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Is Hell Real?

Eternal Punishment: The Biblical Evidence

By E. Ray Clendenen –

The church traditionally has taught that God will send every person to hell to suffer forever who hasn’t trusted Jesus Christ as the only source of forgiveness, mercy, and goodness. Is this really what the Bible teaches?

Could it be that God applies the work of Christ to all when they die, regardless of decisions and actions made before death? Or could God just punish the (really) wicked for a while after they die and then forgive and accept them? Or maybe give them one more chance to repent and believe after they die? Or at the very worst, could it be that God only raises the dead who have followed Him and that He punishes unbelievers by just leaving them as they are, dead and gone, no longer existing?

The first two options above are forms of universalism, against which we may simply cite Paul’s declaration that personal faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation from divine wrath (Rom 1:16–17; 3:21–22). The last option is called “annihilationism” or “conditional immortality” or simply “conditionalism.” Although the third option, that God must offer an opportunity after death to repent and accept the gospel, has been advocated by a few in the early church (e.g., Clement of Alexandria) and later, it has no biblical foundation. The Bible is clear that whatever judgment comes after death is based solely on what one does in this life, on “what he has done in the body” (2 Cor 5:10; also Luke 16:26; 1 Pet 1:17).1

E. W. Fudge, who advocates conditional immortality, claims that the teaching of eternal punishment is “a grievous mistake, a horrible error, a gross slander against the heavenly Father.”2 So the question is whether the Bible actually teaches that there will conscious punishment of unbelievers after death, and if so, will it be eternal or of limited duration? The simplest place to start our investigation is with Jesus’ teaching, for as Scot McKnight wrote, “What Christians have believed about hell has been constructed almost entirely out of what Jesus teaches in the Gospels.”3

Hell in the Teaching of Jesus

In Matthew 5:22b, Jesus declared, “Whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ [rhaka] will be subject to [enochos] the Sanhedrin [sunedrion]. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ [moros] will be subject to [enochos, also “deserving”] hellfire [Gk geenna tou pyros, “gehenna of fire”].”

Whatever punishment awaits the wicked, it is worse than mutilation. Jesus warned in Matthew 5:29b, “For it is better that you lose [apollumi] one of the parts of your body [lit. ‘that one of your parts be lost/destroyed/ ruined’] than for your whole body to be thrown into hell [geenna].” Originally the name of a valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem, by the first century the term “Gehenna” was being used of the place of eternal torment.4

Similarly in Mark 9:43–48 (//Matt. 18:8–9) Jesus warned his disciples about this potential destination of suffering involving unquenchable or eternal fire, which was the alternative to life in the kingdom of God:

And if your hand causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and go to hell—the unquenchable [Gk asbestos] fire, . . . And if your foot causes your downfall, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell [Matt. 18:8, “into the eternal fire”] . . . And if your eye causes your downfall, gouge it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell [Matt 18:9, “into hellfire”], where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (quoting Isa. 66:24).

Finally we must note Jesus’ warning in Matthew 18:6 (//Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2): “But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!” What kind of experience after death would be worse than the experience and results of having one’s hand or foot severed or your eye gouged out? Some have been known to prefer death rather than life after such mutilation or similar agony (cf. Luke 23:30; Matt. 27:5; Rev. 6:16; 9:5–6). But Jesus says the unbeliever’s experience after death will also be worse than death by drowning. Although in our experience fire is usually something that reduces flammable material to nothing (hence Moses’ curiosity about the burning bush), it is clear that the penalty of eternal fire in hell means s o m e t h i n g other than extinction by being consumed but must entail great personal, conscious suffering. And the alternative between that experience and life in the kingdom of God suggests the same duration.

E. W. Fudge argues from the nature of fire that Jesus’ references to the fires of hell must mean that hell does not punish but destroys the wicked.5 But this fails to appreciate the nature of figurative language, which the Bible uses profusely in dealing especially with eschatological matters since they are so far outside our realm of experience. The portrayal of divine punishment for the obdurately wicked as the unquenchable fires of hell drives home to us the terrifying character of the spiritual, emotional (and very real) anguish in store for those who die outside Jesus Christ. One clue to the figurative function of such language is that Jesus also describes the unbeliever’s destiny as being “thrown into the outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30; cp. 2 Pet. 2:4,17; Jude 6,13; Rev. 16:10). Since literal fire and darkness are incompatible, they are likely both figurative.6 The author of Hebrews, quoting Deuteronomy 4:24, declares God to be “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29), not in a literal sense but to make vivid the point that “God is not to be trifled with” and that we “overlook [God’s] wrath at [our] peril.”7 Figures of speech do not assume that the object of discussion is just like the figure but only that the two have at least some essential attribute in common. Misunderstanding of this important hermeneutical principle has led, for example, to some bizarre interpretations of the figures in the Song of Songs (e.g., 4:4—“Your neck is like the tower of David, constructed in layers”).

