Friday, 9 March 2012

Clutching at straws

I just want to address an argument I have recently heard (here - 3rd March) advanced in support of annihilationism (i.e. the view that the unbeliever will not consciously suffer eternally for their sins.)

The person I heard on this subject was saying that the passages advanced in favour of eternal conscious punishment teach no such thing.  He said that Mark 9 v 43-49 is merely an allusion to Isaiah 66 v 24, in which it is not conscious persons but dead bodies that are in view. 

However, this is to miss the point of what the Lord is saying, He is certainly alluding to that passage, but He is giving it a more serious and wide-ranging application.  That passage in Isaiah relates to the end of the Kingdom, while the Lord is speaking to people who won't enter the Kingdom.  But more importantly, it is the Lord who explicitly teaches that the fire He is talking about is not merely for the body, but is for soul and body (Matthew 10 v 28), and they shall never be put out of existence.

There are many things that could be said to show that the Lord is not limiting His meaning to the meaning in Isaiah 66, but I don't need to go into all that to show that the passage doesn't do the annihilationist any favours.  Even if we take the annihilationist's view of Mark 9 v 43-49 and say that the Lord is referring to the body, the teaching then would be that the body does not cease to exist.  But that being the case, we turn to Matthew 10 v 28 and discover that soul and body are destroyed (note the change in words - not "killed") in hell.  Now the annihilationist cannot say that means they cease to exist, because Mark 9 has proved the body is preserved in the fire, not consumed by it.  But Matthew 10 v 28 tells us that the soul and body have the same fate, and therefore the soul must continue to exist, and it is just nonsense to speak about an unconscious soul because the soul is the consciousness.  If the soul continues to exist then the person continues to exist consciously. 

Destruction doesn't (ever) mean to put out of existence - it means utter, hopelss ruin and waste.  In fact the word is used to describe the state of the unbeliever now (1 Corinthians 1 v 18 - "perishing"), and is used to describe the state the believer was in prior to conversion (Luke 19 v 10 - "lost").  Needless to say, to transport the idea of non-existence into those passages, or any others makes nonsense out of them.  The word describes the loss of all well-being, and the utter misery of those who do not avail of the salvation Christ has provided.  The good news is that those who are lost and perishing now can be saved, but the bad news is that those who are lost and perishing in hell can never be saved.

I will address other aspects of this most serious subject again in future posts, Lord willing.