“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength” (2 Thessalonians 1:9 HCSB).
Our next three studies will feature two commentators who address the difficult topic of hell and the eternal consciousness of those who pass from this life without Christ…
“…(T)here are several lines of evidence that support the everlasting consciousness of the lost.
First, the rich man who died and went to hell was in conscious torment (Luke 16:22–28), and there is absolutely no indication in the text that it was ever going to cease.
Second, Jesus spoke repeatedly of the people in hell as ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30), which indicates they were conscious.
Third, hell is said to be of the same duration as heaven, namely, ‘everlasting’ (Matt. 25:41).
Fourth, the fact that their punishment is everlasting indicates that they too must be everlasting. One cannot suffer punishment, unless a person exists to be punished (2 Thes. 1:9).
Fifth, the beast and the false prophet were thrown ‘alive’ into the lake of fire at the beginning of the 1,000 years (Rev. 19:20), and they were still there, conscious and alive, after the 1,000 years (Rev. 20:10).
Sixth, the Scriptures affirm that the devil, the beast, and the false prophet ‘will be tormented day and night forever and ever’ (Rev. 20:10). But there is no way to experience torment forever and ever without being conscious for ever and ever.
Seventh, Jesus repeatedly referred to hell as a place where ‘the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:48), where the very bodies of the wicked will never die (cf. Luke 12:4–5). But it would make no sense to have everlasting flames and bodies without any souls in them to experience the torment.
Eighth, the same word used to describe the wicked perishing in the OT (abad) is used to describe the righteous perishing (see Isa. 57:1; Micah 7:2). The same word is used to describe things that are merely lost, but then later found (Deut. 22:3), which proves that ‘lost’ does not here mean go out of existence. So, if perish means to annihilate, then the saved would have to be annihilated too. But we know they are not.
Ninth, it would be contrary to the created nature of human beings to annihilate them, since they are made in God’s image and likeness, which is everlasting (Gen. 1:27). For God to annihilate His image in man would be to attack the reflection of Himself.
Tenth, annihilation would be demeaning both to the love of God and to the nature of human beings as free moral creatures. It would be as if God said to them, ‘I will allow you to be free only if you do what I say! If you don’t, then I will snuff out your very freedom and existence!’ …Eternal suffering is an eternal testimony to the freedom and dignity of humans, even unrepentant humans.” (1)
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 493–494). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.