The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Please help me.... A backslider who is terrified of Hell

My name is William and I am thirty years old. I had a radical conversion experience when i was 16 when I encountered something absolutely supernatural in which I felt the unconditional love of God and a ‘knowing’ that I was saved. I had a peace that surpassed all understanding and was bearing the fruit of the spirit like crazy. To make a long story short I ended up backsliding little by little.

Before I knew it God’s presence left me and I felt as though he completely abandoned me. Little by little I fell into more and more sin. Soon I was living in habitual sin (fornication, adultery, drugs (just a few times for the drugs), Cursing etc… There were times when I tried to repent but I felt that God abandoned me and wouldn’t take me back. Without God’s love and spirit what other option do you have other than to sin? During my backslidden state I heard revelations from Mary K. Baxter ‘40 nights in hell’ and Bill Wiese ‘33 minutes in hell’ along with many others. These visions scared me so deeply that it literally broke something on the inside of me and to this day I have no peace but only an intense fear of being tortured by demons until I am thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity.

For close to 14 years I have been constantly terrorized. I feel that I have sinned so badly that the Holy Spirit has permanently left me. There have been many times when I have broke over the years and cried for hours asking Jesus to come back and give me another chance. Recently I had another breakdown thinking about the hell visions and being eternally damned forever. I want to come back to Jesus I really do but there is some theology that has totally made me lost.

In using Google to see if God forgives the horrendous sins of people like me after having been filled with the holy spirit that backslid for a long period of time I ran across Calvinism. Calvinism basically told me that I can’t get saved unless God gives me faith to get saved. He chooses me and I don’t choose him, so basically I can cry out to God all I want and beg and he might or might not save me. But if he chooses to I should experience ‘regeneration’ and bear fruit of the spirit.

I understand what bearing fruit of the spirit was like. I was filled with so much love, peace, joy, patience that I couldn’t even describe to people what it was like because it was so real and powerful when I became born again. The knowing ‘everything is going to be ok, your forgiven’ is priceless. Nothing ever can come close to being as good as knowing that you are right with God. Instead I am now tormented with the fear of apostasy and never being able to ‘get saved again’ every day.

Others tell me to just believe that God has forgiven me and move on. But I am after the truth, and nothing but the truth. Has God really forgiven me even though I don’t feel it? When I was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit I could confess my sin and I felt forgiven, It was priceless! I found some great sermons on Youtube specifically from Pastor Anderson that totally tore apart Calvanism. He used scripture in its proper context and really unraveled the whole thing, every part of it. That made me feel better until I heard him preach about the lake of fire and how many people will burn forever in unimaginable torment.

Curiously I ran across some articles about universal salvation in my search for salvation again in my own life (if I lost it). At first I immediately judged them as heresy because of what I was taught. However, one website called went into the Greek as to how the King James bible was not translated correctly. This really caught my attention.
Since then I have read countless articles on direct translations from the Greek into English which totally revolutionized all doctrine that I used to believe in. Recently I couldn’t eat or sleep and almost lost my job because I was terrified that I was going to burn in a lake of fire forever and ever because God took away the faith in me to truly ‘believe’ making it impossible to become regenerate again. Hearing that it could be possible that God saves everyone was able to get me eating and sleeping again and bring some hope back into my life. However, I am not after what sounds good but what the truth is.

The last Article I read is called ‘An Analytical Study of Words’ by Louis Abbott. The guys article has nearly won me over 100% to accepting universal salvation. If none of you have read it I strongly encourage you to do so. He goes into the Greek and Hebrew translations along with how the meaning of words changed over time in many scriptures. For example, back when the KJV was translated ‘damnation’ only meant partial loss. Today damnation means complete and eternal loss, big difference in definitions eh? He also proves how eternity was wrongly translated and the words only denote a certain period of time. He also has been studying this for over fifty years.

My main reason for posting to this site is mainly for two reasons. I have found that many people who believe in universal salvation have studied the original language of the bible and the context of when the scriptures were written and why they were written. For example, when Jesus spoke of hell he was actually speaking of Gehenna and the judgment of Jerusalem in 70 AD in which they threw their bodies into Gehenna. People took some of these scriptures and made doctrines of eternal damnation out of them. I truly from the bottom of my heart need and want to know the truth about what the scriptures really mean and how they apply to me.

