Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Does Scripture say Hell is Eternal Punishment?

OK, one more summary post on this 'Hot Topic' of Hell. Most Christian denomination teach that Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked. There are some verses that when read alone can make a good case for this belief. There are other verses that imply the consequence for not seeking to live in God's kingdom, is death, perishing, being destroyed, a second death, or not getting to live for eternity.

Either way, eternity with God is a better choice.

If you are of the opinion that you don't understand, and that there are more important things to focus on while living this life than trying to figure out exactly what eternity will look like.. read no further... do not waste another moment on this debate... I agree with you 100%.

Still reading? Then I also want to say that I'm not sure getting this correct is as essential to ones faith as maintaining unity and love. I strongly believe scripture is crystal clear that unity is essential, and love is essential for all in the body of Christ. If attempting to dialog on less essential topics like this causes harm to unity and love, then we should take a break from the dialog and agree to disagree until the Holy Spirit prompts further growth in us.

OK, enough of a preamble... If you think it is important to have a firm position on the eternal conscious punishment in hell, and hold a high view of Scripture, I'd suggest it's worth looking at verses on either side of this issue. I confess I had strong beliefs on this issue for years without searching the scriptures for myself.

Verses That Don't Sound Like Eternal Punishment

Ezekiel 18:4 (NIV)
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.
(Do all souls live forever? - Ezekiel 18:20 repeats "The soul who sins is the one who will die")

Matthew 3:12 (NIV)
"His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
('burning up the chaff' - does this sound like the chaff keeps burning, or burns up.)

Matt 7:13-14 (NIV)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
(Destruction for some... life for others)

Matthew 10:28 (NIV)
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
(destroy both soul and body in hell)

Matthew 19:16 (NIV)
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
(doesn't everyone get eternal life? what does eternal life mean? will those in hell live forever?)

Matthew 19:29 (NIV)
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
(again what does eternal life mean? will those in hell live forever?)

Luke 10:25 (NIV)
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
(again eternal life for some... implies some won't have eternal life.)

Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you to will all perish."
(what kind of perish? Like having a tower fall on them? Not very eternal. If Jesus wanted to say "unless you repent, you to will all be punished eternally in Hell", I think he could have said it, and also found a better analogy.)

John 3:15 (NIV)
that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life
(again eternal life for some... implies some won't have eternal life)

John 3:16 (NIV)
"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."
(did Jesus mean "... shall not have eternal life of torment but have eternal life of bliss"?)

John 3:36 (NIV)
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
(some get eternal life... and others will not see life)

John 4:14 (NIV)
but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
(again eternal life for some... implies some won't have eternal life)

John 5:24 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
(here eternal life means they have crossed over from death to life)

John 6:40 (NIV)
For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
(again not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

John 6:47 (NIV)
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
(everlasting life? will everyone live forever, even those in hell?)

John 6:50 (NIV)
But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die
(who will not die? everyone?)

John 6:51 (NIV)
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
(who will live forever? will those in hell live forever?)

John 6:54 (NIV)
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

John 6:58 (NIV)
This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
(who will live forever? will those in hell live forever?)

John 8:51 (NIV)
I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."
(who will not see death? will those in hell live forever?)

John 10:28 (NIV)
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

John 12:25 (NIV)
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

Romans 2:7 (NIV)
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life
(Do we all possess immortality? Will everyone live forever?)

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV)
which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
(Do we all possess immortality? Will everyone live forever?)

Romans 5:21 (NIV)
so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(not everyone will get eternal life? will those in hell live forever?)

Romans 6:13 (NIV)
Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
(what could it mean to be brought from death to life?)

Rom 6:23 (NIV)
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(death for sinners - eternal life is the gift God is offering)

Romans 8:13 (NIV)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
(sinners will die - those living by the Spirit will live)

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV)
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(some will perish, others are being saved)

2 Thessalonians 2:10 (NIV)
and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
(some will perish, others are being saved)

Galatians 6:8 (NIV)
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
(some will be destroyed, others will receive eternal life)

Philippians 3:19 (NIV)
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
(some will be destroyed)

1 John 2:17 (NIV)
The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
(will everyone live forever?)

1 John 3:15 (NIV)
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
(will murderer's have eternal life in Hell?)

1 John 5:11 (NIV)
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
(Is God giving everyone eternal life? Some get good eternal life, some bad eternal life?)

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (NIV)
"He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power."
(what does destruction mean? Are they destroyed for eternity?)

2 Peter 2:12 (NIV)
But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
(perish and destroyed)

2 Peter 3:7 (NIV)
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
(ungodly men are destroyed?)

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
(what does perish mean?)

James 4:12 (NIV)
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
(some are saved, some are destroyed)

James 5:20 (NASB)
let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(can a soul die?)

1 John 3:14 (NIV)
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
(contrast is death vs life... not eternal torment vs eternal bliss)

Jude 1:7 (NIV)
"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire."
(What kind of example was Sodom and Gomorrah? Are they still being punished? The fire may be eternal, but we know that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.)

Revelation 2:11 (NIV)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Revelation 20:6 (NIV)
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Rev 20:12-15 (NIV)
"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Rev 21:8 (NIV)
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
(What could second death mean? To die a second time, after the final judgment?)

Other Explanations for some of these verses

Some have argued that the word destroyed and perish in some of these verse don't actually mean they die. Some say some of the words would be better translated lost. Others explain that what is meant in some of these verses is that it is simply describing a bad thing that happens to the wicked.

I've read a few of these arguments, but sorry I can't do a good job repeating them. There are simply too many verses here, and they are consistently translated using destroy, perish, death, etc, contrasted with life, eternal life, etc. If we can't trust most of our translations on all these verses, we've got another problem. If there was just one or two obscure verses, I'd consider these arguments...

It's Greek to Me

You may be used to reading these verses in non-literal ways. Not thinking that
  • perish could mean perish or die
  • destruction could mean destruction or die
  • destroy could mean destroy or kill
  • death could mean death
  • eternal life could mean living forever
If you are used to reading parts of some verses literally, but other parts of the same verses figuratively, have you ever asked yourself why? (In a previous post I ask why do we read parts of some verses literally, and other parts of the same verses figuratively?)

Here is some greek if that helps as you try to sort out what the above verses could mean.

Destruction in Matt 7:13, Phil 3:19, 2 Pet 3:7
apoleia ap-o'-li-a: ruin or loss (physical, spiritual or eternal) -- damnable(-nation), destruction, die, perdition, perish, pernicious ways, waste.

Perish from verses like Luke 13:3-5; John 3:15, John 10:28, 1 Cor 1:18, 2 Thes 2:10, 2 Peter 3:9
apollumi ap-ol'-loo-mee: to destroy fully (reflexively, to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively -- destroy, die, lose, mar, perish.

Perish from 2 Peter 2:12
Destruction from Gal 6:8
phthora fthor-ah': decay, i.e. ruin (spontaneous or inflicted, literally or figuratively) -- corruption, destroy, perish.

Destruction in 2 Thess 1:9
olethros ol'-eth-ros: a prolonged form); ruin, i.e. death, punishment -- destruction.

Destroy in Matt 10:28
apokteino ap-ok-ti'-no: to kill outright; figuratively, to destroy -- put to death, kill, slay

Death in Rom 6:23
thanatos than'-at-os: (properly, an adjective used as a noun) death -- deadly, (be...) death.

Eternal from John 3:16
aionios ahee-o'-nee-os: perpetual (also used of past time, or past and future as well) -- eternal, for ever, everlasting, world (began).

Life from John 3:36 (both times)
zoe dzo-ay': life -- life(-time).

(all greek definitions from http://scripturetext.com )

Ok... I could spend another day looking at the greek and checking if 'the' means 'the'.
I guess if someone wants to believe that in all these verses destroy, death, perish, die are not literal but mean "bad stuff happens - like being tormented for eternity" that is up to them.

I find it interesting that the same people who would argue that death and annihilation are not just and fair enough... that the wicked deserve greater punishment than death... will tone down verses that say perish to mean "a loss". Perish is too strong in these verses, because they want the wicked to survive to be tormented for eternity. (???)

Verses That Support Eternal Torment

Matthew 18:8 (NIV)
If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.
Matthew 25:30 (NIV)
And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 25:41 (NIV)
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Matt 25:46 (NIV)
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Luke 16:22-24 (NIV)
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
Revelation 14:9-11 (NIV)
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
Revelation 19:3 (NIV)
And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."
Rev 20:10 (NIV)
"And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Other Possible Explanations for these verses

Matthew 18:8 - does not state if the person would survive in this eternal fire or if they would perish in it.

Matthew 25:30 - people would also weep and gnash their teeth on their way to being destroyed. Again this verse does not state eternal torment.

Matthew 25:41 - again does not state if the person would survive in this eternal fire. It could be similar to Gehenna. Gehenna (translated hell in our Bibles) was a burning garbage dump near Jerusalem which burned forever. Things thrown into the burning garbage dump would be destroyed. The fire burned forever, but the things thrown into it perished.

Matt 25:46 - This one is a bit harder to explain away... it does say "eternal punishment".
For myself I'm fine giving a point to the eternal punishment side. :)
There are some who have alternate explanations for this verse, you can try these:

Luke 16:22-24 - Not sure if this fits the doctrine of Hell - where the wicked go after the final judgment. This story continues describing how the rich man wanted to send someone back to warn his family members who were still alive on earth. If anything this is a description of some abode of the dead before the final judgment - or some purgatory like place.. ???

Revelation 14:9-11 - tormented in the presence of the angels and the Lamb... forever and ever?? Are they being tormented in Heaven or in Hell? This may not be after the final judgment but a separate punishment for those who took the mark of the beast. If you continue reading Revelations there are still people on earth... I don`t have a great understanding of Revelations, but I`m not sure this passage speaks of final judgment for all the wicked.

Revelation 19:3 - again I'm not sure if this great prostitute refers to all the wicked after the final judgement.

Rev 20:10 - The devil, the beast and the false prophets may be eternal beings... they may possess eternal life - and spend it in Hell. This verse may not say anything about eternal punishment for mortals.

Used for either Side

Mark 9:43-48 (NIV)

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where " 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'

This passage is often used to support the idea that hell is eternal. But we also need to consider that Jesus is quoting Isaiah 66:24 here:
"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." (NIV)
Note the reference to dead bodies, not living bodies. Also Gehenna (translated hell in our Bibles) was a burning garbage dump near Jerusalem. Things thrown into the burning garbage dump would be destroyed. The fire burned forever, but the things thrown into it perished.

Two Sides, Which Side To Pick?

There are some verses above that do not fit well in the 'Hell is eternal punishment' box.

There may be some verses above that do not fit well in 'God will annihilate them' box.

I see four options when confronted with a passage that doesn't fit in my box:
  1. ignore the passage
  2. re-word and re-explain it to force it to fit the box (playdough scripture)
  3. Get a different box
  4. admit I don`t understand it, don't know what box to use, and just keep collections of truths and questions scattered around like an unfinished puzzle for now... when/if I need to understand it, I believe the Holy Spirit will guide me to understand the truth.
I vote for option 4.

I'll conclude the belief in the eternal nature of hell is not an essential part of following Christ. If understanding this issue was a requirement of being a Christ follower, I think Jesus would have spent more time describing it.

Maybe, just maybe, we can agree to disagree on this one.

What difference does it make?

Here are some questions to consider:
If scripture was clear, I don't think I'd be asking the above questions. But there are enough verses to give me some doubt. I'd rather admit I don't know for sure one way or the other, than give someone a potentially false image of God.

Either way eternal life with Jesus is still the obvious choice. I'm just questioning if the doctrine of Hell, that most denominations support, is clearly true to scripture. To be destroyed or perish may simply mean that those who do not choose life with Christ do not get to live eternally.


Liz said...

Thank you Jon! We have this discussion at work several times. Some believe in hell some not so much. I think it's a stretch to say there is no eternal punishment, and there is that eternal fire thing, but you sure have given me lots to chew on. Also, I love all the Scripture's you refer to and the original words used. I don't like convenient assumptions and you gave me the backing for either argument. Again thanks.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Liz for taking the time, sorry it was such a long post. There was more scripture than I thought there would be on the death, destroy, perish side... and I doubt I included them all.

Anyways, thanks for being open to looking at the scripture involved in this issue.

God bless!

Rick Lannoye said...

You've done an excellent job pointing out the many Bible verses that call into question the belief that God intends to torture billions of people for all eternity.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website: www.ricklannoye.com), but if I may, let me add one more point from my book to advance your good argument even a bit further--that Jesus did not believe in Hell.

For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the gospels which place Hell on Jesus lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Rick. Yes Luke 9:51-56 does add to questioning the traditional doctrine of hell.

I fear there are some (not all) Christians are like those disciples, hoping God will eternally torture the wicked. They've held back on having so much fun, and see the wicked have fun in their sinful lives. So they look forward to the tables being turned. They look forward to enjoy paradise while those that had fun now get tormented.

What would Luke 9:51-56 say about that?

(I also note that not all translations include the rebuke... and most Christians probably don't feel this way anymore - I think the love Jesus has for the lost is passed on to many of His followers)

Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

first time I read on that blog
very interesting.

and very interesting post

I've read a little about this subject and came through a text called "Hellfire and damnation, four ancient and modern view" by George Hunsinger. And I find that the position held by Barth is very interesting (I don't know very much this theologian, but I agree with what I read in this text. you can see an excerpt here.)

his view is what the author call a "tradition of holy silence" or an "agnostic reverrence"

basically, we cannot totally figure out what is going on in that matter and construct a complete and logic and satisfying "what happen after death if you're not christian" theology with what is said in the Scripture. There is some mystery here that we ought to respect. And when we try to define, explain and understand all and everything, we are forced, and many time we do it unconsciously, to twist many verses in order to make them "fit" in our theology.

Jeremy Myers said...

Wow. Quite the study. I like your questions and love the list of verses you have looked at. Lots for me to chew on. I like that. Thanks for pointing me to this from your comment on my blog.

I read your blog every day through Google Reader, but I somehow missed this post....

Did you read any books or articles to help bring you to these questions? If I ended up doing some further study on this, I would like some good resources.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Jeremy for your comment. I ejoy reading your blog too.

I don't recall any books in particular that got me questioning this.

I read somewhere that much of our beliefs and imagry has come from extra-scriptural sources. Like the stuff you mentioned in your post. So I thought I'd try to take a look at scripture myself.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Jeremy for your comment. I enjoy reading your blog too.

I don't recall any books in particular that got me questioning this.

I read somewhere that much of our beliefs and imagry has come from extra-scriptural sources. Like the stuff you mentioned in your post. So I thought I'd try to take a look at scripture myself.

Lutheran Mafia said...

You missed Jude 1:12-13 where the "twice dead" (second death/death of the soul [Matthew 10:28]) still exist (their spirit persists) and they wander in eternal darkness.

Lutheran Mafia said...

You are missing Jude 1:12-13, where the “twice dead” (second death / soul death [Matthew 10:28]) still exist (their spirits persist) and they “wander… in eternal darkness”.

So the soul is destroyed by the spirit suffers eternal torment. It isn't one or the other, the truth is that it is both; it is just different parts of their being that suffer the two different fates.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Lutheran Mafia for those two verses mentioning a second death. I'm interested in your explanation that the soul dies but the Spirit suffers eternal torment. Is there a passage of Scripture that describes this explanation clearly?

"be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

If I take Matt 10:28 at face value, without being taught the traditional teachings on Hell, I would think Jesus is saying here that the whole person is being destroyed. Neither verse speaks of a Spirit being tormented for eternity.

There are a lot of verses that speak of death, second death, perishing, being destroyed, etc. Christians have come up with all sorts of explanations to fit different teachings. I'm thinking we've overcomplicated it.

Am I missing something? Thanks for contributing.

Anonymous said...

Hiya John
Well there is a lot of food for thought there. I have always believed in eternal punishment though there is a part of me that finds it very disturbing that God could look upon people in agony forever.
I don’t really want to believe in eternal punishment; I get no pleasure, as has been suggested some people have, that I get some sort of pleasure from the thought of people suffering eternally but there are a few verses which I can’t take any other way other than to mean eternal punishment, without making excuses.
Plus we haven’t to lose track of who God is. We can never imagine His greatness while we’re on this earth. The earth and the highest heavens can’t contain Him and that’s just the start. Just look at Hubble pictures on You Tube! His power, presence, love, mercy etc can’t be fully understood and so neither can we understand his wrath, anger justice etc. His big heart (sounds so feeble a description) and His pain in sending Jesus to die for an unbelieving world can never be understood while on this earth and so there must be an opposite I think. The Son of our God and all that He is came to this evil earth from an unimaginable perfect paradise to suffer by just losing all of those heavenly privileges let alone the horror He suffered at the end of His sinless earthly life.
I’ve put it in a clumsy way I know, but maybe we struggle to fully accept the idea of eternal punishment because we have lost a sense of awe in God.The price He paid. He has every right to do whatever He wants with us without our approval. However, I’m not 100% a believer in eternal punishment anymore, not because I don’t believe it’s God’s prerogative but there are scriptures that also sow a seed of doubt.

