Universal Salvation

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Cor 15:22

Introduction
Traditional Christianity argues that Jesus Christ Himself preached more about hell than any other person in the Bible. We shall examine in detail all the relevant verses where Jesus Christ speaks about 'hell', and see how, where and why Christians have misunderstood, mistranslated and misapplied the words of Jesus.

The King James Version (KJV) was the only standard version of the Bible for English speaking Protestant Christians for nearly 350 years, until the general acceptance of the Revised Standard Version in 1952. Therefore, the KJV has had a major influence on formulating the traditional Christian view of the doctrine of hell in Protestant Christianity.

There are four words in the Bible that have been translated as hell, by the translators of the KJV. These are one Hebrew word, sheol and three Greek words, hades, tartarus and gehenna. The word hell occurs 54 times in total in the KJV.

Sheol occurs 65 times in the Old Testament and hades occurs 11 times in the New Testament. The Greek word hades is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word sheol. A study of all of the verses where these two words occur in the Bible proves that the correct meaning of sheol and hades is the grave (the place of the dead) or the pit, and not hell.

The KJV translators were wrong when they translated sheol 31 times and hades 10 times to mean hell. They had no justification to translate these words as hell, especially when they understood that the correct meaning of sheol was the grave or the pit, as they correctly translated sheol 34 times out of the 65 times it occurs, to mean the grave or the pit. As the Greek word hades is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word sheol, hades also means the grave or the pit, and not hell. So, why did the KJV translators incorrectly translate these words as hell in the Bible? The obvious answer is that the KJV translators were strongly influenced by the deeply entrenched doctrine of hell, which was strictly taught by Roman Catholicism for hundreds of years. In fact, the translators of most subsequent versions of the Bible have corrected the errors made by the KJV translators, to varying degrees.

When we examine how often the word hell occurs in various versions of the Bible written since the KJV, we can see just how widely Bible translators have differed in their opinion and understanding of the word hell Consider this revealing fact in the following few versions compared to the KJV.

King James Version (KJV) hell occurs 54 times

New King James Version (NKJV) hell occurs 32 times Revised Standard Version (RSV) hell occurs 17 times New International Version (NIV) hell occurs 14 times Darby Translation Version (DT) hell occurs 12 times Young Literal Version (YLT) hell occurs 0 times

In some Bible Versions, sheol and hades are translated to mean the underworld in a couple of places. This meaning is a mistranslation. It is clear that the translation of sheol and hades to mean the underworld has been influenced by pagan Greek mythology and it is not supported anywhere in Scripture.

The Greek word tartarus, which is also incorrectly translated as hell in the KJV and some other Bible versions, occurs only once in the Bible in 2 Peter 2:4, in connection with the judgement of fallen angels. Tartarus does not mean hell but it means a prison of spiritual darkness, which all fallen angels are confined to until their final judgement.

Let us now consider the meaning of the Greek word gehenna, which is also mistranslated as 'hell' and occurs 12 times in the New Testament. Jesus Christ used the Greek word gehenna, in the four gospels, to refer to the future Lake of Fire judgement of unbelievers during the Great White Throne Judgement Age. We need to understand the importance of the Greek word gehenna and why Jesus Christ used it to refer to the Lake of Fire judgement.

The Valley of Hinnom

"The Hinnom Valley is a deep, narrow ravine located in Jerusalem, running south from the Jaffa Gate on the west side of the Old City, then eastward along the south side of Mount Zion until it meets the Kidron Valley which separates the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives on the east side of the city. It is named from a certain "son of Hinnom" who apparently owned or had some significant association with the valley at a time prior to Joshua 15:8.

The Valley of Hinnom had a very horrendous history in ancient times. It was used as a place where the pagan worshipers did all sorts of vile and wicked things - including burning children alive as sacrifices to the idols Moloch and Bal. One section of the valley was called Tophet, or the "fire-stove," where the children were slaughtered (2 Kings 23:10). It was a place of tremendous evil for many years.

