The Doctrine of Endless Punishment

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The doctrine of universalism teaches that everyone will be saved.  Consequently, universalists deny eternal punishment.  This brings up an important question, “Does the Bible teach the doctrine of endless punishment?”

Jesus teaches the doctrine of eternal  or endless punishment in two ways.  First, He uses the phrase, “everlasting punishment” in Matt. 25:46.  Second, He uses the world hell eleven times in His personal teaching ministry.  Let’s consider each of these points.

There are seven passages of Scripture in the New Testament that refer to endless punishment.  They are:  Matt. 18:8; 25:41; 25:46; Mark 3:29; II Thess. 1:9; Heb. 6:2, and Jude 6.  Four of these passages are from the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Matt. 18:8, Jesus said, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.”  In the very next verse, Jesus uses a synonymous phrase, “to be cast into hell fire.”  So, hell fire and everlasting fire are the same thing.  In Matt. 25:41, Jesus states, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Everlasting fire is hell fire.  Again, Jesus teaches in Matt. 25:46, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”  This is the only passage in the New Testament where Jesus uses the phrase, “everlasting punishment.”  This passage teaches that the punishment is endless and the thought is:  if the righteous go into life eternal (heaven) then, the unrighteous will go into everlasting punishment (hell).  The eternal destinies of men are determined by their choices in life and the consequences of those choices involve the justice of God in the Judgment Day.  Finally, in Mark 3:29, the Lord says, “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”  The word “everlasting” (Matt. 25:41,46) is from the Greek word aionios.  This word is found 66 times in the New Testament and means “unending duration.”  The destiny of lost men and women is bound up with that of Satan and his angels.  How long will Satan be punished?  The answer is found in Rev. 20:10, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  How long will the punishment of the wicked endure?  Just as long as the “everlasting life” for the righteous (Matt. 25:46).  In Matthew 25:46 the same word “everlasting” is found in the same sentence with the same sense (unending duration) and applies to both of the words punishment and life.

The Greek word gehenna (hell) is found twelve times in the New Testament.  Eleven of the twelve times, it is found on the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 5:22; 5:29; 5:30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5).  James uses the word gehenna (hell) once in James 3:6.  In Matt. 18:8, 9, Jesus uses the phrases, “everlasting fire” and “hell fire” synonymously.  Thus, He equates everlasting (endless) punishment with hell.

Punishment involves three essential elements.  The first element is awareness.  In Luke 16:33, the rich man was in torments after his death.  This indicates conscious awareness.  The extinction of consciousness is not of the nature of punishment and therefore is no deterrent to sin. The essence of punishment is suffering.  Suffering involves consciousness.  Annihilation destroys the concept of conscious suffering for one’s sins and contradicts the teaching of Jesus.  The second element is justice.  God’s absolute justice is the rectitude by which He upholds Himself against violations of His holiness.  God’s moral excellence (His holiness) made necessary either the punishment of sinners or the forgiveness of sinners whereby their condemnation would be removed.  God’s punishment of sinners is the result of their rejection of His perfect Will.  Punishment is retributive not reformative.  The third element of punishment is the penalty from judgment.  The punishment is tied to the transgression of God’s Will.  The penalty flows from divine judgment.  This judgment is not precarious, but absolute.  It is based upon divine law which reflects the holiness of God.  The punishment that results is real and it is endless.

God will punish the evil-doer eternally in hell!