The Christian view of Hell is a very difficult concept to think about. It raises many questions. Questions like How could a loving, just and merciful God send anyone to such a miserable place? Are the Flames literal? Is the punishment unending ? And "Are our souls or spirits immortal?".
Before I examine some of these questions let me explain what this work is intended to do, and what this work is not intended to do. This post is not aimed at proving there is such a place as Hell to a skeptic. Neither is this toil an attempt to prove the existence of the soul or spirit. The intention of this work is not to impugn the character of the many fine scholars and persons who hold to the view I am going to hereafter criticize. I do not believe that holding to this heterodox view is heretical, but I do think Annihilationism is both exegetically wrong and logically incoherent.
This video is specifically intended to expose the scriptural and rational inconsistancies that arise as a result of such views. The truth of the matter is that hell is a fundamental doctrine every christian should know. In Hebrews chapter six verse one we read:
NAS Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
KJV Hebrews 6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
What is Annihilationism?
The first Annihilationist view which is held by various cults such as the Jehovah Witnesses is that death is the grave. By this they mean that the grave which is said to be Sheol/Hades/hell, is itself the judgement. So according to them when you die an unbeliever you just cease to exist.
This position is untenable because it is a denial of the resurrection of the wicked which is stated elsewhere (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:5), and by Christ himself (John 5:28,29).
Moreover the erroneous identification of the grave as Sheol/Hades/Hell is primarily due to mistranslations found in various versions of the bible (i.e. Psalm 6:5).
As the reformed theologian A.W. Pink notes:
No doubt it is due to the fact that the souls of saints as well as sinners are represented as entering Sheol at death that caused the translators to render it “grave” in many instances. But the fact that in both the Hebrew and the Greek there is an entirely different word used for “grave” ought to have prevented such a mistake. The Holy Spirit has carefully preserved the distinction between the two terms throughout. A careful examination of every passage in the Old and New Testaments where these words occur will show that many things are said of the “grave” (Heb. “queber”; Gk. “mnemeion”) which could never be said of “Sheol” or “Hades”; and many things are said of the latter which are never predicated of the former. For example: both the Hebrew and Greek words for “grave” occur in the plural again and again; Sheol and Hades never do so. The Hebrew and Greek words for “grave” are frequently referred to as the possession of individuals—“ My grave” ( Gen. 50:5 ); “grave of Abner “ ( 2 Sam. 3:32 ); “His own (Joseph’s) new tomb” (Matt. 27:60) ; “The sepulchres of the righteous” ( Matt. 23:29), etc. In Gen. 50:5 we read, “In my grave which I have digged for me;” of “mnemeion” we read: “And he laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock” ( Matt. 27:60 ). Sheol and Hades are never so referred to. The body enters “queber” and “mnemeion, “but it is never said to enter Sheol or Hades. Sufficient has been said to demonstrate that Sheol or Hades is not the grave. we may, therefore, confidently affirm that neither Sheol or Hades should ever be rendered “grave” or “the grave.”
(A.W. Pink, Eternal Punishment)
With that being said let us turn to the second view of which many serious scholars like Dr. John Stott and F.F. Bruce believe is tenable. This second view is that after the final judgement the unsaved will consciously burn for a duration and quality proportionate to their finite sins, and shall then utterly cease being in the absolute sense or continue to exist unconsciously. It is this last view that this video is intended to address.
Before I do that, because many Annihilationists hold to soul sleep, we should note that there are numerous passages that unambiguously state that we retain consciousness in Sheol and Hades (Numbers 16:33, Luke 16:23), which we will see later are the same place with separate compartments (Gen 37:35). Those who believe in the doctrine of Soul sleep will appeal to texts that use the term "sleep" and ignore the fact of euphemistic language. Dr. Henry Theissen expresses these things best saying:
But in answer to these objections,first, sleep is used of a believer (1 Thess 4:14). It is a euphemistic expression taken from the similarity in appearence between a dead body and a sleeping person (cf. James 2:26). Further, the scriptural evidence is that believers who die enjoy a conscious communion with Christ. The verses which suggest the unconscious condition of the soul are viewed from the perspective of the living. From the vantage point of the living,the dead have gone to sleep.
