A Response to Four Views on Hell, Pt. 4 (Jerry Walls on Purgatory)

The first edition of Four Views on Hell was structured quite differently from the recently released second edition. The original featured two versions of eternal torment (literal and metaphorical), conditionalism, and a Catholic purgatorial view. The fact that evangelical universalism was excluded, and purgatory was presented and a Catholic position shows how much evangelical conversations have shifted since that edition. At the time, few would have imagined that evangelical protestants would argue for universalism and purgatory (although, few would have considered conditionalism a valid option for evangelicals either). The landscape has changed, and now, it seems that some evangelical protestants are showing interest in the notion of purgatory, so a protestant argument for purgatory appears in the new edition of Four Views

Walls’ purgatory chapter does feel a bit out of place in this volume, since it is not actually about hell. On the topic of hell, Jerry Walls does affirm eternal conscious torment. Purgatory is something other than hell; it is only for those who will ultimately share in salvation and the life of the age to come. This leaves us with the question of why editor Preston Sprinkle chose to include this discussion. Interesting though it may be, it isn’t a view on hell. But if we expand the conversation to encapsulate a broader discussion of postmortem punishment and suffering then it can fit the bill.

Walls argues that for some who share in the salvation of God, there will still be a period of purification required to complete the process of sanctification. Sin must be completely purged for God’s people to come into his presence. Purgatory is therefore a place of hope; “All souls admitted to purgatory are bound for heaven sooner or later”1 (147).

This claim may sound strange to most protestant ears- it certainly does to mine- given Scripture’s depiction of resurrection and judgment, which declare that transformation comes “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). It seems the motivation for this thinking is the assumed need to deal with the questions surrounding cases of deathbed conversion, or those who make a confession of faith, but show little or nor evidence of transformation. Shouldn’t there be consequences for those who repent at the last moment, and haven’t undergone any form of discipleship or sanctification? Wouldn’t it be unjust if they were to avoid the struggles and hard work experienced by other Christians? But it seems Jesus makes exactly that claim in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)- whether the workers start at the beginning, the middle, or near the end of the day, they are all paid a days wage.

The assertion that some sinners saved by grace will have to undergo a time of punishment prior to their entrance into the eternal life of the age to comes has some important implications for our understanding of atonement. However one understands the mechanics of atonement, if our sin was fully dealt with through Christ’s death and resurrection, why is a period of purging still necessary? To suggest that redeemed persons may still have some punishment to endure means that Christ’s death and resurrection has not been fully efficacious. This is highly problematic.

Perhaps the most obvious struggle in Walls presentation, which the other authors pounce on in their responses, is the overall lack of engagement with Scripture. Burk notes in his response, “I counted about eight passing references to Scripture. None of those eight references to Scripture are accompanied by serious exposition of the text in question” (174). Most of Walls’ biblical evidence boils down to 1 Cor. 3:11-15. The problem is that even though the text does speak of redeemed people being saved as through a fire, one can hardly build a developed notion of purgatory based on this text alone. This text seems to speak of the process of judgement, not an ensuing process of purgation. Most of Walls’ work centres around CS Lewis. Of course, protestants love Lewis, but when it comes to building a doctrinal understanding of postmortem realities, without more scriptural evidence than Walls provides, I don’t see his argument as at all compelling.

So, while Walls’ chapter was an interesting read, it was hardly convincing. Given the role of purgatory in so much of Christian history, it makes for a fascinating investigation. However, with no real biblical exegesis presented, and the problems this proposal creates for systematic theology, particularly the completeness of Christ’s death and resurrection in dealing with sin and its consequences, I have to conclude that Walls has not brought forward evidence to lead one to reintroduce purgatory to protestant thought.

  1. Walls’ choice of “souls… bound for heaven” here seems in conflict with the biblical picture of eternal life occurring in the age to come as embodied life in the new heavens and new earth. []
Book Reviews Graham Ware Systematic Theology
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  • William Tanksley Jr

    Thank you, Graham.

    Another interesting thing about Walls is that his view of hell includes a strong component of postmortem repentance inside hell, so much so that he believes almost all people will repent out of hell (only the truly incorrigible will remain forever — he asserts that some people truly are incorrigible).

    So it seems what happens (if my understanding is correct) seems to be that both the saved and unsaved are placed into places of purgation, with different names. The saved suffer for purification, and the unsaved suffer because they haven’t yet repented.

  • TLY

    Graham, previously you wrote in part 3 of your well-written series:

    “Regarding postmortem repentance, Parry argues that there isn’t explicit support for this notion, but there isn’t explicit evidence against it either. His challenge “does death somehow fix us in some eternally sinful state?” is one that needs to be wrestled with by folks on all sides, as is Parry’s appeal to the character of God revealed in the parable of the lost sheep; that God “keeps on seeking a lost sheep ‘until he finds it’ (Luke 15:4)” (116, emphasis Parry’s). Can God redeem a beloved, albeit rebellious, person after they have died?”

    When I wrestle with the notion of postmortem repentance, I can only conclude with reasonable certainty that the time of the second death is the point of no return, not the point in time of the first death (that’s not to say the first death cannot be the point of return, though).

    In that article, you said Parry pushes beyond the parable of the lost sheep, yet you offer as support for that not being the case another parable that you admit is not even about hell, but about hades. If hades involves a span of time after the first death and before hell (some believe it to be a time of “sleep”), it seems to me the uncrossable chasm should only be limited to the time in hades and not necessarily beyond (again, that’s not to say that isn’t the case, though).

    You do say, “It would be unwise to be too absolute when dealing with parables,” yet you say about Parry, “but one can’t help but think Parry has pushed beyond the text here.” Can’t the claim of “pushing beyond” also be said about the lack of any opportunity for repentance within the entirety of postmortem existence when it should more reasonably be restricted only to postmortem existence in hades and not necessarily beyond? Suppose a chasm exists in hades because postmortem repentance requires a resurrected body. I don’t pose that as a belief, but only as a possibility…speculation of something unknown.

    I can’t conclude that there are no lost sheep after the event of the first death, even though that may in fact be the case. Why can’t there be resurrected sheep and resurrected goats to be separated after the first death and before the fate of the second death, even if a chasm exists in a disembodied state of hades?

    I do find the case for no possibility of postmortem repentance particularly weak. Therefore, necessarily, that makes for a weak argument against the UR notions of Parry and here with the pugatorial ideas of Walls, if that argument is used as the basis to refute these two alternative beliefs.

    • William Tanksley Jr

      //I do find the case for no possibility of postmortem repentance particularly weak.//

      I think it’s wise to let the strength of the positive case set the bar for the strength of the negative case. Having a weak negative case doesn’t matter if there’s no positive one.

      With that said, though, I don’t think the intent of the term “second death” is to define a distinct thing to be saved from; rather, throughout the rest of the Bible, we’re told that by trusting in Christ and walking according to the Spirit, we will be God’s people, and will be saved from death. (Even Revelation carries this message, as John’s comfort is that Jesus holds the keys of death and hades, which is surely an echo of Jesus’ proclamation that the gates of hades will not prevail against His church.)

      I think it’s death itself that constitutes the thing from which we need to be saved. And from the very first historical point that this salvation became apparent, it was clear that the means by which God’s people would be saved was through resurrection. 1 Cor 15 makes this especially powerful, since it explains that this cosmic salvation from death will happen *in one moment*, when believers are given an incorruptible body. There’s no space there for supposing that the wicked take part in that victory at that time, nor is there space in that passage for supposing the victory is only partial at that time.

      Since you agree that crossing the gap is not possible in Hades, it seems to me that there is in fact no time — unless it’s _precisely_ that “moment, the twinkling of an eye” in which the wicked could be converted. Converting during the judgment seems possible in the abstract, but the texts one would expect to show conversions, such as the “Lord, Lord!” texts, instead show Christ turning people down on the grounds that their lives didn’t show He was their Lord, or simply that He doesn’t know them.

      • TLY

        //I think it’s wise to let the strength of the positive case set the bar for the strength of the negative case. Having a weak negative case doesn’t matter if there’s no positive one.//

        William, I would say that’s too low of a standard, and that the strength of the negative case DOES matter. The bar for both the positive case and the negative case ought to be set by the unknown case, which neither the positive nor negative case arguably surpasses, and that’s why this needs to be “wrestled with.”

        A false “Lord, Lord…” plea deserves rejection with an “I never knew you…” response both before and after the first death for the truly unrepentant, but that doesn’t mean the presence of an “I never knew you…” response after the first death is a universal response to all postmortem “Lord, Lord…” pleas.

        You have good points on resurrection, but to say there is no time for postmortem repentance between the first and second deaths is a bit to presumptuous for me, especially given a God not subject to the very time restriction supporting that conclusion.

        I just don’t see great evidence that the unrepentant heart is embalmed by the event of the first death; this is what I wrestle with in uncertainty.

