[Note: The following is a sample of Chapter 16 from “God’s Gift to Humanity: Hell or Reconciliation?” The scriptures being discussed are from John. Scriptural citations are from the World English Bible.]
…UR IN JOHN
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.(John 1:3, emphasis added)
The Son is The Father’s grace. Grace made us and grace saves us. Christ Jesus is Grace. God is merciful to all. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment diminishes God’s capacity for mercy. This doctrine demands we believe God’s mercy is not really “over all.” We are all wonderfully made. We are all His creation. We will be reconciled to Him. This is “The Blessed Hope.”
The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world didn’t recognize him.(John 1:9-10, emphasis added)
Jesus Christ is the Light. He “…gives light to everyone….” His Light isn’t given only to this group or that; this nation or that; this man or that man. His light is in everyone. Everything created is created by Him. His Spirit is given to everyone. When we die our spirit returns to Him Who gave it. “The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world.” God’s love is for everyone and He puts His Spirit into everyone. It is God’s will that all be saved. God is Sovereign!
Lee Salisbury posits the thought, “If the doctrine of ‘eternal punishment’ is true, then…” scriptures like these we have been discussing “cannot be accepted at face value.” If the doctrine of eternal conscious torment is true, then “God’s ability to regenerate the spirit of man and to fulfill His own word is limited by the heartbeat of man.” That is a profound statement. The verses stand alone. They do not require any references to other scriptures to support them. They are true and reliable on their face.
Pride has led us to this place. We have denied God’s power when we say He is unable to reconcile and to restore a man’s (mankind, Adam) spirit. We have denied God’s promise when we say He is unable or unwilling to keep His promise. Pride has led us to this place. Lord help me to shed my pride. Help us all to see You in a Light that is all-consuming fire, love, mercy. Lead us to preach. Amen.
The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, emphasis added)
Mr. Sprenger tells us, “‘The ‘sin’ is in the singular, indicating the complete removal of the ‘sin principle’, or sin itself with all of its consequences, not just the individual acts of sin.” Sin is removed from the world. All sin over all time over the whole of His creation is taken away from the world. There is not a sin that is not forgiven except one and that is to withhold forgiveness from another. The unforgiving will not be forgiven. Who when standing before Him will be able to withhold forgiveness? I dare say no one.
John describes Him as the Lamb of God. It will be this Lamb that will shed blood to take away the sins of the world. The blood of this Lamb is God’s plan for the salvation of the world. It is His will that all be saved. Is there any other way to understand this scripture? Jesus is the Lamb of God. He “takes away the sin of the world!” He does not take away sin because a prayer was said. He does not take away sin because of any ritual. He came to take away the sin of the world.
These verses simply understood declare that all sin is a matter of the past. All sin of the world is taken away. The blood shed is saving grace. The blood shed is mercy without limits. The blood shed is love. The blood shed is God’s blood. His Son’s blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. All sins are forgiven. God is love in this Light. Jesus died for the sins of all. It was ordained before the foundations of the earth. His love is infinite and completely merciful. Not one of His sheep will be lost.
John the Baptist fulfills the prophecy regarding Christ Jesus by this declaration. “Behold! THE LAMB OF GOD takes away the sin of the world.” No confession, no conditions, nothing other than the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.
And, according as Moses exalts the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of Mankind be exalted, that everyone believing on Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian. For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian. For God does not dispatch His Son into the world that He should be judging the world, but that the world may be saved through Him. He who is believing in Him is not being judged, yet he who is not believing has been judged already, for he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
Now this is the judging: that the light has come into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the light, for their acts were wicked. For everyone who is committing bad things is hating the light and is not coming to the light, lest his acts may be exposed. Now he who is doing the truth is coming to the light that his acts may be made manifest, for they have been wrought in God..(John 3:14-21 (Concordant Literal Version), emphasis added)
All of the world is loved. He creates all the world and He loves His creation. The short hand version of these verses is that Jesus is the Light and men who believe in the Light are drawn to Him. Those men who choose to remain in darkness avoid the Light and are not drawn to Him. These verses are not judgment on anyone. Believers believe and their reward is age enduring life even while in this temporal world. A man who believes is living with the Lord even as the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father. A man who does not believe does not have the desire to come out of the darkness.
God did not send His Son to condemn the world. His Son came to save it. He was not sent to save some as the traditional doctrine of eternal conscious torment professes. God saves all. What is the judgment?
The world loves to live in the darkness. The world wants the darkness so as to keep secrets hidden from the light. The Light exposes the darkness of the world. The evil of men is seen clearly because the Light of Christ shines on all men. The Light of the world is the Judgment!
Christ Jesus is given by the Father to suffer a horrendous death by crucifixion. Christ Jesus is obedient to His Father. It is God Who gives salvation to the world through the gift of His Son’s shed blood. Christ did not come to judge, but to save. Believers and unbelievers, all men, fall short of the glory of God. An act of true unfettered, unconditional love is necessary for the reconciliation of all to the Father. That act is in the life, the ministry, the death, the burial, and ultimately the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
All that we do is known by the Father and is worked out in us through His Son. Good is exposed in the Light. Evil seeks to stay in the darkness so as not to be exposed. That is the judging. Is there even one person who in all creation has not hidden in darkness a sin they consider vile and perhaps unforgivable? Who in all creation is without sin?
This is the Good News; Christ Jesus sacrifices Himself for the sins of the world; even those sins that remain hidden in darkness. Christ Jesus is God’s Judgment!
The doctrine of eternal conscious torment requires these verses to mean something other than what is plainly and simply intended. The men who choose to stay in the darkness are condemned. To what? Jesus does not say any man is ever condemned to eternal conscious torment. In fact, the Holy Word of God leads us to believe that every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord to the Glory of the Father. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment is anathema to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Eternal conscious torment is indicative of a God Who hates.
They said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of your speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”(John 4:42, emphasis added)
These words from the mouths of Samaritans. The Samaritans are a people group particularly disdained by the Jews. After a few days with Christ they realize He is the Savior of the Jews and the Savior of the Samaritans. He is “the Savior of the world.”
The Pharisees during the time of Christ cannot see Christ as their Savior AND as the Savior of the world. The Pharisees hated Jesus. They did all they could to convince others that Jesus is a criminal and a blasphemer. Their belief is God is their Savior and only they are saved by God. It is an unpleasant analogy to make, but the advocates of eternal conscious torment have this in common with the Pharisees. They do not see Christ as their Savior AND as the Savior of the world. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment requires the majority of mankind be tormented in a place called hell forever. Those living with this doctrine find a way in scripture to reserve the Savior for themselves, but find eternal conscious torment in the scriptures to be the outcome for everybody else.
Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”
The Pharisees therefore said to him, “You testify about yourself. Your testimony is not valid.”
Jesus answered them, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from, and where I am going; but you don’t know where I came from, or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh.I judge no one. Even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent me. It’s also written in your law that the testimony of two people is valid. I am one who testifies about myself, and the Father who sent me testifies about me.”
They said therefore to him, “Where is your Father?”
Jesus answered, “You know neither me, nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” Jesus spoke these words in the treasury, as he taught in the temple. Yet no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. Jesus said therefore again to them, I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sins. Where I go, you can’t come.”
The Jews therefore said, “Will he kill himself, that he says, ‘Where I am going, you can’t come’?”
He said to them, “You are from beneath. I am from above. You are of this world. I am not of this world. I said therefore to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
They said therefore to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you. However he who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from him, these I say to the world.”(John 8:12-26, emphasis added)
Jesus declares in terms certain that He “…is the light of the world.” His light is not a light for Jews only. His is a light of the world. Christ Jesus is speaking to the leadership of the Jewish people. The Pharisees are a learned fellowship. They fancy themselves above the masses of Jews living at the time. In this exchange with the Pharisees Christ Jesus tells them they do not see the Light. The Pharisees are of the world. They rest in their flesh. They find comfort in what they believe they know. Christ Jesus tells them they will die in their sins.
The Pharisees, at least those who are attending this exchange, will die and be placed in their graves. They will die and the doctrine of eternal conscious torment demands the Pharisees will forever suffer in a place the doctrine calls hell. Christ Jesus is the authority preaching to these Pharisees on this day. He says nothing to them about eternal conscious torment. He says only that they will die in their sins.
Lee Salisbury and many others ask, “Did Jesus tell a lie when He said, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me.'”?
Jesus answered them, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Most certainly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life will lose it. He who hates his life in this world will keep it to eternal life. If anyone serves me, let him follow me. Where I am, there will my servant also be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ But for this cause I came to this time. Father, glorify your name!”
