Will the Punishment in Hell Be Experienced Forever?

This month’s issue of Solid Ground was written by Greg and Tim on the subject of Hell. Currently, there’s a movement among some members of the church towards annihilationism (or “conditionalism”)—that is, the idea that the punishment given at the end of time to those who have not been pardoned of their moral crimes will not be experienced through all eternity. Rather, their final punishment will be annihilation—they will cease to exist—and it’s their nonexistence that will last throughout eternity. Since people have been asking questions about this topic, Greg and Tim decided to address it in Solid Ground. (You can also hear them discuss this topic on a recent podcast.)

This issue is the first of two parts, and it focuses on making a positive case from the Bible for an eternal, conscious experience of Hell. November’s issue will respond to the positive case made by annihilationists.

An excerpt:

In one sense we find it a bit awkward to be the champions of perpetual punishment, everlasting suffering, and endless torment. We want you to know, then—just for the record—that we find no joy in this…. However, what we like or don’t like is hardly the point. “Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal suffering] intolerable,” John Stott confided, “and do not understand how people can live with it without cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain. But our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it.”

Quite right. Taking counsel from our feelings on a revolting topic like everlasting torment is perilous, since we inevitably stumble into the error of sacrificing God’s justice on the altar of His love. But that will never do since both God’s love and His justice are grounded, so to speak, in the same thing: His goodness. Goodness informs both God’s mercy (through love) and God’s punishment (through justice) and neither can be sacrificed without sacrificing God’s noble character.

Thankfully, these are not in conflict in the Christian Story since both find their perfect harmony in the cross where God is both just and justifier of those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). On Calvary God simultaneously expresses both His holiness and His compassion….

Stott adds, “As a committed evangelical, my question must be—and is—not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s Word say?”

We agree. Our only legitimate course of action regarding the nature of Hell is to answer the question, “What does God’s Word say?” So to Scripture we shall turn.

Read the rest here.

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Amy K. Hall