Hell: Some History

The following is an informative and clarifying article regarding how the nature of hell has been interpreted throughout history by George W. Sarris, Gordon-Conwell, M.Div.  (See bottom of page for George’s Bio.)

George is a friend who has graciously allowed us to post this article from his blog at The Christian Post…

Hell: It Hasn’t Always Been Forever!  By George W. Sarris

Has a paradigm shift occurred in the evangelical Christian world?

Scot McKnight, the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University, commented recently that Universalism, or at least the prospect of it, is the single most significant issue running through the undercurrent of evangelicalism today.[1]

That observation is certainly being supported by the phenomenal level of interest in Rob Bell’s book Love Wins. It rose to number 3 on the list of bestsellers on Amazon.com. Articles about it have been written not only in religious periodicals like Christianity Today, but even in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USAToday, and many other secular news outlets. It even became the cover story for Time. What had been a marginal issue that most evangelical Christians ignored has suddenly become the central issue under discussion. If nothing else, Bell’s book has revealed a deep level of interest in the possibility that God’s plan may actually be the restoration of His entire creation.

Unfortunately, the discussion so far has generally been characterized by heat and not nearly as much light. Much of the response has consisted of name calling, with a great deal of mis-information being printed and disseminated. One area in particular that has been victimized by mis-information is history. It has generally been assumed in the various reviews and articles that the idea of an ultimate restoration of all is a belief that has only been held by a few ancient “heretics,” generally beginning with the controversial figure of Origen.

Actually, Origen was not the first or most noted “universalist” in the early years of the Christian Church, and the belief was not a minority view held only by him and a few isolated followers. According to nineteenth century pastor and theologian Edward Beecher (1803-1895) – son of Lyman Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, and one time pastor of Park Street Church in Boston – four of the six theological schools in the ancient church favored some form of ultimate restoration, while only one favored endless punishment. [2]

Clement of Alexandria

The concerns of people in the ancient world were actually not as different from ours as we sometimes think. Like us, they wanted to know what God is really like, and what would happen after they died. Is He all-powerful, or is His power limited like the gods of Greece and Rome? Is He loving, or does He have some of the same capricious qualities that their gods had? What is the final destiny of mankind?

One of the first of the early Christian leaders to articulate a belief that God would ultimately restore all was Clement of Alexandria. Clement was a Greek who was born in Athens about AD 150. He was very knowledgeable of all branches of Greek literature and all existing systems of philosophy. He also knew the Old Testament and understood well the gospel of Jesus Christ. He considered it his task to demonstrate to pagans that Christianity was intellectually respectable and philosophically rigorous, and to Christians that Christianity was not only for the uneducated.

Clement’s deep belief in God’s absolute goodness and sovereign power undergirded his understanding of eternity. God cares for all His creation, not just part of it, and is both able and willing to save all. For him, to believe that God is unable to save all was unthinkable because that would be a proof of His weakness. To believe He is unwilling was also unthinkable because that is not the attribute of a good Being. God is the Lord of the universe and He has arranged all things with a view to the salvation of the universe.

“For either the Lord does not care for all men; and this is the case either because He is unable (which is not to be thought, for it would be a proof of weakness), or because He is unwilling, which is not the attribute of a good being. And He who for our sakes assumed flesh capable of suffering, is far from being luxuriously indolent. Or He does care for all, which is befitting for Him who has become Lord of all. For He is Saviour; not [the Saviour] of some, and of others not. . . . For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and particularly. . . .”[3]

For Clement, God’s punishments are medicinal and temporary, and for the ultimate good of those He created. Does God’s patience have a limit? Clement answered, “No.” God’s chastening continues not only in this life, but even after we are released from our bodies because the active power of God is “everywhere and is always at work.” God never gives up on the sinner.

“God’s punishments are saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of a sinner, and especially since souls, although darkened by passions, when released from their bodies, are able to perceive more clearly, because of their being no longer obstructed by the paltry flesh. . . . So I think it is demonstrated that the God being good, and the Lord powerful, they save with a righteousness and equality which extend to all that turn to Him, whether here or elsewhere. For it is not here alone that the active power of God is beforehand, but it is everywhere and is always at work.”[4]

For Clement, God’s sovereign power coupled with His unfailing love for all enables Him to ultimately bring about the restoration of all.

