From: Adam Burge
Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Winona
I would like to respond to the articles which have been printed in this column over the last several weeks. My intention is not to attack each point the author of those articles makes, nor is it my intention to attack the author himself. I will not even be looking at every passage which he quotes. This is not to avoid any passage because it is too difficult. Rather, by looking at a brief overview of the Bible’s teaching on the length of the afterlife, those arguments will be answered. Let us turn to the Scriptures and let them be our final authority.
A key passage which we must study if we are to have a proper understanding of this subject is Daniel 12:2: “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This is a key verse to understanding end times events. A study of the book of Revelation will answer the question as to why “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” Revelation chapter 20 reveals to us that not everyone will die before this event takes place. There will be many who will be born during the millennial reign of Christ on the earth and yet reject Him as their Lord and Savior. Some of these same people will stand before God in judgment, not having yet experienced a physical death. The word which the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible translates twice as everlasting in this verse is our word olam. Since olam is used of both life and contempt, the word must be translated the same both times. If contempt (death and punishment) is for a definite period of time, so life must be as well
There is a similar, if not parallel passage in the New Testament which has been referred to in this column before. In Matthew 25:46, we read, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Here the KJV translates the Greek word aionios as “everlasting” and as “eternal.” Since aionios is used in reference to both punishment and life in the same verse, we again are forced to understand that it must mean the same amount of time. If punishment is for an indefinite but limited period of time, then life must be as well.
The New Testament writers, including Jesus Christ Himself, did not view eternal life as existing for only an indefinite but limited period of time. For example, probably the best-known verse in all of the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting [aionios] life.” In John 10:28, Jesus said: “And I give unto them eternal [aionios] life; and they shall never [ou me eis aion] perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” If everlasting life refers to an indefinite but limited period of time, those who believe in Jesus will eventually perish making Jesus Christ a liar. But Jesus strengthens His statement by literally saying they would “not at all into eternity” perish.” If salvation is forever, then it must be accepted that death for those who have rejected Christ in this life must also be forever as well. If Jesus is a liar, then He cannot be the Truth (John 14:6; Titus 1:2). If Jesus cannot be trusted in these verses, He cannot be trusted at all. Another important quotation by Jesus is John 6:36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting [aionios] life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” The word translated abideth means “to remain.” God’s wrath is appeased only when a person believes on Jesus Christ for salvation. Revelation 21:8 tells us that “the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (italics mine). As we read through this list of those who will be cast into the lake of fire, we might be surprised to find the “unbelieving.” God says that refusing to trust Jesus Christ as Savior will result in your being cast “into everlasting [aionios] fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). How long is everlasting? Consider what the Bible says about God. Abraham called God El Olam, or “the everlasting God” (Genesis 21:33). The Psalmist wrote “from everlasting [olam] to everlasting [olam], thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). Isaiah called God “the everlasting [olam] God” (Isaiah 40:28). Everlasting is as long as God exists. To deny that hell is unending is to deny that God will never cease to exist. My friend, unless you put your faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation you will not be allowed into heaven but will be cast into the lake of fire where you will be punished forever.
But what does the Bible say about hell or the lake of fire? Technically, hell and the lake of fire are two separate places. However, their descriptions are one and the same and someday hell will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). The New Testament writers, as well as Jesus Christ Himself, did not view aionion punishment as existing for only an indefinite but limited period of time. First, Jesus speaks more on the subject of hell then He does on the subject of heaven. Second, we are given a clear description of what hell is like and how long it lasts. Third, we have a personal testimonial from someone who is in hell (Luke 16:19-31). As we saw in Revelation 21:8, hell is described as “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” In Mark 9:43-48 we read three times that hell is “the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” The fire is not quenched because the wrath of God against unrepentant sinners is never satisfied. It is a place where even a worm is not killed. If you leave a worm in the sun for even a short time, it quickly dies. However, in hell no one, not even a fragile worm, will be allowed to die. There will be no relief from the torment of hell’s flames (Luke 16:19-31, where we read the word “torment” or “tormented” four times). If you reject Christ in this life, there will be no reprieve in the next.
Yes, it is true that Jesus died to take away the sins of all the world (I John 2:2). But yet the death of Christ avails you nothing if you do not accept His death by faith as the payment for your sins. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8). “ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation . . . For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9, 10, 13). “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:14-18). These verses, and countless others in Scripture, clearly teach that there is no salvation apart from faith. (Study Romans 3:21-4:25, especially chapter 4 where the word “faith” or one of its cognates is used 16 times.). God will not someday reverse His decision to punish sin for all of eternity by giving those who die without accepting His gift of a life a reprieve after any period of time: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27). The judgment of the lost, as shown from Scripture, will last for all of eternity.
Friend, will you accept the free gift of eternal life today? Will you place your faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, repent of your sins and be saved? We are not promised another opportunity to do this: “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2). If you reject His offer of eternal life today, you may not be given a chance tomorrow.