Note from Ville Hietanen (Jerome) of and Currently, I (but not my brother of the “prophecyfilm12” mail) have updated many of my old believes to be more in line with Vatican II and I no longer adhere to the position that Vatican II or the Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists or various Traditionalists Groups and Peoples etc. or the various teachings, Saints and adherents to Vatican II (and other canonized by Vatican II) such as Saint Mother Theresa or Saint Pope John Paul II etc. was heretical or damned or not Catholic (or not the Pope) – or that they are unworthy of this title. I have also embraced the sexual views on marriage of Vatican II, and I no longer adhere to the strict interpretations as expressed on this website and on my other websites. To read more of my views, see these articles: Some corrections: Why I no longer condemn others or judge them as evil I did before. Why I no Longer Reject Vatican II and the Traditional Catholic Priests or Receiving Sacraments from Them (On Baptism of Desire, Baptism of Blood, Natural Family Planning, Una Cum etc.) Q&A: Damnation and Eternal Torments for Our Children and Beloved Ones is "True" and "Good" but Salvation for Everyone is "Evil" and a "Heresy"?

Hell is Real Afterlife, Lake of Fire, Heaven or Hell Video Screams

What is Hell?

In many religious traditions, Hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Hell is endless or eternal. Hell is often portrayed as populated with daemons, who torment the damned. The Christian doctrine of hell derives from the teaching of the New Testament, where hell is typically described using the Greek words Tartarus or Hades or the Arabic word Gehenna. Hell is taught as the final destiny of those who have not been found worthy after they have passed through the great white throne of judgment, where they will be punished for sin and permanently separated from God after the general resurrection and last judgment.

Hell and the Lake of Fire, What is Hell? Is Hell Real? Heaven, Hell and the Afterlife, Facts

Name and place of hell

Hell (infernus) in theological usage is a place of punishment after death. Theologians distinguish four meanings of the term hell:

  • hell in the strict sense, or the place of punishment for the damned, be they demons or men;

  • the limbo of infants (limbus parvulorum), where those who die in original sin alone, and without personal mortal sin, are confined;

  • the limbo of the Fathers (limbus patrum), in which the souls of the just who died before Christ awaited their admission to heaven; for in the meantime heaven was closed against them in punishment for the sin of Adam;

  • purgatory, where the just, who die in venial sin or who still owe a debt of temporal punishment for sin, are cleansed by suffering before their admission to heaven.

The Latin infernus (inferum, inferi), the Greek Hades, and the Hebrew sheol correspond to the word hell. Infernus is derived from the root in; hence it designates hell as a place within and below the earth. Haides, formed from the root fid, to see, and a privative, denotes an invisible, hidden, and dark place; thus it is similar to the term hell. The derivation of sheol is doubtful. It is generally supposed to come from the Hebrew root meaning, "to be sunk in, to be hollow"; accordingly it denotes a cave or a place under the earth. In the Old Testament (Septuagint hades; Vulgate infernus) sheol is used quite in general to designate the kingdom of the dead, of the good (Genesis 37:35) as well as of the bad (Numbers 16:30); it means hell in the strict sense of the term, as well as the limbo of the Fathers. But, as the limbo of the Fathers ended at the time of Christ's Ascension, hades (Vulgate infernus) in the New Testament always designates the hell of the damned. Since Christ's Ascension the just no longer go down to the lower world, but they dwell in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1). However, in the New Testament the term Gehenna is used more frequently in preference to hades, as a name for the place of punishment of the damned. Gehenna is the Hebrew gê-hinnom (Nehemiah 11:30), or the longer form gê-ben-hinnom (Joshua 15:8), and gê-benê-hinnom (2 Kings 23:10) "valley of the sons of Hinnom". Besides Hades and Gehenna, we find in the New Testament many other names for the abode of the damned. It is called "lower hell" (Vulgate tartarus) (2 Peter 2:4), "abyss" (Luke 8:31 and elsewhere), "place of torments" (Luke 16:28), "pool of fire" (Revelation 19:20 and elsewhere), "furnace of fire" (Matthew 13:42, 50), "unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12, and elsewhere), "everlasting fire" (Matthew 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7), "exterior darkness" (Matthew 7:12; 22:13; 25:30), "mist" or "storm of darkness" (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13). The state of the damned is called "destruction" (apoleia, Philippians 3:19 and elsewhere), "perdition" (olethros, 1 Timothy 6:9), "eternal destruction" (olethros aionios, 2 Thessalonians 1:9), "corruption" (phthora, Galatians 6:8), "death" (Romans 6:21), "second death" (Revelation 2:11 and elsewhere).

Where is hell? Some were of opinion that hell is everywhere, that the damned are at liberty to roam about in the entire universe, but that they carry their punishment with them. The adherents of this doctrine were called Ubiquists, or Ubiquitarians; among them were, e.g., Johann Brenz, a Swabian, a Protestant theologian of the sixteenth century. However, that opinion is universally and deservedly rejected; for it is more in keeping with their state of punishment that the damned be limited in their movements and confined to a definite place. Moreover, if hell is a real fire, it cannot be everywhere, especially after the consummation of the world, when heaven and earth shall have been made anew. The Bible seems to indicate that hell is within the earth, for it describes hell as an abyss to which the wicked descend. We even read of the earth opening and of the wicked sinking down into hell (Numbers 16:31 sqq.; Psalm 54:16; Isaiah 5:14; Ezekiel 26:20; Philippians 2:10, etc.). Is this merely a metaphor to illustrate the state of separation from God? Although God is omnipresent, He is said to dwell in heaven, because the light and grandeur of the stars and the firmament are the brightest manifestations of His infinite splendour. But the damned are utterly estranged from God; hence their abode is said to be as remote as possible from his dwelling, far from heaven above and its light, and consequently hidden away in the dark abysses of the earth. However, no cogent reason has been advanced for accepting a metaphorical interpretation in preference to the most natural meaning of the words of Scripture. Hence theologians generally accept the opinion that hell is really within the earth. The Church has decided nothing on this subject; hence we may say hell is a definite place; but where it is, we do not know. St. Chrysostom reminds us: "We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to escape it" (In Rom., hom. xxxi, n. 5, in P.G., LX, 674). St. Augustine says: "It is my opinion that the nature of hell-fire and the location of hell are known to no man unless the Holy Ghost made it known to him by a special revelation", (City of God XX.16). Elsewhere he expresses the opinion that hell is under the earth (Retract., II, xxiv, n. 2 in P.L., XXXII, 640). St. Gregory the Great wrote: "I do not dare to decide this question. Some thought hell is somewhere on earth; others believe it is under the earth" (Dial., IV, xlii, in P.L., LXXVII, 400; cf. Patuzzi, "De sede inferni", 1763; Gretser, "De subterraneis animarum receptaculis", 1595).

Existence of hell

There is a hell, i.e. all those who die in personal mortal sin, as enemies of God, and unworthy of eternal life, will be severely punished by God after death. The existence of hell is, of course, denied by all those who deny the existence of God or the immortality of the soul. Thus among the Jew the Sadducees, among the Gnostics, the Seleucians, and in our own time Materialists, Pantheists, etc., deny the existence of hell. But apart from these, if we abstract from the eternity of the pains of hell, the doctrine has never met any opposition worthy of mention. The existence of hell is proved first of all from the Bible. Wherever Christ and the Apostles speak of hell they presuppose the knowledge of its existence (Matthew 5:29; 8:12; 10:28; 13:42; 25:41, 46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Revelation 21:8, etc.). Also the Fathers, from the very earliest times, are unanimous in teaching that the wicked will be punished after death. And in proof of their doctrine they appeal both to Scripture and to reason (cf. Ignatius, "Ad Eph.", v, 16; "Martyrium s. Polycarpi", ii, n, 3; xi, n.2; Justin, "Apol.", II, n. 8 in P.G., VI, 458; Athenagoras, "De resurr. mort.", c. xix, in P.G., VI, 1011; Irenaeus, Against Heresies V.27.2; Tertullian, "Adv. Marc.", I, c. xxvi, in P.L., IV, 277).

The Church professes her faith in the Athanasian Creed: "They that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire" (Denzinger, "Enchiridion", 10th ed., 1908, n.40). The Church has repeatedly defined this truth, e.g. in the profession of faith made in the Second Council of Lyons (Denz., n. 464) and in the Decree of Union in the Council of Florence (Denz., N. 693): "the souls of those who depart in mortal sin, or only in original sin, go down immediately into hell, to be visited, however, with unequal punishments" (poenis disparibus).

If we abstract from the eternity of its punishment, the existence of hell can be demonstrated even by the light of mere reason. In His sanctity and justice as well as in His wisdom, God must avenge the violation of the moral order in such wise as to preserve, at least in general, some proportion between the gravity of sin and the severity of punishment. But it is evident from experience that God does not always do this on earth; therefore He will inflict punishment after death. Moreover, if all men were fully convinced that the sinner need fear no kind of punishment after death, moral and social order would be seriously menaced. This, however, Divine wisdom cannot permit. Again, if there were no retribution beyond that which takes place before our eyes here on earth, we should have to consider God extremely indifferent to good and evil, and we could in no way account for His justice and holiness. Nor can it be said: the wicked will be punished, but not by any positive infliction: for either death will be the end of their existence, or, forfeiting the rich reward of the good, they will enjoy some lesser degree of happiness. These are arbitrary and vain subterfuges, unsupported by any sound reason; positive punishment is the natural recompense of evil. Besides, due proportion between demerit and punishment would be rendered impossible by an indiscriminate annihilation of all the wicked. And finally, if men knew that their sins would not be followed by sufferings, the mere threat of annihilation at the moment of death, and still less the prospect of a somewhat lower degree of beatitude, would not suffice to deter them from sin.

Furthermore, reason easily understands that in the next life the just will be made happy as a reward of their virtue. But the punishment of evil is the natural counterpart of the reward of virtue. Hence, there will also be punishment for sin in the next life. Accordingly, we find among all nations the belief that evil-doers will be punished after death. This universal conviction of mankind is an additional proof for the existence of hell. For it is impossible that, in regard to the fundamental questions of their being and their destiny, all men should fall into the same error; else the power of human reason would be essentially deficient, and the order of this world would be unduly wrapt in mystery; this however, is repugnant both to nature and to the wisdom of the Creator.

Eternity of hell

Many admit the existence of hell, but deny the eternity of its punishment. Conditionalists hold only a hypothetical immortality of the soul, and assert that after undergoing a certain amount of punishment, the souls of the wicked will be annihilated. Among the Gnostics the Valentinians held this doctrine, and later on also Arnobius, the Socinians, many Protestants both in the past and in our own times, especially of late. The Universalists teach that in the end all the damned, at least all human souls, will attain beatitude (apokatastasis ton panton, restitutio omnium, according to Origen). This was a tenet of the Origenists and the Misericordes of whom St. Augustine speaks (City of God XXI.18). There were individual adherents of this opinion in every century, e.g. Scotus Eriugena; in particular, many rationalistic Protestants of the last centuries defended this belief, e.g. in England, Farrar, "Eternal Hope".

The Holy Bible is quite explicit in teaching the eternity of the pains of hell. The torments of the damned shall last forever and ever (Revelation 14:11; 19:3; 20:10). They are everlasting just as are the joys of heaven (Matthew 25:46). Of Judas Christ says: "it were better for him, if that man had not been born" (Matthew 26:24). But this would not have been true if Judas was ever to be released from hell and admitted to eternal happiness. Again, God says of the damned: "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched" (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:43, 45, 47). The fire of hell is repeatedly called eternal and unquenchable. The wrath of God abideth on the damned (John 3:36); they are vessels of Divine wrath (Romans 9:22); they shall not possess the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21), etc. The objections adduced from Scripture against this doctrine are so meaningless that they are not worth while discussing in detail. The teaching of the fathers is not less clear and decisive (cf. Patavius, "De Angelis", III, viii). We merely call to mind the testimony of the martyrs who often declared that they were glad to suffer pain of brief duration in order to escape eternal torments; e.g. "Martyrium Polycarpi", c. ii (cf. Atzberger, "Geschichte", II, 612 sqq.). It is true that Origen fell into error on this point; but precisely for this error he was condemned by the Church (Canones adv. Origenem ex Justiniani libro adv. Origen., can. ix; Hardouin, III, 279 E; Denz., n. 211). In vain attempts were made to undermine the authority of these canons (cf. Dickamp, "Die origenistischen Streitigkeiten", Münster, 1899, 137). Besides even in Origen we find the orthodox teaching on the eternity of the pains of hell; for in his words the faithful Christian was again and again victorious over the doubting philosopher. The Church professes her faith in the eternity of the pains of hell in clear terms in the Athanasian Creed (Denz., nn. 40), in authentic doctrinal decisions (Denz, nn. 211, 410, 429, 807, 835, 915), and in countless passages of her liturgy; she never prays for the damned. Hence, beyond the possibility of doubt, the Church expressly teaches the eternity of the pains of hell as a truth of faith which no one can deny or call in question without manifest heresy.

