Tag Archives: Evangelism

Eternal Hell

But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mark 3:29)

Hell seldom comes up as a topic of interest. The notion of hell congers up unpleasant images of souls tortured by unquenchable flames and taunted by merciless devils with pitchforks. Heaven makes a more pleasant topic of conversation. I cannot wait to get there!

So, when a social media contact posted his take on a less-than-eternal nature of hell, I could not help (against my better judgment) to try and briefly correct his erroneous conclusions. I tried to keep it brief, but after his second response, I thought it best to conclude the discussion, and take Paul’s advice to “strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14). These kinds of discussions usually remain unresolved and provide a poor witness to bystanders. (On social media, one can never tell who is “listening.”)

Anyway, this gentleman (I’ll call him Aloysius (“famous warrior”) or Al for short) has apparently labored intensely on the subject of hell and arrived at the conclusion that hell is not eternal. He based his conclusion on the Hebrew word ‛ôlâm and the Greek word aiōnios, both of which are often translated as “forever” or “everlasting.” Al correctly pointed out that both of these words have several shades of meaning. Depending on the context, ‛ôlâm can mean “concealed, vanishing point, eternity, always, or perpetual,” according to Strong’s. Brown-Driver-Briggs’ defines it as “long duration, antiquity, forever, ever, everlasting, evermore, or perpetual.” As for  aiōnios, Strong’s defines it as “perpetual, eternal, everlasting, or forever.” Thayer’s Greek Definitions renders it, “without beginning, without end, never to cease, everlasting.”

Al failed to see the inconsistency in his argument. He defined ‛ôlâm and aiōnios as “eternal” when applied to God or heaven, but temporal when applied to hell. He did not reject the concept of hell, just the idea of an eternal hell. I did not pursue the question as to how he arrived at that conclusion, but perhaps his revulsion to the notion of an eternal damnation conflicted with his idea of a loving God. I understand why someone would feel that way, but we are not in a place to make that decision for God.

The Bible clearly teaches that heaven and hell are real places and they are eternal. All humans will end up in one place or the other for eternity. One verse from Jesus’ own lips easily exposes the contradiction in Al’s argument. In His discourse concerning the separation of the sheep and the goats,[1] Jesus sums up the destiny of both. “And these [goats] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous [sheep] into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46, emphasis mine). In this verse, aiōnios defines the duration of “punishment” (i.e., hell) and “life.” Seeing that the same word is applied to both, they must mean the same thing. If hell is not eternal then neither is life (i.e., heaven). If heaven is eternal, then so must be hell. Keep in mind that this verse is in the same context, so the word cannot have different meanings.

Related to aiōnios is the Greek word aiōn, which means “an age, perpetuity, continuing, or everlasting.” This word is often translated as “for ever” in the King James Version (KJV). When rendered as such, aiōn is usually preceded by the preposition eis, which means “to or into.” Together, eis aiōn could be translated “into the ages,” “into perpetuity,” or “to eternity.”

The Book of the Revelation explains the eternal nature of hell. In the Fourteenth Chapter, those that take the Mark of the Beast are condemned to eternal hell.[2] “And 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” (Revelation 14:11, emphasis mine). The repletion is emphatic, εις αιωνας αιωνων – “into the ages of the ages.” Satan, the Beast (Antichrist), and the False Prophet earn the same reward. “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” (Revelation 20:10, emphasis mine). Again, the eternal nature of hell is described: εις αιωνας αιωνων – “into the ages of the ages.” Then those who reject Christ will be judged at the Great White Throne.[3] “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, emphasis mine).

I understand Al’s desire that hell be temporary. That those who go there stay just long enough to pay their debt and get vaporized. I do not cherish the thought of anyone going to that place even for one minute. The Bible tells us that “God is love,”[4] and that “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). However, God is eternal – without beginning and without end. Therefore, when we offend the eternal God, we offend Him eternally, and the punishment, therefore, must be of eternal consequences.

The Bible says that we have all offended God. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). However, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). The eternal God took on human flesh[5] and shed His precious, perfect blood to cover our sins. His sacrifice provides for us the eternal atonement, covering, to satisfy our eternal offense against Eternal God. But we have the choice to believe or disbelieve, to accept or reject. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Al is wrong. Hell is eternal. Please do not go there. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 25:31-46

[2]  Revelation 14:9-11

[3]  Revelation 20:11-15

[4]  1 John 4:8

[5]  John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Death, Gospel, Heaven, Hell

It’s the Word!

