Four Reasons the Early Church Did Not Believe “Hell” Lasts Forever

Four Reasons the Early Church Did Not Believe “Hell” Lasts Forever July 30, 2019


Today, many people disagree on how guilty criminals should be treated. Is the purpose of punishment, the argument goes, to rehabilitate the criminal by reforming his character? Or, rather, is the purpose of punishment to inflict eye-for-an-eye retaliation on the wrongdoer? Put another way, is our motive for punishment revenge or rescue?

This same analysis can be applied to God’s purpose for Hell. Is God’s motive in allowing sinners to go to Hell a form of “revenge” upon the sinner, or is God’s motive rather to ultimately “rescue” the sinner from his own fallen nature? Which purpose better aligns with the nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ?

 

Well, the majority of the early Church believed that Hell was place where God would rescue, reform and reconcile all lost sinners back unto Himself. The process of Hell was intense, thorough, critical, painful, agonizing and anguishing. But, it was ultimately restorative as each and every sinner was led through and past their own Hellish valley of sin and death, and into a deep and heartfelt place of Godly repentance.

 

The early Church had a significantly different view of Hell than much of the Church does today. Hell’s purpose, for the majority of the Church fathers, was seen as purifying rather than punishing, restoring rather than torturing, healing rather than destroying. They believed Hell was “God’s crisis-management for lost souls.” Hell was for all those who did not authentically receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior during their earthly lives.

 

The early Church believed God’s Hell-fire was not inflicted to destroy the lost, but rather to ultimately save them. God’s “fire” was WISE in that it revealed, cleansed and cured the lost soul of all the false identities accumulated during their fallen lifetimes. The “wood, hay and stubble” of these false identities would be “burned off” of the lost soul, but they themselves would “be saved, yet so as by fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15.

 

Hell, from this viewpoint then, was a rocky but redemptive journey to repentance and restoration. Hell was still seen as infinitely intense and unimaginably painful – – just not eternal.

 

Ebenezer Scrooge’s nightmarish journey as described in the classic “Christmas Carol” would be an illustration of what such a redemptive journey through Hell might look like. For Scrooge, his journey was intensely revealing, painful and heart-breaking, but ultimately redemptive. Scrooge was not even aware that his own repentance and redemption was the Lord’s endgame. He was too busy suffering at the realization of his past, present and future sins. And, in fact, Scrooge’s journey appeared to be outside of time as we know it. His whole pitiful life was played out before him in just a few earthly hours, yet for him it appeared to last a very long time.

 

Would God not have the same type of cosmic “elbow room” to take our souls on such a “Scrooge-like” post-mortem journey to repentance? Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, certainly allowed for this possibility: “God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future.” Martin Luther’s letter to Hanseu Von Rechenberg, 1522.

 

Here is a quick historical survey of the EARLY CHURCH regarding their beliefs about HELL:

THE FIRST 500 YEARS: In the first five centuries there were six known theological schools. Four of them taught that all men would EVENTUALLY be rescued from Hell: these being the theological schools at Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea and Edessa/Nisbis. One school, Ephesus, taught Annihilationism (that sinners are totally incinerated into nothingness in Hell). Only one theological school, Rome/Carthage taught eternal punishment. Source: The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Universalism entry, p. 96, Baker Book House.

“The main Patristic supporters of the apokatastasis theory, such as Bardaisan, Clement, Origen, Didymus, St. Anthony, St. Pamphilus Martyr, Methodius, St. Macrina, St. Gregory of Nyssa (and probably the two other Cappadocians), St. Evagrius Ponticus, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, St. John of Jerusalem, Rufinus, St. Jerome and St. Augustine (at least initially [However, even after abandoning the doctrine of apokatastasis himself, Augustine very interestingly recognised that a great deal of Christians in his day did embrace it, ‘indeed the vast majority’ (immo quam plurimi). These very numerous Christians, ‘albeit not denying the Holy Scripture, do not believe in eternal torments’ (Ench. ad Laur. 29) page 683]), Cassian, St.Isaac of Nineveh, St.John of Dalyatha, Ps. Dionysius the Areopagite, probably St. Maximus the Confessor, up to John the Scot Eriugena,28 and many others, grounded their Christian doctrine of apokatastasis first of all in the Bible.” Page 11, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena, by Ilaria L.E. Ramelli (2013). Ramelli’s work is comprehensive (800 pages) on this and her credentials beyond reproach. I daresay its the most comprehensive and scholarly book on the subject ever written. She is working on a shorter user friendly version soon to be published.

1ST CENTURY: PAUL. It is interesting to note that Paul never used the word Hell in any of his writings, though he was considered the theologian of the New Testament. He spoke of God’s post-mortem purging fire in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, but never of Hell per se. The Gospel of John, the disciple perhaps closest to Jesus’ heart, never used the word Hell in his Gospel. It is also interesting to note that the Book of Acts never mentions the word Hell, except to speak of Jesus’ liberation FROM it. Acts NEVER uses the word Hell to describe any part of the Christian message which established the Church. The following passages suggests Paul’s seminal thinking on the eventual and ultimate salvation of all men: Romans 5:17,18; 10:9-17; 11:25-33; 14:11; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 15:22-28; 1 Tim. 2:1-6; 4:10; Eph. 1:10; 4:1-10; Phil. 2:9-11; Col. 1:20, 23; Heb. 2:9.

2ND CENTURY: CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA. Clement was the first to speak of God’s fire as a “wise fire” which purges the sinner unto salvation. “God’s punishments are saving and disciplinary (in Hades) leading to conversions, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of the sinner, and especially since souls, although darkened by passions, when released from their bodies, are able to perceive more clearly because of their being no longer obstructed by the paltry flesh. 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.” Clem. str. 5:14.90.4-91.2; see also 5.1.9.4; and hyp. (frg. In Stahlin, Clemens Alexandrians, 3:211).

3RD CENTURY: ORIGEN: “When the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfect restoration of the whole creation is signified, so also, when enemies are said to be subjected to the Son of God, the salvation of the conquered and the restoration of the lost is in that understood to consist.” Origen, De Principiis, Book III, Chapter 5, Section 7, Anf, Vol. 4. Origen was the first Christian Systematic Theologian. A fundamental and essential element of his theology was the doctrine of the universal restoration of all fallen beings to their original holiness and union with God. Gods mercy and goodness are all-inclusive and ultimately irresistible. Hellfire is corrective and purgative, not punitive and eternal. This doctrine was called Apocatastasis, “the restitution of all things” per Acts 3:21. Origen was the greatest enemy of Gnosticism (per his Against Celsus) and is considered the greatest theologian of the early Eastern Church. “There is hardly a major thinker who is not deeply indebted to Origen. From the middle of the Twentieth Century, focused scholarly symposia of the Greek and Latin Church have once again begun to study and critically expound the rich Origenian legacy.” The Westminister Handbook of Patristic Theology, WJK.

4TH CENTURY: GREGORY OF NYSSA: “What therefore is the scope of Pauls argument in this place [1 Cor. 15:28]? That the nature of evil, at length, be wholly exterminated, and divine, immortal goodness embrace within itself every rational creature; so that of all who were made by God, not one shall be excluded from his Kingdom. All the viciousness, that like a corrupt matter is mingled in things, shall be dissolved and consumed in the furnace of purgatorial fire; and every thing that had its origin from God, shall be restored to its pristine state of purity.” Tract, in Dictum Apostoli, Tunc etiam ipse Filius subjicietur, and c.p. 137, and seqq. Gregory was one of the three great Cappodadocean Fathers who protected the doctrine of the Trinity from the Arians at the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople.

5TH CENTURY: Theodore of Mopsuestia. “They who have chosen the good, shall, in the future world, be blessed and honored. But the wicked, who have committed evil the whole period of their lives, shall be punished till they learn, that, by continuing in sin, they only continue in misery. And when, by this means, they shall have been brought to fear God, and to regard Him with good-will, they shall obtain the enjoyment of His grace.” Assemani Biblioth. Orient. Tom. iii. Par. i. p.323.

Church history is fairly clear that this view of Hell was not just the view of a few, but rather was the majority view of the Church.

Basil the Great (329-379) said that, “The MASS of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished.” De Ascetics.

Saint Jerome (347-420) said, “I know that MOST persons understand the story of Nineveh and its king, the ultimate forgiveness of the devil and all rational creatures.” Homily on Jonah.

Lastly, even Augustine (354-430), who later in his life vehemently opposed Universalism, still acknowledged, “There are VERY MANY in our day, who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments.” Enchirdion cxii. (The Latin for “very many” is imo quam plurimi, which can be translated majority).

David Bentley Hart, Eastern Orthodox theologian and Patristic scholar, notes that the early church fathers, who knew ancient koine Greek far better than do most moderns, simply didn’t translate “aionios kolasis” as a phrase meaning “eternal punishment” to be applied to the duration and nature of Hell per Matthew 25:46. Hart observes that “. . . patristic theologians as diverse as Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and Isaac of Nineveh saw in the phrase aionios kolasis (typically translated as ‘eternal punishment,’ but possible to read as ‘correction for a long period’ or ‘for an age’ or even ‘in the age to come’) no cause to conclude that hell was anything but a temporary process of spiritual purification.” Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Loc. 2059-61) Yale University Press (February 23, 2010).

When the Church rejected this high view of God’s goodness and replaced it with a view of God as an eternal torturer, the dark ages began, almost to the day. Ever since, there has remained a small, constant and stubborn strand of those embedded in the Church who believe Hell is not an eternal torture chamber, but rather God’s final crisis-center, a cosmic ER station where God performs complicated, intense and painful surgery on human souls in order to remove all the false sin-identities accumulated over their lifetimes.

The belief that Hell is “ultimately remedial and restorative” rather than “eternally torturous” can withstand any Scriptural challenge if you accept four premises, the same four premises widely accepted by the early Church.

 

 

PREMISE #1- JESUS DID NOT PREACH “ETERNAL PUNISHMENT” IN THE ORIGINAL LANGUAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

 

“Eternal Punishment” is the term used in the English translation of the Bible on which most people base their view of eternal conscious torment in Hell. The term in the Greek is “kolasis aionios.” If this term does indeed mean eternal punishment, then Hell would seem to be foreverrrrrrrrrr.

 

But, such is not the case. Let’s first consider the opinion of the great Greek scholar William Barclay, who was professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at Glasgow University and the author of many commentaries and books, including a translation of the New Testament and the very popular Daily Study Bible Series. Barclay discusses this point regarding Matthew 25:46 in his well-known autobiography:

 

“One of the key passages is Matthew 25:46 where it is said that the rejected go away to eternal punishment, and the righteous to eternal life. The Greek word for punishment is ‘kolasis,’ which was not originally an ethical word at all. It originally meant the pruning of trees to make them grow better. I think it is true to say that in all Greek secular literature ‘kolasis’ is never used of anything but ‘remedial punishment.’ 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 put 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.”

 

Aristotle supports Barclay on the meaning of “kolasis.” The only word in the Gospels for “punishment” with regard to God punishing evildoers is “kolasis,” which according to Aristotle, who knew Greek word meanings better than anybody who ever walked the planet, said that “kolasis” is the kind of punishment which “is inflicted in the interest of the sufferer,” which means it is for the betterment or improvement of the person being punished. This is contrasted with “timoria,” which Aristotle said is the kind of punishment which is “inflicted in the interest of him who inflicts it, that he may obtain satisfaction.” (Rhet. 1369b13).

 

In addition to Barclay’s opinion above, let’s consider some other respected sources about the proper translation of “aionios:”

 

The Rotterham Emphasized Bible translates “kolasis aionios” in Matthew 25:46 as “age abiding correction.”

 

Young’s Literal Translation translates “kolasis aionios” in Matthew 25:46 as “punishment age.”

 

The Concordant Literal Translation translates “kolasis aionios” in Matthew 25:46 as “chastening eonian,” or “chastening age” in other words. Our English word “eon” derives from the Greek word “aionios.” Eon, as we use the word, speaks of ages or cycles of indeterminate amounts of time. The term is often used in the plural form, such as “It’s been eons since we’ve talked,” or “Eons ago the universe was formed.” The point is that we don’t even use the term today to refer to “everlasting” in the sense of never ending. Think how silly it sounds to pluralize “everlasting” into “everlastings,” yet “eon” is pluralized into “eons” all the time.

 

The best translators of the New Testament Greek text would be the Greek fathers of the church over the first 500 years. They were Christian. They were scholars. They lived nearest to the time the New Testament was written and would have a better grasp of the grammatical nuances and cultural linguistics of recent generations. Koine Greek was a lost language for hundreds of years and it is somewhat presumptuous for modern scholars to think they know Biblical Greek better than did the Greek-speaking Church fathers.

 

The Church fathers and writers who used the term “aionios” in their writings to refer to an indefinite “age” and not to an “unending” or “everlasting” eternity are: Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hermogones, Origen, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Avitus.

 

“Eternity (Greek Aionios) signifies in Scripture sometimes the fact that we do not know the end, sometimes the fact that there is no end in the present world, but there will be one in the next. Sometimes eternity means a certain length of time, even that of a human life.” (Origen, Commentary on Romans, Book 6, section 5).

 

The Emperor Justinian in A.D. 540 tried to extinguish Origen’s teachings by defining Catholic doctrine at that time. “The Holy Church of Christ teaches an endless aionios (ATELEUTETOS aionios) life to the righteous, and endless (ateleutetos) punishment to the wicked.” Aionios was not enough in his judgment to denote endless duration, so he employed ateleutetos. The point is that “aionios” by itself did not mean “everlasting.” It needed to be strengthened with another word to in fact mean “endless,” like “ateleutetos.”

 

Jews who were contemporaries with Christ, but who wrote in Greek, show that “aionios” was not used to mean “everlasting.” Josephus the historian used “aionios” to refer to temples which were already destroyed (and thus not “everlasting”), indeterminate prison sentences and time lapses between historical events. He never used the word to denote “everlasting,” but rather to mean an indeterminate period or season. The Jewish writer Philo always used the words athanaton, ateleuteton or aidion to denote endless and aionion for temporary duration.

 

Augustine, who struggled mightily with Greek, claimed for years that the only meaning of “aionios” was “everlasting,” yet even he had to acknowledge his error when visited by the Spanish presbyter Orosius, who convinced Augustine of his error. Augustine relented, but only to the extent that “aionios” did not only mean “everlasting.” Augustine still believed it means “everlasting” with regard to Hell.

 

To summarize then, Greek word “Aionios,” which is sometimes translated as “everlasting” in Scripture (as in “everlasting punishment”), does NOT in fact mean “unending or everlasting in quantity of time.” Rather, “Aionios” speaks to an “indeterminate age set by God alone.” The word refers to a certain quality (not quantity) of being – – whether it be “aionios life” or “aionios remedial-punishment.” Aionios is always qualified by what it is describing.

 

For instance, the word “great,” when applied to a merciful sentence imposed by a kind-hearted judge, might refer to a small amount of time in jail. Conversely, “great,” when applied to an atrocious crime, for which the judge “throws the book” at  the defendant, might refer to a life-sentence in jail.

