Conversations about Hell

hell_harp_n_accordion[The following are extracts from conversations I’ve had in the past month.]

Paul, you’re opposed to inclusionism and you’re skeptical about universalism. Why do you want to condemn people to hell?

Me: Huh?

I’ve come to embrace inclusionism (or universalism) because I cannot conceive of a good God torturing people for eternity.

Neither can I, but what has that to do with inclusionism, universalism, or any -ism?

Uni/inclusionism says God loves his enemies…

Actually, the Bible says that – it’s Romans 5:10. It’s the gospel of grace.

But the traditional church view is that God will torture sinners for eternity.

Since when has the traditional church understood the gospel of grace? If our traditions have misled us about grace, isn’t it possible they have also misled us about hell?

Exactly! So what does the gospel of grace say about hell?

Nothing. The gospel is good news; hell is bad news. There’s no bad news in the good news.

So you don’t believe in hell?

No, I do. Jesus and the apostles spoke about it too often for us to ignore. I’m saying it’s a mistake to use the threat of hell – however you define it – to call the prodigals back to their Father. Love makes no threats.

Yeah, but what is God going to do to those prodigals who refuse to come home?

What makes you think he is going to do anything?

Wait – you just said you believed in hell?

I do. I just don’t believe God sends anyone there. Hell is for those who choose it. Recall Jesus weeping over the imminent fall of Jerusalem. He said, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Mt 23:37). Jesus is a gatherer, not an executioner. He longs to gather us to himself, but not all are willing.

So what happens to the unwilling?

That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? There are three options:

(1) the traditional view – the unwilling suffer for eternity
(2) the universalist view – the unwilling become willing and enter the kingdom
(3) the annihilationist view – the unwilling exit stage left

Some people speculate about the possibility of hell being some kind of waiting room or health spa, but ultimately there are only three outcomes.

You’re not a universalist and you just told us you don’t subscribe to the traditional view, so I guess that makes you an annihilationist.

I hate that word. It sounds like a villain in an Avengers movie.

So if you don’t think the end is annihilation, what is it?

Hell - eternal torment?Death, or more specifically, the Second Death. We’ve been told that our souls are immortal, but Jesus never said this. In John 3:16 he gives us two choices and only one of them leads to eternal life. He also said that he who believes has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).

There are nearly two dozen scriptures in the New Testament that talk about hell and the majority of them – like 80% – indicate a final death for those who refuse life. On top of that there are many passages that don’t mention hell but refer to fatal consequences, such as this one: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life” (John 3:36). Two outcomes; you either have eternal life or you will not see life.

What about all the babies who die in infancy? What about the children who had the misfortune of dying in non-Christian countries? Are you saying they’re just wiped out?

Not at all! Those kids are with Jesus, every one of them. I know there has been a lot of theological hand-wringing over this issue, but as I explain elsewhere, the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Grace is for the helpless, and there’s no one more helpless than a baby or young child.

I’ll have to read that post. Getting back to hell – or annihilationism…

Let’s ditch that word. It’s not scriptural. Why don’t we use the Biblical phrase instead, which is Second Death.

Okay, Second Death. How does that work? Does God toss the unbelievers in the Lake of Fire?

I don’t believe God is the instrument of death. People do it to themselves. God didn’t kill Adam; Adam killed Adam. Because of Jesus we all get the same choice Adam had. Tragically, some people make the same choice Adam did.

I don’t understand.

We were made in God’s image. Define yourself as something less than a dearly-loved child of God and you diminish yourself. You opt for an inferior reality, one defined by limits and fear. The Bible teaches that when we live apart from God we become enslaved to our appetites and anxieties (Eph 4:18-19, Tit 3:3). It’s a degenerative path that leads nowhere good.

Hell_descendedI’ve never heard this before. Who else teaches this?

Jesus did. He said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25). The word for lose in this passage means perish or fully destroy. Jesus is telling us that this broken-down world is doomed. Sell yourself to an idol such as manmade religion or a career and you literally lose yourself – you depersonalize and diminish your true self.

And this is God’s punishment for not choosing him?

Not at all. This is the consequence of tying yourself to a sinking ship.

What does that look like?

Religion has told us that sinners are the bad guys, but grace tells us that God loves sinners – loves ‘em to bits! Good guys, bad guys, they’re all welcome at the house of grace. The question isn’t whether you’re good or bad. The question is whether you’ll join the party. Sadly, not everyone does. I’m talking about those who have hardened their hearts to the Holy Spirit. They are numb to his love, numb to the love of others, even numb to their own God-given desires.

Sounds like you are describing cynics

It goes deeper than that. I’m not talking about people who are a bit skeptical, weary, or sick. I’m talking about those who, for whatever reason, have decided to hate life and love.

A desire for love burns in all our hearts. That desire is there to show us the way home. But some never return. They extinguish the flame, deny their humanity, and refuse to come to the party. Even if Jesus stood in front of them inviting them to the feast, they wouldn’t be interested.

Can you give us an example?

Think of the religious people who resisted Jesus. How far gone were they?! The Lord of Life walked into town, healing cripples, turning thieves into givers, and restoring dead girls to their daddies, and they wanted to murder him! Who does that?

To me that’s inconceivable, yet it happened. Heaven came to earth and they said, “No thanks, we’re not interested.” The Lover of our souls came to wrap his arms around them and they said, “We prefer the hatred of our soul-destroying ideology.”

