"The Greatest Love Story Never Told."
--by Ryan M. Healy
It has taken me more than six months to write this letter.
Why so long?
Because it discusses my beliefs and how they've changed over the last five years. Beliefs are a sensitive subject, both for me and most of the people of the world.
Recognizing this sensitivity, I have done my best to write what follows in a spirit of love. Nevertheless, I imagine that what you read here will polarize you. After reading it, you may be angry. You may be shocked. You may even be...
More Excited Than You've
|"Religions tend to convert men through fear. God converts men by love." --Stephen Jones, Creation's Jubilee, p. 111|
If your son or daughter lied to you, would you sentence them to burn alive for eternity?
This is not a trick question.
What if they stole a car? Would you do it then?
What would your child have to do for you to condemn them to an eternity of fiery torment?
As of yet, I have not found a parent who is willing to send their child to hell for eternity. Discipline, yes. Eternal punishment, no.
I believe God established the family to mirror His relationship with us. For instance, God is my true Father. I am a child of God even as I have children of my own.
This is why I believe God's judgments have purpose. They are not senseless or vengeful as some Christians seem to believe. Rather, they are corrective in nature.
In Isaiah 26:9, the prophet says, "For when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."
Would a person burning in "hell" learn righteousness? Probably not. They'd probably learn bitterness. And yet the Bible says God's judgments lead to righteousness.
Consider also that...
Paul writes in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
When Adam sinned, he reaped death (Genesis 3:19). He did not reap eternal punishment. The Bible never says that.
What's more, if the penalty for sin was eternal torment, would not Jesus still be burning in "hell" to pay for our sins?
Of course, Jesus is not still burning in hell. He rose on the third day. He overcame death, ascended to heaven, and now sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). Jesus lives!
Now I'm going to make an assertion some readers will find hard to swallow, even though the Bible supports it. That is...
Let me say this: I believe the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God. I also happen to believe man is fallible. He is capable of making mistakes, and he does.
Which is to say, man's TRANSLATION of Scripture can be flawed!
My belief is not uncommon. Anybody who has become a translator understands the difficulties of translating from one language to another. Consider, for a moment, another religious text: the Qur'an.
Three years ago, my brother enlisted in the Army. He became a linguist, specializing in Arabic. He speaks and reads the language fluently. He has also spent months listening to Arabic and translating it for the Army.
According to him and other sources (like Wikipedia), Muslims argue that the Qur'an cannot be reproduced in any other language except the original. They believe this because one word in Arabic may have a range of meanings depending on the context. This makes an accurate translation nearly impossible.
Of course, this hasn't stopped translators from translating the Qur'an. Neither has it stopped translators from translating the Bible, even though they face the same translation difficulties with Hebrew and Greek as with Arabic.
Am I saying we should not translate the Bible? No. I believe we should translate it so it is accessible to as many different people groups as possible. But when we make a translation, we must be careful not to alter the meaning conveyed in the original inspired language.
Let's compare some verses from two different popular translations, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and The Message. The following passage is Proverbs 3:19-24. First, the NASB:
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up and the skies drip with dew. My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck. Then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Now here is The Message:
With Lady Wisdom, God formed Earth; with Madame Insight, he raised Heaven. They knew when to signal rivers and springs to the surface, and dew to descend from the night skies. Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don't for a minute lose sight of them. They'll keep your soul alive and well, they'll keep you fit and attractive. You'll travel safely, you'll neither tire nor trip. You'll take afternoon naps without a worry, you'll enjoy a good night's sleep.
If you read each version critically, you will see there are quite a few differences. Some of these differences significantly alter the meaning of the passage. Which version is right? Which one is wrong?
I do not intend to answer the question, but I bring it up to illustrate the problem of translation.
In addition to translation issues, Bible readers may sometimes encounter typos. This is far less common today, but it has happened more often than you may think.
Perhaps you've heard of the "Sinner's Bible" printed in 1631. It says, "Thou shalt commit adultery." (They forgot the word not.)
Then there's the "Sin On" Bible. It reversed two letters and mistakenly made Jesus say, "Go and sin on more." (On should have been no.)
Perhaps the worst of all was the "Fools Bible," which accidentally printed, "the fool hath said in his heart there is a God." (They replaced the word no with a.)
Of course, it is easy to see these errors. You might say they are "glaringly obvious." (For a complete list of famous errors, see Wikipedia's article about Bible errata.)
But some errors are not so obvious. They only become apparent after diligent study.
Is it such a stretch to believe that our modern concept of "hell" has been caused by mistranslation?
