The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Please help me out here

Actually pilgrim, I‘m not entirely sure why you need to even have such an exact and precise timeline. Why is that kind of certainty so necessary?

Given my background and upbringing, that is a very odd thing for me to say however. For I was raised (and remain) in a denomination that has an incredibly detailed and specific line up of times and events and sequences which all ends with the saved in heaven and the damned not in ECT, but annihilated. And annihilation is seen as far superior to ECT. But over time, and especially since my embrace (tepid at first, but now quite robust!) of UR (Universal Reconciliation/Redemption/Restoration) my certainty in this regard has dwindled.

This is not to say I have no certainties now; just that my certainties are redirected. Now they revolve around my certainty regarding –
– what kind of God we worship…
– the completeness of God’s Victory in and through Christ…
– the centrality of Christ and His Life, Death, Resurrection as the perfect revelation of God…
– the fact that Love never fails…
– my conviction that God is always and everywhere working to bring about healing and redemption…

Well I think you probably get the idea here. Now I’m certain that God does (that’s why I’m a Universalist), and the why (because He is Love), but not so much the how and the when.
Sorry if that seems to sidestep what concerns you…

But moving forward on the topic, I do have opinions and speculations on the matter. But the joy of life at being, even now, with God, does not depend on these speculations and timelines. I find myself lining up somewhat with Aaron’s thoughts but with some real differences…

For example I’m not in agreement with him in the immediate transformation at the resurrection… The open gates of the Holy City seem to imply a movement from outside to inside; but if all now have the sinless nature of the redeemed, why even bother with this imagery? Similarly, the very last chapter (Of Rev) reveals that evangelism, even as it appears that the wicked are being told they are to be “filthy still”, is still happening! Why is evangelism happening here if all have at this point been transformed? So the way this plays out in precise timelines seems, to me, less important than the fact that it does.

Yes, there is a reward for those who accept the Christ in this life and that reward is being part of the first-fruits. Their characters settled for all time in the truths of God, He takes them to live in His very presence – to eat at His table. Now what comes next that I imagine, may or may not be true, but I sure hope it is. And that is that these redeemed first-fruits get to participate in the evangelism of these for whom reconciliation has yet to be experienced. That’d be very cool I think! And why not? It would simply be a continuation of the passion and mindset with which we lived on this earth in the first place. (That is, a deep desire to share the Good News of the wondrous and saving Love of God) The mindset of being a missionary simply cannot just go dormant in the awareness that there are still those yet estranged from God. Makes huge sense for God to employ us as ambassadors, just as He does now.

Hopes that helps pilgrim!


Hi TotalVictory

I’m sorry if you think that I have asked for ‘an exact and precise timeline’? I didn’t realise that I had asked for any timeline at all.

I am not looking for certainties. Just what we believe the difference is for the saved and the lost post-mortem by faith.

I’ve already posted that there is little difference for me in His nature. I have believed that He Loves every single person to the utmost and I have believed this for the best part of 50 years.

But people don’t seem to be able to tell me what His victory is. (ie whether it includes completed transformation upon death or whether more corrective discipline is required.)

-this is no less true for ECTers but it is not insignificant to ask what He actually accomplished.


again this was true for all my Arminian friends.

When I have spoken to my friends about EU they ask questions about eternal salvation. These are the questions I am asking. See the OP.

It could be of absolutely vital concern to all of us whether there is room for improvement post-mortem or not. I do not see my questions as a side issue or of little significance

Thank you for your time TV. I am now more confused than ever. Perhaps I don’t belong here. Perhaps I cannot communicate very well. I just don’t know.

Hi pilgrim,

You wrote:

That’s correct. When people believe the gospel they “pass from death into life” (John 5:24). And Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Wouldn’t you agree that walking in “newness of life” is much better than being “dead in sin?”

You speak of the believer’s life as being “more difficult and painful than the non-believer’s path,” but I understand Scripture to teach that the way of those who have “found wisdom” (i.e., those who don’t just hear the word of God but actually put it into practice) is one of “pleasantness” and “peace” (Prov 3:17). “Blessed (happy) is he who trusts in the LORD” (16:20). It’s true that this life is full of heartache and difficulties (as the apostle Paul knew all too well), but amidst the tribulation of this world, those who are in Christ can have a peace that unbelievers cannot enjoy (John 14:27; 16:33; Rom 2:10; 3:17; 8:6). Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Can unbelievers have “all joy and peace in believing” and “abound in hope” by the power of the Holy Spirit? Paul also wrote that in all his affliction, he was “overflowing with joy” (2 Cor 7:4) - and of course, both joy and peace are said to be fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). But Scripture teaches that “there is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22; 57:21) and that unbelievers are “dead in sin,” have “no hope,” and are “without God in the world” (Eph 2:1, 12). I would rather be a true believer living in poverty than an unbelieving billionaire who is “dead in sin,” has “no hope” and is “without God in the world.” I honestly wouldn’t trade my life in Christ for anything this world has to offer - not because I think the righteous will be more blessed than the unrighteous in a future state of existence, but because the righteous are more blessed than the unrighteous now.

