Believe What the Jewish Apostles Taught, Not What the Greek Philosophers Taught
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Greek Philosophers Taught:
It is clear that PLATO and many Greek philosophers taught the soul was indestructible:
Conclusion: Except for the Epicureans, Greek philosophers taught of the soul's natural immortality-without God.
Jewish Apostles Taught:
However, the Scriptures teach the soul is destructible and immortality is part of the gospel.
Conclusion: Jesus and James taught the soul was destructible. Paul taught that immortality is brought through the gospel.
I am Jewish and I have been a believer in Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) for over 30+ years. I have done undergraduate and graduate studies at very conservative Biblical Institutes. I had always believed the "Traditional" view of the lost until I did a major study.
Now, like me, a growing number of evangelicals are also studying this and seeing that eternal torture is not what the Scripture teaches. The Greeks, led by Plato, believed in and taught about the "immortal soul," however, that phrase never occurs in all of Scripture.
I urge you to read ALL of the articles on this site to get a fair and balanced view. Do not assume anything–read at least the first two articles.
Years ago, I did the same with the Scriptures that pointed to Jesus (Yeshua). After much study, I was convinced that the Jewish Bible and the New Testament were correct and that Jewish tradition was wrong. Jesus (Yeshua) was/is the Messiah and is Deity and is fully God incarnate.
In the same way, I urge you to consider the scriptural position of this very important information.
Table of Contents
Secondary points to consider:
What is Conditional Immortality?
A growing number of well-known Christian leaders, such as Dr. David R. Reagan, John R. Stott, Greg Boyd, Roger Forster (co-founder of the March for Jesus events), Philip Hughes, Michael Green, Stephen Travis, and Clark Pinnock have declared support for part, or all, of the biblical doctrine of Conditional Immortality. Even the British Bible translator, William Tyndale, defended Conditional Immortality during his lifetime. Also, the very well respected scholar F.F. Bruce states, "Eternal conscious torment is incompatible with the revealed character of God" so he chose to write the forward to an excellent evangelical book on this topic called, The Fire that Consumes by Edward Fudge.
While some call it Annihilationism, simply stated, Conditional Immortality is the biblical belief that the immortality of the soul is not inherent (Greek thinking) but conditional (Biblical thinking) upon receiving the gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus (Yeshua). It is part and parcel of the gospel. God alone has immortality-anyone else becomes immortal only as a result of God's gracious gift (1 Timothy 6:16, Romans 2:7).
For centuries, church theologians have wrongly assumed the Greek doctrine of the immortality of all souls. Therefore, it is no wonder that the message of immortality has been completely dropped from modern preaching. I ask you, when have you ever heard a message offering immortality as part of the gospel presentation? It is almost never done, because today most people falsely assume the soul is already immortal. Yet, immortality through Jesus (Yeshua) alone is what the Jewish Apostle Paul preached:
Paul clearly links immortality to the gospel. Paul did not believe the Greek philosophy of his day which taught the immortality of all souls.
Before the Messiah, Jesus, came, no one had a chance at immortality because of sin. If they did, then Paul's statement would make no sense. Why would immortality come through the gospel if all had it from birth? The gospel would not have brought about immortality-since all had it. But look how Paul frames in immortality uniquely and only with believers:
Notice Paul uses the word "seek" when speaking of immortality. None of these attributes he lists here are inherent to mankind. If they were, then the word "seek" would clearly be out of place. Again, Paul did not believe the Greek philosophers who taught the immortality of all souls, neither did Yeshua (Jesus):
Again, why would Jesus Himself make this plain offer to "live forever" if everyone lived forever?
It is important to note that in Hebrew, the word for "life/soul" (nehphesh) is never used in conjunction with the word "everlasting" in Tanach (The Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament).
Likewise, in the New Testament writings, the word for "soul" (psukee) is never used in conjunction with the words "eternal" or "everlasting."
Again it is an assumption (based upon Greek philosophy)that the soul of mankind is eternal and can never be destroyed.
The Jewish encyclopedia tells us the same thing:
Therefore, God's Gift of Eternal Life is the Answer to Humanity's Quest for Immortality and the Fountain of Youth. Think about it, what is humanity's greatest desire? A greater desire than wealth, fame, true love or sexual gratification? From the ancient epic of Gilgamesh to Ponce De Leon's obsessive search for the fountain of youth to our modern-day compulsion to remain youthful-looking as long as possible, humanity is obsessed with the idea of immortality, the idea of living forever. Yet most refuse to turn to God for this gift. Yet this immortality is exactly what the gospel offers. (2 Timothy 1:10, Romans 2:7, John 6:51)
Again I ask you to read through all of the articles here to see how unbiblical the concept of the immortality of the unsaved soul is. Immortality is reserved only for those who put their faith in Jesus (Yeshua). All the rest are destroyed (not preserved), (Matthew 10:28) after a period of time. They will suffer no more and no less than their sins deserve-then will be destroyed forever just as the Messiah foretold. And before you may falsely conclude that those who hold to Conditional Immortality believe the lost do not suffer at all for their sins, it is very obvious that they do.
The future they face on Judgment Day is 1) suffering in proportion for their sins then 2) destruction. Yet all the lost will not receive same amount of suffering for their sins before they are destroyed. God will see that they receive the exact amount of "stripes" they deserve. Some (like Hitler) will receive very many "stripes." Others will receive "few" as Yeshua (Jesus) says. After they have received their appropriate "stripes," then they will "perish" as John 3:16 states. ("perish" or "apollumi" in Greek: be destroyed). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23, Revelation 2:11), not eternal existence in torment. Ezekiel states clearly that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4), and a plethora of other Bible verses and passages endorse this position.
Also, in regards to suffering, Scripture seems to indicate that what the lost have suffered here on earth, for their sins, may actually count as partial payment then (Isaiah 40:2). Additionally, when we look at what Messiah Jesus did for us, in suffering for us, His suffering took place in this world, so it is clear that His suffering in this world will count as credit for believers in the next world. Because we believe that Jesus suffered and died for us here (and that is the gospel), therefore, it is a safe assumption to believe that unbelievers who suffer terribly in this life will have that suffering count towards the payment for their sins. This alone helps explain why some (not all) sinners suffer in this world. Better to pay for it here than there. However, do not believe for a moment that those who hold to Conditional Immortality believe there is no payment for those who have done evil in this life. There will be! Justice, in its proper amount, will be served. No more, no less, for God is Just.
Getting back to the concept of immortality. If you read John's gospel and think of the concept of immortality whenever you hear Jesus (Yeshua) speak of offering "life," it will make complete sense. I challenge you to read John's gospel and mentally insert the concept of "immortality" whenever you read of Jesus (Yeshua) offering "life." It makes complete sense.
Interestingly enough, it was the serpent who was first to suggest that sinners would not die, "And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4). Sadly, this is the same lie being told today, that everyone lives forever. Therefore, apart from the gospel, there is no immortality. Please read next chapter: Are all souls born immortal?