But what is the attitude of mere reason towards this doctrine? Just as God must appoint some fixed term for the time of trial, after which the just will enter into the secure possession of a happiness that can never again be lost in all eternity, so it is likewise appropriate that after the expiration of that term the wicked will be cut off from all hope of conversion and happiness. For the malice of men cannot compel God to prolong the appointed time of probation and to grant them again and again, without end, the power of deciding their lot for eternity. Any obligation to act in this manner would be unworthy of God, because it would make Him dependent on the caprice of human malice, would rob His threats in great part of their efficacy, and would offer the amplest scope and the strongest incentive to human presumption. God has actually appointed the end of this present life, or the moment of death, as the term of man's probation. For in that moment there takes place in our life an essential and momentous change; from the state of union with the body the soul passes into a life apart. No other sharply defined instant of our life is of like importance. Hence we must conclude that death is the end of our probation; for it is meet that our trial should terminate at a moment of our existence so prominent and significant as to be easily perceived by every man. Accordingly, it is the belief of all people that eternal retribution is dealt out immediately after death. This conviction of mankind is an additional proof of our thesis.

Finally, the preservation of moral and social order would not be sufficiently provided for, if men knew that the time of trial were to be continued after death.

A belief from some is the objection made that there is no proportion between the brief moment of sin and an eternal punishment. But why not? We certainly admit a proportion between a momentary good deed and its eternal reward, not, it is true, a proportion of duration, but a proportion between the law and its appropriate sanction. Again, sin is an offence against the infinite authority of God, and the sinner is in some way aware of this, though but imperfectly. Accordingly there is in sin an approximation to infinite malice which deserves an eternal punishment. Finally, it must be remembered that, although the act of sinning is brief, the guilt of sin remains forever; for in the next life the sinner never turns away from his sin by a sincere conversion. It is further objected that the sole object of punishment must be to reform the evil-doer. This is not true. Besides punishments inflicted for correction, there are also punishments for the satisfaction of justice. But justice demands that whoever departs from the right way in his search for happiness shall not find his happiness, but lose it. The eternity of the pains of hell responds to this demand for justice. And, besides, the fear of hell does really deter many from sin; and thus, in as far as it is threatened by God, eternal punishment also serves for the reform of morals. But if God threatens man with the pains of hell, He must also carry out His threat if man does not heed it by avoiding sin.

For solving other objections it should be noted:

  • God is not only infinitely good, He is infinitely wise, just, and holy.

  • No one is cast into hell unless he has fully and entirely deserved it.
  • The sinner perseveres forever in his evil disposition.

Characteristics of the pains of hell

  1. The pains of hell differ in degree according to demerit. This holds true not only of the pain of sense, but also of the pain of loss. A more intense hatred of God, a more vivid consciousness of utter abandonment by Divine goodness, a more restless craving to satisfy the natural desire for beatitude with things external to God, a more acute sense of shame and confusion at the folly of having sought happiness in earthly enjoyment — all this implies as its correlation a more complete and more painful separation from God.

  2. The pains of hell are essentially immutable; there are no temporary intermissions or passing alleviations. A few Fathers and theologians, in particular the poet Prudentius, expressed the opinion that on stated days God grants the damned a certain respite, and that besides this the prayers of the faithful obtain for them other occasional intervals of rest. The Church has never condemned this opinion in express terms. But now theologians are justly unanimous in rejecting it. St. Thomas condemns it severely (In IV Sent., dist. xlv, Q. xxix, cl. 1). [Cf. Merkle, "Die Sabbatruhe in der Hölle" in "Romische Quartalschrift" (1895), 489 sqq.; see also Prudentius.] However, accidental changes in the pains of hell are not excluded. Thus it may be that the reprobate is sometimes more and sometimes less tormented by his surroundings. Especially after the last judgment there will be an accidental increase in punishment; for then the demons will never again be permitted to leave the confines of hell, but will be finally imprisoned for all eternity; and the reprobate souls of men will be tormented by union with their hideous bodies.

  3. Hell is a state of the greatest and most complete misfortune, as is evident from all that has been said. The damned have no joy whatever, and it were better for them if they had not been born (Matthew 26:24). Not long ago Mivart (The Nineteenth Century, Dec., 1892, Febr. and Apr., 1893) advocated the opinion that the pains of the damned would decrease with time and that in the end their lot would not be so extremely sad; that they would finally reach a certain kind of happiness and would prefer existence to annihilation; and although they would still continue to suffer a punishment symbolically described as a fire by the Bible, yet they would hate God no longer, and the most unfortunate among them be happier than many a pauper in this life. It is quite obvious that all this is opposed to Scripture and the teaching of the Church. The articles cited were condemned by the Congregation of the Index and the Holy Office on 14 and 19 July, 1893 (cf. "Civiltà Cattolica", I, 1893, 672).

Eternal damnation

Besides employing the terms Hades and Gehenna, our Lord spoke of eternal damnation by the use of various imagery. Let me briefly mention some of these. In Matthew, those religious persons who professed faith without possessing it were cast from the presence of our Lord (7:23). Apostates, in the next chapter of Matthew (8:12), were cast into “outer darkness,” where there would be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (cf. also 22:13, 25:30). In Matthew 10:28, God is said to be the One Who “is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” In chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel, another reference to eternal punishment is found:

So shall it be at the end of the world. The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from among the just. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50

In chapter 18 of Matthew, our Lord stated that the punishment of one who caused a “little one” to stumble would be worse than placing a millstone around his neck and drowning him (18:6). In Mark, “hell” is described as an “unquenchable fire “ (9:42, 43).

Jesus was not the only one to speak of eternal punishment for the wicked. While they rarely employed the terms Hades or Gehenna, the writers of the New Testament spoke frequently on the subject of eternal judgment. Listed below are passages of which I am presently aware:

Acts 2—Here, while not explicitly stated, the force of the phenomenon of Pentecost was shown by Peter to be a partial fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel in chapter 2. The “day of the Lord” was a day of judgment, but whoever called upon the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2:31-32). Peter’s audience understood that he was warning them of the wrath of God because they had put to death God’s Messiah. On them, God’s wrath would come. No wonder they cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37; cf. also 24:15).

Romans 2:5-10 — But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his works. To them indeed, who according to patience in good work, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: But to them that are contentious, and who obey not the truth, but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation. Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. But glory, and honour, and peace to every one that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:10-11 — For we must all be manifested before the judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we use persuasion to men; but to God we are manifest. And I trust also that in your consciences we are manifest.

I realize that the immediate context refers to the fact that all true believers will have to give account to God, but I also think that the “fear of the Lord” may include the realization that the unsaved must endure the wrath of God, a strong incentive to evangelism.

Galatians 6:7-8 — Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting.

The principle underscored here is that judgment involves the reaping of what we have sown. Sin has consequences!

Philippians 1:28 — And in nothing be ye terrified by the adversaries: which to them is a cause of perdition, but to you of salvation, and this from God:

Philippians 3:19-21 — Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things. But our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of his glory, according to the operation whereby also he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

1 Thessalonians 5:3, 9 — For when they shall say, peace and security; then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape... For God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but unto the purchasing of salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 — Seeing it is a just thing with God to repay tribulation to them that trouble you: And to you who are troubled, rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with the angels of his power: In a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be made wonderful in all them who have believed; because our testimony was believed upon you in that day.

Two significant points here are that sinners must suffer the consequences for the evil they have perpetrated upon the saints (verse 6), and that “hell” is separation from God, eternally (verse 9).

Hebrews 6:1-2 — Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and imposition of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

Hebrews 10:27, 29, 39 — But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries... How much more, do you think he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace?... But we are not the children of withdrawing unto perdition, but of faith to the saving of the soul.

James 4:12 — There is one lawgiver, and judge, that is able to destroy and to deliver.

2 Peter 2:4-9, 12, 17 — For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but delivered them, drawn down by infernal ropes to the lower hell, unto torments, to be reserved unto judgment: And spared not the original world, but preserved Noe, the eighth person, the preacher of justice, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. And reducing the cities of the Sodomites, and of the Gomorrhites, into ashes, condemned them to be overthrown, making them an example to those that should after act wickedly. And delivered just Lot, oppressed by the injustice and lewd conversation of the wicked. For in sight and hearing he was just: dwelling among them, who from day to day vexed the just soul with unjust works. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly from temptation, but to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be tormented... But these men, as irrational beasts, naturally tending to the snare and to destruction, blaspheming those things which they know not, shall perish in their corruption... These are fountains without water, and clouds tossed with whirlwinds, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved.

Revelation 14:9-11 — And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice: If any man shall adore the beast and his image, and receive his character in his forehead, or in his hand; He also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled with pure wine in the cup of his wrath, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the sight of the holy angels, and in the sight of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever: neither have they rest day nor night, who have adored the beast, and his image, and whoever receiveth the character of his name.

Revelation 20:12-15 — And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire.

Revelation 21:8 — But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Attempting to draw all of the biblical data together, we can say that one’s eternal torment is forever sealed at the time of death. The damned souls will be cast into the lake of fire. They are in constant and conscious agony, which endures for eternity. They will have no second chance to change their status. There will probably be physical pain, but surely there will be the mental anguish of knowing they are forever separated from the living and loving God, Whom they have rejected.

Objections to the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment

Since hell is not a popular subject, we are not surprised to find men resisting it and questioning how it could possibly be so. It is therefore necessary to consider some of the major and most frequent objections to the doctrine of eternal damnation.

(1) Hell is unduely harsh. Many are horrified when, in the Old Testament, God ordered the Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites, who inhabited the land they were to possess (e.g. Deuteronomy 20:17-18). How could a good and loving God ever order such a slaughter? The same kind of reaction is experienced whenever Christians begin to speak of hell in biblical terms of eternal, irreversible torment. To use a well-known constitutional phrase, such a fate is “cruel and unusual.” But is it?

The first thing that must be pointed out is that such a reaction reflects in the critic a failure to see sin in its true light. When we say that the punishment does not fit the crime, and if we think the punishment is too harsh, we have revealed that we do not take the crime seriously enough. The Canaanites, for example, were so wicked and immoral that their sexual practices could not be described in this message without causing some to stumble (cf. Ephesians 5:12). It was therefore necessary to destroy every living creature, for even the beasts were a part of their immorality (cf. Leviticus 20, especially verses 15-16).

Stop and think about it for a moment. Suppose that the doctor found you had cancer in your foot and told you that in order to save your life, he would have to amputate. Now I know that a foot is a very wonderful thing, but do you think the doctors and the hospital are unduly harsh in insisting that it be cut off? Certainly not if it means that your life can be spared. The spiritual cancer of sin, prevalent in men, must be dealt with severely because it is deadly. We must learn to see sin as God views it, and then we will not think hell too cruel.

Secondly, we do not properly understand God, He is not some kind of heavenly softie, Who is so full of love that He cannot bring Himself to deal with men in judgment. He is love, but He is also a God of justice and wrath when confronted with sin. If your “god” does not hate sin and deal with it, your “god” is not the God of the Bible (cf. Nahum 1:2-8; Romans 1:18; 2:5; 5:9; 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; Revelation 6:16ff.; 16:19, etc.).

I find it interesting to observe that the two major objections which men have to the existence of God answer each other. Their first objection is: “How can there be a God when there is so much evil?” The second is: “How can there be a good God Who would condemn men and women to an eternal hell?” In the very simplest of explanations, we must say that there is a good God Who has allowed evil and Who has chosen to deal with that evil by eternal damnation. How, may I ask, can God be good and not deal decisively and justly with evil?

Finally, may I remind you that the good news of the Gospel is that the Lord Jesus Christ took our punishment saved for us for all eternity on the cross of Calvary:

Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. … Because his soul hath laboured, he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:4-6, 11. Cf. also 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:22-25; Hebrews 9:27-28).

