Conditionalism vs. Traditionalism
(Or Does Everlasting Punishment Mean Everlasting Punishment?)
Pastor George C. Bruns
Neo-Evangelicalism with its politically correct kinder and gentler God, who is far more loving than He is just (borrowed from the Modernists no doubt), has in recent years resurrected an old heresy, Annihilationism, or as it calls itself today, Conditionalism. But a rose by any other name...oh well, you know.
The two main questions raised by Conditionalists are: 1) does the punishment of the unsaved really last forever, and 2) are the unsaved that get thrown into the Lake of Fire really conscious?
A study of the word "everlasting" (Strong's #166) as used in the N.T. should help answer the first question.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting <166> fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:" (Matthew 25:41)
"And these shall go away into everlasting <166> punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:46)
"And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting <166> habitations." (Luke 16:9)
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting <166> life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24)
"But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting <166> God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:" (Romans 16:26)
"Who shall be punished with everlasting <166> destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power," (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
"Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting <166> consolation and good hope through grace," (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
"Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting <166>. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:16)
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting <166> covenant," (Hebrews 13:20)
"For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting <166> kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:11)
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting <166> gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people," (Revelation 14:6)
The Greek word which underlies the King James Version New Testament English word for "everlasting" is Strongís number 166 aiwnios. It is translated in the Authorized Version as follows: eternal 42x, everlasting 25x, the world began + 5550 2x, since the world began + 5550 1x, for ever 1x; for a total of seventy-one times.
The word according to Thayer means:
1) without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be
2) without beginning
3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.
In Matthew 25:41 it is obvious that the fire continues to burn forever. In Matthew 25:46 it is obvious that the punishment continues on forever. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 makes it clear that the destruction is never ending, it continues on forever. In every single case where this word is used in the New Testament it means non-ceasing continuance. Just as eternal life means that life continues on forever, so here the meaning is clear that the fire, punishment and destruction continue on forever. The wicked are forever being destroyed as punishment. The Greek language does not permit annihilation as an option. If annihilation were an option the wickedís punishment would end as would the process of destruction. You cannot punish or destroy that which does not exist. Annihilation is, therefore, illogical. The Conditionalist can play all the word games he likes. He can twist and turn the English language all he likes. He can deny that the Scripture teaches eternal, everlasting punishment, but he canít refute it successfully. It is impossible. The language does not permit it.
To put it another way. According to Matthew 25:41 does the "everlasting fire" ever end? No. According to Matthew 25:46 does the "everlasting punishment" ever end? No. According to Luke 16:9 do the "everlasting habitations" ever end? No. According to John 5:24 does "everlasting life" ever end? No. In Romans 16:26 does "the everlasting God" ever end? No. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16 does the "everlasting consolation" ever end? No. Does the "everlasting power" in 1 Timothy 6:16, or the "everlasting covenant" in Hebrews 13:20, or the "everlasting kingdom" in 2 Peter 1:11, or the "everlasting gospel" in Revelation 14:6 ever end? No! No! No! No! The question then is this - does the "everlasting destruction" as mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 ever end? According to the Conditionalist the answer is yes, but the language of the Bible says no. The lost sinner is constantly being destroyed. The process never reaches a conclusion. The Conditionalist often cites Matthew 10:28 as proof that the lost are totally destroyed in Hell. But remember, the word "destroy" does not mean annihilate, rather it means to render the thing being destroyed useless. The Greek word underlying the English word "destroy" in the King James Bible is Strongís number 622 apoollumi. It is used 92 times in the N.T. and not once does it ever mean to put out of existence. Most of the time it is used in place of the word "kill." To kill someone does not put them out of existence, only out of their usefulness in this life. In Luke we read of wine bottles (apoollumi) perish[ing]. The bottles burst and became useless but they still existed. Luke also tells the story of the woman with the lost (apoollumi) coin. The coin was lost and therefore useless to the woman but it was not annihilated. It still existed somewhere. Everlasting does mean everlasting!
As to the second question, "Do the unsaved remain conscious for all eternity?" The Bible reveals plainly that they do. The lost will be thrown into the Lake of Fire as punishment for their sins. That punishment will consist of separation from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9); in darkness (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13); and in fire (Mark 9:43); with gnawing worms (Mark 9:48); and torment (Romans 2:8-9). This in turn will cause shame and contempt (Daniel 12:2); and weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42). Now only the conscious can suffer shame, weep and gnash their teeth.
The Bible says that the fate of the unsaved is the second death (Revelation 20:14). And those who are condemned to it in the Lake of Fire are just as conscious as they were after their first death while residing in Hades (Luke 16:19-31 cf. Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28; Revelation 14:11; 19:20; 20:10). Revelation 20:10 states that the beast (the human Anti-Christ) and the false prophet (also a human) will "be tormented day and night for ever and ever." In Revelation 14:11 and 19:20 the Bible tells us that the humans who worshipped the beast and received his mark will suffer the same fate as the beast. There is no indication in Scripture that there is any other fate facing the unsaved. The idea that the unsaved only suffer temporarily as they are being burned up is wishful thinking unsupported by Scripture and is the product of human sentimentality. Because, letís face it, it is easier to think of an unsaved loved one as being put out of existence than thinking of them as suffering eternally.
The Bible clearly states that all "saved" people will have resurrected bodies that are incorruptible ["imperishable" according to Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 88] (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). But does the Bible teach that all "unsaved" people will have resurrected bodies that are imperishable? (1 Corinthians 15:22, 35-44) Before you answer this question review the following:
a. The Bible teaches that there are only two major categories of resurrections 1) those that take place before the Millennium and 2) those that take place after the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6).
b. The Bible clearly teaches that the resurrection that takes place after the Millennium is only unto the "second death" and the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:6; 21:11-15)
c. The Bible clearly teaches that some "unsaved" people will suffer conscious torment in eternity in the "lake of fire" and must therefore have imperishable bodies (Revelation 19:20-21; 14:9-11). Those imperishable bodies will have to be given them at the last resurrection (Revelation 20:13). Notice that the "wrath of God" in Revelation 14:10 that is described as "torment[ed] with fire and brimstone," and which is unending "no rest day nor night," is also compatible with the "lake of fire" judgment of Revelation 20:14 & 15.
d. The Bible clearly teaches that all who reject Christ will suffer this same "wrath of God" (John 3:36).
e. The Bible clearly teaches that anyone who rejects Christ will be resurrected at the White Throne Judgment and will be thrown into the "lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-15)
f. The Bible clearly teaches that the wrath of God "abideth" on all who reject Christ (John 3:36). The word "abide" is the Greek word meno, it means "to continue" or "to remain." In John 3:36 this verb was written in the Present Tense which means it is a continuing action. According to Vaughan and Gideon in their A Greek Grammer of the New Testament, "The present tense is the linear tense; it describes an act in progress." The Greek language is clear. The wrath of God as dispensed at the White Throne Judgment is a continuous action that never ceases. The language does not permit annihilation because if the object of God's wrath ceased to exist His wrath would cease to "abide."
g. Logic dictates that you can't punish what doesn't exist (Matthew 25:46).
The answer to question number two is therefore, "Yes."
Even if you do not believe that 1 Corinthians 15:22, 35 - 44 is speaking about all men being resurrected with imperishable bodies one can still infer from the above that the Bible teaches that all resurrected bodies "saved" or "unsaved" will exist eternally and not be annihilated. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 ["everlasting destruction"; using the Received Text the Greek words are oleqron aiwnion. The Greek word for destruction never means to put out of existence, but rather in every instance it is used in the Bible it means to make the object being destroyed useless. This process will continue "day and night" forever, Revelation 14:11]) There is an old saying that goes, "You can't beat a dead horse." Well, in reality you can he just won't feel it; what you can't beat is a non-existent one.
In order for you to be saved from eternal torment you must be "born again." To know how to be born again follow this simple plan:
1. Admit to God that you are a sinner. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
2. Recognize that you are under the penalty of death because of your sin. Paul also wrote, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
3. Know that this death is eternal separation from God in Hell. The Apostle John wrote, "This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:14b-15)
4. Realize that you cannot save yourself. The Apostle Paul writing to Titus said, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour." (Titus 3:5, 6)
5. Repent of your sins; have a genuine change of heart toward sin and your God. The Bible says, "For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)
6. Place your trust in Jesus' death on the cross for your eternal salvation. Again, the Apostle Paul tells us, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9, 10)