WHO WILL GO INTO EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT?
Matt. 25:31-46 records the judgment of nations at the second coming of Christ. Some will “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). It is about these that Christ said that the righteous shall enter into eternal life (verse 46).
But some will “go away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). Of these Christ said, “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (verse 41). In verse 46 we read that they “shall go away into everlasting punishment”.
The body of this paper is about those who will enter into “everlasting punishment”. We will discuss the following subjects in our search for the Scriptural truth as to who these people will be.
THE TIME OF THE JUDGMENT OF MATT. 25
THE MEANING OF “AONIAN”
IS MAN ETERNAL?
WHY WILL THERE BE SUCH A DRASTIC PUNISHMENT?
“IN THE DAYS OF NOE”
APPENDIX: A CONSIDERATION OF THOSE WHO WENT INTO ETERNAL LIFE
THE TIME OF THE JUDGMENT OF MATT. 25
As we seek an answer to our question as to who will be punished with an “everlasting fire” it is important to determine when this judgment will take place. We read in Matt. 25:31, When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all the nations….”. This tells us that the judgment of Matt. 25 will be at the second coming of Christ.
It is also important to bear in mind that there is no resurrection mentioned in this passage. That is to say that those to be judged will be those who will be alive at the time of the second coming of Christ, they are not the dead who are resurrected for judgment. This fact tells us that those who will be judged had lived through the end times which include the three and one-half years of the tribulation.
Now let us consider the criteria upon which the judgments are made. We read in verses 42-43, “I was a hungered, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not, sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not”. To whom did those judged not afford these kindnesses? That question is answered in verse 40, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me”. That brings up the question: who are the Lord’s brethren?
There are two possible answers to the question of who are the Lord’s brethren. One is that Christ’s brethren are Israelites, His brethren after the flesh. Another answer is found in Mark 3:35, “…whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother”. Which did Christ mean in Matt. 25? Was He referring to His natural brethren, i.e. Israelites or was He referring to believers? As we consider the timing of this judgment, I believe it will be clear that Christ was referring to His natural brethren, i.e. Israelites. Let us consider that suggestion.
As mentioned above, those who will be judged as recorded in Matt. 25 are those who will live through the tribulation. The paper on this web-site The Tribulation will Not be World Wide proves that statement from Scripture, and will also show the reason for the tribulation. The reason for the tribulation is given quite specifically in Rev. 3:10, “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, which shall come upon the inhabited world (Gr. “ouikomenee”) to test them that dwell in the Land“. (For the correctness of that translation please see the above mentioned paper.) In other words, the tribulation will be a time when God allows Satan to test Israel to see who will remain true to Him.
My point is that the tribulation is Israel centered. It is not centered on the entire world and those outside the inhabited world (the area of the old Roman empire) will not be tested. In other words, most of the Lord’s brethren in the sense of Mark 3, i.e. believers, will not be tested and will not be in need of food or drink and will not be imprisoned during the tribulation. Therefore, the context points to the conclusion that Christ was referring to His brethren after the flesh, i.e. Israelites. It was the Israelites in the tribulation who were in need of all these things, and those gathered for the judgment of Matt. 25 were judged on how they treated Israelites during the tribulation.
THE MEANING OF “AONIAN”, I.E. “EVERLASTING”
The Greek word translated “everlasting” in the phrase “everlasting punishment” is “aonian”. The Companion Bible defines “aonian” as, “belonging to an age”. Implied in the word “age” is a certain period of time. That period of time is not given, but the context always provides us with an idea of the length of time implied. With that in mind, let us consider verse 46. That verse reads, “and these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal“. It is the same Greek word that is used of those who will be punished with an “everlasting punishment”as is used of those who will enter into “life eternal“. When the righteous will go into “life eternal” they will “put on immortality” and will therefore, never die. They are contrasted with the others who will “go away into everlasting punishment”. Because the contrast is between “age long” life which will never end, and “age long” punishment, I believe that the “age” of punishment will also never end.
Let us also note that this everlasting fire was “prepared for the devil and his angels“. That takes us to Rev. 19:10 which reads, “And the beast was taken and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that worshiped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone”. This verse will, I believe, become more meaningful as the reader continues in this study.
