SPECIAL TOPIC: ETERNAL PUNISHMENT (hell, from Matt. 25:46)
The same term (aiōnos) that describes heaven as everlasting is applied to hell as everlasting (cf. Matt. 18:8; 19:16; Mark 3:29; 9:48; 10:17; Luke 18:18; Jude 1:7; Rev. 20:10; also with "eternal judgment" in 2 Thess. 1:9 and Heb. 6:2). Daniel 12:2; John 5:29; and Acts 24:15 describe a resurrection of both the righteous and wicked. Josephus states that the Pharisees believed in the immortality of all "souls" (cf. Antiq. 18.1,3), but only the resurrection of the righteous into a new body, while the wicked have eternal punishment (cf. Jewish Wars 2.8,14). The eternality and finality of the lostness of those without Christ is the impetus and urgency of gospel preaching, teaching, and witnessing! Hell was not created for humanity but for a holding place for Satan and his angels (cf. Matt. 25:41).
An eternal hell is not only a tragedy for rebellious mankind, but also for God! God created humans as the apex of His creative event. We were made in His image and likeness for fellowship with Him (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:8). God's choice to allow mankind a choice resulted in a significant percentage of God's creation being separated from Himself! Hell is an open, bleeding sore in the heart of God that will never be healed.
Surprisingly it is Jesus, Himself, who speaks of hell (i.e., Gehenna, see Special Topic: Where Are the Dead?). The word is used only one other time in the NT, in James 3:6. God will finally isolate intransigent evil and unbelief and reestablish the world He intended it to be. The biblical imagery is:
1. a new garden (cf. Genesis 1-2, i.e., paradise restored, cf. Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:14; Rev. 2:7)
2. a new city (i.e., "new Jerusalem," cf. Rev. 3:12; 21:1-4)
3. a house with many rooms (cf. John 14:2-3)
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