Dean Johnson Ministries

What follows is an exchange of e-mail with an advocate of Eternal Torment.      Audio mp3

Aaron has asked that I include the following link supporting eternal punishment for those who might be interested.
An Advocate of Eternal Punishment

For those interested in hearing the Good News, I have also provided a link about universal restoration  from my site.     Universal Restoration

Aaron starts the discussion.

Date: Wed, 02 Jul :39:

Dear Dean, I came across your web page this evening and I would like to ask you a question. I hope that it will lead to some further discussion if you have the time. I noticed you certainly seem to have patience and an open mind with a humble sincere desire to know what the word of God actually teaches. I will try to have the same attitude in our discussions, but I will let you know that I do have some pretty strong convictions (Christian) so if that comes across I don't want you to think I am being arrogant or something. I am open minded to hear other peoples beliefs, and if I find myself to be in error, I will try to be humble and change.

    In your web page, I think it is fair to say that your main concern is with salvation and whether or not every single person will be saved sooner or later or not. I realize then that you believe in salvation and that it has something to do with Jesus, but I am not certain of what you mean when you talk about salvation and I would like to clarify this from the start. My question is this: What is salvation and how is it that people are reconciled (you use that word often) to God? Please try to be specific (and as detailed as you feel necessary) in your answer so that I can understand where your coming from.

     I hope to hear from you sometime soon. Thanks,

Date: Wed, 02 Jul :05:

         I don't consider myself to be a great theologian. I have found that the more dogmatic I become the more I have to eat crow later in life. I too have strong convictions, but have found that I do better to let people discover truth for themselves. I trust that God will bring us all to the unity of the faith, and I rest in the peace truth provides. I am grateful for the opportunity to share my beliefs, but prefer to not argue about disputed matters. ( In essentials unity, In non-essentials liberty, In all things love.)

I believe that theological systems and even doctrinal creeds can often be more of a hindrance to the discovery of truth, and a source of carnal divisions, rather than a protection from error. For me, God is a loving Father, and Jesus is an elder Brother. Relationship and fellowship is what my faith is all about. I trust any discussion we may have will be done in love for each other, and with a sensitivity to the faith we share. It is better to throw a millstone around our necks than to offend a brother.Let our discussion be done to the Glory of God, and to elevate him within our lives.

You ask about Salvation. That's a big topic. I believe all creation was made subject to futility and awaits deliverance from the bondage of corruption. Salvation.

All is saved... it is finished. Through the cross...and resurrection, there is a new creation. It is complete and finished. God speaks of those things that be not as though they were... because His word will accomplish all that it is sent forth to do.

All is being saved. It is a process. God is at work within us to will "and to do" of His good pleasure. We may not yet see all thing made subject to Him, but we see Jesus. We are being changed from glory  to glory even by the
Spirit of the Lord.

All will be saved. He is able to subdue all things to himself by the same power that raised Christ from the dead. He makes friends out of enemies, as we once were, because of the ignorance and alienation in our minds.

What is salvation? Deliverance, conversion, regeneration, union with Christ... justification, adoption, sanctification, the Christian life, preservation, perseverance, healing, glorification. We have all in Christ. And Christ is all and in all.

Christ is our salvation, our justification, our sanctification and our glorification.

As to the extent of Salvation:

Romans 3:23-24 "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus"

All who sinned are justified ( just as if they never sinned ), BY HIS GRACE.

Romans 6:23 " The wages of sin is death, but the FREE GIFT of God is Eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:18 "the free gift came upon all men to justification of ife."

Romans 8:30 "Moreover, ...whom he justified , them he also glorified."

Glory is the manifestation of God. All justified. All to be Glorified

Romans 8:19 "All creation awaits the manifestation of the sons of God"

8:20 " because the creation itself also shall be DELIVERED from the bondage of corruption"

Salvation is for all creation. Praise to God ... We are included ....accepted in the Beloved.

As to Reconciliation: It is through the cross of Christ. Man was "alienated from God from the life of God through the ignorance that is them, because of the ignorance that is in them.  Ephesians 4:18

Sin and the consciousness of it became a source of alienation. Man hid himself from God. Jesus came to take away the sin of the world. He is the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Now we can "draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil ( guilty) conscience" Hebrews 10:22

Some see Reconciliation as pacifying an hateful and vindictive God. I don't necessarily see God as that bitter. I tend to view reconciliation in the New Testament as primarily dealing with man's alienation from God, rather than God's alienation from man.

However, having said that, I have no problem with some who focus on reconciliation as 2 way That is pacifying God's anger, and also dealing with man's anger toward God. This is reasonable as well.

But like I said, I have a hard time seeing God as so bitter as many portray Him. (i.e. punishing man in hell without end for no purpose but his
anger, and justice.) I see God as a loving Father, and I cannot picture a loving Father doing that to anyone. If we take the picture of Jesus' death as pacifying God's anger and justice, then it follows that the punishment has been paid. The propitiation was for the whole world, and any punishment is now  the discipline a loving Father would show to his children.

I hope this encourages your fellowship with the Father and with His Son as it does me. May we draw near with a true heart by that one Spirit.
Yours in Christ,         

Dean Johnson

Date: Thu, 03 Jul :15:

Dear Dean, I'm not a theologian either, I'm just a stupid country boy (hehe). Anyway I'm going to try to jump right into the important stuff. I read your letter very carefully and I think you presented a good smart argument, but one that is not grounded in the scriptures. I will try to explain why. First of all I want to be clear on a few things about the scriptures themselves.

The Bible is the word of God (I think you agree) "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Tim. 3:16-17 (one of many proof texts)

While it is possible to interpret the Bible (or even another person's words) in all different ways, that does not change what the right interpretation is or what that person is actually saying. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:20-21

The Biblical way to interpret scripture is to compare "spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor.2:12-13) and let God interpret for Himself what He has said using the whole counsel of His word. So there is a right way to interpret scripture, making any other ways wrong. Of course its a big plus to have the Holy Spirit indwelling us to enlighten the eyes of our understanding (I am not saying that any one Christian in this life knows everything perfectly although he must know the very basic fundamentals if he is to be saved).

Another thing to always keep in mind of course is context. I think you know what the results can be of taking someone's words out of context. We have to look at the immediate context (to get the whole idea of what a passage is teaching rather than isolating verses), the broader context (look at it in light of the whole book or epistle), and the whole context (does it agree with the rest of the scriptures as a whole) if we are serious about finding the correct interpretation. If we do this we will start to see many apparent contradictions disappearing and becoming clear as we learn more and more of God's word and we will also learn some things that the bible doesn't specifically say at any one place, but that it most certainly teaches (the doctrine of the Trinity comes to mind)(I still have a long way to go in my learning).

Having said that, I will attempt to show what I believe the bible actually says and teaches about the subject we are discussing. I will start with some of the more important verses you use to support your belief.

Justification in Romans 3. You quoted vss. 23-24 (leaving out the "for" at the beginning of vs. 23) and concluded "All who sinned are justified". The context however, demands that justification is limited to those who believe. Paul is saying whether you are Jew or Gentile makes no difference because, no, the Jews haven't been able to keep the law that was given them, they teach it, but they do not do it themselves (Chapter. 2:17-29)  and yes, the Gentiles are dirty rotten sinners as well. so Listen! ALL have sinned and fallen short(3:9-18,22,23). No one will be justified by the works of the law before God (3:19-20), but it is through faith alone that any will be justified and only those who put their faith in Jesus will be justified (vss. 22,25,26-28,30;4:3-5,9,11,13). How is it that we can be made right with God by faith alone? Christ took the punishment for our sins upon Himself so that the penalty has been paid, and His righteousness is set to our account ("imputed" 4:11,20-5:2) WHEN we put our faith in Him. When God looks at us he sees Christ's righteousness so that we don't stand condemned as we would. That is Grace!

Do not let vs. 23 confuse you. It is clear from the context that what is being said is not something like  "all have sinned and all are being justified", but rather, after he just finished stating that no one will be saved by the works of the law, he says here's how it is that someone's justified: vs.22"...the righteousness  of God [is now manifested (vs.21)] which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon ALL them [both Jew and Gentile] THAT BELIEVE [all have sinned {broken the law 1 JN 3:4} whether they are Jew or Gentile makes no difference]...being justified freely [again, this is speaking of "them that believe whether Jew or Gentile] by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation THROUGH FAITH in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of HIM WHICH BELIEVETH in Jesus." So vs. 23 (which I didn't quote, but summarized) is simply echoing what he already said in vs. 9 "What then are we [Jews] better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin..."

I hope you take the time to read it in its context carefully. I have seen already in my 19 years, people who died cursing God and I know that they did not ever put their faith in Jesus for salvation, so it would follow that they were not justified and that they will stand before God on the judgment day as guilty. However rather than going by what I've seen and by my reasoning, lets look at some of the broader context of the book of Romans since this passage does not prove in the immediate context that God does or does not plan to bring everyone to faith eventually and therefor be justified .

In Romans chapter 9 we read about the sovereignty of God. He does what ever he pleases. He is God and the creator of all things so we should not find this surprising. Before we go into Romans 9 we should note some things about God. God is perfect, Matthew 5:48. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." God is unchangeable, Malachi 3:6. "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." God is most wise, Romans 16:27. "To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen." God is most holy, Isaiah 6:3. "And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." Revelation 15:4. "Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest." God is most just, Deuteronomy 32:4. "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he." God is most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Exodus 34:6. "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." God is all these thing and more which I will not go into now. It is common for Christians today to focus on one attribute of God, especially on how he is loving. Well that is true, but it does not diminish a might from his other attributes no matter how hard we focus on one and forget about the others.

Having said all that take a look at Romans 9. I especially want to look at vs. 10 and on, but I have been typing for way to long now (I am very slow at typing) so I will email you again soon Lord willing to continue. Thanks for your patience. Your new friend,


P.S. I hope to look at your reference to Romans 5:18 in the future since it (used along with Rom. 6:23) seems to be the other foundation vs. for your belief. I also hope to go to several verses that teach that God never intended to save everyone and I hope to look at the bible's teaching on hell. I will say that these are not pleasant things though, but much of it is essential to evangelizing.

