Do not mistake God’s justice for punishment. Biblical justice is defined as grace! 1 John 1:9 “He is faithful and just to forgive.” Justice in the Western legal system is often equated to punishment: the criminal gets his just deserts. However, God did not send Jesus to die in order to exact his retributive-justice upon Jesus for our sins. Jesus’ blood cleanses, purifies and washes away the sins of the world. Forgiveness, mercy, grace; not Western-legal-justice!
There is no punishment for sin, and there actually never has been. Romans 3:25 says God had left sin unpunished and Jesus’ death revealed a justice apart from the law! This means it was not punishment for disobedience according to the law: God left failure to comply with OT law unpunished. Instead Jesus’ death: the God-man surrendering to our sin-consequence of death; brought about healing from the disease of sin – a disease which warps our minds until so many of us are actually deluded enough to believe that God would rather punish us than forgive us!
If we misunderstand the justice of God we also misunderstand Hell! While God disciplines those he loves, he does not punish anyone. Discipline has the goal of bringing us to repentance and change, but punishment that is eternal would indicate the person being punished cannot be and has not been forgiven. Parents discipline their children because sin can have some really awful consequences (consequences are not punishment). Why would God who is our unconditionally loving father, opt to punish any of his children for all eternity?
I do not believe in the traditional Western-Christian concept of Hell. Whatever and wherever Hell is, I believe God is there; He loves us there; and He is fully capable of rescuing us out of there. Psalm 139:8 If I make my bed in Hell, behold, he is there! 1 Samuel 14:14 God devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him! Mal 3:2 Refers to the refiner’s fire and Hebrews 12:29 tells us God is a consuming fire. We also know from 1 John 4:16 that God is love. I understand Hell, not to be a place where God is separate from us, but rather where God is an all-consuming fire of love (metaphorically).
So any people in Hell will be shown that God is love and that Jesus is the way the truth, the life and the narrow door into Heaven. When they stop trying to save themselves by their works and surrender to the fact that God has done everything to save them, thereby repenting; then they are ready to enter into Heaven. Repent means to change one’s mind. We all need to repent of thinking that our works, fruit, theology, denomination, religion, nationality or sexuality affects our entry to Heaven and realise that Jesus is the only way and he has saved the day for all of us!
One of the reasons I believe people can move from Hell to Heaven, is because there are times in the Bible where the word eternal occurs that are mistranslations of the word aionios from which we derive the word aeon. Aionios refers to a quality of life in the age to come which is not limitless at all. Secondly, there are no verses that explicitly say we must put our faith in God before we die, or it’s too late. There is one in Hebrews that says: “It is appointed for a person once to die and then comes judgement.” But the word judgement in the Bible (just like justice) has been misconstrued by the Western idea of judgement which we take from our legal system. The book of Judges in the Bible was very clearly a book of rescuers (Judges 2:16). Judgement and salvation go hand in hand in Scripture.
Thirdly, Philippians 2:10 tells us that every knee will be in Heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Furthermore Revelation 21:25, which occurs after the end of the world and after Judgement/Salvation day etc., says that “On no day will Heavens gates be shut … The nations will be brought into it!” Revelation 22:17, one of the very last verses in the Bible says: “The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty …” (like the rich young man in Hades – a Hades which will be emptied according to Revelation 20:13) “… Come and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life!” This is the finale to the entire Bible. God beckoning that people should come to Heaven after death!