I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe in eternal hell, and it’s not just some arbitrary decision based on my own preferences. My preferences are irrelevant, as our yours, when it comes to Scripture. It’s not a buffet, and we can’t just pick and choose what we’ll take and what we’ll reject from the bible. It offers what it offers. But I studied the topic deeply for close to a year from a strictly biblical standpoint, and have continued to study it steadily but less intensely over the last 11 years, and remain convinced that those who reject God’s offer of salvation and eternal life will one day be destroyed out of existence, not kept alive and tormented throughout all eternity – still a harsh judgment, but not the sadistic purposeless judgment that we traditionally teach.
The thought of eternal hell always troubled me, but not in the way its proclamation is intended too…in the “Well, I certainly don’t want to go there. Please tell me how I can avoid that” kind of way. But more in what it says about the God we’re to love with all our heart, soul, and mind, that He would consign masses of people who never asked to be born to conscious misery (and physical torture, according to many) for all eternity. I confess it – That seriously disturbed me for a long time, but I believed it, because I assumed the people teaching this had done the research. I had no idea of the vast amount of biblical evidence to the contrary.
I don’t belong to a cult or any fringe sect of Christianity. I’m a fairly run-of-the-mill Christian, having attended a non-denominational Bible church for over a decade that constitutionally held to a belief in hell, that to me at least, is disturbing, and virtually non-existent scripturally, as I’ve come to believe through study. And now I’m a member, and have been attending a Baptist church, where I assume the traditional view of eternal conscious torment is probably the widely held view among the members. I should note that I absolutely love the church we now attend, and disagreeing on this issue is no reason not to worship and serve with others who happen to disagree on this.
But I’m not a Universalist. Everyone will not be saved. In fact, Jesus seemed to make it clear that many more will be lost than will be saved. For those who will be lost, the bible states that there is a judgment day that occurs 1000 years after Christ has returned and reigned bodily on earth, and at that time of judgment, those who failed to put their faith in the one true living God will be raised to stand judgment, be found guilty of rejecting salvation, and be fully destroyed, body and soul. Based on Scripture, I don’t believe they will exist in any form after this point. They will not be suffering consciously for all eternity. To state it very simply, Before we were, we weren’t. There was a time we didn’t exist. God brings us into existence (an awesome gift), and then offers the opportunity to go on living forever at peace with our Maker, in timeless eternity (an unspeakably awesome gift). If we reject that, we’re essentially given back to what we were before God made us…we no longer exist. This second death is no soft punishment, but it’s the just punishment for unbelief. And it’s harsh and permanent(and yes, it is an “eternal punishment”), yet merciful at the same time, because the suffering of those who failed to find or accept grace does in fact have an end. (a quick sidenote: The time period between physical death and final punishment is much more of a gray area. There is scriptural evidence that the lost will experience conscious suffering during some or all of that time. Many believe that the lost, as well as the saved, go into a soul sleep from the time of death until resurrection. I personally see in Scripture evidence for sleep as well as consciousness (for the lost, and for the saved) between the time of physical death and resurrection, and instead of believing that either one or the other solely happen, I think it’s possible that both happen; like perhaps, there’s a time of consciousness immediately after death, and then we’re put into a sleep? It’s certainly not something I’m dogmatic about. I don’t think we’re meant to fully understand all that happens or doesn’t happen during that time. But certainly I don’t reject the truth of Hell as a reality – I reject the doctrine of eternal conscious torment, and the belief that human life continues in any form, for the lost, after the second death in the lake of fire. There is much disagreement, even among traditionalists, about what happens during this intermediate state, and it’s addressed in the study, but is not the primary focus.
If you’ve been a Christian long, then you may be calling back to memory a few verses that you believe would prove something much different than what I’ve stated. I’m aware of those verses, having studied them extensively, and yet I maintain a belief that a total cessation of life, not a tormented eternity, is the final punishment for unbelief in Christ. I’m editing down the places in the book where I address those verses, and putting summaries of them over to your right under the heading “Summaries of Traditionalist proof texts”. But if you’re brand new to this blog, please first read the “first time here” tab, and the “The Garden of Eden” tab to get a foundation.
I’m not going to go on and on about this here because I address it in other places, but I feel the need to say at this point, I have a great deal of respect for numerous pastors and Christian leaders who I happen to disagree with on the issue of eternal suffering and human immortality. I don’t take it lightly, and it’s very uncomfortable to challenge those who have spoken into my life in many ways over the last 18 years that I’ve been seriously pursuing God, but from everything I’ve learned in doing this study, the challenge is needed. I don’t mean to undermine anyone’s ministry, and the concern that I might is one of several factors in why I’ve stalled so long on finishing the book or moving to promote the website and this blog. I could name a few unknown, and at least 20 well-known pastors or teachers who I continue to listen to and learn from daily or weekly, all of whom I respectfully disagree with on the matters of human souls being innately immortal, and hell being unending and timeless in nature.
I’ve also come to have a great deal of respect for those for whom this is not an issue at all. I go back and forth on this in my head, but some days, I think – There’s not a thing wrong with trusting in God’s sovereignty in judgment, and trusting that if it means eternal conscious torment, and if that’s what it takes to satisfy God’s requirements, then that’s just what it takes. That’s where most Christians are, and if one has never done a detailed study of judgment, there’s no reason to challenge the tradition that’s been handed down. I never even thought about questioning the doctrine. I was told by the pastors I was under all my life that hell was eternal, and that was that, like it or not. But it was in trying to answer a question for a friend I was witnessing to that launched me accidentally into the study, that ultimately forced me to change my view on judgment. So I’m sharing what I’ve learned, and I hope it helps someone else. It brought great relief to my heart and soul, and grew my love for God exponentially.
Ultimately Satan is behind all lies and confusion. And I don’t kid myself at all. Writing this material that implies that close to 100% of my fellow-Christians have been deceived or have believed incorrectly isn’t going to go over well with a great percentage of them. I’ve already gotten a taste of it, and I know what’s headed my way if I keep pursuing this. And I realize that in the eyes of most, I’ll be the one seen as the satanically deceived and confused one. And that’s ok. I’m fallible, and certainly not beyond erring. So I’m prepared for criticism. But that’s why the study, and being willing to walk through it is so important. If it’s flawed, then the Holy Spirit will reveal that to you, and then I welcome any insight you gain. But if you don’t find the flaws you’re expecting, it may change completely how you see and feel about our merciful Creator, as it did me.
The purpose of the book and this blog/website, are first to bring relief to Christians for whom the traditional view of hell has been a sticking point in their relationship with God or a hindrance to witnessing. It’s also an outreach to those who are rejecting the one true God because the traditional view of eternal conscious torment is repulsive to them. If you’re a person who has felt drawn to God, but who is denying Him because of doctrines like this, I hope the information I provide in the study will go a long way toward helping you make a decision for Christ.
A little background: After digging in deep to the subject of hell many years ago, and finding satisfying and biblical answers to my questions that virtually ruled out what I’d been taught my whole life…(that the lost will suffer endless torment, with the first billion years in tormenting skin-melting hell being just a drop in the eternal bucket), I was excited beyond belief, and I often studied and wrote into all hours of the night during those first few months. All my feelings toward God changed, knowing he wasn’t the maniacal soul tormenter that I’d been told of. I felt really good for the first time in a long time. And it wasn’t just the relief provided by the information I was finding, but it was realizing there was a real need here to get the information out, and that felt like a call or a purpose to me. I had always wanted to know what I was supposed to be doing with my life besides just the basic requirements of going back and forth to work to provide for my family, and this felt like the IT that I’d been searching for. I was on a cloud for a while, and began to share what I was finding, and ultimately shared it with the pastor of my church and other members of the church board that I subsequently stepped down from because my beliefs violated our church’s constitution. They were less excited. Ok, that’s an understatement. Some never responded. None responded positively. The only non-board member I shared it with at church then left our church because the board didn’t remove me as a Sunday School teacher. And a co-worker believes I’m doing the work of the devil. I handled those things well early on, but the cloud went dark, and it began to weigh me down. The only early pastoral support was from a friend’s pastor. He read some of the study I printed off for him, met with me for 2 hours about it, and told me I had shown him something he hadn’t seen before, and said that he believed this study had the potential to help a lot of people. But the little encouragement I received wasn’t enough to overpower the negatives, and I began to doubt the study. So I went back through all the information, and read back through the books that others have written that support the traditional view of hell I disagree with (Hell Under Fire, Two Views of Hell, etc). And once again, I found the arguments for a traditional view of hell and human immortality to have a lot of problems, and I became confident once more that I had found truth in my own study of God’s word.
Next, although I was fully convinced, I simply began to doubt the importance of it. I thought, “Ok, even if it’s true that God isn’t causing or allowing the eternal torment of the lost, perhaps that threat has pulled more people to Christ than it has repulsed away from Christ”. And even today, I do wonder if that’s why God has allowed the doctrine to remain, if it is in fact incorrect. He does weave our errors into His ultimate plans. It’s His specialty. Our errors are mostly all He has to work with, at the human level, being that we’re all sinners who make mistakes every day. But is there a point where it repulses more people than it draws? And if so, are we at that point? Beyond the scriptural study, I read a lot about this topic on the internet, just to see how it affects people, and it’s not good. People will leave their church, the mission field, and even their faith over this idea that God is consciously tormenting the lost for all eternity.
