Friday, August 5, 2011

Analyzing Annihilation: JPH vs. EWF (Round 1)

It was my immense pleasure to recently interview Dr. Edward Fudge on the topic of annihilationism or conditional immortality. The first half of that interview can be heard in episode 54, "Burn It Up;" the second half is in episode 55, "Eternal Fire." As I stated when that interview was over, I felt left with little reason--apart from tradition--to maintain the traditional view of hell as eternal conscious torment. And I was pleased to hear from a friend of mine who, having been skeptical of Fudge's view in the past, found his case compelling.

However, my friend did ask what I thought of an article by J.P. Holding, "An Examination of Annihilation," in which Holding argues for the traditional view and against annihilation. As I began to read it, I was at first disappointed. The earliest points made in the article are, in my humble opinion, very weak. However, as the article progresses, Holding makes some points deserving of examination.

I told my friend that I'd like to discuss those points together, one-by-one, taking them as seriously as we are both beginning to take annihilationism. It dawned on me, however, that our mutual examination of Holding's article might prove helpful to those who, like us, are beginning to consider this minority alternative to hell. So, assuming my friend does not mind (he is a fellow blogger), I'll publish that interaction here, and I welcome your feedback.


I will not examine the arguments made in this article in the order in which they appear, although I don't intend to neglect any. The first point I want to examine is summed up by this quote from Holding's article:

A second key word is apollumi, which emerges in our translations as "destroy". This is an important word, for many annihilationists like Pinnock and Fudge actually see it as favoring annihilation (Matt. 10:28; 2 Thess. 1:9; Phil. 3:19).

But the meaning of this word and those related to it does not refer to "destruction" in the modern sense that that word is used for the annihilation of something. Rather, it is closer in meaning to the way we use "destroyed" to mean ruined or lost, as in, "He destroyed his family with his drug habit."

Holding goes on to cite some texts which he believes support his contention, and we'll look at those in a moment. But I thought it worth noting that Edward Fudge is well aware of this argument. He writes on page 209 of the third edition of The Fire That Consumes,

Traditionalist writers so often make the point that "perish" (apollymi) is used of ruined wineskins (Matt 9:17) and spoiled food (John 6:12) that casual readers tend to go away thinking the word's primary meaning must be very mild indeed.

At least some traditionalist writers, then, apparently including J.P. Holding, wish us to believe that this idea of "ruined" or "lost" is the rule, rather than the exception. If this is the case, traditionalists have what I think is a compelling case, since as came through in the positive case for annihilation Fudge presented in the interview, it is based largely on the numerous places in which the fate of the wicked is said to be to "perish."

It seems to me, then, that this question as to the normative meaning of apollymi, is a major point in the debate. If Holding is right, much of the weight of the conditionalist case disappears. On the other hand, if its meaning is most often to "die" or be "destroyed," to "perish" as we would normally use the word, then the traditionalist is forced to argue from the defensive, or so it seems to me. Therefore, this seems like a good place to start examining Holding's article.


Fudge continues,

Most often apollymi refers to actual death. It appears ninety-two times in the New Testament, thirteen times in Paul's letters. New Testament writers choose apollymi to say that:
  • Herod tries to kill the infant Jesus (Matt 2:13);
  • the disciples are about to perish in a storm (Matt 8:25);
  • Pharisees conspire to destroy Jesus (Matt 12:14);
  • one loses life trying to save it (Matt 16:25);
  • a vineyard owner executes murderous tenants (Matt 21:41);
  • a king sends troops to destroy murderers (Matt 22:7);
  • one perishes by the sword (Matt 26:52);
  • the crowd asks Pilate to destroy Jesus (Matt 27:20);
  • it is better for one man to die than for whole nation to perish (John 11:50);
  • an insurrectionist and false messiah perished at hands of Rome (Acts 5:37);
  • Israelites perish in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:9-10), or were destroyed there (Jude 5);
  • some perished in the rebellion of Korah (Jude 11).

If we were to limit our survey of the Greek apollymi as it is used in the New Testament to these verses alone, certainly we would come away with the impression that its typical meaning is to be killed or destroyed, not merely ruined or lost. As it turns out, I think a number of additional texts which use the word lend support to Fudge's contention, not the least of which is Hebrews 1:11 in which it is said that the eternal Son will remain while the works of His hands will perish.

