Heb. 2:14). Because of his resurrection, Jesus now holds ‘the keys of Death and of Hades’ (Rev. 1:18). If someone died whose heart was not irreversibly set against Christ, it seems natural to assume that Christ would be willing and able to continue trying to win that person over.

- Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy

God Does Not Stop “Seeing” Us After We Die As humans, we are limited to viewing the physical but God can view both the physical and the spiritual. He sees not only our physical bodies but our spiritual bodies (i.e. soul) as well. When someone dies we think, “That’s the end” because the physical is all we can experience. I understand that believers of all faiths hope in an existence beyond this life but we’re still limited to the realities of the physical world. But God is not so limited. He sees our physical as well as our spiritual composition so God does not stop “seeing” us after we die even though that is our human experience. I might try to get a friend to “know the Lord” but once he dies, I can no longer talk to him about Christ. But why should God Stop? My friend’s physical body is in the ground but his soul lives on.3 Scripture tells us that God knows us even before we are conceived.Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you.

(Jer. 1:5 – NASB; See also Ps. 139:13-16)

So it’s clear that God has known us prior to the conception of our physical bodies and He’ll continue to know us after the death of our physical bodies so why do we think God can only reach us during the life of our physical bodies? Does it really make sense that God can only work salvation in us during the nanosecond we’re alive on earth? As an example, imagine a piece of string that is strung from Key West, Florida to Anchorage, Alaska and that this string represents eternity. Now place a microscopic dot on that string 2 miles north of Key West. This dot represents the duration of a man’s life and according to the traditional view, the amount of time one has to “accept” Christ. If Christ knows us for the entire length of that string, does it really make sense that our only chance to receive Him is during that pinprick of time known as our earthly life? As Allin says, the traditional view "...dishonours the Cross by limiting its power to save, to the brief moments of earthly life.” If one can accept the teaching that God can reject us for all eternity, might we not accept the teaching that He can receive us for all eternity? 

It’s more than a little presumptuous to think we can say with certainty that God does not try to reach us after we die since we are not privy to what happens outside of our earthly existence as Solomon wisely reminds us in Ecclesiastes.

Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so y you do not know the activity of God who makes all things. (Eccl. 11:5 – NASB)

For more about Mercy Beyond the Gave, see Chapter 5, Patristic Universalism, by David Burnfield