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Is Annihilationism Biblical

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  • Is Annihilationism Biblical

    by Ron Rhodes

    The doctrine of annihilationism teaches that man was created immortal. But those who continue in sin and reject Christ are by a positive act of God deprived of the gift of immortality and are ultimately destroyed.

    Another view, called "conditional immortality," argues that immortality is not a natural endowment of man, but is rather a gift of God in Christ only to those who believe. The person that does not accept Christ is ultimately annihilated and loses all consciousness. Some of the advocates of these doctrines teach a limited duration of conscious suffering for the wicked after death, after which time they are annihilated.

    There are many passages that refute annihilationism. For illustration purposes, we will select only one primary passage--Matthew 25:46: "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

    By no stretch of the imagination can the punishment spoken of in Matthew 25:46 be defined as a nonsuffering extinction of consciousness. Indeed, if actual suffering is lacking, then so is punishment. Let us be clear on this: punishment entails suffering. And suffering necessarily entails consciousness.

    Bible scholar John Gerstner tells us that "one can exist and not be punished; but no one can be punished and not exist. Annihilation means the obliteration of existence and anything that pertains to existence, such as punishment. Annihilation avoids punishment, rather than encountering it."

    How do we know that the punishment referred to in Matthew 25:46 does not entail an extinction of consciousness and annihilation? There are many evidences. For example, consider the fact that there are no degrees of annihilation. One is either annihilated or one is not. The Scriptures, by contrast, teach that there will be degrees of punishment on the day of judgment (Matthew 10:15; 11:21-24; 16:27; Luke 12:47-48; John 15:22; Hebrews 10:29; Revelation 20:11-15; 22:12).

    The very fact that people will suffer varying degrees of punishment in hell shows that annihilation or the extinction of consciousness is not taught in Matthew 25:46 or anywhere else in Scripture. These are incompatible concepts.

    Moreover, one cannot deny that for one who is suffering excruciating pain, the extinction of his or her consciousness would actually be a blessing--not a punishment (cf. Luke 23:30-31; Revelation 9:6). Any honest seeker after truth must admit that one cannot define "eternal punishment" as an extinction of consciousness.

    We must emphasize that torment cannot, by definition, be anything but conscious torment. One cannot torment a tree, a rock, or a house. By its very nature, being tormented requires consciousness. Bible scholar Alan Gomes correctly points out that "a punishment [such as torment] that is not felt is not a punishment. It is an odd use of language to speak of an insensate (i.e., unfeeling), inanimate object receiving punishment. To say, 'I punished my car for not starting by slowly plucking out its sparkplug wires, one by one,' would evoke laughter, not serious consideration." We repeat, then, that punishment entails consciousness!

    A critical point to make in regard to Matthew 25:46 is that this punishment is said to be eternal. There is no way that annihilationism or an extinction of consciousness can be forced into this passage. Indeed, the adjective aionion in this verse literally means "everlasting, without end." As noted earlier, this same adjective is predicated of God (the "eternal" God) in 1 Timothy 1:7, Romans 16:26, Hebrews 9:14, 13:8, and Revelation 4:9. The punishment of the wicked is just as eternal as our eternal God.

  • #2
    The Bible teaches Hell is a place of eternal punishment, not annihilation. Jesus said, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Here in the same sentence, Christ uses the word “eternal” (aionos) to describe the duration of both Heaven and Hell.

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    • #3
      Annihilationism is the teaching that the unbeliever, after death, will eventually be annihilated. Annihilation is the teaching that the non-Christian ceases to exist after death. Within this view are two main categories. First, that the unredeemed will automatically be annihilated. Second, that the unredeemed, after an appropriate amount of time of suffering, will be annihilated. The reason for these positions are also twofold: First, people do not like the idea of a person suffering eternally for his sins. Second, some claim it makes God unjust. Let's take a look at these two issues.

      First of all, the Scriptures do not teach annihilationism.

      You can see that "forever and ever" is a phrase used of the glory of God that will never cease (1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 5:13). The same phrase is used to speak of the torment of people that will never cease (Rev. 19:3; 20:10; ). Therefore, annihilationism simply can't work in light of what the Scriptures teach.

