Annihilationism

I found a YouTube video on a critique of William Lane Craig’s (WLC) response to a question about hell.  The speaker is Glenn Peoples.  Here is the video:

 

I am not an annihilationist and I do have interest in WLC, so I watched the video and took some notes on the views presented therein.

The speaker misquotes a verse reference early on:

I think he meant to put 2 Thessalonians 1:9.  Even so, I can’t find any translation with exactly that wording shown.  As the speaker correctly mentions in the video, all of them that I can find mention destruction, not exclusion.  But the destruction is “away from the presence of the Lord”, so I would ask how someone could be annihilated (put out of existence), but still be located “away” from anything.  The speaker says

what they’re actually recalling is simply their own understanding of the doctrine of hell – and not a passage of Scripture at all.

I would definitely take issue with that. The 2 Thessalonians 1:9 talks about “punishment” and of course Jesus talks about conscious punishment (Matt. 25:46).

Since the guy made a point about the 2 Thessalonians 1 passage, I looked up the Greek on it.  Here is the interlinear page for 2 Thessalonians 1:9 in the most literal English translation (NASB):

https://www.biblestudytools.com/interlinear-bible/passage/?q=2+thessalonians+1:9&t=nas

Notice that the word ‘away’ is in the Greek (he seemed to suggest that it is not in the original language). Here is the information about this word in the Greek:

The definition of away (Apo) seems to allow for physical separation of one thing from another.  Additionally, I don’t think that the language of destruction in this verse must be understood as annihilation as he was suggesting.  Again, if you look at the Greek word for destruction (Olethros), it can also mean ruin.  Like some kids who have the annoying habit of “destroying” pumpkins on Halloween by smashing them on the streets – unfortunately they don’t cease to exist, but rather litter our streets and are no longer fulfilling the purpose they were made for.

The speaker says (4:49) “The reality, is that Scripture nowhere speaks about hell or Divine judgment as something that locks them up somewhere to be miserable with their bad self”.  Here is the graphic he presents:

It is interesting that he doesn’t mention Revelation at all in here.  For example Revelation 14:9-13 (NASB).  The first part of this passage talks about the people who worship the beast, his image and receive the mark of his name.  These will be tormented and have no rest day and night…  The second part talks about the believers:

Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger ; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever ; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘ Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ” “Yes ,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”

Now, we can try to understand if this passage covers all people (all believers and all unbelievers), or whether those who worship the beast are in some special class of unbelievers, but it seems clear from the above that there is in fact a place of eternal torment for someone…

He also conveniently skips Matt. 25:46, where hell is referred to as eternal punishment and heaven as eternal life – both using the same Greek word for ‘eternal’ (Aionios) in the same verse.

I think he made a decent point about WLC’s argument, where, if we understand hell as a person being left with their “bad selves”, then it doesn’t follow that Jesus “stood in our place” for that specific definition of hell.  However, he neglects to mention that if we understand hell in the sense of Matt. 25:46 or Revelation 14:9-11, then Jesus was punished in our place and took the wrath of God upon Himself, which would’ve been ours to endure.

I will admit that some passages he cites seem to suggest “annihilation” (e.g. Heb. 10:27), however, Jesus warned people about going to hell (e.g. Luke 12:4-5, Matt. 18:8-9, Matt. 25:46).  And if we’re going to warn people about going to hell, like Jesus did, we shouldn’t warn them about the “lesser” version of hell (annihilation), but rather of the more severe/scary version of hell (eternal conscious punishment).  I would hate for a person I’ve witnessed to to walk away thinking that if I don’t go to heaven, I’ll just be annihilated out of existence.  That doesn’t sound too bad… Then after death, they find out that they’re being cast into hell where the worm doesn’t die and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:47-48). And they wonder, why didn’t he tell me that this was my fate if I didn’t accept the free pardon of Jesus?  I would’ve made a different decision!

If you’re a believer in the doctrine of annihilationism, I’m probably not going to convince you of my view, though hopefully you’ll acknowledge the validity of some points.  Likewise, you’ll probably not convince me of your view, having read many writings about annihilationism and viewed this video, but again, I acknowledge that when the Bible talks about hell, it is not unanimously clear that it will involve eternal conscious punishment (ECP).  As I stated above, if I’m going to communicate with a non-believer on this topic, I would like to communicate the worst case scenario to them (ECP), rather than softening the blow to annihilationism.  If I’m wrong and they get annihilated out of existence after death, they won’t even exist to be able to reflect on the fact that misled them by overstating the consequences for rejecting Christ.  However, if I’m right that hell is ECP, then they’ll be conscious and will know that I warned them in a truthful way.

Hopefully, I’ve handled this in a fair manner, not overstating my case and communicating that my claims are provisional in nature.

5 thoughts on “Annihilationism

  1. roblundberg

    You are correct, it is 2 Thessalonians 1:9. It is interesting that folks like John Stott became an annihilationist. Great theologian except in that area. I don’t know how and why a gospel presentation and a persuading the unbeliever to repent and follow Christ would be necessary if annihilationism is true. My two cents for what it is worth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Grice

      Because the gospel offers everlasting life, and the prospect of annihilation–as opposed to the automatic eternity pitched to the unbeliever by believers in eternal torment–throws this good news into stark relief as the solution to an existential threat. Should we not be motivated by the concept of literally saving people’s lives? Must there always be an additional threat of everlasting suffering? That proposition can be quite confusing to the nonbeliever in addition to the presentation of the good news of the gospel, and indeed can be quite embarrassing and stymying for the would-be evangelist. These things don’t ultimately matter, but they do the concern is about practical considerations and motivation to evangelize.

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  2. roblundberg

    How do you take the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19ff. BTW, the heading in many Bibles of this account are not inspired, and wrongly call it a parable. One of the earmarks of parables are that there are no names mentioned, but in Luke 16, you have “Lazarus.” There is no annihilation in that account.

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    • 1peter41216

      The account of the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus is referring to Hades, which is the temporary abode of the unrighteous dead. It is not the same thing as hell (Gehenna). I agree with you that it is probably not a parable. I wanted to make sure you know that, in this article, I am not advocating the Annihilationist view, but rather the Eternal Conscious Punishment view (in case that is not clear).

      Liked by 1 person

    • petergrice

      The headings are not inspired, but they are still informed by the best scholarship, which has it as a polemical reworking of a familiar rabbinic tale in order to serve a stinging rebuke of the Pharisees (the primary audience here, and “lovers of money”). It is impossible not to associate it in some fashion with the tale of Bar Mayaan in the Palestinian Talmud, for example, where the rich man was a blessed religious figure who ended up in Paradise. So while it’s not technically a parable (the talmudic tale is meant to be a prophetic dream about the afterlife), “parable” would be the closest familiar category to the layperson. It comes in a series of parables, and it opens with the form of a parable (“There once was a… man…”). There is no formal rule that parables cannot have personal names; this is just an oft-repeated assertion. A perfectly good reason to assign the name Eleazar (“God has helped”), is that the whole point is to dignify the poor man as the one God would help, not the rich man, thus inverting the original teaching which conveniently endorses the Pharisees’ accumulation of wealth and teaching that this means that they are blessed in this life and will be the ones blessed in the next.

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