Then there came a voice out of the sky, saying, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered, “This voice hasn’t come for my sake, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world. Now the prince of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”(John 12:23-32, emphasis added)
Our Christ uses an analogy to describe how He will die and bring all men into reconciliation with God. Through Christ’s death and His resurrection God makes the way to reconciliation with Him complete. Christ’s obedience to death on the Cross saves all. He said He came to absolve the sins of the world. We read in these verses Christ’s admonition to set aside personal desires for the sake of meeting the needs of others. By our selfless service to others we bring glory to the Son. Serving others with a selfless heart brings heavenly blessings.
Jesus tells us His “soul is troubled.” He knows that soon He will be taken captive, persecuted, mocked, humiliated, beaten and convicted of crimes based in false testimonies from those He loves. Our Christ calls out to the Father. The Son acknowledges His purpose. Christ asks that the Father’s Name be glorified; not His own, but His Father’s Name be glorified. The Father audibly answers that indeed He has honored His Name and will do so again. Others with Jesus heard God’s response. Some tried to rationalize the voice of God as thunder or as the voice of an angel. Jesus sets them straight telling them that the Father spoke aloud for their benefit.
Christ goes on to declare that the Father’s judgment on the world is at hand. The Ruler of this world is not Satan as some suggest. The Ruler of this world is Christ Jesus and it is Christ Jesus being cast out. Men are rejecting Him and He is soon to be crucified and placed in a grave.
It is important to allow yourself to be a critical thinker. Do not be quick to follow the traditions of current and predominant theologies. Jesus says, “…if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” Does He say anything more than that? He was lifted up from the earth when He was hung on the cross to die. That part of the equation is satisfied. The second part of the promise is that He “will draw all men to Myself.” He does not say He will draw only a few. He does not say, “I will draw Augustinians / Calvinists to Myself.” He does not say, “I will draw Arminians to Myself.” He does not say, “I will draw only believers to Myself.”
Charles Spurgeon is known as a great preacher and his sermons are highly respected. A sermon message entitled “Christ Lifted Up” 1 can be viewed in its entirety at the Blue Letter Bible website. Dr. Spurgeon opens this sermon remarking, “It was an extraordinary occasion upon which the Saviour uttered these words.” Dr. Spurgeon’s words are an understatement considering what is soon to transpire. Jesus is soon to be falsely accused. He is soon to be ridiculed and mocked. He is soon to suffer unimaginable indignities. Those who profess to love Him on one day will express their disgust of Him on another. Some will heap “Hosanna upon Hosanna” and in a few days will shout “Crucify Him!”
Dr. Spurgeon points us to verse 31 (John 12:31). “Now is the judgment of the world.” He points out that the Greek word for “judgment” here is better translated “crisis.” Jesus is declaring, “Now is the crisis of the world.” Dr. Spurgeon declares this to be the “great turning point of all the world’s history.” The sermon offered by Dr. Spurgeon exposes the truth of scripture and he teaches about Christ’s crucifixion. Christ is glorified in the crucifixion. The Father is glorified in the crucifixion. “Christ looked upon His crucifixion as the completion of all His work, and therefore looked upon it as an exaltation.” We are reminded that Jesus took the vinegar and said, “It is finished.” Dr. Spurgeon says, “And, then it was finished.” His work is accomplished. It is finished. It is complete.
Dr. Spurgeon seems to be adding something to the verse in which Jesus says, “If I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32.)” Dr. Spurgeon pleads, “Christ should be most prominent, not hell and damnation.” He then insists that preachers of God’s word must teach about “God’s terrors as well as God’s mercies.”
Christ Jesus is not teaching about God’s wrath, but about God’s Judgment! Dr. Spurgeon preaches that men of God are “unfaithful to the solemn charge which God has given us if we were wickedly to stifle all the threatenings of God’s word.” He preaches, “The wicked will be cast into hell.” Every person, every nation forgetting God will cast into everlasting tortures. He says, “It is our business to say so.” Dr. Spurgeon tells his audience that preachers are to teach of condemnation. But it is Christ Who preaches He “will draw all men unto Himself!”
Dr. Spurgeon acknowledges the futility of preaching God’s wrath upon the unrepentant rebels. He says, “Some souls are awakened and terrified by such preaching; they however, are but few.” It is to be supposed that one person frightened into a love of Christ and of God is worth the effort. Dr. Spurgeon, though, shows a more true side to his virtuous desire to serve God. “…Let us preach the wondrous love of God. There are more souls won by wooing than by threatening. It is not hell, but Christ, we desire to preach.”
