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Going to Hell (In a Nutshell)

• Greg Boyd

In this week’s theological meat-and-potatoes sermon on Hell and Salvation, Greg explores the fallacy of relativism, the singular truth of Jesus as the light of and way to the father, and whether this means that those who do not believe in him are doomed to an eternity of suffering in Hell.

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In our pluralistic world, it is common to hear that it sounds intolerant or narrow-minded to declare that Jesus is the one and only way to God. It sounds so much more open-minded to say that “all roads lead to God” and everyone’s way is valid. “My truth is my truth and your truth is yours” (aka relativism). But the problem is that if Jesus is who he said he is, this cannot be true.

In John 14:5-9, Jesus makes the claim that he is THE way and the truth and the life, not simply “a” way. He stated this in several places in unequivocal terms. He is either right (and is Lord), or he is wrong (and was an insane megalomaniac). We call ourselves Christian because we have done the work and have well-founded reasons to conclude that he is right and he is who he says he is. Therefore, then based on his own words we no longer have the option to say that all views are equally true.

The question that this brings up, is what does that mean for all of the people who believe other views? Are they going to Hell?

The first thing to look at is what exactly do we mean when we speak about Hell? Traditional teaching tells us that Hell is where people endure eternal torment and suffering. It is an “eternal punishment” that is never-ending. This is based on 6 main verses, one of which is 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, which says that unbelievers “will be punished with everlasting destruction.” Though at Woodland Hills we do not have an official doctrine on Hell, Greg presents 4 primary reasons why he does not think this definition of Hell is accurate.

First, this picture describes a God who keeps people in existence for the sole purpose of torturing them. There is no more chance of redemption, it is just punishment for punishment’s sake and torture for torture’s sake — eternally. This is starkly inconsistent with the God revealed in Jesus Christ, who had such love and compassion that he suffered and died for us. It is more descriptive of a God who is sadistic.

Second, these verses do not specify that the suffering is *experienced* eternally, but just that the consequences are eternal. Once you are damned, the decision is irrevocable and its effects are eternal. (Heb 9:12) Just as Jesus died once and it had eternal effects for all. The moment of death was not eternal, just the consequences are.

Third, the Bible does not say that humans are inherently immortal (which would need to be the case in order to suffer eternally). 1 Tim 6:15-16 teaches that God alone is immortal. And in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate the apple, the warning God gave them was that “they would surely die.” And John 10:27-28 says that eternal life is given to us as a gift. Therefore if we cannot live forever then it would follow that we cannot suffer forever.

Fourth, the way both the Old and New Testaments usually speak about the damned is as non-existence. 2 peter 2:6 says that the cities of cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were made into an example by “burning them to ashes.” (Also see Psalms 1:4-6; Ps 69:28; Deut 29:20; Ps 37:9-10, 20; Ps 37:34, 38; Obadiah 10,16; Matt 3:12.) The 4 most common biblical metaphors for damnation are “consumed”, “destroyed,” “perish,” and “death.” All of these indicate an eternal result but a definitive ending, not an eternal experience.

But even if the suffering is not eternal, does that mean that all non-Christians are going to be destroyed?

100 years ago, the mainstream belief was indeed that all non-Christians were doomed to hell. But this was not always the view, it only became popular in the early 20th century with the rise of fundamentalism.

There are, in fact, many convincing and scripturally-sound reasons for believing that non-Christians are not necessarily destroyed. To begin with, the fact that Jesus is THE way the truth and the light means that if someone is saved, it is and has always been through Jesus. Whether they realize it or not, and whether they call him by the same name or not, ALL are saved through Jesus. This is how it’s possible that people in the OT are declared as being in the kingdom even though they did not know Jesus yet.

Secondly, God loves ALL that he created. His love is intended to be all-inclusive to all creeds and cultures. The judgment to be excluded from Heaven is based not on the content of one’s mind or theology (which are largely influenced by the culture in which we were born/raised), but the disposition of their heart. (See Jn 3:15-16; 2 Cor 2:15; Romans 6:21; James 1:15, 5:19; 1 Tim 1:10) We still have free will to actively choose against him, but his hope is that we will all accept and have eternal life through him.

And finally, Jesus’ act on the cross was not just for his believers. He is “the true light that gives light to everyone” (Jn 1:9) and he acts in the world such that we will seek him, for “we are his offspring” and “he is not far from any of us” (Acts 17:27-29). His death was not just for believers, but for ALL people, all things and ALL creation. (Matt 11:27, 19:28; Romans 5:18, 8:32, 11:36; 1 Cor 15:22; 2 Cor 5:15)

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Topics: Hell, Judgment, Salvation

Sermon Series: Mixed Signals

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Focus Scripture:

  • John 14:6-9

    6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

    8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

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30 thoughts on “Going to Hell (In a Nutshell)

  1. jerry says:


  2. Lee B says:

    You painted a picture, I wanted to share mine…
    The chaff/dross is burned away, the pure remains.
    The picture I have is that there are millions of people, in a field of fire, burned away to the core.
    Those blessed to find Jesus are like gold statues, more is saved from fire, something recognizable, substantial.
    Others are only tiny melted statues, or gold people-nuggets, or dust. They sought God blindly, and may have grasped bits here and there, perhaps enough to survive, perhaps not.
    Then there are others that are burned away completely, paper-people, who wrote their own lives and history in their own way or on their own terms.

