Home | Archives | Guest Book | Links | churches of Christ | Contact Us
Plan of Salvation
 | Correspondence Course | Daily Bible Reading | Store | World Evangelism
Gospel Gazette Online logo

Serving an international
readership with the
Old Jerusalem Gospel
via the Internet.

Vol.  10  No. 2 February 2008  Page 11
powered by FreeFind
Current Issue: Go to Page 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20

Dean KellyThe Eternalness of Hell

By Dean Kelly

    I received an email from another beloved brother overseas who made the following comments:

Another thing that I have concern with is a doctrine that is going around our brotherhood that there is no such place as hell…that is no “eternal punishment” …but that rather hell is knowing the beauties of heaven but being annihilated. One preacher said to me that a loving God would not allow a person to suffer eternally.

Have you personally come across this false teaching? I read an article by Legard Smith who obviously believes that those who do not go to heaven will be non-existent. It is difficult for me to understand why some of these learned brethren cannot accept the Word as we have it. If you have any material on this I would appreciate it very much. God bless.

    In the religious world as a whole, the subject of hell is an almost totally overlooked subject. While a large percentage of Americans, according to polls, believe there is a heaven, a comparatively small group holds a firm conviction that hell exists (Lyons, June 2007). As is alluded to in the email, there are some in the Lord’s church who are denying the concept of eternal, everlasting hell. In 1982, Edward Fudge published a book entitled The Fire That Consumes in which he denied the existence of an eternal hell, and offered instead a version of the concept of annihilation being hell. Later, Homer Hailey penned a book that he called God’s Judgments and Punishments in which he took basically the same position. F. LaGard Smith wrote the introduction to Hailey’s book, and wrote one of his own, After Life, again taking basically the same position.

    At the conclusion of this article I am going to list a number of articles from the website of Apologetics Press. Over the years, it has done a marvelous job on this subject. I am not going to try to recapitulate everything that those articles say. I am simply going to draw some conclusions based on the study of this subject, including those articles. I am not going to enumerate the long list of verses that tell of eternal hell. I do note, as is stated in one of the articles I will recommend, that the plainest and most powerful teachings about eternal punishment come from the mouth of Jesus himself.

   There are several misconceptions that underlie the false positions concerning hell. First among them is a misconception of the nature of God. Secondly, is a misunderstanding of certain words and phrases. Thirdly, is a tendency to make some figures “walk on all fours,” in other words to fail to recognize that a figure used to illustrate something is not like it in every way. While other things are also involved, we will note these three very briefly.

    1. The Misconception of the Nature of God. As was stated in the email, some will say, “A loving God will not allow a person to suffer eternally.” This comes, I believe, from the unbalanced view of God that has become so prevalent today, even in the Lord’s church. The grace of God is marvelous, and must be preached. His grace is absolutely necessary for those who are sinners to be saved, and without it there is no salvation. However, it must be understood that sin to God is exceedingly horrible, and intolerable. He by His nature cannot tolerate sin. We have all too often left behind the biblical concept of how terrible sin is, and if left, unforgiven, then sin must be punished. God has always punished evildoers in the most severe of ways. His justice demands punishment. When one does not take advantage of the grace of God by obedience to the Gospel, God will take vengeance on him/her “in flaming fire” as he or she faces the unrestrained wrath of a just God. A balanced and accurate view of God recognizes that eternal punishment is fair, equitable and necessary to fulfill God’s justice and wrath.

    2. The Misunderstanding of Certain Words and Phrases. The word “death” is viewed by our human minds as the ending of life. As Christians, we understand that death is not the end for the righteous, but rather the step that we take into eternity. Most will not deny this. The question really becomes, “Does eternal death mean annihilation.” It is always best if we can let the Bible answer any question we may have about it. Note this from the pen of James:

James 2:26 (KJV) “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

James 2:26 (ASV) “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.”

James 2:26 (ESV) “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

    The inspired writer says that death is a separation. Physical death is separation of the body from the spirit. Spiritual death is the separation of man from God. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve that they would surely “die” in the day that they ate of the forbidden fruit. They began the process of physical death that day, as they would be cast out of the Garden and away from the Tree of Life. Hence, physical death would come upon mankind. However, they actually did die that very day, a spiritual death, as their sins separated between them and their God (See Isaiah 59:1-2). Eternal “death” is not annihilation, but is rather the eternal separation of the condemned from God.

    Another misunderstood concept is “eternal.” Again, I defer to the articles that I am recommending at the close of this article for very specific and solid arguments. For this point, let it simply be said that eternal punishment is of the same duration as eternal life. The same word is used to describe both in passages such as Matthew 25:31-35. The righteous and the wicked will be raised in the same hour (John 5:28-29). Those who are alive will be changed from corruptible bodies to incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15). This applies to both the saved and the lost. Both will exist forever, one in the resurrection of life, and the other to the resurrection of “damnation” (KJV), “condemnation” (NKJV), “judgment” (ASV, NASB, ESV). The eternalness of the death does not mean that the person is annihilated, but it means that the separation from God in a severe punishment will never end.

    Among other terms, the term “destroy” as used by Jesus in Matthew 10:28 is misunderstood. Again, this is dealt with thoroughly in referenced materials. Basically, it should be noted that the word translated “destroy” is used almost 100 times in the New Testament, and that it does not mean annihilation, but rather “the loss of well-being and the loss of being blessed” (Lyons, Butts “The Eternality of Hell” [Part II]. There are, of course, other words that are misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misapplied.

    3. The Tendency to Make Some Figures “Walk on All Fours.” When I was a student at Freed-Hardeman University (College back then), I took several short courses with Brother William Woodson. I believe that he was the first that I heard use the expression stating that we should not make figures or parables and such like “walk on all fours.” In other words, failing to recognize that a figure used to illustrate something is not like it in every way. Some simple examples would include Adam as a type of Christ, Moses as a type of Christ, Noah’s Ark as a type of the church, (or as Peter uses it, as a type of baptism), the temple as a type of the church, etc. There is something about each of these types that foreshadows the antitypes found in the New Testament. They are not like them in every way, but rather illustrate something about what was to come. By the same token, the illustrations found in Scripture, such as the parables of Jesus, are taught to provide a specific teaching. They are not in every point the same, but simply illustrate the major Scripture.

    Relevant to this study is the illustration of eternal punishment using Sodom and Gomorrah. Those who would claim that punishment is not everlasting argue that these two cities were totally destroyed, and that if the punishment of the wicked is like that then the wicked will be annihilated. Interestingly, it is clearly stated in Scripture that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah still are living at the time of Jesus’ teaching, because he compares what they will face in judgment with what those who reject his hearing will face. Hence, the fact is that while the cities were destroyed with fire from heaven, the people were not annihilated. Why use this illustration, if not to teach annihilation? 1.    To show the certainty of the fact that God will punish. 2. To show the severity of the punishment that God will bring upon those who reject right. 3. To illustrate that those exceedingly wicked people will not suffer as greatly eternally as will those who actually heard Jesus speak, and rejected Him.

The Apologetics Press Articles

    We could go on and on but I want to recommend to the reader the following articles from Apologetics Press in Montgomery, AL. I highly recommend these materials, for they are biblically sound, and very well researched. They include very thorough discussions of the short information I have given.

<http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/onds.pdf> A pamphlet The Origin, Nature, & Destiny of the Soul; Chapter 5 is especially helpful on this question.

<http://www.apologeticspress.com/articles/3364> A short article about the attitudes concerning hell in the religious world

<http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2669> The Eternality of Hell, Part 1 of an excellent study of the subject of the eternal nature of hell.

<http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2688> The Eternality of Hell, Part 2 of an excellent study of the subject of the eternal nature of hell.

<http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1629> Another shorter article on The Reality of Eternal Hell.

<http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2186> Another fine article dealing with the subject: The Goodness of God and an Eternal Hell.

urrent Issue: Go to Page 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20