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Everlasting Punishment

03 Sep

Is everlasting punishment never ending? In Matthew 25:31 and following one will find the Judgment of the Just and the Unjust. When I consider those who have not come to Christ in repentance and never received him as Savior, I must ask: “If their reward is everlasting punishment, does this really mean never ending punishment?”

…’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41 NIV)

Matthew 25:41 says: “…depart you cursed from me into everlasting fire…” The word translated ‘eternal’ is aionios (G166) and fire is pur (G4442). Both are used in Jude 1:7 for ‘eternal fire’ which was the judgment of Sodom and Gomorra (KJV). The question is this: Is this fire still burning in Sodom? Of course not, and since it is not burning yet today, then the term aionios fire cannot mean eternal in the same sense that we understand the word to mean in English. If this is so with this Scripture, how can we be so certain that those who are to be punished with eternal fire in Matthew 25:41 are punished eternally?

Someone may say the intent of Jude 1:7 is not that the fire is eternal, but the consequences of that fire are eternal. However, the Scriptures show the consequence of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah are not eternal at all! Matthew 10:15 says God will raise up Sodom and Gomorrah in the judgment and be more merciful to them than to those cities who rejected Jesus (cp. Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12). In fact, Jesus claimed, if he had done his great works in Sodom that he did in the cities of Galilee that rejected him, Sodom would not have been destroyed (Matthew 11:23). In other words, they would have repented!

Now, brothers, for your sakes I have applied all this to Apollos and myself, that from us as illustrations you might learn the lesson, “Never go beyond what is written,” so that you might stop boasting in favor of one teacher against another (1 Corinthians 4:6 WmsNT – emphasis mine).

It is my constant prayer that I will be guided by this Scripture that I may be obedient to God and not be found teaching the doctrines of men or worshiping God in vain (Matthew 15:8-9). I realize the understanding that the punishment of the wicked is not eternal is not received by most Christian denominations, but my boast is in Jesus alone. The traditions of men, such as that of an eternal hellfire, which have come down to us through the centuries must be proved against the word of God. Whatever we teach must not go beyond what is written in Scripture.

Hebrews 6:8 tells us of ground that “bears fruit of thorns and briers” and is “rejected… whose end is to be burned.” It is interesting to note that, when this is done by the farmer, he not only gets rid of the unwanted fruit, but the carbon makes the ground he burned more fertile for the good seed he plants later. In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-25; Luke 8:4-15) Christ indicated that the ground is a man’s heart. The ground in Hebrews 6 is not destroyed by the fire, but its fruit, the thorns and briars, are destroyed. These are the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:7, 22), and are identified in Hebrews 10 as the adversaries. In 1Corinthians 3:12-15 we find it is our works or our fruit that will be burned. What remains after the fire is the basis of our reward, but the fact of our eternal life is never brought into question. Indeed, it is emphasized in 1Corinthians 3:11 that though we may have worked all our lives for wood, hay and stubble and lost all, the one thing we cannot lose is Christ who is the only foundation that can be laid and cannot be destroyed (1Corinthians 3:15). The point is, if the fire cannot destroy us (nor is it meant to do so), how can we be sure it will destroy the wicked?

Kolasis (G2851) is the word for punishment in Matthew 25:46. It can be found only here and in 1John 4:18 where it is translated torment, which is the result or fruit of fear. The verb form of this word is Kolazo (G2849). It is found in Acts 4:21 and 2Peter 2:9 where it is translated punish or punished. The context of 2Peter 2:9 elaborates on the destiny of the goats of Matthew 25:31-46. In 2Peter 2:9 and following we find the punishment of false teachers and false prophets (2Peter 2:1), while Matthew 25 speaks of the punishment of the goats, which the Scriptures reveal are the leaders of the people (Zechariah 10:3).

Instead of everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46), 2Peter 2:17 tells of a mist of darkness reserved for the wicked forever (cp. 2Peter 2:4). The words translated darkness in verses 4 and 17 are zophos (G2217) in verse-4, and skotos (G4655) in verse-17. The words zophos (G2217) and skotos (G4655) are both translated into the word darkness elsewhere in Scripture, but they are used together in 2Peter 2:17. Here, they are translated mist (G2217) of darkness (G4655). Both of these words are used together once more in Jude 1:13 and are translated blackness (G2217) of darkness (G4655), to describe the fate of the angels who sinned. Thus, whoever we imagine these angels or messengers to be, their fate is the same as that of men. Furthermore, according to Jude 1:6, this darkness has and end! All things culminate in the Judgment of the Great Day (cp. 1Corinthians 15:24-25). The point is, if forever in 2Peter 2:17 has an end, how can we be so certain that everlasting or eternal in Matthew 25 doesn’t have an end?

