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  • Is Hell Eternal Punishment, Eternal
    Death or Disciplinary Restoration?

    ARTICLE INDEX     

  • Who is correct? MacArthur, Bell, Hanegraaff or maybe the Early Fathers?
  • Core Tenant of the Faith or Protestant Propaganda?
  • The Evolution of Hell
  • What God said in Genesis about immortality
  • Annihilationism, Eternal Torment and Post-Mortem Salvation
  • Misdefining Terms and Picking Favorite Bible Verses
  • Heaven and Perfection
  • The Apostle's Creed in Error? Or Our Mindset?
  • Calvinism or Arminianism? Why Even the Most Intelligent Fall Into Error
  • God's Nature and Harmonizing Scripture


  • Who is correct? MacArthur, Hanegraaff or maybe the Early Fathers?

    Part 1, Part 2

    Now, I do not believe any of these ministers above are heretics. Franklin Graham has done many great relief projects through Samaritan's Purse. Hank Hanegraaff has done a vast amount of ministry exposing false prosperity teachers. Further, John MacArthur has done a great amount of work exposing the lies of the Easy Believism Gospel. My point with the above accusations is to show that anyone can make a minister look like a heretic by taking a few things out of context.

    Regarding the Emergent Church, I am against much of what they teach. In other words, I am no emergent church proponent and I do not agree with the odd teachings of Brian McLaren, Rick Warren or others. I am against Christlam and all the pondering of the validity of orthodox tenants. I am orthodox and believe in the Nicene and the Apostle's Creed (my statement of faith). I just wanted to get that out of the way for those who wanted to label me, "Emergent" or "Post Modern".

    Regarding "Universal Restoration", I would like to point out that it is nothing like the belief system of "Universalism". What I have noticed is that some Christians like to put both views together as one. They like to call all those who believe in "Universal Restoration", Universalists. There is a massive difference between a "Univeralist" and one who believes in "Universal Restoration".

    Here are just a few of the differences:

    1. Universalists may or may not believe in Hell or Punishment.
      Universal Restorationists believe in Hell, just as you do, yet do not believe it lasts forever. Basically, the only difference between you and a Universal Restorationist is they believe God disciplines non-believers for a finite period of time, rather than punishing forever.
    2. Universalists many do not believe you need to repent or have faith in Jesus Christ. They just believe everyone gets to Heaven.
      Universal Restorationists believe one needs to have faith in Christ and repent of their sins, whether it is in this life, or in the next, or the one after (There are 3 Ages: Now, The Intermediate State, The Judgement).
    3. Universalists often deny much of what the New Testament teaches (consequences of sin, requirement of faith, upholding God's Holiness, etc).
      The Universal Restorationist upholds all the main tenants of Christianity, along with its Creeds.

    However, with Rick Warren and Brian McLaren I am surmising they are Univeralists, based on what I have seen and read. I would have to say, Rob Bell atleast needs to atleast explain himself on a few things he has written, such as saying the Virgin Birth is vital to the faith, yet a chapter before saying that it would not effect his faith if it was found out Christ was not born of a virgin? To be fair, it has been stated that he was just pointing out how the greek term for virgin can mean more than just a "mere virgin" and that he, Rob Bell, believes in the virgin birth. Keep in mind, I have only read a little of his writings and seen only a few of his videos. Yet, I have read all those bad "one liners" he has said or written. I do not know him personally, nor do I regularly listen to him or attend his Mar's Hill Church (though its only a 2.75 hour drive away).

    Core Tenant of the Faith or Protestant Propaganda?

    Is John MacArthur correct in saying that Hell is black and white and to pervert it is to become a heretic?

    Well, first, I would like to distill the controversy regarding what is the "Traditional View" on Hell. The fact is, the Protestant viewpoint as commonly disseminated is not a viewpoint found with the earliest of the Church Fathers. Nevertheless, you could say, that some apologetic Protestants, such as Hank Haanegraff or John MacArthur, present one valid Traditional View on Hell. Yet, it is not true to say that they hold the only "Traditional View" on Hell.

    Early Church Fathers' Views on Hell

    Hermas (c. 150, W):

    "Sinners shall be consumed because they sinned and did not repent." - Hermas (c. 150, W), 2.33.

    "Those who have not known God and do evil are condemned to death. However, those who have known God and have seen His mighty works, but still continue in evil, will be chastised doubly, and will die forever." - Hermas (c. 150, W), 2.50.

    "And these, accordingly, are like the former, not having any fruits of righteousness; for as their mountain was destitute of fruit, so also such men have a name indeed, but are empty of faith, and there is no fruit of truth in them. They indeed have repentance in their power, if they repent quickly; but if they are slow in so doing, they shall die along with the former.” “Why, sir,” I said, “have these repentance, but the former not? for their actions are nearly the same.” “On this account,” he said, “have these repentance, because they did not blaspheme their Lord, nor become betrayers of the servants of God; but on account of their desire of possessions they became hypocritical, and each one taught according to the desires of men that were sinners. But they will suffer a certain punishment; and repentance is before them, because they were not blasphemers or traitors." - Hermas (c. 150, W), 2.51.

    Summation of Hermas Viewpoint: Those who are wicked will be punished and then suffer death (second death). Those who are righteous enter the Kingdom of God. Those who were believers but then became hypocrites, will be punished doubly and also have space to repent, as they were not blasphemers or traitors.

    My Thoughts: Obviously, not the common dogma of eternal punishment or the Protestant concept of no chance for repentance after death. But, I thought it was the Catholics who invented this idea? So, who should I believe? A well respected early church father, who was a disciple of Christ's apostles, or maybe my 21st Century pastor who went to some Protestant University?

    Justin Martyr (c. 210, W):

    "The souls of the godly remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse place, waiting for the time of judgement." - Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.197.

    "You may have fallen in with some [Gnostics] who are called Christians. However, they do not admit this [intermediate state], and they venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham. ... Do not imagine that they are Christians." - Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.239.

    "He goes to the everlasting punishment of fire." - Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.166.

    "... that every man will suffer punishment in eternal fire according to the merits of his deed ... Sensation remains to all who have ever lived, and eternal punishment is laid up." - Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.166.

    Summation of Justin Martyrs Viewpoint: First, we die and goto the place of the dead (Sheol/Hades). Those who are righteous are in paradise (upper Sheol). Those who were wicked are in lower Sheol (sort of Hellish potentially). From there, Christ judges us and then we either receive eternal reward in Heaven or eternal (or potentially limited duration, as the term "aion" in greek here could mean either) damnation in the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire is a place has sensation for those who are in it.

    My Thoughts: Justin Martyr quite possibly has similar doctrine to both Catholics and Protestants today. However, note he mentions the "Intermediate State", which Protestants either fumble, ignore or do not believe exists. Some Protestants (such as Hank Hanegraaff), acknowledge its existence and properly disseminate the concept. However, many protestants claim that Paradise was transfered to Heaven. This concept of it being transfered is no more biblical than purgatory. Just another theological construct made to explain away a theological problem and claimed to be "Orthodox".

    The reason I mention that the term "eternal" (the greek word "aion") may not actually mean "eternal" is due to the fact that Justin Martyr (along with all the other early fathers here) wrote in Greek. The term "aion" can mean various lengths of time (both in scripture and greek literature). An age, a long duration, eternity, etc. So, the translator of his commentary imposed the meaning "eternal" onto his words and perhaps he did not mean "eternal", but rather a long duration of time. I discuss this in more detail below.

    Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W):

    "To such, He has assigned everlasting damnation by cutting them off from life." - Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.475.

    "He will send into eternal fire those who transform the truth and who despise His Father and His coming" - Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.417.

    "Those who believe in Him will be incorruptible and will not be subject to suffering. They will receive the kingdom of Heaven" - Irenaeus quoting Philippians 2:8 (c. 180, E/W), 1.495.

    "He has inflicted an appropriate punishment upon those who try to avoid being subject to Him ..." - Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.523.

    Summation of Irenaeus Viewpoint: I have read several passages from Irenaeus and can not find one place where he says the damned are punished "eternally" (maybe dead eternally though). Irenaeus is careful in only using the term "eternal fire" or "everlasting damnation" and seems to believe that the damned are first punished and then exterminated (this is by assumption, based on the fact that he believes the non-believer is mortal). As it is clear when he says that only believers inherit immortality (which is what scripture actually states). So, I am under the impression that Irenaeus supported the doctrine of Annihilationism, meaning they cease to exist.

    Tertullian (c. 210, W):

    "We, however, so understand the soul's immortality as to believe it to be 'lost' - not in the sense of destruction - but of punishment, that is, in Gehenna." - Tertullian (c. 197, W), 3.177.

    Summation of Tertullian's Viewpoint: Tertullian believes that one is punished in everlasting fire if they are wicked and are judged by God and sent to the Lake of Fire. However, he also believes that there is an "Intermediate State" before the Judgement of Christ. The Intermediate State is the place of the Dead (Hades / Sheol). Both believers and non-believers are in this place, though, separated as seen in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus - one in Paradise (Abraham's Bosom) and the other in the Lower parts of Sheol. I have read many of the early fathers' viewpoints on the "Intermediate State" and atleast half of them believe a person can become "saved" while in this state.

    Theophilus (c. 180, E):

    "To the unbelieving and despisers ... there will be anger and wrath, tribulation and anguish. At the end, everlasting fire will possess such men." - Theophilus (c. 180, E), 2.93.

    "But some one will say to us, Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. But one will say, Was he, then, nothing? Not even this hits the mark. He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. " - Theophilus (c. 180, E), 2.42.

    Summation of Theophilus' Viewpoint: He apparently does not believe everyone has immortality. So what is meant by his understanding of "eternal punishment/damnation" is up for question a bit. Maybe he sees it as something we do not entirely understand, if a non-believer does not inherit immortality. So to what extent is one being tormented in the Lake of Fire is hard to determine from the fact he does not believe non-believers inherit immortality. This could be some of Plato's understanding of "being", which postulated that there are different "degrees" of being. So, maybe he is attempting to use Plato's idea of different levels of being to explain away this dilema. Or maybe, he uses it as a way to be able to say that one is annhilated, yet punished (not truly alive).

    My Thoughts: I have seen some early fathers claim that death includes punishment, but this is just weak logic. You can not be both dead and still alive (have feeling or sensation). It maybe possible there are various levels of being, but "death" means lack of being, not less being. If one is to take the Bible literally, we must assume logic also plays a part. The fact is, death means death (not sort of dead and still have consciousness). So, the question is since the Bible says both "eternal death" and "eternal torment", we must ask, which one of these means something other than what it appears to mean at face value. As it is not logical to assume both mean what they say at face value, as they contradict each other.

    Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E):

    "He says that the Lord is the Propitiator, 'not only for our sins' - that is, for those of the faithful - 'but also for the whole world.' He indeed, saves all. But [He saves] some by converting them through punishments. However, those who follow voluntarily, [He saves] with dignity of honor." - Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.575.

    "And in Him is no darkness at all,' - that is, no passion, no keeping up of evil respecting anyone. He destroys no one, but grants salvation to all" - Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.575.

    Origen (c. 225, E):

    "I think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end. For all of His enemies will be conquered and subdued." - Origen (c. 225, E), 4.260.

    "'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' Is the 'world' here to be taken spiritually to mean the church? Is the taking away of sin limited to the church? If so, what are we to make of the saying of the same disciple? .... Paul's words appear to me to be the same effect, when he says, 'Who is the Savior of all men, especially of the faithful." - Origen (c. 228, E), 9.380.

    Summation of Clement and Origen's Viewpoint: It appears that both of these men worked with the viewpoint of Universal Restoration. Does God save all through punishments? I believe what they are trying to solve here is the fact God saves all, yet non-believers are also punished in eternal/long duration fire. So, if God saves all, is some saved through Sheol/Hades (before the Judgement)? Or are even some saved after being cast into the Lake of Fire? As God also brings everything into subjection to Him, as stated in scriptures and one can not say that someone sinning in the Lake of Fire, while being tormented, is in subjection to Christ. If every knee bows, how is it some are still sinning and being tortured in the Lake of Fire?

    With the Roman Catholic Church's rewriting of history, many today do not know how widely Universal Restoration was taught within early church history. Many (such as W. E.H. Lecky and Prof. Shedd.) say that only the school of Alexandria had an offshoot of theology believing in Universal Restoration. Yet, the truth is that Universal Restoration was taught by Didore of Tarsus (a teacher of Chrysostom, not of the School of Alexandria), Theodore of Mopsuestia (from the school of Antioch), and the Eastern school of Edessa and Nisibis.

    "It is noticeable that the exegetico-grammatical school of Antioch, as well as the allegorizing Alexandrian, adopted and maintained the doctrine of restoration" - Guericke's "Church History (p. 349, note 1)

    Therefore, it is clear that there was a branch of theology within the early church that believed all things would eventually be restored to Christ. It should also be noted that there were many also within the early church who taught annihilationism (Clemens Romanus, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Theophilus of Antioch(maybe?) and Irenaeus). So, it is clear with all of these examples, that there were many viewpoints on the afterlife within early church history.

    The fact is, probably 35% of the earliest fathers thought similar to him (that is "Universal Restoration"), and about 40% or so believed in Annihilationism. And only 25% of the early church fathers believed in "eternal torment". I have seen various researchers claims on the percentages, with one showing more of the church was annihilationist and another stating that a larger portion of the church was universal restorationist. If you take the average of these two researchers and take into consideration the lack of certainty, due to the Latin Church's destruction of many documents they disagreed with, we can only know that there were three main schools of thought on Hell, all with a significant number of adherants.

    So, John MacArthur, Hank Haanegraff and other ministers are telling everyone that "all" or "most all" of the early church fathers believed in an "Eternal Hell". Yet, it is far more likely that only 25% of the early church fathers believed in "eternal torment". Further, only approximately 12% of all the early fathers believed in "eternal torment" and "no ability to repent and be saved after death". So, today, the common Protestant dogma represents APPROXIMATELY 12% of the early church father viewpoints on the afterlife. So, I believe it is a bit niave to declare all who disagree with this common dogma as "unorthodox".

    Perhaps the above citations are not enough to convince you that the doctrine of "eternal torment" maybe in error. Well, how about I cite a few revered theologians and commentators from the last couple centuries?

    When speaking of the term "aion" (translated eternal when refering to Hell as seen in Revelation 20:10):

    1. Adam Clarke translates it "To the ages of ages."
    2. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown "Unto ages of ages."
    3. Robert Young translates it "To the ages of [the] ages."

    Maybe you are surprised to see these people above translating it "ages", rather than "eternal"? I have a few of Robert Young's works on this website (NT Word Pictures, Young's Literal Translation of the Bible). I also have Adam Clarke's works on this website. Adam Clarke was indeed a great mind and created a unique commentary of the Bible.

