This one caught my attention because ironically enough this is one of the first doctrines I changed my mind one when I discovered the message. Below is just a summary of why. I always find it interesting to review other positions. I have also been discussing this with another christian, who is not in the message, so it has been rolling around in my mind lately.
I actually see a couple of different questions coming out of this discussion / doctrine:
1. Is Hell eternal?
2. Is the existence of a soul or person eternal in Hell?
This is an important distinction, but one that isn't usually split up when discussing the doctrine of eternal hell.
Most of the scriptures pointed to when supporting an eternal hell position are speaking about the place of hell or the nature of that place. This includes the one that you referenced:Matthew 25:41
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:
It is important to note that it is the "fire" in this verse that is referenced as "everlasting". Not the person or soul in Hell.
So far, the only verse I can come up with that remotely speaks about someone existing in hell eternally is the following:Mark 9:44
where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’
This is stated (3) times in Mark 9.
Now the question is... what does "their worm does not die.." mean. I am not sure at this point. This is what is said about the word "worm" in that verse per http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lex ... 4663&t=KJV
worm = "1) a worm, spec. that kind which preys upon dead bodies"
However we have these (2) very strong verses pointing to an end of the soul who does not believe:Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Here is the definition of "destroy" in the above verse: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lex ... G622&t=KJV
1) to destroy
a) to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin
b) render useless
c) to kill
d) to declare that one must be put to death
e) metaph. to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell
f) to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed
2) to destroy
a) to loseJames 5:20
let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
There is also Hebrews 10:39 which speaks of perdition (destruction) in contrast to the "saving of soul".Hebrews 10:39
But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
And the most ironic verse in this debate, John 3:16 which contrasts those who believe unto eternal life, with those who don't believe as "perishing" or destruction.John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Thus here are the problems, or challenges for the position of an "eternal hell" in my opinion:
1. In the final analysis, isn't God the only one that is "eternal". I realize that one of the words used for the fire was "eternal" or "everlasting" but doesn't that go against what we know about God being the only person or thing without beginning or without end. How could hell have the same eternal nature as God?
2. Hell was a place that was "prepared". This speak of a creation point it would seem...
3. What kind of an existence or "life" do the people have who are in Hell? Do they also have "everlasting life" which one would presume you would have to have in order to exist "everlasting"? Perhaps they have a different kind of consciousness?
4. What is the "2nd death"? In our common understanding, "death" means to cease to exist. Thus when death strikes the human body on earth, the individual ceases to exist in this present "realm" or form. What does the 2nd death bring to the unbeliever? Is the concept of death changed in the "2nd death"?
5. What kind of body will they have? 1 Cor 15 clearly states that our mortal bodies must put on immortality. Surely unbelievers will not put on immortality, othewise they too would say “Death is swallowed up in victory.”, right?1 Cor 54
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
6. 1 Cor 15 also outlines the difference between those who are "alive" and those who are "dead". Only those who are in Christ will be "alive".1 Cor 15: 22-23
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
One has to be "in Christ" to be "made alive". The context of the chapter is going from the earthly to the heavenly body and state. This ends up matching the verbiage of Rev 20 when the sea and ground give up "the dead" and "the dead" stand before the great white throne judgement. They are not considered "alive"... whatever the true meaning of that might be...??
This topic actually sparks quite a fascinating study. Especially 1 Corinthians 15!