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(AKA: Universal Reconciliationism, Universal Restitutionism, Universal Restorationism, Universal Salvationism)

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Christians generally agree that in the afterlife true believers will enjoy unending bliss in heaven with God. However, there are some varying views and uncertainty about the final destiny of the rest of humanity, especially the wicked. Some believe unbelievers will be tormented forever without end, in this article I call this view Damnationism. Another view commonly known as Annihilationism says that those that don't make it to heaven will eventually cease to exist in any form, there will be no trace left of them, they will vanish into nothing, they will be completely annihilated. Then there is the Universalist view that says eventually everybody will enjoy a happy afterlife, for God will save everyone from everything they need to be saved from. Proponents of each view use Scriptures to back up what they believe, but the fact remains each of the views cannot be equally true.

Before going on, it should be stated Christians generally agree that a person can be a Christian and believe absolutely anything about Hell, and the afterlife. Because a person does not become a Christian by understanding and accepting a certain set of teachings or principles, but rather by having a personal relationship with God through the person of Jesus Christ.

Christian Universalism is not a denomination nor a religious group. It is simply a label given to the certain beliefs about the afterlife held by Christians of a wide range of backgrounds and denominations. There are different forms and varieties of Christian Universalism, but they all have in common the idea that eventually everybody will have a happy existence in eternity. Exclusivism or Exclusionism are some of the labels given to non-universalist teachings that say eternal happiness is reserved for an exclusive group, from which some are excluded.

As with all labels "Universalism" means many different things to many different people. Christian Universalism is not the same as the Universalism of other religious movements, like the New-Ageist belief that Jesus is just one of many ways to harmony with the divine, neither is it related to the Gnostic belief that there is no sin, and therefore nothing we need salvation from.

Christian Universalists accept 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 Jesus is the only "way" for sinners to come to God. They also believe those who fail to follow Jesus in this life, will still be saved through Him, but they will not receive the same inheritance in the eternal kingdom.

Universalists base their beliefs on Scriptures that speak of universal reconciliation and restitution of all things both in heaven and earth (Colossians 1:20, Ephesians 1:10, Acts 3:20-21). They believe Jesus died for all people, and the fruit of His victory over death and sin will eventually be enjoyed by everybody. They believe God's grace is greater than the greatest sinner.

Universalists believe the idea that God would cause or allow anybody to suffer never ending torment, has no foundation in the rock of God's revealed Truth. They do not necessarilly reject the possibility that some may be punished, or suffer some kind of loss after death, but they do not believe any such punishment will be never ending.

Most Christians including Universalists agree that God is ultimately sovereign, all things are in His control, nothing happens without His permission, nothing is a surprise to God, for He knows the end from the beginning. Universalists also believe everything is predestined according to God's perfect plan. Exclusionists believe God in His sovereignty has only chosen some to have a happy existence in the afterlife. Universalists believe God has chosen to save everybody, but has also chosen for Himself Christians to be a special class of people or as the Bible calls them a "peculiar people" (1 Peter 2:9, Titus 2:14).

Personal Note
The Universalist view isn't currently a common view. Not too long ago, I personally too found the idea that "everybody will be saved" as absurd, 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.

It is not my intention to indoctrinate people with my fallible views and opinions, I simply wish to share the truths I believe and my reasons for believing them. My writings will either confirm or challenge your own beliefs. It remains your God-given right and responsibility to honestly weigh and examine all the evidence before you and decide what you will believe is the truth. Just remember, true seekers of the truth must be prepared to sacrifice their pet dogmas on the altar of honest inquiry.

A prominent feature of religion in the dark ages was the lack of freedom of thought, people were pressured into unquestioningly submitting to the views of dictatorial leaders, who claimed they alone had the divine right and ability to interpret the Scriptures. History teaches us that the kingdom of Truth is not furthered by coercion and censorship, but by love and liberty. That is why one of the foundations of Protestant Christianity is the freedom of the common people to read and interpret the Scriptures for themselves, without having to submit to the views and scrutiny of any individual or institution that may claim to be the sole guardian of the truth. God gave each of us a brain, so we could each think for ourselves.

Why is the issue of Universalism important? Because the character of God is in question. Somebodies faith in God can be shaken by teachings that paint Him as being cruel, illogical, merciless, irrational, unjust, unfair, self-contradictory or inconsistent with common sense.

A false image or understanding of God may:
-Cause confusion
-Be an intellectual stumbling block to progressing in the truth
-Create fear instead of building faith
-Be the cause of deep distress and worry for ourselves and our loved ones.
-Cause our teaching to repel others from God and the truth
-Cause us to be harsh, judgmental or something else, if we live in the likeness of the false image we have of God.
-Cause our relationship with Him to suffer.

Some may think Universalists have a lower view of Jesus, but when comparing the Universalist view to the Exclusionist view it can be easily argued that Universalists have a higher view of Jesus, His power, His grace, His love, and even His fairness. For Universalists believe everybody will eventually benefit from what Jesus achieved on the cross, while Non-Universalists believe only a select few will benefit from His enormous sacrifice. The Christian Universalist sees the Lord as a doctor who will save and cure all sinners. While the non-Universalist sees the Lord as a doctor who tries and wants to save everybody, but fails to do so miserably.

Those that believe that God can and will save everybody, believe in a God who has long arms, from which nobody is beyond reach. When Moses questioned Gods ability provide food for all of Israel, God answered saying: "Is the LORD's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you" (Numbers 11:23). Those that question God's ability to save the whole world, might get the same answer.

In many other Scriptures we learn how foolish it is to underestimate God's power and ability do something: "Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst." (Isaiah 50:2) "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." (Isaiah 59:1) "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27)

Can we ever be guilty of overestimating God's power and love? If Universalists are wrong they are guilty of overestimating God's love and power, if the Exclusionists are wrong then they are guilty of overestimating God's wrath and underestimating His power, which would would you rather be guilty of?

Some might think eternal torment has always been a foundational teaching of Christianity, and to reject it, is to reject Christianity. However the final destiny of the unbelievers has been debated since early times. From early Christian writings we can read that Universalist beliefs existed throughout early Church history. One of the early Church fathers most famous for Universalism was Origen (185-254 AD), and His Universalist views can be read in his writings: "First Principles" (De Principiis). Another prominent Christian leader that was famous for Universalism was Gregory of Nyssa (331-395), he was a man that played an important role in shaping the Nicene creed. His Universalist views can be found in his book "The Soul and the Resurrection".

In the early centuries, every so often a large number of Christian leaders held council together to discuss the teachings of Christianity, with the aim of setting apart truth from fallacy. Interestingly, the four great General Councils held in the first four centuries, Nice (325 AD), Constantinople (381 AD), Ephesus (431 AD), and Chalcedon (451 AD), show no evidence of formally condemning Universalism, though it was a common belief throughout those times. Historical evidence would show that Universalism found little or no resistance in the first four hundred years of Christianity, and it may very well have been the majority view. Even the earliest Christian creeds, such as The Apostles Creed, do not contain anything that contradicts Universalism, none speak of some suffering unending torment in the afterlife.

However as the Church moved closer towards the dark ages (beginning around 476 AD), the more and more the teaching of Universalism began to be opposed, and eventually it almost completely faded into the darkness, as was the fate of many other great Christian truths in those days of great ignorance and corruption. It was a time when all kinds of evil teachings and practices contaminated a large portion of the so called Christianity of the day. Such as idolizing objects and individuals like Mary the mother of Jesus, and making forgiveness of sins something to be bought with money.

Forgotten truths smouldered in the darkness until the times of reformation which began in the 1500's, a time when people began to think for themselves again, and a time when many smothered truths burst into flames once more. Universalism too was rekindled, and was embraced by many, for example the Anabaptist Christians of Germany were Universalists, and were condemned for such beliefs, as is evidenced in the Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1530, which states in article 17: "They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils". Interestingly the same confession condemns the Anabaptists for also believing: "children are saved without Baptism" (Article 19). In other words, it seems those that made this confession believed in a God that would not even save unbaptised babies!

The Church and society of that age was not freed from the pollution of past corruption overnight, after all it had been stuck in the slime pit of ignorance, superstition, and oppression for many centuries. It is almost to be expected that some remnants of falsehood would have remained encrusted to the newly emerged Protestant movement. Perhaps the teaching of unending punishment seen in early Protestantism is an example of such dust from the dark ages which deserves to be washed away with the Word of God.

