Eternal Fire - Loving God?
The Bible Explains Itself
The "eternal fire" of hell is one hot topic! It has been misunderstood by the majority of people for many centuries. Here are examples and scripture to show its true meaning.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" (Matt 25:41)
It is not the fire itself but its effects that are everlasting as in Jude 7:
"Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."(Jude 7)
Note that "everlasting fire" (Matt 25:41) and "eternal fire" (Jude 7) are from the same original words. Of course, Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning yet they "are set forth for an example" of the results of a sinful course.
"And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;" (2Pet 2:6)
The wicked will be burned up not burning forever in an eternal fire.
"And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts." (Mal 4:3)
"But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." (Psa 37:20)
The punishment is everlasting destruction:
"Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess 1:9)
It is the destruction, not the process that is forever. The Bible's use of terms like eternal and everlasting can be understood better by some examples.
Further examples of forever to show its meaning
"And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever." (Exo 21:5-6)
In this case, the slave is opting to stay with his master and serve him for as long as he lives and it is termed forever.
"But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever." (1 Sam 1:22)
Of course, Samuel only abided there for a limited period of time.
"I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God." (Jon 2:6)
In Jonah's case forever was only a few days although it may have seemed like an eternity.
By one count, "forever" is used 56 times in the Bible to describe things that have ended.