The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Kolasis- punishment or torment?

HI guys, I haven’t been on here for ages so greetings everyone! I was debating some hell fire proponents yesterday and one of them referenced ‘kolasis’ as meaning ‘torment’ ie an ongoing conscious process (Matt 25). All the modern Bible translations use ‘punishment’ and upon checking Biblos, it does list ‘torment’ as a meaning. I did a word check for Kolasis but didn’t find a thread that seemed to go into the meanings: ‘torment’ and ‘punishment’ so apologies if there is a thread out there (which I’ll happily read if someone directs me to it :wink: ). I’ll be up front with you: I believe in annihilation, although I still hope UR turns out to be true. I had argued yesterday, that kolasis meaning ‘punishment’ meant a one off judgment ie the second death/everlasting death, not an ongoing punishING process ie being tormented in flames. If kolasis DOES denote a ongoing process then, that would get me worried. Thanks in advance for your help. :smiley:


Others will no doubt chip in with more evidence, but it is my understanding that the word “kolasis” is used in the secular literature of the day ONLY in context of remedial punishment. This is what our modern penitentiaries are supposed to be (though it seems they seldom remediate anyone very effectively). Presumably God will be better at the whole remediation thing than we are.

So on that basis, I suppose you might equate “kolasis” with the chastisements given by a loving parent to a child – not to take revenge, but to mete out justice and simultaneously teach the child better behavior and preclude such infractions from happening again.

Blessings, and also, very nice to meet you!

Cindy is correct. Here’s Prof William Barclay:

From The Apostles’ Creed by William Barclay.

I hope that helps, Catherine, and welcome back to the forum :slight_smile:

Thanks for your responses Cindy and Revdrew. One of the articles I have found regarding ‘kolasis’ states that the ‘pruning’ meaning was true of classical Greek but NOT Koine Greek. The meaning in Koine Greek is ‘punishment’, ‘chastisement’. :

If this is the case, then it could (from an annihilationist point of view) be argued that the ‘punishment’ referred to in Matt 25:46 is not torment. For some reason though, the person I was debating this with, had problems with ‘punishment’ in that he sees this as an ongoing process and not a one off ‘judgment’ the results of which are everlasting. I don’t see how he can object to this, IF kolasis means punishment.

I did notice that one of the meanings given for ‘kolasis’ is ‘correction’ but this would make no sense if the correction was ‘everlasting’. You guys will say ‘of course not. It means age enduring correction or correction that pertains to the age’. I have studied ‘aionios’ and although I can see problems with the meaning ‘eternal’ , it could just mean ‘period of time undefined by human understanding’, so that could mean ‘everlasting’ for some things but for a limited amount of time for other things. If I could be convinced that kolasis always meant corrective punishment, then this would reinforce the meaning of ‘aionios’ as ‘lasting as long as necessary’ AS WELL AS supporting the belief of UR. I will check out the Barclay claims. Thanks again guys.

A universalist could say that the effect of the “punishment – be is pruning or destructive” is indeed forever. An eternal effect resulting in eternal life. It needn’t necessarily rely on eternal as in duration, but eternal as in effect. Example: eternal salvation. Once one achieves salvation, there effect is indeed eternal in that it can never be done away with.

Just thinking outside my own box. :ugeek:


The ForAnAnswer site is more ambiguous about the meaning of {kolasis} than they intend to be. “Punishment” and “correction” need not be mutually exclusive concepts; no one who appeals to the original pruning context of the usage in classical Greek thinks the baby goats are not being punished in Matt 25 (nor that punishment is not meant anywhere else {kolasis} or a cognate of it occurs in the NT or the LXX). The whole point to appealing to classical Greek usage is that they themselves were borrowing the meaning as a metaphor for a particular kind of punishment!

We know for a fact that there is at least one place directly in the NT canon where an agriculture metaphor for punishment identical to {kolasis} is used not only with hopeful intention but with a warning to people not being punished that they had better not despise the punishment of others lest they also be punished: Romans 11. God can graft branches into the vine, even if they are not natural to the vine, and graft branches out even if they are born natural to the vine; and if He grafts branches out He can graft them in again.