So my first reason for posting is to ask people to minister to me about God’s forgiveness for me as someone who used to be a spirit filled Christian who has fallen into sin for a long period of time. Will God forgive me? I have forsaken and repented of sin as much as I know how to. I still watch television shows I probably shouldn’t that have cursing etc… and play computer games but mainly out of just boredom. I tried to stop doing everything that was bad in any way and found myself just sitting there doing nothing. I can’t read the bible and pray nonstop, not without God filling me full of his love and peace and enabling me to do it.

My second reason for posting is about specific scriptures that are holding me back from fully accepting universal salvation. I think one of them is in Matthew chapter 7:21-23, when Jesus said, "Many on that day will say to me Lord, Lord, have we not cast out demons in your name, and perform many miracles in your name, and done all these mighty works in your name? And he will say to them plainly ‘I never knew you, depart from me you workers of iniquity’, or in other translations ‘you workers of lawlessness’. For I never knew you.
This scripture has always haunted me in my backslidden stage. Along with other scriptures such as Galatians 5:21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 which state, "those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God’. As I have said I have repented as much as I think I can. I used to have a horrible addiction to pornography before I was saved and was the #1 sin I fell back into when I backslid. I stopped doing it but still have lustful thoughts that I fall into. Does this mean that these scriptures say I won’t go to heaven and will be faced with Hell?

According to what I have read to be saved do I need to be regenerate and completely changed by the Holy Spirit just like when I first got saved? I know I became born again back then because as I was seeking the lord for weeks I had a ‘knowing’ one day that I was saved and that everything was going to be ok (that was when I encountered his love for me). I was literally overflowing with joy, now I am literally downcast and scared to death of burning forever in hell, or even for hundreds or thousands of years if Universal salvation is true. My heart’s desire is to be right with God right now. Can anyone help me? I sometimes feel like I don’t have any more tears to shed over who I am along with the sins I have done. I have so much shame and I am scared to death of God.

Please have compassion on me. Please pray for me and help me, I am desperate. I have shed so many tears and have no peace in my life without knowing that I am right with God and that I am one of his ‘elect’. Most importantly that he still loves me and forgives me How does a wretched backslider like me come back to a God who I am learning is more terrifying and glorious then I can comprehend? Or does Hebrews chapter 10 and 6 apply to me? Thank you for your time reading this.

William also posted this in as an Introduction thread, here: Please help me.... A backslider who is terrified of Hell

(If you read this thread first William, I’ll explain quickly here that all new members have to go through a spamcatcher which temporarily delays when the posts get posted. After another one or two posts, the system will let you through automatically afterward.)

Technical discussion of his questions about verses should go here, not in the Introduction thread. Pastoral help can go either place. :slight_smile: God knows there are better pastoral helpers here than me, so anyone wanting to help William with that, don’t be shy. :sunglasses:

Edited to add: I might recommend reading C. S. Lewis’ Teacher, George MacDonald, specifically his three volumes of Unspoken Sermons (plus The Hope of the Gospel, which is practically vol 4.) They can be found for free in various places around the internet, or in some printed formats.

Normally I would say I definitely recommend it, but some people in distress find MacD a bit… tough. He’s actually trying to provide both gospel assurances, that God intends to save everyone from sin and will definitely get it done, but his tone can be occasionally offputting.

Okay, an overly quick answer about Hebrews 6 and 10, is that they apply to impenitent backsliders. You are clearly not impenitent, so no they don’t apply to you.

I would argue in more detail that they more specifically apply to people who, on one hand, think they can just say or do something to get out of being inconvenienced for their sins while still sinning merrily along – one of the Hebraist’s OT refs has a context where God warns certain Jews not to get conceited about God’s promises to save them from their sins, where they thought they could get away with doing anything by appeal to God’s promise about that. God predicts at least some of them will try just that, and sure He’ll vindicate them but only by punishing them for their sins until they are neither slave nor free (i.e. dead). After that they’ll finally learn better and truly repent of their sins (that’s the vindication part), and everyone will live happily ever after, but God ends by warning them not to forget that He does plan to punish impenitent sinners and they won’t like it.

That, however, clearly doesn’t apply to you, from what you’ve said.

I would also argue that the Hebraist is actually warning Christians not to insist that some people will never be saved from their sins! Insisting on that would be the same as trampling the sacrifice of the Son underfoot and insulting (blaspheming) the Spirit of Grace, which such people were entirely willing to accept when they thought they would benefit from it (having tasted the good things of God and the gifts of the Spirit). That clearly isn’t you either.

An overly quick answer about Matt 7:21-23, is that it’s not aimed at people like you. It’s aimed at people who by all the external evidence are being just great super-Christians – and are confident about their status – but turn out to be workers of injustice.

