When discussing the topics of salvation and judgement, it’s important to understand why humans actually sin in the first place (other than Adam and Eve; they had a whole other reason that we don’t have time to get into here), and why Jesus didn’t (and before getting into it, I should point out that people who claim the reason He didn’t sin is simply because He is God and that only God in the flesh could avoid sinning are also telling us, even if without realizing it, that we humans can never be free of sin, not even after our resurrection, since we aren’t going to become God, so that wasn’t the reason). The reason humans sin is because we’re mortal/dying, and we’re dying because Adam sinned (“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” — missing a single word, such as the word “that” in this case, when reading a passage in Scripture can change everything and make you completely miss the point of the passage). Contrary to what pretty much all Christians have been taught, we ourselves don’t die because we sin. Only Adam and Eve died because they sinned — or, rather, began to die/became mortal because they sinned: “in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying” is a more literal translation of what God said in the Hebrew Scriptures about the “forbidden fruit.” It wasn’t that they “died spiritually,” as most Christians assume (yet which you won’t find taught in Scripture, probably because it’s actually a completely meaningless expression); it was just that they were paid the wages of sin: to die they began dying, meaning they gained mortality eventually leading to physical death.
Even someone reading a more common Bible translation has to admit that this is the case if they compare God’s warning in those translations along the lines that, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” to what Paul said in the verse from Romans we’ve already covered. If they think about it they’ll realize that the warning (if that translation happened to be accurate) wasn’t literal since Adam didn’t physically drop dead that day, which means they’re already interpreting the passage figuratively. And since there are no passages in Scripture that talk about the so-called “spiritual death” they tend to believe in, yet there are verses where Paul tells us mortality leading to death was the consequence of Adam’s sin, what I’m explaining is really the only consistent interpretation of the warning in Genesis that I can think of.
It’s important to realize Paul didn’t simply write “for all have sinned” in Romans 5:12 the way he did in Romans 3:32. Instead, he wrote, ”for that all have sinned.” Yes, it would have meant “because all have sinned” if he had left out the word “that” in this verse, but he didn’t, and so “for that reason all have sinned,” or “because of that mortality all have sinned,” is what Paul was getting at in this passage (making mortality the cause and sin the effect for humanity at large in this passage rather than the other way around). So, instead of dying because we sin, we actually sin because we’re dying and don’t have abundant life in us, or the Spirit without measure, the way Jesus did (which is why He couldn’t actually die until He willingly gave His life up and God took His Spirit from Jesus; while Jesus, just like Adam prior to his own sin, was actually technically amortal — which means that, while He wasn’t immortal, which means incapable of dying, the fact that He didn’t have a human father meant He was not slowly dying the way we mortals are — having the Spirit without measure kept Him alive even on the cross, at least until the Spirit was taken from Him) to keep us from sinning the way He avoided it (although we also eventually will, at our resurrection and/or vivification, when we’re made immortal; “vivification” simply means “to be made immortal”), and we’re dying because we genetically inherited the wages of the first Adam’s sin: mortality.
And, just as a quick but related aside, please don’t confuse “death” with “judgement.” Death (which, yes, can technically be a punishment for certain sins, such as in the instances of capital punishment in the Mosaic law) is really just a natural genetic effect of being born into the line of Adam; in general it isn’t actually a punishment (not outside of specific “legal” cases anyway) or judgement in and of itself (at least not for anyone who isn’t Adam or Eve), or else newborn babies who haven’t sinned yet would never die. Judgement, on the other hand, will be experienced by those who are not saved (relatively speaking) when they appear before the Great White Throne, and by members of the body of Christ at the dais of Christ (sometimes also referred to as the judgement seat of Christ).
However, “just as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (or, perhaps better put, since not everyone will actually die, “even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified”). I hope it’s now become clear that, if what we need to be saved from is mortality (and, of course, death, for those who died before Christ’s return), as well as sinfulness because of that mortality, salvation is largely about being vivified (meaning made immortal) and made perfect rather than about avoiding a place called “hell.” It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t say, “thus also shall all in Christ be vivified.” If it had, one might be able to assume that it only applied to a specific group of people (only those “in Christ”). Thankfully, that’s not how it was worded. Instead, Paul was using a parallelism there to tell us that everyone affected by the action of the first Adam is also affected by the action of the last Adam, and completely outside of their own desire or will. Just as nobody had any say in experiencing the effects of the first Adam’s action (mortality and, in most cases, physical death, as well as sinfulness because of that mortality), they also have no say in experiencing the effects of the last Adam’s action (eventual immortality and sinlessness), and just as condemnation came upon all men because of the offence and disobedience of one (and not because of their own offences or disobedience), justification will also come upon all men because of the obedience of one (and not because of their own obedience).
Most Christians mistakenly believe that only those “in Christ” will be vivified, completely missing the significance of the order of the wording in this verse. But the whole point of the parallelism in this passage is to make it clear that Christ has at least the exact same level of effect on humanity that Adam had, meaning Christ’s action changes the exact same “all” that Adam’s action did (a paraphrase of this verse that should make the meaning of the passage more clear would be, “just as because of what Adam did, every human is mortal, equally so because of what Christ did, every human will also eventually be made immortal”). If you’re still finding this confusing, though, try breaking the sentence down into mathematical terms: “Even as, in Adam, x are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall x be vivified.” The variable x remains the same in both parts of the sentence, which means the “all” in the second x has to be the same ”all” as in the first x. If we were to instead want to write the equation as, “even as, in Adam, x are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall y be vivified” (as those who disagree with me here might want to insist), where x equals all humanity and y would equal only a subset of that variable — specifically, believers — Paul would then have had to have written, “Even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall believers be vivified” (or ”shall some be vivified”) instead. But if you still disagree, please think about how you believe Paul would have had to have worded this parallelism in order to make it mean what I’m saying it means, and let me know if it ends up being any different from how he actually did word it (and this all applies to when Paul uses the word “many” instead of “all” in his parallelism in Romans chapter 5 as well — go ahead and put an x in place of the words “many” and “all” in the passages in Romans 5 to see for yourself).
Likewise, Paul also told us that Christ Jesus gave himself a correspondent ransom for all — although the testimony of each is in its own eras or times — and when a ransom is fully paid, all those who are held captive are saved (unless the one paying the ransom has been lied to). As W. B. Screws once wrote, “Christ’s death is the exact equivalent of the need of the human family. And that need is more than to simply be restored to the Adamic ‘purity.’ We need the grace that superabounds — not grace that puts us back in Adam’s condition. Everything that is needed to affect the salvation of all mankind, (I Tim. 2:4), is supplied in Christ. It is in this sense that He is ‘the One giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all.’ Nor would it be amiss to consider the meaning of ransom. It will secure the release of the person for whom it is paid, unless the one accepting the ransom intends to deceive the one paying it. If Christ gives Himself a correspondent Ransom for all, and any part of the human family is not subsequently released, then God has deceived His Son. In other words, since Christ gives Himself a correspondent ransom for all, all must be saved, or else God stands eternally discredited as dishonest. Perish the thought! No one can read I Tim. 2:3-6, and believe every word of it, without believing in the salvation of all humanity.”
To break it down, as Aaron Welch did:
“1. Anyone for whom Christ gave himself ‘a correspondent Ransom’ will be ransomed as a result.
2. Anyone ransomed as a result of Christ’s death will be saved.
3. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom in 1 Timothy 2:6 will be saved.
4. The ‘all’ for whom we’re told Christ gave himself a ransom includes all mankind (1 Tim. 2:4-5).
5. All mankind will be saved.
This conclusion is in accord with 1 Tim. 4:10, where we’re told that God ‘is the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.’ This verse presupposes that those among ‘all mankind’ who die in unbelief will eventually be saved. If God was unable or unwilling to save those who died in unbelief, then he would not be ‘the Savior of all mankind, especially of believers.’ He would instead be the Savior of believers exclusively. But this, of course, would contradict the first part of this verse. Since God is ‘the Savior of all mankind’ (and not of believers only), it follows that all mankind – including all who die in unbelief – will, in fact, be saved from the condemnation to which sin leads, and ‘shall be constituted just’ (Rom. 5:18-19). This means that one does not have to be a believer in this lifetime in order to benefit from what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf.”
But while Paul tells us that everyone who experiences mortality because of what Adam did will also eventually experience immortality because of what Christ did, he also tells us that there’s an order to when each person will be made fully alive (again, meaning being vivified/being made immortal). Basically, there are three different orders, groups, or classes of humans to be vivified, and these three orders combined consist of all humanity (even though each order will be vivified in its own eras or times).
The first order mentioned is “Christ the firstfruits,” which refers to the body of Christ (aside from the head of the body, Who would have to be excluded unless Jesus was also directly affected by Adam’s sin, which He wasn’t since He was amortal rather than mortal — that was kind of the point of the virgin birth, after all) being vivified (ζῳοποιέω/zōopoieō in the Greek) — not to be confused with resurrection (ἀνάστασις/anastasis in the Greek), which only the dead experience (at least from a literal perspective). Both the resurrected dead and the still living in the body of Christ will experience vivification (the dead first, then the remaining living), and will no longer sin (because they’re no longer in the process of dying) at the Snatching Away (which is the actual version of the event often called the Rapture that many Christians mistakenly believe will eventually happen to them, and which should also not be confused with the Second Coming), when God withdraws His ambassadors (as one does before declaring war), who then go on to fulfill their purpose in Christ among the celestials.
The second order is “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” referring to those in the Israel of God who are vivified after being resurrected at the time known as the former resurrection (also referred to as the resurrection of the just), near the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, 75 days after Jesus returns to Earth and the Tribulation period has concluded, and presumably includes both the resurrected dead saved under the Gospel of the Circumcision as well as the “Old Testament” saints. I should say, for a long time I assumed that everyone who is saved under this Gospel (as well as all the “Old Testament” saints), both dead and living, will be vivified at this point, but I’ve since concluded that only those who were dead and who will be resurrected will be vivified at this time, while everyone else saved under this Gospel will simply remain alive (at least to begin with) in an amortal state thanks to partaking of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life, and won’t be made truly immortal until the final order of vivifications is completed much later. As for why I’ve come to this conclusion, that’s a much bigger topic than I have the space to get into here, but I’ll just say that if the reward for “overcoming” by some of those during the Tribulation will be to partake of the tree of life, and if one needs to continuously consume its products in order to remain healthy and alive as Scripture appears to say, yet the vivification of the resurrected dead happens instantaneously, as is demonstrated by those in the body of Christ when they’re caught up in the air, it seems that there must two different methods of remaining alive during the Millennium and beyond (vivification as the first method, and partaking of the tree of life as the second). With that in mind, I should also say that some like to group the body of Christ in with this order as well, and believe it applies to everyone saved under both Gospels — even if some are vivified three-and-a-half or more (likely more; in fact, almost certainly more than seven) years apart from each other — and believe the first is just speaking of Christ Himself. However, as I already mentioned, to do so would mean Jesus was affected directly by Adam’s sin, so placing the body of Christ in the first order rather than the second makes the most sense, and even more-so in light of my conclusion that only the resurrected dead of those in the Israel of God will be vivified at the end of the Tribulation.