(Lectures in Systematic Theology, pg. 340)
Or as the reformed theologian Loraine Boettner puts it.
Doubtless the idea of soul sleep has arisen in part from the appearance of the body after death, which condition resembles that of physical sleep. The body is ordinarily placed in a recumbent position,and particularly among Christians it is cared for with a special sense of love and tenderness, similar to putting a child to bed for rest in sleep. The dead body and the body asleep are so much alike in appearance that it becomes a natural thing to speak of death as an unending sleep..... And similarly the Bible, as was said earlier, sometimes describes things as they appear rather than as they are actually known to be.
(Loraine Boettner, Immortality, pg. 109)
This then leads us into the current position being advocated by many evangelicals today. This is not a new position, but the language is being refurbished to make it a more palatable idea. The position is called Conditional Immortality.
What is Conditional Immortality?
Conditional immortality is the view that human persons no longer have an innately immortal Soul unless given so by God upon judgement as a result of accepting Christ. As Gregory Boyd puts it:
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).
I don't even reject this argument. This is because we may ask in what sense the following verses are "an aligning of the will to Gods will". Also 1 Tim. 6:16 can easily be interpreted as saying God alone has non-derivative immortality.
For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD."
"so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth"
"I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
It seems that this argument for conditionalism would actually support the immortality of the unbelievers by being furnished a body commensurate with unending punishment. Specifically at Judgement to render an account. There are really only two verses that seem to mention any death of souls. So let's look at them.
NAS Ezekiel 18:20a "The person (Soul) who sins will die.
If you read this whole chapter what you will find out is that in verse 2 what is going on is a disputation over a proverb that the isrealites were using to shirk their Mosaic covenant responsibility to God. They were using a proverb from an ANE vassal treaty which they had imbibed from a babylonian covenant during captivity. Ezekiel is merely recounting the Law of the Pentateuch which is in contradiction to the ANE covenant. Therefore, the context of the verse is dealing with a legality aspect within the Jewish court system. This context has nothing to do with teaching of the after life at all. The context shows that what is being addressed is physical and temporal death regarding legal matters.
Moreover suppose it is true that at death our soul ceases existing until resurrection unto judgment. If as some of this persuasion hold, the wicked are snuffed out of existence upon death and cease existing until the judgement where they are re-created to be snuffed out again permanently; are they the same soul? If they are not the same soul how can they be punished for the former soul’s sin rather than their own as Ezekiel 18:20 (One of their own proof-texts) demands? This causes a serious problem of continuity.
The traditional view has no problem answering this question because the spirit (which is what the soul is without the body) departs from the body and is reserved consciously until judgment with the body being recreated instead of the soul which is the person. The soul that lived on earth is the same soul that will receive eternal punishment in Hell or eternal reward in Heaven.
NAS Matthew 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).
This verse is one of the most appealed too in order to support Annihilationism. Right away we have to notice that this verse is a sort of double edged sword. Immediately what must be noticed is that it does allude to the immortality of all men’s souls. Christ is even emphasizing that only God can destroy souls, particularly in “Gehenna” which suggests the possibility of immortality.
One response might be that the passage only indicates that God is able, and this does not necessitate that he will in fact do so. While this is true, I don’t think this rebuttal is persuasive because what good is it to say God is able without asking why God would have such an ability that he never exercises.
Another possible answer is to say that this verse uses the Greek word ‘Apollumi’ which can be rendered as lost, ruin, or waste. I happen to think this is a better response than the former, but it has it’s own issues. For example, we may reason that in verse 6 ‘Apollumi’ is used of lost sheep (Speaking of the Jews who did not maintain their Mosaic covenant duty), and in verse 39 the same sense of being lost (Apollumi) is found and explained by Christ. Namely that there is a reward for a prophet and a reward for a righteous man. The point being neither will lose the others reward for they each have their own reward. Matthew also uses this word as “waste” in other areas such as in 26:8. The parallel passage to this verse can be found in Luke 12:4-5 and lends credence to this understanding by stating “cast into hell” rather than kill or cease to be. While I think this is sufficient to give a response, I will offer another aspect which will make this proposal only additional attestation.
If the Soul is the seating place of the Spirit, in conjunction with the physical body, and the Spirit departs upon physical death, we can say ‘Apollumi’ being rendered as ‘lost or separated’ is quite warranted. This would especially be true if the Spirit never ceases and is either separated from God or brought into communion with him. This is because the soul without the body is simply a spirit, a conscious life. This would also fit the biblical definition of death as separation of body and spirit. The fact that Jesus uses one Greek word ‘Apokteino’ for what man can do and a different word ‘Apollumi’ for what God does to man in Gehenna, shows that this verse is incompatible with Annihilationism. The point of the verse is the opposite of Annihilation. For if ‘Appollumi’ is really the same as ‘Apokteino’, which this view requires, how does God’s throwing people in a fiery lake differ from my tossing a fellow man into a volcano? If these two words did not differ the Annihilationist might have a case here. But then the verse would make no sense. Those who raise this verse would do well to heed the words of John Calvin, for this argument was slain long ago:
Let us now learn this IMMORTALITY from Scripture. When Christ exhorts
his followers not to fear those who can kill the body, but cannot kill the
soul, but to fear him who, after he hath killed the body, is able to cast the
soul into the fire of Gehenna, (Matthew 10:28,) does he not
intimate that the soul survives death? Graciously, therefore, has the Lord
acted towards us, in not leaving our souls to the disposal of those who
make no scruple of butchering them, or at least attempt it, but without the
ability to do so. Tyrants torture, maim, burn, scourge., and hang, but it is
only the body! It is God alone who has power over the soul, and can send
it into hell fire,. Either, therefore, the soul survives the body, or it is false
to say that tyrants have no power over the soul! I hear them reply, that
the soul is indeed slain for the present when death is inflicted, but does not
perish, inasmuch as it will be raised again. When they would escape in this
way, they must grant that neither is the body slain, since it too will rise;
and because both are preserved against the day of judgment, neither
perishes! (John Calvin, Against Psychopannichia)
In conclusion of this section whatever the case may be of the immortality of men's souls we must ask ourselves the following question:
After the death that man can cause what is there to fear?
For if it can be demonstrated that the final conscious punishment is unending, by deduction it follows that the soul, and body will also be unending.
The first and most persuasive reason for rejecting this view is simple. The bible teaches us that apart from Christ we are to fear death, and on annihilationism there is absolutely no objective reason to fear death as an unbeliever. If annihilationism were true such verses calling us to fear death make no sense.
NAS Hebrews 2:14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;
NAS Hebrews 2:15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
Scripture declares that Christ delivers us from this fear of death. This means that outside of Christ there is no deliverance from fear of death. So by deduction there is something to be feared in death for all unbelievers instead of hope of deliverance in death. On the annihilationist view unconsciousness is actually a hopeful relief from punishment, and even God. A sort of salvation, or Gospel for the dead, if you will. But scripture tells us only believers have hope in death.
NAS 1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
NAS 1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
Annihilation simply cannot explain what the bible teaches about the fear of death. If annihilation were the case and we have no reason to fear death this would not be judgement, it would be a hedonistic ticket to party time. Indeed we could say with Apostle Paul:
NAS 1 Corinthians 15:32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
There are those that will say in response to this that we should fear hell because it will be a period of punishment, just not unending punishment. In other words they try to ride two positions at one time. Namely hell must be affirmed, just not unending hell. But why should the punishment end? The only answer an annihilationist can provide is because the penalty has been paid in full. This is exactly their point. They will say how can a person who sinned for 8 years be punished for 8 million? But this reasoning is ludicrous because we could then argue that it only took 10 seconds to kill someone, so does that mean I should only get 10 seconds in Hell? But really if the penalty has been paid they should get into the kingdom and annihilation is then not needed. Why should God annihilate people when the debt was paid?
