Glad to see you again today. Thanks for coming.
We are in the middle of looking at what the Bible has to say about hell, eternity, ultimate redemption and the like. Last time we looked at the Old Testament and examined the passages we typically use to support the idea of hell as eternal conscious torment.
Today we’re going to consider some passages in the Old Testament that might suggest God is going to ultimately redeem everyone. Of course most of us in the evangelical tradition have not considered these passages to be pointing to ultimate redemption, primarily because our tradition has not led us there, and that’s okay. It is what it is. All of us are just doing our best to understand God and the Scriptures, and often falling short, but God seems to take our mustard seed faith and move mountains.
So, while still only just doing our best, let’s try to look at things in a new way.
We’ll start with Genesis 12:1-3.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
This is God’s call of Abram, who became Abraham and was the first Jewish patriarch. Abraham was the father of Jacob, who’s name God changed to “Israel,” and whose 12 sons became heads of the “12 tribes of Israel.” These verses are where it all began.
It would be a stretch to read ultimate redemption into these verses but I think it’s worth noting two things. First, part of God’s purpose in calling Abraham was to bless “all peoples on earth,” a category that seems to include everyone. We are quick to point out the “all” in other passages so it’s at least worth nothing here as well. This blessing climaxed in the person of Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself on behalf of the whole world and became the atoning sacrifice for the “sins of the whole world.” Maybe Jesus’ sacrifice alone is sufficient to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham, but believing that His sacrifice effectively saves only a small percentage of people makes it hard to consider His sacrifice a blessing to “all” peoples.
Secondly, it’s noteworthy that God mentions those whom He will curse in the same sentence in which He promises to bless all peoples through Abraham. Apparently being cursed by God does not preclude someone from being included in God’s blessing. There is appropriate punishment for those who do wrong (in this case cursing Abraham) but there is also blessing for all people, including, it would seem, the wrongdoers.
Let’s move onto Isaiah 45.
“Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
24 They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
will come to him and be put to shame.
25 But all the descendants of Israel
will find deliverance in the Lord
and will make their boast in him.
This passage is one in which Isaiah is quoting God, and here the inclusive language He uses is obvious. I suppose God’s prophecy in verse 23 of every knee bowing before Him is not necessarily a fulfillment of His call in verse 22 for all the earth to turn to Him and be saved; however, neither can we conclude that those who will be “put to shame” in verse 24 are not among the saved. We could say they are coming to God and are ashamed at having raged against Him, but they are still coming.
There are other places in the Old Testament that similarly suggest God will save everyone. Of course, just like we can’t conclude eternal conscious torment from the Old Testament, neither can we conclude ultimate redemption from the OT, or from any singular passage, but it’s worth considering that the Old Testament at least suggests it.
Here’s one other thought to consider: if we believe hell is the expression of God’s wrath and anger (not that we do necessarily – Romans 5:9?), we should point out that the Old Testament says God’s anger lasts “for a moment,” but His love is “everlasting.”
And that is really good news, really!
Let’s start on the New Testament.
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