No need to fudge around the truth; Jesus didn’t. Some great minds believed that God annihilates sinners out of existence after they die in unbelief. But Jesus says in Matthew 25.46, of those who do not show any fruit of being born again, “and these will go away into eternal punishment.” And of those who are His elect he says “but the righteous into eternal life.” That sentence makes it clear that there is a parallel between the eternality of punishment and the eternality of life after the Final Judgment.
Nobody claims that is easy to take in, but you must settle it in your mind that the un-easiness of accepting eternal punishment as true comes from our tendency to be man-centered. When you have a hard time seeing the goodness of eternal punishment, I offer three ways to be more God-centered:
- Think about how God feels. As Romans 9.22 says “what if God, desiring to show his wrath and make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” God is indignant every day toward sinners. Everyone knows they are to love God with all their heart, soul and mind, and yet no one does. Everyone knows they are to love their neighbor as him/herself and yet no one does. No one responds well to the revelation God gives them. Yet He chooses never to flood the earth again. We all know what it is like to be angry at someone for wronging us. Yet none of us knows what it feels like to be angry at someone for wronging us, while we ourselves are all-powerful, all-wise, all-holy, all-good.
- No one in hell is born again. Unbelievers and the devil and his angels do not only deserve punishment for their sins in this life. They rebel against their Creator forever, and will constantly merit wrath.
- Think about the cross. Just as there is a parallel between the forever-ness of heaven and the forever-ness of hell, there is a parallel between the wrath of God in hell and the wrath of God on Jesus 2000 years ago (Romans 3.25). Whatever you think should be taken away from the wrath of God in the Lake of Fire, should be taken away from the wrath of God on the cross, if you want to be “fair.”
Praise the Lord that God has chosen to save any of us through the eternal blood of His Son. And praise the Lord that convincing people of the eternality of hell doesn’t save them. Jesus saves.