Reformed doctrine on condemnation and hell (and what Scripture actually says)
This is an open letter to my church.
For well over 10 years I have been unable to agree with a particular church doctrine telling us God made man with an immortal soul and that each and every soul that remains unsaved therefore shall be cast into the lake of fire and remain there alive and conscious suffering constant agony forever. The reason I can no longer believe in this doctrine is because I see Scripture clearly telling me that we (that is our spirits, bodies and souls) were made mortal and that God will give immortality to whoever He decides shall have immortality or deserves immortality. I am not denying that Scripture warns us that all who die remaining unsaved will one day be resurrected to face the judgement and will then be cast into the everlasting fire of no return. Neither am I denying that Scripture warns us that the most evil of the condemned will live forever in that fire suffering endless torment. What I am denying however is that God tells us through Scripture He will make the least knowledgeable and least offensive of the condemned live forever in that fire also.
In the past I continued supporting my church whilst just accepting the fact that I couldn’t agree with that particular doctrine telling us God made us with immortal souls and will see every single condemned soul suffer terribly forever. But then one evening in a prayer meeting whilst listening to someone praying about the immortal souls of unsaved loved ones and the endless suffering they will face if they remain unsaved, and then less than an hour later hearing the church singing about this doctrine through the line of a Wesleyan hymn “A never-dying soul to save”, I finally decided the time had come for me to stop being seen as a supporter of a doctrine which I saw was not only contradicting Scripture but was also slandering the name of God. I had to accept though that this particular church doctrine was set in stone and wasn’t going to be altered in any way by me since my repeated objections to it in the past had already been politely dismissed or ignored. The very idea of me leaving the church however, which I had regularly attended for 20 years, did seem wrong whilst there was so much else here that I did agree with and needed to support. I decided therefore the best I could do would be to keep my distance and to stop meeting regularly at the church. I felt I would then at least no longer be seen supporting what I found had no biblical foundation nor moral justification.
For well over 10 years I have been unable to agree with a particular church doctrine telling us God made man with an immortal soul and that each and every soul that remains unsaved therefore shall be cast into the lake of fire and remain there alive and conscious suffering constant agony forever. The reason I could no longer believe in this doctrine is because I could see Scripture clearly telling me that we (that is our spirits, bodies and souls) were made mortal and that God will give immortality to whoever He decides shall have immortality or deserves immortality. I am not denying that Scripture warns us that all who die remaining unsaved will one day be resurrected to face the judgement and will then be cast into the everlasting fire of no return. Neither am I denying that Scripture warns us that the most evil of the condemned will be made to live forever in that fire suffering endless torment. What I am denying however is that God tells us through Scripture He will make the least knowledgeable and least offensive of the condemned live forever in that fire also. In the past I continued supporting my church whilst just accepting the fact that I couldn’t agree with that particular doctrine telling us God made us with immortal souls. But then one evening in a prayer meeting whilst listening to someone praying about the immortal souls of unsaved loved ones and the endless suffering they will face if they remain unsaved, and then less than an hour later hearing the church singing about this doctrine through the line of a Wesleyan hymn “A never-dying soul to save”, I finally decided the time had come for me to stop being seen as a supporter of a doctrine which I saw was not only contradicting Scripture but was also slandering the name of God.
Over the years what this doctrine has led many if not most evangelical Christians to believe regarding the future state of every condemned soul is this: Jonathan Edwards, a renowned preacher rooted in Reformed theology and who played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening in America, once preached: “Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme torment forever and ever: to suffer it day and night from one year to another, from one age to another, and from one thousand ages to another (and so adding age to age, and thousands to thousands), in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth — with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, and with your bodies and every member full of racking torture; without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of hiding yourselves from him; without any possibility of diverting your thoughts from your pain”
“If it were possible for the damned in hell to have a comprehensive knowledge of eternity, their sorrow and grief would be infinite in degree. The comprehensive view of so much sorrow, which they must endure, would cause infinite grief for the present. Though they will not have a comprehensive knowledge of it, yet they will doubtless have a vastly more lively and strong apprehension of it than we can have in this world. Their torments will give them an impression of it. — A man in his present state, without any enlargement of his capacity, would have a vastly more lively impression of eternity than he has, if he were only under some pretty sharp pain in some member of his body, and were at the same time assured that he must endure that pain forever. His pain would give him a greater sense of eternity than other men have. How much more will those excruciating torments, which the damned will suffer, have this effect!” From “The Eternity of Hell’s Torments” April 1739
Charles H Spurgeon who’s work is still greatly respected here in the UK and in a great many churches across the world, also preached regarding the subject of the condemned: “And what say the wicked? “We do not care about metaphorical fires.” But they are real, sir—yes, as real as yourself. There is a real fire in hell, as truly as you have now a real body—a fire exactly like that which we have on earth in everything except this—that it will not consume, though it will torture you. You have seen the asbestos lying in the fire red hot, but when you take it out it is unconsumed. So your body will be prepared by God in such a way that it will burn for ever without being consumed;”
thou diest thy soul will be tormented alone—that will be a hell for
it—but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul, and then
thou wilt have twin hells, body and soul shall be together, each
brimfull of pain, thy soul sweating in its inmost pore drops of
blood, and thy body from head to foot suffused with agony;
conscience, judgment, memory, all tortured, but more—thy head
tormented with racking pains, thine eyes starting from their sockets
with sights of blood and woe; thine ears tormented with
“Sullen moans and hollow groans. And shrieks of tortured ghosts.”
Thine heart beating high with fever; thy pulse rattling at an enormous rate in agony; thy limbs crackling like the martyrs in the fire, and yet unburnt; thyself, put in a vessel of hot oil, pained, yet coming out undestroyed; all thy veins becoming a road for the hot feet of pain to travel on; every nerve a string on which the devil shall ever play his diabolical tune of Hell’s Unutterable Lament; thy soul for ever and ever aching, and thy body palpitating in unison with thy soul. Fictions, sir! Again, I say, they are no fictions, and as God liveth, but solid, stern truth. If God be true, and this Bible be true, what I have said is the truth, and you will find it one day to be so.” From his sermon “The Resurrection of the Dead” February 17, 1856
The following was copied from the synopsis for John Blanchard‘s book, “Whatever Happened to Hell?” “The idea that after a few years of life on earth an untold number of human beings, many of whom would be thought of as decent, law-abiding citizens, will spend eternity in indescribable agony and exposed to God’s relentless anger is overwhelming”
J.I. Packer, considered one of the most influential evangelical Christians in North America, when dealing with the question, “Won’t heaven’s joy be spoiled by our awareness of unsaved loved ones in hell?” eventually said: “love and pity for hell’s occupants will not enter our hearts”. From “Hell’s Final Enigma“, Christianity Today Magazine, April 22, 2002.
