Will all men be saved?

I recently was in a discussion with a dear friend regarding whether I believed all men could go to Heaven. My short answer to his inquiry was “Yes.” But I think this is something that requires a great deal of clarification.

One of the concerns here is the difference between what is said and what is heard.  I remember once I had a student who asked if beasts go to Heaven.  My answer was that Christ never told us.  But what she heard was that her recently departed beloved pet was gone forever.

When I gave my friend the above short answer, he expressed great concern over the implication of that answer.  As a teacher, imagine if I told my students that it was possible that a student could never study and still pass a test.  It would be a true statement because I can that it is possible, however unlikely, that someone could guess their way into a passing grade.  However, what a student might hear is “I don’t have to study to pass.”

The reason why I believe that it is possible that all men could go to Heaven is because God never told us who is in Hell.  Pope St. John Paul the Great wrote in Crossing the Threshold of Hope:

[Christ] speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Mt 25:46).  Who will these be?  THe  church has never made any pronouncement in this regard.  This is a mystery truly inscrutable, which embraces the holiness of God and the conscience of man.  The silence of the church is, therefore, the only appropriate position of the Christian faith.  Even when Jesus says of Judas, the traitor, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born,” (Mt 26:24), His words do not allude for certain to eternal damnation.

Did the pope say that Judas was in Heaven?  No.  Did he say that it was likely that Judas was in Heaven?  No.

He said that while Hell is real, we are ignorant of who is there.  We know with certainty that there are certain people in Heaven: the saints.  But we do not know with certainty who is in Hell.  So with this idea in mind, it leaves open the possibility that all men could go to Heaven.

Does this mean that we know that Hell is empty?  No.  Is it likely Hell is empty?  Nothing about the pope’s statement indicates this.  John Paul was simply acknowledging that Christ withheld this bit of information from revelation.

What is the potential harm of saying all men could go to Heaven?  There are two likely misinterpretations:


  1. Sin does not matter – Someone could hear that all men could go to Heaven and believe that this means their sins have no bearing on his or her salvation.  Think about how much of our society has abandoned much of Biblical morality and yet do not do so with fear of salvation.
  2. Religion does not matter – Someone could hear that all men could go to Heaven and believe that this means that faith in Christ has no bearing on salvation.


Both of these are serious errors.


Sin darkens the soul and closes it more and more to the grace of God.  I remember I had a student who could not understand this link.  Below is a simplified example of the dialogue we had.


Student: I don’t understand how God can send anyone to Hell if He loves us.

Me: God doesn’t send anyone to Hell.  We choose it.

Student: But who would choose Hell?  I would never choose to go to Hell.

Me: Do you want to be a person of love who puts God and others before yourself?

Student: No.

Me:  But that is Heaven?  If you close yourself off to love, then you close yourself off to Heaven.  And that is Hell.

Student:  But I don’t want to go to Hell.


As you can see from our conversation, my student thought of Heaven as something granted from without as an external reward given to whomever God arbitrarily chooses.  What he failed to see (and what I failed as a teacher to show him) was that salvation is a transformation from within.  Christ always spoke about having a complete change of heart (the Greek word for this is “metanoia.”).  This requires us to repent of our sins.  If we do not, it is impossible to have a heart open to joy of Heaven.


As to the second error, I have written about this extensively in my New Evangerlizers article “Can Non-Christians go to Heaven?”  If you would like greater detail as to what the Church teaches on this issues, please read that.  But the short, short version is that God is a fair God.  And would a fair God hold you accountable for something beyond your control?  The answer is, of course, no.  So if you have an invincible impediment to know Christ and His Church, but still try with all your might to be the best person you can, then salvation is possible.


Again, I want to emphasize the word “possible.”  “Possible” is an open door.  It is a word that implies that a thing could be or not be, but it does not imply its likelihood one way or the other.


Can all men be saved?  It is possible.  It is possible God’s mercy is beyond any bounds we can imagine.  But that is not the important question.  The important question is this:


Will all men be saved?


This is what God wants.  God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)  But He wants us to reach out to our brothers and sisters to ignite the Heavenly fire in their hearts before they are charred by the wasteful fires of Hell.


We won’t know until we try.

Copyright 2015, W.L.Grayson


W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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