Jesus said to them, “You refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). Let’s not over-spiritualize this. Jesus wasn’t just talking about life in the hereafter but life here and now. These men had sacrificed themselves on the altar of their religion so you can imagine the wreckage. Loveless marriages, dysfunctional families, arguments that were settled by stoning, and an entire nation gone astray. These weren’t men who were merely doing church badly – they were literally flogging people in their synagogues and killing in the name of God (Matt 23:34). They defined “ministry” as smashing skulls with heavy rocks! (Just ask Stephen and Paul.) They were dealers in death because they themselves were lifeless. They were the original zombies, the walking dead.

And this is why Jesus rebuked them sharply. It wasn’t just because they were hypocrites; he was trying to wake them up. And this is why Jesus wept, because they wouldn’t listen.

Those men were blinded by religion. Do you think if they saw Jesus as he truly is, they would’ve repented?

No. They were blinded by choice. They weren’t born that way; they chose it. They chose the world – or earthly religion – and lost themselves as a result. Jesus gave them many chances to change their mind and they never did.

It’s a stretch to think that if men like the Pharisees saw God as he truly is, they would not reject him. Tell that to Adam. Adam was untouched by sin. He saw God as he truly is – walked with him, even – yet he still rejected him.

At least the Pharisees saw Jesus. What about those who have never seen him or heard the gospel?

Jesus is the only way to the Father, but there are a million ways to Jesus. You came one way, I came another. Don’t fret – God’s got this figured out. You’ll see.

Time to wrap up. What would you say to those who have a different perspective of hell?

I know some people will be upset because I refuse to condemn the lost to an eternity of fiery torment. And others will be upset because I don’t assume that all will be saved. But I would say that the choice Christ offers – his kingdom or the sinking ship – is the most gracious option because everyone gets their heart’s desire. Those who want the abundant life that Christ offers shall have it. Those who don’t won’t.

Our Father isn’t going to force the Pharisees and haters to come to the party, if they don’t wish to come. He gathers the willing because he’s a God of love, and love must be free or it’s not love.

Can you give us a soundbite to finish on?

Choose life! That’s the central message of the Bible. Not “avoid hell,” or “do nothing,” but “choose life.” That’s what God preached to Adam and it’s what we preach today. Choose Jesus who is the Life.

87 Comments on Conversations about Hell

  1. Abba's Boy // August 1, 2014 at 8:10 am //

    All my life I’ve wondered why religious teachings weren’t simple and/or didn’t pass the common-sense test. Teachings on Hell have always been in that category. Thankfully my questions led me to the Gospel of Grace. This message is Scripturally sound, simple, and is easy to understand. Thanks!

      • Paul, i dont believe hell is a fiery furnace/eternal torment too. But I do know its where all who had ignored the Holy Spirit by choice will be. There is still a place for them, we just cant discribe it now. Its definitely an isolation where they can live without God to the fullest of their heart’s content. They’re just there. So there will be no more weeping/tears for us. Because we know they are somewhere and they love it there and chose to be there. I cant imagine myself in a place without sadness/weeping/tears knowing my unsaved loved ones are in eternal torment. How selfish is that gospel? Its absurd. Also please take in to account the verse where paul said (in Galatians i think?) “Dont you know we will judge the angels and unbelievers?”. Whats beautiful about this is that we can illuminate Jesus’ love and grace even at that time and we can say “Now you(referring to our unsaved loved ones or any random unsaved person) see how beautiful God’s love is? Come, ill vouch for you.” (with a bright smile) How beautiful is a scene where all the saints reaching out their hands to the unsaved. Multitudes of saints sharing the inheritance of eternal life to those who wanted to come to heaven. Its like love overflowing. A gigantic noise speaking of only forgiveness and acceptance. While those who have “hard-hearts” exiting by will.

      • I have just read what you have said, and thank you! It makes sense to me…
        Deb

  2. well put Paul,I dont think theres anything to add,ill have to wait for a little more stone throwing to respond.

  3. Genesis 2:7 (KJV)
    7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

    The Hebrew word used here is נָ֫פֶשׁ – nephesh, or soul. In Septuagint, the word ψυχή – “psuche” is used here. In a lot of other translations, the word is translated as “being”, “life”, or “creature”.

    So, man became a living soul / being. If he “became” a soul / being, then he “is” a soul / being. At this point no concept of “immortality of the soul” at all associated with Adam as a being. Actually, I didn’t find a proof of that concept anywhere in the Scriptures. What is on the table for Adam as a “soul / being” at that point, however, are the 2 offers: 1) tree of LIFE, and 2) another tree eating from which results in DEATH.

    Unfortunately, religion came in and muddied the waters, and turned a simple notion of death that’s universally understood into something else entirely.

    The other offer was a tree of life. The offer re-emerged in the person of Jesus on the cross. God’s encouragement has always been to “choose life”.

  4. “Jesus is the only way to the Father, but there are a million ways to Jesus.”

    Perfect.

    And thanks for writing this blog post.

    • John Buta // August 2, 2014 at 2:17 am //

      Paul Eilers, my thoughts exactly🙂 Love that expression.
      Brilliant article man.
      Have a great day Paul & Paul!

  5. It may seem true to those of us who love God, but the idea that no one will resist Him when they see Him as He is cannot be true. Jesus said, “if you have seen Me you have seen the Father”. Still, some who saw Jesus rejected Him and even wanted to kill Him. 

    The idea that we have no choice cannot be true because a meaningful relationship requires two willings parties. God gave us a free will that is strong enough to reject Him because He wants us to have a real choice to accept Him. Forced love is not true love. When we open the door to Him, simply by giving consent, His life comes in and changes us. He shares His passionate love with those who are willing.

