Those who have seen the fullness of the Plan of Redemption are often asked, "What if you are wrong? You will then find yourself in the very 'Hell' which you preach against and furthermore find yourself an accomplice to having led many to Hell. But if what you say is correct, then my belief in Hell will still get me to heaven. I can't lose with my beliefs but you can sure lose with your beliefs."
First of all, anyone with just a slightly open mind, can see there are quite a few Scriptures to support eternal punishment, annihilation, or the salvation of all mankind through Jesus Christ. Throughout the centuries there have been sincere Christians in all these groups. Even Augustine, the champion of eternal torment said in his day, "There are very many (imo quam plurimi, which can be translated majority) who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments." (Enchiria, ad Laurent. c. 29) St. Basil the Great (c. 329-379) in his De Asceticis wrote: "The mass of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished."
Now if all three positions seem to have Scriptural grounds, this presents a problem for some. The solution to the problem is found in Matthew 16:17.
You see, apart from the spirit of revelation, which comes from above and not from ourselves, the Bible can really be made to say anything we want it to say. Look at the thousands of denominations each based upon differences of interpretation of basically the same Bible. Most Christian cults are even more intense in Bible study than average church-goers and they often come up with some very bizarre teachings. Most people are usually sincere in their beliefs. They really believe they have the truth. But until we have what Peter received when Jesus asked him Who He was ... until then, we only have knowledge which gets filtered through our culturally conditioned mind. The Scriptures, apart from the spirit of revelation often produces horrible systems of belief. Few of us are honest enough with ourselves to cry out to God to be completely set free from the traditions of men, from cultural, parental, political mind-sets which effect how we read the Scriptures.
The teaching of eternal torment has permeated the Western civilization for about 1500 years. Few realize the early believers were not indoctrinated into this mind-set by Christian leaders. Today it is not long before a child, even though never having read a Bible. is exposed to the doctrine of eternal torment as fact. It is important to be absolutely certain regarding such an important subject whether we are reading the Bible through pre-conditioned eyes or through enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. Ask God to reveal through the spirit of revelation all of His attributes and character. One must not know His love, power, omnipresence, mercy through words on a page, one must receive these things by the spirit. Then the Bible will be read with clear eyes of understanding. Then the Bible will confirm what the spirit has revealed.
Peter did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God because he properly interpreted the Scriptures prophesying a Messiah. It was revealed to him by our Father. Upon this is the body of Christ built, not upon Bible interpretation. Interpretation produces division, revelation supported with Scripture produces unity. Revelation first, then the Scriptures will witness to the revelation.
A person may read the Bible and believe what he reads based upon the fact that people have told him it was the word of God. Some may read it because it is the most widely published book in the world. A person may decide to go to church and become a Baptist, Methodist, etc., as a result and yet still not have true understanding. The natural mind may spend years studying the Bible and produce very carnal and often very evil systems of belief. I was amazed reading a Ku Klux Klan paper at how often they quoted Scripture to justify their hate. How are we delivered from this deception? Humility, brokenness, sincerity of heart, child-like faith, a willingness to acknowledge that we really know very little of the ways of the Creator of the Universe, these are some of the steps to deliverance. But true deliverance comes when the spirit of revelation brings light.
The problem with this method is that it smacks contrary to the Bible study mentality based upon the creeds, articles of faith, denominational position statements, etc. It contradicts the typical "Bible study" mind-set of most fundamental evangelical systems. These systems are full of leaders and laity who just pass on the tradition of the elders through reading the Bible with preconceived ideas of what it should say. Then, when one comes along reading the same Bible and comes to a different interpretation, these people know they are right and the other individual is wrong. Why, because it doesn't line up with what they have already decided was the right interpretation. They become locked into the "tradition of the elders." They have quenched the Holy Spirit. They will not stop talking about the Holy Spirit, but nevertheless, they will have made the word of God of none effect through their traditions. One should deeply reflect upon the words of our Lord and Savior Who said, "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. [Ye] hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:6-9)
Now concerning most of those who believe in the salvation of all mankind, most of those I have met who believe in this teaching, have come to this conclusion by revelation and/or intense study of the Bible, church history, language studies, etc. They often are severely persecuted for their beliefs, not by the world systems, but by the church systems. They have cried out in earnestness to our Father for truth because they would have gladly abandoned this teaching to avoid the severe persecution which their entire family suffers at the hands of the "orthodox." We are not masochists. We do not long for cold stares, whisperings behind our backs, hate letters, being called wolves, anti-Christ, and a host of other defaming names. Could we wash away this humiliation and be accepted by our other Christian brothers and sisters, we would most gladly give up this rejection up, but not at the cost of maligning the precious name of our Father. We would rather receive the praises from above than compromise the glory of our Father and exchange it for the praises from man.