More information concerning this darkness can be found in Job 10:21-22 where Job looks upon it as his own death. He calls it “a land of darkness … where light is darkness.” This was the fate of all men before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; but the righteous had rest (Job 3:13). Their death was precious to the Lord (Psalm 116:15), an end desired by those who were unrighteous (Numbers 23:10). The wicked have a different fate in death, as revealed in Job 27:19-23. Here we are told of terrors being the end of the wicked, and “a tempest steals him away in the night.” This night or darkness as in Matthew 25:46 is a punishment or torment likened to that produced by fear. The Scriptures don’t describe this state in other terms, except that there is no consciousness in the grave (Psalms 146:4). Therefore, this terror would have to be the process of death itself. Since many wicked men have gone to the grave without fear, I can only conclude that the process of death takes a bit longer than the actual cessation of breath. He will not be able to gather his thoughts and strengthen himself (Job 27:19). Something terrifying grabs hold of him and violently removes his life from his place (his body), and God will not comfort him (Job 27:21-23).

The idea that God punishes men for their iniquity forever is certainly not supported in his word here in Matthew 25. His love and mercy is testified throughout the Bible, but especially in the person of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Man’s sins are certainly terrible, but the price Jesus paid is greater than the debt that was owed (Romans 5:15). The work of Christ swallows up the work of Adam, justifying all men (Romans 5:18). Considering our fate from this point of view, how could we believe that Christ’s death is not precious enough to pay for all sins, including the sins of unrepentance and unbelief? If this is an offence to anyone, wouldn’t that be an offense in the cross itself? Which is greater, the wickedness of man or the cross of Christ? Our Lord came to save the world (John 3:16-17), and he says that he finished the job (John 19:30; cp. John 17:4 & 1Timothy 1:15). May the God of all mercy grant us repentance to believe the Gospel to the glory and honor of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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6 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2009 in Judgment, Religion

 

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6 responses to “Everlasting Punishment

  1. davidwardmiller

    September 14, 2011 at 19:25

    I respectfully strongly disagree with your position stated above.

    1. You mentioned the reference of Matthew 25:46, but failed to quote this key passage on eternal punishment: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    If “eternal punishment” is really not forever, then our “eternal life” also ends at some point. The parallel is obvious to an honest reading of the passage. How else could Jesus have made it any clearer that both life in heaven and punishment in hell are eternal? You write, “how can we be so certain that everlasting or eternal in Matthew 25 doesn’t have an end?” Did you really mean to include eternal life in verse 46 too?

    Only manifestly flawed exegesis can have Matthew 25:46 mean: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment [which will not be eternal], but the righteous to eternal life [but this will be eternal].” Can you truthfully say so dogmatically, “The idea that God punishes men for their iniquity forever is certainly not supported in his word here in Matthew 25.” If so, do you also believe “the idea God offers men life with God in heaven for their faith forever is certainly not supported in Matthew 25.”? Same Greek words for eternal.

    2. You write: “How could we believe that Christ’s death is not precious enough to pay for all sins, including the sins of unrepentance and unbelief?” The answer is simple–because Jesus, John the Baptizer and the apostles said so! The following are only few of the many passages that could be quoted.

    Allow me to quote the Lord Jesus Christ in just one chapter–John 3 (NIV)
    3:3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
    3:14-15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

    You write; ” Our Lord came to save the world (John 3:16-17).” Yes, that is the heart’s desire of God–he wants everyone to be saved, but you must add the very next verse to understand belief is necessary:
    3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

    A quote from the greatest prophet of all, John the Baptist, from that same chapter:
    3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

    Now a word from Paul and Silas
    Acts 16: 31 & 34 They [Paul and Silas] replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” … The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

    More from Paul on the necessity of belief (faith) for salvation

    Romans 3:22 (NIV) This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,

    Romans 10:8-10 (NIV) But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

    3. You conclude with: “May the God of all mercy grant us repentance to believe the Gospel to the glory and honor of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Why offer that benediction if Christ’s death is “precious enough to pay for all sins, including the sins of unrepentance and unbelief”?