      Also, there is a danger of teaching a form of works righteousness in annihilation is him, particularly in the area of someone suffering for a period of time and then being annihilated. Basically, a person who has suffered an appropriate amount of time would then be delivered from that suffering -- because of his punishment. In other words, after the person has suffered enough, he has earned deliverance from the wrath of God. Annihilation is being delivered from the suffering.

      But some might say that the annihilation is eternal punishment. But how do you punish someone who does not exist? You cannot. You can't eternally punish someone who has no existence. Eternal punishment only works when the person is in existence.

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      • #4
        the idea that wicked souls will spend eternity in a fiery hell or lake of fire makes many people uncomfortable. It is far easier to believe in the Jehovah’s Witness idea of annihilation than to accept what the Scriptures plainly teach on this difficult subject. Yet, Jesus spoke of hell more than He spoke of heaven because this place is as real as heaven is real. If hell is merely the grave where unconscious human souls rest in peace, why would Jesus warn people over and over about the dangers of going to this awful place? At Luke 16, Jesus told a parable about a poor man named Lazarus who went to a blissful place at death while a rich man went to the eternal torments of a fiery hell. Although this story probably did not occur in real life, all of Jesus’ other parables resembled real-life situations. There is no reason to think that this story was any different. Revelation 20:15 says: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”15. Do you know if your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life?

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        • #5
          According to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society when you die, you cease to exist (Let God be True, p. 59, 60, 67). On Judgment Day, only faithful Jehovah's Witnesses will be resurrected to life eternal on Paradise Earth. The rest of all mankind will be annihilated, wiped out, and made to not exist with no eternal punishment in a fiery hell.

          There is a logical problem with this view. If a Jehovah's Witness believes that he ceases to exist when he dies and that he will be resurrected at the Judgment Day, then is he really being resurrected? In other words, if he was alive and then has ceased to exist, he is in the same state he was before he was created. That is, he isn't. He has no existence. He is gone. The only remnant of this person would be in the memory of God (not counting family and friends, etc.). Only God would know if this Jehovah's Witness was good enough for Paradise Earth. If he was, then the reward would be a new creation of someone in the exact image of the Jehovah's Witness who previously lived and did all the works mandated by the Watchtower Organization; but it wouldn't be the exact same person because that person ceased to exist and there is no continuity and no continuance of the person since he has ceased to be.

          Therefore, on Judgment day, how can he be resurrected? That is, how is he, as the same person, resurrected when he doesn't exist anymore? Is he the exact same person, or did God make an exact copy of the person upon which to shower the blessings of Paradise Earth?

          It would seem that simple logic would contradict the idea of existence, non-existence, and then existence all being the same person. It also contradicts scripture which says,
          • "We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." (2 Cor. 5:8).
          • "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows such a man was caught up to the third heaven." (2 Cor. 12:2).
          The Bible teaches us that we have an existence away from our bodies once we die. The Jehovah's Witnesses are incorrect. We continue on after death.
          If someone ceases to exist when they die, they are gone. Even if a person exactly like them with all their same thoughts and memories is created later, that is not a resurrection of the same person. The former person is gone.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by thomas1961 View Post
            The Bible teaches Hell is a place of eternal punishment, not annihilation. Jesus said, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Here in the same sentence, Christ uses the word “eternal” (aionos) to describe the duration of both Heaven and Hell.
            Hell Is Not Eternal, However Death & Hell Will Be Cast Into The "Lake Of Fire" The Second Death, Which Is Eternal.

            Revelation 20:13-15King James Version (KJV)
            13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
            14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
            15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Truth7t7 View Post
              Hell Is Not Eternal, However Death & Hell Will Be Cast Into The "Lake Of Fire" The Second Death, Which Is Eternal.

              Revelation 20:13-15King James Version (KJV)
              13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
              14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
              15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
              You would perhaps be better informed by using a more accurate rendition of the passage you quoted.
              Joh 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. [NIV]

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