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10 Things You Should Know about Hell and Eternal Conscious Punishment

February 13, 2017 | by: Sam Storms| 9 Comments


Nicholas Quient

Feb 15, 2017

Hi Dr. Storms,

Thank you for your blog post. I wonder what you think of the language Paul uses ('destruction' and 'perish), as you offer no alternative reason to consider why the annihilationist is indeed wrong to understand such language in its most linguistically natural way. For instance, you say: "Thus, they interpret “destroy” to mean deprive of life and existence, hence the extinction of being." This seems to be Paul's intent when he talks about 'destruction' and the 'death' of the wicked. It seems that more work must be done by the traditionalist when it comes to exegesis of Paul's texts, and Moo's work in "Hell under Fire" does not stand up to scrutiny.

I humbly offer my own article in defense of an annihilationist reading of 2 Thess. 1:9. I have since revised some of my opinions therein, but not to the extent that it undermines my conclusions.

In Christ,


Feb 15, 2017

Revelation 20:10-15 "...and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."The beast and false prophet are seen thrown into the lake of fire at the onset of the millennium (Rev 19:20) and are still there a thousand years later when the devil joins them and they are tormented forever. After rising from the dead the unsaved are thrown in, joining their fate, and consistency would seem to demand that they, too, are tormented forever. The challenge to conditionalism again seems obvious.

Other equally obvious factors, however, often go unnoticed or unmentioned. First, it should be obvious that the vision given to John consists of highly symbolic, apocalyptic imagery and must be interpreted carefully. As discussed above, the imagery of eternal torment may not communicate literal eternal torment any more than a seven-headed, ten-horned beast (Rev 13:1) ridden by a prostitute with the name of a city on her head (Rev 17:3-6) communicates a future reality like something pictured in a horror movie.

Secondly, it should be obvious that death and Hades are abstractions, not concrete entities, and are thus incapable of experiencing torment at all. And yet in this image they’re thrown into the same lake of fire as the others after being emptied of their dead (Rev 20:13-14). Most traditionalists acknowledge that this means death and Hades will be no more, yet they nevertheless argue that even though the resurrected lost are not explicitly said to be tormented eternally in the lake of fire their fate must be the same as the others thrown into the fire. But consistency demands that everything thrown into the fire experiences the same fate, so that of the devil, beast, false prophet, and risen wicked should be annihilation in reality, even though some of them are depicted in the imagery as eternally tormented.

Thirdly, not only do we have the Old Testament uses of the imagery to rely onbut the book of Revelation in many cases interprets the images for us! John’s vision is sometimes interpreted for him (Rev 17:7), and John appears to explain the imagery of the lake of fire itself by calling it "the second death" (Rev 20:14), the same interpretation offered by “he who sits on the throne” (Rev 21:8). So the imagery does not symbolize everlasting suffering but death—a permanent, irreversible death of body and soul (Matthew 10:28). Furthermore, the divine interpreter of imagery, foretelling the same events, explained to Daniel that what the beast experiences in the imagery symbolizes the permanent annihilation of the dominion of the kingdom it represents (Daniel 7:11, 25).

Lastly, the symbolic nature of the vision recorded in the book of Revelation is such that it must not be the foundation upon which we build our doctrine of hell, even though it is arguably used in just that fashion by traditionalists. When we allow the divine interpreters of Daniel’s and John’s visions to explain the imagery to us, we can see that it communicates annihilation. The dominion of the kingdom represented by the beast comes to an end. Death and Hades come to an end. The devil and his angels will come to an end. The unsaved will likewise come to an end, a permanent destruction of body and soul.


Feb 15, 2017

This is a debate I have struggled with for years. Two things: First, please do not disparage annihilationists as operating only on feelings, as they wrestle with the text as much as anyone else. Furthermore, I have talked to some who speak of eternal punishment with almost a sort of glee, demonstrating that they too bring their feelings to this issue. God has made us with feelings which are not to be discounted by sanctified, and sanctified feelings do have some weight. Second, I try to rest my soul in Genesis 18:25, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" As sinners, none of us can fully comprehend the doctrine of hell this side of eternity. Whatever the truth may be, the saints in heaven will glorify God, for then they will understand fully.

Giles Woodcraft

Feb 15, 2017

A question: Jesus paid the punishment for our sins. Jesus paid the just penality for human sins. This punishment was not eternal and conscious but time limited and ceased. How does this fit with the punishment for human sins in hell being eternal?


Feb 14, 2017

What passage in Scripture teaches that we all possess immortal souls just in and of the fact that we were created? We've all heard it many times "we all live forever somewhere, either in heaven or in hell", what passages teaches this? The wages of sin is death (not eternal conscience torment) the eternal punishment IS eternal death. The wicked will perish, they will die, they will be destroyed, they will be ashes under the feet of the righteous, they shall not be any more, etc. The "traditional view" requires that you interpret literal passages figuratively and figurative passages literally. This would seem to be in error to me. But lets begin with establishing what Scripture teaches the saved and unsaved alike all have immortal souls. Because eternal life and immortality is a gift from God to those who come to faith in Jesus Christ, all others with perish (apollumi).