Since the early days of reformation to now, Universalism has found adherents in every generation, and continues to find new admirers among Christians from all walks of life. Though Universalism is not preached in most Churches today, it is also quite uncommon to hear preachers speak of "eternal torment". Such a silence speaks loudly of where they stand, either they do not believe in eternal torment themselves, or they lack the conviction and confidence to preach it as the perfect truth of God. Perhaps the Spirit of Truth is at work in their hearts.

The word "reconcile" means to bring back a former state of harmony, or to bring back to it's original state. For example, a women is reconciled to her divorced husband when she returns to Him (1 Corinthians 7:11). Paul wrote about Jesus saying: "having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." (Colossians 1:20). Paul also wrote saying: "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:28) The writer of Acts talks about: "the times of restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21). The word "restitution" means to restore to a former state.

Scriptures such as these can be understood as saying that at some point in the future there will be time of restitution when all things both in heaven and on the earth will be restored into harmony with God, just as all things were once in harmony before mankind sinned in the garden of Eden.

Did suffering and sorrow exist before sin entered the world? Of course not, then how can any kind of suffering or sorrow exist in a world that is restored into perfect harmony with God? Suffering and sorrow did not exist before sin polluted creation, therefore they will no longer plague any corner of creation after the world has been restored into harmony with God. If any suffering or sorrow could be found anywhere in the future perfect world, it would fall short of its former glory.

-Scripture says there will be a time when "there shall be no more curse" (Revelation 22:3), is suffering, and sorrow not a part of the curse? Then how could any kind of suffering exist in a world with no curse?

-God has "purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:" (Ephesians 1:9-10). God has said in the Scriptures "Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isaiah 14:24), it is clear from Scripture that what God has purposed must come to pass (Isaiah 14:27). And God has purposed  to gather in one all things in Christ.

-The Scriptures make it clear that not everybody is saved or reconciled at the same time. "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:6). "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order" (1 Corinthians 15:22-24). At present Christians are those God has chosen, and called to be the Bride of Christ.

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 a time in the future, when everything will be in perfect harmony with God and one another?

There will not be any evil people in that glorious future. Sinners will no longer be sinners, and the wicked will not remain wicked, for all will have been transformed. God will make all people new, for God made a promise saying "I make all things new" (Revelation 21:4-5).

I do believe in hell, and the lake of fire, I just believe whatever they are they will be temporary. I believe eventually all beings will be drawn to God by His great love. It may take some time, but God will not give up until every single soul has been recovered and restored, like the widow who sought the lost coin in Jesus' parable (Luke 15:8-10).

Jesus was on the earth restoring the world into a relationship with God, Christians on the earth today are continuing that ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

God has many titles such as, Creator, King, Judge and Shepherd, maybe most comforting of all is the title Father. As the best father anybody can have, He loves the whole family of humanity with an unconditional love, which is far greater than the love any human parent can show a child.

Could a loving parent ever reject his or her child forever, or allow them to suffer forever, especially if they had the power to save them, or put them out of their misery? of course not, how much less would our Father in Heaven!

Some say punishment for sin, is not punishment enough if it doesn't last for eternity. But, what kind of a parent punishes a child eternally for disobedience?

Why do parents punish children? God punishes people for the same reason a loving parent punishes a child, to bring about repentance and restoration. Acts of punishment also serve as a preventative warning to those that are tempted to disobey in a like manner. God's acts of punishment are acts of love, to correct and make better. Sometimes God has punished nations and groups of people collectively, for example it could be said God punished Israel with things like famine, plagues and military defeat when they abandoned Him. The fact is they really punished themselves by abandoning the spiritual fortress they'd had in God. When almost the whole world had become exceedingly corrupt in the days of Noah, God did what any good doctor would do with a cancer in an otherwise healthy body. Out of love for humanity he cut out that which was corrupt, so the rest might prosper.

The purpose of God's punishment always has man's highest good at heart (Hebrews 12:10-11). God seeks to separate the evil from the good, punishment hurts, but it is like the fire which separates impurities from gold, or surgery that removes a diseased growth from a healthy body. God's punishment is remedial not eternally fatal or damaging. Children need correction, and remedial punishment, but no good parent tortures their children for doing wrong. And just as force should be the last resort for parents, so too God is very patient with His wayward children.

In human institutions, such as families, and societies, a basic governing principle is that those that refuse to surrender wilfully will be subjected forcefully. Punishment is a means of forcefully breaking a persons stubborn will into subjection to that which is right. Just as a wild horse needs to be broken in, before it is fit for its owners use. So too the will of man needs to become one with the will of God. God shapes us through His love, Spirit, and Truth. Sometimes in His love God lets us experience unpleasant events so that our character might be refined by them, and sometimes we suffer bad things as a direct result of abandoning God's ways.

God's punishments are not acts of retribution or repaying evil for evil, for God tells us not to repay evil for evil, it would be wrong for Him to do so Himself. Punishment is always a result of breaking a law. Natural laws such as gravity seem to punish those that try to defy them, so too those that seek to defy God's spiritual laws will be punished. The worldling says, I don't need God, I can do it my way. Like a stubborn child playing with fire, who is to blame when they get burned?

Jesus did speak about the the future of unrepentant sinners very seriously. Jesus felt great sorrow for the people of Jerusalem because He knew they were going to face God's judgment and wrath (Luke 19:41-44). Jerusalem did suffer horrendous destruction because the people continued to turn their backs on God and follow the path of destruction.

Who is to blame when a glutton, sexually deviant person or a drug abuser refuses to turn from their destructive lifestyle and dies as a result of their chosen lifestyle? Is it not they who broke the laws of God and nature. As long as people are living a life that is in conflict with God's laws, they are on the path of death and destruction, they will inevitably suffer, and their only hope is to turn from their evil ways, and turn to God.

From the teachings of Jesus we can learn of God's great love for all people. Jesus told a story of a shepherd who had 100 sheep (Luke 15, Matthew 18). One of the sheep became lost, and so the shepherd left the 99 to save the one lost sheep, and when he found it, He had great joy. Jesus taught that God is like that shepherd. A major point in this parable was to reveal to us the great joy God has when one lost soul is restored into unity with Him. But it also teaches us how much God loves every single one of us, and how he will go to great lengths to save each and every one of us. It is important to note that eventually 100 out of the 100 sheep were safe. We need to ask would God allow even one lost soul to remains lost for eternity?

When speaking to His father of Himself Jesus said:  "As you have given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given him." (John 17:2).

Jesus said "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), note this scripture does not say some of the world.

Jesus also said "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." (John 12:32). The same original word for "draw" (Helkuo) is also used when the disciples where trying to "draw" a great net full of fish onboard their boat (John 21:6). So just like a fisherman drawing in nets full of fish, Jesus said He will draw to Himself all men.

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 sinners? -Some believe God saves only a few because He only chooses a few, but if God can choose a few, surely He can choose all.

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?

Think about it, 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?"

-Is God all-powerful? Could God save everybody? If he can't doesn't that mean He is not all-powerful? If God can save everybody why wouldn't He? Is it not a mockery of God's almightiness and all powerfulness to say that He wants to save everybody but He can't? Is it not foolish to say God wants to save all, but lacks the power, wisdom, goodness, grace or something else to do so?
-God is the sovereign, supreme and almighty Creator of all things, what He wants He gets. If He wants to save everybody, He will make it happen! If we ourselves could determine our eternal destiny, God would not be sovereign.
-How forgiving is God? Can He forgive the sins of some people? If He can do that, surely it is not any harder for Him to forgive the sins of all people?
-Scripture clearly 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 what God has purposed or willed He will bring to pass, and there is nothing that can stop His will from coming to pass (Ephesians 1:11, Daniel 4:35, Job 42:2, Isaiah 46:10).  Daniel wrote regarding God: "...and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can strike his hand, or say to him, What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35) Isaiah wrote: "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Isaiah 46:10). God has said His word will do everything He sent it to do. "So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11). Will not Jesus the Living Word sent by God, accomplish all that He was sent to do? Namely save the world?
-Can you imagine Jesus torturing anybody? Or allowing somebody to be tortured for eternity because they hated him? If you find this hard to imagine, be reminded that Jesus was the perfect image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3).
-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. Therefore God throwing people into the lake of fire must be for their own good, it must be of some kind of eternal benefit to them, perhaps it will be a means by which they will be brought into repentance, or purified in some way. If the lake of fire has no other purpose than to make people suffer, then how can it be an act of love? Would not being thrown in a lake of fire cause people to forsake their sinfulness and cause them to seek God's mercy?
-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 fiery torment for any amount of 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?
-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 during this life?
-Can anybody resist God's love for eternity? Is there any darkness light cannot overcome?
-In the beginning of time God's original plan and purpose for us was to live forever with Him in the perfection of paradise, this is how it was with Adam and Eve in the beginning. God's purpose and will for mankind cannot change, for God does not change. From paradise we fell, to paradise we will be restored. Will not Almighty God 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 help it or 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.
-The character and nature of God is love (1 John 4:8), and Scripture commands us to love our enemies in God's likeness, "for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35).
-Does not everlasting punishment require a God of everlasting wrath and hatred and not a God of everlasting love and mercy?
-If God's mercy endures forever, how can some claim He will damn to eternal torment those that fail to express love and faith toward Him before a certain "deadline."

