Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Was Mary Magdalene A Prostitute?

"There is no evidence that the early church tried to tarnish Mary Magdalene’s reputation by making her out to be a prostitute. Any reference to her as a prostitute does not come from the Bible. Here is what we do know of Mary from the biblical record: Seven demons were cast out of her by Jesus (Luke 8:2); she witnessed the horror of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:32-56); she was present at the burial of Jesus (Matthew 27:57-61); she, along with two other women, went to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1), and she was the first person to see Jesus in his resurrected body (John 20:10-18).

Some have surmised that since her name and story appear immediately following the account of a prostitute, the two are one and the same woman (see Luke 7:36-8:2). But there is no biblical support for this conclusion. (Most historians agree that the reference to Mary Magdalene as a prostitute was started in the sixth century by Pope Gregory I). Still others have conjectured that she is the anonymous woman caught in adultery. There is no evidence to support that assumption, either. Some have guessed that she might have been a prostitute simply because she came from Magdala, which was often associated with prostitution. Once again, the Bible says no such thing. Any association of Mary of Magdala with either of the above-mentioned anonymous women would have been merely a result of conjecture--or very careless scholarship--probably dating to the Middle Ages, as opposed to a smear campaign."

James L. Garlow and Peter Jones, Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, p. 59-60

Friday, April 26, 2019

Was Jesus Christ Crucified On A Cross Or A Stake As The Jehovah's Witnesses Claim?

  • Discussion:
          -The Greek word stauros does not necessitate that it was the traditional shape of the cross. It meant a pole or stake in some instances. The traditional cross shape was the normal form of crucifixion, but many people were crucified on poles or stakes. The Romans were not tied to one form of crucifixion. Seneca the Younger who recounts, "I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the gibbet.” 

          The Greek word xulon refers to something that is made of wood and can alternatively refer to a tree. The quotation from Deuteronomy (speaking of Galatians 3:13 where the Apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23) is not referring to crucifixion in its original context. It is referring to the fact that some people were hung on trees in order to communicate that they were cursed by God. Jesus Christ being hung in the air communicated that He was cursed by God for us. This leaves the question as to the shape of the wood that Christ was crucified on. It technically does not matter because He died for our sins regardless. The result would be the same.

          Moreover, the biblical evidence that Jesus was nailed to a cross of the traditional shape is strong. Consider the encounter of the doubting Thomas with the resurrected Christ (John 20:24-29). The passage mentions having nails pierced through both hands. That reference to nails is plural. A stake would require one nail. The Scripture records Pontius Pilate nailing an inscription above His head (Matthew 27:37; Luke 23:38). Also, the Apostle Peter was told that he would eventually be made to stretch out his hands for crucifixion by Roman guards (John 21:18). That was the exact posture in which Jesus Himself was crucified previously. So the Jehovah's Witnesses are proven wrong when they insist that Jesus Christ was crucified on a stake. Ironically, the Watchtower Society originally taught that Jesus died on a cross.

          The Jehovah's Witnesses deny that Christ resurrected in a glorified physical body. Rather, it is believed that He manifested Himself as a spirit. But Scripture clearly indicates that He was raised from the dead in a physical body (Luke 24:39). He even ate so as to demonstrate to the disciples that He was not a spirit (Luke 24:40-43). The very body of Christ was raised from the dead (John 2:19-22). He was born of a virgin, and so has a body which is permanent. The denial of a physical resurrection is a pernicious error of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Critical Exposure Of The Clear Word Bible

  • Discussion:
          -The Clear Word Bible is a paraphrase written by Jack J. Blanco and made available to the public by the Review and Herald Publishing Association in March 1994. This product of the Seventh-Day Adventist church was designed to be an amplified version of Scripture. The Clear Word Bible was made for devotional purposes. Nonetheless, this paraphrase is to be avoided because it contains textual modifications aimed at reflecting aberrant Seventh-Day Adventist theology. It contains bias in support of false doctrines such as annihilationism and Sabbatarianism. Following are examples of textual perversion within the Clear Word Bible:
  • Genesis 2:2-3:
          -"Then on the seventh day of creation week, God stopped to enjoy what He had made and to rest in the beauty of it all. So He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a day of spiritual refreshment and joy." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." (English Standard Version)
            *The Seventh-Day Adventist rendering of this passage makes the seventh day a day of creation when the process was actually completed on the sixth. The Sabbath is introduced prior to the time when the Bible itself reveals that day (Exodus 16).
  • Genesis 35:18:
          -"But Rachel didn’t survive the birth, and as she was dying, she named her baby Benoni, which means Son of My Sorrow, but Jacob renamed the baby Benjamin, meaning Son of My Right Hand." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin." (English Standard Version)
            *The Seventh-Day Adventist rendering of Genesis 35:18 is clearly biased in favor of the false teaching called soul sleep.
  • Matthew 25:46:
          -"I have no choice but to end your lives, because in my kingdom everyone cares about everyone else.” (Clear Word Bible)
          -"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (English Standard Version)
            *This verse has been altered so drastically in the Seventh-Day Adventist's Clear Word Bible that it barely resembles how reputable translations render Matthew 25:46.
  • John 10:30:
          -"You see, my Father and I are so close, we're one." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"I and the Father are one." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"I and the Father are one." (English Standard Version)
            *The Seventh-Day Adventist rendering of this text is problematical because it describes a relational oneness rather than ontological. The oneness spoken of in John 10:30 is of being, the nature of God, not merely a relational closeness.
  • Hebrews 4:9:
          -"So there still remains the offer of spiritual rest that God intends for each generation to have, of which the Sabbath is a symbol." (Clear Word Bible)
          -"So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." (New American Standard Bible)
          -"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." (English Standard Version)
            *This passage when taken in context plainly tells us that it is through Jesus Christ that we enter into the promised rest of God. It has nothing to do with Christians observing a weekly Sabbath.
          -"I do not think anyone should trust The Clear Word as a reliable translation of the Bible, or even as a useful paraphrase. It repeatedly distorts the teaching of the Bible. It removes significant content that is in the original Hebrew or Greek, and adds new ideas that are not found in the original texts. Verse after verse has been changed simply to support unusual Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, but these changes are not supported by reliable translations such as the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, RSV, or NIV, or even by dynamic equivalence translations such as the New Living Translation or free paraphrases such as The Message. I was deeply troubled as I read various verses because it was clear that these verses were no longer the words of God only, but the words of God mixed in with many words of man, and ordinary readers of The Clear Word will not be able to tell the difference."

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Is It Wrong To Celebrate Easter?

        It would be inaccurate to consider Easter, also known as Resurrection Sunday, a pagan holiday. Christians have for centuries set aside that time to specifically celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That day was formally recognized as such when Roman Emperor Constantine called for the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. The annual dating for this holiday is determined by moon cycles as was the Jewish Passover, though both religious observances are distinct. Differences in timing and how the Easter celebration was to take place can be traced back to the earlier second century.

        Any parallels to pagan symbolism would be the result of primitive believers interacting with the culture of their day. Nonetheless, customs and traditions are not inherently sinful (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Scripture records believers assembling on Sunday (Acts 20:7-12), yet it nowhere mandates us to gather on that day. Is the church service being conducted in accordance with the Word of God? Thus, we see what amounts to a biblically permitted tradition. The question of Easter is one that deserves fair treatment.

        Most things nowadays have pagan parallels, which would even include the names of planets in our solar system and days of the week. Can we do anything at all? Can we use anything? Similarities do not in and of themselves prove something to be evil or malicious. Similarities do not inherently prove a logical connection or association. Symbols are subject to reinterpretation and can therefore be reused.  If pagans once did something, that does not necessarily mean Christians cannot do them for good reasons or simply for fun. Pagans also eat, walk, talk, and breath.

        Resurrection Sunday was celebrated by Christians long before it was made about the mythical creature called the Easter Bunny. The holiday points us to Christ, namely His resurrection. That historical event is of pivotal significance to our faith. If Jesus Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our faith would be in vain. That point is certainly worthy of repeated commemoration. Such a ceremony does not exceed or violate the principles of Scripture.