Now, most people assume “they that are Christ’s at his coming” in verse 23 is the final group of resurrections and vivifications mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, but if Paul isn’t referring to the “telos,” or consummation, of humanity — meaning a final group of humans being resurrected and vivified — when he wrote, “then cometh the end” (or, “thereafter the consummation” — “εἶτα τὸ τέλος”/“eita to telos” in the Greek) in the next verse, it would have to simply mean “then comes the end of the world” or “then comes the end of the eon (or eons)” or something similar instead (although I should add that this technically could be said to have a double fulfillment, since the consummation of the eons, also known as the end of the ages, is when this final vivification occurs, and is something that the body of Christ has already attained in spirit and will have also attained physically at their own vivification long before the actual final eon or age ends, but the end of the eons isn’t the main point of this statement). But Paul wasn’t simply referring to the end of the eons there with no connection to what he’d just been discussing. It would literally make no sense at all for him to go from discussing the order of resurrections/vivifications among humanity to suddenly arbitrarily discussing an entirely unrelated topic (the triumph of Christ over His enemies at a time in the distant future, with no connection to the topic he was already discussing), then to go right back to discussing resurrection and vivification again as he does a few verses later.
Another reason this can’t simply be referring to the end of the eons rather than to the final group to be vivified is his explanation that this “consummation” exists at the time when Christ has nullified all sovereignties and all authorities and powers (referring to rulership by spiritual, celestial beings in the heavens, including by evil ones) and gives up the kingdom to His God and Father, and that it occurs when all His enemies are finally put under His feet, and when the final enemy — death — is not only subjected but also finally abolished altogether. The problem is, if he was solely referring to a period of time in that statement, the way it’s written makes it sound like he’s claiming it takes place right after the resurrection and vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming.” But since we know from the rest of Scripture that there will still be enemies of Christ, as well as much more death happening, after that (there will be well over 1,000 years to go between the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming” and “the end” at the time when Christ does nullify all enemies and turns over the kingdom to His Father, since, at the very least, there is still a final, even if somewhat one-sided, battle between Him and those who consider Him to be their enemy a whole millennium after that; and we know from Isaiah that there will still be death on the New Earth for a period of time after the Great White Throne Judgement as well), this idea simply makes no sense at all.
And it can’t be referring to the supposed “spiritual death” that most Christians believe in (and which some of them also mistakenly assume the death in verse 22 is referring to) either, because verse 24 tells us that his enemies are subjected and death is abolished at a point in time after “they that are Christ’s at His coming” have been vivified, not that they are subjected or that death is abolished by that group being vivified (and remember, death is the last enemy to be placed under His feet, yet there will still be more death and enemies after the vivification of “they that are Christ’s at His coming,” including on the New Earth for a time). So if this part of the chapter is just talking about a so-called “spiritual death” (whatever that means) rather than physical death, and it’s only talking about certain people being given some sort of “spiritual life” (or “going to heaven” after they die), the same problem applies because it tells us that the end of “death” doesn’t occur until after both “they that are Christ’s at His coming” are given immortality and all the rest of Christ’s enemies have been subjected (and the last enemy even abolished) as well.
So, unless someone has a better explanation of what these verses are referring to (and so far one hasn’t been forthcoming when I’ve asked), it would seem this would definitely have to mean the final group, or the rest of humanity (including both those who are dead — meaning those whose bodies were been burned up in the lake of fire at the Great White Throne Judgement, and those who happen to die on the New Earth — as well as those who are still living, thanks to having partaken of the fruit and the leaves of the tree of life to keep from dying, but haven’t been vivified yet, referring to those whose names were written in the book of life at the Great White Throne Judgement after their resurrection for said judgement who hadn’t already been vivified previously, as well as those, and the descendants of those, still mortal humans who didn’t join Satan and die during his final rebellion at the end of the fourth eon), fully vivified after the fifth and final eon (known as the eon of the eons) is completed and Jesus’ reign over the Kingdom comes to an end because He’s placed all enemies (including death) under His feet and turns all rulership (including rulership over Himself) over to His Father.
This means, by the way, that people who use passages that seem to tell us Jesus will reign forever to prove that “everlasting torment” in “hell” (or, for Annihilationists, that destruction or annihilation) also lasts forever because those passages use the same Greek words are actually basing their argument on an obvious mistranslation since Paul is clear that He won’t reign forever but rather only for the eons (or the ages) or for the eons of the eons (or the ages of the ages), meaning He reigns for the final two, and greatest, eons — we’re currently living in the third, and perhaps most wicked or evil, eon — but stops reigning after they’re over. This also demonstrates just how few people are aware that A) all of the passages that are translated as “everlasting” or “forever” in the popular versions of the Bible must be mistranslations based on this fact and the fact that Paul was clear everyone will eventually be vivified, as well as that B) Paul saw much farther into the future than John did in the book generally called Revelation (John only saw into the beginning of the fifth eon, whereas Paul saw all the way to the end of the eons).
Not seeming to understand the meaning of these words in their original languages appears to have caused certain Bible translators to translate the Hebrew word עוֹלָם (`owlam, or olam), and Greek words such as αἰών (aión), αἰῶνας (aiónas), and αἰώνιος (aiónios), all of which refer to a set period of time with a definite end, even if that end date is unknown, into words that mean “never ending.” But if these words mean what most people and Bible versions assume they do, they render Scripture contradictory, erroneous, and even nonsensical in many places. There are many more examples in the supporting links above, so please read them as well, but just to further demonstrate how these words can’t mean “everlasting” or “forever” instead of “a finite period of time,” if “olam“ means forever as the KJV seems to imply it does, then slaves would have to live forever and could never die (or, if they did die, would have to remain as slaves for the rest of eternity after their physical resurrection if “olam” literally means “forever”), the Old Covenant could never come to an end (as, again, the KJV seems to tell us it won’t) and be replaced by the New Covenant (which it began to do when Christ died), and the land of Israel would have to be forsaken and desolate forever (as, again, the KJV appears to say it will be) rather than eventually become fruitful again (as the next verse says it will be, which shows that even the KJV translators must not have actually meant “forever” when they translated “olam” that way, unless they just weren’t paying attention, so it seems safe to say that a KJV-Onlyist who wants to remain consistent would have to interpret the “forever” passages figuratively and should actually believe in Universal Reconciliation — which is fine because, as I’ve demonstrated elsewhere, the KJV actually quite clearly teaches Universal Reconciliation when interpreted consistently; however, the more literal translations will still get you much farther in coming to understand the full truth of Scripture, so I do recommend sticking with them in your studies).
And if the Hebrew word translated as “forever” doesn’t actually mean “without end” or “eternal,” it stands to reason that the Greek words might not either. And this is indeed the case, unless we want to believe there are three eternities, including a “past eternity” (even the KJV translators were smart enough to not render the word “aión” that way, but instead translated it as “before the world”) as well as a “present eternity“ and a “future eternity“ (which the KJV instead rendered as “this world” and “the world to come”), so these passages prove that the word doesn’t mean “forever” or “eternity” either, just like as the KJV’s rendering of “aiónios” as “since the world began” instead of “forever” does as well. So if anyone every tries to claim that “aiónios” absolutely means “forever” or “never ending” or some other word or phrase that denotes eternity, just show them Romans 16:25, which is all the proof one needs that it doesn’t, since I’m not aware of a single version of the Bible that renders it as “forever” in this verse (and, in fact, most of them actually get close to its actual meaning of referring to eons or ages). Although, I should say that rendering the words aión and aiónios as “world” when there’s already a Greek word for “world” (“κόσμος”/“kosmos”) is also a poor translation (at one point the KJV even “translates” both “aión” and “kosmos” as “world” in the same verse, showing just how ridiculous this translation is), but at least it helps demonstrate that the Greek words don’t mean ”never ending.”
To put it simply, the word “aión“ should literally be transliterated as “eon,” which just means “a long period of time,” the word “aiónas” (or “αἰῶναν”/“aiónan”) should be transliterated as “eons,” which just means “more than one eon” since it’s the plural form of the noun “aión,” and the adjective “aiónios” (or “αἰώνιον”/“aiónion”) should simply be transliterated as “eonian,” which just means “pertaining to an eon or eons,” rather than translated as “everlasting” or “forever,“ not to mention instead of being rendered into redundant phrases like “forever and ever,” which, aside from the fact that this is a meaningless term, makes no sense whatsoever if one looks at the actual grammar of the Greek sentences this “translation” is based on. As usual, too many Christians misunderstand the meaning of the word “of,” and this time mistranslated it as “and” instead, even though the Greek word for “and” (“καί/“kai”) isn’t found in-between the words mistranslated as “forever” and “ever” at all. This is why the actual translations should be “eon of the eon,” “eon of the eons,” and “eons of the eons.” The fact that some of these words are singular and some are plural in different verses also seemed to go unnoticed by some so-called “translators,” but these different forms of the word “aión” are very important, and rendering all of them the same way — as the singular “forever” — causes one to entirely miss the different points that each instance is making.
And along those lines, those who would insist that, “The various passages in Bibles where these words are rendered in a manner meaning ‘never ending’ are simply all parts of idioms that mean ‘forever’ or ‘everlasting’ (in the singular),” are also ignoring the fact that these different passages contain the singular noun, plural noun, and adjectival forms of the word “aión,” not to mention the fact that some of them are on their own in the passages while others are singular or plural versions of the noun connected to another singular or plural version of the noun, and should be separated by the word “of” in their translations, and rendering them all as the exact same thing shows us that they’re just eisegeting their own presuppositions into their translations and interpretations.