Before I became a believer in UR I definitely would’ve agreed with what you are saying. Although I professed to be a Christian, studied the Bible and was actively involved in my church, the truth is that my life didn’t look all that different from the lives of my more “secular” friends who, if they did profess to be Christians, didn’t seem to take their faith very seriously. While I could “talk the talk” I definitely wasn’t “walking the walk.” I was still focused entirely on myself and did a lot of things I’m not at all proud of today (some of which I’m still reaping the consequences). I occasionally suffered from depression and anxiety attacks. The only thing that kept me from sinking into utter despair over my too-often hypocritical life was my hope that I was one of the elect (my youth pastor even assured me that I wouldn’t feel as guilty as I did over the sins I continued to commit if I wasn’t), and that my “eternal salvation” was secure. Whenever doubt would creep into my mind I would just remind myself that I had believed what I was supposed to believe (which, at the time, was essentially the theory of penal substitutionary atonement, along with the doctrines summed up in the “TULIP” acronym). But even while believing myself to be one of the elect for whom Christ died, I saw little evidence that Christ dwelled in me, and that I was being conformed to his image. Rather, my life was characterized by a losing battle against sin, and my response to this losing battle tended to be one of either shame and self-loathing or apathy and hypocritical denial. In hindsight, my pre-UR “Christian life” is certainly not something I would wish on anyone. In some ways, one might say it was worse than being an unbeliever, because I knew I wasn’t measuring up as a follower of Christ, but I just couldn’t seem to overcome the things that held me in bondage.

As far as the process of sanctification being painful, it’s true that our growth into Christ-likeness is not always a pleasant experience, for we’re told that God disciplines his children for their good so that they may share his holiness (Heb 12:7-10). “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (v. 11). But having been a believer in the “wider hope” for more than 6 years now, I can’t say I agree that the true believer’s life is “harder” than the non-believer’s. Scripture teaches that it is “the way of the treacherous” - not the way of the righteous - that is “hard” (Prov 13:15). The idea that unbelievers have it better than believers in this life is, I believe, neither true to Scripture nor true to life.

On another thread (Only a few find it.) I wrote:

The following post on the same thread is, I think, also relevant to this discussion: May I have feedback on my CU drafts?

My view of Mt. 25:31-46 can be found on the following thread:

Hope that helps!

Hi rline,

I wrote:

You said:

But why would everyone being made sinless at the resurrection mean that every wrong hasn’t been righted by God? Does Hitler or anyone else have to remain sinful for some period of time after death before the wrongs they committed can be righted? Does Hitler have to be sinful in order to “make amends?” It seems to me that Hitler could better make amends if his heart was full of love for the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust rather than full of hatred for them.

On another thread (Only a few find it.) I wrote:

Hi Aaron and pilgrim

This post has questions for both Aaron and pilgrim.

Aaron wrote:

Aaron also wrote:

Could you explain how you tie these two together please? To me, they seem at odds. I don’t understand, if Hitler could have a heart full of love for the Jews, but didn’t need to make amends in any way, how that would entail him reaping what he sowed?

Aaron also wrote, quoting himself

To that I’d argue that in many cases the wicked certainly don’t end their days in unfilfilment, regret, bitterness and heartache.

If, as I think you’re saying (please correct me if I’m wrong :slight_smile: ) the reaping of what’s been sowed occurs only in this present life, then I think at least in Hitler’s case, you might have quite a number of murdered Jews who would disagree with you.

And finally, Aaron wrote:

Aaron, I relate to pretty much everything you’ve said there. What I’m curious about, though, is how things are different for you now. You haven’t addressed that (rightly, in my opinion, because it’s not what the thread is about). So as not to hijack this thread, I’d appreciate it if you could PM me with a pointer to another thread of yours where you write about what life is like for you now, particularly how it contrasts with what you’ve written above. And if time’s an issue, then please don’t worry about it. :slight_smile:

Pilgrim, you wrote

I don’t know of any ECT churches that teach that we need corrective work after death. Catholic churches of course, but there’s obvious debate about whether they are part of the “true church”. You’re spot on in saying that ECT churches teach that on death we’re instantly perfected in every way. My current church teaches exactly that. In fact, the more I listen, the more I hear that the gospel is all about what happens when you die and almost nothing about what happens now.

And indeed, I can now see your point! Perhaps it’s morning now and I’m awake… So, you’re saying that for the believer, Jesus’ work on the cross accomplishes far more in the ECT-scheme of things than the EU-scheme of things, simply because under ECT, believers have all their sins, guilt, consequences, etc completely removed instantly at death, whereas under EU they don’t. I think (and totalvictory is right about “working out” things on the forums) my response would go like this:

ECT-Jesus’ cross work accomplishes a staggering transformation for a small minority of the human population and absolutely nothing for the vast majority

EU-Jesus’ cross work accomplishes a staggering transformation for the entirety of the human population. However, it doesn’t happen as soon as everyone dies. (If I’ve read him correctly, this is where Aaron would disagree.) Unbelievers, when they die, will need to spend time in hell - enough time until they repent and trust in Christ. Believers…aahhh, and that’s where your question really is, and I guess mine too. I simply haven’t read enough yet to be clear on it myself. Forgive me if you feel I’ve wasted a lot of your time.

Here’s my take currently: Paul, when speaking of his death, said that it was better by far to be with Christ if he died. So he didn’t seem to envisage spending time in hell. Nor did he seem to think there would be correction. He also spoke of those who believe having crossed over from death to life. The most direct place Paul talks about what happens to believers after death is 1 Thess 4:13-18. There, he says that Jesus will bring with him the dead in Christ, and then the dead in Christ, and the alive in Christ will be “with the Lord forever”. Furthermore, he ends with “encourage one another with these words”. So, from that, I can’t see that he thinks there’ll be corrective work for the believer.

