Response to Glenn (annihilationist)

Ah, see, now I’m having fun. Nothing like spending 6 hours manually fact-checking an ancient language. Then again, some folks have accused me of having wayyyyy too much time on my hands.

Sorry I’m late again, though. All this research is time-consuming.

Before I get started: I’ve had some very kind and encouraging comments come in since I closed the “Annihilationism and Universalism” thread to further discussion. I’ve also had some pretty snarky ones. I greatly appreciate the former, and I thank those responsible for the latter (I needed a good giggle– it’s been a long week).

Now, on to the grist…

Glenn

Consider that the verb for “destroy” in Matthew 10:28 is apollumi. That’s what God will do to body and soul in gehenna. Now, consider the fact that every other time the synoptic authors use that word to describe the actions of one person or agent against another, it always refers to literal killing.

Take care of the fallacy of trying to crack open a word’s widest possible semantic range so that you can select a meaning that conforms to your theology. What you need to ask is not “What is this word capable of meaning,” but rather “given the evidence that we have from this author, what is this word’s likely meaning here?” Hope this helps.

This was addressed obliquely in my responses to Tom McLean, but since the question here takes a slightly different tack, I’d like to address it again. McLean’s first mistake was to ignore the word, “death,” as used in ancient Hebrew, until he able to find a use of the word that supported his view of what he argued was “meaning derived from ‘first use’.” He claimed that the “first use” was in Genesis 21:16, whereas the actual “first use” is in Genesis 2:17! As I said of Matthew 10:28 to Mr. McLean:

However, in the original text, Christ uses two different words for “death” within the same verse:  And do not fear those who kill (apokteino) the body, but are unable to kill (apokteino) the soul; but rather fear Him who has the power to destroy (apollumi) both body and soul in hell.” It doesn’t stand that Christ would use the separate words—each of which carries its own connotations—unless He meant to make the distinction.

So while your advice on, “trying to crack open a word’s widest possible meaning,” is spot-on, you fail to take your own advice by either ignoring the context, or by taking it for granted that what someone else told you is correct. In Matthew 10:28, the context mitigates against the annihilationist argument—not for it.

You’re also making a very large mistake by saying that the word, “apollumi,” is only used in reference to literal killing in the synoptics.

The word, “apollumi,” more properly rendered, “perish,” is the middle voice of the Greek “apolo,” which is variously rendered as “destroy (the most frequent usage), “abolish” (as in Matthew 5:17), and “to kill” (Matthew 21:41). The synoptic authors use it to describe amputation (Matthew 5:29, 30), dying (Matthew 8:25, Mark 4:38 Luke 8:24) [metaphorically] of hunger (Luke 15:17); broken wineskins (Matthew 9:17); being lost (Matthew 18:14); being damaged (Luke 21:18) and being killed (Matthew 26:52).

Greek words used in the New Testament to render “destroy” or synonyms of “destroy” include:

–       apolo: destroy, destroyed, destroyeth, destroyest (29 times)

–       apoleia: destruction (4 times)

–       thanatos: death (44 times)

–       nekros (noun) or necroo (verb form): dead (65 times)

–       variations of “die” (13 times):

o      thnesko (to die, be dead)

o      apothnesko (to die off, die out)

o      sunapothnesko (to die with, die together)

o      teleutao (to end [as in one’s life])

o      koimao (to fall asleep)

o      apoginomai (to be away from)

–       Variations on the word, “kill” (55 times):

o      apokteino (to kill)

o      anaireo (to kill, not used metaphorically)

o      thuo (offer firstfruits, sacrifice by slaying a victim)

o      phoreuo (to murder)

o      thanatoo (to put to death)

o      diacheirizo (to lay hands on with intent to kill)

o      sphazo (to slay, slaughter, esp. for sacrificial purposes)

–       variations on “perish” (18 times)

o      apollumi: perish (middle voice of “to destroy”)

o      sunapollumi: to perish together

o      apothnesko: perished

o      aphanizo: make unseen

–       chorizo: to put asunder

–       phoneus: murder (6 times)

–       anthropoktonos: murderer (5 times)

(counts apply only to the Synoptic Gospels, and Acts)

So you see, it isn’t as easy as picking up your handy NIV and counting how many times a word appears, and then applying the same meaning to the word every time it appears in English. Unless you go back and check it in the original Greek (as I did, for every one of these examples), you have no idea what you’re really arguing. So when you say, “What you need to ask is not ‘What is this word capable of meaning,’ but rather ‘given the evidence that we have from this author, what is this word’s likely meaning here?’” it might be a help if (paraphrasing a certain amazing and omniscient Teacher I know) you get the log out of your own eye, before you try to take the speck out of mine.

