What is God Like? – The Elephant in the Room

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We have established that an all-knowing, all-powerful God who is everywhere at once, has taken away my free-will and made me His puppet.  But, miracle of miracles, He also loves me, relentlessly, no matter what I do, with a never-failing, agape love that is beyond my comprehension.

That love has caused Him to send His Son Jesus to the cross to die for the sins of the whole world. At the cross, all of God’s righteous judgment on every one of those sins was poured out on Jesus Christ, and that judgment was completely satisfied: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17) When He died, His last words were, “It is finished!” What He came to do—save the world—had been accomplished, past tense. 

However, the “elephant in the room,” which I have not mentioned, is, “In light of this unconditional love, what about Hell as the final destination for unbelievers?” I want to introduce you today to a new look at Hell, that, over the last 15 years, has revolutionized my life, affecting how I view everything, particularly my associations with others. 

I have also learned, over those past years, that I can only know, with any confidence, what I believe God has shown me, in my heart. It may not be what you know and have experienced in your heart. Furthermore, the path God has for me today may lead me in another direction tomorrow. As God’s little child, I have no final answers. 

This is the beauty of church life, living together in fellowship with other believers. God has us all on different paths, and the church provides a place where we can come together and each share what we believe, discuss it together, and, as we do so, the Bible promises we will eventually come to “unity of the faith.” “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-13).

In this “new look at Hell,” I want to present three ideas that are basic to the credibility of this view. Keep in mind that I believe every word in the Bible about Hell and the depths of the punishment that are suffered there by its inhabitants. However, the evidence I will present will emphasize that the punishment is not permanent. Eventually all will be saved because Jesus died for all; thus all will be saved! 

Here are the three ideas:

1. The meaning of the Greek word aion.  This word is translated by most translators as “eternal” or “everlasting,” and in some situations one can tell by the context that that is the correct translation. However, in the majority of uses of this word in the Bible, the obvious translation is its alternative meaning of “a period of time with a beginning and an end,” or “eon,” or “age-long.”

Here is an example: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages (aion – OF THE ETERNITIES) have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). The eternities have an end.

This is one of many verses where aion has a beginning and an end. Here are several others: Romans 16:25; Ephesians 2:7; Colossians 1:26;  Hebrews 9:26’ Matthew 13:39, 40; Matthew 14:4. If our understanding of aion is that it has no beginning and no end, these verses make no sense.

2. Hell is discipline and not punishment; it is redemptive and not punitive. Some 15 years ago I had the privilege of watching a young mother tell her young two-year-old son to stop his disruptive behavior which was making it impossible for us to talk. After several requests fell on deaf ears, she finally said, “Billy, go to the bathroom and wait, and I will be right in.”

A look of sheer panic crossed Billy’s face as he said, “No, no, no…”, for he knew the bathroom was where she and her husband kept the spanking switch and exercised discipline. She picked him up, kicking and screaming, took him to the bathroom, and spanked him, according to what we could hear, very firmly! 

Then came a period of silence, and they came out of the bathroom, Billy in his mother’s arms, clinging to her neck, sobbing quietly. She was whispering in his ear how much she loved him, and, yes, they would defeat this rebellion in his heart together.

To Billy, he had been to “Hell!” He could imagine nothing worse, but it was simpy “going to the woodshed,” because of nothing but his mother’s heart of love. This is a beautiful picture of Hell—God’s “woodshed”—temporary discipline until our rebellion against God is broken and our “knees bow and tongues confess that Jesus is Lord” (Philippians 2:10, 11).

3. God is not a hypocrite. Jesus, the perfect expression of what God is like in human form, tells us to . “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44).

We read that verse and pay no attention, because “Oh, nobody does that.” However, God (right out of Jesus’ mouth) commands us to do it. Is it not sin to disobey God? But wait a minute! God doesn’t love His enemies Himself, if He sends most of the people He created and loves to Hell to burn for eternity! That makes God the biggest hypocrite in history! No, at this point, I can’t believe in a god like that.

This has been a quick, introductory look at Hell as temporary, redemptive and not punitive. I call that position Evangelical Universalism, or EU. For a much more thorough investigation, request, on my website (Two Edges of the Sword), my completely free PDF version of my book, Limitless Grace, A New Look at Hell.


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