top of page


Many of us have had at least one life experience that was so tramatic that we would give almost anything not to have to re-live it.  Victims of a violent crime, combat vets with PTSD, and prisoners who have been exonerated thanks to DNA evidence I'm sure can relate.  The things mentioned above are all minor compared to what we'll cover next.  It is a subject that most people take much too lightly.  Even people within the church don't want to talk about it.  If you've lived an experience that you would never want to re-live, try to compare that experience to the abode of ... HELL.                    

Most of us don't like to think about what lies beyond the grave.  But like Heaven, Hell is a reality, a very unpleasant reality.  C S Lewis once said that of all the doctrines of the Bible he would like to eliminate, it would be the doctrine of Hell.  But to do so would be to deny God's perfect system of justice.                   

In this chapter I hope to provide some answers to such important questions as:                      

1.  What really happens after we die?                  

2.  Is the soul mortal or immortal?                  

3.  Can people in Hell ever experience forgiveness?               

4.  Can Abraham and Lazarus be in Heaven even though the events of Mat. 27:52 did not happen yet?                

5.  Is the rich man in torments right now?                 

6.  What about people who have never heard the Gospel?                           

The most important question to ask is where do we go to get our reliable information on the subject?  Who or what should we trust?  Traditional dogma?  The pope?  Public opinion?  Bill Weise?  Mary Baxter?  Rob Bell?  Ellen White?  Dante?  TV talkshows?  Or worse yet Hollywood with its 2000 Adam Sandler film "Little Nicky", a film about Hell  that was so disgusting that I turned it off after just half an hour?                    

The only place to turn to find truth is the Bible.  God wrote the Bible.  God also created Hell.  Therefore let's read what He has to say about it.                  

We read about God's final judgment of sinners in Revelation 20:12.  When we read on we realize that their fate does not end with the judgment.  Rather the unsaved experience a new and horrible reality that has only begun.  Their fate, once they have been found guilty of sin and of rejecting God's Son, will be the lake of fire  also know as the Second Death.                    

The subject of the Second Death (Hell) is more complex than many of us realize.  Pamphlets, whole books, and sermons have been devoted to this important topic.  The question isn't what do I want to believe about Hell but what does God say about it?                     

Let's let the Bible speak for itself.  In Old Testament times when anyone died his soul went down to a place of silence.  The Hebrew word used here is "Sheol".  The Greek equivilant is "Hades".  It is a place and state of nothingness.  It is the waiting place of the dead.  Some might use the term "Soul Sleep".                   

Psalm 115:17 declares:                     

"The dead do not praise the Lord nor any who go down  into silence (Hades)".                     

When King Saul visited the witch in I Samuel 28, Samuel's spirit was temporarily called up out of Sheol/Hades.  Samuel's spirit quickly rebuked King Saul and correctly predicted Saul's demise (v.19).  Samuel even said that Saul's son will be with them in death the next day.  All of that happened just as Samuel's spirit predicted.                        

When Jesus died on the cross in the spring of 33 AD, the situation for the righteous dead changed forever.  In Matthew 27:51 and 52 we read that three things happened.               

1.  There was a great earthquake.                   

2.  The veil in the Temple was torn in two.                 

3.  The tombs of the righteous dead were opened.  All the righteous dead (Samuel included) were taken up to Heaven.                      

All of those events were signs that the ultimate blood payment for sin had been made.  Note the third event.  The righteous dead were taken up into Heaven.  This shows that ever since that historic day, the souls of the post crucifixion righteous dead go directly into the presence of Christ.                        

As for the unsaved then and today, their souls remain in their dormant state in Sheol/Hades where they are awaiting the Judgment.  While in this dormant state, these people have no conception of time.  To them it will seem as though they no more closed their eyes in death and then they were suddenly awakened to the White Throne judgment, even though at least 1000 years transpired between the two events.                       

What will happen to these people once they have been raised, judged, condemned, and cast into the lake of fire?  There are four different views.                   

The first view is the Automatic Universalist view.  This view states that God, if He exists at all, is too loving and kind to send any of His creatures to Hell.  The Unitarian/Universalist Church holds this view.  Obviously anyone who takes the Bible seriously cannot accept this view.                       

