Lord, I Want to Be a Universalist in My Heart

March 2, 2011

I doubt I can break the internet as much as Justin Taylor and John Piper have in commenting on a yet-to-be-released book by Rob Bell.  But I can try.

Now, not 48 hours ago, I told you that I’m so over Rob Bell, and I don’t intend to eat my words.  This post isn’t about him.  But if you haven’t heard the ruckus, his new book is called Love Wins, and by its cover description, it’s about how a loving God wouldn’t cast most of his creation into hell.

A few days ago, influential blogger, Justin Taylor admittedly judged the book by it’s cover, and labeled Bell a universalist, a false teacher, a deciever, and an opposer to the gospel, and perinneal know-it-all, John Piper chimed in with such memorable tweets as “Farewell, Rob Bell.”  Since then, a bunch of other bloggers have been blog shouting, all while the book remains still unreleased.  It’s been a big brouhaha.

And that’s where I come in. 

Lord, I Want to Be a Universalist in My Heart

One of our most guarded, treasured, and sacred Christian beliefs is the belief in hell…and how everyone is going there.  Hellfire and damnation is pretty much the reaction you get from people when you suggest that maybe the whole world isn’t actually going to hell.  You inevitably get a bunch of evangelicals foaming at the mouth, insisting that everyone is going to hell…except for them.  If you say you have doubts about hell, you’re either going to hell, or you’re from hell.

I got into trouble with my wife when we were dating.  I told her I wasn’t sure that only Christians go to heaven.  She got a look in here eye that told me she was contemplating burning me at the stake.  I clarified that faith in Jesus is the only sure way I know of to get to heaven.  Everything else…well, I wouldn’t risk it.  And that’s not some kind of “all paths lead to God” crap.  That’s just my hope that Jesus saves everyone. Jesus never said universal salvation is true, and I certainly won’t teach others it’s true.  She decided I wasn’t a completely flaming liberal Universalist heretic.

No Way In Hell

The one thing we forget when we get all huffy about heaven and hell is that God can do whatever He freaking feels like.  If God decides that He wants to let everyone in heaven with Him, it doesn’t really matter how sure John Piper is that no one is getting in but him.  And if God wants to change his mind about that whole salvation thing and dump everyone in a lake of fire, Rob Bell doesn’t have

one

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to protest about it.  I don’t think God is going to change his mind.  But I’m not going to march up to the pearly gates and say, “God, you have to let me in!  I said the magic prayer when I was eight!”

I might know why Universalism pisses off so many evangelicals.  For most of us, if we were standing in line at the heavenly security checkpoint and God let in a drunken wife beater right before us, we’d whine because that’s not fair.  We tried all our lives to walk the walk.  We said the sinner’s prayer, we went to church, we fed the hungry, we followed God’s will.  Why should a bunch of heathans and wife abusers, and Democrats and homosexuals get to go when they didn’t do one blasted thing they were supposed to?  Does all the obedience and believing we did count for nothing?

If you are struck by the unfairness of everyone getting into heaven, it just shows that somewhere in your mind, you are still banking on the things you did in life to get into heaven, not God’s grace.  Who am I to tell Jesus what the limits of his grace are?  But that’s exactly what we do.  Universalism always gets one reaction from reformed types and evangelical types: “There’s no way in hell those people are getting into heaven, and you’re going to hell just for suggesting otherwise!”

I have never heard a reformed or evangelical say to a Universalist, “I hope you’re right.”

There is something absolutely, painfully wrong with that.

We’re Never Going to Be Told

When it comes to our argument about heaven and hell, and who’s going where, I think it would be just like God to never let us know.  I do not think our dead relatives are floating around, watching us, and I don’t think people in heaven will be able to see the people in hell.  In fact, I don’t think the people in heaven will even be aware of hell.  Millions of living Christians are tormented by thoughts of their non-Christian loved ones ending up in hell.  Knowing in the afterlife they are being tormented in a lake of fire seems like that would put a damper on heaven.

I think in the end, we’re just going to have to put down our thirst for “justice,” and trust that God did what was right.  Because He might never tell us how He did it.



Well that’s it.  Tell me if I’m going to hell, or just hopelessly optimistic.  Do you think the lines of heaven and hell cannot be moved?Or are you a closeted Universalist?  If you are, I’ll see you in hell.

116 responses to Lord, I Want to Be a Universalist in My Heart

  1. To requote something that is oft-quoted: It’s not unfair that people go to hell; it’s unfair that I get to go to heaven.

    I don’t have the keys to heaven. That means I can neither bar someone’s entry or let others in, no matter how hard I may wish to do so.

    I have a hard time reconciling universalism with what I see in the Bible. I might see wrong, but when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life- no one comes to the Father except through me,” I tend to take the statement at face value.
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    • I like that passage too, but I don’t think it bars a universal salvation. I take Jesus’ words to mean that the decision rests with him – who’s in and who’s out.

      • Good point, Matt. I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
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      • Yes, but if someone doesn’t profess Him as Lord then it goes against His own words in the Scripture if that person’s let into Heaven. Jesus wouldn’t deny His own words.
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        • True, but just to throw a fun extra wrench in the works, I find the irony in Calvinist theology on this one. If I’m a Calvinist, then I believe that my depravity prevents me from professing Christ without God first intervening in my heart. Thus, faith is an act of God planted in us. If I’m not a Calvinist, then faith is something I do on my own, which seems to be just another thing I do to ensure my own righteousness. I believed, therefore, I get into heaven. Faith is a mystery.

        • Peter denied Jesus, you think if he died before he was lucky enough to actually see Jesus he’d be in hell. The guy who walked with him Denied him?

      • I still have to respectfully disagree due to other verses and passages, but I do see what you’re saying.

        At the end of the day, I think it’s a beautiful thing that salvation and faith on one hand are entirely simple and straightforward, but on the other hand are wonderful, complex mysteries as intricate as the mind of our Creator Himself. It’s not something we can ever understand, but what we can do is obey- love God, love the brethren, and love the lost (even if we’re not entirely sure what exactly constitutes “the lost.”)
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      • Nor does that verse does imply a universal salvation. What about Matt 25:41ff. You talk about it in your post, who are the goats? Also, who are the “many” on the “wide path that leads to destruction?” God is a God of grace, but He is also a God of justice. He is the judge, not us, for us to stray from His word to say all will not go to Hell, or who will go to Hell is error–some will go, Jesus said so (in fact much of what we know about Hell comes from the red text). Our hope isn’t that all will not, it is that we share the Truth, and thereby share in the gift of grace with those that won’t.
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        • It matters what Jesus says about hell if you study what hell actually means and Gehenna and hades and sheole. The early Chtistians did not believe in hell, it’s not a new concept! Pagan beliefs used to put fear into ignorant people, pastors getting rich off it just as they did fifteen hundred years ago. People want to believe in hell, God has if covered! Man has always and will always distort the truth for gain! So sick of hearing this teaching is for itching ears, are you kidding if you go down this road you can’t count on being alone, leaving it all for Jesus becomes a reality! There is nothing popular in believing universalism !

    • If Jesus didn’t give us the keys to [the kingdom of] heaven, then why does he tell Peter in Matthew 16:19, that he is giving Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever he binds on earth is bound in heaven, whatever is loosed on earth, is loosed in heaven.

