"Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Luke 13:23-24
We have discussed how Babylon exploits man's sinful nature by using it to ensnare him in a life of religious performance while he is inwardly still bound in sin and hating the God he claims to serve. Since man must remain bound to sin to be susceptible to Babylon's sorcery, the issue of sin - and specifically God's judgment for it - must be dismissed in order to deceive.
This is why many doctrines of Babylon teach that one can still be saved in spite of continual sin in our lives. One way that this is done is through the "gospel of inclusion" (promoted by Carlton Pearson) and others like it such as: Universalism, Ultimate Reconciliation, or Comprehensive Grace. While there are minor differences among them, central to each of these doctrines is a belief that all humanity will be saved and none will suffer eternal damnation. Of course, to teach this, one has to destroy the very notion that there is such a place as the Hell described in the Scriptures.
In the first article which started these series of posts, we discussed an interview given by Carlton Pearson where he speaks of Hell. Summing up Pearson's perspective, Keith Morrison (NBC) states, "Clear as a bell, says Carlton, he heard God telling him to preach this new message. That hell is a place in life and that after death, everybody is redeemed....everybody!" When asked by Morrison whether this means that Adolph Hitler is in Heaven, Carlton's response was:
"Yes! You think Hitler is more powerful than the blood of Jesus? I mean I got a Hell to put a lot of people in; I'd send Hitler and every slave driver straight to hell and a few deacons in my church if you want to know the truth. I'd send people to Hell, but I'm not God. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not ours only, but the sins of the whole world."This is the stroke of genius, the masterpiece which allows sin to abound in Babylon unfettered, effectively putting a muzzle on anyone who would talk about sin. I don't want anyone pointing out my sin, so in turn, I cannot say anything about their sin. There is an unspoken bond of silence for those in Babylon, whereby they agree not to judge that which is sinful. Instead of keeping the Biblical mandate to expose deeds of darkness and have no fellowship with them (Romans 16:17; I Corinthians 5:9-11; II Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:11; II Thessalonians 3:6-14; I Timothy 5:20, 6:3-5), they instinctively move to cover sin, keep it hidden, and stay in fellowship with it! They actually fight against the very thing which would bring them liberty; repentance from sin.
It is from this vantage point that you will hear phrases like, "Well, we have all sinned and fallen short. Judge not lest you be judged. Touch not God's anointed. There's no one perfect but Jesus. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone." Have you ever seen how many professing Christians react when an issue of sin comes up? Their enemy becomes the one exposing the sin and calling for repentance while their comrade is the sinner they rush to defend. While it is true that these people have been yoked to the personalities of men as part of the Babylonian captivity, there is also a very personal reason why they justify the sinner: they are in the same boat! Babylon gives them a cloak for sin and they cannot expose one part of it without exposing it all. So not only must they deny how God commands us to deal with sin, they must also deny how God Himself judges sin.
"For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved , what will become of the godless man and the sinner?" I Peter 4:17-18
The heart of the question about the existence of Hell and the fate of sinners is, "What is God's judgment for sin?" What will be the outcome for the godless and the sinner? Are they also saved, but just with more difficulty? Clearly the above verses set forth that there is a contrast between the outcome for the righteous versus the unrighteous. Yet, according to supporters of this doctrine, the outcome for both is the same because all will wind up saved. To find the truth, we must examine the Scriptures to see if the assertions used to support this doctrine are true:
- Hell is Not Real
- The Lake of Fire is Not Eternal Punishment
- The Character of God Precludes Eternal Punishment
- All are "Summed Up" in Christ
- Many in the Early Church held this position
Hell is Not Real
Often such arguments hinge on whether the word "Hell" seen in Scripture has been properly translated (shĕ'owl, hadēs, geenna, tartaroō). However, there is a much simpler way to examine this issue. Simply look at what God says is the destiny of those who die in rebellion to Him. Regardless of what you want to call it, there is a fate that all sinners can look forward to (or not).
There is an "eternal destruction" awaiting those outside of Christ after they have died (Matthew 10:28; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:4-5; II Thessalonians 1:8-9).
There is an "everlasting fire" prepared for Satan and his angels where there is torment day and night, and those who serve Satan will also be thrown into that same fire after death (Isaiah 33:14; Matthew 8:8-9, 13:41-42, 18:8, 25:41; Jude 1:7; Revelation 20:10). This is described by Jesus as an "everlasting punishment" (Matthew 25:46).
Those whose names are not in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire, which is the "second death" (Revelation 20:15, 21:8).
The fate of sinners in the Lake of Fire will stand as an eternal testimony against them as the smoke of their torment and the carcasses of their bodies continue to be visible to all (Isaiah 66:24; Revelation 14:11).
Some of the dead will be raised to face God's "everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2).
Without getting into semantics, Scripture is replete with references to a fate for sinners well past their natural death on this earth. Life on earth doesn't end our existence; but there is an eternal reality to be faced even after death for every individual.
The Lake of Fire is Not Eternal Punishment
Aiōn Means "Age"Some say that the Greek word aiōn (or its derivative aiōnios) - often translated "eternal" in the New Testament - is a mistranslation since it really means an "age" or a "time period". However, this is the same Greek word is used to define our life with God after death.
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 24:46
The Greek word aionios is used above for both the words "everlasting" and "eternal". In other words, we can know from this text that the "life" given to the righteous will last the same length of time as the "punishment" given to the wicked. Therefore, there is nothing in the definition of an "age" which requires that it has to come to an end. In speaking of the Lake of Fire, Scripture says:
“It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.” Isaiah 34:10
The first “for ever” in this passage is the Hebrew word owlam, which is similar in meaning to aiōn. However, the last “for ever and ever” is the Hebrew word netsach literally meaning "into perpetuity" or never ending. The smoke from the Lake of Fire will not be quenched, but shall be never ending (Revelation 14:10-11).
The language of the Gospel is in simplicity (II Corinthians 11:3). It doesn't take a lot of Hebrew & Greek knowledge to gain the understanding of God's word. While I am not dismissing the value of study, the true revelation of Scripture comes by His Spirit. We can always trust that He means what He says, and says what He means. It is when we are trying to explain away the plain meaning of the text that we often run into trouble.
Death Shall Be DestroyedIt is also said that since death itself will be destroyed (I Corinthians 15:26), the Lake of Fire - called the “second death” (Revelation 20:14) - must also be destroyed. However this is not what the text says, nor is it implied. For death to be destroyed, the cause of death, sin (Romans 6:23), has to be eliminated. The context of death's destruction in I Corinthians 15 is as it relates to all things (even God's enemies) being put under Christ's feet and brought into subjection to Him. Remember, the sting of death is sin (I Corinthians 15:56).
Sin is rebellion against the righteousness of God (I John 5:17), but once all rebellion has been addressed, there is no more sin...and henceforth, no more death. Those in Christ have overcome sin and been made righteous in Him. His enemies are under His righteous judgment and powerless to rebel against it. All indeed are submitted to God and subdued under His authority, whether willingly (through God’s free gift) or by compulsion (God’s judgment).
Salvation Through the Lake of FireSince brimstone has historically been a purifying agent, it is claimed that the Lake of Fire doesn't illustrate a time of punishment, but of cleansing. Similar to the Catholic extra-biblical doctrine of purgatory, they teach that people will stay in the Lake of Fire only long enough to burn off their sin before being reconciled to God.
The first problem with this is that the foundation for salvation is repentance unto faith in Jesus Christ. There is nothing in Scripture which says that those in the Lake of Fire at any time repent or come to faith in Jesus Christ, nor that they are even given the chance to.
Further, the depiction of brimstone in Scripture does not reveal something purified for the purposes of being brought back to life. When God rained down fire & brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, that judgment was not a means to re-impart life to the area. In fact, it was part of God's judgment that the area be left barren and laid waste (Deuteronomy 28:23). This is also the description of the Lake of Fire (Isaiah 34:8-10).
Some assert that I Corinthians 3:15 references this purification because it says that some will be "saved as by fire". While we address the actual meaning of this text in another post, it should be noted that Paul is speaking in Chapter 3 only of the brethren who are "in Christ" (verse 1). In no way does this text make accommodations for the lost to attain to salvation by going through fire.
There is no indication from Scripture that those in the Lake of Fire are ever re-born or renewed unto life. On the contrary, we are told about such persons, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night" (Revelation 14:11). Is there a day when they will get rest from this torment? No. There will forever be evidence of their torment and this fire shall not be quenched (Ezekiel 20:48; Revelation 20:10).
The Character of God Precludes Eternal Punishment
We cannot simply hold on to one of God's attributes to the exclusion of others without coming away with a warped perception of who God is. How we interact with Him (and Him with us) is dependent upon our relationship to Him.
There is a misconception often promoted with these doctrines that all people are God's children. Yet Scripture says that the only ones who are God's children are those led by His Spirit in Christ (Galatians 3:26, 4:4-7; Romans 8:9-14; Ephesians 1:5; II Corinthians 6:17-18).
Neither is the Lake of Fire described by God's word as a "chastening" of sons as we see in Hebrews Chapter 12, which refers to “the whole training of children which aims at increasing virtue”. Rather, the Lake of Fire is described as an expression of God's wrath, indignation, punishment, curse, vengeance, everlasting destruction, penalty, and condemnation (Matthew 25:41; II Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 14:10-11). This is not an interaction of a Father dealing with sons, but of an angry God meting out righteous judgment.
All is "Summed Up" in Christ
Another Scripture used to support the position that all humanity will be saved is Ephesians 1:10:
"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him."
The assertion is that all things being are gathered together in Christ necessitates that all is joined in reconciliation with Him. After some time spent burning off sin in the Lake of Fire, these would also be added to Christ and saved. Yet, reconciliation does not mean that all things are just added together, but that all things are balanced out.
One of the roots of the phrase “gather together in one” is the Greek word kephalaion which means “the pecuniary sum total of a reckoning”. A reckoning is a settling of accounts, a judgment, a retribution or a summing up. In the process of reconciliation, those things which should be added are added, and that which should be removed are taken away. The result is that all has been “reconciled”.
"Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD...Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good." Proverbs 20:10, 23
A false balance is an abomination to the Lord (Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Job 31:6; Proverbs 11:1, 16:11; Micah 6:11). God doesn't have one standard of righteousness for some folks and a different standard for others. The rod of measurement is the same for all, and it is Christ Jesus (Isaiah 11:1-4). The only propitiation for man's sin is the sinless offering of Christ; no amount of burning in a Lake of Fire could ever pay that debt...and no Scripture ever says that it could.
One example to consider in this assertion is the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. When the rich man made a simple request for Lazarus to bring him a cool taste of water, this was Abraham's response:
"But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." Luke 16:25-26
Beyond the justification that the rich man is getting the just rewards for what he has done in his life, there was another reason why this request could not be accommodated. There is a "great gulf" between them. So great in fact that it is not possible for them to come to him nor for him to come to them. No man can pass across that gulf! If the rich man only had to wait until his inevitable reconciliation in the Lord, then why didn't Abraham tell him to wait until the day when he would pass over to where they were? The answer is because there is no such day; that is a false doctrine.
Many in the Early Church held this position
One thing we do know. Even in the time when the Scriptures were penned, the mystery of iniquity was already at work. So, it would be no surprise that heresy and error was creeping into the churches from the beginning...in fact, we know that it was based on God's word.
While it may be interesting to consider the writings of men, our basis for truth must be grounded in the Scriptures.
There is a judgment awaiting all mankind; an eternal destiny we all face based on whether we have truly belonged to Jesus Christ or have been deceived by the sorceries of Babylon. Those who have joined themselves to this harlot will do whatever is needed to keep you in bondage to sin, and through that, in bondage to them.
It is written that the last days will feature a great falling away from the truth for men have become lovers of their own selves. Whom will you serve in this hour? God or man? The consequences (or rewards) are very real and eternal.