Appendix 1
Denials of the Biblical Teaching of the Eternal Punishment of the Lost

The doctrine of eternal punishment holds a very prominent place in the Word of God, and like all other important doctrines, it has been attacked and rejected by many cults and false religious teachers (e.g., the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, etc.).

Several false teachings concerning the eternal destiny of the lost will now be dealt with; namely, annihilation and universalism.


There are many variations of this particular false teaching, but the basic theme of them all is that the soul of man is not immortal, and the wicked as well as the devil will, at some point in time, be “annihilated” or totally extinguished. By “annihilation” is meant a total cessation of being, a complete ending of existence.

In reply to this teaching:

(1) Annihilation is clearly refuted by the many Scriptures which teach the eternal conscious punishment of the lost:

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. (Dan. 12:2)

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment… (Matt. 25:46)

(2) Annihilation could hardly be described as being a punishment for sin. For many people, annihilation would be a blessing and a very desirable thing! It would not be a punishment for their actions in this life; it would be a relief from the things of this life!

(3) Annihilation is no deterrent to sinning in this life, and Jesus and the whole Bible use hell as a deterrent to sin. If annihilation were true, few people would seek to obey God. The attitude of most would be, “What is the profit of serving God? Let us eat and drink and do what we like; for tomorrow we die” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:32).

(4) Annihilation is contradicted by the fact that the human soul was created in the image of God and is therefore eternal.

When man sinned, the image of God in him became marred and depraved, but it was not lost altogether; and, in a general sense, all men are still said by Scripture to be “in the image of God.” Therefore, by virtue of man’s original creation in the image of God, all men are, by nature, immortal; and all men will spend an eternity either with God or suffering in hell.

(5) Jesus said there is a “coming age” (i.e., a future life) for the lost:

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in the coming one. (Matt. 12:32, Greek)

(6) The Annihilationists point to the usage in Scripture of the words “perish,” “destroy,” “destruction,” “death,” etc., and they say these words prove that the lost are extinguished. For example, we read in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

However, in Scripture these words never refer to a literal cessation of being.

The Greek word translated “perish” in John 3:16 is apollumi. This word is also used in Mark 2:22 and is translated “marred” in connection with the wineskins or “bottles” that are burst and ruined by the new wine:

And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles. (Mark 2:22)

Obviously the wineskins aren’t annihilated, but they are ruined or damaged.

Apollumi occurs again in Matthew 10:6, in Jesus’ instructions to His disciples:

But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Those Israelites had not been annihilated, but they were alienated from God and in a bad state.

also occurs several times in Luke 15:

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? (Luke 15:4)

Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? (Luke 15:8)

Again, there is no reference to a literal cessation of being here, but the idea is that something is lost. Apollumi occurs in other passages where the meaning is just as clear. In all those instances, apollumi never refers to a literal extinction, or cessation of being, or annihilation.

Now we can understand the usage of this word when it occurs in the context of the eternal condition of the lost:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28)

That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:15-16)

And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

Apollumi does not refer to the wicked being annihilated and reduced to nothing, but it refers to their state of ruin and alienation from God.

Another Greek word we need to understand is apolia. It is translated “destruction” in several passages:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: (Matt. 7:13)

What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: (Rom. 9:22)

Apolia is also translated “perdition” in several places:

While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name…and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:12)

The same word, however, is translated “waste” in other passages:

And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? (Mark 14:4)

In this context, the word cannot possibly refer to annihilation, which again shows us that the eternal destiny of the lost is not extinction, but ruin, torment and punishment.

Another Greek word of significance is olethros, which is translated “destruction” in 2 Thessalonians:

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; (2 Thess. 1:9)

But consider how olethros is used in other contexts:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. 5:5)

In 1 Corinthians 5, olethros refers to physical chastisement inflicted by Satan.

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thess. 5:3)

“Destruction” here cannot mean annihilation, but does refer to suffering and agony.10

So when the usage of these words in the whole New Testament is considered, it becomes apparent that the future destiny of the lost is not annihilation, but it is everlasting conscious punishment.

A comparison of the following verses again shows us that when God speaks of the eternal “destruction” of the wicked, He does not mean an annihilation, but rather an enduring torment and punishment:

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. (Mark 1:24)

And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (Matt. 8:29)

In the verse in Mark, the demons speak of their future “destruction” by God, while in the parallel passage in Matthew, they speak of their future “torment.” Obviously the term “destruction,” when referring to the eternal state of the lost, does not refer to annihilation but to conscious punishment and torment.