      It’s a question I’ve been contemplating a lot myself; would love to hear your thoughts.

      • My initial thought is that Jesus did not give “us” the keys to the kingdom – he was talking to Peter, and possibly his other disciples when he said that. I think the “binding and loosing” is linked to other comments he made about forgiving and not forgiving.

    • I’m not sure if a verse can be taken just at face value – we all have so many different faces . . . Might get confusing!

      When I read that verse, I wonder . . . Is it possible that our finite understanding of what it means to go through Jesus to get to the Father doesn’t hold the fullness of what the verse is saying? Maybe the point at which a person has to go through Jesus is different then what we think . . .

  2. Good Morning Matt,

    Yes, I hope the Lord lets us all in. Though the Story Jesus told about the rich man and the beggar seems iron clad –incidentally, I expounded a bit while talking about dogs in my posting about dogs earlier this morning.

    Be that as it may, I can’t resist telling you the old joke about the Bible quiz for getting into Heaven:

    Three ladies died and appeared at the Pearly Gates. The Recording Angel greeted them saying, “Welcome to Heaven. But before I can let you inside, you have to pass a quiz on your knowledge of the Bible. It’s easy, only one question for each of you. Ready?”

    The ladies nodded so the Angel asked the first woman, “What was the name of the first man”?

    “Oh, that’s an easy one,” she said, “His name was Adam”.

    And the trumpets blew, and the angels sang, and the saints cheered, and the gates swung open, and she marched into Heaven.

    The Angel asked the second woman, “Ready for your question? What was the name of the first woman”?

    “Oh, that’s easy; her name was Eve,” she said.

    And the trumpets blew, and the angels sang, and the saints cheered, and the gates swung open, and she marched into Heaven.

    The last lady felt apprehensive, “I wish I’d have paid more attention in Sunday School,” she said. “But go ahead and ask your question”.

    The Angel said, “What were the first words Eve said when she saw Adam?’

    The woman wrung her hands and said, “Oh my goodness. That’s a hard one”.

    And the trumpets blew, and the angels sang, and the saints cheered, and the gates swung open, ….

    • Oh John, what a delightfully inappropriate joke! :)

    • The parable about Lazarus is just that a parable. Do you really think a conversation is happening? Does anyone have any common sense? I’m surprised people aren’t plucking out their eyes!

      • Even if it wasn’t a parable, Jesus is speaking of a place where the fire can be seen from the place of rest. Many people believe He is talking about the grave here, a place where the dead are, and it seems they are conscious.

        The poor man was comforted by Abraham (not God), and the rich man was in flame. And Revelation says that death and hell will give up the dead in them and be cast into the lake of fire which is the second death.

        So even if Luke 16 is not a parable, it is definitely not eternal. The discussion really comes down to, is the Lake of Fire eternal? Because while the place the rich man was is definitely burning, it is not the Lake of Fire or “Outer Darkness”. Also, I can’t imagine heaven being within spitting distance of a lake full of people screaming and in pain.

        I really don’t know what to think anymore. There is only one verse in the NT that really explicitly implies eternal suffering, and it is in Revelation, where it says that the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever. But in context, the people this applies to are the ones who take the mark of the beast, not everyone who ever died ever. Other words are reserved for them – second death, destruction, everlasting punishment (not punishing or torment), everlasting destruction from his presence.

        I tend to lean more towards annihilation.

    • Thank you for that joke! Made me smile.

      I know this post is way late, since the book has come out and the hulabuloo had come and (thank God!) gone, but I wanted to say that I loved your point, Matt, about universalism being something we should want. Bell says the same thing in his book, that whether or not we believe that all are redeemed, it is at least a deeply Christian thing to long for.

      And now, a joke of my own, stolen from Shane Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution” (or was it “Jesus for President”?…anyway…):

      Saint Peter was at the Pearly Gates checking to see if those waiting for entrance were on the list and shooing away those who hadn’t made the cut. Suddenly an angel rushed up to let him know that the number of people in Heaven way outnumbered the number who were on the list. A search was conducted and the angel returned and told Peter, “We found the problem. Jesus is out back again, boosting people over the fence.”

  3. I just can’t see what is wrong with the questions Bell asks in his video. I have asked those questions many times over and would love to read someone’s opinion on it (I dont have to take their opinion as the truth or as the gospel).

    My only response to Rob’s questions (and I think that Matt nailed it) are that I cannot even begin to think that I know how God judges people. The only thing I do know for certain is that it will be fair. For me to judge Rob as a ‘false prophet’ or an alien would be unfair.

    I personally will love to read the book to see if he comes up with scripture that can answer these questions. I can also choose to throw the book away if I realise his statements do not hold up against God’s word which is of course the fire-test.

    • So so happy to hear someone admit without fear of being burned at the stake due to their oh so popular questions! Please ask and keep asking! There are hundreds of scriptures that back up “all” will be saved. Ask and you shall receive. Ask God to help you let go of every man made belief you have and show you the truth, they are there! An excellent site is tentmaker.org Gary Amirault has spent the last twenty years in study and he has a treasure of information. The first one God showed me was Romans 5:10. Listen to God. Be prepared to lose friends, pretty sure Jesus said something along those lines !
      God Bless

  4. I hope the universalists are right. The biggest question for me is, if the threat of hell is such a great motivator, why don’t any of the old testament writers mention it? Why isn’t it anywhere in the Mosaic law? The closest anyone gets is “sheol,” and “land of the dead,” but neither of those imply eternal fiery torment.

  5. Here’s my bottom line:
    Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

    I am also with the Bible, Jesus is the only way. (John 14:6)Where I may differ is on whether we need to have proper theology and have said a sinner’s prayer to know God in our hearts. I don’t think so. The above verse speaks directly to the possibility of having the proper “seal of the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13) on our hearts without all the intellectual understanding of the law etc. It takes child-like faith, not a degree in from cemetery to have faith.

    Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

    That says that if we know God, we will have assurance of our salvation. If someone is unsure, it is because the “conversion” was coerced, or they agreed to something intellectually in a weak emotional moment. If you are unsure, I would read the New Testament again.

    We are not saved by what we believe, but by who we know. A lot of folks beleive there is a God, but the question is do they have faith in Him.

    Is having faith without some sort of very basic theology likely? No! It is still a narrow path that many will not choose, and worse many will be led astray by religious teachings and never know God in their hearts. There are still going to be empty religious folks that talk real good Bible. There are going to be many that think they know the truth, when it is not in their hearts. There is nothing new under the sun. Even Judas hung out with Jesus!

    And to confuse the issue, some saved folks will screw up like King David did – then it will be really hard to tell who is in, and who is out. (Matthew 20:1-16)

    Unless a believer has the actual gift of spiritual discernment (1 Cor 12), it is unlikely that they will know if someone is truly saved.

    I met a man almost 20 years ago that got saved at a crusade in his country of South Africa. He became a missionary to the Ukraine and was on FIRE for God. He was so appreciative of the preacher for the change in his life, that he went and looked him up. He went directly to his house, and though the preacher was surprised, he let him in for a chat. This man saw that the house had many witchcraft and witch doctor type items in it. (Fairly common in South Africa) When he confronted the preacher about the objects, he said: “I am not a Christian, I just do the crusades because the money is very, very good, and people seem to like it.”

