You may have heard by now quite a few things said in the name of so-called "gospel ministry" about God saving a special few from coming times of destruction to the everlasting exclusion of everyone else. You may have heard that if you're reliable towards God and believe a certain way, then He'll be reliable towards you. But, I'm here to tell you that that is totally wrong!
Yes, actions and beliefs have consequences and you can very quickly find yourself in more hell than you can ever swim out of on your own. But Christ is there for you. Your hell is His hell. He'll never ever let go. The Bible says that even if you make your bed in hell that He's there with you. He's there until you're totally out of hell, ok? And nothing's too hot for Him to handle. No situation is too big for Him. He's telling you, today, just as the old song says, "Lean on Me when you're not strong and I'll help you carry on...."
Yes, like others will surely tell you, He has a wonderful plan for your life. But it goes much deeper than that. His plans are "you and Him forever -- no matter what!" The Bible says that a man may devise his plans, but that ultimately it's the Lord's purposes that prevail. Ephesians 1:10-11 says that the plan of the ages is for God to draw all things to Himself in Christ. Colossians 1:15-20 basically begs all of us to take all of the limits off of what God can do and who He can draw to Himself through the peace he's weaving (like a web) through the sacrificial Blood of Jesus Christ.
And again, yes, actions and beliefs do have consequences, but even the apparent abandoning of a sinner by God is no different than when God temporarily forsook Jesus on the cross.
All things are being worked towards a deeper and purer end!
The Bible is full of promises, from cover to cover, of God reclaiming the abandoned, whether it's those that others have abandoned or even if it's those that He Himself may have abandoned for a season to their own way(s).
Yes, there's much that needs to be harmonized in the Bible with this message I'm bringing you today. And there are quite a few translational issues and traditions of interpretation that this totally goes against. But, in your heart, you know that if there's a loving God that He's got to be a lot better, a lot more merciful and just, and a whole lot wiser than you've been hearing out of a lot of mainstream religion.
All of us are fully capable of inviting His wrath(or haven't you noticed?), but none of us can ever [ultimately] dismiss His love!
You came from God and you'll ultimately return to Him, either the easy way through Christ's invitation or through sharing in Christ's sufferings. Do you want to come to Christ through the dinner table or through many spankings back into God's arms?
If you crave God's dinner table, His smile, and affectionate embrace then just briefly let Christ know that while there's a whole lot of issues that the two of you need to work out, together, that they are things you will work out together, eventually, but that in the mean time you're now claiming His gift of life.
If you want to put your relationship with God off for a while, then get ready for things to get really hard and uncomfortable because things will get a whole lot worser before you choose to let Him make them better!
Either way, He loves you and wants you free from the lies of alleged conditional love on His part. God's love is unconditional. Yes, real life for you in this life is not unconditional, but His (ultimate) purpose is! All He's asked any of us to do is to let Christ make these things real to our hearts, enjoy our life with God, and share the ultimate intents of His heart with a lost and hurting world. God's love is much more than you could ever hope for in life and in death.
It's the most real thing you can ever know! Real gospel ministry is just simply an announcement of His forcefully advancing Kingdom. The changes that happen in your heart as a result are purely between you and Him. He did pay the ultimate price to put all sin under His feet through His offering up of Himself as a sacrifice on the cross, but even though the ways of God are many, the purpose of God is One. And the nature of that One Purpose is what I've been sharing with you today.
He'll never give up on you, no matter how many hells you want to lead Him into afresh. No matter how stern He ever winds up having to be with you, you'll never quench His love. He'll never be satisfied without you. He's not willing to spend eternity without you! He's not willing!
God will never permanently nor ultimately put up with any of the lying, cheating, stealing, and dishing out of pain that this world is involved in. It's your choice, ok? You can have your hell as hot as you want it, but God's love is hotter and your conscience will damn you further and longer than God ever will. He'll never give up on you. He's not willing to spend eternity without you. You can spend all of the time in personal aggitation and war against everything that you think that your heart can handle, or you can come to your heavenly Father and say, "I don't understand any of it, but Jesus said You've been waiting for me to come home. So, I'm here!"
Self-interest at the expense of God and others will always hunt you down and rob you of your peace and self-respect. But, God's love is the only thing that's eternal. You can't out run God and you can't push Him away forever. His love for you will triumph over your opposition in the end! Christ died as a sacrifice on the cross to give you the transfusion of peace that you've been needing in your heart, for your heart, and between you and God. You can frustrate His dream for you on earth if you insist on your own ways, but there's coming a day when you won't be able to get enough of the Presence of God; when His punishment of your pride will be more than you can stand, but when the sense of His love will surround you and fill you with hope you won't feel like you deserve. Actions and beliefs are loaded with consequences, but Christ will never stop looking for you. He'll never leave your hell until you're out of it and back into the arms of God.
Don't think for a moment that your sin, your frustration, or your pain is ever going to be any kind of shield between you and the love of your heavenly Father. There's no way He's going to spend eternity without you and you know in your heart of hearts that this is the truth, regardless of whatever you've been told by [or about] the Church or faulty translations of the Bible in the past! You can't run far enough or fast enough to escape the Kingdom of God. You can cost yourself the priveledge of being a healer with Christ through your own stubborness and rebellion. You might even die and go to hell, but God's not turning loose of you, no matter what!
You can drink all that you want, sleep around all that you want, steal as much as you want, and hurt others as much as you think that you're big enough to, but in the end, all that will count is where God stands with you! You can cause a lot of problems for Him to have to fix, but He's big enough to! He's powerful enough to! He's loving enough to! You'll never destroy God's dream of spending eternity with you; showing you the infinite riches of His love. He is a just God and He'll set things in order. You might not be too comfortable while He's doing it either. The judgments of God are far worser than you've ever heard or feared because they're surgical in nature. Surgery always hurts a lot more than a punch in the teeth or stomach! God's surgical judgments will cut to the very bottomline of your soul. God's power will expose all that you've done like a cancer in His creation and He will burn you in the radiation of His Word to set every molecule of your being back in line with His purpose and will.
Don't ever think that judgment is somehow less real just because in the end you'll be in the loving arms of God, no matter how many ages that it takes. Your heavenly Father will put up with a lot less nonsense out of you than a lot of earthly fathers, but He loves you and wants the best for you. He sent Jesus to put the danger of eternal separation forever behind you and God.
Nothing can ever separate you from the heart of God. You can have heaven in the depths of the deepest hell because of this, both now and in the ages to come. God will wrap up death in the blanket He's weaving with the Blood and Intercessions of Jesus and toss all of the fear that you've ever had in the past, along with all of the disobedience, as far as the east is from the west.
Nothing less than heaven's Blood and Christ's righteousness could have ever taken away the pain and darkness from you. Nothing less than God's love will bring peace and wholeness to your soul. Bow on your knees, like the Apostle Thomas did a long time ago before the Resurrected Almighty Love of God and say it from your heart, "My Lord and my God!"
In Bible school, theology, and seminary, or preacher, circles, what I've just shared with you would be called a form of Christian "Universalism." It has many critics and criticisms by some who would consider this a "too good to be true" perspective. But if I can demonstrate it to be the clear teaching of the Holy Bible, then all that matters is your level of regard for the Bible, right? If it's any part of the Word of God, then critics may come and go, but God's Word will remain the same eternal oath of God that it has always been!
I wish to begin with a working definition of Christian Universalism as I understand it, and to deal with some of the most popular questions about it.
Universalism is very simply the belief that Jesus Christ will not fail in delivering all people everywhere from their sins, and that He won’t fail to restore them to holiness with God.
