Jehovah's Witnesses teach that the unsaved do not go to a place of eternal punishment, but cease to exist. This contradicts any translation of the Bible, including the Watchtower's New World Translation. A place of eternal punishment clearly does exist, and is the destiny of those who refuse the salvation God offers them in Christ, so refusing to accept Christ as Savior is not what you want to do.
Here again, we are faced with the decision of whether to believe the words of men who have made many mistakes, or to believe God's word which says: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night… " (Rev. 14:9-11)
There is no way to honestly interpret "and they have no rest day nor night" to mean that these sinners just won't exist any more. The New World Translation puts it: "…and day and night they have no rest."
People Will Share the Eternal Punishment of the Devil
Another passage which clearly shows a place of eternal punishment is talking about the eternal punishment of the devil. It is important to this subject because people will be there sharing his eternal punishment. "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever " (Rev. 20:10).
Here the New World translation translates the phrase which we have put in bold with exactly the same words.
It is Christ Himself who told us that people would share this punishment, "…and he shall separate them one from another." "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire , prepared for the devil and his angels'" (Matt. 25:31, 41). Read also the context from Matt. 25:31 to 46.
Verse 46 sums up the passage: " And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt. 25:46). In this last verse, in the New World Translation, "punishment" has been substituted by "cutting-off," changing an action which continues forever into an action that is immediately over and done with.
Replacing the normal translation with Watchtower doctrine is not unusual in the New World Translation's treatment of this subject, the divinity of Christ, and to a lesser degree, other points of doctrinal difference. Generally I have chosen to use passages which both the New World and the Authorized Version translated well and have not used the others. Here, however, and in a few other verses, if you use the New World Translation, you will find a significant difference. Please refer to other respected translations or the original Greek or Hebrew if you have any doubts as to which is more accurate in these cases.
Many Other Passages in the New Testament Speak of Eternal Punishment
These verses are similar in New World Translation, in that there too they speak of eternal punishment:
- "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth " (Matt. 13:41-42).
- "So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth " (Matt. 13: 49-50).
- "…cast into hell fire where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched " (Mark 9:47-48).
It is normal to wish that a place of eternal punishment did not exist. As much as we might prefer this, no matter what translation we read, we can hardly interpret these descriptions as speaking of ceasing to exist rather than continuing punishment, so why go there?
- "And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments , and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, and he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame . But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented . And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (Luke 16:22-26).
Jehovah's Witnesses often say that this passage is not to be taken literally, but is a parable. If this is true, it should strike terror in the hearts of those who are not born again, because Christ's parables were stories that taught truths and this story obviously teaches that the lost are conscious after death and suffer. Read also the following verses, which teach that people who don't believe the Scriptures, will not repent even if someone should rise from the dead to warn them, a reference to the obstinate people who did not believe and repent even though Christ Himself rose from the dead and warned them of the coming punishment. Christ is warning you too. There is a place of eternal punishment. Instead of going there, let Him save you!
Other New Testament passages at least infer eternal punishment: Matt. 8:12; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; Luke 13:28; Rev. 19:20; 21:8.
Eternal Punishment in the Old Testament
The existence of eternal punishment is taught in the Old Testament as well. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt " (Dan. 12:2).
Hades, and How to Avoid Going There
Many Jehovah's Witnesses also object that hades is not a place of eternal punishment because the dead do not remain there forever, but are taken out to be judged. It is true that they are taken out to be judged, but read the passage which says this, and notice what happens next. "…and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" (Rev. 20:13-14).
After judgment, they will be thrown into the lake of fire. What will happen in this lake had just been described in 20:10: " …shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. "
The next verse (Rev. 20:15) specifies who will be saved and who will not: "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Not one of those judged for their works will be saved. The saved are those written in the book of life, those that Christ saved. To make this clear, this book is also called the Lamb's book of life in Rev. 13:8 and 21:27. (This is less obvious in the New World Translation because the same Greek word is translated "book" in Rev. 20:15 and "scroll" in the other two verses).
There is a place of eternal punishment, and whether you go there or not depends on whether you choose to trust Christ who saves, or religious teachers who give greater importance to a person's own works. If you trust in Christ, your name too will be written in the book of life of the lamb of God who was sacrificed to satisfy God's judgment on sin.
God knew we would not live a sinless life, and provided for our salvation in a way that did not compromise His righteousness: "For all have sinned, …being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, …that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-26).
Please read the entire passage together with the verses before and after. The Bible also puts it this way: "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life " (1 John 5:11-12).
The choice is between everlasting life, and everlasting punishment. We have all sinned and deserve to be punished, but Christ gives us the most important invitation anyone ever had: "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved… The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:9-10).
Please accept this wonderful offer.