Responding to Hope Beyond Hell


I’m reading Hope Beyond Hell and thought I would share how I’m responding to it along the way. I apologize that my quotes from the source don’t have page numbers attached to them; I’m reading via my kindle app and it just doesn’t have that information. But I heard you can read it free online somewhere, so a simple “find on page” should allow you to find whatever quote you’re looking for easily enough. Anyway, here’s what I have so far…

The verse in context is speaking about Israel. I’m not sure we can apply it to all man, although God certainly does love all.

It’s right if God says it right.

Unless it is part of his character to do that

Maybe for some, but true believers will love him and his salvation for them

Unless that is ultimately part of his will

Once again, unless it is ultimately part of his will

Not at all. Christ fully accomplished salvation for the elect

Unless our conscience is tainted by our sin. Would be interested in scriptures to back this one up

Such as?

Universalism seems to take away some of the urgency for evangelism

Which is what the Bible seems to instruct us to do

Unless we rest in God’s sovereignty

Yeah, but that might not be right of me

Does he have any research to back this up? It seems to me that the doctrine is still widely held.

I’m not sure that this verse (Isaiah 29:13) is teaching that the fear being taught is what removes a person’s heart far from God.

Yes, but the question is, is that right of me? And, will my affections be changed, perfected, when I am glorified?

In the sense that we can’t obtain righteousness through works. We can never be good enough.

I’d argue that they didn’t understand or follow the letter either, though.

Yet every tree adds to the forest. Therefore each tree is magnificent if I understood it correctly in the context of the forest.

I’m don’t think the Bible ever instructs us to judge things merely by our heart, but rather by the Scripture. The heart is deceitful above all things.

Not necessarily. The Septuagint is not an inspired translation. When it translated aion for olam, it might simply have been the closest word the translator could find, but not an exact equivalent.

This one kind of does make sense, actually.

Once again, makes a little sense, although “world” definitely seems like a better translation.

Again, could make sense.

Could make sense.

Words have a range of meaning. Just because it obviously is limited in many of these verses, doesn’t mean that it can’t mean “eternal” in other verses and contexts.

If that’s true, how would the Scripture express something that is literally eternal?

So that leaves one-fifth which could be unlimited in duration. That’s a lot!

Wait, I thought you just quoted someone who basically said it could mean “eternal” one-fifth of the time. Don’t discount that fifth. It’s significant.

And many more reputable translations translate them “eternal” and not “age.” Context determines the meaning in each case.

I’m not sure we can really say that. They both come from the same word, so they must be related somehow.

This is a really good point.

Ok, so “the ages of the ages,” when applied to God, can mean eternity. But how would the biblical writers talk about eternity in regards to man?

Really? According to the Perseus Greek Word Study Tool, there are at least 590 uses of this word in various ancient documents. I would be very impressed if every single one of those uses had remedial punishment in view. Would be a very long, but beneficial study that would pretty much make the whole case for universal reconciliation. Looking at just the first use of the word in Antiquities of the Jews, by Josephus, it says, talking about Cain, “he did not accept of his punishment (kolasin) in order to amendment, but to increase his wickedness; for he only aimed to procure every thing that was for his own bodily pleasure, though it obliged him to be injurious to his neighbors.” Just from one extra-biblical use of the word, I’m not sure we can really say whether this use is meant to be remedial or not. Was God’s punishment of Cain meant to be corrective? And if so, did Josephus know that it was meant to be corrective? According to Josephus, it ultimately wasn’t corrective. But it still could have been its purpose (or Josephus could have just been wrong about how Cain ended up living). It looks like this word study could turn into a huge guessing game. Oh well, it would have been a good study.

Kolasis isn’t in this verse, but I don’t think that’s what he was saying.

No question there. But the question is, does all harsh punishment serve a redemptive purpose?

The case hasn’t quite been made. Someone needs to go through those 590 uses of kolasis first, and determine that every single one of them has remedial punishment in view.

