The Afterlife for Unbelievers:  will the final result be
Eternal Misery
, or Annihilation, or Reconciliation
 ?

 

my goals:  This page — asking “what will happen to unbelievers in their afterlife?” — is being written by Craig Rusbult (during life on a road less traveled) mainly for Christians who believe the Bible and use it to construct a personal worldview that is their view of the world, used for living in the world.  But I hope it also will be interesting for unbelievers (or semi-believers) who are curious, who want to eavesdrop on our conversation.  My goal is to communicate with other Christians.*  I want to help every reader — and especially fellow evangelical Christians who, like me, believe the Bible — understand three views-of-hell, and what the Bible says about the views.  Then you can logically evaluate this biblical evidence and decide what you think the Bible teaches.     { I think the Bible teaches us that God will not cause unsaved sinners to live forever in Eternal Misery. }

* And I've begun writing a page for people who are not Bible-believing Christians, who have other perspectives.  My main goal is to show them — based on what the Bible teaches — why-and-how they can believe, with confidence, that God really does love them.  My page for them will use more stories, will examine the character of God more deeply, and will be shorter, with links to this page for readers who want to learn more about a topic, or about topics that are only in this page.

 
 

How to Use This Page  —  I suggest that you begin by reading, in any order, the first 4 sections:

    • my goals for this page (above) are followed by...
    The 3 Views so you will understand what each view IS and (just as important) what it ISN'T, so – by comparing the views – you'll know their many similarities and one difference,  plus...
    Tips for Studying (the Bible) and Reading (this page) - basically, I recommend studying the Bible instead of assuming you already know “what will happen in hell,” and using the...
    Table of Contents to get a quick overview of the main topics-and-ideas, so (as explained in "Tips...") you can choose to first read the page-sections you think will be most interesting.

 

The 3 Views

This page compares three views of the afterlife that are compatible with biblical evangelical Christianity.  Theologically, all of these Bible-based views are almost identical.*  All views have been common in church history (and in this page there is very little that is “new” from me), and proponents of each view can affirm all fundamentals of Christian faith.  The views have many similarities, and one difference.

 

MANY SIMILARITIES:

All views agree that after we live and die, eventually all humans will be bodily resurrected (as described in John 5:28-29) to face judgment by God.

All views agree that people who are saved by God — who during life believe-and-repent, who “say YES to God” because they want God to save them from sin so they can love more effectively when they are living by faith — will live in Eternal Joy with God, and with other believers, in His physical heaven-kingdom.

All views agree that:  salvation is possible only due to the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ;   salvation requires belief plus repentance, with authentic heart/mind belief leading to repentance and living by faith;   people who are not saved during their life will suffer in hell during their afterlife.

In fact, these views are theologically "almost identical" except for...

 

ONE DIFFERENCE:

We see view-differences only when asking “What is the final state of unsaved humans?” because...

    with Universal Reconciliation (UR) their suffering in hell is a temporary educational experience that heals-and-transforms them, purging them of sinfulness,* so they believe & repent;  then (in their afterlife) God graciously forgives them and saves them so they can "live in Eternal Joy with God, and with other believers, in His heaven-kingdom."     {or maybe only some repent, for semi-Universal Reconciliation}   {* if UR-Hell will purge unsaved people – to remove their sin – this view can be called Purgatorial Universal Reconciliation, PUR }
    with Final Annihilation (FA) their suffering is temporary, lasting until they die, when they are changed from temporary afterlife into permanent non-existence.
    with Eternal Misery (EM) their suffering lasts forever because God keeps them alive forever, but He never helps them improve, never ends their misery with a merciful rescue (with reconciliation or annihilation) so they remain continually trapped in their sins forever.
 

* Even though the views "are almost identical" in all other ways, these differences in "the final state of unsaved humans" can make a big difference in how we think about God & people, and our relationships with God & people.

 

more  –  Because it's important to know what the views are, this is the first idea-section in the page.  And to help you understand more thoroughly & accurately, a views-table and two kinds of questions (non-useful & useful) clearly show the similarities & differences in the 4 views, in EM, FA, and UR, plus semi-UR.

Christian Universalism:  Accurate understanding is especially important (and difficult) for “universalism” because this word is commonly used to describe a wide range of views, including un-biblical religious pluralism.  But in this page my definition of universalism — called Universal Reconciliation (UR), or Purgatorial Universal Reconciliation (PUR, with a purging-Hell that purifies people) or Purgatorial Universal Restoration — is a Bible-based evangelical trinitarian Christian Universalism, that believes “only one road (consciously saying YES to God by believing in the way-of-salvation offered by Jesus Christ)* leads to salvation;  but if a person is now on another road, God knows where they are, and eventually He will save them by guiding them onto His road.”     {the other views, Annihilation & Eternal Torment, also can be defined with a range of meanings, but for Universalism the range of common meanings is much wider}   {this is strong exclusivism}

 

tips for STUDYING-and-reading

 

• instead of assuming a doctrine,  study the Bible:

a question:  In western societies for the past 1500 years, have most people — both believers and unbelievers — been assuming a doctrine of Eternal Misery (with God giving some people “eternal life in hell”) that the Bible doesn't seem to teach?

a reason:  If the answer is “yes, this doctrine is wrong”, as I have concluded, how could this happen?  Because, due to the powerful inertia of tradition and societal customs, most Christians simply assume — without carefully studying Genesis 3:22 and other key passages, or the “big picture” ideas — that the Bible teaches Eternal Misery, so they should believe it.

an option:  But you can decide, like the noble Bereans,* that instead of ASSUMING you already know what the Bible teaches, you will carefully STUDY the Bible to learn what it really does teach.  And then...

    IF you think the Bible teaches Eternal Misery, you can believe this;
    IF you think the Bible teaches another view, you can believe it.

* "These [in Berea] were more noble-minded... for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11)     { I think our definition of theologically conservative should be “diligently studying the Bible, so we can build our doctrines on what it teaches,” instead of “not questioning tradition.” }

 

So... my tip for STUDYING the Bible is to DO IT.

And with much less importance, here are some tips for reading this page.

 

why this page might be useful, and how to use it:

Ideally, every Christian should carefully study the entire Bible, like the noble Bereans, to determine what it teaches about every doctrine.  But each of us has a problem.  Time.  You have limited time, so — because "time is the stuff life is made of" (Benjamin Franklin) — you want to make wise decisions about how you use your time, and your life.

 

How?  When you're wondering “what will happen to unbelievers in their afterlife,” this page can help you "carefully study" more time-efficiently, so you can learn more in less time.  One way to use your time wisely is to...

    • see the PAGE as a collection of related SECTIONS — each explaining one topic in a way that can help you "learn more [about that topic] in less time" — and then...
    • decide which sections (topics) you think will be most interesting, and most useful for you.     { Below, the detailed Table of Contents will give you a quick overview of the main ideas, and help you decide “what to do next.” }

 

 

   Table of Contents

   As explained above — in the final sentence of tips for STUDYING-and-reading — this detailed Table of Contents will give you a quick overview of the main ideas, and help you decide “what to do next.”
   You can read this page in order, or use it as a self-guided FAQ by choosing to read any section you think might be interesting.

The general topic of each section is shown by its background color —  WHITE  (what the views are) —  YELLOW  (Biblical Evidence) —  BLUE  (Educational Healing in Hell) —  GREEN  (Relationships and Evangelism) —  PURPLE  (Divine Justice).

 

Here is some optional information that you can read now or later, about...

PAGES and colors and LINKS.

PAGES:   I've written two pages that explain ideas with different levels of detail.  To show which page you're in, the increasing detail is symbolized with increasing color-intensity for the outside border in this page and the longer page.   This page has links to where you can learn "more", usually in the longer page.

LINKS:   In each page, italicized links go to other places inside this page, and unitalicized links go to my other page,*   except for unitalicized links with background colors (purple  green  gray) that go to biblegateway.com or to pages written by me or by another author.     {learning from other authors}

* but within this Table Of Contents, italicized links are inside-the-TableOfContents, and unitalicized links are inside-this-page.


 

   This page — asking “what will happen in hell?” — is about ...

   The Afterlife for Unbelievers:  3 Bible-Based Views.

 

   The three sections above are...

   Introduction  —  In this page, being written for fellow Christians who also believe the Bible, I'll share ideas about biblical evidence and its logical evaluation.

   In a section that, along with another section about "what the views are", is essential reading,

   What are the 3 Views?  —  all are almost identical (with many similarities and one difference), are Bible-based, can affirm Christian creeds & fundamentals.  The views are:
          Eternal Misery (EM),  Final Annihilation (FA),  Universal Reconciliation (UR)

   TIPS for Studying (the Bible) and Reading (this page)  —  Instead of assuming a doctrine, study the Bible.  —  Use this page by deciding which sections to read first.  This Table of Contents will give you a quick-and-thorough overview of the ideas, and will help you decide what you want to read.

 

   and below this Table of Contents you will find...

   My Views (I confidently reject EM, and think either FA or UR could happen, am hopeful-and-optimistic about UR, am hoping it will happen, have biblical reasons to be optimistic that it might happen) and My Feelings about My Views.

   Why should we reject a doctrine of Eternal Misery?  Here are two Bible-based reasons:

 

   The Character of God  —  What Will Jesus Do with unsaved sinners?  The Bible tells us that God wants justice (and will produce it, because “what we sow, we will reap”) and He is loving (which includes forgiving);  in Afterlife, can He (and will He) combine justice-AND-love?

 

   Conditional Immortality - God will make a person immortal IF...   The Bible declares (in Genesis) that sinners "must not live forever," and (in Revelation) that God will give immortality only to people who satisfy His IF-then condition, that IF (and only if) a person is saved, then He will give them immortality.  But in order to actualize a divine policy of causing Eternal Misery, God would have to decide that unsaved sinners must "live forever" and He would have to cause their living forever, because...

   humans have existence (in life or afterlife) that is dependent, that depends on God's life-enabling power;  but God's decisions about life-or-death are conditional, are based on His if-then Condition for Conditional Immortality, so He won't cause unsaved sinners (who don't satisfy His Condition) to live forever.   But... don't all humans have souls that are intrinsically immortal? {no - God made us for immortality, but not with immortality.}

   Conditional Immortality (which would happen with FA or UR,* but not with EM) is consistent with God's Death Penalty for Sin that is clearly taught throughout His Bible, seen in His penalties (The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah,...) and His preventions (Abraham with Isaac, The Passover,...), and His merciful death-atoning sacrifices in the OT (by a system of sacrificial deaths of animals) and NT (by the self-sacrificing death of Jesus).   /   * To compare FA with UR, we ask two questions about death, and one about after-death:

    • WHAT is the penalty?  (both views agree that it's “permanent total death”),
    • WHO will receive this penalty?  (“some people” with FA, or “none” with UR),
 
    and WHEN can a person be saved?  (“only in Life” with FA, but “also in Afterlife” with UR).
 

Re: the WHAT-and-WHO questions,* we have 4 Biblical Reasons to reject Eternal Misery because EM would...  violate conditional immortality;  be unsatisfactory for substitutionary atonement;  produce eternal sin & produce eternal death, even though the Bible teaches us that God eventually will eliminate sin & death.       And there are other Bible-based reasons to reject Eternal Misery.

   What are the 3 Views?  (Part 2)
   Before we can logically evaluate the views, we must accurately understand the views.  When we compare views to understand their similarities & differences, and decide what the Bible does & doesn't teach, some questions are useful, but others are not useful.

   Do all roads lead to God?   ( Christian UR says “no, but God will search for you and will find you, no matter what road you're on.” )

   Universal Reconciliation - Hopeful and Optimistic  —  should everyone be hopeful?  do we have reasons to be optimistic?

   Views of Hell in Church History  (in their biblical sermons & letters, Christian leaders never mention EM, so it seems they didn't believe it)  (all 3 views were common in the early church, so early creeds – Apostles' and Nicene – allow UR, FA, or EM)  (why did this change?  influences from extra-Biblical philosophies, practical political utility, the powerful inertia of tradition, bias in translations)

   Universal Reconciliation has Biblical Support  (by stating that God will save all people, and in other ways)

   combining theologies:  Arminianism + Calvinism → Universalism ?  —  if God wants to save everyone (as claimed by Arminius), and if God gets what God wants (claimed by Calvin),  then God will save everyone.

 

   WHEN – if Universal Reconciliation (or semi-UR) will occur, Belief/Repentance-and-Salvation during Afterlife seems required  (will this happen? the Bible doesn't say Yes or No)     —     Great is Thy Faithfulness? (if God will cause Eternal Misery for a person after their death, can we still praise God because "as You have been, You forever will be" so "Your compassions they fail not" ?)

   HOW – if UR, maybe... Salvation happens with Educational Healing  (as in an educational school, corrective prison, or healing hospital, in a Purgatorial Hell that purges the sins of unsaved people with purifying divine fire);

        Questions  (what is the afterlife process of totally-sanctifying transformation for saved people?  what are the similarities & differences for unsaved people, if UR or semi-UR?);

        Speculations  (if people will be educated-and-healed in UR-Hell, how will this happen?   Maybe...   • life-review videos → responses of repentance with sorrowful suffering?     • degrees-of-suffering will occur, to achieve better justice, because the sorrows caused by a person in Life → the sorrows they will feel in Afterlife?    • people will see/hear/feel the videos & responses of others, producing mutual empathies, so finally everyone can forgive everyone, and all will be emotionally healed?)

        Victims and Sinners:  Every person, whether saved or unsaved, is a victim (who has been hurt by the sinning of others) and a sinner (who has hurt others).   These hurtings produce needs:  as victims, we need to forgive people;  as sinners, we need to repent-and-apologize and be forgiven by people & by God, to achieve reconciliations that are “horizontal” (between people) and “vertical” (between people and God).  Both needs would be satisfied with UR, if "everyone can forgive everyone" so "all will be emotionally healed."

   Justice for Victims and Sinners:  As explained above, experiences in Afterlife could produce Restorative Justice for Victims, and Retributive Justice for Sinners when we reap what we have sown.  And through a divine process of corrective justice, unsaved Sinners could receive His gift of Rehabilitation-and-Reconciliation,* with God doing justice by producing righteousness.     {* We also can call this divine gift Rehabilitation-into-Restoration when God restores a person to righteousness — when they are transformed into the totally-righteous person that He always wanted them to be, when they become sanctified — so they can have wonderfully satisfying Reconciliation with other people and with God. }

        does God want to achieve Justice with Love?   will this happen?   if yes, how?

   ALL?  —  UR claims that in Afterlife the unsaved CAN repent, and all DO repent.  But if people have free will, how can we be certain (or even optimistic) that "ALL do repent"?    Well, maybe God has told us, in the Bible, that He will save all people;    or maybe God will be more persuasive than during Life by providing stronger evidence and by giving people a freed will (freed from their slavery to sin) so they are able to make a wise decision and they do repent;   or maybe God will save some previously unsaved people, but not all, to produce semi-Universal Reconciliation (semi-UR) that is a "hybrid" combination of UR and FA
 

   Hell-Verses in the Bible  —  Decisions about translation (from Greek into English) can be biased to favor Eternal Misery.  For example, in Matthew 25:46 the Greek word usually translated as "eternal" (in "eternal punishment") actually means, more literally, “occurring in a future age”, and this “age-associated punishment” could occur with EM or FA, or UR.   Also, even if it's "eternal punishment [a noun]" that could occur with only EM or FA, we should challenge a misunderstanding that claims this would require “eternal punishing [a verb]” with EM;   or maybe the translation omits an important adjective, if the intended meaning of punishment is (as in Classical Greek) a corrective punishment that implies UR.

   And all 3 views propose “suffering in hell” so verses about “suffering in hell” don't support EM.