Whatever men will experience in hell, Jesus Christ has already suffered something of it on Calvary. This means that while hell is severe, it is no more severe than is required. And more than this, since Christ has already suffered eternal torment so that we need not bear the penalty of sin, hell is only required for those who refuse the salvation already achieved by Christ.

(2) Hell is unfair. Some of those who challenge the goodness of God because of a literal hell would be willing to admit that all men, to some degree, are sinners. But they would hasten to add that we are not all equally sinful. And that, I believe, is true. Hell, however, is not a state of misery in which all men suffer equally. If this were true, hell would certainly seem unfair. Should the heathen in Africa be judged with the same intensity, who have never heard the name of Christ or the message of the gospel? The Scriptures tell us this will not be:

And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. Luke 12:47-48

Should a man like Adolph Hitler, who was responsible for the murder of millions, suffer the same torment as an unbelieving German, who sought to spare people from persecution and death? The scripture tells us, “And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works” (Revelation 20:13; cf. also Romans 1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Revelation 16:5-6).

Hell is just condemnation because there are degrees of torment meted out in accordance with the revelation received and the actions of each individual. Those in hell are those who rejected Christ and remained in their sins. The amount of torment suffered, however, is dependent upon the knowledge rejected and the sins which those individuals have committed.

Some would hasten to complain that hell isn’t fair because it cannot be avoided. If we believe that God is sovereign in the process of salvation, then God has offered everyone to be saved through his calling; it's up to us to answer to that call. God is sovereign in the process of salvation. All whom He chooses will be saved, while those He rejects (by their own free will) will be forever condemned:

The Lord hath made all things for himself: the wicked also for the evil day. Proverbs 16:4

Therefore he hath mercy on whom he will; and whom he will, he hardeneth. … What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, That he might shew the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he hath prepared unto glory? Romans 9:18, 22-23

We must not deny that God must first choose to save, and then by His sovereign process draw the lost to Himself. Apart from this, no one is saved. Yet we must hasten to say that this is not the entire story. Man is a sinner deserving of God’s wrath (Romans 3:10-18). Those who are condemned have received some calling concerning God, which they have willfully rejected (cf. Romans 1-3). The Bible clearly teaches that man suffers God’s wrath because he deserves it:

And I heard the angel of the waters saying: Thou art just, O Lord, who art, and who wast, the Holy One, because thou hast judged these things: For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. Revelation 16:5-6

Besides this, man goes to eternal torment because he has chosen to do so. Hell is not only God giving men what they deserve; He is giving them what they want:

But they are not arbitrary inflictions; they represent, rather, a conscious growing into the state in which one has chosen to be. The unbeliever has preferred to be by himself, without God, defying God, having God against him, and he shall have his preference. Nobody stands under the wrath of God save those who have chosen to do so. When we say that hell is unfair, we mean that it is unjust. In effect, we are saying that God is not just in sending anyone to hell. But let us remember that justice is the very reason all should be condemned forever, apart from God. Whenever we make a plea based upon justice, we must be aware that it is justice which condemns us. Only grace saves men. If it is God’s justice that explains the reason for a hell, it is God’s unsearchable grace that provides a heaven for sinners such as you and I.”

What to do?

We must conclude that the doctrine of eternal damnation is one that is widely taught in the Bible, not so much by the term Sheol as by many other terms and images. Jesus spoke of it more than any other. The apostles, too, warned men of its certainty. Anyone who believes the Bible to be a word from God must take the doctrine of eternal punishment seriously. Let me suggest several levels of application which this doctrine necessitates.

First, if you don't believe in God through Jesus Christ, the Bible urges you to do so without delay:

For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

If you trust in Jesus Christ as your substitute, Who bore your sins and Who offers you His righteousness, you will be saved from the wrath to come. But if you reject His work on your behalf, you will be condemned on the basis of your works (Revelation 20:13).

Christians should learn to think of hell in the broader terms of eternal judgment. Hell is Gehenna, the lake of fire, and a great number of other images. Eternal torment was taught most clearly by our Lord Himself, Who endured the torment of eternal separation from God for us. Hell is described by a wide variety of highly figurative images, and while it is a very literal and painful state of existence, it should be expected to be an existence beyond our present ability to comprehend, just as heaven must be.

For the Christian, the doctrine of eternal judgment should be an incentive for worship and praise. The greatness of our salvation is measured by the greatness of the judgment from which we have been delivered by our Lord. Whenever we contemplate that from which we were saved, it should inspire us to worship our Great Redeemer, Who bore the sorrows of hell for us that we might have life and hope in Him. The doctrine of eternal damnation should cause to take sin more seriously. Our Lord died for sin. Hell was intended for sin. Our Lord urged His disciples to take sin seriously:

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. And if thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off. It is better for thee to enter lame into life everlasting, than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out. It is better for thee with one eye to enter into the kingdom of God, than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. Mark 9:43-47

Our Lord was instructing us that sin leads to judgment, and that whatever steps are necessary to avoid it should be taken, no matter how painful or sacrificial.

Sin in the believer’s life is no less offensive to God. In one sense, it is a greater offense, for the Christian has the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome it (Romans 8:1-4). If the Christian persists in sin, he reflects an attitude of flippancy toward sin, and worse than this, he lightly esteems the death of Christ for those sins. Christ’s work on the cross is not valued rightly when the Christian is not grieved by the sin in his life. God must then deal in discipline for willful rebellion:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

Future judgment is intended to be an incentive for purity in the lives of the saints:

But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness? Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of the Lord, by which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with the burning heat? 2 Peter 3:10-12

Finally, the doctrine of eternal judgment should motivate the Christian to take evangelism seriously. If men and women are going to spend eternity in torment, apart from the living God, it is imperative that we warn them of the danger they are in. As the apostle Paul put it, “Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we use persuasion to men; …” (2 Corinthians 5:11). And when we share the good news of the gospel, let us not omit the fundamental fact of eternal judgment, for it is to this that the Spirit of God will bear witness, convincing the lost of the imminent danger of unbelief:

And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment. Of sin: because they believed not in me. And of justice: because I go to the Father; and you shall see me no longer. And of judgment: because the prince of this world is already judged. John 16:8-11

More on Hell

Maybe instead of speaking about wrath, another theological and Biblical term, familiar to practically everybody, should be used - hell. Modern man might have advanced in many areas, but he still shows a predilection for the word's use in such a variety of ways, so staggering the linguistic imagination that it approaches the status of being the universal word in our speech.

Hell is the kind of subject that forces itself into most discussions about religion. Somewhere tucked away in the back corners of the human mind is the idea of hell. Unbelievers not excluded. The way people get around the haunting scepter of hell's prince, whose presence is more faithful than our own shadows, is to assert that hell is something that people create for themselves on earth. This thought recurs with faithful precision wherever people talk about religion. All this business about countering "hell on earth" is hardly more than whistling in the dark. Man has created plenty of "hells" for himself on this earth. Calling a place or a situation "a living hell" seems frequently to be an apt and appropriate expression used. But limiting hell to earth is really only a game that people play. The thought of hell on earth is much more tolerable than facing hell after death. A hell on earth has to end. The same cannot be said with any confidence about hell after death.

A hell after this life is so uncomfortable not only to the average man but also to many professional theologians that many religions have tried to dispose of the whole business. The Mormons teach that man has another chance after life. The Jehovah's Witnesses - and they are followed by so many others in this respect - teach that annihilation and not hell is the fate of those who do not follow their doctrines. Annihilation or a return to nonexistence is preferable to the torturous existence of hell. Jesus even said of Judas, as He thought of his fate in hell, that it would have been better if that traitorous disciple had never been born.

Many theologians in the last 200 years have influenced the major denominations with their ideas that hell has no real existence but that it belongs to the inventions of man's creative imagination. Many hybrids of this type of thinking can be readily found. One of the most popular is that God is so loving that He would hardly hold men responsible for their mistakes. In this type of thinking Jesus dies not to take away sin and its awful consequences but to alleviate man's consciousness of guilt. Jesus dies to show man that everything is all right. His death is hardly more than an object lesson. For others hell is simply symbolical of men's alienation from God or from each other. At worst, "Hell is other people."

God's Wrath (Otherwise Known as Hell) - The Overarching Reality

Everywhere in our New Testament, God's wrath or personal anger over sin is written in capital letters. It is the backdrop without which the mission of Jesus can never be understood. The angelic message to Joseph about Mary's Son states that the Child is going to save His people from their sins. This does not mean that with the appearance of Jesus, people are going to stop sinning. It does mean that He is going to save them from the hellish consequences of their sin. Sin carries with it the idea of penalty, liability to punishment. It's the penalty of sin that frightens people. This motivates them to shove hell under the rug or to exchange it for something less unpleasant. Death and hell are sin's ultimate penalties.

The Mosaic Code, especially as it is found in the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, prescribes specific penalties for specific sins. For us who are removed by time and culture from the ancient Israelites, the cadence of sin and punishment might be both uninteresting and inappropriate. Still God was teaching the lesson with loud and clear words that sin is a real offence to Him and that the penalty must be extracted. If we avoid it, we do so only for a time. Sin's penalty is inevitable. The guilt of sin has more reality than a psychological disturbance.

The Jews at Jesus' time were very conscious of the cause and effect relationship between sin and punishment. At one time His disciples asked Jesus whether a certain man's blindness was caused by his own sin or his parents'. They had interpreted the man's blindness, rightly or wrongly, as a penalty for a specific sin which they were trying to pinpoint. The Book of Job is a series of conversations discussing what sin Job had done to earn such calamities.

The relationship between sin and God's wrath as it manifests itself in specific punishments and the more general punishment of hell gives essential meaning to the death of Jesus. Many have offered other explanations for the death of Jesus. Here are several examples: Jesus died to show us that God is not angry and that we don't have to fear death, even the most torturous; Jesus died because He was considered by the Roman occupation forces as an insurrectionist; Jesus died because he threatened to destroy the ecclesiastical establishment; Jesus died because He interpreted this as His fate; it was the inevitable. To this could be added many other explanations. These opinions - some containing perhaps even more than a grain of truth - should not obscure the real cause of His death, God's wrath over sin as God placed it on Jesus. This is the message of the four Gospels and attested to by the other New Testament writings.

The Concept of Wrath in the Preaching of John and Jesus

Before Jesus had begun His public ministry, John the Baptizer, Jesus' forerunner, preached on the wrath of God in such a way that it reminded the people of the preaching of many of the Old Testament prophets, especially Elijah. Men like Elijah were associated with the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel, the Ten Tribes, by the Assyrians, and the deportation of Judah by the Babylonians. Theirs was a message with teeth and there was no doubt in the people's mind that when God spoke His message of wrath through His prophets, He really meant it!

It is no wonder that when John appeared in the wilderness around the Jordan there was a mass exodus that crossed the denominational boundaries of that time. The Judeans could not forget that their brothers in the north had once been removed from God's presence by permanent exportation and that their own capital city of Jerusalem had been reduced to ashes by foreign hordes around the year 600 B. C. Their own ancestors had been forced to live in Babylonia.

John immediately suspected the motives of those who flocked into the river for baptism. Were they coming for baptism because they believed sincerely that they had offended God by their lives; or was it only an insurance policy against divine extermination? The fiery preacher hardly greeted them with open arms. Here was one "congregation" which demanded more of the applicant than that he sign a yellow card professing that he sincerely loves the Lord Jesus. He called them snakes, children not of God but of that creature in whom Satan had become incarnate. Later Jesus called them snakes right to their faces.

People are not “just bad.” They are agents of Satan; and God's wrath zeroes in on the person and on his allegiance to Satan. When God's wrath appears, all status relationships disappear. Abraham's sons can be replaced by stones. They have the marks of religiosity as far as men are concerned, but with God they have registered only negatively. They are headed for the fire.

Like it or not, God's wrath is associated with fire. Little wonder that a common English expression indicates the intensity of heat with the words: "hot as hell." Both John and Jesus use the word fire to express God's final eschatological displeasure over man's rebellion. However, the thought is not new with them. In the Old Testament psalms, for example, God's anger burns. Zephaniah states that "in the fire of His jealous wrath all the earth shall be consumed." Malachi compares the day of judgment with the heat of a burning oven. When fire is used of God's wrath, it means the destruction or removal of what God considers offensive to Him.

