Hell and Judgment

If a game is played, it must be possible to lose it.” C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell? I think I would not be wrong to state that for many, they have never heard one. Hell, like sin, has pretty dropped off the scope in most churches. Despite neglect of the doctrine, the subject of hell is taught in the Scriptures. I would venture that most people, if asked who spoke the most about hell, would name the apostle Paul. But they would be wrong. It is not a prominent subject for Paul. Hell is, however, a prominent subject for–and this is initially rather shocking–our Lord. Jesus taught more about hell and judgment than anyone in Scripture. This fact is less shocking when one recognizes that the Bible teaches that hell is a real place and that Jesus himself as Judge sends people there (John 5.22-29). Consider Jesus’ words:

“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives live to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5.21-23).

Jesus is the judge of humanity. Hell is a real place. This is the reason Jesus warned men about it. The verses below demonstrate the consistent revelation of the doctrine of hell and judgment throughout Scripture.

Words For “Hell”

In the Old Testament the word for hell is “sheol” (שְׁאֹול). It was the world of all the dead but not the permanent abode of the righteous (Psalm 16.10, 49.15; Hosea 13.14). The New Testament has three Greek words for hell: “Hades” (ᾅδης), “Gehenna” (γέεννα) and “Tartaroo” (ταρταρόω).

The word “hades’ is used for the place of the departed spirits of the lost and is found in Matthew 11.23, 16.18; Luke 10.15, 16.23; Acts 2.27, 31; Revelation 1.18, 6.8, 20.13, 20.14.

The word “gehenna” is the place or state of the lost or condemned and is found in Matthew 5.22, 29, 30, 10.28, 18.9, 23.15, 23.33; Mark 9.43, 45, 47; Luke 12.5; James 3.6.

The word “tartaros” is the subterranean abyss of Greek mythology where demigods were punished. The pseudepigraphal book of Enoch mentions it as the place where fallen angels are confined. It is found only once in the Bible and only in its verbal form. Peter appropriated the word to describe God’s incarceration of fallen angels to a netherworld dungeon until the day of final judgment (2 Peter 2.4).

Hell is described in a number of passages: Matthew 13.42; Matthew 25.46; Philippians 3.19; 2 Thessalonians 1.9; Hebrews 10.39; 2 Peter 2.17; Jude 1.13; Revelation 2.11; 14.9-11, 19.20; 20.6, 10, 14; 21.6-8. According to Revelation 20, hell will be absorbed into a place called the Lake of Fire. Hell is terrifying; it is a place of hopelessness and eternal imprisonment and torment.

Jesus on Hell

As mentioned above, Jesus taught more about hell than anyone else combined. In reading the gospels, the subject of hell and judgment was one He could hardly stop talking about. He considered it an extremely important subject. The following words are from the Lord Himself in the gospel of Matthew.

MatthewPassage
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5.22
29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5.29-30
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 7.13-14
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 7.21-23
10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”Encounter with Roman Centurion
Matthew 8.10-12
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.Warnings of Persecution
Matthew 10.28
29 But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”Tares Among Wheat
Matthew 13.29-30
49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Instruction on the Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 13.49-50
8 “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9 If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.Warning of Impediments to the Kingdom of God
Matthew 18.8-9
 11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”Inadequate Preparation for the Kingdom of God
Matthew 22.11-14
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?Condemnation of the Religious
Matthew 23.13, 32-33
50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Christ’s Return and Judgment
Matthew 24.50-51
29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Christ’s Return and Judgment
Matthew 25.29-30
40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”Christ’s Return and Judgment
Matthew 25.40-46

In Mark, Jesus spoke of hell in the following passages: Mark 3.28-29, 9.43-48. In Luke, He taught about hell and judgment in Luke 10.14-15, 12.4-5, 13.24-28, 16.22-28. And finally, in John, John 5.28-29.

Since Jesus spent so much time warning us of hell and judgment we do well to pay attention. Men and women live careless lives without thought of God but a day of accountability is coming. It does little good to push it from one’s mind. It is reality.

The Love of God

God loves every person. He has done everything to spare each person from the judgment of hell. God the Son, Jesus Christ, went to the cross, suffered and died for every person to pay the penalty of God’s judgment on sin. He was our substitute. The proof that His work was effective was His resurrection from the dead. That is the good news! One need only believe God to be saved from eternal doom (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). This is the gospel!

Most people believe one goes to hell because one has done bad things, i.e., because of sin. God solved the sin problem with Christ’s death on the the cross and His glorious resurrection. Ultimately, the Bible teaches that one goes to hell because he has rejected God’s love and Christ’s work on the cross. John recorded what he saw in the Lord’s revelation to him of the final judgment. He wrote:

“And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20.11-15).”

The Biblical account of judgment is that only when one’s name is not found in the “book of life” is one judged for his works or deeds (cf. Romans 2.6). The book of deeds contains a record of the works one did during his life. If one is not found in the book of life, if no record exists of one having believed the gospel that Christ died for them and rose from the dead, then the basis for judgment becomes one’s “works”, i.e. one’s deeds–good works and evil works. This is what Jesus meant when he declared in John:

“He said therefore again to them, “I go away, and you shall seek Me, and shall die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come” (John 8.21).

and

“I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins” (John 8.24).

The individuals at the final judgment, described in Revelation 20, are there because they rejected Christ and His gift of salvation. They only have their good deeds to commend themselves to God. But the Scriptures teach that no one has the necessary righteousness to meet the approval of God (Romans 3.20, 28). Paul wrote,

“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4.1-5).

Paul also wrote about Jesus as the Judge,

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2.14-16).

According to the Scriptures, human works can never satisfy the righteousness of God. A person can do all the good deeds of a Mother Teresa or an Albert Schweitzer and go to the Lake of Fire (Romans 3.20, 28; Galatians 2.16). If one could make himself acceptable to God by works, why was it necessary for Christ to go to the cross? Does it make sense for God to send his Son to die for something we could do ourselves? It is precisely because man cannot save himself that Christ came to die and make an atonement for sin. Jesus warned of this very matter when he said,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never know you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS'” (Matthew 7.21-23 cf. Luke 13.24-30).

When Christ died on the cross, he died for all (Romans 5.7-8; 1 Timothy 4.10; Hebrews 2.9; 1 Peter 3.18; 2 Peter 2.1; 1 John 2.2). He paid the penalty for man’s sin. He was the “lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1.29).

Christ’s death on the cross was the fulfillment of hundreds of years of God’s teaching Israel by means of the Levitical sacrifices. The animal sacrifices typified the true and final sacrifice of Christ himself. Those whose names are in the “book of life” are those who have recognized their inability to justify themselves before God and have accepted God’s free gift of salvation by trusting in the work of Christ. Jesus said in his conclusion to the parable of the lost sheep that more joy exists in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety nine who need no repentance (Luke 15.3-7). Those at the judgment of Revelation 20 are the ninety nine–those who refused to repent. They made the decision to reject God’s mercy and rely upon their own goodness.

God requires absolute righteousness because he is holy. Such a standard is impossible for man to achieve. Since we are all sinners (Romans 3.23, 6.23) Jesus Christ is our only hope. No amount of good works one can do can satisfy the righteous demands of God. The only work satisfactory to God is the work on the cross of His Son for us. To believe that Christ has died and was raised from the dead, to trust in him and his work, ensures one that he will never face judgment and hell. Consider the words of Jesus:

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life'” (John 5.19-24).

Divine judgment of the human race will be done by Jesus himself. The Scriptures declare that all who have placed their trust in Christ will not face that judgment. Paul affirmed this truth when he wrote,

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8.1).

Every person in hell is there because of his own choice. He has rejected God’s grace and the gift of his Son. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain,

“In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question: ‘What are you asking God to do?’ To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But he has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what he does.”

God is merciful but will not force Himself upon anyone. He has provided the way of escape through the death and resurrection of his Son. This is the good news, the gospel.

How does one avoid the condemnation of God and have eternal life? The choice is simple. Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead for your sins (1 Corinthians 15.1-5). Will you believe it? If so, God’s Word ensures you have eternal life and will never come before God’s judgment. Forgiveness of sins and eternal life is a gift–because Christ paid the price for you.

An issue that always seems to come up in a discussion of hell is the matter of “those who have never heard.” The objection is, “How can God send anyone to hell, especially those who have never heard.” What about this? The Bible teaches that God is self-evident. Creation declares God’s existence (see Psalm 19.1-6 and Romans 1.18-2.16). God has provided each person with an innate ability to perceive Him. Every person knows God exists but most suppress this knowledge (John 1.9; Romans 1.19-20; Titus 2.11; Colossians 1.23). As such, no one ever goes to hell who has not had a fair chance. God knows each heart and every circumstance. He is smarter, more loving, and more merciful than we. The objection fails when one considers the character of God.

C. S. Lewis wrote as clearly as anyone on the matter of hell and judgment. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain that “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” We are rebels. It is precisely because a person will not lay down his arms and end his rebellion again God that he goes to hell. Jesus will pronounce the judgment of the Lake of Fire but it is the individual who has condemned himself. Jesus, in a real sense, honors each person’s rebellion and God “loses” because he has made the provision of salvation available to everyone. I also commend to the reader, Lewis’ work, The Great Divorce. In this fiction, Lewis attempted to explain the choices individuals make which lead them to hell. In the final analysis, all in hell are there by their own choice. They have rejected God’s love and Christ’s mercy. No reality is more sobering than this.

Addendum: Objections to the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment

The doctrine of hell or eternal condemnation is difficult and unpleasant. It is, however, a doctrine that receives significant attention in the Bible, especially by the Lord Jesus Christ. Some reject the doctrine and some, known as universalists, teach God will save everyone or that hell is a place of temporary, corrective discipline. Do such such beliefs have a Biblical basis?

The major objections to the doctrine of eternal punishment are addressed below. While these objections are broken out separately, such an arrangement is artificial for the issues are intertwined and interrelated.

Objections:

  1. God wills all to be saved. Since He is sovereign all will be saved.
  2. God reconciled man through the work of Christ so all will be saved.
  3. Words for eternal, punishment, forever do not mean what they appear to mean.
  4. God’s punishment is corrective, not punitive.
  5. God is love and it is inconsistent with His character to consign men to eternal punishment.

Objection 1: God’s Will Is That All Be Saved

Paul declared God’s will is for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2.4). Peter stated God was not willing any should perish (2 Peter 3.9). These verses revealed God’s heart and His will. God’s desire is that all be saved because He loves us. He went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins. His desire is that every person take advantage of this work and be saved.

While God desires all to be saved it does not follow that all will be saved. God has given men and women freedom to reject Him.

Objection 2: God Has Reconciled the World So All Will Be Saved

The Bible teaches Christ died for every person.1 His death and resurrection has provided salvation for all who will respond to His love. It does not provide salvation for those who reject His salvation.

Universalists cite passages which they argue demonstrate God will save all. Some of these are the following:

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12.32).

Christ’s death on the cross solved the problem of sin. His salvation does draw all men. But man must accept God’s gift to receive it. John wrote,

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him (John 1.6-7).

God’s desire is that man accept His salvation. But God’s love forbids making man accept it. John wrote, 

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man (John 1.9).

God gives every man an opportunity for salvation. God is fair and has provided sufficient evidence of Himself for everyone to possess salvation in this life. In addition to what John wrote, Paul wrote the following:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1.18-20).

No one who has every lived has not had access to God’s salvation. Paul wrote:

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous (Romans 5.18-19).

Adam’s disobedience doomed us all. Christ’s obedience saved us all. But Christ’s work is ineffective for one who rejects it. Christ work on the cross was effective from God’s point of view for it satisfied the requirements of His justice. It is effective for all who accept it.

For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all (Romans 11.32).

The context of the passage in Romans 11 is God’s mercy to Jew and Gentile. He has grafted both into the olive tree, the source of blessing. This blessing is available to all who will accept it.

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15.22).

Paul wrote that through Adam’s disobedience we became children of Adam and shared in the penalty for his disobedience: death. God told Adam if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die (Genesis 2.16-17). He died spiritually immediately and died physically at age 930. Since we are “in Adam” we die also. But because Christ died in our place, suffered our condemnation, all “in Christ” will be made alive. How does one journey from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ” and “made alive” (ζῳοποιηθήσονται)? The pathway is to believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). It requires an act of the will: a choice.

When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15.28).

so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (Philippians 2.10)

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (Ephesians 1.9-10).

19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven (Colossians 1.19-20).

Universalists argue all cannot be summed up, reconciled, and subjected to Christ unless all are saved. Such a conclusion is a non sequitur. One can acknowledge God’s sovereignty without accepting His salvation. Subjects bow before a conqueror without loving him or embracing his rule. Paul stated every knee would bow in heaven, earth, and under the earth, i.e., hell. Those in hell will bow but remain alienated in their hearts to God’s salvation and rule.

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5.19). 

From the standpoint of God’s justice, Christ’s death and resurrection solved man’s sin problem. He removed the sin barrier. Nothing stands between Himself and man  except man’s will. Man has but to accept His work. Without this acceptance, God’s work on behalf of an individual is ineffective. And God, being love, will force no one to accept it.