Date: Fri, 04 Jul :44:

        I agree typing is hard work, but our labour is not in vain in the Lord.
I enjoyed your thoughts and felt strongly in agreement with them. I too hold the Bible in the highest regard, recognizing that there is a right interpretation. The whole counsel of God is exactly why I eventually adopted universal salvation. I found that certain all inclusive scriptures were ignored in evangelical circles. Religion usually becomes an exclusive club. (i.e.. If they don't belong to our group then we feel justified in excluding the Pharisees attitude) This seems to me the root of much that is bad about man made religion. I don't believe that this is the heart of God. ( Though the Pharisees could quote lots of Scripture to back them up.) God wants to include everyone... Most people want to exclude those who are different. It is the source of much division, and self righteousness even within the church, and much carnality.
There is a perspective, a framework, a world view  that we approach the scriptures with that affects our final conclusions. Do we include others or do we exclude them. Do we see ourselves as different from others. Do we see our place in the church as the result of something we did or as the work of God.
Was it our choice? Was it the will of men, or was it not of ourselves, but by grace we were saved. Was it our own faith or was it by the faith of the Son of God that we live our life. Is it our own or is it the gift of God? I see all, including the faith I have, as the gift of God. ( Not of myself ) This is no small distinction.

I bring this up because you emphasize that justification is for those that believe in Jesus.  Of course I agree with this. However, the only reason I have faith is because of the faith of Jesus. God gives this faith to whoever he wills...when He wills... every man in his own order, at the right time. In Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 23)

If we use our faith as the thing that makes us different from others, then maybe we should balance this with other scripture that teaches that there is no difference. All that we have is the gift of God. God has concluded us all in unbelief that he might have mercy upon all. ( Romans 11:32)

It is true that God justifies those who believe in Jesus, but he has concluded us all in unbelief. The only one who believed is Jesus, and it is only his faith inside us that makes us righteous. He is our righteousness.
It is no longer I who live, but the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me on the cross. ( Galatians 2:20)  I died on that cross with Christ... and so did all mankind ( 2 Corinthians 5:14) And just as all died suffering the penalty of sin, even so in, by and through  Christ shall all be made alive.

In Adam all are made sinners...Even so in Christ shall all be made righteous.  Our faith or choice is not what makes us righteous, but it is the faith of Christ in us.

You mentioned Romans 5:18. Yes, Romans 5:12-20 is a popular universalism text. Many try to limit the extent of the righteousness and eternal life described within the passage by pointing to Verse 17.
It says they that "THEY WHICH RECEIVE abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." They say whether man RECEIVES is what limits the extent of the salvation. The problem with this eisogesis is that "Receiving" does not limit the word ALL, but rather ALL specifies who it is that receives. The ALL, must all receive...every man in his own order, if every man who died in Adam is going to reign with eternal life in Christ.

Once again, do we look at the scripture as excluding people by what they do, or as including all because of what Christ did. Do we see with the faith of Christ, who came to be the Savior of the world , or do we see ourselves as righteous because WE receive the gift. It is a subtle distinction, but one that makes all the difference.

There are many scriptures that clearly suggest a universal salvation even when one believes in eternal torment. In fact many more than suggest eternal torment. The question is how do we look at the scriptures. Do we interpret the seemingly universalist texts, with a settled understanding of eternal torment and limited salvation, OR do we attempt to understand the harsh texts about the punishments of God with an understanding of the ultimate plan and universal intention of God to save all mankind. (Ephesians 1:9-10, Colossians 1:20)

I have concluded that the second is a fairer exposition of the heart of God that does justice both to the holiness of God and his love.

I believe inclusiveness is a more Christ centered, God honoring true understanding of the mind and intention of God, than to focus on man's efforts to exalt his own efforts and choices, and thereby justify the exclusion of others. I believe it is God's plan to reach out to all creation,... every man in his own order according to the plan of God... the clay does not say to the Potter "Why have you made me thus?"
God is working out his plan in his own time... He makes all things beautiful in His time.
There is a new creation. And He does make all things new.

Dean Johnson

>Date: Sat, 05 Jul :11:

          I want to address some things from your last reply to me and then hopefully I will have time to talk about some things in Romans 9 (after that I hope to get to Romans 5:12-21). First of all I want to quote one of your statements and then comment on it because I think it is important that I do. I hope you don't mind.

"There are many scriptures that clearly suggest a universal salvation even when one believes in eternal torment. In fact many more than suggest eternal torment. The question is how do we look at the scriptures. Do we interpret the seemingly universalist texts, with a settled understanding of eternal torment and limited salvation, OR do we attempt to understand the harsh texts about the punishments of God with an understanding of the ultimate plan and universal intention of God to save all mankind. (Ephesians 1:9-10, Colossians 1:20). I have concluded that the second is a fairer exposition of the heart of God that does justice both to the holiness of God and his love.

I believe inclusiveness is a more Christ centered, God honoring true understanding of the mind and intention of God, than to focus on man's efforts to exalt his own efforts and choices, and thereby justify the exclusion of others."

First of all I want to say that from where I stand, your second sentence isn't true, but I don't intend to go into that at this time. As far as interpreting the scriptures, when we use the whole counsel of God that means we take everything into consideration. If the Bible says one thing and then goes on to say something that is in opposition to the first thing it is highly unlikely that we are properly interpreting what is being said. It is not for us to decide in such a case which thing we think is better and fairer of a truth and exalt it above the other, or ignore or totally do away with the other "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God..."). Rather, the problem most likely is that we are not really taking into consideration the whole counsel of God and so there is something we are missing from the picture. God's word does not contradict itself. Are God's sovereignty and justice in some ways set against his mercy? Are we to decide (even maybe by using some scripture) which we think is more prominent and come to a conclusion? Or can it be interpreted in such a way that both are equally true and not one is diminished from? The last question of course is what we should seek to do by searching the scriptures. On this point I will lastly say that you are right, we should lay aside all preconceived ideas when we are studying God's word.

Now I wish to clarify some things about what I was trying to say about the Romans 3 passage. first of all, I was trying to show you that it cannot when taken in context be properly used as a verse to prove that God did, is, or will, save every single individual. To conclude "all who sinned are justified" is a wrong interpretation. I also tried to show that this passage limits justification to those who believe. However as I already said in my last letter, that also does not prove that God does not plan to eventually bring everyone to faith and therefore justify them, but THIS passage does not teach that he does plan that, and THAT was my point. This passage cannot be used to support the view that God plans to save everybody (though he does plan to save some of both Jews and Gentiles). I would also like to stress that Jesus' death on the cross by itself, does not justify anyone (it will actually damn some to hell. see 1 Cor.11:27-32), but Christ "was raised again for our justification," (Rom. 4:25). (if Christ had not rose from the dead our faith would be in vain 1 Cor. 15:14) and it is at the moment we believe that we are declared just by him, because of him haven taken our sins and the punishment for them upon himself on the cross and giving us his righteousness. So if it is possible to die without faith in Christ (and I believe it is possible for many) it is possible to die without being justified (just a thought).

As for where our faith comes from, I agree 100 percent that it is entirely a gift of God and that no one can boast before God. If we were left to our own choice we would still be dead in our trespasses and sins. If anyone believes, it is only because God removed their heart of stone and gave them a heart of flesh that is then, and only then, able to respond to the gospel (and it does so willingly) with faith which God gives. So it is God who chose (or elected) his people and not us who chose him. This is very humbling.

I also agree that we should not exclude anyone, but that we should take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That is part of loving our neighbor as our self and we are to go even farther than that and are to love our enemies. God on the other hand, is not a mere man. He is the creator of all
things and he can and does do many things the we can not nor should not do. God has certain rights that belong to him and that only he has. One thing I can think of is the fact that vengeance belongs to God.

"14   Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15   Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that
16   Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things,
but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own
17   Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in
the sight of all men.
18   If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with
all men.
19   Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place
unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay,
saith the Lord.
20   Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give
him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his
21   Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans

This is a perfect example of how Christians have certain duties that God has given them, while God has rights that no others have. Psalm 15 :3 says "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases." So what are some of these things God pleases to do? Romans 9 is one place where he tells us some important things he does that have to do with us (we are finally getting to some of the broader context of the Romans 3 passage). In vss. 11-13 we read:

"11   (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any
good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might
stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12   It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13   As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

Here we see that God has elected people according to his own purpose. Not only did he elect people, but he elected specific people which he calls (by the Holy Spirit). not everyone is elect of God, and those who are, were not elected because they were any better in any way than the non elect. God actually says he hates Esau.

"14   What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God
15   For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have
mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16   So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,
but of God that sheweth mercy."

The first thing many people are tempted to think when they read this is that God is at fault. "This is terrible! This does not fit God the way I think of him!" We should never think in such a way though. We have already looked at some of the attributes of God in my last letter. This is that same God, and he does whatever he pleases, which is always within his attributes.

"17   For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same
purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee,
and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18   Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he
will he hardeneth."

Here we see that God has mercy on some and hardens others (who he even raises up) in order to show his power to all the earth.

"19   Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For
who hath resisted his will?
20   Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall
the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me
21   Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to
make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22   What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power
known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted
to destruction:
23   And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the
vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24   Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of
the Gentiles?

Why does God judge people who cannot resist his will? I cannot answer, but I know that there is no fault with God. God can do what he pleases with what he has made. He pleases to save some of his that he's made and destroy others that he's made. God is not obligated to save any, and it would have been perfectly just for him to send everyone to hell. His WRATH and power is made known in those VESSELS OF WRATH FITTED TO DESTRUCTION and he is thereby glorified. The riches of his glory is made known through the VESSELS OF MERCY that he "afore prepared" (elected, predestined or foreordained) UNTO GLORY and he is glorified. The vessels of mercy are all he has called of both (here it is again, an echo from chapter. 3) Jews and Gentiles. There are two categories of men with two different destinations (elect and sons of perdition). Only God knows for sure who they are.

