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Featured Conditional Immortality Supports Annihilationion, Refutes Eternal Conscious Torment and Universalism

Discussion in 'Controversial Christian Theology' started by Mark Corbett, Jul 28, 2017.

  1. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    [​IMG]

    God’s Word teaches us what to believe. We learn specific truths from the Bible, sometimes called “doctrines”, or more simply “beliefs”. The Bible also teaches us to think like God thinks. The more we read and listen to His Word, the more our thought patterns become like His. In this opening post I will write about a specific belief called “conditional immortality” and will also try to help you see how the Bible trains us to think in patterns consistent with this belief.

    Conditional immortality is a doctrine based on the Bible which says that people will live forever only under certain conditions. This doctrine can be seen quite clearly in many verses which discuss eternal life. In these verses a condition is either explicitly stated or else strongly implied. After this paragraph are some examples. Don’t rush through them. This is God’s Word and you will benefit by reading them slowly and thinking about them even if they are familiar to you:

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    We can see from these examples that God, through His Word, conditions us to think of eternal life (immortality) not as something that all humans automatically have no matter what, but rather as a special gift from God which depends on us meeting a condition: namely faith in Jesus Christ.

    Sometimes, the condition given is that we live the kind of life and make the kind of decisions which demonstrate that we really do believe in Jesus. In these cases, there is still a “condition” and there is still “immortality”, but the condition is stated as an evidence of faith in Christ rather than simply faith itself. Here are two examples:

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    If you would like to see a few more verses where this pattern of conditional immortality can be seen, look up these verses and see if you can identify the condition and the immortality:

    John 3:15, John 4:14, John 6:47, Romans 2:7, Romans 5:21, Titus 3:7, 1 John 5:11

    There are other verses, but you have seen enough to see how clear and consistent this pattern is. We will live forever only by God’s grace which we receive only if we have faith in Jesus. Our faith is in a Savior who changes how we live.

    Now, we might wonder about the “negative side” of conditional immortality. God holds out hope through gracious promises for those who believe in Christ. He also gives warnings of the tragic consequences for those who do not believe:

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    Consistency and Inconsistency

    One of the many signs that the Bible is inspired by God is that it is consistent in what it teaches. This is true even though, from a human point of view, the Bible was written by many authors over a period of more than 1,400 years. The doctrine of conditional immortality is an example of Biblical consistency. On the one hand, from Genesis to Revelation the Bible never says that all people are immortal. It never says that the unrighteous will live forever. On the other hand, the Bible consistently offers eternal life to those who put their faith in Christ. “Conditional Immortality” is seen consistently throughout Scripture.

    While the Bible is 100% consistent, we are not. The Bible is perfect, but our understanding of it is flawed. Even as Christians who really believe the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, and who really have put our faith in Jesus, and who really seek God’s truth, we still have errors mixed into our understanding. One sign of an imperfect understanding of the Bible is when part of what we believe is not consistent with the rest of what we believe. Another sign of misunderstanding is when something we believe requires us to talk in ways that are different from the way the Bible talks. Here is an example:

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    Can you see how the slogan on the t-shirt is inconsistent with the consistent Bible teaching about conditional immortality?

    It’s not just t-shirts and bumper stickers that contain this inconsistent way of thinking. Good, godly, Christian pastors, authors, teachers, and others often think in terms of UN-conditional immortality. In other words, they believe and talk as if all people will live forever whether they are saved or not.

    Seeing the relationship between the doctrine of conditional immortality and the doctrine of the final fate of the unrighteous clarifies the problem:

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    What do you think?
    Do you believe that everyone is immortal no matter what?
    How does your view on immortality influence your view on Hell?
    Do you believe the Bible teaches Annihilationism, Eternal Conscious Torment, or Universalism?
    Why?

    This post is slightly modified from a post on my blog.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
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  2. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It is my sincere hope and earnest prayer that this thread will generate more light than heat. I hope that we, as Bible believing Christians, can vigorously discuss and defend various viewpoints while also respecting and honoring one another. Grace and Peace, Mark
     
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  3. Der Alter

    Der Alter This is me about 1 yr. old. Supporter

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  4. paul1149

    paul1149 that your faith might rest in the power of God Supporter

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    Very good post, Mark. Well thought-out and laid-out. I think, though, that it would be more persuasive if you dealt with some of the more difficult verses, such as "where the worm dies not".
     
