By Michael Garrison
It is a doctrine of several religious groups that eternal punishment is not taught in the Bible. Why do these people reject the teaching of an eternal hell? Well, we don’t have to guess about the answer, nor do we have to make up some plausible reason as an answer. This is because those who do not believe in eternal punishment have told us why they do not believe in it. For instance:
The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true, mainly for four reasons: (1) because it is wholly unscriptural; (2) because it is unreasonable; (3) because it is contrary to God’s love; and (4) because it is repugnant to justice (Let God Be True, p. 80, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc.. 1946).
So, from the above quote, we see four reasons given why some do not believe in eternal punishment or torment. Let us examine each reason to see if their reasoning stands the test of God’s Holy Word.
(1) Because it is wholly unscriptural. By this, they mean they do not believe this doctrine is taught in the Bible. In Revelation 14:9-11, we can learn something about the subject of eternal punishment. In this passage from God’s Word we are told, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” So, from God’s Holy Word we do see the doctrine of men being tormented in fire and brimstone, who have no rest day nor night, and we are even told that the “smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.”
To say the doctrine of eternal punishment “is wholly unscriptural” shows an incredible lack of scriptural understanding. (I encourage the reader to read Matthew 25:46 and Mark 9:43-48 as well as other Bible passages on this topic.)
(2) Because it is unreasonable. This is based on nothing but human emotion, not scriptural fact. Perhaps the writer(s) of the above statement do not realize this fact concerning God: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the, heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). Maybe the fact eternal punishment is not reasonable to some men, but that does not prove that God’s word does not teach it!
We read about some, in Ezekiel 33:17-20, who had an idea like the people quoted above. “Yet children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that of which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.”
Charles Smith, one time president of the American Association for the Advancement of Atheism, said, “The whole scheme of redemption is foolishness to me. Because our parents and forefathers disobeyed God, he would not be on good terms with us until his son was nailed on a cross. That is not reasonable” (Oliphant-Smith Debate, 1952, p. 61). So, even the scheme of redemption is foolishness and something unreasonable to Mr. Smith. Does, that make it so? Of course not! Our faith is to be found in God’s word, not the emotions or prejudices of men (see 1 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Rom. 10:17).
(3) Because it is contrary to God’s love. This, too, is based only on human emotion, not God’s word. We are all familiar with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). He also said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16).
Because of God’s love for lost humanity, he sent his Son to die. God loves all men, but only certain ones (the obedient ones) will be saved. The rest will perish. W.E. Vine says of the word “perish,” “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well being” (Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 302). J.H. Thayer, in his Greek-English Lexicon (p. 64) says the word means “. . . to incur the loss of true or eternal life; to be delivered up to eternal misery; Jn. iii. 15,16.”
In Romans 2:5-11, we learn that God is no respecter of persons. Paul says God will “render to every man according to his deeds . . . unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” In verse 5, he calls this “the righteous judgment of God.” Who is man to say that God does not love those he punishes?
The doctrine that says God will not eternally punish the disobedient ones and unbelievers, fails to consider the dual character of God’s justice: “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Rom. 11:22). We need to obey God and remain faithful to him.
(4) Because it is repugnant to justice. The word “repugnant” means “contradictory, inconsistent; opposed; antagonistic; etc.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary). Mr. Webster says “justice” means, “the quality of being righteous; impartiality; fairness; reward of penalty as deserved.” With these definitions in mind, we can see what the writer(s) of the above are saying. They do not accept the teaching of eternal punishment “because it is contradictory or inconsistent or antagonistic to the quality of being righteous or impartial!” Who can believe that eternal punishment or torment inflicted by an all wise God on those who obey him not (2 Thess. 1:7) and are workers of unrighteousness (Rom. 2:8-9) is not justice, reward or penalty as deserved? God will keep his word and forever punish those who are unbelievers or are disobedient to his will. Let us not be in that number!
We see then four reasons to believe God will eternally punish or torment a those who do not believe and obey him:
(1) It is based on God’s Holy Scripture.
(2) It is reasonable, according to God’s revealed will.
(3) It is in accord with God’s love and righteousness.
(4) It is according to God’s righteous justice.
Let us obey God’s will so we will not be cast “into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 19, pp. 582-583
October 5, 1989