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa, along with his brother Basil the Great, and close friend Gregory of Nazianzus were a major force in the triumph of the teaching on the Deity of Christ that prevailed at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381 where the Nicene Creed was finally shaped. Gregory of Nazianzus initially presided over that Council, and Gregory of Nyssa added the clause, “I believe in the life of the world to come” to the creed.

Gregory of Nyssa died around AD 395 and is still revered as one of the greatest of the Eastern Church Fathers. In AD 787, the Seventh General Council of the Church honored Gregory by naming him, “Father of the Fathers.” His credentials as an influential leader in the early Christian Church have never been questioned, and his position on restoration has never been condemned.

Does God punish forever with terrifying pain? Gregory explained that those who are immature think this, and fear it. They are thus motivated to flee from wickedness. However, those with more maturity understand the true purpose of after-death punishment – it is a remedial process instituted by a good God to ultimately restore those who are sick to health. Like a skilled physician who doesn’t stop until his work is finished, God doesn’t give up on those He created. If a soul remains unhealed in this life, the remedy is dispensed in the life to come.

“If, however, the soul remains unhealed, the remedy is dispensed in the life that follows this. Now in the ailments of the body there are sundry differences, some admitting of an easier, others requiring a more difficult treatment. . . . For the healing of the soul’s sicknesses the future judgment announces something of the same kind, and this to the thoughtless sort is held out as the threat of a terrible correction, in order that through fear of this painful retribution they may gain the wisdom of fleeing from wickedness: while by those of more intelligence it is believed to be a remedial process ordered by God to bring back man, His peculiar creature, to the grace of his primal condition.”[5]

In his sermon on I Corinthians 15:28 where the apostle Paul says that God will ultimately be “all in all,” Gregory explained how this can happen. Evil, in the end, will become non-existent. God will succeed in His goal to restore all of His creation.

“So I begin by asking what is the truth that the divine apostle intends to convey in this passage? It is this. In due course evil will pass over into non-existence; it will disappear utterly from the realm of existence. Divine and uncompounded goodness will encompass within itself every rational nature; no single being created by God will fail to achieve the kingdom of God. The evil that is now present in everything will be consumed like base metal melted by the purifying flame. Then everything which derives from God will be as it was in the beginning before it had ever received an admixture of evil.”[6]

Contemporary scholar John R. Sachs concluded his study of the belief in restoration among the early church fathers with the following observation:

“. . . we have seen that Origen was not alone in presenting weighty reasons for his hope that all would be saved. Before him Clement and afterwards Gregory Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa argued in the same direction. It is notable that none of them were condemned; indeed they continue to be held in high esteem. None of them denied human freedom and responsibility. Each of them at times has rather traditional things to say about eschatological punishment. But what really motivated them was an even stronger conviction about the infinity and incomprehensibility of God’s goodness and mercy, revealed and bestowed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. There, rather than in the philosophical currents of their times, is where, ultimately, each of these theologians founded his hope that all will be saved. Thus, their thought exhibits a certain dynamic tension – not an abstract, neutral tension that sees God’s saving grace and human freedom as equal forces opposite each other, but rather a tension with a definite center of gravity, the eternal mercy and universal saving will of God.”[7]

The belief that God will one day restore all of His creation to its initial perfection may or may not be correct. But, to say that it is a belief that has never been held seriously by well respected leaders in the history of the Christian Church is clearly not the case.

