Is There an END or NO END
Part 1 of 2
"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Matthew 25:46.
Due to the words, everlasting and eternal having been translated from the same Greek word, *aionios, this verse has been an ongoing debate for many years. One point has been made: If the punishment is only for an age, that is, age-lasting, there is an end to it. This would then mean that there would also be an end to life eternal that Jesus mentioned in the same breath. Another view is that neither will end. If there is no end to this life, there is also no end to the punishment. The same argument is held: Since aionios is used for both, and we believe this life never ends, the word surely means eternal; therefore, as it is life, the punishment never ends. This assumption logically has to stand firm for some to satisfy the thought of eternal life. *[aionios: perpetual from aion, an age (Strong's); aionios is the adjective form of aion and has been translated age, course, eternal, ever, for ever, for evermore, ever, never, world, beginning of the world, while the world, world began, world without end, and everlasting (KJV). Age-lasting and age-during (enduring the age) settles in as being to be the most accurate.]
Frankly, when we know God, as well as a little about His plan for creation, especially for mankind, along with the compassing work of the cross, this should not be an issue. However, not everyone knows these basics, so we will note a few things with hopes of bringing truth to the forefront. We will see which belief is true, or if both are true, and if both are true, how so.
The Greek word for life in this verse is zoe which is most often used in reference to a high form of existence, such as Christ’s life. When used with age-lasting, it indicates that not only is it a life that lasts through the age, but it is the highest life form of the age. The judgment made upon the righteous gives them the experiential, zoe life that will not end at anytime during the age. It is the same with those being judged otherwise. God's judgment upon them will not end at anytime throughout the age. They will receive that which is best for them; but it will not come in the form of rewards, but of punishment, which will not end until the age has run its course of bringing them to correction. And please know that those Jesus is speaking of are the sheep and goats that are identified as nations, and how they treat His brethren. Neither are referred to as individuals (ref. Matthew 25:11-46). Therefore, at His coming in glory, entire nations will be judged, by those coming with Him in glory—the Sons of God! Some of them will be judged and rewarded with the life of the age, while others will be judged and punished with everlasting/age-lasting fire. And please be reminded, judgment by fire is never natural fire. It is God-fire—His word is fire, His angels/messengers are fire, His ministers are fire, He is a consuming fire, and together they are all the Lake of Fire!
Religious dogmas die hard, so many still believe that everlasting punishment by fire that Jesus warned about is a natural, everlasting damnation in sulfuric burning hell fire for individuals, although the context of all this has to do with nations, nations that bless His brethren and nations that do not. If you believe this aionios punishment never ends, would that mean every citizen of all the goat nations will be tormented forever, that is, since the nations would supposedly be burning in hell forever?
I know, "Stop asking hard questions, Brother Roach. You are messing with our minds." Even so, these are issues that need to be addressed if you are serious about your beliefs. Regardless of which way this leads, don’t you want to know the truth? You should!
If you say that you really believe the hellfire and damnation teachings, let us ask: What keeps you from going stark, raving mad? Why are you not having nervous breakdowns, or worrying yourself into an early grave? Don’t you have children, parents, grandparents, and other loved ones who do not fit the criteria of being "saved" according to most religious doctrines? Since this is probably so, and you do not appear to be tormented by the thought of your loved ones burning in hell forever, some might wonder if you really love them. We are sure you do love them, as most people do; so we wonder if you really believe that God will punish the lost forever. If you do not believe He will do such a thing, perhaps you cannot bring yourself to oppose your church’s teachings and that which most of your friends supposedly embrace as being sound doctrine. And, please, just because a man or woman speaks with convincing authority from behind a pulpit, does not make them infallible. It does not ensure that their every word is breathed from God’s throne of truth.
Your pastors and other religious figureheads might be very loving and well-meaning, but very blind and very deceived. The fact is, I only know of a few who are genuine crooks, power moguls, egotistical narcissists, and down-right liars and thieves. Some of them know intellectually the truth of this matter but refuse to preach it due to job security, while the others believe the lie and love it. They propagate it. Sadly, it is the foundation of everything they preach. Even so, I can say with certainty that those who preach a merciless god of endless anger and never-ending vengeance upon people that came out of Him are either deceived, are willingly ignorant, or they knowingly lie.
From noticing how few people actually lay down their lives in hopes of saving people from such an awful fate, even those of their own family, they cannot take the threat of everlasting punishment seriously. Some do, this we know, and they are tormented grievously by the thought of it. A few even unto insanity when they believe their unsaved children will find themselves in literal flames to be burning alive forever. Surely, if your church, and other churches, had taken the hell teaching to heart, they all would have likewise gone mad. The number is unknown, but people have committed suicide because of these pagan teachings, and many others suffer lifelong mental disorders which lead to horrendous outcomes. How many have prayed that God would take them home, kill them, while they were still saved, so they would not be lost and burn in hell forever? Tell me, what kind of a god is that for a people of "love" to believe in, and to worship? Do they bow to Him every Sunday because they love Him, or is it out of fear? I am reminded of the comic strip, "Wizard Of Id." After the little king was told by his knight, Sir Rodney, that his subjects were picketing against their intolerable living conditions and high taxes, he exclaims in exasperated frustration: "What am I going to have to do? Put them all in prison to make them love me?" Seems to be a satirical similarity here.
