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Category Archives: Pro-Annihilationist View of Hell

Jeff Cook on the intellect’s role in thinking theologically

                                * copied from Jesus Creed
Jeff teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado, pastors Atlas Church (Greeley), and is the author of Seven: the Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes (Zondervan, 2008) and Everything New (2012).

Hell is making us all think really hard about God. In order to push our thinking I am working through a few big ideas in Dr. Preston Sprinkle and Francis Chan’s recent book,Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity and What We Have Made Up. I have deep admiration and respect for these two men. They strike me as kind and thoughtful, and their book is worthy of our careful reading and engagement.

In the ad for the book, Chan said, “When we make statements like, “Well God wouldn’t do this would he?” Do you understand that at that moment you are actually putting God’s actions in submission to your reasoning?” And Dr. Sprinkle, in a recent comment on this blog, said, “I almost get the sense that, according to your posts, [taking God at his word] is not necessarily a good thing if his word doesn’t sit well with us. But this seems to be a crazy high view of our intellect.” These two statements summarize well an attitude many of us have when reading the Bible. Isn’t the Bible written to common people like me? Isn’t the message clear? If I read the Bible with a right heart aren’t the Bible’s truths easily understood and unavoidable?

In order to advance its most important claims, Erasing Hell applies such a perspective to the traditional interpretation of passages on hell. It says, “Scripture is filled with divine actions that don’t fit our human standards of logic or morality…We need to stop trying to domesticate God or confine Him to tidy categories and compartments that reflect our human sentiments rather than his inexplicable ways. We serve a God whose ways are incomprehensible, who thoughts are not like our thoughts” (135).

Lumping together both what the authors see as the “incomprehensible” horror of divinely mandated genocide and the “incomprehensible” goodness of the crucified Jesus, the writers say, “It’s incredibly arrogant to pick and choose which incomprehensible truths we embrace. No one wants to ditch God’s plan of redemption, even though it doesn’t make sense to us. Neither should we erase God’s revealed plan of punishment because it doesn’t sit well with us. As soon as we do this, we are putting God’s actions in submission to our own reasoning, which is a ridiculous thing for [created beings] to do” (136).

Is this right? Can the intellect be set aside? Can we avoid putting God’s word/actions/character in submission to our reasoning when reading the Bible? I don’t think so. Let me give an example of why we must think hard about *how* we read the Bible, or else we will lose the proper understanding of the Bible.

In American Christianity, one school of thought says that the Bible ought to be read as a narrative. That is, we engage the scripture as the ever-moving story God is telling about himself. Another school of thoughts suggests we read the Bible as a legal document—that the binding truths articulated in the flow of the text apply to all people at all times. Still another school suggests we read the Bible through our stories, our situation, allowing the language to be God’s personal word to us. Of course, these schools can read the Bible in similar and complementary ways, but they will eventually hit some disagreements. For example, when asking whether or not women should speak in church, those affirming the narrative-reading may say that passages restricting the speaking of women were teachings for a specific community, in a specific city, that had specific problems. The legal document Bible reader may object that rejection of such passages is unacceptable for it is a clear teaching in the text. The one reading the scripture exclusively in light of their own situation may go either way depending on the women in her community and how much they annoy her.

How we choose to read the Bible deeply affects what the Bible says. There are no theory independent readings of the Bible. Our theories will move the text despite our best efforts. So what should we do? This is where the intellect is vital and to minimize it in our arguments is to leave the meaning of the scriptures susceptible to those with a bully pulpit, immense charisma, or more sinister still—our own misguided desires for the text to say something it does not (as Sprinkle rightly cautions).

Since arguing about “how” we ought to read the scripture is both good and unavoidable, we can reject the claim that “As soon as we [erase eternal conscious torment], we are putting God’s actions in submission to our own reasoning, which is a ridiculous thing for [us] to do” (136). This is a self-defeating misstep. The authors are asking us through reasoning about God’s actions to reject reasoning about God’s actions.

As such, those who affirm the unavoidable role of the intellect in Bible reading and rejectErasing Hell’s conclusions might say: I see an argument clearly that affects my reading of scripture as significantly as the arguments for valuing author’s intent, or reading the Bible as narrative, or even the arguments for seeing the scripture as God’s inspired word. The argument goes something like this:

1.     If God exists, he is exceedingly generous, compassionate, and creative.

2.     If God exists, he knows the future of any world he actualizes.

3.     A being who is exceedingly generous, compassionate, and creative will not actualize a world he knows will culminate in the everlasting incarceration and torment of a human soul.

Given 1-3, If God exists, he will not actualize a world in which a human soul will suffer in torment for eternity.

Because the intellect is unavoidable in our reading of scripture, and because eternal conscious torment is logically inconsistent with God’s attributes in the argument above—it seems obligatory to reject the traditional interpretation of passages showcasing hell. If such arguments are valid, the Bible *must* be teaching something different than eternal conscious torment, or else the Bible is not displaying the God who is real.

There is a  lot to commend in Erasing Hell—the advocation of annihilationism, the first and second century analysis of non-biblical texts, the pastoral heart and care for the damned, the honest wrestling with a massively difficult topic that has real consequences. All these are praise-worthy! And given the arguments above, I can conclude my review with the same hermeneutically-informative line as Erasing Hell.

“Will not the judge of the earth do what is just?”

 

Henri Nouwen on Hell & Death

“Is everybody finally going to be all right? Are all people ultimately going to be free from misery and all their needs fulfilled? Yes and no! Yes, because God wants to bring us home into God’s Kingdom. No, because nothing happens without our choosing it. The realization of the Kingdom of God is God’s work, but for God to make God’s love fully visible in us, we must respond to God’s love with our own love.  There are two kinds of death: a death leading us into God’s Kingdom, and a death leading us into hell. John in his vision saw not only heaven but also hell. He says, “The legacy for cowards, for murderers and the sexually immoral, and for sorcerers, worshippers of false gods or any other sort of liars, is the second death in the burning lake of sulphur” (Revelation 21:8). We must choose for God if we want to be with God.”…..

