I recently had a very brief exchange with a colleague regarding conditionalism. He knows I’m a conditionalist, and he is not. He had just finished Clark Pinnock’s argument in Four Views on Hell,1 and stated that it was not a compelling argument, and that Pinnock began with a strawman- that God is love and therefore would not inflict people with torment forever (I don’t think this qualifies as a strawman, but that’s not my purpose here). This colleague argues that God is holy- this was the basis for rejecting Pinnock’s argument. Is this valid? Does God’s holiness stand in opposition to conditional immortality (CI)? Is God’s holiness grounds for believing in eternal conscious torment (ECT)? The purpose here is to examine what (if anything) God’s holiness contributes to our understanding of final punishment.

Prolegomena: What is holiness?

The traditionalist argument often turns to God’s holiness as a basis for insisting on ECT. For instance, the SBC’s 2011 resolution on Hell declares “God must judge the unregenerate because He is a holy God whose judgments are altogether righteous”.2 They then insist that God’s judgement of the unregenerate consists of eternal conscious torment. Because God is holy, he must (more on this below) punish those who refuse his salvation with eternal conscious torment. But does the word holy warrant such connections?
First, we need to have a working definition of holy. The word holy, like most Hebrew words comes from a three-consonant root (q-d-sh). The adjectival form, qodesh, usually translated as holy, means set apart, separate, or distinct. The verb form means to set apart or consecrate, the noun forms being holiness/set-apartness or holy or set apart things/people/places, (e.g. the Temple and its implements). But set apart from what? In the Hebraic sense, God is holy because he is distinct from his creation. All of reality is creator or created. God’s holiness recognizes him as creator, set apart from all he created.
As I just noted, the same root word was used in different noun forms to refer to the Temple (the holy place), or the objects used in the Temple. These were objects set apart for a specific purpose- the purpose of worshipping God. The basins, ladles, and showbread etc. were not to be used for everyday, mundane purposes, but in worship. They were distinct from other objects because of the purpose they were dedicated to, not because of something inherent in them.
This same root also had other forms and usages. For instance qedeshim refers to shrine prostitutes. Not exactly something we would normally consider under the umbrella of “holy things”. But, in the culture of the Ancient Near East, temple servants (including those responsible for ritual sex acts) were “set apart” for the service of the deity. They did not belong to the mundane, everyday world.
So when we say that God is holy, what do we mean? And how does that holiness relate to our discussions of final punishment? Does God’s holiness demand eternal torment? Does it even demand any punishment at all? Or is it simply a marker that God is distinct from everything else in creation?
The traditionalist argument for hell as eternal conscious torment often goes something like this: God is holy, and eternal, and therefore sin against this holy and eternal God has eternal ramifications. God’s honour, holiness, and glory have been eternally insulted by each and every sin committed by human beings. Every sin is an eternal act because it is an act of rebellion against the eternal and holy God. Thus, all sin must be punished unendingly and experienced consciously by the offender, because recompense must restore that which was taken away.
But does this argument actually hold weight biblically? I am going to say absolutely not. Rejecting ECT is not a denial or lessening of God’s holiness. As conditionalists have consistently pointed out, we do indeed believe both in the holiness of God, and in an eternal punishment- that is eternal destruction; a permanent end of conscious life. We have in no way tried to soften, or “air condition” hell3 by rejecting or downplaying the holiness and justice of God and emphasizing “God is love”. Instead, I would argue that the leap to God’s holiness demanding that sinners must experience conscious pain for all time as the consequence of their sins against a holy God is not made by Scripture. Not only is there no link between God’s holiness and eternal conscious suffering, there is scant biblical evidence (if any) to build any foundation for expecting eternal conscious torment for any reason, God’s holiness or otherwise. Again, there is no biblical evidence to suggest that God’s being holy necessitates a rejection of CI generally, or Pinnock’s argument specifically. Scripture makes no connection between God’s holiness and some sort of demand that his honour be repaid through perpetual pain (physical or spiritual).
The idea that sin against God is eternal in nature, because it violates his eternal honour and holiness is the invention of Anselm, writing in the 11th century.4 It is rooted not in Scripture, but in feudal understandings of homage; that homage to one’s lord must be done in perpetuity in order to sustain the favour of said lord. Insults to the honour of the lord are punished with consequences which are dolled out until the lord’s honour is satisfied. Thus, if God’s honour is insulted by human sin, argues Anselm, God’s honour is not satisfied unless man has suffered eternally for his sin (or someone, namely the God-man, in his place, the basis for satisfaction atonement theory, which was later modified by the reformers to establish penal substitutionary atonement), because God’s holiness demands his honour be acknowledged eternally. Pinnock comments on this stating:

