The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Fate of the Lost — A Fourth View?

Most people I’ve encountered who have thought about the fate of the lost, regard the following positions as exhausting the possibilities:

  1. Their eternal torment (in one form or other).
  2. Their annihilation.
  3. Their ultimate salvation.

Charles Schmitt’s position provides a view which fits none of these categories. Charles has graciously granted me permission to quote his manuscript in its entirety.

This manuscript is a 1981 revision of a much earlier one sent out under the same title, by the same author. (Scripture quotations are from the American Standard Version of the Bible (1901), unless otherwise indicated.)

[size=120]THE UNENDING TRIUMPH OF JESUS CHRIST by Charles P. Schmitt[/size]
Scriptural light on God’s ultimate purpose for His whole creation, to the praise of the glory of His boundless love and of His infinite justice!

We live in an hour of unparalleled spiritual restoration. Accompanying the current outpouring of the Holy Spirit all across the world, and in every denomination, has come the restoration of new understanding of the eternal purposes and intents of our God. The 1900’s began with the restoration of the glorious truth of the charismatic baptism in the Holy Spirit, and for some seventy years now we have seen the unfolding of that truth to include an understanding of the gifts, the graces, and the ministries the blessed Holy Spirit and likewise also a new revelation of the significance of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is His church. Having seen more fully perhaps than any other generation since Luther into the intent and purpose of God for ourselves individually and for ourselves corporately, we are now stirred to inquire into the ultimate purposes and intents of our God for His whole creation. This study has as its aim, therefore, the uncovering of scriptural light on that ultimate purpose of God. As such we are required to explore the boundless love and the infinite justice of our God perhaps more fully than we have hitherto been prone to do. And on inquiring into the ultimate purpose of God for “every created thing” (Rev, 5:13), we are immediately confronted with the sober issue of the ultimate state of the lost. With that issue thus before us, let us proceed to consider-

In considering the ultimate state of the lost it would seem that three possible alternatives exist. And there has always been within Christendom, and even within the body of evangelical believers to some greater or lesser degree, ample support for each of these three positions - that of the unending torment of sinners because of their continued rebellion against God, that of the annihilation of the wicked, and that of the restoration of the lost to God.
An honest and open evaluation of all three positions (which honesty and openness is not too readily found at times) cannot but cause one to wonder. Here are three separate sets of Scripture, expressing what appears, in the final analysis, to be three contradictory positions. On the one hand is the abundance of scriptural proof that the wicked shall be “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. . . for ever and ever. . .” (Rev. 14:10,11). On the other hand are plain statements to indicate that the lost shall be reduced to “ashes under the soles of [our] feet. . .” (Mal. 4:3). And again on the other hand is the remarkable commitment of our Lord Jesus Christ to "draw all men” to himself (John 12:32) in accord with His purpose to “reconcile all things unto himself. . .” (Col. 1:20). And so it appears that we have conscious torment, total destruction, and eventual restoration implied abundantly throughout the entirety of sacred, inspired Scripture.

     Now we can, if we wish, choose one of the three positions at random and proceed to ignore the other  two. We can also, if we wish, further appeal to our ingenuity to conjure up various explanations to render all seemingly contradictory Scripture void; but to a sincere and honest person this is neither right nor spiritual. The proper approach would seem to be that one must continually reform and refashion his understanding until, by the inspiration of the blessed Holy Spirit, it embraces all seemingly contradictory Scriptures in one harmonious understanding of the eternal purposes of God. The writer does not profess to have arrived at the harmonious understanding" in toto; but he does profess to have caught a glimpse of things from God's point of view, and in the thrill of that insight desires to share some helpful considerations to those of an honest heart and an open mind.

The primary doctrinal objection to the eternal conscious torment of the lies in that it appears to be contradictory to the disposition of God, which is love. On the other hand, the principal doctrinal objection to the position of the ultimate triumph of God in everything is that it appears to be contradictory to the holiness and justice of God, which do not excuse sin.

The primary practical objection to the position of the eternal conscious torment of the lost is that it breeds an unwholesome understanding of God as some vindictive tyrant, evoking distaste rather than adoration from sensible minds. And on the other hand, the principle practical objection to the position of the ultimate triumph of God in everything everywhere is that it breeds a laxness in holiness and a deterioration of a burden for the souls of lost men. How then do we correlate infinite love and infinite justice? How can we combine an understanding of the love and mercy of God with an understanding of the fear of God? The answer, when such is finally found, will lie in accepting all Scripture at face value and not just declaring of some, "We don't believe that way!" All Scripture taken together and taken at face value must eventually lead us to certain balancing conclusions.

Allow me, if you will, to express a personal note at the very outset. From time to time, and in isolated instances, rumors have surfaced that the proposed view in this paper is “universalist” in character – which is to day, that ultimately everybody will be saved. This untrue notion most likely stems from the fact that the position about to be stated stands at variance to some degree with what the theologians of the institutional Church have believed, particularly as it touches upon the “eternal judgments of God.” Consequently, it has been wisely suggested by a brother close to me that I state a clear “disclaimer” on the matter. And my disclaimer is simply this: that though we do believe in the total and absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ over all, we do no believe, nor have we ever believed, that ultimately everyone is going to saved. We are led to believe instead, that that the Bible teaches that today, and only today, is the day of salvation, that now is the accepted time (II Cor. 6:2), and that we cannot assume that either any or all will ultimately be saved in the ages to come. For this reason we are willing to go to the far ends of the earth for the salvation of souls and the upbuilding of them in Christ. Amen! Yet we are further led to believe that, though Scripture limits salvation to this present dispensation to “whosoever will,” it nevertheless declares in very plain language the reconciliation of “all things” (Col. 1:20) as the ultimate sovereign purpose of our God, who works out all things after the counsel of His own will.

The immediate question which therefore arises is this: what constitutes the difference between salvation and reconciliation?"  Many would have us believe that there is no difference, but the Scriptures teach that there is a difference between these two terms. The word "salvation" means "soundness" or "wholeness”.  To be saved is to be "made whole" - the opposite of which is to "perish," or to be "ruined" or "wasted." The Bible amply testifies that all who are not saved will suffer, will perish, will come to ruin, will be wasted, and will suffer loss in the ages to come- The Bible further testifies that such loss is irretrievable loss, and that such ruin is irrecoverable, or truly eternal, ruin. Such is the result of the consuming fire of God's judgments against all sin.

And yet the declaration is clearly made in Scripture concerning "all things" being reconciled to God (Col. 1:20)! Now this term ‘reconciliation’ simply means ‘to bring again into a stae of peace or harmony’.   Romans 5:10 declares: “If, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His life"; and this thus pointedly shows us that reconciliation differs from salvation and that in this day of grace it is a prerequisite to salvation.  (The great disruption and disharmony between God and man hinges on this issue of sin.   This disharmony must be dealt with in reconciliation before any man can be presently saved and thereby joined to the body of Jesus Christ.)

On God's part, reconciliation was effected through the blood of Jesus Christ who fully satisfied the demands of divine justice on behalf of all men. "My God is reconciled. . ." sings Charles Wesley in his well-known hymn, Arise, My Soul, Arise! "The burning sword of divine justice," someone has rightly said, "is slaked in Jesus' blood!" Consequently, we are now commanded to "be reconciled to God"; that is, we are to lay down our sword and to cease, our opposition to God.  When this occurs in this present day of grace, we are brought to salvation - or to wholeness - from both the guilt and power and from both the dominion and consequences of sin!  Praise God! (See Col. 1: - 3 for this same progression of thought.) Having been reconciled by His death, we are then to be made whole- or saved- by His life; and consequently, we are spared from perishing, from loss, and from ruin in the ages to come. It should be noted here, however, that even among the believers it is only the overcomers who are promised immunity from being "hurt of the second death" (Rev. 2: 11)! But what of the rest of humanity? On the Godward side reconciliation is effected for all men. Yet the absolute majority-one should even venture to say 97 percent of all human beings who have ever lived - go out into eternitylost.  They perish. They are destined by the decrees of their own rebellion to loss and ruin. But for what end or purpose? Is God, who is sovereign Lord, destined to possess the ultimate allegiance and obedience of only about three percent of all the billions who shall have ever sprung from His creative Hand?

Shall the overwhelming absolute majority of all these created beings perpetuate hate and blasphemy against their blessed Creator throughout an endless eternity as many purport? Is Jesus, who died effecting the death blow to all sin and to all the works of Satan (I John 3:8), destined to reign in a universe where sin shall exist in staggering proportions, and even, as some assert, in increasing proportions throughout all eternity?

The counsels of God, according to the sacred Scriptures, have declared an emphatic no! Through the consuming fires of God's holy love (Heb. 12:29), and in the very loss and ruin and destruction endured in that eternal and consuming fire, God has deigned to cause all men everywhere eventually to drop the sword of proud rebellion and willingly acclaim the Lordship of our Jesus - and that to the glory of God (Phil. 2:10,11)!  While we cannot subscribe to the notion of the annihilation of sinful men per se, we can subscribe scripturally to that of the annihilation of all proud rebellion which mars the personalities of men! And while we cannot subscribe to the idea of the ultimate salvation of all men, we can scripturally subscribe to the idea of their reconciliation to our God, who according to Paul is thereby destined to be "all in all" (I Cor. 15:28) or "everything to everyone" (RSV).

Have we hereby done despite to the justice and holiness of God? No, we have rather fully satisfied it against all sin and rebellion. Have we hereby maligned the sovereign love and the mercy of God?  No, we have rather upheld it in its infinite scope. Have we hereby provided a laxness and a lethargy?  Not unless irrevocable ruin and irretrievable loss could fail to impress us if we are so tempted! Yes, in the final analysis, the Scriptures do teach that by himself God willed “to reconcile all things unto Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross. . .” (Col. 1:20). Of this marvelous passage, Conybeare and Howson, in The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, declare, "This statement of the infinite extent of the results of Christ's redemption (which may well fill us with reverential awe), has been a sore stumbling-block to many commentators, who have devised various (and some very ingenious) modes of explaining it away. . . .,(1) Ours, however, is the option to accept it for what it says and to rejoice in the greatness and the majesty and the sovereignty and the victory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen!

