Hell Might Be Empty June 22, 2016 This guest post is by Brian Niece.Published June 11, 2017
Hell Might Be Empty (Part 1)
Theologian Jürgen Moltmann once said in a discussion, “In the final analysis I believe hell will be empty.”
This theological idea comes from Moltmann’s understanding that all who are dead are dead in Christ, just as the living are alive in Christ, whether they acknowledge the presence of the deity or not. God’s presence is in all and through all. Therefore everyone, the living and dead, are contained in the loving presence of the God who Jesus called “Father” and are moving with this God toward God’s future.
That’s some heady stuff, for sure.
Moltmann further asserts, as do many Christian theologians, that all time is already contained in the life of God. Past, present, future, and eternity all glow with God’s presence.
More heady stuff, I know.
If you, like me, are an outsider to the Western institutional church, it could be for any number of reasons. It pains me to know how many friends I have who walked away from the whole faith thing because they were told that anyone who didn’t measure up to an institutional standard was going to hell.
Maybe you’ve experienced the very damaging and un-Jesus like narrative that creates an “us” versus “them” mentality. The kind of thinking that elevates groups of the “ins” over the “outs.” Please hear this: you aren’t going to hell.
See, God’s grace, as displayed through Jesus of Nazareth, is unbounded grace. There is no limit to it. So there’s no way that someone can “fall out of grace” (another theologically incorrect phrase that exists in the Western church system).
And if God’s grace is so amazing, and so boundless, and so infinite, then at the end of all things being made new this God could very likely open the metaphorical gates to the new reality that has been reconciled and say, “Everybody who has ever lived or ever died, come live with me!”
Churchified critics would say I’m talking about weak universal salvation. Branding an uncomfortable idea with dismissive labels is a way to mask what we humans so often do: we place the emphasis of salvation on ourselves. But the focus of salvation has always been on God, not us.
Critics might also say that speaking of unbounded grace lessens God’s justice. But when we talk of God’s justice, we tend to just recast the divine in our own image. God’s justice has a lot more to do with reconciliation, restoration, and redemption than most of us are comfortable with.
Salvation is primarily about God’s grace and power displayed through the love of Jesus. It’s not about any of us being saved from something, but about God saving everyone and all things for something.
(Continued next blog post)