[1] http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/features/24878-universalism-and-the-doctrine-of-rob-bell

[2] Edward Beecher, History of Opinions on the Spiritual Doctrine of Retribution, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1878, p. 189ff

[3] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book VII, Chapter 2, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.vii.ii.html,

[4] Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, Book VI, chapter 6 http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.iv.vi.vi.html,

[5] Gregory of Nyssa, Catechetical Oration, VIII, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Calvin College, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.xi.ii.x.html

[6] Gregory of Nyssa, Sermon I Corinthians 15:28, Documents in Early Christian Thought, Editors by Maurice Wiles & Mark Santer, Cambridge University Press, 1975, p. 257

[7] John R.Sachs, “Apocatastasis in Patristic Theology.” Theological Studies. Volume: 54. Issue: 4. 1993. pp. 617+,

The Christian Post:  http://blogs.christianpost.com/good-reads/2011/04/hell-it-hasnt-always-been-forever-25

About George W. Sarris:

He is an accomplished actor, narrator and spokesman. He has been a principal spokesman for radio & TV commercials and industrial films for companies such as AT&T, IBM, American Express, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Sprint, and Honda in the highly competitive and secular environments of Boston and New York City for over 30 years.

Mr. Sarris holds the degrees of Bachelor of Science in Speech from Northwestern University, and Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has worked with the East Coast ministry of Mastermedia International – a Christian ministry reaching out to media professionals in New York City. He has also served on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, and worked as a consultant with the Christian Herald Association’s Bowery Mission and Kids With a Promise ministries in New York City.

Mr. Sarris is the narrator for the 2011 revision of The Holy Bible, New International Version by Zondervan Publishing House.

Link to his “The World’s Greatest Stories” site: http://www.worldsgreateststories.com 

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat July 1, 2014 at 3:38 am

It is clear from scripture that those who die in their sins will suffer conscious torment day and night forever without being shown any mercy and not allowed to escape damnation and pass from death (hell) unto life (heaven). (Luke 16: 23,24,26; Rev 14:10-11; Rev 20:15,10)

Scripture clearly states that God will remember no more those who die in their sins and they will be cut off from His hand (ie, cut off from the works of His hand). Ps 88:5

God also said that when He creates the New heavens and New earth the old heaven and old earth will be remembered no more. (Is 65:17)

God also says that when He creates the New heaven and New earth that the old heaven and the old earth will pass away. (Rev 21:1)

The devil and his angles, sin, death, hell, false teaching, and all unrepentant sinners are apart of the old heaven and old earth that has passed away will never be brought back to life. It will not be a part of the New Heaven and New Earth. They are confined to the Lake of Fire for all eternity.

God will not remember the unrepentant sinner in hell and He will not work with them to bring them to salvation. Ps 88:5

Those early church fathers that George W Sarris mentioned that say otherwise are wrong. They have no understanding of scripture, ignorant of what scripture teaches, rejected what God revealed about Himself, and reasoned about the character of God based on worldly wisdom and understanding.

Those who have followed in their footsteps since then to present day are no different.

Admin July 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Thanks for commenting Pat. I relate to your sense of confidence that you understand what is “clear from Scripture.” I felt it was “clear” for over 40 years. But if it was truly clear there would not be 30,000+ denominations in the world vying for their version of the truth. And the astounding thing is that the differences have been created by the radically diverse interpretations of what is the nature of hell and why one goes there! For example, the Arminian/free-will camp says that you send yourself to hell by your own free-will while the Calvinist/predestination brethren say that ultimately it is God who resigns sinners to everlasting torment.

And the interpretation of what it means to “die in your sins” has myriads of different interpretations represented by each Christian denomination. Does it mean you did not have enough faith that lasted till you died? Or that you did not have the works that proved you had saving faith? Or does it mean that you did not confess all your sins before you died? Or that you did not trust Jesus enough for his work on the cross while on this earth? Or did you die in your sins because a missionary never told you that you didn’t have to? And there are significant numbers who insist you must be baptized. The list goes on and on if you consider all the conflicting interpretations by the members of Christendom.

I’m afraid that you do not represent a consensus on hell, Pat. Most Christians will say they believe in a place called hell but that is as far as the consensus goes. Most have no idea really what that means nor how their particular denomination interprets it. And the extremely confusing thing is that there are 3 different words in the Bible that are all translated as “hell.”

