Early Old Testament view: Everyone returns to dust and goes down to Sheol together.
Later Old Testament view: Book of the Daniel contains the first unequivocal mention of resurrection, and life after death. (Before such ideas appeared in the very late Hebrew book of Daniel, those same ideas had already appeared in the holy books of Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Persians who allowed the Hebrews to return to their homeland after having been held captive by the Babylonians.)
Evangelical scholars disagree on what the New Testament teaches concerning the afterlife. In fact, Zondervan published a debate between three such scholars, titled, Three Views On The Afterlife. Some evangelicals hold to eternal heaven and hell, others hold to a temporary hell which burns souls to death so they suffer only finite punishment, and the third view is based on hints of universalism in the N.T.
Below are some web sites that can help inform you of the options, though I myself passed from the hellfire view to the universalistic view, and loved a little paperback book titled, Salvation And Damnation by Dalton, from the Clergy Book Service (which sells it online). The book examined lots of verses and ideas and made a case for universalism.
The Evangelical Universalist - www.athens.net/~wells/indexeu.htm
Defines universalism, discusses its history, and provides links to universalist churches and fellowships, and lists various universalist resources on the web.
The Hell Page - Declares that the teaching of eternal punishment in a place called Hell has caused the world more misery than almost anything else. The site traces the teaching of Hell to ancient mythology and provides evidence that the teaching of Hell is not in the original languages of the Jewish or Christian Bibles.
Catholic Encyclopedia: Apocatastasis - Discusses the universalist theology of Origen and Gregory of Nyssa.
The Open Christian Fellowship - An online community organized for the discussion of the universal Fatherhood of God and His open-ended love for all humanity.
Can This Be True? - www.theshop.net/gjess/
Discusses Godʼs plan for mankind from a universalist perspective. Contains extensive links to universalist web sites.
Concordant Expositions - A universalist exposition of Scripture by the Concordant Publishing Concern.
The All in All Internet BBS - Presents a wide array of editorials and informative articles in support of the universal love of God for all mankind.
Jesus, The Redeemer: Problems With The Doctrine of Redemption - A retired Episcopalian priest addresses the logical and scientific problems with the doctrine of original sin. In particular, he states that we must recognize the full impact of the immense love of God for all His creatures.
Christian Universalism Articles - Essays by various writers on the doctrine of universalism.
Christianworld Church - A non-denominational ministry teaching Universal Salvation. The site presents a series of related articles.
Sovereignty Series - www.geocities.com/Athens/Cyprus/1170/indexsov.html
Explores the hidden sovereign work of the Creator throughout His plan of |the ages. Takes the position that Almighty God is working, unhindered by men or angels “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Hans Küng on Eternal Punishment, Hell, and Reconciliation - A selection from the writings of Swiss theologian Hans Küng.
The Inescapable Love of God - Thomas Talbott, Professor of Philosophy at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, provides selections from his book, The Inescapable Love of God. He takes the position that the God of the New Testament, the One Whose essence is perfect love, is as far removed from the vengeful monarch |that so many Christians have learned to fear, as heaven is from hell itself.
Savior of All Fellowship - Presents essays and commentaries arguing that it is Godʼs purpose to save all mankind through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Scripture Alone Bible Page - ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/romans11/
Criticizes both the Calvinists and Arminians, and argues that God in His sovereignty, has chosen the salvation of all people.
Savior of the World - pages.prodigy.net/brad1tim24/
Advocates the position that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all people.
Universalism and the Bible - Keith DeRose, Yale University Associate Prof. of Philosophy, provides Biblically based arguments for the doctrine of universalism.
Hesed Unlimited - Presents the “Great Circle of Creation” in which those who fall away from God return to God.
Tentmaker Ministries Online - Presents Biblically-based essays advocating the position that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the whole world, not just part of it. The site has an active bulletin board.
Websites that argue the Bible teaches annihilation instead of eternal pain and torture:
Keep in mind that the history of Christianity is also the history of theological / biblical controversies too numerous to mention.
And if you are looking for lists of testimonies from people who have had Near Death Experiences, then try
Life after death database with over 400 links
Edward T. Babinski (former hellfire damnation believer and now the author of Leaving The Fold: Testimonies Of Former Fundamentalists, available at www.amazon.com, also the author of numerous articles that question Christian orthodoxy and Christian fundamentalism on the web, look under my name in YAHOO or GOOGLE! And soon to be author of The Damned Say The Damndest Things.)
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