Anything else that’s taught in it’s context is just details about Bible translations, theological theories of how Jesus will complete His mission, and reflections on the depth of God’s commitment to each of us and the range, or spectrum along which each of us experiences that in our lives in the light of human free will, divine sovereignty, and anything else that’s part of our experience and personal growth. Whether we experience God’s love as generocity or as sternest discipline, they’re both reflections of His unending commitment to each of us.
Questions about God’s dealings with the wickedest amongst us are resolved by the Christian concept of Jesus as our atonement, the processes of His High Priestly mediation ministry, the uniquely Biblical concept that God only saves by judging what’s evil, and by a system of rewards and punishments that culminate in bringing all to their knees before God.
Speculations continue to abound among Universalists – or those who hold to a form of Christian Universalism – as to the nature, duration, timing, and intensity of God’s judgments – literal or figurative fires, whether some or all of that correction is accomplished in people’s lives post-mortem, etc. But the aforementioned singularity of the purpose of Christ in ultimately saving all of creation is the essence of the divine hope. While some will continue to challenge Universalism as humanistic rather than as divine light, when you examine the prejudices of our world, our religions, our families, etc., there is something truly transcendent about a hope that is truly extended to all!
Nearly every conceivable doctrine taught in Christian circles can be accepted by those who hold to Christian Universalism, if the grand objective of the ages or eons that St. Paul, in particular, laid out before us is kept at the forefront. Some Christians have held to a belief in double election, which is the belief that God, unchangeably, from the foundation of the world predestined some people for heaven and some people for hell. Even doctrines that many Christian Universalists would recoil from in horror, such as the Calvinist doctrine of double election loses it's sting if it's kept within the eras that God is working out His plan of redemption for all of mankind. There's little doubt that some seem to only be saved, or sanctified, out of many "fire baptisms." And from a justice standpoint, the fate of many who die cleaving to the grossest darkness, fears, and wickedness seems perilous. But when the Scriptural balances are kept in place, such as Jesus describing God's punishments as being proportioned to one's debts and wickedness, then one is free to believe all of the promises and threatenings of Scripture without having to elaborately explain away the promises to all, and without having to exaggerate the claims of Scripture regarding the intensity and duration of God's punishments. The Scriptures claim that Christ came to free us from sin, rather than "Hell."
I wish to now propose 10 questions and my answers to them. These questions are often met with in religious [Christian] circles whenever this subject comes up:
Does Christian Universalism emphasize repentance?
True Christian Universalism should always emphasize repentance, regeneration, sanctification, along with hope, perseverance, humility, praise, evangelism, and discipleship!
Are there inherent dangers to teaching Christian Universalism?
There's always dangers associated with anything that's ever taught. Dangers, with any subject, can range from teaching truths aside from their Biblical context to giving the impression that any Biblical truth justifies carnality and carnal mindedness. But, there are not inherently more dangers to what some have called the "larger hope" than there are to teachings about prayers, offerings, holiness, and discipleship, or any other doctrine.
How does Christian Universalism encourage evangelism?
Christian Universalism encourages evangelism by showing Jesus Christ to the believer as genuine good news for all of creation. Christian Universalism makes all of the prizes and punishments inherent with the gospel message more "real" to those who embrace it. In contrast, when the exaggerating doctrine of endless punishment loses it's "shock value," it inevitably serves to cool the affections of believers towards their fellow man and towards their view of Jesus Christ as King of the World.
Is an understanding of the atonement in the way that a Universalist would understand it a general departure from common understandings of the atoning work of Jesus Christ?
Christian Universalism merely says that what other Christians understand as merely "potentially there" of benefits for the whole world is actually a "kenetic energy" that is in the process of engulfing the whole world, one heart at a time and one age at a time. The Scriptural commands towards repentance and belief in the Son of God and in His ransoming work are still ever present in the mind of a Christian Universalist. The Universalist merely goes a step further in rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, by believing that what God has provided for all, He will in fact minister to all of Creation - no matter how many eons are involved in the process of what He does to, with, and through each individual in all of Creation!
Christian Universalists, in general and as individuals, would tend to understand the Bible in the way that any other group of Christians would understand it. On the whole, we agree with every other Christian about the basics of the faith, areas of Christian practice, and areas of Christian expectation regarding end-times views. Obviously, as there's diversity of opinion on these matters among Christians who are considered to be more of a part of the mainstream, so there's similar like differences in the beliefs of Christian Universalists. Our one fundamental difference is the place that we give the cross after Revelation chapter 20. We diverge from our Christian brethren in believing that after the "final judgment" has taken place that God does not from then on pretend as if the cross didn't happen, now that He's taken His firstborn elect to Himself and has exercised His wrath on the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. We view the last two chapters of the book of Revelation from St. Paul's perspective and claim that even the lavish details of the last two chapters of the Bible are merely outworkings of what happened at the cross. When God says that He's recreating all things in the last part of the book of Revelation, we believe Revelation 21 in the fullest sense that a time will come when there will be no more weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth and that all things will be perfectly subdued by Christ in all of the ways that they were yet lacking in previous ages. Otherwise, how else would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say that all must be restored?
So then, is Christian Universalism merely an "end-times" doctrine?
Yes and no. Properly presented it's a great hope and uniter of brethren in Christ, a fresh call to sanctification and evangelism, as well as to study of the Gospel. To know that all are ultimately not only in the hands of God, but in the loving heart of God from which they'll never depart, no matter how long and treacherous [and dimly lit] of a road that they have to walk to their own personal cross and glory with the Son of God is fundamentally a very comforting and relieving doctrine in times of war, funerals, births, baptisms, dedications, and calls to the ministry of our Lord Jesus. Of course it concerns "those good things to come," "blessings concerning things to come," and those mystic "ages to come" in which God will show the exceeding riches of His grace towards us in Christ Jesus. From that standpoint, it's almost uniquely an eschatological, or "end-times" doctrine.
Can I be a Christian and not be a fully persuaded "Universalist"?
Yes and no. Do you believe that the Messiah has been given the Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee in heaven, earth, and under the earth has to bow and confess His Lordship to the glory of God the Father, according to Philippians chapter 2? Do you believe that the Father has said that He's making all things new in the book of Revelation? Do you believe the Psalm 103 observation that His Kingdom rules over all? Do you believe what the Apostle John said in his first general epistle chapter 2, that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and for the sins of the world? If you believe the aforementioned passages of Scripture, then the rest is just details...
This is great in "theory," but does this mean that the Nazis will finally be restored?
Your emotional prejudices (or theirs!) has no baring on the atoning and judging, mediating ministry of Jesus Christ. Their punishment will be fair, impartial, and to the very last degree that their sins deserve. They'll be treated no differently than either you or anyone else by God the Father. The same rules apply to them that apply to us. God will punish them in proportion as their crimes deserve and in proportion as is necessary to create humility, repentance, godly sorrow, regret, and every other condition that will eventually give birth to new natures within them when the seed of Christ is finally planted within them. Their hard hearts have been harder than many other people's have been. Therefore, their punishment and eternal loss will be proportioned accordingly. But those who have been forgiven much, love much; those who have been forgiven little, love little. All debts must be repaid to the last penny. Only God can "undo" a murder, [thereby granting perfect restitution] hence the assurance of "resurrection." I'll no doubt seal the hatred of some for me with this response, but my beliefs are either consistent or they're merely politically correct with my chosen circle. But, I wholeheartedly dissent from the view of many of my brethren that essentially implies that "Christ is the Savior of the lost, but that somehow those who are lost in the fullest sense of the term will never be saved." That doesn't work for me. The only "but" that I legitimately see in Scripture is in 1Corinthians 15:23, "BUT each in His own order....."
