The New Testament speaks clearly of the final judgment which will bring about the great separation: eternal life for believers in Christ and eternal destruction for unbelievers and ungodly. The question that has always occupied serious minds is essentially whether this destruction or punishment is really eternal; i.e., to be considered unending or as temporary, even though of long duration, to be followed by complete annihilation or eternal salvation. The most important Bible references are Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:43, 44; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; and Hebrews 6:2. The opponents of eternal punishment in hell understand the word "everlasting" to mean "of immeasurable length"; but this would then also apply to eternal life, which is expressly opposed to eternal destruction. A more profound objection to the idea of eternal punishment in hell originates in the thought that God is love. He cannot eternally be angry; this contradicts His nature, which is love and mercy. He does not "have pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."
This was Hans Denck's concept. He points out Bible references like Jeremiah 3:12; Psalms 77:8; Romans 5:18; 11:32. All of God's punishments, hence also hell, have the purpose of bringing about the lasting salvation of men, and of all mankind (see Universalism). This idea of Denck's was, however, by no means common to the Anabaptists, as the Confession of Augsburg apparently assumed when it said (Article 17): "Therefore the Anabaptists are rejected, who teach that the devils and damned persons do not have eternal pain and torment."
All Mennonite confessions of faith teach expressly in the words of the Bible, that the ungodly will suffer eternal punishment in hell. The Confession of Cornelis Ris says (XXXVI, Of Eternal Punishment): "This condition will consist in a total absence of God, of all good, all comfort and all salvation, as also in the feeling of the insufferable wrath of God and His avenging righteousness, both in soul and body, without any hope of release or alleviation into all eternity. . . . What makes this unblessed state most desperately terrifying is the fact that the Holy Scriptures give not the least ground for expecting release; on the contrary calling it everlasting pain, the punishment of everlasting fire, a worm that dieth not. . . ." The Dordrecht Confession of 1632 teaches: "that in contrast (to eternal life) the wicked or ungodly will be cast into outer darkness as cursed ones, yea into everlasting pain, where their worm will not perish nor their fire be extinguished, and where they (according to the Scriptures) can expect no hope, consolation, or salvation in eternity."
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 340.
Cite This Article
Neff, Christian. "Hell." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 1 Dec 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hell&oldid=145449.
Neff, Christian. (1956). Hell. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 December 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hell&oldid=145449.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 694-695. All rights reserved.
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