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Universal Salvation or Not? Heaven? Hell? Final Disposition of all who ever lived?


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This is a thread for discussing the various positions concerning humans, eternity, and their final disposition in eternity, infinity, and so on.  

I'll primarily come at it from a perspective reflecting what I think the Bible says, but that's not the only perspective allowed for this thread.  All positions are fair game, as are all sources (like books).



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No matter what your position on the subject,  I think few would deny it's an emotionally-charged subject for many, and for some it's one of the main, if not THE main, topic for thought concerning God, the Universe, and so on.   After all, if life on Earth is temporary, and something after that is eternal, then what comes after might be seen as a lot more important than what happens here.   It's certainly been talked about a lot down the centuries.  Shakespeare himself makes a passing reference to the subject in Hamlet's famous "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy, and final disposition became a minor point in that story (that of Hamlet's father, that of Claudius, etc.)   Hamlet said we didn't know what happens, and no traveler returns to tell us what happens,  and I'm sure none of that was too obscure for Shakespeare's audiences.   They were neither the first nor the last to think about all this.

To some, the answer is OBLIVION.  We live, and after that, there is nothing whatsoever.  That's perhaps the default position of those who believe there's no Higher Power, no Fate, no Destiny, and so on. There's no reason to live, so there's no reason to exist after "life" in any form.    To some others, the answer is "reincarnation."  To them, all of a person's existence can be thought of as a wheel.  They live, they die, then they return to live again as a human or an animal.   I've heard it expressed that the goal of such returns and reincarnations is so that a person can improve over multiple lifetimes and lifeforms, eventually improving enough to get promoted, so to speak, from the wheel of lives and go on to some form of afterlife, some form of Heaven or heaven.   My main problem with these systems is that I don't think they work on paper.  Any statistician can explain the concept of "regression towards the mean." In any group (and moreso as the numbers of individuals increase), all the members of a population tend towards "average."  The outliers are high and low, with most clustered around the mean, and possibly the median or mode.    So, based simply on statistics, I would expect any one lifetime to be average, neither moving one up nor down the ladder.  The outliers might point higher- but it's equally likely they will point LOWER, possibly canceling out the gains of the previous lifetime.  For an individual, one would expect to live a few higher and a few lower, and most as average.  So, over 50 lifetimes, one should, statistically speaking, expect to remain effectively walking in place.  Don't expect the average person will make it to promotion even over 1000 years.  In fact, the numbers will suggest the longer they try, the more likely they go NO PLACE but remain at the same level.  It's only if one counts one or possibly 2 lifetimes that one should expect to be either significantly ahead or significantly behind.   The more lifetimes one averages in, the more likely they will end in an "average" result.





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Mark S already had this to say....


The Myths of Hell

My goal is to also write a book. One of the chapters of my future book is on this web site with link above which I did. Rob Bell sounds like he is not a hateful person mixed with common sense and likely a study of the bible also. To use demonic theology and believe that immediately after death all people go to either hell for eternal torment or heaven for eternal pleasure is crazy. This was not part of the Old Testament theology. Hell is instead the grave or the place of death. And biblical translators see this with newer biblical versions for example the NIV, having ZERO usages of the word Hell in the entire Old Testament.  The doctrine of hell originated with Greek, Roman and perhaps other mystic theology. Hell is simply the grave or the place of death. It takes God the creator to raise people from the dead.

The first man to be raised from the dead to live eternally is Jesus Christ. All Christian who read the bible and believe in Jesus Christ should see this. Otherwise they are dumb-dee dumb dumb. In the actual bible for people who know how to read. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the followers of Jesus Christ to be raised from the dead next and this is when Jesus Christ returns.  We have seen this in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Then in the figurative book of Revelation chapter 20, we have the first resurrection with those who were persecuted for the work of God being raised from the dead. Next we have what can be called the resurrection of the unjust.  The outcome of this resurrection is not clearly stated in the figurative and not literal book of Revelation. However, since God is referred to as the God of love. What is the purpose of raising humans from the dead???? To torture them only? Or to improve them with perhaps some punishment, which we often get now, but to at least try to purify their sin nature so that they can see how good and loving Jesus Christ is, while following him. The clearest example of this in the bible is Jesus Christ appearing to Saul, also named Paul; and getting him to change from one of the most hateful persecutors of the followers of Jesus Christ to the best teacher of Jesus Christ and God's word as seen in the New Testament. This is clearly seen by reading Acts chapter 9. 

Acts Chapter 9

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While I can't say I agree on ALL points, I agree with Mark that a lot of the doctrine was adapted from Greco-Roman mythology,  of shades in the underworld, tortured for eternity.   I agree with him and Rob Bell that I don't buy the idea that lots of humanity will be (or are) tortured for centuries or forever.   I don't see that squaring the the Bible, and I don't see that squaring with God's M.O.     There was a quote, attributed to Mark Twain, where he supposedly didn't agree with it, either.   It's one thing to destroy a villain, it is another to punish for a time during his sentence, but to torture forever made no sense to him.     (I just don't see "eternal torture for humanity" working on paper.) 