While these quotes or parts of these quotes may be too much for many to accept, (which incidentally serve to turn many completely off the idea of a Christian God) there are however many others who, having been steeped in Calvinistic and/or Arminian doctrine see them all as “solid, stern truth”. Ever since the Reformation began there has been a continuous flow of revered and learned Protestants regularly teaching and preaching just as the Roman Catholic church did before them: God has warned us through Scripture that every soul (“soul” which includes the senses and the ability to reason and perceive) of every man was made immortal, and every condemned soul therefore will be made to live forever in a fire of constant terror and torment.
Through being taught to believe in this terrifying concept and through being advised not to criticise or condemn the long established doctrines of God’s church, countless millions down the centuries have easily been led by their church to continually ignore the Bible when it clearly speaks of the soul of man being made mortal.
Unlike the way the greater part of the evangelical church views the Bible verses that speak of the punishment of the condemned then, I can now see those verses clearly telling me something rather different: Only those who have come to know God and the true meaning of the good that God has revealed and given through Jesus Christ and continually wish to corrupt, torture and destroy whoever and whatever they know is good, shall be liable to suffer the greater condemnation of living forever in endless torment. Scripture explains that God alone has immortality and He will give immortality to whoever He decides shall have immortality. In other words, I now see the doctrine that tells us we were made with immortal souls and that every condemned soul therefore must live forever in constant torment is fundamentally flawed.
Below then is a list of all the main reasons why I don’t see how I can honour God in truth anymore whilst I am supporting or being seen to support a doctrine telling us we were made with immortal souls and that the least knowledgeable and least offensive of the condemned, even the most backward or least intelligent of them who were born to die never knowing the God of truth, will be made to writhe in endless agony and terror in the everlasting fire forever.
1 In the beginning…
God’s first and only warning to perfect man was, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die” Genesis 2:16-17. What I see being reasoned and preached within the evangelical church concerning this verse though is this: Because Adam kept on living after the day he ate the forbidden fruit, the word die in Genesis 2:17 cannot mean die as in the literal meaning of the word but instead it should be accepted as meaning separation from God whilst remaining alive. What I also see being reasoned (because of this change of meaning) is that it must be right to believe that when our body dies our soul (which includes our senses and our ability to reason and perceive) will carry on living forever and every spirit and soul of man therefore who remains separated from God at the time of physical death will carry on living forever in constant agony.
The highly respected evangelist John Blanchard for example, in his book “Whatever Happened to Hell?” (Third impression 1993), in reference to Genesis 2:17 and Genesis 3:6 once wrote regarding the fall of man: “God had warned that the moment man ate from the forbidden tree he would ‘surely die’; yet both Adam and Eve lived for many years after their disastrous experience. Does this mean that God was wrong, or went soft on His warning, or decided to give them another chance, or let them off the hook with a ‘slap on the wrist’? Far from it! God had said that the moment they sinned they would die-and they did.
What is more, their experience illustrates perfectly a vital biblical doctrine which is that death never means cessation but separation.” (Page 55). In the very next sentence, same paragraph, John Blanchard writes, “One of the clearest statements on this concerns the death of Rachel, wife of the Jewish patriarch, Jacob, when we are told that ‘her soul was departing’ (Genesis 35:18) NASB.”
First of all then, what Blanchard is basically saying regarding the record of Rachel’s departing soul is that it clearly shows death will never mean the death of the soul of man, i.e., death will never mean the death of a man’s senses and his ability to reason and perceive. But I must then ask, how come? Why should a soul need to be immortal before a departure from the physical body can begin? Who says a mortal or a dying soul cannot depart from a dying body? I am sorry but I have to say Blanchard’s statement concerning Rachel’s soul is nothing more than an opinion and Genesis 35:18 is no evidence for an immortal soul. What is more, the Hebrew word for soul is “nephesh” and this word was used often in Hebrew to describe a number of things including “life”, as revealed here. In which case, this verse chosen by Blanchard could just as easily translate into ‘her life was departing’ which does make more sense.
Now getting back to Genesis 2:17, and what this word “die” actually does mean in that verse “the day that you eat of it you will surely die”. I can see this so called “vital biblical doctrine” that tells us “death never means cessation but separation” appears to have been accepted by most evangelical Christians as a fundamental truth, but what I can’t understand is how anyone can seriously believe it is right to alter the meaning of this word “die” in Genesis 2:17 when there was clearly a very real death on the very day the free and perfect yet curious and naive Adam listened to Satan and ignored God. Through valuing his own desire to know good and evil above his Father’s warning, the pure and innocent Spirit of love, humility and truth that ruled in Adam was confounded and corrupted into a self first spirit of lies and rebellion against God. The Spirit that once formed the heart of the ruling character in Adam was now dead in Adam. The day that Adam gave in to Satan’s temptation to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the day that Adam whom God had made perfect in His own image and likeness, changed into something alien to God. Adam had become a child of the god of evil, an offence to all that is good. The perfect Adam whom God had created no longer existed, and by not taking into account Adam’s spiritual death and through ignoring or altering the meaning of other verses in Scripture that speak clearly of man’s mortal soul, a doctrine has been formed that changes the meaning of death from ceasing to live into separation. John Blanchard again: “their experience illustrates perfectly a vital biblical doctrine which is that death never means cessation but separation”.
By continually teaching Christians to believe this doctrine is truth and by using other verses from Scripture that clearly describe everlasting torment for those most evil of the condemned, many have been easily led to accept that physical death for those least knowledgeable and least offensive of the condemned must also be the door to an endless life of endless torment and terror. As for me though, I can’t see a good reason anywhere why I should believe the meaning of the word die in Genesis 2:17 doesn’t mean die or cessation. If I were to believe the word die in Genesis 2:17 doesn’t mean die then I would surely have swallowed the lie of Satan: “You will not surely die” Genesis 3:4.
Let me explain again what I see God telling me in these early chapters of Genesis: Through valuing his own desire to know good and evil above his Father’s warning, the pure and innocent Spirit of love, humility and truth that ruled in Adam was confounded and corrupted into a self first spirit of lies and rebellion against God. The Spirit that once formed the heart of the ruling character in Adam was now dead in Adam. The day that Adam gave in to Satan’s temptation to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the day that Adam whom God had made perfect in His own image and likeness, changed into something alien to God. Adam had become a child of the god of evil, an offence to all that is good. The perfect Adam whom God had created no longer existed. Yes, this spiritual death was the reason for the “separation” between God and Adam, but that separation did not alter the meaning of the word “die” in Genesis 2:17.