        Claims of Easter being pagan originated with pagans themselves and secularists who detest the truth of the gospel. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. No mere man has the power to make a day that God created corrupt. Christians who dogmatically condemn the celebration are guilty of making category errors and oversimplifications. No sacrifices or homage is given to false gods in the process. The English term Easter comes from the Old German word "erstehen," which means coming back to life. It does not pertain to the celebration of anything pagan.

        The form of compromise (which Easter is not) Scripture condemns is that which hinders service or allegiance rightfully belonging to God alone. There comes a point when separation no longer resembles a desire to grow in sanctification but a religious recluse. The latter is not the way God wants us to be. If we were to be absolutely disconnected from the world, then He would have to remove us at this very instant. We are to engage the culture with our beliefs, but lovingly stand firm in so doing.

        Even the act of painting eggs or the idea of imaginary rabbits are nothing more than childish means of entertainment. Such is not inherently involved or related to the worship of idols. Whether or not a Christian chooses to observe Easter is entirely a matter of conscience or personal preference. It is not meant to be a test of orthodoxy. It is not a matter to break fellowship over.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Does The Roman Catholic Eucharist Entail Cannibalism?

  • Discussion:
          -Tim Staples of Catholic Answers wrote an article with the intent of addressing the charge of transubstantiation entailing cannibalism. The author provides three lines of reasoning as to why he believes that particular objection to be invalid, which will be examined here as follows:

         "First, Catholics do not receive our Lord in a cannibalistic form. Catholics receive him in the form of bread and wine. The cannibal kills his victim; Jesus does not die when he is consumed in Communion. Indeed, he is not changed in the slightest; the communicant is the only person who is changed. The cannibal eats part of his victim, whereas in Communion the entire Christ is consumed—body, blood, soul, and divinity. The cannibal sheds the blood of his victim; in Communion our Lord gives himself to us in a non-bloody way."

          The Roman Catholic Eucharist does indeed imply cannibalism, since it includes literally consuming the human flesh of Jesus Christ. Eating only part of a victim does not remedy this dilemma. A cannibal does not cease to qualify fitting under that label just because he has eaten a whole victim or does so in a different manner.

          How can one consume blood in a non-bloody fashion? How can one eat soul and divinity when chewing is a physical process?

          "Second, if it were truly immoral in any sense for Christ to give us his flesh and blood to eat, it would be contrary to his holiness to command anyone to eat his body and blood—even symbolically. Symbolically performing an immoral act would be of its nature immoral."

          The usage of symbolism does not suggest as a logical consequence a literal understanding or act practiced. Jesus Christ is our source of spiritual life. We partake of Him by trusting in His work on a continual basis. He is not life to us because we literally eat His flesh and drink His blood.

          How come the inspired writers of the New Testament never clarified that the eucharist was not cannibalism?

          "Moreover, the expressions to eat flesh and to drink blood already carried symbolic meaning both in the Hebrew Old Testament and in the Greek New Testament, which was heavily influenced by Hebrew. In Psalm 27:1-2, Isaiah 9:18-20, Isaiah 49:26, Micah 3:3, and Revelation 17:6-16, we find these words (eating flesh and drinking blood) understood as symbolic for persecuting or assaulting someone. Jesus’ Jewish audience would never have thought he was saying, “Unless you persecute and assault me, you shall not have life in you.” Jesus never encouraged sin. This may well be another reason why the Jews took Christ at his word."

           Just because a figurative expression has a negative connotation in certain contexts, it does not follow such always has that same meaning or intention. That would be an exegetical fallacy. Interpreting the teaching of Christ during the Bread of Life Discourse as being a reference to transubstantiation misses the entire point of the passage. See this article for more details:


           Transubstantiation conflicts with the nature of the miracles that take place throughout Scripture. Two examples would include the marriage at Cana (John 2:1-10) and the doubting Thomas touching the resurrected Christ's pierced hands and feet (John 20:26-29). Unlike the eucharist, scriptural miracles were recognizable to the five senses.

          If transubstantiation is true, then the consecrated elements should taste like human flesh and blood. But that is obviously not the case. The communion elements taste like bread and wine even after consecration by the priest. The literalist interpretation of the Lord's Supper is absurd beyond all measure. There is something wrong with a proposition which tells us that things are not consistent to the reality of our surroundings.

          If transubstantiation is true, then that would mean the full human body of Christ is literally inside the stomachs of partakers during the liturgical service. Even getting His entire body into our mouths at one time would be an impossibility. These conclusions are nonsense, as our digestive system would obviously be holding far beyond its natural capacity.

          Jesus Christ has a material body, just as we all do. That means His body and blood would have been consumed a long time ago. His body and blood would have been all eaten up. His body and blood would have been gone two thousand years ago, thereby making transubstantiation in future generations a logical impossibility! Nothing is sacrificed during the Mass except one's own common sense.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Is The Roman Catholic Eucharist A Fulfillment Of The Jewish Passover?

  • Discussion:
          -Roman Catholic apologist De Maria wrote an article titled The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Mass, in which he tries linking the sacrifice of the Mass to the Passover feast. He also responds to certain objections to Roman Catholic theology based on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Each of the author's claims in regards to the Mass will be analyzed in this article as follows:

          "The Mass is our Passover feast. Because Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Perhaps you refuse to keep the Feast. But we don’t."

          1 Corinthians 5:7-8 says that Jesus Christ is our Passover. He died on the cross. That is what the slaughter of the Passover lamb typified, not some miraculous change of the communion elements into the literal body and blood of Christ. The point of this passage is that when we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we are to do so without malice. It does not specifically address the mode in which we partake of Christ in communion.

          "If you choose to deny, denigrate, disparage, dishonor and disannul the Mass, then Christ died in vain for you. (Hebrews 10:25-31)" 

          Hebrews chapter ten says nothing regarding the sacrifice of the Mass. Rather, it addresses the singular act of Jesus Christ at Calvary. The people who forsake Him have denied the only sacrifice available for sin. Note that this context denies the work of Jesus is ongoing or reenacted (Hebrews 10:18). That point is stated emphatically.

          "Did you not understand that the Eucharist is the self same sacrifice that took place on Calvary?"

          That is merely begging the question. No explanation of how or why is given for us to believe that the eucharist is the same sacrifice that took place on Calvary.

          "Here is what Protestants miss and don’t understand. And the reason they don’t understand is because they don’t understand the Scriptures."

          Must a "Protestant" become a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon in order to see those particular systems of doctrine in Scripture? This actually sounds like something the Gnostics would have said with their emphasis of obtaining "higher knowledge" about God upon joining their sect. De Maria reads foreign ideas into Scripture as he engages in circular reasoning and strains typology beyond its original intent.

          "In the Old Testament, we learn that Sacrifice is not simply the slaughter of the victim. Sacrifice is also the offering of the Victim. And Sacrifice is also the consuming of the Victim. Christ takes care of the first two aspects of His Sacrifice. We participate in the same Sacrifice by consuming the Passover. Have you not read in Scripture (Exodus 12:1-10)?"

           It is a non-sequitur to say that we eat the literal body of Christ during the Lord's Supper because the Israelites ate the flesh of the animals that they sacrificed. Further, no transubstantiation took place in the sacrifices of the Old Testament. The Lord's Supper is a New Testament institution. It is the New Covenant form of Passover. However, no transubstantiation takes place in the latter any more than it did in the former.

          "[Responding to Hebrews 9:22] We believe that the wine becomes the Blood of Christ. Therefore, Blood is involved. But it is not visible to the eye of flesh. By faith alone does one discern this Blood of Christ in the Cup of Salvation. (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:27). Therefore, the Blood of our Lord is consumed in the Eucharist and that is why it is propitiatory for our sins."

          Nice try with the use of flowery philosophical language, but Hebrews 9:22 is still a problem because there is no blood shed during the Mass. That is the means by which atonement and forgiveness of sin is enabled. So it does not actually have propitiatory value as Rome teaches.

           Observe Paul's analogy of the body of Christ to the Jewish altar. Did the Jews eat pieces of the table? Are we literally one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17)? The reference to "partaking of Christ" is obviously not meant to be understood literally. We do so through faith by looking at the memorial.