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  5. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Paul, thanks your gracious words and thanks for bringing up that verse. For anyone else reading, the verse Paul is referring to is this one:

    Mark 9:47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where "'the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.'

    This verse is often used to support eternal conscious torment. But, what many people do not realize is that Jesus is quoting from the last verse in Isaiah, which reads:

    NIV Isaiah 66:24 "And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

    We can see from Isaiah, that the fire that is not quenched and the worms that do not die are being using to dispose of dead bodies, not to torment living people.

    And this makes a lot of sense. All over the world there are two methods by which the vast majority of dead bodies are disposed of. They are either burned to ashes or turned to dust by worms.
     
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  6. redleghunter

    redleghunter Thank You Jesus! Supporter

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    Mark thanks for a well thought out thread. How you tie in conditional immortality with Annihilationism is where there is difficulty. The one passage which puts to rest Annihilationism is Matthew 25:

    Matthew 25: NKJV
    31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

    41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

    44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
     
  7. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    RedLegHunter, first I want to say that I love the picture of a shepherd going after a sheep on the edge of a cliff. That really captures a passionate desire to reach the lost which our Lord has and which we should have!

    With respect to Matthew 25:46, I can easily understand why you might feel that this verse "puts to rest annihilationism". I felt that way myself once, so it is easy for me to respect and understand your view here. However, I now see Matthew 25:46 as actually supporting annihilationism! Here's why:

    We probably agree that the "everlasting punishment" should last as long as the "eternal life". While NKJV uses two different words, "everlasting" and "eternal", in Greek, these words are the same (I'm not criticizing this translation, it just doesn't make it obvious that the same word is used in both places).

    The issue is not the duration of the punishment, but rather it's nature. Of course, tormenting people forever would be one type of eternal punishment. But permanently destroying them so that they remain dead forever and thus miss out on the joys of fellowship with Christ forever is also a punishment that lasts forever.

    Further, there is evidence right in Matthew 25:46 which supports annihilation over eternal torment. The punishment is contrasted with eternal life! This strongly implies that ONLY the righteous will live forever. This whole passage thus fits harmoniously with Conditional Immortality, explained in the OP.
     
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  8. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In addition to comment #7, where I explain why I don't agree that Matthew 25:46 does not "put to rest Annihilationism", I want to add that I do feel that this verse argues very strongly against universalism.
     
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  9. Darren J. Clark

    Darren J. Clark New Member

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    Mark Corbett, I would add that the themes of "fire" and "destruction" developed by Matthew earlier in his Gospel flesh out the nature of the "punishment" in Matt 25:46. These images are used to describe the punishment of finally unrepentant sinners as "capital punishment". The point we make is that it is the end of life in any sense that makes it possible for sinners to experience hell eternally.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  10. Dirk1540

    Dirk1540 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Ok I'm shifting over to this thread now. Somebody PLEASE help me!!!! Not sure how it happened but I got pulled into the deep end of an evolution debate thread haha, I swear every 10 minutes there's 5 new alerts of atheists coming after me lol...I'd rather get back to some scripture based debating now! Great OP!!!
     
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  11. redleghunter

    redleghunter Thank You Jesus! Supporter

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    Indeed the Greek is the same word which frankly does not change the meaning of the passage.

    aiōnios:

    The KJV translates Strong's G166 in the following manner: eternal (42x), everlasting (25x), the world began (with G5550) (2x), since the world began (with G5550) (1x), for ever (1x).

    1. without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be
    2. without beginning

    3. without end, never to cease, everlasting

    Thus to a translator either could be used (eternal or everlasting). Yet the actual definition of the word does not change no matter how much we read into it. The object is modified by 'without beginning and end; without end, never to cease.



    Of course, that is a possible way of looking at it, but what prompts us from reading this plainly even in the Koine Greek? There is no indication of 'duration' or 'ending' of the aionios for punishment as there is no consideration for a duration or ending for aionios for eternal life.

    Usually (and not saying you are doing this), aionios used for everlasting punishment is interpreted as God annihilating the judged person because if one was to suffer everlasting torment that would make God out to be a 'monster.' The thought is why would a loving God do such a horrible thing to a person? That is usually the entry argument into annihilationism. Which is eisegesis. Jesus is teaching/preaching righteous judgment in this passage.

    I don't see that support in the text at all. I think you are reading that into the text. The contrast is between punishment and reward. Unrighteous with righteous. There is no indication from the text the punishment lasts for a season and then ended for all.

    I have to ask...Why is it important for you to teach those judged will be annihilated vs. an everlasting/eternal punishment?

    Your arguments (well defined) laid out clearly that those who are in Christ will reap reward (by His Grace) and those who reject Him will not and be punished. Frankly that's old time religion right there. Your only 'take' by calling it "conditional" are the conditions one reaps after judgment day.
     
  12. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Dirk, just to let you know, if you open a thread and go to near the top, there is a place where you can click "unwatch thread". They you will stop getting alerts. While I sincerely want to engage with atheists and other non-Christians, sometimes the engagement is tiring and sometimes they are not seriously engaging. What you described also happened to me in an evolution debate. God Bless!
     
  13. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    In your comment you brought up several good issues. I'll try to address them in separate replies to help focus on each of them.

    Just to clarify my position (which I believe is the position which most evangelical conditionalists hold who have studied the topic much), I do not believe the punishment of the unrighteous will ever end. I believe the punishment (at least the main punishment) IS death (Romans 6:23). They will remain dead forever.

    There are a couple of other verses which use aionios which may help illustrate the Conditionalist interpretation of Matthew 25:46.

    NIV Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,
    2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal (aionios) judgment.

    "Eternal judgment" does not refer to a process of judging which continues forever. The judging occurs on the day of judgment, a limited time period. However, once the judgment is made its results remain forever (another strong argument against universalism!). A billion years later God will not change the judgment. It is an eternal judg-ment, not an eternal judg-ing.

    Also, consider:

    NIV Hebrews 9:12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

    The process of redemption does not require forever to complete. In fact, the author of Hebrews emphasizes that Christ's sacrifice was a one time act. The redemption is eternal in its effects, not in how long it takes to carry it out. The blood of Christ will not wear out in its efficacy after we've been in Heaven a few million years (Praise God!). It is an eternal redemp-tion, not a process of eternal redeem - ing.

    Similarly, eternal punishment does not have to be a process of punishing which takes forever to carry out. The process of people being destroyed in body and soul (Matthew 10:28), perishing (John 3:16), and being burned to ashes (2 Peter 2:6) requires a finite amount of time (which involves some conscious suffering). But once carried out, it will never be reversed. For the unrighteous there is a "second death", but there is NOT a second resurrection. They will remain dead forever. It is an eternal punish-ment, but not an eternal punish-ing.
     
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  14. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I really appreciate the way you ask this, not assuming that I am practicing "eisegesis", but simply asking.

    I can honestly say that what convinced me of annihilationism was a long term, careful study of all that the Bible says about the fate of the unrighteous. This study was carried out on and off over a few years before I became confident enough of this view to teach it to others.

    My most important resource by FAR was prayerful study of God's Word. However, because God works through other Christians, I also sought out the best arguments on both sides, mainly through books. I was actually thankful when I got a class with a seminary professor who had written a book defending eternal conscious torment. I wanted to make sure I understood the BEST arguments for eternal conscious torment and against annihilationism before I committed to and taught annihilationism to others.

    Having said that, I do not deny that annihilationism has an emotional appeal compared to eternal torment. However, that does not make it untrue. Having our sins paid for by Jesus also has an emotional appeal, and occasionally atheists accuse us of believing this simply because it makes us feel good. For me, that's not true. Sure, it feels good. It feels great! But I have other reasons for believing it than my feelings.
     
  15. Darren J. Clark

    Darren J. Clark New Member

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    As a Conditionalist I can say that the importance just comes back to our belief that "annihilationism" is well attested in the Bible. We like to talk about our perspective but don't want to imply that it is salvation issue or that eternal conscious punishment is a heresy or worth dividing over. That is why we like irenic discussions on the topic. We don't demand that people just drop the traditional view on hell but just want to discuss the evidence.

