The notion about going to hell or experiencing eternal punishment has always scared many people. Christians who accept God and live according to his teachings and ways believe that they will go to heaven. In heaven, there will be joy and happiness. On the other hand, those who die as sinners will burn and suffer in hell. There are various beliefs and arguments about what will happen in the end, but none of us surely knows. This essay will focus on eschatology, which is the destiny for the unsaved.
The concept of eternal punishment is in the bible in the book of Matthew 25: 46. In this chapter, Jesus stated that those that were righteous would experience an eternal heaven while those who sinned would be condemned to an eternal punishment. The eternal punishment will occur in a place named as hell. This is a characteristic of Christianity that confuses and scares many people.
In the notion of eternal punishment, people fail to believe how a loving God can be capable of such punishment. It is difficult to believe how God would have created man in his likeness and then punish him while his word preaches about love. Eternal punishment has the attribute of being endless, and never ending. This aspect is in the bible, for instance in Revelation 20: 10, it states that the torment will be forever and ever.
The concept of annihilationism is a form of Christian belief that is different from the traditional view of eternal punishment. This concept states that sinners will get punishment by being denying them eternal immortality. This means that even though God will punish sinners, at some point they will eventually die. Eternal punishment doctrine proposes that punishment is endless. On the contrary, annihilationism proposes that people will not be punished forever but rather for a while then they will die eventually.
Annihilationism is a concept based on immortality. Immortality means the ability to continue living with no death, in other words living without the fear of death. Immortality is only possible for God himself. Annihilationism believes that immortality will be for the righteous as a gift and as for sinners, it will not be possible. This, therefore, explains the reason why annihilationism believes in the death of sinners after punishment rather than their living forever even while in punishment. The bible writings though strongly refute this notion of annihilationism.
The doctrine of universalism strongly believes in reconciliation of all human beings to God. It rejects the arguments and proposals of eternal punishment or those of death as a form of punishment as annihilationism propose. The unique aspect about this doctrine is that it coincides with the teachings of Christianity. As Christianity preaches and teaches on virtues such as love and forgiveness, the same virtues should be shown upon those who sin. This doctrine reveals God as a forgiving and loving God.
A biblical support of this concept would be argued in the time of Jesus' death. In his death, Jesus forgives those who have crucified him. This doctrine believes that Jesus may have demonstrated a side and nature of God as being forgiving to sinners. Additionally, this concept also believes in the human soul being immortal and this rejects the notion of annihilationism.
Hell is a concept or place many have no idea about its existence. The only possible meaning we get of the place is from the bible writings. In the bible, different words, denote the term hell this terms include; Hades, Sheol and Gehenna. Hades is a term that has commonly been used in the New Testament especially among the Greeks and the Romans. It means the god of the underworld, and hell for the Greek. This term is quoted by Paul in the acts 2:25-27 and as translation of the word Sheol from the Hebrews.
Sheol is a Hebrew term that denotes the underworld. In this underworld, there is no return and the favor of God is absent. The place has suffering and torment. The term refers to hell, where sinners go for punishment. Gehenna is a Hebrew term that refers to a place or gorge where they dump dead animals and bodies. The term Gehenna is different from Hades and Sheol as it refers to the worst place of eternal damnation. This is in the bible where Jesus uses the term in Matthew 10:28.
The term Gehenna best describes hell as intended by the traditional view of eternal punishment. This is because the bible has an implication of Hades and Sheol being the current hell or the first hell. This is different for Gehenna, which Jesus himself describes as a place where suffering never ceases. This, therefore, shows and portrays Gehenna as being the hell for sinners, where punishment is eternal.
In my opinion, the doctrine of universalism is the best approach of punishment. This is because it is difficult to understand how such a loving God would be so harsh by sending people he loves to hell. It also coincides with the teachings of Christianity, as it proposes love and forgiveness. The evidence of the love proposed by Christianity can be found in the book of Corinthians. The fruits of the Holy Spirit also propose love as a virtue. Jesus also preaches forgiveness, when he teaches people on how to pray the Lord's Prayer in the book of Matthew. This doctrine, however, has evidence in the bible that strongly refutes the doctrine as the evidence suggest about eternal punishment like in Matthew 25: 46. These objections pose difficulty in reconciling that a God can be so loving and yet so violent in inflicting suffering on sinners.
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In conclusion, sending or condemning people to hell without giving them, second chances are unfair and it does not coincide with the teachings of Christians. It also somehow magnifies Satan and hell. It also makes hell a place where people could be destined for especially in the world of today with so many sinners. Hell scares many people and may have the impact of making people repent their sins and accept salvation especially if preachers emphasis on the reality of hell.
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