Objection 3: The Words “eternal,” “punishment,” “forever” Have Been Misunderstood

Several words are used in relation to God’s punishment of unbelievers. Universalists argue these words do not mean what they appear to mean. Some of them are the following:

αἰών: Matthew 6.13, 12.32, 13.22, 13.39, 40, 49, 21.19, 24.3, 28.20; Mark 3.29, 4.19, 10.30, 11.14; Luke 1.33, 55, 70, 16.8, 18.30, 20.34, 35; John 4.14, 6.51, 58, 8.35, 51, 52, 9.32, 10.28, 11.26, 12.34, 13.8, 14.16; Acts 3.21, 15.18; Romans 1.25, 9.5, 11.36, 12.2, 16.27; 1 Corinthians 1.20, 2.6, 7, 8, 3.18, 8.13, 10.11; 2 Corinthians 4.4, 9.9, 11.31; Galatians 1.4.

αἰώνιος: Matthew 18.8, 19.16, 29, 25.41, 46; Mark 3.29, 10.17, 30; Luke 10.25, 16.9, 18.18, 30; John 3.15, 16, 36. 4.14, 36, 5.24, 39, 6.27, 40, 47, 54, 68, 10.28, 12.25, 50, 17.2, 3; Acts 13.46, 48; Romans 2.7, 5.21, 6.22, 23, 16.25, 26; 2 Corinthians 4.17, 18, 5.1; Galatians 6.8; 2 Thessalonians 1.9, 2.16; 1 Timothy 1.16, 6.12, 16, 19; 2 Timothy 1.9, 2.10; Titus 1.2.

In defending universalism, one writer has stated that words used for “everlasting” or “eternal” derive from αἰών, from which we get “eon,” a long age.2 On this basis, he argues “eternal” means a long time. Such reasoning reveals an ignorance of how words acquire meaning. While it is interesting and informative to trace a word to its parent or root this is not what determines its meaning. A word’s meaning is discovered by usage in context. How this works in English can be found by examining words in the Oxford English Dictionary. If the writer’s logic is correct regarding αἰώνιος, God does not give eternal life to believers but long-life, or possibly “enhanced” life (John 10.10). And when used of God, it would mean God is not eternal, just long-lived (Romans 16.26; 1 Timothy 6.16). A study of the verses in which αἰώνιος is used, reveals eternal life and eternal condemnation are parallel and equal.

Objection 4: God’s Punishment is Corrective, not Punitive

βασανίζω: Matthew 8.6, 29, 14.24; Mark 5.7, 6.48; Luke 8.28, 2 Peter 2.8; Revelation 9.5, 11.10, 12.2, 14.10, 20.10.

κόλασις: Matthew 25.46; 1 John 4.18.

Universalists argue “punishment” from God is probationary and corrective. But since “punishment” is coupled with αἰώνιος “everlasting,” this is meaningless. Eternal correction is meaningless.

God has revealed His love and work and provided sufficient warning about hell. Two examples are offered to illustrate why hell is eternal and not “corrective” as claimed by universalists:

  1. In Luke 16.19-31, Jesus told the story of a rich man and Lazarus. The rich man went to hell and Lazarus to paradise. The rich man wished relief from his torment but Abraham told him this was impossible (Luke 16.24-26). The rich man then asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers to warn them about the torment that awaited them (Luke 16.27-28). Abraham responded that Moses and the prophets were sufficient witnesses to them (Luke 16.29). The rich man argued that if one were to rise from the dead and warn them they would repent (Luke 1.30). Abraham answered that if they would not listen to Moses and the prophets they would not listen to one who rose from the dead (Luke 1.31).3
  2. The book of Revelation provides details about the Day of the Lord, which Jesus called the Tribulation (Matthew 24.21), that the prophets had foretold (Joel 2.1-11, 28-32; Zephaniah 1). The Day of the Lord is a period in which God will exert His wrath upon mankind. As the Day progresses, God’s judgments intensify. John described God’s wrath through seals, trumpets, and bowls. In Revelation 16.8, John described the fourth bowl judgment. By this time, God’s judgments are nearing an end. Soon the Lord Himself will return to defeat the powers of darkness and establish His kingdom. Even though His return is near and He has been applying “corrective” punishment for nearly seven years, how do men respond? Do they repent and worship Him? On the contrary, they blaspheme Him (Revelation 16.9).

The Tribulation provides substantial insight into man’s depravity and rebellion against God. Even though God’s judgments apply pressure by which men should recognize Him they refuse. The “corrective” punishment of the universalists is fantasy. Revelation shows men curse Christ, not accept Him. The Tribulation and Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus explain why the Lake of Fire is eternal. Jesus taught that Moses and the prophets were adequate witnesses for repentance. Lazarus’ rising from the dead would effect no remedy. The same lesson is found in Revelation. Instead of responding to God’s correction, men curse God. God has given each person ample opportunity to respond to Him during one’s lifetime. A “probationary” time in hell would effect no change. The response to God would be the same.

Hebrews

Paul provided a devastating description of man’s nature in Romans 1.18-32. He taught that God has revealed Himself to mankind and that all men know God exists (Romans 1.19-21). Man’s problem is not ignorance of God. Man knows God exists but restrains and suppresses this knowledge in unrighteousness (τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ἀδικίᾳ κατεχόντων, Romans 1.18). God responds by allowing man to exercise his will and (παραδίδωμι, Romans 1.24, 26, 28) degrade himself.

Objection 5: God is Love and His Character Forbids Eternal Punishment

God is love. God loves man. His ultimate demonstration of His love was His humiliation in becoming a man, suffering at the hands of the Jews and Romans, and bearing our sins and its penalty. Love cannot exist apart from freedom. Love cannot be forced. Love apart from free will is meaningless. God has given His creatures wills by which they can respond to Him. They can accept or reject Him.

While eternal punishment is terrible, worse would be for God to force His creatures to accept and love Him. God made us in His own image (Genesis 1.26-27). This means God has given us freedom to choose, to exercise our wills. God has provided a witness of Himself (John 1.9; Romans 1.19-20; Titus 2.11; Colossians 1.23) so that every man has an opportunity to accept His love and salvation. Because God is love, He will coerce no one to accept Him. He allows one the freedom to reject Him.

Conclusion

The argument for eternal condemnation and against universalism stands on two pillars. The first is God’s justice. God solved the problem of sin by Christ going to the cross. Man only need appropriate God’s work by believing the gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). The second is God’s love. God demonstrated His love by dying on the cross and taking our penalty. But God’s love forbids forcing one to accept His salvation. All who spend eternity in the lake of fire do so in realization that they have rejected God’s grace and goodness. As Lewis stated, the gates of hell are locked on the inside. Men go to hell and remain there because they reject God’s love and salvation.

1 See the author’s study, For Whom Did Christ Die? for more information on this subject.
2 See the article, Christian Universalism.
3 The rich man wished to be relieved of suffering but gave no indication of a change of heart.

©1998 Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.

Updated March 1, 2015.


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103 Responses to Hell and Judgment

  1. Ron Gibson says:

    If the gospels deal with Israel rather than the church why would Jesus’ teachings about hell (several references from the sermon on the mount) apply to the church rather than Israel? It’s hard to know what applies to which group as you seem to apply Jesus’ warnings about hell to Israel and the church. The church was not yet in existence when Jesus preached the sermon on the mount.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Ron,
      Jesus ministered to Israel (Romans 15.8). His statements about hell do not apply to the Church. The Church is composed of believers, not unbelievers. No member of the body of Christ (any who have believed Paul’s gospel, 1 Corinthians 15.1-4, need fear hell.

  2. Bretfox says:

    The Latin Vulgate is the base source for the major translations into other languages. The number one top seller being the King James Bible has its roots in the Latin Vulgate. Jerome wrote the Latin Vulgate around 350 AD, about 300 years after the autographs were written, God’s inspired word. We do not have the autographs available to verify Jerome’s translation from Greek to Latin. The earliest known New Testament manuscript is the Greek Sinaticus written around the same time period as Jerome, 350 AD. The Sinaticus has been translated into English by several authorities and the growing consensus is that Jerome mistranslated several key words like “hell” and “everlasting”. The new thought is that the Lake of Fire is not a place of eternal torment but a place of purification and that EVERONE, in God’s time and order, will bow before Jesus and believe that He is truly the only begotten Son of God. Who knows what God’s time and order is? Those who believe that Jesus is truly the only begotten Son of God will not face judgement. Their sins will be remove from them as far as the east is from the west. Their names have been written in the book of life. Eventually, in God’s time and order All will be saved.

    Jesus did not die in vain. He died for the sins of All mankind past present and future. God word says that it Is god’s will that ALL be saved. Man’s will does not trump God’s will. God wins. Hallelujah!!!!

    God is love. Love never fails.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Bretfox,
      The vast majority of translations, including the KJV, are based upon the Greek text, not the Latin Vulgate. The Latin Vulgate had a very minor role in terms of translation. Erasmus made the first modern version of the Greek NT. Before this, Wycliffe translated from the Vulgate, since he did not have access to Greek manuscripts. But after that, all translations were based upon the Greek text. Tyndale was the greatest English translator and provided the foundation of the KJV and subsequent Bibles. Most modern translations are based upon the critical Greek text rather than the majority text. Thus, all translations are based upon Greek, not Latin. This is true not only of English but of other languages. No Biblical support exists for the ideas that hell or the Lake of Fire is not eternal nor that all will be saved eventually. The same words used of eternal life are used of eternal punishment. No Biblical support exists for the idea that hell is a place of purification. NOW is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6.2). No opportunity exists in some future state or realm to be saved. The Scriptures teach hell/Lake of Fire is a place of eternal punishment in the NT and the Old (Isaiah 66.24). Jesus solved the problem of sin and death with His death and resurrection. God wishes all to be saved (1 Timothy 2.4). He has provided for all men’s salvation. Men only need believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) to obtain salvation and eternal life. Salvation is a CHOICE. All who go to hell go because they have chosen to reject God and His salvation.

  3. Erik Burmeister says:

    Dear Doctrine,
    thank you for taking the time to communicate your understanding of Biblical Truths. I know of course that at this time the majority of the Christian Church believes in the doctrine of everlasting torment in hell. However, there is much evidence that most theological schools in the first few hundred years taught the doctrine of Universal Salvation (the salvation of all). And there are quotes by Jerome and Augustine and St. Basil the Great saying that either many or most people believe that all will eventually be saved.
    Apart from Church history, for the sake of having productive dialogue on the subject, I wonder why you responded to Bretfox by saying that there is “no Biblical support for the idea that all will eventually be saved. Are you unaware that the adjective describing the punishment of unbelievers in hell has the meaning of a finite period of time and was probably used that way by the Greeks the great majority of the time? Are you unaware that the descriptive word is translated to mean a finite period of time in other places in the NT that are not describing hell? Since, to my knowledge, there is no Biblical evidence for the doctrine of everlasting torment apart from the descriptions using the word that often or most often (some people say always) has the meaning of a finite period of time, how do you know that it should be translated to say the punishment is eternal or everlasting. The entire doctrine is based on which meaning is applied to this word. What reason do you have to believe that the meaning of everlasting is the intended meaning? And since there is a Greek word, used twice in the NT, that ONLY means eternal or everlasting, isn’t it likely that God would have inspired the use of that word to avoid any confusion if the punishment really does last FOREVER? Would our Loving God leave something that indescribably terrible unclear? Of course these are rhetorical questions. Are you also unaware that there are quite a few Scriptures that, if you consider that hell might not last forever, you suddenly are able to see actually outright state that all will be saved or say things that tell us all will be saved? And even in the verse you discussed, Matt. 25:46, the parallel construction presents no problem with assigning the meaning of a finite period of time, as there is no conflict with a number of understandings – One is that the unbelievers go away to be punished during the millennial reign while the righteous referred to enjoy during that same time a life of special reward. Another understanding says that the unbelievers go to an indefinite time of punishment that will eventually come to an end while believers go away to the life of Heaven for that same amount of time, an age. For, once all unbelievers had been brought to repentance and faith, been saved, and been translated to Heaven, a new age would then begin that would last forever. I have also read that the descriptive word, aionios, that the length is determined by what it is describing, so that it could have a finite meaning and an infinite meaning in the same sentence with parallel construction. I have only read this from one source and can’t confirm that this is true yet, but it certainly sounds plausible. Whatever the case, the last thing about Matt. 25:46 is that the word for punishment, kolasin, comes from a word that means “to prune.” Kolasin is not retributive punishment, but chastisement, which is meant to teach the one being punished so they can live better with what they learn. And the only way chastisement can thus benefit the unbeliever is if it brings him or her eventually to repentance and faith and salvation. Everlasting chastisement would accomplish no good, of course.
    So, assuming you want to know and believe the Truth, even if it is different from what we have been so highly indoctrinated in, I hope you will examine the evidence with an open and objective mind. If you see errors in any of it, I would welcome your input. I have MUCH more evidence I can present; I haven’t even mentioned any of the many Scriptures yet. Of course there is the one where Jesus said that if He was lifted up (on the cross), He would draw all men to Himself. (Don’t think He would have mentioned that if He drew every person to Himself but then lost most of them!) (By the way, what about the fact that if most go to hell forever, the devil wins, like by a score of 10 to 1? And how can a God of Love, Who has to do all from Love or deny Himself, create billions of people with the knowledge they will end up in torment forever? The Loving thing to do would be to abstain from creating them. Scripture says all is created for Christ. So He creates billions for His own gain of some kind, knowing that it will involve them eventually ending up in agony forever, wishing they had never been born? And I’ll close with one more Scripture, Romans 5:18: “It follows then that just as the result of a single transgression is a condemnation which extends to the whole race, so also the result of a single decree of righteousness is a life-giving acquittal which extends to the whole race.” Even if you choose a translation that says “act of righteousness” rather than decree of righteousness, you still have justification not merely being offered to all, but coming to them, justification of life coming to ALL!
    I realize it is really hard to consider anything different than what we have all been so highly indoctrinated it. But considering how much better it would be if all are saved, and how much more that is the kind of result we would expect from an all powerful God of all knowledge and foreknowledge and infinite Love, shouldn’t we hope that this is true and do our best, by the grace of the Spirit of God within us, to analyzed and compare the evidence so as to arrive at the Truth? Once God opened the eyes of my mind and heart, oh, the increase in joy that swept in when I could finally be convinced that He will make all things well in the end, that the Story ends WONDERFULLY, better than I could ever imagine!
    The Lord’s grace and peace be to you, brother.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Erik
      The arguments you cite have existed for a long period and many have argued for universal salvation. The issue is not one of indoctrination but of what the Scriptures state. They simply do not support “temporary” punishment or universal salvation. In the OT we find passages such as Isaiah 66.22-24 and Daniel 12.2. As noted in the article, Jesus repeatedly warned of the everlasting nature of punishment. Do you really think it’s possible to argue for everlasting life and temporary punishment when the same word is used for both (cf. Matthew 18.18, 19.29, 25.41, 46; John 3.16, 36, 4.14, 5.24, etc. cf. Revelation 20.10-15)? John wrote Christ was the Light who lights every man who comes into the world (John 1.9) and Paul wrote that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (Titus 2.11). All have an equal chance of accepting or rejecting God’s love and salvation. The opportunity for salvation exists now, not in the future. As for your reasoning that if God does not save all He loses, I would say God has never been about numbers; He is about choice. We can choose for His salvation or reject it. Do you think heaven would be heaven if people were forced into it? Read Lewis’ The Great Divorce for this perspective.

