From the beginning, Moses wrote that the penalty for sin was death, saying in Deut. 30:15 and 16, “I am setting in front of you today life and prosperity, death and adversity, in that I command you to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments, that you may live and multiply.”
He was telling the people that to violate God's laws was the way of death. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul put it this way in Rom. 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” There was no judgment of God's law that even implied torture in a literal fire for any sin. The penalty was merely death.
Jesus Christ came to pay the full penalty for our sin and for the sin of the whole world. This did not mean that Jesus would have to burn in the pit of hell. Not even for a moment—much less for eternity! He paid the full penalty for sin by dying on the cross, not by burning for eternity. If never-ending torture in hell were really the penalty for sin, then Jesus would still be there! Yet we find that Jesus was only required to be dead for three days.
But God is not so unjust as to torture people for disobeying Him. The nature of the “fire” is defined by the divine law itself, and the duration of the judgment is limited by the law of Jubilee.
Because of Adam's sin, all men have become mortal. That in itself is a judgment for sin. But the final judgment is the “lake of fire, which is the second death” (Rev. 20:14). This type of death is of a different sort. It speaks of the future age when the unbelievers who did not avail themselves of Jesus' offer of redemption will remain mortal and will have to learn right and wrong as servants of God.
In the final analysis, the law says that if a man cannot pay a debt (which is incurred by sin), he is to work as a bondservant to pay the debt. If the debt is too great to be paid, he must work until the year of Jubilee sets him free.
The unbelievers at the Great White Throne will be sentenced to work as bondservants until the final Jubilee sets them free. The purpose of this is not so that their masters can act like tyrants over a bunch of slaves. The purpose is given in Isaiah 26:9, where the prophet says, “When God's judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”
In other words, the purpose of putting bond-servants under masters is so that the sinners of the earth may learn the will of God and learn to follow Christ. Their “masters” will teach them and train them in the laws of God. What a happy time!
For this reason Psalm 130:4 says, “There is forgiveness with Thee [God], in order that You may be respected.” We respect those who have the ability to forgive, not those who refuse to forgive after a certain deadline. God has often been presented as One who either will not or cannot forgive sin, once a man has completed his life on earth. It is no wonder so many have no respect for God. But I say that God has been misrepresented.
When the time comes that God rules the earth through Jesus Christ and the “Sons of God,” the nations will rejoice. Finally, there will be true justice and mercy in the courts. Psalm 67:4 says, “O let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the nations upon earth.”
Psalm 72:11 says, “Yes, all kings shall bow down before Him; all nations shall serve Him.” Later, this same psalm says, “men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who does only wondrous things; and blessed be His glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with His glory.”
Psalm 86:9 and 10 says, “All nations that You have made will come and worship before You, O Lord, and will glorify Your name. For You are great and do wonderful things. You alone are God.”