"They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God... is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell... There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell."
Clearly, I do not believe that God will torment people for an endless period. Not to say that sin does not exact a price. Without atonement, sin does demand payment. The Bible is so very clear about sin's consequences: "The wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23) and again, "...sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:15).
On the other hand, mankind certainly does not deserve eternal life. It is given graciously by a loving Father through the Son who sacrificially died in our place: "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 6:23b)
Though all of this is made clear in God's word, the idea of forever suffering persists in much of the Church's theology. This twisted thinking is what I'm wrestling with today. How is it that so many good-willed people just accept this doctrine so readily?
I want to ask Christians, "Do you really believe you deserve to be tormented in a lake of fire without any end?" I would not argue that we all deserve to die the kind of death that Jesus suffered, or worse. But tormented without end?? How does this kind of punishment achieve God's purposes of redemption and restoration of His creation? How does it accomplish Jesus' promise "Behold, I make all things new!" (Rev. 21:5)?
Since they consider themselves safe from such a fate, I suspect that this question has not been considered deeply by many. However, if you deserve that end and your children deserve that end and I deserve that end, then we should consider it with utmost attention.
To really grasp what traditionalists assert is the deserved fate of millions, I will often sit in front of our impressive black wood stove as it glows red from within. I imagine one hand thrust in the smoldering coals, then my whole self. Sickening as it is, I persist in the mental exercise. Pain that cannot be imagined is assigned to my being by God Himself, who chooses to keep me alive and cognizant of the endless fate He has fixed for me.
And then, NO! I know it cannot be true!
But Mr. Edwards does believe it, and shares his vision with the world:
"The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them...
...O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder...
...God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock,”"
No. This is not what God is speaking to us in His word. Why have we twisted His words in such a horrible way? Imagine how He feels as we assign to Him the very actions of those who worshipped the Baals. These thoughts are heavy, but only by facing beliefs head on will we understand what is being pushed forward as truth.