Perish the Thought Part 3: Revisiting John 11:25-26

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”1Unless otherwise indicated all quotes of the Bible will be from the ESV. On occasions when I am discussing relevant Greek words and phrasing I may provide my own rendering but this is not intended to suggest errors on the part of the ESV.

I love John’s Gospel.

The reason for this is simple. Somehow, despite penning his narrative with relatively easy to read Greek, John was able to express his theology in profound ways. On nearly every rereading of his narrative I find something new jumping out at me. This is the case with John 11:25-26. I have, in the past, spent some time thinking about these verses and made a few observations here and here.

Since then, I have become more aware of studies into the Greek verbal aspect and how this affects the way we interpret Scripture. I have even attempted to apply this knowledge to my exegesis of Jude 7, which you can read here. Just a few weeks ago a debate was conducted between James White and Leighton Flowers over whether John 6:44 teaches unconditional election.2The debate can be found here. I have very little interest in this debate, but one claim White made about John’s use of the present tense with reference to true believers received some attention by a few Greek scholars who believe this argument betrays a misunderstanding of Greek verbal aspect.3For a brief discussion of the verbal aspect as it relates to his controversy over Greek aspect in the White vs Flowers debate see here. This prompted me to reflect on John’s use of the present tense with reference to believers throughout his narrative. This led me to greater clarity on how John expressed his conviction that not all will accept Jesus and will become immortal. It also gave me insight into how John characterizes those who do reject Jesus and why that is disastrous for them.

Given my past study of John 11:25-26, I was already aware that John used participles in the present tense there. Verse 25 has πιστεύων (pisteuōn, ‘believing’) and verse 26 has two participles, ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’) and πιστεύων (pisteuōn, ‘believing’). Greek participles are complex and I do not have space to describe all the ways they can be used in the Bible.4For those who are interested in introductions to Greek participles can follow the link here and here. It is sufficient to note that the participles I am discussing here are substantive, which means they are acting like a noun. In John 11:25 ὁ πιστεύων (ho pisteuōn) simply means ‘the believing one’ or ‘the one who believes’, (though the ESV has ‘whoever believes’, which is acceptable).5The word ὁ (ho) is just an article that means ‘the’. Its use here is how we know that πιστεύων (pisteuōn, ‘living’) must be acting like a noun here. This is followed by εἰς ἐμὲ (eis eme), which simply means ‘unto me’.

This is where things get interesting. The participle, πιστεύων (pisteuōn) is from the verb πιστεύω (pisteuō), which means ‘to trust’. In his narrative, one of the common ways that John refers to genuine believers is to use a particular construction that utilizes the verb πιστεύω (pisteuō). I shall let some respected NT scholars explain.

Leon Morris,

A very important construction and one that John uses often is that in which he follows the verb “believe” with the preposition eis, which normally means “into”. It is interesting that John uses this preposition rather than en, “in”. In English we normally speak of believing “in” Jesus rather than believing “into” him, but John prefers the more dynamic expression.6Leon Morris, Jesus Is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing: 1989), 179.

There cannot be the slightest doubt that when John uses the expression pisteuein eis, he is conveying the idea of wholehearted trust in Jesus Christ.7Ibid., 180.

Murray J. Harris,

This distinctive prep. phrase “believe in” depicts the total committal of one’s total self to the person of Christ as Messiah and Lord, something more than an intellectual acceptance of the message of the gospel and a recognition of the truth about Christ, although these aspects are involved. For John, belief involves not only recognition and acceptance of the truth but also adherence and allegiance to Jesus as the Truth (14: 6).8Murray J. Harris, John, Kindle ed., (B&H Publishing Group: 2015), Kindle locations 1647-1650.

It is not that John always used this construction, since John did use the formula with the dative in John 3:15 (ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ, ho pisteuōn en autō, ‘whoever believes in him’). He can even express the idea of wholehearted trust without the use of a preposition at all (e.g. John 5:24, 38; 8:31). John also can combine πιστεύω (pisteuō) with ὅτι (hoti, ‘that’) to refer to facts that are believed (e.g. John 9:18; 11:26; 16:27; 20:31) or in contexts where giving intellectual credence to a statement is in view (e.g. John 2:22; 5: 24, 38, 50; 8: 31).9Ibid., Kindle locations 1640-1643. One could even come to believe through a witness (John 1:7). Nevertheless, John’s frequent use of the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction stands out as a way he emphasized those who have wholehearted trust in Christ.10There are variations of the construction where it might refer to believing unto his name (John 1:12; 2:23) the Son (3:18; 5:40), Son of Man (9:35), Jesus (12:11), the Light (12:36). Jesus often might simply say ‘believe in me’ (6:35; 7:38; 12:44, 46; 14:1, 12; 16:9; 17:20) or the variation ‘believe in him’) might be used (John as narrator can use this variation but Jesus does as well, see 2:11; 3:16; 4:39; 6:29; 7:38; 12:37, 42.

I wish to point out that in John, believing in Jesus–in the sense of believing propositions about him–is just as important for obtaining eternal life as believing unto him (having wholehearted trust in him). This is seen at various places in John’s narrative. For instance, in John 3, after Nicodemus becomes confused about Jesus’s teaching on the need to be born again, Jesus admonishes him asking, ‘ If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?’ (3:12). Here the verb πιστεύω (pisteuō) is not used as part of the the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction here. In this context Jesus is talking about understanding and accepting as true propositions he makes about earthly and spiritual things. It is important that Nicodemus does accept Jesus’s claims as being true. Shortly after this, Jesus teaches that wholehearted trust in him (believing unto him) is how one obtains eternal life (3:15-16, 18, 36). Jesus will go on to emphasize the same point using the variations of believing (6:47), believing in Jesus (5:24) and believing unto him (6:40). Believing Jesus’s teachings and wholehearted trust in him are how one obtains eternal life.

This comes together in John 11:25-27. When Jesus says ‘Whoever believes in me’ (11:25) and ‘everyone who … believes in me’ (11:26) he is using the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction. Jesus is stating that those who have wholehearted trust in him will be resurrected and will never die forever.11Since I have published my article where I discuss the meaning of οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (ou mē apothanē eis ton aiōna) in John 11:26 I have vacillated between my own reading of the clause and Glenn Peoples’s reading of it. I find his reading (‘not be dead forever’) very attractive as John would then be presenting a strong contrast between eternal life as living forever and the fate of being dead forever. That would fit very well with the CI reading of Matthew 25:46 as presenting eternal life as living forever in contrast with an eternal punishment that amounts to the eternal privation of life. Alas, I am not quite there yet, as I still see elements in John that make me think that my reading of οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (ou mē apothanē eis ton aiōna) is to be preferred. At the end of verse 26 Jesus asks Martha if she believes what he has just said. This does not involve the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction but is the simple use of the verb in the question ‘Do you believe this?’ (πιστεύεις τοῦτο;, pisteueis touto?). Likewise, Martha’s reply (11:27) does not use the πιστεύω + εἰς construction. Instead, Martha emphatically says ‘“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God’. The verb πιστεύω (pisteuō) is used in the perfect active indicative form. This ‘denotes a present state of firm, settled belief, with the previous act of believing implied.’12Murray J. Harris, John, Kindle ed., (B&H Publishing Group: 2015), Kindle locations 1647-1650), Kindle locations, 7004-7007. Carson explains that this ‘reflects the state of her confident trust… Her faith is a rich mixture of personal trust … and of confidence that certain things about Jesus are true’.13D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, Kindle ed., (Eerdmans Publishing: 1991), Kindle locations, 8633-18081. This shows that believing in the sense of accepting what Jesus says about himself and believing in the sense of wholehearted trust in him go hand in hand as part of what it means to be a true believer. Though Jesus will later have to remind her of this (11:40), in 11:25-27, John characterizes Martha as one who properly responds to Jesus.

In contrast, John does not characterize all who interact with Jesus in this way. In the Prologue (John 1:1-18) to his narrative where he introduces the main points of his Gospel, he makes it clear that not all received him when Jesus came to them (1:11). Those who did receive him are also described as those who “believe unto” his name (1:12). This qualification is the first use of the the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction (τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, tois pisteuousin eis to onoma autou, ‘the ones believeing in his name’) in John and it shows that he viewed the reception and rejection of Jesus in terms of believe and trust in him. If one receives Jesus one believes him and has wholehearted trust in him. If one rejects Jesus then one has chosen to disbelieve him so has not placed wholehearted trust in him.

As the narrative unfolds, John presents characters which exemplify this negative response to Jesus. In John 5, certain Jews had decided to kill Jesus ‘because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God’ (5:18). Later in the same chapter Jesus tells his listeners that though they seek eternal life in the Scripture (5:39), they in fact ‘refuse to come to me that you may have life’ (5:40). They are people who outright refuse to receive Jesus (5:43) and so it is questioned whether they can believe (5:44) the witnesses regarding who Jesus is. Jesus ends with a scathing appraisal on the listeners,

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words? (5:45-47)

Since there is no indication of a change of audience between John 5:18 and 5:33-47, it is safe to say that Jesus is continuing to address the Jews. These Jews do not believe in the sense of accepting the validity of claims about Jesus. This characterisation of the Jewish interlocutors as those who do not receive Jesus and do not believe him follows Jesus’s teaching on the resurrection (5:24-30).

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Unlike John 11:25-26, Jesus explicitly says not all will be resurrected to life. Whereas in 11:25 the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction is used, in 5:24 Jesus says ‘whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me’. In this case John uses the πιστεύω (pisteuō ) + dative noun construction,14The Greek used is ὁ τὸν λόγον μου ἀκούων καὶ πιστεύων τῷ πέμψαντί με (ho ton logon mou akouōn kai pisteuōn tō pempsanti me). ‘Hearing’ (ἀκούων, akouōn) and ‘believing’ (πιστεύων, pisteuōn) are governed by the one article, so ‘hearing and believing’ describes the one person, not one person who hears and another person who believes. which means ‘give intellectual credence to’. This is a reference to the Father, which is not at all surprising given Jesus can impart life to others because, like the Father, he has life in himself (5:21, 26). In this context, the Father is a witness testifying to who Jesus really is (5:37), but Jesus also has the same authority to execute judgment as his Father (5:27). Not all will be resurrected to life; some will only be resurrected to judgment. It is not surprising that John does teach there is a resurrection to judgment since he has already told the Jews who opposed him in 8:21-24 that they would die in their sins if they failed to believe that he is I AM (i.e. God). This means John 11:25-26 presupposes that not all will believe Jesus and wholeheartedly trust him, so not all will be resurrected as believing and living people who will never die again.

As his narrative unfolds, John reminds his audience that not all believe and trust Jesus. While speaking to a crowd about the life found in him, Jesus states that they do not believe (6:35). Using the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction, he restates his message that those who wholeheartedly trust him will ‘have eternal life’. He ‘will raise him up on the last day’ (6:40). Some in the crowd complain (6:41) as do the disciples (6:67) at his claim to be the source of life. Clearly not all believed (6:64). Many disciples turned their back on him (6:66), though the twelve continue to believe him (6:68-69). One of the major points developed in John 6 is not all will believe and wholeheartedly trust Jesus.

