Sunday, November 3, 2013

Conditional Immortality

A friend of mine asked me to review a section of a book called So Why Didn't They Tell Me That In Church by Steven Michael Owens. The section he asked me to comment on is a defense of conditional immortality. The author makes a number of claims about how various words should be translated but from his writing it's pretty obvious that he has no training in the Biblical languages. At one point, he cites Liddell and Scott's lexicon but refers to it as a concordance and the actual quotation is not from Liddell and Scott but from Cruden's Concordance. You're not going to find people who actually knows the Biblical languages using Cruden's Concordance as an authority for how a word should be translated. If someone is going to make a statement about how a word should be translated they should at least take the time to study the language. I will not make any claims about how a particular Russian word should be translated into English since I have no knowledge of Russian. I could continue pointing out the particular problems with this particular book but all I would prove is that Steven Michael Owens doesn't do a very good job defending conditional immortality. Instead I'm going to look at the major arguments for conditional immortality as I found them in a variety of sources. I read the arguments from people on both sides of the debate and often found that they were talking past one another.

There's a tendency among those defending conditional immortality to use the Old Testament as the lens through which to understand the New Testament rather than the other way around. They will bring up passages like Isaiah 66:24 and point out the fact that although it says that "their worm shall not die," the passages is speaking of "the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled" and state that these people are not suffering conscious torment. However, I would point out that both the rewards of the righteous and the punishments of the wicked as they are portrayed in the Old Testament are but shadows of the reality revealed in the New Testament. Canaan is a picture of heaven but not heaven in its fullness. In Isaiah 65:20, the reward of righteous in the new creation is depicted in such a way that involves extended life but not eternal life. Even the extended life that it prophecies is actually shorter than the lives of some of the Old Testament patriarchs.

Matthew 25:46 speaks of eternal life for the righteous and eternal punishment for the wicked. It would seem that if we are going to read the "eternal life" through the lens of the Old Testament then we would have to conclude that it really just means very long life. Those promoting conditional immortality understand the punishment to be eternal in the sense that the person is eternally unconscious and I when I listened to some of the podcasts from the Rethinking Hell website it often seemed like they were searching through lexicons to find the meaning they wanted. Thayer's was outdated when it was published but I heard them quoting from it in support of their views. However, when you look at a standard lexicon such as BDAG  and start working your way through the literature cited that uses this word it's pretty clear that some kind of torture is usually involved not just some judicial verdict with eternal consequences. 4 Maccabees 8:9 speaks of punishing someone through tortures and I think that the fear in 1 John 4:18 is the result of the fear of conscious torture rather than the fear of some judicial verdict. The same word is used in the LXX in Ezekiel 14 and 18 and seems to have the idea of conscious torment associated with it. The verb form of this Greek noun is found in other passages of Scripture and always seems to have the idea of conscious torture.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 is also commonly brought up in the debates and we find those who appeal to conditional immortality appealing to the Old Testament once again. I don't think it's entirely clear whether the eternal destruction is placing the person away from the presence of the Lord or if in fact the unbeliever is experiencing God's destruction in his presence but I do think it's pretty clear that the destruction is ongoing. The destruction is not annihilation. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, Paul hands someone over to Satan to be destroyed in hopes that the person will come to repentance and be saved. The person pretty clearly was not annihilated.

One of the biggest problems in the debate is the use of the word "immortality." "Immortality" literally means to never die. In philosophy, immortality expresses the idea of continual conscious existence. However, in the Scriptures "immortality" is found only in Christ (1 Timothy 6:16, 1 Corinthians 15:53-54). Immortality is not mere conscious existence in Scripture but union with Christ. Also, death in Scripture does not necessarily mean a loss of consciousness. When Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he died. Paul says that in the unregenerate state we were dead in our trespasses and sins. From a scientific perspective we were alive and we maintained conscious existence but we were alienated from God. The Scriptures give the promise that the believer who dies will live but also says that he will never die. Medieval scholastics seem to have imbibed to heavily from Greek philosophy and developed all kinds of ideas about the inherent immortality of the soul but that does not seem to be the case among the early church fathers even though some adopted philosophical language while others did not.

In the following sections I provide quotes and summaries of the teachings of the various church fathers. You can click on the links to read these writings in their totality.

You can find different uses of the word "immortality" among the early church fathers. Some will follow the more Biblical way of speaking and say that only the believer possesses immortality and yet still speak of the unbelievers in eternal conscious suffering. Others will say that both the believer and unbeliever are immortal. Still others, alternate between the two ways of speaking. In seeking to understand what is meant by eternal punishment, I think it is important to consult the early church fathers. The Apostles taught others and I think it's foolish to not take the writings of the early church fathers into account when we interpret these verses. Some simply repeat the language of Scripture, but among those who give further explanation there's a very strong consensus that the unrighteous will suffer eternally and consciously. The only clear exception I could find was Arnobius writings in 305 who spoke of the annihilation of the wicked.

Arnobius was an outspoken critic of Christianity who then converted to Christianity. The local bishop demanded proof that Arnobius and so Arnobius wrote an apologetic work against the pagans. Throughout his work he seems to intend to be orthodox in what he says but lacks a grasp of true Christian doctrine. In this work you can also find him arguing as if the pagan gods are real gods but subordinate to the Biblical God. It's somewhat ironic that those embracing conditional mortality will claim that belief in eternal conscious torment is result of Greek philosophy when Arnobius says that God did not create souls but they were the work of an inermediate being. It seems like Arnobius was pretty heavily influenced by gnosticism.

On the other hand there are host of writings and church fathers that teach eternal conscious torment. The Epistle of Barnabas written between 70-130 speaks of "the way of eternal death with punishment." Justin Martyr writing around 160 says that "Sensation remains to all who have ever lived, and eternal punishment is laid up." Justin Martyr tends to only speak of the righteous as immortal but speaks of the unending torment of the wicked. Tatian writes in 160 and speaks of both the righteous and the wicked as immortal. Athenagoras writing in 175 says that those who fall will endure a life in fire and not be annihilated like animals. Theophilus writing in 180 speaks of people daily burning in fire forever. Clement of Alexandria writing in 195 says that all souls are immortal and says that there is no end to their misery. Tertullian writing in 197 speaks of the "secret fire" of God's judgment and says that it "repairs while it burns" and this is how it is eternal. Tertullian is the first instance I've seen of someone trying to provide some explanation of who the fire burns without annihilating and Tertullian's basic explanation is stated by later writers. Mark Minucius Felix writing in 200 makes very similar statements and speaks of the fire being nourished by the eating away of the bodies and also restoring as it burns. Hippolytus writing in 205 speaks of an unquenchable fire and a fiery worm that "continues bursting forth from the body with unending pain." Origen writing in 225 speaks of the resurrected bodies of the damned as being unable to be dissolved. Origen is known for his speculations that the damned would eventually be reconciled but he never stated this dogmatically. Commodianus writing in 240 speaks of people being tormented in Gehenna for all time. Cyprian does not engage in some of the speculations of others but simply speaks of the eternal punishments of Gehenna when he writes in 250. Lactantius writes some time between 304-313 and specifically says that the souls of the unrighteous are not annihilated but receive everlasting punishment.