So, is this "cult teaching"?
A cult presupposes a controling leader and subjugated followers. This is generally done by methods of coersion, either with the fear being created of being cast out of the cult, or with some other dreadful threatening, as in the case of those who believe in eternal torment. How would the most Christ-centered inclusiveness that announces that none shall ever escape the final end of all of their sins and that all shall be restored at last to absolute unity with the Father of spirits -ever ever- produce the fear of exclusion or endless misery? It doesn't and can't. Christ came to set all of mankind free from the pangs of death, to break off the chains of sin, and to merge every life with God in a more intimate way than it had ever known or considered. If anything, the doctrine of the final restoration of all beings to God through Christ the Atonement, Mediator, Prophet, and King has a tendency to create a fierce independence from the religions of this world and to create a reliance upon God that can't be either shaken or ever confused ever again!
And what may we say as to matters of doctrine, if the nature of this question would better be worded or understood as, "isn't this esoteric mysticism?" The answer to that is both yes and no. That this has unfortunately been hidden from many studious and godly men over the centuries is most unfortunate. Reminds one of the studious and godly men of 1st century Judaism that though knowing the Scriptures, in a measure, still did not understand that the Anointed One had to be our Passover Lamb as well as our Prophet and King who would open the gates of life to each person prior to working a national deliverance for the church-state of Israel. The passion and resurrection of Christ were even unforeseen by the very Apostles to whom Christ announced again and again that He would have to be lifted up. But that the New Testament is there to be studied and enjoyed and taught by all is without dispute.
(Both the Old and the New Testaments have been given to us, upon whom the ends of the ages have come, that we might understand that though there can be things that are plainly taught with the plainest words of the prophets of the Scriptures, and though the message may be judged as heresy by those whose very calling it is to be lights to the whole world - that of itself cannot set aside the promises previously made in the Scriptures. And that of itself is no proof that the majority of God's chosen people have ever had a corner on the truths of the Scriptures. Things may be plainly revealed in the Scriptures that our current religious, cultural, and philosophical traditions will not allow us to embrace prior to their fulfillment.)
Though Christian Universalists have often held to different opinions among themselves as to "how" Christ would achieve all of His purposes, the consensus of Christian Universalists regarding the biggest part of the passages of the Scriptures that they view to teach the final obedience of all lives to God is undeniable. And this consistency of opinion as to which Scriptures are said to hold this view of the final deliverance of all of creation from it's bondage is fairly uniform over the centuries. A Christian Universalist of today reading Origen's writings, or St. Gregory of Nyssa's writings, for instance, would generally be able to follow which of the Old Testament and New Testament writings that they were basing their teachings on, and would generally understand the very texts cited by these ancient Church Fathers to teach essentially the same things that are claimed by these early Church Fathers, though there might be slight difference of opinion as to the methods of God in reclaiming the wicked from their sins through Christ. The promises upon which our conviction is based aren't in dispute among Christian Universalists, though obviously someone who's been more studious than his brother might understand more promises of the Scriptures to teach the stated doctrine than someone who's only read the Bible a few times, or perhaps no times at all, but merely certain portions of it over and over again. The precise meaning of each and every text of Scripture and the understanding of how and when God will restore all to Himself finally is still a matter of individual interpretation among Christian Universalists.
There are no "cookie-cut" Christian Universalists. I would understand my system of Christian Universalism to be a closer kin of the teachings of Andrew Jukes and of Elhanan Winchester than of Charles Slagle, Gary Amirault, or Jan Bonda who initially began persuading me of a Christian Universalist view of Scripture and of the world through their writings. Nowadays, I find myself constantly rereading "The Second Death and the Restitution of all things" by Andrew Jukes and Winchester's Dialogues. Were I ever to start a Bible school, those would be two of the principle textbooks!
How do you answer those who try to say that the Universalism presented on this website is the old lie of the serpent in the Garden of Eden when he said, "ye shall not surely die..."?
If this objection were a valid one, then I suppose that in the book of Job and in the book of Daniel, not to mention the New Testament Apostles and Prophets joined in with the serpent in saying that there would come a resurrection! Christian Universalism is simply another name for the resurrection that Christ both received and has become the mediator of between God and creation. Resurrection in the New Testament sense is not only God's power over the physical body, but it's His power over the spirits and souls of men, and of anything else that the Bible indicates will become recipients of redemption from death. It's as much a moral influence as a bodily influence. The two ideas are inseparable from the Biblical concept of "resurrection."
Did St. Paul join in with the lie of the serpent when He said that all who died in Adam would be made alive in Christ? (Romans 5, 1Corinthians 15, 2Corinthians 5, Ephesians 1, Philippians 2, Colossians 1, etc.)
I suppose what confuses a lot of people on a surface reading of the Bible is the abuse of "forevers" by the translators of the "Authorized Version" and by what the Gospel of John calls "the resurrection of damnation" in the same translation. What's often missed by people is how many times that, particularly in the book of Ezekiel, you find God talking about raising people from the dead for the express purpose of creating within them an obedient and holy heart. It's often found in the Old Testament that some types of people will only come to the Lord after everything about their lives has been destroyed, or until He's brought them to supreme humiliation and self-loathing. Many times in those contexts it'll say that such things will happen to them to cause them to seek the Lord, to cause them to know that He alone is the Lord of all, etc. Those are direct promises of what God will do where the disobedient are concerned. There are few Christians who don't recognize the idea of redemption in any passage where God has promised that through what God does that people are going to KNOW HIM. Unfortunately, there's a lot of blindness on this and on a thousand other points of knowledge and promise of God towards sinners.
So, when will Adolf Hitler be restored? Can you give me a date on that?
Adolf Hitler will be restored to God through Christ when his self-centeredness has been thoroughly rung out of him, to the very last drop, molecule, and mathematical precept. When he would gladly die the same horrific death for each of his enemies that Christ died for him, then the chastening Hand of God will transform his surroundings into Paradise and the gulf will be bridged between the abyss that he's in and the fullest Paradise of God by the Blood of Jesus Christ. He won't thereby "earn" his redemption. Redemption itself will have been accomplished in him and he'll rise from the tumultuous womb of God to never again be in darkness. Right now he is alone with God and every demon that ever worked at his destruction. (Simultaneously, every demon that ever worked in his life is fermenting in the Word of God, never again to rise again until they've individually been deconstructed and reconstructed with every area of brokenness in them repaired by the fire of God.) When the miracle of love has been birthed in the heart of Adolf Hitler, then the hope of immortality will be his again and the faith of Jesus Christ will be introduced to him. As with everyone else, God is more concerned about the remoulding of his character than with his present and eternal comforts. When Christ is formed in him, then the Blood of the Son of God will do for him at that time what he could have never done for himself, and God shall truly be all in all.
As far as "when" this will have been accomplished in him: God isn't in any hurry, or haven't you noticed? This will be accomplished in him. That is the only concern of God. God isn't concerned with whether or not His ways are perceived as harsh by any of us. He'll take as long as it takes with each of us in destroying all that we've erroneously called ourselves, until all that's left is whom He intended for each of us to be.
Instead of worrying about how long it'll take for God's perfections to have been accomplished in Adolf Hitler's life or in the life of anyone else, the Scriptures teach for you to fear lest God have to use His severest and most prolonged methods with you, yourself.
The bottomline is that we’re all destined to be a tightly knitted loving family – all nations of all ages personally committed to God and to one another with all of our hearts. When Jesus Christ pulls it off, perhaps the last laugh will be His after all He’s endured to fulfill God’s dream!
