The Heaven (and Hell) Question

I have said here before that universalism is one of the most pressing issues in American, Western Christianity. Here are some “facts,” or at least some results from Robert Putnam and David Campbell, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.

Americans overwhelmingly (89%) believe people of other religions can go to heaven, and say a good person who is not of their faith can go to heaven at the following percentages:

Mormons: 98% believe this.
Mainliners: 96%
Jewish: 95%
Catholic: 93%
Black Prots: 90%
Other faiths: 90%
Nones: 87%
Evangelicals: 83%

People not of my faith, including non-Christians, can go to heaven:

Mormon: 98%
Catholic: 83%
Mainliners: 79%
Black Prots: 62%
Evangelical: 54%

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://fromdamascustoemmaus.com/ Randy Olds

    I don’t understand why this is so unpalatable to some Christians. From my readings on the early church it appears that most of the Church Fathers for the first four hundred years or so believed in some sort of universal reconciliation. Even those who didn’t did not consider universalism to be heresy. Perhaps we are finally getting back to the true Gospel, that Christ died for all men and that through Christ God will be all in all.

  • Matt Simpson

    Randy, or all,

    Can you point out authors or passages that particularly demonstrate the Church Fathers perspective on universal reconciliation?

    I have “The Apostolic Fathers”, edited and translated by Michael Holmes, permanently installed on my desk and yet haven’t the time to read it carefully enough to answer the question myself.

    As a one time restrictivist, now more of an inclusivist if not univeralist, I’d enjoy being able to read the early Church’s perspective on the matter but don’t know where to start.

  • angusj

    I’m finding some of the terminology used here confusing.

    Firstly, I’m presuming the “not of their faith” could more accurately be stated as “not of their denomination”. The only other way to explain the 83% vs 54% for evangelicals would be to believe that evangelicals could only consider other Christians as being “good” enough to be worthy of heaven (which of course is a nonsense to evangelicals who believe that it’s faith that saves).

    Also, it’s unclear to me what sort of “universalism” is being discussed – is it “Christian Universalism” such that *all mankind* will eventually be saved, or is it some other universalism that accepts that *some* of other faiths (ie non-Christians) will be saved? I’m happy to accept the likelihood of the latter.

  • http://www.NextGenerationDisciples.com Chris

    Alright, this is such an interesting topic and debate I couldn’t resist. I’ll make it one point if your religion preaches there is only ONE WAY (bolded, underlined, asterisk, quoted, whatever else I can do to stress) and ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN, and that is through faith, the burial, and resurrection in Jesus Christ, then there is a chance that religion to go to Heaven. Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It was clear and simple and I think God wanted it to be clear and simple for everybody, unfortunately the church through it’s many splinters over history have complicated it. Of course there are other caveats that others will argue and I will agree with this one and if I’m wrong I’ll find out one day. The salvation they preach in Jesus Christ MUST be by grace alone, Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is not a matter of works, Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth. “Jesus is Lord.” and believe if your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That is it plain and simple, if your religion preaches another way, I’m going to say I’m sorry and I’ll pray the Holy Spirit rests on you and opens your mind to the truth that is Christ Jesus. The truth is not tolerant, nor is it universal. The rest of the differences between religions, speaking in tongues, pre-trip post trip, election vs free will, down to what translation of the bible you should use, and other things people argue about are doctrinal and come down to interpretation, do I believe a lot of churches misrepresent the bible, YES. Am I bold enough to say that they are not going to Heaven if they preach salvation through Christ by faith, no, I am not the judge of the hearts of man. What I will say is that “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14

    http://www.NextGenerationDisciples.com

  • Rick

    This partially explains why people are hesitant to evangeliize, and possibly why many are unreceptive to being evangelized.

    If people are living a pretty good life, or one that is not much different than Christians, and if they will have eternal life, why bother?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I hope I don’t get too far off topic, but Chris@4, why would god make it that you have to believe that Jesus is god to be saved? I know you think the bible says that, but wouldn’t it make more sense for god to make it as he says elsewhere that you have to be good to people and others?

  • Anneke

    Rick, your comment makes sense, but doesn’t hold up with the Mormons, who had the highest percentages in both categories, yet maintain one of the largest-scale evangelical programs among Christian denominations.

  • Rick

    Anneke-

    Good point. I think part of those Mormon stats would be due to the fact that they don’t teach just eternal life, but “extra” eternal bonuses as well if you come to their faith.

    I also am not saying that we should not evangelize. The Mormons, although misguided, and I am not sure how successful they are in our culture, are doing it right.

    I do think it points to the difficulty of asking ourselves what is the truth of the matter (exclusivism, soft inclusivism, inclusivism, universalism), and asking ourselves if we are living a life in Christ that is distinct from any other faith.

  • http://fromdamascustoemmaus.com/ Randy Olds

    @Matt,

    I would start out with Origen, who was an early universalist as well as a prolific writer. He was well respected (and still is), but around the fifth century universalism fell out of favor and his ideas became heretical in the eyes of the Church.

    I bet a dollar that the responses here on this blog come nowhere close to the high numbers reflected on the polls that Scot posted.

  • smcknight

    The universalism of the early fathers is there but often overstated and Origen’s universalism was eventually condemned. I find a tendency to say “the early fathers were universalists” — well, some, at times, perhaps … but not always. And the posts I did on the descent into hell proved this very point.

  • http://proteavalleyfamilychurch.blogspot.com/ Brent

    The statistics should not surprise us but they should worry us. I don’t agree at all with the universalist view, not because I don’t want to, it’s much more palatable than what the bible teaches, but exactly for that reason I believe in the exclusivity of the Gospel: it’s what the bible teaches. Even taking out hard to translate passages or everything that Paul teaches one cannot avoid Jesus call to an exclusive gospel.

    One only has to read Jesus words to come to a point of realizing that small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and few find it.

    There is very little scope in the scriptures for anything other than salvation through Jesus through faith appropriated by confession and repentance.

  • Ben

    @DRT –

    Things can only be good if they glorify God. Things that do not glorify God are not good, even if man perceives them to be good. To say that you can get to heaven by being “good” depends significantly on your definition of good. Regardless, “being good” is really just a sign of your faith, and it’s not the behavior itself that’s saving you.

  • Susan N.

    Rick @ #5 and #8,

    I believe that our good works (James) are as important (if not more so) in our evangelical witness as our words. When an opportunity to share my faith in Christ (in words) presents itself, I tend on the one hand to approach it with humility, gentleness, and grace, from a desire to not offend and thereby harden a heart that the Holy Spirit might lead to belief. (A verse to this effect in Peter???) On the other hand, I have also been ashamed enough of my actions (or failure to act) at times, that I’ve hesitated to evangelize.

    My current belief on evangelism and eternal life–the heaven/hell card–is this: Faith in Christ confers benefits right here, right now. He gives meaning and purpose to living on earth. He is a Teacher and Leader that I can follow, and need to guide me. No one knows with absolute certainty what happens after this life. Interpretation of the biblical passages on eternity/ heaven/hell varies among Christian denominations.

