If the Antichrist is going to suffer forever in Hell, why not all unbelievers?
I was recently interviewed about my book, Eternity: Heaven or Hell?, by Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date. We discussed what has become a very controversial topic among many Christians, and that is the duration of time those in Hell will spend. Eternal or limited? I share from the Bible why I am convinced that Conditionalism is the biblical view of final punishment. Tempers can flare over this topic, so I ask you to read this interview in blog format as a good Berean, testing the Scriptures to see what God will teach us.
Punishment of the Antichrist
Chris Date: In each chapter of your book you conclude with some questions and answers. I want to talk about a couple of those. Question number four reads, "What about the Antichrist and the False Prophet? Doesn't the Bible say they will be subjected to eternal torment?" How do you answer that question?
Dr. Reagan: Yes, Revelation 20:10 does say that the Antichrist and False Prophet are going to be subjected to eternal torment, but doesn't mean that you and I are going to be subjected to that. For one thing, you have to keep in mind that these two individuals are going to be responsible for the death for half of all the people on planet earth, plus two-thirds of all the Jews. The Bible teaches unbelievers are going to be punished in proportion to our sins. These two people are going to kill more people than Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot and Mao all put together, so their punishment is going to be much greater.
There is also a possibility that this verse is talking here about demons who possessed the human flesh of the Antichrist and False Prophet. We know that the angelic world can take on flesh from time to time, and they talk about how they are called beasts in the book of Revelation who arise from the Pit. So, it could very well be that these are demonic beings who are going to be punished forever anyway in Hell.
Regardless, no verse says anything about humans being punished eternally.
Chris Date: That's right. Rethinking Hell interviewed another person who holds your end times view. His name is Robert Taylor and he wrote a book called John 3:16 Salvation Rescue from Death. He agrees with you on this point about that the mention of the Antichrist and False Prophet are representative of the demonic beings who had possessed them. He points out that there is no reason why we should see the wicked — the unsaved — being thrown into the fire as having the same meaning as demons beings thrown in.
The Apostle John does this thing in the text of Revelation where he separates each vision with "then I saw, then I saw, then I saw," so there is a difference from each vision to the next. One of those "then I saw," appears between the Devil, the Beast and the False Prophet being thrown into the fire, and then between that and the unsaved.
There are also those of us Conditionalists who don't believe that the Devil, the Beast, and the False Prophet are actually going to be eternally tormented to begin with, like Edward Fudge for example.
Eternal Punishment Versus Eternal Punishing
Chris Date: I really appreciated your answer to the eighth and final question: "What do you consider to be the single most powerful argument against the Traditional concept of eternal torment and Hell? I appreciated it so much that I cited it in an article that I wrote at Rethinking Hell. What is your answer to that question?
Dr. Reagan: Very simply, it's the fact that the Bible says that Jesus paid the price for our sins. That's taught over and over again. What was that price? Well, it was extreme suffering followed by death, but it was not eternal torment. Unrepented sinners I think are going to experience the same thing that Jesus experienced, and that is suffering and then death.
One thing that I think is very important when I talk about this is when people often say to me, "The Bible says there are is going to be eternal punishment? How in the world can you get around eternal torment?" I always like to make the point that there is a difference between suffering and eternal punishment and then suffering eternal punishing. There is a big difference. Yes, destruction or annihilation at a certain point is an eternal punishment, but there's a difference between eternal punishment and eternal punishing. So, I just think we need to keep that in mind.
The Bible speaks of the fact that we are going to have an eternal judgment, but that doesn't mean that judgment is going to go on eternally. It means that judgment has eternal consequences.
Chris Date: You point out in your book that the author of Hebrews talks about how Jesus attained eternal salvation and eternal redemption for everybody. I would go as far as to say it is heretical to even claim that for eternity Jesus will be saving and redeeming the elect, even after our glorification. It was finished on the cross.
Under Grace or Wrath
Chris Date: I enjoy giving our guests an opportunity to leave with a parting message; something that they hope gives us something to think about and which sticks in our minds later. What would you leave us with today?
Dr. Reagan: Remember that God is the God of grace, mercy and love, but He is also a God of justice and holiness and righteousness. That nature compels Him to deal with sin. The Bible teaches that God deals with sin in one of two ways: either by grace or by wrath. Every person is under either the grace of God or the wrath of God.
It's a glorious thing to be living under the grace of God. It's a terrible thing to be living under the wrath of God. The Bible says when Jesus returns, those who are living under wrath will crawl into holes in the ground and pray for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them. But, it says those who are living under grace will go forth like calves released from a stall. I'm from Texas and I've seen calves released from stalls. They don't like stalls, so they run out into the pasture and they roll in the grass and they kick their feet in the air because they are happy.
We are all living under either grace or wrath. So, if there is any person who has never received Jesus as Lord and Savior, I would urge them to do it now because the time is late. We are living on borrowed time.
Another point I would like to make is the prospect that judgment gives life meaning. If there is no judgment that we are going to face in the future, then life has no meaning whatsoever. We are going to face judgment, so we need to keep that in mind.