By far the key issue in this entire matter is whether the Scriptures can be believed for what they say concerning the final defeat and destruction of Satan and sin, and the final and complete triumph and victor of Jesus Christ over all.

Those who remain closed to the endless triumph of Jesus Christ and to the reconciling of all things to God through Him generally do so on the grounds that endless sinfulness and endless rebellion and endless hatred will exist eternally against God in the lives of Satan and demons and sinners. One such current individual, a charismatic teacher (whom I personally respect deeply as a man of God), writes that "these [beings] make an irrevocable, irreversible commitment. From this there is no way back, no possibility of change. Their wills are indeed set forever in eternal irreconcilable enmity and opposition to Almighty God."

But is this scripturally true?  Does the Bible teach that for all eternity men shall be in enmity and opposition to God?  Where exactly is the chapter and verse for such an understanding? An honest reading of the Bible and an enlightened vision of what it states shall immediately cause us to see that this hideous state of affairs shall not continue on endlessly or even as some have suggested, continue on in staggering, increased proportions as men increase in their hatred, rebellion, blasphemy, and defiance throughout all eternity!

The Scriptures we have already considered and will consider further absolutely do not allow us to hold such a view. Indeed, what does the Bible mean when it declares that Jesus died to "bring to nought [Gk. destroy] him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb. 2: 14 mg.)? Both Young in his Analytical Concordance 2 and Thayer in his Greek-English

Lexicon 3 define this Greek word “destroy” as follows: “to render idle, unemployed, inactive, inoperative, to deprive of its strength, to make barren, to deprive of force, influence, power – to bring to naught, to make of none effect.” If Satan and all the hosts of alien angels whom he has led astray and all the billions of humanity whom these in turn have deceived and infected and turned against God - if all these combined shall hate and blaspheme and defy and resist God throughout all eternity, then how has Jesus even remotely destroyed or rendered Satan “inactive and inoperative, powerless and of none effect.”? In point of fact, Jesus has failed, to put it in blunt English. Calvary is but a frustrated pipe dream. And Satan has succeeded and shall continue to succeed for all eternity to fulfill the very purpose which he originally conceived through his fall.

No army which ever conquered nor general who ever triumphed could reasonably be satisfied to call continued, increased anarchy and rebellion and resistance and defiance on the part of their conquered subjects an evidence of their having won a victory! What intelligent being could tolerate such a tragedy and yet call it "triumph"?  Certainly not our God. And certainly not His Christ.  Jesus is Lord of all! Christ Jesus is Victor! And that victory shall be realized to the full and complete overthrow and destruction of all sin and rebellion everywhere in the moral universe. And God shall be "all in all." Praise to His worthy Name!

Any disturbance whatsoever to the currently accepted evangelical teaching of eternal judgment is immediately looked upon as a threat to the understanding of the ‘fear of God’ as the most reasonable and strongest motive for turning away from sin and turning to Christ. Any such disturbance is further looked upon as a possible cause for the dissipation of a passion by believers for the souls of lost men. On both these issues I wish to state emphatically that these are not sound reasons for rejecting what the Bible plainly teaches on this or any other subject, and that one’s intellectual persuasion one way or the other is not the real issue at stake. There are those who firmly hold that the doctrine of “conditional security” as over against those who hold firmly to that of “eternal security” is absolutely necessary to instill a fear of God and a fear of sinning within the believer. The strange thing is though, that upon examining the ranks of both sides, one finds backsliders in both. For example, how many worldly, backslidden Christians have I spoken with who are still quick to affirm their allegiance to “conditional security” teaching! Their assurance that backsliders will be lost has not helped them one iota! Can we not see from this that intellectual persuasion all too often fails to provide sound motivation? As yet another example, we need only consider the tens of thousands of evangelicals who mentally subscribe to the vision of all the horrors and tortures of an unending hell, but who nonetheless sit evening after evening amusing themselves in front of their television sets by the hours while thousands round about them are slipping into eternal ruin. Can we not see from this that intellectual persuasion itself does not provide sound motivation?

In view of these plain facts what then is to be our sound motivation to live a holy life? What should be as well the motivation for a burden for the lost? It is surely to be found in a positive relationship with Jesus Christ!  When out of love we yield ourselves to Him we will want to live a holy life.  When out of love we offer up ourselves to Him for service, we will yearn to share His overwhelming burden for lost humanity and we will give ourselves to this glorious ‘ministry of   reconciliation’.  Most surely there is a frightful judgment and loss to fear, but the grandest, purest, most selfless motivation for both holiness and service is that which springs out of the love and adoration of Jesus Christ.  Every other motive, in and of itself, is incomplete and unsatisfactory.

	"The fear of the Lord" (II Cor. 5:11) must be founded on, and balanced by a revelation of the constraining "love of Christ"(II Cor. 5:14), for it is this divine an holy love which has purposed both the present salvation of "whosoever will" and also the ultimate subjection of all things to God; and it is that holy motivation alone within us which will give us a true moving passion for the lost souls of men. Indeed, "all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself (received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself) and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him

It was God (personally present) in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but canceling them] ; and committing to us the message of reconciliation - of the restoration to favor. So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us" (II Cor. 5: 18-20 Amplified). Praise God!

In considering this issue of the eternal judgment of the lost, many people can only visualize the punishment of God against sin as vindictive in nature. In other words, sinners are afflicted by God because of His intolerable disposition towards them in their sin. And this is the impression one surely receives from certain Calvinistic descriptions such as the following:
“The damned shall be packed like brick into a kiln, and be so bound that they cannot move a limb, nor even an eyelid; and while thus fixed, the Almighty shall blow the fires of hell through them forever.” G.H. Lang, commenting on Revelation 14:10,11 in his treatise, The Last Assize, states basically the same thought, though perhaps in less barbaric language. Focusing on the phrase "mingled unmixed” in verse 10, Lang writes: "Every ingredient compounded. . . shall make the punishment fit the crime; but no element of mercy or alleviation shall be mixed with this dread draught of the wine of the wrath of God. . . . If He [the Lamb] can look on their torments, shall His saints be unable to do so?”4 And on this same passage, yet another commentator further shockingly observes: “Should this eternal punishment and this fire be extinguished, it would in a great measure obscure the light of heaven, and put an end to a great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed.” (This last statement is almost unbelievable!)

In the face of beliefs and attitudes such as these we must realistically ask ourselves, Is this what God is like, our God whose "mercy endureth forever"? Is this what God would conspire as the unending fate of almost all of the billions of His creation, He whose "tender mercies are over all His works"? And is it into such an eternal ministry as this that we are summoned to take part, we who are called to be the	priests of God for all humanity, who in the ages to come are called to “display the transcendent riches of His grace "?

We are impressed by inspired Scripture that this is not so. Punishment exists, not as vindictive, but as remedial in nature! Our God is redemptive in all He is and in all He does.

I would call attention to a simple Greek word, ‘kolasis’, translated "punishment’ in Matthew 25:46,  which verse deals specifically with the future punishment of the wicked: "and these shall go away into eternal punishment. . ." (We are well aware that the rest of this verse reads: ". . . but the righteous [shall go away] into eternal life." A thorough discussion can be found later in this paper dealing with the apparent problems raised by the dual use of the English word "eternal" for both punishment and life.). Kolasis (punishment) comes from a Greek root meaning "to prune"  (which thought in itself is corrective in meaning).   Kolasis itself is defined by Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon as ‘correction’.  He quotes Aristotle's noted description which defines kolasis "as that which is disciplinary . . ." punishment.  Still another Greek scholar, George Berry, defines kolasis in classic Greek as usually signifying "punishment which is aimed at the reformation of the offender".5 Young, in his Analytical Concordance, defines the word kolasis as "restraint."  The thought is therefore plainly one of correction and discipline and restraint, rather than one of vindictive or vengeful affliction.

How actually could we ever attribute lesser motives to a holy God than sinful men are found to have? For Time Magazine a few years ago observed the following in one of its articles on our American penal system:  "In 1870, the nation's leading prison officials met in Cincinnati and carved 22 principles that became the bible of their craft.  “Reformation,” they declared, “not vindictive suffering, should be the purpose of the penal treatment of prisoners.  Today every warden in the U. S. endorses the ideal of rehabilitation."  Shall we therefore say that God is less righteous and less reasonable than His creatures? No!  God’s punishments exist not for vindictive suffering, but for remedy.  He works with a glorious end in view, which end we believe we are beginning to uncover more fully.

One of the strongest arguments against punishment as remedial and corrective is the insistence voiced in Karl Sabiers' book, “Where are the Dead?”  Sabiers observes that "in every instance where suffering was inflicted upon the wicked to make them repent, the punishment hardened the wicked, instead of causing them to become penitent. The example of the wicked in the Book of Revelation who suffered from the plagues, instead of repenting and calling on God, they cried for the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from God. . . . And when the plague of hail came, instead of repenting, they blasphemed God. . . . ,,6 We need to look more closely at this argument raised by Sabiers from Revelation.