    Adam Clarke:

    "There is room for hope in his death. The chief priests who instigated Judas were worse men than himself, and if mercy was extended to those, the wretched penitent traitor did not die out of the reach of the yearning of its bowels. And I contend, further, that there is no positive evidence of the final damnation of Judas in the sacred text. I would not set up, knowingly, any plea against the claims of justice; and God forbid that a sinner should be found capable of pleading against the cries of mercy on behalf of a fellow culprit. Reader, learn from thy Lord this lesson: ' Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.'" - Acts 1:26 - Adam Clarke (c. 1762–1832, W).

    "Because he wills the salvation of all men, therefore he wills that all men should be prayed for;" - Matthew 6:10 - Adam Clarke (c. 1762–1832, W).

    "that the pleasure of God is, 'to have all men saved, and brought to the knowledge of the truth'" - Isaiah 53:10 - Adam Clarke (c. 1762–1832, W).

    "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed". (Gen. 22:18) All the NATIONS of the earth, all the FAMILIES of the earth, according to this promise, are to be blessed in the seed of Abraham. The language is absolute. It is without any condition. 'ALL the nations of the earth SHALL BE BLESSED'. " - Genesis 12:3 - Adam Clarke (c. 1762–1832, W).

    The problem is Adam Clarke admits to the term "aion" meaning "ages", yet, he uses the argument of "It was better that Judas was not born" to prove Eternal Torment. So, to me, this seems contradictory in nature. Should we not put the direct meaning of scripture before our biases? Should tradition be put before clear reading of scripture?

    Hence we find the seemingly contradictive nature of various ideas of scripture. How can all be subject, all be saved, yet certain people are tortured for millions, billions, eternally in the Lake of Fire? How can one say, all tears are wiped away? Perhaps its just a long duration of corrective punishment and they are eventually restored? This I believe is what Origen and Clement of Alexandria were trying to convey in the above quotes.

    This is where all the controversy lies. For one to just pretend there is no contention here, they are just lying to themselves. So, we can see, even the early fathers are not all in agreement as to what happens when one dies. In the book, "History of Opinions on the Scriptural Doctrine of Retribution" by Edward Beecher, D.D. (1878) we find the same conclusion regarding the early fathers as I have made here (I found this after writing much of the above - See the Section, "Four Ends").

    Though, it can be said that a number of early fathers believed that eternal death consisted of eternal punishment, one can point to three things: Roman Catholicism potentially rewriting the early fathers (skewing the meaning of "aion" in early father commentary), the influence of Gnosticism/Neo-Platonism within the church, and also the fact that at the time there were three accepted viewpoints (Annihilationism, Universal Restoration and Endless Punishment). The influence of Plato on the early church writers was primarily through the concept of (the immortal soul). The logic of Plato is essentially that whatever comes forth from God has the potential of immortality. So, the soul, which is in perfection (the mind is the soul), we find such things as math/logic/etc, which is perfect in concept. Since these are perfect in concept and reside in the mind (aka the soul), we can see the potential indestructibility and potential eternality of the soul.

    The fact is, even the earliest of fathers were subject to the vain philosophies of their time. Gnosticism, Platonism, Sociphism. All of these had tenants that have found their way into Christian theology (gnostic influence on sex, communion, eternal life, etc).

    Again, the term "eternal" used in the above citations is the greek word "aion", which is often used in scripture to refer to a long duration based on the contextual situation. For instance, in Luke 16:8, we find the use of this term "aion":

    "And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation (aion) wiser than the children of light. " - King James Bible - Luke 16:8

    In this case, "aion" refers to "this generation". It is based on a contextual understanding, such as the term "tall" in english. For instance, a tall glass of juice, would be about 6 inches tall. A tall man would be about 7 foot tall. And a tall building would be a 100 story tall building. So, it is relative to the item being described.

    And the term "punishment" or "torment" ("kolasis" in greek), means remedial (corrective) punishment, rather than vindictive punishment, according to world-renowned Greek scholar William Barclay.

    "The only thing that could be done with the wood pruned out of a vine was to make a bonfire of it and destroy it [not torture it]." - p. 174, The Gospel of John, Vol. 2, Revised Ed., The Daily Study Bible Series, 1975.

    "The word for punishment is kolasis. This word was originally a gardening word, and its original meaning was 'pruning trees'. In Greek there are two words for punishment, timoria and kolasis, and there is a quite definite distinction between them. Aristotle defines the difference; kolasis is for the sake of the one who suffers it; timoria is for the sake of the one who inflicts it (Rhetoric I.I0) ... Clement of Alexandria (Stromateis 4.24; 7.16) defines kolasis as pure discipline, and timoria as the return of evil for evil. Aulus Gellius says that kolasis is given that a man may be corrected' timoria is given that dignity and authority may be vindicated (The Attic Nights 7.14). ... Kolasis is always given to amend and to cure." - – p. 189, The Apostle's Creed by William Barclay

    "The Greek usage of aionios is even more suggestive. Plato in the Laws (I0.I2) says that body and soul are indestructible (anolethron), but they are not eternal (aionios) like the gods. In the Timaeus he says that time as we know it in this world is formed on the model of the nature which is aionios, eternal. The fact is that in Greek aionios can properly only describe that which is divine; in the true sense of the term only God is aionios. Aionios kolasis is therefore the disciplinary punishment, designed for the cure of men, which may last through-out many ages, and which only God can give." - – p. 189, The Apostle's Creed by William Barclay

    So, this means that the early fathers above, could have been refering to just a long duration of time. Instead of "eternal punishment", in their mind they could have more likely been thinking "a long period of corrective punishment". This does not imply eternal (endless) as the term "aion" is almost always refering to a finite period of time in scripture and these early Christian writings (most of the earliest fathers wrote in greek).

    Here are a few more examples of the term "aion" being used in scripture to refer to finite periods of time (rather than the incorrectly translated eternal in reference to "eternal punishment" or "eternal torment"):

    "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (aion) " - King James Bible - Matthew 24:3

    QUESTION: How do you have the end of the world if its an "eternal" amount of time?

    "Jesus said to them, 'The children of this age marry, and are given in marriage.'" - World English Bible - Luke 20:34

    QUESTION: The children of this "eternal" marry? Or does "this generation" or "this age" sound more correct?

    "Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. " - World English Bible - 1 Corinthians 10:11

    If aion is eternal, why does the eternal end here? As it would read: "ends of the eternal have come"? Therefore, it is obviously refering to a finite length of time.

    In light of the above, perhaps a better translation of Revelation 20:10 would be:

    "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be correctively punished day and night for more than an age. " - King James Bible - Revelation 20:10



    The Evolution of Hell

    So has Hell always been Hell as we define it today? Is it right for those who are conservative Protestants to believe they have cornered the Hell topic and that there is no room for discussion? As we have seen above, Hell has not always been understood the way we know it today and even with the early viewpoints we see a diversity of opinion.

    The question is, has Hell evolved over time? Was there something that influenced the topic of Hell?

    I believe philosophy has played a big part in shaping the false dichotomy of Hell. With many of the early church fathers, we find those who were philosophers and teachers who were influenced by popular theories of their times, such as Platonism, Stoicism and Gnosticism. All of these were prevelant and popular within the first few centuries of the church. Further, in the 4th century, there came a Manichean Gnostic named St. Augustine of Hippo, who is considered the father of Western Christian Theology. (Catholic and by relation, Protestant). Yet, it was St. Augustine's application of manichean thought which has greatly influenced Christianity throughout all later generations. Further, St. Augustine knew very little of the greek language, yet popularized the idea that "aion" in greek means "eternal", when it generally meant a temporal amount of time. Consider also Augustine's odd teachings on sexuality, or his pro-abortion stance, or his championed belief in the immortal soul, which, in the mind of Augustine, requires the non-believer to be tormented forever.

    St. Augustine (c. 421, E):

    "In vain, therefore, do some men, indeed, very many, because of human sentiment, bewail the eternal punishment, of the damned and their perpetual, unending torments, without really believing that it shall be so...But let them suppose, if it pleases them, that the punishments of the damned are, at certain periods of time, somewhat mitigated. For even thus it can be understood that they remain in the wrath of God that is, in damnation itself, for it is this that is called the Wrath of God, not some disturbance in the divine mind: that in His wrath, that is, by their abiding in His wrath, He does not shut up His mercies; yet He does not put an end to their eternal punishment, but only applies or interposes some relief to their torments." - St. Augustine of Hippo, Enchiridion of Faith, Hope & Love (c. 421, W), .

    "So then what God by His prophet has said of the everlasting punishment of the damned shall come to pass—shall without fail come to pass,—“their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched.”1505 In order to impress this upon us most forcibly, the Lord Jesus Himself, when ordering us to cut off 461 our members, meaning thereby those persons whom a man loves as the most useful members of his body, says, “It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched." - St. Augustine of Hippo, City of God and Christian Doctrine (c. 421, W), .

    The problem is, St. Augustine did not know Greek and was from the Latin side of the church, which taught "eternal torment". Augustine attempted to learn greek, but admitted he "hated it". Perhaps if Augustine would have actually studied the Bible as it was originally written, we would not be discussing this right now. Did Augustine even know what these passages refered to? The worms and fire are refering to a garbage pit that continually burned just outside of Jerusalem, called Gehenna. Considering the fact that trash was continually thrown into it, it would make sense that it would continually burn and worms would continue to florish in it. If I say to you that a fire never goes out, does that mean it will not go out for eternity? Or does it possibly mean it is just a continual fire that I keep feeding? By the way, Gehenna is not burning today. So if the metaphor was built on this place, the fact is, it has already stopped burning and the worms are already dead.

    Since St. Augustine was at one time a Gnostic, we know he potentially brought gnostic tools to the analysis of scripture. Hence, the trouble we find in the early church with "wolves in sheeps clothing", as Paul and John discuss in their epistles mainly against the Gnostics.

    Plato taught that our souls are immortal and that our physical is temporary. His works, along with Aristotle were foundational for those centuries after him, in their analysis of life and religion. We can see that Plato influenced the ideas of Gnosticism and Stoicism, as Plato taught that the world around us is an illusion (can anyone say "The Matrix"?) Gnostics believed that the physical world was created by an evil god, while the spirital world by the Logos (true God). We find the Apostle John mention that Jesus is the "True Logos" in the Book of John:

    "In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. " - King James Bible - John 1:1

    However, we see the Apostle John counteract this idea of the physical being evil when he said the Logos was made flesh:

    "And the Word (Logos) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. " - King James Bible - John 1:14

    And to drive the point home, the Apostle John says:

    "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." - King James Bible - 2 John 1:7

    So, the Apostle John here is directly speaking against the Gnostic idea of an evil god creating the world. Rather, the Logos, or True God, created both the physical and spiritual. Now, doesn't it bother you a little that our most revered Christian theologian was a Manichean Gnostic prior to his conversion and just so happened to bring his gnostic-leanings into the interpretation of scripture? Even if St Augustine never was a heretic, he did put a lot of gnostic spin on secondary doctrines, which have echoed throughout the centuries until now.

    The Apostle John is plainly contradicting the ideas of Plato and the Gnostics, on many points, even going to so far as to call them "antichrist". The Gnostics considered the physical as evil in nature and denied anything that is "physical", such as the "physical ressurrection" of Christ or the value of the Eucharist or the enjoyment of "physical pleasure" as we see with sex, food, entertainment, etc. We can see some good in Plato's teachings, but we know that a little leaven is enough to cause great error.

    Plato also taught the indestructability of the soul. His writings outline our makeup as such:

    1. the logos (mind, nous, or reason)
    2. the thymos (emotion, or spiritedness)
    3. the eros (appetitive, or desire)

    The difference was Plato believed that the undestructible soul would be continually reborn in new physical bodies (i.e. ~ reincarnation). He believed this, because he saw a dualism of mind and matter. Matter was sensible, but it changes over time. With the Mind, you have values, logic, mathematics, etc that does not change. So, the thing that does not change is "indestructible" and the thing that does change is "an illusion". From here, the gnostics tried to build a foundation of beliefs and Christians were influenced by all of this.

    Further, we have the famous 'allegory of the cave', where we only see the shadows of true reality, rather than actual reality. This was Plato's way of allegorizing the mind and matter factor of our being. Matter changes, like shadows on a wall and things of the mind, like mathematics, logic, etc do not change, as with the reality not known at first by the cave dwellers. And when one learned of the truth, the others could not comprehend it, as they had only known matter.

    So, to say Christianity was not influenced by Plato or Gnosticism is to lie to ourselves. However, the balanced approach is to point out the error within Neo-Platonic Christian doctrine and to defend the faith.

    The best way to look at all of this is to realize, Plato was to religious/philosophical thought what Newton was to physics. He essentially came up with a better model of how to look at ourselves as beings and to understand the logic of God being immutable. Yet, does it follow that if God is immutable, that the human soul/spirit is as well? This conclusion of the spirit of man being eternal is a result of the assumption that God created the spirit in perfection and that sin had not tainted it to make it "mortal". So, the dualistic concept of the spirit as perfection and the physical as not, is an oversimplification of how sin interacts with the human condition. I discuss the implications of this oversimplification here.

    In reality, sin has influenced both the spiritual and physical nature of man. So Neo-Platonism is simply an imperfect model of the human condition. As with Newtonian physics, the model only works for basic understanding, but not a complete understanding.

    Before Plato: The Old Testament View of the Afterlife.

    The eternal nature of God has always been known. This is something that has been clearly established within the Old Testament. So, when Plato made his dichodomy that God is immutable (never changing), he was not teaching anything new. As it says in Psalm 102:26:

    "But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. " - King James Bible - Psalms 102:27

    I should not mention Malachi 3:6 (I am the LORD your God and change not), seeing it was likely written slightly before Plato (too close to his lifetime).

    Yet, from this truth, Plato went on to extract many other ideas. Some of which are not discussed within the Old Testament. The war between mind and matter, or as the Apostle Paul put it, our flesh and spirit. We do see some of this hinted at in various stories in the Old Testament. King David, for instance, with his sin of adultery. Or even maybe King Solomon, who was the wisest man who has ever lived, yet even he fell into temptation with his wives' idolatrous ways. Also, with Ezekiel, pointing out the utter depravity of those who are to be God's chosen people continuing in sin. So, we know there is some natures within our being at war, though not clearly defined.

    What God said in Genesis about immortality.

    Yet, with the eternal nature of the soul, we do not see this in the Old Testament. Matter of fact, we see in the Garden of Eden God's explusion of Adam and Eve, lest they eat of the Tree of Life.