  6. I think this is a pretty good post. I definitely agree with you on how God handles the issue of Hell in regard to us choosing life in Him or rejecting Him in favor of the sinking ship. However, I think there is a 4th way to look at Hell that is not eternal “fiery” torment, not denying its existence, and not viewing the 2nd Death as simply souls ceasing to exist. When the Bible uses the words life and death, I know you agree it isn’t always simply stating a state of existence. It sometimes refers to quality of life like when we choose to walk according to the flesh or according to the spirit. Death can be the ceasing of fleshly existence, spiritual death while still having fleshly life, or I think it can be eternal separation from God, which is what I think the 2nd Death is. I am thinking of things along the line of outer darkness where it isn’t an issue of eternal punishment or fiery torment. God does love His enemies. He loves them so much that He doesn’t force Himself on them and respects their choice to reject Him. I think the eternal “agony” is being confined to that outer darkness being separated from God, knowing what you missed out on and being left to dwell on your choice to reject eternal abundant life in Christ. I think the 2nd Death is eternal separation with the knowledge of what you rejected, not some eternal fiery tormenting punishment and not simply ceasing to exist. Many people would be more than comfortable with living for themselves here and now knowing their existence simply winks out when they pass from this life. It’s possible that maybe there is a spiritual agony of separation from God for those who rejected Him for a season and at some point their existence is terminated after they’ve been made aware of what they rejected via whatever final judgment there is. I do not think we can for sure know the full truth of what happens to those who die in unbelief of the Gospel of grace. However, we can assume it isn’t good, and we can trust in God’s goodness and justice and love that whatever the case is, it is righteous and true.

  7. OK, let’s consider an option usually referred to as “spiritual death”. I used that phrase for years myself, but then one day I researched it and I couldn’t find any proof of that concept in the Bible. The prooftext that’s usually given for this is that in Genesis God said to Adam “you shall surely die the day you eat of the fruit”, and since Adam didn’t die physically that day, he must have died spiritually. At this point, I don’t see that being a correct conclusion because the Scriptures contain no direct references to spirits dying, or “spiritual death”. Spirits don’t die. When people die, their spirits simply return to God. There are a number of references to that in the Scriptures.

    Regarding Genesis 2:17, when God was speaking to Adam, what it literally says in Hebrew is “the day you eat from the tree – in dying do you die” (Young’s Literal renders it correctly) – meaning the day you eat from the tree (i.e., immediately) you shall start dying (process) until you are dead (finality). That’s how death works. Any average person understands this concept of death / decay / destruction very well. Adam obviously didn’t die the day he ate, he *started* dying until he died hundreds of years later.

    • I agree. The phrase “in that day” is an idiom – it means their lives were effectively over from that day. Let scripture interpret scripture. Solomon used the same phrase with Shimei in 1 Kings 2:37: “On the day you go out and cross the Brook Kidron, know for certain you shall surely die.” Shimei didn’t die on that actual day but the moment he crossed the brook his life was effectively over. The king had decreed it.

    • When you see in time you see deceit and lies when you see out of time you see truth, to live one year or a million years waiting for death, you are dead, you live like the dead, decide like the dead fear like the dead and sin like the dead, when you find life everything changes.

  8. Enjoyed the article overall. I believe speaking the truth of God’s overwhelming goodness is what brings true change and turns the lost to the Lord where they are forever adopted into the family of God. I also will say though I disagree with your view of the second death it doesn’t mean I am “upset”. I just believe hell exists and that God never ever sends anyone there. God declared that hell is really for the devil and his angels. Only those who reject God’s love gift choose to reside there. In reality I agree with the sentiment of this post, hell IS the bad news. The Good news IS SO MUCH Better! God so loved us He paid the ultimate price to secure us for eternity if we simply receive Him. Focusing on this good news takes care of the issue of eternal damnation. Eternal torment in flames, or eternal separation, or “annihlation” whatever, your view doesn’t mean we have to fight or distance fellowship. We all acknowledge it exists. Getting people’s attention with the love and grace of God should be our goal. I just want to state just because a believer holds to a “traditional” view of hell doesn’t neccessarily mean they reject the gospel of grace. What I do believe strongly is in the end God’s love wins. I believe Heaven will be over populated. What I mean is the population of hell will not be more than Heaven.

  9. i just don’t see the point why bother telling people hell does not exist.
    the gospel is NOT that “there is no hell”
    the gospel is NOT that “everyone is included in Jesus death”

    the gospel is this “Justification to the wicked through Faith in Jesus”

    we are God’s enemies. the only way to be reconciled is through Jesus.

  10. I want to write about the Grace of God, and the assumption that grace is it. You are saved by the grace of God, through faith, through faith, not of works least any man should boast, it is a gift of God. Scripture says faith comes by hearing and by hearing the word of God. And faith without works is dead. So in order to have faith you also have to have works. You are saved by grace through faith. Works, faith and then grace as I see it.

    • As we allow God to write and put his Law of Love in our Hearts and Minds, (through the study of his word) this Love constrains us and his Grace teaches us to live Godly, works are the effect of the greater cause GRACE. James 2 is referring to a faith that is working in itself because the power of Grace

    • @”through faith, not of works”. “Works, faith and then grace”

      is it by Works? or By Faith?

  11. If we have to choose for or against God, then the credit for our salvation ultimately goes to us. But the Bible teaches that all the credit goes to God and that we can’t choose to confess Jesus as Lord unless empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3)

    • Interesting thoughts – makes me wonder who should get the credit for Adam’s decision?

      Did God not say in Deut – today I place before you life and death – choose life?

      I do however agree that at the end of the day God does get the credit for my correct decision – He created me to make the right decision, so my (correct) decision will give glory to Him!!!

      What you also imply is that I first receive the Holy Spirit, Who then empowers me to choose Jesus? – very interesting…but I don’t think it is scriptural, maybe the learned could assist us here. My thoughts are that there is a difference in accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour (through your own choice) and then saying Jesus is Lord through the Spirit??