 

   Second Death in The Lake of Fire could be physical death (FA), or death-with-Christ (UR) as in Romans 6, or a living death (EM);  these would end the sinner's existence or sinful nature or quality of life, respectively, with fire that consumes or purifies or torments.   Throughout the Bible, fire often symbolizes the divine presence-and-power of God, which could be a destructive fire of God if He uses The Lake of Fire to annihilate, or a purifying fire of God if He uses The Lake of Fire to produce repentance-and-reconciliation for UR or semi-UR.

 

   Biblical Ambiguity about FA-versus-UR  —  I'm confident that EM won't happen, but cannot confidently claim “it will be FA” or “it will be UR.”  Why?  Here are two why-questions:

   Why is there no clear winner?   Because in the whole Bible and in specific verses, I see strong support for FA (but UR has strong counter-arguments) and also strong support for UR (but FA has strong counter-arguments).

   Why has God allowed this ambiguity?  maybe... to avoid certainty about Afterlife, because uncertainty can help us develop skills in living by faith so (Luke 2:35) "the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."     { Or maybe it's clear, and I'm just not seeing it.  But... if it's clear, why are there differences among devout Bible-believing Christians, with some of us defending UR and semi-UR and FA (the 3 views I think are biblically plausible) and even implausible EM? }

 

   My Relationships

   with unbelievers  (does The Bad News hinder evangelism?  can UR → better us-and-us feelings?);

   with believers  (why do I feel disappointed and sad?  should Christians demand strong pressures to conform, to believe that God will cause Eternal Misery for most of the people He has created?  or should we, like the noble Bereans, examine the biblical basis for doctrines (that make claims about “what will happen in hell”) and openly discuss what we find?  if yes, should we do this with love and respect?  when we understand the importance of "if", and thus "because", we will respectfully acknowledge that Bible-believing Christians can (with appropriate humility) either defend EM-doctrine or criticize EM-doctrine, and this understanding will make it easier to respectfully discuss doctrines about hell);

   with God  (is His character best with UR, and worst with EM?  with UR, is it easier to fully love God?);

   and Relationships of Other People, with each other and with God.

   Evangelism  —  are we less enthusiastic in proclaiming The Whole News if we (or those we're talking with) assume it's Good News + Bad News?  —  with any view (EM, FA, UR) there is Good News because God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your Life,  but with EM this Good News is mixed with the Bad News that maybe God hates you and has a horrible plan for your Afterlife.  —  by contrast, with UR we can praise God for what He will do to (and for) a previously-unsaved person in Hell.

   Motivations  (for saying Yes and living by faith)  —  to form a solid foundation for a life of devout discipleship, what is a more effective motivator, fear or love?  (our motivations are intrinsic + extrinsic, can be based on love & fear, for Life and Afterlife)  —  what is the main purpose of salvation? (are we saved from our slavery to sin, or are we saved from God because – if He doesn't save us – He will eternally torment us with Infinite Misery?)

 

   Practical Effects for Living  —  when we share The Gospel (The Good News), is “maximum fear” useful? is it necessary?  when people hear claims for UR (or FA) instead of EM, rational people should respond by “saying yes to God” now, but there is diversity in how actual people will respond.   —  if a person thinks a view (whether it's UR, FA, or EM) is likely to happen, this belief will affect them in many complex ways;  a belief in each view will have some positive effects on responses, but also some negative effects, and the overall result (when the positives & negatives of their “views about each view” are combined) will vary from one person to another.

   Evangelistic Responsibilities  —  all Christians should try to accurately describe what the Bible teaches, and accurately describe the character of God.  —  we should try to avoid giving false hope by claiming “UR will happen” if UR won't happen (in the actual Afterlife-reality for an unsaved person), and avoid causing false fear by claiming “EM will happen” if EM won't happen;*  each "avoid" is important, but (due to biblical ambiguity) it's difficult to be confident that we're avoiding both.     {claiming “FA will happen” either could cause false hope if EM will happen,  or it could cause false fear if UR will happen}   {what would be worse, FA or EM?}

 

   Justice  —  our humility should be appropriate (not too much, not too little) when we're thinking about the character of God, regarding...

   overall changes from before Life to Afterlife:  it's from nothing to Eternal Joy for Saved people (this is wonderful);  and for Unsaved people, it's from nothing to Eternal Joy if Reconciliation (this is wonderful),  or nothing to nothing if Annihilation (it's neutral, and seems fair),  or nothing to Eternal Misery (this is horrible, especially because these people never asked to be born, and it seems unfair).  —  If you had a choice, would you choose to be born into Life-and-Afterlife?  (to answer this question wisely, what knowledge do you need?)

   does God use maximum persuasion?   why isn't God more obvious?   and how does being non-obvious affect people who die unsaved, but who might have “said yes” with stronger persuasion by God,  and what are the differences in effects/results if their afterlife will be UR, or FA, or EM?  does this combination — with God being intentionally non-obvious, and the results being most tragic for EM — provide biblical evidence against EM?

   What are the purposes of Resurrection?   What would be the purpose of Infinite Misery? (is it necessary? would it be productive?)     { take some time to imagine an experience of Eternal Misery, with torment that never.......... ends }

   is Life fair? (re: Situations & Results)  —  no, Life isn't fair, but Life-plus-Afterlife could be more fair IF, in Afterlife,      (how will God fill in the blank to make it more fair?)
   can God achieve justice-AND-love for everyone?

   As a saved person, do you earn your Eternal Joy because you have a good heart and (by making a wise decision) a wise mind?  Do unsaved people earn their extremely horrible Eternal Misery because they are extremely evil and extremely unwise?

   Is it possible for binary justice to be fair?  can you imagine true justice if there is only Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery (or Eternal Death) for a person who dies unsaved, and who...   dies young?  is a moron?    was predestined for hell?  can choose but is “dealt a bad hand” in Life?  is devoted to the dominant non-Christian religion in their family/culture?    seems to be saved, but then backslides and un-believes/un-repents?   —   can God achieve personally customized degrees of suffering with EM, or FA, or UR?

   How would you feel if - as implied in some parables - God will be extremely generous?  if a terrible sinner (who viciously harmed many people) repents near the end of their Life, will God forgive them?  but if they don't repent before death, will God let them repent after death in their Afterlife?

 

 

 
 

 

 

What are my views?

 

A.  I'm very confident, but not certain, that the currently most common view — Eternal Misery (EM) — will not happen in Afterlife.  Why?  Two strong biblical reasons are because...

    • EM doesn't seem consistent with the character of God, re: justice-and-love, when we ask What Will Jesus Do (during Afterlife) with people who reject him (during their Life)?”, and
    • EM is not consistent with the Conditional Immortality (and closely related Death Penalty for Sin) that is clearly taught in the Bible.
    Also, the main supports typically claimed for EM are isolated “hell verses” that, when examined carefully, provide biblical supports for EM that are very weak when they're compared with the very strong biblical supports against EM.
 

B.  The other views — Final Annihilation (FA) and Universal Reconciliation (UR) and semi-UR — have strong biblical support,* and I think each is a possibility.  Therefore, although I'm a confident Conditionalist (in claiming “UR or semi-UR or FA will happen, and EM won't happen”), I'm not highly confident in claiming that either “UR will happen” or “UR won't happen.”   But I prefer UR because it would be a “happy ending” for more people, so...

    • I'm hoping that UR will happen, with God eventually causing every person to be transformed (as in Romans 12:2), to be restored into the person He wants them to be, and they can be reconciled with all other people and with Himself, and
    • I'm optimistic that UR will happen,
    •• so I'm a hopeful-and-optimistic Christian Universalist.

 

* There are biblical supports for UR and also for FA.

 

Personal History:  Later, I explain why — due to my two-stage process of evaluation (resulting in A+B above) plus biblical ambiguityI'm confident about Conditional Immortality, and am optimistic but not confident about Universal Reconciliation.     {in my first stage, from 1987 to 2014, I wrote two papers (1-page & long) about EM-versus-FA}

 
 

My Feelings about My Views

Because we cannot be certain about what will happen in Afterlife, I have mixed feelings about two tough challenges for UR:

    First, people do have rational reasons for why they SHOULD respond by “saying yes to God now, ASAP during Life” even if (with UR) they will be saved eventually in Afterlife.  But when we're thinking about how people WILL respond if we tell them “the Totally Good News of Universal Reconciliation might happen,” there are no simple answers, because each person will be affected differently, and the complex effects — the influences on thinking, deciding, and doing in all areas of Life — will vary from one person to another.
    Second, Christians have a responsibility to avoid giving false hope (that would occur if we declare “UR will happen” but UR won't happen) or causing false fear (if we declare “UR won't happen” but UR will happen).   /   These two responsibilities are conflicting.  And due to biblical ambiguity about what will & won't happen in the afterlife, it's impossible to be certain we're not "giving false hope" or "causing false fear."  What should we do?  Maybe... and this is what I'm now doing, we should respond humbly (by not claiming the certainty of “answers”) by explaining what does and doesn't seem clear in the Bible, and why.

But these are also tough challenges for the non-UR views, for FA and EM, when we ask “what are the practical effects for living?”

 

And I have mixed feelings about sharing my views with fellow Christians.

 
 

 

Two Bible-Based Reasons to reject Eternal Misery:
Conditional Immortality
and The Character of God.

Also — in addition to God's use of Conditional Immortality (to solve the problems of Sin & Death) and The Character of God (when we ask “What Will Jesus Do with Unsaved Sinners?”) — there are other kinds of evidence against Eternal Misery,

    from early church history,   first when the apostles never describe, in their biblical sermons & letters, the duration-and-result of hell to be Eternal Misery,   then when all three views were common and were respected, when Eternal Misery was not the dominant view that it eventually became in the Middle Ages;
    from the Bible because it contains evidence for Final Annihilation and also evidence for Universal Reconciliation with God seeming to declare (in a few places) that He will save all people, and with God declaring (in many places) that He wants to save all people, plus the logic that if God wants to save everyone, and if God gets what God wants, then He will save everyone;   and the lack of support for Eternal Misery from a few isolated “hell verses” that are the main evidence claimed for EM.   I encourage you to decide that "instead of ASSUMING you already know what the Bible teaches, you will carefully STUDY the Bible to learn what it really does teach."

 


 

The next two sections are closely related, because death is God's penalty for sin, and conditional immortality is God's gift for sinners, to solve the problem of death.  We'll begin by looking at “the big picture” of the beginning & ending, in Genesis & Revelation, to see how sin-and-death are connected with immortality.

 

Conditional Immortality  —  God will make a person immortal IF...

Immortality:  The Bible teaches that instead of creating humans with immortality, God created humans for immortality that He would provide for those who meet His conditions for salvation.

Sin and Death:  These two problems are closely related because they're causally related, with sin causing death.  Adam became a sinner when he disobediently ate from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."  God responded by declaring (Genesis 3:22) that a sinner "must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."  God did not want people to live forever in a state of sin, so He was being merciful when He prevented this by removing our access to The Tree of Life, so death became His divine penalty for human sin.  Later, in His physical Heaven-Kingdom, God will defeat death by giving back "the tree of life," as stated in Revelation 2:7 and 22:14.  But this divine gift will be given to only those who "wash their robes" (22:14) to "overcome" (2:7), who are saved by accepting The Grace of God, offered through Christ, so they meet the IF-THEN Condition that has been set by God:  IF [but only if] you accept The Grace (offered by God) so you are saved by God, THEN you get The Life (supplied by God) through His "tree of [everlasting] life."  Because of the important "only if" Condition, IF you reject The Grace so you are unsaved, THEN you don't get The Life, because a sinner "must not be allowed to... live forever."

The Views:  A divine Giving of Everlasting Life that is consistent with this Condition, and thus with Conditional Immortality...

    is possible with Final Annihilation because with FA all unsaved sinners (during Life) would permanently die (in Hell during their Afterlife), so only people who have been saved (during Life) continue existing, and all of them satisfy The Condition for Immortality;   it also*...
    is possible with Universal Reconciliation because with UR all unsaved sinners (during Life) would have educating-and-healing experiences (in hell during their Afterlife) that convert them into people who have been saved (during Afterlife) so they will satisfy The Condition for Immortality;  but...
    is not possible with Eternal Misery because forcing unsaved sinners to live forever — so they have Immortality even though they don't satisfy The Condition — would violate God's clear statement that a sinner "must not... live forever" in sinful misery.
 

Eternal Sin:  With unbiblical Unconditional Immortality, if God causes Eternal Existence with Misery (EM), sinners-and-sinning will exist forever, and His creation will never be freed from sin.  By contrast, with Conditional Immortality — if God causes either Annihilation (FA) or Reconciliation (UR) — all sin will be eliminated by God.

 

* Notice that God's if-then Conditionif (and only if) saved, then immortal — is possible with 2 of the 3 views, so The Condition leads to a logical conclusion that Conditional Immortality is “either FA or UR” instead of the “only FA” that is claimed whenever a person refers to Annihilation as Conditional Immortality.  So... in our definition for Conditional Immortality, should we be logical or traditional?

 

Dependent allows Conditional:  Do humans have immortal souls?  No.  When we read The Bible carefully, we see that it doesn't teach an intrinsically universal Unconditional Soul-Immortality, even though this typically is assumed by those who propose the Unconditional Body-Immortality required by Eternal Misery.  Instead, the Bible does teach a Dependent Existence (for awhile or forever) that allows the Divine Control of Life wanted by God, so He can produce Conditional Immortality of Soul-and-Body.*  Thus, God's Condition-Based Decisions (when He uses His if-then Condition to decide who lives) require Dependence (with God being able to decide who lives) but go beyond it.  Dependence is necessary for Condition-Based Deciding, but Dependence is not sufficient for determining who will be given life by God.   /   In the Bible, in Genesis & Revelation, "the tree of life" is God's way of describing His divinely supernatural preventing-of-death and supplying-of-life.

Immortality:  The biblical principle of Dependent Existence is why I began this section by stating that "instead of creating humans with immortality [that is independently inherent in us], God created humans for immortality [we are mortal but have the potential for immortality] that He would provide."     { If you hear someone claim that “humans are created in the image of God, who is immortal, so we are immortal,” you can ask “are we also, like God, omnipresent (being everywhere), omniscient (knowing everything), and omnipotent (able to do everything)?” }

 

MORE about Dependent Existence  –  {and MORE about assumptions of soul-immortality that influenced acceptance of EM are in Sections 7.1c & 7.5 & A1-A4 of my paper about EM-vs-FA}

and MORE about Conditional Immortality  –  {A Problem-Solving Perspective:  Two Human Problems (Spiritual Sinning + Physical Mortality/Death) and Two Divine Solutions (Salvation-and-Sanctification + Conditional Immortality)}   {can Eternal Misery be biblically defended by re-defining death?}   {Why should Conditional Immortality mean “either Annihilation or Reconciliation” instead of “only Annihilation”?}

 

The Death Penalty for Sin

Due to the sin of Adam, God removed access to the Tree of Life so The Penalty for Sin was Death.   God's penalty for sin is always death, first in Genesis 3 and therefore now in Life, and later in Afterlife.  We see His divinely decreed penalty of death — not long-term suffering — throughout the Bible:

    in the Old Testament,  God prevented death in Abraham's test-of-faith, and The Passover;  God's most severe judicial penalty for sin (in The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, The Law,...) was death, not long-term suffering;  the OT Sacrificial System required death, not long-term suffering.
    and in the New Testament,  God created a better sacrificial system — to achieve His purpose of saving us from our slavery to sin and from the judicial results of our sin (i.e., from death) — by sacrificial substitutionary atonement when Jesus died for us.*  Jesus did not suffer in eternal misery for us.
    In the NT, God's new-and-better sacrificial system is connected symbolically with OT deaths, in Abraham's test of faith — because "The Lord Will Provide" the sacrificial death that He requires for justice, first by providing a ram to save Isaac, and later by providing Jesus to save us — and The Passover (at the time of year when Jesus gave His life for us, as celebrated in our Holy Communion), and the OT sacrificial system.
 