    As for the contrast in Matt 25:46, as a believer in eternal conscious punishment I always assumed it was meant to be taken as emphasizing the conscious experience of both the saved and unsaved. It think most people simply assume that is the point. But we don't deny that there is a contrast in that verse. We think there is a contrast being made. When I have examined how Matthew uses "fire" and "destruction" earlier in his Gospel it is clear he envisioned the punishment of finally unrepentant in a way that is summarized by our idea of "capital punishment" That is, they are not living in the normal sense we would use "death". So, the contrast in Matt 25:46 is, in our view, a contrast between the conscious experience of eternal life vis-à-vis the eternal death (non-conscious experience) of the eternal punishment. This means we don't simply ignore the contrast but take it seriously as pointing to "annihilationism".
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  16. 1stcenturylady

    1stcenturylady Spirit-filled follower of Christ Supporter

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    I love your posts on this, and am relived to see that my own long-standing theory is not so wacked after all. I've had no supporters, but your presentation is much better than mine was.

    Mine had to do with the human spirit, whether it is immortal or not. The angels are immortal spirits, but when Adam sinned our spirits went from immortal to mortal. However, our spirits do live on after we die, awaiting the final judgment. As for the spirits of the unsaved dead, they go into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Eternal hell was NOT made for man, but only for Satan and his angels, as it is not God's will that any should perish, and the fallen angel's torture will be forever because they are immortal. However, man only becomes immortal if their spirits are born again. We go from death to life. From Adams sin, to life in Christ. The unsaved dead will be resurrected to face their judgment, and if their names are not found written in the book of Life, they will be burned up like the chaff they are in the eternal lake of fire.

    (No I don't believe in Universalism, but yes, to Annihilationism for humans only, not for fallen angels.)
     
  17. Dirk1540

    Dirk1540 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thinking of the eternal fire and the eternal worm as meaning that the 'Eternal' before the words fire & worm was actually referring to that which was in the fire, or that which the worm fed on...I believe that was my biggest mix up. It actually makes more sense that the fire and the worm are eternal. After all, eternal is before those 2 words. Unquenchable fire!! Unquenchable is before fire, not an unsaved soul. So let's have a pig roast, let's throw the pig in an unquenchable fire. Let's throw a 2nd pig in the unquenchable fire, let's throw the 37th pig in that unquenchable fire, etc. Doesn't make sense that that means the pig is unquenchable. Or the eternal worm refers to Gehenna, full of DEAD people, everyone probably had nightmares thinking about that dumping ground which CONSTANTLY had maggots, flies, and worms!

    Eternal torment. I do understand that the decision of judgement or Heaven is a decision that lasts an eternity. It makes sense that you don't eternally judge or redeem. Heaven won't be waking up at 7am to be redeemed again, than during your lunch break redeemed again, before bed redeemed again...next day same thing lol. So that makes sense too, how to view the 'Eternal' part. But can we talk more about the 'Torment' word? Eternal punishment makes sense to me as dead forever. I'm trying to better understand the eternal 'torment' though. That word torment is challenging me.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  18. Darren J. Clark

    Darren J. Clark New Member

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    Where does the Bible specifically say humans will be tormented in hell?
     
  19. Dirk1540

    Dirk1540 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Oh, hopefully nowhere lol, I'm not good at this, I actually came back to Christianity not long ago. I'm just thinking out loud, I know I've been challenged on eternal torment.

    ...this is why I preferred to shift over to this thread and leave the one I started, let someone with more experience with it take the lead. Before I came back to Christianity I became sold on this view, Dr Fudge's material. But even so that was a little while ago and I'm in need of some refreshing on my material.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
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  20. SkyWriting

    SkyWriting The Librarian Supporter

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    The same illustration I always use:

    The Rich Man and Lazarus

    Now there was a rich man dressed in purple and fine linen, who lived each day in joyous splendor. And a beggar named Lazarus lay at his gate, covered with sores and longing to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    One day the beggar died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. And the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham from afar, with Lazarus by his side.

    So he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. For I am in agony in this fire.’
    But Abraham answered, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things. But now he is comforted here, while you are left to suffer. And besides all this, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that even those who wish cannot cross from here to you, nor can anyone cross from there to us.’

    ‘Then I beg you, father,’ he said, ‘send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them so they will not also end up in this place of torment.’

    But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let your brothers listen to them.’
    ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone is sent to them from the dead, they will repent.’
    Then Abraham said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
     
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