But the Bible speaks of the wicked being tormented “forever,” doesn’t it?
The term “for ever,” as used in the Bible, means simply a period of time, limited or unlimited. It is used 56 times in the Bible in connection with things that have already ended. It is like the word “tall,” which means something different in describing men, trees, or mountains. In Jonah 2:6, “for ever” means “three days and nights.” (See also Jonah 1:17.)
In Deuteronomy 23:3, this means “10 generations.” In the case of man, this means “as long as he lives” or “until death.” (See 1 Samuel 1:22, 28; Exodus 21:6; Psalm 48:14.) So the wicked will burn in the fire as long as they live, or until death. This fiery punishment for sin will vary according to the degree of sins for each individual, but after the punishment, the fire will go out.
The teaching of eternal torment has done more to drive people to atheism and insanity than any other invention of the devil. It is slander upon the loving character of a tender, gracious heavenly Father and has done untold harm to the Christian cause.
Death, Not Eternal Torment
hellfire.jpg The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is” not eternal life in hellfire, but “death” (Romans 6:23), the same penalty God assured Adam and Eve would be theirs if they ate the forbidden fruit.
Ezekiel states clearly that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), and a plethora of other Bible verses and passages endorse this position. The prophet Malachi wrote that sinners would burn up as “stubble” and would become “ashes under the soles” of the feet of the redeemed (Malachi 4:1, 3). Even the final fate of Satan is explicitly pronounced in Ezekiel 28:18, where the Bible says that the enemy of souls will be reduced to ashes upon the “earth.”
Compare that with Psalm 37:10 (“For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be”), Psalm 68:2 (“as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God”), and other similar verses. Soon you get a clear picture that the purpose of the fires of hell is to eradicate sin and to expunge the universe of its awful presence.
Interestingly, it was the devil who was first to suggest that sinners would not die (Genesis 3: 4). A hell where sinners never perish would prove the devil right and would make God, who told Eve she would “surely die” as a result of transgression (Genesis 2:17), a liar.