The thing about being a Christian and about knowing and loving God is this... It is more than an academic understanding of scripture. It is the academic understanding of a book written by the very definition of love. So the book must always reflect God's love. So one Charles Taze Russell, called the man who put the fires out in hell by the US press, the founder of the Watchtower Society, knowing his Father, asked the following type of question:
Would it be fair or just or loving to punish a man into eternity for sins which he committed over a period of a mere 70 years?
The conclusion that the founder of the International Bible Students, now known as the Jehovah's Witnesses, came to was this:
A God that would use his power to create human beings, whom he foreknew and pre-destinated should be eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving. His standard would be lower than that of many men ('Kingdom Proclaimers' book, published by WTBTS).
This type of reasoning is the triumph of love over dogma, it is the triumph of wisdom over doctrine. For at first sight the scriptures do appear to support an eternal torturing of the unrighteous, yet Jehovah is the one who makes it rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike whilst they are alive, and his son advised us to...
44 However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you;
45 that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous (Matthew 5).
When a warm and gentle breeze blows across a Mediterranean beach on a summer evening does it miss out the cheeks of the wicked and only caress the faces of the righteous?
And what kind of a God commands us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, only to burn these very same people for an eternity in Hell himself after we have loved them and prayed for them? Would he frustrate the very love he commanded us to show for them?
So Charles Russell taught that death was simply a state of non existence, and that the wicked were switched off and thrown away permanently without pain.
5 For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten (Ecclesiastes 9).
3 Do not put your trust in nobles, Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.
4 His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish (Psalm 146).
Jehovah's Witnesses believe this today. But even though Charles Russell's thinking was good, and even though his thoughts moved mankind a step nearer to God's love, the journey to understanding how deep and how true the love of God is, requires a few more paces than he was able to make. Paces of the mind that is. For all our thoughts are imperfect and all our conclusions are incomplete at first. For how we think is how we walk, one step at a time, and this is the brilliance and consistency of our design. The physical mirrors the intellectual.
We will now compare Scriptures that will allow us to put the jigsaw together and make the necessary steps in our knowledge of divine love.
13 But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind,
14 and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones (Luke 14).
Whereas Paul explains...
15 and I have hope toward God, which hope these [men] themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24).So the unrighteous ones, those who are not in Abraham's bosom, still nonetheless get a resurrection. So , Come on! In true justice, could the true God punish a man for ever (either by tomrnting him or by switching him off permanently) as a result of his sinning for 100 years? Would those scales balance? Would that be an eye for an eye? No sir. So eventually one must get out of the death and out of Gehenna. For otherwise God is being pointlessly cruel and unjust. Gehenna is a place of emotionally painful rehabilitation. A place of weeping and gnashing teeth until one gets sin straight in ones mind and heart. For God will teach us all and eventually he will save us all. He will succeed with all of us, however bad we are at learning. For he has stated through his great prophet Isaiah that:
10 Everything that is my delight I shall do (Isaiah 46).
And through Jesus' rock ('petros' in Greek), the firstling ('peter' in Hebrew), Peter, he has stated that:
9 The Lord is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance (2 Peter 3).
So if he does not want any to be destroyed, and if he does everything he wants, then he will indeed save and re-educate even the most wicked of men.
Then we have the Lord's prayer...
"Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
So he will is going to be done everywhere, and his will is that all men should be saved. End of two pice jigsaw!
Putting this even another way...
21 For since death is through a man, resurrection of the dead is also through a man.
22 For just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15).
All will conquer death through the Christ, not some, but all of Adam's sons. All those who die in Adam will get life in Jesus. Gehenna is the second death. No son of Adam will languish there eternally. Jesus fixes all of the problems for all of Adam's kids.
We even don't have to trust our own conclusions, the Bible outspokenly tells us that all should be saved...
3 This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God,
4 whose will is that all men [pantaV anqrwpouV] should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth (1 Timothy 2).
10 For to this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all men, especially of faithful ones [but also of unfaithful ones through the sin bin of Gehenna].
Now we know from 1John 4:8 that God is love. The Hebrew meaning of the name Elisha is: God is salvation. The Hebrew meaning of Yeshua (Jesus' Hebrew name) is YHWH is salvation. So if God is love and God is salvation, then love is salvation, since equality is transitive. Since God loves us all, however unrighteous our behaviour, he will save us all, for that is what love is.
Love never fails and we must love our enemies and you cannot love the non existent. Put those together and you see again that everyone will be saved eventually. For love bears all things, love endures all things, even the sort of behaviour that puts us into Gehenna!
So now we can truly understand what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 5...
5 You hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1Corinthians5).
In the next section we will discuss Scriptures that speak about the "second death", "Gehenna", "the lake of fire" and "eternal destruction".
They can all be harmonized!