Anselm tried to argue that our sins are worthy of an infinite punishment because they are committed against an infinite majesty. This may have worked in the Middle Ages, but it will not work as an argument today. We do not accept inequality in judgements on the basis of the honor of the victim, as if stealing from a doctor is worse than stealing from a beggar.5

This, as noted, belongs to feudal relations between lord/suzerain and serf/vassal. While there are some similarities, the Hebraic understanding of holiness is something quite different. God’s holiness does not demand punitive action against those who reject him. Nor does God’s holiness demand recognition. It simply is, whether humanity honours that holiness or not. God’s holiness delineates him as other than creation. It marks God out as distinct or unique among everything that exists. Nothing is equal to God. Hence the refrain “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (). He is holy because unlike all other things, God is eternal. God’s holiness does not necessitate specific action towards creation but recognizes his transcendence over creation. It gives him the rights and abilities to judge, but does not demand it. Jacob Neusner argues that although holiness may be contrasted to “unclean” or “immoral” it is also contrasted to “mundane”. He writes, “‘holy’ means not only ‘like God’ but designated for the service and use of God. And ‘profane’ means available for humanity’s ordinary use.”6 God’s holiness therefore distinguishes God from the mundane and profane, but it does not necessarily determine the specifics of how this holy God will interact with those who reject him. To be holy is to be set apart as divine, or set apart for divine use/purpose. God’s holiness is played out not in his judging, but in beneficently extending the gracious gift of life to all who would receive. God faithfully extends grace and mercy, and is slow to anger, and abundant in hesed and faithfulness ().
So, I absolutely affirm what this colleague has shared; God is indeed holy. But, where I push back is how does God’s holiness relate to God’s relationship with creation, specifically with regard to final punishment? Does his holiness demand that those who reject him will suffer for eternity in conscious torment? Or does his holiness insist that his purpose for creation will be met, and all creation will be conformed to his holiness eventually (universalism)? Or does God’s holiness call all things to become holy through the offer of eternal life in Christ or face exclusion from New Creation? Well, let’s proceed from here.

Clark Pinnock’s Argument for Conditionalism

Clark H. Pinnock (1937-2010)

So, how does Pinnock argue for Conditionalism in his artcile in Four Views on Hell? Does he rely on “God is love” and dismiss God’s holiness in order to play down the severity of God’s judgement and wrath, and thus create a “softer” view of hell? It is of course worth noting that Pinnock never quotes the infamous “God is love” from 1 John. Instead, Pinnock lays out five components to the case for conditionalism (he also comments on objections to ECT and universalism and on methodology, but we’ll leave those aside for the purposes of this piece).
First and foremost, he begins with Scripture; “Evangelical theology starts with the Bible and asks what the Scriptures have to say about the nature of hell.”7 The argument begins, as it should, with the exegesis of the relevant Scripture passages. The essay Pinnock has produced can’t, because of its scope, cover every single passage, but takes a broad sweep, noting the repeated language of destruction, perishing, being burned up or consumed. The Bible, argues Pinnock, leaves the reader with “the impression of final, irreversible destruction, of closure with God.”8 Pinnock’s argument is based primarily on this; that the Scriptures repeatedly describe the final result of the judgement to come as death, destruction, perishing.
Second, Pinnock addresses the issue of the immortality of the soul. He argues that the Scriptures declare all people to not be inherently immortal. He identifies the historical development of the Christian Church’s acceptance of ECT as coming from “an unbiblical anthropology that is read into the text.”9 The immortality of the soul, which underpins early arguments for ECT by the Church Fathers comes from Hellenistic notions of the soul as immortal, continuing to exist after physical death. Pinnock argues, correctly, that immortality is a gift of God for those who accept his offer of grace and eternal life. It is not an inherent, inalienable possession of all people. Therefore, for ECT to be true, God would have to raise the lost immortal, giving them eternal existence for the purpose of inflicting suffering and torment forever. This would be problematic, especially in light of God’s moral goodness, his mercy, and justice.
Speaking of God’s moral goodness, Pinnock’s third element is the morality of hell. Here, I think, is where my colleague ran into problems with Pinnock. Pinnock states that God’s character, revealed most clearly in Jesus, is one of “boundless mercy”. Pinnock argues that the goodness of God, which motivates God to bring reconciliation and grace to sinners, is incompatible with the notion that God would create an alternative to the New Creation, in which those who reject him are forced to remain consciously alive and imprisoned and tortured in hell for all time. Pinnock states that the traditional view of hell “pictures God acting like a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die.”10 I can see why my traditionalist colleague might get a little put off by this. Pinnock has been criticized as being too sentimental and emotional in arguing for conditionalism as an alternative to the traditional view. While he is passionate, his passion stems from his study of Scripture and his love for the Gospel, which he (and I) find incompatible with ECT. Yes, he is emotional, but he is emotional because people are describing God in ways which Scripture rejects. This isn’t “mere sentimentalism”, or liberal softness, but a deeply held conviction that Scripture depicts God as merciful and good, loving his enemies, and seeking to save and forgive the lost, not as a God who torments those who despise and reject his offer of life.
Fourth, Pinnock addresses the issue of justice. He argues that God has offered eternal life through Christ, and those who reject that offer do not receive life. This is just. God has done what needs to be done, through Christ, to open eternal life to all, but for those who say no to the offer, life ends. However, in ECT, God torments forever those who have refused his grace. God not only punishes, but gives life everlasting so that he can add to the suffering of these people he created in his own image. This goes far beyond “eye for an eye” which guided Israel’s use of retribution (more below) into escalation of punishment, which, argues Pinnock is unjust.
Finally, Pinnock addresses metaphysics, arguing that there is an inherent tension in ECT, as it maintains that an element of rebellious, unredeemed old creation remains in an eternal dualism side by side or within the new.
So, now we must ask how does God’s holiness fit within this argument?