But I think Fudge's point is strengthened also when we look at how the word is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. It is noteworthy that at least one online LXX lexicon (here) consistently suggests "annihilate" as the proper translation. Here are a number of examples of how the Jewish translators of the Septuagint used the word:
  • Ethiopians are slain by the sword, Nineveh made desolate, and Assyria destroyed (Zeph 2:13)
  • Sodom and Gomorrah would not be destroyed if enough righteous were found there (Gen 18:24,28-32)
  • Abimelech and his nation were not destroyed because God prevented him from sleeping with Abraham's wife (Gen 20:4)
  • God, the consuming fire, would destroy the cities into which the Israelites were sent (Deut 9:3)
  • The fruit of God's enemies will be destroyed from the earth (Psalm 21:10)
  • Israel would perish among the Gentiles, save those few who remain to pine away (Lev 26:38)
  • Those who burn incense for themselves as though unto the Lord will be cut off from his people (Ex 30:38)
  • The children of Israel were to destroy the high places and graven images of those they drove out (Num 33:52)
  • Joshua feared his people had been delivered into the hands of his enemies to be destroyed (Josh 7:7)
  • Mortals die for lack of wisdom (Job 4:21)
  • The beast was slain, his body destroyed and burned (Dan 7:11)
This small, random sampling of how apollymi is used in the LXX seems on the surface to support the conditionalist's point, that to "perish" is to die, to be destroyed, to be slain. But returning to Fudge's book and his argument from the word's use in the New Testament,

To those who are "perishing" the gospel has a "stench of death"--a fact in keeping with our earlier suggestion that they will be raised mortal, then return to corruption and final extinction in hell (2 Cor 2:15-16). Peter uses this word of the fate that befell the world before the Flood (2 Pet 3:6). Paul (1 Cor 10:9-10) and Jude (v. 5) use it do describe Israel's destruction in the wilderness.

Such a survey leads me to concur with Fudge in insisting that with what is arguably (as we will see) the occasional exception, to "perish" is, indeed, to die, or be destroyed, or be slain. How, then, does Holding present his case, that the word typically means something different?


Holding writes,

Lest there be any doubt [that the word "is closer in meaning to the way we use 'destroyed' to mean ruined or lost], take a look at some verses where the same Greek word is used, and ask youself: Were any of the items in question annihilated?
  • Mt. 10:6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
  • Mt. 12:14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
  • Mt. 26:8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked.
  • Luke 15:24, "For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
  • Luke 19:10 "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

So it seems to me that Holding rests his case for the normative meaning of apollymi on a mere 5 verses, in contrast with the over 30 which Fudge and I have thus presented as evidence for "destroyed" as the typical meaning--not to mention perhaps dozens of others which we could marshal in making our case. The scale hardly seems to be weighted in the traditionalist's favor. Nevertheless, the examples Holding gives deserve some attention.


Very briefly, the second of Holding's examples above should be considered. When it comes to Matthew 12:14, he wants us to ask ourselves, "[Was the item] in question [that is, Jesus] annihilated?" Well of course Jesus wasn't annihilated, but the intent of the Pharisees was to kill Him. They wanted Jesus to perish, to die. They wanted to murder Him, to slay Him, to slaughter Him. They didn't want to simply ruin or lose Him, they wanted to destroy Him! To be quite frank, I'm astonished that J.P. would point to this verse in an attempt to demonstrate that apollymi means to "ruin" or "lose."


He goes on to elaborate on his argument from Matthew 26:8, writing, "the oil of Matt. 26 did not cease to be oil; it was simply (so it was argued by Judas) put to a use that it should not have been. It remained oil." This is fair enough, but it seems to betray a misunderstanding of the conditionalist's argument. The question is not, as put by Holding, "did the things in question 'cease to exist as' whatever they were?" As Fudge points out, the argument is not that apollymi refers to "annihilation in some technical literal sense."

No, the annihilationist is not primarily arguing that the Second Death is to "cease to exist." Rather, he argues that the Second Death is simply that--death. At least when used to describe formerly living creatures. When it comes to inanimate objects (although this applies to animate creatures as well), the conditionalist argues that the word refers to destruction. The sense in which the word "annihilation" refers to this process is not so much that the object "ceases to exist," but that all that remains of what is destroyed is, well, remains. What once was is now gone, and only rotting bodies or smoldering rubble is left.

When the disciples object to the woman pouring oil on Jesus' head by rhetorically asking, "Why this waste?" (as it seems universally translated), yes, the oil continues to be oil--at least very briefly. But what, no doubt, eventually happened to that oil? It disappeared. Not, of course, in the scientific meaning of the word; then again, the authors of Scripture were not writing in scientific jargon. But practically speaking, the oil was gone. It was no more. It soaked into Jesus' hair and scalp and disappeared.

