Eternal Judgement – What Does the Bible Say?

A friend asked me recently for summary of Bible teaching on hell, as her son was challenged by his university friends that eternal punishment did not seem logical to them.  They suggested that a spirit would be incinerated in hellfire and so any judgment would be over quickly, not a protracted experience.  Following are the notes I put together to give an overview of the subject from a Biblical standpoint.

Eternal Judgment is one of the foundational doctrines listed in the Bible.

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Hebrews 6:1,2

By its very label this judgment is “eternal”, not transitory.
Repulsive as the thought is to our minds the Bible makes it clear that ongoing torment will be given to those who reject the salvation God offers us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Consider these warnings from Jesus and their reference to enduring punishment:
“And if your hand offends you, cut it off: it is better to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that is never quenched: Where their worm doesn’t die, and the fire is not quenched. And if your foot offends you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter life lame, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that is never quenched: Where their worm doesn’t die, and the fire is not quenched. And if your eye offends you, pluck it out: it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm doesn’t die, and the fire is not quenched.” Matthew 9:43-48
“And these will go into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 25:46

What we understand from the Bible is that mankind has at enduring (eternal) soul (or spirit) which will either enjoy eternal blessings in God’s heavenly Kingdom (heaven) or eternal pain and torment in hell.

Hell is described for us as a place of continuous torment of fire without being burned up.

Jesus gives us a picture of this in His account of a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. After death the rich man went to a place of enduring fiery torment while the faithful beggar went to a place of comfort, called Abraham’s bosom.

“And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so he can dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” Luke 16:23,24

“Then he said, I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house: For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.” Luke 16:27,28

In each of these depictions of punishment for the wicked the pain and torment is enduring, not a temporary incineration.

Sin is just that horrible, not just to God and to the standards of holiness, but also to ourselves. Our selfish sinful heart wants to believe that sin is an excusable slip and something that can be justified away by blaming our past unhappinesses or the pressures of the moment. But when sin is measured against God’s holiness it is so horrible and so destructive that it warrants eternal punishment of the extreme kind. Sin damages us beyond our comprehension and all God’s warnings to us to avoid sin are for our protection, not to spoil our fun. God knows how toxic sin is.

Wonderfully none of us is ever intended to endure the eternal punishment that sin deserves. God wants all men everywhere to repent (2Peter 3:9). God’s overwhelming love compelled Him to become the very sacrifice for our sins so that man could be saved from eternal torment. However, if we snub such amazing sacrifice and hold the immeasurable love of God as something to be ignored we remain under condemnation and will have to face the just punishment for the abhorrent sin we have committed and refused to repent of.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He who believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:17-19

“He who believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son will not see life (eternal life with God in heaven); but the wrath of God rests on him.” John 3:36

Note also that hell was never designed for mankind, but as the place of punishment for the fallen angels.

“Then will he say to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matthew 25:41

If the devil can seduce us to reject God’s salvation and live in our sinful nature then the devil will drag us into the place of eternal torment that was not made for us but for him.

These insights come to us by God’s revelation in the Bible (the Word of God). Truth comes from God and our source of truth is God’s Word, the Bible. Our selfish hearts will try to wrestle with the Word of God and even twist it to say what we want to hear, but those with faithful hearts will accept what God says as God’s Word and seek to understand it, not neutralise it.

Eternal judgment, as in judgment that endures for eternity causing those who are punished to be in perpetual torments, is what the Bible describes. The idea of annihilation is more tolerable than the idea of enduring torment. But one of the foundational doctrines of the Bible (as quoted earlier from Hebrews 6) is “eternal judgment”.

On a pastoral note, be aware of your own heart. The human heart is dangerous territory.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” Matthew 15:18,19

“Keep your heart diligently; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Every time our heart reacts to some truth given to us in God’s Word that reaction indicates there is a wrong setting in our heart. Reaction to the truth of eternal judgement may indicate we have a “fear of eternal damnation” and need prayer to be free from that tormenting fear. Or it may be that we resent God’s authority because we have unresolved offences from authority figures who offended us in the past. Or we may have such pride that we want to rule our life and even eternity on our own terms, instead of submitting ourselves to God. Or reaction could spring from many other impulses in our heart. Stay attentive to “reactions” because those things that come out of a man reveal his heart and show the “issues” they need to deal with to truly walk in the freedom that truth brings.

“You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

Politics and Religion are Intrinsically Linked

The separation of Church and State is a much-misunderstood concept. It is also a concept that is exploited to insist on removal of religious sentiment from the political arena.

The motivation for such ambition is clear. Political leaders down through history have wanted to displace God and act as the ultimate law, rather than as subjects of a Holy God to whom they must give account. The Pharaohs and Caesars are among the better known of the many human leaders who asserted their divinity.

Three thousand years ago the Psalmist taunted those political leaders who tied to conceive of a world where they were not accountable to God.

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD will have them in derision.” Psalm 2:1-4

“Be wise now therefore, O you kings: be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psalm 2:10-12

Church & State Are Bound Together

Despite all the rhetoric and emotion that may be expressed against religious reality in state affairs it has always been understood that God is supreme over political process. “By me Kings reign” is the claim made by wisdom, which is God’s handmaiden.

By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” Proverbs 8:15,16

God is the Supreme King and Deity

A clear testimony to the intimate connection between Church and State, or Politics and Religion, is the example of God, Himself.

God is the Supreme King, sitting on a heavenly throne over all the Kingdoms of the world. Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

But God is also the God above all Gods. He is the ultimate deity. No idol, deity, spirit, icon, or religion can challenge His supremacy.

Church and State, Religion and Politics are intrinsically combined in one person. So how in the world can it be conceived that the two are not completely and intimately related to each other?

The Spiritual Reality Rules Politics

For all the protestations that human government must be free of religious connection the whole argument is based on nonsense. The world and everything in it is first and foremost a spiritual reality. A moral God created us all and is and will judge us all based on how we submit ourselves to Him. So the idea that human government is somehow independent of divine realities is simple self-delusion.

The Bible gives us several glimpses into the heavenly realm and there we see that a rebellious subordinate is seeking to displace and contend with God. That created angelic being which chose to betray God is no match for God’s ultimate and supreme authority as the creator of all, but he goes about as if he has authority and power, seducing people to join him in rebellion against God.

So human politics and society are constantly under the influence of these two spiritual entities. When people submit to God they enjoy God’s blessing. When they submit to the rebel spirit they come under God’s judgement and various slaveries and degradations.

The State Desperately Needs the Church

Any true statesman knows that his authority and effectiveness is totally dependent on God. He will recognise his desperate need for spiritual support and divine authority. True statesmen, then, will recognise that the state desperately needs the church.

God is currently calling a new generation of true statesmen to arise. They are from many nations and divergent backgrounds. They have distinctive callings on their life and they will each have different levels of influence and impact. But they are the new generation of servant of the Lord. God is calling forth men of character and divine authority who will redeem nations and rescue politics, science, religion and culture from the seductions and disembowelment which we have come to think of as normal.

I call you to be part of that new generation of heavenly statesman on the earth.

The Crash of 2008 part 2

We are experiencing an historic time which will be referred to in future years. What we don’t know yet is just how deep this crash is and the extent of the fallout which will come from it. What we do know is that markets are reeling and multiplied millions of people have already been affected.

Banks have been nationalised. Millions of people have lost their homes. Billions of dollars of stock value has disappeared in days. Fortunes have been lost and won. International summits have been called. Moments of hope have been established, only to be demolished by the next wave of bad news.

You’ll be able to tell your grandchildren you went through the Crash of 2008!

The Big Question

The big question that people want answered is, “What is really going on?” Is this the end of the world or just a bump along the road to progress? Will everything right itself or will the carnage continue?

To help you understand what is going on I have pulled together a list of factors that have contributed to our current situation.

Greed

Greed or the Love of Money gives people a willingness to put all at risk in order to get a profit. And greed is a big part of the operation of modern markets, whatever people are dealing with.

Back in the days of the South Sea Bubble the Poet Alexander Pope pointed to greed as a key factor in the huge losses of his day. He said of the South Sea debacle – “See Britain sunk in Lucre’s sordid charms”. By this he saw that it was the lust for “lucre” (money) that had dragged Britain into the quagmire of terrible losses.

The Apostle Paul taught that the “love of money” is the root of all evil – 1Timothy 6:10. Christians must be free from the desire for “greedy gain” (filthy lucre) 1Timothy 3:3,8, Titus 1:7,11, 1Peter 5:2.

I have often heard it noted that our present financial systems are dominated by Greed and Fear. These emotions dominate our markets and most financial decisions.

So greed is clearly one of the culprits in our present situation. If the world’s finances were to move to a better footing they would be based on the use of money for noble purposes, not to indulge people’s greedy ambitions.

International Power Brokers

There are people with sufficient financial power to control what happens to the rest of us. A number of the financial busts that have happened over the centuries have been created by financial manipulators.

