What will God do to assure His highest desire is fulfilled?

We know that God is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance. We know that God takes no delight in the death of the wicked. We know that Christ died as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, not only ours but for those of the entire world. We know that God is Love. We know these are true because we read them in scripture.

All of God’s historical actions and planning and bringing about of his plans are centered on the salvation of humanity. This forces us to contemplate the strength of God’s own desire for all humanity to actually be saved. Jesus seemed to indicate that many would go the way of destruction and few would find life. If this is in fact a prediction of inevitable reality regarding soteriological eschatology, then we have to wonder how God could wish all men to be saved with any degree of determination and yet seemingly acquiesce prophetically to the unfortunate eventuality that His desire will be tragically disappointed. 

We have all known people who say they are committed to something with their mouth, yet their behavior betrays the dearth of enthusiasm. Many sports fans have lamented that their team lost because they really did not want to win enough. I remember a presidential candidate who spent millions of dollars on a campaign which he lost and it was determined that maybe he never really wanted to win it in the first place. 

God could not be like any of those examples. If He says he desires the salvation of all, we should think that he would give his very best effort to see that vision achieved. After all He has utterly limitless resources at his disposal. To make people believe He is real and that His Son Jesus Christ is the Savior could be made readily apparent by simply forming a massive crucifix in the outer atmosphere made of space rocks. This could have appeared and remained from the day Jesus was crucified. Then all we would have to do is share the gospel and point up at the sign in the heavens.  Or there could be an angel like the one in Revelation who flies around the earth and proclaims the gospel from the sky for all to see. That could happen every year on Resurrection Sunday. 

  How many atheists would we have then? For that matter how many Buddhists or Muslims or Hindus would we have? That would seem pretty effective considering when people saw Jesus signs and wonder we are told many believed. Not just a few believed, many did. That’s not all, but you have to leave room for the stubborn hold out who just won’t believe their eyes. 

  But even Jesus was able to say “I did everything any reasonable person would need to know I am from heaven and my claims are verified by my power” . But 2000 years removed, and passed through multiples languages and translations and theological gatekeepers, (and left to us in fragmented copies) creates a challenge for validation in the mind of modern peoples.

But God’s chosen method of convincing the generations of humans outside of Israel and the first century is by the oral proclamation of events which cannot be empirically verified to the extent people would always abandon their religious or skeptical positions in favor of the obvious truth. 

It appears that the faith has relied upon humans to carry a message. They are to tell the story and people are accountable before God as to whether that story is something that seems real to them. Of course we have to hope that the story gets told to everybody. In other words God seems to be completely relying on us believers to convince everyone of the gospel. If we don’t’ God has no choice but to throw them into the eternal lake of fire.

Chick tracts made a gospel cartoon tract that addressed this very issue. God judged a Christian because they were not much of an evangelistic witness and others went to hell forever because of their silence.

So now it seems it is no longer about how badly God wants to save people, but how badly we want to. God did everything he needed to do to save everyone. He gave his Son. He doesn’t have to do anything else, it’s all up to us. That’s a pretty heavy load to carry for a kid. 

But if God is as passionate about all being saved as we would think He would be, and He has given it to us to spread the message in a persuasive way, and many will not receive it in the end, then it all points to a missing piece whose shape is apparent in it’s hole based on the present facts. 

That is that ultimately God will not fail to fulfill his passion. He will at last do what we have tried so imperfectly to do and that is to save all.  After all, didn’t He arrive the first time to do what we could not do on our own? (Live a perfect life.) Why wouldn’t he arrive a second time to do what the church tried but could not do all on it’s own? 

The objection to this is that this narrative is not what scripture teaches. The scriptures teaches an eternal judgement on all who rejected, failed to believe, never had a chance to hear, or tried to believe but failed to do so properly because they incorporated some damnable heresy such as universalism. We know from scripture exactly what Jesus final summation of the ages will look like. Just like the Jews of Jesus day already knew from the scriptures exactly what the Messiahs arrival and victory would look like. Well, of course they missed the meaning of the prophecies, they didn’t have the Holy Spirit guiding them into all truth like we do. Thats why we have such univocality of doctrine in the Christian world for the last 2000 years. Actually, if there was universal accord in the church it could only be in one confession. “I know I’m right!” 

Here is what I will suggest in conclusion. For Gods desire to save all to be authentic, and for the delegation of evangelism to the church to ultimately fall short of that goal, there must be a final ingathering wherein God himself will evangelize all who have ever lived and they will bow the knee and confess under the incontrovertible, irresistible persuasion of an infinitely creative and powerful and loving God.

Ravi Zacharias in the afterlife

No body else will say it so as usual I will…but who am I?

Ravi Zacharias…champion apologist and debator for the Christian faith, our intellectual gladiator for the age, was a serial liar and sexual abuser and pervert. 

We only discover it after he died because he was as shrewd at cover up and intimidation as he was smart in apologetics.

He was a man who fell to his sexual desires.  A lot of men do. But he was also nasty and abusive. He made women who were otherwise innocent feel defiled. He would get them financially dependent on ministry money as if it were benevolence and then pressure them for sex. He would reach into the deepest crevices of a woman’s conscience and tell them that if they ratted him out, souls would end up in hell because of the scandal. He did this crap for upwards of 15 years or more.

What a treacherous bastard. 

Now that we have the situation clear in our minds here is the question that will haunt your dreams. 

If God’s own glory is so important to Him why didn’t he stop this long before Ravi had a chance to hurt so many women and build such a high prominance among Christians? 

This situation makes God look ambivalent. 

For God to let this man who bragged on God’s Holy name to continue to get richer and richer and more and more famous is one thing. But to let him do it while defiling innocent women until the day he died…draws all sense of justice into question. 

The only other option I can theorize besides God is ambivalent is that maybe God never found Ravi Zacharias to be on His team in the first place. God only corrects those he loves is what I hear. Think about how many times God corrected and intervened and judged in the bible. Moses almost died for not circumcising his son. The sons of Korah were swallowed up in the earth for challenging Moses. Annanias and Saphira were struck dead for cheating on their stated charitable donation.

Ravi Zacharias owned and operated two rub and tug operations and stored up naked pictures by the hundreds of women, abusively coerced women into sexual compromise with God’s money, and all the while made millions telling atheists they were fools for not believing in God to the applause of adoring Christians. As far as Ravis debate opponents are concerned, the evidence for God just took a major hit.

So let me now get to the point of the title.

Folks, Ravi Zacharias likely went straight to hell when he died. Based on what we have seen, he died unrepentant. He lied so well to everyone else he surely lied to himself and to God. The Calvinists would say he was never saved at all to have lived like this and the Arminians would say he backslid and fell from grace.

But what about the family he left behind? Could they bear such a sentence? It’s one thing to bear the shame. But the horror of God’s wrath upon the man you loved, adored, admired and trusted would be the stuff of nightmares. If I was one of his kids I don’t know how I would cope with the thought that my dad defended eternal punishment in hell as a doctrine and got to prove it with his own perished soul.

But what if hell wasn’t forever? What if Ravi gets to find out first hand that he was wrong about that? What if hell was punishment and purification by fire and then once the soul was properly cleansed and purged, Christ could allow them to heaven?

Wouldn’t that be far more satisfying? 

I don’t want Ravi to burn in hell forever. But to know he paid for these sins in the afterlife in some proper form is quite OK with me. But despite all he did, I want his family and his victims to meet him in heaven someday. Perhaps after his last family member or last victim arrived in heaven, he could be brought out of the pit and be told by those who endured his offenses…we love you and we forgive you and he would fall to his knees and weep before them in repentance. 

Or if you prefer the medieval justice that seems far less divine…let his victims spend eternity thanking God for his everlasting torture and let his family try to forget why dad’s not in heaven with them. That surely would bring God far more glory than the devils best laid plans being thwarted by God’s transformation, restoration and love. 

The Corrigibility Of The Soul After Death

Is the soul incorrigible after it leaves the body? That is to say, can a person change their mind and take on new ideas and beliefs and  become something different to the better after they have left the body?

My impression is that traditional Christianity resists this notion in either a conscious or subconscious way. I need to find citations but my memory serves to recall statements where people in hell are changed into some kind of hardened, stupefied creature that is submerged and melted down into some form of self pity, sorrow or rage with all other faculties collapsing into these. 

Yet I find there is no scriptural evidence provided for this. It appears to be an argument from necessity. That necessity being that we cannot allow the mind to imagine souls repenting after death. For then we might imagine the souls repentance being answered by God’s salvation. That has always been out of the question.

If nothing else we should agree Hell is a place where the people there don’t want to be. Apologies to C.S. Lewis and all his fans but the idea that people lock themselves in hell is totally unscriptural and illogical. But it does a devious job of helping us escape hard questions about a loving God and eternal torture. Besides, if Lewis asserts people lock themselves in hell that means they could let themselves out. But that has been decided to be impossible because people, once in hell we are told, love it so much they would rather be no where else. So they spend eternity happily away from God. While the whole scenario appears very genteel it is also quite preposterous.  

I cannot help but reflect on the rich man and Lazarus. Now on the outset we have to acknowledge the questions regarding whether we can actually derive a technical doctrine of hell from the story. Baucham  documents the fact that this story preexisted Jesus telling in popular culture throughout the ancient world beginning with the Egyptians and moving into Judaism. He says it was a justice motif which may have been told in as many as 6 other forms. All of them shared an after life and a reversal of fortunes between rich and poor where the rich suffered torment and the poor relished paradise.  

Legendary form and origin not withstanding, the dominant view has been this is a wholly novel and unprecedented glimpse into the afterlife provided by the Son of God who was privy to such secrets. I say unprecedented because nothing like it exists in the Old Testament. You will not find Abrahams bosom or a gulf separating good and bad based on life’s fortunes. Nor will we find in the New Testament that people’s ultimate destiny is determined by the suffering they had in life. The entire story is filled with rules and assumptions that have no correspondence to New Testament doctrine. But none of that matters. It depicts people suffering in hell and that’s all some people need. That alone is worth the price of suspending logic.  

So we will for a moment insist that Jesus meant for all of it to be literal. We will insist for this discussion that Jesus wanted this preexistent folktale derivative he adapted to be a crucial component in our understanding of the after life. 

What then does it give us regarding the corrigibility of the soul after death?

We see the rich man enduring flames. We should assume He is able to speak intelligently without choking on spittle or blood. 

  He asks for only a single drop of water. Quite humble for a man whose very excess and luxurious living seems to be the pretense for this judgement. Had his original entitlements and arrogance been burned in concrete we might have thought he would be demanding his waiters and his cupbearers. So we can say he has managed to learn to ask for less. That might be a sign of progress.

  Yet as humble as his request is, it has been declined by Abraham. Abraham is prohibited by the gulf set between them. Abraham incidentally is within earshot and audibility over the presumably deafening screams of the innumerable damned that populate the other side of the gulf. Of course there’s always telepathy. But even telepathy would be quite noisy if everyone down there could do it. For that matter, how do the blessed who rest in Abrahams bosom get any peace with all the shrieking across the way? But there again we only have three characters. Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man. That seems quite implausible that they are the only ones down there. Let’s lay this out simply. The damned can speak to and hear from the blessed, but the blessed can rest in tranquil bliss despite the incessant screaming of the hordes of the damned. Perhaps that is due to the joy the torture of the damned provides to the blessed? I would have to defer to the Reformed camp for clarification on that one.

What else do we observe? The rich man has another request. He asks that a message be sent to his five brothers up above that they may avoid this place. Now this is very problematic to a narrative of incorrigibility. The rich man seems to have also evolved a sense of concern for others! This is the main thing in life he appeared to lack in as much as he ignored the dog-licked Lazarus at his gate. Yet here he is hoping for others up above to avoid this place and out of what motive? Love?

How can love exist in hell? It cannot if you listen to the doctrines of infernalist. The damned if anything are to become more selfish and hateful and utterly self absorbed. What they were sinfully in life they become utterly in hell. 

But that’s not what the story tells us. 

However, shouldn’t we derive our argument from words less disputed as to their literal status? The rich man and Lazarus may not be the very best place to establish our premise seeing that there is so much uncertainty about Jesus technical intent.

Where else could we find support for the notion that the soul could undergo reform after death? 

Let’s begin by asking this. Could a soul that did not worship God on earth become a soul that learned to worship God in the after life? That would certainly be a fine test of whether the soul could undergo change post mortem. 

Some may tap this question out at first base by citing the authoritative words of David in the Psalms.

“Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?” Psalms 88:10

It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to the place of silence.”Psalms 115:17

I misspoke. Neither of these is attributable to David. The first one was written by Heman the Ezrahite.  The second one is unattributed to any author. 

Psalms are songs after all and not every song of the Beatles was written by the fab four. You could put all Davids Psalms in a single collection, but if you did, these verses would not appear. How any given Psalm was determined to be the infallible breath of God we don’t know. All we know is that these were the songs that got sung at some point in Jewish worship.

And then you have Ecc 9:5 spoken by the Son of David in the midst of a disillusioned existential crisis.

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.”

These passages are trotted out to make the case against the corrigibility of the soul after death. But they offer problems. Namely they are overruled by later and more authoritative revelation. 

The story of the rich man and Lazarus seem to contradict death as a place of unconsciousness, or silence. For they did appear to think and speak there. Furthermore the notion of the dead never rising and praising would certainly be a clobber verse for the Sadducees, but the entire doctrine of resurrection testifies against the authors conclusion, or at least the meaning we have attached to it. 

Yet we have several passages in the New Testament that declare that there will be not only worship, but universal worship in the underworld. 

[Phl 2:10-11 NIV] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge(in the same places) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

[Rev 5:13 NIV] Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Simple logic leads us to understand that when these passages were penned Jesus had already long visited and left the grave and liberated certain inhabitants. (Eph. 4:9, I Peter 4:6) So who are these under the earthlings that are envisioned as offering the same exaltation as those on earth and in heaven?  They could only be thinking, speaking souls of those passed on who are not in heaven by virtue of some disqualifying standard. Yet they too will worship? Certainly most of them never worshipped before. Had they been worshippers on earth, they might never have come to that place. 

