Is Hell Where God Lets Some Sinners Keep Living and Sinning?

Revelation 22: 14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, in order to have the right to the tree of life and to enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

Revelation 21: 8 But the cowards, unbelievers,[f]vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Revelation 21: 25 Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there. 26 They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27 Nothing profane will ever enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Are those who have not been given the right to the tree of life going to live also, but just in another place? Don Fortner—-We are creatures made in the image and likeness of God. We live in these bodies but we are immortal, undying souls. You are going to spend eternity somewhere, either in everlasting life in heaven or in everlasting death in hell.

CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory—“there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal”

Genesis 1: 20 Then God said, “Let the water swarm with living beings, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the large sea-creatures and every living being that moves and swarms in the water, according to their kinds.

Genesis 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

Matthew 10: 28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body
Mark 8: 36 For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his LIFE ? 37 What can a man give in exchange for his LIFE

C.S. Lewis describes Gehenna as filled with sinners to whom God says “your will be done”, with the gates are “locked from the inside”. But no human has life or will have the lasting life of the age to come unless God has elected them and give them this life by grace. The lake of fire is “the second death” and that will be final and permanent closure, with no more life for all sinners who die outside Christ.

Revelation 20: 13 Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. 14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH, the lake of fire. 15 And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Many people seem to assume that a second death after a first death means there will be more dying to come, and they conclude that this means that death is not really death. But a dying which never gets dead is NOT death. The confusion about different kinds of death (one death is not another kind of death) is caused by the reality that all humans are born dead. We are born guilty, and deserve death because of God’s imputation of Adam’s guilt to us. Even though as babies we just started to live (we were not immortal) we were born condemned, without justification, without any right to the lasting life of the age to come. Even though the first death and the second death have not yet happened to a new born baby, all babies are without the life which comes by being placed into Christ’s death (being imputed with Christ’s righteousness.)

John 3: 17 For God did not send His Son into the world in order to condemn the world, but in order that the world be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

These verses do not mean that babies are not condemned until after they reject the gospel. The gospel is a promise to only as many as believe, and there is never any grace for the non-elect. These verses teach us that God by God’s sovereign nature will not and does not give life apart from the gospel. Those who don’t hear the gospel stay condemned in the guilt in which they were born. Those who reject the gospel are not condemned by the gospel but they do stay condemned in the guilt in which they were born.

I John 5: 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us the lasting life of the age to come , and this life is in His Son. 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you know that you have the lasting life of the age to come.

Despite talk of an “absolute contrast” between the saved and the lost, many traditional preachers assume that both the saved and the lost will “live for eternity”. So they don’t think the antithesis between life in Christ and “existing in eternity” without Christ is so opposite as they say.

Revelation 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. 2 I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:
Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God.

One day the old will be gone. One day the old age will be gone. One day heaven will come to earth. One day heaven and earth will be together. One day heaven and earth will be new.

Ephesians 1: according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to UNITE ALL THINGS in him, things in HEAVEN and things on EARTH.

Isaiah 66: 17 “For I will create a new heaven and a new earth;
the past events will not be remembered or come to mind.

Revelation 21: 25 Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there. 26 They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27 Nothing profane will ever enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Why will the gates of the New Jerusalem never be closed? Why will the new Jerusalem have gates? Is it because the condemned non-elect will still living outside the gates and still wanting to bring their sin into the city? No. There will be no inequality in the new Jerusalem, no margins, no fringes, no one percent, no death…

Revelation 21: 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.
5 Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.”

Revelation 21: 8 But unbelievers….their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

God does not plead with the sinners—“believe in me or go your way with your life and your own sin”. God says to sinners— you were born legally dead and you will die. You will not go your own way. You will stop going. You will die. The wages of sin is death. Your only hope for life is the gospel.

II Timothy 1: 9 God has saved us and called us
with a holy calling,
not according to our works,
but according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given to us in Christ Jesus
before the ages began.
10 This has now been made evident
through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,
and has brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel.
11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, 12 and that is why I suffer these things

According to the purpose of God, death will be abolished. Now that Christ was both priest and and sacrifice on earth, Christ has died the one death which abolishes death. Even though the abolishing of death has been legally secured by Christ’s one act of righteousness, that death is not legally counted to all elect babies when they are born, but only in time with the result being life by God’s effectual calling.

If the Lord Jesus does not come before they die, the justified elect will die the first death but they will not die the second death. Those without justification WILL die the second death and then there will be no more death. Death will be abolished. God does not give the life of the age to come apart from the gospel, but through the gospel.

Revelation 14 : 9 And a third angel followed them and spoke with a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is mixed full strength in the cup of His anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, 11 and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or anyone who receives the mark of his name. 12 This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus.”