    Nuggets, tiny statues, large statues, all different sizes, standing in a field of ash. The nuggets/dust, those who lost too much to truly survive, given to the largest statues first, until they’ve regained what they lost, and then so on.

  3. Susie J says:

    Absolutely! Thank you.

  4. Joe says:

    I don’t know about this perspective. How is it not Oprah’s view? You don’t need a personal relationship with Jesus to be redeemed now?

    What about 1 John where he specifically states that you need to confess your sins then Jesus forgives you and makes you righteous? Without a confession there is no righteousness.

    Also, this message makes sin not that bad after all. Yeah maybe there are people going to hell mostly due to being born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. That’s not God’s fault. That’s how terrible sin is and makes evangelism very important. This message, despite Pastor Boyd’s disclaimer at the start, makes evangelism a nice idea if it’s convenient for you. Something most Christians like to hear as we’ve cowered from doing so for a long time now.

  5. Jakub says:

    Joe: I think you’re right when you say that despite the disclaimer this message is not encouraging evangelism and that for many Christians it might be a convenient thing to hear. However, I am still glad that Greg Boyd articulates this view. For one thing, it’s something that I have always felt so I was really excited to hear it from him. Also I think that this will not discourage somebody who already is “an evangelist” and that the opposite message would definitely not encourage somebody who’s (perhaps now) a “non-evangelist” in their hearts. If Greg Boyd’s opinion makes sense to many people, including myself, then I’m glad he shares it with us.

    Now what I find even more interesting is the part about confessing your sins to Jesus. I don’t think Boyd denies this at all. He says that even though a person might not have a conscious relationship with Jesus Christ (Boyd says something like “maybe they don’t know Jesus’ real name”) they can still be saved because they are probably conscious of their sin and they probably confess it to “whatever they consider the divine”, to quote William James. They after all have their religions and it seems to me that in every religion there is some recognition of sin and the need of repentace thereof.
    You know, I just picture these believers and devotees of other religions and that I simply don’t know what’s going on in their hearts but it seems to me that humbleness of hearts, submission to the deity, confessing-of-sins attitude of the heart isn’t something that only Christians do.

  6. Dave Pritchard says:

    This messages reaches deep into our psyche and confronts our sense of justice, mercy and our fear of punishment and what it will truly mean to spend an “Eternity” in Gods presence. For the sake of the discussion, it might be worth the possibility to consider an even more radical view of God’s eternal love and mercy – “Universal Reconciliation”.

    Now, some might see this view as tantamount to mockery of The Cross, where Christ’s atoning efforts were inconsequential, given that ultimately; God’s perfect Love will be perfectly and thoroughly actualized in each and every person ever created. I’m not suggesting here one readily adopt this interpretation but I think it’s worth the consideration and to explore the exegetical strategy that gives rise to such a perspective. Given the history of how absolutely contentious this issue has been in the past, where during the early Reformation and before that time, many where put to death for such beliefs, it’s comforting to know that at least at Woodland Hills, a broader spectrum of ideas is much more appreciated – Ha!

    People often so easily imagination a “BIG HELL” filled to the brim with unrepentant sinners. But…….. what if our “BIG GOD” posses a BIG mercy and justice far more reaching and inclusive than we’ve dared to imagine? The natural recoil and vomitus thought of spending an eternity in the company of nefarious individuals often blocks our ability to see beyond the feculent earthly melodrama we have been locked into for millennia.

    There are many versions of this ultimate eschatology where in the end, every resistant heart, every unrepentant stubborn soul will eventually be checkmated and reacclimated by the Master! Origen: 184-253AD seems to have been sympathetic to the idea of “Apokatastasis” and the restoration of all things. Often Acts 3:21 is sited as evidence of at least Peter’s understanding of “all things”. But many disagree!

    Before I launch into how this could even be possible, I am in no way ignoring or dismissing the supertanker full of verses that describe “Hell” as one horrific and nightmarishly painful place – Matt 5:22, Matt 25:41,46, Rom: 26-8, Rev 20:15, Rom 6:23, Matt 10:28l, Ezek 18:20, John 5:29, Mark 9:48, etc…… all attest to the severity that may await those who either openly reject or somehow fall outside of His grace in this life. “Universal Reconciliation” and its variant forms, has been around for centuries and was often flat out rejected by the religious establishment as being the epitome of heresy.