The bible also teaches that there are situations which are better than to come under the wrath of God.
KJV Matthew 26:24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Jesus tells us that to not exist or to be without mind and consciousness is better than to come under the wrath of God. In other words unconsciousness or nonexistence would be an escaping of the wrath of God. Annihilationism would have us believe that the worst thing imaginable as punishment is to lose all life,consciousness, and existence. But if the wicked lose all consciousness and existence that would be as though they were never born. Jesus in contradiction tells us that that would be better and not worse than to come under the wrath of God. The entire concept of annihilation is then in contradiction to Christ. The bible teaches death holds something to fear, and that something is much worse than unconsciousness or nonexistence.
Since on Annihilationism there is no reason to fear death because unconscious and nonexistence is actually better rather than worse than to come under the wrath of God, what are the unbelievers to be saved from? Literally nothing, or God himself.
Scripture on the other hand declares there will be no escape for the wicked, and certainly no deliverance from judgment. If we are to define salvation as “to be relieved from a dire situation or state of harm and guilt” one begins to wonder how the conditionalist defines punishment. But If punishment is to be defined as “authoritative infliction of suffering to cause guilt or loss”, then it seems Annihilation would render any talk of punishment and guilt, to any degree, utterly indistinguishable from a sort of salvation. If we are eventually relieved of our guilt and harm, can we really consider that a punishment rather than salvation and reprieve? I do not think so because in the books of Exodus and Nahum we see that divine punishment is both necessary and inescapable.
NAS Exodus 23:7 "Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.
KJV Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
NAS Nahum 1:3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.
If Annihilation were true there would be a time when the guilty by some means are cleared due to eventually paying their debt. These texts however say God will by "no means clear the guilty" and "by no means leave the guilty unpunished". So if there is ever a time that we are rendered unconscious or nonexistent because of rectifying this debt it would be as though we are cleared and acquitted from punishment by some means. Deductively then, Annihilation would have us believe we can pay for our own sin in hell and eventually be acquitted by paying our debt to God through punishment. Scripture on the other hand declares that only an infinite God/Man can pay for our sin debt (Matthew 18). Finite beings would need to pay an infinite price for their sin against the infinite God. But because Jesus is God, He could make a one-time payment to cover our infinite offense. So why would God keep the wicked from going to heaven since they would eventually pay their debt?
This is really the crux of the matter here. Both traditionalists and Annihilationists affirm there must be punishment for sin. Where we differ is on the duration of the conscious experience of punishment, and consequently the value of sin. Annihilationists will reason that finite sin is not proportionate to infinite punishment and is therefore unjust. But why should we assume sin is finite in value and therefore punishment is finite when we have already seen in Exodus and Nahum that God will not acquit the guilty and will by no means clear and render unpunished the debt of the guilty? Moreover why should we believe sin is finite in value with regard to punishment when we see that at the cross sin requires an infinite sacrifice suggesting eternal value to sin?
Because of such anthropocentric presuppositions, Annihilationists will reason that if Christ suffered our debt and our debt is eternal punishment in hell, then Christ should still be suffering in hell.
Once again their logic does not follow here, for Christ did not ever pay for our sin in hell nor did he ever descend there. Instead he descended to Hades to free captives in Abraham's bosom. Scripture incontrovertibly declares that it was finished on the cross, and that is where our certificate of death was nailed and canceled..
John 19:30 30 When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.
Colossians 2:13-14 13 And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
So what was the infinite punishment Christ bore in our place? The punishment that Christ endured was the wrath of God the father. The Wrath of God is currently abiding on all unbelievers and is currently payed in full only for his elect.
