"Hell" Was Not a Doctrine of the Early Church:
Popular myth: Universalism was recently introduced to Christianity in the 1800's as the church became more liberal and modern and began to abandon their true biblical foundation. This is not true! A belief in the restitution of all things was a standard view in the early church, held by the majority of early Christians. It has also been held by a minority throughout all of church history even during the Dark Ages.
Think about it..
If Hell was real, why did the first comparatively complete systematic statement of Christian doctrine ever given to the world by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 180, contain the tenet of universal salvation?
If Hell was real, why did the first complete presentation of Christianity (Origen, 220 A.D.) contain the doctrine of universal salvation?
If Hell was real, why do neither the Apostles Creed, nor the Nicean Creed, two foundational "doctrinal statements" for the early church, contain the concept of Hell?
If Hell was real, why did Church leaders as late as the fourth century AD acknowledge that the majority of Christians believed in the salvation of all mankind?
If Hell was real why did the early church appoint an avowed universalist as the President of the second council of the church of Constantinope in the fourth century? (Gregory Nazianzen, 325-381).
If Hell was real why did not a single Church council for the first five hundred years condemn Universalism as heresy considering the fact that they made many declarations of heresy on other teachings?
If Hell was real why didn't Epiphanius (c. 315-403) the "hammer of heretics" who listed 80 heresies of his time not list universalism among those heresies?
If Hell was real, since most historians would acknowledge today that Origen was perhaps the most outstanding example of universalism in the church, when Methodius, Eusibius, Pamphilus, Marcellus, Eustathius, and Jerome made their lists of Origen's heresies, why wasn't universalism among them?
If Hell was real and found in the original Greek manuscripts of the Bible, why is it that it was primarily those church leaders who either couldn't read Greek (For example, Minucius Felix and Tertullian), or hated Greek as in the case of Augustine, that the doctrine of Hell was advocated? Those early church leaders familiar with the Greek and Hebrew (the original languages of the Bible) saw universal salvation in those texts. Those who advocated Hell got it from the Latin, not from the original Greek and Hebrew. Who would more likely be correct--those who could read the original languages of the Bible or those who read a Latin translation made by one man (Jerome)?
If Hell was real then why did four out of six theological schools from 170 AD to 430 AD teach universal salvation while the only one that taught Hell was in Carthage, Africa, again were Latin was the teaching language, not Greek?
If Hell was real and a serious heresy, why was it not until the sixth century when Justinian, a half-pagan emperor, tried to make universalism a heresy? Interestingly, most historians will acknowledge that Justinian's reign was among the most cruel and ruthless.
*The historical facts documented in the above section can all be verified through the books, "Universalism, the Prevailing Doctrine of the Early Church for the First 500 Years" by J.W. Hanson
and "The History of Opinions on the Scriptural Doctrine of Retribution" by Edward Beecher.
Hell does not reflect the heart of God:
Popular myth: The justice of God demands a place like Hell in which the wicked shall be eternally punished for their sins. Not true! The justice of God demanded a perfect sacrifice for sin, and that man was Christ Jesus. The justice of God will certainly come to every person, and God may deal severely with our sins as He subdues and gathers all things to Christ, but to punish people endlessly for crimes committed in a short human lifespan defies all logic and justice. How is it just to have unending punishment for offenses that have limits?
Think about it....
If Hell is real and all things were made for God's pleasure (Rev. 4:11), is it conceivable that God would derive pleasure from seeing those He created endlessly tortured? God says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ez. 33:11).
If Hell is a real place of endless torment, and God didn't want anyone to end up there, why didn't God just kill Adam and Eve and end the long terrible chain of misery that passed to their offspring before it began? After all, the Scriptures say that all died because of Adam. (Rom. 5:18)
If Hell is real, if God loves His enemies now, will he not always love them? Is God a changeable being? (James 1:17)
If Hell is real, if you had sufficient power would you not deliver all men from sin? If God would save all men, but cannot , is He infinite in power?
If Hell is real, and God can save all men, but will not , is He infinite in goodness and mercy?
If Hell is real, since God will have all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3 KJV), does that mean God's power is not strong enough to have His will fulfilled?
If Hell is real and Jesus teaches us to forgive seventy times seven and yet He Himself will never offer forgiveness to anyone after they die, does that not make Him a hypocrite?
