God Never Gives Up!

My transcript of the above video:

Eric: Hey there folks, it’s The Eric Metaxas Show. I’m talking to George Sarris about his book: Heaven’s doors. The subject is hell, although you said it was heaven. You go into the definitions of a lot of the words in your book, which is another reason that I respect you, even though I’m not sure if I agree with your ultimate conclusions. I was fascinated that I’d never read this before. Even to look at the different meanings where it says “hell” in Scripture, you know that word could be Gehenna, it could be Hades, it could be Tartarus, it could be… What are those different words? What do they mean?

George: Yeah, that’s a good question. In fact, it’s kind of interesting because the word that is normally translated “hell” in the modern versions, “Gehenna”, that is translated as “hell”. Gehenna was a dump, it was a dump outside of Jerusalem. It refers to the Valley of Hinnom or the Valley of the sons of Hinnom, in the earlier times in the Old Testament. It was a place where, I think it was Ahaz and Manasseh, had offered child sacrifice. And so Josiah comes along, he desecrates the valley and it became a common dump for the city of Jerusalem, where they put dead bodies of criminals, animals. You had worms, you had fire there, to purify—that’s what the fire was there for, that’s what the worms were there for—they were there to purify this unholy place. And so it’s really interesting because in the time of Jesus, Gehenna was a place you could go visit.

Eric: We just have few minutes left George. What should we add to this conversation?

George: One of things I say my book is that God’s love is unconditional, God’s power is irresistible, and He never gives up. And I think the one of the key things is looking at the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is fascinating. Most people look at it as if this is what’s going on in hell. Actually, what’s happening in Revelation happens on earth, until the very end of the book before you get into anything that’s even after earth. All the plagues, all these other things are happening on earth—they’re not talking about the future in hell. But in chapter 5, John says, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'” Who is it that’s proclaiming this? Every creature. Where are they? Everywhere in creation. What are they doing? They’re praising the God of heaven and the lamb.

Then at the end of the book of Revelation—which is really fascinating—the gates of the New Jerusalem are never shut; the tree of life, it’s always bearing fruit; the leaves from those the trees, are for the healing of the nations; there’s no longer any curse; there’s no longer any more tears. And then the invitation is given, it says, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!'” Well who they saying “come” to? Those outside the city because the gates are open. Who’s outside the city? Those who are in the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire is a refiners fire that purifies—I talk about that more in my book. But the bottom line is, they are invited to come into the New Jerusalem because the Bride are the believers that are already there, the Spirit is already there. Who are they giving the invitation to? Those outside the gates, who are allowed to come into the gates of the New Jerusalem.

Eric: Wow. The highest compliment I can say is this really makes me think, and it’s just so fascinating to me. I keep saying that this is such a hot button issue—no pun intended. So even though I’m not endorsing your position, I’m allowing you to present it because I read the book and I’ve known you personally—your faith—you’re not some quote unquote “liberal Christian”. And so I thought, “Hmm, interesting” and you actually care about what the Scripture says because you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. That is usually not the position of Universalist. I’m fascinated.

George: Yeah, most of people that I talked to are just kind of shocked that I actually believe in Scripture. The pastor of the church that we ended up going to, I went up to him the very first Sunday that we were there. He wanted to know why we were there and I thought I might as well mentioned to him what happened.

Eric: Right.

George: And he said, “George I’ve never heard that position from a biblical perspective—I would love to talk to you about it.” So for the next several months, he would take 20 pages at a time and we’d end up reading—meeting together—we’d talk over those 20 pages, and for a couple hours at a time because he was fascinated by what was there.

Eric: Well I confess that I am fascinated so I want to thank you George for helping open up the conversation.

George: It’s a privilege and I’m very, very grateful.

Eric: The book we’ve been talking about is titled Heaven’s Doors by George Sarris. This is The Eric Metaxas Show. Go to metaxastalk.com

Everyone Repents & Rejoices: The Bible’s Overall Story Part 2

In The Bible’s Overall Story Part 1 I looked at the stages of the relationship between people and God. However, questions arose from it, “What about people who don’t repent and rejoice in this life?”. This is an important question because billions of people fall into this category, as far as I can tell.

I think there are good biblical reasons for believing that those who don’t repent and rejoice in this life will do so at some point in the next. In a future post I’ll explore how God might bring people freely to this position but in this post I’ll simply focus on what I think are His promises that He will.

One of the passages that I think most clearly shows the repentance and joyful response to God’s mercy is:

… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:10-11, NLT

“Every Knee Shall Bow” by J. Kirk Richards ©2008

In the letter to the Philippians, Paul seems to be expanding on God’s promise in Isaiah 45:

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.
For I am God, and there is no other.
By Myself I have sworn;
Truth has gone from My mouth,
a word that will not be revoked:
Every knee will bow to Me,
every tongue will swear allegiance.Isaiah 45:22-23, HCSB

… this acknowledgement of Christ is universal. Paul emphasizes that there are no exceptions by expanding the Old Testament text “every knee will bow” with the words “in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” This is going considerably further than the Isaiah text. In Isaiah only the living were in mind. All the survivors of the nations would bow, but the dead were dead. Not so here. Even those “under the earth,” that is to say, the dead, will bow. So the picture is of every single individual who has ever lived acknowledging the rule of Christ.Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, page 98

I think the bowing and declaring Jesus as Lord isn’t subjugation for a number of reasons:

First, we see that God has just called all the nations to turn to him and be saved, and it is in that context that the oath is taken. Second, the swearing of oaths in Yahweh’s name is something his own people do, not his defeated enemies. Third, those who confess Yahweh go on to say, “In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength,” which sounds like the cry of praise from God’s own people.Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, page 68

Elsewhere in Paul’s letters when he speaks of confessing Jesus as Lord it is always in a context of salvation. No one can say that “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). If someone confesses with their mouth and believes in the heart that Jesus is Lord, then they will be saved (Rom 10:9). There are no examples in Paul of an involuntary confession of Christ’s Lordship. The word translated as “confess” (exomologeomai) is a word almost always meaning “praise.” Throughout the LXX version of the Psalms it is used of the joyful and voluntary praise of God, and that is how it is used in the LXX source text of Isaiah 45:23. There is no good linguistic reason to think Paul was using it in any other way here.Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist, page 100

I’d suggest that this positivity is one of the reasons the HCSB, ESV and NLT, all translate the action in Isaiah as “allegiance”.

It cannot mean mere outward, hypocritical and forced agreement…Henri Blocher1

Furthermore, Paul says the confession is “to the glory of God the Father” and we are told countless times that people faking it doesn’t achieve this―quite the opposite, God detests outward displays of “piety” and “praise” when hearts aren’t in it. For example,

[Jesus] answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:
These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.Mark 7:6, HCSB

In contrast, there’s a persistent theme of God desiring, deserving and receiving everyone’s wholehearted, joyful praise. For example:

Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them,Psalm 69:34, HCSB
All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.Psalm 86:9, ESV
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!Psalm 98:3-4, ESV
My mouth will declare Yahweh’s praise; let every living thing praise His holy name forever and ever.Psalm 145:21, HCSB
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!Psalm 150:6, ESV

I think that the Great Commandment is part of the “Truth [that] has gone from [God’s] mouth, a word that will not be revoked”, that ultimately it is a prophetic revelation of the holistic, truly glorifying, worship of God by everyone.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.Matthew 22:37, ESV


1. Blocher, Henri. Everlasting Punishment and the Problem of Evil. Edited by Nigel M. deS. Cameron (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), p. 303. While we agree on the point quoted, I think he makes some puzzling theological moves so ends up with conclusions that I disagree with.