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Mark S said:

Yes and the word sometimes translated as eternal in bible versions are the Greek words "aion" and "aionios"". In English these biblical words are also often translated 'age". All usages of the Greek word for eternal in the book of Revelation is the Greek word often translated as "age" or "ages" in other New Testament scriptures. I can looks this up because of my biblical study software that I have. Age is a period of time that could be long or short.


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Mark S:

Here also is a web site article that I have learned from on the subject of age using the original Greek N.T. words. I have read this article at least once and learned from it. This article was written by someone named Mark Sanguinetti. I wonder who that person is because I sometimes call myself Marky Spaghetti instead of Mark Sanguinetti? 

Age and the Greek Words Aion and Aionios



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socks on this subject (or on a book on this subject):


At the risk of over generalizing and not really getting into the weeds on his book (yet) I would say I agree more with the side he's on (I think) .... more than not. I'll try to come back to this Rocky - it's an invigorating topic. :anim-smile:

In brief, I don't see that the Bible teaches specifically that the outcome of God's creations, expectation of that creation and subsequent evaluation (judgment) of those creations is to exalt and reward the one's He likes forever (approves of, let's say) and to punish those he doesn't. 

God's view of things is often described in very human terms in the Bible, even what I'd call humanistic terms - like God being a "jealous" God and God's "vengeance"....mans' definition of many of those words doesn't fit with the God we see presented in Genesis nor in how He trends throughout the subsequent records, although that's how He's described but I never come to the same conclusion as say an angry Preacher shouting out God's Just Hell to all sinners everywhere - God clearly complex but seems to be put forward as One who is at work "creatively" - a word that gets closest to how I (in what I will confess to be very humble perspective) see the Bible's Elohim/Jehovah working. Sovereign, yes. Creative, yes. At work, yes. 

That's not to refute the inspirational source of the Bible itself, but rather to say it puts meat on the bones of how to understand it..........and the angst of man's struggles isn't one that's going to be at the essence of how a creator and giver of life who nourishes His relationships....feels. Or thinks. It does however give a level of emotional definition to God, and that's an important aspect of understanding God that Bell's book retains. 

Put another way I see God, whoy loves as strongly as many believe He hates and the result is a level of paradoxical "love" that we come to understand through qualities like grace, mercy and forgiveness...qualities that would seem to hint at a far broader Mind at work. 

I don't believe there's eternal punishment in store for those who don't accept Christ as savior, no but I can get into that further in this discussion (it involves what "Life" is and how the Bible teaches it). I do believe the entire message of Christ we're to live and spread is one of hope, of trust and of caring. I can't "BE" a Christian or "BE" saved and hate my brothers or even those who strike out against me - Jesus said "Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing"...... we are not all made by our own hand and intent - we are born who we are, where, at the age and times and to the people we are - completely outside our own ability to plan. People like to say we're accountable and responsible and we "make our own choices"....and we are and we do but we are not a law nor a law give unto ourselves.......

So our ability to be right or wrong or even understand either one and "believe" in any one thing or not, is limited outta the gate. IMO. And Bell hits on that somewhat in that Book if I remember right, I read it years ago, seems like it anyway. 


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socks again:


Well, couple things off the bat, and I'm sure others will chime in....

First point - The issue of God's sovereignty - some people want to believe that if some of us aren't getting condemned to hell forever then some of us are "getting off the hook".....that a righteous God will serve up justice to those who disobey him and the penalty needs to be eternal punishment of some sort. Needless to say whether it's eternal burning or getting pitchforked forever or maybe just having to hang out with Hitler and some of those nasty assed Popes, it's not something anyone will like. 

Conversely they believe True Justice will be served when God extends magnanimous gestures of grace and mercy to some of us, no matter how bumbling, incompetent, selfish and inept we really were and waves us through to an eternity of fun with the Son because - I dunno - He "Likes Us", maybe, for whatever reasons....? The assumption is that those who believe this will be most likely to get the pass, of course. 

The scariest version of this is hard core Calvinist theology, salvation by grace, not works, and that God by His own will chooses who will and won't "be saved". One of the weirder splinter teachers of Christian Reformed Calvinist theology was "Harold Camping" who taught what they call hyper Calvinism with a twist of his own to it - he made the news for awhile because he was predicting the return of Christ from the Bible's "data". More than once. I loved to listen to his call in radio show at night when I'd be on long drives. He was down right creepy, but it kept me awake. : )

That hyper Calvinism also covers the section in Ephesians where it talks about "predestination" - in that Calvinist view that means that God predestines and decides everything - who believes, who doesn't, what happens and when, etc. Everything that happens must happen that way because God is "in charge". So if God doesn't want some of us to believe in Him, we're not going to. Some of us will "go to hell" forever, because that's what He wants. "The Elect" and those He chooses, those "sheep" He gives to His Son the Shepherd, will be saved. Others, won't be, by God's determination. 

These beliefs were codified by some churches in response to theology like Bell's proposing so that they could shut the door tight on any possibilities that might include those who might get or even deserve "a second chance" or perhaps never had even heard of Jesus Christ. Figure - if God wants them, they're gettin' in, regardless. 

