I would love to remove all the verses and images of God's judgment but it is just not possible. It diminishes the very need for the cross. If I can live a life completely consumed with myself, without having to come under the authority of Christ, and still be in heaven with Christ, why would I live a life like Paul (beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, persecuted from every angle)?

When this paradigm of Ultimate Restoration is first presented it immediately creates a confusion over the purpose of the cross. This is because we have believed that salvation was a rescue from primarily a location and not from a condition. But we are told that "the wages of sin is death" not an eternal place of torture. The cross was a redemption from a "body of death" that included a physical death as well as a mindset of death ("the mind of sinful man is death" Rom 8:6). Our need of the cross is indeed desperate for without it we are left in our sins and its penalty of death which we have experienced its permeation into every area of our lives.

To say that it diminishes the need for the cross is to have been blinded by the doctrine of an eternal hell to the extent that we have traded our fear of sin for the fear of an eternal hell. We need to understand that we have been rescued from sin itself! We have been saved from the condition of a sinful mind and it's resulting death affecting every area of our lives, not from a location out there in the future. Yes, our lives here do have serious ongoing implications into the coming ages but we need a fear of sin (coupled with an absolute 100% confidence in God's love) to replace our fear of an eternal hell to empower godly lives here, in the now.

Since Christ's death rescued us from sin (death from carnal minds, Rom 8:6) then your point about "If I can live a life consumed with myself, without having to come under the authority of the cross " reveals you believe the cross was primarily to rescue you from a location and not from the condition of death caused by your sin. When you see that Christ died to deliver you from sin and it's resulting death your devotion to Christ will soar and you will even be willing to die for Him! It's His love, goodness and kindness that,"leads us to repentance" and changes us, not cruel threats!

To assume we are saying that we can live a totally selfish life "and still be in heaven with Christ" is because again, you are failing to see the purpose of the cross. It was first to eradicate through death the death we inherited through the first Adam and the subsequent agreements we make with it everyday (choosing sin is choosing death). Also God said He will not be mocked; sin will have consequences and He seems to have His methods for "bringing us to our senses" as in the case of the prodigal son or of Saul. We can be sure there will not be anything left of the Sauls of this world by the time they reach the "pearly gates", they will only answer to the name of Paul.

I will end by saying that this fear of an eternal hell that has eclipsed the fear of sin itself has not proven to be an effective restraint for sin within the Church. I do not think anyone would argue that the Church has little to show for a people who claim to believe in a big cross and a big Savior.

Personally, I have never experienced the level of love, joy, worship and desire to please God than since I traded my fear of an eternal hell for gratefulness for His deliverance from the source of the problem, my own sinful nature. I thank Him that He lifts me up from the grave of my "body of death" and gives me a new life with a new identity to be a part of a new people in this world. A people with a heart finally in alignment with Him, the Source of all this world needs to be healed and free. That is the great exchange and that is again, the Good News of the Kingdom.