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Will all be saved? or will some suffer for eternity?
"Christian Universalism" is the label given to the teaching that says that eventually all people will enjoy the holiness and happiness of heaven, made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus. Christian Universalism is a doctrine, not a denomination. Christian Universalism accepts the basic truth of Christianity that God, out of His great love of lost humanity, came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, to seek and to save that which was lost, and apart from Jesus there is no way to come to God.

The Universalist view is currently not a common view among Christians. Not too long ago, I too found the idea that "everybody will be saved" as absurd and offensive, but it was through honestly examining the idea that I became convinced it is the truth. A bit like the Atheist that became convinced of God's existence while trying to disprove it.

The following are some of the main reasons why I believe everybody will eventually have a happy existence in the afterlife, and why I reject the idea that some will suffer never ending torment.

God's Character
-Is God all powerful? Could God save everybody? If God can save everybody why wouldn't He? Is it not a mockery of God's almightiness and all powerfulness to say that God wants to save everybody but can't?
-How forgiving is God? Can He forgive the sins of some people? Can He forgive the sins of all people?  If He can why wouldn't He?
-Scripture says that it is God's will that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4) Other Scriptures seem to say that God works out all things according to His will, for His will can't be stopped from coming to pass. (Ephesians 1:11, Daniel 4:35, Job 42:2, Isaiah 46:10)
-Can you imagine Jesus torturing anybody?
-God loves each of us more than the best parent loves their children. Could a loving parent ever reject their child forever, or allow them to suffer forever, if they have the power to save them or put them out of their misery?
-Scripture says Hell and those whose name is not in the book of life, will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). Everything God does is an act of love, if the lake of fire is a place people are cured and made pure, then putting them there until they are clean is an act of love, but if there is no purpose other than to make them suffer, how can it be an act of love? Will not the lake of fire burn away everything which should be removed, such as the evil desires and attitudes?
-Scripture says God is slow to anger (Psalm 145:8) and His anger endures but a moment (Psalm 30:5), and His anger does not last forever (Jeremiah 3:12, Micah7:18). Scripture states over 40 times that God's mercy endures for ever (1 Chronicles 16:34). So can God be angry with anybody for ever?
-Surely even the greatest enemy of God would be sorry after suffering in fiery torment for some time, and cry out to God for help and mercy, could God turn His back on them for ever?
-Does God desire to keep many of His children suffering endlessly? No, Scripture says His desire is that all be saved, and for that reason Jesus came and died, and is now at work in the world. Will Jesus fail in God's purpose? Will there be even one lost sheep that remains lost for eternity?
-Scripture describes God as a loving father. God punishes people for the same reason a loving parent punishes a child. Would a good parent punish their child with never ending torture? would God? God's acts of punishment are acts of love, to correct and make better.
-Is it not contradictory to say nothing is impossible for God, then claim that God can only save from eternal torment those who choose to believe in Jesus in this life?
-Can anybody resist God's love for eternity?
-In the beginning of time it was God's plan that all mankind have eternal life, for God created Adam and Eve to live forever. God's desire that all mankind enjoy eternal life has not changed, for God does not change. Is it not foolish to say that anything can stop Almighty God from eventually fulfilling His original plan?
-How could a loving and good God allow or cause anybody to suffer for eternity? Most people if they found a fatally injured animal writhing in pain, would seek to put it out of its misery. How can anybody believe our merciful Creator would be able to stand back and watch people being tormented for eternity, while having the power to end it. If God was willing to give His Son Jesus for the salvation of humanity, will He not do absolutely everything in His power to keep people from suffering for eternity.

God's Promise of Universal Restoration in the World
-Scripture speaks often about a time of restitution when all things both in heaven and on the earth will be restored to the way they were before mankind sinned (Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:10, Acts 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 15:28). Did suffering and sorrow exist before sin entered the world? Can any kind of suffering or sorrow exist anywhere in a world that is restored into perfect harmony with God?
-Scripture says one day there will be no more curse (Revelation 22:3), is suffering, and sorrow a part of the curse? Can any kind of suffering exist in a world with no curse? Can anybody suffer torment in a world where there is no curse?
-Suffering is classed as something evil, can any form of suffering exist in a world from which all evil has been removed?