In addition to all this, while I don’t agree with all of his theology, J. W. Hanson also did a good job of demonstrating from extra-biblical writings that these words generally didn’t mean “forever” or “everlasting” outside of Scripture back then either, so there’s no reason to believe they do in Scripture either (outside of preconceived doctrinal bias, of course).
And since many Christians often make a similar mistake when they try to insist that, “If ‘eternal damnation’ (whether that damnation involves consciousness or not) isn’t actually forever then ‘eternal life’ wouldn’t be forever either,” I’m forced to point out that they really aren’t thinking things through when they make this assertion. Properly translated Scripture speaks of believers having eonian life rather than “eternal life” or “everlasting life,” but it also tells us we’ll be made immortal. So we know that when the eons come to an end we’ll still be alive forever, not because of any passage that speaks of “eternal life” but rather because of passages that speak about our impending immortality. Similarly, the claim that when Paul called God “the eonian God” in his epistle to the Romans he must have actually been calling God “the everlasting God” because otherwise God would die is just as misguided. As Martin Zender explained, “This verse isn’t trying to tell anyone that God lives forever. Everyone already knows God lives forever. Psalm 102:27 testified long ago that ‘His years shall have no end.’ It’s old news. The vital question is: Does God sit on high, removed from our struggles in time, or does He care what happens during the eons? He cares. Thus, He is the eonian God. This does not limit Him to the eons any more than ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ limits Him to those patriarchs.”
But in case anybody is still skeptical, as already mentioned, Paul later confirmed the salvation of all humanity beyond any shadow of a doubt when he wrote, “the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.” It doesn’t get any clearer than this, with Paul telling us that God will save absolutely everyone, even if those who believe this Good News will get to experience a special, earlier (eonian) salvation than everybody else does. If a teacher were to say at the end of the school year, “I’ve given everyone a passing grade this year, especially Lisa who got an A+,” we’d know that, while nobody else got an A+, they still all passed, since “especially” doesn’t mean “only” or “exclusively” (or “specifically,” as some claim; those who think so should look up each time the Greek word μάλιστα/malista — translated as “especially” here — is used in Scripture in a concordance to see for themselves). In fact, if the word did mean “exclusively” or “specifically,” the part of the verse that tells us God is the Saviour of all people would be a lie, because it didn’t say “God is the potential Saviour of all people, but really only of those who believe,” but instead plainly tells us that He actually is the Saviour of all people.
And Calvinists who insist that Paul is only claiming “God is the Saviour of all kinds or sorts of people,” and that God only wants “all sorts of people” to be saved rather than actually “wants all people to be saved,” are ignoring the second part of the verse where Paul says “especially of believers” rather than “specifically: believers” (if that’s what God really wanted Paul to get across, you’d think He would have just inspired Paul to simply write “the living God, who is the Saviour of believers” to avoid confusion), so they’re just reading their own preconceived doctrinal bias that not everyone will experience salvation into these passages because they have no other choice if they don’t want it to contradict their theological beliefs, just as Arminians do in their own way. And if a Calvinist ever does make this claim to you, ask them to show you one legitimate Bible translation that says anything even remotely close to the idea that God is just the Saviour of all kinds of people, or that He only desires all sorts of people to be saved, instead of saying than that He actually is the Saviour of all people and desires all people to be saved as every Bible version I’ve ever read plainly says. I’m highly doubtful that any of them can — in fact, the only version I’ve ever found that says anything like this is the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation, and I don’t think anyone other than the JWs believes that’s a legitimate Bible translation — which means they’re guilty of some serious eisegesis there.
All that is to say, this passage once again clearly confirms that the soteriology of Paul throughout his epistles is indeed that every human who is affected by the curse will also be equally (if not more so) affected by the cross, even if it doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time (only those predestined by God for eonian life, meaning those in the first two orders, will live through the eons to come while also experiencing vivification during those eons).
That said, those who have been made truly immortal aren’t the only people who will live through said eons (they’re just the only ones who will have vivified bodies during these eons). Those who survived the Tribulation (and those born during the Millennium) and who make it all the way to the final eon, as well as those born during the final eon, will also live through them as well (if they don’t die during them, of course, since they will have to live in mortal bodies for the duration of those eons), as will the “sheep” of Matthew 25 (the resurrected dead at the Great White Throne Judgement whose names happen to be written in the book of life will also live for the final eon, albeit in mortal bodies, even if they too don’t ever die again due to partaking of the fruit and leaves of the tree of life). Everyone else will go through eonian judgement first instead (which doesn’t necessarily always involve death or “hell” for everyone; sometimes it just refers to a judgement while remaining alive on Earth, the “goats” of Matthew 25 being a good example of this, as will be touched on shortly, so, again, please don’t make the mistake of thinking that “death” and “judgement” refer to the same thing).
But even among those who do die, by the end of it all, God justifies, vivifies, saves, and reconciles all, even if they have to go through judgement first (and when Scripture says “all” on this topic, it means “all,” and not just all humans, but all “spiritual beings” as well; just as he used a parallelism in his epistle to the Romans and in his first epistle to the Corinthians to demonstrate that all humans will be reconciled, Paul also used a similar sort of parallelism in the first chapter of his epistle to the Colossians to tell his readers that all of the rest of creation will be reconciled as well, not just humans). In fact, I don’t know how someone can read verses 15 through 20 of that chapter and not end up a believer in Universal Reconciliation, although it seems most people somehow miss the fact that Paul is using a sort of parallelism called an Extended Alternation here — likely because most might not be familiar with Paul’s consistent use of parallelisms throughout his epistles to prove Universal Reconciliation at all, such as in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 where he does the same thing — to tell us that the same “all” created in Him are also the same “all” that are reconciled to Him by the blood of Christ’s cross, and that this passage tells us that not only are all humans (meaning all the things created on the Earth, as mentioned in verses 16 and 20) both “created in” and “reconciled by” Him, but all the creatures in the heavens (as also mentioned in the same two verses, referring to a list of celestial beings that overlaps with another list of celestial creatures who are described in Ephesians 6 as being the spiritual forces of wickedness among the celestials, or “spiritual wickedness in high places” depending on your translation) are also “created in” and “reconciled by” Him, and there would be no need to reconcile celestial beings in the heavens who didn’t sin, so it can only be the “fallen” celestial beings in the heavens who are being reconciled. And if all of them are going to be reconciled as Paul says here, we know that all the creatures on the Earth will be as well, as he also says there. But if you’re having trouble with this parallelism, replace the word “all” with the variable x again in both verses 16 and 20 — in fact, do it in all the verses from verse 16 to verse 20 — and it should become clear what it means.
What this judgement actually is, however, is something that few people today ever come to understand, primarily thanks to never having been taught the scriptural basis for Universal Reconciliation that you’ve just finished reading (although sometimes also simply due to their unwillingness to let go of their theological biases and presuppositions).
Some (the Annihilationists) believe it refers to being completely burned up and destroyed in the lake of fire so that their consciousness completely ceases to exist forever. These Christians are closer to the truth about what the lake of fire is than most others are, but they’re still so far from understanding its purpose or what comes afterwards that they’ve basically called God a failure, and they themselves also fail to understand what salvation is.
Others think it just means everlasting separation from God in a place called “hell,” although this spiritualization of “hell” is clearly impossible since in Him we live and move and are. We can’t even exist apart from God, and if anyone were separated from Him for even a moment (if that were even actually possible, which it isn’t) they’d then cease to exist. And even in versions of the Bible where the word “hell” is used, God is said to be there, so this obviously isn’t what the judgement is.
But most people (the Infernalists) think it refers to “everlasting punishment” or “everlasting torment” in a conscious state in a place of fire. However, this is a doctrine that isn’t found anywhere in the Greek Scriptures, and you won’t find it in the Scriptures that Israel accepted either, which is strange since you’d think God’s chosen people would have been warned about something so terrible. Everlasting torment in “hell” is a great example of a pre-existing belief that caused many translators to mistranslate Scripture from its original languages.
That said, even if we were to translate those words as “everlasting” or “forever” in some places, we’d still have to interpret the words based on the context of the rest of Scripture, and aside from the fact that Scripture tells us everyone eventually will be saved, there are also plenty of things in the Bible that seem to be said to be everlasting (if one translates it that way) that it also says will eventually end (as we’ve already covered), and Leviticus even tells us that the fire on the altar would not be quenched (just like the fires of “hell” are supposed to be, depending on your translation), and yet that fire is no longer burning today, so good exegesis is imperative here if you’re going to translate it that way for some reason (which means that if one did “translate” these Hebrew and Greek words into words that mean “everlasting” in English, the reader would then be required to interpret them figuratively so as to not end up making Scripture completely contradict itself, which, again, means a KJV-Onlyist could still technically — and, to be consistent with the rest of Scripture, would realistically have to — believe in Universal Reconciliation). That said, for those of us who haven’t been indoctrinated into KJV-Onlyism, translating these words concordantly does make a lot more sense, and means we can actually interpret the passages literally rather than being forced to interpret them figuratively just so we can remain consistent.
In fact, somewhat ironically, certain passages that are used to try to prove everlasting punishment — specifically those talking about the supposedly “unforgivable” or “unpardonable sin” — actually help prove that aiónios really means “pertaining to an eon or eons” rather than “everlasting.” If one compares Jesus’ statement about this particular sin as recorded in the book of Mark to his statement about it as recorded in the book of Matthew, they’ll see that the passages are talking about the same thing, which tells us that when one passage refers to an “eonian penalty” (the mistranslations say something like “eternal sin” or “eternal damnation” thanks to their translators’ misunderstanding, or dislike of the true meaning, of the word “aiónios” in this verse in the original Greek), while the other says, “It shall not be pardoned him, neither in this eon nor in that which is impending” (or, “It shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come,” or, “It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” depending on the translation, although, as already discussed, “world” is a horrible rendering of the Greek word “aion,” especially here since it talks about a “world to come” when the same version also mistakenly says “world without end” — that verse should actually be translated along the lines of “for all the generations of the eon of the eons,” by the way — which is a contradiction if the world actually is going to end, as we know it will), it means that an “eonian penalty” (or “eternal damnation,” depending on one’s mistranslation) means the same thing as not being pardoned in the eon that we’re currently living in (the third eon) or the next eon (the fourth eon, also knows as Millennial Kingdom, after the tribulation ends). But since we also know that there will be at least two eons to come after the one we’re in now — since Ephesians 2:7 talks about “oncoming eons,” plural (or “ages to come,” plural), not “the oncoming eon,” singular (or “the age to come,” singular) — this tells us that there are at least two more eons impending (at least as of the time this was written), and so while they might not be pardoned in the third or fourth eon (“neither in this eon nor in that which is impending”), they will be pardoned for this particular sin 1,000 or so years later in the fifth eon when the New Heavens and new Earth begin after the Great White Throne Judgement.
