Does the Unregenerate Soul Cease to Exist After Death?

Is the Soul of the Unbeliever Annihilated at Death?

The answer to this question is very simple and it is based on the same reasoning given to those who believe they can lose their salvation.  How is the life that a Christian receives from God described?  What is it’s description or quality?  This life is described as eternal or everlasting.  Can you lose something that is everlasting?  If you can, whatever kind of life you may have is certainly not everlasting life if it can cease to be.

The same reasoning applies to annihilation of the soul.  How does the Bible describe the torment or punishment applied to those who reject Christ?  It is described as everlasting.  If one’s soul ceases to exist, how can an unbeliever experience eternal punishment or eternal torment?  In order for an unbeliever to experience eternal torment, there has to be a conscious existence.

Then shall he say also unto them (unbelievers) on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: Matthew 25:41

Then shall he answer them (unbelievers), saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Matthew 25:45&46

Note: The same word used to describe the type of life for the righteous is used to describe punishment for the wicked. Both are described as eternal.

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (abhorrence). Daniel 12:2

In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction (ruin) from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; II Thessalonians 1:8&9

Note: The same word for destruction is used in I Timothy 6:9 speaking of the consequences of the indulgence of the flesh, referring to physical ruin…….WE Vine pg 165 #3, olethros. This word for destruction is not referring to obliteration of the soul.

The same (unbelievers) shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
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 14:10&11

Note: In order to experience everlasting torment, there has to be conscious existence.

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:10-15

Note: The torment of the devil and his angels lasts forever and that punishment includes the punishment of those whose names are not found written in the book of life.

There are other concerns regarding the teaching of annihilation of the soul.  Many unbelievers already believe that when they die, that is it.  They already believe that they will cease to exist.  What is to be feared about death (separation from God), if the soul ceases to exist?

This false doctrine is also widely held by the cults.  Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah Witnesses both endorse this teaching.  If we didn’t have any other argument, this should be a red flag to warn us away.

The Scripture teaches that there are degrees of reward in heaven and that there are degrees of punishment in hell.  If the unregenerate soul ceases to exist, the unregenerate cannot experience degrees of punishment in hell.

Most importantly, this false teaching minimizes the suffering of Christ on the cross and the payment He made for our sins.  This is a price that sinners cannot pay and is shown to be such by the eternal nature of unbelievers paying it themselves.  Rejecting God’s provision for our sin will one day unleash His wrath against all ungodliness.  Those who would minimize the payment Christ made for the sins of mankind lack a biblical understanding of the holiness of God and the consequences of sin.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

…let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…

Note: The Scripture references are from John MacArthur’s NKJV Study Bible notes on Matthew 25:46.

The following is a comment that I received a few weeks ago concerning this article:

You don’t seem to be aware of the Biblical language of what a “soul” is. The Hebrew word (sometimes translated soul) is nephesh. Its Greek equivalent is psuche. Both words are applied Biblically to both humans and animals. In fact animals are called living creatures (nephesh) before humans are in the Genesis account.  So whatever you argument contains about “souls” you need to take that into account. Next scripture speaks of nephesh and psuche that die. Jesus himself speaking of his own death says he came to give his psuche as a ransom. Biblically speaking “souls” (nephesh or psuche) do not live on after their deaths. In addition to this scripture repeatedly states that man is mortal, he dies. God describes what death is in Genesis 3:19 a return to the dust from which we came. Scripture also states that only God is immortal.  Even if the teaching of annihilationism was false (which its not) your argument does not logically follow.   You argue everyone will live forever after the resurrection either in heaven or hell.  Even if I granted that this was true this does not necessitate an intermediate state of existence because as Christians we believe in the resurrection of the living.

My response:  The answer is still very simple. Everlasting is the same word used to describe the believers reward of eternal life.  

The torment reserved for the devil, his angels and unbelievers is described in Scripture as lasting forever and ever.  The unbeliever’s reward is everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, everlasting contempt and everlasting destruction.  An unbeliever can only experience this kind of punishment through conscious awareness.  

More could be said, but the guiding principle here is that God’s Word never contradicts itself.  If an interpretation of Scripture results in a contradiction, the interpretation is incorrect.

If an unbeliever’s soul ceases to exist, then he or she will not experience everlasting torment, everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, everlasting contempt, or everlasting destruction as the Scripture states.

Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the mem’ry find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

All those who find Thee find a bliss
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus, be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

12th Century Latin Hymn attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux

Public Domain

Excess Baggage

When an individual trusts Christ as his/her only hope of salvation, things change. I have written alot about becoming a new creature, about old things passing away and all things becoming new, but not all of the new is a quick and easy thing.  It is not all quick and easy because of excess baggage.  Excess baggage can come in the form of old memories, old habits and indwelling sin.

I think at times Christians become discouraged because our spiritual leaders may not identify with our struggles.  The perception therefore becomes that everyone has it together but me.

When I was in Bible college and came into a leadership position in the student body, I fell victim to the faulty thinking that one should not admit a spiritual weakness. 

I recall a young man who brought devotions one night to a small group of fellow students.  In his devotion he revealed a weakness in his spiritual life.  I later rebuked him for admitting it.  My reasoning was that admitting a weakness may send the wrong signal to the guys listening and make them think it was okay to have this weakness.  Now I don’t recall what the weakness was, but I have regretted for years my pharisaical attitude in the matter.   I have often wished I could ask his forgiveness for my silly rebuke.

Every Christian has indwelling sin (Romans 7) and every Christian has old memories and old habits that bite at our heels every day.  When an individual becomes a Christian, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the written Word give victory.  Some things change overnight but some things  can be an ongoing battle.  Ongoing battles are one reason Christians should pray for and encourage one another. 

Don’t become discouraged.  Be faithful to God and be faithful to His written Word and victory you never thought possible will be yours.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

….let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….

Note:  Admitting to weakness or struggle does not necessarily mean one is admitting to sinning.  Giving in to that weakness is sin.

Admitting a weakness or struggle  does not need to be overly specific.  If a private sin is involved, it should be dealt with privately.  Public sin should be dealt with to the degree that it is public knowledge.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  II Cor. 12:9


Beyond Our Control

Are you overwhelmed by the circumstances in your life? The lesson from Joseph’s life is that while Satan meant those circumstances to destroy, God meant them for good. As God’s children, we must consider that to be so in our own lives.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our LordRomans 8:35-39

A Son or a Stick?

There are a couple of ways to retrieve something that is out of reach.  A father may pick up his son and lift him to where the son can take hold of the object.  On the other hand, the father may just decide to use a stick to reach the desired object.  

When a father decides to involve his son in the task at hand, the relationship between the father and son is emphasized and enhanced.  There is communication, instruction and a shared satisfaction at accomplishing the task.

On the other hand, if the father decides to use a stick to accomplish the task, there is no relationship involved.  The task ends with the casting aside of the stick.

God accomplishes His purposes both ways.  Some individuals are sons or daughters whose relationship shares in the joy of accomplishing God’s purposes and plans.  Others are just sticks which are cast aside when God’s purpose is accomplished.  The saddest part about this is that the sticks don’t even know that they are just sticks.

A son or a stick, which one are you?