Hell and everlasting punishment

I’ve been wanting to bring this issue up and have some of you great folks reply on it for a while now.

The doctrine of Hell and everlasting punishment is controversial to be sure. There are basically three views of the fate of the wicked:

  1. Everlasting punishment
  2. Annihilation
  3. Purification and restoration of all mankind

There is evidence that early Church fathers, such as Origen, believed in the restoration of all mankind. It can also be said the Basil did as well. But in the end, Origen was condemned and replaced.

I have come to believe that 3) is the most honoring of God’s reputation and is indicative of the love and real justice of the Creator towards His creation.

Let’s discuss “hell” and “everlasting punishment”.

Here is the teaching of the Church, from the Catechism:

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

So no, there is no restoration according to revealed truth, God’s reputation not withstanding.

Note the nature of the punishment in the passage above. C.S. Lewis put it this way (to paraphrase). In the Lord’s prayer, we pray “thy will be done.” If that is not our wish, God simply says, “Very well, thy will be done.” It’s quite respectful of Him, actually.

Blessings,

Gerry

I came across this sermon recently which is quite sobering. It is something to be printed off and meditated on. The full sermon is at olrl.org/snt_docs/fewness.shtml Once you have done this, please comment. This is important for every catholic to get a grip of. Share it with your friends and family.

The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved

by St. Leonard of Port Maurice

Saint Leonard of Port Maurice was a most holy Franciscan friar who lived at the monastery of Saint Bonaventure in Rome. He was one of the greatest missioners in the history of the Church. He used to preach to thousands in the open square of every city and town where the churches could not hold his listeners. So brilliant and holy was his eloquence that once when he gave a two weeks’ mission in Rome, the Pope and College of Cardinals came to hear him. The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were his crusades. He was in no small way responsible for the definition of the Immaculate Conception made a little more than a hundred years after his death. He also gave us the Divine Praises, which are said at the end of Benediction. But Saint Leonard’s most famous work was his devotion to the Stations of the Cross. He died a most holy death in his seventy-fifth year, after twenty-four years of uninterrupted preaching.

One of Saint Leonard of Port Maurice’s most famous sermons was “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved.” It was the one he relied on for the conversion of great sinners. This sermon, like his other writings, was submitted to canonical examination during the process of canonization. In it he reviews the various states of life of Christians and concludes with the little number of those who are saved, in relation to the totality of men.

The reader who meditates on this remarkable text will grasp the soundness of its argumentation, which has earned it the approbation of the Church. Here is the great missionary’s vibrant and moving sermon. For sermon go to olrl.org/snt_docs/fewness.shtml

I think this is the function of purgatory, to give everyone a chance to repent and come to Jesus’ love and saving mercy. Everyone can be saved and God wants everyone to be saved.

I, too, would like to believe in a final reparation of sinners at the end of time, but I cannot. We have Christ’s own words regarding the judgment:

:bible1: “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the *eternal *fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41 (emphasis mine)

[quote=Gerry Hunter]Here is the teaching of the Church, from the Catechism:

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

So no, there is no restoration according to revealed truth, God’s reputation not withstanding.

Note the nature of the punishment in the passage above. C.S. Lewis put it this way (to paraphrase). In the Lord’s prayer, we pray “thy will be done.” If that is not our wish, God simply says, “Very well, thy will be done.” It’s quite respectful of Him, actually.

Blessings,

Gerry
[/quote]

Thank you Gerry for your post.

What I have come across in Scripture is that the doctrine of eternal punishment is not to be found in the Old Testament at all. The words translated “hell” in the OT are “sheol” and “hades”. Both places are described simply as “place or abode of the dead” with no respect to eternality or fire.

In the New Testament, the word “hell” is used for the words “hades”, “gehenna” and “tartaros”. Gehenna refers to a valley, the Valley of Hinnom spoken of in the OT. This is where people reportedly sacrificed their children to Molech. In the time of Christ, this “gehenna” was a garbage dump where trash was continually burning. So, when the word gehenna was used He was figuratively referring to this area. That area does not continually burn together. It is not on fire.

I believe the New American Bible, along with other translations, such as Young’s Literal Translation do not have the word “hell” in them. They use the actual word, because in reality their names are proper names and not to be used generally. Hades is a specific place and so is Sheol. The same is true for Gehenna and Tartaros.

