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Q. Does the Bible teach eternal burning fire for the unsaved soul or annihilation?


Dear *****,

I know there are those who teach annihilation, and I think that it is a more “tolerable” view of hell than eternal torment. I am thinking of those in Revelation who want to die, thinking it will keep them from facing a holy God:

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; 16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:15-17 (NASB)

However the wicked are not granted this escape from eternal torment:

9 Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Revelation 14:9-11 (NASB)

There is a sense in which the ungodly will be separated / alienated from the presence of God:

6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 (NASB)

The wicked are described as being on the outside, so to speak, looking on at the blessings of the saved, while they suffer the eternal torment of those who have rejected Christ and the salvation He purchased at Calvary:

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. Revelation 22:14-15 (NASB)

The Bible speaks of the fire of judgment as the “eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8; 25:41; see also Jude 1:7). In Matthew 25:26 “eternal life” is contrasted with “eternal punishment.” Both are eternal, ongoing. The same could be said for “eternal judgment” in Hebrews 6:2.

Annihilation is a teaching that is easier to believe, but it does not square with Scripture, nor with the seriousness of sin and its consequences.


Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Hell

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