Besides all that, though, even if one really does “hath never forgiveness,” as the KJV puts it, people don’t necessarily need forgiveness in order to be saved anyway. That might sound like a strange statement, but there’s something even better than forgiveness, and that’s justification. Forgiveness implies guilt, and just means that the forgiver is overlooking the sin of the one being forgiven, whereas justification means “not even guilty” (it’s sometimes well explained as, “just as if I’d never sinned at all”), so even if somebody does miss out on forgiveness, justification is far superior to it anyway, and that passage doesn’t even hint at the idea that they won’t eventually be justified.
Unfortunately, because of bad presuppositions, translations, and interpretations (as well as a lack of basic logical analysis of Scripture), most Christians are under the impression that, while God tried to save everyone through Christ’s sacrifice, He will ultimately miss the mark when it comes to 99% of humanity because He just isn’t powerful enough to convince them to choose the right religion, probably because He didn’t make most people smart enough or wise enough or humble enough or righteous enough to come to the right decision in the first place. Those who believe this aren’t aware that God’s purpose for the eons was never about hoping people will choose the right religion so they can be among the lucky few who escape never-ending torture (or avoid ceasing to exist forever), but rather that He saves those who are helpless to save (or even participate in saving) themselves (although, again, each in their own order, or in their own times).
Aside from being completely unscriptural, the horrible doctrine of everlasting torment in hell is also probably the biggest cause of religious evil. How so? First, it’s caused millennia of psychological torture for children (and even adults). Somehow, religious parents (hoping that it will keep them from sinning, as if the threat of “hell” has ever kept anyone from sinning) have rationalized the idea that instilling the fear of this mythological torture chamber into their children is a good thing, but all it does is cause sleepless nights for millions of kids who are terrified they or their loved ones will suffer horrific agony for eternity with no chance of escape if the wrong decision or action is made, and ultimately also causes many of these children to reject God when they get older since many of them still have a conscience and know just how wrong unending torture would be if it actually happened. Perhaps worse, though, is the fact that, once this doctrine has been completely absorbed into the psyche, it makes emotional empathy an extremely difficult thing to maintain, causing religious people to think it’s okay to reject family members who believe differently from them (sometimes ejecting them from their own homes), and discriminate against or even be violent towards people who don’t follow their religion or who might not think certain actions are actually wrong (“If God is going to torture people forever in the afterlife for even the smallest infraction, what’s a little temporary violence in this life?” is what it seems many religious people believe).
Aside from the fact that anybody who sat down to actually think about it would realize that no sin or crime could ever warrant torture that lasted forever, however (some people claim that a sin against an infinite God requires an infinite punishment because a sin would affect an infinite being more than it would affect a mere human; but aside from the fact that you won’t find that assertion made anywhere in Scripture, which means they have no basis for making it in the first place, Scripture actually appears to say the opposite anyway), the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, not never-ending torture (okay, “wages” is not necessarily the best translation of the Greek word ὀψώνιον/opsōnion, but I’m using the common rendering of the passage here to demonstrate that even the traditional translation doesn’t work with the traditional doctrine), and that said wages come from the sin of Adam, not from our own sins, as has already been discussed. And while most Christians believe that the “death” spoken of in these judgement passages is simply a euphemism for “everlasting punishment,” you won’t find anything in Scripture that says the words “death,” “die,” and “dying” should be interpreted figuratively in these passages.
In fact, if most Christians are correct when they read their preexisting assumption that everlasting punishment is a fact into the passages that speak of “death,” instead of taking the words ”perish,” “death,” “die,” and “dying” in the popular translations literally, it would mean that all Christians would actually have to suffer forever in “hell” (or be annihilated forever) before they could be saved, because in the KJV Paul is recorded as having said “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” not “for as in Adam all might die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (technically, Paul actually said, “even as, in Adam, all are dying” — referring simply to having mortal bodies — but that’s not how the popular versions render it, so I’m basing this argument off of those translations), and if perishing or death in Scripture means to suffer everlasting punishment, all the people made alive in Christ would have to “die” (meaning “suffer everlasting punishment”) first or else that translation would be a lie.
Of course, if the payment for sin really was nonstop pain that never ends (which is taught nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures — the absolute worst penalty for breaking the Mosaic law was execution; no Israelite was ever threatened with perpetual torture after they died as a result of sinning in the law of Moses — and there’s nothing in the Greek text to suggest that this changed when Jesus or Paul talked about sin either), then Jesus would have to still be suffering for our sins and would need to continue doing so forever as well (okay, maybe only under the penal substitution model of salvation, which I don’t actually believe is a scriptural doctrine, but since most do, the point stands for those who believe it is).
Fortunately, there isn’t anything in the original Hebrew or Greek that implies that “hell” (which itself is a bad translation of multiple words that actually refer to completely different places and concepts from one another — with none of them referring to the inescapable torture chamber that most people think of when they hear the word — which means those Christians who like to say that “Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible” or that “Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven” are wrong, because He actually never spoke about it even once in the original Greek) lasts forever anyway, nor that the lake of fire does either, when properly interpreted (the lake of fire being something different from at least one of the Greek words mistranslated as “hell;” The KJV has John saying that “hell” will be cast into the lake of fire, and it would make no sense to say that “hell” is cast into itself, which it would have to mean if “hell” and the lake of fire were the same thing).
What few Christians seem to understand is that, when Jesus spoke about the future and about judgement, He wasn’t talking about non-corporeal, spiritual, afterlife “states” in other dimensions called heaven and hell (the reason I mention only Jesus here, even though Paul is our apostle, is because Paul never once threatened anyone with any of the words that some versions translate as “hell” anywhere in his recorded words in the book of Acts or in any of his written epistles; and even in the one instance that he used the Greek word hades — one of the words mistranslated as “hell” in some Bible versions, and which will be discussed in more depth shortly — even the KJV translated it as “grave” rather than “hell,” which brings up all sorts of questions if those of us in the body of Christ are supposed to model ourselves specifically after his example and after his teachings, yet he was never once recorded as having taught that anybody will suffer forever or even as having mentioned a place called “hell”). Rather, everything Jesus said in person when speaking about the future takes place on a planet called Earth in the physical universe (albeit on two different Earths; some taking place on our current planet, and some on the new Earth, or third Earth, after this one has been destroyed).
First of all, He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, which begins as an actual, physical 1,000-yearlong kingdom here on Earth (not in a supposed afterlife dimension), specifically in Israel, that is sometimes referred to as the Millennium or Millennial Kingdom, which comes into being after the Tribulation period at the end of the third eon ends and the fourth eon begins.
He also spoke of paradise (παράδεισος/paradeisos in the Greek), which would be a reference to Earth as well since the tree of life is there and there would be no need to eat from the tree of life (which we know will be on Earth in the future anyway) in an ethereal afterlife dimension.
As far as the negative future He talked about goes, it was in this universe as well. His primary threat was Gehenna (γέεννα/Geenna in Greek), also known as the Valley of Hinnom (or the Valley of the son of Hinnom), which was an actual, physical valley in Israel (again, not in another dimension one enters after death) — although it’s actually quite pleasant at the moment — in which it’s believed by many that garbage was burned in Jesus’ time, and which Jesus’ Jewish audience would have immediately recognized as a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy about the place the corpses of lawbreakers would be burned up and devoured by worms in here on Earth in the future (almost everybody has somehow failed to notice the word “carcases” in the passage in Isaiah that Jesus was referencing, missing the fact that he was writing about dead bodies that living people would be able to see in the future on Earth and not about conscious souls in some afterlife dimension, and that Jesus would have then been speaking about the same thing). The worst punishment a Jewish person could experience after death was to be denied a proper burial (there couldn’t be a worse consequence than that since most Jews believed that one ceased to exist consciously after death, as Scripture also teaches and as will be discussed shortly), which is why cremation is forbidden for Jews to this day for the most part. In fact, Jews are basically obligated to bury any and all corpses, even if it’s the body of a criminal who had been put to death, so to be told that they not only might be kept from living in the kingdom of Heaven when it begins on Earth but that they could potentially be left unburied and might instead have their cadaver unceremoniously cast into the most unholy place in all of Israel when the Millennium begins as well (the valley in which certain ancient Israelites burned their children to death as a sacrifice to the god Molech) would be the most humiliating indignity Jesus’ audience could have been threatened with. Jesus wasn’t threatening that anybody would be tortured in Gehenna; He was simply giving a warning that certain sins would result not only in death so that one couldn’t enter the kingdom of Heaven when it begins on Earth (and that certain sins during the Millennium will have the same result as well), but also that they risked losing out on a proper burial so that their corpse would instead be seen burning up by everyone who looked upon it as well, which would be (and will be) a great source of shame before they die. Like Judas, it would have been far better for them to have died in the womb or in childbirth than to have been born at all, since babies who aren’t born never have to deal with such indignities (and are also far more likely get to live on the new Earth than Judas or any of those who will be cast into Gehenna are, at least during the fifth eon).
And the reference to the worm that “dieth not” there isn’t talking about human souls not dying, or to some sort of magical worms that never die either. The Greek word for worm there is “σκώληξ” (“skōlēx”), which refers to regular maggots, not to human souls, or even to mystical, immortal worms that chomp on the souls of sinners for eternity. To put it simply, it’s talking about actual living (conscious) creatures who consume actual dead (unconscious) bodies. Jesus and Isaiah were just saying that any dead body that will be thrown into the valley will be totally consumed, either by maggots or by fire. And while it is technically true that the “worms” won’t die, that’s just because maggots are simply larval flies which go through a process known as pupation and grow into adult flies, so they won’t die while still in their larval, “worm” form, but will instead grow up and lay eggs so that there are then more “worms” to consume more of the bodies in the valley. That said, the idea that something or someone “would not die” is used in various other parts of Scripture as well, but they did still eventually die, so it’s important to realize that this phrase doesn’t mean the thing said to “not die” never will; it just won’t die before it’s supposed to.
