Final Doom

This is the last in a 13-part series wherein I give you Hell, a little booklet by the inimitable Dr. Jeff Obadiah Simmonds.

We humans know instinctively that needless suffering is bad. When we have a sick or injured animal, we have it put down, because we do not want to see them suffer. We feel grieved when we hear of people dying slowly of cancer, and are upset by images of starving people on television. We know that the boy who pulls the wings off flies is cruel—recognising that even flies should not have to suffer needlessly.

If we, as seriously flawed humans, know that we must alleviate suffering, how much more will God, who is all-good and all-perfect, prevent the suffering of His creatures? If we shoot a horse with a broken leg, or put a wounded cat to sleep, how could God tolerate the eternal torment of humans?

We know that a person dying of cancer should be given pain relief—to withhold morphine would be inhuman. Suffering in this situation may only continue for weeks or months—but even this would be intolerable for us. How could God, then, withhold “pain relief” for those in hell, whose suffering does not last for months, but for trillions and trillions of years, and on into eternity?

We may, conceivably, tolerate the eternal suffering of what me might call “truly wicked men” like Hitler and Pol Pot—but Evangelicals imagine that all those who have not made a personal, conscious decision to “accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour” will be thrown into hell forever. This means that otherwise moral people, who are non-Christians, will be eternally tortured.

If I were to burn my daughter with cigarettes or poke out my son’s eyes with a pencil, I would be arrested and sent to prison. Even the most irreligious of people would find my behaviour to be obscene. Yet this is precisely what many Evangelicals believe about God, who is portrayed as One who inflicts torture on a truly massive scale—eternally afflicting His children. If, as a defence, I said that I burned my daughter and blinded my son because I was holy, and my righteousness demanded that I punish sin, people would be repulsed. An act of brutality would not be a manifestation of righteousness, but of unrighteousness—not of holiness, but of terrible evil. Yet Christians say that hell exists because God is holy, and His righteousness demands that He must punish sin.

While I certainly believe God to be both righteous and holy, if hell is an eternal torment of all non-Christians, then God would be neither. He would not deserve our worship but our scorn.

The theory of annihilationism has certain implications, especially for evangelism. Interestingly, the response of many Christians when they hear an annihilationist position is: “What is the point of being a Christian then?” The prospect of an eternal torment in hell is a motivating force for many people to remain believers—if no such punishment exists, surely we are free to eat, drink and be merry, for the worst that will happen is that we cease to be!

But the question must be, what are we saved from and what are we saved to? Jesus offers life, in all its fullness and abundance. We cannot say that if there is no endless torture for unbelievers that “there is no point” in believing. We are believers not because we want to avoid hell, but because we want to have unending fellowship with God, and because we desire the life He offers us. The fact that unbelievers miss out on his fellowship and life is not a reason for us to turn to “wine, women and song”!

Our desire should be to present this offer of eternal bliss to others, so that they too may know God and have fellowship with Him. Evangelism should not be to save people from the torment of hell, but to save people to life. Too often our presentation of the Gospel has been negative—hell has been a big stick with which God will (eternally!) hit people who do not accept Him. Our evangelism is therefore undermined by an inherent contradiction: on the one hand, God loves you; on the other, if you do not believe that He loves you He will torture you forever!

However, from an annihilationist perspective, we may present the love and mercy of God to others, and His offer of eternal life, in a way that does not do violence to the character and nature of God.

The idea of annihilation seems to fit more with what we know of God, as revealed in the Bible: the God who is loving and merciful, and whose holiness compels Him to destroy the evil which He cannot co-exist with. The theory of annihilationism also fits better with what we know of the Jewish context in which Jesus spoke. At the same time, annihilationism remains just a theory (although the traditional view is also just a theory).

Which view most accurately represents what the destiny of the unrepentant will be revealed in due course. In the meantime, we should, at the very least, recognise that annihilationism is, increasingly, a valid evangelical option. In the words of John Stott, annihilationism should “be accepted as a legitimate, biblically sound alternative to [the doctrine of] eternal conscious torment” (Stott 319-32).

10 thoughts on “Final Doom”

  1. I wonder what God’s response will be to all those Christians who have miss respresented God, portraying Him as a cruel despot who will torment sinners for all eternity?