The second view is what I call Refinded Universalism.  This view is similar to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.  Those who are saved go directly to Heaven.  Those who are unsaved go to the lake of fire.  It is here that the unsaved are chastined rather than tormented until they are ready for Heaven.  Once they have totally understood the error of their ways they will cry out to God for mercy.  Then and only then will God allow them to enter Heaven.  In the end everyone will someday be in Heaven; it is just that Christians will get there first.               

The late L Ray Smith advocated this view.  On his web-site,, Smith claimed that God will save all of those who will be cast into the lake of fire.  After the fire has purged them of their sins they will be fit for Heaven.                       

Smith based his view on I John 4:14.                  

"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world."                   

"For this verse to be true", Smith argued, "Some will be saved in this life and some will be saved after time in the lake of fire.  It is in this way that Jesus will be Saviour of the whole world."                    

Smith may have his critics but he does have an impressive knowledge of the Bible and of Greek words.  He claims that the "everlasting punishment" mentioned in Matthew 25:46 can be better understood to mean "a chastening that ends at the end of an age."                  

Is Smith right?  Do sinners get a second chance at grace?  Will hell-fire purge the condemned of all their sins?  Let us look at one important verse that Jesus said to the religious leaders.                     

"Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man it  will be forgiven him; but  whoever speaks against the  Holy Spirit it will not be forgiven him, either in   this age or in the AGE TO COME."                   

In the last chapter we've identified this as the unpardonable sin - dying without Christ.  If we pass into eternity with this sin of unbelief there is no more hope of salvation.                         

Note what Jesus said.  Those who reject Him will not find forgiveness in this age.  Saul of Tarsus rejected Jesus but he still didn't go beyond the point of no return.  He became saved but there are people in our world who are so anti-Jesus that they neither seek nor desire forgiveness.  Madalyn O'Hair once said in the  summer of 1982 during a TV interview that was aired on a Detroit Public Television station, "I don't want you praying for me.  Because you are making a petition to include me in something I don't believe in and I resent it."                          

Jesus also said that those who reject Him will not find forgiveness in the AGE TO COME.  No forgiveness means no salvation.  Those words of Jesus blow apart any possiblity of universalism.                     

Yes Jesus is the world's Saviour only in the sense that He is the only hope that the world has .  The time to repent of our sins is now not in eternity.  The time will come when God will declare the end of the Day of Salvation.                        

"If a man is unjust let him be unjust still."    (Revelation 22:11)                                   

The third view of Hell is very old and it is held by a majority of Fundamentalist Christians.  It is the Traditional view.                       

This view states that all of those who are unsaved will be raised, judged, and cast into the lake of fire where they will be tormented day and night in the flames forever.  There will be no let-up in their pain.  They will experience no joy, no comfort, and no rest.  Each soul will be trapped in a hideious solitary space where they will only hear the sharp agonizing screems and curses of those experiencing eternal torment.  It will be an inescapeable unending nightmare.                    

These people will have no social time with any of their friends.  Instead they will have their memories from this life when they passed up opportunity after opportunity to repent and receive salvation.  These people will curse themselves, their friends, and the silent Christians they knew - forever.                   

It is also true that many traditionalists believe that when an unsaved person dies his soul immediately goes to a state of torment. There are even You Tube videos shot by people who claimed to have visited Hell and have seen  people, even famous people who were entertainers and political figures, who are now being tormented by demons.  Here we need to show some skepticism.  One You Tube "visitor" claimed to have seen a famous late singer being tormented in her agony.  Another You Tuber claimed to have seen the same person in heavenly glory.  Go figure.                 

I have one big question for traditionalists:  What will God do with all the millions of people throughout the ages who never heard the Gospel and never had an opportunity to repent?                                                 

There is a fourth view of Hell that is well worth reviewing.  It is also an old view that is gaining acceptance by a growing number of sincere conservative Christians from all denominations.  This view has been successfully defended in public debate forums.                 

This view states that all the unsaved will be raised and stand for judgment. Since their names are not found in the Book of Life they will be cast into the lake of fire where they will be burned up in God's horrible wrath.  Punishments in the lake of fire will vary by duration and intensity.  A serial killer might spend more time in the flames than an unsaved humanitarian.  A person on some remote island who has never heard the Gospel might be gone in an instant whereas a political tyrant who tried to outlaw Gospel-preaching could spend several years in the flames.  Yet every soul that is cast into the lake  of fire, in time, will become like stubble - gone.  It will be just as though that person had never been born.  We know this view as annihilation.              