* Is the divinely provided payment of our death penalty, by Jesus, given to all people (producing UR) or (with FA) only some people?   To compare FA with UR that is Bible-based (so it accepts The Death Penalty of Conditional Immortality that could occur with either FA or UR, but not EM), we ask two questions about death, and one about timing:

    • First,  “WHAT is the penalty for sin?”  —  it's everlasting total death, in both views;
    • then,  “WHO will receive this penalty?”  —  it's some people (if FA), or no person (if UR);
 
    andWhen can a person be saved?  —  it's only in Life (if FA), but also in Afterlife (if UR).

 

Death and Immortality

What is the relationship between The Death Penalty and Conditional Immortality?   Death is God's Penalty for Sinners.  Conditional Immortality is God's Gift for Sinners — for either some of us (with FA) or all of us (with UR) — and The Condition, decided by God, is being saved by God, who wants to save us from slavery to sin (now in Life) and (later in Afterlife) save us from everlasting Death.

a brief biblical summary:  God's penalty of Death was decreed in Genesis 3:22, and God's gift of Conditional Immortality is promised in Revelation 2:7 & 22:14.

 

 

4 Biblical Reasons to reject Eternal Misery

Christians have many Bible-based reasons to reject a doctrine of Eternal Misery (EM) — and instead to believe that unsaved people eventually will be either Annihilated (with FA) or Reconciled (with UR) — including these four related reasons:

1.  EM would violate the Conditional Immortality clearly taught in the Bible, because — even though the Bible teaches (in Genesis & Revelation) that unsaved people "must not... live forever" — with EM unsaved people would be forced to "live forever" in Eternal Misery.   But only saved people (who satisfy The Condition decided by God) will live forever with FA or UR.

2a.  EM would cause sinners-and-sinning to exist forever, and God's creation would never be freed from sin even though the Bible declares that being freed from sin will happen.  God would ultimately "reconcile all things to Himself" with UR or FA, but not with EM.

2b.  EM would cause death to exist forever, because with EM The Second Death must be redefined to mean eternal conscious existence in misery so The Second Death would continue forever, and God's creation would never be freed from death even though the Bible says "the last enemy that will be abolished is death."

3.  EM would not produce a satisfactory substitution for substitutionary atonement.  EM claims the penalty for sin is infinite suffering, without death.  But... is this what Jesus, offering Himself as our substitute, experienced for us?  No.  Jesus had finite suffering, with death.  The principle of penal substitutionary atonement — with our death penalty paid by the death of Jesus — is the heart of The Gospel,* and is clearly stated by Paul ("we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" when "Christ died for us") and Jesus ("the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep") and Peter ("Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh").  With EM the substitution of substitutionary atonement is a very poor match, because of two major differences, because Jesus had finite suffering (but EM would produce infinite suffering) and Jesus had physical death (but EM would require eternal physical existence without physical death).     { By contrast, with FA or UR there is a good match, a satisfactory substitution. }     /     * I think penal (penalty-paying) substitutionary atonement is the most important part of divine atonement, although not all of it.   {more some universalists oppose psa but I think they are wrong}

 

Each of these 4 Biblical Reasons (1, 2a 2b, 3) is a strong reason to reject Eternal Misery, but is compatible with either Annihilation or Reconciliation.

Christians also have other Bible-based reasons to reject Eternal Misery and either accept Universal Reconciliation (by believing statements about God saving all people, and by logically combining two popular theologies) or accept Final Annihilation.

 

MORE - about these 4 Reasons to reject Eternal Misery, due to Conditional Immortality and to prevent perpetual Sinning (so satisfactory justice is impossible?) & perpetual Second Death {what are the connections between spiritual death (described in Gen 3:6-13) and physical death (decreed & actualized in Gen 3:22-24)?} and because Substitutionary Atonement is a satisfactory substitution with FA (or UR) but not with EM and...

MORE - about Conditional Immortality and The Death Penalty for Sin - is in Part 2 (re: what the Bible teaches about Death & Salvation) and (re: logic versus tradition, and controversy when asking “how should we define Conditional Immortality?”) in Part 3 that is a deeper examination of my two questions about WHAT and WHO (+ When).

 


 

The Character of God  —  WWJD ?

Based on what we learn about God from the whole Bible, we can ask “What Will Jesus Do with Unsaved Sinners?”  Will it be Eternal Misery (EM), or Final Annihilation (FA), or Universal Reconciliation (UR)?     (we are asking “What Will God Do?” because in the tri-une God, WWJD=WWFD=WWHD = WWGD)

Here are two whole-Bible principles:

    God's justice is strongly emphasized throughout the Bible, and by Jesus;  God sets high standards for us, for what we think-and-do, and He will hold each of us accountable for our thoughts-and-actions.
    God's loving is strongly emphasized throughout the Bible, and by Jesus;  because God loves us, He forgives us.
 

Justice-and-Love:  In the afterlife, will God forgive those who rejected Him during their lives?  The Bible teaches us that God wants His actions to achieve justice and (with merciful forgiving and in other ways) be loving.  Sometimes during our discussions of what would happen in hell (with EM, FA, UR) these two essential character traits are contrasted, so we're thinking about God's justice OR love.  Instead, we should think about how God could do justice-AND-love, to achieve justice in ways that also are loving.  (is it possible that God is, during Life-and-Afterlife, Always Totally Just AND Always Totally Loving?  can we praise God for what He will do to people in hell?)     {appropriate humility about the moral character of God}

 

When we carefully examine the whole Bible,* I think the biblically revealed character of God is consistent with either UR or FA, but it seems to me that God's character is best with UR, and worst with EM.     {* Another strong-and-clear principle, when we study the whole Bible, is God's death penalty for sin. }

This page is being written for Christians but I'm supplementing it with a page for non-Christians.  Why?  My goal is "to show them that this [a belief that God will cause Eternal Misery for most people, so The Gospel is a combination of Very Good News plus Very Bad News] is not justified because the Bible does not teach Eternal Misery, so they will be able to have confidence that God loves every person — both now and in their future, in their Life and Afterlife — so they will be able to totally love God and say YES to God."

 

more – about the character of God and thinking about the ethics of Stalin & Jesus, by comparing WDSD & WWJD

 
 

 

 

WHAT — Accurate Understanding of All Views

This section supplements my summary of The 3 Views by using a table to clarify the similarities & differences that make some questions useful while others are non-useful.  The table also calls attention (with YES and YES/YES) to evidence against Eternal Misery.

 

What is Universal Reconciliation?  This page describes an evangelical Christian Universal Reconciliation (UR) that is based on the Bible, that can affirm all fundamentals of Christian faith, including the Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed.  This kind of UR — instead of other definitions that are possible and are sometimes called “universalism” — is what I will describe & evaluate.

 

This table summarizes key questions-and-answers by four views, by EM, FA, UR, plus a semi-UR hybrid.  The table's logical organization will make it easier for you to understand the views, to compare them and see their similarities & differences.

 
EM
FA
 semi-UR 
UR
 will every person be resurrected and judged?
 will some people suffer?  (weeping & gnashing,...) 
     ... because whatever they sow, they will reap? 
yes
yes
yes
 yes 
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
 salvation requires faith in Jesus, with repentance? 
yes
yes
yes
yes
 will God allow repentance-and-faith after death? 
 all will "die once and after this comes judgment"? 
no
yes
no
yes
 YES 
yes
 YES 
yes
 does the view seem to be unfair? (this → effects)
YES
no
no
no
 will everyone live forever?
 will God force unsaved SINNERS to live forever? 
 in God's creation, will SINNING continue forever? 
yes
 YES 
YES
NO
no
no
NO
no
no
yes
no
no
 

Similarities and Differences:  In the table, you can see that all views (EM, FA, semi-UR, UR) agree (yes yes yes yes) about resurrection & judgment for everyone, and suffering in hell for the unsaved.  But they disagree about what will happen in hell, about the duration of hell-experience (will it be eternal with EM, or temporary with FA, semi-UR, UR) and whether the permanent final result will be everlasting continual misery (EM) or non-existence (FA) or reconciliation (UR), or (with semi-UR that is FA+UR) some non-existence + some reconciliation.     {more - we should avoid intellectually dishonest Strawmen & Myths}

The fourth view, semi-UR, is a hybrid (of FA+UR) that combines some aspects of FA and UR.  You can see the key similarities & differences in the column for semi-UR, where its underlined answers show how semi-UR agrees with UR but not FA (no YES YES), and how semi-UR agrees with FA but not UR (NO NO yes) because with semi-UR there will be purgatorial healing for some (those who are saved) and annihilation for others (who are not saved), so is it Purgatorial Annihilation?

 

An understanding of all views is necessary to recognize that some questions, but not others, are logically useful for helping us distinguish between the views:

    • it's not useful to ask will some people suffer? because all views agree (yes yes yes yes, for the first 3 questions) that God will resurrect & judge all people, and unsaved people will suffer in hell, so whatever they sow in Life, they will reap in Afterlife.   {sowing and reaping - HOW will God transform Christians by renewing our minds to produce Sanctifying Restoration so we can have Reconciliation, so together we can enjoy Afterlife in Eternal Joy?  and  IF God will allow repentance-and-faith in Afterlife for people who were unsaved during Life, in what ways – compared with the process for saved people – might the process for unsaved people be similar, and different?}
    • it's useful to ask if salvation requires faith in Jesus, with repentance? because — even though each view says "yes" — this question helps us understand that Christian universalism (saying "yes") is not religious pluralism (saying "no"). *  
    • it's useful to ask will God allow repentance-and-faith after death? because FA & EM say no, but UR and semi-UR say YES.*  A related question that is not useful is asking whether everyone will "die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27) because all views say “yes, this is how it will be,” but the views don't agree about what will happen (i.e. WWJD?) during-and-after judgment, when we ask “what will happen in Hell? will it be eternal misery, or death, or healing?”     {* This question is very useful because our answer is very important when we evaluate the biblical support for UR (or semi-UR) versus FA or EM, because if the afterlife-reality will be "yes" this weakens most of the biblical arguments against UR.  But this question is not clearly answered "yes" or "no" in the Bible. }
    • it's useful to ask “based on what we learn from the Bible and from life, does the view seem to be unfair?” because many people — IF they believe God will cause EM — think and feel that this EM would be unfair and they do not like the character of this EM-causing God so an unfortunate effect/result is that they cannot love this EM-God and trust Him.
    • and it's useful to ask will God force unsaved SINNERS to live forever? because the YES is a serious biblical flaw of an EM that requires universal unconditional immortality.  This unbiblical requirement is one of 4 reasons to reject EM which also include EM saying YES when we ask will sinning continue forever?   /   note:  A person who proposes UR could believe (although I don't) that God has created humans with properties that will cause everyone to live forever.  But if UR actually happens, this reality (with Universal Immortality) would not violate Conditional Immortality because God would not "force unsaved sinners to live forever" because everyone who is living forever will be saved due to the UR that will be produced by God.
 

 *   Do all roads lead to God?  The postmodern relativism of pluralistic universalism (aka religious pluralism, or just universalism when it's defined differently than my definition) says “yes”.  By contrast, evangelical Christian Universalism (Universal Reconciliation, UR) says “no, only one road (the narrow way of following Jesus Christ) leads to God.”  But UR does claim that God will search for each person, and will be able to find them — eventually, in Life or Afterlife — no matter what road they are on, as illustrated by diligent searches for a lost sheep and lost coin.     {Christian Universalism is compatible with Exclusivist & Strong Exclusivist views of Salvation – personally, I think that if God allows post-death salvation because He wants UR or semi-UR, for this post-death salvation (as with pre-death salvation) He will require explicit belief in Jesus Christ so "at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW... every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:10-11), so my view of UR includes strong exclusivism.}

 

more  –  details about questions (useful and non-useful) plus semi-UR "hybrid" views  –  each view has several common names, including two (conditional immortality & hopeful universalist) that I think are commonly used in illogical ways

 

 

Earlier, I explain why — due to the biblically revealed Character of God and Conditional Immortality (with a Death Penalty for Sin) — I'm very confident that Eternal Misery will not happen in Afterlife, so of the three views only two seem plausible.  Therefore my question is whether the afterlife-reality for unsaved sinners will be Universal Reconciliation or Final Annihilation.

 

Universal Reconciliation  —  Hopeful and Optimistic

our Hopeful Universalism:  One of the two great commandments of Jesus is to "love your neighbor as you love yourself."  Each of us wants Eternal Joy for ourself, so we also should want this for our neighbors.  We should want everyone to have Eternal Joy — including reconciliation with God and people — so we should hope for UR.  Every person, and especially every Christian, should be a Hopeful Universalist.     {more}  {a personal perspective: my sister and a gift that won't be necessary}

my Optimistic Universalism:  I think we have logical/theological Bible-based reasons to be optimistic, to think UR might happen.

 

comments about terms:  Unfortunately, hopeful universalism is commonly used to mean having reasons to be optimistic (but not claiming certainty) that God will save all people.  Instead, logically this optimistic claim should be called optimistic universalism, and we should use hopeful universalism to describe a hope that all will be saved.

 

my Optimism isn't Certainty:  In this page I'm not trying to prove that ultimate Universal Reconciliation is taught with certainty in the Bible.  Instead I just want to show that — in addition to hoping UR will happen — we also can have logical Bible-based reasons for optimism, for thinking UR might happen.   And I want to explain why I'm not confident when evaluating UR-versus-FA so I won't confidently claim that either “it will be UR” or “it will be FA.”

 
 

Why is my optimism justified?  Some reasons for optimistically thinking “not EM, and maybe UR” are explained above & below,

 

above:  What are the views?  -  My Views and My Feelings  -  The Character of God (asking WWJD?) and Conditional Immortality with a Death Penalty  -  WHAT - Accurate Understandings of 4 Views  -  Hopeful and Optimistic  and

below:  Previous & Current Theologies  -  WHEN (after death) and HOW (maybe... with experiences to teach-and-heal, to achieve Divine Justice-with-Love)  (Free Will and Semi-Universalism)  -  Hell-Verses (claimed as support for EM) and Biblical Support for UR & against UR and Why is the Bible ambiguous?

also below:  Effects on Relationships  -  Effects on Evangelism  -  Questions about Divine Justice

 

 

Recognizing My Bias:  In this page, I explain why Bible-believing Christians have strong reasons to reject EM, and accept either UR or FA.  But I'm hoping UR will happen, and in my descriptions of UR-versus-FA (and of both versus EM) you'll see more arguments for UR than for FA, although you will see both.     UR versus FA - with no clear winner }

 

 

Previous Theologies — Views of Hell in Church History

writers of the Bible:  In their talks (as recorded in Acts of the Apostles) and their letters, the earliest major church leaders – Peter, John, James, Paul – described divine judgment, but not a divine causing of Eternal Misery.  In the Bible, these leaders never mentioned eternally lasting torment.  Maybe this absence-of-EM shows us that they did not believe EM.  And I think it certainly shows that they didn't think “the final state of unbelievers” was an essential part of The Good News.

readers of the Bible:  After books of the New Testament became available to leaders of the early church, they were able to read most of what's in our modern Bible.  In the first five centuries of church history, extra-biblical writings of prominent “church fathers” show that three views (Universal Reconciliation, Final Annihilation, Eternal Misery) were common, and all were respected as acceptable options, so major statements of belief – as in the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed – said nothing about UR or FA or EM.  Therefore all of the views, then and now, can affirm these two classic creeds;  and all views now can affirm the modern "fundamentals" of Christian faith.     {more about Church History including Creeds & Fundamentals}

Later, EM became the dominant view, mainly for reasons that were linguistic (in translations biased to favor EM), philosophical (due to non-Biblical philosophies claiming human immortality), and political (because some practical effects of EM helped a church/government control people with fear-based threats), plus the powerful inertia of tradition.  But the non-EM views, FA and UR, continued to be proposed by some Christians, and these views are again (as in the early church) becoming much more common in recent decades.   {more}

 

In the early church, many Christians believed that God will save all people.  Why?

 

• One reason is because there is...

Biblical Support for Universal Reconciliation:  God declares (in many places) that He wants to save all people, and (in a few places) that He will save all people, that "as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22) because "as through one transgression [the sin of Adam] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [atonement by Jesus] there resulted justification of life to all men" (Romans 5:18) and (Romans 11:32) "God has shut up all in disobedience [due to Adam] so that [through Christ] He may show mercy to all," with His loving "mercy to all" inspiring (in 11:33-12:1) our worship: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ... To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:25-36)*   The birth of Jesus was "good news of great joy which will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10) because He came "to save the world" (John 12:47) by becoming "the atoning sacrifice... for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).  God will ultimately, through Jesus Christ, "reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:15-20) when (Philippians 2:11) "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow... [and] every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."   /   This conclusion of Romans 9-11, with "mercy to all" and "glory forever" in 11:32-36, leads to the exhortation in Romans 12:1, "Therefore... in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship."

ambiguity:   Defenders of Final Annihilation have “answers” (but are they satisfactory?) for pro-UR arguments that include these pro-UR verses.*  And defenders of UR have “answers” (but are they satisfactory?) for pro-FA arguments that include pro-FA verses.  Therefore we see biblical ambiguity due to biblical support for UR but also for FA (and for semi-UR).   /   These UR-verses seem to state that eventually God will cause ALL people to be reconciled with Himself, but other interpretations of "all" are possible.

 

• Another reason occurs when we...

    logically combine Theologies of Sovereignty, and conclude that

    IF divine love plus divine power, THEN Universal Reconciliation?

Two systems of theology — with differing answers for the important question of “who does what?” in a process of salvation — claim strong Biblical support, are common among modern evangelical Christians, and are generally considered worthy of respectful theological discussion.  The majority view is Arminian, but Calvinism is a significant minority.

IF we accept two claims about God's fatherly love and sovereign power, with claims that...

    God loves everyone He has created, so God wants to save everyone (this is accepted by Arminians, rejected by Calvinists)*, and
    God uses His power to sovereignly “get what He wants” in salvation (this is accepted by Calvinists, rejected by Arminians)*,

THEN — because God wants to save everyone, and God gets what He wants — our logical conclusion will be Universal Reconciliation.

 

Or, with a brief summary:  IF divine love and power, THEN Universal Reconciliation.

 

* I cannot understand how a combination of Calvinism plus Eternal Misery* — by claiming that God does not want to save everyone (and by using His total sovereignty, He will not save everyone) AND He will cause Eternal Misery for those He chooses to not save — is consistent with the biblical God who loves people and wants justice.     {logically, claims about Calvinistic sovereignty should be separated from claims about Eternal Misery. }

* But... Arminians who are not Universalists can biblically-and-logically claim that “God gets what He wants” by forever (in the past, present, future) allowing human free-will decisions that include accepting or rejecting the grace He offers — because although God does "want to save everyone" He also wants (even more than this) human free will — and some humans will continue deciding to reject Him.

 

MORE about this logic - including what is and isn't accepted by Arminians and who is to blame for a person's damnation and the double-predestinating (to heaven & hell) of Calvinism and why logical Calvinism (re: the sovereignty of God) does not require classical Calvinism (= logical Calvinism + Eternal Misery).

   

 

 

When and How ?

IF a person “says NO to God” during their Life, and IF God eventually will save them, when and how will they be saved?

 


 

WHEN  —  Salvation in Afterlife?

Why should we ask "Salvation in Afterlife"?   IF God eventually will save all people — as declared in some verses — to produce Universal Reconciliation (UR),* He could allow previously-unsaved people (those He didn't save during Life) to believe-and-repent after death, during their Afterlife.    /     * a reconciliation-during-Afterlife could include all people (→ UR) or just some people (→ semi-UR).

Will this happen in Afterlife?  The Bible doesn't explicitly say “yes” or “no”.

Is this question important?  Yes, because if God will graciously allow salvation during Afterlife, most Bible-based objections to UR are weakened or eliminated.     {more

 

When we ask “will God give salvation in afterlife?”, a deeper examination shows why we can say “maybe yes” based on evidence that is biblical (what does the Bible say? not much one way or the other,* so there is minimal support for both YES & NO) and theological (why does “the burden of proof” favor UR?) and logical (because “strong exclusivism + universal salvation” requires after-death repentance).

What is strong exclusivism?  I think the Bible, especially in the New Testament, clearly teaches exclusivism (so the only source of salvation is Jesus, through His incarnation and substitutionary death) and a strong exclusivism (with salvation requiring explicit belief in Jesus, leading to repentance and living by faith) that seems to limit salvation-during-Life to only "a few" who follow the narrow road.  So IF all are saved with UR, or IF more than "a few" are saved with semi-UR, THEN this wider salvation seems to require some salvation during Afterlife.

* Hebrews 9:27 is not biblical evidence against Salvation in Afterlife, because Christians who propose Universal Reconciliation agree that "people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment."  They only disagree when we ask “what will happen in Hell?” and “what are the final results of judgment?”

 

And, regarding the character of God, we should ask WWGD?

Consider the claim in this hymn:

    Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
    there is no shadow of turning with Thee;
    Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
    as Thou has been, Thou forever will be.
 

If you believe in Eternal Misery, is this claim — about divine faithfulness with compassions that "fail not" — limited by time?  For most of the people created by God, with EM would His temporary loving-and-forgiving occur only during the person's life, so at the moment of death His attitude-and-actions change to permanent hating-and-unforgiving?     {if “yes” this would be a powerful reason to fear death}   {more - What changed between pages 70 and 200? in a vivid description of The Whole News as Good News ("God loves you") plus Bad News ("God hates you");  if God loves people during Life, but in Afterlife will cause Eternal Misery, can we still say "as Thou has been, Thou forever will be"?}

 


 

HOW will God produce Reconciliation?  —  Educational Healing in Purgatorial Afterlife?

IF God will produce Reconciliation-during-Afterlife, for people who were Unsaved/Unreconciled-during-Life, then maybe... God will use a process in UR-Hell that is analogous to whole-person edifying education in a school.  It also might be analogous, in many ways but not all, to rehabilitative correction in a prison, or medical healing in a hospital, with sinfulness removed by spiritual surgery.  So it could be useful to think of UR-Hell as educational corrective healing.  During UR-Hell the process of education produces corrective healing, to achieve God's goal of doing justice for all victims-and-sinners.

IF this occurs in UR-Hell, it will be a purgatorial process, as in divine fire (pur in Greek) that purifies, with divine purging by HolySpirit-surgery to remove things — like all kinds of sinfulness — that God doesn't want the person to have, to be.  By contrast with a view that proposes Universal Reconciliation (UR) without any process of purging-in-Hell, my view of UR is Purgatorial Universal Reconciliation (PUR).  This name is more accurately descriptive because it distinguishes between Non-Purgatorial UR (NPUR) and Purgatorial UR (PUR),  and its abbreviation, PUR, reminds us of the divine fire (pur in Greek) used by God to actively save-and-sanctify previously unsaved people in UR-Hell, when God uses His divine pur to purge/refine during the purgatorial process (P) that produces the result (UR) He wants;  if God wants UR, He will use P to produce UR.     {or He could use P to produce semi-UR}

Maybe... after unsaved people are resurrected and judged, God will give them educational experiences in hell that correct-and-heal them, that lead them to believe & repent so they can be reconciled with Him.  How?  We can think about QUESTIONS and SPECULATIONS.

 

QUESTIONS  —  We'll begin with questions about HOW:

    in any view (UR, FA, or EM), “how will saved people be radically transformed so we are not still sinful, so we are sanctified and are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven?  and...
    if UR occurs, then “in Hell, how will unsaved people be radically transformed so they are not still sinful, so they are sanctified and are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven?”

These two how-questions, considered individually and together, lead to other questions:  compared with the process for saved people, in what ways might the process for unsaved people be similar, and different?   will God change us (or them) instantly, or in a time-process?   will we (or they) passively receive the changes, or be active participants?   in what ways will the process be better for saved people? (we should expect the process-and-results to be much better for people who are saved during Life, but in what ways will it be better?)     {maybe... God will use every person's Afterlife to produce total sanctification (with radical changes that get rid of all sin) for everyone, and salvation for those who need it because they were unsaved at the end of their Life}   {in a process of partial sanctification, "do not conform to the pattern of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind." Romans 12:2 – Is this a process that begins in Life for Christians, and will be completed in Afterlife for only them? or for everyone?}

Reconciliation requires Restoration:  I think an authentic total reconciliation (with God and with people) will require a total restoration that transforms a person until they become righteous with total sanctification, until they have been restored (in all ways) into finally becoming the person God always wanted them to be.

 

The Consequences of Sins:  The Bible says very little about an afterlife process of changing for the purpose of eliminating sin in the hearts & minds of saved people or unsaved people.  But...

    sins have consequences — both now in Life, and later in Afterlife — as explained when Jesus warns "everyone" that "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands [or "two feet" or "two eyes"], to go into hell,* into the unquenchable fire ...  For everyone will be salted with fire."  Our sins produce consequences — because "God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" and God "will repay each person according to what they have done" when in Afterlife "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" — with the consequences-of-sin coming to us first during Life and then in Afterlife, whether the Afterlife Reality will be UR, FA, or EM.  And for believers, fire "will test the quality of each man's work" to determine if they will "receive reward" or "suffer loss," although the person "will be saved, yet so as through fire."    {* Jesus wants us to take sin seriously, because He does;  and He sets high standards for what He wants us to think & do. }     {more & more}
    and Jesus does tell us "there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed."  This total disclosing does not happen in Life, so it will happen in Afterlife.  {more}
 

The Forgiving of Sins:  In many places, the Bible also declares the total forgiving of sins by God.  But...

    forgiving is not transforming:  Although a divine forgiving of sins is merciful and wonderful, helping us feel thankful and joyful, by itself a divine forgiving of sins does not produce the radical transformation that is required for total sanctification, for the total cleansing-from-sin that will be required for everyone to live with total joy (mental, spiritual, relational, physical) in a heavenly Kingdom of God.
 

Consequences + Forgiving:  So... how does this combination (of human accountability + divine forgiving) fit together, in Life and Afterlife, for people who during Life were saved?  or were unsaved?

 

 

SPECULATIONS  —  and we'll continue with speculations about HOW:

Life-Review Videos of a Person, to produce Repentance:  Maybe... one aspect of Afterlife Education-in-Hell will be Life-Review Videos that "disclose" to let an unsaved person re-experience, in a very intense way, their thoughts-and-actions during Life,* so they can observe their sins and the effects of their sins.  During these personally meaningful experiences, God could give them super-abilities (intellectual, emotional, empathetic,...) that will help them to understand more completely-and-accurately, and to feel an intensely sorrowful repentance for their sins.     * {more about possible super-abilities, given by God, to enhance a person's experiencing of Life Videos, along with divine guiding by Holy Spirit to help them learn more from their experiences during their purgative process of transformation-into-sanctification, plus divine knowledge-and-power that would be required for the "time traveling" in life videos}  {more about Purgative Universal Reconciliation}

Life-Review Videos of a Person, to produce Degrees of Sorrow:  Maybe... a person's Life-Review Videos will help them understand/feel the total positive results of their beneficial thinking-and-actions (with feelings of joy) and the total negative results of their sinful harmful thinking-and-actions (with feelings of sadness).

    Their sadness would be increased if God gives them:  super-compassion for people, so they truly “love others as they love themselves” with deeply genuine caring;  and super-knowledge about God, so they know Him more fully, and understand how their sins against people were also sins against God;  and super-knowledge about people, including both external knowledge so they know “all that happened” during Life from the perspectives of other people (by knowing their life-situations and their thoughts/feelings, so they know the total cause-and-effect results of how every other person was affected by their own actions) and internal knowledge so they understand, more completely and accurately, the “why” of their own thoughts & actions.

Maybe... all of these thoughts-and-feelings (while watching life-review videos) will cause a deep sadness, an intensely emotional sorrow, with the person suffering in ways that are personally customized for them, because the sorrows they receive in Afterlife will depend on the sorrows they caused in Life.

 

DIVINE JUSTICE  (is examined below in purple-colored boxes, regarding possible educational experiences in UR-Hell)

These intense experiences-of-sorrow could produce...

The Different Degrees of Suffering in Afterlife that are described by Jesus.  But it's difficult to imagine how "different degrees" could occur, for unsaved people, with the rigid binary ultimate results of afterlife that would occur in either EM-Hell (infinite suffering for all) or FA-Hell (total death for all).  But in a UR-Hell that is non-binary with personally customized flexibility, it's easy to imagine how "different degrees" could occur, with...

Intrinsic Retributive Justice:  Maybe... during each person's educational Experiences in Hell there will be a cause-effect relationship between causing sorrows (in Life) and receiving sorrows (in Afterlife), so — to help achieve retributive justice — “if more sinning, then more suffering.”  This aspect of retributive justice would have an intrinsic correlation between sinning-in-Life and suffering-in-Afterlife;  this, along with other aspects of UR-Hell, would produce different amounts of suffering for people who did different amounts of sinning.  A person's total sinning would include their sins of commission (bad things they did in their thoughts-and-actions) and their sins of omission (good things they didn't do, when they didn't fully use the abilities and life-opportunities given to them by God).

Re: our sins of omission, there is a wide variation in our abilities and opportunities.  With UR these differences can be considered by God in His expectations — when He asks each of us “what did you do with your abilities and opportunities, with the life I gave you?” — and thus in His justice, with personal customizing.

 

more – Divine Justice with EM (is it possible?) or with FA or UR

 
 

Life Videos of Other People, to produce Mutual Empathies:  Maybe... every person – both unsaved & saved – will be able to experience the life-videos of other people, including their sorrowful repentance for their sins, to develop mutual empathies.*

These shared experiences could be an important part of biblical restorative justice in which God doesn't merely get justice, instead He does justice.  Maybe... with this process, finally everyone can forgive everyone, and be emotionally healed.     {Empathy in Relationships - for a Wonderful Life with Kindness & Golden Rule}

* Our repenting could be verbal — if we can talk with each other, to remember and cry & laugh together, to hug and reconcile — and maybe we also will feel-and-understand the repenting & forgiving & reconciling in other ways.

 

a reminder:  LINKS that have background-shading (with purple or green or gray) go to biblegateway.com or to pages written by me or by other authors;  all LINKS without background-shading go to my pages about EM-vs-FA-vs-UR and, if italicized, to other places inside this page.

