Q. We are taught our whole lives about hell but the Bible says “God is not willing that any should perish” and what ever God wills, is. Also, hell is referred to as fire and brimstone or the refining fire which was used to heat metals hot enough to separate the gold from the waste. Is it possible that everyone is saved but some have to go through a refining process or some hold lesser offices in heaven than the elect?
A. It’s clear from Scripture that while God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) many do. The story of the rich man and Lazarus alludes to the unsaved being tormented in the Lord’s time (Luke 16:19-31). According to Matt. 25:41 those who survive the end times and remain unsaved at the 2nd Coming will be thrown into the eternal fire then. In Rev. 20: 11-15 a multitude of unsaved dead will be resurrected for judgment at the end of the Millennium and thrown into the fire. And Rev. 21:8 also speaks of sinners in the Lake of Fire.
What this tells us is that it’s not God’s will that prevails where salvation is concerned, but man’s. Matt. 7:7-8 refers to this choice when it says “Ask and you will receive … ” . We all deserve eternal punishment. God is not going to send anyone to hell because He doesn’t want anyone to go there. But many will choose to go there by refusing to ask for and receive the remedy He provided for their sins when He sent His Son to die for us. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
By the way, it’s not hell that’s referred to as the refiners fire but the Great Tribulation. That’s when the believers of Israel will be separated from the unbelievers. (Zech. 13:9)