In chapter 10 Jesus again tells the Jews that they do not believe him (10:24-26). Though several of them will come to place their trust in Jesus (see 10:42; 11:45 where the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction is used) there are others who continue to act in direct opposition to Jesus. There are Jews who report to the Pharisees who, along with the chief priests determine to have Jesus killed in order to prevent more people from placing wholehearted trust in him (11:46-48, the πιστεύω + εἰς (pisteuō + eimi) construction is used again: πάντες πιστεύσουσιν εἰς αὐτόν, pantes pisteusousin eis auton, ‘everyone will believe in him’). We are back at chapter 11 where Martha has been characterized as one who properly responds to Jesus with belief and trust. In this same chapter the Jewish leadership is characterized as those who not only refuse to believe and trust Jesus but seek to prevent others from doing so. John thus presents the characters in his narrative in such a way that he made it clear not all will come to believe Jesus and have wholehearted trust in him. This means that not all will be resurrected as living people who will never die again.

This is not the only way that John uses negative characterization to teach that not all will believe and trust Jesus. In certain places he emphasizes that some will face judgment. Though Jesus does state that he did not come to judge but to save (3:17; 12:47), there is good reason to think there is a time when those who reject him will be judged by him (5:22, 27, 29-30; 12:48), not because he brought them condemnation but because they were already condemned (3:18). Just as John characterizes certain interactions with Jesus as examples of true belief and wholehearted trust he also makes it clear that those rejecting Jesus are in some sense already condemned. One of the clearer statements that people do reject Jesus falls in John 3:17-21.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God. (Emphasis added.)

Jesus is saying the verdict is already in (αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ κρίσις, hautē de estin hē krisis, ‘this is the judgment’). There are those who love the darkness and not him. This resembles the Prologue to John’s Gospel where we are told that ‘He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him’ (1:5-11). John 3:18 connects wholehearted trust in Jesus (ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν, ho pisteuōn eis auton) with this verdict. ‘Those who do not believe are already condemned’ (ὁ … μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ho… mē pisteuōn ēdē kekritai). This is not a separate judgment from the one that will take place after the resurrection. It is a rhetorical way of talking about a future event as if it is happening in the present. This literary device is called prolepsis. An excellent example of prolepsis can be found in John Keats’s poem entitled “Isabella” (1820),15See also Joseph Dear’s article on prolepsis.

So the two brothers and their murdered man
Rode past fair Florence

Needless to say, it would be quite alarming if people argued that Keats had in mind a ‘spiritual’ kind of murder because the murdered man is alive whilst riding with the two brothers. The literary device is proleptic in the way it anticipates the future assassination of a still-living character through the use of the past tense (‘rode’). It is a reference to the man as having already been “murdered” (his future fate) at a time when that fate had not yet befallen him. John uses the same kind of literary device when he speaks of a person already having eternal life (3:16, 36, 5:24; 6:47) or being condemned (3:18). The decision to reject Christ now means the wrath of God remains on a person (3:36) and so anticipates the future judgment as if it is a present reality.

In light of this, Jesus’s affirmation that those who “believe unto” him will be resurrected as living ones cannot be seen to apply to all who are resurrected. John did not think all would come to believe and trust in Jesus; therefore, the statement that resurrected believers would be living people who would never die forever cannot apply to those who reject him. To be sure, everyone will be resurrected (5:25, 28-29a). However, John makes a distinction between those who have done good and those who have done evil. Only believers will rise to the resurrection of life (5:29).

Returning to the use of the present tense in John 11:25-26, from a verbal aspect point of view the present tense of the participles ‘lives’ (ζῶν, zōn) and ‘believes’ (πιστεύων, pisteuōn) convey the sense of progression.16See this link for a decent introduction to Greek verbal aspect. That is, the point of view presented by John with the use of the present tense is one of an ongoing process. It is like watching a parade on the television. You don’t see the parade as a whole, but the continual passing by of the participants in the parade. This is why I am always tempted to translate ζῶν (zōn) as ‘living one’ and πιστεύων (pisteuōn) as ‘believing one’, though that can read awkwardly in English. The perspective of an ongoing process provided by the present tense participles makes me think of life in a dynamic sense. Since ζῶν (zōn) and πιστεύων (pisteuōn) are participles that are functioning like nouns they tell you something about the person as one who is actively and ongoingly believing and living. To be sure, John does use other tenses with reference to true believers,17For example, see the use of the aorist tense in the following verses John 1:7; 2:11, 22-23; 4:39, 41, 50, 53, 5:44; 8:24, 30-31; 10:42; 11:15; 11:40, 45; 17:8; 20:8; 20:29. but he chose to use the present tense in 11:25-26, and that does add a nuance to the statement that believers who die and are resurrected are actively living and believing forever.

The use of ὁ ζῶν καὶ πιστεύων (ho zōn kai pisteuōn) in 11:26 is interesting for another reason. John could have just said that those who believe will die, be resurrected (11:25), and live forever (11:26). The inclusion of πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ (eis eme pisteuōn, ‘believing unto me’) in 11:26 is surprising because we tend to assume that belief in the eschaton is unnecessary as we will already be saved. But John is emphasizing how we will continue to have wholehearted trust in him after our resurrection. You die entrusting him with your fate and you will be resurrected as one who will forever be that kind of person.

Why add ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’)? After all, οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (ou mē apothanē eis ton aiōna, ‘never die forever’) sufficiently communicates the idea that resurrected believers will be immortal. In John 4 ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’) is used when Jesus tells a Samaritan woman who could obtain living water (4:10).18The participle ζῶν (zōn, ’living’) is being used as an adjective here but this does not alter what may be drawn from its use here. The idea of ‘living water’ could very well have to do with purification since moving water tends to become clean.19My lecturer at Bible College suggested this in our exegetical class on John 4. However, drinking ‘living water’ means one ‘will never be thirsty again’ as it will be ‘a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ 4:14). The language behind never thirsting again is the οὐ μὴ + εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (ou mē + ton aiōna) construction that is used in John 11:26 to express the idea of never dying forever. This living water will eternally flow from the resurrected believer so that person will be immortal (see also John 7:38). In John 6, Jesus talks about how he is the living bread (6:48-51). He is living because of the living Father (6:57), who has life in himself and has granted that Jesus has life in himself (5:26). Jesus is thus the way one can live forever (6:51). Coming back to John 11:26, by describing resurrected believers as ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’), John emphasizes that we will be living in the same way as the Father and Jesus are now ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’). It is noteworthy that John refrains from referring to genuine believers who have not yet been resurrected as ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’) people. So, while it it is true that all will indeed come alive at the final resurrection, only believers who have died and resurrected as believers will be resurrected as ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’) people. According to John, those of us who have genuine faith and trust in Christ have eternal life now in a proleptic sense but this will only be realized for us when we are resurrected as immortal people.

If believers are resurrected so they are ζῶν (zōn, ‘living’) people who will never die, what did John think would eventually happen to those who will be resurrected to judgment (5:29)? John 15 gives us a clue. Early in this chapter, Jesus describes one who fails to remain in him (15:1-6).

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

Using an extended vine metaphor, Jesus tells his disciples that those who chose to not remain in him are like unproductive branches.20I realize there are people who will argue that this passage does not have to do with the final fate of the lost, but the point of the metaphor is to at least describe what happens to those who do not bear fruit and do not choose to remain in Jesus. The vine metaphor is from the Old Testament where the vine stands for Israel herself.21See, for instance, Isa. 5:1-7; 27:2-6; cf. Ps. 80:8-16; Jer. 2:21; 6:9; 12:10-13; Ez. 15:1-8; 17:5-10; 19:10-14; Hos. 10:1-2; 14:7. G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Baker Publishing Group: 2007), 491) Andreas j. Köstenberger observes that John transforms this into a metaphor about Jesus.

whereas the vine’s purpose of existence is to bear fruit for its owner, references to Israel as God’s vine regularly stress Israel’s failure to produce good fruit, issuing in divine judgment … In contrast to Israel’s failure, Jesus claims to be the “true vine,” bringing forth the fruit Israel failed to produce. Thus Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God, fulfills Israel’s destiny as the true vine of God…22Ibid.

Notice how he says ‘whoever abide in me’ (he uses the present participle here, ὁ μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ, ho menōn en emoi) is the one who who bears fruit. However, not abiding in Jesus means one is discarded and withers (15:6). The word behind ‘withers’ is ξηραίνω, which when used with the passive voice (as it is here) means ‘become dry’ or ‘dry up’.23William Arndt, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (University of Chicago: 2000), 684. Is it interesting that John also uses the aorist tense here, which does not convey any idea of the process of drying out. The branch that is detached from the vine is a dead and dry stick. This is the opposite of being those believers who have living water flowing out of them so they themselves are truly living. The wordplay between ‘takes away’ (αἴρω, airei) and ‘prunes’ (καθαίρω, kathairei) helps contrast those who bear fruit and those who do not. Contrary to the universalist position that all will eventually be purified, Jesus is saying that those who remain in him will be ‘cleansed’ (this is a connotation of pruning a plant, though not one which can be pressed too far in this context). This is not what happens to those who fail to bear fruit. Those people are dead and so will be discarded and disposed of in a fire.

All that I discuss above is relevant for how we should interpret John 3:16.

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

If believing and trusting Jesus means we become living people instead of becoming dried out branches that are disposed of in a fire, then we have another good reason to think that ‘perish’ (ἀπόλλυμι, apollumi) really does refer to the actual death of those who reject him. Daniel Wallace states that the use of πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων (pas ho pisteuōn; Wallace translates this as ‘everyone who believes’) in John 3:16 should be regarded as a statement of a general and timeless truth (which he calls “gnomic”).24Daniel Wallcace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, (Zondervan: 1996) 620. As such, this verse is the perfect verse for conditionalists to cite as a summary of John’s conviction that eternal life can only be obtained through Jesus with the implication that not everyone will finally escape death. As such, this is a prooftext that conditionalists can cite in discussions with both universalists and traditionalists.