Which of these views is correct?  Where should any of us turn to receive reliable truth?  Answer: the Bible.                             

For years, especially in the early 80s, I believed strongly in the traditional view; probably stronger than the average church member.  Afterall it was the only view of Hell I ever heard.  My home church taught it.  Every professing Christian I knew believed it.  The writers at Chick Publications emphasized it.  To me there was no other view.  Therefore I concluded that eternal torment for all the unsaved was a sad fact.                   

One evening I was at home reading a book entitled End of the World - Coming Final Events  by LaVerne Tucker.  I skipped to the end of the book where Tucker described the fate of the unsaved.  The verse he quoted really caught my attention:                        

"...the day is coming burning like an oven, And all  the proud yes all who do wickedly will be stubble.    And the day is coming shall burn them up...That will   leave them neither root nor branch." (Malachi 4:1)               

At first I didn't accept Tucker's position that this verse proved annihilation.  But the  above verse challenged everything I knew or thought I knew on the subject of Hell.                         

At first I wanted to throw Tucker's book out.  Instead I phoned my mentor and asked for his counsel.  He was an elderly gentleman who was a Methodist by faith.  After a short talk he basically said, "I don't know.  Whether it means that someone like Hitler will burn for a million years, I don't know.  All I know is I don't want any part of it (Hell)."  He admitted what we call annihilation was possible but he didn't take a strong stand for or against it.                           

In the days ahead I went on to study the Bible for myself free of any outside human opinion.  The more I read, the more evidence I saw to support Tucker's view.                 

The change didn't happen overnight.  Finally I came to the conclusion that despite of its rejection by every church member I knew, annihilation withstood the all- important test of the Bible.  I now follow the wisdom of the great British theologian John R W Stott:                 

"We need to survey the biblical material afresh.  I do plead for frank dialogue among evangelicals on the   basis of Scripture. I also believe that the ultimate  annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted  as a legitimate biblically founded alternative to   their eternal conscious torment."                   

"But wait", some might ask, Doesn't it say in Revelation 14:11                       

'And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and  ever and they have no rest day or night...'?"                

First what is being said in the above verse?  The unsaved will be cast into an everlasting fire.  Why? Because Jesus said so.  He said that He will declare to all the unsaved on Judgment Day:                    

"Depart from Me, you are cursed into everlasting    fire..." (Mat. 25:41)  See also Isaiah 66:24.                

What is meant by an everlasting fire?  Let's let the Bible answer that question.                     

" have kindled a fire in My anger which shall  burn FOREVER." (Jeremiah 17:4)                   

In this passage Jeremiah is condemning the sins of the kingdom of Judah.  Though Judah was part of the Messianic line, they still had their high places of pagan worship.  They were unfaithful to God. In the above passage God wasn't just saying that He was displeased with their sin but that He has and will always have a burning hatred of sin which will last forever.                 

Simply put, God is holy and will always have a burning hatred against any kind of sin.  This is the definition of hell-fire.  It is an everlasting fire stemming from the wrath of God.  This definition of hell-fie squares perfectly with what we read in Hebrews 12:29:                 

"Our God is a consuming fire."                   

Now going back to Revelation 14:11 we read that there will be everlasting smoke ascending from an everlasting fire.  But what about all of the millions of souls that will be cast into that fire?                     

"...And the day which is coming shall burn them up."  (Malachi 4:1)                       

"But wait", some might ask, "Doesn't that verse refer to the fate of the unsaved on the day of the Second Coming?  Isn't it commonly taught that the unsaved will have their BODIES  burned up at the Second Coming?"                

Yes 2 Peter 3:10 does say:                    

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the  night, in which the heavens will pass away with a   great noise and the elements will melt with fervent    heat both the earth and the works that are in it will  be burned up."                        

On the day the Jesus returns He will take His elect out of this world.  The Earth and the man-made works that glorify man will be devastated by the brightness of His coming.  The elements will melt but the bodies of the unsaved will somehow survive.  Why?  Because the unsaved are required to face the plagues mentioned in Revelation.                           

