Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.
Eternal Judgement implies that there will not be an appeals court after the Great White Throne Judgement. God’s assessment will stand and therefore His sentencing is irrevocable.
We are going to look at the theme of eternal judgment as it is defined by the Bible which we believe to be the only and ultimate source of authority in Christian faith and practice.
Eternal punishment is the lake of fire. This is not a pleasant topic but not a new one either.
The idea of a good place and a bad place after death is not unique to Christianity. In fact every culture and every religion recognizes justice and injustice. and except atheism, contemplates a place after death where of recompense for actions done in life. In philosophy it exist in the writings of Plato, as Psyllium and Tartarus. And in every tribal religion remains the question of where are the departed?
The idea that there is a good place and a bad place is inherent within human nature. We are made in God’s image and eternality is common to us. The universe is moral. Despite the many arguments to the contrary everyone understands good guys and bad guys. And if you say, well, this is good here but its bad over there… Really? You need to get out more.
Ro 1 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
I want to look at some of the challenges against the concept of eternal punishment as described in the Bible.
First I want to explain the difference that people mix up and confuse.
1 English: Hell in Hebrew is Sheol – place of departed souls 65 times
2. English: Hell is Hades – this equivalent to Sheol 11 times
3. Re 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell HADES delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
English: Hell is Gehanna – Valley of Hinnom. Garbage dump. Place of torment, punishment 12 times 11 by Jesus 1 by James
Re 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
From an intellectual perspective there are a few reasons why people have chosen to abandon the idea of eternal judgment. One of these is on sentimental grounds. Without logic or rationale many people simply are repelled by the concept of unpleasantness. This is denial however, does not change the reality that there exists in many unpleasant experiences in life.
Another argument against hell is that it produces fear in fear is considered sociologically unhealthy. Either because of intentional proclivities or merely be in ability of the English language to micro-articulate not all fears our phobias. Fear is a necessary, important and useful function of character which can preserve your life and avoid many treacherous incidents. On the other hand, phobia is an obsession which is not necessarily predicated upon accurate assessments of danger. Any thing unwarranted and in access is considered a pathos. This is not a useful fear but a disruptive fear and unnecessary inhibition.
Another reason for the argument against hell is based upon our definition of punishment as either been rehabilitative or to restore but not deterrent. Retribution, or punitive payment without the beneficial results is contrary too popular thinking. In regards to rehabilitation, Hell serves no function as the sentence of hell is eternal. It is still possible however and even suggested by our Lord Jesus that’s the fear of hell be a deterrent, That is in a place you do not want to go.
Mt. 10: 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Others hold a moral objection that the eternal punishment of hell is not commensurate to eight short life of sin. This implies that the wages of sin have a quantitative value which is surpassed by a quantitative punishment and therefore unjust. This also stems from the idea that the desecration of sin has already been assessed by natural man. When truthfully men do not understand the vitriolic assault and offense of sin against God. Man has made his own assessment and assume that the judge of all things should agree with their assessment of the charges period. Plainly there is a misunderstanding of the value of sin.
Others contend that the existence of hell philosophically proves that God has failed in his endeavor to make all things good. This argument is based upon a false premise that the existence of evil negates good. But good is not a comparative word. Only God is good Jesus stated. Something maybe better than something else by some one’s assessment but that that exercise is arbitrary free will in choosing to qualify the differences. Therefore the existence of free will allows for the difference between evil and righteous. The fact that God gave men free will to be bad if they choose does not mean God failed. The blame for failure correctly rest upon Adam by whom sin entered the world and the human race, not on God who gave Adam the free will with which to choose. The failure is not God’s but Adam’s.
There is also an argument against hell from a theological viewpoint which simply states that God is love. Here again we have a definition problem as well as an application problem. God is love. This does not dilute or impair his judgment, In fact just judgment is a prerequisite for mercy. Without true and just judgment mercy has no value, and that’s why the scripture States that mercy rejoices against judgment. Eternal punishment is not chastisement. Chastisement serves for correction, Instruction and is beneficial to the well-being of the person being chastised. This is obviously not the case for people in hell as hell was not correctional but punitive and the choice of those who are there. Love is an attribute in essence pertaining to God, In fact God is love, but this does not remove his other attributes but rather harmonizes with that. C.S. Lewis wrote:” Hell is locked from the inside”. People are not in hell because God did not chose to love them but rather because they choose not to love God. Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live:
If we conclude a relationship in the afterlife based upon the actions during life then we must do one of two things.
1. to simply deny all concepts of justice or
2. we must seek an alternative.
If there is no hell what is the alternative?
Some would say that hell was simply the consequences of your decisions during this life and in essence you make your own hell here on earth.
But this cannot be axiom because many innocent people suffer in life and many horrible people don’t. Reality does not concur with this idea.
Or some would say that the consequences of this life are realized in the next. This is a problem.
Another idea is that God will eventually save everyone. Everyone forgiven, everyone excepted, everyone given eternal Life in quality and quantity. This is universalism. It also means that you have no free will. You will be forced to live with God even if you choose not to. This is scripturally untenable.
Another argument is annihilation. This assumes that the unrighteous will simply become extinct upon death. This means there is no justice. Extinction is no punishment or retribution at all.
Another annihilation says that the unrighteous will only be punished to the degree they deserve and then will cease to exist. The idea assumes that the atrocity of sin is measurable by human terms and is therefore a false premise. The Bible states that punishment is eternal. Eternal punishment is appropriate for sin. To disagree with this is simply to disagree with the God of the Bible, who is judge. We have no choice but to play by his rules and not ours. Another error of annihilationism is that the Greek meaning of the word is not accurately used and in Revelation 14 verse 11 and Revelation 20:10
Revelation 14:11 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
and then again in
Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are,and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
the idea of “for ever and ever” is understood by annihilation to be temporary. The argument simply states at the Greek word means for a limited time. however this same Greek phrase is used consistently throughout scripture referring to attributes of God who is obviously not “for a limited time”.
It’s as if 1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen, should really read Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for a limited time. Amen.
You cannot believe in the Eternality of God and refuse to accept the Eternality of punishment scripturally.
To further clarify the time frame of punishment, it was Jesus when describing the separating the righteous and the wicked:
Mathew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Mathew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels who neither die, terminate or have forgiveness. The lake of fire is eternal punishment for the devil and demons. They are not in charge, it is not their playground it is their eternal punishment for rebellion and desecration of God’s character which they willingly chose to leave their first estate for. Hell was not designed to be temporary. For those who say hell is only for the fallen angelic beings, the bible says the in Revelation 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Note that the beast and the false prophet are human beings.
Also Jude verse 7 says; Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Currently suffering – not suffered
WHO CAN GO TO HELL?
Almost all of the New Testament teaching on hell is found in the Gospel of Matthew. Mark and Luke only mention hell 3 times each and John says nothing. The Gospel of John was written to mature believers where in the Gospel of Matthew was written to immature believers the two remaining gospels Luke and Mark were written to unbelievers. In Matthew Jesus is addressing the believers, His followers, those people who accepted him and endeavored to follow him. Matthew is a discipleship manual that puts the teachings of Christ into 5 basic blocks regarding the Kingdom. Hell is addressed 9 times by Jesus in Matthew. 7 times to his disciples and 2 times to Pharisees.