Rejoicing at the Sight of People Suffering in Hell (Have J.P. Holding, Dave Armstrong, James White, Steve Hays, studied this topic as deeply as TCJ?)

For centuries, Christians believed that the heavenly few would see and even rejoice at the sufferings of hell’s multitude. As Paul Johnson [himself a defender of Christianity] admitted in A History of Christianity, “This displeasing notion was advanced and defended with great tenacity over several centuries, and was one of the points Catholics and orthodox Calvinists had in common.”

The idea is still being defended today in Trevor C. Johnson's thesis composed for his master's degree in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in 2004. (Johnson is also a loving and faithful Christian missionary, husband, and parent serving the Lord in a potentially dangerous mission field.) I would like some Evangelical Christian apologists on the web to read Johnson's master's thesis which is now online (and also offered at -- note the three positive reviews from fellow Christians), and explain either why you agree with it, or disagree with it, and if you disagree, how such a notion came to be derived from various Biblical stories and verses, and also came to be defended from the philosophical necessity of heaven's occupants remaining joyful (no tears in heaven) and knowledgable concerning God's decisions, and view such decisions as praiseworthy such that there are not the least bit of doubt nor lack of joy at viewing such decisions in action.



Yvette said...

Don't forget Rapturists, who delight in the idea of watching the destruction of Apocolypse from Heaven. Sickening, how so many Christians delight in suffering.

franith said...

Woah. This guy needs to get out more.

from page 119:

An Objection:
But the above interpretation of this “gnashing of teeth” would mean that the wicked have no concern for one another at all in hell. Luke 16:19-21 seems to contradict this. What about the rich man who sought to prevent his brothers from entering hell?
A Reply:
But for what reason did the rich man attempt to warn his brothers? The Rich Man sought his brothers, not for their sake, but for his own. As one ember heats another, the souls in hell will contribute to one another’s misery.
John Bunyan:
I do believe there is scarce so much love in any of the damned in hell as really to desire the salvation of any. But in that there is any desire in them that are damned, that their friends and relations should not come into that place of torment, it appears to me to be rather for their own ease than for their neighbour's good.

Application to this life:
The wicked gnash their teeth at God and one another in the next life. They do the same, however, in this life. The actions of the mouth display the tendency of the soul. All the more reason to restrain one’s tongue in this life.

Wow. wow. this guy has sat at his desk and thought about hell a LOT.

Anonymous said...

This thesis will demonstrate two main truths:

First:That those in heaven will, in fact, know of and probably even visually behold those in hell.

Second:That this knowledge and sight of the condemned dead is not troubling to the saints, but rather gives more cause for praises.

This is sick theology!

Unknown said...

"But for what reason did the rich man attempt to warn his brothers? The Rich Man sought his brothers, not for their sake, but for his own. As one ember heats another, the souls in hell will contribute to one another’s misery."

How did he come to this conclusion? I don't think a reading of the verses in question suggests that the rich man's only concern was his own well-being. It actually looks like TCJ is just "shoehorning" here.

"Wow. wow. this guy has sat at his desk and thought about hell a LOT."

Haha, yeah, it's pretty amazing, isn't it?

Ty said...

This thesis is a strong display of narcisistic and anti-social personality disorder traits. However, I am thankful for guys like this. These kind of sick people ultimately led me to see my own sickness and leave all of this nonsese behind.

John said...

I'm ashamed that I use to believe this myself. In fact this is one of the main things that pushed me away from the Bible.

Scott said...

This is one of the logical problems with the idea of heaven, hell and omni / infinite anythings.

If heaven is to be a sufficient carrot and hell enough of a deterrent for us to believe in God, heaven must represent infinite happiness and hell must mean infinite suffering. But infinity in one particular aspect, is not logically possible.

That which would be infinite must be without borders and definition. Otherwise, now can it truly be infinite?

Kind of destroys the whole idea of Love being Gods message when one must be infinitely happy in heaven about loved ones being infinitely unhappy in hell.

Unknown said...

What is the proper name for the doctrine that the saints will witness and enjoy the suffering of the damned?

Anonymous said...

