In my series, A Universalist Looks at the New Testament, I’m going through the New Testament and pointing out verses that look different if you don’t start with the assumption that the hell Dante wrote about is real. I’m a Christian Universalist who believes that through Christ, God will save everyone, though many will face judgment first, judgment that will be corrective, judgment that will help them finally see the light. And I believe this fits well with what the Bible teaches.
The book of Jude is about judgment coming to ungodly people. I don’t disagree. It’s meant as a warning, and should be taken as a warning.
However, there’s strong evidence that where the translation seems to indicate the judgment is eternal — that is not a good reflection of the original.
Look at verse 7, which talks about Sodom and Gomorrah: “They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
In the first place, Sodom and Gomorrah is not still burning. In the second place, the Greek word used here is eonian, which means “of the eons,” or “of the ages,” and can indicate an indefinite period of time, or just fire in another age.
Here’s how the Concordant Literal New Testament translates it: “a specimen, experiencing the justice of fire eonian.”
Verse 6, before that one, in the New International Version says, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling — these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”
Hold on! If they are bound for judgment on the great Day — then how would those chains be everlasting?
Verse 13 has more, saying in the New International Version, “They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”
The Concordant Literal New Testament puts it this way: “wild billows of the sea, frothing forth their own shame; straying stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been kept for an eon.”
So yes, there will be judgment. But in the great love of God, the judgment has a purpose. It’s not suffering for the sake of suffering, as if that would make up for sin. It’s to turn sinners back to the Lord who loves them; it’s to heal their flaws in purifying fire.
Let me close with the benediction at the end of Jude from the Concordant Literal New Testament. It’s less smooth English, but you see that it doesn’t diminish the glory of this passage:
Now to Him Who is able to guard you from tripping, and to stand you flawless in sight of His glory, in exultation, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, might and authority before the entire eon, now, as well as for all the eons. Amen!