“From reasonable observation of our human society I believe we can conclude that human remedial punishment does effect correction, even among hardened criminals of the world. How much more, then, will be the divine remedial punishment -which shall be!  The insistence of the book of Revelation is that remedial punishment to the extent of being "unto the ages of the ages" is required and necessary because a shortened visitation of judgment - such as the Great Tribulation plagues - will not in the least effect that ultimate end in which "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Scripturally, we are given much solid ground to believe that the judgments of God shall effect their corrective purpose. Note the plain statement of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:26: "Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means ... come out thence, till thou hast paid the last farthing."  And according to the context (vv. 21-15 esp. v.22), the issue is the eternal judgments of God. I Peter 3:19, 20 and 4:6 would likewise pose a real problem to those who are unable to accept the wider horizon of Christ's endless triumph. On these extremely controversial Scriptures from I Peter one commentator arbitrarily declares, "We know that these passages cannot mean what they appear to say."  But what else could these statements possibly mean?  "In... [the Spirit, Jesus] also went and preached unto the spirits in prison, that afore time were disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah. . . For unto this end was the gospel preached even to the dead, that they might be judged indeed according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit."

Herein is certainly an indication - and a strong one at that – that the punishment, the imprisonment, the affliction is not without purpose and aim and end. Praise God!

And even more so do the various figures of speech used to describe the future punishment of the wicked require the understanding corrective, remedial punishment.

  1. In Isaiah 1:25, concerning fallen men, the Lord promises to “thoroughly purge away “as with lye”-literal Hebrew] thy dross, and. . . take away all thy alloy” (mg.). Here is a purging and a cleansing! Deep is the stain of sin upon the human character, but God shall not rest until that stain is removed, at whatever cost.

  2. Jesus uses the figure of a “worm” in Mark 9:48 (“where their worm dieth not”) to describe that judgment mentioned in vv. 43, 45 and 47
    “. . . go into hell (Gk. gehenna), into the unquenchable fire”]. Concerning the judgment of Satan pictured in Isaiah 14:11,12, the statement is made that “the worm is spread under thee, and worms cover thee.” Here by inference is the everlasting, corrective nature of God consuming and devouring the moral filth of the whole universe. And this is the sermon which every worm and every maggot on this natural earth preaches to us daily!

  3. John the Baptist declared that Jesus “will burn up [the chaff] with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3: 12). {You can quench the Holy Spirit, but you cannot quench the fires of judgment.} When we read the statement one verse earlier that Jesus “shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire,” we define that divine fire as purging, cleansing and sin-destroying. Is it then reasonable to turn around and define the divine, unquenchable fire of God mentioned in verse 12 as anything less? Gehenna itself is the picture of this, in that it was the garbage dump outside the ancient city of Jerusalem where the consuming flame and the devouring worm ate away at the putrefying filth which humanity dumped there. The Gehenna judgment, kindled by the Spirit of the Lord (Is. 30:33), is surely corrective. And in reality, it is our Lord himself who is that “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) and that devouring worm (Ps. 22:6).

  4. Jesus speaks of salt in relation to the Gehenna judgment (see Mark 9:47) in this way: “Everyone shall be salted with fire” (v.49). Salt is a purifier, a healer, a cleanser, a preserver. And this speaks of remedial judgment.

  5. Revelation 20:10 mentions “brimstone” (sulphur) in connection with the eternal judgments of our God against sin. Any encyclopedia will readily reveal that the ancient use of sulphur was almost solely for purification, for antisepsis, for cleansing. Actually, the picture is quite plain from the very Greek word used for “brimstone” – ‘theion’, derived from theos (God). Brimstone, literally, is the purging “fire of God.”

    Are all these figures of speech concerning the eternal judgments of God coincidences? No, they spell out very plainly that the judgments of God are not vindictive but remedial and corrective in purpose. For God is determined through the power of the cross of Jesus Christ and the fire of His own eternally holy nature to destroy and consume all sin from the fabric of the human personality, and remove all dross from the mettle of the entire moral universe at whatever cost necessary! And if in the process of that destruction, inevitable and irrecoverable loss and ruin be sustained and indescribable suffering and anguish be endured, it all shall be to the ultimate glory of Him whose heart yearns over all sin-stricken humanity with a determination that the intrusion of sin and rebellion which has ruined creature and creation shall not eternally mar His Kingdom nor His subjects! In the declaration of this truth down through the years, I have frequently been asked the ultimate question, "If the lost are not finally to be saved what then is to be their eternal state as beings subject to God? What will they be like (other than as described in I Corinthians 15:25=28)? What will they be doing (other than what is described in Philippians 2:10,11)? My answer to these questions is simply that the scripture does not give us any clearer light on this issue. In fact the Scripture does not really address such issues in any detail even when it concerns the saints! We must simply be content with the general, broad terms of the Scriptures that there is (1)irrecoverable loss for the judged, and unspeakable glory for the saved.

    As to the furthest extent of the loss sustained in the judgments of God, one need only read the account of the final end of Satan, the worst of all moral offenders in the universe, as recorded in Ezekiel 28:18,19: ". . . Therefore have I brought forth a fire from the midst of thee; it hath devoured thee, and I have turned thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. . . .And thou shalt nevermore have any being.” Here, in very dramatic figures, is irrecoverable loss! Here is eternal ruin, in the true sense of the word! Herein is the effect of destruction, of being consumed, of perishing! Only one solitary positive ray of light exists: from the all-sweeping statements of the New Testament we have solid grounds to believe that out of those very “ashes” and remnants shall come forth the humbled cry that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” and it shall be “to the glory of God the Father”!

    In his book, ‘The Last Assize’, G. H. Lang declares: “We have failed to find in the Word of God basis for the hope of universal restoration. This prospect fails if only . . . one solitary individual should be lost for ever. Consider, therefore, this declaration by our Lord found in Mark 3:29 [KJV] that 'whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit but is guilty of eternal sin.” (7) ’
    The original Greek words used by our Lord Jesus Christ, according to Young’s Analytical Concordance (p.693), are exactly the opposite in meaning to the ones supplied by the translators of the King James Version in Mark 3: 29. Instead of “hath never forgiveness” - which implies timeless eternity - the original words are "hath never forgiveness unto the age,(8) which clearly implies a span of time in which no forgiveness is possible. Likewise, instead of the mistranslated statement “is guilty of an eternal sin” (which again implies timeless eternity), the original words are “is liable to age-lasting [Gk. aioniou] penalty for [the] sin” (which again implies a span of time in which penalty or judgment falls). On this matter of “eternal” or “age-lasting” we now wish to focus our attention.

    Much question has been raised over the exact meaning of the Greek word aionios, translated in the KJV, ASV and NASV as eternal and everlasting, and also the related phrase eis tous aionas ton aionon – translated in the aforementioned versions as forever and ever. The Greek word aionios is derived from the Greek root word aion which literally means an age. And an age (aion) in the Greek is a span of time having beginning and end (see Matthew 24:3 where it is so used). Consequently, aionios can be literally translated age-lasting and eis tous aionas ton aionon can be literally translated unto the ages of the ages (as stated in the margin of the ASV of 1901 for I Timothy 1: 17 and other such similar passages, as e.g., Revelation 19:3 and 20:10). The question which arises in all of this is simply: Do certain translators have the right to translate aionios as eternal, everlasting? And does eis tous aionas ton aionon in fact imply endlessness (for ever and ever), or is it best to translate aionios more literally as age-lasting and eis tous aionas ton aionon more literally as unto the ages of the ages?

    As a result of these considerations godly students on both sides of the central question in this paper seek to support their convictions on the basis of their preferred translation of aion, aionios, and eis tous aionas ton aionon. Those who wish to hold to the unending nature of sin and rebellion and consequently of unending torment see support in their conviction in the translations eternal and for ever and ever. Those who claim to see in God’s dealings an end to sin and rebellion and consequently to divine punishment (though not an end to its effects) claim such on the basis of the translation: age-lasting and unto the ages of the ages.

In I Timothy 1: 16, 17 Paul uses these very phrases we are now considering. He speaks of the believers as having “eternal life” (literally, “age-lasting life”) in verse 16. In verse 17 speaks of God as “the King eternal. . . (literally, “the King of the ages”, as stated in the margin of both the ASV and NASV.) And in this same verse 17 Paul also speaks of honor and glory being given to God “for ever and ever” (literally, “to the ages of the ages,” as stated in the margin of both the ASV and NASV). However, in II Timothy 1:9, Paul uses one of these very same words in such a way that his exact meaning cannot fail to be clearly seen. Paul speaks of God’s “own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (NASV) (“before times eternal,” ASV). The phrase, “from all eternity" in the Greek is pro chronon aionion and literally means “before times age-lasting.” And actually, to translate “aionion” here as meaning ‘eternal’ would not make sense, for in the first place, how could there be time or times before (pro) that which is eternal? The Greek word used here (aionion) only makes sense when translated as “age-lasting” rather than “eternal,” since ages alone contain time and since also we can only have something happen before ages but not before eternity (for true eternity has neither beginning nor end). I sense in this usage the meaning which Paul himself would give to the disputed rendering of these Greek words.

In John's book of Revelation the statement "for ever and ever" appears some twelve times, and in three of these twelve the phrase is used to define the extent of the punishment of the wicked: 14:11, 19:3, 20:10. It is significant, however, that the Greek phrase used in Revelation 14:11 (eis aionas aionon-literally, to ages of ages) is not the same as the Greek phrase used in both Revelation 19:3 and 20:10 (eis tous aionas ton aionon - literally, to THE ages of THE ages), and yet the translators render all three phrases equally as forever and ever.  Are we then wrong to call that kind of scholarship into question? I do not think so.  There are strong grounds to believe that John by his usage of the words "unto ages of ages" in comparison with his usage of the words "unto THE ages of THE ages" thereby designates different lengths of time, thus calling into question the thought that endless eternity is in view here in the use of these phrases. At least the door is opened to that possibility.

If this all be true, how shall we understand our spiritual life in Christ as being age-lasting life rather than as eternal life? And how shall we understand God himself as being the God of the ages rather than as the eternal God? It is really not that difficult. Our spiritual life lasts throughout the succession of ages in the ages to come - but it shall then simply be victoriously swallowed up in God himself who is destined to be "all in all” (I Cor. 15: 28) at the end of all the ages. And because God is the God of the ages does not mean that He shall cease to exist at the ends of those periods of time, no more than the wicked or the saints themselves should cease to exist at the end of those long ages, during which the saints will reign in life and the wicked are punished in death. God is the God of the ages - but He also is Itruly eternal, “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Heb. 7:3).

