Before saying anything else let me make one thing perfectly clear. The Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, doesn’t need Arthur Eedle to canvass His character electronically across the globe, as though on some campaign trail. He is quite capable of looking after His own affairs, as He always has done, and always will do. Neither do I vainly imagine that He has set me up to act in this capacity.I have often spoken about the sterling character of the Lord, and will continue to do so, and the reason is that as the years go by, my eyes have been opened yet wider still to perceive the greatness, the wonder, the creative ability, the mercy and pity, the purity, the holiness and righteousness, and the amazing love of God, in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Quite simply, I delight in speaking about the One whom I yearn for with a full heart, mind and soul. That is the reason, and I am glad to testify in this vein.
In the last paper I posed a question, and made a plea for my readers to face the facts squarely, rather than shrug shoulders and assume that I am back on my Universalist hobby-horse once again. If God’s character is the parameter by which all truth is thrashed out, then no one who names the name of Christ can afford to leave important matters in the pending file. Sometimes a jolt is necessary to make people face up to facts, and I make no apology for doing just that.
Dorothy L. Sayers, author of the play The Man born to be King, was a great protagonist for truth and excellence. The Rev. Dr. E.L.Mascall, writing about her, said, “Her central concern is clear and it is supported by almost everything that she ever wrote about religion. It is that, when all is said and done, the only really relevant reason for accepting Christianity is that you are convinced that it is true, not that it is comfortable or uncomfortable, interesting or uninteresting, profitable or unprofitable, or what-have-you, but simply that it is true.”
Now many Christians argue about this and that, topics of religion becoming like the balls that are batted back and forth across the tennis courts of academia. It might be supposed that this issue of an everlasting torment is just one of those balls, and it is merely a matter of opinion whether or not it is believed. This I strongly refute. I maintain that anyone who has been fully advised of the facts concerning hell and the lake of fire from the whole gamut of the Bible, (as I began to do in the last number) and who still maintains belief in eternal torment, grossly offends the character of God, and hides behind a wall of falsehood.
I am aware that “truth” is hateful to Satan, and he does everything he can to impugn it, sully it with compromise, and destroy it. Like Paul said in Romans 1:18 “God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold (Greek = hold down, suppress) the truth in unrighteousness.” Daniel declared the matter in equally direct terms when he prophesied, (8:12) “By reason of transgressions, (the Little Horn, the embodiment of evil on the Earth) cast down the truth to the ground, and he did it with effect and succeeded.” In other words it is not the world, but unrighteousness within God’s people that empowers the Devil to foster his evil designs. The teaching currently rife in Evangelicalism that over 90% of all humankind will suffer endless torment is one of Satan’s biggest lies. The alternative is unthinkable for him, because he hates the very thought of bowing the knee to Christ.
I am quite aware that I am but a voice in the wilderness, preaching the gospel of Jesus’ total victory at Calvary, against the almost overwhelming tradition that only a few will be saved, and the rest lost for ever. But truth is truth, whether 1% believe it or 99% believe it. Many are the incidents in the past where tradition has finally been broken down by someone initially considered a pompous idiot, whether in the sphere of religion or science.
In recent days the Holy Spirit has been quietly but effectively working in the lives of a number of people to bring them to the place of decision, and sometimes it is a most traumatic experience, causing even greater turmoil than in dramatic conversion experiences. Let me quote from one or two who have written to me. I’ll mention no names. It would serve no useful purpose, and possibly detract from the power of their testimonies.
“For many years, as a Christian, I was unable to rest in God’s love while trusting Him to bring me into wholeness. Perhaps you struggle now with the same restless panic that held me captive. Perhaps you wonder, ‘How can I rest in God’s love in my wretched state?! Yes, God is love. But the Bible also says He hates sin, and it warns us of God’s eternal wrath and judgement.’
That was my state of mind for decades. It finally resulted in hospitalisation and living for a year without sanity, and for many months being ‘sustained’ by prescription anti-depressants.
I was brought up in a legalistic Christianity that taught, ‘Jesus loves you, but watch out! No sin will enter Heaven, and He mayreturn or let you die on one of your bad days. . .’ Sheesh! As a young adult, it suddenly dawned on me; that concept of the gospel had to be wrong, for it was anything but ‘good news.’
So I found friendship with Christians who understood the gospel differently. Their version (and, for years, my own) was, ‘Jesus loves you, and if you’ll receive Him as Lord and Savior before it’s too late He will save you. And once you’re saved, you will always be saved. And once you are truly saved you will want to obey and serve Him, though sinless perfection will never happen in this lifetime.’
Problem was, so much wreckage still remained in my life, my reflexes, thoughts, mind and emotions! I could see what appeared to be evidence of God’s Spirit working in my life. I even received, on occasions, what seemed to be positive proof God was affirming and loving me – actually speaking inside my heart,
On the other hand, I saw what appeared to be proof positive – repeatedly – that I had never been truly saved. (Uh oh, there’s the catch! Right?) There were times when nothing inside me wanted to obey the Lord – not even to try! Not even a little! I found myself filled with rage, lust and rebellion. Seasons came (and, thankfully, went) in which I didn’t want to think about God or Jesus – let alone hear or speak about spiritual issues.