When the sixth seal is broken Jesus will return to take His elect to Heaven.  When the seventh seal is broken we are told that there will be silence in Heaven for about half an hour.  Why?  Because those in Heaven will realize that they have friends and family members left on the Earth who will have to endure the 14 plagues.  This will be a brief time of grieving by the church.                            

Next the plagues will hit the Earth one after another.  The misery will last at least five months.  The last plague mentioned is a plague of great hail when people will blaspheme God because of the hail (Rev. 16:21).  Obviously people still have to be alive to do that.  After the 14 plagues have run their course then there will be universal death all over the Earth.                  

It also needs to be noted  that Malachi says that all the unsaved will be present.  All the unsaved people on the Earth on the day of the Second Coming are not ALL the unsaved.  What about the unsaved who died days and years before the Second Coming? The only place where all the unsaved appear in the same time and place is at the White Throne Judgment.                       

Furthermore the Pslamist writes:                   

"But the wicked shall perish...into smoke they shall  vanish away." (Psalm 37:20)                    

Note the passage says "into smoke" they shall vanish, not "like a puff of smoke."  What smoke is in view in Psalm 37:20?  The same smoke mentioned in Revelation 14:11, the smoke of their torment.                   

After the unsaved have vanished away into the smoke, then the futuristic prophecy of Psalm 37:10 will be fulfilled:                        

"For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no  more..."                        

"Shall be no more" means just that.  They will be gone forever not eternally tormented.  They will have no conscious existence of any kind.  It will be as though all of those people were never born.                   

"But wait", some might ask, "Didn't Jesus say in Matthew 25:46                        

'...and those (the unsaved) will go into everlasting  punishment but the righteous into eternal life.'?"               

"The Greek word 'aionion' that is used for eternal life is also used for eternal punishment.  Doesn't that fact prove the traditional view?"                    

Let all of us be careful that when we embrace any doctrine, that that doctrine  harmonizes well with the rest of the Bible.  Let's put Matthew 25:46 alongside another important verse concerning the fate of the unsaved:                         

"When the wicked spring up like grass, And the workers  of iniquity flourish, it is that they may be destroyed forever." (Psalm 92:7)                     

Most of us would agree that the "forever" in the Psalms is equal in meaning to the "everlasting" in Matthew.  But does the Psalmist say "tormented forever"? No.  He says that the wicked will be destroyed forever.  The next question is what does "destroyed" mean?  Let's let the Bible answer that question.                   

"...on that day shall burn them up" (Malachi 4:1)                

Yes I realize that some of the newer translations do not say "burn them up".  The NIV says, "will set them on fire".  The NASB says, "shall be set aflame".  However if we note the last sentence of Malachi 4:1 we read:                

"That will leave them neither root nor branch."                

Why are these words added to this verse?  Do they say anything special?  Absolutely.  The terms "root" and "branch" are metaphors for life.  For our English word "life" there are two Greek words that can be used.  The first is "bios".  It denotes physical life.  We get the English word "biology" from it.  The second is "zoe".  It denotes spiritual life.                        

The word "root" in the verse refers to physical life, bios. Jesus describes Himself as:                    

"...the Root and offspring David." (Revelation 22:16)               

The word "branch" refers to spirit life, zoe.  Jesus uses the word "branch" in John 15:2 to describe the spirit life.  All of us have a soul (branch).  If our souls have been redeemed our branch will produce good fruit.  If not it will eventually be cut down and thrown into a fire.                        

Simply put the unsaved, after they are judged and cast into the lake of fire, will eventually have neither body or soul; no bios and no zoe; no root and no branch.                

John the Baptist reiterates this same point in Matthew 3:12.                           

"...the chaff (unsaved) He will BURN UP with    unquenchable fire."                   

The bottom line is that the unsaved will experience ongoing punishment and contempt (Daniel 12:2) until they are all burned up.  Think of a candle.  It doesn't burn up right away.  Rather it slowly melts away with the flame until we have no more candle.  The result of this punishment is everlasting.  They will be everlastingly cut off from God's kingdom.                      