 

References
1 Unless otherwise indicated all quotes of the Bible will be from the ESV. On occasions when I am discussing relevant Greek words and phrasing I may provide my own rendering but this is not intended to suggest errors on the part of the ESV.
2 The debate can be found here.
3 For a brief discussion of the verbal aspect as it relates to his controversy over Greek aspect in the White vs Flowers debate see here.
4 For those who are interested in introductions to Greek participles can follow the link here and here.
5 The word ὁ (ho) is just an article that means ‘the’. Its use here is how we know that πιστεύων (pisteuōn, ‘living’) must be acting like a noun here.
6 Leon Morris, Jesus Is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing: 1989), 179.
7 Ibid., 180.
8 Murray J. Harris, John, Kindle ed., (B&H Publishing Group: 2015), Kindle locations 1647-1650.
9 Ibid., Kindle locations 1640-1643.
10 There are variations of the construction where it might refer to believing unto his name (John 1:12; 2:23) the Son (3:18; 5:40), Son of Man (9:35), Jesus (12:11), the Light (12:36). Jesus often might simply say ‘believe in me’ (6:35; 7:38; 12:44, 46; 14:1, 12; 16:9; 17:20) or the variation ‘believe in him’) might be used (John as narrator can use this variation but Jesus does as well, see 2:11; 3:16; 4:39; 6:29; 7:38; 12:37, 42.
11 Since I have published my article where I discuss the meaning of οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (ou mē apothanē eis ton aiōna) in John 11:26 I have vacillated between my own reading of the clause and Glenn Peoples’s reading of it. I find his reading (‘not be dead forever’) very attractive as John would then be presenting a strong contrast between eternal life as living forever and the fate of being dead forever. That would fit very well with the CI reading of Matthew 25:46 as presenting eternal life as living forever in contrast with an eternal punishment that amounts to the eternal privation of life. Alas, I am not quite there yet, as I still see elements in John that make me think that my reading of οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα (ou mē apothanē eis ton aiōna) is to be preferred.
12 Murray J. Harris, John, Kindle ed., (B&H Publishing Group: 2015), Kindle locations 1647-1650), Kindle locations, 7004-7007.
13 D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, Kindle ed., (Eerdmans Publishing: 1991), Kindle locations, 8633-18081.
14 The Greek used is ὁ τὸν λόγον μου ἀκούων καὶ πιστεύων τῷ πέμψαντί με (ho ton logon mou akouōn kai pisteuōn tō pempsanti me). ‘Hearing’ (ἀκούων, akouōn) and ‘believing’ (πιστεύων, pisteuōn) are governed by the one article, so ‘hearing and believing’ describes the one person, not one person who hears and another person who believes.
15 See also Joseph Dear’s article on prolepsis.
16 See this link for a decent introduction to Greek verbal aspect.
17 For example, see the use of the aorist tense in the following verses John 1:7; 2:11, 22-23; 4:39, 41, 50, 53, 5:44; 8:24, 30-31; 10:42; 11:15; 11:40, 45; 17:8; 20:8; 20:29.
18 The participle ζῶν (zōn, ’living’) is being used as an adjective here but this does not alter what may be drawn from its use here.
19 My lecturer at Bible College suggested this in our exegetical class on John 4.
20 I realize there are people who will argue that this passage does not have to do with the final fate of the lost, but the point of the metaphor is to at least describe what happens to those who do not bear fruit and do not choose to remain in Jesus.
21 See, for instance, Isa. 5:1-7; 27:2-6; cf. Ps. 80:8-16; Jer. 2:21; 6:9; 12:10-13; Ez. 15:1-8; 17:5-10; 19:10-14; Hos. 10:1-2; 14:7. G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, (Baker Publishing Group: 2007), 491)
22 Ibid.
23 William Arndt, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (University of Chicago: 2000), 684.
24 Daniel Wallcace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, (Zondervan: 1996) 620.

A Momentary Lapse of Exegesis: Why D.A. Carson is Mistaken on Matthew 18:14

D.A. Carson is a recognized expert on biblical exegesis. But even the experts can sometimes get things wrong! Let’s take a look at an interesting example.

10See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
–Matthew 18:10-14
1Unless otherwise indicated all quotation of the Bible will be from the ESV.

What does the word perish mean in this context?

In my reading of traditionalists’ commentaries to better understand how they interpret Matthew 18:14, I noticed something interesting in D. A Carson’s handling of this verse.

There are two books where he comments on the verse. The first that I will quote is from his commentary on Matthew, where he states,

Jesus drives the lesson home: the heavenly Father is unwilling for any of “these little ones” … to be lost. If that is his will, it is shocking that anyone else would seek to lead one of “these little ones” astray. … This love for the individual sheep is not at the expense of the entire flock but so that the flock as a whole may not lose a single one of its members.2D. A. Carson, Matthew, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2010), Kindle locations, 14328-14336.

In another book that focuses on themes in Matthew, Carson discusses this verse again,

Similarly, in 18:10–14 the expression “one of these little ones” must be understood to refer to believers, true disciples of Jesus who have honestly humbled themselves. Not one of them is to be despised; for on the one hand, “their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Whatever this clause means, it implies that the little ones should not be despised because their dignity is in God’s eyes very great.) On the other hand, the shepherd, the Father Himself (18:14), is concerned for each sheep in His flock, so much so that He goes after the one that strays. After all, it is not His will that even one of these little ones, these humbled, true believers, should perish. If that is His attitude, it is an abomination for anyone else to try to make the little ones stumble.3D. A. Carson, God with Us: Themes from Matthew (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009), 112–113.

I know the ESV renders ἀπόλλυμι as ‘perish’, but I want to make it clear that I do not think that Carson is erring by using the word ‘lost’. The reason for this will become apparent as I discuss this subject. What does Carson mean by ‘perish’ and ‘lost’? The Greek word behind “perish” is the much contested verb, ἀπόλλυμι. Since ἀπόλλυμι does have a range of meaning including “to destroy”, “to ruin”, “to perish”, and “to lose something”4William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 115. traditionalists have had room to argue for connotations of this verb that they think support the doctrine of eternal torment in hell. This is the case in Carson’s The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, where he interacts with John Stott’s argument that the biblical language of destruction supports the doctrine of annihilationism by arguing,

The àπώλεια word-group has a range of meanings, depending on the context. It can refer to the “lost” coin or son of Luke 15, and to the “ruined” wineskin of Matthew 9:17: in neither case is cessation of existence in view. Similarly, the ointment lavishly poured out on Jesus is in the mind of his disciples a “waste” (Matt. 26:8): the same noun is deployed, with no suggestion that the ointment goes out of existence.

Moreover, when “life” and “destruction” are contrasted (as in John 3:16, etc.), one might reasonably infer that “destruction” refers to cessation of existence only if “life” means no more than mere existence. But is Christ doing no more than contrasting mere survival and extinction? Rather, Christ is contrasting two qualitatively different types of existence, one involving a loving communion with God and another lacking it (a state of ‘ruin’).”5Carson, D. A.. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 1996), Kindle locations, 11886-11895.

It is clear that for Carson, whatever ἀπόλλυμι means in Matthew 18:14, it cannot involve the idea of complete destruction or the death of the person as conditionalists maintain. However, in his introduction to the section spanning Matthew 18:10-14, Carson makes two observations that help the case that Matthew 18:14 supports conditionalism rather than the doctrine of eternal torment in hell. Carson’s first observation is as follows,

Verse 10 clearly follows vv.5–9; but because it also forms a neat inclusio with v.14, vv.10–14 must be read together in the light of the preceding pericope.6Carson, Matthew, Kindle locations, 14277-14283.

An inclusio is a “literary framing device in which the same word or phrase stands at the beginning and the end of a section.”7Matthew S. DeMoss, Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, (InterVarsity Press, 2001), 71 An inclusio tells the reader where a given literary unit of writing begins and ends. It is meant to be read and thought of together. In this case, Carson is saying that the inclusio of Matthew 18:10-14 is linked with the immediately preceding literary unit of Matthew 18:5-9.8One may wish to quibble over whether the preceding literary unit also incorporates Matthew 19:1-4 but for our purposes it is sufficient to note that what Jesus says in Matthew 18:8-9 must be considered for what Jesus meant to say in verse 14, and vice versa.

His second observation has to do with the possible parallel passage, Luke 15:3-7. On the face of it, Luke 15:3-7 may appear to have the same point in view but Carson writes,

It is remarkable how different Matthew’s and Luke’s forms of the parable are when closely compared in the Greek text. Almost every relevant term is not the same as in the parallel, and the few that are the same are well within the bounds of repetition expected in an itinerant ministry (see comments at 5:1–2). The evidence suggests that these are two similar parables, both taught by Jesus, but with very different aims… Matthew is not concerned with “faithful pastorship in the community” … but, following the preceding pericope, with the importance in Messiah’s community of harming no member, of sharing the Father’s concern that none of “these little ones” be lost.9D. A.; Carson, Matthew, Kindle locations, 14283-14295.

In the study of the Synoptics, it is important to be aware of parallel passages so one can evaluate the extent to which the parallel(s) should impinge on the interpretation of the passage being exegeted. Luke 15:3-7 is the kind of passage that traditionalists might cite to deny that the use of ἀπόλλυμι has to do with the destruction of the little ones in Matthew 18:14 at all. With his observations, Carson has ruled this move out entirely. Both of Carsons’ observations mean Matthew 18:1-9 and similar passages within Matthew itself should be the main lens through which an interpreter understands the meaning of perish in Matthew 18:14.

How do we apply that to our exegesis of this verse?

First, I would point out that Carson is correct to say that Matthew 18:5-14 is a cohesive unit. His argument can be supplemented with the observation that the literary unit of Matthew 18:1-14 is bound together by similar phrases like ‘become like children’ (Mat 18:3), ‘this child’ (v4), ‘one such child’ (v5), ‘one of these little ones’ (v6), ‘one of these little ones’ (v10), ‘one of these little ones’ (v14). This does not mean that every section of the passage make exactly the same point. Verse 1-2 are an introduction to the section with verses 3-4 establishing the prerequisite of becoming like children as a prerequisite for entering the kingdom. This means that verses 5-9 do not necessarily have infants in view but believers who have become like children in some respect. They are the little ones who are in view in the remainder of the passage.

Verses 5-9 and 10-14 express overlapping themes. In verses 5-9 the focus is on the danger to people who might cause these little ones to sin while verses 10-14 focus on the protection of the little ones from perishing (or being lost). Given the warnings of severe treatment in store for those who cause the little ones to sin (v 6) and Jesus’s comments about avoiding sin so one can avoid being thrown into the fire of Gehenna/eternal fire (vs 8-9) it stands to reason that in Matthew 18:14 Jesus is referring to a fate that is of eternal significance. That is, when Jesus says ‘it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish’ he has their final fate in mind.

Second, if Matthew 18:5-9 (and not Luke 15:3-7) is the primary lens through which one must read Matthew 18:14 then it stands to reason that thematic, and verbal clues from that passage that hark back to similar Matthean passages also form part of that lens. That is, where we can see that Matthew 18:5-14 contains words, phrases, and themes that are used elsewhere in Matthew when discussing a similar theology, then those passages form part of the lens through which we should interpret the text being exegeted.

Having established those two points, it follows that the exegete must explore any literary, thematic or verbal cues in Matthew 18:5-14 and elsewhere in the narrative that may shed light on what verse 14 teaches. As it turns out, there are several clues in Matthew 18:5-14 that do make the reader remember previous passages in Matthew.

