Sunday, January 12, 2014
INTRODUCTION/OUTLINE: Is the doctrine on hell as eternal conscious torment correct?
Does the Bible truly teach that those who do not inherit eternal life will be subject to never-ending conscious torment? Of course, the predominant traditional view in "mainstream" Christianity is yes. But we are not to blindly follow traditions of men, no matter how popular they may be. We are to follow the Scriptures only. Upon a substantive examination of the Scriptures, there is no basis for the traditional doctrine. What the Bible truly teaches is that the righteous inherit eternal life, while the wicked are totally and permanently destroyed.
1. The penalty of sin is death, not eternal torment. The opposite of eternal life is permanent death/destruction, not "eternal life in concious torment".
2. A punishment of eternal concious torment is against the nature of the Creator. The false doctrine of never-ending torment for the damned makes the Heavenly Father out to be merciless, unjust, and a monstrous sadist.
3. A punishment of eternal conscious torment is too harsh for the crime. It is not proportionate to the offense. A limited and relatively "small" number of sins in our short/temporary lives does not justify unimaginably horrific unending torment.
4. The Messiah did not teach a doctrine of eternal concious torment. He taught that the wicked would be destroyed. And the "soul" is not immortal. Rather, it can be destroyed (see Matthew 10:28 below).
Matthew 7:13-14: Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Matthew 10:28: And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Luke 13:3: I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
5. "Everlasting destruction" means permanent destruction, not that the "destroying goes on forever." For example, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by the "vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 1:7 ).
6. The Book of Revelation is a vision given to the Apostle John. As such, the imagery is mostly symbolic, and not to be taken literally. Therefore, the language about the "lake of fire" in which the wicked are destroyed is not necessarily literal.
7. The English word "hell" in the Bible is translated 10 times in the New Testament from the Greek word "Gehenna" (a ravine where trash was burned outside of Jerusalem), 60 times in the Old Testament from the Hebrew word "Sheol" (which means grave or pit), and a few times in the New Testament from the Greek word "Hades" (the equivalent of the Hebrew "Sheol" meaning the grave or intermediary resting place between physical death and the resurrection).
8. The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) is a PARABLE, meaning it is not to be taken literally.
9. The language in Revelation of "where their worm does not die", "the fire is not quenched", and "the smoke of their torment goes up forever" harkens back to language in the Old Testament. For example, Malachi 4:1 states that the "Day of the Lord" will "burn like a furnace", and the wicked "will be as ashes". Isaiah 66:22-24 speaks of the rotting corpses of the enemies of the Creator as having "worms that die not" (referring to maggots), and "fire that cannot be quenched" (meaning that no man can stop the consuming fire and punishment of "God"). It doesn't mean that the corpses of the wicked who are destroyed are still "consiously alive with worms tormenting them and fire continually burning." Isaiah 34:9-10 speaks of the destruction of Edom with sulfer/brimstone, with "smoke rising forever", which "will not be quenched day nor night". This doesn't mean that the the destruction of Edom (the land occupied by the descendants of Esau to the immediate southeast of Judea) is literally still ongoing.
10. Revelation 20:10 refers to the devil, the Beast, and the false prophet as being "tormented day and night for ever and ever", not all human beings who are damned. And the Book of Revelation is a vision given to the Apostle John, which is largely symbolic and not to be taken literally. Also, the word "ever" in "for ever" in English is translated from the Greek word "aion", which can mean "age", or a period of time of limited duration.
11. The Creator cannot tolerate evil in his presence (at least not forever). Therefore, why would he give eternal life to the wicked...ie, allowing them to be alive for eternity being tormented? It makes sense (just based upon this line of reasoning) that the Creator would want to totally annihilate the presence of evil.
12. In 2 Peter 3:7, it states regarding the "Day of the Lord" that "By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly." The word "destruction" here in 2 Peter 3:7 in English is translated from Strong's Greek word #684, "apōleia", which means "utter destruction".