 

Similarly, the nature and quality of aionios, applied to the life of God, is entirely different than when it is applied to the chastening or punishment of God. “GREAT life” in God is certainly unending, since death will have been completely defeated, but the unending length is not the primary essence of that “GREAT life.” Rather, the limitless quality of love and peace which come from being totally at one with the Lord is the key aspect of this “GREAT life.” On the other hand, “GREAT punishment” by God will not be unending since He punishes to correct and rehabilitate and He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:9.

 

Life in God is not everlasting because it is aionios, but rather aionios is everlasting because it is referring to life in God. Conversely, aionios punishment is not temporary because aionios means temporary, but rather aionios is temporary in this context since God’s chastening is curative and incapable of being eternally resisted. “For his anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a life-time: Weeping may tarry for the night, But joy ‘cometh’ in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

 

Aionios then, by itself, means an “indeterminate age,” not an “unending age.” Only the context of the passage provides guidance as to the actual quality and duration of the age.

 

 

PREMISE #2- HELL AND HEAVEN ARE “OUTSIDE OF TIME” AS WE DEFINE IT

 

Time to God is not the same thing as time to man. “Kairos” is the Greek term generally used to describe God’s perfect timing. It is not run by a clock, but by the heart of God. “Chronos,” by contrast, is the Greek term used to describe man’s fallen timing. Karios is measured by love and meaning. Chronos is measured by clocks and calendars.

 

Kairos is measured by relational events, renewed thoughts, repentant hearts and acts of love. Chronos,by contrast, is man’s time measured apart from God. Chronos is linear clock time which is running down this fallen world like a time bomb waiting to explode.

 

Chronos is the sand of our lives slowly but surely emptying out our life force. Chronos is the process of dying. Chronos doesn’t caress, doesn’t change and doesn’t forgive. Chronos ages us, disappoints us, crushes us and ultimately kills our bodies. Kairos, by contrast, cures us, restores our youth and allows us to be fully present in “the now” with our God.

 

The problem arises when men apply Chronos concepts to Kairos events. To label Heaven or Hell as “endless” means that it is being measured by man’s time, which can’t begin to grasp the Kairos reality involved.

 

Heaven is not Heaven because clocks will be ticking and ticking for all eternity without interruption. This Chronos concept that we will be sitting around stroking our harps forever and ever is not eternal life in the Kairos sense.

 

Eternal life in the Kairos sense means life of infinite quality and blessedness. It is life which has evicted death altogether. Chronos doesn’t even exist anymore where Kairos life exists. This life doesn’t extend time, it transcends it altogether.

 

So too, with Hell, it is not a Chronos reality but a Kairos event which will be determined by God alone. That God doesn’t view time from Chronos’ viewpoint is established by 2 Peter 3:8 which states, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” In fact, Revelation 10:6-7 says that when the seventh angel declares that “the mystery of God should be finished,”that”there should be time (literally Chronos) no longer!

 

Isn’t it clear that both Heaven and Hell exist outside of time and space as we know it? Eternity is just a term to describe the limitless life of God which operates apart from the constraints of time and space.

 

To use four dimensional terms (length, width, height and time) to describe 100 dimensional realities is completely inadequate. A Christian writer and theologian, Edwin A. Abbott, once wrote a book called “Flatland.” It is a science fiction novel about a planet called Flatland where the inhabitants have only two dimensions – – length and width. Since they lack height, they all appear as lines to each other. Some have more sides than others, but all still appear as simple lines.

 

One day, a three dimensional being enters their world. He tries to explain three dimensional reality but the flatlanders can’t understand it because all they know is two dimensions. Ultimately, the three dimensional messiah lifts one of the Flatlanders up and out of his two dimensional reality. The flatlander now is astounded with the Heavenly reality of height that has always existed both above and beneath him. The two dimensions the flatlander did know have now been blended with the Heavenly truth of height which now gives everything he knows limitless depth and beauty.

 

In this same way, we who live by Chronos can’t grasp the eternal essences of Heaven and Hell until our Messiah lifts us up to spiritual realities which transcend the time and space limitations of our flatland. Do we really believe that when Jesus descended into Hell to lead captivity captive and disarm all the demonic principalities and powers (Eph. 4:8-10; Col. 2:15), that this was done in linear Chronos time?

 

No, Jesus died once for all. What He did was outside of time and space. He died for ALL men– past, present and future. He preached (literally, evangelized) to all the dead in Hell – – past, present and future (1 Pet. 4:6). If Jesus had done all this in Chronos time, we could assume only that He paid for the sins of those who were in Hell as of 33 A.D. Since we know this can’t be the case, we must toss Chronos considerations out of our definitions of Heaven and Hell.

 

As  A.W. Tozer said in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy: “Because God lives in an everlasting now, He has no past and no future. When time-words occur in the Scriptures they refer to our time, not to His. When the four living creatures before the throne cry day and night, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come, they are identifying God with the flow of creature-life with its familiar three tenses; and this is right and good, for God has sovereignly willed so to identify Himself. But since God is uncreated, He is not Himself affected by that succession of consecutive changes we call time.”

 

The work of Jesus by and through the Cross began in man’s time (Chronos), but ended in God’s time (Kairos). Jesus died once for all men for all times for all sins. Heaven and Hell are realms OUTSIDE of this present Chronos time.

 

When Jesus led captivity captive,He simultaneously rescued all men from every past Hell, every present Hell, and every future Hell. We must not apply terms of fallen time to describe God’s limitless time. Chronos terms of “quantity” of time, like unending or everlasting,simply do not properly define Kairos events like “aionios punishment” or “aionios life,” both of which speak to “quality of time” rather than “quantity of time.”

 

 

PREMISE #3- GOD’S FLAMES OF JUDGMENT SEEK TO HEAL US, NOT TORTURE US

 

Like the fig leaves Adam and Eve wore to hide their nakedness from God, men wear sin-masks to keep their “real” naked selves covered and hidden from God. The ugly truth is that there is something rotten in our soul at a subconscious level that wants to ignore and avoid God.

 

Satan helps us here by providing demonically empowered masks to blind and deform our hearts and minds. Like the disturbed teenager who self-mutilates by knife cuts into the flesh, we self-mutilate our soul created in the image of God by disfiguring it. We do this by donning demonic masks lined on the inside with razorblades of fear, doubt and lust. God wants these sin-masks removed once and for all.

 

So, what becomes of our sin-masks, either in this life or the next? How are these masks dealt with, both in the short term and long term? Is there a way that in this lifetime we can rip all our masks off? Sure, this is what the Scriptures call sanctification.

 

Through the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit, we are able to progressively shed all our false selves, prideful pretenses and forged identities. Those who persist in achieving this authenticity in the Lord receive rewards in this life and the next.

 

But, what about those masks we never successfully cast away during this lifetime? What happens to our blindspots, the masks we never recognize and remove? What about the areas of hypocrisy that we never allow to be fully evicted? What happens in the hereafter to our masks? Are we, along with our masks, cast into the Lake of Fire to die the second death?

 

Or is there another solution? Can God in future ages somehow perform critical and extensive spiritual surgery on our souls? Can He burn off, cut out and cast away all our sin-masks which, all too often, have rendered us lying letches, fearful followers, and doubting disciples?

 

When we are judged after we die, is it all or nothing? If in any area of our lives, we have never dealt with a particular mask, does that doom our entire spirit, soul and body to eternal fire? What if we sanctified our souls to be “mask-less” at home, but still wore masks at work, or church, or with certain friends, or on certain occasions? Is this the way an all-powerful God deals with His children? Or is there a better way? A more divine way? A more loving way?

 

Do any Scriptures point to these sin-masks being removed by God’s judgment WITHOUT the necessity of casting the entire person into the eternal flames as well? Oh yes! 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 is quite clear:

 

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; EVERY MAN’S WORK shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be REVEALED BY FIRE; and THE FIRE SHALL TRY EVERY MAN’S WORK, of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS, BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.”

 

This passage above refers to the judgment of “Every man’s work” (verse 13). The Revelation passage about the Lake of Fire in chapters 20-21 ALSO refers to the judgment of every man’s works: “the dead were judged… according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). So, Paul and John were both describing the same event, the judgment of every man’s works, but from their slightly different perspectives. Now, note what Paul says ultimately happens on the other side of every man’s work being judged: “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.”

 

So, what exactly do we know about the Lake of Fire? I have heard theologians of all ilks agree to never build a firm dogma on just one passage in Scripture, particularly if that passage is in the smack dab middle of Jewish apocalyptic section of the Bible like the book of Revelation. The reason is that this form of literature, unlike the epistles and the Gospel, are full of heavily symbolic language and feverish activity. They are more poetic and visionary than they are doctrinal. There  is only extended passage that ever even talks about the Lake of Fire, and that is in Revelation 19-21.

 

All we know about it is:

—-the devil is cast into along with the beast and the false prophet(19:20)

—-those that worship the image of the beast(19:20)

—-that the devil (a false identity of Lucifer?) is tormented forever (20:10)

—-death and an emptied Hell are cast into it (20:14)

—-and whosever’s not found written in the book of life is cast into it(20:15)

—-and the fearful, unbelieving, etc. shall have their PART in it(20:8)

 

Curiously, no particular individual is named as being cast into it. Symbolic figures are cast into it, beasts and false prophets and the devil. Nobody by proper name is mentioned. Not Herod, not Pharaoh, not Hitler, not Nero. Some “part” of our sinful being is cast into it, but does other Scripture help us better understand what that is exactly? I say yes. Scripture helps interpret Scripture.

 

The reasons I believe  1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and Revelation 20:12-15 are referring to the same event  is because of several factors.

—-both are referring to a postmortem experience

—-both refer to themselves as “the judgment of men’s works”

—-both explicitly refer to “every man”  man being so judged

—-both use the imagery of “fire”

—-both refer to some sort of dividing which includes “suffering and loss”

 

The man himself shall be saved, yet he shall SUFFER LOSS, YET SO AS BY FIRE. But, WHAT EXACTLY is it that is “BURNED” off and in the process causes the man to “SUFFER” and experience “LOSS?” The answer is clear: THE MASKS ARE BURNED OFF AND AWAY FROM US! In this context, the “wood, hay and stubble” of 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 represents the various types of false masks we have co-created with Satan and worn as the primary motivating forces behind our actions and works. Instead of performing “righteous works” that will endure, works of “gold, silver, and precious stones” (v. 12), works done under the Holy Spirit’s leading and anointing (Romans 8:14), we have masked the real motives for our works with that which is from below and not above— motives which are false, demonic, and self-centered.

 

Each and every wood-mask, hay-mask and stubble-mask a man has wrongly allowed to be grafted onto his soul will have to be burned. The result is that he will experience the “wrenching and painful loss” of having huge parts of who he “thought” he really was over the course of his entire life completely burned away with white hot fire.

 

Like the most intense form of chemotherapy we know in the physical, yet multiplied a thousand times in painful intensity in the spiritual, every mask will be irradiated and destroyed with the fire of God. The man suffers a searing “identity crisis” which, though in the long term will bring great positive transformation, is in the short term painful beyond words. The length of time for the burning process may vary. “Wood” takes longer to burn than “hay” or “stubble,” so wood-masks are the most dangerous.

 

These false identities caused the man during his time on earth to operate outside his authentic self, and instead assume the sin-identity of a lust-mask, or a pride-mask, or a legalism-mask. The man may have grafted on a “religious” mask and thereafter thought he was serving God, and that all his good works were in the service of the Lord, when in truth he was only serving his own self-righteousness (Matthew 7:22-23). Or, the man may have been serving his own fleshly desires while wearing a mask of “carnality.” Finally, the man could just be wearing “the pride of life” mask which prevented him from humbly submitting to the Lordship of the Spirit by operating in self-will.

 

Regardless, these masks “warp” the core motive of every man and cause them to be someone they are not, someone they were never created or called to be by God. To the extent these masks corrupt the purity of our identities in Christ, they MUST go.

 

So, how are they removed? In this lifetime, by sanctification, repentance and the self-judgment that comes through prayer and communion. Paul said that if we judge ourselves NOW by removing every inner sin-mask, we will not be judged later. But, IF these sin-masks are still grafted onto our souls at the time of death, which means we never dealt with them fully during our lifetime, then the Lord deals with them at the judgment of every man’s works, “yet so as by fire.”

 

The Lord uses, what the church Fathers Clement and Origen called God’s “WISE FIRE” to burn off and away all the false masks we have lived out of, the Satanic strongholds which have blinded, twisted and deformed us. The masks are the result of the MISUSE of our freedom combined with the Devil’s temptations and lies.

 

Seen from this angle, judgment is a good thing, not a fearful thing. The Greek word for “judge” means “to separate or put asunder.” God “separates” our true self from all our false selves. He “tears asunder” the masks from our true identity. And then what becomes of all our masked identities? THEY ARE CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE, NEVER AGAIN TO BE PUT ON BY US OR ANYBODY ELSE!

 

These hollowed our identities are the superficial masks and plasticized personas which we have allowed to be grafted and suction-cupped onto our souls.

 

John or Jane Doe the “fearful” mask

John or Jane Doe the “unbelieving” mask

John or Jane Doe the “abominable” mask

John or Jane Doe the “murderers” mask

John or Jane Doe the “whoremonger” mask John or Jane Doe the “drug user” mask

John or Jane Doe the “idolaters” mask

John or Jane Doe the “liars” mask

 

“all [the above] shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8.

 

These false identities are soulless creations which lack any real ontology. They are poorly constructed mannequin heads which remain devoid of any depth of being. But they are NOT us, the real us, the core us, the essential us, the authentic us, the “us” Christ created us to be.

 

These masks become the husks or “bushels” which cover, instruct, or shade, to various degrees, our inner light with which we came into the world (Matthew 5:15-16). As John the beloved made clear, Christ is “the true Light, which lights EVERY human who  comes into the world.” John 1:9.

 

This “mask removals” are better performed by our devotional  “transformation by the daily renewing of the mind to the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2.

 

But, to the extent we don’t yield to this renewing during THIS life, God will perform psychic postmortem surgery as described in 1 Corinthian 3:15. Wood, hay, and stubble masks will be removed and cast into the fire, and “the person will suffer loss, but they  ‘themselves’ will be saved, yet as by fire.”

 

Think here of God taking each soul on a cosmic Scrooge-like “walkabout” journey of redemption by taking them back to and through all their earlier mistakes, anguishes, pains and simultaneously showing them the better way, what they might have been, and what they could still be. Then the cathartic tears will flow and repentance will be found.

 

God has a name for each one of us that only HE knows. This name is who we are called to be, who we WILL be for all eternity. These false selves CAN be burned off in THIS lifetime IF I submit myself fully to the Lord’s sanctifying Spirit. But if my heart falls short, God is greater than my heart. He WILL see me delivered in the ages to come.

 

The great sculptor Michelangelo famously said, “The statue lies within the stone.” He believed that all the sculptor does is chip away the exterior stone to reveal the interior truth. Or, put another way, the artist removes the masked false in order to reveal the naked real. For us, we have the chance to use this life to chip away all our false masks with our Spirit-led chisel of faith. But to the extent we fail in this lifetime, God will use the righteous chisel Himself in the ages to come to perfect and reconcile all things to Himself. As the greatest artist of all, He will chip away the masked false to reveal the naked real.

