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Sun, Mar 15, 2015

70 - Eternal Judgment [c]

Matthew 11:22-24 & Matthew 25:41 by Robert Dean
Does the Bible teach that there is never-ending punishment for unbelievers? Or, is this something a loving God would never permit? Listen to this lesson to learn about the ultimate judgment for people who do not accept Christ as their Savior. Find out what Annihilationism and Universalism teach on this subject. See the differences between Hades, Sheol, and Hell. Find out that the Lake of Fire was created in the past for the devil and his angels. Understand the importance of the essence of God in order to see how God’s Justice and Love are compatible. Gain a clear view of the horrors of the Lake of Fire to motivate you to tell others of God’s solution for sin which is faith in Christ’s work on the cross.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:57 mins 56 secs

Eternal Judgment
Matthew 11:22–24, 25:41
Matthew Lesson #070
March 15, 2015

During the last week since I covered this last Sunday morning, I had two questions raised that needed some clarification; and decided that they were close enough in content that I would address them as one particular doctrine: understanding what the Bible teaches about eternal judgment. Eternal judgment is not a popular doctrine anymore; not that it was ever a pleasant doctrine, but it was a true doctrine. It is a biblical truth that is, for many people especially of a modern mindset, quite unpleasant. Up until about 200 years ago there was hardly anyone within biblical orthodoxy who held to any other position other than eternal unending conscious torment for those who were unsaved and eternal blessing in heaven for those who are saved. But in the last 200 years, due to several influences, this has become unpopular. It is still primarily true of most doctrinal statements, of most evangelicals and most fundamentalists. However, in the last few years there have been a number of pastors, known evangelical pastors, who in other areas of their theology are pretty orthodox, and a number of well-known British theologians, who have taken the position known as annihilationism: that while there may be an unbelievably long time of punishment, it is not forever and ever.

One of the things we should understand whenever we read about this from the lips of British evangelicals is that it is just not their tradition to hold to a firm view of verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Scripture like we have in the United States. Even someone like C.S. Lewis would not hold to the same view of inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture that we would. This just has not been the tradition within the British evangelical camp. And so as a result of the fact that they don’t have quite as high a view of Scripture, they do have problems when in comes to some areas. But this isn’t only restricted to a few well-known names within British evangelicalism. It is true in different areas in the United States, and this has led to a certain degree of confusion about what the Bible teaches about eternal condemnation.

Because of the drift in our culture over the last 200 years, there are many evangelicals who have shifted to some degree in their emphasis in their gospel presentation because they really don’t want to talk about the fact that if you reject Christ, then you are going to be in unending fiery torments in the lake of fire forever and ever. This is a modern cultural concept of a loving God that somehow dominates the thinking of even unbelievers, and it raises this specter that somehow God gleefully enjoys the torments of the unsaved; and a lot of people just don’t know how to handle that. Because they would rather look on the positive in terms of salvation, they somewhat minimize the negatives of the condemnation. However, that has a couple of negative consequences, not the least of which is that it diminishes our passion to give the gospel to the lost, to give the gospel to those who are on a fast track to a horrible eternity. So they don’t think about that.

Recently I read a biography on C.T. Studd. He was a remarkable man. We would have some problems with his theology because he was one of a group of missionaries and leaders who came out of British evangelicalism in the late 19th century who was heavily influenced by what is known as Keswick theology, or victorious life theology; and it was heavily imbued with a certain level of mysticism. We would not agree with that. There were perhaps some other aspects of his theology that we would not agree with, but as a young man he and his two brothers grew up in a sports environment. This was at the very birth of the whole modern sports and athletic focus. It was just beginning to take off in England, and when they were in high school (he was the third oldest of the three brothers) together they played on the cricket team, and it received national recognition in Britain. Then they went to Cambridge. At one point they were all on the cricket team and C.T. was the best of the three. He looked forward to an incredible career as a cricket player. He made almost front page news, he and six other students at Cambridge who were all in different athletics and had gained national recognition, because they had become believers while at university, and they were going to give their lives to Christ on the mission field in China and spend their lives in obscurity rather than embracing the fame and fortune that would have been theirs as athletes in England. And they would in some cases give their lives for the gospel in taking it to the unbeliever.

He spent his early career in China and then later went to Africa. And one of the things that motivated Studd was that he would have dreams at night where he envisioned thousands upon thousands of black Africans going off to the lake of fire, because they were desperately in need of hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. For him the reality of eternal damnation for the lost was so real that it spurred him to incredible sacrifice and incredible devotion to the gospel, and to spend his life in ways that would be so foreign to many of us who have grown up with so many creaturely comforts that we can’t imagine it. His doctors told him just before he went to Africa—in fact everyone prohibited him; no one wanted him to go because his health was in such a state due to asthma, malaria and heart conditions—that he wouldn’t last a year in Africa. He lasted eighteen years. And when you read of the difficulties that he faced and surmounted, and when he died, he left a huge missionary organization in Africa that quickly quadrupled in size. They were sending missionaries to Central America, to South America, to China and to India. In fact, he was one of those great pioneer missionaries in the late eighteen hundreds to his death in 1931 who opened up Africa to the gospel. But one of the things that motivated him was that clear reality of the eternal condemnation of those without Christ.

We live in a day now of relativism, a day of confusion, a day when people, even among people we expect to be really sharp and precise on Scripture, fudge on some of these areas. We have an example in a book that came out about four or five years ago by a well-known pastor, Rob Bell. His book was called Love Wins, a book about heaven, hell and the fate of every person who ever lived. When it hit the mainstream press he was interviewed on morning talk shows, on Fox, even ABC, Good Morning America, because he held to a view of universalism: that eventually everybody is going to end up in heaven. He rejected, or had problems with, the notion of eternal punishment. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Even here in Houston we hit national and church history prominence in 1982 when a Church of Christ minister by the name of Edward Fudge published a book entitled The Fire That Consumes, where he argued that there was no eternal condemnation to those who were lost, but that they would eventually be just destroyed. Their souls would be annihilated and there would not be any everlasting punishment. That view is not unique to him, it goes back into the early church; it is called annihilationism, the view that eternal punishment isn’t really eternal, but that the unsaved will eventually be obliterated and no longer exist.

The problem for them is the nature of eternal punishment. They just think that this doesn’t fit with the character of God, it doesn’t fit with the Bible, and they recoil from it. For many of them, they are asking what I believe was one of the original rebuttal statements of Satan to God’s condemnation of Satan and the angels who followed him when they rebelled in eternity past. Ezekiel 28:12ff; Isaiah 14:12-14 give the description of that original fall of Satan when he disobeyed God. And God gave him a time period wherein he was allowed to influence as many angels as he could and approximately a third of the angelic host followed him in his rebellion. There must have been some sort of trial/judgment where these rebels were brought before the throne of God’s judgment and a sentence was passed upon them. We get a picture of this is Matthew 25:41. This is stated in the middle of a parable that Jesus told that tells us about the judgment of the sheep (believers) and the goats (unbelievers who would be sent to the lake of fire).NASB “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels”.

The key word to focus on right now is that word “prepared”, the Greek word HETOIMAZO in the perfect tense. In the perfect tense what is being talked about is some event that happened in past time. They key word refers to completed action, not something where you are just referring to something in terms of its past action; it may be continuing into the present; it is talking about a completed past action. This indicates that the everlasting fire, the lake of fire, was created; and that creation was completed at some time in the past. Jesus is talking about this at His first advent, so this would be some time preceding the creation of man; it was prepared for the devil and his angels. It wasn’t created for human beings; it was created as a punishment for angels. The reason I point that out is because one of the arguments used by those who rejected the idea of eternal never-ending punishment is that human beings were not designed to be eternal. But you see, the lake of fire was created not for human beings but for angels. It is a never-ending punishment. Angels do not go through physical or corporeal death, so that this was created to be a never-ending punishment.

Another question we should ask: If this was created in eternity past for the devil and his angels, why aren’t they there? If God created the prison, the punishment for the angels, why didn’t He put them there then? It seems that one of the most likely explanations—the Bible doesn’t expressly state this but it is inferred from other things in the Scripture—is that there must have been an objection. There are several ways in which people have formulated this objection. I’ve tried to put them all together and believe it went something like this. Satan was saying something along the lines of the current objections that we hear about never-ending punishment: How can a just God send His creatures to the lake of fire? The punishment must fit the crime and a penalty of never-ending punishment seems to be much more severe than any sin or act of disobedience. Another form of that argument that we will look at is the argument that God is love, so Satan perhaps also asked: How can a God who loves send His creatures to an eternity in never-ending fiery torments? And perhaps as Satan raised this objection God decided—why He decided to do this we don’t know, we don’t get a picture into these issues—to create an object lesson (the human race) in order to demonstrate why this punishment was so serious that it was a punishment to fit the crime; and that as a punishment that fit the crime it was perfectly compatible with both His justice and His righteousness, as well as His love. Because in many ways when modern man looks at love, when we look at a crime, we want to love the criminal and forget about the victim; we always want to direct our love in the wrong direction and say, well we can let them off in five or six years because they committed mass murder. We need to improve them; we need to love them. That is love directed toward the criminal, but it is not love directed toward the rest of society that may become the victims of his criminality, and it is not love towards the victims of his previous crimes. It is a pseudo love, an anemic concept of love; but that is what characterizes a lot of modern culture.

One of the most difficult terms to describe is love. Even the Bible describes characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13, but it doesn’t really define it. If we look love up in the dictionary it talks about love as being an emotion. But the Bible doesn’t treat love as an emotion, it treats it as a mental attitude, a mental attitude on the object of love, and the one who loves is concerned about the best for the object of love. It is not what is best for the one loving; that is a self-centered love. It is understanding with an objective standard that you want the best for the one you love. You want them to improve; you want them to rise to the highest level of hopes and expectations. When they do wrong, you want them to learn the lessons from doing, as harsh as that may be at times. Parents who are so over-protective of their children out of what they think is love are actually hurting their children because their children aren’t being prepared to assume responsibilities for both success and failure when they become adults. Under the concept of pseudo-love, parents are often over-protective and spoil their children and protect them from ever experiencing the consequences of their bad decisions. That is a superficial, shallow, anemic kind of love that is not part of the biblical pattern of love.

So the nature of eternal punishment is often viewed by modern man as being incompatible with the character and essence of God. There are two solutions that are offered. The first is called universalism, and that is the view that everybody is going to end up in heaven, even those who are the “wicked” or the unbeliever. They may go through a period of punishment, but then they will be released and then they too will be in heaven. This is the view that eventually all human beings will find their rest in God and spend eternity in heaven. The second option is called annihilationism. This is the view that eternal punishment isn’t really eternal but that the unsaved will eventually be obliterated and no longer exist.

When we look at this whole issue of divine judgment, what is the common word that people think of when they think of the destiny of the unsaved? It is the word hell. This is a fuzzy term when it comes to theology. You’d be surprised if I told you who it was, but yesterday I read a document by someone who is a good friend of mine. He probably should know better; I think he did this a long time ago. He constantly referred to this article he had written on hell, on eternal punishment, to the lake of fire as hell. This is a great mistake. The problem with dealing with this biblically is that we have to clarify our language and vocabulary. The English word “hell” is derived from the German, the Dutch, and probably the old Norse. According to Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, the English word may be in part from old Norse, Hel, which in Norse mythology was the name of Loki’s daughter. Loki is kind of the evil god, the messenger who is always fighting Thor. The daughter, Hel, is the one who ruled over the evil dead in Niflheim, the lowest of all the worlds. Then the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology says, “It was the transfer of a pagan concept and word to a Christian idiom”. So the word “hell” isn’t an accurate reflection of either of the Greek or Hebrews words for which it normally stand, which is Gehenna. That is how it is predominantly used in the New Testament. In the Old Testament it is predominantly a translation of the Hebrew word Sheol. When you get into the New Testament it is predominantly a translation of the Greek word Gehenna or the Valley of Hinnom.

We went through a number of studies on Hinnom and Gehenna as not a reference to eternal punishment in fiery torments, but as a depiction of divine judgment in time, because the Valley of Hinnom in the Old Testament period was the location of Israel’s greatest sin where they immolate it. That means they burned alive their infants in the arms of Molech, a Moabite god who was the god of fire. How they would placate this god was to put their babies, their live infants into his arms. There is a furnace there, and their children would be burned in the arms of Molech. God brought a judgment on Israel—that was part of the reason He judged Israel—and that destroyed them as a nation in 586 BC. In the passages we read in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God used this location, the Valley of Hinnom, to be the place where the dead would be buried when the Babylonians came in and slaughtered thousands of Jews. They were buried in that same location so that the Valley of Hinnom became an idiom for the place where God brought judgment on Israel—in time, not in eternity. So it is that concept.

But hell not only translates Gehenna, it is also used in a number of passages to translate Hades. For example, in the KJV in Matthew 11:23 it reads, “And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell…” But in the Greek it is Hades. Hades is a totally different concept in Scripture than the lake of fire, and it is a different concept from Gehenna. These need to be distinguished, but too often the translators of Scripture blur these things together and it leaves people with a basic confusion.

According to Luke 16:19-25, which is the story of Lazarus and the rich man, Lazarus dies, and he is said to go to Abraham’s bosom, or Paradise. When the rich man dies he goes to a place where there are fiery torments. For he says to Abraham, “Please let Lazarus come and dip his finger in the water and put it on my tongue, because of my fiery torment”. So he feels pain, it is fiery pain, and he is in torments. Abraham’s bosom is where all Old Testament believers went when they died.

When Jesus died on the cross, we are told that He went to Sheol and announced the completion of the payment for sin. Another compartment of Sheol/Hades is Tartarus, which is a place of deep darkness where a specified group of fallen angels from the Genesis 6 episode are locked down, according to 2 Peter 2:4, until their final judgment. Jesus appears to them and announces that sin has been paid for; redemption has been accomplished. Then He took the Old Testament believers with Him so that Paradise shifted from being a location in Sheol to being in heaven, so that today when a person goes to Hades (the Greek term for Sheol) they are going to this place of temporary torments. It is the holding cell until they are eventually brought to judgment at the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennial kingdom.

So two of the words we need to clarify are first of all, hell; that hell is a bad word to use for a translation of anything, because in the Bible it is not consistent. The Old Testament refers exclusively to Sheol, but in the New Testament it refers to Gehenna and also to Hades; so we have to distinguish hell—Hades and Sheol, which refer to the place where unbelievers go when they die—and the lake of fire. In Revelation 20:14 we read, NASB “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” This occurs at the great white throne judgment. This tells us that Hades is a totally different place than the lake of fire, so we have to keep that distinguished.

Now when we look at some of the issues that are raised in this whole issue of the lake of fire and eternal judgment, we have to understand what some of these arguments are, and they usually start with their view of the essence of God. I understand that for a lot of people it is very difficult to understand how the love of God and the justice of God are compatible, and this is what is exemplified in these particular statements that I am going to show you. Because when you come out of a culture that has an anemic or erroneous view of love and you read that idea into the Bible, then you are going to end up having problems. If you come out of a culture that has an anemic view of justice, then you are also going to have problems because what happens with these different theologians who have expressed these views is that ultimately they have difficulty understanding how the love and the righteousness and justice of God are compatible.

The first quote I have here is from Michael Green. He has written a number of different books and is fairly orthodox in his theology in most areas that I am aware of. He is a little Charismatic is some areas, but he is basically a good solid, mainstream orthodox evangelical. However, he has rejected the idea of unending punishment, and he is an annihilationist; and here is his argument which comes from his book Evangelism Through the Local Church, in which he has a chapter dealing with ultimate judgment for the unbeliever:

“What sort of God would He be if He could rejoice eternally in heaven with the saved when downstairs the cries of the lost make an agonizing cacophony? Such a God is not the person revealed in Scripture as utterly just and utterly loving.”

He labels this traditional view of hell a “doctrine of savagery”. This is his view, and it is from an evangelic who it fairly orthodox. The second view I have here is from a liberal Anglican theologian by the name of John A.T. Robinson. He is very, very liberal. He wrote:

“Christ, in Origen’s old words, remains on the cross so long as one sinner remains in hell…”

Origen was a church father who believed in universalism.

“… That is not speculation, it is a statement grounded in the very necessity of God’s nature. In a universe of love there can be no heaven which tolerates a chamber of horrors, no hell for any which does not at the same time make it hell for God.”

What they are basically doing is starting with a limited, anemic, non-biblical definition of love, justice and righteousness, and they read that into the Scripture. That doesn’t fit their concept of love, so therefore He can’t be a God who would send His creatures to an eternity in the lake of fire.

When we look at Scripture, we see the essence of God. God is sovereign, righteousness, justice, eternal life; He knows all the knowable, is omniscient; he is present to everything in His creation—omnipresent; He is able to do all which He desires to do—omnipotent; He is absolute truth, and He is immutable. When we talk about the integrity of God, we focus on four of these attributes: His righteousness, justice, love, and truth. Scripture in the Old Testament often links these four together. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne, and love and truth go forth from it”.

Righteousness refers to the absolute standard of God’s character. God is, as the apostle John writes in 1 John, “Light in whom there is no darkness at all”. God can have no fellowship, no relationship with any creature that does not measure up to His standard of perfect righteousness. That is not an arbitrary decision; that is in the nature of reality. Remember, reality is defined by who God is and what God says; it is not defined by our experience. Part of the problem with the way these theologians approach this is that they approach it without looking at what the Scripture says first and foremost.

We see that in the character of God He is perfectly loving. Therefore whatever He does is a definition of love. If your definition and my definition of love have problems with what God does, then it is our definition that is wrong, not God’s. We don’t tweak the character of God or what He says in Scripture to fit our preconceived notions of love. God is there to teach us what true love is and what righteousness is. And in many ways there are things that happen in Scripture that do not fit with the modern man’s conception of that which is righteous.

Then we have the other approach, which is that of John R. Stott, a noted evangelical who went to be with the Lord a few years ago—also British; very Reformed. Among the arguments he used against everlasting punishment in the lake of fire is the argument of justice. He said:

“God’s justice implies that the penalty inflicted will be commensurate with the evil done.”

What we have to understand here is the nature of God’s justice. And when we look at this statement, there are several problems. First of all, one of the problems that we see in what he writes is that his assumption is that our eternal destiny is determined by personal sins. He says:

“Eternal conscious torment is seriously disproportionate to sins consciously committed in time.”

What is the problem there? You all should know this. It is that we are not sent to the lake of fire for our personal sins. We are not condemned for personal sins; we are condemned because of Adam’s original sin. We are born dead in our trespasses and sins. We sin because we are a sinner; we are not a sinner because we sin. We are born spiritually dead; we are born corrupt already. Personal sin is the result of that. This is the basic problem many people have difficulty understanding. A person is not sent to the lake of fire because of what he has done; he is sent to the lake of fire because he is dead and is unrighteous. He is born that way, and he does not avail himself of the solution to his problem: that Christ paid the penalty for sins. 2 Corinthians 5 says that God, because of Christ, is no longer imputing sins to the world. That is not the issue at all.

So one problem that Stott has—and this is typical of many of them—is a weak view of sin. If we base our condemnation on our individual sins, then we think well, this condemnation doesn’t really fit the crime. This is the problem that many people have. It is the problem, I think, that Lucifer had. When he disobeyed God, he was thinking: Well the creature can act independently of God. Why is it such a big deal? How can this eternal unending punishment fit the crime? And God says, let me show you and He sets up this test case. He creates the earth and puts Adam and Eve on the earth, and establishes everything on the earth after the original judgment because of Satan, and He said everything was perfect. There is no sin. Adam and Eve were created in a state of righteousness in the image and likeness of God, untarnished by sin. They are given a test. The test is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You can eat of anything in the garden. Everything is good to eat, except for this one tree. The instant you eat of it you will certainly die. That was the punishment. So when they ate of that tree they died, and there were consequences to that act of disobedience.

If I were to ask you to list what you think are the worst sins you can perform, eating a piece of fruit would not be one of them. But as an act of disobedience to God, it set up a chain reaction of unintended consequences that reverberates through the entire universe. It changes the fabric of God’s creation; everything is corrupt. They both died spiritually and are separated from God. And this is such a serious, heinous thing that the only way it can be solved is for God to send His Son to die on the cross, to bear in His own perfect body, in His divine perfection, to bear the judgment for our sins. That tells us just a little bit about how serious sin is. But then, if you think about it a little bit more you realize that all of the hunger, all of the famine, all of the violence, all of the criminality, all of the disease, all of the pestilence, all of the horrible things that have happened in human history, all of the horrible things that have happened in your life, are the result of the fact that Adam ate a piece of fruit.

What God is demonstrating to Satan is that while the crime may not loom serious, its consequences are incredibly serious, far beyond anything we can ever imagine. As a result of that, there must be punishment that is commensurate with the crime. The crime is against God, not against anybody else. It is a crime against the infinite, righteous and holy God. Therefore the nature of sin has an infinite quality to it, because it is against an infinite God. Therefore it requires an infinite or eternal punishment.

Let’s just think about the justice of God and how it is displayed in numerous events in the Old Testament. For example, we can think of the flood of Noah’s day. God said of the entire human race, except for Noah and his family: “Their thoughts are evil continually”. And what is the judgment? He is going to kill every living creature, not just every human being—excluding the fish of the sea—through a worldwide flood. A lot of people will say that seems a little extreme. The second example is when God brought judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. He sent the angels to warn Lot and his family and gave them an opportunity to leave, and He said: “Escape; do not look behind you; do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains lest you be swept away.” So what does Lot’s wife do? She turns around and looks back. But God is true to His Word and she is turned into a pillar of salt instantly. God recognizes the horror of sin, which we don’t. So part of the problem here is that we don’t have a robust enough concept of the horrors of sin.

