My transcript of the above:
Eric: Hey there folks—it’s The Eric Metaxas Show. It’s Hell Week on The Eric Metaxas Show. Chris Himes did you know it’s Hell Week?
Chris: Hell-o—I can’t stop.
Eric: Yeah. We’re talking to George Sarris. The book is Heaven’s Doors. I want to be real clear, even though you take what some people call the Universalist position, you’re not saying, “Hell does not exist”?
George: That is correct.
Eric: Okay. If somebody says, “You’re going to hell”, what is hell?
George: Hell is a place where you experience the consequences of your actions—just like it is here on this earth. One of the major people in the early church was a guy named Theodore of Mopsuestia, and his basic position was that sin leads to misery. So eventually if you continue to pursue sin, you will become totally miserable. At that point, you’re open to experiencing the love and grace that God offers—and God doesn’t give up.
Eric: Okay. So let’s pick a name out of a hat: Adolf Hitler?
George: Why don’t you talk about the Apostle Paul?
George: Because he’s a great example of that. He actually persecuted Christians and put them to death.
George: But what did God do? He didn’t just punish Paul, he transformed Paul. The goal that God has for mankind is not just to punish, it is to transform.
Eric: Ok. But I’m saying if the goal is to transform Hitler…
George: He doesn’t get transformed in this life so God has ages (because scripture talks about not just an age to come but ages plural to come).
George: He has ages to work in Hitler’s life to bring him to a point where he understands his need for grace.
Eric: Okay. So the thing is that you’re saying that, “Yes, hell is actually hell but it is to bring the worst sinner ultimately to repentance.”
George: That is correct.
Eric: But you still say that hell is horrible?
George: Yes. I mean, if you do some crime and you’re put in jail, just because you don’t get the death sentence, doesn’t mean that jail is really a wonderful place to be. Depending on how long you’re there, is not a comfortable place to be, this is intense, it’s severe. The the punishment, the consequences of whatever it is. Just talk to a recovering alcoholic or talk to somebody that’s been involved in some kind of sin in their lives. Were they happy? No, they’re experiencing all kinds of negative consequences—breaks up of marriages, breaks up of relationships with their children, physical diseases or problems that come along, etc. Those are not positive things at all but at some point, if they can acknowledge their need, then God’s saving grace is available to them in Christ.
Eric: What do you say to somebody who says the scripture says clearly, “Once we leave this life, that’s it”?
George: Where does it say that? The only verse that I’ve ever been able to come across it says that… where it says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment.” It doesn’t say what the judgment is. [It] just means that once you die you come before God and then God makes a decision. Is he going to send you to hell for however long it is? Are you going to go to heaven? Those are judgments that God makes but it doesn’t say anything about the fact that God is going to stop being God. He’s not going to stop being gracious. The grace of God continues on into the ages to come. Why is it that people would believe that God is willing to forgive Adolf Hitler right up to the very point of, you know, five seconds before he dies if he repented—truly repented—then he would be saved and he brought into heaven, but five seconds after he dies, “Sorry too bad”? God doesn’t change!
Eric: Okay. So what do your detractors say? In other words, answer some of the things that the detractors of this view would say to you if they were sitting here?
George: The first thing they would say is that, “Scripture obviously teaches this because it says in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus that whoever’s in hell can never get out of it.” First of all, it doesn’t say that. Number one, the word that is used there for hell is actually Hades—it’s not hell—and Hades, as a place of punishment, will empty itself. That death and Hades will be thrown into the lake of fire—that Hades will release those who are captive in it. When Jesus talks about the gates of Hades not being able to withstand his church, the gates of Hades are not offensive units, they are defensive. The Christian churches on the attack against the gates of Hades. We are going to destroy the gates of Hades and of hell and of death, and we’re going to bring deliverance from it.
Eric: See this is, I confess, that I hope that’s true and I think every Christian has to hope that’s true too.