In my book “Jesus Undefeated” evidence is provided that – from the very beginning of Christianity – there have always been 3 different views of Hell; all based on Biblical evidence and supported by Scriptures.
Those 3 views were (and are):
Throughout the book I take great pains to explore all 3 views and to demonstrate that each was held by various early Church Fathers over the centuries. I also take time to explore each of those 3 views and provide a detailed overview of the supporting Scriptures for each in turn.
My goal is to educate Christians about the fact that – historically – the Christian Church has been of various minds regarding this doctrine. It is also to demonstrate that all 3 views base their beliefs on Scripture and that the Universal Reconciliation view was – for at least the first 500 years – the dominant view of the Church.
These points alone are worthy of consideration. The average Christian is led to believe that there has only and always been one view of Hell – the Eternal Torment view – and that any other views were considered heretical. [They weren’t].
Additionally, during those first 500 years of Church history, those Christians who held to the majority view [Universal Reconciliation] fought hard to defend various orthodox doctrines, including the Trinity and the essential beliefs expressed in the Nicean Creed.
In my book I go verse-by-verse to examine the evidence for each of the 3 views of Hell provided by Scripture. The goal being to address each of the 3 views as fairly and impartially as possible. As someone who believed, taught and preached on the doctrine of Eternal Torment, I am well-acquainted with the major verses that appear to support this view of Hell. So, I did my best to examine each one in detail and to present the arguments as I would have made them when I once defended that view.
I did the same when it came to the other two views, with as much impartiality as possible. Although I will admit that – over the years – my views have shifted based on my examination of the scriptures and the views of the early Church Fathers. So, my personal views are also on display when it comes to this topic. If no other place than in the subtitle of the book itself: “Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment.”
But, even beyond the scriptural study and historical examinations of these 3 views of Hell, there remains one very simple observation that I’d like to point out: Your view of Hell says something about your view of God’s character.
In brief, the 3 views are summarized as follows:
*God is a Destroyer
*God is a Torturer
*God is a Healer
So, if you embrace the view of Annihilation, you essentially accept the idea that God is a Destroyer. In other words, God annihilates those who do not put their faith in Christ.
If you accept the Eternal Torment view, then your view of God is ultimately that He is a Torturer. This view holds that God’s response to sinners is to torture them for eternity in a lake of fire, keeping them alive by His own power; refusing to allow them to be consumed by the fire but perpetually extending their suffering without end.However, if you lean towards Universal Reconciliation, then your view of God is that of Healer. This means you see God as one whose response to the sickness of sin is not to beat His children mercilessly for eternity, but to heal those children by His own power of grace and endless love.
All 3 views of Hell agree: Those who die without Christ will pass through the fire.
The only disagreement between the 3 views is: What is the nature of that fire, and how long does it last?
But what is also at stake is the actual heart and character of God.
Do you believe that God is a Destroyer, a Torturer or a Healer?
The way you answer this question is ultimately what is at stake in this debate.
As for me, I cannot see God as a heartless, unmerciful torturer. I cannot see God as a destroyer [especially when Jesus identifies the destroyer as Satan]. I can only affirm that God is at heart a loving Abba Father who responds to His children’s struggle with sin by extending endless mercy, grace and ultimate healing.
Who is God to you?
Destroyer, Torturer or Healer – the choice must be made regarding the character of God.
I’ve made my choice. What is yours?
For more on this subject, read the new book, “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” by Keith Giles.