Does 2 Peter 3:9 teach universalism?

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By Spencer D Gear

Thanks to the availability of the Internet, the teaching on universalism, even ‘Christian universalism’ is being promoted on the Internet.[1]

Does 2 Peter 3:9 teach the doctrine that all human beings will eventually receive God’s salvation? ‘Christian universalism’, as promoted by Eric Stetson, believes

‘the Good News that ALL people are God’s children and NO ONE will be left behind!
There is NO burning hell of torture where billions of souls who “sinned too much” or “chose the wrong religion” will suffer forever. Contrary to what most Christians today believe, such a horrible idea was not taught by Jesus and is not found anywhere in the original Hebrew Old Testament or Greek New Testament’ (emphasis in original).

Is this biblical teaching or not? The promoter on Christian Forums claimed that 2 Peter 3:9 teaches that all human beings will be saved. Second Peter 3:9 (ESV) states:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

The context of 2 Peter clearly indicates that 2 Peter 3:9 does not teach the false doctrine of universalism. We know 2 Peter 3:9 is not teaching universalism for these reasons:

  • 2 Peter 3:9 includes the statement that the Lord (God) is “not wishing that any should perish” (ESV). What does this mean in the context of 2 Peter. Is it teaching the doctrine of Christian universalism or is it referring to something different?
  • We know that Peter is not teaching universalism because of 2 Peter 2:3 and 2 Peter 3:7. Verse 3 of chapter 2 says that the false prophets and false teachers (2 Pt 2:1) who teach and they “secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2:1-2). What is this heretical teaching doing, “bringing upon them swift destruction” (2:1) and “their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2:3). So for the false teachers and false teachers there is no universal salvation as some want to proclaim but their “swift destruction” will be brought upon them and it is destruction that is not asleep. So, universalism for the false teachers is false teaching. The larger context of 2 Peter 3:9 clearly refutes it.
  • Romans 9:22 teaches a similar message where “vessels of wrath are prepared for destruction”. This is not universalism. That is false teaching that goes contrary to the Scriptures.
  • Does God want the false teachers to be saved according to 2 Peter 3:9? Most certainly, but they disregard God’s patience toward them and choose to reject God’s salvation and thus will suffer “swift destruction”. It’s guaranteed by the Lord.
  • Second Peter 3:7 speaks of “the destruction of the ungodly”. The ungodly cannot experience the wrath of God and any kind of universal salvation. They will experience “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly”. Universalism is not only a bad joke but absolutely false teaching in light of what 2 Peter states will happen to the ungodly, the false teachers and false prophets. We must be honest with the immediate context of 2 Peter 3:9 and with the entire book of 2 Peter. The ungodly person’s destiny is judgment and destruction from the Lord God.
  • God wants all to come to repentance and gives extra time for that to happen (2 Peter 3:9), but the false prophets and false teachers in Peter’s day and today, do not seek God’s salvation, God’s way. Their destiny, according to 2 Peter 2:1 is “swift destruction”. We cannot get universalism out of that verse.

This is orthodox Bible teaching – there is eternal punishment (destruction) coming to the ungodly with God’s judgment.

The CARM apologetics ministry has excellent material online to refute universalism.


[1] I met an example of this on Christian Forums, in the thread, “What is the point in free will?” with a person promoting the view that ‘God MORE than just “desires” none [to] perish. He INTENDS that none perish – 2 Pet 3:9.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015..