How Long Is Future Suffering And Punishment In Hell – Spiritual Reading.
What the bible teaches regarding the endlessness of future punishment.
To find out exactly what the Bible teaches as to the endlessness of future punishment let us turn first of all to the words of our Lord Jesus Himself in Matt.25:46 (R. V.), “And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.”
The first question that confronts us in studying this passage is what the word aionios (aionion) which is here translated “eternal” means. The best Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament is Thayer’s. In this dictionary Thayer after a careful study of the word, its derivation and its usage, gives these three definitions of the word, and these three only:
(1) “Without beginning or end, that which always has been and always will be.”
(2) “Without beginning.”
(3) “Without end, never to cease, everlasting.”
It is frequently said that the word aionios according to its derivation means age-lasting, and therefore may refer to a limited period. Even admitting this to be true, we should bear in mind that the meaning of words is not determined by their derivation but by their usage, and the most important question is not what the derivation of this word may be, but as to how it is used in the New Testament.
It is used 72 times in the New Testament. Forty-four of these 72 times it is used in the phrase “eternal life,” or as it is sometimes rendered, “everlasting life.” No one questions that everlasting life is endless and that in connection with the word “life” “age lasting” (if that be its proper derivation of the word) means lasting through all ages, never ending.
Once it is used in connection with the word “habitations,” referring to the habitations which the blessed are to have in the world to come, and, of course, these also are never-ending. Once it is used of the “weight of glory” that in the world to come awaits the believer in Jesus Christ who endures affliction for Christ in the life that now is.
In this case again, of course, by universal consent it means endless. Once it is used of the “house not made with hands” that believers in Christ are to receive at the coming of the Lord Jesus (II Cor. 5:1-8). Of course, this “house not made with hands” is everlasting. In fact the very point that is being brought forward in this passage is the contrast between our present bodies which are but for a brief time and our resurrection bodies which are to exist throughout all eternity.
Once it is used of the future unseen things that never end, contrasted with the present seen things that are for a season (II Cor. 4:18). Of course, these are never-ending. That is the very point that is being brought out in the contrast. Once it is used of the everlasting “comfort” (R. V.) or “consolation” (A. V.) that “our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father” give us, and that is certainly never ending.
Twice it is used of the “glory” that those in Christ obtain (II Tim. 2:10). That, of course, by universal consent is endless. Once it is used of the “salvation” Christ brings, which is beyond question never ending. Once (Heb. 9:12) it is used of the “redemption” that Jesus Christ secures for us by His blood. This redemption is never ending.
In fact, the chief point of contrast in the context in this case is between the temporary redemption secured by the constantly repeated sacrifices of the Mosaic ritual and the never ending redemption secured by the perfect sacrifice of Christ made once for all. Once it is used of the “inheritance” that those who are in Christ receive (Heb. 9:15). Here again beyond a question it is never ending.
Once it is used of the “everlasting covenant” through Christ’s blood contrasted with the temporary covenant, based on the blood of bulls and goats, given through Moses. Here again it necessarily and emphatically means never ending. That is the very point at issue. Once it is used of the “everlasting kingdom” of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (II Peter 1:11), and we are told in Luke 1:33, “of His kingdom there shall be no end.”
Once it is used of “everlasting gospel” (or good news) and that, of course, also never ends. Once it is used of the “everlasting God” (Rom. 16:26) and He certainly endures not merely through long ages, but without end.
Once it is used of the Holy Spirit who is called “the eternal (or everlasting) Spirit,” and He certainly endures, not merely through long ages, but throughout an absolutely endless eternity. This covers fifty-nine of the seventy-two times it is used, and in these fifty-nine instances the thought of endlessness is absolutely necessary to the sense, and in not a single one of the thirteen remaining times where it is used is it used of anything that is known to end.
If usage can determine the meaning of any word then certainly the New Testament use of this word determines it to mean never ending, or, as Thayer defines it, “without end, never to cease, everlasting.”
Nor is this all, God Himself determines it to mean never ending: He defines it to mean never-ending by specifically using it in contrast with that [which does end. For example, in 2 Cor. 4:18 we read, “While we look not on the things which are seen, but the things which are unseen: for the things which are seen are temporal (literally, for a season); but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Here the whole point is that the unseen things in distinction from the seen which are for a season are for a never ending duration.
But even allowing that the word according to its usage could be used of that which, though it last throughout an age, or ages, has an end; even if that were true (which it is not), then the meaning of the word in any given instance would have to be determined by the context in which it is found. Now what is the context in the passage which we are studying? Let us read it again, “And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.”
The same Greek adjective is used in connection with “punishment” and with “life.” (In the Authorised Version it is differently rendered, but in the Greek and in the Revised Version it is exactly the same.) Certainly this qualifying adjective must mean the same in the one half of the sentence that it means in the other half of the sentence.
We must at least admit that Jesus Christ was an honest man, and He certainly was too honest to juggle with words: He would not use a word to mean one thing in one half of a sentence and something utterly different in the other half. He evidently sought to convey the impression that the punishment of the unsaved was of the same duration as the life of the saved. No one questions that the life is endless.