When Jesus commissioned the disciples (Matt 10:28), He said to them, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy [apollumi] both soul and body in hell [gehenna].” The meaning of “destroy” here cannot be established from the parallel term “kill” since Jesus is expressing a contrast. Not only does God have power over the whole person and not just the body, but also God can “destroy… in hell,” though man can only “kill.” From what Jesus says elsewhere, the penalty of apollumi that He warns against here8 must mean something other than just annihilation. According to the parallel in Luke 12:5, the One to fear is He “who has authority to throw people into hell after death [or “after they are killed”].” For example, Jesus describes the afterdeath experience of the callously selfish “rich man” who ignored Lazarus’s needs as being in torment (basanos) and agony in the flames of Hades (Luke 16:23–28).9 And whereas the unclean spirit whom Jesus encountered in the synagogue cried out in fear, “What do You have to do with us, Jesus—Nazarene? Have You come to destroy [apollumi] us?” (Mark 1:24//Luke 4:34), the spirit Jesus encountered among the Gerasenes cried out, “What do You have to do with us, Son of God? Have You come here to torment [basanizo] us before the time?” (Matt. 8:29; Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28; cf. Rev. 20:10). Jesus’ point in Matthew 10:28 is apparently that God has the power to assign the whole person to the torment of hell.

The Greek verb basanizo and the related noun basanos refer to any experience of intense physical (Matt. 4:24; 8:6; Rev. 12:2) or emotional pain (2 Pet. 2:8). John used it in the book of Revelation to describe the torment to be caused by locusts from the abyss released by the fifth angel on earth’s inhabitants who did not have God’s seal: “Their torment is like the torment caused by a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days people will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them” (Rev. 9:5–6).6 Torment “forever and ever” (eis aionas aionon, lit. “unto ages of ages”) by “fire and sulfur,” with “no rest day or night” will also come on those who worship the beast and receive his mark (Rev. 14:10–11).10 Likewise Satan, the deceiver of the nations, will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10; cf. v. 15).

Although the Gospel of John does not refer to “hell,” Jesus speaks there of the alternative to a future eternal life in the kingdom of God (3:3,5,15,36) as “perishing” (3:16; 10:28, again the word apollumi), being “under condemnation” (krino, 3:18), without “life” (zoe, 5:24,40; 6:53; 10:10; 11:25), but rather “the wrath of God remains on him” (3:36). The latter condition, remaining under God’s wrath, implies that after physical death the unbeliever continues to exist and continues to be in the state of condemnation and in the situation of receiving God’s wrath. In John 5:24 Jesus contrasts the believer who “will not come under judgment” or condemnation (krisis) but who has already “passed from death to life” and so “has eternal life,” with the unbeliever who is already (spiritually) dead. Then in 5:28–29 Jesus carries that contrast beyond physical death to a time when “all who are in the graves” will be raised, some to “the resurrection of life” and the rest to “the resurrection of judgment” (krisis). This means that physical death is not the end for anyone, but that everyone who dies will be raised, followed either by real, abundant, eternal life, or by (real, abundant, eternal?) judgment. In John 11:25–26 Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever.” But based on 5:28–29 Jesus could have further explained that even if/when the unbeliever dies, he will experience judgment, and everyone who does not live and believe in Him will never escape judgment— ever.” As Robert Y a r b r o u g h explains, “If salvation and conscious bliss are everlasting, so are perdition and conscious torment,” and Jesus’ “clear teaching” of eternal, conscious punishment in some places should interpret “less explicit references to perishing, dying, and destruction,” rather than vice versa.12