 

“Hell is a second death. This is what the Book of Revelation says (see Revelation 21:8). Just as there is an eternal life, there is an eternal death. Eternal life is a second life; eternal death is a second death. Our first death can be a passage not only to eternal life but also to eternal death.

Looking at hell as a second death takes away the images of eternal suffering and torture that are so prevalent in medieval art and literature. It defines hell more as the refusal to choose life than as a punishment for wrongdoing. In fact, the sins that the Book of Revelation mentions as leading to eternal death are choices for death: murdering, worshipping obscenities, sexual immorality, lying, and so on (see Revelation 21:8). When we sow death we will reap death. But when we sow life we will reap life. It is we who do the sowing!”

– Henri Nouwen “The Road to Peace”

 

The Final End of the Wicked by: Edward Fudge

You can download the PDF of this paper here

THE FINAL END OF THE WICKED by Edward Fudge*

Today, as a growing host of evangelical (and other) scholars bear witness, the evidence for the wicked’s final total destruction (rather than the traditional view of unending conscious torture, which sprang from pagan Platonic theories of immortal, indestructible souls) is finally getting some of the attention it de- mands. Because nearly all of us have completely skirted the relevant material on this subject far too long, I would like to present a concise summary of the case against traditionalism’s conscious unending torment and at the same time the case for the total, ultimate, everlasting extinction of the wicked. The “second death” involves an eternal graveyard around which we can no longer merrily whistle.

Jesus once said of some people: “They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Whoever honors him as God’s Son and our Savior must receive his teachings as from God. Jesus’ words will never pass away (Matt 24:35); they will judge us on the last day (John 12:48).

The question at stake is not, therefore, whether the wicked will suffer “eter- nal punishment.” It is rather of what that punishment consists. Is it, as many Christian preachers since the third century have assumed, unending conscious torture of body and/or soul? Or is it, to use the words of Paul, “everlasting de- struction”—in the most ordinary sense of those words (2 Thess 1:9)? Like most readers of JETS I had always assumed the former, until a year￿long research project forced me to change my mind. Here I will simply summarize some of the pertinent evidence that study uncovered, which I present for the reader’s consideration.

I. T H E TRADITIONAL POSITION

The traditional position of conscious unending torment is easy to summarize and is perhaps best stated in recent years by Harry Buis.1 The traditional doc- trine rests on three arguments: (1) that the OT is, generally speaking, silent on the subject; (2) that the doctrine of conscious unending torment developed during the intertestamental years and came, by Jesus’ time, to be “the commonly￿ac- cepted Jewish view” (it is said therefore that we ought to read Jesus and the NT writers with a presumption that they and their original hearers all held to the doctrine of unending conscious torment); (3) that the NT language on the subject requires us to conclude that God will make the wicked immortal for the purpose of torturing them alive forever without end.

If these three points were true, the traditionalist would have a solid case indeed. The multitude of evidence available today (and presented in detail, both Biblical and historical, in The Fire That Consumes2) does not allow us that easy assumption. All three traditional premises prove rather to be false. The tradi- tional doctrine turns out, upon historical investigation, to be a pollution from paganism via the apologists and their followers and not at all the clear teaching of Scripture. The following is a summary of that evidence.

II. THE OLD TESTAMENT SPEAKS

Is the OT silent concerning the wicked’s final fate? Indeed it is not. It over- whelmingly affirms their total destruction. It never affirms or even hints at any- thing resembling conscious unending torment. The OT uses about 50 different Hebrew verbs to describe this fate, and about 70 figures of speech. Without exception they portray destruction, extinction or extermination. Not one of the verbs or word-pictures remotely suggests the traditional doctrine.

The wicked will become like a vessel broken to pieces (Ps 2:9), ashes trodden underfoot (Mai 4:3), smoke that vanishes (Ps 37:20), chaff carried away by the wind (1:4), a slug that melts (58:8), straw that is burned (Isa 1:31), thorns and stubble in the fire (33:12), wax that melts (Ps 68:2) or a dream that vanishes (73:20). The traditionalist view has to deny that the wicked will ever become like any of those things and affirm that they will indeed be what none of those pic- tures portrays: an everlasting spectacle of indestructible material in an unending fire.

The Psalms repeatedly say that the wicked will go down to death, their mem- ory will perish and they will be as though they had never been. The righteous on the other hand will be rescued by God from death and then will enjoy him forever (Ps 9; 21:4-10; 36:9-12; 49:8-20; 52:5-9; 59; 73; 92). Proverbs likewise warns that the wicked will pass away, be overthrown, be cut off, be no more, their lamp put out (Prov 2:21-22; 10:25; 12:7; 24:15-20). We certainly do not see that happen in this life.

The historical books show us actual examples of God’s judgments against sin. When the first world became too wicked to continue, God wiped every living creature outside the ark from the face of the earth (Gen 6:7; 7:4). This is a model, Scripture says, for the fiery judgment awaiting the lost at the eschaton (2 Pet 2:5; 3:3-7; Matt 24:38-39). When Sodom became too sinful to endure, God rained down fire and brimstone (burning sulfur) from heaven, obliterating the entire wicked population and even the vegetation, in a moment so terrible the rest of the Bible memorializes it as an example and prototype of divine judgments within history and also at the end of the world (Gen 19:24-29; Deut 29:23; Isa 1:9; 13:19-22; Jer 49:18; 50:40; Lam 4:6; Amos 4:11; Zeph 2:9; Luke 17:28-33; 2 Pet 2:6; Jude 7, 23).

The prophets also speak of God’s wrath against sinners. Details of actual judgments against cities and nations become later symbols for the ultimate di- vine visitation. These prophetic scenes provide much of the later vocabulary of

judgment: fire and storm, tempest and darkness, wrath and corpses and worms (Zeph 1:14-18; Isa 66:16-24; Ezek 39:9-22; Dan 12:2). Some of these scenes de- scribe the final judgment of the lost at the end of the world. There we meet utter contempt, worms and fire, taking their last toll. Nothing remains in these pic- tures of the wicked but ashes: The righteous tread over them with their feet (Mai 4:3) or survey their abhorrent corruption in progress (Dan 12:2; Isa 66:24). The wicked become, in short, as though they had never been (Obad 16).

