Speaking of Life

Eternal Punishment?

Have you ever decided to punish a disobedient child? Did you ever declare that the punishment should last forever?

(4.2 minutes)
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Joseph Tkach

Joseph Tkach has been president of Grace Communion International since 1995. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Azusa Pacific University. For more information about him, click here.

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I have a couple of questions for all of us who have children. Here’s the first question: Has your child ever disobeyed you? Now, take a little time to think about it in case you’re not sure.

Okay, now if you answer was yes, like all the rest of us, here’s the second question: Have you ever punished your child for disobedience?

Finally, let me ask you this: How long did the punishment last? More to the point, Did you declare that the punishment would last forever?

The very idea of it sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

We, as weak and imperfect parents, forgive our kids for their disobedience against us. We might also punish them if it seems appropriate, but I wonder how many of us would think it fitting, or even sane, to punish them for the rest of their lives.

Yet some Christians would have us believe that God, our heavenly Father, who is not weak and imperfect, does punish people forever and ever, even people who have never even heard the gospel. And these same people say God is full of grace and mercy.

Let’s think about it for a moment, because there seems to be a large gap between what we learn from Jesus and what some Christians believe about eternal damnation. For example, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and even to do good to those who hate us and persecute us. But some Christians think that God not only hates his enemies, but literally roasts them mercilessly and relentlessly for eternity.

Jesus, on the other hand, prayed for his executioners, saying, "Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing." But some Christians teach that God only forgives a precious few that he predestined to forgive before he even created the world. Now, if that were true, then Jesus’ prayer didn’t make a whole lot of difference, did it?

As much as we humans love our kids, how much more does God love them? It’s a rhetorical question — God loves them infinitely more than we are even able to love them.

Jesus said, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?... If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11-12).

The truth is, just as John 3:16-17 tells us, God really does love the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

You know, the salvation of this world, this world that God loves so much he sent his Son to save it, depends on God, and only on God. If it depended on us, and on how good we are at getting the gospel to people, then there really would be a big problem. But it doesn’t depend on us. It depends on God, and God sent Jesus to do the job, and Jesus did the job.

We are blessed to be able to take part in the process of getting the gospel to people, but the actual salvation of the people we love and care about,

and also of those we don’t even know,

and even those who it seems to us never even heard the gospel:

in short, the salvation of everybody,

is something God takes care of, and God is really good at what he does. That’s why we put our trust in him, and in him alone!

I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.

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