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Will The Soul Of The Wicked Be Annihilated?
A brother peddles through the printed page the idea that the wicked (i.e., one who dies lost) will be raised at the general resurrection, will be judged by Christ, will be sentenced to everlasting destruction, and thus will be forever destroyed. "Forever destroyed" means, to him, that he will everlastingly cease to be conscious. Such a position teaches that only the righteous (i.e., the saved) will be conscious throughout eternity, but that all others will be instantaneously deleted and destroyed. What does the Bible teach?
The Bible Speaks Of Everlasting Punishment
Matthew 25:46 reads, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." The "and these" makes reference to the wicked (cf. Matthew 25:41-45). What does "everlasting punishment" mean? The word translated "everlasting" in the verse is also translated "eternal" in the same verse. Whatever the word means, it means the same in both cases. According to Thayer, the word (ainios) in verses such as Matthew 25:46 means, "without end, never to cease, everlasting..." The word is often used positively, referring to everlasting life (cf. Luke 10:25; John 12:25; Romans 6:22-23; 1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 5:9; et al). The word is also used negatively, referring to everlasting punishment. The place of punishment shall have a fire which burns in "everlasting" fashion (Matthew 18:8). Not only will the devil and his angels be cast there, but so will the wicked (Matthew 25:41). The blasphemers are in danger of "eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29). The wicked will suffer "everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9; In Rienecker's Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament are several scholars cited who combine to point out the following: "The word [destruction,NP] does not mean annihilation, but implies the loss of all things that give worth to existence... The adjective [everlasting; eternal, NP] literally means 'age long' and everything depends on the length of the age. In the New Testament there is never a hint that the coming age has an end", 606-607). The deep subject of "eternal judgment" is reference to eternal punishment (Hebrews 6:2). Jude references the "eternal fire" (Jude 7). If God intends to everlastingly punish the wicked, has created a never-ending fire for the wicked, and has reserved a place of eternal misery for the wicked, how will He also make them forever cease to be?
The General Resurrection Implies The Everlasting Feature Of Every Soul
That every soul will be raised from the dead cannot be disputed (John 5:28-29). Two resurrections are taught by Christ, one of "life" and the other of "damnation." As The Judgment is an appointment all will make, it can be rightly inferred that every righteous and wicked person will attend. If the wicked souls are all to be annihilated, why resurrect them? God does not act without purpose. Would not the resurrection of the wicked dead be a redundant deed, if God is only going to eradicate them? God will resurrect the just and unjust (Acts 24:15). To what end shall He raise the unjust? Annihilation, in view of the function of resurrection, makes no sense and contradicts the purpose of resurrection.
The Justice Of God Demands The Everlasting Feature Of Every Soul
The Bible clearly reveals God to be, by His nature, "no respector of persons" (cf. Acts 10:34). To Christians who faithfully endure, God will grant an entrance into heaven the lease for whom will never expire (cf. Revelation 2:10; 1 Peter 1:4; 5:4; James 1:12). God will grant the gift of eternal life to all who live obediently to Him and walk in the light of Christ (cf. 1 John 5:13). Only those who deny the everlasting feature of every soul deny the everlasting reward God will give to every righteous soul. Is it not a reflection upon God's holy character, then, to suggest that to those who have sacrificed, committed themselves wholeheartedly, have obeyed God at personal cost and with fleshly consequences, and have denied the allure of sin will gain a never-ending reward, but that those who lived in blatant disregard of the Bible, who have labored to destroy right, who have murdered and tortured their fellow men, who have operated cruelly and maniacally, who have delved into the deepest depths of iniquity and perversion, and who have figuratively shaken their fists in the very face of The Almighty will be placed into the flames of torment, burned up in an instant, and forever obliterated? Such a view portrays God as a tolerant, but unjust, judge who will at most lightly slap the wrist of mankind's most deviant and wicked representatives.
The Bible clearly portrays a continued, everlasting existence for the wicked. The inspired John says, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name" (Revelation 14:11). What relevance is rest to an annihilated soul? This verse strongly suggests that along with a "torment" that "ascendeth up for ever and ever" is an endless restlessness. Peter warns that it is worse for an apostate Christian than for one who never obeyed the gospel (2 Peter 2:20-22). Where? On this earth? That is definitely a partial answer. He suffers a loss of peace, joy, and love. But, what are those things to a carnal mind if that one can totally indulge in fleshly pleasures without fear of any punitive action beyond his death?
The brother may not have been seeking to justify sin with his position. In fact, that is very much doubted. However, the consequences of his position give unlimited allowance to sin. There are no significant consequences attached to disobedience, except the sacrifice of eternal life with God. That would devastate the spiritual mind, but what consequence is that to the wicked? Oh, that all would simply accept the evident truth of scripture!