A few months ago we had a (not very apt) Arminian anti-universalist on the board who, probably following the uncredited lead of some author he had found (as was his wont) without paying enough attention, wanted to argue for hopeless punishment at Matt 25 on the ground that {kolasis} had to be used exactly the same way whenever it is used in the NT. In the process of attempting this argument and citing its usage in 1 John, he ended up denying that its occurrence in 1 John was either punishment by God or hopeless if it was punishment from God (one of the other, he couldn’t land on which). Well, okay, if you insist {kolasis} has to be used the exact same way every time…! :laughing:

I’m not hardcore about this. It’s safe to say {kolasis} means punishment of some kind; and it’s valid to note the remedial usage in classical Greek as being evidence that the meaning could be the same among NT authors. Or, not: they might have changed the meaning. Similarly, subsequent post-canonical usage (where this can be clearly specified by contextual evidence) is good evidence of how those particular Christians, and so some group of Christians, were using and understanding the word, and even the scriptural references where applicable; but they might be misinterpreting it, too. Similarly, when {timoria} is used in the NT, it happens in contexts that indicate the punishment isn’t hopeless!

It really comes down to immediate and local narrative and thematic contexts. There is evidence in the NT, and even here in Matt 25, that {kolasis} doesn’t necessarily have to mean a hopeless punishment (I would go so far as to argue that the narrative and thematic contexts lock solidly as a Synoptic warning against expecting hopeless punishment!); and there is direct contextual evidence in both NT and LXX koine Greek that {eonian} doesn’t have to mean never-ending, even in cases where two things described as {eonian} in immediate close context are contrasted, one being only temporary after all and the other (God) being truly never-ending.

(Which is completely aside from the question of how much of the old pre-Platonic meaning of “eonian” for “living” or “spiritual” the LXX and the NT are importing in combination with Plato’s concept of “eonian” not of life per se but as what he understood to be God–for which there is some significant evidence, especially in the NT. I have found it is quite contextually safe to translate “eonian” as meaning “Godly” or “uniquely from God” throughout the NT. The punishment is uniquely from God, so is the life, but there is an obvious difference in that we are invited to partake of eonian life from the Living God Who Himself is the resurrection and the life! I don’t have to press this more consistent interpretation of eonian here, but I sure do note it’s an option. :wink: )

I guess I should add that I don’t regard either “punishment” or “torment” as being necessarily ongoing or not-ongoing. But if your friends want to appeal to the concept of torment, you can point out that the word for this in the NT is borrowed from a term for refining and testing gold. :smiley: A concept that definitely has connections, acknowledged by everyone on all sides of the aisle, to salvation of sinners by God from their sins (including in punitive situations) in the OT and NT.

I should also add that charges of linguistic fallacy only hold up if the context fails the interpretative usage. We only know when meanings have changed thanks to the context in the first place. A better rebuttal to the interpretation of {kolasis} as remedial punishment via horticultural metaphor, rather than merely charging linguistic fallacy, would be to observe that most occasions when related horticultural metaphors are used for divine punishment in the NT look more hopeless than not! (But then of course if even one such metaphor is not only hopeful but directly warns against expecting the punishment to be hopeless, that would be a strong interpretative evidence that the other instances aren’t meant to show a final result but only “picture” the story up to a point. So since Romans 11 pretty clearly exists, maybe it’s better for non-universalists to simply charge “linguistic fallacy” without going into details about how identification for or against linguistic fallacy actually works. :mrgreen: )

So for example, a charge of linguistic fallacy against interpreting the meaning of torment in Biblical Greek along its usage of refining and testing of precious metal, would be itself rebutted in proportion as there is an established Biblical usage of that concept in connection to punishment.

Nick and Jason, thanks for your replies.