    Finally, my husband and I know a few Mormons in our community. They live their faith, well, faithfully. I’ve been very impressed with the “orthopraxy” of their witness. We’ve been invited to visit their church/temple, in fact. However, I personally don’t need another prophet (J. Smith); I can barely keep up with the prophets (major, minor) that we in the evangelical/mainline tradition already have!

    In summary, actions speak so much louder than words — to me, at least. And yet, this is so convicting and scary, because it is so very HARD. This is why I personally need Christ in the day-to-day, and I pray that He will help me to BE a better witness so that my words of witness will actually be believable.

    As an aside, I’m kind of surprised at the 54% among evangelicals. Way higher than I’d expect. The hardline Calvinists I know hold to such a narrow definition of “the world” (Jn. 3:16) that Christ came to save. The “elect” constitute such a small fraction of those destined for eternity in heaven…

  • Ann

    Interesting that 98% of Mormons believe this and I don’t know any other religious group that takes evangelism more seriously than than they do. So universalism doesn’t stifle evangelism?

  • http://www.stephenburns.ca Stephen B.

    @Chris #4. I’m glad you aren’t going to judge the hearts of men. What about women? Or maybe they don’t count…
    And what does this mean, “Truth is not tolerant, nor is it universal” That sounds like a quote from a preacher who thinks they’re being intellectual, when it just sounds ridiculous. Mashing words together and delivering them with a serious tone isn’t actually teaching. Why do Christians do this? Speak straight. And why is tolerance perceived as something evil? It is far closer to the truth than some relationships where Christians will say “love the sinner, hate the sin” (Like we do with gays and lesbians, for example. We don’t love them OR tolerate them.)
    And for goodness sake, seeing as how this is a theological forum, can we please all agree not to say “the Bible says” or “the Bible teaches”? That’s like saying my “library says”. There are 66 books, and depending on how they’re interpreted, they can pretty much say anything.

  • Rick

    Ann #14-

    Read comments #7 & #8.

    Susan N. #13-

    Good thoughts. Action is key, which is why I wonder if we are living distinct lives. I also agree with you on the immediate benefits of living in Christ. If we proclaim the good news, it should include more than just the heaven aspect.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I’d like to restate what Ben said in different words and please tell me if this is the same thing (or why it is not). One of the problems I see in these conversations is that people use jargon with very specific meanings that is then interpreted by everyone differently.

    Ben said:

    Things can only be good if they glorify God. Things that do not glorify God are not good, even if man perceives them to be good. To say that you can get to heaven by being “good” depends significantly on your definition of good. Regardless, “being good” is really just a sign of your faith, and it’s not the behavior itself that’s saving you.

    The phase “glorify God” to me means that the things or behaviors are in alignment with what God wants. So I think I can re-write your first three (of four) sentences as “One can be good as long as it is per God’s definition of good.” True?

    In your last sentence you bring in the word “faith”. I think in the context of your sentence you mean “an aspiration to live the way God wants”.

    So to take the whole paragraph, I think we are saying the same thing if I say “It does not matter if you are actually doing good or not, but if you are motivated by the aspiration to live the way you think God wants you to live.” Right?

    Because by that definition I feel all who honestly strive to do what God wants them to do are those who will be judged less harshly in the end. I could easily argue that there are significantly different views of what Jesus taught about how to treat others and behave than there is between some different religions. So the Buddhist who is kind and loving may be hitting the mark much more closely than some 5 point Calvinist, let’s say. Certainly you can assume the Buddhist is doing it by God’s grace if you like since we will not know if that is true. So wouldn’t that Buddhist be saved? I certainly think so.

  • http://icrucified.com/icruciblog/ Jeff Borden

    When these discussion topics come up (and they seem to with increasing frequency) I feel very ignorant. At the risk of opening another “can of worms,” I pretty much believe what I read in the Bible. Granted I’m not a language scholar, so I’m probably reading from an inaccurate interpretation of the Biblical texts anyway…but I digress.

    What do we do with some of the hard sayings of Jesus; “The Narrow Gate” (Matt. 7). How do we interpret some of John’s identification of those “who are with us or not of us” (1 John). Of course, there are other passages as well that lead people like myself to think there are people that will not be part of God’s Eternal Community. I don’t think hashing through them all is necessary here.

    I suppose my greatest consternation comes from the divergence of thinking and interpretation of the Bible in the first place. I know; this is an age old problem, but for the life of me I cannot reconcile universalism or inclusivism (in the strictest definition of those terms/beliefs) with what I have read in any English translation of the Bible I have ever read. Maybe there are contextual problems with translations, maybe there are canonical issues, maybe there are issues with inerrancy… it seems to me this is the bigger issue. Those who have faith in the texts as they exist today (problems and all), reject notions of universalism and inclusivism. And, I hope I am not painting my thoughts with too broad of a brush. I also think there are folks who do not believe any real and accurate representation of God’s Word exists today. Because of this, we are left to interpret most of what we believe through our own filters and our own ideas. At the risk of sounding harsh, it seems we end up fashioning a God of our design at this juncture. If we end up here, what’s the point in having a Bible at all?

    Sorry for the soapbox…I’m just having a tough time following the nature of the conversations on these topics.

  • Paul D.

    It’s an odd question to ask, since the eschatological hope of Christians is not Heaven. It’s the Resurrection. At least, that’s what Paul and the original church believed until neo-Platonic ideas of a disembodied afterlife took hold.

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    I’ve just come to believe in the last year or so that Jesus does not fail to save anyone, that He truly is the savior of the world, especially (not only) we who believe (1 Tim.4.10).

    I was first drawn to believe this while studying universalistic texts like Rom.5.18, Col.1.20, and several others. However, it wasn’t until I studied what scripture says (or more accurately what it doesn’t say) concerning endless punishment (Hell) that freed me to accept these universalistic passages in faith.

    I now believe that ultimately every knee shall bow in worship and every tongue shall confess their faith in Jesus. His love does not fail. The Atonement is not limited in either scope (Calvinism) or effect (Arminianism); the sacrifice of Christ fully effects the salvation of all humanity (Rom.5.18) and ultimately results in the reconcilation of all creation (Col.1.20).

    This is really Good News. The traditional “gospel” is actually “bad news” for all except those who believe themselves to be “chosen” or “choose” Christ. “If you don’t turn and…, you’ll burn forever” is simply not good news.

    As Paul notes in Gal.1.4, Jesus came to save us from this “present evil age”. In this age we are physically born into sin (whether one understands that as original or ancestral), slaves of unrighteousness, cut off from God, under the oppression of evil in every way – this present evil world! Slaves have no choice but to obey their master. The dead cannot choose to live.

    It truly is by grace we are saved, and through faith we embrace this truth and even experience some of the benefits of that grace today though we still live in this present evil age (Hell on earth).