So this verse uses apollymi to mean "waste" in a way which is consistent with how it is typically used in the New Testament and the Septuagint. Consider, also, Proverbs 29:3 where the LXX uses apollymi to say that "he who keeps company with harlots wastes his wealth." Granted, the money that changes hands does not cease to be money, but that's beside the point. The point is that for the one who spends his money on prostitutes, his wealth disappears. Holding's contention, then, is certainly not supported by Matthew 26:8.


But what of Matthew 10:6, Luke 15:24 and 19:10? In each of these verses the word apollymi is typically rendered "lost." Certainly those who were in the present "lost" were not presently in the state of non-existence, of having been previously annihilated. Don't these verses therefore suggest a different meaning for apollymi than we've already looked at?

First it should be noted that when a word is typically used one way, but in a few selected texts is used another way, that doesn't change what is its normative meaning. At best it indicates a broader semantic range; that is, a greater number of meanings than the one intended by the majority of its uses. The fact that a word may have more than one possible meaning as evidenced by its use in a small selection of passages in no way suggests that secondary meanings are to be considered primary ones. So right off the bat, it's clear Holding's contention is unwarranted.

But still the question remains: did Matthew and Luke intend in these verses a meaning fundamentally different from the typical meaning in the verses we've already looked at? Fudge, it seems, would answer that question in the negative. He writes, "Not surprisingly, this verb apollymi stands in contrast with enduring, eternal life. It is the regular term for the spiritually 'lost'--who are 'perishing.'" In other words, even those who are metaphorically likened unto lost sheep are, in fact, in the process of, or are on their way to, being destroyed.

In a footnote to the above sentence, Fudge cites a number of passages in support of his case. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul writes that "the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." He similarly writes in 2 Corinthians 2:15 that "we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." In 2 Corinthians 4:3 he says that "even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing," and in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 he speaks of "the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan...and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish."

It would seem, then, that even the lost who are "alive" in the temporal sense of the term are nevertheless "perishing" in a very real sense consistent with the typical meaning of apollymi. They are on their way to destruction. They are not merely "lost" in the way we understand the word, but are genuinely dying. So I'm inclined to side with Fudge despite the passages to which Holding points.


Although the passages Holding points to as evidence of his contention end with those we've looked at above, Fudge anticipates the traditionalist pointing to a couple of other texts. As I quoted him as writing earlier, "Traditionalist writers so often make the point that 'perish' is used of ruined wineskins (Matt 9:17) and spoiled food (John 6:12)." But in light of everything we've looked at, he goes on to say that "we should think of something more than burst wineskins or wasted food when we read it used of the doom of the ungodly. Taken literally, these various pictures contradict each other. Taken seriously, they paint a single picture of utter, shameful extinction."

I haven't yet boarded the annihilationist bus, so to speak, but at this point I'm inclined to agree with Fudge. In fact, I think he grants too much. The wineskin which has burst has, in a very real sense, been destroyed. It ceases to be a skin which holds wine, since anything poured into it empties out immediately. As for spoiled food, when Jesus says, "Gather up the leftover fragments [of bread and fish] so that nothing will be lost," He doesn't simply mean that were it not for gathering it up it would be unable to be found. He means it will utterly decay away, as rotting food inevitably does. Such spoiled food does not merely sprout mold, it is slowly eaten away, dissolved. Time lapse photography of rotting food (this video and this video and this video) makes the case.


So it seems to me that the biblical use of "perish" does, in fact, tend to favor the conditionalist's case. Cities which "perish" are not merely "lost" or "ruined," they are destroyed, reduced to smoldering rubble. Food which "perishes" is eventually eaten away. People who "perish" are killed and cease to live. And so, it seems likely on the surface of it, that when it is promised that the wicked will "perish," it means they will become extinct.

In my estimation, round 1 goes to Fudge.


  1. You might not be surprised Chris, given the way the words are looked at by traditionalists, that some actually go as far as saying that since matter cannot truly being annihilated, human beings all live forever. I kid you not.

    W.G.T Shedd, in what is supposed to be one of the greatest traditionalist works ever, literally makes the following argument: "The death of an animal substance makes an alteration in the relations of certain material atoms, but does not put them out of existence. Dead matter is as far from nonentity as living matter" (91). In other words, when an animal dies, the matter of it still exists, and therefore the creature still exists, and thus dead humans live forever. I imagine you can see the issues there. For starters, animals die; matter doesn't, and we know what dead animals are like.

    Similarly, Henry Morris argues that since matter cannot be created or destroyed, the soul cannot be destroyed (270). Of course, by that logic, the soul couldn't be created either...(if God is even bound by the law of conservation of matter, which I doubt).

    Tim Keller, the very popular Presbyterian writer, directly compares the dead soul to a corpse, even pointing out that a corpse disintegrates, but insists that that is not tantamount to annihilation.

    I could go on like this, but you get the point. When humans are in view, suddenly it becomes necessary to say that everything, even down to the atoms that make up a human body (and the soul atoms that make up a soul) must be destroyed, or else the person still exists and eternal torment is true. Of course, aren't human beings (or for that matter, anything in the world) more than just the matter that makes them up?

    Works Cited
    Keller, Timothy. “The Importance Of Hell.” N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Jan. 2010. .

    Morris, Henry. The Revelation Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Revelation. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House; San Diego, CA: Creation-Life, 1983. Print.

    Shedd, William G.T. The Doctrine of Endless Punishment. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896. Google Books. Web. 13 Jul. 2011.

  2. Perhaps it goes without saying that I don't find those arguments persuasive. What do you think of the post, though? Have I done conditionalism justice?

  3. Chris, I am not certain I understand the weight of the argument. How does either view affect/effect ones salvation? In other words, what bearing does this argument have in real terms? Why would this be considered an 'important' topic?

  4. Do you think God prefers we answer a question rightly, even if failing to do so does not mean we're unsaved?

  5. Great stuff Chris. When it comes to apollumi and similar verbs, we need to look at 1. what the words usually mean, and 2. what they probably mean in context in passages which describe final punishment.

    With regards to 1, traditionalists will typically point to the few instances where the word means something like "ruin" and then claim that this is the core meaning of the word. Holding is not unique in this regard; the argument he presents can be found in almost every critique of conditionalism that discusses these verbs.

    Regarding 2, traditionalists will then claim or imply that because of the observation made in 1 that apollumi must (or can) mean "ruin" in the specific passages regarding final punishment. But that's not how to do exegesis! Glenn Peoples rightly points out that to do so is to the commit the illegitimate totality transfer. We determine what a word means in context by looking at how it is used in that context. Bill Mounce actually wrote a piece on this very issue:

    He concludes:

    There is nothing in the word that necessitates apollumi means a permanent and total destruction ... It certainly can carry that meaning, but it is context (including one’s theological understanding of the ideas conveyed by the word) that make the final decision.

  6. Don't worry Chris, you've been doing conditionalism better justice than many committed conditionalists! You've got the simple insights into things that are overlooked, like how a wine skin that has burst is no more a wine skin than a dead corpse is a living human. The material exists, but it's torn up leather, not a wineskin.

  7. Joey, nice to always run into you in these discussions :)

    Holding himself actually makes the argument you describe in the article being discussed:

    Verses like this one, which refer to a destiny of fire, are often called upon in support, for it is reasoned that fire annihilates what it consumes.

    But this is not true: Fire does not destroy matter, but converts it to another form

    So, he reasons, while weeds are literally destroyed in a fire, the individual molecules still exist (as ashes), and therefore these passages do not support the annihilation of the wicked.

    Part of the problem, I think, is that people get hung up on the term "annihilate" which is just one reason I shy away from using annihilationism to describe our view. As I say in my brief article on terminology:

    Annihilate is not a biblical term. Scripture uses expressions such as perish or destroy to describe the fate of the lost. Most English translations use annihilate rarely, if at all. Now, while I do believe that the lost will one day cease to exist, I want to be able to avoid objections like, “perish doesn’t mean annihilate!” and focus on more substantive issues.

    Doug Moo, in his contribution to Hell Under Fire, stumbles in the same way. He claims, citing Ernest Best, that a similar verb (oletheros) never has the meaning "annihilation" in the Septuagint. He then gives his take on what the various "destruction" verbs mean:

    In other words, these key terms appear to be used in general much like we use the word "destroy" in the sentence, "The tornado destroyed the house." The component parts of that house did not cease to exist, but the entity "house," a structure that provides shelter for human beings, ceased to exist [emphasis mine]

    Conditionalists could not agree more! The component parts of an unsaved human might still exist as a corpse or ashes, but the entity "human person" will cease to exist! But Moo thinks he has scored a point against conditionalism just by pointing out that the verbs don't mean "annihilate" in the sense that every single particle will completely wink out of existence. I think not!

