Dean Johnson Ministries

This paper was written in a simple manner, at a young age, for those who agonize about the fate of mankind. Drawing heavily on the thoughts of Andrew Jukes and George Hawtin, it is unoriginal, and biased by a mainline protestant upbringing. If I wrote the paper again today, I would edit the chapters on "Death and Suffering", and "Christ's Descent". However, despite the weaknesses, in the hope that it will be helpful to others of similar traditional church backgrounds, I have decided to leave it largely unchanged.

I offer this paper, as it is, full of questions.

WILL ALL HUMANKIND EVENTUALLY BE SAVED?

By Dean Johnson        Audio mp3,

 

 

CONTENTS

1. HISTORICAL SKETCH OF APOKATASTASIS

2. THEOLOGICAL DISCUSSION

3. A PHILOSOPHY OF DEATH AND SUFFERING

4. ALL OF CREATION RESTORED

5. ALL MEN JUSTIFIED, ALL MEN MADE RIGHTEOUS

6. CHRIST'S DESCENT INTO "HELL"

7 EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW

8. POPULAR OBJECTIONS

9. ETERNAL TORMENT VS. RESTORATION: AN EVALUATION.

Historical Sketch of Apokatastasis (The Restoration of All Things)

The idea that all men will at length be saved is not a new idea to the church. This belief was particularly strong in the early centuries of the church. Of the six theological schools known to exist during the first five centuries, Four of them clearly taught the final salvation of all souls: Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa or Nisibis. Ephesus taught conditional immortality or annihilation of the wicked and only one, Carthage (under Rome's influence) taught endless punishments [1].

Apocatastasis was far from being a doctrine that was held by a fanatical fringe. Indeed, the majority of the Eastern Church adhered to this teaching until after 500 A.D. [2]. However, the doctrine was not as widely adhered to in the West as in the East.

Although Origen was the most systematic expositor of Apocatastasis in the early church, there were also many both preceding and following him who expounded on this great and all encompassing salvation. After the apostles it was taught by the Basilidians, Carpocratians, and Valentinians about A.D. 130. The Sibylline Oracles speak of a universal salvation that is accomplished by the prayers of the saints who are concerned for those who have been dammed (A.D. 150) [3]. Ancient third century liturgies include within the worship service a time for "Great Intercession for the living and the dead" [4].

Because of the remedial nature of all punishment Clemens Alexandrius who was president of the Catechetical School at Alexandria also taught Universalism. Other noteworthy believers include Gregory Thaumaturgus (A.D. 235), Pamphilius and Eusebius, Titus (Bishop of Bastra, A.D. 364), Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 380), Didymus the Blind, John (bishop of Jerusalem), Diodorus (teacher at Antioch and Bishop of Jerusalem), Theodore of Mopsuestia (influencial in Eastern Syria A.D. 42O), and Theodoret (Bishop of Cyprus in Cyria A.D. 430) [5]. Many more could be listed.

Championing the opposition to this doctrine was the extremely influential Augustine of Hippo. Later, under Justininian (A.D. 541-43), Origen's theology was declared heretical. However, it should be pointed out that it was not universal salvation that was condemned but rather his belief in the "the pre-existence of souls and of the final salvability of devils" [6]. Two prominent Universalists, Beecher and Hanson, maintain that "real Universalism was never condemned by the General Council nor endless punishment ever taught by any ecumenical creed" [7].

Although Universalism was not as widely advocated after the time of Augustine, it is clear from Augustine's own writing that it was very popular, during his life. He writes "Some nay, very many from human sympathy commiserate the eternal punishment of the damned; not, indeed by opposing the Holy Scriptures, but by softening all the severe things..." [8].

Modern Universalists point out that it is the clear statements of scripture that give the justification for the apparent softening of the severe things. They point to the influence of Manichaeism, a Persian dualistic philosophy which Augustine adhered to for nine years before leaving to become a skeptic [9]. Manichaeism is the belief that the "universe is composed of two kingdoms engaged in eternal conflict, one of light and good, the other of darkness and evil" [10]. Some Universalists suggest that this popular teaching influenced Augustine to accept eternal opposition rather than ultimate reconciliation [11].