    The line is the line. That is why it is so important for us to know others, and learn to spiritually discern (1 Corinthians 2:14) things. There are a lot of bible verses thrown around in Christianity, and someone has got to be wrong.
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    • Great insights, as always David. Thank you!

    • I hope I don’t sound like I’m picking at your post- but to say that people who at times lack assurance of salvation aren’t saved is not your call to make. doubt can be a painful thing- some people have over-sensitive consciences, I John even speaks to the fact that God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things- because sometimes we condemn ourselves unnecessarily. Maybe you didn’t mean it that way- but I struggled with doubt over salvation for a long time- and comments like yours would have made it so much worse.

  6. I do not think that the point of the promotional video is to state universalism. I think Bell is simply trying to say that the gospel is not about us fleeing hell, but about us being reconciled to God. Perhaps Bell is a universalist, but I do not see the video as trying to claim that. How we view God affects the message that we preach about him. Those who primarily see him as the “critical God” speak often about hell and how much we deserve it. They speak little of his love. Those who primarily see him as a “benevolent God” speak often of his mercy and his love. The gospel to me is more about the love story of a benevolent God.

    As you point out, when we yell and scream about how much God hates sinners, people get turned off. Hopefully God loves sinners, because I am one, and I need forgiveness. Evangelicals seem to be afraid to talk about this love, but without it, where would we be?
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  7. Great title! Confession is good for the soul! 😉

    Maybe it’s a Catholic thing, but I thought Christianity taught that people choose to reject God, and that leads one to the state of hell. God does want to save everyone, but not everything accepts that grace.

    O course, that may not go over great with the Calvinist crowd.

    Still love your blog though!
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  8. I have never heard a reformed or evangelical say to a Universalist, “I hope you’re right.”

    There is something absolutely, painfully wrong with that.

    Amen. Why in the world would we want eternal hellfire to be true in the way our evangelical churches often teach it?

    Love this post. Matt, I am oftentimes amazed at the way you express exactly what is on my heart when I read your blog. This one is one of your best.
    Matt C recently posted..On Heaven and Hell

  9. *raises hand as closeted universalist*

    Your line about wanting to be a universalist really sums it up. I can’t pretend the Bible doesn’t present a compelling case for believing in the classic view of hell, but that can’t shake from me the suspicion that something doesn’t line up with that. I will try to trust God is good either way, but why is it so wrong to hope, so wrong to lean that way?
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  10. [insert applause here]

    While I genuinely don’t have a comment on the book (since – y’know – I haven’t read the thing yet), I can offer two comments on what you’ve so EXCELLENTLY written here:

    (a) the same people who might get upset/pissed if when they get to heaven they find that the people they weren’t expecting to be there (say for example, Gandhi) probably need to re-read a certain parable about two brothers and see which brother they see themselves more in the role of; and

    (b) I find it terribly sadly ironic that all this discussion and debate about hell stems from individuals who probably need to take a closer look at idolatry – as in they either idolize themselves or they hold the opinions and views of others as just that high. Put that in your Piper and smoke it. :)

    • So well stated. I have often wondered why the discussion of heaven and hell had to matter SO MUCH! In fact, much of the current research on “strength-based practise” and “theory of change” (in social work particularly) shows that positive affirmation and influence – rather than negative consequences- is what brings the most change in peoples’ lives. I think that the theology of heaven and hell has often been wielded by the church and its leaders as a convenient (if not ineffective) attempt to assimilate behavior. Not that heaven and hell aren’t real or possible, but I don’t think they’re as effective a focus as positive role models (ex. Jesus’ life) can be in seeing people live lives of reconciliation, grace, mercy, love, kindness, humility, etc in a consistent fashion. From my experience with kids and in my own life, for a short time, punishment works. But in the long term – and when the rubber meets the road- people will obey because they truly believe in the values and ideals of a given rule. Consequences be damned!
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  11. So many people “cherry-pick” verses to prove hell, well, I’m a gonna “cherry-pick” this one and stand on it –

    “Romans 5:18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

    All that to point out, there are just as many verses in the bible to prove universalism as there is to prove hell.

    I personally have a hard time understanding a loving God who sacrificed his Son in order to have a relationship with us, is ok with tormenting us, who He died for, for all eternity in ‘hell’. It just doesn’t make sense.

    All that to say, I don’t have the answer, just a lot of questions…

  12. Watching the video on Rob Bell’s site, he seems to raise two main questions. 1. who do we think we are making ourselves the ultimate judge of where people go? And 2. why do Christians focus on hell so much? From his video Bell almost seems to be speaking to Christians saying ‘why do you have this so wrong?’ and to non-Christians he’s explaining what this God thing is actually about and the Good News of Christ.

    If he’s going to be talking about universal salvation through his book then ok, burn him with a rib-eye steak. But if he’s going to be talking about how rad grace is then whats the dealio?
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  13. I don’t think you realize what you have done, calling out John Piper. Operatives may be circling your home

    as

    I

    write

    this.

    Bottomline…I personally want Universalism, because I am a nice person. The thought of a person going to endless “hellfire and damnation” is not a pleasant one, and certainly not something to revel in.

    But I don’t feel it meshes with what the Bible teaches. As much as we want (as compassionate, responsible citizens of this world) it to be true, I am afraid it just isn’t.

    Great post!!! I love reading discussions such as this. THIS is why I began reading blogs in the first place!
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  14. my understanding, and perhaps I am mistaken, is that there will be a new earth at some point. That makes me think that while all that die before the hew earth is created will spend some time in Heaven— but we were not created for heaven! If we were intended to live as spiritual beings in a spiritual Heaven, then why on earth did God make earth and physical bodies?

    And if you follow this train of thought, then Heaven is not a place for God’s people to dwell eternally. I think perhaps you can get where I’m going with this by now…

    I’m not certain about any of this, but these are thoughts floating around in my head…

  15. I’d like to believe that the concern John Piper and others share is one of people being led astray. The Bible is pretty clear that pastors who lead astray have to make an accounting for that. It is my hope that this is their motivation for calling out Rob Bell.

    But to do it about a book they have not yet read and especially in the cavalier way of “farewell” makes this seem to be more about them and their piety than it is about the lost who might be misled.

  16. This has me all riled up. Why do Christians keep doing this stuff? Haven’t we learned yet that by drawing more and more attention to something that we’re leading people straight to it?

    Personally, I haven’t read anything from Rob Bell that I’ve disagreed with, and I like him. I feel like he tends to be on the same page with me (or vice versa). So… I hope he’s right.
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  17. Hey Matty,

    I don’t worry about who is going where, because it isn’t my job. I’m just called to love. God sees the heart. He knows who is becoming ever more like his Son, even if they haven’t prayed the prayer.

    Lazy Silly Girl
    http://www.lazysillygirl.com

  18. I was just reading R. A. Torrey’s sermons on hell, and though he could pull out the brimstone with the best(?) of them, he took much the same view. “If anyone could show me one passage in the Bible that clearly taught that all men would ultimately repent, accept Christ, and be saved, it would be the happiest day of my life.”

    Of course, if some theological thoughts are correct, God wants to be a universalist too except for that pesky free will thing. I don’t know.
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  19. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this lately, coming from a place that emphasized “holiness teaching”, and by that I mean that if you are really saved, there is a huge checklist of things you won’t do (i.e. chew, smoke, or go with girls/boys who do!).