    I find many acts of the righteous holy just acts of our loving God in the Bible to be hard to swallow, but I am not the one to judge God or define just love. There are many illustration from the Bible one could give, but I will only mention the Noahic flood. God gave many years of Noah’s preaching for people to repent and believe, but only Noah’s family believed and entered the arc. Pairs of animals were brought in the barge by God as well. Then God shut the door and rains came. Myriads of men, women, babies, cute little children, and aged grandmothers all died by gasping for breath and drowning (whether local or global–still a awful scene). No second chance. The door was shut.

    Yet the Bible says, “God is love.” And he is, even when he sends a flood. God gave them a choice and they rejected salvation. Love demands a choice or we are (1) spiritually raped (a forced “love” we do not want) or (2) are spiritual robots (we are programmed to believe and really have no choice).

    The hard teaching of Jesus in Luke 13:23-28(NIV) is germane here:
    Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
    He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
    “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
    “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
    “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
    “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”

    Some actually rejected the Lord having heard him teach, witnessed his many miracles and observed the only morally perfect man who ever lived. Judas is exhibit A. Jesus said about Judas just before he betrayed the Lord, “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24). But if your thesis is correct, Judas will have his unbelief and unrepentance cared for by the all-inclusive cross. Judas is to be forgiven and to enjoy life eternal with Christ. Is non-existence better than that?

    One final passage:
    1 John 5:11-13 (NIV) And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

    May the Lord bless you as you study the Word.

    Respectfully and most sincerely in Christ,
    davidwardmiller

     
    • Ed Bromfield

      September 15, 2011 at 10:52

      Pastor Miller, greetings and thank you for your kind response to what you have read in my blog.

      I respectfully strongly disagree with your position stated above.

      Thank you for your comment Pastor. I understand that you have chosen your words with compassion for me and your love for Jesus. It is difficult for me to disagree with you or any pastor. I have a deep respect for your labor in Christ, and I don’t intend for any of my studies to cause the Gospel harm. God knows my heart, and I am confident in him that he would keep me from doing myself what I despise in others who have raised their voices against the faith.

      Before I get to your comments, let me offer you a very brief explanation of what I see in Matthew 25. First, the parable of the 10 virgins—we know that 5 enter in the house, but the other 5 are unable. All brought oil, but 5 fear they don’t have enough, and while they are away seeking what they should have, Christ returns and the door is shut. Are they condemned? Many think so, but the text is silent about their ultimate fate. They are simply not allowed into the house. I take this to be a division of rewards but not condemnation (as we have come to view the word). My reason is due to a similar parallel in Ezekiel 44. Verses 1-9 speak about Israel going astray, and about permitting the wrong kind of people into the Sanctuary and serving in the House of the Lord. Ezekiel 44:10-14 speak of the Levites who allowed all this to occur. They have a place in the LORD’s service, but it is to the people (oversight of the gates and caring for the burnt sacrifice etc.). Nevertheless, they shall not serve the LORD directly. They shall not go into the House to come near to him. – These are the unwise virgins.

      Verses 15 to the end of the chapter speak of the Levites who remained faithful when Israel went astray. These are called the sons of Zadok, the High Priest who was faithful to David the King when Absalom rebelled. Zadok and David represent Jesus, and those who are faithful to Jesus even in times of error will be permitted into the House, and they will serve near Jesus. They will also minister to the people just as the unfaithful Levites (5 unwise virgins), but only they will be permitted in the House to serve near the LORD.

      The Parable of the Talents speak of what the Lord will do through us in our ministries in our respective lifetimes, and how our ministry prospers. The unfaithful one will have his portion with the unbelievers.

      The Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats has to do with judging the world who never knew Jesus. Each of the previous parables show the people knew the Lord and their responsibilities to him, but not these. These are all those who never knew Jesus, yet Jesus says some have served him while others have not. I think it has to do with morality. Aside from our (worldly) religious beliefs, one will find honest people who treat others in a fair manner, some even going above and beyond what one would expect. Still others knowingly abuse other people, they hurt kill and destroy lives. They know they’re doing wrong, because they hide their deeds from the general public and authorities who are supposed to keep the peace for the general populace. Many in this group are very wicked, and all need to be punished. Society for one reason or another couldn’t or wouldn’t do the right thing, so the Lord punishes them until the last farthing is paid—justice without mercy.