If Hell is real and God's wrath abides upon billions of human beings forever, doesn't that violate the Scripture which says His anger will come to an end? (Isaiah 57:16-18)
If Hell is real and God only loves those who love Him, what better is He than the sinner? (Luke 6:32-33)
If Hell is real, since some people receive many chances to "get saved," some receive only a few chances and billions have never even received one chance, does that make God a respecter of persons? (Acts 10:34, James 3:17). After all, billions of people have been born and died on this earth without a chance to ever hear the name of Jesus, the "only name under heaven by which men may be saved."
If there is a Hell and all who have sinned are destined to go there (which is everyone) unless they figure out how to avoid it, does that not consign all aborted babies and non-Christian children to Hell? (While some denominations teach a so-called "age of accountability," it is not found anywhere in the Bible. It is just some people's way of trying to make God more humane than the eternal torment teaching makes Him out to be).
If Hell is real, does that mean that motherly love is more powerful and enduring than God's love? Do you know of normal parents who would endlessly torment most of their kids? Why do we believe our heavenly Father, Who is millions of times more loving than all of us combined, could do such an evil, wicked thing?
If Hell is real, why does the human spirit writhe under the horror of wars and prison camps, torture chambers and dictators? How can we judge these things as wrong, if Hell is real? After all, Hell far eclipses these earthly torments which came from the most sinful and beastly part of humanity. We say God is grieved by man's violence and disregard for life, and yet believe that He Himself enforces the same principles for all eternity!
If Hell is real, how would endless misery benefit the Almighty, as the inflictor? How would endless misery benefit the saints, as spectators? How would endless misery benefit the sinner, as the sufferer?
If Hell is real, how does the threat of endlessly torturing us convince us that God loves us and that we should love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength?
FACT: While the church has gotten used to thinking of God as Someone who was forced to design a grandiose punishment called Hell, and against His own will sends the majority of His creation there, this concept of a God "who did the best He could" is totally against the Scriptural view of a God who is absolutely sovereign, powerful, all-wise and all-victorious. He never had to come up with a plan B or C, for Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It is time to give Him the glory He deserves for our God is truly awesome and wonderful far beyond the limited, and man-centered views of Him!
Come Up Higher!
Beloved, what is the "lens" through which you are interpreting the Bible? Traditional doctrines teach us to interpret the "victorious" scriptures in the light of the "judgment" scriptures. But what if God wants us to see it the other way around? What if we are to interpret the "judgment" scriptures in the light of the "victorious" scriptures? Is not Christ's victory the greatest revelation in the Bible? Standing on this highest peak-that is, the finished work of the cross, causes us to see a much larger and far more beautiful panoramic view of God's plan throughout the ages. We do not throw out one set of Scriptures in favor of another. Rather, we seek to harmonize them.For man shall live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
In the time of Christ, most of Israel completely missed the Word of God when He was in their midst. They were too busy with their nose in the book, to perceive the Word Himself as He came and walked among them! Many Jews were afraid to believe in Jesus, since the majority of their leaders (Scribes, Pharisees, Saducees, Priests etc) who knew the scriptures better than they did, were convinced that He was not the Messiah. In the early days of the church, faith in Jesus Christ was heresy and to admit faith in Him was basically asking for scorn and rejection. Modern Christians point the finger at Israel of old, not realizing that we are following in their footsteps today. Most of us play it safe, siding with the denomination or movement that we happen to be a part of. While there is wisdom in honoring our spiritual fathers, we can never allow them to take the place of the Holy Spirit teaching us in our own lives.
The facts presented in this article should at least cause every reader who is truly hungry to know God, to search the scripture to see if these things be so. If what we are presenting here is false, it needs to be disproved. And if it is true, it cannot be ignored.
It is time to stop skipping the parts of the Bible that do not fit in with our theology. And if, like the religious leaders of Jesus' day, our theology is not big enough to hold the entire counsel of Scripture, perhaps it is time to expand--lest we once again miss God!
And so we ask you again, beloved Christian, to ask yourself.
If the traditional teaching of Hell is real..
How can mercy triumph over judgment? (James 2:13)
How can it be true that, "where sin abounded grace did much more abound?" (Rom. 5:20)
When will all flesh come to God? (Psalm 65:2-4)
When will the poor of the earth be avenged and comforted by God? (Psalm 113:7, Psalm 140:12, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 31:9, Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 61:1, Jeremiah 22:16 etc.) (Bear in mind that most of the poor of the earth throughout history have not had a chance to accept Jesus as their savior).
When shall it come to pass that: "On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken" (Isaiah 26:6-8).