No, the OT is not silent concerning the end of the wicked. It appears silent to the traditionalist only because it says nothing he expected to find. It is silent, however, about unending conscious torture. But it speaks volumes concerning that penalty first threatened in the Garden of Eden: Those who sin will “surely die” (Gen 3:3; Ezek 18:4).

III. BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS

The traditionalist is correct that his doctrine developed during the time be- tween the Testaments, but modern research totally destroys his presupposition that unending conscious torment was “the” Jewish view held by the earliest readers and writers of the NT Scriptures. We cannot be harsh in blaming earlier interpreters for erring at this point, for it was not until our century that English readers had access to much of the pertinent literature involved.3 It is inexcus- able, however, for modern writers to repeat that earlier error in light of the material now handily available. In the following paragraphs I simply summarize the diversity of Jewish views that literature reveals on this subject.4

The apocryphal books of 1 Esdras, 3 Maccabees, 1 Baruch, Epistle of Jere- miah, Prayer of Manasseh and the additions to Daniel and Esther are silent on this subject. The books of Tobit, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees and the Wisdom of Solomon agree thoroughly with the OT as they anticipate the total destruction of the wicked.

The first appearance of conscious unending torment in anything resembling Biblical literature comes in the apocryphal book of Judith (16:17). There the Jew- ish heroine warns: “Woe to the nations that rise up against my race. The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment, to put fire and worms in their flesh. And they shall weep and feel their pain forever.”

The words “fire” and “worms” here come from Isa 66:24, but Judith com- pletely changes Isaiah’s picture. The prophet has unburied corpses; Judith has consciously-tortured people. Isaiah’s fire and worms destroy; Judith’s simply tor- ment. In Isaiah the fire and worms are external agents consuming their dead victims; in Judith they are internal agonies perpetually torturing from within. In Isaiah (and all the OT) the victims are destroyed; in Judith they “feel their pain forever.” This is clearly the traditionalist picture of hell. But it never appears in the OT even once. And this is the first time it appears in even the Apocrypha.

The testimony of the Pseudepigrapha (a growing list of Jewish and sometimes Christian-edited works, c. 200 B.C.-A.D. 100) is even more mixed. Some of these works say the wicked will totally pass away (Sibylline Oracles, fragments of a

Other pseudepigraphal works are ambiguous on this point (Assumption of Moses, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Life of Adam and Eve). Others are inconsistent (Jubilees, 1 Enoch, 2 Baruch). And some anticipate the conscious unending pain of the traditionalist view (2 Enoch, 4 Maccabees), though some modern scholars do not even concede that much.

IV. A T THE TIME OF JESUS

The intertestamental literature offers us a rich variety of Jewish expectation regarding the end of sinners. There is clearly no such thing as “the” Jewish view on this topic. Everlasting conscious torment has its advocates, though statisti- cally the evidence is far heavier on the side of ultimate extinction. This destruc- tion is sometimes seen as accomplished by fire, and sometimes it is preceded by a period of conscious anguish and suffering before it is consummated in eternal extinction.

Because of this unquestionable range of Jewish opinion, we cannot continue to presume a single attitude among first-century Jews on this subject. We cannot go on reading Jesus’ words, or those of the NT writers, with presuppositions based on a supposed “uniform Jewish view.” We must categorically deny the common notion (which traditionalist authors constantly repeat) that Jesus’ hear- ers all held to conscious unending torment and would have heard his cryptic sayings with that sole presupposition. W e must do what traditionalist authors have never yet done—study the NT language at face value, determining its meaning according to the ordinary accepted methods and disciplines of proper Biblical exegesis.

V. THE NT LANGUAGE ON THE SUBJECT

Does the teaching of Jesus and the NT writers require us to expect the con- scious unending torment of the wicked? Not unless we ignore the entire OT back- ground to the NT vocabulary involved, then proceed to give to the NT language later definitions imported from pagan Platonic philosophy during the centuries following.

This was one of the most exasperating parts of my year of research. Over and over again I was amazed to see how traditionalist writers took NT words and phrases out of their setting—as if they had no OT background at all—and then forced on them a meaning found nowhere in Scripture. This habit of eisegesis began in the late second century and has generally continued unchallenged until today. A few examples will have to suffice.

1. Unquenchablefire. Traditionalists assume that “unquenchable fire” means “unending conscious torment.” They do not acknowledge that this expression comes from the OT, where it has the frequent and regular sense of “destruction that cannot be resisted.” “Quench” means to “extinguish” or “put out” a fire. The psalmist, for instance, says he will quench his enemies’ fire (Ps 118:12), and Heb 11:34 mentions heroes of faith who were able to “quench the violence of fire.” But God’s fire of punishment cannot be quenched or put out, and so he

warns cities and nations in many places (Isa 1:31; 34:10￿11; Jer 4:4; 7:20; 17:27; 21:12; Ezek 20:47￿48; Amos 5:5￿6).

Jesus warns the same in Mark 9:43, 48 when he speaks of the horrible place of punishment where “the fire is not quenched.” And what does fire do to its vic- tims if it is not extinguished? It burns them up—exactly as John the Baptist announced concerning sinners’ doom in his word about Jesus’ eschatological wrath: “He will clear his threshing floor . . . burning up the chaff with unquench- able fire” (Matt 3:12).

2. Undying worms. What of “the worm that does not die” (Mark 9:48)? For centuries, traditionalist interpreters have ignored the Biblical background of this phrase and have made it mean everything from a tormenting conscience to an everlasting parasite. The Bible itself, however, provides ample definition. Our Lord’s expression comes directly from Isa 66:24, which may be the most ignored Biblical passage on final punishment even though its language might be used most often.

