Unforgiven: The Eternal Tragedy of the Lost

Audio Transcript

The wrath of God, when you consider it as his final application of justice and punishment at the end of the age is eternal. It has no end. It has no end. In Daniel 12:2, God promises many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake — some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt, everlasting, everlasting, everlasting contempt.

God’s Wrath According to Jesus

Jesus spoke of the eternity of God’s wrath in numerous ways. Consider three of them.

The Unquenchable Fire

Consider Mark 9:43–48:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled, than with two hands to go to hell to the unquenchable fire. If your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter life lame, than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 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.

Two times in that passage, he says that the fire is never quenched. It never goes out.

Sin That Will Never Be Forgiven

For the second way he talks about it, consider Mark 3:29:

Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.

That’s a startling statement, because it removed entirely any thought of universal salvation. As though, if you suffer long enough in hell, you’ll get out someday, pay your dues, and you’ll get out some day. This text says there is sin that will never be forgiven. It will never be forgiven.

Everlasting Punishment

Here’s the third way Jesus talks about the eternity of his wrath. In Mathew 25, you’re familiar with the parable of the sheep and the goats. The king comes. He separates the sheep and the goats. Here’s what he says in Mathew 25:41:

Then the king will say to those on his left hand, “Depart from me you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

People join the devil and his angels in what he calls, eternal fire. Then in verse 46, he makes it clearer, because he contrasts it with eternal life, like this:

These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Whatever kind of eternity your life will have, that’s the kind of eternity your punishment will have. It’s never ending. It’s everlasting. This is an almost incomprehensible thought. Let it have its full effect on you.

God’s Wrath According to Paul

After the teaching of Jesus, the apostle Paul talks of eternity in wrath this way. 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9:

The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.

Eternal destruction is what Jesus will hand people over to at his second coming. Don’t think — don’t even let the thought linger in your head — that destruction means obliteration.

When an army is destroyed, the soldiers who are defeated don’t go out of existence. When we use the word destroy for, “Oh, they just destroyed us,” that team from Owatonna or whatever, we didn’t go out of existence. The word destroy in relationship to wrath never means go out of existence. It means we’re undone, we’re defeated, we’re stripped of all that makes life pleasant and worthy. We’re made miserable. We are destroyed. The life we once knew is totally gone. We are now in utter misery.

God’s Wrath According to John

Then, after Paul, comes the apostle of love. I remember reading an editorial in the Tribune, years ago, with a man blasting the apostle Paul as the one who uses the anvil of wrath to forge awful books, like Romans. This man said that we need the apostle of love, the apostle John on our side. This man has never read the Bible. Paul didn’t come close to the language of John in talking about hell.

“The wrath of God, in the end, will be forever. It will be eternal. No end for those who have not fled to Jesus for refuge.”

This is the apostle of love, this is love to know these things. Revelation 14:11: “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest, day or night.” This apostle also says in Revelation 19:3: “The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

The reason I quote those two verses, is because those are the strongest possible Greek expressions of eternity: forever and ever. That’s the way it comes over in English: Forever and ever. This is not for a season, say a thousand years, and then after that nothing or bliss. This is forever and ever. As strong as you can say it, John said it. My first point, I repeat: The wrath of God, in the end, will be forever. It will be eternal. No end for those who have not fled to Jesus for refuge.

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