Faith and Theology: Dr. John MacArthur Q&A


Did Jesus Christ believe in everlasting punishment for the wicked?

Look at His words in Matthew 25.46. “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” The same Greek word is used in both instances. The punishment of the wicked is as never-ending as the bliss of the righteous. The wicked are not given a second chance, nor are they annihilated. The punishment of the wicked dead is described throughout Scripture as “everlasting fire” (v. 41); “unquenchable fire” (3.12); “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12.2); a place where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9.44–49); a place of “torments” and “flame” (Luke 16.23, 24); “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1.9); a place of torment with “fire and brimstone” where “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever” (Rev. 14.10, 11); and a “lake of fire and brimstone” where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20.10).

Here Jesus indicates that the punishment itself is everlasting—not merely the smoke and flames. The wicked are forever subject to the fury and the wrath of God. They consciously suffer shame and contempt and the assaults of an accusing conscience—along with the fiery wrath of an offended deity—for all of eternity. Even hell will acknowledge the perfect justice of God (Ps. 76.10); those who are there will know that their punishment is just and that they alone are to blame (see Deut. 32.3–5).