Reclaiming the Prophetic Imagination


One of the arguments I’ve repeatedly made is that you can’t understand the New Testament language of hell, God’s wrath, and judgment without understanding the lessons of the prophets. As we all know, the “bible” for the early Christians was the Old Testament.

My sense is that those who subscribe to and defend UR tend to underutilize the theological resources that can be found within the prophetic imagination.

So an open thread. In your opinion, what lessons do we learn from the prophets about God’s covenant, election, wrath, judgment and love that bolster, support and inform UR?


Well, that’s a great question and, at this moment, my answer/example rests in a thread I just started in Soteriology —
[JUDGMENT: God’s means of effecting Salvation!!)

No respectable prophet did not speak about judgment! It is dominant and central.
Except that we of western thought and theology, assume that judgment means prescriptions of punitive punishment. You did this (sin) therefore I shall punish you by “doing” this to YOU… Tit for tat. Quid pro quo.

For the prophets, judgment was a certain and a serious thing to be sure… But I’m rather certain it’s entire intent was corrective, and not punitive at all. God would heal us even if He had to “hurt us” in the process. (ie Is 19: strike, but heal…)

So for me, and I’m thinking for the prophets, the promise of Judgment was the promise of Salvation! Judgment being but a tool in the hands of the Saving God…



I see the OT supporting hopeful UR. For example, I hold to a doctrine of hopeful UR and a philosophical conjecture of definite UR.

Here are three major points:

  1. The major prophets taught that all divine judgments are conditional.
  2. OT judgment typically has a goal of redemption.
  3. The language describing OT judgment is often poetic.


Concerning the OP, I find it very significant that the OT, especially the Torah does not have one warning concerning ECT, and ECT can only be “read into” a couple of passages in the prophets. To me it seems that if ECT was a reality then it would have been warned of especially, clearly, and repeatedly in the Torah.

It is also significant to me that though Moses was certainly well versed in Egyptian mythology, which warned of a type of Hell, Moses did not weave even one such warning into the Torah. Instead, Moses warned of the consequences of sins in this life, with capital punishment, and death and destruction for one’s loved ones, family, and nation being the most severe consequences of sin. This is especially significant when one considers that one of the primary goals of the Torah is to reveal how the children of God, Israel, was to be different from the surrounding nations, especially Egypt.

And then on top of this I find Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies concerning Hinnom Valley (gehenna) to be very compelling as the foundation for understanding what Jesus warned of concerning Hinnom Valley. Sin brings destruction, judgment, the death of all that one loves, but not ECT.

There is much in the OT to undermine the concept of ECT and affirm UR. I look forward to everyone’s input.


After just finishing reading Jeremiah I’m with TotalVictory above. The punishments were extremely severe but always mixed with the promise of restoration - and not a few times with the promise that God would MAKE them righteous and write his laws on their hearts.


I did a study of Jeremiah a little while back and God gave repeated pronouncements of judgment on Israel, sounding like he was FINISHED with them:

Jeremiah 7:20 20“This is what the Almighty LORD says: My anger and fury will be poured out on this place, on humans and animals, and on trees and crops. **My anger and fury will burn and not be put out.
Jeremiah 13
14Then I will smash them like bottles against each other. I will smash parents and children together, declares the LORD. **I will have no pity, mercy, or compassion when I destroy them.’ ” **

Jeremiah 15
5No one will take pity on you, Jerusalem. No one will mourn for you. No one will bother to ask how you are doing. 6You have left me,” declares the LORD. “You have turned your back on me. So I will use my power against you and destroy you. **I’m tired of showing compassion to you. **

Jeremiah 17
4You will lose the inheritance that I gave you. I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you haven’t heard of.** I will do this because you have stirred up the fire of my anger.
It will burn forever. **

There were several statements that gave the impression that God’s punishment would not end. It seemed to contradict what I had originally thought about God’s punishment. God said it would be forever. Then came the clincher:

Jeremiah 18
7“At one time I may threaten to tear up, break down, and destroy a nation or a kingdom. 8But suppose the nation that I threatened turns away from doing wrong. Then I will change my plans about the disaster I planned to do to it.
And the very famous passage:

Jeremiah 29 -
10This is what the LORD says: When Babylon’s 70 years are over, I will come to you. I will keep my promise to you and bring you back to this place. 11I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope. 12Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13When you look for me, you will find me. When you wholeheartedly seek me, 14I will let you find me, declares the LORD. I will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I’ve scattered you, declares the LORD. I will bring you back from the place where you are being held captive.

Even when God made straightforward, unequivocal, seemingly irreversible statements about punishment, he would in fact change his mind because of his compassion because that’s the way he is. God does NOT punish or remain angry forever!

Jeremiah 3:4,5 “Have you not just now called to Me, My Father, You are the friend of my youth? Will He be angry forever? Will He be indignant to the end?’ Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD; I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD; **‘I will not be angry forever.”

So God said that he would be angry forever, and that forever turned out to be seventy years, in this case. If God can say, cleary, in a straight forward manner that his punishment will be forever (I’m not sure forever is the right translation here, btw), and NOT have it be forever, because of his mercy, why would we think he changes in the new testament?


This is such a powerful arguement in favor of UR. The word forever in jer 17:4 is oulm (eon). So unless one wants to call God a liar Eon must be understood to mean “age” rather than forever . Because clearly his anger did not burn “forever” in this case.


i can only add that this is a huge part of my belief in UR.
if God does not change, and the New Covenant is better than the Old, then how could it now entail ECT if you fail to believe?
especially when Jesus says rather unambiguously that no one comes to God unless He draws them.

for me, the OT is full of judgement followed by restoration. there may be exceptions where the restoration is not specifically stated, but most times it is, even for non Jewish nations. and furthermore we have insights into God’s character, that His anger is for a moment but His favour is for life.

personally i think the NT is meaningless without a backdrop of the OT, and that the OT reveals key truths that unlock the NT.

something i was always uncomfortable with growing up as an ECTer was that the OT had this thread of judgement to teach, and restoration to heal, and the NT, from what i was taught, just had CHOOSE OR DIE! and not just DIE, but BURN FOREVER IN TORMENT. it just didn’t add up…

thanks to all the detailed posts above for stating this more eloquently than i have managed :laughing:


Olam actually doesn’t really mean eternal in the first place. It means out of sight or something. And it is the direct word for aion, was translated into aion in the Septuagint and so on.

That really looks suspicious when you look at it that way.


I love this bit:

Jer 7:13-15 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer,therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.

… and then see Jeremiah chapter 31. I especially like verse 20:

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD.



Very nice verse that gives the reason behind the mercies of God, even within the context of “forever” judgements.


If I remember correctly, Stephen Jones’ “Creations Jubilee” has some good stuff in this vein.