      Bear with me please, I am not saying anyone receives eternal life because of good works etc. Everything is done according to the Scriptures. No one is admitted without repentance and bowing the knee to Jesus. This is judgment. There is no judgment for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). The “sheep” receive eternal life in that they are given the Holy Spirit—just as we have been given eternal life today by means of our having the Holy Spirit. The “goats” are not given life until they’ve paid the last farthing. They will be taught through the mercy shown them by those they hurt during this life. That is the only mercy they will receive, and it will be part of the training of the sheep. At least this seems to be the logical course that will take place, knowing the “sheep” and “goats” never knew Jesus in this age.

      Who will the virgins minister to if only in this age there is hope of life? Over whom will those having the talents have authority if only in this life there is hope? The sheep will be trained, having the Holy Spirit.

      I have written a blog-post about the three tenses of salvation. If you care to read it, it should explain further what I’ve said so far. You can find it HERE . Please remember I am trying to be brief here.

      1. You mentioned the reference of Matthew 25:46, but failed to quote this key passage on eternal punishment: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
      If “eternal punishment” is really not forever, then our “eternal life” also ends at some point. The parallel is obvious to an honest reading of the passage. How else could Jesus have made it any clearer that both life in heaven and punishment in hell are eternal? You write, “how can we be so certain that everlasting or eternal in Matthew 25 doesn’t have an end?” Did you really mean to include eternal life in verse 46 too?
      Only manifestly flawed exegesis can have Matthew 25:46 mean: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment [which will not be eternal], but the righteous to eternal life [but this will be eternal].” Can you truthfully say so dogmatically, “The idea that God punishes men for their iniquity forever is certainly not supported in his word here in Matthew 25.” If so, do you also believe “the idea God offers men life with God in heaven for their faith forever is certainly not supported in Matthew 25.”? Same Greek words for eternal.

      —Only manifestly flawed exegesis can have Matthew 25:46 mean: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment [which will not be eternal], but the righteous to eternal life [but this will be eternal].”— On the face, you seem to be correct here, but what would you say about:

      Romans 5:18 NIV Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

      The rebellion of Adam resulted in judgment/condemnation for **all** men.
      The righteousness of Jesus resulted in justification and life for **all** men.

      Is this the way your read the above? Certainly the rule by which you read Matthew 25:46, if used here, as well, would result in a contradiction between Matthew 25:46 and Romans 5:18. Wouldn’t you say? After all, no one escaped the judgment of Adam—no one. Can anyone escape the righteous act of Christ? There seems to be a legitimate parallel here, wouldn’t you say, Pastor?

      2. You write: “How could we believe that Christ’s death is not precious enough to pay for all sins, including the sins of unrepentance and unbelief?” The answer is simple–because Jesus, John the Baptizer and the apostles said so! The following are only few of the many passages that could be quoted.
      Allow me to quote the Lord Jesus Christ in just one chapter–John 3 (NIV)
      3:3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
      3:14-15 “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

      I agree with you that no one can enter into life without being born again. No one gets to have eternal life, unless it comes through Jesus. I don’t agree that this is the ONLY age when this is accomplished. Eventually, all men will bow the knee to Jesus and submit to him to the glory and honor of God (Philippians 2:10-11), and God is never honored or glorified in forced submission.
      You write; ” Our Lord came to save the world (John 3:16-17).” Yes, that is the heart’s desire of God–he wants everyone to be saved, but you must add the very next verse to understand belief is necessary:
      3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
      A quote from the greatest prophet of all, John the Baptist, from that same chapter:
      3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
      Now a word from Paul and Silas
      Acts 16: 31 & 34 They [Paul and Silas] replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” … The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
      More from Paul on the necessity of belief (faith) for salvation
      Romans 3:22 (NIV) This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,
      Romans 10:8-10 (NIV) But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

      I totally agree with every Scripture you have quoted. Our difference in opinion is in the idea that in this life only there is hope of knowing Christ Jesus. I don’t believe people are condemned to an eternal hell for the want of a missionary to tell them about Christ, and many have died never knowing him.