Then . . . . I would ‘wake up’ again, filled with fear, shame, self-loathing and remorse. Had I ever been truly saved? How could I have been, in light of all the havoc I was causing? Had all my, so-called ‘God-encounters’ been only demonic delusions? Perhaps I was a counterfeit, an evil and deluded dreamer who only thought he was one of the ‘elect.’ For, given the parameters of my Scriptural understanding – Biblically speaking – there was no way to know. ‘God’ was an agonizing blur in my tormented brain. I found that I loved Him, yet also I hated Him and recoiled in horror from Him.”
This was how my dear friend began his testimony, and in great detail went on to show how the Spirit of the Lord led him to understand God’s larger plan, His total victory at the cross, and that salvation was not a matter of ‘chance’, but rather of God’s design for all mankind. Not all would rise to the ranks of rulership in the Kingdom, but all were washed by the precious blood of Calvary, and in due course all would be enlightened to appreciate that bountiful gift.
Here is the majority of a letter we received just a short time ago from another friend.
“Thank you very much for your response. To say that I’ve been struggling with the issue of eternal hell vs. universal reconciliation would be a huge understatement. For the past two years, it’s occupied my thinking constantly. I’ve researched anything and everything I could get my hands on which I thought would give me further insight to my question. I just don’t have any peace whatsoever if I ever feel that eternal hell is the destiny for anyone. The reason that I started researching this issue so intensely two years ago is that I was able to finally pinpoint exactly what the root problem was which caused my severe feelings of anxiety and insecurity. My problem was that I did not completely trust God under my then-present belief about hell. I felt that if God would ever abandon anyone for eternity if they did something wrong, then how can anyonefeel secure until they finally get to heaven. In addition to that, how could anyone really enjoy heaven if another human being was suffering eternal torments in hell. I mean, God Himself completely instils in His children to love unconditionally- would we just lose feeling for the people in hell once in heaven?
Anyway, fortunately I’ve been able to dispel one myth after another regarding this horrific teaching. It’s been the most difficult 2 years I’ve ever experienced in dealing with this issue. Sometimes, I didn’t know how I was going to get through. I researched as hard as I could. I prayed constantly. For the longest time, I felt that I just couldn’t find any relief. Even up to very recently, I felt this way. Sometimes I wonder why the Bible doesn’t make it more clear. But, I have found assurance now. In taking all of the Bible verses regarding hell, judgement and punishment along with all of the verses dealing with salvation, reconciliation, and restitution, I feel confident that the message of the Bible is that at the end– God will be all in all. Now, this alone does not give me the confidence level and assurance that I need in order to feel at peace and secure in and of itself, but this taken together with the character of God- like you said- solidifies my assurance that there is no eternal hell. ”
Finally, here’s a third letter just received.
“In regards to the present message, [i.e. Wayside Pulpit No. 98] I’ll use the testimony of my Mother, now deceased, ‘I would not serve a God who would torment his children for eternity.’ This is strong, coming from a devoted Christian, reared in orthodox Southern Baptist religion. But, I agree with her – I do not believe in a literal hell where God sends bad people to burn forever. God’s punishments are for correction, not revenge. Those who do believe in eternal punishment will say: ‘In Christianity without the doctrine of eternal punishment, there is absolutely NO reason to serve the Lord.’ They are living a life of fear, instead of love.
Now for a short testimonial from me: God found me, turned my life around, cleared my mind and planted my feet on solid ground. He revealed His true character to me, and now I serve Him because I love Him, not because of fear. If I were a king, I would want my subjects to serve me out of love, not fear. So does He.”
As C.S.Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”
Finally, here is a word from God the Father, by which He expresses Himself to us all in clear language that no one can misinterpret.
“I know you. I created you. I have loved you from your mother’s womb. You have fled – as you now know – from my love, but I love you nevertheless and not-the-less however far you flee. It is I who sustains your very power of fleeing, and I will never finally let you go. I accept you as you are. You are forgiven. I know all your sufferings. I have always known them. Far beyond your understanding, when you suffer, I suffer. I also know all the little tricks by which you try to hide the ugliness you have made of your life from yourself and others. But you are beautiful. You are beautiful more deeply within than you can see. You are beautiful because you yourself, in the unique person that you are, reflect already something of the beauty of my holiness in a way which shall never end. You are beautiful also because I, and I alone, see the beauty you shall become. Through the transforming power of my love, which is made perfect in weakness, you shall become perfectly beautiful. You shall become perfectly beautiful in a uniquely irreplaceable way, which neither you nor I will work out alone, for we shall work it out together.”
Taken from “Known”, by Rev. Dr. Charles K. Robinson, 4th Nov. 1973 (Duke Divinity School Review. Winter 1979.Volume 44. page 44) [This was first published by us in W.P.3]