But marching on, as dreadful as the doctrine of hell can be, Christianity has not by any means been alone in promoting it. It is rare to find religions that do not have some form of tormenting hell in their doctrines. As it is with many Christian faiths, some believe it will be endless while a few believe there will be an end to the torment; but most believe it will be for a very, very long time. For instance, the Buddhists believe in sixteen hells (eight cold and eight hot) to which a person will be subjected, depending on the severity of their sins. One of those hells is called the Arbuda, or the Blister Naraka. It is said to be a dark, frozen plain surrounded by icy mountains. It is continually blown over by ice storms and blizzards. The unlucky inhabitants of this world abide there naked and alone while the cold raises caustic blisters all over their bodies. The length of time in this realm of hell is said to be the time it would take for a sparrow to empty a barrel of sesame seeds if the bird took a single seed every hundred years. This is not forever, but it is a very long time, and is another manmade hell to scare people into remaining obedient subjects to their manmade religions that are always inspired by the dragon of their dark souls.
Whether forever or for a very long of time, it is commonly believed that the punishment in the afterlife for unbelievers and evildoers is incomprehensible. One such manmade hell says that fire alone is not enough. We are told that demons will also be there to joyfully torment the damned forever, and the devil, of course, is commonly portrayed as the elated ruler over the infernal mess. It is strange that the evil devil, and every despicable demon joyfully lives throughout eternity doing every diabolical activity that makes them happy. They supposedly torment forever men, women, and with some beliefs, even children. And this is upon human beings who were created in the image of God, and the crime most of those hapless souls committed was not being a member of the right religion, or were unlucky enough to have been born to families and cultures who had never heard of Jesus.
The Roman Catholic tenet of purgatory lifts the eternal burden to a small degree, at least, for their members who die without having been pardoned by a priest; but this is also far from the truth. Purgatory was proclaimed as an article of faith in 1439 by the Council of Florence, and was later confirmed by the Council of Trent in 1548. It is said to be a place for sinners who have achieved salvation but have not paid penance (self-abasement) for their sins. Whether by design or an oversight, these two councils failed to include in this article of faith how long certain classes of people would be held in purgatory. Moreover, they did not appoint anyone, not even the Pope, who could say when they were released and carried to heaven.
Therefore, with millions of masses having been performed since the Florentine Council, and with tens of billions of dollars worth of indulgences having been paid for the dead, there is not one person who can say if anyone has been released from purgatory. Even after a thousand generations of people having prayed their rosaries on behalf of the dead, there will be no one who can tell you if anyone has ever been released and made it to heaven.
Michelangelo's painting, The Last Judgment depicts the views of Catholicism at that time and much of it remains to this day. The lower parts of the picture are demons pitchforking men into cauldrons and burning flames wherein are hateful fiends gnawing at the skulls of suffering sinners. There is even cannibalism going on. Look closely and you will see what some of those in the church system think about God’s judgment upon mankind, and this is what religious people call divine justice, that is, reasoning that since He is divine whatever He does is divine. But let us know that He never goes against His own nature and decreed plan. This egregious conclave of so called pious men took it upon themselves to be the overseers of men's lives that has continued to run its ill-fated course through history and down to this very hour. The hell they imposed on the people is an outrageous slander on God. It is little wonder that men have rejected a god of such horrors, and we should honor them for standing their ground against such depravity.
Hinduism has beliefs of various hells. These are places wherein sinful people are punished. In many of the Hindu hells, as with some of Christianity’s hell, the residents are tortured by demons; however, these hells are not final dwelling places. They are much like the Catholic purgatory where sinful souls experience suffering, but for a limited season. Afterwards, even the most evil person is released to once again be reincarnated. This differs from Catholicism's dogma where the very evil will burn in hell forever.
If we wanted to find a common carnal thread that has been woven through the fabric of most of the religions of the world, it would be this one point of a blasphemous torture for most of creation by the loving Creator. This God that they lower to such a loathing level is my Father, and yours, and it is, therefore, very easy for me to call them the generation of vipers that they are, and I know most of you feel the same. Although I know they are doing that which is according to their nature, I do not appreciate such disparaging accusations made against my Father. Similarly, I would take offense if anyone attributed the same to my natural father or mother. And that is what the churches have done for centuries. They have degraded the character and very nature of my Father and yours. How long will we stand silent in the face of these loathly serpents? No longer for me and my house.
Fortunately, not everyone blindly follows the blind and falls into the ditch with them. Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll, (1833 - 1899) was such a man who had the insight of those like you and me. He could think outside of religion's box of many inventions. He had enough backbone to question the deplorable caricature of our God. Satirically, he once said:
"God so loved the world that he made up his mind to damn a large majority of the human race."
