For me, the belief in an eternal hell has never been a problem. I’ve talked about hell more than any other Christian I’ve known. The teaching that God will reconcile all human beings with himself was a dangerous heresy for me. Here I want to explain 12 reasons why I can no longer believe in eternal torture, but am convinced that in the end, God will reconcile all people with himself.
- The teaching of an eternal hell contradicts the teaching of the Bible
I love the bible! The more I read and study the Bible, the more passages I discover that point to the salvation of all people (a small selection: John 1:29; Rom 5:19; 1 Cor 15: 24-28; 2 Cor 5:19; Phil 2.9-11; Col 1.20; 1 John 2.2). I see the Bible as God’s inspired word on which I orient my life. The belief that God will torture the majority of human beings in hell forever does the Bible, in my opinion, violence. The doctrine of eternal torture contradicts many scriptures that speak of the salvation of all people. The passages that are often used to justify the existence of an eternal hell are now and then taken out of context, incorrectly translated or the literary genre is not taken into account. I would feel disobedient to the word of God if I believed in an eternal hell.
- The New Testament does not give hell a high priority
Paul proclaimed the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and yet the word hell does not appear in any of his letters or sermons.
Jesus only used the word hell (to be precise: Gehenna) on 5 occasions. Most of the other words of Jesus that are used today to establish an eternal hell were parables or comparisons, which should be considered when interpreting!
If the greater part of mankind faced eternal suffering in Hell, then the New Testament would certainly have drawn more attention to this and warned against it.
- An eternal hell turns God’s glorious victory into defeat
Assuming Hitler had not been defeated but had successfully conquered and occupied 60% of the world. Would the Allies have considered it a glorious victory that they managed to save 40% of the world from Hitler? No! It would not have been a victory, but a defeat. Hitler would have triumphed.
The early Christians celebrated Jesus’ death and resurrection as a glorious victory and understood his message as good news (Gospel). If the majority of human beings are really lost and suffer forever in Hell, is this a glorious victory of God or has the enemy successfully thwarted God’s plans?
The message that the majority of human beings (we all have friends and relatives who belong to this group) will suffer forever in hell is truly not good news! How can I have joy forever when I know that the people I care about will suffer forever at the same time? No, God’s gospel is truly good. He will defeat ALL evil and save ALL people.
- An eternal hell contradicts God’s character
Jesus revealed God to us as one God …
… whose essence is agape love.
… who is a good father who waits patiently and with open arms for his prodigal son to return home.
… who forgives his enemies.
… who wants to save everyone.
… who will conquer all evil and overcome death.
… he forgives even if we don’t deserve it.
… who rejects violence and coercion.
- An eternal hell drags God’s name in the mud
Countless people have turned away from the God who tortures people in hell for eternity. They could not associate such a God with a loving God and therefore rejected God completely. If we as Christians continue to make God known to the world as the eternal torturer, then we should not be surprised that they cannot believe our message of a God of love.
- Belief in an eternal hell has fatal consequences
In June 2001 Andrea Yates drowned her 5 children in the bathtub to protect them from the horror of hell. She believed that her children would automatically go to Heaven because they had not yet reached the age of discriminating between good and bad. For Andrea this was an act of love to protect her children from eternal suffering.
This is certainly a very radical example, but unfortunately a very real one nonetheless. Belief in an eternal hell can produce very ugly fruits. Many people suffer from the fear of hell all the time. To this day, preachers (I am not assuming bad intentions because I used to belong to them) preach God’s wrath and eternal damnation from the pulpit. I fear that more people will turn away from Jesus than they will actually turn to God. But the people who accept Jesus on the basis of this message often see God more as an eternal fire insurance than as a good King and Father. Thus, the breathtaking gospel of God’s great plan of salvation and renewal degenerates into personal fire insurance. Such Christians often do not see the need to grow closer to Jesus and become more like him because salvation from Hell is all they want from Jesus. But Jesus is about to renew this world and bring his kingdom here into our world, which involves far more than salvation from eternal punishment.
- If God is really a good father …
I am the father of 4 wonderful children. I love every single child with all my heart and would give my life for any child at any time. There is nothing my children can do that will make me stop loving them. I don’t love you for what you do, but for who you are. God is the Father of all men (Mal 2.10; Mt 23.9; Lk 3.38; Act 17.28f; Eph 4.6). Since he is a far better father than me, he will not give up any of his children either. As in the parable of the prodigal son, he will wait with open arms until the last rebellious son repents and returns to him.