        • William Tanksley Jr

          //William, I would say that’s too low of a standard, and that the strength of the negative case DOES matter.//

          I didn’t say it doesn’t matter; I said the negative must be driven by the positive, and not be assessed completely independently. The positive case for this is _abyssimally_ bad. There are bare hints that *might* be connected, if a bunch of other things are true; but no passage actually connects the dots in the way required. So it’s perfectly reasonable for the negative case to consist of a shrug and “where’s your evidence for that claim?” That we have much more than this is only more convincing. Or it should be.

          //The bar for both the positive case and the negative case ought to be set by the unknown case, which neither the positive nor negative case arguably surpasses, and that’s why this needs to be “wrestled with.”//

          Aside from my earlier response, I’ll add that I _think_ you’re claiming that the three options are “PMR is true”, “PMR is false”, and “we don’t know whether PMR is true”. But the actual division is not abstract; it’s a huge number of possible scenarios, graded by prior probabilities and updated based on evidence. We can classify them into three parts if you want, but the class containing the true unknowns actually contains all of the proposed scenarios in which PMR is _true_, while the class containing the knowns includes actual passages (not hypotheticals) that depict things that do NOT look like PMR, with no passages that look like PMR.

          //A false “Lord, Lord…” plea deserves rejection with an “I never knew you…” response both before and after the first death for the truly unrepentant,//

          That’s not a factor mentioned in those parables, you know. So your claim that it’s a distinction we should make is on shaky grounds.

          //but that doesn’t mean the presence of an “I never knew you…” response after the first death is a universal response to all postmortem “Lord, Lord…” pleas.//

          That rather depends on begging the question we’re discussing — whether there’s postmortem repentance. As I’ve pointed out, our only pictures fail to show any being given, and one of them shows none being permitted (the parable of Lazarus and Dives).

          //You have good points on resurrection, but to say there is no time for postmortem repentance between the first and second deaths is a bit to presumptuous for me, especially given a God not subject to the very time restriction supporting that conclusion.//

          It’s not that simple, though. I pointed out that the prophecy “death is defeated” is fulfilled at the instant of the resurrection of the righteous, and Paul even points out a connection to victory over sin (the sting of death) that appears to connect to believer’s present lives. None of the claims about postmortem repentance account for that; in fact some even attempt to argue that the defeat of death is preconditioned on nobody remaining dead, a claim completely incompatible with the end of 1 Cor 15. This is a logical claim, not a time restriction. If it can be defeated, it must be done by a completely different proposal, such as the counter-claim that no repentance is needed (but rather God will raise everyone saved and immortal in Christ). Christian universalists rightly reject this position.

          None other is apparent to me, nor am I aware of any offered. Not that I’m required to think of alternatives, but it’s polite.

          //I just don’t see great evidence that the unrepentant heart is embalmed by the event of the first death; this is what I wrestle with in uncertainty.//

          You’re assuming that embalming is required. What about all the other possible reasons? You yourself admit that repentance cannot happen in hades, so you already have some reason within hades that has nothing to do with “embalming”. (I don’t know what your reason is, but you say you don’t see evidence that it’s embalming.)

          I find the set of reasons to be pretty large. One possible reason is that death really _is_ the wages of sin, and once you collect the wages (apart from receiving the propitiation through faith, Rom 3:25) there is simply no “undo”. Speculation, of course, but this one point is well-supported throughout the Bible and so worthy of more consideration than other arbitrary claims. My point is to show ONE possible reason aside from “embalming”.

          • TLY

            //You’re assuming that embalming is required.//

            By “embalming” I don’t mean to describe a requirement for anything. Rather, what I mean to describe is your belief that it is precisely the event of the first death that “fixes” a once redeemable heart into that of a hopelessly unredeemable heart, from one capable of repentance and atonement to one that can’t be anything but unrepentant, unredeemable, and impossible for Christ to reconcile to God. I’m describing how Parry refers to your belief when he asks, “does death somehow fix us in some eternally sinful state?” Furthermore, I’m talking about a state of being in which God is either unwilling or unable to seek and redeem the lost in a postmortem state of being.

            Where is the convincing evidence that all the lost, once dead, either remain in a state of rebellion by choice, or that God cannot or will not continue to seek them for the purpose of reconciliation—that he discontinues to seek the lost? Certainly at least some will be in rebellion, but I fail to see where all will be in rebellion. Actually, the post mortem state of rebellion doesn’t even matter if God is either unable or unwilling because there is simply no “undo” beyond the first death.

            //I find the set of reasons to be pretty large. One possible reason is that death really _is_ the wages of sin, and once you collect the wages (apart from receiving the propitiation through faith, Rom 3:25) there is simply no “undo”.//

            Are you saying the first death satisfies the wages that sin demands? That once they (those who die the first death unredeemed) make this payment by this event of their death then there is no “undo” because this payment has been made? I’m thinking the wages are not met until the second death, essentially that the wages of sin necessarily includes the “second death”; that the first death is an insufficient payment for sin; that the punishment of death is death in its entirety as an experience that necessarily includes the first AND second death. Isn’t the second death the death from which we are saved, the death that Jesus bore on our behalf? And isn’t it true that the first death satisfies nothing for the Christian with regard to sin, and so too satisfies nothing for the unrepentant as well? I see the first death for the Christian as exterminating a corruptible body, something as necessary and good with regard to eliminating the cancer of evil.

            //I pointed out that the prophecy “death is defeated” is fulfilled at the instant of the resurrection of the righteous, and Paul even points out a connection to victory over sin (the sting of death) that appears to connect to believer’s present lives.//

            I think the instant death is defeated is actually later than that, and that death currently is not defeated (and therefore the prophecy is also not fulfilled at the instant of Jesus’ resurrection) and that the defeat of death comes after the resurrection of the “harvest” (and similarly the prophecy is still not fulfilled at the instant of the resurrection of the righteous). I would propose that death, being the last enemy to be destroyed, is not defeated until it is destroyed. After the resurrection of the righteous, there is the second death still yet to occur for the unrighteous. Death in that sense is not yet destroyed and still has effect, presence and purpose.

            Consider: “But there is an order…Christ was raised as the first…then all who belong to Christ…After that…Christ must reign…And [then] the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

            1 Corinthians 15:23-26 NLT
            [23] But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. [24] After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. [25] For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. [26] And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

            So the prophesy of death’s defeat is not fulfilled AT the resurrection of the “harvest”, but after the resurrection of the “harvest.” Even though, like Jesus’, the resurrected body is immune to death and death’s sting and there is victory in that (and there is prophecy fulfilled in that), the final defeat of death (and victory) if fulfilled beyond the event of the resurrection of the “harvest,” just as it is fulfilled beyond the event of the resurrection of Jesus, the “firstfruit” of the harvest in resurrection.

            If you are talking about death being defeated in some other sense, perhaps you can explain. I understand that in one sense death can be considered defeated by the resurrection of Christians in that the resurrected body will live forever, but the defeat in that sense can also be linked to the moment of salvation when the second death is guaranteed not to take place for that individual, where immortality is guaranteed with deposit by the Spirit of God. But death itself in that sense has not been defeated is general (has power, exists) in the way that death will be defeated in the end (has no power, nonexistent). When Scripture refers to death’s defeat, I think it is pointing to the time when death ceases to have effect on anyone and no more death occurs (all second deaths have occurred and death ceases to take any form of the living).

            I’m not a universalist, but if death claims victory by robbing God of most of his creation, even when death is eventually gone and defeated in the end, then is this something to be celebrated victoriously? I mean, if a plague wipes out 90% of a population, it’s hard to say the survivors won even when the plague exists no more and ceases to have presence/effect. Those surviving the plague would say that the plague won, even though they were victorious in their own battle with the plague. Similarly, (and I want to reverently say this) it’s a mediocre victory at best over death when death claims victory in succeeding to take the vast majority of people God fights to save. There’s a funeral or memorial feel to that, not a parade or celebration feel.

            //This is a logical claim, not a time restriction.//

            I was responding to your time restriction of just a hypothetical moment being the only time in which postmortem repentance could even be possibly true when you responded “it seems to me that there is in fact no time”. Perhaps I misunderstand.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //Rather, what I mean to describe is your belief that it is precisely the event of the first death that “fixes” a once redeemable heart into that of a hopelessly unredeemable heart,//

            Specifically what I’m denying is that this is “my belief.” You’re claiming that I have to prove a single narrow specific thing (a change to the heart itself); I’m pointing out that there are many possible ways to account for this, and you yourself have to answer one of them, since you accept that in the time between the first death and the resurrection repentance is impossible.

            //I’m describing how Parry refers to your belief when he asks, “does death somehow fix us in some eternally sinful state?”//

            This is even more not my belief; he’s talking from the alleged perspective of someone who believes that death doesn’t mean being dead — but rather means that we _keep sinning_ (which is not a belief in ANY discussion of hell, even Reformed who invoke total depravity don’t believe that death is what triggers total depravity).

            //Furthermore, I’m talking about a state of being in which God is either unwilling or unable to seek and redeem the lost in a postmortem state of being.//

            Since death is precisely God’s judgment against sin, a positive action God took so that man wouldn’t live forever, you’re asking why God doesn’t reverse His own judgment. Maybe because God didn’t think He made a mistake?