Romans 1:18-21 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Revelation 14:10 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
The real reason this logic does not follow is that we may just as well ask the conditionalist: If it is true that Jesus paid for all of our sins on the cross, then why do we still have physical death? Doesn’t Rom. 6:23 say that “the wages of sin is death”? And, isn’t physical death the payment for sin? So, if Jesus paid for our sins, why do we still die physically?
I maintain that sin has infinite value not because of anything in mankind for mankind certainly is finite. Rather it is precisely because God is infinitely just and loving that the punishment must be infinite as is the sin in value. In other words two things are ignored in the above line of reasoning.
Firstly this line of reasoning ignores the fact that the degree of punishment is relative to the person whom the crime is committed against and not just the action. For example if I were to punch you, and you called the authorities on me I would most likely get a punishment far less than if my offense was punching the president. How much greater would the offense be against an infinite Holy God?
Secondly it ignores the fact that many of the worst punishments have little bearing on the amount of time the crime took, and in a great many cases it is the reverse with regard to actions and punishments. For example murder can take only seconds to commit with the far more severe consequence than that of loading up a van in a home robbery. How much greater would breaking one offense against God’s law be since breaking any of his laws equals breaking them all? And who is to say that sinners do not continue to sin in the hereafter?
It will be my reply that infinite punishment is justly deserving of the infinite value of sin which requires a substitute of infinite value to escape. This is because the value of sin and the duration of punishment has nothing to do with the dignity of man, and everything to do with the infinite dignity of God. Jonathan Edwards explains:
“This is the sum of the objections usually made against this doctrine: that it is inconsistent with the justice, and especially with the mercy, of God. And some say [that] if it be strictly just, yet how can we suppose that a merciful God can bear eternally to torment his creatures.
First, I shall briefly show that it is not inconsistent with the justice of God to inflict an eternal punishment. To evince this, I shall use only one argument, viz. that sin is heinous enough to deserve such a punishment, and such a punishment is no more than proportionable to the evil or demerit of sin. If the evil of sin be infinite, as the punishment is, then it is manifest that the punishment is no more than proportionable to the sin punished, and is no more than sin deserves. And if the obligation to love, honor, and obey God be infinite, then sin which is the violation of this obligation, is a violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Again, if God be infinitely worthy of love, honor, and obedience, then our obligation to love, and honor, and obey him is infinitely great. – So that God being infinitely glorious, or infinitely worthy of our love, honor, and obedience, our obligation to love, honor, and obey him (and so to avoid all sin) is infinitely great. Again, our obligation to love, honor, and obey God being infinitely great, sin is the violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Once more, sin being an infinite evil, deserves an infinite punishment. An infinite punishment is no more than it deserves. Therefore such punishment is just, which was the thing to be proved. There is no evading the force of this reasoning, but by denying that God, the sovereign of the universe, is infinitely glorious, which I presume none of my hearers will venture to do.
Second, I am to show that it is not inconsistent with the mercy of God, to inflict an eternal punishment on wicked men. It is an unreasonable and unscriptural notion of the mercy of God, that he is merciful in such a sense that he cannot bear that penal justice should be executed. This is to conceive of the mercy of God as a passion to which his nature is so subject that God is liable to be moved, and affected, and overcome by seeing a creature in misery, so that he cannot bear to see justice executed: which is a most unworthy and absurd notion of the mercy of God, and would, if true, argue great weakness. – It would be a great defect, and not a perfection, in the sovereign and supreme Judge of the world, to be merciful in such a sense that he could not bear to have penal justice executed. It is a very unscriptural notion of the mercy of God. The Scriptures everywhere represent the mercy of God as free and sovereign, and not that the exercises of it are necessary, so that God cannot bear justice should take place. The Scriptures abundantly speak of it as the glory of the divine attribute of mercy, that it is free and sovereign in its exercises, and not that God cannot but deliver sinners from misery. This is a mean and most unworthy idea of the divine mercy.”