"25   As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which
were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
26   And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said
unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the
children of the living God.
27   Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the
children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be
28   For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness:
because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
29   And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left
us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha."

Salvation is extended to the Gentiles (all the nations of the world) who (until Satan was bound by Christ, from deceiving them...MT. 12:29; MK. 3:27; Rev. 20:1-3) were in darkness during the old testament when the Jews were God's people (not every individual Jew was saved though vs. 6-8). Now we see only a "remnant" of the Jews to be saved. God left a seed (see Gal. 3:6-18) that God's people might not be destroyed.

"30   What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not
after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the
righteousness which is of faith.
31   But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath
not attained to the law of righteousness.
32   Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were
by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
33   As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and
rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be

Again, the Gentiles followed not after righteousness (in the OT), but now they have attained it by faith. Isreal sought righteousness through the law (Paul was addressing this in chapter 2 and 3), but works that are pleasing to God flow from saving faith which (faith) always comes first and it is never the works that justify, but it is through faith. Christ actually became a stumblingstone to the Jews even though the law and the prophets all testified of him. This was not any accident, but was according to the will of God. Now here's the free offer of the Gospel: "whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." The Gospel command (to believe) is offered to the whole world wherever it is preached, but it is only given to the elect
(who are throughout all the world) by the Holy Spirit to obey. The rest of the world will only stumble over Christ. You or I do not know who the elect are and we are commanded to love everyone and to evangelize the whole world, God will do the saving.

I will close this e-mail by pointing out that you took Romans 11:32 ("For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.") out of context. Paul is still speaking of the relationship between the Jews and God, and the Gentiles and God, during the New Testament. I suggest starting at chapter. 9 vs. 24 and reading carefully to the end of chapter 11.

Next I hope to look at Romans 5:12-21, and eventually look at more vss. throughout the bible that go along with what Romans 9 is saying. I hope I didn't write too much for one letter Thanks for reading!

Your friend,


            I appreciated your letter. I found myself in agreement with so much that you have written. We are not far apart. I agree that the Bible is consistent. If the Bible appears to say something that is in opposition to other passages then we probably misunderstand the scriptures. We cannot exalt certain scriptures above others. That is exactly why I rejected eternal torment to accept a limited punishment. It is is much more proper to understand Aionios ( often translated as eternal ) in a more limited way when referring to punishment, as this is linguistically acceptable, than to try to reinterpret or perform theological gymnastics to the universalist texts. I prefer to let the scripture speak for themselves. The apparent contradictions disappear as truth is revealed. I refer you to a page on my web site for more on the linguistic use of aion and aionios:

I also appreciated your clarification on justification. You say it is "because of him having taken our sins and the punishment on the cross." Man is not justified on account of his faith,( that would be in effect a meritorious work ), but on account of the righteousness of the last Adam (Romans 5:12-19).

Our faith is not the means of justification, but the occasion of our realization, or perhaps appropriation, or imputation of it. I said once before, We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. It is the union of man with Christ that makes righteous and justifies ( Romans 5:19). Having said this, I would like to add that man's solidarity with the first Adam existed whether he chose it or not, and so also Christ did not ask permission to be the propitiation for the whole world. The unity of all mankind is an accomplished fact in the mind of God (Ephesians 1:10). He is the savior of all men, especially of those that believe (1 Timothy 4:10). All mankind, Jew and Gentile has been made one body in Christ (Ephesians 2:15). A man's unbelief will not make void the faithfulness or work of God. I also agree with you that a man can die without faith in Christ, but would like to add that death is no longer the end or a victorious enemy. O death, where is your sting. Jesus has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Let us not let a defeated enemy hinder our faith in the efficacy of the cross to save all mankind.    

With you I also agree that "we should take the gospel to the ends of the earth". it is the love of Christ that motivates us. I believe the Gospel is good news, not an ultimatum.( i.e.. Accept Jesus or suffer in hell for all eternity).

You mention that vengeance belongs to God. This is true. God expressed his choice, according to his plan. He is working out his plan, and some are chosen to be part of the church and some are chosen, and fitted for destruction. Some vessels for honor and some for dishonor. God is sovereign and does whatever pleases him to accomplish his own purposes for his pleasure. The pot doesn't talk back to the potter. This can seem harsh if it is not balanced with the ultimate plan of God. He has made known to us the "mystery of his will, according to the good pleasure, which he purposed in himself, ....that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in (by and through) Christ ( Ephesians 1:7,10 ).  
One could say the end justifies the means. God is working all things after the counsel of his own will. All things will work together for the good of those who love God. Some are delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved. ( 1 Corinthians 5:5 ) .Others suffer loss but are saved , Yet so as by fire ( 1 Corinthians 3:15) There is a saying. "You have to be cruel to be kind." Yes, God hated Esau. But let us not deny God's higher purpose in it all. All creation was created for his pleasure (Revelation 4:11). God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but he does kill to make alive and wound to heal.(Ezekiel 33:11, and Deuteronomy 32:39). In the ages to come he will shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us THROUGH Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7)  

There is no contradiction, nor is there any need to be ashamed of the Gospel. God is love. Truth dispels the clouds of doubt. I pray you will add to your understanding of the absolute sovereignty and severity of God, the absolute love and mercy of the Father. The two go hand in hand. Mercy and truth have met together.... and mercy triumphs over judgment.
Dean Johnson

 Dear Dean,
                   If there are those that Christ died to save who are still going to go to hell, than what is it that they are being saved from? If temporary punishment in hell is the most severe punishment for sin that the Bible teaches of, and yet some of those who Christ died to save are still going to suffer this temporary punishment, they are really not being saved at all. The bible teaches us that Christ died in the place of those he came to save and by doing so, he "SECURED" salvation for them.

"...he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption...Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant." (Hebrews 9:12,15). If Christ died in our place, that means he took all of our sins AND THE PUNISHMENT for them upon himself. If Christ took the punishment for our sin upon himself in our stead, then there is no more punishment for our sins that we should have to suffer. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus..." (Romans 8:1). If all are included in Christ, none would be going to hell even temporarily.

The bible teaches that all those who God the Father predestined to be saved, and then Christ secured salvation for, will be brought to faith (called) by the working of the Holy Spirit, so that they will be justified, and therefore not be condemned, but glorified.
"29   For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30   Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Romans 8:29-30).

All of God's elect must be brought to faith (and justified) in this life and not the next because of the very nature of faith (and because of the nature of what comes after this life which we will look at later).
"Now faith is the substance of THINGS HOPED FOR, the evidence of THINGS NOT SEEN." (Hebrews 11:1) If we must see God to believe, it is no longer faith. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6) "...The just shall live by faith" (Galatians 3:11)

If anyone dies without having put their faith in Christ, it is because that person was not one who God set his love upon from before the foundation of the world, and elected unto salvation. You mentioned 1 Corinthians 15, in your last letter and said "death is no longer the end or victorious enemy", which is true for the church, but not for those who die in their sins. "The sting of death is sin" because sin is what condemns people to hell. Paul mostly has the church in mind in this passage, but I don't have time to go into that now.

As for whether hell is eternal or not, I do not think we can judge from the character of God, because It would not be unjust for God, (who exercises his sovereignty in choosing), to send one person to hell forever, and to show his love and mercy to another by giving him eternal life through Christ. It is true though, that God, if he chose to do so, could save everyone through Christ without going outside of all of his attributes also. I do not doubt for a moment that God could do that if he wanted to, I just don't find it to be biblical, and so however appealing it may be, I must reject it unless it is biblical. So we cannot judge "philosophically" whether eternal damnation fits God's character or not, but rather, we should look to the scriptures and see what they say about hell. If we have doubts as to whether hell is eternal or not because of what some people (who are probably modernists) tell us about the word "Aionios" (If that is in fact the word), we should search the scriptures to see if there is anything else that might suggest or tell us about the duration of hell. If we think it is possible that the word Aionios could mean ages, but it is also possible that it could mean "eternal" (as it is traditionally and usually understood to mean, even before the very literal KJV bible existed) then we should see if we can determine which it is, using the scriptures, knowing that it must mean one thing or the other.

having said that, lets look at some scripture that speaks about hell. I hope you will see that God does not intend to save people who are going to hell, that there is no getting out of hell for those who are in hell, and that hell is everlasting. Also, today is the day for salvation.

First of all, it is not merely called punishment, but as we have seen in Romans 9 it is also called destruction. Now the word destruction its self should tell us something about what will happen to those who are going to hell, but we can also see that God says more of what his purpose is here. In vs. 22 we see that these particular vessels first of all, are "vessels of wrath", and that they are "fitted to" or made by the potter (God) for the whole purpose of, not merely punishment, but "destruction". This is so that the "PURPOSE of God according to election might stand" that he does this and it is all (both showing his wrath and power in this, and showing his mercy on the other vessels of honor he's made unto glory) for his own glory. There is no "higher purpose" of God here than his purpose that he's declared to be his WHOLE purpose in this passage.

In Job 21:29-32 we see that the wicked are reserved for the day of destruction. "29   Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens,

30   That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.
31   Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done?
32   Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb."

Since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the word(s) for "for ever" would not be the Greek word Aionios. Psalm 9:3-8 "3   When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and PERISH at thy [God's] presence.

4   For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.
5   Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast DESTROYED the wicked, thou hast PUT OUT THEIR NAME FOR EVER AND EVER.
7   But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment.
8   And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness."

Psalm 73:18-19 "18   Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into DESTRUCTION.
19   How are they brought into DESOLATION, as in a moment! they are UTTERLY CONSUMED WITH TERRORS."

God's elect are redeemed from destruction. Psalm 103:2-4 "2   Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3   Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
4   Who REDEEMETH THY LIFE FROM DESTRUCTION; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies..."