One example is the use of the verb σκανδαλίζω (skandalizō) ‘to cause to stumble’ throughout the passage. It occurs where you see the English ‘cause … to sin’ in verses 6, 8, and 9. The cognate noun, σκάνδαλον (skandalon) ‘stumbling block’, occurs twice in Matthew 18:17 and is rendered as ‘temptation to sin’ and ‘temptations’. That noun also occurs in Matthew 13:40-42.

40Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is part of Jesus’s own explanation of what the parable about weeds secretly being sown in the kingdom (Matt 13:24-30) means. Jesus says all ‘causes of sin’ will be thrown into the fiery furnace and burned up just as the weeds in the parable are burned up in a harvest fire (v30). To be sure, he also says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but that occurs whilst they are consumed in that fire. That is a clear indication about what the eternal fire will do to people. It will kill them.

The verb, σκανδαλίζω, occurs in Matthew 5:29-30.

29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

In this case, body parts rather than people are in view as the cause of sin. Now, if you are familiar with what commentaries have to say on this passage you will know that there are discussions about how this ought not to be taken literally so that we can obey this passage even when we do not actually tear out an eye or cut off a hand. This is because, when we give up what causes us to sin, we do permanently lose access to something we loved as much as an eye or a hand. So the point is to rid ourselves of anything that causes us to sin, even if one must do away with that cause of sin by destroying it completely at great and permanent cost.

I have more to say about this passage below.

One more obvious example of verbal allusion to other passages is the use of the language of ‘the eternal fire’ (v8) and ‘the hell of fire’ (v9). The phrase ‘the eternal fire’ appears again in Matthew 25:41 where Jesus indicates evil humans will be thrown into the fire that is prepared for the Devil and his angels. That verse does not indicate what that fire does to those who are thrown into it. Moreover, the adjective phrase, ‘eternal punishment’ (Matt 25:46) is ambiguous so that provides little help in clarifying what the eternal fire does to people thrown into it.

What about the phrase, ‘the hell of fire’?

The Greek behind this phrase is τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός. This is one of those passages where Jesus uses the word γέεννα (geenna). As it turns out, the exact phraseology τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός occurs in Matthew 5:25. Bruce Chilton states,

In 5:2, the first usage of γέεννα in his Gospel, Matthew adds “of fire” to the term in order to make its meaning clearer. In vv. 29 and 30 of the same chapter, no such qualification is necessary, because the concept has already been introduced with its explanatory qualifications. The order of sayings therefore seems to reflect a conscious plan of presentation…10Bruce Chilton, A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible: Jesus’ Own Interpretation of Isaiah, (SPCK, 1984), 103-104.

One implication of this is verses like Matthew 10:28, where γέεννα is the place where the soul and the body can be destroyed, imply that the instrument through which God would destroy the whole person is the fire of Gehenna. There is debate over exactly what ‘destroy’ means in that verse, but I have yet to find adequate rebuttals to the arguments for the conditionalist reading of the verse provided at the Rethinking Hell website.11Glenn Peoples, ‘The Meaning of “APOLLUMI” in The Synoptic Gospels, Rethinking Hell [blog], October 27, 2012, ’https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/10/27/the-meaning-of-apollumi-in-the-synoptic-gospels/, and Darren Clark, Exegesis Interrupted: A Critique of Stand To Reason’s Article “Hell Interrupted, Part 2”, Rethinking Hell [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2018/11/13/exegesis-interrupted-a-critique-of-stand-to-reasons-article-hell-interrupted-part-2/

I will not be going over old ground here except to say that even though traditionalists are correct that the Greek word behind ‘destroy’, ἀπόλλυμι, does have a range of meaning allowing debate over what Matthew 10:28 means, all the contextual evidence supports the conclusion that ἀπόλλυμι means ‘to slay’ in that verse. This brings us to the point where we can observe that the point Jesus is making in Matthew 10:28 is the same one he makes in Matthew 13:40-42: Those who end up in that fire will be killed.

Finally, comparing the way ἀπόλλυμι is used in Matthew 5:29-30 and in 18:14. In the earlier passage, ἀπόλλυμι is used when referring to the body parts. The exact phraseology in Greek in both verses is as follows, συμφέρει γάρ σοι ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν σου, which is rendered in the ESV as ‘For it is better that you lose one of your members’. “Lose” renders ἀπόληται. What does it mean in this context? Carson explains,

Just this: we are to deal drastically with sin. We must not pamper it, flirt with it, enjoy nibbling a little of it around the edges. We are to hate it, crush it, dig it out. “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexually immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).12D. A. Carson, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: A Study of Matthew 5-10, (Baker Publishing Group, 1987), 56-57.

Put the offending body part to death!

Obviously this is a figurative way of referring to doing away with sin or what tempts us to sin. Having recognized that, Carson is not using death with some ‘spiritual’ sense of separation or whatever traditionalists mean when they talk about spiritual death. He has in mind the normal meaning of death as killing a living being: ‘a permanent cessation of all vital functions: the end of life’.13Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/death, s.v. ‘Death’.

Yes, Jesus is speaking hyperbolically but the whole point of talking about plucking an eye out or cutting off a hand is to say we must destroy that which causes us to sin without expecting to get it back. If you sever body parts you kill that part of you. Those body parts will wither away into nothing, and it’s stated that you “enter the kingdom” without that body part. This is surely not literally true of body parts (our glorified bodies at the resurrection will have all their limbs), but it is true at least in general of causes of sin. Even rendered as “lost,” that kind of permanent destruction is what ἀπόλητα refers to here. You lose it because it will be destroyed and so it can never cause you to stumble into sin. The intent is to say that we must kill and destroy those things that might cause us to stumble in sin.

How does this relate to what Matthew 18:14 means? Carson himself ruled out looking to the parallel in Luke 15:3-7. As it turns out, Jesus uses some of the language from Matthew 5:29-30 in 18:14.

29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose (ἵνα ἀπόληται) one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one (ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν) of your members than that your whole body go into hell.–Matthew 5:29-30

14So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish (ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν).–Matthew 18:14

I have inserted the Greek into the translation just to give the reader a sense of where the language fits. This particular construction (word order) is rare in the NT, only being used in these two passages in Matthew and in John 17:3. That is not in and of itself enough to draw firm conclusions, for there can be variations in the syntax of the clauses in which these words are used. However, keep in mind that Matthew had, as noted above, a penchant for repeating words from earlier passages in later passages while addressing the same theme. This does mean we have warrant for arguing the use ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν in Matthew 5:29-30 ought to inform our understanding of the use of the same construction in 18:14. Just as ἀπόλλυμι is used to the killing or destruction of the body parts in Matthew 5:29-30, so also the use of the same verb in 18:14 has to do with being killed or destroyed!

There are several implications that can be noted from this analysis.

First, it matters little that ἀπόλλυμι is rendered ‘lost’ or ‘perish’. In Matthew 5:29-30 ἀπόλλυμι is usually rendered as ‘lost’ but people do not think this means the hand or eye is merely misplaced. Most recognize that these body parts are lost precisely because they are destroyed. This means that Carson’s argument that ἀπόλλυμι has a range of meaning (see the quote from his The Gagging of God above) does nothing to establish what that word contextually denotes in any particular context in the hell proof-texts. Carson is correct that ἀπόλλυμι does have a range of meaning, but better exegetical practice would have led him to consider Matthew 18:14 in light of 5:29-30. That could have led him to the conditionalist reading of these verses.

Second, since Matthew 18:5-14 form one literary unit it stands to reason that what Jesus says in verse 14 helps clarify what he says in verses 8-9. In verse 14 Jesus says the little one is rescued from death. Given Jesus’s emphasis on not causing others to sin (vs 6-7) and the need to excise any cause of sin in our own lives (vs 8-9) then the final fate of sinners must be in view in this passage. This means that verse 14 also has the final fate of the little ones in view. Having noted that, we are able to better analyze the contrast in verses 8-9. Here are those verses,

8And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Notice the contrast. It is better to destroy an offending body part than to end up in the eternal fire/fire of Gehenna. If verse 14 has in view the death of the lost one who had gone astray, then we can conclude that the ultimate fate in that fire is the death of the whole person. This means the contrast is between lacking a part of your body when you enter the Kingdom or having your whole body destroyed in that fire. As such, this rules out the typical traditionalist assumption that the contrast is between the implicit pain involved in destruction of a part of our bodies and eternal torment in the eternal fire.

Third, this fits with what Jesus says about the final fate of the lost in the other Gospels. Most notably, the aorist subjunctive form of ἀπόλλυμι used in Matthew 18:14, ἀπόληται (‘perish’), is used in John 3:16. There is already very good exegetical evidence that John 3:16 teaches conditionalism14See Darren Clark, “Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16, [blog]”, June 14, 2019, https://rethinkinghell.com/2019/06/14/perish-the-thought-john-3-16/, and Darren Clark, “Perish The Thought, Part 2: More Challenges to the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16 [blog]”, December 27, 2019, https://rethinkinghell.com/2019/12/27/perish-the-thought-part-2-john-3-16/. The use of ἀπόλλυμι in such similar contexts is just another piece of evidence that when Jesus said in John 3:16 that believers should not perish but have eternal life he really did mean we are saved from dying at the final judgment.

Then there is Luke 12:4-5 where Jesus says,

4I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

The word for ‘killed’ in Luke 12:5 is not ἀπόλλυμι but ἀποκτείνω (apokteinō). However, the two verbs are used synonymously in Matthew 10:28, where ἀπόλλυμι is translated as destroy but has the meaning of ‘to slay’. The verbs are also used synonymously throughout the Synoptic Gospels. They are used when it is Herod’s determination to kill another person is in view (ἀποκτείνω is used in Matt 14:5; Luke 13:31 and ἀπόλλυμι in Mat 2:13), when people sought to kill Jesus (ἀποκτείνω is used in Matt 16:21, 17:23 26:4; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 14:1; Luke 9:22; 18:33 ἀπόλλυμι is used in Mat 27:20; Mar 3:6; 11:18; Luk 19:47). The parable of the tenants who kill a king’s messengers is a good example of the two verbs being used synonymously (ἀποκτείνω is used in Matthew 21:35, 38-39; Mark 12:5, 7; Luke 20:14-15 while ἀπόλλυμ is used in Matthew 21:41; Mark 12:9; Luke 20:16). When ἀπόλλυμ is used it can be rendered as ‘destroy’ but the meaning is always, ‘to slay’.

Then there is Mark 9:42-48.

42Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43And 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. [44] 45And 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. [46] 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.’

Considering there are little ones in view in this passage as there are in Matthew 18:1-14, this passage is particularly relevant. The statement, ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ is a near verbatim quote of the LXX of Isaiah 66:24.

24And 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.

Isaiah 66:15-16 is the context of that scene.

15For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many.

Jesus is using a scene where the unburied corpses of the slain enemies of God are abhorred by the still living righteous, while “their worm” prospers and their fire burns. This is akin to what Jesus says in Luke 12:5 where the thing to be feared is having your corpse “having been killed” then dumped in Gehenna.