The language of Isaiah 66 is figurative, prophetic symbolism. God executes judgment “with fire and with his sword” (v 16). When the visitation is ended, “many will be those slain by the Lord” (v 16b). The wicked “will meet their end together” (v 17). The righteous, on the other hand, “endure” (v 22). “All man-

kind” comes to worship God—the wicked are no more (v 23). This is the setting of the crucial ν 24: “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” Note that the righteous “go out and look” at the dead bodies of the wicked. This symbolic picture of the future may well reflect an actual incident Isaiah witnessed, when God defeated the army of Assyria in answer to Hezekiah’s prayer (2 Kgs 18:17￿19:36; Isa 36￿37). That night, Isaiah himself reports, “the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty￿five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!” (Isa 37:36).

Now Isaiah says the same scene will be reproduced on a vaster scale at the end of time. In the historical event of the prophet’s day (37:36) and in the pro- phetic picture of the future (66:24), the righteous view with satisfaction “dead bodies” or “corpses” of the wicked. These are dead bodies (Hebrew p’ëgârîm), not living people or imperishable zombies. The righteous view their destruction, not their misery. The prototype to this viewing of enemies who have perished came at the Red Sea (Exod 14:30), and similar scenes are pictured throughout the OT (Ps 58:10; 91:8; Ezek 39:9-22; Mai 4:1-3). Both the maggots (Greek skö- këx) and the fire speak of total extinction. Both terms make this picture repulsive or loathsome—they describe disgust, not pity. The picture is one of shame, not pain (the same Hebrew word for “loathsome” in Isa 66:24 appears also in Dan 12:2, where the NIVhas “contempt”).

Traditionalists have ignored Isaiah’s picture, then interpreted Jesus as though his language had no Biblical precedent. Free from the Scriptural defini- tions, the “fire” and “worms” have (as with Judith in the Apocrypha) become something never found in the Bible. The Scriptural picture of total destruction has been replaced in traditional explanation with the pagan notion of unending conscious torture.

3. Gnashing of teeth. The phrase “grinding of teeth” appears many times in the OT (see Job 16:9; Ps 35:16; 37:12; Lam 2:16), and it always pictures someone so angry at another that he grinds his teeth in rage, like a mad animal straining at the leash. We see the same usage in the NT, where Stephen’s enemies “gnashed their teeth at him” (Acts 7:54).

Traditionalist interpretation has ignored the Biblical usage of this phrase and has homiletized instead on souls grinding their teeth eternally in excruciating pain. In the Bible, however, the teeth grind in rage, not particularly in pain- though there may well be time for that along the way. Ps 112:10 is instructive concerning the wicked’s end in this regard. The verses just before it describe the final glory of God’s people. Verse 10 then says: “The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.” Gnash his teeth as he may, the wicked man’s rage does him no good in the end. Even as he grinds his teeth, he comes to nothing (the KJV has “melt away”). Traditionalists make “gnashing of teeth” into conscious unending torment. The Bible pictures it as horrible rage—rage that is frustrated by the wicked’s own inexorable destruction.

4. Smoke that ascends. The “smoke” that “rises for ever and ever” (Rev 14:11) also deserves defining by prior Biblical usage. This picture comes from the destruction of Sodom. The Lord “rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah” (Gen 19:24) until not even vegetation survived. The next morning Abraham looked down on the site “and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace” (19:28).

It is much the same as our image of the mushroom-shaped cloud after an atomic blast. The visible smoke is a certification of accomplished destruction. There are no more cries in Sodom when Abraham views the ascending smoke. All is quiet. The sinners are all destroyed. The rising smoke testifies to their complete extinction.

The same figure reappears in Isa 34:10 of Edom’s destruction. God comes against the land with “burning sulfur” and “blazing pitch” (v 9). The fire “will not be quenched night and day” (v 10)—it is irresistible and therefore destroys completely (see the same figure in Rev 14:11). Isaiah says “its smoke will rise forever,” telling us that Edom’s destruction is not only certain (not quenched) and complete (smoke rising) but also irreversible. The desolation will be unend- ing. The verses following describe a land empty of people, the haunt of desert creatures. Conscious pain has ended there, but “its smoke will rise forever”—the extinction is perpetual.

We find the same symbol in Revelation 18-19 concerning the destruction of “Babylon.” The city is “fallen” (Rev 18:2), “consumed by fire” (18:8), and those observing “see the smoke” (18:9). Like Sodom of old, “Babylon” is utterly de- stroyed. The rising smoke testifies to that destruction. Like Edom of old, her destruction will never be reversed or undone, for “the smoke from her goes up for ever and ever” (19:3).

5. No rest day or night. Rev 14:1-5 presents John with a glorious vision of the Lamb and 144,000 of his people, the earth’s redeemed firstfruits. Three angels announce judgment in increasingly stronger language. The third angel cries with

a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will… be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb . . . There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image” (14:9-11). We have already seen the Biblical meaning of fire and brimstone (burning sulfur) as a cipher for total destruction at Sodom and Gomorrah and thereafter (Gen 19:23, 28; Deut 29:23; Job 18:15-17; Isa 30:27-33; 34:9-11; Ezek 38:22 ff.). Here the destruction occurs without respite or relief for its victims until it is finished. They have “no rest day or night” until it is over. The victims can anticipate no respite by day or by night. Their suffering is not exclusively a “daytime” activity, nor it it exclu- sively a “nighttime” activity. There is no intermission in the suffering while it continues. But the other three figures in this scene all suggest that it will finally cease, when the destruction is completed and nothing is left. Then only rising smoke will testify to the everlasting penalty that has been exacted.

6. The cup of God’s wrath. This symbol, in the scene at Rev 14:9-11, is a common figure for God’s punishment in both OT and NT (see Job 21:20; Ps 60:3; 75:8; Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 25:27-28; Obad 16; Matt 26:39). Since God prepares the drink, he also determines its potency. For some, it might represent a stroke that sends them reeling but from which they recover (Ps 60:3; Isa 51:22). For others, it may mean total and irreversible extinction. The prophets use language like this: “They will drink and drink and be as if they had never been” (Obad 16); they “drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more” (Jer 25:27). The figures combine in this passage for the strongest possible picture of punishment. The destruction is total (flaming sulfur), without respite until accomplished (no rest day or night), accomplished (smoke rising) with no hope of recovery (smoke ris- ing forever). Not all commentators understand this passage to refer to the final end of sinners, of course, and we will not argue that point either way. Whatever the case, the symbols are clear in the light of previous Biblical usage. None of them refers to unending conscious torment in regular usage, and there is no reason to think any refers to it here. They all, on the other hand, have regular prophetic significance in many passages of Scripture, and the meanings of them all converge on this description of a complete, irreversible destruction and ex- tinction forever accomplished.

7. The lake offire. The lake of fire is the Bible’s last description of final pun- ishment, and it is mentioned four times (Rev 19:20; 20:10,15; 21:8). It is the fiery lake of burning sulfur, the lake of fire and brimstone. The exact expression “lake of fire (and brimstone/burning sulfur)” does not appear anywhere else in Scrip- ture. Most seem agreed, however, that it stands for the same ultimate destiny that we commonly call “hell,” which in turn stands for the word “Gehenna,” taking its name from the literal “Valley of Hinnom” (Hebrew gè’ hinnöm) out- side Jerusalem. It is not always noted that “Gehenna” is used for the destiny of the wicked by name only in the Gospels in the NT, since it would be unfamiliar to Gentile or non-Palestinian readers who had not visited or heard of the actual site and its significance throughout history.

The nearest OT parallel to the lake of fire comes in Daniel’s dream of four beasts (Dan 7:9-12). There the Ancient of Days (whose appearance is partially

attributed to Jesus in Revelation 1) takes his seat on a throne aflame with fire (v 9). A “river of fire” comes out from his presence (v 10). The terrible fourth beast is “slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire” (v 11). This is in specific contrast to the other beasts; who are stripped of authority but are al- lowed to live for a period of time (v 12).

Unless this vision sheds light on the lake of fire in Revelation, no OT light is to be had. If the passage in Daniel is in the background here, that light reveals a fiery destruction that is expressly not a stripping of authority with the survival of life.

The four occurrences of the lake of fire in Revelation are also instructive. The beast and the false prophet are first to go there. Some interpreters see these as representative of actual persons yet to come. Others regard them as symbolic of persecuting civil government and false religion. In the latter case, the lake of fire clearly stands for their total, utter, absolute annihilation. In the former case, the question is still to be decided on some other basis.

Rev 20:7-10 builds on the imagery of Ezekiel 38-39, as Satan’s hordes sur- round the camp of God’s people but, as in Elijah’s day (2 Kings 1), are destroyed by fire from heaven. Satan, however, is “thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Again, if the beast and false prophet are personifi- cations of civil and religious powers opposing Christ, a literal interpretation of conscious unending pain would be impossible. If one’s prophetic schema sees these as actual persons yet to come, we only note that the text says nothing about human beings “tormented day and night for ever and ever.” This is the single most problematic text in the whole Bible for the extinction of all evil, even though it does not specify human beings. In view of the overwhelming mass of material otherwise found throughout Scripture, however, one ought to remem- ber the general hermeneutical rule that calls for interpreting the uncommon in light of the common and the obscure in light of the more clearly revealed.

As the vision continues, however, “death and Hades” are “thrown into the lake of fire” (v 14). More than 700 years before, Isaiah had foretold a time when God would “destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations,” when he “will swallow up death forever” (Isa 25:7-8). Paul had written: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26) and had spoken of the time when the saying will come true that “death has been swallowed up in vic- tory” (v 54). This is the consummation of God’s victory over his final foe. Death and Hades are certainly abstractions, not persons, and the lake of fire here means their annihilation. Death will be no more—forever.

Only now do we find sinners included in this dreadful fate. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (v 15). The “book of life” is a symbol based on the ancient city’s register of living citizens. Whoever is not listed among the living is instead “in the lake of fire.” John makes the identification clear: “The lake of fire is the second death” (v 14).

The next chapter repeats the fact with elaboration. Overcomers will inherit the new heavens and new earth, but all classes of sinners “will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur,” which again, John adds, “is the second death” (21:8). There is no good reason for not taking John’s explanation exactly as it stands, or for importing foreign Platonic definitions of “death” as “separation” into the dis-

cussion here. The natural sense is to be preferred, and here it could hardly be made plainer than it is. The final options are “life” or “death.” Everything else we have found throughout Scripture accords with this as well.

8. Paul’s favorite phrases. Besides all the language we have surveyed so far, Paul’s most common phrases on the subject all picture the total extinction of sinners at the end. The wicked, he warns, will die (Rom 6:21, 23), perish (2:12), be destroyed (Gal 6:8; 1 Cor 3:17; 2 Thess 1:9; Phil 1:28; 3:19; see also Jude 10). Nor will they ever come back, for this destruction is to be “everlasting” (2 Thess 1:9).

If we ignore the Bible’s own usage of its language, we can make these terms mean whatever we please. But if we let the Bible interpret itself, we have far less choice. For all of Scripture’s language on this subject leads us time and time again to the same conclusion: The wicked will finally perish completely and for- ever in hell. None of the Bible’s language suggests unending conscious torment for human beings.

VI. BUT IS THIS PUNISHMENT “ETERNAL”?

But can such irreversible extinction properly be called “eternal punishment,” such as Jesus speaks of in Matt 25:46? The question is legitimate and the answer is easy to find. Of the 70 occurrences of the adjective “eternal” in the NT, six times the word qualifies nouns signifying acts or processes rather than persons or things. The six “eternal” acts or events are salvation (Heb 5:9), judgment (6:2), redemption (9:12), sin (Mark 3:29), punishment (Matt 25:46) and destruc- tion (2 Thess 1:9).

In four of the six, “eternal” refers to the results or outcome of the action and not the action itself. “Eternal judgment” does not mean that the judging will last forever, but that its outcome will. “Eternal redemption” does not mean that the process goes on without end—for the redemptive work was done once and for all—but that its issue will have no end forever. “Eternal salvation” is the result; we do not look for an eternal act of “saving.” And the “eternal” sin is called that because its guilt will never be forgiven, not because the sinning continues throughout eternity.

Given this regular usage of “eternal” to describe the results of an action or process, we suggest that it is perfectly proper to understand the two disputed usages in this same ordinary way. The “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess 1:9) of the wicked does not mean that Christ will be forever in the process of destroying them but that their destruction, once accomplished, will be forever. The wicked will never reappear. Paul’s phrase “eternal destruction” is in fact a clearer pic- ture of Jesus’ generic term “eternal punishment” in Matt 25:46. This destruction is not accidental, nor is it self-inflicted. It is the penal outcome of God’s judg- ment. It is punishment, in this instance capital punishment. And, unlike even the capital punishment man may inflict, it is irreversible capital punishment. It is, truly, “everlasting” or “eternal” punishment, “everlasting destruction,” the second death from which there is no resurrection or return forever. It is the very fate we have met time and time again throughout the Bible. The wicked’s de- struction will be just as long-lasting as the life of the saved. We give the dualism

THE FINAL END OF THE WICKED 3 3 3

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full weight, in keeping with the regular usage of the word “eternal” with nouns of action and in light of Jesus’ clear statement in Matt 25:46 placing “eternal life” and “eternal punishment” side by side. Never, ever after, in all eternity, will the wicked be.

VII. CONCLUSION

I would like to conclude with the final paragraphs of The Fire That Consumes, which aptly bring this summary to a close as they do also the detailed discussion contained in the book:

Eternal conscious torment is either true or it is not. God’s Word gives the only authoritative answer. We wish to humbly receive whatever it says—on this or any subject—then faithfully proclaim it as befits God’s stewards . . . We were reared on the traditionalist view—we accepted it because it was said to rest on the Bible. A more careful study has shown that we were mistaken in that assumption. Both the OT and NT instead clearly teach a resurrection of the wicked for divine judgment, the fearful anticipation of a consuming fire, irrevocable expulsion from God’s pres- ence into a place where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, such conscious suffering as the divine justice individually requires—and finally, the total, everlast- ing extinction of the wicked with no hope of resurrection, restoration or recovery. Now we stand on that, on the authority of the Word of God.

We have changed once and do not mind changing again, but we were evidently wrong once through lack of careful study and do not wish to repeat the same mis- take. Mere assertions and denunciations will not refute the evidence presented . . . nor will a mere recital of ecclesiastical tradition.

This case rests finally on Scripture. Only Scripture can prove it wrong.

 

 

* Edward Fudge is editor of The Good Newspaper, a national Christian biweekly, and an elder and teacher of the Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, Texas.

Ή. Buis, The Doctrine ofEternal Punishment (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957). 325326 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY

2E. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study ofFinal Punishment (ProvidentialPress, 1982).

 

3See especially APOT; QL. 4Cf. further Fudge, Fire 119-154.

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Zadokite work, Psalms of Solomon, 4 Esdras). This is also the consistent witness of QL throughout, so far as yet translated.

 

 

John W. Cooper quote on Conditional Immortality

“Plato argued that the soul is metaphysically indestructible because it is a simple spiritual substance and cannot undergo decomposition. It is true that some Christians, including Augustine and Aquinas, adopted this argument. But no Christian holds that the soul is necessarily immortal, can exist independent of God, and is impervious to destruction by God.”

– John W. Cooper, Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting

 

Irenaeus on Conditional Immortality

“It is the Father who imparts continuance forever on those who are saved. Life does not arise from us or from our nature. It is bestowed according to the grace of God”

– Irenaeus Against Heresies

 

Clark Pinnock quote on conditional immortality

“This is clearly an important issue in our discussion because belief in the natural immortality of the soul which is so widely held by Christians, although stemming more from Plato than the Bible, really drives the traditional doctrine of hell more than exegesis does. Consider the logic if souls must live forever because they are naturally immortal, the lake of fire must be their home forever and cannot be their destruction . I am convinced that the hellenistic belief in the immortality of the soul has done more than anything else (specifically more than the Bible) to give credibility to the doctrine of everlasting conscious punishment of the wicked”
– Clark Pinnock, Destruction

 

Scripture & Annihilationism – By Greg Boyd

Originally posted in Greg Boyd’s Blog

Are you an annihilationist, and if so, why?

Annihilationism is the view that whoever and whatever cannot be redeemed by God is ultimately put out of existence. Sentient beings do not suffer eternally, as the traditional view of hell teaches.  I’m strongly inclined toward the annihilationist position. The reason is that it strikes me as the view that has the best biblical support. I’ll group the Scriptural data into 16 points. (For a fuller exposition of this, see the essay “The Case for Annihilationism”)

1) The Bible teaches that immortality belongs to God alone (I Tim. 6:16), but God graciously offers immortality as a gift to people who align themselves with his will (e.g. John 3:15–16; 10:28; 17:2; Rom. 2:7; 6:23; 1 Cor. 15:42f; 50, 54; Gal. 6:8; 1 John 5:11).

Those who choose to reject God’s will are denied this gift, following the pattern of Adam and Eve when God denied them access to “the tree of life” (Gen 3:22-24). This implies that all who reject the gift of eternal life perish. The traditional view of hell, however, assumes that people are inherently immortality, which is a Greek, not a biblical, view.

1Timothy 6:16

16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

John 3:15-16

15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 10:28

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 17:2

2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.

Romans 2:7

7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1Corinthians 15:42; 50, 54

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable….

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable…..

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Galatians 6:8

8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

1 John 1:11

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

Genesis 3:22-24

22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

2) Scripture teaches that the wicked suffer “eternal punishment”(Mt 25:46), “eternal judgment” (Heb 6:2) and “eternal destruction” (2 Thess 1:9), but this doesn’t mean the wick endure “eternal destruction.”

They rather experience “eternal destruction” the same way the elect experience “eternal redemption” (Heb 5:9, 9:12). The elect do not undergo an eternal process of redemption. Their redemption is “eternal” in the sense that once the elect are redeemed, it is forever. So too, the damned do not undergo an eternal process of destruction (is that even a coherent concept?). The wicked are “destroyed forever” (Ps 92:7), but they are not forever being destroyed.

