Archive for the ‘Eternal Damnation’ Category

Pressing Chris Date’s Retreat

April 9, 2013

Over at “Rethinking Hell,” Mr. Chris Date has retreated a few steps in his discussion of the meaning of the term “punishment.”

Recall that the argument that “punishment” in this case was a “result” noun was one of Mr. Date’s first supposedly “positive” arguments for his position. Now, Mr. Date tries to argue for ambiguity. He states: “First, it should be noted that many deverbal nouns are polysemous, ambiguous between a process or result meaning.”

Of course, this is true – it’s something that Mr. Blauser and I already pointed out in our supplement. It’s true, but it’s not necessarily relevant.

Moreover, while it is true, it can be misleading. While – in some cases – a word standing alone can be ambiguous, even words with a range of meaning that includes both process and result can unambiguously express one or the other in context. In other words, the fact that something is a deverbal noun doesn’t make it automatically ambiguous in a particular context.

Mr. Date even admits:

I do not dispute that “punishment” does sometimes—even often—refer to the process of punishing. But since such deverbal nouns are often polysemous, it does not follow that therefore “punishment” carries a process meaning every time it’s used. “Punishment” may often describe “a manner of treatment, not the result of that treatment,” but this is not always the case.

This is similar to the post-modern fallacy of assuming that just because people sometimes revise their opinions – or even often revise their opinions on many things – that therefore there is nothing that should be held absolutely.

Similarly, it’s not true that just because some (or many) deverbal nouns are polysemous, that therefore all deverbal nouns are polysemous. Moreover, there are kinds and degrees of polysemeity. For example, there are words like “punishment” that (in English) nearly always refer to a process, just like there are words like “injury” that almost always refer to a result.

After an irrelevant tangent over whether a fine is a process or result (it’s a result), Mr. Date points out that “capital punishment” is a use of “punishment” that carries a “result” sense.

Of course, the only reason it carries a “result” sense in English is that it is being modified by a term that requires that sense. In other words, it is the modifier that goes with the word “punishment” that determines whether it carries its usual process sense, or this exceptional “result” sense.

In like way, “fine” can refer to the process of transferring the money. For example, “During the fine of Mr. Date, the bank discovered that there were insufficient funds in his account.” In this case, a word that normally refers to a result carries a meaning that refers to a process.

“Capital punishment” is just an example in the opposite direction, where a term that is normally about the process is used to refer to a result. Just as we make result nouns function as though they were process nouns, we can make process nouns function as though they were result nouns. For example, slap “completed” on a process noun, and you now have a usage that refers to result.

Moreover, “capital punishment” is not a term used in Scripture, and this particular example of the semantic domain of “punishment”, therefore, does not have a corresponding expression in Koine Greek (that I could locate – perhaps there’s some use I’m unaware of). In short, this is an exception to the general rule in English – but not one that Mr. Date will find in the Biblical text.

Taking the usage of “punishment” in the King James Version, the only modifiers aside from “everlasting” in Matthew 25:46, are “my” (Genesis 4:13), “no” (1 Samuel 18:10), “strange” (Job 31:3), and “sorer” (Hebrews 10:29). The only other place where the corresponding Greek word is used, the KJV translates it as torment, not punishment.

Moreover, in this case – the word that modifies “punishment” is the word that means “everlasting.” It’s a word that relates to duration. As such, it’s a word that unmistakably suggests that “process” or “manner” sense of “punishment” is intended, just as if it had said “long punishment,” “lengthy punishment,” or “short punishment.”

So, Chris Date has two uphill battles to try to make his supposedly positive case. First, he has to deal with the fact that “everlasting” here suggests a process, and second he has to deal with the fact that “punishment” normally refers to a process.

Chris Date attempted to rely on Augustine.  Regarding his misuse of Augustine, Mr. Date asks:

Did we not see Augustine explicitly stating that the measure of capital punishment is not in the duration of the punishing, but rather in the duration of the consequent lifelessness?

No, we did not. We saw him explicitly saying that it was not in the duration of the act of killing but in the duration of the exile (“As to the award of death for any great crime, do the laws reckon the punishment to consist in the brief moment in which death is inflicted, or in this, that the offender is eternally banished from the society of the living?”).

Mr. Date turns from there to a rebuttal argument extracted from Jonathan Edwards.  Jonathan Edwards argues that if the Biblical descriptions of punishment in the afterlife all refer simply to a state of annihilation, and if being in that state eternally meets the description of “eternal punishment,” then there is no reason for a lengthy period of suffering prior to such annihilation.