    The emphasis on works always makes me think of the scripture where And Jesus tells of those who cry, Lord we prophesied and healed people in your name! And the Lord says, depart from me, I know you not…

    My current conclusion is that, regardless of how many make it to heaven, I’m pretty sure most people upon arriving will be pretty darn surprised to see some of the people who made it there (who they smugly thought were burning in hell).

  20. Democrats. Ha!

    I really wanted to just laugh at that comment, but I’ll add this. I think you have a great point when you discuss what we should want, not just what we believe to be true. We’re so petty.

    On a similar note, how does a thinking person admit he’s judging a book by its’ cover and then do so anyway?
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  21. Loved this post! I just posted it on my blog’s Facebook page and tweeted it. On Saturday, one of my blog readers linked to the Justin Taylor post critiquing (um, criticizing???) Bell’s book… well, actually the press release since the book isn’t even out yet.I have no definitive opinion because up until last week, the most I’ve heard about the guy is from a couple of NOOMA videos I’ve seen. So I went to B&N and brought “Velvet ELvis” (yeah, I’m like a decade late- my bad!- see, even my slang is like a decade late) and so far, I’m not seeing what all the hoopla is about. Because he asks questions? Should we as Christians not be honest enough to questions what we’ve been taught and why we believe things? How do we expect to reach doubters if we can’t admit that even we have doubts?

    As for Hell, I was eating lunch with my brother discussing it yesterday (Hell and Charlie Sheen, actually), and while I definitely do believe there is such a place, I refuse to say I know for sure who will end up there, regardless of their denomination, political affiliation or if they have “tiger blood” running through their veins. 😉
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  22. Yikes Matt!!

    Oops. There we reformed types go again.

  23. I think the visual of traditionalists marching up to the gate and demanding to be let in is spot on, and very old. It’s what the legalistic Jews did, and the whole point of including an older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. Both were alienated from the father, one through debauched living and one through following the rules and not pursuing a relationship. I see the parables of the wedding feast and the king going and bringing in the evil and the holy as a hopeful sign. I don’t know who will be in heaven, but I want to be there because I love the One who lives there, I don’t want to have to stand on my record. And I sincerely hope that for the rest of humanity as well. I just fear that there may be a lot of older brothers who will hear that God never knew them and are left out in the cold with younger brothers who don’t know Him for very different reasons.

  24. Thank you, thank you, thank you for demonstrating that there is place in the here-and-now for Thinking Christians.

    So often during services I sit in my chair (no pews in our church, ’cause we’re a “blended” ELCA Lutheran congregation, but that fuzziness is another topic)and try to figure what’s wrong with me since thoughts like the ones you raise in your post keep coming into my head. Sometimes, I find myself longing to be a contented, smug and uncomplicated Christian, but darn it, I have doubts.

    I have Christ, too, and I have that parable about the brothers, plus that other sticky one about the laborers and their master who paid everyone, even those slackers who showed up at the very end of the day.

    Thank you for getting these things out in the open so we can ponder them. After all, Mary pondered lots of things, and she’s my role model!

  25. Completely, totally non-universalist. The Bible spells it out crystal clear about hell…it’s just that we as humans don’t want to think God could actually be as black and white as to say “you didn’t accept my Son as your Savior…you’ll spend eternity in torment.” We’re inherently selfish. We don’t want to see anyone left out. We like grey areas. It allows us to get along with more people if we say everyone can get in. We take less condemnation from people who hate Christians if we water everything down. So we search for any loophole to make everyone happy.

    Would I like to see everyone get in? Sure. We all would like to see it if we’re even half sane. No one wants to think someone’s being tormented for eternity. But we didn’t create everything, we don’t get to make the rules. God stated in His word the way it is and we just have to accept it. God’s not going to come back and say he was lying in His word when it was written Jesus is the only way. And only means…only.

    (OK, begin the traditionalist bashing now…)
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    • I’m not going to bash you for believing what people have long believed what the Bible says. I’m the one stepping out on a limb of un-orthodoxy here, and I don’t want this to devolve into universalists deluding themselves into thinking that we’ve “progressed” or become more “enlightened,” now that we don’t believe in hell. Like I said, when it comes to the end, we’ve got nothing to say to God, whatever he decides.

    • I don’t think it’s bashing to raise questions. The one that always nags me whenever I think I have something completely figured out because of it’s crystal clarity is how so many devout, sincere, Bible-immersed Jews missed the “clear” revelation of Jesus. We can look at Psalms now and wonder how in the world they could have read things that are so plain and not have known what Jesus would do. We look at how dense the disciples were to not understand some of the parables or Jesus’s teaching on the resurrection. If smart, sincere, Bible-believing, spiritual people can miss things that later seem clear, I am pretty sure it can happen to us too. And God will be no less holy, sovereign or perfect because we didn’t get the entirety of His plan.

  26. I struggle with the idea of universalism. Every argument I muster against it, it seems my answer suggests God’s grace has limits. How many of Jesus’ parables speak to God’s crazy, unfair and challenging grace?

    Thanks for the post. I’ll wait until I can get the book at Half-Price Books. Stay blessed…john
    John recently posted..Music Monday- The World Wont Get No Better

  27. I’ve typed and retyped my comment trying to convey what I believe. Basically I just want to say that it’s a slippery slope saying that perhaps there is more than one way to heaven. I don’t want to be responsible for someone missing out on heaven because I didn’t make sure they knew what God has to say in the Bible. To me, Jesus saying that no one comes to the Father but through Him is quite clear. You must accept Jesus as the savior of your life to go to heaven. Yes, the final decision is with God and for that I am so thankful. I also know that God will never go back on his promise and he has promised eternal life through Jesus. He hasn’t promised to allow anyone into heaven for any other reason, that’s not to say that he won’t, but I think our responsibility is to make sure people know what He has for sure promised. I do think it’s wrong to tell people they’re going to Hell, none of us know that, I think we’re just supposed to make sure people know how they can be welcomed into Heaven with no doubts/worries/fears of the unknown of death.

    • “You must accept Jesus as the savior of your life to go to heaven.”

      So Moses is in Hell? He never accepted Jesus. My little daughter who died is in Hell? She never accepted Jesus. Maybe it ain’t so cut and dried. And my questions do not in any way make me a universalist; I’m not. But the simple exclusivist model does not answer them.

  28. Perhaps this is oversimplified, but I never thought of Christianity of who gets in and who doesn’t. Isn’t the real question, “does a person have a (real)relationship with Jesus?”

    As Matt and the Ironic Catholic pointed out, people live in hell right here on earth. Doesn’t the kingdom of God fall where anyone bends there knee and recognizes Jesus as Lord.

    Doesn’t Christianity have to be more than “fire insurance?” Are there not real everyday benefits of a relationship with Christ such as hope, forgiveness, joy, peace, etc.?

  29. This disscussion alwasy makes me think about the passage of scripture where people are hired to work in a field, some starting at different times through out the day, and are all paid the same think by the master at the end of the day. When the ones who worked longer object, the master says he has the authority to pay whomever he wants whatever he wants and asks them why they are upset – they got paid what he promised them.