- The salvation of all is the only fitting ending to God’s salvation story
In the film “Avengers 3: Infinity War” (spoiler alert!), Half of all living things in the cosmos are wiped out at the end of the film. My friend, a real Marvel fan who I watched the movie with, was really upset by that ending. Many people around the world have expressed the same reaction on forums. Nobody really wanted to believe this ending.
Why do we notice in a Marvel movie that the ending doesn’t fit, but don’t notice it in the story of God? All Christians believe that God is good and created us. We refused him. By his grace, he has initiated a rescue plan. Believing that God will only save a small part of His beloved creation doesn’t quite fit the story. It makes the work of Adam greater than the work of Jesus. I agree with Paul that the work of Jesus is greater than the work of Adam (Romans 5: 12-21). God’s plan of salvation will not fail. He will save and renew all of his creation. This is the only fitting ending to God’s glorious story.
- Belief in the salvation of all people helps me to better fulfill God’s double commandment to love
If we believe that God will one day ultimately reject and reject people who reject him, then it can quickly happen to us that we will too. If God gives up these people, I don’t have to worry about them. This lie had crept into my mind subconsciously. But now I believe that God loves everyone forever and will renew everyone. Thus every person I meet is a future roommate of the kingdom of God and a beloved child of God. Having this in mind helps me to recognize the value in every person and to treat every person with respect. God does not reject his children, nor should we reject and forsake his children.
- Love never gives up on anyone! (1 Cor 13:7)
God is agape love (1 John 4:16) and agape love is never given up by anyone (1 Cor 13.7; GNB). God loves all people (John 3:16; 1 Tim 2: 4) and therefore he wants all people to be saved and to be reconciled to him. And he will pursue this goal until he has achieved it. God will not give up any of his children.
- God’s ultimate will will be fulfilled
Some Christians do not believe that God wants to save everyone. Others doubt that he can. I believe God can and will and therefore he will.
God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2: 4). Some Christians doubt this, believing that God loves and will save only a few people (the “predestined”). Others believe that God wants to save everyone but cannot (e.g. because people can forever rebel against God because of their free will; but this is too short-sighted). I believe God WANT and He CAN save all people. And his ultimate will (the renewal of all of his creation) will be fulfilled.
- God is just
I believe God’s primary quality is agape love. Already in the Old Testament, God’s unshakable love is the main characteristic with which God is most often described. His righteousness and holiness are secondary character traits that are the expression / fruits of his love. God forgives us our debts even if we don’t deserve it. This is an expression of love and grace and not primarily of justice.
However, love does not act unfairly either. Let’s look at this example:
Suppose a madman breaks into my house while I’m out of town, rapes and kills my family and escapes.
Assuming God forgives this man all of this because he surrenders his life to Jesus, then I would find it unjust. My heart desires punishment for what this man did to me. I would probably find God unjust. The only way to change that would be if God helps me to forgive this man and understand that this man also has a story that led him to do so. When Jesus’ love brings my heart to forgive the murderer, the murderer, with God’s help, will recognize what he has done to my family and me (which will be very painful for him to recognize because he will experience our pain and the burden of it what he did to us) then true reconciliation can happen and it will not be unjust because all parties interact in love and reconciliation. Only through the reconciliation of all people with one another and with God can true justice happen and God be all in all.
Furthermore, an eternal hell is in no way fair. Many people grow up with downright brainwashing (be it religious or other ideologies). To what extent is it fair when people who are indoctrinated from childhood (e.g. Muslim or Buddhist) and perhaps only hear half-truths about Jesus, are then sent to hell forever for not believing in Jesus?
The Bible also teaches that punishments should be fair (eye for eye) and not disproportionate. There is no sin a person could commit that justifies ETERNAL TORTURE. This is disproportionate and in no way fair.
These are only 12 of the innumerable reasons why I believe that at the end of time God will reconcile all human beings and nobody will be lost forever. This is the good news of the Bible and a hope that truly gives hope even in dark times. In the end, everything will be fine. If it’s not good yet, it’s not the end. In the end, God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28).