Every now and then, friends who are searching out my position that God will save all, write me with stumper questions. I thought I’d share the latest one with you from my friend Cameron who attends an evangelical church in Michigan.
“Hey Jewels, Pastor was talking at church today, and he said, ‘And there are some people out there now who say there is no hell. If that is true then Jesus died for nothing.’ I’m reading your book for the second time; it is making a lot more sense. Not sure what Jesus died for if there is no hell, was hoping you could help me.”
I was pleased when Cam pulled out this question, because it’s really an important one. What the pastor is saying on a superficial level is that, if we are not saved from hell, then Jesus didn’t need to die.
Well now, let’s consider what the Bible actually teaches that we are saved from. In Genesis 2:16—17, the place that establishes the price for Adam’s sin, we read:
“The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’”
Nowhere in this passage does it say they will “die spiritually,” or they will go to a place of eternal suffering. In fact, nowhere does it say the word “hell.” In fact, nowhere does the Old Testament ever mention hell as the price for sin. Awkward (and unfair!) if that’s where most people are supposedly going.
So what does it say? It just says they will die, as in stop breathing, or kick the bucket. Obviously, Adam and Eve didn’t die the same day they ate. That’s because the Hebrew text offers more of a progressive sense of entering into the death process. Young’s Literal renders the translation, “dying thou dost die,” and the Greek Septuagint says, “to death you shall die.”
The apostle Paul referred to Adam’s sin (remarkably associated with Adam and not Eve) and the ensuing consequences for all mankind. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Through Adam, everyone inherited sin and sin’s consequence—dying. Mortality. All people are born dying. And as far as I can tell, everyone dies.
BUT (and this is a big but), everyone will be resurrected and redeemed (bought back) from the consequence of Adam, clearly stated in hundreds of verses in the Scriptures. The second Adam came to fully reverse what the first Adam caused, which is DEATH or mortality. This is why, just after Paul talks about everyone being resurrected from death, he says, ‘death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ (1 Cor. 15:55–56).
Here’s another angle. If eternal hell was supposedly the price for sin, and Jesus took the punishment for my sins, then he would have had to go to hell for me. Forever. But that’s not what happened. Jesus DIED. That’s all that happened. He died, and then he was resurrected as the firstborn back from the dead. We are all (all means ALL) being recreated in his image through death and resurrection.
I find the pastor’s suggestion that Jesus’ death was meaningless (in the absence of hell) to be completely heinous and missing any sense of reason. Why heinous? Because what he is ultimately suggesting is that, if Jesus didn’t die for only a special few, then his death was in vain. This is the “Christian country club” mentality that I have grown to despise. It goes something like this: “If we’re not special because of a decision we made (a decision not even available to a large majority of the world throughout all centuries), then Jesus’s death is cheap.”
Jesus’s death was not cheap. Reason says that if you save more, your sacrifice is more valuable, not less.
If you’re a fireman and you are called to a hotel fire, would you be considered more successful and honored if you rescued only a few people from out of the burning building? Again, that’s like saying, “the fire department showed up to save SOME people from the burning building, but if they were expected to save EVERYONE from the burning building, they didn’t need to show up.”
Jesus died on the cross to save everyone from death—Adam’s curse. That’s the gospel I believe. It’s good news for everyone, and its value is as far reaching as every human life that has crossed the threshold of time.
 The Septuagint (LXX) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, produced in the 300-200 BC era for Greek speaking Jews who had been exiled into the Greek empire and could no longer read (or speak) Hebrew. It appears to be credible and somewhat authoritative since it is the version used by New Testament writers when quoting the Old Testament. The Septuagint is of importance to critics because it is translated from texts now lost. No copy of the original translation exists.