Granted, if Jesus is willing to punish apostle-level Christians (and a lot of His warnings are aimed at the apostles), He’s willing to punish the rest of us, too; but I think there are intentions involved there and nearby which point to Jesus criticizing false Christian teachers for teaching that God’s tree bears bad fruit and other things like that – essentially, for teaching that God refuses or fails to save some sinners!

You’re a victim of that (probably inadvertently), not a target. Nor, as far as I can tell, are you insisting that those people who taught such insistence on non-salvation of some people will never be saved themselves. So again, not a target. :slight_smile:

(A lot of Jesus’ warnings along that line turn out to be self-reflexive tests to see if we’ll condemn ourselves by condemning people who insisted on condemning other people. That isn’t something I’d claim without a lot of analysis, but here’s a video lecture summarizing a lot of analysis on the usual big non-salvation guns from the Gospels. Matt 7 isn’t in there, but I’ll be covering that next season. It’s a little more than 2 hours, but I’m going through a lot of Gospel material in some depth; in more depth in earlier lectures of course.)

As an overly quick answer to things such as Galatians 5:21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9; sure no one inherits the kingdom who does those things. That doesn’t mean someone will never stop doing such things, or that they’ll be annihilated out of existence. Earlier in Galatians, Paul talks about what he means by inheriting: he’s using an analogy of a common legal practice in many cultures around the Mediterranean in his day (ratified by the Roman Empire, but preceding them, including in Israel), where even though children of a father are certainly his children, they have the status of slaves until such time as they mature even though the father intends them to inherit everything. Until they mature, they’re under tutors. Once they mature, the father grants them the rights and responsibilities of publicly representing the family; but maturity isn’t a factor of how old they are. So long as they insist on behaving irresponsibly, it doesn’t matter how old they are, they won’t be “enjoying the allotment of the inheritance” (as various dialogues in the Gospels put it when talking about the same topic). The ideal father will still be working to bring them to maturity, even where that involves disciplinary punishment as instruction, but he sure isn’t obligated to bring them into the inheritance before he judges them to be mature!

Paul follows that up (not in quite that amount of detail, but he talks about it in more detail than most people realize, also explaining what he means thus by the term we’ve often translated in English as “adoption” – it isn’t about adopting children who don’t belong to the father, although in the culture of the day a head of family could do the same thing for non-children), with a reminder by appeal to the Abrahamic covenant that God is dedicated to bringing His children to the maturity of righteousness. So there’s no question about whether He’ll give up or be defeated on it: the Father and the Son made that covenant with each other so that no sin of any creature can nullify it, and the Son goes to the cross specifically to keep that covenant in effect. Consequently, any punishment (however harsh it may seem, as the Hebraist goes on to talk about in the 12th chapter of his epistle – no one enjoys it when it happens) isn’t meant to be hopelessly final, leaving people forever in their sins or annihilating them without bringing them to finally do justice instead of injustice.

Also, people will be healed of impulses to do such things in the resurrection, although I don’t think Paul is talking about that in either of those places; he’s talking about the importance of personal responsibility. One of C. S. Lewis’ sayings (summarizing MacDonald as it happens) applies there: everything that can be excused will be excused, everything that can be healed will be healed, what’s left over is only the sin that someone refuses to come out of and that’s what still needs forgiveness and salvation. (And Lewis followed MacD enough to think there would be post-mortem salvation, though Lewis wasn’t a universalist.)

Eternal conscious torment in hell (ECT) is such a cruel idea that there is no way to be safe from it if you take it seriously:

Some hard-core Catholics say that unless you’re one of them, you will go to everlasting Hell.
Some hard-core Protestants say that unless you’re one of them, you will go to everlasting Hell.
Some hard-core Muslims say that unless you’re one of them, you will go to everylasting Hell.

So, no matter who you are, what you do, or what you believe, there is a whole list of groups which say you are going to everlasting Hell.

Further, if God were so wicked as to consign some to everlasting Hell, how could we trust what He says? Perhaps He enjoys sending righteous and religious people to Hell. Perhaps He enjoys the sense of betrayal they feel while they burn in Hell: “But God said if we did X, He wouldn’t send us here!” Perhaps God thinks it is “to His glory” to lie about how to escape Hell, knowing that He will send everybody there no matter what. Perhaps He thinks it would be an offense to His justice to allow even a single person to escape everlasting Hell. Etc.

In short, if the universe were the creation of an ECT deity, then we all would have no hope. None whatsoever, because we couldn’t trust anything that deity said about how to escape ECT.