      • I think john 1/13 and john 15/16 answers your question.

      • Hi Draydon, you presented two good verses to address what is being discussed, so I took a closer look and this is what I came up with.

        When looking at John 1:13 the sentence begins in verse 12 which says, “as many as received Him” and “those who believe in His name”. This seems to fall in line with the idea of some level of acceptance on our part.

        In John 15:16 the word choose means, “choosing one out of many”, which is not a very inclusive word. It could read, “I selected you”, so I don’t think Jesus is referring to salvation here.

      • Let’s look at this in Corinthians 1/24 them who are the CALLED,anytime you ever see that word the called or calling it refers to salvation.We are the called (that is coming out of darkness into light,)In verse 26 it says consider your CALLING, this is the divine call .
        And why us,in verse 27 because God has CHOSEN,and verse 28 God has CHOSEN , and in verse 30 by of HIM are you in Christ Jesus, you are only in Christ because he predestined because he Choose us before the foundation of the world(not of our doing)Why did God do it this way verse 29. So no man should GLORY in his presence , and verse 31 let us Boast only in the glory of The Lord , not of ourselves.

      • Before Paul made these statements he said, “to those who believe”, in verse 21. The following verses are words of encouragement to the average believer like me not to be intimidated, by say for example, a well known pastor with a jet and a Bentley – because Jesus Himself is my wisdom. Jesus gets the glory; not a reputation, an education, an IQ, a celebrity status or a bank account. I think the point you want to make is Jesus gets all the glory. Here is an illustration to explain why I do not agree that my beliefs steal any of His glory. 

        Christmas can be a hectic time for some families. Mom and Dad searching all over town for that hard to find present for their kids; they fight traffic, struggle to find parking spaces, and wait in long lines to spend their hard earned money. When Christmas morning comes, they’re not concerned if the child is going to get some kind of credit for opening the gift. They did all of that to see the child experience the joy of opening the gift. What Jesus did for us amounts to a whole lot more than Christmas shopping, yet it is no harder for us to receive His gift than opening a Christmas present. I don’t see how we get much credit for that.

        From here we can agree to disagree if you would like to have the last word. Blessings to you, Draydon.

      • No worries , thanks for dialogue , we are all striving to find truth , no one person has all the answers , the bible is a soulless dead book until God opens out eyes , we cannot do this first in our own.
        Thanks

      • Shame about my spell checking Sorry

    • Draydon, apologies if I came across a bit harsh in my first reply to your comment. It is just that I get frustrated when it seems like people wants to get away from the God given responsibility we as humans have and push it onto God. Not sure if that is your view or if I misread your comment. Anyway, been thinking and I do agree that the Spirit works in us the urge the call Jesus Lord, but we have the ability to ignore that calling and choose against it – this is what I believe ‘sinning against the HS’ is referring to- the unpardonable sin!

  12. fernando d impang jr // August 1, 2014 at 2:24 pm //

    Thanks so much Pastor Paul Ellis,i was able to acquired and have the book of yours THE GOSPEL IN TEN WORDS,Thanks for Gods revelation.

  13. Good word–as usual. Thanks, Paul!

  14. I agree with the cartoon. Committee meetings are definitely part of the Christian’s hell…🙂
    Good article too!

  15. Andrew Thomas // August 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm //

    I understand the word death to have a different meaning to the word destruction. I believe it means separation.When our bodies die they aren’t yet destroyed. That takes a few weeks and decomposition. What happens at death is that our bodies and souls are separated from each other. At the second death people are separated from God–the source of all pleasure, comfort and help. Isn’t that bad enough? Fire and brimstone are small problems compared to being deprived of all that is good! Most believers can remember the agony of a life apart from Christ. I believe that is a small thing compared to the extent of separation experienced in the second death.

  16. Psalm150:6 // August 1, 2014 at 8:05 pm //

    Reading this article put some fire in my step today. Thanks for streams of living water putting out some flames on such a hot topic. As you have wonderfully shared before, the subject isn’t really on your grid. Jesus isn’t interested in shotgun weddings.
    Mucho Gracias for taking time to share as many wish I could
    Thanks for clarifying and counter avenging the —isms— and for sharing scripturally solid rock/our Jesus rather than the shifting sands of mere man made religion. Simply refreshing.
    Jesus did talk about darkness and it seems mostly to the self rightous. He dedicated a whole chapter to it. Matt 25. Which ends with his sweet anology of how a hen longs to gather everyone who believes under his wings.
    It reminded me of the Psalm I share with people who have lost a pet. Psalm 36:6 NLT

    You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
    7 How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
    All humanity finds shelter
    in the shadow of your wings.
    8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
    letting them drink from your river of delights.
    9 For you are the fountain of life,
    the light by which we see.
    Grace and Peace to all I pray in our perfect and purely refreshing solid rock Jesus. Your all more awesome than you know! 😎

  17. Psalm150:6 // August 1, 2014 at 8:24 pm //

    Apology for incorrect verse Matt(25) when Jesus spoke to the self righteous. Its 23. Also a humble apology for not a clear post. First time posting and using a phone. Feel free to refresh it.
    Thanks again

  18. Another good post Paul! Here is a thought to ponder relating to your post and some of the comments:

    – after Adam had sinned God banned them from the Garden of Eden and placed an angel at the gate to prevent them from eating from the ‘Tree of Life and LIVE FOREVER!’

    God highlighted this event to me a couple of years ago at the time of my ‘rebirth’. I have since formed some conclusions of my own, but would like to hear what the forum has to say in the light of the topic being discussed…

  19. What about hell: Volition to spy His Grace and refuse it – to be cut off – seems intact in what I’ve read here and in Scripture. Christ, into Whose Hand all Judgment is placed, is not moving within the boundaries of foolishness when He declares from high atop that Hill, “Forgive them for they know not….” A theologically sound case can be made for the reach of, the distance of Grace found here in that – but for the sighted and volitional refusal of His Grace – God has already while we are dead to Him Penned with the Pen that is Himself exactly what He thinks of us — permanently. All-Men are declared My Beloved

  20. I find it somewhat disturbing how many evangelicals are turning to annihilationism (whether you like that word or not). That’s a fate far worse than hell, and one I can’t see as being something God would be happy with (unless God’s love is partial and biased – and some people are simply disposable – which is something I fear in my worst moments, might be true.), At ;least with Hell there’s always the hope of a way out, especially as Scripture supports a remedial clinical hell rather than a permanent one! 😦
    Deb

  21. I would love to hear some comments concerning the rich man and Lazarus from Luke16.It certainly appears that the rich man is in hell and in torment.The thought of that is awful,and the passage has been the cause for many to witness….especially to their own family members.I dont think “avoiding hell” is or should be our top motivation,but it would probably make the “top ten list”.

    • Hi Daryl, I have written a post on the rich man and Lazarus and it’s in the pipeline (along with many others). Short version: the rich man is not in hell. I know the KJV and NIV say he is, but Jesus said he was in hades, the abode of the dead. This story should not be read as the Wikipedia entry for hell. Rather, it’s a parable, and a very interesting one at that, as we will see.

  22. We choose. For choice to mean something we must be responsible for it. What does anyone think Is intrinsic to a person and not God determined that enables the right choice while not present in another who choses life without God?
    Thank you.

  23. You make the “inclusionist” here sound like an idiot. Maybe he was. The problem is that that sort of makes it seem like all inclusionists are that stupid. Or, that they like to be referred to as an ism. That simple isn’t true. I think you need to have a debate with an “inclusionist” who knows their stuff.

    • Hi Josh, it is not my intention to make anyone appear stupid. I don’t believe I even mentioned the word inclusionist in the post. We are to test and examine doctrines and spirits, not brothers.

      • You have your conversation partner say “I’ve come to embrace inclusionism.” That’s why I called him an inclusionist. Also, what about my request that you debate someone who truly knows their stuff and have embraced inclusionism? Why not dialogue with someone like X or Y? It’s so much easier to “test and examine doctrines and spirits” when you are correcting those in someone who is obviously ignorant (at least the way you have presented them here). Let’s have two “brothers” who know their stuff have a healthy dialogue about this and see who really has “doctrines”/”spirits” who need to be renounced. Don’t assume you are the only one who can administer a correct “test” on those things. Maybe if you talk to someone knowledgeable we can all come out learning from each other and have more understanding. The way this post is presented comes off somewhat arrogant.

      • Josh, you are making a number of assumptions here. Regarding your suggestion that I engage in healthy dialogue, how do you know I haven’t?

        Perhaps what you really want is a public debate. I won’t do it for one simple reason: Have you ever seen a debate on the subject of inclusionism that made Jesus look good? I have not. Such a debate may not be possible, for the gospel must be taken on faith or not at all, whereas inclusionism is a philosophical teaching that appeals to reason. When one side is preaching “walk by faith,” and the other “walk by sight,” there can be no common ground.

  24. Who Gets Credit: In Hebrews 11 we find Man prior to Christ volitionally knocking on God’s Door in Faith yet unable to enter His Rest. Faith is necessary but not sufficient. His infusion of volition into all men isn’t enough. God must yet open the Door and in Christ we find His Door – Himself – finally opened and He thereby gets all the credit. The capacity to walk comes from my legs. In walking I gain no glory – steal no glory – from Him, for by Him I have my legs. I glorify Him by taking steps, and, should I refuse to properly employ what is His teleological purposes (taking steps) I only serve to offend His Glory and glorify my own purposes. The capacity of Volition is no different. Such can glorify Him and His purposes by being employed according to His Desire, or, such can be used in a self-serving fashion. If it is used to knock on His Door that is great as such is His Design/Desire yet the Creature could not do so but for the fact that God has capacitated Man with volition. Such Volitional Faith (Trust) – while necessary – just is not sufficient, for He, God, The Door, must open. And He Has. On each and every front then we find that God gets all the credit should the Creature find itself in Heaven, whereas, should the Creature find itself in the Dark Outside, it is the Creature alone who gets all the credit.

  25. (1) Where does Scripture say that God loves His enemies? (Romans 5:10 states that He reconciled us while we were enemies, but does not even imply God loves His enemies). (2) Are you saying there is no hell? You do not seem to answer the question concerning what happens to the unwilling. (3) What are you stating the second death is? It appears that you are making it equal with annihilation, but just don’t like that word? (4) If I am reading one of your responses correctly to a comment on spiritual death, are you stating that there is no spiritual death for mankind? Before I respond to anything I just want to be a bit clearer on what you are stating.

    • (1) If Romans 5 doesn’t do it for you, try John 3:16 or Mat 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (2 & 3) Please see my other posts on hell and second death. (4) I’m simply saying the concept of spiritual death is not found the Bible. Those who preach it, must infer it.

      • The love in John 3:16 is a single expression of love towards the world when He gave His son. It does not say He loves His enemies. Although Matthew 5:44 is clearly in context referring to those in the Millennial Kingdom (the physical manifestation of the Kingdom of the Heavens on earth), and therefore cannot be applied to those of the Church, just like the Mosaic Law cannot be, it is instructions for those on earth, not an expression of God’s love. So, far I am not seeing any Scriptural evidence as to God loving His enemies. All I have read so far is inference. Does God not set Himself against those who are His enemies? (James 4:4)

    • Well God must be a cruel hypocrite if he tells us to love our enemies when he is not even capable of doing the same.It is not about scriptural knowledge but about knowing God and he has revealed himself to us in his first beggoten son.

