Is It Really of God?
By Lee Salisbury
THE CONCEPT OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT Though considered by many to be orthodox Christian doctrine, must be challenged and indeed refuted. Some of its destructive implications are:
nature is love (I Jn. 4:8 & 16)
“agape” love which always seeks the best for others and never ceases until
this objective is accomplished. Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails (1 Cor. 13:7-8). God,
having perfect foreknowledge in creation, knew that all mankind would follow
Adam into sin. Therefore, God made provision for man’s reconciliation before
the foundation of the world (I Pet. 2:19-20). Statisticians tell us that over
the past 6,000 years approximately 160 billion people have lived on the earth.
The doctrine of “eternal punishment” declares that all who do not believe on
Jesus Christ while in their mortal bodies spend eternity in an inescapable,
unending hell. If 10% of the earth’s people believed on Jesus Christ then the
remaining 144 billion must consequently spend eternity being punished. This
would mean that Gods purpose in creation was eternal punishment for some
144 billion people! Apart from any knowledge of the grace and
mercy of God we could hardly say this reflects a God of justice. Having
a higher revelation of Gods “agape” love, can we now accept this doctrine as
being consistent with a God of love?
our holy and just God does require accountability of man to Himself and
does punish man for his sin and rebellion. But, if the punishment is unending
then what purpose does it serve? Such behavior by an earthly father would
be considered sadism. Is our heavenly Father’s love and punishment to be
degraded to the level of such an earthly father? No, for though man may fail,
God’s love never fails. If it did. He would deny Himself.
of the Devil
doctrine of “eternal punishment” makes Hell an eternal monument to the
devil’s works of sin and death. Did Jesus fail at destroying the works
of the devil? (I Jn.3:8) Did the first Adam’s offense unto condemnation and
death for all accomplish “much more” than the last Adam’s free
gift of grace unto justification for all? (Rom.
). Did Jesus tell a lie when He said, “And I,
if I be lifted up from the, earth will draw all men unto me?” (Jn. 12:32). Is
the last enemy, death, not destroyed? Are those to whom God becomes “all in
all” (I Cor.
) only those who managed to escape the devil’s
clutches? Does every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord
) because God is really like Nebechadnezzer
(Dan. 3), forcing all into submission without respect to the desire
of their heart? If “eternal punishment” is true, then all of the above are
true and the devil is exalted.
doctrine of “eternal punishment”
contradicts the plain statements of scripture. To profess it is to “take
away from the words of the book” (Rev. 22:19). This requires us to ignore or
revise the following scriptures: Regarding All Men; Lk.. 2:10; 1 Tim.
4:10; I Cor. 15:22-23: I Tim. 2:3-6; Rom. 5:17-18; Tit. 2:11; Jn. 12:32-33; 2
Pet. 3:9; Rom. 11:26-32; Heb.8:11; Ps. 22:27-29; Regarding Every Man:
I Cor. 11:3; Jn. 2:9: Heb, 2:9; Mk. 9:49; Is. 45:23; Phil. 2:10-11; I Cor.
15:23. Regarding All Families: Gen. 18:14; Gal. 3:8. Regarding All
Flesh: Jn. 17:2; Joel 2:20; Is. 40:5; Ps. 65:2; Regarding All Things: Eph.
1:9-11; Col. 1:20; Rev. 21:5; Acts 3:21; Rom. 11:36; Heb. 1:2; Phil. 3:21; I Cor.
15:28; Rev. 4:11. Regarding The World: Jn. 8:12; II Cor. 5:19; Jn. 3:16;
Jn. 1:29; Jn. 4:42; Jn. 12:47;
Jn. 17:21; Is. 45:22; Jn. 16:33.
Regarding The Whole World:
Jn. 2:2. Regarding The Creation: Mk. 16:15; Col. 1:23; Rom- 8:21; Rev.