          If sacrifices for sin have to continually be made, then those offerings have insufficient power to redeem lost souls (Hebrews 9:13-14; 10:1-2; 10-11; 18). Thus, the eucharist of the Roman Catholic Church is idolatry and blasphemous.

          "Where do you get the Blood of Christ which you claim washes away your sins, since you deny the Eucharist?"

          Christ translated His literal blood to the heavenly sanctuary so that it could be applied to the Mercy Seat and sprinkled on believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:12-28).

          "[Responding to Hebrews 7:27] True. But if that means that Christ no longer offers Himself to the Father, why is the Lamb standing in heaven as though slain (Revelation 5:6)?"

          Revelation 5:6 is imagery describing eschatology, not the eternal state of Christ. It is using imagery to identify Christ as the one who has been slain, not as one who is continually being slain. The context indicates that His work is a completed action:

          "And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." (Revelation 5:6, emphasis added)

          "And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9, emphasis added)

           "Saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12, emphasis added)

          The Apostle John's message is perfectly consistent with the author of Hebrews. How it is even possible to re-present a once-for-all sacrifice? Jesus Christ completely paid our debt of sin at the Cross. His work has already been accomplished in full.

          "[Responding to Hebrews 9:12] Well, He did. How does this contradict the Mass. It is because He did that we can celebrate the Mass."

           Jesus died once for all. His one sacrifice is complete and perfect. It will never be repeated or ongoing. It is not like the Old Covenant sacrifices, which were repeatedly offered because they could never actually atone for sin.

          "[Responding to Hebrews 9:26-28] This also does not speak against the Mass, but confirms it."

          The Roman Catholic Mass is contradicted because the text tells us that Christ is only going to appear twice with the later time to bring salvation for those who believe. Moreover, Christ's work is contrasted with the work of the Old Testament high priests whose work was ongoing.

          "[Responding to Hebrews 10:10] Yes. Once for ALLLLLLLLL. That includes us. And the benefits of the Sacrifice of Christ, are applied to us, in the Mass."

          Jesus Christ was offered up once for eternity. It is that single act by which our redemption was made possible. Only Christ could offer Himself up (John 10:17-18). He made His sacrifice one time. He died one time. It is not happening today because it was finished at Calvary. His work has already been accomplished. The benefits of the Cross are applied to us by faith (Romans 5:1-2; Romans 8:1).

          "[Responding to Romans 6:9-10] Excellent! It is Protestants who accuse us of killing Christ over and over. But we don’t believe that at all. We simply obey His Word and “do this in remembrance” of Him. We “re-present” the once for all sacrifice upon the altar as He commanded. Yes, we have an “altar”. It is the Table of the Lord. But it is an altar of Sacrifice (Hebrews 13:10)."

          There cannot be an atonement sacrifice without the death of a victim. This only goes to show that the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation requires us to believe that which is totally unimaginable! In fact, the notion of "re-presenting" a once-for-all sacrifice sounds similar to the time traveling that we read of in science fiction literature.

           In Hebrews 13:10, it is not clear at all that the reference is to the eucharist. It seems rather to be talking about the cross, the salvation, and benefits of Christ, which we have in Him.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Evangelicals And The Annihilation Of Hell

                                                By Alan W. Gomes

From the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1991, page 8. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.

In Part One of this article I discussed how some prominent evangelicals recently have abandoned the doctrine of eternal, conscious punishment for the wicked in favor of various annihilation theories. I also examined the scriptural teaching on the doctrine of hell, paying particular attention to key passages from the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Revelation. From our investigation, we saw that the biblical teaching on the fate of the unsaved is clear: they will experience conscious torment of unending duration.

From what we saw in Part One, we might well question how anyone who claims to believe in the authority of Scripture -- as the evangelical annihilationists do -- could affirm anything but the traditional teaching. Evangelical annihilationists counter that they have rational and biblical evidence to support their position. In Part Two of this article, we will examine some of the main arguments advanced by annihilationists in support of their theory.

In the short space available it is not possible to present every proof annihilationists could marshal in defense of their position -- just as there was not enough space in Part One to advance many of the arguments supporting the orthodox position. In Part One, I selected what I consider to be the strongest arguments in favor of the traditional teaching. In this concluding installment I will do the same in presenting the annihilationists' case. In selecting these arguments I have tried to discern which ones the annihilationists themselves regard as the strongest. These proofs appear in virtually every defense of the annihilationist view.

When annihilationists present their case, their evidence generally falls into one of three basic categories. First we have the moral arguments, which maintain that the traditional teaching on hell would -- if true -- involve immoral actions on God's part. Second are linguistic arguments, based on the meaning of key biblical terms used to describe the final fate of the wicked. Third are exegetical arguments that attempt to neutralize verses the traditionalists commonly offer in proof of their position (such as those expounded in Part One). We will consider evidence from each of these three categories. (A fourth category, that the traditional doctrine is derived from the Platonic notion of the soul's immortality, was adequately answered in Part One.)


Annihilationists frequently complain that it would be immoral for God to inflict everlasting torture on His creatures. Clark Pinnock regards the doctrine of endless punishment as "morally flawed" and a "moral enormity."[1] If the "outrageous doctrine" of the traditionalists were true, God would be a "cruel" and "vindictive" deity. In fact, He would be "more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards...." Indeed, the traditionalist's God is a "bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom he does not even allow to die."[2]

Annihilationists commonly argue that endless torment represents a punishment far in excess of the offense committed. John Stott maintains that if the traditional teaching were true, there would be "a serious disproportion between sins consciously committed in time and the torment consciously experienced throughout eternity."[3] Likewise, Pinnock states, "it would amount to inflicting infinite suffering upon those who have committed finite sin. It would go far beyond an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. There would be a serious disproportion between sins committed in time and the suffering experienced forever."[4] Such vindictiveness, we are told, is totally incompatible with the character of God and utterly unacceptable to "sensitive Christians."[5] It would "serve no purpose" and be an act of "sheer vengeance and vindictiveness," which is "out of keeping with the love of God revealed in the gospels."[6]

Stott and Pinnock's argument that "sins committed in time cannot be worthy of eternal suffering" is fallacious. It assumes that the heinousness of a crime is directly related to the time it takes to commit it. But such a connection is nonexistent. Some crimes, such as murder, may take only a moment to commit, whereas it may take a thief hours to load up a moving van with someone's possessions. Yet, murder is a far more serious crime than theft.[7]

Second, the nature of the object against which the sin is committed, as well as the nature of the sin itself, must be taken into account when determining the degree of heinousness. As W. G. T. Shedd observes, stealing in general is a crime, but stealing from one's mother is even more despicable because one owes special allegiance to one's parents. Torturing an animal is a crime, but torturing a human being is an even greater crime, worthy of greater punishment. The criminal act is the same in each case (i.e., stealing and torture), as is the person committing the act. But "the different worth and dignity of the objects upon whom his action terminates makes the difference in the gravity of the two offenses."[8]

How much more serious, then, is even the slightest offense against an absolutely holy God, who is worthy of our complete and perpetual allegiance?[9] Indeed, sin against an absolutely holy God is absolutely serious. For this reason, the unredeemed suffer absolute, unending alienation from God; this alienation is the essence of hell. It is the annihilationist's theory that is morally flawed. Their God is not truly holy, for he does not demand that sin receive its due.

The reason these "sensitive Christians" have such an emotional problem with hell is because they, in the words of Anselm, "have not as yet estimated the great burden of sin."[10] If they truly saw sin as God does (recognizing that no sinner can do so perfectly), they would not have the slightest problem with the doctrine. Indeed, they would find themselves distraught if God did not punish sin for all eternity.