Be Holy for I am Holy

God repeatedly in Leviticus calls Israel to be holy. “‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (, et al). Yes, the Lord is holy, and calls Israel, his covenant people, to be holy as he is. But what does that mean? As I’ve spelled out, holiness refers to set-apartness, to being different. Much of the content of Leviticus is specifically addressing the issue of Israel not conforming to the practices of the Canaanites. They are to be recognizably distinct from those groups, and marked by certain behaviours, for God’s purposes. outlines the sorts of behaviours which ought to mark Israel as other than the Canaanites. Their lives are to be marked by justice (vv 13-17), compassion for the oppressed and vulnerable (9-10, 15, 33-34), integrity (17), honesty (11-16), and neighbour love (18). They are not to practice idolatry or divination (4, 26). They are not to mark their bodies according the the practices of the Canaanites (28) or subject their daughters to prostitution (29). They are to show kindness to foreigners entering their land (33-34). They are to do all this because “I am the Lord”. They are to be holy, set aside for the Lord’s intentions. They are to reflect his character (love, justice, mercy, compassion) in how they operate, and thus be holy; set apart for the purpose of being a light to the Gentiles (, cf. ) and a blessing to all nations (). Thus, God’s holiness ought not to be separated or made distinct from his love, mercy, and faithfulness. “God is love” and “God is holy” are two identifiers which should not lead us to contrasting conclusions regarding how he relates to creation. To argue that God is love means mercy to the redeemed, but holy which means eternal suffering for everyone else is a false distinction. He is distinct from creation, but created all things out of love, and works towards the redemption of all things because he remains faithful to the creation he cares for (the Hebrew idea of hesed).
So what does this have to do with final punishment? Well, in their imitation of God’s loving and compassionate nature (), for the purpose of Israel fulfilling the call to be holy, God outlines for them how violators of the covenant are to be treated. At no time does God say that to reflect his holiness, Israel must inflict ongoing or indefinite torment on the offender. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Torture is never allowed. Punishments are all limited in duration and intensity, or are capital punishment (ie. death). Never is ongoing torment to be used. In fact, any excessive punishment is strictly banned, and exceeding that limit is to degrade the person, which is not permitted (). Lashes or capital punishment is allowed for certain offences. In those situations though, note the wording: “You must purge the evil from among you” (e.g. ). It is not “inflict punishment for the sake of God’s honour,” but “remove sinfulness from the community.” Death is imposed to keep sin away from God’s creation (more below). Capital punishment is not simply punitive (although of course the distinction hardly matters to the person being killed). In the New Testament, when the word punishment is used, the Greek word selected in almost all cases is kolasis. This word has its origins in horticulture, meaning to prune or cut off. It doesn’t normally carry the sense of punitive punishment. There is another Greek word for that, timoria, used only once in the New Testament, in , which is immediately preceded by the affirmation that God’s judgement will “consume” the enemies of God. Overwhelmingly, we see that in the New Testament punishment is about removing sin from God’s creation (e.g. , in which the punishment is “eternal destruction” and being “shut out from the presence of the Lord”. So unless we are prepared to redefine omnipresence, to be “shut out” of God’s presence is to pass out of existence11).
God’s holiness does not require eternal torment, and I think we can say instead that it forbids eternal torment. ECT is not the natural outworking of God’s holiness, but stands in contrast to it. Yes, God is holy. But no, he will not punish unrepentant sinners with eternal conscious torment because of that fact. He insisted his people be holy and not inflict torment on lawbreakers. He permitted (or perhaps commanded) Israelites to demand for the making restitution on a one to one basis (i.e. eye for eye, but not life for an eye, thus escalation is prohibited12) and in some cases he allowed (or commanded) Israel to take away life from an offender. If this is how God’s character and purposes (i.e. his holiness) are to be played out by Israel, should we not conclude that God’s final judgement will be likewise? Doesn’t God’s holiness then suggest that unrepentant sinners will have life taken away? This is exactly the argument of Iranaeus, who states that the celestial bodies “endure as long as God wills that they should have an existence and continuance”, and so it is with humans, to whom “it is the Father of all who imparts continuance for ever and ever on those who are saved. For life does not arise from us, nor from our own nature; but it is bestowed according to the grace of God.” But of those who reject God’s grace, “who, in this brief temporal life, have shown themselves ungrateful to Him who bestowed it, shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever.”13 In other words, God, as creator and giver of life (i.e. the Holy One), who sustains all things through Christ (see , ), will not continue to provide life to those who reject him. All life is a gift of God. Eternal life has come to us through Christ (e.g. , ) in whom dwells the fullness of the Holy God (). God’s holiness separates God as giver of eternal life and his creation as recipients or rejectors of eternal life. He can therefore withdraw his life from those whom he chooses, and allow the death which comes from sin (, ) to claim those who refuse his life. God’s holiness therefore cannot be the grounds for assuming ECT, but actually better supports a conditionalist view.

