What the Bible Actually Says about “Eternal Fire” – Part 2

As you might imagine, traditionalists have given rebuttals to the general case put forth in Part 1. These rebuttals break down into two broader camps. The first camp is that should be translated differently from how it is presented in Part 1. Those in this camp would argue that the text does not really say that Sodom and Gomorrah themselves were burned with eternal fire in the first place.

Rebuttals of the second category do not challenge the translation of the NASB (which I used in Part 1). Instead, when Jude says they were burned with eternal fire, this does not challenge the standard interpretation that “eternal fire” is fire that burns for eternity.1

Given the scope of this article, I will touch upon some of the common objections to the aforementioned interpretation, though I encourage the curious reader to consult my free ebook, The Bible Teaches Annihilationism, Sections XVI and XVII, regarding relevant passages.
Continue reading “What the Bible Actually Says about “Eternal Fire” – Part 2”

  1. Recall in Part 1 that there is a conditionalist interpretation of “eternal fire” in that asserts the term does mean a fire that burns for eternity because it emanates from God, who is eternal and said to be a “consuming fire” (, ). []

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

29 for our God is a consuming fire.

What the Bible Actually Says about “Eternal Fire” – Part 1

is often cited in support of the doctrine of eternal torment in hell, owing to its description of the unsaved being sent into “eternal fire.” The phrase is also used in Matthew 18:8 and Jude 7, which are commonly cited as well (although less frequently). The idea is relatively simple: if hell is eternal fire, then it would appear to mean that hell is a fire that burns for eternity. If hell is a fire that burns for eternity, it must have fuel to burn forever. And since that fuel is people, it follows that people will be burned in that fire for eternity.1

However, this argument for eternal torment fails when we look more deeply at what the Bible has to say on the matter. In fact, when we understand how it uses the phrase “eternal fire,” it can even be seen as evidence in support of evangelical conditionalism.
Continue reading “What the Bible Actually Says about “Eternal Fire” – Part 1”

  1. Of course, many traditionalists today do not believe that hell is actually fire in the first place, which presents a lot of problems for their view, as discussed in a previous article titled “Why the Modern Version of the Eternal Torment Doctrine Falls Short.” []

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism – Mark 9:48

If someone spoke of hell as a fire that will not be quenched and worms that will not die, many believers would hear such language and think it was referring to worms and fire biting and burning and tormenting people forever. And that is fair, given the traditions and presuppositions many of us will bring to the table by default. For this reason, , most notably , is commonly believed to speak of eternal torment in hell.

But when we look at it just a little bit deeper, especially after taking into account the Old Testament background of the passage, this passage no longer makes a good case for eternal torment. If anything, in light of the passage’s Old Testament background, this passage serves as evidence for evangelical conditionalism and against the traditional view, not the other way around.

Their worm shall not die!

Continue reading “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism – Mark 9:48”

43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’

Gehenna: The History, Development and Usage of a Common Image for Hell

Of the four words that are often translated “hell,” Gehenna is the only term used in our Scriptures to describe the final fate of the wicked.1 It is used primarily by Jesus in the gospels, once by James and is entirely absent in the writings of Paul. The purpose of this paper is to examine the origin, history and development of Gehenna from the Old Testament (OT) to New Testament (NT), comparing the external evidence seen in the historical rabbinical ideas of Gehenna with the internal evidence seen in exclusively biblical development.

The following questions will be considered: Is there any biblical or historical warrant for accepting the popular idea of Gehenna as a “garbage dump” just south of Jerusalem, into which the city garbage, and dead bodies of animals and criminals, were thrown to be incinerated? Is Gehenna primarily a geographical term giving rise to eschatology cast in spatial language, or is there development that takes us beyond the basic geographical meaning? What this paper hopes to accomplish is to give clarity to the meaning of Gehenna in its historical context, which will help us discern its overall usage throughout the NT. Continue reading “Gehenna: The History, Development and Usage of a Common Image for Hell”

  1. See also: OT Sheol (63x), NT Hades (11x) and Tartarus (1x). It is important to note that all men (wicked and righteous) go to Sheol and Hades upon death, but only the wicked are finally destroyed in Gehenna after the final Resurrection. []

Daniel 12:2 Does Not Teach Eternal Torment

and “Eternal Contempt”1

Few passages from the Old Testament are cited as evidence that hell is a place of eternal torment. Given the Old Testament’s emphasis on death and destruction, this shouldn’t surprise us. If I believed that the unsaved live forever in torment, I wouldn’t run to passages about the wicked withering and dying like grass,2 or that call for them to melt away like slugs,3 or that describe them being burned to ashes and left without root or branch at the final judgment (like Malachi 4:1-3 does) either. But one passage stands out as an exception. One passage is a commonly cited as proof of eternal torment. That passage is :

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt (NASB).

