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Watering Down Hell

When most people think of hell, they picture unrelenting flames of wrath in some extra-dimensional realm on the outskirts of creation . . . totally without the presence of the Lord.

When it comes to hell, many Christians, including myself, have been accused of watering down the gospel simply because we question the doctrine of Endless Conscious Torment (ECT). Does this make us guilty of watering down the gospel? 

Many Christians believe there is only one Christian dictrine of hell. Oh, how many have been deceived! Historically, there has been three accepted doctrines of postmortem judgment. Today, many are ignorant of early church history and prone to accept whatever that are told from the pulpit. This is precisely why another great awakening is on the horizon.

Although I would deny that we who reject ECT water down the gospel, I would not deny that hell needs to be watered down . . . in one sense. 

Generally, the phrase “water down” has negative connotations, but, in certain contexts, it is absolutely a positive concept. The question is: Is it wise to water down the prevalent notion of hell? 

Honestly, I think this notion of hell needs to be eradicated, rather than watered down, but baby steps are often necessary when it comes to theology. Regardless, some sort of polemic is necessary because most Christians cannot separate their idea of hell from the gospel message.

It is widely known that “gospel” literally means “good news” and that it is for all people. However, according to most Christians, this “good news” is only actually good for a select few: either those God “predestined” to salvation or those who are fortunate enough to “believe in Jesus” before they die. 

Tell me, how good is this sort of news for the all people? Could God not have done any better than that? Will Adam and Satan turn out to have been far more destructive than Christ could have been restorative? Although most Christians scoff at that notion, ECT and Conditional Immortality (CI) logically leads to that conclusion. I would even go so far as to assert that those who would support that either of those doctrines are actually the ones who are watering down the gospel because they are fanning a doctrine of fear.

Ironically, the moment anyone asks these sorts of questions or entertains these concepts, they are accused of watering down the gospel. Is there no limit to the depths of absurdity?

We who trust in the absolute love, grace, and justice of God are the ones who are accused of assisting in the damnation of those who hear the really good news of Universal Reconciliation (UR) and, for one reason or another, decide to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait to come to Jesus until, one day, they die before actually getting around to it. If we are wrong about UR, the damnation of those poor souls is somehow on our shoulders. Of course, this is all speculative and dependent on the factuality of a dark theological concept.

Should we cease preaching the unfailing love of God simply because scare tactics are believed to be more persuasive? Are they? They may have been in the past, but threats of ECT run more people away from God, today, more than they ever have before. 

The pendulum swings both ways. If we are guilty of the damnation of the lost for giving them a “reason” to wait until it is too late, so too are others guilty of the damnation of the lost for running them away from God by portraying him as someone that they could not have honestly revered and loved.

The prevalent notion of hell doesn’t only need to be watered down; it needs to be extinguished, but that won’t happen without the assistance of we who have actually experienced and felt the beat of our heavenly Father’s heart. It is the love of God that draws us to the cross, rather than selfish fear. The church has to stop using the cross as a whip, because we are not God’s cattle, but his children; either prodigal or at home.

It is only when we see the fire of God in its proper context that the church will begin to multiply daily, as it once did. God is fire, but living water also flows freely from his fiery throne. Encourage others to swim freely in it; take down the signs that keep people away. The gates are open; they always will be.

If you are not yet free from such a fear, I must first ask: Do you want to be free from it? The first hurdle I had to overcome was to realize that I was enslaved to a mindset that impeded a proper understanding of God’s character. This hurdle was the most difficult because it was the first step in the process. 

Have you have rigorously studied UR and its scriptural roots or do you believe as you do because that is what your church condones? Are you willing to follow the scriptural command to test all things and to hold onto what is good and true? If so, I challenge you to play devil’s advocate and secretly “become” a believer in UR for a few months just to see whether or not it “fits” with your perception of God and your worship experience. 

If it’s not a fit for you, you can always come back to your prior beliefs . . . that is, if you believe that God’s grace is great enough to allow you to do some sincere research and experiments. Take your time and do this right. You may discover far more than you could have ever hoped, but nothing is possible until you take that first step.