Below are some other Bible verses that at the very least raise the  possibility of the eternal annihilation of all the unsaved.                       

"Consume them in wrath, consume them.  That they may  not be." (Psalm 59:13)                     

"May sinners be consumed from the earth, and the    wicked be no more." (Psalm 104:35)                   

"He (the wicked man) will gnash his teeth and MELT  away." (Psalm 112:10)                     

"And you mourn at last.  When your flesh and your body are consumed." (Proverbs 5:11)                   

"When the whirlwind (God's wrath) passes by, the    wicked are no more." (Proverbs 10:25)                  

"He who despises the word will be destroyed."    (Proverbs 13:13)                      

"My determination is to gather the nations...And the  whole earth shall be devoured with the fire of My   jealousy." (Zephaniah 3:8)                    

"...those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed."  (Isaiah 1:28)                       

"...He will burn up the chaff (unsaved) with    unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:12)                   

"...whosoever believes in Him (Jesus) shall not    perish..." (John 3:16)                     

As we can see the doctrine of annihilation isn't built just on one verse but several verses.  Yes I realize that critics of annihilation claim that some of the above verses refer only to the destruction of Israel's enemies in the field of battle and/or the destruction of the church's enemies in today's world.  The destruction, they claim, is only physical death not eternal death.                 

On page 231 of his book Secrets from Beyond the Grave, Perry Stone writes:                     

"...usually (those verses) refer to deaths of people  here on earth."                      

Note his use of the word "usually" rather than "in every case".  However Stone is right in some cases.  A good example is Isaiah 41:12 which reads:                  

"Judah's enemies shall be as nothing.  As a non-   existant thing."                      

When taking all of Isaiah 41 in its proper historical context we see that verse 12 is a conditional promise that God made to Judah.  It is similar to the conditional promise found in 2 Chronicles 7:14.                   

In 2 Kings 19 the kingdom of Judah in 681 BC was beseiged by the Assyrians and their wicked King Sennacherib.  Judah was still a godly nation.  Therefore God acted and delivered Judah from the Assyrians by His own miracleous power ( 2 Kings 19:35).  When Sennacherib saw that his whole army lay dead, he withdrew to Ninevah.  He was later killed by two of his sons while he was worshipping a false god.  (Why didn't the false god save him?)                         

Less than 100 years later the spiritual climate of Judah had grown cold.  God had become just an after-thought.  By 586 BC, at the time of Jeremiah, Judah was besieged by a stronger enemy, Babylon.  Because of Judah's lukewarmness, there would be no saving miracles.  Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple were destroyed and the Jews were taken captive to become slaves to their Babylonian masters. The Babylonians were certainly not a "non-existant thing."                      

Isaiah 41:12 was meant as a conditional promise to Judah.  The same cannot be said about Malachi 4:1 where the final judgment of every unsaved person from every country and from every era of time is in full view.                 

Likewise in Psalm 37:10 we are told that the wicked will be no more.  And in Psalm 37:11 we are told that the meek will inherit the Earth.  What Earth?  It will be the new heaven and new earth mentioned in  Revelation 21:1.  Here we see a contrast between the future of the saved versus the future of the unsaved.  The unsaved will face everlasting extinction whereas the saved will receive everlasting glory in the new heaven and the new earth.                            

Another big question in the annihilation/eternal torment debate is the nature of the human soul.  Is the human soul mortal or immortal?  This is a very important question.  If every human soul is immortal then eternal torment wins.  But if the human soul is real and yet can be forever destroyed then annihilation wins.                 

The ancient Greeks, especially Plato, believed in an immortal soul in everyone.  But what does the Bible say about this question?                      

The doctrine of immortality for all human souls is based on the Genesis creation story.  First God said:               

"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our   Likeness..." (Genesis 1:26)                    

Next God acted.                       

"...God formed man of the dust of the ground...and  man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)                 

Traditionalists conclude that since God is immortal and since Adam was created in God's image therefore Adam's soul would have to be immortal.  Believe it or not, so far I agree with traditionalism.  When God created man God never intended that there would ever be funerals.  When Adam was first created he had (past tense) a soul that was meant to live forever.  Adam also had a body that was meant to live forever.  But what happened?  Sin happened and sin changed everything for the worse.  Adam's body would slowly age and face physical death, the first death.  Also his soul would experience the second death.  This is why God's last judgment against sin is called "the second death", the death of the soul.                       