 

It seems that God is all about name changes, or what I like to call mask-removal through name-renewal. On the positive side, the ugly mask known as Saul was burned off to reveal a mask-less Paul created in righteousness and true holiness. Likewise, in Genesis 17:5, Abram was de-masked to reveal Abraham, the father of many nations.

 

Revelation 2:17 tells us that God has given to each man who overcomes all worldly and demonic masks a white stone with a name on it only the Lord knows. This name is our mask-less self which ONLY the Lord can reveal to us. On the flip-side, the angel Lucifer became the masked Satan. Satan as a “mask,” certainly the deadliest and densest mask of all, will definitely be cast forever into the Lake of Fire. But, whether God will, at the end of all the ages, restore Lucifer back to his original God-created identity by wrenching away his devil mask is an open and intriguing question. Toward Satan, I have nothing but righteous hate and violent opposition on every level. But, towards the angel Lucifer who fell so very far, I must confess a stirring of pity.

 

Being a father of seven, I have often thought that if I were an all-powerful Father, I don’t think I would ever give my children enough freedom to destroy themselves, not forever and ever and eeeeevvvvvvveeeeerrrrrr.

 

I would certainly give them enough freedom to learn real gain and loss, the nature of love and cost of evil, and the nature of faith and doubt. But, I would never give them the keys to a car which could destroy them eternally.

 

I would give them a lot of elbow room to learn and grow, but I would not create an environment where they could destroy themselves for all time. And I don’t think God does either. He might allow these masks of rebellion to deform us for a season, but it is hard to conceive He would allow the masks to stay attached to us for an eternity in the Lake of Fire. On the contrary, I see Him using the Lake of Fire as the place where He separates from us all the enemies of our soul, and then destroys forever all the things that have harmed and deformed us.

 

Under this view, the Lake of Fire is not a torture chamber where anybody’s essential self, spirit or body are cast into flames for eternity. Rather, the Lake of Fire is God’s final deliverance of those souls who “neglected their so great a salvation” by not taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. These souls have allowed “enemy grafting” to occur in their heartland. And now they are in the crisis of Hell because of it.

 

But God will not pull them by up their roots and destroy them totally. GOD WILL INSTEAD PRUNE BACK WHATEVER BRANCHES ARE NOT OF HIM. He will then hurl these branches into the Lake of Fire. What will be left is a transformed man, a born-again man, a man with no mask. 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 clearly envisions such a separation.

 

For Christians who win the crown of an overcomer, there is little if any wood, hay and stubble to separate and burn by flame. However, for the lost, the burning will be intense and they will lose much, but they themselves will be saved. The lost will have their part in the lake which burneth with fire,but their part will be their wood, hay and stubble and not their “essential selves.” Rev. 21:8.

 

The Bible authors pervasively used a literary technique called “personification.” The ancient writers personified most everything. Personification is the  representation of an object, concept, trait, or quality AS IF it were a person. Again, wicked nations become wicked notions. External giants become internal strongholds of fear. Wisdom and foolishness, in the Book of Proverbs, are both personified as women lifting up their voices in the street. Consider Paul’s personification of sin ruling as a king in his body, and the “old man” and “new man” as personifications of two warring persons in the new creature after baptism.

So, for Paul to say that the personification of all the dark dynamics within us will be destroyed is ultimately a wonderful thing, even though it appears as a fearful thing on THIS side of the cure. 

Let me propose a thought experiment to highlight this dynamic. 

Assume for moment that we each have a cancerous brain tumor which is impacting our mental perceptions, morality, and moods by causing us to act erratically, selfishly, violently, and destructively. The cancer has altered our personality and created a false identity, a villainous personae with hostile intent, fearful delusions, toxic traits and unhealthy values. 

Now, further assume our father is the world’s best surgeon. He has tried to treat us from our youth onward with a healthy diet, cleansing habits, and other non-invasive techniques. But, we simply have not invested in treatment. We refuse to believe we are really sick and have refused to cooperate. We have become more and more codependent towards our cancerous and false-selves. We have returned again and again to carcinogenic habits, carcinogenic thoughts, and carcinogenic actions which have so warped our perceptions.

Our brain sickness worsens over the many decades of our life. We eventually become bed ridden. We have gotten to the point where we can’t even remember who our father is. We still vaguely recognize his kind face when he comes to our bedside, but we can’t place him. Now that we have finally become totally immobile, our father enters the room.  He tenderly strokes our foreheads and confidently tells us it is now time. We are too weak to resist his treatment any longer. He informs us he is going to perform surgery on us and remove and destroy the cancer within us.

When we awake from surgery, we instantly know we are different. We feel a thousand pounds lighter. Our personality has changed. No, that’s too mild a word– our personalities have been transformed into something brighter and better. An appalling appendage has been removed. We don’t recognize ourselves anymore. The memory of who we were has now been revealed as a delusion, a malignancy now removed. The old fears, the old lusts, the old hostilities, are all gone. 

We now see things, everything, differently. The old “carcinogenic self,”  corrupted with a thousand dark distortions, is gone. Our father-surgeon enters our recovery room with a jar in his right hand. Inside the jar is the removed tumor which has diseased our lives. He briefly jiggles the jar to show us the tumor, and then makes this statement: “This cancerous-identity will never afflict you again. I am casting him/her/it into a medical incinerator. The angelic nurses have nicknamed this incinerator ‘the lake of fire.’ This is because the sickness will be forever drowned in flames, forever submerged and contained by a wise firewall, never more to afflict any living thing.”

As we consider his words, we ask ourselves, “Why did the father-surgeon refer to the tumor as a he, she, or it?” Then the answer comes. It DID have a personality. It DID have a mindset. It DID have emotions. It DID seem alive. It DID have a voice other than my own, although it was often disguised as my own. So, even it was ultimately revealed as an “it,” it also seemed to be some sort of living personage, albeit an inauthentic one.

End of the thought experiment.

 

PREMISE # 4: GOD OVERCOMES ALL EVIL ONLY ONE WAY– WITH GOODNESS

 God’s nature overcomes evil only one way– with GOODNESS! Romans 12:21; Matt. 5:43-48. It simply could not be in His nature to eternally torture any of His children, no matter how prodigal they have become. Gods goodness will ultimately, irresistibly and totally overcome and reconcile all forms of evil.

 

As George MacDonald wrote, “Nothing is inexorable but love. . . .Love is one, and love is changeless. For love loves into purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. . . There is nothing eternal but that which loves and can be loved, and love is ever climbing towards the consummation when such shall be the universe, imperishable, divine. Therefore, all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed.” George MacDonald: Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller, by Michael Phillips, p. 201 (1987).

 

What then is Hell, where did it come from and how are we delivered from it? William Law’s answer is simply this:

 

“There is no Hell but where the heart of the creature is turned from God, nor any heaven but where the heart of the creature worketh with God….Purification therefore is the one thing necessary, and nothing will do instead of it. But man is not purified till every earthly, wrathful, sensual, selfish, partial, self-willing temper is taken from him. He is not dying to himself til he is dying to these tempers, and he is not alive in God til he is dead to them.” Selected Writings of William Law, by William Law.

 

Hell, then, is the heart turned from God and Heaven the heart turned toward God. The crisis of Hell is God’s “emergency rescue” of lost souls from their self-made and Satan-generated Hell which has hardened their hearts toward God.

 

But, they may run but they can’t hide in Hell. God will go after and save them from themselves. It will be painful and agonizing, but it will ultimately lead to repentance, redemption and life.

 

As the Theologia Germanica states, “Nothing burneth in Hell but self-will.” This echoes William Law’s statement, “Nothing separates us from God but our own self-will. Rather, our own self-will IS separation from God.” George MacDonald famously said, “The one principle of Hell is, I am my own.”

 

C. S. Lewis said, “Hell’s gate is locked from the inside.” But, praise God, Jesus has the keys to both death and Hell. He is truly the stronger one who enters Hell, binds Satan, and saves us from our own destructions (Matt. 12:28-29).

 

This is the HEROIC view of God which is most consistent with His revealed nature in Jesus Christ. John A.T. Robinson summed it up best when he observed that the idea of God’s deliverance from Hell for all men “comes from insight rather than foresight.”

 

In other words, an insight INTO God’s love makes the permanency of Hell impossible. It is not based on the foresight of what exactly Hell WILL be, but rather is based on an insight into what God’s character IS as revealed in Jesus Christ. The early Church fathers had this insight and so can we.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, subtitled “The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325”, a collection of books in 10 volumes, edited by the Episcopalian bishop of New York, A. Cleveland Coxe.

Baillie, John, And Life Everalsting, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933. Ballou, Hosea, Ancient History of Universalism, Providence, Z. Baker, 1842.

Cameron, Nigel M. De S., Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, Carlisle, U.K.: Baker Book House, 1991.

Campolo, Tony, Speaking My Mind, W. Publishing Group, 2006.

Cox, Samuel, Salvator Mundi, London, Kegan, Paul, Trench and Co., 1884.

Crisafulli, Chuck, Go to Hell: A Heated History of the Underworld, New York, Simon Spotlight Entertainment.

Dixon, Larry, The Other Side of the Good News, Christian Focus Publications, 2003.

Engh, Mary Jane, In the Name of Heaven: 3,000 Years of Religious Persecution, Amhurst, New York, Prometheus Books, 2007.

Ferguson, Everett, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990.

Gonzalez, Justo L., The Westminster Dictionary of Theologians, Louisville, John Knox Press, 2006.

Hanson, John Wesley, The Greek Word Aion-Aionios, Chicago: Northwestern Universalist Publishing House, 1875.

Hanson, J. W., Bible Proofs of Universal Salvation, Kessinger Publishing, 1877.

Hanson, J. W., Universalism The Prevailing Doctrine, Boston and Chicago, Universalist Publishing House, 1899.

Harmon, Steven R., Every Knee Should Bow: Biblical Rationales for Universal Salvation in Early Christian Thought, Oxford: University Press of America, 2003.

Harrison, Brian W., Torture and Corporeal Punishment as a Problem in Catholic Theology, St. Louis, Living Tradition, 2005.

Jeffress, Robert, Hell? Yes!, Waterbrook Press, 2004.

Jones, Rufus, Hans Denk and the Inward Word, Kessinger Publishing.

Jurgens, William A., The Faith of the Early Fathers, volumes 1-3, Collegville, Minnesota, The Liturgical Press, 1970.

Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Doctrines, London. New York: Continuum, 2003.

Kreeft, Peter, Making Sense Out of Suffering, Cincinnati, St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1986.

Lake, Kirsopp, The Epistle to Diognetus, Kessinger Publishing.

Law, William, Selected Writings of William Law, Kessinger Publishing, 1940.

Lewis, C. S., The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Harper, San Francisco, 2007.

Linn, Dennis, Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God, New York, Paulist Press, 1994.

McGuckin, John Anthony, The Westminster Handbook to Origen, Louisville.London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

McGuckin, John Anthony, Patristic Theology, Louisville.London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Morgan, Christopher, Hell Under Fire, Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2004.

Olson, Roger E., The Story of Christian Theology, Illinois, Inter Varsity Press, 1999.

Parry, Ken, The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, Blackwell Publishing, 2001.

Phillips, Michael R., George MacDonald: Scotland’s Beloved Storyteller, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bethany House, 1987.

Leadership Ministries Worldwide, Practical Word Studies in the New Testament, 1998.

Ramelli, Ilaria, The Christian Doctrine of Apocatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Brill 2013).

Robinson, John A.T., In the End God, London, Harper and Row, 1968.

Russell, Jeffrey Burton, Satan: The Early Christian Tradition, Ithaca and London, Cornelll University Press, 1981.

Singh, Sadhu Sundar, Meditations on Various Aspects of the Spiritual Life, Kessinger Publishing.

Tentmaker, Tracing Universalist Thought Throughout Church History, WWW..tentmaker.org/tracts.

Thayer, Thomas, The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment, Tentmaker Ministries and Publications, 2004.

Tillich, Paul, A History of Christian Thought, Simon and Schuster, 1968. Turner, Alice, The History of Hell, Orlando: A Harvest Book, 1993.

Urs Von Balthasar, Hans, Dare We Hope “That All Men be Saved?”, San Francisco, Ignatius, 1988.

Weise, Bill, 23 Minutes in Hell, Charisma House, 2006.

About Richard Murray
Richard K. Murray is a practicing criminal-defense attorney from Dalton, Georgia where he lives with his wife Rita and their seven children: Sloan, Caleb, Micah, Abraham, Sarah, Ben and Annie. Richard has a B.B.A. and Juris Doctor from the University of Georgia and a Masters in Practical Theology from Regent University School of Divinity. He has written several books, including: THE SPIRITUAL EYE OF THE TIGER THE POWER: Discovering the Real "Secret" of Life LIFT UP YOUR JAWBONE: Developing Samson-like Strength by Daily Confession THE JESUS MOOD: Discovering the Treasure of Imperative Faith GOD VERSUS EVIL: Sculpting an Epic Theology of God's Heroic Goodness You can read more about the author here.
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  • Rudy Schellekens

    ζωὴν αἰώνιον – Life eternal… IS that “everlasting, never ending?” If not, why not? You make a very long case about eternal ‘punishment’ not being eternal, according to your use of the sources, so why can one not make the case than, that ζωὴν αἰώνιον is not ‘without end,’ either?

    Another thing I noticed, is your lack of context in your discussion on 1 Corinthians 3. “10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled[b] master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

    He is not using the term as “whomever, wherever,” but limits it to those building on the same project Paul is working on. And that leaves out an awful lot of people! He speaks of those who go out, proclaim the news of the cross and resurrection – hi foundational work – and then someone else comes with the same message – or a changed message, as in Galatians 1, The work done on top of what already existed, Paul’s foundation is what he has in mind here, and not the universal application you seem to make.

    As far as Revelation is concerned, we already know what happens with the ‘righteous.’ The judgment found there is, again contextually within the Revelation, those who persecuted His people – but did escape the judgment as described between chapter 6 and chapter 20. In short: Even death is no escape from God’s wrath.

  • onlein

    Don’t know about hell, but this article is close to everlasting. Some very good and necessary points, however, like Jesus is about love and forgiveness and transformation. Punishment sounds more like the Roman Empire, as they treated Christians. Later on, like in 380 AD when the church was accepted by the Empire, the church took on more of the Empire’s bureaucracy and ways that included torture.

  • On the right path.
    Hell is a Christian concept but not scriptural.
    God wants all to achieve eternal life and most will.
    Why create a billion lives in the first age and then eternally torment most of them?
    God has a Plan for Man and Hell is not part of it.

  • James Elliott

    Wow! This is the closest to a good theological treatise that i’ve come across in a while. I will be digesting this for sometime and putting it in my theological essays.

  • Angela

    What about people who have died and gone to hell and come back? All the ones I have heard describe the traditional view of hell and say they knew they were there forever.

  • Randy Walterman

    That is something that should not be taken lightly. But our confidence is not in the experiences and dreams and visions of others. It is in the written Word of God and an understanding of His character and purpose. Perhaps the ones who saw hell saw it through their doctrinal paradigm as eternal, when in reality it wasn’t. I believe that hell is worse than we expect and less than we typically have believed. Keep on running after truth.