    When looking at John 3:36 in combination with 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 for example, one gets the impression that there’s absolutely no way out of the scriptural decree – “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Jesus is explicitly clear and concise on this matter and warns his audience frequently.

    But, then when closely examining the other more empathetic and inclusive texts such as Lamentations 3:31 -33 – “For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love” and 1 Timothy 4:10 – “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” We potentially start to see the possibility of another ultimate outcome for humanity rather than an eternal divide. The fact that God would have to maintain a part of the Universe somewhere as a repository for evil for eternity, seems to potentially be diametrically opposed to his character – maybe?

    One of the strongest contemporary cases presented for this view comes from Thomas Talbott’s “The Inescapable Love of God” where he logically deduces from scripture that eventually “all” will be reconciled to God. He does this through the juxtaposition of texts such as Romans 5:18, where he interprets Paul to mean [everyone ever born] for “All people” in the verse. Or John 12:32 – “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw “all” people to myself.” He gives dozens of other examples and makes quite a compelling case. The book is unique and an interesting read. It presents the possibility of a scenario where those who die outside of Christ are subject to a pain and suffering of sorts, but that it is only a temporary condition where essentially, the fires of Hell permanently burn away the chaff and stubble of a sinful and rebellious life. God being the essence of “True Love” cannot contradict His own nature, therefore; He uses Hell as a kind of ultimate refining process where the last vestiges of personal evil and blasphemous self-destruction are eliminated from the character of the person.

    This view is extremely hopeful and optimistic in that those we knew and loved who left this world without knowing Jesus or rejecting Him deliberately, will ultimately be dwelt with in an extremely painful fashion for apparently as long as it takes to shift their wills! This Purgatory like existence, potentially similar to C.S. Lewis’s vision in “The Great Divorce”, struggles to find almost any clear reference in scripture but is nevertheless one of the outcomes of Universalistic theology – maybe?

  7. Ken S says:

    Joe – if evangelism is so important, why in the OT do we see God’s revelation primarily to one people group, Israel? When God comes in human flesh in the person of Jesus, we do not read about Jesus going into all the world, not even Rome, but just a small area, mostly Galilee, with some time in Samaria and Jerusalem as well. If God as revealed in the Bible is not evangelistic, is evangelism God’s idea or humanity’s idea?

    Jesus says his disciples will be known by their love for one another, not by their theology or the message they preach. And disciple has a much deeper meaning than “convert” that I have seen as the focus of “evangelistic” efforts. A disciple is not made by an evangelist, but rather a choice a person makes to follow someone in whom they have trust. And a disciple of Jesus, by Jesus’ own definition, is someone who loves others. So if a person becomes a disciple of Jesus because of a person who follows Jesus, it will be because of the love of that person who lays down his/her life for another. That is quite different from what I generally see as an “evangelist” who gives a “condensed gospel of salvation” and then in zeal to share this version of the gospel with as many as possible, disciples few if any.

    I have become less evangelistic with more emphasis on loving others. That does not mean I am ashamed of what I believe or do not tell others of my belief as opportunities arise. But at the same time I do not feel compelled to speak the name of Jesus as I once did. Yet, being compelled to love is a far greater challenge because if means continually laying down my desires for another.

    A short personal story – around 8 years ago I felt God was leading me build relationships with those in my neighborhood. After 6-12 months of building quite a few relationships, I invited several that I thought would be open to the idea, to a 4 week discussion/Bible study, of who is Jesus. 7 people said they would come; no one came. One of the 7 said she had wanted to come and would I do it again. This time 4 said they would come, and again no one came. After this, I felt God revealing to me that his call was to “love my neighbor” not “convert my neighbor.” After a year or so of building relationships with neighbors and praying for them, occasionally I would think “what good is this” and the thought came to me that God had been loving them since the day they were born and never stopped showing love; how unloving and short-sighted I was to become discouraged because the neighbors were not responding in the manner I wanted to see. I no longer feel the need to convert people or even speak the name of Jesus, though because of what Jesus has meant and continues to mean to me, if I am in a relationship with someone, in some fashion my belief in Jesus will always come out in speech at some point in normal conversation. Most likely, not in an “evangelistic” way, but rather in the same way I would talk about running or chess or another passion I have. If they want to talk more about it, we will talk, if they do not, we will not.

    What I see of God in Jesus is that God looks at the heart. In the parable of the sheep and goats, where some receive eternal life and some eternal destruction, neither the goats or the sheep recognized God, yet one group receives life and one destruction. Does one have to know the name of Jesus revealed in the gospels? I do not know, but it does not keep me from following this Jesus and loving my neighbor as myself … at least part of the time, as to quote Frederich Buechner, “part of the time seems to be the most I can manage to live out my faith: Christian part of the time when certain things seem real and important to me and the rest of the time not Christian in any sense that I can believe matters much to Christ or anybody else.” And yes, I will still speak the name of Jesus, but I no longer approach building a relationship with the sole purpose to “share the gospel” unless the gospel is defined simply as loving my neighbor as myself – caring for them even when it means putting aside my desires just for them, not to proselytize them.

