by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone." ~ Lamentations 3:31-33
For verification of how widespread this belief was in the early Church see A Larger Hope?, Volume 1: Universal Salvation from Christian Beginnings to Julian of Norwich by Ilaria Ramelli.
‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die...”’ (John 11:25, 26a).
*The text above is an extract from the page Why Hell?
Ultimately this is not a debate about the authority of the Bible. This is a debate about the interpretation of Scripture. See The Inescapable Love of God (2nd edition) by Thomas Talbott.** (See also chapter 5, Presuppositions and Interpretations, in Confessions of a Tomboy Grandma: On the Eternal Destiny of the Human Race by Diane Perkins Castro. "Presuppositions and Interpretations" is made available as a PDF by permission of the author.)
Unfortunately, some Christians are not willing to take a closer look at Scripture because they find the doctrine of eternal torment appealing.
“At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause." - (Tertullian, De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX)
“ The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.”
“ The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss. (Jonathon Edwards,"The Eternity of Hell Torments" (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]
Why do some people take such pleasure in the suffering of others?
“ ... the satisfaction we feel when wrong comes to grief. Why do we feel this satisfaction? Because we hate wrong, but, not being righteous ourselves, more or less hate the wronger as well as his wrong, hence are not only righteously pleased to behold the law’s disapproval proclaimed in his punishment, but unrighteously pleased with his suffering, because of the impact upon us of his wrong. In this way the inborn justice of our nature passes over to evil. It is no pleasure to God, as it so often is to us, to see the wicked suffer.” ~ George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons
“ To regard any suffering with satisfaction, save it be sympathetically with its curative quality, comes of evil, is inhuman because undivine, is a thing God is incapable of. His nature is always to forgive, and just because he forgives, he punishes. Because God is so altogether alien to wrong, because it is to him a heart-pain and trouble that one of his little ones should do the evil thing, there is, I believe, no extreme of suffering to which, for the sake of destroying the evil thing in them, he would not subject them. A man might flatter, or bribe, or coax a tyrant; but there is no refuge from the love of God; that love will, for very love, insist upon the uttermost farthing.” ~ George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons
If the majority of today’s Christians believed that God will ultimately reconcile all, what effects might it have on the Church? Robin Parry explains here.
**If everyone involved in this debate read chapter 4 in The Inescapable Love of God, there'd be a lot less heat and a greater willingness to listen to what others have to say.
***David Artman, a minister, who after finishing his Doctor of Ministry degree in 1996, firmly believed that the Bible teaches eternal torment. He wrote: " The topic of my thesis for this degree touched on the three main understandings of hell in the history of Christianity—those being: hell as a place of eternal torment, hell as a place of final annihilation, and hell as a place of restoration." But after further research came to a very different conclusion. He tells his story in his book, Grace Saves All: The Necessity of Christian Universalism (a sample from the book can be read here). Preston Sprinkle, who coauthored Erasing Hell with Francis Chan, first concluded that eternal torment is biblical; but after further research came to a different conclusion. It is only a matter of time before he (and those who have come to the same conclusion) realise that when a wicked person repents, and is finally made like Christ, that wicked person ceases to exist (see Bearing the Curse of Hell—Preston Sprinkle).