Jonathan said...

Thanks JennyK for the comment. I hope you sense that I have tried to approach this from position of what does Scripture actually say on this topic. I am not questioning God's ability to do as He wills (within his Character).

You say there are a few verses which you can’t take any other way (eternal conscious punishment). Can I ask which ones? I've tried to take a look at all of them above.

There are many verses that speak simply of death, second death, being destroyed, or not getting to live for eternity. Somehow I used to always overlook them.

But I'm glad to hear you have some seeds of doubt growing. :)

God bless! Thanks for the comment.

LovesGodBlogger said...

Wow, wonderful! Great job! I've needed an outline of scripture references and discussion - "pro" and "con" on this subject, for a long time!

I, like many of us, have a very tough time with the idea of an eternal hell. I don't believe humans have the capacity this side of heaven, to comprehend it.

My dilemma of course, is that I believe in a God of mercy and grace. The two, don't seem to fit together.

However, how does one reconcile the reality of the CROSS and His suffering on our account, with the thought that those that scorn such a "pearl of great price", will in the end -'just get away with it'.

Jonathan said...

Thanks LovesGodBlogger for the comment. Would you say someone getting the death penalty was 'just getting away with it'?

But I agree it is unlikely any of us have a full understanding now of what happens after we take our last breath here. We can just trust that God will continue to be a God of both love and justice in how He deals with each of us.

LovesGodBlogger said...

Hi Johnathan,

I remember years ago, when I first got saved, someone sharing something that described hell, that actually made sense.

The thought of being cut-off completely from the God that created you and every bit of light and love gone and one being totally abandoned to think about the life you've wasted..to me I cannot think of anything worse! Never mind all the physical tortures of hell.

I personally lean towards the Bible teaching eternal punishment, but even if there were a limit, and after initial punishment there came death and nothingness, it would be too horrible to comprehend, if it means eternity without God.

Sometimes I think Christians focus too much on telling people how horrible hell will be in the terms of the physical, but the REAL horror in my view, is life without ones Maker, for eternity.

To your valid question. I hope that I answered it above. Even if the 'death penalty' was all that was received, and there is no eternal punishment, it would certainly not be 'getting away with it', in my view.

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the cool headed dialogue on this often too hot to touch topic. :)

LovesGodBlogger said...

Was that a pun intended?? :)

Jonathan said...


godboldleslie said...

I would like to have an LED counter at my church. It would display the total number of people who have died, say, in the past 4-6 thousand years, with the numbers adding on as the current population is dying at whatever rate, minus, say,10 percent of people who are born again. The display would be titled: Number of people spending the rest of eternity in unremitting agony and torture. How many billions would that be? I believe the wicked will have to pay for thier sins, in whatever degree they have coming to them, but they will perish in the end. I don't believe this God, whom lavishes such tangible love upon me, is really just an sadistic a-hole. And I don't believe he would ever give Satan so much satisfaction.

for sure said...

The penalty for sin is death! However scripture clearly states that all those who do not have Jesus have not life but the wrath of God abides upon them! well Just what is the wrath of God????Since all who have not accepted the sacrifice of sin forgiveness will die! How shall Gods wrath be satisfied?? Punishment for sin is death so what is the consequence of rejecting Eternal Life through Gods own sacrificial death on the cross???

for sure said...

death is the penalty for sin! But what is the penalty for rejecting salvation ?? And for those who do not have the son do not have life but the wrath of God rests upon them!! Define wrath of Gopd

Jonathan said...

thanks for sure for the comment. :)

In this post I primarily wanted to look at a lot of Scripture passages and see which theory they support.

As for the logic questions you pose. Do you think the death penalty for criminals is too weak? Would you support torture of criminals for 25 years or life?

Over and over again I see Scripture contrast eternal life for some, and death for those who reject Him. Who am I to say that is not fair enough.

But I know I'm not in the majority on this... I'd like to encourage others to look at Scripture and dialog around what we've been taught.

God bless.