A Ministry of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry—Olivet Nazarene University

Death

What does the Early Church teach about Universalism?

 

With the recent publication of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, the concept of universalism has once again entered into the conversation of the church. As Bell states (p. xi) the idea of universalism is not a new topic, but one that was in the thoughts of the early church. The goal of this article is to provide some historical context to the topic of universalism by examining what the early church taught about heaven and hell and their eternal nature.

To begin with, it ought to be noted that the early church fathers had a wide variety of opinions on the topic, and therefore it is impossible to declaratively say that the early church taught one particular idea. However, there are certain distinct features which many in the early church held and other features which many early fathers rejected. Thus, while there is not a unanimous witness, there is a solid tradition of thoughts which are eventually codified by later church councils as elements of settled theology. When it comes to the topic of universalism, there is a clear majority witness against universalism, with only a few fathers speaking in favor of universalism.

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Does "Love Win?"



Does “love win?”  Of course it does, which is what Rob Bell wants to affirm in his latest book published earlier this year, titled “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”  That’s quite a title!  Rob Bell, according to the title, is going to inform the American public of the fate of every person who ever lived!  I’m not sure I would want to be so presumptuous but the title served its purpose.  People were interested!  It debuted at # 2 on the New York Times’ bestseller list where it remained for several weeks.  Evidently, people want to know where they are going to go when they die.  Evidently, people want to know what the Christian faith has to say about the future.  And we would say, “Of course they do.”

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Ministry at a Time of Death: What Do You Say When You Don’t Know What to Say?

Just yesterday I visited a dear lady in the Henry County Hospital in New Castle, Indiana.  Her frail, emaciated body housed the positive spirit of a beautiful person, one who is strong in her unbending faith.   Unlike the wishes of her family, this woman is ready for her four-year battle with lung cancer to be over.  "I'm ready to go," she told me in front of her husband and adult grandson.  "I want to go," she added.  I held her hand and prayed a prayer of encouragement, not for her healing but for the Will of God to be accomplished.  Being a child of the King, that is the first and foremost desire of this dear lady.  Though we did not express it, we both knew that within a few weeks I will be standing by her casket.

Death is never a welcomed guest but most of us have known someone who has lost a loved one.  Perhaps you were called to one's side at the time of death, especially if you are a good friend or even the pastor, or maybe you were visiting the funeral home during the designated calling hours.  Regardless of who you are, what your position is, or what the situation may be, if you are in ministry, you are confronted with the awkward task of "saying the right thing" when you greet your grieving friend.

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Tags: Death