IS MAN ETERNAL?
We have read in Matt. 25 of those who will be cast into a lake of fire and suffer punishment forever. But the unsaved man is not immortal. That is to say, how can the unsaved man suffer eternally unless he lived for eternity? One must be alive in order to suffer. If one suffers eternally, he must be alive eternally. But the unsaved man is not immortal and therefore, does not live eternally.
Let us also consider Is. 66:24: which speaks of the lake of fire. “And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched: they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh”. Please note that Isaiah tells us that they shall ” look upon the carcasses“. Carcasses are not bodies of those who are alive, they are bodies of those who are dead. Note also the phrase, “their worm shall not die”. It is not the men who will not die, it is the worm that feeds on the dead that will not die. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “worm” reads, in part, “Heb. tola, the maggot bred from putrid substances”.
And yet those who are judged unworthy of eternal life in Matt. 25 will suffer eternally. How are we to solve this seeming contradiction? We will leave this question for now, but it will be answered as we continue in our study.
WHY WILL THERE BE SUCH A DRASTIC PUNISHMENT?
We have learned above that the false prophet, the beast, the devil and those of Matt. 25 will be cast into the lake of fire and be tormented for ever. But we know from Rev. 20: 4 that those who worshiped the beast during the tribulation will also be cast into the lake of fire. But they will suffer the second death. Obviously, if they will suffer the second death, they will not be alive in the lake of fire, they will be dead. In other words, their punishment will not be eternal. Let us consider their crime and their punishment.
We read in Rev. 20:4, “…..I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead live not again until the thousand years were finished“.
If we are to take the phrase “rest of the dead” in context, it refers to those who did worship the beast and received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. Note that those who had worshiped the beast lived again after the end of the millennium. That puts them at the great white throne judgment. And we read in verse 15 in regard to those who were judged at the great white throne, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”.
In verse 14 we read, “and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death”. The note in the Companion Bible tells us that the texts add, “the lake of fire”. So this verse should read as the NASB has translated it, “”and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire”. In other words, those who worshiped the antichrist would not suffer everlasting punishment, they would suffer death as they were cast into the lake of fire. We have learned that those who worshiped Satan and his antichrist would be cast into the lake of fire. But they would not suffer eternally, they would suffer the second death. Death is not life.
So those who lived through the tribulation and who worshiped Satan, who was God’s enemy throughout the ages, will suffer a second death. But those who did not care for Israelites during the tribulation will suffer eternally. I hope the reader will agree that this sounds a bit “off”, so to speak. That is to say, does it seem that not caring for Israelites is a far worse sin than worshiping Satan? I do not for a moment mean to imply that God’s judgment is not just. What I am suggesting is only that this should give us pause, it should give us reason to look a bit further into the judgment of Matt. 25.
“AS THE DAYS OF NOE”
We have determined above that the judgment of Mat. 25 will be a judgment of those who had lived during the end times. Let us consider other passages from the Gospels about the end times.
We read in Matt. 24:36-39, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, unto the day that Noe entered into the ark. And knew not until the flood came and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be“.
I believe that the primary message of this passage is that just as the flood caught its victims by surprise, so too shall the coming of the Son of man be a surprise. But I believe I Peter 3:18-20, which also speaks of the days of Noe tells us a bit more of those days as it relates to our study. That passage reads, “For Christ……being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah,while the ark was a preparing…..”.
Who are those spirits in prison to whom Christ preached? II Peter 2:4-5 is another passage that connects spirits in prison with the days of Noah. “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly”.
There are several interesting things to note about this passage. For example, the word translated “hell” in the phrase “cast them down to hell” is not the usual Greek word “hades” or even “Gehenna”, translated “hell”. The Greek word used in II Peter is “Tartarus” and is used just this one time. Who were these “angels that sinned”? For the answer to that question we will look at Jude 6.
