The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Hour We Least Expected

Is anyone aware of this, or even better…has anyone read it?!excerpt

i only found out about it because i follow Hellbound (the movie) on Facebook.

the sample they post raises some interesting questions, and makes some bold statements which actually don’t conflict too much with what i was always taught, except in a few really crucial bits…the logic seems ok to me, as is the reading of Scripture, but it’s from a Penal Substitionary Atonement model. i am not sure if this matters though? but then i’ve not thought it through totally, and obviously i’ve not read the book yet.

it’d be interesting to see what people think of this. the reviews on amazon summarise a few of the book’s claims…things which generally speaking i reckon the Universalists here will applaud…

This looks very interesting. I agree that after reading the excerpt, it does appear to take a penal sub view, but it is an interesting angle on it that I had not considered before. I’ve ordered the kindle version and will begin reading it soon.

Update: I have begun reading it. It seems that they are clearly coming from a strongly penal sub point of view, but not in a bad way. In fact, they’re actually making quite a bit of sense of that approach to soteriology. They have made a few related references to some fairly traditional viewpoints they hold on certain topics that I think they’re mistaken about, but on the whole, I’ve found very little to disagree with so far, and it has been relatively minor stuff at that.
I haven’t gotten far enough into it to tell for sure, but it really looks like at this point they’re heading for a fairly strong ultra-universalist conclusion, unless they back off quite a bit later on. So far, I’d say it’s definitely worth a read.

I’m now on chapter 5. This book is amazing in a number of ways. It is written by two (youth?) pastors I think, that were hardcore evangelical traditionalists until a friend of theirs that had come to the revelation of universalism asked a simple question. The authors set out to prove their friend’s suggestion wrong, and what they discovered caused them to go from being dyed-in-the- wool evangelical fundies to being what appears so far to amount to (if we were to apply labels) being full preterist ultra-universalists!
What’s more is that I think they’ve so far done a pretty solid job of demonstrating it directly from scripture…definitely worth a read.

The link you gave isn’t working for me, CL, but here’s a link to the Kindle edition at Amazon.

I’ll (try to remember to) let you know what I think. :wink:

I finished the book today; It was a fairly quick read. They certainly make some very interesting points. I will try to post some kind of a review by chapter here as I’m able. I want to go back through and absorb some of the points a bit better, and I’ll try to write on it as I do.

If I had to write a brief summary statement on the upshot of the book, it would be this: It is the authors’ view that all of biblical prophecy and all of the work that Jesus came to do, He fulfilled entirely and accomplished completely at the crucifixion and resurrection, including the events of the beginning of the week leading up to the crucifixion. “Hell” has never existed as “traditionally” taught, and there has in fact been no hell at all since the resurrection of Christ (since it is their view that it has already been destroyed in the lake of fire). Everyone goes straight to be with God when they die.

They use scripture heavily to demonstrate this, but they repeat themselves a lot. (This might partially be a habit formed from years of youth ministry though :laughing: ) Interestingly, there is no discussion of the word Aion and derivatives whatsoever. They are basing their view entirely on the work of the cross, OT and NT prophecy, the gospels, and the words of Jesus and Paul.

I think Aaron (currently on sabbatical from us) would be proud. I will warn you that they are certainly less eloquent and less thorough in their presentation than he is though.

sounds pretty compelling, but yeah, i’ll take that under consideration that it’s not that eloquent :wink:
kinda nice to get away from the whole aion thing, to find some other supportive evidence. we can argue aion til we’re blue in the face, and our opponents will still hold that we’re wrong…

Seems to me the Kindle said I was about 15% into the book last night when I simply couldn’t read any more and had to put it down. When you start nodding off in the middle of a sentence . . . 5-6 times . . . then that probably means your brain INTENDS to get some sleep and there’s not a lot you or coffee can do about it. And it was only, like, 9:30! :laughing:

But . . . so far I like it. This book doesn’t look like being a theological treatise yet, but for a lot of people, that’s not what they need. As far as I’ve read, the main thing I’ve picked up is the authors’ getting their audience ready (hopefully) to receive the things they will say with an attitude of inquiry rather than a defensive wall. That’s huge.

I thought they did a great job, but honestly if you can even get a staunch hell believer to get as far as to pick up the book with the intention of actually reading it, you’re probably half-way there. Not that they shouldn’t have bothered. So far I’d rate this book a 7.5 of 10 as a book I might give to an inquisitive friend – and the prep time is necessary if only to remind an already open-minded person to keep that attitude of honest, even if guarded, truth-seeking. I’m glad they did it.

My preferred reference for giving away is still Hope Beyond Hell’s abbreviated booklet (to be followed by the book itself if interest justifies that).

Off to shop for a new computer, thanks to sweet hubby . . .

Love, Cindy

thanks for the mini reviews, Cindy and Melchi!
i think i might check it out myself :slight_smile:

More to come. You’re right Cindy, it doesn’t take the scholarly theological approach, but it does take a biblical one. The tone and delivery are very similar to Julie Ferwerda’s book.

At the moment, I’m irritated with the authors of this book. They’re proof-texting and that puts me on edge. Toward the last part of chapter two, they give John 7:33-34 as evidence that His disciples didn’t believe well enough. But Jesus wasn’t talking to His disciples; He was addressing the Pharisees. Then again in Jn 8:21-24, they do the same thing. And in Jn 8:28-29.

I’m not sure whether I agree with what they feel Jesus is driving at – in fact, I rather think they’re stretching things in order to make the point which their hearts know to be true – that He will/has saved the world. They manage to skip appealing to the Greek, but I begin to suspect their case isn’t going to hold water. I’ll be checking their texts carefully from here on out. I just happened to already know Jesus was talking to the Pharisees in the above passages – I remembered – but it’s easy to just skip along assuming the passages quoted mean what the quoter says they mean. Sometimes they’re being misapplied, though. Maybe unintentionally. Many pastors just habitually proof-text and may not see anything bad about it. I doesn’t like it, tho. :frowning:

Dangit, that’s what I was afraid of. My biggest concerns at the moment are the full preterist implications of their position, as well as general sloppiness/ not taking enough things into consideration.

good catch, Cindy!
definitely warrants caution. does it undermine their case, or is just unhelpful do you think? they may be making solid points, but choosing the wrong things to support them with. shame when that happens!

I think it might be a combination of the two things. I think some of their points are solid, but they don’t always do a good job of demonstrating them. Some of them may just be wrong. They at least admit that they could be wrong about any or all of it in the book, as well as encouraging people to do their own due diligence.

A review: I’m going to attempt to do a review of this book as I work my way back through it. I read through it initially very quickly to get a sense of what the authors’ position was, and how they approached things. It has become clear that I need to read through a bit more slowly this time as I post the thoughts put forth in the book as well as my impressions, reactions and questions. I am not accustomed to writing reviews, so please bear with me. It is my hope that this will be useful to some of you and prompt some good discussion. I’m glad that Cindy is here as well giving her thoughts; it’s always good to have more than one set of eyes and perspectives on something like this.

The hour we least expected, by Steve and Aaron Essary, is a book about (as the byline claims), a re-examination of the most important and unexpected hour in human history. The authors mean by this, the event of the crucifixion of Christ, the resurrection; as well as the events leading up to it that week. It is the authors’ contention that this series of events had far more profound implications for all of mankind than the vast majority of people believe, including (perhaps especially) those in Christianity who subscribe to the “CAM”, or “currently accepted message”, by which they mean the gospel according to mainstream evangelical Christianity.

Before we get into the meat of the book, let’s take a step back and get some perspective on where the authors came from before they began their journey of discovery into their particular flavor of Christian universalism.