Jesus announced in Matthew 25:41 that those who refuse to care for Jesus “brothers” who are in need “are cursed” and thrown “into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (cf. Rev. 20:10 quoted above). Then in v. 46 Jesus repeated in similar words that “they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” So for Jesus the fire was eternal so that it could carry out eternal punishment on individuals deserving of God’s wrath. To avoid the understanding that Jesus taught that the destiny of unbelievers will be never-ending, conscious suffering, one must do serious damage to normal principles of interpretation. The motivation to avoid such an interpretation may be well intentioned. But it is based on an insufficient appreciation of (1) the seriousness and destructive nature of sin and evil, (2) the deceptiveness of Satan, who has absolutized the principle of tolerance and subjectivity as the foundation of the current world system, and (3) difference between the the unfathomable infinite knowledge, wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of the sovereign, divine Creator and Redeemer on the one hand and the puny mental and moral capabilities of His corrupt and arrogant human creatures on the other hand. As Yarbrough wisely urges, “If our best hope is that Redeemer [who created the world and was sent to bring forgiveness and righteousness], then our best counsel may be to receive his teachings, undiluted, in the same grave earnest that our sources say he set them forth.”13

Hell in the Old Testament

This understanding of our Savior’s teaching on the consequences of unbelief is consistent with the Old Testament on the one hand and the writings of Jesus’ followers on the other hand. Old Testament declarations and descriptions of judgment confine themselves almost solely to suffering and deprivation in this life and the final loss of physical life itself. Nevertheless, the Old Testament offers some glimpses of rewards and punishments beyond the grave, if only in its figurative language. Sheol is the term the Israelites used for the grave and whatever world lies beyond it. A clear biblical theology of the afterlife cannot be coaxed from such figurative passages as Isaiah 14:9–11, but there seems to be an assumed unpleasant and conscious existence for God’s enemies whose bed and blanket consist of maggots and worms.14

At the end of Isaiah is a similar portrayal of the fate of those who do not belong to God’s kingdom because they refused to “tremble at His word” (Isa. 66:2,5). As “all mankind” departs from worshiping the Lord in Jerusalem, they pass by what apparently was the Hinnom Valley, known in Hebrew as gey ben hinnom or gey hinnom, in Aramaic as gey hinnam, and finally in Greek as geenna, and in Latin as gehenna. This valley’s association with idolatry, child sacrifice (“Topheth” was there, which means “fire-pit”), and perhaps the cult of the dead (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6; 23:10) led to its eventually becoming a city dump. Jeremiah announced it would become “the Valley of Slaughter” where the corpses of idolaters would become bird feed (Jer. 7:30–34; also Isa. 30:29–33). As the worshipers of Isaiah 66 pass the valley, “they will see the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against Me; for their worm will never die, their fire will never go out, and they will be a horror [or “an object of loathing”] to all mankind.” Whether Isaiah intended these words to portray the final judgment of all rebels against God, Jesus found in them a sufficiently accurate account of the coming judgment to apply them in this way in Mark 9:43–48 (see above).25

Another Old Testament passage we encounter in Jesus’ teaching on the destiny of believers and unbelievers is Daniel 12:1–2:

At that time Michael the great prince who stands watch over your people will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt.

Craig Blomberg claims that “the departure of the people of the nations at the final judgment into eternal punishment or eternal life [in Matt. 25:46—see above] builds on the conceptual background of the resurrection of just and unjust to everlasting life and everlasting contempt, respectively, in Dan. 12:2.”16 The same could be said of Jesus’ words in John 5:28–29 that seem to echo Daniel 12:1–2:

Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.

