So…even though Jesus never used (and apparently avoided) the common phrases that described unending, retributive punishment….he did issue some pretty stern warnings and “if this then that’s” in his earthly ministry. So what’s up with that?
I’m not sure.
Perhaps he was talking to the Jews…the Jews in Jerusalem…about the coming destruction in 70AD. He did state that his ministry was to the Jews…the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Of course, he expanded that ministry and included “other sheep in other pastures” and gave the disciples the command to go and preach the gospel to all nations. But initially, his ministry was to the Jews.
Could his warnings about destruction and judgment have been to them about upcoming events? Many (most) Christians relegate the events to some future time (even though Jesus stated this (THAT) generation would by no means pass away until all the doom and gloom stuff he talked about happened. THAT generation…not a generation 2000 years plus and still waiting) So some believe that way.
Richard Wayne Garganta does a great job of explaining this position in his rewrite of “Bible Threatenings Explained” It was originally part of a book containing four essays…written in the 1800's by J.W. Hanson…in that flowery…wordy style of that time period. Kind of off-putting to those of us who live in the twitter generation. Check it out HERE… It addresses many (all?) of the “threats” Jesus issued…and most of the other “but what about” passages in scripture that are oft used to “disprove” universalism.
And check out his other “oh my God is this universalism” writings HERE.
And another way of explaining the dire warnings of Jesus…
Some believe he is talking about a most unpleasant place of “remedial chastisement.” Origen believed that. William Barclay believed that. George MacDonald believed that. Williams Barclay said it this way….
Origen believed that after death there were many who would need prolonged instruction, the sternest discipline, even the severest punishment before they were fit for the presence of God. Origen did not eliminate hell; he believed that some people would have to go to heaven via hell. He believed that even at the end of the day there would be some on whom the scars remained. He did not believe in eternal punishment, but he did see the possibility of eternal penalty. And so the choice is whether we accept God's offer and invitation willingly, or take the long and terrible way round through ages of purification.
George MacDonald said it this way:
I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem his children
I have more to say about Barclay and MacDonald…in response to Chan’s statement…
In fact, for over 1,600 years, hardly any major theologians argued that everyone will be saved.
Barclay and MacDonald are two of the “hardly any.”