This article is continued from Pt.1
Objection III: Hell wasn't created for men therefore men won't suffer or continue to suffer in it.
One of our regular readers holds that since hell was created for the devil and his angles, that the suffering of men in it will at best be limited because hell was not designed for men. This is a scripture used to support the assertion at times:
Matthew 25:41~"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the DEVIL AND his angels:"
Some promoters of this argument also state that even if men do go to hell, the punishment of it is temporary in duration because hell was not made to house men. I call this the "temporary hell thesis" The temporary nature of hell will be dealt with in Objection IV listed below however, in this section, I will deal with hell as an abode for anyone including rebelling angels.
Hell, The Abode Of The devil And Rebelling demons Or Unrepentant Men?
There are a number of things to say about this argument, but I believe that the assertion itself begs the question "If the suffering or better described torment of hell is somehow limited, and is not intended for men, why should men suffer in hell at all?" Was God somehow caught in an unready state or condition for unrepentant and sinful men? This is highly unlikely since Jesus was a lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8). In other words if God made preparation for sin why would he not have made preparation for the judgement of man. As we'll see further in the article, annihilation is inconsistent with the judgement of God as revealed within scripture.
Secondly, we would have to ask, does God not have any other "place" or method to account for the sins of men? In other words if we are simply viewing hell as a purposeless place of transactional conscious torment what is the "trigger" at which the torment of hell is satisfied or the transaction of hell completed, and how does that trigger or punishment apply to men who weren't supposed to be there to begin with? If men were not supposed to be there, then how does hell have any effect on men at all?
Then are we to believe that the torment of hell is somehow set at a level whereby the devil and fallen angels receive the maximum punishment, but the level of punishment for men is somehow set by default at a lesser setting or value? All of these questions would have to be successfully overcome in order to make this type of assertion work. Not to mention that there is even a more solid biblical basis for hell and it's duration that must also be overcome. Neither the temporary hell thesis nor annihilation are winning scriptural constructs.
What is "Prepared"?
One common misunderstandings is the application of the word "prepared" in Mt. 25:41 [ἡτοιμασμένον ~ ētoimasmenon ~ prepare, prepare, provide, make ready] This word does not stake an exclusive claim that hell was only for the devil and rebelling angels. To suggest so is an unnecessary eisegesis of scripture. The scripture simply says that hell is a place "prepared" or made ready, for the devil and his angels.
Example: In a parking lot all parking spaces are prepared for cars or commonly driven vehicles. Aside from the fact that very few spaces (under normal circumstances) restrict the type of vehicles that can be parked by model and year, the spaces are generally available for all types of vehicles. Further, if a motorcycle parks in a space are we to suggest that the motorcycle has no right to a space because the spaces were marked for 4 wheel vehicles? Or what about a truck or SUV? Are they somehow limited or restricted access because the spaces were marked or prepared for smaller or more traditional looking cars?
Just as the parking space is prepared for a vehicle, hell is prepared for sentient beings, rebelling angels and the devil himself being the guideline. There is no restriction or limitation of hell as ever being prepared ONLY and exclusively for the devil and his angels. In fact scripture is quite clear that the ungodly will enter into judgement and ultimately go to hell:
2 Peter 3:7 ~"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of UNGODLY men."
In addition to what I've stated here regarding this, sentiments such as this overlook the fact that men have chosen hell and continue to go by their own free-will decision and choices. Scripture records that hell is enlarged because men choose to go:
Isaiah: 5:14-16 ~ "14-Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it. 15-And the mean man shall be brought down , and the mighty man shall be humbled , and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled : 16-But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness."
Men enter into hell, not as a matter of inconvenience or for a lack of available placement, but because of the failure to repent from sins, and serve God through Jesus Christ and. Hell is not a mindless condition that someone merely awakes to without notice. Hell is brought on by the decided choice of men to not only disbelieve, but to by virtue of that unbelief, ultimately dishonor God the creator of all.