      • Elias II says:

        You say the scriptures do not support universal salvation. Of course they do. That’s why there are many Christian universalists; they find it in the scriptures. 1 Cor 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” On its face, this supports universal salvation. Now you can interpret it in ways that deny universal salvation, but that would require you to read something into it that is different than what it plainly says. Other verses in support of universal salvation include Romans 5:18-19 (“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for fall men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”); Colossians 1:19-20 (“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”); John 12:32 (“and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”); Romans 11:32 (“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.”); 1 Corinthians 15:28 (“When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” [God can’t be “all in all” if there remain people outside of him]); Ephesians 1:9-10 (“making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”); Philippians 2:10–11 (“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [could our Abba, Father be satisfied with a forced confession of the condemned?]). Paul’s universalistic passages are so numerous that even C.S. Lewis alluded to Paul being thought of as a universalist in “The Great Divorce.”

        In 1 Peter 3:19, we read, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;” an allusion to Christ’s foray into Hades between his crucifixion and resurrection. Of course, such preaching would be futile if one’s fate in Hades were forever sealed. See “Christ, the Conqueror of Hell,” by Hilarion Alfeyev.

        Now, admittedly, there are many other passages that seem to argue against universal salvation, as you have pointed out. The challenge then is to reconcile these seeming contradictions. Some do so by arguing that the universalistic passages do not mean what they plainly say. Others, however, argue that the condemnation passages do not mean everlasting conscious torment. For example, Clement of Alexandria in the second century wrote, “If in this life there are so many ways for purification and repentance, how much more should there be after death! The purification of souls, when separated from the body, will be easier. We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer; to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, is his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life.” He developed this understanding from his knowledge of the Greek word “kolasis,” translated “punishment” in Matthew. He further wrote, “For there are partial corrections (padeiai) which are called chastisements (kolasis), which many of us who have been in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord’s people. But as children are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence. But God does not punish (timoria) for punishment (timoria) is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are chastised collectively and individually.” Likewise, William Barclay, in explaining the Greek “aionios” (eternal), wrote, “The word for eternal is aionios. It means more than everlasting, for Plato—who may have invented the word—plainly says that a thing may be everlasting and still not be aionios. The simplest way to out it is that aionios cannot be used properly of anyone but God; it is the word uniquely, as Plato saw it, of God. Eternal punishment is then literally that kind of remedial punishment which it befits God to give and which only God can give.”

        Thus, Barclay argues, “aionios” is a word denoting quality rather than duration. When Jesus defined “eternal life” in John 17:3, he did so in terms of its quality, not its duration.

        So, universalists interpret the condemnation passages in a way that allows for universal salvation. Even non-universalist, N.T. Wright argues that many of Jesus’ warnings of judgment were to the very real judgment that faced Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Likewise, non-universalists interpret the univeralistic passages in a way that allows for everlasting conscious torment. (i.e., “all” doesn’t mean “all,” etc.) I won’t say who is right, because I don’t know, but, let’s not perpetuate the myth that the scriptures do not support universal salvation when there are many passages that do just that.

        You also ask, “Do you think heaven would be heaven if people were forced into it?” Christian universalists do not believe that anyone will be “forced” into heaven. They believe that people will remain outside the heavenly city for as long as they refuse to enter. But, as Rev. 21:25 tells us, the gates of the heavenly city never shut, implying that those outside can always choose to enter. For Christian universalists (like Clement), the opportunity to repent survives the grave. Christian universalism is not about saving people against their will; it is only about never closing the door on the opportunity for repentance.

        Again, I’m not saying that your reading of scripture is wrong, only that there are many very intelligent believers who find ample support for universalism in scripture.

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Elias,
          Universal salvation is a fool’s errand. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.22, all “in Christ” will be made alive, not all “in Adam.” Most of the human race is not “in Christ” for most refuse God’s salvation–in our day–Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Jesus said “few” find salvation (Matthew 7.13-14). This excludes universalism. The only path to universalism is to twist the context and meaning of the Scriptures. Be wise.

          • Elias II says:

            So Adam’s sin was more effective in universally condemning all mankind than is Jesus’ righteousness in saving us? Adam is more powerful than Jesus? Sin more powerful than love? Sin wins? Love loses?

            Sorry, not meaning to debate. Fortunately, no one’s salvation depends on what he believes about heaven or hell. Salvation depends on faith in Jesus. There are many people who believe in Jesus (i.e., they love, worship and obey him) precisely because they believe his love is effective to melt even the hardest heart, to save the chief of sinners even from his own willful disobedience. They love and worship Jesus because they believe he will use any means necessary, even the fires of Hades, for his redemptive purpose. They would find it nearly impossible to believe in a Savior who was either unwilling (Calvinism) or unable (Arminianism) to reverse the effect of sin and reconcile his entire creation to himself. Their faith in Jesus has saved them, even if it is based on a misguided belief in universalism.

            On the other hand, many other Christians believe in Jesus precisely because they believe in an everlasting fiery hell for those who don’t believe. Their faith in Jesus has saved them, even if it is based on a misguided belief in everlasting hell.

            Either way, whether universalist or not, both groups of people believe in, love, worship, and obey Jesus, which is of paramount importance.

            As N.T. Wright points out, we get wrong answers because we ask wrong questions. Perhaps the question of hell is the wrong question. Indeed, Paul never used the word in any of his letters. Instead his focus was on proclaiming the faithfulness of God to his covenants, and the need for us to trust and obey Jesus.

            Whether you believe in Jesus because you believe in hell, or because you don’t believe in hell, your faith in Christ is what matters.

            I would caution against trying to persuade believers against their belief in universal salvation. If you succeed, they may find themselves rejecting God entirely rather than believe in an unloving or impotent God. You may win the theological battle and lose the soteriological war.

            • doctrine doctrine says:

              Elias,
              The cure for hell (and universalism) is to believe Paul’s gospel. Christ won the soteriological war. Those who go to hell go because they have rejected Christ’s love and salvation. God has provided man a second chance by Christ’s death and resurrrection. We have no provision for a third chance. As I have pointed out in the article, the sternest warnings about hell come from the lips of the Savior Himself. Universalism and the teaching of Christ are incompatible and denigrate His sacrifice. Do you think He suffered to save us from a slap on the wrist?

              • Elias II says:

                Jesus suffered to save us from our sins, to take away the sin of the world. Matt. 1:21; John 1:29; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:24.

                The problem of sin is not hell; the problem of sin is that it keeps us from *living* in the image of God, which was his original intent in creation. Gen. 1:26-27. Jesus came that we might have *life* and have it abundantly (John 10:10). This is much, much more than avoiding a trip to hell after we die; it is about being completely transformed into his image. Paul tells us over and over again that God’s salvific goal for us is to be transformed into his image. Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21. This is echoed by John as well. 1 John 3:1-3.

                Universalism doesn’t turn hell into a slap on the wrist. On the contrary, George MacDonald wrote, “The notion that the salvation of Jesus is a salvation from the consequences of our sins, is a false, mean, low notion. The salvation of Christ is salvation from the smallest tendency or leaning to sin. It is a deliverance into the pure air of God’s ways of thinking and feeling. It is a salvation that makes the heart pure, with the will and choice of the heart to be pure. To such a heart, sin is disgusting. It sees a thing as it is,—that is, as God sees it, for God sees everything as it is. The soul thus saved would rather sink into the flames of hell than steal into heaven and skulk there under the shadow of an imputed righteousness. No soul is saved that would not prefer hell to sin. Jesus did not die to save us from punishment; he was called Jesus because he should save his people from their sins.” (see Matt. 1:21)

                Jesus didn’t suffer to save us from a slap on the wrist; he didn’t even suffer to save us from hell; he suffered to save us from sin. For this reason, we, like Paul, must press on toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14) by working out our salvation (Phil 2:12) and purifying ourselves as he is pure (1 John 3:3).

                All of this is far more important that what someone thinks about heaven, hell, or universal salvation.

                • doctrine doctrine says:

                  Elias,
                  The chief problem with universalism is that it cannot be reconciled with the Scriptures. It contradicts Jesus’ teaching as well as Paul’s. What agreement does it have with the words of Jesus? For universalism to work, the Scriptures cited in your first post have to be taken out of context. For example, you wrote regarding 1 Corinthians 15:28, “God can’t be “all in all” if there remain people outside of him.” Why not? Paul’s point in the passage was that everything will be subject to Christ. Every knee will bow before Him (Philippians 2.10-11; Romans 14.11-12). But bowing before Christ does not require acceptance of Him. Throughout history people have bowed before conquerors without accepting them. Believers and unbelievers will bow before Christ. But unbelievers will remain unbelievers. Unbelievers won’t be saved because they won’t be saved. This point universalists seem unable to grasp. People are not saved because they won’t be saved. They wish to remain rebels–to remain outside of Christ. This was the whole point of Lewis’ Divorce. And tragically, according to Jesus, this is the fate of the vast majority of the human race (Romans 3.11-12).

        • Hmq says:

          Our creator did not lie when he said “the wages of sin is DEATH”! It is an everlasting/permanent condition for those who are judged and found deserving of the 2nd, permanent death. Everyone still dies the 1st death (not everlasting/eternal) and that is why Yashua (jesus) always referred to it as being “Asleep”, since we will be awakened from the 1st death! The wages of sin has never been eternal torture in a fire, but was a lie told by the early (fallen away) church, and is not biblical!

          • doctrine doctrine says:

            Hmq,
            I suggest you read Jesus’ teachings about everlasting punishment. He made it quite clear that it was a place of eternal torment.

        • Albert Dixon says:

          Elias II,

          Please, don’t be and talk foolish.

          Thanks in advance.
          Albert E. Dixon

  4. cig says:

    I think the idea of universal salvation is appealing because of philosophy, not theology. How can a living God create humans to be eternally punished…As stated above. “Wouldn’t it be better not to create them?” I think WLC answers this best when he says it is possible that no possible works exists where humans are given free choice and everyone believes. You would have to either accept some having eternal punishment, or have a world that has no one living eternally. Having some live eternally is better than not having it, so you but it at the price of eternal punishment for some.

    Doctrine:
    Do you agree with CS Lewis that feel is not eternal punishment in the physical, agonal sense, but more psychological in the separation from God. That the sinner continues to be offered redemption (the bus), and eternally refuses it? Hell is a place where God is not, and many eternally choose to stay there?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Cig,
      The only revelation we have of heaven and hell is that which God has given in the Scriptures. The most severe language about hell is from the lips of the Lord Himself. We do well to give heed.

  5. Elias II says:

    Doctrine says, “Unbelievers won’t be saved because they won’t be saved. This point universalists seem unable to grasp.”

    Acutally, universalists grasp that point very well, which is why they believe there is a very painful, but *corrective* hell. Christian universalism (in the mold of Clement, Origen, MacDonald, and Rob Bell) does *not* say, “don’t worry, everybody gets in anyway.” Rather it only holds that hell belongs to God, exists as an extension of his love and power, and has a redemptive purpose. I find nothing in scripture that denies this possibility, the use of the word “kolasis” (corrective discipline) seems to support it, and the character of God seems to demand it.

