Do Sinners Get an Eternal Life after Death of Never Ending Punishment in Hell?
Loren A Yadon, pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise, writes in The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column with the rhetorical question, “What would be the consequences to the Christian faith if we denied the existence of hell?”.
First, the credibility of Christ and the Bible is at stake. The idea of hell did not come from medieval tradition, but from the lips of Jesus himself. Interestingly, Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. The word, “gehenna”, was used 12 times to describe the destiny of the wicked in the New Testament. Jesus used that word 11 of those 12 occasions. In Luke 16:19-31, he told a story about the destinies of two men after their deaths. When telling a parable, Jesus never gave the characters of his illustrations proper names. So when he called this beggar by the name of Lazarus, we are left with the impression these two men actually existed. When Lazarus died, his soul went to “the bosom of Abraham”, an expression of eternal bliss. But when the rich man passed away, he found himself in a place of torment with an expanse separating him from everyone. Only he who claimed to come from eternity could describe what takes place in that realm. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus said he will serve as the judge at the end of history. He said some people would be sentenced to “everlasting punishment” and others to “eternal life”.
Secondly, if hell did not exist, there would be no need for Jesus to come to Earth. In John 3:16, he told Nicodemus that God so loved people that he sent his son as the savior to rescue them from perishing. Rescue them from what? The “hell” they have made of their lives? Certainly. But there was also an eternal component to the idea. Jesus and his apostles were convinced people would perish without Christ. He was saving people from an awful fate.
Third, if there is no hell, then Jesus’ death on the cross was meaningless, and his claims to purchase salvation are bogus. If people are all right as they are, then history’s most seminal moment was pointless.
And fourth, if there is no hell, then final justice will never be served. Not everything has been made right in life, therefore some things must be judged in eternity. The cry for justice has reverberated down through the centuries as martyrs and victims have cried, “How long, O Lord?” Will the dictators who have butchered people never have to account for their slaughter? Some day all unsolved crimes in history will be judged, and righteous punishment will be administered. The reason why Christians are told not to seek revenge is that God promised, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay!” (Romans 12:19). And so we rest, knowing we can leave eternal matters into the most fair, loving, and just hands of God. Knowing the heart of God, we are confident that only those deserving of such a fate will be in hell.
While no one wants to make the existence of hell the focus of their faith, we must not avoid the idea either. If I read the Bible correctly, and if Christ can be trusted to be truthful, then the Christian teaching about eternity is balanced on the existence of both heaven and hell.
Christians are notorious for propagating just what they want their simple dabblers in religion to believe. Pastor Loren wants there to be a hell, and gives us some reasons why there is one, but, though there seems little doubt that the biblical authors assume it, the real question is “what is it?”. According to Revelation (20:14;21:8), the fiery place considered to be hell is where sinners suffer the “second death”—the final, “once and for all death”, for God can destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28)! Unless Christians want to think their God of love is such a monstrous torturer that he will torture someone excruciatingly forever, sinners are not perpetually tortured by continuous burning, they are burnt to death spiritually, quickly and finally. On that view, God punishes sinners but does not torture them.
Moreover Gehenna was a valley next to Jerusalem where the city’s rubbish was burnt, and Jesus plainly uses it metaphorically as equivalent to the place where the spiritual rubbish will be burnt when the tares are separated from the wheat at Judgement. The fiery lake of sulphur is a metaphysical Gehenna for the final combustion of irretrievably wicked souls, and that is the second death. The antithesis of eternal life is eternal death, not eternal punishment, so salvation is being saved from the second death, and eternal life is having the reward for the righteous—those with good souls. But everlasting burning sounds impossibly horrible, so became a biblical bogeyman for Christian pastors to scare their congregations into compliance.
Comments on the Four Items
- Jesus promised that the poor were saved—they were blessed—that is what it means. Lazarus, the poor beggar, was saved in “the bosom of Abraham”. Dives, the rich man was not. It was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. That means it is impossible! It does not deter the rich from getting richer and richer, but the end of the parable clearly says “they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead”! Nor have they been, but what do they care. Well, if they profess Christianity, they should.
- “If hell did not exist, there would be no need for Jesus to come to Earth. In John 3:16, he told Nicodemus that God so loved people that he sent his son as the savior to rescue them from perishing. Rescue them from what?” John 3:16 says nothing about Jesus rescuing anybody, but simply that Jesus was sent so that people need not perish. To perish is to die! That is bad enough for someone who is setting their heart on the promise of everlasting life, but Pastor Loren wants it to be even more dreadful than death. Don’t they all? It is a large element of clerical control. Salvation is from perpetual death—the second death which is the reward of wicked souls.
- This is incomprehensible. If a Christian thinks Jesus saved them in some sense by his death, then he still does. Goodness is rewarded still by eternal life—wickedness by eternal spiritual death.
- Why is hell necessary for some metaphysical final justice? Final justice is still served by the second final death of the wicked. “Will the dictators who have butchered people never have to account for their slaughter?” At the final judgement, why must the Pastor assume that only wicked dictators will have to appear to account for their slaughter and butchery? If unjust killing is a criterion for burning in hell, what US president would escape. They have ordered the killing of millions of innocents abroad—Libyans, Afghans and Iraqis, and several million Vietnamese bombed and poisoned monstrously a while back. This mass murder has been carried out with the approval of most of the USA’s Christians.
And what sort of hypocrisy is this? “Christians are told not to seek revenge as God promised, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay!’ (Romans 12:19).” If this is so, then why are US Christians so keen on vengeance themselves, and as a nation? They are Christians only in church, and cannot, and see no need to, relate Christ’s morality to the real world. That is why they are so fond of citing Paul rather than God in the form of Jesus Christ. Here Paul cites Deuteronomy, the oldest law in the Jewish Scripture because it is most likely the original law of Moses! That Old Testament God is noted for being vengeful, but the Pastor and Paul rightly tell their readers that revenge is for God only—not even Christians! She might have added that Paul goes on to cite Proverbs 25:21: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink”, something that is much more Christian.
Does Pastor Loren really think that Christians who have approved of mass butchery and slaughter will be welcome in the kingdom of God? Does any Christian seriously think they can approve of serial murder and even participate in it and still be a candidate for eternal life? Heaven must be full of crooks and murderers. Read the bible again. Sinners are not welcome in God’s kingdom. Christ says explicitly and graphically that anyone tempted into sin would be better off plucking out their eye than letting it tempt them into sin and losing the promised reward. Eyes are of no value to those burnt up in the second death in hell—the spiritually dead.
Maybe it is a shame there is no fiery hell or perpetual torture. Plenty of Christians should finish up there, but fortunately for them they’ll just suffer the second death and, while expecting everlasting life, they’ll get a simple quick fry up of their wicked souls. They should be “Thanking the Lord”.
The pastor writes in concluding, “If I read the Bible correctly”. Sadly most Christians, pastors included, just do not study and so do not understand their own incarnated God—or the studying they do is taught by their false teachers, like Paul the fraudulent apostle, and the modern apostles of Mammon with their ten million capitalist disciples. Christ told Christians they were to remove the beams from their own eyes before trying to get specks from the eyes of others. Christians think they are warriors fighting God’s fight, but the point of the parable of beams and specks is that first they must be pure and of pellucid clarity of vision themselves. That is too hard. It’s much easier to blame everyone else, label them all indiscriminately as wicked, and continue unwittingly as the Antichrist’s stormtroopers.