  26. Danielle Nothmann // August 2, 2014 at 4:14 pm //

    Hi there my name is Danielle Nothmann. I’m 17 years old. I just recently looked at your post called The Unforgiveable Sin. My question when you said “rest assured none of them is unforgiveable” does that mean they are forgiveable?

  27. God isn’t doing any sort of torturing here. But we do need to look at the entire revelation of scripture, not just small sections of the gospels or even solely what Jesus said, but the entire revelation of all scriptures. Torment, torture, eternal disconnection from God. The second death could possibly be the end of the soul, but from scripture the first death seems to be the shadow of death, the death of our bodies, the second death could be the death of the soul, or the eternal disconnection from god of the soul. Like CS Lewis said, you get so many offers of free grace, but if you say “no thanks” enough times God says your will be done, and you’re placed somewhere where you are not connected with God. It’s not being poked with hot irons. It’s disconnection from God. Which is terrible. But if these people never once wanted God in life, he is simply giving them what they wanted, total disconnection from him. Even atheists in this life still get the incredible grace of being connected to God so they can live and move. It’s beyond imagining what total disconnection from God would feel like or be like. I choose eternal connection to God, through his son Jesus Christ. Amen.

    • Hi Justin
      Could I ask you (and anyone else reading) why you think you were able to choose eternal connection.
      Blessings.

  28. Immutable Love poured Himself out for me while I was His enemy.

    And that it just the start……

  29. Terry Bennett // August 3, 2014 at 1:48 am //

    Pastor Luther Walker, Jesus said, “forgive them Father for they know not what they do” in reference to those who crucified him. If that’s not loving your enemies I don’t know what is. Peace, TB

  30. Paul,

    I’ve been so blessed by your message of God’s Grace. My apologies for my word counts along the way…..but it all tastes so good that it’s hard to take just a bite at a time🙂

  31. Terry Bennett // August 3, 2014 at 2:02 am //

    Come to think of it there are examples all through the scriptures of God’s love for the world. When we are “of the world” and in our original sin nature we are at enmity with God. 2 Cor.5:19 tells us that “…God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;”. Again, what a show of love for your enemies. What a Savior! TB

  32. Brian Midmore // August 3, 2014 at 6:32 am //

    I suppose the reason why the ‘traditional’ church believes that God sends sinners to hell is a passage like Rev 20 12-15. Yes these people have chosen their path of life but God judges and ultimately condemns them for it. Are you saying that your understanding of grace somehow supercedes such Scripture?

  33. Psalm150:6 // August 3, 2014 at 9:08 am //

    For a excellent unpackaging of Luke 16 might I suggest Tim Kellers sermon on the parable. Youtube “Hell, Tim Keller.”
    The rich man is still trying to manipulate and boss God around.
    May God Bless the hell out of you. 8-D

  34. Lewis,

    Hebrews 11……pre-resurrection.

  35. Lewis,

    The explanation of all men capcitated by God with volition is in books all over….easy enough to find.

  36. If you believe that all things were created for Jesus by Jesus and from Jesus.You should be very careful not to elevate Satan above Jesus and make him stand on his own above creation.If hell does exist there will be no being there that does not deserve to be there . God would have it no other way.

  37. Lewis see above / earlier with my comment “Who gets credit” as to volition and etc. Within the triune we find those very same volitional (non-machine) motions amid and among Self-Other-Us.

  38. Pastor Walker,

    God loves His enemies. If we just grant your assertion that Matthew 5 is not for us “now” but only for us “then”, that man has to wait till kingdom come to thus love as God loves, God still does not have to “wait” to thus love, and so if we grant such a mistaken application to Matthew 5 such still fails to get God off the hook of loving perfectly in the fashion described.

    None of us can be perfect and Christ here raises the bar too high, on purpose, as the Old fades and the New is ushered in. Those for whom Christ spreads His arms wide, and pours Himself out, are nothing less than His enemies, all of us on the Outside, Mankind. His Cross just is the fullest, most robust manifestation of God’s Love within time and physicality. We just cannot argue that the Cross is some lesser thing in relation to Man or that Man is some greater thing in relation to the Cross. Romans is a thesis on Immutable Love’s (God’s) redemption of Man – which does not speak of five different “me’s” and five different “Him’s” but only of “He and I”, of that I-You which exists between me moving in my enmity to Him, and of Him moving in His love for me. Such is the case for me and you and us. We just cannot argue that God does not love in these fashions.

  39. Hell: We don’t find a child ceasing to exist, rather, we find the child in gestation failing to reach the full (9 month) term. Death does not come to Eternal Life, rather, Eternal Life fails to be born. This affirms Genesis’ description of the Tree of Life, the New Birth post Resurrection, that Inclusion is probably false, that Annihilation is probably false, and that Hell may not be timeless persistence after all. Aquinas’ “deficiency of being” and the nature of “Trinity” help us understand Hell/Evil. The Necessary Being’s immutable love is that necessarily triune geography of the Singular Whole that is Self-Other-Us, whereas, Loveless-ness is “that” minus the Whole’s “Other/Us”, – Aquinas’ Privation of the Self, deficiency of being – Life-Minus-Something – a failure of the fetus to fully gestate. We find in Scripture – over and over again – that the phraseology of “forever” too often means “to the end of life” rather than literally persisting through Time ceaselessly. We cannot be so theologically bold as to insist that “forever” must mean timeless persistence. Further, real things called cities (Gomorrah) are said to be smoke risining forever – but of course there is no city at all – no everlasting city – only the everlasting, permanent, effect of non-being, of eternal life failing to be birthed. As for the Work of God’s Hands and cities, there is going to be an Everlasting City – made without hands – which is the sort of Work His Hands fashion, but – one can soundly argue – not all cities thusly persist.