-Jonathan Edwards, Sermon on Eternal Punishment
That the punishment is unending can be shown in the strong parallel between eternal punishment and eternal life. This is an ancient argument first brought forward by Augustine. The verses to examine are the ones that contain the Greek word aionios, or the Hebrew word olam of both eternal punishment or shame and eternal life. The exegetical point of this argument is very strong in that if one wishes to deny one clause they must then deny the other. The collateral damage to biblical doctrine is just too great to try to obfuscate the meaning of aionios and olam.
The most important verses here are Matthew 25:46 and Daniel 12:2.
NAS Matthew 25:46 "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
NAS Daniel 12:2 "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
Notice that in these verses eternality is characterized in future judgement and punishment to the same degree that characterizes future bliss and reward. So unless there is something in the context that can be used to warrant a qualifier for one clause and not the other, the consequence will be a denial or affirmation of eternality to both categories. As Augustine put it:
If both are “eternal”, it follows necessarily that either both are to be taken as long-lasting but finite, or both as endless and perpetual. The phrases “eternal punishment” and “eternal life” are parallel and it would be absurd to use them in one and the same sentence to mean: “Eternal life will be infinite, while eternal punishment will have an end.” Hence, because the eternal life of the saints will be endless, the eternal punishment also, for those condemned to it, will assuredly have no end.
(Augustine of Hippo,The City of God, XXI. 23)
So grammatically if one takes part of these verses as unending in duration the other follows. But there is no end to the devices of men to eradicate the obvious conclusion of this verse. One of the responses we are given by the conditional immortalists is that the type of punishment in view here is of capitol punishment. For example, Chris Date from Rethinkinghell.org states:
Matthew 25:46’s eternal punishment is the punishment of being killed, never to live again. After all, verses earlier it’s called the “eternal fire,” which is used twice elsewhere, and in both cases the punishment in view is being reduced to lifeless remains.
Aside from this obvious question begging, we are told on the website regarding this verse that we as traditionalists need to be aware of our assumption that the punishment itself is what is eternal. We are told that it is not ‘punishing’ that is eternal, but rather that the effect caused by the punishment is what is eternal. This wrongful presupposition they say is apparently supposed to resolve the issue we traditionalists are raising. From this argument it is reasoned by the conditionalists:
In a nutshell, when other nouns of action are qualified as eternal, it is often the results of the act, and not the act itself, that lasts for eternity. If this is even a reasonable possibility with Matthew 25:46, then we can no longer say that this proves the wicked always consciously exist; the one-time act of destroying them as punishment would yield the eternal result of them no longer being around.
At this point the rest of the article launches into a bunch of grammar discussion. But what is missing here? The presupposition of the conditionalist is smuggled in as if annihilation is the punishment. So let’s think about this. If we grant for the sake of argument that it is the effect that is eternal, what are the unending effects of punishment? This would mean guilt of some sort which requires a conscious experience. Faced with this reply by us traditionalists it is quickly qualified on the website.
In reality, it is about one meaning of punishment vs. another. The question is, what meaning of “punishment” was intended? Was Jesus referring to the act of punishing (like “the translation of the book took ten years”), or was he referring to the result of the act of punishing (like “the translation has been published recently”)? Either one would be “punishment.”
Once again because of the obvious metaphysical objection of how to punish something that does not exist or have sentience, an appeal is made to capital punishment. But how this sort of punishment differs from not existing at all we are not told. To say that the awareness of punishment will cease is logically equivalent to not existing at all. Or to rephrase it, it would be as though we were never born. But the charge made against us traditionalists on this point is that we are misrepresenting them when we point this illogical sophistry out.
The context in Matthew however does not support this notion of degrading awareness. For we are told that this punishment is the eternal fire of which will be the same punishment that was exacted upon Satan in verse 41.
NAS Matthew 25:41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
That this fire is unending is shown in Genesis where we read that it comes from God himself.