To conclude this section I believe that I have demonstrated that arguments stating that the genesis of hell does not include men are false and are sentiments read into scripture. These type of arguments also are, at heart, misunderstandings of the justice and judgement of God as well as a misunderstanding of the nature of the torment of hell. These type of arguments also seek to reconcile the moral nature of hell with our current western sentiment and worldview of suffering as described in PT 1 of this series. I believe it's a fault to try to reconcile the concept of hell and God's use of it based on a western worldview.
Objection IV: The Greek words used to describe the longevity of hell eternal or "aionios" is also used to describe a non eternal time frame.
Many proponents of the "temporary hell thesis" make an appeal to scriptures that equate everlasting destruction to temporarily visible condition instead of an ongoing punishment. Such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in scripture and repeated by Jude:
Jude 1:7~"Even as SODOM and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
The eternal hell critic asserts that here, the word "eternal" [αἰωνίου or aiōniou] is used in a metaphorical sense because the fire from Sodom and Gomorrah does not last or is not visible today. Therefore hell can be said to be figurative based on quality of God's punishment and not the quantity or duration of time of God's punishment.
However, there is a problem with failing to contextualize the verse and that problem is that eternal or [αἰωνίου or aiōniou]was also used to describe the length of time and life that the believer receives with God as a result of the exercise of faith:
John 3:15 ~"That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have ETERNAL life."
In order to make it fit, the proponent of the "temporary hell thesis" must make a special appeal to the word "eternal" when it comes to hell to make it appear to be temporary while simultaneously making another appeal to eternal when it comes to heaven. To do so is unwarranted. Not to mention that this approach creates another complication:
On what basis can this appeal be made and if we are to be totally consistent heaven or even life itself beyond this life would also be temporary in duration regardless of the quality of life.
In other words in the need of the annihilationism to create a temporary hell, he also creates a temporary heaven that is subject to death and further destruction, when the bible clearly said that the last enemy that would be defeated would be death (1 Cor. 15:26) , and hell along with it would be cast into the "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:14) which simply says that death and hell which are the results of sin, would not appear or show up ever again.
A second part of this argument deals with a more in depth look at the use of the word eternal or [αἰωνίοις or aiōniois] which proponents of the "temporary hell thesis" claim is used to indicate a temporary condition. Not so fast says apologist J.P. Holding who addresses this issue at great length in his article An Examination of Annihilationism
"Walvoord, following Buis, counts 66 occurrences of aionios in the NT [Cro.4VH, 23]. 51 of these refer to the unending happiness of the righteous. 2 refer to the duration of God in His glory. 6 indicate an endless amount of time in other contexts, and 7 appear in reference to the punishment of the wicked.
A counter-argument seeks to make the point that aionios may in some cases refer to a limited period of time. For the word by itself, we may say that while it is true that it may refer to a time which began at a certain point and continued on into the future for eternity (and once, in the case of Rom. 16:25, backwards from a specific terminus), it never has any other meaning than an eternal period.
It is significant that whenever some critics make this claim, no examples are provided as proof. [Will.EDEP, 73ff -- who says, for example, that the word "may (mean) a week, a month, a year, an age, or a series of ages". Elsewhere, Pinnock's appeal to Cullmann as proving this point is useless, as Cullmann's arguments have been superseded by Barr.]"
Additionally J.P. says this of the use of various words indicating destruction:
"Other words are used of the "destruction" of the wicked - an example being 'kataphtheiro' in 2 Peter 2:13 --- translated as "utterly perish". Paul also uses "apollumi" in 1 Cor. 15:18, translated "perished". Paul's hypothetical argument here makes it clear that he means they will not live again.
Also, the Old Testament speaks of the final end of the wicked in terms such as "cut off"; will "be no more"; are "slain"; they will "not be found"; "vanish like smoke"; "perish"; "be destroyed"; be "torn to pieces"; "vanish like water which flows away"; "melt like a slug"; be like the "stillborn"; their "blood will bathe the feet of the righteous"; etc.; etc. These pictures cannot possibly symbolize "perpetual conscious torment forever."
I will simply ask this question: In any of the places where apollumi is used, did the things in question "cease to exist as" whatever they were? No -- the oil of Matt. 26 did not cease to be oil; it was simply (so it was argued by Judas) put to a use that it should not have been. It remained oil. The same may be said of every other example I cited, and of 1 Cor. 1:19 -- the plans did not "cease to exist as" plans; they simply did not fulfill their intended purpose.