    I know that everyone who got paid actually did work some, but this passage always reminds me of universalism and it seems supportive towards the idea. It almost seems to be teaching about how inappropriate it is for those who feel they have done it “right” to be upset that others got the same reward too.

    I hope for myself that I can believe good things and live a good life because it is glorifying to God and a good way to live, the right thing to do, instead of so I can believe the right things and go to heaven.

  30. Ultimately it comes down to our limited understanding of justice and mercy. Ours is so limited in scope. We can’t really fully comprehend God’s perspective on those two topics.

    I’d love to see all of His creation redeemed. I don’t know how it’s going to work out. I just follow what He told me in His word and walk in relationship with Him.

    Here is one thing to consider. Are earning and effort mutually exclusive? In other words, if we don’t earn it do we not have to put in effort?
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  31. I don’t think I have anything more to add.
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  32. This is how I try to look at it. I hope and pray that grace is so much bigger that I ever dared to dream. That the sacrifice of Christ is enough for the worst of sinners.

    I try to live by the principle that grace is only for the elect.

    It doesn’t bother me one bit that someone could live a terribly life and get into heaven, because I’d rather see them in heaven than hell.

    It doesn’t bother me when someone lives a terrible life only to have a death bed salvation experience.

    What bothers me is the chance that hell is a very real place where BILLIONS will go because too many “Christians” were to concerned with themselves and being “Christian.”
    Nick the Geek recently posted..Day 1 of 21- Fasting and Prayer — Importance of Twenty-One

    • Amen, Nick!
      And I’m not going to detract from your comment, but will throw another fun wrench into that and ask if the salvation of billions really depends on the pathetic attempts of Christians. There are passages from Paul that seem to indicate that we are judged by the amount of light we’ve recieved.

  33. Best line of theology I’ve read in a long time:
    “God can do whatever He freaking feels like”

    Good post Matt.
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  34. Like you (and many, it seems!) I desperately want to be a Universalist … except for a few people. (Kidding! Usually.)

    I have been studying this area in school recently. I kind of love it, considering all of these different things. I have been called a heretic for admitting “I don’t know.” That seems a little funny, but it is true.

    Agreeing with others here, I will say that the Bible does seem to make it rather clear that not all will be saved. Parables like the workers (owner goes out ever so often and brings in new workers, but all get paid the same amount) have been used to justify Universalism, but then there are parables like Lazarus and the Rich Man which deny that.

    I have theories. Those theories are always changing, and my current view seems the most sympathetic towards others. I must also be honest with myself. I do not know. I greatly enjoy thinking on and discussing it, though!
    Daniel M. Klem recently posted..Uncoupled Love

    • While I’d agree that many passages can justify universalism, I feel this is not a very good example as it does require that at some point the workers show up for work. The Master doesn’t go out at the end of the day to all the guys that felt like hanging out on the corner and give them a days wages.

      Mostly I get frustrated when folks try to use a proof text one way or another that just doesn’t fit.
      Nick the Geek recently posted..Day 1 of 21- Fasting and Prayer — Importance of Twenty-One

  35. I’m posting my “Obligatory Rob Bell Post” tomorrow, but you’re right. God can do whatever he wants.

    I’ve read quite a few books by contemporary pastors and theologians, but I have never, ever completely agreed 100% with everything they wrote. It may be because their interpretation of scripture didn’t line up with mine or that they took something completely out of context, or maybe I was just in a pissy mood and I read something the wrong way.

    But that doesn’t mean everything they ever said or wrote is complete crap.
    katdish recently posted..And the winners are…

  36. I’ve always secretly thought about Universal salvation. I think if it were true that it might clear up the snobby attitudes of some believers. I think it would make it a much more humbling experience when you talk with someone and share about Christ vs having a you’re going to hell tone when talking with them.
    RainbowsofFaith recently posted..Three Little Pages

  37. I am not a believer in Universalism. The idea that “good people” (really, I don’t think any of us want to see an unrepentant A. Hitler in heaven, now do we? So let’s go with “good people”) will go to heaven sounds nice, until we get to the question of who gets to decide who is good. If we answer God, well He already said no one is, and provided a Savior for us. If we come up with our own check list as to what makes someone good, aren’t we trying to make ourselves God?
    I am not familiar with Rob Bell’s work, so I can’t presume to know his stance on the question of does everyone go to heaven. I don’t think EVERYONE does. When we question whether Gandhi will be in heaven, I can only go with your great theological argument “‘God can do whatever He freakin’ feels like’ and I sincerely hope He feels like letting Gandhi in!” (Actually, there is a story that Gandhi tried to go to Church and was not allowed in because he was Indian, so I really don’t think Gandhi’s soul will be the one in danger ….)
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  38. Tommy Carrington March 2, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    This was a good blog post, but the one part that disturbed me was the comment: “I have never heard a reformed or evangelical say to a Universalist, ‘I hope you’re right.'” You seem to be implying that evangelicals somehow take pleasure in believing that those who do not know Christ will spend eternity in hell. I am not privy to many conversations between evangelicals and universalists (I’ve had only one myself), but I cannot imagine anything but joy for an evangelical to find out that their fellow human beings would not suffer the fate we see described in the Scripture. Who could be so evil as to desire that horrendous infliction upon others? Not the evangelicals I know.

  39. What a great post/discussion. First of all I like that you pointed out there is something wrong with all the evangelicals that aren’t saddened by the thought of millions of souls going to hell. I’ve always been one of those “weak” compassionate Christians and which caused me to question the concept and existence of hell at one time. I then became more Bible literate and stopped question the scriptures so I don’t dispute the existence of hell. But we don’t know who is going there and who is going to heaven. I’m totally cool with having murderers and terrorist in heaven with me, it just shows how all encompassing God’s grace is the ultimate power of Christ’s salvation. But I know quite a few people who are uneasy with the idea that rapists and convicts, and even homosexuals and democrats will be in heaven with the rest of perfect Christian souls. (I hope the sarcasm came out in that last sentence 😉 )
    My husband has actually helped me with the concept of hell over the years. Many old school preachers like to spout off about fire and brimstone and eternal torture. Though, this isn’t exactly what is pointed out in the Bible. (Darn that Dante!) Hell is basically separation from God. My husband always says if you choose to be separated from God in this life God is not a cosmic rapist who forces you to abide with Him in the next. You will eternally be separated from Him. The chaos that ensues is because of the people who will inhabit hell. God is order, an absence of God (hell) is disorder. Now I think I skipped a part in this explanation. Questions about hell usually come up with nonbelievers disputing free will. Choosing between an eternity of happiness and of one of torture doesn’t seem to be much of a choice or a gift of true free will. And this is where the explanation of hell comes in. On this side of eternity we can choose to abide with God, or not. But we’re making that decision for all eternity. If you have a falling out with a friend and you want to make things right, but he won’t have anything to do with you, you can’t force a relationship. God can’t force a relationship either, not now, not for eternity.

    But I agree that we don’t really know for sure about the devotions of other non-christian people. In Romans 1 where we read about the degradation of the human race we read that even those these people who were told nothing of God knew innately of God in their hearts-because God creates us with Him in us. But we also read that it’s the rejection of Christ that sends one to hell. Can you reject someone you don’t know? While most people might have heard the name of Jesus used, have they truly been introduced to Him. I don’t know, I won’t know, until I meet people in Heaven. Perhaps the man who owns my favorite Thai restaurant and is devote in a religion I’m not educated in has never properly introduced to Jesus, so Christ speaks to him through his shrines and food offerings. I’m not sure, but I can’t imagine a man so devoted to his own concept of being good and holy will end up in hell separated from the only God he has ever known.
    Wow, am I still typing. I think I better click on the submit button now! :)
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  40. Right on, Miles.
    This part especially touched me,
    if we were standing in line at the heavenly security checkpoint and God let in a drunken wife beater right before us, we’d whine because that’s not fair. We tried all our lives to walk the walk. We said the sinner’s prayer, we went to church…

    Reminds me of the parable of the workers in the field from Matt. 20:1-16. I HATED that parable growing up! How could a bunch of “druggies and sexoids” be able to go to heaven after a late-in-life salvation experience, when I myself was a “good christian” since an early age. I went to church, I even said that magical salvation prayer a record 648 times (although Guiness refuses to certify that achievement). In the end, I now realized that I was “saved” by works and self- righteousness. The fact that I rested on that prayer, resented those who God loved and saved, and even was jealous of their sinful lifestyle meant that I did not have an ounce of grace or faith in me. Praise God for his work of faith in my life, so now all those self-righteous things I held on to, I now regard as “filthy rags”. In the end, God’s love won in the heart of this hatelful, prideful pharisaical prodigy.

  41. I believe there is going to be some sort of judgment. What form that will take, I have no idea. I also believe that God’s grace is certainly big enough to save everyone, and I hope everyone does get in.
    Fred recently posted..You Are More

  42. I think Rachel Held Evans said it best: (paraphrasing) it’s sad that people get angrier about the possibility of everyone going to heaven than the possibility of everyone going to hell.

    I got into similar “trouble” with my boyfriend right after we started dating; we discussed the issue of the salvation of non-Christians for hours just to make sure we were on the same page. I do believe in the possibility of hell (if a person wishes to be eternally separated from God, God would not force the person into relationship with Him) mostly because I believe in God’s justice as much as I believe in His compassion. It is not, however, up to me to understand how He exercises those powers, and I’m so very glad this is the case. That knowledge is far too deep and profound for any of us to understand with our limited mortal minds.

    Jesus’s death tore the veil, so the opportunity to dwell in the presence of God after we die is now open to all. But that’s about as much as I know for sure. Opportunity for all does not equal universalism, but it also doesn’t mean access to heaven for only those who have the opportunity and mental capacity to understand and accept what Jesus did.

  43. Here’s my issue with the whole Rob Bell deal and the universalist argument…Everyone wants everyone in (as in going to heaven) until you sit and counsel true victims. And I’m not talking about victims as in Americans who have to pay 3.50 a gallon for gas type victims. I’m talking about real victims. Those who has been raped, those who have been tortured, those with family members who have been murdered. I noticed Bell mentioned Ghandi in his video. He chose him on purpose. Notice he didn’t want to argue in his video for Hitler or Bin Laden. Hitler is in Hell? Really? And you know this? It just doesn’t have the same punch. And rather than taking on hell, why doesn’t Rob take on what I consider the more applicable subject…the wrath of God. Weeping and gnashing of teeth sounds like vacation compared to being under the wrath of God. I plan on giving Rob some money and reading his book, but the bottom line is this – Jesus clearly taught some form of eternal punishment. He even interpreted his own parable for us in Matt 13:36-43, so he was clear on what he meant…a blazing furnace. If Rob contradicts Jesus, he is simply not a Christian.

  44. Maybe the parable of the workers in the vineyard says something to those who see heaven as a somewhat exclusive establishment…
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    • Your right, the parable of the workers tells us exactly how many feel. The prodigal son says it all. Notice the father sees his son a long way off and runs to him before his son says a word, the don does not first ask forgiveness, this tells us God loves us while we’re a long way off, we may not know Him, we may be hanging out with swine, but while we’re still far off…. That makes people angry. I’ve heard Christians come right out and admit it!

  45. My one comment on your post: I’m a bit surprised that you present your perspective on such an important biblical topic… without once referencing any scripture?!?

    It may make us uncomfortable, and we may not like the idea that love also incorporates justice… but the bible is quite clear that not everyone will enter the Kingdom, and that’s true from Genesis to Revelation. Wishing it were not so doesn’t change anything.

    What you are saying essentially implies that both the OT Law, and Jesus’ death and resurrection, are ultimately meaningless.

    OK, one more thought, just to provide a specific example of where I sense your train of thought leaves the tracks:

    “That’s just my hope that Jesus saves everyone. Jesus never said universal salvation is true, and I certainly won’t teach others it’s true.”

    Your statement is accurate but misleading. Jesus DID say universal salvation is NOT true. In a number of ways and places. To me, Matt 7:21-23 is one of the scariest passages in the Bible.

    • In reading the comments and blogs on the topic, what is apparent is that what is clear to you from the Bible is not clear to everyone. I’ve seen dozens of scriptures picked out to support one side or the other. I doubt tossing in a random scripture would’ve changed anyone’s mind, and my point is not really to prove any theology, but to comment on the overly heated debate we have on such things. You are right, wishing doesn’t change what God will do, which is what I tried to explain in point #2. God’s ways are not my ways, and I’m going to have to trust God’s justice in the end.

      Where I will graciously disagree with you is your thought that the notion of universal salvation makes Jesus’ death and resurrection meaningless. Perhaps it makes you feel that way, but that is the last conclusion I would come to. As I said, who am I to tell God what the limits of his grace are, and that grace is afforded to us by Jesus’ death and resurrection. As for the law, Paul says in Romans that where it exists, men will be judged by the law, and where it does not, men will be judged by the law written on their hearts, so we’re all under condemnation from the law.

  46. You called down the thunder, well you got it. I’m coming and I’m bringing hell with me!!!

    Sorry, I watched Tombstone last night.
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  47. Jesus spoke of hell. He spoke of the last judgenebt and the separation of the sheep and the goats.

    It’s not our focus. It’s not our message. But I do believe it is real, and I do believe that is the place where I deserve to go.
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  48. All I know is, Jesus preached the truth and was murdered for it. Most people did not like what he said. Further, he tells us, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:17).

    If people killed Jesus for his message, I find it hard to believe that people nowadays will openly and amiably accept the Gospel. If we somehow end up with a Christianity that people like on every level, I’d say there is a doctrinal problem somewhere.

    Also, the words of the Bible are life (John 6:63, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Isaiah 55:10-11) and they produce change in the heart of the hearer (1 Thessalonians 2:13). It seems ironic and a bit troubling that a number of you are saying, “I wish _____ despite the fact the Bible teaches _____.” there is a reason David continually praises the amazingness of God’s Word.

    God works in covenants, and he never breaks his promises. True, he can do whatever he likes in his sovereign will, but to play it safe by hoping for the salvation of every person with a defense of ‘God’s sovereignty’ undermines the faithfulness and the loveliness of the God we worship found in the Bible. When Christianity leaves out justice for a more ‘fuzzy’ feeling, we are treading in dangerous waters.

    To that end, I find Rob Bell’s communication methods to be wonderful, but his theological stances to be alarming. I’m hoping he will actually talk about some of his beliefs in this book, to which I will offer a review.
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  49. I’m super sad that I missed this post. Cuz wow. So well said.

    The whole discussion has made me think about the line from Evolving in Monkeytown where Rachel says, “Some people are more offended by the idea of everyone going to heaven than by the idea of everyone going to hell.” I love that quote and your post expands on that so well.
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  50. Trying to reckon God and burning in hell tormented me. But like others I had to accept God said it I believe it and that settles it. A fire and brimstone preacher drove me to begin to ask God how was I to trust Him with my life and the lives of my children while His
    Nature was that of a tyrant! I just had to start asking. I who am evil know how to give good things to my children how much more my Father? Are you kidding, I would not under any circumstances be sending my kids or anyone elses kids to an eternal pit of fire. I asked my church one day how can we claim Jesus won? What did He win? According to most conservative bible believing Christians a few are going and guess which few? If you believe them where is this victory? People need to start listening to God not preachers, not theologians, sorry but your not going to get an unbiased opinion. My not wanting it to be true is worthless, a pipedream if it’s not scriptural. But it is and every time you point out one of these many scriptures the fire and brimstone clones recite the same hell scriptures over and over. You need to study the word hell, hades sheole and Gehenna, you need to study the meaning of eternal and everlasting in Greek and Hebrew. People need to stop taking the word of man. Most of these same men believe women should be silent based on what Paul says, they ignore his advice on head covering while they’re phrophecing, hard to be silent. Tentmaker.org has volumes of information.

  51. LOVED this post! I shared it on my FB page.
    I have an article on Emergent Village this week titled, “What I Lost Losing Hell.” Though there have been many detractors, not one has said, “Gee, I hope you are right.” Yes, it’s very sad.

    glad i found this!

    peace.
    Chad Holtz recently posted..It’s Lent- Not Lint

  52. Great blog. Really appreciate this. Something God’s been reminding me lately is the only reason why I am saved, and why others are as well, is NOT because of anything that I have done; not about believing “just right”, or having all of the answers, or understanding everything, or praying just right, etc. There’s all these standards in American Christianity that put all these chains on us. God’s been showing me, it’s not what I’ve done, or am doing, it’s about what He’s already done for ME. God gave us life through Jesus. He calls us. He changes us. We are His workmanship, we are made in His image. He will redeem us and heal us. What are the implications of that? Not sure. But, I do agree with the idea that “love wins”. Colossians 2: 15 “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

    • Hi Kamber, I’m having this very discussion (argument) with someone right now. God made Himself known to me, I wasn’t asking. Prior to this i didn’t have a clue. I did nothing, do I think I’m special? It took me a while to be bold enough to ask God the difficult questions. How is this a free gift? It’s not if it has any conditions including accepting the gift. This gift doesn’t do anyone any good right now if they don’t know they have it but the free gift is eternal life. Did Jesus really die for sinners? Or with the condition they would become “good”? If that’s true He didn’t die for sinners. People had a better shot before Jesus came by the sacrificing of animals. The blood if those animals covered their sins by what the priest did, they did nothing. It can’t be called good news, it’s good news and bad news depending on where you were born, how you were raised, were you abused, I was raised Catholic, God only I knew and He was scary, we were not allowed to read the bible which is what shows us Jesus! By my puny human mind it doesn’t compute to say Jesus won any victory when we speak in terms of a few, common sense goes right out the window. Common sense kicks in when it comes to “all your possessions and giving to the poor to follow Jesus! Suddenly those scriptures don’t really mean what they say. Most fire and brimstone preachers give a pass to the adultery thing as well. The qualifications for pastors deacons and elders get a pass. And the hypocrisy goes on. It’s not all that shocking, billions of dollars would be lost. Religion is a business. People who attend church out of fear and guilt just might empty out if they knew the truth. The church I left would be out of business because that’s the only message that’s preached. They don’t know another message. The truth sets you free is oh so true!

  53. I thought I’d put a few scriptures up.Sorry you’ll have to look them up yourself, well worth it.
    Lamentations 3:31-33
    Notice the word “all” in many of them
    Acts 3:21
    Gal 3:8
    Psalm 22:27-28
    Psalm 145:21
    Psalm 66:3-4
    Rev 5:13 Notice the last few would be quite difficult while your body is in flames, highly unlikely one would praise Jesus while burning eternally.
    Psalm 145:9
    Psalm 72:17
    Phil 2:9-11
    Psalm 103:8-10
    Micah 7:18
    Psalm 72:17
    Matthew 15:8-9
    1 Cor 12:3 and then Philippians 2:9-11 can’t do one without the other
    that His will and good pleasure and purpose is to unite ALL creation in Christ
    Eph 1:10, 2:9-10
    John 12:32-33
    Luke 2:10
    Rev 4:11
    that God has given Christ ALL things Matt 11:27, 28:18
    Luke 10:22
    John 3:35 13:3 17:2
    Eph 1:22
    Heb 1:2 2:7-8
    1 Peter 3:22
    That Christ will accomplish Hiss Fathers will and lose nothing of ALL He’s been given John 6:37-39 17:2
    Heb 10:7-9
    that the Lord has spoken and He will accomplish it, that He has purposed it and He will perform it Isaiah 46:11
    Romans 5:18-19
    Romans 5:20
    Romans 5:10
    Hosea 2:23
    Micah 5:4
    2 Peter 3:9
    1 Tim 4:9-11 especially of believers does not exclude unbelievers
    John 1:29
    Isa 55:11
    Rom 11:32-36
    Heb 2:10
    1 Tim 2:4-6
    Rev 4:11
    1 Cor 12:6 15:28
    Eph 1:22 4:10
    Col 3:11
    Psalm 8:6 145:9-10 119:89-90 all of Psalm 136 , 150 & 67
    Gods fire is spiritual not literal Jer 19:5 Luke 9:54-56
    Isa 25:7-8
    Rev 21:4 Rom 5:18
    1 Cor 15:22
    Heb 6:19
    does eternal really mean eternal?
    Sodom’s fiery judgment is eternal (Jude 7) UNTIL God “will restore the fortunes of Sodom” (Ezekiel 16:53-55)
    Israel’s “affliction is incurable ” (Jer 30:12) UNTIL the Lord “will restore health” and heal her wounds (Jer 30:17)
    Ammon is to become a “wasteland forever” and “rise no more” (Zeph 2:9 Jer 25:27) UNTIL the Lord will “restore” the fortunes of the Ammonites (Jer 49:6)
    Habakkuk tells us of mountains that were everlasting, that is UNTIL they “were shattered” (Hab 3:6)
    God’s waves of wrath roll over Jonah “forever” UNTIL the Lord delivers him from the large fish’s belly on the third day (Jonah 2:6,10, 1:17)
    Good enough for now! God Bless, Kim

  54. So sorry, I got caught up and neglected to even say what these scriptures say to me.
    These are some scriptures that have taken on a whole new meaning once being aware that God is just fine and even encourages us to ask questions, seek, seek, seek! These scriptures speak to me of universal reconciliation for ALL!
    God Bless, Kim

  55. Ain’t it amusing that us mortals seem quick to prescribe the parameters of a grace we don’t deserve ourselves?
    Andrew recently posted..Cutting to the chase of humility

  56. I’ve with David Crowder ” Oh happiness, there’s grace enough for us and the whole human race” !!!!

  57. This is precisely why I wrote on Friday that while most (not all) devotionals and books about Christianity can be helpful, if we don’t make reading the Bible our main read we will encounter a pothole like this one. We open our world up to untruths because we love our fellow man so much that we hate to think daddy or grandpa could end up in hell because our love for them is so binding. However, it is the truth that unless daddy or grandpa know Christ deeply and intimately they will know hell and they won’t be having tea with the devil while picking daisies on the shore. Hell is described in different places like a lake of fire, wheat from chaff, burned, etc. I can only assume by those verses that hell won’t be pleasant.