Likewise, the fire isn’t quenched either (“quenched” being a word that just means it won’t be deliberately put out, not that it can’t go out on its own once it runs out of fuel), but will instead burn for as long as there is fuel (dead bodies) to keep it burning. But, just like the fire on the altar that Leviticus said wouldn’t be quenched but which is no longer burning (among other things Scripture says will not be quenched but eventually stop burning), it will also eventually go out once it’s done its job and there are no more carcasses to consume.
Thanks to horrible Bible mistranslations, as well as a simple lack of understanding of how these passages should be interpreted, Gehenna has been thought by most Christians to be referring to a place all non-Christians will go to suffer forever in after they die, when it really only applies to a very specific (and relatively small) set of people living in a very specific period of time that hasn’t even occurred yet (at least not as of the time this was written), and nobody will even be conscious in it, much less actually be suffering, since it’s a reference to a geographical location on Earth rather than to an afterlife realm. And if Gehenna is where the lake of fire will be located (which I actually believe is quite likely), anybody who dies a second time in the lake of fire will experience the exact same thing anyone who is burned up in Gehenna during the Millennium will experience: actual death, at least until their next resurrection.
Now, some Christians like to point out that, at the time Jesus used the word, some Jews might have used the word “Gehenna” figuratively to refer to a concept that one could loosely describe as the place we think of as ”hell” today. But even if that happened to be the case (and there is reason to believe that the usage of the word in this manner didn’t occur until after the Bible was written), the fact of the matter is that Jews in Jesus’ time believed all sorts of unscriptural ideas, many of which Jesus had to point out they were wrong to believe because the ideas weren’t found anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (“have you not read…?” is something Jesus sometimes had to say to them), and this would be one of those concepts that definitely wasn’t found anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (you’re welcome to try to find the concept of never-ending conscious torment in the Valley of Hinnom in the Hebrew Scriptures, but so far nobody has been able to show me an example of it being taught there).
In addition, He sometimes also referred to ᾅδης (hades), which is simply “the unseen,” and is the Greek equivalent of the word שְׁאוֹל (sheol) used in the Hebrew Scriptures for “the grave” (although sheol doesn’t literally mean “grave,” but rather likely means “ask,” being used in reference to something that is unseen, which is why “hades,” which literally means “unseen” when it’s broken down, is such a great Greek equivalent of this Hebrew word), and is just speaking of the state of no longer being conscious because one is dead (when it’s not being used figuratively in parable form). Unfortunately, most members of the Christian religion are unaware of the fact that the immortality of the soul is not only an unscriptural concept, but that it’s an entirely pagan idea that may have been adopted by certain Pharisees due to confusion about the state of the dead learned during the Babylonian captivity, and which was later carried into much of Christendom.
That said, the belief in the concept is also based on misinterpretations of various passages of Scripture. One of the main examples is the Christian misunderstanding Jesus’ promise to the thief on the cross about being with Him in paradise as meaning that they’d literally be together in paradise that very same day. That would have been impossible, of course, because Jesus actually remained in the tomb for three days (as will be discussed in a future chapter), not to mention the fact that paradise doesn’t even exist yet. When Jesus promised the thief on the cross — actually, more likely a pole or a stake, but for the sake of familiarity I do call it a cross throughout this book — that he’d be with Him in paradise, He was referring to a future resurrection on Earth rather than to an afterlife state immediately after they both died; as we’ve already covered, paradise is a reference to a future physical state of the Earth where the tree of life will be, and not to an ethereal afterlife realm, so this passage would have to be translated more along the lines of, “Verily, to you am I saying today, with Me shall you be in paradise,” if we want it to avoid contradicting the rest of Scripture.
The other main example is the parable (and yes, it has to be a parable based on whom Jesus was speaking to when He told it) of the rich man and Lazarus, which can be interpreted in a number of possible different ways but which almost nobody seems to understand is not describing an actual event or the geography of an afterlife dimension. Unless one believes that Lazarus was sitting inside Abraham’s chest, that there’s actually physical water and fire in this supposed afterlife dimension, or that someone who is experiencing the equivalent of being on fire could actually participate in a coherent conversation (or even make any sounds at all other than screaming in pain), nothing in this story can be taken literally. Not to mention, if we did take it literally, we’d have to believe that the rich all go to “hell” while the poor all “get saved” (there’s literally zero indication that Lazarus was a believer in this story; the reason Jesus says he went to “Abraham’s bosom” was entirely because of his suffering as a beggar). The fact of the matter is, no Christians actually believe any of that, which means they’re already interpreting the story figuratively to begin with, so they might as well go all the way and acknowledge that it’s 100% parabolic, meant to convey a message that had nothing to do with the afterlife at all. At the end of the day, it’s actually quite funny how things pertaining to “hell” are literal until they’re not when it comes to Christianity — see also the lack of bodily mutilation and the general avoidance of helping the needy among Christians who don’t understand right dividing (and who don’t know the true identity of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25, or what their actual “outcomes” refer to; nobody “goes to heaven” or “goes to hell” during this judgement — the rewards and punishments in this prophecy take place entirely on Earth among the still living) as similar examples.
“Ye shall not surely die” might be the first recorded lie the devil told (or, ”Not to die shall you be dying,” as the serpent technically put it), but today it’s being taught by many leaders in the Christian religion who are trying to convince us that death isn’t actually death at all, but is rather just a change in our state of consciousness (and, in fact, that death is really life), seemingly unaware that the Hebrew Scriptures tell us the dead know nothing (meaning they aren’t conscious at all). Even in the Greek Scriptures, death is compared to sleep (the book of Acts didn’t say Stephen died and went to heaven, for example; while his spirit was returned to God — not as a conscious being, though, since our spirit is just the breath of life that generates a soul while in a body — Acts says that he himself went to sleep, not that he remained conscious), not to being awake in an afterlife existence, outside of that one parable which seems to confuse so many (although that was the purpose of parables — they weren’t told to make things obvious to the religious — so I suppose it’s doing its job there).
Scripture says that David and others fell asleep — referring to their actual persons being asleep or unconscious in death — not that just their bodies, which are referred to separately as having decayed, fell asleep while they themselves remained conscious (when Scripture speaks of a person dying, it doesn’t just say their body died while they themselves continued to live; instead, it says they themselves have died, and that the location of their very person is now “in the grave” or “in the dust,” in the very same place that all animals end up as well, in fact). Similarly, bodily resurrection is likewise compared to waking up from sleep in Scripture, and not to a person being returned to their body. As E. W. Bullinger explained, “when the Holy Spirit uses one thing to describe or explain another, He does not choose the opposite word or expression. If He speaks of night, He does not use the word light. If He speaks of daylight, He does not use the word night. He does not put ‘sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet’ (Isaiah 5:20). He uses adultery to illustrate idolatry; He does not use virtue. Thus, if He uses the word ‘sleep‘ of death, it is because sleep illustrates to us what the condition of death is like. If Tradition be the truth, He ought to have used the word ‘awake,’ or ‘wakefulness’ – but the Lord first uses a Figure, and says ‘Lazarus sleepeth,’ and afterwards, when He speaks ‘plainly‘ He says ‘Lazarus is dead.’ Why? Because, sleep expresses and describes the condition of the ‘unclothed‘ state. In normal sleep, there is no consciousness. For the Lord, therefore, to have used this word ‘sleep’ to represent the very opposite condition of conscious wakefulness would have been indeed to mislead us. Yet all of His words are perfect, and are used for the purpose of teaching us, not for leading us astray.”
All that aside, we know that consciousness, at least for humans, can cease to exist, since one can be rendered unconscious by either going to sleep or fainting or by being knocked out. So if consciousness can cease to exist under those common circumstances, we aren’t in an eternal state of consciousness (which means the soul could technically be said to cease to exist each time we go to sleep since the soul itself actually is our awareness or consciousness — the word translated as “soul” is “ψυχή”/“psuchē” in the original Greek, which should be enough explanation in and of itself for those people who recognize the word that our English word “psyche” is based on), and if we can lose our consciousness, with it ceasing to exist while we’re alive, there’s no reason to believe it goes on after we die without an active and awake brain to keep it going. For example, let’s say that somebody was sleeping, and hence had no consciousness existing at that point (and before someone brings up REM sleep and dreaming, the “subconscious” processes of a physical brain while asleep aren’t the same thing as true consciousness, nor can these physical processes occur without a living, biological brain, and one doesn’t dream the whole time they’re asleep anyway — in fact, we only dream about 20% of the time we’re asleep at night, so for approximately one third of our lives we don’t exist as conscious beings at all), or was even knocked unconscious with a hard object. If they were to suddenly die right then while unconscious (this hypothetical person is not in a state of REM sleep and hence isn’t dreaming in this scenario), would their consciousness just snap back into existence at the point of their death? There’s absolutely no reason to think it would, and the idea that death can recreate a consciousness that had stopped existing (as would be the case if this happened) really makes no sense at all.
But getting back to Scripture, it’s also important to remember that the first time those in the body of Christ are said to meet the Lord is in the air in our newly vivified bodies at the Snatching Away (or at the resurrection of the just, 75 days after the the Second Coming, for those in the Israel of God), which is the point from when we’re said to finally “always be together with the Lord” (and not from a previous point such as our physical death, which would be when those in the body of Christ actually began to “always be together with the Lord” if the immortality of the soul were true). In fact, the blessed hope we’re told to comfort one another with is the expectation that the dead in Christ will eventually be resurrected and that all of us in the body of Christ (still living and newly resurrected) will then be vivified and snatched away by Christ to finally go live in the heavens, not that the dead are currently living happily with the Lord as ghosts in another dimension called Heaven.
Of course, Paul also makes it quite clear that the immortality of the soul can’t be true when he said, “and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,” as well as when he talked about all dangers he faced to spread his Gospel and pointed out that there would be no reason for him to do so if there were no resurrection from the dead since otherwise nobody could be saved, in which case he might as well just go live life without worrying about evangelizing. This wouldn’t be true if those who are saved go to another dimension called Heaven when they die. The fact that we don’t is why he could make that claim, because without the physical resurrection we would have no hope at all and would cease to exist forever (we wouldn’t even have the hope of existing in another dimension called “Heaven” with God since we would have “perished”), which was basically the entire reason Paul wrote that chapter in his first epistle to the Corinthians to begin with.