Revelation 20: 10 The Devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night for ages and ages 11 Then I saw a great white throne and One seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. 12 I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and BOOKS were opened. ANOTHER BOOK was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. 13 Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. 14 Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Earth and heaven fled from the presence of the one seated on the throne, and no place was found for earth and heaven?

Death and Hades gave up their dead.

Death and Hades were thrown into the second death.

Matthew 25: 45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’ 46 “And they will go away into permanent punishment of the age to come, but the righteous into the lasting life of the age to come.”

Packer: The assertion that in the age to come life is the sort of thing that goes on while punishment is the sort of thing that ends —begs the question.

mark: would it change anything if we said that life is the sort of thing that goes on living while death is the sort of thing which stays dead?

if you stay dead, is that a “sustained event”?

if you substitute punishment for “perish” or ‘destruction”, does that change anything?

is ‘eternal redemption” a “sustained event’?

if redemption is “once for all time”, does that mean that redemption is not “everlasting’?

why does exclusion rule out destruction?

has the thing destroyed been excluded?

or does it have to be destroyed in such a way that it is never destroyed in order to keep on being excluded?

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24 Comments on “Is Hell Where God Lets Some Sinners Keep Living and Sinning?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Iranaeus—it is the Father of all who imparts continuance for ever and ever on those who are saved. For life does not arise from us, nor from our own nature; but it is bestowed according to the grace of God. And therefore he who shall preserve the life bestowed upon him, and give thanks to Him who imparted it, shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. (Against Heresies, II.XXIV.3)

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Does uniting heaven and earth in one mean that God gets both new so that the one becomes ‘spiritual” and up on “high”? So in effect there will be no more earth, but only heaven? Does uniting Jew and Gentile in on, means to eliminate the jewish extras, so that the new one is practically gentile?

    Hades is thrown into the lake of fire

    The lake of fire is the second death
    Is The lake of fire also Gehenna?
    Is Hades is thrown into Gehenna?

    Hades and Gehenna are not the same place
    Gehenna is not a new name for Hades

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Malachi 3: 14 You have said: “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping His requirements and walking mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? 15 So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.

    since it’s a parable, the warnings about wealth are not about wealth unless you are a socialist

    Luke 16: 9 Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous money so that when the money fails, the friends will welcome you into lasting living places.

    Luke 16: 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at Him. 15 And He told them: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.

    Luke 16: 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the law to drop out

    James 2: 9 But if you show favoritism,you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.

    James 2 My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For example, a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. 3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4 haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God CHOOSE the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him? 6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the RICH oppress you?

    I Corinthians 1: 26 Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has CHOSEN what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has CHOSEN what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has CHOSEN what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one can GLORY (boast) in His presence.

    I Corinthians 1: 30 But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written in Jeremiah: The one who GLORIES must GLORY in the Lord.

    I am not talking about calling our resentment of the rich our “theology of the cross”. I am not talking about a “methodism” which prepares for the gospel by means of the law and failure. Our prosperity is not conditioned on our poverty.

    Matthew 19: 23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Matthew 19: 16 Just then someone came up and asked Him, “Teacher, what good must I do to have lasting life?” He said to him. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

    not by our deeds and not by Christ’s death but by Christ’s deeds, no hope without it?

    Romans 3: 20 For no one will be justified n His sight by the deeds of the law, because the knowledge of sin comes through the law. 21 But now, APART FROM THE LAW, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the Prophets[q] 22 —that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction

    not by our deeds of the law but by His deeds of the law?

    Matthew 19: 21 Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

    The rich man’s brothers are still alive at the time or the parable.

    Have people already started being in heaven or hell, before the judgment? Is the rich man even now still in “hell” without a body where he is still tormented not only emotionally but also in the tongue?

    This is an account of what happened to two men while dead and buried. It’s not about final punishment.

    In Acts 2:27 Paul quotes the psalmist as saying of the Messiah, “You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your Holy One to undergo decay.”

    Earth and heaven fled from the presence of the one seated on the throne, and no place was found for earth and heaven?

    Death and Hades gave up their dead.

    Death and Hades were thrown into the second death.

    Is Abraham’s bosom the same as “heaven”?

    Is Abraham’s bosom the same as “heaven”?
    Have people already started being in heaven or hell, before the judgment?

    Death and Hades gave up their dead.
    Death and Hades were thrown into the second death.

    Luke 16: 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “But he told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”

    But preachers translate this into “if someone from heaven goes to them” but the text says “if someone from the dead”. The text says, “if someone rises from the dead” but preachers translate it into “even without resurrection death is not death and people are already living in hell and people already living in heaven could go there if God let them.”

    No such thing as Abraham’s bosom exists in the Old Testament.

    No great gulf fixed exists in the Old Testament, even to keep those in Abraham’s bosom out of torments!

    No endless torment exists in the Old Testament.