During the Dark Ages Universalism almost completely disappeared, but several key figures are known to have maintained such faith: Maximus, the Greek monk (7th Century), Clement of Ireland, (8th Century), John Scotus Erigena (9th Century), the Albigenses (llth Century), Reynold (Abbott of St. Martin's in France, l2th Century), Solomon (13th Century Bishop of Bassorah), the Lollards (14th Century Bohemia and Austria) [12]. In the 15th century Tauler of Strasburg and John Wessel were also Universalists. They have been called the "Reformers before the Reformation, whose writings Luther industriously studied and greatly admired" [13].

However, as history shows, it was the teachings of Augustine, who was also the great champion of eternal punishment that Luther, Calvin and most of the protestant reformers chose to follow. There were exceptions. In Germany many Anabaptist sects of the time were Universalist. The seventeenth article of the Augustine Confession of 1530 was designed specifically to condemn such groups [14]. However, in the centuries that followed Universalism continued to make progress in Germany until in 1823 Dr. Dwight was able to say "The doctrine of the eternity of future punishment is almost universally rejected" [15].

In England in 1553, the 42nd of the forty-two articles stated "that all men shall not be saved at length". However, ten years later, three articles were dropped including the one forbidding Universalism. No longer is Universalism condemned within the Church of England. Quite the contrary it has been openly advocated and defended by many of the church's most influential members. [16] It had been estimated at one point that "about one-third of the Episcopalians" were Universalist [17].

From Europe this doctrine spread to America that had by then become a stronghold of Calvinism. The seeming harsh doctrines election and predestination that the reformed church clung to seemed to fan the fires of growth in universalistic teaching. As it grew there could be found at least one Universalist church in every major city on the east coast. When the teaching began in North America in the early 1700's it was placed clearly within the evangelical tradition. The teaching was spread mainly by word of mouth of itinerant preachers. As the movement grew, so did the persecution. By the early 1800s because of this opposition and unfair taxation policies the need to form a denomination was recognized. In 1803 The Winchester Profession was developed. It was simple, containing only three articles. The first concerns the Holy Scriptures. The second speaks of the one God "who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness" [18]. The third relates to the life of holiness and good works that believers were to practice. It was specifically created broad enough that it would not unnecessarily exclude anyone. That was not its purpose. It was merely to affirm basic truth.

As the Universalist denomination matured it began to find liberal minded members within its ranks. What was once mainly an orthodox group with a unique teaching had begun to make the transition to Liberalism. When Hosea Ballou, a Unitarian, published "A Treatise on Atonement" he directed the denomination from its trinitarian, Calvinist roots into an entirely new direction. Ballou rejected future punishment of any duration. This was contrary to the Restoration teaching common at the time which accepted punishment for limited ages. This caused a split in the denomination. The Universalist Church under Hosea Ballou continued to become more liberal until 1961 when it joined with the Unitarian Church. The Restoration teaching continues in small pockets across North America. It is often seemingly unorganized and promoted through literature and word of mouth (and now via the internet).

 

Theological Discussion

 

Are all men saved? Will all be saved? These questions will now be discussed. For the sake of clarity Universalism will be defended, leaving all evaluative comments until the end of the paper.

At first sight the testimony of Scripture seems contradictory. The law condemns all, but the gospel has good news for everyone. The scripture speaks of a "little flock" [19] and a "narrow way" [20] that few find. "The wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment [21]. Some are "saved" by the gospel, others will "perish". The Revelation speaks of "The fearful, and unbelieving" having their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" [22]. And they shall have "no rest day nor night, and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" [23]. How could the scriptures be more straight forward. The problem is that the condemnation of the law is only one side of the scriptures. The good news is also stated in just as strong unequivocal language. "In Abraham's seed all the kindreds of the earth shall be blessed [24], which Peter apparently explains to mean that there shall be a "restitution of all things" [25].