The rest of mankind is not. Proverbs 1:25-28 "25   But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
26   I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
27   When your fear cometh as DESOLATION, and your DESTRUCTION cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.
28   Then shall they call upon me, but I WILL NOT ANSWER; they shall seek me early, but THEY SHALL NOT FIND ME..."

"Perish" is another word that implies permanence. God does not wish to save everyone. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 "10   And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that PERISH; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
12    THAT THEY ALL MIGHT BE DAMNED WHO BELIEVED NOT THE TRUTH, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

Romans 1:26 "For this cause GOD GAVE THEM UP UNTO VILE AFFECTIONS..."

Matthew 7:13-14 "13   Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to DESTRUCTION, and many there be which go in thereat:
14   Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Salvation is given to the elect only. Philippians 1:28-29 "28 nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of PERDITION, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
29   For UNTO YOU IT IS GIVEN in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake..."

Psalm 69:27-28 "27   Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and LET THEM NOT COME INTO THY RIGHTEOUSNESS.
28   Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous."
To not come into God's righteousness, is to not have Christ's righteousness imputed to you, and therefore to not be justified or glorified.

Jeremiah 18:23 "23   Yet, LORD, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: FORGIVE NOT THEIR INIQUITY, NEITHER BLOT OUT THEIR SIN FROM THY SIGHT, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger."

Matthew 12:31-32 "31   Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost SHALL NOT BE FORGIVEN unto men.
32   And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, NEITHER IN THE WORLD TO COME." It is impossible for the elect to go against the Holy Ghost when he is calling them to faith and repentance (brining them to salvation). God will keep his elect from committing this sin by the power of the Holy Spirit who will give them a heart of flesh instead of stone.

Psalm 37:27-29 "27   Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore.
28   For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but THE SEED OF THE WICKED SHALL BE CUT OFF.
29   The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.
The promised land is for those who God has made righteous to inherit, not the wicked, who have not been made righteous.

When Jesus comes again, he will receive his bride, the church, (those who are saved) into heaven, but the rest will be permanently shut out. Matthew 25:10-13 "...the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and THE DOOR WAS SHUT.
11   Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, LORD, LORD, OPEN TO US.
12   But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I KNOW YOU NOT.
13   Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 "1   But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.
2   For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3   For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden DESTRUCTION cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and THEY SHALL NOT ESCAPE.
4   But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
5   Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
6   Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
7   For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
8   But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
10   Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
11   Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."

The fact that God will repay and punish some people shows that Christ  didn't pay for their sins in their place. Otherwise God would be unjust in doing so. He will destroy them FROM his presence and FROM his power that worked faith in us.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 "3   We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;
4   So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:
5   Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:
6   Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to RECOMPENSE tribulation to them that trouble you;
7   And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
8   In flaming fire taking VENGEANCE on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
10   When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
11   Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the WORK OF FAITH WITH POWER:
12   That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Romans 12:19 "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto WRATH: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I WILL REPAY, saith the Lord." Jesus paid it all for the elect, but those who aren't in Christ will have to pay for themselves (Which, by the way, they could never pay enough to save themselves, only Christ could earn salvation for anyone).

Matthew 13:10-17 "10   And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
11   He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12   For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
13   Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14   And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15   For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
16   But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
17   For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them."

Matthew 26:24 (also Mk. 14:21) "24   The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born."
It would be better to never even be born than to betray Jesus. If God had salvation in store for Judas, Jesus would not have said this.

John 6:64-71 "64   But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65   And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that NO MAN CAN COME UNTO ME EXCEPT IT WERE GIVEN UNTO HIM OF MY FATHER.
66   From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67   Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68   Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69   And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
70   Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
71   He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve."

John 17:1-12 "1   These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2   As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3   And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4   I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5   And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6   I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
7   Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
8   For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
9   I pray for them: I PRAY NOT FOR THE WORLD, BUT FOR THEM WHICH THOU HAST GIVEN ME; for they are thine.
10   And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11   And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12   While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of PERDITION [That is Judas, who betrayed Christ]; that the scripture might be fulfilled."

Mark 9:42-48 "42   And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
43   And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into HELL, into the FIRE THAT NEVER SHALL BE QUENCHED:
45   And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the FIRE THAT NEVER SHALL BE QUENCHED:
47   And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
48   Where their worm dieth not, and the FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED."
Here it does not say everlasting fire, but if it is "never quenched" than I think it is everlasting. Also, even though people are destroyed in hell, they are not annihilated (just so you don't think I believe that).

And finally, Luke 16:19-31 (Note the fact that there is no going between heaven and hell (or relief for those in hell), so those who are in hell must stay there for eternity. "19   There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20   And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21   And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22   And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23   And IN HELL he lift up his eyes, BEING IN TORMENTS, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24   And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25   But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
27   Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28   For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29   Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30   And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31   And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

There are many more passages we could quote, but I will not do so now. I would like to point out though the importance of proclaiming that today is the day of salvation. There is a time coming when it will be everlasting to late.

Hebrews 3:7-4:13
So, as the Holy Spirit says:
  "Today, if you hear his voice,
       do not harden your hearts
  as you did in the rebellion,
      during the time of testing in the desert,
   where your fathers tested and tried me
      and for forty years saw what I did.
   That is why I was angry with that generation,
      and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray,
      and they have not known my ways.'
   So I declared on oath in my anger,
      'They shall never enter my rest.' "
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said:
  "Today, if you hear his voice,
      do not harden your hearts
  as you did in the rebellion."

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed ? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
  "So I declared on oath in my anger,
  'They shall never enter my rest.' " And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." And again in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest."
It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:
  "Today, if you hear his voice,
      do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

Your friend,


P.S. I would like to point out that, when taken in their true context, and along with the whole counsel of God, It is not necessary to perform "theological gymnastics" to the supposed "universalist texts". I believe in the holy universal church (the church extends through out the whole world, as opposed to the old testament Jewish church in the wilderness) and most of the "universalist texts" you use are speaking of this, While others are just speaking in general (not being specific). Maybe I will be able to tackle Romans 5 next.

                    You present many questions and objections to Ultimate Reconciliation. I am glad our discussion has come to this point. If you are like me, you will not be able to accept Universal Salvation unless the scriptures about punishment are in harmony with the doctrine of Universalism. Being raised with Eternal Torment filtering my scriptural understanding, it took a long time for me to see that God would bring all into harmony with Him. I needed to have all my objections answered, and that doesn't happen overnight. For years I read the New Testament with both perspectives in mind... asking God to reveal His mind to me. Together, we have the mind of Christ, and God can guide us into truth. You may not find my understanding convincing right away, but I will try to share some of the thoughts that have helped me to accept Ultimate reconciliation, and to reject the doctrine of eternal torment.Maybe in time, as you read and reread the New Testament, some of my thoughts will seem more reasonable than they do now.

You ask, If people still go to hell, then what is it that Christ saves them from. You seem to suggest that if they go to hell, then they could not have been going through the process of being saved.  This is too narrow a view of salvation. Salvation is not just from hell. Salvation is from danger, distress, bondage, enemies, oppression affliction, sickness, sin, demons, and death. Following your logic, if a person is being saved, then they could not experience sickness, oppression, death or hell. But Salvation is an ongoing process from all these things. We are not just saved from these things, ( so that we never experience any trouble ), but also OUT FROM these things (after having experienced them). Therefore, man can be saved out from hell, just as he is saved from any other torment. Historically, salvation was finished on the cross. Now, it is also a process that man goes through. And finally, man will be saved in the ages to come as salvation is competed and the consummation arrives. You facetiously argue that if all are included in Christ that none would go to hell. This is a reasonable argument, and there are some Universalists that hold to this view.

However, I am not so convinced. I tend to believe in punishment after death... and I often think it will be much hotter than most Christians think.
Our God is a consuming fire, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. However, believing in the remedial nature of all punishment, even punishment serves to correct us and to bring us to Christ.  

You suggest that 1 Corinthians 15 refers to the church and not to all mankind.
However, 1 Corinthians 15:27 clearly states who and what is included in submission to the Father.
15:22 says " in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
Is this just for the Church? Lets read carefully.  There are 3 stages leading up
to the consummation of all things.
1. Christ is made alive.
2. Those who are Christ's ( the church) are made alive at his coming. 15:22
3. Then cometh the end. ...when ALL THINGS shall be subjected unto him.
Even the Son subjects himself to the Father. (15:28)
It is abundantly clear that the only thing that is excepted from this subjection to God,
is God himself! That is exactly what 1 Corinthians 15:27 says.
It states that " it is manifest that He ( The Father ) is excepted,
which did put all things under Him (Christ)".
 He (God the Father ) is the only exception to the subjection of ALL THINGS.
All else is included. The only exception to the ALL, is God himself.

 It is not just the church that is made subject to God. It is not just Christ who is subject to the Father. Absolutely everything, is included in this submission. God becomes all in ALL, just as he is in Christ. Everything to everyone.  

Once again, "In Adam all die , even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive." To narrow 1 Corinthians 15 to apply to just the church is to ignore the universal extent explicitly stated in the passage and to avoid the solidarity of all mankind with both Adam and with Christ. Or else "why baptize for the dead?", (15:29).

I agree, the proper meaning of the word aionios (whether eternal or "of the ages") must be determined by the context of the passage and the larger
Biblical Salvation message. We are wise not to impose the most extreme definition ( eternal ) of the word in all occurrences of it's use.

You argue that hell is eternal and that God does not intend to save people who are in hell. Let's look at some scripture that challenges both of these concepts. We read that Death is the last enemy to be destroyed ( 1 Corinthians 15:26 ). Revelation 20:14 says that Death and Hell are thrown into the lake of fire Both Death and Hell are temporary. They are destroyed after they have served their purpose.

