The best that I can tell, Annihilationist’ and Universalists have very similar concerns. Both do not like the idea that an all loving and all merciful God would punish a human being in Hell for all of eternity. (Frankly I don’t like the idea either.)
My facebook friend Chad Holtz (the only advocate of universalism that I “know”) presents a reasonable argument: how can God reconcile all things if some things remain unreconciled (Colossians 1:20)? But when I asked him if “all things” included Satan, my question was met with silence.
This is what I call “the Angelic Problem”, and it is just as much a problem for the Annihilationist as it is for the Universalists because it challenges the basic premise: that an all loving and all merciful God would not punish a human being in Hell for all of eternity. To this I ask; would an all loving and all merciful God punish an angelic being in Hell for all of eternity? If the answer is no, then they have some very difficult passages to contend with and not a shred of evidence to the contrary (the scriptures have nothing nice to say about “the evil one”). If the answer is yes, they I would charge that they are being inconsistent in their premise. Why is it that God is too loving to send fallen human beings to hell, but not loving enough to save fallen angelic beings from Hell?
In Matthew 25:41 we read:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’.”
Whatever we can say about this parable and the images in it, one thing is for sure: God will send some to a place (“eternal fire”) prepared for the devil and his angels. In other words, whatever this place of “eternal fire” represents, its intended inhabitants were not fallen humans, but fallen angelic beings. It seems then that some fallen human beings will join their fallen angelic counterparts.
In Revelation 20:10 we read:
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Again, though pregnant with images, we can say one thing for sure: wherever it is that the devil, false prophet and beast are “thrown” (the “lake of fire”), torment will be “night and day forever and ever”. For the Universalist who believes that all things will be reconciled, I ask, what about the angelic beings? For the Annihilationist who with great emotion and sympathy (and rightly so) cannot fathom a God who would throw a fallen human being into a place of Hell “forever and ever” because God is all loving and all merciful I ask, what about fallen angelic beings. Why does God’s love and mercy not extend to them?
Why is it that our sympathy, and thus our image of God’s sympathy, fall short of them?