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I started to write the following blog post over the past weekend before I saw an article show up in my news feed that basically gave me pause for thought. Or at least pause for concern, to say the least.
It was for an article on the Huffington Post called You Know God’s Going to Change His Mind and Save Everyone in the End, Right? by Mick Mooney. I’m seeing a lot of my friends in the “Hyper-Grace” camp — of which on certain specific points I consider myself apart of — champion a lot of his writings and articles. I’ve downloaded three of Mick’s books to my Kindle and haven’t gotten around to reading any of them yet, so I don’t know if there’s more to be said about his thoughts on hell and ultimate reconciliation.
That being said, having written articles for larger websites before, I’m aware that sometimes editors change content and certainly the headline of your articles to get more attention. The title is very attention-getting, and upon re-reading the entire post a second time, I realize Mooney is pretty much saying “what if” God were to change His mind in the end. Asking these what-if questions are helpful for determining our own prejudices and hatred for others that may cause us not to evangelize or be annoyed when they come in the Kingdom of God.
Suffice it to say, I strongly disagree with the premise. God’s not going to change His mind in the end.
How do I know? Well, God’s already told us so.
For one thing, the author uses the story of Jonah to show how on one occasion in the Old Testament, Jonah went to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria at the time, and preached destruction but all the hearers repented and God’s judgment was averted. For some reason, Mooney uses this as a proof text that God’s going to do the exact same thing with regard to eternal damnation.
There are many reasons why I could start a list of reasons why we already know FROM God’s own word that He’s not going to change His mind about this and has already spelled out how future history unfolds concerning His judgment. Not only that but the implications of “it’s all good in the end” remove any sense of urgency for sharing the Gospel of GOOD NEWS in the first place.
But, just using the text Mooney uses, let’s ask some other questions. How does the fact that while Jonah did preach to them and they repented, God did eventually destroy Nineveh as He said He would 100 years later?
It surprises me that some of the people going all out into universalism would tell you on the one hand “I am the Lord and do not change” (Mal 3:6) when it comes to, as but one example, proof that God healed in the New Testament and will continue to do so today because He doesn’t change.
But yet, all of a sudden when it comes to eternal damnation “who are we to complain if he DOES change His mind in the end?”
Do You Want ISIS To Get Saved or Destroyed?
In our ministry school, we’ve been going through the Old Testament prophets in our first-year classes, and even though it didn’t fall on me to teach the book of Jonah, I had Nahum. You’ve probably never heard of it.
OK, forgive the hipster attitude, but maybe you have, but it might be in the part of your Bible where the pages are still stuck together. I’ll admit that before preparing to teach, there are no markings or highlights in those pages of my well-used Bible.
Anyway Nahum, just like Jonah, was called to preach destruction was nigh to Nineveh, about a hundred years after Jonah did. The only difference is that this time it actually happened, just as Nahum prophesied. I’ve covered this in another post I wrote about this subject called Was Jonah a False Prophet?
Everybody knows Jonah was the guy who spent three days in the belly of a big fish, and that he was too chicken to go preach to a people God sent him to. And that when they repented and judgment never came, he was royally ticked off.
Jonah gets a bad rap as a selfish wuss who was judgment happy and didn’t like when God showed mercy.
When I look at the type of things my friends are sharing on social media concerning the Middle East, whether it be Hamas or Islamic militants such as ISIS, I sometimes wonder if God were by chance to show mercy, would we be happy or royally annoyed that He didn’t wipe our perceived enemies?
Imagine if you were like Jonah. You are from the specific nation that Assyria — the then-equivalent of today’s ISIS, only who had been successfully conquering the known world at the time — was about to destroy. And not only that, but God had already raised up prophets who have been saying Assyria was God’s chosen instrument for judgment on Israel who had broken covenant with Yahweh repeatedly for a few centuries.
They’ve been doing unspeakably horrible things to those they conquered, basically wiping out entire cultures, not even assimilating them or making them subjects, but destroying them, including women and children. God was sending them to conquer Israel (the ten northern tribes at the time — the fall of Jerusalem would come later in history).
And God tells you to go to their capital and prophesy destruction.
Now, the only parts I agree with Mooney on in his article are comments like the following:
Though God did say he would destroy them for their wickedness, Jonah was shocked to then witness God instead extending his mercy to all of them; at the last moment God turned all their hearts to authentic repentance, so that their hearts were opened to the error of their ways, and they all freely believed. In doing so, instead of being judged and destroyed, they were saved from punishment completely, and all this by God’s grace.
So far so good.
Then things get off:
So here’s my question: Do you think God will do the same thing at the end of time? By that I mean, however God moved the hearts of all the people in Nineveh to authentic repentance, is it possible he plans to do the same to all of mankind before his throne of judgement (also called his throne of grace, which is very significant), and in doing so fulfilling the scripture, “Every knee will bow down and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God”. If that is how it plays out, how would you feel about it?