What God has also explained in chapter 3 of Genesis has also been ignored when forming the doctrine that speaks of an immortal soul being given to all men: In Genesis 3:19 we can see what God said after Adam gave in to Satan’s temptation and died spiritually through valuing his desire to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil above his Father’s warning: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return”. The fallen Adam then was clearly told that not just his physical body but the whole corrupt person he had become was going to return back into the state of dust before he was made, and there is nothing here to suggest that that state was going to be anything other than precisely that: the state of dust before he was made – (i.e. a state of zero awareness of anything).
I have seen it argued however that Ecclesiastes 12:7 tells us all men were made with immortal souls or spirits… “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” but the words “the spirit returns to God who gave it” can easily be seen describing a spirit (conscious or unconscious, alive or dead) returning to the omnipresent God, ultimately to receive glory or to be reserved in a place for the resurrection and the judgement and a just condemnation at God’s appointed time. Ecclesiastes 9:5 also tells us “the dead know nothing”.
Having said that though, there are still many evangelicals who argue that when Solomon wrote down the words, “the dead know nothing” he was writing about things from a human perspective i.e. that which is “under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:3. Therefore they claim Solomon was not providing a doctrinal statement about life after death.
But on what basis I ask do they make such a claim? Would the writer of Ecclesiastes with all his God inspired wisdom and knowledge, really have written down the words “the dead know nothing” if he had not been led to believe the dead know nothing? Let us take a closer look at what has been written and what has been deduced: In Ecclesiastes 1:3 the question is asked, “What does a person gain for all his efforts that he labours at under the sun?” and then later in Ecclesiastes 9:5 it is stated “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten”. What many evangelicals have been taught to do then is to view these verses together and then come to the conclusion that “the dead know nothing” actually means the dead know something. As for me, I cannot see these two statements from Ecclesiastes implying in any way that man was born with an immortal soul. I do believe however that the words “the dead know nothing” should be seen as a reference to the dead during the time of Solomon who were still to be resurrected and made conscious again, as and when God so willed. I ask again then, if Solomon had the slightest inkling that every man was born with an immortal soul and will, after physical death, continue to sense, reason and perceive forever, would he really have been inspired to write down the words “the dead know nothing”? Would he have written down the words, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” as Ecclesiastes 9:10 explains? For any man to have no knowledge it is clear he must first need to be in a state of complete unconsciousness or death.
Let us then look to what the word of God actually says, in totality…
In Genesis 3:22–24, God has also made it clear to us that He was never going to allow the corrupted person whom Adam had become to live forever. After God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” this is what happens next: God drove the man out from the Garden of Eden, He then placed “cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” in order to keep fallen man from eating and living forever.
What we are told in Genesis 3:22-24 then is the God of perfect love, compassion, mercy and foreknowledge (in whom I trust) making it quite clear these newly loved but lost and naive self-deceiving children were never going to wander blindly into an endless life of rebellion against God and the endless torment that would ultimately follow. Furthermore, if God had made Adam with an immortal soul – (having an immortal mind of reason being able to sense and perceive) then it would have been pointless to place cherubim and a flaming sword guarding the way to the tree of life in order to make sure he would not find a way to live forever.
The first man Adam had both a spiritual and a physical element and Genesis 3 explains that he died spiritually the day he ate the forbidden fruit. Genesis 5:5 also tells us “Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died”, and there is nothing here to suggest this verse is referring to Adam’s physical body only, but rather it is a clear reference to the whole corrupt person that Adam had become, “Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died”.
2 The soul who sins shall die
Ezekiel 18:4 ESV, KJV, NKJV tells us, “the soul who sins shall die”. It is worth noting here that the original Hebrew word for “soul” is nephesh – (a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, emotion) and happens to be the same word used in Genesis 2:7 “and man became a living soul” KJV. This word “soul” then or “nephesh” can be seen clearly spoken of as being mortal, not least because the word die in Ezekiel 18:4 was translated from the Hebrew word “muth” which means simply this: “die” (not “separation” as many have been taught to believe, but “cessation” i.e. “die”) …“the soul who sins shall die”.
Incidentally, this word “muth” is the original Hebrew word found in Genesis 2:17, and again it simply means die. The definition of “muth” is “die” or cease to live, and ceasing to live is precisely what happened to Adam’s perfect spirit the day he ate the forbidden fruit: The perfect Adam whom God had created, no longer existed.
I have however, seen it argued: [and I quote] “the meaning of the word “nephesh” in Genesis 1 and 2 is clearly not of a spiritual soul at all. It is used to speak of the animals and the fish etc. It simply means “being or creature”. So in Ezekiel 18 all that is being said is that the same “person” or “being” that sins is the one that will pay the penalty. In other words, it is not the children who will pay for the sins of the fathers but they themselves, (verse 3). There is no indication here that Ezekiel is speaking about the death of a spiritual soul.”
My answer to that is: It is true, the word “nephesh” is used in quite a number of ways throughout the Old Testament as revealed here. However, “nephesh” in Genesis 2:7, in quite a few Bibles including the KJV has been translated as “soul”: “and man became a living soul”. Now God could have inspired the writer of Genesis to use a Hebrew word that more specifically describes “man” or “person”, for example אּישׁ. But no, God inspired that writer to use the word “nephesh”; God also inspired Ezekiel in chapter 18 verse 4 to use the word “nephesh” which, according to the KJV, ESV, NASB, King James 2000 Bible, and quite a few other well respected English language Bibles, translates into “soul”. But besides all this, if what is written in Ezekiel 18:4 should only read, “The person or being that sins is the one who will die” then that would still serve as further evidence that Scripture tells us the “person” or “being” that sins” was not made immortal.
3 God can destroy a man’s soul in hell
We are told in Matthew 10:28 that man cannot destroy the soul but God can, “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. We are also told, the original Greek word for “hell” in this verse is “Gehenna”, which is now generally accepted to be a symbolic name for the final place of punishment of the ungodly i.e. “the lake of fire”. The original Greek word for “destroy” in this verse is “apóllymi” and means precisely that: “destroy”. Here are some more definitions for this word “apóllymi” found in Strong’s Concordance and HELPS Word-studies: to destroy, destroy utterly. 622 apóllymi (from 575 /apó, “away from,” which intensifies ollymi, “to destroy”) – properly, fully destroy, cutting off entirely (note the force of the prefix, 575 /apó). 622 /apóllymi (“violently/completely perish”) implies permanent (absolute) destruction, i.e. to cancel out (remove); “to die, with the implication of ruin and destruction” (L & N, 1, 23.106); cause to be lost (utterly perish) by experiencing a miserable end.