In John 11, where Jesus visited Martha shortly after the death of Lazarus, Jesus said:                    

"He who believes in Me though he may DIE shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never    DIE..." ( John 11:25 and 26)                    

The first "DIE" mentioned above refers to physical death.  A Christian's body will die yet his soul will live forever in Heaven.  The second "DIE" mentioned above  refers to the second death.  A non-Christian's soul will die the second death but not so for the Christian.  The Christian's soul will never experience death.                 

In short, only Christians will live forever because only Christians have the gift of eternal life.  Eternal life is a gift we receive when we become saved.  We are not simply born with it.                     

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:10:                    

"...Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought  life and IMMORTALITY to light through the Gospel."               

Jesus said in John 6:                     

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever."  (v.51)                        

"...He who eats of this bread will live forever."   (v.58)                        

The words "eats of this bread" refer to having ongoing fellowship with Jesus.  No Jesus means no eternal life anywhere.                         

No discussion on the topic of Hell would be complete without addressing the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning which may or may not be an actual event.  The parable of the lost coin is fiction, whereas other parables including the prodigal son and the good Samaritian, could conceivably be true stories.  This parable, I believe, is a true story.                   

In Luke 16 Jesus told the story of two very different men.  One was an ungodly rich man, the other was a poor begger named Lazarus.  Both men died at roughly the same time but their destinations were different.  The rich man was in torments in Hades, while Lazarus  was in Heaven safely next to Abraham.                      

The rich man cried out for mercy but received none.  He would not receive so much as a drop of water for his tongue.  He even asked Abraham to send Lazarus and have him warn his five brothers so that they might avoid going  to this awful place of torment.  Abraham's words were sobering.  He said that the brothers have Moses and the prophets.  If they will not accept God's word from them then they will not be persuaded in any way, not even by a spirit from the realm of the dead.                   

The telling of this story  served three purposes.                

1.  It proved to the Sadd ucees that there was such a  thing as after-life.                      

2.  It proved to the Pharisees , who were lovers of   money (Luke 16:14), that money cannot buy salvation.   It is not a sin to own money but we are never to view  our money as something that is more important to us   than God.                        

3.  It proved to the Jews, in Christ's time and ours,  that simply being related to Abraham does not promise  salvation.  The rich man cried out, "Father Abraham"  which means that he was a Jew.  To God faith is more   important than one's family tree.  Just being an   Abraham-ite does not guarantee anyone salvation.                

With all that said, let's examine the parable.  When the rich man died his soul went Hades which we know is a state of nothingness.  But wait, didn't Jesus say that  he was in torments while in Hades?  How can this be when Sheol/Hades, according to Psalm 115:17, is a place where departed souls go to experience only silence?  Note also that there is no mention of him being tormented BY DEMONS while in Hades.  If we accept this story as history rather than fiction then we have some unanswered questions.                      

Since God is timeless He choose an ungodly rich man who knew a begger named Lazarus who lived in BC times.  When he and Lazarus both died God did something highly unusual.  Before the rich man's soul was allowed to go down to silence he was given a short VISION of his future in the lake of fire.  Can God give futuristic visions where a person can use all five of his senses?  Yes!  Look at all the visions that God gave John that are recorded in Revelation.  In those visions John could see, hear, taste, and feel pain.                     

When the vision ended and all the words were spoken, the rich man's soul was taken away to a place of silence.  Remember the rich man experienced fiery torment.  The only place where this happens is the lake of fire and the lake of fire judgment hasn't happened yet.  Likewise Abraham and Lazarus were both taken to a place of silence after the vision because the events of Matthew 27:52 did not happen yet.  Jesus was still alive and teaching.                

When reading a text it is important not to isolate the text.  Rather we should see how the text harmonizes with the rest of the Bible.                      