      Concerning those who have rejected Jesus, Peter himself said those who crucified Jesus did it in ignorance, as did Jesus in his prayer to forgive his very killers. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Jesus seems to see hope in those whom he said he would judge. Was a more evil act ever committed in the history of mankind? Yet, Jesus, as our Mediator, asked the Father to forgive the very ones immediately responsible for his death.

      3. You conclude with: “May the God of all mercy grant us repentance to believe the Gospel to the glory and honor of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Why offer that benediction if Christ’s death is “precious enough to pay for all sins, including the sins of unrepentance and unbelief”?

      Don’t you agree that Jesus’ death paid the price for all? Is unrepentance or unbelief too heavy a rock for God to lift?

      Those of us who know our God need to repent of the wrong things we say about him. There is no fear in love, yet how many of us preach the terrors of hell in order to spread the name of Jesus? I believe this is wrong. I know I’m in the minority, but I’m not impressed with numbers.

      I am a Sunday school teacher and belong to a mainline denomination of Christianity. When I was permitted membership in my church, my Pastor knew I believed somewhat differently but in the main I was orthodox. I was told I had to promise I would not make my differences the main point of fellowship in the body. I agreed. Doctrines never saved a soul—it is Christ who saves. What we believe about him often will free us up from a binding sin or tradition that kept us from more fully being devoted to him. Nevertheless, these things don’t save—ONLY Jesus saves. I haven’t used my freedom to preach anything in Sunday school that would break my word to my Pastor. But the internet is not mainline Christianity. I have total freedom here to speak what I believe Jesus taught me. I try not to force this upon anyone. I offer an explanation to those who ask. I debate with those who have an axe to grind with Christianity, but I try to do it all as a faithful servant of Jesus. At times I feel like I am doing poorly (answering comments), but I do what God enables me to do—nothing more, and hopefully nothing less.

      I find many acts of the righteous holy just acts of our loving God in the Bible to be hard to swallow, but I am not the one to judge God or define just love. There are many illustration from the Bible one could give, but I will only mention the Noahic flood. God gave many years of Noah’s preaching for people to repent and believe, but only Noah’s family believed and entered the arc. Pairs of animals were brought in the barge by God as well. Then God shut the door and rains came. Myriads of men, women, babies, cute little children, and aged grandmothers all died by gasping for breath and drowning (whether local or global–still a awful scene). No second chance. The door was shut.

      I don’t believe God has left our salvation to “chance”. Yes, there comes a time when the “door is shut” and the trial period is over. We must face the music after that—some will be rewarded wonderfully and others according to the wrongdoing they have done. But eternal life is not a reward—it is a gift. Yet, we shall be **rewarded** according to our works. God has shown us in his treatment of Israel that **punishment** does not last forever. Micah tells us God is not angry forever, but is rich in mercy and love. Neither do I believe in “second chance” salvation. I don’t believe “chance” has anything to do with it.

      Yet the Bible says, “God is love.” And he is, even when he sends a flood. God gave them a choice and they rejected salvation. Love demands a choice or we are (1) spiritually raped (a forced “love” we do not want) or (2) are spiritual robots (we are programmed to believe and really have no choice).

      I’ve heard this argument before—in other forms perhaps, but much of the language is similar. What choice are we given? Can we really choose something against the will of God and have our choice reign over his?

      I agree that we have a trial period in which we learn to love God—we are not spiritually raped. We are taught, just as you teach your children. Do you spiritually rape your children if you don’t give them a choice as to whether or not they will be taught by you? Bring up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. If you teach your child to respect you, then he will continue to respect you in later life. Is God so weak that he is unable to do the same? Is it spiritual rape of him to teach those in the resurrection who never heard his name, who he is and what he is like?

      The hard teaching of Jesus in Luke 13:23-28(NIV) is germane here:
      Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
      He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
      “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
      “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
      “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
      “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”
      Some actually rejected the Lord having heard him teach, witnessed his many miracles and observed the only morally perfect man who ever lived. Judas is exhibit A. Jesus said about Judas just before he betrayed the Lord, “It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24). But if your thesis is correct, Judas will have his unbelief and unrepentance cared for by the all-inclusive cross. Judas is to be forgiven and to enjoy life eternal with Christ. Is non-existence better than that?