            //Are you saying the first death satisfies the wages that sin demands?//

            Close — I say that DEATH satisfies those wages, and that no passage in the Bible ever mentions “the first death”. (The “second death” is mentioned, but IMO is describing the same type of thing as “the first death”.)

            //That once they (those who die the first death unredeemed) make this payment by this event of their death then there is no “undo” because this payment has been made?//

            Yes. But the _event_ of dying is not death; being dead, the state of death, is the payment.

            //I’m thinking the wages are not met until the second death, essentially that the wages of sin necessarily includes the “second death”; that the first death is an insufficient payment for sin;//

            Well, you’re implying that there’s a distinction between first death and second death in the wages of sin. But nobody except Revelation even hints at any distinction to be made; and that one exception doesn’t explain any distinction.

            //that the punishment of death is death in its entirety as an experience that necessarily includes the first AND second death.//

            No, not really. I think being dead is the punishment, not living forever. Experiencing some *number* of dyings seems irrelevant.

            //Isn’t the second death the death from which we are saved, the death that Jesus bore on our behalf?//

            Death is. “The second death” places that in an eschatological context, and allows John to avoid using the gentle vocabulary of “sleep” that all the other apostles used for the death of the righteous.

            //And isn’t it true that the first death satisfies nothing for the Christian with regard to sin,//

            I think the point of Christ’s teaching about “sleep” versus death is that although the _experience_ is the same, the outcome is different; the righteous will not remain dead, so their death is better described (ultimately) as sleep.

            //and so too satisfies nothing for the unrepentant as well? I see the first death for the Christian as exterminating a corruptible body, something as necessary and good with regard to eliminating the cancer of evil.//

            Oh, no; I respect what you mean, but that’s not how the Biblical language runs. Salvation is not to _exterminate_ the corruptible (we are corruptible!), but for the corruptible to put on incorruption.

            //I think the instant death is defeated is actually later than [the resurrection of the righteous], and that death currently is not defeated (and therefore the prophecy is also not fulfilled at the instant of Jesus’ resurrection)//

            I’m quoting from 1Cor 15:51-55, which _precisely_ places the “bringing to pass” of the prophecy on the instant the righteous are transformed. This is the only mention of this prophecy in the entire Bible; in the OT it’s given in exactly the reverse way, with the statement that God will NOT have compassion on one group of people, but rather will let death devour them. Paul is clearly noticing that since God DOES promise salvation to those who “hold fast to the gospel”, therefore it follows that he will defeat death for them.

            //I would propose that death, being the last enemy to be destroyed, is not defeated until it is destroyed.//

            This is anthropomorphism of death, which fits the immediate context but doesn’t work as an absolute. Death doesn’t actually have a “win” condition. So when Paul explains that its defeat happens entirely in one event, that gives us sufficient data to understand its defeat. Unless, of course, there were additional explanation in the Bible, which there isn’t.

            //After the resurrection of the righteous, there is the second death still yet to occur for the unrighteous. Death in that sense is not yet destroyed and still has effect, presence and purpose.//

            I accept that, but counterclaim that death is not a thing that can have presence. The use of anthropomorphic language seems pretty transparent to me.

            //Consider: “But there is an order…Christ was raised as the first…then all who belong to Christ…After that…Christ must reign…And [then] the last enemy to be destroyed is death.”//

            Those are completely distinct lists. The Greek expressions “eita” and “epeita” are used throughout 1Cor 15 to mark off lists that Paul is trying to keep separate. There are only two items in the list “first Christ and then those who belong to Him.” The end coming is not part of that list, but is a critical event Paul is marking to help show the eschatological location of the resurrection. Also notice that death being defeated is mentioned last even though it logically has to happen before Christ hands the throne over — more evidence that after the first list the rest is not a chronology.

            //When Scripture refers to death’s defeat, I think it is pointing to the time when death ceases to have effect on anyone and no more death occurs (all second deaths have occurred and death ceases to take any form of the living).//

            Again, the ONLY clear discussion of death’s defeat is in 1 Cor 15, and there it’s explained to be complete with the transformation of the righteous, which is at the instant of their resurrection.

            //I’m not a universalist, but if death claims victory//

            It won’t. Death is not a thing.

            //I mean, if a plague wipes out 90% of a population, it’s hard to say the survivors won even when the plague exists no more and ceases to have presence/effect. Those surviving the plague would say that the plague won, even though they were victorious in their own battle with the plague.//

            More seriously, do you think death is out of God’s control? Don’t we have to affirm that God actively intended and purposed death, when He could have let Adam simply have the tree?

            //I was responding to your time restriction of just a hypothetical moment being the only time in which postmortem repentance could even be possibly true when you responded “it seems to me that there is in fact no time”. Perhaps I misunderstand.//

            I see what you mean. But I was referring to the fact that the event of the resurrection and transformation, which do happen instantly, are themselves the cause of the defeat of death in the only passage that exegetes the phrase. There’s no _other_ time for that to happen, and no explanation ever offered that shows how the resurrection of the wicked to judgment could possibly participate in this instant of defeat. It won’t work with this particular text if it happens at some other instant. And in fact your own explanation insists that the defeat of death doesn’t happen at the instant of the saints’ resurrection.

          • TLY

            //Specifically what I’m denying is that this is “my belief.”…This is even more not my belief;//

            I certainly don’t want to misrepresent your belief about postmortem repentance. Perhaps you can clearly and acceptably state it, as I’m sure it can be stated in a wide variety of ways.

            //since you accept that in the time between the first death and the resurrection repentance is impossible.//

            Actually, what I’m saying is that I don’t know. I said: “When I wrestle with the notion of postmortem repentance, I can only conclude with reasonable certainty that the time of the second death is the point of no return, not the point in time of the first death (that’s not to say the first death cannot be the point of return, though).” What I meant to communicate is that the second death is the furthest point I am comfortable concluding to be the point of no return. I also said, “I can’t conclude that there are no lost sheep after the event of the first death, even though that may in fact be the case.”

            //You’re claiming that I have to prove a single narrow specific thing (a change to the heart itself);//

            My request is one more broad. I’m wanting more convincing support sufficient to adopt the belief that the offer of redemption ends at the first death. If you’re willing, the top three reasons against postmortem repentance listed in order of strength would be helpful. Parry says there is no explicit Biblical support against postmortem repentance, and Graham said this is an issue to be “wrestled with by folks on all sides.” I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to be uncertain about this. (Granted, though, it probably comes across like I’m making the case for postmortem repentance.)

            //Close — I say that DEATH satisfies those wages, and that no passage in the Bible ever mentions “the first death”. (The “second death” is mentioned, but IMO is describing the same type of thing as “the first death”.)//

            Okay, I can see it from that perspective, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude that those two deaths are different. There is a continuation tied to the first death that has an intermediate and holding state associated with it. The second death has a finality and judgement tied to it with no continuance that ends in extinction. I suppose you could call death the “same type of thing” in both instances with no distinction necessary, but John does call the second death the lake of fire that seems to distinguish it from the first. “Lake of fire” and “sleep” are dramatically different ways to describe death. And John specifically distinguishes the first death from the second for Christians when he says, “For them the second death holds no power.” Are you saying John’s use of the word “second” is unnecessary and that he could have just said, “The lake of fire is death” and “whoever is victorious will not be harmed by death” and “for them death holds no power”?

          • William Tanksley Jr

            First, a little out of order, I’m so sorry I lost track of your actual affirmation there! Thank you for restating your belief, and I’ll try to do better.

            Back to the beginning: what my belief is hardly matters; my point is that Parry has narrowed the discourse by restating the problem into a remarkably narrow question that doesn’t have anything to do with Biblical terms. Basically, he’s “moved the goalposts” so that the other side has an absurdly huge burden of proof. I’m not saying I don’t have to prove anything; I’m just pointing out that I don’t have to prove what he claims I have to prove.

            My personal belief, however, is in fact outside of his restatement. I believe that under normal conditions, to be dead is to be inoperative; Parry assumes that to be dead is to be active and either sinful or repenting. Obviously his dichotomy doesn’t apply to me; I don’t have to prove that a non-operating person is fixed in a state of sinning, because I believe they’re not in ANY state of action at all.

            The reason I don’t make a big deal of my personal belief is that I don’t want you to get the idea that it’s the only solution to the problem. And of course it’s theoretically possible to simply answer that God deliberately placed the means of salvation in this life and they are not available after resurrection — or, of course, to just agree with Parry’s option that peoples’ hearts are fixed after death.

            Now, your belief actually is that there’s a point that’s too late, so you disagree with Parry on the existence of that point — so much so that you could only be a non-purgatorial universalist. Parry actually believes that people come out of the Lake of Fire, so he couldn’t accept that the second death is too late. But I’m not sure why you affirm that the second death is too late but reject that the first death is too late. After all, there’s a parable that makes a major self-interpreting point that God has constructed the afterlife “so that nobody may cross over” in either direction. There’s no direct teaching that says the second death is too late — you’re only affirming that because the second death is obviously the thing we’re saved from, and there’s no affirmation of salvation that says we can be both condemned AND saved.

            And that’s an important and sensible affirmation. But the same is true about ordinary death, which everywhere aside from Revelation is marked as the punishment for sin. Those who follow Christ are said to enter into sleep, as a metaphor intended to describe their upcoming awakening. Those who die in their sins are said to have already perished (a distinction Paul makes in 1 Cor 15, following Jesus before the resurrection of Lazarus).

          • TLY

            If I understand you correctly, I see four reasons against the notion of postmortem repentance within what you write:
            1.) To be dead is to be inoperative.
            2.) It’s theoretically possible God deliberately placed the means of salvation in this life and they are not available after resurrection.
            3.) There is a parable that makes a major point that God has constructed the afterlife “so that nobody may cross over” in either direction.
            4.) Those who die in their sins are said to have already perished (a distinction Paul makes in 1 Cor 15)

            Regarding #1, it seems reasonable that if the dead are inoperative, then they would be unable to repent in that state of being.

            Regarding #2, sure, but I’m still having difficulty concluding repentance is available only in this lifetime even given the possibility of that being the case.

            Regarding #3, I’m not sure how you reconcile the states of being of Lazarus, the rich man, and Abraham with that of #1, since their states are seemingly both operative and dead within the parable.

            Although I would agree a chasm is a significant point, I would disagree with the chasm being a major or critical point in the parable. Rather, I think it is an optional sub point when it is listed secondarily and introduced with the language of “Besides that…” I would say the major point of the parable stands strongly by itself even if the “chasm” point were not there. (And that major point being that it’s the rich man’s worship of Money as a god that has him in the situation he is in.)

            Additionally, if #1 is true, the chasm reference could alternatively read like this: “Besides the main reason why the request can’t be granted, it’s impossible to do so right now in an inoperative dead state of being.”

            This would assume the parable animates individuals after the first death to make the point that serving Money as a God reaps terrible consequences and is a terrible idea compared to a wonderful reward awaiting those who serve God. This is something a parable has freedom to do in order to make a point, even though all of its elements may not reflect exactly how things actually are/will be (like the verbal communication element of the parable is present to make a point and not necessarily reflective of reality).

            Regarding #4, I see a “perishable” body for the Christian being referenced here in 1 Cor 15, but I fail to see a “perished” state being referenced here for those who die unredeemed.

            //But I’m not sure why you affirm that the second death is too late but reject that the first death is too late.//

            Because I believe the second death to be annihilation and there is no existence of the individual for the possibility of repentance. Actually, like I said, I don’t reject that the first death is too late, but rather just don’t see great support enough to claim this to be true. This is what I wrestle with.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //If I understand you correctly, I see four reasons against the notion of postmortem repentance within what you write://

            Four independent possibilities, yes; any of which would be enough. Each of them have Biblical evidence, unlike Parry’s “possibility” that the dead are locked into sinning forever.

            //1.) To be dead is to be inoperative.//

            Right, like a faith that cannot save is dead, or a body without the spirit.

            //Regarding #1, it seems reasonable that if the dead are inoperative, then they would be unable to repent in that state of being.//

            Correct, but I’m responding to Parry’s claim that I’d have to show they’re locked in a state of sinning. There are other states that can cleanly explain a lack of repentance.

            //Regarding #2, sure, but I’m still having difficulty concluding repentance is available only in this lifetime even given the possibility of that being the case.//

            First, there’s a lot of Bible verses that seem to imply that there’s an urgency before death. It’s kind of hard to miss! Even the parable of Lazarus seems to make that point several different ways, or the judgment for works done in the body.

            Second, to me, the case for repentance being likely on the Day itself is pretty remote and speculative; the case for it not being possible is strong and specific. There are specific verses, like “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that Day…” So it _seems_ that people attempt to appeal the judgment, logically they would also try to say other things. He doesn’t give them any chance at all, and contra HARD universalism he says “not everyone will enter.”

            And like myself, you think that “the second death” is too late — this leaves, for you, only “the first death”. But this assumes without explanation that the first death is materially different from the second. There’s nothing in the Bible that positively teaches that, and it would be surprising and strange if “the second death” taught in only one book of the Bible turned out to be different from “death” which everywhere else is explained as the penalty for sin.

            //Regarding #3, I’m not sure how you reconcile the states of being of Lazarus, the rich man, and Abraham with that of #1, since their states are seemingly both operative and dead within the parable.//

            That’s a reasonable objection — except that this is within a parable. Things happen within a parable that don’t need to map 1:1 with the real world. We both agree that their having a body is an anachronism for the intermediate state, right? I think the whole thing is deliberately placing what happens on the Day of Judgment anachronistically. So everything there might be literal, except of course that on the Day his 5 brothers would be also being judged.

            //Although I would agree a chasm is a significant point, I would disagree with the chasm being a major or critical point in the parable. Rather, I think it is an optional sub point when it is listed secondarily and introduced with the language of “Besides that…” I would say the major point of the parable stands strongly by itself even if the “chasm” point were not there. (And that major point being that it’s the rich man’s worship of Money as a god that has him in the situation he is in.)//

            That “major point” is not actually taught anywhere in the parable — I’m going to push back really hard against it overriding an explicit point.

            It’s structured as a subpoint simply because it’s one of two reasons given why Dives would not receive help (and that in itself is significant to your question/challenge). The first reason is that there’s a fair parity between the punishment/reward and how you lived your life (in other words, this is only justice). The second reason is that someone deliberately constructed judgment SO THAT there’s no crossing over for anyone.

            Call that a secondary sub-point if you want, but the presence of a “so that” interpretation calls out for attention. Can you explain it compatibly with PMR during the time it’s describing? I don’t think it’s possible.

            //Additionally, if #1 is true, the chasm reference could alternatively read like this: “Besides the main reason why the request can’t be granted, it’s impossible to do so right now in an inoperative dead state of being.”//

            Obviously this parable doesn’t depict an inoperative state, so it couldn’t possibly say that. But not only are there obvious literary reasons for that, it’s also accurately depicting a plausible interpretation of the Law and prophets’ explanation of judgment day — which is NOT an inoperative state. Obviously, if you don’t agree with #1, this parable would be why, and I can respect that.

            //This would assume the parable animates individuals after the first death to make the point that serving Money as a God reaps terrible consequences and is a terrible idea compared to a wonderful reward awaiting those who serve God. This is something a parable has freedom to do in order to make a point, even though all of its elements may not reflect exactly how things actually are/will be (like the verbal communication element of the parable is present to make a point and not necessarily reflective of reality).//

            I completely agree with all the premises, EXCEPT that you’ve made the point of the parable something the parable never actually said, and you’ve dismissed the parable’s own self-contained interpretation of itself.

            And note that by admitting that the parable is animating (and giving bodies) anachronistically, you also admit that your previous point has no weight — common sense says there’s no body in the intermediate state until the resurrection, and the Bible elsewhere explicitly teaches there’s no thought or praise or speech there.

            //Regarding #4, I see a “perishable” body for the Christian being referenced here in 1 Cor 15, but I fail to see a “perished” state being referenced here for those who die unredeemed.//

            I think you’re looking at the wrong verse — 1 Cor 15:17-19 clearly is talking about what already happened to those who die in their sins.

            //Because I believe the second death to be annihilation and there is no existence of the individual for the possibility of repentance.//

            Right, I think that’s tough to account for under true non-purgatorial universalism. The best you can have is a finite time of PMR.

            //Actually, like I said, I don’t reject that the first death is too late, but rather just don’t see great support enough to claim this to be true. This is what I wrestle with.//

            Thank you for giving me the chance to wrestle alongside you. A little good-natured exercise, right?

          • TLY

            //Thank you for giving me the chance to wrestle alongside you. A little good-natured exercise, right?//

            Absolutely right! Thanks to you as well. I love the exploration into areas uncertain in the pursuit of truth. I don’t have my heels dug in here, and I don’t mind at all to have a few wrong turns along the way in that pursuit of what is true. That’s just part of the journey in ironing out my inconsistencies and misbeliefs, and part of refining and strengthening what I believe to be true. I do appreciate your participation in that wrestle. You do give me lots to consider with different perspectives from which to see things…even in disagreement.

            //That “major point” is not actually taught anywhere in the parable — I’m going to push back really hard against it overriding an explicit point.//

            I’ll resist some of that pushback due to the parable being specifically about a “rich” man within the chapter of Luke 16 that has an overriding theme communicating that one cannot serve both God and Money. The parable can be interpreted, I believe, to support the truth stated just six versus prior to the parable. I do dislike chapter sectioning and section titles for this very reason. They contribute to separating Scripture into different topics when many times it is meant to be more integrated.

            Maybe try playing “For the Love of Money” by he O’Jays in the background while reading Luke 16 and see what theme you come up with! You say it’s not taught anywhere in the parable, but I say that “major point” is taught everywhere in the chapter and that is precisely why that parable is there.