Jesus' Teachings
-Jesus told a story about a shepherd that had 100 sheep, one of them became lost, and so the shepherd left the 99 to save the 1 lost sheep. Jesus taught that God is like the good shepherd, He will seek the 1 lost sheep and bring it back home, so that not even one will be lost.
-Would Jesus say "I will save you from never ending suffering if you will love me and follow me" or would He say "I have loved you so much I died for your sins, will you love me and follow me?"
-Jesus spoke of God the father giving Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as he has been given (John 17:2).
-Jesus said His mission on earth was not to judge or condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:16-17).
-Jesus also said that when He would be lifted up off the earth, He would draw all to Himself (John 12:32) the same word "draw" is used when the disciples where trying to "draw" a great net full of fish onboard their boat (John 21:6). Can Jesus draw all people into Heaven?
-If there was anybody that deserved the worst punishment in the afterlife, surely it would be those that saw the glory of God in the person of Jesus, yet killed Him. The fact is on the cross Jesus showed forgiveness even towards them (Luke 23:34).
-When Jesus disciples said "Who then can be saved?" Jesus said to them "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:26-27). If God can save some sinners, is it any harder for Him to save all?
-Jesus spoke of some being thrown into a "furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:41-42, 13:50), in the Old Testament "furnace" is used to signify temporary earthly trials and afflictions such as slavery (Deuteronomy 4:20, 1 Kings 8:51, Jeremiah 11:4, Isaiah 31:9, 48:10, Ezekiel 22:18-22)
-Jesus gave a new law to the Church that we must love others as He loves us, He even commanded that we treat others better than the law of Moses dictated (Matthew 5:38-39). Jesus also commanded us to love and bless our enemies. If God tells us to do that to our enemies will He do something different to those that hate Him?
-Jesus has promised to give the water of life freely to those that thirst (John 7:37, Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:17). Is anybody excluded from this free offer? Will some be rejected? Can anybody be thirsty for eternity?

Logic and Commonsense
-If the punishment for sin was eternal torment, should not Jesus have suffered eternal torment? Scripture says the wages of sin is death, and Jesus paid the price. Is there anything more to pay?
-If Jesus died for everybody, then will not everybody be saved? John the Baptist said: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
-How can somebody enjoy Heaven if somebody they love is suffering unending fiery torment?
-Hell and the lake of fire must have a purpose, for God does everything for a reason, If the purpose of Hell and the lake of fire are not to correct and cleanse, what are their purpose?
-God is perfect, everything He does is perfect, His plans are perfect and whatever He sets to do He will accomplish perfectly. Would a perfect plan allow for even a single soul to be lost for eternity? If even one soul was lost for eternity, would not God have failed to fully execute His perfect plan?
-Unsaved mankind is in bondage to sin, blinded by Satan and brainwashed by the world. Now to say God would give such people the responsibility of making a decision about their eternal destiny is like a father asking an immature and ignorant child to make choices that have life-long consequences, like "do you want to go to school?" or "Do you want to brush your teeth?" Is God's grace limited by the good or bad decisions of carnal and spiritually blind people?

Scripture in General
-If Hell is such a horrible place as it is made out to be, why is the Bible so silent about it? The Old Testament says very little, and speaks nothing of eternal torment. In the New Testament Hell is not even mentioned in all the Gospel accounts, for the gospel of John never refers to Hell, and Paul who wrote most of the New Testament never mentions a place called Hell in his writings.
-The idea  that God will allow some to suffer for eternity has no undisputable foundation in Scripture.