Paul in several places speaks of the mystery which God has purposed in Himself that he will rehead, and reconcile all things to himself in, by and through Christ; , "whether they be things in heavenly places (where the principalities an powers are), or things in earth" [26]. Paul further declares that all "creation shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." [27] In another place it is written that Christ did not just come to destroy the works of the devil but that through death he might "destroy him that had the power of death that is, the devil" [28]. "For as the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ, overflow to the many... and brought justification ... that brings life for all men ... so ... the many will be made righteous" [29]. Simply put, "In Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" [30]. And then we are further told that in the end "all things shall be subdued unto" Christ "that God may be" not all in some but "all in all" [31]. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" [32]. "Therefore there shall be no more death nor sorrow nor pain; for the former things are passed away" [33].

How is all this accomplished? It is done through the conquering work of the cross, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him" [34]. This reconciliation will be accomplished when at the name of the Savior "every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father [35]. We are told plainly that God "will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" [36]. That therefore prayers intercessions and giving of thanks should "be made for all men" [37], because there is a ransom "to be testified in due time" [38], for Jesus is the "Savior of all men, specially of those that believe" [39]. We are told that "The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world" [40], and that "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved" [41], for He is the propitiation not for our sins only "but also for the sins of the whole world"[42]. If Jesus really is the "Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" [43], what are we to do with the teaching that says He only takes away the sins of those who here believe in him?

There is a contradiction: All made righteous, yet many perish. The traditional explanation could be phrased in this way. Although Jesus is willing to be the Savior of the world, He is really only the Savior "of those who are not of the world" [44]. The scripture that says, "there shall be no more death" can not be taken literally because if God's wrath is eternal then there must be eternal death and separation from God. The result of such teaching is that all things will not be reconciled to God. All the clear statements of God's sovereign purpose and will are to be subordinated to the one side of scripture that declares man's condemnation. Is this the glorious gospel of our God and Savior?

God did not create mankind to punish them. He wishes fellowship with them. How often has God declared severe judgment only to repent Himself at the repentance and intercession of his people? God's purpose is to bless and to restore. "He will not always chide; neither will he keep his anger forever" [45]. It is admitted there is a mystery here. Are we to accept that this is a contradiction that is merely to be accepted, or is beyond present light? Or do the scriptures provide an answer? If these scriptures can be harmonized, where is the answer?

A Philosophy of Death and Suffering

Paul's epistles show that God is working out his glorious redemption which He ordained in Christ before the fall. God has planned to remedy the fall by the cross of Christ. Paul writes of a mystery, God's hidden wisdom "which God ordained before the world unto our glory." We must understand that God does not make mistakes. He works all things together for the good "after the counsel of his own will" [46].

Are we to believe that God purposely created man knowing that man would sin and that the vast majority of the human race would live a life of suffering, die in sin and be destined to suffer eternal torment. Is this what God foresaw or destined? This seems to be the understanding of much of Christendom. Is this what we believe? And what is to be the eternal destiny of the majority of the world who have never been so privileged as to hear the gospel? Do they go to an eternal hell for never hearing about Jesus? Is this their fault? Is it fair or just? Yet we know that God is just. The scriptures open a much more glorious revelation of our great God and Savior than is recognized by most.

God has not made man to suffer and be eternally damned, but rather that through the fall and the coming restoration, man should be elevated to a higher blessedness than could be accomplished without the fall, and the consequent suffering. Man now knows what it is like to disobey, and to be separated from God. Man can now make an informed choice when he chooses to follow God. He will serve God because it is better and he wants to.

If all men will be saved at length, and restored to a greater blessedness than before the fall then suffering is justified. The end will justify the means.

This would be more widely accepted if the purpose of suffering and death were better understood. God, our Father judges to save. He brings salvation by judging evil [47]. Evil is defeated by death. Through death God will destroy him who has the power of death [48]. So we see that the purposes of judgment, suffering, and death are educational and to bring salvation. This is clearly seen in those passages that speak of delivering offenders over to Satan "that they learn not to blaspheme [49], and "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus [50].

If these principles are clearly discerned, the resurrection of judgment and the second death will be better understood. The threatened judgment will be recognized as connected to the soteriological promise "I make all things new" and the second death will be seen not as a hopeless state, but rather as an appointed means to bring about this salvation. Blessed be the only wise God our Savior. To him be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

We will now pass from such philosophical reflection to a closer look at those passages which appear to teach universalism.