Be blessed, everyone! See you Monday (ish)!

 

EDIT: I knew there was something I was forgetting to add… in the process of checking all of these various words and phrases, I thought that– in the interest of fairness– I would see how many times the Bible uses the words, “annihilate,” and/or, “annihilation.”

In both the Old and New Testaments, the number was: 0.

 

That is all. See you Monday!

Response to Tom McLean (Annihilationist)

My earlier post about Annihilationism and Universalism apparently ruffled some feathers. The discussion thread was spammed by responses from an annihilationist group that was begging responses to their arguments; since it was the weekend and I’m the sole moderator on this site, (I have help with content, but at present I am the only author and admin) I was unable to answer all of the posts (at one point there were 12 comments from these guys awaiting moderation, most over 1000 words and all of them begging responses to multiple objections).

Because I wasn’t responding fast enough for them (and their real intent wasn’t actually discussion, but rather to direct people to their website, where they hoped to promote this heresy), one of the annihilationists who had been responded to decided it would be a good idea to do an end-run around me by copying his comrades’ responses into his own.

As a result, I was forced to lock the thread and delete the discussion. I don’t have a problem with discussion, but there is a certain amount of etiquette that one can expect in a real debate, even on the internet.

As a matter of courtesy, and because I believe that this is an important issue that should be addressed, I have taken the time to respond to the most pressing of the annihilationist arguments; the responses will be posted as individual posts to each of the people involved.

These threads will not be open for discussion, as a result of what happened with the Annihilationism and Universalism article. 

 

Tom McLean- “If you were to insert the word separation or transition into the vast majority of the places the word death is found in the bible, they simply would not make sense. The word “separation” is found in the bible 26 times and it has nothing to do with death. The word transitioned is not found in the bible.”

If you were to exchange the words in the English translation, this would most often be true. However, we aren’t talking about the English translation’s meaning; we are talking about what the text means in its original form. What might be nonsensical in English could very well have made perfect sense when used in the original language. One of the reasons that various translations disagree in the particular use of certain words and phrases is that the people doing the translation are trying to find what their idea of the best way to phrase the passage would be. For instance, the word “dog” may mean an animal, “to relentlessly pursue,” or “an unscrupulous or immoral man.” It all depends on the context; however, the same word, “dog,” is likely to have completely different connotations in Russian, aside from the original meaning of a four-legged animal of the canine species.

Attempting to force modern English context onto ancient Hebrew or Greek words in order to make them fit a desired meaning is just poor exegesis.

T.M.- “…in the New Testament the word death is found 124 times and again I found nowhere that it was called “separation”. The majority of the time the Greek word that is used is as follows:
άνατος
thanatos
than’-at-os
From G2348; (properly an adjective used as a noun) death (literally or figuratively): – X deadly, (be . . .) death.

“First mention is important in the Bible;
Gen 21:16; Here we see the first mention in the Bible of the word death and following is the meaning in Hebrew –
mâveth
maw’-veth
From H4191; death (natural or violent); concretely the dead, their place or state (Hades); figuratively pestilence, ruin: – (be) dead ([-ly]), death, die (-d)

“As one can see there is no mention of the word separation in the Bible’s first mention. 
Additionally, the majority of the time when death is used in the Old Testament it uses this word “maw’-veth”

Actually, the first use of the word “death” (mahwet) is in Genesis 2:17, in which God warns Adam not to eat from the Tree of Life; in this passage “death” is almost universally accepted to mean “spiritual death, separation from God,” as well as its standard meaning of man’s natural death on earth. In this case, “first use” actually illustrates that the word is used in both respects. Dependence on “first use” as an argument here fails to support the annihilationist argument.

T.M.- “Sometimes the word for death in Hebrew is
mûth
mooth
A primitive root; to die (literally or figuratively); causatively to kill: – X at all, X crying, (be) dead (body, man, one), (put to, worthy of) death, destroy (-er), (cause to, be like to, must) die, kill, necro [-mancer], X must needs, slay, X surely, X very suddenly, X in [no] wise. An example verse for this is Ex 21:12 Again we see no word “separation”.