Mr. Date mistakenly takes comfort in this argument, supposing that Edwards is saying that continuing in the state of being annihilated is legitimately viewed as an “eternal punishment.”  On the contrary, while Mr. Date cited section 31 of the chapter, in section 1 Edwards explicitly states “Eternal punishment is not eternal annihilation.” (get the book, here)

Finally, Mr. Date uses an argument worth laying to rest here, although perhaps it could be addressed anywhere.  He writes:

The phrase Jesus uses a mere verses earlier, “eternal fire,” carries a certain meaning elsewhere, which along with the rest of Scripture must be the lens through which we interpret “eternal punishment,” rather than the other way around.

The argument Mr. Date is referring to here attempts to read the shadow into the substance, instead of recognizing that the shadow is just a shadow.

Thus, in this example:

Matthew 25:41
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

There is that fire that lasts forever.  It’s the same fire that whose smoke will rise up forever (as we discussed here).

It’s also referred to earlier in Matthew:

Matthew 18:8
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

Chris Date’s argument is to rely on the fact that the fire sent against Sodom and Gomoorrha is also called “eternal fire.”

Jude 7
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

The argument is that the fire and brimstone against Sodom was not eternal in the duration of its burning.  But Sodom is just an example – a shadow or type of future punishment.  Similarly, Gehenna and Tophet/Topheth are types of the future burning, but the fires there were not literally unending.

And, I should add, this concept of fire that burns forever is not a strictly New Testament concept:

Isaiah 33:14
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

I should note that a similar thing occurs when the “read the limitations of the shadow into the substance” hermeneutic encounters similar types:

Jeremiah 17:4
And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.

Yet the Babylonian captivity was only for a matter of years.

Or to take another example:

Leviticus 6:13
The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.

Nevertheless, the fire on the altar did go out.  It was relit by God at the building of Solomon’s temple, and then went out again, at the latest at the time of the captivity (but probably significantly before then).

The fire on the altar, like the fire that consumed Sodom, are pictures of the unquenchable fire that is coming:

Matthew 3:12
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Luke 3:17
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

Trying to reconcile the idea that the “fire” is “eternal” with the claim that it is not unending results in people like Mr. Date having to argue that the fire is only “eternal” in the sense of being from the eternal God.

If we are to read “eternal” as merely “from God” with respect to the fire and the punishment, then we should do so also with “eternal life.”  But surely Scripture makes it abundantly clear that eternal life is forever.

All this to say this verse:

Matthew 25:46
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

makes it perfectly clear that both hell (i.e. the lake of fire) and heaven are eternal.


Everlasting Contempt

March 25, 2013

In my debates on hell, I didn’t mention the following verse:

Daniel 12:2
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Perhaps I should have, as it helps to make clear one of the verses I did cited:

Isaiah 66:22-24For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, [that] from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

The point of this is not specifically to make clear that the punishment of hell will include torment of the damned. After all, that aspect of hell is abundantly clear from verse like the following:

Luke 16:28
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Revelation 14:11And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Rather the point of citing Daniel 12:2 in connection with Isaiah 66:22-24 is that the condition of the wicked is a permanent condition. It won’t cease, either for salvation or annihilation. Instead, it will be a perpetual memorial to God’s justice and power.

Daniel 12:2 also confirms the general resurrection, which we see more clearly in the New Testament.

John 5:29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Acts 24:15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.

People might find my reference to Isaiah 66 surprising, because on its face it is not clear that these corpses are people who are alive in some sense, even while being dead in another and important sense.

But the second death is spelled out more clearly in Revelation 20:

Revelation 20:7-15
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Notice that the lake of fire is a place of eternal torment, and it is the second death.

And ultimately, the reason why the “traditional view” of hell is the view of hell that we will continue to hold is because it is the Scriptural view – represented not only by the above verses, but most especially by

Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

That punishment will generally be the wrath of God, and will particularly involve both torment and also specifically shame and contempt.


Until He Pay the Uttermost Farthing

March 13, 2013

Two of the verses sometimes used to argue for the position that hell is eternal state:

Matthew 5:26
Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Matthew 18:34
And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

Thinking about this long ago, I had assumed that the man would eventually be able to pay off the debt, even if it took millenia to do it. So, I was confused about how this would be a good illustration of eternity, unless the point was that millenia is an analogy for eternity.

But what I had neglected to consider was basic economics. The man owes the massive debt in today’s money. But a talent of gold tomorrow is worth less than a talent of gold today – and a talent of gold in a hundred years is even less. There is time value to money.

The amount of money owed in the Matthew 18 parable is massive. Some have suggested that a talent corresponds to about 6,000 days wages. Thus, 10,000 talents corresponds to about 60,000,000 days wages. If money had no time value, it would take 164,000 years (or so) to pay off the debt. But if the time value of money is even 1/1000th of a percent, the man would never be able to pay the interest on the debt – each day he would owe even more than the previous day.


P.S. I provided a clarifying comment in the comment box, but perhaps it makes sense to place it in the main post:

It’s not a question of inflation. Even in an inflation-free system, a dollar (or ruble, or yen, or euro, or peso, or pound) today is worth more to people than a dollar (or whatever) a year from now. That is to say, even if the dollar will buy the same sandwich in one year that it buys today, we’d rather have the money now, thanks. It’s a fundamental principle of economics.

And Matthew, Matthew’s audience, and (obviously) Jesus were aware of the concept of interest. Interest factors explicitly into another parable (the parable of the talents, see Matthew 25). In that parable, the lord was not satisfied to merely have his talent back at the end of the time period. He expected that it should at least have received interest.

Response to Scoffer

January 21, 2009

I am glad to see that at least one scoffer has found my blog. He provided the following comments, which I have redacted and edited to either omit or restrain the blasphemy and to standardize the syntax/spelling/etc.:

Unless he punishes all sin in the individual who actually commits it, and does so in proportion to the sin, then who cares about this unjust [god]?
Unless everyone burns in hell for each of their sins in proportion to its magnitude, then la-di-da.
If you really get and eternity in hell for each sin, no matter how mild, then why not just commit them all and often?
Since you’re getting the exact same punishment whether you steal a candy bar at 2 years old or rape a 2 year old at 50?
Your God is [something bad], Turretinfan. He’s not just at all.

I answer:

The general objection here is that if every sin deserves eternal punishment, there is no distinction between sins and consequently God is unjust. This argument assumes something, though, namely that every person in hell for eternity receives the same punishment there.

Although the duration is the same (unending), there is no necessity that the degree of suffering be the same. Dante Alighieri (in the 14th century) proposed a view of Hell in which there are many levels, ranging from the most severe (specifically reserved for Satan) to the least severe, for those with relatively less heinous sins. This view of Hell demonstrates that it is possible for all sinners to receive eternal punishment, even while some receive a more severe punishment than others.

Jesus himself endorsed the idea that there is differentiation in hell. He stated:

Matthew 10:15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Matthew 11:22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

Matthew 11:24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Mark 6:11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Luke 10:12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

Luke 10:14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.

There’s also a minor objection: “If you really get and eternity in hell for each sin, no matter how mild, then why not just commit them all and often?”

a) Me personally? I don’t like sinning. It doesn’t please me. I prefer to honor my God.

b) There is a bit of a false dichotomy here: the two paths are not “sin a little and go to hell forever” vs. “sin a lot and go to hell forever” but rather between “go on in sin” and “repent of your sin and trust in Christ for salvation.”

c) There seems to be a hidden view behind the words that maybe God punishes sins, but there’s just no way he could punish them forever.

But, Jesus clearly declared that the punishment for those don’t follow Him is everlasting fire:

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Mark 9:43-48
43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Hell is a fearsome reality. I can appreciate that it is not a pleasant prospect: it is not supposed to be. God is not some omni-benevolent Santa Claus that will be patient with your sins forever. He has given you time to repent and believe. If you see your sins, and seek mercy rather than justice, pray to God the Father, asking Him for mercy for the sake of Christ.


Short Response to so-called Evangelical Universalism

May 14, 2008

There is a new book out, entitled “The Evangelical Universalist.” Its premise appears to be that Christ will save everyone, and that he will do so through the preaching of the gospel. (link to review/author interview) While one can appreciate the softness of heart that would motivate such a conclusion, it is not a Scriptural conclusion.

That there is a hell, a place of eternal death and corruption, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched is taught clearly in Scripture, from the very lips of Jesus (Mark 9:43-48, relying on Isaiah 66:24).

Moreover, Paul clearly states that those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will be punished with “everlasting destruction” (ολεθρον αιωνιον) in 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

While we must preach the gospel without regard to how many God chooses to save, we may be touched in our empathy for our fellow sinners and spurred on to spread the gospel, by the fact that those who do not repent and believe will perish forever and by our knowledge that the means to their salvation is the preached Gospel of Christ.

Therefore, we should call all men to repentance from sin and faith in the risen Lord, by whom alone there is victory over death.


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