Nearly everything we learned at church was wrong: What the Bible actually teaches about sex, hell, tithing, and much more – Chapter Two – Judgement

Previous chapter: Dividing

Judgement

When discussing the topics of salvation and judgement, it’s important to understand why humans actually sin in the first place (other than Adam and Eve; they had a different reason that we don’t have time to get into here but which is explained in at least one of the supporting links farther on in the book), and why Jesus didn’t. The reason humans sin is because we’re mortal/dying, and we’re dying because Adam sinned (missing a single word, such as the word “that” in this case, when reading a passage in Scripture can change everything and make you completely miss the point of the passage). Contrary to what most Christians have been taught, we ourselves don’t die because we sin. Only Adam and Eve died because they sinned — or, rather, began to die/became mortal because they sinned: “on the day you eat from it, to die you shall be dying” is a more literal translation of what God said in the Hebrew Scriptures about the “forbidden fruit” — it wasn’t that they “died spiritually,” as most Christians assume (yet which you won’t find taught in Scripture, probably because it’s actually a completely meaningless expression); it was just that they were paid the wages of sin: to die they began dying, meaning they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death. So, instead of dying because we sin, we actually sin because we’re dying (“for that reason all have sinned,” or “because of that mortality all have sinned,” is what Paul meant in Romans) and don’t have abundant life in us (nor do we have the Spirit without measure) the way Jesus did (because of this, Jesus couldn’t even die until He willingly gave His life up and God took His life and Holy Spirit from Jesus) to keep us from sinning the way He avoided it (although we also eventually will, at our resurrection and/or vivification), and we’re dying because we genetically inherited the wages of the first Adam’s sin. And, just as a quick but related aside, please don’t confuse “death” with “judgement.” Death (which, yes, can technically be a punishment for certain sins, such as in the instances of capital punishment in the Mosaic law) is really just a natural genetic effect of being born into the line of Adam; in general it isn’t actually a punishment (not outside of specific “legal” cases anyway) or judgement in and of itself (at least not for anyone who isn’t Adam or Eve), or else babies would never die. Even the second death isn’t a punishment or judgement; it’s just to keep certain people from experiencing the eon of the eons (the final and most glorious eon) since it wasn’t made for them to enjoy. Judgement, on the other hand, is what we get because we sin and is experienced by those who are not saved (relatively speaking) when they appear before the Great White Throne.

However, just as in Adam all are dying, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “so also shall all in Christ be made alive.” Rather, Paul was using a parallelism to tell us that everyone affected by the action of first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. Just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects (mortality and, in most cases, physical death, as well as sinfulness because of that mortality) of the first Adam’s action, they also have no say in experiencing the effects (eventual everlasting life and sinlessness) of the last Adam’s action, and just as condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one (and not because of their own offences or disobedience), justification of life will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one (and not because of their own obedience).

But while Paul tells us that everyone who experiences mortality because of what Adam did will also eventually experience everlasting life because of what Christ did, he also tells us that there’s an order to when each person will be made fully alive. Basically, there are three different orders, groups, or classes of humans to be made fully alive, although these three orders combined consist of all humanity (even though each order will be made alive in its own times). The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which I believe refers to the body of Christ (meaning Jesus Himself, but also His entire body) vivified (zōopoieō [ζῳοποιέω] in the Greek, meaning brought beyond the reach of death/made fully alive — not to be confused with resurrection, which only the dead experience; both the resurrected dead and the still living in the body of Christ will experience vivification, and will no longer sin because they’re no longer in the process of dying) at the snatching away (which is the actual version of the event often called the rapture that many religious Christians mistakenly believe will eventually happen to them, and which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ among the celestials. The second is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring, I believe, to those vivified at the time of the former or “first” resurrection (also known as the resurrection of the just) near the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, 75 days after Jesus returns to Earth and the Tribulation period has concluded (people such as “Old Testament” saints, for example, and those [both the resurrected dead and those still living at the end of the tribulation] who are saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision. Although some group the body of Christ in with this order as well and say it applies to everyone saved under both Gospels — even if some are vivified three-and-a-half or more [likely more; in fact, almost certainly more than seven] years apart from each other — and believe the first is just speaking of Christ Himself, I tend to think placing the body of Christ in the first order rather than the second makes the most sense, but since by the end of this second order everyone saved [relatively speaking] under both Gospels will have been vivified anyway it doesn’t really make a huge difference to the rest of my point so I won’t argue it any further here). And finally, “then cometh the end” or “thereafter the consummation” (eita to telos [εἶτα τὸ τέλος] in Greek), referring to the “telos” or consummation of humanity (since he’s still speaking of this order of vivification here, although this might have a double meaning, perhaps referring also to the consummation of the eons when this final vivification likely occurs), meaning the final group or the rest of humanity, fully vivified either during the fifth and final eon (known as the eon of the eons) or, more likely, at the consummation of the eons (after the final eon is completed). So, while every human who is affected by the curse will also be equally (if not more so) affected by the cross, it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time. Only those predestined for eonian life (a transliteration that is a far superior rendering of what most Bible translations call “eternal life” or “everlasting life”), meaning those in the first two orders, will live through the eons to come while also experiencing vivification during those eons. That said, they aren’t the only people who will live through said eons. Those born during the next eon will also live through them as well (if they don’t die during the next eon, of course), as will the “sheep” of Matthew 25; everyone else will go through eonian judgement first (which doesn’t necessarily always involve death or “hell” for everyone; sometimes it just refers to a negative judgement while remaining alive on Earth, the “goats” of Matthew 25 being a good example of this, as will be touched on shortly, so, again, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that “death” and “judgement” refer to the same thing).