God is Love and Love never fails. 

If God’s love isn’t unfailing for all, then it isn’t unfailing at all. If God’s love fails for just one person, then he is not Love because Love never fails.

Tell me, how does God express his unfailing love to those in hell?

In my book, I propose that the only means through which unfailing Love could be expressed, by God to humanity, is through the perpetual availability of his grace. Moreover, if grace ever becomes unavailable for anyone, at that moment, God’s grace is no longer unfailing and justice can no longer be brought to victory.

Unfortunately, when it comes to justice, most Christian’s think about what we deserve for our actions. We make it all about us rather than about Jesus. The more important question pertains to Jesus, not us: What does Jesus deserve?

When someone dies in their sins, they do Jesus more of an injustice than they do themselves. They owe Jesus a debt that cannot be rectified by Endless Conscious Torment or annihilation. Jesus deserves everybody’s faith and love. He died for it, after all. Until all are finally drawn to the cross, until all, in the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father, declare that Jesus is LORD, justice will not have been brought to victory. Until everything in heaven and on earth (above and below) are reconciled by the blood of the cross, all things will not have been set right and the cross has suffered defeat.

Unforsaken (An Agape Letter From Abba)

To whom it may concern,

You are mine, although I may not yet be yours. Whether you believe it or not, every soul is mine and I love each of them to the full. You are loved to the full. 

I have never, nor ever will I, forsake you. You may feel forsaken, but you are not alone. You may feel lost, but you are not lost to me. I know exactly where you are and I am coming to you to guide you home. 

I understand what it feels like to believe you are forsaken. My Son once felt similiarly. He could endure the physical pain of the cross, but the spiritual anguish was nearly more than he could bear. The sins of the world were, indeed, placed on his shoulders, but I did not forsake him because of it. Why would I?! He was within my will, after all. 

Nevertheless, as he became sin for you, he, for the first time, experienced its condemnation. It blurred his vision and he could no longer sense my presence, but I was there! I would never turn from him . . . he knew that! So, although he could not sense my presence, he released himself into my hands, in faith, with his final earthly breath. 

All this to say, Jesus was not forsaken so that you could be forgiven. No! He felt forsaken so that he could break the binds of sins deception for you. He defeated sin and, three days later, death. All that remains is for you to come home. I am always here, but you must forgive yourself and turn back home in order to see that this is true. I will never give up on you. You mean far too much to me to settle for anything less than restoration.

With a love that cannot fail,

Abba.

In Response to “The Case for Annihilation” from Renew.org

See the article to which I am responding here.

Annihilationism is the view that whoever and whatever cannot be redeemed by God is ultimately put out of existence.

In the very first sentence of this article, there are already philosophical issues. This statement presupposes that certain individuals cannot be redeemed by God. Many Christians will not see anything wrong with such a statement because that very thing must be presupposed in order to arrive at the prevalent doctrine of hell (ECT) or Annihilationism. This is precisely why many have not tested this presupposition.

Granted, it is not unthinkable to state that God cannot do some things because it is unanimously accepted by Christians that God does no wrong. However, it may be more appropriate to state that God will not do some things because they are against his nature. God will do no wrong.

So, lets put the premise stated above in this context. Can some people not be redeemed by God? Is he simply unable to redeem some people? Is it beyond his ability? If so, why is that? Is it against his nature to redeem some people? “Oh, but we have free will!” is the usual reaction to questions which point out the weak points of others’ presuppositions. Is God’s greater will for our lives limited by our will? To some extent, perhaps. But, since he sees the end from the beginning, would he will that which he knew he could not achieve?

Scripture assures us that he cares for our ultimate good. Perhaps this is why Scripture states that he works out evil for good. Seeing the end from the beginning, “In the beginning…” he declared creation good. No, he declared it “very good” with a full knowledge of what was to come. If he foreknew that a single person would be in torments forever and ever, could he truly state that Creation was “very good”? Annihilation may be one step up from the pits of hell, but it is not “very good.” Jesus is the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world so that it could be stated that he would reconcile all things in heaven and below.

If a Christian starts off with a faulty premise, the point of view which follows is bound to be faulty as well. ECT and CI both assume that there is some point in time that a person is deemed nonredeemable. (Seeing the end from the beginning, God knew who would be unredeemable long before the first beat of their hearts. Is it “very good” to will a single unredeemable soul into existence?) From the point of view of many Christians, it is the physical death of a person that deems them unredeemable. If this is true, what is it about the death that makes someone unredeemable? Has Jesus not defeated death? In one sense he has… Will he never defeat it to the full? If so, how is it that many believe so strongly that death will hold eternal power over the uncommitted? God either cannot save our souls after the death of our bodies or he will not save us hereafter. There is an all-too-obvious better option before us- God desires to save all; he is able to do so; therefore he will not fail in with this endeavor.

Throughout the Old Testament the Lord threatens the wicked with annihilation. To all who refused to comply with the covenant God had established, for example, the Lord vowed to “blot out their names from under heaven.”

Again, much is assumed. The natural reading of this passage suggests that this passage is referring to physical death. “The dead know nothing” passage is best interpreted likewise. The dead know nothing of earthly events. The only way we can honestly assume they were talking about annihilation is to assume they had a developed understanding of the concept. If I remember correctly, some idea of an underworld was much more prevalent during this age… Not to mention that CI fails to ask much about God’s nature beyond some end to suffering.

If I know anything about Christ, it is that he desires much more than an end to suffering for those who did not know God. Rather, he desires for humanity to have life and to have it abundantly. (Eternal life is to know God through Christ.) Divine Love wishes the best for the objects of his love; not the second best; with God, there is no “this is the best that you can get.” Is he who fathered creation unable to reconcile and restore his handiwork in accordance with God-given free will? If this is truly the desire of his heart, why would he limit his love, grace, and mercy to the span of our physical life?

At the end of the day, I reject CI for the same reason I reject ECT; it is not consistent with God’s grace, mercy, love, and justice to the full. In one way or another, each view places a bit more emphasis on at least one of those attributes.

Since CI admits that heaven could not be heaven when there is a torture pit in its basement, in closing, I would like to say that heaven could not be heaven without universal reconciliation. While I agree with its statement about ECT, it does not offer much of a solution. To annihilate someone I know and love would be to annihilate a part of myself… a part of my memory and maybe even a part of my very being. We are who we are because of the effect others have had on us. To truly annihilate someone would require God to wipe them out of our memories as well… and to do that would be to alter the very fiber of our being.

I can only hope that God is victorious to the full. Otherwise, we are in for a world of contradictions.

If you’d like to read more about the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, I have written a book on this topic. Click here!

The “Test All Things” Podcast & Book Interview

I will be launching a podcast in the near future. It will be entitled the Test All Things podcast. Between each episode, there will be a Q&A session for the previous episode. I am looking for cohosts for each Q&A session. If you are interested, please contact me.

I will release one episode for each chapter of my book, beginning with chapter 3. If you’d like to cohost a particular chapter’s Q&A session, I will reserve it for you.

The first episode is an introductory episode and will not have a Q&A session. I am currently working on the content for Episode 2 (Chapter 3: Heretically Orthodox Faith). I will publish 2 episode per week. The first week will be three: introductory episode, main episode, and Q&A episode. If you reserve a latter chapter, it may be a while before we do it.

I will be seeking cohosts continuously. If you prefer a particular chapter, reserve it ASAP. Note: You will have an opportunity to mention any of your writings or projects. 

“Until next time . . . Shalom be unto you.” {closing phrase :)}

Also, I will be having a book interview with the Wandering Pilgrim’s broadcast on YouTube at 9pm EST. I have created an event in my author page where you can say that you will be attending so that you will be notified beforehand. To do so click here!

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