Tag Archives: Philosophy

Dissecting The Argument For Hell

I read an article the other day that was fairly well written in favor of hell, although wrought with false presumptions. I figured it would be good to present an opposing side for reference. I include my lengthy response which I left in the comments section. It is a little less polished than my usual articles, but gives you my basic response to pretty much all of the arguments found in the article.

Here is the article by J. Brandon Burks:

http://pilgrimandshire.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/what-does-the-bible-say-about-hell/

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MY RESPONSE:

First of all, I want to express my respect for you and your views as a fellow believer, although I disagree 100%. I will explain why. I have no doubt we both approach the subject with the highest regard for the truth. I will point out some inconsistencies in your analysis as well as some false assumptions in the article.

1) Concerning the definition of Gehenna (spoken by Jesus, translated as hell):

“[D]erived from the Hebrew place-name meaning ‘valley of Hinnom’ and came to be used in NT times as a word for hell. The valley south of Jerusalem now called Wadi er-Rababi (Josh. 15:8; 18:16; 2 Chron. 33:6; Jer. 32:35) became the place of child sacrifice to foreign gods [e.g., Moloch]. The Jews later used the valley for the dumping of refuse, the dead bodies of animals, and executed criminals. The continuing fires in the valley (to consume the refuse and dead bodies)…”

We can see that the valley itself lends itself to an annihilationist’s view. It admits that the continuing fires consumed dead bodies, not tortured live ones. And the child sacrifices would kill the child and did not include prolonged torture that I am aware of.

The definition then makes a statement and provides no facts to back it up:

“The continuing fires in the valley (to consume the refuse and dead bodies) apparently led people to transfer the name to the place where the wicked dead suffer”.

Here is provided no proof of how Gehenna came to be defined this way. It also provides no proof that this change in meaning was divinely sanctioned. It is obvious that the Old Testament did not define the name that way. So even if the name changed, we would have to assume that it was not changed by God, but men. The nature of the valley “led people to transfer the name”. Notice, that the transfer of connotation excludes divine revelation. It was changed by people, not God.

It then makes the leap of saying:

“… The NT uses ‘Gehenna’ to speak of the place of final judgment.”

This is an assumption, which also ignores the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d. (roughly 40 years after Jesus’ ministry) as a possible object of Jesus’ warnings. I do believe the warnings of Gehenna were typological of judgment to come. However, it must be proven that Jesus directly taught that Gehenna was a place of eternal suffering, instead of merely alluding to an unscriptural (and still unproven) Jewish opinion. In fact, in the non-canonical Apocrypha, Hades, not Gehenna was used as a place of eternal punishment.

And even if Gehenna was referring to a place of eternal torment, the facts are that: 1) no gentile was ever warned of it in the Bible, 2) Jesus warned his disciples of it 9 times, and unbelieving Jews were only warned twice, 3) no one in Scripture ever mentioned Gehenna other than James, who used it figuratively, 4) no person in the Bible was ever portrayed as existing in Gehenna after death; nor was it suggested that anyone goes there in the afterlife, 5) since Gehenna was the name of a literal valley, to interpret it literally, hell would be that valley. And it is clear that most humans will not go to the valley of Ge Hinnom upon death. Would Jesus have used the proper name of a valley to define a literal place of eternal torment? That it is typological I can agree, but the immediate reference is to a literal valley.

2) Concerning the definition of Hades (translated in certain passages as hell):

Notice that:

“The Greek noun hades is used 61 times in the Greek OT (Septuagint) to translate the Hebrew term she’ol… Hades in the NT, on the other hand, can represent a place of torment for the wicked.”

This is important, because the definition you provide of Sheol refers to it as a “place of pain and distress” and “the place of the unrighteous dead”. Yet, this definition of Hades differentiates it from Sheol as a place of torment for the wicked.

The references given to prove that it is a place of torment do not prove this. Matt. 11:23 and it’s parallel Luke 10:15 contain no references to torment and could easily refer to the grave. It is clear that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 is the only basis for Hades being a place of torment in the Bible. I have written in depth on my blog about why the parable cannot be teaching literal truths about the afterlife; and will not seek to explain here. However, the fact that it is supposedly used of hell conflicts with the idea that Gehenna was the word Jesus used for hell. What purpose would He have in confusing us with multiple terms?

The definition also confirms that Hades and Sheol are equivalent to and translated as the grave:

“Where the term hades is used as the equivalent of the Hebrew she’ol, as it is in Acts 2:27, 31 where Peter is quoting Ps. 16:8-11, it refers simply to the grave.”

This again proves that Sheol is not equivalent to hell. And the assumption that Hades refers to two totally different concepts in different places in Scripture is a matter of opinion. There is no reason it should not be referring to the same thing in Scripture. And translations have varied, some translating it as hell in places and others translating it as the grave or death in the same places.

The KJV clearly shows the confusion of terms here with Hades when it says in Rev 20:14: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”. Indeed, Hades cannot be a place of eternal torment. This is clear.

3) Concerning the definition of Sheol (translated in some passages as hell only in the KJV):

Strong’s Concordance defines it as “underworld (place to which people descend at death)”. I have never read of it being defined as merely the abode of the unrighteous, as your definition claims. Encyclopedia Britannica states that “In Sheol, the good and the wicked shared a common fate, much as they had in the Babylonian underworld. The place did not conjure up images of an afterlife, for nothing happened there.”. Nor does Scripture state that it is limited to the wicked. We should really stick to facts, and not assumptions in our definitions.

Jacob said: “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.” (Genesis 37:35). If you examine the Hebrew, it includes the preposition el, which means “unto”. That is why Jacob said he will go “down to Sheol to [el] my son”. He was obviously going to where he assumed Joseph was. Did he assume Joseph was in a place of torment? And he states with no reservation “I will go down to Sheol”. Was he saying that he would go to a place of torment or the abode of the unrighteous? Certainly anyone would say these days “I will go to my son in Heaven”, not to hell. At the loss of a family member no one says: “I will go down to hell”.

The statement: “separated from Yahweh spiritually and morally” is pure assumption. The verses cited (Isa. 38:18; Ps. 6:5-6) do nothing but prove that no one praises God in the grave. I don’t read “spiritual or moral separation” anywhere.

The fact that Sheol referred to here as a place of destruction (Isa 38:17) also does not help the case that it is a place of separation from God. Something that is destroyed is not preserved and tormented. This more accurately fits the grave.

You use Psalm 116:3 to supposedly show that Sheol is a place of pain. However, it is clear that the passage is a reference to the mental terrors of the psalmist in thinking of death. “The cords of death encompassed me And the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow.”. Unless the psalmist went to Sheol, he wouldn’t have felt the pain of it. And you assert that no unrighteous person goes there, which would most likely exclude the psalmist. Also notice how death and Sheol are paralleled; indicating that they are synonyms. The psalmist could be afraid of death, but not of Sheol if he couldn’t go there. 1 Corinthians 15:55 says: “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”. This is a reference to Hosea 13:14, which reads: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting?”. See that Hosea says: “O Sheol, where is your sting?” and Paul writes “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”. Agreeing that death and Sheol are synonyms.

The statement “When the godly speak of going there, it is a metaphorical use of the term.” is assumption. In fact, the entire usage of Sheol is heavily metaphorical. I believe it is entirely metaphorical. Amos 9:1-2 says “Then I will slay the rest of them with the sword; They will not have a fugitive who will flee, Or a refugee who will escape. Though they dig into Sheol, From there will My hand take them; And though they ascend to heaven, From there will I bring them down.”. Is this not referring to the grave? “dig into” clearly fits the grave more than a afterlife abode of the dead. This is speaking of the wicked. It is metaphorically saying that they cannot escape God by going to the grave or to heaven. But the irony is that if Sheol was a place of torment or pain, no wicked man would try to “dig into Sheol”. That would be the place of punishment. Yet we see them trying to hide from God.

My last point on this is that one must then account for where the OT saints went (if you believe they are alive and conscious in the afterlife). Some say “Paradise” or “Abraham’s Bosom”, despite the fact that neither of those are mentioned in the OT (The NT word for paradise is of Persian origin, not Hebrew). In fact, it is more commonly believed that Sheol has two parts, one for the righteous, one for the wicked. I view all of that as presumption myself. Without Sheol, you have no place for the OT saints to go if you are inclined to think they go somewhere upon death. They never spoke of going to Heaven upon death.

4) The definition of the “second death” as “Eternal separation from God” is highly presumptuous.

Nowhere is it defined or even alluded to as such in the Bible. And the phrase is not used of the torment of the devil, the beast and the false prophet. However “the second death” refers to men (Rev 21:8). This definition you gave then uses Matt. 10:28 to refer to physical death despite the important fact that it says the word Hell. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”. One cannot use hell to describe physical death if they view it as the place of spiritual death. The soul and body are said to be destroyed there (apollumi denotes utter destruction and complete perishing).

5) You said:

“As noted above, the Bible uses words like “Hades” (c.f. Luke 10:15; Matt. 16:18; Luke 16:23), “Tartarus” (2 Peter 2:4), “Gehenna” (Mark 9:47), and the “second death” (Rev. 20:14) to describe a place of torment”.

Where shall I ask is this explicitly taught? A place of destruction yes, but never once is it described as a place of torment.

YOU: “I will argue that it’s probably better to apply the word “Hell” to the “second death” or “Gehenna,” than it is to, say for example, “Hades.””.

Jesus apparently thought Hades was a great word to describe a place of torment; as it’s the only one He used that included torment.

YOU: “Hell, then, is the final abode of the reprobate who, after they experience bodily resurrection, will suffer consciously for all of eternity.”.

Bodily resurrection is not needed if the soul is what will be tormented forever. This fact seems insignificant in this theology. And then the statement “suffer consciously” once again is not biblical language.

YOU: “The Bible uses pictures (e.g., “Gehenna”), and metaphors (e.g., “weeping and gnashing of teeth”) to describe this eternal place of torment.”.

These metaphors are OT references. “Gehenna” was not a place of torment in the OT. “weeping” expressed sorrow in the OT. “gnashing of teeth” expressed anger in the OT. I don’t know how one can infer torment from any of those OT references.

YOU: “Also, it is important to note that the Bible revealed this place of eternal torment progressively. That is, the Old Testament is less clear about the afterlife than the New. This, however, does not mean that the reality of Hell was progressive, but only the revelation of it.”

This pretty much is an acknowledgment that no one in the OT was ever warned of eternal torment. Because they weren’t. Nor did anyone allude to it. Seems odd that no one would know about this idea until Jesus came. Did God care about the souls who were to suffer? Of course. So why wouldn’t He warn them even once or reveal this truth? I have never heard anyone attempt to prove eternal torment or hell from the OT. It can’t be done. Also, to say the revelation was “progressive”, you must first prove that there was any revelation before Christ, otherwise it was not progressive. To say the OT was “unclear about the afterlife” is an understatement. To my knowledge it never taught any form of afterlife.

6) You write:

“Hell, then, is not currently a reality, per se. What I mean is, Hell is the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14) the “second death” (Rev. 21:8), or the “eternal fire” (Matt. 25:41). Therefore, those who die go to a hell-like place (Hades/Sheol) until the second resurrection (Rev. 20:5-6, 12-15) when they will be judged and thrown into hell.”

The problem with this view is that one must remove Hades in Luke 16 as teaching about hell. To continue to do so is to mislead people. I also do not hear of pastors teaching about two places of torment, which is what you are suggesting. The high majority of mainstream pastors speak of hell as a present and future reality. And they use Luke 16 as proof. Even after making this statement you continue to use Hades in Luke 16 to teach about hell as “a place of agony (Luke 16:24-26)” in the next paragraph.

7) You write:

“The Bible further describes the gruesomeness: It is a place where punishment is eternal (Matt. 18:8; 25:46; Rom. 2:7-9; 2 Thess. 1:8-9; Heb. 6:2; Jude 7, 12-13; Rev. 14:11; 19:3), which is described as an abyss (Rev. 20:3), a place of darkness (Matt. 25:30), designed for Satan and His demons (Matt. 25:41; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6), a fiery place (Mark 9:43, Luke 16:24; Heb. 6:8; Rev. 14:9-10; 20:10, 14), , a place separated from God (Matt. 25:41) where one is cut into pieces (Matt. 24:51), where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Isa. 14:11; 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48), and a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30; Luke 13:28).”

The Abyss in Rev. 20:3 is obviously not hell, as Satan is brought back out of it before being thrown in the lake of fire; and fallen angels are said to be held there. This was a sloppy reference.

Eternal punishment is no different than “eternal judgment” in Hebrews 6:2. Obviously not an action of eternal duration, but a one time act with eternal consequences. Same as “eternal destruction” in 2 Thess 1:9. In fact, no word with eternal attached to it can be proved to be an action of eternal duration.

With regard to worms and unquenchable fire, they refer to consuming corpses and the unending shame of destruction in Isaiah 66:24:

“Then they will go forth and look
On the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm will not die
And their fire will not be quenched;
And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”

And Matt. 24:51 is referring to one being cut to pieces AND THEN assigned a place with the unbelievers. Notice this is before he is put there. And cutting someone to pieces would kill them.

8) You wrote:

“There are some, however, that think an eternity in Hell is too extensive and unkind. To alleviate or lessen the pain of Hell, some have taught that either humans become like dumb animals in Hell—which means they are less understanding or less conscious—or that after a period of punishment, God will annihilate Hell and the people therein; thus, the impenitent will simply cease to exist. These attempts to weaken or lessen the punishment for the unbeliever in Hell are wrought with problems. First, these ideas go against the teaching of Scripture, both the former (Matt. 25:30; Luke 16:19-31) and the latter (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 19:3).”

I will avoid the philosophical argument for now, as I don’t feel it is relevant to what the Bible teaches. I believe in annihilation in the lake of fire. I notice again you use Hades in Luke 16 to support hell against your own teaching that it is not hell. To say the idea of annihilation goes against Scripture, yet not explain how our interpretations of these passages are wrong is not a concise approach. I see no exegesis presented to prove your interpretation is the only one that fits.

Rev 19:3 is another unfortunate reference, as it is speaking of the destruction of Babylon. Notice that wicked men watch it burn in Rev 18:9-10: ““And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’”. Rev 14:9-11 is another verse misunderstood to refer to hell, despite the conflict of it being “in the presence of the lamb” when 2 Thess 1:9 says eternal destruction will be “away from the presence”. As well as the fact that it is only said to be those who take the mark of the best who will be tormented in that passage. It is also 6 chapters removed from the final judgment, making it hard to relate directly to that.

