<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Untitled Document Everlasting Punishment

It has been said that Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven. I do not know about that. Perhaps those who say this are not counting the times he referred to his Father in heaven, or how he lifted his eyes to heaven when he prayed. He loved his Father, and he loved his home, and he longed to return. They may not be counting the times he spoke of “the kingdom of heaven.” Most of those times he was talking about his church, but it is “of heaven” because that is its origin, its hope, and its destination. If we include the heavenly implications of his teachings we may find that he said more about heaven than we realize, but it is true that he had a lot to say about hell.

Jesus referred to hell as “Gehenna.” Those who say they know such things tell us that it was common for the rabbis of his day to call the place of eternal punishment, Gehenna. There was a valley just south of Jerusalem called “the Valley of Hinnom.” It was there, in old times, where the children were passed through the fire. Jeremiah said it would be filled with dead bodies, and defiled. He called it “the valley of slaughter” (Jeremiah 7:32). The memory of the fire and of the dead bodies lingered into the days of Jesus, but when Jesus spoke of Gehenna he was not making reference to the little abandoned valley itself. Gehenna was the place of punishment with “fire” (Matthew 5:22), verily, "everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8-9). It was better for the eye, or the hand, or some other member of the body to perish than for the whole body to be cast into Gehenna (Matthew 5:29, 30). It was a place of destruction for the “soul and body” (Matthew 10:28). (The passage talks about killing the material body, but not about killing the soul, or of killing the spiritual body. In Revelation 17:8 the “beast” goes into “perdition,” a word for “destruction,” and a derivative of the word translated “destroy” in Matthew 10:28. In this “perdition” the beast “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). That describes “destruction" in the context of everlasting punishment, and that is what we are to fear.) Gehenna is a place to fear “after” you are killed (Luke 12:5). A place of “woe” (Matthew 23:15), "damnation” (Matthew 23:33), and everlasting punishment. Three times in quick succession Jesus called Gehenna the place “where the fire is not quenched, and their worm dieth not” (Mark 9:43-48). (Jesus said “the” fire and “their” worm. The pronoun. “their,” makes the worm personal. If the resurrected spiritual body of the wicked, fitted for destruction, were totally consumed in Gehenna, then that would leave "the fire that shall never be quenched” with nothing to burn, and “their worm” that "dieth not" with nothing to feed upon.)

Jesus said plainly, “These shall go into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46). The word that Jesus used for “everlasting” in regard to “punishment” is the same word that he used for “eternal” in regard to “life.” To escape “everlasting punishment” you either have to force an unnatural meaning on the word “everlasting,” or add something to the word “punishment.” Look at these words in context. Jesus had been describing the punishment of the wicked: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51); “outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30); “everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41). If the “weeping” is part of the punishment, and the punishment is everlasting, then the weeping is everlasting. If the “gnashing of teeth” is part of the punishment, and the punishment is everlasting, then the gnashing of teeth is everlasting. If the “outer darkness” is part of punishment, and the punishment is everlasting, then the outer darkness is everlasting. (Compare that with “the wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” in Jude 13.) If the “everlasting fire” is not part of the “everlasting punishment” then Jesus was guilty of embellishment, but this is not embellishment. This is not Jonathan Edwards, Milton, or Dante. These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that “shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). We dare not dismiss them, nor diminish their dreadful import.

I do not like to preach about the everlasting punishment of hell. It is the “everlasting” part that horrifies me. This is what Shakespeare was referring to when he said, “...there’s the rub.” I do not like to think about it, and I do not want to go there. Jesus does not want us to go there either. He preached to warn us because he loved us. So if there are some we can “save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23), we need to preach it!

By Bill Boyd

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