    "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: " - King James Bible - Genesis 3:22

    This makes it very clear, Adam and Eve did not have eternal life in themselves, or why would God fear them eating of it? Here we see one of Plato's main errors for which many New Testament Christians fell for.

    Further, we do not see much defining of what this afterlife is in the Old Testament. We know all die and goto Sheol/Hades. They goto the place of the dead. From there, we know that God will eventually judge those who are there. Yet, we do not know much about what awaits those who have died and are in the Afterlife. There are visions of Heaven found in the Old Testament, which gives us glimpses into what awaits us, as seen in Ezekiel and other portions of scripture. Yet, not much of anything in regards to this Lake of Fire spoke of in Revelation. All we know is that there are two places within Sheol. The better part, which would be Abraham's Bosom or Paradise and the lower part, which would be for the wicked.

    Annihilationism, Eternal Torment and Post-Mortem Salvation.

    So, we have no proof whatsoever that:

    1. Life is eternal for those who are wicked. Actually, if anything, we have proof that their life is not eternal without God, based on the Garden of Eden account and sin/death entering the world.
    2. Regarding the punishment or judgement of the wicked, we just know God is just and will judge both the wicked and righteous.

    The wording of the Old Testament attests to either the idea that death means death (second death meaning literal death), rather than eternal punishment (seems to me to be the opposite of death), or the idea that God reconciles all to Himself (they are spiritually dead and dead to life with God, but God can restore them).

    To put it more plainly, death either means:

    1. Complete Death (Annhilated).
    2. Spiritual Death (God could potentially restore)

    And the reason "eternal torment" is not logical as commonly defined:

    1. Eternal torment = alive (due to sensation of physical pain).
    2. The only way eternal torment would have any logic to it is if you believe they are physically dead and are administered mental/spiritual pain (bad memories, etc), as then you could say they are "Spiritually Dead" and physically dead. The soul/spirit includes the mind, not the body. The physical body has already died, so why would you feel "physical" sensation?

    Thats about as simple as I can put it.

    Yet, the question is "Why do they need to feel physical sensation?" as a few of the early fathers put it and as St Augustine put it? I will tell you why they believed this. It is because, they were influenced by gnosticism and gnosticism clearly teaches that the spiritual is good, while the physical is evil. So, to "cleanse" the evil physical part of a person, you would have to administer "physical" torment. They have taken verses like "weeping and gnashing of teeth" and turned it into a reaction to physical pain, rather than understanding its real meaning. At the time of Christ's, this phrase, "weeping and gnashing of teeth" refered to shame and indignant reaction to truth. Essentially it meant moral and mental anguish.

    How can I clearly prove this? It is very simple. Read this passage here:

    "2 And he (Stephen) said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, 3 And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. .... 51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept [it]. 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with [their] teeth. " - King James Bible - Acts 7:2-54

    When Stephen's audience heard him accuse them of killing God's prophets and rejecting the truth, they "gnashed on him with [their] teeth". It should be very clear, they do not have physical, but rather mental and moral anguish at Stephen's words.

    Death Means Death:

    "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts. " - King James Bible - Malachi 4:3

    "A good name is better than precious ointments: and the day of death than the day of one's birth. " - King James Bible - Ecclesiastes 7:1

    "13 This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the inheritance of the violent, which they shall receive of the Almighty. 14 If his children be multiplied, [it is] for the sword: and his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread. 15 Those that remain of him shall be buried in death: and his widows shall not weep." - King James Bible - Job 27:13-15

    Has the Power to Reconcile All to Himself:

    "3 Say unto God, How terrible [art thou in] thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. 4 All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing [to] thy name. Selah. " - King James Bible - Psalms 66:3-4

    "Wherfore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. " - King James Bible - Isaiah 50:2

    "Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: " - King James Bible - Jeremiah 32:17

    "21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. " - King James Bible - Philippians 3:21

    "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. " - King James Bible - Hebrews 7:25

    Keep in mind, there is only one verse out of about 33,000 in the Bible that may say "eternal torment", namely:

    "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. " - King James Bible - Revelation 20:10

    Based on the actual Greek meaning of "kolasis" and "aion" at the time this passage was written above, it more likely reads, "and shall be remedially punished day and night for more than an age".

    I want to let you know right here, I am a man who takes the Bible literally. I believe this type of terminology, "taking the Bible literally" has been hijacked by Conservative Protestants to essentially mean anything they espouse. The fact is, I am a Conservative Protestant. The difference, though, between I and those who claim they are taking the Bible literally, is I have spent a great deal of time studying the early church fathers, the origin of doctrines within the church, and the terminology of the original greek and hebrew texts of scripture.

    The fact is, "eternal torment" is not a good translation of what is being conveyed here. Plato said the only time this means "eternal" is when it is discussing God, or by extension something God creates in perfection.

    Hell is neither eternal nor a perfect idea. If God restores all and fixes everything, there is no more place for endless torture. Therefore, it is not an eternal idea by Plato's definition. And that is the problem here: We have theologians, who have impressed their theology early on in Christian doctrinal construction (St Augustine being the father of many flawed theologies, such as this one).

    I believe St. Augustine took Plato's idea of the "indestructibility" of the soul and then applied it to the wicked. So, if the wicked have an indestructible soul (which I have already shown above is incorrect), then it follows that their soul would not be consumed in Hell. And if you believe there is no way out of Hell, you would have to conclude that Hell is "eternal". This is how I believe St. Augustine came up with his theology, which has been embraced by the Western Church.

    St. Augustine also borrowed from Aristotle (a student of Plato) regarding the soul being formed in the womb after a month or so. This is how he came to the conclusion that a very early abortion would not be "taking a life". He also taught that it is a sin for a man to have sex with his own wife! Essentially, St. Augustine took his theology from Plato and his Manichean Gnostic roots. Gnostics taught all physical pleasure was evil. Gnostics took their foundation from Plato. So, to me it seems very plain and obvious that we have been gnosticized by the theology of St. Augustine!

    One can claim, well what about some of the earliest fathers (such as a couple I quoted at the beginning of this article), "Did they not say eternal fire/torment?" The problem is they wrote in Greek, not english. And here is the issue. Their commentary was written in greek regarding the greek text of the Bible. It was then translated by the very same type of people who translated the New Testament. And these very same people had a doctrine of "eternal torment" already in their bias. So, here we are, relying on a translation that has theology impregnated in it.

    Why is it we have so much confusion in the church? We read Bibles in secondary languages with definitions based on theology. If we all knew the original definitions in greek and hebrew and read in those langauges there would be FAR less controversy and division (assuming we actually did not allow our sinful nature to get in the way).

    So, the old saying is right, "The more you learn about the Bible, the more questions you have." Here we are, challenging a commonly believed "basic" theology of scripture, namely, "eternal torment".

    Now, from a logic standpoint, I will show the flaw of "eternal torment". First, I have shown above, that the term is most likely not "eternal" as only God is eternal. Second, the term torment is remedial punishment (corrective punishment) not torture. Third, we come to the theological paradox of believing in "eternal torment":

    1. First, how can a loving God unmercilessly torment people because of sin? If God is love, why does "love" torment?
    2. Second, how could endless torment be remedial/corrective punishment? If they are corrected, would it not cease? If they can ever be corrected, what is the point of the torture?
    3. Third, we can see the logic of an eternal God having eternal value and a finite being offending an infinite being having an eternal price. So, this part of the logic holds up. However, God is love. How can we reconcile a "God of love" with "eternally tormenting people"?
    4. And last, how can God reconcile all things if he is still busy tormenting people forever? How can God wipe away every tear, if loved ones are still being tortured? And if God just causes us to forget, how can we reconcile God's deception with God's honesty and goodness?

