How are Christ’s sacrificial sufferings related to the sufferings of the lost in hell?
What was infinite in character (the sufferings of our Lord Jesus at Calvary) and what will be eternal in duration (the sufferings of the lost in the lake of fire) should be carefully distinguished. A reverent consideration of the Bible’s descriptions of Calvary indicates that the Lord Jesus endured the unmitigated judgment of God. His was an infinite capacity to feel and to suffer. His holy emotions, unclouded by sin, fully registered the approaching storm when He was in Gethsemane. He endured the totality of that judgment on the cross. Prophetically, His language was, “Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves.” “All Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me.” Although the flood waters were “restrained” in Noah’s day, no such limitations restricted the flood-tide of grief that swept over His holy soul. Typologically, the scapegoat, whose death was in an uninhabited land, points to the One Whose sufferings were incomprehensible to the human mind. How could we measure His sufferings when He Who is absolute Holiness was, at the same time, “made sin for us?” Not only was the Savior suffering for countless others’ sins, but God, through His Son, was condemning sin in the flesh. How correct Samuel Stennett was, “What he endured no tongue can tell to save our souls from death and hell!” Saying, “Christ suffered our hell” not only claims too much but also says too little. He suffered infinitely more than we could have endured through endless ages.
Would the powers of reasoning be lost in the torments of a literal fire?
The implications of the question are so overwhelming that they forbid our answering this in some theoretical or philosophic manner. Eternal realities can only be expressed by the Word of God. The other danger which we must avoid is trying to understand eternal experiences by earthly temporal ones. Luke 16 reveals to us a man in hell. Along with having other faculties, he is evidently able to think, remember, recognize responsibility, and draw conclusions. He remembers five brethren. If he was the eldest, this shows his sense of responsibility for their welfare. He recognizes and logically deduces that if they follow the same path as he has, they will also be in hell. He formulates a plan, “Send Lazarus…” which he assumes will convert them. All of this argues for the preservation of reasoning.
Just as the body was used as a vehicle for sin and therefore must participate in the suffering, so the mind and reasoning, employed to keep God at bay throughout life, must be preserved to suffer. Suffering upon earth frequently dulls the mind and destroys the body. The God who will prevent the destruction of bodies in eternal fire will also prevent the destruction of reasoning.
Is man’s punishment for sin eternal?
This question cannot be answered by human reasoning, but by biblical revelation. Before we answer this, we need an understanding of what “sin” is before an infinitely holy God. Sin is missing the mark. It is unrighteousness, iniquity, transgression, lawlessness; therefore sin cannot be tolerated and must be punished. Romans 6:23 teaches, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin is actually an affront to the character of God. If God does not justly punish sin, He will be untrue to His character.
The Word of God reveals eternal punishment for sin in vivid and unmistakable language: “punished with everlasting destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9); “go away intoeverlasting punishment” ‘(Matthew 25:41); “have their part in the lake of fire which burneth with fire and brimstone forever and ever” (Revelation 21:8). This is not only eternal punishment, but conscious eternal punishment: “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night” (Revelation 14:11); “suffering(present continuous) the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7). The greatest proof of “eternal punishment” for sin is offered in the infinite sufferings of Christ for sin. The rejection of Christ has eternal consequences. If we could fathom Christ’s sufferings for sin, we could fathom the eternal punishment of men in their sins. Impossible!
Is the torment of Luke 16 physical (or only mental)?
The notion that mental torment is less intense than mental and physical combined is faulty. Some speak of the agony in Luke 16 as “only mental suffering” thus seeking to minimize its intensity This a fatal misapprehension of the nature of man.
Paul considered mental perceptions whether in or out of the body as indistinguishable. Thus, in 2 Corinthians 12:3, he did not know his state: “whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell.” Yet he heard words so sublime and sacred that they were beyond normal human comprehension. Heights of human emotion, whether of joy or sorrow, can be reached without the aid of the physical body. Clearly it does not matter that the soul is apart from a body while enduring the horrific terror of hell. So similar is the experience of the soul without the body that the Lord Jesus relates that the man (Luke 16:23-24) lifted up his eyes, saw Aoraham, was enduring awful agony, was feeling thirst and heat because he wanted water to cool his tongue, and sensed he was being tormented in this flame. The horror of hell (Hades) in Luke 16 is no less awful than the suffering when the soul and body are reunited (Revelation 20:13) in the lake of fire.