All of Creation Restored

(Romans 8:18-22, Acts 3:19-26)

Creation is considered because the plan of redemption flows from and is a part of the plan of creation. Paul declares "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." (Once again we see that the end justifies the means) "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope." Adam's transgression was not a mistake. Here God's purpose for the fall and suffering is alluded to. God purposes the fall to occur as part of the plan to bring about a glorious salvation "which shall be revealed in us".

The scripture is clear that the whole creation "shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption." What does the scripture refer to when it speaks of the "whole creation"? Clearly it refers to at least the entire creation that experienced judgement at the fall. This would include man, animals, plants, and the earth. This may not here extend to the angelic realm, although they too are a creation of God, and are alluded to later in the chapter [50]. Understanding that God was a faithful creator who had an eternal purpose for suffering in the plan of redemption, Peter was able to write; "Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing as unto a faithful Creator [51]. For we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works" [52]. All creation will be restored and to exclude mankind from that creation seems to be an unnecessary restriction.

Acts 3:21 speaks of the times of restoration "of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." It is sometimes argued that this restoration does not refer to "the conversion of persons but only the reconstitution or establishment of things" [53]. However, this is to take the passage completely out of its context. Peter is preaching repent and be converted. Peter says they will be blessed "by turning everyone of you from your wicked ways" [54]. Peter goes on to explain that the times of restoration of which he speaks is a fulfillment of the "covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, 'And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.'" All people shall be blessed? The Jews had crucified Jesus [55], but "God raised him up" so that they could be free from this condemnation. To suggest restoration here refers to just created things and not to the people is to avoid the main point of Peter's argument.

All Men Justified. All Men Made Righteous

(Romans 5:l2-21) (I Peter 3:19, 4:6, Ephesians 4:8-10, Romans 10:8-18, Matthew 12:40, and Jonah 2).

 

The gospel needed to be preached to the many who had not heard and/or were bound by sin during their lifetime. "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead" [62]. Jesus being put to death "went and preached unto the spirits in prison" [63].

Many try to say that Jesus only went to the righteous dead in sheol and that he never preached the gospel. Such is not the teaching of scripture. We are told that when Jesus ascended up on high "he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men" [64]. Jesus descended into "the lower parts of the earth" [65], to liberate the souls that had been held captive by Satan against their will. Isaiah says that Christ descended "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house" [66]. The lower parts of the earth refers to the realm of the dead [67].

We are told not only that he descended but that He also "ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things". The idea seems to be that he descended to the very lowest hell and ascended to the very highest heaven that the Spirit of Christ "might fill all things". That he went to the lowest hell is supported by the Romans 10:7 passage which speaks of Christ's descent into the deep. The deep here refers to the bottomless pit or abyss [69]. It was to here that the demons within the Gadarene demonic begged not to be sent (Luke 8:31).

Now that he has gone to the heighth and depth of creation the love of Christ may be known by all. Now that Christ fills all things, Paul is able to say, "the word is nigh thee" (Romans 10:8). Christ's spirit can be known even in the depths of hell. Now that the Spirit of Christ is omnipresent, Paul Says "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). Given the context, this suggests that even those in the depths of hell could call upon the name of the Lord. Apparently this is what happened. In dealing with the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection, Jesus once made a very interesting comment. He said, "God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living" [70]. However, Paul explains that for this cause "Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and living" [71]. What Christ accomplished by His death and resurrection was that those held in bondage by death and hell were able to make Christ their Lord, that they too might be saved.