    Do you see the logical problem as I do? If we saw a dictator torturing people endlessly and then telling us he loves them, what would you think? Even if the offense was infinite in price, how could God keep his reputation as good by torturing others forever?

    So, I believe it is clear, that God does not punish indefinitely. Rather, it is a long period of correction. We could understand God having Capital Punishment in the case of many offenders, such as the Devil, but if God is love, would not He try to save as many as possible? So, one can easily see how Annihilationism combined with God trying to save all as a more realistic and harmonious belief. As it honors God's character and also harmonizes with all texts. One could also say God could eventually save all through various means of correction, but we can not conclude necessarily this is the case.

    If this fire is God's Presence, it would make sense it is eternal and could be refering to the state or quality of the fire, rather than a time duration. As one passage states, "God is a consuming fire". Fire either refines or burns up something. It does not torment and nothing burns forever. Using the symbolism of scripture it is clear, it is a refining spiritual fire of God, making people pure, through a form of remedial punishment of some sort. It is not Hellraiser, or the Devil with a pitchfork torturing naked people for eternity (can anyone say Dante's Inferno?). As one scripture states, we are to "put away old wives' fables". So, the eternal nature could be the quality of the fire or punishment, rather than time, if it is refering to God's presence. If it is just refering to a place of torment, we can not necessarily say it is eternal, as that does not fit the definition of "aion". As you can see, there are many ways to look at this using the ancient meaning of the terms. Those who want to call you a heretic for looking into the scriptures and being a good Berean are just causing derision, rather than solving anything.

    Misdefining Terms and Picking Favorite Bible Verses.

    In the book "Life Time Entirely. A Study of AION in Greek Literature and Philosophy, the Septuagint and Philo", Helena makes this remarkable comment:

    "The Greek word (aion) has a history in two worlds. It has a place in Greek literature and philosophy, and a place in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, where it represents a Hebrew word. So aion has led a life in the Greek as well as the Biblical world. Hence it is marked by a double measure of meaning. Aion is related to two worlds in yet another sense, namely in the New Testament which speaks of 'this' aion and the one 'to come'. The New Testament usage of aion and its interpretation in the early Church-interpretation in interaction and confrontation with Greek philosophy and Gnosticism-is a decisive, but posterior part of world's history." - A Study of AION ... - Introduction

    She further goes on to say:

    "As any lexicon of the Greek language will tell you, the first attested meaning of aion is 'life'.... Aion is the life had. This meaning, let us designate as 'lifetime', continues to be valid throughout the centuries." - A Study of AION ... - Introduction

    The fact is, the most basic root meaning of the word "aion" is "a life time". A life time, for all intents and purposes is limited or finite. Yet, only in the case of God or something that extends from God, did Plato say it meant "eternal". So, should we go with the original meaning of the word and then derive theology or should we just assume that St Augustine had it right and that "aion" means "eternal" when applied to Hell? As you can see, this is not as solid of an orthodoxy as one might imagine. One should consider the foundation on which their theology is built. As God will burn up all that is hay and stubble.

    If we look at the Strong's Concordance, we find this definition of "aion":

    Word: aiwn

    Pronounce: ahee-ohn'

    Strongs Number: G165

    Orig: from the same as 104; properly, an age; by extension, perpetuity (also past); by implication, the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future):--age, course, eternal, (for) ever(-more), (n-)ever, (beginning of the , while the) world (began, without end). Compare 5550. G104

    Use: TDNT-1:197,31 Noun Masculine

    Heb Strong: H314 H1973 H1988 H5331 H5703 H5750 H5769 H6924 H8548

      1) for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity
      2) the worlds, universe
      3) period of time, age

      For Synonyms see entry G5921

    Plato's use of the term "aion" to mean "eternity":

    "[the Demiurge] began to think of making a moving image of eternity: at the same time as he brought order to the universe, he would make an eternal image, moving according to number, of eternity remaining in unity. This, of course, is what we call 'time.'" - Plato's Cosmology - 37d

    So time is defined by God's nature of existence, which is eternity. So, Plato makes use of eternity in context to God. Was it an overstep for theologians to assume that Hell or the Lake of Fire has to be eternal, as it came from God? Yet, as we all know, many things come from God, yet are not eternal. Things around us decay all the time, due to entropy. So, we know many things God created are finite in nature. So, we do not need to assume that the Lake of Fire is eternal. It could be a long span of time, but not eternal.

    I believe the Bible is divinely inspired and without error. Yet, I am refering to the original texts, in Greek and Hebrew, not those translations made by men into other languages. Nothing in the Bible indicates to me that those who translate are automatically "led by the Holy Ghost" when translating. We can only say such regarding those who actually wrote scripture, not those who translate. Even atheists can translate the Bible, so credibility is not from education or achievement, but rather an honest view and a balanced approach to understanding God's Word.

    Heaven and Perfection. (Destruction of old to have perfection)

    How can one say, God has restored all things and wiped away every tear, while there are millions, even billions being tortured in Hell for Eternity? Now, lets ask ourselves, where is the logic in this?

    Can an atheist even have a few honest questions? Of course he can. If one can not provide a real answer, it should not surprise you that some would not want to believe in a God who eternally tortures those who do not recite a prayer.

    So, if you have not prayed the sinners prayer, you will burn for eternity? Does one even understand how rediculous this sounds to those who do not believe? The fact is, it should sound rediculous to us as well, yet we are conditioned to believe that is exactly what the Bible teaches, due to skewed translations and the influence of gnosticism.

    This is why many do not believe in an Eternal Hell. Because it is an incorrect view of Hell. It does not fit the mold of a loving God. God loves me, but God also eternally physically torments people forever. It is like saying 2 + 2 = 7. It really is that simple of an error. Yet, as Hitler said:

    "... more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters ... " - Adolf Hitler - Mein Kampf, Pg 134 (1942)

    Perhaps, the common dogma of Hell is just that: a big lie. Perhaps the Devil wants people to believe that God would torture them forever in Hell, to set many at odds with God.

    In actuality, Hell is more along the lines of a prison. A corrective institution of God, designed to bring people to repentance, not torture them like you see in a horror show.

    The fact is, God would have to annhilate the worst of sinners to even retain his goodness or He would out of love seek to save all that was lost. These are the only two options I can see that are credible if we want to believe "God is love" and will restore all things and wipe away all tears.

    Now, I can understand how anyone who is reading this is surprised by what I have been saying. Honestly, not too long ago, I believed God would torture eternally. However, today, it seems like such a silly illogical viewpoint. And the only reason I had this viewpoint is I was "led to believe" that the term "eternal" was in fact a correct translation. In other words, I ASSUMED that translators translated the term properly. As the old saying goes, "When you assume, you make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'."

    The problem, though, is God needs to be loving and good. One can not see God as love and good, while torturing people forever. This is the flaw as I see it in this theological stance.

    Even Jesus, pointed to the unjust steward as being in prison until he paid the very last penny. How can he pay the very last penny if it is an eternal price? So, obviously, this parable does not make sense in light of an eternal punishment.

    The Apostle's Creed in Error? Or Our Mindset?