The churches have portrayed God as one who says: "I have given you a sacred free-will, so do what you want, I will not intervene; but make the wrong choice, and will I see to it that you burn in hell f-o-r-e-v-e-r and e-v-e-r." That, of course, would be like a young man telling his sweetheart: "Do what you want, Darling. You have a life of your own to live; but if you leave me, I will track you down and blow your brains out, yet that will be after I have tortured you for several decades." People who say things like that are classified as psychopaths, and if they carry through with their threats, almost everyone cries out for their imprisonment and/or execution. However, even when they claim that God says the same, they call Him just and loving, as they build churches in His honor and name.
It is mind-boggling that brilliant men with high degrees in the field of theology refuse to hear and speak the truth. If someone like myself with limited education can search out God's truths that are so simple that a child would not err therein, you would think they could do better. But that has certainly not been the case.
For instance, it would not be difficult for them to discover the origin of this doctrine that drags the character of our merciful God through the mud. I did a quick search on the origin of hell and found too many references to list them all, so will only note Ploybius and Plato as examples from The Doctrine of Endless Punishment by Thomas B. Thayer:
Polybius (203-120 B.C.), the ancient historian, said: "Since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear and terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to have acted judiciously, when they contrived to bring into the popular belief these notions of the gods, and of the infernal regions." B. vi 56....
Plato, in his commentary on Timaeus, fully endorses what he says respecting the fabulous invention of these foreign torments. And Strabo says that 'Plato and the Brahmins of India invented fables concerning the future judgments of hell' (Hades). And Chrysippus blames Plato for attempting to deter men from wrong by frightful stories of future punishments.
Plato himself is exceedingly inconsistent, sometimes adopting, even in his serious discourses, the fables of the poets, and at other times rejecting them as utterly false, and giving too frightful views of the invisible world. Sometimes, he argues, on social grounds, that they are necessary to restrain bad men from wickedness and crime, and then again he protests against them on political grounds, as intimidating the citizens, and making cowards of the soldiers, who, believing these things, are afraid of death, and do not therefore fight well. But all this shows in what light he regarded them; not as truths, certainly, but as fictions, convenient in some cases, but difficult to manage in others.
When renowned church leaders ignore such basic facts of history that are so easily obtained, and refuse to heed more accurate translations of the scriptures, we cannot help from believing that they are so lacking in the Spirit that it is impossible for them to see the obvious, or else, they see but deliberately refuse to receive the love of the truth and will do everything in their power to destroy it.
Ray Prinzing certainly understood this and wrote about receiving the love of the truth:
Two ways are set before us here: receiving the love of the truth to work into us salvation; or, receiving a strong delusion, literally, an inworking delusion, so that we believe a lie. Interestingly enough, God sends them both. He brings forth vessels of mercy, and vessels of wrath.
Those who refuse, who receive not the love of the truth, in turn will receive an inworking error, and then have to pass through a judgment to be purged of that error. This is learning the lesson the hard way, having to go through a process of correctional chastening, until they learn that it is far better to receive the love of the truth. Yet God retains sovereign control over this entire process. 'I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them, because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before Mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.' (Isa. 66:4). God knows exactly which inworking delusion will subdue and teach that it is an evil and bitter thing to forsake the way of the Lord.
There is a love to be received along with the truth, for knowledge alone will not hold you. When the vision tarries you soon become entangled in all sorts of strange diversions, and a prey for those spoken of in Daniel 11:14, 'the robbers of thy people shall exalt themselves to establish the vision - as if they were able to fulfill it, but they shall fail. When you have a LOVE FOR THE TRUTH you will not want to exert any self-effort, destroy, mar, or try to fulfill it after the flesh. You will wait with an eye single to God knowing He will fulfill His Word. 'Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.' (Ps.119:165)." (Daily Overcoming Devotionals, August 26).
Regardless of the reason for not receiving the love of the truth, it is clear that the various hells which are taught by many mainline Christian churches are inventions of men. To compound their folly, they carelessly say that this manmade horror is the same as the lake of fire. While doing so, they never mention that this lake is actually the all consuming glory of God's presence which brings an end to all sin and death on every level. The very thing that marks the end of all conflict, of evil, rebellion, inordinate passions, sorrow, suffering, death, and hell itself—they say is a place of endless suffering.
Where is their love, not only for their own, but for their enemies as well? Jesus said to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" Matthew 5:44. But those of the church system, those who have been bitten and their minds coiled about by the ancient serpent, say otherwise. Although without authority, they pronounce everlasting judgment upon the lost and forlorn of the world. There is no clause of forgiveness in this decree that consigns them to burn in hell forever with no hope of remedy or escape. Brethren, there is something vastly wrong with this picture. Nevertheless, this is how it is portrayed by those who say they are in the image of Christ! It is clear that they have not only created a lake of fire after their own hearts, but have also created a god after their own image and likeness. Do you suppose it is this fearful god that they worship, and to whom they sacrifice their children? The answer is a resounding yes! That is, if they worship such a god and teach their children to do the same. In so doing, they have in fact sacrificed them to Moloch.
But back to our topic questions: Is God's punishment forever or is it age-lasting? Is there an end to it, and if so, does life eternal also end? If it is true that God's punishment (upon the goat nations) is age-lasting, does that necessitate the end to life eternal? If there is no end to life eternal, is there also no end to the punishment? We shall see...
Elwin R. Roach
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