9) You include this quote:

“Does the short time of punishment envisaged by the annihilationist actually pay for all of the unbeliever’s sin and satisfy God’s justice? If it does not, then God’s justice has not been satisfied and the unbeliever should not be annihilated. But if it does, then the unbeliever should be allowed to go to heaven, and he or she should not be annihilated. In either case, annihilationism is not necessary or right.”

Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”. Seems to fit. Now you must prove how Jesus’ short time of suffering and physical death paid for all of our sins if we deserve an eternal hell. He certainly did not die the death our sins deserved if we deserve eternal misery in hell.

10) You write:

“Hell is a place no one wants to go to, and is not only a necessary doctrine, but absolutely must be part of our gospel presentation in evangelism and preaching.”

I need only refer to the example of the Apostles, who never once included hell or eternal punishment in their preaching. The Apostle Paul never used the word Hell despite writing 2/3 of the NT. Every time he spoke of the fate of the wicked, it suggests annihilation. And if we only had the account in the gospel of John, Jesus never did either.

You say it is a necessary doctrine, yet forget that no one in the OT knew about it. Neither was a single Gentile told about it in all of Scripture. Nor was it included in the great commission. Nor was it said to be a condition of salvation: ‘believe in hell or perish’?? By your account we might justly condemn the Apostles unfaithful to our Lord in their delivery of the gospel to all men.

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50 Questions For Those Who Believe In Eternal Torment

Most people are unafraid to tell me point blank that I am wrong in asserting that the Bible does not teach eternal torment in hell. However, not once has anyone endeavored to answer any of the questions I pose in my articles. Yet I can’t tell you how many times people quote to me the same 6 or 7 passages  (I’m never surprised by a new proof text) used to support eternal torment which I already addressed in depth in my articles. And I repeatedly am asked to explain what they mean. Never does anyone seek to prove exactly how the passages only allow for their interpretation. I must admit, if those who believe in eternal torment in hell are correct in their view, I really need answers to questions.

For this reason I have put together a list of 50 questions that I have for those who believe in eternal torment in hell. Since conditionalists like me are expected to defend our position, I would expect nothing less from those who believe eternal torment in hell is a biblical doctrine. I have nothing but love for those brothers and sisters in Christ who believe in hell, but I do call those who are dogmatic about it to prove their assertions correct. The issue is very serious and deserves the utmost fidelity to the truth.

1) What is your definition of the word Greek word for “death” (thanatos) in Romans 6:23?

2) Does the definition you gave in reply to question 1 apply to the same Greek word used of Jesus’ death one chapter prior in Romans 5:10?

3) If the definition of death (Greek word thanatos) is different in Romans 6:23 than it is in Romans 5:10, how did Jesus die the death our sins deserved? If it is the same word, how did Jesus experience the death that is the wages of our sin if it is eternal torment in hell?

4) Insert another word in the place of “destroy” in Matthew 10:28, unless you agree that men will be utterly destroyed in hell: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”. And provide proof that the word you substituted is consistent with the usage of the Greek word apollumi.

5) If the KJV was correct in translating Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus as “hell”, I ask that it be proven that all of those words refer solely and specifically to a place of eternal misery. And then it must be accounted for that all of the words represent hell at all times in all passages in the Bible.

6) Did the Old Testament teach or allude to a place of eternal misery? If so, please provide proof that it did. And whatever word is used to mean “a place of eternal misery” must always mean that in parallel grammatical contexts.

7) If it cannot be proven that God’s people were aware of the danger of hell before Jesus taught about it, we must conclude then that the gospel brought it to light. If that is true, in what way was the arrival of Christ “good news of great joy which will be for all the people ” (Luke 2:10) if His message also revealed that most of the world will be eternally tormented?

8) Could you give a possible explanation as to why no one in the Bible specifically warned of hell other than Jesus if all men are in danger of eternal torment?

9) Could you give a possible explanation as to why Jesus spoke specifically about hell 9 times to His disciples, yet only twice to unbelieving Jews if the unbelievers were in the most danger of it?

10) Could you give a possible explanation as to why Gentiles were never once warned specifically of the danger of hell in the entire Bible?

11) Is man immortal? If so, I want proof that God specifically gave man immortality. Otherwise it must be concluded that Jesus “alone possesses immortality”  (1 Tim 6:16).

12) If all the dead are raised “imperishable” (1 Co 15:53-54), it would contradict the Bible’s teaching that the wicked will perish (2 Thess 2:10Luke 13:3). Please provide proof that the wicked will receive imperishable bodies.

13) If our souls are always conscious, we would be awake during sleep. When people go into a state of coma, outside stimuli cannot awaken a person. Please provide proof that the soul is always conscious when we are in these states if you affirm that the soul is always conscious.

14) The Hebrew word for soul (nephesh) was used to describe animals (Gen 1:24; Lev 24:18Job 12:10). And to speak of dead men (Num 9:6, Num 19:13Lev 21:1). Deuteronomy 24:7 says the soul can be kidnapped. Please provide proof that the soul is always alive and is different than that of animals, and also cannot be kidnapped.

15) Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 uses the Hebrew word for spirit (rauch), and says that ours is the same as the beasts. It also says that no man can know whether our spirit ascends and the beast’s descends. If man’s spirit is what is immortal, please provide proof that animals are not also immortal; since we have the same spirit.

16) If the parable of Luke 16 was literally describing a rich man in hell (Greek word Hades used here), what will happen when hell (Hades) is thrown in the lake of fire in Revelation 20? “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14 KJV).

17) If Lazarus was in a real place called Abraham’s Bosom, could you give a possible explanation as to why is it never mentioned elsewhere in Scripture?

18) If the parable of Luke 16 was given to teach literal truths about the afterlife, is it not arbitrary to decide that he is not literally in Hades, but literally in torment? Should not all of the parable be literal if any of it is?

19) If the word Gehenna used by Jesus and translated as hell originally referred to a place of eternal torment, it did not come from Scripture, since the Old Testament did not teach it. Please show exactly how the word came to mean a place of eternal torment and that this meaning was divinely sanctioned.

20) If the book of Revelation reveals that hell is a place of eternal torment, it must be explained how it could have had any effect on words spoken 30 to 60 years prior. Revelation was the last book of the Bible written.

21) If the lake of fire is hell, why did the Bible not call it hell or vice versa?

22) In Revelation 20:14 Death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. Do they exist in torment or are they destroyed and cease to exist?

23) If Death and Hades will not exist in eternal torment in the lake of fire, can you definitively say that men will?

24) Can you provide a verse that explicitly says that men will be tormented in the lake of fire?

25) Please provide a passage in the Bible that uses the phrase “eternal torment” if you say I must believe in it.

26) How does the “second death” have anything to do with the first if it is eternal torment?

27) All flames produce light. So if Jesus was not using figurative language to express sorrow and anger on judgment day, but making literal statements, please explain how the place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” can be both a “furnace of fire” and “outer darkness” at the same time? (Matt 22:13Matt 13:50).

28) If “eternal punishment” in Matthew 25:46 is referring to an eternal process of punishment in hell, is “eternal judgment” in Heb 6:2 referring to an eternal process of judging at the Great White Throne?