  40. David Weaver // August 4, 2014 at 2:34 am //

    It seems your saying those who receive grace go to heaven and a few others who refuse enough will basically cease to exists. But ceasing to exist isnt a bad thing. I mean you could live life to the fullest here, slaughter people by the 1000’s rape and pillage, live like a king and then just cease to exist. Well ceasing to exit means that you wont know what you missed out on, you wont be aware of anything. You wont know your with out God or heaven, no remorse etc.so who cares as long as you live each day to the fullest inspite of who gets in your way.

    • David
      I agree totally.
      If we are not eternally with Jesus we will not just cease to exist.
      Whatever exactly hell is I don’t know but it will infinitely worse than we can experience now and it will persist for a very long time before (if at all) it and all those in it ceases to exist.
      This makes the issue of why am I saved while many others will not be so necessary to consider IMO.
      It’s all by grace so I can take no glory or credit- that’s cool but what about the many who don’t experience this grace. No-one has or can do anything to deserve it so what, THAT DOESN’T ORIGINATE WITH THE LORD, determines that I will spend eternity with the Lord while my neighbour may not?
      I can’t believe this issue is not exercising our minds and being written about more In these pages.
      Blessings.

  41. Thank you Paul for the response concerning Luke16.I read some of your other posts on hell,and they shed some new light to me.Rev.20:14 was particularly helpful,about death and hades being thrown into the lake of fire and that being the second death.There is an ache in my heart for people i know who have died,especially family members that to my knowledge never believed in Jesus. I hate to think of them still suffering.Rev.21:4 says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,for the old order of things has passed away”.I had always “comforted” myself with those words,choosing to believe i suppose,that God would just wipe away every memory of mine that caused sorrow and pain.Struggle with thoughts that my “comforting” myself is in away “putting up a wall” to avoid pain,a hardening of my heart and i dont want to do that.Anyhow,thank you very much for the response and i look forward to E2R each day.

  42. Hi muller , can you tell me then , is salvation a cooperation?And have all people been chosen in this age to reject or accept salvation.And if we are saved thru our choice then how does eph 2/8-9 sound to you , remember the people addressed in this verse are saved , and cannot boast , not to even say I responded to the gospel but they are saved.If the verse says it is not out of you ,so can you accept or reject if it is not out of you at all.Is this a work if you accept ?

    • Hi Draydon, if you are comfortable with it, can I ask you to share your testimony of how you came to know and accept Jesus as your Saviour and to make Him Lord of your life? This will help me to better understand your view on the topic of salvation .

      • I can tell you exactly , it was like God had reached into my heart and turned on the belief button . Before this the bible was a dead book of verses , it made no sense to me . In that time I knew this was a divine undertaking.There was no sinners prayer or a religious ceremony that had convinced me , this was as the bible says , I was given faith by the grace of God to believe , and there was not one thing from myself that merits this belief .Ever since then nothing else matters but God and Jesus(and of course my family )Eph 2 /8,9 shows that you can not boast to someone to say you accepted Gods gift ,the verse says it is not out of you at all.I would still be a unbeliever had God not turned on that belief button .This is my story of salvation ,this is why eph 2/8,9 rings true for me.

      • Glory to God!! My salvation experience was very similar to yours and I agree fully with you, all glory must go to God for His grace making it possible for me (and you) to accept Jesus. Let me give you an example of my view… say I am an evangelist preaching to a group of people do I stand there and think by myself – I wonder how many of these people in front of me will receive grace from God today?? Surely NOT!!! I must believe that God’s grace is for ALL of them. When I approach someone to share the Gospel I cannot wonder whether God has chosen him – the very fact that I share with him is already proof that he was chosen! What I am saying is that if a preacher preach his heart out and give an invitation to accept Jesus – the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of ALL who is present and then there is a brief moment when the person lay down his own pride and self righteousness, ‘bends the knee’, and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior! The person is in full control of this decision albeit in a split second – it must be a choice otherwise we’re robots running either a yes/no program depending on what was loaded?? I am not saying that all people come to Christ through evangelists – just using it as an example. Blessings

      • Thanks for the reply , In salvation God is credited with 100% of the work , then if this is the case ,”which it is”
        why is the unbeliever not saved and you are . The only conclusion is because you believed and the non believer did not. This makes Christs work incomplete it’s the 99% work at the cross not 100% .You have to chisel some of the 100% of Christs work and give it to yourself if you made the choice and the nonbeliever didn’t (this is boasting )God makes choices to save some in this age (the elect) and others not. The good news is in due time and in the ages to come God will save all mankind thru Jesus the mediator ( we won’t get into this now)it’s the only logical conclusion for salvation and Gods choices Amen
        Nice talking thanks Draydon

      • Draydon, I think we then agree to disagree on the ‘elect’ and whether man has a free choice to choose Jesus in this and future ages. May God bless you richly in Christ Jesus!