Matthew 25:46

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Hebrews 6:2

2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

2 Thessalonians 1:9

9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

Hebrews 5:9

9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

Hebrews 9:12

12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Psalm 92:7

7 that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

3) If read in context, its clear that Scripture’s references to an “unquenchable fire” and “undying worm” refer to the finality of judgment, not its duration (Isa. 66:24, cf. 2 Kgs 22:17; 1:31; 51:8; Jer. 4:4; 7:20; 21:12; Ezek. 20:47–48).

The fire is unquenchable in the sense that it cannot be put it out before it consumes those thrown into it. And the worm is undying in the sense that there is no hope for the condemned that it will be prevented from devouring their corpse.

Isaiah 66:24

24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

2 Kings 22:17

17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’

Jeremiah 4:4

4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
circumcise your hearts,
you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire
because of the evil you have done—
burn with no one to quench it.

Jeremiah 7:20

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched.

Jeremiah 21:12

12 This is what the LORD says to you, house of David:

“‘Administer justice every morning;
rescue from the hand of the oppressor
the one who has been robbed,
or my wrath will break out and burn like fire
because of the evil you have done—
burn with no one to quench it.

Ezekiel 20:47-48

47 Say to the southern forest: ‘Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to set fire to you, and it will consume all your trees, both green and dry. The blazing flame will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will be scorched by it. 48 Everyone will see that I the LORD have kindled it; it will not be quenched.’”

4) Peter specifically cites the total destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a pattern of how God judges the wicked.

The Lord turned the inhabitants of these cities “to ashes” and “condemned them to extinction” thus making “them an example of what is coming to the ungodly…” (2 Pet. 2:6). Conversely, the Lord’s rescue of Lot sets a pattern for how the Lord will “rescue the godly from trial” (2 Pet. 2:9).

2 Peter 2:6; 2:9

6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;…….

….9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.

5) Throughout the Old Testament the Lord threatens the wicked with annihilation.

About the wicked Moses says God will “blot out their names from under heaven” (Deut. 29:20). God will destroy them “like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah…which the Lord destroyed in his fierce anger…’” (Deut. 29:23).

Deut. 29:20 &23

20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the LORD will blot out their names from under heaven….

….23 The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger.

6) All the metaphors about God’s judgment in the Old Testament imply total annihilation.

For example, in Isaiah the Lord warns that “rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together”: they “shall be consumed”; they will “…be like an oak whose leaf withers”; they will be like “tinder” and they and their work “shall burn together” (Isa 1:28, 30-31). Elsewhere Isaiah says the wicked will be like stubble and dry grass burned up in fire ( Isa 5:24).

Isa 1:28, 30-31

28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken,
and those who forsake the LORD will perish…..

….30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves,
like a garden without water.
31 The mighty man will become tinder
and his work a spark;
both will burn together,
with no one to quench the fire.”

Isa 5:24

24 Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
and their flowers blow away like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty
and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel.

7) In Psalms we read that the wicked shall be “like chaff that the wind drives away… the wicked will perish” (Ps. 1:4, 6).

They shall be “blotted out of the book of the living…” (Ps. 69:28, cf. Deut. 29:20). God will “cut off the remembrance of them from the earth…(Ps. 34:16, 21). In the powerful words of Obediah, the wicked “shall be as though they had never been” (Obed. 16, emphasis added).

Psalm 1:4-6

4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 69:28

28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.

Deut 29:20

20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the LORD will blot out their names from under heaven.

Psalm 34:16 &21

16 but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth………

…… 21 Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

8 ) Along the same lines the Psalmist says the wicked “will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb” (Ps. 37:2).

They “shall be cut off…and…will be no more; though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there“ (Ps. 37:9–10). While the righteous “abide forever” (37:27), “the wicked perish…like smoke they vanish away” (Ps. 37:20); they “vanish like water that runs away; like grass [they shall] be trodden down and wither”; “like the snail that dissolves into slime; like the untimely birth that never sees the sun” (Ps. 58:7–8). And again, “…transgressors shall be altogether destroyed” (Ps. 37:38, cf. vs. 34, emphasis added). In short, the fate of the wicked is disintegration into nothingness.

Psalm 37:2

2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

Psalm 37:9-10

9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.

Psalm 37:27

27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.

Psalm 37:20

20 But the wicked will perish:
Though the LORD’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke.

Psalm 58:7-8

7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.

Psalm 37:34 & 38

34 Hope in the LORD
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it…..

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
there will be no future[e] for the wicked.

9) Other Old Testament authors use similar annihilationist language to describe God’s judgment of the wicked.

Daniel says rebels will be “like the chaff of the summer threshing floor” blown away by the wind “so that not a trace of them [can] be found” (Dan. 2:35). Nahum says that in the judgment the wicked “are consumed like dry straw” (Nahum 1:10). Malachi tells us that the judgment day shall come “burning like an oven” and “all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.” The judgment thus “shall burn them up” (Mal. 4:1).

Daniel 2:35

35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

Nahum 1:10

10 They will be entangled among thorns
and drunk from their wine;
they will be consumed like dry stubble.[a]

Malachi 4:1

1 [a]“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

Psalm 37:22, 28

22 those the LORD blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed.

28 For the LORD loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.

Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.

10) So too, Proverbs tells us that after God’s judgment “the wicked are no more…”

When God’s fury rises, “[t]he wicked are overthrown and are no more…” (12:7, emphasis added). And finally, “[t]he evil have no future; the lamp of the wicked will go out” (24:20). How can passages like this be reconciled with the traditional view that says the wicked will forever exist in conscious suffering?

Proverbs 12:7

7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous stands firm.

Proverbs 24:20

20 for the evildoer has no future hope,
and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

11) Throughout the Old Testament we’re taught that while God’s anger endures for a moment, his love endures forever (Ps. 30:5; e.g. 2 Chr. 5:13; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ps. 100:5; 103:9; 106:1; 107:1; Ps 118;1-4, 29; 136:10-26).

How is this consistent with the traditional teaching that God’s love and anger are equally eternal?

Psalm 30:5

5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

2 Chronicles 5:13

13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang:

“He is good;
his love endures forever.”

Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud,

2 Chronicles 7:3&6

3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying,

“He is good;
his love endures forever.”…….