  • Leslie Schmidt

    Food for thought: All those who believe they went to a forever kind of hell and then came back, might themselves be considered evidence that hell isn’t forever. If hell was forever and never released anyone, even those who come to repentance on account of what they experience there, then how and why were these ones released to come back? Also, are not these same individuals evidence that hell is meant to be restorative, rather than strictly punitive? Consider the outcome of their stay in hell — how did it affect their lives, their attitudes, their relationship with God? Most people who return from hell believe that their visit significantly changed them for the better. Some people feel that this hell experience was so transformative as to cause them to repent and embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

    They entered hell with a particular paradigm of what hell is supposed to be, but their actual experience contradicts their paradigm: Despite their belief that hell is never-ending, they personally experienced an end to it. Despite their belief that it’s too late to repent once you’re in hell, they none-the-less repent and are then released. Despite their belief that hell is meant to be a forever punishment, rather than a means for restoration, they now live, in a deepened commitment to relationship with God. Do not most individuals who have experienced such a temporary stay in hell believe it to be one of the most transformative, rehabilitative things they have ever experienced? How is that not a means of restoration?

    Our God is so GOOD! Despite our many misconceptions, His love remains unfailing, always and patiently working for our good. Our Father will do whatever it takes to bring each and every one of His children Home into His embrace, even if it means a temporary visit to “hell”.

  • Leslie Schmidt

    Very insightful. Thank you!

  • Richard Murray

    First, I did discuss the issue as to why ζωὴν αἰώνιον – Life eternal is “without end.” You must have missed it.

    The Greek word “Aionios,” which is sometimes translated as “everlasting” in Scripture (as in “everlasting punishment”), does NOT in fact mean “unending or everlasting in quantity of time.” Rather, “Aionios” speaks to an “indeterminate age set by God alone”–William Barclay. The word refers to a certain quality (not quantity) of being – – whether it be “aionios life” or “aionios remedial-punishment.” Aionios is always qualified by what it is describing.

    For instance, the word “great,” when applied to a merciful “sentence” imposed by a kind-hearted judge, might refer to a small amount of time in jail. Conversely, “great,” when applied to an atrocious crime, for which the judge “throws the book” at the defendant, might refer to a “life-sentence” in jail. Thus, a great sentence might be mercifully light or wrathfully heavy DEPENDING on the specific context.

    Similarly, the nature and quality of aionios, applied to the life of God, is entirely different than when it is applied to the chastening or punishment of God. “GREAT life” in God is certainly unending, since death will have been completely defeated, but the unending length is not the primary essence of that “GREAT life.” Rather, the limitless quality of love and peace which come from being totally at one with the Lord is the key aspect of this “GREAT life.” On the other hand, “GREAT punishment” by God will not be unending since He punishes to correct and rehabilitate and He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:9. What’s “great” about God’s punishments, in other words, is that they restore and rehabilitate.

    Life in God is not everlasting because it is aionios, but rather aionios is everlasting because it is referring to life in God. Conversely, aionios punishment is not temporary because aionios means temporary, but rather aionios is temporary in this context since God’s chastening is curative and incapable of being eternally resisted. “For his anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a life-time: Weeping may tarry for the night, But joy ‘cometh’ in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

    Aionios then, by itself, means an “indeterminate age,” not an “unending age.” Only the context of the passage provides guidance as to the actual quality and duration of the age.

    Second, the 2 Corinthians 3 passage says “every man” and “any man” (“hekastos” and “ei tis”) shall go through the saving fire. Where did you get the idea it only talking about believers? Infernalists seem to be unable (or unwilling) to process the words “every” and “all” throughout the New Testament when it is applied toward Jesus being the savior of the world. Paul was quite articulate and capable of saying that only the church elite go through the postmortem fire. He could simple have inserted the word “believers” in the passage after “”every man” but he didn’t.

    Surely you know that Scriptures teach that ALL humans are made in the image of God and thus ALL humans are created to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Some of these temples are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit, some are, while others are in process of being filled, either in this age or this age or the age to come. Surely you know that that Christ, according to first John, is the the true light who lights EVERY human who comes into the world, and that in Him we ALL move and live and have our being according Acts.

    Jesus was “the true Light, which lights EVERY man that comes into the world.” John 1:9. [not just the current believer as you claim].

    “In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.” – Acts 17:28 [Paul is referring here to even Pagans being God’s offspring and living in Him].

    “One God and FATHER OF ALL, who is over all and THROUGH ALL and IN ALL.” Ephesians 4:6 ESV

    “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. – James 3:9 [let’s not curse people made in the image of God, who temples-in-process of the Holy Spirit, to suffer eternal conscious torment].

    The context of 1 Corinthians 3 is not limited to just believers but to “any man” and to “every man,” just as John 1 says Christ lights “every man” who comes into the word is not limited to just believers.

    Here are the numerous verses supporting Jesus as Salvador Mundi (savior of ALL the world).

    https://www.facebook.com/richard.murray.1840/posts/626377160755671?

    Infernalists seem to be unable (or unwilling) to process the words “every” and “all” throughout the New Testament when it is applied toward Jesus being the savior of the world. Let’s exegete the passage without brimstoned presumptions.

    “For no other foundation can man lay except that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if ANY MAN build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; EVERY MAN’S WORK shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be REVEALED BY FIRE; and THE FIRE SHALL TRY EVERY MAN’S WORK, of what sort it is. If ANY MAN’S work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS, BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.” 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

    This passage above refers to the judgment of “Every man’s work” (verse 13). The Revelation passage about the Lake of Fire in chapters 20-21 ALSO refers to the judgment of every man’s works: “the dead were judged… according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). So, Paul and John were both describing the same event, the judgment of every man’s works, but from their slightly different perspectives. Now, note what Paul says ultimately happens on the other side of every man’s work being judged: “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.”

    So, what exactly do we know about the Lake of Fire? I have heard theologians of all ilks agree to never build a firm dogma on just one passage in Scripture, particularly if that passage is in the smack dab middle of Jewish apocalyptic section of the Bible like the book of Revelation. The reason is that this form of literature, unlike the epistles and the Gospel, are full of heavily symbolic language and feverish activity. They are more poetic and visionary than they are doctrinal. There is only extended passage that ever even talks about the Lake of Fire, and that is in Revelation 19-21.

    All we know about it is:
    —-the devil is cast into along with the beast and the false prophet(19:20)
    —-those that worship the image of the beast(19:20)
    —-that the devil (a false identity of Lucifer?) is tormented forever (20:10)
    —-death and an emptied Hell are cast into it (20:14)
    —-and whosever’s not found written in the book of life is cast into it(20:15)
    —-and the fearful, unbelieving, etc. shall have their PART in it(20:8)

    Curiously, no particular individual is named as being cast into it. Symbolic figures are cast into it, beasts and false prophets and the devil. Nobody by proper name is mentioned. Not Herod, not Pharaoh, not Hitler, not Nero. Some “part” of our sinful being is cast into it, but does other Scripture help us better understand what that is exactly? I say yes. Scripture helps interpret Scripture.

    “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 sulfur, which is the second death.” – Revelation 21:8

    Hmmm. Something has always struck me as odd about this passage. It is so cold, dismissive, and impersonal. Nobody’s personal or proper name is ever mentioned. It almost sounds like sin-natures are being referred to here rather than actual and whole human beings.

    “All liars” are cast into the Lake of Fire– which one of us would not fit that bill at various times in our lives? Who among us has not had a sexually immoral thought? Who among us has not committed idolatry toward something– money, prestige, false gods, or other people? Who among us has not been faithless for extended periods of our lives? Considering the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus tells us having hate in our heart toward others is a form a murder, and that lust in our heart a form of adultery, then who among us would NOT be a prime candidate for a Lake of Fire dunking.

    And, is that all the God of love sees us as? As adulterers, idolaters, faithless failures, inveterate liars, all pond scum to burn eternally on the Lake of Fire? Surely not.

    Here is the key to balancing this highly figurative passage with all the other passages which seem to point at a better and far less judgmental end for all humanity. The Bible authors pervasively used a literary technique called “personification.” The ancient writers personified most everything. Personification is the representation of an object, concept, trait or quality AS IF it were a person.

    Wicked nations become wicked notions. External giants become internal strongholds of fear. Jezebel and Balaam become personifications of particular toxic spiritual dynamics working within the church’s in Revelation. Isaac and Ishmael, along with Sarah and Hagar become personifications of the Old and New Covenants in Galatians 4. Wisdom and foolishness, in the Book of Proverbs, are both personalized as a woman lifting up their voices in the street.

    Consider Paul’s personification in Romans 7 of sin and evil “dwelling” as a king in his body, and the “old man” and “new man” as personifications of two warring persons in the new creature after baptism. When Paul says our old man (i.e. our sin-nature) is crucified with Christ, is he talking about our whole being, or only a part of it? Is Paul referring to a false identity, a plasticized persona, a forged identity, or to our entire being? The more this sinks in, the more it resonates that John’s “Lake of Fire” is referring to a place where our sin-strongholds are cast, NOT our core and essential selves.

    So, keeping this personification technique in mind, Noah’s experience with ark and flood now personifies New Testament baptism. See 1 Peter 3:21-22. Noah’s flood is now spiritually understood as an external symbol, or a personified “figure” as Peter called it, of an internal event. God, by His Holy Spirit, floods our inner being with cleansing and purging energies, a flood of baptismal fire which burns and washes away evil notions, evil impulses, evil stronalgholds, evil images, evil desires, etc. Conversely, what gets saved is our core soul, that “righteous Noah” part of us which desires God. Jesus is the protective ark of our salvation which carries us through this sanctifying flood and lands us on dry land to begin our spiritual lives anew in a re-created inner world.

    “Every man, within himself has Moses and the Israelites, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Patriarchs and the kingdom of heaven and hell. Thus, the events described in the Bible, and looked upon by the pious as being things of a past history, are actually descriptions of internal processes taking place in the constitution of man himself”. ~Jacob Boehme 1575-1624

    God may flood away INTERNAL notions, but He would never flood away EXTERNAL nations. Not nations who have countless infants, toddlers, and children. It’s not in God’s nature to kill people who, “who don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus prayed for their forgiveness, not for their destruction. God may seek to slay unloving notions, but never unloving nations.

    Let me offer an example. Saul’s “name” (the concept of “name” Hebraically symbolizes “nature”) was not written in “the book of life.” But, praise God, Paul’s name was written in the book of life. Likewise, all our false names/natures are NOT written in the book of life, while all our authentic God-crafted names/natures ARE written in the book of life.

    I see God’s nature as only and always curative because I see Jesus that way. Postmortem cures are very painful and anguish producing, even Hellish, but there is life on the other side. What gets cast into the lake of fire are not our whole beings, but rather all toxic aspects of our non-being— false identities, sin masks which have deformed, debilitated, and impoverished us from manifesting our original created purpose. These forged identity masks have grafted themselves, with our consent, onto our souls and must be carefully irradiated and excised by the curative and corrective knife of divine love. Saul was a false identity that needed to be excised out and away from the real identity of Paul. Satan is a sin mask of non-being or false-being, a persona which will be cast into the fire. But Lucifer (if we accept his ontology) the angel will be restored.

    New Testament passages that describe this ultimate postmortem restoration of stolen identity are quoted below.

    “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one ALL THINGS in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Eph. 1:9-10). Sounds like even angels are included here.

    “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject ALL things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

    “EVERY MAN’S work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be BURNED, he shall SUFFER LOSS: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so AS BY FIRE.” 1 Cor. 3:13-15.

    “For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL BE MADE ALIVE. But EVERY man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put ALL enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put ALL things under his feet. But when he saith, ALL things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put ALL things under him. And when ALL things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put ALL things under him, that GOD MAY BE ‘ALL IN ALL.’ Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” 1 Corinthians 15:22-29. (“Rulers, authorities and powers ” are mentioned here, which usually refer to angelic authorities.)

    “I heard EVERY creature IN heaven, ON earth, UNDER the earth, ON the sea, and EVERYTHING in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13). (Angels here included in the restoration– no creaturely exception.)

    “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make ALL things new'” — God will dwell with men and he will wipe every tear from their eyes, death, mourning, crying, pain and the old order of things will pass and everything and everybody will be made new (Rev. 21:5, 3-4).

    “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In FLAMING FIRE taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power….” 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

    Is this passage, as well as such other passage as Hebrews 10, is the object of the Lord’s vengeance it talking about “evil people” or is it talking about “evil qualities?” The word translated as “who” in verse 9 can either mean “whatever” or “whoever.”

    Thus, we need to again refer to other Pauline passages regarding the postmortem fire, such as 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (quoted in full above) to clarify Paul’s thinking in this area. In this passage, the man “suffers loss” but “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” Thus, this passage suggests that what gets punished is a “whatever” and not a “whoever.” God punishes with eternal destructions of evil notions, not evil nations. Remember, the ancient writers, especially Paul, used personification to describe both virtue and evil all the time.

    Again, when ancient writers used a “who,” they often meant a “what.”

    So, for Paul or John to say that the personification of all the dark dynamics within us will be destroyed is ultimately a wonderful thing, even though it appears as a fearful thing on THIS side of the cure.

  • Richard Murray

    First, I did discuss the issue as to why ζωὴν αἰώνιον – Life eternal is “without end.” You must have missed it.

    The Greek word “Aionios,” which is sometimes translated as “everlasting” in Scripture (as in “everlasting punishment”), does NOT in fact mean “unending or everlasting in quantity of time.” Rather, “Aionios” speaks to an “indeterminate age set by God alone”–William Barclay. The word refers to a certain quality (not quantity) of being – – whether it be “aionios life” or “aionios remedial-punishment.” Aionios is always qualified by what it is describing.

    For instance, the word “great,” when applied to a merciful “sentence” imposed by a kind-hearted judge, might refer to a small amount of time in jail. Conversely, “great,” when applied to an atrocious crime, for which the judge “throws the book” at the defendant, might refer to a “life-sentence” in jail. Thus, a great sentence might be mercifully light or wrathfully heavy DEPENDING on the specific context.
    Similarly, the nature and quality of aionios, applied to the life of God, is entirely different than when it is applied to the chastening or punishment of God. “GREAT life” in God is certainly unending, since death will have been completely defeated, but the unending length is not the primary essence of that “GREAT life.” Rather, the limitless quality of love and peace which come from being totally at one with the Lord is the key aspect of this “GREAT life.” On the other hand, “GREAT punishment” by God will not be unending since He punishes to correct and rehabilitate and He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:9. What’s “great” about God’s punishments, in other words, is that they restore and rehabilitate.

    Life in God is not everlasting because it is aionios, but rather aionios is everlasting because it is referring to life in God. Conversely, aionios punishment is not temporary because aionios means temporary, but rather aionios is temporary in this context since God’s chastening is curative and incapable of being eternally resisted. “For his anger is but for a moment; His favor is for a life-time: Weeping may tarry for the night, But joy ‘cometh’ in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

    Aionios then, by itself, means an “indeterminate age,” not an “unending age.” Only the context of the passage provides guidance as to the actual quality and duration of the age.