  8. Tony Stemen says:

    Thanks for this sermon Greg. My wife and I blessed to be a part of your church online, from Ohio.

    I have been wrestling with this stuff for awhile, and continue to do so. This was really great and well thought out, and I appreciate it.


  9. Denley McIntosh says:

    @ Dave,

    Great piece! You sound like Paul Young, the author of the Shack, and theologian Dr. Baxter Kruger who seem to espouse a similar theology. I’m actually leaning toward universal reconciliation myself. So it is big and brave of you to purport this view in this media space.

    Honestly if God is love, then by necessity His love spreads to ALL creation, not just some – good and evil alike. If Jesus says love your enemies that mean God loves all His enemies. That enemy and evil includes satan.

    God who is Father, Son and Spirit, loves him/it in a way that we will never comprehend at an ontological level. Why else would he/it remain in existence if Jesus calls satan the embodiment of evil (i.e. the father of lies, murderer from the beginning etc.) The truth is God is not threatened by evil. Angry yes! Grieved yes! Saddened yes! But not threatened and afraid of sin and satan.

    Sin and satan are not competing forces with God as if it is a ying-yang phenomenon going on. Good and evil going at it for all eternity. There is no such thing with God. The Father, Son, Spirit loves despite the sin and in the midst of the sin. Where sin abounds, grace super-abounds I suppose is fitting as St. Paul echoes it in Romans 5:20-21. (Evil will be always quarantined and subjected somehow.) Although satan has been banished from experiencing the triune God in a meaningful way, the Lord sustains him/it. In fact, we have in the book of Jude 9 the Archangel Michael is not even aloud to a say anything demeaning about satan without the Lord’s authority. It shows that God judges judiciously and mercifully – and not arbitrarily and tortuously like the pagan gods in those times specifically and throughout time generally.

    Note: with satan’s judgment, we don’t find any hint in Scripture that God is torturing him/it. He judges him/it – yes. Painful – yes. Torture – no! He may live in torment but in not torture. (The two are not the same.) Why would God have to torture if He is not threatened by sin? There is no ‘ego’ with God. You see a similar example with Cain after he killed his brother Abel in Genesis 4:13-15.

    Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!” The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. (New Living Translation)

    Note the pain of separation! In fact most of Jesus’ parables speak to the pain of separation because of a “sinners” choice more so than God beating him/her or his head. But note also the mercy of God on Cain in the midst of separation from Him. He gave a mark to protect Cain in his wandering or separation. Hmm…very interesting! Does that look like a God that has an ego issue?

    Going back to reconciliation! If I hold to that view, which I am leaning towards, then I cannot support annihilationism. Because if any part of creation – or more specifically, moral agents of creation – is annihilated, Jesus Christ in our humanity would have to cease to exist. But that would never be the case as we know. And just like the rainbow in Genesis 9:13-16 that speaks to a promise of creation that God will never destroy it again. Jesus’ humanity, the true rainbow espoused in Ezekiel 1:28 and as part of the Trinitarian life of God pulls all of creation, the whole cosmos, within Himself. Hence – ALL being reconciled! From every cosmic black hole and miniscule quark to every evil despot and stillborn baby is reconciled in Jesus as the One who holds all things together as St. Paul puts it in Colossians 1:17. (Read Colossians 1:13-17.) Nothing in creation, not even satan, can undo it. He/it is mysteriously included in that reconciliation. Never to be destroyed in that annihilation sense. Therefore, it could mean that Hell, relationally speaking, is being and living in denial and tension of that truth of reconciliation but having no will/motive to change it. Hence – the inordinate pain and its incessant duration. This may be the self-condemnation that Jesus refers to in John 3:18-19.

    “Whoever believes in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already [self-condemned], because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light [remain away from the light] because their works were evil.” (English Standard Version)

    Hell as it seems is primarily the self-condemning of oneself to live in opposition to its own reconciliation in Jesus Christ; which causes one not to fully participate – in terms of the edifying awareness – within the Trinitarian life of the Father, Son, and Spirit and the rest of creation. Of course there are spasmodic or infrequent moments that the Lord will rightfully bring direct judgment as Scripture bears out. However, the ongoing judgment of one who is eternally separated from God will be exercised through one’s own self-condemnation like Cain. So the question is not will everyone be reconciled for everyone IS reconciled. The more meaningful question is: will everyone experience or participate in their reconciliation? Will they know their lives that are hidden in Christ from Colossians 3:3? It appears the jury is still out on that waiting till after eternity, if there is such a thing, for a verdict.

