Eternal Punishment by A.W. Pink
III. The Nature Of Punishment Awaiting The Lost
1. THE PORTION OF THE WICKED IMMEDIATELY AFTER DEATH.
We turn first to the teaching of our Lord found in Luke 16. Here, we learn the following facts; First, that in Hades the lost are in full possession of all their faculties and sensibilities. They see, for the rich man saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom (v. 23). They feel, for he was in "torments" (v. 24). They cry for mercy, for he asked—but in vain—for a drop of water to cool his tongue (v. 24). They are in possession of memory, for the rich man was bidden to "remember" what he had received during his lifetime on earth (v. 25). It is impossible for them to join the redeemed: there is "a great gulf fixed" between them (v. 26).
Unspeakably solemn is all this. Not only will the lost be tormented in flames, but their anguish will be immeasurably increased by a sight of the redeemed being "comforted." Then shall they see the happy portion of the blest which they despised, preferring as they did the pleasures of sin for a season. And how the retention of "memory" will further augment their sufferings! With what unfathomable sorrows will they recall the opportunities wasted, the expostulations of parents and friends slighted, the warnings of God’s servants disregarded, the proclamations of God’s Gospel spurned. And then to know there is no way of escape, no means of relief, no hope of a reprieve! Their lot will be unbearable; their awful portion, beyond endurance. The Son of God has faithfully forewarned that "there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:42). It is very significant that Christ referred to this just seven times—denoting the completeness of their misery and anguish; see Matthew 8:12; 13:42-50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28.
2. THE FINAL PORTION OF THE WICKED.
(1) This is spoken of as being "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thess. 1:9). None but one who really knows God can begin to estimate what it will mean to be eternally banished from the Lord. Forever separated from the Fount of all goodness! Never to enjoy the light of God’s countenance! Never to bask in the sunshine of His presence. This, this is the most awful of all. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 furnishes clear intimation that the judgment of Matthew 25, with its eternal sentence, looks beyond the Assize. "Destruction from the presence of the Lord" is paralleled with "depart from Me ye cursed."
(2) The final portion of the wicked is spoken of as "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46). In 1 John 4:18 the same Greek word is rendered "torment." This term announces the satisfying of God’s justice. In the punishing of the wicked God vindicates His outraged majesty. Herein punishment differs from correction or discipline. Punishment is not designed for the good of the one who suffers it. It is intended for the enforcing of law and order; it is necessary for the preservation of government.
(3) The final portion of the wicked is spoken of as a "tormenting. " This is proven by the fact that the everlasting fire into which the wicked depart is "prepared for the Devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41) which emphasizes the awfulness of this punishment, rather than specifies who are going to endure. This verse sets forth the severity of the punishment of the lost. If the everlasting fire be "prepared for the Devil and his angels," then how intolerable it will be! If the place of eternal torment into which all unbelievers shall be cast is the same as that in which God’s arch-enemy will suffer, how dreadful that place must be.
That this everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels, produces the most awful suffering is clear from Revelation 20:10, where we are told that Satan shall be "tormented day and night for ever and ever." No doubt this torment will be both internal and external, mental and physical. The word occurs for the first time in the New Testament in Matthew 8:6. "Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented." The same word occurs again in Revelation 9:5 where we read of infernal locusts, issuing from the Pit, and which are given power to torment men, the nature of which is explained as "the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man." So intense will be the suffering caused therefrom "men shall seek death and shall not find it, and they shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them" (Rev. 9:6). This torment then cannot mean less than the most excruciating pain which we are now capable of conceiving. How much the pains of Hell will exceed the pains of earth we know not.
(4) The final portion of the wicked is spoken of as "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7). But many say this is merely a figurative expression. We ask, How do they know that? Where has God told them so in His Word? Personally, we believe that when God says "fire" He means "fire." We refuse to blunt the sharp edge of His Word. Was the Deluge figurative? Was it figurative "fire and brimstone" which descended from heaven and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Were the plagues upon Egypt figurative ones? Is it figurative fire which shall yet burn this earth, and cause the very elements to "melt with fervent heat?" No’ in each of these cases we are obliged to take the words of Scripture in their literal signification. Let those who dare affirm that Hell-fire is non-literal answer to God. We are not their judges; but we refuse to accept their toning down of these solemn words. Literal fire in Hell presents no difficulty at all to the writer. The lost will have literal bodies when they are cast into Hell. The "angels" also have bodies; and for all we know to the contrary, the Devil has too.
But the question is often asked, How can the bodies of the lost be tormented eternally by literal fire? Would not the fire utterly consume them? Even though we were unable to furnish an answer to this question, we should still believe that Scripture meant what it said. But we are satisfied that God’s Word answers this question. In Exodus 3 we read of the bush in the wilderness burning with fire, and yet was not consumed! In Daniel 3 we read of the three Hebrews being cast into the fiery furnace of Babylon, yet they were not consumed. Why was this? Because, m some way unknown to us, God preserved the bush, and the bodies of the three Hebrews. Is God, then, unable to preserve the bodies of the damned from being consumed? Surely not. But we are not left even to this unescapable inference. In Mark 9:47-49 we are told, "It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire." The expression salted with fire" confirms what we have said above. Salt is a preservative; hence, when we are told that "every one" who is cast into Gehenna shall be "salted with fire" we learn that the very fire itself so far from consuming shall preserve. If it be asked, How can this be? We answer, Because that fire is "prepared" by God (Matt. 25:41).
(5) The final portion of the wicked is described as an association with the vilest of the vile. "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whore-mongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Rev. 21:8). O dear reader, weigh well this solemn language. You may be a person of culture and refinement: judged by moral standards your life may be exemplary and spotless: you may pride yourself on your honesty and truthfulness: you may be very particular in your choice of friends and very careful to avoid the company of the profane and vicious: you may even be religious, and look down in scorn and pity upon the idolaters of heathendom; but God says that if you die in unbelief your portion shall be with "the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars." Think of what it will mean to spend eternity in the Prison-house of the universe with Cain, and Pharaoh, and Judas! Think of what it will mean to be shut up with the vile Sodomites! Think of being incarcerated forever with every blasphemer who has ever lived!
(6) The final portion of the wicked is described as "the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 13). Unrelieved will be their fearful sufferings; interminable their torments. No means of escape. No possibility of a reprieve. No hope of deliverance. Not one will be found who is able to befriend them and intercede with God for them. They had the offer of a Mediator often made them in this world; but no such offer will be made them in the Lake of Fire. "There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." There will be no resting-place in Hell; no secret corner where they can find a little respite; no cooling fountain at which they may refresh themselves. There will be no change or variation of their lot. Day and night, forever and ever, shall they be punished. With no prospect of any improvement they will sink down into blank despair.
(7) The final portion of the wicked will be beyond the creature’s power of resistance. "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Matt. 21:44). There are many who now say, If at the end I find myself in Hell, I will bear it as well as I can, as if by strength of will and firmness of mind they shall, in measure at least, be able to support themselves. But alas! Their resolutions will count for nothing.
It is common with men in this world to shun calamities, but if they find this is impossible, they set themselves to bear it: they fortify their spirits and resolve to support themselves under it as well as they can. They muster up all their courage and resolution in the determination to keep their hearts from sinking. But it will be utterly vain for sinners to do this in the Lake of Fire. What would it help a worm which was about to be crushed by some great rock, to collect its strength and endeavor to set itself to bear up against its weight, and so seek to prevent itself from being crushed? Much less will a poor damned soul be able to support itself under the weight of the wrath of Almighty God. No matter how much the sinner may now harden himself, in order to endure the pains of Hell, the first moment he shall feel the flames, his heart will melt like wax before the furnace —"Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it" (Ezek 22:14).
If such then be the case with impenitent sinners, that they can neither escape their punishment, nor deliver themselves from it, nor bear up under it, what will become of them? I answer in the words of another:
"They will wholly sink down into eternal death. There will be that sinking of heart, of which we now cannot conceive. We see how it is with the body when in extreme pain. The nature of the body will support itself for a considerable time under very great pain, so as to keep from wholly sinking. There will be great struggles, lamentable groans and panting, and it may be convulsions. These are the strugglings of nature to support itself under the extremity of the pain. There is, as it were, a great lothness in nature to yield to it; it cannot bear wholly to sink. But yet sometimes pain of body is so very extreme and exquisite, that the nature of the body cannot support itself under it; however loth it may be to sink, yet it cannot bear the pain; there are a few struggles, and throes, and pantings, and it may be a shriek or two, and the nature yields to the violence of the torments, sinks down, and the body dies. This is the death of the body. So it will be with the soul in Hell; it will have no strength or power to deliver itself; and its torment and horror will be so great, so mighty, so vastly disproportioned to its strength, that having no strength in the least to support itself, although it be infinitely contrary to the nature and inclination of the soul utterly to sink; yet it will sink, it will utterly and totally sink, without the least degree of remaining comfort, or strength, or courage, or hope. And though it will never be annihilated, its being and perception will never be abolished: yet such will be the infinite depth of gloominess that it will sink into, that it will be in a state of death, eternal death.
"The nature of man desires happiness; it is the nature of the soul to crave and thirst after well-being; and if it be under misery, it equally pants after relief; and the greater the misery is, the more easily doth it struggle for help. But if all relief be withholden, all strength overborne, all support utterly gone; then it sinks into the darkness of death. We can conceive but little of the matter; we cannot conceive what that sinking of the soul in such a case is. But to help your conception, imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven, all of a glowing heat, or into the midst of a blowing brick-kiln, or of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire, as the heat is greater. Imagine also that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full within and without as a bright coal of fire, all the while full of quick sense; what horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you! If it were to be measured by a glass, how long would the glass seem to be running! And after you had endured it for one minute, how overbearing would it be to you to think that you had yet to endure the other fourteen.
"But what would be the effect on your soul, if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment to the full for twenty-four hours! And how much greater would be the effect, if you knew you must endure it for a whole year, and how vastly greater still, if you knew you must endure it for a thousand years! O then, how would your heart sink, if you thought, if you knew, that you must bear it forever and ever! That there would be no end! That after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than ever it was; and that you never, never should be delivered! But your torment in Hell will be immeasurably greater than this illustration represents. How then will the heart of a poor creature sink under it! How utterly inexpressible and inconceivable must the sinking of the soul be in such a case." (Jonathan Edwards).
Such, in brief, is the portion awaiting the lost—eternal separation from the Fount of all goodness; everlasting punishment; torment of soul and body; endless existence in the Lake of Fire, in association with the vilest of the vile; every ray of hope excluded; utterly crushed and overwhelmed by the wrath of a sin-avenging God. And let us remember in Whose Word these solemn statements are found! They are found in the Word of Him who is faithful and therefore has He written in plain and positive language so that none need be deceived, They are found in the Word of Him who cannot lie, and therefore He has not employed the language of exaggeration. They are found in the Word of Him who says what He means and means what He says, and therefore the writer, for one, dares do nothing else than receive them at their face value.