There are three different words in the Greek, all of which have been translated as "hell" in the KJV and NIV Bibles.
These three words are Geenna, Tartaroo, and hades.
The first two are places. Properly translated into English, these would read Gehenna and Tartarus. (Gehenna is the place name for the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem. You can find it on a map.)
Hades, on the other hand, simply means "unseen." The first part of the word, [h]a, means "un" (a is the Greek negative--and ours as well, as in "asymmetrical"). The second part of the word, ades, means "perceived."
Hades, then, is anything outside of our five senses. The author Martin Zender explains the concept well...
Our English word hell is derived from the Anglo-Saxon helan, which means "to cover, conceal, or hide." This is the precise meaning of the Greek hades, as well as its Hebrew counterpart, sheol. [...] The words hell, heel, hole, hull, helmet, cell, cellar, holster, and hold (as of a ship) are all derived from the same root, helan. Examine these words individually and see how the idea of being covered, concealed, or hidden fits them all. (Martin Zender Goes to Hell, pp. 63-65)
If this is true, you might wonder...
Books have been written to answer this question. Nevertheless, I will introduce you to one major cause for the idea of eternal torment in a fiery hell. His name was Augustine of Hippo. He lived 354-430 A.D.
Prior to his conversion to Christianity, Augustine had been a Manichaean for eight or nine years. Manichaean theology is based on dualism. Manichaeans believe there are two equal powers in the world: good and evil, light and darkness. There is no supreme deity who is all good or all loving. What's more, the religion's doctrine says non-Manichaeans are condemned to hell. According to a New Advent article about Manichaeism...
Sinners, however, must, after death wander about in torment and anguish, surrounded by demons, and condemned by the angels, till the end of the world, when they are, body and soul, thrown into hell.
As you might imagine, Augustine was an ardent proponent of hell and eternal damnation for unbelievers, even after his conversion to Christianity. This was, at the time, an unpopular view. In the first 300 years following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, most Christians believed that God would restore all men in the end. In his book At the End of the Ages... the Abolition of Hell, Bob Evely writes...
[...] most average people in the first few centuries A.D., and many (if not most) of the "Church Fathers" (leaders within the church) believed in the ultimate salvation of all. Furthermore, we will see from many direct quotations that this belief came directly from a study of God's Word. (p. 101, emphasis in the original)
Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Didymus, Gregory of Nyassa, John Cassian, and Gregory of Nazianzus are among some of the notable teachers of early Christendom who taught universal restoration and salvation for all. In fact, Augustine was familiar with their belief that all men would be saved, and recognized he himself was in the minority. He said as much when he wrote...
There are very many who though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments. (Enchiria, ad Laurent, c. 29 and Evely p. 125)
Why then did Augustine become so hot for hell when so many other teachers believed otherwise?
As we have already seen, Augustine carried over some of his beliefs from Manachaeism into Chritianity. This influenced his thinking and interpretation of Scriptures. It also didn't help that he favored the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. In fact, Augustine knew very little Greek and said he hated the language. Unfortunately, the Latin Vulgate had many mistranslations that only encouraged Augustine's belief in eternal torment for non-believers.
Furthermore, as carnal men came into power within the church, they used the threat of eternal punishment to coerce people into submission. They did not like the idea of universal restoration because it eliminated their primary means of controlling people. Finally, in 553 A.D., the Fifth General Council (which included 151 bishops from the Greek and African churches) declared...
Whoever says or thinks that the torments of the demons and of impious men are temporal, so that they will, at length, come to an end, or whoever holds a restoration either of the demons or of the impious, let him be anathema.
This decree silenced the teaching of universal restoration and set the course of Christian orthodoxy to the present day.
So, having examined the original language of Scripture as well as early church history, we see that hades means only "unperceived," or anything that cannot be perceived through our senses. The word does not carry with it any sense of burning, torture, or endless torment. Since we now know the real meaning of hades, let us examine...
Will God save only a fraction of mankind, as modern Christians say? Or will He save ALL? Here's what the Bible says:
"For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous." Romans 5:19
"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive." 1 Corinthians 15:22
Notice in these two passages the obvious parallel. How many of us die? All of us. How many will be made alive? All of us.
When you were born, did you have a choice about whether you would die or not? No. You inherited death and you had no say in the matter. Likewise, Jesus will raise you up and give you life. You will not have a choice about this either.
Despite the logical structure of these verses, modern Christian teachers attempt to bend these Scriptures to say what they want. They believe the verse in Corinthians says, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all [Christians] will be made alive." Obviously, this is not what it says.
Here's another verse to consider:
"All things have been created through Him and for Him." Colossians 1:16b
I would like to point out here that this verse says all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus. It does not say all things were created for Him and satan. You see, in modern Christianity, satan is the real winner. He gets the bulk of all the people who have ever lived, while Jesus gets the leftovers. If this is true, it is NOT good news!
"For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven." Colossians 1:19-20
"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." 1 Timothy 4:10
"For it is written, 'As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.'" Romans 14:11
The verse in 1 Timothy is one of the most interesting in the above list. It says God is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. This implies there is a special reward for believers that unbelievers do not receive.
Whatever the special reward is, it cannot be salvation. Because the verse clearly states that God is already the Savior of all mankind. The reward must be something beyond or in addition to salvation.
Probably the most powerful verse in the entire Bible that speaks of Universal Restoration was spoken by Jesus Himself in John 12:32-33. He said:
The word draw here is helkuo in the Greek, which literally means to drag.
Was Jesus lifted up on the cross? Yes! Then, He says, I will drag all men to Myself. Your "will" doesn't matter here. Jesus is going to drag you to Him sooner or later.
John 6:44 also uses the word helkuo. It says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day."
We do not drag ourselves to Jesus. We do not "bootstrap" our way to salvation. Rather, God drags us to the foot of the cross! Paul goes on to affirm this when he says our salvation is from God, and not of ourselves, so that no man can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
For some, the dragging will be easy. They will respond quickly. But for others, it will be harder. And that's where judgment comes in...
To be completely clear, I believe God will judge people. The question then is 1) What is the purpose of that judgment? and 2) How long will that judgment last?
The first question we've already answered. As we saw in Isaiah 26:9, the purpose of judgment is to lead us to righteousness. Said another way, the purpose of discipline is to correct. But what about the duration of this judgment? How long will it last?
If you pick up a King James Bible (or just about any Bible for that matter), you'll see dozens of verses that use the words "eternal" and "everlasting," as well as phrases like "forever and ever." Take Matthew 25:46 for example...
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
The word translated "eternal" and "everlasting" comes from the Greek word aion. Do we have an English equivalent? Yes. It is the word "eon." Look it up in your dictionary. You will see that the word "eon" derives from the word aion.
But does "eon" mean "everlasting?"
No. "Eon" means a finite, but indeterminate length of time. In other words, an unknown period of time that has a beginning and end.
So why did the translators choose to use "everlasting" for the Greek word "aion?"
In the case of Matthew 25:46, the word "aion" appears twice. The translators assumed the verse had to mean eternal life ("Why would someone receive life for the eon?"); which meant the preceding portion of the verse had to be translated in a similar fashion.
A lack of understanding influenced the translators' word choices. Because they could not understand, they rendered the words according to their own (flawed) understanding.
With that in mind, a proper translation of Matthew 25:46 would read as follows (quoting from the Concordant Literal Translation):
And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian, yet the just into life eonian.
What this means is simply this: the judgment (or "chastening") lasts only for an eon... or an unknown period of time with a beginning and end.
There are many more scriptures like this in the Bible. A surface-level reading may lead you to conclude that judgment lasts forever. But closer inspection reveals otherwise.
Now, because there is an end to the judgment... and we know the purpose is to bring about righteousness... it becomes much easier to believe what the Bible actually says--that Jesus is the Savior of ALL mankind!
But perhaps in light of all this, you will say, "Well, the New Testament may talk about Universal Restoration, but certainly the Old Testament does not." At one point in my journey, I thought the same thing. Fortunately, through some in-depth study I discovered...
Not many people read the Bible. Those who do read primarily the New Testament. Which means the Old Testament is an unpopular volume.
Because of this, much of God's law has been forgotten. And I'm not even talking about The 10 Commandments. I'm talking about all the other laws in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that nobody likes to read.
First things first: in the Bible, all sin is reckoned as debt. If a man sins, he is said to be indebted to the Law. This is why we pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12)
Another example can be found in Colossians 2:13-14 (emphasis mine):
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Having established that sin is reckoned as debt, we can now look to the Old Testament with new eyes...
The number "7" is an important number. For instance, every seventh day is called a Sabbath, or a day of rest. Most readers will be familiar with this concept.
Every seventh year is called a Sabbatic Year, a year of rest. Not only does God command a year of rest for the land during which no crops should be planted, He also commands the suspension of debts during the Sabbatic Year (Deuteronomy 15:1). This means creditors are not supposed to collect payment on debts during the Sabbatic Year. This is important because it plays out on an even grander cycle.
The third manifestation of the Sabbath concept is seven times seven years, or 49 years total. Every 49 years marks what is called "The Jubilee." It is a year of release in which all debts are canceled. All men go free and return to their inheritance.