    The main problem with non-universalism is the violence it does to the character of God, directly contrary to the scriptures. If people suffer forever in conscious torment in a lake of fire with no hope of escape (or if people are finally annihilated), then one of two things *must* be true of God. Either,

    a. he chooses it to happen, or
    b. he is powerless to prevent it.

    a. If God wants all people to come to repentance and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9), then it follows that he will do all in his power to achieve that result. Like the good shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one lost sheep, God will will not give up, but will pursue the sinner until the sinner has paid the uttermost farthing, not for vengeance, but for redemption. His essence as God prevents him from giving up because, as the O.T. tells us no fewer than 44 times, “his steadfast love endures forever.” At what point does God stop loving his creatures? At what point do his mercies fail? At what point are they *not* new every morning?

    And, yet, most non-universalists would say there comes a time when God says, “enough, the opportunity for repentance is over,” at which point, one must conclude that his mercies have indeed failed, they will not be new tomorrow and his steadfast love has not endured forever. If it is possible for God to keep the opportunity for repentance open (like the always open gates of the heavenly city), then it seems that his Love would dictate that he do so.

    b. Other non-universalists hold that eternal condemnation is not a failure of God’s love, because, while he still wants all people to be saved, some steadfastly refuse to repent. In this light, you wrote, “People are not saved because they won’t be saved. They wish to remain rebels–to remain outside of Christ.” I infer from your statement that they wish to remain outside of Christ *forever*. The problem with this view is that it exalts human free will as the highest power in the universe, stronger than even God’s omnipotence. If my son stood on the edge of a bridge and threatened to jump, I would exercise all the power in my being to force him to live, even against his will. Love would demand nothing less.

    Despite the above, I have *not* embraced universalism (much to the chagrin of my universalist friends) because I grant that there may be explanations for either punishment or annihilation that are beyond my present ability to understand. However, to date, I have not heard any non-univeralistic explanation for the hereafter that does not render God less than God, nay, less that what God commands us to be. So, I do not embrace non-universalism either.

    Your original post laments that sermons on hell have dropped off the scope of most churches. Perhaps the reason is that the scriptures are very far from clear what “hell” means, or how to reconcile it with what the scriptures very clearly teach about the character of God. Is hell the dark, murky Sheol of the O.T. where *everybody* went after death, both righteous and wicked? Or is it the Hellenistic Hades, again where everyone went, but which later developed different chambers for good or bad? Or is it the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem, which one *must* conclude if he is going to take Jesus’ words literally? And, what eventually happens to the condemned? Do they burn forever in conscious torment? Or do they die, perish, which would seem to imply an annihilation? How can death be defeated (1 Cor. 15:26) while people remain “dead,” i.e., apart from God’s life? And, what does all of this say about God’s love and power? What kind of a God would create a race of beings with full knowledge that the bulk of them would exercise their own free will to either be annihilated or suffer never-ending conscious torment with no hope of escape? What kind of God would establish a gospel, a good news, knowing that the bulk of humanity throughout history would never hear it… and then have their everlasting fate depend on their response to what they never heard? What kind of God would create a place… a real literal place… that consisted of nothing less than an everlasting cosmic torture chamber?

    The concept of hell creates far more disturbing questions than it answers, which is probably one reason preachers tend to avoid it. As my favorite theologian, Linus van Pelt would say, “the theological implications alone are staggering.”

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Elias,
      You wrote that you find nothing in scripture that denies the possibility of hell having a redemptive purpose. I find nothing in Scripture to support such purpose. Jesus stated in Matthew 25.46, καὶ ἀπελεύσονται οὗτοι εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον οἱ δὲ δίκαιοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, cf. Matthew 25.41. The punishment is eternal, as life is eternal. What would be the redemptive purpose of eternal punishment? No hope exists for redemption in Jesus’ statement of John 3.36. Revelation 20.11-15 provides no indication the sentence is not permanent. If hell were less than permanent, would we not find this clearly stated? On the contrary, the Scriptures are consistent of hell’s finality. It is the second death. There is one way to life: to trust in Christ’s death and resurrection on one’s behalf. You state, “If God wants all people to come to repentance and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9), then it follows that he will do all in his power to achieve that result.” He has. If Christ’s death for all is insufficient mercy what else is there? Jesus told the rich man that if his brothers would not believe Moses, they would not repent even if one rose from the dead (Luke 16). What universalists want is for God to somehow “force” people to love Him. It cannot be. Men and women make their choice and this choice has eternal consequences. Each of us is free to choose or to reject Him. God does not promise unending opportunities. Why not? Because according to Jesus’ words in Luke 16, it would make no difference. This is the point where faith comes in. Either we believe He is good and trustworthy or we don’t. A choice.

  6. Elias II says:

    Doctrine writes: “I find nothing in Scripture to support such [a redemptive] purpose. Jesus stated in Matthew 25.46, καὶ ἀπελεύσονται οὗτοι εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον οἱ δὲ δίκαιοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, cf. Matthew 25.41.”

    The very verse you quote supports a redemptive purpose for hell. “Kolasin” refers to corrective discipline, not retributive punishment, according to Clement of Alexandria. According to Plato and Barclay, “aionios” doesn’t mean everlasting. Greek has another perfectly good word for everlasting (aidios). Aionios refers to a *quality* that can only be applied to God himself. So the “kolasin aionion” of Matthew 25:46 is a quality of corrective discipline that is worthy of God. In the same way, the life referred to is a quality of life that is worthy of God. Both are “aionios,” of a Godly quality. No problem at all seeing a redemptive purpose in the words that mean a Godly corrective discipline.

    Doctrine writes, “No hope exists for redemption in Jesus’ statement of John 3.36.”

    John 3:36 is not speaking about what happens later at some future state; it refers to what is happening now. To the extent I believe in Jesus, I have eternal life *now*, a *quality* of life that Jesus defines in John 17:3, not one word of which mentions duration. To the extent I don’t believe in Jesus (i.e., obey him), I do not experience life *now*, and God’s wrath remains on me, *now*. Why does his wrath remain on me? Because he is a consuming fire, determined to have me clean, even if it means burning the sin out of me. Do you really believe God would create a universe in which the overwhelming principle would be “no hope”? For that is what you get if the bulk of humanity fails to be saved as you earlier stated.

    Doctrine writes, “You state, ‘If God wants all people to come to repentance and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9), then it follows that he will do all in his power to achieve that result.’ He has. If Christ’s death for all is insufficient mercy what else is there?”

    The “what else” is God’s taking action to ensure that his creatures partake of his mercy. The Bible seems clear that our coming to Jesus is not solely our own action; it is God who draws us, who chooses us, who is the author and finisher of our faith, who justifies, sanctifies and glorifies us. So, God’s work of mercy doesn’t end on the cross; it extends to his active work in our lives to choose us, draw us, and provide us with the faith needed to believe and repent. As you admit, Christ’s death alone does not ensure people’s repentance. Yet, Peter clearly states that God’s will is that everyone repent, that no one perish. By your argument, God’s will as stated in Peter will *not* come to pass. God does not get what God wants. “The theological implications alone are staggering.”

    Doctrine writes: “What universalists want is for God to somehow ‘force’ people to love Him.”

    Not at all. What universalists want is a God who is true to his own character and the character he commands of us. They want a God whose steadfast love endures forever, whose mercies are new every morning, who loves his enemies and forgives seventy times seven, who does not give up on his beloved, who wants them to repent so much that he will take effective loving action to see that it happens, with a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things, a love that never fails.

    Doctrine writes: “Either we believe He is good and trustworthy or we don’t. A choice.”

    Absolutely, and I fully believe that God is good and trustworthy. A God who is either unwilling or unable to save his creation is neither good nor trustworthy.

    So, which is it? If people end up in hell forever, does God choose it? or is he powerless to prevent it? It must be one or the other.

    Which do you believe in? A God who doesn’t care? or a God whose love is impotent?

    I realize I am probably becoming a pest a this time, but I have appreciated this opportunity to sort out my own thoughts on this difficult topic. I’ll leave you the last word if you want it.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Elias,
      The Greek lexicons (Abbot-Smith, BAG, Thayer, etc.) define αἰώνιος as everlasting. I don’t know about Barclay or Clement but Plato defined it as eternal. God gives the believer not only better life, but His own life–eternal life. The word κόλασις means correction, punishment, or penalty depending on the context although the word is used only 2x in the NT and both times means punishment. In Matthew 25.46, it means punishment or penalty for eternal correction is meaningless. You argue if one goes to hell it’s God’s fault for God’s love cannot be refused. But alas it can. God has forgiven much more than 70 x 7. He has forgiven infinitely. But His forgiveness requires acceptance. It requires faith. This is exactly what those who go to hell refuse. They refuse God’s love and infinite forgiveness. Lewis said that God says to them, “Thy will be done.” This same argument Paul made in Romans 1.26, 28 with παραδίδωμι. As a note, I do not know how you’re getting your lexical information but whomever it is from is a disasterously bad exegete. Bad exegesis is the mother of erroneous theology. Such shoddy work would not have been permitted in my Greek classes.

  7. Elias II says:

    Okay, I can’t help myself. One more post and I’m done.

    You say, ” eternal correction is meaningless.” It is not at all meaningless to a God whose job is redemption, not condemnation. John 3:17; John 12:47. Everlasting retribution only makes sense to a God’s whose purpose is to condemn and torment, not save.

    Which is the whole point of universalism. It *begins* with all the great things the Bible says about God, his goodness in creating and redeeming, his steadfast love, his promise to bless “all the nations,” etc., and then lets the fuzziness of an unseen future fall where it may.

    You seem to have taken the opposite approach. You appear to have begun with a firm belief in the horror and permanence of hell and then let the character of God fall where it may. Is God unwilling to save? So be it. Is he unable to save? So be it. God can be as little as necessary, so long as everlasting retribution is preserved (a quality God forbids in us, his image-bearers. Why are we so willing to accept in God qualities that we would condemn in the worst of human beings?)

    Your approach is apparent in your latest reference, Romans 1:26-28. Nothing in those verses implies permanent torment in hell. On the contrary, when I read those verses, I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 5:5, where Paul admonishes the Corinthians to hand the adulterer over to Satan “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” This is an amazing thought. Hand over an unrepentant sinner to destruction *in order to save him*. That is what a redeemer does. That is what a consuming fire does. It consumes evil and destroys it; it doesn’t just torment it like a cat playing with a doomed mouse.

    Universalists interpret hell in the light of the goodness of God.

    You seem to interpret God in the light of never-ending torment. It is telling to me that you have not addressed my concern that, if the bulk of humanity is forever condemned, then God either chooses it, or is powerless to prevent it. Neither thought is worthy of the God of the Bible, and I’ve not heard any explanation for everlasting torment (or separation or annihilation) that preserves both God’s steadfast love *and* his omnipotence.

    Okay, I’m done now, I promise. Thank you again for this opportunity to explore these thoughts. As I said many posts ago, our salvation does not depend on what we believe about hell; it depends on our faith *in* Jesus. I love, worship and obey Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (not just the punishment for sin). I trust you do as well. On that we can agree and enjoy each other’s fellowship for all eternity (whatever that means).

    Blessings to you Mr. (or Ms.) Doctrine.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Elias,
      You missed the point. If correction is eternal no redemption is possible. It goes forever without hope of change. This is why Jesus meant everlasting punishment–not correction–in Matthew 25.46. This sense fits with what He said every time He brought up the subject (which was a lot). If you are paying attention, this should arrest your attention. You miss the point of Romans 1.26, 28. I did not state that it speaks of permanent punishment. Rather, I pointed to παραδίδωμι to show God “gives them up.” This is why men go to hell forever. Since men refuse to accept God’s love and salvation God accedes to their desire for eternity as He did in time. You failed to address the word αἰώνιος. No competent exegesis leads to a conclusion other than it means everlasting. If God meant for us to think of hell as non-eternal, He would have made this clear. As for the matter “if the bulk of humanity is forever condemned, then God either chooses it, or is powerless to prevent it,” the answer should be self-evident. God chooses it. He created hell. He created the Lake of Fire. He created all things. Jesus Himself is the judge and sends men to the lake of fire forever (John 5.22; Revelation 20.11-15). This is what Jesus declared and the Scriptures teach. But all who go, go because they have chosen this fate by refusing God’s mercy. They have rejected His suffering, death, and resurrection and wish to depend on their own self-righteousness for salvation. The problem with universalists is they do not WANT to believe the Scriptures. They do not like what they read and twist them to mean something else. The problem of universalists is unbelief. My encouragement to you is to believe God. You will not be disappointed.

      • Elias II says:

        Since you challenged me on the exegesis of aionios, I get my understanding from William Barclay, which I quoted in my first post. For the full article, see http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/barclay1.html.

        I do believe God, and I’m not disappointed, for he is much more than you represent him to be.

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Elias,
          Barclay is at odds with all the the lexicons and reveals he rejected scholarship to pursue a personal agenda. Origen is infamous for moving interpretation away from its normal reading to an allegorical or figurative method. The piece from Barclay is an mangled, exegetical mess. I assume you know Barclay denied the divinity of Christ, His miracles, His substitutionary atonement for our sins, and the virgin birth. When I wrote of disappointment, I did not mean “now.” I doubt any universalist is disappointed now. I mean in the future.

  8. Jack S. says:

    Hello Don,

    I have enjoyed reading Elias’ argument in favor of the concept of universalism. In my first semester of undergraduate college I took a then required course in Public Speaking. I enjoyed the class so much that I took a follow up elective class in Argumentation. The course required three 20-minute speeches to the class. Students were required to choose a topic with which they strongly agreed as their first speech, as Elias II has so adeptly performed. The students second speech had to be a strong, intellectually honest rebuttal, taking the opposite side to their original position; the third speech was to state their final position based on all of the evidence that they had learned. The class results were remarkable.