On the meaning of aion and aionios, one Greek scholar, G. H. Todd, writes as follows: The best way to arrive at the true meaning of a word is to study carefully the way it has been used. . . .

In the book of Matthew the noun "eon" occurs eight times. In five of the passages it speaks of the "END OF THE EON" . . . In I Corinthians 10:11 we have the expression, "THE ENDS OF THE EONS. . ." How can a period that is definitely said to come to an end, be endless? . . .

That the expression "the eons of the eons" cannot mean an endless succession of eons is clearly revealed by comparing Rev. 11:15 with I Cor. 15:24-28.  In Rev. 11:15 our Lord is said to reign "for the eons of the eons " but in 1 Corinthians 15: His reign is said to end.  He does not reign forever and ever, though He does reign "for the eons of the eons."

The adjective "aionios" which is directly derived from the noun "aion" occurs 70 times. "It is an axiom of grammar that derivatives cannot have a greater force than the parent word.  When we have an adjective derived from a noun, the meaning of the adjective is dependent upon the meaning of the noun.

A yearly automobile license is good for one year, not for ever. If we are told that the license is good only until the end of the year, we should know that the period of time called a year is one that comes to an end, whether or not we know how long a period of time it is. In the Greek, the expression "the end of the eon" is found repeatedly. Now what ever comes to an end can not be endless and therefore it cannot be "everlasting" or "eternal. "

Two arguments are frequently brought forward in an effort to prove that "aionios" must mean "eternal."  First, because God is eternal, it is claimed that when "aionios" is used to describe God, it must mean eternal. Second, that if life is "eternal" then punishment must be "eternal" for the same word is used of both. Let us look into each of these arguments.

The fact that God is spoken of as the “eonian God” in certain places, does not mean that He was not God before the eons. He made the eons (Heb. 1: 1,2). He will continue to be God after the eons. . . . He made the eons for a purpose (Eph. 3: 11), that purpose is to head up all things in Christ" (Eph. 1:9,10). As we look at the sin and suffering all about us we might be tempted to think that there is no all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God in command during this present wicked age, but His Word assures us that He is the “God of the ages.”

 The word "aionios" is used in connection with the word "life" 43 times. It is used with fire 3 times, and  with judgment, punishment, destruction, and sin, once each. . .. A foretaste of this "eonian" life is the believers' now, fullness of life will be theirs at His coming.  The best ages of all the ages are still future.  Then He will be reigning and His saints reign with Him (Rev. 22: 5).  Now, He alone has immortality ( I Tim. 6:16) but when He comes, the gift of immortality, the wonderful resurrection life, will be given to all those who have believed, whether they are in the graves or still alive at His coming. They live "for the eons," they have "eonian life"; but they will live beyond the eons, for they have immortal life. . . .

  If one were to grant that the adjective "aionios" did mean "eternal;" then he would be forced to concede

that the noun “aion” must mean “eternity”. This would lead to many absurdities. What would be meant by “the end of eternity”? By the “end of the eternities”? The internal evidence makes it perfectly clear that “aion” cannot mean “eternity”, nor can “aionios” mean “eternal” in the sense in which these words are now used. . . . 9

Contrary to what some scholars have implied, the Greek language does have words which it uses to express true eternity. One such word, dianekes, is used of Christ himself in Hebreews 7:3, where Jesus is defined in the context of the verse as “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (and this is true eternity) but as continuing “perpetually” (dienekes). This word, I would add, is never used in connection with the duration of the torment of the lost, for it shows true perpetuity.

  Another such word is used in Hebrews 7: 16, where Jesus is spoken of as possessing "endless life" or "indestructible life"  (Gr. akatalutou). Jesus' life is an indissoluble one, a life that cannot be ended!  Had the Holy Spirit wanted to convey unendingness in reference to the suffering of the enemies of God, He could have used words such as these which plainly denote that, rather than the words "to the ages," "to the ages of the ages," etc., which plainly denote successive spans of time.

Emphatically no! Universalism is an extreme - and perhaps even more of a destructive extreme than the opposite point of view of endless sin and endless torture (which in fact comes to us out of the Church Councils of the Dark Ages and which I suspect originated as a fear mechanism to control men’s lives and keep them within a decadent Church). No, we are not given any biblical basis for believing that all men will be ultimately saved, for today “is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2): there is no “second chance.” (Indeed, there is no “first chance,” either. Salvation comes to us by the grace of God and does not come to us by "chance. ") Hence, the view we are looking at in this paper does differ much from the notion of Universalism, " and in every way! For the view under present consideration simply declares, in the words of Finis Dake, that "in each dispensation, God has a definite and different immediate purpose, all working toward the ultimate purpose of ridding the universe of all rebellion, so that all free moral agents will be willingly and eternally subject to God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, as originally planned, with God all in all forever. " (10)

There are many such infallible biblical proofs in support of this glorious truth. We are taught that Jesus all reign as “King of the Ages” (I Tim. 1:17 literal); that these ages have a specific “purpose” (Eph. 3: 11 literally reads: “purpose of the ages”); and that these ages shall consequently “c1imax” or be completed (Eph. 1: 10 literal) when that purpose is fulfilled! C. B. Williams translates Ephesians 1:10 accordingly: “that at the coming of the climax of the ages, everything in heaven and on earth should be unified through Christ.” 11 Concerning this passage the famed Greek scholar, B. F. Westcott (of Westcott and Hort), comments: "This consummation lies beyond the unity of the Church, the Body of Christ, which contributes towards its realization. . . .

  It is altogether arbitrary to introduce any limitation into the interpretation of ta panta [Gk. all things (everything) ]. The truth transcends our comprehension, but we see that it answers to the fact and purpose of creation." 2

  Concerning this ultimate "purpose of creation," Arthur S. Way quite beautifully renders Philippians 2:9-11 as follows: "Because He stooped so low, God uplifted Him very high, and hath freely given Him The Name - The Name that is above every name, decreeing 'In the name of Jesus shall every knee bend in prayer, alike of dwellers in heaven, on earth, in the underworld, and every tongue shall utter this confession, "Jesus the Messiah is Lord"', so rendering glory to God the Father."(13)   Commenting on this same passage, B. F. Westcott also states: "This sublime revelation of the extent of redemption as commensurate with the whole creation is brought out especially in . . .

Phill 2:9, 10; Col. 1:20, 21. The solitary prisoner [Paul] could see farthest into the gloryof the Divine counsels.” (14)

 The issue, then, is for us likewise to covet to "see farthest into the glory of the Divine Counsels." Our error has been that "in the perspective of the future we have stopped short of the far-off goal, and explained the finale of God's purposes by the episode or process on the way thereto.,,(15)  In other words, we have viewed the judgments of God against sin and unrighteousness as the end, when in reality they are only the means to that end.  And “the end” is gloriously described in that passage classed by Kennedy in Peake's Commentary as "the final chord of the Pauline theology” (16) - I Corinthians 15:24-28: "Then cometh the end. . . When he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death. For, he put all things in subjection under his feet. . . . Then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him [God] . . ., that God may be all in all [that God may be everything to everyone - RSV] "!  What finale could be grander or greater or bring more glory to God? What conclusion could be more scriptural or just than for God to be "everything to everyone"?

  As indicated before this revelation of truth certainly does not minimize God's judgment against sin even "unto the ages of the ages" in which suffering, irrecoverable loss, ruin and destruction, and even "a great gulf fixed" are sustained; yet neither does it find that judgment to be "the end" but it instead finds that judgment to be a means to that glorious end heralded by Paul in the foregoing verses.  It should further be noted that this revelation of truth does not hold forth the idea that the sufferings of men in the ages to come are sacrificial, since Jesus suffered "once for all" as a sacrifice and in full payment for all sin. Accordingly no one can, by his own suffering, either now or then, in the ;east atone for sin!  Jesus alone “is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone" (I John 2:2 Good News Bible). The pardon is procured for all men!  The retributive, penal judgment of the Law against all sin has been fully satisfied in Jesus' agony and death for all humanity, and this once and for all. To therefore believe that anyone goes into the Lake of Fire to bear that punishment again for sin is actually to dimish the work of Calvary and to detract from "the perfect atonement of the cross, making it without effect and altogether unnecessary.  Hence we must view the Lake of Fire as being something other than retributive; and our only alternative is that the Lake of Fire is remedial.

 Moreover, this revelation of scriptural truth does not view God's judgments in the ages to come as vindictive, as if to say that God is vengeful, implacable and hateful against men, for that would seriously malign God's character. No, this insight into God's purposes in His judgment declares instead that these judgments are remedial, that they exist to effect a positive divine end - that of the total destruction of rebellion in the moral universe and the consequent universal acknowledgment that "'Jesus the Messiah is Lord!', so rendering glory to God the Father"!

  In the words of the brilliant William Law, that spiritual mentor of John Wesley whose writings are still revered in many of our evangelical circles: "If long and long ages of fiery pain and tormenting darkness fall to the share of many or most of God's apostate creatures, these will last no longer than till the great fire of God has melted all arrogance into humility, and all that is self has died in the bloody sweat and all-saving Cross of Christ which will never give up its redeeming power till sin and sinners have no more a name among the creatures of God.”(17)

  Hence we are being faced with a choice. On the one hand we may accept the short-sighted conclusions of men and of church councils who, in essence, paved the way for the illogical conclusion, as A. E. Saxby has correctly assessed, that the outcome of God's action in creation is "to perpetuate sin and evil throughout eternity, as some theologians assure us, in ever increasing ratio; since suffering for sin provokes more rebellion and thus incites to fresh sin." (18) Or we may, on the other hand, accept the honor of God as revealed in the final conclusions of sacred Scripture concerning the total overthrow of sin's dominion and the endless increase of His government and of peace (Is. 9:7). To this latter choice I cannot help but respond with a resounding Hallelujah! And so, let us hear further the word of the Lord:

“If I be lifted up from the earth,” declared Jesus concerning the accomplishment of His death, “I will draw all men unto myself’” (John 12:32) Paul further declares: “For of him [as Creator]. and through him [as Mediator]. and unto him [as Final Goal] are all things”! (Romans 11:36) Paul elsewhere announces that God is the God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all (Eph. 4:6, cf. 3:14,15), and that all things were created in Christ (as Wise Architect) . . . and through Him (as Master Workman)… and for Him (as Ultimate Heir) (Col 1:16); and that Christ died “to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; . . . whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens” (Col 1:20). Paul further asserts that “every knee should bow, . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:10,11), for “he is able even to subject all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:21); and that when “the end” comes, God shall be “everything to everyone,” for “all things” are put in subjection under Jesus’ feet (I Cor. 15:24-28), insomuch that there is “left nothing that is not subject to him” (Heb. 2:8), whom God “appointed heir of all things” (Heb. 1:2)!

Hence all of creation is twice His - once by right of creation and then by right of redemption.

So that if we should propose the endless rebellion and sinfulness of the overwhelming majority of all His creatures, it becomes folly to likewise maintain the Scriptures that He is heir of all things, that He is the final goal and possessor of all things, and that all things are to be made subject to Him. It becomes morally impossible for all things to be both subject to Jesus Christ and yet sinfully rebellious against Jesus Christ at the same time. May I repeat, It becomes morally impossible for all things to be both subject to Jesus Christ and yet sinfully rebellious against Him at the same time!

  In Revelation 4:11, in the song of the heavenly host, we further see this acknowledgment: "Worthy art thou, our Lord and our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power: for thou didst create all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created." And, as if in an outworking of this holy jubilation, we see the Kingdom of God unfold in Revelation chapters 4 and 5 with this final proclamation: "And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion unto the ages of the ages." And we say, "Amen!" Concerning this passage, George Bradford Caird, Senior Tutor of Mansfield College, Oxford, makes the following observation:

The redemption of men from every tribe, tongue, people, and race is far from being the whole story of Christ’s work of atonement as John understands it. For he hears the choirs of heaven joined by the voices of the whole creation in a final outburst of praise. This should not be dismissed as mere hyperbole. John knows only too well that there is much on earth and under the earth and in the sea which has no inclination to join in the worship of Christ, and that these hostile elements are represented even in heaven. But such is his confidence in the universality of Christ’s achievement that his vision cannot stop short of universal response. He agrees with Paul, that God has already in the Cross reconciled the whole universe to himself (Col. 1:2 and that to make His act of amnesty, and reconciliation known to the world is the royal and priestly task of the church, the success of which is already anticipated in the heavenly. Amen.( 19)

Now this is the undeniable united testimony of the sacred, inspired Scriptures. For us to close our minds to this testimony or for us to limit it or for us to pare it down is to do injustice to the inspired counsels of God. It seems to me that we must accept these scriptural conclusions for what they say.

Sound exegesis is the principle of sound explanation or exposition. And as such it is to be preeminently valued. When some who oppose the possibility of the wider scope of Christ’s triumph are confronted with such far sweeping statements as "all in all “(“every thing to everyone”), “I will draw all men unto me,” “every knee should bow and every tongue confess,” “every created thing,” “all things unto himself,” “all things in Christ. . .” etc., etc” arguments such as the following are put forth by them as “sound” exegesis in answer to these obviously problematic passages.

  In his work on the teaching of eternal punishment, the Reformed writer Harry Buis maims the beauty of Jesus' statement, "I will draw all men unto me," as follows: “With regard to John 12:32, as 0rr points out, it is not, stated what Christ will do with men when He draws them to himself; he may condemn them.” (20)  With all due respect to both Mr. Buis and Mr. Orr, nothing by way of explanation could be less in accord with the tenor of the statement of our Lord Jesus Christ in its context than this.  And for them to answer in such fashion certainly does not in the least answer the problem posed by the universal scope of our Lord's statement.  Yes, He will draw, as a magnet, the hearts of all men everywhere unto himself. Praise His Name!  Now let us believe it.	

  G. H. Lang's attempt in his Last Assize to minimize the vast and almost unfathomable extent of Christ's triumph as announced in Paul's I Corinthians 15:25 passage (RSV) "that God [is to] be everything to everyone" is rendered as follows: “Thus the final picture of His foes is that they are 'under His feet" which is very far from meaning that they are 'clasped to His heart.’” (21)  We would answer: indeed, in being "under His feet" it is quite obvious that they are not part of Christ's body (for "now is the day of salvation"). Herein indeed is a picture of subjection and domination, but it is an injury to the character of God to say that even one solitary creature of His should be excluded from "His heart."  In eternity shall God cease to love?  In the discipline of the ages to come shall God cease to care and to yearn? Shall Jesus, the redeemer from all sin, having gained even ninety and nine, stop short of seeking and searching for that very last lost one "until He find it" (Luke 15:4)? God answers with an emphatic "No!" In reality, such implacable, begrudging, vindictive thinking against our fallen fellow creatures reveals too clearly what unfortunately is still in many of us who profess to be partakers of His holy and compassionate divine nature. "How often," writes Catherine Marshall, "we attribute emotions and deeds to God that we would ascribe only to the most depraved of human minds.  Probably no personality in the universe is so maligned as that of the Creator.” (22)  How do we really read God and understand Him? Has our vindictive zeal completely destroyed our sense of God's unending love and mercy? Are we not by such zeal guilty of making Him in our own fallen image, and after our own implacable likeness?

  The Last Assize further observes that "the final clause of the paragraph ('that God may be all in all') must needs be restricted to the kingdom in view.  Within that realm, that kingdom, God will be all in all, for all principles and all persons at variance with Him will have been suppressed and banished.”2 Our response must be that such an explanation is not consistent with the context of Paul's entire statement. In the context of I Corinthians 15:20-28, the Greek word for "all" occurs 12 times (symbolic of total divine government): "in Adam all die. . . in Christ shall all be made alive. . . he shall have abolished all rule and all authority. . . all his enemies under his feet. . . all things in subjection. . . all things are put in subjection. . . subject all things unto him. . . when all things have been subjected unto him. . . to him that did subject all things unto him. . . that God may be all in all."  Now it is not reasonable in any man's way of thinking to believe on the one hand that the first eleven "all's" mean "absolutely everything" but that on the other hand the twelfth "all" means only a select, small minority! Such is not sound exegesis. No, God shall in truth be "everything to everyone." And "every one" means "everyone"!

   One final example should be sufficient to indicate how unsound much exegesis is with respect to certain problematic passages of Scripture involving this subject. In explaining away the majesty of Philippians 2:10,11-"that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow. . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" - the "feigned obedience" or "mock confession" theory is advanced. (For example, G. H. Lang writes: "It is quite certain that when the Lord thus comes to Zion. . . there will be no unrestricted universal restoration to God such as the universalist postulates.  Even during the kingdom period there will be some who will submit hypocritically, yielding only feigned obedience. . ." The Last Assize, p. 61.) The most radical version of this "feigned obedience" theory goes something like this: "Most assuredly, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess,” and yet, simultaneously, within those sin-filled hearts shall rise the thought, 'If we had opportunity we would crucify You all over again! '" How such a confession could redound "to the glory of God the Father'” – as Paul states it shall (see v.11) – is beyond understanding, but, praise God, such genuine unending acclaim and such sincere all inclusive submission shall redound to the honor and glory of God the Father!

To the vast multitude of plain and inclusive statements in the Word of God concerning the final glorious triumph of God in Christ Jesus may now be added, in conclusion, the light from a host of torches held high by many early leading church Fathers and theologians - some of whom, in their vision of God’s final and endless triumph in Christ, bordered on, or actually embraced, the notion of universalism. With this latter view, we would not of course agree, we affirming rather the biblical view of the reconciliation of all things.

The following excerpts from some of the most respected of the post-apostolic Fathers will adequately reveal what their views were on the subject of the endless triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ.24
ORIGEN (185-254 A.D.) writes as follows: “But he that despises the purification fo the word of God and the doctrine of the gospel, only keeps himself for dreadful and penal purifications afterwards; that so the fire of hell may purge him in torments whom neither apostolically doctrine nor gospel preaching has cleansed, according to that which is written of being ‘purified by fire.’ But how long this purification which is wrought out by penal fire shall endure, or for how many periods or ages it shall torment sinners, He only knows to whom all judgment is committed by the Father.”

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (150-220 A.D.) likewise has sounded these words: “The Lord, [says John in his First Epistle,] is a propitiation, ‘not for our sins only,’ that is, of the faithful, ‘but also for the whole world.’ Therefore He indeed saves all universally; but some as converted by punishments, others by voluntary submission, thus obtaining the honour and dignity, that ‘to Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth,’ that is [to say,] angels, and men, and souls who departed this life before His coming into the world.”

THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH (fl. 180 A.D.) is perhaps even more striking in thought on this subject: “God shewed great kindness to man, in this, that He did not suffer him to continue being in sin for ever; but, as it were, by a kind of banishment, cast him out of Paradise, in order that, having by punishment expiated, within an appointed time, the sin, and having been disciplined, he should afterwards be recalled. . . Just as a vessel, when on being fashioned it has some flaw, is remoulded or re-made, that it may become new and entire; so also it happens to man by death. For he is broken up by force, that in the resurrection he may be found whole, I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal.”

