Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Arguments/positions against Evangelical Universalism.

Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Questorius » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:42 am

I've always thought it is since Christian universalism asserts that all will be saved as a result of the Atonement, but the Letter to Hebrews seems to say otherwise. First, let's look at the passages implying that Jesus' death secured salvation for all.

Hebrews 2:8-9, NKJV -- "You have put all things in subjection under his feet." For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

The universalist reading of this passage would be that Jesus' death for everyone is a pledge that all will eventually be saved (put under his feet). It's significant that "everyone" and "all" in this passage are translations of the same Greek word.

Hebrews 10:12-14 -- But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Again, this implies that by Jesus' sacrifice sanctification of His enemies has been provided for and it's now only a matter of time until they are reconciled (made His footstool). However, what comes shortly afterward apparently says that Jesus' sacrifice can become no longer applicable.

Hebrews 10:26-27 -- For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

For some people, Christ's sacrifice appears to no longer procure any benefit. If the verse 27 is taken literally, it says that these people will be burned up, which would contradict universalism but preserve the idea that Christ's atonement is the only means of salvation. If understood figuratively, it could mean that these people will be purged in the fire. This purgation, however, would have to take place apart from the Atonement which can longer help them according to the verse 26. To me it looks as if Hebrews either teaches annihilation or universalism via the damned atoning for their own sins.
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Origen; » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:46 pm

Questorius wrote:However, what comes shortly afterward apparently says that Jesus' sacrifice can become no longer applicable.



Is it "no longer applicable" forever & ever like a fictional unpardonable sin, or "no longer applicable" as long as it is rejected & not being applied?

Here's one opinion in that regard:

"The verb "sin" in this verse is present tense (as are the verbs "remains" and "will consume"). Since present tense in Greek typically indicates an ongoing, continuous action, the passage can better be translated as: "For if we continuously sin deliberately, after having once received the knowledge of the truth, there continuously remains no further sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will continuously consume the adversaries." "

"So if one ceases to continuously sin by remaining apart from the Messiah, then Messiah's sacrifice for one's sins becomes operative again. It is now available for one since one has stopped the continuous sin of apostasy and can now be united with Christ. (Note the parallelism of the continuous sinning with the continuous remaining of no further sacrifice; when the former vanishes, the latter does as well—and the same is true of a person who continuously fails to repent of sin in general.) Thus if an apostate (to Judaism or whatever else) ceases to be an apostate, he can be saved. There is no unforgivable sin taught in this text."

http://evangelicaluniversalist.com/foru ... =16&t=4132

Another comment from that thread says:

"My understanding of Heb 10:26 is simple. There is no further sacrifice for sins. Jesus provided the only sacrifice, and if we don't want that sacrifice, well -- there's nothing else. There is no further sacrifice for sins. That's it; take it or leave it (but eventually you WILL decide to take it because the alternative simply makes no sense at all.) The fearful judgment (v.27) will consume the adversaries; it will not consume the beloved (the world for whom God gave His only begotten Son). The last adversary is death and that too will be consumed, leaving nothing but life!"

You might also find the following discussions re the context of Hebrews 10:26-27 of interest, including some commentary by Jason Pratt:

http://evangelicaluniversalist.com/foru ... =10&t=7267

http://evangelicaluniversalist.com/foru ... =12&t=4553

http://evangelicaluniversalist.com/foru ... f=14&t=609
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby steve7150 » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:39 pm

Hebrews 10:26-27 -- For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.







Since if taken literally it would contradict the New Testament including the atonement and statements like "if we say we are without sin we are a liar" so since virtually everyone sins even after salvation there must be more to this statement. I think it's a warning to Jews who were subjected to peer pressure to fall back into Judaism that they shouldn't take for granted Christ's sacrifice and that it could be turned on and off. The context of Hebrews is about exalting Jesus but also is a warning to Jewish believers not to fall away. So many statements in the NT are meant for everyone but i think this one is for a specific group.
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Paidion » Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:33 pm

Steve 7150 wrote:Since if taken literally it would contradict the New Testament including the atonement and statements like "if we say we are without sin we are a liar."


Actually the statement is "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:10). There is quite a difference between saying "We are without sin" and saying "We have not sinned."