    I would challenge Elias II to offer up his second speech in the form of a rebuttal argument to his strong position on universalism. This task requires honesty and integrity that is rarely found these days.

    My experience shows me that most people with strong, erroneous positions about Bible doctrine have only made the first speech, and they cling to their denomination and tradition over scripture. Their stubborn stance is the result of human nature (resistance to change and not wanting to admit that they have been wrong,) error in study and teaching, and Satan, whose only power is deception.

    Thank you for your valuable time spent in publishing such useful articles.

    Regards,

    Jack S.
    Meridian, ID

    • Elias II says:

      To be clear, I am *not* a universalist. A universalist is one who states with certainty that, in the end, all will be saved. I cannot take that position because (a) it requires me to predict future events, which I am in no position to do and (b) I fully agree with Doctrine that no person can be saved who steadfastly refuses to be saved.

      I believe that salvation means having eternal life, which comes from being sanctified, conformed into the image of Jesus. Eternal life is not a possession or reward to be received at some future point; it is a life to be lived in the eternal now and one cannot be forced to live. In that I agree with Doctrine.

      That said, I am also *not* a non-universalist, for that too requires me to predict future events. Just as I cannot be certain that all will repent, I can also not be certain that some will not.

      Where I disagree with Doctrine is that I believe that, like the good shepherd that he is, God will never give up on a lost sheep. I can see nothing in the revealed character of God that would allow him to do so. Doctrine holds that, at some point in time, God does just that and says, “thy will be done” with absolute finality, resulting in “no hope.” I shudder just typing the words.

      My original post was in response to Doctrine’s certainty that some — in fact most — will not be saved and that universal salvation is not supported by scripture. I respond negatively to such certainty because, usually, it is explained in terms that diminish God’s character, that render him less than God. I also felt it necessary to point out what was obvious; many scriptures do, on their face, support universal salvation. Doctrine explains those scriptures away by providing an interpretation that goes beyond their face value. And, yet, he seems to accept Jesus’ warnings about punishment on their face, without further inquiry and without acknowledging the possibility that second century church fathers might have a better understanding of Koine Greek than he does.

      You will also note that I have argued strongly that one’s salvation does not depend on what he believes about hell and future punishment. I trust Doctrine agrees with me on this although he has never stated it one way or the other. I say this because there are many people who believe in God *because* they believe he is both good enough and strong enough to save everyone (I feel foolish having to state the obvious). I don’t want them to read Doctrine’s original article and turn away from God because of his very able argument in favor of everlasting condemnation. One is saved by his belief *in* Jesus, not by his belief *about* hell. I would hate for someone to turn away from faith in Jesus because Doctrine was successful in persuading him to believe in hell. I have seen people do that in other contexts.

      While I cannot be certain that all will, in fact, be saved, I *can* be certain of truth of who God is, which is clearly stated in Scripture and expressed in the life and words of Jesus who was the expressed image of God. Thus, I believe with absolute certainty that:

      1. God is love. As Andrew Murray reminds us, God’s love is not an attribute to be balanced with other competing attributes, but rather the essence of who God is. Every other attribute of God flows from and is an expression of his essential love. Thus, God is just *because* he is love; he pours out his wrath on sin *because* he is love and sent his Son to “take away the sins of the world.” If God created an actual place called “hell” then it must be an instrument of his essential love. As George MacDonald says, hell belongs to God, not the devil. I believe it utterly impossible for God to act in a way that is contrary to love.

      2. God’s steadfast love endures forever; his mercies are new every morning. There can, therefore, never come a time when he ceases to love or to forgive sinners. Any explanation of hell that is based on God loving some people and not others, or on his love or mercy coming to an end or being purposely withheld at some point in time directly contradicts both scripture and his character. He is love; his steadfast love endures forever. He cannot be otherwise and still be God.

      3. God is sovereign and omnipotent. No plan of his can be thwarted. There is no power that can overpower God. Darkness cannot overpower light. Any explanation of hell that would subject God power to any other higher force, including the free will of his creatures, directly contradicts his sovereignty and omnipotence. If man can choose condemnation against God’s will, then God is neither sovereign nor omnipotent.

      4. I believe that God does his very best for every man (and woman). I believe his character requires that he do so.

      5. I believe that salvation is ultimately the work of God. As such, it is logical to me that, if some people are not saved, then, for them at least, God’s work has failed. Calvinists solve this problem by limiting the salvific work of God to the elect few. Arminians solve this problem by saying that salvation is ultimately the work of man, not God. I reject both Calvinism and Arminianism as contrary to scripture *and* unworthy of the love, omniscience, and omnipotence of God.

      … and yet, I readily confess I am not God and further that God is not bound by my sense of logic. I readily admit there may be an explanation of everlasting punishment — beyond my ability to conceive — that does not do violence to God’s character. To date, after 41 years as a believer, I have yet to hear that explanation, but that does not mean that one does not exist.

      So I leave the matter to God. I cannot accept an explanation of hell that contradicts God’s goodness, for I *must* worship God. I *must* love God, and I *must* obey him. My faith in him is far more important than any teaching about hell. I will trust him to do his best for every man, and I will endeavor to join him in that effort.

      As to arguing against universalism, I routinely do that with my universalist friends. Just as I object to Doctrine’s certainty that some will be eternally condemned, I also object to universalists’ certainty that none will. I base my counter argument on the many warnings that Doctrine has pointed out.

      My aim, in arguing either side, is to refocus our efforts on pursuading people to learn to trust and obey Jesus, thereby becoming his disciples, and leave the mystery of the future to God. MacDonald said, “Oh, the folly of any mind that would explain God before obeying him.”

      I advocate not drawing firm conclusions from fairly fuzzy and disjointed scriptures ripped out of context as prooftexts. While I believe in the authority of Scripture, I can state without any hesitance that its teachings about hell are far from clear or consistent. In one place, the righteous go to Sheol when they die, in another they go to Paradise, in another, they sleep. In one place the damned perish, in another they face destruction, in another they are in outer darkness, in another they are burning in a lake of fire. Even Francis Chan, in his book “Erasing Hell” couldn’t decide if “hell” means everlasting conscious torment or annihilation. In the face of such obvious uncertainty, I choose to trust in the goodness of my Abba Father and not make bold godlike predictions about an unknown future.

      Erasmus said, “In sacred literature there are certain sanctuaries into which God wills that we shall not penetrate further.” Bible teachers would do well to listen.

      Likewise George MacDonald’s father wrote to his son, “Like you, I cannot by any means give in to the extreme points either of Calvinism or Arminianism, nor can I bear to see that which is evidently gospel mystery torn to pieces by those who believe there is no mystery in the scriptures and therefore attempt to explain away what is evidently for the honor of God to conceal. I see so much of mystery in nature, and so much of it in myself, that it would be a proof to my mind that the scriptures were not from God were there nothing in them beyond the grasp of my own mind.”

      I agree with George Sr, and I react strongly to attempts to explain the unexplainable. I would love for once to hear a Bible teacher simply say, “I don’t know, but I trust God to be good… I leave it to him.”

      • doctrine doctrine says:

        Elias and Jack,
        If the Scriptures provided evidence of univeralism I could form a counter-argument. They do not. Without data, such effort is futile. Elias thinks because God is love He will never give up on giving people a chance to be saved. Not to offer endless opportunity would be an affront to His character–in effect–He is not God. But the Scriptures teach otherwise. In the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus, God accepted the man’s will to reject Him and stated that even if one rose from the dead and went to the the rich man’s brothers they would not repent. He stated Moses and the prophets were sufficient testimony. It seems the reason God “gives up” is because of two things: 1) God respects man’s choice and 2) further action would have no effect. I do not think we can understand all this. Because of this my effort is not to try and reason through the matter but to reveal what the Scriptures teach. Our responsibility is to take God at His word. Belief in universalism is not a salvific issue but it is an obedience issue. As for the the lexical matter, αἰώνιος means everlasting–especially in the contexts when the Scripture speaks of hell. The lexicons are uniform on this. Also, if αἰώνιος does not mean eternal, no believer has eternal life. Universalists do not want to address this side of this coin. Lastly, universalists can offer no argument as to why, if hell is temporary, God did not simply say so.

        • Elias II says:

          Doctrine writes: “If the Scriptures provided evidence of universalism I could form a counter-argument. They do not. Without data, such effort is futile.”

          I think the point of Jack’s counter-argument exercise is to address such prejudice. You might surprise even yourself.

          • doctrine doctrine says:

            Elias,
            Sigh. It’s time to draw this to a close. No amount of Scripture will convince you for you are hardened against it. The Scriptural evidence of hell’s eternality is overwhelming but you dismiss this as prejudice. Man, in your view, has no responsibility. If men go to hell, God is not love and not omnipotent. In other words, not God. No Scriptures are used to support this idea. Origen, Clement, or Barclay offer no argument as to why, if hell were temporary, Jesus did not simply say so. He brought up the subject often enough. To support universalism one must remove God’s gift of eternal (in duration) life to mere better quality of life. This is not Christianity or Judaism. Jesus stated He was the God of the living: the Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had everlasting life.

  9. Elias II says:

    Oh, and Jack, to be fair, you should challenge Doctrine to give his argument in favor of universalism. ;)

  10. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this fascinating article! I know that the subject of hell is unpopular, and people get angry and accuse God of making hell “just” to punish them. Your article shows that we can and should be concerned about “saving souls”, even though it may seem like a negative view nowadays. There is even a popular argument against Christianity saying that people shouldn’t be “terrorized into heaven” but should love God whether there is a hell or not!

    One question would be, is it completely the person’s fault/choice to go to hell? Doesn’t Satan blind people so they are unable to see the truth about God’s love? In other words, should be keep speaking/nagging/trying to convince our loved ones, or should we somehow pray that God “unblind” them, or both?

    Thanks again for your awesome website.

    Sarah

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Sarah,
      Consider the account of Pharaoh when the Jews were in Egypt. It states Pharoah hardened his heart. The text also states God hardened his heart. Both were true. Read Ephesians 4.17-19 and Romans 1.18-32. God reveals truth. Men reject truth. God allows man this freedom and gives man his way. This is how Satan blinds men. I think all we can do it speak the truth and give the matter to God. Men and women make their own choices. God is love and He is fair.

  11. Becky says:

    Don, what is “the day of Jesus Christ” versus the “day of the Lord” in the Scriptures? Phil 1:6,10 sound as if He will work in us, as long as we are alive here on earth, UNTIL the day of Christ. But the other verses sound like the day when He will judge us, which we will no longer be on this earth. Thank you in advance.

  12. Roger Spielmann says:

    Perhaps this is a better forum for my question: What is meant by the “second death”?

  13. Roger Spielmann says:

    That may be what church tradition may promotes, but what does the Bible say?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      Church tradition promotes such things as purgatory, praying for the dead, etc. The doctrine of eternal punishment comes only from the Bible itself. If you will read the article, this will become clear.

  14. Roger Spielmann says:

    We agree that eternal punishment is eternal. One line of thought (that I provided scriptural support for in another discussion forum) is that the punishment (ceasing to exist) is, indeed, eternal (forever). Aside from Luke 16 (which is a parable), what scriptural support would you provide that the unjust will writhe in agony for eternity?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      No Biblical support exists for cessation of existence. Why do you think Luke 16 is a parable? It is different and counter to parables the Lord told: it describes things outside the realm of human experience, uses a proper name (Lazarus), mentions a historical person (Abraham), describes places where the dead go (Hades, Abraham’s bosom, a place of torment), and mentions angels. If Hades is not really a place of torment it would mean the Lord taught error. Matthew 25.41, 46 explicitly teaches eternal punishment.

  15. Jason says:

    I have notice a lot of preachers teaching that Hell is temporary (I believe it is called Annihilationism? )I will be honest with you, this is my main problem with preachers these days, I don’t think they know or understand the Bible. Even my pastor has fallen prey to this philosophy. From an emotional perspective it sounds great but through the lens of scripture is does not hold water. Not to mention it takes some feare from scripture. Many people think a loving God wouldn’t allow someone to suffer for all eternity, but rather He would allow them to suffer for some period of time and then kill them. What? So if say 100 years was enough suffering to pay for their sins, then why after suffering 100 years wouldn’t they be allowed into heaven? See what a slippery slope that is? Or if suffering for a million years was enough then again why kill them they have finished paying for their sin, why not allow them into heaven for the rest of eternity?

    It is kind of like sentencing someone to death for a horrible murder but torturing them for 20 years before killing them, is that justice? Is that loving? No!

    So people who believe this do not know what period of time, but they believe there would be some period of time. Really? Do they know or understand who God says He is? God calls Himself I AM. Not I was, or I will be but I AM. Time is a created thing, it is part of creation, God isn’t inside of time He is outside of time. That is why we can be here now and yet seated with Christ in eternity already! So my point is that once judgment happens there will be no time. We will be with God NOW, and it will always be NOW, not past, not future… just now, the present. God tells us that we must make a decision for Christ while it is still called TODAY, meaning that we have until time runs out! So once judgment has completed we will be with Christ now and those who are in punishment will be in punishment now. There won’t be 100 years or a million years or a trillion years, there will be now. So God punishing people for some time period makes no sense at all. I believe Hell is not just a physical realm but a spiritual one as well.

