Why does punishment in hell go on forever?

With Rob Bell’s recent questioning of the Christian doctrine of hell, Russell Moore suggests two reasons why hell is forever:

First, the revolt against God is more serious than we think it is. An insurrection against an infinitely worthy Creator is an infinitely heinous offense. We know something of this intuitively. This is why, in our human sentences of justice, we sentence a man to one punishment for threatening to kill his co-worker and another man to a much more severe punishment for threatening to kill the nation’s president.

Second, and more important, is the nature of the punishment itself. The sinner in hell does not become morally neutral upon his sentence to hell. We must not imagine the damned displaying gospel repentance and longing for the presence of Christ. They do indeed, as in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, seek for an escape from punishment, but they are not new creations. They do not in hell love the Lord their God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Read his whole post here.

HT: Stand to Reason

14 replies
  1. Anon
    Anon says:

    I find it interesting that it is supposedly possible during the minute period of time called life to repent and be forgiven but not in massively longer time period called the afterlife.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Anon I totally agree. It's beyond unjust, it's malevolent. Also I find it interesting that this site calls itself "Thinking Matters" but didn't treat Rob Bell's thought provoking book fairly or thoughtfully.

  3. Steve Cornell
    Steve Cornell says:

    R. C. stated it well: “All things being equal, God does desire that no one perishes, but all things are not equal. Sin is real. Sin violates God’s holiness and righteousness. God also is not willing that sin go unpunished. He desires as well that His holiness be vindicated. When the preceptive will is violated, things are no longer equal. Now God requires punishment while not particularly enjoying the personal application of it” (Following Christ, pp. 217-18).

  4. Nate h
    Nate h says:

    Hi Bnonn,
    I agree that revolt against God would be quite insidious, however, I would have easier time agreeing with you if God was a bit more obvious. I am not demanding manna from heaven or to see God, but something more tangible relationship wise would be nice.

  5. Bnonn Tennant
    Bnonn Tennant says:

    ropata, I totally disagree. It's beyond just, it's holy. Also, I find it interesting that someone posting to a site he disagrees with doesn't bother to treat its thought provoking posts fairly or thoughtfully.

  6. Jared Clarke
    Jared Clarke says:


    Origen may have been leading early church figure, but that doesn't mean all his views were correct or have been considered within the broad consensus of Christian orthodoxy. In fact, ever since the second Council of Constantinople (the fifth ecumenical council, A.D. 553), his views on this have been repeatedly condemned.

    Also, the suggestion that eternal punishment was a medieval creation is untenable. Augustine, for example, who predated the Middle Ages, both wrote against Origen's views and affirmed the orthodox doctrine of eternal punishment.

    But we can go even further back than that, of course, to the New Testament itself.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I think this eternal torture guff was a Greek invention that's why Augustine seemed to like it. Also the passages commonly used to defend your damnable doctrine are not conclusive on the matter. Annihiliationism is probably a more accurate rendition of the scriptural teaching.

  8. Jared Clarke
    Jared Clarke says:

    So now eternal punishment is not the invention of Medieval theologians but Greek philosophers?

    Was Augustine's acceptance of the doctrine of hell unduly influenced by Greek philosophy? I don't think there is good reason to accept this. While much of his thought is shaped by Platonic ideas, he was in no means an uncritical Platonist. In fact, Augustine rejected many of the Greek notions about the soul, such as reincarnation. He was willing to defend important Christian doctrines that conflicted with Platonism, such as the union of the soul and body at the resurrection. Given the place of the doctrine of hell in his theology, it makes more sense to view his belief in eternal punishment as drawn from exegetical conclusions and the tradition of the Latin Church, rather than a capitulation to Greek philosophy.

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    What happened to my last comment? If we are going to go back into church history then it is worth noting that annihilationism may be a minority position but it has some respectable proponents including C S Lewis and Dr. Glenn Peoples. :)

  10. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    I'd like to see a defense of Annihilationism from sources we all accept. People like C. S. Lewis, Glen Peoples, Augustine, Origin, etc. are all good people and presumably good exegetes of scripture, however, I don't (and I don't think anyone should) accept them as final authorities. What is more interesting to me is the exegesis of the actual scriptural passages and the hermeneutical principles that influence that (and the eternal conscious torment) interpretation.

  11. Brian
    Brian says:

    God is obvious. Scientifically speaking, look at the extreme complexity of DNA. Even the DNA of the most simple known single cell lifeform is extremely complex. It is impossible for life to have formed accidentally. Even the smallest, simplest form of life is too complex to have occurred without an intelligent designer. Statistically, you are much more likely to win the lottery than it is for life to have happened spontaneously.

    On a more personal level, I have experienced God. Just a few weeks ago I had injured my ankle. A faith filled woman in our church prayed for me and I was immediately healed. I had gone to church in pain, only walking with the assistance of a cain. From that moment on, I had no pain. I walked up and down flights of stairs, walked on bumpy, uneven ground in my parents’ back yard, without the assistance of the cain, and with absolutely no pain. If you want to discuss God further, I would be happy to. Just shoot me an email. God bless.

  12. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Sounds like a doctrine of demons to me!

    This is why I prefer a non-corrupted version of the Bible like the Koran for instance, which teaches before the actual texts meanings to different verses suggesting the 100% likelihood that all sinners have not done something so bad that will never be forgiven right away or in the end of things. It teaches that ultimately in the way end, “the worst of people” will be ultimately taken out of Hell and restored to God’s presence and describes Hell as being a temporary abode to live in until all sin has been purged from one’s soul, spirit, mind, everything (suggesting the reason we have films about zombies walking the earth —– the people not dead, but not alive either.)

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