Note that there is nothing that necessitates that we imagine these worshippers of the underworld all exalting God in unison in one large event per se. There is no reason they are not scattered through history and time just as much as their life and death were scattered through history and time. Each in their own order may have come to a place of exalting God after realizing and repenting. 

Some would insist that this worship is not as a devoted follower but as a defeated foe. That would accommodate a more comfortable and assimilative vision of people worshipping in hell.  There is nothing in the text to support such ad hoc objection. The words chosen in original language and the inclusive phrasing are formed in such a way to eliminate any other conclusion but true and sincere adoration. 

Would it not be odd to make the argument that God allows people to go to hell because he respects their free will to reject him, but then promises he will force them to their knees in worship once they are there? And if the hell dwellers are so reprobate and so incorrigible, what would their worship be to a God who desires sincerity but a dollhouse church of flaming corpses who stringed rings are being pulled by sovereign force so that spooky crackling records might play from within, “You are Lord, You are Lord.” 

Quite a macabre vision if you eliminate the possibility that they might really worship out of love and admiration.

Of course that would require a change after death would’t it? And what does it mean to repent? Metaneo means to change the mind. Some hate that definition. That definition takes too much power from the will and the works of the sinner and makes God’s grace and mercy and power the beginning and end of all sanctification. To simply change our minds and confess we are sinners and God is righteous, that we are powerless and he is all powerful surely couldn’t be enough to spark heaven’s gift. One must achieve a turning away from sin as evidence in the works of their life before redemption can become effective mustn’t one? Well, maybe in Lordship salvation, but not in the gospel of Jesus. 

Paul said if we believe in our heart God raised Jesus from the dead and confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord we shall be saved. No mention is made of a mortal deadline. 

But there’s always one verse alone we can combat this conclusion with. 

The solitary scripture of Hebrews 9:27 is expected to stand against the weight of all that we have pressed against the gates of hell.

[Heb 9:27 NIV] Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.

Well simply stated, the author forgot about Lazarus, the little girl Jesus raised up and numerous others who either resurrected at the crucifixion of Jesus or were resurrected by miracles of the church age. Anyone who came back from the dead to continue a longer life on earth necessarily died twice or else they were never raised at all, or else they all ascended into heaven. 

Consider the thief on the cross. His faced was pressed against the doors of death and he was shown mercy. How ever thin those doors are, does it seem the Savior would be emptied of all love for the thief had he passed on through   and pressed his face on the other side? Is salvation really a matter of flesh and blood connection to earth? Or is it the hearts connection to heaven? Is God now like the Pharisees, so pedantic and legalistic about the repentance of a soul? Are these limitations we imagine more like the impossibilities of human intolerance or the possibilities of divine grace?

The disciples asked Jesus, “‘Who then can be saved?’Jesus replied,  ‘With man this is impossible, with God all things are possible.’”

God is sovereign and is not obliged to bow to our theology. He will give life to whom he will give life and he will will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy and the love from which that mercy flows cannot be contained or overruled by time or dimension. 

[Eph 3:16-21 NIV] I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


Mechanical vs. Relational Theology

When our construction of theological principles treats the human crisis in cold, indifferent ways we have to ask whether our theology is relational or mechanical. As well we have to ask which one it should be.

A mechanical theology is one where the rules and the principles are precisely measured to extremely narrow tolerance and operate without any concern for exceptions or extenuating circumstances. A relational theology has flexibility to allow the principles to stretch and flex in order to accommodate the ultimate goal: reconciliation.

Mechanical theology is like a machine. All parts fit together but none of them deviate for any reason. If the object of salvation does not conform to the rigid parameters of the machine, it is discarded. If the parts deviate from their strict parameters, the machine breaks down or falls apart.

Relational theology is like a body. It grows and stretches and exerts and even sacrifices itself for the goal of reconciliation.The body exists for the sake of another. What does the machine exist for?

Mechanical theology makes the bible the syntax by which a binary language is encoded for robotic functions.

Whereas relational theology makes the bible not a programming language for a mindless computer, but a message from the heart of a divine Father.

Looking back in history, a clear example of mechanical theology is that of infant damnation. Augustine arrived at original sin based on a very strict reading of Paul. That reading said we are all guilty of Adams transgression at birth. Thus, babies must be baptized as soon as possible because if they die unbaptized, they must burn in the lake of fire for eternity. 

In Augustines mechanized theology, God was nothing more than a blind machine which makes no distinction between Adolf Hitler and your new born child or grandchild. Regardless of Augustines theological terrorism, babies who die unbaptized are welcomed into heaven. But can we imagine the hell their parents were plunged into who lived under this doctrine? To live one’s entire life knowing she had generated a life she fully intended to love and care for and even teach about Jesus, only to have the child snatched away in birth and dragged to the fiery hell to suffer unimaginable without ever having known her mother’s kiss, forever and ever and ever. Some went insane. Others became heretics by rejecting this notion and were burned at the stake. Such are the fruits of mechanical theology. Do we imagine these kinds of abuses to be what Paul or for that matter Paul’s Savior might have intended?

Fortunately we have grown beyond such cold and simplistic conclusions. But that is not to say we do not still suffer from mechanized faith. For we still cling to very mechanical ideas about the fate of mankind which seem incompatible with the living breathing Father in heaven. Think of the  idea that the second before death God would afford the full grace and forgiveness of Christ to the repentant, but one second after death retract all hope and love and forgiveness. 

This cold, mechanical theology is largely built on one single passage in Hebrews. “For it is appointed unto man to die once and then the judgement.”

The context of the passage was that of reinforcing Christs single sacrificial death being all sufficient for all time. Yet we have reengineered it to be the main component in a hopeless threat which leaves us discouraged and disillusioned about the fate of people who were as helpless as Augustines infants. 

We have a gospel machine and Hebrews 9:27 is a vital cog. It says decide while there is still a chance because when you die, it is too late. We might even attach this passage to give credence to such a cold message.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call on him while he may be near.” Isaiah 55:6

Clearly there is a time limit on salvation. That limit is the span of the beating of the human heart. God can only love the unsaved while they have a pulse. When the pulse stops, love is withdrawn and all hope is lost. The machine moves on to the others who still have potential and that which was once loved is abruptly cast aside as a bad part or rejected unit. Forget the fact that even in factories, bad parts are salvaged and reworked. Faulty units are set aside to  be refurbished. No, our theology is not that of a Father who doesn’t give up, but of a highly efficient and unrelenting system that does not make exceptions for anything malformed at the end of the assembly line. 

Somehow we are meant to accept that God might love us all from eternity past and then when we are born a terminal clock begins. For some the clock ends at 1 day. For others it ends at one month or one year or decade. For others the clock ends after an average human span or anywhere in between. 

But the mechanics of our theology says that the love that waited since eternity past for our existence can wait no longer than our 30, 60, or 80 year old heart. 

