Thanks for coming along today on our journey of investigation and discovery, a journey that perhaps has milestones but never an end. As much as we discuss, we will never arrive at a perfect conclusion; we will never figure it all out. Even so, the journey is important and the struggle is good. We continue to wrestle through the things of life and faith, and in the process throw ourselves on God’s mercy. Thanks for being a part of it.
As we consider the idea of ultimate redemption, I think it is important, and necessary, to lay a foundation before discussing specific Biblical passages. Unless we are agreed that certain passages can be interpreted in multiple ways, unless we are willing to acknowledge that all of us are looking at the Bible through a set of interpretive lenses, unless we’re willing to concede that our way of thinking is not the only one and not necessarily the right one, then we might as well not even start. Our consideration of the Scriptures must be just that – a consideration. We are talking about, discussing, carefully thinking about what the Bible says, what it means, and how we apply it to our lives, all the while resisting the urge to so defiantly affirm our own perspective that we are unwilling to consider an opposing viewpoint. Before moving forward, I want to lay a foundation that will help us to consider and discuss rather than debate. In some blog posts and videos to follow, I hope to do this.
HOWEVER, since I know we want to get there soon, I thought I would at least do a post on two passages central to the discussion. The first passage is the one people seem to turn to first when they want to support the traditional idea of hell, and the second is the passage I turn to first when supporting the idea of ultimate redemption. We don’t have space here to give more than just a few comments on each, but at least it’s a beginning to our consideration of what the Bible has to say.
So here we go.
The first passage is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke chapter 16. You can read it here.
Here are a few comments on it:
1) The first thing we should take from this passage is not a definitive teaching on hell. Jesus is not telling us about hell so much as He is telling us to be careful what we do with our resources and reminding us to be considerate of how we treat those less fortunate than us.
2) If we are going to draw conclusions about hell and eternity from this passage, then we should do so consistently. For example, if we want to use this passage to say hell is eternal conscious torment, then we should also conclude that the fire of hell is literal and its inhabitants can see and talk to people in heaven. (I’ve not talked to anyone who is as quick to make those conclusions. In fact, it’s acceptable in Christian circles to suggest that the flames of hell are metaphoric. Not so from this passage.)
3) If we are going to draw conclusions about hell and heaven from this passage, then we must also draw conclusions about the reasons people go to heaven or go to hell. From this passage, Lazarus being at Abraham’s side has something to do with him receiving bad things in life. (There is nothing in the passage about faith in Jesus.) Similarly, the rich man being in hell has something to do with him receiving good things in life.
4) If we don’t draw any conclusions about the reason people go to heaven or go to hell, and our rational for not doing so is based on other verses that speak of salvation, heaven and hell, or reconciliation to God differently, then we must also give the same privilege to those who want to appeal to other verses to support ultimate redemption.
The second passage comes from Colossians chapter 1. You can read it here.
Here are a few comments on it:
1) The passage is about Jesus. If we should take one thing from the passage we should conclude that Jesus is the means of creation, the one who holds it all together, and the one who reconciles it all. It is all about Jesus.
2) Paul is careful to describe what he means by “all.” “All things” include things in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . “all” means all.
3) If we are content to conclude all things were created by Jesus, we should also be content to conclude that in him all things hold together and through Him all things are reconciled to God.
4) If we conclude “all” things are reconciled to God through Jesus, then the discussion moves to a consideration of the meaning of the word “reconciled” and whether or not we can conclude that “reconcile to himself all things” means each and every individual person will be saved. (At the very least it’s a possibility.)
So, hopefully that gives us something to consider, at least as an introduction to how we interpret what the Bible says about what we call “hell” and what we’re calling “ultimate redemption.”
Now, let’s get back to laying a foundation. We’ll return to the Scriptures soon.
When we do I think we’ll discover that the gospel is really good news, really.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so send me a note and subscribe to my email list!
See you next time.