Chapter 38: SHE
TEACHES THE FUTURE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED
by Albert Gardner
The account of the rich man and
Lazarus reveals the two possible destinies of people after death. "And it came
to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's
bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his
eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that
he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am
tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy
lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now
he is comforted, and thou are tormented. And beside all this, between us and you
there is a great gulf fixed: so they which would pass from hence to you cannot;
neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (Luke 16:22-26).
Some have tried to dismiss the
teaching given here by saying it is just a parable. This may be a parable but if
it is, it is not called that by Luke. If it is a parable it is the only time
Jesus named a person in a parable. However, it teaches the same thing whether it
is a parable or not, for a parable is something that either did happen or could
happen. A parable may illustrate and make the truth easy to understand, but it
does not weaken the teaching.
HADES AND SHEOL
Hades is the place of departed
spirits without regard to whether they are righteous or wicked. The Old
Testament word translated Sheol has the same meaning as the New Testament word
Hades. The rich man and Lazarus both went to hades but they were not together
for they were separated by a great gulf.
Lazarus went to Abraham's
bosom, a place of happiness. This is where Jesus went when he died. He told the
thief, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). He did not go to
the place of torment and flames where the rich man was suffering. Peter quoted
from David and said that someone's soul would go to hell (hades, ASV), and his
body would not see corruption. He explains that David's body did see corruption
and that David was referring to Christ. "He foreseeing this spake of the
resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his
flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31 ASV).
The rich man went to a place of
torment, suffering, and flames. This is the place where sinful angels are kept
till the judgment. They were "cast down to hell" (2 Peter 2:4). The Greek word "tartarus,"
translated hell in this verse, is used nowhere else in the New Testament.
UNIVERSALISM, PURGATORY AND
There are three popular
doctrines which relate to the problem of the suffering of the wicked. First, the
Universalists teach that all will eventually be saved and that there is no
eternal punishment. The rich man shows this doctrine to be false. Jesus taught
there are two roads leading through life and one of them is the broad way "that
leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (Matthew 7:13).
In the resurrection, some will be saved and some will be lost (John 5:29).
Second, the Catholic doctrine
of purgatory involves the souls of people suffering for their sins. When they
are purged or cleansed, they will be permitted to go to heaven. The rich man
wanted Lazarus to leave his place and come to comfort him, but he was told there
was a great gulf separating them. There could be no change. There would be no
passing from one state to another. There is no purgatory. There can be no
purifying of the wicked after their death. If one in his lifetime turns his back
on the only sacrifice which can take away sins, the only thing which remains is
"a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall
devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27).
Third, the Jehovah's Witnesses
teach the annihilation of the wicked. When discussing the Greek word "gehenna"
which is translated hell, they say "it signifies annihilation, not eternal
torment."1 They further state, "The Bible shows that it is only the in- curably
wicked that God will punish everlastingly - not with eternal torture, but by
mercifully putting them out of existence forever."2 Again, "Adam, therefore,
went completely out of existence."3 They say also, "As to 'eternal torment,'
there is no such place."4
If one goes out of existence,
obviously there would be no punishment, for there would be nothing to punish.
But is there anything beyond the grave? Does one continue to exist after death?
When Jesus was transfigured,
the apostles saw him talking with Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:3). Moses had been
dead about fifteen hundred years and Elijah had been gone for about a thousand
years. Yet they still existed and were still Moses and Elijah. They were
conscious. Moses did not go out of existence at death.
The rich man in Luke 16 did not
cease to exist at death but was conscious, had a memory of his life and
brothers, was in torment and talked about his present state after his death.
Jehovah's Witness teaching about the dead going out of existence at death is a
In Luke 12:5 Jesus warned,
"Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell." Hell is not
death but after death one can be cast into hell. If hell is nothing more than
death or extinction, why fear God more than man? Men can kill other men but
there is something worse than death which we are to fear. Jesus said one could
"be cast into everlasting fire" (Matt. 18:8). It is a fire "that never shall be
quenched" (Mark 9:43).
The Bible is clear about the
eternal nature of the punishment of the wicked. "And these shall go away into
everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt. 25:46). It
is easy to see that Life is the same in duration as is the Punishment of the
wicked. If one is temporary, so is the other. If hell is temporary, heaven is
The New Testament use of the
words eternal and everlasting makes it clear what they mean. It is "everlasting
punishment" (Matt. 25:46). The fire is "everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41). There
will be "eternal damnation" for some (Mark 3:29). Now consider how other verses
use these words.
1. God is everlasting.
"According to the commandment of the everlasting God" (Romans 16:26). Does
everlasting mean unending or temporary? Will God cease to exist?
2. The Holy Spirit is eternal.
"Who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God" (Heb.
9:14). Is the Holy Spirit temporary? When the world ends will he go out of
3. Redemption is eternal.
"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in
once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption or will he have to
be offered again? Is his work of redemption completed or was it for just a brief
4. Salvation is eternal. "He
became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9).
Will obeying him still bring unending salvation?
5. The kingdom is an
everlasting kingdom. The faithful will be in "the everlasting kingdom of our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11).
If eternal punishment is
temporary, does that mean God, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the kingdom are
temporary and will cease to exist? The same words in both Greek and English are
used to describe the future punishment of the wicked that are used to describe
God, the Spirit, salvation, and the kingdom. "Depart from me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).
There will be eternal
punishment for the wicked but we can avoid it if we will live soberly,
righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-12).
1 Good News To Make You Happy,
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., p. 92.
2 Ibid., p. 97.
3 Children, Watchtower Bible
and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., p. 70.
4 Ibid., pp 71-72.
Describe the rich man and
Lazarus after death.
What is the meaning of hades
Does one go out of existence at
Name five persons or things
which are eternal.
Explain Matthew 25:46.