(7) The Bible speaks of degrees of punishment for the lost. Annihilation, however, would make this impossible as it would level all distinctions and ignore all degrees of guilt.

While all the lost will suffer infinitely – in the sense of eternally – in hell, there are still differing degrees of suffering among them. Ezekiel 32:17-32 teaches that the wicked are not all treated alike, but rather there are degrees of punishment for the lost.

This is also seen in Revelation 20:11-15, at the Great White Throne Judgment, where the “books” (plural) will not be opened to see if the wicked will be damned, but to determine the degree of their punishment.

The punishment of the wicked will be dealt out strictly and exactly, and very justly and fairly by God, and it will be determined on the basis of the works of the lost:

Who [God] will render to every man according to his deeds: (Rom. 2:6)

Sinners will be judged on the basis of their own personal sinfulness, as well as the “light” and knowledge of God and truth they disobeyed during their lifetime.

A man is not judged only by his works; he is also judged according to the knowledge of truth that he rejected. This has great significance when we consider the sin of the apostate, who has known the truth of the Gospel, and yet willfully turns from it after obeying it for a time. He turns away from God with his eyes wide open. Awful judgment awaits him. Peter says:

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. (2 Pet. 2:20-21)

Many other Scriptures speak of degrees of eternal punishment for the lost:

Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin [and, by implication, will receive the greater judgment]. (John 19:11)

If there are degrees of punishment, which is very clearly taught in the Bible, then there can be no annihilation of the wicked.

(8) The Bible speaks many times of the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” of those who are cast into hell, which is obviously inconsistent with the false notion of annihilation and extinction of being.

The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:41-42)

(9) Matthew 25:46 has been subjected to many abuses, and this verse will be dealt with in depth.

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matt. 25:46)

Some men deny that the Greek word translated “punishment” in this verse (kolasis) actually means “punishment,” and they teach that it refers to an “annihilation” of the lost. However, the only other place in the New Testament where the word occurs is 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

In this verse, kolasis is translated “torment” and can only refer to the idea of suffering, torment and punishment.

Also, usage of the word in Classical Greek literature, Apocryphal literature and the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, as well as the statements of reliable Greek scholars18 confirm that the final destiny of the lost, as taught in Matthew 25:46, is indeed everlasting punishment.

The second word that has been abused in this passage is the word “everlasting.” Some men have suggested that “everlasting” in this verse does not mean “everlasting,” but rather “a long time.” Their teaching goes on to say that after a long period of punishment in hell, the lost will be extinguished.

However, the Greek word translated “everlasting” in Matthew 25:46 (aionios) is the same word that is used in the New Testament to describe the eternity of God as well as the eternal life of the righteous. The word is also used in other places to describe the eternal sufferings of the lost. The word aionios occurs over 70 times in the New Testament and it always denotes unbounded, limitless, eternal duration.

A fact that some teachers like to ignore is that the word aionios is used twice in Matthew 25:46. Once it refers to the eternal punishment of the wicked, and once it refers to the eternal life of the righteous:

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matt. 25:46)

Although aionios is translated with two different words in the King James Version (“everlasting” and “eternal”), yet the Greek word is exactly the same in both clauses. Obviously it cannot refer to an eternal duration of time in one clause, and to a limited duration of time in the other! It must have the same meaning in both clauses. Therefore we conclude that Jesus taught that the punishment of the wicked is “everlasting” in the same sense that the life and glory of the saints is “everlasting.”22

(10) The false teaching of annihilation does violence to the justice of God. Justice demands that every sinner receive punishment in proportion to his sins.

God is infinitely holy, and sin is a violation of that holiness, and therefore is an infinite violation, and deserves infinite wrath and endless punishment and suffering. Therefore, while there are degrees of punishment for the wicked, yet the punishment of every sinner is eternal and thus infinite.

(11) In many of the verses in the Bible that teach the everlasting punishment of the lost, it is not said that the effects of this punishment are everlasting, as would be the case if the wicked were annihilated. Instead, it is said that the punishment itself – the “contempt,” the “punishment,” the “fire,” the “torment” – is everlasting. So again we see the fallacy of the theory of annihilation.

(12) Some teachers of annihilation refer to the “second death” of the lost as proof of their erroneous theory, on the basis that “death,” they say, means a total extinction of being.

In the Bible, however, “death” never refers to an annihilation or extinction of being. In John 12:24, Jesus said that a grain of wheat must fall into the ground and “die” before it can bring forth fruit. Does the grain of wheat actually become extinct and cease to exist? Obviously not! If it were annihilated in the ground, how could it then bring forth fruit?