I’m going to be transparent here. Until just recently, the great feelings I had when I first began to discover the errors in the traditional view have never returned, except on fleeting little waves here and there. The last several years have been difficult on the spiritual level. Although I believe the study to be solid, and the evidence for a non-traditional view of final judgment overwhelming, I have existed in a cycle that takes me from one day, excited and ready to delve in and get the information out because “this needs to happen NOW”, to the next day, feeling like the scum of the earth because I’m at odds with Christian brothers and sisters everywhere…to then doubting the study…so then re-digging in and confirming what I know and not doubting the study…to again believing in the importance of the information…to then go on to feel like maybe it’s not all that important… and on and on the cycle goes. But the worst result is that for a long time I felt disconnected from other Christians because I know that my beliefs on this don’t line up with theirs. But the disconnection is less about the disagreement (we’re never going to agree on every issue of faith), but because I feel very strongly at times that it’s important to change what we, as the body of Christ, teach on this matter, and I know that it steps on the toes of people whose toes I don’t want to step on, when I move on this. Without wanting to or trying to, I’m inadvertently accusing Godly people of having been deceived and falling for Satanic lies, and I’m also implying that they’re continuing that work as well, in their own ministries. The very things that make me feel awful when it’s pointed at me, I’m doing to those I love, trust, and respect. So this has been beyond uncomfortable for years now, and that’s why this blog. I don’t know any other solution than to put the information out and see what the response is. *But as I’m sitting here updating this 2013 post now in November of 2017, I can tell you that a whole new feeling of urgency has come over me with this. The world is going dark quickly, and it seems that time to do anything effective for Christ is growing short. I’m more in love with the Savior than I ever have been, and at the same time believe there is no better time to share this, and quit waffling on it and just stand firm for what I found Scripture to teach when I delved in and asked God for answers. As the days grow darker, to anyone out there who is rejecting faith in God even partially because of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment, you can’t use that excuse any longer. The bible simply doesn’t teach that and it’s easy to demonstrate this fact. And to those who are Christians, but the closeness in your relationship to Christ has been in any way hindered by the idea that He is going to cause or allow the eternal suffering of most of His human creation, there’s great relief coming to you if you do this study.
Regardless of where you fall on the issue, feel free to contact me. Let’s talk about these verses in question. And I’m not suggesting we “wrangle over words” as the Bible warns against. There is no mean-spiritedness here. We’re all sinners, saved by Grace, discussing our Lord’s word, so we can better know him, And that’s my life goal. I want to know God more intimately, and make Him known to others. As we love God more intimately, we’ll love one another in a more godly way. I confess to being somewhat guarded in this for far too long. And I’ve explained above much of the reason for that, But the last couple years, as I’ve decided to throw tradition (and my doubts) to the wind, and just trust what Scripture reveals, have been amazing. My love for God has grown, and in turn, my love for others has as well. Prior to the study (and even since it, in those occasional times of doubt) I found it difficult to love a God who causes or allows eternal suffering. And I don’t think we will love others any more than we love God. But the study I’ve done by no means revealed God to be a soft cuddly teddy bear either. He’s a lover of our souls, and a harsh judge to be feared and respected at the same time. But He’s not a maniacal tormentor. And that’s not just my opinion. That’s what a deep and detailed study of this reveals. I’ve not only carefully examined the 12 or so verses that have commonly been used to promote and prolong the traditional view of hell, but have studied the Bible from cover to cover and found that death, true death, a non-entity, loss of existence and being kind of death to be the ultimate wage of sin…and more specifically, the sin of faithless unbelief.
Lastly, I can’t state fervently enough that this is not an issue to break fellowship with other believers over. I’ve never attended a church that held anything but a traditional view of hell and immortality, and probably never will. And as already stated, I continue to watch and listen to numerous programs, podcasts, and webcasts from Christian teachers and leaders who I respectfully disagree with, because I believe they are led by God and have valuable and life-giving messages, regardless of what I see as a fairly large mistake in a couple of their doctrines. We’re all flawed, all capable of some doctrinal error, and none of us is going to get every aspect of faith correct all the time, certainly not me. So even if you go through this study and find the truth in it, don’t go looking for some congregation somewhere that believes this way about final judgment. You won’t find it. Let a new concept of God’s merciful nature grow your love for Jesus, and fill your own heart with a new level of love and mercy toward others. If a new understanding of God’s nature in judgment doesn’t have that affect, then it’s worthless. In Scripture, Paul talked about all the wonderful Christian attributes we might attain to, but said every one of them is essentially worthless if we don’t have love. I don’t know how I read that passage all my life, and yet it only really sunk in recently. When I first discovered what I believed to be error in the Church’s doctrine on final judgment, I was more angry at people who held strongly to the traditional view that was painting God in an unmerciful light, than I was relieved to be freed up to love God more intimately. It’s taken a lot of growing up over the past several years to get beyond that, but thankfully it happened. And I hope by sharing that, I can keep others who, like me, find the traditional teaching to be in error, from moving on in anger, and instead encourage them to let a new concept of God’s mercy translate into a new level of love and mercy toward others, regardless of our doctrinal differences.
Well, I’ve written of “the study” and “the book” as if they are out there and ready to go. They’re not. Biblicaljudgment.org contains a small percentage of the meat of the study that is essentially completed, but isn’t organized into something readable yet, and most everything there was written back in 2008 or before, and again, may have been written with a little more ill feelings toward those who maintain the traditional view of judgment. I should probably just take that website down because this blog is essentially taking its place. And the little info and evidence that is up on that website is in a very unedited, and sometimes lengthy tedious form.
But instead of beating around the bush for 10 more years waiting to one day finish a book on this, I’m going to begin putting the information from the study on pages and links within this blog.
I love to discuss this and other biblical issues. I welcome comments from those who agree with me, those who disagree with me, and those who just want more information. Please contact me or leave a comment.
God Bless You!