    In summary, I think annihilationism does not work; because it goes against reconciliation that is in Jesus’ humanity within the Trinitarian life of the Father, Son, Spirit. I think universalism proper does not work; because it goes against a moral agent’s choice to live outside a meaningful relationship with the Father, Son, Spirit. I think universal reconciliation, as you put it Dave, allows for choice of the disobedient moral agents and its harmful consequences to boomerang on to their selves. Nevertheless – the Father will always, always, hem “sinners” into His love for Jesus holds all things together as reconciled in the Spirit.

  10. Dave Pritchard says:


    Wow, thanks for seriously fleshing that out – fantastic post! As one slogs through Talbott’s book, you become well aware of the tactical angle from which he presents his case and the ramifications of accepting such a view. I just want to reiterate that I’m still safely on the fence at this point and need to explore further what his critics have to say on the matter. Although aware of this proposal in the past, I have not yet swallowed the worm on the hook – just sampling for now – Ha! The scholarly animosity that this view generates is predictable, where he’s essentially inverting the “traditionalist view” and standing it on it head. Thanks for the heads up on William Young (whom I’ve heard of) and Dr. Baxter Kruger – I’m less familiar with. Looks great though.

    I can remember discussing this topic with a friend a while back and he responded, “Well, if that’s the case and it’s true, then it reduces Jesus’s warnings to vacuous threats and distorted half-truths – duping his followers though fear tactics.” Those are potentially excellent and sarcastic points, but it assumes something maniacal on His part, rather than analogy emotively designed with the purpose of stretching our search for “Truth”.

    Several arguments that Talbott makes in his book when referring to “olethros aionios” has to do with the “Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus” where he points out, that the “Great Chasm” that is “fixed” doesn’t necessarily mean unabridged forever. He see’s it just as a “parable” and not an historic event. He goes on to pose the question –

    “If the rich man were an actual person in an irredeemable condition, then from whence came his genuine care and concern for the welfare of his five brothers? In the case of a parable, we can simply dismiss such a question as irrelevant to the moral of the story, so to speak. But we can hardly do this in a purported case of actual damnation.”

    He goes onto argue that if seen as a purported historical occurrence, then you have to address the general time frame that Jesus in implying. If the torment of the rich man presumably begun well before the death and resurrection of Jesus himself, who is narrating the story, before the “return of the Messiah at the end of the Age”, and before “Death and Hades are cast into the Lake of Fire” (Rev 20:14) and before any kind of final judgment as traditionally conceived takes place and before the New Jerusalem descends with its gates always open, then it’s completely conceivable that as 1 Peter 3:19 and 1 Peter 4:6 suggest, that Jesus “preached to the spirits in prison”, he was in fact, precisely flinging himself into “The Chasm” in order to build a bridge over it and to bring a message of repentance and forgiveness to all those in Hades; which is the abode of the dead. This adds credence to the idea that “universal reconciliation” would then be tenable.

    He give many other examples as well but often what we are taught in Sunday school doesn’t cover these alternate points of view that are often considered to be too heretical to discuss. One well-known theologian, whom I will not mention, dismissed Talbott as a “Nut job” which I thought was very inequitable given that it’s simply another angle of view or take on the matter.


  11. Denley McIntosh says:


    I appreciate the compliment. Thanks Brother…

    Just thinking through the ideas and thoughts from Dr. Talbott, I am not sure the truth of reconciliation pans out as he describes. I think reconciliation is much deeper than just repentance in hell or a purgatory state. Because not everyone will want to repent after eternity (if I can say such a thing) yet the Scriptures says all things (or everyone) is reconciled – right now. How do we make sense of those Scriptural themes? So I think it is much more fundamentally pertaining to the Trinitarian life of God.

    I guess I’m saying that everyone currently is reconciled but not aware of it and/or embracing it. This reconciled reality, (in Jesus’ ascended human-divine state with the Father in the Spirit) precedes a final judgment or hellish state, which is a manifestation of an unrepentant person’s full resistance to reconciliation. This is could be the difference between the “potential me” in Christ versus the “actual me” in this world if I you allow me to use that Newtonian analogy.

    So whether Jesus, in 1 Peter 3:18-19, was preaching to those spirits to repent, it is not totally clear. What seems to be clear is that Jesus is declaring His Lordship over those disobedient spirits. This may echo or reference Genesis 6 where Jesus is declaring himself as the true Hero of Old compared to the idolized, wicked Nephilims whom the imprisoned spirits followed in Noah’s time. But that could be highly debated. Nevertheless the context of 1 Peter 3:18-22 seems to speak of Jesus being Lord of the unseen world or spiritual world – right now: “…Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”

    It is interesting that Dr. Talbot does point out that concern by the rich man in the parable. After Abraham rebukes him for living an uncaring life, there seems to be resignation on his part that he is knowingly getting what he deserves while he still has care for his brothers. Whether the rich man is attempting to do good by requesting Lazarus to be sent to his brother in order to make up for his uncaring life, it is hard to tell if his action is sincerely or selfishly driven.