    I’ve come to understand salvation as not being about us getting into heaven, but as about heaven getting into us! Jesus has redeemed us all, sadly though many still live as slaves to sin and unrighteousness, though they’ve been redeemed. One day though, all of us will come into the reality of that redemption, I believe.

    The only way for Jesus to truly be proclaimed as the savior of the world, is for Him to truly save the whole world. If one person is not saved, then Jesus is not the savior of the world. Jesus came to save all, and I believe He accomplished that on calvary.

    Do we “deserve” heaven? Of course not; salvation is by grace. On the other hand though, do we deserve endless punishment? I do not believe we do. Scripture says that the wages of sin is “death”, not endless punishment. And of course, the penalty that Adam was warned of was “death”, not endless punishment. If God had wanted to punish Adam forever He need only allow Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of life and live forever under the curse, in this present evil age, under the dominion of Satan, surrounded by death, corruption, and evil on every side, tormented from within and without. This “present evil age” is what Jesus died to save us from, setting us free from the bondage of sin and Satan, delivering us into His glorious kingdom!

    I believe! Hallelujah! And thus I boldly proclaim the love and grace of God to all whom I know, and many whom I do not know! And it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. We do not repent so as to be forgiven; we repent because we have been forgiven because of the sacrifice of Christ and in order to embrace that forgiveness!

    Well, I could go on, and on, and on about the joy I’ve found in trust in Jesus not only for my salvation, but for the salvation of the whole world, but this is enough for now.

    Blessings,
    Sherman

  • dopderbeck

    Interesting survey — to be taken with a grain of salt, like all such surveys. Curious that a majority of “evangelicals” affirm that people of other faiths can “go to heaven.” (These categories are among the reasons this survey must be taken with a big grain of salt).

    I don’t see why “universalism” is such a big problem facing the Church. I suppose it depends on which segment of the Church you’re talking about. For evangelicals, even for younger evangelicals, Christ’s salvific uniqueness and the need for repentance and faith seem pretty well established. The problem is bringing this into conversation with the reality of pluralism without minimizing the reach of God’s grace — in other words, navigating between the extreme individualism of pietist and revialist traditions and the extreme antinomianism and relativism of true universalism.

  • Potter

    At root, the findings may be partly due to our own eyes. We see that Christians don’t really act any differently than anyone else. There’s no better behavior, no greater love of neighbor, no higher level of rejection of worldly things and power.

    The question of salvation then boils down to a mere belief, something held in the mind but unsupported by what one actually does to other people in this life.

    (I know, I know, I know that faith magically produces works, but it is the faith, not the works, that is the key.)

    That leaves people with the dilemma of a God that condemns people to an eternity of torture not for what they do (which would be just) but for what they believe (which sounds a lot like our political environment).

    And they reject that image, for good reason. What good is a religion that sends a slave-killing but saved Confederate to heaven while consigning Ghandi to hell?

  • Adam

    Couldn’t agree more with #19. How, in the wake of “Surprised by Hope” by N. T. Wright, can we still talk about “going to heaven” with any seriousness? The point is not heaven; the point is resurrection and renewal.

  • garver

    I don’t see how this survey data supports the notion there is a widespread belief in universalism. All it supports is the belief that God’s grace is at least somewhat wider than the boundaries of the visible church. “How wide?” is a distinct question and “Universally” is certainly not the only possible answer.

    Also, the notion of “universal-ISM” seems to suggest a doctrinal affirmation that all people shall be saved. For many, this is merely a well-founded hope, but [a] not something they would want to be dogmatic about and [b] something they would want to hold together with the real possibility of ultimate loss.

  • http://www.studyyourbibleonline.com Wesley

    Statistics by their nature do worry me, because I want to know what was required for them to identify as Mormon, evangelical etc.

    However, I think we should expect that as we a pluralized society that we will begin to want to hold less to our distinctive truths. Thus we no longer take stands on the exclusivity of salvation in Christ. Sad, because Jesus did as did his apostles.

    http://www.studyyourbibleonline.com

  • http://www.listeningpostministries.com Jim

    I have observed that many Christians are not happy unless somebody is going to hell.

  • http://www.theproblemwithkevin.com kevin s.

    I strenuously disagree that Mormon’s do a great job with evangelism. They do a lot of it, but very few people I know recognize it as all that great. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need an ad blitz to explain that Mormons are, in fact, human beings.

    To the survey results…

    An interesting corollary would be to ask whether bad people of one’s own faith can go to heaven. That would help to discern whether these results indicate a tendency toward universalism, toward works-based faith.

    My guess would be that people do not know enough about what they believe about this issue to make a determination. Most evangelicals attend churches that are reticent (if not outright unwilling) to talk about hell. In a live and let live society, the default position for any religion will be universalist.

  • Linda

    To me this survey proves that people like to have their itching ears tickled.

  • Kristen

    We seem to be speaking as if the options on the table are strict exclusivism (only those who explicitly claim the name of Jesus in this life can be saved) or universalism (absolutely everyone will eventually be saved). Those aren’t the only options.

    The idea of “invincible ignorance” has been around at least since Thomas Aquinas. Those who have a chance and refuse are in deep trouble, but God may have a place for the guy in deepest Africa who never came across a missionary. God knows how that guy would have responded.

    And how far does that “invincible ignorance” go? I read Richard Mouw’s “Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport” where he entertains the possibility of invincible ignorance extending to those here in the U.S., where there are churches all over, who nevertheless still for some reason can’t quite hear it. He suggests possibly a friend of his who is a rabbi, and another friend who grew up in an abusive and very very outwardly Christian home. (Who’s “invincibly ignorant” albeit in a society with a Christian presence and who’s just refusing? Beats me. Good thing I don’t need to decide such things.)

    If the PRESIDENT of FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY can say such things IN PRINT and not cause a firestorm (if there was such a firestorm I missed it) then it doesn’t surprise me that a slight majority of evangelicals recognize some possibility of heaven for some people outside explicit Christian faith. (That could be universalism, but could be one of a variety of positions that are still far from universalism.) If anything I’d have expected the numbers to be higher.

  • Kenton

    What Sherman said! (#20)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Scot, in your post do you define universalism as all people having the opportunity for heaven (or whatever the reward is, like being zombies) or that all will get the reward eventually?

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Concerning “itching ears” in 2 Tim.4.3, from experience I’ve found that when people are confronted with information or beliefs that are different than theirs, instead of seriously considering these different beliefs, they seek out the teachings of others whom they agree with to shore up their existing beliefs and enable them to dismiss the new information/beliefs.

    Of course, in context the passage is talking about people who have beliefs that empower their lusts, their selfishness, seeking out teachers that affirm these beliefs.

    For me, coming to believe that Jesus really is the savior of the world has actually cost me very much, emotionally because of the rejection of other believers whom I love and respect.