We also find this statement in 1 John 1:8, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

However, we also find this one:

We know that whoever is begotten of God does not sin; but he who has been begotten of God guards himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby DaveB » Mon Sep 25, 2017 5:55 pm

I don't know what to do with 1 Jn 5:18.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Paidion » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:19 pm

Hi Dave. Perhaps it would help to know that αμαρτια (hamartia) is a present active indicative. That tense in Greek implies a continuity. That is the reason the ESV translates the verse as follows:

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

(Underlining mine)
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby DaveB » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:27 pm

Thanks Don. I suspected that was the meaning but it's good to have the actual facts.
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Origen; » Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:22 pm

Heb.10:18 Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (NASB)
Heb.10:18 But where there [is] remission of these, [there is] no longer a sacrifice for sin. (DBY)
Heb.10:18 and where forgiveness of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (YLT)

Heb.10:26 there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, {RSV}
Heb.10:26 there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,{AV}

"There is no more offering for sin...there is left no place for the Levitical sacrifices under the new covenant." (Vincent's Word Studies)

Heb.10:12 But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.
Heb.7:27 Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer daily sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people;
He sacrificed for sin once for all when He offered up Himself.

"there is no more offering for sin; there may be other offerings, as of praise and thanksgiving, but none for sin; "there is no need", as the Syriac version; or there is not required, as the Arabic version; there is no need of the reiteration of Christ's sacrifice, nor will he be offered up any more, nor of the repetition of legal sacrifices, nor ought they to continue any longer. The Jews themselves say (w), that

"in the time to come (i.e. in the times of the Messiah) all offerings shall cease, but the sacrifice of praise.''

And one of their writers says (x), when

"the King Messiah, the son of David, shall reign, there will be no need of "an atonement", nor of deliverance, or prosperity, for all these things will be had;'' (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/hebrews/10-18.htm

The NIV Study Bible notes to Heb.10:18 say that "no additional sacrifice for sins is needed" {p.1870}.

Heb.10:26 For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the full knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains in reserve any other sacrifice for sins. {WEY}

"there remains no further sacrifice for sin": since Christ's work on the cross dying for the world's sins is the sacrifice that ends all sacrifices for sin, there is no other place to go but Christ for the forgiveness we all need, both at salvation as unbelievers and thereafter as members of His Body.

This is allegedly from Marvin Vincent's commentary in his New Testament Word Studies:

"The writer does not touch the question of the possibility of God’s renewing such to repentance. He merely puts his own hypothetical case, and says that, in the nature of such a case, the ordinary considerations and means which are applied to induce men to embrace the gospel no longer appeal to the subjects supposed. He contemplates nothing beyond such agencies, and asserts that these are powerless because the man has brought himself into a condition where they can no longer exert any power."

"Whether God will ever reclaim by ways of his own is a point which is not even touched. Destruction of the faculty of spiritual discernment is the natural outcome of deliberate and persistent sin, and the instrument of its punishment. Note, “renew unto repentance.” God promises pardon on penitence, but not penitence on sin."

http://evangelicaluniversalist.com/foru ... =16&t=4132

"The assertion of Kurtz, that, if this remark were true, the author would be expressing “a dogma in its consequences truly subversive, and destructive of the whole Christian soteriology,” inasmuch as it would “imperatively follow therefrom, that even under the New Covenant only those who transgressed from ignorance and error could find forgiveness with God for Christ’s sake, while all who had been guilty of a conscious and intentional sin must beyond hope of deliverance fall victims to the judgment of everlasting damnation,” is a precipitate one, since the special limitation within which the expression ἑκουσίως ἁμαρτάνειν was used was naturally afforded to the reader, quite apart from the investigation already preceding at Hebrews 6:4 ff., even from our section itself." (Meyer's NT Commentary)

"there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins] Lit., “no sacrifice for sins is any longer left for them.” They have rejected the work of Christ, and it cannot be done for them over again. There is one atoning sacrifice and that they have repudiated. He does not say that they have exhausted the infinite mercy of God, nor can we justly assert that he held such a conclusion; he only says that they have, so long as they continue in such a state, put themselves out of God’s covenant, and that there are no other covenanted means of grace. For they have trampled under foot the offer of mercy in Christ and there is no salvation in any other (Acts 4:12)." (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

"There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins (οὐκέτι περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἀπολείπεται θυσία)"

"Of course not. For the Levitical sacrifices are abolished. It is Christ's sacrifice or none." (Vincent's Word Studies)

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/hebrews/10-26.htm

Those who had thrust away faith with a good conscience, and had made shipwreck of the faith, were given over to Satan that they may
be trained not to blaspheme {1 Tim.1:19-20}. This seems to be an example of willfully sinning after knowing the truth, as in Hebrews 10,
yet those who do such were still being trained or disciplined for their own good. The NIV Study Bible says such action was more remedial than punitive. Similarly is 1 Corinthians 5:4-5:

4 When you are gathered in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, along with the power of the Lord Jesus, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord

1 Tim.1:19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having thrust away, made shipwreck concerning the faith,
20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan, that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

Psa.119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.
68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.

