Annihilation of the soul is the belief that the unregenerate or unbelieving are simply destroyed (annihilated) as opposed to suffering in hell for all eternity. Those that hold to this position do so because they can’t see how a loving God could put unbelievers into an eternal state of unending punishment and suffering.
Lets imagine for a moment that God is too loving to let unbelievers suffer for all eternity in hell in order to see if that position preserves the integrity of Scripture.
To support this teaching the annihilationists call Luke 16 a parable. Why? Because it is about a certain rich man who is in hell. He has not ceased to exist. He asks for Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water in order to cool his tongue because he is tormented in the flames.
The rich man is separated from God and is experiencing spiritual death in the flames of hell. The rich man is not annihilated, he has conscious existence. If the rich man and Lazarus account is a literal account, it shows that there is a conscious existence of the dead. Although the unbelieving rich man is spiritually and physically dead, an identifiable (certain) rich man has conscious existence in hell, be it temporary or not.
The annihilators of the soul have no choice but to call this chapter a parable, because a literal account proves that there is a conscious existence of the unbelieving dead. This man is dead, yet he exists in the flames. A literal account destroys the annihilationist’s position.
How do we know Luke 16 is not a parable? According to principles of interpretation, parables do not have named individuals and places in them. Luke 16 contains proper names, a certain individual and a named place such as; Abraham, Lazarus, Abraham’s bosom (heaven/paradise), a certain rich man and Moses.
Parables are stories composed with the intention of teaching or illustrating a certain truth. Parables in the Bible are usually followed by an explanation of their meaning. Luke 16 has no explanation and needs no explanation because as pointed out in the preceding paragraph, it is not a parable.
If principles of interpretation can be so easily disregarded, what keeps anyone from labeling the death, burial and resurrection of Christ a parable? Liberal theologians do this all the time when they cannot explain, do not understand, or simply don’t believe what the Scripture says about itself. Disregard for the rules of interpretation, the doctrine of inspiration, and the final authority of Scripture allows religious cults to continue their existence.
Some proponents of annihilationism may agree that Luke 16 is literal, but then argue that hell and/or Hades is actually temporary, because it will be eventually cast into the lake of fire where the annihilation will take place. So a little torment is OK, but everlasting torment is not? So a loving God is OK with temporary torment but not eternal torment? If a loving God would not allow unbelievers to suffer for eternity in the lake of fire, why would a loving God allow any to suffer at all? Why would He bother to resurrect the unbelieving dead? Why not just annihilate them at the moment of physical death? Wherever one places annihilation, it doesn’t make sense logically or expositionally.
Postponing annihilation until the lake of fire doesn’t work. In Revelation 19&20, the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire and the devil is confined to the bottomless pit at the conclusion of the Lord’s Second Coming, just before the Millennial Kingdom begins. At the end of the Millennial Kingdom (1000 year rule of Christ on earth) Satan is released from the pit to deceive the nations (Gog and Magog), whose number is as the sand of the sea, and who then surround Jerusalem.…..and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them (the nations). 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 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..…where the beast and the false prophet are.
At the end of the Millennial Kingdom, the beast and the false prophet will have been in the lake of fire for one thousand years without being annihilated. The lake of fire is described as a place of torment (day and night) which lasts forever and ever. This should be self-explanatory. Death and hell are cast into the lake of fire including everyone who was not found written in the book of life.
The only logical conclusion, that is true to Scripture, is that there is a conscious existence after death for both the believer and the unbeliever. The conscious existence for the believer is that of eternal bliss in the presence of God. For the unbeliever this conscious existence is eternal torment in the lake of fire.
Note: Eternity is simply a state of being in the absence of time.
There are many other problems created by the annihilationist’s position. This position, if considered correct, raises questions on: the Lord’s description of judgment in the gospels; the entire context of Scripture concerning judgment; the meaning of the word eternal or everlasting which is used to describe both life in Christ and God’s punishment of sin; the substitutionary death of Christ; the wrath of God against those who reject His provision of forgiveness through His Son; the character of a holy and sinless God; the meaning of biblical love; and other considerations concerning the attributes of God.
No suggested interpretation of a Bible passage can be correct if it is not also correct for every Bible passage on the same topic.*
Annihilation of the soul casts doubt on core beliefs that have been established and defended historically by Bible believing scholars, preachers and teachers. Peculiar teaching which has historically been on the fringe or outside of Bible believing Christianity and which causes division among Bible believing Christians is not of God and should be avoided.
…let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…