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No Eternal Hell: More Scriptural Support for Universalism

The author won an award for his performance in a nationwide intercollegiate ancient Greek translation contest.

This article is adjunct to my main article on the subject of Christian Universalism", the belief that, through Christ, God will eventually reconcile all people to Himself. Thus, no one will remain in a literally "eternal" hell. This article provides a closer look at the scriptural support for this viewpoint.

1 Timothy 2:3-6:13 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all people

So God wants all people to be saved. Is God unable to accomplish what he wants? Isaiah 46:10 says “I (God) will accomplish all that I please”.

Romans 5:18:18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.

Notice that this verse, by saying "life for all people", doesn't refer to merely a physical resurrection for all people. Christians universally admit that there will be a physical resurrection for all people, but they don't generally admit that justification will also come to all people.

Notice also that Christians readily affirm that "one trespass" (Adam's) condemned "all people", by which they understand literally every human being who ever lived or ever will live. So why would the "all people" in the second half of this verse not refer to the same "all people" as the first half: every single person who ever has or ever will live?

Romans 11:32-36:32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments,and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” 36For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

There are several issues here. First, there is the idea that God Himself binds people over to disobedience. This seems to contradict both the idea of free-will and the idea that God only does good things. After all, it wouldn't seem like a good thing to "bind" someone to disobedience. But the goodness of God, it seems, lies in the end result He has in mind, as the very reason that He binds all people to disobedience is in order to have mercy on them. Thus, it seems that God is sovereign over even our wills, and intends to use this sovereignty to bless us all. This, for the author of Romans and for me, sounds like a cause for awe and celebration.

1 Timothy 4:9-10:9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

Notice first that this says that God is the Savior of all people. Next, it adds, "especially of those who believe". In Greek, the word for "especially" in this particular instance is "malista", and means "most of all" or "especially". Now, if God were the Savior of only those who believe in this lifetime, why doesn't it say "only" instead of "especially"? Or why does the verse have two parts at all, first mentioning "all people", and then "those who believe"? Why doesn't it simply say, "we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of those who believe"? If God were indeed the Savior of only those who believe, this would seem to be a much simpler and less confusing way to word the sentence. But using a clause that begins with "especially" necessarily indicates that the idea of the sentence, though it may apply even more so to the people mentioned after "especially", must also apply to those mentioned before "especially" (that is, to all people).

It is important to note something else about the structure of the Greek language, as it applies well in this passage. In Greek, a present tense verb is usually best translated with imperfective aspect, but not always. Imperfective aspect means that the verb refers to a continuing action. In English, for example, we might say "the boy runs" or "the boy is running". Both of these statements are present in tense, rather than past or future. The first statement, however, describes a simple, general action. "The boy runs" could mean that from time to time, the boy runs. The second statement, however, means that the boy is currently in the act of running; it describes an action which is being continually performed as we speak. The Greeks, however, would have used the same exact word for "runs" and "is running". Most often, the second sense (that is, the continual sense) would be what was meant. In certain situations, this continual sense was necessarily what was meant. Such is the case in the verse we are now looking at.

In the verse above, most English translations read, "especially of those who believe". A more literal translation would read "especially of those who are believing." The verb here is a present participle, which in Greek always denotes this imperfective (that is, "continuing") aspect. When the verse is read in this manner, it becomes even more apparent that the author is here picturing the benefits of God's salvation as being all the more active in those people who are now believing, whereas for those people who are currently not believing, the benefits of salvation are hindered by their current unbelief.

2 Peter 3:9:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Again, scripture shows that God is able to perform all that He wants. So if He wants everyone to come to repentance, won't everyone come to repentence?

Colossians 1:19: 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Matthew 19:25-26:25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

This verse illustrates again that God is able to accomplish anything He wants to, as it says "all things are possible". And we've seen from several verses above that God certainly wants all people to be saved. It is especially interesting that this particular reference to God's limitless power is in response to the disciples' question "who then can be saved." The response "all things are possible" implies "with God, all people can be saved".

If God desires that everyone be saved (as the scripture directly states), and God is able to save all people (which one must necessarily conclude from the passage above, since this passage indicates that all things are possible with God), then what could possibly prevent everyone from being saved?

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1 Peter 4:6:6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

This verse makes it obvious that chances for salvation are not in this life only. The gospel was preached to the dead. And for what reason was the gospel preached to them? To make them sorrow and regret over something they could never enjoy or attain? No, but that they could live according to God in the spirit. So the life that they are given is spiritual life according to God. What could that be except salvation?

1 Peter 3:18-20 :18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us[e] to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited[f] in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

Again, we see the gospel being preached to the dead (as those who had disobeyed in Noah's time must surely all have been dead by the time of Christ). What's more, these disobedient souls were in a prison after they died. What might this "prison" be? And from the previous verse we know that this preaching was not in vain, but that those who were preached to might have life in the spirit according to God.

Lamentations 3:31-37:31 For the Lord will not cast off forever.32Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. 33 For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. 34 To crush under one’s feet all the prisoners of the earth, 35 To turn aside the justice due a man before the face of the Most High, 36 Or subvert a man in his cause—The Lord does not approve.37Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, When the Lord has not commanded it?


© 2010 Justin Aptaker


a on July 31, 2013:

hell is bruges

SwordofManticorE from Burlington on February 24, 2013:

You still dont get it. Hell is a myth, in other words, hell wether eternal or non eternal is not real.

