En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Hell…Eternal Torment or Annilation?

Posted by Scott on July 2, 2008

(Author: John Piper)

Resolved 08, which I spoke at a couple weeks ago, had a sobering theme: Heaven and Hell. In my preparation, I dug up this contrast between Clark Pinnock and Dorothy Sayers.

Clark Pinnock, a Canadian theologian who has moved far from his evangelical roots, wrote:

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. (Theological Crossfire: An Evangelical/Liberal Dialogue, 226-7)

Dorothy Sayers, who died in 1957, speaks a wise and faithful antidote to this kind of abandonment of truth.

There seems to be a kind of conspiracy, especially among middle-aged writers of vaguely liberal tendency, to forget, or to conceal, where the doctrine of Hell comes from. One finds frequent references to the “cruel and abominable mediaeval doctrine of hell,” or “the childish and grotesque mediaeval imagery of physical fire and worms.” …

But the case is quite otherwise; let us face the facts. The doctrine of hell is not “mediaeval”: it is Christ’s. It is not a device of “mediaeval priestcraft” for frightening people into giving money to the church: it is Christ’s deliberate judgment on sin. The imagery of the undying worm and the unquenchable fire derives, not from “mediaeval superstition,” but originally from the Prophet Isaiah, and it was Christ who emphatically used it…. It confronts us in the oldest and least “edited” of the gospels: it is explicit in many of the most familiar parables and implicit in many more: it bulks far larger in the teaching than one realizes, until one reads the Evangelists through instead of picking out the most comfortable texts: one cannot get rid of it without tearing the New Testament to tatters. We cannot repudiate Hell without altogether repudiating Christ. (A Matter of Eternity, 86)

by John Piper www.desiringGod.org


3 Responses to “Hell…Eternal Torment or Annilation?”

  1. lionshoney said

    Allow me to point out one striking fact: Jesus Christ never spoke of “hell.” Hell is originally a German word scholars have used and kept to translate “sheol”, “hades”, and “Gehenna.” Jesus spoke of “everlasting punishment” referring to the Lake of Fire, and “hades”, the Greek word for the Hebrew “sheol”, and “Gehenna”, the burning, stinking garbage dump of Jerusalem in the figurative sense. Let us who are students of God’s word make these proper and clarifying distinctions, else we will never clearly see what the Lord Jesus spoke so much of, even if John Piper doesn’t lead us in doing it.

  2. Paul R Wilson said

    I can NOT accept either eternal torment OR the no-soul theory. The former is presented in such a way that its exclusionism would put all but a literal handfull in eternal agony.(including my loved ones).
    The no-soul theory bugled by so many now, ignores Luke 16:19-31 (Ellen White and Russell made no reference to it, both insisting that the body has no soul, but IS the soul.).and says that the soul dies with the body and rots in the grave until the day of resurrection (in most cases, re-creation from the nearest garbage on hand). In 99.99+% there is NOTHING left to resurrect and God must make a copy of the original. This NEW consciousness can not logically be rewarded or punished for what the original did ! (Go to Dunnich, England, and look at the local graveyard, you may see bones coming out of coffins sticking out of the cliff and tumble one by one into the ocean -unless they moved the graveyard ! I’ve seen photoes !)
    I am soundly convinced that the 2nd coming is 1900+ years overdue, that Christ made an empty promise to return in the natural lifetime of the apostles.

  3. lionshoney said

    A little off topic, but…

    Christ’s promise was not empty, only conditional. Or did Christ intend on coming a second time, in power and glory, to set up His kingdom in Israel, and to rule the nations with a rod of iron, even without the nation of Israel?

    It was because of Israel’s unbelief that God cut them off, grafted in the Gentiles (Romans 11:20), and changed His administration (for God is not using a literal earthly nation at this time). But God will graft them in again (Romans 11:24), apparently even 1900+ years later, since He has not done so yet.

    For God to relent in what He purposes to do with a nation is not unusual (see Jeremiah 18:8). We see an elaborate illustration of this idea in Deuteronomy 28, that obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings curses.

    Shall Israel indeed enter the rest of His millennial reign apart from faith and obedience? Hebrews 3:19 says, “so we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief,” referring to Israel dying in the wilderness and coming short of entering the Promised Land. The same principle applies with the generations of Israel dying in their wanderings and coming short of the rest and enjoyment of reigning with Christ the Lord.

    So the Day is still to come! When the fullness of the Gentiles has been gathered in, God will return to Israel (Romans 11:25, 26)!

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