The Lord Jesus is [to be] revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. (2 Thessalonians 1:7b-9)
There is no thought in the Bible of a temporary purgatorial punishment that purifies the sinner.(1) The terrible nature of sin against an almighty, eternal, holy God is brought to light - the punishment must of necessity be everlasting.
"Gregory Koukl ponders this solemn thought: The conscious torment of those banished by God will never end. Ever."
It is tempting to think that forever is a long, long time, but that would not be accurate. Anything that has a length has an end to it, and even a long, long time runs its course, eventually. Hell does not, and that is difficult to imagine.
Everything in our life has an ending, our day comes to an end, we rest for the night and start over the next day. The school term comes to an end, we vacation for a bit, then start another term. Eventually our lives come to an end, and that's usually the farthest forward we reach with our minds. If you tried to think for a moment as far into the future as you possibly can - however far ahead your thoughts can take you - you will not have even started your journey into eternity.
This is what makes writing this article so solemn for me. I am writing to people who will exist forever. They will either live in Heaven, enjoying the life and love of that wonderful place where 'there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.' Or, alternatively, they will endure everlastingly in a place where 'there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth', a place called 'the Lake of Fire',under God's unmitigated judgment.(2)
The Lord Jesus, who wept over people rejecting His mercy, still spoke clearly about conscious eternal punishment. 'Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched'. (3)
"But, someone might say, 'surely a God of love cannot send people to an eternal hell?'"
The answer to this is that God's justice is just as much part of who He is as His love. Both tell us about a God who is ultimately good. God wouldn't be good if He threw overboard His justice. Neither would God be good if He threw overboard His love. In the message of Christianity, He displays both.
God's justice, not God’s love, places sinful people under eternal punishment. God's love, however, has provided a way of escape through the death of His Son.
To the objection that the the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime, the answer stands that it isn’t our law that counts but God’s Law. The judge, not the guilty criminal, decides the sentence.
We must affirm sadly that those who reject God’s mercy will get just what they asked for: an eternity without His conscious nearness, removed from the goodness that He gives us all every day, whether we acknowledge it or not. This truly will be 'the Second Death'. (4)
- In Roman Catholic theology, Purgatory is a state that some people must go through to be 'pure and holy' enough to go to Heaven. This is not a teaching of the Bible. Those who trust in Christ alone for salvation find in Him complete forgiveness. 'The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son cleanses us from all sins' (1 John 1.7b; see also John 5.24).
- Revelation 21.4 and Matthew 8.12.
- Mark 9.44,46,48.
- Please read Revelation 20.11-15, which gives us a glimpse into the Final Judgment.