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The Doctrine of Endless Torment

By Pastor Matt Black

June 04, 2006

Lord's Day Evening

(Isaiah 5:24-30)

Introduction: Open your Bibles to the book of Isaiah chapter 5. The title of tonight’s message is “The Doctrine of Endless Torment.”[1]

[Read Isaiah 5:24-30]

Tonight we come to a difficult, but much neglected subject in our churches today. We are learning about the ultimate destiny of those who die without Christ. Before we get into our text, let me review the views about hell that are out there.

More and more well-known and respected Christian leaders are rejecting the historic Biblical understanding of hell. Many who call themselves Christians do not believe in the endless suffering of the wicked.

1. So the Bible’s view is “endless suffering.” Both words are Biblical and important:

· "endless"--hell is forever and never has an end--and

· "suffering"--in this endless condition people are in conscious torment.

Hell is a horrible reality. It is fearful beyond expression or imagination. Because of the awful fear of hell, there are many who are rejecting the Bible’s view.

One theologian (Clark Pinnock) who had been known for writing good, solid Biblically based books made a huge turn in what he believed. He wrote this about the change:

“I was led to question the traditional belief in everlasting conscious torment because of moral revulsion and broader theological considerations, not first of all on scriptural grounds. It just does not make any sense to say that a God of love will torture people forever for sins done in the context of a finite life . . . It's time for evangelicals to come out and say that the biblical and morally appropriate doctrine of hell is annihilation, not everlasting torment.”[2]

Another preacher in England (John Stott) who has been well respected has also rejected the Bible’s teaching on this doctrine of endless suffering. He says this:

“Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment] intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain…”[3]

These two men, who are well known in Christian circles, are arguing that no one goes to a hell of "endless suffering." Instead, if people do not believe in Christ they are annihilated. That means they cease to exist in any sense at all. They have no consciousness and experience nothing. They are no more. They are following in a long line of false teachers who teach annihilationism: The Worldwide Church of God, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormans, and Seventh Day Adventists. Beware of these people.

Another well known figure, Billy Graham, in his book, Facing Death And The Life After says, “Many people are deceived by Satan into thinking that God is a vengeful taskmaster, ready to send to hell all those who offend Him. They can see no hope. True, God does hate sin, but He loves the sinner."[4] (p. 217, bold added)

This stands in complete opposition to all Biblical truth. And why do they reject this Biblical truth? As John Stott said, “Emotionally, I find the concept [of eternal conscious torment] intolerable.”[5]

Do you see what danger there is here? Because a doctrine is “emotionally…intolerable” it must according to these people be rejected. There are many doctrines in the Bible that are “emotionally intolerable” because my flesh and my wicked heart cannot handle the truth!

There is an enormous difference between those who teach the false doctrine of annihilation (simply ceasing to exist) , and the Bible, which teaches endless suffering.

One preacher said it this way:

“The difference between suffering in hell for ever if you don't trust Christ and simply ceasing to exist is an infinite difference. Do you see that? This is no small adjustment in Biblical teaching. It is massive. The difference between not existing and existing in torment for ever is an infinite difference.

Imagine God meeting Adolf Hitler at the judgment day and saying: ‘For all your arrogance and unbelief and hatred and for all the torture and misery that you brought on millions of people my judgment of you is that from now on you will cease to exist. You will feel nothing.’ And if you think that would be a terrible thing for Adolf Hitler (or anyone else) ask yourself if you were miserable during any of the thousands of years that you did not exist before you were born. The pain you experienced for not being born would be the pain Hitler experiences if he ceased to exist, [which is no pain]… at all.”[6]

Dear friends, we can pretend that hell does not exist, but that does not change the reality, that what God says is true, and over and over again, He tells us that there is eternal, conscious torment.

The Bible is clear. Hell is a horror! It is a dreadful and profound reality. Its dreadfulness can never be overstated!

So hell is a horrid and horrible place, and it most certainly does exist. Jesus himself described hell as a literal place throughout his ministry.

Hell is a place where people are “cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12) .

Hell is a place “worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Matthew 9:44) .

Christ will say to the goats on his left hand on that Final Judgment Day, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) .

The fire in hell is an “everlasting fire” (Matthew 18:8) .

It is conscious torment. The rich man in (Luke 16:24) said, “I am tormented in this flame.”

(Revelation 14:10-11) is clear and says of those who go to hell, “the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night.”

Hell ought to make us shake and shudder! The whole point of this doctrine is to make us feel the dread and awesome power of God’s wrath. We are meant to recoil from this wicked world and run into the arms of Jesus Christ who died to save us from hell!!

With this in mind, let’s get into our text in Isaiah chapter 5.

The whole fifth chapter of Isaiah is dedicated to showing the ungodly fruit of apostates. An apostate is someone who says they are a believer, but ends up denying the faith! There are many who will be revealed to be apostates in the last day—they will say “Lord, Lord,” and Christ will say to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23) .

God’s going to shake the foundations of all apostates. In Israel, we are going to find out that God does this on an earthly level, by sending the legendary might of the Assyrian army to destroy them. Listen to verse 24, “Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, Just as fire “licks up” the stubble and the fire falls on the chaff, so God will fall on these people. They are like a helpless piece of grass in the dry hot summer of a California forest fire! There is no hope at all for those who will go up against God. You can ignore God all your life, but there is coming a day of reckoning when you will be as helpless as a piece of dry grass in the fire! (continued...)

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