This is not a simple issue that one can confidently say they understand. In fact, the newer translations of the Bible have come to terms with the fact that most references to “hell” in the Bible are not talking about a place of torment and fire but of the grave: Sheol. Then there is the interpretation of the fire and brimstone in Revelation where death and hell are destroyed. This place is not called hell but rather the “Lake of Fire and Divinity.” In other words it is not a place of God’s absence but of His presence! Check out the words “forever and ever” in an online Interlinear Bible and note that it is not an eternity but rather an eon, an age. Otherwise the translation would have to say “forevers and forevers” when in fact it says “ages and ages.” This clearly does NOT mean eternal as we have interpreted it. For more on this see Peter Hiett’s short video Hallelujah in Hell.

Pat July 4, 2014 at 5:46 am

Jesus praying to the Father,

John 17:17 – Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.

People do not establish what truth is. God does.

God has clearly said in His Word that hell is real, people who die with unforgiven sin in their life will go there, and it will last for ever and ever.

Pat July 4, 2014 at 6:07 am

Many different people had different opinions as to who Jesus was.

Matt 16: 13-17

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Were they all right? No! Only Simon Peter was. He was given a revelation by God that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The rest spoke on their own accord without revelation and they were wrong! All of them. Opinions of man doesn’t establish truth. Numbers matter not. God establishes what truth is.

The different opinions today in Christendom about different doctrines that result in the different denominations come about because they have had no revelation about truth from God.

Pat July 4, 2014 at 5:03 pm

In the Greek text the word ‘aionion’ is an adjective and is used to describe a duration of time. aionion means everlasting or eternal.

John 3:16 -“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have aionion life.”

Matt 25:46 – “And these shall go away into aionion punishment: but the righteous into life aionion.”

John 3:16 says that God gives aionion ‘life’ [everlasting or eternal ‘life’] to all who believe in Jesus.

Matt 25:46 says that the goats or the accursed (Matt 25:41) receive aionion ‘punishment’ and the sheep receive aionion ‘life’. aionion, again, means eternal or everlasting. If believers receive eternal ‘life’, that is, never ending life in eternity, then the lost receive eternal punishment, that is, never ending punishment in eternity.

You have no justification to say that aionion means eternal for those who believe in Jesus and a limited period of time for those who are accursed.

Pat July 4, 2014 at 5:36 pm

When I say “to die in your sins” I means that a person, believer or non believer, died with unforgiven sin in his/her life. When a person nears death he/she will have either fear or peace. If a person has peace it is because there is no unforgiven sin in their life, that is, God holds nothing against that person. However, if a person has fear as he/she nears death, then it is because that person has unforgiven sin in their life for which righteous judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, will hold them accountable for. What he/she fears is the torment he/she will receive in hell.

Fear of Dying?

Jesus said that if you love Him you will keep His commandments (John 14:23). God says in His Word through the Apostle John that if you keep Jesus’ commandments then you will be perfected in His love (1 John 2:5). He said that if you are perfected in His love then you will have confidence before Him on the day of judgment (1 John 4:17). If you don’t have confidence but have fear it is because you have not been perfected in God’s love which means you didn’t keep His commandments (1 John 4:18). The unknown writer of Hebrews says that Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Heb 5:9).

Once a person becomes born-again through the regeneration of the Holy Ghost and evidences this new birth by a changed life, he is expected to walk in obedience to Jesus (make Jesus Lord) and is to live godly in Christ Jesus. Every truly born-again person starts out on this path but reality has it that some get away from God. They may have been hurt by someone and chose not to forgive. They may have gotten their eyes off of God and had an adulterous affair like King David did or like the man at the Church of Corinth who had relations with his father’s wife. They may have gotten involved with the occult (played with the Ouija board or went to a fortune teller for fun). Maybe they just got rebellious towards God about something God wanted them to do. Whatever they have done they begin to walk in the flesh, they come under condemnation for their sins (Romans 8:1), and over time they end up losing interest in the things of God and they live like the world. I have witnessed this in different degrees in several believers.

Jesus place the retention of our salvation into the hands of God. God will make every effort to bring a wayward Christian back into a right relationship with Him. The believer can either choose to obey or choose to disobey. If the believer chooses to disobey and he dies in his sin then he will perish because God is not a respecter of persons. If he chooses to obey then he will live.

