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Would You Believe That Everyone Goes To Heaven?

Archibald Alexander

If you would believe that everyone goes to heaven then repentance is useless; and there is no need of sanctification. Heaven would be the sinner’s right. There is no need for Christianity; no connection exists between Christianity and salvation. There is no need to love and serve God. Either atheism or hatred of God is just as good as piety. Archibald Alexander explains why this belief is so perverse:

“Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth, but are obeying unrighteousness; affliction and distress for every human being who does evil, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. There is no favoritism with God. All those who sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all those who sinned under the law will be judged by the law. (Romans 2:3-12)

Greater mischief cannot be done to men, than by disseminating among them such erroneous opinions as remove from their minds those beneficial restraints which preserve them from giving indulgence to sin, or such as lull them into a false security, and persuade them to neglect attention to that preparation which is necessary to fit them for death and judgment. [The belief that there is no punishment beyond the grave and that all will enter paradise] . . . does violence to the Holy Scriptures, and perverts the plain and obvious meaning of numerous passages which speak of the future punishment of impenitent sinners. And if in one case we may thus set aside the express and repeated declarations of God, to accommodate the doctrine to our own reason and inclinations, the volume of inspiration is dishonored and rendered useless; for upon these principles we may reject every fundamental truth of the Bible. If the doctrine of future punishment is not taught in the Bible, neither is the doctrine of future happiness; for they are commonly taught in the same passages, and in similar language.

If it be true that sin is not punished in the future world, then it would follow that God exercises no moral government over the world; for in the present life the wicked often live at ease and are prosperous, while the virtuous are afflicted. This doctrine goes far to annihilate all difference between virtue and vice, for we must judge of these according to the treatment which they respectively receive from the supreme Ruler; but if there be no future punishment, there is no strong mark of disapprobation set on vice. A doctrine which involves such a consequence as this must be false and dangerous.

If this doctrine should become general, human society could not exist. Like atheism, to which it is near akin, its malignant tendency is not fully seen while society at large is under the influence of a contrary belief. But take away from the minds of all men the fear of judgment and eternity, and this world becomes a scene of violence—an aceldama. All confidence among men would be destroyed; all the bonds of civil society would be severed. Do not say that vice might be coerced by the civil law—a vain hope. Where the whole mass is corrupt, laws are useless. (“Future Punishment: The Universalist Refuted”)

2 Responses

  1. Though I can’t agree on your very first sentence, I did enjoy reading and thinking about this. It’s nice to have an article on the topic present arguments of a theological writer such as Alexander. Because my own reading preferences are philosophical and academic as well as faith-based, I get a bit bored with the essays of Christian bloggers who can’t back up their positions with anything but cherry-picked scripture quotes, all too often quoted out of context.

    The basis of our disagreement is primarily on the choice of words in the first sentence. In my belief, repentance is always useful, even for non-believers. True regret over acts undertaken in fear with or evil intent leads to improved ethical behavior, therefore toward God. I also am unconvinced about the instructive worth of eternal punishments. Why couldn’t people after death be placed in a “time-out” space, given tutors and another opportunity to truly repent and change? Perhaps what is needed is a decent period of peaceful repose, something impossible to achieve by anyone with a guilty conscience.

    You were an educator yourself, Samuel. Do you think corporal punishment as practiced in the schools of Victorian times improved the likelihood of a pupil becoming more morally upright? Isn’t the loss and longing caused by separation from the sight of God punishment enough? Why add torture? So, in the sense that I tend to disbelieve the traditional vision of Hell, by default I believe everyone goes to Heaven – though I think of it more as first living on this plane, then living on that plane, freed from flesh and the constraints of chronological time and space, in God’s neighborhood.

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    • Thank you for responding to this article. I was writing about repentance in the context of Christian salvation which includes a heartfelt sorrow for sin; renouncing it; a sincere commitment to forsake sin; and living in obedience to Christ. It is, however, important to remember that repentance is not confined to the beginning of the Christian life. It is an attitude that continues throughout life. Given the number of times repentance is mentioned in the Bible in connection with faith and salvation, I believe Alexander is challenging those who have declared that death is the only thing necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven to reconsider why they still cling to the Bible and the title of Christian at all – since they have no apparent regard for the teachings of Christ or the Apostles.

      I am sorry that I have not the time to answer you more fully due to commitments over the next two weeks which I just happen to take a break from now. You have provided some interesting questions which hopefully we may delve into another time.

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