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

This past Saturday morning, I met with my Gideon[1] brothers for our weekly breakfast gathering at IHOP.™ Frankly, I did not feel like getting up that early on a Saturday morning. It was damp and gloomy and not very inspiring for an early morning rising. I knew it would be that way from the previous day’s weather forecast, so I made up my mind that I would skip this meeting unless God woke me up to get me to go. At six A.M. God woke me up, but I rolled over in bed and told Him I really didn’t feel like going. Then at 6:15 A.M., the alarm clock, which neither my wife nor I had set, went off, so I said, “OK, Lord. I’ll get dressed and go.” I am learning not to argue with God when He wants me to do something.

The meeting was typical. We read Scripture, offered praises and prayer requests, and then enjoyed fellowship over breakfast. In the course of conversation, one of my Gideon brothers asked if any of us had heard about the sexual misconduct allegations recently made about Ravi Zacharias.[2] Zacharias, who died on May 19, 2020, was previously accused by a woman of inappropriate advances in an email scandal of which he was later cleared. Now, almost a year after his death, other questionable women, “massage therapists,” have come out accusing the evangelist of inappropriate touching, rape, and “spiritual abuse.” The ministry (RZIM) launched an investigation into the matter and issued an open letter[3] regarding the findings of the investigation.

Regardless of the findings of the investigations or RZIM’s renouncement of Ravi’s alleged misconduct, I am not prepared to assign guilt. As I told my Gideon brothers, we cannot know the facts. We take the accusers’ words at face value without knowing the motive behind the accusation or whether the misconduct really took place. The man is dead. He cannot defend himself. Why bring up these charges now?

This I know. “… [A]ll have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). No man is above sin. The allegations against Ravi Zacharias, may be true, and if true any heavenly rewards he earned here on earth will probably be cast aside as “wood, hay, and stubble,”[4] but “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”[5] God will make that determination.

I also know this. Satan is a liar and the father of lies.[6] Ravi had a powerful apologetics ministry. He destroyed enemies of the Gospel with his tremendous intellect and logic, and nothing would give Satan greater satisfaction than to destroy Ravi’s ministry and legacy, especially in these Last Days when the return of our Lord draws near.

This, too, I know. Regardless of the man, God’s Word will remain true. God promised, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11, emphasis mine). Jesus put it this way, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The human source from which God’s Word procedes matters not. It is God’s Word that will prevail. Consider the false prophet Balaam.[7] He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel, but every time Balaam opened his mouth, nothing but blessings came forth. Consider King David. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed, took a census of Israel that God did not authorize. Yet, he was called a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, most of the psalms in the Hebrew Psalter that bless us today. Take, also, Jonah as another example. God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain in direct opposition to God’s command. Jonah became fish bait and fish vomit, but eventually, he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented. God’s Word prevailed.

I also recall a modern-day evangelist, by the name of Bob Harrington.[8] He was known as the “Chaplain of Bourbon Street” because he would go into New Orleans strip clubs and witness to the ladies that danced there. Harrington would draw large crowds in his evangelistic campaigns. I first heard him preach while I was stationed in San Diego in the Navy. His messages were powerful, and he preached the Gospel straight. Many came to the Lord through his preaching of God’s Word. Later in life,[9] Harrington renounced the faith and pursued worldly pleasures, but that does not negate the Word he preached, or cancel the salvation of those who received the message he preached and accepted Christ because of it.

All of God’s messengers are flawed, and we, as Christians, need to take care not to allow them to become idols. They are fallen men, but it’s the Word of God they preach that matters. I do not know if Ravi Zacharias is guilty of the charges brought against him. However, I suspect that it is a ploy of the Devil to denigrate the Word of God. “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:4, emphasis mine). Men will always let you down, but God’s Word will always be proven true. It’s the Word, not the man. It’s the message, not the messenger. 

Notes:


[1] The Gideons International – https://www.gideons.org/

[2]  Ravi Zacharias International Ministry – https://www.rzim.org/

[3]  Open Letter/Board Statement – https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/board-statement

[4]  1 Corinthians 3:12

[5]  1 Corinthians 3:15

[6]  John 8:44

[7]  Numbers 22-24

[8]  “ ‘Chaplain of Bourbon Street’ dies at 89” – https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/chaplain-of-bourbon-street-dies-at-89/

[9]  “My Renewed Life Story” – http://www.thechaplain.com/testimony.htm

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Current Events, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology