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Category Archives: Scripture and Annihilationist View

Psalm 104:29-30

Psalm 104:29-30

When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created”

 

1 Corinthians 15:28

1 Corinthians 15:28

28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

 

 

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.

 

The Case for Annihilationism – by Greg Boyd

The Case for Annihilationism by Greg Boyd (originally posted on Greg’s Blog)

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. While I am not completely convinced of this position, I think it is worthy of serious consideration. In this essay I will present biblical arguments in its defense and then conclude with several other supporting arguments.

Overview of the Biblical Teaching
While the Hellenistic philosophical tradition generally viewed the human soul as inherently immortal, Scripture sees immortality as something that belongs to God alone (I Tim. 6:16). 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). Unfortunately, some (but not all) early Church fathers accepted the Hellenistic view and consequently read into Scripture the view that the wicked suffer unending torment. This became the dominant view of hell throughout Church history. If we read Scripture without this Hellenistic assumption, however, we see that it teaches that God justly, and mercifully, annihilates the wicked. He doesn’t subject them to eternal torment.

Now, Scripture certainly teaches that the wicked are punished eternally, but not that the wicked endure eternal punishment. The wicked suffer “eternal punishment”(Mt 25:46), “eternal judgment” (Heb 6:2) and “eternal destruction” (2 Thess 1:9) 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 punishment or destruction. But once they are punished and destroyed, it is forever. Hell is eternal in consequence, not duration. The wicked are “destroyed forever” (Ps 92:7), but they are not forever being destroyed.

Along the same lines, Scripture’s references to an “unquenchable fire” and “undying worm” refer to the finality of judgment, not its duration (Isa. 66:24, cf. 2 Kings 22:17; 1:31; 51:8; Jer. 4:4; 7:20; 21:12; Ezek. 20:47–48). If these passages are read in context, it becomes clear that the fire is unquenchable in the sense that it cannot be put 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 corpses. These passages teach that the wicked will justly suffer for their sins, but the end result will be their destruction (cf. Lk. 16:19–31; Rom. 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:6).

 

Annihilationism and the Old Testament
The traditional view that the wicked suffer eternally makes little use of the Old Testament. Defenders of the traditional view justify this on the grounds that Old Testament authors weren’t concerned with the afterlife. Annihilationists believe that this approach is mistaken.

The Old Testament actually has a good deal to say about the ultimate destiny of those who resist God. Peter specifically cites the 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). We thus have a precedent set in the New Testament for learning about the fate of the wicked in the Old Testament. And what we learn is that they are “condemned… to extinction.”

Throughout the Old Testament the Lord threatens the wicked with annihilation. To all who refused to comply with the covenant God had established, for example, the Lord vowed to “blot out their names from under heaven” (Deut. 29:20). Indeed, he vowed to destroy them and the land “like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah…which the Lord destroyed in his fierce anger…’” (Deut. 29:23). So too, through the prophet Isaiah the Lord warns that

“…rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together,
and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.
…you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers,
and like a garden without water.
The strong shall become like tinder,
and their work like a spark;
they and their work shall burn together,
with no one to quench them” (Isa. 1:28, 30–31).

Note the metaphors carefully. They all denote total annihilation.

Consider also this passage:

“…as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
so their root will become rotten,
and their blossom go up like dust,
for they have rejected the instruction of the Lord of hosts…” (Isa. 5:24).

The theme that the Lord will annihilate the wicked is especially prominent in the Psalms. The Psalmist says that whereas those who take delight in the Lord shall be “like trees planted by streams of water” (1:3), the wicked shall be “like chaff that the wind drives away…the wicked will perish” (Ps. 1:4, 6). They shall be dashed “in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (2:9), torn into fragments (Ps. 50:22) and “blotted out of the book of the living…” (Ps. 69:28, cf. Deut. 29:20). Each metaphor depicts total annihilation.

Similarly, the Lord’s plan for “evildoers” is to “cut off the remembrance of them from the earth…evil brings death to the wicked” (Ps. 34:16, 21). The wicked shall be so thoroughly destroyed that they shall not even be remembered (Ps. 9:6; 34:16). In the powerful words of a later author, the wicked “shall be as though they had never been” (Obed. 16, emphasis added).

With the same force, the Psalmist proclaimed that 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). In short, the fate of the wicked is disintegration into nothingness.

The Psalmist’s emphasis on the total destruction of the wicked has parallels throughout the Old Testament. Daniel, for example, speaks of all who shall be crushed by the rock of God’s judgment as being “broken.” They become “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).

So too, Proverbs tells us that all who hate the Lord “love death” (Prov. 8:36) and that when “the tempest” of God’s judgment passes, “the wicked are no more…” (10:25, emphasis added). Again, 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). It seems impossible to accept that the wicked have “no future” if in fact they shall never cease to experience an eternal future in hell. So too, it seems impossible to accept that the wicked will “be no more” and even be “as though they never were” if they shall be existing in eternal torment.

Finally, we must remember the repeated teaching of the Old Testament 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?

 

Annihilationism in the New Testament

The teaching that the wicked will be completely destroyed is even stronger in the New Testament. As in the Old Testament, the wicked are frequently depicted as being destroyed by fire. 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).