Are all souls born immortal?
This is a key question. Please take a moment and think about it. What you believe about the nature of the soul will be the lens by which you view the very important question about the fate of unbelievers.
It will affect how you present the good news to an unbeliever. Is immortality inherent or is immortality a gift that only believers receive? This is a question of immense proportions. I cannot stress this enough. The Greeks had one view, the Scriptures have another.
If you believe the souls of unsaved men live forever, then which of these two statements do you believe? There really are only two choices:
The great Inter-Varsity Press evangelical author, John R. Stott, (who also left the Traditional view) brings up a well-argued point for Conditional Immortality, when he states:
Stott is correct. Reread that statement. The word destruction is meaningless if there is not a point where the destruction is complete. In other words, you can't keep on destroying something for all eternity. It's a contradiction in terms. Therefore, Conditional Immortality correctly affirms the biblical position that the souls of the lost people will all be destroyed at the end of the age. (Revelation 20:15) This is what the Scripture calls the "second death."
The first death is temporary. In the first death, only the body is destroyed in the graveyard. However, there will be a resurrection one day of all humanity, a bodily resurrection. The second death will never be followed by a resurrection. In the second death, the body and soul are both destroyed (not preserved), (Matthew 10:28) forever.
The second death could not mean eternal torment because it is linked to the first death. The numerical values "first" and "second" show that they are related terms and therefore the deaths must be related too. In the first death, the body stops functioning. In the second death, the body and soul stop functioning forever. They are both destroyed. Yeshua (Jesus) says specifically "both" in Matthew 10:28. Sadly, Traditional theology wrongly states that the soul cannot be destroyed in clear contradiction to the Lord's word.
Additionally, Jesus did not mention Gehenna (translated as hell) more than at half a dozen occasions (Matt. 5:22,29,30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15,33, Mark 9:43 and Luke 12:5) and almost all are in the gospel of Matthew. In His day, Gehenna was the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem. The inhabitants of Jerusalem would just carry their garbage, including dead animals, bones and other waste, outside the south gate of the city (still to this day called "the dung gate"), down the hill and into the "Valley of Hinnom," into GeHinnom (translated as hell in the New Testament). The waste that was dumped there was then either burned up in the fires that usually burned there, or it rotted away, being eaten by maggots and worms. By the time of Yeshua (Jesus), the Valley of Hinnom had been used for centuries by the inhabitants of Jerusalem as their local garbage dump. Jesus' audience specifically knew about the valley of Hinnom where the garbage was burned until it was gone, but they would have known nothing about a place where people are burned alive forever in an immortal state.
Scripture clearly states that Adam and Eve lost the chance at immortality in their natural state.
If Adam and Eve would have eaten of the tree of life in their sinful state that would have been a disaster. They would then have immortality ("live forever") in their sinful state. Therefore, God put a guard there to make sure they would not become immortal in this state.
It is clear as a bell that God did not want them to live forever as sinners. He specifically stopped it from happening by placing angels and a flaming sword there to block the way. It is only by believing in Yeshua (Jesus) that mankind has another chance at immortality.
It will be on Resurrection day that believers only will put on immortality.
Even Traditional Judaism and Bible believers alike all correctly conclude that there will be a bodily resurrection one day. It is called the Tehiyyat ha-Metim = "the resurrection of the dead" and even written in the Traditional Jewish prayer "the Shmona Esre"; and the writer of the book of Hebrews refers to this fact (the resurrection) as "foundational" teachings in Hebrews 6:1-2. However, those who hold to Conditional Immortality know that the lost will not gain immortality on resurrection day, but will be destroyed (cremated) only after suffering for their sins no more and no less than they specifically deserve.
Evangelical Pastor Al Maxey, who after studying this now believes in Conditional Immortality, writes:
Respected Messianic Rabbi, Loren Jacobs also correctly states:
Another important point. In John 3:16, the word "perish" in the Greek is "apollumi." It is correctly translated many other times as "destroy" throughout the New Testament. Therefore, let's correctly understand John 3:16 as follows:
Therefore, the proper biblical question is not, "Where will you be in eternity?" but "Will you have an eternity?"
Sadly, most of humanity will be destroyed on Judgment Day. They will not gain immortality. They will not gain life. Jesus states this plainly, "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." John 12:25. It is life itself that we can "keep" or "lose." As a matter of fact God's choice to us is always "life" or "death" never "life in bliss" or "life in eternal torment." He always urges us to "choose life."
Scripturally, the choice is between
destruction (not preservation in torment) and life!
Immortality is only for a select few-those who are born again ("who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2 Timothy 1:10). The rest of humanity, after suffering according to the level of their sins, will be destroyed. The wages of sin for them will be death (Rom 6:23). God only has immortality-anyone else becomes immortal only as a result of God's gracious gift (1 Timothy 6:16, Romans 2:7).
If you still doubt this, then look at what Jesus Himself clearly offers to the world:
Why would Jesus make such an offer-to "live forever"-if everyone lives forever? (As I have heard countless preachers say?) No, the truth is "living forever" is reserved only as a gift of the gospel. ("Hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2 Tim 1:10). The wicked will have to pay accordingly on Judgment Day, but their final destiny is destruction (not preservation). Apart from the gospel, there is no immortality.
How can it be any more plain than that? They will be destroyed.
Are you saying there is no "punishment" for the unsaved?
Absolutely not. The lost clearly need to be saved from their sins. (see Matthew 1:21) What Conditional Immortality correctly and simply teaches is that immortality is conditional. It is only for the saved (2 Timothy 1:10). Therefore, the punishment of the sinner is not preservation in torment, but eschatological death. It is Capital Punishment of body and soul on Resurrection Day from the judicial hand of God. It is loss of life forever; it is eternal death beginning on Judgment Day. It is rather interesting that most believe "death" is the worst punishment you can face on this earth in a court of law, yet do not believe this about Judgment Day in God's court. Adherents of eternal torture hold such a low view of life, that death is not a punishment for them. Yet this is exactly what the wages of sin are (Romans 6:23). For God, death is the worst judgment of all, because He holds life as precious! Adherents of eternal torment do not believe life is precious enough to believe that removal of it is a punishment! How sad!
This Scripture is not to be given any theological "spin" to its meaning. Read it plainly. Death is the absence of life. "Death" (Gk: thanatos) does not mean torment in Greek-never. Its parallel is in Romans 6:23 which is the gift of "eternal life" for the believer. The setting is clearly eschatological. The "wages of sin" will be the sinners" loss of life (death) at the end of the age. It is their "second death" (Revelation 20:14-15) which ends (not preserves) their body and soul's living forever (Matthew 10:28).