And If I understand it correctly this drills deeper into that predestination plan of God's where He already knows who would believe or not BECAUSE HE MAKES THEM THAT WAY. 

BUT - This "administration of grace", of the church of Christ of both Gentile and Jew reflects an inclusion of PEOPLE THAT WEREN'T INCLUDED BEFORE CHRIST. So really, the very existence of this time period reflects God's desire for the world to be drawn to Him in ways PREVIOUSLY NOT UNDERSTOOD but now in movement as an entire world hears a message that the Jews didn't believe was directly for anyone but themselves.....ironic in a way. 

So, this is kind of chatty I know, but I don't want to presume to try to teach a history of theology here - there's a lot of things this doesn't cover, but I as far as I've studied, the real core, real platform, real foundation of disagreement on any of Bell's premise(s) is the question of heaven or hell, but under it all it's the belief that  Bell's position questions and demeans God's Ultimate Authority. 

And by association, their authority. Cause there's a LOT OF POWER in having the one clear voice of God's will. Lot of power. Hell, you can even demand people pay you to hear it. :wink2:


My take on it is that if God has given us the ability to choose - and He clearly has from Day One of man's relationship with Him - then it reflects His sovereign will to use it. 

Remember the "first and great commandment" is "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. "

If I don't insert my own logic into that statement then I have to assume that God's logic is clear - He's telling me what He wants me to do, so that I can do that. 

It's not of concern to me whether or not I am even able to do it or not - if I hear that I have to assume that I should choose to do that, to obey that commandment and my next concern is "how". 

It's important to see that Jesus never taught people that came to Him to hear him and be helped by Him that they couldn't be helped. He never said "No, my Father has said I can't heal you", or "Sorry, you can't have any of the bread or fish, you're not included in this, my Father doesn't want you". 

He did reject those who rejected Him, who sought to kill him, He did reprove those who taught error and led people astray and who sought their own good and not the good of God and His people. 

Not many were turned away who came to Him seeking help - there was the one guy who asked Him to help settle a family inheritance issue, and he told the guy he wasn't a judge of those affairs over him (there were others who could do that).....There were some people who turned away from Him after one particular teaching, but it doesn't said He sent them away, it says they left. Another person He told to see all he had and give it away and that person didn't want to do that so they left. But Jesus never looked a person in the eye who was asking Him and who wanted to follow Him and said "Beat it, my Father tells me He didn't plan for you to believe".

People say that today, but I don't see that Jesus took that route. God's "sovereignty" means that what God has put in place and done is what's going to happen, and since He's given us these lives and minds that are designed to think, act, choose, respond and learn, we are going to have to learn to function in this world the way He's made it and with the plans He's put in place. 

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I want to be careful with not getting too far off your original topic, buuuut I would say that how we define mans' so-called "free will" and "freedom to choose" are important  in this topic. In the bible anyway, will is associated with what we "want" to do, and what we plan to do....I will go to the store, I will open the door. It's a capacity, ability to determine or decide. It would be a function of our "nous" then, our minds which is part of the "psuche" or life we have. We're living breathing people, and we have individual minds that can think, consider, decide, plan. BUT WITHIN THE SCOPE AND PARAMETERS IN WHICH THAT CAPACITY EXISTS. We're human, we're not God. I can't say "Let there be light" and expect anything to happen unless I turn on a lamp, as a human being. 

Freedom to choose, making a choice, is us exercising that will, that capacity. Like picking which shirt I want to wear tomorrow. I have the ability to choose - there's more than one shirt I could wear, and I can then pick which one I will wear. My will or plan is to wear a different shirt tomorrow, and there are several shirts I could wear, so I pick...that one. 

Pretty simple. The Bible makes it clear that man's CAPACITY in which he picks and plans is limited, and in fact is unreliable and unpredictable, mostly because man's physical realm and capacities are fairly limited on a large scale - sure, I can decide to wear that shirt tomorrow but if a fire burns through my town over night I'm not going to do it as I planned. Many places in the Bible compare man's capacity to God's and how limited it is - like Proverbs 19:21 "Many plans are in a man's heart, but the purpose of the LORD will prevail."

So we can't decide to do or say or have or change or make something that can't actually be done, and even if it can be done we may not be able to control circumstances in such a way that would guarantee it to happen. God can of course, so the comparison is easy to understand. If God says it's possible, then it is and it may be within my ability to then decide and choose...whatever it is...but the fuel comes from God, not me. I may turn the key but that's nuttin' if there's no gas in the tank.

The will to decide and the ability to choose and act are all actually the mechanics of "believing", of pistis. It's what believing really is, all it is - not to say it's a small thing but it's not a magical thing. If we understand how to decide and choose and how to take action (or not take action depending, etc) then we completely understand how "believing works". 

So - God's sovereignty and authority is untouched and supreme when He....allows....us......to choose......to believe in God, to follow Jesus Christ, and to accept forgiveness as the New Gold Standard of life. God would "have all men to be saved", and so they will be as they respond but our choice to respond IS ONLY POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF GOD'S GRACE. We can't manufacture even the opportunity or invitation, so to speak, as it's "not by works". 

