Is eternal hell fair punishment for a short life of sin?

GO AWAYSkeptics regularly ask, how a fair and compassionate God sends someone to eternal hell for a short life of sin? The punishment does not fit the crime.

The problem is that people do not understand the Gospel clearly. The Gospel is about the eternal Kingdom of God.1 It will only be a success because the citizens love and obey the Leader. For example, if the United States of America could remove all rebels and the people loved and obeyed a perfect leader, it would become a kingdom of peace and prosperity.

The key is that it is not about some sins a person committed, but whether he wants to become part of God’s eternal Kingdom? The most important aspect is love for God. So:

  • The person who lives a life of sin refuses to follow God’s ways. He bluntly demonstrates to God: I am not interested in loving you and I don’t even consider obedience. I serve myself, myself only, and that is the end of the story.  He gives God no guarantee that he will fit into the Kingdom of peace. God designed this natural life as the testing ground for eternity. This is the determinative phase. Here a person decides what his or her eternal destination will be – to be part of God’s Kingdom, or not? To love and honour the King, or not?
  • Can anybody blame God for deciding that someone with such an attitude is not fit to serve in His eternal Kingdom? The coming Kingdom will have no insurrection, rebellion, palace coup, or anything of the sort. All the children of God will love and obey the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The right question is therefore: how can God allow a person who has no interest in the King and the Kingdom, to be part of the eternal Kingdom?  God will never disadvantage billions of believers who are willing to live in peace and love to be influenced by rebellious, disobedient people. A little yeast can influence a lot of dough. A few rebels among the faithful in eternity will surely influence others against God. The children of God in many cases had to persevere and overcome tremendous rejection and attacks by the devil and his people in this life. They are entitled to an eternal life of peace.


God is like most human fathers. He wants the best for His children. He gives those who refuse to acknowledge Him as Father, what they want, namely separation from Him. He gives His children what they want: eternal peace and happiness with no rebels around to disturb the peace. People who live a ‘short’ life of sin, have only themselves to blame if they never see the face of the One they despise.


  1. Psalm 145:13; Acts 1:3
  2. Colossians 2:13-14


Author: Gerard and Alida

As you can see in the photo, there are two of us. We live and work together 24/7, studying and enjoying our grandchildren. Our passion is to know and understand what will happen after death. Is there a way to provide for and invest in that?

7 thoughts on “Is eternal hell fair punishment for a short life of sin?”

  1. The problem with this approach is that it neglects the obvious fact that God doesn’t have to torture people forever. Whether God gives people a place in the Heavenly kingdom is what you address here. But that does not even scratch the surface of the problems with this doctrine.

    The obvious question would be: how can God be just if He punishes finite deeds with infinite punishment? An infinite amount will always mathematically exceed any finite amount. And since man can only commit a finite amount of sin, the punishment therefore is not proportional. This therefore would mean that God would not reward men according to His deeds (Romans 2:6) or “execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (Psalm 9:8). The Hebrew word for equity can also mean “evenness”. Job speaks of God weighing him with “accurate scales” (Job 31:6), and Proverbs 11:1 says “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.”. Yet it would be true that God would be using no mathematically just measure for man’s deeds to determine the punishment. It is logically impossible.


    1. Thank you for your comment, Zach.
      One of the interesting aspects about God is that He is not fair. For example,
      The thief on the cross. He said to Jesus, ‘Remember me when you come into your Kingdom’ (Luke 23:42). Jesus’ answer was, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43). That thief probably believed in Jesus for only a few hours, but be will be in heaven with a person like Paul. Paul suffered for years while he spread the gospel to the gentiles, as he vividly describes in 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.
      The parable of the workers in the vineyard. It describes God’s strange ‘justice’ (Matthew 20:1-16). He paid those who worked for an hour or two the same wage as those who worked the whole day. When they complained, the landowner answered, ‘Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
      God’s Kingdom of peace will last eternally. That is His reward for those who were willing to love and obey Him, whether it was for a few hours, or five, twenty, forty or sixty years. The reward seems completely skewed, and yet that is precisely what He is going to do.

      Those who rejected God’s generous invitation to join His Kingdom, who refused the invitation, will not have the eternal benefits that accompany the invitation. They will be kept away from God’s people for the simple reason of contamination by sin. Those who refuse to love the Lord have to accept the verdict. Proverbs 28:5 says, ‘Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.’


      1. Have you ever considered annihilationism? And if so, what passages convince you of eternal torment?


  2. Believing in annihilationism will annihilate the Gospel. Jesus said, ‘Then they [the unrighteous] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46).
    If all the unrighteous will be annihilated, for exactly what reason did Jesus come and preach repentance, living a holy life, etc? That would be stupid. It would mean, if a person does not give heed to the message, he is just annihilated. So there are positive consequences (rewards) but no negative consequences for what a person believed to how he lived. There is no inducement to follow Jesus, and no reason to miss all the world’s sins.


    1. Actually no one in the Bible used hell in their presentation of the gospel that I am aware of. The Apostles certainly didn’t. Jesus spoke of Gehenna, which is a metaphor of temporal punishment given the valley’s use as a refuse dump.

      With regard to Matt. 25:46, the problem is in the nature of the word “eternal”. Many believe it strictly refers to duration. However, this is not consistent with biblical usage. Mark 3:29 refers to blaspheming the Holy Spirit as being an “eternal sin”. If “eternal” always refers to duration, “eternal sin” would be a sin of infinite duration. Yet it is clear that what Jesus was referring to is the eternal effect of the sin (“whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness”).

      Hebrews 6:2 refers to “eternal judgment”. If this is referring to duration, God will be judging men for all eternity. This contradicts the notion of a single “judgment day”. God will judge men and the effect of the judgment will be eternal.

      Hebrews 9:12 says that Jesus “entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”. Here it is clear that Jesus already obtained eternal redemption once and for all. He will not be redeeming mankind for all eternity. The effects of the redemption are eternal.

      Revelation 14:6 refers to an angel preaching an “eternal gospel”. This is obviously not a gospel of eternal duration (wouldn’t make any sense), but a gospel of eternal effect.

      The word eternal cannot be proven to refer strictly to eternal duration. Unless it can be proven that all of the above examples refer to eternal duration and not eternal effect. “Eternal punishment” is the punishment of destruction with eternal effect/result.

      I’ll include this comment from a guy I know named Chris Date, who’s written a book on the subject. He posted this on another thread:

      “the punishment annihilationists believe awaits the lost consists in the lifelessness resulting from being killed, and since that lifelessness will be eternal, so will their punishment therefore be. St. Augustine rightly noted that societies don’t measure the duration of capital punishment in the time it takes to die but the time during which the executed is removed from the land of the living.

      Now, as for the term “punishment,” the word κόλασιν is used only here and one other place in the NT, and that’s 1 John 4:18 where it’s not clear whether the punishment in view is corporal (suffering) or capital (death). Although some older translations render the latter as if punishment entails fear (and thus consciousness), more modern translations make it clear that what John meant is that punishment is the object of fear. So the NT doesn’t tell us for certain whether or not κόλασιν can refer to capital punishment. Although, note that in Matthew 25:46, the punishment is contrasted with the fate awaiting the saved: life. Right off the bat, then, we have good reason to believe capital punishment is in view.

      Outside the NT, there are certainly plenty of cases to be found in which κόλασιν refers to conscious punishment, but I’ve found at least two in which it refers to capital punishment.

      Here’s one, 2 Maccabees 4:38.

      “38 And burning with rage, he took off immediately the purple robe of Andronicus and tore off his inner garments, leading him around through the entire city to the very place where he acted wickedly toward Onias. There he executed the murderer, the Lord repaying him with a worthy punishment.” (Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012), 2 Mac 4:38.)

      “38 Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped off the clothes from Andronicus, tore off his purple robe, and led him around the whole city to that very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias, and there he dispatched the bloodthirsty fellow. The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.” (The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 2 Mac 4:38.)

      The word “punishment” at the end of the verse is the same word as in Matt 25:46, and clearly refers to capital punishment.

      Just to preemptively wrap up one loose end, it’s worth pointing out that “punishment” is what’s called a deverbal noun, a noun formed from a verb but no longer sharing most of a verb’s characteristics (subject, object, etc.). Many such nouns are recognized across multiple languages as being ambiguous between a process reading or a result reading; that is, it’s not always immediately clear whether the noun refers to the process of the verb from which it is formed, or the outcome of the verb.

      Take the word “translation,” for example. I might say, “The translation of the ancient texts took 10 years,” in which case you’d know I was referring to the process of translating. But if I said, “the translation of the ancient texts remains to this day,” you’d know I was referring to the result of translating. In the NT, there are several places where “eternal” describes such deverbal nouns. Besides Matthew 25:46′s “eternal punishment,” there is also Hebrews 5:9′s “eternal salvation” and Hebrews 9:12′s “eternal redemption.” In both of those places, it’s clear that what is eternal in duration is the outcome of the verbs save and redeem, for it would be heretical to suggest that Christ continues saving throughout eternity. We were saved, after all, once for all, and forever, and even if one wanted to argue that sanctification is what’s being referred to, there will be no further sanctification after we’re perfected at the resurrection and glorification!

      So all of this is to say, there’s (1) contextual evidence for taking “eternal punishment” as referring to capital punishment, for it’s contrasted with living forever, (2) precedent for understanding κόλασιν as referring to capital punishment, and (3) precedent for understanding “eternal punishment” as saying it’s the result of the verb punish whose results are eternal. This verse, then, is better support for annihilationism than for the traditional view.”


  3. Greetings, Zach. Thanks for your comments. We appreciate them. If annihilationism is better supported than the traditional view, then there is no need at all to reference the Bible or take any notice of it. Annihilationism is the opposite of spreading the Word of God. Most people will be thrilled to do what they want, and then to be annihilated when they die. To believe in Jesus and obey God is then just too much trouble.


    1. I appreciate your kind responses as well. It’s nice to encounter someone who is willing to engage in honest and respectful discussion.

      You said: “If annihilationism is better supported than the traditional view, then there is no need at all to reference the Bible or take any notice of it.”. If we were to use this criteria then most all of the difficult doctrines of the church should not be explained and exegesis wouldn’t matter, since a simplistic reading of the Bible would suffice. However, we both know the Bible is a more complicated work than that. The traditional doctrine of hell is bolstered by poor translations of the 4 different Greek and Hebrew proper nouns as one word “hell”. And the fact is that none of the words originally referred to a place of eternal torment with the exception of Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4, which is not surprisingly, the Greek hell since Judaism didn’t have a hell. That reference and the entire theology of the book for that matter was borrowed from the Book of Enoch. Also the parable of Luke 16 referring to the rich man in Hades is assumed to be hell despite the fact that this “hell” will be thrown in hell (Rev. 20:14).

      Saying that it should be evident that annihilation is wrong seems to be a way to avoid the exegetical weakness of the traditional view. If we keep it on a surface level by using English translations and importing the connotation the word Hell gained through works like Dante’s Inferno then yes, it is obvious that Jesus talked about a place of eternal torment. But if we examine the source texts and historical setting we find no such warrant for that view.

      It also sounds to me like the fear of hell is believed to be more powerful than the Holy Spirit since you believe annihilationism would ruin the gospel. That’s also basing theology on a philosophical stance, which is generally what annihilationists and Universalists are accused of.


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