The Scriptures declare to, "Study to shew yourselves approved." Having been in the "Hell-fire brand of theology and in the camp of the Saints who have entered into their rest, I can say from years of observation that those who believe in the Salvation of All Mankind are usually more diligent in their endeavor to study the Scriptures and "sincere prayers" with proper motives than those locked up in the fear of "eternal torments." Those who embrace the Lamb of God slain for the "sin" (singular) of the whole world, discover the truth that Paul was certainly correct in his assessment that the height, length, breadth, and width of God's Love was immeasurable. There is no end to it and "Love never fails." Those embracing the Eternal Tormentor can never discover these and hundreds of Scriptures to ever come true because their "heaven" is usually much smaller than their "Hell."
And this should cause one to seriously think. When we look at the ultra-fundamentalist whose judgments, whose finger pointing, whose dogmatism has relegated the most to "Hell" through their supposed "Scriptural proofs," these individuals are the ones who do not exhibit the characteristic traits we find in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The traits of those who have painted the largest "Hell" are those who look more like the Pharisees who Jesus condemned as "sons of hell" making their converts "two times the sons of hell (gehenna) as themselves." ("You will know them by their fruit," not by their theology. There is the key.
Observe for yourself. Look at those preachers and Christians who spend the most time warning of "Hell," and judgment day. The more "Hell and damnation" they preach, the more unlike Christ they appear. This should tell you something. The more an individual glorifies God and His power to save, the more an individual rests from their labors, their boasts, their judgmental ways, their vindictive spirits...in other words, those who believe in an absolutely Sovereign God Whose Love has ceased striving in their works and have entered into the "rest" promised them. They can begin to enter into the labor of the Lord which brings forth fruits of righteousness, not "self-"righteousness produced from labors of religion. A person who is still in their own works cannot bring forth the fruit of the kingdom. They can talk about "agape" love, but they can't manifest it. They can only manifest "Moses, the law-giver" who is dead and can only bring forth death. The "letter of the law" kills. Those who still serve as "Hagar and her son" cannot receive the promises the Scriptures hold out. Those who have ceased from their labors have an assurance built on a substance which, although not seen, is more sure than the substance of religion which is nothing more than the traditions of men brought forth by carnal minds.
But what of those whose mentality says, "My belief in a "Hell of torture" is "safer" to believe because at least that way I am sure of being "in"-what can we ascertain from such a view? If they are wrong, then they spent their entire life maligning God's name and character to the whole of creation. But they will say, "Well, God will understand. I just wanted to be sure I was in." What kind of spirit is this? Do not the Scriptures tell us that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?" The fear spoken of here is a reverence, a respect, a lifting up His being above our own. It speaks of exalting Him, magnifying Him, glorifying Him. Those who preach a "Hell" because it is "safer" reveal to the world they are thinking of themselves, not of glorifying God in the highest. They have given themselves away. It is clear this kind of person has not laid down their lives. They are still very much into themselves. They cannot enter into the promised "rest." Their "religious works" will hopefully "earn" them a place in the kingdom.
A religious person is probably the most "stinky" thing on the face of the earth. But amazingly, that kind of individual loves their own stink and no one can dissuade them from it. This kind of individual is locked in their own "hell" already and seek to enlarge it by bringing others under their power. The church buildings of the world and the temples of the world are full of these kind of people-putting burdens upon the backs of God's people which the Lord did not command-placing fear into their minds which never allows them to enter into the rest of the Good Shepherd-fleecing and devouring the sheep for the benefit of their own religious kingdom, no matter how small, even if it is as small as their own family over which they can rule as a tyrant, locking out the love of God by filling their little minds with fear. I am speaking right now, not only from observing the lives of others, but from my own personal experience. I am guilty of operating in this spirit. So please do not think I am throwing stones at others.