It is about being killed, not remaining alive forever.

That’s what Jesus consistently talked about when referring to the final fate of the lost. Matthew 18:14 is no exception. Talking about the little one being rescued from perishing is just another way Jesus emphasized that he rescues us from a final punishment in the form of execution.

In the final analysis, it is disappointing that Carson failed to follow up on his introductory observations on Matthew 18:10-14. I consider him to be a fine exegete because he often does follow the exegetical evidence where it leads. Perhaps if he had in this case he may have come to see that Jesus talked of the final fate of the lost not in terms of their experience of ongoing punishment but in terms of their death.

References
1 Unless otherwise indicated all quotation of the Bible will be from the ESV.
2 D. A. Carson, Matthew, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2010), Kindle locations, 14328-14336.
3 D. A. Carson, God with Us: Themes from Matthew (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009), 112–113.
4 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 115.
5 Carson, D. A.. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 1996), Kindle locations, 11886-11895.
6 Carson, Matthew, Kindle locations, 14277-14283.
7 Matthew S. DeMoss, Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek, (InterVarsity Press, 2001), 71
8 One may wish to quibble over whether the preceding literary unit also incorporates Matthew 19:1-4 but for our purposes it is sufficient to note that what Jesus says in Matthew 18:8-9 must be considered for what Jesus meant to say in verse 14, and vice versa.
9 D. A.; Carson, Matthew, Kindle locations, 14283-14295.
10 Bruce Chilton, A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible: Jesus’ Own Interpretation of Isaiah, (SPCK, 1984), 103-104.
11 Glenn Peoples, ‘The Meaning of “APOLLUMI” in The Synoptic Gospels, Rethinking Hell [blog], October 27, 2012, ’https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/10/27/the-meaning-of-apollumi-in-the-synoptic-gospels/, and Darren Clark, Exegesis Interrupted: A Critique of Stand To Reason’s Article “Hell Interrupted, Part 2”, Rethinking Hell [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2018/11/13/exegesis-interrupted-a-critique-of-stand-to-reasons-article-hell-interrupted-part-2/
12 D. A. Carson, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: A Study of Matthew 5-10, (Baker Publishing Group, 1987), 56-57.
13 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/death, s.v. ‘Death’
14 See Darren Clark, “Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16, [blog]”, June 14, 2019, https://rethinkinghell.com/2019/06/14/perish-the-thought-john-3-16/, and Darren Clark, “Perish The Thought, Part 2: More Challenges to the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16 [blog]”, December 27, 2019, https://rethinkinghell.com/2019/12/27/perish-the-thought-part-2-john-3-16/

Hey Jude, Don’t Be So Tense: A Note on the Grammar of Jude 7

“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.”–Jude 7
1Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical references will be from the ESV.

Imagine I said to you that Jesus serves as an example of suffering and therefore loving your enemies.

What comes to mind? Would you think I am referring to the NT record of his ministry and death? What if someone argued that the use of the present tense “loving” must mean that Jesus really is loving the enemies with him in heaven right now?

My guess is the majority of people would remember the Gospel narratives of Jesus going to his death so would think the use of the present tense is not an unusual way to refer to his past sacrifice. Even though we were not present when he died, the Gospel narratives are cognitively present to us because we are intimately familiar with those narratives. I think most people would intuitively recognize that simply pointing to the present tense of “suffering” or “loving” would not be sufficient to establish otherwise.

Yet, this is exactly the kind of argument that some traditionalists use with respect to the following statement about Sodom and Gomorrah in Jude 7, “serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Here are some examples. Matt Slick argues

If we look at the text and analyze what the Greek says, it becomes evident that the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah are presently experiencing the punishment of eternal fire.

In verse 7, Jude says that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (7a) who went after strange flesh (7b) are presently an example (δεῖγμα, deigma, 7c) in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire (7d). Jude knew that the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah were extinguished, yet he chooses to say they are an example of the punishment of eternal fire, which is happening now (present participle). This is because he is using the permanent judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate the permanent judgment of the wicked who are presently” undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”2Matt Slick, ‘Annihilationism and Jude 6-7, angels and the wicked undergoing punishment of eternal fire’, https://carm.org/annihilationism/annihilationism-and-jude-6-7-angels-and-the-wicked-undergoing-punishment-of-eternal-fire/, last accessed, 11/06/2022

Notice Slick’s appeal to the represent tense of the participle ‘undergoing’. To his credit, Slick does quote from accepted authorities on the Greek text such as Daniel Arichea and Howard Hatton.

The verb for undergoing is in the present tense, which means that the inhabitants of Sodom are at the moment going through their punishment…The word translated example is literally “sample”; that is, here is an actual case of sinners being punished; this serves both as proof and as a warning to future generations of the reality of divine punishment (note TEV “plain warning”).3Daniel C. Arichea and Howard Hatton A Handbook on the Letter from Jude and the Second Letter from Peter, (United Bible Societies, 1993), 25–27

He also quotes Bill Mounce, a respected NT grammarian.

ὑπέχουσαι [from ὑπέχω hupéchō] is present tense, so it might imply a present punishment. However, remember there is no absolute time significance outside the indicative, and this is a participle. So all the tense of ὑπέχουσαι says is that it is undefined in its aspect. However, if relative time is accounted for, since πρόκεινται is present, the linear ὑπέχουσαι would be describing action happening at the same time as πρόκεινται and hence a present “undergoing.” So the suggestion is that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are currently being punished for their sins, and their current punishment serves as a current warning to us.4Bill Mounce, ‘Sodom, Gomorrah, and Pornography (Jude 7)’, https://www.billmounce.com/monday-with-mounce/sodom-gomorrah-and-pornography-jude-7, last accessed 11/06/2022.

A member of the Rethinking Group made a similar argument recently.

… what continues to stick out to me is that Jude switches from the aorist (past tense) participle “having given themselves over to sexual immorality” and [having] gone after strange flesh” to the present tense participle “undergoing punishment.”

As I continue to read the passage, this change is striking. I cannot see any good reason that Jude wouldn’t say “having undergone punishment” if he wanted to refer to a past judgment. There is nothing in Greek to prevent this and everything to expect this. I find no reason for Jude to use the present tense participle instead of the aorist tense which he used immediately before.

It seems to me the most likely conclusion is that Jude is intentionally using the present tense participle to communicate that Sodom is currently undergoing punishment and this serves as an example of eternal fire.5J.D. Martin, “Many think my interpretation of Jude 7 is a complete stretch…” Rethinking Hell [Facebook discussion], posted 09/15/2022, https://www.facebook.com/groups/rethinkinghell/posts/5359831707467333/?__cft__[0]=AZWbqJkx5Tel4B7NBCvpXydGUsA6kforsW4eSuJSbf7H7Ck-oaJ3f-H19FX0LEVDB3hwch8go-md85B0G-XxtXAIZ4PcfGzTUjLOvD9VStRa50qqFyE0NOhRcU5vWjbJfio&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R, (last accessed 11/06/ 2022).

The argument has also made its way into academic journals,

The present participle in the clause δίκην ὑπέχουσαι (“undergoing punishment”) in conjunction with the present tense verb in the clause Πρόκεινται δεῖγμα indicate the ongoing nature of the punishment and thus its particular effectiveness in continuing to serve as an example.6Robert L. Webb ‘The Eschatology of the Epistle of Jude and Its Rhetorical and Social Functions, ed. Craig A, Evans, in Bulletin for Biblical Research, Vol. 6 (1996): 139-151, n.17

The argument is simply that since the present tense is used then Jude must have had in mind the ongoing punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah as he was writing his letter. However, this assumes the present tense was used because Jude was saying Sodom and Gomorrah were being punished in Hades while he was writing. Douglas Moo helps to explain why this is a false assumption,

Jude concludes, then, that these sinful cities on the plain “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Indeed, God’s judgment was spectacular and final. According to Genesis 19:24, “the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens.” Writers contemporary to Jude saw in the topography of the area, with its sulfurous odors, smoke, and terribly desolate appearance, continuing evidence of this awful judgment of God on sin. This is one of the reasons why Jude uses the present tense here at the end of verse, for the cities “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”7Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, Kindle ed., (Zondervan, 1996), Kindle locations, 4955-4963

Moo correctly identifies that the present tense was used by Jude because Sodom and Gomorrah had already come to be regarded as an example of what it is like to undergo divine punishment. This is no assumption on Moo’s part. Kelly is indicative of most commentators on Jude who emphasize “Their destruction (more particularly Sodom’s) became a proverbial object-lesson of God’s vengeance on sin”.8J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude, (Hendrickson Publishers, 1969), 259. I am listing some examples from a range of sources prior to and including the NT era to show why these scholars draw this conclusion.

Isaiah 1:9 If the LORD of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah.

Isaiah 13:19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. 20 It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there; no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there. 21 But wild animals will lie down there, and their houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there wild goats will dance. 22 Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand and its days will not be prolonged.

Ezekiel 16: 48 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

Zephaniah 2:9 Therefore, as I live,” declares the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Moab shall become like Sodom, and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste forever. The remnant of my people shall plunder them, and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.”

3 Maccabees 2:5 You consumed with fire and sulfur the people of Sodom who acted arrogantly, who were notorious for their vices; and you made them an example to those who should come afterward. (NRSV)

Wisdom 10: 6 Wisdom rescued a righteous man when the ungodly were perishing; he escaped the fire that descended on the Five Cities. 7 Evidence of their wickedness still remains: a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul. (NRSV)

4 Esdras 2: 8 “Woe to you, Assyria, who conceal the unrighteous within you! O wicked nation, remember what I did to Sodom and Gomorrah, 9 whose land lies in lumps of pitch and heaps of ashes. That is what I will do to those who have not listened to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (NRSV)

Jubilees 16:5 And in that month the LORD executed the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah and Zeboim and all of the district of the Jordan. And he burned them with fire and sulphur and he annihilated them till this day just as (he said), “Behold, I have made known to you all of their deeds that (they were) cruel and great sinners and they were polluting themselves and they were fornicating in their flesh and they were causing pollution upon the earth.” 6 And thus the LORD will execute judgment like the judgment of Sodom on places where they act according to the pollution of Sodom.9James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Expansions of the “Old Testament” and Legends, Wisdom, and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works, vol. 2 (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1985), 88.

The Testament of Asher, 7 1 “Do not become like Sodom, which did not recognize the Lord’s angels and perished forever.10James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York; London: Yale University Press, 1983), 818.

Philo, “even to this day the visible tokens of the indescribable disaster are pointed out in Syria—ruins, cinders, brimstone, smoke and murky flames which continue to rise from the ground as from a fire still smoldering beneath”11Quoted in Richard Bauckham, Jude-2 Peter, (Zondervan Academic, . (p. 55). Kindle Edition.