This is also backed up a little further on in the chapter when he said that “this mortal must put on immortality,” which tells us that we don’t inherently have immortality (in fact, Paul is clear that Christ Jesus is the only human to currently have immortality — no, I don’t believe this passage was talking about the Father, since otherwise it would seem to mean that Christ Himself, as well as the angels and other celestial beings, could die at this point, so it appears it has to be a passage about a human and how that human is the only human who is currently immortal), but only gain it when our bodies are vivified, which is not until after the resurrection of those in the body of Christ who have died, not from the time they died (or really from the time they were born, if the “immortality of the soul” were true).
In addition, we know that not only has David himself not gone to Heaven, at least not as of the time Peter made that speech recorded in the book of Acts (which was after Christ’s resurrection, which means we have no reason to believe he’s ended up there since then either), but that nobody other than Christ Himself has either (at least as of the time John wrote that), according to John’s commentary in the book called the Gospel according to John (Jesus’ “red letters” quote should really end at verse 12 based on the fact that verse 13 says the Son of Mankind was in Heaven at that point, which we know Jesus wasn’t at the time He had that discussion with Nicodemus — and for those who are familiar with it, yes, I’m also aware of the dual, “spiritual” meaning of this verse, and how it’s connected to the other double entendres in the chapter, but I believe the literal meaning still stands as well, or else it wouldn’t be a double entendre like the other references in the chapter that are doing the same thing — so everything from verse 13 to 21 had to have been John’s personal commentary on the topic, written after Jesus had left the Earth; it’s important to remember that the book of John was a theology book rather than a history book and, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, only used historical quotes of Jesus to prove theological points instead of being a historical record in and of itself as the three other “Gospels” were), so it seems pretty obvious that Heaven is only for those who have been vivified (aside from people who fly in aircraft, and certain astronauts who visit it for a short period of time in their space shuttles, but they all return to Earth relatively quickly) and isn’t for those who are currently dead.
In fact, if people were to remain conscious after death, God would cease to be their God while they waited for their physical resurrection, since He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (even though, to Him, all are considered alive from a proleptic perspective, which was the point of this statement), which would make things strange for people in the supposed afterlife if they no longer had a God. Although, if the immortality of the soul were true, that would be a good explanation as to why the dead do not praise God, or even remember that He exists, since He’d no longer be their God while they were still dead (the real reason the dead don’t praise or thank or remember Him, though, of course, being simply that they’re unconscious and can’t do anything while dead). Believe it or not, though, some Christians actually try to use this statement to support their view that the dead remain conscious, misapprehending the statement to mean that the dead aren’t actually dead. If they just took the time to examine the context of the preceding verses (in Luke 20:27-37) they’d discover that it was really about the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in a physical resurrection in the future, trying to trip Jesus up with a question about whether the resurrected dead during the impending Millennial Kingdom in the next eon here on Earth would still be married or not (and not about ghosts in an afterlife dimension and whether they’d still be married in that imaginary realm; it wasn’t the concept of an ethereal afterlife state that the Sadducees were trying to trip Jesus up on) in order to make the idea of a physical resurrection seem ridiculous, but Jesus turned it around on them by using the fact that the Lord could not legitimately claim the title of “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” as Moses revealed Him to be if the dead weren’t going to be physically resurrected someday, because He’s not the God of the dead but of the living (which is where the figure of speech known as prolepsis comes in; prolepsis in Scripture is where God calls what is not yet as though it already were — when God makes a statement that tells us something is going to be, it’s already as good as done — so Jesus was using prolepsis there to tell us that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will definitely be resurrected someday since otherwise that statement about them would have been a lie because it would mean they would have ceased to exist forever when they died).
The passage just can’t be read as saying they’re actually still alive in our time period. Verse 37 (“…that the dead are rousing, even Moses divulges at the thorn bush…”) makes it very clear that Jesus is talking about the fact that these three patriarchs would eventually be physically resurrected, not that they’re still actually alive in another dimension. Jesus’ whole point is that, if they weren’t going to be resurrected and live again, God could not be said to be their God, because He isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. If they were actually still alive in some afterlife dimension, God would still be their God (and they could still thank and praise Him, contrary to what the book of Psalms says), but Jesus made it clear that, without a physical resurrection, He couldn’t be their God, since they’d be dead and gone forever. Because they will be resurrected, however, God actually can be said to be their God.
There’s just no way to read verses 37 and 38 as anything other than Jesus saying the dead are indeed dead and gone until their resurrection, because the only way that Moses’ statement about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob could possibly be used as proof of the resurrection of the dead is if the three of them are currently dead and gone for the time being. If the three of them are actually still alive in an afterlife dimension somewhere, and if Jesus’ statement about God being the God of the living rather than the God of the dead was actually Him trying to prove the idea that God is still their God because they’re actually still alive somewhere (and if that is what He was trying to prove with that statement we’d then have to ask why He suddenly moved on to a whole other topic, since the disagreement was over the resurrection of the dead, not over an afterlife where the dead aren’t actually dead at all), then the resurrection of the dead would be entirely unnecessary, and Jesus’ argument couldn’t possibly help prove the resurrection at all.
That’s not the only passage they misuse, though, to try to prove the immortality of the soul. Many like to also claim that Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Aside from the fact that this isn’t actually what Paul said at all, if you look at the context of what he actually said in the previous verses, and also remember that a physical resurrection in a glorified, vivified body is what Paul and the body of Christ are looking forward to (and not to living as ghosts in an afterlife dimension), you can see that he’s figuratively comparing our current mortal bodies to earthly houses, and saying that he’s looking forward to no longer being “at home” in his mortal body, but instead wants to be at home in his vivified “house not made by hands” (meaning in his glorified body), where he’ll also finally be present with the Lord because he’ll be in his immortal body in Heaven (which, as we’ve already learned in the previous chapter, just refers to outer space) with Him. This is similar to the way they misuse Paul’s quote that, ”to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” claiming this means Paul thought his death would bring him immediately to be with Christ. Of course, we know that Paul was aware of the fact that the only way he would see Christ was through resurrection (or vivification, if the Snatching Away occurred while he was still alive), not death. As we already covered, Paul’s teaching was that, apart from resurrection, those who have died have perished (ceased to exist forever), so we have to interpret this passage in light of that fact. Now, there are a few different ways one can interpret this passage, such as that it would feel to him like he was experiencing the ”gain” of immortality immediately after dying because no time would have passed from his perspective (because, if the dead are unconscious, it will feel like no time at all passes between the time one dies and the time one is resurrected), or such as that the “gain” Paul refers to here would be a gain to the cause of Christ, which his martyrdom would surely accomplish (or even perhaps that he would later gain a reward for his martyrdom), but the one way we can’t interpret it is in a way that contradicts the rest of Scripture, which the teaching that Paul would live on after his death does in spades. It’s easy to get confused about verses like this if you ignore the context (of both the surrounding passages, and of Scripture as a whole), but once someone comes to realize the truth that death is actually death, they can then begin to interpret these passages in ways that are consistent with the rest of Scripture.
So, rather than going to afterlife realms called Heaven or “hell” after we die, Scripture instead tells us that death is a return. The body returns to the soil or earth, the soul returns to hades/the unseen (meaning our consciousness returns to the non-existence from whence it came), and the spirit returns to God who created it (although not as a conscious entity, since our spirits aren’t conscious on their own without a body: soul, or feeling and consciousness, is an emergent property of combining a spirit with a body, just like combining the colours yellow and blue creates the colour green — the spirit is our “breath of life” as well as our “essense,” so to speak, which would include the memories that make us who we are, but it doesn’t experience consciousness until it’s reunited with a resurrected body). This presents quite a dilemma for the traditional view, of course. If the soul of a dead person is existing consciously in an actual place called hades and the spirit is with God, does the soul of an unsaved person suffer in a fiery “hell” while the spirit enjoys being with God? Remember, Scripture doesn’t discriminate between “saved” and “unsaved” spirits when it says they return to God upon death. And what does that say about us if our spirit and soul can go to separate “places” but are both conscious (are we made up of two conscious beings that can be split up when we die, yet only one will be punished for sin in “hell” while the other is in heaven with God)? This is just one more reason why the traditional view makes no sense. Instead, it’s better to believe what Scripture actually says: that souls can actually die. On top of that, if those who are saved (relatively speaking) “go to heaven” as soon as they die, then death isn’t really an enemy to be “defeated” (and, really, abolished) at all, as Paul told us it is, but is instead a friend finally bringing us to God, with our eventual resurrection just being icing on the cake rather than being the actual cake itself that it’s supposed to be (the resurrection and vivification of our human bodies has become nothing more than a small sidenote in most of Christendom, when it’s what we’re actually supposed to be looking forward to).
Of course, nobody mentioned in the Hebrew or Greek Scriptures was ever recorded as looking forward to an ethereal afterlife state anyway, nor had any Scripture prior to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus ever suggested people would go to one while dead either (and the fact that the concept of an afterlife realm for ghosts wasn’t ever even hinted at in the Hebrew Scriptures tells us everything we need to know about the idea). What they were looking forward to was a physical, bodily resurrection in the distant future, so parabolic passages such as that one, and symbolic statements such as those in the book of Revelation have to be interpreted in light of that (although it should probably also be noted that, as symbolic as parts of the book of Revelation — or the Unveiling of Jesus Christ, as it should actually be called — can be, it still has to be interpreted as literally as possible if we want to actually understand it). Luke 16 wasn’t a new revelation to replace the Scriptural doctrine of unconscious death until resurrection, so one has to figure out what it means without creating an entirely new theology that hadn’t ever even been hinted at prior to it. Of course, even if we did ignore what the rest of Scripture says about the state of the dead and pretended that Luke 16 wasn’t a parable, John and Paul both tell us that the rich man wouldn’t have stayed in hades forever anyway — John in Revelation when he tells us hades is “emptied” (and, along with death, is then cast into the lake of fire itself) so the dead in it can be resurrected in order that they can be judged at the Great White Throne before the fifth eon begins, and Paul in 1st Corinthians when he tells us how everyone will be vivified at the end of the fifth and final eon as previously discussed — which means taking this parable literally doesn’t actually help the traditionalist view of everlasting torment in “hell” anyway, since the rich man wouldn’t stay in hell/hades forever regardless. (At most, Infernalists can try use the parable to support the idea of the immortality of the soul; but based on everything else you’ve just read, it should now be quite clear just how untenable that concept actually is.) In fact, that verse in Revelation singlehandedly dismantles the concepts of both everlasting torment and annihilation all on its own. If all of the verses in Scripture that have the word “hell” in it are referring to the same place (as most Christians believe they are, particularly most KJV-Onlyists I’ve spoken with), including the passages that indicate that time spent in “hell” never ends, then we know for a fact that they’re being translated and interpreted incorrectly because of this verse in Revelation which tells us that one’s time spent in “hell” does come to an end when everyone in it is set free from it and resurrected for the Great White Throne Judgement. Not only does this completely destroy the concepts of everlasting torment or destruction in “hell,” since we know for a fact that nobody stays in there forever based on this verse, it destroys the concept of everlasting torment or destruction in the lake of fire after the Great White Throne Judgement as well, since the Greek words that are used to say that the time spent in the lake of fire is forever in the “translations” that say it is are the same Greek words used to say that time spent in “hell” is forever (and if the so-called “forever” spent in “hell” isn’t actually forever, there’s no basis for claiming the “forever” in the lake of fire is forever either).
