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Is Annihilationism Biblical?

Hank Hanegraaff
Hank Hanegraaff

Just as universalism (i.e., everyone will be saved) is the rage in liberal Christian circles, so, too, annihilationism (i.e., God will annihilate unbelievers instead of sending them to eternal hell) is gaining momentum in conservative Christian circles. The question, of course, is whether annihilationism is biblical.

First, common sense tells us that a God of love and justice does not arbitrarily annihilate a portion of the crowning jewels of His creation. He graciously provides everyone the freedom to choose between redemption and rebellion. It would be a horrific evil to think that God would create people with freedom of choice and then annihilate them because of their choices.

Furthermore, common sense also leads us to the conclusion that nonexistence is not better than existence since nonexistence is nothing at all. It is also crucial to recognize that not all existence in hell will be equal. We may safely conclude that Hitler’s torment in hell will greatly exceed the torment experienced by a garden-variety pagan. God is perfectly just, and each person who spurns His grace will suffer exactly what he or she deserves (see Luke 12:47–48; cf. Prov. 24:12; Matt. 16:27; Col. 3:25; Rev. 20:11–15).

Finally, when understood in light of the rest of Scripture the language of “destruction” and “perishing” hardly supports annihilationism. In point of fact, it affirms eternal conscious existence. When Paul informs us that those who do not love God or live according to his precepts “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9), he hardly suggests annihilationism. To experience everlasting destruction is to experience everlasting separation from the love and grace of God. To leave no doubt, Paul equates everlasting destruction with being “shut out from the presence of the Lord.” Jesus Christ, the ultimate authority, explicitly informs us that the wicked “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Jesus contrasts the ghastly eternal punishment of the wicked with the glorious eternal life of the righteous.

Why would God raise the unrepentant from the dead (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28–29), only to snuff them out in the end? The alternative to annihilation is everlasting quarantine. And that is precisely what hell is.

For more, see Hank’s book, AfterLife: What You Need to Know about Heaven, the Hereafter & Near-Death Experiences

 
Originally published October 08, 2013.

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