    It has also called me to love people, everyone, more – seeing all as my brothers, loving all as my brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they think of me as that way or not. Coming to understand judgment as something we’ll all face and as being based on works not on faith has also given me a greater motivation to live life rightly. Like in the parable of the kids and goats (Mt.26), it calls me to social maturity, caring for others, understanding that if I’m selfish and do not even see the needs of others around me or seek to meet them, God will bring some form of remedial punishment into my life to correct me – whether I profess faith in Him or not! And that’s in this life; I don’t even want to think about what remedial punishments might await me when I face my father on judgment day! His disappointment in me would destroy me and so I seek to live in a way that He’d be proud of, because I know He loves me and has given His all to redeem me and you!

  • smcknight

    DRT et al,

    I don’t see these numbers indicating universalism per se, but the drift toward universalism. I’d like to see these same questions asked 100 years ago, and I’m guessing the shifts are dramatic. One more time: I see these numbers as indicative ongoing openness.

  • Josh Mueller

    If we understand heaven primarily as a location and Jesus as the “entry ticket” to that location then it’s understandable why many Christians reject any notion that “a different ticket” will get us to the same location.

    If heaven, salvation, eternal life are not primarily about a location but about the goodness of God’s rule, the goodness of the love and grace He always has extended and always will be extending to us, and hell as a personal rejection of that goodness, consciously or subconsciously, the question changes dramatically. It’s no longer a question about adherence to a certain religion, be it Christian or otherwise, but about the extent to which an invidual can “see” and embrace that goodness for herself or himself.

  • Rick

    Josh Mueller #33-

    What is the “gospel” to you? How would you define the “good news”? (I am sincerely asking, not trying to be snarky).

  • Kenny Johnson

    Scott,

    Don’t you think the shift is most likely due to the fact that more people have neighbors who are not only not Christian, but from other faiths than 100 years ago? It was probably a lot easier to swallow that ALL Muslims or Buddhists are going to hell until they became your co-workers, neighbors, and friends.

  • Josh Mueller

    Rick, I don’t want to hog Scot’s blog or use it to promote my views but if you’re personally interested, I’ve summarized my own understanding here:

    http://tinyurl.com/2e9uytl

    Please interact with me there, if you wish.

  • Rick

    Josh-

    I was just curious in lieu of the stats in the post.

  • Josh Mueller

    Rick,

    I honestly don’t find myself represented in these stats. What is portrayed here about universalism is not my view although for some people any end result that will see people united with God in the future without having affirmed and verbalized certain propositional truths is equalled to a universalism based on works righteousness. Again, this is not what I believe. If you’ve read C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”, you’ll know where my perspective is coming from.

    I’m also curious to hear from you what you think about the following clip, making a clear distinction between heaven as a goal (which it is not) and heaven as our destiny:

    http://tinyurl.com/2b67tnv

  • Josh Mueller

    Re: #39

    Sorry, heaven as our “destination”, not destiny.

  • Rick

    Josh-

    Apart from some slight disagreements with some of the statements, I agree with the heaven aspect. Our goal is life in Christ, and the fruits that spring from that life, not a “free get-out-of-jail card” to heaven. We are to partake in the glimpses of the Kingdom now, await the new heaven and new earth, and grow in the love of Christ.

  • http://www.NextGenerationDisciples.com Chris

    #15 Stephen, I’m not sure what you do not understand, the truth is not tolerant and that is what universalism teaches is it not. “The Bible Says” Jesus said clearly, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace through faith, it’s not of ourselves and not of works. This is emphasized again in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.: Almost all the religions quoted above are fairly different in their statements of faith and methods of salvation. God designed one way to him and one way alone, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” You mock my statement about that I am not the judge of man (mankind) but God will be a far harsher judge than I because he is righteous and none of us are perfect.

    As far as your comment on the quote “love the sinner hate the sin” It is very applicable, Jesus died for all and loves all, he hates the sin of man. I have nothing against a gay or lesbian person, but they do need to repent and turn from their sin. You say “we” as if all you represent all Christians and just form your comments alone that is far from the truth.

    http://www.NextGenerationDisciples.com

  • http://www.highmileagehermeneutics.blogspot.com Phil

    I think universalism makes perfect sense if your an American that doesn’t like having to worry about where all those people you ignore (or pretend you’re reaching out to by having philosophical conversations that never mention the cross)are going to spend eternity.
    I think somebody should publish a “Burger King” Bible. (your way right away). It can just have empty pages so you can write what ever you want.

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Hi Chris @ 42, I’d like to address a couple of things you noted.

    You wrote: “the truth is not tolerant and that is what universalism teaches is it not.”

    Actually no, Christian Universalism doesn’t teach “tolerance”, it teachs “love”. Its foundational beliefs are that God loves us all, and love/Jesus never fails. Jesus came not to condemn, but to save the lost, all of us. He is the Good Shepherd that seeks out the lost lamb until He saves all; not one is lost. He is the woman who searches throughout her house until she finds the lost coin; not one is lost. And He is the faithful father who keeps looking, keeps loving, until all His sons are with Him. Our trust is in the love and grace of God and we seek to be like Him in all of our relationships. Love never fails. We do not limit the Atonement in either scope (Calvinism) or in power/effectiveness (Arminianism); rather, we affirm that the Atonement fully accomplishes the salvation of us all, all whom the Lamb died for.

    You wrote: ““The Bible Says” Jesus said clearly, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.””

    We agree, Jesus is the only way to the Father! It is by His blood that we are saved.

    You wrote: “Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace through faith, it’s not of ourselves and not of works. This is emphasized again in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.:”

    And we agree again. Salvation is completely a work of grace, not of ourselves at all! We are saved by the grace of God. Sadly, many, even most, Christians believe that though they are saved by God’s grace others are lost in spite of God’s grace and love for them. It seems that they have more faith in the recalcitrance of humanity than in the grace and love of God. I don’t know about you but man if God saved me, the worst of sinners, He can save anyone; and I trust that He will.

    You wrote: “Almost all the religions quoted above are fairly different in their statements of faith and methods of salvation. God designed one way to him and one way alone,”

    I don’t know what other religions you’re talking about. Christian Universalism affirms that Jesus it THE way, The Truth, and THE Life and there is none other.

    You quoted: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

    We agree that Jesus is THE way. This verse however, is in the context of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is challenging, correcting the doctrine, attitudes, and practices of the Pharisees. I believe this verse is meant to affirm that there are correct beliefs, attitudes, and life styles (the narrow gate) that lead to the abundant life of God. On the other hand, there is a boat load of beliefs, attitudes, and lifestyles that will bring destruction in our lives and families and even an increased sense of separation from God – especially religious hypocricy like that of the Pharisees!

    You wrote: “You mock my statement about that I am not the judge of man (mankind) but God will be a far harsher judge than I because he is righteous and none of us are perfect.”