After their return from Babylon, the Jews turned the Hinnom Valley into the city dump where garbage and anything deemed unclean (including the bodies of executed criminals) was incinerated. For that purpose, a fire was kept constantly burning there. Even though it was no longer used for evil worship, with all the filth and thick smoke it remained a very dark and dreary place." (Taken from an internet site called: 'Valley of Hinnom' by The Church of God, Daily Bible Study)

It is interesting to note that the present day Valley of Hinnom is nothing like what is described above. The Israeli government transformed the Valley of Hinnom into a garden. We believe that this transformation has a prophetic and spiritual significance.

Let us be absolutely clear that Jesus Christ did not speak about hell as understood by traditional Christianity. Jesus Christ spoke about gehenna and not hell. Bible translators have mistranslated and misinterpreted the Greek word gehenna to mean hell, a place of eternal punishment for all unbelievers.

It is clear that Jesus used the imagery of the Valley of Hinnom in Matthew, Mark and Luke to describe the future fiery judgement of unbelievers in the Lake of Fire. The future judgement of all unbelievers will take place at the Great White Throne Judgement. Therefore, the important question facing us is 'Why did Jesus use the imagery of the Valley of Hinnom to describe the age to come judgement of unbelievers in the Lake of Fire?'

The Valley of Hinnom is associated with death, fire, rubbish, dung, shame and darkness. All these words have spiritual meanings. Unbelievers are not fit to enter the Kingdom of God whilst clothed in the filthy rags of their own works of self-righteousness. They are spiritually dead and in darkness. Their self-righteous works, just like filthy rags, are rubbish fit only for throwing away and burning. Unbelievers are of no use to God until and unless they have first been humbled, cleansed by God's fire, repented and received the free gift of God's Salvation and Righteousness. They need to be clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with the robes of righteousness. God's standard to enter the Kingdom of God never changes. Our salvation is always through grace, and it is always by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ uses strong words and terminology to describe gehenna, which is the judgement of unbelievers in the Lake of Fire during the Great White Throne Judgement Age. Examples of these are: perish, unquenchable fire, undying worm, darkness, kill, weeping and gnashing of teeth, cut off the part of the body that offends, fear, destruction of body and soul, fiery furnace, wrath, condemnation and death.

These descriptive words spoken by Jesus about the judgement of unbelievers fall into four groups.

The First Group

The words which refer to the future judgement in terms of perish, lost, ruined, destroy, kill and fear.

Luke 13:3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish (apollumi).

The Greek word for perish is apollumi which also means lost or render useless. So here Christ is saying that unless you repent you are useless to God, and if something is useless it is only good to be thrown away like rubbish and burnt. But God is a Refiner and a Restorer.

In the beautiful story of the lost son (the prodigal son) given in Luke 15, Jesus Christ uses the same Greek word appollumi.

Luke 15:24 'for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost (appollumi), and is found.' And they began to be merry.

In the Bible, the Greek word appollumi is used to mean all of these: to be destroyed, to perish, to render useless, to be killed, to be ruined and to be lost.

So when Jesus Christ says, 'that unless you repent you will all likewise perish', Jesus does not and cannot mean that a person will perish eternally because the story of the lost son proves categorically that the lost son (or perished son) was found and that he was dead and was alive again.

Matthew 18:11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (appollumi).

Here again the same Greek word appollumi is used. Christ is indeed committed to saving all those who are lost and not to throwing them into a hell of eternal torture or annihilating them.

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy (appollumi) both soul and body in hell (gehenna).

Christ says that we must not fear men who at worst can only kill us physically, but they cannot take away the resurrected life, which God will give to all people. However, we need to fear God because if we do not fear Him in this age before we die, then there is judgement awaiting us in gehenna, meaning in the Lake of Fire on the Great White Throne Judgement Day.

Notice how Christ once again uses the same word appollumi. The destruction of both, 'soul and body in hell' is, of course, nothing other than a reference to the Second Death, the death of 'the old man'. Our 'old Adamic man' must die first before the life of the 'new Jesus man' can be born in us.

Matthew 10:39 He who finds his life will lose (appollumi) it, and he who loses (appollumi) his life for My sake will find it.

