At breakfast Easter morning – I made a delicious three cheese, spinach quiche – my pastor said he doesn’t believe God has any interest in punishing people throughout eternity. Of course He doesn’t.
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about hell and eternal damnation.
I hate misconceptions.
Scripture doesn’t say anything about eternal punishment for people, it only mentions eternal punishment for the unholy trinity.
At the end of Revelation 19 the beast and the false prophet are “thrown alive into a fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Alive being the operative word.
At the end of Revelation 20 – 1,000 years later – the ancient serpent, Satan, joins his comrades in Sulfur Lake, where “they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
They, the three of them.
Eternal damnation is for the counterfeit three. Perhaps because they, being fallen angels, are eternal creatures. And being eternal, they cannot be destroyed, hence being thrown in alive.
But man is not an eternal creature – unless God’s eternal Holy Spirit is alive in him.
Hell is a holding tank.
Oh yes, there is definitely a hell, to deny that would be to call Jesus a liar.
Jesus said He holds the keys to death and Hades. He also talked more than once about a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. A place outside, where He is not. Because hell = the absence of Him.
God has nothing to do with hell, which means He is not there to mete out punishment. He leaves that to its residents, which is much worse than if He were doing the punishing, because He is fair and good and the residents of hell are not.
God does not actively punish and, near as I can figure, He does not eternally punish.
Read Revelation 20 and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s how it goes down:
An angel carrying the key to the Abyss and a chain descends from heaven, seizes the serpent, throws him into the Abyss, locks it and seals it over him.
Imprisoned there for 1,000 years, the serpent can no longer deceive anyone. Christ reigns and the serpents’ lying lips are sealed.
That’s the best part of the whole thing for me. No more lying lips. No more confusion. No more misleading political soundbites, twisted facts, things taken out of context. No more deceptions. No more misconceptions. Heaven on earth.
Then, after 1,000 years of heaven on earth, the serpent is released for a short time. Why? Because God is fair.
What does the serpent do? He immediately deceives the nations, gathers an army and marches against God’s city. Fire comes down from heaven and the army is incinerated. Its general, as I already told you, gets tossed into the lake of burning sulfur where they are tormented forever.
After the serpent is tossed, the residents of Hades are judged and then death and Hades are tossed, too. No need for them anymore.
The chapter ends with this sentence:
“Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
It looks to me like everything temporal – unredeemed man, death, Hades – is completely incinerated. Only the eternal – the beast, the false prophet and the devil – burn forever.
I’m sure any amount of time in Hades seems like forever, but it’s not.