Some years ago a friend pointed out a startling anomaly in a well known passage of scripture dealing with judgment and punishment. Specifically, he noted that Matthew 25:31-46 in the KJV expressly describes a judgment, followed by assignment to eternal punishment or eternal life. Shockingly, the basis for judgment is clearly stated to be the performance of acts of benevolence specifically aimed at the impoverished, the sick, the stranger (immigrant maybe), and the prisoner (criminal perhaps). How many of us want to stake our eternal destiny on our performance in these areas and our commitment to these elements of our society?
Whatever this judgment involved, it apparently did not depend on adherence to any present day church creed. The practice of benevolence, as described here, is actually independent of any particular religion. There is no apparent reason why even an atheist couldn’t pass muster under this standard.
If eternal punishment as given here refers to being cast into Hell as Orthodoxy contends, then the basis for escape from that fate is clearly not what the church teaches. If this judgment does not deal with consignment to Heaven or Hell, then the term eternal punishment is not indicative of hellfire as we have been led to believe traditionally. In either case, the need for re-evaluation of the doctrine of eternal punishment is clear and compelling.