-If the punishment for sin was eternal torment, should not Jesus have suffered eternal torment when he died for our sins?
-Scripture says the wages of sin is death? 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? For which sins would somebody be eternally punished for?
-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?

-If Hell is such a horrible place as it is often 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 mentioned often, it is not found in the gospel of John, 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 all eternity has no undisputable foundation in Scripture.

-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 a gospel that promises heaven for a few and eternal damnation for many really good news? It is the nature of "good news" to bring joy not fear. 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 by their own free will.
-Becoming a follower of Jesus because you fear He will send you to Hell otherwise, is like getting married to someone because you fear they will kill you if you don't. Do you think Jesus wants a relationship based on such a fear?
-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, because He has bought them with His own blood. He has not bought them to destroy them or torture them, but to save them!
-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?
-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). 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). Scripture also says: "Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 6:2), to "judge" generally means to rule over, just as the judges in the Old testament ruled over Israel. Scripture calls Christians saints. So if only Christians will be saved, who will they rule over?
-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).

-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/remedial 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?
-For those under the mosaic law, the rewards and punishments promised by God were earthly only. Such as health, long life, peace, prosperity, and freedom, etc. Diseases, premature death, war, famine, need, subjections, and slavery, etc. Nowhere in the Mosaic books is there a single mention or hint of rewards nor punishments in the afterlife.
-Is hell separation from God? The divinely inspired Psalmist wrote: "If I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there" (Psalm 139:8), Scripture makes it clear there is no place we can escape God (Psalm 139:7-12).

Several psalms prophesy about the future reconciliation of all mankind. All the kings of the earth will praise God (Psalms 138:4, Psalm 72:11). All the nations God has made will come and worship before Him (Psalms 86:9). All flesh will come to God (Psalms 65:2-4). Through the greatness of God's power His enemies will submit to Him, and all the earth will worship and Sing unto Him (Psalms 66:3-4, Psalm 22:27).

The Bible repeatedly uses all inclusive words such as "all", "world" and "every" in reference to salvation, this seems to make a strong case for the eventual salvation of all, for example:

"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)

A basic rule of biblical interpretation is, if one verse seems to contradict 10 others, we are to seek to understand the one verse in the light of ten others, not the other way around. For example one verse in the Bible seems to say Christ's disciples are to hate their mother and father (Luke 14:26). But there are many verses that contradict the perceived meaning of this verse. There are many verses in the Bible that can be used to prove Universalism, but there are only a few that can be used to try and back up Exclusionism. The main Scriptures used by those that believe in eternal torment are Matthew 25:31-46, Mark 9:38-48, Luke 16:19-31, Matthew 12:24-36, John 3:35-36, Revelation 19:19-21, Revelation 20:7-10, Revelation 20:11-15.

-Is it justice for people to suffer for all eternity because of temporary disobedience? What sin deserves endless misery? In the Law of Moses, the severity of a punishment was limited by the severity of 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, and 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. Eternal torment is more than a million times worse than death! Surely God would have given a warning of such a possibility! Could it be that God didn't warn them about it because it was not an alternative?
-Logic says that infinite punishment for finite sin is not justice. Suffering for all 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 a select few?
-Some say Universalism belittles God's holy justice. But if God desires to pardon all, does that mean He is unjust? We are commanded to forgive all who offend us, if we do so, does that make us unjust? If not, why would it be unjust for God to do so?

-The words "everlasting" and "eternal" in the New Testament are all translated from the Greek word "aion" and its derivative forms. Aion is where we get the English word "eon" from, which is is defined as a limited period of time. In the New Testament "Aion is often translated as "everlasting" such as "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment "Matthew 25:46, but the exact same word "Aion" is also sometimes translated in the Bible as "age" and "ages" for example: "That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7), and "Even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:" (Colossians 1:26). Since the original word for eternal/everlasting carries the meaning of a limited time, 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 (Kolasis) is a derivative of "Kolazo" which can be used to describe the act of pruning trees to make them better. So the punishment referred to in this passage could very well refer to an act of punishment, that seeks a greater good. And "everlasting" is translated from the word "aionios", which is a adjectival form of "aion".

If the words ever, world, evermore, age, eternal are all translated from the same word. You don't need to know Greek to understand what that means. The fact is the whole teaching of eternal damnation, is dependent on how the Greek word "aion" and its various forms are interpreted. Any teaching that hinges on one particular interpretation of one particular word stands on shaky ground. This fact alone is reason enough to reject the teaching that some will be eternally damned. Additionally, there are said to be many Greek words which could have been used to unambiguously convey the idea that something is never-ending in duration.

I believe in an "aionian" Hell, or an age-lasting Hell, which I see as a temporary place where the unrighteous go to until the last day which is judgement day when they and Hell itself will be thrown into the purifying lake of fire (Revelation 20:14), which will consume everything that is not of eternal value. Such people will inherit no reward in Heaven. The people that accepted Jesus during their lifetime will not go to hell, or the lake of fire, but will go to be with God, and only believers will be the bride of Jesus. Heaven and God are both Holy and perfect, nothing unholy can exist in God’s presence. God is like a patient metal smith refining Gold, he won't give up until every precious soul is separated from every evil element.

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. The word "Sheol" is translated "grave" 31 times and "pit" 3 times. Sheol 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). 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 God's servant 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), King Saul who turned his back on God, went to the same place as Samuel the godly prophet (1 Samuel 28:19). Even Jesus went to there (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:24-31).

The New Testament was written in Greek, there are three Greek words which are translated as "hell" in English Bibles.

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 quoted the Old Testament prophecy of Jesus' soul not being left in Hell (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27). From this we can safely conclude 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 exactly 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", which is referred to in Scripture (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 had been 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.

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. If something was buried in a pit, it could be said to be in an Anglo-Saxon "hel" or hidden place. Such a primitive meaning is found in many English words such as "hole", ie a hole in the ground.  Something that covers or conceals the head is a "helmet". A forefather of the English word "hall" is the Old English word "heall", which referred to a large place covered by a roof. When a cut or wound has recovered, ie no longer revealing what is under the skin, it is said to have been "healed".

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".

It can be concluded, that the definition of the word "hell" has developed greatly over the last few hundred years, and it can be safely said that the original Anglo-Saxon "hel" is a direct equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol, and the Greek word Hades, which can all be simply defined as a place concealed from sight.

-All things where created for God's pleasure (Revelation 4:11), can a multitude of souls suffering in some kind of eternal concentration camp bring glory to God and give Him pleasure?

-Every person is the property of God, for Scripture makes it clear that all that dwell in the world are the Lord's (Psalm 24:1), God has also said "Behold, all souls are mine" (Ezekiel 18:4). Scripture also speaks against those that do not provide for their own to their full ability (1 Timothy 5:8). We can trust that God will care and provide for each soul he has fathered. Jesus also taught that not even a single sparrow is forgotten by God, and He told us not to be afraid, for we are more valuable to God than many sparrows (Luke 12:6-7).

-Did Jesus seem worried about people going to hell for eternity? Did He plead with those that abandoned Him, because of His hard teachings? Many Churches are afraid of proclaiming hard teachings, because they fear they will scare people away from the Church and in so doing repel them towards eternal torment. Such fears may lead them to dilute the truth and make it less offensive to the masses. It is clear that Jesus was more interested in the quality of His followers than the quantity of His followers.

-The opposite of having life is death, if death no longer exists as will be the case one day (1 Corinthians 15:26), How can somebody stay dead if there is no death?

-In the world we live in God's blessings of sunshine and rain fall equally upon the righteous and the wicked (Matthew 5:45), can God change? Will he not continue to bless those that hate Him?

-If most of humanity is walking on thin ice with eternally tormenting fires awaiting beneath them, would not our loving heavenly father clearly and repeatedly warn them of such a fate? Why is eternal torment never mentioned in the Old Testament which makes up two thirds of the Bible? Why too is the New Testament so quiet, with only a few vague verses, which are wide open to interpretation?

