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

 

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 semibelievers) who are curious, who want to eavesdrop on our conversation.  My goal is to communicate with other Christians.*  I want to help every reader (especially fellow evangelical Christians who, like me, believe the Bible) to understand three views of what will happen to unsaved people — proposing that they will be tormented, or killed, or healed, so they will have everlasting misery, or non-existence, or joy — and what the Bible tells us about these views.  Then you can logically evaluate this biblical evidence and decide what you think the Bible teaches.  I've been doing this (carefully studying the Bible while asking “what will Jesus do?”) since 1987, and here are...

my views:  An essential goal of God – described throughout the Bible, including the beginning & ending of His grand story in Genesis & Revelation – is to eliminate sin from His creation (because God hates sin) so He mercifully will prevent people from living forever in a state of sin.  God's divine actions could achieve this goal in two ways — by using hell to either eliminate sinners (so they're not "living forever") or eliminate sin within sinners (so they're not living "in a state of sin") — but NOT by forcing sinners to stay alive in eternal misery (because they would be "living forever in a state of sin").  I think the Bible clearly teaches us that God will not cause any person to live forever in sinful misery, but instead either He mercifully will end their existence, or — in a result all people should hope for because it's The Best Possible Ending for God's Story — He graciously will save them, will purify every person (so we have no sin) and heal all relationships (so we'll be reconciled with each other & with God, so we'll fully love people & God) and He will continue loving all of His children forever.

 

* I've also begun writing a page for people who are not Bible-believing Christians, who have other perspectives & beliefs.  In that page my goal is to show unbelievers (and also eavesdropping believers) why — based on what the Bible teaches — they can believe, with confidence, that God really does love them, that He will not cause them (or any of the people they love) to live forever in Eternal Misery.  Compared with this page (written for Christians), my page for non-Christians 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.

The two final results that I think are biblically plausible — with God using hell either to eliminate unbelievers, or to eliminate their sin so they can live forever with joy — are much better than forcing them to live forever in misery, which typically is assumed to be the claim of Christians.  But for some non-Christians this won't be enough, because they want to believe the unbiblical inclusivism of “all roads leading to God” instead of my Bible-based exclusivist claim that “Jesus offers the only way to salvation.”  Or they won't like my claim that God will judge unbelievers, who will experience temporary suffering in hell.  But I will explain why, in this situation, “the ends will justify the means” and eventually every person who is alive will say “I thank God for giving me life.”  Nobody will be saying “I wish God had not let me be born” while they are suffering in misery they know will never end, because the Bible tells us that this eternal misery will not happen.     {a big decision: would you choose to be born?}

 
 

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

    • my goals for this page (above) are followed by...
    The 3 Views is essential reading, because you'll want to understand what each view IS and (just as important) what it ISN'T, so – by comparing the views – you will 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 time-efficient overview of the main ideas, so (as explained in "Tips...") you can choose to first read the page-sections you think will be most interesting & educationally useful.   /   And you can read (or hear) other authors.

 

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 (this page has 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.  {but it's a very important difference*}

 

MANY SIMILARITIES:

All views...

• are Bible-based, with proponents who say “I think the Bible teaches us the truth about everything, including hell, and I will believe what the Bible teaches.

• are trinitarian, and agree that salvation is possible only due to the sacrificial atoning death of Jesus Christ, and that salvation requires belief-and-repentance, with authentic heart/mind belief and repentance and living by faith.     {Bible-based Christian Universalism is exclusivist, opposing pluralistic claims that “all roads lead to God”}

• agree that God is loving in every way, in everything He does.

• agree that God hates sin because sinful feelings-thoughts-actions are disobedient (to God) and disrespectful (to God & people) and destructive (for individuals, and for our relationships).

• agree that God wants total justice — He wants to make His Kingdom totally right, so all things are the way they should be, the way He always wanted them to be — and God will produce total justice.

• agree that after we live and die, eventually all humans will be bodily resurrected (as Jesus tells us in John 5:28-29) to face judgment by God, and — because at some times (during all of Life and part of Afterlife, including divine judgment) there are two kinds of people (saved, unsaved) — there will be two kinds of judgment:

    people who are saved by God during their Life — who believe-and-repent, who “say YES to God” because they love God and want to serve God, and they want God to save them from sin so they can love more effectively when they are living by faith, when they are using everything (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,... courage, wisdom,...) that God wants to give them — will live in Eternal Joy with other believers and with God, in His ultimate physically-actualized kingdom of heaven-on-earth.
    people who are not saved during their Life will suffer in Hell during their Afterlife.  There will be personal accountability for our actions – because “what we sow now, we will reap later” – with God achieving justice for Himself and for us.     { Yes, all three views are “hell views” proposing that an afterlife-hell does exist.  I think any “no-hell view” – claiming hell will not happen – is unbiblical, because the existence of hell seems to be clearly taught when we carefully study the Bible. }
 

In fact, all 3 views are theologically "almost identical" except for...

 

ONE DIFFERENCE: 

• The views disagree only when we ask “What is the final state of unsaved humans?” because...

    with Ultimate Restoration (UR) their suffering in UR-Hell is a temporary educating-correcting-healing experience that transforms them, purging them of all sinfulness;*  during this process they believe & repent, so God graciously saves them {by forgiving their sins} and He sanctifies them {by eliminating their sins} so they are totally restored internally (in their personal feeling-thinking-doing) and externally (in their interpersonal relationships with God & with people) so they can "live in Eternal Joy with other believers and with God, in His ultimate... kingdom of heaven-on-earth."     {or maybe instead of universal restoration, only some unsaved people repent in Afterlife, to produce semi-universal restoration}   {* because UR-Hell would purge unsaved people – to remove their sin – this view is purgatorial Ultimate Restoration, pUR }
    with Final Annihilation (FA) their suffering in FA-Hell is temporary, lasting until they die, when they are changed from temporary Afterlife into permanent non-existence.
    with Eternal Misery (EM) their suffering in EM-Hell will last forever because God keeps them alive forever, but He never helps them improve, never ends their misery with a merciful rescue (with Restoration or Annihilation) so they remain continually trapped in their sins forever, enduring sinful immortality with permanent eternal misery.
    Notice that in two views (UR, FA) hell is temporary;  these two views propose that God will eliminate sin, but EM claims that hell is permanent so God will preserve sin forever.
 

* Even though the 3 views are almost identical in all other ways, the one difference (in the final state of unsaved humans) can make a big difference in how we feel-think-do in our interpersonal relationships with other people and (especially) with God.  Our view of “what will happen in Hell” affects how we think about God & people, how we love God & people.  In some important ways, the best effects are produced by UR, and the worst effects are produced by EM.

 

abbreviations:  These will be used often throughout the page, so you should learn them well.   UR is Ultimate Restoration (aka pUR, purgatorial Ultimate Restoration),  FA is Final Annihilation,  EM is Eternal Misery.

 

What is my view?   Based on carefully studying the Bible, I'm very confident that God will not cause Eternal Misery in Afterlife;  instead He mercifully-and-graciously will give Conditional Immortality* by causing either Final Annihilation (FA) or Ultimate Restoration (UR).   I'm hopeful and optimistic about Ultimate Restoration, am hoping it will happen, and although we have strong biblical reasons to be optimistic that it will happen, I cannot confidently claim “it will be UR, not FA,” so my view is UR-or-FA.   I think UR would be wonderful and FA would be fair but sad.   {more about my views: an overview & details}

* conditional immortality:  in the Bible, God has declared that He will give eternal life only to saved people (not to unsaved people) because He will use an if-then condition:  IF a person is saved, then God will cause them to be immortal, He will give them eternal life with joy.  But IF a person is not-saved, they will remain not-immortal and eventually they will die;  God will not cause them to have eternal life with misery, instead He will cause either eternal life with joy, or permanent annihilation.

 

At this point the “essential” part of this section is finished.  I think the rest of it — explaining what Ultimate Restoration is and isn't, to reduce misunderstandings & illogical strawmen — is important and interesting, but it's optional reading.  So if you want, you can skip it and move on to Tips for Studying (where I encourage you to carefully examine the Bible) and a detailed Table of Contents (to get a time-efficient overview of the main ideas).


 

Defining the Views  –  aiming for Accurate Understanding

Because it's necessary to know what the views are — if you want to avoid illogical internal errors (when you are thinking) and illogical external errors (when you are communicating with others by listening or talking, reading or writing) — this is the first idea-section in the page.  It's first because accurate understanding forms an essential foundation that is necessary to avoid illogical “strawman” errors when you think an argument (of your own, or from another person) is actually “evidence against what is claimed by UR {or FA}” even though this argument isn't based on a correct understanding of what UR {or FA} actually does claim;  instead it's arguing against an inaccurate “strawman distortion” of the view.  We should not use (ourselves) and should not allow (by others) any strawman-arguments that either are due to misunderstanding or are intended to mislead and therefore are intellectually dishonest.

Also, common uses of terms can be a cause of confusion, because the same term can refer to different views, and the same view can be called by different names.  For example, Final Annihilation (FA) is usually called Annihilation or — by using the term in a way that is logically-incorrect (so I won't use it this way, I'll use it only with its logically-correct meaning) — Conditional Immortality.

 

Ultimate Restoration = Christian Universalism = Universalism ?

As explained above, I confidently believe that Conditional Immortality will occur, and this would occur with either Ultimate Restoration or Final Annihilation, so my view is UR-or-FA.  But outside this page, my UR (i.e. the Bible-based UR that I'm describing in this page, and have accepted as one of two biblically-plausible final results of Hell) can be called by many names.  In addition to Ultimate Restoration (the term I've chosen), it's also Universal Ultimate Restoration or Universal Restoration, or (the term I originally used) Universal Reconciliation, or Universal Salvation, or Christian Universalism, or just Universalism.  But these terms – especially universalism – can refer to a variety of views, with a range of meanings.  Therefore, to reduce misunderstandings I want to emphasize that...

 

Universalism is not Pluralism – instead,

Bible-based Christian Universalism is...

non-pluralistic exclusivist Universalism.

We should accurately understand what each view does and doesn't propose.  This is especially important for “universalism” because this word is used to describe a wide range of views;  it has multiple meanings, and a common meaning is un-biblical religious pluralism.  But in this page my definition of Universalism (i.e. Christian Universalism, aka Ultimate Restoration) is exclusivist (it's non-pluralistic) because it claims that Jesus offers the only way to be saved, the narrow road leading to salvation.  To clarify this, instead of just Universalism (or Universal Restoration, or Ultimate Restoration) we could call it Exclusivist Universalism (or Exclusivist Universal Restoration, or Exclusivist Ultimate Restoration) to emphasize that this view is non-pluralistic because it claims that 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 traveling-thru-Life on another road, God knows who they are & where they are, and eventually (in Life or Afterlife) He will save them by guiding them onto His narrow road leading to salvation.    /   * a “one way” doctrine (claiming that salvation requires "consciously saying YES to God") is strong exclusivism.

also:  My view of UR is purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR, with a purging-Hell that purifies sinners, cleansing them from sin, healing them and restoring them so they finally become the sinless persons that God always wanted them to be.  UR does not claim “there is no Hell,” instead the claim is that “Hell is a temporary process that will produce a permanent result of total Restoration.”   /   And my UR is trinitarian, so UR isn't Unitarian Universalism.

 

more:  To help you understand at a deeper level that's more thorough & accurate, later a views-table and two kinds of questions (non-useful & useful) clearly show the similarities & differences in the views {UR, FA, EM} to help you logically compare the views, as they're defined in this page.    /    Saying "in this page" is necessary because all three views can be defined in different ways, outside this page.  But for Ultimate Restoration the range of common meanings is much wider than for Final Annihilation or Eternal Misery, so to reduce misunderstandings I'll write more about UR here:

 

 

This section explains...  the meanings of Ultimate & Restoration;   and why Ultimate Restoration would be the most wonderful way for God to continue His story of His world, of the world He created;   and why some biblical passages (that are claimed to be inconsistent with UR) actually are consistent with UR if we accept the possibility that God can (and will) save people in their Afterlife. {and this is possible, because the Bible doesn't say “yes, it will happen” or “no, it won't happen”}

 

Ultimate Restoration  ( = Universal Reconciliation )

For me, both of these terms have the same meaning;  both are the same view.  Originally I called the view Universal Reconciliation.  So... why have I now decided to call it Ultimate Restoration?  Because this term allows a more-complete description of “when? who? what?” in the final state.*  Let's look at each word in the term:  if God will produce ultimate restoration ,

 

restoration will be the result of a process-of-restoring that is happening now, and will continue until it produces the ultimate restoration when God has transformed every person into what He always wanted them to be, and He has transformed all relationships into what He always wanted them to be.  Currently these divine goals — God's goals for persons and goals for interpersonal relationships — are not being fully achieved, due to our personal sinning and interpersonal sinning.  Eventually {in The Final State} God will cause all things (including every person & every relationship) to be the way He always wanted it to be, fully restored, without sin.   /   Notice that God's ultimate restoration will actualize His goal of achieving an ideal Final State that is not a return to an earlier Initial State;  instead, The Final State will be better than any state that previously has existed in the history of our world.     { As one example of how it will be better, in The Initial State humans were vulnerable to a “fall” into sin, and we did become sinners, but in The Final State this won't happen. }

 

ultimate can be defined as "being or happening at the end of a process; final" and also "the best achievable or imaginable of its kind."  Both meanings are important for Ultimate Restoration.

First, if God will produce UR, this will happen "at the end of a process" and it will be a "final" result;  before this ultimate (final) result, the majority of people will be unsaved during some periods of time (that are not-yet-final) in Life and Afterlife, including a penultimate (semifinal, next-to-last) period of time when unsaved people are being sanctified in purgatorial UR-Hell, where divine fire purifies them until their sin is gone.  Viewed from the perspective of UR, we see this distinction between not-yet-final and final in biblical passages that describe two kinds of people (saved, unsaved) during Life & Afterlife, and describe unpleasant experiences for unsaved people in The Lake of Fire that is Hell, so these passages are consistent with UR.

Second, ultimate is "the best achievable or imaginable" result.  When we read the Bible and think about the grand story (of God and humans, of our sin and His redemptive salvation), Ultimate Restoration is The Best Possible Story-Ending that we can imagine.  This glorious end-of-the-story would happen after the best possible final state – when all things have become what God always wanted them to be – has been produced by purgatorial UR, after God has radically transformed all persons and all relationships so He can achieve His goal of restoring everything, of making it be the way He always wanted it to be, so it's perfect with no sin.  A final state that's "the best achievable" is important when we're comparing Universal Restoration (UR) with Final Annihilation (FA) because each of these final states would be a way for God to actualize the Conditional Immortality (clearly taught in the Bible) that will produce a final state with no sinners and no sinning.*  But with UR all persons will be restored, not just (as with FA) the persons who were saved by God during their Life, so UR would produce the greatest good (eternal joy with full restoration of every person & every relationship) for the greatest number (for everyone).  And a Total Restoration of all relationships would be possible with UR, but this Total Restoring would not be possible with FA.     {by contrast, if God will cause The Final State to include Eternal Misery for most of the people he created, instead of "no sinners and no sinning" God would be causing sinners and sin to exist forever.}

 

* I've decided to call this view Ultimate Restoration because it "allows a more-complete description (compared with Universal Reconciliation) of ‘when? who? what?’ in the final state."  To see why, we'll compare each term's answers for questions about the best possible final state, about what & who & when:

    what?  a full restoration includes reconciliations (of everyone with everyone) with a healing of all relationships.  But restoration also includes a healing of all persons, and these personal sanctifications allow the interpersonal reconciliations.  Therefore, restoration (with its healing of relationships plus healing of persons) includes reconciliation (of relationships) and more, so for “what?” restoration gives a more complete answer:  restoration = reconciliations + sanctifications.
    who?  both terms agree, because with UR the ultimate state — it's the best achievable state, it's the greatest good (joy with full restoration, without sin) for the greatest number (for everyone) — would have universal salvation.  Therefore, to make it clear that the Ultimate Restoration would be Universal Restoration, the term I chose could be expanded to Universal Ultimate Restoration, and I sometimes use this term to emphasize that the ultimate restoration (the best restoration) would be universal.
    when?  both terms agree about universal, but ultimate gives additional meaning because it also answers the question of “when will all have joy?” by stating, within the term, that the restoration-of-everyone will occur ultimately (finally) at the end of a process,  so during some periods of Afterlife (while unsaved people have not yet been healed in penultimate Hell) “not yet” will be the answer to “when?” – although ultimately we can joyfully say “now” for full Restoration.

 

I.O.U. – Although currently (in May 2021) you'll still see "Universal Reconciliation" (my original term for UR) in most of my longer page, eventually I'll change all of these terms to Ultimate Restoration.

 

tips for STUDYING-and-reading

 

• instead of assuming a doctrine,  study the Bible:

questions:  In western societies for the past 1500 years, is it possible that most people (both believers and unbelievers) have been assuming a doctrine of Eternal Misery that the Bible doesn't teach?  I think the answer is “yes, this commonly-believed doctrine is wrong” so we then ask...   How could this happen?

a reason:  I think it's because — due to the powerful inertia of tradition and social pressures — most Christians simply assume 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.

* Because "the people here [in Berea] were of more noble character... they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)"   {if we're thinking like noble Bereans, we should define theologically conservative as “believing the Bible and diligently studying it, so we can build our doctrines on what the Bible teaches,” instead of “never questioning tradition.”}   {unfortunately, choosing a view of hell often is influenced by non-biblical factors}

 

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

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

 

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

Why?  When you're wondering “what will happen to unbelievers in their afterlife” an effective strategy would be to carefully study every verse in the entire Bible, to determine what it teaches.  But you have limited time.*  This page can help you study effectively, and also efficiently so you can learn more in less time.     {Benjamin Franklin observed that "time is the stuff life is made of," so you want to make wise decisions about how you use your time, and thus your life.}   {e.g. if you don't yet know that abundant biblical evidence supports Ultimate Restoration, you can see it in an overview-summary.}

 

How?  One strategy for learning more effectively-and-efficiently, and enjoying it more, is to...

    • see this 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 time-efficient overview of the main ideas and will 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 will help you decide what you want to learn about in more depth by reading that full-length section.

You can read this page in order.  Or, guided by using this ToC as an FAQ, you can choose to read the sections that you think will be most interesting and useful.

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 page's far-outside border is light blue and dark blue for this page and the longer page.   This page has links to where you can learn "more", usually in the longer page.

LINKS  Links with background colors (purple  green  gray) go to biblegateway.com or the longer page or other pages written by me or by another author although some page-links that should have back ground  colors currently don't, but later (i.o.u.) they will.     {and you can learn from other authors}

 

QUOTES:  I use straight "regular quotation marks" for quotations, and curly “smart quotation marks” for other purposes.


 

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

The Afterlife for Unbelievers:  3 Bible-Based Views.

 

Please feel free to use this detailed Table of Contents in any way you want.  You can simply begin reading and continue, or "skim it" (by looking at titles, highlighted ideas,...) until you find topics you want to explore.    /    IOU – Later, I'll make a list of topics-with-links (to be a small “table of contents” for this large Table of Contents) that you may find useful for helping you “skim quickly” and find topics you want to explore.

 

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 begins with 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),  and

universal purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR, UR)

TIPS for Studying (the Bible) and Reading (this page)   —   Instead of assuming a doctrine, study the Bible.   —   Use my page in any way you want.  The summaries in this Table of Contents will give you a quick-and-thorough overview of the main ideas, and will help you choose the sections you want to read first.

 

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

My Views  —  I confidently reject EM, and think either FA or pUR could happen, am hopeful-and-optimistic about UR, am hoping it will happen, have biblical reasons to be optimistic that it might happen.    {a little more and a lot more including my feelings about my views}

Two Bible-based reasons to reject Eternal Misery — The Character of God (because the Bible tells us that God wants justice and is loving, but neither would happen with Eternal Misery) and Conditional Immortality (because the Bible tells us that God will mercifully solve the problems of Sin & Death without causing sin to exist forever and without causing unsatisfactory substitution for substitutionary atonement) — are described below.

Other Bible-based reasons to reject Eternal Misery are...  biblical sermons & letters, with the apostles (Peter, John, Paul, James) never describing the duration-and-result of hell to be Eternal Misery;  extremely strong biblical evidence for the Conditional Immortality that would occur with either Final Annihilation (that has strong biblical support) or Ultimate Restoration that has strong biblical support because God seems to declare that He wants to save all people, and that He will save all people, plus the logic that if God wants to save everyone (if He is all-loving), and if God gets what God wants (if He is all-powerful), then He will save everyone;   and there is a lack of strong biblical support for Eternal Misery in the few isolated “hell verses” that often are mis-translated or mis-interpreted yet are the main evidence claimed for EM.

There are many Bible-based reasons to reject Eternal Misery, so I encourage you to "carefully STUDY the Bible to learn what it really does teach... instead of ASSUMING you already know what the Bible teaches."  Unfortunately, the process of choosing a hell-view usually is heavily influenced by non-biblical factors, like having mixed motives about hoping and wanting to maintain fear-motivation and avoid giving false hope and avoid conflicts.

 

The Just-and-Loving Character of God  —  What Will Jesus Do with unsaved sinners?  The Bible tells us that God wants justice (and He will produce it, because “what we sow, we will reap”) and God is loving, so...  in Afterlife, can God (and will He) combine justice-AND-love?   /   genuine love is love-in-action that produces good results:  With our loving actions, we do good for the people we are loving, and God would do good for people in UR-Hell (producing restorative righteousness-justice by sanctifying every person and healing every relationship) but He wouldn't do good for people in FA-Hell or (especially) EM-Hell.  I think the just-and-loving nature of God's actions would be best if He does pUR-Hell, and worst if He causes Eternal Misery for most of the people He created.     {more about WWJD when He judges us}

 

Conditional Immortality - God will make a person immortal IF they are saved.   The Bible declares (in 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," and (in Revelation) that God will give immortality to people who satisfy His IF-then condition,  that IF a person is saved, then He will give them immortality.  The divine penalty of death – sinners "must not... live forever" is merciful because God doesn't want people to live forever in a state of sin.  But in order to actualize a divine policy of causing Eternal Misery, God would have to decide that unsaved sinners must not ... live forever (thus violating His own judicial decree, re: His divine penalty of death-due-to-sin) 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 using this power (to decide whether or not He will give life) 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 (that He will supernaturally provide thru His "tree of life"), but not with immortality.}  {does being made "in the image of God" mean that, like God, we are immortal?  no, and this also doesn't make us omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, or omnibenevolent.}

Conditional Immortality (CI) is consistent with God's merciful Death Penalty for Sin that is clearly taught throughout His Bible, seen in His penalties (it's death instead of long-term suffering in The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, Levitical Law,...) and His preventions (Abraham with Isaac, The Passover), and His gifts of substitutionary atonement with death-atoning sacrifices in the OT {by a divinely designed system using sacrificial deaths of animals} and in the NT {by the divine self-sacrificing death of Jesus} when God sacrificed Himself to pay our death penalty, and then showed us {with His victorious resurrection} that He has conquered death so He can (and will) give us afterlife-without-death.

 

Conditional Immortality (CI) is defined by an if-then Condition:  if a person is saved, then God will give them immortality.  CI could occur with FA or UR, but not with EM.  Why?

Conditional Immortality would not occur with Eternal Misery, because with EM an unsaved sinner (who doesn't satisfy God's Condition) is given immortality;  if God causes EM by causing unsaved sinners to live forever, He would be violating His clear declaration that an unsaved sinner "must not... live forever" in sinful misery.

Conditional Immortality would occur with either FA or UR,* because...  after Final Annihilation, all unsaved people have permanently died (in FA-Hell) so only saved people are continuing to live forever, and all of them satisfy God's Condition for Immortality, or...   after Ultimate Restoration, all unsaved people have been transformed (in pUR-Hell) into saved people who satisfy God's Condition for Immortality, so He will cause them to live forever.    {divine mercy: God wants to prevent sinners from living forever in a state of sin, and He can do this either with FA so they're not living forever, or with UR so they're not in a state of sin.}

* CI could occur with either FA or UR, so the logical definition of CI is “FA or UR” instead of the illogical “only FA” that is implied when a person says “Conditional Immortality and Annihilation are two names for the same view.”    {more: there are two ways – biblical & unbiblical – to begin a process of concluding “God will cause UR”}

 

To compare FA with UR, we ask two questions (re: what & who) about death, and one (re: when) 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 “in Life or Afterlife” with UR).
 

When we ask “WHAT is the penalty for sin?” the biblically-correct answer is “death” and this would be the penalty with FA and UR, but not with EM.  Therefore the many biblical reasons to reject Eternal Misery include these four:  EM would violate conditional immortality, so EM would produce eternally lasting sin (by producing eternally lasting death with “living death” in The Lake of Fire where people remain trapped in their sins forever) even though the Bible teaches us that God eventually will eliminate sin, and will eliminate death;  and EM would be unsatisfactory for substitutionary atonement (when Jesus paid the penalty for our sins) because in His crucifixion Jesus had finite suffering with death, but EM would be a penalty of infinite suffering without death. {do you see the two mis-matchings that would cause unsatisfactory substitution if the penalty for sin is eternal misery instead of death?}

 

Divine Mercy-and-Grace:  God's death penalty is lovingly merciful because (in Genesis) His purpose for removing His life-sustaining "tree of life" was to allow death and thus to prevent a sinner from living forever in a state of sin* in either Life or Afterlife;  and His gift of penal substitutionary atonement is lovingly gracious because (in Revelation) it leads to God restoring His "tree of life" for every saved sinner, so they can live forever with Eternal Joy.   /   * But what will Jesus do with unsaved sinners?  God wants to "prevent a sinner from living forever in a state of sin" and He can do this in two ways, either by killing them (with FA) so they're not "living forever," or by purifying them (with pUR) so they're not sinful, so they're not living "in a state of sin."     {would annihilation be merciful?  yes or no, depending on the alternative}

 

What are the 3 Views?  –  Part 2 

The 3 Views - Part 1 is essential reading because we must accurately understand the views before we can logically evaluate the views.  When we compare views to understand their similarities & differences, and try to decide what the Bible does & doesn't teach, some questions (but not others) are useful in helping us distinguish between the views.  Therefore, Part 2 describes two kinds of questions (useful & non-useful) and has a colorful table that will help you compare the views, so you can more easily see-and-understand their similarities & differences.

UR = pUR:  UR is aka pUR {so in this page both terms have the same meaning} because UR proposes that God will use a purgatorial experience in pUR-Hell to educate & correct/heal each unsaved person, to purify them so they become totally purified (freed from sin) & sanctified, and thus can be sinlessly reconciled with God and with people, so they are suitable for their Afterlife in His physical Heaven-Kingdom.  UR is a “hell” view, not a “no hell” view.     {the purgatorial process of pUR-Hell is not the Purgatory of Catholicism, so any arguments against Catholic Purgatory are not arguments against purgatorial UR}

Do all roads lead to God and to His salvation?  UR says “no, only God's narrow road leads to salvation and few are now traveling this road during Life,  but God is searching for each person and He will find them (during Life or Afterlife), no matter what road they're now traveling.”   Christian pUR is non-pluralistic, because that's what the Bible teaches.

Ultimate Restoration - Hopeful and Optimistic  —  Should everyone hope for UR? (yes)*   Do we have reasons to be optimistic that UR will happen? (yes)

* Hoping for The Best:  If God will heal all persons and all relationships this Ultimate Restoration would be the best possible ending for His Story, producing the greatest good (eternal joy) for the greatest number (for everyone), so we should hope it will happen.  With the "best possible ending" of UR, The Gospel would truly be Good News, not Mixed News.   {but do Christians have reasons to not want this ending?}    /    On a person-to-person level, Jesus commands you to "love your neighbor as you love yourself," and you want yourself to have Eternal Joy, so you should want your neighbor to have Eternal Joy.  You should love everyone (all of your neighbors) and want for them what you want for you.    /    Or think about someone you love who probably wasn't saved when they died.  Do you want them to have Eternal Joy, or Eternal Misery, or Eternal Non-Existence?   {I'm thinking about my wonderful sister.}

 

Do we have reasons to be optimistic that UR will happen?  Yes, because...

Ultimate Restoration has Biblical Support  {first, when God tells us that He will not let anyone live forever in a state of sin, because He will give a Conditional Immortality that would happen with either Ultimate Restoration or Final Annihilation, but not with Eternal Misery}    {second, when biblical writers tell us that God will save all people;   carefully studying the Bible → improved understanding, by recognizing more evidence-for-UR and less evidence-against-UR}

combining theologies:  Arminianism + Calvinism → Universalism  —  logically, 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 to produce Ultimate Restoration.

Views of Hell in Church History  {in their biblical sermons & letters, Christian leaders never teach 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 or FA, or EM}   {why did this change, so EM became culturally dominant?  influences from extra-Biblical philosophies, Augustine, practical political utility with fear-causing EM, bias in translations, the powerful inertia of tradition}

 
 

UNIVERSAL RESTORATION – WHEN, HOW, WHAT, WHY?

 

WHEN – if God will produce universal Ultimate Restoration, belief/repentance-and-salvation during Afterlife seems required;  UR is possible (and plausible) IF God will save people during Afterlife.  {will this happen? the Bible doesn't clearly say Yes or No}     /     Great is Thy Faithfulness?   after we die, if God will cause eternal misery for most people, can we still praise God because "as You have been, You forever will be" so "Your compassions they fail not" ?   does God “love people unconditionally” only until they die, when – unless a person already has satisfied God's conditions for salvation, has earned their salvation based on the personal merit of their wise decision – He will kill them (with FA) or torment them forever (with EM)?  or will He lovingly heal them (with UR)?

