Annihilationism is the belief that the final fate of those who are not saved by Christ is a final death and destruction (the end of existence for that being). It runs counter to the mainstream traditional Christian understanding of hell as eternal suffering and separation from God. The punishment is eternal (can not be undone) but the suffering is limited (eventually one ceases to exist). Hell may still be used for the punishment of sin, but the punishment will not last forever, eventually the unsaved are destroyed. Only those saved by Christ will experience eternal life.
Within the broader ideas of Annihilationism there can be two different understandings of the natural state of the human soul
- Conditional Immortality – The Human Soul is naturally mortal, which means that without Christ’s intervention one can not have eternal life (in heaven or hell). So God does not destroy what would live on otherwise.
- Unconditional Immortality – the Human soul is naturally immortal, which makes Hell the place that God extinguishes what would be an eternal soul
You can read more about this topic in various post, which are categorized for you on the right side of this page.
Some Arguments for the Annihilation view of Hell
- How can one reconcile a God who is love with the eternal torture of a human being?
- How can one reconcile God’s justice with having an infinite suffering for finite sin? (Even OT justice is based on reciprocity “an eye for an eye”, let alone the teaching of Jesus)
- Can’t the traditional scriptural references to hell be interpreted to mean that the consequence of impenitence is eternal (can not be undone) but the suffering itself is not. The “flames” may last forever but nothing being burned is burning indefinitely. Not unlike scripture (Hebrews 5:9) that talks of eternal salvation, generally understood as salvation that lasts forever – not an eternal continual act of saving.
- Doesn’t scripture indicates that the wicked face total destruction, not eternal conscious suffering?
- Doesn’t scripture indicate that eternal life is something given by God to those that believe, so those who do not believe just perish and don’t live eternally anywhere. (argued by those embracing conditional immortality)
Scriptures used to defend Annihilationism
- I Timothy 6:16
- John 3:15–16; 10:28; 17:2
- Romans 2:7; 6:23
- 1 Corinthians 15:42; 50, 54
- Galatians 6:8
- 1 John 5:11
- 2 Thess 1:9
- Heb 5:9
- 2 Peter 2:6
- Deuteronomy 29:20-23
- Isaiah 5:24
- Psalm 1:4, 6
- Psalm 69:28
- Deuteronomy 29:20
- Heb 6:8
- Jude 1:7
- Isaiah 33:11
- Matt. 7:13
- Matt. 10:28
- James 4:12
- 2 Peter 2:3
- 1 Tim. 6:9
- Phil. 3:18–19
- 1 Cor. 3:17
- 1 Thess. 5:3
Possible Resources for this topic
- Hell on Trial, Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1995
- Harold E. Guillebaud, The Righteous Judge, privately printed, 1964
- Basil F. C. Atkinson, Life and Immortality, privately printed, n. d., c. 1968
- Edward William Fudge, The Fire That Consumes
- Edward William Fudge & Robert A. Peterson Two Views On Hell
- Crockett, Gundry, Walvoord, Hayes, Pinnock Four Views on Hell
- As well as resources linked to in the right hand column under Pro-Annihilationist views of Hell