An often heard retort of those who oppose the doctrine presented at this website is that it's from someone who is overly sympathetic or naive about the depths of iniquity that are drowning some lives in this world. If God would let me, I'd personally create a never-ending Hell. I'm not sympathetic with the sinful at all. When I look at the news through the various outlets of the media and when I think of all of the injustice that I've personally suffered, in myself I find many things absolutely unforgivable. I'd personally burn more people throughout all of eternity than your strictest double-election Calvinist would ever anticipate in their theology! I'm naturally inclined towards being vindictive. The theology of this website and the way that I live my life isn't about a lack of backbone to deal with genuine justice issues.
When I think of some of the monsters of iniquity that have been in the news recently, my natural inclination rather than to preach this message to them would actually be for some vigilante justice. I'd love to sneak into their jail cells and bring about more justice than the courts ever could! My mind has even gone there a couple of times with how to do certain things with regards to certain high profile court cases where there's a genuine public fear that justice won't be fully served.
Nothing of what I share on this website is from a born pacifist, naivety about the true nature of evil, or from squeamishness about seeing full justice served.
Christ is the controling factor in my life. When injustice shows it's ugly head and my rage is infinitely kindled, it's His Holy Spirit that informs me that real justice is to see the fulfillment of His promises that all evil shall cease, ultimately, and that all peoples everywhere will be transformed into whom God always had originally intended for them to be. While many can't see how there could be a God of love who would allow such evil in the world, let such people consider the amount of evil that God has forbade them from committing in their worst moments of pain, anger, and depression! According to Paul's writing to Titus, it's the grace of God which teaches us to deny ungodliness. How many horrible things have you, yourself, almost done in reaction to this or that injustice in your own life - at any point in your life?
How many times did you "cool off" as suddenly as you wanted to choke someone? How many times did vigilante justice sound all too warm, comforting, and pleasing in your own eyes, yet something restrained you from this or that? How many times did the New Covenant spiritual law of "overcome evil with good" rise up and take control of your life? Let anyone who knows themselves and their own frail humanity consider these things carefully!
The power to live a forgiving life is only born in your heart from the inner knowledge that all of your sins have been forgiven and wiped away from God's records; from the knowledge that He has taken away the sin of the world. His ways and His thoughts are not our ways and not our thoughts (Isaiah chapters 53-55).
God's committed [and determined] to the really long and involved process of conforming each of us to the image of His Son. To Him that's the highest form of justice - not eternal incarceration or irreparable annihilation. Please allow Him to be God and to be the One Who determines how much punishment is just in His eyes, once He has each of us outside of the limitations of these physical bodies. He can acheive far more than you'd ever guess.
For clarity with some of you intellectual types: God is working on the psychology of each sin to get to the very root of it in each of our lives. He works from the roots up and not from the outside in. He's a very invasive, yet covert surgeon. If you only knew how deeply He's determined to rework the wiring in each of us, you'd have no more questions about justice issues with this message!
It's not about being naive that I would believe and assert what I assert in this message. It's about knowing what God has taught me (Isaiah chapter 54) that evil is being dissolved and countless lives that have been blinded by it's tentacles will be horrified by what they were, and their gratitude shall know no end for all of God's bountiful grace in restoring them from such wickedness that was worse than death.
This is the only message that has ever cooled my tempers and removed all of my hard thoughts about God. Isn't there something hard in the notion of a God of infinite love whose tormenting wrath shall know no end to not only the wicked but countless unbelievers who simply didn't believe because He hadn't yet made it real to them, all of the things that any evangelist would try to press home with them about God's demands upon their lives? But to know that He'll genuinely lift up the humble and put down the proud and that His ways are not vindictive though His methods are often painful is a tremendous breath of fresh air to every panting soul that's aware of it's own limitations and of how deceiving it's own heart has often been to it throughout this life time.
Prior to coming to this understanding of the ages prescribed in the New Testament for the fulfillment of all of Christ's activities in every life everywhere, I often dispaired of my own salvation and of ever amounting to anything either in this life or in the next one. But when I first read through Jan Bonda's book, "The One Purpose of God," which is a very enlightening commentary on the book of Romans by St. Paul, then I finally understood the loving faithfulness of the Lord and that through Him I'd NEVER fail. Oh the joy of finally KNOWING to Whom I genuinely belonged! Oh the joy of finally knowing after I'd later read Andrew Jukes' book "The Restitution of all things" and Elhanan Winchester's "Dialogues on the Universal Restoration" that the plan of God for my life wasn't measured in years but in ages. Through those books, I put it together on my own that all of my gifts might not realize their full expression in this one brief life time, but that everything that God ever created me to be would probably come to full light through the period of those ages through which I was a co-laborer with Christ to recover all of the rest of fallen humanity!
What awesome joy to KNOW that this life isn't "it!" The first fruits of redemption are both the token of the covenant and the means by which God will ultimately restore all of the rest of Creation to Himself. The way that God worked in each of us hardened sinners in this life to bring about such awesome trophies of His grace is the precise system of methodology by which He'll bring to light all of His glorious plans for all of the rest.
In speaking further about God's inescapable, never failing, love for you, the next part of this might seem a little technical, but please follow it through because I wind up saying some things, in the end, that without a little bit of foundation layed under my later comments, you might think that my concluding thoughts are "pie in the sky" wishful thinking, rather than what God's heart really is towards you, your friends, your family, your enemies, and all of creation around us, seen and unseen.
People who want to hang on to the doctrine of endless punishment often try to say that they are "literalists" and that they just take the Bible for what it says and that's just all that there is to it, while they say that Restorationists, or Universalists spend too much time splitting hairs over words and their meanings. But is this a fair assessment of the situation? Consider with me two quotes. One from a scholarly Universalist researcher and preacher of the 19th century and the other from a commentary that tries to pass itself off as a Bible dictionary. We will begin with the quote from the "Bible dictionary" that obviously favors the doctrine of endless punishment:
Age(aion): The phrases containing this word should not be rendered literally, but consistently.....expressing interminable duration.(Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Copyright 1996, New Testament section, page 19)
For this decision no honest reason is given, no scholarship cited demonstrating that the Word of God in the original languages can be taken as less than literal. And yet, upon a less than a literally translated text we are assured by those who hold to the doctrine of endless punishment that we must take their Bible literally(i.e. their "not literal, but consistent" version of it); not the originals, but these paraphrases that are being "translated consistently with the sense of interminable duration". Now, moving on to the quote from a real scholar of the 19th century:
The verbal pivot on which swings the question, Does the Bible teach the doctrine of Endless Punishment? Is the word Aion and its derivatives and reduplications... It will generally be conceded that the tenet referred to is not contained in the Scriptures if the meaning of endless duration does not reside in the controverted word.(From the preface of "THE GREEK WORD AION -- AIONIOS, TRANSLATED Everlasting -- Eternal IN THE HOLY BIBLE, SHOWN TO DENOTE LIMITED DURATION." Written by: REV. JOHN WESLEY HANSON in 1875.)
Adding just a little bit more to this message from J. W. Hanson's book, just cited, for clarity on this subject, if this is the first time you've been presented this issue:
The oldest lexicographer, Hesychius, (A. D. 400-600,) defines aion thus: "The life of man, the time of life."
At this early date no theologian had yet imported into the word the meaning of endless duration. It retained only the sense it had in the classics, and in the Bible.
Theodoret (A. D. 300-4--) "Aion is not any existing thing, but an interval denoting time, sometimes infinite when spoken of God, sometimes proportioned to the duration of the creation, and sometimes to the life of man."
John of Damascus (A. D. 750,) says, "1, The life of every man is called aion. 3, The whole duration or life of this world is called aion. 4, The life after the resurrection is called 'the aion to come.'"