WHO and HOW MANY – ultimately, will most people remain unsaved?  Bible-based Christian purgatorial UR (pUR, aka UR) is non-pluralistic, is compatible with strong exclusivism (a claim that salvation requires explicit belief in Jesus) so questions about inclusion-vs-exclusion and the narrow gate on the narrow road (now being traveled by "few") are not significant for UR.  But these questions are extremely important for FA and EM, which claim that most people will be lost forever, will be annihilated or eternally tormented.

 

HOW – if God will cause UR, maybe... salvation with sanctification will occur in a process of educating-correcting-healing in purgatorial UR-Hell where God purges the sins of unsaved people with purifying divine fire (in Greek, pur is fire) in His lake of divine fire.  This process would be educational {teaching a person so they repent and believe, using their capable freed will that won't be enslaved by sin} leading to salvation;  it would be corrective {with God skillfully using Holy Spirit surgery to remove all sin} and healing {so people will become healthy personally & interpersonally, will be thankful because they understand what God is doing for them, what He is helping them become};  it will produce sanctification when their feeling-thinking-doing has been corrected so they aren't sinful, when personally they have become a healthy person, and interpersonally they have healthy relationships with other persons and with God, so they have become totally restored, totally righteous, after being transformed into the person that God always wanted them to be.

WHAT and WHY – God wants to eliminate sin (and He will eliminate sin, with FA or UR)* because He hates sin.  God hates sin — because our sinning is caused by disobeying Him (beginning with Eve & Adam in The Garden) when we disobey God's commands (by not fully loving God & fully loving people and in other ways), and because sin harms persons & relationships — so God wants to eliminate sin from persons & relationships.  When a person sins, it hurts them and it hurts others.  We experience the harmful consequences of sin (for the sinner & others) now in Life, and also later in Afterlife.  Jesus knows this, and although He is merciful & forgiving, He wants us to take sin seriously, because He does;  He sets high standards for what He wants us to feel & think-and-do, because He completely understands the harmful consequences of sin.  Jesus warns everyone (not just the unsaved) 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 [Gehenna], into the unquenchable fire. ...  For everyone will be salted with fire."  Our sins (of commission & omission, by what we do & don't do) produce consequences, first in Life and then in Afterlife because (as Paul tells us) "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," because "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," in God's Judgment when "they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done."  The harmful consequences-of-sin come to each of us, first in Life and then in Afterlife, whether the Afterlife Reality will be UR, FA, or EM.  Why?  It's because God loves every person, so He won't take a “hands off, do nothing” approach and just let their sin remain.

* God wants to eliminate sin and God would eliminate sin with FA (by eliminating sinners) or with UR (by eliminating sin-within-sinners) but not with EM (by eternally maintaining the afterlives of sinners who will continue sinning in their thoughts & actions).

WHAT – Ultimate Restoration proposes that SIN is powerful and is evil, but GOD is more powerful and is good.  After all persons and all relationships have been restored by God, so every person is fully reconciled with every other person and with God, the people who are reconciled will not be (cannot be) the sinful creatures we are now.  A common objection to UR is asking whether God will just tell evil people (e.g. Hitler) that “what you did wasn't good, but it wasn't bad enough to keep you out of my kingdom, so come in and make yourself at home” because God is unconditionally forgiving.  No, this isn't the claim of UR.  Instead, UR proposes that evil sinful people (like Hitler, you, and me) will be welcomed into God's kingdom after God has radically transformed us so we have sorrowfully repented and we are not being hindered (as we are now) by sinful feelings-thoughts-actions, so we have the capabilities that will let us be fruitful members of His kingdom.

WHAT and HOW – God wants to remove sin from individuals and from relationships.  How is He doing this now (in Life) and how will He do it later (in Afterlife)?  In our Afterlives, how will God totally transform saved people so we become totally sanctified, without sin, become suitable for Eternal Joy in Heaven?  will this process of sanctification occur instantly, or require time?  will it be “done to us” or require our cooperation?   Compared with the process for saved people, what will be the similarities & differences for unsaved people, if God will cause pUR? *

WHAT – God will "totally transform" people "so we become totally sanctified, without sin," and this change will be a radical transformation, with radical defined as "going to the foundation or source, from the roots; fundamental, basic; pertaining to the basic or intrinsic nature, relating to the most important parts of someone; extreme, thorough, complete" because a radical change would be required for a total transformation that converts us into people who are totally sanctified, without sin.

HOW – Although the Bible doesn't give us many details about the process of sanctifying, Jesus does tell us about one part of the process: "everything that is covered up will be revealed... what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear."  This doesn't happen in Life, so (logically) it will happen in Afterlife, maybe in Life-Review Videos that reveal the history of our feeling-and-thinking about people (ourselves & others) and about God, showing us the effects of our feelings-thoughts-actions.  These effects on others, and ourselves, are primary (with us affecting people through our direct interactions with them) and secondary (when these people are changed by our interactions with them, and they continue interacting with others) in a wide-ranging interconnected web of interpersonal interactions.

HOW – If life-review videos will be used, maybe... God will give each person multiple super-abilities (including improved empathy, compassion, and self-responsibility (leading to sorrowful shame & repentance), plus heightened physical senses of seeing, hearing,...) to make our re-experiencing more intense, to magnify our feelings of joy (for joy-giving things that happened to us, and good things we did) and sorrow (for sorrow-producing things that happened to us, and bad things we did, or good things we didn't do), with all emotional responses helping to produce beneficial personal & interpersonal transformations because God will be healing all persons & all relationships.  During this process, God would provide divine guiding-and-empowering by Holy Spirit through intimate spiritual connections with each person, for the purpose of helping them learn more from their experiences.  God would help them learn-and-improve by providing conviction (along with comforting) that leads to sorrowful repentance – so the person (now with a freed will) wants their own sinful nature to be eliminated – so they have an authentic desire to let God radically transform them, to fully cooperate with His purifying destruction of their sinful nature.  They want to be radically transformed so they become totally sanctified (totally healthy as a whole person in their feeling-and-thinking & actions), so they become the righteous person that God always wanted them to be, and is now helping them to be.

HOW – Jesus said "everything that is covered up will be revealed" to a “mixed crowd” that included people who did believe in Him, and didn't.  * IF life-review videos will be intensely experienced by both kinds of persons – who at the end of their Life were saved believers, or were unsaved unbelievers – how will this part of their sanctifying process be similar, and different?  They will have different relationships with Holy Spirit due to their experiences in Life, because saved believers had (in Life) a much better relationship with God, and if this continues into Afterlife it will make the process much better for them.  If God wants Ultimate Reconciliation, and if He will use pUR-Hell to achieve His goal, probably... the process-of-sanctification will be more intensely unpleasant for people who were unsaved-in-Life, because the saved-in-Life will be “more forgiven and more comforted” by God, so their sorrowful emotional suffering will be less intense (when they re-experience the results of their many sins in life-review videos, and in other parts of the sanctifying process) compared with unsaved people.   /   Or maybe, despite the “mixed crowd” statement of Jesus, saved people will not participate in public Life-Review Videos.  But an absence of saved people would reduce the powerful impact of all people seeing-hearing-feeling all videos that show the sorrowful repentant responses of all others — with these shared re-experiences producing mutual empathies & compassions, ultimately leading everyone to forgive everyone, in reconciliations that help all to be emotionally healed — so the scope of these reconciling-experiences would be reduced if "everyone" does not include saved people.

 

Speculations about HOW  —  a review:  if people will be educated and corrected-healed in purgatorial UR-Hell, how will this happen?    maybe...

    • life-review videos for every person (with intense re-experiencing of events, viewed in detail from their own perspective and from the perspectives of others) → responses of repentance with sorrowful emotional suffering (that may produce physically felt suffering), and repentance-plus-belief → (as in Life) salvation thru Jesus?
    • degrees-of-suffering will occur, with intrinsically-fair justice because the sorrowful suffering caused by a person in Life → the sorrowful suffering they will feel in Afterlife? (what we're sowing now, we'll reap later)  {what is the purpose of suffering?}
    • all people will see/hear/feel all videos (that feature the sorrowful repentant responses of others) and this shared re-experiencing will produce powerful mutual empathies & compassions, so finally everyone will forgive everyone, and all will be emotionally healed?
 

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

maybe... God will produce Restorative Justice by using pUR to cause a healing of all persons, and healing of all relationships:

    Total Sanctifying-and-Reconciling of Unsaved Offenders:  Maybe... God will use a process of pUR that is unpleasant-yet-productive to spiritually transform an unsaved offender (who has committed sinful offenses against victims) to help them become a totally sanctified born-again personwith purified heart/mind/spirit, without sin – who has been restored so they are the totally righteous person He always wanted them to be, so they have the ability to fully love God and fully love people, so they can be totally reconciled with God and with people.  In this way, when God is producing righteousness He will be causing justice, because the Greek word that means "righteousness" (its usual translation into English) also means "justice" (its usual translation in most other languages).  If God eventually causes Ultimate Restoration, He will be doing what He wants us to do, "always try to do what is good [with love in action] for each other and for everyone else," for every person individually, and also for everyone-together when He produces...
    Total Forgivings-and-Reconcilings between Victims & Offenders:  Every person, whether saved or unsaved, sometimes is a victim (who has been hurt, in some ways, by the sinful offenses of others) and is an offender (who has hurt others in some ways).   These hurtings produce needs:  as victims, we need to forgive people, and we want to know that they have sorrowfully repented;   as offenders, we should want to repent-and-apologize, and we need to be forgiven by people & by God.  These forgivings – done by us for others, and by others for us – are an essential part of producing reconciliations that are “horizontal” (between people) and “vertical” (between people and God).   Maybe... these needs (to forgive and be forgiven) will be satisfied during purgatorial UR if every person will "see/hear/feel the videos" that show us the authentically sorrowful repenting-and-apologizing of others, and these shared experiences produce "mutual empathies" so "everyone will forgive everyone" and "all will be emotionally healed," to produce a Total Reconciling of all people with each other, and with God, which can occur only when people totally love each other, and totally love God.  This is the way it should be, how God wants it to be, and (I hope) how He will make it become by using pUR, so God will produce restorative justice with healings of all persons and all relationships.   /   But... FA claims “no salvation in Afterlife” so most people (all who were not on the narrow road) will be annihilated.  These missing people would prevent a Total Reconciling for creation-as-a-whole, or even for any individual because during Life each of us has interpersonal interactions that need to be healed (because this didn't happen in Life) with many people,* including many who were unsaved-in-Life but (with FA) will not be available to see/hear/feel the videos, to be part of a universal repenting & mutual forgiving-and-healing.  Therefore, due to the many missing people it seems that with FA there would not be a total healing for any individual — with a healing Total Restoration that in addition to being internal (to heal their own thinking-and-feeling) is also external (to heal all of their relationships with every other person) — and there would not be a Total Reconciliation for the community as a whole.  There would never be a total healing, with all sin-broken people & relationships being transformed into healthy people & relationships.  It seems to me that FA would be sad, because in Afterlife we (assuming you and I will be saved) could never again be with many of the people we loved in Life.     {* as in "It's a Wonderful Life"}
 

It seems to me that these results of Ultimate Restoration – with a healing of all persons, and healing of all relationships – would be the best way (better than with FA or ER) for God to produce the justice-with-love that He wants.  When we're thinking about justice, we should recognize that the Bible uses the same word for righteousness (typically used for translations into English) and justice (typically used for translations into other languages).  Therefore, when God produces righteousness – when He causes people-and-relationships to become right, the way they should be, the way He wants them to be – God is producing justice.

My website about Education for Problem Solving defines education as "learning from life-experience," and problem solving as "making things better."  If things will be made better (will be made best, made completely righteous to achieve complete justice), purgatorial Ultimate Restoration will be a process of educational problem solving because God will be helping us learn from our Life-experiences (during our Afterlife-experiences) so He can make things better (He would make things the best possible with UR) for every person and every relationship.  This ultimate (final) result would be the ultimate (best possible) way for God to achieve total justice by producing total righteousness.  If God does this, pUR-Hell will be love in action and we can joyfully praise God because of what He will do for people in Hell.  {for vs to:  in pUR-Hell, God does things for people, for their benefit, to help them;  but God does things to people, to punish them, to hurt-and-harm them, in FA-Hell or EM-Hell.}

In pUR-Hell, what is the purpose of suffering?  There is no "purpose" if the suffering is a necessary by-product of the process that God will use to achieve His goals (to transform-and-sanctify all persons & all relationships), because God's purpose would be to transform-and-sanctify, not to cause suffering.    {more}

 

maybe... God will do pUR-Hell in The Lake of Fire where He uses divine fire (pur in Greek) that purifies, where God does purgatorial process for each unsaved person, with divine purifying by HolySpirit surgery to remove the personal impurities — all kinds of sinfulness — that God doesn't want the person to have and to be, so they will become totally sanctified, will achieve sinless perfection.

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;    if God wants to save all people, He can do it — because He knows all and can do all (He is omniscient and omnipotent) — by being more persuasive than during Life (by providing stronger evidence in stronger ways) and by giving people a better perspective because He will be radically transforming them, purifying them from sin until they have a freed will (freed from their slavery to sin) so they are able to make a wise decision and (at some point during their transformation) they do repent;   or maybe God will save some previously unsaved people, but not all, to produce semi-Universal Restoration (semi-UR) that is a “hybrid” combination of UR and FA

 

Hell-Verses in the Bible  —  Translations (from Greek into English) are often biased to favor Eternal Misery.  For example, in Matthew 25:46 the Greek word aionios that's 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 would occur with either 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 Greek word kolasin that's translated as punishment has an intended meaning (as it does in Classical Greek) of corrective discipline that helps a person improve, as in pUR.

And all 3 views propose “suffering in hell” so verses about “suffering in hell” don't support EM.  And verses about two kinds of people (saved & unsaved) are consistent with pUR.     {what is the purpose of pain in Hell?}

 

What did Jesus teach us about Hell?   defenders of Eternal Misery often claim that “Jesus said more about Hell than anyone else in the Bible.”  This is true, because Hell is absent in the Old Testament and in most of the New Testament, in the sermons & letters of Peter, John, James, and Paul, although they do warn about judgment.  Jesus also talks about judgment;  He sets extremely high standards for everyone and He warns everyone that their actions during Life will produce consequences during Afterlife, but He doesn't say these will last eternally, as explained above.

 

Second Death in The Lake of Fire could cause a death of person (FA), or death of sin (UR) as in Romans 6, or a living death (EM);  these would end the sinner's life or sinful nature or quality of life, with fire that kills or purifies or torments.   Throughout the Bible, fire often symbolizes the divine presence-and-power of God.  The Lake of Fire could be a hurtful fire of God if He uses divine fire to torment people or annihilate people, or it could be a helpful fire of God if He uses divine fire to purify people, to produce universal repentance-and-reconciliation by transforming every person so they become the totally-righteous person that He always wanted them to be.     {with Second Death produced by immersion in The Lake of Fire, will Jesus baptize with fire as prophesied by John the Baptist, producing a death of sin as in Romans 6?  maybe there are connections between Matthew 3 and Revelation 20 and Romans 6.}   {more about Second Death in The Lake of Fire}

 

The Narrow Gate and Pluralism:  Jesus tells us that a person can be saved only by traveling the narrow road that leads them through "the narrow gate" so pluralism (claiming “all roads lead to God”) is biblically false;  instead the Bible teaches exclusivism.     {but biblical universalism – as in UR – is not pluralism}

The Narrow Gate and Salvation:  Defenders of Final Annihilation (FA) and Eternal Misery (EM) claim, based partly on this passage, that “only a few will be saved,” but...  with a grammatically-correct literal translating of Greek into English,* Jesus tells us that "few" are finding "the narrow gate" leading to salvation, NOW during Life.  Jesus tells us that few are now finding the road, but He does not say that only a few will ever find it, that few will ever be saved, either NOW (in Life) or LATER (in Afterlife).  Why is this distinction important?  Because if God will allow (and will cause) salvation in Afterlife a person could find "the narrow gate" later — because “not now” isn't the same as “not ever” — and universal Ultimate Restoration is possible.  But the other views (FA & EM) reject salvation in Afterlife so FA & EM do claim that because only a few people are now finding "the narrow gate" during Life, only these few will ever be saved, and all others will be damned.}   {* Jesus says literally that “few are finding the gate” now, but most translations misleadingly tell us “few will find the gate” either now (all views agree about this) or later (as claimed by FA & EM, but not UR). }

The Narrow Gate and The Divine Story of God's Chosen People:  Jesus was speaking to Jewish people (both believers & unbelievers) when He declared that few are now finding the road leading to salvation.  IF – as claimed by FA and EM – there will be no belief/repentance-and-salvation in Afterlife, and IF (as I propose) only people who explicitly "say yes to Jesus" will be saved, then the majority of Jewish people who lived in AD-history (anno domini, after the birth of Jesus) will be forever damned, because they have rejected Jesus.  And this majority-rejection seems to be what was intended by God.  Is this the high price that most Jews will pay for being chosen by God, beginning with Abraham?  Is this the tragic ending for the divine history that God planned (from before the foundation of the world He created) for His people?  During BC-history (before Christ) most Jews believed in YHWH (Yahweh) so He saved them, but in AD-history most Jews have not believed in Yeshua (of the triune YHWH) so (according to strong-exclusivist FA or EM) God will never save them, instead their fate will be permanent non-existence or everlasting misery.  Is this major change – from most Jews being saved (BC) to most being damned (AD) – a reason for Jewish people, and other people, to rejoice and praise God for His gift of their Messiah?  Is this the "good news" in the angel's declaration (Luke 2:10) about the birth of Yeshua being "good news of great joy which will be for all the people"?   Or... is the truly good news declared by Paul when he tells us (Romans 11:26,32) that "all Israel will be saved" because "God has bound everyone over to disobedience [due to Adam] so that [through Christ] He may show mercy to all"?  If God will "show mercy to all" — and this good news inspires Paul to end Romans 9-11 by joyfully saying "the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God" is a reason to praise God, so "to Him be the glory forever!" — this would be the best possible story-ending for all people (for Jews and others) so it's what everyone should hope will happen.

 

Biblical Ambiguity about FA-versus-UR  —  I'm very confident that EM won't happen, but cannot confidently claim “it will be UR” or “it will be FA.”  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 UR (but FA has strong counter-arguments) and also strong support for FA (but UR has strong counter-arguments).     { Or maybe it's clear, and I'm just not seeing it.  But if there is clear biblically-supported winner, why are there differences among devout Bible-believing Christians, with some of us defending UR & FA (the views I think are biblically plausible) and even implausible EM? }

Why has God allowed this ambiguity?   maybe... it's 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."  If (as seems likely) God has intentionally allowed some ambiguity, to let us respond, to “see what we'll do with the ambiguity,” to “reveal the thoughts of our hearts,” this would be similar to the educational method of a teacher who produces opportunities for inquiry learning by causing a gap in knowledge – in conceptual knowledge (so students don't understand) or procedural knowledge (so they don't know what to do, or how) — that stimulates mental action, so students are allowed to think-do-learn.   {more about possible reasons for biblical ambiguity and Inquiry Learning with Educational Drama in Life & Afterlife}

also:  Why does this biblical ambiguity, plus our observational ambiguity – because God does not provide everyone with strong evidence for His existence-and-actions (He is not “being obvious”) – give us evidence for UR and against EM?

But I believe that ultimately — after our temporary uncertainty is gone, when we have more knowledge and better understanding, with a “big picture” overview of everything — every person will look back on what happened (to them and to all other people) in Life & in Afterlife, and they will say “it was fair, God was just, He was loving-and-good.”

 

My Relationships

with God  (is His character best with UR, and worst with EM?  with UR, is it easier to fully love God?  I think it's “yes” for all);

with unbelievers  (does The Bad News hinder evangelism?  can UR → better us-and-us feelings, instead of feeling us-and-them or us-versus-them?);

 

with believers,

Why do I feel disappointed and sad?  Because I think fellow Christians are saying untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God, and because within the community of believers there are strong pressures to conform, to avoid challenging culturally-accepted assumptions, to continuing believing that God will cause Eternal Misery for most of the people He has created.   /   But... should we continue saying these things, and exerting pressures to accept the current cultural assumptions?  or should we, like the noble Bereans, examine the biblical basis for doctrines-of-afterlife (that make claims about “what will happen in hell”) and openly discuss what we find?   if yes, of course we should communicate respectfully with love;  when we're doing this, useful principles are "in essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity."  When we're deciding whether a doctrine about “what will happen in hell” is essential, we should look at its importance-and-certainty by asking if it's theologically important {I think “no, it's not important enough to make this doctrine essential” even though it can have major effects on our thinking & actions} and if it's taught with certainty in the Bible {I think “no”}.  Also,...

We should understand the importance of “if” and thusbecause”,* so we will respectfully acknowledge that Bible-believing Christians – with appropriate humility (not too little, not too much) – can try to either defend EM-doctrine or criticize EM-doctrine.  This understanding of if-thus-because will make it easier to respectfully discuss doctrines about hell.  It's why even though I think fellow Christians are saying untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God when they say “God will cause (because He is sovereign) Eternal Misery for most of the people He created”, I think they are not motivated by disrespectful intentions (instead they are trying to honor God);  they are not intentionally saying slanderous (untrue-and-harmful) things about God. 

A section outlining the many biblical reasons to reject Eternal Misery ends by recognizing that "the process of choosing a hell-view usually is heavily influenced by non-biblical factors, like having mixed motives about hoping and wanting to maintain fear-motivation and avoid giving false hope and avoid conflicts.All people (including Christians) want to avoid conflicts that are internal and external, are personal and interpersonal.  We want to avoid the internal conflict that occurs when we hear a claim that “you've been wrong in your beliefs” or “your church has been wrong in its beliefs,” because these challenges produce unpleasant feelings in our minds & hearts.  And we want to avoid the external conflict that would occur if we resist the strong pressures to conform, to continue believing the culturally-accepted assumption of Eternal Misery.    {you can read more about relationships with other Christians that include internal conflicts due to cognitive dissonance, and external conflicts due to pressures that produce reasons for caution}

 

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

 
 

* In logic, “if” is an important concept.

When I evaluate the effects of our hell views on our thinking-and-feeling about God's character and I claim that "God would be least just-and-loving IF He will cause Eternal Misery," I'm not criticizing the actual character of God.  Why not?  Because I'm almost certain that God will not cause EM.  Therefore (in my logical thinking) an EM-causing God is only a false idea-about-God.  This false idea isn't God, instead it's an incorrect theory-claim invented by humans.  So all I'm criticizing is the character of this false idea that is not the actual character of God as He really is.

We should be gracious by using this logic of “if” for everyone.  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,     ” and they fill the blank in a way that will honor God.  They either...

  fill the blank by defending the ethics of EM, so their response will honor God, or
  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 
{ and one reason is that He is too good to cause EM }
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 either have concluded He will do, or He won't do.     {more about honoring God if-and-because}

But when the character of God is being evaluated by non-Christians, are they more likely to genuinely love God if they think He will cause people-harmful EM (or FA), or He will cause people-helpful UR?

if Eternal Misery will happen, this would not just be allowed by God, instead it would be caused by God, because...  God would be keeping a person alive forever and God would be allowing sin to stay alive forever by allowing the person's will to remain enslaved-to-sin instead of becoming freed-from sin.   {free will vs freed will}

Evangelism   —   If we believe that God will cause UR (it's The Best Possible Ending for God's Story) we can praise God for everything He has done, is doing, will do and we can enthusiastically proclaim this Good News.   But... are we less enthusiastic in proclaiming The Gospel if we (and usually the people we're talking with) assume that instead of it being Good News it's actually Mixed News because the Whole News is a mixing of 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 if you die unsaved, God hates you and forces a horrible plan onto your Afterlife because He will make you live forever in Eternal Misery.   —   by contrast, with FA there is less reason to be ashamed about The Bad News in Afterlife,  and with pUR we can tell people about The Extremely Good News of why we can enthusiastically praise God because of what He will do FOR people in pUR-Hell, if He uses purgatorial UR-Hell to heal all people (when he transforms each person into a totally-sanctified sinless person) and heal all relationships (when everyone forgives everyone, so all can be emotionally healed) and this praising can help us fully love God with our whole heart & whole mind, as commanded by Jesus.

Motivations  —  Why should we “say yes to God” and want to live by faith, to “continually say yes” in our everyday lives, in our thoughts-and-actions while we're living as dedicated followers of Jesus, as His faithful disciples?   —   To form a solid foundation for a life of devout discipleship (so God can help us be more effective in achieving His Great Commandments by fully loving God and fully loving people), what is a more effective motivator, fear of hell or love for God?*   {our whole-person motivations are intrinsic + extrinsic, can be based on love & fear, for Life and Afterlife}   {* for many people it really is fear OR love, because a fear of hell can lead to less love for God, if a person thinks God will cause Eternal Misery, and this belief makes it difficult to enthusiastically praise God for everything He does, including the horrible thing He would do TO people with EM-Hell}

Salvation  —  What is the main purpose of salvation?  Is it being saved from our slavery to sin?  Or is the main benefit being saved from God because – if He doesn't save us – He will eternally torment us, causing infinite misery?   /   All views (UR, FA, EM) propose that saved people will be saved from Hell (i.e. saved from this effect of our sins) in addition to being saved from our sins when we have become sinless, after God has sanctified us in a radical transformation.  But in FA & EM we are saved from what God will do TO people in Hell, by killing them or tormenting them;  by contrast, with pUR we are saved from the unpleasant process that will be used by God to produce beneficial results FOR people in Hell, because saved people will get the beneficial results with a less-unpleasant process.

 

Practical Effects for Living 

When we share The Gospel (The Good News), is “causing maximum fear” necessary?  is telling people The Bad News even useful?  maybe not.   —   But for many Christians, wanting to maintain motivation-by-fear is a major factor in saying “God will cause EM” because they worry that a non-Christian will think “I can believe later in Afterlife” (with UR) or (with FA) “death wouldn't be so bad.”  They think Christians should use the “infinitely big stick” of Eternal Misery, because this terrifying threat is necessary for effective “carrots and sticks” motivation.  In an effort to motivate more conversions to Christianity, we should tell people “if you don't convert, God will torment you forever with Eternal Misery” or (because belief-in-EM is typically assumed in our culture) at least we should not challenge their cultural assumptions;  we should avoid telling them that “God won't cause Eternal Misery.”  Although these concerns about responses (about what might happen if we proclaim UR or FA, instead of EM) are justifiable, the realities of responses are more complex.   —   When people hear claims for pUR (or FA) instead of EM, rational people should respond by “saying yes to God” now, because their Life will be better now, and later their Afterlife will be better, so at all times (during Life & Afterlife) their living will be better.  But there is diversity in how people actually will respond.   —   If a person thinks a view (whether it's UR, FA, or EM) will happen, this belief affects them in many ways;  their belief will have some positive effects on their thinking (and responding) but also some negative effects, and the overall result – when combining all of the positives & negatives of “the thinking-and-feeling that is stimulated by their view” – will vary from one person to another.*  For example, when people hear about pUR and the biblical reasons to believe it, one person will think “I won't say YES to God now, because I can do this later in Afterlife” or decide to “run wild with sin,” while another person thinks “now that I believe God won't cause EM, I can trust Him and love Him, and I will.”  And if a person thinks EM will happen, they may fearfully think “I must love God now, because if I don't He will torment me forever,” or they may think “because God will do this, I cannot trust Him and love Him,” or “if God exists He would be too wise-and-loving to do this, so I conclude that God doesn't exist, therefore He won't cause EM” and...   if a person thinks EM probably won't happen – e.g. because they believe in God and they think He is wise-and-loving so He won't punish finite sinning with infinite suffering (instead He will cause FA or UR), and they have carefully studied the Bible to see what it actually teaches instead of assuming they already know – they won't be motivated by a fear of EM because they think EM won't happen;  the strength of a deterrent depends on its unpleasantness AND our belief that it will happen, so for many people a plausible UR-Hell (or plausible FA-Hell) could be a stronger deterrent than an implausible EM-Hell.  {e.g. if you're a Christian, do you fear Allah torturing you in Islamic-Hell?}

* When we compare "the overall result" of "positive effects" plus "negative effects" for the three views, generally EM will have the largest fear-motivation but smallest love-motivation, with threats of Eternal Misery "drawing more people in" because they are motivated by fear, but "pushing more people away" because they don't want to trust-or-love a God who would cause EM, and [[iou - later these ideas will be written more neatly:  there is a tradeoff among the three views, because fears about EM typically produce the strongest perseverance (due to fear of falling away into hell) but the smallest love-based discipleship, the smallest genuine worship that doesn't require thinking inside categorical boxes (by just not thinking about the EM-causing actions of God) or adopting an "oh well" response to people suffering eternal misery.]]

 

Evangelistic Responsibilities   —   all Christians should try to accurately describe what the Bible teaches, and accurately describe the character & actions (past, present, future) of God.  —  We should try to avoid giving the false hope that would occur if a person claims “UR will happen” if UR won't happen (in the actual Afterlife-reality),  and wanting to avoid this huge mistake is a reason to think we should maximize fear-motivation by claiming “EM will happen”;   we also should try to avoid causing the false fear that would occur if a person claims “EM will happen” if EM won't happen,  and wanting to avoid this huge mistake (if we're saying untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God, leading many listeners to think “because God will cause EM, I cannot trust Him and love Him”) is a reason to think we should not try to maximize fear-motivation.  Each "avoid" is important, but (due to biblical ambiguity) it's impossible to know which "if" (about Afterlife-reality) is correct, so we cannot know-with-certainty that we're avoiding either giving false hope or causing false fear.     {claiming “FA will happen” would cause false hope if EM actually will happen,  or it would cause false fear if UR will happen.}   {what would be worse, FA or EM?}

 

Divine Justice

We should have appropriate humility (not too little, not too much) when we're thinking about the character of God and His divine justice, starting with our thinking about...