Annihilationists believe they can make a case for their theory based on the meaning of key biblical terms used to describe the ultimate fate of the wicked. LeRoy Edwin Froom, in his book The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, presents a list of seventy words that he says demonstrate total annihilation.[11] On the basis of these words, Froom exults triumphantly that "no loopholes are left."[12] Edward W. Fudge likewise cites this list, and concludes: "Without exception they portray destruction, extinction or extermination."[13]

Space will not permit us to examine all or even many of the words that Froom, Fudge, Stott, and others offer to establish their position. We should note, however, that many of the words in Froom's "impressive, cumulative array" of seventy terms do not even merit examination.[14] For example, he lists words like "tear" and "tread down" as proof of annihilation -- as if a torn piece of paper has been removed from existence! Here, we will consider a few of the words that at least offer the possibility of teaching annihilation. By refuting these examples, I will demonstrate the flaws in their method generally.[15]

"Destroy," "Perish," and "Cut Off"

Annihilationists believe that words like "perish," "destroy," and "cut off" indicate total annihilation. Fudge declares that these words "seem clearly to say what the conditionalist wishes to convey....and the conditionalist is confident that the ordinary man in the street can tell us what those words usually mean to him."[16]

The most common term translated "destroy" in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word abad. It is used to describe the fate of the wicked, as in, for example, Proverbs 11:10. But should we understand this destruction to mean total annihilation?

It is clear from other Old Testament passages using this word that abad need not mean annihilation.[17] The word has a range of meaning. For example, Numbers 21:29 says that the people of Chemosh were "destroyed" (abad). But this is a reference to their being sold into slavery, not to their annihilation. In 1 Samuel 9:3 and 20, the word is used in reference to Saul's "lost donkeys" (athonoth abadoth). In this context, the word means "lost," not "annihilated." In Psalm 31:12, a vessel is "broken" (abad), not annihilated. Here, the meaning is that the vessel is rendered unfit for use, not that it has lapsed into nonexistence. It simply is not true that abad, "without exception," must mean annihilation.[18]

Evildoers are also said to be "cut off." Fudge and Pinnock both cite Psalm 37:22, 28, 34, and 38 as representative.[19] These verses, they believe, prove the utter annihilation of the wicked. The word used here is carath. But note that this same word is used to describe the Messiah being "cut off" (Dan. 9:26), who certainly was not annihilated. Even if one admits that the wicked are "annihilated" in the sense of being removed from earthly existence (as Jesus was), this would not prove that they are removed from any existence.

Turning to the New Testament, annihilationists claim that the Greek word apollumi conveys total annihilation. Stott asserts that the verb apollumi means "destroy," and the noun apoleia means "destruction." He cites Matthew 2:13, 12:14, and 27:4, which refer to Herod's desire to destroy the baby Jesus, and the later Jewish plot to have Him executed. Stott then mentions Matthew 10:28 (cf. James 4:12): "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy [apolesai] both soul and body in hell."[20] He regards this "destruction" as a reference to the soul's total annihilation in hell. Stott also offers the contrast between believers and unbelievers as manifest proof: "If believers are hoi sozomenoi (those who are being saved), then unbelievers are hoi apollumenoi(those who are perishing). This phrase occurs in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2 Corinthians 2:15; 4:3, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:10."[21] He believes that this language of destruction points to the total annihilation of the wicked.

Stott concludes: "It would seem strange, therefore, if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed;...it is difficult to imagine a perpetually inconclusive process of perishing."[22]
Careful scrutiny of passages using these words shows, however, that they do not teach annihilation. Consider 1 Corinthians 1:18, one of the passages cited by Stott. This passage tells us that "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing [tois apollumenois]." This participle is in the present tense, which, as Robert Reymond rightly notes, "describes existing people who are presently perishing. The verb does not suggest that their future state will be non-existence."[23]

As Reymond points out, Luke 15:8-9 uses the word to describe the lost but existing coin. In Luke 15:4 and 6 it describes the lost but existing sheep. The prodigal (but existing) son is described by this term in Luke 15:17, 24.[24] Murray Harris cites other passages, such as John 11:50, Acts 5:37, 1 Corinthians 10:9-10, and Jude 11, where the concept of destruction (apoleia) or perishing (apolusthai) need not imply annihilation.[25] Indeed, as Albrecht Oepke remarks in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, "What is meant here [in passages speaking of divine judgment] is not a simple extinction of existence, but an everlasting state of torment and death."[26]

It is true that apoleia is often translated "destruction" or "ruin." But Charles Hodge explains how "destruction" or "ruin" differs from annihilation: "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....A soul is utterly and forever destroyed when it is reprobated, alienated from God, rendered a fit companion only for the devil and his angels."[27]

Roger Nicole offers an illustration that highlights in a very lucid way the truth of Hodge's explanation. We speak of an automobile as wrecked, ruined, demolished, or "totalled," "not only when its constituent parts have been melted or scattered away, but also when they have been so damaged and twisted that the car has become completely unserviceable."[28]

Annihilationists also point to words translated "consume" or "consumed" in the Old and New Testaments as proof that the wicked are annihilated. Pinnock states, for example, that the Bible repeatedly "uses the imagery of fire consuming (not torturing) what is thrown into it. The images of fire and destruction together strongly suggest annihilation rather than unending torture."[29] Pinnock then cites Malachi 4:1 as a case in point.

Stott likewise claims that the imagery of fire does not refer to conscious torment, even though all of us who have experienced being burned have felt acute pain. He says that the main function of fire is not to cause pain but to secure destruction, as in the case of an incinerator. The Bible speaks of a "consuming fire" and of "burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:12; cf. Luke 3:17).

Stott concludes, "The fire itself is termed 'eternal' and 'unquenchable' but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proved indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which 'rises forever and ever' (Rev. 14:11; cf. 19:3)."[30]

In response, Robert Morey and others have shown conclusively that the Hebrew words translated "consume" are used in many contexts where the meaning cannot possibly be annihilation (e.g., Ps. 78:45; Lam. 3:4; Ezek. 13:13; etc.).[31] (Since space does not permit an exposition of these passages, I refer the interested reader to Morey's fine discussion.) Therefore, we should not assume automatically that the mere presence of the word "consume" ipso facto proves annihilation. Context is always determinative.

Now, let us grant that fire normally represents that which consumes or annihilates its fuel until nothing but ashes are left. Normal fire dies out once the fuel has been consumed. But the fire of judgment is no normal fire: it is described as an eternal fire (Jude 7) which is unquenchable (Mark 9:48). The fact that the smoke is said to rise "forever and ever" is not evidence that "the fire has done its work," as Stott wrongly infers, but rather that the fire is doing its work through a process of endless combustion. Stott replaces the "unquenchable" fire of Jesus with the "quenchable" fire of the annihilationists.

The same argument holds for the undying worms (Mark 9:48). Worms are able to live as long as there is food for them to consume. Once their food supply has been consumed, the worms eventually die. But the torments of hell are likened to undying, not dying worms. This is because their supply of food -- the wicked -- never ceases.


Adherents of the annihilationist position believe that they have the teaching of Scripture on their side, and that they are able to answer the arguments advanced by the traditionalists in support of eternal, conscious punishment. But is this really the case?

In Part One I put forth a few selected texts to demonstrate the doctrine of eternal punishment. I stated my conviction that these texts alone are sufficient to settle the matter once and for all. Let us see how annihilationists attempt to answer the challenge of these texts, and whether they succeed at doing so.

Matthew 25:46

Consider the approach of John Stott:
    At the end of the so-called parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus contrasted "eternal life" with "eternal punishment" (Matt. 25:46). Does that not indicate that in hell people endure eternal conscious punishment? No, that is to read into the text what is not necessarily there. What Jesus said is that both the life and the punishment would be eternal, but he did not in that passage define the nature of either. Because he elsewhere spoke of eternal life as a conscious enjoyment of God (Jn. 17:3), it does not follow that eternal punishment must be a conscious experience of pain at the hand of God. On the contrary, although declaring both to be eternal, Jesus is contrasting the two destinies: the more unlike they are, the better.[32]
Stott is incorrect in asserting that the passage "does not define the nature of either [eternal life or eternal punishment]." As we observed in Part One, the mere fact that the wicked are said to experience "punishment" (Greek: kolasin) proves two inescapable facts by the nature of the case: the existence of the one punished, and the conscious experience of the punishment. If either of these two are lacking, then punishment is not occurring -- at least not in any meaningful sense of the term.
Someone cannot be punished eternally unless that someone is there to receive the punishment. One can exist and not be punished, but one cannot be punished and not exist. Nonentities cannot receive punishment. Now, it is possible that one could receive punishment for a time and then be annihilated.

