What does the Church of God teach about hell?

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Jesus taught us that, to be like our Father in heaven, we should love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven. Elsewhere, the Son and His Father speak of horrific punishment reserved for their enemies in the final roundup: eternal damnation, blackness of darkness forever, fire that shall never be quenched where their worm does not die and the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever. I find that our Father is either unable or unwilling to walk the talk. Does God practice what He preaches and what He expects of His children, or not? 

 

Good question you asked, and the answer Scripture gives is a good one too. Yes, God practices what He preaches! This truth should cause even the wicked to rejoice, if they only knew and believed it. 

Yes, our heavenly Father blesses those who curse Him and bring good to those who hate Him. He does this by making His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and by sending rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:44, 45). 

And yes, our Lord Jesus loves His enemies and forgives people 490 times and more. He loved the rich man who refused His invitation to sell all, take up his cross, and follow Christ (Mark 10:21, 22). He prayed for the forgiveness of those who nailed Him to the cross (Luke 23:32, 34). 

God’s written Word for His children is consistent in preaching love, acceptance, and forgiveness among the human family, not hatred, separation, and vengeance. If God were to practice eternal torment of His enemies in hellfire, He would be inconsistent indeed — a hypocrite God. But the God of the Bible will practice no such thing!

We pause here to reflect on the scriptures alluded to in your “elsewhere” sentence: Matthew 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; Jude 7, 13; Revelation 14:10, 11. These texts have led some to think that the fate of evil people will include conscious torment in eternal hellfire. We beg to differ. 

Consider that “eternal punishment” may speak of the endless death state of those punished, not the endless experience of being punished eternally. Consider also that “blackness of darkness forever” suggest a nothingness, an annihilation, of which none who experience it can be aware. 

Consider also that “unquenchable fire” may cool when its fuel is consumed, as did the unquenchable flames that destroyed ancient Jerusalem (Jeremiah 17:27). In like manner, the Gehenna fires of a later Jerusalem were also a garbage dump where worms constantly consumed whatever was not burned up. 

The “smoke that ascends forever” is like saying that the results of the fire are never reversed. This phrase does not require that the human fuel for the fire will burn for an eternity, but it does affirm that the fire’s destruction is forever. 

From these and a hundred more texts, we conclude that God will not practice eternal torment. Vengeance rightly belongs to our Lord, Creator, King, Savior, and Judge, it is true; and the Judge of all the earth shall do right. But the Bible affirms often that His mercy endures forever — never His anger! 

For a clear and compelling study on this topic, contact the Bible Advocate Press (bap.orders@cog7.org) and request the free tract Will God Punish the Wicked Forever? 

— Elder Calvin Burrell

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Calvin Burrell

Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.

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Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.