There's lots of places that help to define what God means by hell - like

Romans 6:23
For the wages (apsonion - pay, allowance) of sin (harmatia - a mistake, missing the mark) is death (thanatos - death, end of life); but the gift (charisma - free gift) of God is eternal (aionios - for ever, without beginning nor end) ) life (zoe - the living soul) through Jesus Christ our Lord.

I'm not told there that the payment for disobeying God is to be tortured for eternity in some hellish environment - it says it's death. Actual ending of life. 

The payment of God's gift to me though is ETERNAL life. Actual life that doesn't die but lives forever. 

So the contrast here in relation to what God wants to do with us is between death and life. Termination and continuance. 

Matthew 10:28
And fear not them which kill (apokteino - kill, destroy) the body (soma - the physical body), but are not able to kill the soul (psuche - life): but rather fear him which is able to destroy (apollumi - to destroy, abolish, out an end to) BOTH soul and body in hell (geenna - from Gehenna, the place where trash and dead animals were burned)

Again, the concern is to defer to God, who is able to destroy both soul and body - everything that we are - in "hell", a place or process or (fill in the blank) where that destruction is done. 

I'm not told to fear Him who is able to torture and punish me forever, endlessly. I'm told to fear the one who can end the entire body and soul. 

Could God do that, torture everyone for eternity? Yes. Sure. But that doesn't seem to be what is said in these and many other verses and contexts. Because - well, it doesn't say that or even imply it. 

There's other verses too, of course, other places we get context and scope. 

The real issue here is LIFE and the QUALITY of that life. There is a kind of life that is part of that "free gift" of God that's ETERNAL. Without that we don't "live forever". 

Eventually it gets to Bell's point, or at least the question which is - why would a Creator decide or even allow that some of His creation won't live forever, when some clearly can and will. Why even allow for that outcome. Why not "save" everyone? 

Or does God plan for that? And if so, what about those WHO CLEARLY DON'T WANT TO BE PART OF THAT PLAN - people who would even think that eternity with a God they consider unfair wouldn't be desirable? And I've talked to people who do say they think like that. 

Lots of stuff to this. 

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I don't want to make this a "verse battle" where one side stacks them up against another side and in the end we just have fat stacks of opinions that we had when we started, but since the Bible is my source book for trying to understand this topic....some more verses....


John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish (apollumi - end, abolish....and Strong's gives "put out of the way entirely") but have everlasting (aionios - or ever, without beginning nor end) life (zoe - hmmm..."life") 

Again, a fundamental verse for Christianity - whosoever BELIEVES in His "only begotten Son" will not die, perish, become abolished and put permanently out of the way .....but rather will have this unending transcendent LIFE.

Nothing in one of Christianity's core verses about being punished and tortured if you don't - but you are being told you will at the least avoid ending, perishing. 


John 10:10 - The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy (apollumi - end, abolish....and Strong's gives "put out of the way entirely"). I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly."

One of the biggies and there it sits like a big ol' duck. Compared to a thief that wants to steal kill and destroy their victims, Jesus gives more abundant "LIFE".

I guess many of us see the "thief" there as "the devil" but we can understand a thief to be someone who wants to take our stuff and will kill us doing it. I could build a solid 30 minute sermon around the Devil's intentions as the "father" of rebellion and self centered focus who wants to steal our futures and see us destroyed forever but I don't want to forget that Jesus counters that with a bigger, better more abundant LIFE. So again - death is contrasted with LIFE here, not an eternal torment. A bad ending to life compared to a much better life, and we lose to the thief that opportunity for an ongoing life, "eternal". 

Granted if it means getting tossed into a lake of fire and ending it all that way then it's not something I want. Given eternity or termination, I want eternity.


I'm resisting the cheesey logic stuff for now - why would a loving God do something unloving, etc. etc. buuuuut - I also think people under value our time on this planet in this life when they say "how come 80 years will get you eternal termination cuz you under performed in what amounts to the tiniest imaginable increment of time in that eternal arc....? How can that be fair?"......................................aaaaand that's a deeper topic, but from the perspective of this life I have, 80 years isn't a small part of anything, it's a huge part of everything, of all there is. That's something to consider in this mix, I think. 

Today we throw everything away, if it breaks we toss it, recycle it, dump it. Just get rid of it because most stuff doesn't get repaired, it gets replaced. "LIFE" is unique and individual - I can't be replaced. Another "like" me yes, but never another me. Life isn't cheap just because there's a lot of them. Each one counts, is "precious" and represents a much bigger picture of reality. THAT makes complete sense then for it to be non terminating and eternally resilient. What is God's greater long term plan? To answer that I have to ask myself what do I not know that I can't even know I don't know, for whatever reasons? I only know what I know and I gotta go with that - there are some things I can and do know now, I'm not floating in a sea of unknowns. 


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Mark S:

Biblical Usages of N.T. Greek word, Aion

Page 3 of the article. Article Written by someone named Mark Sanguinetti, I wonder who that person is??? 


