The doctrine of “eternal punishment” fosters a self-righteous, vindictive spirit in believers. The psalmist, speaking of idols said, “they that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them” (Psa.ll5:8).
If a Christian has an image or mental picture of god that projects Him as One who writes off those who disregard Him, then that believer similarly tends to reject those who disagree with him. Church history is replete with inquisitions and martyrdom’s manifesting this image of God. An extreme example is Queen Mary (1516-1558) of England, who won her title “Bloody Mary” by torturing and murdering non Catholics. She justified her actions, proclaiming “as the souls of heretics are to be hereafter eternally burning in hell, there can be nothing more proper than for me to imitate the divine vengeance by burning them on earth.” Bloody Mary’s image of God lives on today.
Condescending, pharisaical attitudes which continually divide the body of Christ, justify themselves because of a perverted image of God. “My little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1John 5:21).
Being justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus (Whom God purposed for a Propitiatory shelter, through faith in His blood, for a display of His righteousness because of the passing over of the penalties of sins which occurred before in the forbearance of God), toward the display of His righteousness in the current era, for Him to be just and a Justifier of the one who is of the faith of Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is debarred! Romans 3:25
Notice here the succession of terms indicative of human helplessness:
Being justified — requiring to be made right with God
gratuitously — without a cause, without anything in oneself that would give God reason for doing this
in His grace — purely as a favor, unearned, undeserved
through the deliverance — requiring a rescue act
which is in Christ Jesus, Whom God purposed — not in oneself, but in the One Whom God appointed.
This is the first occasion in Scripture that any act of God is referenced to His purpose, and the next outstanding fact that we must note is that it is centered in Christ Jesus —not in Jesus Christ as He was on earth, but in Christ Jesus, the risen Lord, the One Who, by His victory over death and His resurrection from the tomb, has proved that He has settled once and for all time the problem of sin, and thereby paved the way for deliverance.
“A belief in God’s universal love to all his creatures, and that he will finally restore all of them that are miserable to happiness, is a polar truth. . . It establishes the equality of [humanity]. . .”
Benjamin Rush – signer of the Declaration of Independance
“Now she shall be bringing forth a Son, and you shall be calling His name Jesus, for He shall be saving His people from their sins” Matthew 1:21.
This promise is a most important declaration of God’s intention. It forms a solid basis for all that is recorded throughout the book of Matthew. Indeed it must never be forgotten in the midst of stern warnings and fearful events, least of all in the account of the evil and darkness surrounding the rejection and crucifixion of this One Who came to save. The promise remains alive and true even though it is left unrealized at the close of Matthew’s account.
In fact, by the end of Matthew, even though unrealized, the great work of saving sinners from their sins had been’made certain of eventual realization by the death and resurrection of Christ. This was the Lord’s own testimony at the passover meal, when He spoke of His blood “shed for many for the pardon of sins” (26:27,28; see also Matt.20:28). In addition, the truth was stated unintentionally at the very time in which it was being established. While Jesus was being crucified the religious leaders of Israel scoffed at Him, saying, “Others he saves! Himself he cannot save!” (Matt.27:42). The first statement is absolutely true, and it is true because He did not save Himself. Thus the opening clause of their mocking is transformed in grandest irony into the greatest testimony to truth that they had ever spoken!
Behind every struggle and every sermon of warning and instruction recorded in Matthew’s account lies the promise of salvation from sins. Behind every failure of Israel, the stubborn resistance to the testimony of the Lord and the scheming and the cries for cruclfixion’the promise still stands. “He shall be saving His people from their sins.”
For it pleased the Father that in him [Christ] should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. Colossians 1:19-20
I am bold to ask, Can any statement be more clear and decided than that here made by St. Paul? He says that God was well pleased that in Christ should all the fullness dwell, the fullness, that is, of the Godhead, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross, through Him (he repeats) whether they be the things on the earth or the things in the heavens.
Is this the good pleasure of God, to reconcile all things to Himself through Christ, and can that good pleasure be frustrated or disappointed?
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:17
When Adam sinned, what was the consequence? Go and see. Here was the worst sin ever. What better time to reveal the ultimate, horrible fate? But it s not there. You’ll be driven from the Garden, Adam, and you’ll have to hoe like mad to make anything grow. Eve, childbearing will introduce you to pain so severe you’ll see white. And today, you begin to die, both of you. Its the penalty of your disobedience. Death and weeds and cramps the color of lightning. And I should mention this as well—I won’t be coming around as often. Bad enough, but not a word about an eternity of torture in flames. I wonder why. Do you?
To review, nowhere in the Old Testament does any God-inspired writer mention one word about an eternity of torment for disobeying God. Not one scholar has ever found it, no, not even those who have searched for it desperately. Strange that a doctrine that is “everywhere” has not yet appeared in a segment of the Bible that is, by my reckoning, about three and a half inches thick.
God wills all to be saved. “But,” we will be asked, “what of those who choose to trample God’s saving love under foot?” Let us take God s own answer to this question:
God locks up all in stubbornness in order that He may be merciful to all. Romans 11:32
If even the crucifixion was according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23), why should we hesitate to bow our heads to this truth? God locks up all in stubbornness. Why? To send them to an “eternal hell”? No! That He may be merciful to all!
(Romans 11:32). Well may we lift our hearts in unison with the apostle and exclaim,
0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out. (Romans 11:33).
Well may we bow in adoration and worship as we repeat the grandest and most comprehensive and enlightening doxology of all:
For out of Him, and through Him and for Him are all things: to Him be glory for the eons! Amen! (Romans 11:36).
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Romans 9:3
The most striking and original contribution that Balthasar makes to this discussion, I believe, is his critique of Thomas Aquinas’s view—shared widely in the classical tradition—that part of the joy of heaven is to witness the sufferings of the damned. To this he contrasts the approach of a surprising number of saints and mystics who declared a willingness to suffer on behalf of a denizen of hell or even, at the limit, to take his place as a gesture of love. The prototype here is Saint Paul himself, who says in the ninth chapter of Romans: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Chnst for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom 9:3)- The possibility that his fellow Jews might be separated from Christ does not awaken in Paul anything even vaguely resembling gloating self-satisfaction, or even delight in the divine justice, but rather a mercy that conduces to utter self-sacrifice.
In a sermon Bishop Tutu preached in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, Ontario (quoted in God is not a Christian (Ed. John Allen. HarperCollins Publishers, 2010) page 56), he said this:
“there is an openess demonstrated by the arms of our Lord strung out on the cross as if to embrace the whole cosmos, because it was God’s intention to include, to bring all things to a unity, in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is nothing that must be left outside… Jesus did not say, “I, if I be lifted up, I will draw some.” Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all, all, all, all, all” (John 12:32)… All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go. All.”
Jesus said to them, `Beware, and take heed of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees;’… Then they understood that he did not say to take heed of the leaven of the bread, but of the teaching, of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:6,12
Jesus warned the people against the doctrine of the Pharisees, who are well known to have believed in endless punishment. There is no doubt, that the doctrines of the Pharisees were of a partial nature. Jesus was impartial in his teachings. He was the friend of publicans and sinners, and for this the Pharisees hated him. This was the great point on which he differed from the Pharisees. Their doctrine peculiarly was a doctrine of cruelty, wrath, and partiality; his was a doctrine of love, compassion, and universal grace. No person, who will make the comparison fairly, can avoid coming to this result. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.
From 100 Scriptural Proofs That Jesus Christ Will Save All Mankind (#63) by Thomas Whittemore