Let us think for a moment what we do to murderers in our society. Do we torture them endlessly? No. This would be called "cruel and unusual punishment." The 8thAmendment to the United States Constitution states this. Is this amendment godly or ungodly? It is clearly godly! So we can see that even an unsaved lawmaker instinctively knows that the unending (24/7) physical torturing of a twenty year old murderer for the next 50 years (assuming his life span to be seventy years) would certainly not make the punishment fit the crime. Never ceasing, unending physical conscious torture for 50 years would not be a fitting punishment to any crime committed. Even evangelical biblical scholar Clark Pinnock rightly states about this eternal torture doctrine, "How can one love a God like that? I suppose one might be afraid of Him, but could we love and respect Him? A god who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die."
Again, I cannot state this strongly enough, even unsaved man knows this fact. Why do the unsaved even know that? Because they still have some retention of God's law of right and wrong in their thoughts. God would certainly NOT approve of any courtroom sentencing any human criminal to unending conscious physical torture 24/7/365. That judgment would certainly be worse than the crime itself! They would understand that this would go against the very moral fiber built into their consciences (fallen as they may be). So we see in this specific area of our own penal system, God has placed this right understanding of punishment even among the unsaved (Romans 2:15). Then why do believers "shut off" their God given consciences and suppress every fiber in their being which screams "Eternal conscious torture (the Traditional view of hell) really does not make sense!" The punishment does not fit the crime.
Messianic Rabbi Loren Jacobs rightly observes:
Even in Torah (Books of Moses), there was no basis for unending physical torture-none. The conscience strokes due to a person were always limited.
Even Yeshua (Jesus) taught limited conscience physical sufferings upon the guilty:
The adjectives "many" and "few" in Luke 12 could not be used if eternal conscious torment were what He was teaching here. He would have used "heavier" and "lighter" if the duration of conscience sufferings were eternal. So according to Yeshua's (Jesus") own words, some will have "many stripes" (Hitler types) and some will have "few stripes" (only God knows).
Now there will indeed be pain and suffering in the dying process. That much is absolutely true, (just look at what happened to Jesus (Yeshua) on the cross). However, the "wage of sin" (Romans 6:23) is ultimately death, not the suffering process in getting to death itself. It is the "second death" (Rev. 2:11).
Again, it is eternal punishment, not eternal punishing. (Matthew 25:46) Death is the punishment; and it lasts forever. That is why it is called eternal punishment. It is a punishment with everlasting effects. Remember, Jesus Himself tells us that the fire was never made for humans, it was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Humans, however, will be destroyed there-cremated according to Isaiah 66:24.
Notice, Paul also tells us exactly what the punishment of the lost is: "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Paul clearly says they will be destroyed (not preserved) and that the destruction will last forever. After suffering according to their sins, they will be shut out from everlasting life and miss out on seeing the glory of God. It is capital punishment of the body and soul.
Look at Capital Punishment in theory. What is the judicial underlying basis for capital punishment? In other words, how is putting them to death really a punishment? It is the years of life a condemned murderer is missing out on. That is really why it is a punishment to him or her. It is the removal of what could have been for them. That is the only valid basis for such a punishment really being a punishment to them. Please give some deep thought behind the judicial notion of Capital Punishment for a few moments and you will see that the loss of what could have been for them is indeed the main punishment to a criminal being put to death. The suffering that goes along with the process may be valid, but the final payment and penalty is death itself.
This, then, is precisely the same punishment awaiting the unsaved at the Final Judgment. The only difference will be that a human judicial court can only remove the bodily life of a person as punishment. Jesus (Yeshua) taught that God had the power to "destroy both soul and body" in Gehenna (hell) (Matthew 10:28). The word "both" is the operative word here. Jesus is saying, there is nothing left alive (functioning) of a person after God's destruction (in whatever time frame it occurs) has taken place.
The fact that it will last forever makes it "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46) Remember, this occurs after their resurrection (Revelation 20:12). They now know that God exists and certainly has the power to raise the dead (after all, they will have just been resurrected themselves). Maybe they will have hope that this upcoming death will also be temporary and they can then gain eternal joy in the New Jerusalem? But the statement to them of their "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46) will remove all hope from them. Since they refused the payment of Yeshua (Jesus), they will suffer only for their own sins and then face the "second death."
Evangelical author Edward Fudge, a former Traditionalist, makes the same point in his classic book The Fire that Consumes:
The unsaved will be destroyed forever. Paul clearly states that the unsaved will "be punished with everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Notice he does not say "everlasting preservation." No hope of resurrection, no hope of life anymore. Just as a judicial court merits out the death penalty with the underlying basis of it being "missing out" on the rest of your life, so too will the sinners punishment be "missing out" on the rest of your eternity.
This is why Jesus (Yeshua) and the apostles and the Psalmist can all state:
But what is the meaning of the word "destroy"? Perhaps it means eternal torment? You certainly have to import an alien meaning to the definition of the word "destroy" (Gk: apollumi) if it means eternal torture. It is never directly translated this way in any New Testament writings. Never.
Again, I repeat the keen observation of that great evangelical commentator, John R. Stott, when he states:
The fact of the matter is this, the body and soul of unbelievers can and will be destroyed one day. It will be Judgment Day to be exact. This "Day" is spoken about over and over again in Scripture. Yes, the process itself will include suffering, but the end result according to the Jewish Scriptures (the Bible) is destruction, death, cessation of life and thought.
Jesus taught that God would not "preserve" (as is commonly taught) but "destroy" both soul and body one day. Even if no other biblical writer ever used the word "destroy," we would still be forced to accept the "destructibility" of the unsaved soul even if only based upon this rock solid statement of the Son of God in Matthew 10:28.
Plato was wrong, the soul is not indestructible.
Jesus was right, it is destructible.
This is what is biblically true. Conditionalism correctly teaches this truth from God's Holy Word.
Why rarely cited Isaiah 66:24 is the key
Why is this verse key? Because Jesus quotes it verbatim in Mark 9:48. Therefore, it is a clear statement about Gehenna (hell) and must be looked at in the context of Isaiah 66. (Jesus would have known it in context and so should we.) Also, the word "Gehenna" is what Jesus used whenever he spoke of "hell" and that was the name of the garbage dump in Jerusalem! So His listeners would not have understood Jesus as speaking of eternal torment here. Gehenna was a place where worms and fires lived, but not people! Now back to Isaiah 66:24.
In this verse we have believers, ("they" in verse 24), going out to look upon the very place tradition tells us we will never see. Isaiah clearly states that we will see those in Gehenna. He cannot state it more clearly in verse 24, "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses."
We, believers, will look upon dead bodies in Gehenna. (Did you ever consider that?) And what will be seen? Isaiah makes it clear, we will see "carcasses" (Hebrew: pegerim = dead bodies). This is at the point in time when all in Gehenna (hell) have already died in "body and soul" (Matthew 10:28). Then we will be permitted to view them. They will be ashes by this time (Malachi 4:3)-cremated.
Evangelical author Edward Fudge gives this passage a well developed exegesis that deserves quotation here:
Certainly the fact that we, as believers, will go out and "look upon" these dead bodies in Gehenna (hell) must make us change the paradigm by we see the fate of the lost through.
Is this not what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah? They became ashes and the surrounding towns could eventually walk through there with amazement and see ashes everywhere of those who were incinerated.
