Everlasting Punishment

Answer to Correspondence—God is perfect in wisdom, love, and power. Why then did He not design a state of things to subsist in eternity that should not involve everlasting punishment for many? Why will not such a God as our God have a glorious universe free from suffering and remorse?

If God is perfect in wisdom, love, and power, we may rest assured that He will always act in consistency with these attributes, and must therefore conclude that eternal punishment is not incompatible with the revelation which He has given of Himself, but is in perfect harmony with it. It may be difficult for us to grasp the fact, but we may be quite certain that the Judge of all the earth will do right.

After all, we are creatures of very limited understanding. We begin our history with God in the consciousness that we know nothing, and indeed the confession of this is the first evidence that we have begun to know anything aright. It is by His teaching alone that we get any clear idea of our own ignorance, and from that point we are led on in the true knowledge of Himself. Whether or not we are able to see how He will harmonize all His ways with what He is in His nature, we can always fall back upon this great truth that He will in the end be justified in His words, and overcome when He is in judgment (Rom. 3:4).

The idea of a creature who is also a responsible being is beyond our comprehension, because one would naturally conclude that man is whatever God made him; and indeed that is just what men say. But man is not a mere machine. He is, as I have said, a responsible being; and when viewed in this way he must be held to be master of his own actions, and responsible to God for those actions. I do not think any man can understand this, for it is the work of God, and men are not God, though they may have the notion lying at the bottom of their hearts that they are. Were our minds not unbalanced, these questions would never occur to us. As it is, nothing but the Spirit of God, working by the revelation which He has given of Himself, can enable us to take our place according to truth.

God has certainly created beings who are responsible for their actions, and these actions involve eternal punishment. The consequences of sin are appalling to contemplate; but this gave occasion for the revelation of His love. The less I make of sin, the less I make of the judgment which must fall upon man on account of it. The less I make of the judgment, the less I make of the cross of God’s Son. The less I make of the cross, the less I make of the love which came to light there, it is always so: those who make little of the judgment make little also of the cross, and in consequence of this the love of God is depreciated in their thoughts. Do away with eternal punishment, and you do away with the necessity of the cross; and the strong crying and the tears of the Son of God, that He might be saved out of death, become the expression of the mere weakness of human nature, and the result of an exaggerated idea of the consequence of sin. You lose the greatness of the Person who accomplished the work of redemption, the value of that work itself, and the love of God of which the cross is the one mighty and perfect expression in the sight of the universe. God Himself is degraded in all His attributes and in the love of His heart.

I know no other way than the way He has taken by which He could have enlightened the universe with the knowledge of Himself, nor do I believe that any other way was possible even to God (Luke 22:39-46).