    Hank Hanegraaff claims the Apostle's Creed is in error. He claims that the section where it says "Jesus decended into Hell" is in error. (which is refering to 1 Peter 3).

    YET, Hank claims to have the "traditionalist" viewpoint on Hell.

    The problem here is his failure to communicate the truth regarding Hades (which is often translated Hell), which means "the place of the dead".

    Jesus said to the man on the cross next to him, "This very day, thou shalt be with me in Paradise". One of Hank's callers claimed that it would not be possible for Jesus to be in Hell and Paradise at the same time.

    Yet, this caller is only correct, assuming the common Protestant definition of Hell. In reality, Hell is actually Hades in this case, and Hades just means "the place of the dead". Paradise is in the upper levels of Hades, while those who are not of God are in the lower levels of Hades (as we see in the Parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar).

    So, Jesus went to the afterlife, and he preached the Gospel in the Afterlife (1 Peter 3).

    Quite humorously, you will find all manner of crazy viewpoints trying to explain away 1 Peter 3, to say something entirely different than what it says at face value.

    At face value, it says, Jesus preached to those who died in the Flood. Why would Jesus do that, if there was no potential of them being saved? Could you imagine, God, preaching to those he has already condemned?

    So, Protestantism, in an adverse reaction to Catholicism, decided well, we not only do not believe in Purgatory, we will just say that when you die, there is no room for repentance.

    This is childish. The fact is, the Early Church was split on the idea of God forgiving those after death. This is why we find some believed in "praying for the dead".

    And we still find this today. The problem is, some theologians in the early Catholic Church attempted to figure out what exactly the afterlife consisted up. In the process, they invented ideas like "limbo" for infants and "purgatory" for those who have backslidden in this life. They are theological paradigms to solve scriptural riddles. Yet, these ideas were actually based on an original foundation of an "Intermediate State", for which all the early father's agreed.

    Yet, Protestantism did not go back to its roots of the Intermediate State. Not atleast at face value. Rather, they decided the whole teaching was in error altogether and needed to be greatly modified. Same thing was done with the Deuterocanonicals, which I discuss here.

    This intermediate state is the "place of the dead", or Hades/Sheol. The upper levels of Hades is called "Paradise". The lower levels is what one may relate to Hell, though that is not exactly a good analogy.

    The fact is, Hell, as understood today, relates far more to the "Lake of Fire", which comes after the Judgement Seat of Christ. Hades, on the other hand, just means "the place of the dead", and I am guessing the very lowest levels of Hades are likely pretty painful in some manner, as seen in the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus the Beggar.

    Yet, that does not mean everyone is in pain. Some may be on higher levels in Hades, which is quite confortable. Who knows, as the scriptures do not make this entirely clear.

    Further, the scriptures do not make entirely clear who can repent in the afterlife. One of the few glimpses we have is in 1 Peter 3, where we see Jesus preaching the Gospel to those who died in Noah's Flood.

    Isn't it interesting, that half of the church believed one could repent and be saved in the after life in the very earliest days of the church (we are talking the disciples of the apostles and disciples).

    So, if one can potentially be saved in the afterlife, would that not answer that question about "Those who never heard the Gospel".

    Would it not also make more sense of the idea of many being in Heaven?

    Or, am I to believe that 95% of Japan will be in Hell, as many Protestants believe. Seeing they think there is no option for repentance in the Afterlife and very few Japanese are Christians.

    Or is God just? Where does it say that one has no ability to repent in the afterlife?

    Yes, we have the often quoted passage, "First comes death and then the Judgement". Oh really? Do you even understand what this passage states?

    It says we first die and then await the Judgement Seat of Christ. Well, it just so happens that some people have been dead around 2000 years since the time of Christ, waiting for this Judgement.

    Do you not think a few of them may have repented during that long wait? Or is it, no one has the ability to change their mind while waiting this very distant Judgement?

    So, I am to believe that free will has been taken from mankind after they have died or better yet, I am to believe that a person who never heard the Gospel will not hear it for say 2000 years, while being dead in the afterlife?

    Does that make any sense? Would God allow one who never heard the Gospel to just sit there in Hades for 2000 years and never give them the option of repenting? Does that reflect the God of scripture? The one who is equivelant to Love? God is love and in him there is no darkness.

    The fact is, the Protestant doctrine on Hell as commonly understood, is just as flawed as the Catholic one. And if one wants to ignore the obvious evidence in front of them, go right ahead.

    Calvinism or Arminianism? Why Even the Most Intelligent Fall Into Error.

    Calvinism: God's power extends over our will (irresistible grace).

    Arminianism: Christ died for all. God saves all who come to him. God's power does not interfere with free will, yet His love extends to all.

    Both of these viewpoints are clinging onto a certain truths of scripture and then logically deducing the rest. Calvinism is clinging onto the truth that God is all powerful (irresistible grace). God can orchestrate your salvation by manipulating circumstances to bring your will in line with his. Arminianism is clinging to the truth that Christ died for all and God gave us free will. Neither one is wrong about these starting points, yet due to the assumption that only a few are saved in the end, we find these two theological paradigms diametrically opposed. Jesus did not say a few were saved, but rather that only a few find their way to life in this age, while many take the road to destruction (Destruction meaning God's corrective punishment in the Afterlife). He essentially said only a few take the road to life in this age, while many take the road to death:

    "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: " - King James Bible - Matthew 7:13

    Calvin believed many will goto an eternal hell. Therefore, if we start with irresistible grace, and God is just, we find that Christ could only have died for the elect, as God does not save all.

    Arminus saw this as a paradox, in that God would condemn someone from creation to goto an eternal hell. So, he started with the doctrine that Christ died for all and it is free will that leads some to eternal damnation.

    However, let me ask you something. What if they both started with the assumption that God saves all eventually, either by their choosing Christ through free will (via God bringing them to faith) or by corrective punishment (via God using Hell to bring them to faith)?

    Calvin and Arminus Combined with the assumption God saves all humankind: Christ died for all. God is all powerful and can influence anyone to repentance, yet it is by our free will. Some come to faith in this life. Some come to faith through corrective discipline. God is all powerful, so he is wise enough to bend all wills, whether it is through this age or the next.

    If one realizes the assumption of eternal torment is in error, the theology of both can become harmonious. Neither Calvin nor Arminius were incorrect in their starting points. Yet, both made some false conclusion when developing their theologies, as they assumed "eternal torment" for the unbeliever.

    So, we can see, if we have even one false assumption, we can create large theological rifts within the church.

    In addition, one could also see annihilationism as a potential paradigm, where God saves most, yet others suffer capital punishment. In a sense, it seems to mirror our own worldly justice system of putting people in prison. Yet, God would know how to best bring people to faith, even if it has to be through corrective punishment.

    God's Nature and Harmonizing Scripture

    Saved through punishment? (saved through mercy and judgement. Not either/or mercy or judgement as tradition implies)

    "12 And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, For You recompense a man according to his work. " - New American Standard Bible - Psalm 62:12

    "8 O LORD our God, You answered them; You were a forgiving God to them, And yet an avenger of their evil deeds. " - New American Standard Bible - Psalm 99:8

    "4 Say to those with anxious heart, 'Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.' " - New American Standard Bible - Isaiah 35:4

    "2 'Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the LORD'S hand Double for all her sins.'" - New American Standard Bible - Isaiah 40:2

    Why would God save, but also come with vengeance? Could God save after having vengeance and giving punishment?

