Hell, Hades, Destruction and Eternal Punishment in the Gospels Part II


J. Herbert Kane spent 15 years in China with the old China Inland Mission and became a great scholar and church statesmen in his day. Here is what he said about this issue: “The unquenchable fire” “the worm that does not die” “the outer darkness” “weeping and gnashing of teeth” “he is comforted and you are tormented” referring back to the rich man and Lazarus. These five phrases are not the wild, irresponsible words of some flaming evangelist who goes up and down the country preaching hell-fire and brimstone in an attempt to scare people into the kingdom. These words, terrible though they are, fell from the lips of the meekest man who ever lived, the friend of publicans and sinners, the Man who gave His life and shed His blood that men might be forgiven, and they were spoken, we may be sure, with a tear in the eye and a quiver in the voice.”


When John the Baptist, whose powerful and anointed ministry was cut way short by the evil King Herod, who threw him into prison, and Jesus – John’s dear cousin and seemingly the Son of God did nothing about it, John sent his disciples to make sure Jesus was who He thought He was. Jesus patiently sent them back with an answer He knew John would understand and accept. And then He said these words to all who were listening, “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” (see Matthew 11:2-6 & then Matthew 13:57).


You are getting ready to read some words that might be to some of you a bit offensive. I pray that you will go to Him with your offense. He is the only One who can help you understand it and overcome it. Our good and righteous God, who very much wants His creation to know and love His Son, sovereignly chose to begin the revelation of His Son Jesus with Matthew’s gospel (not John’s). It is very possible that the roots of our offense lie not with Him, but rather with us. I commend to you the rest of the gospel of Matthew that relates to our subject. And I am regularly praying for those who read these pages.


Matthew 24:45-51 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, ’My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Comment: The ongoing agony described here can only be that which is found in hell. And all those who refuse to bow their knee to Jesus and follow and obey Him as their Master will be sent there. While Jesus wants us to know Him as our Savior and Friend and Shepherd; and He wants us to see ourselves as His sons and joint heirs, etc., He also clearly expects us to know Him as Master, and see ourselves as His slaves, . You might note how many times the writers of the epistles identify themselves as such (usually “bondservants” such as in Romans 1:1, etc.). The entitlement so rife in our culture (and in the church) has not helped us in this regard.


Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Comment: While hell is not mentioned herein, what is important to see here is Jesus’s oft warning of a cut off point. In this analogy “the door was shut”. Once it was shut, those on the outside tried to get in, and their request was refused by Jesus – the bridegroom and Lord.


Matthew 25:14-30 ““For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five [a]talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his [b]master’s money. “Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your [c]master.’ “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ “And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money [d]in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Comment: Jesus is yet again revealing Himself as Master and all of us as His slaves. Because He is the Master and we are His slaves or servants, He fully expects our obedience and faithful, effective stewardship of all He has entrusted to us. Everything we have (money, material things, gifts, talents, education, etc.,) come from Him and are for Him, His glory and purposes. If we choose to live as if we are the master; if we choose to ignore His claims on our lives and all that He has entrusted to us; then at the end of time, He will command that we “worthless slaves” be thrown out into the outer darkness (hell); and He again describes hell as a place where there will be ongoing weeping and gnashing of teeth, which refers to the utter agony, pain, horror, sorrow, etc., therein.


Matthew 25:31-46 ““But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not [a]take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Comment: In this final passage in Matthew Jesus reveals Himself as “the Son of Man”, “the King”, and “the Lord” and implied the Judge, when He stated He would “sit on His glorious throne”. He is describing His role at the end of time of determining who would “go away into eternal punishment”, and who would go “into eternal life.” In this passage the determining factor is not solely a prayer we might have prayed when we were young, but rather whether we ministered to hurting, poor, oppressed people at His direction - - whether we carried out the “good works” that He “prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10). Please note Jesus both speaks of “eternal fire” and “eternal punishment” in this passage. And that “eternal punishment” is contrasted with “eternal life” in the last verse, which makes it very difficult to somehow claim that the greek word translated “eternal” modifying “punishment” does not really mean eternal, and yet the very same greek word translated “eternal” modifying “life” does mean eternal as in forever and ever. As Augustine put it, “To say that the life eternal shall be endless but that punishment eternal shall come to an end is the height of absurdity.”


When we get to the end of my discussion of the gospels, I will make some overall concluding observations. In my next post we will take a look at Mark and Luke and perhaps John depending on how long that post ends up being. Your prayers are always appreciated as I try to make truth known that often is not popular or spoken of as it should be.

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