The Early Christian View of the Saviour
Is Hell Eternal?
The following article, written by 'Tentmaker', reflects a theological position which most Christian churches are hostile to but which is embraced by the New Covenant Church of God. Though we do not necessarily agree with every conclusion (that Satan and his demons will finally be saved, for example) we do believe that all of mankind will be (though with some reservations about the "sons of Perdition").
Few Christians study the early Christian writings. Those that do usually go no further than reading some early church history books, most of which are doctrinally slanted. Many church officials and publishers have had no problem rewriting history and changing the character and doctrines held by earlier believers.
I am reminded of a book I recently read by one of the greatest women evangelists of all time--Hannah Whitall Smith, author of The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life. Millions of copies of this book have been sold, and many Christians of all denominations have been blessed by her writings. At the end of her life, she wrote a book called The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It, a Spiritual Autobiography, in which she wrote a chapter entitled "The Third Epoch of My Religious Life (The Restitution of All Things)." In this chapter she describes how difficult her life became when she saw people, knowing that most of them were going to be eternally tormented by her God.
As one can see, this event dramatically changed her entire view of God and man. She no longer believed in a God of eternal torment.
"One day I was riding on a tram-car along Market Street, Philadelphia, when I saw two men come in and seat themselves opposite to me. I saw them dimly through my veil, but congratulated myself that it was only dimly, as I was thus spared the wave of anguish that had so often swept over me at the full sight of a strange face. The conductor came for his fare, and I was obliged to raise my veil in order to count it out. As I raised it, I got a sight of the faces of those two men, and with an overwhelming flood of anguish, I seemed to catch a fresh and clearer revelation of the misery that had been caused to human beings by sin.
"It was more than I could bear. I clenched my hands and cried out in my soul, 'Oh God, how canst Thou bear it? Thou mightest have prevented it, but didst not. Thou mightest even now change it, but Thou dost not. I do not see how Thou canst go on living, and endure it.' I upbraided God. And I felt justified in doing so.
"Then suddenly God seemed to answer me. An inward voice said, in tones of infinite love and tenderness, 'He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.' 'Satisfied!' I cried in my heart, 'Christ is to be satisfied! He will be able to look at the world's misery, and then at the travail through which He has passed because of it, and will be satisfied with the result! If I were Christ, nothing could satisfy me but that every human being should in the end be saved, and therefore I am sure that nothing less will satisfy Him.' And with this a veil seemed to be withdrawn from before the plans of the universe, and I saw that it was true, as the Bible says, that 'as in Adam all die even so in Christ should all be made alive.' As was the first, even so was the second. The 'all' in one case could not in fairness mean less than the 'all' in the other. I saw therefore that the remedy must necessarily be equal to the disease, the salvation must be as universal as the fall.
"I saw all this that day on the tram-car on Market Street, Philadelphia -- not only thought it, or hoped it, or even believed it -- but knew it. It was a Divine fact. And from that moment I have never had one questioning thought as to the final destiny of the human race. God is the Creator of every human being, therefore He is the Father of each one, and they are all His children; and Christ died for every one, and is declared to be the 'propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world' (1 John 2:2).
"However great the ignorance therefore, or however grievous the sin, the promise of salvation is positive and without limitations. If it is true that 'by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation,' it is equally true that 'by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.' To limit the last 'all men' is also to limit the first. The salvation is absolutely equal to the fall. There is to be a final 'Restitution of all things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.' Every knee, every tongue--words could not be more all embracing. The how and the when I could not see; but the one essential fact was all I needed--somewhere and somehow God was going to make everything right for all the creatures He had created. My heart was at rest about it forever.
"I hurried home to get hold of my Bible to see if the magnificent fact I had discovered could possibly have been all this time in the Bible, and I not have seen it; and the moment I enter the house, I did not wait to take off my bonnet, but rushed at once to the table where I always kept my Bible and Concordance ready for use, and began my search.