It would be interesting to look some of these uses up, and compare them with the biblical uses.

Why not? If it’s within the word’s range of meanings, as demonstrated by Platonic philosophy, then I need just a little more evidence that it can’t mean eternal in the Bible.

Please keep in mind that as I’m making this comments along the way, some of what I write are simply my gut level first impressions. I’m also (kind of) being just a bit more critical of the book than I really ought to be, trying to tear it up as much as possible to see what’s left standing. So far, I’m actually quite impressed.


What with the book… or your tearing it up :question: :laughing: :mrgreen:


STP, I must say that I am impressed by your attitude - being willing to try and understand what Gerry is saying in his book, seeing problems, asking genuine questions and writing them down for discussion. Sadly, too many just dismiss Christian Universalism without really understanding it.

Just to pick one of your questions

I would mention such passages as
Col 1:15-20
All things were created in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ, and God was pleased through Christ to reconcile these same all things to Himself by making peace through Christ’s blood.
Rom 5:18
Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people (not just some people).”
1 Cor 15:22
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ, all (not just some) will be made alive.
Eph 1:10
God’s purpose in Christ is to bring unity to all things.
Phil 2:9-11
God’s purpose in exalting Christ is that everyone will confess that Jesus is Lord.
Acts 3:21
There is a time coming for God to restore everything.
John 12:32
Jesus said he will draw all people to himself.
Rom 11:32
God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
John 1:29
Jesus takes away the sin of the world.

There are many other passages that could be mentioned concerning God’s ultimate purposes in restoring all of creation. I realise that there are other ways of understanding these passages, but to me, these passages make more sense from a perspective of Christian Universalism than trying to explain them from a view that hell is eternal.



I too like your detailed approach. Of course, some of your responses raise questions for me. E.g. You suggest ECT can say “Christ fully accomplished His mission,” because He “accomplished salvation for the elect.” By “Elect,” are you reading the Bible as clearly teaching that God selected some beloved individuals to have them embrace Christ and salvation," while providing no such possibility to the rest of the humanity created in His image"?


With the book, silly. :laughing:

Thanks, that is my aim, to fully understand it. As I’ve said before, I’d love for it to be true, I just can’t fully reconcile it with Scripture. That’s why I’m doing this: to see if I can. Or rather, if it be true, to allow Scripture to reconcile me to the truth.

Kind of, although saying it that way isn’t fair to God. I would probably say something more like this. While God has graciously chosen some to be saved, the gospel is truly available to be received in a real way by all, so that no one is without excuse, so that no one can blame God for their condemnation, and so that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.


Round 2, ding, ding, ding!

I realize that this is just a paraphrase, but it doesn’t seem to do justice to aionian in any sense, it just kind of ignores it. At the very least, aionian seems to have something to do with time, but that’s missing from this paraphrase. But I suppose that was why the author just quoted John 17:3, “this is eternal life, that they know you,” to show that aionian does not always refer to time. But even then, it seems like John 17:3 does at least give a nod to the everlasting quality of abundant life, because it could have simply said, “this is life.”

It seems that Paul is referring to believers, though, because they are at least building on the foundation of Christ (1 Cor 3:11).

So if both the fire and punishment have their source in the eternal God, then it seems reasonable to translate aionian “eternal” or at least “everlasting,” since their source is an eternal Being, who is able to make everlasting things.

But by saying this, the author is basically making it impossible for God to make something eternal or everlasting. But He can do what He wants. If you rule out the possibility of God creating something eternal or everlasting, how would He convey to us that such a thing is eternal or everlasting aside from using this word, which the author has ruled out can mean that?

How early? The Athanasius Creed (written sometime in the fifth or sixth century) mentions those who will “perish eternally” and “enter eternal fire.” Granted, that’s not necessarily the “early” Church, but it is grouped with the creeds that are almost universally accepted.

Yes, but it can also be a duration. As far as I know, John 17:3 is the only verse in which aonian is clearly more about quality than duration, and even it seems to hint at duration, as I’ve already mused.

First, most of these verses use the same couple of words, so the list of verses is misleading; there are only a handful of other words, not “a number” which implies a whole bunch. Second, aion is a far more simple and common word than any of these. That would be like me telling someone, “Why did you use the word ‘random’? You should have said it was ‘desultory!’” It may be a better, more clear word, but the simple, more common word is just that: simple and more common. Third, this isn’t even a fair solution to the problem, because, as far as I can tell, all of these other words describe good things. So perhaps such words would not be appropriate to describe an everlasting punishment. In fact, at least one of these words, ἄφθαρτος, is used in the same sentence as aion (1 Tim 1:17). It would be silly to say, “To the eternal King, eternal, invisible, the only God…” It makes far more sense to translate only one of these terms in reference to time, and the 20+ translations I looked at chose aion to translate “eternal” or “of the ages,” rather than ἄφθαρτος because aion more clearly has reference to time. (There were two translation, the CEV and BBE which translated both in reference to time, but none translated ἄφθαρτος as eternal and aion as pertaining to the quality of His character, or something else).

Don’t forget His hatred and judgment of sin. But I suppose these were fully demonstrated in Christ’s death on the cross.


STP, thanks for classically articulating how you’d describe Jesus’ accomplishing his mission of election!

You explain that “God has chosen some to be saved,” such that “the Gospel is truly available to be received in a real way by all… so that no one can blame God.” I too was taught this and I may be slow, but for me it sounds contradictorily unintelligible.

Do you see the Bible as teaching that those whom God has not “chosen to be saved” still have a true possibility of receiving the Gospel and being saved? Or do you mean by “receiving the Gospel in a real way,” that they nonetheless have no chance of truly accepting it if they are not elect? If you hold that only the elect can respond to the Gospel, and all the rest thus have no viable choice, why would it be morally unsensible for the non-elect to blame God for creating them with no actual possibility of escaping total condemnation?


The Bible doesn’t answer those questions, so neither will I :laughing:

Seriously, though, I think when we start asking questions the Bible doesn’t answer, we get on shaky ground real fast. We start getting into opinions rather than revealed truth, which divide rather than unite. But I think we can be united on a few things that the Bible is clear about:

  1. God has chosen to save (at least) some (Romans 8:29-30)
  2. The gospel invitation is given to all people (John 3:16)
  3. We are all without excuse (Romans 1:20)
  4. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13)

That’s pretty much what I stick to in my preaching as well. Sure, I’ll mention hell probably once a sermon, but I don’t go on and on shouting about it. I simply say what the Bible says, that if we want to avoid hell, we must repent (Luke 13:3). Isn’t that the gospel truth? Why do I need to know exactly how many will be saved and whether their ability to accept the gospel is either real or really real? My job is to plant and water, and God brings the growth.

Sorry if this is dodging the question, but that’s probably just because I’m not smart enough to answer it. :laughing:

A few other words may be relevant: bottomless pit (abyss), darkness (skotos), and unquenchable fire (puri asbesto / pur to asbeston) to name a few. Although, these may merely be descriptive rather than titles. But I'm not sure Gehenna, Hades, or Tartarus were meant to be titles either. Rather, all of these (and more) were meant to describe the place of everlasting punishment.  
Probably completely besides the point, but I can't find anything that verifies this tidbit that there was a specific kind of worm that was hard to kill. I just assumed it meant that there were always worms there.  
There are possibly a few exceptions. Notably, several verses in Proverbs seem to talk about Sheol as the end specifically of the wicked or foolish (Pro 5:5, 7:27, 15:24, 23:14).  
I think Gehenna is just another illustration of it, so we shouldn't necessarily expect to the word in the Bible more often. I recently read through the Bible, noting every warning of eternal judgment in its various ways of talking about it, and I found over 200. It's hard to say the exact number of references in the Bible, because I'm sure I missed a few, and I may have said something referred to it when it really doesn't after more careful study. But I don't think 200 is insignificant.  
I'm not sure "measurable" is the right word. A "just" penalty might be better. And since our sin has infinitely offended the infinitely holy God, it is just to receive an everlasting punishment.  
The verse is talking about judging others. If you harshly judge others, don't be surprised when they will harshly judge you. But I do see the principle the author is seeking to establish, both from the Old and New Testaments.  
Did Adam's sin merit the ground being cursed, exile from the garden, and death? Yes! For the wages of sin is death. When it comes to offending God, the degree of the offense does not determine the punishment, but the degree of God's holiness.  
Or it's just part of the illustration of the prison with a sentence that expresses the hopelessness of the person ever getting out.  
The author is minimizing the severity of what Jesus said. He said it's better to cut off your hand and throw it away! It's better to tear out your eye! This would seem very extreme to anyone listening; it sure does to me. How absurd it would be to mutilate yourself because of the "minor" sins we sometimes commit. I would never even CONSIDER tearing out an eye or cutting off a hand. And yet, THAT'S BETTER than being thrown into Gehenna.


Aren’t there at least a few other things that are clear and distinct?
5. Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. Ro 5:18-19

  1. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Ph. 2:9-11

  2. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. 15.21-22

Sure, there are ‘ways around’ these obvious statements or there would not be differences of opinion. But they certainly SEEM just as clear as the first four you mentioned. The words ‘all’ ‘the many’ ‘every’ are not too easily explained away. And that is just a very small sample of what I think is one of the glorious themes of Scripture.



I am bringing this up cause you kind of opened the door :smiley:

You said:

I guess my question is in what context do you mention Hell once every sermon?



And even if coming from a position of post-mortem chastisement, isn’t that appropriate?


Yes to your question, but it sounds like you are hedging your position a bit.

My question is simply, What have you taught your congregation that ‘Hell’ is?

Excuse me if you posted that info before and I missed it :smiley:



I don’t think I’ve ever preached a whole message on hell, describing it in detail. What good would that do? I think those who preach that way are trying to scare people into becoming Christians. That doesn’t work, and that’s not what any of the evangelists in the Bible did. I mention hell as a reminder of what we’re saved from, but the mere mention of it is sufficient for that.

I suppose by not describing it in detail, I run the risk of not being clear enough, and allowing the people to think what they want of it, but I’m not sure that’s a risk in my context. We’ve all heard of hell before, and know it’s not a pleasant place to be.


To be fair, I haven’t see it elaborated upon either, in churches I’ve attended. I have been the guest at Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Bible Church, Community Church, Pentecostal, non-denominational, Quaker and Methodist. And I haven’t see it from any TV evangelists.


Re kolasis: I wouldn’t want to claim it is only ever used for remedial punishment outside the scriptures; and even if it was, I would (and do) point out that scriptural authors (and Jesus if He was speaking Greek when talking to His own apostles and chief disciples at the end of Matt 25, although I strenuously doubt that) might very well use a word differently than how their surrounding culture uses it. They demonstrably do use borrowed culture-words differently on other topics!

I even extend the principle by reference to the claim that is often made parallel with the kolasis claim, that by contrast {timoria} is only ever used in the surrounding culture to talk about some kind of hopeless punishment (or anyway a punishment meant only to satisfy the punisher, in contrast to a remedial punishment with the good of the punished in view).

Often this claim about timoria comes along with a denial that it is ever found in the scripture, or at least not in the NT, or at least not as a description of punishment, or at least not as a description of punishment by God.

But I know the basic form of the word shows up a lot in the scriptures, including the NT; and I know various cognates are directly used in describing punishment, including punishment by God; and that includes at least one instance of that particular form of the word!

