18 Nov 2003

Does eternal punishment demand an eternal object?

Submitted by theshovel
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I've always had a problem with Matthew 25:46 (in that) "Eternal Punishment" seems to entail punishment that is tangible. A non-existing object can't be punished or tormented, can it? Marcus

Hello Marcus!

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:46

Now, I really haven't put a whole lot of time into studying these passages in regards to eternal punishment (at least, not for many years), but I am quite convinced we have been so indoctrinated, willingly or unwillingly, by foreign viewpoints that have demanded an underlying logic we often assume to be a fixed Biblical rule. I'm referring to the very concept of "eternal".

Consider, how is it that Jude could have ever stated that Sodom and Gomorrah stood as the EXAMPLE of eternal fire?

...just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 7

We can play around with words and terms and concepts all we want in order to support a viewpoint, but it seems very clear that Jude, and therefore those to whom he wrote, had no problem understanding that "eternal" punishment didn't need the thing destroyed to remain in order for it to be eternal. In truth, it seems rather apparent that the utter destruction of those two cities by the fire rained down upon them makes it very clear as to what eternal destruction is. Sodom and Gomorrah were so done with that there was nothing left by which to mark their former existence except the smoldering ashes.

Who would ever try to make a case that the "eternal fire" by which S&G were destroyed continued past the finality of their destruction? Who would ever demand that S&G would HAVE TO be somehow PRESERVED in some fashion in order for their punishment to be considered "eternal"? It is the complete and utter destruction that marks the eternality of the punishment. The fact that there was absolutely nothing left of the former "glory" of those cities is what makes the punishment eternal. There was nothing left by which those cities could be rebuilt. Their glory was extinguished forever ... into eternity.

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matthew 25:46

Now, just why is it we find the argument that says eternal punishment needs an eternal object so irrefutable? I know that it fit the logic of my viewpoints in times past, but it almost makes me laugh to realize how much noise has been made over this ... especially that which I used to make!! :)

We've had these pictures embedded into our heads coupled together with so-called "Biblical" teachings by which we have demanded that the only way God could eternally punish would be for Him to fashion indestructible bodies, complete with a fully-functioning consciousness, so that the punished would non-endingly experience and be totally conscious of unfathomable pain and suffering that would last forever and ever and ever and ever. You know, this kind of thinking seems to follow the intensity of man's judgment rather than God's, don't you think?

After all, isn't it the anger and rage of man that desires that those who offend him should experience unending suffering in order to appease HIS OWN sense of justice? Do we really think it was said to leave the judgment of another up to God because God could do a much better job of making the offender pay since He was going to make the punishment be experienced forever?

No, no, the judgment of God was laid upon Jesus Christ, and in him that former existence is done away. That which is born of the flesh is constantly being revealed as passing away ... and its remembrance shall be no more. The truth is that we have so long read that verse according to the judgment of man that we can't see how plain and simple it really is.

Love, Jim

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Three cheers to you, Jim! You're right! There's no way God could ever hurt anyone, unless it was temporary and only if it was to ultimately bring healing, in much the way a doctor, nurse or medic sometimes has to perform a painful procedure to save a life.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website: www.thereisnohell.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the copies of copies of copies of the gospel texts which place "Hell" on Jesus' lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

Bear in mind that the historical Protestant doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures applies only to the original autographs, not the copies. But sadly, the interpolations that made their way into those copies have provided a convenient excuse for a lot of people to get around following Jesus' real, core message.

Jim, I always appreciate you keeping away from the land of speculation. For many, MANY men have tried to “debunk” lots and lots of things. It leaves those of us who are truly His, very insecure and confused for we reason in our hearts: “who is right?” and “what if any are wrong? for then we wasted our whole life presuming something totally bogus and suffered needlessly”. I am not saying that there are not some bright minded people who have been able to spin all sorts of stuff in and out of the Bible…there is tons of that. but often what I notice you doing is refocusing on what IS Life and what IS secure so that, we don’t have to travel around with varying and arguable points.
theshovel's picture

Thanks for this, for I have found myself drawn to speculate at times. I have simply found that it is too easy to miss the real truth in the process.

Jim :)

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