In that case, we would have a finite time of punishment followed by a finite process of annihilating (i.e., the actual time it takes to accomplish the annihilation), followed by an unending result of the annihilating process. But the Bible uses the adjective "eternal" to describe the punishment itself, not merely the result of the punishment.

But mere existence is not enough either. One cannot "punish" a rock or a tree, even though these might exist. Annihilationists (e.g., Pinnock[33]) sometimes complain that traditionalists "smuggle" the word "conscious" into their descriptions of punishment. But really, the traditionalist need not "smuggle" anything into the description. Once we have said the word "punishment" we have also said, at least by implication, the word "conscious." Punishment, per se, is conscious or it is not punishment. A punishment that is not felt is not a punishment. It is an odd use of language to speak of an insensate (i.e., unfeeling), inanimate object receiving punishment. To say, "I punished my car for not starting by slowly plucking out its sparkplug wires, one by one," would evoke laughter, not serious consideration.

Stott's axiom, "The more unlike they [i.e., heaven and hell] are, the better," actually harms his own case. If heaven represents unutterable joy, then hell should be unutterable sorrow. Yet, the whole point of the annihilationist's argument is to mitigate the horror of eternal suffering for the lost, not to increase it.

Revelation 20:10

Since Matthew 25:46 is more than adequate to refute annihilationism, we could stop here. But in Part One we saw that Revelation 20:10 is also an exceedingly clear passage teaching eternal punishment for the lost. Even if we conceded Matthew 25:46 to the annihilationists, what could they possibly say in response to John's words: "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever"?

Clark Pinnock on Revelation 20:10

Pinnock states that in Revelation 20:10 "it is the Devil, the Beast, and the false prophet who are the only ones present, and they cannot be equated with ordinary human beings, however we should understand their nature. John's point seems to be that everything which has rebelled against God will come to an absolute end."[34]

Well, first of all, even if Pinnock's point is that "everything which has rebelled against God will come to an absolute end," John's point is that the Devil, beast, and false prophet will be tormented day and night, forever and ever. To read the text is to refute Pinnock.
Second, Pinnock's statement that the Devil, beast, and false prophet "cannot be equated with ordinary human beings, however we should understand their nature" is both ambiguous and proves nothing, however one wishes to interpret it. Of course an angel's nature is different than a human being's nature. But the point of "equivalence" is not the nature of the beings (i.e., angels as disembodied spirits vs. human beings as psycho-physical unities), but their ultimate fate. I demonstrated clearly in Part One that the fate of wicked humans is "equated" with the fate of the Devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 14:11; 19:20; 20:15).

Besides, even in terms of nature, the Devil (and other angelic beings) can be equated with humans in this respect: both are personal, sensate (i.e., feeling) beings who can experience conscious torment. Consider, for example, Matthew 8:29, where the demons exclaim to Jesus, "Have you come here to torment us before the time?" This shows clearly that demons can be tormented.

If Pinnock allows that Revelation 20:10 proves even the Devil's unending torment, as the form of his argument implies, he will have annihilated one of the main pillars of his position: the belief that finite creatures are incapable of committing infinite sin ("however sinful they may have been"[35]), and thus cannot be punished justly with unending torment.

John Stott on Revelation 20:10

Let us see how John Stott handles this same passage. He declares, "The beast, the false prophet and the harlot, however, are not individual people but symbols of the world in its varied hostility to God. In the nature of the case they cannot experience pain. Nor can 'Death and Hades,' which follow them into the lake of fire (20:13)."[36]

If the beast, the false prophet, and the harlot are only abstract symbols -- with no relation to individual people -- then Stott is certainly correct in saying that they cannot experience pain. Symbols, being abstractions, cannot be tortured. However, the text says that these three are tortured.

It is well and good to deny that abstractions can be tortured. But then Stott should tell us what the text does mean when it describes these alleged abstractions as "tormented day and night." Yet, no explanation whatever is offered. We are left with two possible conclusions: (1) that the three are not mere abstractions (contrary to Stott's exegesis); or (2) that Revelation 20:10 is pure gibberish (contrary to the character of God, who inspired the text). If forced to choose between such an exegesis or God's character, the choice is obvious: the beast, false prophet, and harlot are not mere abstractions but have reference to individual people.

Now, even if we allow that these three are "symbols of the world in its varied hostility to God," we must admit that the world which they symbolize is made up of individual people who are the ones exercising the hostility. If abstractions cannot be tortured, neither can they express hostility. At some level, then, these symbols must designate real people. The same can be said for the expression "death and hades." That is to say, it is individuals held in the power of death and occupying hades who are cast into the lake of fire. This is made exceedingly clear by verses 13-15 of the same chapter.

For the sake of discussion, let us grant to Stott the impossible: the beast, false prophet, and harlot are abstract symbols with no real reference to individual people. Is Stott prepared to say the same about the Devil? Certainly Stott still believes in a personal devil. But the text says, "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." As we observed when refuting Pinnock's argument, the annihilationists fall on their own sword: finite beings, they tell us, cannot be punished with infinite punishment. Since none of the annihilationists are prepared to ascribe infinity (and, hence, true deity) to Satan, they must abandon their "moral" argument.

Edward Fudge on Revelation 20:10

Edward Fudge is recognized by many within the annihilationist camp as the standard-bearer for the position. What does the apostle of annihilationism say in response to this verse?
    This is the single most problematic text in the whole Bible for the extinction of all evil, even though it does not specify human beings. In view of the overwhelming mass of material otherwise found throughout Scripture, however, one ought to remember the general hermeneutical rule that calls for interpreting the uncommon in light of the common and the obscure in light of the more clearly revealed.[37]
I can paraphrase the essence of Fudge's response as follows: "We know from elsewhere in the Bible that annihilationism is true. Therefore, this verse cannot possibly mean what it says."

What about the hermeneutical principle Fudge invokes, "unclear passages should be interpreted by the clear ones"? Fine. Let us admit his principle. We have already shown that the passages advanced in favor of the annihilation theory can, and often must, be interpreted in the traditional sense. But what is ambiguous about Revelation 20:10, in so far as the doctrine of eternal, conscious torment for the lost is concerned?[38]

Is the word "devil" ambiguous? As seen throughout Fudge's writings, he believes in a personal, malignant spirit-being called the Devil. There is no ambiguity here.

How about the expression, "lake of fire and brimstone"? What is ambiguous about that? Certainly, when God threatens sinners with the lake of fire and brimstone, they do not immediately scratch their heads and ask for clarification. Fudge argues that the term "lake of fire" is "but a symbol for annihilation."[39] But, if we might borrow the words of Fudge himself, the traditionalist "is confident that the ordinary man in the street can tell us what those words usually mean to him." Given the fact that the place described in Revelation 20:10 is a place of unremitting torment, annihilation does not (and cannot) come naturally to mind! Now, we did note in Part One that many traditionalists do not regard the "fire" of Gehenna as being a kind of material fire, but as symbolic of something far worse. Regardless of one's stand on that question, this "ambiguity" does not affect the argument here. The "fire" of Gehenna is at least as bad as the material fire we know in this life.

How about the expression, "beast and false prophet"? Like Stott, Fudge regards the language as "symbolic," referring to "political power and apostate religious beguilement." He concludes that these "are not persons who can be tortured in fire."[40] We already saw the futility of this "symbolic vs. personal" interpretation in connection with Stott.[41] But even allowing that the beast and false prophet are neither individual people nor symbolic of individual people, one cannot escape the fact that the Devil is an individual and that he is tormented day and night, forever and ever. Here Fudge is on the ropes, and grudgingly admits, "There is no easy solution." But then he adds, "Yet to this point no human beings are involved in the lake of fire, nor does this passage say that any of Adam's race are tormented forever and ever."[42] Of course, verse 10 does not mention humans, but one need only look at verse 15 of the same chapter -- not to mention Matthew 25:41, Revelation 14:11, and Revelation 19:20 -- to see that Satan's human followers experience the same fate as he.