  2. Pain is not ‘needless’ or ‘unjustifiable’. God has very good reason for giving us the capacity to feel pain. And ‘Pain relief’ esp via drugs etc entails a measure of ‘Grace’, and ‘Product’… ‘Goods’. A person Damned to hell is not under grace but judgement, and neither do they have any rightful claim to any ‘goods’… all of which come from God whom they have forsaken. Thus they are justly trapped in a prison of their own device. Of course once people are in hell they will regret their choice, and say “If I had known this would happen, I would not have rejected Christ.” … yet If God first stood everyone on the edge of the abyss and there offered them the gospel of grace… that would actually remove ‘the moral choice’ …because under those circumstances everyone would automatically choose Christ. (not out of a sence of Moral culpiblity but out of pure fear)

    Thus God expects us to make our choice *by faith….here and now* based upon our hearts motive … as to our proper place in the universe under God.
    Today we are free to contemplate the world and our own consciences, and to figure out where God fits in… Whether or not we bow to his sovereignty or whether we will live as Godless rebels… by our own lusts… and rulze. The reality is The Damned Freely made a conscious choice to Reject The morality of The God of the scriptures…. and to live an amoral existence… as they wanted…. as if Reality was what ever they wanted it to be…. Nek minnit… They have their appointment with death! They are Standing before the Judgement seat of Christ and are calling him unjust!
    There is a common delusion to think the God of the Bible is merely ‘The God of love’… like Aphrodite, when he is far more than this. He is the God of Justice, and the God of Wrath!
    Many people curse God because they think he dose not care when evil prevails… eg Many Jews cursed God because he allowed Hitler into power…. also many atheist point at Hitler and say “There is no God” or God is a Bastard! because he allows evil to prosper…. yet they are Fools.

    God Gets Angry at Sin!
    He stores up his wrath.
    He tarries so that ‘Nature’ may take its course, yet only fools assume this inaction is a sign no judgement will fall! Yea every idle word shall be given account on that terrible day!
    Judgement is not an act of callousness! but of a Deep sense of justice and Righteous indignation.
    Those whom deny Hell have very short memories, and Judge Evil as ‘pettiness’… rather than the absolute wickedness that God deems it to be…
    and they actually condemn a God whom would pass the judgement of damnation …for getting so angry at sin!
    They think such anger is unjustifiable.
    This is obvious from the severity of the sentence they deem fit for sin.
    The Hell deniers think annihilation is sufficient punishment for sin.
    The God of the Bible deems sin to be worthy of Eternal Damnation.
    So when you see your friends and familiy, and neigbours rejecting Christ… weep for them! Pray for them! Do everything within your power to convince them of their dire need to recieve Christ!
    For they ballance on the edge of Eternal Damnation! Now is their moment to choose!
    “It is apointed unto Man once to die, and after this the Judgement!”

  3. The answer to that is sadly… yes.
    And it will be just.
    I dont think you appreciate how ‘A little leven leveneth the whole lump’ Richard.
    What you dont seem to appreciate is that all Humans (Adults) are guilty of Sin, and that every human Baby has the seeds of evil in them and the capasity to become Hitlers, Stalin’s, etc (Thats where these monsters come from!). Billions of those whom will go to hell will not have committed the same atrocities as these Major Criminals… yet that has more to do with fear… or lack of opportunity rather than any degree of moral superiority. And look at the Boat people dying because little old lady Auzzy does want them in ‘their’ country! And the same can be said of Kiwis…. most lack any compassion for those in dire need of charity…. and thereby prove they have the same hearts and souls as Hitler and Stalin. These are The dark secrets of the average human heart…. desperately wicked… Saith the scriptures. Sins of In-action can be as evil as actions.
    Thus God will find them all guilty of the most heinous crimes… And they shall be rightfully judged and damned.

  4. God is just and merciful.

    Hell is a false doctrine and makes God out to be unjust and unmerciful.

    1) The wages of sin is death.
    2) Death is like sleep.
    3) therefore, the wages of sin is like sleep.

    Tim, do you agree or disagree with 1, 2 and 3?

  5. So you think that God will torture billions of people for eternity?
    Tim Wikiriwhi says:
    The answer to that is sadly… yes.
    And it will be just.

    What you have said is
    (A) apocryphal
    (B) blasphemous
    (C) contradictory

  6. I am unmoved. Though the doctrine of eternal Damnation is very upsetting, it is objectivly sound. Even the fact that you Richard think the idea that ‘God will damn billions’ is an unjust thing to believe… objectively speaking it actually displays very high justice in that ‘Numbers’ are irrelivant… what matters is that God consistently applies the same standards in his judgement across the board and so the fact that he will do this even if it means Billions are Damned actually proves *his absolute objective justice* because he does not flinch from justly applying the same absolute standard to all.
    What else would you expect from God?
    In Matt 9vs24 Jesus says …” the maid is not dead, but sleepeth.”
    Here Christ does indeed say death is like sleep… and as a person is still ‘alive’ when they are asleep, so too they are still alive ‘when they are dead’.. ie they have not been annhilated… as the term ‘dead’ is understood to mean *in contrast* to merely sleeping. Ie Christ was explaining that People survive their bodies, and can be restored to them.

  7. What else would you expect from God?

    Oh, I don’t know, Tim. 😛 Love. Mercy. Forgiveness. And justice. Love, mercy, forgiveness and justice as we, who are made in His image, know them.

    For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness

  8. what matters is that God consistently applies the same standards in his judgement across the board

    What matters more are the standards that God consistently applies.

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