You say I [only?] have my ideas about God’s love… But you have “God’s Word”.
But, sir, “my ideas” are nothing if they are not grounded in the authority of Scripture.
My foundational belief is that God’s love is nothing less (and actually transcendently more) than that one place where love is best defined for us:
patient, kind, keeps no record of wrongs, not easily angered…
believes all things – hopes all things – love never fails…
One of the greatest revelations in the New Testament is just this: God loves His enemies (not just the “righteous”). We are commanded to love ours – to become like our Father in heaven. His love is above and beyond what we can imagine or think… and in these last days it has been revealed in an unrivaled way – through God the Son on that old rugged cross… where he did not wait for repentance or faith before he granted forgiveness… As Romans 5 shockingly says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us….while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son…”
God’s Word cannot be captured in page and ink- it is alive – and it is preeminently God, the Logos incarnate in a human being – Jesus the Christ – King of Kings and Lord of Lords – the one who conquers and subdues all things – bringing a fallen and fractured creation into reconciliation and peace under His Sovereign, Loving headship. All things were created by Him and for Him – and in Him all things live, move and have their being: all things cohere in Him. The Bible is not an end in itself – it is not the 4th member of the Trinity. It is an inspired witness brought to us over millennia through the providence of God. But we, like the scribes and pharisees, have lost our way: we too “search the scriptures for in them we think we have eternal life – ” BUT, Jesus says: “They speak of ME”… The only one who is the express image of God – through whom “in these last days” God has with finality spoken: “Forgive them”….
He is Christus Victor – the One who has conquered death, the grave and hell itself. He has the keys – and the gates of hell shall not prevail against Him and His Kingdom. He descended into hell to effectually proclaim the Good News so that, though its inhabitants had died in the flesh they might live in the Spirit.
Indeed (as you’ve said) – “apart from Christ” there is no redemption- but that’s just it – there is no more profoundly significant a point I can try and communicate to you than this: there really is NO “apart from Christ”! He is the all pervasive Logos upon which all creation is framed and sustained – and He came not to condemn the Cosmos (“World”) but that the whole Cosmos might be dramatically delivered from Satan, death, corruption and hell. The glass through which we see is indeed “dark” – but it is not black: On the furthest eschatological horizon (past all the condemnations and judgments that will surely come) we can just barely (but still with a glimpse of certain hope) see it through scriptural witness! And once seen it cannot be unseen: He will accomplish the purposes of redemption – he will draw all unto himself – he will bring reconciliation to all things – every knee will bow and tongue confess – and every son of Adam be made righteous by the second and last Adam as surely as the first brought sin and death.
ALL these things, sir – I find in Holy Scripture.
But, yes – I find other things as well – and they must be considered in the light of what is (to me) clearly the Great Purpose, Plan and design of God – put into perspective and not allowed to rob us of the truly Great Hope – the immeasurable GOOD News: Jesus the Christ is and shall be “the Savior of ALL mankind…” – because God is NOT willing that ANY should perish – but “that all shall be saved”!
Footnotes or postscript: regarding “eternity” – and “how long”…
I encourage you to get an old Strong’s concordance – and look up the word used in the New Testament that is (tragically!) translated eternity: the root word simply means “a space of time, an age”. Only through the perpetuation of Latin mistranslation and its influence on the likes of Augustine (who did not read Greek) – did the Roman church manage to set into stone a word/translation that is in actuality inherently ambiguous. It is interesting to note that among the Greek speaking Church Fathers (e.g. the Cappadocians) the Christian Universalist perspective was quite common – indeed the majority view.
“How long”? Only God knows – and I believe it depends on the individual (some are beaten with many stripes some few) – but I also believe that one second in the fire of God’s Love will feel like an eternity (as many NDE experiencers has witnessed to). It will be perfectly just – and perfectly loving – because God cannot deny himself nor His innermost essence.
I highly recommend Ilaria Ramelli’s recent work (on early Church history), A Larger Hope?
Another resource: https://youtu.be/TofvLLm_LqI?list=PLWZ0C92iu3riQn3QhPC1UI-ZeUYLmRpXq
God Bless and Keep You, Sir!
13 hours ago
Romans 5 starts off by saying “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the Gospel: Salvation by grace to all who believe in Jesus. But it follows that those who are not justified by faith do not have peace with God. The clear teaching of Scripture is that unbelievers will be judged guilty on the last day.
You said that the idea of eternal punishment for unbelievers comes from Strong’s Concordance, which falsely understood a Greek word. I can see how this would seem plausible to you, since you learned the faith from Calvinists, who don’t require their clergy to learn Greek and Hebrew. In the Word of the Lord (which He first spoke through His prophet Isaiah and then quoted when He was in the flesh), He uses explanatory illustrations. In Mark 9:48, Jesus says “Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.” There is no end to the decay of the damned when they are thrown into the fire that does not go out. No error of Strong’s Concordance can explain away the open-ended expression of Jesus in these words. He expresses eternal punishment by negating the idea that it will end.
You cited the scripture which says that every knee will bow to Jesus. That’s right. All will be raised from the dead to stand on the earth before Him on the Last Day. On that day, no one will be able to deny that Christ is Lord. All will bow and plead with Him for salvation. But then only the elect will be gathered to the kingdom. The damned will not be.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’!” (Matthew 7:21-23).
In this passage, Jesus says that He will condemn false teachers for their lawlessness. I’m guessing you’ll admit that Jesus is pronouncing a “guilty” verdict here. So, is it your belief that Jesus is going to say this (condemning them temporarily), then wait for something else to happen, and then accept them into the kingdom of heaven after all?
This will be my last reply – you are obviously trapped within your own bubble of Lutheran Confessionalism – and I in my own bubble of Universal Christian Hope…
BTW – I studied Greek and Hebrew at an undergraduate and graduate level (while acquiring my M.Div. degree).
You entirely missed my point about the actual Greek word found in the New Testament. I mentioned Strong’s Concordance just as a simple proof reference to demonstrate that I am not making up the fundamental of the word aionios – which is mistranlsated as “eternal” (and here, as often id the case – a “translation” really has become an interpretation). The word simply does NOT mean “eternity” – it means (fundamentally) “age”. By extension it CAN mean eternity – e.g. when applied to the nature of God.
The Concordant Literal gets it right > Mt. 25:46 “And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.” It SHOULD be **transliterated** to force the reader to dig into it’s ambivalence and mystery…
All of this is just one of the things you would have learned had you taken time to actually read Hart’s book (“That All Shall Be Saved”) instead of criticizing and dismissing it.
Here is the main thing your Lutheran world view will never be able to comes to terms with:
Scripture gives us wonderful insight into the over-arching plan and purpose of God – and the ultimate eschatological telos:
all things restored – Acts 3:21
all things reconciled – Col. 1:20
all things under the headship of Christ Jesus – Eph.1:10
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive….When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” 1 Cor.15:22,28
In your (and other traditionalist views since Augustine’s horrific influence)
perspective – the ultimate state of things for the Cosmos is an eternal fracture and brokenness – eternally irreconciled and irreconcilable.
THIS is the great contradiction of the “traditional” view of hell….
Finally – you seem to be completely lacking in understanding of how nuanced scripture can be – e.g. to rhetorical devices and how these are framed given the cultural situation of the “audience”.
If you flatten out every passage into the “plain” meaning (along with all the unspoken implications) – then I am sure you must hate your parents – because it is obvious and plain that this is what Jesus demands of His followers. (To be sure you understand – this was said “tongue in cheek”)
Alas – you are bound to an extra-biblical text (the Book of Concord) that **by faith** you confess your belief in – so that it’s **interpretation** of Scripture is what really becomes you final authority. I understand this because I was once “bound” by and to the Westminster Confession…
Has NONE of this given you pause? Caused you to stop and re-think your assumptions/presuppositions?
I thank you for engaging with me in this mini-debate because it has made me freshly re-think what and why I believe what I do.
I leave you with a couple more resources should you dare explore them:
On Aionios – what does it REALLY mean?
How and Why Augustine got it wrong..
What made Augustine’s theology go amiss:
I will make an exception – unless you should actually want to enter into a dialog about these profoundly important things…
I am not sure you will see the relevance to your question – but these passages give us at least a hint about the nature of divine judgment:
“For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” 1 Peter 4:6
“I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:5
Jesus also gives us some clues into the proportionality of God’s perfect judgments:
“47 And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, **shall be beaten with many’stripes** ; 48 but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, **shall be beaten with few’stripes **. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more….59 I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.” Luke 12
Throughout the Old Testament we see God relenting from judgments – that He even “changes” His “mind”…
In fact – one of His most neglected attributes is this that Jonah knew all too well: “I knew that you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and **one who relents concerning threatened judgment.** ” Jonah 4:2
After threatening unconditional punishment – God (with Nineveh) relented…
Indeed – part of the very essence of His “holiness” is not merely His hatred of sin – but his love towards sinners:
“8 My heart is turned over within Me,
All My compassions are kindled.
9 I will not execute My fierce anger;
I will not destroy Ephraim again.
For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst,
And I will not come in wrath.”
Again – through the prophet Hosea, God had threatened destruction upon His people – e.g. GOD had said of them, “I will love them no more” (9:15) –
BUT (because He IS Love?) – He (unlike the unjust, unforgiving and unquenchable bitterness of man) – relents and promises restoration.
**RESTORATION/RECONCILIATION OF THE COSMOS IS AT THE CORE OF HIS HEART!
So – to directly answer your question – Yes: it is not hard to conceive of a condemnation (of the flesh) towards the end that the spirit might be saved…
And remember that we all stand as “condemned already” (John 3) – but faith and repentance is the doorway into the reconciliation that God has already accomplished in Christ (2 Cor. 5)