New Testament Scriptures
-Scripture states that if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and will believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) The Scripture also speaks of a day when every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:11). Will not everybody then be saved?
-When Jesus was born, the angel of the Lord told some shepherds that the message about Jesus is good news for ALL people (Luke 2:10). Is it good news to say to somebody "follow Jesus or suffer in Hell forever?" Nobody in the Bible ever said that. The fact is Jesus is looking for people who will love Him not because of fear or force, but by faith and free will.
-Following Jesus because you fear He will send you to Hell otherwise, is like being married to someone because you fear they will kill you if you don't marry them. Do you think Jesus wants that?
-Jesus did not die only for certain people, but for sinners (Romans 5:7-8), and all people are sinners (Romans 3:23). Every sinner belongs to Jesus, for He has bought them with His own blood. He has not bought them to destroy them or torture them, but to save them.
-If Jesus has already suffered for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), Is there any sin left to be paid for?
-Scripture says all things created were created by and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16), Scripture also says He died on the cross to reunite all earthly and heavenly things to Himself (Colossians 1:20), can anything remain separated from God for all eternity?
-John in his prophetic writings described seeing and hearing how every creature, in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that are in them, was saying "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever" (Revelation 5:13). Is this not describing the world in its completeness, once again in perfect harmony and unity with God and one another?
-Scripture says that those that overcome will rule with Christ over the nations (Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:21, Revelation 22:5, Revelation 20:4,6). If only Christians are saved who are the nations that they will rule over? Jesus also told His twelve disciples that in the time of restitution, they would sit on twelve thrones ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28), Jesus also taught through parables that those that had been faithful to God in this life would be put in charge of much in God's eternal kingdom (Luke 19:11-26). Paul also stated that "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26).
-Scripture states that the goodness of God leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). If somebody hurts you, is it more likely they will feel sorry for what they have done if you hurt them back or if you respond with words and deeds of love? Hurting them back may cause them to regret what they did, but it probably won't encourage them to love you. Should Christians be telling people about a God who is going to pay them back for their sins, or should they be telling them Jesus has suffered and died for their sins? Which is promoting fear, which is promoting faith?
-Caiaphas the high priest the year Jesus was crucified, received a revelation from God that it was better that one man die for the people, so that the whole nation should not perish and not only them, but so that all the scattered children of God would be gathered together as one (John 11:49-52).

Various Old Testament Scriptures Used to Support Universalism
-In a vision the prophet Daniel saw the "Son of man" being honoured as the supreme ruler of an everlasting kingdom, and served by all people nations and languages (Daniel 7:13-14).
-A prophet called Malachi said God is like a fire that refines metal, he also said that one day God will sit and purify certain people (Malachi 3:2-3). So could the lake of fire speak of some form of purifying punishment? Could it be something that causes people to be cleaned of everything that keeps them from God, just as fire purifies metals like gold?
-In the Old Testament God promised Abraham that all the families and nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed, which is Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:3, Genesis 22:17-18, Galatians 3:8, Galatians 3:16). Will all be blessed if some suffer eternal torment?
-In the psalms there is a prophecy about all the ends of the world remembering and turning to the Lord, and all the families of the nations worshipping God. (Psalm 22:27)

-Is it justice for people to suffer for all eternity because of temporary disobedience? What sin deserves endless misery? In the Law of Moses, punishments were given in proportion to the crime committed, an eye for an eye etc (Exodus 21:24-30, Leviticus 24:20-21, Deuteronomy 19:21). According to this judicial logic which God Himself established and authorized, to be guilty of eternal suffering, you must have inflicted eternal suffering on somebody, is that not impossible?
-A God of justice would announce the cost of sinning to His children before they sinned, and that is exactly what God did. He made it clear that eating the forbidden fruit would cause death. God did not say they might suffer never ending torment.
-Logic says that infinite punishment for finite sin is not justice, Suffering for eternity is a penalty worse than any crime we can commit.
-If everybody deserves endless punishment, wouldn't it be unfair of God to save only some?

All Inclusive Scriptures
The Bible repeatedly uses all inclusive words such as "all" in reference to salvation, this seems to make a strong case for the eventual salvation of all:

"For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:10)
"Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:6)
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man." (Hebrews 2:9)
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4)
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22)
"Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." (Romans 5:18)
"For God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." (Romans 11:32)
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." (1 Timothy 1:15)
"For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)
"For the Son of man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." (Luke 9:56)
"For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." (1 Peter 3:18)

The Word "Eternal"
-The words "everlasting" and "eternal" in the New Testament are translated from the Greek word "aion", from which we get the English word "eon" which is a limited period of time, the same word is often translated as "age" in the Bible, such as in Ephesians 2:7, Colossians 1:26. Is it possible the punishment of the wicked lasts only for an age or a limited period of time?
-The phrase "everlasting punishment" is used only once in scripture (Matthew 25:46), the Greek word for punishment used here can be used to describe the act of pruning trees to make them better. So the punishment referred to in this passage seems to be an act of love, that seeks to improve and fix the person. And "everlasting" is translated from the word "aionios", which is a adjectival form of "aion".