            //First, there’s a lot of Bible verses that seem to imply that there’s an urgency before death. It’s kind of hard to miss! //

            Sure, any call to action with the level of importance repentance has should carry with it a level of urgency, and you’re right to call the need for repentance urgent. But that urgency it not necessarily one related primarily to beating the deadline timing of the afterlife, but rather something urgently needed in the present right here and now.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //I’ll resist some of that pushback due to the parable being specifically about a “rich” man within the chapter of Luke 16 that has an overriding theme communicating that one cannot serve both God and Money.//

            That certainly would be “overriding” the parable, yes. A better word might be a pervasive theme; that chapter was split up from the previous because someone thought the change to discussing money was important enough to be worth a section break. But it’s not worth literally _overriding_ what the parable actually says. Jesus also talks about divorce, and although we know that the Pharisees’ abuse of divorce was financial, we don’t deny that divorce is wrong if it’s for lust instead of greed.

            //The parable can be interpreted, I believe, to support the truth stated just six versus prior to the parable.//

            And it does! It works perfectly with that. It also supports the truth that we should not abuse the *greater* wealth of the Scriptures, which the Pharisees also had and also neglected teaching. But it does that in a very pointed way.

            //I do dislike chapter sectioning and section titles for this very reason. They contribute to separating Scripture into different topics when many times it is meant to be more integrated.//

            Well, the previous topic carries into this section. Jesus has been systematically rebuking the Pharisees as uncaring for people converting and repenting, but rather wanting to protect their own privilege. This chapter’s discussion of money does not abandon that theme either; rather, it starts with the Clever Steward showing that money is not the most valuable thing to count, but help from others is (and it also points out that scripture is a greater wealth than money).

            //Maybe try playing “For the Love of Money” by he O’Jays in the background while reading Luke 16 and see what theme you come up with! You say it’s not taught anywhere in the parable, but I say that “major point” is taught everywhere in the chapter and that is precisely why that parable is there.//

            I don’t deny the parable its place; it’s the closing piece for all of the parables that came before it. But it’s not actually all about money; the money vanishes after the first couple of verses, when the rich man’s family leaves the gravesite, and then the parable begins talking about something other than money.

            This is something I actually debate with my fellow conditionalists; they also tend to dismiss most of this story as irrelevant. And I understand that’s normally a good idea with a parable. Obviously the fact that Abraham’s the main speaker isn’t crucial, for example. But you still need to make sure you’re reading the express points of the parable, and looking for expressed interpretations — one of which is “so that nobody can cross over.”

            //But that urgency it not necessarily one related primarily to beating the deadline timing of the afterlife, but rather something urgently needed in the present right here and now.//

            The deadline isn’t “the afterlife”; it’s LIFE. See also Eccl 12.

          • TLY

            //it starts with the Clever Steward showing that money is not the most valuable thing to count, but help from others is (and it also points out that scripture is a greater wealth than money).//

            Oh my, William, we sure do see things differently! I don’t see that point being made at all in this parable. You can see how I would interpret Luke 16:1-14 within how I would paraphrase it:

            (1) One day while Jesus was teaching, he told a parable about how the focus on money instead of on God causes one to be shrewd. To illustrate this, he said to his disciples, “There was a rich business owner who accused his slick and tricky asset manager of squandering and mismanaging his money. (2) The rich business owner demanded, ‘I want a full and accurate accounting of every financial transaction by the end of the day or you’re fired.’
            (3) “The manager thought to himself, ‘Hmm, what shall I do now? I will certainly be fired today. But I have always been able to stay a step ahead and get out of any debacle.’ (4) Then he thought, ‘Yes, that’s it! I’ve got a devious plan that will open the doors of opportunity for me when I lose my job here.’
            (5) “So the plan was this: to get on the good side of those willing to cheat further the rich business owner. The manager quickly began to call in the owner’s business clients. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my boss?’
            (6) “‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil, ‘ he replied.
            “The manager told him, ‘Quickly, before it’s too late, let’s change your contract so that you owe four hundred and fifty instead.’
            (7) “Then he asked the second business client, ‘How much do you owe my boss?’
            “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
            “The manager told him, ‘Quickly, sign right here and it will only be eight hundred bushels owed.’
            (8) “The rich business owner came in and put a stop to all this. He said, ‘That’s a shrewd move, what you just did—and I must say a pretty ingenious move—but your fired.’ He then thought to himself, ‘No wonder I hired him to work for me. He’s just like me in that I would have done the same thing he just did.’
            Jesus said, “Shrewd people are attracted to dark and shrewd behavior, not noble and honest behavior fit for the light of day. (9) But I tell you, noble and honest behavior with money and possessions is the only way to correctly influence true friendships and to store up eternal treasures in heaven.
            (10) “There are a few truths associated with this principle: If someone is trustworthy in the small things, they will be trustworthy with the important things. If someone is dishonest in the small things, they will be dishonest with most everything. (11) If someone has been untrustworthy with money, they cannot be trusted with greater things. (12) And if someone has been untrustworthy with the property of others, then they will be even more untrustworthy should property be entrusted to them.
            (13) “You can’t sit on the fence like you want to when it comes to God and money. You must choose whom you will serve—no one can serve two masters. If you love money you will hate God; if you are devoted to money you will despise God.”
            (14) The Pharisees, who highly valued money, sneered at Jesus when he said their love of money caused them to despise God. The Pharisees worked hard at maintaining the appearance of their devotion to God. (15) But Jesus told them the truth by saying, “You are only fooling yourselves by acting devoted to God in front of others, but God knows your hateful and despising hearts. Your values and hypocrisy are detestable in God’s sight.”

          • William Tanksley Jr

            I love that interpretation, and thank you for it — but it doesn’t seem to address any of the points I raised.

            Do you see what I mean? I spent quite a bit of time on that…

          • TLY

            //Do you see what I mean? I spent quite a bit of time on that…//

            Yes, I do…and thanks for that, but responding to every point can be too repetitive and too expansive/unending for me, but I understand what you mean. Sometimes what I’m most reactive to (what I choose to respond to) and what I should respond to are two different things!

            //I love that interpretation, and thank you for it — but it doesn’t seem to address any of the points I raised.//

            Thanks, but that WAS meant to address your points related to what theme you think the chapter supports, and to show how your thoughts conflict with mine (your thoughts of the Steward being Clever and his help from others being the main point).

            //That certainly would be “overriding” the parable, yes. A better word might be a pervasive theme; that chapter was split up from the previous because someone thought the change to discussing money was important enough to be worth a section break.//

            By “overriding” I mean compelling, dominant and primary; “pervasive” might not be a better word here to communicate what I mean.

            Of course, the “someone” you reference who added the section title to the Biblical text, that separates the parable from the rest of the chapter, would likely interpret that parable to support the belief of ECT. That belief would be good reason to separate it from the Shrewd Manager that doesn’t teach ECT.

            I do like chapters, just not the added section headings that require interpretation for their use. As an example, you might call the first parable of Luke 16 the Clever Steward and I might call it the Crooked Steward. The section titles do influence the understanding of the text. What if that “someone” you referenced called “The Rich Man and Lazarus” section title “The Great Chasm” instead? Or maybe even “The Gateway to Eternal Torment”…oh, my!

            //And it does [support the truth stated just six versus prior to the parable]! It works perfectly with that. It also supports the truth that we should not abuse the *greater* wealth of the Scriptures, which the Pharisees also had and also neglected teaching.//

            Well, let’s put it terms of why the parable is there, instead of what it can arguably support. I’m saying it’s there to illustrate the devastating consequences of having Money as a God instead of serving the True God. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you are saying the top reason why the parable is there is to communicate there is a chasm that represents there is no “undo” (no PMR, or however you want to best express what we are discussing).

            I’m not sure what you mean by the “truth that we should not abuse the *greater* wealth of the Scriptures”.

            //But it’s not actually all about money; the money vanishes after the first couple of verses, when the rich man’s family leaves the gravesite, and then the parable begins talking about something other than money.//

            The result of serving Money as a god—thereby rejecting the true God—has a certain fate associated with it as described by the fate of the Rich Man in the parable. Money doesn’t have to be mentioned in every verse for money to be why every verse is there.

            I’m not sure what you mean by the rich man’s family leaving the gravesite.

            //This is something I actually debate with my fellow conditionalists; they also tend to dismiss most of this story as irrelevant.//

            I think it all has relevance unworthy of dismissal. I like to think of it in terms of properly weighing the elements.

            //But you still need to make sure you’re reading the express points of the parable, and looking for expressed interpretations — one of which is “so that nobody can cross over.//

            Of course that “chasm” could mean that each and every person—with no exceptions—who dies unsaved will suffer an eternal death and remain unable to receive the eternal life once available to them in their mortal life. But is this why Jesus spoke this parable? Perhaps, but I’m just not convinced.

            William, you didn’t listen to my song by the O’Jays while reading the chapter, did you? I might have to post the lyrics so that you can better understand why I think Luke included his 16th chapter. :)

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //I’m saying it’s there to illustrate the devastating consequences of having Money as a God instead of serving the True God.//

            We agree, then — it’s not just here to SAY that we shouldn’t have money for a God; it’s here to say what the consequences are.