I guess as someone who believes in EU, it’s perfectly reasonable for me to believe that at death, I’ll be “with the Lord forever”, and so will not need corrective work. What this means is that for believers only the EU version of Christ’s work on the cross is the same as the ECT version. For believers, both versions teach (or at least can teach) that believers will be “instantly changed” and “with the Lord forever” without requiring any corrective work. The EU version then says that God will apply corrective work to all the non-believers who’ve died so they will eventually be able to appropriate Christ’s work on the cross. The ECT version says “sucks to be them”.

Does what I wrote above address this adequately, or not?


This seems biblical to me.

Also agreed.

What I definitely don’t believe, is that non-believers will also be instantly changed with sins dealt with. I think there’s simply too much evidence of some kind of corrective process, and as you’ll appreciate from my questions to Aaron above about Hitler and the Jews, I think that kind of thinking goes directly against what we naturally feel is “right”.

What do you think? Have we gotten anywhere?

Hi rline,


Well, first, I didn’t say Hitler “didn’t need to make amends in any way.” I said that Hitler could better make amends if his heart was full of love for those to whom he needed to make amends. I firmly believe that when Hitler is subjected to Christ at the time of the resurrection he will want to do whatever he can to make up for all the pain and suffering he caused. But by the time Hitler has a heart full of love for the Jews who died in the Holocaust, I believed the Jews who died in the Holocaust will have a heart full of love for Hitler, and will have no desire for him to suffer any more than he did while he was “dead in sin” and “without God in the world.”

“But,” it may be objected, “surely whatever suffering Hitler experienced during his lifetime was nothing compared to the suffering he caused.”

It’s true that Hitler caused more suffering than either of us can imagine. But does anyone know exactly how much inner pain, turmoil, fear, distress and despair Hitler experienced during his life, and especially during those last days and final moments before he killed himself, when he realized that he had lost, and that everything he’d been living for was all coming to ruin? Does anyone really know what exactly he was thinking and feeling moments before he pulled the trigger? Of course not; only God knows. But I am confident that God’s justice was just as active in Hitler’s day as it is in our day and will be in the future, and that to whatever extent Hitler sowed to his own flesh he reaped “corruption” (Gal 6:8). Perhaps if you or I were the moral judges of the universe we would see to it that Hitler “got a taste of his own medicine” - and then some - before mercifully putting an end to his suffering. Perhaps we would make sure he suffered as much as 6 million people combined before finally saying “that’s enough” and welcoming him into heaven (an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” right?). Or perhaps you simply believe Hitler should have to suffer for his crimes until the evil in his heart is purged out and he becomes a changed man who would never want to hurt a living soul again. But what if God could do for Hitler what he did for Paul, and in even less time? What if God could purge Hitler’s heart of evil and turn him into a “new creation” in “the twinkling of an eye?” And what if God deemed whatever suffering Hitler experienced in his life (as minimal as it may seem to us) sufficient for answering the demands of his holy justice?

Even if it’s not obvious to us, I trust that God’s justice is just as active in this life as it will be in the next, and that God will not be mocked in this state of existence or the next. If God’s justice would not be met without a person ending his or her days in unfulfillment, regret, bitterness and heartache, then I believe they will. If they don’t, then I trust that it’s because God didn’t deem it necessary in their case. Perhaps all that God’s justice required was that the person go through life without the spiritual blessings (e.g., peace and joy) that they would’ve enjoyed if they’d lived according to God’s prescriptive will rather than in violation of it.

In the post from the other thread which I linked above (in my response to pilgrim), I wrote that my view

Well if the “dead know nothing” then I don’t think the Jews who died in the Holocaust presently have any opinion at all on this matter. And if (as I believe) these men, women and children are going to be raised from the dead in a perfectly holy and happy condition, then I seriously doubt they’re going to be wishing that Hitler had suffered more before he died. Instead, I think they’re going to have the same heart and disposition as our Lord had while he died on the cross and prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Hi Aaron,

Well I’ll defer to your 599 posts here, and be happy with my 35 (this makes 36!). For myself, I still very much disagree with what you’ve said, but I’m grateful for your patience and graciousness in explaining it. From what you’ve written I’m guessing you probably don’t like George MacDonald’s sermon *Justice * :laughing: :laughing: :laughing: Anyway, thanks again.

rline wrote:

Yes absolutely! That’s what I wanted.

Definitely. As it happens, we seem to be in total agreement but more importantly you’ve suused out what I was trying to ask. Thanks for not giving up on me.

I’m concerned whether many URers believe corrective discipline continues for believers and how this ‘blurrs’ the line between believers and non-believers. I can foresee some serious dangers in this line of thought.

God bless you.


It’s really kind of you to give me so much information.
I do not happen to be a preterist. I believe the Jewish perspective on prophecy is cyclic with an ultimate culmination and I favour this perspective in most cases.
I would have extreme difficulty imagining that Jesus’ millennial reign could have taken place for any period during the last 2000 years.
I also place much greater emphasis (than you) on ‘dying daily’, ‘taking up one’s cross’ and ‘sharing in the suffering’s of Christ’ within the christian walk, to the extent that I believe that a true and close walk with God is accompanied by considerable hardship. It is true that we are sustained through this by His peace and joy, but I think the body of Christ (like Christ himself) experiences very deeply compassion (ie fellow suffering) grief (as Jesus wept at the surroundings of Lazarus’ death) and lamentations (just as Jesus would have gathered Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chicks).
I would worry that the picture you paint (for me) would have me enjoy my own blissful state at the expense of a suffering world. In addition, if you strongly believe that evil produces sorrow and goodness produces happiness in this life, wouldn’t that automatically lead to a judgmental attitude to any who you observe as suffering? I mean, it must be their fault mustn’t it?