Notice the Jewish apostle Peter draws this same conclusion, "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6). If Sodom is an example (Peter's own words) to us of the fate of the ungodly, then their becoming ashes must be the same fate reserved for the lost-cremation. Sodomites became ashes, Peter tells us the unsaved will also become ashes–not tormented forever as is erroneously taught.
Additionally, Malachi also tells us the wicked will be turned into ashes, just as Peter stated above, "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet." Malachi 4:3
Isaiah, Peter and Malachi tell us the fate of unbelievers is for them to become ashes, cremated. Ashes that will be looked upon with contempt or disgust (Isaiah 66:24, Daniel 12:2). These are bodies and souls of men that are now destroyed (Matthew 10:28).
No doubt it will be terrible for the lost on Judgment Day, but the Traditional notion of eternal torture is not found in these verses. Dead bodies "turning into ashes" is what is written by Isaiah and spoken by Jesus (Yeshua).
Doesn't Daniel 12:2 say some will face "everlasting contempt"?
This verse is used constantly to prove the Traditional view. However, upon closer examination of the text, it is nowhere to be found. The Hebrew word here for "contempt" is "darone." It is very important to note that the only other time it is used in all of Tanach (The Hebrew Bible) is in Isaiah 66:24, which was discussed earlier. In Isaiah 66:24, those who have "darone" ("contempt" or "disgust") are the believers who go out and look upon the dead bodies (not living souls) of those who have been turned into ashes, cremated (2 Peter 2:6, Malachi 4:3).
It would be similar to us looking at the burned corpse of Adolf Hitler. We will always have contempt or disgust for him. Even in eternity. Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2 are inextricably linked by the same Hebrew word and that Hebrew word speaks of our contempt for the wicked, not their eternal conscious torment.
There are two emotions here, shame and contempt. It is obvious that the unsaved have the shame emotion. And it is the righteous that have the contempt emotion towards the wicked. Notice that only one of those emotions lasts forever. It is contempt, which proves that we (believers) will live forever and still feel emotion. However, nothing is said about shame being felt forever. Why? Because the wicked will be destroyed in body and soul. (Matthew 10:28).
Evangelical author William West states the same thing in his book The Resurrection and Immortality:
Why the "Book of Life" is exactly that...a Book of Life
The Scriptures talk over and over again about a "Book of Life":
Moses and Paul were both willing to be blotted out of this book:
Those who have their names in this book will gain immortality. They will gain life forever at the Resurrection; the rest of humanity will be destroyed and not live forever. The Book of Life is a book that contains the names of those whom God has ordained to have immortality (2 Timothy 1:10, Romans 2:7), the rest are destroyed in body and soul as Jesus said they would be (Matthew 10:28).
Moses and Paul were willing to give up their immortality, their "living forever," for Israel to be saved. Paul states:
Something that was accursed (Gk: Anathema) was killed and cremated in the Old Testament. (Joshua 7:15). It was never tortured forever.
Therefore, Moses and Paul made a statement of profound love for the people they loved. They were not saying they would be willing to undergo eternal torment. They were willing to be dead forever. They were willing to be killed and cremated (i.e. they would give up their immortality) if it would save Jewish people and enable them to live forever. It really is that simple.
Why this topic is important
As an evangelist, I deal with apologetics issues all the time. For those of you unfamiliar with this topic, it simply means giving a rational defense of the faith to those who ask you. In reading a book entitled Letters from a Skeptic A Son Wrestles with His Father's Questions about Christianity, Dr. Gregory A. Boyd answers his father's numerous objections to the Christian faith. These objections were in the form of written letters that were sent back and forth over a long period of time. The father had asked many, many excellent questions that his son, Dr. Greg Boyd, took great pains to answer them very well. Then finally the issue of hell came up. Look what his father states in his letters:
Did you notice that? Dr. Boyd's father considers this issue a stumbling block to his acceptance of God and the gospel. He says the "character of God is on trial" and this is a correct observation. This is no light matter with unbelievers. Dr. Boyd then responds very lovingly with several options. One of those options is Conditional Immortality (although he does not call it that.)
It is very important to see how Dr. Boyd's father responds to this information which he had never heard before (since he had never heard this point of view before.)
I think the point is a very powerful one for me. It is all about the character of God. Dr. Boyd's father picked it up and yet many believers don't see it. The God we tell unbelievers about, in their mind, is unjust because we don't explain things fully to them. God can (and will) take away their life. However, they will first suffer, in proportion for their sins. How many have turned away from the faith because they wrongly believed tradition and not the Scriptures? Thankfully, Dr. Boyd shared this option with his father and his father is now going to have immortality because of it.
Most people don't realize the many problems that arise from presenting the so called Traditional position. See Questions and moral problems for those who hold to the eternal torture.
Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi makes similar comments in his excellent book, Immortality or Resurrection?
As an evangelist myself, I want to preach a message that is accurate. The character of God is at stake. Yes, God is holy! Yes, God will judge sin! (If you are not a believer I urge you to come to Jesus (Yeshua)). However, this topic is very important and the wrong answer can put up unnecessary stumbling blocks to the unsaved and even to believers. Look at this comment left on another web site that also teaches Conditional Immortality:
I think this is sufficient evidence to show that this is a very important topic. How many believers are suffering under the weight of the false teaching of eternal torment-for their unsaved loved ones already gone? How many children are taught the wrong view of a God who will torture them for eternity in hell if they don't accept Jesus and they are tormented by it themselves here! The truth of God's Word helps us see the ultimate fate of unbelievers and helps us motivate them to come to salvation today, to life, to everlasting life.
Why Traditional theology is biblically wrong about the first century phrase "gnashing of teeth"
A simple review of a few of the texts which have this phrase will clearly show that the Traditional way of thinking of it as a statement of ceasless pain and suffering will be unwarranted. Our language and idioms simply are not the same as the biblical ones. Case in point:
The one doing the "gnashing of teeth" has great anger towards the other.
The wicked are angry with the just and are "gnashing" their teeth at them.
Israel's enemies are angry and have attacked Israel. They are "gnashing" their teeth at Israel.
Stephen's accusers were angry with Stephen and have attacked him. They are "gnashing" their teeth at him in anger.
So from the hermeneutical principle that "Scripture interprets Scripture," we can see very clearly that when Jesus (Yeshua) says:
He means on that day:
There is nothing more than "weeping and anger" that is being said in this ancient phrase "weeping and gnashing of teeth" which has been misinterpreted by tradition. The Evangelical Conditionalist position is biblically correct. Proper hermeneutics demands we compare Scripture with Scripture. This is a prime example of the help that comparison provides.
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.
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.
What about the unquenchable fire in Mark 9:48?
First of all, we need to realize that Jesus is quoting verbatim Isaiah 66:24 in this passage so please read, Why rarely cited Isaiah 66:24 is a key for a more complete understanding of this Scripture. Proper hermeneutics demands that we interpret Scripture with Scripture. If Jesus is quoting Isaiah, shouldn't we read Isaiah too? Obviously Jesus would not disagree with Isaiah. Was Isaiah talking about the soul? Clearly he was not.
