Does the doctrine of eternal torment "keep people in line," as many
orthodox preachers insist it does? Does the threat of eternal torment
"scare people into heaven?" as is commonly taught? Not that I can
tell. In fact, the effect is quite the opposite. Allow me to provide this
When a mother tells her child: "Spencer, if you disobey me, you’re not
leaving your room for the rest of your life!" Spencer laughs. He thinks to
himself, "She can’t possibly do that, I don’t care if she does
wear tight curlers all day." And Spencer is correct. Because it is
ludicrous, the mother’s threat does not deter Spencer’s disobedience.
Out goes Spencer to burn down the azalea bush.
But what if Spencer’s mother were to say: "Spencer, if you disobey me,
you will not eat supper tonight." The boy turns sober. He thinks: "I
know that she can and will do this." It is this, not the exaggerated
threats of a rabid mother, that will curtail Spencer’s behavior.
Thus also with the doctrine of eternal torment. Eternal torment has God
saying: "Make one mistake (not believing in Me), and I’ll torture you for
The world knows how ridiculous that is. Witness: Have Christians, for all
their trouble and preaching, reformed the world? Okey-dokey, then.
Get real, get Scriptural
Consider poor man, born unconsulted into a world of mortality and sin, thrust
as a weak and trembling baby for a few short years into a cauldron of evil that
conspires, from the start, to make a criminal of him. And so a criminal he
becomes. Because of this, we are told, he is doomed to fiery agony for eternity
because—can we utter it?—God Himself has locked him up in stubbornness (Rom.
11:32) and has purposely—for now anyway—withheld the faith necessary to
believe in Him (see John 6:44, Phil. 1:29, and Rom. 12:3).
The world mocks such an insane concept, and I congratulate the world for it.
No Scripture, correctly translated, supports such a concept. Many Scriptures
flatly deny it. It would be a joke, were it not preached in all earnestness from
pulpits around the world.
No, threats of "eternal punishment" do not deter evil. In
fact, they increase it. Many turn from Christianity (or don’t even consider
it), not because they hate God, but because they hear from religious zealots
(read: "Christians") that the Bible is supposed to teach such a
horrible end to "God’s great plan of salvation."
Like Spencer and his appraisal of his mother’s irrational threats, the
world knows that no God worthy of the name would torture any of His
creation eternally, especially not after a perfect sacrifice has been
made for sin. In this, the children of darkness are wiser than the children of
light. And so the world continues in its sin, more earnestly than ever.
Let’s try the truth
But what if, instead of telling unscriptural lies about God, preachers and
teachers of the Word were to—can we utter it?–study that Word, and
tell the world the truth? What if they were to tell unbelievers that their
behavior is robbing them, not of eternal life (God sent His own Son to secure that
for them), but of eonian life? (It is this word, not
"eternal," that is the correct translation of the Greek adjective aionion).
What if they tell unbelievers that they will not live during the future,
glorious eon of the kingdom reign of Christ on earth? That they will be dead
during the last great eon, when God creates a new heavens and a new earth and
tabernacles with mankind? What if they tell them that they will rise to be judged at the great white throne, suffering
affliction and distress there because of their wicked acts (Rom. 2:5-10), to be
returned to death (Rev. 20:14-15) until the consummation (1 Cor. 15:26)? My God,
are not these threats enough to satisfy those in Christianity who live to
But at least these threats, being reasonable and rational (not to mention a
witness to the truth), would have a sobering effect on the sinner. The
intelligent sinner is likely to say, "Now, this is reasonable,
not ludicrous. How singular and unaccustomed I am to such things from the
Christian camp. God probably will do this. He loves me enough to save me,
but I shall first be separated from Him for the eons because of my acts. Even
though I will enjoy eternal life with Him at the consummation, as will
all (1 Cor. 15:28), I do not want to miss out on these glorious eons
("eonian life") these people are telling me about. I want to
live with Christ during the thousand years. I want to taste of the
pleasures of the new heavens and the new earth. Oh, God! Give me this
Just a suggestion.