Perhaps the most confusion of understanding on this subject is the lack of understanding of the Greek word translated either as age, world, ever, forever and with other translated version words. In Koine Greek this is the word aion, which is also written in English as aioon. When seeing the following biblical usages of this word aion, a clear definition is age with a limited duration of time, or a period of longer or shorter duration having a beginning and an end. When seeing other biblical usages, which will be covered on the final page of this study, this word could also be understood and used in context as an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity. However, this usage would require multiple ages and as it relates to God the creator of life. This Greek word is used as a noun. There are 125 usages of this word in the New Testament. From a number of usages of this word it is clearly seen that age has a limitation of time with an end to the age. In the King James Version this is often translated world. However, most if not all of the newer biblical versions use the word age for aion more often. On the below link are verses with aion from the King James Version, followed by other biblical versions chosen randomly. As I stated previously, with editing biblical versions can improve for truth and clarity.


Reading the above should take less than 2 minutes. I hope that is not to long of a time to spend.


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So yeah - it does appear that the religious ideas of eternal/eternity and "forever" have been embedded into how people understand the translation of these words. Aion/aeon and the Greek's use of those words is of what you're calling a period of time, an "age", dispensation, part of a process - of sorts. 

It's an interesting topic and I think I get where you're going with it. I'd put it like this - 

A lot of man's idea of "eternity" is covered in our idea of "time". But - really, the most real definition of what eternity "IS" as it applies to God isn't primarily a matter of measured time..........in other words the word "eternal" isn't a clock that reads "always" or something.......(little humor there)......from the angle of aeon/aion I wouldn't answer the question "how long is eternity", I'd use it to answer the question "where am I and what's going on?"

That's a really sucky way to describe what I mean but if I started stacking up verses about God in the Bible it would give the impression that to me - as a creation of God's, eternity as some kind of time that has no beginning and no end would be GREAT because I measure time as a very measurable and trackable quality of life. "What time is it" and where is this moment in relation to all the moments I'm going to know is VERY important to the average citizen of Planet Earth, for obvious reasons. 

But it wouldn't be for someone who actually existed in my concept of Eternal Time would think about it. 

Which is hard for me to write, it's like trying to say I like a color I've never seen. 

Anyway - where I see what you're saying is in the context of the statements in the Bible - the sentences and verses don't always impose a concrete definition of the word aion (and it's forms) to mean "forever" or "eternal" - the meaning what it is, comes from the context. 

"I'm barely going to make it"....

Doesn't usually mean I'm going to make something like a cake and that I'll be bare when I do...... It usually means that I'll get somewhere I'm going when I'm expected but not early and hopefully not late. 

Etc. : )


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Mark S:

People should see if they use their brain, the Greek word "aion" should only be looked at as eternal as it relates to God the creator or Jesus Christ his son.  Thank you Jesus Christ for passing salvation onto regular man. Here are some of the usages of this Greek word. I give credit to the people who know Koine Greek who are able to do New Testament translations with improvement. 

Matthew 13:39-40
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world (aion); and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world (aion).
King James Version (KJV)
Matthew 13:39-40
39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age (aion), and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age (aion).
English Standard Version (ESV)

Matthew 13:49
49 So shall it be at the end of the world (aion): the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
Matthew 13:49
49 So it will be at the end of the age (aion); the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous,
New American Standard Bible

Matthew 24:3
3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (aion)?
Matthew 24:3
3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age (aion)?
Jubilee Bible 2000

Matthew 28:20
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (aion). Amen.
Matthew 28:20
20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (aion).
New English Translation

Clearly from the above usages age or aion in the Greek has an ending.

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Well, yes, that seems obvious. 

In my own exposure to this topic and those who might agree or disagree with Bell's premises, I don't thinks there's a real disagreement on that particular idea or translation across the board on every verse it appears in, the problem seems to be more in what someone thinks it means in relation to what the speaker or writer was saying, what they meant by it. Like Matthew 28:20 - Christ may have been telling them He'd be with them for some specific reason that He'd be with them for a specific period of time, but as part of His greater message, the "big picture", of being the Son of God He would want them to understand that He would "always" be with them in the way we understand words like forever. More practically and I think this is more to the point, the assurance He's giving His disciples throughout His life is that He's with them, cares for them, loves them and will help them. 

For humans, "forever" is most seen in the quality of "unconditional love" and forgiveness, I think, and this goes back to ol' Bell's ideas. We can talk all day long about what's eternal and what's not but like a child I care about my next meal.....will it be there Dad? Next time? How about the next? Will there always be food? What about when it rains and snows, will you still be with me to make sure I'm cared for? 

We know that children have to learn to live by time. Babies don't understand "tomorrow" or "later" very well. The earliest development is around what we see, hear, taste, touch, smell, our senses. It's immediate experience, we aren't born with the sense of time because we - haven't been alive very long. 