If you notice, the KJV english Bible has the most instances of the word rendered “hell”. In subsequent translations, the number of times was reduced and now is to the point that many translations do not use the word hell at all.

This is food for thought. If we understand properly the words and concepts of hell, we begin to see the bigger picture of the restoration of all mankind to God.

[quote=FightingFat]I think this is the function of purgatory, to give everyone a chance to repent and come to Jesus’ love and saving mercy. Everyone can be saved and God wants everyone to be saved.
[/quote]

No it is not. You quite misunderstand what purgatory is. Purgatory is the cleansing of the soul of those people already bound for heaven, judged righteous but not yet perfect. It is NOT a place of second chances. God does want everyone to be saved - yes, But our actions done in free will determine IF we are saved or not.

From the Catholic Dictionary:
PURGATORY. The place or condition in which the souls of the just are purified after death and before they can enter heaven. They may be purified of the guilt of their venial sins, as in this life, by an act of contrition deriving from charity and performed with the help of grace. This sorrow does not, however, affect the punishment for sins, because in the next world there is no longer any possibility of merit. The souls are certainly purified by atoning for the temporal punishments due to sin by their willing acceptance of suffering imposed by God. The sufferings in purgatory are not the same for all, but proportioned to each person’s degree of sinfulness. Moreover, these sufferings can be lessened in duration and intensity through the prayers and good works of the faithful on earth. Nor are the pains incompatible with great peace and joy, since the poor souls deeply love God and are sure they will reach heaven. As members of the Church Suffering, the souls in purgatory can intercede for the persons on earth, who are therefore encouraged to invoke their aid. Purgatory will not continue after the general judgment, but its duration for any particular soul continues until it is free from all guilt and punishment. Immediately on purification the soul is assumed into heaven. (Etym. Latin purgatio, cleansing, purifying.)

[quote=Dr. Colossus]I, too, would like to believe in a final reparation of sinners at the end of time, but I cannot. We have Christ’s own words regarding the judgment:

:bible1: “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the *eternal *fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41 (emphasis mine)
[/quote]

Yes, that verse is used many times as a proof text for the eternality of “hell”. The adjective “aionios” is the word used that is translated as eternal. “Aionios” can mean for an age, age-lasting, etc. It comes from the root word, “aion”. Both are time words, not necessarily meaning “eternal” or without end. They last for an age - a period of time. The root word for “aion” is “kronos” which is used some 53 times in the KJV NT. The words time/s and season/s are the most often used words from “kronos”.

If you look some verses later in chapter 25 to verse 46, the phrase, “everlasting punishment” is rendered in Young’s Literal Translation as “age-during” as the Greek word suggests.

There are other greek words that represent “endlessness”. For example, in 1 Timothy 1:4, the word endless is used from the Greek word “aperantos” and in Hebrews 7:16 the word “endless” is from the Greek word “akatalutos”. Both of these words were never associated with punishment.

[quote=FightingFat]I think this is the function of purgatory, to give everyone a chance to repent and come to Jesus’ love and saving mercy. Everyone can be saved and God wants everyone to be saved.
[/quote]

It is apparent to me that since God wants everyone to be saved, His will cannot be thwarted. He does as He pleases. Our so-called “free-will” cannot out-do God’s will.

[quote=ahimsaman72]Thank you Gerry for your post.

What I have come across in Scripture is that the doctrine of eternal punishment is not to be found in the Old Testament at all. The words translated “hell” in the OT are “sheol” and “hades”. Both places are described simply as “place or abode of the dead” with no respect to eternality or fire.

In the New Testament, the word “hell” is used for the words “hades”, “gehenna” and “tartaros”. Gehenna refers to a valley, the Valley of Hinnom spoken of in the OT. This is where people reportedly in Scripture sacrificed their children to Molech. In the time of Christ, this “gehenna” was a garbage dump where trash was continually burning. So, when the word gehenna was used He was figuratively referring to this area. That area does not continually burn today. It is not on fire.

I believe the New American Bible, along with other translations, such as Young’s Literal Translation do not have the word “hell” in them. They use the actual word, because in reality their names are proper names and not to be used generally. Hades is a specific place and so is Sheol. The same is true for Gehenna and Tartaros.

If you notice, the KJV english Bible has the most instances of the word rendered “hell”. In subsequent translations, the number of times was reduced and now is to the point that many translations do not use the word hell at all.