Dr. Spurgeon believes unbelievers are to be eternally consciously tormented for their failure to believe. He preaches Christ’s love for all, but cannot bring himself to accept that Christ does indeed love all. It is folly to try to discern Dr. Spurgeon’s heart. There is conflict. On one side is the need to preach God’s all-consuming love. On the other is the need to preach the price to be paid for rejecting His Gospel.
Dr. Spurgeon teaches Christ will draw men to Himself as a trumpet call. A call to alert. A call to come to hear the proclamation to be read aloud. “Now, my brethren, part of the attractive power of the gospel lies in the attracting people to hear it. You cannot expect people to be blessed by the preaching of the gospel if they do not hear it.”
Dr. Spurgeon takes much time in this sermon to extol the virtues of Christ-like unity in the several denominations of his day. His sermon closes, but without a significant distinction between what he labels “the people of the Lord” and those people who are not “the people of the Lord.” He preaches to believers and encourages them to step away from backsliding ways. Dr. Spurgeon does not preach that “all men will be drawn to” Him. He preaches only those who believe will be drawn by Christ to the Father. Dr. Spurgeon, the man of God that he was, limits the power of Christ to only a few.
This sermon by Dr. Spurgeon captures the essence of current denominations and their doctrines of eternal conscious torment. “All” does not mean all persons created. “All” means only those that meet a standard developed by preachers or certain standard bearers of what they conceive truth to be. Their truth and the truth they teach is that “all” are only those agreeing with them. In their view Christ’s crucifixion does not apply to “all,” but to only some.
It is Christ Jesus Who says, “And I…will draw all men to Myself.” Mr. Sprenger adds, “This is as clear a statement on the subject as any in scripture, a promise made by Christ Himself! These are the words of the Savior! He is describing the kind of death He will bear for the sake of the world. He is to be crucified. His blood is to be shed. This to ‘draw all men to…’ Himself.”
There are countless commentaries defining God’s Holy Word. Many men and institutions honorably strive to honestly treat interpretations of language and history. The “Pulpit Commentary” was produced in the late nineteenth century by renowned leaders of the Anglican Church. Their commentary describes this verse eloquently and passionately. They write, “He is ‘the greatest Person’ and influences the lives of all. He is the Son of God. He is the eternal Word. He is fully human and fully God.” 2 The Pulpit Commentary teaches that it is Christ Jesus Who is our means to the Father. It is Christ Jesus Who “makes the greatest sacrifice for all.” It is Christ Jesus Who “is the Incarnate Word Who lays down His life for our salvation.” Christ Jesus is proof that God is love. His “sacrifice is the greatest act of love by the greatest Person to have ever lived…. His sacrifice is the only sufficient way to reconciliation and it is the only efficient means to accomplish God’s plan for all.”
The drawing is complete. Its glory is overwhelming. The authors of this commentary conclude Christ’s sacrifice is “glorious triumph.” “The greatest sinners sunk in the deepest sin” are touched by Christ. These great sinners hold within them “the deadliest enmity against God and virtue.” These are sinners who are “backed up by the mightiest spiritual opponents of God….” Even so, Jesus says, “…I will draw all men….”
The Pulpit Commentary tells us that Christ’s act of love that draws all men to Himself is complete and whole. Men, the most vile of men, are drawn “…unto faith in Him, unto his character and likeness, unto his position and society. The drawing will be most complete; hence the glory of the influence – his triumph.”
The commentary provided by these noble men is contradicted by their commentary on other verses. Here the Lord draws all men to Himself. However, in a commentary on Matthew 5:22 these learned Anglicans advocate a doctrine of eternal conscious torment. They write, “The damnation of hell; literally, the judgment of Gehenna…the sentence that condemns to eternal death.”
The commentary given by the Pulpit Commentary’s authors regarding John 12:32 is correct. It preaches all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It preaches that the Christ’s sacrifice is perfect and in complete harmony with God’s infinite love. He is love. It is God’s will that no man perish. There is a judgment of fire, a refining fire. That fire is restorative not punitive. Christ’s sacrifice purposely draws all men to Himself. God, through Christ’s obedience, provides the Way to be saved and ultimately to be reconciled to Himself. This is God’s promise. His Son, Jesus, Whose Name means “God is salvation” will not lose even one of those given to Him by the Father.