-If somebody had the power to save the world, would they not save it? Ask any sane human being if they would save everybody from eternal torment if they had the power, and most likely they would say yes. A person who had experienced the tortures of war once said, that what he had experienced he would not wish upon even his worst enemy. God is more merciful than any person whom He has created in His image. It is no wonder He has said He will have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32).

-Will there be childless mothers, or motherless children in Paradise?

-God has said he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), how much less pleasure would God have in their eternal torment?

-Why are there gates in the New Jerusalem? Gates are used to keep things in, out or both. The gates of the heavenly city will not lock anybody within, but keep out those that have not lived according to God's commandments (Revelation 22:14).

-After hearing Jesus preach some people said, "we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42). The disciple John said, "We have seen, and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." (1 John 4:14) Can Jesus be the Saviour of the world, if He does not save the whole world?

-Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). If God loved us while we were sinners, nothing can make Him stop loving us. God expressed His grace towards us while we were yet sinners, therefore what we do and believe does not affect His grace towards us.

-We are saved wholly by God's grace (Ephesians 2:5) Jesus said: "This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent." (John 6:28-29)?
-Every person will be judged according to their works (Revelation 20:13), We will all be saved, but we will all be judged by how we lived this life.

-We can't get to heaven by our own goodness or what we do, we can only get there by God's grace, and God's grace shines equally on all. We are not saved by what we do, neither are we doomed by what we do.

-In Ephesians we read that one of the mysteries revealed is that Gentiles are to also share in the inheritance, for they are of the same body and share in the promise of the good news of Jesus (Ephesians 3:6).

-Jesus suffered and tasted/swallowed death for every man (Hebrews 2:9)

-"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22). All came from God through Christ and ALL return to God through Christ, "that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

-Does God hold people over the fires of hell and say "love me or I will drop you and let you burn forever". That would be like a man pointing a gun at a women and asking her to love him or die. The fact is true love cannot be forced. "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19)

-John 5:25 says "when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live..." And verse 28 says all that are in the graves shall hear his voice. So does not that mean all shall live?

-God might be able to destroy the soul, but he never says He will, just as God is able to flood the earth again but He never will, for He has promised he won't. God will neither destroy human souls though he is capable of it, for God has no evil thoughts towards man, he has thoughts of peace towards us, and plans to give us an expected hope filled end. (Jeremiah 29:11)

-According to my Universalist view, I don't believe there will be any sin or evil people in eternity after the restoration of all things, those that were wicked will have been purified by Jesus, some will have come to Him in this life, and some will have turned to Him after coming to a dead end in the afterlife. I believe eternity will be glorious for all, and there won't be any jealousy in Heaven. Perhaps the difference in state and status between unbelievers and believers in eternity might be compared to two beggars being invited in off the street by a rich hotel owner, one gets a standard room, but the other gets to live with the owner in his luxury suite.

-If the will of man is in direct opposition to the will of God, can the human will conquer God's will? Will not God's will be eventually done? Will not man's will eventually crumble?

-God sent His Son "to redeem them that are under the law" (Galatians 4:5). Is not all mankind under the law? therefore is not all mankind redeemed?

-"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces" (Isaiah 25:8) Tears from all faces? Does that not speak of a universal end to suffering?

-Though the Scriptures say some may be cast off, or cast in the lake of fire, or cast out, Scriptures also says "the LORD will not cast off for ever, But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies." (Lamentations 3:21-22)

-Isaiah wrote God as saying, "For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." (Isaiah 57:16) Doesn't this statement seem to contradict the idea that God's wroth will never end towards some?

-Paul, in speaking of resurrection bodies, said such bodies would come in differing levels of glory and brightness, just as the sun, the stars, and the moon, vary in brilliance. And though sown in corruption, it will be raised in incorruption, though sown in dishonour, it will be raised in glory, though sown in weakness, it will be raised in power, though sown as a natural body, it will be raised a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:40-44). In answering those that thought that once you were dead you remained dead, and all would sleep an eternal sleep, Paul proclaimed: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51). It is on that day that death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).

-God has known since the beginning who would believe and who would not, why would God allow the unbelievers to be born? Especially if they where doomed to eternal torment? God closed the wombs of Abimelech's family when he had unknowingly taken the wife of Abraham (Genesis 20:18),  Could not God close the wombs of those that would bear children destined to be unbelieving.

-At one time Israel was God's special chosen people, but that doesn't mean God damned the rest of humanity to Hell without hope. God loved and cared for all nations, this can be seen in the example of God sending the prophet Jonah to the heathen city of Nineveh to preach repentance to them so that they might be saved from God's impending wrath. God blessed many nations through Joseph, who interpreted the pharaohs dream about the coming famine. God even spoke to heathen kings such as Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and Abimelech the Philistine (Genesis 20:1-6). Today the Church is God's chosen people, that He has set apart for Himself. That does not mean the rest of humanity is damned without hope.

-Paul told believers to "sorrow not" for the deceased, like those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). If somebody believes their deceased unsaved friends and family are going to face never-ending torment, wouldn't they have more reason to sorrowful than unbelievers?

-If the devil was even able to steal one soul from God, wouldn't that make the devil more powerful or more wise than God?

Some wish to set limits on God's forgiveness saying things like "your sins can't be forgiven if you fail to repent in this life". The Bible never says we can nor can't repent after death. Who are we to define the limits of God's infinite grace and unconditional love? There are also some Scriptures that would seem to indicate that after His crucifixion, Jesus preached to imprisoned spirits of the dead (1 Peter 3:19-20, 1 Peter 4:6).

Scripture makes it clear that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, for He does not change (Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17, Malachi 3:6), if God accepts repentant sinners now, He will do so in the future, and forevermore.

In one of his letters, Paul said he prayed that those who he was writing to would comprehend the height, length, depth, and width of our Christ's love, which He implied was beyond knowledge (Ephesians 3:19-20), he also wrote that God is able to do far above all that we ask or think.

Is it impossible for God to make the filthiest sinner into a pure and beautiful vessel of His love? Scripture makes it clear that, it is possible in this world right now, who are we to say God can't do so with souls in the life here after? Even most Christians are not perfect vessels of God's holiness in this life, even they will need some fixing and transforming before entering the holiness of God's presence.

God has never said in the Scriptures, that after death unsaved people are beyond the hope of salvation. Verses that some might use to prove such an idea include: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:" (Hebrews 9:27) But this verse does not say a person is beyond hope after death. Another is the sentence in Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus: "And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." (Luke 16:26) This doesn't say the gulf will exist forever. If people repent and believe after they are dead, they do so because they see the holiness of God and their own wickedness. Some might say "There is no merit in confessing after your dead" but the truth is we are not saved by our own merit, salvation is a free gift of God.

Who are we to set limits to the grace of God? Can anybody go beyond the grace of God? Is Gods grace not greater than the greatest sinner? There is no darkness that light cannot overcome, so too the light of God's grace will and must overcome all spiritual darkness in His creation. We can't escape God's grace anymore than we can escape gravity, we may jump and climb to the greatest heights of sin, but the gravity of God's grace will still pull us towards Him. God's love is all conquering, if God's love cannot overcome every soul, Gods love would have failed. Scripture says love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), and God is love, therefore Gods love will never fail. God does not have any partial victories.

Some find it offensive that God's unconditional love shines even on those that seem most unlovable, like the cruel dictators that commit mass murder, the child abusers that corrupt the innocent, the Satanists who sacrifice their own children to demons. Some cringe at the thought of God having mercy on such abominable sinners, they want to see such people suffer for all eternity. The Truth of the gospel is there is no sinner that has gone beyond the reach of God's love.

Christians should wholeheartedly desire that all people be saved, for our desires should be identical to those of God, and that is His desire. Pride may be the reason many oppose the idea that God will show mercy to even the filthiest of sinners. For pride desires self to be elevated above others. It is pride to think of oneself more worthy of Gods blessing than the "greater" sinners of the world. Some may find it offensive to think of themselves equally unworthy of grace as the greatest of sinners, they may also find offensive the idea that they will share the future perfect world with those they see as less worthy. In their pride they desire to be elevated far above such people.

Those who despise the idea of God showing mercy on the wicked may be likened to Jonah, who did not want God to save the sinners of Nineveh, and instead of preaching to them, ran away. Such despisers may be likened to the workers in Jesus parable who grumbled because they got paid the same as everybody else, though they had worked longer (Matthew 20:1-16). They may also be likened to the older brother of the prodigal son, who complained about the fathers grace and mercy towards his returned wayward son. They may be likened to Haman who despised sharing the very streets of the city with the Jews. Perhaps such a pride is the greatest stumbling block in accepting Universalism.

