Is Hell Eternal? (3 of 3)

(Continued from yesterday)

Now, with this biblical foundation, let’s go back to your original question. Yes, there are several theological views on hell. I will briefly describe each one, and then give you my opinion. I’ll begin with the minor ones first.

  • Purgatory view – This Roman Catholic view is that souls of the faithful dead endure a period of purification for sins prior to their entrance into heaven. Protestants who adopt this view say it completes sanctification. They think that the suffering is remedial, not punishment as stated in the Bible. Proponents of this view would rather accept the traditions of men than the word of God. This doctrine is not taught anywhere in the Protestant Bible, only in 2 Maccabees which is not inspired. I reject this view.
  • Universalism view – The view that all people will ultimately receive salvation from God because He is love. He offers sinners opportunities to repent even after death and ultimately all people will be saved. Again, proponents feel the sufferings in hell are remedial, not punishment. This view plays up God’s love at the expense of His justice. The Bible does not teach second chances after death. Lk 16 records the fate of the rich man and Lazarus:
  • Lk 16:23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.
  • Lk 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 

Technically the rich man was in Hades, the intermediate state, not yet hell, but no second chances were offered then, let alone in hell. I believe this view is wrong.

  • Annihilation or conditional view – The view that those not believing in Jesus Christ will be obliterated by God for their sin. Supporters of this view feel that it is unfair to punish sins committed in a finite lifetime for all eternity, so a God of love would execute terminal punishment by destroying the soul in hell. They take the words “destroy both body and soul in hell” literally but soft-pedal the words “eternal punishment”, saying that annihilation is eternal.

The proponents think their way of annihilation is fairer than God’s way of eternal punishment, so they look for language that supports their view. They argue that hell fire is eternal because it was prepared for the devil and his angels, but sinners are not eternal. They reason that humans are by nature not immortal, and it is only through union with Christ that the righteous receive immortality. But Rev 14:10-11 is on those who worship the beast, and it says the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night. It does not say their torment will cease and they will rest when they are destroyed. The counter argument that this applies only to those who worship the beast and receive its mark is not valid, because Rev 20:15 says anyone whose name is not written in the Book of Life is thrown into the lake of fire. Shall I accept their philosophical idea, or the word of God? I cannot accept the annihilation view.

My conclusion for the first three views is Mt 22:29 “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Mk 12:24)

  • This leaves the fourth or Traditional view, and the fifth or Metaphorical view, which we will look at together. Both views believe hell to be eternal conscious torment. That’s their similarity. The difference is that while the traditional view holds the torment to be with literal fire and brimstone, the metaphorical view believes the fire to be symbolic of God’s wrath and judgment. They feel if the description of hell is literal, how can the body be not consumed for all eternity? How can hell be a furnace of fire and yet dark at the same time? The metaphorical view therefore concludes that such descriptions must be figurative of suffering, pain, hopelessness, regret, which can coexist.

There are simple answers to their queries. In Ex 3:2 the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush. The bush was burning with fire, yet it was not consumed. Furthermore, we are talking about resurrection bodies of the wicked, which are different from their physical bodies on earth. Can God give them un-consumable bodies? Second, can fire and darkness exist together? The objection is that fire gives light, which is contradictory to darkness. I don’t know the real answer, but in astronomy we have black holes, whose gravitational pull is so strong that even light cannot pass through. Can hell be so self-centered, always getting and never giving, so that even light cannot escape? Having said that, my position is that the Bible uses both literal and figurative language, and I can accept both the traditional and metaphorical views. I’ll just wait for the Lord to explain what I don’t understand when we see Him.

Lastly, my view of the pastor’s stance. I’m afraid nowadays too many of us are men-pleasers:

  • Gal 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

My position is that ultimately each one of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:12). Who am I to judge the servant of the Master (Rom 14:4)? But as for me and my house, we choose to seek the favor of God.

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