It would be the destruction of all our hopes if it were not endless. Therefore, if we are to deal honestly with our Lord’s words, He taught that the punishment of the unsaved was to be endless. We have exactly the same reason in God’s Word for believing in endless punishment that we have for believing in endless life. If you give up the one you must give up the other, or else deal dishonestly with the words of Jesus Christ.
We might rest the case here and call it proven, but let us turn to another passage, Rev. 14:9-11, “And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a great voice, If any man worshipeth the beast and his image and receiveth a mark on his forehead, or upon his hand, he also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of His anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment goeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, they that worship the beast and his image, and whoso receiveth the mark of his name.”
Here we have another expression for the duration of the punishment and suffering of the impenitent, the expression rendered for ever and ever. There are in the Greek two slightly differing forms of expression that are so translated. The one form of expression literally rendered is “unto the ages of the ages,” the other form is “unto ages of ages.”
What thought do these expressions convey. It has been said by those who seek to escape the force of these words as referring to absolute endlessness, that the expression “is a Hebraism for the supreme one of its class,” and as an illustration of the same alleged Hebraism the expressions, “Lord of Lords” and “Holy of Holies” are cited. But this is not so.
In the first place, the form of neither of the two expressions is the same; and, in the second place, that is not the meaning of the expression “The Lord of Lords” or the meaning of the expression “The Holy of Holies.” The expression “Lord of Lords” does not mean merely the supreme Lord, but one who is Himself Lord of all other Lords, and this expression “unto the ages of the ages” never means merely the ages which are the supreme ages in distinction from other ages (nor as another puts it, the ages which come out of the other ages, i.e., the closing ages before eternity).
The expression according to its form means ages which are themselves composed of ages. It represents not years tumbling upon years, nor centuries tumbling upon centuries, but ages tumbling upon ages in endless procession. It is the strongest possible form of expression for absolute endlessness. Furthermore, the way to determine conclusively what the expression means is by considering its usage.
Usage is always the decisive thing in determining the meaning of words and phrases. What is the usage of these expressions in the book from which we have taken our passage? These expressions are used twelve times in this book. In eight of the twelve times they refer to the duration of the existence, or reign, or glory of God and His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Of course, in these instances it must stand not merely for the supreme ages, or any individual ages, it must refer to absolute eternity and endlessness.
Once it is used of the duration of the blessed reign of the righteous, and, of course, here again it refers to an endless eternity: and in the three remaining instances it is used of the duration of the torment of the Devil, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the finally impenitent.
It is urged by those who would deny that the expression means an absolutely endless eternity, that it is used in Rev. 11:15, where we are told that “the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever (unto the ages of the ages),” and that we are told in 1 Cor. 15:24 that Christ “shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father”; and that therefore His kingdom must come to an end, and consequently “for ever and ever” in this passage cannot mean without end.
There are two answers to this objection, either of which is sufficient. The first is that the “he” in “he shall reign for ever and ever” in Rev. 11:15, does not necessarily refer to the Christ, but rather to the Lord Jehovah, in which case the argument falls to the ground. The second answer is that while we are taught in I Cor. 15:24, etc., that Jesus Christ will deliver up His mediatorial kingdom to the Father, nevertheless we are distinctly taught that He shall rule with the Father, and we are told in so many words in Luke 1:33 that “of His kingdom there shall be no end,” so that even if the “he” in Rev. 11:15 referred to the Christ and not to the Lord Jehovah, still the statement would be exactly correct that He, the Christ, was to reign for ever and ever, i.e., without end.
There is not a single passage in the whole book in which this expression is used of anything but that which is absolutely endless. So the question is answered again and answered decisively that the conscious suffering of the persistently impenitent is absolutely endless.
Now let us look at another passage, II Thess. 1:7-9: “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.” Here we are told that the punishment of those that know not God and obey not the gospel is “everlasting destruction.”
What does “everlasting destruction” mean? In Rev. 17:8, 11 we are told that the beast goeth into destruction,” so if we can find out where the beast goes, or into what he goes, we shall know what “destruction” means in the Bible usage. In Rev. 19:20 we are told that “the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought the signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone,”
So we see that “destruction” is a portion in the lake of fire. And in the next chapter, Rev. 20:10, we are told that “The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet (after having already been there for one thousand years, see context); and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
So we see that destruction means a portion in the lake of fire where its inhabitants are consciously suffering without cessation for ever and ever. It is clear then, from a comparison of II Thess. 1:7-9 with these passages, that those who know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ shall be punished with never-ending, conscious suffering.
Let us look at one more passage, Matt. 25:41 (these again are the words of the Lord Jesus Himself): “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.”
What I wish you to notice here is that the punishment into which the impenitent are sent is the “eternal fire” which is “prepared for the devil and his angels.” We have an exact description of just what the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels is in the passage read a few moments ago, Rev. 20:10: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” By a comparison of these two statements we have another explicit declaration of our Lord that the punishment of the impenitent is to be a conscious agony, where they are punished without rest day and night for ever and ever.
From any one of these passages and especially from all taken together, it is clear that the Scriptures make it as plain as language can make it that THE FUTURE PUNISHMENT OF THE PERSISTENTLY IMPENITENT IS ABSOLUTELY ENDLESS.
Excerpt From – The Fundamental Doctrines Of The Christian Faith By Reuben Archer Torrey.
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