A soul then can be permanently and completely destroyed by God in hell, or rather, “Gehenna”. If then, as many still believe, God created man with an immortal soul, then God would not have told us He can destroy a man’s soul.
The word “perish” in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” also comes from the Greek word apóllymi – (“violently/completely perish”). I must repeat then what has been written in Scripture: “whoever believes in him should not perish”. Please then also note, the apostle John did not write: “…whoever believes in Him shall not have everlasting life in torment, but instead will have everlasting life with God”. Yet many Christians have been indoctrinated by their church to believe that is exactly what John 3:16 actually means. As for me, I have to agree with Jeremy K. Moritz when he said: “it takes a good bit of theological gymnastics to continually reinterpret divinely inspired Words of God to mean the exact opposite of their natural meanings”.
4 God alone has immortality and He will give immortality to whoever He decides shall have immortality.
1 Timothy 6:15-16, tells us “He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality” NKJV.
And yet what many evangelicals are still continually being taught to believe regarding verse (16) is this: Who only hath immortality.—The holy angels—the souls of men—are immortal. “But one alone, ‘God,’ can be said to have immortality,” because He, unlike other immortal beings who enjoy their immortality through the will of another, derives it from His own essence. (from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers). There are other evangelical commentaries giving similar explanations that serve to reconcile 1 Timothy 6:15-16 with evangelical church doctrine telling us we were made with immortal souls. Consequently, most evangelicals still cannot accept that 1 Timothy 6:15-16 means that God alone has immortality. Most evangelicals therefore are still unable to believe these verses should in anyway imply that man was born with a mortal soul even though that is precisely what these verses do imply. As for me then, with regards to immortality in 1 Timothy 6:15-16, what I see being explained when I study it carefully in the context given with no other additions or theological gymnastics is simply this: “He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality”. I see therefore no good reason whatsoever to believe this statement should mean anything other than precisely what it says.
One other thing I would like to mention regarding the opening sentence of Ellicott’s Commentary on 1 Timothy 6:16 where Ellicott tells us that the holy angels are immortal, is this: The holy angels are immortal simply because they have God the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. I can only repeat therefore what I see this part of Scripture is telling me: God alone has immortality, not man’s soul or his worldly spirit but God alone has immortality, as 1 Timothy 6:15-16 clearly explains.
With no access to the tree of life on earth now, the key to living forever for the lost souls of men who seek after righteousness, is knowing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ… “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” John 3:15. Clearly then God gives salvation and immortality to whoever He decides shall be made worthy to receive salvation and immortality, but believing in the Lord Jesus Christ would not have been necessary for eternal life if all men had been born with immortal souls.
Having said that, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is continually being used by many evangelicals as evidence showing that all who remain unsaved when they die shall pass immediately into an endless life of endless torment …the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment… But I will come to Luke 16:19-31 later.
5 God also warns He will give immortality not just to the saved but also to the vilest of the unsaved
Yes, God also clearly and repeatedly warns in the New Testament of a greater condemnation for all who know His will revealed through the life and death of Jesus Christ, and yet hate the truth and seek to offend all what they see is good. All then who share in Satan’s knowledge of the truth along with his contempt for the truth and seek only pleasure satisfying their depraved desires and needs which they know will cause the greatest offence to God and creation shall justly receive the greater condemnation. Revelation 14:9-11 and Revelation 20:10 together with Revelation 14:6 for example serve well to help explain this. That being said though, over the centuries many Christians were regularly taught like many are still being taught today: The endless torment described in chapters 14 and 20 of Revelation shows the kind of punishment that all of the condemned will be made to suffer. It is well documented that both Roman Catholic and Reformed teachers over many generations have often used these verses to uphold their doctrine of the immortal soul and endless torment coming to all who are condemned. But look again and see what these verses do actually tell us…
In Revelation 20:10 we are clearly told, “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”. But please note, this verse tells us that only the devil, the beast and the false prophet are spoken of here. No one else is included in this verse.
Revelation 14:9-11 also speaks to me of everlasting torment, “Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will 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 goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”” But note again, we are being told here of everlasting torment coming only upon those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. In other words, this statement made by the third angel does not by any means tell us all of the condemned will be given the same condemnation as the worshippers mentioned here.
Furthermore, those worshippers of Revelation 14:9-11 can be seen worshipping the beast and his image after the “the eternal gospel” was seen being proclaimed “to those who dwell on the earth – to every nation and tribe and language and people”, as Revelation 14:6 explains. In which case, the sentence of endless torment given to those seen worshipping the beast and his image appears to be given not only because of their satanic worship and their receiving of the mark of the beast but also because they were made aware of the eternal gospel. Therefore, anyone who is given knowledge of God and of the meaning of good and evil, and is shown the way of salvation, and is moved only to worship Satan and to slander and offend God and creation, then they too will also bring the greater condemnation upon themselves.
So yes, those verses speak clearly to me of a punishment of endless torment, but certainly not for every condemned soul. Nowhere does Scripture tell us that God made us with immortal souls, Scripture does however clearly tell us that God made us with souls that can, if He so wills, live forever, and with souls that can, if He so wills, die and be completely destroyed in Gehenna. The key to immortality is knowing God, how we react to that knowledge in this life will largely determine our state in eternity.
I am told in Scripture “The wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23, and I am also told the wages for the vilest form of evil is endless torment, Revelation 20:10 and Revelation 14:9-11, but nowhere in Scripture am I told God made us with immortal souls. God alone has immortality and He will give immortality not just to the saved but also to the vilest of the unsaved who make it clear, like Satan makes it clear, they will deserve nothing less than to live forever in conflict and torment.
6 The parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
I have seen and heard this parable used many times as a reason for believing Luke 16:19-31 proves every condemned person will live forever and will begin being tormented forever as soon as their body dies. Let us then take a closer look at this parable and the context in which it was told.
First of all, “Hades” which is the Greek term used to translate the Hebrew term Sheol, basically refers to the grave or the abode of the dead and clearly the parable of the rich man and Lazarus describes this intermediate state as being a place of consciousness. But Sheol during the Old Testament period also describes a place devoid of consciousness, for example Ecclesiastes 9:5, Ecclesiastes 9:10, psalms 88:12. In other words the intermediate state proceeding the resurrection has more than one meaning.
