Saturday, March 10, 2018
Bradley Jersak grew up in an Evangelical church, became involved in the Anabaptist tradition of the Mennonites after meeting his wife later pastoring an Anabaptist church that was full of spiritual misfits like addicts, those with learning disabilities. From focusing on doctrine when in the Evangelical church which led him to practicing non-violence, loving others different than himself aka living the gospel within the Mennonite tradition ultimately led him to pursue God through the patristics in Eastern Orthodoxy. He stated in the “Nomad podcast” where Western Christianity viewed the arena of salvation more like a court room where one is “justified” or declared righteous, Eastern Christianity arena of salvation is more like a hospital where salvation is a process restorative which does not end in death.”He writes about God’s nature:
God is not angry with you and never has been. He loves you with an everlasting love. Salvation is not a question of “turn or burn.” We’re burning already, but we don’t have to be! Redemption! The life and death of Christ showed us how far God would go to extend forgiveness and invitation. His resurrection marked the death of death and the evacuation of Hades. My hope is in Christ, who rightfully earned his judgment seat and whose verdict is restorative justice, that is to say, mercy. Hope presumes nothing but is rooted in a deeper confidence: the love and mercy of an openhearted and relentlessly kind God. (Jersak, pg. 9)
According to both Brian Zahnd and Gregory Boyd, Bradley Jersak has written one of the most balanced books as it relates to the afterlife looking at all three perspectives of hell such as Eternal Conscious Torment (“ETC”), Annihilationism, and Universalism. The Bible supports all three perspectives yet each perspective cannot be reduced to a dogma. He writes:
“The stubborn fact is that Scripture is richly polyphonic on the topic of hell and judgment—as if by design. Thus, if we become dogmatic about any one position, we reduce ourselves to reading selectively or doing interpretive violence to those verses that don’t fit our chosen view. Our theological prejudgments blind us to passages we may have read many times but never really seen.” (Jersak pg. 6)
I agree, we are blind to the presuppositions of the paradigms how we as Christians view the cross and violence, salvation, the afterlife, sin and judgment. If one is an Armininan, that person focuses on man’s free will to choose and make their own choice whether or not Jesus death and resurrection was enough. Calvinists focus on God’s sovereignty and predestination, while progressives focus on God’s love. All three believe in a divine judgement. Yet both Armininan believers and Calvinistic believers do believe in a literal hell because if hell does not exist what is the point of evangelism and hellfire preaching? Progressives on the other hand dismiss a literal hell because how can we love others into the Kingdom if there is a fear of judgment.
In part one of this series of blog posts based upon Bradley Jersak’s “Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell, and the New Jerusalem”, I will be looking at his thoughts on Apokatastasis.
Acts 3:21 CSB
Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning.
1 Corinthians 15:28 CSB
When everything is subject to Christ, then the Son himself will also be subject to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.
My fiancee’s late husband passed away 3 years ago from cancer. God delivered him from his sickness and suffering. He was not a Christian as viewed by most Evangelicals believe and resonated with local ADF Druid group, and associated more with Odin than YHWH. Yet after his death, through a medium, my fiancee was assured that he went through “recovery” safely and was living with God in paradise. Recovery sounds similar of what the early patristics believed as “the lake of fire” or passing through the Red Sea. According to Jersak:
Ironically, given the charge of universalism , neither man denied the existence of hell or the necessity that some should enter its gates. In fact, unlike the infernalists , they saw that all who would enter paradise must pass through the river or lake of fire as the Israelites had to pass through the Red Sea. (Jersak, Pg. 120)
Concerning Gregory of Nyssa and Origen
Origen – Apokatastasis is a theological extrapolation of the final phrase in verse twenty-one (Acts 3:21). It is the doctrine of ultimate redemption that believes a time will come when all things (the whole cosmos) will be saved by grace. This includes creation, the lost, the fallen angels, and for some, even the devil. It is a question of how far God is willing to extend restitution to “all things.” The logic is simple and powerful: when God is finally “all in all” and everything is “summed up in Christ,” evil will cease to exist. Finally, all free creatures will enjoy truly free will because every deception, delusion, and denial; every wound and every resistance to the love of God will be swept away by the light of truth. Who then would not freely bow in worship and adoration? Before the unveiled revelation of the Lord Jesus, even Satan could no longer deceive himself. In that moment, would he repent? Would he be forgiven? (Jersak, pg. 123)
Gregory of Nyssa – Gregory foresaw judgment as a potentially lengthy cleansing process, taking seriously the kolasin aiōnion of Matt 25, not as eternal punishment but something more like “age-lasting correction,” culminating in the ultimate salvation of all. Nor was he shy about his universalism. When death, and corruption, and darkness, and every other offshoot of evil had grown into the nature of the author of evil, the approach of the Divine power, acting like fire and making that unnatural accretion to disappear, thus by purgation of the evil becomes a blessing to that nature, though the separation is agonizing. For it is now as with those who for their cure are subjected to the knife and the cautery; they are angry with the doctors, and wince with the pain of the incision; but if recovery of health be the result of this treatment, and the pain of the cautery passes away, they will feel grateful to those who have wrought this cure upon them. In like manner, when, after long periods of time, the evil of our nature, which now is mixed up with it and has grown with its growth, has been expelled, and when there has been a restoration of those who are now lying in Sin to their primal state, a harmony of thanksgiving will arise from all creation, as well from those who in the process of the purgation have suffered chastisement, as from those who needed not any purgation at all. 16 (Jersak, pg. 125)
Like Brad, I hope that everyone will eventually be with God eternally, in God, united in Christ after death. No one will be annihilated, have to go thru eternal conscious torment and be with Jesus in the New Jerusalem forever. Next week I will look at what the Eastern Orthodox Church believes about the “fire of cleansing”.
This post is part of the May Synchroblog, in which numerous bloggers around the world write about the same topic on the same day. Links to the other contributors are below. If you enjoyed my article, you will also enjoy reading what they have to say about the topic of hell.
- An Investigation into the Biblical Concept of Hell – Justin Steckbauer
- To Hell and Back – Soulcare Ministries
- The HELL You Say! – Nathan Jennings
- Forbidden Fruit = Hell’s Flames – Michael Wilson
- How long does hell last? – K.W. Leslie
- The problem of those unable to Love, or the question of hell as a reality – Bram Cools
- Hell No! – Mike Edwards
- Five Misconceptions about Annihilationism – Wesley Rostoll
- Knowing Who You Trust – Tim Nichols
- Heretic (Belated) Fridays – Bradley Jersak – Her Gates Will Never Be Shut – Scott Sloan
- Hell – A Place of Passionate Desire – Alan Stevens
- Christians Should Go to Hell – Jeremy Myers