But in the sixteenth century Phavorinus was compelled to notice an addition, which subsequently to the time of the famous Council of 544 had been grafted on the word. He says: "Aion, time, also life, also habit, or way of life. Aion is also the eternal and endless AS IT SEEMS TO THE THEOLOGIAN." Theologians had succeeded in using the word in the sense of endless, and Phavorinus was forced to recognize their usage of it and his phraseology shows conclusively enough that he attributed to theologians the authorship of that use of the word.
Alluding to this definition, Rev. Ezra S. Goodwin, one of the ripest scholars and profoundest critics, said, "Here I strongly suspect is the true secret brought to light of the origin of the sense of eternity in aion. The theologian first thought he perceived it, or else he placed it there. The theologian keeps it there, now. And the theologian will probably retain it there longer than any one else. Hence it is that those lexicographers who assign eternity as one of the meanings of aion uniformly appeal for proofs to either theological, Hebrew, or Rabbinical Greek, or some species of Greek subsequent to the age of the Seventy, if not subsequent to the age of the Apostles, so far as I can ascertain."
From the sixteenth century onward, the word has been defined as used to denote all lengths of duration from brief to endless.
Macknight: "These words being ambiguous, are always to be understood according to the nature and circumstances to which they are applied." He thinks the words sustain endless punishment, but adds: "At the same time I must be so candid as to acknowledge that the use of these terms, forever, eternal and everlasting, in other passages of Scripture, shows that they who understand these words in a limited sense, when applied to punishment, put no forced interpretation upon them." - end quote
So, with this, here we have the issue plainly before us. If the Word of God is not taken literally, as W. E Vine's Dictionary of Old and New Testament words suggests as the proper treatment of God's Word in translation(quote given above), then the doctrine of endless punishment is preserved in our present English Bible. But, if we translate it literally, then it affords no support to the erroneous doctrine.
Some have tried to argue against "aion" meaning an age on the grounds that then we'd have God as God of the ages in a passage that they would cite from St. Paul's epistle to the Romans. But, the simple fact that God is God of the ages does not keep Him from being the God of eternity. Some might try to argue then, that just because the future punishment is described as being within the ages that that would not keep it from being beyond the ages. In other words, they might try to use our argument against us, thereby showing their lack of study into this matter at hand. First of all, the fact that God is the God of eternity is clearly established by the fact that 1Timothy 6 says that He's the Immortal(Greek: aphthartos) God. There is nothing in the New Testament that speaks of aphthartos(i.e. immortal) punishment, only punishments aionion(i.e. within the life times, ages, or eons), or age-lasting punishments and destructions. By translating the Greek Word "aion" consistently with it's true meaning of finite, but indefinite duration, there is nothing lost either of God or of the gifts of Salvation from God, the finished work of the cross, nor of the duration of salvation. Endless misery is the only thing lost from the translation. Let me quote something briefly from a scholarly work by Thomas Allin, entitled "Christ Triumphant":
"Let me state the dilemma clearly. Aion either means endless duration (in Scriptural usage) as its necessary, or at least it's ordinary significance, or it does not. If it does, the following difficulties at once arise; 1 - How if it means an endless period can aion have a plural? 2 - How came such phrases to be used as those repeatedly occuring in Scripture, where aion is added to aion, if aion is of itself infinite? 3 - How come such phrases as for the "aion" or aions and beyond? - ton aiona kai ep aiona kai eti: eis tous aionas kai eti. - See (Sept.) Ex. xv. 18; Dan xii. 3; Micah iv. 5. 4 - How is it that we repeatedly read of the end of the aion? - S. Matt. xiii. 39-40-49; xxiv. 3; xxviii. 20; 1Cor. x. 11; Heb. ix. 26. 5 - Finally, if aion be infinite, why is it applied over and over to what is strictly finite? e.g., S. Mark iv. 19; Acts iii. 21; Rom. xii. 2; 1Cor. i. 20, ii. 6, iii. 18, x. 11, &c., &c. But if an aion be not infinite, what right have we to render the adjective aionios (which depends on it's meaning on aion) by the terms "eternal" (when used as the equivalent of "endless") and "everlasting?" Indeed our translators have really done further hurt to those who can only read their English Bible. They have, wholly obscured a very important doctrine, that of "the ages." This when fully understood throws a flood of light on the plan of redemption, and the method of the divine working." - end quote.
While it has been argued that "aion" doesn't mean eternal, some have taken that to mean that Universalists are asserting that there's not a word in the New Testament, in the original Greek text, that indicates endless, when nothing of the kind has been asserted. I even read a web page one time trying to refute Universalism on the premise that if "aion" does not mean eternal, then that means that the resurrection body could not be endless, but only temporal. I want to believe that this person was under the mistaken notion that we were somehow claiming that there isn't a word in the New Testament that indicates the endless duration of salvation, rather than to think that they were trying to claim that the Greek word "aion" is used with regard to the resurrection body. No where in the New Testament, that I know of, is the Greek word "aion" used with regard to the resurrection body. I believe that this dear brother was confusing the age-lasting life of the believer, which is rendered as "eternal life" in the K.J.V., as somehow speaking of the immortal state when it does no such thing, if for no other reason than the simple reason that 1John says that we have ALREADY received age-lasting life when we embraced the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Aphtharton, Akataluton, and Athanasian are three words that are especially used to speak of immortality, incorruption, and deathlessness. They are used in 1Corinthians 15, 1Timothy 6, and Hebrews chapter 7. But in none of the instances in which they are used are they used of future punishment, or of any kind of punishment. They are only used of the resurrection of the first fruits of redemption, God Himself, and the immortal and indestructible life of the Christ since His resurrection.
The Bible taken literally(i.e. as it was originally given in Hebrew and Greek) and properly translated and interpreted says that God will gather all things to Himself in the maturity of the ages through a process of graces and judgments (which are ongoing and) will eventually lead to peace(Shalom: nothing missing and nothing broken; wholeness) and reconciliation between God and all of creation. This is the gospel(see: Ephesians 1:10-11 & Colossians 1:15-20)!
Colossians chapter 1 says that you become reconciled and sanctified to God by being rooted, grounded, and not moved away from this good news that He's reconciling all things to Himself. Jesus Christ really is the Savior of the whole world, and especially of believers(1Timothy 4:9-11). Why don't you invite Him to come into your heart(John 17:26; Revelation 3:20) and let Him share with you His heart(1John 2:5; Psalm 37:3-6)?
His love really does reach into the deepest Hell.
He's not asking you to be anything you're not. He's only asking you to be His!
If you've gotten to where you don't even believe in true love any more, why don't you ask Him to show you His love?
The truth is that Heaven and Hell are very very real, but God's love is a lot more real. God doesn't send anyone to Hell. And I'm not here telling you the typical evangelical nonsense that you send yourself to Hell either. Hell throughout the Bible is a place of spiritual captivity. Sin and a lack of knowledge of the true extent and power of God's love are what bind people up into spiritual captivity(i.e. Hell). But God will always have a way out of any Hell that you ever find yourself in. His love is greater than a thousand tongues can tell!
"Eternity," as you may have heard some so-called Bible fundamentalist thunder at you about, isn't an eternally vindictive game of winners and loosers. God's love really won't ever give up on anyone --not even yourself!
I'm not here trying to tell you that there aren't consequences for "sin", whether that be by definition "missing the mark", "something inherent in the human race because the first man in the Bible messed up", or some area of deliberate disobedience to the known (or unknown?) will of God. The Bible teaches that every sin and disobedience will receive a just recompense of reward, BUT NOT AN ETERNAL ONE! God will never ever give up on you. You may reach a point where He has to spank your behind, but His love isn't vindictive and neither are His disciplines. True love demands discipline of itself and of others around it! But true love, which is God Himself, can never leave anyone eternally impoverished or orphaned! He'll never abandon you. He WILL break your neck to teach you something(Hosea 6:1), which is what Hell is all about, but all of His disciplines are for our profit, so that afterwards we can be partakers of His Holiness(Hebrews 12:5-10).
Whatever He has to do for you, with you, or to you -He'll never give up on you!
He's a loving Father and not an extortionist where you've got to love Him and worship His name -or else! God created us in His image, which means that the heart of God is BOTH Father and Mother. He has a plan for your life so that whatever He's called you to do, whether that's as a preacher, doctor, lawyer, janitor, business man/woman, or whatever, that through your life, the two of You --God and yourself-- can help to heal and prosper all of creation. He'll handle all of the disciplining when it needs to take place, and He'll probably rarely ask you to say anything correcting of someone else. His main objective is for everyone to know His love, power, and wisdom as quickly as possible and to free all of the captives of Hell, which brings Him glory! He never created any life to be thrown away.
All life is precious to Him, and as you see the goodness of His plans and of His personal investment in everyone's life, then you'll gain a whole new appreciation for all life around you. When you start seeing yourself and others the way He sees you and others, the love that'll be birthed in your heart will chase every fear away from you and will truly give you His power to heal and to provide as He shares His wisdom with you. Life with God is what it's all about. You can resolve to know this loving God I'm talking about as the Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, and Lover that you've always needed now, or you can go about living your own life, your own way, and one day find yourself in the deepest darkest, most painfully wracked Hell you've ever imagined, being corrected for things you'd totally lost touch with within yourself, and then come to know His saving grace later. But that would be such a waste of a great life time that could have been lived in His love, wisdom, and power!
Do you want to be a healer with Christ and His love in your life? Or do you want to just be another jerk playing the game of "survival of the fittest" which you probably learned in church somewhere with the games they play in their evangelism about there being winners and loosers throughout the endless ages of eternity, based on a correct faith and practice in this life time, or the lack of it?
If life would make a lot more sense to you with a love in your life that's a lot bigger than yourself -that'll never fail even when you do, then right now, sit down and say before the Lord something to the effect that if His love is as rich as I've been sharing with you, then from this moment forward you're His and He's yours. Don't even worry about how you're going to live your life for Him. Right now, all you've got to focus on is the fact that He totally lives His life for you. Focus on the fact that He's always found His personal gratification in doing everything He's ever done with you in mind because He is love.
Focus on the fact that as you get to know Him better and do whatever He tells you to do that finally things will start to make sense in your life, and that there will finally begin to be answers and power in your life where before there was only weakness and frustration. Life will probably still have it's frustrations in the future, but as your life is progressively being swallowed up more and more by His life, the frustrations that are inherent with the grave that we all find ourselves in will begin to melt away under the intensity of His light and love.
What do the Scriptures teach? Why is there present evil if there's a loving God Who is Father of all? How does free will reconcile with God's Sovereignty and how do both reconcile with Universal Salvation as being God's ultimate intention?
God gave us our "free wills" as tools to instruct us in righteousness, not as dangerous weapons with which we could eternally doom ourselves and others according to the popular view. Romans chapters 9 through 11 teach that there is an election according to grace. This election means that some are specially chosen by God. But these chapters indicate that there is a divine calling going on for some to become more and more humble while others will become more and more proud. Scripture says that this is so that God can show His eternal nature towards vessels of His mercy and vessels that are fitted for destruction. This is His unmistakable purpose of the ages. Those Who do not embrace God's ultimate plan of universal love, universal repentance, and universal oneness through Christ are either led towards a hardening of their hearts against part of God's creation, or they're forced to try to formulate reasons and methodologies of interpretation by which Romans chapters 9 through 11 aren't saying what they're very plainly saying, but their "tender hearts" try to say that God is "allowing" hardness of heart rather than being the direct cause of it that the Scriptures plainly show Him to be. God's purpose in both saving and hardening in the present state is uniform. God is creating a level of self distrust and total reliance upon God that He couldn't create in each of us by any other way. God has said that some are elected as enemies of the Gospel, but that those who are still have a place in God's heart for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The gifts and callings of God are said to be irrevocable on this scheme of things.
Scripture then goes on to bring up the obvious question, "why then does He punish, for who has resisted His will?" Then the obvious answer is given, "but who are any of you to argue against God's justice?" From Him, through Him, and ultimately to Him are all things. Through the mercy shown to us in this age, those who've stumbled at the simplicity of the cross will ultimately be shown mercy. Things are the way that they are in order to prevent what would ultimately be worser conditions. Our free will was given to us to teach us, ultimately, what isn't the correct thing to do. It is not the thermometer, however, demonstrating nor foretelling any of our ultimate fates. The law of the Scriptures was given to magnify our need to rely upon Christ and for no other reason.
The plan of the ages, again, according to Romans chapters 9 through 11 is for God to demonstrate both mercy and wrath, so that no pride or self-reliance would ever ultimately remain in His creation. Romans chapter 8 says that absolutely all of creation was cast into futility against it's will in order to contrast spiritual mindedness with death mindedness. All of creation was cast into futility against it's will in order to teach each of us that nothing in all of creation, whether external or internal, whether done by us or done to us will ever separate any of us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!
The plan of eternity, by contrast, is shown to us in 1Corinthians 15:22-28, in Ephesians 1:10-11, and in Colossians 1:15-29 was that all would be drawn together into one through Christ so that God would become all in all. God will not be all in some, all in a few, or all in most, but His destiny is to become all in all.
God is raising up a first fruits company of "Judges" of all of Creation that by means of His cross and the fellowship of perfected love in the Scriptures and in the Body gathered together for Jesus that all of Creation would eventually find the liberty promised through the old testament prophecies of Jubilee. Christians have alone experienced God's years of release as grace has been heaped upon grace, truth upon truth, light upon light during these ages, but the "ages of ages" which correspond to the Jubilee principle of the Old Testament will mean that liberty will become the heritage of all of the inhabitants of every previous age, of every realm, etc.
The laws of God were given to magnify the exceeding sinfulness of life independent of the grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ gives life that is true life for the age. It's called aionion life in the Greek text because the believer has the assurance, the imputation, and the actual impartation of life from heaven for as long as there's any such thing as death. When Death itself has been totally destroyed, then what else can there possibly be but life for all? The laws of God, according to Galatians chapter 3 do not set aside the promise given before by God to Abraham that through the promised Seed of Abraham that all of the families of the earth would experience ultimate blessing. The law was given, and consequently it's consequences were also given, to lead us to Christ that we might each be justified by faith. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins, according to 1John chapter 2, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.
Jesus Christ will never give up until every man, woman, child, animal, and angel have been turned away from their fallen states. And He'll never give up until all of creation is reconciled to God, no matter how many hells they wind up dragging Him through in the pursuit of their self-interests and the consequences of their sins. He'll never give up on anyone, even if it takes Him the rest of eternity to win everyone to God, one heart at a time.
His Love is absolute and God refuses to spend eternity without each of us. Every failure is already atoned for and the days of the existence of sin and separation are numbered. The Blood of Christ is sufficient for the healing of the present and future worlds, and even for the recovery of those of the past. The Scriptures are clear that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and for those of the world. To bring this out clearly, I append the following chain of passages from a long series, clearly and closely linked together, claiming for Christ a saving empire co-extensive with the whole universe. The connection is clearly marked, for each passage suggests or contains, the same central idea; and thus forms a link in a continuous chain. This chain commences at Creation, when all things were created by Christ, Who, therefore, as St. Paul implies, reconciles(in fact, recreates) all things unto God(Colossians 1:15-20). Hence His work is the restitution of all things(Acts 3:21); He is Heir of all things(Hebrews 1:2); in Him all nations are to be blessed(Galatians 3:8); for the Father has given Him authority over all flesh, to give to whatsoever was given to Him eternal life(John 17:2); and so all flesh shall see the salvation of God(Luke 3:6). For God, Whose counsel is immutable(Hebrews 6:17), Whose attitude towards His enemies is love unchanging(Luke 6:27-35), will have all men to be saved(ITimothy 2:4); and all to come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9); and has shut all up unto unbelief, in order that he may shew mercy upon all(Romans 11:32); for (out) of Him, as Source, and unto (or into) Him, as End, are all things whatsoever(Romans 11:36); and He has, therefore, put all things into subjection under Christ's feet(Ephesians 1:22). And so we are assured that God will gather into one all things in Christ(Ephesians 1:10); and His grace comes upon all men unto justification of life(Romans 5:18). So Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands(John 13:3), promises by His Cross to draw all men unto Himself(John 12:32). For having, as stated, received all things from the Father(John 3:35), all that was given come to Him; and He loses none(John 6:37-39); but if any stray, goes after that which is lost till He find it(Luke 15:4); and so makes all things new(Revelation 21:5). And thus He comes in order that all men may believe(John 1:17); that the world, through Him, may be saved(John 3:17); His grace brings salvation to all men(Titus 2:11); for He takes away the sin of the world(John 1:29); gives His flesh for it's life(John 6:51); and, because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance(Romans 9:29), He gives life to the world(John 6:33); is the light of the world(John 8:12); is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world(1John 2:2); is the Savior of all men(1Timothy 4:10); destroys the works of the devil, not some of them only(1John 3:8); abolishes death(2Timothy 1:10); is manifest to put away sin(Hebrews 9:26); and thus subduing all things unto Himself(Philippians 3:21; the context clearly shows this subjection to be conformity to Himself); does not forget the dead, but takes the gospel to Hades(1Peter 3:19); of which He holds the keys(Revelation 1:18); for He is the same (Savior) for ever(Hebrews 13:8); thus even the dead are evangelized(1Peter 4:6); Thus all are made alive in Him(1Corinthians 15:22); for Christ finishes, completes His work(John 17:4; 19:30): restores all things(Acts 3:21); and there is no more curse(Revelation 22:2-3); but every knee of things in heaven and earth, and under the earth, bends to Him(Philippians 2:10); for the creation is delivered from the bondage of corruption(Romans 8:21); and every creature joins in the song of praise(Revelation 5:13), and so comes the end when Christ delivers up the Kingdom to God, Who is then All in All(1Corinthians 15:24-28).
At the consummation of the fires that have been prepared for every being in creation, death will at last be abolished and God will be all in all of His creation. As our beloved brother St. Paul has said: this is a trustworthy saying and worthy of full acceptance, that for this reason we labor and suffer criticism, because we have set our hope in the living God Who is the Savior of all men and especially of those who believe.(1Timothy 4:9-11)
The fear of eternal death which holds most men in bondage and in resistance to all of the demensions of the love of Christ can only be flushed out of our systems as we offer up our minds and bodies to God as living sacrifices. To fully embrace the fire of God's all consuming love is to know the destruction of the fear of death which has bound all of us in our sins.
Know this: God's plan of the ages is a plan for the systematic unfolding of His righteousness and for all things and beings to be drawn to Him in Christ. He has purposed to unveil the fullness of His dream to mankind in a hope; the blessed hope of the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead and to bring sin to it's final end. The judgments of God are wholesome to the spirit of man, though they will often reek terror upon man's mind, body, and circumstances. Man does not live by bread alone but by every judgment of God. Christ has interceded to bring every man to God. Those intercessions cannot fall short of their final and absolute consequence.
The molding and the knitting of all of creation back into the bosom of God is inescapable and it is the predetermined end intended by the Lord. Love is never satisfied nor fully expressed outside of absolute oneness.
God is at rest in the foreknowledge of the victorious Christ, Who's power is absolute over all of the eons of time. Neither sin nor death can thwart His purposes of judgment, reconciliation, wrath, comfort, and redemption.
The unfolding purpose of the fullness of His love is something we can all sincerely rest secured in because His wisdom in creation, in damnation, and in redemption will inevitably turn all to the praises of His glorious grace. Though sin has temporarily separated some people from the touch and experience of the love of Christ, the might and severity of His reign is such that darkness cannot hold her prisoners forever!
We are assured in scripture that the Day will come when the heavens will vanish with a roar and His purpose of the rebirth of all of creation will come to pass in it's time. That's good news sufficient to give every child sweet dreams and every mother a reason to hope, because in the end, love will never ultimately fail or be proved to have come short in her wisdom and in her deeds for all of creation.
This, my friends, is the larger hope! If you haven't fully embraced the peace of God that Jesus Christ came to give you, then I would encourage you to ask Jesus to deliver you from all that you need deliverance from and to ask Him to begin to make up the [tangible] difference between what you lack and where you need to be. He's faithful and He's coming soon to judge the world in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and in mercy.
The days are coming when all WILL KNOW God!(see: Hebrews 8:11)
We're called to lift the burdens of creation away through the cross of Christ and not to hide behind blood stained door posts hoping that the Death of Egypt will finally pass us by at last.
The message that God has given us is simple:
God's purpose during the ages is the Romans 9-11 announcement that God is showing His mercy on the vessels of mercy and demonstrating His power on the vessels fitted for destruction...there is an election chosen according to grace that are enemies where the gospel is concerned, but they are eternally beloved for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. God's purpose is to raise up deliverers for all of creation, and in God's process of dealing with us, we can't sell our birthright for a morsel of beans (or sex) like Esau did and make ourselves unfit as leaders of the restoration of all things. Jesus sanctified Himself so that the Apostles would also be sanctified, according to John 17 and we must do the same thing, according to Paul's writings to the Corinthians. Perfecting holiness in the fear of God we're to actually hasten the day when the heavens and the elements will be consumed by God's holy fire, when all of the ungodly will have their eyes opened:
"what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eonian" - 2Corinthians 4 (concordant translation)
therefore, we're to expect that day when all blindness is to be lifted from the Church that, as grafted into the Olive tree, has been blinded in part until the full number of the Gentiles have been saved.
As Jukes said, the spiritual are to the carnal what the born again believer is to their natural bodies; the curse and destruction of sin, while being the pledge and first fruits of the full redemption. While we have many adversaries who claim to kneel at the feet of Christ and to obey His gospel, that would try to "prove us wrong," though many of them denounce us as wrong - as Elhanan Winchester said 3 centuries ago in his "dialogues" - it's interesting how none of them praying from a pure heart can ever pray that we be wrong or that final restoration of all "bad men and fallen angels" would fail to come to pass. They [deeply] fear we're wrong, but they never try to "exercise faith" that the larger hope would fail to come to pass.
God's plan is for you to know Him, for you to learn from Jesus Christ, for you to obey Him, and for you to reflect His character in your character.
It is the will of God for you to have everything that you could ever possibly need in order to fulfill His will for your life.
It is the will of God for you to have everything that you could ever possibly need in order to have your basic needs of wisdom, food, clothing, books, shelter, and safety met.
It is the will of God for you to have everything that you could ever possibly need in order to have the needs of your relationship with God, and with your fellow man, met.
