Punishment does not mean torture. The laws of the land provide for the punishment of wrongdoers, and the duration of that punishment is according to the enormity of the crime. If a man steals his neighbor’s chickens, the duration of his punishment would probably be a few days in prison. If he burns his neighbor’s house, the duration of his punishment would probably be a term of years in prison. If he takes his neighbor’s life, the duration of his punishment is death. There is no limitation to that punishment. It is a lasting one—one that does not end. So those who go into destruction suffer a punishment that is everlasting; therefore everlasting punishment.
This punishment the Apostle plainly describes as destruction. (2 Thessalonians 1:9) It is certain that they do not get life, because the Lord plainly says in this statement that the righteous, the obedient ones, go away into life eternal. The final fate of the wicked, therefore, is an everlasting destruction; whereas the final state of the obedient and righteous ones is life everlasting in peace and in joy.
The great ransom-sacrifice presented in heaven by the Lord Jesus is a guarantee that every man must have one full and fair opportunity for life. Life is pictured as a gift. In order for a gift to be effective there must be a giver or donor, and a receiver or donee. The giver must be willing to give; the receiver must have knowledge that the thing is offered and must be willing to accept. There must be two parties, the giver and the receiver; and there must be knowledge on the part of both. For this reason we read: “This is good and acceptable before God, our Savior, who desires all men to be saved, and to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth”. (1 Timothy 2:3,4, Diaglott) The salvation here mentioned is effected by the great ransom-price which constitutes the price of deliverance. Then all must come to a knowledge of this fact and either accept it or reject it, just as one who is offered a gift must either receive or reject. Hence the Apostle writes: “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life”. (Romans 5:18) “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Romans 6:23.
As further proof that all must have an opportunity, St. John wrote: “He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”. (1 John 2:2) The word “our” as used in this text means the class to which St. John belonged, namely, the church, the Christ; whereas the world includes all the race of mankind. The statement, then, is that the ransom was provided for all. Furthermore, when Jesus was born, it was announced by the angel of heaven: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”. (Luke 2:10) Furthermore, God’s promise to Abraham was that in him and his seed all the families and nations of the earth should be blessed. (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:8) Hence all must have an opportunity for such blessing.