NAS Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,
Faced with this reality there are demonstrable instances when conditionalists will twist this text to avoid the conclusion. Like when the Pope of the conditionalist movement Edward Fudge purposefully skips this fact that the fire is undeniably eternal in the Genesis verse above.
In Response to Fudge, even if Sodom were to be taken as an identical example, all of their spirits are currently conscious in Sheol, Hades, or with God awaiting a new body suited for a final destination (Matthew 11:23,24, 2 Corinthians 5:8, 1 Corinthians 15:51,52, John 12:24).
God you see is a consuming fire indeed, but he is hardly a giant furnace, a volcano, or a giant fiery breathing dragon as some who reason him to be. Aside from all this, as Augustine observed the same reasoning could be applied to eternal life as J.P. Holding rightly says:
“At the risk of being anachronistic by dealing with English rather than Greek, let me use a comparable word to “punishment” to make a point. Annihilationism would have us believe that “punishment” refers here to a completed process that is eternal in its results. But let us say that, rather than eternal punishment, we were to be sentenced to eternal entertainment. It is a word paired with aionios, we will say, and it is a noun “formed from a verb involving process”.
Following annihilationism logic, someone sentenced to “eternal entertainment” would begin eternity by, say, watching a few back episodes of the Three Stooges, then have it turned off from there on.
“I thought this was eternal entertainment!” you would cry.
“Sure it is!” Gabriel answers. “You can remember what those Stooges episodes were like and laugh about them for the rest of eternity.”
This would sound like false or misleading advertising to me — and that is what the above annihilationism argument regarding the word “punishment” is. It is a twisting of the normal meaning of a word to suit a given position.”
Having then established that the fire is incontrovertibly unending, and the punishment is as well, all the arguments about undead worms, unquenchable fire, and making God’s burning out to be identical with a furnace of chaff are vanity. If there be any such scripture twisting permitted allow me the right to say “God is not a man, that he should need fuel for a fire”.
There are indeed many passages in the Old Testament that state that God will burn up his enemies. I will not waste much time on this, but aside from the fact that all those who were burned up then will in the future be raised, has anyone considered who exactly is consumed, and when they are consumed in the end of this age?
We are told it is the wicked to which I do not dispute. That it is not all the wicked, and is prior to the great white throne judgement and resurrection can be undeniably shown. Along withe fact that their are still wicked in existence in the new creation age.
NAS Revelation 20:9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
(This is the last mention of a consuming fire)
NAS Revelation 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
NAS Revelation 20:11 And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
NAS Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
NAS Revelation 21:8 "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
NAS Revelation 22:11 "Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy."
NAS Revelation 22:15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
Contrary to this sort of fire on earth which requires fuel, we have examples of God’s burning without physical consumption of humans, and objects (Leviticus 10:2, 4,5; Exodus 3:2). Moreover under the Mosaic law burning as a capitol punishment is only prescribed for a rare set of circumstances. Namely harlotry of a a priest’s daughter (Leviticus 21:9), incest (Leviticus 20:14), and as following death by another means (Joshua 7:25). Many scholars have suggested that it was only used after death. They note as well that this sort of punishment before death was actually mostly practiced by the heathen (Daniel 3) and more so before the age of Moses for unchastity (Genesis 38:24).
If the anihilationists would recognize that we will be judged by the law of God, and the law of God prescribes burning to death to these sins alone, only some will be annihilated out of all the sinners. Moreover the fiery annihilation cannot be the cause of the death for those in the case of Joshua 7:25 where they are to be burned after already being dead and punished by another means. In summary of all this, these are the insurmountable problems with this view.
1. Nonexistence in scripture is not portrayed as ultimate pain and shame
That is to say nonexistence/unconsciousness is actually viewed as better than coming under the wrath of God.
Matthew 26:24 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
2. If there is no torment to be endured by the ungodly for their sins then death would not be something to fear at all would it?
Hebrews 2:14-15 14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.