The story begins with a foreword written by the friend of the two authors, Kim Morse, who briefly describes her own journey to universalism, which ironically begins with her pastor announcing one day that he thought everyone was going to heaven. She describes how she (familiarly) rejected the idea initially, but kept thinking about it over the next few years, knowing somehow in her heart of hearts that it was true, though it was awhile before she could get her head to come along for the ride. She finally relented, sharing her thoughts with her pastor husband, who, much to her surprise, didn’t instantly dismiss her or show her the error of her ways, but instead listened carefully to what she had to say. They both then got into the scripture with fresh eyes, and were amazed at what they found and how it altered their lives, eventually leading them out of the mainstream church world. She then shares how, just before leaving their last evangelical church, she shared her thoughts with Steve Essary. Kim explains that Steve was the most committed CAM person she knew, one of the few people who actually believed the message enough to really walk the walk and not just talk the talk, a man with a true heart and burden for evangelism; a man out to save the world over and against the many who either don’t really believe what’s preached or who are simply very callous in doing anything about what they believe. At any rate, at the point she was growing weary of the evangelical church world scene, she shared with Steve in an effort to relieve his obvious distress over not being able to carry out his plans to evangelize all of the local youth. He truly believed his job was to save people from going to Hell. So she asked him “the” question; “What if you didn’t have to save the world? What if Jesus already saved the whole world?” She explains; “you see, I believe Jesus came to this planet on a mission. He did not fail. He came on this gigantic mission to save and redeem the whole of humanity…past present and future. Mission accomplished. Jesus did not say on the cross that the rest is up to you or ‘to be continued’. He said It is finished.”
Apparently, the author’s reaction was predictable, but as he sought to prove her wrong, he discovered much to his surprise that she was right. This was back in about 2007 (The same year I came to realize universalism!) and the rest, as they say is history; aside from the fact that this journey resulted in the book we’re reviewing.

To be continued…

Good summary. I liked her story. :slight_smile: It was well-told and interesting.

Chapter 1: An Unsolved Mystery

In this chapter, The author begins with a story about a fishing trip that he and a friend took, and how the conversation eventually led to spiritual things. He talks a bit about the evolution vs. creation debate, but without claiming any answers. His point here is that we need to be truth seekers and always be looking for the truth, no matter what we find. He then makes the point that it takes time to solve mysteries, believing personally that there is an answer for everything out there, that some truths remain unknown, but that the truth is the truth, no matter who believes it. (And as we will see later, even if no one believes it.)
Then he makes a rather silly little argument “proving” that the bible exists as a segue into his next point, which is that the bible exists, but what does it actually say? He then points out the fact that there are over 30,000 Christian denominations all claiming to know exactly what the message of the bible is, but they are different, so are they all correct? His next point is that the way the Bible has been taught has been evolving since it was first put together, and so he now finds it amusing when people say (to us universalists) that we are questioning a 2000 year-old message. He then points out that the Bible as we have it today hasn’t even been in distribution for much more than 500 years. Before that, it was more or less the sole province of the priests of the RCC, until Martin Luther came along and challenged what was the Commonly Accepted Message (CAM) of that day. His overall point here is that what we hear in church today is not what we would have heard 500, 200, or even 100 years ago.
So he asks the question, well then; did the message, or the bible itself change? His answer to this is no, but that it is rather our understanding of that message is changing, much to the chagrin of those who would have you learn their version of the CAM and then stay away from differing opinions, fearing that they will lead you astray. The author then points out that they don’t seem to understand that it was Martin Luther’s differing opinion that got us out of the mess we were in before? (The fact that the protestant reformation stopped sadly short of reforming very much at all seems to have escaped his notice) The point he’s making here is that differing opinions are not dangerous, but being close-minded is; using the example of everyone’s favorite example for everything, Adolph Hitler. (For as much of a Jerk as Hitler was, he sure has provided us an endless supply of pontification illustrations! Thanks, Adolph!)
In the next section, Steve begins to recall his “conversion” story from his perspective for us. I won’t go into all the details in the interest of space, but I will hit a few highlights.
Steve describes how he went off in a huff after the conversation, knowing right where to go in scripture to refute her claims; yet when he got there, he mysteriously found the passages of which he was so sure, not so clear-cut after all. He spent 3 hours that night trying to find some hard evidence to stop this crazy notion in its tracks, but was unsuccessful. The next day he recruited his brother and co-author to help. After 2 weeks and 80 hours of intensive bible study, he had to take a break, and he began to wonder why it was so hard to prove her wrong, saying that every preacher he has told this story to has agreed that it should really be very easy to disprove his friend wrong, so “why was I having so much trouble”. He says that he then stopped and did what he hopes you as the reader will do which was praying to God to show him the truth.
The result is this book.
Next, we will be looking at some of the introductory claims and statements the author makes as groundwork for the rest of the book in the latter part of the first chapter.
The first point Steve wishes to make is that of the commendation of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who are praised for being open minded and checking things out for themselves, reminding us that it is now often looked down upon when someone in the Christian world begins promoting ideas that are different from the rest of the group. He cautions that he is not suggesting that we take every new idea we hear and believe it, but that we should at least be willing to see that we don’t already know everything.
Now, he moves into some points of agreement and contrast; establishing the identity of Jesus, and his mission. This is where he begins identifying what Jesus said about what he came here to do, and here is where we get a glimpse at the author’s lean toward penal substitutionary atonement, where he says that Jesus claimed he was here to save the world from the punishment for their sins. (I seem to recall him saying that he was here to save us from our sin, not the punishment for it, but perhaps I’m splitting hairs here). He then asks the question, will we recognize the “end of the world” when it has come and gone? Or, will it be like Jesus said, and happen in an hour we least expect?
The Christian community has traditionally believed that the changes leading up to the end will be highly visible and obvious to everyone, but he cautions us to remember that even though the scriptures clearly prophesied the coming messiah, very few recognized him. Similarly, even though Jesus talked plainly about his coming death, the disciples all seemed so shocked when it happened… The end of the world is a topic of interest to a great many people, but will it come as we have been taught? Or, when the mystery is finally revealed, will we discover that it isn’t (or wasn’t) anything like what we expected?
So with this, he ends chapter one with the commonly accepted ideas that are going to be explored in the book:

  1. Does the bible say that you must believe in Jesus to go to heaven when you die?
  2. Is your eternal destination your personal choice?
  3. Will the earth be physically destroyed in the future?
  4. Will those who do not meet certain requirements burn in a lake of fire forever?

Next up, Chapter 2

Thanks for the reviews, Melchizedek. Makes interesting and encouraging reading.

I’m wondering though, is the focus primarily on whether or not we go to heaven when we die?
Because that seems to be the focus of most of Christianity (heaven or hell?), whereas it wasn’t the point for the early church, who were looking forward to the actual resurrection of the dead, which isn’t what we mean when we say “going to heaven”, is it? (I read N.T.Wright’s Surprised by Hope before the summer, which was all about how we’ve replaced resurrection with “heaven”, whatever that is. One of the things he mentioned is that resurrection means this world actually matters, whereas heaven means we can abuse this world as much as we want. He said it over a considerable number of pages, along with a lot of other things, so I won’t try to reproduce the argument here!)

Great review, Melchi!

I liked this chapter, too – especially the argument toward being open-minded, not so much as to be credulous of every new thing that comes along, but enough so as to escape from deceptions we may currently hold. A pastor of a church I once went to had something to say on this, and it’s stuck with me for years. Something like, “I’m wrong about a lot of things, but I don’t know what they are. If I knew what they were, I’d change my mind – then I’d be right. No one wants to be wrong, but the only way to not be wrong in truth is to admit that you HAVE BEEN wrong and change your belief to the one that’s been revealed to you as RIGHT.” Duh, huh? Yet so many people cling to (possibly) wrong beliefs for just this reason: they do not want to be wrong! Therefore, rather than hold their beliefs subject to the revelations of scripture and the Holy Spirit, they defend those beliefs as if the beliefs themselves were their link to Father.

Now, give me a moment . . . I have to scream.


Whew! That’s better. It’s not your fault, Melchi, because the authors did this – SEVERAL TIMES and if you can’t learn correct grammar and spelling from a published work, well that’s just sad. :frowning: It’s CLOSED-MINDED, not CLOSE-MINDED. There, I’m done now. :laughing:

And last, you are not splitting hairs to say that Jesus came to save us from our sin (singular), not from the penalty of our sins. That is a mondo important point. God doesn’t have to have blood for every offense. He does, however, have to have us perfect and free and holy. I usually say Jesus came to save us from our sinfulness because, while that might not give quite precisely exactly the same flavor as ‘from our sin,’ people are less likely to read it as ‘from the penalty of our sins.’ It’s a big deal difference, and people have been missing it for a long time. Even though it’s right there in front of us. So good on ya’ for picking up on that. :wink:

Love, Cindy

Oh, just wait, Cindy. It gets worse. The authors constantly refer to the book of Revelation as “Revelations”, and go back and forth between Shehole and Sheole, instead of the more widely recognized spelling. Let’s just say grammar is not their strongest suit…

Yes, Susan; this is definitely one of my nitpicks of the approach taken in this book