Hell In the Hebrew Old Testament
In the Old Testament the word "Hell" is used about 31 times, it is translated from the Hebrew word "Sheol" which occurs 65 times in the Old Testament, it is translated "grave" 31 times and "pit" 3 times. Perhaps it is best translated "grave-pit". The word portrays something "beneath" the earth, it speaks of death, the grave, a pit and the place of dead souls (Psalms 16:10). "Sheol" is never used in the Bible to signify punishment after death. The word "Sheol" is often used figuratively in the Bible (2 Samuel 22:6, Psalms 116:3, Proverbs 15:24), just as the word "Hell" can be used figuratively today. Jonah used the word "Sheol" (translated Hell) to describe being inside the belly of a large fish (Jonah 2:2). That does not mean Hell is in the belly of a large fish. It can be easily concluded that Hell in the Old Testament simply described the grave, the place where dead people go.

In the Old Testament Sheol was not a place of torment or punishment, for Jacob spoke of going there (Genesis 37:35, 42:38, 44:29-31), Job longed for it (Job 14:13), David spoke of going there (Psalm 49:15), King Solomon taught his audience to work hard while on the earth for there is no work in "Sheol", the place they were going (Ecclesiastes 9:10), and even Jesus went there (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:24-31).

Hell In the Greek New Testament
In the New Testament, there are three Greek words which are translated as "hell"

1) Hades - spoke not only of the grave but also of the place of the dead or the unseen world.

The Greek word "Hades" comes from the verb "a-eido", meaning "not to see", so Hades simply refers to "the unseen world" or "the world concealed from sight."

The writer of Acts used the Greek word "Hades" to translate the Hebrew word "Sheol", when He spoke of the Old Testament prophecy of Jesus' soul not being left in Hell (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27). So it can be concluded that "Hades" is the New Testament Greek equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew "Sheol".

2) Tartarus - used once in the Bible to describe the place of fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4), in Greek Mythology it was a dark underworld, and some kind of a prison.

3) Gehenna - When Jesus spoke of Gehenna His Hebrew audience knew what He was talking about. It was an actual geographical location south of Jerusalem in the valley of Hinnom. The name Gehenna is a transliteration of the Hebrew "Gai Hinnom", meaning "valley of [the sons of] Hinnom" (Joshua 15:8, 2 Chronicles 33:6). It was a place children were offered as sacrifices to pagan gods in Old Testament times (Jeremiah 7:31, 2 Kings 23:10). In Jesus day it was a place for dumping garbage, dead animal and human corpses such as those of executed criminals. It contained fires that never went out because of the continual dumping of trash there. This repulsive and infamous place came to symbolize all that was associated with separation from God, namely death and destruction. Gehenna also reminded people of God's wrath and fiery judgement, for Jeremiah had prophesied it would one day be filled with many Israelite corpses, slaughtered as a result of abandoning God and His ways (Jeremiah 7:31-33, Jeremiah 19:11-14). It is quite possible many of the Jews to whom Jesus had preached, where actually buried in Gehenna when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans only a few decades after they where warned by Jesus. Which was possibly the fulfilment of Jeremiah's prophecy.

Gehenna spoke of rejection, for it was a place of rejected things, to call somebody a "child of Gehenna" would be to call them a reject. Gehenna described the state in which God's chosen people would find themselves if they continued to reject Him and His ways.

History of the English word Hell
The meaning of words change with time, therefore when we read the word "hell" in Old English Bible translations such as the King James Version of the 1600's, it is helpful to study the history of the English word "hell" to better understand the meaning implied by the translators.

The English word "hell" originally came from the Anglo-Saxon word "hel" which was a genitive form of the word "helle" meaning "a hidden place", also the word "helan" meant to cover or conceal. Such a primitive meaning is found in the English word hole, ie a hole in the ground. If something was buried in a pit, it could be said to be in an Anglo-Saxon "hel" or hidden place. Something that covers the head is a "helmet".

In some parts of England to cover a building with a roof with tiles or thatch was "to hell the building," and the job was done by people called "helliers", it has also been said that seventeenth century Englishmen used to refer to burying potatoes for the winter as "putting their potatoes in hell".

Related Germanic forms of hell include German "Hölle", Dutch "hel", and Swedish "helvete" ("vete" means "punishment").

So it can be said that the Anglo-Saxon hel is a direct equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol.
Brought to you by Terje Ronneberg
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