by Shawn Brasseaux
A religionist and professing Christian contended that there was no way a “loving” God would send somebody to Hell forever. This sincere man even took it a step further by asserting something I had never heard before (or since). How could a life of sin lasting only 70 or 80 years result in damnation in Hell forever? Is this not an extreme or unfair penalty? Why have a sentence in Hell unequal to the time spent living on Earth? It is a rather interesting argument. We would be happy to use the Scriptures to expose it as utterly specious!
Why does punishment in Hell last forever if life on Earth is limited? That is, why are people not punished in Hell for the same amount of time they committed sins on Earth? The person confused by denominational teaching finds this incongruent. Surely, Hell could not be forever because people did not sin forever on Earth. Right? Actually, here, God’s omniscience has taken a backseat to man’s imperfect mind. Man is completely unqualified to correctly evaluate God’s thoughts or habits. Never forget, my friend, what Isaiah 55:8-9 says: “ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The Bible is quite clear that we have no capacity to think divine thoughts. Since we are creatures, and not the Creator, we are limited. We do not have all the information and all the insight that Almighty God has access to when He makes decisions and decrees. As humans, we have very limited information. We have weak minds to process what little information we do have. Therefore, we have a very shallow sense of what life is all about. We also have a very shallow awareness of what creation is all about. Every day, the human race makes new discoveries. We do not have all the answers! It is very unfair and ridiculous when we use our pea-sized brains, operating on limited information, to disparage or deny something Almighty God does or says in His omniscience. We do not sit on the judgment seat and dictate to Him what He “should” think, do, or say. He is God, we are man, and that is that!
To drive this point home, we appeal to 1 Corinthians 2:10-14: “ But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
The “natural” (unsaved, unredeemed, un-regenerated) man “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” He cannot process the things of the Spirit of God. He is unable to have the spiritual insight needed to properly evaluate the situation or teaching. He cannot understand the words that the Holy Ghost teaches. Hence, he dismisses God’s words as “foolishness.” He will thus “re-translate” verses, deny verses, remove verses, and/or add verses. Whatever he deems necessary, he will do, provided that his opinions or pet denominational beliefs are upheld. In his mind, the Bible cannot be right!
However, those willing to let the Holy Spirit teach them will be provided the ability to judge between God’s truth and Satan’s error. Someone who is steeped in a denomination, religion, or similar perverted system, is not relying on the Spirit of God for insight. He or she is depending on something other than the Holy Spirit, which is why he or she has difficulty with the teachings of the Bible. In fact, they will claim to be a “Christian,” and yet, contradict the clear teachings of the Bible (recall the man in our opening remarks). They lack the Holy Spirit, or they have quenched Him, so His teaching ministry is absent from their lives. Without Him, they cannot understand divine thoughts or teachings.
Now we move on to addressing the issue of why Hell lasts forever. A very helpful Scripture is Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The answer to this question is found in verse 10: “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” God says He “searches the heart” and “tries the reins.” To wit, He evaluates our innermost being. What He, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, has discovered in the human heart is delineated in Mark 7:20-23: “ And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,  Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:  All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”
Notice the issue here is not the deeds (although they are surely horrific). No, the deeds are the symptoms of an underlying condition—the heart. The heart is the most serious of matters because it is the source of those evil works. Man’s heart is the problem because it is “desperately wicked”—not just “wicked” but “desperately wicked!” The heart has intense desires to commit evil deeds. Evil actions are the outward result of evil thoughts and motives on the inside! Mark 7:21-23 again, “For from within, out of the heart of men…. all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” The actions are offensive to God, yea, but His main controversy is the heart that generates those acts. As someone once aptly stated, “We are sinners, not because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.” Being a sinner comes first—sinning follows. If we get that one point straight in our thinking, the rest of this matter is ever so easy to grasp.
King David of old did not have a completed Bible like we do today, but the Holy Spirit did cause him to write in Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was shapen in inquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Whether David in his mother’s womb, or we in our mothers’ wombs, our sin nature is conceived therein. This is long before the individual has a chance to sin. The emphasis is on the nature, the component of the person that will produce the sins in his or her post-womb life. Man in his makeup is a sinner; he behaves sinfully because he is a sinner by nature.
Consider a very plain and clear analogy (not original to me). We can pick all the oranges from an orange tree, but it remains an orange tree because it is naturally an orange tree. Furthermore, we can hang apples on the orange tree, but it, by nature, is still an orange tree. It does not transform into an apple tree! It will never produce apples! No matter how you alter its outward appearance, the orange tree will always be an orange tree on the inside and it will always produce oranges. Similarly, a person with a heart of sin can do good works, religious works (nice outward form), but his or her sinful nature remains. That sinful nature (heart) is still offensive to God. If he or she is to be accepted of God, there must be a change in nature. The sin nature must be dealt with. Where can the sin nature of man be changed? Not Hell. The sin nature of man is remedied at the cross of Christ.