In this verse, Christ is once again emphasising the same truth by using the Greek word appollumi. We must first lose our old self-righteous Adamic man before we can find the new Righteous Jesus Man. This is true for believers during this life and for unbelievers in the Lake of Fire judgement, which Jesus refers to as gehenna.

It should now be abundantly clear that when Jesus Christ uses the Greek Word appollumi in connection with the future judgement of unbelievers in gehenna (mistranslated as hell), He does not mean that unbelievers will perish, be lost, killed, destroyed, ruined or tortured for eternity. Jesus is clearly referring to a future temporary refining judgement of unbelievers. We have already established that all of God's judgements ultimately lead to God's Righteousness and His Salvation, and not to eternal torture in hell or annihilation.

The Second Group

The words, which refer to the future judgement in terms of weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness and fire.

Luke 13:28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.

Matthew 8:12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus Christ had some very strong words against the Pharisees, because Jesus absolutely hated their self-righteousness. The Pharisees believed that they would be first to enter the Kingdom of God, but Jesus Christ said quite the opposite. He said, 'even tax collectors and harlots will enter the kingdom of God before them'. (Matthew 21:31)

Self-righteous Pharisees and self-righteous Christians, who think that they are the sons of the kingdom, will be absolutely shocked on the Day of Judgement to find themselves thrust out. They will weep because of great disappointment and gnash their teeth in despair and anger against God, because they will feel let down by God as all of their good works were to no avail for their salvation.

Of course, God loves self-righteous people, but not in their self-righteous state. God's judgement in gehenna (the Lake of Fire) will make sure that ALL people will learn and understand the true Righteousness of God through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 13:40-42 (see also Matthew 13:50) 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus Christ uses the phrases 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' and 'wailing and gnashing of teeth' to condemn men's religions, which are based on self-righteous works. Religious people think that they will go to heaven because of what they can do for God, instead of accepting by faith what God has already done for them through Jesus Christ. On the Day of Judgement they will be shocked, utterly disappointed and in anguish (weeping/wailing and gnashing of teeth) to know that Jesus Christ does not recognise them, because they are not wearing the pure garments, the white linen robes of God's Righteousness. They are still clothed in their old filthy rags of self-righteousness.

The Third Group

The words which refer to the future judgement in terms of 'unquenching fire, cut off your hand or anything that offends these little ones and their worm does not die'.

Mark 9:42-44 (see also Mark 9:45-48, Matthew 18:6-9) 42 But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell (gehenna), into the fire that shall never be quenched - 44 where 'Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'

Here, Jesus gives a warning not to offend 'these little ones who believe in Me'. So who are the little ones? The little ones are God's Elect, all those who are truly born again Christians, those who have fully accepted by repentance and faith the true Righteousness of God.

Jesus Christ says that those who offend 'the little ones' will face a severe judgement in God's consuming fire, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. It is better for any offender of God's Elect to take a drastic measure (compared to cutting off the offending part of the body) and repent of his offence before he dies, than face the fiery, refining judgement of God in the Lake of Fire.

Whose worm does not die? Is this the worm of 'the little ones' or the worm of the offenders? The context does not make it very clear. However, either way, it does not make a difference once we understand who the worm represents.

Now here is a surprising revelation.

Psalm 22: 6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.

Psalm 22 is a Messianic Psalm. It is a prophecy of the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus humbled himself on the cross so that we might have God's Righteousness, and the free gift of Salvation.

Jesus says that He is their worm, the little ones' worm and the offenders' worm. On the cross, Jesus Christ humbled Himself like a worm for all of mankind and we must learn from His example of great humility. All hardhearted unbelievers will be humbled in the Lake of Fire and come to understand the sacrifice of their Saviour in God's order and His time.

The Fourth Group

The words, which refer to the future judgement in terms of degrees of judgement, e.g. more tolerable than Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement, and more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

Matthew 10:14-15 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

Matthew 11:21-22 21 Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

Jesus Christ says that everyone will not face the same level of judgement in the Great White Throne Judgement Age. Here, we are talking about the judgement of unbelievers only, because believers will not face God's judgement in the Lake of Fire.

