Mailbag: Does Anyone Really Stay in Hell Forever?
An email just in, says: "Hi Jim, You have a very interesting site. I have just started looking at it. I am believer in Jesus. But my theology is different from yours. I would like to ask you: Does the doctrine of HELL bother you? It bothers me. It seems to me that if God predestinates people to go to HELL, then GOD is evil. Why would God burn a 14 year old girl in a lake of lava for eternity because she failed to pick the right religon?". Let's see if we can work through some of this in the comments of this post.
The email goes on to say:
"I know I might sound like an atheist. But I am not. God called me and saved me. I believe in Jesus CHrist to save me from my sin. I believe Gehenna is not eternal. What do you think? Do you think I will go to hell, since I don't believe gehenna is eternal? Have you every studied Christian Universalism? I have found information on it on the internet. *****.org is one such site. I used to be a christian in the catagory of RC SPROUL and JOHN MACARTHUR. But now I don't agree with them on HELL. I would love to have an ongoing friendly debate /discussion with you about christian universalism. I am a very nice guy. I used to be more legalistic. And I can still slip into sarcasm. But I would like to correspond with you on this topic. Why? So I can change your mind. Or so you can change my mind. I want to know the truth. If you are right about HELL. I want you to change my mind. Please let me know if you are interested? - LOVE in Christ, Keith"
Keith, unfortunately you caught me at a really busy time, otherwise I'd love to talk with you more than I probably will end up doing. I am very familiar with Universalism, after once debating it with a friend through email for 14 months! It caused me to study my bible like never before, and I also spent a great deal of time reading the exact Universalist site that you mentioned.
I have a pretty good idea of where you are going to go with this, and I know where some of the commenters are going to go with it. I think it's a useful discussion up to a point, so let's give it a try for a while and see if we can come to a correct understanding of biblical truth on the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment.
I'd like to start off by having you read one of my prior posts on Universalism, entitled:
"My Sunday School Teacher Says Hell is Made Up"
Also, please allow me to clarify your statement in which you say "if God predestinates people to go to HELL...". The biblical worldview entails God's condemnation of the entire human race due to Adam's sin. In Adam's Fall He judged us all as lost. From that lost state of humanity, God has graciously elected to save some, though He was not obligated to save any of His creation. I realize that this probably does not help you feel any better about it, but that is what the bible tells us, therefore we are obligated to believe it.
To answer your earlier question Keith, YES - the idea of Hell bothers me tremendously! But I do understand it (as best as I think humans can), and it makes sense in light of God's holiness, justice, and even His goodness.
Regarding your salvation, and whether Christian Universalism (the way you believe it) is a soul damning heresy, my answer to that is: I don't know. It's one of those areas of belief that is a very serious error, but I have not heard a compelling case yet to suggest that it's impossible for any Universalists to be saved. I could be wrong about that however, and maybe we'll get a biblically savvy commenter that will shed some light on that one way or another for us. Suffice it to say, I would not want to pass into eternity with a wrong understanding in this area.