In Hebrews chapter 2 we read of a "fair reward" for the disobedient:

2:1 Therefore we must more exceedingly be heeding what is being heard, lest at some time we may be drifting by. 2 For if the word spoken through messengers came to be confirmed, and every transgression and disobedience obtained a fair reward

Heb 10:26b no longer a sacrifice for sin (NAS). Compare the same Greek words at Mk.9:8 translated "any longer":

Mk.9:8 And suddenly, looking around, they saw no one any longer, but Jesus alone with themselves.

Did they not see any man "any longer" after that time except Jesus? Obviously they did see other men, so the words "any longer" does not support
the contention re Heb.10:26 that God would "never" again allow some to be beneficiaries of the sacrifice of Christ.

26 For at our sinning voluntarily after obtaining the recognition of the truth, it is no longer leaving a sacrifice concerned with sins,
27 but a certain fearful waiting for judging and fiery jealousy, about to be eating the hostile. (CLV)
http://studybible.info/CLV/Hebrews%2010

Heb.1:2a in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all

Heb.1:3b When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

Heb.2:2b every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty

Heb.2:6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put
under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by
the grace of God should taste death for every man.

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render
powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

15 And might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:26 am

Looks like the bases are pretty well covered; plus Origen already linked to some of my previous notes. :mrgreen: :geek:
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Questorius » Tue Oct 03, 2017 10:07 am

Thank you for your replies. Especially the usage of the word translated as "no longer" in Heb 10:26 is what made me think the Sacrifice could indeed be applied once more. However, I find it hard to read Hebrews 2 universalistically. I mean that I see no indication that Jesus died for angels as he did for humanity, or rather indications that He died for humans only, e.g. Heb 2:14-17 -- "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." The folowing is what I think the text is saying. He died for those who are subject to death (humans) to destroy / deprive of power the devil. He took on Him / helps / lays hold of our nature, not that of the angels. He became like us to make reconciliation for us, not for the angels. Or did he become an angel too like Origen wrote in his commentary on John? I for one am unable to read Hebrews universalistically from start to finish.

On a different, I wanna chime in on the topic of sin in 1 John. I think what tense is in 1 J 5:18 is irrelevant since the same tense is used in 1 John 1:8 -- "If we say we have no sin..." I'd say the rub of the matter is the difference between "having sin" and "sinning".
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Origen; » Tue Oct 03, 2017 1:14 pm

What is the "nature" of angels? Did Christ already have the same nature as angels before His incarnation?

Heb.1:7: And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

13: But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Jn.4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Rev.5:13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for the eons of the eons.

Col.1:20 and through Him to reconcile all to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether on earth or in heaven.

Gregory MacDonald elaborates on Colossians 1:20 beginning at page 41 of his book, which has a free preview here:

https://books.google.ca/books?id=cUVJAw ... ne&f=false
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Questorius » Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:11 am

I'm aware of evidently universalist verses in other epistles. Frankly, to me Hebrews seems to preach another gospel, or perhaps not another gospel as something which makes the preacher deserving of an anathema (Galatians 1:8-9), but a slightly different gospel, i.e. not a fully universalistic one. Virtually everyone concedes Hebrews wasn't written by Paul after all. Or maybe the theology of Hebrews and Paul's letters is the same, and I'm just missing something. I still don't know what to think about Hebrews 2:17 according to which Christ became like us to be the perfect high priest who makes reconciliation for our sins. Will/Has He become like angels to make reconciliation for their sins too? I think the verse 14 says He didn't do it at the same time that he died for us. His death is at once said to have destroyed the devil and delivered us. It seems to have very different effects on different classes of beings. Or there could be different degrees of salvation. In a biblical universalist framework, not all humans are saved from the coming wrath (1 Thess 1:10). Could it be that Christ died to free all creatures from sin and spiritual death (1 Cor 15:54-57), and even offered some perks (I know it sounds goofy) to people who believe in this life? I think the question of how we get from Jesus' death on the cross to the salvation of every creature is something that thoughtful universalists pondered in the past (e.g. Gregory Nyssen theorized in ch. 26 of Great Catechism that Satan's direct exposure to God after Jesus' body was killed secured his salvation, Origen argued in Comm on John, book 1, sec 34. that Christ became all things to all). I believe it'd be useful to search the Scriptures to delineate what each group of creatures (human believers, humans who never heard the Gospel, humans who rejected the Gospel in this life, demons etc.) is saved from and what special blessings (spiritual priesthood on the new earth, reign on the new earth, inheritance...) are promised to it.
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Origen; » Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:40 pm

Questorius wrote:I still don't know what to think about Hebrews 2:17 according to which Christ became like us to be the perfect high priest who makes reconciliation for our sins. Will/Has He become like angels to make reconciliation for their sins too?