When Jesus walked on this earth, the Jews had His light available to them in person, but they were blind to it. Jesus says that the people of Tyre and Sidon, and even the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, will require less judgement than the unbelieving Jews who plotted to kill Him.

Luke 12:48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

Yes, the Bible says that there will be different levels and degrees of judgement, punishment and humbling experiences for unbelievers in the age to come judgement. However, ALL of God's judgements flow out of His love and are designed to lead people to their Saviour, and not to eternal torture in hell.

What about the 'everlasting' punishment spoken of by Jesus?

Matthew 25:46 And these will go away into everlasting (aionios) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (aionios) life.

When you come right down to it, this verse Matthew 25:46 is the only verse spoken by Jesus Christ in all of the four gospels, which appears to support the notion of everlasting punishment. Augustine heavily depended upon this single verse to support his heretical theology of eternal torture in hell.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God tortures unbelievers or fallen angels, nor does it say that God punishes unbelievers or fallen angels forever. There are four words in the Bible, two Greek words aion and aionios, and two Hebrew words owlam and ad, which have often been misinterpreted or mistranslated in most bible versions to mean forever, everlasting or eternal. All of these four words are age-related, referring to an age of a definite time duration having a beginning and an end. Mistranslation or misinterpretation of these four age-related words is an important reason why Christians have failed to understand God's Plan of the Ages to reconcile all things to God through Jesus Christ, and why the heresy of the doctrine of hell has taken hold in the Christian world for centuries. An accurate translation of Matthew 25:46 as:

Matthew 25:46 (SLT) And these will go away into an age-to-come corrective punishment, but the righteous into an age-to-come life.

What about the scripture that says, it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born?

Matthew 26:24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.

If the doctrine of hell were true, then it would be better for most people not to have been born because traditional Christianity believes that the overwhelming majority of people end up in hell. If this were the case, then all women should immediately stop having children, because chances are their children would end up in a hell of endless torment.

The meaning in the verse above is that it would have been better for Judas not to be born to betray Jesus, because Judas will have to go through God's Lake of Fire judgement before he can be reconciled to God.

Let us further understand why Jesus says that it would have been better for Judas not to be born to betray Him.

John 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

John 13:18 I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me'.

These verses refer to Judas. It was written in the Old Testament that Judas would betray Jesus. (Psalm 41:9) It may be hard for us to understand that Judas was chosen right from the foundation of the world to betray Jesus. Think about it, if Judas did not betray Jesus, then we would not have a Saviour.

Judas understood the way of Righteousness, but he then rejected it.

2 Peter 2:21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

2 Peter 3:7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

The Bible says that it would have been better for Judas and many other people not to have known the way of Righteousness, than having known it, to then turn away from it. Judas and all sons of perdition (ungodly men) will face the Lake of Fire judgement, before they can be reconciled to God.

What about the 'unpardonable sin'?

Matthew 12:31-32 31 Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

There is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. If Jesus Christ was willing to forgive the sins of His murderers, then all sins are forgiveable provided they are repented of, on the basis of what Christ has achieved on the cross. The verses above must be understood within the context of God's Plan for All, which He is working out in biblical Ages.

Jesus says that sins against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven in this present age or in the age-to-come. We are currently in what Jesus refers to as this age, and the age-to-come is the Millennial Age. However, we have already established in previous chapters that the sins of ALL unbelievers will be forgiven in the Great White Throne Judgement Age, which is the age following the Millennial Age.

What about the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus?

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus as given in Luke 16:19-31 is about the mystery of the Kingdom of God. This parable is the most misunderstood parable of all parables, and it does not prove the doctrine of eternal torture in hell.

What about the resurrection of condemnation?

John 5:28-29 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (krisis).

Please note that the Greek word krisis has been translated as condemnation and should have been more accurately translated as judgement.