I also know that the basic concept of the word is to positively value something with honor; so it would be pretty surprising if the word was used in a way to refer to a punishment that never led the punished to positively value-honor the punisher and the punisher’s justice. I’m not saying that’s impossible – it would literally be like how “retribution” has come to mean a punishment that has NOTHING to do with re-tributing the punished, bringing them back to loyal tribute.

But then I find that, on a pretty regular basis, when cognates of the {tim-} root are used in the NT (not even counting OT LXX usage), the surrounding contexts do (on closely detailed examination) gell with the idea of the punished one coming to value-honor God and God’s true justice. And that even includes the {timoria} usage!

So, supposing for purposes of argument the common claim is true, that {timoria} is never used for remedial punishment in the surrounding culture, I find it is used for remedial punishment in the NT. Consequently, I can hardly argue that {kolasis} must always mean remedial punishment because it always does in the surrounding culture – even if that happened to be true about its usage there!

Anyway, I thought you might appreciate the nuances. :slight_smile:

It’s true that no cognate of kolasis appears in 1 Cor 5:5; but, for whatever it may be worth, the verse has some direct linguistic connections to 2 Thess 1:9 where Paul uses a rare cognate of {tim-} to talk about the same {olethron} in relation to the same coming Day of the Lord, essentially saying (though translations obscure this) that those being olethron’d shall come to value-honor the justice of their olethron by God. Which is a remedial, not hopeless punishment, just like the olethroning of the Stepmom-Sleeping Guy; also like at least one of the OT prophecies Paul is referencing there (or so I’d argue) on the fate of at least some sinners who are olethron’d by the presence of God in the Day of the Lord to come (namely they repent and seek to reconcile with those who survived His coming, and are cleaned by God of their murders by the spirit of judgment and of burning).

And when Paul talks about the same topic (though maybe not referring to the SSG there) in 1 Tim 1:20, handing those false teachers over to Satan, it’s so that they will learn not to blaspheme God; and Paul uses a term for punishment, {paideuthôsin}, which is a cognate for a term describing child-instruction, and which is definitely used by the Hebraist (who if he isn’t Paul is a disciple or closely involved with him) in Hebrews 12 to describe remedial punishment by God of His children so that they’ll mature into righteousness.

Be that as it may. :slight_smile:


Good stuff.

Yeah, that’s pretty much my take on all words in the Bible as well. So many arguments (on both sides) say “this word is always used this way” or “this word is never used this way.” And while those studies can often be helpful, the ultimate question is, “How is the word used here?” And the answer to that question can sometimes be in opposition to all of the other uses of that word.


I’d disagree with your conclusion. If it is hotly debated, the answer is never certain and hinges on how you interpret the Bible through colored lenses. The word ‘can’ is highly ambiguous in this case, because one could be certain a word was never used a specific way and yet still not be able to prove the author didn’t use it in a different way. People use the wrong words all the time, but if you admit to that, then you almost have to throw away innerancy… I mean, if you believe the scriptures are quite literally perfect in matters like this, it is almost impossible to take a position that even though this word “means this 99% of the time, it means this instead, because ‘so and so’ didn’t know how to use the word any other way”… You know?

People who write about these things are merely trying to provide evidence, not proof as each person has a certain threshold of evidence before they will believe something. In Jesus case “Even if they did rise from the dead, they would not believe” hence, in your case, there are certain things that are sure to me that wouldn’t convince you and vice versa.


I agree. That’s basically what I meant. A word needs to be understood within its context and the context of the Bible as a whole. I don’t mean that words don’t have meanings and that we can’t generally know their meanings, and that we can reject the meaning of a word in a given verse because we don’t like it. I should rephrase my statement.

The answer to that question might occasionally (rarely, but still a possibility) be in opposition to all of the other uses of that word. In such cases, the context of the word and the overall message of the Bible are crucial to understanding its meaning.



Randy, have you been to the different churches/denominations that you mention for an extended length of time? Is it possible that through sermons or study or creed each of these may indeed have a clear view of their particular view on what Hell is?