Theological Myth – Unending conscious torture
by Trent (originally posted on March 1, 2006)
My problem is a matter of perspective, yet is sufficient to give me pause in agreeing with any Statement of Faith that promotes the idea of damnation as unending conscious punishment. Primarily, it is against the flattering (and consistent with New Age,) and unbiblical philosophy of the “universally eternal” human soul. I believe that the way that most Christians talk about this aspect of their faith leaves room for a perspective that goes against the whole of scripture.
For example, people mistake ‘unending conscious punishment’ when in they quote from the passage of Matthew 25:41-46. Yet that passage calls it ‘eternal punishment’ (which is a huge difference.) This shift of words leaves room for the positing of “eternal life” even to the damned. Let me explain:
There is coming a “last day” as it is written, in which “heaven and earth will pass away” or “be destroyed.” The point is that the punishment is beyond the duration of those punished. It is like a man given 5 consecutive life sentences … we are smarter then to think that such a man will automatically live five times as long then before his sentence. Rather, we intuitively know that he will not last until the duration of the sentence. So, when I read that there will be an “eternal punishment” for the damned, I do not believe that the damned have the eternal life needed to last in a perpetual conscious state nor withstand the fire longer then anything else in creation. Nor do I think God so cruel as to torment them until the time of breaking, and then waken the faint and mend their wounds so that He could torment them again, and once they break from that torment to bandage again and awaken them again just so that He could torment them some more. Surely, this is not consistent with any of scripture, yet that is the implication of saying that they will “suffer everlasting **conscious** punishment.” Nor is it logical to say that those that LACK eternal life, will somehow be able to live eternally!?!?
This is also typified when people use Mark 9:43-48 as support for the conscious torture notion – ” ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Is this Jesus’ way of saying that everyone in hell is indestructible? Of course not, He is saying that the Fire is indestructible, NOT those thrown into it … Likewise it is the worm that does not turn, not those subject to the worm that supposedly have enough substance to satisfy a worm that does not turn for ages and ages endlessly having enough to feed a worm that does not turn. That is not only counter to logic, but it is counter to what Jesus just said right before: “hell, where the fire never goes out.” (verse 43) Furthermore, Jesus was quoting Isaiah 66: 24 which depicts looking upon the lifeless (dead) corpses of the damned as the worm does not turn.
The errors of hell-dogma is also perpetuated by the mistranslation of this support passage: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” Let me explain:
For example, we have a monument called the “eternal flame.” It isn’t really eternal, but for argument’s sake, lets say that it really is. Now, if I take a blade of grass and put it in the fire, does the blade of grass become eternal or is it destroyed?
This is quite obvious. The eternal fire does not make everything eternal that is exposed to it … Rather the eternal fire destroys everything that is not likewise eternal.
Hence, when one reads in scripture about everlasting destruction, one should not assume that whatever is destroyed becomes everlasting. That would be illogical and counter-intuitive. However, that is exactly what Christians are saying when they talk about unending conscious torture.
Essentially, I gather that a prevelent myth is saying that every soul is indestructible / immortal and has everlasting life … even those in the Eternal Fire subjected to the damnation. HOWEVER, immortality and everlasting life is a promise of the Gospel. What an empty offer that would be if everyone already had that! Christ’s accomplishment on Calvary would have been in vain.
“Fear the One that can destroy your soul.”- Jesus, speaking of the Father.
“Fear the One that would torment you til you pass-out, and then awaken you for more torment until you pass out, and on and on without an end. He couldn’t destroy an immortal everlasting soul of the damned even if He tried.” – Christians, while talking about the Father.
See the difference?