Really the word Eternal was the main thing keeping me from becoming convinced. And while I argued in my prior post about the whole Ageless analogy for the meaning of Aionion, I had no evidence for it, and in other areas I've been aware that ending with an "on" in Greek tends to be a way of making a word plural, more then one age is not the same as ageless.
Only that the same word is used to describe our Eternal Life was my argument. Because as much as I want to believe in Universalism I am equally certain the Life promised to Believers will never end. Well I looked at this thread on a Universalist forum where they discussed the word.
People there argued that a word can refer to something Eternal without meaning Eternal. And suggested lasting as a more accurate translation. I later made my own thread on that forum about Lamentations 3:31. Lots of interesting pro Universalist arguments were made.
Then there is this Blog post. He does not consider himself a Unviersalsit but holds a view that can indeed be described as Universalist. He makes lots of good arguments particularly about how to define what being Lost means.
But the reason he does not consider himself a Universlaist is because traditional Christian Unviersalists believe that everyone will EVENTUALLY by Saved. He believes in terms of eternal Salvation everyone already is, and everyone referenced as "Shall be Saved" in The Bible is about physical death or punishment in this world. He does not believe in an "After Death Gehenna" and believes Revelation is all allegories so does not take the Lake of Fire seriously at all.
It is absolutely true that many uses of "Shall be Saved" are about physical salvation, particularity in the Olivite Discourse.
But Jesus told certain people "They Faith has Saved thee" that makes no sense to be about something Physical. When Paul talks about us being Justified by Faith, and Saved by Grace through Faith, he is talking about us being saved from the Second Death. And I firmly believe when you accept Jesus you are Saved from ever entering The Lake of Fire at all. How permanent being in the Lake of Fire is is a separate debate.
His insistence that believing you need Faith is itself a work is Biblically invalid, it may by logical to Secular Logic but not Biblical logic. Because every time Paul talks about Faith and Works is all about differentiating them and contrasting them virtually as opposites. But indeed it is not intellectual belief that Saves us, it is a change of Heart.
I return again to 1 Corinthians 3:15. "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." This is the Bema Judgment, and this proves some Believers will fail to earn rewards but are still Saved.
This is used as a verse supporting Purgatory sometimes, and that affiliation is why I think many Protestants avoid it. But the Catholic view of Purgatory is all about getting people in this world to think their prayers and money can effect the fate of people already dead. That has no Biblical support at all.
A Universalist who has a different chronological view of Prophecy then me may argue that the Bema and White Throne Judgments are the same and this proves you can enter the Fire but still be Saved, because it does refer to Fire. I will even agree that this Fire and the Fire of The Lake have the same source, God Himself, which I argued for in a post I'll link to later.
The difference is for the Saved person at the Bema Judgment this Fire won't be painful, or at least.... well.... ya know what I'm going to use Game of Thrones to make an illustration here, Season 1. It's like the difference between Viserys Targeryen and Daenerys Targaryen. One is Burned by fire, the other is not.
Chronologically I feel Revelation 11 clearly places the Bema Judgment after the 7th Trumpet, the White Throne Judgment is after the Millennium and the Gog-Magog War. I do theorize both Judgments will take place on Yom Kippur.
In my prior Universalism post I linked to my Outer Darkness post. I did not really refute the Unviersalist usage of Revelation 21:27, just provided an alternate explanation.
A number of Bible verses do imply different states of damnation among the damned. Jesus said it would be better for the Men of Sodom on the day of Judgment then it will be for the Pharisees. He makes similar statements about Tyre and Sidon. Sometimes though it's not how evil someone is but how much of an opportunity to believe they had that makes the difference, which is an odd thing for Calvinists to deal with. In fact we're told certain people would have believed if they'd seen what the Jews of Jesus day saw, is it really fair to permanently damn those people?
If the Judgment on the Unbelieving is Eternal Fire, it's hard for me to comprehend the Judgment being different, that the flames are somehow more or less hot in different parts of the lake is difficult to see mattering if it's Eternal. But if the matter is how long they are in the lake, that makes more sense. The worst human sinners, The Beast and The False Prophet, entered it first and are still there when Satan is cast in at least one thousand years later.
For many Christians the rejection of Universalism seems to come down to "what's the point of the Great Commission then?", "Why bother spreading The Gospel". Well for starters I think saving people from entering The Lake even momentarily is a big deal. Even if for most it is only an hour, being burned a whole hour by even normal fire is an unimaginable pain, and even after it's over it'd be psychologically scarring besides physically. But the Fire of God? Imagine how much worse that is.
But there is a benefit to Believing too. What we are supposed to be doing is recruiting people for The Kingdom. Not all Believers will even get the rewards, but you have to be a Believer to be eligible for them. We have the opportunity to Co-Rule with him.
So a lot of it comes down to different statuses we'll have in the New Heaven and New Earth (or for some the Millennium but I believe The Church skips that), and the Unsaved who die before that are also not Resurrected till after.