The New Testament has many other ways of describing the fate of the wicked. All directly or indirectly speak of total annihilation. The wicked are sometimes depicted as being “consumed” by fire (Heb 6:8, 10:7; Jude 7, cf. Isa 33:11). It is frequently said of the wicked that they will be “destroyed.” Jesus contrasts the wide gate that “leads to destruction” with the narrow gate that “leads to life” (Matt. 7:13). Destruction clearly contrasts with life in this passage, and this at least implies cessation of consciousness such as when a person is dead.

Along similar lines, Jesus 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.

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.

The New Testament also frequently expresses the destiny of the wicked by depicting them as dying or perishing (apollymi). John proclaims the good news that God sent Jesus 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 “the fragrance of life” to “those who are being saved,” they are “the smell of 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 that those who try to find life apart from God end up losing it (Matt. 10:39).

Along the same lines, James writes that “sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death” (Ja 1:15). Hence, the person who “brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death…” (James 5:19). So too, Christ is said to have come to “abolish death and [bring] life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1 Tim. 1:10). Indeed, he came to “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Life and immortality are connected with following God, death with following Satan. The contrast in 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 that the traditional teaching on hell presupposes. “Death,” losing life, and “perishing” are not easily read as signifying another kind of life, viz. a life of eternal conscious pain.

When all the biblical evidence is assessed apart from the Hellenistic philosophical assumption that the soul is innately immortal, it becomes clear that the fate of the wicked is eventual annihilation, not unending torment.

Supporting Arguments
1)
Unending Suffering is Inconsistent with the Love of God. The central revelation of God in the New Testament is that God is love (I Jn 4:8, 16). His anger endures for a moment, but his mercy endures forever (Ps 103:8-14). How is this consistent with the view that God’s wrath burns eternally toward the wicked? Does this seem like the sort of thing the “Abba” Father of Jesus would do? 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 vengeance?

Consider that in the traditional view, the wicked are not being punished to learn something. There’s nothing remedial about their torment. Rather, God keeps them in existence for the sole purpose of having them experience pain. And this pain is without hope of ever being terminated or relieved. After twenty trillion trillion years of torment, the damned are no closer to completing their dire sentence than they were their first moment of horror. Is this view really compatible with a God whose heart was expressed in Jesus’ dying prayer, “Father, forgive them, they no not what they do” (Lk 23:34)? If agents get to the point where they are indeed hopelessly locked in their resistance to God, it seems more reasonable, and more biblical, to believe God would put them out of their misery.

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 mercifully annihilates them precisely so they will not endlessly endure what the traditional view says they endure.

2) Unending Torment is Inconsistent With God’s Victory. The teaching that people and fallen angels will be tormented throughout eternity contradicts the Bible’s teaching that God is altogether victorious at the end of history. How can we affirm that Christ shall be over all (Eph. 1:10, 21–22) and that God shall be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28) when a dimension of reality shall perpetually oppose God? How can we accept the Scriptural affirmation that all creatures in heaven and earth shall bow before the throne (Phil. 2:10–11, cf. Rom. 14:10–11) and that all things will be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20, cf. Acts 3:21) if in fact many creatures shall forever exist in hostile rebellion to God? How can we affirm the final and ultimate victory of God’s joy and peace and accept that there shall be no more tears, sorrow or death (Rev. 21:4) if throughout eternity there shall be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” as multitudes suffer an endless second death? If the traditional view of hell is correct, God remains nonvictorious. Instead of a glorious universal Kingdom unblemished by any stain, an ugly dualism reigns throughout eternity.

Along the same lines, it’s not clear how heaven could ever truly be heaven if it co-exists alongside an eternal hell. How are we to imagine enjoying heaven when we know that fellow human beings — and perhaps former loved ones — are locked in an endless nightmare from which they shall never awake? How are we to imagine God, who is perfect love, enjoying heaven while he yet keeps the damned in existence for the sole purpose of having them experience hopeless pain?

Responding to Objections
1)
Tormented Day and Night. The most difficult passages for annihilationists to explain are Revelation 14:10-11 and 20:10. These passages speak of the wicked being tormented “day and night forever and ever.” However, these passages are not as decisive against the annihilationist’s view as they might initially seem. The phrase “forever and ever” can be translated “for ages upon ages” which implies an indefinite, but not necessarily unending, period of time. Even more fundamentally, it’s important to keep in mind that Revelation is a highly symbolic book. Its apocalyptic images shouldn’t be interpreted literally. This is particularly true of the phrase “forever 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).

Perhaps the most significant example of this for our purposes 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 this is true of Isaiah, we should be less inclined to interpret similar expressions in the book of Revelation literally.

2) The Fear of Hell. It has sometimes been argued that if annihilationism is true, the fear of hell is undermined. Two things may be said in response to this.

First, most annihilationists do not deny that the wicked will suffer, perhaps for long periods of time, prior to being annihilated. God’s justice shall be severe and ought to be dreaded.

Second, it is questionable that the traditional teaching on hell generally installs fear in the hearts of unbelievers. It rather seems that this teaching often has the opposite effect. The notion of unending punishment is so out of sync with people’s ordinary sense of justice that it is easily rejected as preposterous. There is certainly a need to warn unbelievers of the impending judgment of God. But the warning that the annihilationist gives is both biblical and believable.