    Torment and punishment to at least some extent will be knowing that we (they) had every chance to accept Christ and refused and laughed at those who did accept His free gift. People think of punishment as God poking the person with a sharp object to inflict pain, but I don’t see it that way. I see punishment as the total lack of God and His mercy and grace. The worst sinner still experiences much of God’s grace and mercy in this life, all the while denying Him and anything about Him, but when judgment is over they will truly experience what life is like without God, and it will be death everlasting.

  16. Bob A says:

    Wow! You certainly hit some hot buttons with this essay.

    I believe I have an errata for you. You wrote:
    “God is merciful but will not force Himself upon anyone. He has provided a way of escape through the death and resurrection of his Son. This is the good news, the gospel.”

    I think you mean THE WAY, not “a way”.

    Thank you again for your incredible labor assembling this site. I have yet to disagree with you … except for Pemberton’s book. I like Pemberton and have read some of his other works, notably his book on earth’s early ages. I disagree with the man on numerous issues while agreeing with him on others. He’s always interesting, and he always provides a lively challenge.

    Might I suggest providing a general feedback section, something not pegged to specific essays? I have some real problems with the NASB that I’d like to address.

    Maranatha,

    Bob

  17. Joe says:

    Here’s another thought……..The Lost go to Hades at death then later to the GWTJ and are cast into the bottomless pit and punished ‘according to their works’ (Rev 20). After a period of time (if time exists) they perish. Jn 3:16……’should not perish’. They perish — body, soul and spirit. Not annihilation at death. What’s the point of eternal punishment?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      Only the Lord can provide an explanation and He has chosen not to at this time. I can only assume He has His reasons. The Scriptures (the Lord Himself) teach eternal life and eternal punishment (Matthew 25.46). Our responsibility is to believe what God has revealed (remember the Tree in Eden).

  18. Theresa says:

    I recently met a Jewish man who believes when you die you die. That only this life is real. How do you suggest I witness to him?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Theresa,
      This is not too surprising. I don’t know if this man believes in God, the God of the Bible, or what. The OT provides little information about the afterlife. Probably the best overview is the article: http://www.wciu.edu/docs/resources/Course2_readerGC2_C2L_hebraic_view_salvation.pdf. In witnessing, we have to meet the person where he is, speak the truth in love, and communicate clearly. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the hope of all–Jew or Gentile. We’re all in the boat of sin but the good news is Christ paid for sin and offers eternal life freely to one who believes the gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-). If a person wants the truth, God will open his heart (Acts 16.14).

    • cigmd says:

      I recently was speaking with a Jew and he said that when you die you go to purgatory. That hell is a Christian fiction. That God does not punish eternally for a singular sin.

      Guess there are different views.

      • doctrine doctrine says:

        Cigmd,
        Well, yes. I can see believing in hell or not believing in hell but no evidence exists for purgatory. Hell was primarily taught by Jesus. He ministered only to Jews. So hell did not begin as a Christian teaching but as a Jewish teaching. The problem with your Jewish friend is he does not understand that the gospels are Jewish writings. They are Old Testament.

  19. Roger Spielmann says:

    I see that this lively discussion has tapered off a bit. I really enjoyed the back-and-forth. My question is: Wouldn’t we all be incredibly happy beyond words if it turns out that God’s plan of salvation is for everyone to enter his kingdom because of the death of Jesus?

    As the discussion has shown, there are good scriptural arguments for universalism as well as for “eternal” torture. I fervently hope for the former, and, yes, it does give me comfort and hope as I go through this life. Again, wouldn’t we all be very pleasantly surprised? I would bet that we all agree we would be, wouldn’t you?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      Peter and Paul wrote God wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3.9; 1 Timothy 2.4). Logically, the only reason this will not happen is because men do not want to be saved. They refuse to lay down their arms, cease their rebellion against God, and trust Him. God respects human will too much to force Himself upon someone. The universalist argument is that men will change. But the Scripture provides no evidence for this view. On the contrary, the rich man wanted relief from his punishment but gave no indication of a change of mind. Jesus said even if one rose from the dead the rich man’s brothers would not change. One has risen from the dead yet men refuse to trust God. Jesus’ words have been confirmed. They will not be saved.

      • Bobbi says:

        Surely if God saw the corruption of all flesh, in Genesis, and destroyed all therein except 8 people and animals, we can see, an example.
        The people of Israel in the wilderness after the Exodus, that did not believe or trust God, these are they who died in the wilderness, so we can see they did not enter in to the promised land. Another example.
        Look at Ananias and Saphira. Lied to Holy Spirit and instantly fell down dead. These are results of choice.
        It’s clear to me that we as people created have a choice in the matter at hand. Galatians 6:7
        God does not change. Taking the whole council of God, all the scriptures, all the above about “universalism”, is a man made wisdom therefore not of God. 2 Timothy 2:16 “But shun vain babbling; for they will increase unto more godliness. ”
        Thusly we need to stay away from strange doctrines and man’s wisdom.
        Everlasting is … Without beginning and end, never to cease, in Strongs.
        I don’t want to see anyone even take a chance.
        Grace and peace.

  20. Roger Spielmann says:

    Thanks for your response. My point of my last post is this: Many of the Christians with whom I interact seem to take some sort of delight in the concept of people going to hell. In talking with them, some smile when they talk of people being “tortured forever and ever” as if they are somehow more loved by God than those from other faith traditions or those who just don’t give it much thought. If the orthodox Christian position on hell is true, I can’t imagine God smiling about it or being at all “gleeful” about people going there, know what I mean?

    And then there’s the issue of things that are beyond our control– where we’re born and who are parents are and how we’re brought up, not to mention those who have never heard the gospel or have only heard a “distorted” version of it. You wrote, ” They refuse to lay down their arms, cease their rebellion against God, and trust Him.” In my experience with those of a different faith or of no faith is that they aren’t “rebelling” against God as much as they just don’t give it much thought or they had terrible upbringings or they were born into, say, a Muslim family in the middle east and remain faithful Muslims their whole lives. One can imagine dozens of different scenarios where people “go to hell” because they never really had much of a chance to begin with. So they end up in hell because of “thought crimes” against God? Because they don’t believe the “right” things? I find that hard to believe. I’d like to hear your take on this.

    Thank you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      God loves every human being and died for every person. That any should go to hell should be a source of great sadness to any Christian. Everyone knows of someone whom they think despicable. But the fact is Christ loved and died for them. Every true Christian should recognize: “there but for the grace of God go I.” God’s salvation should result in joy–and humility. It is difficult to understand how God’s salvation works. Much ink has been used concerning “those who have never heard” etc. The Scriptures teach God is love and just. They state God’s salvation is apparent to all (John 1.9; Titus 2.11). Paul wrote none is excused (Romans 1.20-21). I certainly do not claim to have greater insight into this matter than anyone else but it seems to me that if God loves all, if Christ died for all, and we have explicit statements God desires all to be saved, that in some way, unknown to us, God provides opportunities for every person to be saved. I do not think one’s environment, culture, or geography pose a barrier to God’s grace. If a person desires to know God, God will reveal Himself. Genesis 18.25.

  21. Roger Spielmann says:

    Thank you for that thoughtful response. I want to revisit a discussion that went on in another forum, but I can’t remember which forum it’s in. I hope it’s okay if I ask it here.

    In another forum the discussion was about what happens after a person dies. As I recall, you wrote that the soul goes somewhere to wait for the Second Coming to be reunited with one’s earthly (but now glorified) body. Perhaps the scriptures are silent on this issue, but where do think these disembodied souls go while waiting for their bodies, both those who are “saved” and those from a different faith or no faith?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      Before Christ’s death and resurrection people when to sheol, hades, hell (all the same). Luke 16 describes this place as having two parts: a place of delight (paradise) and a place of torment (hell). They were separated by a “great gulf.” Jesus told the thief on the cross, “today, you will be with Me in paradise.” According to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4, Christ apparently emptied paradise and took believers there to heaven. When a believer dies now he goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5.8). In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul related his experience of having died (stoned to death (Acts 14.9)) and that he had gone to heaven. It is interesting Paul could not determine if he was “in the body” or not (he says it twice, 2 Corinthians 12.2, 3). So Paul was conscious and seemed to have some kind of body. The account of the rich man indicates he had some kind of body in hell. I think that’s about as much insight as the Scriptures provide.

  22. Roger Spielmann says:

    Thank you for your response. Yes, it does sound as if Paul had a near-death experience and you put the comma in the place where it could be understood as”I tell you today, you will [eventually] be with me in paradise” (without specifying when). And true, Jesus tells a story about, well, *something* in Luke 16. I’m sure you know all the arguments. but the question presses: What happens to a person two minutes after he or she dies? “Sheol” and “hades” simply mean “in the grave.” According to Revelation, hell does not yet exist. Yet you seem to suggest that “disembodied souls” go somewhere immediately upon death. Where do they go? What are they doing? One can make an argument from the Bible that those who have died are in their graves waiting for the Second Coming. Without revisiting your last post, can you provide scripture which tells us what the heck goes on after one dies? Thank you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      Reread the article. What Jesus taught in Luke 16 is consistent with everything else he said about the subject of heaven and hell. This is not a difficult subject with respect to the subject matter. It has been made difficult because men find it highly unpleasant (which it is). But the Lord’s words were straightforward. A person who rejects Christ goes to hell at death and remains there until the Lord judges him at the Great White Throne judgment following the Millennial kingdom (Revelation 20). At that judgment, he will be judged based on his works and sent to the lake of fire forever. Believers go immediately to heaven upon death to be in the presence of the Lord. Believers will receive resurrection bodies based upon the timetable revealed in the Scriptures (e.g., the Church at the Rapture).

  23. Roger Spielmann says:

    Thanks for responding. You wrote, “Believers go immediately to heaven upon death to be in the presence of the Lord.” Are there specific passages which clearly support this view? Besides 2 Corinthians 5:8, the thief on the cross and Luke 16? (which can be better understood when read in context). The scriptures seem clear (to me) that only Christ is said to have immortality at this time (1 Tim. 6:16). I don’t see any NT passages where it says (or even implies) that “immortal souls” are floating around in heaven or hell. According to the NT, believers get to be with the Lord by his *coming* for them, not by some other means or at some other time. According to Paul, one does not “put on” immortality at the moment one dies. Instead, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:52-54 that our mortality will not be changed to immortality until “the last trump.” Paul makes it plain that he looked forward to the resurrection, not to the day of his death.

    I believe you know all the arguments for the two main positions about what happens after one dies. I’m not sure, though, why you buy into the position that there are disembodied souls in heaven waiting for Christ’s second coming to be reunited with their bodies. Paul seems to clearly believe that one remains in “hades” (the grave) until he returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). He goes on to say that at his second coming, “The dead in Christ will rise first” and that “the rest of us who are still alive” will be “caught up” with them (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).

    Paul seems quite clear on this. Perhaps my question then becomes: Who are the “dead in Christ” who will rise first?

    Back to 2 Corinthians 5:8, only by taking this passage out of its context and reading into it things it does not state can it be made to teach that believers go to be with the Lord at the time of death. The context of this passage is plainly dealing with things that will happen when He returns.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      The Scriptures teach that human bodies go to the grave at death and await resurrection. Jesus taught two resurrections–one to life and the other to condemnation (John 5.26-29). Souls and spirits go to be with the Lord or to hell upon death. For members of the Church, the body of Christ, Paul taught believers will receive resurrection bodies when Christ returns in the air (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18). Believers who have died will receive resurrection bodies first and an instant later believers who are alive will have their mortal bodies transformed into immortal bodies. These will never experience death.

  24. Roger Spielmann says:

    Thanks again for your response. You wrote, “Souls and spirits go to be with the Lord or to hell upon death.” Now it’s getting complicated: one’s soul and spirit go somewhere and the body follows later? Paul writes, “Christ has been raised from the dead as the first-fruit of those who have fallen asleep…For as in Adam we all die, so in Christ will all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus is also recorded as saying, “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear my voice and come out; those who have done good will be raised to life, and those who have done evil will be raised to condemnation” (John 5:28-29). I Thessalonians 4:13-18 seems clear that believers themselves will be raised to immortality (from their graves) when Christ returns. It seems clear (to me) that all of this will take place in the future and refers to a person — not merely to dead bodies, wouldn’t you agree?

    The consensus of NT scholars is that the concept of the “immortality of the soul” comes from Plato and when the early church came into contact with it, this Greek view began to predominate. Jesus said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow,” which merely means “I am overwhelmed with sorrow” (Mark 14:34). I agree with those scholars who contend that the word “soul” is not the best translation of the original Hebrew and Greek terms. I can’t find support in my biblical studies where it states that the “soul” is immortal and can exist independent of the physical body. The claim that disembodied “souls” go to heaven or hell upon death is prominent in church tradition, I believe. It’s certainly not a new idea, but I can’t find such a concept in the NT, even with all the help we have available to us in today’s technological age.

    I’ll end my part of the discussion with this post. But before I end this post, I just want to sum up by saying that there are two contrasting views on this issue that have been debated for a long time, with bonafide Christian scholars divided on it. Perhaps it’s best to leave it at that.