This parable then, although it quite clearly conveys a picture of consciousness and torment in Hades for the rich man immediately or certainly very soon after he dies, it doesn’t actually say how long that torment will last. Having said that, even if death as in the general literal meaning, never comes and torment for the likes of that rich man continues forever, let us remember: Jesus was speaking with Jews at the time, some of whom were learned men who knew the Scriptures and the law and could see and hear what Jesus was saying at first hand, and yet many of them showed only hatred and contempt for Him. I believe therefore Jesus was directly referring to the well educated but arrogant and hateful Jews in that parable, verse 14 along with 24-31 of this chapter help serve to make it clear just who that warning was aimed at – such men as the rich man and his brothers in that parable would have been made well aware of the God of their father Abraham and their duty under the moral law. Such men would have been taught the difference between good and evil, but the same cannot be said for everyone who will be condemned. There will be others condemned who would not have had Abraham as their father and would not have had Moses and the Prophets and would not therefore have had the same teaching given to those Jews; and neither then would they have been given the same understanding of good and evil. In many cases they wouldn’t have anything like the same contempt for their sick and hungry like the rich man showed for Lazarus. Furthermore, not only did the rich man show absolute contempt for Lazarus (the name Lazarus serves to indicate he was a fellow Jew) but in so doing showed the same contempt for God’s moral law (Leviticus 19:18) and therefore also for God Himself.
I do not see a good reason therefore to assume the agony described in that parable (whether it continues forever or not) reflects anything like the kind of suffering which the least knowledgeable and least offensive of the condemned will face, especially when Scripture also speaks clearly of soul death Ezekiel 18:4 ESV, KJV, NKJV and that God alone has immortality 1 Timothy 6:15-16 and that He can permanently and completely destroy a man’s soul in Gehenna, Matthew 10:28.
Neither then do I see this parable as a worthy reason to believe men’s souls were created immortal and that the death of every unsaved soul can only mean living in agony and terror forever.
In Matthew 8:12 we see another clear warning of torment “while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. But again, this warning refers only to those Jews, “the sons of the kingdom” who were taught to know the God of Israel. They would or should have known better but continued to offend Him. What is more, whilst the suffering described in “weeping and gnashing of teeth” may be viewed as lasting forever, it may also be viewed as lasting for a finite period only, followed by endless death. The varying periods or degrees of torment for those condemned sons of the kingdom will depend on what they were taught and what they understood and on the gravity of their unrepentant evil. “He will render to each one according to his works” and justice will be seen to be done.
“Weeping” or “wailing and gnashing of teeth” appears several times in the New Testament as a description of the state of condemned souls at the end of the age, but to claim this phrase can only be describing everlasting torment is a groundless assumption.
7 Everlasting punishment
In Matthew 25: 41 and 46 we are told “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” “46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal”. I have often seen others quoting these verses like they were sound evidence serving to prove that every condemned soul will suffer everlasting torment. I agree the word “punishment” in this context should be understood to be a punishment lasting forever, but I also see the words “everlasting punishment” can be seen to mean an everlasting punishment of everlasting “death” i.e. an everlasting cessation of life, just as easily as they can be seen to mean an everlasting punishment of everlasting torment. I have though seen others who will not accept the original Greek word for punishment (kolasis) in Matthew 25:46 is being used to describe merely punishment, they argued instead that it’s meaning should be more correctly translated as “torment”. However, the meaning of this word “kolasis” has been expounded well by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates who is recognised by many evangelical Christians as an authority in the Koine Greek language. His mother tongue was Greek and it is worth seeing a brief history of his life and work presented here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiros_Zodhiates in order to see why I believe his understanding of this word “kolasis” should not be ignored.
Zodhiates informs us that this word “kolasis”, from “kolazo”, does in fact mean, to punish; punishment, when viewed in the context of Matthew 25:46. Whilst at the same time in 1 John 4:18 he tells us that the word “kolasis” used there, can be seen to mean “torment” conveying the notion of “punishment for the correction and bettering of the offender”. He then goes on to explain that Matthew 25:46 however does not refer to temporary corrective punishment and discipline, but has more the meaning of “timoria”, found in Hebrews 10:29 (a noun meaning punishment, satisfying the inflicter’s sense of outraged justice, as defending his own honor or that of a violated law). So according to Zodhiates, with this word “kolasis” when it is found in these two contexts there can be seen two different meanings being applied to it even though they are related. Also, the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, ESV and NIV are regarded by many as probably the best translations we have from the Koine Greek, and in Matthew 25:46 these versions all use the same word to explain the original meaning in this verse and that word chosen is “punishment” not “torment”.
I still cannot see then a good reason why the meaning of “kolasis” in Matthew 25:46 should not be seen as meaning “punishment”, or as another commentator puts it, “punishment that “fits” (matches) the one punished”. Neither then can I see a good reason why the original words, “aionios kolasis” in this verse, should not be seen as anything other than a description of everlasting punishment – (anything ranging from everlasting death as in the literal meaning of the word to everlasting torment, depending on the gravity of the offence caused by each condemned soul and on how little or how great their understanding of God and His goodness was).
Despite what many learned Christians might say about this verse then, the fact remains that death – (a cessation of life) is also a punishment. Everlasting death therefore would be an everlasting punishment.
8 Romans 1:19-20 – “God reveals himself and his will to everyone” ???
The apostle Paul once wrote… “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:19-20 KJV …and these verses have been used throughout much of Christian history in order to teach many to believe and preach that all who will be condemned will have received enough knowledge and understanding of God for Him to justify condemning them to everlasting torment. J.I. Packer for example once said, “In some fashion, God reveals himself and his will to everyone, and everyone responds in one way or another (see Rom. 1:18-2:16).” From “Hell’s Final Enigma”.
However, in his study helps on Romans 1:20 KJV, Zodhiates wrote: “The word translated “Godhead” is not the Greek theotes (2320) which indeed would have meant the Godhead; but theiotes (2305) which means merely divinity, the demonstrated power of the Godhead and not the essence and the character of the Godhead. By looking at nature one can conclude that indeed God is all powerful, but not necessarily that He is an all-loving God of righteousness and justice. There is only so much of God that one can know from God’s creation (v. 19), but to know the essence of God as a triune Deity, one needs to receive His revelation by faith. The rejection of what knowledge a person does have of God is what brings condemnation on him.”
Also, Paul himself explained that before God revealed Himself to him, even though he was a Pharisee, his ignorance of God’s will was still so great that he began working to destroy God’s church, 1 Timothy 1:13. In Acts 22:4 Paul explains that he actually “persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison”. If then a zealous Pharisee like Saul could get it so wrong and be so blind to God’s self-sacrificing love for fallen mankind and be so violently opposed to God, how can others rightly know God if the only knowledge they have of God came from looking at nature?
