Is Hell Eternal?

The eternality of Hell is a topic which has been discussed and debated for centuries. Are the flames of Hell (or ultimately the “lake of fire”) eternal, or will the unredeemed simply burn up, and cease to exist (Annihilationism) as some scholars such as John Stott conclude?

The Bible clearly teaches a reality of “eternal” punishment (II Thes 1:9-10, Jude 13, Heb 6:1-2, Rev 14:11, Dan 12:2, etc.), but how is this just? Here is the question: how can the sins of one man or woman’s lifetime—even the vilest of sinners, who committed horrible crimes from birth, for eighty-some years—deserve punishment for eternity? Even a hundred years is nothing in comparison to eternity! Does the punishment fit the crime?

At first glance it may not seem so, but when one reaches deeper into the very nature of sin, the answer comes out clearly ‘Yes.’ The reason for the eternality of Hell coincides not with the length of time sinning, but with the gravity of sin itself—or more specifically, the worth of the One sinned against. The apostle Paul recognized that sin is, in its broadest sense, an act of idolatry. Paul speaks of idolatry in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God… they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:21-25). When man sins he is discarding God as his all-satisfying treasure, and exchanges Him for something else—an idol—which he hopes will satisfy him better. This is idolatry, and this is a blasphemous sin against the all-satisfying God of the universe! Here we see that our sins are not simply sins against man, or even against the laws of God, but are sins against the very nature and person of God! Because man has rejected the infinitely glorious God, he deserves an infinitely great punishment. We all do.

Jonathan Edwards handles the subject well, in his writing, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.” Please bear with Edwards’ old English. He sheds valuable light on the subject:

“Every crime or fault deserves a greater or less punishment, in proportion as the crime itself is greater or less. If any fault deserves punishment, then so much the greater the fault, so much the greater is the punishment deserved. …so that if there be any such thing as a fault infinitely heinous, it will follow that it is just to inflict a punishment for it that is infinitely dreadful.

A crime is more or less heinous, according as we are under greater or less obligations to the contrary. This is self-evident; because it is herein that the criminalness or faultiness of any thing consists, that it is contrary to what we are obliged or bound to, or what ought to be in us. So the faultiness of one being hating another, is in proportion to his obligation to love him. The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to honour him. The fault of disobeying another, is greater or less, as any one is under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honour, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.

Our obligation to love, honour, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honourableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honourable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honour. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience.

But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. To have infinite excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore he is infinitely honourable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore he is infinitely more honourable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of his right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for he is infinitely worthy to be obeyed himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon him.

So that sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving of infinite punishment.- Nothing is more agreeable to the common sense of mankind, than that sins committed against any one, must be proportionably heinous to the dignity of the being offended and abused…”

Enough said.

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3 thoughts on “Is Hell Eternal?

  1. Excellent! Hell is well deserved, and Heaven is undeserved. The amazing thing about it is that anyone who comes to Him will He in no way cast out! Can you beat that?

    Someone asked me if it was fair that folk who had never heard the Gospel would die and spend eternity in Hell? I responded: “No it isn’t fair.” They thought they were getting off the hook. Then I said, “It’s not fair, but it’s not God’s fault. He told us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. So, if people who have never heard die and go to Hell the blame is in our court not God’s.” He told the church to reach the world. There is no plan B.

    Apparently the Lord thought we could get the job done because He told us to do it and gave us the resources.

    What are your thoughts?

  2. The problem here is equating “the bible says” to what Jesus said. You can find all parts of the Bible to justify rape, genocide and slavery…but you’d be rejecting the final and full revelation of what God is really like and what he really intends to do as Jesus taught in his words and deeds.

    The fact is Jesus’ original teachings make Hell impossible in that he made it very clear that God has no intention of ever hurting anyone.
    I’ve actually written an entire book on this topic–Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There’s No Such Place As Hell, (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of Did Jesus Believe in Hell?, one of the most compelling chapters in my book at http://www.thereisnohell.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

    If one is willing to look, there’s substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: “You don’t know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!” Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

    So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

    True, there are a few statements that made their way into the copies of copies of copies of the gospel texts which place “Hell” on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

    Bear in mind that the historical Protestant doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures applies only to the original autographs, not the copies. But sadly, the interpolations that made their way into those copies have provided a convenient excuse for a lot of people to get around following Jesus’ real message.

    • @Pastor Fox: I agree.

      @Rick: I checked out your website and made it through the chapter in your book, and I have to say your arguments are weak. All your theology and arguments come from deductions made out of an inept understanding of the character of God! I don’t want to be mean, but honestly they are very poor.

      You need to reexamine your ideas in light of the scope of revelation about God from the beginning to the end. God is not just some loving, fluffy bunny sitting on a cloud somewhere…. all of His attributes are in balance—love, goodness, justice, etc…

      You said, “they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: “You don’t know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!” Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.”

      No one claims that Jesus came to CAUSE suffering! That doesn’t even make sense. Jesus came and died to remove the wrath of God from us so that we could be SAVED! Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

      He came to SAVE from the punishment of sin, to reconcile us to God (I Peter 3:18). If there is no punishment or separation from God, than Jesus incarnation was pointless.

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