SIDE BAR ALERT - : ) There's always been a HUGE theological butt bust over whether the "natural man" of body and soul brings anything to the table for his own salvation, and we do know that nothing we do creates the opportunity or produces the result - it's all there by God's grace.....the idea of our developing understanding of time, our own selves as unique individuals and our needs for basic sustenance to live are learned though. We don't pop out ready to go. So while I believe "not by works but by grace", I also think there's an intrinsic in-the-face kind of "duh" moment when we realize that the conscious growth in our understanding of time and our own existence is something that's absolutely necessary to "be saved". Put another way, a person who never develops mentally and has the understanding of a 3 year old can't "believe to be saved" the way we know it from the Bible. And they may not "need to be".........which accounts for the convoluted doctrines of Catholicism to create a channel of salvation for them.........but when Jesus said that we should BECOME saved, converted and then be LIKE children, one has to weight that statement and come to certain conclusions about it - because if He meant like a 3 year old, it would relinquish any responsibility of our part. Yet, we can see from context He meant "childlike" not "babylike". And more importantly "sinless" ..... ? It's very simple then - it's about acceptance and trust. And to be that trusting doesn't require a lot of work, but if you're an adult you're going to need to position yourself to accept and trust completely in God's grace.....Food for thought....

Which gets into another idea here - as you say, for God there's no "end of time". Eternity doesn't have a beginning by definition (which is why I think conceptually it's a struggle to use it that way, it's like saying something weighs 47 minutes.)

So from God's view the end of the world or an age is in relation to us and this part of His mmmm....stuff. Or others, for all I know. But again, it's like saying "what time is it" to Spock on Star Trek - surely he'd answer "on which of the billions of stars and their trillions of planets did you wish to calculate the time?" It's a matter of perspective, even excluding Vulcan where they may not care about what time it is anyway. 

So yeah. I'm going to re read Bell's book again, where he was going with this. I do think from my previous reading that he didn't put forth a position that accounts "for everything", but I don't think he was trying to. PEACE! 

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He's sure not the first to speak out against hell being some place of eternal torment, which incidentally, I agree with (and quite frankly, have known from a time that was many moons before twi..)  Seems to me that doctrinally speaking, even vpw and twi would (have) agree(d) with him on that. (Which gives be pause in pondering why this particular thread was introduced here...)

What is questionable, however, is the notion of universalism... that eventually, none can  - or  will - resist the will (i.e., love) of God, and will (inevitably) be saved. Although Bell appears to lean in that direction in his book, it also appears that (perhaps for questionable reasons) he is (intentionally) rather vague, if not downright elusive, on the matter.    


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Hope Beyond Hell The Righteous Purpose of God's Judgment

Here is a book that I have read that was written by a dentist from Texas. Yes, it is OK to have worked as a dentist and written a biblical book. As an example, Luke the biblical writer of the book of Acts and Gospel of Luke was a physician or doctor and not an apostle. 


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At the expense of seeming like the ant peering back up through the microscope, I have the same question about Bell's view of God's "universal acceptance" plan....

Everything religion teaches about "the Devil", Lucifer, the angel that rebelled and fell and that is at odds with God....

Is that Lucifer is NOT going to change and align with God....free will, choice, etc.

Lucifer may be part of a different creative plan than ours....some of the same rules may apply but all may not....we don't really know, however we do know from what we're told that we're all rolling out to the same point in the future where there will be a convergence of sorts where we're all cross paths.

A lot of Judeo-Christian religion tends to put us all in the same basket of creation but I don't know that that's true....it's less that we're told we're not and more that we're not quite told enough to come to that conclusion without any question or reservation.

So - my point being - going by Bell's theory and postulations, Lucifer (and all others of that group) may be part of the win-win of Love, in the end but not as a win, as a you-no-winnah-nuttin' scenario, which appears to be a dead end, literally.

Which isn't really any of my business so to speak but ... based on what we've seen the separation between God and Lucifer is one of Lucifer's choice and the expectation is that Lucifer's mind won't change.

So - this brings up a very interesting point and that is that our "Free Will", our ability to choose and therefore "believe" is fundamental-

But not truly within or under our complete total command.

Because we can choose yes, but there aren't a million possibilities between yes and no there's only two choices we're given, and if we don't choose to follow God's direction we automatically fall into the second choice. So really I could say that there's only "one choice" and in a very real way that's "no choice".....there's just the one thing, that really matters....

So the default state of man's creation is or was - a "yes". However the ability to do anything other than what we were designed to do allows/ed for that default state to essentially fail, to break. The break was like a computer or any machine - a computer in it's simplest form is built to do certain things, even one thing say, and it will do that one thing forever given the right set up. There's no self development over time - it just does that thing forever. Or until it stops, which means it may still be "powered on" but it's essentially broken. It didn't really "choose" to do that it just reached some point where it was no longer able to do that for whatever reasons. We haven't been told we're designed to do many different things or that the rules change at some point, so it's not a bad way to look at it.

The unsaved person is called a "child of disobedience", condemned and unable to change. "Broken" would be another word.

Christ "unbreaks" us, puts us back together, rejoins us to God. We then become a "child of God", and able to be back in that default state of "yes", a creation that can now work right, so to speak.