    P.S. You should read Dr. Baxter Kruger’s book the Shack Revisited. It is a theological follow up and analysis of the Shack. I think you’d enjoy it. Have a good one.

  12. mark whittaker says:

    Great sermon Greg.

    To reconcile the verses which you gave, I think it is possible that after a person is judged to not be worthy of life, and receives whatever is due to him, that his or her soul is put out; he is no more, and then, after that age enduring time which God deems wise, he is reanimated, given life again in some fashion, that he or she may be given yet another chance to find God. Just my take.

  13. Peter says:

    In a number of ways I am not attracted to joining this debate as it is far from uplifting and to a degree self-indulgent when we have a view of God’s love and interpret scriptures to justify that view. Whether we cannot believe in a God that will eternally punish the impenitent or, that there will be a ‘shotgun’ marriage and all will be universally saved essentially becomes a no value.

    In saying this, the significant aspect that has been largely overlooked is the wrath of God’s love. Although Greg holds a contrasting view of the ‘God’ of the Old Testament versus the ‘Jesus looking God’ of the New testament, we have Paul saying (amongst other quotes) in Rom 1:18,

    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

    If we largely have a diet that presents an essentially one sided view of God’s love then there is little doubt that our thinking will endeavour to interpret scripture consistent with this viewpoint.

    So rather than take up a large portion of this blog on the wrath of God’s love and widen the perspective, I will leave it to a preacher far more qualified than me for those who fear that this message has left today’s church:-


  14. Michael E. says:

    Great comments. Ken, good for you, man, sounds like you are finding what works with your neighbors and what doesn’t. Both things are important. Like the guy who said, “I can’t say that I know what God’s will is, but I sure know what it ain’t!” In doing outreach, you have to learn what works with whoever God has placed in your path.

    There is nothing like looking into the New Testament to find out how they did evangelism. We are not limited by how they did it back then but it helps. The main thing in evangelism is to be led of the Holy Spirit and that is what you see in the NT. In some cases, Jesus spoke to crowds, other times it was one on one (like the woman at the well) or in small groups (like when he would go to a meal at someone’s house), He tailored what He shared to the need before Him.

    Amongst His disciples in the book of Acts, you see them going everywhere preaching the Gospel. Paul for example established groups of believers all over Asia Minor, sometimes he stayed in one spot grounding converts in the faith, other times he left that to others.

    And the greatest example we have amongst evangelists of love-’em-and-leave-’em, is Phillip in Acts 8. Angel told him to go down a certain road, then the Holy Spirit told him to go over to a certain chariot and there was a guy who was of all things reading Isaiah 53! How is that for one of God’s set-ups and how is that for being Spirit led in your evangelism? Long story short, the guy believes in Jesus, gets baptized in the river by Phillip and low and behold, the Lord snatches him away and puts him somewhere else.

    Phillip led the guy to faith in Jesus and then splits! But what about grounding your converts in the faith? What if Phillip later bragged about the number of his converts? Who cares!!! They eunuch found faith. It had to start somewhere, folks and that is what evangelism is all about.

    Francis of Assisi is said to have taken one of his converts out one day to evangelize. But instead of preaching, they spent the whole day helping people: some guy’s cart had overturned and they helped sort that out, they helped another farmer tend to a field, etc. At the end of the day when they were on the way back home, the convert asked Francis when they were going to evangelize to which Francis replied, “We have been, all day!”

    Moral of the story, sometimes evangelism is actually praying with someone to lead them to the knowledge of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the Cross. Other times it is just being a friend and talking about how much better the Packers are than the Eagles (sorry if I stepped on anyone’s toes with that example), or whatever. You gotta leave stuff up to the Holy Spirit and be led by Jesus, that is when good “evangelizing” happens.

    I have been a career missionary for over 40 years, got saved on the beach near Corpus Christi, Texas. 29 years of the time I have been a missionary, it has been in foreign fields and the rest of the time it has been doing missions here in the USA. I am not sharing that to toot my horn, what I want to say is that after all these years of sharing the gospel with people, I still don’t feel like I understand what good evangelizing is. I can sure tell you what it ain’t, though, from making my share of mistakes. The more I do outreach, the more I realize how little I know and how much I need the Holy Spirit to work through me and help me communicate the love of Jesus to others.

    God bless you all, don’t shy away from sharing your faith with others just because there are bad examples of it out there. Don’t be like the evangelists that turn you off, learn from their mistakes and don’t repeat them, but do be the salt of the Earth, that is what Jesus left us here on this planet to do.

  15. Vince says:

    Hi Ken,

    I read what you wrote, and it sounds interesting. I didn’t notice how your relationships with your neighbors starting from 8 years ago have turned out? Has this strategy worked? Are any of the neighbors you are loving on now actively in fellowship with you? Attending small groups?

  16. Vince says:

    Hi Peter! Thanks for the post. I was beginning to think I was the black sheep of the WH faithful! I guess it is easy to move in the direction that some who listen to Greg might go in, however, that is in no way in line with his teaching, or the bible. God doesn’t elect who will be saved and then force them to believe. Universalism is exactly that! God elects everyone to be saved, and then forces them to do so. It really is sad how far some will go to get out of opening their mouths for Jesus!

  17. Greg says:

    What a wonderful message. I’m so encouraged to hear a teacher as respected as Greg rejecting the perverted view of eternal torment. Even so, I pray that he goes the step further, as he alluded to in his message, that God is indeed, “the Savior of all”. Annihilationism is much more merciful than what most churches teach, but it falls short of a God who desires all and will leave the 99 sheep to go after 1 lost one. Please Greg, if you happen to read these messages, take a look at this article dealing with annihilation. God bless.


    And feel free to check out many other articles here:

  18. Vince says:

    I just thought of a really strange question: If either eternal tormen or universalism is true, then how will everyone fit? I just googled it and the first answer said there have been 107 billion humans since the beginning! If that’s true, then how will anything but annihilationism even work?

  19. Dave Pritchard says:


    Great Question!
    Here’s one more resource if you’ve got time – Ha!

    Hellbound debate – Universalism vs. Eternal Torment vs …
    Video for hellbound debt unbelievable▶ 81:17

  20. Tracy Grant says:

    I really enjoyed this sermon. Raised a few more questions for me though. I don’t believe in universalism, but am comfortable with God knowing far more about peoples hearts and judging them accordingly. I agree with the annihilation part, and the fact God is no longer judging sin. Jesus dealt with ALL sin for ALL time on the cross. It now becomes about our rejection or acceptance of his Son. That to me is the unforgivable sin, as that is the ONLY sin God cannot forgive. If we reject the only way he has made for us to come to Him. I struggle with the fact though that we are now ‘all in’. If what Paul says is true, humanity is still at emnity against God, and it is still by the Holy Spirit that we are able to choose Him. I don’t think Christ’s death in any way changed the sin nature of man. Even though the old man was crucified on the cross, it appears not to ‘die’ until conversion when it is replaced by Christ’s nature in us. Still working through some of this though. Thanks again for the great sermon.

  21. daniel says:

    great message!
    just a little note:
    around minute 25:48 Greg cites a verse in II Peter about Sodom and Gomorra, however this is not chapter 1:6 but chapter 2:6 (in case anybody wondered 🙂 )

  22. Kevin Warner says:

    I’ve been doing some research on this. Since I wondered what the Catholics taught little Greggie – I googled it. Found this – http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-hell-there-is. I don’t like the company Greg is rubbing shoulders with. The more I look at this, the more it seems like Greg has abandoned seeking the truth in favor of pleasing people.

  23. Kevin Warner says:

    Over the years (don’t ask how many), I’ve read and studied how to tell if someone is being truthful. I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but I’m noticing in this message some “tells” that cause me to ask whether Greg really believes in annihilation himself. The first one is that this message is in an “area of striving” for Greg – meaning he starts from a wish that hell didn’t exist. Another is the comparison of God to Hitler as an argument that it can’t be true. This is an “over the top” appeal. The other concern is the appeal that hell should look like the self sacrificial love of Jesus. This “Jesus looking God” and “self sacrificial love of Jesus” is used as another reason hell can’t be “that way” – like “I wish hell wasn’t that way, so I’m looking for reasons hell can’t be that way”. Instead of starting from “we’re going to find the truth and believe it even if we don’t like what we find – we’re going to trust God to always do what is right no matter what it looks like to us” – Greg is starting from a wish that hell wasn’t “that way” and then uses over the top appeals as proof. As I study this message and do my homework on the evidence, I’m having a very hard time getting to annihilation with anything more than a wish. That’s when it hit me about these “tells”. I was listening to a Ted Talk called “Why We Lie” and it hit me – because I was struggling with why would someone like Greg who seems to be such a scholar treat this subject like in a way which appears so confusing and convoluted. I had read Hebrews 6:1-3 “1 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds[a] and placing our faith in God. 2 You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.” and it confirmed that this thing about hell is a basic teaching – not this hard to understand. It seems like Greg is taking his wish that hell wasn’t “like that” and redefining the basic teachings of repentance, faith and eternal judgement.

  24. Abe says:

    why do you not mention your views of hell in your beliefs section of your website or at least in the controversial section of your website?

  25. Abe says:

    what did you think of the documentary Hellbound by Kevin Miller?