What this judgement actually is, however, is a point that few people today ever come to understand. Most think it refers to “everlasting punishment” in a fiery place called hell, but this is a doctrine that didn’t exist among the first believers in Christ (and you won’t find it in the Scriptures Israel accepted – which Christians normally, and mistakenly, call the Old Testament – either, which is strange since you’d think God’s chosen people would have been warned about something so terrible). Everlasting torment in “hell” is a great example of a pre-existing belief that caused many translators to mistranslate Scripture from its original languages, in this case causing them to translate the Hebrew word `owlam (or olam [עוֹלָם]) and Greek words such as aión (αἰών) and aiónios (αἰώνιος), all of which refer to a set period of time with a definite end, even if that end date is unknown (so aión should literally be transliterated as “eon,” which just means “a long period of time,” and aiónios [and aiónion] should simply be transliterated as “eonian,” which just means “pertaining to an eon“), into words that mean “never ending” (or into redundant phrases like “forever and ever”). They also mistranslated the word aión as “world” in places as well — even though there was already a Greek word (kosmos [κόσμος]) for “world” — realizing that translating it as “everlasting” in those cases would literally make no sense at all and that they wouldn’t be able to get away with their usual mistranslation, they had to give it another meaning; so, because of their preconceived doctrinal biases against translating aión into the word it actually means, they were forced to come up with another word for it instead (at one point they even “translated” both aión and kosmos as “world” in the same verse, showing just how ridiculous this translation is). That said, even if we were to translate these words as “everlasting” or “forever” in some places, we’d still have to interpret the words based on the context of the rest of Scripture, and aside from the fact that Scripture tells us everyone eventually will be saved, there are also plenty of things in the Bible that seem to be said to be everlasting (if one translates it that way) that it also says will eventually end, and Scripture even talks about a past fire that was said to never be quenched or go out (just like the fires of “hell” are supposed to be, depending on your translation) but that is no longer burning today, so good exegesis is imperative here if you’re going to translate it that way for some reason (which means that if one did “translate” these Hebrew and Greek words into words that mean “everlasting” in English, the reader would then be required to interpret them figuratively so as to not end up making Scripture completely contradict itself, which also means a KJV-Onlyist could still technically [and, to be consistent with the rest of Scripture, would realistically have to] believe in Universal Reconciliation). That said, for those of us who haven’t been indoctrinated into KJV-Onlyism, translating these words concordantly does make a lot more sense, and means we can actually interpret the passages literally rather than being forced to interpret them figuratively just so we can remain consistent (not that theological consistency is something most religious Christians concern themselves with, but it is important). In addition to all this, while I don’t agree with all of his theology, the nineteenth century theologian J. W. Hanson also did a good job of demonstrating from extra-biblical writings that these words generally didn’t mean “everlasting” outside of Scripture back then, so there’s no reason to believe they do in Scripture either (outside of preconceived doctrinal bias, of course).