• the overall change from Before Life to The Result of Afterlife:   with each view of Afterlife (UR, FA, EM), for Saved People the change is from nothing to Eternal Joy (this is wonderful);   for Unsaved People,   with Ultimate Restoration it's from nothing to Eternal Joy (this is wonderful),   or with Final Annihilation it's from nothing to nothing (this is neutral, and seems fair, but isn't wonderful),   or it's from nothing to Eternal Misery (this is horrible and it seems unfair, especially because these people never asked to be born, yet they will experience infinite misery because God forced them to have Life-and-Afterlife).    /    a big question:  If you had been asked before you were born, would you choose to be born into Life-and-Afterlife?  (should you say “yes” if the Afterlife-for-unsaved will be UR?  if FA?  if EM?)  {if you say “no” because you think the fate of most people will be Eternal Misery, should the birth of a child be a reason for joyful celebration or sad mourning?}  {my answers}    /    It's impossible to imagine how a person who realizes that they (or many others) will be permanently suffering in Eternal Misery could say “I thank God for creating me” and “I'm totally satisfied with what God gave me (and others) in Life & Afterlife,” although everyone will be thankful if God instead causes Ultimate Restoration.

• why isn't God more obvious about His existence & activities?   maybe... one reason is because God uses ambiguities to challenge believers, to teach us valuable lessons about Life, helping us learn how to live by faith?   but... How does being non-obvious affect a person who dies as an unsaved nonbeliever, but who might have “said yes” with stronger persuasion by God, if the evidence had been more obvious?   i.e., What are the differences in results — if their Afterlife will be UR, or FA, or EM — if in reality “insufficient evidence → saying no to God” instead of “sufficient evidence → saying yes to God” ?   IF God is being intentionally non-obvious (to teach lessons,...) and the results-for-nonbelievers would be most tragic with EM, why does this provide evidence against EM?    {i.e. would you expect God to provide more evidence-during-Life if the results-for-nonbelievers will be UR, or EM?  are questions about divinely-provided evidence similar, in some ways, to human evangelistic responsibilities for “not giving false hope” and “not causing false fear” ?}

take a few minutes (or a few hours, days, or months,...) to vividly imagine an experience of eternal misery with torment that never.......... ends.

• if God annihilates an unsaved person, would this be merciful?   “yes” when FA is compared with EM, but “no” if FA is compared with UR, because it's mercifully “yes” if Annihilation prevents their Eternal Misery, but is a sad “no” if Annihilation prevents their Eternal Joy.     {does God “throw away” people?  my small triage and God's Huge Triage}

• what are God's purposes for the general resurrection of all people?  Although we cannot know for certain,...  A noble purpose seems clear – to eventually achieve justice with love – if God will use pUR-Hell to produce universal Ultimate Restoration, after a full restoring of all people and all relationships so resurrection is a “win” for everyone.  By contrast, although FA and EM propose a full restoring of some people {those who were saved}, any restoring that's done for other people {those who were unsaved} would provide no lasting benefits for these people because they will die (with FA) or will never escape from Hell (with EM).  With FA or EM, resurrecting unsaved people would not be beneficial for them;  it would not be love in action for them.  And in the biblical context of God commanding every Christian to "love your neighbor [including those who are unsaved?] as you love yourself," would the resurrection of unsaved people offer any benefits for saved people?   /   It's especially difficult to see any purposes that are biblically worthy — are useful for achieving the righteous goals-for-justice desired by God (as described in His Bible),  are consistent with the just-and-loving character of God that we see in the Bible — if with EM all previously-dead unsaved people are given life so God can then give them an Afterlife of Eternal Misery.  {is the infinite misery of EM necessary?  could it ever achieve justice?  in what ways could it be loving?}   /   With FA, if God will resurrect people to “show them why they deserve to be killed” before He kills them with FA, this would serve a purpose, although a response of “why bother doing this to them, if they're just going to die?” seems justifiable.

 

it seems to me that with FA or EM, God could not produce degrees of suffering in Hell in a satisfactory way, but He could do this with pUR.  How?  In the pUR-Hell I'm imagining, the suffering caused by a person in Life (what they sowed) will lead to the sorrowful suffering they feel in Afterlife (what they will reap) and this seems fair because pUR produces personally-customized accountability for all actions (so if more suffering caused in Life, then more suffering received in Afterlife) with God achieving justice for the victims of their sinning.  During this process, God would not cause suffering for the purpose of achieving justice (or for the purpose of inflicting pain), instead His main purpose would be to sanctify persons and to heal relationships.  How?  Maybe... life-review videos will produce mutual empathies and understandings, so everyone forgives everyone, with each person feeling satisfied that justice has been achieved for them and for everyone else.  During the educational corrective-and-healing process used by God to achieve His worthy goals (to heal persons & relationships and achieve justice) a “side effect” would be the suffering felt by each person.  But a person would not earn their salvation by their own suffering, instead salvation would be a gracious gift from God;  Jesus earned our salvation when He voluntarily died in our place (with His death atoning for our sins) and then rose to life (with victory over death) to show us that He also will give us Life after Death.

the Bible tells us that God wants justice, and God is loving, so... does God want to achieve justice-WITH-love for everyone?   if God wants this, how could He do it?  and will He do it?

re: situations and results, is Life fair?  —  no, Life isn't fair;  but Life-plus-Afterlife could be more fair IF, in Afterlife,   ?   (how could God fill the blank to make it more fair?)   and will God want to do this? (i.e. WWJD?)   {how to make it more fair}

• righteousness is justice:  in Greek the word [dikaiosuné] that means righteousness — achieved when things (people & situations) are right, are the way they should be — also means justice;  if God will cause pUR, He would use education-correction-healing in pUR-Hell to produce righteous justice that makes things right, that produces healed people and healed relationships to achieve a full Restoration of everything so it ultimately becomes what He always wanted it to be.

salvation by personal merit?  does a saved person earn their Eternal Joy because they have a good heart and (by making a wise decision) a smart mind?  does an unsaved person earn their Eternal Misery because they have an evil heart and an unwise mind?  {logically, our answers for both questions must be the same – either “yes, yes” or “no, no” – so logically you cannot say “no, salvation is not earned by personal merit” but “yes, damnation is earned, is deserved”} {i.e. if you reject universal salvation, logically you must conclude that either "salvation (and damnation) occur due to merit" or that people who remain unsaved are not responsible for their damnation, yet they receive it anyway}   But if our merit-in-Life doesn't earn us our results-in-Afterlife, are the results justifiable and fair?  this question is especially important for people who are unsaved-in-Life if in Afterlife the results will be binary:

• is it possible for binary justice to be fair?  can you imagine a way to achieve true justice if there is only Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery for a person who dies unsaved, and who...   dies young?  is a moron?    was predestined for hell?  can choose (with free will – based on the quality of their heart-and-mind?) but is “dealt a bad hand” in Life?  e.g. by becoming devoted to the dominant non-Christian religion in their family/culture?   seems to be a saved believer, but then backslides and un-believes?   /   if salvation will depend on beliefs and/or actions, with the quality of each (beliefs, actions) varying along a range for different people, and if there will be a “dividing line” between saved & unsaved – with some people just above this line (so they get Eternal Joy) but others just below it (so they get Eternal Misery) even though their overall quality-scores (for beliefs and/or actions) are almost identical – would this be fair?  if not, is this a reason for God to avoid binary judging?   {more about the difficulties of achieving true justice with binary justice}

• are we free to choose?  Usually we live as if we have free will.  But... during Life do any of us have a will that is truly free IF our hearts-and-minds are enslaved by sin?  (i.e. IF as claimed by Calvin, every person has a Total Inability to “say YES to God” if this depends on the goodness of their own heart-and-mind, so God must decide for us and cause us to say YES?)   UR claims that God will give everyone a freed will during Afterlife, so ultimately everyone will freely choose to be saved. 

• 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?   and if God does this, will you be praising His generosity in Afterlife?  { of course, you should say “yes” because Ultimate Restoration, with God saving everyone, would certainly be a reason to praise God in Afterlife;  therefore, during Life we should hope for UR;  but during Life, with all of its complexities, are there any reasons for a Christian to havemixed feelings that will decrease their hoping for everyone to be saved with UR, and decrease their optimism that UR will happen? }   Every person, including all Christians and all non-Christians, should sincerely hope (with all of their heart & mind, their feeling & thinking) that what eventually happens will be...

The Best Possible Ending for Our Story, because God has caused universal Ultimate Restoration for every person who ever lived, so ultimately in The Final State every person will look back (now with full knowledge) on everything that happened, and will say “I thank God for creating me, for giving me life, because I'm totally satisfied with what God gave me (and others) in Life & Afterlife;  everything done by God was good, and I'm joyfully thankful for everything.

 

 

 

 
 

 

Bible-Based Evidence
for Ultimate Restoration

in the Bible and Church History and

by Logically Combining Popular Theologies:

The following sections explain why Eternal Misery (EM) is not supported, and purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR, or UR) is supported, when we carefully examine what the Bible teaches about the purpose of Hell, and what was believed by early church leaders, and when we logically combine theologies of divine sovereignty.

 
 

In the early church, many Christian leaders (perhaps most) believed that God will save all peopleWhy?  It was mainly because of what they learned when they carefully studied the Bible.

 

• AB) The strong biblical support for Ultimate Reconciliation comes in two stages.

• A)  Conditional Immortality versus Unconditional Immortality:   Conditional Immortality is clearly taught in the Bible in what God does with His "tree of life" (removed in Genesis & restored in Revelation) to produce His merciful death penalty for sin (seen throughout the Bible) along with penal substitutionary atonement (to justify His salvation of us, although His substitution would not be satisfactory if He will cause EM), and more.   Conditional Immortality would occur with Ultimate Restoration or Final Annihilation (but not with Eternal Misery) so a second stage compares...

• B)  Ultimate Restoration versus Final Annihilation:   In the Bible, God tells us (in some places) that He wants to save all people, and (in some places) that He will save all people (to produce Ultimate Restoration), 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 Romans 11:33-36) our worship: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ... For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever. Amen." *   The birth of Jesus was "good news of great joy which will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10) so we joyfully "have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:10) because Jesus came "to save the world" (John 12:47) by becoming "the atoning sacrifice... for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2) so He "takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29) and is "the Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14) in a process that will be actualized when (in Life or in Afterlife) God saves every person, because — like a good shepherd who loves all of his sheep and wants to find-and-save every sheep (or coin or son, as Jesus tells us in Luke 15 where the numbers remaining lost are 0-of-100, 0-of-10, 0-of-2) — God will "go after the one that is lost, until he finds it." (Luke 15:4)   If you have not "settled matters" with other people, "you may be thrown into prison... [and] you will not get out until you have paid the last penny" (Matthew 5:26) but ultimately – when "until" has happened for every person – God will (through Jesus Christ) "reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:15-20) so (Philippians 2:11) "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow... [and] every tongue will confess [with sincerity and loving admiration] that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."     /     * This conclusion of Romans 9-11, with "mercy to all" and thus "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."     {more – there are many other UR-supporting passages in the New Testament & Old Testament}    Also, consider the connections between...

 

Fire and Baptism and Death:  These are related in ways that support pUR, with “big picture” connections between Matthew 3 — IF when Jesus baptizes with fire He will burn the evil "chaff" in a person's character so only the good "wheat" remains in their character, analogous to Matthew 13 if a person's "weeds" {the evil parts of their character} are burned so only their "wheat" {their good character} remains, analogous to 1 Corinthians 3 when "the fire will test" each person's works and some will be "burned up" but the person "will be saved... through fire" — and comparing Revelation 20 (if baptism with fire by immersion in The Lake of Fire produces a purifying death-of-sin during Afterlife) with Romans 6 (when baptism with water by immersion in a lake of water symbolizes a purifying death-of-sin during Life).   {more about the connections}

 

We also see that when pUR is compared with FA or EM,  pUR is more consistent with what the Bible tells us about the character of God (with love in action) when we ask the most important WWJD-Question, “What Will Jesus Do?

 

Above, you've seen strong biblical evidence-for-UR.

Below, you'll see that biblical evidence-against-UR is much weaker when this evidence is evaluated logically — when we understand what UR is & isn't, and we use only biblical evidence that challenges the actual claims of Christian UR that is Bible-based so it's purgatorial and exclusivist — and IF God will continue to graciously offer salvation to people who repent-and-believe during Afterlife.  For example, a color-coded table comparing the 3 views shows two kinds of verses (about suffering in hell and the narrow road with two kinds of people) that are weak evidence against UR,  but one kind of verse (about God hating sin) that is strong evidence against EM:

    • verses that describe suffering in hell are not evidence-against-UR because all views (including UR) agree that some people will suffer, with weeping & gnashing.
    • verses describing the narrow road of salvation are not evidence-against-UR because all views (EM, FA, and biblical non-pluralistic exclusivist UR) agree that the road is narrow, that salvation requires faith in Jesus, with genuine repentance;   and even though few people are traveling the narrow road now (during Life), this does not mean that few will ever travel it, either now in Life (acknowledged by UR, FA, EM) or (as proposed by UR) later in Afterlife.  Logically, “few traveling it now” is not evidence-against-UR unless a person already has used illogical circular reasoning that begins (for reasons independent from these verses) with a prior conclusion that “it's now or never” because salvation-in-Afterlife is impossible, therefore UR is impossible.  More generally, using similar logic,...
    • verses describing two kinds of people (already-saved & temporarily-unsaved) are not evidence-against-UR "unless a person already has used illogical circular reasoning [to conclude that]... therefore UR is impossible."  Logically, "two kinds of people" is not evidence (or it's very weak evidence) because UR agrees that most people — all who were not traveling the narrow road during Life, so they were unsaved when they died — will continue being unsaved during some not-yet-final periods of time in Afterlife.  These times will include a penultimate state (semifinal state) when unsaved people are being sanctified in purgatorial UR-Hell, where divine fire is purifying them until their sin is gone, until God has prepared them for their ultimate state (their final state) in His sinless Ultimate Restoration,  when God has healed all persons and all relationships (with each person being purified so they have no sin, so they can be totally reconciled with all other people and with God, so they fully love people and fully love God), when there will be one kind of person (saved).     {also: in the Old Testament, several times we see God telling His people that first He will bring judgement on them, but later He will restore them, as explained by Robin Parry}   {but... will there be any process-differences and outcome-differences between people who were earlier-saved or earlier-unsaved at the end of their Life?}  {more - in a shorter summary (about the two meanings of ultimate) and a longer description}
    • verses that seem to describe two kinds of people (with one kind being thrown into fire) may actually be describing two kinds of character within a person (and their evil character being eliminated by divine fire). 
    • by contrast, verses telling us that God hates sin (and wants to eliminate it) are strong evidence-against-EM because with EM (but not with UR or FA) SINNING would continue forever because God would be forcing unsaved SINNERS to live forever with misery, in the final state of the world He created, and these people would continue to sinfully hate God forever.     {defenders of EM often claim that UR & FA “don't take sin seriously,” that only EM (not UR or FA) would be a satisfactory divine response to sin, but is this criticism justifiable?  no, because with EM sin is preserved, but sin is eliminated with UR or FA.}

 


 

a “big picture” view of Fire and Death and Baptism

Above is a summary of connections between these biblically-important concepts.  Below are some highlights from a full-length version (where you'll find important details that help explain the ideas more thoroughly) with each "{.....}" showing where big chunks of text have been omitted, leaving only "some highlights."   /   IOU – Later I'll re-write these sections to make a detailed summary, instead of this longer detailed summary-in-highlight-quotes:

 

Second Death in The Lake of Fire could be:   total death (if Final Annihilation, FA);   or (if purgatorial Ultimate Restoration, pUR) the death-of-sin that is symbolized by death-with-Christ during baptism, as in Romans 6;   or (if Eternal Misery, EM) a living death.   These would end the sinner's existence or sinful nature or quality of life, using fire that kills or purifies or torments. 

There are strong biblical reasons to reject EM so I'll focus on FA and pUR in this section, when looking at Fire and Death and Baptism, beginning with...

 

Fire that Consumes:

When we're comparing FA and pUR, we can imagine two ways for a divine consuming fire (in the lake of fire) to destroy, to annihilate.  Throughout the Bible, fire often symbolizes the divine presence-and-power & action of God, often manifested in a consuming fire that...   would be a person-damaging hurtful fire of God if He uses The Lake of Fire to consume a sinner, to annihilate the person;   would be a person-improving helpful fire of God if He uses The Lake of Fire to consume sin within a person, to annihilate their sin, to purify the person, to restore them by correcting-and-healing them.   {.....}   (a reminder: this ..... means that "big chunks of text have been omitted")

 

Death producing Life:

How can death lead to life?  In Romans 6:1-14, Paul connects our death-to-sin with the death-of-Jesus (in His crucifixion) and the death of our old life, and he connects our re-birth to a new life with the re-birth of Jesus (in His resurrection).  Paul explains [using the symbolism of baptism] that "{.....} we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life."  This is a way to describe the process of becoming a born-again Christian:  a person's old sinful nature must die (analogous to the death of Christ) so they can be transformed by God (as in the resurrection of Christ) to "walk in newness of life."   {.....}   In pUR the Second Death of an unsaved person would be their unpleasant educational corrective-and-healing experience in Hell (with beneficial guiding & empowering by the Holy Spirit) that causes their spiritual death (of old) and rebirth (of new) so they can become totally sanctified (personally) and (interpersonally) totally reconciled with people & with God, by fully loving people & God.

 

Baptism with Fire:

In the typical biblical baptism, a person is immersed in water.  When during Life a person is thrown into a lake of water their experience is immersion in water as in a baptism with water.  By analogy, when during Afterlife a person is thrown into the lake of fire their experience might be immersion in fire as in a baptism with fire.   {.....}   If the lake of fire will be a baptism with fire by Jesus, He could {as John the Baptist tells us in Matthew 3} "burn up" a person's "chaff [the evil parts of their character]" so He can "gather His wheat [only the good parts of this person's character] into the barn."

 

You can see relationships (between passages

examined above and below) in this diagram:

connections between fire & baptism & death

• some relational connections between Fire & Baptism & Death, in Matthew 3 and Revelation 20 and Romans 6:   if God — with grace motivated by a divine desire for justice-AND-love — will cause purgatorial Ultimate Restoration, probably His process of salvation-with-sanctification will use baptism with fire (Matthew 3) to purify an unsaved person with Second Death in The Lake of Fire (Revelation 20) by burning up the evil "chaff" within them (Matthew 3) so all that remains is their good "wheat" after they have been transformed by God into the totally purified righteous person He always wanted them to be.  In this way their Second Death would be a total death-of-sin, analogous to the partial death-of-sin ...

     that is symbolized by death-with-Christ in baptism using water (Romans 6) for a saved Christian whose purifying process begins in Life when God is producing healing restorations (transforming them into a partly purified person who becomes “born again” after God raises them from a symbolic death-with-Christ in their water baptism, before their First Death);   and ...
     this might occur by death-with-Christ in baptism using fire (Revelation 20) for an unsaved person whose purifying process occurs in Afterlife when God produces healing restorations (transforming them into a totally purified person who becomes “born again” after God raises them from a symbolic death-with-Christ in their fire baptism that is their Second Death).
 
 

In the lake of fire that is hell, will divine fire burn up the entire person (to produce FA) or (producing pUR) only their evil character?

 

Wheat and Weeds

One kind of support claimed for FA (or EM) is parables in which FA claims that Jesus is saying “there are two kinds of people, and one kind will be killed by God.”  For example, in Matthew 13 (24-30 & 36-43) Jesus tells a parable about wheat & weeds — symbolizing good people & evil people {or saved people & unsaved people} in FA's interpretation — and "at the end of the age" the "weeds" will be "burned with fire" in "the furnace of fire" where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."  But pUR has a strong counter-argument by claiming that the wheat & weeds are the good & evil within one person, and in "the furnace of fire" the person's evil (their sinful evil character that leads to sinful feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions) will be "burned with fire" so "then [after their evil sin is burned away by divine fire in The Lake of Fire with a process that will be unpleasant for them so they will “weep and gnash” but will be beneficial for them] the righteous [the people whose character previously included both good & evil, but now is only good] will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."   {.....}

seeds in two parables:  Jesus tells us about seeds in His two major parables of Matthew 13, described and explained first in 1-9 and 18-23 (parable of The Sower & Seed & Soils), and then (parable of The Wheat & Weeds) in 24-30 and 36-43.

word-seed and son-seed:  Jesus tells us that "the seed" is "the word of the kingdom" {in Sower Parable}, and {in Wheat Parable} He "sows the good seed" that is "the sons of the kingdom."  The relationship between word-seed and son-seed supports a pUR-interpretation of The Wheat Parable.  Why?  Because there is a cause-effect relationship IF — when "word of the kingdom" {Sower Parable} is actualized in the life of a person — this causes "sons of the kingdom" {Wheat Parable} that is good character, is good feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions.  This actualization in living (with "word of the kingdom" causing "sons of the kingdom") occurs when a person lets Jesus be their King (so they are a loyal subject of His kingdom) so they let His words “abide in their mind-and-heart” as described in His promise (John 15:7) that "if you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you."     /     Each kind of seed – His word-seed (in Sower Parable) and the good son-seed character caused by His word (in Wheat Parable) – is beneficial, spiritually and practically.  These seeds are mutually supportive, with "word of the kingdom" spiritually causing "sons of the kingdom" that are practical spiritual fruits of the kingdom, and these beneficial fruits showing people how "the word of the kingdom" is fruitful in practical ways.     /     also:  using analogy-logic, if "word of the kingdom" {seed in Sower Parable} is not-people, maybe "sons of the kingdom" {seed in Wheat Parable} also is not-people.

good sons and evil sons:  In the Sower Parable, "weeds" are described as "stumbling blocks" (evil character) and "sons of the evil one."  If there is a cause-effect relationship between the seeds, with "word of the kingdom" (seed in Sower Parable) being actualized-in-living so they cause "sons of the kingdom" (good seed in Wheat Parable) with good feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions,  maybe "sons of the evil one" (bad seed in Wheat Parable) occur when words of the non-kingdom (that oppose God's kingdom) are actualized-in-living to cause "sons of the evil one" with evil feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions.   {.....}

wheat/chaff and wheat/weeds:  This analogy – made by comparing wheat & chaff (in Matthew 3) with wheat & weeds (in Matthew 13) – supports pUR because wheat & chaff are parts of the same plant, so maybe wheat & weeds are parts of the same person, are the good & evil parts of a person's character.  Both passages are describing the same process — when the divine baptizing-fire of Jesus burns up only the chaff (but not the wheat) in Matthew 3 — IF in Matthew 13 this divine baptizing-fire burns up only a person's evil sinfulness (weeds), so the person is purified-from-sin and restored (with UR) instead of (with FA) burning up the entire evil person, killing them with fire.   {.....}   We expect a baptism by Jesus to provide benefits for the person who is being baptized, and with pUR it's beneficial, but with FA (or EM) it's damaging.

 

 

Currently I'm optimistic that Ultimate Reconciliation will happen, about 75% confident.  Why this high?  Because overall, when everything is considered, I think UR can logically respond to claims of evidences-against-UR more effectively than FA or (especially) EM can logically respond to claims of evidences-for-UR.  Why this low? (i.e. why not 100% ?)   Because despite the effective logical responses by UR, I think there is...

ambiguity in UR-versus-FA:   Based on my careful studying of what the Bible teaches about three views, I'm very confident that only two views of “what will happen in Hell” — purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR, aka UR) and Final Annihilation (FA), but not Eternal Misery — are biblically justifiable possibilities.  Why do I think it could be two views, instead of one view?  It's because

    defenders of FA have “answers” (but are they satisfactory?) for pro-UR arguments that include pro-UR verses you see above plus other verses;  and
    defenders of UR have “answers” (but are they satisfactory?) for pro-FA arguments that include pro-FA verses like Second Death in The Lake of Fire and statements about two kinds of people (with one kind being burned with fire) and others.

Therefore we see biblical ambiguity due to biblical support for UR but also for FA.  For example, the Bible doesn't clearly say “yes” or “no” when we ask two important questions:  “can God (and will God) save a person in their Afterlife if this person is rejecting Christ at the end of their Life?”     { I.O.U. – Later, I'll describe some of the Bible-based logical arguments and counter-arguments (and counter-counter-arguments,...) that can be used to defend UR, or to defend FA.}

One kind of strong Bible-based evidence is theological, because of what the Bible tells us about character of God, by telling us that He is loving, and He wants justice.  It seems to me that the best way to achieve justice (= righteousness) is for God to heal all people and all relationships to lovingly produce The Best Possible Ending for His Story with universal Ultimate Restoration, by restoring every person so they will be what He always wanted them to be.  When I think about how wonderful this would be, how just-and-loving God would be (with love-in-action producing righteousness that is justice) if He does this, if He has decided to end His story this way, it gives me a strong reason to enthusiastically praise God for everything He is and does (including what He will do for people in Hell, will do for their benefit by destroying their sinful nature) so it helps me more fully love God with my whole heart-and-mind.

But even though there is ambiguity and thus uncertainty, I'm noticing a trend in my viewsthe more I'm learning about UR, the more optimistic I'm becoming, due to my increased understanding of the strong biblical support for pUR (and the weak biblical support against pUR) when all things are considered.

Here is a history of my rough estimates:  After 23 years of studying, in 2010 my estimates for each view were {98% FA, 1% EM, 1% UR};  but starting in 2014 when I began learning more about UR this changed to about 50-50 between FA and UR;  and now in 2021 it's roughly {75% UR, 25% FA, 0% EM}, with it being "roughly" because my estimates for the reality-truth of UR can range from 60% to 90% (depending on how I'm weighting different aspects of the overall evidence) with an average of 75%, about 3/4 confident.

 


 

We see another biblical reason to believe Ultimate Restoration when we...

    logically combine Theologies of Sovereignty, and conclude that

    IF divine love plus divine power, THEN Ultimate Restoration.

Two popular systems of theology — with differing answers for the important question of “who does what?” (i.e. “how does God choose to use His divine sovereignty?”) 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.

When we accept two claims about God's fatherly love and sovereign power, in claims (each accepted by Arminians or by Calvinists) that...

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

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

 

Or, with a brief summary:  IF divine love plus divine power, THEN Ultimate Restoration.

 

This IF-IF-THEN logical statement is similar to the difficult IF-IF-THEN logical questions challenging our claims for a powerful-and-loving God:

1) IF God is all-powerful, and IF God is all-loving, THEN why does God allow suffering now during Life?

2) IF God is all-powerful, and IF God is all-loving, THEN why would God allow Eternal Misery later during Afterlife? *

Typically #1 is answered by explaining that...  1A) God shared our suffering when He came to live with us, and die for us;   1B) the current suffering of people is temporary, it's only during Life, and eventually (after Life is over) God will use the suffering for our benefit.  When we apply these explanations for Afterlife in #2, the love-in-action of Jesus (described in 1A) is equally true for 2A.  But if God will cause Eternal Misery in Afterlife, the logic of 1B (with “ends justifying the means” because the suffering is temporary and it produces benefits) becomes illogical if it's used for 2B-and-EM (because for most people the suffering is permanent and it produces no benefits).

 

* 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, Calvinistic claims about sovereignty should be separated from claims about Eternal Misery, but historically these two claims are connected. }

* But... Arminians who are not Universalists can claim that God does “get what He wants” if He forever (in the past, present, future) allows human free-will decisions that include deciding whether to accept or reject the grace He offers — because although God does want to save everyone, He also wants (even more than this) to allow human free will — and some humans will continue deciding to reject Him.  This claim seems biblically-logical, although it's rejected by Calvinists (for reasons that are biblical & logical) and also by Christians who claim that God will not allow a result of eternally lasting misery (or death) to be determined by foolish decisions by people during Life when their will was enslaved by sin.  Instead, God will transform them in UR-Hell so they have a freed will that no longer is enslaved to sin, so will be truly free and they can make a wise free-will decision.

* Because we are Bible-believing Christians who believe that God is all-powerful, we should ask an even stronger question:  why would God cause Eternal Misery in Afterlife?  because life depends on God and quality of life depends on God, if there is eternal life (that depends on God) that is miserable life (that depends on God, because He could change it from misery to joy if He wanted this), it seems that God would be causing (not just allowing) the Eternal Misery.   {why am I very confident that this won't happen?}

 

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 total sovereignty of God) does not require historic traditional Calvinism (= logical Calvinism + Eternal Misery), so logical Calvinism and traditional Calvinism should be evaluated independently.

 

 


 

Early Church History provides evidence against Eternal Misery and evidence for Conditional Immortality (i.e., for Final Annihilation or for Ultimate Restoration).

writers of the Bible:  In what they spoke (as recorded in Acts of the Apostles) and wrote (in 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.  It's very probable that this absence of EM — the number of times they mention it is... zero — shows us that they did not believe EM.  And 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 were written, post-apostolic leaders of the early church were able to read these books in their native language of Greek, so their understandings were not hindered by translations that were biased to support EM.  In the first five centuries of church history, extra-biblical writings of prominent “church fathers” show that all three views (Ultimate Restoration, 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 – say 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}

the big changes:  Later, EM became the dominant view, mainly for reasons that were linguistic (by producing-and-reading misleading biased translations that led people to believe EM, when the Bible was translated from Greek into Latin and other languages, which distorted the thinking of Augustine and of those who were influenced by him), philosophical (due to the influence of non-Biblical philosophies claiming intrinsic non-dependent unconditional 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}

   

 

 

What are my views?

 

an option:  You can first read a brief summary and then a short overview in the Table of Contents.