Aside from Gehenna and hades, Jesus also used parables to warn of things such as outer darkness, a furnace of fire, and eonian fire (which most Bibles mistranslate as “eternal fire” or “everlasting fire,” but the word rendered along the lines of “eternal” in those versions is actually “eonian” as previously discussed). When one considers the fact that the reward Jesus was promising His audience was to live in the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth rather than in some ethereal afterlife realm, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the outer darkness and other such negative judgements were also just referring to places and experiences here on Earth as well, specifically parts of the planet other than Israel. Since Israel is where the Kingdom of Heaven will be centred when it arrives on Earth, those parts of the world far from the light of the kingdom will be in “outer darkness,” which is a grave punishment indeed for any Israelite who hoped to finally live in that kingdom when it comes to Earth. The eonian fire of Matthew 25 might seem a little trickier, but it isn’t referring to the lake of fire as most Christians assume either. Nearly everyone has been taught that the sheep in that parable are those who believe and are saved (relatively speaking), while the goats are non-Christians who will be cast into the lake of fire, yet pretty much every Christian also agrees that no true believer will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgement (which is the judgement that takes place immediately prior to anyone ending up in the lake of fire), and in fact believers within the body of Christ will likely participate in judging those at the Great White Throne Judgement (Christ is the judge at that judgement, and it would take a very long time for one person to judge every single human being who ever lived, even if one excludes all those who have been saved, relatively speaking, so it makes sense that the rest of His body will assist Him here — and no, this judgement doesn’t take place outside of time; it takes place in our physical universe after the dead have been physically resurrected, as we’ve already covered), so the sheep can’t possibly be who most Christians have assumed they are, which also means that this parable can’t be talking about the Great White Throne Judgement (which in turn means that the fire in this parable isn’t referring to the lake of fire, or at least there’s no good basis for making the assumption that it is, outside of preconceived doctrinal bias, of course). I don’t have room to get into all the details here, but Aaron Welch wrote a great study on the topic (which I highly recommend reading in full) where he explains that the eonian fire (as well as the furnace of fire in an earlier parable) is actually the exact same thing as the outer darkness. Simply put, it refers to Gentiles of the nations being punished for not doing good unto the least of Jesus’ brethren (Jesus’ “brethren” being Jews, not Christians or members of the body of Christ or even just random people who are suffering) during the tribulation period by being forced to reside in “darkness,” far from Israel, during the Millennial Kingdom (and it should also be noted that it isn’t the fire in that parable that is made ready for the devil and his angels as most Christians have thought, but rather it’s those who are sent into the figurative “fire” who are instead made ready for the devil and his messengers, since people living in those parts of the world will eventually give in to temptation by Satan to rise up against Israel one last time at the end of the 1,000 years). This judgement takes place almost immediately after the tribulation ends and Christ returns to Earth, at least 1,000 years prior to the Great White Throne Judgement (quite possibly before He resurrects and vivifies “they that are Christ’s at his coming,” since that doesn’t happen until 75 days after He returns to the Earth, which is another good indicator that the “sheep” in this prophetic parable aren’t a reference to believers), and if everybody was going to be judged and sent to heaven or the lake of fire at this point, aside from the fact that this would make the Great White Throne Judgement somewhat redundant, there would also be no mortals left to populate the Earth with new children during the Millennium, no mortals left to be kept alive and healthy by partaking of the fruit and leaves of the tree of life at a later time on the new Earth, no “unsaved” people left for Israel to finally be a light to the nations to and fulfill the so-called “Great Commission” to, and there would be no nations left to be tempted by Satan to rise up against Israel at the end of the Millennium either, since everybody would either be immortal in heaven or burning in the lake of fire if the traditional interpretation of these parables is correct. Of course, the fact that nobody is judged here based on their ”faith in Christ” or belief in the Gospel, but rather based on their works (how they treated certain people) also makes it pretty obvious that this doesn’t fit into the traditional Christian set of beliefs either, which means it just can’t be used to support their traditions (some like to claim that the works referred to in the judgement are a reference to the fruit of faith by Christians, but consideration of just how many Christians don’t do the things Jesus listed as the qualifications for eonian life in that parable, not to mention how many non-Christians actually do, blows that idea out of the water right from the get-go).
And finally, in addition to all the threats of judgement I’ve already covered, while Jesus Himself never spoke of it during His time on Earth, we all know there is the threat of the lake of fire written about in Revelation that has already been mentioned many times in this book as well (although the term “the lake of fire” is likely just a figurative reference to “Gehenna,” so what I’ve already said about that topic likely applies to it too). But, aside from everything else I’ve already said about it so far that demonstrates it isn’t a place that people will suffer forever in, there’s one more reason that’s impossible, and that’s the aforementioned order of vivifications written about by Paul. Remember, people are resurrected in physical, human bodies for the Great White Throne Judgement prior to being cast into the lake of fire (if their name happens to not be written in the book of life), but Scripture tells us that only true believers will have been vivified (resurrected to immortality) at this point, and that there aren’t any more resurrections to immortality until the consummation of the eons at a much later time (and that the final vivification is to live with God forever, not to suffer forever, particularly since it doesn’t happen until the time that death — which would have to include the second death — is abolished), so those who will be resurrected from the dead only to be cast into the lake of fire shortly thereafter will just be regular mortal humans, or at least there’s nothing in Scripture to indicate that anybody other than those who are saved are ever given immortal bodies (especially since humans being made immortal in Scripture always appears to be connected with experiencing salvation), so there’s absolutely no reason to believe that any of them could possibly continue to live while in the lake of fire. Of course, the only passage in Scripture that even talks about anyone other than the adversary, the wild beast, or the false prophet being cast into the lake of fire doesn’t actually say they’ll be conscious or tormented forever in there anyway, just that they’ll be cast into it. What happens to them afterwards has to be determined based on a proper interpretation of the rest of Scripture, and we’ve already determined that Scripture says everyone is eventually going to be resurrected and vivified, which lines up perfectly with it being the second death, meaning just more of the same as the first death for regular humans (non-existence until one’s next resurrection, and this time also vivification to enjoy God forever).
So no, Jesus wasn’t promising an existence in a spiritual realm called heaven for the supposed ghosts of the righteous when He spoke, nor did He ever offer anybody everlasting or eternal life either, since eventual everlasting life for everyone is already a given thanks to His death for our sins and subsequent entombment and resurrection, which is actually what the Good News that is the Gospel of the Uncircumcision is proclaiming. Likewise, neither was He warning anyone about never-ending torture in a spiritual realm called hell for sinners (or even just permanent non-existence for sinners). Instead, He was A) teaching the people of Israel how to be sure to enjoy eonian life on Earth (primarily in Israel, which is where the Kingdom of Heaven will be at that time) during the next eon or two in the messages He gave while on Earth, and teaching those elected for the body of Christ about the fullness of salvation — including eonian life in the heavens among the celestials during the next two eons — in the messages He gave Paul after He physically left the Earth (while everyone eventually gets everlasting life, only a relatively small number of people will experience eonian life), and B) warning the people of Israel how to avoid weeping and gnashing their teeth because they’ve been forced to live in the “outer darkness” (meaning they’re not allowed to live in Israel, possibly having to live as far away as the other side of the planet), or even how to avoid being killed and suffering the humiliating sentence of having their dead bodies displayed and destroyed in public in Gehenna (also on Earth), both of which would result in missing out on the joys of the Millennial Kingdom in the fourth eon (and quite possibly the next eon after that as well) because they’d either be living outside of Israel or possibly even be dead for the remaining eon or two (which would be what the figure of speech of having one’s “soul destroyed in Gehenna” means, and also along the lines of what eonian extermination, or “destruction age-during,” refers to — and the fact that their extermination is only eonian tells us that, when the eons are concluded, so will their extermination be also, which reveals that the Annihilationists who believe that the extermination of the “unsaved” will last forever are just as wrong about judgement as the Infernalists are).
And, again, since the Hebrew Scriptures never threatened never-ending torture while dead as a punishment for breaking the Mosaic law, or even for sin in general — at most it threatened physical death for certain capital crimes — but did speak of the earthly Gehenna as a place where the physical (not spiritual) bodies of the dead lawbreakers would be burned in the future (they couldn’t be spiritual bodies since “spiritual bodies” are only given to someone once they’ve been resurrected and/or vivified to live forever, and are, in fact, very physical), and since Jesus didn’t ever correct these beliefs Himself when He spoke of judgement and Gehenna when read properly in the original Greek (when read without a preconceived bias, it’s completely clear that He was teaching the exact same thing the Hebrew Scriptures said about the topic), there’s literally zero reason to interpret (or translate) these things the way most Christians (and Bible versions) have.
Yes, there is one passage in the book of Daniel that certain Bibles mistranslate as saying some will be resurrected to “everlasting contempt” which some Christians like to use to defend the idea of everlasting torment in ”hell.” However, aside from the fact that contempt and torture are two very different things, A) the Hebrew word mistakenly rendered as “everlasting” here is “olam” which, as we’ve already discovered, is a word that refers to a period of time with a temporary duration, B) as we’ve also already covered, there’d never been a threat of a never-ending conscious punishment before this passage, so there’s no good reason to assume it’s suddenly being proclaimed here centuries after the giving of the Mosaic law when no Israelite had ever heard of it before — for that matter, nobody prior to Israel was warned about it either; not even Adam and Eve were warned about it, much less anyone who lived from their time to the time Daniel was supposedly warned about it — and it isn’t even explaining who would be experiencing such a thing or why, not to mention how to avoid it, and C) the passage is talking about physical resurrection on Earth anyway, not to spiritual existence in an afterlife realm while dead; the negative part of this passage is referring to those resurrected to life at the Great White Throne judgement before they’re killed again — which is why it’s called the second death — when their bodies are tossed into the lake of fire to be burned up, as well as possibly to those who are resurrected to live as prisoners (temporarily, until the last farthing is paid) on the New Earth.
To put it simply, most Christians are assigning the earthly rewards and punishments that Jesus taught are meant for Israelites (and for those who bless them or don’t bless them during the Tribulation) to a supposed afterlife state meant for everyone, attempting to spiritualize physical and geographical places and events when there’s absolutely no good reason to do so. Even the Great White Throne Judgement — which does apply to people other than Israel — and any of its resulting sufferings will likely happen on Earth (at the very least, it happens to those who are physically alive in this universe, having just been resurrected into regular human bodies, and not to ghosts in an afterlife dimension), prior to the bodies of those who don’t enter the New Earth at its beginning being physically (not spiritually) cast into the lake of fire just like the dead bodies of previous sinners were physically cast into Gehenna on Earth during the Millennium, or at least on the New Earth itself, by those whose names are written in the book of life but who still have some debt to pay off, so to speak.
These facts, combined with the fact that Scripture (although it should be stated that really only Paul) is quite clear that everyone will eventually experience reconciliation and immortality, makes it pretty obvious that the only reason for the morally and spiritually depraved followers of religion to continue believing in a demonic doctrine like everlasting torment (or even everlasting annihilation) after learning these truths is because they want to believe it (and continuing to believe and teach it tells the rest of us just how hardened their hearts and cauterized their consciences are, as well as just how little they understand about God’s character and His purpose for the eons and dispensations). Sadly, most Christians only seem to want Good News as long it’s not too good (really, their basic doctrine is Bad News — which is why I like to call them malangelists rather than evangelists — since one could hardly call the teachings that “sin wasn’t actually completely taken care of by Christ some 2,000 years ago” and that “the majority of people throughout history, probably most of your family members and friends included, are almost certainly going to be tormented, or at least destroyed, for eternity” to be anything even remotely resembling Good News). Some malangelists like to say that it’s necessary to be taught the bad news first so that the good news has context, but everybody is already completely familiar with the actual bad news as Scripture defines it — that everyone is mortal and has failed to be perfect — so it’s really not something that anybody needs to be reminded of. And the so-called “good news” they’re teaching isn’t Good News at all either, since their supposed “gospel” is that your friends and family members can be saved, but only if they happen to be moral enough or wise enough or lucky enough to happen to believe and/or do the right things before they die (or if they happen to be among those whom God has elected to avoid eternal damnation if the Calvinists are correct), which really can’t be called Good News, either for those who weren’t born righteous enough or smart enough to make the right choices (or lucky enough to be elected for eternal salvation if Calvinism is correct), or for those of us who are going to miss them if they don’t.
So, while everyone will eventually enjoy immortality (giving them everlasting life), those who aren’t predestined for eonian life will first go through judgement (not to be confused with punishment or with death), and some will even experience the second death. However, at the consummation of the eons (after the final eon is over), “the grave” or “the unseen” will have no victory and death (all death) will have no sting because it will have been destroyed (and anyone still dead will have to be made alive for death to be truly abolished), and God will be “All in all” (yes, in all; not just in a lucky few — If Paul had not pointed out that the “all” he was writing about doesn’t include God, people could then turn around and say that “all” doesn’t actually mean “all” because it obviously couldn’t include God so it could then also exclude people who die as non-believers as well if it doesn’t actually mean “all,” but because Paul does point out that God isn’t included in the “all” but doesn’t mention anyone else as being excluded from the group, we know that everyone other than God is included in the “all,” even those who die as non-believers). This truth is lost on those who are lost thanks to their slavery to the demonic teachings of the Christian religion, but if this weren’t the case (if most of humanity were to suffer consciously in the lake of fire forever), all this judgement would do is torture the majority of people who ever existed nonstop, which would serve no purpose at all other than to stand as an everlasting reminder that Satan, death, and “the grave” won the ultimate victory after all (a Pyrrhic victory though it might be for Satan, a defeat of God in the battle over souls it would remain nonetheless — and the same goes for if Annihilationism or Conditional Immortality is true as well, by the way; it would mean God still lost to Satan, death, and “the grave” in the struggle for souls), and that God was a failure in ridding creation of evil, ultimately making Him and Jesus A) monsters (only the most horrific of monsters could force, or even allow, someone to be tortured forever; the worst person to ever live could never do anything like that, but many religious Christians want to accuse God of doing something that would make Hitler look like a saint in comparison, or at least make God out to be no better than Hitler if one is an Annihilationist because they believe He’ll permanently kill the majority of humanity a second time in the largest holocaust ever known, which would be even more horrific than it already is — and not only for them but for those of us who care about them as well, and who would be missing them for all of eternity — if He didn’t eventually resurrect them again and make things right for all of them), and B) the biggest sinners of all for “missing the mark” (חָטָא/chata’ in Hebrew, and ἁμαρτία/hamartia in Greek, which we translate as “sin” in English, is a word that means “to miss the mark” — for example, to not hit the bullseye on a target with an arrow or a target with a stone thrown from a sling — the book of Judges mentioned 700 lefthanded men who could sling stones at an hair breadth and not miss, with the word “miss” there being the same Hebrew word that is translated as “sin” in other verses) by failing to accomplish their goals.
Thankfully, that’s not the case. Most Christians think the best plan God could possibly come up with is everlasting incarceration and torture (or everlasting destruction in the case of the Annihilationists), locking the majority of His creation up to suffer forever, but this just shows us that they don’t think very highly of God and His abilities to make things right (or accomplish His ultimate intentions), which is what judgement really means (again, judgement shouldn’t be confused with punishment — the ultimate end result of judgement is righteousness). Rather than failing, as most Christians insist He will, in the end, God will succeed in destroying evil, sin, “hell” (really, “the unseen” or “the grave”), and death (again, all death, which would have to mean even the second death) completely because He actually is God and is fully capable of doing so.
While understanding the above should be more than enough to convince anyone with an open mind that everyone will eventually experience reconciliation, understanding the character of God is also important. In fact, teaching everlasting torment in “hell” seriously slanders God and Christ, and not only because it accuses them of being the world’s biggest sinners since it would mean they’ve failed to achieve their goals, not to mention their purpose for the eons (a missing of the mark on God’s part that Annihilationism also teaches). God has many attributes, but perhaps the most important way to understand God is to remember that while the Bible tells us that God has wrath, it also tells us that God is love (and not the other way around). Most Christians will claim to agree with this statement, of course, but they completely fail to understand what love is (among all the other things that Paul tells us love is, he tells us that love always perseveres and never fails), and will insist that the God who is love Himself will fail to save the majority of His earthly creation. Paul also tells us that love is kind in the same passage, but while few people could actually do something as unkind as to torture someone (or simply let someone be tortured) for even a few minutes, much less forever, most Christians insist that God is far less kind (which would mean He’s not loving) than us mere humans who would never do such a horrible thing to anyone. Yes, those whom God loves He chastens, but the purpose of this is to help, not hurt; it isn’t simply an end in itself. And since He loves the whole world, He’ll chasten the whole world, even if in different ways at different times for different people (the case of how God treats the inhabitants of Sodom, both in the past and in the future, is a great example of this).
The important thing to remember here is that God’s attributes, such as justice, can never conflict with His essence, which is love. If love is His very essence, everything He does must ultimately be beneficial for (and work out in the best interests of) all of His creation in the long run, which means His love can’t ever take a back seat to an attribute like His justice, but rather His justice will always have to be influenced by His love (which always perseveres and never fails) for all of His creation. And since allowing any of His creation to suffer forever in a lake of fire with no hope of escape could not be said to be an expression of His love for said creation (except in the most horrifically twisted of religious minds), we know that His justice could not allow this to happen since it would conflict with His love towards all of His creation. And, just as a quick aside, some will try to claim that God might define words such as love differently than we do since “His ways are higher than ours,” but A) Scripture already defines love for us in the aforementioned passage, and B) if we aren’t using words in a way that we can actually all understand them, there’s no point in using these words at all in the first place and we might as well just stop studying Scripture altogether . And really, if “love” can somehow actually include “everlasting torture” for some of those it’s directed towards, I don’t even want to begin to think about what “Heaven” might actually include for those of us who are headed there, but to say it might not be pleasant would likely be an understatement.
Of course, what most Christians always forget is that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, so if one wants to truly understand the character of God, all one has to do is look at what we’re told about His Son. For instance, Jesus often kept His teachings a secret from those who weren’t meant to understand them at that time (those who were not the elect), speaking in parables so that “seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand,” which tells us that not all of God’s truths are intended for everyone to understand just yet (not even most of the Christians who are reading this, many of whom have already rejected everything I’ve written here because God has made sure they aren’t able to see the truth). But even with His truth hidden from most, we also see that Jesus insisted on extreme forgiveness (seventy times seven, and even forgave those who killed Him), and ultimately sacrificed Himself to save the world. When you want to interpret Scripture, you have to do so using a hermeneutic that begins with Christology. If you don’t do that, it’s easy to misunderstand the passages about judgement, and just as easy to forget that everything in Scripture needs to be read with Christ’s character and His purpose in mind. If you really want to understand God’s character, you don’t go looking to the Hebrew Scriptures. You’ll find bits and pieces of information about His character there (and you’ll certainly learn about His power and sovereignty there), but to truly understand who God is and what He’s actually like, you have to look at His Son and who He is.
For those who still have trouble with the idea that God truly is the Saviour of everyone as Paul told us He is, however, I have one last thought for you to consider. I once asked a scholar of Koine Greek (one who knows far more about the language than I can claim to) who did not believe in Universal Reconciliation, but rather believed that most of humanity would be tormented forever in the lake of fire, to tell me what he thought the writers of Scripture would (or, really, what God would have inspired said writers to) have written differently than they actually did if my conclusions about Universal Reconciliation (from eonian salvation and judgement, to avoiding having one’s dead body burned in Gehenna and/or the lake of fire, to everything else about the topic) were correct (and I challenge you to find someone who knows Koine Greek well and ask them the same question, or to ask yourself the question if you yourself are well versed in the language), and his response was that it wouldn’t have been recorded any differently at all because the Greek text could technically mean everything I’ve written so far without any contradictions (even though he personally believed it meant what most Christians traditionally think it does), which tells me that belief in everlasting torment for non-Christians really is just a matter of wanting it to be true.