Death before death?
I've long been concerned about the traditional view of hell as a place of perpetual torment, but have been unable to accept the alternative of ultimate salvation for everyone. I finally read a piece, which at this stage makes more sense to me than either of the other views. That does not mean it is right. Both the author (Tom Wright) of the piece and another I respect (Howard Eberle) point out that it is not specifically taught (as are neither of the alternatives) in the Bible, but it is more consistent with what is actually taught in the Bible. Anyway, I've truncated this down to a relatively short piece - make of it what you will. It doesn't provide a nice ending for all (in fact it's quite scary), but neither does it portray God as exacting eternal punishment.
"First, they all stem from the primal fault, which is idolatry, worshipping that which is not God as if it were. Second, they all show the telltale marks of the consequent fault, which is subhuman behaviour, that “missing-the-mark” as regards full, free and genuine humanness for which the NT's regular word is hamartia, “sin”. (dehumanising behaviour) Third, it is perfectly possible, and it really does seem to happen in practice, that this idolatry and dehumanisation become so endemic in the life and chosen behaviour of an individual, and indeed of groups, that, unless there is a specific turning away from such a way of life, those who persist are conniving at their own ultimate dehumanisation."
"When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance and worship to that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God. … My suggestion is that it is possible for human beings so to continue down this road, so to refuse all whisperings of good news, all glimmers of the true light, all promptings to turn and go the other way, all signposts to the love of God, that after death they become at last, by their own effective choice, beings that once were human but now are not, creatures that have ceased to bear the divine image at all."