The eschatological context of Daniel 12:1–3 is identified by the temporal phrase, “at that time,” which connects back to “the time of the end” in Dan 11:40. There Daniel’s prophecy moved forward to the days of a final evil pagan ruler known elsewhere as “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3), the “antichrist” (1 John 2:18), or “the beast” (Dan. 7:23; Rev. 11:7; 13:1, etc.). This ruler will bring on Israel “a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being” (Dan. 12:1). Jesus used these words in His Olivet discourse regarding the times immediately preceding His return (Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19; Jesus adds “and never will again”). Daniel 12:2 assures that although the evil king will cause “many” to fall (11:41) and will “destroy and annihilate many” (11:44), he will not truly have the power of life and death. In the first place, “he will meet his end with no one to help him” (11:45; cf. 2 Thes. 2:3–4). Second, all of God’s people “will escape” from his power, though some must die physically. In fact, all those he kills—the “many”—will be raised bodily from the dead. Some of these, God’s people whose name is in “the book,” will be given “eternal life” (the first use of this phrase in the Bible) in their new bodies. But the rest will receive “shame and eternal contempt,” a permanent state of experiencing the utter humiliation of disgrace (herpa, 2 Sam. 13:13; Ps. 22:6; 78:66; Isa. 47:3; Jer. 23:40; 24:9; 42:18; Ezek. 5:15; Dan. 9:16) and contempt (dera’on). The latter term occurs elsewhere only in Isaiah 66:24, suggesting an intentional allusion to that horrible and repulsive scene. That Daniel speaks of the resurrection of “many” (rabbim) does not invalidate the passage’s application to a universal separation of all humanity. The term is used to allude to those killed by the beast, but the eschatological setting of the passage makes a universal application most likely, especially since the previous verse declares that everyone “written in the book will escape” (cf. Rev. 20:10–15). The word “many” may be used in v. 2 to expand those whose bodies are raised to include even those whose name is not written in the book. Besides, the word rabbim can also refer to everyone or the great mass (cf. Ps. 19:6 parallel to “all”). This is the way the word is understood here by the major Hebrew lexicon.17 Finally, the phrase “the dust of the earth” echoes Genesis 2:7, the only other place these two Hebrew words occur together: God “formed the man from the dust of the ground.” Then God cursed disobedient man to “return to the ground” and “to the dust” (3:19). Since the curse is universal, we may assume the resurrection in Daniel 12:2 is universal. As God’s redemption would provide “everlasting (olam) righteousness” (Dan. 9:24), His judgment would result in shame and everlasting contempt.

Hell in Paul’s Epistles

Since before His ascension Jesus left clear instructions with His followers that they were to “make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20), we might expect to find continuity between Jesus’ teaching on divine punishment in the Gospels and the instructions found in the rest of the New Testament. According to the apostle Paul’s disciple, Luke, Paul testified before his Jewish opponents that he affirmed the Pharisaic doctrine of a general resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15).

Douglas J. Moo’s investigation of the Pauline evidence leads him to this conclusion: “Paul teaches that God will visit eternal punishment on people who do not respond to God’s grace revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”18 Moo lists the various terms Paul uses (in order of decreasing frequency) to describe the desperate situation of all who have not found redemption through faith in Christ: (1) [spiritual and physical] death (apothnesko, thanatos), (2) perish, be destroyed (apollumi, apoleia, olethros, phthora), (3) divine wrath (orge, thumos), (4) divine condemnation or judgment (krino, katakrino, katakrisis, dikaiokrisia), (5) under divine curse (anathema, katara), (6) divine punishment or vengeance (ekdikos, ekdikesis, dike), (7) affliction (thlipsis, stenochoria).19 As Moo explains, these terms describe to some degree the current situation of the wicked, which will intensify after the judgment and continue forever unless before death they respond to the gospel. For example, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12 Paul uses the present participle of apollumi, “are perishing,” of those who will follow “the lawless one” because they already rejected the truth of the gospel and so “will be condemned.”

According to Moo, 2 Thessalonians 1:8–9 is “the most important Pauline text on the doctrine of hell.”20 Paul began this letter with gratitude to God for the Thessalonian Christians’ persevering faith through many “persecutions and afflictions” (v. 4). But then he proceeded to encourage them with the assurance that such injustice will be set right.

It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction [thlipsis] those who afflict you and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, taking vengeance [ekdikesis] with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty [dike] of eternal destruction [olethros] from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength in that day when He comes to be glorified by His saints and to be admired by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed.