 

 

Justice for Victims and Sinners

Maybe... as described above in speculations that seem consistent with the Bible, educational Life Videos in UR-Hell could produce two kinds of justice:

    Restorative Justice for Victims:  Maybe... if all people – both saved & unsaved – will experience the life-videos of others, all people (you & others) who are victims of sin will be able to feel the shame-and-sorrow of the many people (others & you) who sinned against them during Life, but who are now repenting in Afterlife.  These mutual empathy-experiences could help everyone forgive everyone, so all can be emotionally healed.  In this way, and other ways, God could do Restorative Justice for all victims of sin.
    Retributive Justice for Sinners, with Rehabilitation to allow Reconciliation:  Maybe... with life-review videos and in other ways, the retributive punishing of UR-Hell (with degrees of punishing personally customized based on amounts of sinning, so each person reaps what they sow) will be designed to rehabilitate unsaved sinners,* causing them to be radically transformed so they become sanctified and are no longer sinful, because God has decided that they will be saved by Him and reconciled with Him.  With this just retribution and loving rehabilitation, God would be just-AND-loving for the sinners in UR-Hell.  For unsaved sinners, God gets justice in EM-Hell or FA-Hell, but God does justice in UR-Hell with its retributive-yet-loving rehabilitation that produces righteousness in the sinner.
    * If unsaved people will, after their death, be saved/reconciled by God as part of restoring His creation, the process of change can be viewed as corrective (with rehabilitation) and medical (with healing) and educational (with transformative learning), and relationally productive because it produces a total forgiving (by people and by God) that is beneficial for all.     {if each of us is a victim and a sinner then will God want to produce mutually beneficial righteousness for all?}
 

Doing Justice by Producing Righteousness

In the New Testament's original Greek, the same word is used for justice & righteousness (with implications-for-hell that are explained by other authors) and in most languages – but not English – this word usually is translated as justice.

UR-RighteousJustice:   If doing righteous-justice is an action of making things right, of making things the way they should be, UR would do justice by transforming unsaved people so they finally become the way they should be, the way God has always wanted them to be.*

EM-RighteousJustice?   By contrast, EM would do injustice by preserving unsaved people in an afterlife of eternally continuing sinfulness, abandoning them in a hell-situation that keeps them very unright, very unrighteous, feeling abandoned with no hope, with no possibility of improving or escaping, with God making them stay the way they should not be, forever.

comparing UR versus EM:   UR would produce righteous justice, but EM would preserve sinful injustice.   (UR vs EM is Righteousness vs Unrighteousness, is Justice vs Injustice)     /     With UR, sinning is punished-and-destroyed.  With EM, sinning is punished-and-preserved.

* FA-RighteousJustice:   With FA or UR, the final state would be similar (but with FA there would be fewer people) because FA would produce righteous-justice for all people who remain, with all of these people being "the way they should be."   FA and UR would produce a similar Final State — fulfilling "the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him [in the Father's "beloved Son"], and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross" — but this Final State (with all things reconciled to God) would be different than EM's Final State because with FA (or UR) no people would be living in "eternally continuing sinfulness... with God making them stay the way they should not be," as with EM.

 

Each of us is Victim-and-Sinner:  Every person, whether saved or unsaved, is a victim and a sinner, because each of us has been hurt when we were sinned against, and each of us has hurt others when we sinned.  All of us need (as victims) to forgive people, and (as sinners) to repent and apologize and be forgiven by people & by God.  To achieve the total forgivings that would be required for a total reconciling of people with each other and with God, many relationships would be involved, both “horizontal” (between people) and “vertical” (between people and God).

Saved and Unsaved:  The speculations above (that "maybe...") are about experiences in UR-Hell for unsaved people.   And maybe... well, I think probably... some activities in the afterlife-process (done by God for purposes of retribution, rehabilitation, restoration, and for other reasons) also will occur for saved people, but their experiences will be different in some ways, and much better overall when all things are considered.     { more  –  A  B  C }

 

Justice-AND-Love

The Bible tells us that God wants justice and is loving.  Maybe... God will do UR so the educational Hell-Experiences will achieve Justice (both restorative and retributive) with Love for unsaved people.  How?  The ultimate result will be loving if the hell-process is purifying, if the suffering of a person causes them to "be radically transformed so they are not still sinful, so they are sanctified [they have been made righteous by God] and are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven," so they can be reconciled with God.

a purpose for suffering:  With UR a person's suffering performs a useful function, producing beneficial changes that the person can keep after they believe-and-repent.  {But with EM there are no beneficial changes for the person, and with FA whatever they “learn in hell” and “change in hell” is lost when they permanently die.}   With UR the unpleasant hell-experiences are done FOR a person, for their benefit.  By contrast, with EM or FA the hell-experiences are done TO a person, to harm them with everlasting torment or everlasting non-existence.

enthusiastically worshiping God:  God wants Christians to enthusiastically praise Him — with our whole heart/soul/mind — for everything He has done and is doing and will do, to praise Him and proudly proclaim “what He will do to sinners, and for sinners, in Hell.”  A sincere praising seems easiest with the justice-and-love of UR, and most difficult with EM.

 

What kind of Afterlife-Hell could God use if His goal-for-justice (i.e. His goal for righteousness) is a mastery-of-character, a purifying sanctification?   With UR, education in Afterlife would be analogous to human education with personally customized Mastery Learning in which every student continues taking an exam – with instructional support to help them continue improving – until they achieve a passing score, until (for a student in UR-Hell) God decides that they have mastered The Essentials of Salvation (with Sanctification), so He decides to save them.  By contrast, FA or EM would be analogous to giving a Final Exam once, and using it to assign a Final Score for every student.     { In human education, Mastery Learning offers advantages, but also disadvantages that God would eliminate in His Divine Education. }   {more}

 

 

{more about Education in Afterlife?}

 

 

 Free Will and Universal Reconciliation (UR)
or semi-Universal Reconciliation (semi-UR)

Universalists claim that in hell unsaved people CAN repent, and all DO repent.  But if humans have free will, how can we know that all will repent, that none will continue resisting in their Afterlife, like they did in their Life?  Here are two responses by defenders of UR, and a semi-UR possibility:

    • Maybe... in the Bible, God has told us that He will save all people — that ultimately "all will be made alive" with "life for all people" when God will "show mercy to all" so the life-actions of Jesus "will cause great joy for all the people" because He came "to save the world" by becoming "the atoning sacrifice... for the sins of the whole world" — so we know how “the grand story” will end. 
    • Maybe... because God wants all to repent, He will design persuasive hell-experiences so skillfully that each unsaved person will freely decide to believe-and-repent.  God could give each unsaved person more information, and a different perspective, so they will have a freeD will,* so their will is freed from the slavery to sin (Romans 6) that hindered their hearts-and-minds during Life, so in Hell they are able to make a wise decision and they do “say YES to God.”     {* A God-given freed will in Afterlife would be similar to Calvinism's claim that God-given regeneration in Life allows a person to overcome their sinful Total Inability (the T in TULIP) to believe in God and repent;  and the IP of TULIP could guarantee that all will be saved. }

 

 Semi-Universal Reconciliation:  Maybe... in their Afterlife, some unsaved sinners will believe-and-repent — if God graciously gives them a second chance for salvation — but others will refuse, and eventually God will accept their “no” and will let them perish, thus making their own death pay their own penalty for sin instead of letting Jesus pay their penalty with His substitutionary death.  These permanent deaths would occur because some people, with their free will, continue saying NO to God, instead of the YES that He wants.  Or maybe God will not accept the repentance of some people – because of how they lived in Life, or how they respond in Afterlife.     {a semi-UR view is a combination of UR-and-FA that is similar to UR (or FA) in some ways, but different in other ways

 the results of sin:  if God will do FA, every person who is unsaved during Life will be annihilated;  if God will do semi-UR, every person who is unsaved during Afterlife will be annihilated. 

 

 Free Will and different Semi-Universalism Hybrids - a little more and much more

 

 

Isolated Hell-Verses in the Bible

Important whole-Bible principles (about The Character of God and Conditional Immortality & The Death Penalty) provide strong support against a doctrine of Eternal Misery.  And many Bible verses, strengthened by their whole-Bible context, provide support for Universal Reconciliation and for Final Annihilation.  By contrast, defenders of EM typically point to a few “hell verses that are isolated (are not connected with whole-Bible themes), and say “look at these.”  But when we do look at their verses carefully, we should not be impressed because...

    a verse about suffering – as in "weeping and gnashing" – does not support EM because all views (EM, FA, UR) agree that unsaved people will suffer in hell.  But the views disagree about time (will people suffer eternally with EM, or temporarily with FA or UR?), and timing (will God allow belief-and-repentance only in Life, or also in Afterlife as with UR or semi-UR?), and final result (will it be misery, non-existence, or reconciliation?).
    the translation of a Greek word can be biased when translators assume EM and think they should teach EM with their translation, so they choose (from the options available) an English word that will provide support for EM.*   {more about bias in translating}
    usually a reader can interpret a verse — by considering alternative translations (or meanings) of key words, and in other ways — so it seems to support EM and/or FA and/or UR.
 

* For example, the perceived meaning we get from our interpretation of Matthew 25:46 — when Jesus said "these [who ignored the poor-and-needy]* will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous [who helped the poor-and-needy] into eternal life" — is affected by important decisions about translation.  How?  Here are two examples, for translations from Greek words (aionios & kolasin) into English words (eternal & punishment):

• The Greek word aionios can mean "eternal" or "everlasting" or — more literally because aion means age — occuring in a future age” or “associated with a future age” or “age-related” or “age-ish”.  When translators choose "eternal" it seems to provide support for EM or FA. (or, as explained below, maybe not)   But this apparent support would vanish if they chose to translate aionios in one of the more-literal ways, so instead of "eternal punishment" we would be reading “punishment in a future age” (or “age-associated punishment” or...) that could occur with EM or FA, or UR.     {* poor-and-needy people are described, in Matthew 25:44, as those who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison}

• The Greek word kolasin is usually translated as "punishment" that would be retributive (this would occur with EM, FA, UR) and (with UR) also could be correctiveOr, to emphasize the corrective function, kolasin could be translated as “corrective pruning” (its meaning in Classical Greek, and maybe here in New Testament Greek) that would provide support for UR.      {more}

 

Or support for EM can seem justifiable due to misinterpretation.  How?

Because ‘kolasin’ is a noun, it's translated as "punishment" (noun) instead of “punishing” (verb).  This is important because with FA an eternally lasting punishment-result (eternally lasting non-existence) would not require — as implied in a misinterpretation by defenders of EM — an eternally lasting punishing-process with EM.  Another similarity, for EM and FA, is that "eternal life" and "eternal punishment" can have a parallel contrast-of-meaning with either EM (with life forever, and process-of-punishment forever) or FA (with a result-of-punishment lasting forever, causing dead forever instead of alive forever) and also with UR...

if the punishment is retributive AND corrective, if it's "eternal [retributive-and-corrective] punishment" or (in a different translation of kolasin) is "eternal [retributive/corrective] pruning", then after UR-Hell the everlasting result-of-punishment (after beneficial rehabilitation) would be everlasting reconciliation.

a summary:  The 3 kinds of Hell (EM, FA, UR) would produce either an everlasting process-of-punishment (EM), or an everlasting result-of-punishment (FA, UR) with everlasting death (FA) or everlasting reconciliation (UR).

 

{more about biased translation-choices for important words: eternal, punishment, torment, death}   {an example of bias-for-EM: in the NIV and some other translations, why do we read "away from" instead of "coming from" or just "from"?}

{and more about hell-verses — Matthew 25:46 (eternal punishment) & 25:41 (eternal fire), Luke 16:19-31 (Lazarus & The Rich Man, who are not in Hell), Revelation 14:9-11 (the smoke of their torment rises forever) & 20:10 (tormented forever) — briefly and in detail}   {the emphasis on social justice in Matthew 25 & Luke 16}

 

 

Divine Fire in The Bible

Throughout the Bible, fire often symbolizes the divine presence-and-power of God.  A few examples of divine fire are the burning bush (Exodus 3), river of fire (Daniel 7), fire to refine & burn (Malachi 3 & 4), Jesus baptizing with fire (Matthew 3, Luke 3), "everyone will be salted with fire" (Mark 9), Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), testing/destroying works of a believer (1 Corinthians 3), and "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20).     {from the Greek word for fire, pur, we get purify to make pure, etc}

What is the fire in Hell?  Will it be a literal physical fire, or (when we see "fire" in the Bible) is it a symbol for divine power?  And what will the fire do?

 

What will happen in The Lake of Fire, during The Second Death?

What will be done to an unbeliever (i.e. WWJD?) in "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11-15) that "is the second death"?

In each view, what is the Second Death?

    with FA it's the usual meaning of death, but with a “total death” annihilation of body-and-soul that is permanent, with no possibility of resurrection in the future,
    with UR it's a “purifying death” that has a good purpose because this death is necessary for new life, as in the death-with-Christ of Romans 6,*
    with EM it's a “living death” with people forced to continue living in sin, even though this forced misery would be un-biblical because sinners "must not... live forever."

or we can ask:  in the Second Death, what is destroyed?

    with FA it's the sinner's existence, so their sin is eliminated,
    with UR it's the sinner's sinful nature, so their sin is eliminated,
    with EM it's the sinner's quality of life, but their sin is preserved.
    In different ways, both FA and UR eliminate sinning & sinners.  But EM maintains sinning & sinners with universal unconditional immortality that would be unbiblical.     {among the many biblical reasons to reject EM is because "with EM... sin is preserved"}
    Basically, FA & UR & EM propose that God, by using The Lake of Fire, will destroy sinner & sin & joy, using fire whose purpose is to consume & purify & torment.*   In each Second Death, the "unquenchable fire" of God will continue doing what God wants;  it cannot be quenched until His goal is achieved. (although with EM it seems that no worthy "goal" is ever achieved)     {* The Table of Contents includes a brief summary of how God might use divine fire to consume and/or purify. }
 

Christian Universalism and Purgatorial Exclusivism:  I think a Bible-believing Christian Universalist should be a Purgatorial Universalist who proposes a Strong Exclusivism (claiming "only Jesus saves" so all other roads do not lead to God) and believes people who were unsaved during Life will experience The Lake of Fire during Afterlife.

 

* How can death lead to life?   In Romans 6:1-14,* Paul describes the process of becoming a born-again Christian:  a person's old sinful nature must die (as in the crucifixion of Christ) so they can be transformed by God (as in the resurrection of Christ) to "walk in newness of life."  For a born-again Christian, this new life occurs during their Life before their First Death (at the end of Life), but with UR it would occur during their Afterlife, in a Second Death that follows their First Death.   With UR, the Second Death of an unsaved person would be their very unpleasant educational experience in Hell (with help from Holy Spirit) that causes their spiritual healing-and-rebirth, so they can be reconciled with people and God.     {a similar claim is Galatians 5:24, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have [as in His death] crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."}   {and for believers, fire "will test the quality of each man's work," 1 Corinthians 3:12-15}

 

{more about Fire and Second Death in The Lake of Fire}

 


 

  Universal Reconciliation and Ambiguity —  

  Reasons for Optimism-without-Confidence  

My Views:  Currently, "I'm very confident, but not certain, that the most common view — Eternal Misery (EM) — will not happen in Afterlife."  But "the other views — Final Annihilation (FA) and Universal Reconciliation (UR) or semi-URhave strong biblical support, and I think each is a possibility."   My confident conclusion (about EM) and unconfident non-conclusion (about FA versus UR) are due to... 

 

My Two-Stage Process of Evaluation:

    • first, beginning in 1987, I compared FA versus EM, and — as explained in my two papers (1-page and longer) comparing the biblical support for EM and FA — I found the support to be much stronger for FA.      { Before 1987, instead of asking questions and studying/thinking, I just assumed EM. }
    • second, since mid-2014, I've been comparing FA versus UR, and there is no clear winner.  Therefore, I'm hopeful that UR will happen, but am only optimistic (not certain or even highly confident) that UR will happen.

{more about Reasons for Optimism-without-Certainty}  {you can read my page, and also other authors - on the web & in books}

 

In the second stage, why is there no clear winner?  We can answer in two ways, by responding to these two why-questions:

    WHY is the process of evaluation-and-conclusion difficult?
    WHY hasn't God made “the answer” clear in His Bible, so the process would be easy?

 

Why is the process difficult?

In evaluations of FA vs EM, whole-Bible principles (the character of God plus Conditional Immortality and the related Death Penalty for Sin) strongly support FA;  and isolated hell-verses are not conclusive.

In evaluations of FA vs UR, whole-Bible principles seem consistent with either FA or UR;  and we can find verses that provide support for both FA and UR.   In the Bible as a whole and in its parts,

    we see strong support for FA, but UR has strong counter-arguments, and
    we see strong support for UR, but FA has strong counter-arguments, and
    we see strong support for semi-UR, but also strong counter-arguments from both FA & UR.
 

For example, when we ask will God allow unsaved people to believe-and-repent in their Afterlife? — a very important question because a “yes” would weaken most biblical objections to UR — the Bible doesn't explicitly say “yes” or “no”.

 

Why has God caused this ambiguity?

Maybe it's caused by God — not just allowed by God — to avoid “proof” so – during our Education With Life – we can develop skills in living by faith, so during Life we can show God “what's in our hearts” because, with our responses to Jesus and what He commands us to do, "the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. (Luke 2:35)"

I think this is the main reason.  But maybe it's also...

    to restrain humans from “running wild” during Life, if we expect UR instead of FA (or expect FA instead of EM) in Afterlife;*  or
    to produce temporary psychological suffering in hell if people think their hell-experience might end (with FA) or might not end (so they'll get EM), even if they eventually will get UR.
 

Or maybe the answer is clear in the Bible, and I'm just not seeing what should be clear.

But... devout Bible-believing Christians have reached differing conclusions about what the Bible teaches, so there are some advocates for each doctrine, for UR and semi-UR and FA (the 3 doctrine-views I think are plausible), and even for EM.  So evidently most of us — all except those (probably a minority) who are now advocating the doctrine that correctly describes what will happen — are missing the clarity.

 

* Along with two other ambiguities — about opportunities to repent after death (closely related to the “difficult process” described above) and (a question that's different, but is similar in leading to uncertainty that might be "caused by God" for the reasons described above) an absence of strong divine persuasion for most people during Life — this biblical ambiguity (about Annihilation versus Reconciliation) could be a "burden of proof" argument to support ultimate Reconciliation.

 

 

Effects on Relationships

Even though the views are almost identical in other ways, their differences (in the final state of unsaved humans) make a big difference in our relationships with God and people, as in...

 

my relationships with unbelievers:

I'm less eager to share The Gospel when I must argue against the common assumption that The Good News includes both Good News (of God giving Eternal Joy) and Bad News (of God causing Eternal Misery).     {more – evangelism with mixed news (good+bad) and mixed motivations (love+fear) and my mixed feelings about the tensions of conflicting responsibilitiesand why does UR promote an us-and-us feeling instead of the us-and-them that tends to occur with FA & EM?

 
 

my relationships with believers:

How do I feel?  I'm disappointed by Christians who (in the past) made Eternal Misery “the traditional belief” despite its biblical weakness, and now (in the present) are continuing to support this choice.  And I'm sad because when fellow Christians say “God will cause Eternal Misery for most of the people He created” I think they are saying untrue-and-harmful things about the character of GodDue to my disappointment and sadness, it's more difficult for me to feel a deep fellowship with other Christians.   {yes, I know this attitude is a sinful flaw, and I'm trying to help God remove it from me, but the disappointment & sadness are very real in my heart and mind}

How do they feel?  This varies widely, and responses can occur on two levels, personal & institutional.*  Based on the second-hand experiences of others, responses by fellow Christians are sometimes hostile toward a person proposing FA, and typically (based on stories I've heard)* are more hostile toward a person proposing UR.   {iou - I'll write more about this later.}

* Members of a church can feel personal social pressures to conform.  And people in ministries — of a church, organization, or school — can feel professional institutional pressures because EM (sometimes described as "eternal conscious torment") is included in most statements of “What We Believe”, instead of a humbly neutral statement (as in the Apostle's Creed or Nicene Creed) that is compatible with all of the views, with EM, FA, or UR.     {more - the powerful inertia of tradition and psychology/sociology of conformity plus unhealthy attitudes (as in all-day workers or elder brothers) and wishing the tradition was different-and-better}

* So far, my own sharing-of-ideas with fellow Christians (individually and in small groups) has gone well.  Their responses have been gracious and loving.  But I'm still being cautious, moving slowly.   {more}

 
 

• my relationship with God:

Here are my responses to what I think is the basic justice and character of God with each view:

    if I try to imagine – contrary to what I believethat God will cause Eternal Misery, the horror of EM makes it extremely difficult for me to imagine being able to fully love God (with my whole heart, soul, and mind),* but...
    when I imagine the mercy of FA, it's much easier to love God more fully, and...
    when I imagine the grace of UR, it's even easier (compared with FA) to most fully love God, and to proudly proclaim "what God will do to unbelievers in hell" because, with UR, God can produce restorative justice for victims, and for sinners He will do retributive justice that rehabilitates-and-heals.
 

Also, I'm frustrated by the biblical ambiguity when we're evaluating FA-versus-UR, so I find myself asking “why don't You make it more clear?”

* Can we honor God by defending EM, and also by criticizing EM?

 
 

Relationships of Other People (Believers & Unbelievers) with Each Other and with God:

Soon I will begin asking others “what do you think?” to discover how they feel.  Do they respond like me, or do they find it equally easy, when they imagine each view, to fully love people and God.     {more about relationships}

 
 

our attitudes toward other Christians and God — Principles

for Discussing Doctrines Respectfully, with Christian Love:

 

Jesus commanded us (in John 13:34 and elsewhere) to "love one another."  To help us love each other more effectively — as individuals, and as a whole body of believers — useful principles are "in essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity."   {who said this and why?}

How can we decide if a doctrine is essential?*  We can look at its importance-and-certainty by asking, "is it theologically important, AND is it taught with certainty in the Bible?"

In my opinion:  our doctrinal response when we ask “what is the ultimate fate of unsaved people?” is important (because it affects our thinking-and-actions) but is not important enough to be considered essential for Christian faith;  AND the doctrine that is correct (because it matches the reality of what actually will happen in afterlife) is not taught with certainty, so it cannot be known with certainty.

When answering these questions about importance and certainty, to decide if a doctrine is essential or non-essential,...

    a Christian should have appropriate humility — not too much (by declaring that no doctrine is important-and-certain) and not too little (by declaring that every doctrine they propose is important-and-certain) — so we can avoid the rigid arrogances of extreme mushy relativism or extreme unjustifiable dogmatism.
   
a useful perspective comes from the early history of the Christian church.  In biblical sermons and letters, early leaders of the church (Peter, John, James, Paul) never mentioned eternally lasting torment, because either they didn't believe it, or they didn't think it was important enough to mention.  Later, all major views of Hell (proposing that it will produce Reconciliation, Annihilation, or Eternal Misery) were common among prominent church leaders.  In the early church, all views were acceptable options, and all were respected in theological discussions among Christians.  The early church did not consider "the ultimate fate of unsaved people" to be an essential doctrine, so diversity was allowed.
    {more – what students learned, from my favorite teacher, about Accurate Understanding and Respectful Attitudes}
 

This section combines ideas from above and below, about relationships with fellow Christians and with God.  Below, I describe what I think-and-feel about the character of God when I imagine that He will cause Eternal Misery, or Annihilation, or Reconciliation.  Although some people claim that people have no right to do this kind of thinking-and-feeling, it seems unavoidable, and I'm confident that — when it's done with appropriate humility (not too little and not too much) — it's an essential part of our relationship with God.  I think...

• unbelievers will be affected by a doctrine of Eternal Misery:  When an unbeliever is deciding whether they will “say YES to God,” what they think about hell will affect their minds-and-hearts when they are wondering “can I trust God, and love Him?”  Most unbelievers assume — due to their culture, including what they hear from Christians — that God will cause Eternal Misery.  BECAUSE they think God will do EM, many unbelievers feel & think, in their hearts & minds that this would be unfair and they don't like the character of this EM-God (who will cause Eternal Misery) so they cannot trust God and love Him, and they will not say YES.  This is a reason for Christians to feel sadness.

• devout believers can defend a doctrine of Eternal Misery:  I think defenders of EM "are saying untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God."  But I also I think they defend EM with sincere motivations.  They love God, and want to honor Him, so — BECAUSE they think the Bible teaches EM, so God will cause EM — they want to defend His character by defending the ethics of causing Eternal Misery.  For similar reasons,...

• devout believers can criticize a doctrine of Eternal Misery:  I think the biblical evidence against EM is strong.*  Therefore, when I'm trying to imagine “how I would feel IF God will cause Eternal Misery for most of the people He created,” my if-then thinking is that “this would be horrible IF it happened, but it won't.”  I don't think God will cause EM, so when I question the ethics of EM I'm not criticizing the character of “who I believe God actually is” BECAUSE I don't think He is the EM-causing God that I'm criticizing.     *{the character of Godwhen we ask "What Will Jesus Do?" – is one of three Bible-based reasons to reject EM}

 

IF and BECAUSE:  These related concepts are important.  Why?  When we're trying to imagine the character of God IF He will cause EM, some devout God-honoring Christians think "YES, this IF will happen," but others think "NO, this IF won't happen."  After a person decides YES or NO, they now are thinking that either "BECAUSE God will cause EM,     " or "BECAUSE God won't cause EM,     ".   They are thinking that...

    “BECAUSE Eternal Misery will happen,     ” and they fill the blank by defending the ethics of EM, so their response will honor God, or
    “BECAUSE Eternal Misery won't happen,      and they fill the blank by criticizing the ethics of EM, so their response will honor God.
 
 Here is the process 
 of logical thinking
 for each person:
 I think EM
 will happen,
and
 I love God, 
so BECAUSE I think
God will cause EM,
 I should defend the morality of the EM caused by God 
 in my effort to lovingly defend the character of God
 I think EM
 won't happen, 
and
 I love God, 
so BECAUSE I think
 God won't cause EM, 
 I should show (biblically) why God is not an EM-causer 
in my effort to lovingly defend the character of God.
 

With either conclusion about "BECAUSE", devout Bible-believing Christians can defend God's character by saying what they think-and-feel about what they have concluded He will do, or He won't do.  Here is why:

    When a person who (unlike me) thinks "God will cause EM" defends this divine decision, they are not giving a general defense of everyone who intentionally causes long-term misery.  They are only saying that, in this specific situation, “I trust God, so I have faith that BECAUSE God will do this, He must have ethically justifiable reasons for doing it.”
    When a person who (like me) thinks "God won't cause EM" explains why causing EM would be unethical, we are not criticizing the actual character of God BECAUSE we think He will not cause EM in the actual afterlife-reality.  Instead we are only criticizing a concept — another person's claim about God — because it's a claim we think is not taught in the Bible, so we think it's not the way God actually is.     { "criticizing a concept" is not "criticizing the actual character of God" because a Theory-about-Afterlife (leading to a humanly constructed Theory-about-God that is a "claim about God") is not the Reality-of-Afterlife or the Reality-of-God. }  {more - what Realities are affected (and not affected) by our Theories about Afterlife, God, or Planets?}
 

Do you see how each way of thinking, and therefore each response — by either defending or criticizing the ethics of a God who would cause Eternal Misery — can be motivated by loving God and wanting to honor Him?

 

 

 

Evangelism — Motives for Becoming (and Remaining) a Follower of Christ

 

The Whole News  ( is it Good News + Bad News ? )

Three descriptions of The Gospel (The Good News) — using EM, FA, UR — propose the same afterlife end-state for believers (it's Eternal Joy), but disagree about the end-state for unbelievers:

    • if we assume Eternal Misery (EM) we can tell non-believers The Whole News, which includes The Good News (that "God loves you and offers a Wonderful Plan for Your Life") plus The Bad News (that if you die without believing, then God hates you and has a Terrible Plan for Your Afterlife, for Your Zillions Of Years In Hell – and then, as in the song Amazing Grace, "when you've been there ten thousand years,... you've no less days... than when you first began");  and this Bad News will happen to most people.
    • with Final Annihilation (FA) we can explain The Good News that God offers a very good Life now, and a better Afterlife later, but (with Semi-Bad News) you must “say YES to God” during your Life, or you will lose both opportunities.
    • with Universal Reconciliation (UR) The Good News remains the same, but for an unbeliever The Bad News becomes Semi-Good News because, after temporarily unsatisfactory relationships with God (now in Life, and later in Afterlife) eventually they will have a wonderful relationship with God.   {but everyone should say YES now}   /   Also, semi-UR proposes that for people who are unsaved at the end of their Life, God graciously gives additional opportunities to repent during their Afterlife in Hell.  But anyone who continues “saying NO to God” is mercifully given FA with Death, instead of unbiblical sinful immortality with Misery.

 

Praising God for Hell

When a person “says YES to God” they will want to obey God's Two Great Commandments by fully loving God and fully loving other people.

    As one part of fully loving God, Christians should praise God for everything He does, including what He will do to unsaved people in Hell.
    As one part of fully loving other people, we should tell them what God will do with unsaved people in Hell.

With the Good News of Universal Reconciliation (UR), we can proudly proclaim "what God will do" in UR-Hell, and we can enthusiastically praise God (fully with heart, soul, and mind) in our private thinking, and our fellowship with other Christians, and our conversations with non-Christians.  But this is more difficult with FinalAnnihilation-Hell, and is extremely difficult with EternalMisery-Hell.  Why?

 

In all three views, the process of judgment-and-hell will be very unpleasant for unsaved people.

In two views, the results also will be very unpleasant.  For unsaved people, the results of judgment-and-hell are permanently unproductive with both FA (permanent death) and EM (permanent misery).

But with UR we can proudly proclaim that the results will be permanently productive for everyone, with God achieving justice and rehabilitation.  With UR the experience in Hell can be just and also loving because it produces justice for sinners (who receive unpleasant retribution, by reaping in Afterlife what they sowed in Life) and justice for their victims (who get restoration), plus rehabilitation for sinners (who are healed, are liberated from their slavery to sin, who achieve reconciliation with God and with people) so the results are beneficial for everyone.     { With UR, could we see a return of “hellfire and brimstone” sermons? }

 

A Personal Perspective:  When I'm thinking about songs praising the everlasting love of God (clearly taught in the Bible) — by singing "Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, as Thou has been, Thou forever will be" and "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me [but does it fail others, giving up on them?]" and "old things have passed away, Your love has stayed the same" — I'm wondering “how do fellow Christians make these claims about loving that doesn't change, IF they believe that What Jesus Will Do is to cause Eternal Torment for many people (in Afterlife) that (during Life) He once loved?”  Compared with me, they must be much more skilled at compartmentalizing their beliefs, if they claim WWJD? is Eternal Torment and also "as Thou has been [in Life], Thou forever will be [in Afterlife]" for all of the children He created, not just for those He saved in Life.   I think it's much easier to praise God if WJWD for the Unsaved-in-Life is Conditional Immortality (resulting in Reconciliation or Annihilation) instead of Unconditional Immortality (resulting in Eternal Misery);  and I don't need to compartmentalize beliefs, because I'm confident that Conditional Immortality is taught in the Bible, so I don't have to struggle with how to praise God for His unchanging love and also for His causing of Eternal Misery.

 


 

Motivations for “Saying YES to God” — for Repenting and Living by Faith

When a person is thinking about The Whole News and deciding whether to say YES or NO, their Total Motivation for Saying Yes is a blending of many motivations, including these:

    wanting better intrinsic Life-Process  —  In this Life, they want to get more true joy by more fully loving God & people, because they believe that God deserves to be loved-and-served, and they believe that God can help them overcome their own self-centered sinfulness so they can more effectively love-and-serve other people.     {loving God & people: what-and-how, why}
    wanting better extrinsic Afterlife-Results  —  In their Afterlife, they want to get joy in Heaven and avoid misery in Hell.  They hope for Heaven, and fear Hell.
 

