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."
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.
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."
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).
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.