Above all though, you have done me a great service by courteously explaining your position and helping me with all my questions.

May God continue to bless you (both)


You have no idea how relieved I am that you responded to my thoughts and that we do seem to be progressing. I was just about going to PM you to kind of “apologise” as such; I felt that somehow my responses had gotten you off track from your original question and that perhaps they had even made you less inclined to think things through. So I’m very glad to see you write:

And now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to continue :wink:

One of the reasons I suspect some UR might think this is because they’ve read George MacDonald, and in particular, Justice. I remember that when I read it, I as simply blown away by its fresh ideas, different ideas, and ideas that on the whole, seemed to resonate with my spirit. However, the two things in that sermon that stick out to me are

  1. complete (by which I mean utterly and totally complete!) denial of penal sub. atonement
  2. the apparent teaching that believers will also be needing to “make amends” (make amends is how MacDonald puts it)

I have a much easier time believing 1) above.

At present, what I believe about 2) is what I wrote to you previously, namely that believers will not need corrective work. However, I am less convinced after reading MacDonald. The problem is that almost everything else in the sermon (and in other sermons of his) rang so true. So I’m very wary of dismissing this idea simply because I don’t like it. I guess, in short, MacDonald seems to believe corrective discipline will continue (and for some pretty good reasons), and so for me, that line of thought is worth thinking about.

Of course, many UR may believe it continues for entirely different reasons. I’m still a fairly fresh egg to UR, so I really can’t say.

I do agree that if corrective discipline continued for believers, it would begin to blur the line between believers and non-believers.

I’m assuming here you mean that it would seem to nullify the victory of the cross :question:

So, anyway, at present, I guess I’m trying to think it through like this:

In places like Matt 5:22, 5:26, 5:30, Jesus speaks to his audience about anger, forgiveness and lust. And he says that if any in his audience has anger, unforgiveness or lust, they had better sort it out, otherwise they

  • will be in danger of the fire of hell
  • may be thrown in prison…will not get out until you have paid the last penny
  • are in danger of having their whole body going into hell

Now, in all my years of Bible study (including a degree in theology, and, I suspect, a fairly over-inflated view of my “biblical understanding”) I honestly believed Jesus would not be speaking to or about believers. I believed that somehow now that I was a Christian, his words no longer applied to me. Which is why I didn’t really take them seriously.

And yet, in 5:1-2, we learn that when he said all this, he said it to his followers! I am one of his followers! It seems like he’s saying it to me!

And here is where I am in this thinking currently: If Jesus originally said all this to his followers, is there any reason to suspect that once they’d seen how the cross and the resurrection were all part of the plan, and once they’d trusted in Christ for their salvation, that they would suddenly say to themselves: “Oh thank goodness. All that talk about anger and unforgiveness and lust no longer applies to me!”? I’d say, no reason at all, and in fact, a lot of reason to think that they thought it was still important.

When we read James 1:19-21 it seems like James is simply paraphrasing what Jesus said about anger. And as if to remind his readers (followers of Jesus!) that it was serious, he follows in verse 22 with “Don’t just listen to the word and thereby deceive yourseves. Do what it says.”

And then in 1 John 4:19-20, John writes to followers of Jesus about anger, hatred and unforgiveness: “If anyone says ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who doesn’t love his brother, whom he has seen, can’t love God, whom he hasn’t seen.”

The sum of all this (and this is just a brief reflection) is that I can see no reason to suddenly stop taking seriously Jesus’ warnings about entering hell given to his followers, among whom I am one. (This sounds suspiciously like corrective discipline for the believer, doesn’t it?) And yet, on the apparent other hand, the Bible teaches that God will remember our sins no more, and that when we die, we will be with Christ.

I welcome your continuing discussion or thoughts on all this!

PS. I’m assuming you already have, but if you haven’t, perhaps you could read Justice.

Hi pilgrim,

You wrote:

You seem to be viewing the spiritual blessings enjoyed by believers as merely getting us through the hardships of life. And while I agree that we are sustained through hardships by the peace and joy that God gives us, I believe it is these spiritual blessings that makes even a life full of hardships more desirable than a life that is spent in a state of spiritual death, even if one is rich in material things. Consider the apostle Paul: while it’s my view that Paul believed that both the just and the unjust would be raised to a holy and happy existence, I don’t think he would’ve traded his life as a “slave of Christ” for that of, say, the Roman Emperor Nero. While by the world’s standards Nero had it all (power, wealth and access to every worldly pleasure you could think of), I don’t think Paul envied him in the least - not because he thought Nero and those like him would have to endure some kind of post-mortem punishment, but because Paul was more blessed as a believer than he would have been as an unbeliever.

