Annihilationism – What is it?
Annihilationism asks the question, “How could a compassionate and moral God send someone to a literal hell for infinite, eternal punishment?” Instead of an eternal hell, an annihilationist believes that unbelievers will not experience an eternity of suffering in hell, but will instead be “extinguished” after death. Many annihilationists do not believe in a literal hell as a place where the souls of the lost are tormented in a lake of fire for eternity. Others believe that hell is a literal place where the lost will be punished; however, they do not believe that the punishment is eternal. Instead, they believe that those souls are eventually annihilated so that they no longer exist.
Most people have difficulty with the concept of a literal, eternal Hell. It is even more difficult for us to consider the possibility that close relatives or friends may be there. Perhaps that is one reason that pastors seldom preach sermons on the topic. Hell has been described as “Christianity’s dirty little secret” because of some pastors’ reluctance to talk about it as a place of eternal punishment. The whole concept is difficult for us to rationalize when we are told about a God who is loving, compassionate, and forgiving. Yet the Bible is clear that the wicked with suffer eternally in hell.
Many people have questioned how God could provide infinite punishment to someone who only committed a finite number of sins while they were alive. Many would argue that such a punishment is excessive. Isn’t it strange however, that most of us have no problem accepting the concept of an eternal heaven? We apparently have no trouble accepting an infinite, eternal reward for those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior.
Annihilationism – What is God’s view of sin?
Can the eternal punishment of the lost be rationalized as being just? The answer lies in our lack of understanding of how an infinite, righteous God must look at the infinite problem of sin. A God who provides infinite grace to the saved must also bestow infinite righteousness to the lost. If even the tiniest sin is infinite in significance to God, then a righteous God would have to demand infinite punishment.
If someone commits a sin that is never forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ, the Bible says that person must be punished. If they died without accepting Jesus as their Savior, then those sins were never forgiven. A year later, a thousand years later, or a million years later those sins still would have not been forgiven because the person never repented and asked for forgiveness during their lifetime. So their sins live on for eternity. God has no way to forgive their sins because they rejected Christ while they were alive. If their sins live on forever, then they must be punished forever. For God to annihilate someone into non-existence would, in effect, constitute a “forgiveness” of the punishment for that sin. That is something that God cannot do.
Annihilationism – The Bible’s view
In conclusion, Hell is a very real place and there is nothing in the Bible that would indicate otherwise. Some of the Scriptures discussing Hell as a place of everlasting torment include:
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life…If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12, 15).
Jesus said, “‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).
“And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night...” (Revelation 14:11).
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out” (Mark 9:43).
Finally, read the story of the rich man and Lazarus described in Luke 16:19-31. There, it makes it very clear that hell is a place from which there is no escape, saying, “…a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us” (Luke 16:26).
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