Is there biblical support for the idea that those who have died and gone to hell (hades) may have a second chance? There are many scriptures that suggest that hell is not the end or permanent. It seems to me that one has to be pretty dogmatic in their interpretation of the scriptures to completely rule out the possibility of a second chance. 1 Peter 4:6 says "For this cause was the Gospel preached to them that are DEAD" ... "He
went and preached unto the spirits in PRISON; which sometime were DISOBEDIENT". Ephesians 4:8-10 says that "when He ascended up on high He led CAPTIVITY captive.... that He might fill all things." Not just the Christians. He fills all things. Romans 14:9-11 says that " to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord of both of the DEAD and the living... every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God." What does this mean? This is a reference to Isaiah 45:22-24 "Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth...Every knee shall
bow and every tongue shall swear." This was bowing the knee unto salvation,  not out of compulsion. The confession that was made when a person became a Christian was "Jesus is Lord". 1 Corinthians 12:3 states "No man can say that 'Jesus is the Lord', but by the Holy Ghost"
We read that " At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, of things in earth, AND OF THINGS UNDER THE EARTH, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." And "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be SAVED" ( Romans 10:9 ). "IN THE AGES TO COME, he will shew the exceeding riches of his grace" (Ephesians 2:7). Referring to those who had been in hell (hades), when Death and Hell (hades) were thrown into the Lake of Fire, it is said, "and whosoever was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). that some from hades were not found in the book of life, at least implies that some who were in hell may have been found in the book of life. How could this happen unless there was a second chance? Truly, today is the day of salvation, and his mercy never ends.

You state that there is no higher purpose of God. Perhaps, I should speak of the ultimate purpose, or end purpose, or the consummation. The purpose of God is worked out step by step, until all is fulfilled. This is referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:28 when God becomes ALL in ALL.

You speak of destruction. God does destroy all opposition to him. Then He makes all things new. You also mention the use of the word "forever"
in the Old Testament. Olam in the Hebrew is a word that should almost never be translated as forever, but tradition dies hard. The Jews had the concept of a beginning and a consummation, but the Greek idea of "Eternity, " was quite foreign to their thinking. The Jewish roots of the New Testament is another strong argument for understanding " Aion, and Aionios" in the New Testament as limited time (ages, or of the ages)
rather than applying the stronger Greek understanding of "Eternal". A thoughtful study of these words helps to liberate our minds from doctrinal bias that may prevent us from seeing truth. I find it amazing that the understanding of just a couple of words can lead to a completely different theological outlook on scripture, and of the nature of God.

You also quote a number of New Testament scriptures speaking of the judgment of God. All these fit comfortably within a Universalist view. You quote them quite extensively. Perhaps you feel they pose a challenge to a universalist view point. I don't see any such difficulty. Yes, many go to destruction, (Matthew 7:13-14). God kills to make alive.

You quote Matthew 12:31-32. This suggests that there is forgiveness to be found in the coming ages. Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is not forgiven during that age or even during the one that immediately followed...but "all blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men" so it must be in the ages to come that His mercy is revealed. Otherwise, the power of the cross is diminished, the efficacy of the blood is denied, the works of the devil are not destroyed, Jesus does not take away the sin of the world, and the plan of God is defeated. You can choose to limit God and his mercy that never ends, or you can understand that the plan of God is not worked out overnight, and that some sins are dealt with more harshly than others.

You also quote 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. You seem to understand that God sends strong delusion that they may believe a lie, "that they all might be DAMNED". As much as I love the poetic beauty of the good old King James Version it is misleading in this case. The newer versions replace "damned" with judged. The difference is obvious.

You also mention the coming of the Lord and the foolish virgins being shut out. Again, God calls who he wills, when he wills. Salvation is not of the will of man.  This might be off topic, but I tend to view Matthew 24-25 as referring to Christ's return in judgment against the unbelieving Jews, and Jerusalem ( Mystery Babylon ), through the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. ( See Matthew 24:1-3 ). I tend to see this as the end of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant being inaugurated at the cross. In fact many of the New Testament references to judgment, and even to the coming of the Lord often reference back to God's judgment on the Jewish nation, Jerusalem, and the temple for their rejection of the covenant and Jesus.
I find it interesting that, you feel that many universalist texts refer to the church, and I feel that many of the judgment passages refer to unbelieving Israel. Perhaps, we are both right some of the time. If you are interested in this, you will find a couple of links to fulfillment prophecy, or preterism on my web site under Restoration links/Prophecy Fulfilled - God's Perfect Church


Matthew 26:24 It would be better for Judas to never have been born. I have taken this to imply that Judas will be punished strongly. To whom much is given, much shall be required. He may face more stripes than is required of the ignorant. With an understanding that babies are included within the kingdom... it is better to die before birth... in miscarriage...and be included in the kingdom, than to be born and and betray Christ and be shut out from the kingdom.

Mark 9:42-48 where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. This is a literal reference to the Gehenna, the valley of Hinnon just below
Jerusalem, and should not be confused with the lake of fire, or even hades (or hell). The worms feed on the carcasses of criminals. The fire was kept burning at all times. If you want to spiritualize Gehenna and make it out to be the fires of hell in an afterlife, may I suggest you consider Matthew 5:22-26. This passage says that the offender will never be released until he has paid the uttermost farthing. I suspect you would prefer to take this passage literally, rather than suggest a release from the prison-house of hell.   

Luke 16:19-31 is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. I find it interesting that eternal torment promoters find this verse so conclusive. Some scholars, and many universalists see in this story a parable of the rich man (Israel). looking down upon the sinners and publicans, (Lazarus) who are kept outside with the dogs. I find this a reasonable explanation. However, there are those who want to view this not as a parable, but as an actual event. Even if not a parable, I don't find any great difficulty here. This a story that is pre-resurrection. Even if the situation
seemed hopeless for the rich man, the resurrection changed all that. The keys of death and hell can open prison doors that may have previously been locked (Revelation 1:18). Christ is victorious.

Dean Johnson

 Dear Dean, in answer to your recent letter I would like to start out by pointing out that, first of all, salvation is not a process that individuals go through, that punishment isn't remedial, and then I would also like to show you that the following statement you made isn't true (with the exception of hell). And I quote "Following your logic, if a person is being saved, then they could not experience sickness, oppression, death or hell."

It appears to me that you are saying (particularly in the second paragraph of your most recent letter) that salvation is a process that individuals go through. By holding this view, you are then more able to establish your belief that God uses even punishment to bring us to Christ and save us (remedial punishment). However, the bible teaches neither of these things. If you were to say that salvation is a process for God's people as a whole (that is, that God brings each one of his elect to salvation in his own time until they are all brought in) then I would agree. But to say that salvation is a process for individuals is serious error.

Salvation (when speaking of an individual) is not a process, but rather there is a specific moment (which God has predetermined) in the life of the individual, when he is really, actually, and positively saved, when he is passed from death to life: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (Jn. 5:24).

The actual time of the salvation of an individual, as the bible teaches, is tied to the time of the individual's justification. If you are not justified, you are still in your sins and not saved at all (even if you are going to be saved in the future). To be justified is to be pardoned of your sins (through Christ's blood, Eph. 1:7) and declared righteous by God (only because Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, Rom. 4:6-8;22-25), so it is an ACT of God's grace were he effectively saves you. The actual time of an individual's justification is tied to the moment that individual (by God's grace) puts his faith in Christ (Rom. 3:22,25,26-28,30;4:3-5,9,11,13). The Bible says that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom.10:17). So the means that God uses to bring people to salvation is his word. It is of course the Holy Spirit though, that regenerates us, and works faith in us using God's word.

So, does God use tribulations to cause people to look to him for help and be saved? He very well may (though never apart from his word and the Holy Spirit). Does God chasten those he loves who are already saved, to cause them to flee all the more to him and to bring them closer to him? Yes. Does God use PUNISHMENT on people to bring them to salvation? no! Now you may be wondering, why not? We should always remember though, that there is a big difference between punishment (which is for the purpose of justice), and tribulations (that is, ordinary tribulations of this earth), rebukes, discipline, chastisement, reproof and correction which are all often intended for the good of the the one receiving them (though not always). 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 illustrates this well:

"We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your PATIENCE AND FAITH IN ALL YOUR PERSECUTIONS AND TRIBULATIONS THAT YE ENDURE: WHICH IS A MANIFEST TOKEN OF THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD, THAT YE MAY BE COUNTED WORTHY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, FOR WHICH YE ALSO SUFFER: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire TAKING VENGEANCE ON THEM THAT KNOW NOT GOD, AND THAT OBEY NOT THE GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST: WHO SHALL BE PUNISHED WITH EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD, AND FROM THE GLORY OF HIS POWER; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

So we see suffering, persecutions and tribulations being used by God for the good of his people, but punishment and destruction from God's presence, for the sake of vengeance on those who do not themselves believe, but who trouble God's people. If Christ satisfied the justice of God for the latter  categoryof people just now mentioned, then they would not rreceivepunishment or destruction from God's presence--the just payment to satisfy God's justice apart from Christ. But again, Romans 12:19 says: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I WILL REPAY, saith the Lord." So they (who aaren'tin Christ) are going to be repaid themselves. To show that this punishment that satisfies God's justice is not remedial we read in Proverbs 29:1: "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be DESTROYED, and that WITHOUT REMEDY."

This brings us to the next point. If Jesus died for his people, why do they suffer at all? If we are going to be consistent with what was just said, wouldn't that mean that those who Christ died for would escape not only hell, but every kind of suffering altogether? This kind of reasoning fits well coming from your perspective on things. Because If Christ, the second Adam, came to totally undo all that the first Adam did and caused, then that would mean that all suffering actually should have been abolished at the cross. Christ  actuallyshould have made all things new then (I'm not saying this is what you teach). Christ however, came to take our sins and the punishment for them upon himself. He did not come to lift the curse from this world or to save every individual. Nor did he come to take us out of this cursed world iimmediately but sent us INTO the world with his word, the world that hates us, which also hated him:

"I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I PRAY NOT THAT THOU SHOULDEST TAKE THEM OUT OF THE WORLD, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I ALSO SENT THEM INTO THE WORLD. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." (Jn. 17:14-19)

You see sickness, misery, sorrow, physical death etc. are all consequences or side affects of sin, not the actual punishment its self. They could never satisfy the justice of God as our punishment for sin or else Christ (God's only begotten Son) would not have needed to die for us in the manner that he did (if they were the punishment, than Christ's death would have saved us from having to suffer them at all). they are part of the curse that God placed on this earth after our first parents sinned, but they are not the actual punishment for that sin. The other category of things we suffer, flow directly from the sinfulness that is still in this world (persecution, oppression etc.). Christianity is a cross religion. Jesus said "...If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Mt. 16:24) So if we receive these latter kinds of suffering for Christ's sake we are actually blessed (Mt. 5:10,11).

Though Christ came to save his people from their sins (and of course the punishment for them): (Mt. 1:21) "...and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.", the salvation Christ has provided WILL, however save us from even the curse and from committing more sins. Though we are actually and truly saved now (if we are believers) and we have already passed from death to life, we still have a promised inheritance that awaits us as children of God through adoption. Even though we do have to suffer for a time under the curse, and even though we do still sin (though not willingly, Rom. 7:7-25) and even go through the most dreadful part of the curse (physical death), we still have the hope of the resurrection, glorification and eternal life. Jesus said: "...I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (Jn. 11:25-26). We who believe, have eternal life in store for us and life that will be not under a curse, but where there is no sin, curse or punishment. There is going to be a new heaven and a new earth after the present ones are passed away (see Rev. 21:1-8) and most importantly we will be with our God. We will survive our own death and the punishment for our sins doesn't apply to us, because our sins are forgiven, we have the righteousness of Christ and therefore we CANNOT be condemned!

You see, Christ "secured" salvation for the elect on the cross, As you have said "it is finished", so that the elect absolutely WILL have eternal life and no punishment (or condemnation). He rose again for our justification so that when we hear the word of God and believe (which must be in this lifetime, see the 3rd paragraph of my last letter) and are at that time justified, we absolutely DO have eternal life from then on. and now (though we suffer for a short time under the curse and for Christ's sake) we wait for the promised inheritance which we will receive at the time of our glorification, all the while being sanctified. No one who Christ died for can possibly go to hell!

It has taken me way to long to say what I've said so far, because I have tried to be specific. I have only really covered the first 3 paragraphs of your last letter to me so far, but I hope to cover the rest of it before you reply to this letter. I am going to close for now, but I hope to write again soon. Your friend,

Aaron Continues: Part 2

 Dean, to continue my letter to you I would like to start by looking briefly at 1 Corinthians 15. In my previous letter I said that Paul MOSTLY has the church in mind in this passage. I did not go into detail so I would like to clarify what I meant by that now. First of all, we were originally discussing "death is no longer the end or victorious enemy" (not whether or not all things will be subjected to God). You were saying that that is true for even those who die without faith in Christ and so I very briefly tried to point out that death is no longer victorious because.. "o death, were is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? the STING OF DEATH IS SIN; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth US [speaking to the church] the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." You see, If the sting of death is sin, and yet there are those who DIE in their sins, the sting remains for them, But WE (who live by faith) have been redeemed by Christ from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), which (law), we are told here, is the strength of sin. Christ took the sting away from those he justifies, and justification must be before death or else the sting remains. Death is no longer victorious over believers then.

The theme of 1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection of the dead who are in Christ, for which Paul makes many arguments..
"16   For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17   And if Christ be not raised, YOUR FAITH IS IN VAIN; YE ARE YET IN YOUR SINS.
18   Then they also which are fallen asleep IN CHRIST ARE PERISHED.
19   If in this life only we have hope IN CHRIST, we are of all men most miserable.
20   But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [referring back to those which are fallen asleep IN CHRIST]."
Christ rose for our justification, but if Christ didn't rise our faith would be in vain. There would be no justification even though we believe (" are yet in your sins"), and if no justification than those who die in Christ are PERISHED, just like everyone else who dies in their sins. We who are in Christ would be the most miserable of all men (because of the suffering for Christ's sake as christians in this world) if Christ hadn't risen to justify us and give us the sure hope of the resurrection.

"21   For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22   For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23   But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
Christ had to become man to accomplish salvation for man (as a side comment though, He had to be fully God at the same time or his death would have been for himself only, and couldn't save anyone at all, including himself).
Verse 22, in this particular context, I believe to be referring to believers only in both parts. In other words, All of you die with Adam (in this case, not speaking of the whole world, though that also would be true if that were what he intended to say), but you also will be made alive in Christ (still not speaking of the whole world). (i e "Just as sure as all of you believers are going to die (with Adam), you are going to be made alive in Christ. Don't listen to those among you who say there is no resurrection (vs. 12), Christ was raised and was seen of over 500 brethren (vs.6) why should you now deny that which you have believed (vss.1,2)). Even if this interpretation of mine is not correct, There is only one other thing it could mean and still be in harmony with the rest of the scriptures, which we will see when we look at Rom. 5 (hopefully soon). To say that this is referring to the whole world fits awkwardly in the context at best, and it even goes against the whole idea of vss.16-20 and 55-58 (as well as many other scriptures). Christ is the firstfruits of those who are his. We are told the order of the resurrection. First Christ, and then those who are his at his coming, period! Paul is not here saying that the unjust will not be resurrected (they will, and unto damnation. see Jn. 5:29), but he is only speaking of believers in this passage.

Paul goes on to give further argument for the resurrection. Christ reigns and conquers all things... even death.
"24   Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25   For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26   The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
27   For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28   And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
Here, the argument for the resurrection is that that death will be destroyed. You seem to think the fact that all things will be put under him means that all will be saved. While that is sometimes the way God does away with his enemies (by saving them) that is not what is in mind here. Christ is going to put all his enemies under his feet. He is going to do this by both saving his people, and by destroying his enemies (the last of which is death). Psalm 110 speaks of this:
"1   The LORD said unto my Lord [Christ], Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2   The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3   THY PEOPLE SHALL BE WILLING IN THE DAY OF THY POWER, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4   The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
7   He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head."
I would also like to point out that God being "all in all" doesn't mean "everything to everyone" as you have suggested. It seems to me that this is saying that God may be complete (speaking of the relation of the Father and the Son in the context). Satan and his kingdom will not be victorious over Christ and his kingdom. The fact that they will be cast into the lake of fire shows their utter defeat!

I'm not certain what you were getting at when you said "or else why baptize for the dead" in your argument, but I do know that Paul is arguing further for the resurrection.

"29   Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
30   And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
31   I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
32   If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
33   Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
34   Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame."
No one seems to be certain of what "baptized for the dead" means, but the most sensible opinion I've heard is that it is speaking of martyrs. I quote matthew henry "Why do they suffer martyrdom for their religion [if there is no resurrection]? This is sometimes called the baptism of blood by the ancients." Paul continues this same kind of argument, and then warns against the worldly idea of "living to the fullest now because this is all there is". Paul goes on to tell of what kind of bodies we will be raised with, and in the very last verse of chapter 15 (still speaking to the church) he says "58   Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

Now we shall move on to our next point. You say "I agree, the proper meaning of aionios (whether eternal or "of the ages") must be determined by the context of the passage and the larger Biblical Salvation message." you then go on to say "We are wise not to impose the most extreme definition (eternal) of the word in all occurrences of it's use." Might I suggest though, that if it can be found to mean eternal even once when speaking of hell, would not that then tell us that hell is always eternal (in all passages)? Again, if we can deduce from the many descriptions of hell in the bible, that it is eternal, than that is how we should always understand aionios when speaking of hell. I would like to suggest for you to go back and read my previous letter, as I do not feel you did justice to many of my points.

In your last letter, you attempted to prove that "both death and hell are temporary" by referring to Rev. 20:14: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." However that does not prove any of what you are saying, for in Rev. 6:8 we read "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." So Rev.20:14 could just be talking about two wicked horse riders who in the end will be cast into the lake of fire! We aren't left to such speculation though, because the Rev. 20 context makes it all clear.

"11   And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12   And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13   And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14   And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15   And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

Here we have the final judgment being described, which takes place after the resurrection (see Jn.5:29). Notice from vs. 12, that the dead, small and great, are ALL present to stand before God in judgment. Notice also that there are books, and then also, the book of life. Every single last person is going to be judged according to their works... which are written in the books, but only those who's names are written in the book of life (who, having been justified, have passed ALREADY from death to LIFE), will not be condemned. In vs. 13 we see all the dead being present (including those who died and went to hell) EVERY MAN being judged according to their works. After the judgment is pronounced we see those who had died and gone to hell already, but who were present for the judgment, being cast into the lake of fire to suffer the second death (see vs.6 also). In vs. 15 we see that not only are those who have already DIED and gone to HELL going to be cast into the lake of fire, but also the wicked who remain alive until Christ's comes again, whose names also are not written in the book of life. No one who's name is not written in the book of life by the time they die (or even if they should live until Jesus comes and not have their names there at that time), will inherit eternal life. Those who's names are written in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 13:8), cannot be condemned.

You mentioned two passages from 1 Peter to try to prove that it is possible to be saved from hell or have a "second chance". Neither of these cause any problem for me. 1 Peter 4:6 says:

"For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit."

From the very thing this verse is teaching, I believe we can see that Peter is not saying that the gospel was preached to anyone after they had already died, rather, on the contrary it seems to be saying that the gospel was preached to the dead in the past, while they were still in the flesh (or living), that they might be judged according to men in the flesh (this would not make any sense if they were already dead), but live according to the spirit. The NIV, as a matter of fact says: "For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who ARE NOW DEAD..." (I am not a big fan of the newer versions... to much paraphrasing, and sometimes the true meaning  doesn'tcome across or is softened for modernist ears, but this very well could be a better translation than the KJV on this particular verse).