      Concerning Luke 13, Jesus didn’t answer the question according to the query. Why? It is because the person who asked the question worded it in a manner that it could not be answered according to his limitation of whether only a few would be saved or not. Jesus told the truth. Labor to enter the straight gate. He is the gate/door, so labor to enter by him. Many will try a different way and fail—because Jesus is the ONLY gate of entry. But other Scriptures show that all will eventually enter by him.

      Concerning Judas, the different rabbinical schools had their disciples and it was customary to refer to these rabbis as “father”. The disciples had a kind of spiritual rebirth under their ministry. Similarly, Judas had a rebirth under Christ. He learned from his teachings, and was greatly influenced by his training to minister to others. The birth Jesus referred to was this one. It would have been better for Judas to have never been a follower of Jesus—to have never been born again. The knowledge of what he had done in his life will be something he won’t easily overcome in the resurrection. Remember, Jesus forgave him—he asked the Father to forgive all who had anything to do with his death; and Jesus’ prayers are always answered, because he always prays according to the Father’s will.

      One final passage:
      1 John 5:11-13 (NIV) And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
      May the Lord bless you as you study the Word.
      Respectfully and most sincerely in Christ,
      davidwardmiller

      I think your point of quoting this passage is that those who don’t know or have rejected Christ don’t have life, and therefore these people are not saved.

      I believe this Scripture. No one, who has rejected Christ or who doesn’t know him, has life—eternal life. Life is a gift and it is given ONLY through Jesus, but it is eventually given to all—each in his own time. This is because all will eventually come to know Jesus as he truly is.

      I have tried to be brief in my comments, but I am already in my 10th page in my Word document.

      Pastor, I don’t expect you to go along with what I believe. I wish you would, but it is my experience than unless one comes by this knowledge by himself—i.e. God specifically telling the person privately in prayer and study that this is true—no one believes it because another man testifies of it and quotes Scripture. I don’t know why this is so, but I’ve found it to be true. Therefore, I make no judgments against those who deny its truth. God is God and he does what he does in the lives of his people and oftentimes we don’t see the reason—at least not right away. If it was the work of God that opened my mind up to this truth, I cannot judge anyone who has not come by it the same way I did. I can only judge it very wrong of the person who knows this truth, but denies it before mankind. God is the Judge and he judges fairly and he is abundant in mercy and love. Eventually, all this will be seen; it is my prayer that it will be soon.

      Lord bless you in your work for him,

      Eddie.

       
  2. Steve

    September 1, 2011 at 12:32

    Thank you for the reply –
    You are correct that I refer to the lake of fire and I read with interest the column you referenced.
    I have not heard this idea before (that sinners are punished for a short time and then are received into Glory).
    I have heard the belief of some that those who die outside of Christ will suffer for a time and then cease to exist (obliteration), but not that they will ultimately be granted eternal life.

    This poses several additional questions in my mind.

    First among them is does this not make Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross moot? According to this reasoning, we can, each one, die willing to submit to punishment and never having been saved – thus ‘earning’ salvation outside of Christ, which is, I hope you will agree, contrary to all scriptural teaching.

    Next, the basis for this teaching is the equivalence of the Sea of Fire and the Sea of Glass before the throne and furthermore, that those who are cast in are ever before God as testimony to his failure to combat their willfulness to sin if they are indeed not ultimately redeemed after some period of time. Please correct me if I misstate anything.
    I am not convinced that these two seas are one and the same. When Jesus spoke of those who missed out – whether the servant who buried his single talent or the virgins who failed to plan ahead and bring enough oil – being cast into outer darkness, how could this be darkness if they are still before the throne in the sea of glass? Never, in all of the parables, does Jesus hint that these (who failed) would be eventually redeemed. If these 2 seas are different, then your question regarding Habakkuk is moot, although that particular reference was to a specific instance of God using a wicked nation (Babylon) to punish a nation more righteous than it (Judah), so I am stretching a bit to understand your usage of it here.

    Also, remember that there will be a new heaven after the final judgment (2 Peter 3:13) and there is no reason to believe that the makeup of this new heaven will be in any way like the first. In fact, God’s place will be in the New Jerusalem as light to the new earth.

    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the light and no man comes before God except through me” (John 14:6). As stated above, I am guessing that you would say that Jesus’ sacrifice paid the price for the unrepentant sinner too, but again, there is no indication that that happens in any of Jesus teaching.