To these extracts we can add another from FACUNDUS, bishop of Hermiane, who was selected by the African bishops to represent them at Constantinople. Facundus and other bishops besides himself considered those who affirmed these teachings we are presently considering as being "most holy and glorious teachers." For FACUNDUS quotes DOMITIAN OF GALATIA, formerly bishop of Ancyra (named bishop c.537 A.D.), as saying: "They have hastily run out to anathematize most holy and glorious teachers on account of those doctrines which have been advanced concerning. . . restitution; and this indeed under pretext of Origen, but thereby anathematizing  all those saints who were before and have been after him."

These extracts demonstrate how widespread the understanding of the unending triumph of Christ was affirmed in the church during the second through fifth centuries. To these we wish to add several more extracts which evidence the views of many of the Fathers with respect to not only God's purpose in punishment and the purification of all by fire but also to the ministry of Christ and His elect after death to the departed.

First, with respect to God's purpose in punishment, CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (J:50-220 A.D.) observes that "He punishes for their good those who are punished, whether collectively or individually."

Note too what THEODORET (390?-457? A.D.), a theologian of the Antiochian School, wrote in commenting on Ezekiel 6:6: - "He shews here the reason for punishment; for the Lord, the lover of men, torments us only to cure us, that He may put a stop to the course of our iniquity.  All these things, He say,  I do, and bring in desolation, that I may extinguish men’s madness and and rage after idols.”

Next, with respect to God's purification by fire, GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS (330-390 A.D.), in a passage that alludes to the sect of the Novatians, says this of them: "These, if they will, may go our way, which indeed is Christ's; but if not, let them go their own way. In another place perhaps they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism, which is not only very painful, but enduring also; which eats up, as if it were hay, all defiled matter, and consumes all vanity and vice."

GREGORY OF NYSSA (332-394 A.D.) declares in a similar vein: “Wherefore that at the same time liberty of free-will should be left to nature and yet the evil be purged away, the wisdom of God discovered this plan, to suffer man to do what he would, that having tasted the evil which he desired, and learning by experience for what wretchedness he had bartered away the blessing he had, he might of his own will hasten back with desire to the first blessedness,. . . wither being purged in this life through prayer and discipline, or after his departure hence through the furnace of cleansing fire.”

So also AMBROSE (340-397 A.D.): "It is necessary that all should be proved by fire, whosoever they are that desire to return to Paradise. For no it in vain is it written, that, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, God placed at the outlet a flaming sword which turned every way.  All therefore must pass through these fires. . ."

And in another place AMBROSE says further: "As for those who do not come to the first, but are reserved until the second, resurrection, these shall be burnt, until they fulfill their appointed times, between the first and the second resurrection; or, if they should not have fulfilled them then, they shall remain still longer in punishment."

And finally, with respect to the ministry of Christ and His elect after death to the departed, we should take note of the fact that several of the early Fathers have spoken on this subject. To take but one example, the well-known CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (150-220 A.D.) expressed the following view: "Wherefore the Lord preached the gospel to them also who were in hades . . . And His apostles also, as here, so there also, preached the gospel to those of the heathen who were ready to be converted."  This same teaching is stated by IGNATIUS, bishop of Antioch (110-117 A.D.); by IRENAEUS, Greek bishop of Lyon (c.130-c.200 A.D.); and by JUSTIN MARTYR (100?-165?A.D.).

Now the following quote from the respected German writer on church history, Johann Gieseler (1792-1854), in his five-volume Ecclesiastical History (I :Section 82), will reveal the fact that these views have not been confined merely to followers of Origen (generally viewed as being an extreme universalist).  Writes Gieseler:  The opinion of the indestructible capacity for reformation in all rational creatures, and the finiteness of the torments of hell, was so common even in the West, and so widely diffused among opponents of Origen, that though it might not have sprung up without the influence of his school, yet it had become quite independent of it."(26)

Even the great and good JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (347-407 A.D.), in his homily on Romans 5:11, made the following observation: "If punishment were an evil to the sinner, God would not have added evils to the evil”; that all punishment is owing to His loving us, by pains to recover us and lead us to Him, and to deliver us from sin which is worse than hell."

IRENAEUS (c. 130-c.200 A_D.) holds the same view, that of judgment being a merciful provision for a fallen creature: “Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some dare to assert, but because He pitied him, [and desired] that he should not continue always a sinner, and that the sin which surrounded him should not be immortal, and the evil interminable and irremediable.”

GREGORY OF NYSSA (332-394 A.D.) writes: “For it is needful that evil should some day be wholly and absolutely removed out of the circle of being. . . . For inasmuch as it is not in the nature of evil to exist without the will, when every will comes to be in God, will not evil go on to absolute extinction, by reason of there being no receptacle of it left?”

Furthermore, elsewhere in his writings, GREGORY speaks of Christ as "the One who both delivers man from evil, and who heals the inventor of evil itself." 

With regard to these two passages by Gregory and their contexts, Johann Wilhelm Neander, the nineteenth-century German historian, commented (in his Church History, IV:455): “This particular doctrine was expounded and maintained with the greatest ability in works written expressly for that purpose by Gregory of Nyssa. God, he maintained, had created rational beings in order that they might be self-conscious and free vessels for the communications of the original fountain of all good. All punishments are means of purification, ordained by divine love to purge rational beings from moral evil, and to restore them back to that communion with God which corresponds to their nature. God would not have permitted the existence of evil, unless He had foreseen that by the Redemption all rational beings would in the end, according to their destination, attain to the same blessed fellowship with Himself.”

Now when it is recalled that tradition ascribes to GREGORY OF NYSSA a great many additions to the original Nicene Creed, which were made at the Second General Council, and which the Church in some quarters today recite as portions of it, and when we further recognize the honor with which the name and works of this same. 

GREGORY OF NYSSA have continually been held - both during his life and since his death - and that he was referred to by both the Fifth and Seventh General Councils as being among the highest authorities of the Church, we can perhaps better judge the worth of the assertion which is sometimes made that these teachings are heresy.

DIODORUS OF TARSUS, the tutor of John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.), in his work on the Incarnation, can also be mentioned as offering the same view; so also THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA (350?-428? A.D.), the most outstanding critic of the Syrian School.

It is instructive also to notice how the fifth century AUGUSTINE – “the  great champion of the doctrine of endless punishment" - writes concerning those who upheld the views of endless triumph: "And now I see I must have a gentle disputation with certain tender hearts of our own religion, who are unwilling to believe that everlasting punishment will be inflicted, either on all those whom the just Judge shall condemn to the pains of hell, or even on some of them, but who think that after certain periods of time, longer or shorter according to the proportion of their crimes, they shall be delivered out of that state."  AUGUSTINE also makes reference to the "very many" (imo quam plurimi) in his day "who, though not denying the Holy scriptures, do not believe in endless torments."  Hence these were obviously widespread understandings in the post-apostolic era.

And from the pages of history we learn that it was only in May 553 A.D. - in the days of the Second Council at Constantinople (the Fifth Council of the Catholic Church) – that the organized Church, consistent with its other benighted actions and blinded understandings of the time, finally sought to darken by its edicts, this glorious and liberating truth. Yet, thanks be to God that although the sun may have been eclipsed for a lengthy season, the fog is at last melting away and liberating truth is again streaming forth in a brilliant way in this hour of spiritual visitation from Heaven! "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

Even JEROME (343-420 A.D.), who did not necessarily share these convictions, could nonetheless make the following observations at the end of his Commentary on Isaiah: "But further, those who maintain that punishment will one day come to an end, and that torments have a limit, though after long periods, use as proofs the following testimonies of Scripture: 'When the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, then all Israel shall be saved'; and again, 'God hath concluded all in unbelief, that He might have mercy on all'; and again, 'I will praise  Thee, 0 Lord, for Thou wast angry with me; Thou hadst turned thy face from me; but Thou hast comforted me.'  The Lord Himself also says to the sinner, 'When the fierceness of my wrath hath passed, I will heal him.' And this is what is said in another place: 'Oh, how great is thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee.' . . . All which nevertheless they allow should not now be openly told to those with whom fear yet acts as a motive, and who may be kept from sinning by the terror of punishment.  But this question we ought to leave to the wisdom of God alone, whose judgments as well as mercies are by weight and measure, and who well knows whom, and how, and how long, He ought to judge" (emphasis added). Would that such open inquiry could be held by those today who do not necessarily share these convictions.

So much, then, for the views of some of the most respected teachers in the early-centuries Church. It may be of interest, though, to quote the observations of Andrew Jukes with respect to what happened to this doctrine of a universal restitution in the centuries which followed.  Jukes, a nineteenth-century Anglican writer, in his book, The Second Death and the Restitution of All Things (originally published 1867), describes that development in the following terms:

After Augustine’s time, partly through his great authority, but even more in consequence of the general ignorance both of Greek and Hebrew, which for centuries prevailed in the Western Church, and which kept men from reading the Scriptures in the original languages, the doctrine of Universal Restoration was well-nigh silenced in the West until the revival of learning in the 16th century. My own impression is that thedoctrine of purgatory, properly so-called, which gradually grew up from the 5th to the 7th century, in contradistinction to the earlier view of purifying fire held by Clement of Alexandria and Origen, was a natural result of the efforts of Augustine and others to silence the doctrine of Restitution. In the 9th Century, however, John Scotis Erigena once again, and in the most decided way,_bore witness to the hope of universal restitution. Having at an early age visited Greece, he back with him into the West a system of doctrine which was the fruit of a careful study of the Greek Fathers, particularly of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus. . . . Since the Reformation many of our English divines, -among the Puritans, Jeremiah White and Peter Sterry, -and in the English Church, Richard Clarke, William Law, and George Stonehouse, -in Scotland, Thomas Erskine of Linlathen and Bishop Ewing, -and among those on the Continent, Bengel, Oberlin, Hahn, and Tholuck, -have been believers in final restitution.

I may perhaps add here that it is confessed by the highest authorities of the Roman Church, that the opinion of the mitigation of intermission of the sufferings of the damned, which has been held by some, is nowhere condemned by the Catholic Church. . . .