Jude 6 reads, “and the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day”. Note that like the angels of II Peter these are “reserved unto judgment”. Note also the Greek word translated “habitation” in the phrase, “left their own habitation” . That Greek word is “oiketerion”, it is used only here and II Cor. 5:2 where it is translated “house”, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven”. Just as in II Cor. 5:2 the Greek word is used of a certain kind of a body, so too in Jude 6 it is used of a certain kind of a body. So Jude tells us that these angels who are being reserved unto judgment had left “their own” bodies. I believe that it is significant that the Greek word “soma” (which means “body”) is not used for “body” in Jude 6, as angels did not really have a body. Because these angels are being reserved for judgment we may conclude that they acted against the will of God. We may refer to them therefore, as “fallen or rebellious angels“.
We have learned that in the days of Noah were angels who had sinned and were consequently cast into Tartarus and reserved unto judgment. We must ask in what way did these angels sin in the days of Noah? For the answer to that question we must turn to Gen. 6. In order to do that passage justice however, I must go back to Gen. 3:15.
We read in Gen. 3:15 that God will put “enmity” between Satan and the woman, and her Seed (Christ) will bruise Satan’s head, i.e. destroy him, but Satan’s seed will bruise the heel of the woman’s Seed (Christ). The heel being bruised is not total destruction as is the head being bruised. In short, here is the prophecy of Christ’s death (bruising the heel because He rose from the dead) and Satan’s total destruction.
Much of the Bible is the story of how Satan tried to prevent the Seed of the woman being born or at least if born, tainted. For example, we read in II Kings 11:2 of every child in the line of David being killed but one, Joash, who had been hidden. Because Christ was to come from the seed of David, I believe that this is an example of Satan trying to prevent the birth of the Seed (Christ) Who would destroy him.
We come now to Gen. 6. Let us first consider Noah. We read in Gen. 6:9, that Noah was “a just man and perfect in his generations“. Dr. E. W. Bullinger defines the Hebrew word translated “perfect” as, “without blemish as to breed or pedigree“. What has that to do with our subject? Let us consider Gen. 6:2, “And the sons of God took them daughters of men and they took them wives…”. The Hebrew phrase translated “sons of God” is used only of angels as in Job. 1:6 and 2:1.
Job 1:6, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them”.
Job 2:1, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord”.
I believe that as we consider Job 38:4-7 we will have our Scriptural evidence that the Hebrew term translated “sons of God” does indeed refer to angels. That passage reads, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof: When the morning stars came together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” This passage speaks of the creation of the earth which, of course was long before man was created. Because we read of the “sons of God” being present at creation, I believe we must conclude that it was the angels that were present.
So we have fallen angels taking daughters of men for wives.
As we learned from Jude 6 angels had left their original bodies and are being held for judgment. Their offspring would have been tainted by Satan’s fallen angles and when the time for Christ to be born He too (God forbid) would have been tainted and could not have destroyed Satan.
And that is the primary reason for the great flood, i.e. to rid the world of Satan’s offspring so as to not taint the blood line of Christ. And that is why Noah and his family were saved from the flood, i.e. because he was “perfect in his pedigree”.
Let me try to pull this section together. We have learned that in the days of Noah fallen angels had married the “daughters of men”, and that these angels are being held in chains until they are judged. Is there is a connection between the days of Noah and the days of the second coming of our Lord? I believe there is. I believe that Daniel two also implies fallen angels who mix with the seed of man in the end times. Let us consider that passage.
A LOOK AT NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM
We have established the fact that the judgment of Matt. 25 concerns the judgment of those who will live in the end times. As we look at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation in Dan. 2, we will see that part of that dream is also about the end times.
The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is recorded in Dan. 2:36-45. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of an image with a head of gold, a breast and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet “part of iron and part of clay”. Nebuchadnezzar, as king of Babylon, was represented by the head of gold (vs. 37). The breast and arms of silver represented the kingdom that was to follow after Nebuchadnezzar. The belly and thighs of brass represented the kingdom after that. And the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay represent the kingdom after that. We read in verses 34-35, “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. The iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, were broken to pieces together and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth“.
We will now concentrate on the part of this dream that centers on the end times. We read in verse 44 that part of the interpretation that explains the kingdom that “filled the whole earth”, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdom and it shall stand for ever“.