Second of all, if God throws something into eternal fire, who says that what is thrown in, is eternal also? Inter-Varsity Press author John R. Stott rightly concludes:
Third of all, this phrase is used elsewhere in "Tanach" (the Old Testament) and is never used to mean eternal torment. If you look up Isaiah 66:24, Jeremiah 7:20 and 17:27, and Ezekiel 20:47-48, they all mention that same phrase. And reading the context of these verses, it can clearly be seen that "unquenchable" means a judgment that man cannot "quench" or "talk God out of." In other words, no one can talk God out of it and it will indeed run its course. Has God ever been "talked out of" something in the past? Yes. Clearly Moses talked God out of destroying Israel in the desert. (Exodus 32:10-14) In a real sense Moses "quenched" God's anger against Israel.
Fourth of all, remember it (the fire) was "prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt 25:41) It was never, never made for humans. Humans will perish in the fire, not be preserved in the fire. With that in mind, reread the second point above by John Stott.
What about the eternal punishment of Matthew 25:46?
This is covered in Are you saying there is no "punishment" for the unsaved? But to state very briefly, the punishment (or wages) of sin according to Scripture is always death. Romans 6:23 and many other Scriptures state this very clearly, "The wages of sin is death." And how long will this punishment of death last? Remember, this verse is taking place while they are standing before God and know that He can bring anyone back from death. Perhaps God will raise them back to life to enjoy the Kingdom they will clearly see in front of them? No, they will be told they will miss out on the joy of being alive forever. Their sentence and punishment of death will last forever. That is why he tells them it is eternal punishment. It is a complete shame that believers have such a low view on the gift of life and existence from God that they do not believe having a person's life removed is a punishment. Yet it is a punishment. And that punishment will last forever.
What about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16?
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 list could go on and on, but suffice it to say that there are sufficient grounds for looking at this as a parable. Either way, let it be said again, that 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 (Revelation 20:14. Therefore, technically speaking, this Scripture has no bearing on the doctrine of Conditional Immortality, the destruction of the lost. Many Evangelicals who hold to Conditional Immortality also hold different views on the intermediate state and this paper does not discuss the intermediate state. It is also important to remember that if Jesus suffered on the cross for about six hours we have every reason to believe that the lost will suffer no more than the same amount of time that Jesus suffered.
Doesn't Revelation14 tell us that people will be tormented forever?
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.
It is very important to notice where they are. They are "in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb." This is obviously when they are standing before the Great White Throne of God on Judgment Day and cannot be hell. The parable that Jesus tells in Luke 19:27 teaches us that these ones will ultimately be slain, "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." Notice, they are eventually slain in the presence of the King, but not before they are tormented by His holiness and their sinfulness. Additionally, this is the same exact word in Greek that Peter uses to talk about how Lot was vexed (tormented) in his soul while seeing the evil deeds done in his hometown. (2 Peter 2:8)
Read the comments of Babu G. Ranganathan, who, as a former Hindu, was converted to faith in Jesus over thirty-five years ago through the television ministry of Dr. Billy Graham. Babu Ranganathan is a committed Reformed Baptist who holds a B.A. with a major in Bible and a minor in Biology from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina (class of '82). He also lectures on the fallacies and errors of evolution.
Edward Fudge makes similar comments:
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 cannot be stressed enough. In his literal translation of the Scriptures, Robert Young, compiler of the Analytical Concordance that bears his name, translates it into a perfect English translation-as John wrote it:
The apostle John writes this word "proskuneo" (worship/bowing) in the Greek present tense. The present tense is the tense he chooses to use to describe the rest of the events of Revelation that occur on the earth. So this must be while on earth since it is in the same Greek tense. Look at verse 9 in which the unsaved "worship" (also in the Greek present tense) the beast "and receive his mark." This is very important because it clearly occurs while on this earth. So, if the receiving of this mark (whatever it may be) is on this earth, then the worshipping in 14:11 must also be on this earth. Hence, the "no rest day or night" must occur on this earth as well.
The "no resting day or night" occurs while they are "bowing" and "worshipping" (present tense) the beast. This occurs during the time on earth when the book of Revelation events are being unfolded. These are people who are forced to receive the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16). John also tells us that painful sores break out on their body, "And there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." (Revelation 16:2) This is while they are on the earth.
Additionally the very next verse states "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12). Why is this important? Because "keeping" is in the very same tense! John's statement of those "who keep (present tense) the commandments" must be at the same time as those who have "no rest" and are "worshipping (present tense) the beast." Therefore this is conclusive proof that these both occur on the earth. Need more proof? Well, the same Greek word and tense of "worship" (of God this time) is also used in Revelation 11:1 where it is absolutely clear that the "worship" is going on in the present tense upon this earth. Let me repeat Revelation 11:1, 14:11, 16:2, all have the same Greek tense! You have to make them all be acts of "worship" while upon this earth.
Therefore, how can anyone "rest day or night" when they have painful such sores on their body and are forced to worship the beast? (Revelation 14:11 & 16:2). And John specifically tells us when this worshipping shall occur-it is when they "dwell upon the earth." "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him..." (Revelation 13:8) So the worshipping and the no resting both occur while upon this earth.
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 ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" (Rev. 11:7) This "beast" is not a human being. Humans do not come out of this pit. The apostle John wants us to know this beast is a demon by telling us his origins.
Dirk Warren has some keen insight on this verse:
Again, I even heard Dr. Tony Evans (who holds to the Traditional position) describe the final home of the devil as an island in a lake of fire. This will be Satan's home forever...his jail cell.
However, humans are destroyed there (Matthew 10:28).
Questions and major problems for those who hold to the eternal torment position.
Scripture says that God has put His standards in man's conscience and calls us to reason together with Him (Isaiah 1:18). So does the Traditional view of the lost, as eternal conscious torment, fit the bill? Does it pass test of Scripture? Assuredly it does not.
C.S. Lewis wrote, "There is no doctrine I would more willingly remove from Christianity than (hell), if it lay in my power," (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1940, p. 118). C.S. Lewis recognized the moral repulsion he faced when looking at the Traditional view. "We are told that it is a detestable doctrine and indeed, I too detest it from the bottom of my heart" (ibid. p. 118).
Why don't many more see it? Sadly, it seems like some authors will find heaven less pleasurable if they don't gain pleasure from watching the lost suffer. Here's a quote of Samuel Hopkins from The Works of Samuel Hopkins (p. 458) followed by William West's opinion of that quote:
Sadly, there is much, much more in Traditional theological literature which has ridiculous statements like those of Samuel Hoskins. They say we will get pleasure from seeing the wicked suffer, God says the exact opposite.