It ought not to be forgotten also, that. . . the creeds, which are received both by East and West not only make no mention whatever of endless punishment, but in their declaration of “the forgiveness of sins” seem to teach a very different doctrine. (27)

This extended essay has not at all sought to answer every issue which could be discussed on the subject, since that has not been its purpose; rather, it has been written as a simple attempt to “throw open the windows” for a fresh look at what has now become to many a whole new horizon in God. What has been expressed herein, except for the Scripture itself, may not have been expressed perfectly nor yet in perfect balance with the whole counsel of God, for as yet “we see through a glass darkly”; herein nevertheless are contained rays of light which thrill the hearts of many who long that the honor and glory of our lovely Lord Jesus Christ be finally and actually central and supreme in the entire universe of men! Among those who disagree, I can only plead for at least a Christ-like openness and generosity (as was evident among some of the post-apostolic Fathers). God forbid that any member of the body of Christ today should sit in that same spirit of darkened condemnation as did the papal council of fourteen centuries ago at Constantinople. And God forbid, too, that this, or any other understanding of truth, should be used by some to create divisions and schisms in the body of Jesus Christ as that body is being presently revealed in the earth in its simplicity and purity. On these issues we are encouraged not to wrangle, but to think deeply in the presence of our Father.

At this juncture I wish to quote again from Catherine Marshall’s book Beyond Our Selves, in which, in answer to her own personal queries, she describes the feelings of Hannah Whitall Smith (author of that beautiful book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life) as she in turn pondered these very matters which we ourselves have pondered in this discussion.

Writes Mrs. Marshall:
Hannah Smith relates how she discovered for herself the unselfishness of God. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six, she had passed through a period of skepticism. During this period God had seemed far off, an unapproachable Being, a stern and selfish Taskmaster, an Autocrat. She asked exactly the same question that the sophomores in the girls’ school asked me that Sunday evening: What about those born into circumstances for which they are not responsible and from which they cannot escape? Would vast numbers of fellow human beings therefore bedoomed to eternal punishment for what they cannot help? Most of the Church groups of her day taught that they would be. But, Mrs. Smith wondered, would that be justice from a Creator whose tender mercies were said to be “over all His works”?

   Hannah Smith began to see in every face the anguish which resulted from sin's entrance into the world. She came to be grateful that the fashion of her day dictated veils for women in public; at least the faces before her would be blurred.

One day she was riding in a tram-car along Market Street in Philadelphia. Two men came in and sat down opposite her on the straw seat. When the conductor came for the fare, she was forced to raise her veil to count out change. She looked up and saw clearly the faces of the two men opposite her. They were lost, debauched-looking. Not only that, but one of them was blind. A new flood of emotion rose to engulf her. In her thoughts, she railed against God: “How can You bear it? You might have prevented all this misery, but You did not. Even now You might change it, but You do not. How can You go on living and endure it?”
Suddenly, there in the tram car, God seemed to answer her. The word lost blazed with a tremendous illumination: nothing can be lost that is not first owned.
Just as a parent is compelled by civil law to be responsible for his family and property, so the Creator - by His own divine law - is compelled to take care of the children He has created. And that means not only caring for the good children, but for the bad ones and the lost ones as well.

So the word lost came to be for Mrs. Smith a term of greatest comfort. If a person is a “lost sinner,” it only means that he is temporarily separated from the Good Shepherd who owns him. The Shepherd is bound by all duties of ownership to go after all those who are lost until they are found. (28)

   And with this observation agree the words of our lovely Lord Jesus, who declared: "What man among you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness and go after that which is lost, until he find it?" (Luke 15 :4)

At this point I would also like to include excerpts from the writings of Watchman Nee (l902-1972), taken from a small volume of his entitled God’s Plan and the Overcomers, in which the author addresses himself to the subject of God's ultimate purpose in creation and redemption.  Although there is no indication anywhere in his numerous published works, of which I am aware, that brother Nee ever espoused the view of universalism or any notion bordering on such a view, our brother does seem to entertain thoughts somewhat similar to those of mine I have been affirming in this present essay.  What are excerpted here from God's Plan are remarks which he made at a conference held in Shanghai as long ago as 1934: 

God works with a definite goal in mind. . . The center of God’s truths is Christ. The centrality of God is none other than Christ- “The mystery of God, even Christ," wrote Paul. . . . The purpose of God is centered on His Son, “that in all things he might have the preeminence”; the plan of God is also centered upon His Son so that Christ might be “all in all” (Col. 1:18,3:11).
God created all things and mankind for the sake of manifesting His glory. Today believers are manifesting a little somethings of Christ. But one day all things shall manifest Christ because the whole universe shall be filled with Him. In creating all things God desires that all things will manifest Christ. In creating man He wishes that man should be like His Son. . .

Even before the creation of the world, God had a plan. This plan is made in Christ, and that plan is to sum up in Christ all things which are in the heavens and on the earth. . . . God. . . held council with His Son even before the foundation of the world so as to have His Son come down and go to the cross in order to reconcile all things back to himself, rescue fallen mankind, and resolve the rebellion of Satan. . . .

After Christ had died and been raised from the dead, "God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. .." For "God hath made him both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36), and has "put all things in subjection under his feet" (Eph. 1 :20-22). . . . God shall put all enemies under the feet of Christ (Matt. 22:44). In this particular task the church bears great responsibility today, because God is waiting for the church to fulfill this mission. . . . We are shown that the aim and purpose in whatever God does from eternity to eternity is to give the Son the preeminence in all things. For the purpose of God is to make His Son the Lord of all. . . God. . . created all things and man with the intent that all things might manifest Christ, especially man who would be like Christ, having His life and glory.  But Satan rebelled and brought in such interference that all things became discordant and man fell into sin. God reacted with. . . the redemption of Christ [which] must (1) reconcile all things to God, and (2) redeem fallen mankind by imparting His life to man. . . .

   The redemption of Christ is to reconcile all things to God. . . . the scope of the redemption of Christ reaches not only to mankind but to all things as well. All things - they not having sinned - need not be redeemed but need simply to be reconciled.

The aim of redemption is to let Christ have the preeminence in all things. In order to have this first place in all things, Christ must first have the preeminence in us. And why? Because we are the firstfruits of all creation (cf. James 1:18). After we are in subjection to Christ, all other things will follow in subjection. . . .29


   I would say to all my brothers and sisters in Christ: let us arise with a new sense of what God is all about, for His eternal nature and His eternal purposes are redemptive; and let us as well give ourselves without reserve to Him to bear with Him that great burden which He bears for the realization of the reconciliation of a world unto himself.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendour
When He the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world is King. -W. Y. Fullerton 3

Yes, indeed, the only reasonable answer to the issues of moral justice raised by the fact of the lostness of teeming billions of humanity (and thank God, the answer is as soundly scriptural as it is reasonable), lies in the unending triumph of Jesus Christ in the subjecting of all things everywhere to our God. Praise be to the glory of God's boundless love and of His infinite justice! 

Yet in the light of this truth, a final question is frequently asked:  What then shall be the final state of Satan and of a Hitler, an Adolf Eichmann, a Stalin, or an unrepentant Idi Amin in the ages to come? I asked myself this same question as I wept in front of the silent furnaces at Dachau in Germany, there visualizing how ruthlessly and savagely men have destroyed others down through the ages in their Christless rebellion.  I can only believe that the appointed time is coming "to destroy them that destroy the earth" (Rev.11: 18).  For such as these and others like them, how could there be anything but everlasting shame and ceaseless sorrow and unending anguish (Rom. 2:8,9)?  Nevertheless, our only confidence lies in the knowledge that there shall not be left within these, nor within any others, endless sinfulness or unending rebellion against God.  They shall all be shattered and crushed, broken and totally humiliated beneath the feet of the Lord of Glory, whom they shall truly and eternally be impelled to acknowledge as THE LORD OF ALL, and this to the glory of God the Father.

Oh! may we all live and love and labor in the powerful inspiration of this basic New Testament revelation: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD OF ALL (Acts 10:36). Hallelujah!

The purpose of this study has been far deeper than any desire to present “some new thing.” Its purpose has been two-fold. First, the myriads who have loved these truths down through the years have come to see in these considerations the most important issue of the Christian faith: knowing what God is really like! If we have gross misconceptions of what God is like, how can we imitate Him aright (Eph. 5: 1)? How can we aim aright in seeking to be “conformed to His image” if our sights are seriously off? And does not this very failure to know God aright quite readily explain most of the inconsistencies which have existed within the ranks of “deeper-life” believers throughout these past years? And here I would speak out of the consciousness of my own such past misconceptions and failings, the memory of which now pains me so deeply. Our narrow, judging, harsh critical condemning spirits; - those attitudes which have repulsed otherwise open sinners and have plowed under many a faltering backslider and have divided and separated the body of Christ under every pretext conceivable - all this we have justified because, in our eyes, our God is this way! How differently would we have acted and spoken and thought had we really believed that God’s nature and work is totally redemptive!

But secondly, the new generation which has recently arisen under the current outpouring of the Spirit of God across the earth needs to hear the admonition of the  revelation of a just and a holy and a sin-consuming God. Born out of a permissive and standard-less an free-thinking generation, we, as believers, need to have imprinted deep within our consciences the burning truth that God shall yet bring every work into judgment. The grace of God which has been given us has not been so given for us to cloak or to excuse sin but to destroy it!  Whatever within us is not presently dealt with by His Cross and purged by His Spirit must surely be met by "a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:27). In actual fact, we would not have it any other way and still be truly spiritual.
Hence in this message on the endless victory of Jesus Christ, we do see joined together these two balancing truths. We see, in proper perspective, both "the year of Jehovah's favor" toward all men and "the day of vengeance of our God" against all sin (Is. 61 :2). We see both the infinite extent of divine justice and holiness and the boundless nature of divine mercy and love. This is our God and our Father! This is our precious Lord Jesus Christ! This is the gracious Holy Spirit of our God! And this is triumph unending! Amen!