(drum roll) so it took awhile to get here but what I'm saying is that heaven isn't and doesn't need to be a big back of sparkly candy nor is hell an eternity of torment......if the net result of salvation is being back in the correct state of God's design. As we are now - our "spirit", our "Christ in us", our "faith of Jesus Christ", isn't making the wrong choices, it's not exercising a freedom of will where we in "new life in Christ" can somehow actually do the wrong thing or sin or skank it all up, the "holy spirit" in us isn't tainted by  our choices......it can't feed back a toxic lifestyle to God. There is a perfection to this treasure of new life we're given that is the new standard for all time, now and the future.

Love wins......? It has to if Love is whatever God wants. It's His show. Whatever God doesn't want to have happen won't produce a result that will survive and thrive in future of eternity. "Sin", disobedience, the wages of sin, etc. etc. etc. etc. There's no need for that in eternity.

Unless that's what God wants. (insert LOL)

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The question(s) about free will seem to be basic (fundamental but not necessarily fundamentalist) to coming to grips with what we see in the Bible. I don't have "the" answer but I get why people ponder the question.

My underlying concern with Christian churches/religions, including twi, goes to the issue of -- as Skyrider recently put it -- subjugation (or obedience)

There might be some value to "freely availing" ourselves of fellowship(s) with like-minded believers. Such fellowship can, I suppose, give rise to positive group dynamics. But it can also very easily turn dark when the ideas motivating such a team (or subculture) are not so wonderful.

I really am not in a position to parse or argue the specifics of the philosophical questions you (very reasonably) raise. I just haven't had my head into such questions, as you may have.

But I have looked at various types of group interactions (from team sports to carrying out civic responsibilities) at least somewhat through the lens of what I learned early on in my adulthood from and about Biblical stories/topics. I find Bell's viewpoint highly intriguing in that regard. However, I also find your discussion quite valuable. Thank you.

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Cool, and yes it's intriguing!

In any inquiry I'll usually go to the two extremes of the topic, just to see what that looks like and see what's in-between. "Grace" is a very interesting thing in the extreme. So the question, what is the extreme and does it accurately reflect what it is? 

The context of how it's used puts the borders around it and fills in the meaning. When it says we are saved "by grace, not of works, lest anyone should boast"........the knee jerk Sunday sermon on that is about how we can't take credit or glory in salvation....  but in that  verse-statement is some very hard cast reality -

1. that the opportunity to be made whole and have the relationship restored with God, through Jesus Christ is not one we created - by negotiation, good behavior or any other effort on our part.  There's no "after much discussion God and I came to an agreement"....Man is like Humpty Dumpty there for awhile before God lays out a path for the full restoration of the relationship. It comes into fruition in Christ. 

2. that the relationship develops once it's been restored. If I gave you a rock for your birthday, the rock will always be a rock. Time passes....rock. Our "gift" is different, it's living, and the restored relationship develops for us in this life, as we live it. That's something that I've come to appreciate more and more over time - there's a LOT of the Christian doctrine that comes in under that part of it. The new birth and the relationship and the nurturing and growth of it aren't all separate things, divided from each other, they should be understood as part of the same thing. As with time - if I say it's 3 pm, it's part of a reality being shared by all of creation. 

For a lot of Christians the development of the relationship is one of angst, struggle and lots of on again off again misunderstandings. When it's young it's like having a crush on some girl in high school and every day is a tortured exercise in finding out what she said, what her friends said and if she said anything about me like does she like me? does she know I like her? and which table she's going to be sitting at for lunch today and can you give her this note and tell me EXACTly what she says and how she looks when you say it's from me........but in reality the "grace" part of the opportunity through Christ eliminates all that, ALL of the back and forth. We're now in a position of basically enjoying the new car smell of our New Life and learning what all this stuff does.

Bell's position could be understood as one of "extreme grace"....and if grace is "unmerited divine favor" then who are we to put requirements on it other than what God puts.....and THAT'S where my focus is on - he's straddling uber Calvinism and universalist grace in a way that's really kind of conservative and fundamentalist. (and it's realllllly funny how he got thrown under the bus for insinuating burning hell isn't the end game for disobedience to God - it's almost like he threatened their money streams....)..........I don't like the way he presents the whole thing, like the list of seemingly contradictory and confusing definitions of what salvation is - he knows that isn't a correct way to view it but he still does in order to set the table for his argument. And any part time theologian or philosopher knows the answer to "why" would God do this or that or whatever even though it seems whacky to me inside my big beautiful brain.....and it's "because"..............once that's accepted the exercise of understanding something I didn't already have my mind made up on is possible. 

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Mark S:


I am writing a new article on the subject of ends times through Jesus Christ. Some of this article deals with the very symbolic book of Revelation. Here is some of the content. Is this interesting to you? 

Regarding the unjust also being reconciled and at peace with God through Jesus Christ. The writer of the book of Revelation, named John got a vision of a “new heaven and a new earth” as stated in Revelation 21:1.  This was very favorably seen. Since the writer was likely an Israelite named John, he saw this as the New Jerusalem, which to the Israelites was a very favorable place since for a number of years it was the political and religious capital city of their nation. John also got visions of twelve gates around Jerusalem as stated in Revelation 21:12-13. He also saw foundations of the twelve gates made of precious earthly stones or minerals. From verse 13 to 24 he had symbolic visions which looked very good.  These were gates, which people outside the gates could enter into. Otherwise they would have been seen as brick walls around Jerusalem to keep everyone not inside the gates permanently out of the new visional and symbolic Jerusalem. This shows good on the inside of the gates and not good on the outside of the gates. 

