“At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sages philosophers blushing in red-hot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause.”
“What a spectacle. . .when the world. . .and its many products, shall be consumed in one great flame! How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy? As I see. . .illustrious monarchs. . . groaning in the lowest darkness, Philosophers. . .as fire consumes them! Poets trembling before the judgment-seat of. . .Christ! I shall hear the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; view play-actors. . .in the dissolving flame; behold wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows. . .What inquisitor or priest in his munificence will bestow on you the favor of seeing and exulting in such things as these? Yet even now we in a measure have them by faith in the picturings of imagination.”
De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX
For the Augustinians…….“They who shall enter into the joy of the Lord shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . .The saints’. . . knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted. . .with the eternal sufferings of the lost.”
Augustine, The City of God
SECTION 1.“In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .the saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned.”
(When the saints in glory shall see the wrath of God executed on ungodly men, it will be no occasion of grief to them, but of rejoicing.)
It is not only the sight of God’s wrath executed on those wicked men who are of the antichristian church, which will be occasion of rejoicing to the saints in glory; but also the sight of the destruction of all God’s enemies: whether they have been the followers of antichrist or not, that alters not the case, if they have been the enemies of God, and of Jesus Christ. All wicked men will at last be destroyed together, as being united in the same cause and interest, as being all of Satan’s army. They will all stand together at the day of judgment, as being all of the same company.
And if we understand the text to have respect only to a temporal execution of God’s wrath on his enemies, that will not alter the case. The thing they are called upon to rejoice at, is the execution of God’s wrath upon his and their enemies. And if it be matter of rejoicing to them to see justice executed in part upon them, or to see the beginning of the execution of it in this world; for the same reason will they rejoice with greater joy, in beholding it fully executed. For the thing here mentioned as the foundation of their joy, is the execution of just vengeance: Rejoice, for God hath avenged you on her….
At the day of judgment, the saints in glory at Christ’s right hand, will see the wicked at the left hand in their amazement and horror, will hear the judge pronounce sentence upon them, saying, 191 “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels;” and will see them go away into everlasting punishment. But the Scripture seems to hold forth to us, that the saints will not only see the misery of the wicked at the day of judgment, but the fore-mentioned texts imply, that “the state of the damned in hell will be in the view of the heavenly inhabitants; that the two worlds of happiness and misery will be in view of each other.
The End of the Wicked Contemplated by the Righteous
The Torments of the Wicked in Hell, No Occasion of Grief to the Saints in Heaven
In God’s providence, a few days ago I found myself in two different discussions in two different situations with two different people who do not know each other concerning the reality of Hell. Both of these folks were what has come to be known as “Annihilationists.” Annihiliationism is doctrine that some of have embraced (J. W. Wenham, John Stott) which denies most especially the eternality of Hell. Some practitioners of Annhiliationism insists that those outside of Christ cease to exist upon death (soul sleep), while other practitioners will allow for a Temporal Hell where the Rebel against God suffers the torments of Hell for a season that is fitting for their crime whereupon God snuffs them out of existence.
What I am going to do below is give a few observations about the importance of the doctrine of Hell as a concept. I am not trying to here, build a Biblical case for Hell. I am not doing so, not because it can’t be done, but rather because the reality of Hell as well as its eternality is so obvious to a natural reading of Scripture it strikes me that the people who deny the doctrine of Hell or its eternality are beyond convincing. The denial of the doctrine of Hell as well as a denial of the eternality of Hell is like the denial that Scripture prohibits women from serving in ecclesiastical office. In both cases, the Scriptures are so obvious in their articulation that trying to convince those, who are reading through or past the Scriptures, that they are in error is largely a waste of time given the pre-commitments of those who are doing the denying.
So, what I’m doing below is just giving a few observations surrounding the denial of Hell.
1.) The denial of the eternality of Hell is all the more dangerous because on the surface it seems so benign. This denial is not like the denial of the Resurrection or the Virgin Birth. No one doubts that someone who denies Hell can be in Union with Christ. (Though I would insist that such a view leaves them open to the charge of having low views of Scripture.) I do insist though that people who are Annhilationists aren’t looking under the hood of that denial to see the implications of what they are denying.
2.) The denial of the eternality of Hell is another example of putative Christians or unlearned Christians or immature Christians attempting to make God out to be nicer than He makes Himself out to be. It is an attempt to save God from being God. It is sentimentality trying to rescue the alleged mean glowering character of God. It is another example of do gooders, who by doing their good, end up making Christianity crueler then any Devil could. This denial of the eternality of Hell is taken up by those who, at the very least think, “My God would never be that mean.” It is the argument which attempts to make God “reasonable.”
3.) Annihilationism, does not seem to comprehend that by altering the anchor example of God’s eternal justice (The condemnation to Eternal punishment for those who rebelled against God and His Christ) that the effect is a relativizing of temporal justice and punishment. If the anchor of justice is set loose and diminished in the Cosmic Divine realm the effect is to set adrift any ideas of absolute justice in the temporal realm. If God’s justice is altered in terms of Hell and / or its duration then justice is the realm of man can be relativized and altered as well.4.) Those who insist upon the conditionality of Hell or deny the eternality of Hell are those who will, in themselves or in their generations, become those who rebel against the whole concept of fixed Justice. When we deny the proper required Justice applied (eternal Hell) against those who commit crimes against God’s character and who do not find forgiveness in Christ, we will, over the course of time, deny the proper required justice against those who commit other lesser crimes. If the required proper punishment is denied, in our thinking, against those who commit the greatest of all crimes (unrepentant rebellion against the Character of God) then the consequence of that will eventually be the denial of justice implemented against all other lesser crimes.
Getting rid of the eternal character of Hell guarantees the eventual arise of Hell on earth.
5.) The Holiness of God is infinite and as such rebellion against God’s Holiness requires eternal punishment for those who do not close with Christ. The denial of the eternality of Hell is a denial of the august and majestic character of God. Low views of Hell insure, and in turn cause, low views of God.
Envision my point this way. If one was to change the penalty for murder from the death penalty to a $100.00 fine the obvious impact would be to cheapen the value of a life. Just so when we argue that Hell is not eternal punishment but only ceasing to exist we cheapen the value of God’s Majesty, Holiness and Transcendence.
The doctrine of Hell is a case where the punishment fits the crime. Any lesser punishment would suggest a lesser crime. The suggestion of a lesser crime would suggest that an offense against the person of God is somehow an offense that shouldn’t have the fullest possible consequences. The eternality of Hell corresponds to the Majesty of God and His Law.
6.) Another way to frame this is to note how a threat on a President’s life brings greater punishment then that same threat levied against a homeless drunk. There is a greater punishment because the President is a greater person. The same principle applies here. When we offer up lesser penalties we communicate that God is more like the homeless drunk then He is like the President.