...if we be honest with ourselves,
we shall be honest with each other.  ~ George MacDonald

Jesus Wept 

Jesus Wept

 
For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone." ~ Lamentations 3:31-33
 
 
 
“But doesn't the Bible clearly teach eternal punishment?"

If the word which is translated as "eternal" in Matthew 25:46 was always translated as eternal, then I would say those who claim that the Bible teaches eternal torment have a very strong case. But it is not. The Greek word I am referring to in Matt 25:46 is the word aiônion. (Its lexical form is aiônios.) In the Septuagint (Koine Greek text of the Old Testament), there are many examples where aiônion does not mean eternal and is not translated as such. Strictly speaking, the Greek words  aiônios and aiônion only mean “enduring forever" when referring to God and the life he gives (otherwise they refer to an undefined period of time, e.g. an age). It is also worth noting that the doctrine of eternal life is not dependant on Matt 25:46. Even if the verse did not exist, the doctrine would not be in doubt.

‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die...”’ (John 11:25, 26a). 

Because we know that those who believe in Jesus will never die, translators are right to translate the words zoen aiônion in John 3:16 as “eternal life.” And we know God’s Kingdom never ends, therefore we should translate aiônion basileian in 2 Peter 1:11 as “eternal kingdom.” But what good reason do we have to translate kolasin aiônion as “eternal punishment”? The only reasons a translator would translate kolasin aiônion as eternal punishment is if they came to the text believing that the Bible teaches eternal torment, or if they believed that the word aiônion can only mean eternal. (I sincerely believe that most translators are trying to be faithful to the text; but they mistranslate the word because they are using lexicons which fail to give the full range of meanings of aiônios.)

For examples of how aiônios and aiônion are used in the Septuagint and in Ancient Greek literature see Terms for Eternity: Aiônios and Aïdios in Classical and Christian Texts by Ramelli & Konstan. (Terms for Eternity is a scholarly work. Gerry Beauchmin's book Hope Beyond Hell is for the layman.)*

*The text above is an extract from the page Why Hell?



 
 

The doctrine of eternal torment is very appealing for many Christians. 

“At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause." - (Tertullian, De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX)

The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.”

The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss. (Jonathon Edwards,"The Eternity of Hell Torments" (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]

 
The doctrine is delicious. It appeals to the worst in human nature.

Many who believe it think they will go straight to Heaven when they die; and those who reject their message will suffer in Hell forever.

They have projected onto God their own twisted view of justice, and in the process misrepresented the God whom they claim to worship. (God's justice is not like man's justice. See here) 

Do you believe the doctrine but are uncomfortable with it? How do you know that that's not the Holy Spirit trying to get you to take a closer look?

Are you really sure that God will not make you repent of some things after you die?

Such a thought certainly does not tickle the ears.