Do you believe that Hell is eternal and that people there will be punished forever? This does not seem to be in keeping with God’s mercy.
The belief in and teaching that Hell is not eternal and that those who reject Christ will be punished for a short time and then simply cease to exist is known as “annihilation”. This teaching is becoming more and more popular as we resort to determining doctrine based more on our feelings than on plain Scripture.
The common thinking goes something like this “God is merciful, infinitely more merciful than us, and we would not torture someone for all eternity. To eternally torment someone would make God unmerciful and a master torturer, therefore hell cannot be eternal punishment”. This is often accompanied with a lot of interpretive gymnastics and $12 Greek vocabulary explanations but in my experience very important questions are ignored.
Besides the fact that the Bible simply, plainly and clearly teaches repeatedly that Hell is forever, eternal and unending, here are some considerations that any honest person must grapple with before accepting the doctrine of annihilation: is God’s mercy still in play after judgment? Does the doctrine of annihilation represent a third option to the Gospel? If eternal punishment is not eternal using complex explanations of Greek language, then why are the very same words that describe eternal life taken to literally mean eternal? Does the doctrine of annihilation represent a grave insult and degradation of God’s sacrifice of his only Son which resulted in the offer of eternal life for every human?
God has shown, and continues to show every human, ULTIMATE MERCY NOW, and yet they reject it willingly.
To deny the plain teaching and choice of eternal life versus eternal condemnation, is to say that God’s mercy NOW is not enough, Christ’s sacrifice is not ENOUGH mercy (more is needed later through annihilation) and undeniably gives humans a third unBiblical choice: a little punishment then you disappear from existence. If that is not a third option to the Gospel, then I don’t know what is. It is nothing more than purgatory with a different ending.
Yes, God is infinitely more merciful than you and I, which is exactly why He died on the cross for us, paid our penalty, and extends to every human the gift of eternal life. To reject that, is to KNOWINGLY ACCEPT ETERNAL CONDEMNATION AND PUNISHMENT, willingly insult Jesus’ death on the cross, and spit in God’s face WHILE HIS MERCY IS STILL ON THE TABLE presently.
Rejecting the offer of eternal life moves you FROM God’s mercy, to His perfect and eternal divine wrath which is just as real and just and pure as His holiness and mercy. We cannot deny it, water it down, and change the Truth about eternal condemnation simply because WE cannot grasp it.
God’s mercy is in play NOW for ALL men… if you reject God, you reject His mercy, and become subject to His wrath and judgment. Mercy is no longer in play for those in hell who have rejected Jesus Christ and His ultimate sacrifice. To say that God should extend mercy PAST where HE has said mercy ends, is to inflict OUR will on God’s plan.
Many believers in annihilation will say “we don’t disagree that all who reject Christ will be punished, but the Bible does not say what the length of that punishment is.”
Yes, we DO know the length of God’s judgment… it is eternal, everlasting, forever and undying as the Bible clearly states over and over and over. This is only unclear when our personal qualms and inability to comprehend eternity muddies the water. This is only unclear when we do not want to believe it.
Another argument from those who believe in annihilation: “if I could stop someone from being tormented, I would. If I being human, can show that level of mercy, and how can we deny that God would allow someone to be tormented for all eternity?”
Again, this ignores the plain teaching of Scripture and the truth that God’s mercy is available to all while they are living. Once that mercy is rejected, that person willingly chooses eternal condemnation. God is not allowing them to be tortured, got his meeting out perfect and holy justice that is rightly deserved by those who reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
It does not matter that we as humans can or cannot comprehend eternal punishment. God has proclaimed it to be so and it is so.
I’m not included a lot of Scripture verses in this answer because I have taught and written on hell numerous times and you can search this site for those messages. In this answer I simply wanted to refute the logic of those who support the doctrine of annihilation.