# Hope: Legitimate and Illegitimate
Shouldn’t We All Hope That Hell Will Cease? That Hell Is Not Everlasting Suffering for Some?
There are many times when we express hope for something or someone, when hope enters our vocabulary.
Hope is a yearning for something desired but not yet actual or realized or present. We may express a hope for all kinds of good things; we never express hope for bad things, at least for ourselves.
It is very true that without hope for a better tomorrow, a better time, a better place, we lose a special capacity to live each day. When we lose hope, we lose a reason to live.
In recent years I’ve heard another kind of hope expressed and it deeply concerns me. I’ve done a lot of thinking and writing about a false teaching called universal reconciliation (UR), which asserts that there is no judgment to come, that all people are God’s children, that sin does not separate anyone from God, that hell is not a lasting place of judgment, and other beliefs.
The one who has popularized this view more than any other recent writer is Wm. P. Young, author of The Shack and other novels. Most recently he has written, Lies We Believe about God. In his books, on web sites, and in interviews he has often spoken of this hope. As recently as July 13, 2017, he posted his remarks in a blog called, “Does The Shack’ Teach Universalism?” He wrote: “No I don’t believe in a doctrine that holds that every person will ultimately be reconciled full back to God. Yes, I hope that it true” (see wmpaulyoung.com).
He went on to assert that he is a “hopeful Universalist, for which there is much precedent amongst the early church fathers. And in a way, who isn’t?”
Now the preceding lines seem to contradict what Young’s statements in Lies assert—that everyone is already reconciled to God, that they are already saved, that he supports universal reconciliation (p. 118), and that hell is not suffering forever, nor does it separate anyone from God (p. 132–8). Why does anyone have to hope that everyone will be saved when everyone is already saved, that all are children of God?
But aside from this glaring contradiction, his teaching raises the issue: Shouldn’t everyone have such a hope?
Now while most biblical Christians take great exception to UR beliefs, and find it to be heretical, some end up thinking like a universalist without realizing it. They say something like: “While I don’t believe that the Bible supports universalism, I sure could hope that none would spend an eternity in hell.” Or, “I don’t believe in universalism, but I hope that unbelievers don’t spend eternal suffering in hell.” Or, “while I don’t believe in universalism, the universalist has the higher ground in proclaiming the salvation of all and the eternal judgment of none.” Or, “I certainly hope eternal suffering is not true.” Or, “I wish hell did not exist.”
Now you may ask: “What’s wrong in wishing for and hoping for the better outcome? Isn’t this the more loving thing to do?”
Here’s the pivotal question. Is it ever right or loving to hope for something that contradicts what the Bible says—what God says?
The word “hope” occurs in the New Testament in both a noun and a verb form. The Greek noun occurs 48 times and the Greek verb occurs 31 times. Various key phrases occur including “hope in” and “hope on”; “to have hope” and the “God of hope.”
Yet in all the occurrences never is there an example of hoping that the unsaved would not be judged, or that hell would not last forever, or that suffering would not be the lot of the lost. Why should not this be surprising? Because the Bible affirms just the opposite of these kinds of hopes! The Bible is clear in such passages as John 3:16–8, 36—one prime example. Without believing the gospel about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there is no hope of deliverance but only a destiny of perishing under the wrath of God.
So what does it mean for anyone to express such hopes as these? First, that person needs to read and understand the Bible for what it does say and teach. Second, that person needs to submit to the authority of what Jesus or the Apostles do affirm—just the opposite of such hopes. Third, we all need to show proper reverence for God and seek his glory in all the universe.
Dare we assert a hope, a wish, that contradicts what the Author and Finisher of our faith has said (Hebrew 12:1–2)? Do we think that we are more loving, more spiritual, more kind than this One who gave his life for our salvation, who bore the burden of eternal punishment for our sins? Would we be more holy than he? With reflection we can see how such hopes border on slandering God, of blasphemy!
There is no more a basis for expressing such a hope than saying “I hope that tomorrow would not come” or “I wish gravity would stop.” There is even less of a basis, for while tomorrow may not come and with the new heavens and new earth there may be a change of universal laws, there is clear teaching in the Bible against universal reconciliation. Laws of the universe may change but God’s word and promise regarding the destinies of the righteous and unrighteous are unchangeable (for example, Matthew 26:41).
So the next time you hear or read of someone expressing such a hope, ask: Where are you getting the idea of such a hope? It certainly isn’t in the Bible, and it contradicts the clear teaching of Jesus and his Apostles. They never suggest or offer such a hope!
This is a sober matter. The destiny of all people is at stake; and the authority of Jesus and his Apostles is at stake.
As long as some false teachers, including Paul Young, express such a hope they have the potential of leading many astray with a false hope who otherwise may have repented and believed the gospel.
In my new book, Lies Paul Young Believes about God, I discuss in depth Paul Young’s false hope regarding the eternal destiny of people—and why it is a false hope.