5:I3; Ps. 145:8-9. If the doctrine of “eternal punishment” is true, then
not one of the above scriptures can be accepted at face value. God’s
ability to regenerate the spirit of man and to fulfill His own word is
limited by the heartbeat of man.
insist upon the doctrine of “eternal punishment” because the King
James Bible (and others influenced by it) associates the word eternal with
punishment and destruction. God rose up scholars to give us concordances,
lexicons, and both Greek and Hebrew word studies, because no translation is perfectly
true to the original manuscripts. The Christian’s surest guide to
truth is the Holy Spirit who Jesus said will “teach you all things” (Jn.
). The King James Bible translated the Greek
noun “aion” and its adjectival form “aionios” variously as
world, age, eternal, and everlasting. One word should not be translated
to have so many separate meanings when there are specific Greek words
with these meanings. World means the material earth on which man
lives, and is properly translated in “the invisible things of him from
the creation of the world (kosmos) are clearly seen.” (
would suggest that the Greek form in which the adjective “aionios” is used
allows for the translation “eternal”. The most basic laws of grammar
prohibit this. A word derived from a parent word cannot have a meaning greater
than or different from the parent word. The meaning of the adjectival
Form of a word depends upon and corresponds to the meaning of the noun
from which it is derived, As an example, a daily (adjective) paper
comes every day (noun) not monthly or hourly.
reasonable objection may well be “why didn’t the King James
translators or the New American Standard translators translate “aionios”
to be age instead of eternal?” Or why does the commonly accepted
Vine’s Expository Dictionary (V.E.D.) insist that “aionios” means eternal?
The beloved brethren who have given themselves to these scholarly pursuits
are to be honored, but they, like us, are subject to seeing
through a glass. darkly” (I Cor, 13:12). V.E.D. for example, states
that the gift of tongues ceased after apostolic times and that both the
gifts of knowledge and prophecy are unnecessary since the Holy Scriptures
are sufficient for guidance, instruction, and edification. Mr. Vines
viewpoint is typical of the “fundamentalist” school of theology,
which for all practical purposes eliminates the need and expectancy
of God’s people to hear directly from Him. To the many who have come into the
Baptism of the Holy Spirit and today comprise the Pentecostal and
charismatic segment of the church. V.E.D. is obviously biased, The gifts
of the Holy Spirit did not terminate with the early apostles, but are to
be just as much in evidence today, The same kind of prejudice is
perpetuated with the doctrine of “eternal punishment.” Numerous Greek
scholars have sought to bring correction. A sampling of some of
their works follows:
Analytical Concordance to the Bible, by Robert Young. LL.D,: Thomas
Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, by Robert Young, LL.D.; Baker
Concordance, by J.B. Smith; Herald
Emphasized Bible, by 3.6.
Literal New Testament, by the Concordant Publishing Concern
word “aion” means age or that which pertains to the ages. Ages have
beginnings and endings. Their durations are for indefinite periods of time.
There is no time element to eternity and therefore the word eternal is
a totally inappropriate translation. God made the aions:
“by whom also he made the worlds (aions)” (Heb. 1:2). Having
created the aions, God is called the God of the aions or the “everlasting (aionial)
). There was a time before the
aions: according to his own purpose and grace, which was
given us in Christ Jesus before the world [aionios] began” (II Tim.
1:9). We live in the present aion: Who gave himself for
our sins, that he might deliver us from his present evil world (aion)
(Mt. 13:39). There is an age after this aion: “it
shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world (aion), neither in the
world (aion) to come”. (Mt. 13:32). There are aions to look
forward to: “that in the ages (aions) to come he might show the
exceeding riches of his grace (Eph. 2:7). Jesus reigns to the aion
of the aion: “But unto the son he saith, Thy throne. O
God, is for ever and ever (to the aion of the aion)”. (Heb. 1:8). At
the end of this aion “then cometh the end, when he shall have
delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father …. then shall the Son also
himself be subject unto Him that put all things under him, that
God may be all in all” (I Cor. 15:24-28).
this time of the aions, Christians have aionial life (Jn.
). Aionial salvation (Heb, 5:9), and
an aionial inheritance (Heb.
). Presently Christians have been “sealed with
the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the
redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph.