Because of these presuppositions and bad translations or interpretations (as well as a lack of basic logical analysis of Scripture), most religious Christians are under the impression that, while God tried to save everyone through Christ’s sacrifice, He will ultimately fail when it comes to 99% of humanity since He just isn’t powerful enough to convince them to choose the right religion, probably because He didn’t make most people smart enough or wise enough to come to the right decision in the first place. Those who believe this aren’t aware that God’s purpose for the eons was never about hoping people will choose the right religion so they can be among the lucky few who escape never ending torture, but rather that He saves those who are helpless to save (or even participate in saving) themselves (although, again, each in their own order, or in their own times).

Aside from being completely unscriptural, the horrible doctrine of everlasting torment in hell is also probably the biggest cause of religious evil. How so? First, it’s caused millennia of psychological torture for children (and even adults). Somehow, religious parents (hoping that it will keep them from sinning, as if the threat of “hell” has ever kept anyone from sinning) have rationalized the idea that instilling the fear of this mythological torture chamber into their children is a good thing, but all it does is cause sleepless nights for millions of kids who are terrified they or their loved ones will suffer horrific agony for eternity with no chance of escape if the wrong decision or action is made (“end times” doctrines should also probably never be taught to young people for similar reasons; based on the testimony of so many, my own included, I would recommend that parents not let their offspring be exposed to the topic of eschatology until their very late teens if they value the mental wellbeing of their children), and ultimately also causes many of these children to reject God when they get older since many of them still have a conscience and know just how wrong unending torture would be if it actually happened. Perhaps worse, though, is the fact that once this doctrine has been completely absorbed into the psyche it makes emotional empathy an extremely difficult thing to possess, causing religious people to think it’s okay to reject and even eject family members (sometimes from their own homes) who believe differently from them, and discriminate against or even be violent towards people who don’t follow their religion or who might not think certain actions are actually wrong (“if God is going to torture people forever in the afterlife for even the smallest infraction, what’s a little temporary violence in this life?” is what it seems many religious people believe).

Aside from the fact that anybody who sat down to actually think about it would realize no sin or crime could ever warrant torture that lasted forever, however, the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (okay, “wages” is not necessarily the best translation of ὀψώνιον [opsōnion] here, but because the end result is basically the same regardless of the translation, for the sake of simplicity I’m going to use the common rendering of the passage for this point), not never ending torment (and that said wages come from the sin of Adam, not from our own sins, as has already been discussed). If the payment for sin was nonstop pain that never ends (which is taught nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures — the absolute worst penalty for breaking the Mosaic law was execution; no Israelite was ever threatened with perpetual torture after they died as a result of sinning in the law of Moses — and there’s nothing in the Greek text to suggest that this changed when Jesus or Paul talked about sin either), then Jesus would have to still be suffering for our sins and would need to continue doing so forever (okay, maybe only under the penal substitution model of salvation, which I don’t actually believe is Scriptural, but since most do, the point stands for those who believe it is).

Fortunately, there isn’t anything in the original Hebrew or Greek that implies that “hell” (which itself is a bad translation of multiple words that actually refer to different places and concepts from each other, which means those Christians who like to say that “Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible” or “Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven” are wrong since He actually never spoke about it even once in the original Greek) lasts forever anyway, nor that the lake of fire (which is different from “hell”) does either when properly interpreted. Not even the parable of the rich man and Lazarus helps support the idea of everlasting torment when it’s properly understood, unless one believes that Lazarus was literally sitting inside Abraham’s chest, and that there’s actual physical water in the spirit realm. It’s funny how things pertaining to “hell” are literal in their mistranslations until they’re not when it comes to Churchianity; see also the lack of bodily mutilation and the general avoidance of helping the needy among religious Christians who don’t understand right dividing (and don’t know the true identity of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25, or what their actual “outcomes” refer to; nobody “goes to heaven” or “goes to hell” during this judgement — the rewards and punishments in this prophecy take place entirely on Earth among the still living) as similar examples.

What few religious Christians seem to understand is that, when Jesus spoke about the future, He wasn’t talking about ethereal, spiritual, afterlife “states” in other dimensions called heaven and hell. Rather, everything He said in person when speaking about the future takes place on a planet called Earth in the physical universe (albeit on two different Earths; some taking place on our current planet, and some on the new Earth, or third Earth, after this one has been destroyed).

