Conditionalists believe that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23; emphasis added). Those who do not believe in him will not have eternal life, and will instead perish (John 3:16). After rising from their first death to be judged, they will be sentenced to the second death (Revelation 20:14). Traditionalists, on the other hand, say the body that rises “dies not again,” 1 confessing that “the evil ones … shall be made immortal” (emphasis added). 2 Their language is unambiguous: “Every human being ever born lives forever;” 3 “everybody lives forever;” 4 the unsaved “will continue living in a state with a low quality of life.” 5
Adherents to both views argue that the punishment Jesus Christ bore on the cross, in place of those who believe in him, poses a real challenge to their opponents’ doctrine. Conditionalists point out that Jesus was indeed executed, not eternally tormented. Traditionalists, however, point out Christ wasn’t annihilated, that he did not cease to exist.
Leon Morris writes, “The atonement is the crucial doctrine of the faith. Unless we are right here it matters little, or so it seems to me, what we are like elsewhere.” 6 If one’s view of final punishment logically leads to an unbiblical understanding of the atonement, it must be rejected. Contrary to the claims of traditionalists, it is often they, not conditionalists, whose eschatology clashes with what the Bible reveals about the cross. Continue reading “Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death and the Fate of the Wicked”
- Gill, J. A Body of Doctrinal Divinity: Or a System of Evangelical Truths (The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., 2001), 679.
- The Belgic Confession, Article 37. http://www.reformed.org/documents/BelgicConfession.html
- MacArthur, J. “The Answer to Life’s Greatest Question, Part 1.” http://www.gty.org/resources/print/sermons/42-141
- Koukl, G. (Host). (2011, June 5). “Christopher Morgan on Hell and Inclusivism.” Stand to Reason [radio]. 1:09:25. http://www.strcast2.org/podcast/weekly/060511.mp3.
- Habermas, G. and Moreland, J.P. Immortality: The Other Side of Death (Thomas Nelson, 1992), 173.
- Morris, L. The Cross in the New Testament (Eerdmans, 1999), 5.