All of the above considerations show that ECT is a risibly absurd doctrine. It merits laughter rather than fear. One might as well spend sleepless nights afraid that Bigfoot is going to crash through the window and get you. I’d have a far easier time believing in Bigfoot abductions, a flat earth, and that my cousin’s friend’s sister ate lunch with Elvis at the local diner last Tuesday, than I would in believing in ECT. Out of all the absurd and impossible ideas in the world, it is the silliest.

So throw-off this doctrine of devils and rejoice! :smiley:

Really, for me the issue is God’s love and what is it based on. I have been a believer for many years(nearly 40). I was also saved young(20’s). I also cameto God through an intense sovereign spiritual revelation of Jesus Christ, and yet I have not always been faithful. I have had times where I was lost, where tragedy broke my strength, where “backsliding” led to confusion and loss.

I remember one time maybe 15 years ago or so, I was going through a very difficult time. I had been out of fellowship for some time- and where in previous wilderness experiences I had always known the presence of God in some measure… at this time I had not even had a thought of God or felt His presence in a long time. I felt like I had failed in so many ways and I could not get the weight of despair off my back.

Well anyway, I was standing in the shower one day and was lost in thought and just the basic activity of showering and when came to myself I was singing a little praise song and it really floored me. I knew it did not come from me, my effort, some overcoming love for God (like I had preached as holiness for years in times past) or anything good that was of me.

It was a touch of sovereign grace, the Holy Spirit letting me know I was still loved, and for no “good” reason but that I was loved.

Sometimes we come to Christ but we do not realize the depths of His love, and many things can lead to stumblings of various kinds. We might wander lost for some time but He will leave the 99 righteous sheep to go retrieve the one lost sheep. His love will follow us through life, death, failure, success and He will always reach us- but sometimes only after He teaches us some things through our stumblings. The lesson of how deeply He loves us is one of those things.It is the testimony that His love is greater than our sins and our failures that causes that precious altar to ALWAYS BE OPEN.

I believe that grace will even reach beyond the grave until every soul is reclaimed by the Lord of Love.

He will never leave you or forsake you. I am living proof of that. I used to think I was such a good Christian I could never fall away. I was saved dynamicly, having barely ever heard the name of Christ in my youth(other than as a curse). I had many powerful exsperiences in the service f the Lord and saw His Spirit do wonderful things. But i did fall away, for a time.

I could go on indepth about all the reasons why God’s love is all around you and in you even when you dont feel it and even when you stumble and fall… but really I just want to tell you- in all this time He has never failed to show me how little His love depends on how good I am.

The last Article I read is called ‘An Analytical Study of Words’ by Louis Abbott. The guys article has nearly won me over 100% to accepting universal salvation. If none of you have read it I strongly encourage you to do so. He goes into the Greek and Hebrew translations along with how the meaning of words changed over time in many scriptures. For example, back when the KJV was translated ‘damnation’ only meant partial loss. Today damnation means complete and eternal loss, big difference in definitions eh? He also proves how eternity was wrongly translated and the words only denote a certain period of time. He also has been studying this for over fifty years.

Right, plus the correct translation is not damned but judgment and both greek words used “krisis” or “krinos” seem to lean toward reconciliation rather then condemnation or damnation. God’s will is that everyone s/b saved, so how important is God’s will?

I thought I had addressed your last comment in that thread already, qaz. Sorry, I’ll go recheck.

It’ll be a while before I get to the Epistle to the Hebrews; it’ll be the last thing I do before going into the overtly Pauline epistles (since whether or not Paul wrote EpistHeb, someone familiar with Paul’s work evidently did), which group I’m saving for last in the NT because people often complain we focus too much on Paul and not on the Gospels and the other epistles and RevJohn.

(Okay, I may do Acts last; or maybe before Hebrews. There’s a lot of material but not a lot directly relevant to Christian universalism pro or con, and some of what little there is will be covered in an episode soon when I pick up the remaining Iscariot material from the Gospels, having already done John 17.)

Qaz, I see some mental gymnastics on your post regarding the prodigal son. For example, you are more than willing to to rip a verse from Jesus and Peter regarding the inheritance as proof that the prodigal son was a Christian. But I am not here to contest that, rather, I am here to point out how you apply a double standard to fit your own interpretation - as we all do I am sure.

