Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

Eternal Punishment

This analysis, on the topic of eternal punishment, has not been something pleasant for me to write, and I am sure that for you as the reader there are some parts of it that have not been pleasant to read. Whether condemned sinners will be annihilated from existence or suffer some form of an ongoing, never-ending punishment, will be a continual debate in both evangelical Christian and Messianic theology for quite some time. Because the arguments issued in favor of annihilationism are often given in response to overly-exaggerated views of a literal Hell with people having to swim in lava for eternity, today’s Messianic community can expect annihilation to grow in adherence. Few are willing to sit down and read through the many passages in the Tanach and Apostolic Scriptures, considering their setting, as well as factor in some of the diversity of language used to describe the destiny of the wicked.

Ultimately, the question of what happens to the unrighteous condemned is one of ideology. What do you believe is a sustainable punishment for unrepentant sinners? Do you believe that a personal obliteration from existence is reason enough to confess of your sins before your Creator. Or, is an everlasting, never-ending exile from His presence more of a legitimate reason?

No matter how hard one tries to stay focused upon the Biblical passages that inform us about eternal punishment, issues of personal ideology and experience will ultimately be those which cause someone to choose between the condemned being annihilated from existence, or eternally punished in a never-ending state of misery and despair. As a Bible teacher myself, I cannot claim that my experience surrounding this issue, and in particular how I came to faith in 1995, has not influenced me in some major way. My personal experience with supernatural forces—both of Light and of Darkness—has definitely caused me to conclude that the condemned are saved from a never-ending eternal punishment, to be rightly viewed as an everlasting banishment or exile from the presence of the Lord.

In evaluating the many centuries of Christian theology, even into the modern era, has the subject of eternal punishment—“Hell” in the common vernacular—at all been abused? Absolutely! A portrayal of sinners suffering a wide, creative number of torments in a bath of hot lava, poisonous gases, and acid, has been trumped up too many times so as to scare people into Heaven. The sober reality of eternal punishment for condemned sinners, who reject the Creator God, has not often been presented as a necessary component of what will befall the unrepentant. Because of abuses throughout history regarding “hell-fire and damnation,” annihilationists have been able to make emotional pleas to the extent that Hell portrays God as a sadistic monster, no worse than the Devil.

While a significant amount of attention over the issue of death, the intermediate state, and the resurrection is necessarily given to the destiny of the redeemed—the unredeemed too will die, experience their own intermediate penalization, and then be resurrected. Daniel 12:2 informs us that there will be those resurrected “to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” Revelation 20:5, 6 explains, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed…Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power…” Those who participate in the second resurrection are those who will have to stand trial before Yeshua the Messiah, and be judged according to the level of their deeds or works they committed (Revelation 20:12-14).

“When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

“…[T]the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.”

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