  25. John D. says:

    Great article, Don. Thank you.
    When pondering this article I reviewed Matthew 16:24-26, which speaks of taking up one’s cross. In it, Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?” Now I’m no expert, but if forfeit means to surrender (to lose the right to do or have something), then it’s gone – and it’s gone of one’s own volition.
    To me, gone is gone. If it’s still there somewhere in the background, then it was never really gone and forfeiting one’s soul doesn’t mean losing it but rather only being separated from it, for a while. How is that possible? I get dizzy just thinking about it.
    So, I guess I’m in the camp of eternal separation or eternal union based on one’s choice in this earthly life. Of course, if someone I cared about died and I felt their eternal life was in question, it would be appealing to think that they had yet another chance to get it right. But I don’t see that in the Scriptures.
    Just my thoughts on this.
    Thanks,
    John

    • Roger Spielmann says:

      Hi, John D. Thanks for your post. In my post right before yours, I refer to a few NT passages and I’m just curious as to what you think. Also I’m sure you read Elias II’s comments in this forum and I wonder what you think of his argument from the scriptures in elation to Doctrine’s responses.

      I really like the back-and-forth in these forums and am interested in what you think about those posts you may not agree with. Keep ’em coming, John D.!

  26. John D. says:

    Hi Roger,
    Yes, I read all the posts to this article and I appreciate the comments in your posts. I enjoy reading the posts and Don’s responses in all of his articles. I learn from them.
    The posts that were posted here were good. They were respectful, non-emotional, and reflected a sense of wanting to know the truth by those who posted. I appreciate that.

    Jesus gave so many “warnings” about not choosing the path that leads to life that I have to believe choosing the wrong path is, in fact, an eternal consequence. Otherwise, why give all the warnings? Why warn so earnestly about choosing life now, if people continue to have more chances after death?

    Jesus’ audience was, and is, those people who heard or are hearing the good news. For those who have never heard of him or are unable to understand who he is, for whatever reason, I am not making implications – that’s the Lord’s area, not mine.

    Whoever has ears to hear, Jesus said, “let them hear” (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9). I believe that “hearing” is implicit with responding. Responding is the next step. The parable of the sower is a place in which Jesus used that phrase. The proper heart condition yielded fruit (30, 60, and 100-fold). But other heart conditions led to being robbed, scorched, and choked. I believe God is hoping for good fruit from those who hear.

    Jesus said that when he returns, will he find faith on the earth? I believe that faith (a gift of God and also a fruit of the Spirit), should root and grow in us while on earth, not afterwards. Now that the good news has been preached and the name that is above all names has been revealed, that in which we trust (the work of Christ), results in eternal life. Not doing so Jesus warned, results in spiritual death.

    As an aside, before this truth became evident, perhaps the Lord dealt differently with those who died before and without knowledge of the good news or heard of that glorious name (e.g. He preached to the disobedient who lived in the days of Noah. 1 Peter 3:19-20). Perhaps some of them escaped the second death. But that may be a topic for another time. These are just my thoughts. I think Don has made his case well.
    John

    • Roger Spielmann says:

      Right on, John. It was great hearing your thoughts. It does get complicated. I’m still trying to figure this out and the ongoing discussion is helpful.

      As Don reminds us regularly, Jesus was speaking to the Jews. The “Kingdom of God” message was meant for them. But Paul taught a new religion (Right, Don?), one that emphasized faith over works. So then, for me, questions arise. For example, are the “warnings” that Jesus gave the Jews relevant to Christians today? That is, if they weren’t meant for Christians?

      Another issue: Since where and when one is born in this world, combined with one’s upbringing, often determines a person’s religion (or lack thereof), it seems to me that a person can have a tremendous advantage over another person in terms of responding to the Christian message. Like, being brought up in the U.S. or Canada, for example, certainly makes it easier to hear and respond to the gospel compared to a person brought up in Syria with Muslim parents who subscribe to Sharia law, wouldn’t you agree? And then you have children who die before reaching the “age of accountability” (whatever age that is, I don’t know), children who never make it out of the womb, people who have never heard the gospel, those who have only heard a distorted version of it, and on and on. Just doing the math quickly, it seems to me that the vast majority of human beings over the millennia will certainly be welcome in God’s Kingdom, it seems to me. Now THAT’S good news! And a footnote to that: does it seem reasonable that what one does in @70 years on this planet will determine one’s eternal fate? Now, we could simply say that this is all a mystery and only God knows, but wouldn’t that imply that the redeeming message from God is not altogether clear?

      Which brings me to the point of believing that God’s love will win out in the end. I’ll leave the glosses of “win out” and “the end” for someone else to hazard a guess as to what they mean (perhaps you, John) . It does give me great hope and comfort to think along these lines and gives me a freedom to live my life without fear, anxiety or guilt (thank God!).

      I just re-read this post and I apologize. It’s a real mess! Nevertheless, I’ll send it as is and see what happens.

      • doctrine doctrine says:

        Roger,
        Paul was the founder of Christianity. The word “religion” is rarely used in the Bible and when it is, it is most often used with a negative connotation. No Biblical support exists for the argument that one’s environment facilitates or hinders one becoming a Christian. Christ died for all so God’s love has accommodated all. Paul wrote that God’s grace of salvation has appeared to all (Titus 2.11) and that no one is excused (Romans 1.20). The choice one makes in his lifetime will not change his attitude towards God no matter how long he lives or how many chances one has. The die is cast. C. S. Lewis made this point in The Great Divorce. God’s love will win. Love can only operate in freedom; it cannot be forced. Because of this God gives men freedom to reject Himself and His salvation. A good article on Lazarus and the rich man may be read at https://www.bereanbiblesociety.org/the-rich-man-and-lazarus-luke-1619-31/.

        • John D. says:

          Don,
          I think each of us has our own idea of what love is or what love “should be”. Sometimes we endeavor to pigeonhole God’s love into what we can understand with a tendency to reject what we do not.

          The Scripture says God is love. In Matthew 18 Jesus teaches his disciples to become like little children “in attitude” – which is to say, to become humble and possess the attitude of one who serves rather than one who is to be served.

          As a sort of follow up, Peter asks if he should forgive someone “as many as” seven times. Jesus’ response to Peter’s number was exponentially higher. In essence, we ought to never stop forgiving the one who asks.

          It then gets a little peculiar when Jesus tells the story about the servant who was forgiven much debt by his master but demonstrated no forgiveness towards another who owed him little and who had asked for his patience. He refused and, instead, had his fellow servant thrown into jail (Matthew 18:32-35). Upon hearing of the servants attitude toward the other, the master “unforgave” (my own made up word) the unkind servant and had him thrown into prison where he was to be tortured by the jailers until he paid back all he owed (how one pays back a debt while in jail has always puzzled me). Here is where it gets peculiar – Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (NIV). That may not seem like love to some. But, if God “is” love, then it has to be.

          My point is that this may not appear to be a loving attitude, especially from the perspective of the unkind servant. However, from the perspective of his fellow servant, it may be seen as “justice served”, and to him that was a loving act. Consider Luke 12:48 – “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded”.

          As I see it, all have been offered the greatest gift – God’s forgiveness. And just because God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45), this does not mean that all take it in, produce fruit (“will I find faith on the earth?”) and will be welcomed to enter through the gate of heaven (many are called, but few choose it – Matthew 22:14).
          Jesus said in Luke 18:7-8, And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

          Love and justice are tied together. Attempting to unravel them is where problems can occur. At least that’s how I see it.
          John

          • doctrine doctrine says:

            John,
            Thank you.

          • Roger Spielmann says:

            Hi, John. Nice to hear from you again.

            I’m puzzled, though, by your comment (to which Don seems to agree) that “Love and justice are tied together.” I’m trying to figure out what that means in real terms. As a dad to three daughters, I love them and accept them without condition. No “ifs” or “buts,” I love them and will always accept them no matter what they do, or believe, or whether or not they love me back, or whatever. I don’t have to have some kind of “justice” satisfied to love and accept them. As I said, I love them without condition.

            One might argue that God’s love and acceptance is without condition, but, according to the Bible, it’s not. Love never condemns, or punishes, or tortures, or casts away, or causes harm (and on and on). I’ve always been taught that Paul got it right in I Corinthians 13. So if I, as a human dad, love my children and accept them without condition, I don’t see how our heavenly Dad would be any different. I agree with Paul in the first half of Romans 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation…”), but part ways with him when he applies a condition. That’s not unconditional love and acceptance. The argument that God *needs* His sense of “justice” exonerated (does God even *have* needs?), seems to me to be a man-made dichotomy.

            God is love. Many argue that He loves every human being without condition, and perhaps that is true. But those same people would argue that He cannot “accept” them into His Kingdom unless they believe certain things and act in certain ways. As an earthly dad, that would never enter my mind with my daughters. To reiterate, there is *nothing* my daughters could do cause me to keep them out of my life. True, they may decide to have nothing to do with me, but would that make me want to punish them or turn my back on them? (much less torture them…)

            Speaking of which, please cut me some slack, John, for this *tortured* post. I’m trying to understand what God’s perspective is and I find the orthodox, Bible-based reasoning hard to swallow.

            But I’m trying to keep an open mind.

  27. Roger Spielmann says:

    Thanks for your response. I’ve often wondered, though, about the implications of what Paul wrote in Romans 1:20. He writes, “Since the creation of the world…God’s eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen…so that people are without excuse.” I take it that, since one can know God because of seeing creation, one can achieve salvation without knowing about or believing in Christ. This makes sense to me; that the vast multitude of human beings who lived before Christ was sent to earth could come to a knowledge of God. This, then, goes back to the simple math I presented in my last post re: most humans ever created will be in the Kingdom of God. As I said then, THAT is good news!

    As for where one is born and one’s upbringing, it seems to me to be common sense that some people are better situated to responding to the gospel than others. You wrote (that Paul wrote), “God’s grace of salvation has appeared to all (Titus 2.11)” Are you saying that each individual born throughout the millennia have equal chances to respond to God’s love? Or are you saying that you believe in predestination? If the former, then common sense dictates that this cannot be true, unless knowing God based on observing creation is sufficient for salvation. I’m puzzled by this.

    I look forward to your response.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      Paul’s teaching in Romans 1 and in Titus reflects the larger body of teaching in the Scriptures concerning salvation. Jesus taught few will be saved (Matthew 7.13-14). Elijah thought he was the only believer in Israel. God told him there were 7,000. But Israel’s population was about 7 million–do the math–1/10 of 1 percent (1 Kings 19.14, 18). The Bible teaches predestination but not as it is understood popularly, through the grid of Calvinism. The Bible teaches that God’s foreknowledge governs predestination. Please see my article, Predestination. Christ’s death and resurrection made provision for all for God loves all equally. God knows all hearts. If one wants God, God will provide the individual with sufficient knowledge for salvation. Jesus taught this in the rich man/Lazarus: they have Moses and the prophets.

  28. Roger Spielmann says:

    I appreciate your response(s), but I’m still waiting to hear your specific responses to my specific questions. As I wrote in my last post, since one can evidently come to know God because of seeing creation (Romans 1), does that not imply that one can achieve salvation without knowing about or believing in Christ?

    I’d also like to read what you think of the simple math that most human beings ever created will be in the Kingdom of God, including children, those who never hear the gospel or merely a distorted version of it, etc. As for Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus seems to be directing that comment to adult Jews and not necessarily to humanity-at-large, as part of his “Kingdom of God” message.

    At any rate, I’d like to read your thoughts on those two specific issues. Thank you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Roger,
      Paul’s argument in Romans 1 is one can know God exists from creation, not that through creation one can know God. This is general revelation vs. special revelation. God holds accountable those who can comprehend Him and the difference in right and wrong. David knew he would be with his child who died.

  29. Tony Houghton says:

    2 Peter 3:9 The question is “all ” who ? It would be a poor translator that would define all according to ones bias. To find the all that he is talking about in the letter and find the antecedent of the word . If you go back in the text you will find it to be “you ” the people he was writing the letter to which he says in the beginning of the letter “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” ,not all men. No one has the ability to come to God unless God gives that person the faith which is a gift . In Romans 9 “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” I can tell you do not agree with Calvin and Augustine’s view view of predestination. God has known from the foundation of the world who are his own .

  30. Brandon says:

    Don,

    Thank you for taking the time to write these articles. I appreciate that.
    It takes lots of patience to read and reply to these comments.

    I’ve learned a lot from this article, and it has eliminated so much confusion.

    Thanks Don.

    Grace and peace,

    Brandon.

