by Jerry Gentry
"Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire" (Matt. 18:8).
Think about the idea of forever. Think of yourself standing on the center white line on a highway in the middle of a flat desert. You look one direction and that white center line extends on and on, out of sight, without end, far beyond your ability to see. Then you look the other direction, and that same white line extends opposite, on and on, beyond infinity, beyond the furthest point your eyes will discern.
Now consider that your highway and center white line sits square on the equator. You stand on that white line on the equator, which extends east and west. Consider that there are no oceans or mountains, and conceive that this white line circles the globe east to west and returns under your feet in an unbroken line. Even such a lengthy white line, which would extend some 25,000 miles long, no where begins to represent the concept of forever. Even 25,000 miles is finite, even tiny and miniscule, in relation to the universe.
Forever. We know what it means. Everlasting. Eternal. Without end. Vanishing point out of mind. Perhaps another analogy will help us understand this concept of forever a little better.
Consider that you are an earth dweller and you are standing on the equator, with a straight, white line under your feet, like the center white line on a highway. This white line extends east and west, but does not follow the curvature of the earth. This time, the white line extends forward through a single plane in space. It eventually extends above the ground and beyond the clouds, through the atmosphere, through the ionosphere, on and on, and into the solar system. This line extends further and further, beyond the solar system, on through the Milky Way galaxy, and beyond. It continues endlessly through the blackness of space. This white line extends on past stars whose light twinkles in the night skies. It passes other stars far beyond view of man's most powerful telescopes, stars whose presence is known not by their light, but by their magnetic influence. This white line continues on and on past such stars, and into the deepest, blackest depths of the universe and beyond.
Forever is like such a line. Forever never ends. Forever is everlasting. Forever is that forward, endless line of eternity for all of God's creation, for both the saved who "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34), and the wicked lost, who are "cast into everlasting fire" (Matt. 18:8). "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47). Do you believe that "everlasting life" is forever, just like in the analogy of our white line extending on and on through the depths of our solar system, our galaxy, our universe and beyond, without end, vanishing point out of mind? If so, then you must consider that the flames of "everlasting fire" continue for just as long, because everlasting is forever, either way.
Yes, friend, the Bible teaches: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2). You cannot have those who inherit"everlasting life" go on forever in the kingdom, and those cursed with "everlasting contempt" and "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46) find an end to their torments. Bleeding hearts and religious heretics motivated by misplaced mercy claim they will not serve a God who will punish the wicked forever. Yet the Bible reproves such individuals, by simply saying: "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:4).
Speaking of the wicked lost, and the faithful saved, the Bible says: "And these [the wicked lost] shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous [the saved] into life eternal" (Matt. 25:46). Simply put, you cannot have one without the other. Forever means "everlasting punishment" for the wicked lost, contrasted by "joy unspeakable" (1Pet. 1:8), to the righteous saved.
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
Consider that God's wrath abideth on the wicked forever. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). Now if "the wrath of God abideth on him," when does this wrath stop abiding? To abide is to continue indefinitely, in the absence of a clear statement otherwise. To abide is to remain, to wait, to stay, to linger, and to tarry. For the wicked, God's wrath remains and lingers without end, forever, in "everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).
Of Amalek, the arch enemy of Israel, God says: "His latter end shall be that he perish for ever" (Num. 24:20). Some Bible interpreters want to make this "perish" mean to "annihilate." Such is not the Bible meaning of "perish," which is to go, to pass, to die, to pass away, to depart, to expire, and to succumb. "Annihilation" is a doctrine akin to the Buddhist doctrine of nirvana, the highest state of which is a passing into nothingness. Such a doctrine applies to non Israelites who were not called into salvation and eternal life. For Israel, "the apple of his eye" (Deut. 32:10), to whom God revealed Himself in covenant relationship, there is no escaping eternal judgment. There are the righteous in Christ. "Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity" (Ps. 32:2), and "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Rom. 4:8). These are the just, who have received Christ by faith and are saved.
Then there are "the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, [who] shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8). God is just in His wrath which abides upon the wicked, who have no heart to believe the promises of God and be saved.
The gospel message, for all its simplicity, "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
But to the wicked unbelieving dead, the message is clear. "And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God" (Rev 19:1).
"For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand" (v. 2).
And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever" (v. 3). How long is forever? How long is that white line that extends limitlessly from the equator, up through space and into the deepest, darkest depths of the universe and beyond? That line has no end. Forever is limitless, without end, extending beyond time and throughout all eternity, as in the remembrance of Babylon and "her smoke [which] rose up for ever and ever."
Further, "And the devil that deceived them [the wicked unsaved] was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). How long is "for ever and ever." Forever is longer than you can imagine, longer than the longest white line that extends into the deepest recesses of the universe, longer than time itself. Forever goes on for eternity. Forever is everlasting, time out of mind, limitless, without end.
Are you prepared for eternity? Where will you spend eternity? Will you live forever with Jesus Christ, in His eternal kingdom, serving in your appointed place? Or will you die in your sins, and find yourself spending all eternity in the flames of hell? Don't think you can escape your appointment with "for ever and ever." Don't count on God to reconcile the irreconcilable, the wicked dead, who refuse to "hear the word of the gospel, and believe" (Acts 15:7).
Friend, eternity is forever and ever. Where will you spend eternity? Will you be like "a certain rich man," (Luk 16:19), who found himself consciously suffering the torments of hell? Or will you be like Lazarus, who was comforted in Abraham's bosom. This is not a parable. This is a true story with specific characters identified by name.
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day" (Luk 16:19).
"And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores" (v. 20).
"And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores" (v. 21).
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried" (v. 22).
"And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom" (v. 23).
"And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" (v. 24).
"But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented" (v. 25).
"And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (v. 26).
There is an impossible challenge to those who believe that hell has an end, and in the ultimate reconciliation and salvation of all the wicked dead. That challenge is how to cross this "great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot." Scripture is specific is the dividing between heaven and hell, between the saved and the wicked dead. There is no crossing between the two, if we will believe the Bible. "For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." ( 2Cor. 6:2).
"Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house" (v. 27).
"For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment" (v. 28).
"Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (v. 29).
"And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent" (v. 30).
"And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luk 16:31).
This story of the rich man and Lazarus illustrates the eternal destiny of both the saved, illustrated by Lazarus, and of the wicked dead, illustrated by the "certain rich man," who knew painfully well the meaning of forever and ever. Otherwise, why would he have been so concerned about his five brothers, that they be warned not to come to such a place of torment?
Christian, learn the lesson of eternal punishment, and everlasting life. Learn that no Israelite will escape his appointment with eternity. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebr. 9:27). There is no second chance.
Learn that forever and ever means exactly what it says: forever and ever. Learn that your response to the gospel of Jesus Christ in this life now is what seals your eternal destiny, forever and ever, "some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."