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 are 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.

 Words of Annihilation, Plato and Plutarch, Peter and Paul

 Plato and Plutarch were Greek philosophers who discussed the possibility of that human souls would completely and permanently cease to exist. The same words they used to describe the annihilation of human souls, Paul, Peter and other biblical authors used to describe the final fate of the unrighteous.

Athenagoras of Athens, A Hostile Witness for Annihilationism

 Athenagoras was one of the first (some would argue the first) Christian church father to argue clearly that the unrighteous are immortal, implying that they will experience eternal torment. Ironically, he provides evidence for annihilationism. He does this because the words he uses to refer to annihilationism are the same words biblical authors use to refer to the final fate 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.


What does the Bible Mean by Death?

 Those supporting the view of eternal torment often argue that in the Bible death does not mean what we usually mean by literal, physical death. Instead they say it refers to "spiritual death." I examine this claim and give 24 reasons that death does, in fact, refer to normal, literal death.


Fair Warning

The Bible teaches that fair warning should be given if people are facing impending doom. This is a big problem for the eternal torment view, and I explain why in this post.

Literal Hell: the problems with depending on a plain, literal  interpretation of two passages in Revelation to defend eternal torment

Traditionalist arguments for eternal torment often lean heavily on interpreting two passages in Revelation literally. This is problematic for several reasons.

Eternal Fire, the Sun, and Solar Flares (why eternal fire does not mean eternal torment)

Three times the Bible refers to "eternal fire." Traditionalists assume this implies eternal torment. In this post I explain why the assumption is wrong.

25 Problems 25 Minutes: A response to Dr. Pat Zukeran's typical argument against annihilationism

In his podcast on Evidence and Answers, Dr. Zukeran gave a 25 minute talk arguing against annihilationism. His arguments are very similar to arguments I have heard many times, and so I responded to his talk as a way of providing answers to common traditionalist arguments.

How Two Terrible Tragedies Help us to Think about Conditional Immortality and what is at Stake

A hurricane and a tragic boat fire remind us of how much we value life and the heroic efforts to save lives which we rightly admire. This helps us think about what's at stake with conditional immortality and to see how empty the traditionalist claims are that say if annihilationism is true there is little motive for people to seek salvation or work at winning others to Christ.

Why did God say, "on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die," yet Adam and Eve did not die the same day they ate the fruit?

I examine five proposed solutions to this problem. This is relevant to the nature of hell because traditionalists often wrongly claim that God must have been referring to spiritual death in Genesis 2:17 and then they argue that this means the unrighteous will experience eternal torment, not annihilation.

How Remembering Final Destinies Keeps us from Stumbling (wisdom from Asaph found in Psalm 73)

 In this post I discuss how Psalm 73 helps us deal with the painful reality of injustice in this world (sometimes evil people prosper while the righteous suffer). I also discuss how Psalm 73 is based on the doctrine of Conditional Immortality.

Jesus, Light, and Immortality

Even the Christmas story supports conditional immortality. This blog post looks at some words spoken prophetically by the father of John the Baptist a few months before Jesus was born.

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.

Problems with Universalist Extrapolation

In this post I discuss problems with some common universalist arguments.

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!

Their End is Destruction (four words that support annihilationism)

In Philippians 3:19, Paul gives support for annihilationism. His words simply do not fit either the doctrine of eternal torment, not the doctrine of universalism.

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:

In addition to the two-part sermon, I've posted a ten minute "explainer video" which gives a very brief, but information-filled, explanation of why I believe in annihilationism (aka conditional immortality):

Why I Believe in Annihilationism Rather than Eternal Conscious Torment

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 . . .

1 comment:

  1. Mark, you should compile everything you posted into a book. I would buy it. Reading with an open mind but a little reservation as well . Keep speaking boldly<><