“Every human being will have immortality, which means a future in which existence is not subject to annihilation (Rom 2:7; 1 Cor 15:53-54). Even if immortality is a future condition beyond the grave, eternal life, Christ's life in us, is a present possession of believers. Through the Holy Spirit we have the first installment of our inheritance and we are already sealed, accepted by God as His children, because of the living Christ who lives within (Gal 2:20; Eph 1:13-14).”(1)
Besides this, there is another side. My position concerning this topic, the nature of Hell, is one of eternal conscious torment for the wicked. A particular scripture for a proof text would be:
“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. . . . 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. . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:30, 41, 46).
This passage or parable depicts the dichotomy of consequence. Mankind has varying views or attitudes to Christ’s return, these attitudes are not without consequence. Jesus contrasts the person who diligently prepares for His coming by investing their time and talent to serve God. Jesus lets us know that these good works, beyond faith, will be rewarded. Conversely, the person who has no heart for the work of the kingdom will be punished. God rewards faithfulness, it is the object of our faithfulness whereby we are judged—God or the World.
Those who bear no fruit for God’s kingdom cannot expect to be treated the same as those who are faithful. The faithful are rewarded with Heaven while the wicked will enter Hell. There are three things in this passage that point to Hell being an eternal conscious torment.
1. Use of “weeping and nashing of teeth”
This refrain is used often by Matthew and is another horrible description of eternal hell—not the grave (c.f. Matthew 13:42,50; Revelations 9:2). Wailing in Matthew 13:50; weeping in Matthew 8:12; Matthew 22:13; Matthew 24:51; Matthew 25:30; Luke 13:28; and “gnashing of teeth” in all these passages represent bitter sorrow and pain. Logically then, this denotes a state of conscious that has some emotion in order for weeping to occur, assumedly brought about by sorrow, grief, or torment—emotional agony. The grinding of teeth can also speak of physical agony and pain in Hell. This could be the very “same frustration the isolated rich man experienced in Hades while watching Lazarus and Abraham together across a vast chasm (Luke 16:19-31).” (2) At any rate, there appears to be a conscious awareness beyond the grave.
“And thus for punishment he shall be cast into outer darkness who has of his own free will fallen into inward darkness.”(3)
2. Use of “depart from me”
This phrase, said from God to man, denotes a conscious awareness that one is indeed being cast out from God’s presence into darkness, unless we interpret this to be metaphorical or non-literal. Even if this phrase is metaphorical it still denotes that the wicked one has a conscious awareness of departing from the blessed presence of God.
3. Use of “everlasting punishment”
Matthew uses undeniable terminology. How can punishment be eternal if those being punished are not? Are those being punished done so by succession ad infinitum? This can hardly be the case. Similarly, Marks gospel lets us know, also, that those who “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit” will suffer “eternal condemnation” (3:29 NKJV) It seems, then, that the wicked and the blasphemer will endure eternal punishments beyond the grave.
From a practical standpoint, “eternal punishment” corresponds with the often sought “eternal life” of scripture. We stand at a crossroads then; either way leads us down an eternal path. Death is for the mortal body, the soul is not dependent upon the body. God created the mortal body in Genesis and then breathed life/soul into the body. Death is for the temporal body, as opposed to the supernatural creature that Adam once was. The scriptures never suggest that the soul ceases to exist.
When we rest between death and our resurrection to immortality our bodies are in what scholars have called the intermediate state. Some teach that psychopannychy or soul sleep occurs during this state. In soul sleep the complete person dies and the soul and spirit go out of existence until called back into existence at the resurrection. This view then violates the biblical teaching of a conscious existence. In Luke’s gospel we learn that Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration after their death. Here Moses and Elijah were still themselves and they were consciously aware of what was going on (Luke 9:28-31). As mentioned prior, the actions of the rich man and Lazarus indicate consciousness for the departed (Luke 16:19-31). As the thief died upon the cross Jesus made this promise, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 NIV). Finally, Paul in his letter to the Phillipians indicated that to die would mean being ushered at once into the presence of the Lord (Phil 1:21-24). Paul longed to be ushered into the presence of Christ but saw his need to establish the Gospel.
Our resurrection bodies will be suitable for conditions in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:38–44) and hell. Jesus spoke of "the resurrection of life" and "the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:29). Thus, we can assume that both believers and unbelievers will receive resurrection bodies—but their eternal destiny will be different (Daniel 12:2). That said, the bible clearly indicates an eternal punishment for the resurrected wicked. If the punishment is eternal then what of the punished? It is logical here that if the punishment is eternal that those who are being punished are immortal, in this regards as well.
Here are two other arguments, from Augustus Strong's landmark work, for you to consider as well:
1. "The metaphysical argument.—The soul is simple, not compounded. Death, in matter, is the separation of parts. But in the soul there are no parts to be separated. The dissolution of the body, therefore, does not necessarily work a dissolution of the soul."
2. "The ethical argument.—Man is not, in this world, adequately punished for his evil deeds. Our sense of justice leads us to believe that God’s moral administration will be vindicated in a life to come. Mere extinction of being would not be a sufficient penalty, nor would it permit degrees of punishment corresponding to degrees of guilt. This is therefore an argument from God’s justice to the immortality of the wicked. The guilty conscience demands a state after death for punishment." (4)
In conclusion, Wayne Grudem comments this about eternal conscious torment:
"It also tends to be one of the first doctrines given up by people who are moving away from a commitment to the Bible as absolutely truthful in all that it affirms. Among liberal theologians who do not accept the absolute truthfulness of the Bible, there is probably no one today who believes in the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment."(5)
1. Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective © 1993 by Gospel Publishing House. All rights reserved.
4. Systematic theology. Strong, A. H. (2004). "The present work is a revision and enlargement of my 'Systematic Theology,' first published in 1886."--Pref. (984). Bellingham, Wa.: Logos Research Systems, Inc.