I have studied UR for a few years now and read many books, articles etc. The books seem to be more convincing than what I read in the Bible however. What would you say convinces you that UR is true? When I was studying UR I kept asking God that he would really confirm that it was true. It wasn’t that He had to convince me of something I found hard to stomach (like E.C.T). I wanted/want it to be true so much. I just wanted that assurance that it WAS true, but I’ve never received that. If anything, I got the opposite: that as much as we imperfect humans would want all to be saved, some people will perish. I don’t know why they can’t be persuaded to change. I don’t know. I still think about UR and hope it is true.

Hi Catherine. When I “saw” UR, it was what I would call a real, no fooling around “revelation”. Instantaneous, life-changing event…But I still struggle with it everyday. But what I struggle with is FEAR. Fear that ECT is true and that I should just “play it safe”. It’s not a good kind of fear, not a “reverent” fear. It’s not about Him. It’s about me being scared for my life OF Him.

What UR HAS done is opened up my heart to actually TRUST God. My concepts of Him are boundlessly growing and it seems like the love and gratitude in my heart grows right along with it. LIES CAN’T DO THAT. THEY PARALIZE YOU, keep you bound.

I don’t have the time or patience to examine the Bible with a microscope, nor do I think one needs to do that to find the truth. I am not a newbie to Christianity. The Bible can be made to say anything and for me, the spirit versus the letter has made all the difference. I pray God would confirm His Truth to you…Whatever it is.

One more thing Catherine. Just the fact that you are here and are even willing to see the possibilility of something else says SO much. You have an open heart, a pliable heart. I think God loves that kind of attitude…An attutude that doesn’t limit Him. Amen!

I’m first and foremost a metaphysician, so the logical implications of the Trinity are what first convinced me God would always be acting toward saving all sinners from sin. If God revealed that some (or even many) sinners would always refuse to repent of their sins, I couldn’t be happy about that of course, and I would be very surprised (from a metaphysical perspective) that the omnicompetent God was somehow unable to ever bring them to repentance–but that isn’t the same as God ever giving up acting toward that goal (much less never starting for some sinners in the first place.)

At the time I expected that this would be the resolution between the implications of trinitarian theology and what, at the time, I believed the scriptures were teaching: it fitted scriptural testimony about God’s scope and persistence in salvation (coming from the Southern Baptist Convention I heard plenty of argument both ways and though they both had good points both metaphysically and scripturally, including against each other); it didn’t require me to believe against the scriptures that sinners sulkily preferred to be in hell (a popular Arm concept, even more popular today); and it kept the general testimony of the scriptures that hell involved active punishment by God (which many Arms, and many more Arms today, tended to deny). Scriptures talking about what seemed to be annihilation, I figured could still be reckoned in as sinners being removed out of the normal field of existence (but still allowing for post-mortem evangelization by the blessed up to a point–after that only God would evangelize the people He omnisciently knew would never agree to repent.)

But on the other hand, if on further study I found sufficient evidence indicating God revealing He would eventually succeed, then obviously that would fit in even better! :mrgreen: But I could go either way.

I’m also a novelist who loves story analysis; and being a geek I’m very picky about plot holes and working on mysteries to figure out what an author is hinting at in order to bring a story together (and whether he’s being competent about it). So after several years of studying the scriptures some more, two more things that weigh the most heavily to me became apparent:

1.) There were scriptures, and quite a few of them, indicating a revelation that God would eventually succeed in bringing everyone back into loyalty to Him (even the rebel angels, which surprised me as I figured some of them at least would never repent);

2.) There were a number of scriptures which I now saw warning me that if I insisted on believing God could or would not save sinners from sin, I myself might be in line for punishment (depending on my attitude about it. I am a very zorchy person by nature. :wink: ) Even more weighty, those warnings tended to come in context of scriptures I had previously regarded as some of the strongest testimony against universal salvation!

I’m still on occasion discovering new things along each of those lines.

I should also add (and this will be somewhat simpler): it comes down to trust in God for salvation from sin. Do we trust God to save us from our sins, or not?

Arminianistic and Calvinistic schools of Christian thought (whether Protestant or Catholic) both lean heavily and (I would say) rightly on this notion of trust in God for salvation.

And anyone who has ever converted from one to the other school of thought will know by experience how strongly important the grounding of this trust is.

Any Arm who used to be Calv, will know from experience, and will testify, that they became (and remain) Arminian because they found they could trust God more about salvation this way. They had had problems in Calvinism because they couldn’t trust God really intended to save them–or perhaps they found they could trust God on that for themselves, but still wanted to trust God more about salvation because they love other people, and the truncated Calvinistic scope of God’s salvation just wasn’t able to ground that trust enough for them. “For God so loved the world” really does mean ‘them’, too! They don’t have to guess, they can be sure that this or that person or persons (even themselves, if they’re having trouble with that) is loved by God with saving love. They find more of God’s love and God’s salvation believed and testified in Arminianism than in Calvinism (or the non-Protestant versions thereof).

But it goes the other way, too.

Any Calv who used to be Arm, will know from experience, and will testify, that they became (and remain) Calvinistic because they found they could trust God more about salvation this way. They had had problems in Arminianism because they couldn’t trust God really would keep on loving them, or really would succeed in saving them (and maybe they moved between the two basic branches of Arminianism on this first)–or perhaps they found they could trust God on that for themselves, but still wanted to trust God more about salvation because they love other people, and the truncated Arminianistic persistence of God’s salvation just wasn’t able to ground that trust enough for them. “Whosoever believes shall not perish” really does mean ‘them’, too! They don’t have to guess, they can be sure that this or that person or persons (even themselves, if they’re having touble with that) is loved by God with victorious salvation. They find more of God’s love and God’s salvation believed and testified in Calvinism than in Arminianism (or the non-Protestant versions thereof).

I could, and still can, see the real value both ways; and I saw (and still see) people seriously and reverently and gratefully (and properly!) moving from one to the other both ways; and I saw (and still see) people within each school of thought doing their best to appropriate the strength of assurance from the other school of thought within the constraints of their own school of thought.

But the chief reason why the problem exists at all is because both sides believe in an ultimate hopelessness of salvation from sin.

For me, it was studying scripture that filled me with faith that Jesus does not fail to save anyone. In short, in an effort to refute UR I started studying the classic UR passages (Rom.5.18, Col.1.20, Rev.5.18, Phil.2:10-11, etc.) As I studied them in their literary context, I couldn’t find anything from their individual literary contexts that would indicate that “all” does not mean “all”, thus affirming UR. So I turned to studying what scripture says concerning Hell, assuming such would disprove UR. I assumed that the doctrine of Hell was “rock-solid”, but the more I studied what scripture actually says concerning the punishment of sin, the more I found the doctrine of Hell to be like muddy hardened sand that crumbles under the least little pressure. And I started to see that some passages warn of remedial punishment.

In my subconscious, the passages that affirm UR solidified and the passages that I thought warned of Hell kept getting weaker, until one day I subconsciously believed UR. I would not admit that I believed UR for several months though, even admitting it to myself. And one Sunday morning during worship the Lord spoke to me and said, “Stop Lying!” And I understood that I was 1) to stop lying to myself. I no longer was just studying UR, but I had come to believe it. And 2) I was to stop lying to others saying that I was just studying UR/Hell and finding… Instead, I was to openly confess (right or wrong) that I had come to believe in UR.

I didn’t want to believe UR because 1) I knew it would cause me many trials in several relationships. 2) it might cost me my job in the ministry I work in. 3) it would put me on the “fringes” of Christianity. And 4) many people would loose respect for me.

Well, what I feared came upon me. Coming to have faith in Jesus not only for my salvation but for the salvation of others too has cost me terribly and is causing me great grief in many broken relationships, family and long-term friends. This saddens me terribly. I’ve been excluded from fellowship, denounced publicly, asked to resign from a ministry I helped to found, and, well, the list goes on and on. Even so, the more I study scripture, the more I pray, the more I fast, the more I study with others, the more trials I face because of my faith in Christ, the more firmly I believe the Jesus really is the Savior of All, especially we who believe, in deed and reality not in some bogus title only! I believe that love does not fail, that Jesus does not fail, but accomplishes all that He set out to do - the reconciliation of all creation!