If Revelation 20:10 teaches the eternal, conscious torment of the Devil (as indeed it does), then that fact alone annihilates the annihilationist's entire system because: (1) The Devil's eternal punishment reduces to ashes their "no infinite punishment for finite sin" defense. (2) It also shows that eternal, conscious punishment against a sensate, finite, sinful being is moral -- and if it can be moral in one case, it can be moral in others. (3) It leaves the traditionalist in a position to prove his entire case simply by showing that unregenerate sinners experience the same fate as the Devil and his angels, a task that is quite easy to do.

How about the word "tormented" (basanizo)? What is unclear about that? We examined the consistent scriptural usage of this word in Part One. We already observed that Fudge tacitly admits the obvious meaning of this term -- at least in the Devil's case. But in the case of his "abstractions" (i.e., the beast and false prophet), Fudge, like Stott, tells us that abstractions cannot be tormented. He then leaves us hanging as to what John could have possibly intended by such a meaningless expression.

Finally, is there something ambiguous about the phrase, "day and night forever and ever"? Here we find the emphatic form eis tous aionas ton aionon ("unto the ages of the ages"). This construction is used only to describe unending duration. We saw in Part One that this phrase is the most emphatic way of expressing endless duration possible in the Greek language.

Superior Sensitivity or Secular Sentimentalism?

Pinnock speaks of the "sensitive Christians" who have no choice but to abandon the doctrine of hell in favor of a kinder and gentler fate for the wicked.[43] But as J. I. Packer observes, "the feelings that make people want conditionalism to be true seem to me to reflect, not superior spiritual sensitivity, but secular sentimentalism which assumes that in heaven our feelings about others will be as at present, and our joy in the manifesting of God's justice will be no greater than it is now."[44]

We should never forget that it was the Lord Jesus Christ, more than any other, who enunciated the doctrine of everlasting torment for the lost. Christ had no need to attend a modern sensitivity training workshop; He was "sensitivity incarnate." But He also manifested a perfect balance of love and justice. The same holy God who "shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire" (2 Thess. 1:7) is the God who stooped to become one of us, and bore the vengeance of God's fire in His own body on the tree. If God should open our eyes to understand the terrible price He paid, we would in that instant comprehend the awful guilt of spurning that price. If those who scorned the old covenant were consumed with the fire of this present age, "how much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant" (Heb. 10:29)?


Clark Pinnock, "Fire, Then Nothing," Christianity Today, 20 March 1987, 440; "The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," Criswell Theological Review 4, no. 2 (Spring 1990):246-47, 253.

2 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 246-47; 253.

3 David L. Edwards and John R. W. Stott, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 318.

4 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 255.

5 Pinnock, "Fire, Then Nothing," 40.

6 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 254-55. See also Stephen Travis, I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 199.

See W. G. T. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886; reprint, Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1980), 152-53. It is also possible to interpret Pinnock's and Stott's ambiguous language to mean that sins committed in the realm of time (i.e., sequential duration) cannot justly be punished in a timeless, eternal realm (i.e., eternity in the sense of an "eternal now"). At least in Pinnock's case, it hardly seems likely that this is what he intends, since elsewhere he has wrongly argued against understanding even God's existence -- much less the existence of His creatures -- as "timeless." But even if this were their intended meaning, the argument would be refuted simply by noting that the realm in which sinners suffer in hell is the same -- temporally speaking -- as the realm in which they committed the sins: it is a temporal realm. Sinners in hell, as well as saints in heaven, do not occupy "eternity" in the same sense that God does; that is, as an "eternal now." Sinners will experience their punishment in temporal sequence, just as the sins they committed took place in temporal sequence. An endless time of punishment is a time of punishment nonetheless.

Ibid., 152.

9 The infinity of guilt for sin against God was cogently argued by St. Anselm in the eleventh century in his epochal work, Cur Deus Homo? ("Why the God-Man?"). See especially Book 1, Chapters 20-24, 239-51. In St. Anselm: Basic Writings, trans. S. N. Deane (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing, 1962).

10 Ibid., 242.

11 LeRoy Edwin Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, 2 vols. (Washington, DC: The Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1965), 1:106-11.

12 Ibid., 1:107.

13 Edward W. Fudge, "The Final End of the Wicked," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 27 (September 1984):326.

14 Froom, 1:108.

15 Robert A. Morey deals with many more of these terms in his book, Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1984).

16 Edward W. Fudge, "'The Plain Meaning': A Review Essay," Henceforth 14 (1985):23-24.

17 See Morey, 109.

18 There are several other Hebrew words that are often rendered "destroy" or "ruin." For a discussion of these, see Morey, 108 ff. For additional evidence that "destroy" does not mean "annihilate," see Harry Buis, The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957), 125 ff.

19 Edward W. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes (Fallbrook, CA: Verdict Publications, 1982), 92-93; Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 250-51.

20 Edwards and Stott, 315.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid., 316.

23 Robert Reymond, "Dr. John Stott on Hell," Presbyterion 16 (Spring 1990):53.

24 See Reymond, 53; Albrecht Oepke, "apoleia," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 1 (1964), 397.

25 Murray J. Harris, Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 184. See also R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel(Columbus, OH: Wartburg, 1943), 297.

26 Oepke, 397.

27 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979 reprint edition), 3:874.

28 Roger Nicole, "Universalism: Will Everyone Be Saved?" Christianity Today, 20 March 1987, 34.

29 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 250.

30 Edwards and Stott, 316.

31 Morey, 110 ff.

32 Edwards and Stott, 317.

33 Pinnock, "Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," 256.

34 Ibid., 257.

35 Ibid., 247.

36 Edwards and Stott, 318.

37 Fudge, Final End of the Wicked, 332.

38 Some may wish to argue that the entire book of Revelation, being a symbolic and prophetic book, is "ambiguous." But even if symbolic language (like any language) has a range of meaning, the language is certainly not meaningless, nor can it mean anything anyone wishes it to. Even granting the reasonable range of meaning for the words in the passage before us, the traditional doctrine concerning hell is still affirmed. In any case, it is not necessary to defend the understanding of the Book of Revelation as a whole, since the annihilationists themselves grant this point. Even Fudge, who calls the Revelation 20:10 passage "obscure," draws whatever conclusions he can from the passage in support of his position. This will be evident as we proceed.

39 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 304.

40 Ibid.

41 The logic that should be followed here is clear, and is easily expressed as a syllogism: (1) Mere abstractions cannot be tormented. (2) The text says that the beast and false prophet are tormented. (3) Therefore, the beast and the false prophet cannot be mere abstractions. I say "mere" abstractions because I have no problem believing that these could be abstract symbols that refer ultimately to individual persons. In that case, through a figure of speech, one could speak of "tormenting" the symbol with the understanding that it is the people represented by the symbol that actually undergo the torment.

42 Fudge, The Fire That Consumes, 304.

43 Pinnock, "Fire, Then Nothing," 40.

44 J. I. Packer, "Evangelicals and the Way of Salvation: New Challenges to the Gospel -- Universalism, and Justification," in Evangelical Affirmations, ed. Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 126. In Part One, I stated that I do not believe that annihilationists hold their position merely out of sentimentalism. In citing Packer's remarks, I do not wish to take away with my left hand what I granted with the right. Nevertheless, while I will take the evangelical annihilationists at their word when they declare their belief in the authority of Scripture, it also seems that emotional factors have predisposed them to interpret the texts on hell in a less-than-objective manner.

                                       Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute

Monday, April 15, 2019

1 Timothy 3:16 And The Deity Of Jesus Christ

           "By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory." (1 Timothy 3:16)

           Some of the Greek New Testament manuscripts we possess contain a textual variant when it comes to the Greek word that is translated as "who" (who was revealed in the flesh) and the Greek word for "God." It seems likely for a number of reasons that the pronoun "who" is the original word in the original autographs penned by the Apostle Paul.