    Second, the 2 Corinthians 3 passage says “every man” and “any man” (“hekastos” and “ei tis”) shall go through the saving fire. Where did you get the idea it only talking about believers? Infernalists seem to be unable (or unwilling) to process the words “every” and “all” throughout the New Testament when it is applied toward Jesus being the savior of the world. Paul was quite articulate and capable of saying that only the church elite go through the postmortem fire. He could simple have inserted the word “believers” in the passage after “”every man” but he didn’t.

    Surely you know that Scriptures teach that ALL humans are made in the image of God and thus ALL humans are created to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Some of these temples are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit, some are, while others are in process of being filled, either in this age or this age or the age to come. Surely you know that that Christ, according to first John, is the the true light who lights EVERY human who comes into the world, and that in Him we ALL move and live and have our being according Acts.

    Jesus was “the true Light, which lights EVERY man that comes into the world.” John 1:9. [not just the current believer as you claim].

    “In Him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.” – Acts 17:28 [Paul is referring here to even Pagans being God’s offspring and living in Him].
    “One God and FATHER OF ALL, who is over all and THROUGH ALL and IN ALL.” Ephesians 4:6 ESV
    “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. – James 3:9 [let’s not curse people made in the image of God, who temples-in-process of the Holy Spirit, to suffer eternal conscious torment].

    The context of 1 Corinthians 3 is not limited to just believers but to “any man” and to “every man,” just as John 1 says Christ lights “every man” who comes into the word is not limited to just believers.
    Here are the numerous verses supporting Jesus as Salvador Mundi (savior of ALL the world).
    https://www.facebook.com/richard.murray.1840/posts/626377160755671?

    Infernalists seem to be unable (or unwilling) to process the words “every” and “all” throughout the New Testament when it is applied toward Jesus being the savior of the world. Let’s exegete the passage without brimstoned presumptions.

    “For no other foundation can man lay except that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if ANY MAN build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; EVERY MAN’S WORK shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be REVEALED BY FIRE; and THE FIRE SHALL TRY EVERY MAN’S WORK, of what sort it is. If ANY MAN’S work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS, BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.” 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.
    This passage above refers to the judgment of “Every man’s work” (verse 13). The Revelation passage about the Lake of Fire in chapters 20-21 ALSO refers to the judgment of every man’s works: “the dead were judged… according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). So, Paul and John were both describing the same event, the judgment of every man’s works, but from their slightly different perspectives. Now, note what Paul says ultimately happens on the other side of every man’s work being judged: “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. IF ANY MAN’S WORK SHALL BE BURNED, HE SHALL SUFFER LOSS: BUT HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE.”
    So, what exactly do we know about the Lake of Fire? I have heard theologians of all ilks agree to never build a firm dogma on just one passage in Scripture, particularly if that passage is in the smack dab middle of Jewish apocalyptic section of the Bible like the book of Revelation. The reason is that this form of literature, unlike the epistles and the Gospel, are full of heavily symbolic language and feverish activity. They are more poetic and visionary than they are doctrinal. There is only extended passage that ever even talks about the Lake of Fire, and that is in Revelation 19-21.

    All we know about it is:
    —-the devil is cast into along with the beast and the false prophet(19:20)
    —-those that worship the image of the beast(19:20)
    —-that the devil (a false identity of Lucifer?) is tormented forever (20:10)
    —-death and an emptied Hell are cast into it (20:14)
    —-and whosever’s not found written in the book of life is cast into it(20:15)
    —-and the fearful, unbelieving, etc. shall have their PART in it(20:8)

    Curiously, no particular individual is named as being cast into it. Symbolic figures are cast into it, beasts and false prophets and the devil. Nobody by proper name is mentioned. Not Herod, not Pharaoh, not Hitler, not Nero. Some “part” of our sinful being is cast into it, but does other Scripture help us better understand what that is exactly? I say yes. Scripture helps interpret Scripture.
    “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 sulfur, which is the second death.” – Revelation 21:8

    Hmmm. Something has always struck me as odd about this passage. It is so cold, dismissive, and impersonal. Nobody’s personal or proper name is ever mentioned. It almost sounds like sin-natures are being referred to here rather than actual and whole human beings.

    “All liars” are cast into the Lake of Fire– which one of us would not fit that bill at various times in our lives? Who among us has not had a sexually immoral thought? Who among us has not committed idolatry toward something– money, prestige, false gods, or other people? Who among us has not been faithless for extended periods of our lives? Considering the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus tells us having hate in our heart toward others is a form a murder, and that lust in our heart a form of adultery, then who among us would NOT be a prime candidate for a Lake of Fire dunking.

    And, is that all the God of love sees us as? As adulterers, idolaters, faithless failures, inveterate liars, all pond scum to burn eternally on the Lake of Fire? Surely not.

    Here is the key to balancing this highly figurative passage with all the other passages which seem to point at a better and far less judgmental end for all humanity. The Bible authors pervasively used a literary technique called “personification.” The ancient writers personified most everything. Personification is the representation of an object, concept, trait or quality AS IF it were a person.
    Wicked nations become wicked notions. External giants become internal strongholds of fear. Jezebel and Balaam become personifications of particular toxic spiritual dynamics working within the church’s in Revelation. Isaac and Ishmael, along with Sarah and Hagar become personifications of the Old and New Covenants in Galatians 4. Wisdom and foolishness, in the Book of Proverbs, are both personalized as a woman lifting up their voices in the street.

    Consider Paul’s personification in Romans 7 of sin and evil “dwelling” as a king in his body, and the “old man” and “new man” as personifications of two warring persons in the new creature after baptism. When Paul says our old man (i.e. our sin-nature) is crucified with Christ, is he talking about our whole being, or only a part of it? Is Paul referring to a false identity, a plasticized persona, a forged identity, or to our entire being? The more this sinks in, the more it resonates that John’s “Lake of Fire” is referring to a place where our sin-strongholds are cast, NOT our core and essential selves.

    So, keeping this personification technique in mind, Noah’s experience with ark and flood now personifies New Testament baptism. See 1 Peter 3:21-22. Noah’s flood is now spiritually understood as an external symbol, or a personified “figure” as Peter called it, of an internal event. God, by His Holy Spirit, floods our inner being with cleansing and purging energies, a flood of baptismal fire which burns and washes away evil notions, evil impulses, evil stronalgholds, evil images, evil desires, etc. Conversely, what gets saved is our core soul, that “righteous Noah” part of us which desires God. Jesus is the protective ark of our salvation which carries us through this sanctifying flood and lands us on dry land to begin our spiritual lives anew in a re-created inner world.

    “Every man, within himself has Moses and the Israelites, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the Patriarchs and the kingdom of heaven and hell. Thus, the events described in the Bible, and looked upon by the pious as being things of a past history, are actually descriptions of internal processes taking place in the constitution of man himself”. ~Jacob Boehme 1575-1624

    God may flood away INTERNAL notions, but He would never flood away EXTERNAL nations. Not nations who have countless infants, toddlers, and children. It’s not in God’s nature to kill people who, “who don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus prayed for their forgiveness, not for their destruction. God may seek to slay unloving notions, but never unloving nations.

    Let me offer an example. Saul’s “name” (the concept of “name” Hebraically symbolizes “nature”) was not written in “the book of life.” But, praise God, Paul’s name was written in the book of life. Likewise, all our false names/natures are NOT written in the book of life, while all our authentic God-crafted names/natures ARE written in the book of life.

    I see God’s nature as only and always curative because I see Jesus that way. Postmortem cures are very painful and anguish producing, even Hellish, but there is life on the other side. What gets cast into the lake of fire are not our whole beings, but rather all toxic aspects of our non-being— false identities, sin masks which have deformed, debilitated, and impoverished us from manifesting our original created purpose. These forged identity masks have grafted themselves, with our consent, onto our souls and must be carefully irradiated and excised by the curative and corrective knife of divine love. Saul was a false identity that needed to be excised out and away from the real identity of Paul. Satan is a sin mask of non-being or false-being, a persona which will be cast into the fire. But Lucifer (if we accept his ontology) the angel will be restored.

    New Testament passages that describe this ultimate postmortem restoration of stolen identity are quoted below.

    “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one ALL THINGS in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Eph. 1:9-10). Sounds like even angels are included here.

    “He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject ALL things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

    “EVERY MAN’S work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be BURNED, he shall SUFFER LOSS: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; yet so AS BY FIRE.” 1 Cor. 3:13-15.

    “For as in Adam ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL BE MADE ALIVE. But EVERY man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put ALL enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put ALL things under his feet. But when he saith, ALL things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put ALL things under him. And when ALL things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put ALL things under him, that GOD MAY BE ‘ALL IN ALL.’ Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” 1 Corinthians 15:22-29. (“Rulers, authorities and powers ” are mentioned here, which usually refer to angelic authorities.)
    “I heard EVERY creature IN heaven, ON earth, UNDER the earth, ON the sea, and EVERYTHING in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13). (Angels here included in the restoration– no creaturely exception.)
    “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make ALL things new’” — God will dwell with men and he will wipe every tear from their eyes, death, mourning, crying, pain and the old order of things will pass and everything and everybody will be made new (Rev. 21:5, 3-4).

    “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In FLAMING FIRE taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power….” 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

    Is this passage, as well as such other passage as Hebrews 10, is the object of the Lord’s vengeance it talking about “evil people” or is it talking about “evil qualities?” The word translated as “who” in verse 9 can either mean “whatever” or “whoever.”

    Thus, we need to again refer to other Pauline passages regarding the postmortem fire, such as 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 (quoted in full above) to clarify Paul’s thinking in this area. In this passage, the man “suffers loss” but “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” Thus, this passage suggests that what gets punished is a “whatever” and not a “whoever.” God punishes with eternal destructions of evil notions, not evil nations. Remember, the ancient writers, especially Paul, used personification to describe both virtue and evil all the time.

    Again, when ancient writers used a “who,” they often meant a “what.”

    So, for Paul or John to say that the personification of all the dark dynamics within us will be destroyed is ultimately a wonderful thing, even though it appears as a fearful thing on THIS side of the cure.

  • Richard Murray

    “23 Minutes in Hell” or “23 Minutes in Fear?”

    Regarding those who claim to have had mystical and near death experiences regarding visitations to hell, I have no doubt many of them had heartfelt experiences.

    But, I also believe that what we have erroneously been taught to fear about hell can also allow for distorted, strange, and angst-ridden visions to result. And as to what testimony we should receive as personally authoritative, we each have to follow our spirit-quickened consciences of course.

    But, I don’t take the bulk of these people’s testimonies who have returned from hell to have the strength of eternity. I have read several of their testimonies, including the “23 Minutes in Hell” book. The ones I have read all say that the number one quality of hell is that nobody can EVER escape its torturous environment once they enter it.

    Well, my counter observation is merely this– they themselves were able to escape it, and the one fellow after only 23 minutes. These people don’t just claim they saw hell through an external window, but that they actually entered and experienced it, so their own quick escape seems to contradict their claim, at least to the inescapable aspect of it.

    And even if they did get a brief vision of it on some human level, how can they then claim to have witnessed an “eternal” aspect of it from only a brief time there? I can certainly see how our fractured and deceived inner states of being– shame, guilt, bitterness, fear,and pride– could all create hysterical delusions of toxic terror and hopeless agony.

    Jonah, when he was in the belly of the fish, thought he had been there for “eternity,” but in truth it was only three days. And he was a changed man when he came out of the fish’s belly. Jesus confirmed that Jonah’s experience in the fish was a prophetic allegory of His own descent into hell. What seems one way to man seems quite another way to God. I agree with F.F. Bruce that “eternal conscious torment” is inconsistent with the revealed nature of God in Jesus. This is why Jesus boldly declared in Acts 2 that the heavenly Father would NEVER abandon His son’s soul in hell.

    And, regarding the people who claim hell is eternally inescapable because they have literally been there and back, let’s don’t forget this champion truth. Jesus, according to Ephesians 4, kicked the gates of hell off their hinges as He “led captivity captive” and “ascended” into heaven so that He could “fill all things” on, beneath and above the earth.

    In others words, Jesus, though He was weighed down with every sin of every man who ever lived had ever committed, proved that hell was NOT inescapable. Jesus not only escaped it, but He also “gutted” it of its misperceived power over man.

    So perhaps these visions of Hell are simply our worst nightmares and fears amplified by Satanic suggestion, Satanic condemnation, and Satanic accusation which we feverishly project onto our postmortem expectations. But, God continually shows Himself greater than our heart by showing us that no matter the garish nightmare state we may fearfully concoct, He WILL deliver us from it.

    But I suggest that God sees it far differently.

    What if Hell (aka God’s judgement fire of 1 Corinthians 3), from Gods viewpoint, was in truth a medical facility for the carnally insane, the fearfully delusional and the murderously mad? What if Hell, from God’s view, was man-made – – fig leaves of delusions behind which the fearful and unbelieving hide from God?

    What if God patiently endures and ministers to these sick people in, through and around their delusions? What if God applies the intense “therapeutic treatment” needed to awaken these poor souls to the truth – – an ultimately irresistible truth which will set all men free – – God loves them and gave His life to cure them from their sicknesses?

    Like the most intense form of chemotherapy we know in the physical, yet multiplied a thousand times in painful intensity in the spiritual, every sin-mask and sin-identity will be irradiated and destroyed with the wise and curative fire of God. The man under judgment suffers a searing “identity crisis” which, though in the long term will bring great positive transformation, may be in the short term painful beyond words.

  • Richard Murray

    Agreed. Thanks the thoughtful comment.

  • Richard Murray

    Thanks James! Glad it resonated.

  • Richard Murray

    Well said Bob!

  • Richard Murray

    Agreed. Empire theology.

  • Rudy Schellekens

    “First, I did discuss the issue as to why ζωὴν αἰώνιον – Life eternal is “without end.” You must have missed it.

    The Greek word “Aionios,” which is sometimes translated as “everlasting” in Scripture (as in “everlasting punishment”), does NOT in fact mean “unending or everlasting in quantity of time.” Rather, “Aionios” speaks to an “indeterminate age set by God alone”–William Barclay. The word refers to a certain quality (not quantity) of being – – whether it be “aionios life” or “aionios remedial-punishment.” Aionios is always qualified by what it is describing.”

    But you missed my question: IF “everlasting punishment” is a ‘limited time,’ than why not “eternal life?”

    As far as “no particular name is mentioned in Rev. 21 – really? No names are mentioned as to who is in the “Book of life” either, so I am not seeing the lack of names as a valid support.

    As in 1 John 3, the answer, to me, seems very simple: It is not those who are believers who sometimes sin, but those whose lifestyle is outside of Christ. Do you live outside of Christ, and SOMETIMES do something good, or do you live inside of Christ and SOMETIMES give in to sin. So your argument, “Who among us has…” is not valid, either.

    God see us as being in need of salvation. And that salvation is offered, in Christ. So for those who are in Christ, it is a simple issue. But outside are indeed those who refuse refuse to change…

  • John Logan

    Pope Saint Nicholas condemned torture and his pontificate was in the ninth century. The idea that Catholicism was influenced by Roman Paganism is pure anti-Catholic propaganda. If you read early church documents such as the Didache you will see that the Catholic faith has been extremely consistent for 2000 years. Another good source is the pre-Constantine Council of Elvira.

  • Richard Murray

    You didn’t quote where I mentioned it. “Similarly, the nature and quality of aionios, applied to the life of God, is entirely different than when it is applied to the chastening or punishment of God. ‘GREAT life’ in God is certainly unending, since death will have been completely defeated [per 1 Corinthians 15:54 and Revelation 20:14], but the unending length [by itself] is not the primary essence of that ‘GREAT [ie age-abiding] life.’ Rather, the limitless quality of love and peace which come from being totally at one with the Lord is the key aspect of this “GREAT [age-abiding] life.” On the other hand, “GREAT punishment” by God will NOT be unending since He punishes to correct and rehabilitate and He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Pet. 3:9. Rehabilitation by an omni-wise, omni-benevolent, and omni-rescuing God, by definition, can be unending lest His corrections fail. He will see all humans saved. What’s great about God’s age-abiding curative correction is that they WILL work as described in 1 Corinthians 3. Conversely, what’s great about God’s age-abiding punishments is that they SUCCESSFULLY restore and rehabilitate all the lost sheep, no matter how far they’ve strayed. I realize that our presumptions about God’s nature are different. So, we won’t convince each other otherwise. I will rest on the church fathers, the Spirit of Christ, and the below Scriptures, which to varying degrees point to a better end for all humans, not a bitter end.
    JESUS CHRIST: SALVADOR MUNDI (THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD)
    APOCATASTASIS: the eventual reconciliation of all living things to Christ (Acts 3:21).
    “The Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)
    Jesus is “the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)
    “This is good and acceptable in the sight of our God our saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6, KJV)
    Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
    Jesus “did not come to judge the world but to save the WORLD.” (John 12:47)
    “Jesus, was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for EVERYONE.” (Heb. 2:9)
    “Love NEVER fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8)
    “With God NOTHING is impossible.” (Luke 1:37)
    “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Savior of ALL MEN, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach.” (1 Tim. 4:9-11)
    “At the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that EVERY tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10:11)
    “God was pleased to have all fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself ALL THINGS on earth or in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Col. 1:19, 21, 22)
    In Jesus Christ is “the restoration of ALL THINGS, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21)
    The Gospel is “good tidings of great joy will be to ALL people.” (Luke 2:10)
    Believers in Christ are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)
    God appointed Jesus “heir of ALL THINGS, and through whom He made the universe.” (Heb. 1:2)
    “No one can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Him draws him.” (John 6:44)
    “As God gave Jesus authority over ALL FLESH, that he should give eternal life to as many as God have Him.” (John 17:2)
    The Father “has given ALL THINGS into Jesus’ hands.” (John 13:3)
    Jesus “was the true light which gives light to EVERY MAN who come into the world.” (John 1:9)

  • Thank-you for explaining Purgatory. All the references from the Church Fathers, Scriptures, and the Catholic theologians in the article are referring to Purgatory.

  • Jason Danison

    Mr. Lusch: The dogma of Purgatory was introduced by the Catholic Church LONG AFTER the Church Fathers, after the great schism of 1054. It is fundamentally wrong to pretend that the Fathers were making a distinction between Purgatory and Hell. The idea of a purgatory was sort of a backtracking by the mainstream Catholic theologians, who finally had the decency to acknowledge that the Church had gone too far by insisting on a binary eternal choice. Not surprised that Augustine was obsessed with an eternal hell. After all, he was the one who invented what is now called double predestination (which did not become Catholic dogma but was resurrected by John Calvin) and came up with the idea that the souls of the children who die unbaptized are damned. If there are two theologians guilty of distorting God’s image in the eyes of humans, it’s these two: Augustine and Calvin.

  • Henry Sun

    Nice piece. In a way, it’s like an academic version of The Great Divorce, which I already wished could be added to the NT Canon.

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    This is an excellent treatise and shows that modern HELL is more of a tactic to promote obedience through fear than anything else. It demonstrates that certain forms of Christianity were persecuted by other Christian sects simply because their “liberal” beliefs diluted the fear factor that other sects used to keep the Plebeians in line and submissive.
    How sad: a religion of hope and salvation poisoned into a religion of fear for basically political and power gains…and how utterly human.
    Oh, and Life is Eternal: both Relativity and Quantum theory says so in addition to Christianity. Science and Religion agree on something, at least.

  • mauricedharris

    Writing respectfully as a rabbi. You might find it interesting to check out https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-gehenna-2076760, which has a quick and well-written summary of early rabbinic beliefs about heaven/hell/afterlife. The texts we have from rabbinic tradition didn’t attain their written form until 220 – 600 C.E., but they include traditions and beliefs that date back to the lifetime of Jesus and late Second Temple times. In essence, what you find in rabbinic literature is a patchwork of different rabbis offering different teachings, but the weight of these teachings leans towards hell “Gehenna” being a temporary place of punishment and purification. In essence, the best available snapshot of what Jewish contemporaries of early Christians (and Christian leaders through the 6th century) thought and taught points in the same direction as the author’s thesis about the tendency to interpret teachings about hell as non-everlasting.

  • Saint Teresa of Avila and some other Saints are on record as having been allowed to go there to tell us about it. They don’t agree with you. St. Teresa of Avila: The great 16th century mystic and Doctor of the Church claims to have had this experience of hell:

    “The entrance seemed to be by a long narrow pass, like a furnace, very low, dark, and close. The ground seemed to be saturated with water, mere mud, exceedingly foul, sending forth pestilential odors, and covered with loathsome vermin. At the end was a hollow place in the wall, like a closet, and in that I saw myself confined. […]

    “I felt a fire in my soul. […] My bodily sufferings were unendurable. I have undergone most painful sufferings in this life… yet all these were as nothing in comparison with what I felt then, especially when I saw that there would be no intermission, nor any end to them. […]

    “I did not see who it was that tormented me, but I felt myself on fire, and torn to pieces, as it seemed to me; and, I repeat it, this inward fire and despair are the greatest torments of all. […]

    “I could neither sit nor lie down: there was no room. I was placed as it were in a hole in the wall; and those walls, terrible to look on of themselves, hemmed me in on every side. I could not breathe. There was no light, but all was thick darkness. […]

    “I was so terrified by that vision – and that terror is on me even now while I am writing – that though it took place nearly six years ago, the natural warmth of my body is chilled by fear even now when I think of it. […]

    “It was that vision that filled me with the very great distress which I feel at the sight of so many lost souls, especially of the Lutherans – for they were once members of the Church by baptism – and also gave me the most vehement desires for the salvation of souls; for certainly I believe that, to save even one from those overwhelming torments, I would most willingly endure many deaths.” — If you get to leave Hell at some point why is Saint Teresa so obsessed with the “salvation of souls”? No worries according to you. Either the Saint is a liar or you are doing Satan’s work here by leading fools to believe “no worries even if it exists I’ll get out”–hopefully your “work” doesn’t put you there to find out for yourself “first hand”….

  • fractal

    Anyone can have a mystical experience, not just Saints.
    And most who do, make the mistake of trying to interpret the experience after it is complete—often in-step with their chosen Dogma.

    HUGE spiritual mistake.
    You just made it—and you didn’t even have the experience yourself!

    I also have visited hell; sometimes you have to walk thru hell to get to heaven.
    It is the feeling of hell; hell Seems eternal at the time you are in it—as does all overwhelmingly painful experiences.

    But it isn’t really forever—it just feels that way.

    Slinging around the word Satan is inappropriate and shows dualistic stinkin’ thinkin’—the possible meanings aren’t:
    “Either the Saint is a liar or you are doing Satan’s work here…”

    Either/or choices are propaganda tools and dualistic thinking is simplistic.

  • Heretics Beware

    It feels like this article was written by someone who had never been informed of the doctrine of purgatory.

  • fractal

    It’s like someone is a doctrine fetishist…^^^^

  • fractal

    Trying to interpret a mystical experience is going to result in a lot of error.
    By nature, a mystical experience is highly emotional and overwhelming; it is not meant to be sliced and diced and used to implement dogma.

    But after having such a peak experience, the mind wants badly to figure it out and have it align with the belief systems you adhere to.

    Doesn’t work.

    The whole reason people think it is hell, is because it FEELS ETERNAL—that is part of the pain. It is also the cure, because ultimately you stop fighting to get out, and you surrender to the experience—from exhaustion if nothing else, because you cannot fight forever…

    And that is when Grace can swoop in and open your eyes to real Divinity.

  • Heretics Beware

    It is a basic tenet of the Faith…
    It especially seemed so when he spoke of “masks” and what not. It is well established that those souls who die merely still wounded by venial sin are cleansed by the purging fire.
    Meanwhile, those who die with mortal sin, or those who are spiritually dead, cannot stand or take joy in the Love of God, but instead hate love.
    While in the flesh, we change our minds and have weakness. In the spirit, there’s no such undecidedness; like the angels and demons, our wills would be fixed as pure spirit.
    I do not mean to be rude but wanted to point this out.

  • Heretics Beware

    She isn’t the only one. Many mystics or seers have seen ie Hell. The Church goes through great pains to verify whether a particular mystical experience is worthy of belief or not. Be sure to tell your spiritual director or priest if you have some sort of vision like this, because it could be either demonic, of nature (ie hallucinations) or of God, and finding it out can take some work.

  • fractal

    yawn…

  • fractal

    Demons!!!!!
    OOGABOOGA!!!

  • Micho Lambwe

    Woooooow!

  • Erica

    Beautiful and important article. I love the part in your bio where you say you are “too X for some, too Y for others” – I always say I’m much too orthodox for the progressives and much too progressive for the orthodox. It’s wonderful to see a demonstration of how deeply orthodox and traditional some “progressive” ideas are.

    In the Eastern church, the teaching is that all of us enter the presence of God after death, and those few who have totally conformed themselves to him experience his light as the perfectly beautiful beatific vision. Those of us who have lived imperfectly but tried to spend our lives in love will first experience the pain of purgation as our imperfect lives are revealed to us in that light, with God’s comfort and the comfort of intercessory prayers for us as we go through it, but will eventually be purified. And there will be those who will refuse to ever turn and face that sting, and instead experience the light on their backs as burning fire. In the end, if such a ‘place’ of foreverrrr resistance could exist (and I’m inclined to think that God perfectly respects our free will, and it does), I think (and pray) it will be empty. The core seed of desire for God and love for neighbor will win out in the end – God’s work will not be incomplete, and his Word (Jesus Christ) will not refer to him void.

    We cannot be holier or more loving than God, and each of us in our conscience where the Holy Spirit teaches us, knows that everlasting punishment for finite misdeeds is wrong, and that no loving parent would abandon their child. How could a perfect loving God ever rejoice at the Feast, knowing some of his infinitely beloved children are suffering without him forever? Everything we know about God’s holiness and judgment has to be viewed through the lens of his perfect love and perfect goodness.

  • David Bruggink

    What a great post! Wide-ranging and well-informed. It’s really fascinating to think of “hell” in terms of a refining fire with relation to Near-Dear Experiences. Many people experience so-called life review processes, and typically from at least two perspectives: They see their lives from their own subjective point of view, and they see their lives from the point of view of the people they impacted, both for good and bad. They feel the emotions that they caused; they feel the hurt and suffering they inflicted. Thus hell is to feel the pain you caused to others. The similarities to mystical writings about judgment and the deeds recorded in the “Book of Life” are so interesting!

  • David Bruggink

    hey, what do you mean by Relativity and Quantum theory agree with life being Eternal? I’m not being snarky i’m just wondering how you came to that conclusion.

  • Jane Ravenswood

    a shame that Christians can’t get their story straight and can’t keep from insisting that their own version is the only right one. “They are more poetic and visionary than they are doctrinal.” aka I don’t like these so I’ll insist that they don’t apply.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The article is written about people who have never been informed of the doctrine of purgatory, since the article is duscussing to the beliefs and ideas of the early church, and the idea of purgatory as a separate place to hell / gehenna only dates from the 11th Century.
    You are right that the much later concept of purgatory as developed by the western Catholic church bears a distinct resemblance to early Christian concepts of hell – one might argue that having rejected the original idea of hell as a place of purification, the western Catholic church was obliged to invent an entirely new venue for such purification to take place.

  • Heretics Beware

    On the contrary, the concept of purgatory is Sacred Tradition from the Apostles, and attested to plenty by the early Fathers. The author, perhaps in ignorance, has attempted to interpret early Christian writings without the proper and traditional understanding of the Church at the time, leading to erroneous conclusions.
    It is also not defined that purgatory is a separate ‘place’.
    Perhaps you cite some declaration as the “first time” purgatory was taught, but council declarations and the like are not for creating doctrines but are typically for clarifying teaching when confusion arises.
    The teaching of prayer for the dead and a purging fire for light or lesser sins are found in many of the early fathers. St Augustine, whom the article admits of believing in an everlasting Hell.
    Meanwhile, the belief in an eternal hell in the early writers are also clearly seen.
    Writes Clement of Alexandria: “All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery.”
    Or Tertullian:
    “Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility” (“Apology” 44:12–13)

    There is much more, too. My faith is with Christ’s Church and Her many saints. God bless.

  • I wish my name was Fred

    Why was my comment deleted? Was is because my knowledge of scripture far exceeds the writer of this article? Or was it because it contradicted his false teaching of the afterlife??

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You are deluded. You seem to be under the impression that you know what the beliefs of the Church were 1800 years ago better than the people actually livibg and writing then, and somehow independently of anything actually written at the time. The idea of a distinct “hell” and “purgatory” is unique to the western Catholic church and post-dates the east / west split of the church, the eastern Orthodox church having none of it, indeed regarding it a heretical innovation of the west.
    You include an (alleged) fragment of Clement quoted by someone else as being in a lost work of his “On The Soul” which can’t refute his known and extant writings which were universalist.
    I am unclear how quoting Tertullian’s (minority at the time) view on hell supports your (nonexistent) case for belief in a separate purgatory in the early church.

  • Heretics Beware

    On the contrary, I merely report what is stated. I can merely give evidences; beyond that I cannot force a horse to drink.
    Purgatory, once again, is not defined as being a separate “place”, and spiritual writers have pointed out that the flames of purgatory are the same flames of Hell. Yes, popular imaginings or depictions of things add all sorts of things to depictions of the afterlife outside of what we strictly authoritatively teach.

    After we split, the Orthodox have had some disagreements with us, especially since they only recognize certain councils…but, in general, they tend to be vague and “mysterious” about things, haha. Hopefully unity can be attained once more.
    Anyway, here we go…
    St Ireneas
    The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever (“Against Heresies” 4:28:2)
    Hippolytus of Rome writes,
    “Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them” (“Against the Greeks” 3)
    This in particular is very useful, because he takes care to mention that prayer will not help the ones he is talking about, yet we know that many early Christian writers wrote of prayer for the dead and that those with light sins will have those sins burned away eventually…clearly this is something different…
    Cyprian of Carthage gives a similar witness:
    “An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies… The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life” (“To Demetrian” 24)
    Clearly, this is something different from those who are suffering only for a time and for whom we are to pray…for in this place of the damned our prayers do not help.

  • Richard Murray

    Thank you Rabbi. I love your summary and will check out the site. That’s very helpful. Do you mind if I quote your comment on my FB book page? I have many friends who would be interested in what you shared.