 

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

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

B.  The other views — Ultimate Restoration (UR) and Final Annihilation (FA) — have strong biblical support,* and I think each is a possibility.  Therefore, although I'm a confident Conditionalist (in claiming “UR or FA will happen, and EM won't happen”), I'm not highly confident in claiming that either “UR will happen” or “FA will happen, so UR won't happen.”   But I strongly 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) so they will 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 (combining my hope and optimism)...

•• I'm a hopeful-and-optimistic Christian Universalist.   I'm a very confident Christian Conditionalist who is confident due to the strong biblical evidence for Conditional Immortality so I conclude that UR or FA will happen, and EM won't happen.

 

* There is biblical supporting evidence 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, concluding "FA or UR will happen") plus biblical ambiguity — I'm confident about Conditional Immortality, and am optimistic about universal Ultimate Restoration.     {in my first stage – from 1987 to 2014, before I began learning more about UR – I quickly concluded (by the end of 1987) that EM wouldn't happen, and then (from 1995 to 2010) I wrote-and-revised two papers (long & 1-page) about EM-versus-FA}     /    a clarification:  I think a Bible-believing Christian Universalist should be a purgatorial Christian Universalist who proposes strong exclusivism (by claiming “only Jesus saves” so other roads do not lead to God and explicit belief in Jesus-as-savior is necessary for salvation) and believes people who were unsaved during Life will experience Hell (in The Lake of Fire) during Afterlife.

Personal Feelings:  I have mixed feelings about two related challenges for UR because for many listeners less fear will be produced by UR than by EM.  But I think we should emphasize love (instead of fear) as our main motive for “saying yes to God,” and most people will be able to love God more fully (to obey His Greatest Commandment) if they believe He will heal everyone with UR, and they will find it more difficult to love God fully if they believe He will most people with EM.  And I have mixed feelings about fellow Christians — I'm disappointed in them (because usually they “assume a conclusion” instead of carefully studying the Bible) and I'm sad (because I think they are saying false-and-horrible things about the character of God, about what Jesus Will Do although I think that in doing this they are trying to love-and-honor God) — and mixed feelings about sharing my views with them.

 

Persuading Myself (becoming more optimistic & more hopeful):  The more I'm learning about UR, the more optimistic I'm becoming, due to my increased understanding of the strong biblical support for UR when all things are considered.  Also, I'm becoming more hopeful that UR will happen, because the results would be extremely good, so the actions of God would be extremely good;  in pUR-Hell, God could do love-in-action by producing the good results of healing all people and all relationships;  these results would give us strong reasons to praise God because of what He will do for people (not just to people) in purgatorial UR-Hell.  Because the best results — the most loving, most good — would be produced in UR-Hell (not in FA-Hell or EM-Hell), and because the Bible tells us that God is loving-and-good, we have a strong biblically-logical reason to be more optimistic.

Persuading Others (by using Bible-based logic):  In many parts of this page, I defend the biblical credibility of UR.  Why?  I'm very confident that God will not cause Eternal Misery in Afterlife, that instead He will do either purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR, or just UR)* — by using Hell to purge unsaved people of their sins, to purify & restore them, to reconcile them with other people and with Himself — or Final Annihilation (FA).  When we compare pUR/UR with FA, I think there is no clear winner but overall ("when all things are considered") I think the biblical support is stronger for UR.  And I'm strongly hoping that UR will happen, as explained above in Persuading Myself.  I'm also hoping more Christians will join me in being hopeful-and-optimistic that God will cause Ultimate Restoration to happen.   /   And even more strongly, I want more Christians to reject the doctrine of Eternal Misery, beginning below with Two Bible-Based Reasons to reject Eternal Misery.

 
 

 

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

Many Reasons:  Also — in addition to God's use of Conditional Immortality (to mercifully solve the problems of Sin & Death without causing sin to exist forever and without causing unsatisfactory substitution for substitutionary atonement) 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, in their biblical sermons & letters, never describe 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;  and...
    from the Bible because it contains evidence for Final Annihilation and also evidence for Ultimate Restoration with God seeming to declare (in some places) that He will save all people, and in some 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 there is a lack of support for Eternal Misery in the few isolated “hell verses” that often are mis-translated or mis-interpreted yet 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."

 


 

an option:  You can first read a short overview in the Table of Contents.

 

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

 

Conditional Immortality  —  God will cause a person to be immortal IF they are saved.

Immortality:  The Bible teaches that instead of creating humans with immortality, God created humans for immortality that He would give to those who meet His condition for immortality;  His condition is “if saved, then immortal.”

Sin and Death:  These two problems are closely related because they are 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 does 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.  Then what happened?  As explained in Genesis 2:17 (which literally says “dying you will die”), humans began a gradual process of continually "dying" (which happens naturally when we don't have the supernatural protection supplied by God thru His Tree of Life) and this process leads to our eventual death.  In this way, death became God's divine penalty for human sin.     /     As explained above (but it's important, is worth repeating), this penalty was – and still is – an act of mercy because God did not want people to live forever in a state of sin.  It also is a severe penalty because God removed a potential gift (of eternal life) that would have been very good – if we were not sinners – during Life, and eventually will be very good – because we won't be sinners – during Afterlife.

Salvation and Life:  Later, in His physical Heaven-Kingdom, God will defeat death by giving back "the tree of life," as stated in Revelation 2:7 and 22:14But this divine gift of immortality will be given to only those who "overcome" (2:7) because they "wash their robes" (22:14), 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."   /   * Why is it "only if"?  One piece of evidence is Rev 22:14-15, where Jesus contrasts the saved (who "have the right to the tree of life") with the unsaved who are "outside," apparently in The Lake of Fire where they will live forever (if EM) or die forever (if FA) or (if pUR) will "wash their robes" so they can enter the city and eat from "the tree of life."  This contrast — and the fact that in the entire Bible there is no statement that unsaved people will be given eternal life — lets us logically infer that immortality (given by God) will be given ONLY to people who are saved, thus the "only if" in God's Condition that "if (and only if) saved, then immortal."

 

comparing the views:  A divine giving of everlasting life that is consistent with Conditional Immortality (with God's if-then condition that if saved, then immortal)...

    is possible with Final Annihilation because if there is FA, all people who were unsaved (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 Ultimate Restoration because if there is UR, all people who were unsaved (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 people who are not saved (in either life or afterlife) to live forever — so they have Immortality even though they don't satisfy The Condition — would violate God's clear statement that an unsaved sinner "must not... live forever" in sinful misery.
 
    * a logical definition:  logically, Conditional Immortality (CI) should be defined as “FA or UR” because the if-then condition of conditional immortality would be satisfied with either FA or UR.  Therefore we should not define CI as “only FA” even though, unfortunately, CI is commonly used in this illogical way whenever someone says “FA is CI”.     {more: two ways – biblical & unbiblical – to begin a logical process of concluding “UR will happen”}
 

Eternal Sin:  God hates sin because its effects are extremely destructive, so He wants to eliminate sin from His creation.  Will this happen? will God achieve His goal?   The Bible tells us “yes” but with Unconditional Immortality — if God causes most people to be eternally alive with Eternal Misery (EM) — sinners-and-sinning will exist forever, and His creation will never be freed from sin.  A claim that God will cause immortalizing-of-sin (by causing EM) is wrong in very important ways, is not what the Bible teaches, is one of Four Biblical Reasons to reject Eternal Misery.  By contrast, with Conditional Immortality (CI) — if God will cause either Annihilation (FA) or Reconciliation (UR) — all sin will be eliminated by God.

 

 

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, in our past-present-future,  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 NT 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, so PSA doesn't work for EM.
    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 symbolizes His justice, first by providing a ram to save Isaac, and later by providing Jesus to save us — and also 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.    {in fact, God's action of removing His "tree of life" was merciful}
 

* The penalty for sin is death, and when Jesus – who is God, who is one person in the triune God of Father-Son-HolySpirit – voluntarily died for us (to be a sin-atoning substitute for us), God was paying His death penalty for us, to produce penal substitutionary atonement.  But is this divine payment-of-penalty given to all people (if He will cause UR) or (if He will cause FA) only some people?   To clarify the essential differences between FA and UR, we ask two questions about death, and one question about timing:

    • first,  “WHAT is the penalty for sin?”  —  it's everlasting total death, in both FA and UR;
    • then,  “WHO will receive this penalty?”  —  it's some people (if FA), or no person (if UR);
 
    and “WHEN 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.

 

dependent immortality allows conditional immortality

How?  Because if (as Bible-believers should believe) life depends on God, then (as Bible-believers should believe) God is able to make conditional decisions about life.

Do humans have intrinsically-immortal souls?  No.  When we carefully study the Bible, we see that it does not teach a universal intrinsic-and-Unconditional Soul Immortality independent from God, even though this often is assumed by those who propose the Unconditional Immortality of Soul/Body that would occur with Eternal Misery.*  Instead, the Bible does teach a Dependent Existence (for awhile or forever) that allows a divine control of life & death;  this lets God make decisions about life & death — by contrast with an intrinsic immortality that automatically sustains life, even if God says “no” — so He can produce a Conditional Immortality of Body-and-Soul.   God's condition-based decisions (when He applies His if-then Condition to decide who lives) require Dependent Existence (because God must be able to decide who lives) but go beyond it, because although Dependent Existence is necessary for allowing divine decisions (about life-or-death), Dependent Existence is not sufficient for determining the decision-result.  Instead, God will make a Condition-based decision about whether He will give immortality to an unsaved person;  and God has told us that He will say “no” because (Genesis 3:22) an unsaved sinner "must not... live forever."

* An unbiblical assumption of Intrinsic-and-Unconditional Immortality (imported into Christianity from Greek philosophy, especially Platonic) leads to this unbiblical reasoning:  all humans will exist forever, either with salvation and Eternal Joy, or with damnation and Eternal Misery.

 

logically defining two terms:  To promote logical thinking & accurate communication, we should use two different terms — dependent immortality and conditional immortality — for two different claims, because each term answers a different question regarding God's decisions about life-or-death.  Simplified into one-word summaries, some essential questions (about life or death) are:    why? (God's decisions will be based on criteria that include His Condition for Conditional Immortality);    how? (God's actions will cause whatever happens, because humans have Dependent Immortality instead of Intrinsic Immortality);   also (as explained below),   what? (God's penalty for sin is death, not long-term suffering),   who? (God will give death to some if He causes FA, or to none if He causes UR).     {MORE about Logically Defining a System-of-Terms}   {the Bible tells us that in The Final State there will be no sin and no death;  this kind of Final State occurs with Conditional Immortality (with either FA or UR) but not with EM, and this is a strong Bible-based reason to reject EM}

 

Biblical Immortality:  The biblical principle of Dependent Existence is why I began this section about Conditional Immortality by stating that "instead of creating humans with immortality [that is intrinsic, is independent from God, that occurs without Him], God created humans for immortality [because although we are mortal, we 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, omniscient (knowing everything), omnipresent (being everywhere), omnipotent (able to do everything), and omnibenevolent (totally loving in all ways)?” }

 

logically defining Conditional Immortality – Part 2

In Part 1 and when comparing the views we see how immortality would satisfy God's if-then Condition if saved, then immortal — with 2 of the 3 views, with Final Annihilation (FA) because all unsaved people would be gone, or with Ultimate Restoration (UR) because all people would be saved.  Therefore the logical conclusion is that Conditional Immortality is “either FA or UR” instead of the “only FA” that is claimed whenever a person refers to Annihilationism as Conditional Immortality.  I think we should be logical (instead of just traditional) in our defining of Conditional Immortality.

universal Ultimate Restoration (that produces universal immortality) does not assume universal immortality.  Therefore a person could conclude that “UR will happen” in two ways.  Their process of reasoning could begin either with biblical dependent conditional immortality (that depends on God) or with unbiblical intrinsic universal immortality (that is intrinsic within all humans, independent from God), and then uses logic:   1) With biblical justification a proponent of UR should begin by deciding (because the Bible teaches it) that God will give humans dependent conditional immortality {this would occur with UR or FA} so they evaluate UR-versus-FA and conclude “it will be UR instead of FA” and their conclusion is universal immortality.   2) Without biblical justification, a proponent of UR could begin with an assumption of universal immortality {this would occur with UR or EM} by assuming that all humans have intrinsic universal immortality, so they evaluate UR-versus-EM and conclude “it will be UR instead of EM.”   /   By using the logic of either #1 or #2, universal immortality could be a final conclusion (using biblical process #1) or an initial assumption (using unbiblical process #2).  UR that is Bible-based should not assume universal immortality (as in #2), instead UR should conclude universal immortality (as in #1).

 


 

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 reasons:

 

1a.  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.   By contrast, only saved people (who satisfy The Condition decided by God) will live forever with FA or UR.     /     Due to EM's unbiblical violation of Conditional Immortality, EM would cause two permanently-unbiblical situations, in 1b and 1c:

1b.  EM would cause sinners-and-sinning to exist forever, thus immortalizing sin, and God's creation would never be freed from sin even though the Bible declares that being freed from sin will happen.  With UR or FA, God would ultimately "reconcile all things to Himself" (the Bible promises that this will happen) but this wouldn't happen with EM because God would be causing billions of still-sinful humans to live forever with Eternal Misery, sinfully hating Him and “gnashing their teeth” in anger against Him.  Although defenders of EM often accuse FA & UR of “not taking sin seriously,” sin is totally eliminated with FA or UR, but sin is preserved with EM, and this violation of a key biblical principle is a very strong biblical reason to reject EM.

1c.  EM would cause death to exist forever, thus immortalizing death, because with EM The Second Death must be redefined (in a strange way) to mean eternal conscious existence in misery (eternally living in death?) 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."

 

2.  EM would not produce a satisfactory substitution for substitutionary atonement, with Jesus (instead of us) paying the penalty for our sins.*  Why would the substitution be unsatisfactory with EM?  Because 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.  As you can see, with EM the substitution of substitutionary atonement is a very poor match because of two major differences:  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, with The Second Death defined in a very strange way so it means eternally miserable living, without the relief of death).   /   By contrast, the substitution is much more satisfactory (is a much closer match) with FA or UR.

* Are claims for Penalty-Paying Substitutionary Atonement (commonly called Penal Substitutionary Atonement, PSA) supported by the Bible?   Yes.   The essence of PSA — with our death penalty being paid by the death of Jesus — is an essential part of The Gospel, is its heart of love, is the essence of divine love in action.  {iou – soon, here I'll combine two ideas – God's death penalty is merficul, Conditional Immortality is merciful – to explain why PSA is mercifully loving}   The central claim of PSA 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").  And there is strong support from Bible-based logic, in the clear symbolic continuity between the sacrificial systems used by God in the Old Testament and New Testament.    /    I think PSA is the most important part of divine atonement, but is not all of it because several “theories of atonement” can claim support from the Bible, and I think each contributes to what Jesus did for us with His crucifixion-and-resurrection;  in the Bible we can find several reasons for why God decided to provide this atonement, and for “how-and-why it works,” and for the many kinds of benefits (for people and for God) arising from it.  But of all the reasons & benefits, I think PSA has the strongest biblical support.  Therefore any Bible-based view of Hell should provide a satisfactory substitution when we consider PSA (for penal substitutionary atonement), and EM fails to do this.     /     Although I support PSA, I think some descriptions of it are flawed, are not compatible with what is taught in the whole Bible.  I agree with Christians (including some proponents of UR) who criticize these flawed descriptions.  But even though PSA sometimes is described in unjustifiably harsh terms (especially by its opponents, but also by a few proponents), we should understand it — and be thankful for it — as The Love Story of PSA.  I think a Bible-based view of Hell (including FA or Bible-based pUR) should accept PSA and emphasize its importance, and should use PSA as a reason to reject EM.

 

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

more than four:  Christians also have other Bible-based reasons to reject Eternal Misery and to accept Ultimate Restoration (by believing biblical statements that God will save 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 with EM (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 ?

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview in the Table of Contents.

 

Based on what we learn about God from the whole Bible, in a different kind of WWJD-Question (that is more important for billions of people) we should ask “What Will Jesus Do with Unsaved Sinners?”  Will he decide to cause Eternal Misery (EM), or Final Annihilation (FA), or Ultimate Restoration (UR)?  will He torment, or kill, or heal?     {we really are asking “What Will God Do?” because in the tri-une God (Father, Son, HolySpirit), WWJD=WWFD=WWHD = WWGD;  but Jesus does tell us (John 5:22) that "the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son" so the WWJD decisions of Jesus are WWGD, although all 3 persons of the triune God already are in total agreement about whether the ultimate result will be UR or FA or EM, or something else.}

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;  when God forgives us, it's because He loves 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}

love-in-action produces good results:  When our actions are loving, we do good for the people we are loving-with-actions, and God would do good for people in UR-Hell but not for people in FA-Hell or (especially) EM-Hell.

human loving and divine loving:  God wants us to be loving in our actions — "always try to do what is good [for every person,] for each other and for everyone else" — so we expect God to be loving in His actions.

Does God love His enemies?  Jesus tells us to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;  for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."  Jesus tells us that we should love our enemies because God loves His enemies.  But does God love everyone only until their death when His "compassions that fail not" do fail?

 

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.     {When we study the whole Bible, another strong-and-clear principle is that death is the 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 trust-and-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

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview in theTable of Contents.

 

This section supplements my summary ofThe 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 Ultimate Restoration?  This page describes an evangelical Christian Ultimate Restoration (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.  Notice that in most rows, all views agree;  questions that distinguish between views occur only in rows where the views disagree.

 
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? (universal immortality
 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, in a purgatorial Hell during Afterlife there will be reconciliation for some (those who become saved, so there is purgatorial Reconciliation) and annihilation for others (those who are not saved, so there is purgatorial Annihilation).     {if humans have free will so they can choose to not-repent, can we know that all will repent in their Afterlife, as claimed by UR?}

 

I.O.U. – Eventually, but probably not until April 2021, I'll revise this section because I now think ALL questions are useful (when they're correctly answered) for helping us UNDERSTAND the views, but only SOME questions are useful for helping us DISTINGUISH between the views when we're evaluating the views, when we're trying to determine their biblical plausibility.  Below is what I wrote earlier, and most of it (with only a few minor changes, as described in the first) will remain after the revision:

 

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 with God causing sinners to "live forever" even though this would violate His judicial decision in Genesis 3:22 that sinners "must not be allowed to... live forever."  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 (in a commonly assumed meaning that differs from my definition)* says “yes”.*  By contrast, evangelical Christian Universalism (Ultimate Restoration, 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.     {more: 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.}

Unfortunately, for many people "universalism" means the claim of pluralism that "all roads do lead to God."   {and maybe is associated with the mostly-unbiblical denomination of Unitarian Universalism that feels free to ignore much of what's taught in the Bible}

* In this page I'm describing a view of UR (based on the Bible, truly Christian, non-pluralistic) that can have many different labels;  if a name has two blanks (                  ) each can be filled in several ways, for the first (universal, ultimate, eventual, final, ...) and the second (reconciliation, restoration, salvation, redemption, ...) so there are many possible combinations.  I've been calling it universal reconciliation, but probably I'll change my term to ultimate restoration, or (less likely) to universal restoration or ultimate reconciliation.}  {update: I already made this change, in late 2020.}

What are the benefits of each term (highlighted by italics) that I prefer?   Here are comparisons of universal vs ultimate, and reconciliation vs restoration:

    different questions are answered by universal (who? all) and ultimate (when? after the penultimate afterlife-experiences of purgatorial educating, correcting, and healing by God);
    different aspects of corrective healing seem to be implied by reconciliation and restoration, but... I think restoration can be (and should be) used for both aspects of healing if God will produce restorative healings of all persons AND restorative healings of all relationships;  but the superficial implications can seem different in reconciliation (to heal relationships with God & with people) and in restoration (the result of sanctification, when God has transformed a sinful person so they finally have become the righteous person He always wanted them to be), with reconciliation being a result of the healed relationships (the restored relationships) that occur in the whole community – including God (Father, Son, HolySpirit) and people – when there has been a restoration-to-righteousness of all individuals.     {more - about these four terms, and others}

 

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

 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview in theTable of Contents.

 

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 Ultimate Restoration (UR) or Final Annihilation (FA).

 

universal Ultimate Restoration  —  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, so we should hope for a universal Ultimate Restoration – with a restoring of all persons and reconciling of all relationships – that includes all of our neighbors.  Every person, and especially every Christian, should be a Hopeful Universalist.     {more}

a personal perspective:  My younger sister was a wonderful person (why did so many people love and respect her?) who got cancer and died too soon in 2010.  During her life, she seems to have rejected the grace offered by God.  { I can only say "seems" because we don't know what happened in her heart & mind privately, just between her and God. }   Therefore I'm wondering “what will Jesus do with her?” and “will we ever see her again?”  Due to her life experiences — different than my own, so “but for the grace of God” I also could be saying NO to God — she had rational reasons for saying NO.  But I think her heart & mind were basically good (with less of our typical self-centered human sinfulness, compared with most other people) and with appropriate experiences after death, she would say YES to God.  I love her, and hope that God will give her (and many others) an opportunity to reconsider — during her afterlife when more evidence will be available, and she will have a different perspective — when God will give her educational corrective-and-healing experiences that will transform her into the fully-restored person that He always wanted her to be, and she will say YES.  I hope-and-pray that ultimately my sister will be reconciled with God and with me (and all of our family, and her many friends) in the eternal heaven-kingdom of God.     {also: a gift of merciful death – by giving up my eternal joy to stop her eternal misery – 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.  But my optimism isn't certainty.  In this page I'm not trying to prove that universal Ultimate Restoration is taught with certainty in the Bible.  Instead I just want to show that — in addition to hoping UR will happen — we also have logical Bible-based reasons for optimism, for thinking UR might happen.   And I want to explain why I'm not highly confident when evaluating UR-versus-FA so I won't confidently claim that either “it will be UR” or “it will be FA.”  But the more I'm learning about the biblical support for UR, the more optimistically confident I'm becoming.

 

comments about terms:  Unfortunately, hopeful universalism is now commonly used to mean having reasons to be optimistic (but not claiming extremely high confidence) about universalism, thinking that God might eventually save all people.  Do you see the mis-match between being hopeful and having reasons for optimism?  Instead of this mis-matching, logically the optimistic claim should be called optimistic universalism, and we should use hopeful universalism to describe being hopeful that all will be saved.

 
 

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

 

 

 

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?

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

Why should we ask "Salvation in Afterlife"?   Because if God eventually will save all people — as declared in many verses — to produce purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR, or just UR),* He could allow previously-unsaved people (those He didn't save during Life) to believe-and-repent after death, during their Afterlife.  If He wanted to save a person, God could skillfully persuade them in Afterlife (much more strongly than in Life) with more information and by giving them a different perspective, and educational-corrective-healing experiences that eventually produce in them a freeD will, so their will is freed from the slavery to sin (Romans 6) that hindered their hearts-and-minds during Life;  their freed will allows them to freely make a wise decision, and they freely “say YES to God” with sincere belief-and-repentance.     /     reconciliations-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”.   {but the “no” isn't a difficulty for UR}

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 after-death repentance seems required by “strong exclusivism + universal salvation” plus the observation that during Life, few people pass the “narrow road” test of strong exclusivism}.

What is strong exclusivism?  I think the Bible, especially in the New Testament, certainly teaches exclusivism (so the only source of salvation is Jesus, through His incarnation and substitutionary death) and probably teaches 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 are now (during Life) following the narrow road.*  So if all are saved with UR (or even if more than "a few" are saved with semi-UR), this wider salvation seems to require some salvation-during-Afterlife.   In other words, logic (re: UR + exclusivism + observations of unsaved people) leads to a conclusion of salvation during Afterlife, and this is allowed by the Bible because it does not explicitly say “yes” or “no”.

Actually, the question of inclusion-vs-exclusion is not very important for UR.  It's much more important for FA and EM because these views reject the possibility of salvation in Afterlife, so if God excludes a person based on their thinking-and-actions during Life, there is no more hope for this person;  they will be lost forever, they are damned to either Annihilation or Eternal Misery.  By contrast, with UR those who are excluded at the end of their life will have another chance during Afterlife,* so even if most people are being excluded now (because they are now traveling on the wide path to destruction) they can be included later.     {* in The Great Divorce, a novel by C.S. Lewis, unsaved people are allowed to repent in afterlife;  some do repent and they are saved.}

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

* If strong exclusivism will be God's criterion for salvation, most Jews will be excluded from "the few" because (as planned by God) most Jews have rejected "explicit belief in Jesus," they have not accepted Him as their Messiah.  So... will God really cause most of His chosen people to experience Eternal Misery?

 

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}   {if God will cause EM, the Gospel is Good News + Bad News because when an unsaved person dies the divine love-for-them changes into hate-for-them;  The Good News that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your Life” becomes The Bad News that “God hates you and has a terrible plan for your Afterlife” – for example, what changed between pages 70 and 200?}   {will God forgive a person if they believe-and-repent just before death at the end of their Life?  but if they aren't good-and-smart so they don't choose wisely, will He never forgive them after death in their Afterlife?} 

WWJD?

 


 

HOW will God produce Reconciliation?

Maybe... with radical transformation, by

Educational Healing in Purgatorial UR-Hell?

 

an option:  I strongly recommend that you first read the overview of these sections (about educational correction-and-healing) in the Table of Contents.

 

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-offenders.

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 Ultimate Restoration (UR) without any process of purging-in-Hell, my view of UR is purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (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}     /     This purgatorial process in UR-Hell is NOT the Purgatory of Roman Catholicism;  although both contain "purg" they are very different.  Therefore, Purgatorial UR-Hell should be evaluated for what it is, for what it actually proposes;  it should not be criticized for what it isn't, for anything connected with Catholic Purgatory.     /     IOU – Soon, probably in early 2021, I'll develop these ideas & questions regarding the little that God has told us about His process-of-purifying:  the suffering of people in purgatorial UR does not produce atonement-and-salvation, because atonement-and-salvation already was done by Jesus in His crucifixion and resurrection;   as described above, we can view the function of UR-purgatory as educational & corrective & healing, and each of these would perform a particular function;   education would persuade an unsaved person that they do believe and they do want to repent, leading to their salvation;   correction would purify a person, removing their sin (burning it out of them in The Lake of Fire) so they become fully sanctified, without sin;   healing would also (as with correction) be sanctifying, but healing emphasizes that the person will be totally-ok in all ways (not just purified from sin) so they will totally restored to being the way God always wanted them to be, both internally (in their feeling-and-thinking-and-doing) and externally (with all relationships being healed) so all individuals and all relationships will be healed.   /   in summary,  education produces salvation,  correction produces sanctification,  and healing describes the restoring (to God's original goal for the ideal states He always wanted) of all individuals & all relationships, when every person has been sanctified.

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}   {total sanctification, to achieve sinless perfection, is not possible during Life;  instead God wants us to cooperate 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 will God do this for everyone?  and what about losing your life to gain it (Mark 8:35) for everyone? here, the word for losing is apollumi, often translated as being destroyed}   /   {iou - later, I'll describe how a process of being "radically transformed" might be described by everyone being salted with fire (Mark 9:49), and by fire-burning of works (1 Cor 3) that certainly will occur for all Christians, and probably for all people.}   {J Preston Eby has useful ideas about experience-differences in The Lake of Fire}

We also can ask, about the final Ultimate Restoration, “compared with the final outcomes for saved people, in what ways might the final outcomes for unsaved people be similar, and different?”  The Ultimate Kingdom of God will include two kinds of people — those who earlier in His Story (at the end of their Life) were saved, or were unsaved — but at the end of His Story all people (both earlier-saved and earlier-unsaved) have been radically transformed so they are sinless, so they are suitable for living in His Kingdom.  But (as discussed above) the Bible doesn't give us complete answers when we ask “HOW will people be radically transformed so we become sinless?” and “in what ways will this how-process be similar, and different, for earlier-saved people and for earlier-unsaved people?”  These questions-about-process are not answered in detail, and neither are questions-about-outcomes — “WHAT will be the final outcome for the earlier-saved and earlier-unsaved?” and “will there be any differences in final results, with earlier-saved people receiving some benefits that earlier-unsaved people won't have?”  But there are a few biblical references to apparent “permanent rewards” for earlier-saved people, plus parables about “temporary rewards” like the earlier-saved being invited to attend a celebration (a wedding banquet,...) that earlier-unsaved people will miss.   {IOU - later, there will be “more” about these questions.}

 

I.O.U. – Below (in small green font) you'll see ideas that will be developed later, responding to the questions [above] about similarities & differences in edu-experiences for saved vs unsaved. [[ ==

one factor in a response:  IF life videos of each person will be viewed by all other persons, this requires participation by saved & unsaved, in unpleasant experience of seeing own sins during own life review (and own suffering when are victim during LR's of other people)  /  so what is the difference between experiences for saved & unsaved?

here is one ueful perspective:  Eastern Orthodox view of Heaven & Hell, proposes that same divine fire in Heaven & Hell (so these aren't different "locations") but the fire's source-and-effects are viewed differently, are seen/felt as good-helpful by saved Christians and as bad-hurtful by unsaved nonChristians   /   is a person saved or not?  abiding in vine or not?  knowing God or not? {e.g. Jesus "I never knew you"}  born-again (with death of sin) or not?  fully loving God (with heart-and-mind. feeling-and-thinking) or not?

super-empathy, with knowing-understanding others leading to change of values-priorities for evaluation criteria, changing from win-lose (iWin-youLose) = victory for me, to win-lose (if zero sum) being neutral, with my gain = their loss, instead of my gain > their loss because I'm self-centered instead of "loving neighbor as myself"

 

analysis of Total Restoration:  it would require Personal Restorations (repairing of internal feelings + thinking-deciding-doing) sanctification of individual) plus Interpersonal Restorations (repairing of external relationships)

RESTORATION -- first Sanctification and then Reconciliation:  an authentic Total Reconciliation (of every person with every other person and with God) will require a foundation of total sanctification that transforms each person until they become righteous with total sanctification so they are not sinful, so they have been transformed and personally restored (in all ways) into finally becoming the person God always wanted them to be.   /  

 

MERIT -- unless salvation is universal, it must be based on merit (good heart + wise mind " good-and-wise decision) to produce a merit-caused decision as in "born again" change-in-life  /  merit plus lucky draw in life (location, culture of family & society, etc) -- salvation must be based on HUMAN MERIT (with Arminius) or DIVINE FAVORITISM (with Calvin)

 

As explained earlier, I strongly recommend that you first read the overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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 (of commission & omission, by what we do & don't do) produce consequences — because "God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" and God "will repay each person [and maybe... one aspect of repaying will be a disclosing of their thoughts & actions in life-review videos that produce beneficially-transformative sorrows] 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 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}   {the verses quoted are from Mark 9, Galatians 6, Romans 2, 2 Corinthians 5, 1 Corinthians 3}
    everything will be revealed in afterlife:   Jesus tells us "nothing is covered up that will not be revealed... proclaimed on the housetops."  This total revealing to everyone does not happen in Life, so it will happen in Afterlife,  maybe... in life-review videos that everyone (you + others) will see?   {more}
    consequences will be based on actions, will occur for saved & unsaved:   When we study the Bible as a whole, we see that...  • our experiences during Afterlife will depend on our actions during Life, e.g. "if your hand causes you to stumble... whatever a man sows... what they have done... the things done while in the body... each man's work";   • a process of afterlife experiences that educate-correct-heal will occur for all people — for "everyone... a man... each person... all... each of us... each man" — for people who are saved & unsaved (for believers & unbelievers, Christians & non-Christians);   • but compared with those who have not been saved during Life, in Afterlife the process (and result) will be much better for Christians who have believed-and-repented so they have “said YES to God” and have been saved during Life.
 

