World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
The compassion and grace of God know no bounds. In some passages from scripture, the extent of God's saving work is predicted eventually to embrace all humankind. Thus does the Divine Parent's heart yearn for all His children. In Buddhist terms, the essential purpose of absolute Truth is to liberate all sentient beings, and Mahayana Buddhist scriptures express the universality of grace in the vow of the Buddha Amitabha. His vow is similar to the Bodhisattva Vow to save all beings, and in popular Buddhism the great Bodhisattvas who attend the Buddha are revered as manifesting gracious aspects of Ultimate Reality.
Universal salvation is compatible with the belief that there is only one valid and true religion. Salvation may come to all people through one central point: thus in Abraham 'shall all the families of the earth be blessed' (Genesis 12.3). For those who believe in one religion as the only way, the divine mandate to save all humankind is a powerful impetus to missionary activity.
We conclude with several passages which offer salvation to souls in hell. If salvation is to be available universally, to every soul who has ever lived regardless of his or her earthly life, the doctrine may appear at odds with beliefs about hell and the Last Judgment. If God is most essentially just, how can the wicked receive salvation? On the other hand, if God is most essentially gracious and compassionate, how can He permit any creature to suffer in hell eternally? Compassion and justice must go together. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism reconcile these aspects of Ultimate Reality by regarding all states of hell as purgatories, designed to mete out punishments for a limited period of time, that evil karma might be burned up and the soul have a future opportunity to find the Path. Christian and Islamic theologians dispute this question among themselves--some upholding an eternal hell, others looking to universal salvation. The Latter-day Saints practice baptism for the dead, thereby emptying hell of its dead through the efforts of the living.
God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Christianity. Bible, 1 Timothy 2.3-4
The daily concern of the Parent is single-heartedly how best I can advance arrangements to save all of you.
Tenrikyo. Ofudesaki 14.35
We will make offering unto thee with worship, O Lord, and to the Right, That you may achieve through Good Mind the destiny of all creatures in the Dominion. For the salvation of the man of insight among such as you, O Wise One, will hold good for everyone.
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 34.3
The Dharma of the Buddhas by the constant use of a single flavor Causes the several worlds universally to attain perfection, By gradual practice all obtain the Fruit of the Way.
Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 5
"As I live," says the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Ezekiel 33.11
When Israel crossed the Red Sea, the angels were about to break forth in song, but the Holy One rebuked them, "My children are drowning, and you would sing?"
Judaism. Talmud, Megilla 10b
1 Timothy 2.3-4: Cf. 2 Timothy 2.13, p. 507; Torah Yesharah, p. 506. Yasna 34.3: The passage asks that these prayers to God cause all creatures, not just the wise man, to achieve their destiny in God's Kingdom. Lotus Sutra 5: This is the conclusion to the long Parable of the Rain Cloud, pp. 142f. Megilla 10b: 'My children' are the Egyptians who drowned in the waters while the Israelites escaped--Exodus 15.1-11, p. 564. On God's love for Israel's enemies, cf. Amos 9.7, p. 281.
God it is who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolators may be averse.
Islam. Qur'an 9.33
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness an irrevocable decree: "To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 45.22-23
Miqdad reported that he heard God's messenger say, "There will not remain on the face of the earth a mud-brick house or a camel's hair tent which God will not cause the confession of Islam to enter, bringing both mighty honor and abject abasement. God will either honor the occupants and put them among its adherents, or will humiliate them and they will be subject to it." Miqdad said, "God will then receive complete obedience."
Islam. Hadith of Ahmad
God is on the watch for the nations of the world to repent, so that He may bring them under His wings.
Judaism. Midrash, Numbers Rabbah 10.1
I testify that Thou art the Lord of all creation, and the Educator of all beings, visible and invisible. I bear witness that Thy power hath encompassed the entire universe, and that the hosts of the earth can never dismay Thee, nor can the dominion of all peoples and nations deter Thee from executing Thy purpose. I confess that Thou hast no desire except the regeneration of the whole world, and the establishment of the unity of its peoples, and the salvation of all them that dwell therein.
Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 115
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 42.1-4
Qur'an 9.33: Cf. Qur'an 22.56, p. 1111. Isaiah 45.22-23: Cf. Isaiah 2.2-4, p. 1112; 56.7, p. 243; Zechariah 14.9, p. 1111. Hadith of Ahmad: Cf. Qur'an 21.104-05, p. 1111. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 115: Cf. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 111, p. 274; 'Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 290, 1119.
The Tathagatas do not enter ultimate liberation until all living beings have entered ultimate liberation.
Buddhism. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 4
God did not call me for myself. He called me expecting that I would develop the universal personality [that can relate well with all people and things].
Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 4-14-57
I establish the Vows unexcelled, And reach the highest path, Bodhi. Were these Vows unfulfilled, I would never attain Enlightenment.
I will be the great provider Throughout innumerable ages. Should I fail to save all in need, I would never attain Enlightenment.
Upon my attaining Enlightenment, If my Name were not heard anywhere In the ten quarters of the universe, I would never attain Enlightenment.
Practicing the Holy Way--selflessness, Depth in right reflection and pure wisdom, Aspiring toward the highest path, I will be the teacher of devas and men.
My wondrous power by its great light Brightens countless lands throughout, Removes the darkness of the three defilements And delivers all from suffering and pain.
Buddhism. Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 9.1-5: Juseige
Those who are wretched shall be in the Fire... they will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as your Lord wills; for your Lord is the sure Accomplisher of what He plans.
Islam. Qur'an 11.106-07
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark.
Christianity. Bible, 1 Peter 3.18-20
It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other--and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fullness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 128.18
Isaiah 42.1-4: This 'servant song' is understood differently by Jews and Christians. Jews interpret the servant to be Israel, and view the passage as a statement of Israel's vocation to be a light to the world. Christians understand the fuller meaning of the servant as realized in Christ. Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 9.1-5: This is one of the chief hymns of the Pure Land school. One should not interpret this passage as speaking of God's love in the western sense of the divine Being's love for his creatures. Rather, the ideal of the bodhisattva illustrates the Mahayana Buddhist principle that Ultimate Reality is itself all-embracing, inclusive of every living being and of the nature of compassion. One who truly understands this principle cannot help but feel suffering as long as there is even one individual who suffers, for that unfortunate individual is one's very self. This is the essence of the Bodhisattva Vow; see Sikshasamuccaya 280-81, pp. 979f., and Garland Sutra 23, p. 980; see also the Eighteenth Vow of Buddha Amitabha, Larger Sukhavativyuha Sutra 8.18, p. 639. Qur'an 11.106-07: Based on this verse, some Muslim theologians have deduced that the penalties in hell are not eternal, for 'the time that the heavens and the earth endure' has a limit; in the end they are to be dissolved and renewed. 1 Peter 3.18-20: This passage is usually interpreted to mean that Jesus preached to the spirits in hell. Or, if the doctrine of eternal hell is to be upheld, then the 'prison' may be interpreted as an intermediate state of purgatory. Compare Markandeya Purana 13-15, p. 981. Doctrine and Covenants 128.18: The baptism for the dead is an important rite of the Latter-day Saints, bringing salvation to those who have passed away in ignorance--'those who have died in the gospel' are Christians ignorant of the new dispensation--and bringing wholeness and complete salvation to the cosmos. Notice the Bible references to Malachi 4.6 and Hebrews 11.39-40. Cf. Doctrine and Covenants 76.54-93, p. 322.
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