David Steffy from Southern Ohio on February 24, 2013:

Hell will be destroyed and cease to exit. How long that is is none of my business. However, there is no scripture for an eternal hell. These is for an everlasting hell, but not an eternal one. There is a HUGE difference. Eternal is Zoe and that is God's own life. You would have to have Zoe life to even suffer like that, and that isn't going to happen. God does not send eternal life into hell and eternal separation. Its really quite simple...

Anon on September 25, 2012:

I wish there was an option to vote the comments on here up or down, because I would vote up for the last two comments and vote DOWN for the second and third comment!!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 11, 2012:

I wonder how many people are "scared" into believing. It just never occured to me that I should believe because if I do not I go to hell. In the broad daylight that seems a strange notion. Certainly I cannot condemn anyone. But can I let my brother perish?

SwordofManticorE from Burlington on September 11, 2012:

1 Tim 2:3-4 says that God wills and desires the salvation of all, but the church teaches that God, wills, desires and hopes all are saved.

God commands us to love, bless and forgive our enemies,

But the church would set God as an example of how He treats His enemies by roasting them eternally.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 16, 2012:

I once would have judged a good work as this by how I believed. A nice part about being a little more mature in my spiritualism is that I can now read such an article and learn something. And get to know the author a little bit.

I guess for me, I take such matters a little more about a one on one relationship with God. But I will keep searching for universal truths.

kduffy106 on April 12, 2011:

Don't be deceived:

"And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matt. 3:12)

"And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire," (Matt. 18:8)

"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matt. 25:46)

"And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power," (2 Thess. 1:9)

"These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever," (Jude12-13)

"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," (Rev. 20:10).

"And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." (Rev. 14:11)

The idea of an eternal hell is not a happy thought but that doesn't make it any less true.

Is God not a JUST God? "Far be it from You to do such a that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike." (Gen 19:25) This was Abraham speaking with God regarding Sodom, and as promised the sole righteous person, Lot, and his family were spared and Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

Don't be discouraged by this! The existence of an eternal hell is evidence of God being just and we can trust in His word. That's why the gospel of Jesus is GOOD NEWS! Through Him you can be saved from that fate.

hemustincrease on April 11, 2011:

You have used Gods Word to try and prove something which you want to consider as truth. But nothing you have said does that. The Bible is plain and plain can be so far as eternal judgement is concerned. To do away with eternal punishment is to do away with Gods justice. To do away with Gods justice is not a safe thing to do. From the very beginning God has revealed His justice. He has also revealed His mercy and grace. He has also very plainly revealed to us the only way to be partakers of that mercy and grace. Those who reject Christ in this life WILL face Gods justice just as those who accepted Him in this life will. The difference being, we who are in Christ will be declared righteous because of HIS life of obedience etc and those who rejected Christ will be judged impartially based on their own works alone. (This is very plain in Scripture.) If their lives do not reveal perfect obedience to Gods law (as Christ’s did) they will be dealt with ‘justly’ and sent to eternal punishment. This is not some capricious, cruel act. This is PERFECT justice. In 1 John we are plainly reminded that God forgives us who are in Christ, according to His justice. “If we confess our sins, God is JUST and faithful to forgive us them.” Justice was me when God poured out all the wrath and torment upon Christ. Those who look to Him and accept Him in this life will never ever have to face punishment. For God will not punish His Son and declare the debt to be paid and then change His mind and punish us who look to Christ also. But God never makes such promises to those who reject His Son. Quite the opposite. He promises them eternal damnation. He promises them destruction. “Kiss the Son lest He be angry and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled just a little”. God is not going to wink at anybodies sin. God is not going to send people to hell for a few days like some kind of probationary period. You don’t need to believe in eternal hell in the here and now, to end up in it in eternity. If we were all destined for heaven in the end as you say, the entire Bible would be a waste of paper. And the death of Christ would be a mockery. And Gods justice would be UNJUST and He would be made to be a liar and as such we could not trust anything else He said. Those who are in Christ have to understand justice. Because their salvation depends upon it. Yet you are throwing justice away in this belief. So by what means do you count yourself ‘saved’? What attributes of God saved you? And what are you saved ‘from’? Salvation begins here and now as His life of obedience is lived out through us. And it ends with eternal life as opposed to eternal torment. Those outside of Christ are not saved here and now. They remain in sinful living and bondage to satan. And in the life to come they are likewise not saved from the ‘just’ punishment for their sinful living here on earth. You are trying to have your cake and eat it. Not so with a HOLY and JUST God.

Remember Christ even assured us that there will be many who on that day say “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do signs and wonders in your name etc”, and He will say to them “Depart from me you workers of iniquity, for i never knew you”. Our salvation and out eternal life depends upon whether HE knows us, not whether we claim to know Him or not. When Christ says “depart from me” He is not playing some game. That is an eternal command and there will be no more place for repentance. In this life, it is the kindness of God that draws us to repentance. Once this life ends, Gods kindness will no longer be shown to the disobedient and unrepentant from this world. But those who believed upon Him. Those whom HE knows and loves and who followed Him in this life will dwell forever with Him in unending love and kindness. It is our corrupt nature that wants the free ride. It is our corrupt nature that cannot bear to contemplate justice. It is our corrupt nature that wants to put God in the box that best suits our minds and wills etc. The new nature which God has imparted to all who have put their faith in Him, does not seek to lay aside ANY of Gods attributes. The new nature loves God for all of who He is. And that has to include eternal hell.

You have twisted Gods Word to suit what you want to believe. Is it worth it? Why not just believe GODS Word and find true peace and rest?

Rare Jewel on November 29, 2010:

Love it.:) "Especially of those that believe"..

I for some reason keep seeing that picture all over the internet. I can't get away from the picture of Christ saving the man, I actually have it as my wallpaper and have for some time now.

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