Conditional Immortality and Angels, Part 1—The Mortality of Angels and Men (Psalm 82)


 

God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked?
. . . Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
I said, “You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!

Psalm 82, ESV

 

Traditionally this passage has been viewed by exegetes as referring to God condemning human leaders and judges for perverting justice. John Wesley, in his explanatory notes on this Psalm, argues that “judges and magistrates are called gods, because they have their commission from God, and act as his deputies.” When the Most High God tells these “gods” that they will die like men, Wesley reasons that he only means “like ordinary men,” though is silent on the verse’s parallel statement, “and fall like any prince.”1
Continue reading “Conditional Immortality and Angels, Part 1—The Mortality of Angels and Men (Psalm 82)”

  1. Psalm 82 Bible Commentary. (n.d.). Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=wes&b=19&c=82 []

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”

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 [] 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). []

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.

No Need to Waver in View of Evidence

I recently received an email in which the writer said his reading had led him to believe that “the clear preponderance of scriptural evidence is easier read as annihilationist,” such that in his thinking “the annihilationist case is the stronger in all of scripture, but fails in the Apocalypse,” particularly . This is “the only real weakness” he can see in the case for annihilationism, but he considers it fatal to that view nevertheless. “Where am I going wrong?” he asks.
I suggest that the answer is clear and simple, and it is as follows. One should not base a doctrine on the book of Revelation, much less on two or three passages in it, when the preponderance of scriptural evidence throughout the rest of the Bible supports a different point of view. Indeed, I know of no doctrine beside this one about which any responsible scholar does such a thing. Continue reading “No Need to Waver in View of Evidence”

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.

Consistency in Preterism: Annihilation and Revelation 20:10

The nature of final punishment is a topic which falls under the theological category of eschatology, the study of last things. Also discussed as part of that category is the timing of the fulfillment of certain biblical prophecies, such as the coming of the Son of Man foretold by Jesus in his Olivet discourse, the nature and activity of the beast of Revelation, and so forth. Perhaps constituting the majority view of the church in America today, futurists believe that most of these prophecies will be fulfilled in our future; preterists like me, on the other hand, believe most of these prophecies—but not all of them1—were fulfilled in our past, specifically in the first century surrounding the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70.

As I mentioned in a previous article, there’s a strong argument to be made in favor of conditionalism from the apocalyptic imagery of death and Hades in Revelation . This argument carries force regardless of one’s eschatological position concerning the timing of prophetic events, and I will make that argument in the future here at Rethinking Hell. In the meantime, however, because of my interest in this particular eschatological persuasion, I want to reach out to my fellow preterists and make a bold, provocative and controversial statement: You can’t be a consistent preterist unless you’re also a conditionalist.

Continue reading “Consistency in Preterism: Annihilation and Revelation 20:10”

  1. I’m referring to what was historically termed preterism, which has in recent years been unfortunately called “partial” preterism. I am not a hyper- or “full” preterist. For more information, listen to Episode 3 of my friend Dee Dee Warren’s podcast or read her article, “Perfuming the Hog.” []

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.