Feb 14, 2017

Matthew 25:46“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Traditionalists argue that since eternal (αἰώνιος, aionios) is used in both clauses, the duration of the punishment for the damned must endure as long as the duration of the life for the redeemed. And most conditionalists do not disagree! If the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), such that the damned will die and never live again, then the duration of the punishment surely is every bit as eternal. It is not the punishing itself that is eternal, a process that never ends. It is the punishment that is eternal, the final death sentence which is permanent (i.e., forever).

When eternal describes a so-called “noun of action” in the New Testament—that is, the noun corresponding to a verb (punishment versus punish)—it frequently is the verb’s outcome, not its process, whose duration is everlasting. Eternal judgment refers to the everlasting outcome of a finite process of judging (Hebrews 6:2). Eternal salvation and eternal redemption refer to the everlasting outcome of a finite process of saving and redeeming (Hebrews 5:9, 9:12). Eternal sin refers to a sin the consequences of which are eternal (Mark 3:29, unless its original reading is “eternal judgment,” in which case it is once again the everlasting outcome of a finite process of judging). Likewise eternal punishment may refer to the everlasting outcome of a finite process of punishing.

Of course, some conditionalists argue that αἰώνιος is not properly translated "eternal" in the first place. Rather, they make a case for understanding it as having a qualitative meaning, rather than a quantitative one. In their view, αἰώνιος life does not inherently communicate “everlasting” life in the sense of forever ongoing—although they believe that that teaching can be found elsewhere—but rather a “kind” of life, one corresponding to the age to come. In other words, eternal might refer to the quality of the age in which the life is lived, that is “in the age of, and with the qualities of, eternity”—not merely a temporal quantity. This explanation would also track with the idea that the eternal fire of Jude did not continue to burn in Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, but was of an eternal nature and origin. (See section on Matthew 25:41.) Likewise αἰώνιος punishment may refer to the punishment corresponding to the age to come, not one of unending duration.


Feb 14, 2017

Revelation 14“. . . and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night . . ."

If it were not for this passage and one other in Revelation, what is now the traditional view of hell may never have developed. The angel promises that beast-worshippers will be tormented with fire and the smoke thereof goes up forever, which seems to suggest that their torment goes on forever. He also says they will have no rest day or night, suggesting that their restlessness will never come to an end. The challenge to conditionalism seems obvious.

But equally obvious should be the fact that the vision given to John consists of highly symbolic and apocalyptic imagery, so it must be interpreted carefully. The imagery of restlessness and smoke rising perpetually from torment may not actually communicate eternal torment, any more than a seven-headed, ten-horned beast (Rev 13:1) ridden by a prostitute with the name of a city on her head (Rev 17:3-6) communicates a future reality like something pictured in a horror movie.

So then what does the imagery in this portion of John’s vision communicate? The harlot Mystery Babylon is seen tormented as well (Rev 18:7,10,15) and smoke from her torment also rises forever (Rev 19:3). But with respect to the city the harlot represents the interpreting angel says, “Babylon the great city [will] be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more” (Rev 18:21), borrowing language from Ezekiel 26:20-21, a prophecy concerning the destruction of the city of Tyre fulfilled long ago: “you will not be inhabited . . . you will be no more; though you will be sought, you will never be found again.”

So this imagery of smoke rising forever from torment, when interpreted in the light of the Old Testament source it is quoting from, communicates permanent destruction that leaves lifeless remains. This should serve as no surprise to students of the Old Testament; the imagery comes straight from Isaiah 34:8-10 which describes the fires which long ago destroyed the city of Edom and have since dissipated: “Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever.” Edom is not literally burning to this day, smoke is not still rising from its remains.

The imagery of smoke rising forever communicates the permanency of Edom’s destruction and that of Mystery Babylon. Therefore, the smoke rising from the torment of the beast-worshippers amounts to imagery communicating their permanent destruction as well.


Feb 13, 2017

“Perhaps the idea of endless punishing is less offensive when the idea of endless sinning is considered. In other words, if those in hell never cease to sin, why should they ever cease to suffer?”

In my mind, would this not take away from God’s glorious and perfect future kingdom in that sin is never fully eradicated throughout all eternity?

doug sayers

Feb 13, 2017

I take no special delight in reading this article... but we need to face the sober truth lest we drift and start apologizing for the Bible.

Thanks Sam.

Sorry, but I must add this: Hell is real and eternal but I can no longer agree with G Whitefield when he claims that God would be just to damn us to hell even if we never actually sinned once in our entire lifetime (Method of Grace). I don't think God appreciates preachers disparaging His holy character with such speculation. The preaching of God's utter holiness and righteousness will only serve to contradict the Reformed teaching that every baby is born guilty (without consciously breaking the law) and deserves to perish (in a conscious and eternal hell) from the womb!

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© 2017 Sam Storms: Oklahoma City, OK

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