This is food for thought. If we understand properly the words and concepts of hell, we begin to see the bigger picture of the restoration of all mankind to God.
[/quote]

I had to make some corrections to the original post, because I kind of butchered it in a couple of places. Sorry :slight_smile:

Mark Dever, Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, gave an amazing presentation, “The Wrath of Almighty God” for a conference gjiven by Ligonier Ministries in Santa Ana last year. It was brilliant. It is available for $5.00 plus S&H from Ligonier. It’s not available on their web store; you have to call (800) 435-4343 and ask for item # [font=Times New Roman]SAN03AI.01 . Also look for R. C. Sproul’s companion pieces on Hell. This is not one of the issues over which Catholics and Protestants are necessarily divided.[/font]

[quote=ahimsaman72]Yes, that verse is used many times as a proof text for the eternality of “hell”. The adjective “aionios” is the word used that is translated as eternal. “Aionios” can mean for an age, age-lasting, etc. It comes from the root word, “aion”. Both are time words, not necessarily meaning “eternal” or without end. They last for an age - a period of time. The root word for “aion” is “kronos” which is used some 53 times in the KJV NT. The words time/s and season/s are the most often used words from “kronos”.

If you look some verses later in chapter 25 to verse 46, the phrase, “everlasting punishment” is rendered in Young’s Literal Translation as “age-during” as the Greek word suggests.

There are other greek words that represent “endlessness”. For example, in 1 Timothy 1:4, the word endless is used from the Greek word “aperantos” and in Hebrews 7:16 the word “endless” is from the Greek word “akatalutos”. Both of these words were never associated with punishment.
[/quote]

Given that the same adjetive is used to refer to the duration of ones time in heaven, then would you also argue that time in heaven is only temporary as well?

Chuck

[quote=clmowry]Given that the same adjetive is used to refer to the duration of ones time in heaven, then would you also argue that time in heaven is only temporary as well?

Chuck
[/quote]

That’s a great question! The adjective can refer to different time periods as can be explained so much better by Rev. J.W. Hanson in his 1875 work in which he wrote at length about the word aion and its adjective aionios. I would like to point out that it is the quality of life in heaven that is of more worth than the duration. Here is a quote from that work, with the link to the entire document afterward:

A COMMON OBJECTION NOTICED.

“Then eternal life is not endless, for the same Greek adjective qualifies life and punishment.” This does not follow, for the word is used in Greek in different senses in the same sentence; as Hab. iii:6. “And the everlasting mountains were scattered --his ways are everlasting.” Suppose we apply the popular argument here. The mountains and God must be of equal duration, for the same word is applied to both. Both are temporal or both are endless. But the mountains are expressly stated to be temporal --they “were scattered,” --therefore God is not eternal. Or God is eternal and therefore the mountains must be. But they cannot be, for they were scattered. The argument does not hold water. The aiónion mountains are all to be destroyed. Hence the word may denote both limited and unlimited duration in the same passage, the different meanings to be determined by the subject treated.

tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html

Thanks for pointing this out. You have a keen eye.

[quote=mercygate]Mark Dever, Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, gave an amazing presentation, “The Wrath of Almighty God” for a conference gjiven by Ligonier Ministries in Santa Ana last year. It was brilliant. It is available for $5.00 plus S&H from Ligonier. It’s not available on their web store; you have to call (800) 435-4343 and ask for item # [font=Times New Roman]SAN03AI.01 . Also look for R. C. Sproul’s companion pieces on Hell. This is not one of the issues over which Catholics and Protestants are necessarily divided.[/font]
[/quote]

Hey Mercy!

Yes, my Baptist heritage is filled with the doctrine of hell and endless punishment. I heard it from the time I was born till even today. Jonathan Edwards (1800’s) is a favorite of my pastor. My pastor actually printed out a list of quotes from him and distributed to the congregation. I wasn’t happy :slight_smile: .

It is a doctrine thoroughly engrained in our belief systems. And, as you say, it is one issue that most Catholics and protestants can agree on. And here I go even messing that up! :slight_smile:

I could almost accept the idea of purgatory if it also included the wicked.

Origen believed (from what I have read) that the wicked would receive punishment and would suffer (how much depending on the person’s depravity), but that in the end they would be brought back to God at the end of that punishment through God’s infinite will.