    No conversations among the dead exist in the Old Testament.

    No knowledge among the dead exists in the Old Testament.

    No consciousness among the dead exists in the Old Testament.

    No praying to Abraham exists in the Old Testament.

    No Abraham hearing the prayers of the wicked exists in the Old Testament.

    Nowhere is Lazarus said to be righteous and nowhere is the Rich Man said to be wicked.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Unbelievers like Mcgrath tell us that the book of life is also about works—so he takes sides with Piper and Macarthur and other “lordshippers”

    But either way, it is not as though the contrast is between “a book containing a record of deeds” (and thus judgment by works) on the one hand, and “justification by faith” in the Lutheran sense on the other. The Book of Life is connected throughout the book with those who refuse to worship the Beast. And so even after whatever redaction was done, it remained the case that what one does and does not do still mattered to the author. If it did not, the reference to books recording deeds and judgment according to what one has done could have been made to disappear. The author simply thinks that siding with the Lamb against the Emperor is decisive in a way that no other actions are. But what one does is still crucially important to the author, and the basis of God’s judgment. The idea that one gets to participate in the eschatological kingdom simply on the basis of “faith” in the modern sense is not something the author says. And so it is no wonder Luther thought that Revelation shouldn’t be part of the canon.
    The other major thing to note in chapter 22 is that there seem to be people (as well as or including “dogs”) still around outside of the city. If all sinners and evildoers had been consigned to the lake of fire, then who could these people be – whatever one may wish to say about their pets?
    The Book of Revelation is surprisingly non-final, given how it tends to be interpreted. Either a lot more of it is symbolic than is admitted by many interpreters, or it envisages a situation in which, even after the dawn of the Kingdom of God, it is still possible to rebel. And if that is the case, then presumably it is also still possible to enter.

    mark–if it’s still possible for me to screw it up, i will screw it up

  6. Hi Mark, I’m also a Calvinist believer in Conditional Immortality,
    you’re name is familiar, do you post on The Heidelblog?
    my webpage contains a lot of Conditional Immortality resources
    so be sure to check it out!

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Consider now how C. S. Lewis, despite his commitment to a free will theodicy of hell, described his own conversion to Christianity:

    I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England … a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape. The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. … His compulsion is our liberation.13

    As this quotation illustrates, Lewis described his freedom in relation to his own conversion very differently than he described the freedom of the lost in relation to their damnation. Consider how carefully he chose his own words in the context from which the above quotation is lifted. He observed first that “before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice.”14 But lest he should be misunderstood, he immediately added the following clarification: “I say, ‘I chose,’ yet it did not really seem possible to do the opposite. … You could argue that I was not a free agent, but I am more inclined to think that this came nearer to being a perfectly free act than most that I have ever done. Necessity may not be the opposite of freedom ….”15 So here he appears to argue like a compatibilist, recognizing that the crucial choice in his conversion was voluntary but not free in the sense that he could have chosen otherwise. He even spoke as if God had compelled his voluntary submission and as if such compulsion is quite compatible with his having submitted freely.

    But why would Lewis claim, quite rightly in my opinion, that his act of submitting to God was both compelled and freely chosen? The answer, I would suggest, requires a distinction between two kinds of compulsion

  8. markmcculley Says:

    I Corinthians 15: 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death.

    Romans 5: 17 Since by the one man’s trespass,DEATH reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18 So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation …., so also through one righteous act there is LIFE-GIVING justification… just as sin reigned in DEATH, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in the lasting LIFE of the age to come through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    First death and second dath alike and also different, in terms of both quality and quantity. I would not equate the “quality” of “the lasting life of the age to come” with “immorality”. Those who have now already been justified NOW HAVE the lasting life of the age to come, but they do not yet have immortality. And, looking to the parallel, those who are born condemned into this world include the elect, but none of them has been given the “second death” yet. Those who are justified will never be given the second death, but those who remain condemned will not only be ruined or excluded but will terminally die, permanently perish. 16 “For God gave His One and Only Son, so that as many as who believe in Him will NOT perish but have lasting life. John 3:36 the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”

    Matthew 10:28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Psalm 49: 10 For one can see that wise men die;
    foolish and stupid men also pass away.
    Then they leave their wealth to others.
    11 Their graves are their eternal homes,
    their homes from generation to generation,
    though they have named estates after themselves.
    12 But despite his assets,[ man will not last;
    he is like the animals that perish.
    13 This is the way of those who are arrogant,
    and of their followers,
    who approve of their words.
    14 Like sheep they are headed for Sheol;
    Death will shepherd them.
    The upright will rule over them in the morning,
    and their form will waste away in Sheol,
    far from their lofty abode.
    15 But God will redeem my life
    from the power of Sheol…

    Do not be afraid when a man gets rich,
    when the wealth of his house increases.
    17 For when he dies, he will take nothing at all;
    his wealth will not follow him down.
    18 Though he praises himself during his lifetime—
    and people praise you when you do well for yourself—
    19 he will go to the generation of his fathers;
    they will never see the light.
    20 A man with valuable possessions[
    but without understanding
    is like the animals that perish.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    This guy says that being put out of the garden is on the basis of works, and that staying in the garden is on the basis of works, but that getting back into the garden is not on the basis of works. But he doesn’t give any reason for the contrast he assumes. If you confuse law and mercy at the beginning, there is no reason to stop confusing law and mercy later on.