What can I say about this self-serving mentality that the religious mind is so poisoned by? A mentality that thinks preaching "hell" is safer than to seriously study, truly cry out to the Lord, truly lay down one's life that they may cease from striving in their own self-righteousness. What can I say to dissuade such a narrow-minded and small heart, one who cares more for themselves than the Name and Character of their God? I can say nothing to that heart which it can hear. But I can say to you, dear reader, that the Scriptures declare, "You will know them by their fruit." Look at the life of such a person, and you will discover what kind of tree it is. There are "Trees of Righteousness," and there are "trees of self-righteousness," commonly called "religious." Just because someone doesn't "drink, cuss, or smoke," that doesn't make one "righteous." We have all seem that often the greatest "law-keepers" are also the greatest tyrants.
Now our Father will certainly have to make some kind of provision for these souls. Imagine, the very heaven they hope to attain would become the very "Hell" they hoped to escape. How could anyone live in a place of perfect love created by the One Who loved so much that He gave His life-how could a person who told people here on earth that this very One was going to torture many of His own sons and daughters in the most diabolical ways and never cease this activity-how could that individual live with themselves? Every time they saw Jesus lovingly embrace one of those who surely should have been roasting in hell, the conscience would gnaw at that individual, reminding them of the picture of Jesus they described on earth, one who took His enemies and did to them what no human being could ever do-torture them ceaselessly, forever and ever, without even taking a break! Talk about a "worm that dyeth not." There is a worm which would gnaw at their conscience and make heaven "Hell."
These "religious folks" often say that this world would be a mess if we took away the teaching of an "eternal Hell." This shows two things about this individual. First, they obviously do not study. If they did, they would discover that there was a church which preached an "eternal Hell" and had complete control of the government, economic system, and religious system. It should have manifested the kingdom of God. But what it produced was the "dark ages." The Roman Catholic Church has used the doctrine of eternal torment for centuries and it has never manifested the kingdom of God nor its righteousness, but just the opposite. Study European history, which is nothing more than church history. See what thousands of wars, killings, hatred, and decadent societies the doctrine of eternal torment has wrought upon the earth.
Then spend some time studying the lives of some of those who have embraced the "Larger Hope," those who have been redeemed by the Lamb, those who have laid down their lives and exchanged them for the life of Christ Who lays down His Life. Look into the fruit of their lives. Compare the lives of those who have written the most about Hell, judgment, damnation and compare them with those who write about love, glory, mercy. Look into their lives and you will see we become what is the passion in our heart. A heart full of hate will love to write about "Hell and judgment." A heart full of love will want to write about glorious things. They try to live in peace and seek to spread that peace to others. They look to the author and finisher of their faith, the author of the love in their hearts and hope to plant that love into another heart. They look into the very Kingdom of God itself and express the joy of their salvation and that joy encompassed all of creation. They do not lust after your possessions, for they have been given the Kingdom. They do not seek to "sin" because they know that the wages of sin is "death," death to the joy, love, and peace that is in their hearts and they would not trade the short pleasures of sin for the fruit of the kingdom because they have tasted of both and have developed a taste for the fruit from above which is the only thing which will satisfy the hunger of a spiritual person.
A religious mind cannot fathom that. It still is chained to the lusts of the flesh and whips it to obedience through the Laws of Moses. It does not understand the higher Law which Christ brought, the Law of Love, the New Commandment. The Law of Moses says "Love your neighbor as yourself." But most people are self-condemned. They do not love themselves and so to "love their neighbor as themselves" gives them the right to actually hate their neighbor and still fulfill the Law of Moses. But the New Commandment, the Law of Life in Christ Jesus commands us to love our neighbor more than ourselves. This can only be done by laying down our own lives and taking on the Life Who laid down His life for the whole world, including the enemies, ours and God's.
"He who clings to his life shall love it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it." Lay down your life today, for "His sake," that He may be magnified in your life and declared to all of creation, and you will also discover that He is indeed and in deed, the Savior of the whole world.
Until then, remember, "you will know them by their fruit."