First of all, He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, an actual, physical 1,000-yearlong kingdom here on Earth (not in a supposed afterlife dimension) that is sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom, which begins after the tribulation period ends and the fourth eon begins. He also spoke of paradise (paradeisos [παράδεισος] in Greek), which would be a reference to Earth as well since the tree of life is there and there would be no need to eat from the tree of life (which we know will be on Earth in the future anyway) in an ethereal afterlife dimension.

As far as the negative future He talked about goes, it was in this universe as well. His primary threat was Gehenna (Geenna [γέεννα] in Greek), which was an actual, physical garbage dump in Israel (again, not in another dimension one enters after death) — although it’s quite pleasant at the moment — that Jesus’ Jewish audience would have immediately recognized as a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy about the place the corpses of lawbreakers during the Millennial Kingdom would be burned and devoured by worms in.

In addition, He sometimes also referred to hades ([ᾅδης], which is simply the word used in Scripture for sheol [שְׁאוֹל], the Hebrew word for “the unseen,” when written or spoken in Greek), which is just speaking of the state of no longer being conscious because one is dead (when it’s not being used figuratively in parable form). Unfortunately, most members of the Christian religion are unaware of the fact that the immortality of the soul is not only an unscriptural concept, but that it’s an entirely pagan idea that was likely adopted by the Pharisees due to confusion about the state of the dead learned during the Babylonian captivity, and was later carried into much of Christendom as well due to misunderstandings of Scripture (when Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he’d be with Him in paradise, He was referring to a future resurrection on Earth rather than to an afterlife state immediately after they both died). “Ye shall not surely die” might be the first recorded lie the devil told, but today it’s being taught by many in the Christian religion who are trying to convince us that death isn’t actually death at all but is rather just a change in our state of consciousness, seemingly unaware that the Hebrew Scriptures tell us the dead know nothing (meaning they aren’t conscious at all). Even in the Greek Scriptures, death is compared to sleep; it isn’t compared to being awake in an afterlife existence at all outside of that one parable which seems to confuse so many. Instead of going to afterlife realms called heaven or “hell,” however, Scripture tells us that death is a return. The body returns to the soil or earth, the soul returns to hades/the unseen (meaning back to non-existence/unconsciousness), and the spirit returns to God who created it (although not as a conscious entity, since our spirits aren’t conscious on their own without a body: soul [or feeling and consciousness] is an emergent property of combining a spirit with a body, just like combining the colours yellow and blue create the colour green — the spirit is our “essense,” so to speak, which would include the memories that make us who we are, but it doesn’t experience consciousness until it’s reunited with a resurrected body). This presents quite a dilemma for the traditional view, of course. If the soul of a dead person is in hades and the spirit is with God, does the soul of an unsaved person suffer in a fiery “hell” while the spirit enjoys being with God? Remember, Scripture doesn’t discriminate between “saved” and “unsaved” spirits when it says they return to God upon death. And what does that say about us if our spirit and soul can go to separate “places” but are both conscious (are we made up of two conscious beings that can be split up when we die, yet only one will be punished for sin in “hell” while the other is in heaven with God)? This is just one more reason why the traditional view makes no sense. Instead, it’s better to believe what Scripture actually says: that souls can actually die. On top of that, if those who are saved (relatively speaking) “go to heaven” as soon as they die, then death isn’t really an enemy to be defeated, as Paul told us it is (although this doesn’t find its ultimate fulfilment until the end of the fifth eon), but is instead a friend finally bringing us to God, with our eventual resurrection just being icing on the cake rather than being the actual cake itself that it’s supposed to be (the resurrection and vivification of our human bodies has become nothing more than a small sidenote in most of Christendom, when it’s what we’re actually supposed to be looking forward to).