Jesus was speaking to a crowd when God spoke for all to hear. Some heard God’s voice commending Jesus. Others heard thunder. Jesus explains that what the people heard was for their benefit. Then Jesus describes the manner of His death. He tells the people why. “And I, if I should be exalted out of the earth, shall be drawing all to Myself. (CLV)” There were no denominations then. No cries for reformation of the church are known to exist at the time Jesus said these words. There is nothing to contradict. When Jesus was lifted up on the Cross at Calvary He then drew all mankind to Himself. He didn’t draw just a few men who believed they were chosen. He didn’t draw just a few men who believed they had the foresight to choose to believe the Gospel. He “…will be drawing all to…” Himself. All men!
I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness. If anyone listens to my sayings, and doesn’t believe, I don’t judge him. For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects me, and doesn’t receive my sayings, has one who judges him. The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day. For I spoke not from myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. I know that his commandment is eternal life. The things therefore which I speak, even as the Father has said to me, so I speak.”(John 12:46-50, emphasis added)
Jesus is not the Judge. He says He is not. He tells us He came to save the world. He saves those who do not say a prayer or take communion. He saves those who do not live in the western world only. He came “…to save the world.”
Jesus addresses those who refuse to believe. Those folks will be judged “in the last day” by the Word that is spoken. What will that word be? God caused these words to be written. “Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.” The Word of God is our Judgment!. These verses do not include a caveat that says those who reject His words or continue in rebellion of Him will be not be saved and consequently condemned to eternal conscious torment. Jesus says, “And I know that His commandment is eternal life.” We should all reach out to God and in His Spirit sing praises. “His commandment is eternal life.”
The doctrine of eternal conscious torment demands there be two branches of eternal life. One leads to an eternal fellowship with God in heaven. The other leads to eternal torture at the hand of God in hell. The first path is really the only path. God does not will that any be lost. He wills that all be saved. He says He will reconcile all men to Himself. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment forces a second path to a mythical place called hell.
Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the time is coming, yes, and has now come, that you will be scattered, everyone to his own place, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.”x(John 12:46-50, emphasis added)
Jesus is explaining to His Disciples and by His Word in scripture explaining to us what He is to take upon Himself for the sake of the world. His friends, His chosen Disciples will abandon Him. Judas betrays Him and all the others run from Him when confronted by the Temple guard. He is never alone for the Father is always with Him. In death the Father will be with Him. In life and in His ascension the Father is with Him. It is going to be a terribly frightening thing to see Him persecuted, prosecuted, convicted and hung on a cross. But, He says, “…take heart….” Do not be afraid. Be of courage. Hold on to this: “…I have overcome the world.”
Jesus said these things, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you; even as you gave him authority over all flesh, he will give eternal life to all whom you have given him. This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ.(John 17:1-3, emphasis added)
Jesus Christ is preparing for His upcoming trial, conviction and execution. He tells His Father that He is prepared for the time of His tribulation. Jesus knows His Father’s sacrifice is great and that only glory will come from it. The Father has given to His Son authority over all flesh. His Son is given the authority to give eternal life to all He now has authority over. This scripture fits seamlessly with other scriptures that declare “every knee shall bow” and “every tongue confess” that He is Lord. His Kingship brings glory to the Father Who then shares that glory with His Son.
Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me.(John 17:20-21, emphasis added)
These verses are remarkably simple to understand. Jesus speaks these words. He is praying first for the Disciples and then for the world. He prays in submission to the Father. Christ Jesus asks the Father to cause unity with Him in those people who believe because of the testimonies given by the Disciples. He asks of the Father to let all who believe to find ourselves in Him. A common purpose in our hearts is to tell the world about Christ being the First Born Son of God. “That the world may believe that you sent me. ” Not believers only, but the world believing that Christ is Savior because the Father intended it to be.
The doctrine of eternal conscious torment insists Christ’s atonement is insufficient for all the world. His atoning work on the cross is sufficient only for those who believe. The doctrine contradicts the plain meaning of scripture.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.” He bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.(John 19:30, emphasis added)
It is as simple as that. In Christ Jesus… “It is finished.”
1 Charles H. Spurgeon. “A Sermon (No. 139).” Delivered on Sabbath Morning, July 5, 1857 Blue Letter Bible Web site. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/spurgeon_charles/sermons/0139.cfm?a=1009032. Date accessed: 04/01/2018.
2 “The Pulpit Commentary: John 12.” By Anglican Church, Study Light website. Publication date unknown. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/john-12.html. Date accessed: 04/01/2018.