Annihilation in Revelation, Part 2: In with the Old—in the New

In this series of articles I am developing a case that the vision shown to John, recorded in the book of Revelation, favors a conditionalist view of hell (the complete and everlasting destruction of the finally impenitent), despite so frequently being cited as support for a traditional view of hell (their everlasting conscious torment). In part one I began to lay a foundation for this case, demonstrating that John did not see the future as it would unfold through literal images but through vivid, apocalyptic images. In this second part I will continue to lay the foundation by examining one of the most critical keys to proper exegesis of the book of Revelation: its heavy reliance upon Old Testament texts, language and imagery. Continue reading “Annihilation in Revelation, Part 2: In with the Old—in the New”

Get a Special Edition Book and Support the 2014 Rethinking Hell Conference!

Please note: This offer has now ended.

In Episode 34 of the Rethinking Hell podcast I interviewed Mike Owens, author of the recently published book So, Why Didn’t They Tell Me That in Church?, which features a chapter on conditionalism called “Rethinking What We’ve Been Taught About Hell.” Toward the end of that interview Mike and I announced an opportunity to receive a special edition of Mike’s book, one containing additional charts and diagrams not found in previous prints, while at the same time supporting the 2014 Rethinking Hell Conference. He has graciously offered to send a copy of the book to the first one hundred people to support us with a donation of $10 or more (offer for U.S. and Canada residents only),1 100% of which will go directly toward funding our inaugural conference, at which we’ll be celebrating the life and work of Edward Fudge and discussing the present and future of evangelical conditionalism. Continue reading “Get a Special Edition Book and Support the 2014 Rethinking Hell Conference!”

  1. Donations may not be tax-deductible until our pending 501c(3) status is approved. The tax-deductible amount may further be reduced by the value of goods received in exchange for donations. Residents of countries other than U.S. and Canada are still encouraged to purchase a copy at Amazon. []

Episode 34: Why Didn't They Tell Me That? with Mike Owens

Mike Owens joins Rethinking Hell contributor Chris Date to discuss his recently published book, So, Why Didn’t They Tell Me That in Church?, and the topic of its controversial tenth chapter promoting conditionalism. And click here to support the 2014 Rethinking Hell Conference with a donation of $10 or more and receive a special edition copy of Mike’s book! Continue reading “Episode 34: Why Didn't They Tell Me That? with Mike Owens”

The God Who Punishes: Universalism & Matthew 25:46

“. . . while to those who have proved of inferior merit, or of something still meaner than this, or even of the lowest and most insignificant grade, will be given a body of glory and dignity corresponding to the dignity of each one’s life and soul; in such a way, however, that even for those who are destined to ‘eternal fire’ or to ‘punishments’ the body that rises is so incorruptible, through the transformation wrought by the resurrection, that it cannot be corrupted and dissolved even by punishments.” 1

Origen of Alexandria, On First Principles, Chap. X. Sec. 3.

I’m an odd case in this debate. Though I now lean towards annihilationism, I consider the above quote to be one of my favorites, especially since I consider it a fine piece of patristic literature. With respect to the current debate on the eternality and function of eschatological post-resurrection punishment, all three views must put forth somewhat speculative arguments in support of refinement, torment, or death. Having been immersed in evangelical universalist literature for over a year,2 I think I’m in a good position to offer the universalist some grist for their theological mills. This post will specifically focus on the singular proof-text3 containing a statement by Jesus in Matthew chapter twenty-five and verse forty-six. I am not entirely settled on my interpretation of this verse, as I find the narrative-historical interpretation generally offered by Andrew Perriman4 to be quite compelling. However, for the sake of this discussion, I will assume that this climactic point concerns post-mortem final judgment. For the most part I find the universalist interpretation of this text rather strained so my intent is to offer a constructive critique that will hopefully add some light instead of heat.5 Continue reading “The God Who Punishes: Universalism & Matthew 25:46”

  1. There is a gap that follows this sequence, left by Rufinus []
  2. Indeed, I was one before I discovered far more evidence in favor of the eternal death of mortal men and women []
  3. Usually cited, erroneously, by traditionalists []
  4. The Coming of the Son of Man: New Testament Eschatology for an Emerging Church (Wipf & Stock, 2012), 282 pp. []
  5. There are multiple authors I could engage but since Tom Talbott has the most influence within an evangelical universalist context I will limit myself to engaging with him. Also, many universalist Christians use Talbott as an exegetical and theological springboard []

Annihilation in Revelation, Part 1: Worth a Thousand Words

Two passages from the vision shown to John on the island of Patmos, as recorded in the book of Revelation, are the “most debated passages in Revelation concerning the nature of the final punishment.”1 In the minds of many traditionalists, however, there is really no debate at all, and the conclusion one must draw from them “is irresistible. Unsaved human beings also will suffer eternal conscious torment.”2 Larry Dixon boldly claims, “There is no exegetical basis whatsoever in [Revelation 20:10] for suggesting that the devil…will be put out of existence at the end of time,”3 and that to simply read the text is to refute annihilationism.4 Robert Morey, with equal boldness, says that “By every rule of hermeneutics and exegesis, the only legitimate interpretation…is the one that clearly sees eternal, conscious torment awaiting the wicked.”5
Early on in the process of rethinking hell, I discovered that the debate over these texts is very real, and that these passages from Revelation are quite compatible with conditionalism. As I studied further, I soon became convinced that these passages are, in fact, stronger support for the final death and destruction of the risen impenitent than they are for their eternal torment. Consequently, in my first two formal debates I included these passages in my opening presentation as part of a positive case for conditional immortality.6 In this new series of articles, I will demonstrate why the book of Revelation serves as compelling evidence for a conditionalist understanding of hell, beginning in this first article with an examination of the nature of John’s vision. Continue reading “Annihilation in Revelation, Part 1: Worth a Thousand Words”

  1. Gregory K. Beale, “The Revelation on Hell,” Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, eds. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson (Zondervan, 2004), 112. []
  2. Robert A. Peterson & Edward W. Fudge, Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue (Spectrum, 2010), Kindle edition, 107. []
  3. Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News (Christian Focus, 2003), 112. []
  4. Ibid., 113. []
  5. Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984), 144. []
  6. My first debate is available for download or streaming in two parts: “Episode 70: Perish in Fire” (part 1) and “Episode 71: Forever the Pain” (part 2). My second debate is available in three: “Episode 88: Death Eternal” (part 1), “Episode 89: God of Wrath” (part 2) and “Episode 90: Christ Died For Us” (part 3). []

Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: What Do We Mean by "Annihilation?"

As you likely are already aware, here at Rethinking Hell we deny the traditional teaching of Hell as a place of eternal torment, and instead view it as a place where the conscious existence of the unsaved is ended forever. This view is variously called “conditionalism,” “conditional immortality,” or “annihilationism.”1 The term annihilationism has led to a lot of confusion, and has led critics of our view to use straw man arguments against our view, so I would like to clarify what annihilation means in the context of annihilationism and conditional immortality.
Continue reading “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism: What Do We Mean by "Annihilation?"”

  1. In practice, especially in literature critical of this view, these terms are used with a lot of fluidity. Sometimes they are viewed as being largely synonymous, and are used interchangeably. Other times, they are used to describe considerably different views. For example, some, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, deny that the unsaved will be resurrected at all. Others believe that they will be resurrected to be judged and then sentenced to extinction. Some refer to the former view using “conditional immortality,” and to the latter using “annihilationism.” Others use those terms the other way around. We at Rethinking Hell believe the unsaved will be resurrected. as explained in our statement of faith. []