Friday, May 12, 2023

The Unquenchable Fire (2 Thessalonians 1)

"These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:9).

The punishment described in the previous lessons will last for an eternity. Jesus Himself emphasizes this point: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46); and, “… to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’ ” (Mark 9:43–44). As the wicked face God for an eternity, they will cry out for relief, but none will come because their punishment will have no end. They will call to the mountains to fall upon them and cover the face of Him who sits on the throne and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:15–17), but, like the fire that envelopes them, their thirst will never be quenched.

Some today maintain that the wicked will be annihilated, but this is contrary to the plain teaching of Scripture. While Jesus’ clear teaching on the matter should be sufficient, there are a number of rationales to support the eternality of hell’s torments.

First, “ ‘wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.’ Second, it is also clear that the wicked ‘shall be sensible of the punishment they are under.’ Third, degrees of punishment preclude annihilation. Fourth, ‘the Scripture is very express and abundant in this matter that the eternal punishment is in sensible misery and torment and not annihilation.’ Furthermore, annihilation is no state at all and is therefore inconsistent with man’s soul, which is never destroyed. Sixth, men would never know their judgment if annihilation were their punishment. Instead of God repaying them face to face they would never have to face God at all. But, in the seventh place, wicked men are still alive in hell now, fearing the resurrection of their bodies, as the devils are now dreading the further punishment which is awaiting them. Again, it could not be said that it was better for the wicked not to have been born if they have no judgment awaiting them.”

The ultimate support for the eternality of hell is based on the nature of God. “If God is the inflicter of hell’s tortures and His word, nature, justice, and wrath are eternal and immutable, hell must be eternal. ‘God,’ Edwards tells us, ‘will never weary.’ ”

Read Jude 3–16. How many times does Jude emphasize the eternality of hell? What kind of response do you think he was trying to evoke in his readers? What kind of response do you have? Read the rest of Jude. What comfort and encouragement does he give you? Trust in Him who will preserve you from “eternal darkness.”