Health and strength to carry out the perfect will of God for your life and to be able to enjoy your relationships with God and with your fellow man are basic needs that God has set Jesus apart in order to fulfill those things in your life that you're yet lacking. Jesus will progressively bring fulfillment where there's only been needs up until now as He's progressively able to bring you to a place of being apart from all of the cries and dictates of this world around you. When His world is more real and demanding upon you, your time, and your resources than your own little dimensional stronghold in this universe, then His strength will become yours and nothing will be impossible to you - except disobedience to God.
The heart's cry to know God, His Son Jesus Christ, and to understand Wisdom will not be left unanswered. Each cry that comes up before the throne will be met by Mercy Himself, from Whom no being can be withheld or hidden forever. Cries of hatred will be answered with shame and punishment, while cries to become love will be answered with glory, inheritance, and immortality.
2Corinthians chapter 5 says that all died spiritually when Jesus Christ died, in order that they would be made the righteousness of God in Christ. The teachings of Jesus and of St. Paul both reveal that there are many stages of spiritual growth and many layers to the order in which God is doing things. And as all seeds don't come to fulfillment at once in regular crops of corn, grapes, olives, and wheat, neither will every person realize God's deepest intended state for them at once.
Paradise being restored for all of mankind is essentially the restoration of the nature of Jesus Christ within each of us. Though He's already promised to bring us a new world, as His own free gift, the nature of Jesus Christ sown and harvested from each of us would enable all of us together with Him to begin to multiply bread and wine at the same rate that He was able to provide for the wedding feast that He attended in Canaan or at any of the other times when He produced an alarming abundance as it became necessary to feed large crowds of people. With the character of Jesus Christ fully formed in each of us, our flesh fully crucified with Christ, and our hearts fully upon the Father of Mercies, the new world that'll come as a matter of His pure generocity and wisdom would at the same time be within the reach of our creating together with Him, had He not already reserved that right unto Himself for the coming world.
Genuine prosperity is the ability to walk with God, to have perfect humility before God, and to be able to obey God and inherit any promise and judgment from Him that He's spoken in the light of our inaugurated and continued obedience and relationship with Him. Genuine prosperity may reflect trillions of dollars of assets in the earth, or it may remain hidden all of the days of your life in your heart as you work in a carpenter's shop. Genuine prosperity is only defined by one's relationship with God. It's one thing to trust God, but what a rarity to be someone that God trusts!
That is the only genuine struggle in life [worth participating in]: to have a genuine, intimate, and growing two-way relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The privilege of obeying Jesus Christ is the only successful quest for immortality worth pursuing. To humble one's self before the One Who was mutilated in order to identify with the mutilation that your heart has known in this world, and so that He could lead the way towards both of you - Him and yourself - being restored to wholeness in the Father at the same time is honestly all that matters. Once you're restored with the power of God, then you'll be able to come back to Hell for those that you've left behind there and get them out with the same compassion and lessons that He taught you in bringing you out of your Hell.
This is what it means to be redeemed from poverty, sickness, and spiritual death. This is what it, genuinely, means to take the Bible literally. Do you want it for yourself?
Have you ever noticed how under all of the eternal punishment thought patterns in the Church that even the wounds of Christ's own personal physical Body are NEVER to ever know closure? The dominion that He exercises over His physical Body is the dominion He is exercising over death. The wounds in His Body that yet remain are the people who are as of yet unreconciled to God through His Blood and personal Commitment to them. When the last soul shall have been brought back from the far country and all things can at last be delivered up to the Father because His "Body" is complete, then will the last of His physical wounds disappear, NEVER to be remembered again!
Close your eyes and see the last wayward child of God returning home to Father's house and watch in your heart of hearts as every last vestige of pain and suffering is abolished in the final abolishment of disobedience, enmity, and fear. Can you see the completion of the Body of Christ --the much more than the first Adam(Romans 5)-- being completed much more powerfully, much more wisely; with greater light, greater glory, and fulfilled love?
Since you first received the good news of the remission of sins and the abolishment of death through Christ have you been careful to ever behold the face of the Christ? Have you carefully watched His longing eyes as He's waited for the prize? All run in the race to obtain the prize, but only one obtains the prize. That one is Christ Jesus, the last Adam by Whom, for Whom, and through Whom are all things being recreated to the glory of God the Father. Watch Him as He finally reaches the finish line and the prize finally becomes His! All of the ages were geared towards this end through the divine judgments and promises of God's grace and wrath. The last jewel in His crown is set in place, the final soul yet dead to Him becoming alive. Watch Him as He inherits His joy which was promised to Him before the foundation of the first heavens and the first earth. Watch Him as His wounds heal and God is All in all.
When all things have been submitted to the Father and death has been abolished, then why would Christ still have to exercise dominion over death since death is no more and all finally belong to God? With the completion of the mission of Christ ends His "Great Commission". With the final holiness and happiness of all of creation finally secured and the hearts of all love His Heavenly Father as much as He does, then why would the Body of Christ --His own physical Body-- still be fragmented?
Is the bruise of His heel to never know healing?
This is the forced scenario by the eternal punishment folly, and by even the annihilation of the wicked folly. With the eternal punishment sentence in full force without further hope, then some of the choicest tissues of Christ's Body are eternally missing (i.e. since He's the last Adam claiming a greater preeminence over the human race than the first Adam, if the words of Romans chapter 5 and 1Corinthians chapter 15 mean anything at all!). And under the annihilation of those for whom Christ died, as some assert, the situation would be yet graver for parts of the very Body of Christ would be no more. At least under the supposed sentence of endless misery there is the hope that God would yet "repent" as in other instances in the King James Bible. But with the annihilation of those who are not in subjection to Christ, then a part of Christ's mission is doubly a failure! While on the surface, the annihilation of the wicked seems to offer closure to the justice of God, it offers absolutely no such thing to the broken Body of Jesus Christ that was broken for the entire cosmos!
What is to then become of the broken Body of Jesus Christ, but what we have in the assumptions of traditional theology that the wounds of Christ are to be an everlasting memorial? It is alleged that they would be an everlasting memorial to His power to save, when in fact it would be an everlasting memorial to His unending shame and contempt by/in some [of His own members] in endless torments. But when death is actually no more and all are finally gladly His, in full subjection to the Father in the exact same measure as He's subject to His Father in all things, then where would He yet have to exercise Lordship over death, since death is no more? And what would there be of His blessed Body that would as yet be incomplete or withheld from Him? So, then, when all are His by the divine sovereignty of free will being granted them to be His and when all have been made immutable by the Spirit of our God in the brokenness of Christ: all finally holy and happy, then shall the last vestige of remembrance of the former things be remembered no more because God shall at last have completed His works and be returned to His rest. Christ will finally be complete. And God's glory shall be 7-fold! Our love for one another and for all will be 100-fold. And we'll all know God's thousand fold blessing (Deuteronomy 1:11) which was promised thousands of years ago, but has never yet been seen(Hebrews 11:39-40)!
We are assured in Scripture, however, in 2Corinthians chapter 4 (see: Concordant Literal New Testament) that the things which are now seen are temporary and what's yet been unseen is only temporarily being hidden by the [worldly] rulers of this [present] evil age. Jesus is Lord of both the living and the dead, hallelujah! And the days are coming when they're all going to know it and know Him in fullness of joy, though many yet will know the terrors of the valley of the shadow of death as unspeakable glory burns away their wickedness, no matter where it's hidden. The Blood of Jesus Christ is the final Blood that settles all matters of dispute and all areas where the books, as of now, don't balance. His righteousness and His justice along with His lovingkindness and infinite mercies will not hold back forever, though! For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, according to Hebrews chapter 12. Those joys will not be left eternally incomplete by any stretch of your imagination!