Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Mark’s Resources on Hell (Conditional Immortality aka Annihilationism vs. Eternal Conscious Torment vs. Universalism)

I grew up believing that the final fate of the unrighteous is eternal conscious torment. I believed it and I taught it to others. But after the Lord led me in a prolonged period of studying this topic (mainly from the Bible, but also by reading the best arguments I could find from evangelicals with each view) I became thoroughly convinced that the Bible teaches something else. I now believe that the unrighteous will perish (John 3:16), have both their bodies and souls destroyed (Matthew 10:28), and be burned to ashes (2 Peter 2:6). This view I now hold is called either conditional immortality or annihilationism.

God’s Word has always been my most important resource in studying this topic. But I have also been helped by other Christians who have written on it. They have helped me see things I would have missed on my own. They have helped me understand God’s truth more clearly and precisely. Much of the material that has helped me may be found on the Rethinking Hell website, where there links to podcasts, books, debates, and articles on this topic.

I see God working to correct the widespread and long held traditional view of eternal conscious torment and replace it with the biblical truth of conditional immortality. Having been helped by others, I thank God for the opportunity to contribute to this movement in a small way. I’ve written over twenty blog posts related to this topic and have also preached on it. By God’s grace, these materials have been helpful to some people seeking to understand what the Bible teaches about the nature of hell. So, I’ve decided to produce this document to provide one location where anyone interested can find links to all my online material related to the nature of final punishment. I also provide a short description for each resource.

Blog Posts Supporting Conditional Immortality against Eternal Conscious Torment

This short post is perhaps my personal favorite. I use simple color-coded graphics of Bible verses to show that the doctrine of conditional immortality is taught in many verses. This doctrine is so clearly supported and easily understood that it would almost certainly be uncontroversial among evangelicals except that it entails the annihilation of the unrighteous.


This post examines Greek words that show the unrighteous will be completely burned up. The fire of hell is used to incinerate the lost, not torture them forever.


Here, I respond to a message on Hell by John Piper where he argued for eternal conscious torment.


While most of my posts on hell are about why conditional immortality is true, this post uses something Al Mohler said to explain why conditional immortality is important. Specifically, I discuss the role of eternal conscious torment in pushing people towards theological liberalism and other errors.


This post contains my response to some arguments which William Lane Craig gave in favor of eternal conscious torment.


This short post examines biblical passages which indicate that God’s wrath in final judgment will last for a limited time. This is not consistent with eternal conscious torment! It is consistent with annihilationism.


Many times I’ve heard those who believe in eternal conscious torment argue that annihilationism cannot be true because it is not a significant punishment. In this post I explain why the annihilationist view of hell is very serious punishment.

Series on the Second Death

The two most difficult passages for conditionalists to explain are both found in the book of Revelation. The problem is not that these passages support eternal torment when correctly interpreted. The problem is that the book of Revelation, based mostly on apocalyptic visions full of bizarre and shocking symbols, is notoriously difficult to interpret. I spent a great deal of time studying the book of Revelation in general and what it teaches about the fate of the unrighteous in particular. The result was this seven-part series on the meaning of the 2nd death:

The introduction to the series points out the error that traditionalists make in treating the lake of fire and torment seen in John’s vision as literal and then using it to define the meaning of second death. I explain that traditionalists have it exactly backwards. I give evidence for this.

Part 2 looks at both literal and metaphoric meanings of death in the Bible. The meaning of death which best fits the use of death in the phrase “second death” is then discussed.

Part 3 explains the rather obvious fact that throwing people into a lake of fire is an apt symbol for annihilation. This common-sense view is backed up by looking at how fire is used in judgment throughout the Bible.

Part 4 examines two specific phrases which appear at first glance to support eternal torment, namely “the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever” (Revelation 14:11) and “they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). I give evidence to show that these phrases are best understood as hyperbolic metaphor.

Part 5 discusses evidence throughout the Bible, including the book of Revelation, that teaches us to expect God’s judgment to be proportional to our sins.

Part 6 is a summary of evidence from the whole Bible supporting conditional immortality. If you only have time to read one post, you might want to read this one.

Part 7 does not present more evidence for conditional immortality. Rather, it explains one of the reasons that this topic is important. Specifically, I discuss how the Rethinking Hell movement is one small, but not insignificant, answer to the first request in the Lord’s Prayer: “hallowed be Thy Name.”

Blog Posts Supporting Conditional Immortality against Universalism

The evidence supporting conditional immortality and annihilationism presented in the posts above also argues against universalism. Nevertheless, because universalists have developed unique arguments, I have written a number of posts addressing these.

Below is a three-part series on the meaning of aionios, the Greek word frequently translated “eternal.” The biblical phrases “eternal punishment” and “eternal destruction” are fatal to universalism. Universalists have responded by making long arguments basically saying that all widely used English Bible translations are wrong to translate aionios as “eternal.” I explain in detail why our Bible translations are not wrong, but rather it is universalism that is wrong.


In this post I discuss the fact that universalists tend to base their arguments on “metanarrative” rather than on careful exegesis of individual Bible passages. I then go on to explain one major flaw in the universalist metanarrative: it has the wrong goal.


Many universalists believe that everyone will accept God and love Him if they are given the right evidence and enough time. In this post, I explain from the Bible why this universalist expectation is not realistic. (I think this has been my most popular post on universalism.)


Some universalists believe that the unrighteous will indeed be sent to a type of hell. They believe that while the unsaved are in hell they will be able to reconsider and repent and accept Christ, and that all of them will eventually do this. This post points out (using Scripture, of course) that the unrighteous will be burned to ashes to hell. That’s a big problem for the universalist view, since ashes can’t repent.


In this post I interact with Robin Parry’s book, The Evangelical Universalist. I identify a logical error which  Perry makes early in the book that ends up leading him to wrong conclusions.


Twelve passages in Matthew which do not fit with universalists beliefs are discussed in this post.

Blog Posts Supporting Conditional Immortality against both Eternal Conscious Torment and Universalism

The Bible consistently teaches that God will pay back people for their sins in the final judgment. In this post I discuss how this teaching is inconsistent with both universalism and eternal torment. However, it is an excellent fit with conditional immortality.


Traditionalists are correct to use Matthew 25:46 to refute universalism. What they fail to see is that this verse also refutes eternal conscious torment. The view which best fits Matthew 25:46 is annihilationism!

My Articles on the Rethinking Hell Website

This article uses the case of a gorilla who had to be shot to save a young boy to discuss principles of God’s justice. Those principles include the fact that who you sin against matters and also the fact that the level of knowledge and/or ignorance a sinner has matters. Our ability to weigh out these factors is very limited, so in the end we must look to God’s Word to discover the nature of final punishment.

This post discusses how the language of Psalm 37 points to the annihilation of the wicked. Counterarguments are considered and addressed.

This article contains pastoral advice and encouragement for all those who have seen the truth of conditional immortality in the Bible and feel called to help correct the error of eternal conscious torment.

My Two-Part Sermon on Annihilationism

Before I wrote any blog posts about hell, I preached a two-part sermon at the church I serve on the topic of annihilationism. Many members had probably never considered annihilationism before, so I introduced the topic slowly, carefully, and prayerfully. That sermon is online in the form of two YouTube videos:

Other Topics from an Evangelical Conditionalist

I’m an evangelical conditionalist and I’m a member of a ministry which promotes evangelical conditionalism. For me, the word “evangelical” is more important and more fundamental than the world “conditionalist.” I’m glad to minister and worship together with other evangelicals who disagree with me on the nature of final punishment. My ability to minister together with those who are not evangelical is much more limited.

It’s true that God has led me to focus time and energy on the topic of hell. However, the posts on my blog related to the conditional immortality vs. eternal conscious torment vs. universalism debate make up less than 12% of the over 200 posts on my blog. Most of the posts are on topics which are not controversial among evangelicals. What we agree about as evangelicals is far more important than our differences. I’d like to mention some examples:

Many of my posts are devotional in nature. They are intended to encourage fellow believers to press on in following Christ and to keep growing in Him. One of my favorites in this category is: Sunflowers and Sonpeople. Another favorite devotional post was partly inspired by our family dog, Sadie.

I’ve written several posts on why I believe Christianity is true. One of these includes a poem I wrote. Another apologetics post compares the Bible to the Quran and the book of Mormon. I also have written posts discussing evidence from nature for God’s existence. See posts here, here, and here.

One of my favorite topics is prayer. One post is titled: Awesome, Wonderful, Powerful Prayer. Another post offers practical advice and encouragement for praying for people.