You speak of “dying daily.” When Paul said “I die daily” (1 Cor 15:31) I believe he meant that he lived in such a way that his life was in jeopardy on a regular basis. As he says in the previous verse, he was “in danger every hour.” But he did this because he had the hope of the resurrection, and having this hope enabled him to selflessly do whatever God had called him to do (which, in the eyes of the world, undoubtedly meant living “foolishly”). It is this hope that I believe dulls and deadens the desires of the flesh which tempt us to live for ourselves only, and to cling to the things of this world. Although Paul was daily exposed to suffering and hardships, I firmly believe he was happier than every unrighteous man in his day, whether poor or rich. Again, Paul said that in all his affliction he was “overflowing with joy.” But did this mean he had no compassion, never grieved, or never lamented? Of course not, and I regret that you understood me to be saying that true Christians do not suffer or grieve. Suffering and hardship is a part of life, and no believer is exempt from it (I find the “prosperity teaching” and “health and wealth” gospel that is so popular today absolutely abhorrent). But the perspective of suffering and hardship is, I believe, entirely different for the believer, and it changes how they experience it. And the peace and joy from God that believers have in the midst of their suffering and hardships - which, as you say, sustains us (and which I believe can even come as a result of suffering and hardship) - is greater than anything the world has to offer. Does not denying oneself and “taking up one’s cross” make one happier (in the highest sense of the word) than living only for oneself? “Happy are those who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens” (Mt 5:11, CLV). “Come to me, all who labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy (or “pleasant”), and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).

In 2 Cor 1:3-5 (ESV) Paul writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

The “abundant comfort” of which Paul speaks is, I believe, a great blessing that unbelievers can never know or enjoy as long as they remain unbelievers.

In 1 Pet 3:10-12 we read, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Did Peter really believe that if one desired to love life and see good days, he should turn away from evil and do good? I think so.

Peter goes on to say (vv. 13-17), “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed (i.e., happy). Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Even when suffering for righteousness’ sake, believers are happy. Not only do they “overflow with joy” amidst their afflictions, they enjoy the peace of a good conscience and have a living hope abiding within that lightens any burden they must carry in this world.

I’m puzzled that you understood me to be saying that believers enjoy (or should enjoy) their “own blissful state at the expense of a suffering world,” because that’s not at all what I believe, and I’m not really sure what I said that gave you that impression. My view is that there is great joy in loving our neighbour as we love ourselves and in living sacrificially, and that we are happier (i.e., experience greater joy and peace) when we are living in God’s will than when we are living outside of it. For example, I believe we are more blessed (i.e., happy) when we give our money to people who need it more than we do than when we spend it all on ourselves. IOW, the believer is happier than the unbeliever not at the expense of a suffering world, but because, out of obedience to Christ, he is doing the best he can to relieve people’s suffering, and there is great joy in that.

So does the fact that believers are happier/more blessed than unbelievers in this life mean we are exempt from suffering? Of course not. But there is a huge difference between suffering as a believer and suffering as an unbeliever. For the former, suffering is embraced as a blessing that is not only preparing for us an “age enduring weight of glory” that will be enjoyed at the end of the age of the Messianic reign (2 Cor 4:17), but as contributing to our present growth and maturity as Christians so that we may be more like Christ. But for the unbeliever, suffering is experienced as a curse that, from their perspective, only adds to the perceived futility of their existence.

I don’t think so. Not all suffering is a punishment for sin, and our ignorance of the reason for why a person is suffering should caution us against passing judgment on them. And even if we could know for sure when someone was suffering “for doing evil” (1 Pet 1:17) and when they weren’t, the response of those who have the “mind of Christ” will be one of compassion and grace toward those who suffer for doing evil, not self-righteous pride and calloused indifference. In 1 Cor 5:5 Paul speaks of a sexually immoral man within the church at Corinth, and he tells the Corinthians to “deliver this man to the adversary for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” Pretty harsh words. He goes on to say, “Purge the evil person from among you.” But in his 2nd epistle, Paul writes (speaking of the same man), “For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Cor 2:6-8). Notice that Paul knew the man had suffered for his sin, and yet his attitude was one of forgiveness and compassion rather than self-righteous indifference. And I believe every mature believer will have the same attitude toward those who are suffering, or who have suffered, for doing evil.

no. it is i who should apologise for the delay. your posts have been very gracious.

Again I am in total agreement and perhaps this gets to the heart of my concerns.


Yes exactly. I might tell myself that they were not yet ‘born again’ and that, upon redemption, ALL our sins and failings (past present and future) are dealt with at the cross by Christ.



Thats it! I wish I was as erudite as you.

I definitely need to do some prayer and studying.
Firstly forgive my delayed response. It was TVs post that threw me and I needed time-out.
In addition, whilst I am desperate to deal with these issues, I am really struggling with my teaching job at the moment as the students approach their examinations. It might be two or at most three weeks before I can give this the time it deserves.
God bless.

Hi Aaron. I agree with 90% of what you say. I will just refer to areas of concern to me.
Aaron wrote:

I believe this to be untrue. Let me just give one example which is reality:
A saintly believing woman who I know has suffered for years with severe clinical depression. I will not go into detail but either your statement is wrong, or you judge her to have secret sin in her life.
This illustrates the danger of what you teach. She is by no-means an isolated example.
In addition I think there is very strong evidence to say that one’s happiness and contentment are strongly related to one’s genetic predisposition and one’s early environment. Both for believers and unbelievers.

I honestly think that donating money without any feeling of the suffering is sterile and not the way of Christ. Again it means that the donation must have been devoid of any compassion.
We are to weep with those who weep and share in the grief and sufferings of our fellow human beings.
Compassion is literally “fellow-suffering”. One cannot have compassion and at the same time be full of peace and joy.

Not for the clinically depressed or those wracked with persistent, agonising pain or…or…

Even St Paul who you quoted earlier said that he considered this life to be a pile of sh** compared to the wonderful eternal life to come (my paraphrase). It sounds to me like it was the hope of the next life that (at least in part) sustained him through some of the traumas of this life.

This is what terrifies me. Please forgive my forthrightness but I cannot believe you have lived such a sheltered existence that you can believe this to be consistently true (see above).