At least current popular Christian author Max Lucado rightfully and publicly states that if he is wrong about this issue (eternal torment for the lost), "I'll celebrate my misreading of his words," on the last day (3:16 Numbers of Hope, Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 96). His heart is in the right place but sadly he still believes in eternal torture. So I ask, why do some Christians seem so upset if the lost are not tortured forever?
But that is not the only problem with the eternal torment view. Consider the
How is this justice?
How can we read about a God who says over and over again in Scripture that he is "Just" and wants fairness among his people; commands an "eye for an eye and tooth for tooth" and then Himself tortures these same people mercilessly for not ten's of years, not hundred's of years, not million's or years, not billion's of years, not trillion's of years, not eons, but eternity. A sinner on this earth living for a millisecond of time, (in comparison to eternity) being tortured for eons and eons of time is not justice.
Clark H. Pinnock picks up on this theme as well:
Television evangelist, Dr. David Regan, of the Lamb & Lion Ministries (a former believer in eternal torment) also picks up on this theme on the pages of his Lamplighter magazine:
If eternal torment is true, it really means abortion is ultimately a good thing.There ultimately is no getting around this point. Sadly, untold millions have been aborted in recent history. Surely many babies underwent conscious pain as they were forcibly extracted and suctioned out of the womb. Those who are familiar with the pro-life movement are rightfully horrified by the pictures of aborted little children (yes, they are children). Most conservative theologians would rightfully place these little ones in heaven for eternity.
However consider the alternative. If millions of these aborted precious little ones were left to go to full term and then birth, ALL would grow up to be sinners and the majority would probably never accept Jesus as adults. Jesus Himself said most people would never find the way, "for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it." (Matthew 7:13).
Therefore, the majority of these people (if left to full term) would be tormented forever. That means if there is a choice of momentary pain for them (abortion) or eternal torture facing them, then abortion would be best. This point needs to be repeated over and over again. Those who consider themselves "pro-life" really need to reconsider the logic of their positions if they believe in eternal torture.
Look what a curious person wrote to a web site on this issue:
If eternal torment is true, then he is correct-abortion is best. But if it's not true (and it's not) then Pro-Life is best! (And Pro-Life is the best! God is pro-life!)
Why would God choose the words like "destroy, destruction, perish, death" to signify something other than their plain meaning?
Is God trying to intentionally deceive us by using words that have a different meaning than what their plain meaning is? Isn't this a basic rule of hermeneutics? The literal meaning is the first meaning used unless context declares otherwise. Don't you have to redefine every single one of these words in order to get eternal torment as the final fate of the unsaved?
Again, William West summarizes this point beautifully when he states:
Those who wrongly believe in immortality for all from birth must reinterpret the Bible to say:
We gain "immortality" only from the gospel
There is a gift we get from believing the gospel; it is called "everlasting life" (John 3:16). Paul calls this gift (immortality) an integral part of the gospel message, "Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).
If all souls are born immortal, then why are we encouraged to seek it?
Why would Jesus offer us an opportunity to "live forever," if we all live forever?
The truth is, the abundant life Jesus (Yeshua) promises us is in eternity, it is immortal life, everlasting life.
Believers will live forever. How much more abundant can you get?
In 1 Timothy 6:15-16, Paul says that God alone possesses immortality. And 1 Corinthians 15:53 teaches that the Redeemed will not become immortal until the time of their resurrection.
If eternal torment is true, then where is this plain teaching in the Tanach (Old Testament)?
Isn't it hard to believe that such an important teaching as eternal torment has no clear verses stating this fate in the Old Testament? Virtually every important doctrine has its roots in the Old Testament and is taught in typology (or symbols) there. Where is this taught in symbols? Was the lamb of Exodus tortured forever? Were any of the sacrifices tortured forever? No, the sacrifices were eventually turned to ashes. "And they shall take away the ashes from the altar" (Numbers 4:13) If this was the fate of all the offerings (including the sin offerings), then why should the fate of the sinner be any different?
It would be unreasonable that God would give them such detail of what would happen to Israel (Deut 28:15) in this lifetime and then say nothing of the eternal torment facing them. And if it be as important as it is supposed to be now, it was equally important then. Yet no single indication of it is discoverable in the writings of Moses. How could God have warned Israel in detail about punishments in this life, droughts, plagues, and other punishments and not say one word about the most important punishment of all, eternal torment?
The New Testament writers used the Old Testament types to show how the destruction of sinners in the hands of an angry God happens. It was turning them into ashes, not tormenting them for long periods of time. Sodom and Gomorrah are a supreme type given by Peter and he says "And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample" (2 Peter 2:6). Notice, Peter says two things about the fate of the ungodly:
William West states this more of these thoughts most forcefully:
Again, the same thing is said in another evangelical commentary:
There is no doctrine of hell (i.e. eternal torment) in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 66:24, at one time a much quoted verse, the reference is not to the continuing personality (nephesh) of the rebels, but to their corpses.
(The International Bible Commentary, second edition, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1986, p.64 column 1)
If eternal torment is the fate of most of mankind, then why is no single indication of it is discoverable in the writings of Moses? If there was such a thing as eternal torment taught in the Tanach (Old Testament), then how could the Apostle Paul proclaim to the unsaved idol worshippers in Athens, "In the past God overlooked such ignorance" (Acts 17:30). How could this statement be true if God was planning to torture them eternally? Did God really overlook this then? Paul said the wicked would be destroyed, "Whose end is destruction" (Philippians 3:19) not eternally tormented. Moses said nothing of eternal torture. Jesus said the human soul would be destroyed not preserved (Matthew 10:28).
Jesus (Yeshua) paid our debt, but the debt was death, not being eternally tormented
Edward Fudge brings up this excellent point.
If Jesus was not God's son, His body would have remained dead. But certainly this is unthinkable for a sinless One. Therefore Paul states triumphantly, "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:8-9).
The point being, Jesus was sinless and therefore God raised Him from the dead. His body's death was not eternal. The sinners at the end of time will undergo their personal "crosses" and they will suffer in proportion to their sins and then die (cease to function) eternally in body and soul (Matthew 10:28). It is called the "second death" in Scripture. (Revelation 2:11) The death of the body is called the first death. After the Resurrection, the death of the body and soul together is called the second death.
Again, Dr. David Regan (who changed to Conditional Immortality after studying it) correctly notes:
How can the word "perish" mean eternal torment? It doesn't, period.
This is the most quoted verse in the Bible and also one of the clearest accounts on the destruction of the wicked. "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life"? John did not write: "Whoever believes in Him shall not have everlasting life in torment." Remember, the wicked will not have immortality at all. Immortality is reserved only through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). The way most churches interpret John 3:16, they mentally replace the very clear word "perish" with something that means nearly the opposite-"never perish." There is a clear word for "torment" in the Greek-so why did John not use it? Because he was not teaching it at all. In John 3:16, the word "perish" in the Greek is "apollumi." It is correctly translated many other times as "destroy" throughout the New Testament. When something is "destroyed" it means something that no longer functions at all. That is the common usage of "apollumi" as "destroy" in the New Covenant writings. When Yeshua (Jesus) states in Matthew 10:28 that the soul will be destroyed (not preserved), He is telling us that the lost soul will no longer function. It will not be conscious. It will be destroyed. John 3:16 and Matthew 10:28 are in perfect harmony when you understand the truth of Conditional Immortality.