  8. On a pragmatic level I think the ethics of annhilationalism deter me from holding that view: there are many a criminal who risk life and limb b/c even the threat of death for crimes done cannot deter them. It's a punishment they risk with no fear. So, were I a non-believer, and all I had to fear was extinction? What's so bad about that? When I die, I cease to exist? Ok. I can "live" with that.
    All this hinges, too, I think, on physicalism. If traditionalists are right in both points, then ethics takes on "eternity.". If however, when a person is destroyed by death and that's it? So Cain and Lamech and OJ win in the end.

  9. Hey, Travis. As to your first point, I disagree for at least two reasons. First, even the most ardent serial killer will kill before being killed. Sure he might not fear death as much as you or I, but he still tries to live. Even suicides seem to often be committed in the midst of fear of death. So I do think genuine death is punishment.

    But more importantly, if Fudge is right, there is an infinite number of possible combinations of type of suffering, intensity and duration as part of the destructive process. Just because it culminates in extinction doesn't mean there's not suffering to fear. OJ, Cain, Lamech, even Hitler, they certainly don't win.

    As to physicalism, I don't agree. I don't think conditionalism hangs on physicalism at all. Fudge pointed that out in the interview and in his book.

  10. A couple of other thoughts come to mind, too, Travis.

    First, God's ways are not our ways, and I don't think we should base our understanding of hell on what we think is appropriate punishment. I'm not saying that's what you're doing, I'm just saying that if conditionalists are right, and if to "perish" means what it definitely seems to mean, then we've got to accept what the Bible says whether we think it's fair or not.

    Second, I'm reminded of Fudge's repeated statement in the interview that we shouldn't think of ongoing conscious suffering as the only kind of punishment. You say that if conditionalism is true, OJ, Lamech and Cain win. That statement might have a slight ring of truth to it if it weren't for the glorious eternity they miss out on. Can you really characterize their final destruction as victory when God's people live for eternity in glorified, immortal, imperishable bodies in the presence of the Lord? Hardly not. Punishment doesn't necessarily involve conscious torment. Losing out on such a glorious eternity is quite a punishment indeed.

  11. Chris, I am not certain I understand the weight of the argument. How does either view affect/effect ones salvation? In other words, what bearing does this argument have in real terms? Why would this be considered an 'important' topic? I truly am unclear about the weight of the argument.

  12. I already answered your question: "Do you think God prefers we answer a question rightly, even if failing to do so does not mean we're unsaved?"

  13. That is not an answer. That is a question. Why can't you answer the question? Let me put it another way. What bearing does this argument have in the whole of Christendom?

  14. Questions are often answers, as was the case here. My point is that we're not called to focus solely on those things in Scripture we think are "important." We're called to believe whatever the Bible says. Our conclusion when it comes to this debate may not be as important as faith in Jesus Christ, but nevertheless God chose to inspire the authors of Scripture to write about hell so we should take seriously what they wrote.

  15. I would offer, however, that if Fudge was right in the interview, if the Bible teaches conditionalism and if traditionalism leads people to adopt the heresy of universalism, then the debate is certainly important.

  16. So, to rephrase your 'answer', the point of this debate/argument/discussion is to clarify someone's opinion about the way some of the Greek words are translated in order that we can judge the opinion and therefore the doctrine that the opinion is derived from?

    I do take Hell seriously. I also take the words of God seriously. But to squabble over the difference between annihilation and ruined seems like a lost cause and somewhat pointless when we are supposed to be seeking and saving the lost as Christ did. How often do we see Christ or any of the Apostles arguing over semantics?

    For the sake of clarity, however, I agree with you and Mr. Fudge in this argument. I fully intend to read Mr. Fudge's book as well. ;)

  17. Chris, thanks for addressing J.P. Holding's response to annihilationism. While I have a lot of respect for Mr. Holding, I believe he fails to adequately refute the arguments for annihilation. Also, I think he makes a few errors in regard to the historical-social data about what the Jews of Jesus' day believed; perhaps you will get to this topic in a future post.

  18. Aaron, the desire to accurately represent God should be reason enough. If you seek pragmatic reasons, just think about how many people have been turned off by Christianity because of what they think Christians believe about Hell. Think about how many Christians have suffered years of mental and emotional anguish because they have loved ones whom they believe will suffer unimaginable torment forever.

    With all due respect, it's hard for me believe that you don't see how weighty this issue is. I've studied this issue in depth for the past five years and have had many conversations. I believe you're the first person I've ever heard say or imply that this issue is not weighty because it doesn't affect the salvation of individual Christians.