“Overflow with joy” !!

On the one hand I would pray that you never have to be as close to the suffering of a believer as I have been in my life. On the other I would pray that you might be, so that you will have greater experience from which to speak. Thank God I can leave it to Him.

Now, either you judge those suffering, joyless believers or you rethink your present beliefs. Which is it?

When I was an ECTer, my views match the OP. Those that are saved get instantly changed and enjoy the fruits of heaven forevermore, while those who didn’t get saved were lost forever in a burning hell. End of story. And I didn’t have much of a problem with that since I myself got saved.

But the more I thought about, the less things didn’t make sense. The first step that led me to UR was the thought that only a fraction of the people God made will find themselves in heaven, if ECT is true. For how many of the world’s 6 billion people are catagorically going to hell because a) they rejected Christ, perhaps on a misrepresentation of Christ b) they never heard of the gospel c) they were born in another religion through no fault of their own d) do not believe in God because the ‘evidence’ they see does not suggest One exists e) haven’t the mental capable mind knowing one way or another or f) other reasons I haven’t thought of. I simply can’t believe that a permanent burning hell awaits for a majority of the people that exist today. People that God made in His own image. Moreover, if such is the reality, then God has a very poor track record in terms of numbers, especially for Someone who claims to be the Savior of the World.

Aside from all that, in pondering our condition upon resurrection, I know that we will receive glorified bodies, one that will not see decay, or sickness, or pain, or death. But I wondered what our mental and spiritual condition will be, particulrly in light of what our expereince has been down here. Would we be so wrapped up in our heavenly experience that we would forget all about what life was like down here? Would God just give us a spiritual lobotomy so that we get a complete reboot up there? If that is the case, then what would be the point of rewards that we apparently earn down here? Seems to me that since our life started here, there would have to be some measure on continuity from one existence to the next. Therefore we must retain some remeberances of our life down here. Otherwise, why would there be any reason to experience Christian growth if all that is chucked when we get up there.

So I have to believe that there is continuity between our lives down here and what we experience up there. But how? That is the big question.

Of course, the corollary to this is what of loved ones who didn’t make it to heaven? Would we even retain memory of them? Since my parents play such a major role in my life, I would find it hard to imagine that knowing they are in hell forever that I could ever find solace, even in experiencing the bliss that awaits me in the Presence of the Lord. How can one be happy and blessed knowing that their own mother and father are experiencing the most excruciating pain one can ever imagine, day after day, year after year, for all eternity. Sure God can wipe away all tears, but would our hearts really get to the calloused point that we wouldn’t care anymore?

The other thing that bothered me is how we would relate to each other in eternity. Would we all be ‘poofed’ into liking each other? Even those who are our worst enemies (assuming that, yes, even some of them are Christians). Would God manipulate our hearts into liking then? Or how much of that responsibility would fall to us, seeing how we are taught to love our enemies down here and find it hard to do so, yet commanded nonetheless? What is it that would enable us to love our enemies?

What about those we’ve done wrong to? Is forgiveness from them going to be automatic in a twinkling of an eye? Are all the massacred Jews going to simply blimp away all the hardships that Hitler imposed upon them in an instant? Or will there need to be some healing and reconciliation going on, perhaps needing a long eon of time to do so? Can you simply forgive a rapist who violated you and hurt you just like that?

How much of us will still be human when we reach our final destination? Will we be recognized as being human even in our glorified bodies? Some of us have gone through very traumatic experiences, some to the point of suicide. Can we really change ever so fast in a twinkling of an eye?

Why does it need to be so quick anyhow if we have all eternity to sort out all these things. God is patient in working on us, why wouldn’t you think that there wouldn’t be a time of healing and reconciliation?

Hi pilgrim,

I wrote:

You wrote:

So what you’re saying is that when this believing woman suffers for righteousness’ sake, she is not happy. She does not, like Paul, have comfort or overflow with joy when she is afflicted for the sake of the gospel (which, in context, is what I had in mind). She does not enjoy the peace of a good conscience or have a living hope abiding within her that lightens the burdens she must carry in this world.

Is that what you’re saying?

And is it your view that this woman who suffers from clinical depression (and as someone who has struggled with clinical depression and anxiety as well, I can certainly empathize) would be happier as an unbeliever than as a believer? That is, as someone who suffers from severe clinical depression, do you think this woman is less happy than she would be if she were an unbeliever suffering from the same psychological condition?

Take two people who have similar genetic predispositions and similar upbringings. One is a believer who fears God and does what is right (Acts 10:35) and the other is an unbeliever who is “dead in sin,” “without God in the world,” and lives only for himself. Is it your position that the unbeliever will go through life happier (and by “happy” I mean having joy and peace and “rest for one’s soul”) than the believer? And assuming (for the sake of argument) that I am correct about all people being raised to a holy and happy condition at the time of the resurrection, is it your view that, of the two hypothetical people above, the unbeliever’s life should be seen as more desirable than the believer’s?

When Jesus said “It is more blessed (makarios, happy) to give than to receive,” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t saying that we are to give “without any feeling of the suffering” of those to whom we are giving. Apparently, being “blessed” (happy) and having compassion are not mutually exclusive experiences.

In the parable of the prodigal son, we are told that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Lk. 15:20). Would there have been no peace and joy intermixed with the feeling of compassion felt by the father in this parable?