Luke 17: 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30 — it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

2 Peter 2:6 and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly;

It is important to note that in no place in biblical or extra-biblical literature was Sodom and Gomorrah spoken of in terms of an example of punishment in Sheol or Hades. The point is, all the evidence indicates the past destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was widely regarded as a tangible example illustrating how God destroys the wicked when he judges and punishes them. This means when people thought of Sodom and Gomorrah in the context of divine judgment they naturally thought of the story of the destruction of those cities in Genesis 19.

This brings me back to where we started. Just as saying Jesus serves as an example of loving your enemies would remind any Christian of the passion narratives in the Gospels, so also referring to Sodom and Gomorrah would have reminded Jude’s audience of the original story of the destruction of those cities. In such cases, the present tense is used because people will already have been thinking of the events in the story with which they were familiar. That is, the present tense was used because the OT story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction was already cognitively present to his audience,

Traditionally, NT grammarians have understood the Greek tense of a verb to convey the time in which the action of the verb takes place. It was the idea that the tense itself had encoded within its form the idea of progression through time. So, if a NT author or speaker used the present tense, he did so because he thought the verbal action was taking place in his present. When I was learning NT exegesis, we were taught that the tenses function as follows.

Tense Relationship to verbal action in time
Present A verbal action that is ongoing in the present at the time of writing or speaking.
Future A verbal action that is ongoing in the future.
Imperfect Relates to a verbal action that is ongoing in the past
Aorist Undefined with respect to ongoing action
Perfect The action has been completed in the past with implication flowing from that completed act

This looks simple. If the present tense was used then the author this was because the verbal action was taking place in real time, at the time he was writing. This is sometimes called aktionsart. It is the theory that “the verb tenses of Greek are used to convey how an action objectively occurs.”12Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament , 2nd ed., (Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 27. If this is how the present tense functions then traditionalists would be right to point to the present tense in Jude 7 (“serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire”) and conclude that Jude had in mind the present, ongoing punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah in Hades.

That is not the whole story on Greek tenses, though. Advancement in studies on Greek tenses have shown that the tenses themselve relate more to an author’s subjective view of the verbal action than to any objective verbal aktionsart. This is called verbal aspect. I will include a link to an introduction to verbal aspect to assist the reader to understand this feature of Greek tenses.13Master Biblical Languages (Daryl Burling), ‘Verbal Aspect: What is it and is it important?‘, YouTube video [7:59], posted 07/18/2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCINNdEcDIU&t=479s, accessed 11/06/2022. In short, while the aorist tense was used to talk about an event as a whole, the present tense was used when an author was thinking about something from the perspective of someone watching the event unfold. This would be like my statement that Jesus is an example of suffering and therefore loving one’s enemies. I do not mean to use the present tense because it conveys how Jesus’s suffering is objectively taking place in real time. I used the present tense because I wanted to use it as a verbal cue prompting people to think of his past death in a way that puts attention on the story of his suffering and death.

Stanley Porter, one of the pioneers of studies in Greek verbal aspect, explains it like this,

The analogy of a parade proves useful. If I am a television correspondent in a helicopter flying over the parade, I view the parade in its immediacy from a vantage outside the action as ‘perfective’; that is, in its entirety as a single and complete whole. If I am a spectator standing with others along the side of the road watching the parade pass by in front of me, I view the action immersed within it as ‘imperfective’; that is, as an event in progress. And if I am the parade manager in corporate headquarters considering all of the conditions in existence at this parade, including not only all the arrangements that are coming to fruition but all the accompanying events that allow the parade to operate, I view the process not in its particulars or its immediacy but as ‘stative’; that is, as a complex condition or state of affairs in existence. For example, in Rom. 8.11 with ἐγείραντος (aorist), 2 Cor. 1.9 with ἐγείροντι (present), 2 Tim. 2.8 with ἐγηγερμένον (perfect): each verse uses a different tense-form to refer to the same event, the raising of Christ. The use of each depends upon the author’s contextual emphasis.14Ibid., 24.

…verbs function in Greek as indicators of the speaker or writer’s view of a particular action, regardless of how that action might ‘objectively’ have transpired in the real world or ‘when’ it might have transpired. The verb tenses grammaticalize (i.e. represent a meaning by selection of a particular verb tense-form) this subjective viewpoint through the category of verbal aspect.1 Greeks were still able to make reference to various times of the day or night and to distinguish kinds of action, but they did so by using a variety of indicators, with verb tenses as only one factor in establishing the temporal context.”15Ibid.

The point is not that the present tense itself is not used to express the idea of progression through time. Porter draws attention to how the Greek tenses were used to express something about the author’s subjective perspective of the verbal action. It is not a simple case of the present tense itself being used because it relates to what is objectively in time as the author was writing. The way an interpreter can detect progression in time in the use of the present tense involves much more than recognising the author used verbs and participles with the present tense form. Porter is at pains to emphasize this as he frequently revisits this point.

… in Greek the temporal ordering of events is not measured in relation to a fixed point (absolute time), but by the relations established among the involved events with regard to each other and to the context. This relating is achieved by a variety of indicators available in the language (e.g. use of temporal adverbs, such as νῦν, τότε). In other words, elements other than verbal aspect (context, for example) are the primary conveyors of temporal information in Greek. This applies in the case not only of the non-indicative mood forms, but of the indicative mood as well.

A variety of contextual features (often called deictic indicators) must be analyzed to establish temporal values: references to person, place and time, and discourse features.

The last of these appear to be the most significant … The interpreter’s task is to consider all of the relevant information—including verb tenses, discourse type and so forth—before deciding when an event is to be conceived of as occurring.16Ibid., 25–26.

This all means the traditionalist argument that the present tense of “undergoing” shows Jude was saying Sodom and Gomorrah were actually being punished as he wrote his letter is based on an outdated view of NT Greek tenses. Traditionalists must identify other factors demonstrating their interpretation of Jude 7 is accurate. The only traditionalist I have seen attempting to buttress the present tense argument this way is Bill Mounce. After stating he believes the present tense conveys the idea that Sodom and Gomorrah are currently undergoing a punishment he says,

How could they be a present example? The historical descriptions of the traditional location of Sodom and Gomorrah certainly serves as an example to all who see it, and smell it. Wisdom 10:7 says, “Evidence of their wickedness still remains — a continually smoking wasteland, plants bearing fruit that does not ripen, and a pillar of salt standing as a monument to an unbelieving soul” (in Kelly, 259). You could even translate πρόκεινται as “are serving” to make the point clear.17Mounce, ‘Sodom, Gomorrah, and Pornography’

Here is the problem with this. The example Mounce uses from Wisdom 10:7 refers to evidence of the past destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is one of the texts I quoted above when I pointed out that it was widely regarded as a tangible example illustrating how God destroys the wicked when he judges and punishes them. It is not evidence that anyone, including Jude, thought that the people of the twin cities had connected that destruction to their current suffering in Hades. It simply highlights that when an author pointed to Sodom and Gomorrah they were reminding their audiences of the story of the demise of those cities. It was a way of making them think about that story. As such, it meant that as they thought about that story it would be serving as a current example to them. Pointing to the present tense of the word behind “serve” does not change this, Rather, it is like my example of Jesus swerving as a current example of suffering and therefore loving your enemies.

Mounce lets the cat out of the bag in another way when he says this,

Jude writes, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve (πρόκεινται) as an example by undergoing (ὑπέχουσαιa) punishment of eternal fire” (ESV).

ὑπέχουσαι is present tense, so it might imply a present punishment. However, remember there is no absolute time significance outside the indicative, and this is a participle. So all the tense of ὑπέχουσαι says is that it is undefined in its aspect.18Ibid.

Since the participle “undergoing” is a participle then its aspect is undefined even though it is in the present tense form. This means the use of the present tense of “undergoing” itself cannot in and of itself bear the weight for the claim that Jude had in mind the current suffering of Sodom and Gomorrah in hades.

In no way does noting Jude’s use of the present support this claim.

If traditionalists are responding to conditionalist exegesis of Jude 7 and all they have is an argument from the present tense, then the appropriate response is to ask them what else they have got to offer. If all they have is an argument from the present tense then they have nothing.

References
1 Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical references will be from the ESV.
2 Matt Slick, ‘Annihilationism and Jude 6-7, angels and the wicked undergoing punishment of eternal fire’, https://carm.org/annihilationism/annihilationism-and-jude-6-7-angels-and-the-wicked-undergoing-punishment-of-eternal-fire/, last accessed, 11/06/2022
3 Daniel C. Arichea and Howard Hatton A Handbook on the Letter from Jude and the Second Letter from Peter, (United Bible Societies, 1993), 25–27
4 Bill Mounce, ‘Sodom, Gomorrah, and Pornography (Jude 7)’, https://www.billmounce.com/monday-with-mounce/sodom-gomorrah-and-pornography-jude-7, last accessed 11/06/2022.
5 J.D. Martin, “Many think my interpretation of Jude 7 is a complete stretch…” Rethinking Hell [Facebook discussion], posted 09/15/2022, https://www.facebook.com/groups/rethinkinghell/posts/5359831707467333/?__cft__[0]=AZWbqJkx5Tel4B7NBCvpXydGUsA6kforsW4eSuJSbf7H7Ck-oaJ3f-H19FX0LEVDB3hwch8go-md85B0G-XxtXAIZ4PcfGzTUjLOvD9VStRa50qqFyE0NOhRcU5vWjbJfio&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R, (last accessed 11/06/ 2022).
6 Robert L. Webb ‘The Eschatology of the Epistle of Jude and Its Rhetorical and Social Functions, ed. Craig A, Evans, in Bulletin for Biblical Research, Vol. 6 (1996): 139-151, n.17
7 Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, Kindle ed., (Zondervan, 1996), Kindle locations, 4955-4963
8 J. N. D. Kelly, The Epistles of Peter and of Jude, (Hendrickson Publishers, 1969), 259.
9 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: Expansions of the “Old Testament” and Legends, Wisdom, and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works, vol. 2 (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1985), 88
10 James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 1 (New York; London: Yale University Press, 1983), 818.
11 Quoted in Richard Bauckham, Jude-2 Peter, (Zondervan Academic, . (p. 55). Kindle Edition.
12 Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament , 2nd ed., (Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 27.
13 Master Biblical Languages (Daryl Burling), ‘Verbal Aspect: What is it and is it important?‘, YouTube video [7:59], posted 07/18/2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCINNdEcDIU&t=479s, accessed 11/06/2022.
14 Ibid., 24.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid., 25–26.
17 Mounce, ‘Sodom, Gomorrah, and Pornography’
18 Ibid.