The difference between Church Age believers and other ages is mostly geographical, there is more to it then that but that how it's easiest to explain here. We of The Church are New Jerusalem, but there are Nations of The Saved outside New Jerusalem.
Believers who aren't of the Church either because of when they were Saved or perhaps losing inheritance will dwell in other Nations, some ruling, some not. Israelites in the other parts of Israel outside Yahweh-Shammah, and Gentiles in other lands. In the lands promised to Abraham but not included in the Tribal allotments of Ezekiel are where the Ishmaelites and other Abrahamic saved will live. And beyond that Isaiah 19 describes a special arrangement between Egypt and Assyria.
Based on the Parable of the Sower I argued the Saved have at least 3 Categories. Those who earn Crowns will be Co-Rulers, Kings and Priests with him. Believers who are in mind in 1 Corinthians 3:15 will not be Co-Rulers but will not lose Sonship.
There is a possible difference even between Believers who were just worldly and didn't do much works, and those who fell away. While neither can lose Sonship, it's possible there could be a further distinction between that and losing your Citizenship of The Kingdom. Meaning there are at least 3 basic statuses.
All that is just what I believed as someone still firmly NOT a Universalist, but someone who as much as I wanted to believe that still thought it was impossible.
In light of what I'm considering now, it could be for the Christians who fully lose their Citizenship by falling away, that their status once in the New Creation is not any better then the best of those who never believed, but they still will never enter the Lake of Fire. It can also be possible to have different social statuses even among the non citizens, which means even the unbelievers could earn something from the good they do.
Going back to the idea of how long people are in the Lake of Fire being different. A major skepticism of the Unvierslaist view is that Revelation 20-22 don't seem to show anyone getting released from there. I've argued before that I think the White Throne judgment happens on Yom Kippur, and that New Jerusalem descends on the first day of Tabernacles, and on the Eight day of Tabernacles is when Time (as we know it at least) ends. All of that is something to consider. Yom Kippur was also supposed to be the day the Jubilee happened, which among other things included debts being forgiven and slaves being set free.
It could be the perception of time is different within The Lake of Fire, it comes from God who is timeless after all. And so maybe to the perspective of those outside it all happens on Yom Kippur.
One disagreement among Universalists is if Satan, the Fallen Angels and Demons will also be saved eventually too. I'm inclined to believe that our eligibility for Salvation is possible only because of our kinship with Adam and Eve. It's interesting that the Fire is defined as being for The Devil and his Angels, that men will be cast into it is merely something extra.
My mind remains unmade on this now, so if anyone wants to offer their own arguments for or against feel free to leave a comment.
Update: September 5th 2015
Jude 1:7 describes God's Judgment on Sodom and Gommorah as Aionion Fire, same term Jesus used in Matthew 25. But Ezekiel 16:53-55 says Sodom will be restored to her former estate.
Sodom being restored is a pretty telling example. Sodom had no survivors, Lot was a stranger living among them to start with, and his descendants became their own nations, Moab and Ammon. So it's not a City being restored to future descendants of Sodom. It must be the same people God destroyed, not one of whom was Righteous, that are being restored.
Actually the Sheeps and Goats Judgment is the only place that Aionion Fire is used in a clearly eschatological sense. And I like others have seen that as a Judgment of those still living after Armageddon has happened, before The Millennium. But maybe I was wrong on the timing of that and it is the same as the White Throne Judgment, but a less literal depiction being a parable.
Thing about the Sheeps and Goats Judgment is that Goats are still Levitically clean Animals, acceptable offerings to God. There is no Biblical Basis for representing Satan as a Goat, Satan has claimed the Goats because he wants to claim title of Jesus, Jesus is the Yom Kippur Sin Offering (a Goat) as much as he is the Passover Lamb.
Maybe it's even a wrong assumption that everyone who waits til the Second Resurrection to be Resurrected goes into the Lake of Fire. It says all who's names are not written in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire.
In the past I'd rejected the view that the Book of Life and the Old Testament Book of The Living are the same, but maybe I should change my mind on that. Believers have a promise our names won't be blotted out in Revelation 2-3. But maybe that doesn't mean we're the only ones who's names don't get blotted. I still of course believe having your Part taken out (in Revelation 22) isn't the same as being . Blotted out. They are in the same book, if they meant the same thing the same term would have been used.
There is a difference between having your name in the Year Book (which itself requires graduating) and having accomplishments under your names.
That PureUnadulteratedGrace Blog has a study on Luke 16 and the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, arguing it's a parable. Good argument but I must reject his mention of saying Satan/The Devil isn't a literal entity, The Bible is unambiguous on them being real.
Update: September 7th 2015
This video has an interesting discussion of Universalism that starts at 43 Minutes in.
I started another thread on that Forum about Judas, and had a pretty interesting discussion.
Update 2016: I have a follow up post on Universalism now.