    To compare Adam being put out of the garden to somebody being put out of “the church” or out of “the covenant” is to claim that the punishment for sin is “mercy”. To say that God’s mercy keeps you from breaking the law is not to depend on God’s mercy in Christ.

    To say that Adam already had ‘spiritual life” and that Adam could have and would have earned justification by works is to make Christ plan B. There is no reason to deny that Adam ate from the tree of life before he sinned, but there is also no reason to think that the tree of life was the tree of justification.

    Those who assume that all humans will always exist deny that any humans ever really die. So they deny that being separated from the tree of life is the death which is the wages of sin. They only make a distinction between living in the presence of God, or living in “hell where God is not present”. But this guy knows that ‘returning to the dust” does not mean non-existence but something bad like exile or “spiritual death”

    The next time you hear somebody say that “eternal life” is not about continuing to exist in time but about “quality of life”, ask them why “eternal life” cannot be BOTH knowing Christ and knowing Christ in time forever. A false logic gives us false alternatives.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    annihilation is a bad thing because it is worse than the alternative fate of eternal life with God. That seems pretty simple, right?

    Firstly, I actually agree that annihilation is a less terrible fate than eternal torment – at least the historical Christian version of eternal torment that involved fire and unbelievable pain and suffering, that is. By comparison, death would be an improvement. Annihilationists are divided on this, but that is where I stand. Therefore, if some people were in hell, being horribly tormented, burned alive (or its equivalent) in the presence of Jesus and the angels (which is as much a part of Revelation 14:9-11 as the references to the smoke of their torment and “for ever and ever”), and these people were given the option to be destroyed or to stay in that condition for eternity, they would surely choose destruction. And in doing so, they would be better off than if they stayed alive in traditionalist hell for ever and ever. To this extent, I agree with the traditionalist sentiment behind this argument.

    Of greatest importance is the fact that the Bible teaches what the Bible teaches. Many of the traditionalists who make the objection countered here are happy to affirm this belief when replying to conditionalists who make emotional or philosophical appeals against eternal torment. Well, it is just as true now. If the Bible teaches evangelical conditionalism, then the Bible teaches evangelical conditionalism, and that is that.

    Of course, if all I wanted to say was that the Bible taught annihilationism and leave it at that, I could have done that in a tweet or two. So, there is more to be said.

    One form of the traditionalist objection we are looking at here is the claim that annihilation is not only a relief or a blessing, but a reward. John Piper gave us this gem last year, for example, tweeting the following:

    Annihilation is what the unrepentant want, not what they dread. It would be a reward, not a punishment. Non-consciousness knows no loss.1
    Our own Glenn Peoples gave quite the response to this on his own blog. For our purposes, I will try to keep it brief and look mainly at how this particular version of our stated traditionalist objection comes into play.

    This particular claim is more than a little bit confused. To say that annihilation would be a reward is to fail to understand what a reward is. A reward is something good granted in return for an act.2 But that is not what is happening here at all. Without sin, the default state of man is life with God. The so-called reward of sin is to die instead of staying in that wonderful, perfectly joyful state. The result of sinning, its reward, is therefore a bad thing.

    In order to say that annihilation is a reward, we would have to say that as a result of sinning and being damned, a person would enjoy a better fate than if one had not sinned and been damned. But that is absurd. Perhaps one could call annihilation a reward if we lived in a universe where the righteous burn forever in hell but those who sin get destroyed. Since getting destroyed is better than burning for eternity, you could say that annihilation is a genuine reward for sinning. But no one on earth, as far as I know, believes that this is actually what happens, nor do they believe in any variation thereof. No one believes that the fate of the wicked is better than the fate of the saved. And nobody believes that annihilation is better than eternal life with God. Therefore, if annihilation (and missing out on eternal life as a result) is the consequence of sin, how can annihilation be called a reward?

    That is the kind of scenario that is required to call annihilation a reward. But we all know that isn’t how the world would work if annihilationism turned out to be true. Instead, the result of sin would be that people who would otherwise have a life with God in a world of perfect joy and beauty would instead suffer and die forever. If your reward is a lake of fire, it is hardly a reward worth chasing!

