“On the contrary, the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in our heart: Do good and do not do evil. The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, what about the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us first class children of God! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, with everyone doing his own part; if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of meeting: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good! We shall meet there.”
I don’t know if the Pope actually believes Ultimate Rec. or not, but it certainly sounds like it.
I began a long study of this doctrine in their writings, their opponent’s writings, and in the Scriptures. I approached it with an open mind, not really knowing if they were correct or not. I found the entire subject on hell was much more complicated than I ever realized. I also found in their literature that they had some really good points that were difficult to refute. I came to a place where I really didn’t know what the truth was on hell and Ultimate Rec. I also continually prayed that the Lord would show me the truth on these things.
One of their main arguments in support of Ultimate Rec. and a non-literal hell was based on the interpretation of the Greek and Hebrew words “eternity” and “forever.” The Greek word for these words is aionios. The root of this word is aion which means an “age,” “era,” “duration,” or “perpetuity.” The phrase in the Bible translated “forever” eis ton aiona literally means “into the age.” Since aionios is based on this word, they say it means “pertaining to an age.” Thus, all the places it is translated “eternity” they say are wrong. Therefore, the verses that speak of an eternal hell are, according to them, hell for an “age” for the purpose of learning and repentance and not for eternal punishment. They make the same argument for the Hebrew word translated “eternity,” olam.
As the result of my study on the matter, I believe they are right in some cases. I think sometimes when the translators have translated aionios as “eternity,” it only means age or ages. However, I have several sets of Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and Lexicons in my library, and none of them say it always means “an age” or “pertaining to an age.” They all say it can and does mean “eternity” most of the time.
Although they have some good points for this doctrine, I cannot accept that it never means “eternity” or “eternal.” Nevertheless, because they have some bases for their argument with these words, I would not use this to debate them as they would not accept that it can even sometimes mean eternal or forever. But this point, which is one of their main supports for the doctrine of Ultimate Rec. and a remedial hell instead of a retributive hell, is not needed to refute their doctrine.
So for the sake of a debate, I will be generous and give them their interpretations for aion and aionios and the Hebrew olam even though I personally don’t believe these words never mean “eternity.” One of the main arguments of their opponents against their insistence that these words never mean “eternal” is that the same words are used to describe heaven, salvation, and even God. Therefore, if hell is not eternal, then neither is heaven or salvation or God. I think this is good reasoning; however, we can find other words that describe these things as everlasting without using aion and aionios. For example, the phrase “never ending” is sometimes used which employs different Greek words that mean “never” and “ending.” The same is true for the Hebrew Old Testament.
If I give them their interpretations for these words, I found the hardest argument to refute of their teachings on this was this verse:
. . . that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).
The people who believe in Ultimate Rec. say that the reason every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord is because eventually everyone gets saved.
At first, I found their teachings on this verse very persuasive. However, as I continued to study, I learned there is a theme throughout the Bible that the wicked will bow not only to the Lord, but also to the righteous, not because they got saved but because God eventually compels them too.
This verse is fulfilled in two ways. One is that after all the judgments of the end-times, all those who survive on the earth will get saved because of all the works of the Lord they will see and because of fear of Him. This is in fact the context of the verse that Paul was quoting from in Isaiah in the above verse. Here is that passage:
“Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath” (Isaiah 45:22-23).
The Ultimate Rec. people have misinterpreted the passages that speak of all the remaining people of the earth getting saved after the end-time wars and judgments to mean even those who have died in their sins. The above passage in Isaiah is in an end-times context and just two verses before the passage quoted, from which Paul quotes in Philippians, it makes clear that all these people who are bowing are those who have survived all the wars and plagues of the apocalypse.
“Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from the nations.
They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save” (Isaiah 45:20a).
The second way in which “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” is that even the wicked will be made to bow and confess Jesus is Lord on judgment day as they stand before Him and his saints when He pronounces their sentence. It will be rather difficult to deny in that situation. Besides, we have numerous examples from the Scriptures that when someone comes into the very presence of God, their automatic reaction is to bow with their faces to the ground. No one can stand in the presence of God unless He gives them the strength. For example,
And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.” Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright (Dan. 8:16-18).
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking (Ezek. 1:28).
If righteous men fear and fall on their faces in the presence of God and even His angels, how much more will the wicked?
All those who go down to the dust, shall bow before Him, even he who cannot keep himself alive (Ps.22:29b).
This verse points out that even those who cannot keep their [soul] alive (as it says in the Hebrew) shall bow before Him. This is what the wicked lose in hell – their souls.
The evil will bow before the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous (Prov. 14:19).
“Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers; they shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord, for they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isaiah 49:23).
Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the Lord,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 60:14).
The verse in Phillipians was the most difficult argument I found to refute those who believe that hell is not a final judgment for the wicked and all will eventually be saved. Yes, all the survivors who will be left on the earth in the end-times will get saved, but not those who died in their sins without repentance. All will bow in His glorious presence and the saints’ as well, even the wicked who will be cast into hell and lose their souls. I might even say especially those who will be cast into hell will bow because they will be made to be a spectacle before God and the saints on that day. They will bow and never rise up as we will see in the next study on this topic.
The doctrine of Ultimate Rec. will ultimately wreck many lives and be the cause of many being cast into hell and losing their souls for eternity.