Holiness and Sovereignty

What is perhaps more troubling (to me at least) about the usual traditionalist argument (like the SBC resolution quoted above) is the word must. God must judge sinners, and send them to eternal conscious torment in hell. And he must do so because he is holy. As noted above, not only is there no basis for connecting holiness to a specific mode of punishment, there is no basis on which to determine what God’s holiness must lead him to do. If my sin determines God’s course of action, what does this mean for God’s sovereignty? If God must impose judgement, and judgement must be eternal conscious torment, have we not wrested from God the sovereign prerogative to act as he wills not how our behaviour demands? Instead of stating what God must do in response to sin, it is instead appropriate to consider what God has said he will do.
And what is it that Scripture has said concerning those who refuse/oppose the offer of life?
“those who are evil will be destroyed” ()
“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law” ()
“they will be destroyed” ()
“Their destiny is destruction” ()
“destruction will come on them” ()
“They will be punished with everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord” ()
They:
“perish” and “are consumed” ()
“will be no more” ()
“will be stubble… not a root or branch will be left to them” ()
“enter through” the “wide gate” and take the “broad road” “which leads to destruction” ()
“perish” ()
“are perishing” (, )
“will reap destruction” ()
“perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” ()
“shrink back and are destroyed” ()
2 Peter tells us that the fire of God is “being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the godless.” (3:7) and says that fire “will consume the enemies of God” and Jesus and John the Baptist speak of the fire which will “burn up” the wicked (, ). The imagery is all borrowed from Old Testament visions of abandoned corpses decaying, burning, and being devoured by maggots or worms (eg. ).
This is just to cite a few sources, all laid out clearly in Pinnock’s argument.
It is overwhelming when you look closely how God has said he will respond to his creation. Those who reject his grace will experience death, perishing, destruction, being deprived of life. The fact that God will judge, does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that God must punish with eternal conscious torment. The notion that judgement automatically means ECT is a false assumption. That Scripture says God will judge does not specify the outcome of that judgement as eternal conscious torment. When the effect of that judgement is described, the language used is not compatible with ECT. As Ignatius of Antioch writes, “Let us not, therefore, be insensible to His kindness. For were He to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be.”14 The holiness of God does not forbid the destruction of those who reject eternal life. God’s holiness gives God prerogative over creation to bring about his purposes. Those who are conformed to his purpose will have continuance (to use Iranaeus’ terminology) or eternal life (to use the biblical terminology) and those who reject God “deprive themselves” of this life, and thus perish. God’s holiness described as leading inevitably to eternal conscious torment is misleading. God’s purpose is to restore his good creation to shalom, and that which refuses to be part of that or chooses to work against that will not be permitted to be part of that renewed creation.
This brings me to the final thing I wish to communicate on this front.

Holiness and New Creation

The Book of Revelation depicts the dramatic scenes of God’s justice coming to fruition. Many look to this book as supporting ECT, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The imagery is tricky, but when we step back and look at the whole, we see something very revealing (pun fully intended). In we see Hades and all who belong to the agents working against God (the two beasts, the dragon, and their followers) thrown into the Lake of Fire, and death itself15 is also thrown into this Lake of Fire “which is the second death”. And then there is a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The use of the word “death” to speak of continuing in eternal conscious existence seems unlikely, especially given the other options available to John. But in the new creation:

“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ().

