Three Views on Hell: A Universalist response to Eternal Torment

Jason Pratt:

Num 16:30: if the “literal” fire killing the same rebels in verse 35 isn’t literally hell (and I agree it isn’t), why is the pit in verse 30?

Matt 3:12: the verse 11 fire Christ baptizes with, is regarded as salvific. The threat and the result parallel Christ’s explanation for the unquenchable fire at Mark 9:49-50.

Matt 5:22: important contexts include a get-out-of-prison clause (v.26) and the rationales for each punishment (hating, and not reconciling with one’s brother).

Matt 5:29-30 parallels a saying from Matt 18/Mark 9. In GosMark Christ explains everyone will be salted by the fire into peace. GosMatt includes a repeat of the 100th sheep, and a warning (to the apostles!) against insisting on hopeless punishment (yet with a get-out clause: be merciful!)

Matt 8:12 warns the kingdom’s sons (Matt 13:38) who don’t want others saved. Christ admonishes someone for asking if only few are saved (Luke 13:29); and punishes someone trying to flatter the king as a thuggish tyrant (Matt 25:30). Christ also warns His chief followers who abuse others (Matt 24:51).

(Ditto Matt 25, per my own essay.)

I take such warnings seriously!–they affect how I interpret material such as the wheat and the weeds!

Jude 7 doesn’t end the scriptural story, or there would be no judgment for those spirits later, much less a resurrection for at least the human sinners.

Rev 14:9-11 verbally involves refining gold (scripturally tough but saving love), so long as people continue (per the Greek grammar) worshiping the beast and accepting the mark. John afterward (15:1-4) reports a time when everyone gratefully glorifies God (which rebels cannot acceptably do). Loyal souls have (per the Greek) come out from the beast and from his image and from his number, so were in those things before; to stand on the fiery sea of glass before the throne (which in Temple typology was for cleaning sacrifices to be a pleasing burnt aroma to God). Being victorious over sin elsewhere in RevJohn involves sinners ceasing to sin.

Rev 20:15 doesn’t indicate the lake of fire and brimstone is hopeless. (Fire and brimstone were ancient remedies to save a person from infection, as were maggots, not-incidentally.) Subsequent chapters show people after the lake of fire judgment being seriously and successfully evangelized by the sanctified Church (cooperating with God). Another flashforward (21:1-4) reveals there will be total success, even though impenitents must suffer.

Luke 16:19-31 doesn’t say the rich man will never repent; it only shows him not penitent for his sins. The chasm isn’t “broad” enough to prevent communication, and certainly cannot be “broad” enough to prevent God’s omnipresence: especially if the fire, per other scriptural evidence, is the Holy Spirit Himself! RevJohn’s final chapters show the Church evangelizing and bringing to salvation such people after the fiery judgment; and 1 Peter 3 & 4 arguably indicate Christ Himself doing the same in hades. “Then who can be saved!?” “With God all things are possible!”

What does TKJ suggest in place of annihilation’s “one size fits all” punishment?–any hopeless punishment is still equally hopeless for everyone being so punished! Neither Chris nor I am suggesting impenitent sinners ever escape: even annihilation may follow ages of punishment. How does ECT avoid TKJ’s appeal to the punishment being proportionate to the crime? Anyway, universalists don’t regard sin’s severity as being greater than the omnicompetent God’s grace: where sin exceeds grace hyperexceeds, for not as the sin is the grace.

I certainly agree that 2 Thess 1:9’s referential context indicates St. Paul isn’t talking about annihilation; but I find the grammar and referential contexts do indicate Paul is talking about eventual salvation of those so punished.

“If all will be saved, why not just do what I want because even though the punishment will hurt, it will stop eventually and I’ll be in bliss?” No one primarily concerned with salvation from their sins, instead of only from inconvenient results, would ask such a question. Until such people seek salvation from sin, God will lead and teach them, by punishment as necessary, even into the eons of the eons.

Are universalists mistaken that retribution means bringing rebels back under loyal tribute to proper authority? I think non-universalists have the greatest challenge to show Godly retribution means making sure rebels never return to loyal tribute to God!

If (as I agree) Romans 1 represents a free, informed decision about rejecting God, I think TKJ will have a difficult time showing support that even God’s presence wouldn’t be enough for such people (namely all of us) to change their minds; since then God would be impotent to save any sinner at all. I routinely find in the scriptures that God can save sinners despite sinners already having a perverse view of God. Calvinists and universalists typically agree that God is competent enough to save sinners no matter how perverse they are. (Sometimes Arminians, too, at least rhetorically in evangelism.)

As to Satan and rebel angels, my soteriology isn’t based on what rebels insist on (although as a rebel and chief of sinners myself, like St. Peter, St. Paul and the publican, I am well aware of how people sin against what light they can see); but rather on what God does and is capable of.

Moreover, any argument hinging on God insistently respecting creaturely free will, has basically refuted itself if God allows creatures to permanently lose, or never to have, freedom to repent (much less freedom to ever do righteousness).

Last, I’m amazed that TKJ thinks God only reconciles with “His people” (never saying to those who are not His people “You are My people” for example); and even more amazed that TKJ thinks God only reconciles with repentant people (instead of loving us first to send Christ to reconcile us through the blood of the cross while we are still God’s enemies.)

I have usually found Calvinists and Arminians both agree with me (and St. Paul in Romans for that matter) on this!

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