  1. W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, new ed. 1954), p. 694
  2. Robert Young, Analytical Concordance to the Holy Bible (London: Lutterworth Press, 1953; reprint of 1879).
  3. Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: Scribners, 1953; reprint of 4th ed., 1901).
  4. G. H. Lang, The Last Assize; a Review of the Doctrines of Universal Restoration, Annihilation, and Eternal Punishment (Printed in England by Green and Co., Crown Street, Lewestaft, 1958), p. 25 (emphasis added except He). 5. George R. Berry, Inter-Linear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1952, reprint of orig. 1897 ed.), p. 127.
  5. Karl Sabiers, Where Are the Dead? (Los Angeles: Tell International, 1963),p. 184 (emphasis Sabiers). 7. Lang, op. cit., p. 17 (emphasis Lang’s).
  6. This is the exact rendering of the Greek which is found in Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear Greek English New Testament (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, Ltd, 1959, 2nd ed.) p. 149 (emphasis added).
  7. G. H. Todd (comp.), EONION: Everlasting Or Age-lasting? (Canyon Country, Calif.: Concordant Publishing Concern, n.d.), pp. 29-32 (emphasis Todd’s).
  8. Finis J. Dake, “Notes on Genesis,” in Dake’s Bible (Atlanta: Dake Bible Sales, 1963), p. 59.
    ll. Charles B. Williams, The New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1955), p.425.
  9. B. F. Westcott, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), p. 14.
    13;,Arthur S. Way, The Letters of St. Paul, 8th edition (Chicago: Moody
    Press, 1953), p. 140-41 (emphasis added). 14. Westcott, op. cit., p. 14 (emphasis added). 15. A. E. Saxby, God’s Ultimate (Reprinted by permission of author by Van Del Press Inc., Calif. (?), 1964), pp. 46 and 11.
  10. As quoted in J. Hugh Michael, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (New York: Harper, 1927), p. 97
  11. William Law, as quoted in A. E. Saxby, op. cit., p. 222.
  12. A. E. Saxby, op. cit., p. 21.
  13. G. B. Caird, A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine(New York and Evanston: Harper and Row Publishers, 1966), p. 77 (emphasis Cairds).
  14. Harry Buis, The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1957).
  15. Lang. op. cit., p. 58
  16. Catherine Marshall, Beyond Our Selves (New York: Avon Books, a Spire paperback edition, 1972), p. 42.
  17. Lang, op. cit., p. 58.
  18. The extensive series of extracts to follow were all taken from Andrew Jukes, The Second Death and the Restitution of All Things (originally published in England in 1867, reprinted 1976 by Scripture Studies
    Concern in cooperation with Concordant Publishing Concern, 15570 W. Knochaven, Canyon Country, Calif. 91351), “Appendix” pp. 174-187.
  19. Jukes, op. cit., p. 180.
  20. Quoted in Jukes, op. cit., p. 187 (emphasis added).
  21. Jukes, op. cit., pp. 190-91
  22. Catherine Marshall, op. cit., pp. 42-3 (emphasis added except for the words all, lost, and lost).
  23. Watchman Nee, God’s Plan and the Overcomers (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1977), pp. 4,5,7,15,18,19,20,21,23,26 (emphasis Nee’s).
  24. Copyright owned by Carey Kingsgate Press Ltd. of England.

I scanned, but from what I gleaned I don’t see what the difference is in this view from universalism.

In a nutshell:

  1. Universalism affirms that those who have died in a lost condition will ultimately be reconciled to God, cease from suffering, and will be saved (forever be in God’s presence with those who became Christians while alive).

  2. Charles Schmitt affirms that those who have died in a lost condition will ultimately be reconciled to God, cease from suffering, but will not be saved (will forever not be in God’s presence with those who became Christians while alive).

A certain man was reconciled to his wayward son, but never, ever let him back into his home.

If these reconciled but not saved people don’t suffer, then they must no longer desire in the deepest parts to be with God.

Without that, are they even human anymore?

As I understand Charles Schmitt, they never did desire to be with God, but to be reconciled to God means that they are no longer enemies. Any of them who hated God, no longer do so.

My question to Charles when I asked permission to post his article, was:

Where, or in what state, do you think these reconciled lost ones will spend eternity? Or is that one of the mysteries to which we will never know the answer in this life? In his reply to me, he didn’t address this question.

i’ll have to read that thoroughly later, but a flaw i can pick up on is this: who, given the wonderful love of God shown fully to them, could ever resist? it’s love: what we all crave deep down, from the most wicked to the most “righteous”.
this still implies that God’s love “fails” on some level…that what He desires (FULL reconciliation…not just an end to hostilities (which might actually renew if this view is possible)) is unnattainable, even for Him. and yet we are told that Love NEVER fails.
it’s easy to spot people who want nothing to do with God. but their view of God is totally flawed! ours is too, but we’ve had a preview of that love that ends all conflict. they too will see it one day, fully, and they won’t be able to hold onto their preconceptions or arrogance anymore.

also universalism is far from an extreme. Calvinism and Arminianism are extremes…Universalism walks the path comfortably between the two, leaving out blasphemous ideas of limits to God’s love AND power.
the middle way is often the right one! and definitely not an extreme path, but a narrow one

That’s what I gathered from his monograph, too. (Rather too long to be an essay, even by my standards. :wink: )

I see a number of problems with this, including a schism between love/mercy and justice (where justice in effect only means punishment). But my main question is whether these people will ever be saved from their sins. If so, then yes it’s universalism. If not, then it’s a variety of eternal conscious torment, only with less ‘torment’ per se. (Eternal conscious inconvenient punishment for sin. Whatever.)

Also, St. Paul strenuously affirms in Romans 5 that if, while we were still enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His son, how much moreso we shall be saved through His life. Which the author actually quotes, but tries to make out that somehow this means there won’t be salvation for those whom Christ has reconciled. He does admit it’s a prerequisite to salvation, but seems to think that it stops being a prerequisite after “this day of grace”. (The Bible, despite what he says, doesn’t teach that “today and only today is the day of salvation”, as either Paul or a student of Paul’s emphasizes that “so long as it is called ‘Today’” crosses many different time periods into the coming Day of the Lord, in the epistle to the Hebrews. But of course if what the author is saying was true, no one would have been saved after Paul’s day.)

I’ve seen attempts at trying to divorce reconciliation from salvation from sin before, and this is admittedly the most detailed such attempt I’ve seen (sort of like being the best professional football players in the Yukon). But by the author’s own principles reconciliation (which actually means “down-reachment” or “up-down-reachment” depending on whether a rare prefix is included to represent people reaching back to God) means “to bring again into a state of peace or harmony”, and that can’t be done without someone being made whole or sound or freed from their sins. The author himself stresses that “[t]he great disruption and disharmony between God and man hinges on this issue of sin”, when talking about reconciliation as a prerequisite to salvation. Once the sin is gone, the person has been saved from their sins. The scriptures nowhere indicate that those who have repented and returned to loyalty with God continue to be punished in any way (including by exclusion of fellowship), and everywhere testify to the contrary (including in regard to the Day of the Lord to come) that those who repent and return to loyalty will be restored to even greater fellowship with God, and with their fellow creatures, than they had before.

In short, it’s double-talk. No doubt based on what is regarded as testimony of some kind of hopeless punishment, so this is the best the author can do. But I don’t have to divorce reconciliation with God from salvation from sin, or divorce salvation from sin from restoration of fellowship with God and man.

Disclaimer: I seldom read anything this long unless it’s on my kindle or perfect bound or sewn together. Not fond of reading on and on on the computer. So, as much as to say, I barely skimmed it.

But . . . just from Paidion’s and Jason’s analysis, it sounds a bit like CS Lewis’ version of hell in The Great Divorce. Only that can’t work if everything is to be summed up in Jesus – unless we expect Him to carry around an irritating and unattractive pustule in His body forever and ever – which I can’t see happening. It’s got to be either Anni or EU, and EU has far more of logic and scripture to recommend it, not to mention the healing of YHWH’s heart (and all of the rest of our hearts, too).

As someone else here so aptly put it, if you can’t cure Ol’ Yaller, then of course you have to put him down, but if you put him down when you could have cured him, well, you ain’t my kinda folks. :wink:

As I understand Charles’ belief (and I don’t personally subscribe to it; I’m a full-blown believer in universal reconciliation AND salvation), his belief is that the lost will also be saved from their sins in the sense that they will perceive their error, repent, and no longer be enemies of God. They will submit to him fully. But they will not qualify for heaven since they didn’t become Christians in this life. It would seem that Charles leaves them somewhere in limbo. I would like to know just what his thoughts are about their eternal condition, but I can’t seem to get an answer from him.

I too skimmed the article and thought it was endorsing UR, so was confused at the outcome: eternal separation between two groups of people. I agree with Jason’s analysis. Maybe you can’t get an answer because Charles isn’t sure himself. :confused:
Thank you for posting the article Paidion. It contains lots of interesting points that defend UR. :sunglasses:

I read about half, thanks for the ‘nutshell’ version. Not sure Schmitt’s view qualifies as a ‘fourth’ view, but I like and have personally held and been teaching much of the same things he does, esp. in regard to fiery judgment as the means of cleansing salvation itself as the most Biblically grounded view.

The problem his conclusion poses for me is logical–to bring some individuals “3/4” of the way to restoration to direct relationship with Him leaves God’s work unfinished and denies the ‘all in all’ concept of reconcilliation. Because I see the nature of salvation not as God being held back by human will (an Arminian approach) but as restoring the human will to its natural state of desire for relationship with God and all things good by removing the impediments to such desire in His fiery judgments, Schmitt’s view stops God short of restoring the imprisoned intellect to a wholly true [saved] state.

I sure agree with most of what he says, though.