Sunday, October 7, 2012

Eternal Torment In Hell: Is It Biblical?

Is eternal torment in hell the final fate of lost sinners? I have already listed numerous scriptures contradicting this teaching in my article titled: "Is Hell Eternal?" And, at the end of this article, I will provide a "link" that presents literally dozens of texts that prove beyond question that this eternal torment doctrine is contradicted by the overwhelming weight of biblical evidence.

We'll begin with a few scriptures that clearly teach the destruction and death of the wicked, rather than their eternal torment. In Psalm 145:20 God states that He preserves all who love Him, but that He will destroy the wicked. The Hebrew word used for destroy in this text is "shamad". This word, shamad, is also used in Psalm 37:37-38, where God declares that a wonderful "future" awaits the honest and good, but He also states that the wicked will be destroyed ("shamad"), and will have no future. According to the "Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance", shamad means to utterly be brought to naught, perish or annihilate. It goes on to emphasize that shamad always expresses complete destruction or annihilation. Therefore, the precise rendering of these two passages in Psalm 145:20 and Psalm 37:37-38, is proclaiming that the honest and good people who love God will be preserved and will have a wonderful future, whereas the wicked will be completely destroyed and annihilated, and will have no future whatsoever! They do not live on forever in torment. They are destroyed, annihilated and gone! As it also states in Psalm 37:20, "they are no more". In view of the Bible's usage of the Hebrew word shamad to describe the annihilation of the wicked, it is interesting and even humorous that eternal-torment preachers often refer to people such as myself, who do not accept their eternal torment dogma, as "annihilationists". Why are we labeled as such? Because we maintain that God does not torture people forever, but rather that He does indeed annihilate them in the hell fire, based on the enormous amount of biblical evidence that supports our position. After all, we have just seen that this is exactly what God teaches us in the Bible. Therefore, I have "good company" in my belief, because God Himself is also an annihilationist.

Proponents of the eternal torment doctrine ask why God would throw sinners into an everlasting fire if they are not going to suffer in it forever; moreover, they question why the Bible repeatedly refers to the hell fire as being eternal or everlasting, if sinners' only experience a limited time of suffering in it.

To begin with, this frequent emphasis on the fact that the hell fire is never going to be extinguished, gives sinners the clear and forceful message that they are doomed to perish in this fire. "This fire is not going out, so they are not getting out alive." However, undoubtedly the main reason that the Bible repeatedly refers to the hell fire as being eternal is because that is the accurate description of the fire. It is an eternal fire! God is accurately describing the hell fire's duration. Do eternal torment advocates want God to use different, deceptive language to describe it? It is certainly not God's fault that theologians have taken the duration of the hell fire, and then applied that duration to everything that is thrown into the fire.

Just because things are thrown into a particular fire does not necessitate that the items themselves will continue to burn for the entire duration of that fire. If you have told your friends to come to your home to enjoy an all-day bonfire in your backyard roasting hotdogs and marshmallows on an autumn day, does that mean that everything thrown into your bonfire will burn all day long, just because you're making an all-day fire? Absolutely not! During the course of the day you will probably throw in some small twigs and branches that are consumed in minutes. You may also throw in some paper or plastic plates and cups from your meal, which will literally be consumed in seconds. And, there will unquestionably be logs in your fire that will burn for hours before being totally consumed and gone. You told your friends the truth when you said that it would be an all-day fire, but that did not mean that everything put into the fire would burn all day long! The various items put into your all-day fire actually burned for varying durations of time before eventually being consumed and gone. How long each item burned was determined by the composition of each item. God is making an eternal fire, but that does not mean that everyone put into that fire will burn eternally. As with my all-day bonfire example, their duration of time in the fire before being totally consumed and gone, will be determined by their "sinful composition". The more sin that is present, the longer they will burn.

This brings us back to the other question asked by eternal torment advocates. As I previously mentioned, they ask why God would throw sinners into the same everlasting fire that He uses for the devil, if they are not also going to suffer in it eternally. I have a very logical answer to their logical question. How many hell fires should God kindle to handle the various durations of punishment? Should He have a one-day fire for some; a one-week fire for others with more guilt; a one-month fire for those with even more sin; a one-year fire for those who had an abundance of sin; a ten-year fire for those who committed heinous sins against numerous people; and a seventy-year fire for those who are in a class by themselves, spending most of their lives murdering and torturing, such as Hitler and Stalin? I think God's plan is much better. He uses the same fire to deal with all of the varying durations of punishment. And, He is making it eternal because it is being prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), who are eternal beings, as explained in the following paragraph; moreover, so that it can "justly" torment them throughout eternity, because they were the ones who originated sin on this planet and who are responsible for billions of people losing their opportunity to have eternal life in heaven. Therefore, the fire must be eternal; one "logical fire" to handle all durations of punishment.

In the previous paragraph, I stated that the devil and his angels are "eternal beings". I say this based on Jesus' statement in Luke 20:36, where He said that, after the resurrection, we will not die because we will be equal to the angels. In other words, angels are "eternal beings"; they do not die. And, as previously mentioned, that is why the fire prepared for them needed to be everlasting.

We know that the God of Christianity is a fair and just God. Keeping this in mind, I ask you to "do the math" regarding hell. If hell's duration was limited to one trillion years, based on a seventy-five year average lifespan, our fair and just God would be punishing people 30,000 years for each and every moment that they lived on earth. And, remember, this is not a light and easy punishment; this is agonizing torment in hell's flames that produces wailing and gnashing of teeth. Furthermore, this 30,000 year per minute punishment is based on a one trillion year duration for hell. However, teachers of this doctrine say that the torment of lost sinners in hell is not limited to one trillion years, but will continue throughout the trillions of trillions of years of eternity. Therefore, the torment will eventually become millions and billions of years for each and every moment lived on earth.

Romans 2:4 states that it is God's "goodness" that leads people to repentance. Would the average person, who has not been previously indoctrinated with the Christian eternal torment teaching, consider it a revelation of God's goodness and equitable justice for Him to punish "every minute" of disobedience with millions of years of painful torment and agony? I ask you to honestly ask yourself the following questions, and try to answer them from an unbiased perspective.

If you heard about some parents who locked their children in a hot dark room for six months each time they had been disobedient; furthermore, that once each day they placed their children's hands on a hot stove during the entire six months of punishment; could anyone convince you that the punishment was justifiable, because the parents said that rebellion and disobedience were so offensive and repulsive in their sight, which is the reason given by eternal torment advocates to justify the eternal torture of the lost? You would totally reject and denounce such reasoning, and you know it! Yet, Christian preachers present a Heavenly Parent (God), who supposedly punishes billions of months for each act of disobedience; moreover, this Heavenly Parent doesn't just burn the hands once each day, but He burns the entire body non-stop, every second of every minute of every hour of every day throughout the trillions of years of eternity! Is it logical and consistent to declare the parents' conduct in my illustration to be unjust, unloving and sadistic, but to simultaneously declare that the conduct of a God, whose punishment is a billion-fold more severe and painful, is somehow just and loving? Such an assertion defies reason, logic and any sense of equitable justice.

If your child, spouse or sibling was caught shoplifting a few DVD's, then was brought before a judge, who gave your loved one the same lifetime prison sentence that he gave to brutal murderers; would you accept the judge's argument that all violations of the law are deserving of the same punishment, because they all reflect the same selfish and disobedient spirit, which is the argument used by eternal torment advocates to justify their "one-size-fits-all" eternal punishment of the lost? You know that you would absolutely and vehemently reject and oppose this irrational argument, and that you would consider such a judicial decision and declaration to be ludicrous; moreover, you would denounce the judge's sentence as being grossly unjust. Yet Christian preachers present a Heavenly Judge (God), who gives your lost loved ones the same sentence of eternal torment in hell that He gives to genocidal maniacs like Hitler and Stalin. Wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the trillions of years of eternity shall be the fate of your lost child, sibling or spouse, just as it shall be for these mass-murderers and even for the devil himself, according to eternal torment advocates.

Eternal torment preachers tell us that your lost loved one deserves the same eternal punishment in hell's flames because God views all sin in the same manner. This is not only ridiculous, but it also contradicts the Bible. God does not view all sin as being the same. Jesus told Pilate that the sin of the religious leaders was greater than Pilate's sin (John 19:11). Paul told the Corinthians that they were tolerating a sexual sin in their church that was worse than the gentiles would allow (1st Corinthians 5:1). And, it is common knowledge to any good Bible student, that there were many varying penalties for many different sins recorded in the Old Testament. Some sins bore the death penalty, but not all. Some sins were classified as being abominations, but not all. The Apostle John states that there are sins which are "not onto death", and he also says that there is sin which "is onto death" (1st John 5:16-17). Anyone who contends that God views all sin in the same manner is either dishonest or seriously lacking in biblical knowledge.

The Bible says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and that He asks them why they will die (Ezekiel 33:11). The kind of God who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, does not punish them throughout the trillions of years of eternity, as supposed justice for a life of seventy-five years of disobedience. It is also significant that God asks them why they will "die" in this passage. He does not ask them why they will suffer torment forever. Throughout the entire Bible the final fate of lost sinners is called "death", not an eternal life of pain and agony.

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