Imagine there’s … no hell below us. It’s only one half of John Lennon’s famous line, but Christian universalists believe there is a heaven and everyone will eventually get there, leaving no one left in hell and no reason for its continued existence.

That belief is the central tenet of universal reconciliation, the doctrine underlying the popular novel “The Shack” and the new movie of the same name. And according to James De Young, a professor of New Testament language and literature at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, universal reconciliation is a false doctrine.

“They are creating another theology that offers a supposed hope to people beyond the grave, and it is a lie that, for no other explanation, must have come out of the pit, that is from the Devil himself,” De Young declared in a recent interview on “Revealing the Truth” with Rabbi Eric Walker.

De Young, who was once a friend of “The Shack” author William Paul Young, challenged his old friend’s theology in his own book, “Burning Down the Shack: How the ‘Christian’ Bestseller Is Deceiving Millions.”

De Young said universalists believe everyone will ultimately come to God through Jesus Christ and go to heaven, and if they don’t accept Jesus before they die, they will do so after they die.

“The number one principle of Christian universalism is that God is love,” De Young explained. “Love limits God’s other attributes such as justice, holiness and so forth. So it maintains that God is so wrapped up or consumed by love that there cannot be anyone left in the universe who in the end is still hostile toward Him. So hell becomes a place where the fires, figuratively speaking, are purgatorial or corrective or discipline; they are not punishment. And so people go through this, they come to a better sense of who they are, they confess that they need Jesus and they are taken out of hell into heaven, so that in the very end neither the devil nor his angels are left there, and hell ceases to exist.”

One of the problems with that, according to De Young, is Jesus himself said the gate is wide and the road is broad that lead to destruction, and many enter through it, but the gate is small and the road narrow that lead to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). In fact, De Young pointed out Jesus spoke more forcefully about hell and judgment than any other figure in the Bible.

What’s more, the Bible never says hell is only a temporary stopover on the road to heaven, according to De Young.

“There is no verse in the entire Bible that says people can change their destiny after they die,” he charged. “This is a fabrication, and it’s based upon a theory or a reasonable, they claim, understanding of the love of God, and yet they go entirely against scripture. So the bottom line in this is the fact that the authority of scripture is no longer preeminent or persuasive.”

De Young says universalists cherry-pick the parts of the Bible that talk about God’s love while rejecting all those that talk about God’s judgment. However, he understands why universal reconciliation appeals to so many people.

“You’d rather want to believe that God is love, that everybody’s going to go to heaven in the end and so forth; but it isn’t truth,” De Young admonished. “What does the scripture say? And if we’re not going to go by scripture, then whatever Paul Young says, or Rob Bell or anybody else, becomes the standard, and there’s no unity there; there’s no settled truth.

“So it’s a very powerful thing to appeal to people today, especially in our age of plurality, our age of inclusivism. Nobody wants to be exclusive, but Jesus was exclusive. He said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.'”

Is one of the most successful “Christian” books in history actually promoting anti-Christian beliefs? Don’t be fooled. Find out the terrible true story behind “The Shack” and uncover the heretical doctrines being promoted. Your soul could be at stake. “Burning Down The Shack: How the ‘Christian’ Bestseller Is Deceiving Millions” by James DeYoung is available now in the WND Superstore.

And yet, as De Young noted, Christians today find themselves bombarded with arguments that they need to look at everyone as a brother or sister in Christ. In fact, he said, universalism through the ages has focused on the nature of God while giving Jesus shorter shrift because of his exclusive nature. It goes back to universalists’ belief that love limits God’s other attributes.

“There is a de-emphasis on the person of Jesus Christ because he is very exclusive – he’s the only way to God,” De Young said. “They don’t like those statements, so there’s an overemphasis on the fatherhood of God and a lack of teaching about Jesus Christ, and yet when you look at the New Testament and the prophecies of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is preeminent and he’s the one to whom we go for everything: to understand truth, how to find comfort and encouragement in our daily lives, and so forth.”

De Young said Paul Young was far from the first to enunciate the idea of universal reconciliation. Around the third century, a few church fathers embraced the notion God cannot be subverted by lasting rebellion somewhere in the universe, so any rebellion must be reconciled with a God of love.

“The church early on identified this as heresy, but it keeps coming back as time goes on, and in early America it experienced a significant revival and became very powerful for the first hundred years from, let’s say, 1750-1850,” De Young said. “And then Christians started writing to oppose it and it went into decline, but now in 1950 and following it’s experiencing a resurgence.

“And so we have all kinds of people – Rob Bell and Brian McLaren and other people – writing in favor of this, many in the emergent church, and then Paul Young comes along and not only produces a bestseller of a book, but now it’s made into a movie. So the movie advances this kind of thinking to a degree as never before in the history of universalism.”

De Young does not ask Christians to avoid seeing “The Shack” movie; rather, he hopes they will go to the theater with a film critic’s mindset, asking themselves if there are statements in the movie that contradict scripture.

He said he has received emails from several people who found comfort or encouragement in “The Shack.” Many of them had experienced tragedy or brokenness in their lives and could identify with the protagonist. But De Young said those people must realize true comfort and encouragement come from Jesus, who identified with us in our sins. He said this is a problem for universalists, because they don’t believe Christ’s death, which atoned for the sins of the world, was originally in God’s plan.

“The only way we find the comfort of God ultimately to be true is in identifying with the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and if that work was not important, if there was never an atonement for sin, if we had never been redeemed from a lost life, if we’d never been reconciled to God, if we’d never been justified, declared righteous by God, all because of the work of the cross, then whatever comfort and encouragement we find is a false comfort and encouragement,” he declared.

The only anchor of our souls is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to De Young.

“My heart goes out to people who languish in hurt and uncomfortable things and discomfort, but the answer is not to get a false hope and false basis for our comfort, but to find it in the cross of Jesus Christ.”

De Young noted Paul Young is motivated by a desire to fundamentally transform the church, as the author recently declared the church needs another reformation, and he believes it’s already on the cusp of that reformation. De Young, however, thinks the church needs to return to the principles of the Reformation of 500 years ago, the chief principle being the authority of Scripture, which universalists are moving away from.

“Paul Young and other universalists have it as their goal to change the church, and I don’t believe it’s going to happen as they think, because it will never stand up against the word of God,” De Young asserted.

“However, there will be enough people – and this is the tragedy of it all – there will be enough people who will buy into this and it will ruin their lives, and if not their present lives then it sends them to an eternity without hope, without a future life with God; and they’ll spend an eternity in separation from God.”

Is one of the most successful “Christian” books in history actually promoting anti-Christian beliefs? Don’t be fooled. Find out the terrible true story behind “The Shack” and uncover the heretical doctrines being promoted. Your soul could be at stake. “Burning Down The Shack: How the ‘Christian’ Bestseller Is Deceiving Millions” by James DeYoung is available now in the WND Superstore.

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