Again, when Paul says that before we were saved we were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), he could not possibly mean that any part of us – spirit, soul, mind or body – was actually non-existent before we were saved!

“Death” in Scripture never refers to a cessation of being, but it does refer to the idea of separation. “Spiritual death” does not mean that the spirit of a man doesn’t exist, but that he is spiritually alienated from God. “Physical death” does not mean that the physical body of a man ceases to exist, but that a separation between his body and spirit occurs. In the same way, the “second death” of a sinner does not mean he is annihilated or extinguished, but that his state of alienation from God is made final and complete.

(13) The Bible teaches there will be a bodily resurrection of the wicked. Why would God resurrect the lost just to annihilate them?

(14) Teachers of annihilation point to Scriptures such as Ezekiel 18:4,

…the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

and they reason that since these Scriptures say the “soul” of a sinner will die, and since the “soul” of a person is the person himself, therefore the whole person must be annihilated at death.

However, Isaiah 53:12 says that Jesus “poured out His soul unto death,” while Luke 23:43 and 46 show that Jesus’ existence as a person continued after His physical death.30

When the Bible says that a “soul” dies, it means that the “person” dies, and refers quite simply to his physical death,31 and not to an annihilation of the person.

Often the Bible speaks of a “dead soul.”32 This refers to the fact that the person has died, and all that remains of him in this world is his body. Therefore to touch a dead body is to touch a dead person or “soul.”33 This does not refer to the eternal spiritual aspect of man, the existence of which continues after physical death.


There are two broad divisions of Universalists: those who teach the ultimate salvation of all men, and those who teach the ultimate salvation of all created beings, including the devil, the fallen angels and the demons.

The logic of these teachers is quite simple. Because God is love, He does not desire that any of His creatures suffer eternally, but the punishments of the wicked in hell are for remedial, disciplinary purposes, and will ultimately lead them all to repentance and reconciliation with God. In reply, we state:

(1) There is not a word in the Bible that even suggests such a teaching.

(2) This teaching is clearly contradicted by the many Scriptures which teach the eternal punishment of the lost.35

(3) The lake of fire is a place of punishment – not discipline.

(4) It is the wrath of God, and not His love, that is abiding upon the wicked, and that casts them into hell to suffer.

…he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)

(5) Teachers of Universalism use Scriptures such as 2 Corinthians 5:19 (God has already reconciled the “world” to Himself), John 12:32 (Jesus will draw “all” men to Himself), John 3:16 (God is not angry with, but rather loves, the “world”) and Colossians 1:20 (“all” things in heaven and earth will be reconciled to God).

The flaw in this logic is quite obvious. The word “all” in Scripture is often used as an “hyperbole” which is an intended exaggeration that is not meant to be taken literally but is used to make a point.37

“All” in Scripture is also used to mean “all without distinction”; that is, all classes and kinds – old and young, men and women, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, Jews and Gentiles, men of all nations.

It is in light of this that we can understand Scriptures like 2 Corinthians 5:19 and John 12:32. All the world will not be saved, but only those who repent and believe:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

(6) It is a fact that God’s judicial punishments do not have the effect of producing repentance in the hearts of sinners.

And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give Him glory…and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. (Rev. 16:9-11)

(7) After death there is no more opportunity to repent and be saved, and there is no “second chance” for anyone. Proverbs 29:1 teaches that once the rebellious sinner is “cut off” he is “without remedy,” which obviously precludes any ultimate reconciliation.

(8) In Philippians 3:19, Paul says that the end of the enemies of the cross of Christ is “destruction.” There is nothing beyond “the end,” and the end of the enemies of the cross of Christ is not salvation and reconciliation with God but “destruction.”

(9) Ultimate reconciliation isn’t even promised to those who are already saved unless they continue in the Lord!

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matt. 24:13)

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1 Cor. 15:1-2)

(10) Consider the following Scriptures that reveal Jesus’ attitude toward the unrepentant. There is no hint of ultimate reconciliation here:

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? (Matt. 23:33)

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt. 7:14)

If there are those who cannot escape the damnation of hell, and if there are few who find the way of life, then obviously the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation is false!

It may not seem an attractive doctrine to many people, but the Bible clearly teaches it, nevertheless – the final end of all who are outside of Christ is indeed everlasting conscious torment and punishment.

And it was the precious blood of Jesus that redeemed us! Hallelujah!


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