1 Peter 3:18-20
"18   For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19   By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20   Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."
Note that it was not Christ who actually went himself and preached, but it was BY THE SPIRIT that he preached. Also notice when this took place... it was in the days of Noah and God was longsuffering with them, but only eight souls were saved. The rest died in their sins, and so they are in prison. Christ didn't go and preach to dead people.

Eph. 4:7-8: "7   But unto every one of US is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8   Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." You only quoted part of verse eight and then part of verse 10, but what this is actually saying is that if we are in Christ (which he IS speaking "to the saints which are at Ephesus... the faithful in Christ Jesus" Chptr. 1:1) we are no longer captive, or slaves to sin (see Rom. 6:20-23), but God gives each of us enough grace to resist temptation as 1 Cor. 10:13 also says "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (see also Heb. 2:18). This Ephesians 4 passage has nothing to do with those who are dead or in hell!

Rom. 14:9-11 "9   For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10   But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11   For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."
Yes Christ is the Lord of both the dead and the living. He rules all. Verse 11 causes no problem for me (it is interesting that this is mentioned when Paul is speaking of the judgment seat of Christ). You correctly refereed back to Isaiah 45, but you didn't include all the verses that you should have, so you concluded that this is the bowing of the knee out of salvation, not out of compulsion. You are partly right, but the bible teaches it is actually both. Lets look at Is. 45:20-25:
"20   Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.
21   Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
22   Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
23   I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
24   Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and ALL THAT ARE INCENSED AGAINST HIM SHALL BE ASHAMED.
25   In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."
Here we see a call (to gentiles) to come out from among the heathen and draw near together with God's people (keep in mind, this is the OT when Israel was God's chosen nation). In verse 22 we see that God's salvation is to be extended to ALL the ends of the earth. It will not just remain with natural .Israel In vs. 23 we see that EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue shall swear unto God, but is this all out of salvation? Verse 24 answers that. We see that those who aaren'tsaved in that day shall be ASHAMED! (unlike the saved.."For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall NOT be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Rom.10:11-13). But ALL the seed of Israel shall be justified in the Lord, and shall glory. This of course is not speaking of natural Israel, but of the Israel of God, or spiritual Israel(the true children of Abraham by faith in Christ. see Gal. 3.6-18). This passage (esp. vs.22) then is a perfect example of how the word "all" is often used in the bible in a limited sense.

You argue from 1 Cor. 12:3 that this confession that "Jesus is Lord" must mean that these people will be saved because... "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." This passage is often misunderstood. Paul is not saying that it is impossible to verbally say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Ghost, but he is speaking of a true confession of saving faith. That is the kind of confession that it is impossible to give apart from the Holy Ghost. In James 2:19 we read: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, AND TREMBLE." You see there is a difference between merely believing, and believing from you heart. One verse you quoted shows this well: "...if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt BELIEVE IN THINE HEART that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the HEART man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:9,10) Also, Mt. 7:21,23: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven... And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

You quoted part of Ephesians 2:7, ("That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace") stressing "In the ages to come" as though this means that God is going to be gracious to those in hell or something, but you left out the other part of the verse. I would like to Quote verses 1-10 because I really like this passage and it is the whole immediate context anyway.
"1   And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2   Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3   Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4   But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5   Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6   And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7   That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward US through Christ Jesus.
8   For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9   Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10   For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
I don't think I need to explain what was wrong with how you used verse 7 of this passage.

Well, I have been typing for a long time now, so I think I will finnish in another letter. There is just so much to say when it comes to God's word. Thank you for your patience. Your friend,

Aarons continues with part 3 of his letter.

Dean, In your last letter you commented on my speaking of the destruction of the wicked. You said (but provided no scripture) that "God does destroy all opposition to him. Then He makes all things new." By this, it seems you were implying that God's destruction of his enemies is for the purpose of saving them. While that goes against the very nature of destruction, all things are possible with God, and so if that were what God chose to do, than I have no doubt that he could. However, the scriptures don't leave us guessing about this. In fact God does say "I make all things new" and He says it in the context of the final judgment already having taken place (Rev. 20:11-15), so could this mean that hell is in fact temporary and that God is going to save everyone?  What does He mean by the word "all" when He says He will make all things new? He tells us in the immediate context how we are to understand this.
"1   And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2   And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3   And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4   And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5   And he that sat upon the throne said, BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6   And he said unto me, it is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
So here we see the word "all" being used in a limited sense, as it often is in the scriptures. God's destroying (in judgment for the purpose of justice) is not for the purpose of saving. When God says He will make all things new, He does not mean everyone will be saved.

You tell me that the idea of eternity was foreign to the Jews thinking. I am not convinced. That would make even God's "everlasting covenant" (which was "to be a God unto thee and thy seed after thee", the very covenant of grace itself, which has its fulfillment in Christ (Gal.3:16) for both the Old and New Testaments (Heb.9:15), apart from which covenant of GRACE then, there is no possibility of salvation) void of being everlasting. The believing Jews however, had no doubt that God would keep His covenant forever, and that the promised land was not just some land on this sin cursed earth where men die, but that there was life beyond the grave (through the Messiah) where God would be their God and they would be his people, forever (read Hebrews 11 with this in mind). The Pharisee's were correct in believing in the resurrection, and they knew that there was a promised inheritance for after this life. They also knew that it matters how we live our life here because of what lies ahead in the next life (they were wrong though in thinking that righteousness is attained by keeping the law, and since they themselves could not keep they law, but they bound others to it, and they also gave a false outward appearance of holiness, they were hypocrites and not saved). The message of the whole bible (Christ being central), never loses sight of the reality of eternity, in both Old and New Testaments.

You say "God kills to make alive" (hinting, I think, that God has a higher purpose in destroying the wicked). I believe you are referring to Deuteronomy 32 as you did in the past. However, is that what it says in Deuteronomy 32?
"39   See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, AND I make alive; I wound, AND I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
40   For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.
41   If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render VENGEANCE to mine enemies, and will REWARD them that hate me.
42   I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.
It does not say here that God kills TO make alive, but that He kills AND makes alive. A close look at the context of this passage will also show that that it does not mean that He kills TO make alive. God is going to repay his enemies for the sake of his justice.

When you commented on Matthew 12:31-32 you concluded that all blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men and that it will be forgiven "in the ages to come". This is not, however, what the passage says.
"31   Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: BUT [here's the exception] the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost SHALL NOT be forgiven unto men.
32   And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: BUT whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall NOT be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."
This is a sin that only those who go to perdition commit. It will NEVER be forgiven them, EVER. This is the ONLY sin that will not be forgiven and it is the sin of not repenting of your sins, as all those who come to a saving faith (by the power of the Holy Ghost) do (repent). It is the sin then, of rejecting Christ and his salvation (which is extended to us by the Holy Ghost, that is what is meant by blasphemy of the Holy Ghost). Those who do this are still in their sins for which there is no forgiveness apart from Christ, so they will have to stand as guilty and condemned in the judgment, never having repented in their life. The plan of God is not defeated in this, nor is the power of the cross diminished. God will save his elect who Christ came to save. The works of the devil are destroyed then, both in the cross (by the saving of the elect), and in the lake of fire (in the end) and they are destroyed entirely.

You pointed out the different choice of words used in newer versions from the old, in 2 Thess. 2:10-12. The newer versions replaced "damned" with "judged" you say. However, that makes no difference as to what the meaning is. It is just a softening of words (which could be somewhat misleading, but the meaning remains the same). Let me illustrate:
"10   And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that PERISH; because THEY RECEIVED NOT THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, THAT THEY MIGHT BE SAVED.
11   And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
12   That they all might be.. (judged) WHO BELIEVED NOT the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
To be judged in unbelief IS to be damned. The context verifies this as well, so it relay makes no difference which word is used.

While I don't agree with your interpretation of Mt. 25:1-12, I don't see what difference it makes to the subject at hand. There are still those who are "shut out" and who will not have the door opened to them (vss.10-12). This is speaking of the kingdom of heaven (vs.1).

Your interpretation of Mt. 26:24 seems far fetched. The bible doesn't tell us that those who die in their infancy go to heaven. IF, they are God's elect though, then I have no doubt that they will, but who knows but God? Judas will be punished severely though, I agree with you on that.

You say that Mark 9:42-48 is a literal reference to the Hinnon Valley (Gehenna). It may be so that the word used is that for Gehenna, but I believe that in this case, Christ MUST be referring to something much worse, but using Gehenna as something of an illustration. The reason I say this is mostly because of what is on the other side of the coin.
"42   And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
43   And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to ENTER into LIFE maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
44   Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
45   And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to ENTER halt into LIFE, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
46   Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
47   And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
48   Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

I do not believe that I am spiritualizing this any more than Christ was. It seems clear to me that He is talking about either being condemned to that place after death were the fire is never quenched, or, on the other side of the coin, ENTERING life which is in the kingdom of God. If we are to take part in God's kingdom, we must not be given over to temptation. This is a spiritual matter, and if not taken so, this passage looses its whole meaning and importance. I believe the KJV is correct in translating it the way it does. Matthew 5:26 however, ("Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing") should not be taken as speaking of hell because of the context:
"25   Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26   Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."
Verses 25 and 26 are clearly not speaking of being delivered over by your adversary to God to be cast into hell, but it is clearly speaking of civil justice.

