Monday, June 1, 2015

Eternal Punishment in Hell?

Early in church history it was believed and preached that based on Scripture, hell was a real place of eternal punishment. This was true for all who rejected Jesus Christ’s payment for their sin on the cross. Augustine, a famous church father who was a stalwart for the faith argued strongly against those who did not believe the torments of hell were truly eternal.

Actually, Origen, another church father, argued strongly against those who held the traditional and biblical view of hell. He believed in what came to be called a form of universalism. God’s victory, he insisted, would not be complete until everyone and all things would be returned to union with God.
The issue continued to be debated from the time of Augustine and Origen to the present. It has been said that the 17th century marked the beginning of theological opposition to the traditional and biblical doctrine of hell, the 18th century marked the explosion of intellectual skepticism which certainly rejected any idea of an eternal punishment for the nonchristians (cf. Hell Under Fire by Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, Zondervan, p. 20).

What about more recent times? The debate over hell continues and unfortunately includes some evangelicals who do not hold to hell as an eternal place of punishment. Some of the more vocal among these include John Wenham, a well-known evangelical in Britain; John Stott, an evangelical leader throughout the world; and Clark Pinnock in America, perhaps the most vocal of them all.

In the next article I will deal with the Bible’s answer to the question asked in this “Thought for the Day.”