Are Jehovah’s Witnesses right about at least one thing? They believe the wicked are ultimately destroyed (annihilated) rather than tortured in perpetuity in hell. Compared with eternal torment, annihilation sounds a lot more merciful, and I also held that opinion for a year, more or less. It was such a relief compared to the doctrine of eternal conscious torment.
But I’ll have to find something else to agree with the JWs about, because annihilation has gone out the window for me. I was sitting down to do some reading (a new book about hearing God’s voice) when suddenly (and yes, I mean suddenly) a strong NEED came to me. I had been thinking about Jesus’ metaphor of the narrow gate and the difficult way and what that meant in terms of how populated (or not) heaven would be. What a depressing thought!
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 HCSB)
“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able. (Luke 13:24 HCSB)
That sounds like Abraham’s children will be more like rare shells of the seashore than like the sand of the seashore. There are plenty of places in scripture where God promises great multitudes of offspring to Abraham, but there are also plenty of warnings as to just how very few the elect will be. What does this mean?
At the same time, a great sadness came over me, thinking about loved ones of whom I had NO reason to hope had or ever would come into a saving knowledge of the Lord. I had already begun to suspect that some who hadn’t had a chance to KNOW God would at least be given the grace of turning to Him postmortem and prejudgment. After all, that squares with the justice and mercy of our God. Shouldn’t everyone at least be given an equal chance to choose Life?
I’d also wondered, considering that the punishment the worst of offenders was sure to last longer than the punishment of the least, what God would do if someone genuinely repented from the midst of their punishment? God knows when we’re sincere, and what if they really WERE sincere? Would He refuse them? But if He did accept their repentance, wouldn’t that give the worst offenders a greater chance at repenting? (They would have more time, after all.) That would hardly be just. Needless to say, none of this was fitting together for me at all . . . .
Inquiring minds want to know, so I did what any of you would do. I Googled it. What better place to find people, brothers and sisters in the Lord, who would be eager to share their opinions on pretty much anything? 😉 I searched “Christian Universalism,” and found lots of sites. After I’d weeded out the Unitarians, I decided to ask my questions at the Evangelical Universalist forum. This link is to my original questions, so you can read them with the answers in case you’re interested. Once I read the things people replied to me, I felt a little silly for not having thought of those things before — but God made us to need one another, right?
I’ll write more later . . .