5 More Myths About Hell: A Response to Mark Jones and Crossway

In a recent installment of Crossway’s “5 Myths” article series, Mark Jones attempts to debunk what he sees as “5 Myths about Hell.” In so doing, however, Jones misreads a host of biblical texts that support the doctrines of conditional immortality and annihilationism, mistakenly thinking they teach eternal torment. Along the way, he perpetuates five other popular myths about hell, which we at Rethinking Hell debunk below. Continue reading “5 More Myths About Hell: A Response to Mark Jones and Crossway”

Falling “Into” Error: Grasping at Straws in Matthew 25:46

For years, I have said that two things convinced me of conditional immortality and annihilationism (hereafter, “conditionalism”) more than anything else. First and foremost, I discovered that, with virtually no exception, every proof-text historically cited in support of eternal torment proves upon closer examination to be better support for conditionalism. Second, I was shocked at how poorly thought out traditionalist arguments against conditionalism typically are. Matthew 25:41-46 is a case study in both phenomena, for it is surprisingly powerful support for conditionalism, but when traditionalists dig their heels in, they often resort to highly dubious arguments they wouldn’t countenance in virtually any other context, such as by claiming the Greek preposition εἰς (eis), translated “into,” rules out the annihilation of the finally impenitent. Continue reading “Falling “Into” Error: Grasping at Straws in Matthew 25:46″

Perish the Thought, Part 2: More Challenges to the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16

 

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

–John 3:16

 

In my article Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16,1Darren J. Clark, “Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16,https://rethinkinghell.com/2019/06/14/perish-the-thought-john-3-16/. I demonstrate that John 3:16’s phraseology of “eternal life” and “perish” teaches that only believers will live forever, while all others will die. I examine John 6 and 11 to strengthen my exegesis of John 3:16 because those are two sections in the narrative where Jesus explains further what he meant to convey in that famous verse.2All citations in English will be from the ESV, unless otherwise indicated. In those chapters Jesus speaks about the kind of life believers will be given, and simply employs the same language he uses in surrounding contexts to refer to ordinary life and death (John 6:49-51, 58; 11:25-26). For John 3 and John 6 I show that Jesus drew from historical and tangible examples from the Israelite experience of being protected from death (John 3:14-16 cf. Num 21:4-9; John 6:22-59 cf. Exod 16:16-21). I also explain how Jesus’ terms “eternal life” and “perish” relate to the death and resurrection of Lazarus in John 11.

The purpose of this current article is to provide a supplementary argument to fortify my previous argument about what Jesus meant in John 6:49-51 and 11:25-26, where he taught that believers will not die. In particular, I have in mind the use of the verb ἀποθνήσκω (“to die”) as it is used in John 6:50 and 11:26. I will then demonstrate how this impacts our reading of two similar statements made by Jesus, in similar contexts in John’s narrative.

Continue reading “Perish the Thought, Part 2: More Challenges to the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16”

References
1 Darren J. Clark, “Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16,https://rethinkinghell.com/2019/06/14/perish-the-thought-john-3-16/.
2 All citations in English will be from the ESV, unless otherwise indicated.

Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16

 

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

–John 3:16

 

John 3:16 is one of the clearest texts supporting the conditional immortality view. This is because Jesus contrasts the eternal life received by believers with the death they would otherwise receive if they reject him. After all, to die is just what “perish” normally means whenever we use that word of humans. As John Stott noted, when the Greek verb apollymi is used in the middle voice and without a direct object it means to be destroyed in a way that causes someone to perish or die (Stott points to Luke 15:17; 1 Cor 10:9 for physical perishing, and John 10:28; 17:12; Rom 2:12; 1 Cor 15:18; 2 Pet 3:9 for perishing in hell).1John Stott, “Hell and Judgement,” in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1319-1322.

Traditionalists often respond by arguing that this term in John 3:16 need not refer to the death or annihilation of unbelievers.2William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Olivetree ebook ed., (Baker Book House, no publishing date given), no page given. But beyond a generalized word study of apollymi, most traditionalists do not give a rationale for their interpretation of the phrase “shall not perish.” A few have offered reasons to read it as referring to an unending “perishing” in hell. Continue reading “Perish the Thought: How John 6 and 11 Challenge the Traditionalist Reading of John 3:16”

References
1 John Stott, “Hell and Judgement,” in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1319-1322.
2 William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Olivetree ebook ed., (Baker Book House, no publishing date given), no page given.

On the Meaning of Destruction in the Bible

If you have been researching the doctrine of hell for any significant amount of time, you are bound to have encountered the debate over the meaning of the biblical language of destruction. Conditionalists like ourselves argue that in contexts of final judgment, Greek words like apollymi (to destroy), apoleia (destruction), and olethros (destruction) consistently communicate that the wicked will actually be destroyed, or ended, by God.1For instance, see Glenn Andrew Peoples, “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism”, in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 675-717, 830-838;2See also John Stott, “Judgment and Hell”, in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1312-1336; John W. Wenham, “The Case for Conditional Immortality”, in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1915-1939; John Stackhouse Jr, “Terminal Punishment”, in Four Views on Hell, ed. Preston Sprinkle, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2016), Kindle locations, 1216-1344.

In response, those holding to the traditional view of hell such as John Blanchard have argued that this language does not denote annihilation when it is used of humans.3John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell, Kindle ed. (EP Books, 1993), Kindle locations, 4371-4422. Eldon Woodcock examined the terminology, concluding that “the usage of apollymi/apoleia (destroy, perish, destruction) in the NT conveys various nuances of destruction–none of them annihilation causing cessation of existence.”4Eldon Woodcock, Hell: An Exhaustive Look at a Burning Issue, Kindle ed. (WestBow Press, 2012), Kindle locations, 4113-4114. D. A. Carson argues that these words do not necessarily include the sense of “extinction,”5D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 1996), Kindle locations 11888-11900. and Tim Barnett and Greg Koukl assert that “In the Bible, destruction language is not synonymous with nonexistence.”6Tim Barnett and Greg Koukl, “Hell interrupted: Part 2” [blog], https://www.str.org/solidgroundnovember2017hellinterruptedpart2#.XKG7YfZuJjo, (accessed April 1, 2019). For Douglas Moo, when Paul uses the terms they refer merely to “the situation of a person or object that has lost the essence of its nature or function.”7Douglas J. Moo, “Paul on Hell”, in Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, eds. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2007), Kindle location, 2448.

For the most part, the traditionalist argument revolves around examining the various ways in which the apollymi/apoleia word group is employed in the New Testament and noting a distinct range of meaning attached to this language.

Rethinking Hell has provided good responses to this line of argument, especially in an excellent article by Glenn Peoples, who demonstrates that this reply from traditionalists is susceptible to the charge of the fallacy of illegitimate totality transfer.8Glenn Peoples, “The Meaning of ‘Apollumi’ in the Synoptic Gospels” [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/10/27/the-meaning-of-apollumi-in-the-synoptic-gospels/ (accessed April 1, 2019). In a related article I have built upon Peoples’ discussion, demonstrating how a close reading of the context of Matthew 10:28 allows only the sense of “to kill” for apollymi in that verse.9Darren J. Clark, “Exegesis Interrupted: A Critique if Stand To Reason’s Article ‘Hell Interrupted, Part 2’” [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2018/11/13/exegesis-interrupted-a-critique-of-stand-to-reasons-article-hell-interrupted-part-2/ (accessed April 1, 2019). In the current article, I will discuss more broadly some of the biblical and non-biblical examples used by traditionalists to dismiss the conditionalist case from the biblical language of destruction. As noted above, traditionalists typically assume that we must claim that key words like apollymi, apoleia, and olethros mean something philosophical like ceasing to exist, or something scientific like annihilation in the sense of molecular disintegration.10For instance, Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House Publishers, 1984), 90. Their approach in response, therefore, is heavily weighted towards showing how the words can be used in such a way as to allow some part of the person or thing destroyed to remain after the process of destruction has been complete. I maintain that this is argument is a fundamental misunderstanding of the conditionalist argument, and of how the biblical authors actually use the language of destruction to communicate the end of the wicked at the last judgement.

Rather than examine all instances of destruction language in the Bible, due to space constraints I will focus on texts used to support the most common traditionalist counterclaim. As their argument goes, destruction language for final punishment can instead mean ruin, because there are texts where it does denote that concept. This approach is seen for example in John Blanchard’s argument that apollymi is used to communicate the loss of wellbeing in a way that makes the person useless for their intended purpose.11Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell, Kindle locations, 4400-4402; J. I. Packer makes the same argument in “The Problem of Eternal punishment:, in Crux 26, no. 3 (September 1990): 20. It is also seen in D. A. Carson’s contention that John 3:16 contrasts “two qualitatively different types of existence, one involving a loving communion with God and another lacking it (a state of ‘ruin’).”12Carson, The Gagging of God, Kindle location, 11888. Douglas Moo echoes these statements when he concludes after examining the terms in Paul that “In none of these cases do the objects cease to exist; they cease to be useful or to exist in their original, intended state.”13Moo, “Paul on Hell”, Kindle locations, 2456-2464. As a final example, note Charles Hodge’s understanding of the biblical concept of destruction:

To destroy is to ruin. The nature of that ruin depends on the nature of the subject of which it is predicated. A thing is ruined when it is rendered unfit for use; when it is in such a state that it can no longer answer the end for which it was designed.14Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes in Four Parts, Kindle ed. (GLH Publishing, no date given), Kindle locations, 30385-40495.

In order to support this view of destruction, traditionalists frequently appeal to the use of apollymi in relation to wineskins (Matt 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37). Their point is that the destroyed wineskins do not go out of existence, but have become leaky and can no longer function as intended, to store the wine.15Moo, “Paul on Hell”, Kindle locations, 2456-2464; Woodcock, Hell, Kindle location, 3717-3726; Woodcock, Hell, Kindle locations, 3717-3726.

We may question the legitimacy of using this characterization of what happens to old wineskins to provide an alternative understanding of “destroy” for key texts like Matthew 10:28 (“destroy both body and soul in Gehenna”). For one thing, when humans are punctured like wineskins we can easily bleed to death, which follows even more swiftly if one of our vital organs is involved.16For a discussion on how this supports the conditionalist reading of Matthew 10:28 see my “Exegesis Interrupted: A Critique if Stand To Reason’s Article ‘Hell Interrupted, Part 2’” [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2018/11/13/exegesis-interrupted-a-critique-of-stand-to-reasons-article-hell-interrupted-part-2/ (accessed April 1, 2019). But ancient wineskins didn’t simply develop leaks. Instead, they were sewn together from pieces of sheep or goat skin, which, as leather does over time, would age and become brittle.17Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50, (Baker Books, 1994), 520. Being filled with heavy liquid, at some point they would essentially explode into torn pieces, an image emphasized by each Synoptic author with the verb “burst” (ῥήγνυμι, rēgnumi).18Frederick William Danker (ed.), et al, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, 3rd ed., (University of Chicago Press, 2000), 904. If the kind of destruction depicted here is supposed to represent what happens to both body and soul in Matthew 10:28, then it would most naturally communicate a destruction of the person themselves. Humans are sentient, which is fundamentally different from inanimate objects like wineskins. So if the wineskins example applies, that kind of complete destruction would rob a person of life and the faculty of consciousness. Far from showing how the wicked would be left in a ruined state unfit for their intended purpose, this only reinforces the conditionalist view that destruction here deprives people of their very lives.