One person's story that I read on-line said that she didn't fear Hell because of annihilation and didn't care to become saved.  She felt that she could enjoy the world's sin and thereafter be annihilated.  This is tragic reasoning.  When unsaved people die they don't simply cease to exist.  They will be raised.  They will be made to stand for judgment.  And they will experience the lake of fire. Annihilation is not an event. It is not like the time the people of Hiroshima were instantly vaporized when the bomb was dropped. It is a process - a process that could take several years.  Punishments will vary by duration and intensity.  Think of a candle that slowly melts away.  That is the picture the Bible gives us in Psalm 112:10.  Annihilation means to be eternally destroyed in God's horrible wrath.  Why experience God's wrath when He freely offers His grace?                    

For more valuable information on the subject of Hell visit  Chris Date and company have done an excellent job in creating a web-site that provides loads of information about the doctrine of annihilation.  There are definitions of terms, testimonials, pre-recorded debates, and, what I found impressive, Bible verses with arguments and counter-arguments that can silence most any critic.  Believers in annihilation who could use a faith boost should visit this web-site.  Also traditionalists who aren't afraid of having their dogma challenged should also visit it.                

Annihilation is not a test of salvation.  One can be saved and believe annihilation or one can be saved and believe traditionalism.  But I do want to warn my fellow Christians that there is nothing wrong with being tradition bound but there is everything wrong with being tradition blind.  There is good and bad tradition.  How can we tell the difference?  Study the Bible.                                 

Here is a verse I want to call to people's attention:               

"There is no wisdom  or understanding or counsel against the Lord." (Proverbs 21:30)                  

This verse is boldly declaring that there is no way of doing anything that is superior to God's way of doing anything.  This includes administiring justice and mercy.  Put another way when we seek perfect justice and mercy in the afterlife, even if we were to throw the Bible away and try to invent our own plan, we could not invent a plan that is more perfect, more just, more merciful, and more humane than the system that God has already ordained in His Word.                          

Revelation 14:10 says that the unsaved will be tormented in the presence of the Lamb. For eternal torment to be true sin, agony, and cursing would always be in God's presence.  Thankfully God has ordained a better system in His Word.                                  

Universalism allows God to be merciful but not perfectly just.  Eternal torment is the opposite.  But annihilation allows God to punish sin and show His unsaved creatures (as wicked as they may be)  mercy to them by not having them  endure unending torment.                  

Punishment will vary by duration and intensity.  Is this biblical?  In Matthew 11:24 Jesus said:                 

" shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom   in the day of judgment than for you."                  

The use of the words "more tolerable" indicate that there will be levels of punishment in the lake of fire.  Those who have heard and rejected the true Gospel might be judged harsher than someone on some remote island who had never heard the Gospel.                     

The bottomline is that all of God's justice and mercy will be satisfied.                       

"But the Lord is the true God.  He is the living God  and the everlasting King.  At His wrath the earth will tremble and the nations will not be able to abide His  indignation." (Jeremiah 10:10)                   

That is one very sobering verse.  Yes God not only lives in Heaven but He OWNS it.  It is His home.  It is only by His grace that any of us have any hope of entering His holy kingdom.                                              

In this chapter I have endeavored to explain what the Bible really says about the reality of Hell.  I've explained this doctrine without any appeal to emotion.  Other critics of eternal torment (including Jehovah's Witnesses) have said, "I can't believe that a loving God would allow eternal torment.  Could you worship a God that would do that?  I couldn't"  I never went that route.  Such words are only an opinion.  Those words prove nothing.  Whatever we believe about Hell must be backed by the Bible!  What does God have to say in this debate?                         

Traditionalist of course will complain that this is an example of a time "when they will not endure sound doctrine" ( 2 Timothy 4:3).  Sound doctrine is any teaching that squares perfectly with the Bible.  Annihilation meets that requirement  It is not my "pet doctrine" but a part of God's revealed truth.                              

I would like to close this chapter with these thoughts.  Let's put the annihilation/eternal torment debate on the shelf for a moment and ask, "What really is Hell?"  Hell is the final abode of all the unsaved.                

Yes Hell will be populated by witches, atheists, serial killers, drunkards, pedophiles, Scientologists, Nazis, Stalinists, and the like.  Here we need to get away from the view that Hell is only for the detestable.  Along with all the "monsters of history" there will be nice people, honest people, even religious people in Hell.  Perhaps even that nice, kind, and generous nextdoor neighbor who never made peace with God through Jesus Christ.

bottom of page