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.”1Gregory K. Beale, “The Revelation on Hell,” Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, eds. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson (Zondervan, 2004), 112. 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.”2Robert A. Peterson & Edward W. Fudge, Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue (Spectrum, 2010), Kindle edition, 107. 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,”3Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News (Christian Focus, 2003), 112. and that to simply read the text is to refute annihilationism.4Ibid., 113. 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.”5Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984), 144.
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.6My 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). 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).