But the Bible speaks of the wicked being tormented "forever," doesn't it?
The term "for ever," as used in the Bible, means simply a period of
time, limited or unlimited. It is used 56 times in the Bible in
connection with things that have already ended. It is like the
word "tall," which means something different in describing men, trees,
or mountains. In Jonah 2:6, "for ever" means "three days and
nights." (See also Jonah 1:17.)
In Deuteronomy 23:3, this means "10 generations." In the case of
man, this means "as long as he lives" or "until death." (See 1
Samuel 1:22, 28; Exodus 21:6; Psalm 48:14.) So the wicked will
burn in the fire as long as they live, or until death. This fiery
punishment for sin will vary according to the degree of sins for each
individual, but after the punishment, the fire will go out.
The teaching of eternal torment has done more to drive people to
atheism and insanity than any other invention of the devil. It is
slander upon the loving character of a tender, gracious heavenly Father
and has done untold harm to the Christian cause.
Death, Not Eternal Torment
The Bible tells us that "the wages of sin is" not eternal life in
hellfire, but "death" (Romans 6:23), the same penalty God assured Adam
and Eve would be theirs if they ate the forbidden fruit.
Ezekiel states clearly that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die"
(Ezekiel 18:4), and a plethora of other Bible verses and passages
endorse this position. The prophet Malachi wrote that sinners
would burn up as "stubble" and would become "ashes under the soles" of
the feet of the redeemed (Malachi 4:1, 3). Even the final fate of
Satan is explicitly pronounced in Ezekiel 28:18, where the Bible says
that the enemy of souls will be reduced to ashes upon the "earth."
Compare that with Psalm 37:10 ("For yet a little while, and the wicked
shall not be"), Psalm 68:2 ("as wax melteth before the fire, so let the
wicked perish at the presence of God"), and other similar verses.
Soon you get a clear picture that the purpose of the fires of hell is
to eradicate sin and to expunge the universe of its awful presence.
Interestingly, it was the devil who was first to suggest that sinners
would not die (Genesis 3: 4). A hell where sinners never perish
would prove the devil right and would make God, who told Eve she would
"surely die" as a result of transgression (Genesis 2:17), a liar.