Paul said God had sent him to the Gentiles and his mission was: "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Acts 26:18)

In the Bible forgiveness often refers to "deliverance from bondage" to "set free" the original Greek words for forgiveness are also at times translated "deliverance" (Luke 4:18, Acts 25:11,16).

-Does Scripture say we need to repent of our sins before God will express forgiveness towards us? The Bible clearly says that while we were yet sinners God gave His Son to die for us (Romans 5:8). In the Old Testament we read how God delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt, and only after that did He make a covenant with them, in the same way God has delivered humanity from death and sin, now He is seeking to establish a relationship with people.

-Jesus doesn't say "I will save you from the punishment of sin if you believe and be my bride", but rather "I have suffered and died for your sins, come and be my bride." But the truth is just as only one of the ten healed lepers returned to thank and worship Jesus, so not all that have been redeemed from the power of darkness, make Jesus Lord. And it is those that do come to Jesus with a thankful heart that will receive the greater blessing.

-To be delivered from sinfulness, we do need to admit we are sinners and in need of God's deliverance. In asking God to forgive us our sins we are admitting we are sinful and we are expressing our need of His help. Asking for forgiveness is about asking for sins to be cleansed from our hearts and lives, and asking for our relationship with God to be restored. Scripture talks about sins as been engraved in our hearts as with a diamond tipped pen of iron (Jeremiah 17:1). Asking for forgiveness is not about requesting God to delete our sins from some heavenly record. For God does not hold any unforgiveness towards anybody, it is contrary for love to hold grudges, for love does not keep record of evils, and God is love. Repentance of sin is like waking up to your own sinfulness in the light of God's truth, and turning from sin too God. When we repent of sin, we turn to God admitting "I have sinned against heaven, and before You" (Luke 15:18). Repentance involves a change of heart towards God and sin that results in a change of life. So repentance is essential before we can enter into a relationship with God, it is only through surrendering our life to the Lordship of Jesus that we will with His help overcome sin in our lives. When we turn to God in repentance, God promises to cleanse our heart and conscious of sin.

-Scripture instructs us to forgive as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). If God only forgives those that repent and ask for forgiveness, so should we. However, that is not the case, Jesus on the cross even expressed forgiveness towards His transgressors even though they didn't ask for it, nor repent.

It would be fair to say Jesus has paid the spiritual debt (which is death) for the sins of all humankind, so when we ask for his forgiveness we are really just reaffirming the fact that He has already done so, and we wish to acknowledge His victory in our life.

According to the modern meaning of the word "forgive", I believe God has forgiven everybody already, I believe it is not unforgiven sin that is seperating sinners from God but rather the sinfulness in their soul. People need deliverance from sinfulness, and such deliverance comes when we admit our sin and receive Jesus as the Lord of our life. His Spirit of holiness fills our life, and it is in His holiness that we can enter the light of God's holiness.

The angel of the Lord  told Mary to call her Son "Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The name Jesus means saviour. Scripture clearly says Jesus came to save people from their sins, it never says in the Bible that Jesus came to save people from eternal torment in Hell.

According to the Bible salvation is freedom from bondage to sin (Galatians 5:1, Romans 6:6, Romans 6:14), Salvation is escape from "the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:4), Salvation is deliverance from fear of death (Hebrews 2:15), Salvation is reconciliation into a relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, 1 Peter 3:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:10), Salvation is also used to refer to deliverance from the "DAY of wrath", when God "will render to every man according to his deeds" (Romans 2:4-6, Colossians 3:6). The commonly accepted idea that salvation is about accepting Jesus as Lord so you don't have to go to Hell for eternity, is not found in Scripture.

The Greek word for "salvation" is "sozo" which means to save, heal, preserve, and make whole.

Jesus has made a way for the world to be free from sin, and enjoy a relationship with God. Though the path to God has been paved by Jesus, He is among us today in His Holy Spirit setting people free from the power of sin. Freedom from the corruption and contamination of pasts sins happens when we receive Jesus, but freedom from the desires and inclinations to commit sin, happens as we are transformed into Jesus' likeness by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. In other words, the problem of committed sins is fixed when we receive Jesus, and the problem of committing sins is fixed as we follow Him in the power of His Spirit. God desires not only saved sinners, but sanctified saints. The blood of Christ is made available to us that we might serve God with a clear and cleansed conscience (Hebrews 9:14).

True salvation is spiritual wholeness that comes from being connected and made one with God's own wholeness, through trusting our lives with Jesus.

Jesus has died for the sins of everybody, the difference is some are still slaves to Satan, self, sin and the world, they have not yet embraced the truth that will set them free.

If death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57), how can it sting anybody? If a bee loses its stinger, it can't hurt anybody. But the bee may still hold people in fear if they do not know the truth of its condition. So Satan has lost all the bullets in his gun, so to speak, but because people do not know the truth, he still keeps people in bondage with fear and condemnation. Jesus said knowing the Truth would make people free (John 8:32). Scripture says Christ through His death destroyed him that had the power of death, who is Satan (Hebrews 2:14), and his purpose was to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). So salvation is at least partly deliverance from the fear of death, and bondage to Satan, rather than deliverance from eternal damnation.

The Israelites were delivered from slavery, but they never entered the promised land. So the world has been delivered from the sin and death, but they are yet to enter God's kingdom of life. The prison doors have been unlocked, but all the prisoners have not yet stepped outside.

God speaks of the sanctified as a separate people, they are the ones with the inheritance. "And now, brothers, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:32)

-All men will be saved, however the relationship between God and His chosen people the Church, will be like a bride and groom. These are the peculiar people, that are called, chosen and faithful! "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful." (Revelation 17:14).

-The wages of sin is death, Jesus paid the price which man could not pay, there is nothing more to pay, the problem is no longer the wages of sin, but sinning itself. God wants a holy spotless bride for His Son.

-Salvation is being saved from a state of disunity with God.
-Salvation is deliverance from the reigning power of sin, and the lusts of the flesh, by having our nature and being brought into subjection to Christ.
-Salvation is receiving cleansing from inward corruption, by the blood of Jesus.
-Salvation is deliverance from spiritual paralysis, by being quickened in the life-giving Spirit of Jesus.
-Salvation is deliverance from a nature of wrath, by becoming one with the nature of God through the Holy Spirit.
-Salvation is deliverance from a heart void of divine life, by being filled with the life of Jesus.
-Being saved is about becoming "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4)
-Salvation is to have died to sin in Jesus, and risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4).
-Salvation is to be dead to sins, and alive unto righteousness (1 Peter 2:24, Romans 8:10)
-Salvation is deliverance from being a lover and doer of sin, by being transformed into a lover and doer of the Truth.

In Scripture "Eternal life" does not always speak of a future time or place where we will live. It can often be better understood as a spiritual state of being, which we can already enjoy in the here and now. Jesus said, eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3). Scripture also says eternal life is something that abides in us (1 John 3:15). We will be clothed with immortality in the world to come (1 Corinthians 15:53-54), but eternal life is something we can already enjoy in the here and now.

Being born again is a spiritual event rather than a physical one, Jesus Himself is eternal life. To have "eternal life" is to be in a spiritual state of oneness with the God of life.

Some wonder why Jesus was so secretive about Who He really was (John 10:24). After all Jesus could have radiated divine light, floated around or done something else amazing so that nobody could doubt who He really was.

But Jesus is looking for a faithful bride, who will love God not out of selfish reasons, fear or force, but by faith and free will. How can an unbeliever have faith in God on the day they stand before His judgement seat? They can't have faith because they will know God exists, and they would seek Him due to their circumstance not out of freewill.

It is like the old story of the prince who pretended to be a pauper, to see who loved him for what he was, not what he had. As a prince all the women loved him, but as a pauper there was only one. And of course the prince married the one that loved him for what he was, and lived happily ever after. Jesus the prince of peace came as a pauper so we could become His bride. He came not in splendour and glory but as lowly man naked of heavenly glory, so that we might not love Him for what He has but for what He is. We need to seek God Himself, not joy, peace, paradise or any other thing, for the giver is greater than the gift.

So Jesus did enough miracles and revealed enough truth, to prove He was from God but did not make it so clear as to negate the need for faith.

Many moral and logical difficulties arise when one considers eternal damnation as an option:

-Christians today generally believe all babies that have died will go to heaven, but many at the same time also believe that if they grow up to be unbelieving adults they will go to hell for eternity. If both these beliefs were true, it would be easy to argue that abortion is by far a better option, than taking the risk of raising a child that may end up in eternal torment. Accepting the belief that all people will go to heaven solves this difficulty.