Here is a piece of a research paper found at the Univ. of Tenn. Martin philosophy dept website on Origen and his philosophy. This is one of other places that indicate the same teaching of Origen:

*The restoration of all beings (apokatastasis) is the most important concept in Origen’s philosophy, and the touchstone by which he judges all other theories. His concept of universal restoration is based on equally strong Scriptural and Hellenistic philosophical grounds and is not original, as it can be traced back to Heraclitus, who stated that “the beginning and end are common” (Fragment B 103, tr. J. Barnes 1987, p. 115). Considering that Origen’s later opponents based their charges of heresy largely on this aspect of his teaching, it is surprising to see how well-grounded in scripture this doctrine really is. Origen’s main biblical proof-text is 1 Corinthians 15:25-28, especially verse 28, which speaks of the time “when all things shall be subdued unto him [Christ], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (KJV, my emphasis). This scriptural notion of God being “all in all” (panta en pasin) is a strong theological support for his theory of apokatastasis. There are, of course, numerous other passages in scripture that contradict this notion, but we must remember that Origen’s strength resided in his philosophical ability to use reason and dialectic in support of humane doctrines, not in the ability to use scripture in support of dogmatical and anti-humanistic arguments. Origen imagined salvation not in terms of the saved rejoicing in heaven and the damned suffering in hell, but as a reunion of all souls with God. *

utm.edu/research/iep/o/origen.htm#Multiple%20Ages,%20Metempsychosis,%20and%20the%20Restoration%20of%20All

[quote=ahimsaman72]Hey Mercy!

Yes, my Baptist heritage is filled with the doctrine of hell and endless punishment. I heard it from the time I was born till even today. Jonathan Edwards (1800’s) is a favorite of my pastor. My pastor actually printed out a list of quotes from him and distributed to the congregation. I wasn’t happy :slight_smile: .

It is a doctrine thoroughly engrained in our belief systems. And, as you say, it is one issue that most Catholics and protestants can agree on. And here I go even messing that up! :slight_smile:
[/quote]

Actually, what was so terrific about Dever’s presentation was its integration of God’s wrath as an element of his love. It is really worth the $5.

Of course, Dever draws heavily on Jonathan Edwards. That sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (the complete text is available on the Internet) was a tour de force that captured many hearts for Christ. It, too, is brimming with the doctrine of mercy. I know “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” well. Did you know that when Edwards delivered it, he never raised his voice but gave it in a very tender manner. That image of the arrow aimed at the heart is a heart-stopper!

[quote=ahimsaman72]“Then eternal life is not endless, for the same Greek adjective qualifies life and punishment.” This does not follow, for the word is used in Greek in different senses in the same sentence; as Hab. iii:6. “And the everlasting mountains were scattered --his ways are everlasting.” Suppose we apply the popular argument here. The mountains and God must be of equal duration, for the same word is applied to both. Both are temporal or both are endless. But the mountains are expressly stated to be temporal --they “were scattered,” --therefore God is not eternal. Or God is eternal and therefore the mountains must be. But they cannot be, for they were scattered. The argument does not hold water. The aiónion mountains are all to be destroyed. Hence the word may denote both limited and unlimited duration in the same passage, the different meanings to be determined by the subject treated.
[/quote]

Then we can say that the verse in question “proves” that there will be punishment or reward for some amount of time less than or equal to eternity.

i.e. The debate rages on for those who would base there conclusion on scripture alone. Is there a less ambigous statement somewhere else in scripture? 'm guessing that in translating from scripture from language to language it’s safe to say we can pretty much twist the translations in such a way as to rule out proving anything from any given verse.

Chuck

[quote=ahimsaman72]It is apparent to me that since God wants everyone to be saved, His will cannot be thwarted. He does as He pleases. Our so-called “free-will” cannot out-do God’s will.
[/quote]

God’s will cannot be “thwarted” indeed, but, of His own free will, he can give us the choice of conforming to his will for us, or not, and accepting that choice.

Lewis’s illustration again.

The idea of a subordinate will not conforming to the superior will, yet the superior will still not being “thwarted” is familiar to many mothers. A young child refuses to tidy his room, and Mom gets fed up with doing so, when he is quite capable of doing so. At some point, Mom makes her displeasure known, states her will that the room be clean, but also states she expects him to clean it, and will no longer do so herself. A week later, she looks in, and finds a shambles.