I believe Luke 16:19-31 (the Rich man and Lazarus) is in fact a parable, but parables are not just nice little stories, they always teach spiritual truths, and they are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness, just like any other scripture. The difference between this particular parable and many others, is that this parable does not use objects to represent what is being said (like, for example, the parable of the sower), but it is very straight forward and there should be no difficulty interpreting it just by reading carefully what it says.
"19   There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20   And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21   And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22   And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23   And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24   And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25   But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26   And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27   Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28   For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29   Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30   And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31   And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
You say: "this a story that is pre-resurrection. Even if the situation seemed hopeless for the rich man, the resurrection changed all that." I would like to point out though that this is not pre-ressurection (though it is before the event of Christ's resurrection). In Mt. 22:31-33 we read:
"31   But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
32   I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33   And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine."
Christ said this before his own death and resurrection, but yet we see that he speaks of the resurrection as something that was already taking place. How could this be if Christ is the firstfuits? In Rev.13:8 Christ is spoken of as the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world". This, of course does not mean that He actually died then, but that, as the book of Hebrews says, Christ died ONCE for all time. So Christ's death is not only effective in the NT (after having actually happened), but all those who came to God by faith in the OT, came to him only through Christ's shed blood, which is and always has been the ONLY possible way to the Father. If they came then, to God through the cross of Christ, which hadn't yet happened, why wouldn't they also experience the resurrection that is through Christ (I am not speaking of the resurrection of the body which will take place for everyone when Christ comes again at the end of the world. see Jn. 5:28,29) which hadn't yet happened. And as we have seen in Mt.22:31-33, they did experience that resurrection. So to say that the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus was pre-resurrection and that the resurrection changed the rich man's hopeless estate, just simply  isn'ttrue.

I hope you will go back and re-read my previous letter to you, as there are several passages that I refereed to that you have been silent about in your response to me. I know that it is not always necessary to address every single one of them (sometimes only the major foundational ones need to be ),addressed but I feel that there were some that present pretty important problems to universalism that you may want to re-read.

I hope this three-part letter has been helpful to you and that God will use his word to convince you of these things. As I have said before, This is not a pleasant subject for me, or for that matter, anyone that I know of, but it is one that is essential to true evangelism. It is also truth that God has given us, which one should never exchange for a lie. The fact that God is perfectly holy and just in all of this, should cause us to fall down before God and worship as did Job (chptr.1 vs.20). All those who are saved, should also see how great their salvation really is, knowing what it is that they are saved from and the extent of it, and they should praise God with all that is in them, knowing that, had not God set his everlasting love upon them ,they also would be judged with the rest and be condemned. Salvation is of the Lord!

your friend,

      It seems we may be getting sidetracked in our discussion by focusing on the timing of salvation, but this seems important to you. I do not deny that salvation is referred to in the past tense in scripture. However, given the definition we set out in earlier letters, that salvation included not only justification, but also adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification etc., then it does follow that salvation is not only past tense, but also
ongoing in the present, and completed in the future.

I agree salvation is spoken of as in the past, often when speaking of forgiveness, justification, friendship, and perhaps even reconciliation.
(Romans 8:24, Ephesians 2:5,8, Titus 3:5,8).       Salvation is also a continually imparted present work when we speak of sanctification,  
growing emancipation from all evil, growing enrichment in all good, the enjoyment of eternal life, the experience of the Spirits power, liberty, and advancing maturity in conformity to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18, 15:2, 2 Corinthians  2:5, 6:2, 1 Peter 1:9, 3:21). The salvation of the soul ( the mind, will, and emotions) is also an ongoing transformation. Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed ( transfigured ) by the renewing of our minds. James 1:21 tells believers to receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls. We also read that Christ is able to save to the uttermost. Paul writes that he strives toward the mark of the high calling of God, that he might attain to the resurrection. There is also a sense in which salvation is yet future, particularly when speaking of the redemption of the body, perfect christlikeness and final glory ( Romans 5:9-10, 13;11, 1 Corinthians 5:5, Philippians 1:5-6, 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Hebrews 1:14 1 Peter 2:2). Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

     All this is widely accepted Evangelical thought. I built on this thinking because, given your background, I thought it would be something we could agree on.

     It seems that the real difference between us is that you see a distinct difference between correction and punishment. I view punishment when coming from a Father to be not just for the sake of justice, but also for the purpose of chastisement and correction. You seem to deny that God punishes to correct or discipline, but suggest that it is exclusively for the purpose of justice. I suggest you do a simple study of the Greek word
for punishment or chastisement. For example, the Greek word for punishment is "kolasis". In Matthew 25:46, "These shall go away into eternal punishment", the word is "kolasis" meaning "chastisement, punishment", ( from "A Greek English Lexicon and New Testament Synonyms", by George Ricker Berry ). Punishment is not just for the purpose of justice, but also for the purpose of correction. The New Thayers Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines "kolasis" as 'correction, punishment, penalty'. Correction is remedial, and it is quite reasonable to believe that punishment for the ages is for the correction of the sinner.It is a linguistically proper understanding of both "aionios" and "kolasis" to understand "correction for the ages" to be for the remedy of sin and rebellion in the heart of the unbeliever. To dogmatically insist that the passage must be interpreted as "eternal punishment" is not required by the text or the New Testament. There are many other passages that make it clear that punishment must not be eternal.  

     In one of your letters I believe you suggested that if are going to do word studies, then we should look at the use of the word within the New Testament. I agree that this is the primary source to study. Sometimes the text will reveal clues as to nuances of the word. For example, "aionios" is often translated as eternal in Jude 1:7. It says, Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth for an example "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." This passage indicates that the common definition of time without end may not be a good interpretation of "aionios". The aioniou fire mentioned refers to the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The "everlasting" fire they suffered has long since burnt out. Perhaps, aionios better describes the quality of the fire of God, rather than time that it burns. In case you still want to maintain that this fire does refer to an everlasting fire, I would like to refer to the only other reference to this fire within the letter of Jude. Jude 23 tells us that some should be saved "with fear, pulling them out of this fire". If this is referring to the everlasting fires of hell, ( which I doubt ), then Jude is instructing believers to pull the sinners out of hell fire.
The quality of the fire of God is such, though, that it does destroy all opposition to himself. However, we are to reach out to help those who suffer from the vengeance of this fire.

     Another instance where it is obvious that "aionios" does not refer to unending time is in John 17:3. Our Lord gives us a definition of Eternal life. He says, " this is eternal life, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Eternal life is a quality of life, not a quantity or length of life. Eternal life is life with God. It is the abundant life that Jesus provides, (John 10:10).   

     In summary, eternal life is the life God gives. Eternal Punishment is the punishment God gives. Oftentimes, we will be closer to the truth, if we think of Eternal or "aionios" as a quality, rather than a quantity of unlimited time. Just as the "aioniou" fire that destroyed Sodom had an end it is also useful to realize that the "eternal" punishments of God, are limited within time, and also have an end.

You mention that you suspect that I believe that "the second Adam came to undo all that the first Adam did and caused". This is not really what I believe. That is understating what the scripture actually says. Romans 5:15,20 (Amplified) states that "His grace is out of all proportion to the fall of man...where sin increased and abounded, grace has surpassed it and has increased the more and superabounded." As Paul mentioned in another place, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us," Romans 8:18). What Adam did and caused can not even be compared to what Christ did and accomplished. Christ destroys the works of the devil, and makes all things new.

I agree we have passed from death unto life. We possess eternal life. There is no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. When you say that "no one who Christ died for could possibly go to hell". I would like to agree. However, I can not be quite so dogmatic. Your statement does sound Calvinist. I agree that God will save anyone for whom Christ died. Thing is, He was the propitiation for all men. I think the Arminians got that one right.

Theological systems and creeds can make us more dogmatic than need be. I like to let the scriptures speak. Even if someone who once had faith ends up in the Lake of Fire that does not mean he will not be ( is not ) saved. "Once saved always saved" as the saying goes "yet so as by fire"
as Paul says, ( 1 Corinthians 3:15 ). There are some scriptures that suggest that those who have faith could suffer loss. Revelation 2:11 written to the angel of the church in Smyrna says that "he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" ( which is the lake of fire,  Revelations 20:14 ). Are there some in the church that did not overcome? What is to be said of their fate? Are they hurt by the lake of fire? Like I said, I would like to agree with you that once saved, one could not possibly experience fires of correction, however I can not be so dogmatic. Christians like to interpret the scriptures so that all is well for them and devastating for those outside. However, we are all in this together. Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians in Rome about sin, "thinkest thou this O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" (Roman 2:3). Even those for whom Christ died are not above the judgment and correction of God.

Continuing on with your objections. You say that the sting on death remains in the unbeliever. The sting of death is sin. And yet Christ came destroy the works of the devil. Either we believe He was successful or we believe He failed. If He failed to take away the sins of the world, then He missed the mark set out for Him by God. By definition, missing the mark, failing is a type of sin, but I believe my savior was without failure or sin. If you want to portray our savior as a failure by your theology that is your choice,but I believe he is victorious.  

In reference to 1 Corinthians 15 you say Christ is the firstfruits only of those who are in the church at his coming. However, I refer you to James 1:18 that reveals that the church is the firstfruits of all creation. God has a process in which the effect of the Gospel spreads through all creation.
All creation waits for the manifestation of the Sons of God. All creation shall be liberated from the bondage of corruption, (Romans 8:19,21).

Thanks again for the opportunity to reply to your 3 part letter. My apologies for not dealing with every issue you wanted answered. I have attempted to speak to those concepts that we have not touched upon. I don't want to be repetitious in my handling of the harsher scriptures. I much prefer to focus on the Gospel. Like you mention, it is not pleasant to consider everlasting punishment. It is even more horrible to consider a creator god who could be so unforgiving and full of malice. Would it be so bad if you were wrong? If God was not so cruel? What if mercy does triumph over judgment? And God IS love?

What if we didn't have to hold out the threat of Eternal torment? You suggest evangelism would be hurt. I suggest that the gospel would be much more presentable, and Christians would be more open about sharing. The unbeliever would certainly be much more willing to listen to the gospel if a gun was not held to his temple. ( I refer you to the second letter from Greg on my web site )

When I look at Christ I see what God is like. I see a man who loved the sinners, who chastised the over confident, a God who justifies the ungodly, and judges the self-righteous. I hope Christ would be happy with my attitude toward sinners.

I hope the message we offer brings hope and not hopelessness.


"Eternal" Punishment Scripture Revisited

Dean Johnson Ministries

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