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Is Literal Hell

Eternal Torment--
A Help or Hindrance?

Evangelical Doctrinal Changes

Hell Doctrinal Chart



Doctrinal Changes

May 2001

Although the Reformation began in AD 1518, its progress has been slow. The early 1800s witnessed a major revulsion to the rabid predestination views of the Protestant establishment as reflected in the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. He set the theological tone of the 1700s. For example he said:

"After your godly parents shall have seen you lie in hell millions of years, or ages, in torment day and night, they will not begin to pity you then. They will praise God that his justice appears in the eternity of your misery."

Horrific! God dishonoring! In reaction, new groupings of churches were formed—Freewill Baptists and Disciples of Christ. But most notable was the Christian Connection—the heritage of the Bible Students. Determined to follow the Bible and not theology they soon concluded eternal torment, immortality of the soul, the trinity and individual predestination were not scriptural. This led to a rudimentary understanding of the "restitution of all things." Acts 3:19

Another gross error of the Protestant establishment in the late 1700s and 1800s, was Post-Millennialism. That is, the church would bring in the 1000-year Kingdom of God by converting the world to Christ. Only after the church on earth reigned for a thousand years would the second advent of Christ occur. If this sounds unbelievable to you, read U. S. Protestant history of the 1800s.

In that era of Post-Millennialism, Christian Connection leaders played a major roll in the Pre-Millennialist, Second Advent awakening. This awakening to Pre-Millennialism spread rapidly across denominational lines. Many ministers also began to question eternal torment and embraced degrees of future probation. For example, the noted Lutheran, Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.

The cry of outrage by the Protestant establishment indicting the Pre-Millennialists for predicting the eminent return of Christ, was only a veiled attempt to re-assert their Post-Millennialism.

Hyper-orthodoxy reacted. The Evangelical Alliance was formed to define orthodoxy and isolate those who did not conform. It uncompromisingly affirmed eternal torment, the immortality of the soul and no future probation. But it had to accept compromise in one area. Post-Millennialists and Pre-Millennialists should tolerate each other.

The Freewill Baptists retreated into the other Baptists' groupings. The Disciples of Christ conformed and survived to become a major Protestant denomination. The Christian Connection vacillated, but staunch Christians like Henry Grew passed on the torch of Truth containing the enlightenment of the early 1800s.

In the 1870s Bible Students received this torch with joy. After much systematic Biblical study on future probation, they embellished the doctrine of future probation during the "times of restitution" with scriptural details of God's wonderful love. Now after 120 years of Bible Student proclamation, some Biblical Truth is breaching the citadel walls of Born-Again Orthodoxy.

Since 1988, an increasing number of recognized Born-Again leaders have embraced Conditional Immortality. That is, the soul is not immortal. They say immortality is only a reward given to the believers in the resurrection. The unbelievers are eternally annihilated. Therefore, Conditionalists do not believe in eternal torment. Some Conditionalists believe that God will use literal fire to "destroy both body and soul in Gehenna," but this is momentary and not eternal.

Traditionalists (affirmers of the immortal soul and eternal torment) were shocked and fought back. Some Traditionalists even challenged the Conditionalists' right to be Christians. Some authority had to step in and settle this burning issue.

The Evangelical Alliance Intervened

You might be surprised with the Evangelical Alliance's action. (See Christianity Today, 10/23/00- the voice of Evangelicals founded by Billy Graham.) It appointed scholars on both sides of the controversy to present their respective Scriptural view. Their conclusions were published in the book-THE NATURE OF HELL: A REPORT BY THE EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE COMMISSION OF UNITY AND TRUTH AMONG EVANGELICALS.

Their recommendation was that Born-Again Christians should agree to disagree on the subject of whether or not the soul is immortal and hell is eternal. The Conditionalists are a minority—but a highly respected minority.

Future Probation

In addition, the report affirmed, "In His sovereignty, God might save some who have not explicitly professed faith in Jesus Christ." This reveals that many Born-Again Christians are troubled by their narrow salvation concept. Philip Yancey, the popular Evangelical author, honestly reflected this troubled concern when he wrote in Christianity Today:

"I admit that many orthodox Christian doctrines bother me. Will hell really involve an eternity of torment? What of those who live and die without hearing about Jesus? … I must insist that the most important questions about heaven and hell—who goes where, whether there are second chances, what form the judgments and rewards take, intermediate states after death—are opaque at best."

Evangelicals are still on the horn of the dilemma until they recognize two Scriptural points. #1. "There is no other name [Jesus] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4: 12). There are no exceptions. #2. The problem is solved when we realize that millions who never heard the name of Jesus in this life will have a future opportunity of salvation.

"The man, Christ Jesus, gave himself a ransom for all; to be testified in due times [Greek plural]." 1 Timothy 2: 4-6 Now is the time of salvation for the members of the church. "The remainder of men will seek after the Lord" in a future age (Acts 15: 14-17).

Unfortunately, die-hard Evangelical translators still perpetuate the King James' gross mistranslation of 2 Corinthians 6: 2—"now is the day of salvation." The NIV is a case in point. The Greek should be checked. THE INTERLINEAR GREEK-ENGLISH NEW TESTAMENT by Nestle and Marshall shows the correct reading is "now is a day of salvation" for the "calling" of the church of Christ. The Greek word for church (ecclesia) means "a called out class."

In Acts 15: 14-17, the Apostle Peter reveals that God visits the Gentiles not to convert them, but to "take out of them a people for His name." Why? "That the remainder of men might seek after the Lord." Yes, there will be a future opportunity of salvation. After the marriage of the church to the returned Lord, our heavenly Bridegroom, "the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:15 KJV

Yes, the non-elect will come forth from their graves to a "resurrection of judgment" (Greek-krisis). John 5:28, 29 NASV This Greek word is the source of our English word "crisis." And it has the same meaning. A doctor might say, "The patient will reach his crisis tomorrow morning." This does not mean that the patient will die tomorrow morning. Rather, the crisis of an illness is that period when the patient will take a turn for the better or for the worse.

The "crisis" or opportunity time for the church is in this present life, but the "crisis" or opportunity time of the remainder of mankind will be at the resurrection. Billions of mankind before and after Jesus' earthly ministry died without receiving the light of Jesus. Yet John 1:9 states that Jesus is the light that "lights every man that comes into the world." To accomplish this promise of enlightenment for "every man," it will require an awakening from the dead. Of this time, the prophet Jeremiah states, "all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest." Jeremiah 31: 34

Now back to the issue of Conditional Immortality. Since many Born-Again leaders no longer believe in eternal torment and the immortal soul, we urge you also to take your Bible and study all the scriptures on these subjects. For example, the following scriptures clearly teach eternal destruction, not eternal torment—Psalm 145:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; John 3:16; Luke 6:10. Matthew 10:28 plainly states that the soul is destroyed, not tormented in hell (gehenna). Therefore, gehenna is symbolic of destruction.

There are scriptures that might seem to teach otherwise. It is only when we study all the scriptures on a given subject that the Bible harmonizes.

Write for your free copy of the booklet "Where are the Dead?" It is a comprehensive study of the scriptures dealing with these two subjects.