Universal Salvation: Reflections and Renewal

Rev. Kit Billings

Many Christian leaders and denominations interpret the Bible in a literal way only.  When people do this, it is very easy to believe that the Lord does not work within a structure of life where salvation is very possible within all of the good religions and pathways of life.  Literally speaking, there are many Bible verses that when interpreted literally only teach that spiritual salvation is only possible through believing that God sent His one and only Son into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, and that having faith that Jesus died for our sins “saves” us instantly, both now and after physical death.  John 3:16 would probably be the most often used verse to lead to that conclusion.

However, the fundamentalist-literalist way of reading and understanding God’s Word is incomplete, because God did not providentially fashion our Holy Scriptures to be read and interpreted literally only.  He fashioned it through the hearts and minds of many faithful writers, dozens in fact, which totally makes sense to me and He molded it together so that most of it contains an inner meaning.  In other words, in order for the Lord’s Divine-Kalaidascope, immensely wide and deep wisdom to more fully be present on Earth and within the grasp of anyone on Earth who hungers and thirsts for God’s loving-wisdom, we all need this amazing Biblical composition to exist exactly as we find it in the Lord’s Word as we have it yet today.  Our theology tells us this is true so that biblical concepts can connect with all kinds of people—those who think literalistically and in a more judgmental fashion, and for people whose minds see life and Scripture in several levels or layers at the same time.

From a New Church or Swedenborgian Christian perspective, when the literal and the symbolic levels of revelation and wisdom are engaged and brought into our daily love, our faith and our ways of treating all people with loving mercy and truth, the reality of pluralistic salvation shines forth powerfully and beautifully throughout Scripture as it stands.  On the literal level, there are many verses, stories and parables that express the truth of potential pluralistic salvation throughout the Christian and non-Christian peoples of Earth.

For example, Luke 3:6 teaches: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”  John 12:47 reads as Jesus said, “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”  And Isaiah 40:5 reads: “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (1)

After having mystically experienced Heaven and the afterlife for twenty-seven years, Swedenborg learned many times that spiritual salvation is possible within both the Christian and non-Christian religions.  One of his more famous passages in Heaven and Hell 328 reads, “The Lord’s Church is spread over the whole globe, and therefore is universal. All are in it who live a good life according to their own religious belief.” (2)

This is a very important religious tenet to understand and enjoy.  I say that because the Lord is not concerned with whether someone professes belief in this denomination or that one, because His focus and concern is whether a person uses what they learn spiritually and religiously in their holy scriptures intentionally and actively in their way of life.  Saving faith is a matter of the life, by choosing to care for and serve all people as one’s sister or brother within God’s enormous family spread throughout the globe.

Personally, I am overjoyed to be an active part of our church, because our theology openly lifts up the belief that spiritual salvation is open to everyone on Earth–to Jews, Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, et cetera.  This is not to say that all people who live by what they believe will be saved, because if what they believe is truly harmful, then it will lead them into unhappiness and away from Heaven’s sphere of love.  Conversely, people who live good lives according to their religion and who acknowledge something Divine are saved by way of gradual regeneration.  No one is free of misconceptions and false ideas, but people who are in harmony with Heaven are able to see the truth when exposed to it—and anyone can read and reflect upon any of the good religious texts on Earth and find countless words that call all people to live from love and faith applied to our way of life every day we live.

In the Swedenborgian perspective, salvation is not a one-size-fits-all concept.  It is a deeply personal journey that each soul undertakes, guided by the inner workings of the Divine Providence of God everywhere.

Grasping such a view of the potential for inter-faith or pluralistic salvation liberates us from being narrow-minded, judgmental and hard of heart.  Also, it calls us to open our hearts very wide, which has a good potential to receive the enormity of Divine Love.  As human beings, we are capable of perceiving and feeling the Lord’s wonderfully-infinite loving and wise presence throughout our world.  This depth of loving-wisdom echoes in the literal and inner meaning throughout the Bible, and it is beautifully echoed within the thousands of near-death experiences of people all over the world, regardless of their professed faith.

I will conclude now by saying that Near-Death experiencers routinely report an immense amount of unconditional Love radiating from the Being of Divine Light. In God is With Us: What Near-Death and Other Spiritually Transformative Experiences Teach Us About God and Afterlife, Dr. Ken R. Vincent recounts “An absolute white Light is God-all loving, which expresses the unification of us with our Creator. I left my body, and I was surrounded by God.  It didn’t feel male or female, young or old, just me and the Divine Being.  I was surrounded by Love….  I looked down at the little girl in bed…and later when I realized it was me, I was back in my body.” (3) 

Lastly, I will close with these two passages in our biblical Scriptures, which begin from the Apostle John who wrote in 1 John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  And in Lamentations 3:22, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.”


(1) New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition. Copyright © 2021 National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

(2) Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. Translated by George F. Dole. West Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, 2000.

(3) Vincent, Ken R.. God is With Us: What Near-Death and Other Spiritually Transformative Experiences Teach Us About God and Afterlife. N.p.: White Crow Books, 2019.

Rev. Kit Billings, his wife Penny, and their daughter Julia moved to LaPorte, Indiana in 2012, where he is Pastor of the LaPorte New Church, a historic Swedenborgian sacred space. Kit enjoys ministering with people of all ages, and supporting others in their journey of growth with the Lord.

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