Is eternal punishment Soul Annihilation or the Lake of Fire?
by Robert Randle
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There are many people who believe that a loving God and Heavenly Father would not create such a horrible place of torment in eternal flames as opposed to just destroying or consuming the body of the wicked in a fiery inferno of divine wrath where only a residue of ash is left as a everlasting reminder of rebellion against His sovereignty as mentioned in Malachi 4: 1-3; but is that the complete picture and what do the other Scriptures teach on this important matter? Besides what Jesus taught in the gospels, the book of Jude and a portion of 2 Peter seem to allude to the apocryphal book of Enoch as source material for some of its theology and is well worth reading.
Jude 6, 14-15
And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of that Great Day. Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the LORD comes with tens of thousands of His saints [angels], to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.
2 Peter 2: 4, 17
For if God did not spare the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Heb. “Gehinnom”] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment [Heb. “Misphat”]. These are wells without water; clouds carried by a tempest, for who is reserved the blackness of darkness [forever].
The Book of Enoch has some rather unforgettable and terrifying descriptions of the unseen world of punishments that not even the Bible reveals in such detail, as the following below reveals:
1 Enoch 2: 1-2
Behold, He comes with ten thousands of his saints [angels], to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done, and committed against Him.
1 Enoch 10: 15-17
To Michael likewise the Lord said, Go and announce his crime to Samyaza, and to the others who are with him, who have been associated with women, that they might be polluted with all their impurity. And when all their sons shall be slain, when they shall see the perdition of their beloved, bind them for seventy generations underneath the earth, even to the Day of Judgment, and of consummation, until the judgment, the effect of which will last for ever, be completed. Then shall they be taken away into the lowest depths of the fire in torments; and in confinement shall they be shut up for ever. Immediately after this shall he [Samyaza], together with them, burn and perish; they shall be bound until the consummation of many generations. NOTE: “seventy generations” could be as many as 7, 000 years using the chronology found in Genesis 15: 13b, 16 [four hundred years and fourth generation].
1 Enoch 21: 1-16
Then I made a circuit to a place in which nothing was completed. And there I beheld neither the tremendous workmanship of an exalted heaven, nor of an established earth, but a desolate spot, prepared, and terrific. There, too, I beheld seven stars of heaven bound in it together, like great mountains, and like a blazing fire. I exclaimed, For what species of crime have they been bound, and why have they been removed to this place? Then Uriel, one of the holy angels who were with me, and who conducted me, answered: Enoch, wherefore do you ask; wherefore do you reason with yourself, and anxiously inquire? These are those of the stars which have transgressed the commandment of the Most High God [Elyon]; and are here bound, until the infinite number of the days of their crimes be completed. From there I afterwards passed on to another terrific place; where I beheld the operation of a great fire blazing and glittering, in the midst of which there was a division. Columns of fire struggled together to the end of the abyss, and deep was their descent. But neither its measurement nor magnitude was I able to discover; neither could I perceive its origin. Then I exclaimed, How terrible is this place, and how difficult to explore! Uriel, one of the holy angels who was with me, answered and said: Enoch, why are you alarmed and amazed at this terrific place, at the sight of this place of suffering? This, he said, is the prison of the angels; and here they are kept for ever.
1 Enoch 22: 9-15
At that time therefore I inquired respecting him, and respecting “the general judgment”, saying, Why is one separated from another? He answered, Three separations have been made between the spirits of the dead, and thus have the spirits of the righteous been separated. Namely, by a chasm [Cp. Luke 16: 26], by water, and by light above it. And in the same way likewise are sinners separated when they die, and are buried in the earth; judgment not overtaking them in their lifetime. Here their souls are separated. Moreover, abundant is their suffering until the time of “the Great Judgment”, the castigation, and the torment of those who eternally “execrate” [are declared evil or put under a curse], whose souls are punished and bound there for ever. And thus has it been from the beginning of the world. Thus has there existed a separation between the souls of those who utter complaints, and of those who watch for their destruction, to slaughter them in the day of sinners. A receptacle of this sort has been formed for the souls of unrighteous men, and of sinners; of those who have completed crime, and associated with the impious, whom they resemble. Their souls shall not be annihilated in the Day of Judgment (Cp. Isaiah 66: 24), neither shall they arise from this place. Then I blessed God, and said, Blessed by my Lord, the Lord of glory and of righteousness, who reigns over all for ever and for ever.
1 Enoch 53: 1-6
Then I looked and turned myself to another part of the earth, where I beheld a deep valley burning with fire. To this valley they brought monarchs and the mighty. And there my eyes beheld the instruments which they were making, fetters of iron without weight. Then I inquired of the angel of peace, who proceeded with me, saying, For whom are these fetters and instruments prepared? He replied, These are prepared for the host of Azazeel, that they may be delivered over and adjudged to the lowest condemnation; and that their angels may be overwhelmed with hurled stones, as the Lord of spirits has commanded. Michael and Gabriel, Raphael and Phanuel shall be strengthened in that day, and shall then cast them into a furnace of blazing fire, that the Lord of spirits may be avenged of them for their crimes; because they became ministers of Satan, and seduced those who dwell upon earth.
NOTE: Without weight. Or, "of immeasurable weight" (Knibb, p. 138).
1 Enoch 66: 4-7, 13-15
And they shall confine those angels who disclosed impiety. In that burning valley it is, that they shall be confined, which at first my great-grandfather Enoch showed me in the west, where there were mountains of gold and silver, of iron, of fluid metal, and of tin. I beheld that valley in which there was great perturbation, and where the waters were troubled. And when all this was effected, from the fluid mass of fire, and the perturbation which prevailed troubled them, there arose a strong smell of sulphur, which became mixed with the waters; and the valley of the angels, who had been guilty of seduction, burned underneath its soil. Through that valley also rivers of fire were flowing, to which those angels shall be condemned, who seduced the inhabitants of the earth. In those days shall the waters of that valley be changed; for when the angels shall be judged, then shall the heat of those springs of water experience an alteration. And when the angels shall ascend, the water of the springs shall again undergo a change, and be frozen. Then I heard holy Michael answering and saying, “This judgment, with which the angels shall be judged, shall bear testimony against the kings, the princes, and those who possess the earth. For these waters of judgment shall be for their healing, and for the death of their bodies. But they shall not perceive and believe that the waters will be changed, and become a fire, which shall blaze for ever.”
NOTE: This is the testimony of Noah here.
THE SECRETS OF ENOCH
Chapter 7, VII
1 And those men took me and led me up on to the second heaven, and showed me darkness, greater than earthly darkness, and there I saw prisoners hanging, watched, awaiting the great and boundless judgment, and these angels (spirits) were dark-looking, more than earthly darkness, and incessantly making weeping through all hours.
Chapter 10, X
1 And those two men led me up on to the Northern side, and showed me there a very terrible place, and (there were) all manner of tortures in that place: cruel darkness and unillumined gloom, and there is no light there, but murky fire constantly flaming aloft, and (there is) a fiery river coming forth, and that whole place is everywhere fire, and everywhere (there is) frost and ice, thirst and shivering, while the bonds are very cruel, and the angels (spirits) fearful and merciless, bearing angry weapons, merciless torture, and I said:
2 Woe, woe, how very terrible is this place.
Chapter 18, XVIII 5
And I said to the Grigori: I saw your brethren and their works, and their great torments, and I prayed for them, but the Lord has condemned them (to be) under earth till (the existing) heaven and earth shall end for ever.
COMMENT: In the famous so-called parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus recorded in Luke 16: 19-31, Jesus in fact never said this was a parable, as in some of His other discourses such as the Parable of the Sower which He specifically explained as such. In this teaching the rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus went to different places after death; the poor one being carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man who displayed no compassion in life probably had an elaborate funeral but found himself in torments in Hades [Sheol]. In the narrative is a recurring theme of ‘torment’ which is very convincing as a literal experience and not something that is spiritualized into figurative and symbolic language as to lessen the seriousness of thinking that an individual could end up in such a terrible place after death with no chance for repentance for all eternity. The vision of Enoch strongly supports this notion as well as the teaching of the LORD Jesus and serves as a warning to everyone so that they will be without excuse because God has given all nations the choice to obey Him and be saved from the wrath to come or be assigned to a place in fiery perdition forever. If this place is not real then why is such seriousness attached to it? Remember the words of Jesus in the following:
Matthew 10: 28
“And do not fear those who kill the body [Heb. “basar”], but is unable to kill the soul [Heb. “nephesh”]; but rather fear the One who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell [Heb. Gehinnom].” (OJB)
Matthew 23: 33
“Snakes, you brood of vipers, how can you escape the day of the condemnation/Judgment [Heb. “din”] of Hell [Heb. Gehinnom]?” (OJB).
Matthew 25: 41
“Then He will say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed into everlasting fire [Heb. “Eish Olam”] prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ”
And lastly, read the sobering account of endless punishment in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 14: 9-11a
Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on their foreheads or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever [Heb. “olmei olamim”]; and they have no rest [Heb. “menuchah”] day or night [Heb. “yomam valailah”]. (OJB)
20: 10, 14-15
The devil, who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and forever. Then Death [Heb. “Mavet”] and Hades [Heb. “Sheol”] were cast into the lake of fire [Heb. “Agam HaEish”]. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (OJB)
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