The Bible speaks about two resurrections, the First Resurrection and the Second Resurrection, which are set apart by the thousand-year Millennial Age of Christ's rule on this earth. The First Resurrection is the resurrection of life when the Saints, the Bride of Christ will be raised at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The Second Resurrection is both the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgement. The Second Resurrection occurs when the rest of humanity are resurrected at the end of Christ's Millennial Age, when the Great White Throne Judgement Age begins. This is when all believers who lived during Christ's Millennial Age will be resurrected to life. However, all unbelievers from throughout the Ages will be resurrected for judgement and experience the Lake of Fire Judgement and the Second Death, before they can be reconciled to God. In Chapter 12, we give a detailed explanation of God's refining yet merciful judgement during the Great White Throne Judgement Age.

We have now fully covered all the scriptures, which have been used by traditional Christianity from the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to provide their 'proof texts' in support of the doctrine of eternal torture in hell. The scriptures show us categorically that Jesus Christ DOES NOT support this false, unbiblical doctrine.

What about Apostle Paul, does he preach hell?

Apostle Paul never speaks about a hell of eternal torture. He speaks about the righteous judgement of God in terms of the 'wrath of God', which unbelievers will face on the Day of Judgement. This agrees with the teaching of Jesus Christ.

There is only one scripture of Paul's writings, 2 Thessalonians 1:9 that is misguidedly used to support the doctrine of hell or annihilation.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 These shall be punished with everlasting (aionios) destruction (olethros) from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.

In this verse, the Greek word aionios is incorrectly translated as everlasting. Aionios is an age related word and an accurate translation in this verse is an age-to-come 'destruction'.

The Greek word olethros, which comes from the root word ollumi, is translated as destruction. Ollumi is linked to the Greek word apollumi, which is the very same word used by Jesus in the beautiful story of the prodigal son, who was lost and found. So, in the verse above, destruction does not mean annihilation of unbelievers. In this verse, Apostle Paul does not believe in or write about eternal torture in hell or annihilation.

Yes, there is a future Lake of Fire judgement awaiting all who die as unbelievers when they will be resurrected at the Second Resurrection. In the Lake of Fire, 'the old man' of unbelievers will perish and be destroyed, which is their Second Death. 'The old man' of every unbeliever has to perish first through repentance and God given faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, before he can become born again as 'the new man'.

Apostle Paul's letters and the rest of the New Testament do not support the doctrine of Eternal Torture in Hell. On the contrary, Paul's letters have many clear and powerful biblical texts, which speak about universal reconciliation and salvation for all people. Please see (Romans 5:18-19, 1 Corinthians 3:15, 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, Ephesians 1:10, Philippians 2:8-10, Colossians 1:15-20, 1 Timothy 2:3-6 and 1 Timothy 4:9-11)

What about Peter and Jude, do they preach hell?

Peter and Jude strongly condemn wicked and ungodly men speaking in terms of, 'for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (aion)'. (2 Peter 2:17, Jude 1:13)

In these verses, as in many other places in the New Testament, the Greek word aion is mistranslated to mean forever by translators of most versions of the Bible. Yes, there is a future age-to-come (aion) judgement for all ungodly men but not an eternal judgement in 'hell'.

Once we understand that the two Greek words aion and aionios have been misinterpreted or mistranslated, there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament that supports the false doctrine of Eternal Torture in Hell.

What about the Old Testament, does it preach hell?

As in the case of the New Testament, age-related words in the Old Testament have been misinterpreted or mistranslated. These are the two Hebrew words owlam and ad, once we understand this, then there is absolutely nothing in the Old Testament either that supports the false doctrine of Eternal Torture in Hell.

Conclusion

It is clear to us that Bible translators have been hugely influenced by the deeply entrenched false doctrine of Eternal Torture in Hell, first championed by Augustine and embraced by the Roman Catholic Church in 553 AD. Perhaps there is no other single theologian, who has exerted as much influence as Augustine on Roman Catholicism and Protestantism throughout the history of Christianity, since the fourth century.

Augustine was steeped in pagan philosophy and religion before he converted to Roman Catholicism, and the doctrine of hell is entirely pagan in its origin. Besides the false doctrine of Eternal Torture in Hell, Augustine also promoted the doctrines of Purgatory, the Immortality of the Soul and Amillennium, which are all unbiblical teachings.