            //Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you are saying the top reason why the parable is there is to communicate there is a chasm that represents there is no “undo” (no PMR, or however you want to best express what we are discussing).//

            No. I’m claiming that’s *one* of the major points the parable’s making, major because unlike most of the rest of the parable it’s _interpreted_.

            It’s not the _top_ reason; it’s merely one of the reasons.

            //Of course that “chasm” could mean//

            What do _you_ think it means? Jesus could have spoken the parable without mentioning that, right? So why is the chasm not only mentioned, but _interpreted_?

          • TLY

            …and additionally

            //The deadline isn’t “the afterlife”; it’s LIFE. See also Eccl 12.//

            I think you missed my point on urgency while being unnecessarily too particular with the terminology. By “afterlife” I was referencing a span of time beginning at the point in time when one dies. I could have said it like this: “But that urgency it not necessarily one related primarily to beating the deadline timing one’s death, but rather something urgently needed in the present right here and now—in one’s life.”

            I think Ecclesiastes 12 communicates it’s urgent to remember and honor God in the here and now (in ones youth) versus later on in life when one is old and decrepit. You reference a good example of my point. Why did you reference Eccl 12?

            To the question of, “Why accept Christ today?”, there are two reasons that could be given:
            1.) You might die tonight, so it’s urgent that you do so right now.
            2.) You cannot live your life abundantly and with purpose—in the way God created you to live—until you do so, so it’s urgent that you do so right now.

            My point on urgency is that it’s not always about answer #1, and although an urgent call to repentance of course includes #1, #2 seems to get left out where, I believe, it is intended to be there. It’s similar to how Eccl 12 communicates to remember and honor God in your prime before your body grows old (and you have to devote all your time to doctors office visits with a broken down body!). Eccl 12 is not all about remembering and honoring God before time expires and the body dies.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //I think Ecclesiastes 12 communicates it’s urgent to remember and honor God in the here and now (in ones youth) versus later on in life when one is old and decrepit. You reference a good example of my point. Why did you reference Eccl 12?//

            Because it _also_ includes dying, and explains that as the ultimate end to the ability to remember and honor God. The rest are warnings and reduce your ability; that one ends it.

            What I’m saying with that is that death isn’t an arbitrary line where everything’s nice before and the soul is frozen in unrepentance after. Rather, death is a process, including shutdown of bodily systems, and without those systems it will get harder and harder to “remember and honor” God. Death isn’t an arbitrary line — but it can’t be mistaken that it’s the end of a process that we _know_ reduces one’s ability to remember and honor God.

          • TLY

            //What do _you_ think it means? Jesus could have spoken the parable without mentioning that, right? So why is the chasm not only mentioned, but _interpreted_?//

            More below, but generally I interpret Abraham responding to the rich man’s plea for help by saying, “You’ve made your own bed, now lie in it. But even if you deserved help, none is available. Sorry!”

            I think by having rejected the True God and having served the false god of Money, the rich man is suffering the just reality of how that choice plays out beyond the surface comforts of pursuing an empty god. I think this parable is a picture showing us both sides of that false-god-worshiping coin: heads being selfish money motives in his life lived, and tails showing the terrible outcome of that life choice. “Besides that,” I think the parable shows that Hades is a separating and holding place where one cannot just enter and leave. Like the fallen angels being held for judgement, so to will the unrighteous be held for judgement. For “the Lord knows how to…hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 2:9)

            //No. I’m claiming that’s *one* of the major points the parable’s making, major because unlike most of the rest of the parable it’s _interpreted_.//

            You say the Chasm is interpreted (and that it’s a major point because of this?), but I don’t see it as being explained as clearly as what you think it means. The fact that no one can have visitors in Hades is neither here nor there with regard to post mortem repentance. Now granted, if the belief “that death is the point of no return” is true, then the Chasm would seemingly support that, but I fail to see how that Chasm, as used in this parable, necessarily produces that belief.

            What do I think it means? I think the Chasm minimally represents the reality that Hades is an isolated holding place within which the unrighteous must remain, until it is time for them to be removed. Of course, beyond that, there is certainly more and I wrestle with in the possible meanings of this great divide, some of which might be thought of and expressed like this:

            1.) “And furthermore your fate is set. Because you died unrighteous, you must remain unrighteous, and remain isolated among those unrighteous, and be resurrected among the unrighteous, to be judged unrighteous, and to suffer an eternal punishment for your unrighteousness.”

            2.) “You must remain in Hades for the entirety of this time meant for holding—NO exceptions. Besides the fact you not only deserve to be where you’re at, there’s no option to be anywhere else right now—you can’t have interaction with the righteous in your unrighteous state of being.”

            3.) “You’re request is denied. There is no possibility for the mixing of those repentant and unrepentant in your current temporary holding state.”

            4.) “Besides that, never again will the righteous and unrighteous coexist together.”

            5.) “Besides that, those stubbornly unrepentant like you can never be reconciled. You are pure evil and a hostile enemy of God. Good and evil will be separated by a chasm that will neither allow good to be around your evil or your evil to contaminate what is good and holy.”

            6.) “Besides that, once you have died your mortal death a chasm is set in place that makes atonement obsolete and a thing of the past.”

            7.) “Besides that, once you have died your mortal death a chasm is set in place that makes repentance obsolete, where those evil and hostile to God—like Satan—are incapable of being repentant, and the chasm exists to separate.”

            Please feel free to add any expression you have to this list that would encapsulate what you think the chasm might fully mean.

            //It’s not the _top_ reason; it’s merely one of the reasons.//

            What I don’t understand, though, is that if expression #1 is true about the Chasm, then why is this point being made (as you think) among many points and why is it unworthy of being declared as the main (most important) point of the parable? I mean, this would be the most important point of all time, yet it’s only mentioned (arguably/seemingly) in a passing manner. I’m especially dumbfounded by those who believe this Chasm represents the certain fate of ECT for all who die the first death guilty of sin! Really?…a “besides that” point of this magnitude being buried in a parable that warns against serving Money as a god? I’m puzzled.

            Again, I’m uncertain here. Actually, I probably lean towards what you believe, but certainly can’t declare there is no post mortem repentance because of the Chasm. As expressed in the first part of our conversation, a little evidence (or little, yet most evidence) is not sufficient enough in my mind to declare what is true.

            Is there post mortem repentance? I don’t know.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //More below, but generally I interpret Abraham responding to the rich man’s plea for help by saying, “You’ve made your own bed, now lie in it. But even if you deserved help, none is available. Sorry!”//

            That’s a nicely put paraphrase. I’d say “you’re here for a reason and a punishment of your own making; and beside that, this judgment is deliberately designed so that no help can reach you, nor can you reach help.”

            //”Besides that,” I think the parable shows that Hades is a separating and holding place where one cannot just enter and leave. Like the fallen angels being held for judgement, so to will the unrighteous be held for judgement. For “the Lord knows how to…hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 2:9)//

            Also very nice. There are two ways in 2 Peter that God holds the wicked for judgment: first during their prosperous life, and second during the time they are dead. The point here is that when the Judgment comes, it will come to them whether they live or die, whether they prosper or fail.

            //You say the Chasm is interpreted (and that it’s a major point because of this?), but I don’t see it as being explained as clearly as what you think it means.//

            First, there’s no such thing as complete unambiguity. Second, nonetheless, it is explained more clearly than you keep claiming it is. For example:

            //The fact that no one can have visitors in Hades is neither here nor there with regard to post mortem repentance.//

            This is true so far as it goes, but you miss that the same phrase also says that people under judgment cannot leave; and that the inability to leave is purposeful and inherent to the judgment itself. So you’re only explaining _half_ of Abraham’s statement, and the other half is _exactly_ material to postmortem repentance.

            //Now granted, if the belief “that death is the point of no return” is true, then the Chasm would seemingly support that, but I fail to see how that Chasm, as used in this parable, necessarily produces that belief.//

            This parable doesn’t really say much about the time of death; in fact, it seems to conflate the time of death with the Day of Judgment, which aren’t taught as the same anywhere else. What it explicitly contrasts is not during-death vs. during-life, but rather during-life (the brothers) versus during-Judgment (the former rich man).

            //What do I think it means? I think the Chasm minimally represents the reality that Hades is an isolated holding place within which the unrighteous must remain, until it is time for them to be removed.//

            Taken as a story about Hades, this parable contradicts the Law and Prophets. So this probably should not be read as a story _about_ Hades even though it mentions that (any more than it should be read as a story about how rich men should be tormented even though it mentions that)! Taken as a story about Judgment, this parable matches the Law and Prophets.

            //Of course, beyond that, there is certainly more and I wrestle with in the possible meanings of this great divide, some of which might be thought of and expressed like this://

            #1-3 assumes this is about waiting for judgment, when it’s actually about active judgment. So probably not. I’m not sure how you get #4; they are pretty much coexisting during the story, enough to have an amazingly regular conversation. #5 doesn’t explain the chasm’s interpretation, but rather inserts an additional reason for it that’s not given in the Bible (and that’s really only compatible with inherent immortality of evil). #6 seems to assume the parable is intended to address “atonement” as a concept independent of repentance, which doesn’t match its use elsewhere. #7 brings up the concept with which we started this discussion, and I feel I’ve retired that notion.

            With that said, both #6-7 depend on the same idea: that surely there’s some other concept not mentioned in the parable which will override what the parable teaches. And that’s possible, since parables take second place to explicit doctrinal statement — but there’s nothing of the sort you need anywhere in Scripture.

            I said about the chasm’s interpretation: “It’s not the _top_ reason; it’s merely one of the reasons.”

            //What I don’t understand, though, is that if expression #1 is true about the Chasm, then why is this point being made (as you think) among many points and why is it unworthy of being declared as the main (most important) point of the parable?//

            I hope I don’t understand why you’re telling me I have to strap this strawman onto my back while you’re holding that flamethrower :) .

            There are two major mistakes people make with parables: (1) interpreting EVERY element of the parable; and (2) assuming only one element of a parable can be interpreted. You’re demanding that I fall for mistake #2.

            //I mean, this would be the most important point of all time,//

            What… why would you imagine that? How would it change our lives in any way beyond what the Law and Prophets tell us now?

            //yet it’s only mentioned (arguably/seemingly) in a passing manner.//

            That’s not even slightly true. It’s added to an already-sufficient answer and marked as an interpretation by a statement of purpose (“so that”).

            //I’m especially dumbfounded by those who believe this Chasm represents the certain fate of ECT for all who die the first death guilty of sin!//

            Yes, I don’t even think it means torment for as long as the people are in hades. It just means no switching sides, not “this story goes on forever in exactly the same conditions.”

            //Really?…a “besides that” point of this magnitude being buried//

            I hear that you think “beside that” means “I’m about to say something everyone should ignore or consider less important.” But in context, his “beside that” means “I’ve already answered your objection directly and completely, and here’s another independent answer that applies to your question and others you didn’t think to ask.”

            Do you see that Abraham’s first answer completely dealt with the objection, and when he gave the second answer he was giving something _more_ that wasn’t needed by the story? When an author gives something the story doesn’t strictly need, you don’t say “I’ll ignore that”; you say “now WHY did he add that?”

            //in a parable that warns against serving Money as a god? I’m puzzled.//

            More than that, even: it warns about elevating money above the comfort of other people. Elevating it to an even higher status of a supreme importance would be even more of the same thing.

            But again, pointing to one thing a parable talks about does not automatically rule out it _also_ talking about other things.

            //Again, I’m uncertain here. Actually, I probably lean towards what you believe, but certainly can’t declare there is no post mortem repentance because of the Chasm. As expressed in the first part of our conversation, a little evidence (or little, yet most evidence) is not sufficient enough in my mind to declare what is true.//

            It _should_, however, be enough to stop people from saying that there’s no evidence at all. But as we see, it doesn’t work that way. Rather, people work hard to deny the evidence.

            And this applies to me as well. Am I denying evidence?

          • TLY

            You asked,

            //Am I denying evidence?//

            On one hand I don’t think so because there is no explicit evidence to deny, but on the other hand perhaps so with regard to the what Parry presents in Four Views. Graham writes, “But of the four presentations in Four Views, I am inclined to say that Parry’s is the best in the sense of a well argued, compelling case.” So you are denying the evidence for PMR in that sense by disagreeing with arguments composing a “compelling” case. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between “denying” and “refuting” evidence when it’s not clear who is right.

            But, rather than denial, a better question for you is one of whether or not your evidence against PMR is being properly weighed and sufficient enough to maintain PMR isn’t the case. Of course, an ounce of evidence is not worth a pound of proof. Earlier, you indicated sufficient proof against PMR exists from four independent sources by saying, “Four independent possibilities, yes; any of which would be enough.” I do think your scales are off…if we supposed a pound of proof is sufficient to declare something as true, then I’d say you have ounces of proof, yet you see it as four pounds of proof, so to speak. I still remain uncertain about PMR and I do question the weight you give to the evidence supporting a denial of PMR.

            Perhaps the following scale might best frame where I’m at with possibility of postmortem repentance.

            (-10) Certain PMR—(0) unknown—No PMR (+10)

            I’d be in the 1-2 range, yet I’d like the evidence to tip the scales into the (+/-) 5-9 range with either of those two opposing ideas before adopting and/or declaring either to be true. I’d be interested in your number and tipping point.

            //This is true so far as it goes, but you miss that the same phrase also says that people under judgment cannot leave; and that the inability to leave is purposeful and inherent to the judgment itself. //…//So this probably should not be read as a story _about_ Hades…[but] taken as a story about Judgment…//

            So should I understand you to believe that the Rich Man has already resurrected and has already undergone his judgement and is in a state of suffering the punishment of that judgement? If that is the case, I too would think his time for repentance has passed.

            “I am suffering in this fire!”, of course, could be a statement of a man undergoing a punishment imposed after a judgement, but it could also be a statement from a man awaiting judgement with a truthful awareness of the severity of his own hopeless depravity. This could be like the suffering of a mother in a holding cell after being arrested for murdering her five children. She knows the judgement that awaits her. She is now exposed to the reality of the horror she has done. This parable could be the picture painted of the suffering state of the Rich Man, one of a pending judgement that gives purpose to a parable about hades. That picture, however, poses a problem if that state of being in hades is believed to be inoperative.

            I’ve heard the argument that this parable has nothing to do with “hell” before, but I have not heard the argument that this parable has nothing to do with “hades” before. I do appreciate your interaction and thoughtful dialogue here, and you give much to consider to challenge some of the thoughts I “wrestle” with.

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //On one hand I don’t think so because there is no explicit evidence to deny,//

            We agree…

            //but on the other hand perhaps so with regard to the what Parry presents in Four Views. Graham writes, “But of the four presentations in Four Views, I am inclined to say that Parry’s is the best in the sense of a well argued, compelling case.” So you are denying the evidence for PMR in that sense by disagreeing with arguments composing a “compelling” case.//

            Graham is _not_ claiming that Parry presents evidence for PMR (so that I’m denying it); he admits Parry presents the best case of all the cases in the book, but Parry’s case is for universalism, not PMR, and he praises it for being a well argued, compelling case, not for being overall true. Parry’s case actually depends on PMR being true; his evidence could support universalism only if PMR is true. But he doesn’t, and you agree CANNOT, present evidence for PMR, because there is none.

            (It’s only possible to believe universalism by assuming PMR, so it’s not possible to claim that a case for universalism proves PMR; that’s using an assumption to prove itself.)

            //But, rather than denial, a better question for you is one of whether or not your evidence against PMR is being properly weighed and sufficient enough to maintain PMR isn’t the case.//

            Sure, that’s fair.

            //Of course, an ounce of evidence is not worth a pound of proof.//

            I do not accept that one side of an argument must present proof *as opposed to presenting evidence*. From now on, I will act as though you meant “evidence” and “proof” to mean the same thing — that is, both mean _evidence_.

            //Earlier, you indicated sufficient proof against PMR exists from four independent sources by saying, “Four independent possibilities, yes; any of which would be enough.” I do think your scales are off…if we supposed a pound of proof is sufficient to declare something as true, then I’d say you have ounces of proof, yet you see it as four pounds of proof, so to speak. I still remain uncertain about PMR and I do question the weight you give to the evidence supporting a denial of PMR.//

            (Evidence, not proof.)

            I respect that. However, you mentioned _weighting_. Whether you think I have two ounces or two pounds, the other side has zero; and your initial claim was that both sides have zero evidence.

            //I’d be in the 1-2 range, yet I’d like the evidence to tip the scales into the (+/-) 5-9 range with either of those two opposing ideas before adopting and/or declaring either to be true. I’d be interested in your number and tipping point.//

            I find that pleasant and useful, and I don’t reject your right to make up your mind based on your own weights.

            However, I think there’s more good reason to suspect PMR to be probably false, and tragic consequences to affirming it when it’s false. So given that there’s *no* reason to think it’s true and some reason to think it’s false, it makes no sense to provisionally accept it, and tons of sense to provisionally reject it. (Notice that this logic doesn’t really use the scale metaphor — I’m not saying that because the evidence is slightly greater on one side than the other, but because the evidence is *zero* on one side and nonzero on the other.)

            With that said, it’s also true that my evaluation of the evidence — a subjective experience — also gives more weight to the negative evidence than yours does, and I respect that. I don’t ask you to share my subjective evaluation, but I’ve tried to communicate some of the logic behind it.

            More than that, though, I’ve asked you to communicate your personal evaluation accurately, because when we started you were asserting that there was NO evidence in favor of no PMR. Now you admit there’s a little evidence, and that’s very different from none.

            //So should I understand you to believe that the Rich Man has already resurrected and has already undergone his judgement and is in a state of suffering the punishment of that judgement? If that is the case, I too would think his time for repentance has passed.//

            I don’t believe the parable is intended to tell a complete story — we’re not supposed to assume he has or hasn’t been resurrected and judged, and there’s no evidence in the parable that he ever will be (in fact, the parable would be theologically wrong if we took it to mean what it says about, for example, being rich automatically leading to torment and suffering with poverty automatically leading to comfort). However, we can _see_ that he’s being bodily punished, and Abraham says it’s because of his bodily life; and that his punishment is proper to _that_, and cannot be justly reduced aside from repenting during bodily life (that’s the first reason Abraham gives for not sending Lazarus over). From this assertion of _measured justice_ we see evidence that this passage assumes that judgment has somehow been performed — whether it’s happened or not is not part of the parable (although it’s part of the parable that the rich man doesn’t know about the judgment).

            //”I am suffering in this fire!”, of course, could be a statement of a man undergoing a punishment imposed after a judgement, but it could also be a statement from a man awaiting judgement with a truthful awareness of the severity of his own hopeless depravity.//

            It could, except that the story makes it clear he doesn’t know why he’s there, which rules it out as having “truthful awareness”. The man is suffering without (initially) knowing why.

            It therefore makes it hard to interpret the story as motivated by a _subjective_ suffering; it has to be externally caused, and since the man says “fire”, it’s fire in the story (whatever it may be in the reality of which the story teaches).

            //That picture, however, poses a problem if that state of being in hades is believed to be inoperative.//

            This would also be a problem if people believed that birds can’t perch on mustard plants or that beasts with seven heads don’t just climb out of the sea. (In other words, the genre of parable automatically makes the details of setting subservient to interpretation.)

            //I’ve heard the argument that this parable has nothing to do with “hell” before, but I have not heard the argument that this parable has nothing to do with “hades” before.//

            I wouldn’t put it that strongly, but you’re right to express suspicion (quite graciously, BTW, thank you!). What I’d claim here is that in the Bible’s teaching ‘hades’ is not an utterly separate fate from ‘gehenna’ in every sense, but rather is essentially the same, except that in gehenna God will destroy the soul, whereas in hades He does not do so. This is supported by the fact that the Bible considers hades an unjust place for the righteous but the right place for the wicked, as well as by the Bible speaking of _death_ as the destination of the unrepentant, not in general “gehenna” (which is really used by Jesus as a special, extreme case of being deprived of life).

            (The one passage that is often taken to teach that gehenna/hell will have a different kind of death is Revelation’s teaching about “the second death” — but that language is never defined as being different, and actually appears to be better explained as a literary contrast to its opposite, “the first resurrection” — the book never mentions a “second resurrection” or a “first death”.)

            //I do appreciate your interaction and thoughtful dialogue here, and you give much to consider to challenge some of the thoughts I “wrestle” with.//

            I deeply appreciate your grace and diligence as you’ve pushed me to do more than just *assert* my beliefs! Thank you, this has been a very pleasant dialogue for me. (Are you in our Facebook discussion group? You’d be welcome there, I think.)

          • TLY

            //More than that, though, I’ve asked you to communicate your personal evaluation accurately, because when we started you were asserting that there was NO evidence in favor of no PMR. Now you admit there’s a little evidence, and that’s very different from none.//

            When we started I said, “I do find the case for no possibility of postmortem repentance particularly weak” and I tend to agree that there is no EXPLICIT evidence for no PMR. I believe the evidence for no PMR to be questionable and weak rather than nonexistent.

            //From now on, I will act as though you meant “evidence” and “proof” to mean the same thing — that is, both mean _evidence_.//

            I did intend for “evidence” and “proof” to be used communicate two different things. I was using “proof” to mean evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth. I was using “evidence” in the sense that it could be used to support the possibility of something as true, but being insufficient by itself to declare something true.

            For example, a fever is evidence that one has the flu, but it’s insufficient proof that one has the flu. That same evident fever is sufficient proof, however, to declare that person as being sick. But, of course, “flu” and “sick” are different declarations/conclusions. Stated differently, a fever is evidence that one has the flu, but it is not explicit evidence (proof) that one has the flu.

            On my scale where 5 is a tipping point, “evidence” would be in the 1-4 range, where “proof” and “explicit evidence” would be in the 5-9 range. So explicit evidence and proof are similar/equivalent, but evidence and proof are not identical (in the way I am using those words to communicate what I mean).

            With all that, what I see as WEAK evidence for no PMR I do not see as EXPLICIT evidence for no PMR as you seemingly do. On the other side, what Parry presents is not explicit evidence either, but it does contain some weak “scent” of truth and at least a possibility of truth with some plausibility. I see you as holding your nose and then truthfully saying that you “see” zero evidence for PMR, so to speak.

            //Parry’s case actually depends on PMR being true; his evidence could support universalism only if PMR is true.//

            Hmmm, how can a well-argued case with zero evidence be “compelling” when it has no chance of being true? I mean, there is zero evidence the moon is made of cheese, so if someone presents a well-argued case that the moon is made of cheese I would call that crazy, not compelling.

            //It could, except that the story makes it clear he doesn’t know why he’s there, which rules it out as having “truthful awareness”.//

            I see no such clarity about what’s going on in the mind of the rich man, and that his state of mind is a puzzled one. From the information there, I would tend to conclude the state of mind of the rich man to be crazy if he thinks a literal damp fingertip would relieve the physical burning of his tongue. But, if his request is a symbolic request for a sufficient amount of Jesus, the Water of Life (a damp fingertip—the tiniest amount—of the Water of Life would be abundantly sufficient!), then I would tend to conclude a sound state of mind of the rich man that has a new “truthful awareness”. Of course, a damp fingertip of water could represent other things as well.

            //Thank you, this has been a very pleasant dialogue for me. (Are you in our Facebook discussion group? You’d be welcome there, I think.)//

            I’m sure we could continue much longer, but we should probably bring this conversation to an end. It’s been very pleasant, interesting and stimulating for me, and I appreciate your perspectives that challenge my own. We can have your response that follows be the last word, and I’m happy to let that wrap things up for us. Thanks William! (BTW, I’m not in the Facebook group…tempting, yes, but I probably shouldn’t right now.)

          • William Tanksley Jr

            //With all that, what I see as WEAK evidence for no PMR I do not see as EXPLICIT evidence for no PMR as you seemingly do.//

            “Weak” and “explicit” are not antonyms. This is explicit evidence for a lack of PMR for an unspecified duration. The weakness is twofold: the lack of mention of the duration of the non-PMR and the fact that it appears in a parable whose interpretation is up for question.

            In that latter respect I admit the weakness, but either way, it’s still explicit about the inability to perform PMR.

            //On the other side, what Parry presents is not explicit evidence either, but it does contain some weak “scent” of truth and at least a possibility of truth with some plausibility. I see you as holding your nose and then truthfully saying that you “see” zero evidence for PMR, so to speak.//

            I don’t know what to say — you told me that Parry presented no evidence at all for PMR. Now you’re telling me he did. I simply cannot make both statements be true at the same time; I have no idea what you’re talking about.

            I’ve studied Parry pretty well. Parry’s universalism requires PMR; it also requires people getting out of the Lake of Fire. The Bible contains zero explicit evidence of either. However, Parry presents a case arguing that we should believe in universalism for *other* reasons, and then because we believe in universalism, therefore we should believe in PMR and people getting out of the lake of fire.

            Now, this case is NOT evidence for PMR, but you’re telling me I have to treat it as such.

            //Hmmm, how can a well-argued case with zero evidence be “compelling” when it has no chance of being true?//

            Because it’s a case for something completely different from what we’re arguing about. Parry presents a case for universalism. We’re discussing PMR. Two completely different things.

            I said: ‘It could, except that the story makes it clear he doesn’t know why he’s there, which rules it out as having “truthful awareness”.’

            //I see no such clarity about what’s going on in the mind of the rich man, and that his state of mind is a puzzled one.//

            I’m not doing mindreading — the story is completely explicit on that point. Abraham has to tell him precisely why he cannot escape the burning, that it’s because the precise amount of burning he’s receiving is the correct consequence for his lifetime.

            The rich man reacted by ceasing that line of argument, showing that Abraham had actually given him new information (which of course was the apparent purpose of having Abraham speak in the context of the story).

            //From the information there, I would tend to conclude the state of mind of the rich man to be crazy if he thinks a literal damp fingertip would relieve the physical burning of his tongue.//

            Why would you say that? Jesus made almost the same request, and received the same thing the rich man asked for. The similarity is striking, isn’t it? A little water would only have a little effect, but the rich man, Abraham, and Jesus all seemed to think it would briefly relieve the discomfort of dying.

            //But, if his request is a symbolic request for a sufficient amount of Jesus, the Water of Life//

            This is allegorization; you’re taking tiny details that the Bible doesn’t interpret or even treat as important and making them speak loudly. If we’re actually supposed to allegorize in this way, it seems obvious that we should treat the explicit interpretation as a guide, not the other way around.

            And really, if “water” actually meant “Jesus”, this is the strongest anti-PMR text possible.

            God bless, and thank you for conversing. I really have learned from you.

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