    "10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. ... 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. " - New American Standard Bible - 2 Corinthians 5:10, 21

    "12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. ... 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. " - New American Standard Bible - Colossians 3:12, 13, 25

    So, God judges without partiality. We know those who know God, yet do not follow Him, will receive a greater punishment than those who have not known Him. So, God shows just judgement.

    "25 'It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.' 26 'For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.' " - New American Standard Bible - Acts 3:25-26

    How will all the families of the Earth be blessed if 90% of humankind ends up in the Lake of Fire for Eternity? Can one say that one person from every family of the Earth will be blessed, if we assume that eternal torment awaits all unbelievers?

    Further, it says "sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways". This potentially implies that every member of every family on Earth will be blessed. Again, how can one believe this passage, if they think 90% of the world is going to Hell for eternity?

    Warnings to believers:

    "47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not [himself], neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes]. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few [stripes]. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. " - New American Standard Bible - Matthew 12:47-48

    "17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. " - New American Standard Bible - 1 Peter 1:17-19

    "16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. " - New American Standard Bible - 1 John 4:16

    Why would a believer need to fear on Judgement Day? It appears those who are not right with God, yet believe in God, will fear when standing before God's Throne, which shows their heart condemns them already in His Presence. Such a situation would lead to punishment. As we know true faith in Christ produces works, though we are not saved by works. And our heart would not condemn us, if we are right with God. So, the unjust steward has every reason to be afraid on Judgement Day.

    "13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. " - King James Bible - James 2:13

    "32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. " - King James Bible - Matthew 18:32, 34-35

    God is Fair and Just:

    "19 And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; " - King James Bible - Leviticus 24:19

    "4 [He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he. " - King James Bible - Deuteronomy 32:4

    "9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. " - King James Bible - 1 John 1:9

    Christ died for all to restore all:

    The Apostle John:

    "30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. " - King James Bible - John 19:30

    The Bible Knowledge Commentary says that Jesus' saying "it is finished" was the equivelant to saying "paid in full" in English, when translating the greek. What did Jesus pay in full, other than for the sins of the World?

    "29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. " - King James Bible - John 1:29

    "2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world. " - King James Bible - 1 John 2:2

    According to these passages, Jesus died for the sins of the whole World. With modern theology, one would have to ignore the payment for those who are not believers. Yet, what is the point of John the Baptist or the Apostle John in saying such things, if it did not mean, Christ paid for all sins?

    "51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. " - King James Bible - John 6:51

    "32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me. " - King James Bible - John 12:32

    How is it Christ draws all men unto himself, if 90% goto Hell for Eternity? Could it be, through punishment, more are drawn to Christ?

    The Apostle Paul:

    "6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. ... 18 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. " - King James Bible - Romans 5:6-10, 18

    We seem to skim past these "all" terms when reading scripture. Here, they add the terms "the free gift came", yet its not in the text. This is how we can see that translators can skew meanings to their own theology (whether their theology is right or wrong). See here another translation of the above:

    "So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life. " - World English Bible - Romans 5:18

    Did the Apostle Paul mean that eventually all men will receive the justification of life? Could God save all?

    "3 For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. " - King James Bible - 1 Timothy 2:3-6

    God wills that all men to be saved. What does "in due time" mean? Could eventually all be saved in "due time"?

    "22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. " - King James Bible - 1 Corinthians 15:22

    Are we to take this at face value? Shall all truly be made alive? Or should I just put my own theological conclusion into the passage and write it, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall a few be made alive." Afterall, did not Jesus say only a few make it to Heaven? Or was he refering to only a few make it to Heaven in this age and perhaps the rest will come to him in future ages?

    Acts and Minor Epistles:

    "21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. " - King James Bible - Acts 3:21

    Does all things include all people, or just "things". Christ restores all things, but not all people?

    "9 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. " - King James Bible - Hebrews 2:9

    "18 For Christ also hath 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: 19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. " - King James Bible - 1 Peter 3:18-20

    So, am I suppose to believe that Jesus did not preach to those who died in Noah's flood? This is what many Protestant teachers would have you believe.

    Lets assume for a minute that there is eternal torment in Hell and that no one can repent after death: A good God would not try to save those He destroyed in the flood. Of course, He would eternally torment them for being evil people. They should also have no hope, as they already died. If you don't believe in Jesus before you die, you automatically goto Hell. This is what the Bible says, right?

    Seriously, who is taking the Bible literally here? Am I taking it literally, or are those who believe the common Protestant Dogma on the Afterlife?

    The Old Testament:

    "1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. " - King James Bible - Genesis 12:1-3

    "6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. " - King James Bible - Isaiah 53:6

    "17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. " - King James Bible - Jeremiah 3:17

    It says that no one will walk anymore after the imagination of their evil heart. Yet, this contradicts eternal punishment. As those who are eternally being tormented in Hell would still be sinning in their evil hearts, as God has not restored/saved them.

    Saved from Sin (Rather than Hell):

    "24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. " - King James Bible - Daniel 9:24

    How could sins have ended if you have 90% of humankind burning in Hell and cursing God? If sin has been ended and reconciliation has been made and now there is everlasting righteousness, there seems to be no more room for eternal torment. Only annihilationism or salvation of all men could stop sins from occurring.

    5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. " - King James Bible - 1 John 3:5

    "34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: [but] the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. " - King James Bible - John 8:34-36

    It appears that we are saved from sin, rather than Hell. As all three of these passages mention that Christ saves us from our sin.

    God's Election:

    "27 "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. " - New American Standard Bible - Matthew 11:27

    "3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. ... 20 And Isaiah is very bold and says, 'I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME, I BECAME MANIFEST TO THOSE WHO DID NOT ASK FOR ME.' " - New American Standard Bible - Romans 9:3-5; 10:20

    "23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. " - New American Standard Bible - 1 Corinthians 1:23-24

    "25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, " - New American Standard Bible - 2 Timothy 2:25

    We can see it is God who elects the believer. Yet, it is by our free will we choose him. Is it so hard to believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, can not bend wills unto himself? Why is it some Calvinists and Arminians see this as a contention? Can not God allow complete free will, yet have the ability to steer the hearts of man? If you look at the relationship between a father and his son, you can see the son has free will and the father has the ability to raise his son to be a good person. If we, by our finite power, have such control, how much more an infinite God over us.

    Forgiveness is on God's Terms:

    "11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. " - New American Standard Bible - Proverbs 3:11-12

    "4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. " - New American Standard Bible - John 17:4

    "4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. " - New American Standard Bible - Ephesians 1:4-12

    "6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. " - New American Standard Bible - Ephesians 2:6-7

    Three Separate Ages (The Physical World, The Intermediate State, All Things Restored):

    "22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

    23 But every man in his own order:

    (1) Christ the firstfruits [Believers in this life];
    (2) afterward they that are Christ's at his coming [Believers from potentially the Intermediate State and those who believe in Last Days].
    (3) 24 Then [cometh] the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power [Believers after the Judgement, who are subjected to punishment].

    25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death [Everything is restored, so what need is there in death now?]. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 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. " - New American Standard Bible - 1 Corinthians 15:22-28

    Three Ages:

    1. The Physical World. (First fruits - Believers in this world)
    2. The Intermediate State (before Christ's coming).
    3. The Judgement (Heaven and the Lake of Fire).

    And from these three ages, we receive the restoration of all things, as every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord. If one confesses, it is of his own volition. So, we know they are all brought into subjection to Christ.



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