Even Joshua who declared the burning of the sinner, slew them first then burnt their bodies.
It is clear here. Joshua takes Achan, who had sinned and had been warned of burning, and first he has them stoned,then, after they are dead, he burns their carcasses. This is exactly what is said in the article above entitled "Why rarely cited Isaiah 66:24 is a key." Isaiah tells us that the lost are slain and their dead bodies are burned as well. Jesus, when speaking of Gehennah (hell) quotes this verse in Isaiah. Peter tells us the lost will become ashes (2 Peter 2:6). Malachi tells us the same (Malachi 4:3).
Why did Paul never proclaim this doctrine of eternal torture? Or did Paul correctly understand Yeshua (Jesus) in Matthew 10:28...that the souls of the unsaved will be destroyed.
Paul fully proclaimed the whole counsel of God by plainly declaring:
In various ways with various words the Apostle Paul was sure to repeatedly declare precisely what would happen to those who foolishly reject the gospel. He was sure to do this because God appointed him to fully proclaim the whole counsel of God. Paul didn't hide any aspect of the truth including the awful truth that those who reject the Messiah will be utterly *destroyed* by the raging, consuming fire of the Lord. If words have any meaning at all then this is what we must conclude.
Allow me to add that if Jesus supposedly preached eternal torture, as many contend, then Paul would have certainly backed it up. Yet Paul taught no such thing because Jesus taught no such thing, not to mention the Bible they taught from,the Old Testament,teaches no such thing.
Paul said he was innocent of "the blood of all men" (Acts 20:26)
This phrase is always used in Scripture when people are in danger of facing death, not eternal torture. Paul declared he was "innocent of the blood of all men." Paul didn't hesitate to share the whole counsel of God, including the unfortunate news of what would ultimately happen to those who reject the gospel. The very fact that Paul says he's innocent of the blood of all people is a sure indication that people will actually die (not live suffering in immortality) when they suffer the second death.
John says in Revelation that there will be "no more death."
If "death" really means "living eternally separated" from God (and it does not), then death really will exist forever. However, in Revelation 21:4 John specifically states that there will be "no more death." Think about that for a moment or two.
Jeremiah 7:30-33 speaks of this place called the Valley of Hinnom (Gehennah) not as a place of eternal torment.
In speaking of this place, Jeremiah said (actually God is speaking in this section of Scripture) that it will be called the "Valley of Slaughter," not the "Valley of everlasting torment" as modern mainstream Christianity suggests.
Jesus (Yeshua) states of His betrayer, "It would have been better had he not been born." (Mark 14:21)
However, if most human beings are facing eternal torment, then how ridiculous of a statement is this? Should not the Messiah rather have said (if eternal torment was true) that it would be better if all unbelievers had never been born! If eternal torment is true, then clearly it would have been better for most everyone not to have been born (since the majority will not be saved) (Matthew 7:14). Yet Yeshua (Jesus) reserves this statement for only the most vile of sinners. This seems to indicate that even for the lost, (whom God would rather have saved, had they come to Him) it is still better to have been born and then lost life than to never have been born at all. In other words, God is so good, that at least they got a chance to live a short period of time. Ruminate this argument in your mind over and over again and it will clearly show the goodness of God.
God's fire always consumes His enemies, not preserving them in torment.
According to Hebrews 10:26-27, notice clearly that, on Judgment Day, raging fire will utterly consume the enemies of God, not sadistically torture them without end, "and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." The Greek word translated as 'consume' here literally means 'to eat' (Strong 33) and is translated as 'devour' in the King James Version. We can soundly conclude that raging fire will literally devour the enemies of God when they are cast into the lake of fire consuming them wholly.
The following excerpt is taken from the website http://www.hellhadesafterlife.com/hell on this topic:
Here are a few more examples:
As you can plainly see, the Biblical fact that God is going to destroy his human enemies by a consuming fire at the second death perfectly coincides with how God has dealt with his human enemies throughout history. This is testimony to the unchanging, consistent character of God (see Psalm 102:26-27; James 1:17 and Hebrews 13:8). After all, would it not be strange and totally inconsistent with God's just, merciful character as revealed throughout history if, on judgment day, he sentenced his human enemies to never ending conscious torment a sadistic, unjust, merciless sentence diametrically opposed to his consistent, unchanging character? Of course it would.
Notice clearly in all the above texts that God does not sadistically torture these people perpetually with fire. No, the fire consumes them. No doubt there is an amount of terror and conscious pain to this type of execution, but it is not sadistically never ending, it mercifully results in death.
Is this unjust on God's part? Not at all. Notice Psalm 97:2-3 above: before stating that God will judge and destroy his enemies with consuming fire, it assuredly states that ''righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.'' You see, we can always be absolutely confident of the fact that God's judgments are completely righteous and just; and God is not quick in making a judgment; he is ''compassionate and gracious, slow to anger abounding in love'' (Psalm 103:8); ''He is patient not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance'' (2Peter 3:9b). Yet, there is a limit to His patience and mercy if a stubborn person continually chooses to resist and rebel against him; and when his patience and mercy end, his judgment begins. Yet even God's judgments are balanced by his mercy and justice.
What some reviewers have said about a classic book on this topic
The reviews below were taken from Edward Fudge's own web site (www.edwardfudge.com) and about his book The Fire that Consumes. I place them here only for you to see as items of interest. If you visit his web site, you will see that he is acquainted with best selling author Max Lucado. Additionally, the forward to this book was written by the great evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce.
In his more than 45 years as a pastor, teacher and lecturer, Edward Fudge has written and published numerous books and articles. In the mid-1980s, he began his pursuit of a law degree, which he earned from the University of Houston Law Center in 1988. He is a member of the American Bar Association, Houston Bar Association and State Bar of Texas.
Also, Edward Fudge has been recognized by both "Who's Who in Law" and "Who's Who in Religion." His book on this subject is a classic read by many scholars.
Also to be noted, in 1992, the (then) most recent global evangelism "Lausanne Conference" approved a revised Statement of Faith to allow for Conditional Immortality. This was partly as a result of a number of well-known Christian leaders, such as John Stott, Archbishop George Carey, Philip Hughes, Michael Green, Stephen Travis and Clark Pinnock having declared support for part, or all, of what we call Conditional Immortality.