    Good and “Less Terrible” Are Not the Same Thing

    In regards to the broader idea that annihilation is a blessing, one major point that this traditionalist argument fails to take into account is that just because something is preferable does not mean that it is a good thing. Death is not a good thing. The only way in which death could possibly be construed as any sort of a blessing is if it saved you from something worse than death, and from which there was no hope of escape. I believe that eternal torment does fit the bill, and so for someone who would otherwise be subject to eternal torment, annihilation would indeed be a relief.

    However, this is all relative. Annihilation is better than eternal torment, but that only matters if the unsaved would otherwise be subject to eternal torment. According to evangelical conditionalism, death is not the alternative to eternal torment, but to eternal life with God. There is no way that death can be seen as a blessing when this is taken into account.

    But if it is the case that the unsaved will suffer in hell for a time before final death, won’t they be glad that death is coming? And doesn’t that make death a blessing instead of a punishment? Consider Harry Buis’s objection:

    The passages cited from the Bible teach that destruction is a serious punishment. But if annihilation follows a period of torment, then that annihilation is not punishment, but a happy relief from punishment.3
    This kind of objection commits the same logical error that Piper committed above. If we lived in a universe where everyone who committed no sins was condemned to suffer eternally in hell, but where they would be annihilated if they did sin, then Buis would have a point. But again, that is absurd. The alternative to the punishment of annihilation is not continuing to burn forever. The alternative is eternal life with God. People would otherwise have lived forever with God, but as punishment for sinning against him, they are instead destroyed. The fact that they may suffer beforehand does not suddenly make that the punishment of death less severe. Rather, it makes their punishment even more severe than if they just died painlessly. Any suffering prior to the second death does not somehow change the second death from a punishment to a reward.

    The fact that those in a state of torment may be relieved to know they will die does not mean the death itself is a good thing, since they would have lived forever and neither suffered nor died had they not been condemned in the first place.

    Some Illustrations of the Distinction between “Good” and “Less Terrible”

    Consider a man who has a terminal disease and elects to stop treatment because it would just mean a few more months of living in constant pain. That man does not choose death as his first choice. His first choice would not be to die; it would be to get better and live! However, his only options (barring divine intervention) are death or a short life in misery, so he picks the less terrible option. Yes, as he takes his final breaths he may be relieved to know the pain will soon end. But it would be patently absurd for us to look at that person and say that he was blessed to die! No, this would be a tragedy because he was supposed to live a long, full life. The fact that that his state was so bad that he embraced a horrible but nonetheless better option does not change that fact.

    Or let’s say someone with a gun threatened you and told you he was going to torture you for three days and then kill you. You would not be thinking, “I am so glad he’s going to kill me in three days so I don’t have to be tortured longer. Man am I blessed. What a relief it will be once I am dead!” No, you would be under great distress and would try to escape if at all possible because you don’t want to die! Getting killed after three days may be better than being tortured indefinitely, and if the torture is constant and extreme enough, you may even be relieved to know you’re about to die. But death still is no gift! Death is nothing at all to embrace. That’s why when that kidnapper is caught, he doesn’t just go to jail for the kidnapping and torture; he also goes to jail (or maybe even death row) for murder. No one would say, “Don’t worry about getting kidnapped; he’ll just kill you after a few days anyway, so it doesn’t count.” That is because the alternative to being kidnapped, tortured, and killed was not being kidnapped and tortured indefinitely; the alternative was never being kidnapped at all.

    Annihilation is not a blessing to anyone. Yes, it is a preferable fate to the even worse, hypothetical fate of eternal torment, but that’s all. The wording of this traditionalist objection says that annihilation is a good thing, that somehow it is desirable. However, the substance of the objection merely says this: “Annihilation is false because annihilation is not as severe a punishment as eternal torment.” That’s all that really can be said, and that argument is hardly a given.

    The Underlying Assumption that People Deserve Eternal Torment in Hell

    When we really get to the heart of the matter, we find the underlying assumption that everyone is subject to eternal torment, the worst possible fate, and therefore everyone deserves eternal torment. After all, God is just and would never give someone worse than what they deserve. Therefore, they must deserve this worst possible fate. If this is true, then to say that the wicked suffer a less horrible fate, a less severe punishment, is to let them off easy. And although it is still absurd to call death a reward, and although it is only a blessing relative to the worst possible fate imaginable, this underlying assumption that all people deserve eternal torment contributes to the overall attitude that getting annihilated is a good thing.

    Otherwise clear thinkers cannot seem to get out of the mindset that the unsaved by default go to hell, a place of eternal torment, and therefore they would be rescued by annihilation. So deeply ingrained is this assumption that they do not think of the unsaved as people who have lost the life they would have had. Instead, the unsaved are viewed as people who just simply are going to live in hell suffering eternal torment (even though if annihilationism is true, eternal torment isn’t even an actual possibility). That is why annihilation is not simply seen as a less terrible fate, but a blessing.