-If certain people such as witches, homosexuals, and heretics are helping drag the masses into the eternal torments of hell, their extermination could be justified as an act of love for humanity. For surely it would be better to help a few souls into hell, if so doing would help prevent many souls from suffering for eternity. It is such logic which may very well have been used to justify things like the inquisitions, the crusades, the many holy wars and other such atrocities committed under the cloak of religion.

-People will justify doing almost anything to try and save people from eternal torment. For example filling the Church with crowd-drawing worldly entertainment, can easily be justified if weighed against the option of some suffering for all eternity.

-Wouldn't it have been more merciful of God to let Adam and Eve die without kids, rather than allow billions of people to be born and die in their sins and be tormented for eternity?

Does not teaching that some will suffer for all eternity cause fear? That is not Gods desire, for God is love, and love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

It is easier to scare people into obedience, than to inspire them to obey. Sadly some individuals and institutions are guilty of using doctrines of eternal torment to beat people into subjection, for it stirs fear in people, and fear controls people. In the dark ages eternal torment was one of dark doctrines that helped further oppression and corruption.

Carnal fear is the opposite of faith, God does not desire to create such a fear in anybody. God doesn’t want people to worship Him out of fear. If He did He would give angels swords and whips to scare people into obeying Him. Interestingly the "fearful" are the first listed among the kind of people that will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).

The Bible often speaks of fire in relation to purification (1 Peter 1:7, Revelation 3:18-19, Malachi 3:2-3, Isaiah 4:4).

"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;" (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9)

God does at times vent out His wrath on the wicked, for example Sodom suffered "the vengeance of ETERNAL fire." (Jude 1:7), yet it was an event that happened " in a moment" (Lamentations 4:6). There are no fires burning in Sodom today. Therefore, when the words "eternal" and "punishment" are found together in the scriptures, we cannot conclude that the word "eternal" speaks of duration. Jesus promised Sodom would be better off on the day of judgement than some other cities (Matthew 10:15, Matthew 11:24, Mark 6:11, Luke 10:12). Jesus said that if the mighty works done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom, they would not have been destroyed  (Matthew 11:23).

God often destroys, but he also restores, He is like the potter that crushes the imperfect clay before moulding it into perfection. Sodom was destroyed by God, yet Scripture also speaks of its restoration and regeneration (Ezekiel 16:55).

So this Scripture about "everlasting destruction" could be interpreted as saying that some will suffer "eternal destruction [that comes] from the presence of the Lord" It is not something that is experienced in eternity, but on the earth, the word eternal does not describe the duration, but rather it describes the origin and characteristics of the fire and its source. It is probably describing the "day of wrath" (Revelation 6:15-17) which John wrote about, which would be a time of great tribulation on the earth.

Jesus, like the Old Testament prophets preached doom and gloom would follow if the people of Israel continued on their destructive path of sin.

When Jesus' parable mentions everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46), is it speaking of punishment that never ends or something else? From the context of the rest of Jesus teachings we can be pretty sure He is referring to the punishment that involves "eternal fire" (Matthew 18:8, Matthew 25:41)

Scripture says God alone is eternal (1 Timothy 6:15-16, Psalm 93:2), and that He is also an all consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24, Deuteronomy 9:3, Hebrews 12:29). So it reasonable to deduce that God and the eternal fire are either closely related or the same thing.

Revelations speaks of the fiery torment that some will experience in the presence of the holy angels and Christ the Lamb of God. (Revelation 14:10) This is the glorious second coming when Christ will return with His angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). When God will divide mankind like a shepherd divides sheep and goats.

When speaking of eternal fire, it can be assumed it is speaking of God's fiery presence. The wicked will be destroyed by the brightness of His coming: "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:" (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

The fire is eternal, not the duration of the punishment. The punishment is eternal in the sense that the fire is eternal. For example: "I will punish you with a week old rod", is not the same as "I will punish you with a rod for a week." So it may be when God says some will be punished with eternal fire, He is not saying some will be punished eternally with fire.

In the Old Testament we can read of how God's presence is often accompanied by fire, at times fire came out from before the Lord to consume offerings (Leviticus 9:24, 1 Kings 18:38). When Israel displeased God with their complaining, the fire of the Lord burnt among them, consuming some (Numbers 11:1). And Fire also came from the Lord at one time consuming 250 men (Numbers 16:35). God's fiery presence appeared to Moses in a burning bush, that was not consumed (Exodus 3:2).

In God's presence we find the eternal fire, in its presence we will experience either heaven or hell, depending on what we are made of, just as Daniels friends survived being thrown into the fiery furnace, while the same fire slew the kings servants that threw them in (Daniel 3:20-25). So it may be when the presence of God is made manifest on the earth, some will be consumed while others survive.

In the New Testament, we read John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would baptise people with Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11, Luke 3:16) In the book of Acts we read how on Pentecost God's presence fell like fire from heaven. (Acts 2:3) Jesus often spoke of the fiery judgement of God (Matthew 3:12, Matthew 7:19, Matthew 13:40-50, Matthew 18:8-9, Matthew 25:41, Mark 9:44-49, Luke 3:9, Luke 3:17, John 15:6) Jesus even said everyone will be salted with fire (Mark 9:49) Jesus said He had come to send fire on the earth (Luke 12:49),

"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)
"In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:" (2 Thessalonians 1:8)
"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;" (Revelation 1:14)
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." (Revelation 19:20)
"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." (Revelation 20:9)

In the last book of the Old Testament we read prophecies about a certain messenger similar to Elijah who would come and prepare people for the one who would come and purify certain people as silver is purified with fire (Malachi 3:1-5), Malachi also warned it would be a great and dreadful day (Malachi 4:1-6). Jesus said this messenger was John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10, Matthew 11:14, Matthew 17:9-12)

Just like Elijah, John the Baptist preached repentance to the corrupt nation of Israel, he announced that a fiery judgement was imminent if she didn't repent, he said the axe was already lying at the root of the tree, and every fruitless tree would be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3:7-10). John taught the people to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. John also taught that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12). The burning up of unfruitful branches was imagery used by Ezekiel to describe the national destruction of Israel (Ezekiel 19:10-14).

Jesus taught people to remove an eye, a hand or a foot that caused offence, for it was better to live crippled than end up being "cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched" (Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 18:9, Mark 9:43-45). Just like John the Baptist, Jesus was warning the people that if they did not repent, they were headed towards the fiery judgement prophesied by Malachi.

Notice also that Jesus stated that hell is unquenchable fire. John the Baptist said Jesus would baptize with unquenchable fire. When Scripture speaks of fires that will not be quenched, it means that it will burn until everything that can burn has been consumed.

Describing fire as unquenchable simply means it is unstoppable, it was a description of the fiery judgement of God. God promised such a national judgment on Judah in the Old Testament for He said: "Behold, I am about to kindle a fire in you, and it shall consume every green tree in you, as well as every dry tree; the blazing flame will not be quenched, and the whole surface from south to north will be burned by it. And all flesh will see that I, the Lord, have kindled it; it shall not be quenched." (Ezekiel 20:47-48):

This prophesy was fulfilled when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. The fire was not quenched, it doesn't mean the fires burnt forever. A similar prophecy was made by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 21:10-12).

During a previous occasion of deep corruption in Israel, God spoke through the prophet Amos, warning of a similar fiery judgment (Amos 5:6-7), since they did not repent, the prophecy was fulfilled when the Assyrian army marched across their land and left it desolate in 722 BC.

Some expressions about fires that are not quenched are also used to describe the destruction of Judah (2 Kings 22:17), the destruction of Edom (Isaiah 34:10), the destruction of the enemies of the Messiah's people (Isaiah 66:24), destruction of Judah (Jeremiah 7:20, 17:27), destruction of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 20:47-48).

So the unquenchable fires which consumed Israel were unstoppable, not unending, for they are not burning anymore in Israel. Therefore, when Jesus spoke of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43), he used language that His Jewish audience associated with the national judgments which God had brought about in Old Testament times.

Jesus spoke of the hypocritical Pharisees and their followers as children of hell (Gehenna), (Matthew 23:15), Jesus was simply warning them that they were headed for fiery judgement, later in the same chapter He asked these people He called serpents, and offspring of vipers, "how will you escape the judgment of hell?" (Matthew 23:33), and a few verses later Jesus said when this fiery destruction would take place for He said, all these things would come upon that generation (Matthew 23:36). So the unquenchable fire of Jesus teachings was the unstoppable fiery national judgement of God, which was an earthly event, not a place or eternal state.