Hello, my name is John and I have been a pastor of several small Baptist Churches in the past. I have a degree in religion from Oklahoma Baptist University and attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Eventually I got into other lines of work. I have been thinking about getting back into the ministry if possible lately...but I decided not to for a while because I realized that my spiritual life is not what it used to be. Part of the problem is that I have been feeling for a couple of years that I am not close to God like I should be. At times I feel upset with God. I finally realized that the reason is that the doctrine of hell is making me feel that either God is not truly a God of love...or that if He is then the Bible is incorrect in teaching that God will torture the unsaved for eternity. Either way this represents a serious crisis of faith. The logical inconsistency at times seems to be driving me almost insane. The doctrine of hell as understood by tradition and by most in my churches has been bothering me daily for most of my life. Because of my training I know a little about Greek and about church history and about Jewish and Greek and Roman tradition. So I can tell that you are correct in most, if not all of your arguments. I am beginning to think that what you are teaching is really the truth. I feel a great sense of hope that my attitude toward God will begin to improve as I begin to understand Him better. Keep up the good work and I will try to study the subject more. Thank you for your work and may God bless you.
Just want to say thanks for your huge article on hell. I have been struggling with this for many years almost to the point of losing my faith. It is terrifying to understand how a tradition can be so ingrained in us that we can't see the wood for the trees.
I came to your site through a forum run by one who takes the Traditional view on hell. I have also been reading John Stott - I haven't actually got to the end of your writing but am well into the process.
It's like scales falling from my eyes and also like a great weight has been lifted.
I cannot even begin to describe the catharthis my mind, body and soul went through while reading this book. You may have saved my life and/or my sanity as a result.
You see, i live in San Francisco, and recently renewed my quest for religious truth. Such quest occurred after attending a very blasphemous Easter event hosted by a local organization called the sisters of perpetual indulgence (i purposely did not capitalize their name, because i do not respect or admire their work). These sisters (actually men is elaborate drag) essentially mocked God and the Lord Jesus Christ by encouraging lascivious and offensive behavior, and even had a "sexy Jesus" contest, not at all befitting to the Son of Man.
My quest led me into the darkest spiritual prison imaginable, and consumed my every waking moment. I rapidly descended into a confusing world of evangelical Christianity, which on the one had told me that there is a loving God that wants me to love him with all my heart and mind, but that it's unlikely that all my efforts with result in salvation- and my punishment would be spending eternity burning with billions of others. This warped view created in me a sense of anxiety and paranoia I've never known before. I even had thoughts about leaving my family and moving into the woods so i would get away from all the ungodly people i was around, including family. I had terrible thoughts that my daughter might be better off dead, because God wouldn't allow an innocent child to burn in hell for all of eternity. I thought of departed family members roasting in the lake of fire because they were Catholics, and all Catholics were deceived by false doctrines, and therefore by extension were worthy of eternal torment.
Out of desperation, i tried to correct my sinking ship by doing good works and praying often, which is certainly a good thing and something I'll continue doing for the rest of my life. However, the huge difference is that i was previously doing it not so much out of love (although i told myself this), but out of sheer terror. I was en route to the loony bin, suicide or heart attack if i continued. My family was scared of the monster that i had become- albeit a softly spoken monster, but one nonetheless. I finally decided to search out opposing positions, because i just could not believe that a loving God would allow the majority of those that ever lived to be subjected to an eternity of horrible pain. That's when i found your site and book. My anxiety slowly started to dissipate, i was able to eat again, i no longer scared everyone in my family, and i started to develop a genuine love for our merciful heavenly father.
I'm not sure if the scar of this experience will ever go away, but I'm sure glad to have come out on the other side still intact.
My faith is Jesus Christ has never been stronger, and i look forward to continuing a loving relationship with him.
Thanks for listening and God be with you,
San Francisco, CA
Thank you for an awesome and thorough site on this subject. I've believed this for years after coming to the truth through Fudge's book in part but mainly just sitting down with a bible and a concordance. Much prayer and study made it obvious.
The Body of Christ needs this. It has certainly made me more evangelistic and love God more knowing this important truth. Keep up the fine work. Blessings to you and all holding and sharing this!
I came across this website a few weeks ago as I started researching the topic of
hell, whether it's eternal torment or eternal destruction.
One day as I pondered this matter and was thinking bitterly to God about it,
I felt His amazing love once again, just like He always shows it, and felt
this great sense of peace and Him telling me that I didn't need to worry, that He is
God. I felt so relieved even though I didn't understand, and little did I know
that about a year later He would prompt me to step outside of my Traditional box
and dare to learn from someone else's perspective.
Thank the Lord for your website. I will enjoy getting to meet you someday in eternity :) You helped change the way that I will now be sharing part of the Gospel to others.
I'm from Australia.
I felt a sense of relief when you addressed Revelation 20:10 because out of all past pro-Conditional Immortality articles I've read, you are the only one that addressed and successfully explained it. Again thanks very much for your efforts.
Fudge's book was pivotal in helping me understand this true doctrine.
I am very glad that I came upon your site. I came to the same conclusion a few years ago after losing my grandfather who was a devout Catholic. I began to research the subject to really find out that no one except our Lord has immortality, and that this is the gift that He promises to those who believe in His beloved Son. But I find it extremely hard that most people who claim to believe in the word of God embrace so many false doctrines.
It is also difficult because they believe that what I share is something new, and pretty much suggest that I sound like a heretic, propagating false doctrines. I feel at peace with God now more than ever knowing more of his true nature, and this gives me the boldness that I never had before, because even tough I believed the Bible, I always had this burden about this doctrine that I could not get rid of. I just wish that I could meet believers of like mind on this issue.
If you know of any groups of believers like this I would appreciate if you could let me know who they are. I live near Barrie, Ontario, Canada.
God bless you!
Thank you so much for your website and for the wealth of solid biblical insight
you have given.
I've always wondered why the word, "perish" didn't actually mean "perish" or "be
Paul never preached about eternal torment, only of the gift of eternal life one could receive by putting their faith in Jesus. How sad it is that so many people only hear of a God that will send them to hell where He will torment them eternally instead of the God who gives eternal life as a gift because of His great love.
I got saved in 1984-from a NA background-I didn't believe in hell-we had reincarnation & karma. I read Mary K Baxter & Bill Weiss books & didn't like them. Those books are horrific-they're portrayal of God & Jesus didn't seem the same as the Bible.
Most bks about hell teach the Traditional view. I only heard of Conditional Immortality last year through "lamb & Lion" website-David Reagan. As I trusted his view on prophecy I have decided to check it out for myself.
I have read all of hell-know-I'm looking up the passages still-excellent stuff. I'd read Isaiah 66:24 many times and always read it as a view into hell-which I think Perry Stone teaches as well-but it says Dead Bodies-not souls in hell.
City of Adelaide-
I can see that we haven't quite left the dark ages yet; we are in need of a second reformation.
May this article put us a big step closer to the end of the dark night we are in.
Congratulations on your excellent site! After reading the information on your site, I am now 100% convinced that what you are saying is the biblical truth. God Bless.
A Christian from Romania.
I came to the same conclusion through personal study. I don't understand why the majority of believers either can't or don't want to believe this message.
Traditional teaching on Hell lead me away from Christianity when I was
younger, but I am now beginning to see the truth.
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All articles are Evangelical (Messianic Jewish) in nature and not pertaining to any specific denomination.