Second Death, Pt. 2

Scripture: Malachi 4:1-4, Revelation 20:10, Jonah 2:6
Christians are sometimes taught that there is a God who will torture sinners forever in the fires of hell. How could a God who is supposedly loving and yet is a tyrant? Does the Bible really teach the Lord torments sinners forever? What about Bible verses that speak about eternal torment?
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Announcer: It's time now for Bible Talk. Join Gary Gibbs and John Bradshaw as they open the Bible to deepen our understanding of God's word.

John Bradshaw: Hi and welcome to Bible Talk, where we talk about the Bible and how the Bible affects you today. I'm John Bradshaw.

Gary Gibbs: And I'm Gary Gibbs.

John: Last time on Bible Talk we talked about the second death and hell. The Bible says the wages of sin is death and the Bible talks about the second death and hellfire. It's a pretty serious business.

Gary: It certainly is. And we looked, John, and we saw that in the Bible, the second death is when people die in the fires of hell. Jesus said in John 3:16 that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. There are only two options, two states of being here. If we believe in God, we get everlasting life.

John: You live forever.

Gary: We live forever. If we don't believe in Him then we perish. We don't get everlasting life in hell. We perish. The Bible says that we turn into ashes. Malachi 4:1-4 says, "The wicked will be ashes under the soles of our feet."

John: OK, so the gift of God is eternal life. You live forever. The alternative to that is to be dead forever. The Bible doesn't call it a second death for no reason at all. Now, friend, we're looking at this biblically and we might be slaying somebody's sacred cow today. If that's happening for you or if you'd like to know more, be sure to listen for our offer at the end of the program, "Is The Devil Really In Charge Of Hell?" You'll be able to call us, email us, and get this resource. I want to stir your thinking a little bit like this. Gary, help me out here. Some of the real despots of history, some of the real wicked people of history...

Gary: Adolf Hitler.

John: OK, without question. Josef Stalin perhaps. Who else?

Gary: Edi Amin.

John: Pol Pot? Someone's going to say Saddam Hussein. There are many. I would submit and I want to do this carefully. Understand I'm not attempting to be irreverent here. But I would submit that in the minds of many Christians, the worst and most cruel figure that ever was is this picture of God that they have had painted for them by preachers and teachers down through the years. Because, and this is true now, many preachers - and I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they mean well - have presented God in a picture, in a manner that makes him more cruel and despotic and hateful than any human tyrant that has ever lived. Why?

Gary: That's a shocking statement.

John: No, but listen.

Gary: We preach the love of God. God loves us. God died for us in His son. Who is this tyrant God you're talking about?

John: Well, I'll tell you what, anyone that had punishment inflicted upon them by Hitler or Stalin was ultimately put out of their misery, right? The ultimate punishment, the end of this thing, was death. But the Christian is being told that there is a God who would take a sinner, an unbeliever and roast them, and toast them, and burn them, and torture them forever and ever and much worse than Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot or any of these tyrants ever treated somebody. You know what's interesting about this? I've read the testimony of many, many people well-known who have said they've been turned off God and away from religion and Christianity because of this. I tell you one person among them. Our friend, Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin was - this is what he says - turned off God because of what he was told the Bible says about this picture of God punishing people forever and ever and ever.

Gary: Well, there's a text though, John, that says that very thing will happen. You've made a good point. You've said this casts a reflection on God and makes him out to be a tyrant.

John: Of the worst kind.

Gary: But we need to come back to that but we also need to look at the fact that the Bible does say, for instance, in Revelation 14:9-11, "The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever and they have no rest day or night." What do you do with that? What does that mean? I mean that's the Bible text. We're preaching out of when we talk about the dead are going to be burning in fire forever and ever. In Revelation 20:10, it says the same thing.

John: All right, the first thing I'm going to charge you to do is to use your head. The Bible says God so loved the world. The Bible says God is love. Now I'm going to ask you to try and meld that with the idea that God is going to torment someone forever and ever and ever. Some person who may have been quite a moral person and quite a decent person, but never accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior. God says, "Right, you never made that decision, I'm going to roast you forever. And a billion years from now when you're screaming for mercy, I'll look at you and say, 'I've only just begun.' And I'll give you another billion and I will keep doing this ad infinitum." First thing, use your head. Second thing, you've mentioned a verse a couple of minutes ago. The Bible says that the wicked will be ashes under the soles of your feet. Malachi 4. The Bible says in Ezequiel 28, "The devil will be reduced to ashes." In the Psalms, the wicked will not be. Psalm 37. I believe it is Psalms 68, "The wicked will be as the fat of lambs that will consume away into smoke." The preponderance of evidence and the weight of Bible text says that the wicked will cease to exist and they'll be reduced to nothing.

You've got a couple of these sticky ones. And they're there for sure, that say, forever and ever. So the first thing...

Gary: By the way, there's only two of those...

John: It's not many.

Gary: ... that they do that. I think it was Psalm 27 where they were consumed away into smoke.

John: I'll take it wherever...

Gary: Psalm 37.

John: All right. That will work as well. There's a similar version in Psalm 68. You've got the weight of evidence, all these many texts. They say hell will eventually reduce the sinner to nothing versus a couple that say forever and ever. Is that good enough?

Gary: Well, you have the weight of evidence as you mentioned.

John: Maybe we need more?

Gary: We do need more because we have to understand what does it mean that they'll be tormented day and night forever and ever? Because this is the teaching. God is going to torment them day and night forever and ever. What does that really mean then?

John: I'm going to tackle this from the forever and ever aspect. You know there are plenty of places in the Bible that use the phrase "forever and ever." It doesn't mean forever and ever the way we understand "forever and ever."

Gary: Well, explain that to me.