I was blessed with the opportunity to live and share in a Muslim majority nation for fourteen years. I’m passionate about seeing the gospel spread to all nations. One post answers the question: What’s so great about the Great Commission? I have one article on the TGC site where I share a simple, practical way to help Muslims understand the gospel.

While all my posts are based on biblical truth, some of them are specifically about Bible reading. I’ve written posts comparing Bible reading to watching the sun rise and to snorkeling at a coral reef.

Many posts are about specific Bible passages or books of the Bible. Here are two examples:

Sometimes I address tough questions people ask, like:

One post is about a type of theology which Calvinists, Arminians, and others can all agree on:  Foot Theology!

That might seem like a lot, but I’ve only given links here to about 10% of my “other posts.” Every post I’ve written has been bathed in prayer. I now continue to pray that God will bless you and others though the thoughts I’ve shared!

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pleasure vs. God

I look forward to eternal life in the age to come when we will no longer have to choose between loving pleasure and loving God. In that glorious time, God Himself will always be our greatest love and joy. Speaking about God, David said, “at your right hand are eternal pleasures” (Psalm 16:11, CSV).

But in this age, in the world we live, we do often have to choose between being “lovers of pleasure” and being “lovers of God.” Let’s think together about what this means and about why we should choose God over pleasure.

Why do we have to choose?

God is not against us enjoying the good things He has created for us in this world (1 Timothy 4:4-5). Even in this dark world, He blesses us with many forms of pleasure: good meals, family, spouses, beauty in nature, friends, and much, much more can be enjoyed as we thank God for these blessings. So, it is not all pleasures, or pleasure in and of itself, which we must often reject in favor of God.

Due to our fallen nature and the influence of our own sins, the evil world we live in, and the devil, we have to battle evil desires (Colossians 3:5; James 1:14; 2 Peter 1:4). These desires are associated with our “flesh.”  Even mature Christians who have been walking with the Lord for many years have to be on guard against such desires. These desires tempt us to seek pleasure in ways that are not pleasing to God and are harmful to ourselves and others.

There are many types of sinful pleasures. We can be tempted to eat too much or the wrong kinds of food. We sometimes feel pulled to seek sexual pleasure from sources such as pornography or someone other than our spouse. We might want to enjoy some extra sleep or leisure time instead of doing some task God wants us to do (some rest and leisure is good for us, but like food, too much of it is harmful). Some people are tempted to try to feel better through drug or alcohol abuse. The list goes on and on.

In addition to being tempted by obviously bad things (like pornography or getting drunk), even good things can turn bad if we love them more than we love God. God wants to be #1 in our lives. Hopefully we will rarely be forced to choose between things like our close family members and faithfulness to God, but when we are forced to choose, God calls us to choose Him (Matthew 10:37-38). In fact, He calls us to choose faithfulness to Him even if it means losing our very lives. More often, God asks us to give up things like worldly safety and security in order to serve to Him and the gospel.

In this life, we do often have to choose between various pleasures and God. Some of these choices are small daily choices, and some of these are major life choices.

Why we should always choose God?

There are many reasons we should always choose God over the pleasures of this world.

1.  The pleasures of this world are fleeting (Hebrews 11:25). The pleasures that flow from knowing and obeying God are eternal!

2.  Even in this life, following God will lead to increased fruit of the Holy Spirit like peace, joy, and love in hearts. On the other hand, partaking of worldly pleasures leads to things like fear, anxiety, depression, doubts, confusion, and anger in our hearts. Worldly pleasures are deceitful (Ephesians 4:22).

3.  God does not forbid certain ways of seeking pleasure because He is keeping something good from us. Just the opposite! Sin harms us and it also harms people around us.

4.  Choosing God over worldly pleasures will make us available for God to use for many good purposes which will bear much good fruit (2 Timothy 2:21).

The key is loving God

The passage we started with, 2 Timothy 3:2-5, doesn’t merely contrast God vs. worldly pleasures. It contrasts love for God vs. love for worldly pleasures. The key to growing in holiness is growing in love for God. The more we focus on how good, trustworthy, wonderful, wise, and loving our Heavenly Father and our Savior is, the more we will love Him, and the easier it will be to say “no” to lesser pleasures. The more time we spend time listening to God through the Bible, communing with God in prayer, praising God with our lips, and serving God, the more we will love Him. Following the first and greatest commandment is the key and foundation which empowers us to follow all the other commandments:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and most important command.”
(Matthew 22:37-38 CSB17)

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .