Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
The person who lives in fear of God's punishment doesn't know how much he loves them.
Love is expressed in many ways. The parent who loves their child expresses it in kindness, but sometimes it will be expressed as punishment. Their kindness, as well as their punishment, is for their child's good.
God always judges fairly. And he never punishes more than is necessary. (For an in-depth look at what that means, see Justice. )
So why a leaflet about Hell?
Why not a leaflet about hell?
The restoration of all things is good news. It was not regarded as heresy by the early Church. Many would argue (and with good reason), that it was the dominant view in the early Church.
Dr Ilaria Ramelli (at the forgotten gospel conference) explains why the view was so prevalent in the early Church. Her research into this topic is second to none.
In the Bible God never accepts coerced worship; it must be from the heart. Only that brings glory to God. The only way every knee bowing to Jesus and confessing he is Lord will bring glory to God, is if every one of those confessions comes from a grateful heart.
But doesn't the Bible talk about eternal death? Yes it does.
I know the old Bradley will be destroyed forever. The old Bradley will die an eternal death. The dying process is painful and will continue to be painful while I'm in the process of dying. It will be painful till it is over. The old Bradley will cease to exist and the new Bradley will be like Christ (perfectly brave, honest and kind). I will no longer be selfish. This is necessary because I will not, in fact cannot, enjoy the kind of unbroken intimacy that Jesus enjoys with his Father until I am eternally dead. And I cannot enjoy perfect eternal unbroken intimacy with others until I have died such a death and they have died such a death. All things will be made new.
Does this mean I'm sure I'm going to go to Heaven when I die? No it does not. But I am sure of my final destination. I know God loves me. If he punishes me it will be for my good.
But what about the Bible's teaching on eternal punishment? Shouldn't I be concerned about that?
If the word which is translated as "eternal" in Matthew 25:46 was always translated eternal then I would say that those who claim that the Bible teaches eternal torment have a very strong case. But it is not (see Eternity in the Bible). Strictly speaking, the Greek word aionios only means eternal when it is referring to God.
None of us can imagine God to be better than he is. We should not be afraid of doing so.
Whether we like it or not, when there seems to be a tension between certain texts, we all use some verses as trump cards to reinterpret those verses which don't sit well with what we have come to believe. This is ok. We must use the majority of scripture to interpret the minority. But do we actually do this when looking at what the Bible says about God's will and his purpose for Hell? When it comes to this subject the vast majority of Christians theologians use a handful of verses, which seem to support eternal torment, to reinterpret the many many verses which at face value, support universal reconciliation. Is the subject of Hell an exception to the rule? Regarding Hell, should we use the minority of scripture to interpret the majority?
Below is a lecture about how we should approach the Bible regarding this subject. It is one of the most interesting lectures I've ever heard.
"But what about the lake of fire spoken about in the book of Revelation?" I'm glad you asked. This question is answered in the following interview.
See also Love Makes Everything Lovely.
For an in-depth look at the different views of Hell see All You Want to Know About Hell by Steve Gregg and a book published by Zondervan entitled Four Views on Hell (2nd edition). I also recommend TEUS 1.2 - "That All May Honor the Son" (Try to overlook the banter and philosophical rambling. If you hear him out, I'm sure you'll agree with me that this is one of the best (perhaps the best) Bible studies on the subject. It is certainly one of the most thought provoking.)