When Jesus returns, He will be able to point to the church’s affliction and endurance as “clear evidence” that they belong in His kingdom, not only experiencing the “rest” that God has promised all His people (v. 7, “along with us”; cf. Deut. 12:10; Ps. 95:11; Heb. 3:11–4:11),21but also glorifying the Lord Jesus and admiring all that He has done. All who “don’t know God,”22 however, and who “don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” clearly do not belong in His kingdom. God does not arbitrarily assign some to heaven and others to hell. Although other unbelievers will have demonstrated their rejection of God and of His gospel in other ways that Paul does not here specify here,23many of them will have shown it by their persecution of Jesus’ followers. On the day Jesus returns, the righteousness of God’s judgment will be apparent24 when He “repays” (antapodidomi, v. 6)25 the afflicters with their deserved affliction. God will take “vengeance” (ekdikesis, also rendered “punishment”) on them “with flaming fire”26 so that they “pay the penalty” (or “undergo the punishment”), which is “eternal destruction” (olethron aionion). The precise nature of something that has been “destroyed”varies.Tosaythatanation,anarmy, a city, a building, or a person is “destroyed” usually does not mean that literally nothing is left. Moulton and Milligan’s investigation of Greek vocabulary from the ancient papyri concluded that olethros in the Bible means “ruin,” that is, “the loss of all that gives worth to existence.”27 It occurs in 1 Tim 6:9 joined to its synonym apollumi to warn that the pursuit of wealth will “plunge people into ruin and destruction.” The two words together convey the idea of complete ruin.28 Although both words can refer to physical death, in passages such as this one in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 where it is qualified by “eternal,” something else must be intended, since the penalty is suffered not when a person dies but when Jesus appears at the judgment, and as other passages clarify, after the resurrection. It would seem rather pointless for God to revive the dead only to put them back to sleep permanently. But even if this were not unreasonable, Paul does not describe the penalty as eternal death, but as “eternal destruction from [apo, “away from”] the Lord’s presence and [away] from His glorious strength.” This describes someone who has been banished forever, not someone whose existence has been obliterated. Furthermore, they are banished to a place not only devoid of anything good but full of divine “affliction” associated at least figuratively with “flaming fire.” Paul’s words are strongly reminiscent of those of Jesus in Matthew 25:41.

Some have argued from a few Pauline texts that Paul was actually a universalist. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul wrote, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” However, as Moo has pointed out, “Universal resurrection does not entail universal salvation.” Nevertheless, he shows that in the next verse Paul limits those he is speaking of to believers: “But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterwards, at His coming, those who belong to Christ.”29 Similarly, although Romans 5:18 declares that “through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone,” in v. 17 the company of those who will find life in Christ has already been limited to “those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness.” Paul’s point in Romans 5:12–21 is to “assure believers of their ultimate salvation” through Christ.30

Conclusion

The biblical evidence rules out any form of universalism. An eternity of total security, peace, and joy with God awaits those who belong to Christ after death, but for everyone else the opposite experience is in store. The distinction is made not only on the basis of the saving effects of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also on an individual’s decision made before death to place his faith and hope in Him. There is no other source of hope beyond the grave—even the hope of immediate or eventual unconsciousness or extinction. So annihilationism is not a biblical view. Regarding the nature of the eternal punishment awaiting the unsaved, however, the Bible only describes it in symbolic, spiritual, and emotional terms, except to explain that they will experience it in physical bodies.

God created the world to operate in accordance with His own moral nature, and human beings have the moral responsibility to do so. God has clearly and sufficiently communicated what kind of behavior is called for and what the penalties are for doing otherwise (Romans 1:32). Therefore, violations of God’s character must be dealt with according to the divine standard of justice (see Rom. 3:5–6), which includes the appropriate penalty for offences.