    I haven’t read that book, and I’m cautious about jumping on the Christian bandwagon. However, I’m not about to waste my time reading it. I could do without the universalism. I love people too much to let them think that they are okay without Christ. Everyone needs Him.
    Nikole Hahn recently posted..Taking Notes Sunday- No Inroads

    • Hey Kim, I’m afraid your point about the good news is getting lost in translation because of how passionate your language is. You can use as strong of language as you want to with me, say it’s embarassing that I call myself a Christian, whatever you want. But I’d appreciate it if you didn’t direct that kind of language toward people who come to my site to comment.

      • Dear Matt, I sent an apology to you about 5:30 am, not sure what happened. Your right, I’m wrong, I got too caught up. Everyone has the right to believe as they wish. My prayer is, warn the living if they must but leave the dead alone please. Nikole I apologize for my harsh words.

        • Hey Kim, I appreciate the apology. I took down your comment at your suggestion, as well as my response, and your follow up. Don’t give it another thought. I’ve had plenty of readers tell me when I’ve gotten a little carried away.

  58. John 3:
    1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

    3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”

    4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

    5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]

    9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

    10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]

    16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
    John Testifies Again About Jesus
    22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

    27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”[h]

    31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God[i] gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
    Nikole Hahn recently posted..Taking Notes Sunday- No Inroads

    • And Nikole, dismiss the scriptures I put up? Nikole I find it insulting when one comes to believe that Jesus was in fact the victor and did and will accomplish His mission, for that to be considered a “feel good” gospel. What’s ironic is, in fact “few” actually believe this. The vast majority of Christians believe as you do. I lost everbody due to believing that Jesus will accomplish the will of the Father who has given all things into His hands and it is the Fathers will that all be saved. I’m not with the in crowd as people think. I followed Jesus and it has cost me everything. Sound familiar. Loving my gramma and Grampa isn’t going to change the word of God but God gave me sight when I did start asking the questions that appear to make a Christian a heretic. Every knee will bow, every knee, not a few and they will all praise Jesus and you can’t praise Jesus unless the Spirit of God is in you and if the Spirit of God is in you, you are saved. Or do you think Nikole that one while on fire will be singing praises to Jesus. Jesus told the parable if the workers for a reason, most Christians if Jesus sat down and told them all will be saved would be angry. People want to see people pay. Step away from the bible and pray and use your God given brain.

  59. It seems clear to me that this conversation rises out of a desire for an easier answer. It is easier for us to try to reinterpret Scripture to our own desires rather than give our lives to spreading the good news that is the gospel. Paul planted churches in almost all the major centers of the Roman empire in one lifetime because he loved Jesus so much that he devoted his life to trying to save the Gentiles. Paul even made the incredible statement that he would go to hell if he could if it would save the Jews. If we truly loved Jesus and our neighbors as ourselves then we would live in such a sacrificial manner. Instead many of us just try to discount the scriptures that call us to live a life of sacrifice. You’re taking the easy road. Ironically Jesus said that road led to destruction.

    • Hi Evan, not sure if you were speaking to me. If so, I wondered what made you assume I wasn’t living a holy life? Why you assume my life is not a sacrifice to Jesus, and why you assume I dismiss scripture?

  60. Yes, brilliant. God CAN do what he freaking well likes. Just found this blog but will be back.

    http://growandbegrown.blogspot.com

  61. Wow,this will be really late, since all the other comments came in march! But I wasn’t blogging or reading blogs back in March, so here goes;
    Ron recently posted..THE SAVING

  62. OK… Don’t know what happened there, but here’s the rest of it!
    I’m not really a ‘universalist’ but I believe salvation is a matter of the heart. It’s not about religion and rules. It’s not what you know, but who you know. David forged a relationship with God out in the pastures watching sheep, and he was a man after Gods’ own heart. By way of contrast, just going to church does not build that same relationship. We may be suprised on that day, to not see people we thought would ‘make it for sure’. And we may be shocked to see some of the ones who did. Only God knows the heart and the relationship it bears to Him. C.S. Lewis has been slammed for suggesting that a ‘non-christian’ might make it through the pearly gates, based on his relationship with God, and so have I. Should we still share the Gospel? Absolutely, It is the only SURE way we know, IF it leads to relationship and not religion. If anything fills hell it will be religion.
    Ron recently posted..THE SAVING

  63. FriendInChrist July 18, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Love it! I’ll just say “I hope you are right”!!!!!!!

  64. I think a robust discussion of heaven, hell and where we’re going when we die can’t be had without the contextual understanding of what was believed by the Early Christians, or Jesus himself growing up as a Jew.

    References to hell in the bible can refer to so many things. Gehenna, to a physical place, Sheol, to the land of the dead etc.

    What’s frightening more than anything is the certainty we have today of what ‘hell’ or ‘heaven’ looks like even without that kind of background knowledge. If the early Christians and Jews seem to leave that kind of thing up to God, I wonder where we have gained our man-made confidence of heaven/hell.

    Probably the most important question that has yet been asked of the topic is this. Is the super certain, holier than thou Christian a more effective witness of God’s kingdom of Love, Grace and Hope here on earth? Or is it the unassuming, just love God/love People follower of The Way a better example?

    I’ve found that being in the 1st category, it’s a lot harder to dine with the prostitutes, tax collectors and homosexuals of our time without feeling out of place. How do we bring heaven on earth if our theology facilitates a mental/emotional barrier (albeit subconsciously) between ‘us’ and them ‘sinners’?

  65. I’ve never blog shouted on my blog, maybe I should start and fit in better with the blog-o-sphere. I shuddered as I typed that.

    C.S. Lewis once said we know that Jesus saves, but we don’t know all the ways in which Jesus saves. Meaning Yes, Jesus is the only way into Heaven, but He could be sneaking everybody there.

    Also if we are only living a Christian life for the end, we need to reevaluate somethings.
    HUGS!

  66. “If you are struck by the unfairness of everyone getting into heaven, it just shows that somewhere in your mind, you are still banking on the things you did in life to get into heaven, not God’s grace.”
    -That made the post for me. LOVE IT!

    Interestingly enough that when I hear the same peeps pissed about Bell often sound a lot like him at funerals. Or preaching Matt 20:1-16. Go figure.

  67. I will be frequently looking on the web concerning articles that will support myself. Thx!

  68. I like that. I have been taking into consideration a variety of signifies

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  1. What Do You Know About Hell? « Truth And Friction - March 5, 2011

    […] This past week there has been a lot of blogosphere fury on the topic of Hell. Rob Bell released a trailer for his upcoming book Love Wins which, through nuance, suggests that no one goes to Hell. Popular bloggers and pastors weighed in and “the brouhaha” began (Here are some of the articles–Taylor, DeYoung 1, Deyoung 2, and Matt). […]