Revelation 21:25-27
25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. 

The question is what is the “Lamb’s book of life” and who is part of this? The Lamb’s book of life represents Jesus Christ and those who follow him. Only good or pure will enter into this. Next we have verses which show the free will of humanity. The choice being given to humanity of doing good or not doing good. In a favorable way, I see this as the followers of Jesus Christ being fully persuaded in heart to follow Jesus Christ. This is through the gift of Holy Spirit and the new spiritual body patterned after the Lord’s resurrected body that his followers will receive when he returns from heaven. Or as 1 Corinthians 15: 49 says, “so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven”, who is Jesus Christ.  For an explanation of this see 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

Revelation 22:10-11
10 And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
11 He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

Next we have more symbolic language of those who wash their robes. This shows that those who change from bad to good through Jesus Christ will be able to go through the gates into the city. However, outside of what he thought as the New Jerusalem John still saw those who were bad with him comparing them to dogs. Dogs are seen favorably today, but during the first century before dogs were trained to be good, dogs were symbolically seen as bad. However, just like dogs have been trained today to be good in nations like the United States. In the future under Jesus Christ more and more of humanity will be retrained to be good and followers of Christ. 

Revelation 22:14-15
14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

The final outcome was not seen by John the writer of the book of Revelation. What John saw was the free will ability to do good or not to do good. 

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Interesting Wordwolf to start another thread for comments on this subject. We know some things, but not all things today in our lifetimes in this age that we live in now. The very knowledgeable Apostle Paul points this out towards the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 13. We now know only in part and will only know fully when we see Jesus Christ face to face.

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I would think it's appropriate, if we go anywhere with this, to at least mention all the main positions that are held or discussed, one way or another.    So, we've mentioned reincarnation, and oblivion.  One popular position among Christians is immediate, eternal judgement.  The idea there is that the moment after death is a moment for one's eternal judgement.  Those that are judged worthy (for some standard of worthy)  make it into Heaven for eternity.  Occasionally, there's levels of Heaven, but in Heaven for eternity no matter what.  Those that are not judged worthy (for some standard of worthy)  do NOT make it into Heaven.   From those, there's a division.  Some people believe in a Purgatory- a temporary place of punishment and/or purification, which is NOT eternal- after which the inmate is released and gets into Heaven for eternity.   Some people believe in a Hell-  a permanent place of punishment where the inmates suffer for eternity with no hope of release or Heaven.   Some people believe in all 3 (where some go immediately to Heaven, some to Purgatory, and some to Hell), some believe in only 2 (with no Purgatory.)    There used to be a fourth place called "Limbo" which was for unbaptized babies.  Officially, it's been called off, but there may be some people who still believe in it.  

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We're open for discussion or the laying out of more positions, but I'm not going to wait for them to discuss the ones we have at hand.


For the practicing (or professing) Christian, what's the standard for what to believe?  For those most loyal to a denomination or a church, the answer is usually simple- the official stance of their group is correct no matter what.  So, to them, truth is about conformity and/or popularity.   That's definitely not my style, but I admit it sure keeps things simple and is very fast, requiring no work on their own behalf.

For some, the answer may be more of "the long-held answers have been tested, so they're most likely correct".  That can look just like the previous category, but has a bit more flexibility of idea,  that is, that poor ideas may have been rejected.  Certainly many of the silliest attempts at doctrine get excluded this way, so it's not without merit (although it's not my style, either.)


Around this messageboard,  it's no shock to see "sola scriptura" discussed or respected-  that is, what's correct is what the Bible says, and mistakes are from either not reading it, or no understanding it, or not even trying to use it for a basis of doctrine or beliefs.     Like all systems, this one isn't perfect, either.   If your translation is faulty, your understanding will be faulty.  If you don't understand your terms, your understanding will be faulty.  If you come with preconceived notions, your understanding will be faulty.  (Naturally, if the entire position is wrong, the same will result, but I count that under the translation being faulty.)


That having been said, plenty of people who sincerely claimed they agreed with the Bible have disagreed with each other's positions, so it should come as no shock that those aforementioned problems are nothing small. 


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Certainly this is the most difficult and challenging subject in the bible in large part because with the book of Revelation using symbols to show the future ages, it was written with symbolic and not literal text. This has caused differences of opinion and sometimes even divisions within the body of Christ as WordWolf has pointed out. All followers of Jesus Christ however, should at least see that Jesus Christ is the first to be risen from the dead to live eternally and that we all need Jesus Christ to be raised from the dead in the future. Either that or they believe in another god similar to ancient Greek and Roman mythology. 

In contrast to the symbolic and not literal writings of the book of Revelation. Paul's writings are much clearer in content.


1 Corinthians 15:20-28

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 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. 



Edited by Mark Sanguinetti
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