…..6 The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the LORD’s musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the LORD and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, “His love endures forever.” Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing.

2 Chronicles 20:21

21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his[a] holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the LORD,
for his love endures forever.”

Psalm 100:5

5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 103:9

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

Psalm 106:1

1 Praise the LORD.[a]

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Psalm 107:1

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1-4

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD say:
“His love endures forever.”…….

Psalm 136:10-26

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever…..

12) Just as with the Old Testament, all the main metaphors used to describe God’s judgment in the New Testament imply annihilation.

For example, John the Baptist proclaimed that “every tree…that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire” (Matt. 3:10). He announced that the Messiah “will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the grainary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12). Jesus himself describes hell as a consuming fire several times (Matt. 7:19; 13:40; John 15:6) as do a number of other passages (Heb 6:8, 10:7; Jude 7, cf. Isa 33:11).

Matt. 3:10

10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 3:12

12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 7:19

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 13:40

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.

John 15:6

6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Hebrews 6:8

8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Hebrews 10:7

7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’”

Jude 1:7

7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Isaiah 33:11-21

11 You conceive chaff,
you give birth to straw;
your breath is a fire that consumes you.
12 The peoples will be burned to ashes;
like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.”

13) The New Testament describes the fate of rebels as destruction.

Jesus contrasts the wide gate that “leads to destruction” with the narrow gate that “leads to life” (Matt. 7:13). So too, he tells his disciples not to fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather “fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). The implication is that God will do to the soul of the wicked what humans do to the body when they kill it. And this implies that the soul of the wicked will not go on existing in a conscious state after it has been destroyed.

Along the same lines, James teaches that God alone is able to both “save and destroy” (Jam. 4:12). Peter teaches that “destruction” awaits false, greedy teachers (2 Pet. 2:3). And Paul teaches that the quest for riches can plunge people into “ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9). Moreover, all who are “enemies of the cross” have “destruction” as their final end (Phil. 3:18–19, cf. 1:28). So too, if anyone “destroys the temple of God, God will destroy that person” (1 Cor. 3:17). With the same force the apostle teaches that “[s]udden destruction” will come upon the wicked in the last days (1 Thess. 5:3). This day is elsewhere described as a day for “the destruction of the godless” (2 Pet. 3:7). These passages seem to contradict the traditional view that damned souls are in fact never destroyed but rather endure endless torment.

Matthew 7:13

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 10:28

28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

James 4:12

12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

2 Peter 2:3

3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

1 Timothy 6:9

9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Philippians 3:18-19

18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

1 Corinthians 3:17

17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

1 Thess 5:3

3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

2 Peter 3:7

7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

14) The New Testament also frequently expresses the destiny of the wicked by depicting them as dying or perishing.

John says Jesus came so that “everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul utilizes this same contrast when he states that while those who proclaim the gospel are a “fragrance from life to life” to those “who are being saved,” it is “a fragrance from death to death” to those “who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15–16). So too, Paul teaches that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life” (Rom. 6:23, cf. 21, 1:32). This is consistent with Jesus teaching when he says that those who try to find life apart from God end up losing it (Matt. 10:39). Many other passages depict the fate of the wicked as death as well (Ja 1:15; 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 2:14. The repeated contrast in all these passages between “death,” losing life, and “perishing,” on the one hand, with “life,” on the other, seems quite incompatible with the contrast of eternal bliss with eternal pain which the traditional teaching on hell presupposes.

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2 Corinthians 2:15-16

15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?

Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[b] Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 10:39

39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

James 1:15

15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

James 5:19

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back,

Hebrews 2:14

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—

15) The most powerful scriptural passages that can be cited against annihilationist is Revelations 14:10-11 and 20:10.

These speak of the wicked being tormented “day and night forever and ever.” Yet, these passages are not all that hard to explain. We must keep in mind that Revelation is a highly symbolic book. Its apocalyptic images should not be interpreted literally. This is particularly true of the phrase “for ever and ever” since similar phrases are used elsewhere in Scripture in contexts where they clearly cannot literally mean “unending” (e.g. Gen 49:26; Ex 40:15; Nu 25:13; Ps 24:7).

The most significant example of this is Isaiah 34:9-10, for it closely parallels the two passages in Revelation. In this passage Isaiah says that the fire that shall consume Edom shall burn “[n]ight and day” and “shall not be quenched.” Its smoke “shall go up forever” and no one shall pass through this land again “forever and ever.” Obviously, this is symbolic, for the fire and smoke of Edom’s judgment isn’t still ascending today. If we know the phrase isn’t literal in Isaiah, how much less inclined should we be to interpret a nearly identical expression literally in Revelation?

Revelation 14:10-11

10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

Revelation 20:10

10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Genesis 49:26

26 Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than[a] the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among[b] his brothers.

Ex 40:15

15 Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.”

Nu 25:13

13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”

Ps 24:7

7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Isaiah 34:9-10

9 Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch,
her dust into burning sulfur;
her land will become blazing pitch!
10 It will not be quenched night or day;
its smoke will rise forever.
From generation to generation it will lie desolate;
no one will ever pass through it again.

16) Finally, I find it impossible to reconcile the all important New Testament message that God is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16) with the traditional teaching that hell involves hopeless, conscious suffering.

In the traditional view, the damned don’t suffer in order to learn anything. There’s nothing remedial about their pain. There’s literally no point to their suffering, other than the pain itself. And this pain is without hope of ever being terminated or relieved. How is this view at all compatible with a God whose heart was expressed on Calvary — when Jesus gave his life for these very people? Would we call a human being good or merciful – or anything other than cruel — who retaliated on his foes with this sort of unmitigated, insatiable, unending vengeance? Isn’t it more reasonable, and more biblical, to suppose that the God who gave his life for those who are damned would simply put them out of their misery if and when they became hopelessly irredeemable?

From the annihilationist perspective, God’s justice and mercy unite in condemning the wicked to extinction. He justly punishes their sin and forbids them a place within the Kingdom. And he eventually mercifully annihilates them precisely so they will not endlessly endure what the traditional view says they endure.

1 Jn 4:8, 16

8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love…..

……16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.