This perverse dreck illustrates what I've long maintained: Calvinism is devil worship. I also note that the deity portrayed here is infinitely far from the sprit of some of Jesus' parables and other parts of the New Testament which identify love and forgiveness as essential qualities of God. The God of Trevor Johnson "must delight in and value Himself above anything else..." (p. 101; Johnson here quotes Matt Perman, “The Glory of God in the Problem of Evil”). In other words, the Calvinist God of Johnson (and Perman) is the ultimate narcissist. I'm confused... I could've sworn that was Satan.

James said...

This "thesis" is even more foul coming from a Calvinist who believes that the damned never could do anything about their condition.

The man is a sociopath. Perhaps Christianity is the only thing keeping him from becoming a Ted Bundy or a Jeffrey Dahmer.

I take that back ... at least Jeffrey Dahmer had some feelings of remorse for what he did.

- James

Anonymous said...

James, your link between sociopaths and Calvinists is apt. I knew two people in college who, when I questioned the idea of a Christian afterlife, responded like lunatics: "If I didn't believe in the Judgement, what would stop me from killing you right now?" I thought a rudimentary sense of decency should have sufficed, but their Santa Claus morality didn't allow for common decency. I don't recall my response; perhaps I was rendered speechless. Actually I don't think they were both Calvinists. They merely took the widespread Christian connection between morality and hell very seriously. One of those fellows is a friend who, happily, outgrew sociopathic 'morality'. I'm not sure about the other guy, but I never heard of him running amok.

This kind of 'reasoning' is deeply rooted in the traditional Christian salvation/damnation scheme, but Calvinism really puts a sharp point on it. I think Arminian evangelicals have been sufficiently humanized by post-Enlightenment civilization that they are usually at least slightly uncomfortable with the idea of hell and try to put a more humane spin on it - e.g. CS Lewis's claim that "the doors of hell are locked from the inside." But Calvinists tend to feel no discomfort about hell, and even, as we see from Trevor Johnson, revel in it. It's an internally consistent system, but a totally barbaric 'morality'.

DingoDave said...

For those who may not have the stomach to wade through this entire nauseating thesis, here are some lowlights.

This sick son of a bitch truly seems to have lost any sense of compassion or humanity that he may have ever had.
Is it any wonder why atheists view this religion with discust and distain?

"What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell."

"Hell will be within the very sight of heaven! The wicked will be cast into hell before
the eyes of the redeemed! In that awesome day pastors and congregations will stand
face to face before the bar of God and witness one another's condemnation or acquittal.
Children shall stand to witness the condemnation or acquittal of their parents. Husbands and wives shall witness one another's condemnation or acquittal. And it will be no matter of grief to the righteous to see the wicked condemned. Our tears will be over.
Our sorrows will be past. We will see them condemned. We will see the terror on their faces. We will hear their screams and cries of agony. Yet, we will not shed a tear. (Rev.21:4). Indeed, we will give our vote that you be condemned. And when you are cast
into hell, we will shout "Amen! Alleluia!" (Ps. 91:7-8).46

"Revelation 14:10-11
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and
brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: 11And the smoke of their torment will go up for ever and ever..."

"The imagery invoked here is one of the angels and Christ Himself presiding over and witnessing the punishment of the wicked. The damned had denied the Lamb, now
they must acknowledge Him as they are being punished before Him."

"The goal of every Christian believer is to be “conformed to the image of His Son”."

"Wicked men are useless in the same
manner that dead trees are not useless for beauty, though they be useful for fuel for the fire. Hell not only satisfies God’s judgment, but glorifies it exceedingly as well."

"The wicked are useful, in part, because God displays them to the inhabitants of heaven! They are useful as “portraits of God’s personality,” given to the saints by God, by which He shows Himself in all His aspects as the supreme God."

"Even in earthly affairs this principle holds true. Most do not render it as evil to rejoice over the death of evil regimes, despite the brutality of their deaths. Much rejoicing occurred at the end of World War II at the death of Hitler and the downfall of the Nazi
Third Reich. Mussolini’s bloated corpse, strung up with piano wire, was not only a testimony to the fate of brutal dictators once they are ousted but also the cause for many tears of joy. If Nazi Germany was a threat to the civilized world in a temporal aspect, how much more reprehensible are recalcitrant sinners to a pure heavenly realm? If the Allies rejoiced at the fall of the Nazi empire, how much more joyous will be the fall of this present world system?"