"Immediately the whole Book seemed to be illuminated. On every page the truth concerning the 'times of restitution of all things,' of which the Apostle Peter says 'God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began,' shone forth, and no room was left for questioning. I turned greedily from page to page of my Bible, fairly laughing aloud for joy at the blaze of light that illuminated it all. It became a new book. Another skin seemed to have been peeled off every text, and my Bible fairly shone with a new meaning. I do not say with a different meaning, for in no sense did the new meaning contradict the old, but a deeper meaning, the true meaning, hidden behind the outward form of words. The words did not need to be changed, they only needed to be understood; and now at last I began to understand them."
It is sad to note, however, that recently, Littlebrook Publishing, Inc. of Princeton, New Jersey republished her book. They purposely eliminated the entire chapter, (partially quoted above), which relates to her dramatic change in doctrine. They do not mention that they tampered with the book, and since Hannah is dead, she cannot very well object. Many times the true and incredible ways God reveals Himself to some believers are changed later by those who rewrite history according to their own doctrines. The mutilation of John Wesley's writings is a classic example, but that is for another article.
This kind of editing goes on even in the area of Bible translations. An example of this is found in The Bible from 26 Translations. The purpose of this multi-translation Bible is supposedly to show how various translations differ with the King James Bible. They claim to list those verses where there is disagreement and show the differences. In the King James in Matthew 25:46 it reads, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." The same verse in Rotherham's Emphasized Bible reads, "And these shall go away into age-abiding correction, but the righteous into age-abiding life." Although the Rotherham Bible is one of the 26 translations, the publishers, Baker Book House, did not show that Joseph Rotherham's translation radically disagrees with the King James Bible even though that was the very purpose of the book. They did not want the public to know that there were some major doctrinal differences among translations so they just pretended that they were not there. A reader of that book will think that Rotherham agrees with the King James, because the above Rotherham verse was not listed, when just the opposite is true. I know of more than a dozen Bible translations written in the last 200 years that significantly disagree with the King James Bible on this verse.
What would you think of a man who purposely added words to the Bible that he knew were not in the Greek text and made statements like these: "Be a sinner, and sin boldly, but believe more boldly still," "The word and work of God is quite clear, viz., that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes," "I married in order to spite the devil," "Vows have only to be kept as long as it is psychologically possible. If it is no longer possible one is allowed to break them," "To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! Transfix them! Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog," "We ought to take vengeance on the Jews and kill them?" These are some of the milder statements from this man. Would you like him as your pastor? His name is Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant movement. His real words are still buried in Lutheran seminaries, but few of us choose to "study to show ourselves approved."
After doing some real digging into the personalities, acts, and teachings of some of the leading Protestant reformers, I am absolutely convinced that the average modern Christian would not have anything to do with them if they were alive today, and these reformers would want nothing to do with the denominations that supposedly came from their teachings. Many of their teachings have been so reworked that they would not recognize them as being their own. Whitewashing and history rewriting seem to be a favorite pastime of theologians, whether they be Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise.
Another problem that one has to overcome when trying to find out what the early Christians believed stems from what came to be called the "Doctrine of Reserve." It was often easier to use fear than love and patience to restrain the heathen, so very often fear was preached to the masses and the "Doctrine of the Restitution of All Things" was "reserved" for the more mature in Christ. Most of us do not realize that when Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire hundreds of thousands, or even perhaps millions, entered the church without a true conversion. Now the church was full of people who were heathen at heart but soon became leaders in the church due to the normal political processes of the Roman governmental system. The Church now had leaders and laity who were not truly converted, but rose to power through nepotism, deceit, popularity, and all the other ways the world raises its leaders.
Since many now in the Church were really not converted, they had to be restrained by fear. It is at this point in church history that the writings and teachings began to take a turn away from the teachings of the previous 300 years. The church leaders felt that the "Doctrine of Reserve" was an effective way of keeping order among new members, many of which were still heathen in their hearts. In hindsight, it was the door to a flood of pagan doctrines that entered into the church which led her right into the Dark Ages.
It was because of this doctrine that some of the writers in this period seem to contradict themselves. They said different things to different groups of people, and if you did not know that you would think they were contra- dicting themselves. In fact, they were contradicting themselves, but this "Doctrine of Reserve" was the cause of it.
More difficult to overcome than the "Doctrine of Reserve" was the fact that many of the church leaders in this period of time felt that it was good to lie if it was to benefit religion. An example of this is Saint Hilary, who said, commenting on Psalm 15:2, "For a lie is very often necessary and sometimes falsehood is useful." The "Golden Mouthed" John Chrysostom also advocated lying for truth's sake. Cussiun, a friend of Chrysostom, is author of a collection of spiritual ideas; one of the chapter headings is entitled "Even the Apostles teach us that falsehood is very often permissible, and the truth hurtful!" (Coll. xvii 20) Saint Basil expressly commends fraud employed for a good end (Hom. in prin. prov.) There were many church leaders who advocated lying. More examples may be found in chapter four of the book Christ Triumphant by Thomas Allin, reprinted by Concordant Publishing Concern.
By the fifth century so much paganism had already taken over the church that by then some of the earlier church fathers who advocated and practiced love were declared heretics and their writings were confiscated and burned. Since it was honorable to lie for the truth, many teachers who were great men of God were written into church history as heretics. The church began the practice of calling good, evil, and evil, good.
There are many obstacles to overcome to get at the true teachings of the early church. Due to the fact that I am only writing an article and not a book, I will mention just one more--the tendency of man to create God in man's image. When one studies church history over the last two thousand years, today's Christian God looks very much like man--someone who cannot keep his promises, who cannot complete what he started, who lies for the truth's sake, who is a hypocrite. The modern Christian God says that His love will never fail and yet according to modern church theology most of mankind is going to suffer eternal torment by our God, whose mercy is supposed to endure forever. He says not to let the sun go down on your wrath, but His wrath, says the church, endures forever.
He tells you to love your enemies, but the present church system says that God is going to eternally torment his enemies, many of whom do not even know He exists. He says to forgive seven times seventy, but according to most of modern church teaching, billions of human beings will never experience God's forgiveness. Is this what the early Christians believed? And if they did not, can we find out what they did believe? Fortunately for those who really want truth, one can dig it up, but it takes an open mind and a pure heart. It takes a willingness to smash one's idols of the heart and a desire to break the chains of the traditions of men. If this is you, then read on.
In a most beautiful way the lie will reveal itself for what it is. An example of this comes from a true story of a Russian friend of mine who was schooled in absolute atheism. One day the thought occurred to him that if there was no God, why would the government spend millions of rubles and thousands of hours of time trying to prove that God does not exist? The very fact that so much effort and money went into this effort to deny God proved to him that there in fact must be a God. This led the young Russian on a search for God, and he soon was found by Jesus and was miraculously brought to the United States to declare His Glory through his testimony and music.
By now, I am sure, you can tell that some of the teachings of the early Christians were very different from the doctrines claimed to be the truth by the modern church. One of the ways of breaking through propaganda is to listen carefully to those who are responsible for writing church history to make it conform to the present day church belief systems. If one lets them talk long enough, they will usually hang themselves with their own words and the truth will be revealed to those who want the truth. This article is for those who desire the truth no matter what it will cost them. It is for those who know that the truth will cost them everything they think they are and everything they think they have--and yet still have something rise up within themselves that says, "So be it, amen." If this is you, then please read on.
Quotes From Historians
To my knowledge, all of the historians and theologians that I am about to quote taught the "Doctrine of Eternal Torment." Not one of them mentioned in their writings that they believed in the "Doctrine of the Restitution of All Things." Unfortunately, most of you, because you were not taught to really study, will probably not know these historians and theologians I am about to quote. That is very unfortunate, because it is these men and others like them that run the seminaries and Bible colleges and write the textbooks and Sunday school manuals. I said earlier that if you let someone speak long enough they will usually give themselves away. Listen to some of the comments of the early Christians and then ask yourself, "Why are we not taught this today?" Also keep in mind that I will be quoting historians and theologians. They generally do not write for the understanding of the average person. They write for each other and use hard-to-understand English. Just read slowly and understand there will be a great reward for the effort.