  31. Mark says:

    Universalists ‘thrive’ on emotions rather than stand on the grounds of scripture. Jesus spoke clearly about hell and judgment that it baffles me why some would miss it. To be honest, I would have preferred the universalist views but the scripture clearly does not support their views.
    .
    The argument goes thus: “How could a loving God send people who reject Him to hell to be tormented forever?” ignoring clear scriptures in Matt-John and Revelation.
    .
    The thing is if we, as humans, argue things concerning God based on our reasonings, emotions and senses, the concept of “God” would never make sense. We would be courting disaster trying to understand God through our senses or emotions rather than through faith in what has been revealed only in the scriptures. This is how some people become atheists, agnostics, antiGod, etc because they cannot believe a loving God can act in a certain ‘despicable’ way, something that they as imperfect humans wouldn’t do. Now it will be well if a wider view of ‘unpleasant’ actions of God is not seen only from the angle of hell and jugment doctrines alone. Let’s leave the future events and go back to the beginning.
    .
    With all due respect, I challenge universalists and their likes to go back to the beginning of creation and consider these questions about God and I hope it won’t make them become anti-God since it may not fit in to how they want to view God. The questions are:
    .
    * Why would God plant a tree in the garden of Eden warning Adam not to eat its fruit with harsh consequences of death knowing full well that Adam would disobey? How could a loving God act that way? It does make sense, does it? Man is still suffering from that consequence till date? Is it fair?
    * Why did God chose to create a fallen world where there’s pain, sickness, diseases, sorrow, tears, poverty, disasters, death, etc. Why? If I as a human have the ability God has, I would certainly do better than that! It just doesn’t make sense.
    * How could God chose a nation, Israel, through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and called them His people (meaning other humans were not His) and encouraged the killing and destruction of others who stood in the way of His people simply because those people, non Jews, did not recognise Him as their God. Israel in those days practised terrorism sanctioned by God Himself – a loving God! How come. Does it make sense?
    .
    These and many more questions Universalists should consider and not only about hell. As a human, these questions and many more, I asked myself and it just doesn’t make sense. If I really want to press these questions logically with God I might turn out to be an antiGod. But I also know that would be a foolish thing to do.
    .
    So we must trust only what God has revealed to us in the scriptures by faith only and not what our logic, reasons or emotions tell us.
    .
    Eternal life is real and eternal punishment is for real if we take the scriptures seriously.

  32. Darcel Chester says:

    I do not believe in a hell as the church of today teaches but of course I know you do. My questions to you are this.

    If our salvation is dependent on believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus why is the person who says fool in danger of this hell the church teaches in Mathew 5:22. The hell word should and could of easily been translated Gehenna. Why wasn’t it translated correctly.
    Mathew 5:29- 30 similar. No mention of believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Same word, Gehenna, could and should of been used by the translators.

    Mathew 10:28 talks about destroying body and soul in hell. Not eternal torment forever. Again Gehenna could and should of been used by translators not the English word hell.

    Mathew 18:9 same example but having to do with eyes not belief in the burial and resurrection of Jesus. Again Gehenna should be the translation.

    Mathew 23:15 Mathew 23:33 Gehenna again.

    Mark 9:43 mark 9:45 mark 9:47

    Luke 10:15 Luke 12:15 Gehenna should be translated hades

    Luke 16:23 hades. This one in particular is even more disturbing because the church of today says this is not a parable and they need to say that because it’s a scripture they hang their hell hat on. Jesus said very clearly that he only speaks to the masses in parables. The church is calling Jesus a liter then just to prove a point. Not cool in my book.

    Acts 2:27 David says God will not leave his soul in hell. Again haides. God will not leave Jesus soul in haides. Not hell!!! Haides
    Acts 2:31 haides
    I’m beginning to wonder if translators have an agenda here.

    James 3:6 Gehenna

    2 Peter 2:4 Tartaroo the prison the nepilium were sent to.

    Revelation 1:18 haides

    Revelation 20:13 revelation 20:14 haides and haides again.

    Now I ask you who gave the church or the translators permission to turn these words into meaning a place of torment for eternity. Where in scripture please show me.

    I have more to say on this subject but I will start here.
    Not once do I see it in relationship to believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
    Plus, a big plus Paul never used the word hell as a destination for believers either.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Darcel,
      Jesus used the word γέεννα figuratively for the place of torment of the unrighteous dead. If you read the article, you understand Jesus taught hell more than anyone (He could not stop talking about it). The reason for this was, He is the Judge who will send those who refuse Him and His salvation to punishment. The problem with objections to hell is they start with the premise God is unfair and that it would be wrong for Him to send men to everlasting punishment. So you get all this weaseling and wrestling with the text. This is not an arguable doctrine. It is as clear-cut as God having created heaven and earth. How does one misunderstand Matthew 25.46? Do you really think Jesus was warning about having one’s dead body being thrown onto a burning garbage pile? Is that all He suffered and gave His life for? Such arguments are not ridiculous.

  33. Darcel Chester says:

    Forgot one more thing. If hell is the final destination of all unbelievers, and the church is teaching the lake of fire is hell then why does the bible say this in revelation 21:8
    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfer. Unbelievers are only one category.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Darcel,
      The point of Revelation 21.8 is that no unrighteousness is allowed in the New Heavens and New Earth. The only way to have righteousness is for it to be given by God. For Church-age believers, this is trusting in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ–believing in His death and resurrection.

  34. Darcel Chester says:

    I forgot to answer your question about Mathew 25:46. I believe it should of been translated as an age. Just like I think the lake of fire is only for an age. It’s a cleansing time. Again Jesus is addressing the reasons why they go where they go but it’s not addressing belief or unbelief. It can’t be both ways. Grace plus nothing or believing that Jesus is the messiah but he will send people to eternal torment for not doing those things in that scripture. I think this should cause us to reflect on what it means. Many times in scripture translators use the right word, which is age, when eternal won’t fit. The translators, like the church, are trying to prove the hell doctrine. This scripture refers to the establishment of the kingdom on earth 1000 years before the second resurrection and judgement. If you want I can look up and post those times age is used because eternal won’t fit. Same word defined differently.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Darcel,
      If you are correct, God does not grant eternal life to the believer. One can’t have it both ways. The word αἰώνιοϛ is used for both life and punishment. I will not debate the issue with you. I have addressed many objections in the article and there are long discussions on the site. There’s no point in replowing tilled soil. The doctrine of hell is unpleasant, which is why the Lord kept warning about it, but it is solidify established in the Scriptures. If it weren’t, I would not have written the article. As we approach the end of the age more opposition will be revealed toward this doctrine.

  35. Joe says:

    All bets are off at death. No second chance. I’m thinking a second after death everyone is a believer. Before death it’s about faith. After death it’s empirical fact. I wonder why God puts so much emphasis on faith. Perhaps faith is universal and hence no one is without excuse. Current philosophical theory suggest there are no universals, no absolutes, no free will and we are simply products of our environment. Therefore hell is unfair because all humans have different environments, up-bringing, cultures, experiences etc. I can understand why people rationalize Hell. Doctrine, do you believe there are levels of punishment in Hell? (Dante)

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      Yes. Jesus indicated greater punishments (Matthew 11.20-22; Luke 12.47-48). Some people are better than others and all they will have to stand upon at the judgment will be their good works (Revelation 20.12-12), since they have rejected God’s work. The reason God places emphasis upon faith is that man can do nothing to merit righteousness in his fallen state. Faith is trust. When a person exercises faith he trusts a person’s integrity. If one refuses to trust God he is declaring God has no integrity. God cannot have a relationship with such a person–the terms preclude it. It is the same in the human realm. If you do not trust someone no relationship can legitimately exist. People rationalize hell because they do not trust God.

  36. Luis says:

    Hello,
    I’ve been reading your articles and they have been very helpful in my understanding of God’s grace. What I am wrestling a bit with is the idea that there are (and have been) people who have simply not heard of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. Although Paul states in Romans 1 that all men know there is a God but suppress the truth, it doesn’t mean they all know Jesus died for their sins and rose again. What is the fate of those who never heard of the work of Christ but might have come to the conclusion that there is 1 God, and attempted to know Him?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Luis,
      This is in the province of God. God knows all hearts. If men wish to know God, He will reveal Himself to them so they can be saved. Nothing is too difficult for God. One can be an atheist next door to a church as easily as in a remote jungle in the Amazon (Titus 2.11). Salvation is not limited by geography. It is limited by man’s willful rejection of God.

  37. Sue says:

    Hi Don,

    Was Jesus only speaking to Jews regarding hell as He came to them? Is this a Jewish
    event?

    Paul doesn’t seem to labour the point as much. Does that mean that Gentiles are dealt with differently?

    Thanks
    Sue

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Sue,
      Salvation concerns both Jew and Gentile. We are all in the same condition and face the same punishment if we reject the Savior of all.

  38. George says:

    Hello brother Don, can you please tell me, did the Devil know that Jesus would die for the sins of Israel on the cross, and if so why did the Devil go through with his plan to have Jesus crucified. Also the Devil also told Jesus to come off the cross, just like Peter said via satan and the people mocking Jesus at the foot of cross. Why was the devil offering both options? What was the Devil’s agenda? , was he
    Confused?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      God has hidden certain things from the angelic creation. Satan had no idea Jesus’ death on the cross would be His victory and Satan’s defeat. Satan did everything to kill Christ. The religious professionals mocked Christ to come off the cross, not Satan.

  39. Santha Kumar says:

    Very good site.Thanks.

  40. George says:

    True, bro Don Satan did try to kill Gods plan for the seed of the woman
    From the beginning. When Jesus says that the devil
    Was a murderer from the beginning, is Jesus referring to the devil
    In the garden or when Lucifer hatched the plan to be like the most high, which could have been before Adam and eve were created, what are your views on Satan being a murderer though he never physically killed anyone, and also of the gap theory, thanks

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      I think the Lord meant Satan thought and instigated murder throughout human history. The gap theory has merit. Can’t be proven by Genesis 1.2 but it explains many other passages.

  41. George says:

    Bro Don, if Jesus Christ took our place on the cross, and I assume eternal punishment for us, how is it that Jesus is not paying eternal punishment for us but rather got out of hell in less than 12 hours? Please give me your thoughts on this matter, thanks!

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      This is a question that once bothered me years ago. We do not know exactly how Jesus could pay an eternal punishment for all mankind in three hours (from noon to 3 p.m.). At the end of the time, He stated, “Finished!” (John 19.30). Apparently, He could do it because He was not only perfect man but eternal God. At the end of the day, He satisfied God’s justice by His sacrifice. This is what the Scripture has declared and we take it by faith. Jesus did not go to the torment side of “hell” but to Paradise, a.k.a. Abraham’s Bosom.

  42. Henry Rogers says:

    Could you perhaps give me the exact text in which Clement of Alexandria said the following?

    “If in this life there are so many ways for purification and repentance, how much more should there be after death! The purification of souls, when separated from the body, will be easier. We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer; to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, is his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life. For there are partial corrections (padeiai) which are called chastisements (kolasis), which many of us who have been in transgression incur by falling away from the Lord’s people. But as children are chastised by their teacher, or their father, so are we by Providence. But God does not punish (timoria) for punishment (timoria) is retaliation for evil. He chastises, however, for good to those who are chastised collectively and individually.”

    I’ve seen this quote in several places, but have yet to find the original text. Thank you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Henry,
      See https://books.google.com/books?id=HvYRAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA621&lpg=PA621&dq=The+purification+of+souls,+when+separated+from+the+body+clement&source=bl&ots=x-qmw67Kz7&sig=BvvPJKV4JZld770lXWGN09GHSow&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjV-a6pmv7RAhXGQCYKHdkRCXAQ6AEIGjAA#v=onepage&q=The%20purification%20of%20souls%2C%20when%20separated%20from%20the%20body%20clement&f=false. This appears to be from the Stromata (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0210.htm). Such a statement reveals Clement did not understand sanctification and was probably not a Christian. Many of the so-called “Church Fathers” held non-Christian, non-Biblical views. Theologically, they are completely unreliable.

      • Elaine says:

        Doctrine, please can you tell me how those that died BEFORE the revelation about hell, (because hell fire and eternal torment are never mentioned in the O.T. jews were not aware of this fate for non faith in God, plus that puts gentiles on a sticky wicket too as they never heard of it either) fare under this NON revelation about this awful place. I cant seem to get my head around the fact that FROM Jesus onwards its been “known” and gives the hearer of things of God a better understanding of rejection of the Saviour as to where there eternal destination lays BECAUSE of this said rejection… and if you say “well its not about hell but about faith in Christ” it still leaves me with a sense of unfairness regarding those that never heard of this fate. If “hell” is not an issue then why so much discussion on the subject and if it is an issue why are millions of people going there never having heard of such a place in the first instance. I dont understand that if its a literal place of unending torment, doesn’t seem to be quite “fair” does it!
        I beleive that we should have all arguements, for whatever, at our disposal to make a valid assessment of our beliefs, or until something else comes to light that may make us change or alter these. I have no agenda to hang on to as my search is for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (have you ever wondered why they say this in a court of law? look it up) Let God be found true though every man be found a liar. I would also like the readers of this site to look up and read “Rich man and Lazarus by L.Ray. Smith (please feel free to comment, I would like to know what you all think) explaining these words of Jesus, to maybe get ANOTHER viewpoint of this parable regarding hell and how others might use this scripture to support their belief in eternal troment in the flame, I call it a parable because I believe that this is the case (until shown otherwise, haven’t found anything catagorical yet). It is the last part of a “five” part parable starting in chap 15, read it all, chapters 15 and 16 with this new insight. Here you will find another piece of a puzzle that may open your eyes as to another way this “rich man and Lazarus” may be seen and interpreted, could change how you view other scripture too.
        Blessings Doctrine and to all. In Christ Jesus

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Elaine,
          I don’t know. You are correct the Scriptures do not reveal much about hell but they do reveal some. See the last verse of Isaiah, Isaiah 66.24. See Daniel 12.2. The definitive teaching about hell is from Christ Himself. He spoke more about it than about heaven. In Revelation, John gave explicit teaching that the unsaved dead will be incarcerated in the lake of fire forever. I’ve tried to cover the arguments against hell in my article and there is extensive discussion in the comments area. Not a pleasant subject but we have to understand what the Scriptures reveal. The good news is the work of Christ solved sin and death and all who will trust in that work will be saved from hell. We also have clear statements that God wishes no one to suffer that fate but that all might be saved.

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