    Finally, I fall back on my original scripture posed (Revelation 20:10) which states that their (the anti-Christ and his false prophet, who are the first to be cast in) torment goes on ‘day and night forever and ever’.
    Following that, the great white throne judgment occurs where the guilty who have been resurrected are judged and thrown into the lake of fire as well. Is their torment NOT to go on forever and ever as for the anti-Christ and his prophet? If they are treated differently than everyone else, then your statement that this would prove God to be powerless against the willful sin of men moot because he would be ‘unable’ to save them out of all humanity.

    Thank you for your postings and for the discussion they engender.

    God Bless,
    Steve

     
    • Ed Bromfield

      September 1, 2011 at 15:34

      Steve, greetings once again. I am so glad you returned to discuss this matter further. Most often, I have not found folks interested in discussing spiritual things that come to mind.

      You are correct that I refer to the lake of fire and I read with interest the column you referenced.
      I have not heard this idea before (that sinners are punished for a short time and then are received into Glory).
      I have heard the belief of some that those who die outside of Christ will suffer for a time and then cease to exist (obliteration), but not that they will ultimately be granted eternal life.

      I have heard of churches that preach this, but I don’t see the justice in raising people for the purpose of “punishing” them then kill them once more. To me that looks more like revenge rather than justice. If obliteration was the ultimate destiny of those who have rejected Jesus, it seems to me, a loving God would simply let the dead remain dead.

      This poses several additional questions in my mind.
      First among them is does this not make Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross moot? According to this reasoning, we can, each one, die willing to submit to punishment and never having been saved – thus ‘earning’ salvation outside of Christ, which is, I hope you will agree, contrary to all scriptural teaching.

      I agree that works save no one. Salvation is still a free gift to those who have rejected Jesus. It will be true for them then as it is true for us today. The only reason life is offered at all is on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice. Nevertheless, all must learn to submit to Jesus as our Lord (Philippians 2:9-10). It is his responsibility to restore all things to their original condition before our rebellion in Adam and then placing it all under God (1Corinthians 15:25-28).

      -=Next, the basis for this teaching is the equivalence of the Sea of Fire and the Sea of Glass before the throne and furthermore, that those who are cast in are ever before God as testimony to his failure to combat their willfulness to sin if they are indeed not ultimately redeemed after some period of time. Please correct me if I misstate anything.
      I am not convinced that these two seas are one and the same. When Jesus spoke of those who missed out – whether the servant who buried his single talent or the virgins who failed to plan ahead and bring enough oil – being cast into outer darkness, how could this be darkness if they are still before the throne in the sea of glass? Never, in all of the parables, does Jesus hint that these (who failed) would be eventually redeemed. If these 2 seas are different, then your question regarding Habakkuk is moot, although that particular reference was to a specific instance of God using a wicked nation (Babylon) to punish a nation more righteous than it (Judah), so I am stretching a bit to understand your usage of it here.

      I don’t believe my argument for God’s forgiveness rests upon whether or not the Sea burning before his throne and the Lake of Fire are the same thing. I admit that I have drawn the conclusion that they are the same, but whether or not this is true, it bears no weight upon Micah 7:18-19 that God is **not** angry forever, that he **delights** in mercy, and that he subdues **all** our iniquities. This is also shown in Romans 5 where Jesus is compared to Adam—in Adam **all** have sinned, but in Jesus **all** are justified (Romans 5:18). So, whether or not the Lake of Fire = the Sea of Glass burning with fire, the teaching that God eventually forgives all is present within the Scriptures—both Old and New Testaments.

      Concerning Jesus speaking of those who “missed out”, is he speaking of punishing people for eternity in the parables you mentioned, or are you reading that into the parables? When Jesus speaks of darkness, is he speaking of physical darkness or life without God? Jesus was the Light of the world while he was here, yet those who didn’t believe him, though they stood next to him, were in darkness!

      Concerning those who failed, if it is impossible for us to **gain** life through works, is it possible for us to **lose** life through our works? If it is possible for us to lose life through our works, isn’t that the other side of the coin that says we gain life through works? Either life is a gift or it is not. If it is a gift, I cannot lose it, because the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29). If you are interested in this subject, you might like to read my blog on the Three Tenses of Salvation. It may help in understanding what is given and what we work for; what cannot be lost and what can be lost.