E. Ray Clendenen is Director of Academic Publishing, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee.

Notes

1Attempts have been made to force this “second chance” view on 1 Pet 3:18–20 and 4:6. For discussion see Thomas. R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, NAC (Nashville: B&H, 2003), 205–10. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the HCSB. 2E. W. Fudge and R. A. Peterson, Two Views of Hell (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 20. 3Scott McKnight, New Vision for Israel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 139.
4 See D. F. Watson, “Gehenna,” ABD 2:926–28: “By at least the 1st century C.E. there emerged a metaphorical understanding of Gehenna as the place of judgment by fire for all wicked everywhere (Sib. Or. 1.100–103; 2.283–312). The judgment of the wicked occurred either as a casting of their soul in Gehenna immediately upon death or as a casting of the reunited body and soul into Gehenna after the resurrection and last judgment (2 Esdr. 7:26–38; 4 Ezra 7:26–38; Ascen. Is. 4:14–18; cf. Sib. Or. 4.179–91).” 5Fudge and Peterson, Two Views of Hell, 37–39. 6See J. P. Moreland, “Does the Bible Teach Annihilationism?” in The Apologetics Study Bible, ed. Ted Cabal, et al. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1292.
7Leon Morris, “Hebrews,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 12:145. 8Also see its use in Matt 5:29 quoted above. 9D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” EBC 8:149, notes, “Gehenna and Hades … are often thought to refer, respectively, to eternal hell and the abode of the dead in the intermediate state. But the distinction can be maintained in few passages. More commonly the two terms are synonymous and mean ‘hell.’” \
10G. K. Beale notes the association of basanizo with grief, weeping, and mourning in Rev. 18:7–15. He concludes, “In mind is thus a ‘tormenting’ of unbelievers minds by assuring them of their hopeless spiritual plight, which will result in extreme depression” (“The Revelation on Hell,” in Hell under Fire, eds. C. W. Morgan and R. A. Peterson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 114. 11Beale considers it probable that this passage “concerns the final judgment of all unbelievers throughout history who have given allegiance to the ungodly world system” (Ibid., 115).
12R. W. Yarbrough, “Jesus on Hell,” in Hell under Fire, 75. 13 Ibid., 90.
14Two other passages that testify to this assumption are Ps. 55:15; Prov. 15:11.
15J. L. Koole, Isaiah III, Volume 3: Isaiah 56–66, HCOT (Leuven: Peeters, 2001), 530, claims that the emphasis in Isa 66:24 is on “the continual burning of the fire,” suggesting a comparison with 34:10 where the fires of God’s judgment on Edom “will never go out—day or night. Its smoke will go up forever.” Koole also notes that “the worm, which keeps on eating, implies that the ‘carcasses’ somehow continue to exist too. The ‘fire’ in 50:11 does not mean destruction either, but ‘torture’.” \
16C. L. Blomberg, “Matthew,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 90.

17 Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. and ed. M.E.J. Richardson (Leiden: Brill, 2000). Also The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. E. Jenni and C. Westermann (trans. M. E. Biddle; Hendrickson, 1997). 18D. J. Moo, “Paul on Hell,” in Hell under Fire, 92. He also affirms that Paul agrees with the rest of the New Testament that hell is “an unending state of punishment and exclusion from the presence of the Lord” (p. 109).
19Ibid., 92–93.
20Ibid., 103.
21“Eternal life” is characterized in Rom. 2:7–10 by the experience of glory, honor, peace, and immortality (aphtharsia, “the state of not being subject to decay/ dissolution/interruption,” i.e., “incorruptibility” or “immortality” (BDAG, 155). \
22The following phrase makes clear that Paul is not speaking of (mythical) people who are simply ignorant of God, but rather people who refuse to acknowledge Him. See D. M. Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, NAC (Nashville: B&H, 1995), 212.
23 In Eph. 5:5–6 Paul says that “the disobedient” prove their exclusion from “an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God” and earn His coming “wrath” (orge) by their sexual immorality, impurity, and greed. In Rom. 2:5–10, Paul condemns those who by “selfseeking,” disobedience to the truth, and obedience to unrighteousness are earning or “storing up” the “wrath and indignation” (orge kai thumos) God will bring against them on “the day of wrath.”\
24 God manifests His righteousness not only by saving through the gospel (Rom. 1:16–17), but by exercising His wrath against all “godliness and unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18; 2:5). See Thomas. R. Schreiner, Romans, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 109.
25This expresses the doctrine of retribution. See the use of the same word in Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30; see also Rom. 11:9 [the noun antapodoma]; 2:6 [the related verb apodidomi]. In the OT see Deut. 32:35–42; Ps. 28:4; Isa. 59:18; 65:6–7; 66:6. 261See Isa. 29:5–6; 66:14–16; Dan. 7:9–10; Rev. 1:14; 2:18; 19:12.
27 J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), 445. The synonym apollumi they explain (p. 66) by references to the loss of one’s possessions, such as livestock (through death) or money (through carelessness). \
28G. Kittel and G. Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, trans. and abridged by G. W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 681; W. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, WBC (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 345.
29 Ibid., 97–98.
30Thetermfor“receive”inv.17, lambano, often has a very active sense of grasping hold of or acquiring something (e.g., John 1:12; 6:21; Acts 9:25; Rom. 7:8,11; 2 Cor. 11:20; Phil. 3:12; Heb. 5:4). Moo also deals briefly with Rom. 11:26,32; Col. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:4 (Ibid., 98–102).

This article was taken from the Areopagus Journal September/October 2008 Volume 8 Number 5.

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