           It would have been tempting for a scribe who held to a high Christology, one who acknowledged Jesus Christ's full divinity, to change the word "who" for the "God" in emphasizing Christ's divinity. First of all, His deity is not the main aspect of the text in question. Secondly, the use of the pronoun is perfectly consistent with the manner in which Paul writes elsewhere in regard to Christ (Colossians 1:15; Philippians 2:5-11).

           Nonetheless, 1 Timothy 3:16 supports the deity of Christ in a subtle fashion. The language of "he was manifested in the flesh" suggests that He existed prior to His incarnation. He was not created, but took on human flesh. This text reflects a primitive Christian hymnal.

           The phrase "justified in the Spirit" refers to Christ resurrecting bodily from the grave (Romans 1:4; Ephesians 1:19-23). The phrase "seen of angels" points to Christ ascending into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The phrase "proclaimed among the nations" refers to His glory being revealed by the Holy Spirit through the gospel to the world (1 Corinthians 15:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:2-4). The phrase "taken up in glory" refers to Christ being exalted at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56-60). Jesus Christ is God incarnate. This note is also insightful as to how 1 Timothy 3:16 points to Christ's divinity:

           "Notably, the phrase “great indeed, is the mystery of godliness” may intentionally echo the phrase frequently heard in Ephesus: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28). If so, Paul is indirectly subverting the cult of Artemis, Ephesus’ patron goddess."

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Exposing The False Gospel Of Physical Well-being

        Prosperity gospel teachers such as Joel Olsteen are known for making fraudulent promises of physical recovery, financial blessings, and freedom from demonic influences to those who voluntarily donate large sums of money. It is claimed that God gives people who have enough faith a hundredfold in terms of wealth and health in addition to the forgiveness of God for sin provided at the Cross. Professing Christians who give money to prosperity gospel ministries are wrongly assured that God will materially reward them as a result of their contributions.

        The Columnist Tara Isabella Burton recounted the origin of the prosperity gospel in these words:

        "Its roots, though, don’t just lie in explicitly Christian tradition. In fact, it’s possible to trace the origins of the American prosperity gospel to the tradition of New Thought, a nineteenth-century spiritual movement popular with decidedly unorthodox thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James. Practitioners of New Thought, not all of whom identified as Christian, generally held the divinity of the individual human being and the priority of mind over matter. In other words, if you could correctly channel your mental energy, you could harness its material results. New Thought, also known as the “mind cure,” took many forms: from interest in the occult to splinter-Christian denominations like Christian Science to the development of the “talking cure” at the root of psychotherapy."

        The Encyclopedia Britannica says the following about the origin of the prosperity gospel:

        "The early 20th-century New Thought movement, a mind-healing movement based on diverse religious and metaphysical presuppositions, shaped the later development of prosperity gospel. Although the movement was not necessarily Christian, religious strains of New Thought generally emphasized the immanence of God, the divine nature of humanity, the immediate availability of God’s power to humans, and the belief that sin, human disorders, and human disease are basically matters of incorrect thinking. Moreover, according to New Thought, humans can live in oneness with God in love, truth, peace, health, and plenty, and many groups emphasized Jesus as teacher and healer and proclaimed his kingdom as being within a person."

        Needless to say, neither the origin nor the essence of prosperity theology is Christian. Jesus Christ promised spiritual as opposed to material blessings to those who obeyed His commandments. Moreover, we are not to follow Him with the intent of receiving things from God. That is not Christianity. The core of religion is not what God can do for us, but what we can do for the glory of God. We serve Him because He is worthy of being served.

        People involved in the Word of Faith Movement have been guilty of abuses of spiritual gifts when it is claimed that there are Christians not filled with the Holy Spirit. They do this when it is claimed that a lack of healthiness and wealth is due to a lack of trust in God. He is not involved in any system of doctrine that leaves one penniless and unable to care for one's own needs.

        Jesus Christ warned against a materialistic mindset when He spoke of storing up treasures in heaven:

        "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:19-24)

        Christ exposed in simple terms the vanity of accumulating riches for oneself in this life by pointing out the fact that items can be stolen and destroyed. They have no eternal value so they should not be our chief focus. The prosperity gospel reverses this order by insisting on having our best life here on this earth. Jesus Christ spoke of the difficulty a rich man has in becoming saved (Matthew 19:23). How can such a person place his trust in a God that he cannot see?

        A balanced view of personal finance has been laid out for us in the Old Testament:

        "Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:7-9)

        The point is not that wealth is bad as such, but that it is hard to keep God in one's own thoughts when he has extravagant means of physical comfort.

        The Apostle Paul stated that the love of money is a root of evil:

        "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

        The truth of these words has been proven time and time again. Many a life are like books illustrating the wisdom of the above saying. Money is not everything. It is not the key to lasting happiness or fulfillment. There is more to life than one's own riches.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Christians Can Speak Things Into Existence?

        A blatantly unbiblical idea present among people involved in the Word of Faith Movement is that Christians can use the "force" of faith to speak things into existence. In other words, faith is seen as the mechanism by which our words make personal wishes of health and prosperity come true. Nonetheless, this johnny-come-lately model of faith and prayer is utterly incompatible with everything that Scripture says regarding the sovereignty of God and the nature of His promises.

         The creation account of Genesis brings into light the grand majesty of our Creator. He spoke the entirety of the universe into existence ex nihilo. The fabric of life is sustained by His magnificent power. That provides an ideal description of deity. Thus, attributing the ability of creating things by command to human beings amounts to idolatry because that would also make us gods. Faith itself would become the object of worship. God Himself would essentially be dethroned of His unique position of honor and supremacy. We share traits such as emotion, intellect, and reason, but we are not partakers of His divine essence.

         Even the Egyptian magicians who were summoned by the Pharaoh to imitate the miracles performed by Moses recognized limits to their abilities (Exodus 8:18-19). The notion of people being capable of speaking things into existence is impossible because such a superpower transcends our physical limitations. If a person has been influenced by this dangerous deception, then he would do well to read Isaiah chapters forty through forty eight. That context goes on at length to tell us that there is literally nothing like God in terms of His power.

          Despite the major biblical problems with this teaching, some proponents have desperately tried finding biblical support for their reasoning. A classic example of eisegesis would be Romans 4:17, which says, "...the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not." But the Apostle Paul in this text is speaking of God, not man. It is He who works in us. Faith involves us trusting and depending on God. The purpose of us praying is to conform ourselves to His will (1 John 5:14). It is indeed a terrible misfortune to see so-called ministers such as Joel Olsteen, Joyce Meyer, and Kenneth Copeland promote such aberrational theology.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Holy Laughter Or Demon Inspired Nonsense?

  • Discussion:
          -The central focus of the Word of Faith Movement is health and prosperity. This loosely affiliated, diverse group upholds doctrine that ranges anywhere from outright bizarre to heretical. The Founding Father of the Word of Faith Movement is usually regarded as Kenneth E. Hagin, who was heavily influenced by E. W. Kenyon in the development of his theology. One of several problematic teachings prevalent in the Word of Faith Movement is the notion of holy laughter.

         These episodes of uncontrollable laughter are believed by proponents to be the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. In other words, these wildly emotional experiences are attributed to supernatural intervention. They are associated with what British newspapers have called the Toronto Blessing. This excerpt from the Online Encyclopedia provides further context as to the mysterious nature of such phenomena:

          "The Toronto Blessing, also known as "the Father's Blessing" or "the renewal," began in the storefront facility of the Toronto Airport Vineyard Fellowship in January 1994, when participants in revival services manifested intense physical responses to prayer—crying, twitching, shaking, uncontrollable laughter, and falling to the floor in a trancelike state that lasted for hours. Word spread quickly through the Vineyard Fellowship, and the meeting place soon teemed with visitors. By mid-1994, people flocked in from across North America and Britain. Soon the crowds became more diverse as Australians, Europeans, Malaysians, Africans, and others found their way to the congregation's new, commodious quarters in a converted warehouse close to the Toronto airport. The revival's characteristic physical manifestations, folksy music, and dance spread beyond the Vineyard into congregations of many denominations whose pastors hoped for increased fervor in their ministries, especially in Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand."

