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The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

...one from a state of punishment, or suffering, or sin, is called a ransom. People are by nature captives to sin. They are sold under it. They are under condemnation, Eph 2:3; Rom 3:9-20, Rom 3:23; 1Jo 5:19. They are under a curse, Gal 3:10. They are in love with sin. They are under its withering dominion, and are exposed to death eternal, Eze 18:4; Psa 9:17; Psa 11:6; Psa 68:2; Psa 139:19; Mat 25:46; Rom 2:6-9. They must have perished unless there had been some way by which they could he rescued. This was done by the death of Jesus - by giving his life a ransom. The meaning is, that he died in the place of sinners, and that God was willing to accept the pains of his death in the place of the Eternal Suffering of the redeemed.[2]

So, if the Lord Christ did shed His precious blood and gave His life as a ransom, did He or did He not redeem us from the power of sin and from the slave market of sin? The obvious answer should be that He certainly did on the cross by the shedding of His blood ransom us from sin and at the appointed time, by His Holy Spirit, applied the benefits that He bought for us on the cross to us. But if our Arminian brothers want to insist that Christ the Lord died for every single person in the world, how then was the life and blood of our Lord the ransom for their sin? How was the blood of the Lord, which is the blood of the New Covenant, shed on their behalf without bringing them into the New Covenant? According to Arminians, most of those for whom Christ died are unaware that Christ died for them (e.g., unreached people throughout history) and if they are aware, unless they believe, which is an act on their own (according to them), they will still rot in Hell. So, how effective is the atonement for them? It seems to me, that if Christ’s purpose was to redeem and forgive every single human being, then He has failed miserably. But such a thing is impossible for the God for Whom nothing is too hard (Jer. 32:27; Gen. 18:14). It is impossible for the God Whose purpose cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2; Isa. 14:27; Dan. 4:34-35; Rom. 9:19ff). The only consistent way to understand the extent of the atonement is by not forgetting the effect and purpose of the atonement, which is to save His people, be a ransom for many and forgive their sins.

Some may already object now that just because the Bible sometimes speaks of Christ’s atonement as being specific it does exclude it being offered on behalf of all men without exception. First, this objection would be correct if we did not stress the purpose and the effect of the atonement. The passages which we have looked at until now could only be applied to the elect—those who have saving faith in Christ thanks to the atonement itself. The atonement described in these passages is not an “iffy” thing, but a definite and certain atonement thanks to Christ’s sacrifice. Second, we have not forgotten that Christ’s death was substitutionary—meaning that He died in the place of people. He died on the cross representing all the elect. He did not die for a faceless group. He died for specific people and He died to propitiate God—to satisfy, i.e., remove His wrath against their sin. How could this be said of any group but believers? If we are consistent in our understanding of the Lord’s substitutionary death, we would limit the scope of the atonement to those who would believe, i.e., the elect, otherwise, we have to limit the power of the atonement. Third, the passages that speak of the a...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment - Commentary

... it is a place of torment where the wicked will be in (e.g., Rev. 21:8).

Some think that the way in which Scripture speaks of Hell, as fire and outer darkness, is meant to be taken in a metaphorical way. I’m not sure, it may be so, but there are basically two groups who do this. One is the group which believes that saying that fire is metaphorical does not imply that Hell will be better than the traditional picture of Hell, rather, the reality is much stronger than the image. In other words, Hell is more terrible than you can imagine. Even if the worst thing that you can imagine is being tormented in fire forever, well, Hell is worse! The other camp tries to remove the idea of Eternal Suffering in body and soul. It may well be that the pictures of fire are meant to be taken in a metaphorical way, but this will not make Hell “less” endurable, but it will only make it more terrifying.

Endless Punishment

Now the question before us is simply, “How long will the suffering in Hell go on?” Historic Christianity has answered that question with “forever” until recent times when attempts have been made to teach that the wicked will not suffer eternal torment, but will be annihilated. Forms of Annihilationism have existed from the post-Reformation period. Basically, the wicked will not suffer conscious torment for all eternity as historic Christianity has taught, but they will cease to exist either after death or after the Final Judgment. Does Scripture support such an idea? Does Scripture teach that the suffering of the unrighteous will be momentary and not everlasting? We must look at passages that speak about the duration of the torments of Hell. The following is an attempt to show that the Bible teaches the unending punishment of the wicked. I do not intend it to be a refutation of Annihilationism, but more a positive case for the unending nature of hell-torments.

Matthew 25:41, 46

Matthew 25:46 is a clear passage that is often brought up against Annihilationism or any doctrine which denies the unending punishment of the unrighteous in Hell. The passage reads:

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

In this passage, we see the fate of the wicked and the fate of the righteous. Both are said to be eternal, but their conditions are totally opposite. One is said to be of life, the other of punishment. Those who disagree with the traditional doctrine of Hell often make the argument that the word “eternal” does not mean “without end” in every place, and with that we agree. But I believe that it is hard to maintain in this place that the nature of the punishment is not unending. The duration of both the condition of the righteous as well as the wicked is described with the same word—eternal. Notice that the passage does not merely describe eternity, but it describes the conditions of the sheep and the goats in eternity. One group goes “into eternal punishment,” the other “into eternal life.” We know that Christians will not be annihilated, but will forever live with God, therefore, since the condition of the righteous is that of unending life, it is unjustified to believe that the punishment of the wicked is not unending, just like the duration of eternal life. The natural implication of the language is that the duration is the same for both the righteous as well as the wicked, although the condition is radically different. Albert Barnes quotes John Owen saying:

The original word -  αἰ...