  19. "How often do we see Christ or any of the Apostles arguing over semantics?"

    The NT is replete with the writers "squabbling" over semantics with those who veer from the truth. Whatever the Bible says matters, and we're called to rightly divide truth from error.

  20. Travis, just curious: in your opinion, how effective has the traditional view of future punishment been in deterring unethical behavior?

  21. Also, the difference between final, complete and permanent destruction and eternal conscious torment could hardly be called "semantics."

  22. Ronnie, the pleasure is mine :)

    I can't wait until part two. I read over Holding's article, and it made me weep and gnash my teeth in frustration. Holding and the Tekton site are usually so with it, but that article was not.

  23. Don't hold your breath :) For one, I am waiting for some interaction on this post from my friend before part 2. Second, part 1 was low hanging fruit; I'm not certain I'll do as well with the rest of Holding's article. We'll see :)

  24. Chris, Thanks for the Edward Fudge interviews! I have been recently reading the arguments for CI and it was good to hear his insights in person (very touching to 'hear' his emotion coming through, btw). I, too, have been nearly persuaded to the view. It has been a similar experience to turning from dispensational views to preterist/amillennial views (all it took was for me to take off the special glasses I had been handed when reading the scriptures!).

    One question for you. I think I heard you call Universalism heresy in your interview, and you mentioned it in the comments above. As I recall, at least as far back as Origen the view has been around, and though I don't think the view has very strong biblical support I do know of true Christians who hold that view and defend it on biblical grounds. In what sense are you using the word heresy?

  25. @Ronnie,
    Who knows. Part of my point is that if all I have to fear is a momentary "snap of the neck," then I could probably deal with that.
    I'm not sure I'd argue the opposite by saying, "If you reject Jesus, you won't enjoy the bliss of "heaven."
    Pagan: What's the alternative?
    Me: Extinction.
    Pagan: Whadaya mean?
    Me: Well, when you die, nothing happens. You "sleep" until the last day when Jesus closes history and judges all men. If you are found wanting then you will be destroyed and cease to exist.
    Pagan: How long will that punishment last?
    Me: Who knows. But wouldn't you rather live the life of eternity on the earth that God promises.
    Pagan: Well, if I were to be punished forever, maybe. But knowing that I might just be snuffed out like a candle, that's not so bad.
    My point in saying that Cain, et al wins is this. Think about it: Cain kills Abel. And is not punished--he walks. So, no justice in this life for Abel. When is he vindicated? When Cain dies? No, for that is not the judgement. When Jesus comes in AD 70? Partly, yes. At the last day, carrying out justice, God's says, "Cain, for the murder of your brother in the first degree, I declare you guilty and therefore you will die the 2nd death."
    Then with the sound of a gavel, Cain vanishes in a poof of smoke.
    That's it? Eye for eye, I guess.

  26. @Chris,
    If Fudge doesn't know how long or intense the punishment is, then why espouse it at all?

  27. Ronnie, I don't see anywhere that I said it is not important, only that I don't see it as important as knowing the Gospel. When are we as Christians directed to preach "hell"? I only see direction to preach the good news. I understand that there are those who enjoy squabbling over semantics, but I don't see it in the Bible. there are those in the Bible who don't understand the "plain Greek" that was being spoken to them (or Aramaic or Hebrew or whatever other language) but the messages taught by Christ and by the inspired writer's are clear when read in context. The point of the inspired writings is that there is nothing better than the resurrection, and spending eternity with God. It doesn't matter if it is eternal torment or instant annihilation or flipping burgers at Satan's Grill for eternity. The fact is God is the choice we should make at all costs.

  28. Travis, two things:

    1. Typically, when people object that it doesn't seem fair that both Ted Bundy and a kind Buddhist who died at 16 will be tormented forever, traditionalists respond that it is God's understanding of justice—not ours—that matters, and that we should focus instead on what Scripture clearly teaches. I'm always stunned when someone turns around and rejects conditionalism on the grounds that it doesn't conform to their own notions of justice!

    2. Do you think that instead of capital punishment being the ultimate form of justice, states should start torturing people for long periods of time?

  29. Aaron, you explicitly said, "Why would this be considered an 'important' topic?"

    The claim that it is not as important as knowing the gospel is uncontroversial. Everyone here would agree.

    Whether or not there are examples of people "squabbling over semantics" (and that is an obnoxious way to put it) in the Bible is immaterial. Neither are there examples of people arguing on blogs that we shouldn't squabble over semantics. So what?

    If the correct view of final punishment is that of complete destruction, and some people are led astray by semantic argument, then those arguments ought to be addressed. I don't need a verse to tell me that's OK.

    And by way of reminder: The only reason you have a Bible that you can read in your own language is that countless scholars have spent countless hours "squabbling" over semantics, syntax, and a million other things that you completely take for granted. Please show a little more respect.

    It doesn't matter if it is eternal torment or instant annihilation

    Of course it matters. Why you would think otherwise is beyond me.

  30. @All,

    I wonder where in the Bible is the first mention/ expectation of a final judgement and life after death. All the OT seems to imply, to me, is that Sheol is non-existence. Everybody dies and goes to the grave where God is never praised. Thoughts?

  31. @Ronnie,

    You should know that I am merely expressing my traditionalist thoughts on this as I work it out for myself. So, I am excercising a bit. No harm, no foul. Your point makes sense.

    The difference bt the state and God is one of ontology: God is eternal (and so is his justice) and the state is not.

    As to your last comment, Why does it matter?

  32. Travis, indeed no harm no foul. My writing style tends to be brusque, but I'm not mad or annoyed in any way (with the exception of Aaron's use of "squabble").

    I think there are hints and suggestions of an afterlife throughout the OT. For instance, David's confidence that he will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Even the fact that death is expressed as a "sleep" I think points to the fact that it will not last forever.

    That being said, I think the only clear and explicit mention of an afterlife in the OT is in Daniel 12. My contention is that in Scripture, any explicit mention of the afterlife is always cached out in terms of a bodily resurrection. Hebrew thought, in my estimation, knows nothing of disembodied conscious existence.

    I'm not sure why it would matter that God is eternal while the state is not. If "mere" death is not a sufficient punishment for a murderer in your eyes, then why should we think it just for the state to merely put murderers to death? Should they not also endure pain for long periods of time? Would that not be a more effective deterrent? Am I misunderstanding your objection to conditionalism?

    As for explaining why it matters that people will be destroyed as opposed to being tormented forever. I'm a little curious as to why you're asking because you seem to agree that it does matter. As I mentioned above, it matters because it's important to be faithful to Scripture. It matters because the thought of everlasting torment has turned people away from the faith and has caused the faithful much pain and sorrow. I also think issues such as God's love, justice and mercy are at stake, but those are arguments that I usually refrain from making (because, frankly, they're unnecessary).

  33. Ronnie, it doesn't matter because we are saved from it. Let the heathens worry what Satan has planned for them

  34. Ronnie, I guess I am over-simplifying the topic, so I think I will leave it up to those who want to discuss it to be the ones who are discussing it. When it comes time for me to be concerned with this topic, I can always come back to it.

  35. Well ya know Chris, even if you don't deal with the Holding article anymore, I can see some more traditionalist arguments coming up that you'll probably have to deal with (though they all can be answered, I believe). They include:

    - Death is a separation, not unconsciousness or non-existence. When people die, their spirits are still conscious (quick response, the body dies, not the body and soul - Matthew 10:28, James 2:26. Therefore, a body is what is dead, and corpses are...corpses).

    - Revelation 20:10 says that the Devil will be tormented day and night for ever and ever, even if the beast and false prophet are not (quick response: The lake of fire is only a symbol in a vision. If Fudge is right that the clearly symbolic beast and false prophet being thrown into a clearly symbolic fire means that what they represent is destroyed in real life, the same would be true of the Devil. They all suffer the exact same fate in the vision, so their fate in real life should be the same was well. It does say that he is tormented, but it says the same of the beast and false prophet... Also, even if the beast and false prophet do represent humans, we know that death suffers the same fate as the above, and it is destroyed in real life. If it being cast into the lake of fire represents it's real life destruction, the same would reasonably be true of everyone else who suffers the same symbolic fate in the vision).

    - Weeping and gnashing of teeth: They say that this indicates eternal pain. (Quick response: in the Old Testament, passages speak of gnashing of teeth as a sign of anger, not pain. People weep for all kinds of reasons. More importantly, none of the passages say that the lost will weep and gnash their teeth forever, just that when God condemns them, that will be their reaction. It could very well be like the person described in Psalm 112:10 who gnashes his teeth and wastes away, but on an eternal scale).

  36. Also, there's another reason why this matters:

    When we tell people the gospel, especially those in America who usually have some idea what Christians believe, they might ask us what happens to those who do not believe. Whatever our response is, even if it is "there are different beliefs, I tend to believe that the Bible says...", aren't we expected to answer as basic a question as that?