Mechanical theology seems to recognize the illogical absurdity of this dilemma and so it adapted some very innovative modifications to accommodate the problems. These are free will and limited atonement. 

Now keep in mind that those two innovations are of two entirely different machines in two entirely different factories. 

The Arminian factory says free will trumps Gods will. Free will is more powerful than God’s will. That seems satisfying if your looking merely for a machine that seems to run smoothly. But if your seeking reconciliation above all else as Christ did on the cross, free will is merely an excuse for a failed design. 

The Calvinist/Reformed factory sees the fault in the free will modification and instead insists that God’s will is sovereign over all other wills and in fact Jesus only died for who God willed to be saved in the first place. This is limited atonement. This new part is engineered quite well and seems to outperform free will in that it relies more on God than on man. Yet it would appear that reconciliation suffers even greater undesirable results. For now we have to explain many inexplicable things. Things such as how so many predestined believers seem to be cloistered to white European and North American regions. Or that if predestination is so sovereign, then that would allow people to die as elect without ever having come to the knowledge of the gospel. Consider the paradox. The saved were predestined, but only if they hear the message. 

As well we would have to wonder about the predestination of the millions of aborted children. Is God like Thanos of the Marvel mythos? Is it merely random predestination? If so then based on Jesus declaration of the many and the few, most aborted children are in hell now based on God’s foreknowledge of what they would have chosen had they had the chance to live. However, I’m sure more precisely engineered parts could further modify this machine to smooth out these dissonant vibrations. The problem is that no matter how complex and precise it becomes it is still and always will be mechanical theology without the heart of an all powerful, all loving father who is seeking reconciliation with his creation.

I want to circle back around to a crucial point. Earlier I mention the idea that one second before death sinners are wholly loved by God, but one second afterwards all hope is lost for the machine of salvation has shut down for that person. God pulls the plug because salvation is only possible for the living. 

I think about that in parallel to those we are horrified by in their advocacy of abortion up until day of birth. Now abortion advocates should not all be considered in this camp. Most believe in the standard of survivability outside the womb. But we know of and are sickened by those who inexplicably advocate that a woman could choose to abort a child up until time of delivery. 

It would seem that in these peoples mind that baby is not a person until she exits the mother. That at anytime until then it is a disposable mass of tissue. But only after leaving the womb do they afford rights to life. We consider this a  monstrous sacrifice of precious human life for the sake of selfish reproductive freedom. We cannot see the reason or logic in such a thing. How can a human life not be granted legitimacy except for some mechanical legal definition?

We know where God stands on the matter. God is a living, loving heavenly father who sees every sparrow that falls to the ground and counts every hair that falls from our head and loves every prodigal son with undying affection. 

That is of course until they die. 

Then He abides by a strict mechanical legal definition of who can be saved. Mechanical constitutionality aborts the lost child at any time before he leaves the womb. Mechanical theology aborts the child the moment after he enters the tomb. 

Relational theology would have us realize that the God who waits eagerly for every life to be born, having loved them since eternity past, is the same God whose love cannot die simply because the object of his love does. Relational theology would cause us to realize that a all powerful Father does not run out of options simply because evil and Satan seem to have gotten the upper hand in a final way. Everyone thought when Jesus died the Messianic hope was over. They were wrong, it was in fact fulfilled and just beginning. The problem was that for 3 days no one was able to see what was going on beyond the entrance of the tomb. We are just as blind. But we are not deaf. We should hear deep down in the grave the heartbeat of a Father who does not give up based on some mechanical requirements placed upon his love by our theology. If His mercy endures forever then that means His mercy is eternal. And that means it will endure from beyond all past to beyond all future. As such there is always hope in the heavenly father, long after our theological machines have turned to rust.

Especially hard to avoid

There is an interesting word in the New Testament that gets used to indicate a part of the whole which is preferred above the rest. It is the word especially.

Let’s look at how it gets used and test our understanding with some questions.

Acts 9:41
“He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive.”

True or False:
Based on this statement Peter seemed to feel it was of greater value that the widows witness the healing of Tabitha.

This is indicated by the word especially. Tabitha had been a great benefactor to them and they were greived above the rest and wept greatly at her death. This indicates that the widows were a preferred subgroup of the accepted whole.

Acts 25:26
“But I have nothing definite to write to His Majesty about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that as a result of this investigation I may have something to write.”

True or False:
Festus wanted Pauls case to be examined by a large group of Roman officials, but none of their opinions stood above the rest.

Clearly King Agrippas opinion was preminent above that of the entire body of officials and we understand that by the use of the word especially.

True or False.
King Agrippas opinion is the only voice Festus was interested in hearing.

Festus stated that the entirety of the group was being consulted.

I Cor 14:11
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”

True or false:
The gift of prophecy is the only gift beleivers should desire.

There are gifts of the spirit plural.
Among them is prophesy. No gifts are excluded simply because prophecy is preferred.
To suggest that is to ignore the simple logic of the statement.

2 Corinthians 2:12
“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”

True or false:
Paul seemed to regard sincerity and integrity among beleivers of even greater emphasis than among worldly people.

The word especially seems to indicate that Paul has placed setting a good example for the church of utmost priority.

True or false:
Because Paul was only concerned about what beleivers thought of him, he lived in a careless and disingenuous way among unbeleivers.

Paul lived sincerely and with integrity in his relations with worldly people. Especially does not exclude one set, instead it prefers one set above another set. Both are included, one is preferred more. One is special.

Gal 6:10
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

True or false
The family of beleivers are the only people that are to be afforded Christian goodness.

Through the use of the word especially, we find that goodness is determined for all people and reserved exclusively for none, yet there is a subset that are considered the priority. That is the family of faith.

I Tim 5:8
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

True or false
Beleivers are called to treat all relatives equally.

Members of ones own houshold take precedent over more distant relatives.

True or False
Family that is not of ones own house are on thier own and should expect nothing from us.

Especially does not exclude distant relatives from our concern. It merely sets them in a preferred place in order of priority.

Now at this point it should clear that there is a very consistant logic within the use of the concept of especially in the bible and especially by Paul.

One cannot surmise from a statement which utilizes the term
especially any sense of exclusion. Exclusion is in fact excluded by the operation of the term.

If a man says “I like ice cream, especially strawberry” there is no data with which to surmise an exclusion of any form of ice cream from his taste.

The Greek word in all these passages is malista. Strongs defines it as: especially, chiefly, most of all, above all.

There is a commonality between the statements of the bible regarding the word especially. It is very hard to find that word without the distinct word or concept of “all” residing near it.

All and especially seem to be partners in identifying a preferred subgroup within an accepted whole.

That is very important to keep in mind as we look at one last statement. Please read and let the rules of logic established thus far continue to govern your interpretation.

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

Up until now we have had no reason to question the inspiration or intention of any passage quoted here.

So let’s once again perform our test.

True or False:
God intends to save only those who believe?

If that were so he would have said only those who believe, not especially.

We assume that we have read the very Words of God in thier plain and unambiguous meaning. It seems to state in a simple and clear way without qualification that Gods salvation will effect all people. There is no reason to think of this passage any differently other than one. The mind which has been conditioned to think otherwise over the course of years will immediately begin carving out exceptions for why this passage must not be read with the same logic as all the others. Yet it is has an irreducability and inescapability to its meaning. One simply cannot avoid that the salvation is effective to all and that none of the all are excluded.

Yet there is a subset of the all that is preferred, namely those who have believed. This idea of a preferred subset of the accepted whole shows up in an ancient concept of worship appropriated by the New Testament authors. This is the notion of the firstfruits.

Consider the following.

James 1:18
”He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

Firstfruits was a holy offering that was taken from a batch of dough and given to the preists by the worshipper.

Romans 11:16
”If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.”

The whole batch is all of creation. The church is the firstfruits. There is no sense of exclusion here, but in fact order and supremacy. The church and beleivers are the part Jesus the high preist has taken for himself, but the whole of creation will also be accepted and enjoyed, after it is baked in the oven.

This is why we can rejoice at this statement

“God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

But this demands an explanation regarding judgement. If God saves all does that mean there is no judgement? Never.

There will be a judgement, for it is stated over and over in scripture. Yet it is one thing to be saved from judgement and it is another to be saved with judgement. Consider the following.

“hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

The destruction of the flesh needs to happen so his spirit can be saved at some future preordained day. The flesh is where sin and rebellion is seated. To destroy the flesh is to destroy the place where sin hides and nests and festers.

Judgement is a destruction of this nest and all the uncleaness dwelling in it, but the bird lives on.

When Jesus died what was destroyed? His flesh. It is flesh that carries the sinful curse.

Where does the soul come from? Do we get our soul consciousness from our mother and father, or is it something breathed by God into the body mom and dad create?

“Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Notice the formation of the body and the breathing of consciousness are two seperate acts. When humans are conceived, parents create the body but only God creates the consciousness.

I don’t want to wander too far from our topic for this post but at the same time I want to help you understand the scriptural provision for considering a judgement that actually serves to prepare the judged for a new chapter of existence with God. There is much more that could be said on that. But what I wanted to do here is to fully explore the concept of all and especially in their persistent and common use in the New Testament. In fact there is no exception in all of the bible to this logical use of especially.

Because of that precedent of reinforcement, there should be no objection to reading the universalist implications of I Timothy 4:10. In order to re-engineer that meaning away from universalism, one is forced to also modify it in every passage mentioned here and others that were not mentioned.

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”

Understand that if some one is never saved, then God is not to them any kind of Savior. If there are two burning buildings and the fire department can only go into building A, then that fire department could never have been considered any kind of help or salvation to those in building B.

To be a Savior one has to perform the salvation. The salvation must be accomplished not merely intended. If God is the Savior of all people but some are not saved…then he is not the Savior of all people. If God is the creator of all things, but there are things God did not create then He is not the creator of all things.

If the traditional doctrine of hopeless eternal punishment for the unbeleivers is true then Paul should not have written 1 Timothy 4:10 the way he did. Instead it shou;d have been written this way:

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of only those who believe.” 

Do you see how the actual biblical form throws wide open the doors of hope for all? Only and especially are virtually incompatible terms. All and especially are in logical harmony. In the same way all and only are just as much oil and water.

I Tim 4:10
“That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, but only of those who believe.”

Arminians may wish it read this way, but it does not. So what we are left to do then if we refuse to accept the plain reading is to ask why Paul wrote such a reckless and easily misused statement if in fact his doctrine was that a first fruit goes to heaven and the rest of the human creation all burns in hell forever. Would Paul choose wording that could be so easily be read the wrong way?

I think the evidence shows that Paul wrote it exactly the way he did for the reasons spelled out here. God is and will finally be the actual worker of ultimate salvation for all people.

When this is taken into consideration with the incompatibility of eternal torture with divine love, as well as considered alongside God’s infinite wisdom and power and mercy, we must conclude eternal conscious torment is a badly formed doctrine deeply rooted from the dark ages of theological and philosophical reasoning.


Never good enough

How is it that Christianity is a religion whose main introduction to the world is summed up in this statement? You’re not good enough and nothing you do is good enough for God.

What other relationship thrives under the attitude of “You aren’t good enough for me.” Is that how a heavenly Father reintroduces himself to long lost children? Is that even  what Jesus told people? You are not good enough.

He said unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. But were the Pharisees really that righteous? Was Jesus saying they were so righteous? Everybody thought those guys considered themselves righteous, so why would Jesus hold them up as a model that must be exceeded?

How do we know Jesus wasn’t actually being sarcastic and tongue in cheek. Sometimes humor and irony is lost in translation and print. Because honestly that’s the only way the statement makes any sense. It’s kind of like saying the only way your getting in my party is if your nicer than a pit bull. Maybe Jesus was really saying that average folks without religious credentials are more righteous than those pompous, sneering hypocrites.

Was Jesus really dooming us all to exclusion? Or was He shattering the absurd standards and obnoxious attitudes that had been held over people for so long.

Republican Evangelical Christianity has, I fear, become like the Pharisees. We have allowed ourselves to think that God is telling everybody they aren’t good enough. On the one hand we criticize the world for it’s lack of goodness and then when they do act good according to our standards guess what? That’s still not good enough.

Why did Jesus use a Good Samaritan to exemplify goodness? Because Samaritans were not in the right camp at all. They were outsiders and foreigners. They were THOSE people who weren’t good enough.

We think the gospel message begins with convincing people how unworthy they are and that somehow they will take that as a wake up call. But what we don’t realize is that the message of “You’re not good enough” was never really meant for Gentiles or Pagans. It was meant for Pharisees and Sadducees. Look at how Paul spoke on Mars Hill. Find where he told those philosophers they were not good enough. That message was completely absent. We have been guilty of trying to get people to take a medicine God never prescribed to them. All we are getting is negative reactions and very little healing.

Furthermore all the passages about not being saved by works and salvation by grace seemed to be a prescription written for Gentiles who were being seduced by Judaizers.

When the law was being trusted it was then works were getting busted. But Jesus and the Apostles never looked at unJewish people and said, “stop trying to work your way to heaven.” It was not even relevant. The parable of the good Samaritan seems to acknowledge that there are non-religious people in the world who are doing good for their fellow man for no other reason than the love in their heart. But this is where hard core Evangelical doctrine of Augustinian origin would say, “But their works are filthy rags to God!”  Really? Jesus didn’t act like the Samaritans works were filthy rags. He seemed to indicate God was actually pleased with what he did. But let’s make a careful distinction. God never said their works were filthy rags. He said their righteousness was filthy rags. This was about the religious things they were doing to compensate for the evil things they were doing. Had the Pharisees not been blowing silver trumpets with one hand and exploiting widows with the other, but instead devoting themselves to poor and the needy, Jesus would have never had a problem with them.

And speaking of having a problem with people, it seems like this not good enough mentality has put Christianity at odds with so many people. Have you ever noticed how Modern Christianity is always on one side of some Vs binary? Like a boxing match it’s the Christians vs the gays, or the Christians vs the Atheists. Why is it Jesus never went around trying to set up matches between himself and people who weren’t good enough? Don’t get me wrong, the Pharisees were always trying to get Jesus into a vs position.

But the only time Jesus debated anyone was when they started the debate. Otherwise Jesus just seemed to be trying to have a transformative conversation. Yet in Christianity today we are more interested in debating opponents than having transformative Christlike conversations. We are more interested in the knockout punch that wins an argument. Go to YouTube and see how many videos there are of Christians debating atheists trying to prove God and prove the bible. It’s not a mission anymore it’s a sport. And thousands of people flock into the stands to watch and cheer and jeer and throw their venom laced statements of faith into the mix.

Evangelical Christianity has in large part become a cultural warring faction. There are the ones who run to the fight then there are the one’s who don’t engage unbelievers but sit in the stands and whisper their derision towards unbelievers to one another in secret.

When we send the message “Your not good enough,” The world does not hear God convicting them as much as they hear us condemning them from a place of self righteousness. And let’s face it, keeping people feeling like they are never quite good enough is a powerful religious control tool. Would God really build something so fraught with potential for abuse into the gospel message for the world?

What if we tried a solidly biblical approach that actually showed the kind of respect Paul showed on Mars Hill. It goes like this:

God wants you to become convinced of three things.

1 He is real

2 He loves you

3 You need Him.

What if that was the gospel to modern unbelievers? I wonder if we could at least get in the door with a message like this? It sure seems to have a lot more possibility than:

1 You are a sinner

2 Nothing you do is good enough

3 Because of this God is reserving a place for you in hell.

Some people really like that message because they have been convinced that being obnoxious is the same thing as being courageous. Courageous Christians speak the truth and are willing to suffer for it. True, but Peter told us that there is no honor in suffering for trouble that we have created. He said to suffer for doing good was honorable.

Look at Jesus. He did not go around confronting people over their sins. He went around healing people and as a result people loved him. This was the catalyst, however, for his suffering. The good he did made enemies of the Pharisees. They were jealous of the love he enjoyed. They were jealous of the divine touch on his life. They knew he was superior to them in every way and it drove them crazy. While everyone else saw Jesus as a leader worth following, the Pharisees saw competition. They were never going to follow because they had to be better than anyone.

I’m not saying there aren’t unbelievers like that today. But let’s make sure that’s exactly what we are dealing with before we just hit them with the “You’re not good enough” message. Instead of majoring on that point as the universal gospel message why don’t we look at the gospel that was taken beyond Jerusalem and Judea. 

The moving target of end times prophecy.

I have given up on eschatology and end times prophesy. It’s literally a moving target. I’m particularly tired of the endless number of competing theories that portray themselves as the iron clad accurate narrative when every theory is full of loose ends and unexplained problems.

You can put a question about the end times or the coming kingdom or the resurrection or the millennial reign online and open it up for discussion and literally every person who answers will have a completely differing narrative. It’s like one of those puzzles where you have a bunch of different triangles (scriptures) and they all have to go together to form a perfect square (theology). Everybody is trying and claiming they built a square. But it’s never a square. Theres always extra pieces left over or not enough pieces and you have to make them ALL fit. 

So I’d like to ask this. Why does it matter? Why do I need to live my life trying to solve a puzzle that has been played with for 2000 years and every one who set their mind to the solution has died never having seen these things fulfilled. And when was the last time you read anyone say “none of these things will happen in our lifetime. It’s probably another 200-500 years away?” No one ever. Everybody has always believed these end times prophecies were about their generation. It’s almost a form of vanity if you think about it. Oh it has to be us, all the signs are obvious. (Said the guy in the 1800’s).

Some might suggest that God created a built in motivator to keep us holy and evangelical. Well what does that say about the power of the Holy Spirit then? Every generation of Christians was not kept holy or driven to witness by love for God and man but by the impending threat of the Apocalypse? Are we to believe that the church will lose it’s way unless each generation thinks it is the final one? I’d like to think that when a person is in dwelt by the Holy Spirit it makes them a person who loves God  and their fellowman and that no vague, artificial deadlines are needed. To me that goes against the idea of being led inwardly instead of compelled outwardly. Is it audacious to believe that the presence and power and person of the Holy Spirit is enough to make us what Jesus wants us to be in the earth? 

If we are to justify all this complicated and urgent prediction by some vital divine psychological impetus at work to keep us at our best, then let’s put it to a true psychological evaluation. How much sanity or insanity has end times furor produced? 

How much corruption and exploitation and profiteering has it produced? Gary B DeMar is a partial preterist who has written many great books about mistaken end times theology. In his book End Times Madness you can read a colorful and shameful history of all the strange things said and done in the name of end times accuracy. 

It has not been a good look for the church. If anything the failed attempts to identify Jesus return and other vital theories in a specific time or generation has damaged the credibility of Evangelicalism in the eyes of unbelievers. Is this what Jesus wanted? Did he give us all these mysterious passages so that we could spend centuries deceiving ourselves as to our place in his timeline? Does he really want so much egg on our face?

If these promises of great and final victory are still waiting to happen then weren’t the first generation of Christians lied to? Jesus said that his generation would not pass away before all these things take place. That right there is a pretty good indicator that most of what we call end times prophesy has probably already happened. I believe Jesus was an accurate prophet. I believe Jesus was God himself speaking the things he determined to take place. He said it would be in the time of the leaves budding. Rome attacked Jerusalem in April. Jesus told people in Judea to flee to the mountains when they saw armies surrounding Jerusalem. Thats exactly what happened. Yet many Christians have been deprived of the historical narrative and as a result are still waiting for a train that came and went centuries ago. In fact I think many Christians who hear this historical narrative ignore it because they would rather have unfulfilled prophesy to keep things exciting.

These ancient apocalypses were written for people who were subjugated, oppressed and discouraged. There was a real threat that people might start leaving the faith if things got any harder for them. So they needed something to keep them going and to hold on to at least until they died if not until the fulfillment.They needed the promise of a victory and a justice and a final destination that was worth all the suffering. Apocalyptic prophesy did just that. Notice that these prophesies always came at the darkest moments. Daniel was in Babylon in forced service to a foreign government. John was exiled to an island in the middle of the ocean. No one got apocalyptic prophesies in the good times. Only in the bad times. It would seem they were given for the comfort and strengthening of the people who originally received them. 

Yet we imagine that they got these words because we would need them 20 centuries later.  Obviously those words were for US. Who else would they be for? Even Paul said those words were written in the past for US upon whom the fulfillment of the ages had come. The problem is that the US he was talking to died and went to heaven 19 centuries ago. We do realize that Paul was writing to people he knew and was acquainted with not some future society of modern Christians – don’t we? No? You think he was writing to the future church? Really? That must be why he warned us about wearing hair the wrong length and not letting women speak or have authority in the church. He knew how important that would be in the year 2020. 

But even if much of these prophesies fulfillment took place in the past, preterism cannot fully account for everything in the apocalyptic prophesies, right? I totally agree. No one can really account for the mark of the beast or the two witnesses or the giant city coming out of the sky at some time past. But we don’t know how literal or symbolic these things are either. It’s one big jump ball that we have been reaching for for 2000 years. 

And I’m going to go ahead and just assume that things will probably keep going they way they have been. I know, that’s very risky and carnal and that’s exactly what Peter said the doubters would do. But Peter was not speaking from 2000 years out either. He was looking for Jesus return in his day just like all the Apostles. If you would have told Peter 2000 years out from the ascension that the church would still be waiting for the second coming he would have called you a doubter. 

So instead of running around screaming the time is short, I’m just going to settle for reminding everyone that life is short. If Jesus doesn’t come for us I can 1000% guarantee we will go to him. What kind of life do you want Him to evaluate? I want mine to be a life of love and faithful representation of his heart and character in the earth.  I don’t need a giant clock in the sky counting down to Armageddon to be that person. There is a clock that is most certainly counting down to each of our last days on earth and that is the one we should really be living by. 

Universalism revealed in I Peter

1Pe 4:5-6 NIV 

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

1Pe 3:18-20 NIV 

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits–to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,

Peter gives us two very clear glimpses into the work of Christ between the cross and the resurrection. Something happened in the three days in the grave. Peter indicates they were much like the three years of ministry on the earth. Proclamation was taking place in the underworld. 

Some would try to wave the implications of this off as mere wishful thinking. Namely that Christ can and will grant further opportunities in the afterlife. 

So let me demonstrate the formidable foundation Peter sets forth in this passage. 

Here are the facts. Christ suffered how many times for sins? Once. His one death applied the needed atonement for all people of all time. That is a vital framework to keep in mind at all times.  So now we know how many times Christ died for sins. For whose sins did he die? The sins of the unrighteous. How many are unrighteous? All who were ever born.  Christs death was not just for the unrighteous who were alive in his day, not just for the unrighteous yet to be born. Christ died for the all the unrighteous in the past and in the present and in the future. This corresponds with Christ being the same yesterday, today and forever.

Now if Christ died for those in the past how would the good news go to those who had already lived and died? The good news went to those in his day and the good news would travel to increasingly greater amounts of people in the future as the gospel spread. But if Christ died for the unrighteous dead from the past, how does the gospel do them any good? 

“For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead”

The Word now is not in the Greek. It is a biased addition. It should simply read 

“For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are dead’

What was preached to the dead? The gospel. What does “gospel” mean? Gospel (euaggelizō) means “good news” and “glad tidings”.  The word gospel carried with it a sense of cheer. When you spread news that brought a smile to peoples faces you were sharing gospel. 

Jesus went and preached good news and glad tidings to people who were already dead! 

Ah but the technicians will insist that was only for the Old Testament saints to receive knowledge of what they already had by faith. 

But that creates a problem. Paul asked “how shall they believe unless they hear and how shall they hear unless someone is sent?’ Jesus was sent to the grave and there he preached and there faith was created by the preaching. Are we to assume that only the faith that arose among the nice people of the past ages was acceptable to God? For that matter it would have only been the Jewish nice people wouldn’t it? Of course there were many wicked Jews from old times. Surely they were not allowed to believe were they? After all they lived wickedly. So they are no better than the pagans and the gentiles who never heard of the God of Abraham. So Jesus only went to the grave to preach glad tidings to nice jewish people. 

Not so fast. Everywhere Jesus preached on earth he said that he came not for the well but for the sick. He came not for the righteous but for the sinner. Why should we believe that if Jesus died for all the unjust already in the grave from the past that any of those “all” who believed his preaching would be turned away if they cried out to him in faith? Jesus said “anyone who comes to me I will in no wise turn away.” And “No one can come to me lest he be drawn of the Spirit.” 

Why would we think that the whole of mankind was granted the atonement- past, present and future, and yet Jesus would only offer his good news to a fraction of mankind already dead in the grave? If Christ died once for all-past, present and future, then we obstruct the goodness of the good news by standing in the doorway and saying Jesus only preached to the “good” people under the earth. 

In the past I have heard terrible renditions of this passage that reflected the readers own vindictive theology. They would say that Jesus proclaimed the good news to the “righteous dead”(a term nowhere in the bible but concocted for this purpose). But to all the other souls who were wicked his preaching was the smell of death. All they could do was mourn as they watch the righteous being given the fulfillment of their hope. Where in the bible is that explicitly taught? The rich man and Lazarus you say? When did that take place? Was Jesus down there in the grave proclaiming anything in that parable? No…they were all waiting.  It would appear not even Abraham and Lazarus knew how long they would be there. For that matter did they even know why they were there? That story does not serve to bolster much theology and many have concluded it is best not used to do so, rather it is best applied to the ethics and morals of charity and need. 

Please imagine Jesus appearing in the afterlife of Sheol and his voice echoing through its caverns. “I am the first and the last, I am the savior of the whole world. My blood has been shed to atone for whosoever will believe on me and live again! I am the resurrection and the life!” Are we to assume ambivalence from rich man across from Lazarus who longed to send word to his brothers and who desired some small comfort from those on the other side of the gulf? Is it hard to imagine this souls crying out “Son of David, have mercy on me!” and “Son of God! I believe in you! save me, please! Forgive my sin, please apply your blood to me if in fact it was shed for all! Am I not one of the all you died for? Did you die for Lazarus but not for me!?” 

Do you see the problems that traditional theology has left us with? They ignore the vastness of hope that is so simply and briefly revealed in Peters Words from the underworld. 

But some will insist that I am engaged in too much creative interpretation based on wishful thinking and mercy run amok. Yet in light of all that I have shown you what then should you do with this statement from Jesus himself?

“Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. 

“Truly I tell you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

“Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out ​– ​those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgement. 

First I ask you, does this sound anything like what Peter was referring to? 

“For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”

Jesus spoke of dead people hearing and living and being judged. There is far more to this than we have been allowed to know by religion and theology. 

But lets bring another witness to the case. Paul the Apostle said, “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and earth and under the earth and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord.” What is a soul required to confess for salvation once faith is in their heart? They must say Jesus is Lord. And Paul said that no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. If people under the earth in Pauls future vision are confessing Jesus as Lord, how are they capable of doing such a thing if no one can do it except by the Holy Spirit? 

We can only conclude that the Holy Spirit will in the future enable those under the earth to confess Jesus is Lord because the good news will be given to them as well. They will perhaps be those baptized in fire, but they will be ready to confess. 

“That’s compulsion” you say. God will not have it! He wants only sincere love and surrender, not compulsory conversion! Is that so? Was Jonah not baptized into suffering until he called out to the Lord? Did he not use these very words: “From the depths of hell I cried out unto thee.”? Was not the acid of the fishes belly fiery torture for three days? 

How about Saul of Tarsus? Was he gently wooed into the arms of the Lord or was he compelled to surrender under duress and distress and pains? Paul was plunged into darkness that he might call out for light. And light was given to him.  

My friend’s can we stop and ask some common sense questions without the interference of tradition and religion for just a moment? Do you seriously think that if God wants someone the devil is too strong for God? Do we think that God is at the mercy of what the devil has done to humanity to separate us from the light? Is God big enough to save everyone or is he going to be defeated and deprived by the devil? 

Because the theology of eternal conscious torment demands we shrink God down to a befuddled, perplexed deity outsmarted and out maneuvered by his own creation. 

Either that or we distort him into a malevolent maniacal sadist who winds up the world and watches to see who lands in the clouds and who falls into the fire.   

God has shown us that he loves everyone and will acquire all that he loves for himself until he is as Paul said, “all in all”

If Universalism is true what’s the point of the gospel?

It is often objected that Universalism guts the gospel of its necessity in that if everyone is going to be saved, then theres no point in trying to convert people. This position is a result of limited perspective and lack appreciation for the true value of a relationship with God.

Lets say a person was born in a cave in total darkness. One day someone came to them and said “you don’t have to live in darkness” and they showed him how to make fire. He lived by the light of that fire and made his way around that way. Then someone came to him and said, did you know there is a world outside this place where you don’t need to carry a torch because the sun shines and gives light all day long. Would the man say, “Then what good is this torch?” No because the fact is the fire he has is very helpful and good UNTIL he reaches that outside world. 

The idea that Christianity is only worthwhile if there is an eternal hell to escape seems to devalue the inherent good in knowing God as soon as possible as an end unto itself. Has eternal hell become such a large fixture in our psyche that without it God’s love and salvation is meaningless to us? 

Jesus has a bride. Marriage is a revelation of that mystery. What part of the marriage metaphor requires the threat of eternal punishment to reveal the fulness of the grooms love? The groom marries the bride because he loves her. She marries him because she loves him. They know each other and love each other. No threat of hell is involved in this marriage. In fact if the groom were to use threats to guarantee her acceptance of his proposal, the proposal would no longer be based on love but instead coercion. 

As I look back on my own conversion I realize hell had nothing to do with it. I did not really have any kind of understanding of hell. I did fear death. That played a major role. But I did not accept Christ because someone told me I was going to hell. I accepted Christ because I hated what I had made of my life and knew that I was empty and lost and imprisoned by my habits and desires and needed God in my life. I let him in and he revolutionized me. Then later church people taught me about hell. Because they had been so instrumental in helping me find and grow in God I accepted everything they told me. 

Yet the idea of eternal hell really was not something fully revealed to me. I just didn’t think it through. But eventually it did sink in and when it did I vomited it out of my heart. I no longer accept hell as a place of eternal torture. I see it as a place where rebellion and unbelief are destroyed so faith in Christ can be accepted. 

But had I known that when I got saved would anything have changed? No. I still needed God and my life was still not what I wanted it to be. The idea of continuing in the life I was in simply because I knew hell was not for forever seems ludicrous. It would be like saying I regret moving to Hawaii now that I found out there are some warm sunny days in Alaska. 

Knowing God and being loved and cared for by him is the core of my faith, not the escape from hell. This is why the absence of eternal hell does not really leave a empty place in the gospel. There’s too many other reasons to share Jesus. 

I mean if God is real and God wants to live in your heart, isn’t that reason enough to feel excited? The creator of the Universe loves you and wants to have a relationship with you, and He died to remove the one obstacle to that relationship.

Eternal hell was never spoken of in the book of Acts as they proclaimed salvation. Then what does salvation mean? It means being saved from Satan and evil and our own sin. Theres plenty to be saved from in that list. Theres plenty to celebrate and worship right there. But there is a hell and being saved means not having to go there right? Yes it does.

But what is hell for? Is it an eternal torture chamber where the God who calls himself Love puts people who never got in on the offer? That introduces serious logical and philosophical as well as theological problems. Love cannot be a torturer. If Love is a torturer then He is not Love. If He is Love he cannot be a torturer. This means hell must be something else besides a torture chamber. Perhaps it’s an operating room. Perhaps it is where the cancer of unbelief and stubbornness is burned off by fire. 

Look at the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Its very hard to tout the importance of free will in that conversion. Saul was forcefully coerced by Jesus himself. He was not convinced by scriptures and Christian love in the church. He was overthrown by Jesus. That in itself is a powerful evidence that God will do what he has to do to get who he wants. He wants everybody and he will get them if he has to send them to hell to coerce them. 

But that reality does not negate the fact that the person who is saved through hell instead of from hell could have lived an entire life of fellowship with God. They missed out on something beautiful. I would never want to go back to the life I was living out of assurance I would eventually be saved. There would be too much I would have missed out on living for God and way too much I would have regretted and hurt myself with had I gone on in that path. 

So the idea that the absence of eternal hell renders the gospel meaningless is a sad symptom of how meaningless the gospel has become if we cannot appreciate it’s joys without the threat of eternal hell. 

Words that Penal Substitution uses that the Bible never put together.

If penal substitutionary atonement is such a core doctrine, why can’t we find any of it’s crucial words together in ANY bible? In every link notice the margin to the right. It will show any references of the same word combination in any other version of the bible. These have none or they have the same exact references noted, none of which apply to atonement issues.

debt + sin 0

debt + atonement 0

debt + sacrifice 0

sin  + substitution 0

(substitution alone appears 1 time and its the law forbidding a substitution of an animal tithe sacrifice)

Wrath  + sacrifice 0

offering + wrath 0

Anger + sacrifice 0

atonement + wrath 1

One reference and the atonement was not a blood sacrifice but instead incense. A symbol of prayer.

satisfy + satisfaction + satisfactory + wrath

One verse that has no atonement reference

satisfy + satisfactory + satisfaction + anger 0

wrath + cross 0

cross + anger 0

price + sin + death 0

owe + death 0

vengeance + sacrifice 

one unrelated to atonement

judgement + sacrifice 

1 unrelated to Jesus atonement

wrath + payment 0

redeem + redeemer + redemption + wrath + anger + judgement

One verse in Is. 54:8

“In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.” 

Gods kindness is so big it makes His wrath look small!

Now lets look for some words that DO appear together.

Based on the evidence what theory of atonement should we be proclaiming?

Sacrifice + love 2

died + love 3

Son of Man + ransom 2

Ransom + died 1


Admittedly the story of Abraham and Isaac involves a replacement sacrifice. But notice there is no wrath, anger or vengeance component in the story.  Neither is there a price needing paid or a satisfaction other than faith. In fact God stopped the Father from slaying his son. If Isaac was a shadow of Jesus, that means the Father did not kill Jesus or pour out his wrath on him.  If Isaac was a symbol of us, Abraham was not angry at Isaac. Why would such a huge part of the atonement narrative be absent such a central prophecy about Jesus? Yet a death did in fact occur in Isaacs place.

Did Jesus death deliver us from Gods judgement? Yes.

But does that mean God poured out his wrath judgement on Jesus? We can’t find that in the text. 

I can understand how this would be hard to let go of because we have been so conditioned. This is why its so bizarre that when investigating the terms, they are so conspicuously absent from the bible.