On the one hand, her willed wish that the room be tidy has not been fulfilled. But on the other hand, it was her will that the tidying, if it were done, would be done by the child, who chose not to do it, and was able to make that choice because she willed it.

In Catholic thought, anihilationism or a post-death purification and rehabilitation of those who die without sanctifying grace is generally seen as wishful thinking. It certainly goes against the teaching of the Church, and is therefore not entertained.

Blessings,

Gerry

[quote=clmowry]Then we can say that the verse in question “proves” that there will be punishment or reward for some amount of time less than or equal to eternity.

i.e. The debate rages on for those who would base there conclusion on scripture alone. Is there a less ambigous statement somewhere else in scripture? 'm guessing that in translating from scripture from language to language it’s safe to say we can pretty much twist the translations in such a way as to rule out proving anything from any given verse.

Chuck
[/quote]

There are many other passages of Scripture that clarify this issue. It is by the total weight of evidence that we can come to a conclusion. I do not believe that one verse should be the father of a doctrine. There will be some things lost in translation from language to language. For instance, if you wanted to use the passage from Isaiah 1:18,

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”

and try to explain the concept to an aboriginee who has never seen snow, you would have him lost!

You must have a solid base before you can glean a doctrine of Scripture.

There are many, many verses which teach universal salvation and redemption of man. Here is a sampling 20 out of 75 that were easily available:

[list=1]
*]1Tim 2:4-God will have all to be saved-Can His will be thwarted?
*]1Tim 2:4-God desires all to come to the knowledge of truth-Will His desire come to pass?
*]1Tim 2:6-Salvation of all is testified in due time-Are we judging God before due time?
*]Jn 12:47-Jesus came to save all-Will He succeed?
*]Eph 1:11-God works all after the counsel of His will-Can your will overcome His?
*]Jn 4:42-Jesus is Savior of the world-Can He be Savior of all without saving all?
*]1Jn 4:14-Jesus is Savior of the world-Why don’t we believe it?
*]Jn 12:32-Jesus will draw all mankind unto Himself-To roast or to love?
*]Col 1:16-By Him all were created-Will He lose a part of His creation?
*]Rm 5:15-21-In Adam all condemned, in Christ all live-The same all?
*]1Cor 15:22-In Adam all die, in Christ all live-Again, the same all?
*]Eph 1:10-All come into Him at the fulness of times-Are you getting tired of seeing the word, all?
*]Phl 2:9-11-Every tongue shall confess Jesus is Lord-Will the Holy Spirit be given to everyone?
*]1Cor 12:3-Cannot confess except by Holy Spirit-See what I mean?
*]Rm 11:26-All Israel will be saved-But most Jews don’t believe yet!
*]Acts 3:20,21-Restitution of all-How plain can you get?
*]Luke 2:10-Jesus will be joy to all people-Is there joy is “hell”?
*]Heb 8:11,12- All will know God-How long, O Lord?
*]Eph 2:7-His grace shown in the ages to come-Have we judged Him before the time?
*]Titus 2:11-Grace has appeared to all-Experientially or prophetically?
[/list]Taken from “Do you believe ‘all’ in the Bible?” by Gary Amirault here: tentmaker.org/tracts/DoYouBelieve.html

[quote=Gerry Hunter]God’s will cannot be “thwarted” indeed, but, of His own free will, he can give us the choice of conforming to his will for us, or not, and accepting that choice.

Lewis’s illustration again.

The idea of a subordinate will not conforming to the superior will, yet the superior will still not being “thwarted” is familiar to many mothers. A young child refuses to tidy his room, and Mom gets fed up with doing so, when he is quite capable of doing so. At some point, Mom makes her displeasure known, states her will that the room be clean, but also states she expects him to clean it, and will no longer do so herself. A week later, she looks in, and finds a shambles.

On the one hand, her willed wish that the room be tidy has not been fulfilled. But on the other hand, it was her will that the tidying, if it were done, would be done by the child, who chose not to do it, and was able to make that choice because she willed it.

In Catholic thought, anihilationism or a post-death purification and rehabilitation of those who die without sanctifying grace is generally seen as wishful thinking. It certainly goes against the teaching of the Church, and is therefore not entertained.

Blessings,

Gerry
[/quote]

I appreciate your post and I understand the analogy. But, you would agree that a messy room is a far shot from a person roasting alive for eternity for a life lived wrongly 70 years on earth.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.