John introduced the “fire” concept of God's wrath into the New Testament preaching. Trees cut down faced further destruction in fire. As fiery as John was, he promised that the message of Jesus would be even more severe. John preached about the fire, but Jesus would burn all those opposed to Him with what John calls "the unquenchable fire". Jesus lived up to all of John's expectations. The tares, the people who have the marks of Christians but really are not, are consigned to the fire. Those who have not done good to the least of Jesus' brethren are told to go to the eternal fire. Chorazin and Capernaum are to face a fate worse than Sodom's. That city with Gomorrah was literally burned alive by fire in Abraham's day. Some archeologists assert these two ancient cities lie beneath the Dead Sea. In the parable of the wedding feast for the king's son, those who refuse the invitation have their cities burned. Such preaching was not wasted on the Jews.

Fire is not the only way God's wrath is described in the New Testament. Equally effective is the idea of separation from God. John told the Pharisees and the Sadducees that without a sincere change in their lives, they would be cut off from God's people in spite of their blood relationship to Abraham. The workers in the parable of the vineyard are given a one-way ticket out of their possession - almost in the style of Adam and Eve's exit from Eden's garden. Those who have not acted positively to the least of Jesus' brethren hear the gruesome verdict: "Depart." The parables of the net and the tares teach the same lesson: separation from God's righteous ones.

Hell's fire, whatever else it involves, provides no light. Already in the Old Testament, the day of the Lord's eschatological judgment is one of "deep darkness". Believing Gentiles bask with Abraham and the patriarchs in eternal light. Unbelieving Jews, whom Jesus calls the "sons of the kingdom," are to be thrown into the outer darkness. The guest without the wedding garment faces a similar doom.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable feature of God's wrath is its eternal quality. Many people have tried to get around this. Yet the preaching of Jesus leaves little doubt about hell's durable quality. Jesus never speaks about the second chance. The fire that burns does not go out.

God's chief agent in carrying out His wrath and managing hell is Satan and the rebellious angels. All who have rebelled against God or who have refused to repent deserve each other. The presence of evil philosophers have tried to explain it but with no success. The Bible explains it as the traitorous act of men and angels, both of whom were made somewhat like God Himself and whom God had even taken into His confidence. Strange as it might seem, God uses His most eminent opponent, Satan, to execute wrath and judgment. He is thus an instrument in God's hand and under His control. Many other things could be said about God's wrath, but some of its chief characteristics according to the preaching of John and Jesus can be recapped here: It is associated with fire. It involves separation from God and His chosen people. It cloaks its victims with an eternal shroud of darkness. It never ends. Satan is active in carrying out God's wrath. Only when God's wrath is understood in such strong terms does the task of Jesus of Nazareth become clearer: No words can adequately describe God's wrath. In connection with the words of John, Jesus says that all righteousness must be fulfilled. In His baptism Jesus puts Himself in the sinners' place. Not only does He do what they should have done, but He suffers the penalties for what they have done.

A Kinder, Gentler Theology of Hell?

Prolegomena: The Impact Of Postmodernism

For Christians the entire worldview stands on the biblically based presupposition that “the one living and true God has self-attestingly revealed Himself in the Christian Scriptures.” Moreover, every bible student must come to God’s Word believing the soteriological teachings of Scripture and the Catholic Church's teaching. Otherwise, he would be denying the faith even as he studies it.

But other preunderstandings can make it difficult to interpret a passage of Scripture correctly. Some preunderstandings are cultural. Postmodernism, for example, has had its bad impact on evangelical thinking. Postmodernism teaches “that there is no objective truth, that moral values are relative, and that reality is socially constructed by a host of diverse communities.” It does not see religion as a set of beliefs about what is real and what is not. Rather, religion is a choice—something to be incorporated into one’s worldview if he chooses. Thus, postmodernism leads a person to believe in what he likes rather than what the Catholic Church and its interpretation of the bible presents as universal truth.

Probably no one really likes to include the doctrine of eternal hell in his belief system. “Today preachers seldom mention Hell ... People have never liked to hear about Hell. The difference is that today, unlike any other time in history, many people are unwilling to believe ... what they do not enjoy (as if aesthetic considerations determined questions of fact).” The influence of postmodernism on the theology of Clark Pinnock, one of the leading “evangelical” annihilationists, seems to be clear in statements such as the following:

There is a powerful moral revulsion against the traditional doctrine of the nature of hell. Everlasting torture is intolerable from a moral point of view because it pictures God acting like a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die. How can one love a God like that?

Is not Pinnock saying that people believe in what they enjoy, and since they do not enjoy the thought of eternal hell, they can dismiss it, and thus construct their own narrative, their own reality? With such cultural preunderstandings, it is impossible for one to interpret Scripture accurately.

Some preunderstandings are theological. If one already has his mind (his own personal belief) made up about what God is like, what man is like, what sin and salvation are like, he may bring those preunderstandings to the passage of Scripture (in a heretical point of view) and the teaching against what the Catholic Church teaches. In other words, one’s larger theological system will probably impact his interpretation of an individual passage of Scripture. The purpose in the rest of this study, therefore, is to demonstrate that annihilationism is not an isolated deviation from orthodoxy, but is only a part of a larger theological breakdown. Annihilationists thus have not only departed from a biblical understanding of eschatology, but also from the doctrines of God, man, sin, and salvation.

Theology Proper: A Reductionist View Of God

Annihilationists Reduce God’s Nature to Love

In Theology Proper, annihilationists have nearly reduced God’s nature to love. In the words of Pinnock and Brow, “Love, then is not just something that God decides to do, not just an occasional attribute. Love is what characterizes God essentially—as a dynamic livingness, a divine circling and relating.

Of course, Scripture does emphasize the love of God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8), and preachers have given proper recognition to it. Some have even elevated love over God’s other attributes. One, in a burst of enthusiasm insisted that “as no other attribute, love is the primary motive in God, and to satisfy His love all creation has been formed.” But clearly this quote was not teaching that “love is what characterizes God essentially,” nor that love is “ontologically ultimate.

For “evangelical” annihilationists, however, God’s love serves as a preunderstanding to the study of hell. Pinnock calls the love of God one of his “control beliefs.” “The foundation of my theology of religion,” he says, “is a belief in the unbounded generosity of God revealed in Jesus Christ.” This means, therefore, that “the nature of hell must not contradict what we know about God’s love... .” “God is not vindictive and does not practice sadism. The lurid portrayals of hellfire in the Christian tradition contradict God’s identity, according to the gospel.” Thus it is impossible for the annihilationists to believe in eternal hell, because God’s love serves as an immovable roadblock to such a doctrine.

In fact, logically, a God who is essentially love could never send people to an eternal hell.” Thomas Talbot uses the following set of beliefs to prove that eternal hell is absolutely illogical.

  1. God exists.

  2. God is both omniscient and omnipotent.
  3. God loves every created person.
  4. Evil exists.
  5. God will irrevocably reject some persons and subject those persons to everlasting punishment.

Talbot insists that either 3 or 5 is illogical. He writes, “When the doctrine of everlasting punishment is conjoined with other doctrines essential to the Christian faith, a logical paradox arises that proponents of the doctrine have failed to appreciate; as a consequence, a Christian theist must either reject the doctrine as incompatible with Christianity or else admit that Christianity is itself logically inconsistent.” Such arguments from “control beliefs” and logical negations clearly demonstrate that “evangelical” annihilationists cannot take the Scripture passages on hell at face value. They have already decided that a God of love could not send people to an eternal hell.

God Revealed with Many Attributes

Some theologians have suggested other attributes of God as primary or ultimate. In a certain book the author nominated holiness as God’s “preeminent” attribute. The author was concerned about the liberal developments in theology that infected the doctrines of sin, law, and the atonement.

There can be no proper doctrine of the atonement and no proper doctrine of retribution, so long as Holiness is refused its preeminence. Love must have a norm or standard, and this norm or standard can be found only in Holiness. The old conviction of sin and the sense of guilt that drove the convicted sinner to the cross are inseparable from a firm belief in the self-affirming attribute of God as logically prior to and as conditioning the self-communicating attribute.”

Certainly God’s holiness defined as God’s self-affirming purity is a worthy possibility for the primary attribute of God if there were one. But can any one attribute be elevated above the others? Should one minimize God’s justice, truth, grace, or omnipotence? Are they any less important in God than holiness or love? Evangelical annihilationists, therefore, have erred in their extreme reductionism of God’s nature.

Annihilationists Sentimentalize Love

They have also sentimentalized God’s love. “Love” in Scripture is clearly defined in its meaning and expression. God loves Israel in His election of her (Deuteronomy 7:7–9). God loves the world in the sense that He providentially rules over it with mercy (Matthew 5:45). God peculiarly loves His elect (Ephesians 5:25). Scripture consistently presents love as ultimately expressed in the giving of His Son to die on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

But God limits the expression of His love to those who accept Christ as their Savior. According to the Scriptures, “He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). From the original pair’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden through the Book of Revelation, the plot-line of the biblical message includes God’s judgment of sin. “The point that cannot be escaped,” writes someone, “is that God’s wrath is not some minor and easily dismissed peripheral element to the Bible’s plot-line ... It is not going too far to say that the Bible would not have a plot-line at all if there were no wrath.

What one understands God to be like is a determining factor in his theology. It is extremely dangerous to minimize or nullify any of God’s attributes. If people are not careful at this point, they may find themselves worshiping a god other than the God of Scripture. “Several of the very worst corruptions of Christian truth are based on the notion that God can be understood solely in terms of His love.

Anthropology: A Depreciation Of The Human Soul

Annihilationism: Conditional Immortality

Anthropology is another doctrine involved in the theological breakdown of those who hold to annihilationism. Annihilationists teach conditional immortality, which may be defined as “the idea that humans were made mortal with everlasting life being a gift, not a natural capacity.” Of course, physically human beings are mortal and will die. But the question being debated is, Is the human soul inherently immortal (as the traditionalists teach), or does it become immortal only through salvation (as the annihilationists teach)?

Annihilationists typically teach that immortality is bestowed on the righteous at the resurrection. Clark Pinnock the annihilationist explains,

The Bible does not teach the natural immortality of the soul; it points instead to the resurrection of the body as God’s gift to believers ...The Bible teaches conditionalism: God created humans mortal with a capacity for life everlasting, but it is not their inherent possession. Immortality is a gift God offers us in the gospel, not an inalienable possession.

Immortality in Scripture and Theology

Part of the debate over the immortality of the soul is that the term, “immortal” is used somewhat differently in theology than it is in Scripture. Scripture tends to use the words, “everlasting,” or “eternal” instead of “immortal.” Through these words, the immortality of the soul is clearly taught.

Annihilationism: Immortality Comes from Greek Philosophy

Annihilationists defend conditional immortality primarily with two arguments. First they argue that the traditional view of the immortality of the soul comes from Greek philosophy rather than from the Bible. Pinnock writes,

I am convinced that the hellenistic belief in the immortality of the soul has done more than anything else (specifically more than the Bible) to give credibility to the doctrine of the everlasting conscious punishment of the wicked. This belief, not holy Scripture, is what gives this doctrine the credibility it does not deserve.

But this argument is not convincing. First of all, the traditional Christian understanding of the immortality of the soul is different from Greek philosophy. Plato taught that souls were inherently immortal. Christians have taught that souls are derivatively immortal, that God grants immortality to human beings because they are made in His likeness. Second, traditionalists insist that the doctrine of the everlasting nature of the soul comes from Scripture, not philosophy. In the Old Testament, the immortality of the soul is clearly implied at the creation of the human race. When God created the first man and woman, He said, “Let us make man to our image and likeness: … And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. ... And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 1:26–27; 2:7).

In this passage, there are two significant statements. First, God addresses Himself when He creates man—“Let us ...” This is different from the way He creates animals. It is noted that “when God creates man, he addresses himself: ‘Let us ... ,’ Gen. 1:26. But when he creates animals, he addresses the inanimate world: ‘Let the waters bring forth the moving creature,’ Gen. 1:20.” The immortality of the soul is implied in the divine personal relationship with mankind.

The second significant statement in this passage is that God breathes the breath of life into man’s lungs. Again, this is totally unlike the way God brings life to the animals. There is an intimate inbreathing of God’s breath into man. “The usage of the word (‘breathed’) cannot be mistaken. As used in the text, it is descriptive of imparting the immortal spirit ...

Many NT passages also teach immortality of the soul. Matthew 25:46, for example, says that at the judgment, some “shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.” Only an immortal soul can suffer eternal punishment or enjoy eternal life. As one testifies, “I do not believe in the traditional view of hell because I accept the immortality of human beings, but the other way around. I believe in the immortality of human beings because the Bible clearly teaches everlasting damnation for the wicked and everlasting life for the righteous.

Annihilationism: Only God Has Immortality

Annihilationists also support the doctrine of conditional immortality with 1 Timothy 6:16, that “only God has immortality.” If only God has immortality, they argue, humans do not. But traditionalists (Catholics) have a number of responses to this argument. First, the argument proves too much because it would also prove that believers do not have immortality and cannot live forever. Second, it proves too much because it would prove that the elect angels would not live forever. Third, it misses the point of the verse, which is that “the essential difference between the Creator and all His works [is] that he alone by Himself subsists.” God is an invisible, personal, living Spirit. “Living” simply means that God has energy of intellect, emotions, and will in Himself, and the source of life is in Him, not in any other being or thing external to Himself. God’s very nature is to exist. He does not have to will it. Fourth, this verse is emphasizing that only God has lived from eternity past as well as into the eternity future. And fifth, this verse teaches that only God has innate and essential immortality. Human immortality is dependent upon and derived from God.

The traditional (Catholic) view of the immortality of the soul is correct: “After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls”.

Hamartiology: A Devaluation Of The Nature Of Sin

Another change in the theological system of annihilationism relates to the doctrine of sin. Annihilationists boldly teach that human sin is not wicked enough to be punished eternally. Sin against an infinite God, they say, does not justify infinite penalty. Pinnock explains:

Anselm [St. Anselm of the Catholic Church] tried to argue that our sins are worthy of an infinite punishment because they are committed against an infinite majesty. This may have worked in the Middle Ages, but it will not work as an argument today. We do not accept inequality in judgments on the basis of the honor of the victim, as if stealing from a doctor is worse than stealing from a beggar. The fact that we have sinned against an infinite God does not justify an infinite penalty.

Pinnock insists, moreover, that eternal punishment would be vindictive on God’s part. “What purpose of God would be served by the unending torture of the wicked except sheer vengeance and vindictiveness?

Once again, however, it is important to note that this is not a matter for human evaluation but of understanding Scripture. God alone, after all, can tell us what punishment for sin is appropriate, and we can learn this only from His Church (The Catholic Church) who has given the authority to interpret the Scriptures. Let us ask ourselves this question: “Does anyone seriously claim to know how enormous an evil sin is in God’s eyes?” The biblical view teaches that sins against an infinite God do require eternal punishment. To begin with, the argument that something done finitely cannot have infinite consequences is not consistent. The Christian’s finite good works here on earth are graciously rewarded infinitely. Likewise, an unbeliever’s wickedness can be punished infinitely.

But it is also certain that ongoing rebellion demands ongoing punishment, and there is no evidence in Scripture that a depraved person ever of his own initiative or power gives up his sinful autonomy. The evidence is actually to the contrary (Revelation 9:20–21; 21:27; 22:15). No one can, in fact, repent of his sin without the grace of God, so there can be no repentance in hell. “Since we cannot measure the power of the depraved will to resist God, we cannot deny the possibility of endless sinning ... Not the punishing, but the non-punishing, would impugn his justice; for if it is just to punish sin at all, it is just to punish it as long as it exists.” Moreover, endless guilt requires eternal punishment: “However long the sinner may be punished, he never ceases to be ill-deserving. Justice, therefore, which gives to all according to their deserts, cannot cease to punish. Since the reason for punishment is endless, the punishment itself must be endless.” The quality of God’s justice is at stake here. Eternal punishment is the only punishment that could satisfy a perfectly holy and just God.

Soteriology: A Minimizing Of Christ’s Atonement For Sin

As noted above, annihilationists teach that finite human sin is not deserving of eternal punishment. “Is it not plain,” says Pinnock, “that sin committed in time and space cannot deserve limitless divine retribution.” However, if it were temporary punishment that Christ paid for, His death was certainly less significant than if he took our eternal punishment. Someone says,

If sin is punishable and to be punished for only one thousand years, is it probable that one of the persons of the Trinity would submit to such an amazing humiliation as to become a worm of the dust, and undergo the awful passion of Calvary, in order to deliver his rebellious creature from a transient evil which is to be succeeded by billions of millenniums of happiness? A thousand years is indeed a long time, and a thousand years of suffering is indeed a great woe; but it shrinks to nothing in comparison with what is involved in the humiliation and agony of God incarnate.

Again, this is a vital theological point, “A suffering that in time would cease, surely would not justify such a strange and stupendous sacrifice as that of the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of God.


It has been the purpose of this essay to demonstrate by a survey of the doctrinal categories that the doctrine of annihilationism as taught by a few contemporary “evangelicals” is a significant part of a multifaceted compromise of a biblical systematic theology. I have also suggested that annihilationists often come to the Scriptures with cultural and theological preunderstandings that negate the historical-grammatical meaning of the passages:

Despite the sincerity of their motives, one wonders more than a little to what extent the growing popularity of various forms of annihilationism and conditional immortality are a reflection of this age of pluralism. It is getting harder and harder to be faithful to the “hard” lines of Scripture. And in this way, evangelicalism itself may contribute to the gagging of God by silencing the severity of his warnings and by minimizing the awfulness of the punishment that justly awaits those untouched by his redeeming grace.

Moreover, the doctrinal compromises of annihilationism have serious consequences. We can conclude this study with this penetrating question:

Does it matter whether one is a conditionalist or not? I think it does: for a conditionalist’s idea of God will miss out on the glory of divine justice, and his idea of worship will miss out on praise for God’s judgments, and his idea of heaven will miss out on the thought that praise for God’s judgments goes on (cf. Rev. 16:5–7, 19:1–5), and his idea of man will miss out on the awesome dignity of our having been made to last for eternity, and in his heretical preaching of the gospel he will miss out on telling the unconverted that their prospects without Christ are as bad as they possibly could be—for on the conditionalist view they aren’t! These, surely, are sad losses. Conditionalism, logically thought through, cannot but impoverish the soul and limit his usefulness to accept the truth. That is why I am concerned about the current trend towards conditionalism. I hope it may soon be reversed.

Sermons on Hell

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time, that their foot may slide: the day of destruction is at hand, and the time makes haste to come. Deuteronomy 32:35

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God's visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God's wonderful works towards them, remained (as verse 28) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. — The expression I have chosen for my text, their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

  1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm 72:18 "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction." (Different Bible version, not the Douay-Rheims version.)

  1. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 72:18, 19 "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!" (Different Bible version, not the Douay-Rheims version.)

  1. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.

  1. That the reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now is only that God's appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. — "There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God." — By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. — The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.

  1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men, bad christians and the like into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. — He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

  1. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "Cut it done therefore: why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke 13:7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, that holds it back.

  1. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John 3:18 "But he that doth not believe, is already judged". So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John 8:23 "You are from beneath". And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.

  1. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now reading this, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.

So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

  1. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

  1. There are in the souls of wicked men, worldly people, secular christians who love the world and not God, those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God's restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isaiah 57:20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, "Hitherto thou shalt come, and shalt go no further" but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

  1. It is no security to carnal christians with an ungodly living, evildoers and wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world are in God's hands universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination.

  1. Natural men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men's own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Ecclesiastes 2:16 "the learned dieth in like manner as the unlearned."

  1. All bad christians, unbelievers and wicked men's pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of mercy, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, "No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself — I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief — Death outwitted me: God's wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me."

  1. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment, neither of eternal life or of preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, thus it is that natural men (carnal wicked christians, ungodly men, evildoers, atheists, non-christians, etc.) are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.


The use of this awful subject may be for awakening lukewarm christians and others in this world. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ and who lives a sinful life. — That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God's enemies. God's creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God's wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff on the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God's vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you were suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. — And consider here more particularly,

  1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Proverbs 20:2 "As the roaring of a lion, so also is the dread of a king: he that provoketh him, sinneth against his own soul." The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4-5 "And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him."

  1. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah 59:18 "As unto revenge, as it were to repay wrath to his adversaries". So Isaiah 66:15 "For behold the Lord will come with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind, to render his wrath in indignation, and his rebuke with flames of fire." And in many other places. So, Revelation 19:15, we read of "and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty." The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, "the wrath of God," the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is "the fierceness of the wrath of God." The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful that must be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also "the fierceness of the wrath of God the Almighty." As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!

Consider this, you who read this, that yet remain in an obstinate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezekiel 8:18 "Therefore I also will deal with them in my wrath: my eye shall not spare them, neither will I shew mercy: and when they shall cry to my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them." Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only "laugh and mock" Proverbs 1:25, 26, &c.

How awful are those words, Isaiah 63:3, which are the words of the great God. "I have trampled on them in my indignation, and have trodden them down in my wrath, and their blood is sprinkled upon my garments, and I have stained all my apparel." It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.

  1. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Romans 9:22 "What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction". And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isaiah 33:12-14 And the people shall be as ashes after a fire, as a bundle of thorns they shall be burnt with fire. Hear, you that are far off, what I have done, and you that are near know my strength. The sinners in Sion are afraid, trembling hath seized upon the hypocrites. Which of you can dwell with devouring fire? which of you shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" &c.

Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isaiah 66:23-24 "And there shall be month after month, and sabbath after sabbath: and all flesh shall come to adore before my face, saith the Lord. And they shall go out, and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched: and they shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh."

  1. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For "who knows the power of God's anger?"

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul on this planet that has not made penance and lives in mortal sin, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this world now hearing this or a similar discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole world, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the planet lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present reading this should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now read this, in some seats in some meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day's opportunity such as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition?

Are there not many who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day living as they should? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God. — And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. — And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet living outside of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children who has reached the age of reason, now hearken to the loud calls of God's word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men's hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the world; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles' days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God's grace, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Therefore, let every one that is living outside of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a very great part of this world. Let every one fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed."

The Eternity of Hell’s Torments

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. Matthew 25:46

In this chapter we have the most particular description of the day of judgment, of any in the whole Bible. Christ here declares that when he shall hereafter sit on the throne of his glory, the righteous and the wicked shall be set before him, and separated one from the other, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Then we have an account how both will be judged according to their works: how the good works of the one and the evil works of the other will be rehearsed, and how the sentence shall be pronounced accordingly. We are told what the sentence will be on each, and then we have an account of the execution of the sentence on both. In the words of the text is the account of the execution of the sentence on the wicked or the ungodly, concerning which, it is to my purpose to observe two things.

  1. The duration of the punishment on which they are here said to enter: it is called everlasting punishment.

  1. The time of their entrance on this everlasting punishment, viz. after the day of judgment, when all these things that are of a temporary continuance shall have come to an end and even those of them that are most lasting — the frame of the world itself, the earth which is said to abide forever, the ancient mountains and everlasting hills, the sun, moon, and stars. When the heavens shall have waxed old like a garment and as a vesture shall be changed, then shall be the time when the wicked shall enter on their punishment.

Doctrine. — The misery of the wicked in hell will be absolutely eternal.

There are two opinions which I mean to oppose in this doctrine. One is that the eternal death with which wicked men are threatened in Scripture, signifies no more than eternal annihilation: that God will punish their wickedness by eternally abolishing their being. The other opinion which I mean to oppose is that though the punishment of the wicked shall consist in sensible misery, yet it shall not be absolutely eternal, but only of a very long continuance.

Therefore, to establish the doctrine in opposition to these different opinions, I shall undertake to show,

  1. That it is not contrary to the divine perfections to inflict on wicked men a punishment that is absolutely eternal.

  1. That the eternal death which God threatens is not annihilation, but an abiding sensible punishment or misery.

  1. That this misery will not only continue for a very long time, but will be absolutely without end.

  1. That various good ends will be obtained by the eternal punishment of the wicked.

I. I am to show that it is not contrary to the divine perfections to inflict on wicked men a punishment that is absolutely eternal.

This is the sum of the objections usually made against this doctrine: that it is inconsistent with the justice, and especially with the mercy, of God. And some say if it be strictly just, yet how can we suppose that a merciful God can bear eternally to torment his creatures.

First, I shall briefly show that it is not inconsistent with the justice of God to inflict an eternal punishment. To evince this, I shall use only one argument, viz. that sin is heinous enough to deserve such a punishment, and such a punishment is no more than proportionable to the evil or demerit of sin. If the evil of sin be infinite, as the punishment is, then it is manifest that the punishment is no more than proportionable to the sin punished, and is no more than sin deserves. And if the obligation to love, honor, and obey God be infinite, then sin which is the violation of this obligation, is a violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Again, if God be infinitely worthy of love, honor, and obedience, then our obligation to love, and honor, and obey him is infinitely great. — So that God being infinitely glorious, or infinitely worthy of our love, honor, and obedience, our obligation to love, honor, and obey him (and so to avoid all sin) is infinitely great. Again, our obligation to love, honor, and obey God being infinitely great, sin is the violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Once more, sin being an infinite evil, deserves an infinite punishment. An infinite punishment is no more than it deserves. Therefore such punishment is just, which was the thing to be proved. There is no evading the force of this reasoning, but by denying that God, the sovereign of the universe, is infinitely glorious, which I presume none of my hearers will venture to do.

Second, I am to show that it is not inconsistent with the mercy of God, to inflict an eternal punishment on wicked men. It is an unreasonable and unscriptural notion of the mercy of God, that he is merciful in such a sense that he cannot bear that penal justice should be executed. This is to conceive of the mercy of God as a passion to which his nature is so subject that God is liable to be moved, and affected, and overcome by seeing a creature in misery, so that he cannot bear to see justice executed: which is a most unworthy and absurd notion of the mercy of God, and would, if true, argue great weakness. — It would be a great defect, and not a perfection, in the sovereign and supreme Judge of the world, to be merciful in such a sense that he could not bear to have penal justice executed. It is a very unscriptural notion of the mercy of God. The Scriptures everywhere represent the mercy of God as free and sovereign, and not that the exercises of it are necessary, so that God cannot bear justice should take place. The Scriptures abundantly speak of it as the glory of the divine attribute of mercy, that it is free and sovereign in its exercises, and not that God cannot but deliver sinners from misery. This is a mean and most unworthy idea of the divine mercy.

It is most absurd also as it is contrary to plain fact. For if there be any meaning in the objection, this is supposed in it, that all misery of the creature, whether just or unjust, is in itself contrary to the nature of God. For if his mercy be of such a nature that a very great degree of misery, though just, is contrary to his nature, then it is only to add to the mercy. And then a less degree of misery is contrary to his nature (again to add further to it), and a still less degree of misery is contrary to his nature. And so the mercy of God being infinite, all misery must be contrary to his nature, which we see to be contrary to fact. For we see that God in his providence, does indeed inflict very great calamities on mankind even in this life.

However strong such kind of objections against the eternal misery of the wicked, may seem to the carnal, senseless hearts of men, as though it were against God’s justice and mercy, yet their seeming strength arises from a want of sense of the infinite evil, odiousness, and provocation there is in sin. Hence it seems to us not suitable that any poor creature should be the subject of such misery, because we have no sense of anything abominable and provoking in any creature answerable to it. If we had, then this infinite calamity would not seem unsuitable. For one thing would but appear answerable and proportionable to another, and so the mind would rest in it as fit and suitable, and no more than what is proper to be ordered by the just, holy, and good Governor of the world.

That this is so, we may be convinced by this consideration, viz. that when we hear or read of some horrid instances of cruelty, it may be to some poor innocent child or some holy martyr — and their cruel persecutors, having no regard to their shrieks and cries, only sported themselves with their misery, and would not vouchsafe even to put an end to their lives — we have a sense of the evil of them, and they make a deep impression on our minds. Hence it seems just, every way fit and suitable, that God should inflict a very terrible punishment on persons who have perpetrated such wickedness. It seems no way disagreeable to any perfection of the Judge of the world. We can think of it without being at all shocked. The reason is that we have a sense of the evil of their conduct, and a sense of the proportion there is between the evil or demerit and the punishment.

Just so, if we saw a proportion between the evil of sin and eternal punishment, i.e. if we saw something in wicked men that should appear as hateful to us, as eternal misery appears dreadful (something that should as much stir up indignation and detestation, as eternal misery does terror), all objections against this doctrine would vanish at once. Though now it seem incredible, [and] though when we hear of such a degree and duration of torments as are held forth in this doctrine and think what eternity is, it is ready to seem impossible that such torments should be inflicted on poor feeble creatures by a Creator of infinite mercy. Yet this arises principally from these two causes: 1. It is so contrary to the depraved inclinations of mankind, that they hate to believe it and cannot bear it should be true. 2. They see not the suitableness of eternal punishment to the evil of sin. They see not that it is no more than proportionable to the demerit of sin.

Having thus shown that the eternal punishment of the wicked is not inconsistent with the divine perfections, I shall now proceed to show that it is so far from being inconsistent with the divine perfections, that those perfections evidently require it; i.e. they require that sin should have so great a punishment, either in the person who has committed it, or in a surety. And therefore with regard to those who believe not in a surety, and have no interest in him, the divine perfections require that this punishment should be inflicted on them.

This appears as it is not only not unsuitable that sin should be thus punished, but it is positively suitable, decent, and proper. — If this be made to appear, that it is positively suitable that sin should be thus punished, then it will follow that the perfections of God require it. For certainly the perfections of God require what is proper to be done. The perfection and excellency of God require that to take place which is perfect, excellent, and proper in its own nature. But that sin should be punished eternally is such a thing, which appears by the following considerations.

  1. It is suitable that God should infinitely hate sin, and be an infinite enemy to it. Sin, as I have before shown, is an infinite evil, and therefore is infinitely odious and detestable. It is proper that God should hate every evil, and hate it according to its odious and detestable nature. And sin being infinitely evil and odious, it is proper that God should hate it infinitely.

  1. If infinite hatred of sin be suitable to the divine character, then the expressions of such hatred are also suitable to this character. Because that which is suitable to be, is suitable to be expressed. That which is lovely in itself, is lovely when it appears. If it be suitable that God should be an infinite enemy to sin, or that he should hate it infinitely, then it is suitable that he should act as such an enemy. If it be suitable that he should hate and have enmity against sin, then it is suitable for him to express that hatred and enmity in that to which hatred and enmity by its own nature tends. But certainly hatred in its own nature tends to opposition, and to set itself against that which is hated, and to procure its evil and not its good, and that in proportion to the hatred. Great hatred naturally tends to the great evil, and infinite hatred to the infinite evil, of its object.

Whence it follows that if it be suitable that there should be infinite hatred of sin in God, as I have shown it is, it is suitable that he should execute an infinite punishment on it. And so the perfections of God require that he should punish sin with an infinite, or which is the same thing with an eternal, punishment.

Thus we see not only the great objection against this doctrine answered, but the truth of the doctrine established by reason. I now proceed further to establish it by considering the remaining particulars under the doctrine.

II. That eternal death or punishment which God threatens to the wicked, is not annihilation, but an abiding sensible punishment or misery. — The truth of this proposition will appear by the following particulars.

First, the Scripture everywhere represents the punishment of the wicked, as implying very extreme pains and sufferings. But a state of annihilation is no state of suffering at all. Persons annihilated have no sense or feeling of pain or pleasure, and much less do they feel that punishment which carries in it an extreme pain or suffering. They no more suffer to eternity than they did suffer from eternity.

Second, it is agreeable both to Scripture and reason to suppose that the wicked shall be punished in such a manner that they shall be sensible of the punishment they are under: that they should be sensible that now God has executed and fulfilled what he threatened, what they disregarded and would not believe. They should know themselves that justice takes place upon them, that God vindicates that majesty which they despised, [and] that God is not so despicable a being as they thought him to be. They should be sensible for what they are punished, while they are under the threatened punishment. It is reasonable that they should be sensible of their own guilt, and should remember their former opportunities and obligations, and should see their own folly and God’s justice. — If the punishment threatened be eternal annihilation, they will never know that it is inflicted. They will never know that God is just in their punishment, or that they have their deserts. And how is this agreeable to the Scriptures, in which God threatens, that he will repay the wicked to his face, Deuteronomy 7:10. And to that in Job 21:19, 20, “and when he [God] shall repay, then shall he know. His eyes shall see his own destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.” And to that in Ezekiel 22:21-22, “And I will gather you together, and will burn you in the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall you be in the midst thereof: and you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have poured out my indignation upon you.” — And how is it agreeable to that expression so often annexed to the threatenings of God’s wrath against wicked men, And ye shall know that I am the Lord?

Third, the Scripture teaches that the wicked will suffer different degrees of torment, according to the different aggravations of their sins. Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Here Christ teaches us that the torments of wicked men will be different in different persons, according to the different degrees of their guilt. — It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, for Tyre and Sidon, than for the cities where most of Christ’s mighty works were wrought. — Again, our Lord assures us that he that knows his Lord’s will, and prepares not himself, nor does according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knows not, and commits things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. — These several passages of Scripture infallibly prove that there will be different degrees of punishment in hell, which is utterly inconsistent with the supposition that the punishment consists in annihilation, in which there can be no degrees.

Fourth, the Scriptures are very express and abundant in this matter: that the eternal punishment of the wicked will consist in sensible misery and torment, and not in annihilation. — What is said of Judas is worthy to be observed here, “it were better for him, if that man had not been born.Matthew 26:24. — This seems plainly to teach us, that the punishment of the wicked is such that their existence, upon the whole, is worse than non-existence. But if their punishment consists merely in annihilation, this is not true. — The wicked, in their punishment, are said to weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth; which implies not only real existence, but life, knowledge, and activity, and that they are in a very sensible and exquisite manner affected with their punishment, Isaiah 33:14. Sinners in the state of their punishment are represented to dwell with everlasting burnings. But if they are only turned into nothing, where is the foundation for this representation? It is absurd to say that sinners will dwell with annihilation, for there is no dwelling in the case. It is also absurd to call annihilation a burning, which implies a state of existence, sensibility, and extreme pain: whereas in annihilation there is neither.

It is said that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone. How can this expression with any propriety be understood to mean a state of annihilation? Yea, they are expressly said to have no rest day nor night, but to be tormented with fire and brimstone forever and ever, Revelation 20:10. But annihilation is a state of rest, a state in which not the least torment can possibly be suffered. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes being in torment, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, and entered into a particular conversation with Abraham: all which proves that he was not annihilated.

The spirits of ungodly men before the resurrection are not in a state of annihilation, but in a state of misery. They are spirits in prison, as the apostle says of them that were drowned in the flood, 1 Peter 3:19. — And this appears very plainly from the instance of the rich man before mentioned, if we consider him as representing the wicked in their separate state between death and the resurrection. But if the wicked even then are in a state of torment, much more will they be, when they shall come to suffer that which is the proper punishment of their sins.

Annihilation is not so great a calamity but that some men have undoubtedly chosen it, rather than a state of suffering even in this life. This was the case of Job, a good man. But if a good man in this world may suffer that which is worse than annihilation, doubtless the proper punishment of the wicked, in which God means to manifest his peculiar abhorrence of their wickedness, will be a calamity vastly greater still, and therefore cannot be annihilation. That must be a very mean contemptible testimony of God’s wrath towards those who have rebelled against his crown and dignity — broken his laws, and despised both his vengeance and his grace — which is not so great a calamity as some of his true children have suffered in life.

The eternal punishment of the wicked is said to be the second death, as Revelation 20:14, and 21:8. It is doubtless called the second death in reference to the death of the body, and as the death of the body is ordinarily attended with great pain and distress, so the like, or something vastly greater, is implied in calling the eternal punishment of the wicked the second death. And there would be no propriety in calling it so, if it consisted merely in annihilation. And this second death wicked men will suffer, for it cannot be called the second death with respect to any other than men. It cannot be called so with respect to devils, as they die no temporal death, which is the first death. In Revelation 2:11, it is said, “He that shall overcome, shall not be hurt by the second death” implying that all who do not overcome their lusts, but live in sin, shall suffer the second death.

Again, wicked men will suffer the same kind of death with the devils; as in verse 41 of the context, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” Now the punishment of the devil is not annihilation, but torment. He therefore trembles for fear of it, not for fear of being annihilated — he would be glad of that. What he is afraid of is torment, as appears by Luke 8:28, where he cries out and beseeches Christ that he would not torment him before the time. And it is said, Revelation 20:9-10, “And there came down fire from God out of heaven, and devoured them; and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

It is strange how men will go directly against so plain and full revelations of Scripture, as to suppose notwithstanding all these things, that the eternal punishment threatened against the wicked signifies no more than annihilation.

III. As the future punishment of the wicked consists in sensible misery, so it shall not only continue for a very long time, but shall be absolutely without end.

Of those who have held that the torments of hell are not absolutely eternal, there have been two sorts. Some suppose that in the threatenings of everlasting punishment, the terms used do not necessarily import a proper eternity, but only a very long duration. Others suppose that if they do import a proper eternity, yet we cannot necessarily conclude thence, that God will fulfill his threatenings. — Therefore I shall, first, show that the threatenings of eternal punishment do very plainly and fully import a proper, absolute eternity, and not merely a long duration. — This appears,

  1. Because when the Scripture speaks of the wicked being sentenced to their punishment at the time when all temporal things are come to an end, it then speaks of it as everlasting, as in the text, and elsewhere. It is true that the term forever is not always in Scripture used to signify eternity. Sometimes it means “as long as a man lives.” In this sense it is said that the Hebrew servant, who chose to abide with his master, should have his ear bored and should serve his master forever. Sometimes it means “during the continuance of the state and church of the Jews.” In this sense, several laws, which were peculiar to that church and were to continue in force no longer than that church should last, are called statutes forever. See Exodus 27:21, 28:43, etc. Sometimes it means as long as the world stands. So in Ecclesiastes 1:4, “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth standeth for ever.

And this last is the longest temporal duration that such a term is ever used to signify. For the duration of the world is the longest of things temporal, as its beginning was the earliest. Therefore when the Scripture speaks of things as being before the foundation of the world, it means that they existed before the beginning of time. So those things which continue after the end of the world, are eternal things. When heaven and earth are shaken and removed, those things that remain will be what cannot be shaken, but will remain forever, Hebrews 12:26-27.

But the punishment of the wicked will not only remain after the end of the world, but is called everlasting, as in the text, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” So in 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10, “Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: When he shall come to be glorified in his saints,” etc. — Now, what can be meant by a thing being everlasting, after all temporal things are come to an end, but that it is absolutely without end!

  1. Such expressions are used to set forth the duration of the punishment of the wicked, as are never used in the scriptures of the New Testament to signify anything but a proper eternity. It is said, not only that the punishment shall be forever, but for ever and ever. Revelation 14:11, “And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever:Revelation 20:10, “shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Doubtless the New Testament has some expression to signify a proper eternity, of which it has so often occasion to speak. But it has no higher expression than this: if this do not signify an absolute eternity, there is none that does.

  1. The Scripture uses the same way of speaking to set forth the eternity of punishment and the eternity of happiness, yea, the eternity of God himself. Matthew 25:46, And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.” The words everlasting and eternal, in the original, are the very same. Revelation 22:5, “and they shall reign for ever and ever.” And the Scripture has no higher expression to signify the eternity of God himself, than that of his being for ever and ever, as Revelation 4:9, “to him that sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever;” and in the 10th verse, and in Revelation 5:14; 10:6, and 15:7.

Again, the Scripture expresses God’s eternity by this: that it shall be forever, after the world is come to an end, Psalm 101:27-28, “They shall perish but thou remainest: and all of them shall grow old like a garment: And as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art always the selfsame, and thy years shall not fail.

  1. The Scripture says absolutely that their punishment shall not have an end, Mark 9:45, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.” Now it will not do to say that the meaning is [that] their worm shall live a great while, or that it shall be a great while before their fire is quenched. If ever the time comes that their worm shall die, if ever there shall be a quenching of the fire at all, then it is not true that their worm dieth not and that the fire is not quenched. For if there be a dying of the worm and a quenching of the fire, let it be at what time it will, nearer or further off, it is equally contrary to such a negation — it dieth not, it is not quenched.

Second, there are others who allow that the expression of the threatenings do denote a proper eternity. But then, they say, it does not certainly follow that the punishment will really be eternal, because God may threaten, and yet not fulfill his threatenings. Though they allow that the threatenings are positive and peremptory, without any reserve, yet they say [that] God is not obliged to fulfill absolute positive threatenings, as he is absolute promises. Because in promises a right is conveyed that the creature to whom the promises are made will claim. But there is no danger of the creature’s claiming any right by a threatening. Therefore I am now to show that what God has positively declared in this matter, does indeed make it certain that it shall be as he has declared. To this end, I shall mention two things:

  1. It is evidently contrary to the divine truth, positively to declare anything to be real, whether past, present, or to come, which God at the same time knows is not so. Absolutely threatening that anything shall be, is the same as absolutely declaring that it is to be. For any to suppose that God absolutely declares that anything will be, which be at the same time knows will not be, is blasphemy, if there be any such thing as blasphemy.

Indeed, it is very true that there is no obligation on God, arising from the claim of the creature, as there is in promises. They seem to reckon the wrong way, who suppose the necessity of the execution of the threatening to arise from a proper obligation on God to the creature to execute consequent on his threatening. For indeed the certainty of the execution arises the other way, viz. on the obligation there was on the omniscient God, in threatening, to conform his threatening to what he knew would be future in execution. Though, strictly speaking, God is not properly obliged to the creature to execute because he has threatened, yet he was obliged not absolutely to threaten, if at the same time he knew that he should not or would not fulfill, because this would not have been consistent with his truth. So that from the truth of God there is an inviolable connection between positive threatenings and execution. They who suppose that God positively declared that he would do contrary to what he knew would come to pass, do therein suppose, that he absolutely threatened contrary to what he knew to be truth. And how anyone can speak contrary to what he knows to be truth, in declaring, promising, or threatening, or any other way, consistently with inviolable truth, is inconceivable.

Threatenings are significations of something, and if they are made consistently with truth, they are true significations, or significations of truth, that which shall be. If absolute threatenings are significations of anything, they are significations of the futurity of the things threatened. But if the futurity of the things threatened be not true and real, then how can the threatening be a true signification? And if God, in them, speaks contrary to what he knows, and contrary to what he intends, how he can speak true is inconceivable.

Absolute threatenings are a kind of predictions. And though God is not properly obliged by any claim of ours to fulfill predictions, unless they are of the nature of promises, yet it certainly would be contrary to truth, to predict that such a thing would come to pass, which he knew at the same time would not come to pass. Threatenings are declarations of something future, and they must be declarations of future truth, if they are true declarations. Its being future alters not the case any more than if it were present. It is equally contrary to truth, to declare contrary to what at the same time is known to be truth, whether it be of things past, present, or to come: for all are alike to God.

Beside, we have often declarations in Scripture of the future eternal punishment of the wicked, in the proper form of predictions, and not in the form of threatenings. So in the text, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” So in those frequent assertions of eternal punishment in the Revelation, some of which I have already quoted. The Revelation is a prophecy, and is so called in the book itself. So are those declarations of eternal punishment. — The like declarations we have also in many other places of Scripture.

  1. The doctrine of those who teach that it is not certain that God will fulfill those absolute threatenings, is blasphemous another way, and that is, as God, according to their supposition, was obliged to make use of a fallacy to govern the world. They own that it is needful that men should apprehend themselves liable to an eternal punishment, that they might thereby be restrained from sin, and that God has threatened such a punishment, for the very end that they might believe themselves exposed to it. But what an unworthy opinion does this convey of God and his government, of his infinite majesty, and wisdom, and all-sufficiency! — Beside, they suppose that though God has made use of such a fallacy, yet it is not such an one but that they have detected him in it. Though God intended men should believe it to be certain that sinners are liable to an eternal punishment, yet they suppose that they have been so cunning as to find out that it is not certain. And so that God had not laid his design so deep, but that such cunning men as they can discern the cheat and defeat the design, because they have found out that there is no necessary connection between the threatening of eternal punishment, and the execution of that threatening.

Before I conclude this head, it may be proper for me to answer an objection or two that may arise in the minds of some.

Objection 1. It may be here said [that] we have instances wherein God has not fulfilled his threatenings: as his threatening to Adam, and in him to mankind, that they should surely die, if they should eat the forbidden fruit. I answer, it is not true that God did not fulfill that threatening. He fulfilled it and will fulfill it in every jot and tittle. When God said, “Thou shalt surely die,” if we respect spiritual death, it was fulfilled in Adam’s person in the day that he ate. For immediately his image, his holy spirit and original righteousness, which was the highest and best life of our first parents, were lost, and they were immediately in a doleful state of spiritual death.

If we respect temporal death, that was also fulfilled. He brought death upon himself and all his posterity, and he virtually suffered that death on that very day on which he ate. His body was brought into a corruptible, mortal, and dying condition, and so it continued till it was dissolved. If we look at all that death which was comprehended in the threatening, it was, properly speaking, fulfilled in Christ. When God said to Adam, “If thou eatest, thou shalt die,” he spoke not only to him, and of him personally, but the words respected mankind, Adam and his race, and doubtless were so understood by him. His offspring were to be looked upon as sinning in him, and so should die with him. The words do as justly allow of an imputation of death as of sin. They are as well consistent with dying in a surety, as with sinning in one. Therefore, the threatening is fulfilled in the death of Christ, the surety.

Objection 2. Another objection may arise from God’s threatening to Nineveh. He threatened, that in forty days Nineveh should be destroyed, which yet he did not fulfill. — I answer, that threatening could justly be looked upon no otherwise than as conditional. It was of the nature of a warning, and not of an absolute denunciation. Why was Jonah sent to the Ninevites, but to give them warning, that they might have opportunity to repent, reform, and avert the approaching destruction? God had no other design or end in sending the prophet to them, but that they might be warned and tried by him, as God warned the Israelites, Judah and Jerusalem, before their destruction. Therefore the prophets, together with their prophecies of approaching destruction, joined earnest exhortations to repent and reform, that it might be averted.

No more could justly be understood to be certainly threatened, than that Nineveh should be destroyed in forty days, continuing as it was. For it was for their wickedness that that destruction was threatened, and so the Ninevites took it. Therefore, when the cause was removed, the effect ceased. It was contrary to God’s known manner, to threaten punishment and destruction for sin in this world absolutely, so that it should come upon the persons threatened unavoidably, let them repent and reform and do what they would; Jeremiah 18:7-8, “I will suddenly speak against a nation, and against a kingdom, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy it. If that nation against which I have spoken, shall repent of their evil, I also will repent of the evil that I have thought to do to them.” So that all threatenings of this nature had a condition implied in them, according to the known and declared manner of God’s dealing. And the Ninevites did not take it as an absolute sentence of denunciation: if they had, they would have despaired of any benefit by fasting and reformation.

But the threatenings of eternal wrath are positive and absolute. There is nothing in the Word of God from which we can gather any condition. The only opportunity of escaping is in this world. This is the only state of trial, wherein we have any offers of mercy, or place for repentance.

IV. I shall mention several good and important ends, which will be obtained by the eternal punishment of the wicked.

First, hereby God vindicates his injured majesty. Wherein sinners cast contempt upon it, and trample it in the dust, God vindicates and honors it and makes it appear, as it is indeed infinite, by showing that it is infinitely dreadful to condemn or offend it.

Second, God glorifies his justice. — The glory of God is the greatest good. It is that which is the chief end of the creation. It is of greater importance than anything else. But this one way wherein God will glorify himself, as in the eternal destruction of ungodly men, he will glorify his justice. Therein he will appear as a just governor of the world. The vindictive justice of God will appear strict, exact, awful, and terrible, and therefore glorious.

Third, God hereby indirectly glorifies his grace on the vessels of mercy. — The saints in heaven will behold the torments of the damned: “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.Isaiah 66:24, “And they shall go out, and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched: and they shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh.” And in Revelation 14:10 it is said, that they shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. So they will be tormented in the presence also of the glorified saints.

Hereby the saints will be made the more sensible how great their salvation is. When they shall see how great the misery is from which God has saved them, and how great a difference he has made between their state and the state of others, who were by nature (and perhaps for a time by practice) no more sinful and ill-deserving than any, it will give them a greater sense of the wonderfulness of God’s grace to them. Every time they look upon the damned, it will excite in them a lively and admiring sense of the grace of God, in making them so to differ. This the apostle informs us is one end of the damnation of ungodly men; Romans 9:22-23, What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, That he might shew the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he hath prepared unto glory?

Fourth, the sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. It will not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness, but it will really make their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness. It will give them a more lively relish of it: it will make them prize it more. When they see others, who were of the same nature and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, O it will make them sensible how happy they are. A sense of the opposite misery, in all cases, greatly increases the relish of any joy or pleasure. The sight of the wonderful power, the great and dreadful majesty, and awful justice and holiness of God, manifested in the eternal punishment of ungodly men, will make them prize his favor and love vastly the more. And they will be so much the more happy in the enjoyment of it.


I. From what has been said, we may learn the folly and madness of the greater part of mankind, in that for the sake of present momentary gratification, they run the venture of enduring all these eternal torments. They prefer a small pleasure, or a little wealth, or a little earthly honor and greatness, which can last but for a moment, to an escape from this punishment. If it be true that the torments of hell are eternal, what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? What is there in this world, which is not a trifle and lighter than vanity, in comparison with these eternal things?

How mad are men, who so often hear of these things and pretend to believe them; who can live but a little while (a few years); who do not even expect to live here longer than others of their species ordinarily do; and who yet are careless about what becomes of themselves in another world, where there is no change and no end! How mad are they, when they hear that if they go on in sin, they shall be eternally miserable — that they are not moved by it, but hear it with as much carelessness and coldness as if they were no way concerned in the matter — when they know not but that it may be their case, that they may be suffering these torments before a week is at an end!

How can men be so careless of such a matter as their own eternal and desperate destruction and torment! What a strange stupor and senselessness possesses the hearts of men! How common a thing is it to see men, who are told from Sabbath to Sabbath of eternal misery, and who are as mortal as other men, so careless about it that they seem not to be at all restrained by it from whatever their souls lust after! It is not half so much their care to escape eternal misery, as it is to get money and land, and to be considerable in the world, and to gratify their sense. Their thoughts are much more exercised about these things, and much more of their care and concern is about them. Eternal misery, though they lie every day exposed to it, is a thing neglected, it is but now and then thought of, and then with a great deal of stupidity, and not with concern enough to stir them up to do anything considerable in order to escape it. They are not sensible that it is worth their while to take any considerable pains in order to it. And if they do take pains for a little while, they soon leave off, and something else takes up their thoughts and concern.

Thus you see it among young and old. Multitudes of youth lead a careless life, taking little care about their salvation. So you may see it among persons of middle age, and with many advanced in years, and when they certainly draw near to the grave. — Yet these same persons will seem to acknowledge that the greater part of men go to hell and suffer eternal misery, and this through carelessness about it. However, they will do the same. How strange is it that men can enjoy themselves and be at rest, when they are thus hanging over eternal burnings: at the same time, having no lease of their lives and not knowing how soon the thread by which they hang will break. Nor indeed do they pretend to know. And if it breaks, they are gone: they are lost forever, and there is no remedy! Yet they trouble not themselves much about it, nor will they hearken to those who cry to them, and entreat them to take care for themselves, and labor to get out of that dangerous condition. They are not willing to take so much pains. They choose not to be diverted from amusing themselves with toys and vanities. Thus, well might the wise man say, Ecclesiastes 9:3, “whereby also the hearts of the children of men are filled with evil, and with contempt while they live, and afterwards they shall be brought down to hell.” — How much wiser are those few, who make it their main business to lay a foundation for eternity, to secure their salvation!

II. I shall improve this subject in a use of exhortation to sinners, to take care to escape these eternal torments. If they be eternal, one would think that would be enough to awaken your concern, and excite your diligence. If the punishment be eternal, it is infinite, as we said before. And therefore no other evil, no death, no temporary torment that ever you heard of, or that you can imagine, is anything in comparison with it, but is as much less and less considerable, not only as a grain of sand is less than the whole universe, but as it is less than the boundless space which encompasses the universe. — Therefore here,

First, be entreated to consider attentively how great and awful a thing eternity is. Although you cannot comprehend it the more by considering, yet you may be made more sensible that it is not a thing to be disregarded. — Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme torment forever and ever: to suffer it day and night from one year to another, from one age to another, and from one thousand ages to another (and so adding age to age, and thousands to thousands), in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth — with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, [and] with your bodies and every member full of racking torture; without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of hiding yourselves from him; without any possibility of diverting your thoughts from your pain; without any possibility of obtaining any manner of mitigation, or help, or change for the better.

Second, do but consider how dreadful despair will be in such torment. How dismal will it be, when you are under these racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them. To have no hope: when you shall wish that you might be turned into nothing, but shall have no hope of it; when you shall wish that you might be turned into a toad or a serpent, but shall have no hope of it; when you would rejoice if you might but have any relief; after you shall have endured these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it. After you shall have worn out the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in your dolorous groans and lamentations, without rest day and night, or one minute’s ease, yet you shall have no hope of ever being delivered. After you shall have worn a thousand more such ages, you shall have no hope, but shall know that you are not one whit nearer to the end of your torments. But that still there are the same groans, the same shrieks, the same doleful cries, incessantly to be made by you, and that the smoke of your torment shall still ascend up forever and ever. Your souls, which shall have been agitated with the wrath of God all this while, will still exist to bear more wrath. Your bodies, which shall have been burning all this while in these glowing flames, shall not have been consumed, but will remain to roast through eternity, which will not have been at all shortened by what shall have been past.

You may by considering make yourselves more sensible than you ordinarily are. But it is a little you can conceive of what it is to have no hope in such torments. How sinking would it be to you, to endure such pain as you have felt in this world, without any hopes, and to know that you never should be delivered from it, nor have one minute’s rest! You can now scarcely conceive how doleful that would be. How much more to endure the vast weight of the wrath of God without hope! The more the damned in hell think of the eternity of their torments, the more amazing will it appear to them. And alas, they will not be able to keep it out of their minds! Their tortures will not divert them from it, but will fix their attention to it. O how dreadful will eternity appear to them after they shall have been thinking on it for ages together, and shall have so long an experience of their torments! The damned in hell will have two infinites perpetually to amaze them, and swallow them up: one is an infinite God, whose wrath they will bear, and in whom they will behold their perfect and irreconcilable enemy. The other is the infinite duration of their torment.

If it were possible for the damned in hell to have a comprehensive knowledge of eternity, their sorrow and grief would be infinite in degree. The comprehensive view of so much sorrow, which they must endure, would cause infinite grief for the present. Though they will not have a comprehensive knowledge of it, yet they will doubtless have a vastly more lively and strong apprehension of it than we can have in this world. Their torments will give them an impression of it. — A man in his present state, without any enlargement of his capacity, would have a vastly more lively impression of eternity than he has, if he were only under some pretty sharp pain in some member of his body, and were at the same time assured that he must endure that pain forever. His pain would give him a greater sense of eternity than other men have. How much more will those excruciating torments, which the damned will suffer, have this effect!

Besides, their capacity will probably be enlarged, their understandings will be quicker and stronger in a future state, and God can give them as great a sense and as strong an impression of eternity, as he pleases, to increase their grief and torment. — O be entreated, ye that are in a Christless state and are going on in a way to hell, that are daily exposed to damnation, to consider these things. If you do not, it will surely be but a little while before you will experience them, and then you will know how dreadful it is to despair in hell. And it may be before this year, or this month, or this week, is at an end: before another Sabbath, or ever you shall have opportunity to hear another sermon.

Third, that you may effectually escape these dreadful and awful torments. Be entreated to flee and embrace him who came into the world for the very end of saving sinners from these torments, who has paid the whole debt due to the divine law, and exhausted eternal in temporal sufferings. What great encouragement is it to those of you who are sensible that you are exposed to eternal punishment, that there is a Savior provided, who is able and who freely offers to save you from that punishment, and that in a way which is perfectly consistent with the glory of God: yea, which is more to the glory of God than it would be if you should suffer the eternal punishment of hell. For if you should suffer that punishment you would never pay the whole of the debt. Those who are sent to hell never will have paid the whole of the debt which they owe to God, nor indeed a part which bears any proportion to the whole. They never will have paid a part which bears so great a proportion to the whole, as one mite to ten thousand talents. Justice therefore never can be actually satisfied in your damnation. But it is actually satisfied in Christ. Therefore he is accepted of the Father, and therefore all who believe are accepted and justified in him. Therefore believe in him, come to him, commit your souls to him to be saved by him. In him you shall be safe from the eternal torments of hell. Nor is that all: but through him you shall inherit inconceivable blessedness and glory, which will be of equal duration with the torments of hell. For, as at the last day the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, so shall the righteous who trust in Christ, go into life eternal.

Biblical passages on Hell

The scriptural references to hell may be summarized to present a unified Biblical view. First and foremost, hell is eternal,

And they shall go out, and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched: and they shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh. Isaiah 66:24

And if thy hand, or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. Matthew 18:8

Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. Matthew 25:46

Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: 2 Thessalonians 1:9

As Sodom and Gomorrha, and the neighbouring cities, in like manner, having given themselves to fornication, and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1:7


And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always. Daniel 12:2

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. Matthew 25:46

and lasts forever and ever,

Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion; wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever. Jude 1:13

And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever: neither have they rest day nor night, who have adored the beast, and his image, and whoever receiveth the character of his name. Revelation 14:11

And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Revelation 20:10.

There is no other way to state it; hell will never cease to exist. Secondly, hell itself is described as a lake of fire,

And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet, who wrought signs before him, wherewith he seduced them who received the character of the beast, and who adored his image. These two were cast alive into the pool of fire, burning with brimstone. Revelation 19:20

And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Revelation 20:10

And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire. Revelation 20:14-15

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

eternal fire,

And if thy hand, or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. Matthew 18:8

Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. Matthew 25:41

As Sodom and Gomorrha, and the neighbouring cities, in like manner, having given themselves to fornication, and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire. Jude 1:7

unquenchable fire,

Where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. Mark 9:43

the second death,

And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. Revelation 20:14

and darkness,

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:12

Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 22:13

And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:30

Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own confusion; wandering stars, to whom the storm of darkness is reserved for ever. Jude 1:13.

The wicked consigned to hell will never cease to exist and their body will never be consumed,

And they shall go out, and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched: and they shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh. Isaiah 66:24

Where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished. Mark 9:43

For every one shall be salted with fire: and every victim shall be salted with salt. Mark 9:48

they must face eternal punishment,

And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. Matthew 25:46

eternal destruction,

And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: 2 Thessalonians 1:9

and their torment will last forever and ever,

And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever: neither have they rest day nor night, who have adored the beast, and his image, and whoever receiveth the character of his name. Revelation 14:11

And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Revelation 20:10.

There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:12

Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 22:13

And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:30

they will be weak,

Hell below was in an uproar to meet thee at thy coming, it stirred up the giants for thee. All the princes of the earth are risen up from their thrones, all the princes of nations. All shall answer, and say to thee: Thou also art wounded as well as we, thou art become like unto us. Isaiah 14:9-10

and lack any interaction with those outside of hell,

There is no man that liveth always, or that hopeth for this: a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more, neither have they a reward any more: for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love also, and their hatred, and their envy are all perished, neither have they any part in this world, and in the work that is done under the sun. Ecclesiastes 9:4-6.

Upon the unbeliever’s death he will be an abhorrence,

And they shall go out, and see the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched: and they shall be a loathsome sight to all flesh. Isaiah 66:24

shut out from the fellowship of God,

Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: 2 Thessalonians 1:9

experiencing God’s wrath,

But to them that are contentious, and who obey not the truth, but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation. Romans 2:8

But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:27

He also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled with pure wine in the cup of his wrath, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the sight of the holy angels, and in the sight of the Lamb. Revelation 14:10


He also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled with pure wine in the cup of his wrath, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the sight of the holy angels, and in the sight of the Lamb. Revelation 14:10


But to them that are contentious, and who obey not the truth, but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation. Romans 2:8


In a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:8


For we know him that hath said: Vengeance belongeth to me, and I will repay. And again: The Lord shall judge his people. Hebrews 10:30

and judgment,

And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me. Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting. Matthew 25:31-46

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:27

For we know him that hath said: Vengeance belongeth to me, and I will repay. And again: The Lord shall judge his people. Hebrews 10:30

And I saw a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire. Revelation 20:11-15.

Hell will be dreadful and painful for all, but for some it will be worse than others,

But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:22

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death. Revelation 20:12-14.

Finally, there will be no second chance for the unbeliever to change his destiny,

And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. Matthew 12:32

But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin. Mark 3:29

And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. Luke 16:26

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27.

All in all, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.Hebrews 10:31

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