Is Hell Eternal?

I was recently asked if I could help some youth and children with the question of whether the punishment of hell was eternal or not.  I was led to deepen my own conviction about the subject.  Let me share my thoughts with the larger body of Christ at mpbc.

Those who believe that Hell is not eternal (and there are many who believe this) refer to the punishment of the wicked as a onetime event, using the great white throne of judgment’s reference to the second death as a final death (Revelation 20:11-15).  Malachi 4:1-5 speaks of the wicked being “burned up” and Psalm 37:10, 20 says that the wicked will be looked for but unaccounted for – they will “vanish away into smoke.”

However, the words of Jesus, Himself, refer to “eternal punishment” for the devil and his demons (Matt. 25:41).  It’s always best to consult the words of Jesus when looking for the truth.  In the book of Revelation, John’s vision from the Lord says that the beast and the false prophet “will join the devil in the fiery lake of burning sulfur – there they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (v.10).  The great white throne of judgment is the final judgment of all the wicked (Rev. 20:11-15) and states that the dead – great and small (meaning those who had status and power on earth and those who were not very influential) will stand before God one last time for what they have done.  Then they will be thrown into the lake of fire.  But this is the same reference that Jesus made in Matt. 25:41 of which He refers to punishment as “eternal”.  It is also the same lake of burning sulfur that was mentioned about the devil, the false prophet and the beast in the previous verse (10) of Revelation 20 referring to punishment as “day and night forever and ever.”

Sometimes, the prophets used word pictures through metaphors and similes to communicate a truth or demonstrate a point.  Isaiah 30:27-30 refers to the wrath of God against His enemies as a “consuming fire”.  David’s song of praise when the Lord rescued him from his adversary, Saul, and all the enemies, was recorded in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18.  In both he mentions God’s wrath as “consuming fire”.  To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17) and God’s anger toward the idolatry of the Israelites while living in the wilderness is described by Moses as a “consuming fire” because of His jealous nature for His people (Deuteronomy 4:24).  Even in the New Testament the Hebrew writer refers to God as a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) when describing the end times as God removes all things that are “shakable” – all things will be stable because all unstable things (things, creatures and people in heaven and earth) will be shaken out.  God will purify His new heaven and new earth for all eternity.  Does this mean He will burn everything up?  No, it means that He will remove all things impure from His presence – like a consuming fire would burn away all impurities leaving only the purest substance (a simile).  Jesus has already taught us that punishment for those who don’t recognize Him as Lord and master will be eternal (Matthew 25:41) as the master would separate the sheep from the goats.  Eternal separation from the God of love, peace, hope would mean we lose all of those things.  There will be no second chance after the second death (the first death is the physical one – the second death is eternal).

God wants all to come to Him surrendered to His great will and promises; to live by faith trusting in His gracious presence and abundant life within His will.  He went to great lengths to describe His love.  Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”  This love of God is best seen through His grace to a sinful people.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

If you trust in Jesus Christ as your personal savior (saving you from eternal punishment), then He will come to you through His Holy Spirit and live in you, making your life one with Him.  If you have never offered yourself completely to Him, you can do so by just simply praying this prayer of confession and invitation:

Dear God, I know that I am living a life that is not totally pleasing to you.  That makes me a sinner compared to your Holy perfection.  Please forgive me of my sins and give me the pleasure of your Holy Spirit to live within my life.  I want to be Your child and please you in every way.  Help me and put me on the path for life that best represents your plan for me.  I ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

If you have prayed this prayer for the first time then send me, Pastor John, an email and let me pray for you personally and help you discover God’s wonderful design for your life (pastorjohn55@msn.com).

God bless you!  You have just made the most important decision you will ever make in your lifetime!

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