    Eternal torment is so deeply ingrained in people’s minds that “if the unsaved are destroyed in hell, they will not suffer as much as if eternal torment is true” becomes “if the unsaved are destroyed in hell, then annihilation is a gift, not a punishment!”

    The Nature of Suffering Prior to Final Death

    Most conditionalists would agree that there is some sort of negative conscious experience for the unsaved before they are fully and finally destroyed in the second death. Given that there will be a resurrection of saved and unsaved alike, as well as a judgment, this seems unavoidable. But among conditionalists, you will have different variations of how this plays out. Some envision it as the unsaved essentially going to a traditionalist type of hell where they are tormented day and night until they finally pass away. It is this form of conditionalism that the traditionalist objection seems to pertain to most.

    Throughout this response, this has largely been the assumed nature of the suffering of the wicked prior to death. However, this view is not actually what I hold to.4 I say this tentatively, but I think that the conscious suffering will largely be the shame and guilt and terror of standing before God at final judgment. Those with greater guilt will suffer all the more in this process, although I don’t envision a designated time where the unsaved will be alive in a hell before it all ends. In the end, some suffer at judgment worse than others, but all are ultimately cast into the raging fire to be consumed like chaff.

    In such a view as mine, it is not so clear that a kind of suffering will be experienced that would cause people to ever embrace death in the first place. I don’t expect people to be reflecting on how sad and terrified they are and how they wish they could die to end it. This is especially true because their ultimate doom, being cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed, will be a big part of their torment in the first place. The last thing they would want to do is end it all by dying.

    Under just about any annihilationist view of what the unsaved experience before dying, the fact that they might be in a position to welcome death hardly means that they are not suffering the fearful fate that the Bible describes. At the end of the day, even if unsaved people suffer in a place of temporary suffering, and even if they have a moment of relief knowing they will soon die, their fate is tragic. There is nothing blessed about it. In no world would we ever say that someone on earth who suffers pain and misery and an ultimately untimely death is blessed just because their fate could have been worse, even if they deserve what they get. To say that about the eternal realm is no better.


  12. markmcculley Says:

    6. People in Hell Keep Committing Evil Acts

    This is one area where I agree with the author, though ultimately for different reasons. Under Myth #6, titled “Hell Won’t Be That Bad,” White writes the following:

    Popular media often depicts hell in movies, books and music as a place similar to that on earth today, with people running around killing and committing evil acts. If you think hell is anything like this, you’ve got the story very twisted.
    That is a very twisted idea of hell indeed, because those who are cast into hell are like weeds cast into a fiery furnace (Matthew 13:40). They are destroyed and killed and are no longer consciously existent to commit any more sins.

    Some traditionalists have actually argued for traditionalism by asserting that sinners in hell will sin more, then earn more time in hell as punishment, and then sin more and end up on an endless hell treadmill that results in them staying in hell forever. But such a view is wrought with problems, not the least of which is that in judgment scenes like Matthew 25:31-46, damnation is final and in some sense eternal. According to this view, however, the wicked really only get finite punishment in hell. They stay there forever because they keep sinning and earning more.

    Note that, after the wicked are cast into the lake of fire in Rev 20:15 and 21:8, they still exist—Rev 22:15.” Christopher Morgan similarly writes, “Those in hell remain in their sinful state, at least in the sense of their privation of love for God (see Rev. 16:11; 22:11).”16 Note again that Revelation 16:11 portrays something happening prior to final judgment, not following it. But what about Revelation 21:8, 22:11, and 22:15? Do these verses depict the wicked continuing to exist and sin after judgment?

    Revelation 21:8 certainly does not. In fact, it doesn’t portray any wicked people at all. It depicts the One on the throne speaking to John from the imagery, telling him who in the future will experience that which is communicated by the imagery. In other words, from within symbols portraying the future God tells John who will end up there. After all, he just promised in verse 7 that “he who overcomes will inherit these things,” a promise to those who overcome in the present that in the future they will inherit that which is communicated by the imagery, the same promise he told John to pass along to the church of Ephesus long before John saw the imagery.17 Verse 8, then, contrasts that promise to the faithful with the doom awaiting the unfaithful: those who remain wicked in the present will in the future be consigned to the second death.

    But what about the other two verses alleged by traditionalists to depict the risen wicked continuing to exist and sinning after being thrown into the lake of fire? The angel says to John in Revelation 22:11, “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy.” And then in verse 15 he tells him, “Outside [the gates into the city] are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.” Having earlier seen the risen wicked thrown into the lake of fire,18 and the New Jerusalem descend from heaven,19 must not these verses therefore depict those sinners continuing to exist and sin from within the lake of fire, outside the gates of the city?