This is quite easy to deal with, really. Yes, In God’s goodness, what if He wanted to change his mind and show grace in the end to all who’ve rejected His offer of salvation? But we know that would not only contradict His character because, yes, He is a loving God and doesn’t desire that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). But He is also a just and righteous judge (see Psalm 7:11, James 4:12). He would not be one or the other if He failed to do what He said He’ll do, how He said He’ll do it.
Likewise, how is it loving or righteous of Him if is going to force people to spend eternity with Him if some of them have already rejected Him?
Thirdly, He’d be lying. If He has already established about Himself in the Word and throughout history that there is a coming day of judgment (see Heb 9:27, 2 Cor 5:10-11,2 Thess 1:7-9 among many others) and then, in the end, said “Nah, I change my mind“, then it would by default show that He can’t be trusted. And if He could or will change His mind about one of the most fundamental aspects of salvation from judgment and from our sins, then what else will He change His mind about?
What else in His Holy written Word can’t be taken seriously because it’s subject to the changing mind of its author?
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19, NIV)
So back to the story of Jonah. I apologize for being graphic, but can you understand the fear that might have entered Jonah’s heart with that context in mind — that He’s basically being sent to the capital of a nation who were wiping out nations all over the place. If God told you to go to the base of ISIS in the Middle East and prophesy to them the coming destruction that God, not Allah, will bring on them? Would you be fearful, and if by chance you complied and didn’t get beheaded for doing so, would you be irked if they all repented and God brought mercy on them instead of justice?
Mooney takes such ideas further, into an eternal context and seems to insist God will be like this in the end with regard to eternal judgment,
Would you rejoice that God has done something more merciful and gracious than any of us could have imagined possible or will you walk outside the gates of heaven, sit under a tree like Jonah and gnash your teeth that God has not destroyed those whom he said he would?
This is a reasonable question to reflect on. Imagine if you were a holocaust survivor and all your relatives were gassed to death in WW2, and you find out that in the end, Hitler made it into heaven. By the way, if by chance he did repent on his deathbed and ask God for forgiveness and to have mercy and forgive his sorry soul, then yes, the Lord has made clear in His word He forgives, no matter the who and no matter the what of our sin (see 2 Corinthians 7:10).
However, without repentance, no one will see the Lord. It would not be just or righteous of God as Judge to not actually judge. It is from this type of perspective I personally believe Jonah was dealing with when he was angry God forgave the wickedest nation on earth.
Would you try to avoid your call or would you obey, knowing that basically this is probably going to be a suicide mission to the people you knew were ruthless and had brought terror on many other nations and were coming for yours?
Or would you do it believing that repentance and mercy were possible of the God you serve, and that their repentance might also lead to averting the judgment and destruction those people would have brought on your own nation?
As Mooney continues,
Would you accept that although God’s original written word found in Scripture spoke of judgement and separation, God’s final living word may end up declaring mercy and inclusion of all into salvation?
Would such an event overwhelm you with joy or would it be too painful to witness? Would you rejoice over the abundance of God’s grace or, like Jonah, be disgusted by it?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve been reading and watching the news about modern-day ISIS and the narrative that’s being portrayed about them and wonder myself — if sweeping revival took place and they all got saved and started a revival of the true God in the Middle East, would something in me be irked or would I rejoice?
Other Things to Consider
I am not sure all the ways Mooney’s article breaks down when we follow his interpretation of Jonah to its natural conclusion:
- As stated, God destroyed Nineveh 100 years later. Judgment was delayed, not averted. Why didn’t God repeat the exact same pattern with Nahum, a century later — how come this time judgment came instead of mercy?
- About a generation after Jonah preached destruction to them and they repented, Assyria finally did destroy the nation of Israel. If Jonah hadn’t gone to Nineveh and never warned them of the coming doom, would they have been able to conquer Israel a generation later?
- What of the fact that God spoke judgment to Israel and Judah again and again for a period of a few hundred years but in the end, still brought judgment? His mercy extended quite a long time to a stubborn people who repeatedly wouldn’t repent despite the Lord’s patient goodness!
When we read the Scriptures it’s easy to read a narrative that spans centuries and not realize how long something took to happen. God showed repeatedly how He was slow to anger, and generation after generation slowed His wrath until ‘enough was enough’ with His people Israel.
I encourage you to read 1st and 2 Kings and even the prophets. Take however long you need.
Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It)
I think it’s great and healthy when people re-evaluate what they believe about something such as hell and question whether we’ve always gotten it right. However, ultimate reconciliation or universalism is simply not biblical and not to mention beyond the scope of this article.
For that reason, I have two recommendations.
First, check out the podcast interview I got to do a few years ago with Joel Crumpton on “Who Goes To Hell?“.
I also recommend the book Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It) by Brian Jones.
There have been a number of books on hell in recent years, especially after Rob Bell published Love Wins. However, of the many I’ve read, I’ve found Jones’ to be the most refreshing and not overly academic or theological so as to overwhelm the average reader.
Get a copy of it below on Amazon, and if you do, you could get the audiobook on Audible.com for $2.99 (click the photo below) if you already have the Kindle version. Considering that at the time of posting this the Kindle book is showing for only $2.99 as well, that’s quite a decent offer.