The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Mercy And Justice Paradox

In his book “Hope Beyond Hell” Gerry Beauchmin lists some passages that show the mysterious paradox of God using both mercy and justice to accomplish His purposes. Here are a few:

God works through BOTH mercy AND justice to accomplish His will and it is all driven by His love. The Catholic philosopher and apologist, Peter Kreeft (Ph.D), agrees with the mercy and justice paradox:

We also see this at the cross where both God’s mercy and justice kiss as Christ dies for His elect. Those who are one and in faith union with Christ are crucified with Him as they die to the old self and are risen to new life. This is also a picture of what happens to the reprobate in the Lake of Fire. They are both punished and purified as they are baptized in the Lake Of Fire. They die to the old self and are resurrected to new life. God often intertwines His mercy and justice to accomplish His purposes and it is all driven by love. This is what we see at the cross and this is what we see in the Lake Of Fire.

Hosea presents a look into God’s heart in regards to the paradox of mercy and justice.

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For He has torn us, but He will heal us;
He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
“He will revive us after two days;
He will raise us up on the third day,
That we may live before Him.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

Awesome! Thanks for sharing that. I’ve never read that before. :smiley:

Yea, the whole story is beautiful. God is dealing with Israel’s fathlessness by allowing them to go into slavery, then He redeems her from the slaver’s auction. He tells her, From now on you will no longer call me Baali (my master) but you will call me Ishi(husband) and I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and you will kno me,

This whole beautiful transformation of the nature of the relationship, showing that Lordship is not enough to hold our affection- only true union and communion- knowing/betothal/marriage- is fruitful and enduring.

To me this goes to the glorious liberty of the children of God which will set the whole creation free from futility- life and service given as a free will love offering.

I’m like the Christian universalist Gerry Beauchmin in “Hope Beyond Hell”. I don’t believe in “free” will but human responsibility. Man is free to choose as he wants. The problem is that our hearts are mixed up desires because they are enslaved to sin. When we get to the new creation all sinful desires will be gone. We will still choose what we freely want but will always choose love of God and each other because all sinful desires will be gone. This is also the case with those who are punished and purified in the lake of fire. After they are cleansed and die to the old self they have a new nature and name. It is these names that were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world. The faith of the elect will be fulfilled and realized as it passes away and there will be nothing but perfect love between God - the first fruits - and the second fruits. The first will be last and the last will be first but we will all make it. Even creation will be purged in fire - like you say.

I totally agree. Ain’t it wonnerful! :slight_smile:

I love it Eaglesway. I get bogged down sometimes when I drift over into the doctrine of eternal punishment. It feels like a weight lifts off of me when I let that doctrine go. I’ve been reading through my universalist material and I’m pretty convinced of my O.P. now. It just needs to solidify a little more root so that I don’t drift away again. Part of the problem for me is that I get worried that if I don’t believe in eternal suffering then I will suffer forever. Crazy!

“Justice” means “fairness”. It does NOT mean “punishment”, although that is what a lot of people THINK it means.
So there is no conflict beween mercy and justice—and no paradox. God’s justice, that is, God’s fairness, is truly a mercy.

Hi Paidion!

Nope. It means punishment and yes fairness. God’s vengeance is just:

Moreover Kolasis means punishment and correction both. As the New Testament Greek Lexicon states:

So, while people will be punished as they pay for their sins, they will be being corrected at the same time. It is my belief that while they are paying the price for their sins and recieve God’s correction, they will be purified in the fires as well.

Yes! Fear has torment. The deceiver is the master of fear based theology. God is awesome- and sometimes terrible, but always redemptive!!


To find out what a Greek word means, one should look up the word in many writings. Lexicons can be deceiving. Besides with a dozen of more “definitions” how can you know the primary meaning of the word? I find that the dozens of meanings which lexiconophers (newly coined word) produce are usually possible words that may be placed in translations to make sense. It doesn’t really help much to understand the word. I go also by the etymology of the word. I have studied Greek for several years, and my faith in lexicons has been steadily decreasing. I look up the words as they are normally used in the Septuagint (including the apocrypha), and in extra-biblical Greek writings.

The words which have been translated as “eternal punishment” are the Greek words “αἰωνιος κολασις” Let’s consider “κολασις” first. This word was originally used for “prune” as in pruning plants. Plants are pruned by cutting off certain parts so as to correct the growth of the plant. “κολασις” was used in classical Greek in reference to a means to correct an offender. Look at any Greek lexicon, and you will find “correction” is given as one of its meanings.

The word is found only twice in the entire New Testament — Matthew 25:46 in regards to the goats in Jesus’ parable, and I John 4:18 :

There is no fear in love, but complete love casts out fear. Fear has κολασις. The one who is afraid is not completed in love.