29) Is “eternal destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 referring to an eternal process of destroying something?

30) If “eternal judgment” and “eternal destruction” cannot be proved to be eternity-long processes, why must eternal punishment necessarily refer to an eternity-long process and not a one time act with eternal effect?

31) How is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah an example of eternal torment in hell?  (Jude 1:72 Peter 2:6)

32) Are there any examples of God tormenting men by fire and not destroying them?

33) If destruction means anything other than destruction, should the types and examples of the destruction of men and nations throughout all ages have no influence on how we are to interpret the word?

34) Does God have a way of measuring our sins that submits to mathematical fairness, in order to determine proportional punishment in hell?

35) If God does not have a mathematically fair way of measuring our sins, how can we assume the punishment will be fair by any standard of justice known to man?

36) If God does have a way of measuring our sins that submits to mathematical fairness, eternal punishment defies this logic. Any punishment multiplied by infinity would eventually exceed finite wrongs. Since man only commits a finite amount of wrongs in life, how can he be punished infinitely and it be mathematically fair?

37) If the sin of rejecting Christ requires infinite punishment, how can you suggest that some sin less than others and incur a lesser degree of punishment?

38) If punishment must be infinite in duration, can you say with certainty that it does not require infinite intensity?

39) Proverbs 11:1 says that God delights in a “just weight”, and Jeremiah 17:10 says that He will repay everyone according to the results of their deeds. Can this be true if God does not use a mathematically fair measure to determine punishment?

40) If misery in hell must be equal in duration to joy in Heaven, is this not using the mathematical concept of symmetry to argue for eternal torment?

41) If God is supposedly obligated to the mathematical concept of symmetry, would He not be equally obligated to mathematical laws of fairness?

42) If we believe God will abide by the laws of time when He says punishment will be “eternal”, should we not also believe He will abide by the laws of mathematical fairness when He says He will judge the peoples with equity? (Psalm 98:9).

43) If no one got around to sharing the gospel with you, would you have been more worthy of hell than if you heard and received the message?

44) How can God say His “mercies are over all His works” (Ps 145:9) if He eternally torments the majority of mankind; many of whom because they were not fortunate enough to hear the gospel?

45) Is God at the mercy of men to share His gospel and save mankind from His own wrath which results in eternal torment in hell?

46) If there is an age of accountability as some suggest, is the youth who passes it by one day less fortunate because God did not take his life prior to that time?

47) How is the picture of an undying worm eating a corpse or an unquenchable fire burning one as seen in Isaiah 66:24 a picture of eternal torment (mental or otherwise)?

48) If hell is merely eternal separation from God, how can He “destroy both body and soul” with separation anxiety (Matt 10:28)?

49) Ezekial 18:23 says that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. How can it be justified that God would go infinitely beyond the laws of mathematical fairness to torment men eternally unless He takes pleasure in it?

50) Can you prove that the word for destruction (apollumi) is a synonym for torment?


Proportional Punishment

Despite the varying beliefs about the nature of divine punishment, most Christians agree that it will be proportional. However, in admitting this, we admit our sensitivity towards the fairness of punishment in hell. This presents some problems for the doctrine of eternal torment; which I will highlight in this article. If you haven’t already read it, check out my nearly exhaustive piece on Why I No Longer Believe In Hell. I explained in depth what the Bible teaches about eternal punishment.

1) Mathematics affirm that infinite punishment is an inequity.

In order to believe in proportional punishment, we must acknowledge that God has a way of measuring our sins in life. And if this measurement cannot be reconciled with mathematical fairness, it will not be fair by any definition known to man. Humans live finite lives, and therefore can only commit a finite amount of sin. And Christians almost unanimously affirm that some will sin to a greater degree than others, and thus incur greater punishment. And to believe that, we must acknowledge that the lesser sin of some is decidedly finite. Therefore, the punishment in hell must be finite if it is to be equal to the crimes committed. Any number multiplied by infinity will always exceed a finite amount.

For example, if our sins can be measured, let’s imagine my sin debt reached a level of 80 in my life. And let’s imagine my punishment was incredibly soft and only repaid me 0.001% of my sin debt per year in hell. I had lived 80 years, amassing 1% of my total sin debt per year. The punishment would then be less intense than the results of my sinning if I was punished yearly for less than 1% of my total sins. Now after 100,000 years my sin debt will have been fully paid, even if my yearly punishment was only equal to 0.001% of my total sin debt.

However, the descriptions of hell seem much more intense than my analogy suggests. I am being far too kind. I would venture to say that somewhere between 90-95% of humans will never commit a violent crime. And no one directly does violence to God unless they were one of the conspirators against Jesus. So it can be admitted that an estimated 90-95% of mankind will instantly experience a level of pain they themselves never inflicted upon another being. I won’t attempt to put a number on such a punishment but I imagine it would far exceed the 1% per year mark and repay men at a faster rate than they amassed their sin debt in life.

Let’s apply this to the analogy. I am now not being repaid for 0.001% of my sins per year, but well over 1%. I would be repaid at a rate that will result in full repayment of the sin debt before 80 years has passed. This would make any continued punishment a divine inequity which would amass a new debt that God would owe to me. This would be using dishonest and unbalanced scales to determine man’s punishment.

Proverbs 11:1 says:

“A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.”

God’s delight is in a “just weight”. Would the God who created mathematics bypass them in order to torture men infinitely for finite wrongs? We would accuse any judge of being unfair if they did not use just means of determining punishment. Yet we seem to think God is below using accurate weights, not willing to reward men “According to the results of his deeds”.

Jeremiah 17:10 says:

“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.”

It must be admitted that mathematical fairness must be forfeited in order to uphold the doctrine of eternal torment in hell.

2) The admittance that the punishment of eternal torment could never be mathematically equal to the sins of man requires us to lay aside all assumptions that proportional punishment would be fair.

If we admit that no amount of eternal torment can be reconciled with mathematical fairness, it is hard to assume proportional punishment within hell would be mathematically fair. To believe that eternal torment is unfair, yet proportional punishment within hell is, we must assume that God uses two different measurements for man’s punishment.

The first measurement would defy mathematical fairness and damn all who do not believe to an eternity of misery.

The second measurement would submit to mathematical fairness and proportionally assign fair amounts of pain tolerance to the damned.

I would encourage anyone to provide biblical proof that the measurements used by God to determine the degrees of punishment in hell submit to the laws of mathematical fairness when eternal torment does not. If this cannot be provided, all those who embrace the doctrine of eternal torment must relinquish their presumptions that the degrees of punishment in hell will be mathematically fair. And if the punishment is not mathematically fair, man can find no peace of mind in assuming that God will repay proportionally in hell. Since eternal punishment does not conform to any human concept of fairness.

3) The argument that the sin of rejecting Christ requires eternal torment has no biblical evidence to support it.

Some Christians appeal to Mark 3:29 to prove that there is eternal sin:

“but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

However, most Christians believe that all men are deserving of hell, not just those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. If hell is what we all deserve, we all must be guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. But notice that whoever does this “never has forgiveness”. We would then have to conclude that if all are guilty of this eternal sin, no man can ever be forgiven.