The new creation is without crying or pain or death. If Hell is unending torment and pain and suffering are said to be absent, how can this be? Death, suffering, pain, sickness, and the powers of evil have been consumed in the second death.
As Michael Gorman (who takes no particular stance on final judgment) writes concerning the imagery of Revelation:

…the language of judgment in Revelation symbolizes God’s effectively speaking evil into non-existence… God will not permit evil to be present there; indeed, God will have permanently eradicated it by making all things new. Thus evildoers must either repent and participate in the renewal of all things, or be excluded from that space.16

God’s purposes of creating a renewed world in which heaven and earth are reunited and creation is at shalom will be fulfilled, and sin and death will have no place within that. As Paul notes, God will become “all in all” (). This precludes the possibility of continuance for sin and those bound to it. Even if hell is sealed and quarantined completely, God’s holiness would not be fulfilled/realized/reflected in all of creation. It would necessitate a continued dualism of new creation and hell, one of which remains forever completely void of God’s character, and completely outside of God’s purposes.17 For God to have victory over Sin, it must be eradicated and all things conformed to his holiness. A perpetual place of agony and sin does not fit into this vision presented to us. God’s holiness entitles him to judge, but when we look closely at Scripture’s depiction of what the judgement consists of, we see not ongoing torment, but an end to all that has rejected his gift of life. His love and his holiness do not lead us to separate conclusions. Whichever we begin with, we ought to come to the same place. God’s covenant love and his holiness fit coherently in conditional immortality.

Conclusion:

So, what then do we make of all this? Have I said anything original? Not really. Glenn Peoples quite clearly exposed this same sort of problematic thinking in his response to Tim Challies on this site just recently.18 To attempt to make God’s eternal existence, or his holiness as necessarily leading to eternal conscious torment is simply nonsensical. As Glenn showed, to build a case for ECT by repeatedly referring to God’s eternal holiness is simply bringing evidence which is irrelevant. My colleague has made a hermeneutical, and logical error by connecting the two. To reject Clark Pinnock’s argument for conditionalism because he began with “God is love” instead of “God is holy” is to have not heard Dr. Pinnock’s argument at all (especially since “God is love” is never cited by Pinnock). Pinnock argued that God is consistent throughout Scripture. Pinnock, in his essay “The Destruction of Finally Impenitent”, writes of the idea of ECT:

Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards, and by the gospel itself. How can we possibly preach that God has so arranged things that a number of his creatures (perhaps a large number predestined to that fate) will undergo (in a state of complete consciousness) physical and mental agony through unending time? Is this not a most disturbing concept which needs some second thoughts? Surely the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is no fiend; torturing people without end is not what our God does. Does the one who told us to love our enemies intend to wreak vengeance on his own enemies for all eternity?19

To counter with God’s holiness is to set holiness against love; that somehow holiness demands God do something lacking in mercy. Does Scripture do this? Absolutely not. Does Pinnock? No. Pinnock argues for the moral goodness and justice of God, and concludes that a God who is holy would not possibly act in a way which resembles Satan. ECT, argues Pinnock, does not fit with the character of God (which includes his holiness) demonstrated consistently throughout Scripture, and most fully in the person of Jesus Christ. As he notes elsewhere, ECT is rooted not in the bible, but in the Hellenistic worldview, which includes a dualistic anthropology which declares that all souls are immortal, and must therefore go somewhere and a cosmic dualism of eternal, disembodied existence in contrasting circumstances for the virtuous and non-virtuous. To defend this view, early traditionalists turned not to Scripture, but to Hellenistic philosophy. Consider for example Tertullian, who affirmed the soul to be immortal, and this, he argued was clear, but doesn’t cite any biblical evidence. Instead, he writes, “For some things are known even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many; the knowledge of our God is possessed by all. I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Plato, when he declares, ‘Every soul is immortal.'”20 ECT is not founded on proper exegesis of Scripture but on pagan assumptions (or more accurately, Scripture read through the lens of a Hellenstic worldview). The view of so many Christians on Heaven and Hell is lifted from Dante’s Inferno, or Virgil’s Aeneid, with holiness tacked on in a vain attempt to justify or explain these assumptions. To suggest that God’s holiness somehow defeats Pinnock’s argument is simply unjustified. Nowhere does Pinnock deny or downplay God’s holiness. He simply argues that God’s holiness and love are two attributes of a consistent character, and neither would justify unending, punitive vengeance. This sort of malice would be inconsistent with a holy God, of whom it is written “His anger lasts only a moment” ().
Therefore to use God’s holiness as part of any foundation for ECT is simply a non-starter. There is no basis for this in Scripture, and in fact the argument that God is holy lends better to the conditionalist argument. God is distinct from creation, and is responsible for all that exists; not just for its origins, but its continuation. God is patient, not wanting any to perish (). He continually, because he is loving and merciful, extends grace. At some point, God will act decisively to bring an end to sin and death for good. God’s judgement will be just, holy, and righteous, but what will it consist of? The Scriptures repeatedly alert us to the fact that God will hand those who ultimately reject him over to death, depriving them (or allowing them to deprive themselves) of the gift of eternal life, thus bringing about their destruction. This hardly qualifies as a strawman.

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  1. Clark H. Pinnock. “The Conditional View”. Four Views on Hell. Stanley N. Gundry & Willian Crockett (eds). (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994). Hereafter: Pinnock, Four Views. []
  2. “On the Reality of Hell”, 2011. <http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/1214> []
  3. Albert Mohler. “Air Conditioning Hell: How Liberalism Happens” albertmohler.com [blog] January 26, 2010. <http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/01/26/air-conditioning-hell-how-liberalism-happens/> (accessed Dec. 9, 2014). []
  4. Cur Deus Homo. I.XI-XV []
  5. Pinnock, Four Views, 152. []
  6. Jacob Neusner. Judaism When Christianity Began: A Survey of Belief and Practice. (Lousiville: WJK, 2002.), 48 []
  7. Pinnock, Four Views, 143. []
  8. Ibid. 144. []
  9. Ibid. 147. []
  10. Ibid. 149. []
  11. The NIV for reads “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”. However, in the Greek, the word “and” is not found. The NRSV is better “These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might”. The “shut out” thus clarifies the “eternal destruction”. Being shut out from God’s presence is to be destroyed forever. []
  12. Whether “eye for an eye” is a commanded standard practice or a ceiling on vengeance which God allows is not entirely clear in the text itself. I take the latter view. Pinnock argues that eye for an is the standard, but that standard is changed by Christ (). Either way, going beyond equal punishment (like everlasting torment as punishment for sins committed in finite history) doesn’t fit. See Pinnock, Four Views, 152. []
  13. Against Heresies, II.XXXIV.III. []
  14. Letter to the Magnesians, 10. []
  15. Death obviously isn’t being tormented in some corner of creation, and yet it is subject to the same lake of fire as the devil and his followers in this vision. Thus, it seems difficult to see how this Lake of Fire is a literal place of perpetually ongoing torment. []
  16. Michael J. Gorman. Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness, Following the Lamb into the New Creation. (Eugene: Cascade, 2011), 153. []
  17. Pinnock, Four Views, 154. []
  18. Glenn Peoples. “Answering Answers in Genesis: An Infinitely Bad Argument” Rethinking Hell. [blog] October 29, 2014. <http://rethinkinghell.com/2014/10/answering-answers-in-genesis-an-infinitely-bad-argument/> (accessed Dec. 9, 2014). []
  19. Clark Pinnock. “The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent” Criswell Theological Review. 4 no. 2 (1990), 243-259. Available here. []
  20. The Resurrection of the Flesh (De Resurrectione Carnis). . []

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.

19:1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.

“When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from his people.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

19 “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the Lord, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.

23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the Lord your God.

26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. 30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.

32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord.”

“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

Isaiah 49:6

he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

25:1 “If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.

22:1 “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it. You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fallen down by the way and ignore them. You shall help him to lift them up again.

“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.

“If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, that it may go well with you, and that you may live long.

“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.

“You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.

12 “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.

13 “If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.

28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.

30  “A man shall not take his father’s wife, so that he does not uncover his father’s nakedness.

29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

By the breath of God they perish,
and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.

4:1  “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 13:40

40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.

17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.