This is a red herring. The use of the word in this context is clearly in reference to the physical, temporal death of humans in this life—the murder victim (murdered) and the murderer (executed by other men).

T.M.- “Maybe I was not clear when I listed Rom 2:7 etc, but five times God used the word “immortality” in scripture.”

Three of those five times in the New Testament (1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 1:10 and Romans 2:7), the word “aphthartos/aphthasia” is rendered in the KJV as “immortal;” in more modern translations it has been correctly rendered “incorruptible.”

T.M.- “I simply wanted to show that when God uses the word immortality in his holy word he never says the unsaved receive immortality… you will see I referenced all of chap 15, That is because the context of I Cor 15 clearly shows God is talking to Christians, and the context I Cor 15 in no way teaches that all men will receive immortality.”

This argument is specious; in the same way that annihilationists would claim that this chapter provides no evidence of immortality for all of the risen dead, there is absolutely nothing in the chapter that indicates that the risen wicked are annihilated—it’s an argument from silence. Taken as a whole, the text (in context with both Paul’s discussion, and the rest of Scripture) supports the orthodox view of the wicked being raised to immortal, ever-lasting shame and contempt.

T.M.- “Destroy – Strongs – apollumi
ap-ol’-loo-mee
From G575 and the base of G3639; to destroy fully (reflexively to perish, or lose), literally or figuratively: – destroy, die, lose, mar, perish. The complete Word Study Dictionary – Spiros Zodhiates Th.D.
Spoken of eternal death, i.e., future punishment, exclusion from the Messiah’s kingdom. In this sense it has the same meaning as apothnesko (599), to die (Matt 10:28)
Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible – Matt 10:28 Destroy = to lose off or away, destroy

“Here we have 3 different Greek renderings, and in addition to Vine’s we have 4 that do not completely agree on everything. The point is, as it is with various Bible translations and Bible scholars so it is with the Greek, there are various translations and various scholars and they don’t always agree.”

However, all 4 also have points of agreement, which annihilationists would appear to have ignored.

T.M.- “Vine has one view, but there are also Greek scholars who support the Conditionalist view.” 

As well as secular Greek scholars that define the word as: “leave behind, abandon; leave over; lose a possession; kill (a man); destroy; be killed (of an animal); perish; ruin, undo a person” (Enoch, “Lexicon to Herodotus;” emphasis mine). Here you can see that “separation” is in fact a very plausible meaning to extract from the word.

T.M- “The context of Matthew 10:28 indicates a soul can be killed by God and destroyed in hell.”

However, in the original text, Christ uses two different words for “death” within the same verse:  “And do not fear those who kill (apokteino) the body, but are unable to kill (apokteino) the soul; but rather fear Him who has the power to destroy (apollumi) both body and soul in hell.” It doesn’t stand that Christ would use the separate words—each of which carries its own connotations—unless He meant to make the distinction.

T.M.- “See also Ezek 18:4 & 20,”

As I pointed out in the “first use” argument: either meaning of the word “death” (physical or spiritual [in the sense of separation from God]) can be applied.

T.M.- “…James 5:20″

And again, the implied meaning is open to interpretation, although on balance the similarities in various translations (in regards to their points of agreement, and the overall context of Scripture) lean heavily in favor of the traditionalist view.

Of course, if one is unwilling to deal with the semantics of arguing over which translation should be more authoritative, we can always go back to the original church fathers; until Arnobius, 200 years after the Crucifixion, they were in complete agreement with an eternal hell.

T.M.- “Souls are not inherently immortal and not all souls live forever, some die the 2nd death. Rom 6:23”

Again, this doesn’t support the annihilationist claims based on both the translations and the “first use” argument, and the nearly universal recognition that the “second death” refers to eternal separation of the soul from God. “Separation” requires “being;” annihilation posits that souls are not separated, but cease to be. Something cannot be separated from nothing.

T.M- “…Rev 21:8”

This verse fails the annihilationist test because it specifically references the lake of fire, in which the condemned will be tormented “forever and ever.”