      • Hey Draydon, you got me interested.🙂 What is it that makes some of us elect? Why does God choose one and not another? I said earlier you could have the last word, so I will not respond to your answer. (unless you want me to…haha) Thanks

      • The Scriptures portray God the Father as being omnipotent. Because of His incomparable power, there is nothing that God cannot achieve. Since He created and sustains all things through His Holy Spirit, no being within God’s creation is able to thwart His plan or purpose. Several times, God states in the Scriptures that His will is to eventually save all mankind. His chosen vessel for accomplishing this salvation is His son Yeshua the Messiah.
        Per His plan, God has called many people now to worship Him. However, from those many called, only a few will be chosen to be saved (Matt. 20:16; 22:14) in this age. God’s purpose in saving those few now is so that they can in turn help save others later. Most are destined to be used by God at this time to extend His mercy to those few. God’s plan calls for using most people in this age to show His wrath and to make His power and glory known to those on whom He is having mercy (Rom. 9:22)

    • We have free will but God knows what we will choose , predestination and free will only conflict in our three dimensions , take time out of the equation and they are perfectly compatible.

  43. Psalm150:6 // August 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm //

    “Things should be made simple, yet not simplier.” — Albert Einstein
    Gods got it covered awesome brothers and sisters😎

    Really enjoyed seeing Ginney Owens play piano and sing a song called “I know someone.” Ginney became blind at age 2.
    The lyrics are worthy.
    Heres a very short taste,
    “I don’t know much, yet I know someone who does…..”

    Blessings too infinity and beyond for all:))))
    Extreme thanks to Ellis for his book.”The Gospel in Ten Words.”
    And kudos for this site
    Grace and Peace to all all-ways😎

  44. I think a lot of the misconceptions about “hell” come from the poor (if not atrocious) translation done by the KJV and others. The Lake of Fire is a good example of this, where the perception is created that “God throws the wicked into it to torture them there forever”, when in actual fact, neither forever, nor torture are in the original text.

    I agree with much of what you’ve said, although if God is “letting people choose” to go somewhere terrible that he made for his enemies, without them really understanding or knowing, is not far removed from simply “sending them to hell”. It’s also not consistent with the actual meaningfor example of Matt 25:46, which clearly indicates a corrective process for a time and not the “eternal punishment” the NIV has. So, while it may be a convenient interpretation of scripture to let people cease existing, it’s not, in my view, consistent with the scriptures.

  45. David Weaver,

    Justice is a critical point. We must be careful that we do not make Justice an unsolved problem, else, for both those who love Immutable Love and for those who love the Self more than Immutable Love we come to an impasse. If Justice is the problem in need of a solution, then Christ’s (All-Sufficiency’s) Sacrifice – is deemed in-sufficient. The soul outlives the body, and whatever self-awareness of Regret / I-Wish-I-Had and so on may take place will – it seems – have a season in which such takes place. All will “know”. The problem is with the ceaseless status of that condition and with that condition being offered as a better Sacrifice (a more robust mode of Justice) than that of Christ. The first fails to be supported by scripture (“forever” is not always ceaseless persistence etc.) or by metaphysics for the Contingent Self (Man) – once isolated from the Non-Contingent Self (God) – literally cannot exist. That is what contingent means, and there seems to be a second death in which even hell and death die. As for anything (hell, pain, etc.) offered up as some kind of supposed “more robust mode” of Justice than that of All-Sufficiency pouring Himself into all that is insufficiency, well, there is no such thing. That is why Christ is the A and Z, the All and All. In the Cross we find those unthinkable vectors whereby Perfect Justice aborts Perfect Mercy and whereby, simultaneously, Perfect Mercy aborts Perfect Justice.

  46. “Burn a log, and you have gases, heat and ash. To have been a log means now being those three things. If the soul can be destroyed, must there not be a state of having been a human soul? ……… You will remember that in the parable, the saved go to a place prepared for them, while the damned go to a place never made for men at all. To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being in earth; to enter hell is to be banished from [“being human”]. What is cast (or casts itself) into hell is not a man: it is ‘remains’.” (CS Lewis)

    In God (Necessary, Non-Contingent) Alone is the motion into Self a motion into Necessary Goodness. Immutable Love’s Whole being that ceaseless reciprocity amid the triune geography of Self-Other-Us, we come to Man’s Contingent Self volitionally motioning into “that” minus-some-thing”. The Contingent apart from the Non-Contingent cannot find existence. “What is outside the system of self-giving is….. simply and solely hell……That fierce imprisonment in the self is but the obverse of the self-giving which is absolute reality…… We know much more about heaven than hell, for heaven is the home of humanity and therefore contains all that is implied in a glorified human life: but hell was not made for men. It is in no sense “parallel” to heaven: it is “the darkness outside,” the outer rim where being fades away into non-entity.” (CS Lewis)

  47. Lewis,

    You (rightly) asked: “what about the many who don’t experience this grace”. The Post / Topic prior this topic is/was about those who never know of Him / His Grace and looks at that question.

  48. Paul,

    By Justice aborting Mercy and by Mercy aborting Justice, I meant to speak towards the absolute completion of each – so much so that Justice thus complete subsumes all Mercy – and – Mercy thus complete subsumes all Justice. “Subsumes” may be a better word choice than “aborts” there…. I’m not sure. Deuteronomy 28:63 there too speaks to Love’s delight in Good, both in Justice and in Mercy – the OT’s means and ends there revealed in and by the NT / Christ. Sorry for what may have been a poor word choice.

  49. Santhosh // August 9, 2014 at 5:41 am //

    Very useful and eye-opening post! Congrats Paul!

  50. David Weaver // August 10, 2014 at 4:07 am //

    God’s “will” is for everyone to be saved. But God’s will doesn’t always come to pass is evident in other Scriptures. It’s not God’s will that any one be sick yet many are etc. If all this boils down to wrong translation of Scripture and the only true way to know the meaning of Scripture is to know ancient Greek and Hebrew than the Bible is worthless today. I think it is far fetched to say that the translation is wrong about destroyed, death, lake of fire etc. If I can’t trust any english translation on these than I can’t trust any scripture

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