      Concerning Habakkuk 1:13, are you saying that God could behold evil under other circumstances? I believe the point of the prophet is not who was more evil, but that it is a truism that God cannot behold evil. This, of course, does not mean evil is stronger than God, but quite the contrary. Evil cannot exist in God’s presence, because he is a consuming fire. Everything must be pure in his presence. To conclude that one could find a place far enough away from God that evil could exist is to miss the point of Psalm 139.

      Also, remember that there will be a new heaven after the final judgment (2 Peter 3:13) and there is no reason to believe that the makeup of this new heaven will be in any way like the first. In fact, God’s place will be in the New Jerusalem as light to the new earth.

      And this means what? That the “Lake of Fire” is no longer in existence? What would that mean to God in the light of Psalm 139:8? As long as death (any kind of death—first death, second death—whatever) exists it is holding someone who has rebelled against God, and God’s rule does not extend to that one. The only way “death” cannot exist is if it holds no one. The only way no one is held by death is if everyone has been given the **gift** of life.

      Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the light and no man comes before God except through me” (John 14:6). As stated above, I am guessing that you would say that Jesus’ sacrifice paid the price for the unrepentant sinner too, but again, there is no indication that that happens in any of Jesus teaching.

      Of whom was Jesus speaking when he asked the Father: “Forgive them for they know not what they do?” Was he speaking of repentant sinners or ungodly sinners? Did Jesus always pray according to the Father’s will or only sometimes? Did God answer all of Jesus’ prayers or only some of them?

      Finally, I fall back on my original scripture posed (Revelation 20:10) which states that their (the anti-Christ and his false prophet, who are the first to be cast in) torment goes on ‘day and night forever and ever’.

      I’ll quote the Scripture:

      Revelation 20:10 KJV 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 forever and ever.

      You are certainly welcome to believe as you wish, but this Scripture doesn’t support your doctrine. Perhaps Webster’s dictionary would lend some support your way, but not this Scripture. The Greek word we translate so often into our English word “forever” really has no such meaning. It means “age” – an undefined period of time. Jonah was in the belly of a fish “forever” and that lasted only three days and three nights. Philemon was given back his slave “forever” but even if he did retain his brother as a slave, it could not have lasted longer than either of their physical lives.

      I have often heard that God is love, and it is Scriptural—he is “love” personified. What I have never witnessed is a good explanation for how “love” translates into “tormenting” someone—anyone—day and night, forever and ever. You can give me your best shot if you wish, but I’m not holding my breath for the very first “good” explanation. :-)

      Following that, the great white throne judgment occurs where the guilty who have been resurrected are judged and thrown into the lake of fire as well. Is their torment NOT to go on forever and ever as for the anti-Christ and his prophet? If they are treated differently than everyone else, then your statement that this would prove God to be powerless against the willful sin of men moot because he would be ‘unable’ to save them out of all humanity.

      God treats everyone the same. Jesus died for the ungodly. None of us deserve eternal life—so no matter how many receive it, none of them deserve it. Life has not been attained through their works, but through the work of Jesus. The life he gives to one, two or all is a **gift** and undeserved by however many receives it. The only question that remains is to how many of undeserving mankind has God’s gift of life been offered? John 3:16 says “God so loved the world…” Does this include unbelievers? According to 1Timothy 4:10 it means both believers and unbelievers. God is the Savior of **all** men, but especially this is true of those who believe!

      Thank you for your postings and for the discussion they engender.
      God Bless,
      Steve

      You are welcome, and thank you for this discussion and for the general tone of your argument. You personify the idea that brethren can disagree without becoming disagreeable. :-)

      Lord bless you as well,

      Eddie

       
  3. Steve

    August 25, 2011 at 09:22

    How do you fit in Revelation 20:10ff to the idea of a limited punishment for the guilty?
    Thanks,
    -Steve

     
    • Ed Bromfield

      August 25, 2011 at 10:36

      Hi Steve, welcome to my blog and thank you for your question. I presume by pointing to Revelation 20 you mean to refer to the second death / lake of fire. I had posted a blog on the Lake of Fire awhile back, and it offers my opinion on how I view it as it pertains to the guilty receiving limited punishment. I hope you will read it, because it is difficult to explain everything is a short comment what is actually a lengthy study.

      Lord bless,

      Eddie

       

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