I then ask anyone to prove that there is an eternal sin listed in the Bible besides this one? And if this sin truly is the only eternal sin, we must conclude that all other sins are not eternal. The eternality of this sin, like all things spoken of as eternal, is referring to effect. The effect of this sin results in eternal unforgiveness and condemnation for that man. In the previous verse Jesus says:

“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;” (Mark 3:28)

The argument that rejecting Christ’s sacrifice makes men worthy of unending torment is simply not biblical. And further, if this sin results in eternal torment, what about those who lived before Christ? How did they reject Christ before He came? Is the sin rejecting God then? It seems that many cults believe in God, but not Jesus. This is what sets Christianity apart from many false religions who reject Christ.

Romans 6:23 says:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As I showed in my previous article, the word death here cannot mean eternal torment unless Jesus Himself experienced eternal torment. The wages of sin is death. The weight is on those who believe this doctrine to prove from Scripture that God requires eternal torment as repayment; and that death is not the wages of sin.

4) If the sin of rejecting God requires an infinite duration of punishment, who can say it does not require infinite intensity?

If the sin of rejecting God is so serious as to incur infinite duration of pain, who can dismiss the claim that the punishment also requires infinite intensity of pain? The claim that rejection of God incurs infinite duration of torment has no more biblical evidence than the latter. There is no reason why both cannot be true. In fact, to borrow a common traditionalist argument, it would seem more fitting that if the amount of joy in Heaven is to be beyond our imagination, that the pain in hell would also be beyond imagination.

5) The symmetrical argument is merely philosophical deflection without any biblical evidence to back it up.

The argument is often made that “if joy in Heaven is eternal, torment in Hell must also be eternal.”. This is an attempt to prove that God must work symmetrically. It is the belief that all good must be equally mirrored with bad. However, in affirming this, traditionalists quickly find themselves in a contradiction. They are using a mathematical concept to prove eternal torment. And if God is then at the mercy of one mathematical concept, would He not then be equally accountable to mathematical fairness as shown in my first point? However, it is clear that God is not accountable to this, since symmetry is not a law but a “regularity that is possessed by mathematical object” (dictionary.com). The world is not symmetrical, and this can easily be proven. Your body is not symmetrical either.

Some may ask me how I can hold God to the law of mathematics if God is above all laws. In reply, I would point out that Christians seem very comfortable with holding Him to the laws of time, in the sense that when He says something is “eternal”, we believe He means forever. Is He bound by time? No. But He is bound by His character, which cannot lie.

Titus 1:2 says:

“in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,”

Therefore if God says He is just, and affirms that He delights in “accurate scales” (Proverbs 11:1), and says that He will “give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10), would it not naturally follow that God would have some sort of fair measure of our deeds to determine the punishment? And would it not also follow that to show His glory, the fairness of His measures would exceed that of any human judge?

Psalm 98:9 says:

“for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness And the peoples with equity.”

The Hebrew word translated here as “equity” is defined by NAS Exhaustive Concordance as “evenness, uprightness, equity”. Would it not be logical to assume that “evenness” implies a mathematically reasonable system of fairness? Or did God simply create us with a higher sensitivity towards fairness than He possesses?

It seems that when contemplating eternal torment in hell, not a soul finds it to be more fair than the human justice systems that exist today. For example, in America the highest form of punishment is death. We do not subject men to lifelong torture because we believe that would be unjust. So I appeal to all: how would God gain glory for Himself if He did that which most wicked men do not dare to do?

6) The means of proportional punishment is hidden from those who believe in eternal torment as well as  those who believe in annihilation.

One common objection to the doctrine of annihilation is that exceedingly wicked men will get off easy on judgment day. However, this is not simply a difficulty for annihilationism, as traditionalists also must account for how the exceedingly wicked will be punished more. God’s Word is silent on how He proportionally punishes men. However, the concept is clearly alluded to in multiple passages, such as Matthew 11:21-24 and 2 Peter 2:20-21.

Hebrews 10:29 says:

“How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

Luke 12:42-48 says:

“And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

The phrase “assign him a place with the unbelievers” clearly shows that this servant will not inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus then says that the wicked servant who has greater knowledge of the will of God will receive “many lashes”. Yet the one who has less knowledge will receive “but a few”. This requires proportional punishment in order to fulfill the truth of this parable. I also find it interesting to note that the punishment is not said to be less intense, but of limited duration.

The great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 contains no mention of proportional punishment, however it does say that all will be judged according to their deeds prior to being cast into the lake of fire.

Annihilationists can suggest at least three possibilities:

a) the wicked are punished proportionally during the Great White Throne Judgment before the destruction of being cast in the lake of fire.

b) the wicked are punished proportionally between the Great White Throne Judgment and the destruction of being cast in the lake of fire.

c) the wicked are punished proportionally within the lake of fire before being destroyed.

Given the fact that the lake of fire is figurative, we don’t have to assume it treats everyone equally. In fact, we are required to assume that it destroys Death and Hades, yet torments Satan and his angels. (Revelation 20:10-14). I don’t think it is overly presumptive to suggest that God has prepared the lake of fire to recompense men with proportional punishments.

All of the above options seem to be plausible, although they lack any direct statements from Scripture. Traditionalists also must presume that there is a unspecified method for proportional punishment. Generally the belief is that each man will be given a different body with unique sensitivity to pain, therefore allowing some men to feel less pain in hell. This also is an assumption, but a fair one if the lake of fire were a place of eternal torment.

7) The concept of proportional punishment suggests a sensitivity towards the damned that seems to be at odds with the doctrine of eternal torment.

Calvinists (I am not one) suggest that all who sin are equal in moral standing before God. No one is more deserving of grace than another man. They even go so far as to say that the non-elect are born as “vessels of wrath” and have no ability in themselves to choose to accept salvation (Romans 9:22). I ask then: why this sensitivity regarding proportional punishment in hell? If all who go there are merely “vessels of wrath”, why would it matter if they are tortured to the same degree as Satan himself? Does it not bring God more glory to torture them with all the intensity possible? Why should some be designed to be more wicked than others to incur greater punishment? Why would all not be worthy of the full measure of wrath?

But no, even Calvinists are sensitive to the fact that this is not justice. If an adult child turns away from Christ and dies in an auto accident, no one would dare bring up the possibility that this child will be tormented eternally to the same degree as Satan himself. This would be unspeakably cruel to suggest such a thing to a parent who has experienced a loss as this. But if the child was non-elect and it was done for God’s glory, why not rejoice in the justice of God? Rather, it seems we are ashamed to even speak of such a punishment.

For Arminians and those who embrace free will, it is easier to fall back on the idea that man “chooses” to go to hell. Yet I would encourage you to ask yourself if anyone actually chooses hell out of faith in it’s existence. It would seem to me that those who reject Christ also reject the idea that hell is real. The people who talk about going to hell seem to view it as a eternal party with Satan as the DJ. They mock it because they don’t believe it. If all did believe it to be a real place of eternal torment, I would imagine that no intelligent soul would be found in opposition to God.

People don’t choose hell and reject Christ. They choose their sin over Christ. They love their lives too much to lose them for the gospel. So we now must account for the fact that most men likely do not choose hell, but rather out of disbelief in it’s existence fall into it’s outstretched arms. I can’t name one person who seriously believes they are destined to go to hell. Can you?

