What do you do with people who say, “But that’s just one verse!”
Whenever you quote a verse from the Bible that supports the view that God will eventually reconcile all people, and that Hell is but the penultimate destiny of most of humanity, they will say, “But that is just one verse.”
Then when you quote another one which says God will reconcile all they say, “But that is just one verse.”
50 verses later they’ll still say, “But that is just one verse.”
The gates of Hell shall not prevail. (Gates are defensive structures.) Jesus has the keys to hades and death. All things will be made new. Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world. He died to not only make atonement for our sins, but the sins of the whole world. Jesus will completely destroy the works of the devil. Why are the gates open in the New Jerusalem? Who is outside the gates? Why does the bride (the Church) say come, and invite those outside the city gates to wash their robes and enter through the gates so they can eat from the tree of life? The Church is already saved, who is the Church inviting? Do God’s mercies really last forever? Jesus asks us to love our enemies, does he love his? Does love always hope? Does love always persevere? Is God all knowing? Why would He persevere if he knew there was no hope for them? Is God’s love conditional or unconditional? Is love really stronger than death?
Is God able to save all those he desires to save? Does God desire to save all people?
Ask Calvinists if God is able to save all those he desires to save and see how many verses they reference. Ask Arminians if God desires to save all people and see how many verses they share with you.1 Clearly the Bible teaches that God is able to save all those he desires to save and that he desires to save all people.
So just how many verses are there which say God will reconcile all people?
“But what about all the verse which say that the suffering in Hell is never ending.”
There are a lot of verses in the Bible that clearly teach that many people will suffer after judgment day, but there are very few verses which seem to teach that the suffering is never ending, and they are only found in some translations of the Bible. Many translators came to the text believing that the Bible teaches eternal torment, so whenever a word could be translated more than one way, they chose the way that most fits with their theology. Here’s one example:
"In that day the Lord will punish
the powers in the heavens above
and the kings on the earth below.
They will be herded together
like prisoners bound in a dungeon;
they will be shut up in prison
and be punished[a] after many days." (Isaiah 24:21-22, NIV)
The footnote [a] says:
[a] Isaiah 24:22 Or released
Why didn’t the translators put “released” in the text and put “or prison” in the footnote? Because they made the text fit with their theology. Fortunately, a growing number of scholars are beginning to see that the Bible—rightly translated—does indeed teach universal reconciliation.
I used to believe that the Bible clearly taught eternal torment for those who did not accept Christ in this life. After investigating it I came to see that the Bible clearly teaches God will reconcile all people.
This couple came to the same conclusion.
One of the things mentioned in that interview is the fact the word aionion (translated as eternal in Matt 25:46) is not always translated as eternal in the Bible. According to William Barclay, aionion only means eternal when referring to God. But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the word "aionion" in Matt 25:46 has only one possible meaning, and that meaning is "eternal."
Does eternal punishment mean the punishment will last forever? Or does it mean the effects of the punishment will last forever?
"But," you might say, "no unrepentant sinner can be saved by punishment!"
That is true. But what effects might suffering play in a person's salvation?
If someone comes to Christ after being addicted to drugs, do we say, "Drugs saved them"? Or do we say their suffering led them to the point where they realised, they needed a saviour? Their suffering led them to make a decision which will effect them forever.
With these things in mind, please prayerfully consider that God might be better than you've been led to believe.
1. For an example of just how many verses there are in support of both positions see The Predestination Debate - White vs Brown. This debate raises a very important question. Would an all-powerful and all-loving God allow irrepairable harm to happen to anyone he loves? This question is addressed in Thomas Talbott's book, The Inescapable Love of God.