A few weeks ago, I decided to spend 106 minutes watching Come Sunday, which is a re-telling of the rise and fall of the Pentecostal Carlton Pearson. At one time, Pearson led one of the largest churches in my hometown of Tulsa, OK. He was one of the prized graduated of Oral Roberts University.
During the 1990’s, Pearson began to preach a gospel of universalism that denied the existence of hell.
Being a fellow Tulsa-resident of that time, and greatly burdened for the influence he was having on young people around my city, I decided to try to engage in conversation with Pearson to try to convince him of the error of his way. He never reciprocated a single email or letter I sent.
I am sure I am not the only one who was begging him to re-consider the preaching of this false gospel. What I told him my final letter was this:
- Salvation is through Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) and there is condemnation for those who teach or believe otherwise (Luke 13:24; John 8:19, 24, 41-47). The path of salvation through Christ is a narrow one. Universalists claims that every religion’s path to “salvation” is right. Yet, if this were true there would no point to evangelism. J.I. Packer posed this question in a 1986 article in Christianity Today: “What is the point of asking anyone to change religions, if all religion are at bottom Christianity in disguises?” (“Good Pagans and God’s Kingdom, CT, January 17, 1986).
- Christ’s work on the cross is only imputed to those who will be saved (John 3:16). This verse even states that salvation is only made available to those who believe in Him. Only those who are genuinely saved have righteousness imputed to them BECAUSE of Christ’s death on the cross. Belief in Christ alone for salvation is the only way to eternal life. Any unbelief will lead to eternal death (John 8:24). Only by Christ’s death on the cross will anyone be saved. Universalists like to claim Christ’s death on the cross brings restoration to all mankind, regardless of whether they confess Him as Lord and Savior.
- Faith is necessary for salvation. Universalists say no matter what man does here on earth, he will be saved. Salvation does not come by some mere intellectual assent of knowing who Christ is. Satan and every fallen angel believe Christ is the Son of God and Lord of the universe (James 2:19). Yet, they will not be granted salvation. Why? They never placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The Philippian jailer asked Paul the simple question, “How can I be saved?” His answer was this: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Notice he didn’t say, “The Gospel message is not important; everyone will eventually get to heaven.” Paul was explicit about the necessary act of salvation. Faith must be unexercised on the part of man for salvation.
- Universalists make an incorrect conclusion about God’s love. The “war cry” of universalism is the attribute of God’s love. Universalists reason that because God is omnipotent in His love, He cannot allow evil to have victory over man. Therefore, God’s love will overcome evil and grant every man salvation. They claim that God’s love becomes greater if He reaches all men. All deserve hell, not heaven (Romans 3:10-11, 16; 6:23). Everyone deserves eternal punishment in hell; it is only because God loves that He is even saved.
- There are 2 types of people in the world: saved and unsaved. The imagery of the Bible is “crystal clear” about the separate classes of people. The call of salvation goes out to every man, but only a few will be saved. ] There are the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the wicked and the righteous (Matthew 13:49-50), and the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). Why would the Bible speak about two classes of people if everyone ultimately were granted salvation? Wouldn’t the Scriptures just talk about wheat or the righteous or the sheep? Yet, the Bible speaks about those who will and those who will not receive Christ.
- The Bible teaches there are 2 eternal destinations: heaven and hell. Along with the previous argument, there are 2 eternal destinations for the sheep and the goats. The sheep go to heaven and the goats go to hell. There is no purgatory or holding place. Every man will die and be escorted to heaven or hell. Consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man, because of his hypocrisy and wickedness was placed in hell, and Lazarus because of his godly character was given the privilege to dwell in heaven. Jesus clarified the issue of this issue of these two distinct places when He said, “Between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us” (Luke 19:26). Once a person is in hell, he cannot cross over to heaven.
If we need to get anything right in our lifetime, it’s the Gospel. We must understand how one gets to heaven.
I pray for Carlton Pearson every now and then. I pray that God would continue to show him mercy by extending his life and giving him ample opportunities to receive Him as Lord and reject His false teaching.
Lord, thank you for your grace to me! Without the power of this Gospel, I too would be condemned!