As I’m sure you know, there are varying degrees of peace and joy that believers can experience, but even the least degree of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit is greater than none at all (which is, I believe, what those who are “dead in sin” experience). So even if one cannot be “full of peace and joy” when a compassionate feeling arises (which is determined by the circumstances - see Mt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; Luke 7:13), they can, I believe, still have some degree of peace and joy. When we’re told that Jesus had compassion on a widow after her son died, I’m sure he still had a sense of peace that remained with him - i.e., the same peace that he gave to his disciples (John 14:27). Paul wrote, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way” (2 Thess 3:16). And Paul also said that “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace,” and surely you believe that Jesus’ mind was always set on the Spirit. And shortly before his crucifixion Jesus said to his disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” He also prayed, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they * may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). But was Jesus’ peace and joy destroyed every time a compassionate feeling arose in his heart?

And even if having a compassionate feeling (as Jesus often did) and having peace and joy are mutually exclusive experiences, it remains true that, for the believer, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will, after the emotion has passed, return to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7), along with the joy that Christ said no one could take from us (John 16:22). Can the same be said for an unbeliever? While even unbelievers feel compassion, does the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus? And do they have a joy which no one can take from them?

Exactly! It’s the hope of being raised immortal by Jesus Christ to which every true believer was “born again” (1 Pet 1:3-4) and which sustains every believer through “the traumas of this life.” It is in this hope that every believer was saved (Rom 8:24), and it is this hope which purifies us (1 John 3:2-3). But do unbelievers have this hope as an anchor for their soul when they go through the storms of this life?

And to tie this in with what I’ve said about joy, we read in Proverbs: “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish” (Prov 10:28). Do believers have hope? If so, then this hope will inevitably bring them joy, even in the midst of suffering.

I certainly hope Peter’s words don’t terrify you, for in his first epistle he wrote: “Yet if you may be suffering also because of righteousness, happy are you…If you are being reproached in the name of Christ, happy are you, for the spirit of glory and power, and that of God, has come to rest on you” (1 Pet 3:14; 4:14, CLV).

James also wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4). Similarly, Paul wrote, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:3-5). (The “hope” of which Paul speaks here is not the hope of the resurrection to which one is “born again” when they first believe, but rather the hope that God is conforming them to the image of his Son, from one degree of glory to another - Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18).

So contrary to what you seem to be saying, suffering and having joy (as well as rejoicing) are not mutually exclusive.

But how do you know I haven’t been as close to the suffering of a believer as you have (or at least close enough to not be naive about it)?

  1. Suffering and being joyless are two different things. Suffering does not necessarily preclude joy.

  2. As I said in my last post, our ignorance of why a person is suffering should caution us against judging them. It is wrong to simply assume that a person is suffering for doing evil.

  3. How many believers do you know well enough who are, in fact, “joyless?” Do you know they are “joyless” because of your consistent interaction with them? Have they told you that they are utterly without joy in their life?

  4. If a person seems to be, more often than not, an unloving, impatient, unkind and unfaithful person who regularly seems to lack goodness, gentleness and self-control, would you consider them to be someone who is “abiding in Christ,” or not? Jesus said we can recognize people by their fruits, and that “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit” (Matt 7:15-18; cf. Lk. 6:43-45). Now, in addition to love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness and self-control, both joy and peace are said by Paul to be fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) - in fact, they are the second and third fruits named by Paul. So if a person is consistently “joyless” (and by “joyless” I mean, of course, lacking in the second-named fruit of the Holy Spirit) what does that say about the kind of “tree” they probably are?

You said, “Now, either you judge those suffering, joyless believers or you rethink your present beliefs. Which is it?” But allow me to propose a third option: rather than rethink my beliefs, I will retain them (as I believe them to be Scriptural), refuse to assume that those who are suffering are suffering for doing evil (and instead treat them with kindness and compassion regardless of whether they are or not), and maintain a healthy skepticism that a person who seems to be consistently lacking in the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a mature believer. At best, such people are “infants in Christ” and “of the flesh” (1 Cor 3:1-3) and need to be encouraged to “hold fast to the word” that was preached to them (15:2). And at worst, they are not what they profess themselves to be - and if that’s the case, they desperately need the hope that only faith in the gospel of Christ can bring them. When they have this hope in them, the fruit they lack will, I believe, begin to appear.*

Thanks for those kind words Buddy. You are too modest in your descriptions. It is often my arrogance rather than any knowledge that enters into debate, but you describe the higher virtue of love.
I find it no surprise that Jesus was described as ‘a man of sorrows and familiar with grief, despised and rejected.’
We are called to share the sufferings of Christ.
I think as URers, many of us are gaining further insight into the ‘Baptism of Fire’ which Jesus brought for those who would dare to follow Him. Fire is painful and purifies. Disciples of Christ are immersed in fire in this life but (I believe) have no need for the purifying flames of the next life.

I believe that I have much to learn from Aaron and have said that I agree with most of what he has posted but I would like to ask him some questions on the part where we differ.

  1. A direct question: In your earlier post you quoted scriptures and said that you believed they applied to this life not the next. Do you believe that every genuine follower of Christ has more blessings, more peace, and more joy in this life than every non-believer?
  2. Three persons:
    a) a Godly christian woman who suffers severely with chronic anxiety and depression to the point that the only thing stopping her from committing suicide is that she cannot bear what that might do to her loved ones.
    b) a christian young man who was paralysed aged 12 when he dived into shallow water. Like the woman, he struggles,not only physically but mentally. This is compounded by the financial difficulties his aged caring parents are in and the no.of copies of Joni Erikson’s book his christian friends have inflicted on him.
    c) an affluent atheist who has led a comfortable, happy but selfish life and is content, now he is old, to face what he believes to be ‘oblivion’ (or what might be termed ‘eternal soul sleep’) knowing that few people have had as full a life as him nor have gorged themselves with as much relish on the fruit this world has to offer.