What could the statement “Fear has punishment” possibly mean? I could understand “Punishment has fear”, but not “Fear has punishment”. Do you know of anyone who has been punished because he is afraid?

However, I CAN understand “Fear has correction”. The context of this statement indicates what the correction is. A state of fear in a person can be corrected when that person is completed in love.

Now consider Matthew 25:46 where the goats are to be sent into “αἰωνιος κολασις”. If we agree that “κολασις” means “correction”, then what would “eternal correction” mean? If a person were corrected eternally, the correction would never be completed, and thus the person would not be corrected at all!

Fortunately “αἰωνιος” DOES NOT mean “eternal”. Indeed, it never means “eternal”. It is the adjectival form of the noun “αἰων”, which means “age”. So, I suppose we could translate “αἰωνιος” as “agey”, but as far as I know, the latter is not an English word.

The word was used in koine Greek (the Greek spoken from 300 B.C. to 300 A.D.) to refer to anything which is enduring. The word was used by Diodorus Siculus to describe the stone used to build a wall. The word seems to have been used as meaning “lasting” or “durable”.

Josephus in “The Wars of the Jews” book 6, states that Jonathan was condemned to “αἰωνιος” imprisonment. Yet that prison sentence lasted only three years.

But the clincher comes from the Homily of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, written by Chrysostom. He wrote that the kingdom of Satan “is αἰωνιος (agey), in other words it will cease with the present αἰων (age).” So Chrysostum apparently believed that “αἰωνιος” meant exactly the opposite to “eternal”! ---- that is “ lasting” but in this case also “temporary.”

As I see it, the following would be a correct translation of Matthew 25:46

And they [the goats] will go away into lasting correction, but the righteous into lasting life.

Lasting correction is correction which endures. At some point it comes to an end. Lasting life is life which endures. But it just so happens that the lasting life we receive from Christ endures forever. But the idea of “forever” is not inherent in the word “αἰωνιος”.

The true Greek word for “eternal” is “αἰδιος”. That word is found in the following verse:

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. Romans 1:20


The Lexical definitions make it clear that the word means both correction and punishment. Moreover, there is no difference between the terms discipline and punishment either in our everyday language or the other parts of scripture. When a father punishes a son, he disciplines him. He brings him back to the order of justice by imposing on him a “discipline”. This discipline introduces what is can be called a “contrary movement” which restores the scales of equity. This is the retributive purpose for temporal punishment. In Proverbs “discipline” is equated to “punishment”

Also, Paul uses discipline and punishment as being synonymous.

The examples in scripture of temporal punishment are not only for purifying purposes but also reveal that the nature of the punishment is God’s punitive justice. If temporal penalties were for sanctification only and not to restore the equity of justice then the Bible wouldn’t connect discipline with salvation.

I agree with you that the word “eternal” is better translated as “lasting”. Perhaps “long lasting”

Cole, the meaning of “punishment” and the meaning of “discipline” or “correction” are poles apart!
Though the pain of the receipt each may be similar, it’s the purpose of the adminitrator that differs drastically.

Punishment is either (1) retribution or vengeance (getting back at someone who has hurt you) or (2) administering a penalty for breaking a set of rules or laws.

Discipline is the practice of training someone. The very word παιδεια (paideia) means “child training”. My forum name “Paidion” originally meant “trained little child”. Indeed, Jesus didn’t call just any child for his object lesson in the passage below; He called a paidion:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 17:1-4 NKJV)

Jesus didn’t set an obnoxious, defiant child in their midst (and there were doubtless lots of them then as there are now). Jesus wasn’t suggesting that they become as that kind of child, but rather as a trained little child.

Cole, you quoted this verse:

You must be quoting the RSV. The translators were incorrect in translating ελεγχομενος as “punished”. No other translation which I have encountered renders the word as “punished”. Most translations have “reproved” as the translation, and some of them have “rebuked”. Remarkably, Williams translates it as “corrected”.

Cole, please take another look at my signature statement, which may be summarized as, “Man punishes; God disciplines”


It’s both.

God always tempers His justice with His mercy though.

I believe punishment, correction and discipline are sometimes synonymous. He certainly punished Israel to correct them.

Heb 12:5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

I think scourging comes under the heading of punishment, but godly discipline comes more often in the form of training, reasoning, reproof and rebuke than as punishment.

Justice and mercy are never in conflict.
All of God’s judgments are remedial—and that is merciful.

I’ve underlined this, put it in bold and italics, changed it to large font and changed the colour of the font just so nobody misses it. Infuriating when people treat these two as logically separate, even opposing, ideas.

I read someone the other day that genuinely said that the thing we are saved from is the ‘righteous judgement of God’. Is it any wonder so many people dismiss Christianity these days?

EDIT: I also read this the other day from Doug Wilson on his website