Does every man in hell deserve the same punishment? If not, you affirm that not all who go there are equally sinful. Which then requires one to ask why every unbeliever deserves endless torment. You can attempt to believe that some will feel less pain than others, but the Bible’s descriptions still must be accounted for. It serves man no good to imagine all of the biblical descriptions of fire and torment as being eternal, yet pretend that for some it won’t be “that bad”. It seems an uphill battle. Indeed, the great champions of the doctrine such as Jonathan Edwards spoke of hell in the most shocking ways they could conjure. If it really isn’t “that bad”, one must still acknowledge that most of the historical church leaders who taught this doctrine continually emphasized the horrors of it for all men. If you want proof of this, check out this article from a friend of mine: http://conditionalism.net/blog/2012/10/torture/#more-316 .

At the very least it would be a miserable and never ending existence for even the least wicked man in hell. The Arminian can try to argue that punishment will be proportional and just (against the logic of point #2), but they still must grapple with the eternality of it for all.

8) The stark contrast between the believer and unbeliever’s fate reveals the illogical nature of the doctrine of eternal torment.

If we are sensitive to the fact that not all men sin equally and deserve equal punishment, how can we agree that all unbelief should result in such an unspeakable punishment as eternal torment? It seems the man who simply believes would receive unspeakable eternal blessings, while the man who simply rejects receives unspeakable eternal horrors. Yet we all know that many of us have been on both sides at one point in time. Most Christians are saved from the world that they were once a part of. I ask you to imagine yourself pre-salvation as being deserving of eternal torment in hell and post-salvation being deserving of eternal blessings in Heaven. Does it seem right that the difference between your being damned to eternal suffering in hell and salvation was partly in the hands of a mere man’s ability to share the gospel with you? If no one got around to sharing it with you, would you have been more worthy of hell than if you heard and received the message?

Think for a moment about the people who will never hear the gospel. If we believe the only way for them to escape hell is through the preaching of the gospel, their existence is nothing but the cruelest gift God could’ve given. Calvinists might as well abandon the doctrine of common grace if hell is true.

Psalm 145:9 says:

“The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.”

Psalm 30:5 says:

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

I ask any sober minded man to reconcile this mercy of God towards all He has made if He eternally torments the majority of mankind because they were not fortunate enough to hear the gospel. Is God at the mercy of men to share His gospel and save mankind from His own wrath? Is He in Heaven watching us and crying over souls that are not saved from hell because we failed to reach them with the gospel? Is God unable to act in justice towards all men? What happened to God’s sovereignty?

And if there is an age of accountability as some suggest, is the youth who passes it by one day less fortunate because God did not take his life prior to that time? If this were the case God would be more merciful to take the lives of all men before they become accountable. In fact, the reason we continue to bring children into the world if hell is a possible destination for them escapes me. Certainly God should have wiped out all mankind long ago in the flood if this were true. It reminds me of a friend who once told me she was not too concerned with abortion since the babies would go to Heaven. Think about that for a second. If this doctrine were true, I can’t argue with that logic. I stand on the authority of God’s Word however that this is not what God intends or desires.

9)  “Eternal separation from God” is a unscriptural euphemism used to describe the punishment of hell.

I believe this is the most common belief in the modern church. It’s easier to imagine a place that is simply devoid of God in which man will exist for eternity. Those unbelievers would dwell in sadness as they contemplate what they forfeited. The torment here is that of “undying worms of conscience”, and not that of literal torment by fire. Here there are differing levels of mental anguish based on a person’s memories of their wrongs.

This “worm of conscience” as designated by John Calvin is the result of taking a biblical metaphor, stripping it of any biblical meaning, and inserting one’s own idea of what it signifies. Nowhere in the Bible are worms used to refer to the conscience, or even torment for that matter. But they are used together with “unquenchable fire” in reference to corpses (Isaiah 66:24), which we can assume they devour; not torment. The sloppiness which some men exhibit in their handling of the Word of God utterly astounds me. No one in their right mind should believe that the picture of an undying worm eating a corpse or an unquenchable fire burning one is a picture of eternal torment (mental or otherwise). If this were so, we may wish to rethink how we dispose of corpses. Cremation could be incredibly painful for the deceased!

There is no scriptural proof that hell is simply the result of God being absent or that the punishment is separation. Will God “destroy both body and soul” with separation anxiety (Matt 10:28)? If He is absent He is not even destroying. Who then is responsible for man’s anguish? It would seem that man is left to punish himself mentally. And what is happening to the body? Will God “destroy both body and soul” but in actuality only harm the mind?

Matthew 5:30 says:

“it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Here we have seen the body is in hell, and apparently destroyed. So how is the destruction purely separation anxiety?

Job 34:14-15 says:

“If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.”

Here it is shown that if God removes “his spirit and his breath” (not man’s but God’s), all flesh would perish and return to dust. If God is fully absent in the punishment of hell, it must be proven how man’s existence could be sustained.

Even if one could get around these objections to the concept of eternal conscious separation, one still must ask how the damning of a soul to an eternally miserable existence can be mathematically fair. The dilemma of point #1 still applies to this view.

10) The argument that man can sin in hell disregards the finality of the Great White Throne judgment.

Some suggest that the reason torment in hell is eternal is because man will never stop sinning in hell. However, God’s final judgments are pronounced at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). It would seem to me to be a waste of time for God to be continually judging men in hell after the final judgment. And if He was, would that not leave room for good behavior as well? If He is judging evil, He would be obligated to judge good as well. This would make hell into something that more accurately resembles purgatory. It’s presumptuous to assume that man could have no inclination to be repentant in the fire but rather just keep sinning if this were the case.

And further, man will be repaid according to their deeds in this life. Never is it said that the wicked will be punished for the sins of “this age, and the one to come”. Judgment and punishment is always retrospective, just as man cannot be rewarded for good deeds done after the resurrection.

11) Upon further research, I have found there is a case to be made that even Satan and his angels will eventually be destroyed.

While Satan and his angels’ destiny has no effect on the fate of humans, the elephant in the room is the question of whether God would torture any created being eternally. I will present some reasons for believing that even fallen angels can and will be destroyed. The evidence does not seem conclusive to me, but it certainly should be contemplated. I wrote previously about my belief that they will be eternally tormented, but I now have doubts that this is true.

First, we have the sovereignty of God. He is all powerful, and alone has immortality (1 Tim 6:16). He is therefore bound by no created being. Therefore, even when it is said that angels “cannot die” (Luke 20:36), we can assume this is because God won’t let them die. While man dies from decay and natural causes, angels do not decay and can only be destroyed by God. It should also be noted however that the angels who cannot die are described in a parallel passage as those who are “in heaven” (Matt 22:30). These cannot die because God will not allow them to die.

Isaiah 14:12-15 is generally attributed to Satan, and verse 15 says of him:

“Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.”

Sheol and “the pit” are Hebrew metaphors for death.  Implying that Satan will die.

In Mark 1:24, evil spirits who possessed a man said to Jesus:

“Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are– the Holy One of God!”

The word for destroy here is apollumi, which is the word used of man’s utter destruction. It is the strongest word for destruction in the Greek language; denoting annihilation. This implies that fallen angels can be destroyed.

When Revelation 20:10 says that they will be tormented “forever and ever”, we must also note that this phrase was used of the smoke of Babylon’s destruction in Revelation 19:3:

“Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.””

Babylon is believed to be the world system in the end times; controlled by Satan and his demons. Does anyone believe literal smoke from the destruction of this world system will go up forever and ever? This seems to be a hyperbolic statement indicating the enduring shame of fallen Babylon; as smoke always indicates in the Bible. Those who have used enduring smoke to indicate eternal suffering are mistaken because this smoke is coming from something that is destroyed. In fact, it is shown that wicked men will look upon the city as it burns.

Revelation 18:8-9 says:

“For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong. And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning.”

We know that not long after this there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Revelation 21:1 says:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.”

If the first earth is destroyed, how can there be any smoke still rising from Babylon’s destruction? This is a case where forever and ever does not literally mean “forever and ever”, but refers to the enduring shame of destruction. So when Satan’s torment is said to last “forever and ever” it is fair to suggest that it could be hyperbolic, speaking of the substantial amount of torment he will receive in recompense for all his crimes. It would seemingly last “forever and ever” in comparison with the torment of man.

It is also worth noting that the word eternal in the Bible was never used to describe a never ending process, but always a never ending effect of an action (e.g. “eternal judgment” in Heb 6:2). So even if we were to find the phrase “eternal torment” in our Bibles, we would be forced to assume that it is referring to the eternal effect of the torment. This possibly suggests that there is no such thing as a never ending process of torment.

This also applies to “eternal fire”. It is very easily deduced that it is the effect of the fire that is eternal, not necessarily the fire itself. Jude 1:7 says that Sodom and Gomorrah “are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire”. And they were destroyed by it. Obviously their fire did not endure forever.

Isaiah 33:14 says:

“Sinners in Zion are terrified; Trembling has seized the godless. “Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?””

This rhetorical question implies that no one can live with “continual burning”.

Jeremiah 7:20 says:

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched.””

Here unquenchable fire is spoken of as coming on the entire earth; devouring not just men, but beasts, trees and fruit. We obviously do not assume they would be tormented forever, or that the fire would never end. But rather that it would not end until it accomplished it’s purpose.

Jonah 2:6 says:

“I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.”

Jonah was obviously not imprisoned forever in the earth. So we must admit that the Bible does make use of hyperbole at times with regard to time spans. For although it could’ve been said that the smoke of Babylon’s destruction rises “for a long time”, it simply does not have the same linguistic appeal as “forever and ever”.

We then have to ask where the lake of fire would be when the new heavens and new earth appear? If the old universe is destroyed, it is fair to suggest that the lake of fire, being mentioned before the new heavens and new earth might not exist at that point. Otherwise, it must exist outside of the old heavens and old earth. 2 Peter 3:13 says that we are looking for “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells”. If righteousness dwells in the new heavens and new earth, we can assume that nothing unrighteous will dwell in them. Which seems to suggest all unrighteous beings will be done away with. Why would fallen creatures be needed once they have been justly repaid for their wrongs? The power of Satan will be destroyed, so he would no longer be needed for any purpose.

2 Peter 3:10-13 says:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

This description makes me think that the lake of fire could be the destruction of all these things. For this would make perfect chronological sense. God would throw all that is impure (wicked men and angels) into the destruction of the old earth and old heavens by fire in Revelation 20:15 and then the new heavens and the new earth are revealed in the very next verse (Revelation 21:1) as well as the passing away of the old things.

Revelation 21:8 does speak of the lake of fire after the old heavens and old earth are done away with:

“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”” (Revelation 21:7-8)

The whole statement however, cannot be a clear description of the chronology of these things after the New Jerusalem is established. If we take it all literally, those in the New Jerusalem would not have yet been God’s children, and God would not yet have been their God. And even more, those in the lake of fire would not yet have been thrown in: “their part will be in the lake”. So we must view this passage as narrative.

In the end, it’s harder to fully conclude that Satan and his angels will be destroyed than it is to conclude that men will. However, it is logical to suggest that they will be, given the evidence. In fact, other than the statement in Revelation 20:10, all evidence points to their eventual destruction. And even within the lake of fire, they are the only things assumed to be able to survive in it. Death, Hades and men are all to be destroyed within the eternal fire. It seems that to have these spirits tormented for eternity would be inconsistent with the overall theme of the end of the age, which includes the final elimination of all that is impure and the eternal preservation of all that is pure.

I’d encourage everyone to weigh my thoughts against Scripture and make their own decisions. I’m just a man like you, so don’t take me at my word, take God at His Word. If you have any substantive objections to what I’ve written I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Defining Death

In my previous article Why I No Longer Believe The Bible Teaches Hell, I presented a nearly exhaustive case from Scripture against the traditional doctrine of Hell. I attempted to cover all of the difficult passages presented by traditionalists, while also highlighting the many passages in support of my view. But I didn’t discuss the definition of death in depth. There is great inconsistency in the definition of death for those take the traditional view on Hell.

Romans 6:23 says:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Whatever death is here, it is contrasted with eternal life, and therefore defines the destiny of the wicked. Christians have been taught that the word death means “separation from God, resulting in eternal misery”. However, it does not take a rocket scientist to notice the lack of logic in this definition. The verse would have to read like this:

“For the wages of sin is an eternal life of misery, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And even worse, using that definition we would have to conclude that Jesus experienced a life of eternal misery:

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death [eternal misery] of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10)

The same Greek word thanatos is used in both passages. No distinction is made between the two, and there is no modifying clause to suggest the words have different meanings. They are only one chapter apart, leaving no room for doubt that Paul was referring to the same concept of death.

If I were to say “Tommy is dead”  you would not assume that I meant “Tommy is alive and miserable”. A corpse can’t feel pain or be miserable. So why do we read Scripture this way? We have been taught to distinguish between “physical” and “spiritual” death when the Bible never makes the distinction.

The truth is, Greek philosophy and mythology influences our thinking more than Scripture. Plato popularized the concept of the immortal soul, not the Bible. Compare the Greek Tartarus to the Hebrew Sheol. I can guarantee Tartarus is closer to the church’s idea of Hell than Sheol.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartarus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheol

I’m amazed at how annihilationism is often called “unscriptural” when it relies on biblical terms such as death and destruction. Meanwhile traditionalists rely on terms like “eternal conscious torment” or “eternal separation from God” (good luck finding those phrases in your Bible). It is rarely said that “the wicked will die in Hell” or “the wicked will be destroyed in Hell”. Yet Christians use words like “torment” and “separation” that are never once used to describe man’s eternal state. Revelation calls it the “second death” for a reason. Not the “first torment” or “first separation”. If it is either of those it would have nothing to do with the first death.

Matthew 10:28 says:

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”.

The word for destroy here is apollumi; the strongest Greek word for destruction. For those who believe in eternal misery I ask: how could Jesus have made it clearer? I don’t think there exists a word strong enough that theologians can’t twist. Imagine if the roles were reversed:

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who will never destroy either soul or body in hell.”

Do you think annihilationists could get away with saying that “never destroy” actually means “kill”? We would be deemed the most ignorant heretics that ever existed.

Complex Definitions

The annihilationist’s (those who believe the ungodly will be annihilated in the lake of fire) definition of death is simple. I attempted to define it here:

DEATH: 1) properly the loss of life; i.e. the state of having been returned to dust; the condition man was in before God breathed His spirit (rauch) into him to create a living soul (nephesh). (see Gen 2:7Eccl 3:18-21; Psalm 146:4). 2) metaphorically existence characterized by the fulfillment of the desires of the flesh; resulting in an inevitable death apart from God’s intervention. (see Eph 2:1; 1 Tim 5:6; Rom 8:13).

