wrong about hell
Today I want to respond to some of the criticisms we conditionalists get when we dare to assert that hell will eventually come to an end.
The universalists say we are wrong about hell because they believe hell’s purpose is destroying sins, not sinners. They agree with us that hell is a temporary event. They teach that it will end when the last sinner has paid for his sins, and has been restored.
But we conditionalists don’t see evidence of that restoration in scripture. Scripture says that God makes the wicked perish, blotting out their name forever (Psalm 9:5). Jesus taught that God can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna hell (Matthew 10:28). But neither the universalists nor the traditionalists think that this is really possible. Both of these groups believe that souls are indestructible. Conditionalists teach that human souls are created by God, and they can be destroyed by God.
Traditionalists say we are wrong about hell because we redefine the word forever. We respond by pointing out that most of the time in the Bible when the Hebrew word ‘olam or the Greek word aionios appears, neither refers to a perpetual process. Most of the time they simply mean permanent, or everlasting, and we certainly have no problems with those translations.
Here are some examples:
- the permanent destruction the lost will face at Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
- the permanent glory that accompanies salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10).
- The permanent salvation made possible by Jesus, our great high priest (Hebrews 5:9).
- The permanent judgment that will take place after the resurrection of the dead (Hebrews 6:2).
- the permanent covenant made possible by the shedding of the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:20).
- entrance into the permanent kingdom provided for all those who make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).
But, yes, we object to the word eternal because that English word conveys the idea of an on-going process. By definition, destruction cannot be a perpetual process. It has to end, or it cannot take place.
Traditionalists also say we are wrong about hell because God’s justice morally demands it. We agree with all other Bible-believing Christians that God’s justice requires a judgment day. We object to those who insist that day must continue forever. If the punishment for sins requires an eternity of suffering, then all of us are lost. Our Lord himself suffered punishment in our place on the cross, but his suffering came to an end when he died. How can we say that his death atoned for our sins? That’s what the Bible says. It says God sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). It says the wages of sin is death, not suffering eternally (Romans 6:23). It says that final punishment will be a lake of fire, resulting in the second death. That is what God’s justice demands.
So, no, we are not wrong about hell. We are a voice of reason, asking people to take another look at what the Bible really says about this important topic.
If you have any questions about this teaching, you can ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join me for this entire series as we search the scriptures to learn about the gift of life.
Listen to the audio file at Afterlife.