Other biblical examples cited by traditionalists in support of taking destruction language for final punishment to mean ruin, include the destruction of property by thieves (John 10:10), the idea of perishing gold (1 Peter 1:7), and perishing food (John 6:12, 24).19For instance, see Woodcock, Hell, Kindle locations, 3709-3738. As in the case of wineskins, the kind of ruin inflicted in these examples would normally kill a person. In 1 Peter 1:7, Peter’s point is that even gold will ultimately be done away with in a final fiery judgment (destroyed completely), despite its ability to survive the refining process now.20Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, Kindle ed., (Baker Academic, 2005), Kindle locations, 2424-2425.

In the case of John 10:10 (“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”), this may be an allusion to Ezekiel 34:2-3, where the leaders of Israel are accused of slaughtering the choice sheep for their own consumption.21Grant R. Osbourne, John Verse by Verse, Kindle ed. (Lexham Press, 2018), Kindle locations, 4153-4155. According to J. Ramsey Michaels, “kill” and “destroy” here are part of a metaphor.22J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, Kindle ed. (Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), Kindle locations, 10002-10014. The Greek word for kill is θύω (thuō). It is used of the slaughter of animals (in this context sheep) for food.23Danker (ed.), A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, 463. As Michaels states,

“The supposition is that sheep are stolen not in order to be added to someone else’s flock, but to be slaughtered for food, and thus “destroyed.” The accent is on “destroy,” for being “destroyed” or “lost” is in this Gospel the very opposite of gaining “eternal life” (see 3:16; 6:39–40). Here the thief comes to “destroy,” while Jesus comes “that they might have life.”24Michaels, The Gospel of John, Kindle locations, 10004-10005.

This is a far cry from Woodcock’s explanation that John 10:10 refers to the mere ruin of items not stolen by the thief, an explanation which does not adequately account for the text in all its details.25Even if Woodcock is correct the kind of destruction a thief could leave (breaking furniture, etc.) would often kill a person. Woodcock, Hell, Kindle locations, 3729–3731.

Similarly, Woodcock’s example of perishing food is quite odd (John 6:12, 27).26Ibid., Kindle locations, 3733-3738. Woodcock is correct that spoiled food is useless for its intended purpose of sustenance, but his insistence that it does not go out of existence flies in the face of the natural observation that essentially nothing is left of food once it inevitably decomposes. It is telling that in John 6:27, Jesus challenges his audience to choose food that “endures to eternal life” rather than food that will perish. This contrast between food which perishes and food which endures forever removes any doubt about what it means for ordinary food to perish. It does not simply mean that the fruit can no longer be used for its intended purpose, but depends on the idea of the ending of the fruit itself through decomposing.

But traditionalists also use the example of the destruction of land in Ezekiel 6:14 and 14:16, which Christopher Morgan frames in terms of its lost fruitfulness.27Christopher W. Morgan, “Annihilationism: Will the Unsaved Be Punished Forever?”, in Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, eds. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2007), Kindle locations, 4943-4950. While it’s true that destroyed land cannot bear fruit, Morgan ignores the fact that such fruitlessness results from the land itself being desolated to the point of no longer supporting or produce life. A search of the Hebrew word for “desolation” used in Ezekiel 6:14 and 14:16 reveals that it is commonly used to communicate the reduction of land and cities to a literal heap, i.e. concrete ruins rather than an abstract concept of ruin, often with an emphasis on no human life remaining there. The picture is one of complete dismantling of what the land and cities once were, so that they became unlivable.28I include the list of references from my stepbible.org search so the reader can verify this. https://www.stepbible.org/?q=strong=H8077a|version=ESV&options=VHNUG&qFilter=H8077a As with the wineskins, if this kind of destruction were to be inflicted upon people themselves, they would not remain alive with some ruined purpose, but would be well and truly dead.

Extra-biblical examples of destruction fare no better. For instance, as an example of the kind of destruction he thinks the Bible has in view, John Blanchard points to the 1992 Los Angeles race riots, in which widespread damage was inflicted on property in various districts.29Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell, Kindle locations, 4405-4422. He writes that “The damage was certainly horrific; hundreds of buildings were gutted, millions of dollars’ worth of damage was done and many people were killed. South central Los Angeles lay in smouldering ruins—but it was not annihilated.”30Ibid. Moo uses the example of a tornado destroying a house, arguing, “The component parts of that house did not cease to exist, but the entity ‘house,’ a structure that provides shelter for human beings, ceased to exist.”31Moo, “Paul on Hell”, Kindle locations, 2459-2469. Similarly, Roger Nicole appeals to wrecked vehicles that are “so damaged and twisted that the car has become completely unserviceable.”32Cited in Alan Gomes, Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell, Christian Research Journal, (Spring 1991), 18; see also Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teachings on Hell, (Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 97.

All of these examples of destruction resulting in loss of function or usefulness do not actually justify taking the biblical destruction language–as applied to final punishment of human beings–to refer to the more limited concept of ruin. They are typically offered to show that the remains of a destroyed person or thing continues in existence, assuming that our view requires destruction to denote non-existence, or molecular disintegration of all constituent parts. But this is not even something conditionalists deny! Instead, the concept they overlook, which they deny and we affirm, is that of the finally unsaved being killed, or rendered lifeless. This concept is all that needs to be investigated through the language of destruction.

With that key question in mind, Matthew 10:28 becomes an important verse helping us to relate human death to the destruction of the wicked in Gehenna (final punishment), establishing that the kind of destruction inflicted is the kind that will kill them completely.33See my article cited above. There is no need for speculation about whether or not there are any “remains” of the body or soul post-destruction, since the point is that the destruction results in a complete death, compared to something only partial and incomplete when inflicted by mere men. Just as a corpse is robbed of all life and consciousness, so also the destroyed person in Gehenna will be lifeless, without any faculty of consciousness. The whole person will be dead and gone. It is this point that traditionalists usually fail to grasp, and the reason most conditionalists find them utterly unconvincing when they are debating the meaning of the biblical language of destruction. In order to do better, traditionalists simply have to abandon their current line of argument that the Bible teaches a kind of destruction that renders the person or thing merely useless for its intended purpose, while somehow preserving its life or essence. This argument is too reductionistic, and is powerless to address the core conditionalist argument from the biblical language of destruction.

References
1 For instance, see Glenn Andrew Peoples, “Introduction to Evangelical Conditionalism”, in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 675-717, 830-838;
2 See also John Stott, “Judgment and Hell”, in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1312-1336; John W. Wenham, “The Case for Conditional Immortality”, in Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, eds. Christopher M. Date, Gregory G. Stump, & Joshua W. Anderson, Kindle ed. (Cascade Books, 2014), Kindle locations, 1915-1939; John Stackhouse Jr, “Terminal Punishment”, in Four Views on Hell, ed. Preston Sprinkle, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2016), Kindle locations, 1216-1344.
3 John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell, Kindle ed. (EP Books, 1993), Kindle locations, 4371-4422.
4 Eldon Woodcock, Hell: An Exhaustive Look at a Burning Issue, Kindle ed. (WestBow Press, 2012), Kindle locations, 4113-4114.
5 D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 1996), Kindle locations 11888-11900.
6 Tim Barnett and Greg Koukl, “Hell interrupted: Part 2” [blog], https://www.str.org/solidgroundnovember2017hellinterruptedpart2#.XKG7YfZuJjo, (accessed April 1, 2019).
7 Douglas J. Moo, “Paul on Hell”, in Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, eds. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2007), Kindle location, 2448.
8 Glenn Peoples, “The Meaning of ‘Apollumi’ in the Synoptic Gospels” [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2012/10/27/the-meaning-of-apollumi-in-the-synoptic-gospels/ (accessed April 1, 2019).
9 Darren J. Clark, “Exegesis Interrupted: A Critique if Stand To Reason’s Article ‘Hell Interrupted, Part 2’” [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2018/11/13/exegesis-interrupted-a-critique-of-stand-to-reasons-article-hell-interrupted-part-2/ (accessed April 1, 2019).
10 For instance, Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Bethany House Publishers, 1984), 90.
11 Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell, Kindle locations, 4400-4402; J. I. Packer makes the same argument in “The Problem of Eternal punishment:, in Crux 26, no. 3 (September 1990): 20.
12 Carson, The Gagging of God, Kindle location, 11888.
13 Moo, “Paul on Hell”, Kindle locations, 2456-2464.
14 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes in Four Parts, Kindle ed. (GLH Publishing, no date given), Kindle locations, 30385-40495.
15 Moo, “Paul on Hell”, Kindle locations, 2456-2464; Woodcock, Hell, Kindle location, 3717-3726; Woodcock, Hell, Kindle locations, 3717-3726.
16 For a discussion on how this supports the conditionalist reading of Matthew 10:28 see my “Exegesis Interrupted: A Critique if Stand To Reason’s Article ‘Hell Interrupted, Part 2’” [blog], https://rethinkinghell.com/2018/11/13/exegesis-interrupted-a-critique-of-stand-to-reasons-article-hell-interrupted-part-2/ (accessed April 1, 2019).
17 Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1-9:50, (Baker Books, 1994), 520.
18 Frederick William Danker (ed.), et al, A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature, 3rd ed., (University of Chicago Press, 2000), 904.
19 For instance, see Woodcock, Hell, Kindle locations, 3709-3738.
20 Karen Jobes, 1 Peter, Kindle ed., (Baker Academic, 2005), Kindle locations, 2424-2425.
21 Grant R. Osbourne, John Verse by Verse, Kindle ed. (Lexham Press, 2018), Kindle locations, 4153-4155.
22 J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, Kindle ed. (Eerdmans Publishing, 2010), Kindle locations, 10002-10014.
23 Danker (ed.), A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, 463.
24 Michaels, The Gospel of John, Kindle locations, 10004-10005.
25 Even if Woodcock is correct the kind of destruction a thief could leave (breaking furniture, etc.) would often kill a person. Woodcock, Hell, Kindle locations, 3729–3731.
26 Ibid., Kindle locations, 3733-3738.
27 Christopher W. Morgan, “Annihilationism: Will the Unsaved Be Punished Forever?”, in Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, eds. Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson, Kindle ed. (Zondervan, 2007), Kindle locations, 4943-4950.
28 I include the list of references from my stepbible.org search so the reader can verify this. https://www.stepbible.org/?q=strong=H8077a|version=ESV&options=VHNUG&qFilter=H8077a
29 Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell, Kindle locations, 4405-4422.
30 Ibid.
31 Moo, “Paul on Hell”, Kindle locations, 2459-2469.
32 Cited in Alan Gomes, Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell, Christian Research Journal, (Spring 1991), 18; see also Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges to Jesus’ Teachings on Hell, (Christian Focus Publications, 2003), 97.
33 See my article cited above.