    The answer is no

    even if they did they would serve as no challenge

    Many of us recognize that the devil, beast, and false prophet are depicted as eternally tormented in the lake of fire in the imagery, and that consistency demands that the same be true of death and hades and the risen wicked.20 We argue, however, that this is symbolism communicating their permanent destruction. As such, even if John did see the wicked continuing to sin in the lake of fire, the question of the imagery’s interpretation would remain.

    Having said that, John didn’t see the wicked continuing to sin in the lake of fire. At least not in Revelation 22:11 and 15, for they contain the words spoken to John on behalf of Jesus after the vision had concluded. The apocalyptic vision of the future had ended in verse 5with the description of the New Jerusalem’s river and tree of life and the presence of God amongst his saints there. In verse 6 John refers to what he had just finished seeing as that which the Lord gave “to show to his bond-servants the things which must soon take place,” the same language with which he opened his letter.21 In verse 8 he says, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things,” and what follows is Jesus’ final message to John through his angel after the vision of the future was complete.

    In verse 9 the angel tells John not to worship him, saying, “I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren and of those who heed the words of this book.” He goes on in verse 10, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” The angel is talking about those who receive John’s letter before the prophecy’s fulfillment and who heed the message contained therein, even long before the resurrection, lake of fire and New Jerusalem. No wonder that after receiving those instructions John decided to open his letter saying, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

    And so in verse 11, when the angel tells John, “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy,” he is not describing the impenitent still sinning in the lake of fire. Rather, he is talking about those who don’t heed the message of John’s vision and instead choose to go on rejecting God. Likewise, when verse 14 promises that “those who wash their robes … may enter by the gates into the city,” it is referring to those who wash their robes now, not those who do so after the resurrection depicted in the imagery two chapters earlier. And verse 15 tells us who will not enter that city, and will instead end up in the lake of fire: “Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

    But if the vision has concluded and John no longer beholds the New Jerusalem, why does the angel speak of those who are outside its gates in the present tense?

    Because although the heavenly city has not yet descended, the saints in a very real sense have already entered through its gates. The author of Hebrews assures his readers that “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.”23 If the saints can be said to have come to the New Jerusalem now, even though it hasn’t yet descended from heaven, then so too can the messenger of Jesus tell John that the wicked are outside its gates.

    Colossians 1:21 (“you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind”), Ephesians 2:3 (“we too … were by nature children of wrath”), and Romans 5:10 (“while we were enemies we were reconciled to God”). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick,” and Jesus says in John 8:34 that “everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”

    I believe we are born loving sin and hating God, and that no one will repent unless supernaturally and irresistibly drawn by the Father to do so.12 Jeremiah rhetorically asks, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?”13 That is about how likely it is that “you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil”—the only biblical answer. I see no reason, then, for believing that the risen wicked will repent, even as final punishment is being inflicted. I side with J. I. Packer in saying of those that think otherwise, “They fail to take the measure of the tragic twisting and shattering and consequent perversity of humans through the Fall, and of the tragic irrationality and inaneness of sin as the now radical ruling force in humanity’s spiritual system.”

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Psalm 90:3 You return mankind to the dust, saying, “Return, descendants of Adam.”

    Psalm 103:14 For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.

    Psalm 22:29 All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down; all those who go down to the dust will kneel before Him— even the one who cannot preserve his life.

    Psalm 30:9“What gain is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it proclaim Your truth?

    Isaiah 41: Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
    or marked off the heavens with the span of his hand?
    Who has gathered the dust of the earth in a measure
    or weighed the mountains in a balance
    and the hills in the scales?
    13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
    or who gave Him His counsel?
    14 Who did the Lord consult with?
    Who gave the Lord understanding
    and taught the Lord the paths of justice?
    Who taught the Lord knowledge
    and showed the Lord the way of understanding?
    15 Look, the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are considered as a speck of dust in the scales;
    The Lord lifts and drops like fine dust.

    Job 42 Then Job replied to the Lord:
    2 I know that You can do anything
    and no plan of Yours can be thwarted.
    3 You asked, “Who is this who conceals My counsel with ignorance?”
    Surely I spoke about things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
    4 You said, “Listen now, and I will speak.
    When I question you, you will inform Me.”
    5 I had heard rumors about You,
    but now my eyes have seen You.
    6 Therefore I take back my words
    and repent in dust and ashes.

    Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being

    Genesis 3:19 You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”

  14. markmcculley Says:

    “If I can be saved, there is no one beyond redemption.” … Alas, yet another instance of egotism masquerading as humility.

    i don’t trust anybody who brags about them being worst sinner, or the most “dust in the dust”. Some of these people seem to think they were elected because they were stupid and the biggest sinners. If you are the worst sinner ever, please take me to where you buried the bodies.

    I Cor 1: “not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus.

    mark: Because of God’s election! So if God saw you would be a bigger sinner than me, did that make it more likely for you to come up in the lottery?

  15. markmcculley Says:

    I Corinthians 15: 45 So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the LAST Adam BECAME a life-giving Spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the NATURAL, then the spiritual.

    47 The first man was from the earth
    and made of dust;
    the second man is from heaven.
    48 Like the man made of dust,
    so are those who are made of dust;
    like the heavenly man,
    so are those who are heavenly.
    49 And just as we have borne
    the image of the man made of dust,
    we will also bear
    the image of the heavenly man.

  16. markmcculley Says:

    is death not really death but separation from God–“going to the other place”
    passing away

    passing from one place but still living in the bad place?

    Adam did not die but was sent into exile east of Eden

    but the New Testament assumes that exile (diaspora) is a good thing. because it means that Christians are not trying to take over or influence any nation-state

    does death mean “cease to exist”?

    does resurrection mean “recreated”?

    does death mean “living somewhere else but not in the presence of God”?

    Milton–Satan, at least I have a place of my own away from God

    Job 34: 14
    If withdrew the spirit and breath He gave,
    15 every living thing would PERISH together
    and mankind would return to the dust.

    but since we have “immortal souls”, perish does not men destruction but instead we think it means going to a place where there is no presence of the Holy Spirit in us, and where God will punish and torture forever without ever being satisfied by it

  17. markmcculley Says:

    Paul Humber The problem may be that you somehow think “lasting” is less than “everlasting” and therefore an insult to God to say He is “lasting.” Both aionios words in the Mt 25 passage should be translated “lasting” because “aionios” (and “olam”) are indeterminate as to duration. There are many places where aionios simply cannot mean eternal. The major advantage of using lasting over eternal is that lasting preserves the durational integrity of the original Greek. Eternal is fixed to infinity

    Romans 16:25-26 “Lasting” works in both cases —“the mystery hidden for lasting ages past” and “lasting God.”

    Ezekial 26:21 says, “I will bring terrors on you and you will be no more; though you will be sought, you will not olam be found again,” declares the Lord God. Olam cannot mean never (i.e. not for ever) because Tyre today is the fourth largest city in Lebanon. The Lord had in mind lasting terrors. Let us not translate olam in such a way as to make God appear to be confused

    Jonah 2:6 says “I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me olam, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.” This surely must be one of the shortest lastings in the Bible, for we know that Jonah was in the “pit” approximately three days. However, the KJV says for ever,

  18. markmcculley Says:

    at least Arminians believe in hell
    Billy Graham: if you haven’t made peace with God, you will go to hell and thirst for God forever

    but God didn’t make hell for you

    God didn’t want hell for you

    Billy Graham understands and tells you
    that before Jesus died Jesus had the capacity to be infinitely tortured for you and pay the price for you and finished that even before he died

    Jesus loved you
    and because of that love
    now you need to make a choice between the bad things in your life
    and accepting what Jesus did for you

  19. markmcculley Says:

    Don’t look for Bible for any of this Lent stuff

    Traditionalist —Christ didn’t suffer eternally. Jesus also was not annihilated. So in either case, Jesus’ punishment does not equally demonstrate the punishment of the wicked.While I do not holistically disagree with the conclusion, I also do not fully agree with the premise.

    Jesus experienced God’s wrath for us on the cross. The punishment was not solely death, but suffering God’s wrath

    Jesus should have died long before He hung on that cross because of the way He was beaten. But because He was sinless, and had not yet had sin imputed and placed upon Him the body He had was not yet ready to die.

    Why would Jesus have to experience the Father’s wrath if the punishment is truly realized in His death as some teach?

    It was only after sin was was imputed and laid upon He that He could cry, “It is finished!” And this was before he died physically. Jesus was able to endure sufficiently God’s wrath.

    Because of who Jesus was, just one tiny drop of blood spilled from an open wound inflicted upon Him would have been sufficient to save infinite legions of depraved sinners. He could have just had His throat slit like the lambs of the Old Testament. He could have had a swifter execution. But instead He chose one of the most excruciating death, with torture.

    Jesus was more than a substitute. He was THE Surpassing Substitute.. He didn’t just suffer a little of God’s wrath, but endured as much as was necessary to appease and satisfy His justice as a propitiation for our sins. And this was still infinitely more than He deserved. He endure more suffering, more pain, more sorrow, more agony not because of how long He was on the cross, but because He was on the cross!

    The punishment was not exactly what we should have received in its duration. But it was way more than we’ll ever experience, because He was innocent. This finite duration of punishment was of infinite value. in a finite amount of time

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