Today, there seems to be a growing popularity amongst some who profess to know Christ, to also proclaim that Hell is no longer a reality worthy of a Christian’s sober consideration and declaration.
Unfortunately, this seems to be particularly prevalent amongst those who would identify themselves as “Trinitarian[i] or Perichoresis [ii] discoverers”.
For example, take this publically posted remark by one such person:
"So hell is now off the menu for me. The original biblical texts don't mention it, Jesus condemned nobody to it, the apostles in the early church didn't preach it and for 500 years nobody believed it. Frankly, it is middle ages, flat earth theology that has no place in genuine faith communities. And given that it causes untold physical, mental, emotional and psychological damage, the sooner we are rid of it the better."
Really? I don’t think so.
[i] Trinitarian referring to both the Triune Nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit as well as the theological implications particularly on the Doctrine of Election and the Doctrine of Salvation.
[ii] Perichoresis is the term coined by the early Church to describe the inner Trinitarian life of God and the mutual indwelling without loss of distinction by each of the three Persons of the Divine Trinity. From the Greek word “peri” meaning around and “choreo” meaning dance; as in choreography, thus often referred to as “The Great Dance”.
I suspect the “Perichoresis-Hell Deniers”, in their exuberant discovery of true reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21), have let go of hell and grabbed universal reconciliation with both hands and equated this with the errant notion of universal salvation. They seem to have forgotten that with God we are called to hold perceived paradoxes in the tension of both the left hand and the right. Hell may be “off the menu” for some, but God is still the One who serves the Truth to us whether we like the taste of it or not.
While objective union[i] with Christ and universal reconciliation are God's eternal YES to an alienated and sinful humanity, it is a YES that calls for our participatory response and AMEN (2 Cor. 1:20). God’s YES to the world in Jesus Christ also, by default and by Divine purpose, means that there is an Eternal NO. This is the fiery wrath of the Love of God that says NO to everything and everyone who insists on and persists in siding with Satan. How could God's redemptive, heavenly and eternal plan for us ever be fully realized in the presence of Satan and his continued blinding of men's eyes to Reality-Truth? The answer is it can’t. Thus, the Biblical and eschatological reality is that Hell, The Eternal Lake of Fire, is real and is the designated end of Satan. It is also the very real and designated end for a Christ rejecting world, not because they are unreconciled to God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:19), but because their AMEN has not been spoken. Thus they suffer as “collateral damage” the eternal judgement of the evil one they have chosen to follow. While Hell remains the "impossible possibility" as Barth said, it is real and needs to be declared as such. Regarding the eternality of hell...have you ever noticed that both during and after the catastrophic and awful final bowl judgements of God’s wrath are poured out, Christ rejecting men and women STILL do not change, rather they curse God and refuse to repent or change their minds" (Rev.16:11;19). Hell is eternal because Satan never changes and neither do those who follow him.
Universal reconciliation (2 Cor. 1:20) does NOT mean nor necessitate universal salvation. If there is freedom of participation, mutual indwelling and submission within the perichoretic nature of the Triune God....and if this relationship is what we have been reconciled to (John 14:20; 17:21-23; 2 Pet. 1:4), then we too must freely participate and respond to the discovery of this reconciliation...biblically called faith.
I believe the biblical testimony is very clear. Equally I believe the "testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy" (Rev. 19:10), thus from a biblical and prophetic perspective it is clear that not everyone is saved and hell is a reality. The ontological[ii] reality of objective union that is reconciliation, is not in any way a contradiction of the epistemological[iii] imperative to hear and respond by faith to the person of Jesus Christ…and Him alone in His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We must not allow the authority of the written word of God to be disregarded or ignored even while we re- read it through the new lenses of our Trinitarian glasses.
While universal reconciliation and eternal judgment may appear as a paradox, this should not surprise us for the simple fact that the Christian faith is founded in paradox. A Virgin gives birth; The One God is Three Persons; Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. These are non-negotiable paradoxes which the true Church has historically declared, without saying how they are resolved. Viewed from this perspective, Hell may appear a paradox, but it is NOT ambiguous.
I would rather be accused of being a universalist[iv] (though I am not), for being unable to fully explain the divine paradox of objective/ontological union and universal reconciliation, achieved by the election, incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification and outpouring of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, with the “impossible possibility” of eternal judgement as a result of unbelief and rejection of God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ.
I would think it more solid ground to stand upon what we do know, in and through the Biblical-Apostolic Revelation of Jesus Christ as the “ground and grammar” of all Christian thought and the true hermeneutic[v] principle for interpreting the Scriptures, even if its trajectory is towards a dumb silence as to “how” the above paradox is resolved; not unlike the Churches historic Nicene confession of the Trinity and Chalcedonian Christology's “homoousian tou patri” (of one being with the Father). To begin with and hold to objectivity while refusing to speculate on “how” the paradox is resolved seems safer ground than beginning with an a priori of speculation of a hidden decree in election; a speculation leading to a “logic” which seeks to avoid the possibility of a paradox, but in doing so replaces objective confidence with subjective doubt (Calvin’s P of TULIP).
I should also think the logistician’s syllogisms (i.e. true major premise + a true minor premise = a false conclusion) are not to be preferred to the worshipper’s doxology to the promised resolution of God’s purpose which has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Rom. 11:32)
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom. 11: 33- 36)
(Side note: In my personal opinion, a working biblical eschatology[vi] was not the strong suit of many of the Reformers (compliments of Augustine), thus the hell question has not been a particularly clear element among many of our Trinitarian and Perichoresis focused brothers’ and sisters’ conversation.)
[i] Objective Union is having to do with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the existential effects His Incarnation has had upon humanity without any subjective experience or response by the individual. The early Church declared “The unassumed is the unhealed”. In other words, where He goes, he takes humanity with Him.
[ii] Ontology is having to do with the nature of being and existence.
[iii] Epistemology is having to do with the nature of knowing and how we know what we know.
[iv] Universalism is the unbiblical view that all are saved and none shall perish.
[v] Hermeneutic is the method of interpretation of Scripture.
[vi] Eschatology is the study and Doctrine of The End Times and the prophetic Scriptures that deal with the last days.