One of the central descriptions of the fate of the unsaved in the Bible is death, contrasted with life for the saved. We see this for example in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” James 5:20 speaks of saving a sinner’s soul from death. Death there is not only the general fate of the lost but of their souls; that is, the very soul of the lost will die! John warns three times in Revelation of the “second death” (2:11; 20:14; 21:8). Many passages that don’t mention death per se nonetheless make the point by emphasizing the fate of the saved in contrast to the wicked—which is life.1For example, Matthew 7:14, John 3:16; Galatians 6:8. Whatever is meant by death—and its opposite, life—it must have been pretty important to get across. So what does the Bible mean when it talks about the ultimate fate of the unsaved being death?2Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture comes from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV). Copyright 2000 by Crossway Bibles.
Critics of conditionalism often credit fourth-century apologist Arnobius of Sicca with being the first clear proponent of conditionalism. From Robert Peterson to John Blanchard to Robert Morey, there is an abundant tendency among traditionalists to indicate Arnobius as “the first name usually associated with” annihilationism and conditional immortality,1Blanchard, J. Whatever Happened to Hell? (Crossway, 1995). 211. who gave “the first clear expression of annihilationism,”2Peterson, R. Hell On Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995). 104. that annihilationism “was first advanced by Arnobius, a 4th-century ‘Christian’ apologist, according to standard reference works such as Baker’s Dictionary of Theology.”3Morey, R. Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House, 1984). 199. Each of these authors is critical of Arnobius and his work; Morey is even hesitant to identify Arnobius as Christian, enclosing the term in scare quotes. The impression these authors apparently intend to leave their readers with is that conditionalism emerged hundreds of years after the writing of the New Testament, first espoused by a “less-than-careful thinker”4Peterson. Hell On Trial. 103. whose very faith is of questionable legitimacy. Continue reading “Deprived of continuance: Irenaeus the conditionalist”