The last mention of "Gehenna" in the Bible, and also the only one outside the gospels is in the writings of James, which was written to the Jews shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed. James condemned misuse of the tongue and spoke of the tongue that "is set on fire of hell" (James 3:6-9), it was the same kind of warning Jesus gave to the Jews that those that cursed their brothers where in danger of the fires of Gehenna (Matthew 5:22).

Just like Jesus, James warned people of the danger of imminent, fiery, national destruction, He mentions the day of slaughter (James 5:5), the coming of the Lord which was near (James 5:7-8), he said the judge already stood at the door (James 5:9).

The truth is that in the past God has used fire as a means to vent His judgment and wrath, and God can and probably will do so in the future. There is the lake of fire mentioned in Revelations, and there are the fires which Scripture says will melt the elements of the earth, but when these fiery events are over Scripture comforts us with the fact that there will be a new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:10–13). The fires are simply a part of God's plan to restore perfection to His creation.

In the Old testament fire is used to describe events associated with God's judgement of certain corrupt groups of people. When the Bible speaks of certain entities being thrown into fire, it can be interpreted as God executing judgement here on the earth.

God is a consuming fire, a fire that works in us our highest good. He consumes man as the refiner's fire consumes impure gold, removing the good and bringing out the good.

Jesus spoke of some being thrown into a "furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:41-42, Matthew 13:50) to His Jewish followers, many Christians today would say He is talking about the place where they believe a large portion of humanity will suffer without hope of escape. However in the Old Testament the word "furnace" is used to describe 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)

God told the captive Jews in Babylon that He had refined them and chosen them "in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10). Being slaves in Egypt was spoken of as being in an iron furnace (Jeremiah 11:4). But God brought them "out of the furnace" (Deuteronomy 4:20, 1 Kings 8:51). Scripture speaks of God's furnace being in Jerusalem (Isaiah 31:9), In Ezekiel, God declared that the house of Israel had become dross and He would gather them into the midst of Jerusalem, and melt it there (Ezekiel 22:18-22). At a time when Israel had become more wicked than her neighbouring countries, God used the image of hair being cast into fire to describe the destruction of Israel by the Babylonians (Ezekiel 5:4-5). It is clear that being cast into fire speaks of God's earthly wrath on the wicked.

Jesus spoke of a time in the end of the "age" when His angels (messengers) would gather out of his kingdom all the wicked and cast them into a "furnace of fire". In light of the Old Testament Scriptures already mentioned, can we say Jesus is referring to a spiritual furnace for souls? or was Jesus talking about a future cataclysmic event that would take place on earth, which would result in great affliction and sorrow? Could Jesus warnings about the "furnace of fire" be talking about the destruction of the Jewish nation which took place only decades later, when Jerusalem was destroyed. It could also be double layered prophecy, Jesus may have been talking of the anguish and affliction the wicked would suffer at Jesus glorious return.

Jesus' use of the expression "Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth" is often thought to be describing the place of eternal torment, but throughout the Old Testament this kind of language was used to describe the sorrow and anguish that accompanied national judgments and the times God had rejected His people (Isaiah 22:12, Isaiah 16:9, Jeremiah 9:1, Jeremiah 48:32), the book of Lamentations is full of such lamenting. The expression "gnashing of teeth" is usually used to describe the one attacking the victim (Job 16:9, Psalm 35:16, Psalm 37:12, Lamentations 2:16, Acts 7:54).

People often think of eternal torment when they read of the "Fire and Brimstone" in the book of Revelation, but throughout the rest of Scripture such language is used to describe the earthly destruction of the wicked (Isaiah 34:9, 30:33, Psalm 11:6, Ezekiel 38:22). It is foolish to think that "Fire and Brimstone" will take on a new meaning in Revelations.

Brimstone generally refers to sulphur, the Greek word for brimstone is "theion", which in the Greek is also the word for "divine". Sulphur is said to have been sacred among the ancient Greeks, and was supposedly used in religious rituals for purification and consecration purposes. God's breath is said to be as brimstone (Isaiah 30:33), and God Himself is spoken of as a purifying fire (Malachi 3:2-3). Taking such things into account a "lake of fire and brimstone" could very well refer to a place, state or means of divine purification.

Revelation speaks of a smoke that goes up for ever and ever, and some having no rest day or night (Revelation 14:11), Isaiah used almost identical language to describe the national judgment of Edom (Isaiah 34:10). Such references to "eternal" smoke may very well be speaking symbolically of the eternal testimony such destructive events would bear of God's wrath towards wickedness.

A "one verse wonder" often quoted to support the damnationist view is: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:46)

This scripture and the others like it, can all be interpreted in harmony with the Christian Universalist view in a variety of ways:

-As already mentioned the Greek word for eternal comes from the word "aion" which is also translated world and age. Therefore it could be saying that some will be punished for an certain "age" or duration, during which time some will be enjoying life.
-The punishment is remedial not retributive, it last as long as it takes to cure the individual. Just as a fire will burn for ever, as long as it has fuel to burn.
-Jesus often used strong words to emphasis the point of a story or teaching, for example he taught people to hate their parents (Luke 14:26) It is clear that He was speaking of something other than the clear literal meaning of the word "hate". The same thing goes for Jesus message about cutting off body parts. Everlasting or eternal in reference to hell could be a similar figurative exaggeration, to emphasise the sorrow that the unrighteous will face.
-In interpreting Scripture there is always the danger of interpreting the figurative literally and the literal figuratively. This was a common mistake of those that heard Jesus words, for example when Jesus said "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (John 2:19) He was speaking of his body. The Jews also waited for a Messiah that would literally rule over the nation of Israel. Which was a literal interpretation of Scripture that was meant to be interpreted symbolically.
-Such Scriptures may refer to the "eternal one's" punishment, and His blessings. The word "eternal" could be describing the character of the punishment or punisher, not the duration.
-The punishment is eternal because its results are permanent. Those that are not the bride of Christ at His coming, never will be.
-Eternal speaks of where the punishment or life is originating from, they are appointed to each mortal from eternity or the eternal one.
-Many times in the Scriptures the words like "everlasting", "eternal" and "for ever" do not mean eternal in the strictest sense of the word for example:
The land of Canaan was said to be given as an "everlasting" possession, and "for ever," (Genesis 17:8, 13:15). Old Testament law said that people of a certain background were not to enter into the congregation of the LORD "for ever", which was limited "to the tenth generation" (Deuteronomy 23:3). In another Scripture "for ever and ever" seems to be the direct equivalent of from "generation to generation" (Lamentations 5:19). The inhabitants of Palestine were to be bondsmen of Israel "for ever" (Leviticus 25:46). When Isaiah prophetically spoke of a ruined city, he said "the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever", but soon says "Until the spirit be poured upon us..." (Isaiah 32:14-15). So "for ever" meant until the spirit was poured. Sodom and Gomorrah are spoken of as suffering the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 1:7), yet Scripture speaks of their restoration (Ezekiel 16:55). Many of the statutes of the Mosaic law were said to be "for ever", yet many of them are no longer valid, for example: "And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year." (Leviticus 16:34). Clearly God did not intend for such practices to go on for eternity. Will the earth exist forever? An old Testament Scripture speaks of the earth abiding for ever (Ecclesiastes 1:4), yet Jesus said "Heaven and earth shall pass away" (Matthew 24:35), and Peter wrote about the earth been burned up (2 Peter 3:10). Is circumcision an "everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:13)?

Another Scripture used to try and prove eternal happiness is exclusively reserved for a select few is: "Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Verses like this simply say the kingdom of Heaven is for those that are fit for the kingdom, they are silent about the destiny of those that are not worthy of the highest realm in Heaven.

When the Bible speaks of "eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9) and "eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12), they do not imply Jesus is eternally in the process of redeeming and saving people, but rather the fruit of Jesus death on the cross are eternal.

The Bible mentions "eternal judgement" (Hebrews 6:2), it would be foolish to conclude that judgement day continues for eternity, the meaning of the word eternal in such places speaks more likely of the fact that the judgement comes from God who is eternal, and the repercussion of His judgement are eternal.

Equally it can be concluded that when the Bible speaks of "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46) it is not the punishment that is eternal, but rather the consequences of the punishment, and the origin of the punishment.

The Bible never says Hell is a place where people are punished, in fact there is not a single Scripture where both hell and punishment are mentioned together. Many Scriptures would seem to indicate that God punishes in this life (Leviticus 26:17-19, Lamentations 3:39).

