From: Keith Lockwood
Many of the judgment passages from Scripture used to teach eternal torment in hell for the unbelieving or wicked person, when looked at with a discerning eye speak of the wicked person's utter destruction or extermination as opposed to being kept alive and tortured in hell fire.
Matthew 3:12 ""¦Whose winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will be scouring His threshing floor, and will be gathering His grain into His barn, yet the chaff will He be burning up with unextinguished fire."¯
This passage is used by Christian theologians to teach eternal torment for the unbeliever, but note how it speaks of the chaff being burned up.
Luke 12:5 "Be afraid of Him who, after killing, has authority to be casting into Gehenna."¯
When teaching eternal torment in hell, people never use this passage because it clearly teaches that dead bodies are cast into Gehenna (also see Isaiah 66: 24).
Luke 17:34, 35, and 37 "I am saying to you, in this night there will be two on one couch; the one shall be taken along and the other shall be left. There will be two grinding at the same place, the one shall be taken along, yet the other shall be left. And answering, they are saying to Him, ‘Where Lord?' Yet He said to them, ‘Wherever the body is, there the vultures also will be assembled.'"¯
Similar to the passage before, which speaks of the same judgment period, Jesus refers to the bodies of those judged for their wickedness. Will the vultures be gathering in hell? Setting up this passage, Jesus speaks of the judgments upon the wicked during the time of the flood and the judgment upon Sodom. Those judged in the flood and with Sodom were killed, not kept alive and tortured in hell fire!
2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (NASB) ""¦when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal (aionion) destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power "¦"¯
Because aionion here is mistranslated "eternal"¯, this passage is used to endorse eternal torment for the wicked. Even if one does not agree that the Greek word aionion is mistranslated, the passage speaks of destruction or extermination, not being kept alive and tortured in hell's fire. Compare this passage with Revelation 19:11-21 which deals with the same event. Note that the birds are invited to feast on the corpses of those whom Jesus Christ smites with the sharp blade issuing from His mouth. This event takes place a thousand years before the white throne judgment and the lake of fire (Rev. 20:6).
Finally, the lake of fire is described as the second death (Rev. 20:14, 15). Those judged before the white throne will receive a just sentence according to their acts. After the sentence has been carried out, they then will be cast into the lake of fire. This is not eternal torment, but unconscious death. This is not their final destiny. When the final enemy (death) is abolished at the consummation of the eons, they will be made alive in Christ and God will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:22-28).