Paul continues to develop this doctrine, explaining why Christ had to descend into the deep. He says "How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14) Christ had to preach to them so they could be saved. Paul now quotes from a Universalist text in Isaiah. Isaiah wrote, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings ... that publisheth salvation ... all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God" (Is. 52: 7, 10). Paul is saying that Christ descended into the deep, preached the gospel, and that spirits were saved. Perhaps what is even more interesting is a belief held by some early Fathers that other disciples will also descend into hell to preach. We are told that Jesus tasted of death for three days, but that he could not be held by it [72]. Jesus made the statement, speaking to his disciples, "There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. Jesus seemed to be saying that at His coming some of the disciples would also taste of death, and go to hell to preach the gospel. Paul seems to wish for this privilege when he says "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ (in hell) for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh", for "my heart's desire and prayer to God For Israel is, that they might be saved" (Romans 9:3). This is all said in the context of Christ's descent into the deep. So, in effect, Paul relates his own desire to preach to the dead and then goes on to explain Christ's own descent into the deep to preach. He then attempts to explain the sovereignty of God and how his heart's desire and prayer will come true. He explains how "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26), and how "God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all" [73]. Truly our God is a Sovereign Lord "and his ways past finding out! [74].

Every Knee Shall Bow

(Philippian 2:10-ll, Romans 14:11, Isaiah 45:15-25)

 

Paul taught that "at the name of Jesus (Savior) every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11). He also said that "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Corinthians 12:3). And "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord ... you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9). This solemn phrase "Jesus is Lord" used only three times in Paul's writing is no doubt "the confession made by every convert at his baptism" [75].

That Paul is here talking about a universal salvation of all that are in heaven, in earth and under the earth is the teaching of this passage taken in its context. Philippians 2:1-9 describes Christ's death on the the cross which in Paul's mind refers to a work of reconciliation. He emphasizes that this reconciliation is universal. He writes, "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven [76]. And he reveals that this reconciliation will eventually be accomplished as the ages roll on (Ephesians 2:7). He says, "that according to the good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him [77]. Paul understood that some day every knee would bow not out of compulsion (or by force), but as an act of conversion and on entering into salvation.

That Paul refers to salvation is intimated in the following verse (2:12). He says everyone will eventually be saved, therefore "work out your own salvation". Paul uses this same phraseology with an added twist in Romans 14:11: "As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God". So, we see everyone declaring. "Jesus is Lord" and everyone confessing to God. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). That this is soteriological phraseology is unequivocally stated by Isaiah. "Look unto me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth 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. Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, even to Him shall men come" (Isaiah 45:23-24). All men shall come to Jesus and he will not turn them away. All the ends of the earth shall be saved. In the same context Isaiah also declares that "Israel shall be saved with an everlasting salvation" (45:17) for our God is "a just God and a Savior" (45:21). Looking at all this from an evangelical framework sometimes makes all this difficult to perceive. Perhaps it would help to understand the Jewish mindset and how they read this passage. A section in the "Jewish Prayer Book", praising God for creation reads. "We hope for the day when the world will be perfected under the kingdom of the almighty and all mankind will call upon thy name; when thou wilt turn unto thyself all the wicked of the earth. May all the inhabitants of the earth know that unto thee every knee must bend, every tongue vow loyalty. May they bow in worship, giving honor unto thy glorious name. May they all accept the yoke of thy kingdom and do thou rule over them speedily and forevermore .... The Lord shall be King over all the earth; on that day The Lord shall be One and his name One" [78]. For He will gather together in one all things in Christ [79]. This is indeed a glorious gospel.

Popular Objections

There are many so called scriptural objections to this doctrine. And it is admitted that there are many things which are hard to be understood. This section will attempt to deal with some of the main difficulties.

The reason why many can not accept universalism is that they believe the bible teaches eternal torment. It might help if they could realize that "only in light of the context can it be said whether "aion" means eternity in the strict sense or simply . . . extended . . . time"[80]. It is a "remarkable fact that in the Bible the same word is used to indicate two things which are profoundly antithelical, namely, the eternity of God and the duration of the world" [81]. When used of God the word "aion" can mean eternal, or even God of the ages, but what about when the scriptures speak of everlasting punishment. It is suggested that this could be more properly translated as the "punishment of the ages." Certain Bible versions such as Moffatt, Weymouth, The Concordant New Testament, and The American Standard all recognize this.

William Barclay provides a slightly different explanation for the meaning of "aionios", the word translated as eternity: "We shall never enter into the full ideas of eternal life until we rid ourselves of the almost instinctive assumption that eternal life means primarily life which goes on forever.... In the New Testament the word eternal always stresses, not the duration, but the quality of life" [82]. Jesus said, "this is eternal life that they might know thee the only true God" (John 17:3). Jesus describes 'eternal life' as a quality of life rather than a duration of life. The same logic could be used to understand punishment. The punishment of the ages is a severe state of punishment, just as eternal life is indeed an abundant life.