This is right in line with the traditional view that while God intends us for eternal life with Him, those who are apollumi lose out, but do not in any way evaporate or cease to exist, but per our understanding of the nature of hell, fits in perfectly with hell as a place of shame."
Finally, he says this regarding the annihilationalism view of destruction:
"1- Matt. 10:28//Luke 12:4-5 ~"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell."
In this case, the Matthean parallel passage is much clearer in description than the Lukan one. However, they are complimentary rather than contradictory.
This is a fairly clear statement that the soul and body will be destroyed (in the sense noted above -- not "annihilated") in Hell. Annihilationists and conditionalists have a great deal of trouble with this verse. Knowing that the resurrection of the wicked is clearly taught in the NT, some will deny that the nature of the resurrection body of the wicked is the same as that of those of the justified, and that it will eventually "lose all vitality and truly die" [Fudg.FTC, 176], but there is neither scriptural nor social warrant to suppose that there will be any difference in this way.
Another tactic is to argue that the words "kill" and "destroy" being in parallel should mean that they indicate the same thing [ibid., 177], which seems all too obviously without any linguistic support.
Finally, an appeal is made to Luke's parallel version being itself parallel to Is. 66:24 (see below), which supposedly argues against eternal punishment; we will look at that verse shortly, but generally, to make this argument in this way begs the question of whether or not the punishment described is eternal or not."
Hell was an issue that Jesus was not ashamed of neither did he make any excuses regarding it. There are numerous scriptures where Jesus points to a conscious, never quenching torment in hell. Jesus repeatedly warned the scribes and the pharisees of their pending "damnation in hell" if they choose not to repent. In one of his most famous sermons preserved in scripture, "The Sermon On The Mount" he mentions hell more than a half-dozen times.
So the reality of hell is affirmed clearly within scripture, however the duration or quantity of hell is what the "temporary hell theorists" claim that is not so certain. However I believe that for one to hold to an annihilationist or a temporary hell thesis view point one has to discard both how Jesus taught about hell, how the apostles taught about hell and the judgement of God, and further, how the early church fathers taught about hell and God's justice and everything that NT prophecy tells us about hell and future destruction of the wicked.
One should ask, if there is no such thing as an eternal hell what does the suffering sacrifice and atonement of Jesus mean? If his death was simply to save us from being unconscious at a certain point or unaware of any existence at all then what did his death really accomplish?
The result of the annihilationists view and the "temporary hell theorist" views are offset by the following:
1- There is no ultimate punishment for sin/wrong doing if hell isn't real and eternal. For those who dishonor God, nonexistence is no punishment. In fact nonexistence is the expectation of the atheist and justification of his/her worldview even IF God exists.
2- If there is no hell and hell is not eternal, there is no vindication of God for the suffering of his people throughout countless generations. But we know this is not so according to scripture:
II Thess. 1:6-9~"6-Seeing [it is] a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7-And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8-In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9-Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;"
3- If there is no hell and if hell is not eternal, the atrocities of Hitler and others like him through history, take place right along side the actions of the unrepentant car thief. Since scripture clearly lays out that the punishment of hell is commensurate with the deeds done to deserve it, this further does damage to the concepts of the justice and righteousness of God, demanding the same punishment to the same degree of annihilation for all sinners no matter how small or great.
4- If there is no hell, there is no satisfaction or payment for sin in the world. There is no shame nor honor payment made for unbelief and dishonor to God.
5- If there is no hell and hell is not eternal, then there can be no such thing as truly eternal life. Salvation with Jesus for eternity cannot be guaranteed. The problem is that within the texts, the words are the same and if one is temporary, it takes and extraordinary balancing act to make the other lasting outside of time.
I believe that everything specified in both parts 1 and 2 of this article are compelling arguments and reasons to abandon annihilationism and the temporary hell thesis.
Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1995)
JP Holding Tekton Apologetic Ministries
CRI: The Doctrine Of Hell