The great church historian Geisler writes: "The belief in the inalienable capability of improvement in all rational beings, and the limited duration of future punishment was so general, even in the West, and among the opponents of Origen, that it seems entirely independent of his system" (Eccles. Hist., 1-212).
This statement is very significant because many modernists attribute to Origen's influence the fact that the vast majority of early Christians did not believe in eternal torment! Keep in mind these historians I am quoting do not embrace the "larger hope." What Geisler said in a nutshell was that the church did not believe in eternal punishment even among opponents of Origen.
The German theologian and historian Johann Christoph Doerderlin (1829-1888) writes: "In proportion as any man was eminent in learning in Christian antiquity, the more did he cherish and defend the hope of the termination of future torments." Later on, as when we read some of the early Christian writings, we will find this statement to be true; the more learned a Christian was in the Scriptures in the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, the more likely he or she was to see the "Doctrine of the Restitution of All Things." Those such as Augustine, who said he hated the Greek language, who read only the Latin Vulgate translation, began to be prone toward the "Doctrine of Eternal Torment."
One of several reasons for this was because the Greek word "aion," which meant "age," was translated into the Latin Vulgate as "aeternum" and "seculum." This was a serious mistake which also corrupted our English translations. This error was instrumental in changing the doctrine of the early Christians who believed that punishment was confined to "age." The Latin church, filled with unconverted pagans, separated themselves from the original languages and secluded themselves into the corrupted Latin Vulgate and began to teach what the pagan religions had taught for centuries--eternal torment. I have much information about this. If you want to learn, I'll be happy to send it to you.
Professor and historian Henry Nutcomb Oxenham informs us that the, "Doctrine of endless punishment was not believed at all by some of the holiest and wisest of the Fathers, and was not taught as an integral part of the Christian faith by any even of those who believed it as an opinion."
One of the ways of verifying this is to look at the earliest Christian creeds. None of them mention "eternal torment" as the final punishment of the wicked or unbelievers.
Historian Pfaff says: "The ultimate restoration of the lost was an opinion held by very many Jewish teachers, and some of the Fathers" (frag. anec.).
The famous Dietelmaier has this to say: "Universalism in the fourth century drove its roots down deeply, alike in the East and West, and had very many defenders."
It should be mentioned that the "universalism" taught by the early Christians has nothing to do with modern universalism. To the early Christians, salvation was given to all of mankind through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Reuss writes, "The doctrine of a general restoration of all rational creatures has been recommended by very many of the greatest thinkers of the ancient church, and of modern times" (Hist. De la Theol. Apost.).
The world renowned Neander has this to say: "From two theological schools there went forth an opposition to the doctrine of everlasting punishment."
The Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1908) by Schaff-Herzog says in volume 12, on page 96, "In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist, one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality; one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked. Other theological schools are mentioned as founded by Universalists, but their actual doctrine on this subject is not known."
The number of schools and believers that believed in the "Salvation of All" was so great, it is an embarrassment to many modern church historians. Therefore, they often do whatever they can to hide these facts. I mention again that these Universalists who were clearly the majority of the early Christians, believed that all mankind through Christ would be restored. They believed and taught and many laid down their lives for the belief that Jesus Christ was truly the Savior of the whole world. Remember, these historians just quoted were not "Universalists." Also note that the school that taught "Eternal Torment" was in Rome, where the original Bible languages were abandoned and replaced with Latin. Those of you who are familiar with Daniel's image made up of four kingdoms are also probably aware that the legs of iron might speak of the Roman Empire.
What the People Believed
We just read that the majority of the schools taught the "salvation of all mankind." But what did the average person on the street believe? I am going to quote three church leaders of that time period.
St. Basil the Great (c. 329-379) in his De Asceticis wrote: "The mass of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished." I point out that he is not classified as a Universalist.
St. Jerome (342-420), the author of the Vulgate Latin Bible and whose jealousy got him into an ugly scandal that stained the church, writes: "I know that most persons understand by the story of Nineveh and its King, the ultimate forgiveness of the devil and all rational creatures."
The last person I want to quote regarding what the average early Christian believed, is the very champion of the doctrine of "Eternal Torment" himself--Saint Augustine. He stands right next to Emperor Constantine as a key figure leading the church away from the original teachings of the Old and New Testaments. Augustine was in the Manichaean religion for nine years prior to becoming a Christian. This was an Eastern religion of fire worship. In this system, the universe would be divided forever between good and evil. The Romans and Greeks had a habit of incorporating the religions of the countries they conquered. The religions of the East flooded into the church after Constantine united church and state. Constantine provided the building materials to build this monstrous structure and Augustine built the theological structure. His most famous writing was The City of God. Now listen to the champion of "Eternal Torment" regarding the view of Christian believers over this matter over four hundred years after Christ's resurrection: "There are very many (imo quam plurimi, can be translated majority) who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments" (Enchiria, ad Laurent. c.29).
Out of his own mouth, the hero of the eternal tormentors of Christendom, states that in his day many or the majority of Christians did not believe in endless torment and they did not deny the Holy Scriptures by believing it. In this period of time, the great teachers still read the new Testament in Greek, but Augustine admits that he "hated Greek." Let us now read some of the all-time great leaders of Christianity of the early Christian era who did not hate the Greek language and see what they have to say.
Early Christian Leaders' Beliefs
We have seen so far that when the church apostated, she: 1) brought into herself idolatry of every kind, 2) began to teach doctrines from pagan religions, 3) burned many of the writing of some of the most noble of the Christian faith, 4) replaced humble learned leaders with power-mongers who used fear instead of love to keep order, 5) taught that lying was honorable, and 6) falsified many of the earlier church writing to conform to her new doctrines which she imported from Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and later from the four corners of the earth.
When we consider the above, it is a wonder that any of the early writing survived or were not corrupted. But God always leaves witnesses to the truth and many writings did manage to get through this dark period. I believe many more will come to the surface in the days ahead. I do not have space to quote all that I have come across. There is a short bibliography at the end of this writing that will direct you to many other quotes from the early church that have survived.
St. Pantaenus (martyred c. 190) was the first known head of the catechetical school at Alexandria. Although none of his writings have survived, his leading disciple, who became the next head of the school, said that Pantaenus was "the man who understood and practised scripture." This disciple was St. Clement of Alexandria (150-215). He writes:
"We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer: to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, in his work, and so will he continue to operate after this life" (quoted by Neander in Hanson p. 118). "All men are his...for either the Lord does not care for all men...or he does care for all. For He is saviour; not of some, and of others not...and how is He saviour and Lord, if not the saviour and Lord of all? For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe both generally and particularly"(ANJ v.2 p.524-5).
We have quite a few of his writings preserved, but I can only quote a couple of short verses because this is supposed to be a short article.
The next Christian leader deserves an introduction. I could not write more fitting words than those of church historian Phillip Schaff, who says the following of this man:
"It is impossible to deny a respectful sympathy to this extraordinary man, who with all his brilliant talents, and a host of enthusiastic friends and admirers, was driven from his country, stripped of his sacred office, excommunicated from part of the church, then thrown into a dungeon, lead with chains, racked by torture, doomed to drag his aged frame and dislocated limbs in pain and poverty, and long after his death to have his memory branded, his name anathematized, and his salvations denied; but who nevertheless did more than all his enemies combined to advance the cause of sacred learning, to refute and convert heathens and heretics, and to make the church respected in the eyes of the world."
Latourette adds these praises: "Origen was more than a great teacher: He was on fire with the Christian faith." "His was, indeed, one of the greatest of Christian minds." "A superb teacher, he had a profound influence upon his students. From them and through his writing issued currents which were to help mold Christian thought for generation" (A History of Christianity, Latourette, 1953).
To give you an idea of the kind of student of the Scriptures Origen was, I am going to quote Schaff in his History of the Christian Church, volume 2, page 792-3, Gerdman edition:
Even though the teachers of "Eternal Torment" eventually got control of the church and began to rewrite the earlier Christian writings to conform to their own domonic doctrines, enough of the truth got through for us to see what was really going on.
"Origen is one of the most important witnesses of the anteNicene text of the Greek Testament, which is older than the received text...The value of his testimony is due to his rare opportunities and life-long study of the Bible before the time when the traditional Syrian and Byzantine text was formed. Origen was an uncommonly prolific author, but by no means an idle bookmaker. Jerome says he wrote more than other men can read. Epiphanius, an opponent of Origen, states the number of his works as six thousand, which is perhaps not much beyond the mark, if we include all his short tracts, homilies, and letters, and count them as separate volumes. Many of them arose without his cooperation, and sometimes against his will, from the writings down of his oral lectures by others. Of his books which remain, some have come down to us only in Latin translations, and with many alterations in favor of the later orthodoxy."
Listen to the words of Origen as he battles with a Greek philosopher named Celsus:
Of all the early Christian leaders, Origen rose to the top in defending the character of God against the pagan concepts of God that were beginning to penetrate. His life touched many who would become great men of God in their time. Many of their writings are lost or destroyed, but we have accounts of their lives recorded in letters from one church leader to another. St. Gregory of Thoumaturgus (c. 213-270), a church father and a disciple of Origen became bishop of Neo Caesoreia and was famous for the many miracles in his ministry. Pamphilus was also a disciple of Origen, who became head of the theological school at Caesarea. He founded the famous library which contained thousands of Christian writings.
"The Stoics, indeed, hold that, when the strongest of the elements prevails, all things shall be turned into fire. But our belief is, that the Word shall prevail over the entire rational creation, and change every soul into his own perfection...for although in the diseases and wounds of the body, there are some which no medical skill can cure, yet we hold that in the mind there is no evil so strong that it may not be overcome by the Supreme Word and God. For stronger than all the evils in the soul is the Word, and the healing power that swells in Him, and the healing He applies, according to the will of God to every man. The consummation of all things is the destruction of evil...to quote Zephaniah: 'My determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kings, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger, for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent'...consider carefully the promise, that all shall call upon the name of the Lord, and serve Him with one consent; also that all contemptuous reproach shall be taken away, and there shall be no longer any injustice, or vain speech, or a deceitful tongue" (Celsus, 6k8, ch. 72, ANF, v.4, p. 667).
St. Athanasius, the Archbishop of Alexandria was also a student of Origen and defends him as orthodox. Athanasius nominated Didymus the Blind as president of the school of Alexandria. Didymus was a strong believer in the "Restitution of All Things." "Didymus was a zealous Universalist who explicitly endorsed Origen's opinion on the conversion of devils" (A Dictionary of the Bible, Hastings, publ. By Scribner, 1963). St. Jerome says of him, "Didymus surpassed all of his day in knowledge of the Scriptures."
The highly acclaimed Didymus writes: "Mankind, being reclaimed from their sins..are to be subjected to Christ in the fullness of the dispensation instituted for the salvation of all" (Comm. in 1 Peter 3).
St. Gregory of Nyssa (332-398), a bishop and a leading theologian says in his Catechetical Orations: "Our Lord is the One who delivers man (all men), and who heals the inventor of evil himself."
As one can see, one of the greatest strengths of the early church was their strong faith in a God who can do what appears to the modern Christian as impossible.
Jerome says this next man, Titus, bishop of Bostra was, "one of the most important church writers of his time." Titus writes: "Abyss of hell is, indeed, the place of torment; but it is not eternal, nor did it exist in the original constitution of nature. It was made afterward, as a remedy for sinners, that it might cure them. And the punishments are holy, as they are remedial and salutary in their effect on transgressors; for they are inflicted not to preserve them in their wickedness but to make them cease from their wickedness. The anguish of their suffering compels them to break off their vices" (Lib. 1, ch. 32).
Next we have Diodore (c. 390), bishop of Tarsus and bishop of Jerusalem. In McClintock-Strong's Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (publ. Baker Book, 1969), we read of Diodore: "A teacher of great repute in the school at Antioch, and afterwards bishop of Jerusalem, was also a Universalist, who, in opposition to the then general prevalence of allegorical interpretation, strictly adhered to the natural import of the text in his many commentaries on the Scriptures. He defended Universalism on the ground that the divine mercy far exceeds all the effects and all the deserts of sin."
Diodore wrote: "For the wicked are punished, not perpetual, but they are to be tormented for a certain brief period...according to the amount of malice in their works. They shall therefore suffer punishment for a short space, but immortal blessedness, having no end awaits them. The resurrection, therefore is regarded as a blessing not only to the good but also to the evil."
Here we see that leaders who used allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures and leaders who used literal interpretation of the Scriptures both came to the conclusive decision based on Scripture that eternal punishment was not scriptural!
McClintock-Strong's Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature has this to say about the next church leader of the early church:
"Theodore, who is called the crown and climax of the school of Antioch and whose writings were textbooks in the school of Eastern Syria, was a prominent and influential Universalist. His theory was that sin is an incidental part of the development and education of the human race; that while some are more involved in it than others, God will overrule it to the final establishment of all in good. He is the reputed author of the liturgy used by the Nestorians, a church which at one time equaled in its membership the combined adherents of both the Greek and Latin communions. In the addresses and prayers of this liturgy Universalism is distinctly avowed."
Schaff-Herzog's Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge says that, "His influence for some centuries was more extensive than that of Augustine." Theodore, of whom the average modern Christian does not even know ever existed, has this to say:
"That in the world to come, those who have done evil all their life long, will be made worthy of the sweetness of the divine bounty. For never would Christ have said, 'Until thou has paid the uttermost farthing' unless it were possible for us to be cleansed when we have paid the debt" (quoted from Christ Triumphant by Thomas Allin). Of John Cassian (c. 360-435), the Schaff-Herzog encyclopedia says: "Under the instruction of these great teachers (i.e. Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Cassian, etc.) many theologians believed in universal salvation; and indeed the whole Eastern Church until after 500 A.D. was inclined to it."
Theodoret the Blessed (c. 393-466), was consecrated bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria against his will. He was also a historian and continued the historian Eusibius's work down to 428. McClintock-Strong says that he was, "a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia, was also a Universalist holding the doctrine on the theory advocated by the Antiochian school."
Theodoret writes: "He shews the reason of penalty, for the Lord, who loves men, chastises in order to heal, like a physician, that he may arrest the course of our sin" (Hom. in Ezech. ch. 6).
Peter Chrysologus (435), bishop of Ravenna, in a sermon on the Good Shepherd, says the lost sheep represents, "The whole human race lost in Adam," and that Christ, "followed the one, seeks the one in order that in the one he may restore all."
Many more early Christian leaders could be quoted who believed that nothing was too difficult for the Creator of all, but again, this is just an article, not a book. When one looks at the first 500 years of Christianity, not one creed even hinted at "Eternal Torment;" not one creed denied "Universal Restoration;" no church council condemned "Universal Restoration" in the first several centuries.
When one looks at the early Church's leaders and at which ones exhibited the nature of Christ's love, one will find that the vast majority embraced the "Salvation of All Mankind." When one looks at the lives of those church leaders who brought the doctrine of "Eternal Torment" into the church, we find a long string of envyings, power plays, persecutions, character assassinations, book burnings, murders, and tortures. They became like the God they created--tormentors! They exchanged the truth for a lie and brought darkness to the world--the Dark Ages. Remember them? Idolatry, corruption, rewritten history, inquisitions, crusades, relics (cutting up dead bodies of Saints and making money off of them as good luck charms), indulgences (selling certificates to sin), pogroms, witch hunts, Mary worship, corrupt popes, and torment--much torment--all in the name of Jesus Christ.
The list above is not a list of abuses of the religions of the heathen--it is a much shortened list of the horrible acts and beliefs of the church! The church became so corrupt that it declared it a sin for a believer to have a Bible. For those of you who are not Roman Catholic and feel that the above list does not pertain to your denominational church history, I want to remind you of the fact that the two leading reformators of the Protestant movement, John Calvin and Martin Luther, were great admirers of the "Champion of Eternal Torment," that is, St. Augustine. As a matter of fact, Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk, and John Calvin was the main instrument in bringing back to life the "Predestination Doctrine" of Augustine, which said that God preplanned the majority of mankind to eternal torment and there was nothing a person could do to change his lot!
The French, German, and English Bible translations that came forth as a result of these men's efforts still were corrupted due to many reasons into which I cannot get in this article. Our English Bible translations still reflect the Dark Ages and not the original Spirit and Word found in the original languages of the Bible. Protestant, Catholic, Pentecostal, Charismatic, etc., theologians are making false statements (often sincerely) about the accuracy of many of our English Bible translations. But enough of the truth remains in our translations to discover what Jesus Christ and His Apostles taught. Sometimes we can learn more about the truth from what a person did not say than from what they did say. For example, if Paul was commissioned by Jesus Christ to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (everybody except the Jews), and if salvation is deliverance from hell, why did Paul, who wrote about half of the books in the New Testament, never use the word "hell" even once? Think about it!
I am now going to list some of the Scriptures that the early Christians used to prove to the heathen that God really loved them and that He truly had the power and desire to "save the whole world" and that He gave that power to His Son, Jesus Christ. Fortunately, for the early Christians, they did not have to weed out mistranslations of Greek words like "aion," which should have been translated "eon" or "age," but translations such as the King James translated into "eternal," "forever," "evermore," "world," and "age."
It is this kind of translation that makes the Bible say that the world has no end and at the same time say that it does have an end. The King James Bible translators were specifically told by King James not to remove the Latinisms that crept into the Bible. King James was a strong believer in the "Divine Right" of the King and he wanted to make sure that the Romish teaching remained in his Bible. Please forgive me for going off course for a moment--this subject is one I'm very familiar with and love to talk about, but it is another topic.
It is because of some of the above mentioned confusions that many sincere seekers "give up on Christ." I believe this generation is going to dig like no other generation ever born, and we will rediscover what made the early Christians the wonder they were. They conformed to the image of their God--All Consuming Love. You will conform to the image of your God. Who is He? If your God is an "Eternal Tormentor," your life will reflect that belief. If He truly is the Savior of the whole world and He truly loves the whole world and has all power and authority, then your life should reflect that.
At least some of you who are reading this believe that what I am writing is true. I am going to list scores of Scriptures that will confirm what the early Christians believed and lived. There are some who will clearly see this wonderful truth throughout the entire Bible--but that is no enough. Knowledge in the head will never bring forth Life. This Truth has to be buried deep in the heart and the Spirit of our Father has to nurture It to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Those of you who now see this Truth, I beg you to ask your Father to plant It in your heart--that He would water and care for It. This Truth planted in the mind will only bring forth dogma and death. The Father seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth, not dogma and death. It is only then that you will know why you were created. It is only then that your knee will bend to your Lord to His glory and honor. It is only then that your heart can truly rejoice and praise the Creator, your Father.
With grateful thanks to Tentmaker.
This page was created on 11 April 1998
Last updated on 11 April 1998
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