Basically, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual realm called heaven for the righteous when He spoke (nor did He ever offer anybody everlasting or eternal life either, since eventual everlasting life for everyone is already a given thanks to His death for our sins and subsequent resurrection, which is actually what the Good News that is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is proclaiming), nor was He warning about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners. Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy eonian life on Earth during the next eon or two in the messages He gave while on Earth, and teaching those elected for the body of Christ about the fullness of salvation, including eonian life among the celestials during the next two eons, in the messages He gave Paul after He physically left the Earth (while everyone eventually gets everlasting life, only a relatively small number of people will experience eonian life), and B) warning the people of Israel how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having your dead body displayed and destroyed in public in Gehenna (also on Earth), not to mention missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom (and quite possibly the next eon after that as well) because they’d be dead (which would be what eonian death refers to). And, again, since the Hebrew Scriptures never threatened never-ending torture as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes (there is one passage in the book of Daniel that certain Bibles mistranslate as saying some will be resurrected to “everlasting contempt” but, aside from the fact that contempt and torture are two very different things, the Hebrew word mistakenly rendered as “everlasting” here is “olam” which, as we’ve already discovered, is a word that refers to a period of time with a temporary duration, and as we’ve also already covered, there’d never been a threat of a neverending conscious punishment before this passage so there’s no good reason to assume it’s suddenly being proclaimed here some 2,000 years after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before and it isn’t even explaining who would be experiencing such a thing or why [or how to avoid it]) — but did speak of the earthly Gehenna as a place where the physical (not spiritual) bodies of the dead lawbreakers would be burned during the Millennial Kingdom, and since Jesus didn’t ever correct these beliefs Himself when He spoke of judgement and Gehenna when read properly in the original Greek (when read without a preconceived bias, it’s completely clear that He was teaching the exact same thing the Hebrew Scriptures said about the topic), there’s literally zero reason to interpret (or translate) these things the way most Christians (and Bible versions) have. To put it simply, Churchianity is assigning the earthly rewards and punishments that Jesus taught are meant for Israelites (and to those who bless them or don’t bless them during the tribulation) to a supposed afterlife state meant for everyone, attempting to spiritualize physical and geographical places and events when there’s absolutely no good reason to do so (even the Great White Throne Judgement — which does apply to people other than Israel — and any of its resulting sufferings will likely happen on Earth [at the very least, it happens to those who are physically alive in this universe, having just been resurrected, and not to ghosts in an afterlife dimension] prior to the bodies of those who don’t enter the new Earth at its beginning being physically [not spiritually] cast into the lake of fire [likely an actual body of water on Earth, quite possibly referring to the Dead Sea] just like the dead bodies of previous sinners were physically cast into Gehenna on Earth). These (and many other) facts, combined with the fact that Scripture is quite clear that everyone eventually will experience reconciliation and immortality (yes, even those who commit the supposedly “unforgivable” or “unpardonable sin“), makes it pretty obvious that the only reason for the morally and spiritually depraved followers of religion to continue believing in a demonic doctrine like everlasting torment after learning these truths is because they want to believe it (and continuing to believe and teach it tells the rest of us just how hardened their hearts and cauterized their consciences are, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the eons and dispensations). Sadly, the religious only seem to want Good News as long it’s not too good.

So, while everyone will eventually enjoy immortality (everlasting life), those who aren’t predestined for eonian life will first go through judgement (not to be confused with punishment or with death), and some will even experience the second death (not as a judgement, but because they’re not predestined for eonian life and as such have to miss out on the final eon). However, at the consummation of the eons (after the final eon is over), “the grave” or “the unseen” (which is all that “hell” really refers to as far as anyone in the dispensation of Grace is concerned) will have no victory and death (all death) will have no sting because it will have been destroyed (and anyone still dead will have to be made alive for death to be truly destroyed), and God will be “All in all” (yes, in all; not just in a lucky few). This truth is lost on those who are lost thanks to their slavery to the demonic teachings of the Christian religion, but if this weren’t the case (if most of humanity were to suffer consciously in the lake of fire forever), all this judgement would do is torture the majority of people who ever existed nonstop, which would serve no purpose at all other than to stand as an everlasting reminder that Satan ultimately won in the battle for souls (a Pyrrhic victory though it might be, a victory over God it would remain nonetheless), and that God was a failure in ridding creation of evil, ultimately making Him and Jesus A) monsters (only the most horrific of monsters could force, or even allow, someone to be tortured forever; the worst person to ever live could never do anything like that, but many religious Christians want to accuse God of doing something that would make Hitler look like a saint in comparison), and B) the biggest sinners of all. Thankfully, that’s not the case. The religious think the best plan God could possibly come up with is everlasting incarceration and torture, locking the majority of His creation up to suffer forever (God actually does lock His creation up, just not the way most Christians think He  does; the Divine Lockup is something few Christians ever truly understand [at least not in this lifetime]), but this just shows us that the religious don’t think very highly of God and His abilities to make things right (or accomplish His ultimate intentions), which is what judgement really means. Rather than failing, as Churchianity insists He will, in the end God will successfully destroy evil, sin, “hell,” and death (again, all death, which would have to mean even the second death) completely because He actually is God and is fully capable of doing so.

While understanding the above should be more than enough to convince anyone with an open mind that everyone will eventually experience reconciliation, understanding the character of God is also important. In fact, teaching everlasting torment in “hell” seriously slanders God and Christ, and not only because it accuses them of being the world’s biggest sinners since it would mean they’ve failed to achieve their goals, not to mention their purpose for the eons.

God has many attributes, but perhaps the most important way to understand God is to remember that while the Bible tells us that God has wrath, it also tells us that God is love (and not the other way around). Religious Christians will claim to agree with this statement, of course, but they completely fail to understand what love is (among all the other things that Paul tells us love is, he tells us that love always perseveres and never fails), and will insist that the God who is love Himself will fail to save the majority of His earthly creation. Paul also tells us that love is kind in the same passage, but while few people (perhaps with the exception of religious conservatives) could actually do something as unkind as to torture someone (or simply let someone be tortured) for even a few minutes, much less forever, many within Churchianity insist that God is far less kind (which would mean He’s not loving) than us mere humans who would never do such a horrible thing to anyone. Yes, those whom God loves He chastens, but the purpose of this is to help, not hurt; it isn’t simply an end in itself. And since He loves the whole world, He’ll chasten the whole world, even if in different ways at different times for different people (the case of how God treats the inhabitants of Sodom, both in the past and in the future, is a great example of this). The important thing to remember here is that God’s attributes, such as justice, can never conflict with His essence, which is love. If love is His very essence, it can’t ever take a back seat to an attribute like His justice, which means His justice will always have to be coloured by His love (which always perseveres and never fails) for all of His creation. And since allowing any of His creation to suffer forever in a lake of fire with no hope of escape could not be said to be an expression of His love for said creation (except in the most horrifically twisted of religious minds), we know that His justice could not allow this to happen since it would conflict with His love towards all of His creation (and, just as a quick aside, some will try to claim that God might define words such as love differently than we do since “His ways are higher than ours,” but A) Scripture already defines love for us in the aforementioned passage, and B) if we aren’t using words in a way that we can actually all understand them, there’s no point in using these words at all in the first place and we might as well just stop studying Scripture altogether).

Of course, what the religious always forget is that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, so if one wants to truly understand the character of God, all one has to do is look at what we’re told about His Son. For instance, Jesus often kept His teachings a secret from those who weren’t meant to understand them at that time (those who were not the elect), speaking in parables so that “seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand,” which tells us that not all of God’s truths are intended for everyone to understand just yet (not even most of the religious Christians who are reading this, many of whom have already rejected everything I’ve written here because God has made sure they aren’t able to see the truth). But even with His truth hidden from most, we also see that Jesus insisted on extreme forgiveness (seventy times seven, and even forgave those who killed Him), and ultimately sacrificed Himself to save the world. When you want to interpret Scripture, you have to ultimately do so using a hermeneutic that begins with Christology. If you don’t do that, it’s easy to misunderstand the passages about judgement, and just as easy to forget that everything in Scripture needs to be read with Christ’s character and His purpose in mind. If you really want to understand God’s character, you don’t go looking to the Hebrew Scriptures. You’ll find bits and pieces of information about His character there (and you’ll certainly learn about His power and sovereignty there), but to truly understand who God is and what He’s actually like, you have to look at His Son and who He is.

For those who are still skeptical of the idea that God truly is the Saviour of everyone (even if those who believe this Good News have a special, earlier [eonian] salvation than everybody else does), in spite of all the evidence I’ve presented you with, I have one last thought for you to consider. I once asked a scholar of Koine Greek (one who knows far more about the language than I can claim to) who did not believe in Universal Reconciliation, but rather believed that most of humanity would be tormented forever in the lake of fire, to tell me what he thought the writers of Scripture would (or, really, what God would have inspired said writers to) have written differently than they actually did if my conclusions about Universal Reconciliation (from eonian salvation and judgement, to avoiding having one’s dead body burned in Gehenna, to everything else about the topic) were correct, and his response was that it wouldn’t have been recorded any differently at all, which tells me that belief in everlasting torment for non-Christians really is just a matter of wanting it to be true.

Next chapter: Predestination