The Bible provides three potential positions or theories for the ultimate destination of the unbeliever: (1) a literal never-ending fiery hell, (2) destruction or annihilation, and (3) every knee bowing (the universal victory and worship of God). Many are ignorant of the numerous verses in Scripture which support a universal victory and worship of God. God has declared, “I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, and every tongue will swear allegiance” (Isa. 45:23). God has boldly proclaimed an end state that most cannot even imagine – an end state that is contrary to most every tradition. Yes, there will be a transformation of humanity. Will the transformation include an ultimatum? We will have to wait and see. However, the Apostle Paul clearly taught that God has the power to subdue all things to Himself (Phil. 3:21). God is unequivocal – He has a sworn that “every tongue will swear allegiance” (Isa. 45:23). Thereafter, God’s declaration is repeated twice more in the New Testament: “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE WILL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD,” (Rom. 14:11) and “[S]o that at the name of Jesus, EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10). The Bible repeats the message three times in order to hammer the point home. However, the traditions of men are often more powerful than the faith of most Christians. Many still lack a full understanding of God’s declaration. Lest there be any misunderstanding, Paul stresses the universality of the subordination in that it will include all who are in Heaven, on the earth, or under the earth (Phil. 2:10). We simply lack the imagination to see how He will bring about the subjugation and swearing of allegiance by all, and we lack the faith to believe it will happen.
Of course, God has given this same redundant message at many different times and in many different ways. Let’s look at some additional evidence found in Scripture. Psalm 145:10 reads, “All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord….” Psalm 145:21 reads, “…all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.” At Psalm 86:9, we read, “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 117:1 declares, “Praise the Lord, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples!” Here are many more verses to consider: “Bless the Lord, all You works of His, in all places of His dominion…” (Psalm 103:22). “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord…” (Psalm 150:6). “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before You” (Psalm 22:27). “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” (Psalm 33:8). “Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your works! Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to you to You’” (Psalm 66:3). “All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You; They will sing praises to Your name” (Psalm 66:4). Let the people praise You, O God; …Let all the people praise You” (Psalm 67:3,5). “Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them” (Psalm 69:34). “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on the earth…” (Eph. 1:9-10). “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col. 1:19-20). “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14). And perhaps, the most compelling: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22).
Yes, there is forgiveness for all in Christ, but there will also be dramatic consequences in this life and the next for disobedience to God, whether one is a believer or unbeliever. Those that do not believe in this life will still go to Sheol (a/k/a Hades) until the resurrection, and they will be denied many eternal blessings. In order to bypass Sheol, you must believe in this life. Those that believe in this life but do not remain faithful unto their death will also lose out on many fantastic eternal rewards and blessings. Yes, those that believe in this life will bypass Sheol and go straight to Heaven when they die, but disobedience and rebellion will have many eternal consequences.
Many have trouble holding steadfast in their minds both the idea of “forgiveness” and the idea of lasting “consequences” (Matt. 18: 21; Gal. 6:8). Judas Iscariot is a good example. He betrayed Christ and played a role in Christ’s crucifixion. The Scriptures indicate that, ultimately, Judas felt remorse for his betrayal of Christ, and he even tried to retract his betrayal and return the money (Matt. 27:3-10). Judas felt guilt for his betrayal of “innocent blood” (Matt. 27:3-10). As a consequence of his betrayal, Judas ultimately committed suicide and suffered an ignominious death (Matt. 27:3-10; Acts 1:16-20). However, Judas, like us if we believe, received forgiveness because of Christ’s obedience unto death on a cross. In our eternal future, Christ will have not one ounce of hostility toward Judas, but there were and will still be consequences to Judas for his disobedience for eternity. As an obvious example, Judas forever lost his position as an esteemed member of the 12 Apostles (Acts 1:20). That standing alone is a big deal. We are going to be judged based on the decisions we make in this life (1 Pet. 4:6). Fantastic blessings will be awarded to the faithful (Rev. 2:7,11,17, 26; Rev. 3:5,12,21). None of this is contrary to the promise that every knee will bow and swear allegiance (Isa. 45:23). Additionally, the promise that every knee will bow is not contrary to the idea that we will all reap what we sow (Rom. 2:6; Gal. 6:8; Rev. 20:13; Rev. 22:12). As the Apostle Paul stated, “If we endure, we will also rule with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12).