Here is the conundrum: Sometimes when I share my study about final punishment (and hell) with other believers, they are resistant to the thought that there may not be eternal conscious torment.
That's it. That's the thing that baffles me.
Christian people - actual Bible-believing human beings - who know about God, know they are but dust, are somehow defensive about their belief in an eternal fire that punishes forever. They seem to get almost angry over the suggestion that there might not be such a place.
If I begin to give biblical evidence to show the hope in Scripture against forever torment, they put up a hand to stop it. I've even seen them cover their ears with their hands. "I don't want to hear it. You'll never convince me otherwise."
And what is the reason? If we get past the traditional verses used (but not studied in context) - i.e. Lazarus and the rich man, worm that doesn't die, smoke that rises 'forever' - then a certain attitude of the heart emerges.
They usually say something like, "You mean to say they get away with it?" And I would respond, still incredulous, "Do you think being destroyed and never being able to attain eternal life is getting away with anything?"
"That is not punishment! What about paying for their sins? They deserve hell if they reject Jesus. If they are destroyed in the lake of fire, then they are basically getting off easy! What about people like Hitler who deserve to suffer for all eternity?"
Hitler you say. Okay, let's torture Hitler forever. Now then, what about my brother - does he deserve to suffer for all eternity? What about me, for that matter? And you? We are all sinners, aren't we? All fall short. There is none righteous. Not. even. one.
Even our faith to believe is a gift from God. And those who belong to Satan have been blinded by him. Where does your sense of justice come from? And we, being sinful creatures, don't even publicly condone torture as a just punishment for even the worst crimes. What is the harshest penalty we give out? Death. It is death.
Do you find torture abhorrent in this life? Why would you find it acceptable in the next?
So, what is this all about? How can there be such a willingness to have hell. Even a desire for hell to exist. I don't know. Maybe they have someone in mind that did terrible things and they are comforted believing that that person will suffer forever because of it. Hmmm. Sounds like unforgiveness to me.
What could you possibly gain by the torment of another - and for ETERNITY for that matter! What kind of justice is that? What kind of glory does God receive from that? What kind of satisfaction does a person receive knowing about this kind of 'reality'?
Do we believe that the same Jesus who tenderly asked, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" will soon be throwing (they say millions) into a fiery torturous existence that has no escape? Will He then be pummeling His creation with rocks (that would be a fine torment) for all time, not allowing anyone to die and be able to escape the pain and remorse?
You'd THINK that folks would at least want to hear the biblical evidence (or you could say biblical argument) against eternal conscious torment. At least once - give it a chance. If it is not biblical then by all means, reject it! However, imagine if this tradition of torment is just a doctrine of man! Wouldn't we want to be aware of it and teach accordingly?
And If I am so wrong, friend and fellow believer, then am I not a false teacher? And shouldn't I be told of my sin and shown the ways I have gone wrong? Shouldn't it be pointed out how I have used Scripture out of context and twisted the meanings of our most beloved verses? It would be the loving thing to point it out to me.
Believe me, no one 'gets away with it'. God is not mocked. God is just. He has also told me over and over (maybe He has told you also) that He is merciful and compassionate. May we at least attain to being like our Father. He also told us He is making all things new. (Goodbye evil!)
As I see it, the only ones getting away with anything are those who are rescued and get to participate in the Great Exchange, where Jesus dies in our place.
Now, that is really getting away with something!