Basically, this passage speaks of the resurrection of both the saved and the unsaved. But aside from the fact that this does not speak of inherent immortality, it doesn’t say anything about eternal conscious existence for the damned, period.
Continue reading “Daniel 12:2 Does Not Teach Eternal Torment”

  1. Adapted From The Bible Teaches Annihilationism by Joseph Dear, Section XX. []
  2. . []
  3. . []

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Malachi 4:1-3 and the Final Destruction of the Unrepentant


The book of Malachi is not only one of the last (if not the last) books of the Old Testament written, but it is also the last book most of see in our Old Testaments.1 Therefore, it is all the more appropriate that the final chapter speaks of the final end of history. As far as the fate of the finally unrepentant goes, Malachi’s God-breathed prediction leaves little to the imagination.

For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will 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 will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day (, NASB).

You can see why annihilationists might point to this passage. God will destroy the wicked. He will set them on fire like chaff, and no remnant of them will remain. Then He says that they will be like ashes under the feet of the wicked. Whether plain and literal or highly symbolic, how much clearer could the picture of final destruction (i.e. annihilation) possibly be?2
Continue reading “Malachi 4:1-3 and the Final Destruction of the Unrepentant”

  1. This is true for both Protestant and Catholic Bibles, as typically arranged. []
  2. Portions of this article are adapted from The Bible Teaches Annihilationism by Joseph Dear, Section XXXIX. []

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. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

Rethinking Hell Conference—Next Month in Auckland!

This year’s Rethinking Hell Conference is in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 15th. There’s only a few more weeks to go—we look forward to seeing you there!
As we explore our theme, “Conditional Immortality: The Unfinished Business of the Reformation,” we’ll hear from a number of exciting speakers, including Rethinking Hell‘s own Chris Date! Joining him will be our Australian and New Zealand speakers, including well-known philosopher-theologians Dr. Matthew Flannagan and Dr. Glenn Peoples. Matthew teaches philosophy and theology at St. Peter’s College, Auckland, and his areas of expertise include Philosophy of Religion, and the field of Old Testament Ethics, about which he has co-authored a number of popular books with others such as Paul Copan and William Lane Craig. Glenn’s areas of expertise include Christology, religion in the public square, ethics, and the doctrine of hell. His writings in these areas are available in various books and journals (including our own two books), and also, together with social commentary, at his website, Right Reason.
Rev. Ian Packer is a Baptist minister and lecturer in Theology and Ethics at Morling College in Sydney, Australia. Previously, he served as Director of Public Theology at the Australian Evangelical Alliance, Assistant Director of the EA’s Centre for Christianity and Society, and as part of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance. Ian will be speaking to us about hell and conditionalism through the lens of public theology and ethics, drawing on his knowledge of evangelicalism in the region and around the world.
We’re also very excited to hear from Rev. Dr. David Powys, a Bible Scholar and Anglican minister at St. John’s in Melbourne, Australia. David’s academic work on Hell has been recommended by J.I. Packer and others, and his monograph, “Hell: A Hard Look at a Hard Question: The Fate of the Unrighteous in New Testament Thought” is recommended reading for serious students of the topic.
 

Time is running out to grab your tickets!
You can grab them now from the conference website.

 

It’s Easy to Miss Something You’re Not Looking For (Including in the Bible)

 

There was a popular awareness test video from when I was in college that I think can be very illustrative of an important point to remember when reading the scriptures. And this lesson is not only relevant when studying what the Bible says about final judgment. Rather, it is something believers should always remember.
Here’s the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4
I do definitely encourage you to watch the above video if the link is still active. It’s short and humorous and it helps get the point across. Continue reading “It’s Easy to Miss Something You’re Not Looking For (Including in the Bible)”

A Primer on Revelation 14:9-11


 
One of the most key passages used to defend the traditional view of hell is .

Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. (NASB)

Although we have a number of articles on interpreting the book of Revelation and on related matters, and although the passage has been addressed in the Rethinking Hell podcast as well as in free resources outside of Rethinking Hell, a nice primer article addressing this passage was long past due.
Now, compared to , explaining how this passage is compatible with evangelical conditionalism (if not evidence in favor of the doctrine) will be fairly simple. Once the Old Testament background of the language and imagery of the passage is made clear, any reasonable observer should see why a conditionalist interpretation is at least reasonable. Continue reading “A Primer on Revelation 14:9-11”

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

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.

“Fixing John 3:16”—500 Years After the Reformation

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The most famous verse in the Bible is broken.
What the Bible says is not the problem, of course. But—and here’s the scandal—the message of has been dramatically changed.
What’s actually broken is the popular understanding of the verse. It turns out, this towering text has been widely and wildly misunderstood. For a long, long, time.
That’s quite a problem! And it’s not going to just fix itself. According to a growing number of Bible scholars and teachers around the world, something must be done to set the record straight.
Continue reading ““Fixing John 3:16”—500 Years After the Reformation”

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.