T.M.- “Yes it [the crucifixion of Christ] was horrid and terrible, beatings, whippings, humiliation, and excruciating crucifixion. The worst death one could die, however the actual duration of his suffering was but a very short time compared to say – eternity.”

This is a category mistake. It isn’t the duration of suffering; it’s the quality of the person doing the suffering. In the Old Testament, we see God refuse the sacrifices of the Israelites because they have stopped offering Him the best of what they have– lame lambs, sickly oxen, etc.  (Mal. 1:6-14). Jesus, being perfect in every respect, shed His blood for the redemption of all sinners. It is an individual decision to accept or reject this gift of forgiveness, but it is through this sacrifice that Death and Sin have both been defeated; and both will be cast into the lake of fire before the White Throne judgment. This being the case, the annihilationist argument that “death” refers to “annihilation” at the Second Ressurrection ignores the fact that there will be no more physical death— it will be consigned to the lake of fire, where it no longer has any power over men.

This argument also misses the point of the sacrifice by substituting the duration of the suffering for its magnitude. Jesus bore the penalty for every sin ever committed and ever to be committed until the end of the current earth in one single act, and was forsaken by the Father (“ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?”) in retributive justice, which Jesus bore in Himself all at once as a substitution on our behalf. It was through the quality of the sacrifice and the magnitude of the penalty borne that we are saved. Trying to tie salvation and punishment to the duration of the sacrificial act is degrading to the sacrifice made and denigrates Christ’s love and actions for us.

“Dude, get some rest…”

My bones suffer mortal agony

            As my foes taunt me,

saying to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”

Why are you downcast, O my soul?

            Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

            for I will yet praise Him,

            my Savior and my God.

 

                        ~Psalm 42:10,11

 

All of this writing and research on the subject of hell has started taking a toll on me; I think we’ll be taking a break from it for a few weeks. I’ll come back to it once I’ve experienced a little bit of spiritual recovery.

The entire subject, once one finds himself immersed in it over a more or less longer period, is quite draining, spiritually and emotionally (not to mention intellectually, when you get down to it; some of the more metaphysical stuff can be tough to wrap your head around).

In any case, starting Thursday, we will be going on to some more cheerful topics. Something hopeful, or inspirational. I’ll use the next day or two to see what the Spirit tells me… I actually had something of a testimonial that I was thinking of passing along that might do for others what it has done for me.

In the meantime, I’m going to let my troubled spirit rest a bit, and give all of you awesome readers out there a chance to sink your teeth into something other than eternal torment, for a while. I’ve had some things that the Lord has been trying to tell me, and I haven’t been hearing Him all that well; Pastor Reggie finally hammered the message home for me when he told us that God said to Elijah, “Dude, get some sleep. Seriously. You’re taking things way too seriously.”

Speaking of which, it’s really, really late as I write this, so I think I’m gonna take that advice, myself. See you folks on Thursday. Be blessed, and be a blessing to others—but get some rest, too.

 

Annihilationism and Universalism

Today we’re going to run through annihilationism and universalism. I had previously intended to do a full evaluation of each of these doctrines, but they are both heretical doctrines that have no founding in Scripture. I think we are all better served as long as I can inform as to what to be on the lookout for.

Annihilationism: Annihilationism (sometimes also called conditional immortality) is the idea that when a non-believer dies, their soul, rather than suffering an eternity of torment in Hell, is simply snuffed out of existence. Most annihilationists believe that there is an actual Hell, but they deny that its punishments are eternal; rather, they say that Hell is a giant incinerator, where the souls of the wicked are consumed and utterly destroyed. Others hold that there is no intermediate state (that of a disembodied soul) after death; the souls of the wicked simply cease to exist when the body dies (similar to the view of death held by atheists).

The annihilationist view has been embraced by such evangelical leaders as John Wenham, John Stott, Basil F.C. Atkinson, and Edward Fudge. (It is also noteworthy that annihilationism is a doctrinal teaching of the Jehovah’s Witness, the Socinian heretics, and materialists.)

Annihilationists use various biblical verses to justify their claims. Rather than list them here, I will simply comment that in reading through the annihilationist’s claims it becomes increasingly clear that their arguments boil down to theological hair-splitting. Even those passages that can be seen as somewhat ambiguous—and therefore supportive of annihilationist views (and they are precious few)– cannot be held up in light of the rest of Scripture as supportive of the doctrine of conditional immortality.

The biggest problem with the annihilationist view, however, is that it attempts to elevate itself to a moral high ground above that upon which sits the Word of God. Take the following quote, from annihilationist supporter Clark Pinnock:

Everlasting torment is intolerable from a moral point of view because it makes God into a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom he does not even allow to die. How is one to worship such a cruel and merciless God?

In response to this comment, Millard J. Erickson said, “… he had better be very certain he is correct. For if he is wrong, he is guilty of blasphemy.”

Universalism: Universalism is the belief that all people—saved and un-saved alike—will be redeemed at some point. The un-saved will spend their intermediate state in Hell, where God will essentially “turn the screws” on them until they finally get the message, repent, and accept Christ. There are other flavors of this doctrine—including one espoused by John Hick—maintaining that “all roads lead to God” (a theology known as religious pluralism).

The foundational belief of universalism is that God’s plan of salvation cannot be completed until all men are saved; as a result, temporal death does not represent the end of a person’s chances to repent. In other words, Hell (if it exists at all) is really nothing more than a dungeon of God’s Divine Inquisition, into which the unrepentant are thrown and tortured (!) until they recant. Again, this belief stems from non-biblical sources and pre-conceived notions of the nature of God, which are then read into the texts, rather than read out of them. Pluralism even goes so far as to incorporate teachings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. These ideas, again, presuppose that the human idea of mercy, love, and God’s Divine Nature are more moral than the clear teachings of Scripture.

The dangers of these teachings (annihilationism and universalism) are many, but it could be argued that the greatest of these dangers (to the human spirit) is that by teaching these false doctrines, many theologians are giving people a “get out of jail free” card to commit sin. In the case of annihilationism, the concept is, ”Well, if I sin too much, and I don’t accept Jesus before I die, then I’ll just take a forever dirt nap.” For universalism, the argument is, “If I sin too much, and I don’t accept Jesus before I die, the Big Guy will give me another chance. I’ll just recant before they get the oven doors opened!”

If we were to ignore all other teachings of the Scripture, Hebrews 9:27 defeats both views: “And inasmuch as it was appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” (NASB, emphasis mine).

Those interested in further reading on this subject can find excellent information in the following:

–       Norman Giesler, Systematic Theology, Chapter 81: Annihilationism

–       Cristopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson (editors), Hell Under Fire (this is a collection of essays written by leading fundamentalists theologians, defending the orthodox Christian view of Hell)

–       Robert A. Peterson, Hell On Trial

 

And that’s it for today’s post! See you Monday, folks! Have a blessed weekend!

Responding to Objections to the Existence of Hell (Part 2)

Today we’ll be picking up where we left off with Monday’s blog…

 

Objection #5: So, you’re telling me that a genuinely good person– someone that takes care of his kids, his wife, volunteers in the community, treats everyone with respect—you’re telling me that that guy isn’t going to Heaven?

Yup, that’s what I’m telling you. But I’m only telling you that because that’s what God told us (Romans 3:21-28, for starters). Without faith, there is no salvation—we are all sinners and fall short of God’s standard for what is “good:” perfection.

Objection #6: Why doesn’t God just overlook my sin?

Oy. Seriously? For one thing, God can’t even tolerate the presence of sin. Or, maybe a better way to put that is that sin cannot exist in God’s presence. Without being cleansed of our sins (by the propitiating sacrifice of Jesus) we can’t even get through the front door of Heaven. God fills the place up entirely, and a sin-filled spirit can’t exist in a place of perfect Holiness.

Also, at what point does God start noticing our sins? Is it okay to say, “Well, that guy and I are both liars; but he’s a tax cheat, and I just lied to my wife about hanging out at the cathouse that one night…?” I can see it now: Jesus sitting on the Great White Throne, the Book of Life open in front of Him, calling out, “Smith! R.J., from Newark… lessee, you were exactly 80% good—you’re in! Grab your robe from the bearded guy at the Gate… okay, Smith! R.J., from Decatur… ooh, too bad, 79.9% good, go to Hell, guy. Down staircase, to the left, there… hush, now, quit your whining, you should have scratched that poodle’s ears…”

The fact is, sin is like U.S. policy towards weapons of mass destruction: “A germ is a chemical is a nuke.” “A lie is a rape is a genocide.” It’s all the same in God’s eyes, because none of it is tolerable. Are there degrees of punishment? The Bible seems to indicate there are (more on that in another segment). But it doesn’t matter whether you’re in solitary confinement, or in general population: you’re still in prison.

Objection #7: Regarding the redeeming value of Hell

Basically, the argument goes like this: if no one ever returns from Hell, and if it isn’t reformatory, then what is the point?

The point is, that it satisfies God’s justice. In fact, it not only satisfies, it glorifies God’s justice by demonstrating exactly how high a standard it is. The more terrific and fearsome the punishment is, the “brighter the sheen on the sword of God’s justice” (Geisler, Systematic Theology). God is awesome; therefore, anything emanating from God—even (perhaps especially) His wrath—must be awesome, as well. Since the wicked have refused to give God His due in life, God reclaims it from them in death, by a majestic and incomprehensible display of His wrath and judgment. People may choose to give God glory in this life, or God will reclaim it from them in the next; they will have no choice in the matter, then. Either way, God’s gonna get what’s His, folks.

All people are useful to God in some way. In Heaven, the saved will be useful for praising God’s mercy; in Hell, the unsaved will serve as a demonstration of God’s justice.

Finally, a final separation of the “wheat and tares” is necessary in order for good to triumph over evil. What frustrates evil is good; by sending the unsaved to Hell, and the saved, to Heaven, God arranges that there is no good to frustrate evil people, and no evil to frustrate the good.

Well, that covers some of the more common objections. On Monday, we’ll pick back up with the subject of “eternal punishment v. annihilationism;” that is, the fundamentalist view that the damned receive eternal physical punishment as opposed to the (increasingly popular) view that the unsaved are simply snuffed wholly out of existence when they die.

Have an awesome weekend, and God bless!

Objections to the Existence of Hell (Part 1)

Hello again, friends! Having discussed the nature of Hell, today we are going to answer some of the objections to the existence of Hell.

A lot of what we talk about today is covered in much greater detail in Norman Giesler’s Systematic Theology, 2011 Edition. I will also be borrowing from H.C. Thiessen (Lectures in Systematic Theology, 1977 Ed.) and various other sources. So let’s jump right in… figuratively speaking, of course!

Objection #1: How can a loving God send people to Hell?

First of all: God does not send anyone to Hell. People choose to go there by rejecting the opportunity to have a relationship with Him through His son, Jesus Christ. Without having a relationship with Christ, we have no justification to live in His Father’s house. Would you let a complete stranger move in with your family?

God knows us all as His creation, but He only knows those that have been born again in Christ as His children. Matthew 7:21 says: “[Jesus said] Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven” (NIV). And in Ephesians, we are told, “He [God] predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” (Eph. 1:5, NASB).

Second, it doesn’t make sense to suppose that God’s love doesn’t allow for some suffering. It is a fact that this present world is full of suffering, even for the righteous. It is no more reasonable to assume that God is not loving because of Hell, than to assume that a mother does not love her child because she sends him to bed early without television for telling a lie.

Third, God must allow for the wicked to go to Hell. Not to do so would be to allow His Mercy to overcome His Justice; since God is perfect in every way, it follows that none of His aspects can be inconsistent with others.

Fourth: it isn’t like He hasn’t given everyone a chance to avoid Hell, folks. He has loved all of us (John 3:16), He sent His son to die for our sins (1 John 2:2), and sent The Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and guide us into righteousness (John 16:7-11). Without robbing us of our free will, God cannot force us to love and honor Him, and He loves us too much to do that.

Objection #2: How can temporal sin in this life justify eternal punishment in the next?

The only fitting punishment for transgressions against an eternal God is eternal punishment. As Jonathan Edwards said, “the heinousness of any crime must be gauged against the worth of the person it is committed against.” Also, the only alternatives to Hell would contradict God’s Perfect Nature: by robbing people of their free choice to reject Heaven (by rejecting Christ) and forcing them into Heaven, or by snuffing them entirely out of existence. Finally, there’s this: the unsaved didn’t want anything to do with God in this life; what reason do we have to believe that they would want anything to do with Him in the next?

Objection #3: Why send people to Hell? Why not just reform them for Heaven?

God does try to reform people for Heaven. That time of reformation is called, “life.” “[The Lord]… is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and, “Man is destined to die once, and then to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Objection #4: If all people are born with a sinful nature, isn’t it unjust to send them to Hell for doing what they were pre-programmed to do?

We are not “pre-programmed” to do anything; as Augustine said, man is born with “the propensity to sin, but not the necessity to sin.” We all sin because we choose to sin, not because we have to sin. In addition to that, it’s actually really, really easy to avoid Hell: repent. God has made the invitation as clear as He possibly can. Even the pagan who has never heard the Gospel has no excuse (Romans 2:18-23).

In order to keep this from turning into something that would have Tolstoy rolling over in his grave, I’m going to save the rest of this section for Thursday’s blog. In the meantime, have a blessed week, and do something good for God every day!

Hell, Pt. 4

On the Nature of Hell

So, what is hell like for the unsaved?

We have already touched on the question briefly (see, “Gehenna, in Part 2 of this series), but in this and subsequent posts, I’ll go into a great more detail.

The existence and nature of Hell relate directly to the need, nature and character of penalty.

Penalty is “that pain or loss which is directly inflicted by the Lawgiver in vindication of His justice, which has been outraged by the violation of the law” (H.C. Thiessen, 1949). Unlike chastisement (which proceeds from love, and is intended to reform), the penalty of sin (death) is punishment, which proceeds from the just wrath of God. The purpose of punishment is not as a deterrent or reforming act, but as a solemn affirmation of the principle(s) that has been violated.

Scripture sums up the character of penalty in a single word: death. Death is threefold:

Physical death is the separation of the soul, from the body.

Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.

Eternal death is the culmination of spiritual death. It is the eternal separation of the soul from God, together with the accompanying remorse and outward punishment (Thiessen).

Sinner and saved alike will receive new bodies at the Resurrection. These bodies will be indestructible, immortal, and have attributes that will make them suitable to experience things in their absolute, perfected state. For the unsaved, this means a body capable of experiencing perfect, unimaginable torment.

Bill Wiese claims to have had a vision of Hell. Without arguing for or against his claims, I am providing some of his descriptions to illustrate the potential nature of Hell.

In his book, “Hell,” Wiese states:

– Hell is not (as some claim) merely “separation from God;” instead, it is a literal, physical location in which the damned are tortured forever.

– Those in Hell are overcome by weakness. Strength is a blessing from God; those in Hell, being separated from God, will barely have the power to writhe in their agonies.

– There is no breath, despite the desire to breathe.

– Wiese speaks of a sulfurous odor so foul that to experience it would kill a mortal man.

– Mercy is an attribute of God, and is nonexistent in Hell. If there are demons loose in Hell, they will, despite their own torment, lash out at God by attacking the only thing available—those created in His image. (It is safe, I think, to believe that this will be the case until at least the Final Judgment, when Satan and his demons are cast into the Lake of Fire.)

– In Hell, “the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest” (Isaiah 57:20). There is no sleep or rest in Hell—no respite of any kind.

– There will be no water, not a single drop, in Hell. Nor will there be food or any other thing that is pleasant to the senses.

– The damned will be naked in Hell, both in the physical sense, and as regards their shame; while God is not present in Hell in any capacity, He does oversee Hell and its occupants, and nothing is hidden from Him.

– Hell is filled with the unceasing, piercing screams of those in torment.

– There is no sense of purpose in Hell; everything is over and lost.

– Wiese claims that the statement, “… and their worm does not die,” is a literal description of Hell; the damned are covered with maggots that feed on the constantly regenerated flesh of indestructible bodies.

– The only thoughts of God will be the blasphemies of the damned.

– Senses and comprehension will be raised to a much higher level in the the perfected resurrection body; in Hell the result will be increased suffering.

– The awareness of spiritual death will be as if one were “always dying, yet never dead.”

– Mentally, the damned will experience the moment before complete mental and emotional collapse, eternally. To go insane would be a form of release—there is no release in Hell, and the moment of absolute horror that presages insanity will last for eternity.

– The damned are consumed with incomprehensible fear.

– There is no hope or comfort in Hell—only the sure and complete knowledge that the suffering will never end, never abate and never rest.

Wiese gives good scriptural support for each of these experiences, as well as a more thorough description than is provided here. Wiese says that any human description of the place pales in comparison to the experience of it. The levels of horror, fear, revulsion, hopelessness, anger, hatred and pain are indescribable in every respect.