How does your theology work in these cases? … re=related

Just bumping this up for TotalVictory

just to add my thoughts before i forget (haven’t read to the end yet, so please pardon me if i repeat something that has already been said).

i’m still on the fence with UR, but leaning in, as i can see the fruit of this doctine appears to be better than the ECT/annihilationist side. personally, if i’m not convinced of UR, it’s going to be annihilationism for me, as i feel the parable of Lazarus was figurative (and likely satirical, with a barbed warning at the end to go back and study Moses and the Prophets, as the Pharisees’ concept of hell was all wrong) and full of symbols they’d have understood (i found those, but i’d have to dig them up now as my memory is a sieve, and they’re not part of this topic), and Gehenna was a rubbish tip.

saying that, some form of refining fire makes sense…it does mention something about people being saved, but smelling as if they had passed through flames. i don’t recall if the syntax indicates only present premortem believers or if it can be read differently, however.

ok so if UR is true…i feel that those who are found in Christ now, through faith (proved by works, but not justified by them, as James and Paul say), ARE redeemed. our price is paid. yes, the work continues, but in God’s eyes we are already His children, co-heirs with Christ, etc.
those who are unredeemed YET, will need to pay the penalty of the law as they understand it. they are under the old covenant, we under the new.
it’s possible that some may revoke their new covenant status by losing faith or sinning etc, but God disciplines those He loves.
so for me, if the work of Christ on the cross is the mechanism by which all creation is reconciled to God, then that work loses nothing from UR…if anything, once we get over our initial preconceptions and possessiveness (and even arrogance) as ECT’ers, and look at it from God’s point of view…the victory becomes HUGE. it becomes complete…not partial, as in only a remnant being saved. this excites me…
as for the mechanism of purification which all must participate in to become holy (ie the life lessons we learn now, or post mortem refining)…this is made possible by Christ’s blood, and merciful as we know the trials will not be forever, but for our good.

that’s my take on it, anyway.

but yes, sometimes i am confused as to the purpose of even living, let alone spreading the gospel, if in the next life all is fixed and made new and good. why suffer if you don’t have to?

but ECT makes less sense to me…annihilationism is the only alternative i could embrace. although it does contradict the law of thermodynamics, i think…

i apologise for lack of scriptural references. i can remember what i’ve read, but not where!!!

Hi pilgrim,

You wrote:

Yes, if by “blessings” you mean “spiritual blessings.” I certainly don’t think genuine followers of Christ have more material blessings or physical comforts than non-believers; more often than not, it’s the other way around.

Well I don’t think this woman is suffering with chronic anxiety and depression because she’s a godly Christian woman. That is, I don’t think it was God’s prescriptive or decretive will that she be afflicted with chronic anxiety and depression as a consequence of her being a godly Christian woman. Nor do I have any reason to think her chronic anxiety and depression is a consequence of her living outside of the prescriptive/moral will of God (although it is certainly possible that anxiety and depression can be a consequence of, or at least exacerbated by, one’s being outside of the moral will of God). I think only God knows why exactly this godly woman remains afflicted in this way. And I think that if someone were to ask Jesus about her, he would likely respond, “It was not that this woman sinned, or her parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in her” (see John 9:1-3). I firmly believe that the “works of God” will be “displayed in her,” if not in this life then definitely in the resurrection when I believe all physical, psychological and moral maladies will be healed.

Moreover, since you say this woman is a godly Christian woman, it means she has the “living hope” of the resurrection (1 Pet 1:3-4) and that she was saved in the hope of the resurrection (Rom 8:23-24). Now, is it possible for a person to have this “living hope” within them and it not be a source of peace and joy and comfort to them amidst the trials and tribulation of this life? I don’t see how this could possibly be the case. Moreover, since this woman is a godly Christian, then I believe the Holy Spirit is necessarily producing the “fruit of the Spirit” in her life (i.e., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). In view of these and other considerations, I believe this woman would be much less happy as an ungodly non-believer suffering from the same chronic anxiety and depression. Thus, her being a godly Christian is, I believe, an advantage to her in this life rather than a disadvantage.

I think the same things could pretty much be said in regards to this young man.

I believe all people will be “happy” and “see good days” to the extent that they obey the laws established by God, whether the laws be physical, moral, intellectual, etc. To whatever extent one has intentionally or unintentionally violated the laws that govern our existence (whether physical, moral, intellectual, etc.), I believe one will experience a corresponding loss of happiness (I should add that I don’t think anyone can unintentionally violate the moral law established by God, since it is the intention that makes an action moral or immoral; one can, I believe, only unintentinoally violate non-moral laws). No one can be selfish and estranged from God and, at the same time, be as happy as they could be if they were obeying the moral law of God. Had this affluent man been a believer in God and lived unselfishly, I think he would’ve been much happier. By remaining selfish and estranged from God, this man forfeited the “abundant life” that Christ came to give those who believe on him. I believe the physical pleasures and material comforts he experienced in his life simply don’t compare to the spiritual blessings he could’ve enjoyed had he been a godly, believing man.

If it’s true that all people are going to be made holy and happy at the resurrection of the dead (as I believe), is it your view that going through this life as an affluent, selfish atheist would be preferable to being a believer in Christ walking in “newness of life?”