  37. Ronnie,

    It's interesting that David's words in Ps 23 are not "dwell in the house of the Lord forever" but "...all the days of my life"; that is, all the days in which I live, not eternally.

  38. "How often do we see Christ or any of the Apostles arguing over semantics?"

    Was it not Christ who refuted the liberals by the tense of a single verb? Matt 22:32

  39. Matthew 22:22-33 (in context)  22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

    Marriage at the Resurrection

     23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
     29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’[a]? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

     33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

    I don't see where the discussion had anything to do with any tense. Please explain in further detail.

  40. "All the days of my life" is used in the first part of the verse:

    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

    The expression that is translated "forever" would literally be rendered "to/for length of days" and is translated as "forever" is most English translations. I just looked this stuff up :)

    But yes, the most straightforward way to read the verse would be that he will dwell in the Lord's house all his days. I just indicated it as a possible hint of a future with God after death.

  41. I think the point about the verb tense in Matthew 22:32 is this:

    Jesus argues that there must be a resurrection because God said "I AM the the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Had God said "I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (in its Hebrew and Greek equivalents of course), Jesus' whole point would have been meaningless.

    God is the God of the living, not of the dead, Jesus says. If people just died and that was that (as Sadducees believed), and they would never live again (that is, be resurrected), then God would not be the God of any person who was dead. They couldn't be called the living, so God couldn't be their God. God could not say "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," if they were to be dead permanently. He could, however, say "I was..." even if they stayed dead.

    Had God said "I was," it wouldn't be necessary that they live again. If it weren't necessary that they live again, Jesus could not have used that passage to prove that there would be a resurrection. Because God said "I am...", they must live again, since the God of the living called Himself their God even after they were dead, and the only way that that can be is if there is a resurrection. That is why the tense of that single Hebrew verb (and the Greek verb used in Matthew) makes all the difference.

  42. "As I recall, at least as far back as Origen the view has been around, and though I don't think the view has very strong biblical support I do know of true Christians who hold that view and defend it on biblical grounds. In what sense are you using the word heresy?"

    Hi, John. Three points before I answer your question.

    First, how far back a doctrine goes doesn't determine its orthodoxy. Second, numerous heresies are defended "on biblical grounds." Third, I don't think any of us can be 100% certain who is a "true Christian."

    With all that in mind, I never use the word "heresy" to simply mean "false" as some people do. I use it to mean that a doctrine is so antithetical to the Christian faith that its proponents, if unmoved over time by the biblical data, are likely unregenerate.

  43. First let me preface my comments by saying that I wholly reject the doctrine known as Physicalism and/or Monism. I find them to be heretical and I say that only because that position tends to be assumed when the topic at hand is discussed. I found Dr. Fudge's presentation very good and incredibly powerful. I have held the traditional view since I can remember, and I have even defended it in writing. However, the arguments put forward by Dr Fudge are in my view profound, consistent, and to be taken seriously. Therefore, I participate in this dialogue from as an objective view point as possible. Let the truth of God's word shine forth.

    Regarding your first point:

    Lets talk about ἀπόλλυμι (apollumi). The etymology of the word is, I believe, essential to arriving at its meaning. The word is derived from two:ἀπό (apo) which means away from, or away, and ὄλεθρος (olethros) which means destruction or ruin. The word therefore is an emphatic of ὄλεθρος and signals the utter destruction of a person, place, or thing. Certainly we can't decipher a usages meaning without context. Given the contexts of Matt. 10:28, 2 Thess. 1:9, Phil. 3:19 I cannot see any reason to conclude that this word indicates anything other than the full and unbridaled destruction of the reprobate. So far as Mr. Holding's argumentation, I think that while "lostness" is part of the semantic range of the term, that "lostness" is had within the context of utter ruin/destruction.

    What are the implications of the reality of this term on the terminal state of the damned? I think the term fits perfectly within the annihilationist understanding. But, I see no reason why it does not fit perfectly within the traditional understanding as well. It's compatibility with annihilationism seems obvious to me. But, my understanding of the traditional view is that the state of punishment that the damned suffer is a state that is ineffably fixed and final. The finality of the fate of the reprobate is utter ruin/destruction in their fixed state of punishment. Therefore, while I think Holding is running from the plain meaning of the text, I am inclined to think that both views find validity therein.

  44. Hey, Mike! Thanks for participating. As I explained in email, I have a lot of thoughts in response, so I'll post my response as a whole blog post. Won't be long from now.

  45. That response is here: