Eternal Punishment: Fact or Myth?
Copyright © 1998 by Natalie Pappas
Years ago when I first began discussing doctrine online with Jehovah's Witnesses I was asked the following question (it went something like this): If your child did something bad, and you decided to punish that child by holding his hand on a hot frying pan, could you hold it there for all eternity?
Good question, but it lacks right thinking. What I mean by this is that it assumes that that there is a relationship between the two people, that the type of punishment is unreasonable, and that the punisher's anger would eventually ebb and end.
When we put this question back in perspective, we find God Almighty holding some person captive and tormenting that person with fire for all of eternity without ever letting up on the punishment. At first glance it does seem awfully harsh. Yet, isn't sin an awful thing that deserves punishment?
First of all, the senerio states that the person being punished is related to God in some manner. Yet, the Bible teaches that those who die without a savior are not children of God, nor are they related to Him. The lost are children of Adam, not of God. Children of Adam do not have the Holy Spirit living inside of them, thus they are not related to God, thus there is not even one emotional string to tug at the heart of God. There is no mercy for the tormented. This is taught in John chapter 11.
This is because the lost sinner utterly rejected God when he rejected Jesus Christ's saving work, thus God utterly rejects the lost sinner as well. Children of Adam are separated from God in life and when they die, they are utterly separated forever from God. Yet the child of God is not separated from God in life, thus a child of God is not separated from Him when this body dies either.
Second, the scenario of the hot frying pan gives the impression that the place the Bible calls the Lake of Fire is an unreasonable place, thus sinful. This question is answered by stating that God cannot create sin, nor a sinful place. God is not the author of evil. To call the Lake of Fire a sinful place, or say that it is unreasonable, is to assault a Holy God. It is, in short, blasphemy of the God who creates all things. The book of Revelation defines the Lake of Fire as an actual place.
But the real question that needs to be dealt in length is the idea that if punishment did last for all of eternity (in full strength) that God, Himself, would be unreasonable, thus guilty of sin.
To begin with, the Scriptures state that no amount of punishment given to sinful man will ever satisfy God's wrath. This is found in Romans chapters 1-8. It is the precise reason why we need a substitute who was able satisfy the wrath of God: Jesus Christ. Only Jesus could have taken the Father's wrath and endured the punishment until the Father was no longer angry. And it is because Jesus was completely without sin that He could take the wrath of His Father. We, as mere human beings, can never, ever, for all of eternity satisfy God's wrath. That is why the punishment of a lost sinner lasts forever. To say that the body is annihilated after being resurrected is to say that God's wrath is finally satisfied. It says that God will eventually be merciful to the lost. That is not the case, however. Those who die without a substitute to take God's wrath will take His wrath forever. There is no relief. There is no stopping point at which the punishment ceases. To teach otherwise is a slap in God's Holy face.
To imply that it is sinful for God to punish sinners for all eternity is to blaspheme the very character and nature of God. This type of thinking lacks an understanding of God's holiness. It shows a lack of understanding of the sinfulness of sin. It creates the impression that sin really isn't as awful as God says it is. And that is something very awesome to consider if you really believe you are His witness. Are you telling the truth about the very character and nature of God Almighty when you teach that God's punishment is at some point satisfied by those who die without a substitute, Jesus Christ, whom God provided as the only way out of the Lake of Fire?
"You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed--I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?" --Isaiah 43:10-13