I have a knack for taking two opposing views and finding some things of great merit in each of them.
I also have a knack for taking two opposing views and finding glaring weaknesses in each of them.
Basically, on any given day both sides might love me or hate me. And for my own opinion, it usually ends up somewhere in the middle, and I choose to not play the game of polarity.
The battle over eternity is no different. Traditional believers in heaven/hell, annihilationists, universalists, Calvinists... all have had their days in the sun over the past two millenia. And each can easily cite scriptures to support their views, and rightly so. Each one has merit based on biblical texts. Yet each view of eternity also has serious problems reconciling fully with the biblical texts.
Actually, I understated that. Each view cannot possibly reconcile fully with the biblical texts. Because the bible says things like this:
Matthew 25:41 -- "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
2 Thessalonians 1:9 -- "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power"
Colossians 19-20 -- "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."
Revelation 20:13 -- "The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done."
I picked just four passages but already I wish anyone good luck in reconciling them all, especially if you want to get deep into the historical, cultural and language contexts of each. So in this fight between hell and universalism, between free will and predestination, between eternal souls and annihilation... I choose not to play. I think it's a false choice.
Maybe the bible has all those different statements because each viewpoint of eternity is partly true!
Traditional view -- I think you're right. There will be judgment on judgment day, and it won't all be pretty and graceful.
Universalists -- I think you're right. The final story will be more beautiful than we can possibly imagine, and in the end, the gospel (GOOD NEWS) will prevail.
Calvinists -- I think you're right. God knew what he was doing with this universe right from the beginning, and it's going perfectly to plan.
Annihilationists -- I think you're right. There are pieces of our souls, and perhaps even parts of creation, that will one day be destroyed forever.
But I also think that in other ways, every view has it wrong. And to take any one view as the only truth leaves out some important elements of who God is, and what He has in store for us.
To me it's a false choice. There's another way.
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