In Old Testament times God repeatedly avenged wickedness on the Earth, probably the greatest example being the worldwide flood in Noah's day. The Old Testament declares that God punishes by the sword, by the famine, and by pestilence (Jeremiah 27:8, 44:13).

In the New Testament times we also see God avenging evil and corruption, for example we can read how God caused Nero to die: "And immediately the angel of the Lord struck him, because he gave not God the glory" (Acts 12:23), We can also read of how Ananias and Sapphira died as a result of lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-5). Scripture also warns Christians not to defraud a brother, because "the Lord is the avenger of all such" (1 Thessalonians 4:6). While we read that Jesus wept over unrepentant Jerusalem, yet He also executed great vengeance upon it.

When speaking of avenging the enemies of the Church, Jesus said "he will avenge them speedily" (Luke 18:8). Scripture makes it clear that God will recompense tribulation to those that trouble the Church (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). But it never says it will happen in the next life, rather it is something that happens here on the earth.

In the book of Revelation we read of  the slain martyrs crying out saying "O Lord, holy and true, will you not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:10). Later on we read of a time when God had avenged those on the earth,  "for he has judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand." It is clear that at that time God's time of avenging was completed, and it it was a temporary event which had an end.

The New Testament states that we are not to avenge ourselves, but are to give place to God's wrath, for He has said "Vengeance is mine, I will repay" (Romans 12:19), some would say this means God will avenge wickedness in the life hereafter, but if we read the Old Testament Scripture this verse is referring to, we find that it speaks of a day of calamity (Deuteronomy 32:35).

So perhaps many of the fiery prophecies about the future of the wicked, are really real life events that take place on this earth, while they are yet living.

Universalists do agree that God does get angry with sinners, and He hates sin very much. Universalism does not deny some will suffer some kind of loss on account of their rejection of God and His ways. Universalism simply questions the duration, form and purpose of such punishment.

-If everybody goes to heaven then doesn't it mean there is no point in living right?
A Christian can just as easily say I am saved by faith not by works, therefore I will live as wish. The truth is God is looking for people that will live according to His will not because of fear or force, but because they choose to love Him because He first loved us. The purest motivation for living God's way should be thankfulness to God for His kindness. If a person needs the threat of eternal torment to live right, then their heart is in a poor state.

Also we are motivated to live right by the rewards and blessings that come with such a life, in the here and now. Most people do not commit murder, even though it may not carry the death penalty. The penalties of sin we suffer in this life, are good reasons to live a good life, just as the rewards of living right are a good reason to live right.

There is nothing in the Scriptures to say, that the ancient Hebrews had any other motives to live right, other than the rewards and punishments in this life.

-Why waste time preaching the gospel if everybody will be saved?
Within the Church people often justify not preaching the gospel with many kinds of carnal reasoning. Such as "If God has chosen who He will save, He doesn't need our help" Or "People don't need preaching since God has revealed His will through nature and the human conscience already, so those that seek the truth will find it without our help, and those that have rejected the light they have will reject all new light any way." Still others reason "If God will save everybody in the end anyway so there is no need to preach the gospel."

When we allow our carnal reasoning to dictate what we do and don't do, we are in bondage to the flesh. The true reason to preach the gospel is that God's love compels us to share the love God has first poured out on us.

The truth is Universalism doesn't deny people need salvation from sin. The Universalist gospel message is more about Jesus coming  to set people free from sin in the here and now, rather than Jesus coming to give sinners a happy life in the hereafter. The good news is God loved us so much He sent Jesus to die for us, and in so doing Jesus defeated death, and has made a way for people to enjoy a relationship with God.

People need to hear the message that the war with sin and Satan has been won, and they no longer need to be slaves to self and Satan, and they can share in the victory of Jesus, if they will repent and make Him their Lord and master.

It is easier for the carnal mind to believe in a God that will torment the wicked for eternity, than to believe in a God who will have mercy on every single sinner. The carnal and fleshly nature of man is naturally unforgiving, revengeful, wrathful, and merciless. Believing in a God that forgives and pardons even the greatest of sinners, requires a heart and mind inclined towards unconditional love. The idea of an eternally angry God, may only be a reflection of men's own carnal nature that is unforgiving. It has been observed that people tend to create an image of God in their own likeness, the god of the barbarian is barbaric, the god the warmonger is a warmonger. Also, those that see God as merciless and vengeful, may justify reflecting such characteristics in their own lives. Also carnally-minded people love to judge and condemn people, which is probably why "Go to Hell" is a common insult.

It is human nature to always imagine things about the unknown, and often such imaginations are more terrible than anything in reality. People naturally think of the worst case scenario. Little children with their wild imaginations are afraid of the dark, because they imagine all kinds of monsters that occupy the dark unknown. So Truth should not be based on depraved human reasoning and fears, but rather on the revealed word of God. The carnal mind void of the truth creates imaginations of worst case scenarios. Much of ancient heathenism was the product of carnal minds imaginations drawn by demonic fears of the unknown. Christianity on the other hand is based on revelation directly from God.

Throughout the centuries there have been preachers that have given hell an extra-biblical meaning and description, they have painted it as a place containing things like furnaces, red-hot floors, dungeons, torture racks, chains, etc. Basically a place where souls will suffer indescribable torture without any hope of escape. Such dark images are nothing more than fantasies and superstitions fabricated by carnal minds that have a warped view of God.

Jesus' universal message of love, hope and peace became corrupted by dictatorial religious leaders, men who perverted the pure gospel, into an oppressive religious system that focused on fear, sin, hellfire and damnation. Rather than a faith based on a relationship driven by love and liberty. False religions feed and build on peoples fears of demons, hell, curses, the unknown, doom, destruction and damnation.

The popular concept of hell being a fiery place where legions of pitchforked demons torment countless lost souls forever, is not something found in the Scriptures. Such a place only exists in the imaginations of those that know not the magnitude of God's power and love.

Peter the disciple, questioned Jesus about the future of the disciple John. Jesus said: "If I will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? you follow me." (John 21:22) So too, we often wonder about future events and the fate of other people. We need to accept that how the future unfolds is ultimately God's business, our focus should be on the task at hand, following Jesus.

Scripture makes it clear that we can not fully understand God's judgements or His ways, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). So trying to figure out how God is going to accomplish the promised universal reconciliation, and how he will judge all the people of the world may be beyond the reach of our small minds. We can rest assured that our Lord and Creator will do what is right, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

So, what then is the final destiny of the wicked, if not eternal torment? Only God knows for sure and those to whom He has revealed such mysteries. We don't have to know the answer, to see that many of the teachings on hell have no Biblical foundation. In all the teachings of Jesus which are recorded in Scripture, we find no direct mention of what is the final destiny of the wicked, some might point to the story of the rich man and Lazarus, but whatever Jesus taught with this story, it does not speak about what would happen at the end of time, or of the final destiny of the wicked.

I am personally convinced nobody will suffer torment for eternity. Whether everybody will live in the same place, or some will live peacefully in the perfect world outside the holy city of God is something I only expect to fully understand in the there and then. I am inclined to believe that in the world to come, not everybody will enjoy the same privileges as the Church, which is the bride of Christ. While the bride will live with the bridegroom in the house of God (2 Corinthians 5:1), others will not enjoy such a privilege. God's chosen will forever be with Him in His holy city, but those that were wicked and unbelieving will find themselves outside (Revelation 22:15), with no glorious inheritance in the celestial city.

Perhaps the unsaved will be in the kingdom to come like the widows and orphans that gleaned the fields for leftover scraps after the harvesters had already passed through (Deuteronomy 24:21). Perhaps while some feast with their master, others will partake in God's glory like the dogs that eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table (Matthew 15:27). Perhaps they will be like the brothers of Joseph, who partook in the blessings bestowed upon Joseph by the king.

I believe those that enter the highest realms of the Heavenly Kingdom, are those that have proved themselves fit for such a place, by their faith and lifestyle in this life. They have shown themselves fit for service in the kings household, and have been shaped into the divine likeness of Christ in character and nature by the Holy Spirit. While unjustly imprisoned for many years Joseph proved himself loyal and trustworthy, and so God promoted Him from a prison into a palace. So too those who prove themselves worthy in this corrupt and dark world, will in the next life find themselves exalted into the palace of the King of Kings.

Scripture says God will make the "overcomers" pillars in His temple (Revelation 3:12) they will also sit with Christ in His throne (Revelation 3:21) and have power over the nations (Revelation 2:26-27). Who are these overcomers? The writer of Revelations answers this question in one of his other letters, "Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:5)

Brought to you by Terje Ronneberg
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