Jesus speaks many times on the topic of hell and seems to indicate that it is a place of never-ending punishment.
Liberal theologians, in contrast, will parse the terms so closely that it’s difficult to determine anything from their meanderings. So let’s look at the subject clearly and biblically with no pre-conceived ideas of what Jesus meant.
“Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.’” – Matthew 25:41
This verse says those who are cursed will be placed into eternal fire. Still, many question if the punishment is eternal or just involves fire.
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:46
Here, He uses the idea of eternal punishment again, and this is where the problems in understanding arise.
Aionios kolasis are the Greek words for eternal punishment. Aionios can be defined as a very long time, an eternity, a segment of time, and an age. So, obviously, the length of time here is up for debate.
Kolasis is the word for punishment and can also mean to mutilate, cut, lop, or to prune. It follows that we would ask – why does one prune something? The answer is to remove the bad to allow the good to grow.
So, while the Bible seems clear that no one is going to make it out of hell, should the word kolasis be translated as pruning or punishment?
There are three reasons why kolasis should not be translated as pruning or a simple correction.
Interchanging the word punishment for pruning or correction in any of these passages makes no sense in the contest of the chapter.
As for this everlasting punishment, it is the same word for the everlasting fire prepared for the devil. If one believes the unbelievers will get a time of correction to be saved, the same must be true for the devil.
Although there are those who believe that even satan gets a second chance in the end, Revelation 19-20 makes it clear the devil will be tormented forever. In Matthew 25:46, Jesus indicates those who are not His sheep will receive the same fate.
In the Revelation passage, kolasis is not used.
Jesus often refers to hell or the fiery furnace as a place of retribution. Those who say hell is merely corrective must argue that Jesus has something very different in mind when he talks about everlasting fire versus everlasting punishment.
Kolasis must mean punishment.
For those that choose to translate aionios as “a time period” in the Matthew chapter, they must also translate it as a time period in John 3:16.
Do we believe God is going to give man just a “time” of life with him, and then run man off when He gets tired of him? Of course not.
When translating the Bible, we have to be consistent and not translate words with reference to an agenda or political bent. Aionios must mean eternal for heaven and for hell. Otherwise, we are not being honest with ourselves.