“By looking at nature one can conclude that indeed God is all powerful, but not necessarily that He is an all-loving God of righteousness and justice.”
Furthermore, when the apostle Paul wrote those words in his letter to the Romans there was no such thing as Darwin’s theory of evolution. As fanciful or as flawed as it may be, this theory that all life on earth began to evolve completely by chance over 3 billion years ago is now being taught by many intellectual and influential atheists involved in ‘science’ as though it was a proven fact. Consequently, it has not only allowed many lost souls to reason God out of their concept of reality but over the years it has also allowed them to indoctrinate a vast and growing number of children to do the same.
It is also now widely taught and believed that according to atheistic or secular science, the universe itself started over 13 billion years ago, and that it was also formed through a purely natural process without any need to include a creator God in the equation. What is more, this theory is also now being taught as fact by the mainstream media and by schools and universities to countless millions across the world. The so called evidence for evolution then which atheists and secularists keep gathering, is being naively accepted by more and more lost souls as evidence proving the Genesis account of creation is simply not true. It has therefore become all too easy for many to think it must be right to dismiss out of hand the creation story and the fall of man upon which the rest of the Bible stands as just another myth or fairy story. There are therefore also, “an untold number of human beings, many of whom would be thought of as decent, law-abiding citizens” who would not have understood just who and what they had been fooled into ignoring. In which case, those who through no fault of their own were born to die corrupted never knowing the God of truth or never rightly understanding the good they kept offending, would never have been able to understand just how dangerous or offensive they really were. There will also be various extreme cases where those who from their birth were deceived and seduced, threatened or beaten into continually ignoring and offending the good they never experienced or rightly understood. All then who are born to live and die this way and then face the judgement cannot be justly held responsible for being offensive to what they never understood or believed existed. Although remaining an offence to God and creation, to condemn such as these to be tortured forever would be like condemning dangerous and hopeless wild animals to suffer in the same way: It would do no good and would forever be seen as an act of unnecessary and unjustified extreme cruelty to say the least.
Now consider Luke 12:35-48 (KJV), here we are told in part what will happen when Jesus Christ returns as Judge of all mankind…
Verse 47-48: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes”. If then all of the condemned were to be punished with everlasting torment, then those who did not know God’s will at His return would need to experience “many” or an infinite number of beatings. But we are told “he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes” and the word “few” cannot possibly mean an infinite number. Neither then can it mean “everlasting torment”.
It should also be noted that in Luke 12:48 ESV, it is worded: “But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.” That being said, to describe living forever in an inferno of constant torment as a light beating would be grossly inaccurate and absurd.
I must however add that I have seen other Christians on a number of occasions arguing that servants or stewards in a similar situation to the ones spoken of in Luke 12:48 who do not know God’s will, shall somehow all be converted and saved. What these Christians keep overlooking though is that the judgement will not be a time for correction and conversion but it will be a time for judgement. The time for conversion is now, and when Jesus Christ returns it will be for the judgement: Luke 12:42-48 serves well to explain what will happen when the Lord Jesus returns as Supreme Judge: “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows”.
The servants then, who does not know the will of God and is found offending the will of God at the time of coming face to face with God on the day of judgement, will not be given a saving knowledge and faith in the self-sacrificing love for mankind revealed through the life and death of the Lord Jesus by facing His wrath and beatings. Luke 12:48 therefore can be seen as a picture of a lesser condemnation of a finite suffering that will lead to an everlasting punishment of an everlasting literal “death” for the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment.
9 I have also seen it argued
…that Daniel 12:2 speaks only of everlasting torment for all of the condemned. “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”. However, the word “shame” here can be seen simply describing the shame of those being judged and condemned. At the same time the words “everlasting contempt” can also be seen describing the contempt that will be forever shown for all who are condemned to everlasting punishment, be it a punishment of an everlasting literal death or be it one of everlasting torment. But I see nothing here to say those words can only mean everlasting torment.
I have also seen it argued that the word “destruction” found in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” doesn’t mean destruction or death as in the literal meaning but refers only to torment, and yet the original Greek word for destruction “olethros” used in this verse does in fact translate into “destruction” and “death”. It can also be seen translated as “undoing”, “ruin” “loss” or “doom” which could also be seen to mean torment, but even so, when the words “destruction” and “death” are taken into account this word “olethros” can be seen not only describing torment (“undoing”, “ruin”, “loss” or “doom”) but also the literal meaning of “destruction” and “death”. Many however still claim “olethros” doesn’t imply annihilation, while others claim it simply means “ruin, destruction and death” as can be seen on this page http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=o)%2Fleqros&la=greek. As for me, 2 Thessalonians 1:9 describes varying degrees of punishment ranging from an everlasting literal death to everlasting torment depending on what each condemned soul is guilty of.
I have also seen it argued that Psalm 116:3 “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow” can only be referring to the horrors of the writer as he continually thought about endless torment, but this verse can just as easily be seen describing the horrors of the writer as he continually thought about death, endless death.
I have also seen it argued that the word Ταρταρόω or tartaroó found in 2 Peter 2:4 should be seen only as further evidence proving there will be a place of everlasting torment for all of the condemned. But if we examine what is actually written here we can see this is not the case: “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell” (tartaroó) “and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”. As we see, this Greek word “tartaroó” (found only once in Scripture) is being used only to explain a holding place for fallen angels until the judgement. This word therefore in the given context set before us in 2 Peter 2 by no means serves to prove the least knowledgeable and least offensive of the condemned must be made to suffer the same condemnation of endless torment that will be experienced by those most evil of the condemned.
I have also seen it argued that Mark 9:44 and Isaiah 66:24 “their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched” can only be describing everlasting torment. But these verses can easily be seen describing an endless decomposing and an everlasting destruction showing there will be no reprieve or regeneration from “death” for those least knowledgeable or least offensive of the condemned. Whilst at the same time these verses can also be seen as a warning of no release from torment for those most evil of the condemned. What these verses cannot be seen doing though is providing evidence of an immortal soul being given to everyone.
I have also seen it argued that where Matthew 22:13 and Matthew 25:30 speak of “weeping and gnashing of teeth” it should only be seen as describing everlasting torment. But whilst the torment described in those verses may be seen as lasting forever, it may also be seen as lasting for a finite period after the least offensive of the condemned have been thrown into the lake of fire. Whatever varying periods or degrees of torment there will be, it will be a just condemnation because it will depend on what the condemned were taught, what they knew and on the gravity of their unrepentant sin or evil. “He will render to each one according to his works” and justice will be seen to be done.
I have also seen it argued that Acts 2:24 “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” is further evidence showing that death for all who remain unsaved must ultimately mean staying alive forever whilst experiencing endless agony. But Jesus never suffered anything after He died because His redemptive work was finished when He died; on the face of it then Scripture appears to be contradicting itself here. However, if we study the original words from that verse more closely we can see what looks like being the most plausible explanation of what Peter meant and why he used a word that is now translated as “pains” in the KJV and as “agony” in the NIV. Basically, what is being said in those verses is that Jesus was freed from the cords or snares of death and could not be held by death. Meyer’s NT Commentary on this verse explains it much better as can be seen here.
I have also seen it argued that Revelation 20:12-15… “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” …can only be describing a condemnation of everlasting torment for everyone who is condemned. Certainly Scripture clearly tells us there will be a resurrection of all the dead at the end of time when all of the unsaved souls will be judged and cast into the lake of fire where I am told in Revelation 20:10 and Revelation 14:9-11, the most evil of them will be tormented there forever. I am not denying that, however, the idea that Scripture tells us the least knowledgeable and least offensive of the condemned will also live forever in endless torment is pure conjecture. Yes, I see God clearly telling us here that there is a lake of fire and there will be a suffering of endless torment for the most evil of souls, but what I certainly do not see God telling us in these verses, or anywhere else in Scripture, is that the least knowledgeable and least offensive of unsaved souls will be cast into that fire of no return and made to live in it forever.
I have also seen it argued or implied that all sin is equally offensive to God and therefore all unsaved sinners will deserve nothing less than to live and suffer untold agony forever in the lake of fire as Satan and his demons must do.
Before I reply to this I must first say that it has been suggested that I might not be taking sin seriously. I must therefore make it clear I am not playing down the corrosive and destructive nature of any sin, the evidence of just how dangerous sin is can be seen everywhere in the world including ourselves. I believe every fallen man is guilty of serious sin because all sin is serious. However, I still see no good reason, biblical or moral, as to why I should believe:
A. God made man with an immortal soul.
B. Those who through no fault of their own were born into sin and died in sin and never knew the Saviour, and yet could at times be seen showing consideration to others, sometimes giving their lives trying to help others, sometimes others they didn’t know, will deserve to suffer like those most evil: I.e. those given knowledge and understanding of the truth and despise and hate the good revealed in Jesus Christ to such a degree they seek to keep fulfilling their depraved desires to destroy who and what they know is good. Even going so far (as records show) as deriving pleasure and ecstasy in seeing little children, even Christian children screaming in terror and agony as they are being tortured to death.
As far as I see there has been a whole host of lost souls that have lived and died without Christ who would have found that last description of evil being just as vile, repulsive and offensive as you and I. The question I must now ask then is this, does God see every soul who remains lost as being just as offensive as He sees Satan and his demonic followers? Many evangelicals seem to believe He does. I do not, the God I worship also sees differing degrees of evil in those who remain unsaved and will judge accordingly: the greater evil shall rightly receive “the greater condemnation”, the least evil or least offensive of the condemned shall receive the lesser condemnation.
I have also seen it argued that Hebrews 9:27 proves that the soul of man is immortal: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”.
However, we cannot take this verse too literally, since there are many exceptions to it. Even the writer to the Hebrews also wrote “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him.” Hebrews 11:5. We also know that there are some spoken of in the Bible who died and were resurrected here on earth, yet there is nothing to indicate they did not remain on earth to live out their natural lives and die again, i.e. nothing to indicate they were taken up into heaven. Also, there must be thousands of people in modern times who were clinically dead for some time and then came back to life again. And, according to Scripture at the second coming, all who are saved and are living at that time will never die. All of this should be taken into account when seeing why this, “appointed unto men once to die” was written.
Hebrews 9 shows us more of the context in which that verse was written and serves to explain the difference between the Old Covenant and the New. Here are the last 5 verses to that chapter…
24 For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
The point that is being expressed by these deaths is that just as it is appointed unto men once to die (because of our sin), so Christ died once to save us from our sin by taking our sin and punishment upon Himself. But that doesn’t mean to say that after the judgement the least offensive of the condemned cannot or will not be completely destroyed in the lake of fire. I say this not just because Scripture also reveals that the soul of man was made mortal, but also because Jesus Christ died to save many by having the punishment that we deserved placed upon Him. He paid the price for our sin but this payment couldn’t possibly be a punishment of everlasting torment because the punishment He took was a suffering that ultimately led to His death, and death is not a punishment of everlasting torment. If then Christ did not take the punishment of everlasting torment, i.e. the punishment that most evangelicals claim He saved us from, then neither did He pay the ransom in full that would have been needed to save us.
Or to put it another way, if endless torment was the penalty for sin then Jesus Christ would need to be in torment right now and for the rest of eternity in order to pay the debt we owe. But He is not in torment now neither does He need to be because endless torment is reserved only for those most evil and demonic souls who are beyond hope. These are the ones who know well the meaning of good and evil and the way of salvation, yet in their pathological hatred for God and truth they are moved only to continue valuing evil above all things, corrupting, slandering and destroying whatever good they can. There is nothing can be done for such as these for they are evil in the extreme, hating even the Holy Spirit, Mark 3:28-29. …and Jesus Christ never gave His life for such as these.
“The wages of sin is death”, the wages for the vilest form of evil is endless torment. The greater evil shall receive “the greater condemnation”
I have also seen it argued that “the second death” is so called because it follows physical death and that Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:14; and Revelation 21:8 describes all of the condemned being forever separated from God whilst remaining alive forever in constant torment. There are various evangelical websites explaining this, for example…
In reply I must first say that I fully agree, the second death will mean an endless separation from God for all who are condemned. However, because I see this separation from God also includes those least offensive of the condemned who will ultimately suffer an endless separation and departure from God, creation and life, I have to say there isn’t much else I can agree with on those web pages insofar as death and punishment are concerned. This is because of the reasons I have already given and because of the reasons I see below…
There can only be one possible first death from which all other deaths came: The first death was a spiritual death, not a physical death as many claim, it was a death of the Spirit of pure and perfect love revealed to us through the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. This Spirit (having no reason to deceive and offend anyone) once lived and ruled in a free and perfect angel now called Satan but died when a growing pride – (a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority) gave birth to a new and exciting spirit of rebellion; and with this birth came not just a growing disdain for God but also a growing corrupting power over so many others in creation: Rebelling against truth and love can often reap an irrational extreme pleasure and an exciting feeling of wild freedom. With a craving for an ever increasing ecstasy, there was nothing to stop those fallen angels from degenerating beyond hope, corrupting whoever they could and despising whoever opposed them. These angels then began to threaten the very existence of creation, but what is worse, this rebellion was spawned from God’s own creation and therefore with no remedial action it could happen again and again in the future eternity, evil would continue to grow and creation would become increasingly more threatened by that evil. One sure remedy for this is to allow evil to run its course in a finite arena called the world.