Thank you so much Sass, Jason and Sherman for taking the time to come back to me.

Sass- I worry that I’m too ‘open’ and question things too much. When I raise questions with non UR believers, they very often reply with ‘you have to trust God when you don’t understand things like eternal conscious torment or why God can’t or won’t save ALL people’ and try as I might, I can’t.

Jason- I was surprised you cite the trinity as the catalyst to accepting UR for you- I have always struggled with the trinity and ‘feel’ uncomfortable with it so I don’t quite understand where you’re coming from there. Sorry. I kind of followed the rest of what you said. (I think :wink: ).

Sherman- I respect your honesty and faith in standing for what you believe in even though it’s meant hardships and trials.

I struggle to believe that God is saving me, nevermind anyone else, and so maybe this is my biggest obstacle to believing UR. ‘I’ don’t feel saved (or loved) and so ‘if’ I’m not saved then it follows that others aren’t either??? God doesn’t seem to grant me assurance of my salvation (and that He loves me) and so whilst that is the case I’m not sure about ANYTHING even God. I’ve really been struggling with my faith on and off all my adult life and although I thought I was doing much better lately, I yet again feel empty of feelings for God. I don’t exactly doubt God is there but I don’t ‘feel the love’ as such. I don’t sense He is ok with me and that all will be well. I don’t know who God is really- does He really torment people forever or allow them to torment themselves forever? (like Sass I still worry E.C.T might be true). I really don’t know what to believe…

Catherine, I really appreciate your openness. For me, meditating on scriptures that speak of the love, grace, and mercy of God helps me to feel the love of God. And it is also very helpful to hear messages on such from grace-filled speakers. So being a part of a fellowship that focuses on grace and love is key. And then of course, it’s very helpful to experience such love in various relationships with others. It’s possible that this is the most powerful for most people, key loving relationships! Being in loving relationships is how many people experience the love of God. In fact, most people who come to faith in Christ not as a child do so through key relationships, through experiencing the love of God through others.

And let me assure you sis, you are loved! You are the apple of God’s eye! You are the sheep that He forsook all to find. You are that treasure hidden in a field, whom the owner sold all he had to buy. You are the lost coin that the woman turned her house upside-down to find. You are loved. God created you in his/her own image, created you to be loved and love!

That’s okay. I never blame anyone for struggling with the Trinity or not feeling comfortable with it. :slight_smile:

Well, first {hug!} :slight_smile:

Second: this is actually a pretty big point at stake (especially back in patristic times) as to whether orthodox trinitarian theism is true or not. Even if I don’t happen to emotionally feel loved by God at a particular time, I can still be absolutely sure God is essentially love, and so must certainly love me, if the Trinity is true, and won’t ever stop loving me–even if He’s also angry at me sometimes because of my sins. God might still love me if the Trinity is not true and some other theism is true instead, but He certainly does if the Trinity is true.

Theologians have gotten away from that for many centuries, although some like Lewis and Moltmann have tried to lead people back to it. Anyway. :slight_smile:

It may not be very useful to you right now, but because I believe the Trinity to be true, I am consequently convinced that God certainly loves you and has acted and is acting and will act to save you from your sins to the uttermost completion. (People who don’t believe in the Trinity may also be convinced for other reasons that God certainly loves you. I’m only talking about where I’m standing. Whether either of us theists have sufficient ground to be convinced, and what those grounds are or are not, is a technical question. :ugeek: :mrgreen: )

I think George MacDonald (possibly following earlier Christians–he was almost as widely read as Lewis) was who said that if you happen not to feel loved by God at the moment, the worst thing you can do is try to manufacture feelings about being loved by God or about loving God or feelings of assurance about anything. (Lewis, following MacD, said similar things.)

The best thing to do is to look around for someone to love and then go love them. Even if it’s only a little because you don’t presently have enough energy to do any more. I guess the next best thing would be to find some love to receive, even if it’s only a little.

Either you’re loving (or being loved) more than God can love, or God can love even more than you’re loving (or being loved). That might help clear your feelings about being loved by God in comparison to how you’re loving (or being loved). Or, maybe it won’t, yet.

But the main thing is to love. Go help fulfill fair-togetherness with someone, or even with something. You might come to learn you’re not doing it quite right, but it’s a step in the only direction worth being called “right”. :smiley:

(Also, I kind of recommend finding GMaC’s sermons to read, if you haven’t done so already; they’re freely available on the net in several places, and they help clear my mind immensely when I’m feeling depressed. :slight_smile: )


You’re a Christian so in a way this doesn’t apply to you–but in some other ways it seems like it might, too. :slight_smile: … ature=plcp

That’s my closing statement from the debate I had with TFan last October. I thought it was more important to make an evangelical appeal to any unbelievers who might be listening (my most beloved among them, I hope, although I have no way of knowing…), but it may be helpful for any Christians just not feeling very loved by God at the moment.

(Me being me :mrgreen: :ugeek: , I worked in a quick apologetic in favor of Christian universalism, too–different from the case I had built previously in the debate, but still based both on scriptural testimony and on metaphysical reasoning–although I did my best to present why such arguments are relevant to the question of God’s scope and persistence of love. It’s only about 6:30, so don’t panic.)

Sherman and Jason- I agree with you both when you mention loving others ie loving and being loved and seeing God’s love through others’ love. I am dearly loved by my family and dearly love them and so I am very blessed to have so much love in my life. I would say that I can sense God is loving but I still don’t sense it personally towards me. :confused: The idea that you can ‘blow it’ with God is firmly entrenched in my mind and heart (many will seek but few are chosen- and the verses about the man chucked out of the wedding feast for not wearing the right clothes!!). I know God can break through my doubts and confusions and so I don’t understand why He doesn’t. I don’t think He will now. This has been going on for 30 years.

Jason, I listened to the Youtube link. Very interesting! You sound like a man who I enjoyed listening to a couple of years ago, who did quite a few UR videos. (I think it was sozo productions?? Can’t remember now). I thought you’d sound like Lloyd Grossman :open_mouth: Lol.

Let’s say I DO believe the trinity (I assume you mean 3 distinct persons in one God?). What is it about the trinity that convinces you ALL Adam’s offspring will be reconciled to God (all creation I should say)?

Catherine, I understand your struggle. For me, I had to go through each of the passages concerning judgment and the punishment of sin and restudy them, seeking to understand what they said and get past what I had been taught they said. Tradition often reads Hell into such passages when it’s simply not there. For example, the wedding feast passage was meant to teach, I believe, that the present reality of the kingdom of God is only experienced by those willing to be clothed in the gift of grace and righteousness, not in their own merits. Those who respond to God on their own merits miss out and suffer accordingly. The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” doesn’t necessarily speak of punishment in the afterlife, but of the realization of all the good one misses out on when one doesn’t live in grace, whether that realization comes in this life or the life to come. I know I’ve experienced much “weeping and gnashing of teeth” when I’ve experienced the judgment of God.

Of course, this is a very different interpretation of this passage than what you’ve heard all of your life. It is very difficult to not read ECT into passages where we’ve been taught since childhood that these passages and phrases affirm ECT. It takes repentance, a rethinking, a renewing of the mind, something I’m certainly still working on for myself!

It means punishment and correction both. As the New Testament Greek Lexicon states:

So, while people will be punished as they pay for their sins, they will be being corrected at the same time. It is my belief that after they have paid the price for their sins and recieve God’s correction, they will be purified in the fires and released as they are brought up to heaven. I see it as a real option anyway. For the Bible tells us that:

Moreover, what is one of God’s ultimate plans and purposes? Is it not the salvation of the world? God desires all to be saved:

And no purpose of His can be thwarted:

Since God desires all to be saved and no purpose of His can be thwarted then it follows that all will be saved. In this life or the next. For the fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until He accomplishes the intent of His heart.

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