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 & 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 (sins having consequences + sins being forgiven) 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:

Each of these speculations begins with "Maybe..." as a reminder that I don't claim to know the details of “what might happen” in UR-Hell, if there will be a UR-Hell.

 

• Life-Review Videos of a Person, to produce Sorrowful Repentance:   Maybe... one productive aspect of Afterlife Education-in-Hell will be Life-Review Videos that "disclose" to let a 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 all of their sins, including both sins of commission (the bad things they did in their thoughts-and-actions) and sins of omission (the good things they didn't do, but they could have done if they had fully used the abilities & life-opportunities that were given to them by God). 

 

• Life-Review Videos of a Person, with Super-Experiencing:   Maybe... God will give super-experiences that will help a person more fully understand, and intensely experience, the total positive results of their beneficial thinking & actions (with feelings of super-joy) and the total negative results of their sinful harmful thinking & actions (with feelings of super-sorrow).  Their joys and sorrows would be increased if God gives them:

    multiple super-senses (to see, hear, feel,...) so they will have an intensely powerful re-experiencing of what happened during their Life;
    external super-knowledge about God, so they know Him more fully — with intimate spiritual relationship — and they understand how their sins against people were also sins against God,  and
    internal super-knowledge about themself so they understand, more completely and accurately, the “why” of their own thoughts & actions,  and
    external super-knowledge about people and events, so they know “all that happened” during Life from the perspectives of other people (by knowing their life-situations and their thoughts/feelings) so the person knows the total cause-and-effect results of how every other person was affected by their own actions, and (as part of their super-knowledge about God) an understanding of His interactions with them during each event, and of how they responded to what God was urging them to think & do),  and
    super-compassion for people, so they truly “love others as they love themselves” with genuinely deep caring, so they feel deep sorrow for all of their actions that have caused pain for other people.
 

Divine Empowering-and-Sanctifying:  if God will use life-review videos in UR-Hell to educate-correct-heal people,  probably... He will give each person super-abilities to enhance their experiencing of the videos;  and certainly (not maybe) He will provide divine guiding-and-empowering by Holy Spirit to help each person learn more from their experiences during their purgative process of transformation-into-sanctification.  These interactions with God would be an essential part of the person's intense re-experiencing of Life.   /   How?   Maybe... during Life-Review Videos (plus other educating-and-healing experiences) God will produce intimate spiritual relationships with the person in a baptism of fire in The Lake of Fire.  During these experiences, God will produce conviction (along with comforting) that leads to sorrowful repentance — so the person (with a truly freed will) truly wants to be purified from their sinful nature — so they have an authentic desire to let God beneficially transform them.  The result will be a purifying destruction of their sinful nature, an educational corrective healing that transforms them so they become totally healthy (they become totally sanctified as a whole person in their feeling-and-thinking & actions), so they become the righteous person that God always wanted them to be, and is now helping them to be.

more  –  {of course, divine knowledge-and-power would be required for the “time traveling” in life-review videos}  {more about purgative Ultimate Restoration}   /   Earlier I describe a process of sanctification in afterlife, and ask "compared with the process for saved people, in what ways might the process for unsaved people be similar, and different?"  Maybe... there will be a difference in the ratio of divine convicting-of-sin and divine comforting-of-person (as described by Jesus in John 16:7-8), with less convicting and more comforting for people who were saved during Life.

 

Intrinsic Cause-and-Effect Justice:  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.

 

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

These shared experiences of mutual empathy 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, to achieve a Total Reconciling of all people with each other, and with God.

Total Reconciliation? not with FA:  One major problem with Final Annihilation (FA) is that with annihilation of most people (of all who remain unsaved because they were not traveling the narrow path during Life and God will not save them during Afterlife) a Total Reconciling could never occur, because — as described in my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life — "Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole."   If any person "isn't around" because God has killed them during Afterlife, this will "leave an awful hole" and this will eliminate the heartfelt interpersonal reconciliation that occurs when this person forgives (as a victim) and (as an offender) is forgiven.  Thus, with FA the complex web of personal interactions could not be totally healed.  In fact, there could not be a Total Reconciling for any single person because each of us has interpersonal interactions (that have not been totally healed during Life) with many people who are saved-in-Life, and also with many people who were unsaved-in-Life so (with FA) they will be annihilated.     {or... if God allows an Unsaved-in-Life person to remain alive in Afterlife until they have repented of their offenses, so all of their victim-and-offender interactions have been healed, but thenafter this person has repented for all of their offending sins and has forgiven all who offended them, after they have moved further down the road to sanctification than most Christians have moved during their Lifethis person is annihilated, does that seem like divine justice-with-love?     {Empathy in Relationships - for a Wonderful Life with Kindness & Golden Rule}

 

* Maybe... our repenting will be verbal — if we can talk with each other, to remember and cry & laugh together, to hug and reconcile — plus a deep feeling-and-understanding (in other ways) of the repenting & forgiving & reconciling.  Together, all of these experiences would combine to produce thoughts-and-feelings that are deeper and more meaningful, compared with the interpersonal communication we can achieve with just words.

 

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

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of these "divine justice" sections in theTable of Contents.

 

When we're thinking about The Character of God we can ask "What Will Jesus Do (WWJD) with unsaved sinners?"  The Bible tells us that God wants justice, AND God is loving, so... in Afterlife, can God (and will He) combine these two goals, to produce justice-AND-love for a person who was unsaved at the end of their Life?

When we're thinking about Divine Justice we can ask "what would be (or wouldn't be) just" and "what would be (or wouldn't be) loving" and also "what would be (or wouldn't be) just-and-loving?"  And we can compare the process-and-results for three kinds of Hell during the Afterlife of an unsaved person — in EM-Hell or FA-Hell, or UR-Hell — as proposed by the three doctrines (all historically common) of Eternal Misery (EM), Final Annihilation (FA), and Ultimate Restoration (UR).

 

I.O.U. – later, maybe in February 2021, I'll revise this section to more clearly explain why I have concuded that...  the final result of EM-Hell would be not just and not loving;   the final result of FA-Hell would be just but not loving;   the final result of UR-Hell would be just-and-loving.   /   I'll include some of these ideas about justice:  justice = righteousness;  human restorative justice (for victim & criminal) aims for win-win (relative to what's possible, without a Time Machine with Life Editing, allowing Control-Z for Undo-and-Redo;  results are limited, but at least usually seem better than would happen without an attempt to pursue restorative justice) -- a Divine Restorative Justice would be produced (in UR-Hell) by God who is the master of time so He can produce results that are better than could be achieved with a human time machine.

 

Why is suffering necessary in UR-Hell ?

Why will unpleasant suffering occur during the corrective process of UR-Hell ?   I think... suffering is a by-product of the process that is necessary for God to achieve His goal — it's the transformative restoration of a person so they become the totally-sanctified righteous person that God always wanted them to be — so He uses the necessary process (including the unpleasant suffering) so He can achieve His worthy goal.

 

Intrinsic Retributive Justice in UR-Hell could produce Different Degrees of Suffering in Afterlife

An action is retributive if it's the payback for a criminal act.  Theologically, sin is a criminal act, and God tells us that what we sow in Life (by sinning), we will reap in Afterlife (by suffering).  But divine retribution is not simple vengeance.  My concept of divine retributive justice is similar to the description in Wikipedia: "retribution is different from revenge because retributive justice is directed only at wrongs, has inherent limits, is not personal and involves no pleasure at the suffering of others."  I think... if God will purify a person by using fire in UR-Hell the person's experiences will be unpleasant-and-painful, but (as explained in the short paragraph above) God will not inflict pain for the purpose of simply causing pain;  instead the pain will be a “side effect” of the experiences that are necessary to sanctify them, to "radically transform" them so they "are not still sinful, so they are sanctified and are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven.”     {analogies [iou - later I'll write these better, but you can get the basic idea now]:  surgery when patient must be conscious during it so anesthetic cannot be used, thus real-time pain;  or cancer surgery with anesthetic (so no pain felt during it) but pain is felt afterward because cutting was required to surgically remove the cancer, and the cut-parts hurt, and need time to heal;  or...}

Consequential Justice:  Maybe... a person's suffering in UR-Hell will be a consequence of their sinning in life.  How?  Maybe... during each person's educational experiences in purgative UR-Hell there will be an intrinsic cause-effect relationship between suffering produced (in Life) and suffering received (in Afterlife) with God using this relationship to achieve retributive justice that is fair* by designing pUR-Hell so “if more suffering-in-Life has been produced due to more sinning-in-Life, then more suffering-in-afterlife will be received.”  This aspect of retributive justice would produce an intrinsic correlation between sinning-in-Life* and suffering-in-Afterlife, with different amounts of suffering for people who did different amounts of sinning.  This correlation between sinning and suffering — along with other aspects of pUR-Hell — could produce the different degrees of suffering in afterlife that are described by Jesus.

Do you see how "different degrees" could occur in UR-Hell?   By contrast, it's difficult to imagine how "different degrees" could occur, for unsaved people, with the rigid binary ultimate results of afterlife that would happen in either EM-Hell (with infinite suffering for all) or FA-Hell (with total death for all).  But it's easy to imagine how "different degrees" could occur in a UR-Hell that is non-binary, with personally customized flexibilities in the afterlife experiences of each person.

 

* A person's total sinning would include:  their sins of commission (the bad things they did in their thoughts-and-actions);   and also their sins of omission (the good things they didn't do, but they could have done if they had fully used their abilities & life-opportunities, given to them by God) that vary from one person to another, due to the wide variation in our abilities & opportunities.  Both kinds of sinning will be considered by God, in His expectations — when He asks each of us “what did you do (and not do) with your abilities & opportunities, with the life I gave you?” — and thus in His justice.

 

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

 

 

a reminderLINKS 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 Offenders

we are victims and offenders:  In ways that are usually small but occasionally large, each of us (you, me, and others) is often a victim, often an offender, and sometimes both.  Because hurt people hurt people, both intentionally & unintentionally, you can be a hurting (adjective) victim and/or a hurting (verb) offender.  You can hurt others directly (with a sin of commission when you do an action that is not necessary and should not be done) or indirectly (with a sin of omission when you don't do an action that is possible and should be done).  Jesus commands you to “fully love your neighbor, in the ways you love yourself.”  You want to “make things better” for yourself in all ways, so you also should want to “make things better” for other people, in all of the ways you can.  When your actions achieve anything less than this, you are a sinning offender — with sins of commission and/or omission — because you are not fully loving your neighbor(s).

we need to forgive and be forgiven:  Every person is a victim and an offender, because each of us has been hurt when we were sinned against, and each of us has hurt others when we sinned.  Therefore all of us need (as victims) to forgive people, and (as offenders) to 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).  Will a total reconciling ever happen?  And if yes, how?

 

Maybe... as described above in speculations that seem consistent with the Bible, educational Life Videos in UR-Hell could produce total reconciliations — of people with each other, and with God — to achieve 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 Offenders, with Rehabilitation to allow Reconciliation:  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 sinful Offenders, with Rehabilitation to allow Reconciliation:  Maybe... with life-review videos and in other ways, the retributive punishing of UR-Hell (with personally customized amounts of punishing that depend 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.
    * In UR-Hell, if unsaved people will be saved by God, and will be reconciled with God as part of restoring His creation, the process of transformation will be corrective (to cause rehabilitation) and medical (to cause healing) and educational (to cause learning), and will be relationally productive because it produces a total forgiving (by people and by God) that is beneficial for all.     {in many Life-situations, each of us has been a victim and/or offender, so... 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.

 

terms:  At the end of a section explaining what the three views are, I describe a variety of terms that can be used for a non-pluralistic purgatorial Christian Ultimate Restoration, and...

I.O.U. – Later, maybe in July 2020, I'll continue developing these ideas:  describing the benefits of each term, and each combination-of-terms made by filling the two blanks,             ;  for example, by restoration I mean transforming a person into the righteous person God always wanted them to be, transforming His entire creation into what He always wanted it to be, including reconciliations that come from restoring relationships in ways that are only possible with sanctified people who have become righteous;  this resoration is different than "getting things back to what they were originally," i.e. this restoration isn't restoring creation back to its original state, instead it's restoring creation to His original intention for its final state that is The Final Kingdom of God  {iou - later, I'll say all of this better}   /   the biblical meaning of salvation is much more than just saving a person from Hell (i.e. saving them from God?), it's transforming-and-improving them in all ways, physically and mentally and spiritually, so salvation and restoration are similar.   /   eventual and final are similar to ultimate (following penultimate), and with UR the penultimate stage (the aionias period when unsaved people have purgatorial experiences that are educational, corrective, healing) is an important concept because the biblical passages that describe a "splitting" of people into saved people and damned people will be compatible with UR if the unsaved-during-life are temporarily damned (in UR until their purgatorial healing) instead of being permanently damned (in FA or EM), so there is penultimate damnation followed by ultimate salvation.

 

I.O.U. – Later, maybe in August 2020, I'll include some of these ideas -- condensed and "worked into" the sections above, trying to minimize duplications that appear above & also here:  if there is a UR-Hell, and if part of it will be experiencing other people's life-review videos (showing their sins against you) this would be sort of similar to what victims experience in the human process of Restorative Justice except the divine UR-Justice would be much better (more effective at achieving desired goal-results) compared with human justice;  the main result of this divinely guided process (in UR-Hell) would be a restoration of the victim-offending person, so this offender eventually becomes the totally-righteous person that God always wanted them to be [i.e. He will restore them to His original intention for them] when they become sanctified, so this would be Sanctifying Justice in addition to Restorative Justice;*  I'll clarify distinctions between a divine process of UR-justice (in a process that sanctifies, that restores a person to God's original intention for them) and the human process (now used in some human courts, and thus used in our current language) of Restorative Justice, because as with all analogies there are similarities & differences.     /     experiences in Afterlife could produce Restorative Justice for Victims, and Retributive Justice for Offenders when they reap what they have sown. {but in Retributive Justice, unpleasantness & pain would be an incidental by-product of the process that's needed to transform-and-sanctify, i.e. pain would not be the intended purpose-goal.  /  * through a divine process of corrective justice, unsaved Sinners could receive His gift of Rehabilitation-and-Reconciliation, with God doing justice by producing righteousness. (in Greek, the word for justice also can mean righteousness;  the justice-goal of UR would be restoring a person to [their originally-intended] righteousness — when they are transformed into the totally-righteous person that God always wanted them to be, when they become sanctified — so they can have wonderfully satisfying Reconciliations with other people and with God. }

analogies between Restorative Justice done using human process (limited effectiveness) and divine process (much more effective at achieving desired goal-results);  results of divinely guided process (in pUR-Hell) to produce restorative justice that is personal & interpersonal, individual & relational;  all of us are victims (being hurt) & offenders (hurting, victim-offending);  Retributive Justice for offenders when they reap what they have sown. {but in Retributive Justice, unpleasantness & pain would be incidental by-product of the process that's needed to transform-and-sanctify, i.e. pain would not be the intended main purpose-goal. /  God would do justice (not just get justice) by producing righteousness. (in Greek, the word for justice also can mean righteousness).

 

 

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 TO a person and also FOR the person, for their benefit.  By contrast, with EM or FA the hell-experiences are only done TO a person, to harm them with everlasting torment or everlasting non-existence.

enthusiastic worship:  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.     {thoughts about beauty, truth, worship}

 

an educational analogy:  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 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 Ultimate Restoration (UR)
or semi-universal Ultimate Restoration (semi-UR)

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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 purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (UR), and a semi-UR possibility:

    • Maybe... in the Bible, God has told us that He will save all people — that ultimately "in Christ all will be made alive" because God wants to "show mercy to all" so from the beginning His plan was for Jesus "to save the world" by serving as "the atoning sacrifice... for the sins of the whole world" in order to produce "justification of life to all men," to "take away the sin of the world," to be "the Savior of the world," and this divine goal ultimately will be actualized when He "reconciles all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross" at the time when "every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" — so Bible-believers know how “the grand story” will end, with God saving all people. 
    • Maybe... because God wants all to repent, and He has the creativity-and-power that is necessary to make this happen, He will sovereignly decide to make it happen.*  How?  He would 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 that eventually (thru a painful process in The Lake of Fire) will let them 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 pUR-Hell they are able to make a wise decision and they do “say YES to God.”     {* in The Great Divorce, a fictional depiction of a possible afterlife by C.S. Lewis, unsaved people are allowed to repent in afterlife, and some do, but most don't.  Instead of this semi-UR, his afterlife scenario would become total-UR with one change:  if God is willing to use His creativity-and-power to get what He wants, the result will be UR.  This would happen if God decides that He does not want an unsaved person to keep the un-freed will that in Life was enslaved by their spiritually insane mind,  so in Afterlife they are given divinely designed experiences (including interactions with God) that produce a freed will, and they freely choose to believe-and-repent. }     /     * 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 (in TULIP it's the T that is caused by an enslaved unfreed will) so they can-and-do believe in God and they do repent;  and the IP of TULIP could guarantee that all shall be saved (either in Life or in Afterlife) if the L is rejected as in 4-Point Calvinism.

 

 semi-universal Ultimate Restoration:  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 their thoughts-and-actions 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

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in the Table of Contents.

 

the whole and its parts:  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 Final Annihilation and for Ultimate Restoration.  By contrast, defenders of EM typically point to a few “hell verses” that are isolated (are not connected with whole-Bible themes) and they 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?).
    • different interpretations of a verse — by considering alternative translations (or meanings) of key words, and in other ways — can seem to support EM and/or FA and/or UR.  Defenders of Eternal Misery claim to have "hell verses" that teach EM, but if you study them carefully you'll see that these are not “[eternal misery] hell verses” but instead they probably are “[final annihilation] hell verses” or “[ultimate restoration] hell verses.”  Why?   Because each of the views proposes that “hell will happen” for unsaved people, but two views have concluded (based on evaluating the biblical evidence) that it won't be a hell of eternal torment with God causing eternal misery.
    • the translation of a Greek word (or phrase) 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, and in this way their translation includes their interpretation.*
 

translations are not inerrant:  All statements about biblical inerrancy claim that the Bible is without error only in the original language, due to the possibility that in another language a translation can be inaccurate (with error) due to human error or human bias.  Here is an example of extremely influential...

 

Bias in Translating from Greek into English

* How are translations biased to favor a doctrine of Eternal Misery?

One example of misleading translation is the narrow road.  Why?  Because commonly used grammatically-incorrect translations tell us that “few will find the narrow gate leading to salvation” either now during Life (all views agree about this) or later during Afterlife (as claimed by FA & EM, but not UR).  Instead, grammatically-correct translations tell us that “few are finding the narrow gate” now during Life.

Another example of influential bias (because it occurs in one of the three verses that typically are used to defend EM) is how the apparent evidence-for-EM we get from our interpretation of Matthew 25:46 — when Jesus said "these [who ignored the poor-and-needy, the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, in prison] 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 (or aionian) can mean "eternal" or "everlasting" or — more literally because aion means age (like aeon or eon in English) 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 will occur with EM or FA, or UR.  In terms of the question being answered, instead of “how long will it last?” we would see the answer to “when will it occur?” *   /   In my introductory summary of reasons for Bible-believers to reject Eternal Misery, I claim that hell-verses "often are mis-translated" in a way that is mis-leading.  Why?   Because in Matthew 25:46 (using this key “hell verse” as an example of mistranslation), aionios certainly means "occuring in a future age" (and this would happen with any of the views);  by contrast, it might mean "eternal" but only if Hell will cause Eternal Torment or Final Annihilation, so it will not cause Ultimate Restoration;  therefore it's a mis-translation (it's an inaccurate translation that misleads a reader into thinking the verse definitely is teaching a doctrine it might not be teaching) to choose a word that might be correct instead of a phrase that certainly is correct and is closer to the literal meaning of aionios.  When a translation tells us "eternal" instead of "occurring in a future age" it is declaring that “EM (or FA) will happen” and this converts a weak ambiguous statement (that does not tell us which view correct, because hell will "occur in a future age" with EM or FA or UR) into a strong conclusive statement (it's unambigous because it declares that either EM or FA is correct, but UR is incorrect).     { Here I'm using a correspondence definition of truth so a view is "correct" if it's true because it will happen, and a view is incorrect if it's untrue (is false) because it will not happen. }   { I say "seems to" because although eternal seems to have the same meaning as eternally lasting or everlasting, maybe the meanings are different. }

    * the logic of parallels:  If "eternal punishment" (for unbelievers) does not last eternally but is only temporary, is "eternal life" (for believers) also temporary?   No.  Why?  Because even if aionios means “occurring in a future age” so it answers the question of “when?” instead of “how long?” in this verse, believers can be confident about receiving eternal life from God, due to God's promises in other parts of the Bible, with the resurrection of Christ and in other ways.   {more - should Christians love our neighbors in the ways we love ourselves?}   {more - why we can be confident about everlasting life for many reasons - biblical, logical, linguistic, ethical}

• The Greek word kolasin is usually translated as "punishment" that would be retributive (with EM, FA, UR) and (with UR) also could be correctiveBut if translators wanted to emphasize the corrective function, kolasin could be translated as “corrective pruning” (its meaning in Classical Greek, and probably here in New Testament Greek) that would provide support for UR.

• We see a similarly biased translation, that obscures our understanding of what God will do to us and for us, in Revelation 14:10 and 20:10 where the Greek word usually translated as being "tormented" (or even"tortured") — probably for the purpose of apparently supporting a doctrine of Eternal Misery-with-Torment — is basanizo whose primary meaning (quoting from BibleStudyTools.com) is "to test (metals) by the touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal."  To provide further support for a divinely-intended meaning of “testing for purity”, the "basanizo" will be done by using "fire and sulfur" that (in the time of the New Testament) was a common method of chemically purifying gold, with "basanizo" using "fire and sulfur" possibly symbolizing a divinely caused purifying-from-sin in God's lake of fire.  The primary meaning of basanizo – to "test the purity" – is very different than the word "torment" chosen by translators who mislead us because they want us to believe that these verses do apparently support EM, even though (with a more-literally-accurate translation) they don't actually support EM.

{more about Matthew 25:46, re: eternal and punishment}

 

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

One example is when Jesus describes unquenchable fire, i.e. fire that cannot be quenched.  Defenders of EM misinterpret this to mean the fire will continue forever so it requires “human fuel” (with humans being burned forever, to provide fuel that keeps the fire burning forever), but this conclusion is not logically justifiable.  Instead the correct meaning is (as claimed by FA & UR) that the fire will continue doing what God wants it to do;  His fire cannot be quenched (cannot be stopped by those who are being affected by His fire) until His goal is achieved.

Another example is EM's overly rigid interpretation of punishment.  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 a Process-of-Punishing that lasts forever) or FA (with a Result-of-Punishment that lasts forever, causing dead forever instead of alive forever) and also with UR because...

if the punishment is retributive AND corrective, if it's "eternal [retributive-and-corrective] punishment" or (in a different translation of kolasin) is "eternal corrective pruning" there is a Result-of-CorrectivePruning that lasts forever, causing reconciled forever (with UR) instead of miserable forever (with EM) or dead forever (with FA);  with UR the result-of-correction (of making a person correct, of making them the way God always wanted them to be) is an everlasting reconciliation.  When we examine the effects of translating aionios, "although eternal [a choice that seems to eliminate the possibility of UR] seems to have the same meaning as eternally lasting or everlasting, maybe the meanings are different," because UR would produce an eternally lasting result of 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 translating – in Matthew 25 and elsewhere – illustrated with biased translation-choices for important words: eternal, punishment, torment, death}   {an example of bias-for-EM:  in the NIV & some other translations, why do we read "away from" instead of “coming from” or – with less interpretation, making only the claim that is justifiable in an accurately literal translation – “from” ?}

{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 (two creatures tormented forever) — briefly and in detail}   {the emphasis on social justice (and sins of omission) in Matthew 25 & Luke 16}

 

Parallels and Logic-plus-Ethics

A “parallels argument” claims that IF in Matthew 25:46 the “punishment in a future age” isn't everlasting punishment (with annihilation or torment), THEN “life in a future age” isn't everlasting life.  This argument is much weaker than it superficially seems, for reasons that are logical and ethical.

 

bible-based logical reasoning:

Believers can be confident that God will give us everlasting life, due to God's promises in other parts of the Bible, with the resurrection of Christ and in other ways.  Our confidence that God will give us Eternal Joy does not depend on Matthew 25:46.   /   Also, the words that people usually read – "eternal punishment" and "eternal life" – are misleading, because they are a result of biased translating because with a more-literal translation we could be reading “corrective discipline [to transform a person, making them better] that happens in a future age” and “life that happens in a future age” and our conclusions (about the results of Hell) probably would be different.

 

bible-based ethical motivation:

This argument – based on “the parallel between goats and sheep” – makes an emotional appeal to Christians, by saying “if you think this verse doesn't threaten some people (non-Christians?) with everlasting punishment, then other people (including you) won't get everlasting life,” and “you don't want to lose your everlasting life, do you?”  It appeals to our greedy self-interest, assuming that Christians should love ourselves more than we love others, that we should want to have our Eternal Joy, even if this means most people will have Eternal Misery.  Is this assumption true for you?  If you truly "love your neighbor as you love yourself" as we're commanded by Jesus, would you (if in Afterlife you are saved) be willing to give up your everlasting joy to prevent the everlasting misery of an unsaved person?  I would, because I love my sister.  IF she was unsaved at death, and IF she therefore would have to endure the infinite horror of Eternal Misery in Hell, and IF God will give me Eternal Joy in heaven, I would gladly “make a deal with God” so I could say to her “this is my farewell gift for you,” then she says “thank you, brother,” we say farewell, cry, hug, and die together.

Fortunately, this decision and self-sacrifice will never be necessary, because Jesus paid my sister's penalty for sin when He self-sacrificially died for her, and for every other person.*  We have strong biblical reasons to believe that Eternal Misery won't happen and Ultimate Restoration will happen.  Therefore, I have strong biblical reasons to believe that God will reconcile my sister with Him and with me, so ultimately she and I can say hello, cry, hug, and live together.  This is the way it should be, and the way all of us should hope it will be.

* But... imagine that “making the deal” is necessary, and is allowed.  In this sad situation, would you be willing to give up your Eternal Joy if this would prevent Eternal Misery for another person?  would you do it for someone you love?  for a stranger?  for a thousand strangers? {re: this 1000-person deal, think about “the greatest good for the greatest number” and use the Golden Rule by asking “what would I want others to do for me, if our situations were reversed?”}   What if instead of 1000, it was every person who ever lived;  would you do whatever was necessary to prevent Eternal Misery for all of them?   /   For the final question, God clearly tells us (in Genesis 3:22) that He already has made the decision that He will prevent Eternal Misery, that because He is merciful He will not let any person live forever in a state of sin.  This divine decision was actualized when He prevented Eternal Sinful Life in Genesis 3, by removing His "tree of life" so sinners would not live forever.  Later, with His self-sacrificing crucifixion and victorious resurrection, Jesus earned salvation – with Eternal Joy we can keep – for some of us (if FA) or (if UR) for all of us.     {more}

 


 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

Divine Fire

Throughout the Bible, fire often symbolizes God's divine presence-and-power and actions.  A few examples of divine fire are the burning bush (Exodus 3), pillar of fire (Exodus 13), burning of sacrifices (Leviticus 9, 1 Kings 18), river of fire (Daniel 7), refining furnace (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 (1 Corinthians 3), consuming fire (Hebrews 12, Deuteronomy 4), and "the lake of fire" (Revelation 20).

 

The Lake of Fire that is 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" ?

If this "fire" is divine presence-and-power in action, God could eliminate sin — why would He do this?  because He hates sin and what it does to us — in two ways, either by using His divine power/fire to consume sinners (to kill them, producing Annihilation) or to consume sin within sinners (to purify them, producing Restoration).    /    Can fire be used to purify?  Yes.  Ancient metal-technologies used fire to purify precious metals, so the Greek word for fire (πῦρ, transliterated as pur or pyr) is used in derived words like purify, as when making pure by using fire.  We see the purifying power of God's divine fire in Malachi 3:2-3:  "Who can endure the day of His coming?  And who can stand when He appears?  He is like a refiner's fire, and like launderer's soap.  He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness."

