Why the “Blessed Hope” is not heresy – Call to accept and love all Christians
“In essentials, Unity; In non-essentials, Liberty; In all things, Love.”
“[Be] diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph. 4:3
Our tradition has indoctrinated us to reject anything outside our theological “boxes.” Everything outside is labeled heresy. It’s the same with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christian denominations (Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Non-Denominational, etc.). We are all locked into systems, and only when we question and investigate our beliefs, do we discover greater truths about God. The Lord commanded us to judge for ourselves what is right (Luke 12: 57). And the Apostle Paul exhorts us to test all things (1Thes. 5:21). Will we obey the Lord and not allow the fear of man to influence or control what we choose to believe? (See Gal. 1:10)
I believe that God loves all people everywhere with an unfailing love. There are no restrictions to His love. Christ died for all – each and every person that ever lived. As Adam’s sin affected every human being – so did the death of Christ on the cross.As through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. Romans 5:18. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:22. God has all power to accomplish His will, including His will to save all people (1Tim. 2:3-4). This “Blessed Hope” is the only theology that can truly say:
His mercy endures forever. Ps 136, etc
With God “nothing is impossible.” Luke 1:37
What He desires He does. Job 23:13
He can do everything and no purpose of His can be thwarted. Job 42:2
Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more. Rom. 5:20
Christ draws (drags) all to Himself, not merely 1% of humanity. John 12:32
He propitiates the sins of the whole world, and not ours only. 1 John 2:2
All families of the earth shall be blessed. Gen 12:3; etc.
All the earth shall worship and sing praises to Him. Ps. 66:3-4
He destroys the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8
The last enemy that will be destroyed is death (all death). 1Cor. 15:26
He is greater than He that is in the world! 1 John 4:4; Etc.
ETC. ETC. ETC. See “Hope Beyond Hell” Appendix I for 186 passages of Hope!
This precious “Hope” is a historical, Biblical, and legitimate theological position just as much as Arminianism (God loves all, but can’t save all) or Calvinism (God can save all, but chooses to only save some). To brand this “Hope” as heretical is unjustified. It is an assault and insult to our fellow believers who throughout the ages have been brought by it into a deep and sincere love of God.
Matthew Slick, a Reformed theologian, with a master’s of divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary and president of Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry states:
“[Christian] Universalism is the teaching that God, through the atonement of Jesus, will ultimately bring reconciliation between God and all people throughout history. It is important to note that holding to [Christian] universalism in itself does not make one a non-Christian. (1) This quote is particularly weighty since he says, “Studying cults and apologetics is a passion and I have spent more than 26 years doing it.” (2)
As we cannot compare apples and oranges, neither should we who base our faith on Scripture, be classed as unchristian or unbiblical with groups who are not biblically routed, such as the Unitarian Universalists. We, in contradistinction, uncompromisingly affirm the centrality of the Bible and the Lordship and deity of Jesus Christ. (3)
We differ with the widely accepted “Augustinian traditions” on two key points – God is greater in power and love – that’s it. We uphold the authority of Scripture and the centrality and supremacy of Christ. In fact, we elevate the blood of Christ and His absolute triumph over the adversary to their rightful place. We proclaim a GOD in full control of His universe – One who loves all people impartially with an unfailing love. We are in every way “Christian.”
Let me be specific about my faith. I accept God’s love as most believers do, and God’s power and sovereignty as any staunch Calvinist. Jesus came in the flesh, lived and died for our sins, was resurrected, and is coming again. He is the only begotten Son of God, the only way of salvation. Christ and the Father are one. All things have been made by Him, for Him, and through Him. I worship Christ as I do the Father. In fact, I magnify His deity more than most, as I believe He fully destroys the devil’s works and accomplishes all His will for mankind! Do you? Only almighty God could do that. His blood is the only power in all the universe that cleanses from sin. Jesus Christ is Lord!
Have some of us died as martyrs for Christ? Yes! What more can be said? Why are we sometimes not given the right hand of fellowship or no hand at all? Are we not Christians? What identifies us as disciples of Jesus Christ? There is no question more important. This is why this article is so critical. “By this shall all men know you are My disciples, by the love you have for one another.” (John 13:35) Our love – our self- sacrificing love, is the essential characteristic Christ chose to emphasize! And how do we know what real love is? “By this we know love,” said the Apostle John, “because He laid down His life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16).”
The vast numbers of us who share this “larger” hope, or “blessed” hope, are not affiliated with any sectarian group or denomination. We are simply believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are a “silent” minority active in all denominations – Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Reformed, Purpose Driven, Vineyard, Four Square, Assemblies, Catholic, non-denominational, etc. Most of us do not trumpet our convictions for fear of rejection or of causing division.
It is tragic that most believers have no biblical understanding of the true basis for Christian unity. We mistakenly, unjustly, and all too often harshly reject precious members of Christ’s body. By so rejecting His members, we reject Him. Whatever we do to the “least of these,” we do unto Him. It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a milestone around our necks, than to offend one of His little ones. (Mt. 18:6; Mk. 9:42; Lu. 17:2) This is serious my brothers and sisters in Christ!
Christian unity is NOT optional. Nor is it a mere lofty sentiment. It’s the burning passion of our Lord! What was most pressing on His heart on the very eve of His crucifixion? In His heart wrenching prayer in the garden, He prays five times that we be one – five times! Meditate on John chapter 17 and count them yourself. (See verses 11, 21a, 21b, 22, and 23) Of all times, He should have been thinking solely of Himself and His impending sufferings. But no, He thought of us, His Body, and longed only that we would be one. And why is our unity so important to the Master? He says it plainly – “that the world may believe” (21a) “that the world may know” He was sent by the Father (23). He ultimately had the world on His heart. Our oneness plays a central role in God’s purpose for the whole world. When will we make it a central theme in our lives, especially our prayer life and act accordingly?
A central doctrine that has divided the Church for generations has been the teaching on “election.” It has created two major camps – those who say God only predestines some to salvation, and those who say God desires all to be saved. How many have been the debates on this theme! The lines are clearly drawn. There is a young missionary in my church who has resigned from an International Mission agency over this teaching. Only the Blessed Hope can resolve this impasse. See chapter five of “Hope Beyond Hell.”
I believe the Blessed Hope is the key to unite the Christian world and authenticate Christ’s servants as divine messenger’s of good news to a hurting world! It exalts and honors and glorifies God’s holy and loving character before the world. No longer can God be accused of being cruel, unloving and unjust. He is fair to all peoples in all nations and throughout all ages (Acts 10: 34-36)! Now, all Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, tribal peoples, and Native Americans can be assured that their deceased ancestors and family members are NOT being tormented in hell forever! This single truth will transform Christian Missions! It will elevate Jesus to His rightful place as “Savior of the World” (John 4:42) and through Him as such, bring good news of great joy to all people – Luke 2:10. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47). Did He succeed? Absolutely!“I accomplished the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). “The Son of God came to earth with the express purpose of undoing the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8 Phillips Modern English). Did He succeed? Absolutely! “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God” (Phil. 2:9-11). “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “We testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of Peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:15). How beautiful are your feet? Jesus is the “Savior of the World!”
As this precious truth becomes more and more accepted in the Christian world, it will create a stir and provoke opposition as it is now doing. Many warn that this teaching is a false teaching prophesied for the last days. That breaks my heart. The false teaching is the teaching that denies the good news of great joy for all people. But this resistance is necessary, like birth pains if you will. It will force the Church to re-evaluate the Scriptural basis for its tradition of everlasting punishment. Does it line up with the Word of God and His moral witness in each human heart? There are tens of thousands of believers in our land who embrace this truth and it is expanding throughout the world through the internet. You will find believers in this Blessed Hope actively serving Christ in all Christian churches and outside of structured religion as well. It’s just a matter of time before we all come out of the closet! Why?
Almost all believers in Christ long and hope that God be truly all powerful, with inexhaustible and unfailing love for all. Who in their heart of hearts, believes beyond the shadow of a doubt, that most of the world is destined to eternal suffering as tradition up to now has maintained? Only a small minority would insist on this. An eternal hell contradicts God’s character, and we all know it. Who is not repulsed by such a horrid doctrine? No defense of it satisfies us. It is something we have learned to tolerate and live with. We give it lip service but inside we block it out of our minds. How else can we cope? Can you relate? To confirm this, candidly and non-threateningly ask your closest friends, those who are mature and have had time to think through their beliefs, what they really believe about hell. You will be surprised at what you will discover. I was.
When Christians recognize and acknowledge the comprehensive biblical basis for our hope, and are assured that it is a viable theological position, stripped of any disrespect and scorn, I believe it will once again become the prevailing theology of the Church as it was in the early centuries. If you do not hope in your heart of hearts that this theology is true, I can only pray for you. In the very least, please do not judge or condemn those who accept it. I leave you with some thoughts from Billy Graham:
“In Graham’s view, the core message of the Gospel, and the love of God ‘for all people’ should take priority. But more recent years have given him something he had little of in his decades of global evangelism: time to think both more deeply and more broadly….He refuses to be judgmental thinks God’s ways and means are veiled from human eyes and wrapped in mystery. ‘There are many things that I don’t understand,’ he says. He does not believe that Christians need to take every verse of the Bible literally; ‘sincere Christians,’ he says, ‘can disagree about the details of Scripture and theology—absolutely’. He is arguing that the Bible is open to interpretation, and fair-minded Christians may disagree or come to different conclusions about specific points. Like Saint Paul, he believes human beings on this side of paradise can grasp only so much. ‘Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror,’ Paul wrote, ‘then we shall see face to face.’ ‘As time went on, I began to realize the love of God for everybody, all over the world,’ he says. ‘And in his death on the cross, some mysterious thing happened between God and the Son that we don’t understand. But there he was, alone, taking on the sins of the world. I spend more time on the love of God than I used to.’ When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: Those are decisions only the Lord will make I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have.” (4)
Let us follow Rev. Graham’s lead and refuse to be judgmental, believe the love of God is absolute, acknowledge His ways are veiled from human eyes and wrapped in mystery, and spend more time contemplating the love of God. In the very least, let us shun a dogmatic attitude that thinks that only what “we” affirm is truly biblically based. Dare we condemn our fellow believers for believing that God’s power, love, and mercy are greater than we are willing to accept? Dare we condemn them for believing the Bible to mean “all” when it says “all.” Are all things really possible with God? Some of us think so.
One final thought:
Is it “faith” in Christ, or “faith” in an eternal hell that makes us true Christians? The Apostle Paul pleads with us in these words: “I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ep. 4:1-6 NAS)
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that your will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Ro. 15:13 NAS
Author Hope Beyond Hell www.HopeBeyondHell.net
(1) Slick, Matthew. www.tentmaker.org/URrebuttals/carm.htm
(2) Slick, Matthew. www.carm.org/index/aboutcarm.htm
(3) Amirault, Gary. www.tentmaker.org/FAQ/faqnew1.html
(4) Meacham, Jon. Newsweek Magazine. 14 August 2006.
Excerpt from interview with Billy Graham. www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14204483/