Although I'm calling these motivations intrinsic (doing life-process) and extrinsic (receiving afterlife-results), all motives are internal because all contribute to how a person internally thinks about “getting what they want” in their whole life as a whole person.

 

* A person can say YES to God (in a big decision) and then, many times each day in their everyday living, they will choose (in small decisions) whether to live by faith, whether they will say yes to God — because they are trusting Him — instead of saying no.

 

How are these motives (extrinsic or intrinsic, love-based or fear-based or joy-seeking) affected by a personal belief in UR, FA, or EM?

An extrinsic fear-based motivation for Afterlife — due to fearing Hell — is greatest with EM, and least with UR.

An extrinsic joy-seeking motivation for Afterlife — by hoping for Heaven — is similar with all views.

Is an intrinsic love-based motivation during Life — by wanting to love God so He can help you love people more effectively — also similar for all views?  Or could there be a difference for some people? for most people?

    In principle, a motivation to love-and-serve should be similar for all views, but...
    in practice, I think most non-Christians will find it easiest to imagine “loving God” and “saying YES to God” if they think He will do UR, and most difficult if they think He will do EM.  In fact, some non-Christians say NO because they decide that “if God will do EM (as described in the “Good News + Bad News” Gospel of EM) by causing Eternal Misery for some people – perhaps most peoplethen I could not sincerely trust Him and love Him.”  And for Christians, I think EM makes it more difficult to fully love God, to trust Him and live by faith.   {but UR has the least fear-incentive to persevere, so would believing UR make it easier to “abandon the faith” when living-by-faith gets tough?}

 

Motives for Living by Faith

Love-Based Motives:  A person can more effectively become a devoted follower of Christ, a dedicated disciple who is living obediently by faith, if their main motives are intrinsic and loving, if with sincere repentance (for their self-centered sinning) their heart's desire is to improve their Life-process now by more fully loving-and-serving God so they can more effectively love-and-serve people.

Fear-Based Motives:  By contrast, a threat of Eternal Misery is extrinsic and fearful, because a person wants to avoid horrifying Afterlife-results later.  This motive is totally focused on self, so it will be a much less effective motivator for “loving their neighbor as they love themself.”

The ratio of LoveMotive/FearMotive is highest with UR, lowest with EM.

 

Bribes and Threats:  We can think about the similarities between conversion-motivations that are...

    due to an extrinsic bribe, as when an impoverished “rice Christian” tells a missionary that they have decided to follow Christ, even though a major motivation is their desire to gain material rewards;
   
due to an extrinsic threat, as when a person tells themself that they have decided to follow Christ mainly due to sincere repentance (i.e. wanting to change their sinful thoughts-and-actions so they can more fully love God & people), even though a major motivation is their desire to avoid Eternal Misery.

Because these people have been motivated by a bribe (so they will get food) or threat (so they won't get hell), we can wonder if their faith is a solid foundation for authentic discipleship, for living by faith, for building a Christ-Centered Life in the Kingdom of God.

 

The Purpose of Salvation:  What is the main benefit of salvation by God?  What is a person “saved from”?  Are you saved from eternal misery in hell (and thus saved from God who would make you eternally miserable) or are you saved from the slavery of sin (as explained in Romans 6) and saved from the penalty of death?  Of course, defenders of EM say “both”, but which motive is more powerful for a person who justifiably feels terrorized by a threat of everlasting misery in hell?  Is this person placing a higher value on escaping hell or overcoming sin?  Do they want to be saved from the damage they are doing (to self & others) by their own sinning in Life, or just be saved from the anger of God in Afterlife?  Do they view salvation as their fire insurance, or as the beginning of their life of discipleship?     {does God save us from God?}

Your Life is Your Gift:  When God asks “what did you do with the life I gave you?”, the way you lived will be your gift to God.  Which kind of motive, love-based or fear-based, is more likely to motivate a life that will bring glory to God, and will please Him?     {abilities and opportunities in hell-education and hell-justice}

 

 

Practical Effects for Living

Our decisions-and-actions are affected by what we believe, so we should ask:

• generally  –  What are the practical effects on living, for Christians and non-Christians, of thinking that UR (or FA) is true, or even might be true?  If people don't believe in EM-Hell, will they just say “we can do whatever we want, and we will” because their sinful desires are not restrained by a fear of Eternal Misery?   Is EM useful, or even necessary, for controlling people in a society? (and if yes, is this a sufficient reason to promote it?)     { But there are better reasons for people, both believers & non-believers, to be loving and kind.  Also, the strength of a deterrent depends on its unpleasantness AND our confidence that it will happen, so a plausible UR-Hell (or FA-Hell) could be a stronger deterrent, for many people, compared with an implausible EM-Hell. }   {more}

• specifically  –  Defenders of EM claim that non-Christians will not seriously consider The Gospel without the fear-based threat of EM-Hell.  Instead they will just think (with UR) “even if I now say NO, later I can say YES and then I'll be fine” or (with FA) “death wouldn't be so bad.”     { But people can say NO either because they DON'T believe in Eternal Misery, or because they DO.   And a “belief” caused by fear is not a solid foundation for loving God, and living by faith;  there are better reasons to say YES. }

• specifically  –  Will a Christian do evangelism if they think non-Christians “will be fine” (with UR) or (with FA) “will just die”?     { But compared with the fear-threat of EM, there are better reasons to tell people about the love of God.  In fact, it would be easier for me to share the Good News if I didn't have to explain why The Good News is not Extremely Bad News for most people. }     /     Also, we can explain why UR-Hell or FA-Hell should be avoided.  We have reasons to expect that:  UR-Hell would be an extremely unpleasant experience, even though a person "will be fine" eventually;  or in FA-Hell a person would think “oops, if I had made different decisions in Life, now in Afterlife I would be receiving Eternal Life with Joy, instead of Death,” with psychological anticipation of non-existence that would be extremely unpleasant and frightening.

 

There are no simple answers about how a person WILL respond to claims for UR (or FA or EM) because each person will be affected differently, and the complex effects — the influences on thinking, deciding, and doing in all areas of life — will vary from one person to another.  Believing any view (UR, FA, EM) will affect our thoughts-and-actions, producing some good effects and some bad effects, for us and for others.  For example, believing EM will influence some people to say YES due to fear-threats, but will influence others to say NO because they are thinking-and-feeling that IF God will do EM this would be unfair (it would not be justice) and they wouldn't like His character so they could not love God and trust Him.     {also:  A belief in Eternal Misery can lead to bad psychological effects in many ways, including anxiety-producing thoughts about “what it would be like” if you – or the neighbors (your family, friends, colleagues, strangers) that you should love, that God commands you to love – were living eternally in hell. }

Also, after a person says YES, I think EM makes it more difficult to fully love God, to trust Him and live by faith.

 

But there is a simple conclusion about how a rational person SHOULD respond:

    When describing Bible-based Universal Reconciliation, all Christians (whether or not we think UR is likely to be true) can agree about the way people should respond to UR, so all of us should emphasize that even if UR is true, a person's overall experience (in Life and in Afterlife) will be much better if they say YES to God now, ASAP.
    Why?   Think about two possibilities for the afterlife-reality of an unsaved person:  either UR will happen, or it won't happen.*
        • If UR will happen, saying YES will let a person be saved from the power of sin and enjoy life-with-God NOW.  And LATER they will avoid the unbeliever's misery in UR-hell that — although it won't be eternal, and will eventually lead to salvation — will be very unpleasant, and should be avoided.     {actually, Jesus warned everyone about the unpleasant consequences of sin - now in Life, and later in Afterlife}
        • But maybe UR won't happen.  Therefore, another reason to say YES now is to avoid an unpleasant surprise LATER if the afterlife-reality will be Eternal Death (with FA) or Eternal Misery (with EM).     {if there will be an unpleasant surprise later, I think it's far more likely to be FA than EM}
 

* Or we can think about the analogous possibilities for FA;  either FA will happen, or FA won't happen.   For each possibility, a rational person should “say YES” now, ASAP, because either way they certainly will "enjoy life-with-God" now, and later will avoid Hell (whether the result-of-Hell will be UR, FA, or EM).  And if FA will happen, a YES avoids the extreme disappointment (in Afterlife) of knowing that (in Life) they missed their opportunity for Eternal Joy, and they'll get Eternal Death.  A YES-in-Life also avoids the possibility (which I think is unlikely but not impossible) of an extremely unpleasant surprise — and extremely unpleasant experience — with Eternal Misery.

 


 

Our Evangelistic Responsibilities

Christians should try to...

 

accurately describe what the Bible teaches by carefully studying the Bible as a whole, asking “what is the Biblical evidence for and against each view?” so we can estimate the probability that each view is true.

 

share The Good News because it's good, and because Jesus commanded His followers to "go and make disciples of [people in] all nations."

 

explain The Whole News, trying to...

    avoid giving False Hope, if a person lives their Life expecting UR, but in Afterlife they realize their fate will be FA or EM;  or they might expect FA, but get EM.
    avoid causing False Fear:  When a Christian says "EM will happen" or even "might happen," this can produce intensely unpleasant anxieties due to fear-motives that, compared with love-motives, are less likely to be "a solid foundation for faith-based living."
   
These two conflicting responsibilities produce a tough dilemma.  Due to biblical ambiguity about the afterlife,* it seems impossible to be certain we're not "giving false hope" or "causing false fear."  What should we do?  Maybe... we should respond humbly (by not claiming the certainty of “answers”) by explaining what does and doesn't seem clear in the Bible, and why.     {* reasons for biblical ambiguity - why and why}
 

accurately describe the Character of God:  When we ask WWJD in Afterlife our answer is an important statement about the character of God, as explained below in Divine Justice.

 

{more about our responsibilities}

 

 

 

 

Divine Justice

 

Appropriate Humility:  Each of us has reasons for humility and reasons for confidence when we're thinking about the character of God, including His justice and love.  Therefore, when we're making claims about questions — like “what will happen in hell?” — that are not answered with certainty in the Bible, we should say “this is HOW IT SEEMS TO ME” with an appropriate humility (appropriate confidence) that is not too little, and not too much.     {in what ways are God's thoughts "higher" than our thoughts due to "the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God"?}

 

The Character of God:  All of us develop ideas & feelings based on our experiences in life — especially in our reading of the Bible — about the character of God.  These ideas/feelings will be affected when we ask “WWGD to achieve Divine Justice in Afterlife?”  I think most people will agree with my thinking/feeling that the character of God seems best with Universal Reconciliation, and worst if He will cause Eternal Misery, if His gracious forgiving suddenly changes, at the moment of a person's death, into vengeful unforgiving.

more - why it's useful to think "IF and BECAUSE" when we're thinking about the character of God (and of other Christians)

 

Table of Contents:  The last part of this page – examining The Divine Justice of God – includes:  Appropriate Humility about The Character of God (above) and (below) Overall Changes (from Before Life thru Afterlife) - Would you choose to be born, to play The Game of Life-and-Afterlife? (questions) - The Purpose of Resurrection - Think About The Experience - Would annihilation be merciful? - The Purpose of Infinite Misery (is it necessary? productive?)Divine Persuasion (why isn't God more obvious?)Situations and Results (is Life fair? could Life-plus-Afterlife be more fair?) - Do unsaved people earn (because they are evil & unwise) their Eternal Misery?Justice for Everyone (for Victims and Sinners) - Binary Justice (can it be fair?)Degrees of Suffering in Afterlife - Should you choose to play The Game of Life-and-Afterlife? (my responses) — Divine Generosity (how would you feel if God was extremely generous?).

also – ideas about biblical justice-in-hell by other authors (these articles are well written, with biblical ideas)

 

 

Justice in Overall Changes  —  from Before Life to Final State of Afterlife

We'll begin by focusing on the “basic justice” of a person's change-of-situation from their beginning to their end, by temporarily ignoring everything that happens in-between.

All views propose the same change for a saved person, who goes from nothing (before conception) to eternal joy (in their afterlife);  this is wonderful.

But for an unsaved person, there are big differences in the overall change:

    with Universal Reconciliation, it's from nothing to everlasting joy;  this is wonderful.
    with Final Annihilation, it's from nothing (before life) to nothing (because their afterlife ends with permanent death), in a neutral change that seems fair (if life to all, and takes life from some),* although it's sad because all of us should hope for everyone to have joy.   /   also, God has the right to decide who will be in His Kingdom, so it seems fair if The King decides “these people won't be in My Kingdom” and eliminates them with FA.
    with Eternal Misery, it's from nothing to everlasting misery;  this is not wonderful.  Instead it's horrible, and for those who never asked to be born so they did not choose to have life-plus-afterlife, but they will suffer forever, it seems unfair.*   /   EM seems especially unfair for the many people who (as claimed in Calvinism)* were predestined for Hell with no chance to avoid it.  Or if they have free will, but are “dealt a bad hand in life.”     If basic logical Calvinism (emphasizing divine total-sovereignty) is expanded to include Eternal Misery, is this Calvinistic God – if God will do what is proposed in logical Calvinism by predestining some people for Hell, AND if He will cause Eternal Misery for these people – an immoral monster?
 

* An Existential Question:  Before you were born, if you could choose whether to be born into Life-plus-Afterlife, would you say YES or NO?  To answer this question wisely, what two kinds of information do you need?  If you want to think about this question, do it now before reading the “spoilers” in the next paragraph.

3 Questions:  Would you choose to born if you knew that the Afterlife-for-Unsaved will be Eternal Misery, but you didn't know what your situation-in-life will be — so you might be born in the American Bible Belt (with a high probability of salvation) or in a country-culture-family where the dominant religion is non-Christian (e.g. where it's Hindu, Moslem, or Jewish, so you'll have a low probability of “saying YES” to Jesus)?   Will your choice be different if the final result of Afterlife-for-Unsaved will be Annihilation?   or if the final result will be Reconciliation?   When you're making your three wise choices, think carefully about The Overall Changes with each kind of Afterlife-for-Unsaved.   What would I choose? (and what information is useful?)

a change of perspective:  If God is good, how should He answer these questions? {i.e., In each of the three worlds – with the Life we now have, plus an Afterlife of EM, FA, or UR – should He create a person, causing them to be born?}   Or, because God is good, what kind of world does He choose to create?

Or, in another set of 3 Questions, ask “would I choose to be created as a non-accountable person,* if God will cause EM or FA or UR in Afterlife?”   /   Although “accountability” is not defined in the Bible, most Christians believe that two classes of people — those with extremely low intelligence, and those who die extremely young (before birth due to miscarriage or abortion, or during infancy or young childhood) — will not be “held accountable” by God, who thus will not live forever in Eternal Misery, if God will cause EM for people who are accountable (because they are “intelligent enough” and “old enough”) and are unsaved at the end of their Life.

 

 

The Purposes of Resurrection

Jesus tells us (John 5:28-29) that all humans, both saved & unsaved, will be bodily resurrected, and their Afterlives will begin with judgment by God.  For saved people who will have Eternal Joy, the beneficial purpose of Resurrection is obvious, so we can be sanctified-and-restored and Reconciled.  If unsaved people will be Reconciled (with UR), there also will be a beneficial purpose for them.  But if God will do FA there is no beneficial purpose for an unsaved person who will be Annihilated, although with “public” judgments,* FA (or EM) could serve a useful purpose for a saved person who thinks “wow, I'm happy-and-thankful the FA (or EM) isn't happening to me,” although this un-empathetic response is not “loving your neighbor in the way you love yourself.”  If God will do EM it's much worse for an unsaved person who would be MUCH better off without Resurrection-to-Afterlife, because their Eternal Misery would be very non-beneficial, so... for them, what would be the purpose of their personal Resurrection?

