Views on Hell: Eternal Conscious Torment

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The One Degree Podcast



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Welcome back, One Degree Fam! We’re going to start a mini-series on a more serious, heavier topic: four different views on hell. This week, we’re looking at the view called “Eternal Conscious Torment.”

As we dive into our series on hell, we want you to have an open mind and search the scriptures for yourself. Evaluate your beliefs in light of Scripture. Oftentimes, we have assumptions about what we believe and throw around a few verses to support our arguments and don’t give it a second thought. So, we want to encourage you to dive in for yourself. 

Also, let’s remember the rules of hermeneutics (interpreting the Bible):

  • Allow the clearer passages to help you interpret the less clear passages.
  • Give consideration to the whole counsel of God.
  • If there are 50 verses to support one view, and 3 to support a different view, then the first view has a lot more credibility.  

Eternal Conscious Torment

Let’s start off with Eternal Conscious Torment because this is the most commonly held historical view by Christians throughout the centuries. This is likely what your church believes/teaches.

Let’s start off with a caveat: Many people assume that Eternal Conscious Torment has always been the predominant view of the church. This is not the case. Before around 400 or 500 AD, there were many adherents of Annihilation, Ultimate Reconciliation (both of which we will discuss in the next few weeks), and also Eternal Conscious Torment. In fact, numerous early church fathers did not hold to Eternal Conscious Torment, but we will discuss that later. 

That said, since about 500 AD the predominant view has unquestionably been Eternal Conscious Torment. 

What is it?

Eternal Conscious Torment is the belief that those who die separated from God’s love will be tormented forever (without end) in hell. They will only experience God’s just wrath as a just punishment for their sin. 

Biblical Support

Where does it find biblical support? People who hold to this view will point to mainly these three verses:

  • Matthew 25:46 – “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” This is Jesus talking about separating the sheep and the goats for judgment. 
  • Revelation 14:11 – “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” This is John talking about worshippers of the beast being judged by God. 
  • Mark 9:47-48 – “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Jesus here is quoting from Isaiah 66:24 and the description is quite graphic. 

These three verses are the most cited verses to support Eternal Conscious Torment. Now, let’s talk about some questions that are typically asked about it.

What about God’s love?

How can a just and loving God put someone in hell forever?

It’s because love cannot exist without wrath. We need to have wrath against evil in order to show that our love is genuine.

Sinning against a holy, perfect, loving God is deserving of hell. That’s what justice for our sins requires. 

What about the people who never hear the gospel?

Before we dive into this question, we want to issue a challenge to those who hold to Eternal Conscious Torment. Don’t forget that we are talking about real people, made in the image of God. Remember the weightiness of that when we are talking about this! This alone shouldn’t change your viewpoint but should challenge you to hold your views gently and with empathy

Romans 1 tells us that because of general revelation, all are still responsible for their sin. Everyone is deserving of hell, so anyone being saved is merciful of God.

They may also point to Luke 12:47-48. “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”

What about children?

This is where the age of accountability comes into play.

Basically, this idea is that before children reach a certain age where they are accountable for their sin, if they die they will go to heaven. So, a three-month-old baby that dies wouldn’t be in hell forever. Most people wouldn’t say that this is a specific age, but a certain competency level/mental capacity.

But to be fair, the age of accountability is an interesting phenomenon/discussion.

Many extremely conservative biblical scholars and adherents hold to the age of accountability. But if you look into it, the age of accountability has very little scriptural support. This is coming from someone who tentatively holds to it (Nathaniel)!

If you find yourself a pretty theological conservative Christian, and are quick to point out “liberal drift” or how people who hold loose views on hell or salvation, saying that “philosophy doesn’t trump scripture” but at the same time hold to the age of accountability… Take the log out of your own eye. Don’t be so quick to judge! The age of accountability has been socially acceptable in conservative theological circles, even in those that are quick to cry liberalism. In my mind (Nathaniel), it’s actually not that far of a jump from the age of accountability to universalism… 

This is obviously just a very brief intro, but hopefully pretty sufficient on Eternal Conscious Torment. Consider this your spark notes! Next week we will discuss the view of annihilation.

One Degree Shift

We challenge and encourage you to dive into the Scriptures to see what they have to say about hell! As you do so, remember that these are real people we are talking about. The reality of hell should drive us to evangelism.

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