After the Great Tribulation then when this contagious and deadly spirit of evil has been allowed by God to run a course of lies, corruption, terror and misery and to reach its climax on earth, and after the final judgement when every condemned soul has been seen to be justly cast into the lake of fire, all creation will forever know where the subtle way of pride can lead. This lesson for all creation will then forever serve as the perfect safeguard for creation, and creation therefore will never be threatened again: Through knowing the origins and history of evil and after gazing on the lake of fire, no free and perfect mind of reason like the fallen angels once had, will ever again be fascinated and fooled by the wild and exciting spirit of rebellion and dare to venture into Satan’s mad and reckless state of valuing the self above God and truth.
Now the point I am coming to here is this: Just as the first death, the death of God’s Spirit of love and truth living and ruling in that once perfect angel gave birth to the spirit of lies and hatred in creation, which in turn began to corrupt so many and to threaten creation, so the second death, the lake of fire, will be seen by everyone as simply being the sure and certain endless death of the spirit of evil in creation along with all it’s corrupting power forever. I must therefore repeat: Through knowing the origins and history of evil and after gazing on the lake of fire, no free and perfect mind of reason like the fallen angels once had, will ever again be fascinated and fooled by the wild and exciting spirit of rebellion and dare to venture into Satan’s mad and reckless state of valuing the self above God and truth.
When all evil has been justly cast out of creation into the lake of fire and is seen by all creation to be forever defeated then all creation will know again the pure joy it once experienced before being scarred and threatened by the first death. I can therefore only conclude that when a man dies in this life he will at some time be made alive and conscious again and will either enter into glory or will face the judgement and the second death, and whilst it has been made clear to me there will be a punishment of endless torment awaiting the vilest of evil souls, it has also been made clear to me there will be a punishment of eventual annihilation for those least offensive souls who were born to be condemned never rightly knowing God and never rightly understanding the good they ignored and continued to offend. Whatever physical or mental suffering those least offensive of the condemned might receive before their final termination must to some degree depend upon whatever suffering or terror they maliciously willed or inflicted on others without good reason and without remorse. “He will render to each one according to his works”, justice will be done and will be seen to be done. Whilst all who were given knowledge and understanding of the truth and despise and hate the good so clearly revealed through Jesus Christ, and seek only to keep fulfilling their depraved sadomasochistic desires to seduce and corrupt, torture or destroy whoever or whatever they know is good shall forever be seen to have been justly given “the greater condemnation”, and justice will be seen to be done…
The truth is all we have to hold creation together and to keep us sane, all then who know the truth well and now hate and reject and ignore the truth and know also the terrible corruption and suffering they continually crave to cause shall indeed reap what they sow:
A continuing demonic hatred for the truth and for God and creation, together with an endless need to twist and bury the truth will only bring an endless conflict with God, with the self and with others. Such lost souls shall be given what they need – a complete separation from God, truth and sanity, and their endless insane conflict in their lake of fire will only bring them endless torment.
…There is something else I must say before I close:
Looking forward to having a greater joy in heaven through watching the horrifying torments of lost souls in hell, like Jonathan Edwards encouraged his church to do when he preached…
“The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardor of the love and gratitude of the saints in heaven.”
“the sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. It will not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness, but it will really make their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness. It will give them a more lively relish of it: it will make them prize it more. When they see others, who were of the same nature and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, O it will make them sensible how happy they are. A sense of the opposite misery, in all cases, greatly increases the relish of any joy or pleasure.” Copied from “The Eternity of Hell’s Torments”.
…would be disgusting and perverse in the extreme.
The only good thing about seeing evil souls in torment would be seeing and knowing the wisdom and justice of God has forever destroyed the corrupting power that evil once had over creation and that creation therefore will never be threatened again. But if there are people who still believe all condemned souls are going to live forever in torment, and look forward to enjoying an exalted happiness in heaven through watching them, even the least offensive of them writhing in endless agony like Jonathan Edwards encouraged his church to do here: “When they see others, who were of the same nature and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, O it will make them sensible how happy they are. A sense of the opposite misery, in all cases, greatly increases the relish of any joy or pleasure.” then as far as I see, it must be time for those people to seriously start questioning their own salvation.
Jonathan Edwards again preaching on “The Eternity of Hell’s Torments”…
“After you shall have worn out the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in your dolorous groans and lamentations, without rest day and night, or one minute’s ease, yet you shall have no hope of ever being delivered. After you shall have worn a thousand more such ages, you shall have no hope, but shall know that you are not one whit nearer to the end of your torments. But that still there are the same groans, the same shrieks, the same doleful cries, incessantly to be made by you, and that the smoke of your torment shall still ascend up forever and ever.”
…and if you must still believe in the immortality of every man’s soul like countless millions of others from childhood onwards were taught to believe, then you must still believe that even the least knowledgeable and least offensive of condemned souls, even the most backward or least intelligent of them will be kept alive forever writhing in endless agony and despair in a fire of terror and torment also. But this is something I cannot believe because there isn’t a single good reason to be seen why I should.
To cause or allow any suffering beyond what is necessary for the eternal safety of creation would be as offensive to the Father of love and reason (my God) as it would be alien to reason and love.
So there you have it, all the main reasons why I feel a need to be separated from this long established church doctrine dealing with the soul of man and condemnation; and whilst there are other verses in the Bible dealing with the future state of all condemned souls, the verses I have chosen to use here do, I believe, include the ones most often used for teaching others that every last one of the condemned will be made to live forever in fire and agony. No longer then do I have any desire to be seen supporting a Roman Catholic/Calvinistic/Arminian doctrine dealing with the subject of condemnation, a doctrine which I now find immoral, unbiblical and beyond reason, and therefore also very offensive.
…and just one last thing. As many will know, John Calvin is one of the founding fathers of Protestantism who’s work greatly influenced many including such preachers as Jonathan Edwards as can be seen here http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-8/edwards-theology.html.
…and Charles Spurgeon as can be seen here http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=166.
The following website then makes very interesting reading concerning Calvin. I have included it to show there are a number of reasons to believe Calvin’s understanding of God and Scripture should not always be trusted. https://atheologyintension.com/2015/04/27/john-calvin-heresy-hunter-with-an-axe-to-grind/
Thank you for your time and may God bless us all,