          Margaret M. Poloma provides sociological background as to the nature of "revival" behind the Toronto Blessing:

          "The "Toronto Blessing" is the latest phase of the pentecostal/charismatic (p/c) movement, an approach to Christianity that began early in the century and now is said to account for one out of four Christians worldwide (Barrett 1982; Cox 1995). Beginning with the Welsh Revival (1903-1904), escalating with the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1913), and rekindled through the Latter Rain Movement (1948), the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the "Third Wave" (1980s) and now the "Toronto Blessing" (1994)1, the p/c movement (although seemingly waxing and waning but always continuing to draw new followers) may be characterized as a social movement struggling against the forces of institutionalization. From its Azusa Street days to the present time in Western countries (the developing nations have different stories to tell) the pressing need for institutional norms, structures, and resources have quickly controlled charismatic fires."

          What are we to make of all these random, ecstatic bouts of laughter that have been taking place among neo-Pentecostals? Advocates of holy laughter assert that the Christian church is going through a great revival. On the contrary, Scripture nowhere describes as a consequence of being filled with the Holy Spirit believers making incoherent animal sounds. That is decidedly unbiblical. It is not even true. Reason has been substituted with subjective feelings. Furthermore, the Apostle Paul declared self-control to be a characteristic of the Spirit:

          "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

          In the context of properly administrating spiritual gifts, Paul said that God is not a God of disorder but peace:

          "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints." (1 Corinthians 14:33)

          The notion of holy laughter cannot be said to originate with God, since it is dysfunctional behavior. He desires order in His church.

          Solomon stated that sorrow has value in that it can lead to personal reflection and a change of perspective:

          "Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4)

            It is in that state of heart we consider our ways. Even sorrow has redeeming qualities to it. Even sorrow has a legitimate purpose in our lives. No one can always be happy.

          The so-called holy laughter experiences that we hear of nowadays are uncontrollable to those who partake in them. Such occurrences are very much disruptive. It therefore does not make any sense to consider God as their source. The Holy Spirit speaks through the Word of God (John 17:17). Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Both are accomplished through an objective standard. Unintelligible expressions do not get us anywhere. Laughter is not even a fundamental theme of Scripture.

          The New Testament contains warnings against false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:4; 2 Peter 2:1-3). It also contains warnings against false signs and wonders (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). That is why we have been instructed to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1-4). The idea of holy laughter revolves around counterfeit revival. Similar incidents of disorderly laughing spells can also be found in the Kundalini Yoga, Subud, and qigong exercises.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Does God Promise Physical Healing In This Life?

        The Charismatic Movement is known for its emphasis on people having the ability to perform sign gifts that were originally conferred to the twelve apostles by the Holy Spirit. One of the miracles believed to remain operative today by a number of people who subscribe to this ideology is faith healing. It is claimed that sick people can be cured by means of faith and prayer. God is believed to restore a person's physical and spiritual wellbeing in response to our petitions.

        The purpose of God occasionally using the apostles as vessels to work signs and wonders was to verify that they were indeed His messengers. These men could not simply use sign gifts whenever they pleased. The problem with the idea of modern-day faith healers is that nowhere does God in Scripture guarantee complete healing from every sickness or injury. It is actually God's will that we sometimes endure suffering while on this earth. In fact, the Apostle Paul nowhere mentioned having the ability to heal when speaking of his companions who had illnesses (which is contrasted with what we see in the Book of Acts):

         "But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick." (Philippians 2:25-26)

         "Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus." (2 Timothy 4:20)

         If sign gifts were supposed to remain operative after the ministry of the twelve apostles, then it surely is strange how Paul could not miraculously heal individuals that he mentioned in his epistles. It would be nonsense to suggest that he lacked the faith in God to perform supernatural works. To spell matters out more bluntly, Paul had requested prayer and recommended the use of medicine to Timothy:

         "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." (1 Timothy 5:23)

        Wine had medicinal purposes ranging from the cleansing of bodily injuries to being mixed with other ingredients for consumption by patients. It retained that kind of use when the Greeks created a more systematized form of medical practice. Hippocrates believed drinking wine to be essential to a healthy diet. The Romans maintained its use. The above cited passage indicates that it is indeed appropriate for Christians to consult doctors when necessary. 

        This teaching of faith healing that is prevalent among charismatics is a variation of prosperity theology. It is not only unbiblical, but also dangerous. Countless Christians throughout church history have passed away due to organic diseases. Withholding medical attention for either adults or children who need it can only further harm them or result in their death. What if a man renounces his faith just because his health continues to deteriorate after believing false promises? It would be spiritual abuse to insist that his problems stem from a lack of trust in God.

        While it is one thing to say that all healing comes from God, it is quite another to say that He promises to take away all our problems in this life. There is a healing aspect to the atonement of Jesus Christ, which does not come to full realization until we enter into the fullness of His presence. Faith healing is tied to a placebo effect in that people may convince themselves of feeling better about their health conditions while not actually recovering. It has no therapeutic value.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Is Darwinism Truly Necessary For Biology?

"Darwin's theory of evolution offers a sweeping explanation of the history of life, from the earliest microscopic organisms billions of years ago to all the plants and animals around us today. Much of the evidence that might have established the theory on an unshakable empirical foundation, however, remains lost in the distant past. For instance, Darwin hoped we would discover transitional precursors to the animal forms that appear abruptly in the Cambrian strata. Since then we have found many ancient fossils – even exquisitely preserved soft-bodied creatures – but none are credible ancestors to the Cambrian animals.

Despite this and other difficulties, the modern form of Darwin's theory has been raised to its present high status because it's said to be the cornerstone of modern experimental biology. But is that correct? "While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky's dictum that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,' most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas," A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, wrote in 2000.1 "Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one."

I would tend to agree. Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming's discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.

I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.

In the peer-reviewed literature, the word "evolution" often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for "evolution" some other word – "Buddhism," "Aztec cosmology," or even "creationism." I found that the substitution never touched the paper's core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.


Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology. This becomes especially clear when we compare it with a heuristic framework such as the atomic model, which opens up structural chemistry and leads to advances in the synthesis of a multitude of new molecules of practical benefit. None of this demonstrates that Darwinism is false. It does, however, mean that the claim that it is the cornerstone of modern experimental biology will be met with quiet skepticism from a growing number of scientists in fields where theories actually do serve as cornerstones for tangible breakthroughs."

Professor Philip S. Skell,  "Why Do We Invoke Darwin?"

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Is Conscious Eternal Torment Reasonable?

          A common objection that we hear to the doctrine of an eternal hell is that it makes God cruel, unloving, and unjust. However, it is presumptuous for us as creations to put our standards above that of our Creator. If we are servants of God, then we submit to Him on His own terms. Moreover, the reason that hell exists is that God is holy and just. It does not exist to merely torture innocent people. The degree of punishment that one receives for a crime depends on the standard violated. Sin is an offense against God whose glory and dignity is infinite.

          It does not require much effort to see that eternal salvation corresponds to eternal punishment. The idea, though terrifying and unpleasant, is perfectly reasonable. What we should find shocking is the fact that God even sent His Son to redeem us stiff-necked people from the sentence that we so deserve. We cannot simply water down His character to make Him pleasing to ourselves and other people. As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ spoke more concerning hell than He did heaven.

           Annihilation is an inadequate theory on how God deals with unrepentant and unbelieving people. If the wrath of God is satisfied, then why should He destroy the soul of the sinner in the first place? If a person has served his due sentence, then would that not mean that he has been justified? If the wrath of God has not been satisfied, then why should He put an end to the designated punishment? A person who does not exist cannot be punished. God would be compromising His holiness by destroying people who have already paid their due sentence.

          There is much more to Christianity than merely escaping from the wrath of God. That is only one of the consequences of entering the faith. Conversion marks the beginning of us being reconciled to a holy God. As regarding the immortality of the human soul, only God is eternal in the sense that He is uncreated and self-sufficient. Our souls continue to thrive after physical death for the reason that they are sustained by His power. The doctrine of eternal conscious torment was never intended to be a pleasant idea.