Answering the critics and supposed scriptures that teach otherwise
Thankfully, Conditionally Immortality is growing in belief among evangelicals. A great article was written by respected evangelical scholar Clark Pinnock who has come out strongly in favor of this position: The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent.
The fact that it is gaining ground must be the reason why a few are writing responses to it. They usually all quote the same four or five verses in defense of eternal torment, so these are now going to be addressed in this section.
First, in scripture, Jesus speaks definitively on the fate of the unsaved soul, it will be destroyed.
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. (Matt 10:28)
It is Jesus who gives us the truly critical and pivotal scripture for understanding the fate of the lost soul–that it can and will be destroyed. It will die (cease to function anymore) on Judgment Day at the end of the age. This will happen in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) which will be a terrible fate-cremation. However, Matthew 10:28 is the text through which all other scriptures and their interpretations must be filtered. Without using this text as the foundation for the fate of the lost, there will be confusion. With this text, (Matthew 10:28) as a foundational text, all other texts follow smoothly. Additionally, Paul also taught that immortality is brought to light through the gospel only. (2 Timothy 1:10) With this as a biblical filter, an important rule of biblical hermeneutics can now be followed-plain texts must interpret any symbolic texts.
Here are common questions:
- What about the unquenchable fire in Mark 9:48?
- What about the eternal punishment of Matthew 25:46?
- What about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16?
- Doesn’t Revelation 14 tell us that people will be tormented forever?
- Doesn’t Revelation tell us that people who take the mark of the best will have no rest day or night?
- What about Revelation 20:10 which says the devil and the best and the false prophet will be tormented forever?
More Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers!)
Cults Teach Everlasting Destruction—It Just Doesn’t Look Good Some have opposed the view of literal everlasting destruction on the grounds that it is adhered to (in one form or another) by various cult/borderline cult groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh-Day Adventists, Christadelphians and the Armstrongite sects. NOTE 1: Although the Seventh-Day Adventists are an evangelical sect, many consider them a “borderline cult” because of their legalistic views regarding the Saturday Sabbath and Old Testament dietary laws, as well as...read more
Some oppose literal destruction by resorting to the reasoning that people are spiritual beings, and “By definition, a spirit cannot die. A spirit is an immortal being” (Robertson 72). You’ll notice that anyone who makes such an argument will fail to quote any Biblical passages to support this definition. That’s because there are none. Nor does a standard English dictionary support this definition. The Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary defines ‘spirit’ as “A supernatural and immaterial being.” A spirit is an immaterial being, that’s all....read more
Torment is Not Torture You may have noticed in this study that I regularly refer to the view of eternal torment as eternal torture. Both references obviously apply to the same position—that of never-ending conscious suffering. Norman Geisler, a staunch adherent of eternal torment, objects to this practice of using torment and torture interchangeably. His contention is that hell, the lake of fire, is indeed a place of torment, but it is not a torture chamber for “unlike torture, which is inflicted from without against one’s will, torment...read more
H. Buis comments on how adherents of literal everlasting destruction place great emphasis on the fact that the figure of “fire” is used in the Bible to describe the second death, “and fire, they point out, always destroys… But the fact is that when you burn something it is not annihilated, it simply changes form” (Buis 125). I guess what Mr. Buis is trying to say is that when, say, a log is burned up, it technically isn’t wiped out from existence, it turns to smoke vapors and ashes. While this is true, the simple fact is that the log itself...read more
This next objection goes hand in hand with the objection just examined. Under the guise of “interpretation” many sincere Christian people add the word “spiritual” to the numerous plain statements which promise death to unrepentant sinners. For instance, these people believe Romans 6:23 should read: “For the wages of sin is spiritual death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ our Lord.” They would then translate spiritual death here to mean eternal “separation of man from God because of sin” (Dake 619). The obvious problem with doing...read more
Let’s start with the strange theory that death doesn’t really mean death, but “separation.” For example, consider Paul’s unmistakable statement in this previously viewed passage: ROMANS 6:23For the wages of sin is death (thanatos), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. As we’ve already seen in What is Sheol, “death” here is translated from the Greek word thanatos which simply means “death” (Strong 35)—the absence of life or opposite of life, hence, the cessation of conscious existence. The Greek scholar E.W. Bullinger...read more
What about Revelation 20:10 which says the devil and the beast and the false prophet will be tormented forever?
They will indeed be tormented forever; however they are not humans. Jesus says Gehenna (hell) was specifically made for Satan and demons (Matthew 25:41), however fire does not affect angelic beings like humans. (see Ezekiel 10:7). Additionally, the word “tormented” here is the same Greek word that speaks of Lot being tormented in 2 Peter 2:8 watching the bad behavior of the Sodomites. The same Greek word is used for both Lot and Satan being tormented. Also, John himself tells us where the beast comes from “the beast that...read more
Doesn’t Revelation tell us that people who take the mark of the beast will have no rest day or night?
Yes, they will indeed have “no rest,” but when will this happen? It will be during the tribulation period while on this earth. It is important to note that in the previous verse, John wrote in the Greek future tense and refers to the Great White Throne Judgment where the lost will be tormented “in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb” on Judgment Day. This is a future event for John. The Greek tense is in the future. In this verse, John changes tenses. It is in the Greek present tense. This...read more
First let’s look at what the text actually says…Revelation 14:10-11 is about a specific group of people at “the end times.” It is about people who take the mark of the beast during what many call The Great Tribulation. John tells us of the day they meet God–Judgment Day. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the...read more
The teaching of Conditional Immortality means that the soul of man is finally destroyed on the Day of Judgment–at the end of this age. Therefore, technically speaking, this scripture has no bearing on this doctrine. However, as a side note, there is sufficient reason for understanding this passage of scripture as a parable. The previous four stories were all parables (Luke 15:4, 15:8, 15:11, 16:1) so this story is obviously in a long string of parables. The parable in Luke 16:1, which He just told them, also began with the exact same...read more