    I realize that you were replying to Scott and not to me, but apparently you understand God to be some type of harsh judge. I don’t see Him that way. Rather, I see God as a loving Father. And I believe all of humanity to be my brothers and sisters because I believe that they are created in the image of God. We are all family, whether we realize it or not, even if we are enemies of eachother and our Father in our minds. Ultimately though, my faith is in the love and grace of God for myself and for others.

    You wrote: “As far as your comment on the quote “love the sinner hate the sin” It is very applicable, Jesus died for all and loves all, he hates the sin of man. I have nothing against a gay or lesbian person, but they do need to repent and turn from their sin.”

    Again we agree! “They”, in fact, “We All” need to repent from sin. Sin brings death and destruction, even the terrible chastizement of God our Father. But thanks be to God that His Mercy triumphs over Judgment. His anger lasts but a moment, but His love and mercy endure forever! Sadly though the traditional doctrine of Hell affirms that for some, even most, of humanity God’s mercy only lasts a moment (the vapor of this life), but His anger lasts forever!

  • Richard

    I wonder if this is an example of Bonhoeffer’s religionless Christianity?

  • http://www.highmileagehermeneutics.blogspot.com Phil

    I wonder if this is Christless humanism. You can’t make your own Jesus. If you aren’t following the Jesus of the Bible, than your following another Jesus…one you created (this one, by the way, doesn’t save anyone). If the passages in the Bible that speak of God’s judgment are questionable, than I pose that the ones describing Him as love should also be questioned. If we can’t trust the Bible’s description of Christ, than we can’t reliably assert anything about Him.

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Hi Phil @ 46,

    As I’ve come to trust in Jesus not only for my salvation, but also for the salvation of the rest of humanity, I’ve also simultaneously come to have a much weightier belief concerning God’s judgment of us all. Yes we shall all face the Judgment and the Judgment will be based on what we actually did in this life, what we did with the natural talents, the revelations, the spiritual gifts, the opportunities, etc. that God has given us. Have you ever noticed that Judgment passages are usually, if not always, tied to how we actually live, not just what we believe.

    Yes, we all shall face Judgment and give an account to our Father for the things we did in this life. And yes, I trust that there will be plenty of weeping in repentance, and even grinding of teeth in anger at ourselves for the missed opportunities, and the death and destruction we sowed through our sin – whether we are believers now or not. He will wipe every tear, and it’s likely there will be plenty of tears for Him to wipe.

    For example, I don’t know about you but the parable of the talents troubles me terribly! And the parable of the rich man and Lazarus scares me because I know I’m rich in comparison to the homeless I seek to help some. And I don’t know how many opportunities I’ve missed because of not being prepared – just like the 5 foolish virgins.

    I’ve actually come to believe that “Judgment Day” is an eternal reality, something that we can access today. I’ve experienced the Judgment of the Lord. It burnt the “Hell” out of me! The truth of my selfishness and wickedness was more than I could bare! I wept like a baby and gnashed my teeth for weeks and if not for the simultaneous assurance of the love and acceptance of God, I’d have gone stark raving mad! I don’t know about you, but the closer the Lord draws me, the more the fire of Truth consumes me, burning away my selfishness.

    I am very thankful though that our ultimate salvation and redemption is based not on what we do, how we live, or even on what we believe; but it is based on the grace of God and the sacrifice of Christ. Or at least, this is what I believe. I could be wrong though; I have been before.

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Btw, Phil & 43,

    I’ve given my life in sharing the Good News of God’s love for us. And I believed in the traditional concept of Hell until a little over a year ago when I decided to study what scripture says concerning Hell in an effort to counter the concept of universalism I was seeing in passages like Rom.5.18 and Col.1.20. But the more I studied, the more I came to believe that Hell is not a scriptural concept. For example, not one word in the Hebrew or Greek text of scripture that speaks of the punishment of humans is correctly translated as Hell – not Sheol, Hades, or Gehenna. Well, there is much to consider on this as you know; and I don’t want to, well, actually I’m resisting wanting to, repeat all of that here. If you’re interested you can read why I’ve come to believe as I do on my little blog. I’d be glad to discuss it there with you if you’d like.

    Blessings,
    Sherman

  • http://www.nextgenerationdisciples.com Chris

    Sherman #44

    I find it funny that you addressed every part of my message and yet I think their are inaccuracies in your statements.

    This is straight off the Christian Universalism website
    http://christianuniversalist.org/beliefs.html

    “4.
    We believe in the ultimate triumph of divine mercy and grace: that no being ever created will be condemned or allowed to suffer forever, but God has arranged through a benevolent plan of learning and growth for all souls to attain salvation, reconciliation, restoration, and reunion with the Source of All Being, in the fullness of the ages.

    * Learn more about this teaching: Universal Salvation

    The cornerstone of Universalism is belief in universal salvation, the idea that there is no such thing as eternal hell or annihilation because God has planned the universe to produce a positive outcome for all sentient beings He has ever created.

    5.We believe every person is the divine offspring of God, created in the image of the Heavenly Parent of all; and that every person is destined to be raised up from imperfection to maturity according to the pattern of the archetypal Christ, the Son of God, the Perfect Human in whose image all humanity shall be transformed.”

    And Again

    http://www.christianuniversalist.org/faq.html#christianuniversalism

    Christian Universalists believe that the correct interpretation of Christianity and the Bible is not the exclusive fundamentalist view (“convert or burn”), but an inclusive view of salvation in which all people — even the sinful and unbelieving dead — will eventually find reconciliation with God by repenting of their sins and going through a transformation process, so that nobody will spend eternity in hell.

    All I can say is wow, that is so off based and not supported at all, why would all of revelation speak of Judgment, read REVELATION 15. Do I believe God is a loving God of course I do, he provided Jesus as the method of salvation, but God is also the righteous judge and that is quite clear in the bible

    Read any of the below some of which I printed out for you:

    2 Thessalonians 1:5, Hebrews 10:30, Hebrews 12:23,
    1 Peter 4:17, 2 Peter 2:4

    2 Peter 2:9 “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,”

    Revelation 14:7 “and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

    Revelation 20:12 “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 famous conclusion for us God is love, but you will be judged and the unpardonable sin is denying Christ, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:15

    Nowhere in the bible does it say all will be saved… if Salvation for all doesn’t hide the idea of tolerance I don’t know what does, it doesn’t matter what you do because everybody will eventually repent and not have to spend eternity in hell… Why even have hell anybody will repent after one second there, people will repent at the throne once they realize they were wrong all their life… the scoffers will just have to say…”God i’m sorry I was wrong I repent” and that will be all…

    I think that covers everything except my quote “Almost all the religions quoted above are fairly different in their statements of faith and methods of salvation. God designed one way to him and one way alone,”

    Did you read the top… these religions

    Mormons: 98%
    Mainliners: 96%
    Jewish: 95%
    Catholic: 93%
    Black Prots: 90%
    Other faiths: 90%
    Nones: 87%
    Evangelicals: 83%

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Chris @49,

    You noted: “I find it funny that you addressed every part of my message and yet I think their are inaccuracies in your statements.”

    Please do quote which statements you believe are inaccurate and I’ll gladly review them.

    As for the long quotes from the Christian Universalist site, they do accurately reflect my beliefs. I believe in the ultimate triumph of divine mercy and grace, and that all of creation will ultimately be reconciled with God.

    You wrote: “All I can say is wow, that is so off based and not supported at all, why would all of revelation speak of Judgment, read REVELATION 15. Do I believe God is a loving God of course I do, he provided Jesus as the method of salvation, but God is also the righteous judge and that is quite clear in the bible”

    You’re more than welcome to review the Universalistic passages of scripture like Rom.5.18, Col.1.20, 1 Tim.4.10, Phil.2.9-11, etc. My favorite is Rom.5.18 which in essence says that just like the sin of Adam got us all into this mess with sin and death, the sacrifice of Christ gets us all out of that and into righteousness and life. You’re welcome to accept such passages in faith or interpret them differently.

    “Read any of the below some of which I printed out for you:
    2 Thessalonians 1:5, Hebrews 10:30, Hebrews 12:23,
    1 Peter 4:17, 2 Peter 2:4″

    Ok, I’ll go through them.

    2 Peter 2:9 “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,”

    Agreed, the unrighteous will suffer punishment on the day of judgment. Note though that it does not say that the punishment is endless torture, Hell. In fact, the word kolazo translated as punishment can also be interpreted as “chastizement” and have the connotation of being for the person’s good – remedial punishment.

    Revelation 14:7 “and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

    Yes, we shall all face judgment. And judgment will result in every knee bowing in worship and every tongue confessing their need of and adoration for the one who died for us. As I’ve shared in previous posts, whenever I’ve encountered the judgment of God, it burnt the hell out of me, but it also moved me to love God more. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. But one must embrace judgment, the truth about one’s evil attitudes and actions, before one can embrace forgiveness.

    Revelation 20:12 “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.”

    Yes, judgment is based on “our deeds”, how we actually live, not just on whether or not we believe in Jesus. And we shall all face this judgment and have to deal with the unshaded truth concerning out lives. This is not something I look forward to, but trust that it is for my, all of our, good!

    You wrote: “And the famous conclusion for us God is love, but you will be judged and the unpardonable sin is denying Christ, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:15″

    May I ask, whose names do you believe are written in the Lamb’s book of life? I believe a key word is “Lamb’s”. Who is written in the Lamb’s book of life? All those whom the Lamb died for! All who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. And I believe that Jesus died for all of humanity, not just some! And of course there are plenty of scriptures affirming this.

    You wrote: “Nowhere in the bible does it say all will be saved… ”

    Again, I’d encourage you to study Rom.5.18, Col.1.20, etc. Jesus did not come to condemn the lost, but to save us. And I believe that Jesus accomplished our salvation on Calvary.

    You wrote: “if Salvation for all doesn’t hide the idea of tolerance I don’t know what does, it doesn’t matter what you do because everybody will eventually repent and not have to spend eternity in hell… Why even have hell anybody will repent after one second there, people will repent at the throne once they realize they were wrong all their life… the scoffers will just have to say…”God i’m sorry I was wrong I repent” and that will be all…”

    I don’t quite understand your points here or what you are objecting to. If tolerance means to have mutual love and respect for others, then yes I believe in tolerance. If one defines tolerance as one belief being as good as another, then I’m not tolerant. One belief is not as good as another. In fact, many lead to death and destruction.

    Concerning everyone eventually bowing in submission to and confessing one’s need of and love for God, yes, I believe that is what scripture indicates is the ultimate outcome. Must many people reach bottom before they look up? Yes, sadly so. Will many people come into the full unshaded reality of separation from God before they recognize their need of Him and cry out to Him? Sadly, yes. Do I believe that His love and mercy every run out or stop? No, of course not. His anger might last a moment, but His love and mercy endure forever. Though a person dies not knowing Him, does He give up on them, does His love for them cease? Of course not. Can they then repent and embrace His love and forgiveness? I believe so.

    Is post-mortem salvation a major theme in scripture? No, but there is evidence of such. Job repented in Sheol, cried out to God, and was saved and even brought back to life. Peter briefly mentions Jesus preaching the Gospel to the dead so that they could live with God in the Spirit. Paul speaks of turning a brother over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit might be saved. And Paul also mentions affirmatively baptism for the dead.

    As I said though, this is certainly not a theme of scripture, though I do see it as a thread. Scripture’s primary theme is calling us to righteousness in the here and now! And it warns repeatedly of the terrible judgment of God our Father. And God loves us and will not spare the rod of correction; but of course, such is for our good, to build in us the character traits that He desires for us to have. And God wields that rod of correction in our lives today, and certainly in the life to come.

    You wrote: “I think that covers everything except my quote “Almost all the religions quoted above are fairly different in their statements of faith and methods of salvation. God designed one way to him and one way alone,””

    You wrote: “Did you read the top… these religions
    Mormons: 98%, Mainliners: 96%, Jewish: 95%, Catholic: 93%, Black Prots: 90%, Other faiths: 90%, Nones: 87%, Evangelicals: 83%”

    I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that you were referencing the groups listed in the OP. Yes, they all do have different statments of faith. And yes, there is only one way of salvation – Jesus. I just believe that scripture indicates that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord – to the awesome glory of God. In other words, Jesus does not fail to save anyone, but saves all whom he loves – all of humanity. And even all of creation will ultimately be reconciled to God because of the awesome display of His goodness, grace, mercy, and love as seen in the Cross!

    Chris, I realize that it is very difficult to even consider, much less understand, scripture from a different paradigm than one’s traditional paradigm. For traditional Christianity, salvation is very much about being saved “FROM HELL” (endless torment), and thus if one calls into question the concept of Hell, then one calls into question the whole understanding of salvation.

    I am enjoying the discussion with you though, and hope we can continue it. I enjoy wrestling over the Word with my brothers, iron sharpening iron. It’s one such wrestling match where the looser is truly the biggest winner. If imo I “win” the match, I gain confidense in my beliefs – a good thing. But if imo, I “loose”, I gain more truth and freedom from error – a much better thing than just confidence!

    Hi Scott, sorry for the long posts. If you’d rather us take this discussion to another venue, just let me know.

    Blessings,
    Sherman

  • http://www.highmileagehermeneutics.blogspot.com Phil

    Sherman,
    Have you taken courses in Greek and Hebrew? Who are your scholarly sources for this material? I understand how theological speculation can lead to universalistic beliefs, but not Greek and Hebrew exegesis. I have heard it argued that the Biblical writers imposed thier view of judgement and damnation on the text, but I have not heard it argued that the Biblical writers did not intend this. The Greek especially is graphic in this regard.

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Hi Phil,

    Yes I’ve taken courses in Greek and Hebrew, though I would not consider myself an expert, especially in Hebrew. Concerning my sources for “this material”, what material are you speaking of exactly? In my reply to you I briefly mentioned that neither Sheol, Hades, or Gehenna should be interpreted as Hell. You’re welcome to check any sources you would like on that. Sheol simply means grave, realm of the dead, the unseen realm. Hades was used to translate Sheol in the LXX, and also speaks of the grave or realm of the dead. In Greek mythology all who die go to Hades. In Hades there were 3 realms – Elysium fields (heavenly), Ashphodel meadows (mediocre), and Tartarus (torturous). And Gehenna, Greek transliteration of Ga Hinnom which was the valley of Hinnom, which was Jerusalem’s trash dump where there was a continuous fire and no shortage of maggots. And if one gives themselves over to sin, his life will surely be trashed. And if you want to look at how Shammai and Hillel used Gehenna as a theological metaphor, that’s a very informative study.

    Concerning the Biblical writers not intending judgment or damnation, what passage are you speaking of specifically? As noted in my other posts, I do believe in judgment and punishment for sin, but I believe such is remedial in nature, having a positive purpose and positive end result. In the previous post, 50, I noted that kalazo has the connotation of chastizement, remedial punishment. Just look at Strongs or Vines, or others. Punishment does not always carry with it the concept of being punitive, but is often seen in a positive light as in a loving father punishing his son to bring about a positive change.

    I believe that Jesus truly is the savior of all humanity, especially we who believe (1 Tim.4.10). “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (Jn.3.17). We truly are saved by God’s grace, not by our goodness or rightness in any way.

    As far as “theological speculation” goes, I do my best to base my faith primarily on scripture. I do recognize tradition, experience, and reason (speculation) as sources of theology also, but I do seek to give scripture first place. In other words, I believe as I do because of my understanding of scripture. I do recognize though, that I could be wrong in my understanding of scripture and am always seeking a better understanding.

    As to the Greek being especially graphic, I agree. For example, the word Tartaroo meant a place of terrible torture within Hades. It was a place reserved for enemies of the gods and humans who especially ticked them off. If the Biblical writers had intended to communicate the concept of Hell, Tartaroo is the Greek word they would have used, I think. But of course, it’s only used once in scripture, 2 Pet.2:4, to speak of sinning angels being held there until or in judgment. And even these are not said to be tortured there forever. And Tartaroo certainly had the concept of torture.

    Like I noted in a previous post, it was my study of what scripture actually says concerning the judgment and punishment of sin that freed me to accept in faith the passages of scripture that affirm the salvation of all humanity and reconciliation of all creation. As any loving father does with his children, God uses punishment and judgment to bring us to a place of repentance.

    We were created for relationship with God, in the image of God; and I believe He is faithful to fulfill the good work He’s begun in us. Jesus said that if He was lifted up, crucified, He’d draw all humanity to Himself; and I believe He is and will do that – all humanity!

    This truly is Good News! God loves us, has redeemed us, and is working in us to accomplish His will. Is there penalty for sin? Of course. Let’s not be fooled, what a man sows so shall he reap – whether he’s a believer or not. We earn death, destruction, and punishment through our sin, but the gift of God is life with and through Him! In fact, “God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so He could have mercy on everyone.” Rom.11:32. We did not choose to be born as slaves to sin, why then would we think that God would leave our salvation up to us!

    Well an

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Hey Phil and Chris,

    Have you ever noticed that the word “Hell” is increasingly disappearing from contemporary English translations? The first Catholic English translation Douay Rheims (1610) had the word “Hell” in it 110 times. The 1611 King James Version only has it 54 times; NKJV (1982) – 32 times; CEV (1995) – 20 times; NLT & NCV – 17 times; NIV, ESV, Darby, & Catholic NJB – 14 times; NASB, AMP, ASV & TNIV – 13 times; HCSB – 12 times. And the Catholic NAB, Young’s Literal Translation, Rotherham’s translation, Fenton’s translation, and the WEB do not have the word “Hell” in them at all – 0 times!

    As noted before, not one of the four words translated “Hell” in the KJV should be translated as such. The mistranslation of these four words actually began with St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. St. Jerome was an advocate for the doctrine of conscious endless torment of all who are not part of the Church, which stood in opposition to others in the early church that believed in Universal Salvation like Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa, and others that believed in annihilation. He, St. Jerome, translated his beliefs “INTO” scripture, mistranslating Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartaroo as Infernum 110 times in his Latin Vulgate. The 1610 Catholic Douay Rheims translation is based solely upon the Latin Vulgate and thus uses the word “Hell” 110 times. And the Roman Catholic Church was strongly influenced, one could say even built upon, the Latin Vulgate.

    Why is the word “Hell” disappearing from English translations? Because English translations are getting better and more accurately convey what the original text says. Hell, conscious unending torment, is not a scriptural concept.

    And you know, if Hell was a real threat, then it seems to me that it would be specified repeatedly in the Law! But of course, it’s not. Not even once is it warned of in the Law.

  • http://www.nextgenerationdisciples.com Chris

    What I have noticed is never once have I ever referred to Hell in any of my posts, the closest reference would be the “lake of fire” a direct quote from the bible, even if I do believe in Hell as a real place. I just find it funny how religions, such as obviously now “Christian Universalism” twist scriptures to believe what they want it to even if it contradicts other aspects of the bible.

    Revelation 14:10–11
    10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”

    So i’ll wait to read your response how when this clearly says FOR EVER (In my mind i’m just picturing that scene from the Sandlot) FOR EVER…. FORE VER

    Reveloation 20:11-15
    11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    And I see now reference to people every getting out of the lake of fire… or how their names will miraculously appear in the Lambs Book of Life… please I would love to hear your explanations.

  • http://www.nextgenerationdisciples.com Chris

    That will be my last post really on this subject, because regardless of the differences on this matter, as long as Christ and Salvation through faith is being preached, God will correct whoever is misinterpreting doctrine in Heaven and one day we will all find out the truth.

  • victorxay

    People for the most part are lazy and would rather take someone else’s word about heaven and hell rather than taking the Bible and reading it for themselves. Most Christians don’t read their Bible. They expect the preacher to inform them of everything. So, honestly they really believe everything the pastor says moreso than actually reading the Bible.

    The Bible is the least read book in the world but crowds gather around every Sunday around it only to have the preacher tell them what’s in it. No one has desire to read it for themselves.

  • http://www.highmileagehermeneutics.blogspot.com Phil

    I don’t know of any scholars (even those who worked on the translations that you listed: Bruce Metzger, Doug Moo, and others) who don’t think the Greek teaches divine judgment in the afterlife. The imagery of “fire” and anguish is, as I said, graphic. You can argue theologically that the Bible’s portrayal is limited or inaccurate, but it’s just bad exegesis to claim that the Bible doesn’t teach us that there is terrible divine judgment portrayed in the Bible. I suspect you have read authors who are not scholars… there is an important difference. Your interpretations of the NT passages you have utilized in your arguments are theological and emotional, but not faithful to the text in my opinion.

    “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
    Matt. 13:50

    It cannot be argued that the above passage and the many like it (this imagery appears 4 other times in Matthew alone) are not there to cause people to fear divine judgment. Arguments can and have been made, but they do not and cannot affirm the authority of the Bible in these areas.
    As a former pastor, I would like to encourage you to trust God concerning those whom you care about that do not know Him. He is able to bring them to repentance. It can be tempting to let life’s circumstances shape our view of Scripture, but we cannot. Let God be true, and every man a liar.
    Blessings

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Good morning Chris,

    Concerning Revelation’s lake of fire, because of the metaphorical nature and vast diversity of interpretations of Revelation (metaphorical, historical, preterist, futuristic w/ all it’s wide variations) I tend to not look to it for support of doctrine, especially anything that is not widely supported elsewhere in scripture.

    Having noted that though even interpreting it futuristically have you noticed that….

    1) The LoF is in the presence of the Lamb and the presence of the Angels. Where does Jesus sit? The right hand of God. What surrounds the throne of God? Angels.
    2) Torment, basinizo, is a word related to the testing and purification of metal by fire.
    3) Brimstone, theon, means divine fire,
    4) Brimstone (sulfur) was burnt as incense for both physical healing and spiritual cleansing.
    5) Brimstone (sulfur) is still the foundation of many medicines.
    6) Hot sulfur (brimstone) springs were widely known, recommended, and visited for their healing properties.
    7) Scripture elsewhere notes God being an all-consuming fire.
    8) “IF” anyone’s name is not written in the Lamb’s book of Life they are cast into the Lof.
    . a) Who’s names are in the Lamb’s book of life? How about those whome Jesus died for – all humanity!
    . b) Note that it says “IF”, possibly highlighting the improbability or impossibility that anyone’s name is not written in the book.

    When I consider these things, Rev’s LoF speaks to me of God’s all consuming, healing, delivering presence that is especially revealed in the sacrifice of Christ (the Lamb) and the everyday supernatural benevolence of God (the Angels). But of course, the problem with such metaphorical language is it is so open to widely divergent interpretations.

    You are correct though, Revelation does not speak of anyone or anything getting out of the LoF. Of course, it doesn’t say that they don’t get out either. And considering I believe that it’s a picture of the all consuming presence of God, who would want to get out of the presence of God, especially considering we were created for such.

    Well, I’ve enjoyed the converstaion.
    Blessings,
    Sherman

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Hi Phil @ 57,

    It seems that you misunderstand me; I did not say that such judgment passages are not meant to cause people to fear judgment. In fact, I believe we should ALL fear God’s judgment — Christian and non-Christian alike! Note that the judgment passages are primarily written as warnings to those who consider themselves to be in right relationship with God, especially those who think themselves to be good, those who have their “religion” right but instead of being filled with humility and love are self-righteous and unloving, unmerciful towards others.

    By translating the judgment passages to speak of endless torture for unbelievers, it effectively nullifies the warning and power of those passages to call us believers to righteous living. Believers often say, “well, I don’t have to worry about the judgment because Jesus died for m.” And yet, I believe that we are the ones who should “fear” judgment more than unbelievers because we have been given so much. We are the “rich” in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. We often live like the 5 foolish virgins. We are often like the foolish servant that went and buried his talent because of fear and a twisted perception of his master.

    These passages were meant to call us, “we believers”, to righteousness; they are not meant to give us a tool to judge or denounce “others” who do not believe as we do. And yet the church has traditionally used these passages as a means of judging, excluding, and condemning others who do not believe as we do.

    Of course, you are correct in that most “scholars” do interpret scripture from the perspective of believing that Jesus fails to save some, if not most, of humanity. The certainty of damnation for “others” is a foundational assumption for most of Christendom. From my study of scripture though, I’ve come to believe that Jesus does not fail, that love does not fail, that ultimately every knee does bow and every tongue does confess that Jesus is Lord!

    Also, in your post it seems that you assume that the reason I’ve come to believe as I do is because of “life circumstances”, possibly because of being overwhelmed with concern for a lost loved one or the lost in general. Frankly, I’m not that altruistic. Most of my loved ones and all of my closest loved ones are believers in Christ. I am active in sharing with others my love for God and faith in Christ, but I’ve never been overwhelmed with fear for those who do not know the Lord.

    In fact, for many years I would occasionally pray for God to give me a better understanding of “Hell”, thinking that it would motivate me to be more evangelistic. I never considered that in God answering my prayer, I’d come to believe that the traditional doctrine of Hell was erroneous. Of course, finding that Jesus came to save us from this “present evil age” (Gal.1.4) and not from “future endless torture” has freed me to focus much more on helping people realize the love and grace of God now and to live in the present reality of the kingdom of God!

    Well, I’ve enjoyed the conversation, but it looks like things are moving on.

    Blessings,
    Sherman

  • http://www.highmileagehermeneutics.blogspot.com Phil

    My final comment,

    Sherman, there is no way that the Bible led you to your belief. You are not even being consistent within your own argument. It doesn’t make any sense to say that God wants Christians to fear judgement, but not the unbelieving world. It doesn’t make sense that He would want the repentant to fear Him, but not those who reject Him. Your arguemts are from bad exegesis, and ill-informed theoloy.For your many words you have not exhibited wisdom.
    About your personal interest in your arguments… the reality is… I can’t know, but your long treatise on the subject may betray your deep fears and concerns. I will be praying for you.
    In Christ,
    Phil

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    Hi Phil,

    I appreciate your prayers for me, and of course you’re welcome to your opinion/judgement. If you’d like to point out some specifics concerning bad exegesis, ill-informed theology, or inconsistencies in my beliefs, I’ll be glad to consider what you present. But baseless denounciations do no one any good.

    In Christ too,
    Sherman

  • http://tankrumblings.blogspot.com/ Sherman Nobles

    And Phil, btw, I did not say that “God wants Christians to fear judgement, but not the unbelieving world.” I said that “we should all fear judgment, Christians and non-Christians alike.” The two statements are radically different.

    As scripture indicates, judgement is based on how we actually live, what we do with what God brings into our lives, not just on what we believe or profess to believe. There is punishment/penalty for sin whether one professes faith in Christ or not. And I believe that in His wisdom and grace God administers such judgement for our good, to effect positive change in us, whether that punishment comes in this life or the life to come. I believe though that His judgments are perfect and ultimately for our good. I’ve tasted of the judgment of God; it was terrible, but it worked in me good. I am far less judgmental of and negative towards others because I’ve seen the darkness of my own soul in the light of truth and found that God loves me anyhow! And I’ve experienced the reality that those who have been forgiven much, love much!


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