Someone told me that hell is just temporary and that the greek word associated with eternal punishment really meant for a limited time but the church translated it “eternal” to control people through fear. Is God saving some people now but will save others after they have been in hell for awhile?
Some refer to this teaching as Biblical Universalism trying to distinguish themselves from the traditional universalists that deny the Scriptures.
While Biblical Universalists lay claim to believing the Bible it is still the same old heresy “in sheep’s clothing”. First, they deny all major translations of the Bible as being accurate. These “mistranslations” include the King James Version, New International Standard Version, New American Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, the Amplified Bible, The Net Bible, New Century Version, New Living Translation, International Standard Version as well as many others. Instead, they refer you to a few obscure translations which, if you will check it out, you will find were almost exclusively done by other universalists who were not well educated in the original languages and had a point to prove by “correcting” the translations done by scholarly teams of translators both old and new. A key to cult success and heretical teachers is to undermine the trustworthiness of Scriptures so you are left having to depend upon their word, or their translations, for the “truth”.
It does not take a lot of research to torpedo this heresy and you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to do the research yourself. The foundation of their belief revolves around the meaning of the Greek word “aionios”.
Matthew 25:46 says.”
Then they (the unrighteous) will go away to eternal (aionios) punishment, but the righteous to eternal (aionios) life.”
To an unbiased observer it would be clear that since Jesus used the same term to describe the length of both the punishment and the reward then both are equal in duration. If the punishment ends after a period of time then clearly aionios life also ends after a period of time. Obviously the Biblical Universalists find elaborate ways to deny this clear connection and say the same word can mean different things even though used in the same sentence. While a word can mean different things though used in the same sentence (A fly landed on my fly and would not fly away), there is no justification for applying differing definitions in the Matthew statement.
But a simple study of the word “aionios” will further sink the univeralist ship and clarify the meaning of the word without referring to any translations – the major ones or their obscure ones.
An Englishman’s Concordance is a wonderful tool (see my recommended reading for more information) to help you do this. It gives a list of every Biblical occurrence of any word so you can see exactly how that word is used. Looking up the word aionios we see it – or its derivatives – are used 72 times in the New Testament. That is great because we will be basing our understanding on many usages not just one or two.
Of the 72 passages where the word is used, 59 times it is used to describe things even Biblical Universalists would agree are eternal: eternal Life – 43x, Spirit of God eternal – 1, Everlasting God – 2, Eternal glory – 3, eternal consolation – 1, God’s power is aionion – 1, Eternal salvation – 1, eternal redemption – 1, Jesus is alive aionion – 1, Everlasting kingdom – 1, eternal gospel – 1, eternal inheritance – 1, eternal covenant – 1, eternal habitation prepared – 1. Twice aionios describes “things” – translated eternal things. Once it describes our acceptance – eternal acceptance and three times it is translated as “world” or “age”.
All other occurrences of the word describe things orthodox teachers would describe as also eternal based upon the overwhelming use of “aionion” to apply to things we know are eternal but that Biblical Universalists say are not eternal -even though the word consistently and overwhelming is used in reference to things clearly eternal. Aionion fire is spoken of 3 times, and once each the word refers to punishment, damnation, destruction and judgment.
Again, based on the fact that aionion clearly refers to things we would all agree go on without end in the overwhelming uses of the word, there is no justification to suddenly change its meaning when we apply it to things we are not so fond of – fire, judgment, punishment, destruction, damnation.
While the Universalist teaching pleases our natural senses (it would be comforting to think the horrors of hell are only temporary) there is no Biblical evidence to support their wishes. Punishment, damnation, destruction, judgment and the fire of hell are serious matters, they are eternal matters as the Bible clearly teaches and as the church has taught since the beginning.
Finally, everything within me wants to say, “I wish their interpretation was true” but to do so would be to question the perfection of God’s judgments. Do I dare think I can improve upon God’s method, or call Him too harsh or too strict because in my natural mind I can’t grasp or justify eternal punishment for temporary disobedience and rebellion. All I can do is rest in God’s sovereignty, wisdom, mercy and grace and be confident that at the day of judgment I will agree with the multitude in heaven that declare, “true and just are his judgments”, a declaration made twice in the book of Revelation (16:7, 19:2) and affirmed in history and throughout the ages.