Other words which appear to have taken on inappropriate meanings are words like hell and damnation. It is much more accurate to use such words as sheol, hades tartarus and gehenna. Each of these have perfectly legitimate meanings that do not carry all the extra baggage that a word like "hell" carries. The word 'damnation' has been correctly translated in the newer versions as judge or condemn. The difference in meaning is obvious. 'Damnation of hell' becomes 'judgement of Gehenna' (Matt 23:23). 'A resurrection to judgement' is far truer than 'a resurrection to damnation' (John 5:29). 'In danger of eternal damnation' can be restated 'that some are guilty of the sin of the ages' (Weymouth, Mark 3:29). The general idea is clear. Other texts can be dealt with in like manner. A universal restorational view can now be affirmed as biblical rather than opposed to scripture. And the teaching of the final salvation of all men as taught by so many scriptures, can now be acknowledged unashamedly.

Eternal Torment Verses Universal Restoration: An Evaluation

It is difficult to judge between these two teaching which apparently both have strong support. The answer is not an easy one. Is harmonization of these apparently contradictory scriptures necessary or even possible? Would it be better to accept the contradiction, or even to label it as a paradox? A simple approach would be to assume that one doctrine is truth, and the other is error. This is not necessarily the right approach. It could be that one truth subordinates itself to a higher truth. For example, all men will eventually be saved, but "the wrath of God abides" on the unbeliever, forever, until believing in the Son (Jude 6, John 3:36). There are no easy answers.

Eternal Torment Evaluated

One of the strongest arguments for eternal torments is that it is the most widely accepted testimony of the scriptures. How could so many be wrong? Many translators, although recognizing many necessary changes, still tend to affirm eternal punishment. There are still unanswered questions in the author's mind concerning whether this is merely tradition, or whether there are proper reasons for such translation.

It is granted that the threat of eternal torment is surely an incentive to holy living. However, long ages of corrective punishment would surely be almost as effective. The doctrine of eternal torment does align itself well with the belief in free moral choice, and personal responsibility. However, the Restorationist would say that such a teaching denies the sovereignty of our God and portrays Satan as triumphant.

Eternal torment appears to have originated or was promoted within Rome. This does not lend credibility to the doctrine. There seems a very real possibility that Augustine was influenced by the Manichaeism which he so vehemently opposed. Eternal opposition may have been his legacy. Further study will have to be done.

It is often argued that eternal torment is an incentive both for evangelism and to be evangelized. Although this is undoubtedly true some additional comments need to be made. Would not temporary torment of long duration also encourage evangelism. Often the gospel presentation appears forced or rushed and Christians are not patient or gentle towards men (1 Timothy 2:25). Would not the gospel be more effectively preached if Christians understood the sovereignty of God and left the results up to Him. Instead, they cringe to see a loved one perish and so misrepresent the gospel by "forcing" decisions. Eternal torments, if truely believed, or understood would place an exceedingly heavy burden upon the minds of men. It seems we would be driven to insanity when faced with the hopeless ineffectiveness of evangelism. Most men are dying without Christ and passing into eternity. If eternal torment is the true understanding of the mind of God let it be preached continuously, for nothing, absolutely nothing else matters in comparison. But if it is not a true exposition of the Word of God, then the minds of men should not be burdened by such horrors. Let God be represented as He truly is.

 

Ultimate Restoration Evaluated

 

The support of the early Eastern Church as well as the four schools that defended the doctrine seem to lend it much credibility. However, there was opposition and it was they who eventually gained majority support.

An Ultimate Reconciliation based on the sovereignty of God does much to solve the problems of suffering and death. This helps to justify our God in the eyes of the world.

Under this teaching the grace and sovereignty of our God is elevated to such an extent it is open to the criticism of negating the free will of man. Whether this is really a valid criticism depends on ones view of sovereignty. It seems appropriate that the will of man should not impose itself on the will of God. Our God is sovereign. To elevate this concept is positive.