When and how will "all nations" praise Him, come to Him, serve Him, be blessed in Him and bow to Him? (Psalm 45:17, Ps. 86:9, Isaiah 62:11, Daniel 7:14 Ps 66:1, Ps 72:11, Ps 102:15, Jer. 3:17, Ps 72:17, Isa. 2:2, Isa. 11:10, Isa. 52:10, Rev. 5:13 etc.)
How can the world be reconciled to God? (2 Corinthians 5:19, Romans 11;5, Romans 5:10).
Why would Paul the apostle say the goal of God's creative plan was to ultimately be "all in all?" (1 Cor. 15:28)
How can it be true that God, Who works all things according to the counsel of His will, shall gather together all things in Christ, in the fullness of the times? (Ephesians 1:9-11)
How can Paul insist that "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Romans 11:36).
How can the most often-repeated Biblical description of God be true? "His mercy endures forever" (literally, "His mercy/lovingkindness endures for the ages"). Certainly, as long as there are ages, and people in need of mercy, God's mercy will endure.
How and when can there ever be a "restitution of all things?" (Acts 3:21)
A Final Test
We have tested the doctrine of Hell against many different Biblical topics and concepts and found it wanting. When scrutinized in the light of the entire counsel of Scripture, the doctrine of Hell is found to be full of holes. Now, test this doctrine against your own heart and see whether it can stand. Please take some time and prayerfully ask yourself these questions:
If there is a Hell and according to most denominations of Christianity the majority of mankind will go there, could you really enjoy heaven knowing your mother or father or children or best friend are suffering everlasting tortures the likes of which would make the Holocaust seem like a picnic?
If Hell is real, will you judge your mother, son, or other non-believers to Hell ? "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world"? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?" 1 Corinthians 6:2-3
If Hell is real and a place of terrible, unending pain, could you even send a dog to such a place?
If Hell is real and universalism is a heresy, why is it that those who believe God loves all and will save all find it easier to love all people than those who believe most people are going to Hell? (Think this through very carefully.)
If Hell is real, can you honestly rejoice in the victory, love, and wisdom of God, knowing that somewhere in His beautiful creation there will always be a black and stinking hell-hole crammed full of tortured souls who have no chance for relief or forgiveness--or even death? Even if there was only one person left in such a state, how could all of Heaven rejoice for all eternity knowing that there was still one soul who had not been touched by the victory of Christ and was suffering alone?
Is it good to desire all men to be saved? "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim.2:3,4).
. Do you ardently desire the salvation of all men?
. Is it true that God "openeth His hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing?" -- (Ps. 145:16)
. Do you fervently pray for the salvation of all men? (1 Tim. 2:1)
. Do you pray in faith, nothing doubting? (James 1:6)
. Are you aware, "that whatsoever is not of faith is sin?" -- (Rom 14:23)
. Would God require us to pray for all men, and to pray in faith, unless He intends all men should be saved?
. If you believe endless misery to be the truth of God, why should you desire and pray that it may prove false?
We hope that this information has raised enough questions for you to pursue further study on this subject. For more information on the history of the doctrine of Hell, the Lake of Fire , Studies on Biblical words that are often translated as eternal, everlasting, etc. and many other teachings pertaining to this subject, please visit:
Some of these questions were taken from a much larger list compiled in an article entitled Is Salvation a Deliverance From Hell or Eternal Death? " by Gary Amirault .
The painting on the front of this booklet is a scene from "The Damned" by Michelangelo. His paintings of Hell and the damned, like much Christian art of the time, was influenced more by Greek mythology of the underworld, than by the Bible.
Who are we? Tentmaker Ministries and Publications is a Christian ministry committed to sharing as best to our ability our understanding of God's plan for the ages to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus Christ. (This view is also known as Ultimate reconciliation or Christian universalism, which is a very different thing than Unitarian Universalism). We believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, the only way to the Father, the only begotten Son of God, and that there is no other way to everlasting, "aionian" life but through Him. We believe He is king of the universe, and owner of all Creation, and that His purpose is to bring all things under His government and reconciled with Himself.
".And for this we labor and strive, that we have put our hope in the living God, Who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe" (2 Timothy 4:10 ).
I pray Mercy's message has blessed you. I believe it is the definitive writing of my generation on the subject of "the myth of Hell and the truth of Universal Salvation."
If you are not yet convinced I pray you would further investigate this all important matter by reading that which is considered the "old standard" on "Universal Reconciliation." Multitudes have come to be set free from the torrid belief in Hell, a place of eternal torment through this anointed writing by Andrew Jukes first published in 1867.
THE SECOND DEATH AND THE
RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS
by ANDREW JUKES