-15). There will come a day when Christians no
longer have just the earnest, but will receive the full inheritance of true
eternal life which is when God becomes “all in all” (I Cor. 15:28). In the
meantime, there will continue ionial judgment (Heb. 6:2), aionial
condemnation (Mk. 3:29), aioniaI fire (Mt. 23:41),
and aionial punishment (Mt. 24:26).
is no documentation that the church councils of the fist four centuries embraced
the doctrine of “eternal punishment”.
church councils at Nice in A.D. 325, at
in the 2nd century started calling
its elders “priests”
in the 3rd century instituted
sacerdotal mass, claiming the unbloody sacrifice of Jesus
in 300 AD. endorsed prayers for
in 375 A.D. reverenced
angels, dead saints. and images
in 431 AD, exalted Mary as the
“Mother of God”
in 526 AD, instituted extreme unction
in 553 AD. renounced the doctrine
of ultimate reconciliation
Wrong Spirit Fostered
doctrine of “eternal punishment” fosters
a self-righteous, vindictive spirit in believers. The psalmist, speaking
of idols, said: “they that make them are like unto them; so is every one that
trusteth in them”. (Ps. 115:8). If a Christian has an image or
mental picture of God that projects Him as One who writes off those who
disregard Him then that believer similarly tends to reject those who disagree
with him. Church history is replete with inquisitions and martyrdoms manifesting
this image of God. An extreme example is Queen Mary (1516-1558) of England, who
won her title “Bloody Mary” by torturing and murdering non-Catholics. She
justified her actions, proclaiming “as the souls of heretics are to be
hereafter eternally burning in hell, there can he nothing more proper than for
me to imitate the divine vengeance by burning them on earth.” Bloody
Mary’s image of God lives on today. Condescending, pharisaical attitudes
which continually divide the body of Christ, justify themselves because of a
perverted image of God. “My little children, keep yourselves from idols.
Amen”. (I Jn. 5:21).
doctrine of “eternal punishment” aligns Christianity with the pagan
religions of the world. Pagan religion recruits and rules its members by fear.
The common theme of pagan religion is that non-members displease an angry god
and will therefore spend eternity being tortured and tormented in the flames of
hell. The pagan god rules by threat and intimidation. Preachers who have to use
fear of eternal punishment to move people to come to the altar, and Christians
who need the doctrine of eternal punishment to keep them from falling into sin
or to motivate them to evangelism and prayer, sadly reveal their lack of true
relationship with the God whose love casts out fear because fear has torment
(I Jn. 4:18). Is it any wonder that Christianity, whose gospel is the “power
of God unto salvation” (Rom.
), has made so little impact upon the worlds
Conscience Says “No”
Holy Spirit-illumined conscience is the truest witness of the Holy Spirit. Any
doctrine born of God will commend itself to the Christian’s conscience. Though
many say they believe this doctrine to be true, they very seldom, if ever,
preach it, and if they do they will say, “I wish it were not really true” or
“if I could change it, I would”. These, or similar statements only reveal
the voice of their consciences, which do not find an Amen! to the doctrine of
“eternal punishment”. You, the reader, test this statement: Say out loud:
“Every person who has not believed on Jesus Christ while living in this mortal
body on this earth deserves to be eternally punished.” What is the
witness of your conscience?
The central issue is do we
really know the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?
The Pharisees thought they knew God, and so insisted that
Jesus keep the law rather than heal on the Sabbath. James and John thought
they knew the Lord and that He would approve their request to send down fire
from heaven and consume those who
would not receive His ministry. Each of these men could draw upon the letter of
the scripture to support his beliefs. In the same way, many good people have
relied upon the letter of the word in justifying “eternal punishment.” My
appeal to you, the reader, is to distinguish between the letter of the
word and the spirit of the word. Examine your own heart as to the
nature of God’s love and judgments. Is your God the God of eternal punishment?
For many years I thought He was, until He challenged me to look again. My prayer
is that we may be as Job, who declared, “I have heard of thee by the hearing
of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee”. (Job 42:5).
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