The rejoicing over the sight of hell is a joy over God’s good works. The joy of the saints is actually increased by this sight, which is a gift of God to the Elect!"

"One guesses at God’s will and prays for God’s grace on certain people while in this life, and yet some of these will not be saved. After the Judgment it will become clear what God has designed. To continue such prayers in heaven then would not be the “Christian” thing to do at all, but rather an evil. To pray such in heaven, and to grow discontent and weep over the lost (after Judgment), would be to express discontent and dissatisfaction over the will of God. It would be tantamount to disagreeing with God’s final verdict."

"There is a divine beauty and harmony in the doctrine of hell...The saints do not merely endure this sight. They enjoy it! Rather than merely enduring this sight of the damned as a spectacle that they must tolerate, “the misery of the damned in hell is one of those great things that the saints in their blessed and joyful state in heaven shall behold and take notice of.”

"God is often much maligned concerning hell, but He ought to be praised for it...Praise God for hell!"

"The church militant (persecuted and struggling) will be at last the church triumphant. Just as liberated peoples and triumphant armies have their monuments, the
saints will look upon hell as a monument to their freedom and the triumph of their Deliverer."

"This investigation reveals the terror of hell and may induce sinners to attempt to avoid it by showing how little pity there will be extended to those in that eternal state. There will be no pity it seems from any party. There will be none from God, the angels, fellow man and even those whom the sinner has known and loved in life."

"If the heavenly saints are aware of the wicked in hell, see them and rejoice over their punishments, it appears that these are no longer persons to be grieved over and prayed about but instead, are enemies."

I think that I'll go and take a shower now. I feel dirty for having been exposed to such moral filth.

DingoDave said...

I just noticed something while reading the product description at ;

"Publisher: Pleasant Word - A Division of WinePress Publishing (November 4, 2005)"

Note the name of the publisher.
How's that for irony?

Harry H. McCall said...

I read though Trevor C. Johnson's thesis for is M.A. in Biblical Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary and I was surprised this even qualified for a M.A. thesis in “Biblical Studies” and not a review of the doctrine of Hell as a development in Protestant historical theology.

Any advisor on the staff directing this thesis this Reform Seminary should be held accountable for accepting a research paper topic whose “study” reads more like a sophomore’s term paper that a master’s thesis.

Here are a few major problems I found with this paper:

A. He has very limited knowledge of Patristic texts and early Christian literature. A good study here would have been the doctrine of eternal punishment in Origen.

B. No exegetical word studies in: 1. Greek = Gehenna (as used in Hellenistic Greek) and Hades and Tartarus (as used in Classical Greek such as Homer and Hesiod’s “Theogony“); 2. Hebrew= Sheol (the place of ALL the Semitic departed both in Israelites and other Semitic neighbors) and how this word (Hell) was translated by the LXX (Septuagint) which is basically a running commentary on the Hebrew text. The LXX is highly important since its Greek theology (and not the Hebrew text with it‘s theology), shaped the ideas about the afterlife in the New Testament.

C. Other than a brief reference to I Enoch, there is totally NO study on how the doctrine of eternal punishment (Hell) as it developed in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrahpa. This area of study alone would be a thesis on the development of eternal punishment in and of its self.

For example, exactly how did a place UNDER the earth like Sheol where ALL the dead went in the Semitic world, become a place where ONLY the non-Christians went; to a place third place now located ABOVE the earth (Heaven ) where only the righteous Christians go? !

The fact that Jesus descends to Hell to free the “Old Testament saints” ( 1 Peter 3: 18 - 22) implies that Jesus’ preaching made instant Christians out of those righteous Jews who wanted to escape the torments in Hell / Tartarus. This type theology helped fuel the killing of the Jewish people or their forced conversion in Christendom.

D. He totally lost me on the reason he felt Jonathan Edwards and other seventeenth century divines (with their limited knowledge of the text and languages of the Jewish / Christian world (200 BCE - 200CE)) could be of any help to prove his case. In the Protestant tradition in early America we have the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science and Unitarianism all rejected the view of eternal punishment.

E. His bibliography is highly limited and simply put; pathetic!

I blame the graduate professors at the Reformed Theological Seminary more that I blame Rev. Johnson for this naive and limited term paper. This book will have a very limited audience and, in the end, it will only be preaching to the Dan Marvin type choir!

