From the March/April 2021 issue of Discern Magazine

“Not Willing That Any Should Perish”

People struggle to find a clear answer to the question, “Is there hope for me?” Thankfully, there is hope. God says He is “not willing that any should perish.”

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Throughout the ages, people have adopted many after-death scenarios like being reincarnated, becoming a celestial being or an omnipresent spirit, or decomposing into eternal nothingness. Another popular after-death belief is the idea of the “good” ascending to heaven and the “bad” descending to hell immediately after death.

This concept of going to eternal torment in hell developed partly due to misinterpretations of Revelation 14:11 and taking the verse out of context. Since hell isn’t the primary focus of this article, I recommend reading the Life, Hope & Truth article “Eternal Torment?” for a more thorough understanding of this topic.

To summarize the theory of hell, if you’re a “bad” person when you die, you purportedly go to hell (an ever-burning underworld).

There are biblical problems with the heaven-or-hell theory, but for the sake of argument, let’s ask a few questions.

What about me?

If heaven or hell actually were the final outcomes to good or bad, then what would be the deciding factors for where we would end up?

Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Pol Pot, Charles Manson. These are names we may recognize as “bad” people. Orchestrators of genocide, mass murders, serial killers. Bad!

But what about me?

What about you?

In the heaven-or-hell theory, can a person commit actions that are not-so-good but still not be bad enough to receive a one-way ticket to the fiery depths? What separates bad from good?

The Bible contrasts God’s law and sin. God’s law is good (Romans 7:12), and disobeying His law is sin—bad (1 John 3:4).

Simply put, there is a law, and it defines wrong from right—bad from good. This law is outlined in God’s 10 Commandments. And we understand that this criteria for right and wrong is firm, since James 2:10 states, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

This certainly doesn’t sound hopeful if you buy into the heaven-or-hell theory.

Hitler, a genocidal maniac, broke God’s law—the Sixth Commandment—by murdering millions of innocent people. But I, too, a regular but imperfect guy, broke God’s law—the Fifth Commandment—when I disobeyed my parents.

In fact, we’re all guilty of breaking God’s law at one time or another.

Stumble in one point, guilty of all. Hellfire it is!

In this scenario none would have hope. We’d all perish.

The real way to eternal bliss

Thankfully, there’s more to our story than just living a life full of struggles, trying to follow some sense of right, failing to do so, and being doomed to eternal torment.

The future our Father has in store is eternal life in His family. He offers this, even if we’ve made terrible choices in our life (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

We have hope!

This isn’t to say God’s future for us doesn’t come with judgment. It most certainly does. And God’s judgment is righteous judgment (Romans 2:5-9). We should all be fearful and mindful of God’s judgment because we’ve all sinned.

But here’s the good news.

God wants you.

God wants me.

God wants everyone who has ever existed to receive eternal bliss. And not only does He want us to have eternal peace and joy, He has given us a way to reach this goal. In fact, we have the promise of the “hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2).

And as 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (emphasis added throughout).

That is real hope!

The apostle Paul also wrote that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

God’s desire is for every man and woman to accept His true promise of eternal peace and happiness.God’s desire is for every man and woman to accept His true promise of eternal peace and happiness.

But there’s a stipulation.

Repentance is the key

Our future isn’t based on whether or not we’ve made mistakes—taken wrong turns—fallen short of God’s righteousness, because we all have. Being a part of God’s future is based upon our willingness to repent.

Jesus Christ—the Son of God—suffered and died a horrible death, during which He took upon Himself the past, present and future sins of the world. Jesus’ sacrifice opened the door for all mankind to have the ability to gain an understanding of God’s laws, recognize when we have broken these laws, and repent of our sins—not just once, but each time we fall short of God’s righteousness.

Baptism is a onetime requirement when accepting Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, as is the laying on of hands in order to receive God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:17).

Repentance, on the other hand, is a perpetual action required to maintain a relationship with God (James 4:8). Our sins separate us from God. We must be washed clean through repentance to renew and sustain that relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Hope has reward

Our Father in heaven wants a relationship with us—all of us. This is why He shows us mercy through the gift of repentance. God the Father has given us this open door in the hope that repentance will become a vital part of our lives.

Of course His desire is for us to not sin at all, but in His magnificent wisdom, God understands we will fail to be perfect while in the flesh. That is why it’s written, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. . . . For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:50, 53).

And since His plan is for us to be His sons and daughters, He provides us with the hope of escape from eternal death due to our unrighteousness.

God’s plan, orchestrated through His Son Jesus Christ, is set in place so all mankind can, after the return of Christ, see His greatness and choose to repent, accept His ways and live a life of eternal peace and happiness (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9).

Some will choose not to repent and will reject God’s gracious gift of salvation. But that is not what God wants.

God the Father is not slack—He’s not slow.

He is patient.

He is caring.

And His desire is for all people to turn from wickedness and repent. Our misdeeds of this life do not doom us to eternal torment. They do, however, consign us to judgment.

And, thankfully, the judgment of God is merciful, for He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

If a lasting relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ is what you hope for, download the free booklets Getting to Know the God of the Bible and Finding Hope in a Hopeless World.

About the Author

David Hicks

David Hicks

David Hicks is the managing editor, graphic designer and a contributing writer for Discern magazine. He’s also the managing editor and designer for booklets produced by Life, Hope & Truth, as well as One Accord—a newsletter for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in McKinney, Texas. In addition, he provides graphics and illustrations for other areas of need within the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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