In the Apostle Paul’s epistle to Colosse, he said by the Holy Spirit: “ In whom [Christ, verse 9] also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:  Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.  And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;  Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:11-15).
An inward circumcision occurs the moment one trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour. He or she is cut off from the fleshly identity in Adam (go back to Psalm 51:5). This is done “without hands,” meaning something God does rather than man. It is not a physical circumcision (done by men’s hands in religion—particularly Judaism). Rather, it is a spiritual circumcision. Colossians 2:11 speaks of the “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” This is a sinner moving to the position of a saint, a lost person becoming a Christian, a child of Satan being placed into God’s family.
When a believing sinner recognizes and relies on by faith the death of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for his or her sins, God takes that person out of Adam and puts him or her into Jesus Christ. The person, once identified with Adam (sin and spiritual death), is now identified with Jesus Christ (righteousness and spiritual life). Please read Romans 5:12-21, which provides more detail. Our body of sin, our blood relation to Adam, was crucified with Christ on Calvary (see Romans 6:1-23). This is something religion cannot do. This is something we cannot do. It is something that only God can do in His omnipotence and omniscience. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In Genesis chapter 17, the LORD God gave Abraham and Israel the rite of physical circumcision to outwardly signify a spiritual circumcision they had on the inside because of faith rather than works (cf. Romans 4:11-13). Unfortunately, the Jews eventually became too obsessed with the religious rite. Eventually, the spiritual circumcision accomplished by faith was ignored and (outward) religious works were emphasized. Romans 2:28-29 corrects this inattentiveness: “ For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:  But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
God is more interested in a Jew’s spiritual circumcision than the physical circumcision. Physical circumcision means nothing if there is no inward corresponding circumcision of the heart. After all, the spiritual circumcision is the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death. Those who die with the Adamic nature, lacking the new nature in Christ, not being spiritually circumcised on the inside, automatically go to Hell. Again, their sinful nature is unchanged, so Hell is their only destiny. Although they may have “cleaned up” their lives with religious good works, religion could not furnish them with a new nature. Only faith in Calvary’s cross could give them a new nature—and they remained in unbelief, so Calvary’s merits are inapplicable to them!
If we look at how soul salvation operates in the Holy Scriptures, listening to the words of the Holy Ghost, we understand how Hell can last forever despite sinful living on Earth being limited to decades.
God’s way of enforcing punishment is much different from ours. Punishment in Hell is not based on how long you committed sins on Earth. We do not go to Hell because we commit sins (deeds); we go to Hell because we are sinners (nature). Sins (plural, actions) are the result of our nature inherited from Adam; that nature is called “sin” (singular). While sinful actions are offensive to God, the origin is man’s sin nature. God will never approve of man’s fallen nature. This is why people can reform their behavior and still be unacceptable to God. God is not trying to improve the behavior of man—religion does this. Religion deals only with the symptoms. God wants the nature of man to be dealt with. Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary addresses the sinful nature, the root cause.
Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork takes care of both the nature and the actions of sinful man. Christ died so that we in our fallen nature would be put to death with Him, and resurrected with a new nature in Him to walk in righteousness (see Romans chapter 6). He also shed His blood in order for that blood to wash our sins, our sin debt, away (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). Christ Jesus offered himself as a fully satisfying payment for our sins. Religion cannot do this. We cannot do this. But, we can trust Jesus Christ to do it for us. Us relying on God’s Son is what pleases Him.
The reason why suffering in Hell lasts forever is that the sinful nature of man is never lost in Hell. Hell is not a place of reformation or rehabilitation. Neither is it a place of regeneration. Hell is a place of punishment, never-ending punishment. By nature, a person in Hell will always be evil. God’s wrath against their sin nature is never satisfied because their sin nature will always exist. He or she has never lost—and will never lose—the sinful nature inherited from Adam. No amount of suffering will change their nature. Thus, the punishment never ceases.
SUPPLEMENTAL: WHY IS HEAVEN FOREVER IF LIFE ON EARTH IS BUT DECADES?
Those who argue, “Punishment in Hell should equal the length of sinful living on Earth,” never argue the (unintentional) conclusion that must also be reached: “Life in Heaven should equal the length of righteous living on Earth.” If it were valid to contend a limited Hell because of limited earthly living, then a limited life in Heaven could be argued too. After all, just as we can do a limited number of evil works on Earth—70 or 80 years, or so—so we can do so many good works on Earth. A short “good” life on Earth would result in just a short time in Heaven, not eternity. See, again, this is all erroneous. It just accentuates what we discussed throughout the main part of the study. The issue is not good or bad works; it is about someone who has a new nature in Christ (Heaven-bound), and someone who has only the sinful nature in Adam (Hell-bound). Those in Heaven never lose their new righteous nature in Christ, so they live in Heaven forever. Those in Hell never lose their Adamic sin nature, so they live in Hell forever.