* Jesus warns us (Luke 12:2-3), "there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.  Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops."

 

think about The Experience:  For an hour, try to intensely feel the reality proposed by Eternal Misery, with God causing incredible pain (certainly psychological, maybe also physical)* that will never end.  Imagine yourself feeling this pain for 5 minutes.Then imagine enduring this torment for an hour, a week, or a year.  Or for 10 thousand years, when (as in the song Amazing Grace) you've no less days to suffer in pain, than when you first began.  At this point, you have experienced less than 1% of your Eternal Misery.  If you continue suffering pain for 13 billion years (the age of our universe), you're still at less than 1%.  If you experience Misery for a billion universe-ages (a billion x 13 billion years) you're still at less than 1%.  Is this behavior (a causing of infinite misery) consistent with the character of God, as He is revealed in the Bible?  is this What Jesus Will Do?

* Or, with compassionate empathy, imagine this Eternal Misery happening to someone you love who dies unsaved, or even to an unsaved stranger, and remember that Jesus tells you to "love your neighbor in the way you love yourself."

* What kind of pain?  Many current defenders of Eternal Misery try to “soften the experience” by claiming it isn't physical TORMENT but is only SEPARATION from God, so it's only psychological TORMENT.  But tormenting by God would be a horrible experience whether it's mainly psychological, or (because it occurs in The Lake of Fire) also physical.   So... if an experience of psychological torment (due to Separation) is Misery and is Eternal, it still would be Eternal Misery that is psychologically-terrifying forever, for MUCH longer than 13 billion years;  it still would be an unimaginably unpleasant experience.

 

Annihilation  —  would it be merciful?

I think Eternal Death would be merciful compared with Eternal Misery, because an eternally miserable afterlife would not be worth living, so death would be a merciful rescue.  But compared with Eternal Joy — when the life is worth living, so losing it would be a huge loss — the Eternal Death of Annihilation would be a severe penalty.     {avoiding the possibility of this loss is one reason for “saying yes” now, ASAP during Life}   {more

 

 

Infinite Misery  —  What would be the purpose?  Is it necessary?

How can infinite punishing (in Afterlife) for finite sins (during Life) be justifiable, fair, and loving?

If you think infinite punishing (with EM) will be necessary to achieve divine justice,...

    imagine that in Afterlife you have been appointed, by God, to be responsible for afterlife-punishing in hell, and His only restriction is that your punishing cannot last forever, that it must end with either annihilation or healing-and-reconciliation.  Can you imagine any amount of punishing (with no limit on its intensity-and-duration, except it cannot last forever) that would be sufficient to achieve divine justice?
 

Satisfactory Justice with EM:   Maybe it's impossible.  Why?  If divine justice requires infinite punishing with EM, a serious theological difficulty is that the sin-debt will never be paid for an unsaved person.  Why?  Because IF the sin-debt ever became fully paid, at this time God would stop the punishing-for-sinning;  but the punishing never stops, so (even a zillion years into the future) some sin-debt will always remain unpaid.  Therefore, if the penalty for sin is Eternal Misery, God can never “get justice” (i.e. get retributive justice) that satisfies Him, so even if punishing continues forever — and sinning continues forever — a satisfactory retributive justice could never be achieved by God, with EM-Justice.

Satisfactory Justice with UR:   Yes, it seems possible to achieve UR-Justice that (for sinners) is adequately retributive and personally rehabilitative, and (for sinners & victims) is personally restorative for individuals, and interpersonally restorative for relationships, that could achieve the complete righteousness (the complete justice) that is the ultimate goal of God.  You can see why in two overviews, briefly and with , to achieve more detail.

 

 

Divine Persuasion  —  Is "burden of proof" an argument against Eternal Misery?

Why isn't God more obvious?  God typically doesn't use powerful persuasion with difficult-to-doubt miracles and spectacular experiences (like Paul on the Damascus Road) for impressive personal evidence we cannot ignore and we should not doubt.  Why?  Maybe it's because some uncertainty in life (with reasons to believe and to not believe) is useful for building, in believers, an ability to live by faith.  And the ways we respond to ambiguous uncertainties, due to evidence that is only semi-persuasive, will (Luke 2:35) "[reveal] the thoughts of many hearts" to God and (now & later, in Life & Afterlife) to us.  Divinely produced ambiguity — with evidence that usually is only semi-persuasive, not strongly persuasive — can perform two useful functions, by helping us learn how to live by faith, and by revealing our hearts to God and ourselves.

But... although ambiguity can be useful, in Life & Afterlife the ambiguity hurts those who choose to not believe, but who might have believed (and might have been saved by God) if the evidence had been more persuasive.  Divine decisions to use "some uncertainty" seem fair if God will cause Reconciliation or Annihilation for unsaved people in Afterlife, but not if He will cause Eternal Torment.  When we combine a fact (that God does not use maximum persuasion) with our faith (that God is good), we have an argument in favor of Reconciliation and against Eternal Torment.  Two kinds of ambiguity — the typical absence of strong personal persuasion, plus biblical ambiguity when we ask “which of the three views is true?” (is true because it's what will happen) — seems to be a "burden of proof" argument leading us to expect an afterlife-reality, for unbelievers, of Conditional Immortality that ultimately — after a very unpleasant experience in hell — results in Annihilation or (more strongly supported) Reconciliation.  Why?  Because...

    it's important to avoid giving false hope that leads to a “bad surprise” in Afterlife – especially if God will cause Eternal Misery for unsaved people, because this would be an extremely bad surprise;
    so we should expect God (if He loves people, and the Bible declares that He does) to be strongly persuasive IF He will cause Eternal Misery, so He can prevent extremely bad surprises;
    but God is not strongly persuasive;
    therefore this is logical evidence that the "IF" of Eternal Misery is false, that it will not happen. ==incorrect?

Therefore, failing this “burden of proof” is a reason to think that claims for Eternal Misery are false, that Eternal Torment won't occur, and instead God will cause Reconciliation (when and how?) or Annihilation.

Comparing "Burden of Proof" Support for Three Views:  When we think about final results for the three views (all proposing that unsaved people will have a very unpleasant experience in Hell), we see that Eternal Misery could be an extremely bad surprise, Annihilation could be a bad surprise, but Reconciliation could not be a bad surprise.  Therefore, logically this burden-of-proof argument provides strong support for Reconciliation, and strong support against Eternal Misery, when these two views are compared.  But this argument could provide support for Annihilation (when it's compared with Eternal Misery), but support against Annihilation (when it's compared with Reconciliation).

more about these ideas — my main page asking “Why does God not use Maximum Persuasion?” claims that some uncertainty in life (with reasons to believe and to not believe) is useful for building, in believers, an ability to live by faith — and in another page a section briefly explains (in a way that's a little different than what's above) why an absence of strong divine persuasion is evidence against Eternal Misery — and in another page I describe some of the personal evidence that has persuaded me to believe in the existence-and-activity of God.

 

 

Situations and Results:   Life isn't fair, in a wide variety of ways, regarding our situations (abilities & opportunities)* and results (journeys & outcomes) in Life.  But with UR, Life-plus-Afterlife would be more fair, compared with only-Life, because God could do justice-with-love for everyone, for victims & sinners.   Or with FA, Life-plus-Afterlife would be less unfair than with EM,  and with FA the overall change would be neutral for unsaved people, instead of the infinitely negative change with EM.     {an important part of each person's situation is how much God "persuades" them by providing personally meaningful reasons to believe. }

more:  Stories and Principles - for example, our perceptions about the character of God that is proposed in Calvinism would be much better with a better combination of Life-plus-Afterlife, if the Calvinism claimed that God supplements His unconditional election of some people (for salvation-and-service during Life) by adding (in Afterlife) the election of more people with semi-UR, or all people with UR, or even by mercifully killing His non-elect — who are all of the people He decided to not-elect during Life, the people He thus condemned to Hell — with FA, by Annihilating them instead of keeping them alive so they can have Eternal Misery.

 

 

With EM, do unsaved people EARN their Eternal Misery because they are evil and stupid?

With the extremely different binary results of EM — if God, after He makes decisions about salvation and non-salvation, will give every person either Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery — it seems more fair if a Saved Person earns their Eternal Joy (because during their Life they had an extremely good heart, and an extremely wise mind in their decision to “say YES to God”) and if an Unsaved Person earns their Eternal Misery (because during their brief Life they had an extremely un-good heart, and an extremely un-wise mind).

It seems more fair if binary everlasting afterlife-results (of Joy or Misery) will be based on merit.  But most Bible-believing evangelical Christians say “no, when God makes binary decisions about salvation (and thus about binary afterlife-results) He does not reward some and punish others based on personal merit, based on their own goodness & wisdom;*  instead, salvation is a free gift of grace from God.”  But if God's decisions about salvation (and thus about Joy or Misery) are not based on the goodness-and-wisdom of each person's heart-and-mind, it's difficult to imagine how anyone can rationally defend a claim that Eternal Misery would be fair.     {* But... according to the currently popular view of “once saved, always saved” a person earns their salvation when they wisely make THE DECISION to repent-and-believe.  Or if "always saved" is not guaranteed, a person earns their salvation by their persistence in believing, and their persistent decisions to continue living by faith. }

{accountability & forgiveness, for the saved and unsaved}

{more about earning afterlife-results, about grace & merit, faith & works, salvation & sanctification, for Calvinists and Arminians}

 

 

Justice for Everyone (for Victims and Sinners) with Universal Reconciliation

We can imagine how UR-Hell could be a way for God to achieve justice (with love) for victims and sinners:

    victims get Restorative Justice leading to their reconciliation with other people (with those who harmed them during Life) and with God.
    sinners get Retributive Justice (for the suffering caused by their sinning) that is intrinsically fair and also is educational & healing & corrective, that leads to their Rehabilitation when God transforms them into Sanctification (when God makes them Righteous to achieve His Justice) and gives them Salvation, so they can have Reconciliation with other people and with God.

In UR-Hell the suffering would be individually beneficial for every person, including those in Hell, to get restorative justice and to rehabilitate sinners, so ultimately God produces justice-AND-love for everyone.   FA-Hell could be societally beneficial for The Kingdom of God, by eliminating sinners and their sin.   But it's difficult to see any useful purpose for EM-Hell, any way for EM-Hell to provide benefits beyond what would be achieved with FA-Hell.

Do you see why, when all things are considered, it's easiest for a Christian to enthusiastically (with their whole heart/soul/mind) praise God and proudly proclaim “what He will do to sinners (and for sinners!)” if they think God will do Universal Reconciliation, and is most difficult if they think God will do Eternal Misery?

 

Compared with this Justice for Everyone, do you think it would be more fair if God will do Binary Justice?

 

Binary Justice  —  Can it be fair?  (for a Wide Variety of Life-Situations)

In an Afterlife with Eternal Misery, there would be an immense difference between the fates of saved and unsaved people;  with the binary justice of EM, each person is given (by God) either totally good Eternal Joy or totally bad Eternal Misery.  But when we look at the entire population of the world, our faith-and-actions seem to vary along a continuum, instead of a binary splitting into “good people” and “evil people”.  Even though God has omniscient super-knowledge that helps Him judge each person's faith-and-actions in divinely wise ways we don't understand, the immense difference in afterlife results — if people will receive either Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery — makes it difficult to imagine how any binary EM-Justice can be fair, especially if only a few people will be saved.  How can God be fair to people in a wide variety of common life-situations, for the MANY people...

• who are feeble-minded, or die when they're young?   {is abortion the perfect strategy for evangelism?}

• who are (if Calvinism is correct) predestined for Hell?   or who are free to choose, but are dealt a bad hand in life because they...

    have life-experiences that make it difficult to say YES to God?
    are devout followers of a non-Christian religion (Judaism,*  Islam, Hinduism,...) that is dominant in their family & culture?     {What will God do with His chosen people, with the majority of Jewish people who do not accept Jesus as their Messiah?}

• who were devout Christians for awhile, but then faded away?  or who think they have been followers of Christ, but later (as in Matthew 7:21-23) He judges them to be failures?   /   What is the binary “dividing line” between saved and unsaved?  what kinds of faith and living-by-faith (with how many good works?) are required to be among the "few" who "enter through the narrow gate"?  There seems to be no way for Christians to have the certainty of knowing, and this can produce anxiety about salvation for themselves and for people they know & love.   {more about the "few"}

 

For any of these situations, UR (with its personally customizable suffering for sins in afterlife-education) provides more flexibility for God to achieve Divine Justice-AND-Love during the overall experiences of each person in their life-plus-afterlife.

The difficulties of binary grading would be less severe with FA, compared with EM, due to its less extreme differences in binary results, and its nothing-to-nothing overall change.

{more - analogy: binary grading by a human teacher and by God}

 

 

Degrees of Suffering in Afterlife

Jesus describes different degrees of suffering in Afterlife.  Would "different degrees" be possible with the binary results of Eternal Misery, if in EM-Hell there will be infinite suffering for everyone? (yes, but...)   By contrast, how might God produce different degrees of suffering (due to different degrees of sinning) with UR-Hell?

 

Would you choose to play The Game of Life?   (if UR, FA, EM)

For 3 Questions asking "would you choose Life?" (if Afterlife-for-Unsaved will be UR, FA, or EM), my answers are yes, yes, and NO.  Why?  I think the logical reasoning is obvious & simple, so I assume you would make the same choices.     { to choose wisely, you need to know “what kind of Afterlife will God cause for the unsaved-in-Life?” and “will I be unsaved-in-Life?” }

And I think that God has answered “yes, yes, NO” (because He is good and loving) and therefore He has created a world with either UR or FA in Afterlife, but not with EM.

And if I could choose to be created as a non-accountable person who would never experience EM, “yes, yes, yes” would be my answers.  {is abortion the perfect strategy for evangelism?}

{more – including the reason for my choices seeming simple-and-obvious}

 

 

Divine Generosity  —  How would you feel if God was extremely generous?

Jesus told parables about workers and brothers that inspire questions:  Would it be fair...

    if you worked all day,* but your wages are not more than the wages of late-arrivers who worked only part of the day?
    if you always have obeyed your father, who then forgives your younger brother (a disobedient prodigal) and throws a joyful “welcome back” celebration for him?
 

* Being a dedicated long-term "worker [for God]" isn't easy;  Jesus says "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."     {more - costs and rewards of being a dedicated follower of Jesus}

When will it be too late to love God? (i.e. what has God decided? WWJD?)   If a wicked man (who has caused much suffering for others) believes-and-repents on his deathbed after a lifetime of rejecting God, will God forgive him?  Along with most Christians, I say yes.  What do you think?  And... do you think God might let similar sinners repent after death, in their Afterlife?  If Christians think – for either parable, or both – “this wouldn't be fair to us, because we diligently loved-and-served God for most of our Life,” does this decrease their feelings of hoping for Universal Reconciliation?  and their evaluations of whether to be optimistic that UR will happen?     { Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves” but... is it possible for some Christians to have mixed feelings that prevent them from totally-and-sincerely hoping all people will be reconciled with God? }

 

Are these parables — about a Generous Owner and Forgiving Father, plus (earlier in Luke 15) diligent searching for a lost sheep and lost coin — teaching us that God's love is persistent?  Yes.  Will our Heavenly Father continue searching for lost sinners after they die?  Maybe.

Do these parables provide support for post-death repentance and Universal (or Semi-Universal) Reconciliation?  Yes.  But it's not proof because non-UR interpretations also are possible.

Either way, whether God will or won't provide opportunities to repent after death, Jesus warns us to Don't Wait until it's Too Late because a person who is wise will “say YES to God” now so they can live their life for God now, so they can fulfill their God-given purpose.     {more}