John: Well, it means for a given period of time. It's going to take as long as it's going to take. Best way to explain it is by going to the Bible. You've got the story of the godly mother Hannah. She prayed that God would give her a child and God gave her the boy Samuel. What she does is she dedicates Samuel to God, takes him down to the temple and says Samuel is going to be down there in the temple forever. Now if you're going to use this definition of forever and connect it with the common view about hell, one of the common views about hell, then that means that Samuel ought to still be in that temple right now because forever means forever. Yet, six verses later, the Bible says, and Hannah said this, "He will be in the temple for as long as he lives." So, forever means as long as he lives. And now we can understand this thing. It means for as long as it goes on, as long as it takes.

Gary: We have a similar example with Jonah. Remember Jonah?

John: Oh, sure.

Gary: Swallowed by the big fish. In Jonah 2:6 he says, "He went down in the moorings of the mountains, the base of the mountains, the earth with its bars closed behind me forever."

John: Oh man, but it says in the same book and everybody knows, he was only there three days and three nights.

Gary: Jonah 1:17.

John: That's not forever, is it?

Gary: But it felt like forever.

John: I guess if you're in the belly of a fish, three days and three nights is forever.

Gary: I think the word "forever" is used like 53 times...

John: No, let me tell you...

Gary: How many times?

John: I wrote an article about this one time and I made a statement, I guess. I don't know if I said 53 or 63 times. I said the word "forever" appears in the Bible dozens of times and I gave a number and it's always in association with an event that's done. Another example, God told Israel, "You'll keep this feast day forever." But we know they don't keep it right now. They weren't going to keep it forever. It was just for as long as you needed to do this.

A lady wrote me a letter. She said, "Could you furnish me with a list of all these forevers." I said I can do it. At that time I had a little computer concordance so I typed this thing in and pulled up the list, started writing them out, cutting and pasting or something. I got to about 85. And I just... I finished.

I said, "Lady, there's more. Get a concordance and find the button. I'm done. I found 85 of these things for you, you can go find the rest." There's dozens of places in the Bible where the word or the phrase "forever," "forever and ever is used in conjunction with an event that has been and gone and it's over. So forever doesn't always mean the way we think of going on without ever ending.

Gary: This isn't your opinion or my opinion. This is recognized by Hebrew and Greek scholars. I'm reading from the note of Gesenius. He's a Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon on the word forever, alam. He says the word forever in the original is always defined from the nature of the thing itself. When it's applied to human affairs, and especially to individual man, it commonly signifies all the days of their life. For instance, like Samuel, as long he lived, he was lent to the Lord and was there in the temple forever. It would be like me saying, "John, here we are on the East Coast of the United States. I'm going to walk back and visit my relatives in California."

John: Oh man, that's a guarantee that will take you forever.

Gary: It would. It would take a long time, but it wouldn't take forever. And that's why Vine's Expository Dictionary on the Greek word for this, it's used in the New Testament. It says "forever" describes duration undefined but not endless. Here, if you take a mortal man who is a sinner, and he's not given immortality so he doesn't have asbestos flesh. When he's thrown into the fire, his torment is for as long as his body lasts in there. And that is his forever. But then the results of the fire are also forever.

John: Absolutely right. If we took a piece of paper and set it on fire, the thing is not going to burn forever. But it will be burned forever, right?

Gary: That's correct.

John: Forever it's going to be burned up. It's burned up and gone.

Gary: Now, related to this is the concept of eternal hellfire. In Jude verse seven it said that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengeance of eternal fire. Now that's not a fire that's still burning today.

John: No, if you take what many people believe, Sodom and Gomorrah should still be smoking away over there in the Middle East.

Gary: But instead, it's actually been turned into ashes and that's what Peter says in 2 Peter 2:6 he says that they've been turned into ashes, condemned to destruction as an example to those who would live ungodly. He says the example of Sodom and Gomorrah, have an eternal fire. A fire that has eternal consequences. They were turned into ashes. Same thing will happen to the ungodly.

John: If you want to know what hell's going to be like? The Bible says look at what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. I got a thought here. Can you think of any places in the Bible where God sent down fire from heaven? And if so, what happened when he did? I'm thinking of Mt. Carmel. He sent the fire down from heaven and what did it do? It burned up. It burned up everything. It even burned up the rocks and left nothing. As with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, OK, the ground opened up and swallowed some of those cast. Fire came down and burned up some. They were burned up. They didn't burn forever and ever. They burned up. You can think of other places.

Wasn't it Elijah who called down fire on those false prophets? No, on those folks who came to arrest him. Fire came down, burned them up. Happened more than once until of course some of them wised up and said "Don't burn us up." Whenever God sent fire to do its job and reduce these things to nothing.

Gary: And the fire is real and sinners, unrepentant sinners will burn in that fire. We don't know how long it will last. It could last for days, it could last for a period of time because people are paying... They're reaping the results of their sin. But ultimately they'll be turned into ashes. But the good news is we don't have to be there if we make Jesus our savior today.

John: I appreciate what this says about God. He is just. But He's not unkind, merciless, and horrible. It paints a better picture of God. This is a God you can love and trust. Trust Him with your heart and receive eternal life from Him today. Be sure to join us here next time for more of Bible Talk.

Male Announcer: If you'd like more information on what we've been studying today, we have a comprehensive Bible study guide we'd love to share with you that's absolutely free. This study includes many of the texts we've just discussed and expands on the subject, including information you'll want to know. To receive this free informative Bible study guide, simply call, write, or email and ask for "Is the Devil In Charge of Hell?" The toll-free number is 866-BIBLE-SAYS. That's 866-242-5372. You can write to us at Bible Talk, P.O. Box 1058 Roseville, California 95678. Or email us at Bible Talk is being produced in association with Amazing Facts in the studios of Live Talk Radio.

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