It is clear that this is the kingdom of God that will be established at the second coming of Jesus Christ when He reigns over the earth for a thousand years. So the kingdom represented by the iron and clay will be the kingdom that immediately precedes the millennial reign of Christ. It is what we learn of that kingdom that will tell us a great deal about who it is that will suffer everlasting punishment.
Let us consider for example Dan. 2:43 which tells us of the feet and toes of the image, “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay”. The phrase, “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men” is, in my opinion, reminiscent of the phrase we read in Gen. 6:2, “…the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair and they took them wives of all which they chose”. Let us consider this verse in Dan. 2 more carefully.
Verse 43 tells us that even though those represented by the iron and clay mingled “with the seed of men”, they did not “cleave one to another”. That in my opinion, implies that like the days of Noah, the fallen angels of Satan will occupy the kingdom of Satan and his antichrist before it is destroyed by the coming of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, I believe that the ones judged in Matt. 25 who will suffer everlasting punishment are not men, in the truest sense of the word, but progeny of fallen angels. It cannot be men who suffer everlasting punishment, because the unsaved man does not live eternally.Note also that the fire into which those judged to merit everlasting punishment will be cast into the fire “prepared for devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). But we never read of Satan’s angels being cast into that fire. If however, we accept the implication of Dan. 2 that some in the end times will not be men in the truest sense, but progeny of Satan’s angels, then that prophecy will be fulfilled.
WILL EVERY PERSON IN A NATION BE PROGENY OF FALLEN ANGELS?
Isaiah 2:2 reads, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it“.
It seems obvious to me that the nations will send representatives to worship at Jerusalem. That is to say, although Jerusalem will be much larger in the millennium than it is today, it will not be large enough for every person of every nation to come to Jerusalem. I believe therefore, that representatives of “all the families of the nations” will worship, thereby avoiding the apparent contradiction. (See also Ps. 86:9.) The note in the Companion Bible attests to that. It reads, “all nations. Figure of speech Synecdoche (of Genus) =many from all nations“.
Ps. 22:27 reads, “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee”. The NIV has “families” instead of “kindreds”. As mentioned above, it is not every person in every nation that will come to Jerusalem to worship God.
Ps. 72:11 reads, “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him”. Here it is made clear that the kings represent the nations. That is to say, the parallel phrases tell us that the kings who represent the nations shall serve Him.
My point is that when Christ judges the nations as recorded in Matt. 25, it will be the leaders of those nations, not every person in them. Those leaders (political, financial and “spiritual”) who are fallen angels or progeny of fallen angels will be cast into everlasting punishment.
A CONSIDERATION OF THOSE WHO WENT INTO ETERNAL LIFE
It seems to some that when Christ judges the nations at His coming that those who will enter into the kingdom of Heaven will have done so, not by faith, but by works. That is to say, because they will be saved by their good deeds to Israel in the tribulation, their salvation was given on the basis of works, rather than faith. I do not agree with that opinion, and will address that in this Appendix.
We read in James 2:14, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” James continues this same thought for the next two verses and then in verse 17 explains quite succinctly the point of this passage, “Even so, faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone“.
Salvation is purely a gift of grace and works make perfect, or complete one’s faith (see James 2:22) . Let us come back to James 2 to confirm that truth from Scripture. We read in verse 21, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” But according to Romans 4 Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith. The only way to avoid a contradiction between James 2 and Romans 4 is to see that works complete one’s faith. In point of fact, James says this very thing in verse 22, “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (The Greek word translated “perfect” is also translated “finish”, “fulfill” in other occurrences and is defined in the Companion Bible as “consummate”.) In verse 23 James completes his point, “and the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:’ …….Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone”.
In short, because no man has ever been justified by works, those of Matt. 25 were not saved unto eternal life by their works. But Matt. 25 does indeed seem to suggest that they were saved because of what they did. In order to understand this correctly, let us consider once again the tribulation, during which these good deeds were done.
As mentioned in the body of this paper, those who had done the good deeds had done so to a people that were being persecuted by the antichrist, the enemy of Christ. Let us also bear in mind that Christ Himself will tell them that they had done those good deeds unto Him. So those who will do these good deeds will have gone against the program of the antichrist, and in so doing will have proved their faith in Christ, unto Whom the works were done.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond, please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org