Many claiming a Christian affiliation question how a loving God could actually send someone to so terrible a place as hell – the lake of fire (Matthew 18: 9). Others deny there could be a hell while still others acknowledge hell as a place of eternal punishment, but that the punishment itself cannot be eternal because God is too loving and forgiving. This last concept is called annihilationism – a belief that non-Christians are destroyed in the twinkling of an eye rather than tormented in hell forever.
Any doubt about the existence of hell is easily corrected. The Bible says there’s a hell, so if you recognize the Bible as the truth, you also must accept hell’s existence. Still God is a loving God, making the concept of annihilationism slightly more difficult to overcome.
In Matthew 25: 41, Jesus said non-Christians will be sent into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. In verse 46, he said they’ll go away to eternal punishment while Christians will enter eternal life. Thus, both the fire and the punishment are as eternal as the life for Christians. Revelation 20: 10-15 describes the lake of fire as a place where the devil and non-Christians will be tormented for ever and ever (see also Mark 9: 47, 48).
But the punishment doesn’t start or end at the judgment. The rich man died and went to hell where he was tormented (Luke 16: 19-31). This happened while his brothers were still alive and could be saved. Second Peter 2: 4-10 says that disobedient angels are already in hell being held for judgment while their punishment is being CONTINUED (emphasis mine). Those who despise authority and follow corrupt desires fall into the category of the unrighteous.
There’s the problem with even expressing the erroneous opinion of annihiliationism as possibly being viable. It leads people to despise God’s authority, concluding that if the punishment only lasts as long as the twinkling of an eye, the pleasure of an individual sin may last longer encouraging them to follow their corrupt desires.
I know some teach that we can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar and we are to make the teaching about God attractive through daily living; however, we also are to consider God’s sternness along with his kindness (Titus 2: 10; 1 Peter 2: 11, 12; 3: 15, 16; 1 Thessalonians 4: 11, 12; Romans 11: 22). We won’t be able to stand before him guiltless unless we present his whole counsel (Acts 20: 26, 27).
God’s love was expressed at the cross when his own son paid the price for our sin. Those accepting the benefits of that redemption on God’s terms remain in his love (Romans 6: 3-11; John 14: 15-18, 23; 15: 9-11). Those who don’t accept God’s love, actually trample it under foot and will reap the full extent of his vengeance (Hebrews 10: 26-31). Hopefully that’s enough to scare the, um, certainty of eternal punishment out of most people.
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan. Contact him at: email@example.com