You seem to indicate an inheritance can be squandered and thus, in the end, not everyone receives one, as in the case of the prodigal son (and you). In other words, your are supporting the belief that squandering this inheritance doesn’t mean you are eternally damned. You have created a loophole for yourself that you freely give to yourself as encouragement but are unwilling to grant the larger hope that Christ can and will do this for everyone who squanders their inheritance. It seems to me that Christians are very universalistic when it comes to themselves and those who share the same beliefs… But anyone outside? No, there is no hope for them. Most people can see this double standard of grace. Although, I was hard pressed for time, and didn’t write this as concrete as I wanted too, I hope the point remains. I am with Jason. I definitely think his exegesis on Matthew 7 is spot on.

If this is a TLDR type post, then this is what I am saying: Many Christians who are not living right, or have not always lived right (most, if not all) will find creative ways explain why they are deserving of this mercy and why others are not. Why they can still have hope, but others can’t…

Why “on earth”? It appears you have added that. As to the former, I don’t have a problem with your beliefs, I am just pointing out the word games you play, too. After all, I believe it was you who said “A plain reading of the text shows…” It was in another thread. As for whether the prodigal son was a Christian or not is irrelevant to my faith. God is the father of all, Christian or not. All shall come to know Christ as it states every knee shall bow and pledge allegiance to the great God.

Qaz was responding to the original post, Gabe, which was about consolation that backsliding Christians can repent and be saved; thus he intended to suggest by means of the inheritance, as a sign of having become a Christian elsewhere, that the prodigal son can be considered on par with a backsliding Christian. Not that the prodigal son was necessarily a Christian per se at the narrative level, nor that Christ intended the son to be regarded as definitely or only a backsliding Christian per se. The logic was rather if the son can squander his inheritance and still be saved, so can a Christian.

Since Qaz himself italicized “at least on earth”, he clearly wasn’t trying to argue or even imply that this chance to repent was limited to only in this life. (He might have even been acknowledging that the parabolic description of the lost son could maybe point to post-mortem salvation. I’m less sure about whether he meant that.) But that was in further commentary beyond his original reply; originally his point was that the dead/alive figure could function as a principle parable for backsliding Christians in another way: having been alive, then dead (through backsliding), then alive again. Again, the point was to furnish comfort for William from Qaz’ own personal experience.

Which I thought he gave a good contribution to. :slight_smile: :sunglasses:

If you say so. Doesn’t really change my position or what I said.

In regards to the OP:

This really changed my outlook in regards to fear of God.

To the OP: It is ok to be fearful. It is a process that you must go through.

Those are great MacDonald quotes!

William, your story is much like mine. There isn’t much I can say that is going to take away this fear. You have to face this fear (on your own and with God). Seeking assurance through others will only work to appease the fear temporarily. It will continue to crop up over and over. The fear must be dispelled by taking the courage to challenge it. This is a PROCESS. It takes TIME. The thing you can do is be proactive and fight this fear head on. Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Make sure you get out, eat healthy and exercise. I am not sure where you are from, but eating poorly (sugar, junk food, etc…) and lack of true exercise can wreak and exacerbate all sorts of mental issues, which further imprison you in this fear. I wish you the best William. God Bless.

Thank you for all the replies everyone. I don’t have time to post tonight but I will as soon as possible. I have had some pretty extreme ups and downs this week. Just yesterday I ran across an article that Origen (one of the founding fathers) said that once someone committed a griveous sin twice that no repentance could be found for him and he quoted Hebrews 10:26. It scared me so deeply that I spent the entire night and day researching that scripture. Turns out it means apostasy… From what I have read in countless sources is that if your afraid you have committed it you most definitely have not and to rejoice!

On another note I found two awesome revelatory stories that people said they received from the lord. I was looking through the thread on this site that listed all the people who do not believe in hell. I ran across a scottish guy that sounded interesting. I went to his website and found a vision he had of what happens when people die and how people go to heaven and hell. It matches what people believe on this site exactly, mainly that God doesn’t cast people into hell, people cast themselves into hell! All through the vision it is hinted that there torment is not ‘forever’ it is only until they repent ‘IF’ they can repent. Here is the link … World.html

This next revelation was also one I found from that list about universal salvation. She asked God to prove her vision to her and he did through the KJV! I don’t know what it is about universal salvation that just gives me hope… How awesome would that be if everyone was eventually reconciled and nobody ultimately lost! … hat=author

Also, if anyone has anything to say about Origen and what he said about people not being able to find repentance for habitually committing ‘mortal’ sins, please let me know. It really freaked me out thinking that the early church fathers believed that way. If they did then what hope do I have?

This is how:

Jason has a PhD/ThD?