Saturday, 19 December 2015

But only the cults teach annihilationism...

A few years back, after several months of study, I became convinced through scripture that I had previously been in error regarding the final fate of the wicked. I used to think, like most people do, that those who reject Christ will suffer eternal conscious torment in the fires of hell, wishing in vain for death only to receive more misery at the hands of their tormentors. Nowadays though I believe that the message of the bible is that immortality or eternal life is a gift that only those in Christ will receive. All will be raised for judgment but some will go on to eternal life while others will taste of death for a second and final time.

One of the most common rebuttals to the idea of conditional immortality is that it is held mostly by Christian cults or fringe groups like the Worldwide Church of God (and its offshoots) as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would like to turn that argument around in this post and say yes, some groups with some very wrong ideas do believe that the wicked will be destroyed in hell rather than be tortured there for all of eternity. Nevertheless, they were at least reading the bible when they arrived at those conclusions, whereas the idea of eternal conscious torment and the modern imagery associated with hell, I would suggest, has more support in the Koran than it does in the bible. Don’t believe me? Consider the contrasting columns below of scriptures from both the Bible and the Koran and ask yourself which one more accurately presents the views that you have been exposed to.

 Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. - Psalm 37:1-2
Lo! Those who disbelieve Our revelations, We shall expose them to the Fire. As often as their skins are consumed We shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment. 4:56
 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. - Psalm 37:9-10
They will wish to come forth from the Fire, but they will not come forth from it. Theirs will be a lasting doom. 5:37
 Though the wicked sprout like weeds and evildoers flourish, they will be destroyed forever. - Psalm 92:7
For them is drink of boiling water and a painful doom, because they disbelieved. 6:70
 But the wicked will perish: Though the LORD's enemies are like the flowers of the field, they will be consumed, they will go up in smoke. - Psalm 37:20
If thou couldst see how the angels receive those who disbelieve, smiting faces and their backs and (saying): Taste the punishment of burning! 8:50
 Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; for the future of that man is peace, But the transgressors shall be destroyed together, the future of the wicked will be cut off. - Psalm 37:37-38
On the day when it will (all) be heated in the fire of hell, and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded 9:35
 May you blow them away like smoke-- as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God. - Psalm 68:2
Hell is before him, and he is made to drink a festering water, Which he sippeth but can hardly swallow, and death cometh unto him from every side while yet he cannot die, and before him is a harsh doom. 14:16-17
 He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the LORD our God will destroy them. - Psalm 94:23
Thou wilt see the guilty on that day linked together in chains, Their raiment of pitch, and the Fire covering their faces. 14:49-50
 The wicked will see and be vexed, they will gnash their teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing. - Psalm 112:10
We shall assemble them on the Day of Resurrection on their faces, blind, dumb and deaf; their habitation will be hell; whenever it abateth, We increase the flame for them. That is their reward because they disbelieved Our revelations. 17:97-98
When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. - Proverbs 10:25
Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers Fire. Its tent encloseth them. If they ask for showers, they will be showered with water like to molten lead which burneth the faces. Calamitous the drink and ill the resting-place! 18:29
But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the LORD will perish. - Isaiah 1:28
If those who disbelieved but knew the time when they will not be able to drive off the fire from their faces and from their backs, and they will not be helped! 21:29
 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” … “You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts. - Malachi 4:1-3
But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads, Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning. 22:19-22
…and they shall be as though they had never been. - Obadiah 16
The fire burneth their faces, and they are glum therein. 23:104
 The strongest among you will disappear like straw; their evil deeds will be the spark that sets it on fire. They and their evil works will burn up together, and no one will be able to put out the fire. - Isaiah 1:31
For those who deny (the coming of) the Hour We have prepared a flame. When it seeth them from afar, they hear the crackling and the roar thereof. And when they are flung into a narrow place thereof, chained together, they pray for destruction there. 25:11-13
 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." - Matthew 3:12
But as for those who disbelieve, for them is fire of hell; it taketh not complete effect upon them so that they can die, nor is its torment lightened for them. Thus We punish every ingrate. And they cry for help there, (saying): Our Lord! Release us; we will do right, not (the wrong) that we used to do. ... Now taste (the flavour of your deeds), for evil-doers have no helper. 35:36-37
 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. - Matthew 10:28
Those in the Fire say unto the guards of hell: Entreat your Lord that He relieve us of a day of the torment ... although the prayer of disbelievers is in vain. 40:49-50
 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. - Galatians 6:8
Those who deny the Scripture and that wherewith We send Our messengers. But they will come to know, When carcans are about their necks and chains. They are dragged Through boiling waters; then they are thrust into the Fire. 40:70-72
 …but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. - Hebrews 10:27 -
Lo! the tree of Zaqqum, The food of the sinner! Like molten brass, it seetheth in their bellies As the seething of boiling water. (And it will be said): Take him and drag him to the midst of hell, Then pour upon his head the torment of boiling water. 44:43-48
 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; - 2 Peter 2:12
Those who are immortal in the Fire and are given boiling water to drink so that it teareth their bowels. 47:15
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men. - 2 Peter 3:7
Then how (will it be with them) when the angels gather them, smiting their faces and their backs! 47:27


This post is not meant to convince anyone that the mainstream view of hell is incorrect and that annihilationism is a better option, it is far from sufficient on its own to make a strong enough case for that. Rather, the point was merely to point out that the accusation that annihilationism is the playground of the cults and fringe groups is not grounds for dismissal on its own; for that would be no different than saying that the mainstream view of hell is the playground of Islam. Both views (and we may as well throw Universalism in here as well) should be judged based on their biblical merit alone rather than on who does and does not believe them to be true.

PS – If you do want to dig deeper into conditional immortality, I have written more on it in the articles linked below. Also, check out the website Rethinking Hell for tons of great resources.


  1. I agree. For the record, here is my take on the same issue - Hell - what does the Bible say?

    1. Hi Eric. What I especially liked in your article is the idea of not getting too dogmatic on the topic.