Guest / Limited Access /

God would not be party to anything as sordid as torture; Christians can agree on that. However, theologians are divided about how eternal judgment is not tantamount to such.

Two competing answers are proposed: (1) Yes, hell involves eternal pain inflicted on the unsaved, but this should not be regarded as gratuitous, unjust, or cruel; and (2) the final judgment will not involve eternal, conscious torment as has been traditionally assumed, and this misreading of biblical teaching needs modification. Both sides raise legitimate concerns worth careful consideration.

The first position is the view of most Christians. It argues that people commonly underestimate the appropriate punishment for defying an infinitely holy God. When human rebellion wrecked God's original good design, God undertook, at great cost, to restore humans to a loving relationship with himself. Those who spurn God's love deserve their eternal destiny, justly suffering the pain of God's wrath.

Of course, God alone has the right to execute this type of sentence. And God gets no sadistic enjoyment from pain he inflicts (Ezek. 18:23, 32). In righteousness and justice, God exacts deadly retribution for wickedness on those not under the blood atonement of Christ.

Other Christians argue that God would never be so seemingly punitive or vicious. They say the Bible's imagery occasionally reflects vindictive presuppositions of ancient cultures, but no one should take this imagery literally. Since rejection of God's love is reprehensible, they say, God will ultimately (and here the answers vary): overcome all evil and all resistance (universalism), destroy all evil (annihilationism), or inflict only as much pain as is necessary to extract repentance, leaving only the incorrigibly ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedBedeviled by My Wife's Dementia
Bedeviled by My Wife's Dementia
My expertise in philosophy did not give me the answers I needed.
TrendingHow 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
How 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
Survey: Two in three evangelicals were attending monthly or more at the time of their first abortion.
Editor's PickGood Behavior Matters After All
Good Behavior Matters After All
How I discovered God's plan to reach a lost and sinful world.
Christianity Today
Three Models of Hell
hide thisFebruary February

In the Magazine

February 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.