Testimony of Gladys, a born-again Christian, who feared dying.

When I met Gladys in the nursing home she was a very difficult person to deal with. She cussed and was very ugly towards everyone. When I told her she needed Jesus she would say that she already had Jesus. I told her that she needed to act like it then.

I was going nowhere with Gladys in this issue. God told me to fast and pray for her salvation. I did. Then some time later when I was visiting her in her room God told me to deal with her in her need to recommit her life to Jesus. I told her that she needed to recommit her life to Jesus and that she heard. When I gave her the gospel the Holy Ghost was all over that lady in a very strong way convicting her that she was a sinner and that Jesus died for her. She wanted to recommit her life to Jesus and she did.

That lady changed. She no longer cussed and was no longer a difficult person to get along with. Plus, there were other changes in her life.

A short time later, maybe 3 weeks or so, when I walked into her room, she said that she was afraid to die. I was sort of taken aback by this. I told God that I didn’t understand. She just got saved not too long ago and this shouldn’t be. God told me to ask her about her past.

As Gladys recounted her life I found out that she had been wounded real bad by her husband and other people. She was holding unforgiveness in her heart towards those people. I told her that she needed to forgive them or God would not forgive her. She began to forgive each person as she recounted her experiences with them. When she was done with what God was dealing with her about she said, ‘I am not afraid to die anymore.’

Gladys was truly born-again. She showed it by a changed life. But there was an unforgiveness issue that God needed to deal with. When God dealt with it, she responded and forgave. She then was no longer afraid to die.

The only way for a believer to have peace on his death bed is to be right with God (1 John 4:17). If he has fear, then he is not right with God (1 John 4:18). If a believer is not right with God it is because there is some sin in his life that God needs for him to repent from. For Gladys it was unforgiveness. For others it might be adultery. For others, it might be a judgmental spirit. For others, it may be that they never put God first in their life. What ever the case may be, God knows what it is and He will deal with a believer about the sin issue and give him a chance to repent. If he obeys God, he is cleansed from his unrighteousness and will go to heaven when he dies. If he rebels and refuses to obey, then God cannot cleanse him from that unrighteousness. The believer will perish because he died with unforgiven sin.

I most assure you if you die with unforgiven sin in your life, whether you are Christian or not, you will go to hell and you will be there for all eternity.

Pat July 4, 2014 at 10:17 pm

“This place is not called hell but rather the “Lake of Fire and Divinity.”

Really? Give scripture for this.

Admin July 4, 2014 at 10:45 pm

The word Theion is of uncertain origin. It could mean sulfur which was/is a purifying agent. Or it is a possibility that the word originates from Theos or “Divinity.” Either way it is FROM God and it is redemptive and not punitive. Again it is an impossibility for mankind to ever be separated from God. See article on “entanglement and the Resurrection” at God’s Love Wins dot com.

θεῖον, θείου, τό (apparently the neuter of the adjective θεῖος equivalent to divine incense, because burning brimstone was regarded as having power to purify, and to ward off contagion (From Strong’s).

The biggest issues mentioned above you still must grapple with: there is NO consensus in the Body of Christ as to why or how a person ends up in hell. In fact the defensive arguments different denominations make for the reason for an eternal hell are diametrically opposed philosophically and Biblically.

Traditionalists must also face the face that they have made God two when they attribute two opposing purposes to His fire. See Making God Two

admin July 4, 2014 at 11:03 pm

It goes much deeper than that Pat. Eternal Life is ultimately about a reality and a quality that comes from God. John 17:3 says that to know God (now ) is “eternal life.” It is the condition of knowing Him, not a location after you die. Therefore the eternal “kolasis” (literally “to prune”) is of a quality that comes from God: absolute and complete; while the eternal life is also of the same quality: From the face of God, absolute and complete. Again, no separation.

In addition Matthew 25 has myriads of conflicting interpretations and we usually miss the main point: Jesus is found in the least of these-the poor, and the imprisoned. Ironically most of these folks Jesus calls “His brothers” come from poor countries where most have never heard the Gospel.

Here is more on Matthew 25.

Pat July 5, 2014 at 12:13 am

“eis tous aionas ton aionon”
“into the age of the ages”

Translated as “forever and ever”; “forevermore”

‘The Greek phrase “eis tous aionas ton aionon–into the age of the ages.” occurs 18 times in the New Testament. Twice for the damned and 15 times describing the life, honor, glory, dominion, and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, and once for the reign of the saints in eternity.

Here are the scriptures:

Speaking of the damned:

1. Rev 19:3 -“And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.”
2. Rev 20:10 – “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet.

Speaking of Christ:

1. Gal 1:5 – “to whom be the glory forevermore, Amen.”
2. Phil 4: 20 – “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
3. 1 Tim 1:7 – “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
4. 2 Tim 4:18 – “The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
5. Heb 13:21 – “equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
6. 1 Peter 4:11 – “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
7. Rev 1:6 – “and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
8. Rev 1:18 – “and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
9. Rev 4:9 – “And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,”
10. Rev 4:10 – “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne,”
11. Rev 5:13 – “And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
12. Rev 7:12 – “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
13. Rev 10:6 – “and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer,”
14. Rev 11:15 – “And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.'”
15. Rev 15:7 – “And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever.”

Speaking of the Saints:
1. Rev 22:5 – “And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever.”

Because Jesus is eternally King and immortal we would expect that His honor, glory, dominion and reign would also be eternal. Since “eis tous aionas ton aionon”, translated as ‘for ever and for ever’, is used to describe how long Jesus lives, His honor, glory, dominion, and reign then we can safely say that ‘for ever and ever’ means eternal. The saints, those who go to Heaven, live eternally (John 3:16, aionion – everlasting or eternal) and their reign is also for ever and ever which means eternally.

However, the Universalists want to claim the “eis tous aionas ton aionon”, mean for a limited duration of time when describing the length of time the damned are in the Lake of Fire. Since the same phrase is used when referring to how long Jesus lives, His honor, glory, dominion, and reign then it must be for only a limited duration of time. So with the saints in Heaven. They will not live eternally and reign eternally. We know, however, from other scripture, that all of this is simply not true.

We can safely conclude that “eis tous aionas ton aionon”, means eternal thus making ‘for ever and ever’ to mean eternal.

Those whose names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be cast into the Lake of Fire to be torment day and night for ever and ever, or eternally.

The Universalists would make claims that Jesus lives eternally, and His honor, glory, dominion, and reign is also eternal. They would say that the Saints will live eternally and their reign will also be eternal. Thus, they are defining “eis tous aionas ton aionon”, which is translated as ‘forever and ever” to mean eternal.

Yet they would say that the damned would not spend eternity in the Lake of Fire because eis tous aionas ton aionon”, ” translated as forever and ever, doesn’t mean eternal as it does for Jesus and the Saints, but for a limited duration of time.

Therefore the Universalists have two definitions for what “eis tous aionas ton aionon”, which is translated ‘forever and ever’ means. It means eternal for Jesus and the Saints but a limited duration of time for the damned in the Lake of Fire.

This is inconsistent and deceptive. Either eis tous aionas ton aionon”, means eternal or it means a limited duration of time. It cannot be both.

Pat July 5, 2014 at 3:26 am

Isaiah 65:17 – “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”

Psalm 88:5 – ” Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.”

When a person dies physically he/she is cut off from those on the earth. There is no longer any communication, no longer any interaction with those on the earth. It is all over with. Their death results in separation from their loved ones, their friends, all they knew, and from everyone and everything on the earth. They are totally cut off from any interaction with the things of the earth and with those on the earth.

Similarly, when a person dies the second death, he/she is cut off from God. He/she is separated from God. He can no longer experience God’s mercy, provision, or acts of love. He is totally cut off from any interaction with God.

God said that when the slain (the wicked) are in the grave God remembers them no more and they are cut off from His hand (Ps 88:5) Also, when the New Heavens and the New Earth is created the old (old heavens and earth) will be remembered no more by Him and will not come into His mind. (Is 65:17)

God creates the New Heavens and the New Earth after the Great White Throne Judgment takes place after the final battle with Satan. Satan and his demons, sin, death, hell, and all whose names were not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are casted into the Lake of Fire never to be remembered by God nor to enter into His mind.

According to Ps 88:5 God will not work with the damned in eternity. A person can’t be saved if God doesn’t work with them to bring them to Christ for salvation.

Luke 16:26 says that a person in hell cannot go from hell to Heaven. That means that God does not allow for an unrepentant sinner to be saved so they can leave hell and enter heaven.

Salvation must take place on the earth in the temporal realm and not in eternity. For in eternity God will not remember the wicked, and God will cut them off from the works of His Hand making it impossible for them to be saved and to pass from death unto life.

UR says the opposite.

UR doctrine cannot be supported by Scripture. It is a false doctrine/teaching.

Admin July 5, 2014 at 9:41 am

Pat, thank you for your precious story about Gladys. I am so glad that you were able to help remove the veil from her eyes and assure her of her forgiveness and remove her fear of death. The fear of death is what mankind is under says Hebrews 2. But the good news is that Jesus took away all sin and guilt that attributed to our fear of death. To remain in unforgiveness is to remain in the darkness of not seeing what God says is true of us and others. It is indeed a terrible condition to be in. But it is not a location that God consigns billions of His image-bearers with no redemptive plan. That is not the nature of a God who is love.

But from your story you have concluded a very unscriptural theology of salvation by works. This is not true Christianity. Again, thousands of denominations would stand in total opposition to your conclusion that at the moment of death if all your sins are not confessed you would be lost in hell and torment forever. This is classic 15th century Roman Catholicism– the fear-based, works-based religion the Dark Ages was rife with.

The issue which Scripture has and that which the Reformers had against the doctrine of its day was the confusion over forgiveness. It was GOD in Christ who reconciled the world to Himself. Then WE are asked to be reconciled to that relationship which God has ALREADY reconciled in His death. The prodigal son was loved and forgiven before his eyes were opened. It was in remembering his father that he returned home and in his arms that he “repented.” The Reformer’s mantra was “forgiveness precedes repentance” (repentance means literally a “change of mind”). We love (and forgive) because He FIRST loved and forgave us. Yes, if we do not forgive our brothers it means we still remain in darkness of unforgiveness because we can’t give what we have not yet trusted ourselves. But all are forgiven because all were in Christ (aroma 5; 1 Cor 15; 2 Cor 5). Yes, it is darkness, “hell,” to not forgive someone because we remain in the darkness of “hades” which means “not to see.”

Thankfully we are clearly told that darkness, sin, death and the hell were defeated. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. It was finished. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Pat, we are told “All the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord” in Psalm 22. Every knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father in Philippians 2. We are not denying a condition called “hell” where, in a state of refusing to be reconciled to the God who has reconciled Himself to us, we do not experience our own forgiveness. But not experiencing it means we simply have not trusted the truth of it promised by God and accomplished in the death of Jesus. Two plus two is true whether we believe it or not.

If something did not really objectively happen then it is not “news.” If all our good works are forced upon us by way of a fear of eternal torment then it is not love nor is it good. If it is up to us having to remember to confess and truly be sorrowful for every single sin we ever commit before we die in order to “be saved” it is not GOOD news.

Pat, if you have a “desire that all men be saved and come to repentance” as Scripture says God Himself does then let yourself hope and desire this! Don’t be like the elder son who would not enter into the party of the already forgiven. Continue to study. If there is any hidden desire that it be true that God is big enough and loving enough to woo all to Himself forever please realize it is something God Himself desires! But if you study you may have a metanoia(!) Remember, the Jews thought they knew for sure what their Bibles said and Jesus told them they missed the point…Him!

I recommend Thomas Talbott’s book The Inescapable Love of God and Peter Hiett’s free pdf book found here on this site.

I must end this conversation with you until you at least “want to see” what God has said in His word He sees (“it is finished”). Otherwise this conversation will go on forever unproductive.

I wish you all grace and peace…

Admin July 5, 2014 at 9:58 am

Pat, I must end this conversation until you study further. Like many you are very versed in your way of seeing this. But there are those who have gone deeply into the Greek and Hebrew languages and have done stellar work in revealing that these words do not mean what you are concluding (William Barclay for example). But we must be able to conclude the truth without “endless arguing about words” as Paul says. If a person must know Greek and Hebrew in order to know how to be saved this is, again, NOT good news. While there are now Interlinears online that folks can check and study for themselves and find out many helpful facts this is not where our faith lies. That is the Roman lie of “you need us experts in theology to tell you how you can be saved.”

Bottom line is What is the character of God? Is it Love or a punitive justice (“eye for an eye”)? Is the nature of His justice remedial or retributive? Did Jesus die on the cross in order that He could forgive us or did He die on the cross because He already loved and forgave us?

Talbott and Hiett’s books will take the reader through a journey of what is the character of God as revealed in Jesus, “God’s final word.” This is knowledge that is understandable to every person, every child, even every illiterate person on the planet. They do not need to learn Greek and Hebrew! They can know the character of God based on the truth God has written on their hearts (Rom 1) if they do not “suppress the truth for a lie.” This is the message the world is dying to hear and we have the privilege to tell them this gospel: It is finished!

Admin July 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

ALL the ends of the earth will remember and return to the Lord…” Psa 22

You see through the lens you choose to see through. You have chosen to interpret the restoration passages through the verses that do not appear to speak of restoration. Many are finding the freedom to interpret the Bible through the overall Story of God and also through the fact that Jesus declared “It is finished” and that He came to destroy the works of the devil, defeat sin, death and hell.

See Talbott’s argument how there is “prima facie” Scriptural proof for Calvinism, Arminianism and Christian Universalism. But all three cannot be true at the same time:

Pat July 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

You misinterpreted my post.

Pat July 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm

There is no scriptural support for UR. It rejects what God has revealed about Himself in His Word. It calls God a liar. It makes God into the image of man.

admin July 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm

The following page lists 186 Scriptures from Genesis through Revelation that support a global restoration of all mankind. The list is far too long to include in this comment box and yet, IT IS NOT EXHAUSTIVE:


Pat July 7, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Those scriptures don’t apply to the damned once they enter into eternity.

Admin July 10, 2014 at 4:16 am

It doesn’t appear that you read the passages that were listed. This is a passage from Ezekiel 16, written to Israel:

44“Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ 45You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. 51Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. 52Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

53“I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. 55As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former state, and you and your daughters shall return to your former state. 56Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth in the day of your pride, 57before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become an object of reproach for the daughters of Syriah and all those around her, and for the daughters of the Philistines, those all around who despise you. 58You bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the LORD.

The LORD’s Everlasting Covenant

59“For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, 60yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. 61Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account ofi the covenant with you. 62I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, 63that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.”

Admin July 10, 2014 at 4:24 am

“Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Phil 2

Pat July 11, 2014 at 9:26 am

Ez 16:44-63 applies to Israel this side of eternity. It has nothing to do with the damned in eternity.

There is no scriptural support for UR. The more you try to prove it does the more you show how little you understand the Word of God.

Bill Nippel March 30, 2017 at 3:27 am

Based on your description of the Lake of Fire, it would seem you are implying that even the devil and his angels will ultimately be reconciled with God – is this also your position?

Phillip March 30, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Hello Bill…thanks for your comment. First let me say just as there are myriads of positions regarding eschatology (end times) within the evangelical world (pre-mil, post-mil, a-mil, etc.,) there are also differing views on exactly how the restoration will all shake out. Origen said yes, he believed the devil and his angels will be restored as well based on verses like this one:

“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev 5:13).

Interestingly there are FOUR different words in the Bible all translated as the one word “hell.” The Lake of Fire is yet another term we interchange with our traditional concept of hell. However Biblically it cannot be translated the same as “hell.” It is a whole different concept altogether. Do a word study with an on-line interlinear and/or also watch Peter Hiett’s short and concise video: “Hallelujah In Hell.” You will be stunned.

Grace and peace…

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