Universalism is the belief that all people will eventually get to heaven. It has gained some popularity lately in some Christian circles. But is this view biblical?
1 Corinthians 15:22 says “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”(ESV)
The historical Christian view on the state of mankind is that because of the sin of Adam, ALL people stand condemned and are in need of the gift of salvation that only comes through the obedience of Jesus Christ. That this gift is effective to ONLY those to accept the free give of salvation, and those who reject the gift will not enter into heaven. This is the opposite of universalism.
Does this verse in 1 Corinthians state otherwise? Does this verse support universalism?
The verse in Greek is “ωϲπερ γαρ εν τω αδαμ παντεϲ απο θνηϲκουϲιν ‾‾ ουτωϲ και εν τω χω παντεϲ ζωο ποιηθηϲονται” . The word “παντεϲ“, transliterated pantes, means all. So what are we to take from this verse? Will all of mankind receive salvation no matter what we do or what we believe?
Does all mean all all of the time?
In a sense, yes. All shall be made alive. But the word all always has a qualification (or quantification). We have the macro (total) “all” verses the micro (some of the total) “all”. If I were to say, “I ate all the grapes”, no one would think that I ate all the grapes that exist in the world (macro). I would have to mean all the grapes that were in the refrigerator or all the grapes I had in the bowl (micro). That not one grape that was in my possession, or domain, was left uneaten. So how does this apply to 1 Corinthians 15:22?
Adam and Eve were the first humans created. All of mankind born after them came from them. Because of their sin, all of mankind has come into the world sinful. We are sinful because of Adam’s sin. This is known in theology as imputation. As BibleStudyTools.com defines imputation “the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty.”¹ This applies to all of us. The totality of humankind. In Adam all die…
However, in Christ all shall be made alive.
Notice the words “in Christ”. The Greek word “εν” literally means in. In the Nativity it is used to describe how Mary was with child; literally “in womb was child.” Reality tells that not everyone is “in Christ.” Most people reject Him as their Savior. So the all in the second part of verse 22 is not referring to all people but all who are “in Christ”. As in Adam all (macro) die, so in Christ all (micro) shall be made alive. All who are in Christ are imputed with His righteousness.
For further understanding let’s let scripture interpret scripture by looking at the surrounding context.
1 Corinthians 15:17-23
17. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
18. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
19. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
21. For as by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Jesus] has come also the resurrection of the dead.
22. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
23. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
24. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
25. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
“Those who belong to Christ”. That’s who all means in the second part of verse 22. Unless we are in Christ then we are still in sin and we remain His enemies. Therefore, this verse can not be applied to support universalism.
So lastly and of most importance, are you in Christ? Are you still dead in your sins and an enemy of Christ? Or have you placed your trust in Him? Have you received His free gift of salvation?
Further reading: John 5:24-26, Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
¹A broader definition would be “to charge to one’s account” as in Philemon 18 where Paul asks that Onesimus’ debts be charged to Paul