 

In each view, what is The Second Death?

    • in Final Annihilation (FA) it's a “total death” annihilation of body-and-soul that is permanent, with no possibility of resurrection in the future,
    • in Ultimate Restoration (UR) it's a “purifying death” that has a loving purpose because this death is necessary for new life as in the death-with-Christ (symbolized by baptism) of Romans 6,
    • in Eternal Misery (EM) it's a “living death” with people forced to continue living in sin, even though this forced misery would be un-biblical because God tells us that 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 – when He uses The Lake of Fire – will destroy sinner & sin & joy, using fire whose purpose is to kill & purify & torment.   In each kind of Second Death, the "fire" of God will continue doing what God wants;  His fire cannot be quenched (cannot be stopped by those who are being affected by His fire) until His goal is achieved. (although with EM it seems that no worthy goal is ever achieved)

 

If you want a quick preview or review of the main ideas,

the sections above & below are summarized in the Table of Contents.

 

 

a “big picture” view of Fire and Death and Baptism

As explained above, Second Death in The Lake of Fire could be:   total death (if Final Annihilation, FA);   or (if purgatorial Ultimate Restoration, pUR) the death-of-sin that is symbolized by death-with-Christ during baptism, as in Romans 6;   or (if Eternal Misery, EM) a living death.   These would end the sinner's existence or sinful nature or quality of life, using fire that kills or purifies or torments. 

There are strong biblical reasons to reject EM so I'll focus on FA and pUR in this section, when looking at Fire and Death and Baptism, beginning with...

 

Fire that Consumes:

When we're comparing FA and pUR, we can imagine two ways for a divine consuming fire (in the lake of fire) to destroy, to annihilate.  Throughout the Bible, fire often symbolizes the divine presence-and-power & action of God, often manifested in a consuming fire that...   would be a person-damaging hurtful fire of God if He uses The Lake of Fire to consume a sinner, to annihilate the person;   would be a person-improving helpful fire of God if He uses The Lake of Fire to consume sin within a person, to annihilate their sin, to purify the person and produce repentance-and-restoration during their educating-correcting-healing process of purgatorial pUR-Hell that God does for them in The Lake of Fire.

also:  Jesus tells us (Mark 8:35) that "whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever will lose his life for the sake of Me and the good-news will save it."  Here the Greek word for lose [apollymi] also can mean destroy, so does salvation require a destroying – during Life and/or Afterlife – of all that is non-essential in the person's life, where essential means living for Christ, living to serve God?  This kind of destruction is described by Paul when he warns us (in 1 Corinthians 3:15-20) that "each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done" and some of a person's works will be "burned up" so they "will suffer loss" although the person "will be saved, but only as through fire."  And in Mark 9:49 Jesus tells us that "everyone will be salted with fire."     {what are the biblical meanings of Greek-apollymi & English-destruction?}   {in some of the many web-resources I've found, videos by Michael Webber describe how God could produce UR in a Baptism by Fire (and brimstone) to purify-from-sin in The Lake of Fire that is The Second Death.}

Romans 12:2 – Is "being transformed by the renewing of your mind" a process that begins in Life for Christians, and will be completed in Afterlife for only them? or will God do this for everyone?

 

Death producing Life:

How can death lead to life?  In Romans 6:1-14, Paul connects our death-to-sin with the death-of-Jesus (in His crucifixion) and the death of our old life, and he connects our re-birth to a new life with the re-birth of Jesus (in His resurrection).  Paul explains that "all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death ..... our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;  for the one who has died is freed from sin" but "if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection ..... we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life."  This is a way to describe the process of becoming a born-again Christian:  a person's old sinful nature must die (analogous to the death of Christ)* so they can be transformed by God (as in the resurrection of Christ) to "walk in newness of life." 

When describing this process, Paul uses the symbolism of baptism.  Although he doesn't split the baptismal process into immersion and un-immersion, it seems “symbolically logical” to think about the process in this way:  a person's old life (enslaved by sin, living in sin) is washed away by immersion in water, so with un-immersion they can arise with a new life (with old sins forgiven, and with God supplying His spiritual power to help them overcome their human tendency to feel-think-behave in sinful ways).  Using this symbolism,...

For a born-again Christian, the new life begins during their Life — symbolized by their Baptism With Water that combines Death-of-Old and Birth-of-New, in a Baptismal Death (with immersion symbolizing their Death-to-Sin in their Death-with-Christ) followed by their Baptismal ReBirth (with un-immersion symbolizing their Victory-over-Sin in their new Life-with-Christ) — before their Biological Life ends in their First Death, in their Biological Death.  But with purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR) for a person who was unsaved-during-Life (i.e. unsaved before their First Death), their process of becoming born-again would begin during their Afterlife with a Second Death, with a Baptismal Death that (as explained below) is a Baptism With Fire.

In pUR the Second Death of an unsaved person would be their unpleasant educational corrective-and-healing experience in Hell (with beneficial guiding and empowering by the Holy Spirit) that causes their spiritual death (of old) and rebirth (of new) so they can become totally sanctified (personally) and (interpersonally) totally reconciled with people & with God, by fully loving people & God.

How can death lead to life?  In Romans 6:1-14, Paul connects our death-to-sin with the death-of-Jesus (in His crucifixion) and the death of our old life, and he connects our re-birth to a new life with the re-birth of Jesus (in His resurrection).  Paul explains [using the symbolism of baptism] that "{.....} we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life."  This is a way to describe the process of becoming a born-again Christian:  a person's old sinful nature must die (analogous to the death of Christ) so they can be transformed by God (as in the resurrection of Christ) to "walk in newness of life."   {.....}   In pUR the Second Death of an unsaved person would be their unpleasant educational corrective-and-healing experience in Hell (with beneficial guiding & empowering by the Holy Spirit) that causes their spiritual death (of old) and rebirth (of new) so they can become totally sanctified (personally) and (interpersonally) totally reconciled with people & with God, by fully loving people & God.

* A similar claim, but without the symbolism of baptism, is Galatians 5:24, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires," analogous to His death by crucifixion.

 

Baptism with Fire:

In the typical biblical baptism, a person is immersed in water.  When during Life a person is thrown into a lake of water their experience is immersion in water as in a baptism with water.  By analogy, when during Afterlife a person is thrown into the Lake of Fire their experience might be immersion in fire as in a baptism with fire.  As explained above in "Death producing Life," a person's old life-of-sin can be washed away (symbolically) by immersion in water during Life, or burned away (actually) by immersion in fire during Afterlife.   John the Baptist, in Matthew 3:11-12 (and Luke 3:16-17), prophesies that — by contrast with John himself, who baptized with only water — Jesus "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."  Maybe this divine baptism with fire will occur (for unbelievers) in The Lake of Fire, as claimed by pUR.  This would produce a result — Jesus "will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" — that provides support for pUR because wheat and chaff are parts of the same plant, so they may symbolize parts of the same person.  During a divine baptism with fire in The Lake of Fire, Jesus could "burn up" a person's chaff (the evil parts of their character) so He can "gather His wheat [only the good parts of this person's character] into the barn," as described above and below.

 

You can see relationships (between passages

examined above and below) in this diagram:

• some relational connections between Fire & Baptism & Death, in Matthew 3 and Revelation 20 and Romans 6:   if God — with grace motivated by a divine desire for justice-AND-love — will cause purgatorial Ultimate Restoration, probably His process of salvation-with-sanctification will use baptism with fire (Matthew 3) to purify an unsaved person with Second Death in The Lake of Fire (Revelation 20) by burning up the evil "chaff" within them (Matthew 3) so all that remains is their good "wheat" after they have been transformed by God into the totally purified righteous person He always wanted them to be.   In this way their Second Death would be a total death-of-sin, analogous to the partial death-of-sin ...

     that is symbolized by death-with-Christ in baptism using water (Romans 6) for a saved Christian whose purifying process begins in Life when God is producing healing restorations (transforming them into a partly purified person who becomes “born again” after God raises them from a symbolic death-with-Christ in their water baptism, before their First Death);   and ...
     this might occur by death-with-Christ in baptism using fire (Revelation 20) for an unsaved person whose purifying process occurs in Afterlife when God produces healing restorations (transforming them into a totally purified person who becomes “born again” after God raises them from a symbolic death-with-Christ in their fire baptism that is their Second Death).
 

• some questions about sanctification:  My speculations about what might happen in UR-Hell are preceded by asking "how will saved people be radically transformed so we are not still sinful, so we are sanctified and are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven?" (this question is important-and-difficult for any view of Hell, with UR or FA or EM) and (with UR) "in what ways might the process for unsaved people be similar, and different?"

 

The fire/baptism/death diagram shows fire that "burns works" (as discussed briefly above) and "burns weeds" (as examined in detail below).

 

In the lake of fire that is hell, will the fire burn up the entire person, or only their evil character?

 

Wheat and Weeds

One kind of support claimed for FA (or EM) is parables in which FA claims that Jesus is saying “there are two kinds of people, and one kind will be killed by God.”  For example, in Matthew 13 (24-30 & 36-43) Jesus tells a parable about wheat & weeds — symbolizing good people & evil people {or saved people & unsaved people}* in FA's interpretation — and "at the end of the age" the "weeds" will be "burned with fire" in "the furnace of fire" where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."  But pUR has a strong counter-argument by claiming that instead of the wheat & weeds being good people & evil people (as in FA), they are (in pUR) the good & evil within one person,* and in "the furnace of fire" the person's evil (their sinful evil character that leads to sinful feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions) will be "burned with fire" so "then [after their evil sin is burned away by divine fire in The Lake of Fire with a process that will be unpleasant for them so they will “weep and gnash” but will be beneficial for them] the righteous [the people whose character previously included both good & evil, but now is only good] will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."  We can think of this transformative purification as spiritual surgery (done skillfully by divine HolySpirit-fire) that corrects-and-heals a person during their purgatorial experiences in UR-Hell.

* Instead of defining wheat & weeds as people who are good & evil, we have biblical reasons to define them as people who are saved & unsaved, because Revelation 20:15 says "anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life [who was not saved] was thrown into the lake of fire" and (Matthew 13) "weeds" will be thrown into "the furnace of fire."  This interpretation (with "weeds" = unsaved people who will be thrown into a lake/furnace of fire) is the doctrine of Protestants (and Catholics) proposing that only unsaved people will be in "the lake of fire" (and "the furnace of fire") because saved people will be saved from hell (i.e. saved from this effect of our sins) in addition to being saved from our sins when we have become sinless, after God has sanctified us in a radical transformation that doesn't require throwing us into the lake/furnace of fire.  {but HOW will God sanctify us?  the Bible doesn't clearly explain the details, so I ask "compared with the process for saved people, what will be the similarities & differences for unsaved people, if God will cause pUR?" in the middle of an 8-paragraph blue section about HOW-WHAT-WHY that describes biblical principles and speculates about a transformation-process that seems consistent with these principles.}   /   also:  I'm describing the wheat & chaff as being good & evil, but of course this is an exaggerated oversimplification.  In reality, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) so we all have evil character.  Therefore it's difficult to imagine how God could achieve genuine justice by using binary justice in which all outcomes-for-persons will be either Eternal Joy or Eternal Non-Existence (or, seeming much more unfair, Eternal Misery), apparently because this achieves genuine justice for people who are either good (totally?) or evil (totally?);  or who (based on the personal merit of their own heart-and-mind, their own goodness-and-wisdom?) decided to save themself or to not save themself;  or who God decided to save or to not-save.

 

* Jesus tells us that "all causes of sin" (the evil character that causes sinful feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions) and "all who do evil" (evil people who have evil character) will be thrown into "the furnace of fire."  This combo-action (of evil character and evil people being thrown into the furnace) is compatible with pUR, because FA and pUR both propose that evil people (and thus the evil character that's a part of “what they are”) will be thrown into the fire.  The entire person, including their evil character, will be thrown into the fire.   /   But with pUR all evil people {unsaved people} will be radically transformed in the furnace — in the lake of fire that is pUR-Hell that "burns up" their evil character — so they will emerge from it as good people because their evil character has been burned out of them.  At this time ("then" after God has sin-purified them with His divine fire) they have become "righteous" so they "will shine forth as the sun [with only good character] in the kingdom of their Father," in His Ultimate Restoration.    {a cause-effect relationship between seeds in two parables would support a claim that weeds are evil character, but could the weeds be evil people?}

Although “burning up” a person's evil character could occur with FA (or EM), this would not achieve any useful purpose for them;  being purified (so they have no evil in their feelings-thoughts-actions) would provide no lasting benefit for the persons who will be killed (with FA) or will never escape from hell (with EM).   {what is God's purpose for resurrecting unsaved people?}

Because weeds are both evil people and evil character, pUR is a plausible result of what will happen in "the furnace of fire."  But it isn't proof because FA can propose that when the evil person is "burned up" (with FA) their evil character is "burned up," so God eliminates person-and-character in the same burning.  The differing result is that a divine fire-that-consumes could annihilate a person (with FA) or (with pUR) annihilate their sin to purify the person.}    {this is one of the many examples of biblical ambiguity that makes it difficult to confidently conclude either “UR will happen” or “FA will happen”}

 

This parable is one of many biblical passages describing “two kinds of people” (in this case, wheat & weeds) that sometimes is claimed as evidence for FA (or EM) and against UR.  But these claims are not logically justifiable, because pUR agrees with FA (and EM) by proposing that there ARE two kinds of people {saved & unsaved, wheat & weeds} during some periods of time.  But pUR proposes that this distinction between "two kinds" won't last forever, because ultimately God will transform unsaved people into saved people so there will be one kind of person {saved wheat} in the Ultimate Restoration of God's Kingdom. 

 

seeds in two parables:  Jesus tells us about seeds in His two major parables of Matthew 13, described and explained first in 1-9 and 18-23 {parable of The Sower}, and then {parable of The Wheat & Weeds} in 24-30 and 36-43.

word-seed and son-seed:  Jesus tells us that "the seed" is "the word of the kingdom" {in Sower Parable} and {in Wheat Parable} He "sows the good seed" that is "the sons of the kingdom."  The relationship between word-seed and son-seed seems to support a pUR-interpretation of The Wheat Parable.  Why?  Because there is a cause-effect relationship IF — when "word of the kingdom" {Sower Parable} is actualized in the life of a person — this causes "sons of the kingdom" {Wheat Parable} that is good character, is good feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions.  This actualization in living (with "word of the kingdom" causing "sons of the kingdom") occurs when a person lets Jesus be their King (so they are a loyal subject of His kingdom) so they let His words “abide in their mind-and-heart” as described in His promise (John 15:7) that "if you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you."     /     Each kind of seed – His word-seed (in Sower Parable) and the good son-seed character caused by His word (in Wheat Parable) – is beneficial, spiritually and practically.  These seeds are mutually supportive, with "word of the kingdom" spiritually causing "sons of the kingdom" that are practical spiritual fruits of the kingdom, and these beneficial fruits showing people how "the word of the kingdom" is fruitful in practical ways.     /     also:  Using analogy-logic, if "word of the kingdom" {seed in Sower Parable} is not-people, maybe "sons of the kingdom" {seed in Wheat Parable} also is not-people.

good sons and evil sons:  In the Sower Parable, "weeds" are described as "stumbling blocks" (evil character) and "sons of the evil one."  If there is a cause-effect relationship between the seeds, with "word of the kingdom" (seed in Sower Parable) being actualized-in-living so they cause "sons of the kingdom" (good seed in Wheat Parable) with good feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions,  maybe "sons of the evil one" (bad seed in Wheat Parable) occur when words of the non-kingdom (that oppose God's kingdom) are actualized-in-living to cause "sons of the evil one" with evil feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions.  This basic idea – with two cause-effect relationships (one causing good, the other causing evil) – is consistent with Jesus telling us in John 8:44 that "the devil" is "the father of lies" so lies are sons of the devil.  These lies could be words of the non-kingdom that oppose "word of the kingdom" (in Sower Parable) so (in Wheat Parable) "the weeds" that are "sons of the evil one" could be the result of evil "lies" (as in John 8) that are harmful when (in Wheat Parable) the devil's lies deceive a person and influence them to damage their own character by growing their evil character-weeds (evil feelings-thoughts-decisions-actions) even though these evil weeds are harmful for the person who is being deceived by the devil's lies.   /   a summary:  With this interpretation, in the Wheat Parable a person's wheat-character ("sons of the kingdom") is good, and their weed-character ("sons of the evil one") is evil.

 

baptism with water and baptism with fire:  Logical connections between fire & baptism & death seem to support a claim that death of sin leads to new life during Life and also Afterlife, based on analogy between baptism with water (as when a person is immersed in a lake of water) during Life, and baptism with fire (when a person is immersed in "the lake of fire" if this will be pUR-Hell) during AfterLife.  If this fire-baptism fulfills the prophecy of John the Baptist (in Matthew 3) when he told us that Jesus will baptize "with the Holy Spirit and fire," there would be analogy between...

wheat/chaff and wheat/weeds:  This analogy – made by comparing wheat & chaff (in Matthew 3) with wheat & weeds (in Matthew 13) – supports pUR because wheat & chaff are parts of the same plant, so maybe wheat & weeds are parts of the same person, are the good & evil parts of a person's character.  Both passages are describing the same process — when the divine baptizing-fire of Jesus burns up only the chaff (but not the wheat) in Matthew 3 — IF in Matthew 13 this divine baptizing-fire burns up only a person's evil sinfulness (weeds), so the person is purified-from-sin and restored (with UR) instead of (with FA) burning up the entire evil person, killing them with fire.  In this way, God would distinguish between a person who HAS evil character (that causes them to DO evil actions) and a person who IS evil.  With purgatorial UR in pUR-Hell, Jesus will baptize an unsaved person with Holy Spirit, baptizing them with divine fire (pur is the Greek word for fire) that purifies the person whose character includes both wheat & chaff (both wheat & weeds, good & evil) by burning up their evil (their "chaff", their "weeds").  After this sanctifying purification-from-sin, He will (as prophesied by John the Baptist in Matthew 3) "gather His wheat [the totally-good person, who now has been purified so they have no evil] into the barn," as the same process is described in Matthew 13, the person will "then" (after God has transformed them into "righteous" wheat-without-weeds) "shine forth like the sun."  We expect a baptism by Jesus to provide benefits for the person who is being baptized, and His fire-baptism is beneficial with pUR, but with FA (or EM) it's damaging.

 

You can read LESS in summary-overviews of the closely related
concepts in this “big picture” overview of fire & death & baptism,
and even MORE about Second Death in The Lake of [Divine] Fire
and the overall process (immersion plus un-immersion) of baptism.

 


 

The Narrow Way  —  is it narrow only Now, or both Now and Later?

Now:  IF God will cause Eternal Misery, it's difficult to imagine how any binary justice (with God causing either Eternal Misery or Eternal Joy in Afterlife) could be fair, especially if only a few people will be saved, as implied by Jesus (Matthew 7:13-14) telling us "the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. {NASB}"  The "few" seem to be very few because Jesus was saying this to Jewish people, and most of them were at least trying to follow God with their Bible-based religion of Judaism.  But the overwhelming majority of people, now and in the past, lived in cultures where most people don't even try to follow the biblical God — e.g. because they haven't heard The Gospel, or they are devoted to another religion, or to no religion — so the "few" seem to be an extremely small fraction of all people created by God.  Will all other people (the extremely large fraction) be forced to experience an eternity of misery?   {even though they were never given a chance to decide rationally – by having essential information about God's “rules for the game” – whether or not they wanted to play The Game of Life-and-Afterlife}

Later:  In most of our translations-into-English, Jesus seems to be telling us that “only a few will be saved.”  So is He saying “Ultimate Restoration won't happen”?  No.  Why not?  Because the original Greek indicates that only a few are being saved NOW, that "few are the ones finding {DLNT}" the narrow road.  In the Disciples' Literal New Testament (DLNT) we see "finding" (to describe what is happening Now),* by contrast with most modern translations — even those that usually are more-literal, like NASB, ESV, KJV, NRSV — that say "find" (to state that “only a few” will ever be saved, either Now or Later, including both Now AND Later) even though this interpretative implication about present-AND-future is not justified by the original text in Greek.  These biased non-literal translations (implying that “only a few” will be saved, either now in Life or later in Afterlife) are not justified by the Greek wording, so it's another example of how biased translations are misleading, to definitely cause confusion & possibly cause error.    There is a MAJOR difference-in-meaning between finding (the correct translation of Greek into English) and find (as implied by the common mis-translations).     {two clarifications:  1) the pUR-view I'm describing agrees that only a "few" are being saved Now, and that it's wrong to claim “all roads lead to God” because Jesus offers the only way to be saved.   2) If UR (or semi-UR) is correct because it will happen, even though only a few are being saved now during Life, many more will be saved later during Afterlife.  But if either EM or FA is correct in its claim that God will not save anyone during Afterlife, then the only people who will be saved are "the few" that are now being saved during Life. }     /     * As in DLNT and (more important) in Greek language, Young's Literal Translation – written by Robert Young, author of the famous Young's Analytical Concordance – uses the present-continuous tense, to say "many are those going in [now during Life] through it."     {in most literal translations it's present-continuous tense, so the meaning is “are finding” instead of “will find”}

 

The Narrow Way with EM or FA, and with UR:  If the Bible teaches us that "few are the ones finding [now during Life]" the road leading to salvation,  then Bible-believers should reject (as I do) a pluralistic claim that “all roads lead to God, and to salvation.”   IF you believe (as I do) that the Bible teaches a strong exclusivism so only Jesus offers salvation and explicit belief in Jesus is required for salvation, then...

    all views (UR, FA, EM) agree that only a "few" are finding (now during Life) the road to salvation;
    IF God will not save anyone later during Afterlife (as claimed by EM and FA),  then only a few will find salvation, and most people will not be saved, instead God will cause most people to have permanent misery (with EM) or permanent non-existence (with FA);   but...
    IF God will save people later during Afterlife (as claimed by UR),  then all people can be saved, and will be saved.     {or if semi-UR happens, more people will be saved than during Life.}

Therefore, the “narrow way” teaching of Jesus is compatible with the final results-of-Hell proposed by all three views (by EM, FA, UR),  so eventually the final results could be that a few are saved (if God will cause EM or FA) or all are saved (if God will cause UR).

 


 

Two Kinds of People – Temporarily

This long paragraph explains (more thoroughly than in a summary) why even though verses describing few people traveling the narrow road and two kinds of people {saved & unsaved} may seem to be evidence-against-UR, this evidence is weakened (maybe even eliminated) if God can-and-will save people during Afterlife.  To see why, think about the distinction between not-yet-final states and the final state.  With pUR, in not-yet-final states there are now (in Life) and will be (in early stages after the end of Life) two kinds of people {saved & unsaved} as described in these verses, agreeing with FA & EM.  But although with UR there are two kinds of persons {already-saved & temporarily not-yet-saved} for awhile, eventually instead of {saved & unsaved} there will be only one kind of person {saved} in the ultimate final state.   /   If God will produce UR, here are the timings (not-yet-final and final) for a person who is unsaved when they die:  during Life this person is one of the many (all except those on the narrow road of salvation) who are unsaved;  after this person dies, they remain unsaved during several stages (from their death until they are bodily resurrected, and when they are being judged by God, and in their semi-final penultimate state of purgatorial UR-Hell);  then after God eventually saves them, they become a saved person in their final ultimate state of Eternal Joy, after they become personally-restored (internally) so they can become interpersonally-restored (externally) by being relationally reconciled with other people and with God, so they can fully love people and God.  With UR, in the ultimate state all unsaved persons have been saved by God.

In other words, pUR proposes that there will be two kinds of people {saved & unsaved} during Life and during some later stages, as described in the “two kinds of people” verses.  Therefore if these verses are describing the not-yet-final stages, but not the final stage of Ultimate Afterlife, they are not evidence-against-UR.  For example, Revelation 20:15 tells us that "anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life [so they are unsaved] was thrown into the lake of fire."  This verse is compatible with pUR (so it isn't evidence-against-pUR) if this "lake of fire" is pUR-Hell that God will use in a painful-yet-beneficial process of educational correction to produce healings of all persons and all relationships.

 

also:  When we're comparing pUR with FA, in Matthew 13:36-43 we can ask whether the wheat & weeds are two kinds of people {saved & unsaved} and/or two kinds of character {good & evil} within a person.  But with either meaning, or with both meanings, this parable is compatible with pUR if Jesus is describing how in "the furnace of fire" (in "the lake of fire" that is pUR-Hell) a person's "weeds" (the evil sinfulness in their character) will be "burned away" so "then [after their evil sin is burned away] the righteous [the people whose character previously included both good & evil, but now is only good] will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

 


 

  Ultimate Restoration and Ambiguity —  

  Reasons for Optimism-without-Confidence  

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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 Ultimate Restoration (UR) or semi-UR — have strong biblical support, and I think each is a possibility."   My confident conclusion (about EM) and unconfident non-conclusion (about FA versus UR) are a result of... 

 

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;  I also concluded that UR "is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches. ... the Bible tells us what God has decided, and it doesn’t seem to be universal salvation."     { 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, although I'm hopeful that UR will happen, I'm only optimistic (not certain or even highly confident) that UR will happen.  But the more I'm learning, the more optimistic I'm becoming, due to my increased understanding of the strong biblical support for UR, when all things are considered.  And I'm becoming even more hopeful that UR will happen, because this would be extremely good,  it would give us strong reasons to praise God because of what He will do for people (not just to people) in purgatorial UR-Hell, when He uses hell-experiences to purify people from their sins, transforming them into the righteous persons He always wanted them to be.

{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 of my evaluation — when comparing FA with UR — why is there no clear winner?  I'll give you two answers, by responding to these two why-questions:

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

 

Why is the process of evaluation difficult, with ambiguous conclusion?

In evaluations of FA versus 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 versus UR, whole-Bible principles seem consistent with either FA or UR;  and we can find different verses that provide support for FA or for 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.
 

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

 

Why has God allowed this ambiguity?

Certainly our uncertainty is allowed by God.  And probably it's caused by God, maybe 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, because without fear-based motivation some people — if they expect UR instead of FA (or expect FA instead of EM) in Afterlife — might run wild;*  or
    to produce temporary psychological suffering in hell if people think their hell-experience might end (with the death of FA) or might not end (if they'll get EM), even if they eventually will get UR.
 

Or maybe the answer actually IS clear in the Bible, and we (including me) are just not seeing what should be clear.

But this seems unlikely, because devout intelligent Bible-believing Christians – after carefully studying the questions – have reached differing conclusions about what the Bible teaches, so there are some advocates for each doctrine, for FA and UR plus semi-UR (the 3 doctrine-views I think are plausible), and even for biblically-implausible EM.  So evidently most of us — all except those who are now advocating the doctrine that correctly describes what will happen, and probably this is a minority because the majority now believe EM but this probably won't happen — are missing the clarity.

* The biblical ambiguity (about whether God will cause Annihilation or Restoration, or even Eternal Misery) is one reason for our overall uncertainty — due to an absence of strong divine persuasion for most people during Life — that seems to be intentionally caused by God, that is an “evangelistic responsibility” argument against EM and for UR.

 

*I.O.U. – Soon (maybe late-January 2021) I'll say more about the educational utility of ambiguity, with analogies to the human method of “inquiry learning” that is summarized earlier.

 

 

 

logically defining Conditional Immortality  —  Part 3

Of course, this Part 3 builds on Part 1 and Part 2 and these build on the basics (before Part 1 and before Part 2) of why Conditional Immortality (CI) is taught in The Bible, why it's important, how it's related to the divine penalty of death (not long-term suffering), and how Conditional Immortality would happen with either Final Annihilation (FA) or Ultimate Restoration (UR), but not if God will cause Eternal Misery (EM).

Part 3 has two parts (re: the Condition and Timing of Immortality) that explain why our thinking will be more productive, and our communication will be more accurate, if we logically define a system of terms to describe our concepts about the final results of Hell, and we consistently use these terms in our thinking and communication.     {note: for logical coherence in Part 3A, you'll see some “duplicated content” from Part 2}

 

Part 3AThe Condition of Immortality

In Part 1 we see how immortality would satisfy God's if-then Conditionif (and only if) saved, then immortal — with 2 of the 3 views, with Final Annihilation (FA) because all unsaved people would be gone, or with Ultimate Restoration (UR) because all people would be saved.*  Therefore the logical conclusion is 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.  I think we should be logical (instead of just traditional) in our defining of Conditional Immortality.  What do you think?

What is the logical definition?  Because all immortal people would satisfy the divine if-then Condition of “only if saved, then immortal” with either FA or UR, it seems obvious that “Conditional Immortality is FA-or-UR” should be the logical conclusion.  This logic could be over-ruled by other reasons (traditional and/or personal), but should it be overruled?

I.O.U. – soon (maybe March 27) I'll combine two sections (here and in Part 2) that have very similar content.   /   A person can conclude that “UR will happen” in two different ways, by starting with either dependent conditional immortality or intrinsic universal immortality:   1) A proponent of UR should begin with dependent conditional immortality — because the Bible teaches us that a person's continuing existence is dependent on God (it's not intrinsic), and is conditional — so the result of Afterlife-Hell will be either UR or FA;  then they evaluate UR-versus-FA and conclude “it will be UR” so they also conclude “it will be universal immortality.”   2) But a proponent of UR could begin by assuming unbiblical intrinsic universal immortality so “everyone will be immortal” with UR or EM;  then they evaluate UR-versus-EM and conclude “it will be UR.”   In other words, universal immortality could be either a final conclusion (using biblical process #1) or (using unbiblical process #2) an initial assumption.     /     a summary:  There is no logical reason for a proponent of UR to begin with an initial assumption of universal immortality {so it's UR-or-EM} and then conclude “it's UR (not EM),”  instead they can begin by assuming it's Conditional Immortality {so it's UR-or-FA}* and then finally conclude “it's UR (not FA)” so their final conclusion includes universal immortality.     {When a person bases their evaluations on a careful study of the Bible (as they should), this initial assumption is actually an initial conclusion.}

* An important outcome of Conditional Immortality is that CI produces a Final State in which sin has been eliminated by God.  UR and FA both produce a sinless Final State;  this similarity-of-outcomes occurs because both are CI, so we should define CI as UR-or-FA.  A similar Final State (without sin) would be produced by either form of CI, although with UR this is achieved by eliminating sin-within-people, and with FA it's achieved by eliminating people, so with FA there are fewer people in The Final State.     /     By contrast, EM is not-CI.  Therefore, EM would produce a very different Final State in which sin is being maintained by God, forever, and this unbiblical outcome is one biblical reason (among many biblical reasons) to reject EM.

 

defining a system-of-terms logically:

To promote thinking that is more logical, and communicating that is less confusing, every term (in a system of related terms) should have only one meaning.  Consistent with this principle, we should carefully define the adjective-terms we use to describe immortality.   I think these terms should include:  unbiblical intrinsic immortality (with continuing existence independent from God) contrasts with biblical dependent immortality (with continuing existence dependent on God);  biblical conditional immortality contrasts with unbiblical unconditional immortality that is not the same as possibly-biblical universal immortality because...

universal immortality could be produced in two ways:  by God's universal salvation of all (in a UR-result that is biblically possible because it would be consistent with conditional immortality);  or by God's forcing of unconditional immortality on unsaved people (in an EM-result that seems biblically impossible because it would violate conditional immortality).

All of these adjective-terms (plus other terms) form a "system of related terms" with interactions between concepts that are related-yet-different.  For example, when we compare dependent immortality with conditional immortality, we see that...

 

dependent allows conditional, because if (as Bible-believers should believe) life depends on God, then (as Bible-believers should believe) God is able to make conditional decisions about life and death.  Do humans have intrinsically-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 Soul/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 a Conditional Immortality of Body-and-Soul.*   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 life-or-death decisions made by God.     /     We should try to think-and-communicate in ways that are clear, not sloppy.  Unfortunately, some people use conditional with two different meanings — to describe God's decisions-about-life based on His if-then condition, and also how the giving-of-life depends on God — and they imply that both of these are conditional.  In an effort to reduce confusion and increase clarity, I'm proposing that we should use two words to describe the two meanings:  we should use dependent for dependent existence, so (to clarify the intended meaning) we can use conditional only for conditional existence.     /     * In the Bible, in Genesis & Revelation "the tree of life" is God's way of describing His divinely supernatural giving-of-life by preventing death.

 
 

Part 3B – The Timing of Immortality

In contrast with failed attempts (made by proponents of FA) trying to logically justify their claim that “CI is only-FA”, here we'll examine an argument that is biblically-logically justifiable.

If God will cause UR, when does a person's immortality begin?  For a person who was saved-in-Life, their immortality begins immediately when they are resurrected with indestructible bodies.  For a person who was unsaved-in-life, proponents of “CI is only-FA” claim that “with Conditional Immortality this person cannot be immediately given an indestructible body because they are not yet saved, but this mis-timing (with indestructible body before salvation) would occur with UR.”  Their objection is biblically-logical, but a proponent of UR can respond in two biblically-logical ways:

    1) When we ask “what kind of body for the unsaved?” the situation is similar for FA and UR.  In either scenario for Afterlife, a person who was unsaved-in-Life will be given a body for awhile, until God is finished with the temporary “phases of afterlife” that He wants them to have.  With FA these phases include a time period for The Judgment of God, and maybe a time period when they are being punished for their sins (so they will have different degrees of suffering) and certainly a time period when they are dying and become dead.  With UR these phases include a time period for The Judgment of God, and the person's time period in UR-Hell that causes their belief-and-repentance, that transforms them so they become restored (so they will be the righteous person He always wanted them to be) and become reconciled (with other people and with God);  then after they have been saved, God will give them an indestructible body, and this timing (with salvation before indestructible body) is consistent with The Condition of Conditional Immortality.     /     a review:  With either FA or UR, a temporary body (given immediately at resurrection) must allow the continuing existence of an unsaved person "for awhile" so they can experience the required phases of their afterlife, whether this lasts for a short time or a long time;  the divinely-decided length of required time (for FA, or for UR) is not specified in scripture, so it could be a short time or a long time.  With UR we can think of this temporary body as a “probationary body” that will be transformed into an indestructible “immortal body” after they have been saved by God, and this timing is compatible with Conditional Immortality.
    2) If God decides to do UR and causes UR, God knows with certainty (by divine foreknowledge) that an unsaved person eventually will be saved by Him.  Therefore, even if He immediately gives them an indestructible body (to be used during their temporary time in UR-Hell), in the long run this immediately-indestructible “immortal body” will not violate The Condition of Conditional Immortality.   It will not violate God's decision about CI — with His decree in Genesis 3:22 stating that a sinner "must not... live forever" — because the previously-unsaved person will be saved before they live forever, so they will live forever as a saved person, not (as with EM) while they remain an unsaved person.

 

Logically Defining Terms that have Related-yet-Different Meanings

{more about defining Conditional Immortality}

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”?}

 

 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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 responsibilities – and 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 the many 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, mainly because they are assuming instead of studyingAnd 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 God.  I feel disappointed and sad about what they're doing, and this makes it more difficult for me to feel a deep fellowship with other Christians.   {yes, I know this attitude is a sinful flaw, and with God's help I'm trying to change it, 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 & professional.  Based on the second-hand experiences of others, responses by fellow Christians are sometimes moderately hostile personally (but can be very hostile professionally) toward a person proposing FA, and typically — based on stories I've heard [from George W Sarris & Alex Smith & others] but not my limited personal experience)* — are often more hostile toward a person proposing UR, or even describing it as a biblically-plausible possibility.   {iou - later, I'll write more about this.}

 

Pressures – Personal and Professional

Pressures can be felt in different ways, at different levels:

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 to conform:

    What?  The "pressures to conform" are pressures to accept EM, or (more commonly) to at least not speak against it.   {reasons for caution and reasons for action}
   
Why?  There is pressure because:  EM is included in many 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 views, with EM & FA & UR;   typically, EM is “assumed” in Christian culture & general culture;   and if this assumption is challenged, or even questioned, some people inside a church (and outside it) will vigorously defend EM, and will personally attack those who challenge EM.
    How?  Many pastors (and members) are worried that “challenging EM” would lead to controversy, with interpersonal conflicts and professional problems.  If a leader is worried about the effects — pastorally (if their church is negatively affected) and/or personally (if they lose respect from some members of their congregation and from other pastors) and/or professionally (if they lose their job & their family's income, and lose future opportunities due to “blackballing”) — this internal perception of threat can lead them to self-censor themselves, even if there is no external threat by their institution.  And maybe the internally perceived threats are justified because externally actualized penalties really are likely, and an institution would cause damage (personally & professionally) to a person who is challenging the institution's official doctrine of EM.

 

I.O.U. – Soon, maybe late-March 2021, somewhere in this section (probably above "Pressures - Personal and Professional") I'll write a short introduction that describes the personal motivation of wanting to reduce the internal conflict (the unpleasant cognitive dissonance) that usually occurs when someone says “you've been wrong,” that is a non-biblical factor affecting our evaluations of claims about “what will happen in hell.”  This intro will be short, and will link to a paragraph about the cognitive dissonance that is one of the reasons for Christians to have mixed feelings about hoping for Ultimate Restoration, even though all Christians should hope for UR because it would be the best possible ending for the grand story of what God is doing with us and for us.

I.O.U. – And soon I'll write a short introduction that puts this section into the context of wanting to avoid external conflict, which is a non-biblical factor affecting our evaluations of claims about “what will happen in hell.”

Why do traditions — one that did happen, another that didn't — often make it seem wise to avoid saying “God is more-good if He won't cause Eternal Misery” ?

an unfortunate tradition:   In some situations, our thoughts-and-actions are heavily influenced by the powerful inertia of tradition enforced by the powerful psychology-sociology of conformity, as in pressures (personal and/or professional) to affirm a “traditional” doctrine of Eternal Misery.  I think this is unfortunate because it's pressuring Christians who love God to say untrue-and-harmful things about His character.     {options: you can read more, in a question (can Christians have mixed feelings about hoping for all to be saved?) or alternative history (wishing the tradition was different-and-better)}

a better tradition:   Imagine that instead of most people assuming EM, very few believe it.  In this cultural context, it would be more difficult (compared with now) to claim “our loving Father will cause Eternal Misery.”  And it would be easier to proclaim “our loving Father will not cause Eternal Misery” (because He will either Annihilate or Reconcile) and this freedom would be much better.  We should be able to freely proclaim the goodness of God, by saying “He will do good with love-in-action instead of causing infinite harm.”  Ideally, we should not have to feel afraid that saying “God is less-bad, is more-good” might endanger a church and its leaders.  But currently we must feel afraid because of pressures to imply “God is bad” by saying God will cause infinite misery for most of the people that He caused to exist in Life-and-Afterlife.”     /     accepting reality:  Ideally, we shouldn't have to feel afraid, but...  with our actual unfortunate tradition, often the wise-and-loving decision (as explained in the next section, My Reasons for Caution) is to avoid citicizing a view claiming that God will cause Eternal Misery.

 

* my experiences:  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, although I've done some actions on a small scale:  since 1987, I've been thinking-reading-writing about these ideas;   in 1996, I began writing the ideas into word-documents;   these were converted into pdf-files that (after a revision in 2000) were made publicly available on the internet, but without trying to get my ideas widely read;   since 2010, I've been talking with some people by email & in person;   in 2014, I began writing web-pages (mainly this one) about all of the three major views, including UR;   in January 2018, I made a public commitment to action by putting a link for this page – "What will happen in Hell? (eternal misery, death, or healing?)" – into my bio-pages about "life on a road less traveled."  {update: I removed these links in June 2020, due to caution, for the interpersonal reasons described below.}

 

 

My Reasons for Caution

I'm confident about the Conditional Immortality (CI) that would occur with either purgatorial Ultimate Restoration (pUR) or Final Annihilation (FA), but not with Eternal Misery (EM).  I'm hopeful-and-optimistic about pUR.   But when I'm wondering whether to share my views with others, "I'm still being cautious, moving slowly" for two kinds of reasons, interpersonal and functional.

 

Interpersonal Reasons  {asking “how would it affect people in a church?”}

• Reasons for Caution:  I'm mainly concerned about other people, re: my effects on them, because...

    I don't know how a church (its members & leaders) would be affected by discussing “what will happen in hell?”, especially if the discussion is favorable to CI so it challenges the “traditional” assuming-of-EM.
    I think most members (and pastors) of most churches would respond well, either neutrally — saying “I don't care much” or, with humility, “I don't know enough about hell to be confident in claiming any view” and “I don't want to invest time in studying it,” or maybe “I think this is important, I'm curious and want to learn more” — or favorably because they prefer a non-EM view, they think EM would not achieve justice and the ethical character of God is better if He will not cause EM.  But I think a few church members (and a few people outside the church) would respond unfavorably by vigorously defending the tradition of EM for a variety of biblical & extra-biblical reasons in ways that might be vigorously vocal (maybe even nasty), causing trouble for the church and for its leaders.
    The leaders of a church – its pastor & others – would have more reasons, compared with me, for interpersonal concerns (plus professional institutional pressures),  more reasons to be cautious by avoiding discussions about hell.   Probably they don't want to invite controversy, so I don't want to (and I will not) “invite controversy for them” by trying to start a discussion without their permission and cooperation.
 

• Reasons for Action:  If there is no discussion, many people will continue to believe — without carefully studying what the Bible actually teaches — that God will cause Eternal Misery.  This makes me sad because when people say “God will cause Eternal Misery” I think they are saying untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God so I'm hoping they will stop saying these things.  A productive discussion (with love & respect) could lead more people to ask “what will happen in hell?”, to search for truth by carefully studying the Bible, and hopefully find truth.

 

Functional Reasons  {evangelistic responsibilities and practical effects}

Evangelistic Responsibilities:  Christians should try to avoid giving False Hope and the Bad Surprise that would occur if during Life a person expects pUR (purgatorial Ultimate Restoration) but in Afterlife they get FA (Final Annihilation) or EM (Eternal Misery),  or if they expect FA but get EM.  We also should try to avoid causing False Fear if we proclaim “EM” but FA or UR will happen, or if we proclaim “FA” and UR will happen.  Due to biblical ambiguity about The Final Results of Hell, these two conflicting responsibilities — to avoid causing False Hope or False Fear — produce a tough dilemma.

Practical Effects:  A person's beliefs about Hell will affect their motivations (fear-based & love-based) to repent and live by faith.  A belief in EM-Hell will increase fear motives — due to fearing the infinite horror of Eternal Misery, instead of thinking {with FA} “death wouldn't be so bad” or {with pUR} “even if I now say NO, later I can say YES and (after a non-infinite time in UR-Hell) then I'll be fine” — but it tends to decrease love motives due to not respecting the character of a God who is believed to be an EM-causer, and unfortunately this makes it much more difficult to fully respect and trust and love Him.  Many people have a pragmatic concern about society — they are worried that if there is no fear of EM, sinners will “run wild”, causing great harm to themselves and to others — because EM seems to be pragmatically useful in its fear-based restraining of sin.  But... the fearing of EM has some beneficial practical effects, AND some detrimental practical effects to (again) produce a tough dilemma.     /     This worry about “sinners running wild” was common in the early church (its first few centuries) when pUR was commonly believed, but was less commonly proclaimed because leaders were self-restrained by their doctrine of reserve, as explained by J.W. Hanson in Chapter 4 of his book (1899) about the history of Universal Restoration.

 

Conflicting Factors:   In each of these reasons for being cautious — for not discussing “what will happen in hell” and not claiming “I think CI (or UR or FA) probably will happen, and EM won't happen” — the caution (the not-discussing & not-claiming, with non-action) produces some good effects AND some bad effects:  discussing hell in church could lead to controversy, BUT it could help us discover biblical truth;   we should avoid causing false hope AND false fear;   believing EM usually increases one motive (due to fear of EM) for conversion-and-discipleship, BUT it usually decreases a more important motive (when fear makes it more difficult to fully love an EM-causing God);   a fear of EM produces beneficial effects AND detrimental effects.   Due to these conflicting factors, each reason for caution is closely related to a reason for action, so I (and we) have a tough dilemma.

Biblical Ambiguity:   There are strong arguments (and counter-arguments) for (and against) two views* — so it's difficult to be confident about which view is correct {is true because it will happen} — and this ambiguity adds to the dilemma.     {I think we find strong biblical support for the two CI-views (for FA and UR) but not for EM.}

Action with Caution:   In principle, I already have decided that action is best, in the long run.  But in each specific short-term situation, I want to use wise caution, and so far I usually have been deciding to not discuss and not claim.

My Feelings about Caution:  I'm very sad, when thinking about the situations in most churches.  I think it's sad, for God's people in His church, that (due to the unfortunate tradition of Eternal Misery) usually caution seems wise.  But I will continue to acknowledge the reality of situations as they really are — not how I think they should be — when I'm deciding how to wisely control my actions.

 


 

• my relationship with God:

Here are my responses to what I think (with appropriate humility – not too little, not too much) is the basic justice and character of God with each view:

    if I try to imagine – contrary to what I believe – that 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 for unbelievers in hell” because, with UR, God can produce restorative justice for victims, and for offenders He will do retributive justice that rehabilitates-and-heals, so everyone can forgive everyone, with a total healing of all persons and all relationships.
 

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?”  But I believe there are now (and will be later) good answers for this question and for other tough questions, so ultimately everyone will be satisfied and will say "God is good, and I'm glad He created me."

* 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," and Paul tells us to "take delight in honoring each other."  To help us love-and-honor 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, instead of non-essential?*  We should 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 (is true 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 fromthe 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, probably because they didn't believe it, and if they did (very unlikely) 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 that were respected in theological discussions among Christians, and our major statements of belief – as in the Apostle's Creed and Nicene Creed – say nothing about UR or FA or EM, so all views can affirm these two classic creeds.  And all views now can affirm the modern “fundamentals” of Christian faith.  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 andwith 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?”  In our current culture, most unbelievers are assuming — due to commonly shared “beliefs in their culture,” reinforced by what they typically 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 honorably 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 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 honorably 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 
– and one reason is that He is too good to cause EM –
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.”     {if a Christian thinks God will cause EM, should they “hope against what God wants” by hoping for FA or UR?  yes, because in reality they “hope against what [they think] God wants” – although they are justified in wanting to praise God for whatever He doesthey should humbly hope they are wrong about God wanting to cause EM, so they are hoping that God will not cause EM.}
    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, or 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?   And in the community of Christians, we can "take delight in honoring each other" by recognizing (in our thinking and communicating) that proponents for each of the views can be motivated by a sincere desire to honor God.

 

 

 

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

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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.     {* In fact, Christians don't have to "tell non-believers... The Bad News" because for everyone the assumed-belief is that “if God exists, He will cause Eternal Misery in Hell” because this is an intrinsic part of Western Culture.}
    • 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, because if you “say NO to God” throughout your Life, after your temporary First Death you will be resurrected to a temporary Afterlife of suffering that leads to your permanent Second Death.
    • with Ultimate Restoration (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 wonderfully satisfying 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.
 

What is the most “evangelical” view of Hell?  The dictionary meaning of evangel (Greek) is (in English) "the good tidings of the redemption of the world through Jesus Christ."  It seems obvious that the most evangelical view is UR, and the least is EM.  But if it's truly evangelical a view must be good-AND-true.  Seeking truth is important so I'm encouraging you (and challenging you) to carefully study the Bible instead of assuming you already know.  Since 1987 I've invested lots of time in carefully studying, and my current conclusion is that EM is extremely bad and is false,  FA is better than bad and is possibly true,  UR is extremely good and is possibly true.  And the more I study UR (by reading & listening, and thinking), the more optimistic I'm becoming about its truth.

 

 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

Can we praise God for His Hell?

I'm asking about "His Hell" because God is sovereign, so what will happen in Hell is what the sovereign God decides will happen and wants to happen, and will cause to happen (or at least will allow to happen, if God self-limits the actualizing of His sovereign control by allowing the thinking-and-actions of people to actually determine what will occur).

When a person “says YES to God” they will want to obey God's Two Great Commandments by fully loving God and loving 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 people, we should tell them what God will do TO (and maybe FOR) unsaved people in Hell.

With the Good News of Ultimate Restoration (UR), we can proudly proclaim "what God will do" FOR unsaved sinners in UR-Hell — when He transforms them into the totally righteous people He always wanted them to be — 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, because God will achieve justice-by-restoration.  With UR the experience in Hell can be just and also loving because it produces retributive justice for sinners (when they reap in Afterlife what they sowed in Life) and restorative justice for their victims (with a healing of wounds), plus corrective restoration for sinners (who are corrected & healed, are liberated from their slavery to sin, to achieve reconciliations with God and with people) so the results are beneficial for everyone.     { With UR, could we see a return of “hellfire and brimstone” sermons, but instead of simply threatening sinners we also would be praising God for the beneficial results He will produce in UR-Hell? }

 

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 WJWD is Eternal Torment and also "as You have been [in Life], You 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'm not thinking “God will cause Eternal Misery” so I don't need to compartmentalize my beliefs, because I'm confident that Unconditional Immortality (with God causing Sinful Immortality for most people) is not 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.

 


 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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 (and possibly whole afterlife) 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 fully loving God with their mind & heart (in their thinking & feeling) 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 people – then 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?  maybe, at least if a person's main motive for persevering is fear-of-God rather than love-for-God.}

 

Motives for Living by Faith, with Love

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 (wanting to change so they will become a better person) 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 fearing, 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.

 

Should we fear God?  Throughout the Bible, a spiritually healthy fear of God is different than the common meaning of fear, as we see in The Amplified Bible's clarifications-of-meaning [inside brackets] in Proverbs 9:10a {"The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome]* is the beginning and the preeminent part of wisdom [its starting point and its essence]."} and in 1 John 4:18 {"There is no fear in love [dread does not exist].  But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love]" or, in The Living Bible, "We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly;  his perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us."     {In the minds of most people, a God who is "truly awesome" must be powerful AND good, but causing Eternal Misery doesn't seem good. }

 

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 greedy 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.

consider this analogy:  Imagine that a man proposes by saying “we will have a wonderful life together if you marry me, but if you don't I will put you in my dungeon and will torture you for the rest of your life.”  She says yes, but... is she marrying him because of love (for him and the wonderful life they will have together) or due to fear, or a mixture of love-and-fear?  How will this kind of proposal affect her?  Will she ever love him in the same ways that she would have IF instead he had just said “we will have a wonderful life together if you marry me”?

love and praise:  If we believe pUR, we would be able to love God more fully (with our whole hearts & minds) and enthusiastically praise Him because of what He will do for people in UR-Hell.     /     By contrast, it seems more difficult to imagine praising God for what He will do to people in FA-Hell or EM-Hell.

 

The Purpose of Salvation:  What are the main benefits of salvation by God?  What is a person “saved from” and “saved to”?  [[ iou - soon, maybe in late-March 2021 here i'll describe similarities & differences in views-of-salvation {re: what are we saved from, and saved to} with UR, FA, EM, and this subsection will be greatly improved}]]   In addition to being saved from the penalty of death, 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 (saved by God who gives the wisdom-strength-love we need to reduce our sinful thinking & actions) so you are saved to being able to live free from slavery to sin?  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}

 


 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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 for many people a plausible UR-Hell (or FA-Hell) could be a stronger deterrent than an implausible EM-Hell.  For example, if you're a Christian you probably have no fears about Allah forcing you into an Islam-Hell that you think doesn't exist;  because the threat of Islamic-Hell seems implausible, it doesn't motivate you by fear, it doesn't make you want to convert to Islam.}   {more}   {more: This section ends with questions about some practical effects of a grace-based gospel message.}

• 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, so Christians should strongly emphasize (in their conversations with non-Christians) the wisdom of making a commitment-decision now;  we should explain why if they “say yes to God” NOW,  their Life will be much better now, and later their Afterlife will be much better, so at all times (during Life & Afterlife) their living will be much better.    /   * Defenders of EM usually claim that effective evangelism requires the “infinitely big stick” of Eternal Misery, because this terrifying threat is necessary for effective “carrots and sticks” motivation.

• 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.    /    a bottom-line summary:  every Christian should strongly emphasize that — whether the final result of Hell will be EM or FA or UR — when anyone “says yes to God” NOW, at all times (during Life & Afterlife) their living will be much better.

[[ iou - ideas to be developed later:  EM positive for morality (but fear-based motives, @ rice) -- EM negative for living by faith with changed heart/mind, true Chtn life ]]

 

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 cause 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 be loving, that God commands you to love – were living eternally in hell. }     {* These "complex effects" that "vary" are only one factor among many complex factors to consider when Christians are deciding a strategy for “what should we tell people about hell?” and every strategy will have positive & negative effects that vary from one listener to another, and vary from one situation to another.  You can see a verbal-visual description of this complexity in a table showing different combinations of strategy-and-reality.}

And after a person says YES, I think belief-in-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 Ultimate Restoration, 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 pain 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.

 

Practical Concerns about a Gospel of Grace

After explaining God's gospel of grace, Paul anticipates (in Romans 6:1) a sinful response by sinful humans who will tend to think, after they accept God's offer of grace, "Should we continue to live in sin so that God's grace will increase?"  Paul answers "certainly not!" because "we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin."

A born-again person is no longer a "slave of sin."  But the process of gaining total freedom doesn't happen instantly or automatically.  If you want to live in ways that are more free from the slavery of sin, you must WANT to live less sinfully.  In another page I describe the process, and a limiting factor:

    When you are wanting to live a Christ-Directed Life — when "Christ is in the life and on the throne;  self is yielding to Christ;  interests are directed by Christ, resulting in harmony with God's plan" — you are making Christ your King, so "you are participating in The Kingdom of God as an individual."  You gradually are gaining freedom from sin when you "are not conforming yourselves to the standards of this world, but are letting God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind."  But "becoming the person God wants you to be, so you can think-and-do in the ways wanted by God, requires an attitude of wanting to be personally transformed in the ways wanted by God."  Unfortunately, "I've self-observed that in a supplying of love and wisdom from God to me, too often the limiting factor is my lack of cooperation... when I'm not totally willing to let God 'transform' me."   {quotations are from The Four Spiritual Laws, and me, Paul, and me}

Even more unfortunately, I've observed that "too often" other Christians (not just me) also are not totally willing to let God transform them.  Why?  One reason is because the Gospel has a biblical foundation of Forgiving Grace, so it's easy to think “God will forgive me for everything I've done in the past, and for what I'm doing now, so instead of doing what God wants — e.g. by consistently loving my neighbor in the way I love myself in all of my thoughts, words, and actions — instead I will do what I want, even if it's sinful and it isn't what God wants, because... I'm saved, so God will forgive me.”

In this way and others, a gospel-of-grace can be abused by believers, but God knows this, and despite this he gives His grace to us.  Because the Bible teaches salvation by grace, we should continue preaching grace, despite its potential for abuse.

 

a humble disclaimer:  What I say in this section is oversimplified.  The relationships between faith & works are complex, and are debated by Christians;  biblically based arguments can support a wide range of views, so doctrines of salvation-and-sanctification differ in the major branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant) and within each branch, and among individual Christians.  There is general agreement about the most important doctrines, but disagreement about some important details.  Even among devout Bible-believing Protestants, we see intensely vigorous debates  —  with “easy believism (minimal works required)” versus “lordship salvation (more works expected)” and “once saved, always saved” versus “perseverance required” plus other perspectives on these questions & others;   e.g., monergistic Calvinism (with salvation depending only on the sovereign decisions-and-actions of God) versus synergistic Arminianism (with salvation viewed as a cooperative combining of God's actions & human actions);   and differing views when we ask “what will happen in Hell, and what will be the ultimate results?”;   plus other tough questions that are important, yet are controversial  —  and during these debates among fellow Christians, sometimes we see actions that are not lovingly respectful.  This problem is discussed (but is not solved, of course) inour attitudes toward other Christians and God – Principles for Discussing Doctrines Respectfully, with Christian Love.

 

Effects of Afterlife-Doctrines

for Decreasing Sinful Actions

 

pragmatic questions:  If evangelical Christians want to reduce motivations-for-sinning and actions-of-sinning — by believers & nonbelievers — what are the best doctrines about salvation and afterlife?   How pragmatically effective is the traditional doctrine of Eternal Misery?  Is maintaining this doctrine, by rejecting the alternatives, our best pragmatic strategy?

the bottom line:  I strongly think – as explained in Tips for Studying – that Bible-believing Christians should carefully study the Bible so we can determine what it teaches, and then we should believe (and teach) what the Bible teaches. 

pragmatic arguments:  Bible-believing defenders of Eternal Misery often use non-biblical pragmatic arguments against Final Annihilation and (especially) Ultimate Restoration.  They ask “what are the pragmatic effects of your doctrine about afterlife?  how will it affect the thinking-and-actions of people?” and they claim that a non-EM view will cause a decrease in converting and increase of sinning.   But a Bible-believing defender of FA or UR also can use pragmatic arguments, because "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; ... 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 cause EM... they could not love God and trust Him."

some observations:  The common evangelical doctrines (of salvation-by-grace and afterlife-with-EM)* don't seem to be maximally effective as pragmatic strategies to reduce sinful actions, either for believers — as explained above in Practical Concerns about a Gospel of Grace where I conclude that "we should continue preaching grace, despite its potential for abuse" that can reduce its pragmatic effectiveness if we define our practical goal as reducing sinful behaviors — or for non-believers, as explained below.     {* I think we should keep salvation-by-grace, but reject afterlife-with-EM.}

 

If we want to make our doctrines-about-afterlife maximally effective for the pragmatic purpose of reducing sinful behaviors in society,

• Should we try to motivate people by producing maximum fear-of-Hell or maximum love-for-God?

• Should we try to produce maximum fear by preaching Eternal Misery, instead of Final Annihilation or Ultimate Restoration?

• Should we try to produce maximum fear by constantly preaching (both inside church & outside) the infinite horrors of Eternal Misery?  If a Christian preaches about Hell less often, are they contributing to an increase of sinful thinking and actions?

• Should we try to produce maximum fear by describing Hell in ways that are maximally horrible so the fearing-of-Hell will be maximally terrifying and thus maximally effective?  In modern times there has been an increasing tendency to “air condition” hell, to describe it in ways that are less frightening.  For example, now the pain of Hell is often described as mainly a separation from God, but without flames (in The Lake of Fire) that burn flesh.  The modern focus is on psychological horrors, but without the physical horrors — as in having your entire body burned in the worst way you have experienced (either personally or in reports from others) over & over for eternity, with the nerves in your fire-damaged flesh being miraculously regenerated so you can feel the intense pain over & over — that were typical in classical descriptions of Hell.  When a Christian describes a less terrifying kind of Hell, are they contributing to an increase of sinful thinking and actions?

• Should we try to increase conversions by telling an unsaved person that when God decides their eternal fate, He won't care about their behavior?  Should we say “you can't be saved by being good” and “if you remain unsaved when you die, you will get the same final bad result (Eternal Misery or Eternal Death) whether your sins are a little or a lot, are minor or major, whether your actions have been kindly altruistic or criminally sadistic”?  This information might motivate them to make a fear-based decision to be saved.  But if we tell them that “when God decides your eternal fate, He won't care how much you have sinned,” this won't motivate them to live less sinfully (with a better pragmatic result for society) while they remain unsaved.   Or should we say, with UR, that “you can't be saved by being good” but “if you remain unsaved when you die, your experience in UR-Hell (yes, even with UR you will go to Hell) will be much better if you live a better life, because

• Or... if we want to motivate more people to more fully love God (with their hearts & minds) so they will want to serve the God they love, they will want to be less sinful in their thinking & actions, should we preach Ultimate Restoration – instead of Final Annihilation or Eternal Misery – so more people can more enthusiastically praise God (with their hearts & minds) for the beneficial transformations He will produce in UR-Hell?

• Should we tell everyone, both inside church & outside, that God will provide transformative afterlife-experiences for everyone (for the saved and unsaved) for the purpose of sanctifying people so they will be suitable for Afterlife in Heaven?

• Should we tell everyone that the intensity of these "transformative afterlife-experiences for everyone (for the saved and unsaved)" will depend on a person's actions during Life?  It's common in evangelical Protestantism to de-emphasize the importance of “works” for salvation, with “faith alone, by grace alone” being sufficient for salvation, without a need for good works;  although good works should be a result of living by faith after salvation, they are not “counted by God” when He makes a yes-or-no decision about salvation.*  Although I agree that salvation is graciously given by God based on faith, I also think Protestants should place more emphasis on “faith leading to works” when we're living by faith, and on the importance of our works-during-Life affecting our experiences-during-Afterlife.     /     yes, what I've said here is oversimplified, but I think it's basically accurate;  also, when we compare doctrines of salvation we find that the doctrines of Orthodox and Catholic place more emphasis (compared with Protestant) on the value of works, although all three place their strongest emphasis on faith, not works.     /     Here are some extra comments about two rival sub-theologies within Protestantism:   when a person hears the claims of a Calvinist, they could think "why should I bother being good?" because "God already has decided my eternal fate and it doesn't depend on anything I do," even though this valid logic is somehow (in ways I cannot understand) disputed by Calvinists;   even though an Arminian claims that salvation doesn't depend on merit, their requirement — a person must decide to accept (not reject) God's gracious offer of salvation — does depend on having a good heart and wise mind, so salvation does depend on merit.

 

the bottom line:  As I emphasized earlier, "Bible-believing Christians should carefully study the Bible so we can determine what it teaches, and then we should believe (and teach) what the Bible teaches" instead of using pragmatic criteria.

 

 

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 “theTotally Good News of Ultimate Restoration might happen (or will 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 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.  For me, this means explaining why I'm confident that Eternal Misery won't happen, but I'm not confident in claiming that either Final Annihilation or Ultimate Restoration will happen, instead I think either of these might happen.

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?”

 

I also have mixed feelings about fellow Christians that include negative feelings of disappointment and sadness.

 


 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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."  And this fear-of-EM will be a False Fear if EM won't happen in Afterlife Reality.
   
These two conflicting responsibilities — to avoid causing False Hope or False Fear — 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 askWWJD 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

 

an option:  You can first read short overviews of "divine justice" sections — of those earlier and below — in theTable of Contents.

 

In this final part of the page, my goal is to show why Eternal Misery (in the afterlives of unsaved people) would not achieve justice.

 

Appropriate Humility:  Each of us has reasons for humility and reasons for confidence when we're making claims about difficult questions — like “what will happen in hell?” and whether this will be totally just and loving — that are not answered with certainty in the Bible.  For these tough questions, 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.  We should not be inappropriately over-humble (i.e. we should avoid claiming that “a Christian should not think about the character of God”) because God has given us abilities (a conscience & mind, scriptures,...) that He wants us to use when we make everyday decisions, and also to understand God.  These abilities allow Paul (and us) to appreciate "the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God" and to enthusiastically praise God because He will "show mercy to all."     {by reading all of Isaiah 55, you'll see that God's thoughts are “higher than our thoughts” because He is more merciful than us}

 

The Character of God:  All of us develop ideas & feelings about the character of God, based on our experiences in life, especially in our reading of the Bible.  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 Ultimate Restoration, and is worst if He will cause Eternal Misery,* if His gracious forgiving suddenly changes (at the moment of a person's death) into vengeful unforgiving, if His love-in-action is different in a person's Life and Afterlife.     { Sometimes the morality of EM is defended by claiming that anything done by God (including EM) should be defined as being good – i.e. if it's done by God, then it's good. }

* To understand why I'm not criticizing God when I claim that "the character of God... is worst if He will cause Eternal Misery," please readwhy it's useful to think "IF and BECAUSE" when we're thinking about the character of God (and of other Christians).  This also is why I'm not criticizing fellow Christians who say “God will cause Eternal Misery” even though I think they are saying false-and-untrue things about God.

Eternal Misery would be caused by God:  Yes, if Eternal Misery will happen, it will be caused by God, because...  God is keeping a person alive forever and God is keeping sin alive forever by keeping the person's will enslaved-ro-sin instead of freed-from sin  [== iou, ideas to develop soon] by contrast with, despite, modern that hell chosen by person, Lewis (as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain) "the gates of hell are locked on the inside."  But , but will only happen if god allows will to remain enslaved-to-sin instead of being freed-from-sin, keeps them alive forever, --> causes eternal torment, God is sovereign so nothing happens that He doesn't allow and doesn't (@ other Lewis-section) / Jesus vs God, Jesus-during-Life-as-man (temporarily self-limiting, depending on communication with Father thru Holy Spirit, tempted but remaining obedient, quote Peter Rust, vs before-div & after-div (was different-div during incarnation living with us and for us)

 


Table of Contents:  This part of the 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)


 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of the next few sections (plus "Divine Persuasion" and beyond) in theTable of Contents.

 

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 Ultimate Restoration, 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 God gives life to all, and then from some He takes back the life (that they had only because He gave it to them)* — lthough it's sad because all of us should hope for everyone to have joy.   /   of course, 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;   but if some people are missing from God's Kingdom because The King has killed them, there could not be the total reconciliation of victims-and-offenders that would occur if (with UR) "everyone forgive everyone, so all can be emotionally healed."
    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 (IF the claims of Calvinism are true)* were predestined for Hell with no chance to avoid it.  Or IF with non-Calvinism they have free will, but are dealt a bad hand in life.”
    * If basic logical Calvinism (claiming divine total-sovereignty) is expanded to include Eternal Misery, I think this Calvinistic God — a God who will do what is proposed in Calvinism-with-EM by predestining some people for Hell, AND then causing Eternal Misery for these people — is an immoral monster, but... I don't think this is who God is, and EM isn't what He will do.    But... I think Calvinistic predestination would be fair with Annihilation-in-Hell (with a “nothing to nothing” overall result for the damned) and it would be even better with Reconciliation-in-Hell (with “nothing to joy” results for every person);  and each of these two combinations (Calvinism-with-FA and Calvinism-with-UR) is possible, because there is no logical/theological reason that logical Calvinism should be "expanded to include Eternal Misery."
 

Questions about Loving Actions:  If we think "love-in-action produces good results," with each view (UR, FA, EM) would the overall actions of God (during Life plus Afterlife) be loving for people who are saved-during-Life? {everyone should say “yes, yes, yes” because it's obvious that “God is good, is loving” for these people.}   And would the overall actions of God (from before-Life to Life-plus-Afterlife) be loving for people who are unsaved during Life? {I think “yes, yes, no” so for these people I could say “God is a good Father, is loving” if He will cause Reconciliation or Annihilation, but “God is not a loving Father” if he will cause Eternal Misery.}     /     To understand why I'm not criticizing the actual character of God when I claim that “God would not be loving” if he will cause Eternal Misery, please read why it's useful to think "IF and BECAUSE" when we're thinking about the character of God (and of other Christians).

 

* A Question about Existence:  Before you were born, if you could choose whether to be born into Life-plus-Afterlife, would you say YES or NO?

A Question about Information:  To answer The Existence-Question wisely, what information do you need?   /   You may want to think about these questions – re: desirable existence, and useful information – before you read my “spoilers” in the next paragraph.

Useful Information:   A) It would be very useful to KNOW whether or not you will be saved at the end of your Life.  {at the other end of the knowledge spectrum, you would not know anything about what your situation-in-life will be, so you might be born in the American Bible Belt (with a higher 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}    B) It would be useful to KNOW whether the final result of Afterlife-for-Unsaved will be Eternal Misery, or Annihilation, or Restoration.  {when you're making your wise choices, think carefully about the overall changes with each kind of Afterlife-for-Unsaved}   {my answers for the three Existence-Questions, if EM or FA or UR}

 

a change of perspective:  How do you think God should answer the Existence-Question, if He is good?  {i.e. In each of three possible worlds – by combining the Life we now have with an Afterlife of EM, or FA, or UR – should a loving God create a person, causing them to be born?}   Or, because God is good, what kind of world(s) would He choose to create, or not-create?

the overall result of joy + misery:  Do you think it would be a better combined afterlife-result for two people, if one has Eternal Joy and the other has Eternal Misery, or if both eventually have non-existence with Final Annihilation?    {my answer, re: a gift that won't be necessary}

 

would you want another kind of Life?  Or, in a different set of three questions, “would you choose to be created as a non-accountable person (with extremely limited life-experiences)* if God will cause EM or FA or UR in Afterlife?”     {Although a concept of “non-accountability” is not defined in the Bible, many Christians believe that two kinds of people — those who have extremely low intelligence, or die when they're very young (before birth due to miscarriage or abortion, or during infancy or young childhood) — will not be “held accountable” by God, so they will not live forever in Eternal Misery if God will cause EM for people who are accountable (because they are “intelligent enough” and become “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, there is an obviously-beneficial purpose for Resurrection, 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."

IOU – here is an idea that will be used later:  ER would be pain without purpose, suffering with no gain by learning or improving, not effective for achieving anything beneficial {most theodicies, defending God against charges of "why evil in world?" claim temporary bad now → permanent good later, with negative means justified by positive end (yes, "means justified by end" is biblically sound, justifiable) but EM cannot claim this because there is never a later good, never a benefit.

 

think about The Experience of Infinite Misery:

For 5 minutes, 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 infinite misery, your Eternally Lasting 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?

do The First Commandment:  While you're imagining that God will cause Eternal Misery, try to love God "with all of your heart, soul, and mind," as Jesus commands us to do.  Then instead of imagining what God will do TO people in Hell (with Eternal Misery) to hurt them, imagine what He will do FOR people in Hell (with Purgatorial Reconciliation) to help them, to sanctify them so they can be reconciled with other people and with Himself – and try to totally love Him.  When you imagine each kind of afterlife-in-Hell, while you're trying to fully love God (for who He is and what He will do), I think you will experience why "with purgatorial Ultimate Restoration [but not with Eternal Misery] we can proudly proclaim ‘what God will do’ in UR-Hell [because it's Totally Good News], and we can enthusiastically praise God."

* 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 (in The Lake of Fire) would be a horrible experience whether it's mainly psychological, or is 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?

When it's compared with Eternal Misery, I think Eternal Death (due to Annihilation) would be merciful, 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* — an Eternal Death would be a severe penalty, and it seems (I think) to be un-merciful.     {* avoiding the possibility of this loss is one reason for “saying yes” now, ASAP during Life}     {I would expect that if any sane-and-loving person finds a painfully damaged animal along the side of a road, and stops to examine it,  first they would try to heal it,  and if this wasn't possible they would mercifully end its life;  they would not keep it alive while theyy are continually re-damaging it for the purpose of making it remain in miserable pain.  Do you think God will be less loving than this, in His treatment of painfully damaged people during their Afterlife?}     {more}

Later (iou) there will be more developing of these main ideas:   After the deaths of my parents, their house contained MANY items, and while emptying it a main goal of my non-medical triage – by deciding what we (in our family) wanted to keep, and what I would give away, and throw away – was wanting to minimize the throw-aways.  This is analogous (but on a much smaller scale) to God not wanting to "throw away" people (who are much more valuable than house-items) with Annihilation, so instead He produces Restoration.  Or does He want to throw them away?   /   limitations: There is analogy to "throwing away" with FA, instead of "keeping" with UR.  But... EM isn't analogous to anything in a typical triage (medical, house-emptying, or...) so I'll think about ways to fix this in my analogy, or more likely I'll just say “like all analogies, this is a match in some ways but not others.”  But even if this triage-analogy is less relevant for EM, it certainly is useful for comparing FA (throwing away) versus UR (keeping).

 

 

Later, here I'll more fully describe my small triage and God's Huge Triage.  Here is a rough outline of the main ideas; 

 

 

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 Restoration.  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 overviews, briefly and with more detail.

 

 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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 — typically, for most people, caused by God providing 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 each of 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 by "burden of proof") 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 not true, that it will not happen in afterlife-reality.

Therefore, failing this “burden of proof” is a reason to think that claims for Eternal Misery are false, that God will not cause Eternal Torment, 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), or support against Annihilation (when it's compared with Reconciliation).

 

What Will God Do with His chosen people?

Jesus often taught in parables for the purpose of hiding the truth, so it would be more difficult for people to understand & believe, because "to them [to most Jews in the time of Jesus, and since then]* it has not been granted... to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" so that "while hearing they... will not understand" so they will not "see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them." (Matthew 13:11-15)   Although hiding the truth was God's intention while Jesus was living among us, will God continue doing this forever, by eternally refusing to heal most Jews because they are not now traveling His narrow road that leads to salvation?   will He continue rejecting His people forever?  will He continue keeping them alive in Eternal Misery?     {* God also "hides the truth" from most non-Jewish people by providing them with ambiguous life-experiences, without strong divine persuasion.}

Paul asked “what will God do with His people?” and struggled with this tough question in Romans 9-11, before he answered it by concluding (in Romans 11:32) that "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 (Romans 11:25-12:1) our worship: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ... To Him be the glory forever.  Amen."

more:  we can compare What Hitler Did to Jews versus What Jesus Will Do to Jews if He will cause FA or EM — while we remember that Christians (whether we propose UR or FA, or EM) are using logical thinking based on "if... and because..." logic when we're thinking about the character of God with appropriate humility.

 

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 my first page-about-hell one 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

In another page, I describe some of the personal evidence that has persuaded me to believe in the existence-and-activity of God.  Why did God graciously give me this evidence?  I explain that "God knows me well, and He knows that I'm ‘basically a scientist’ in the ways I think, because in all areas of life I place a high value on the logical reality checks that are the foundation of scientific method.   Each of us does a scientific reality check whenever we ask, in science or everyday life, an important question:  How closely does “the way I think the world is” match “the way the world really is” when I observe reality?   I believe that God has graciously given me impressive evidence-for-theism ... for the purpose of persuading me that my observations of reality are a close match with a theistic view of the world, so [because God has provided "a solid foundation for my theistic worldview"] I should believe that God exists and is actively involved in my world" and because of this I should live by faith and pray with faith.  But why doesn't God also provide other people (like my sister) with the kinds of observable evidence He gave me?

 

 

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 coulddo 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.

 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

Damnation-by-Merit logically REQUIRES Salvation-by-Merit:

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/or an extremely un-wise mind),  if God gives salvation-by-merit and therefore damnation-by-merit.     {logically it's "therefore" because either both results are earned by merit, or both results are un-earned;  logically, you cannot claim that “salvation is un-earned, but damnation is earned”}   {this logical analysis assumes a binary splitting, so every person is saved or un-saved, with nobody being semi-saved}

 

a summary:

    Does a saved person earn their Eternal Joy because they are good and wise?
    Does an unsaved person earn their Eternal Misery because they are un-good and un-wise?
    Logically, our answer to both questions must be the same, so it's either “yes yes” or “no no”.
 

It seems more fair if the everlasting binary results (either Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery) will be based on merit.  But most Bible-believing evangelical Christians try to deny this by saying “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, although a person must accept God's gift or they will remain unsaved.”   But a decision to "accept God's gift" depends on goodness-and-wisdom;  therefore, in this common way of thinking by Christians, salvation does depend on merit.     {* According to the currently popular (but controversial) view of “once saved, always saved” a person earns their salvation when, with their good heart and wise mind, they make The Decision to believe-and-repent.  Or if “always saved” is not guaranteed, a person earns their salvation when, with their good-and-wise persistence, they continue to believe and to live by faith. }

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, would achieve justice.

{accountability & forgiveness, for the saved and unsaved}

Human Merit with Arminius and Calvin:  according to Arminius (claiming "free will" with salvation depending on human choices) salvation depends on HUMAN MERIT, requiring a good-and-wise decision (due to a good heart and wise mind);   according to Calvin (claiming that salvation depends only on God's sovereign decisions, not requiring good-and-wise decisions freely made by humans) salvation depends on DIVINE FAVORITISM, so your final fate (of Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery) depends only on whether God has decided (independent of the quality of your heart-and-mind, of your feeling-and-thinking) that you will be saved, or you won't be saved.   /   But with Arminius, in addition to merit-based decisions, a person's salvation also depends on "luck" (on "the cards they drew in Life" regarding their location, the religious culture of their family and society,...     {more about earning afterlife-results, about grace & merit, faith & works, salvation & sanctification, for Calvinists and Arminians}

 

 

an option:  You can first read a summary-overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

Justice for Everyone (for Victims and Offenders) with Ultimate Restoration:

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

    victims get Restorative Justice leading to their reconciliation with other people (with those who harmed them during Life) and with God.
    offenders 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 them!)” if they think God will do Ultimate Restoration, and is most difficult if they think God will do Eternal Misery?

 

Compared with this Justice for Everyone with Ultimate Restoration, do you think it would be more fair if God will do Binary Justice with results that depend on salvation-or-damnation?

 


 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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? (it's highly probable that they will follow this dominant religion instead of Christianity, if they want to follow God, unless God is extremely persuasive but usually He isn't.)     {What will God do with His chosen people, with the majority of Jewish people who do not accept Jesus as their Messiah?}     [[ luck-of-birth seems to be a major factor in determining who gets saved during LIFE -- e.g. if a person is born into a family/culture of another religion, they probably will adopt that religion, or none. ]]

• 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.  But with FA an unsaved person still would have the infinite loss of Eternal Joy.

The Challenge (for justice) of Borderline Cases:   After God has considered all relevant factors — degrees of faith, amounts of faith-based good works, personal motivations, sins of omission & sins of commission, loving God and loving people,... — it seems necessary to have a “cutoff point” where someone above this line will be saved, but someone below it will be damned.  For example, imagine that the cutoff-minimum is “70 points” and Saved Dave has 70.0, but Damned Sam has 69.9, so Dave gets Eternal Joy but Sam gets Eternal Misery.  Do you agree with me that this doesn't seem fair?     {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,God could produce different degrees of suffering in UR-Hell if there is a correlation between suffering-caused and suffering-received, so if a person causes more suffering in Life, they will receive more suffering in Afterlife, if what they sow, they will reap.”

 


 

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

For 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, I think we need to know only “what kind of Afterlife will God cause for the unsaved-in-Life?”  Nobody should be satisfied with A-information about probabilities (am I likely to be unsaved-in-Life?) because they should still say NO if God will cause EM, unless they know (with total certainty) that it's impossible for them to be unsaved-in-Life, so their possibility of getting infinitely terrible Eternal Misery is zero.

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

Earlier I ask "would you choose to be born into Life-and-Afterlife?" and "if you think ‘no’ because you think the fate of most people will be EM [so statistically it's better to not be born], should the birth of a child be a reason for joyful celebration or sad mourning?"   Logically, if God will cause EM, then a new birth should cause us to mourn, but...  instead our instinctive heart-felt response is to joyfully celebrate the birth, because our instinctive gut-level intuition is that the child's fate will not be Eternal Misery.

 

If I could choose to be created as a non-accountable person (due to either death at a very young age, or having very low intelligence) instead of an accountable person (who lives past youth and has higher intelligence) with UR or FA or EM, my answers would be “no, maybe, yes”;

    if UR, it's "no" because either way (accountable or not) I would get an Afterlife with Eternal Joy;  and like most people, I would want to also have a full Life with intelligence & longevity;
    if FA, and if (before birth) I didn't know whether I would be one of the few saved or many unsaved, and if being non-accountable would guarantee me Eternal Joy (views vary, re: the result-for-unaccountables being Eternal Joy or Annihilation), then I'm saying "maybe" because I'm not sure what I would choose, after weighing the very different benefits of "yes" (with guaranteed Eternal Joy) versus "no" (so I could have a full Life and possibly an Afterlife of Eternal Joy, although probably not because the odds are against being one of "the few" who travel the narrow road to salvation);
    if EM, as with FA it could be "maybe... after weighing the very different benefits" but with EM the risk is far too high, so I certainly would say "no" and ask God to “please make me stupid, or let me die young.”
    Therefore... if you think God will cause FA or EM, is it logical to conclude that abortion is the perfect strategy for evangelism?
 

{more – explaining the reason why – for an accountable person deciding whether to play The Game of Life – the rational choices (yes, yes, no) seem simple-and-obvious.}

 

 

an option:  You can first read a short overview of this section in theTable of Contents.

 

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

Jesus told parables about all-day workers and a faithful older brother 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?   (the all-day workers complained, thinking “this isn't fair” – in Matthew 20:1-16)
    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?   (the faithful brother complained, thinking “this isn't fair” – in Luke 15:11-32)
 

Will it ever be too late to love God?

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 and save him?  I say “yes” and so do most other Christians.

Should our thinking change when we ask, “will God also let a similar sinner believe-and-repent after death in their Afterlife?”  If a Christian thinks “no” because “this wouldn't be fair to me, because I diligently loved-and-served God during Life,” their thinking is like that of the all-day workers or faithful older brother.  But this thinking — with “mixed feelings” that could decrease their hoping for salvation-in-Afterlife that leads to Ultimate Restorationis criticized by Jesus:   When the full-day workers complained about the full-day wages for part-day workers, the vineyard owner defended his generosity by saying "I am not being unfair to you... are you envious because I am generous?"  When the faithful older brother complained about the joyful “welcome back” party for his unfaithful brother, their father defended his generosity by saying "we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again;  he was lost and is found."

But... if you're wise you won't wait because Jesus warns about the loss (missing the wedding feast, losing rewards,... and maybe more) caused by waiting, by not preparing well.

 
 

Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors in the ways we love ourselves” — and if we were unsaved at the end of Life, we would want God to save us in Afterlife — but... can Christians have “mixed feelings” that prevent them from totally-and-sincerely wanting all of our neighbors to be saved by God?  Yes.  A person can have reasons for not wanting everyone to be saved God and to experience Eternal Joy, or even reasons for wanting some people to be eternally tormented instead of mercifully annihilated.

But before looking at these reasons, we should distinguish between two questions, and the responses — in feeling & thinking, with heart & mind — that are developed (in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons) by each Christian:

    How strongly and sincerely do you HOPE for the eventual salvation-and-reconciliation of all people?
    How OPTIMISTIC are you (based on your evaluation of biblical evidence) that this hope will happen?

In principle, these responses — hope and optimism — can be independent.  For example, a defender of Eternal Misery (or Final Annihilation) can sincerely hope that all people eventually will be saved,  yet can logically conclude, based on their study of the Bible, that this won't happen,  so they are hopeful yet non-optimistic about universal Ultimate Reconciliation.

In reality, the responses often influence each other.  It's possible for extra-biblical feelings & thoughts to decrease a person's hoping for UR, and decrease their optimism that UR will happen.  How?  By...

 

• wanting Justice:  In the “divine generosity” parables of Jesus, the all-day workers and faithful older brother are thinking “I worked more than them, so I deserve to get more than them” so “if they get the same as me, it isn't fair, it isn't justice.”  This thinking is logical, and their feeling is justifiable.  But this thinking-and-feeling isn't what is wanted by Jesus.  Instead, He tells us that a faithful long-term Christian should rejoice when God tells them that He will be graciously generous.  God wants His followers to sincerely want what He wants.  But still... it just doesn't seem fair — it doesn't seem to achieve justice — if a short-term Christian, who repents on their deathbed near the end of their Life, receives the same basic reward of Eternal Joy.  And it seems even less fair if God allows a person to repent after their Death, in their Afterlife.    /    This feeling is made more justifiable, and more common, by the high demands of Jesus.  Being a dedicated long-term disciple of Jesus (i.e. a devoted Christian) isn't easy, because Jesus says "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."  And He warns potential disciples to "calculate the cost" because "whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."     {more:  costs-and-rewards of being a dedicated follower of Jesus}

• wanting Justice:  Some critics of UR claim that some people — like a serial killer, or Hitler or Stalin — are so evil that it would be unfair for God to save them during Afterlife.  But the grace of God, actualized in the salvation He graciously gives us, is not just for comparatively good people who (like these critics?) are not very sinful.  And purgatorial Ultimate Restoration does not propose that evil people will enter Heaven as-they-were during Life.  Instead, during educational correction-and-healing in purgatorial UR-Hell every previously-unsaved sinner will be radically transformed so they are not still sinful, so they are sanctified (with their sin being purged away) and are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven.  They will be a new person who has been radically transformed after repenting of their sins, after being forgiven by people and by God.  This is possible because God makes a distinction between doing evil (for awhile) and being evil (forever) in a way that He cannot heal, or doesn't want to heal.  The loving power of God can radically transform a temporarily-sinful person into a permanently-sanctified person.

 

• wanting Personal Confidence:  Each of us wants to feel confident about the quality & consistency of our own ideas-and-actions.*  If a person has made a big decision — to become a devoted disciple of Jesus, to "deny themselves and carry their own cross" — they want to have personal confidence that their decision-and-actions are wise, and their confidence will increase if they believe that Their Big Decision (with associated Big Costs if they are living as dedicated disciples) will save them from The HUGE Penalty of Eternal Misery or Final Annihilation.   {this reasoning is the logical basis of Pascal's Wager if HUGE = infinite, due to Eternal Misery (with infinite joy lost, plus infinite misery experienced) or Final Annihilation (with infinite joy lost)}     /     As individuals and as groups, we want our ideas (and actions) to be logically consistent, so we modify our ideas (and actions) in an effort to achieve personal consistency, to reduce our cognitive dissonance.    /    motivated reasoning (including cognitive dissonance & more) – accurate understanding and respectful attitudes

 

• having Personal Pride:  Unfortunately, personal confidence (that usually is good) can become personal pride (that is bad).  When we compare ourselves with others, a sinful tendency is wanting to feel “I'm better than them.”  Because of this, Jesus warns us not to think-and-feel like a Pharisee who proudly prays "God, I thank You that I am not like other [obviously sinful] people" with an attitude of sinful pride that God knows is not spiritually healthy,* so He tells us that "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled."  It's common and natural, although sinful, for a Christian to feel (consciously or unconsciously) that “I deserve Eternal Joy because I'm good-and-wise and I've made a good decision, and they have earned their Eternal Misery because they are evil-and-unwise and they made a bad decision, therefore “I'm better than them.”  When we compare ourselves with others — and think “my sins are much less evil than those of others” (so I'm relatively good, compared with them) and “I believe in Jesus and have decided to live by faith” (so I'm relatively wise, compared with them) and I have been forgiven, but they will never be forgiven — we want to be rewarded by God (for being good-and-wise now, for following Jesus during Life) and we want others (who now are evil-and-unwise) to never be rewarded by God, so they should never be given an opportunity to repent in Afterlife.  We are just a little bit sinful, compared with others.  But... the reality is that each of us is sinful, so during Afterlife each person – whether at the end of their Life they were saved or unsaved – will have to be radically transformed by God so we are not still sinful, and during this process each of us will become sanctified so we are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven.     /     * C.S. Lewis said The Greatest Sin is pride;  we can be prideful in any area of life, and mostly-worthy motives (like wanting to see justice, have confidence, live faithfully) can become polluted with pride.

• wanting to enforce Doctrinal Correctness:  Evangelical Christians want our beliefs to be based on the Bible, and we want our biblical interpretations to be correct, so (to persuade ourself & others that we have personal consistency) we conclude that our interpretations ARE doctrinally correct.  Then due to mixed motives — due to the noble desire of wanting church doctrines to be correct, but also motivated by sinful pride, by wanting to show people that “we (who propose EM) are correct, and they (opposing EM, proposing FA or UR) are incorrect” — some Christians will strongly defend their beliefs, and this can lead to interpersonal tensions.  If a person concludes that Eternal Misery is a biblically correct doctrine, for personal consistency they may tend to be less hopeful that UR (or even FA) will happen.

• wanting to Maintain Fear as a Motive:  This is a major factor when evaluating views-of-hell, even though evangelical Christians claim to base their beliefs only on the Bible.  As individuals and institutions, we worry about what might happen if we don't have the ability to terrify nonbelievers by threatening them with Eternal Misery.*  We worry about the practical effects if we reduce their fear of EMif they aren't sufficiently terrified by warnings about “reaping what they sow” during educational correction in pUR-Hell, or of just being annihilated in FA-Hell, by contrast with the immensely terrifying threat of being tormented forever in EM-Hell — and the possibility of giving false hope and (in a major historical factor that helped convert EM into a religious tradition) decreasing the political power of controlling people through their fear of EM.    {* wanting to maintain the fear-motive is often a reason for wanting to claim-and-enforce the "doctrinal correctness" of EM.}

• wanting to avoid Interpersonal Tensions:  As described earlier, "members of a church can feel personal social pressures to conform, and people in ministries can feel professional institutional pressures."  Probably these pressures — due to the powerful inertia of tradition and psychology/sociology of conformity — are the strongest extra-biblical factors that influence Christians to be less hopeful-and-optimistic about UR (or FA) than is biblically justifiable.  I wish the pressures were different — which would occur if very few Christians believed EM, so the social pressures would oppose claims that “our loving Father will cause Eternal Misery” instead of encouraging (or even demanding) this claim — but unfortunately that isn't the way it is now.

 

{more about mixed feelings}

 

 

Evidence for Ultimate Restoration?

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 (no matter what road they're on) after they die?  Maybe.   {does God have faithful compassions that "fail not"?}

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

 

Don't Wait:  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}