If the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation is accepted many apparent contradictions and many difficult passages begin to make sense. On the other hand many, many more questions are created. Just as the doctrine of eternal torments has been questioned, some of the arguments for universalism are not airtight. It could be argued that the restoration in Acts 3 and Romans 8 may refer to only nature and things, and not people. Some contend that the Philippians 2 passage may be dealing only with submission and not with salvation. As well, the Romans 5 passage may be interpreted as a potential salvation. This will only be determined by further careful study. The present conclusion seems to be that no steadfast decision can be made one way or the other. The weight of evidence provided in this paper seems to favor Universalism. It is hard to dismiss all the Universalism passages. Those texts dealing with eternal torment will have to be more carefully studied before any really informed decision can be made. Ultimate restoration is a very attractive doctrine. It does seem to more appropriately represent my present understanding of God, but ultimately I must bow to scripture. If such a glorious gospel is true then then let Him be worshipped and let the whole world know that we serve a great God and a glorious Savior.

Let God be true. AMEN!

 

Footnotes

I. George T. Knight., The New Schaff - Herzog Encuclopedia oF Religious Knowledge. Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953), p.96. Lewis B. Fisher, Which Way., (Chicago: Universalist Publishing House, 1921), p.27.

2. George T. Knight, p. 36.

3. John McClintock and James Strong, ed., Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1981), p. 658.

4. Robert E. Webber, Worship. Old and New. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p.60.

5. John McClintock and James Strong, p. 658.

6. James Edin Odgers, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Vol. XII. James Hasting, Ed., (New York: Charles Scibner's sons, 1921), p.531.

7. Lewis B. Fisher, p. 27-28.

8. John McClintock and James Strong, p. 658.

9. Joseph Laffan Morse, ed., Funk & Wagnalls Standard ReFerence Encyclopedia Volume 3. (New York: Standard Reference. Works Publishing Company, Inc., 1964), p. 715.

10. Joseph Laffan Morse, ed., Vol. 16, p. 5813.

II. David Robertson, The Unitarians and the Universalists. (Westpont, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985), p. 70. The Origin and History of the Doctrine oF Endless Punishment (1858) by Thomas B. Thayer. (Oriental & Egyptian Origins)

12. John McClintock and James Strong, p. 658.

13. John McClintock and James Strong, p. 653.

14. John McClintock and James Strong, p. 653.

15. John McClintock and James Strong, p. 653.

16. John McClintock and James Strong, p. 660.

17. George T. Knight, p. 97.

18. George T. Knight, p. 95.

19 Luke 12:32

20. Matthew 7:14

21. Matthew 25:46

22. Revelation 21:8

23. Revelation 12:11

24. Genesis 12:3

25. Acts 3:21-25

26. Colossians 1:20

27. Revelation 12:7

28. Hebrews 2:14

29. Romans 5:12-19 NIV

30. 1 Corinthians 15:22

31. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28

32. I Corinthians 15:25

33. Revelation 21:4

34. Ephesians 1:10

35. Philippians 2:10-11

36. 1 Timothy 2:5 KJV

37. 1 Timothy 2:1

38. 1 Timothy 2:6

39. 1 Timothy 4:9

40. 1 John 4:14

41. l John 3:17

42. 1 John 2:2

43. 1 John 3:8

44. Andrew Jukes, Restitution Of All Things. (Canyon County, C.A.: Concordant Publishing Concern, 1976), p. 26.

45. Psalms 103:9

46. Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:11

47. John 12:31-33

48. Hebrews 2:14

49. Timothy 1:20

50. 1 Corinthians 5:5

51. I Peter 4:19

52. Ephesians 2:10

53. Oepke "apokatastasis", TDNT I, p. 391.

54. Acts 3:26, see NASB

55. Acts 2:36, 3:14-15

56. George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreters Bible. Vol. 9., (New York, Abingdon Press, 1955), p. 465.

57. Romans 5:15 Amplified

58. John 1:13, Romans 9:11

59. Ephesians 1:11

60. Romans 9:21

61. 2 Peter 3:9

62. 1 Peter 4:6

63. 1 Peter 3:9

64. Ephesians 4:8

65. Ephesians 4:9

66. Isaiah 42:7

67. Isaiah 41:7, Acts 2:27, Psalms 16:10, Isaiah 14:13-15, Philippians 2:10, Psalms 63:9 refers to the lower parts of hell (Good News, and Living Bible)

68. Ephesians 4:9

69. Abussos, George Ricker Berry and Strongs, (originally adj. bottomless) abyss or pit, Luke 8:31, Romans 10:7, Revelation 11:7, 17:8 2O:1,3.

70. Mark 12:27

71. Romans 14:9

72. Hebrews 2:9,

73. Romans 11:32

74. Romans 11:33

75. George Arthur Buttrick, Vol. 11, p. 51.

76. Colossians 1:20

77. Ephesians 1:10

78. Rabbi Morris Silverman, ed., Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book. (United States of America: The Rabbinical Assembly of America, 1973), p. 37.

79. Ephesians 1:10

80. Sasse,"aion", TDNT I, p. 198.

81. Sasse,"aion", TDNT I, p. 202.

82. William Barclay, New Testament Words. (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1964), p. 45, 74.

83. Lewis B. Fisher, p. 95-102

Bibliography

Barclay, William, New Testament Words. Bloomsbury Street, London: SCM Press Ltd. 1964.

Bryan, T. Alton, ed., The New Compact Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1967.

Butterworth, G.W., ed., Origen. On First Principles. New York: Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1966.

Buttrick, George Arthur, ed., The Interpreters Bible. Vol. 9, New York: Abingdon Press, 1955.

Buttrick, George Arthur, ed., The Interpreters Bible. Vol. 11. New York: Abindgon Press, 1955.

Elwell, Walter A., ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506: Baker Book House, 1994.

Ferguson, Sinclair B./ Wright, David F., New Dictionary of Theology. Downers Grove, Illinois, 60515: Intervarsity Press, 1988.

Fisher, Lewis B., Which Way. A Study oF Universalists and Universalism. Chicago: Universalist Publishing House, 1921.

Gentz, William H., Gen. Ed., The Dictionary of. Bible and Religion. Nashville: Abingdon, 1986.

Gerhard, Friedrich, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Volume I, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968.

Hawtin, George R., Creation Redemption, and the Restitution oF All Things. Saskatoon, Sask.: Modern Press Limited.

Hasting, James, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Volume XII. Fifth Avenue at 48th Street, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1921.

Jackson, Samuel Macauley, editor in Chief, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Volume I2. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Book House, 1953.

Jukes, Andrew, Restitution of All Things. 15570 W. Knochaven, Canyon County, CA, 91351 U.S.A.: Concordant Publishing Concern, 1976.

McClintock, John and James Strong, ed., Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol X, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 49506: Baker Book House, 1981.

Meagher, Paul Kevin, O'Brien, Thomas C., ed., Encyclopedia Dictionary of Theology. o/z. Washington D.C.: Corpus Publications, 1979.

Morse, Joseph Laffan, Editor in Chief, Funk & Wagnalls Standard Reference Encuclopedia. Volume 3, New York: Standard Reference Works Publishing Company, Inc., 1964.

Morse, Joseph Laffan, Editor in Chief, Funk &. Wagnalls Standard Reference Encyclopedia. Volume 16. New York: Standard Reference Works Publishing Company Inc., 1964.

Punt, Neal, Unconditional Good News. Toward an Understanding of Biblical Universalism. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980.

Richardson, Alan, ed., A Dictionary of Theology. London; SCM Press, 1969.

Robinson, David, The Unitarians and the Universalists. Westport, Connecticut; Greenwood Press, 1985.

Silverman, Rabbi Morris, ed., Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book with a New Translation. Supplementary Readings and Notes. United States of America; The Rabbinical Assembly of America and the United Synagogue of America, June 1973.

Vogels, Walter, Gods Universal Covenant. A Biblical Study. Ottawa, Canada; University of Ottawa Press, 1979.

Webber, Robert E., Worship. Old and New. Grand Rapids; Zondervan Publishing House, 1982.

 

 

 

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