In a Sabbatic Year, there is only remission of debts. It's like hitting the "Pause" button. After the Sabbatic Year is over, the debtor must continue to make payments against his debt.
A Jubilee Year is different because it's a year in which all debts are canceled. It makes no difference how much a man owes. Every last penny of debt is forgiven, and he starts afresh during the new Jubilee cycle.
The savvy reader will have already put two and two together. Basically, the Law of Jubilee establishes the legal precedent for the forgiveness of all sins!
What's more, it does not matter one iota whether the debtor wants his debts to be canceled or not. He has no say in the matter. Only the creditor has the authority to cancel the debt, and he does it of his own prerogative.
Who is the creditor? God, the creator of the Law, of course. Who is the debtor? Man is. Who came to cancel all debt? Jesus, God's own son.
There is much more that could be said on this topic, but the purpose of this letter is to make you think and inspire you to search out the truth on your own.
"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter." --King Solomon in Proverbs 25:2
Based on what I've written so far, some will say I'm encouraging those who don't know Jesus to remain apart from Jesus. That I'm encouraging them to "eat, drink, and be merry." After all, everybody gets saved, right?
But this is not what I'm saying at all. When standing before the high priest Annas, Peter declared...
He [Jesus] is the "STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone." And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:11,12)
The only way we may be saved is by professing Jesus as our Lord and Savior. There is no other way.
I can't tell you how many times my agnostic and atheistic friends have told me, "I refuse to follow a God who sends people to hell for eternity." If you feel this way, then the good news is you don't have to follow a God like that. God is love, and "perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18)
Since coming to an understanding that God is saving all men, I find my relationship with God has changed for the better. It turns out God is just and merciful after all.
It is much easier for me to love God when I know that God is love--and that He is demonstrating that love to us. It is also much easier for me to love others (even my enemies) when I know that God loves them just as much as He loves me.
So how do we follow Jesus? It is actually quite simple. 1 John 4:14,15 says...
We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
On the other hand, if we only confess God--but deny that Jesus is the Son of God--then we do not have God at all. 1 John 2:22,23 says...
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.
If you would like to know Jesus, you must profess that he is the Son of God and rose from the dead. It requires no scripted prayer. Simply ask Jesus to be a part of your life. Paul says in Romans 10:9-10...
If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
If you decide to do this, you will be amazed by the changes that happen in your heart and in your life. I am a testament to that.
I'm always amazed by Christians who respond vehemently when I suggest that God intends to save (and will save!) everyone. It's as if they can accept only so much good news; too much good news sends them over the edge.
I hope this isn't the case with you.
You see, the real good news is that Jesus's death on the cross paid the full penalty of sin for all people who ever lived. All men will receive life through Jesus. All men will stand before Almighty God and worship Him. This is when God will truly become "All in all." (1 Corinthians 15:28)
I believe this is "the greatest love story never told."
Let me end with this:
If this letter speaks to you, it is God who speaks and not me. Only God can open your eyes and ears to the truth. May God grant you the ability to see and hear.
Peace be with you, in the name of Jesus, the Savior of All Mankind.
-Ryan M. Healy
P.S. Why did I choose SecretEvangel.com as the web site domain? It's because "evangel" is the root word of "evangelism." And "evangel" literally means "good news." So the message in this letter is the "secret good news." For more good news, please sign up to my periodic newsletter...
P.P.S. If not for the teachers God has sent into my life, I wouldn't have ever discovered the truth. I'm grateful to all those who have been instrumental in my journey: Ed O'Brien, A.E. Knoch, Adlai Loudy, Martin Zender, Bob Evely, Joshua Villela, and Stephen Jones, who runs the most important web site on the entire Internet.
P.P.P.S. For further reading, may I suggest:
If God Could Save Everyone--Would He? by Stephen Jones
The first three titles are freely available to read online at God's Kingdom Ministries. Printed copies of the second and third titles can be purchased for $15 and $5 respectively. The fourth title, while not online, is available for $8. The fifth title is available for $8 at Concordant Publishing.
Many Christians object to Universal Restoration because they say there is then no reason to serve God. "Why not just live it up and sin to your heart's content?" they ask. "After all, everybody gets saved. So why serve God?" For an excellent response to this question, please read:
Just how great is God's love anyway? Does God intend to save all people or just some of them? In this study about God's love, I attempt to answer these questions:
Comments? Criticism? Questions?
Fire it off to rhealy [at] gmail [dot] com.
Copyright 2007-2009, Ryan M. Healy