  26. Will says:

    Your church statement of belief includes, “All who reject him shall suffer eternal destruction.” After listening to this sermon that seems a little harsh to say, especially to someone like me who is on a quest. After listening to the sermon I can see that your church belief must encompass more than that bleak statement lets on. Why put that negativity out there into the world unexplained apparently to be accepted as authoritative dogma?


  27. Michael Johnston says:


    Since nobody has responded, I’ll give it a try.

    Greg does not believe in universalism (everyone is going to Heaven). The Bible is clear that we are all judged based on the light (truth about God and Jesus) that we’ve been given and it even says that the ones that never knew of Jesus still have some level of accountability because we all know (in our hearts, not necessarily acknowledge it with our minds always) that there is a God based on the beauty and magnificence of His creation. That said, for people who never hear Jesus (or the truth about Jesus) Greg holds out HOPE that God will give them a chance, based on his reading of Scripture and his understanding of the character of God. God’s wrath is severely misunderstood, while it is just and it is a very serious thing, it’s not a vengeful-hate-filled wrath like we have and often attribute to God. It’s simply a withdrawal of His presence and His protection. The reason this is so serious is because God is the Creator and Sustainer of Life, and therefore sins natural consequence is death. Sin, in the Greek, means missing the mark (missing God’s ideal). God doesn’t arbitrarily or gladly cause people to die, but he’s not coercive. We were created out of His love for the purpose of a love. Love must be freely chosen and not coerced. By sinning (missing God’s ideal aka His design for life) we are choosing death (sin’s natural end). There comes a point when God’s protection and hope for us is lost because as we get deeper and deeper in sin we become solidified more and more. We all know this to be true about life in general. The more we make the same decisions the more and more those decisions become our character. God’s perfect wisdom and knowledge allow him to know when we are beyond any hope of coming back to Him, then He gives us what we want (not Him, which is the same as death). That is why Greg talks about annihilationism, God just allows us to stop existing… to die. Eternal life is a gift from God, not something we all have. That is why I also believe annihilationism to be true. It also is the only one that makes sense in light of the character of God revealed in Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus is the FULL revelation of God, an exact picture of what God is like, when God shines He looks like Jesus. Self-sacrificial, enemy-embracing, non-violent, indiscriminate love! God is love, after all. Love must be chosen, God must be chosen. His “rules” are not really rules, they are explanations of His ideals for life. He’s telling us how to have the fullness of life the way He created it, not giving us some strict moral/ethical code to begrudgingly submit to. If we go against His design we are missing the mark and therefore choosing death. Hope this helps! God bless you man, keep learning and keep challenging your thoughts and beliefs. If your view of God, or anyone’s view that you listen to, doesn’t look like Jesus then it’s time to rethink and dig deeper… they are simply mistaken. Jesus is the full revelation of God. Blessings, MJ

  28. Michael Johnston says:

    I didn’t really address HOW people who haven’t heard of Jesus will have the opportunity to choose life or death after they die, which is what I believe Greg has hope for. The reason I didn’t really address it is because the Bible doesn’t explain how, at least not explicitly, and it makes sense to me why it doesn’t. We are reading the Bible and therefore we are obtaining a lot of light regarding God and regarding Jesus. We will be judged according to the light we receive, therefore the people we are asking about are not us… they are others. The Bible strictly condemns us judging others (trying to determine if/how they will go to Heaven and/or comparing our “righteousness” with theirs) so to me it makes sense that there are Scriptures that allude to the possibility of God working something out with some people after death (http://reknew.org/2017/02/podcast-can-non-believers-redeemed-purgatory/). Like I said, keep expanding your understanding. If something seems off or doesn’t make sense with the character of God keep digging. God is love, everything He does comes out of love–which must be chosen. The devil comes to lie, kill and destroy, keep this things in mind. Blessings!

  29. Christina says:

    Hell is a mistranslation of the words sheol, hades, tartarus, and gehenna in the bible. There is no hell.

  30. Jerry says:

    I’m Just curious how the comments are connected to given Sermon.

    Example: Christine Two days ago enters: “Hell is a mistranslation of the words sheol, hades, tartarus, and gehenna in the bible. There is no hell.”

    Appears someone made a decision to connect it to 29 other comments on “Going to Hell (In a Nutshell)”.

    I read the entire thread. Interesting stuff.

    It appears you save all this stuff by sermon.

    Is there, or could you make, available a topic index of (ALL) the comment threads not just the limited few that appear under recent comments.

    I stopped making comments because I felt few read them in their limited window showing.

    An index history, by sermon, would give me more confidence that someone might read them.

    I’ve spent considerable time is the past making them.

    I’d like to comment on the hell thread if I thought the people in this thread might see them.

    I do se a notify me box.

    Were all the other 29 thoughts notified, if they checked the box, when Christina made her comment.

    Maybe I just need the rules defined!


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