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):
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.