It is claimed that one crash in the USA was planned four years in advance, so the bankers could buy farming land from bankrupted farmers. For those who want to get some idea of the history of international financiers acting as power brokers check out the Money Masters videos on YouTube.

Orchestrated Financial Machinations can enable those in control to gain the wealth and assets of others. For example, one strategy could be to allow people to make money and start new industries, then create a bust so you can buy the proven winners cheaply, then allow another boom, so you get the profit from other people’s innovation and hard work.

If people have borrowed money then they can be trapped into having to sell their asset to pay their debts. Thus their assets get taken off them.

In the present situation we will probably never know the extent to which the problems have been orchestrated by high-level power players. It is safe to say, however, that it is likely that people of power and influence have been active in the markets, steering things to their advantage when they can.

Divine Intervention

God is bigger than all the banks and governments in the world. When God brings judgement on a people or nation those being judged will suffer all kinds of negative things.

The Bible reveals how God brought enemies, famine, diseases and trouble upon the nation of Israel and other nations. God even prophesied in advance that those things were going to happen.

God also promises that if His people humble themselves and pray He will “heal their land”. “If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:14

I am confident that God is at work in this present situation. I also believe that if God’s people will humble themselves and get right with God then further upheaval can be averted. I rather suspect, however, that we are heading down a rough road and people will persist in their rebellion for a while longer.

Sin has a Part to Play

The Bible says that sin is a reproach to a nation.

“Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34

God promises to curse people who reject Him, with famine and financial loss. See Deuteronomy 28 for the extensive discussion of blessings and curses on those who respond differently to God’s Word.

When nations give themselves over to selfishness and sin they bring problems and calamity onto themselves. The selfish determination to live as we please is sin, and God has every right to judge us for such defiance of His claim upon our lives.

Mammon is Ruling the Nations

Jesus said we either worship God or Mammon. Mammon is the desire for gain and the elevation of material wellbeing and self-interest over our willingness to worship God.

I have pointed out in other places that western culture is given over to the worship of Mammon. Instead of living for God and glorifying Him whole nations are living for self and glorifying themselves.

God says “Love Your Neighbour”, and Mammon says “Exploit Your Neighbour”. God says “Trust Me and I Will Bless You”, but Mammon says “Serve Me and I Will Bless You”.

Western Culture and much of the world are ruled by the desire for gain, not the willingness to bless others.

What is Going On?

What is going on is that we are reaping what we have sown. Greed, Power Games, Sin and Mammon worship have set us up for God’s response. God is intent on having us worship Him, as is our responsibility, since He gave us life and everything in it.

So the next concern we have to think about is, “What is God doing in all of this?” That is what I will take up with you when we come to the third instalment in this discussion.

Sovereignty Attacked

Each of us has a remarkable privilege of presenting ourselves before God, independent of the demands and tyranny of our peers or oppressors. Yet this wonderful privilege is attacked and attempts are made to deny us our sovereignty, at many stages in our life. This first commentary on how our sovereignty is under attack may well be expanded on in future posts, but at this point I want to simply draw your attention to the fact that there are various forces which oppose your divinely bequeathed right to personal sovereignty.

Since we are created by God and the rights we have come from God it is logical that the first enemy to any such privilege given us by God would be from the principal evil spirit, who we know as the devil. The devil is a created angel who rebelled against God and came under God’s judgement. His activities since then have been to attack those things which God has created, especially humankind.

The devil attacks our sovereignty in a number of ways. We know from the records of his influence over mankind that he seeks to prompt people to use their sovereignty in acts of rebellion against God. This results in them coming under God’s judgement instead of God’s blessing. Temptation and deception are two key strategies used by the devil.

Another strategy is to get people to hand over their personal sovereignty to the devil. Strictly speaking it is not possible to do so, but the devil has a couple of devices which work in this direction. When a person submits to some kind of inappropriate attitude or behaviour that person becomes a slave to that thing. For example, when a person gives in to anger, they become an angry person, enslaved to angry responses. When a person gives in to lust they become a lustful person, enslaved by lustful thoughts. This does not strictly take their sovereignty from them, but it imprisons their soul and seems to them as if they have lost sovereignty. If the person was to repent and cry out to God for deliverance they still have the right to do so. They may still call upon God, as a sovereign creation, and find God’s help.

The other way of getting people to hand over their personal sovereignty comes in the form of a contract with the devil. The ancient German folktale character, Faust, is a classic case of someone who made a deal with the devil. In recent times youth attending rock concerts have been encouraged to sign themselves to the devil, in their own blood. The act of making such a commitment is a major compromise of a person’s will and results in a tremendous inner sense of slavery. While the person’s personal sovereignty is, in reality, intact, the insistent claim upon them by the devil can seem irrevocable. I have heard testimony of people who have sought Christian help to break such contracts and who have become free from the tyranny of the devil’s claim.

So, temptation, deception and intimidation are typical methods of compromising personal sovereignty. While these methods are used by the devil, they are also employed by other people who wish to assert their will over others and to deny people their rightful freedom. The carrot and the stick, used by governments and other social structures to direct people’s wills, are expressions of temptation and intimidation. Propaganda, indoctrination and deception are also widely used by regimes intent on controlling the masses. Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Dr Goebbels implemented the Big Lie theory, that the bigger the lie the more likely people are to believe it.

Fear is another tool for making people give up personal sovereignty. Fear could relate to simple avoidance of rejection by others, such as social pressure to conform in order to be accepted. Or it could relate to the immediate threat of reprisal, death or torture if compliance is not given. Totalitarian regimes often resort to abductions, murders, genocide and other atrocities to instil fear and compliance in the community.

At a more personal level, there are those who seek to enslave others, including their family, employees or people in their care. Manipulation and control may involve just one subject, such as a parent manipulating their child, or a wife manipulating her husband. In such cases the manipulator seeks to turn another person into their slave, at least within certain behaviour patterns, and so resorts to various means of control to get the other to give up their sovereignty. A similar condition is that of domination, where an assertive person will project their personality over others, simply to indulge their own pride and self-centredness. The right to personal sovereignty of those around them is impacted by their domination.

In each of the cases I have outlined, our personal right to come into God’s presence and make appeal directly to Him, remains intact. We may be in physical danger if we do so, but we have not lost the divine right to do so. This is the Divine Right of Everyone! No religious or political domination, nor sin or deal with the devil, can take from us our right to cry out to God and present ourselves before Him.

Sovereignty and Judgement

Personal Sovereignty is our inalienable right (something that cannot be taken from us) to stand before God. And that’s profound because it gives us an amazing personal value when we can stand before one who is of much greater authority than kings, presidents, magistrates, media magnates, military leaders and power brokers. I sense that if we could grasp the true significance of this incredible personal privilege it would impact our entire life. 

Another way of capturing a glimpse of our personal sovereignty is to consider what happens in judgement. I’m not talking about what happens in your nation’s judicial system, but what happens at the end of time when everyone is judged before God. What happens is that, as I just gave it away, “everyone is judged before God”. 

Did you get that? Did you catch the awesome significance of that fact? 

If you were some lesser being then your parents might stand before God on your behalf, discuss your behaviour and make a deal. They may come up with a plea-bargain or some other construct, to which you are not really a party, but simply a pawn. If you were ‘owned’ by someone else then they could make you pay for things you didn’t do, or they could negotiate on your behalf, striking whatever deal they choose to make.

But that is NOT what happens at the Great White Throne of Judgement. On that day YOU stand before God, on your own, accounting for yourself, because you are a Sovereign Citizen. And, it’s not that you have something over everyone else. We ALL get to stand accountable before God, because we are all sovereign citizens. We all have the same right and privilege to stand before God and account for ourselves before Him. We each have the same opportunity to come before God and make a personal commitment that gives us the same eternal privilege that everyone has access to. 

Your social standing, education, income, ethnicity, physical prowess or disability have no relevance when it comes to your personal sovereignty. Wicked King Ahab was advised of God’s judgement due to come upon him (see 1Kings 21:20-29). He was evil and deserved to be destroyed. But when he turned to God in prayer, even he was given a concession by God. He was worthy of destruction, yet he still had personal sovereignty and the right to come to God. 

That’s how every one of us can come to God as a sinner. We are worthy of God’s eternal damnation, but we have the gift of personal sovereignty so we can come to God and ask Him for the grace which is ours through Christ Jesus. It’s as available to Saddam Hussein and Osama BinLaden as readily as it is to us. Even they, for their evils, have the right to stand before God and do business with Him. 

I pray that you grasp something of the awesome possibilities God provides to you by allowing you to stand before Him and do business with Him. You are not subservient to anyone. Others will not determine your eternal destiny for you. You are given the grace to stand before God and to ask Him for what you will. He is not at your behest – you cannot make Him do what He does not want to do – but you can meet with Him and let Him do business with you.