Then we have the situation of priestly rebellion against Moses with two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu who brought unauthorized fire into tabernacle for the burnt offering. Instantly God took their life. He is making a point. Even the least infraction—you can’t worship the way you want to; you have to do it God’s way or you’re dead. We have the example at Ai. After the wonderful victory the Israelites had at Jericho, God told them not to take any plunder. Achan did. When the next battle came at Ai, because there was sin in the camp, they sent out 3,000 troops, 36 were killed, everybody screamed ‘woe is me’ and went into a panic because they expected God would give them victory, and He didn’t. Achan was revealed as the one who had violated God’s command. He recognized that and confessed his sin, but God said, nevertheless there will be a punishment; Achan and all of his family were to die.

Again and again and again we see that God has a much higher level of seriousness about sin than we do. We want to rationalize it, justify it as not that bad. God is constantly lowering the boom on sin. We have another event with Uzzah. As they are carrying the ark on a cart instead of carrying it the proper way, the wheels hit a bump in the road, the ark is jostled and it looked like it was going to fall over. Uzzah reaches his hand out to stabilize God (you can’t stabilize God). He touches the ark and instantly dies. And this isn’t just an Old Testament thing. In the New Testament in Acts 5, we read of Ananias and Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit. When Peter exposes that, each of them in turn dies instantly. This expresses the seriousness of sin.

Thomas Aquinas makes an interesting and accurate assessment. He said: “Sin is an attack on the infinite and holy character of God. God therefore sets the penalties for sin in this world and the next…” Sin is against God, is what he is saying. God is the one who determines what a just punishment is; no one else can do that. “… He justly condemned sinners for Adam’s sin and for their own, and He plainly teaches that he punishes the wicked forever. Certainly God is just in doing so. The reality is that the magnitude of eternal condemnation does indeed fit the crime.”

What are some of the scriptural passages? Matthew 25:41, 46: When Jesus consigns the goats to the lake of fire He says, “Depart from me you cursed into everlasting fire”. The word there is AIONIOS, which applies to fire here; in verse 46 it also applies to punishment and eternal life. So if AIONIOS is the adjective for eternal life for the sheep, and it means forever and ever unending life, then it must also in context refer to forever and ever unending punishment and forever and ever unending fire. It has to have the same meaning because they are contrasted with one another. In each uses it means never-ending. Matthew 25:46NASB”These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

What is the basis for their going in to one or the other? Faith in Christ. That’s it. That’s the only basis, so we are saved by faith; we are saved by grace. We are saved not by works that we do but because Christ paid the penalty for sin.

Revelation 14:9 NASB “Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, [10] he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb’.”

“Drink of the wine of the wrath of God” is picturesque language for saying God is going to judge him and he will experience the full judicial force of the wrath of heaven upon his life; “… tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” is talking about Tribulation unbelievers who take the mark of the beast.

Revelation 20:10 NASB “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.”

It is true that the word AIONIOS, just like its Hebrew counterpart, may not refer to something that is never-ending. It may refer to something just latched to the end of an age or the end of a period. But when we look at how this is used in context, and the Greek language here, it starts with the preposition EIS, which is the preposition of direction and it expresses the end goal of something. It is “to the ages of the ages”. You can’t say eternity in any other way in Greek. It uses AIONIOS twice, meaning forever and ever.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 NASB “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction [AIONIOS], away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

Revelation 20:14 NASB “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. [15] And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The lake of fire is distinct from Hades. That is the future location of that punishment.

Revelation 17:8 NASB “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. [11] The beast which was and is not, is himself also the eighth and is {one} of the seven, and he goes into perdition.”

This word “perdition” is the same word used in John 3:16 for “perish”. It doesn’t simply refer to destruction, which is the argument some have: see, this word APOLEIA means destruction; it doesn’t mean never-ending punishment; it means they are just going to be obliterated. When you look at these passages, perdition describes those in the lake of fire. God does not want any to perish. Ezekiel 18:32 NASB “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord God. “Therefore, repent and live.” Throughout history it is the constant story. God is offering opportunities to the lost to come to Him and be saved, to be rescued from eternal condemnation.

1 Timothy 2:4 NASB “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That should be our attitude. We desire all men to be saved. But they don’t hear. How can they hear without a preacher, and how can the preacher go without a message? We have to proclaim the gospel. It is not going to happen just because God wants it to happen. So we have to understand the message. A lot of people go to the lake of fire, and they go to the lake of fire because they are born condemned.

John 3:18 NASB “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already [born condemned], because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

John 3:36 NASB “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”