Charisma magazine writes, “At one point, Bishop Carlton Pearson pastored Higher Dimensions Family Church, a Pentecostal megachurch of over 5,000 people in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was mentored by Oral Roberts and served on the board at Oral Roberts University. Then Pearson declared that he no longer believed in hell and preached what he called the “gospel of inclusion.” As a result, he was forced to resign from ORU’s board of regents and was deemed a heretic by his former peers. He traded his Pentecostal ministry for universalism.

“Pearson’s story is now the subject of a new Hollywood film, Come Sunday, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.”

I’m very familiar with this tragic story. When I attended Bible school in  Tulsa in the early to mid-1980s I’d periodically visit Pearson’s church because I enjoyed his dynamic preaching. It shocked me to hear of how he’d become a universalist. In the following movie clip, Pearson played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, asks one of the religious clerics in a court room-like scene, “If you could get your daddy out of hell, would you?” And then, “Are we more merciful than God?” implying that God’s love and mercy will not allow anyone to go, or at least remain, in hell.

Come Sunday

The biggest tragedy in this film involves those who will believe its message. The issue of the ‘no hell’ universalist doctrine is not one of mercy in allowing sinners out of hell or  refuting its existence altogether, but it is one of God’s eternal justice that has been forever settled by Scripture. The question should be: Is our sense of justice greater than God’s?

It is because of God’s holy and just nature that He by no means will clear the guilty (Ex. 34:7) (Nu. 14:18) but must uphold and execute His Law.

What would you think of a judge who did not uphold the Law? Sin is the transgression of the Law (1 Jn. 3:4). It is the transgression or the crime that must be penalized. What if your own daughter was violently raped or your son was murdered ? Or your wife, husband, a mother or father? Would you not want justice served? What if a judge cleared the guilty because the criminal’s good works outweighed his crime? Would that hold up in man’s courtroom? If such a system does not exist in man’s courtroom, would it hold up in God’s courtroom? This would not be mercy at all but the gravest of injustices? Yet people think that God’s mercy will automatically forgive man’s sin and allow guilty sinners entrance into heaven. Such an unscriptural mercy does not exist!

Anyone who suggests that God can show mercy while foregoing His justice is ignoring His holy and just nature and His Law of sin and death. What kind of faith could we have in a God who ignores the Laws He Himself established? What kind of hope and trust could we exercise toward a God like that who is fickle and whimsical and does not uphold His own Word?

God cannot disregard His own Word and His own laws. When it comes to sin God cannot ever set aside His justice to show mercy. The soul that sins must die (Ez. 18:20), and yet God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ez. 33:11). This presents quite a dilemma. It is not an easy thing for God to clear the guilty. So the question is: Is there a basis by which God can maintain His justice while still extending mercy to the sinner?

God’s justice and mercy are not contradictory to each other, but they are complementary and in perfect balance. From the beginning of Adam’s fall the forgiveness of sins has not been a simple matter for a holy God. God cannot just show mercy to a sinner without the sinner’s transgressions being punished and satisfied by the claims of justice. No earthly judge will do that. How much more just is our God? Here are three things that our perfectly loving God, who is  infinitely holy and just, can never say to any man:

  1. It’s okay that you sinned: forget about it, I forgive you.
  2. Because of My love I won’t judge you.
  3. I don’t love you anymore because you sinned.

Once again, God’s love and justice do not oppose each other. God loves sinners and desires none to perish, but He must execute judgment and punishment on their sin. So the question rephrased again is:

How can a holy and righteous God extend mercy toward a guilty sinner while still upholding His justice?

Enter Jesus. Enter the cross. The beauty and majesty of the cross is that we see both the judgment and the mercy of God displayed there. God placed our sin on the sinless Son of God and satisfied the Father’s justice while also granting us the free offer of salvation that satisfied His mercy.  This is the LOVE OF GOD! – His justice and mercy rolled up into one in order to redeem a sinful and disobedient people. God pronounced judgment on sin, but because of His love He paid for it Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.

God is both a Judge and a Savior who established a perfect righteousness. That is why the movie, Come Sunday, is a serious indictment against God’s perfect character, and although the acting is admirable, the theme of the movie is most despicable. God is not on trial. We are.

May God grant Carlton Pearson a revelation of God’s perfectly holy and just nature and bring him to subsequent repentance, so that then he may understand, appreciate, and receive God’s true mercy.

“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord” (Pr. 17:15).

For more on this theme please refer to The Real Gospel

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  1. Brother Bert,
    I have always found great perspective in the statement that God doesn’t send anyone to hell, people make that choice.

    I, too, visited Higher Dimensions in Tulsa when I was a student at Rhema in the early 90’s—I lived a half a mile away from the church off of Memorial Ave. There were many wonderful guest speakers and the praise and worship was awesome. I was heartbroken to hear years ago that Pastor Carlton Pearson was going off of sound biblical doctrine even after Oral Roberts, and other Christian leaders, spoke to him and tried to help him get back on track. His doctrinal error has increased over time—a little leaven really does leaven the whole loaf. I, too, feel compelled again to stand in prayer for him and those who are following him with this new movie.

    I had to ask myself, how does this happen to a minister who knows the Truth and hears from God? The take away for me has been: never complain when someone is teaching the ABC’s over and over again. Be careful when you hear yourself saying, “I’ve heard this before” and “I already know that.” The basics are the foundation of everything else we believe. Like any foundation, it needs to be maintained or everything you have built upon it will collapse. (A poignant lesson living in hot, dry Tulsa—homeowners had to frequently water the foundation of their home or it would crack. Likewise, we need to water our spiritual foundation with the water of the Word.)

    A few years back, our senior pastor asked me to put together a Bible Basics course for new believers. Honestly, I was “quietly” less than thrilled about the assignment. However, I began to break it down, pull out my reference books, and the Bible, and began the task of simply explaining the foundational truths of our faith to new believers. Time after time, revelation would come like a flood, a rush, a blessing! I said more “glory to Gods!” in that time of preparation than at any other time preparing a message. How sweet, how precious, and how powerful these truths are. I had a new found love and appreciation for what we call the “basics,” and it was a joy and a thrill to teach them over and over again, because every time I did, it ignited something in me.

    Every truth in Christ has unlimited revelation and every known revelation needs to be stirred up to stay alive and active within us—a constant reminder of why we believe what we believe. The Body of Christ has had itching ears and many ministers fear losing their crowd if they teach the ABCs, but woe to the believer who thinks he/she is “beyond” those messages. You will find yourself tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. If a believer doesn’t think it can happen to him/her, then that’s a red flag!

    Thanks, Brother Bert for letting us know about this movie and its implications—sobering, timely, and a call to prayer.

    • Hi Barbara! I, too, have thought much about the basics of our faith and have actually had a strong desire to publish a book on Hebrews 6, the elementary principles of Christ. Not too many churches, especially the faith churches, have this in their arsenal. There is much about the new creation realities, new birth, baptism of Holy Spirit, authority of the believer, faith, healing etc. but I’ve not seen much on the actual Hebrews 6 principles – especially repentance, the resurrection, eternal judgment. Whatever materials or notes you might have on these feel free to pass them on to me, as this is an ongoing project of mine now.

      I didn’t know you lived in Tulsa. I was just there filming for our Arabic program. The weather was not not hot and dry at all, but cold and even icy – a rarity for Tulsa.

      Thank you for sharing some interesting thoughts. Do we know each other or have we personally met? And what is your last name?

      Blessings to you!

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