Did not God create the angels like Himself? God is Spirit. The pre-incarnate Word was Spirit. Angels are also spirit beings, as per the passages quoted in my previous post. So when God created the angels as spirit beings, He created them of the same substance as Himself, namely spirit. Not flesh and blood. So Christ the Word of God would have no need to become like angels, since they were already created like Himself when they were created through Him.

As a man also, Christ was not without spirit: "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (Jn.19:30). Some believe that while dead He spoke via His spirit to spirits in prison (1 Pet.3:18-20). He was made a "life-giving Spirit" (1 Cor.15:45).

God is also Love. Hebrews says the angels are ministering spirits. So they are loving spirits in accord with God's nature of love.

As for angels' sins, do angels ever sin? Do those angels (ministering spirits) being referred to in Hebrews 1 & 2 ever sin? Do they need the salvation that the cross of Christ brings to the world (kosmos)? Since they have no sins, they do not need the blood of Christ to cleanse them of sins.

Hebrews 1:2 says the Son is heir of all (demons too?)
Hebrews 1:3 He made purification of sins (demons sins, too?)
Hebrews 1:4 Christ is better than angels & has a more excellent name than angels
Hebrews 1:6 all the angels of God worship the Son
Hebrews 2:2 the word of angels is unalterable
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Origen; » Wed Oct 04, 2017 3:11 pm

Questorius wrote:I think the verse 14 says He didn't do it at the same time that he died for us.
His death is at once said to have destroyed the devil and delivered us. It seems to have very different effects on different classes of beings.



Some versions say "destroyed", others have "break the power", "render powerless", "paralyze", "make impotent", "inactivate", etc.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- (Heb.2:14, NIV)
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (NASB)

The devil is not flesh & blood as humans are. Consequently, he doesn't die like humans do, so he needs no salvation from human death via the
death & resurrection of Christ. Therefore, in that sense, the death of Christ does nothing for him.

But the devil is a sinner [liar & murderer, Jn.8:44]. So he needs salvation from his sins. He needs those sins to be purged (Heb.1:3) via the blood of Christ in order to be reconciled to His Loving Omnipotent Creator (Col.1:16-20).
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby maintenanceman » Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:06 pm

Maybe there is no person that is 'the devil', maybe it is as scripture says, 'the adversary' :lol: :?:
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Paidion » Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:05 pm

Origen wrote:
Questorius wrote:His death is at once said to have destroyed the devil...

Some versions say "destroyed", others have "break the power", "render powerless", "paralyze", "make impotent", "inactivate", etc.


I believe the translation "destroyed" can be deceiving. The Greek word here in its lexical form is "καταργεω" (katargeō) , whereas the Greek word for "destroy is "καταλυω" (kataluō). The root word "argeō" in "katargeō" means to be idle or inactive. Hence "katargeō" means "to render idle or inactive."

The translation "destroy" would be correct only if it is understood to mean "to render inactive." It would NOT mean "destroy" in the sense of "annihilate."
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Re: Is universalism compatible with the Atonement?

Postby Origen; » Thu Oct 05, 2017 12:52 pm

Questorius wrote: In a biblical universalist framework, not all humans are saved from the coming wrath (1 Thess 1:10). Could it be that Christ died to free all creatures from sin and spiritual death (1 Cor 15:54-57), and even offered some perks (I know it sounds goofy) to people who believe in this life?


AFAIK that is similar to the most common universalist view, which was also held by the ECF supporters of Apokatastasis. IOW there is some sort of future correction and/or purifying and/or chastening and/or torment coming in the afterlife to the unbelieving wicked.

Questorius wrote: I think the question of how we get from Jesus' death on the cross to the salvation of every creature is something that thoughtful universalists pondered in the past (e.g. Gregory Nyssen theorized in ch. 26 of Great Catechism that Satan's direct exposure to God after Jesus' body was killed secured his salvation, Origen argued in Comm on John, book 1, sec 34. that Christ became all things to all). I believe it'd be useful to search the Scriptures to delineate what each group of creatures (human believers, humans who never heard the Gospel, humans who rejected the Gospel in this life, demons etc.) is saved from and what special blessings (spiritual priesthood on the new earth, reign on the new earth, inheritance...) are promised to it.


I'd agree that is a useful area of Scriptural study. No doubt there are different views among universalists on exactly how that unfolds. [Probably some threads on this site have discussed & debated this topic]. Likewise those who believe in endless torments have various ideas on the nature of hell, who and how many will go there, etc.
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