  • Richard Murray

    Thanks Henry for that dandy complement.

  • Richard Murray

    And yet Theresa returned from a place you claim is inescapable to tell us she escaped from a place which was inescapable. See the disconnect? It collapses on itself. Here is a past article of mine on this point posted elsewhere on this thread.

    “23 Minutes in Hell” or “23 Minutes in Fear?”

    Regarding those who claim to have had mystical and near death experiences regarding visitations to hell, I have no doubt many of them had heartfelt experiences.

    But, I also believe that what we have erroneously been taught to fear about hell can also allow for distorted, strange, and angst-ridden visions to result. And as to what testimony we should receive as personally authoritative, we each have to follow our spirit-quickened consciences of course.

    But, I don’t take the bulk of these people’s testimonies who have returned from hell to have the strength of eternity. I have read several of their testimonies, including the “23 Minutes in Hell” book. The ones I have read all say that the number one quality of hell is that nobody can EVER escape its torturous environment once they enter it.

    Well, my counter observation is merely this– they themselves were able to escape it, and the one fellow after only 23 minutes. These people don’t just claim they saw hell through an external window, but that they actually entered and experienced it, so their own quick escape seems to contradict their claim, at least to the inescapable aspect of it.

    And even if they did get a brief vision of it on some human level, how can they then claim to have witnessed an “eternal” aspect of it from only a brief time there? I can certainly see how our fractured and deceived inner states of being– shame, guilt, bitterness, fear,and pride– could all create hysterical delusions of toxic terror and hopeless agony.

    Jonah, when he was in the belly of the fish, thought he had been there for “eternity,” but in truth it was only three days. And he was a changed man when he came out of the fish’s belly. Jesus confirmed that Jonah’s experience in the fish was a prophetic allegory of His own descent into hell. What seems one way to man seems quite another way to God. I agree with F.F. Bruce that “eternal conscious torment” is inconsistent with the revealed nature of God in Jesus. This is why Jesus boldly declared in Acts 2 that the heavenly Father would NEVER abandon His son’s soul in hell.

    And, regarding the people who claim hell is eternally inescapable because they have literally been there and back, let’s don’t forget this champion truth. Jesus, according to Ephesians 4, kicked the gates of hell off their hinges as He “led captivity captive” and “ascended” into heaven so that He could “fill all things” on, beneath and above the earth.

    In others words, Jesus, though He was weighed down with every sin of every man who ever lived had ever committed, proved that hell was NOT inescapable. Jesus not only escaped it, but He also “gutted” it of its misperceived power over man.

    So perhaps these visions of Hell are simply our worst nightmares and fears amplified by Satanic suggestion, Satanic condemnation, and Satanic accusation which we feverishly project onto our postmortem expectations. But, God continually shows Himself greater than our heart by showing us that no matter the garish nightmare state we may fearfully concoct, He WILL deliver us from it.

    But I suggest that God sees it far differently.

    What if Hell (aka God’s judgement fire of 1 Corinthians 3), from Gods viewpoint, was in truth a medical facility for the carnally insane, the fearfully delusional and the murderously mad? What if Hell, from God’s view, was man-made – – fig leaves of delusions behind which the fearful and unbelieving hide from God?

    What if God patiently endures and ministers to these sick people in, through and around their delusions? What if God applies the intense “therapeutic treatment” needed to awaken these poor souls to the truth – – an ultimately irresistible truth which will set all men free – – God loves them and gave His life to cure them from their sicknesses?

    Like the most intense form of chemotherapy we know in the physical, yet multiplied a thousand times in painful intensity in the spiritual, every sin-mask and sin-identity will be irradiated and destroyed with the wise and curative fire of God. The man under judgment suffers a searing “identity crisis” which, though in the long term will bring great positive transformation, may be in the short term painful beyond words.

  • Richard Murray

    Thanks David. Love the two perspectives for NDE. That’s incisive.

  • Richard Murray

    Thanks Erica! Love your last paragraph in particular. It’s irresistible wisdom you share.

  • Richard Murray

    Thanks and bless you too Micho.

  • Richard Murray

    Good point Adam. Thanks. There are ages (plural) to come during which Paul said in Ephesians God would show His love and kindness for us. Infernalists wrongly act as if there is only one age to come. That causes a lot of this misunderstanding.

  • Richard Murray

    Thanks Iain for the insight.

  • mauricedharris

    Sure! By all means, and thanks for the kind reply.

  • John Gills

    It seems to me that much of the popular view of hell comes from Dante and Milton, not the Bible.

  • Micho Lambwe

    Amen Amen,and you most welcome Servant of our Lord Jesus

  • Milo C

    Energy can be transformed, which suggests that souls can be split, joined, reversed, made into apples, and a trillion other things. Also the idea that energy cannot be created or destroyed is Newton’s first law.

  • Joseph Di Zefalo

    “Most will” you say. Expound on that. Where do you propose the dividing line is? I’m sure this will be interesting.

  • I don’t; God does.
    Many scriptual examples of who will bre in the Kingdom and who will not.
    The Second Death awaits those who do not.
    Hell: eternal torment. Second Death: like you never were.

  • One Truth

    The answers would be Yes and Yes…..

  • One Truth

    Well….You all are simply GENIUS’s. You have all done the impossible…After all of these years, you have finally just debunked the reality of an eternal place called the Eternal Lake of Fire…..Revelation 20:10-15….with your simple opinion.

    I guess that we can all just throw our ( God Given ) bibles in the trash now and learn from the endless Blogs written by insane, Anti Christ individuals who have Just Now brainstormed humanity with their gracious intellect.
    Thanks So Much. Seriously……Thanks. Your insight is so…….Fulfilling?

  • Jane Ravenswood

    OT, you have yet to show that your “reality” is actually that. Now, since you want to run to Revelation, I want to ask you something. Why does your god work with Satan (Revelation 19-21), having to allow it to corrupt Christians since this god murdered every non Christian earlier in Revelation? Why does this god force humans to work with Satan in Revelation 17? I’m not impressed with a god that works with its supposed archenemy, in this instance and with allowing the murder of a family in Job, etc. Even if your god was real, I’d certainly not worship such a petty thing.

    All *you* have is opinion about your “lake of fire”. Even other Christians don’t believe such sadistic nonsense, the need for a human to convince themselves that anyone that disagrees with them must be punished. Yep, you can throw your bible in the trash since it is a compilation of myths invented by humans, just like the ones invented by the Greeks/Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, etc. in the Bronze/Iron Ages. There is nothing to show that it is “god-given” at all, just the need of humans to try to understand the world and the need of some humans to imagine that they are special.

    All you have is ignorance and fear to base your religion on. And you can’t even show that you are a Christian since you can’t do what is promised for baptized believers in Jesus Christ as savior.

  • One Truth

    “OT, you have yet to show that your “reality” is actually that.”

    Everyone who is now in the temporary Hell (Hades) Luke 16:19-31 Knows for sure.
    Jesus told this true story ( not a parable ). No doubt as an unbeliever, you have no problem calling Christ a liar, I will not.

    “Now, since you want to run to Revelation, I want to ask you something.
    Why does your god work with Satan (Revelation 19-21), having to allow it
    to corrupt Christians since this god murdered every non Christian
    earlier in Revelation? Why does this god force humans to work with
    Satan in Revelation 17? I’m not impressed with a god that works with
    its supposed archenemy, in this instance and with allowing the murder of
    a family in Job, etc. Even if your god was real, I’d certainly not
    worship such a petty thing”

    God is Almighty God. God murders no one. God Created all life. Mankind sinned against God and we now live in a fallen world, therefore we all must eventually die which simply means God will remove us all from this world to give account and we will go where we go….Matthew 25:46 He created beings ( angels and mankind ) not robots. We all have been given freewill. You know that and I know that. Lucifer willingly became proud and jealous and turned against God, enticing other Angels to do the same. They were cast out of Heaven. Eve was deceived by Satan and sinned against God by her own free choice. Cain killed his brother Abel even after God spoke to him concerning his jealousy and anger toward his brother. His choice.

    Noah willingly obeyed God. Abraham willingly obeyed God. Moses willingly obeyed God. Job, even after, yes its true, God ALLOWED Satan to harm his family and belongings, chose to still love, trust and worship God his Creator. God forces no one. He corrupts no one. Does He grant peace to the hearts of some ( Ephesians 1:1-14 ) and eventually harden the hearts of others ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 ), yes. Force people to act, No. Force Satan to act, No. God allows Satan to act within the given limits and people will still have the choice to act.

    Unbelievers like yourself can blame everything on God all you want, but mankind is who is responsible for all of the evil acts in the world. We are the murderers, idolaters, thieves, liars, and adulterers. God allows, Satan tempts, we freely act. Born again Christians will have their sins forgiven, the unbelieving children of the Devil will be cast into the Eternal Lake of fire that burns for all of eternity.

    Read the Bible, its all in there.

    “All you have is ignorance and fear to base your religion on. And you
    can’t even show that you are a Christian since you can’t do what is
    promised for baptized believers in Jesus Christ as savior.”

    ???

  • AntithiChrist

    A common thread tying these early church “temp”-Hell ideations together appears to be the relatively “compassionate” view that punishment by agonizing fire lasts only as long as needed to convince purgatory’s inmates to come around to a better way of thinking. Still pretty barbaric representations of a loving god that could just as simply have saved its beloved creations by easily twitching its nose, or something along those lines. Signs of the times I guess.

    Nevertheless, I wonder if there is in fact a connection between this divine very harsh punishment model and the punishment over rehab punitive models found in cultures that closely embrace the Abrahamic traditions and their various spinoff theologies, such as the US or Saudi Arabia, for instance.

    A side note: I imagine I would have left Tertullian (160–230 A.D) out of this piece, too. His hellishly divine brutal and gloating heavenly revenge fantasies don’t really help the main point on any level.

    Edits: grammar, punctuation.

  • Richard Murray

    Tertullian was the exception, not the norm. The early Latin theological school (of which Tertullian was a member), had a view of eternal conscious torment which was not existent in the other 5 theological schools (see my quote from Schaff and Herzog in the article). I never offered the view that EVERY church father had the same homogenized view of Hell. I just claimed to present the majority view. As for twitching noses, such a “puppet master” maneuver of coercive control doesn’t qualitatively deal with the necessity of the irrevocable creaturely freedom needed to oxygenate the possibility of authentic love (see C.S. Lewis).

  • Jane Ravenswood

    “OT, you have yet to show that your “reality” is actually that.”
    Everyone who is now in the temporary Hell (Hades) Luke 16:19-31 Knows for sure.
    Jesus told this true story ( not a parable ). No doubt as an unbeliever, you have no problem calling Christ a liar, I will not.
    “Now, since you want to run to Revelation, I want to ask you something.
    Why does your god work with Satan (Revelation 19-21), having to allow it
    to corrupt Christians since this god murdered every non Christian
    earlier in Revelation? Why does this god force humans to work with
    Satan in Revelation 17? I’m not impressed with a god that works with
    its supposed archenemy, in this instance and with allowing the murder of
    a family in Job, etc. Even if your god was real, I’d certainly not
    worship such a petty thing”
    God is Almighty God. God murders no one. God Created all life. Mankind sinned against God and we now live in a fallen world, therefore we all must eventually die which simply means God will remove us all from this world to give account and we will go where we go….Matthew 25:46 He created beings ( angels and mankind ) not robots. We all have been given freewill. You know that and I know that. Lucifer willingly became proud and jealous and turned against God, enticing other Angels to do the same. They were cast out of Heaven. Eve was deceived by Satan and sinned against God by her own free choice. Cain killed his brother Abel even after God spoke to him concerning his jealousy and anger toward his brother. His choice.
    Noah willingly obeyed God. Abraham willingly obeyed God. Moses willingly obeyed God. Job, even after, yes its true, God ALLOWED Satan to harm his family and belongings, chose to still love, t rust and worship God his Creator. God forces no one. He corrupts no one. Does He grant peace to the hearts of some ( Ephesians 1:1-14 ) and eventually harden the hearts of others ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 ), yes. Force people to act, No. Force Satan to act, No. God allows Satan to act within the given limits and people will still have the choice to act.
    Unbelievers like yourself can blame everything on God all you want, but mankind is who is responsible for all of the evil acts in the world. We are the murderers, idolaters, thieves, liars, and adulterers. God allows, Satan tempts, we freely act. Born again Christians will have their sins forgiven, the unbelieving children of the Devil will be cast into the Eternal Lake of fire that burns for all of eternity.
    Read the Bible, its all in there.
    “All you have is ignorance and fear to base your religion on. And you
    can’t even show that you are a Christian since you can’t do what is
    promised for baptized believers in Jesus Christ as savior.”
    ???”

    It’s always interesting when a TrueChristian™ like OT is unaware of what is in his/her bible.

    Jesus Christ isn’t a liar, it’s a fictional character in a series of books that makes fictional claims. There is no evidence for your sadistic fantasy called “hell”, nor is there any evidence for your version of the Christian god at all, nor for any other Christian’s version.

    I do like when a Christian does cite that silly story since it shows again that your supposed savior wants you to be following all of the laws in the bible, and not picking and choosing to avoid the inconvenient ones.

    There is no evidence your god created anything, OT. We have a very silly story where this god created two humans and was either too stupid to keep the serpent out of Eden or intentionally allowed it in, the second most powerful being in the universe to chat up its human creations. So, per your story, your god caused the fall either out of incompetence or intent. We then have the rest of the bible with this god constantly failing to straighten its failure out, flood didn’t work, commandments didn’t work, and then it has to decide that it needs a blood sacrifice to please itself.

    Many Christians do try to excuse their god and insisting it has some right to kill what it created, but when I ask if it would be okay for a human to do the same thing, then most Christians say no. This creates a problem since your morality depends on what something is, not the objective rightness or wrongness of an action. All you have is a wonderfully subjective morality based on might equals right.

    Christians also differ in whether they want to claim that their god gave free will or not. I was a Presbyterian and predestination was the thing. Then we have your bible that says this god interferes constantly with humans, destroying free will, and Paul writes that this god picks and chooses who can accept it and who can’t, damning people through no fault of their own (Romans 9). There is no free will though we humans do act like we have it, since we can’t be completely aware of all that has influenced us. Your god works with Satan so it doesn’t seem that this god cared too much that it “sinned”. Your bible is quite a mess of contradictions. Who shall we believe, the author of Genesis? Paul?

    I’m glad that you do admit that your god worked with Satan. Yep, per your bible, this god allowed humans to be killed, destroying their free will, to show off to Job and to Satan. It’s sad that you think that it’s okay for a man’s family to be murdered with the approval of your god. And it’s great to see you admit that your god does control people’s minds by “hardening” them. It’s hilarious that you, OT, either forget or are intentionally trying to mislead people when your god does force people to act the way it wants them to in Exodus, forcing the Pharoah to not let the people go and the Egyptian people to give their wealth to the Israelites, and in Revelation 17: “17 For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.” Sorry, OT, but your bible brands you a liar. Please do remember that your god says that you shouldn’t lie ever, not even if you think you are lying *for* this god (Romans 3).

    As opposed to your false claims, the bible has that this god is responsible for good *and* evil, and as I’ve demonstrated above, your god is responsible for murdering Job’s family. It could have said no and it didn’t. Why does your god have to show off to Satan, OT? It, supposedly being omniscient, would know that Job would stay steadfast in his faith, no torturing needed. And happily, nope, “we” aren’t murderers, idolaters, thieves, etc, You might be, but you can’t accuse everyone else by your attempts at lying and excusing your god.

    Unfortunately, OT, you don’t seem to know much about your bible at all. One would think you would know what your god has promised to Christians to be able to do since they are baptized believers in Jesus Christ as savior. The author of Mark has it and the author of James has it.

    “17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.””

    “14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.”

    Are the authors of these books lying? Christians who claim healing miracles, are they lying?

    I have read the bible and I know what is in it. It’s not what you claim.

  • Jane Ravenswood

    “God may flood away INTERNAL notions, but He would never flood away EXTERNAL nations. Not nations who have countless infants, toddlers, and children. It’s not in God’s nature to kill people who, “who don’t know what they are doing.” Jesus prayed for their forgiveness, not for their destruction. God may seek to slay unloving notions, but never unloving nations.”

    Richard, you have done what many Christians do, invented your own version of Christianity and your god. You don’t like the god in the bible so you insist that those parts yo don’t like are only “metaphors” to avoid having a god that is just like so many other bronze/iron age gods. if one is to believe the bible, your Jesus was quite sure that the flood was real. When Christians all make up their religion and have no evidence for their claims, there is no reason to believe that any of you have the one true story

  • cipher

    Which will, no doubt, give you no end of pleasure.

  • GoDawgs912

    I’m a Conservative Anglo-Catholic, flirting with Eastern Orthodoxy, but I also believe in universal reconciliation. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t follow Christ to the best of our ability though, or that we can do whatever we want.

  • AntithiChrist

    The Jesus character in the Bible was the exception, not the norm. So was Einstein. So were Ghandi and Galleleo. Other exceptions-not-norms include Sen Joseph McCarthy, Joan of Arc, Jeffry Dahmer and Charles Lindbergh. Being exceptional is not an argument one way or another for being correct. Even exceptional Thomas Edison, a man of typically flawless (if ruthless) business instincts, got it completely wrong on whether our electrical grid should be wired for AC or DC.

    The point here is that whether it takes convincing the “wicked” by Lake of Fire (temp or eternal), public square Auto-de-fe, dungeon waterboarding (see “Holy Inquisition,” “Guantanamo Bay”), or maybe just a temporary application of a few good old bamboo shoots under the fingernails, barbarians with a religious agenda invented these celestial (and all to frequently, earthly) torturous thought experiments to force people to profess an acceptable thing, just to make the real or anticipated horrific pain go away. None of this results, btw, in anyone making a “Free Will” decision about anything. Torture never does. If a god is to invent a hell (whichever version turns out to be the most accurate portrayal) and then condemns each human to a visit there (of any duration) in order to “persuade” everyone to love that god, that god doesn’t get to claim “non-puppet-master” status. Coercion is a removal of freedom based on threats. Pull the metaphorical puppet strings made of any material you want. You’re still pulling the strings.

    So in addition to achieving puppet-master status, with its torture-strings, this god also gets to claim “torture-master” status and take home the blue ribbon, even if the actual torture is delegated to the secular authorities. Or devils. Again, that doesn’t get you “free will” by any measure, any more than “advising” someone, with a gun to his head, to “make the right decision.”

    At a later point following all of these barbaric theological musings of the unknowable, the Geneva Convention was ratified and humanity once more evolved toward a more perfect union. That should have rendered these celestial revenge fantasies moot, but some of us just haven’t moved on.

  • AntithiChrist

    One early xian writer, not mentioned in this post, Tertullian, boasted there was a heavenly observation area where the Christians could look down on and savor the screams and smells of the burning unsaved trash.

    I imagine ol Fred would have eternal front-row season tickets.

  • AntithiChrist

    Or we could just read Rev 21:8 at its face value. It reads like a hateful revenge fantasy written by someone not at all taken seriously by the current zeitgeist.

    The same reason why it’s such a popular verse today with outfits like Westboro Baptist.

  • Brian

    Christ’s Peace to you Mr. Murray,
    I am in a congregation which does not allow for any post-mortem repentance but I am now convinced of it based on Scripture and the book:
    https://www.amazon.com/What-About-Those-Never-Heard/dp/0830816062/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=What+about+those+who+have+never+heard&qid=1566316973&s=gateway&sr=8-1
    Also the writings of Robin Parry and Jerry Walls.
    Thank you for this were well written piece. I wish we could talk more openly about this subject around the coffee pot after Service is over.
    God bless you!

  • Richard Murray

    God doesn’t torture anybody. He woos and wins all His children though taking them in a cosmic postmortem walkabout. It’s a cathartic journey, capable of producing great anguish leading to heartfelt repentance and renewal. It’s not torture, though our feverish resentment may temporally accuse it as such. On the other end of it we will return to the embracing arms of our creator Father.

  • Richard Murray

    You know your handful of brimstone passages while being wrathfully unaware of so many Scriptures which promise a better ending for all humanity, not a bitter ending.

    JESUS CHRIST: SALVADOR MUNDI (SAVIOR OF THE WORLD)

    Many infernalists and brimstoners claim that Scriptures do NOT support APOCATASTASIS: the eventual reconciliation of all living things to Christ (Acts 3:21).

    They are wrong.

    Below are a plethora of passages which, to varying degrees, support the concept that Christ will ultimately rescue and fill all living things so that He will be all-in-all.

    “The Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)

    Jesus is “the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

    “This is good and acceptable in the sight of our God our saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6, KJV)

    Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

    Jesus “did not come to judge the world but to save the WORLD.” (John 12:47)

    “Jesus, was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for EVERYONE.” (Heb. 2:9)

    “Love NEVER fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8)

    “With God NOTHING is impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

    “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Savior of ALL MEN, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach.” (1 Tim. 4:9-11)

    “At the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that EVERY tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10:11)

    “God was pleased to have all fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself ALL THINGS on earth or in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Col. 1:19, 21, 22)

    In Jesus Christ is “the restoration of ALL THINGS, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21)

    The Gospel is “good tidings of great joy will be to ALL people.” (Luke 2:10)

    Believers in Christ are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)

    God appointed Jesus “heir of ALL THINGS, and through whom He made the universe.” (Heb. 1:2)

    “No one can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Him draws him.” (John 6:44)

    “As God gave Jesus authority over ALL FLESH, that he should give eternal life to as many as God have Him.” (John 17:2)

    The Father “has given ALL THINGS into Jesus’ hands.” (John 13:3)

    Jesus “was the true light which gives light to EVERY MAN who come into the world.” (John 1:9)

    “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation of ALL MEN, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for ALL MEN.” (Rom. 5:18)

    Jesus is “able even to subdue ALL THINGS to Himself.” (Phil. 3:21)

    Jesus came “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times he might gather together in one ALL THINGS in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:10, 11)

    “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

    “God was Christ reconciling THE WORLD to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:19, 20)

    “ALL the nations shall be blessed.” (Gal 3:8)

    “The Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives Life to the WORLD.” (John 6:33)

    Jesus commanded us to be like Himself and His Father: “Love your enemies, bless those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44, 45)

    “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag in the Greek, helkuo) ALL MANKIND unto Myself.” (John 12:32)

    “Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, because creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:20, 21)

    “The Father loves the Son and has given ALL THINGS into His hands.” (John 3:35)

    “Since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam ALL died, even so in Christ ALL shall be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

    Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the first born over ALL CREATION. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Co. 1:15, 16)

    “ALL shall know the Lord, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” (Heb. 8:11)

    “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to ALL MEN.” (Titus 2:11)

    We are not to “repay evil for evil.” (Rom. 12:17)

    “If anyone’s work which he has built endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:14, 15)

    “Of Him and through Him and to Him are ALL THINGS, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36)

    “ALL Israel will be saved.” (Rom. 11:26)

    “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for ALL, and therefore all died.” (2 Cor. 5:14)

    “The head of EVERY man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3)

    “ALL nations shall come and worship You, for your judgments have been made manifested.” (Rev. 15:4)

    “When God’s judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the WORLD will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

    “Mercy shall TRIUMPH OVER (exalt over) judgment.” (James 2:13)

    “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Rom. 5:20)

    “EVERY CREATURE which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13)

    If we REALLY knew the Lord, we “would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matt. 12:7)

    “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning EVERY MAN and teaching EVERY MAN man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col. 1: 27, 28)

    “ALL nations whom God has made will come and worship before Him” (Psalm 86:9)

    God’s “mercy endures forever.” (1 Chron. 16:34)

    God’s Spirit “will be poured out on ALL FLESH.” (Joel 2:28)

    God beckons us: “Come, and let us return to the Lord, for He has torn, but He will heal us. He has stricken, but He will bind us. After 2 days, He will revive us. On the THIRD DAY He will raise us up that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1, 2)

    “The Lord had made bare His Holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and ALL the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)

    “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and ALL FLESH shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)

    God will “open His hand and satisfy the desire of EVERY living thing.” (Psalm 145:16)

    God is “gracious in ALL His works.” (Psalm 145:17)

    “The EARTH is the Lord’s and ALL its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)

    “ALL the kings of the earth shall praise you, 0 Lord, when they hear the words of your mouth.” (Psalm 138:4)

    God “reveals Himself by those who did not ask for Him: He was found by those who did not seek Him.” (Isaiah 65:1)

    “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to ALL, and His tender mercies are over ALL His works. ALL your works shall praise you, 0 Lord.” (Psalm 145:8-10)

    “ALL the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and ALL the families of the nations shall worship before You. ALL those who go down to the dust (death) shall bow before You.” (Psalm 22:27, 29)

    “0 You Who hear prayer, to you ALL flesh will come. Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, you will provide atonement for them.” (Psalm 65:2-4)

    “Through the greatness of your power your enemies shall submit themselves to you. ALL the earth shall worship You and sing praises to you.” (Psalm 66:3, 4)

    “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions FAIL NOT. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:21-24)

    “The Lord will NOT cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His > mercies.” (Lam. 3:31, 32)

    “For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would fail before Me, And the souls which I have made.” (Isaiah 57:16)

    “There is no God besides Me, a just God and Savior; There is none besides Me. Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, surely in the Lord I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him. In the Lord ALL the descendants of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.” (Isaiah 45:21-25)

    “In this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. And he shall destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over ALL nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)

    “ALL the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 18:18)

    “ALL the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3, 28:14)

    “It shall come to pass the saying that is written: `death is swallowed up in victory. Oh, Death, where is your sting Oh, Hell (Hades) where is your victory.’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-58)

    Of those who crucified Him (which is all of us) Jesus declared: “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

    “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

    Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (John 1:1, Mark 20:31)

    He was crucified, was buried and rose again on the third day. (Acts 2:23; 4:10)

    Jesus Christ’s blood was shed for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:8)

    “The Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)

    Jesus is “the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

    “This is good and acceptable in the sight of our God our saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus: Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6, KJV)

    Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

    Jesus “did not come to judge the world but to save the WORLD.” (John 12:47)

    “Jesus, was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for EVERYONE.” (Heb. 2:9)

    “Love NEVER fails.” (1 Cor. 13:8)

    “With God NOTHING is impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

    “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Savior of ALL MEN, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach.” (1 Tim. 4:9-11)

    “At the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that EVERY tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10:11)

    “God was pleased to have all fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself ALL THINGS on earth or in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Col. 1:19, 21, 22)

    In Jesus Christ is “the restoration of ALL THINGS, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:21)

    The Gospel is “good tidings of great joy will be to ALL people.” (Luke 2:10)

    Believers in Christ are “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)

    God appointed Jesus “heir of ALL THINGS, and through whom He made the universe.” (Heb. 1:2)

    “No one can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Him draws him.” (John 6:44)

    “As God gave Jesus authority over ALL FLESH, that he should give eternal life to as many as God have Him.” (John 17:2)

    The Father “has given ALL THINGS into Jesus’ hands.” (John 13:3)

    Jesus “was the true light which gives light to EVERY MAN who come into the world.” (John 1:9)

    “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation of ALL MEN, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for ALL MEN.” (Rom. 5:18)

    Jesus is “able even to subdue ALL THINGS to Himself.” (Phil. 3:21)

    Jesus came “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times he might gather together in one ALL THINGS in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:10, 11)

    “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

    “God was Christ reconciling THE WORLD to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:19, 20)

    “ALL the nations shall be blessed.” (Gal 3:8)

    “The Bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives Life to the WORLD.” (John 6:33)

    Jesus commanded us to be like Himself and His Father: “Love your enemies, bless those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44, 45)

    “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (drag in the Greek, helkuo) ALL MANKIND unto Myself.” (John 12:32)

    “Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, because creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:20, 21)

    “The Father loves the Son and has given ALL THINGS into His hands.” (John 3:35)

    “Since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam ALL died, even so in Christ ALL shall be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

    Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the first born over ALL CREATION. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Co. 1:15, 16)

    “ALL shall know the Lord, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” (Heb. 8:11)

    “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to ALL MEN.” (Titus 2:11)

    We are not to “repay evil for evil.” (Rom. 12:17)

    “If anyone’s work which he has built endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:14, 15)

    “Of Him and through Him and to Him are ALL THINGS, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36)

    “ALL Israel will be saved.” (Rom. 11:26)

    “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for ALL, and therefore all died.” (2 Cor. 5:14)

    “The head of EVERY man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3)

    “ALL nations shall come and worship You, for your judgments have been made manifested.” (Rev. 15:4)

    “When God’s judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the WORLD will learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

    “Mercy shall TRIUMPH OVER (exalt over) judgment.” (James 2:13)

    “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Rom. 5:20)

    “EVERY CREATURE which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13)

    If we REALLY knew the Lord, we “would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matt. 12:7)

    “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning EVERY MAN and teaching EVERY MAN man in all wisdom that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col. 1: 27, 28)

    “ALL nations whom God has made will come and worship before Him” (Psalm 86:9)

    God’s “mercy endures forever.” (1 Chron. 16:34)

    God’s Spirit “will be poured out on ALL FLESH.” (Joel 2:28)

    God beckons us: “Come, and let us return to the Lord, for He has torn, but He will heal us. He has stricken, but He will bind us. After 2 days, He will revive us. On the THIRD DAY He will raise us up that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1, 2)

    “The Lord had made bare His Holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and ALL the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10)

    “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and ALL FLESH shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)

    God will “open His hand and satisfy the desire of EVERY living thing.” (Psalm 145:16)

    God is “gracious in ALL His works.” (Psalm 145:17)

    “The EARTH is the Lord’s and ALL its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)

    “ALL the kings of the earth shall praise you, 0 Lord, when they hear the words of your mouth.” (Psalm 138:4)

    God “reveals Himself by those who did not ask for Him: He was found by those who did not seek Him.” (Isaiah 65:1)

  • Richard Murray

    No, sorry, I’m not a Koran scholar.

  • Richard Murray

    Thanks Brian! Friend me on Facebook if you can. Would love to be connected.

  • cipher

    That subculture is a vast sea of psychopathy, arrested development and congenital imbecility.