It is in just such studies that atheist find that the Reformed Christian community is their own worst ignorant enemy!

SteveJ said...

Well said, Harry. The conservative wing of the Reformed Faith (to which I once belonged) is frozen in another century -- a much more backward one. That tradition eyes all newer scholarship and all ideas outside the familiar "old paths" with the utmost suspicion. If it was good enough for ol' Charlie Spurgeon, it's good enough for them.

It's disturbing that the Christian church at large has settled dogmatically on "endless torments." Its status as a fundamental doctrine makes people think that the New Testament is replete with references to never-ending suffering. But the teaching is fairly obscure. There's probably more textual evidence for the annihilation of the wicked or for universal redemption than there is for the traditional view.

Not that anyone here cares all that much about Christian in-house debates, of course.

SteveJ said...

By the way, I looked this up on and noticed there were three reviews -- all positive.

Anonymous said...

Steve wrote:
There's probably more textual evidence for the annihilation of the wicked or for universal redemption than there is for the traditional view.

Good point. To anyone interested in pursuing that thought, I have the perfect reference:

'Three Pictures of God in Western Theology' by Tom Talbott.

Talbott is a magnificent exponent of universalism and a pleasant antidote in the ranks of Christianity to people like Trevor Johnson.

Harry H. McCall said...

Stevejones stated: “By the way, I looked this up on and noticed there were three reviews -- all positive.”

Not anymore more! I just added my review which should be published by Amazon tomorrow (June 24, ‘08).

SteveJ said...

Just read your review, Harry. It's a scorcher. Nice work!

TandT said...


Thank you for the nice words you said about me.

Yes, for centuries Christians have believed the very same thing that my thesis proposes - though in the last 150 years these beliefs have largely gone out of style.

God is sovereign and absolutely holy and cannot tolerate the sin of fallen man. If these doctrines seem terrible, it is not because God is terrible, but because the nature of mankind is full of murder and wars.

We are terrible. God is just.

The doctrine of the total depravity of man is the most empirically verifiable doctrine in all of human history.

If others could read our moment-by-moment thoughts - even the thoughts of "moral" men - and our imaginations were always on display via television screens, how repulsed others might be at even our occasional thoughts if they knew them all and could see them all at every moment.

God sees all of our thoughts at every moment.

God is a just judge who must punish sin, but the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus voluntarily took the place of all who would believe and fulfilled the justice of God in our stead, taking our punishment upon Himself. In this the love of God is made manifest.

Those who posted the negative reviews of my work at Amazon, also I give thanks to you for giving me feedback by which I can improve my writing.

I can assure you that I am not a "sociopath" or a sadist. My wife and I are actually missionaries. A large part of our longing is this; trying to increase the education and health care of poor, indigenous people. We are not doing this in order to try to earn merit for heaven or win brownie points with God, but we are compelled by the love of Christ and also a love for fellow man. If God has been so kind to us, we ought to be kind to all who bear the image of God, every person, because each possesses a special dignity and worth.

If you are bothered or angry at me, please email me and let us dialogue. If you are a loving person, you will seek to correct my errors and engage me on a deeper level than mere name-calling. Let us try to understand each other better, in the spirit of love and tolerance. I appreciate and value your insights.

Particular thanks goes to Harry McCall who gave me specific ways in which my book is deficient, so that I may improve my next effort. Yes, Mr. McCall, I did not attempt an exhaustive academic work. And you are right, I did not treat many subjects deeply enough. Mr. McCall, I would urge you, however, not to dismiss my beliefs merely because this deficient man attempts to defend them. A true theory may be true even if the man defending them is stupid, and so please dismiss me if you will, but please consider the reality of eternal hell, a thing that many smarter men than I have defended.

I realize that if you are an atheist my proposition that God gains glory even from the exercise of His justice upon the wicked in hell (His justice and wrath being expressed and His holiness, which cannot tolerate sin, being magnified)must be a repulsive thought.

Know that I do not seek to offend you merely to be offensive. If you were sick, I would do my all to heal you. If you were poor and destitute, I would give of my own savings to help you. And if your house was on fire I would try to urge you as lovingly as I could to flee from the fire that will destroy you.

I would invite any of you to further engage me directly me about my "hellish" book at my email oct31st1517 at hotmail dot com.

Warm blessings,

Trevor Johnson