The traditionalist’s definition of death is much more confusing, as it varies depending on the righteousness of the person who dies:

DEATH: 1) properly the death of the body; resulting in the transportation of the righteous soul to a state where it can exist with God2properly the loss of life; i.e. spiritual separation of the unrighteous soul from God resulting in eternal misery; defined in Revelation 20 as “the second death”. 3metaphorically existence characterized by the fulfillment of the desires of the flesh; resulting in an inevitable death apart from God’s intervention. 

Now if my definition of the traditionalist’s view of death is flawed, feel free to write a better one in the comments. Since I am not of that viewpoint, I cannot speak for those who hold that view.  This is rather my observation from how the word is used by those who believe in eternal misery. I decided not to link applicable verses to bolster that definition, since I do not believe it is biblical.

To prove that a word acquired a connotation, one cannot look to future usage. One must provide evidence that the word gained the connotation by the time it was spoken; not after. Unless the word is clearly redefined by the speaker. In that case, it assumes a new connotation for future use.

For example, if I were to say that the modern slang word “sick” meant “cool” in the 1970’s,  I would have to prove that it was defined as such by the speakers in that time era. If I could not prove that this modern connotation of the word was prevalent in the 1970’s, then my statement is false. I would have to conclude that the modern connotation was developed at a later date. This would mean that when I see the word “sick” written by someone in the 1970’s, I cannot attach the modern meaning to it. The same is true with Bible interpretation. The phrase “the second death” was not recorded in the Bible any earlier than roughly 96 a.d. in the book of Revelation; which was the last book of the Bible to be written. Therefore we cannot admit this as evidence of a new connotation of the word death in earlier passages.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” (John 8:51)

“and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death [thanatos], and crucified him.” (Luke 24:20)

The metaphorical sense of the word is not applicable in these passages, otherwise we would already be paying the price for our sins right now; and would have no need for further punishment.

Romans 7:13 says:

“Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death [thanatos] for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death [thanatos] through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.”

Obviously, the wages of sin is not existence with God. So we must cross that out. Did Paul experienced separation from God resulting in eternal misery? No. He is metaphorically referring to “existence characterized by the fulfillment of the desires of the flesh; resulting in an inevitable death apart from God’s intervention.He was referring to his pre-conversion state. The commandments of the law produced sin, which put him to death, so to speak. Just as Romans 8:13 says:

“if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

To prove that the meaning of thanatos can be “an eternal life of misery”, it must be proven that this connotation existed before it was used to describe man’s eternal state. If you wish to search yourself, you can use this search tool: http://biblehub.com/greek/strongs_2288.htm.

The Old Testament does not contain any concepts such as this either. If anyone can find the word death defined as separation from God resulting in eternal misery within any part of Scripture, let me know. Further than that, it must be proven that death only affects the unrighteous, for to my knowledge no distinction is made. We all experience it according to the Bible (Heb 9:27).

Jesus’s Death and the Wages of Sin

For those who claim that we all deserve Hell, I must ask: did Jesus pay the full price of our sins? If it is eternal torment in Hell or separation from God, He did not experience it. So how can we say He took what we deserved if we deserve Hell? If the sense of the word is different in Romans 6:23 than it is in Romans 5:10, we are forced to conclude that Jesus did not taste the death our sins deserve. One would have to argue that it was simply His suffering prior to death and/or the sacrificial nature of it that paid the price.

Hebrews 9:15 says:

“For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death [thanatos] has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” 

Jesus paid the full price to redeem us, taking the punishment our sins deserve. And that is obviously death (thanatos). I ask again, can anyone prove that Jesus’ death was any different than the death that is the wages of sin? And if it is the same death, then we have proven that sin does not make us deserving of Hell, but deserving of the death Jesus experienced. And since death in Romans 6:23 stands opposed to eternal life, what can we assume will happen to the wicked? Will they burn eternally in Hell? No. Because the Bible says the wages of sin is the death Jesus experienced.

If Hell is not the wages of sin, what is it the result of? Existence? One would have to conclude that man did nothing to deserve Hell. I realize that in some more extreme Reformed circles that is unfortunately already the case. But I think it would be odd for God to say He is punishing sin and evil when in reality He would be intentionally not giving us what we deserve.

I think the better route would be to try to argue that Jesus did not suffer the “wages of sin”. But how one can make that case seems to escape me. I don’t know what evidence one would use to show that thanatos means something different in Romans 6:23 than it does in Romans 5:10. Nor do I know how one can say Jesus paid the full price for our sins, when He only paid part of it.

The only other option is to believe that Jesus actually did pay for our sins in Hell. If this is so, then I guess we can agree that He did pay the full price, if that is what we deserve. This however lacks Scriptural support, given He is never said to have visited Gehenna (the only word translated as hell in the NASB and ESV). And one cannot assume He will partake in the lake of fire in Revelation 20.

 The Biblical Definition of Death

The annihilationist’s definition of death is the biblical view of death. Let’s revisit it:

DEATH: 1) properly the loss of life; i.e. the state of having been returned to dust; the condition man was in before God breathed His spirit (rauch) into him to create a living soul (nephesh). (see Gen 2:7Eccl 3:18-21; Psalm 146:4). 2) metaphorically existence characterized by the fulfillment of the desires of the flesh; resulting in an inevitable death apart from God’s intervention. (see Eph 2:1; 1 Tim 5:6; Rom 8:13).

Now let’s interpret these passages:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death. [the loss of life; i.e. the state of having been returned to dust; the condition man was in before God breathed His spirit (rauch) into him to create a living soul (nephesh)]” (John 8:51)

“and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death [the loss of life; i.e. the state of having been returned to dust; the condition man was in before God breathed His spirit (rauch) into him to create a living soul (nephesh)], and crucified him. ” (Luke 24:20)

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death [the loss of life; i.e. the state of having been returned to dust; the condition man was in before God breathed His spirit (rauch) into him to create a living soul (nephesh)] of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10)

“For the wages of sin is death [the loss of life; i.e. the state of having been returned to dust; the condition man was in before God breathed His spirit (rauch) into him to create a living soul (nephesh)], but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23)

Notice how death is never paired with the word eternal; even when contrasted with eternal life. This is because death is only final if God does not raise us from the dead. God has power over death. And that is how Jesus was able to pay the price of our death. He did not have to suffer eternal death, but just death. And when the phrase “the second death” occurs in Revelation, it is saying that this death is eternal destruction (2 Thess 1:9). There is no returning from the dead. It is the same death, but it is different from the first, because it is irreversible. God has chosen not to raise those who will die the second death.

We can see this concept at work with the tree of life in the garden.

Genesis 3:22 says:

“Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever “–“

Notice how God does not say “he cannot eat of it and live forever”. He was concerned that He would eat of it.

Genesis 3:24 says:

“So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”

God kept Adam from eating of the tree of life. Why? Because He would “eat, and live forever”. If Adam and Eve would have eaten, they would have been immortal. Apparently that would’ve been a problem. Only God knows the exact reasons why. But we who are redeemed will eat of it in the New Jerusalem:

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14)

And death will be no more for those who belong to Christ:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:4)

This is my hope. Make sure it is yours. Death has no hold on those who love God and are in Christ Jesus.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)