This post is not exhaustive in dealing with the issue. Instead it addresses some core issues that don't seem to be addressed in the current debate. The idea of eternal suffering in hell even for your worst enemies isn't a pleasant one. It's hard to imagine being happy while you know that loved ones are suffering eternally. Of course, it's hard to imagine being happy knowing that loved ones were annihilated as well. It's disturbing to contemplate the idea of being born in a completely different location and never hearing the Gospel and then being sent to hell. The Scriptures are clear that we all deserve hell and on a certain level we can confess that to be true but I doubt there's anyone who fully grasps the concept this side of heaven. Scripture is pretty brief on the topic of hell and we don't find anything like "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in Scripture." Scripture does not answer all the questions we might have about hell and it's for our own good. There are many secret things of God that are best left unknown to us. Instead, we must not look to the hidden things of God but to God as He has revealed Himself in Christ-crucified where God has revealed Himself in incomprehensible love towards us.


Chris Date said...

Hi, Chuck. My name is Chris Date, and if you've listened to some of the podcasts you'll know I contribute at Rethinking Hell. I'd love to discuss some of the things you say, but since it's your blog I don't want to take over your comments thread. Let me know if you're interested in dialogue. Thanks!

Chuck Wiese said...

Yes, I would be willing to discuss these things on your blog. My responses will probably me slow in coming because of my other responsibilities.

Chris Date said...

Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean at my blog, I meant here in your blog post's comments thread. I'll start the conversation going a bit later. And I completely understand having other responsibilities. Thanks!

Chris Date said...

Maybe we could begin with this: "There's a tendency among those defending conditional immortality to use the Old Testament as the lens through which to understand the New Testament rather than the other way around. They will bring up passages like Isaiah 66:24 and point out the fact that although it says that 'their worm shall not die,' the passages is speaking of 'the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled' and state that these people are not suffering conscious torment. However, I would point out that both the rewards of the righteous and the punishments of the wicked as they are portrayed in the Old Testament are but shadows of the reality revealed in the New Testament."

In point of fact, we don't read the NT through the lens of the OT. We affirm the doctrine of progressive revelation as ardently as any traditionalist. However, several things deserve mentioning.

First, your use of the word "although" as if "their worm shall not die" is something that challenges our view, but it does not. The OT uses the idiom of an unstoppable scavenger to communicate that corpses will be consumed shamefully. See my article here: The idiom of a fire that won't be quenched is consistently used to refer to a fire which, being unstoppable, completely consumes. See my article here: So (1) the corpses, (2) the unstoppable maggots, and (3) the inextinguishable fire together paint a picture of Gehenna as one which utterly and completely destroys, not one which torments living people forever.

Second, it's a mistake to simplistically treat the NT as a lens through which to interpret the OT, as if the NT authors can reuse OT langauge and imagery however they might choose. Sure, the Holy Spirit could have--and did many times--inspire the authors of the NT to use OT in different, unexpected ways. However, as Don Carson and G. K. Beale explain, the notion that NT authors would exercise carte blanche creative license, repurposing OT langauge and imagery however they pleased, "fits poorly within the first-century Jewish milieu, where the integrity of a movement such as early Christianity would be judged by its coherence with the OT message...‘progressive revelation’ is crucial in understanding the OT and John’s book, as it is for all of the NT. On the other hand, of course, such ‘progressive revelation’ must not be separated from prior revelation, since it builds on and develops the earlier revelation with hermeneutical integrity." . . .

Chris Date said...

. . . With all of that in mind, thirdly, when Jesus quotes Isaiah 66:24 in Mark 9:48, he adds utterly nothing to it, no clarifying details, that might lead us to think that Isaiah's scene is being used to teaching something different from what it originally communicated: death and destruction, in the normal sense of those words. Might other texts in the NT teach the traditional view of hell? Possibly, although I don't think so; I became convinced of conditionalism primarily because every single traditionalist proof-text I looked at more closely proved to be better support for conditionalism--and not simply by looking at them through the lens of the OT. Nevertheless, if there were texts in the NT which taught the traditional view of hell, I would believe it, and maybe we'd have warrant for believing that Jesus' was using Isaiah to communicate something different from the original meaning.

*That* argument, that Jesus means something other than Isaiah's scene originally communicated because other NT texts force us to think so, is an argument we can discuss. But Mark 9:48 and Isaiah 66:24 can't be cited as proof-texts for traditionalism because Jesus doesn't expand upon Isaiah's original words, which depicted corpses unstoppably devoured by maggots and fire. This is not reading the NT through the lens of the OT; it's applying the historical grammatical method, understanding how Jesus' audience would have understood his words, by looking at the Scriptures he quoted in which his audience were so immensely steeped.

Chuck Wiese said...


I think you're reading more than I intended into my "although" statement. My point was that if Isaiah provides us with the lens through which to read the New Testament texts in regards to the punishment of the wicked then it should also provide us with the lens through which to read the New Testament statements in regards to the righteous. If we are going to read a passage such as Isaiah 66:24 to understand what the New Testament means by eternal punishment then we would also have to read Isaiah 65 to determine the state of the righteous in its full reality. But, in both cases the imagery in Isaiah is but a shadow of the full reality.

The passage I was mainly appealing to was Matthew 25:46. The canonical order provides a guide to our interpretation of the Scriptures. What I'm about to say may seem irrelevant to the current conversation but I think there are some deeper issues that cause each of us to interpret these Scriptures in different ways so please allow me to explain my position. Matthew is foundational to Christian doctrine. He provides the lens through which to understand the rest of the Scriptures. The Gospels as a unit function in a similar way to the way the Pentatuch did to the ancient Israelites. The canonicity of books like Revelation remained disputed for quite some time and they find their place at the end of the NT canon. Many of the interpretive difficulties are solved if you simply move from Matthew through Revelation and then Genesis through the Apocrypha. It's when you go backwards that you end up with problems as can be seen in all the cults that begin with Revelation and then try to read their unique interpretation into the rest of Scripture.

This is essentially the way that the early church fathers interpreted the Scriptures based on the tradition handed down to them by the Apostles. The Apostles took Jesus seriously when he said that all the Scriptures were about him and found Jesus in very unexpected places. Matthew takes Hosea 11:1 which seems to just be about a past event in Israel's history but interprets it as a prophecy about Jesus and sets forth Jesus as the New Israel. The early church fathers would most likely not be able to pass a hermeneutics exam in many seminaries today but neither would the Apostles and the Apostles provide us with the interpretive method that we need to understand the Scriptures rather than any of the current rules about "one literal sense" or any of the other things that people talk about.

I really think that the root of your problem in interpreting the Scripture can be found in Calvin. Calvin departed significantly from the historic Christian interpretation of the Old Testament and instead would often follow Jewish interpretations that existed in his own day. You can see this especially in the way he interprets the Psalms. Up until that time there was no division between Messianic and non-Messianic Psalms. Christian commentators consistently interpreted the Psalms and the rest of the Old Testament Christologically. But Calvin regarded these interpretations as fanciful and also contributed to this idea that the canon is essentially flat without differentiating between the purpose of the books.

Chuck Wiese said...

Anyhow, I think that what Matthew 25:46 says is very clear. It speaks of the wicked departing εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον. If you look through both the Biblical and non-Biblical usages of κόλασις as listed in BDAG as well as its verbal equivalent, it seems to pretty clearly refer to some kind of conscious suffering that is taking place rather than just some judicial punishment that is taking place. There are various ways that Jesus could have spoken of some type of judicial verdict but he didn't use those words. The only way to make them say something different is if you take some approach where you try to read Matthew through the lens of the passage in Isaiah rather than the other way around which is a Judaizing approach to the Scriptures. There's a reason why there's a very consistent to witness in the church fathers to the idea of eternal conscious torment as I referenced in my post. The only clear deviation you find is in Arnobius who was trying to write in an orthodox way but didn't have a very firm grasp on Christian orthodoxy. This is why you find him speaking of an intermediate being creating the souls of man and these other gnostic ideas. The Holy Spirit did not depart from the church. If you come up with some interpretation of Scripture that differs from those who lived in close proximity to the Apostles and spoke their language, you are wrong, not them.

Chris Date said...

Chuck, there's a reason I used the word "begin." I intended to dialogue with you concerning your post one point at a time. Don't worry, I won't leave anything unaddressed. But jumping ahead is unhelpful. My point was simply that your repeated accusation that we are reading NT revelation concerning eternal punishment through the lens of the OT is baseless. We simply look at NT reuses of OT language and if there is no expansion of the original meaning, without other texts that say differently we let that language carry the meaning that would have been understood by is hearers. And as our conversation progresses, you'll see that no such competing texts exist.

Moving on to the next point (one at a time), you correctly point out that Isa. 65 depicts long life, not eternal life. But you appear to be under the strange misconception that conditionalists take these passages literally. We do not. Chapter 66 depicts a scene (using (1) corpses, (2) unstoppable scavengers, and (3) inextinguishable fire, not to mention (4) the language prior to verse 24 in which the wicked are slain) in which the wicked are executed and their bodies are irresitibly consumed by maggots and fire. We don't argue that that's literally the fate awaiting the wicked; we simply demonstrate that the imagery communicates God's enemies coming to an end. Likewise, we don't take chapter 65 literally; the imagery communicates the lasting life of God's people.

So your claim that we are being inconsistent is based on a false premise to begin with, and therefore the argument fails.

I'm happy to discuss Matthew 25:46 next; it is better support for our view than for yours. But I'll give you a chance to press further on Isaiah 65-66 should you so choose.

Chuck Wiese said...

I think it's best that we address Matthew 25:46.

Chris Date said...

Great! I appreciate your flexibility.

So, Matthew 25:46 simply says the punishment will be eternal; it doesn't identify its nature, not explicitly. A surface reading of the text, of course, suggests that the conditionalist reading is correct, since it is only the saved who are promised everlasting life, so the lost will not live forever. You don't need to respond to that; I'm aware of how traditionalists variously respond. But it is an absolute fact that the traditional view is one in which the risen lost will live forever (, even if it's in some state they think the Bible calls "death".

κόλασις does, indeed, sometimes refer to the punishment of death. In Jeremiah 18:20, the Masoretic reads, "they have dug a pit for my life," and verse 23 speaks of "their plotting to kill me" (ESV). But in the LXX, verse 20 reads, "they have hidden the punishment [κόλασις] they meant for me." So κόλασις is, here, the punishment of death. This is the punishment in view in the LXX rendition of Ezekiel 14:3, 4 and 7, where κόλασις corresponds to the punishment of death and destruction in verses 8 and 9. Such is the case also in Ezekiel 18:30, where κόλασις corresponds to death in the verses that follow. I believe there are other examples as well.

So the question before us is, does Matthew 25:46 speak of eternal punishing in risen, living bodies that never die (in some sort of state not properly called "life")? Or, of the eternal punishment of death from which the lost will not rise a second time, ever again? This verse, in and of itself, doesn't answer that question (well I think it does, but again, I'm aware of the traditionalist response). It simply doesn't serve as support for your view over mine. We have to interpret it in light of what the rest of Scripture says, including the "eternal fire" from a few verses earlier. If you'd like to discuss that next, we can.

Chuck Wiese said...


As I've pointed out before, the Scriptures very clearly speak of people who are walking around consciously as being dead. You were dead in your trespasses and sins. But you keep equating death with non-existence. The objection that you raise against the dead consciously existing would also have to be raised against the Apostle Paul. As I pointed out in my original post, some of the church fathers speak only of believers of living eternally and the unbelievers being in a state of eternal torment while others use "immortal" more in the philosophical sense. Words only have meaning in the context in which they are used. And just because some church fathers use the word "immortal" to speak of both believers and unbelievers doesn't mean that they hold to a conception of the soul derived from Greek philosophy. I prefer not to use the word "sacrament" because of the Platonic baggage associated with it but I don't really have a problem with how the word is used in the Lutheran Confessions.

As for the Jeremiah 18:20 passage, it looks to me like the Masoretic text and the LXX have a somewhat different textual tradition standing behind them since the LXX speaks of those who have spoken words against his soul. There may be a direct correspondence between the hidden punishment and the dug pit but I'd have to look into it more. However, I'm not sure it's really that significant to the discussion. If the punishment is that they hide some hole and he falls into a pit he will suffer when he falls into the pit. They hope this will end in death but he's going to be conscious and suffering torture while he's falling into the pit. It's going to hurt. The passages from Ezekiel speak of punishments that end in death but at that point the punishment is over in the Ezekiel narrative. The punishment is the conscious suffering. But this is something pretty distinct from eternal suffering. BDAG defines the primary meaning of the word as "infliction of suffering or pain in chastisement." The second definition is "transcendent retribution." The examples given seem pretty consistent including the examples you have provided. I don't see any example in Scripture of somebody experiencing κόλασις in a state of unconsciousness. It's more than just some verdict.

Chris Date said...

I've never equated death with cessation of existence. Perhaps you have someone else in mind? And I'm happy to explain why living people are called "dead" a handful of times; as I said, I'm intimately familiar with the traditional response to our claim that everlasting life for the saved rules out ongoing life for the lost. But as I said, I'm happy to not press that point for now. As for the Fathers, can we please not jump ahead? We'll come to them soon; I'm trying to address your post one point at a time.

As for the LXX uses of kolasis to which I've pointed you, in each case the punishment clearly is not suffering, but death. And no, the kolasis is not over at death. As Augustine pointed out, the duration of capital punishment is not measured in the time it takes to die, but in the consequent time during which the criminal is dead. As for lexicons, they are overruled by usage, and as we've seen, in several places the punishment is death, not suffering.

So my point stands: eternal punishment in Matthew 10:28 can either refer to ongoing life in punitive suffering, or everlasting death. The verse doesn't resolve the debate definitively. But context heavily favors conditionalism, given Jesus' use of eternal fire a few verses earlier. Would you like me to explain that for you before we move on to the next point in your post?

Chris Date said...

BTW there are other such examples of κόλασις. In 2 Macc. 4:38, the cursed murderer was slain, which is said to be the κόλασις he deserved. In 3 Macc. 1:2, Theodotus tries to kill Ptolemy, but verse 3 tells us that Dositheus snuck Ptolemy away and made someone else lie in Ptolemy's tent, so that the "fate" or "vengeance" (κόλασις) befell him instead of Ptolemy.

The simple reality is that κόλασις simply means "punishment," which can take various forms--including death.

Chuck Wiese said...

It seems pretty clear that in all the examples you've given so far that some type of torture is still going on. The torture is sometimes followed by death. If I hit you in the head with a shovel and it kills you it still inflicts pain on you in addition to killing you. You are going to have to go dig up some papyrii and prove BDAG wrong.

Chris Date said...

In point of fact, few if any of the examples I gave have even a hint of torment preceding death. In each case, the punishment is clearly death--capital punishment. If that's not a point you're willing either to concede or to meaningfully rebut with more than a lexicon (since usage trumps lexicons), then there's little point continuing the discussion. For it will not matter how overwhelmingly the biblical data supports conditionalism, which I assure you it does; what convinced me was that all the prooftexfs traditionally cited in support for eternal torment prove better support for conditionalism. That won't matter, though, given your commitment to a lexicon's definition which is contradicted by the word's uses. You'll always see the data through the lens of this one text whose meaning your certain of because of that lexicon.

So I'll leave the discussion at that unless or until you either meaningfully rebut the evidence I've offered concerning kolasis, or concede to it. Thanks.

Chuck Wiese said...


If I conceded, I would feel an obligation to go turn my BA in Greek back into Calvin College. I love Greek too much to concede to your definition of κόλασις. If you could point me to an article in a peer reviewed journal on Biblical languages that shows this to be the case I'm willing to continue to read. But based on the evidence you have given so far I see no reason too. What happens if English dies off hundreds of years from now and someone tries to figure out what the word "torture" used to mean? If they found some text where it said someone was tortured and then later you read on in the document that the person died, would that mean that the person didn't suffer while they were being tortured? If the text said something like, "people are torturing me, they are trying to kill me" would you conclude that the person did not suffer during the torture?

It seems pretty clear to me that you have developed a very faulty hermeneutic for reading Scripture that extends beyond this particular issue. But I have violated one of the four spiritual laws of Rethinking Hell by not conceding to your definiton of κόλασις so we can part our ways.

I have to say that I find it a little disturbing that you have become so fixated on this particular issue as if the core teaching of Scripture was that the unbelievers don't have to suffer eternally. I've seen this with people on a number of a different doctrines that depart from historic Christianity. It just consumes them.

Peter Grice said...

Wow. It strikes me as risible that you would reduce κόλασις to torment, rather than acknowledge that torment is only part of its full semantic range. Anyone with access to basic reference tools can see that punishment is also part of that range; indeed, the word is often translated as "punishment" rather than "torment."

Surely you are not assuming or asserting that punishment must always involve torment?

Consider that crucifixion was one form of capital punishment involving much torment. Consider also stoning. In fact, one would be hard pressed to think of ways in which criminals were put to death in the ancient world, which were somehow devoid of pain.

Now consider what linguist David Midkiff had to say about translating this word:

"There are three Greek verbs for punishment used in the New Testament. Keep in mind that each of these verbs has a nominal form in Greek. These are ekdikeo, timoreo, and kolazo. Ekdikeo is the pure and simple verb for “punish” as it entails making retribution and taking vengeance. In 1 Pet. 2:14 it is the governing authorities that accomplish this. Timoreo on the other hand entails a vigilante sort of revenge in the sense of exacting payment or vengeance due to the insulted honor of the punisher(s). Paul uses this word when speaking of his persecutions against Christians in Acts 22:5 and 26:11. Finally, kolazo literally means “to lop” or “to prune” especially concerning the maintenance of almond trees. It derives from kolos, which refers to the docking off of animal tails or horns. It came to be figuratively used in reference to the severe torture of capital punishment, alluding to the idea of something being cut off at its base.

So which word is used in Matthew 25:46? It is the Greek word kolasis, which is the nominal form of the verb kolazo. The semantic entailment in the Greek of being cut off at the base through pruning means that this verb and its nominal form is likely not an activity in Greek. The most literal way to translate this into English would be “an eternal pruning” or “an eternal cutting-off” with the figurative sense of capital punishment intact in Greek pragmatics. Though we do not have a native speaker of Koine Greek to definitively verify the grammar, it is unlikely to have pruned or cut something off “for ten minutes”, but it is highly likely to have pruned or cut something off “in ten minutes” or “at five o’clock”. This type of action appears as a bounded verb cross-linguistically. Thus kolazo is very likely a bounded, telic event. This means that kolasis, commonly translated as “punishment”, is either an accomplishment or achievement in the Greek and not an activity. If this is the case, then “eternal” describes the result of the punishment (death) as lasting forever, not a perpetual activity of punishment."


Which is more virtuous: to stubbornly appeal to a favored lexicon and one's own education, or to interact with the specifics?

Chuck Wiese said...

So you want me to acknowledge that κόλασις does not necessarily involve torment because there were punishments like crucifixion and stoning that involved torment and which as you say were not devoid of pain? They died because of the punishment of torment they received. My guess is that your
argument is that since these tortures ended in death that means that there was en end to the torment. But the Scriptures speak of this as an eternal torment. Can you provide any examples where someone who is no longer
conscious is said to be currently having κόλασις applied to them? It hurts when people throw rocks at you.

Who is this "linguist" that you speak of? Does he have any published works in academic journals? Does he teach linguistics? Where did he get his
degree and what is his field of study?

This particular "linguist" seems to be engaging in form of etymological fallacy. You cannot determine the meaning of a word in a given context by determining the "original" meaning of the word. There are all kinds of insanities that would result from this if you applied it consistently. I
located the original article and checked the footnotes and LSJ doesn't even appear to support quite the meaning he claims he does here unless it's been
changed dramatically in the 1996 printing. I'm working with the 1940 printing so please post a citation if there is a significant difference. My edition says something about checking the growth of trees but nothing about
being cut off at the base and "pruning" by cutting off at the base sounds like a bad idea. And I don't see any good reason to think that the use of this word in some ancient text about the pruning of almond trees necessarily has much to do with the meaning in this text. But if it does, I think it actually supports the historic Christian position better than it supports your position. I think it's a bit speculative but a number of the church fathers speak of the fires of hell regenerating the person as it consumes them which would fit with the pruning quite well. You generally don't prune a tree with the intention of annihilating it.

And what on earth does "likely not an activity in Greek" even mean? Yes, the punishment is in the form of a noun in the sentence and so is life. And so perhaps life is not an activity either and they are going to only have life for ten minutes.

The meaning of the text is plain enough. We have examples of native Koine Greek speakers interpreting it. The reason you must introduce all these various possible interpretations is that you disagree with what the text actually says.

Peter Grice said...

Oh dear. The posturing about yours and other people's credentials is sad to see (just being honest). As is your faux-confidence in such an elementary matter.

Readers of this conversation are able to check for themselves what is going on.

Chris and myself made a modest claim concerning Matthew 25:46: "punishment" is within the range of meaning, and fits here due to context and other considerations.

You say no, the word can't mean that—it just has to indicate "torment." This is not a modest claim.

To highlight the problem, here are some of the major Bible translations which agree with us:


For comparison, here is the list of major Bible translations which translate κόλασις as "torment" instead:

As if that weren't enough (it is), your claim that κόλασις just equals torment is disproved by ordinary, familiar references that your readers can easily check. Here is just the first link that comes up for me in Google, but it's perfectly adequate:

The search result under that has Northwest Baptist Seminary's Professor of Biblical Studies making exactly that observation, and going further to illustrate how the *punishment* of κόλασις can indeed accommodate death, just as we say.

I have to say that in my opinion the antagonistic debate paradigm is failing you. You have reached that most close-minded of all hermeneutical conclusions: the text obviously says what I say it does, therefore you must be motivated by an outside agenda ("The reason you must introduce all these various possible interpretations is that you disagree with what the text actually says.") Hopefully it's clear to others why this is a dangerous approach. It is so implausible in this case, given that some of the world's top biblical scholars are Conditionalists. Yikes.

Chuck Wiese said...

I'm not denying that "punishment" is a valid translation. But its usage shows that it's a type of punishment that is actually experienced by someone. It's not just some verdict. I can't imagine anyone who has studied Greek appealing to Thayer's lexicon since it was already outdated when it was first released. But it doesn't say anything that would support your position either. Neither does the article you cited. Being put to death involves pain being inflicted upon you. The article does not say anything about the verb using to describe the present state of someone who is not suffering.

Some of the "world's top Bible scholars" also deny the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, the virgin birth and a whole host of different things.

I am not a linguist and don't claim to be but I know enough about it to recognize an obvious linguistic fallacy when I see one. The article by David Midkiff appeared to me to be written by someone who took a couple classes on linguistics and found a way to use the vocabulary of linguistics to make his article sound authoritative to those who know nothing about it. Perhaps if he wrote it in a British accent it would help even more.

Peter Grice said...

Great, so we have esbalished that it means "punishment" in Matthew 25:46 after all, just as all the translations attest.

Yet you're still trying to inject your preferred meaning, "torment." This is the fallacy of illegitimate totality transfer. You are confusing the generic class with a specific type of that class.

The type of punishment is not specified. It either means punishment or torment here.

If you think hearers will have had some kind of punishment in mind, so do I. Of course they did. But that's not a contextual rather than textual issue in this case.

And you've been too hasty in trying to rebut arguments I haven't made. You're the one who's made the stronger claim that we know from this verse what the nature of the punishment is. The article I supplied wasn't intended to "support [my] position" that κόλασις here refers to annihilation, because that isn't my position! I encouraging anyone reading this to actually read the article despite your protest, because it does indeed support the points I made, and it's a worthwhile read. Exactly as I had introduced it, the article establishes that the word doesn't have to mean "torment" as you asserted, but can indicate "punishment," and furthermore, it shows that said punishment is a concept which can accommodate the kind of punishment we hold to: death/destruction/perishing, such as in the example from Josephus. But it wasn't my claim that the word *means* that.

"But its usage shows that it's a type of punishment that is actually experienced by someone. It's not just some verdict."

I likened our view to the cruxificion of Jesus Christ. I'm not sure how you get "just some verdict" out of that.

"Some of the "world's top Bible scholars" also deny the divinity of Christ..."

So what? I obviously am not referring to liberal scholars in this context. Why do you think all the well-poisoning assists your cast? Anyone interested can find some of these believing scholars at under EXPLORE / Proponents / Contemporary. Lest my stated point be missed again, the reason I alluded to those is to show how implausible your explanation was about the text versus a preexisting agenda. If it were true that "what the text actually says" is plain in terms of traditionalism, then no scholar could maintain credibility if they departed from it.

"I am not a linguist and don't claim to be but I know enough about it to recognize an obvious linguistic fallacy when I see one"

Could you please identify and explain this obvious fallacy? I honestly have no idea which fallacy you have in mind, so would genuinely appreciate if you could point it out specifically what it is.

"I am not a linguist and don't claim to be... The article by David Midkiff appeared to me... Perhaps if he wrote it in a British accent..."

How does one write in an accent? I can see you're no linguist. But that doesn't stop you consistently pronouncing on who is. The ad hominem is childish. As for your quip, a British accent doesn't sound authoritative at all to me. It only sounds authoritative, I'm told, by those in north America. This neatly illustrates the problem of naïve realism, which has challenged this dialog thus far.

Peter Grice said...

"But that's not a contextual..."

Rather, it *is* a contextual issue.

Chuck Wiese said...


Okay, if you think that crucifixion is a good example, let's try substituting that word. They will go away into eternal crucifixion. If the punishment is annhilation then I think it would unlikely that someone would speak of going away into eternal annhilation. If the punishment is some kind of suffering that ends in annhilation then the punishment ends at the point of annhilation. I really think the Scriptures are clear enough. There simply wasn't any debate on this issue in the early church. Every theology has an explanation for every text you throw at it. But I always ask if the Scriptures would phrase things as they do if they believe what the person believes.

Peter Grice said...

"If the punishment is annhilation then I think it would unlikely that someone would speak of going away into eternal annhilation."

Chuck, "annihilation" is an abused term, and biblical language is preferred. By it, we mean no more than permanent death (with no coming back to life). We mean that a person is actually destroyed, body and soul (Matthew 10:28).

In a first-century hebraic context, where death is not permanent on account of resurrection (eg. Daniel 12:2), and where Jews were awaiting the final messianic age—with the hanging question of who, exactly, would be worthy to participate as children of God who "can no longer die," (Luke 20:34-36)—it makes *perfect sense* to speak of a second death, destruction, dying, perishing, etc. in that eternal age. When the dust settles, after the Day of Judgment, it will be death for some, and life for others. The permanence of that final age applies.

So when Paul expands on "eternal punishment" as the general class, he refers to the specific type: "punishment of eternal destruction" (2 Thess 1:9). To be destroyed at that time, is final and everlasting.

Traditionalists have alternative ideas about the term for "destruction," (after all, everything reference must be considered a symbol for ongoing torment). But the point is that there is nothing at all odd about speaking of eternal death over against life. On the contrary, to call living forever "death" should bear the burden of proving it is not a contrivance of interpretation.

Peter Grice said...

"If the punishment is some kind of suffering that ends in annhilation then the punishment ends at the point of annhilation."

There is some confusion here. Sinners have no entitlement to ongoing life and existence. Life was always a gift. Mankind was barred from living forever (Genesis 3:22). This deprivation of eternal life is the wages of sin that we need saving from. It is the theological linchpin upon which much of soteriology turns. The extreme clarity and profundity of this theme runs throughout scripture, so that if one is determined not to reach for prejudiced, post-hoc lenses, literally hundreds of texts fall into place. Death is the enemy, not eternal torment. This is why Jesus Christ "has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:10) It is why the righteous alone are given "the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)

So then, back to your statement, the punishment should not be measured by how much pain a person can feel for how long, but rather, by the gravely serious forfeit of eternal life. If you're going to insist that the only good punishment is conscious, so that it ends when consciousness ends, then that is circular reasoning in the debate. Instead, you should acknowledge the validity of punishment consisting in denial of privilege (the privilege, not the right, to partake of life in God's universe). On our view, the eternal punishment is the denial of the reward. Esau forfeits the inheritance. The unsaved are put to death, never to come back to life.

The victory of the cross is that Jesus was put to death, yet he came back to life (and qualified for representative priesthood, through the power of an indestructible life: Hebrews 7:6). He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25,26). This is significant, existentially and spiritually, because people generally do not want to die-many have an insatiable desire to cling to the life we have. Hope in the resurrection is key (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

We don't say that the punishment of being put to death is without suffering. It's just that the forfeit of eternal life has primacy. Whatever suffering there may during the process of being put to death is God's business. I personally believe that He will use it to apportion finite and varying degrees of punishment, which is an (experiential) aspect of the permanent destruction. Christ experienced the worst form of capital punishment, because he took upon himself the penalty for even the worst of sinners. He died for sinners, and that is the emphasis the Bible gives to the atonement: it is not his pain by itself which atones, but the death, the loss of life. The wages of sin is death. The gift of God is eternal life. Whoever believes in him has eternal life, but whoever does not will perish.

Your thoughts?

Chris Date said...

It's also worth noting that even some traditionalists acknowledge that annihilation is an eternal punishment, one measured in the duration of lifelessness as St. Augustine noted is the case with capital punishment. They even speak of "eternal" annihilation.

While Jonathan Edwards disagreed with annihilationists, he nevertheless admitted that annihilation would be a properly eternal punishment. He describes a view in which the unsaved suffer for a very long time and are then annihilated, and he argues that the biblical language of properly eternal punishment might describe annihilation, but then there would be no texts remaining which describe extended suffering. As he concludes the argument, “it answers the scripture expressions [of eternal punishment] as well, to suppose that they shall be annihilated immediately, without any long pains, provided the annihilation be everlasting.” (

Robert Reymond writes that some annihilationists claim “that a serious disproportion incompatible with justice would exist between sins consciously committed in time and torment consciously experienced throughout eternity.” He considers this a non sequitur, going on to say that “On this ground God could not even annihilate the sinner for his sins ‘committed in time’ since annihilation is certainly eternal in duration.” (Contending for the Faith)

John Blanchard makes the same basic point: “If it would be wrong of God to punish finite sin with everlasting punishment, how can it be right for Him to punish it by annihilation, which by definition is itself everlasting?” (Whatever Happened to Hell?)

Blogger David Anderson likewise responds to annihilationists who “say that eternal punishment is intrinsically unjust” by pointing out that “the conditionalist alternative is also a kind of eternal punishment… because the penalty of losing one’s existence is still a de facto eternal punishment.” (

So yes, someone *would* speak of "eternal annihilation." The punishment of capital punishment is not "some kind of suffering that ends in [death]," it's the deprivation of life, and if that lasts forever, it's an eternal punishment.

Chuck Wiese said...

Peter Grice:

I don't see any reason Biblically or lexically to define κόλασις as a loss of privilege. I can also think of Biblical examples which I'm sure you're already aware of where someone is said to be dead but seems to be perfectly conscious.

I'm sure you'll repeat again that you believe that the unbeliever will experience some degree of suffering while he is being put into a state of unsconsciousness but if that is the case then that aspect of the punishment is not eternal. What would be eternal in your view is the loss of the privilege. Jesus came to seek and save that which was destroyed/lost and these people were walking around consciously.

Peter Grice said...

"I don't see any reason Biblically or lexically to define κόλασις as a loss of privilege."

Well there you go again with exactly the same straw man. I thought we had actually cleared that up. Again, I in no way assert that κόλασις means that. It means punishment, the category. It can accommodate any kind of punishment, therefore, such as corporal or capital. We should not try to further "define κόλασις" in this context.

The only way to probe further is to consider ὄλεθρος, since 2 Thess 1:9 attaches this type of punishment to the same category of ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον. ὄλεθρος is something that comes suddenly upon the wicked in the end (1 Thess 5:3). Timothy 6:9 closely associates ὄλεθρος and ἀπώλειαν, highlighting that the ἀπώλεια word group is part of this study.

"I can also think of Biblical examples which I'm sure you're already aware of where someone is said to be dead but seems to be perfectly conscious. ...Jesus came to seek and save that which was destroyed/lost and these people were walking around consciously."

What immediately comes to mind is Jesus' teaching that those who believe in him will ultimately live, even though they will die (John 11:25). The corollary is that unbelievers will die, but will not ultimately live. But you are appealing to the sense in which sinners are "dead" metaphorically. Traditionalism has no traction on this rejoinder, for the following reason (and much more besides).

You say that the unsaved are already destroyed, but that is just not true in the context of future things. 2 Peter 3:7 says that the "destruction of ungodly men" occurs on judgment day. In John 17:12, Jesus said that none of the disciples had perished (ἀπώλετο) saved Judas, the son of destruction (ἀπωλείας). He said that there is a road leading there (Matthew 7:13). Philippians 3:19 says that the end (τέλος) of sinners is destruction.

"I'm sure you'll repeat again that you believe that the unbeliever will experience some degree of suffering while he is being put into a state of unsconsciousness but if that is the case then that aspect of the punishment is not eternal."

And so I did not merely repeat that in response, because you said nothing to challenge this point. Instead I pointed you to the biblical illegitimacy of drawing final punishment into the present. Sinners are not yet finally punished. They lived and breathed in the first century just as they do today, and that plain sense is how Jesus spoke. That sense is clear in Matthew 10:28 for example, where Jesus is issuing a warning about something future. There is no sophistacted theological lens rendering sinners already dead, opening the way for living eternally in torments.

But on your point above, we don't get to separate out aspects. That is a part-whole fallacy. Suffering is not something different to destruction, it is part of the process by which one is destroyed. An experiential aspect of it, but not a standalone component. Final destruction is a package deal, and if it involves pain, it is a non sequitur to say this means the destruction is not eternal.

Peter Grice said...

Correction: I meant to say that 2 Thess 1:9 states that the αἰώνιον punishment (δίκην) is ὄλεθρον.

Chuck Wiese said...

I don't think there is any reason to regard the deadness of unbelievers as mere metaphor. It seems to me that you have constructed an understanding of death based on perhaps a combination of empirical evidence and imposed that upon the Scriptural teaching of death. The Greek word for destruction is also translated as "lost" depending upon the context. It is also used in the case of the new wineskins that burst. Jesus came to seek and save the destroyed/dead to save them from death and destruction. The death and destruction inflicted at the judgment will be worse than the dead and destructed currently experience. "Perishing" is probably a better word to use than destruction.

Chris Date said...

Actually, our understanding of death and destruction is exegetical, not empirical and eisegetical: "When the verb [apollumi] is active and transitive, "destroy" means "kill,' as when Herod wanted to murder the baby Jesus and the Jewish leaders later plotted to have him executed (Matthew 2:13; 12:14; 27:4). Then Jesus himself told us not to be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. "Rather," he continued, "be afraid of the One [God] who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28; cf. James 4:12). If to kill is to deprive the body of life, hell would seem to be the deprivation of both physical and spiritual life, that is, an extinction of being." (Stott, Essentials, 315)

Neither were traditionalists John Gill, Albert Barnes and Herman Bavinck being empirical and eisegetical:

"the soul . . . is not capable of death, that is, in a natural and proper sense; it is capable of dying, in a figurative sense, a moral or spiritual death" (Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity 7:2)

"They [those who were dead in trespasses and sins in Eph 2:1] were dead in relation to that to which they afterward became alive - i.e., to holiness . . . in relation to real spiritual life they were, in consequence of sin, like a dead man in regard to the objects which are around him." (Barnes)

"The physical contrast between life and death gradually makes way for the moral and spiritual difference between a life spent in the fear of the Lord, and a life in the service of sin." (Bavinck, entry for "Death" in ISBE, 1915)

It's no wonder that the reality of physical death would be used in a few places metaphorically to speak of those who, though physically alive, were dead to God. We say the same kind of thing today: "You're dead to me."

danielg said...

You guys are arguing deep in the levels of language and theology, but a simpler hermeneutic is also worth discussing.

It seems to me that traditionalists take the less clear passages (like the symbolic apocalytpic lit), and use that to interpret the more clear and ubiquitous passages that use terms like death, destruction, perishing, etc. They should probably do it the other way around. In addition, it's pretty clear to me that the INTERPRETATION of the symbolic visions of Revelation are not equal to the content of the visions themselves - they are symbolic, and must be interpreted more carefully than plain literalism would demand. I think this is where Chris is right - images like 'smoke rising forever' is not meant as a statement of eternal burning, but of permanent destruction.

While OT biblical 'antetypes' may be expanded upon and changed into NT 'types', I am not sure that applies to passages like Is. 66, esp. in light of the passage in Jude that talks of 'eternal fire' consuming Sodom - obviously, it ain't still burning. It would seem that in this case, 'eternal' means merely a different type of fire, that is, one that originates in God and his Judgement, comes out of heaven, and completely consumes and permanently destroys.

Terms like 'the second death' seem to be poorly chosen, even within a biblical framework, if John meant ongoing existence in torment apart from God.

I also find it believable that terms like 'eternal punishment' mean 'irreversible for all time punishment' rather than 'eternal punishing,' just as you might understand terms like 'eternal redemption' (is Jesus eternally redeeming us, or has He redeemed us for all time?), or eternal salvation. Even the phrase 'eternal life' can be understood this way - we have gained life (in one moment) for ever. Sure, it can be understood as 'ongoing life,' but since it is equivalent to understand it the other way, it makes sense that this understanding would be equal or better in understanding such terms as eternal redemption, salvation, and punishment.

I think all three views (ECT, CI, UR) have passages that they have trouble with, and the scriptures, at least on the surface, can be marshalled to support any of these three positions. However, I think the exegetical evidence against the traditional view seems substiantial.

Even worse, if it is false, think of the harm it has done in keeping people away. I hope that keeps every concerned Traditionalist up at night until they think it through seriously and objectively.

With respect,


danielg said...

sorry, forgot to check the email follow up box...

Chuck Wiese said...


John Stott is not the Bible and those with dead souls seem to manage to walk around every day. Their souls are not annihilated.

I'm really not sure what is with you and the quotes from these various "traditionalists." I am not a Calvinist. I am not in communion with any of these people and as I pointed out in previous comments in this thread I believe that the Calvinist hermeneutic is part of what leads people to stuff like this.

Chuck Wiese said...


I never once appealed to apocalyptic literature. Are you reading somebody else's blog? Revelation is part of the antilegomena and I don't use it as the sole basis for establishing any doctrine. I've already addressed the issue of Isaiah 65-66 and what it says about both the life of the righteous and the wicked. Jesus that the unbelievers will go into eternal punishment not that they will receive an eternal punishment. Hebrews says that Jesus secured an eternal redemption. Christ secured an eternal redemption to redeem all who lived before and after him. It does not say Jesus is eternally redeeming us. SQRRR.

Peter Grice said...

"those with dead souls seem to manage to walk around every day. Their souls are not annihilated"

You are being disingenuous after I clarified that by "annihilated" we simply mean dead (never to be made alive again). More of a concern, however, is that in portraying people walking around with literally dead souls, you are violating not only common sense (Gen 2:7), but also Matthew 10:28a, which makes clear that souls are alive. If a murderer could kill my soul, I should be afraid of that, but he can't, so I shouldn't. It would be absurd to try to have Jesus mean that this is becaues the soul is already dead. In fact the soul's demise is implicated in the holistic destruction of gehenna.

danielg said...

>> CHUCK: I never once appealed to apocalyptic literature.

Excellent. Then you are unlike many traditionalists. Forgive me if I have not followed, but which passages do you use as a foundation for assuming eternal conscious torment? I know you've covered a lot of space already.

>> CHUCK: Jesus that the unbelievers will go into eternal punishment not that they will receive an eternal punishment.

So you are relying on Matt 25:46 and the phrase 'go away into' vs. 'recieve.' I had not considered that previously.

Is the word translated 'into' properly translated? Could it be 'to'? Because destruction (which is the descriptor of the punishment elsewhere) would essentilly remove people 'away' - they'd be gone! Just asking.

I am glad you are not relying on the word punishment meaning 'torment,' since that seems to be a stretch, being used only one other place, and punishment seems more likely based on 2 Maccabees 4:38, which uses the word to describe a person being slain:

"Inflamed with anger, he immediately stripped Andronicus of his purple robe, tore off his other garments, and had him led through the whole city to the very place where he had committed the outrage against Onias; and there he put the murderer to death. Thus the Lord rendered him the punishment [kolasis] he deserved."

Or at least that's what this guy says:

>> CHUCK: I've already addressed the issue of Isaiah 65-66 and what it says about both the life of the righteous and the wicked.

Yes, we'll have to disagree there. I think the symbology can't be 'spritualized' through making Is 66 an antetype, esp. when Revelation is using it as imagery and not literally.

>> CHUCK: Hebrews says that Jesus secured an eternal redemption. Christ secured an eternal redemption to redeem all who lived before and after him. It does not say Jesus is eternally redeeming us.

Yes, which is my point. If THAT 'eternal' is not an ongoing process, but a once for all determination, why is the 'eternal' punishment not also seen as a once for all (second death) rather than an ongoing process? Am I making sense?


That's a new one on me. Shorthand for squirrel? :)

danielg said...

BTW, just looked up SQRRR. Nice. There's another method called KWL, I like that one more cause it's shorter and spells kewl. :D

Chuck Wiese said...

Peter Grice:

I agree that the final punishment of the wicked involves them never being made alive again. However, I believe your view is actually that they will never be conscious again. The Scriptures speak of people being dead who are perfectly conscious and even speak of people who were once dead but no longer dead. So if death and destruction mean to never be conscious again then the Scriptures contradict themselves.

Chuck Wiese said...


My position is based primarily upon the Gospel of Matthew since as I explained earlier I believe the Gospel of Matthew provides the foundation for interpreting the rest of the Scriptures based upon its position in the canon.

The Greek verb translated as "go away" has the idea of travelling associated with it.

A punishment can certainly end in death but then it is no longer a punishment after that point. I see no examples in Scripture where someone is said to be being punished who is no longer conscious.

The problem with the use of the Isaiah passage is that Isaiah also speaks of the reward of the righteous as being basically a lifespan similar to that of those who lived before the flood. It does not speak of eternal life. The OT prophets often speak in a way that is a shadow of the full reality. And if you use the OT as the lens through which to intepret the NT you end up with problems like the Judaizers did when Paul was writing his letters.

Jesus purchased an eternal redemption. He did not eternally purchase the redemption and the redemption that he purchased is eternally applied to people.

Peter Grice said...

"I agree that the final punishment of the wicked involves them never being made alive again. However, I believe your view is actually that they will never be conscious again. The Scriptures speak of people being dead who are perfectly conscious and even speak of people who were once dead but no longer dead. So if death and destruction mean to never be conscious again then the Scriptures contradict themselves."

Yes, I believe that final punishment renders a person nonexistent. But no, this isn't how I define death. Death is the termination of life (the cessation of past and present life, and privation of future life).

It is by no means a supposed "shedding" of bodily form, so that the body is dead but a disembodiable part of us is by implication still "alive." Under what conditions did man becoming a living being? According to Genesis 2:7, man became a living soul after a) being formed of the earth and b) receiving the breath of life. According to Genesis 3:19, man is cursed/punished by being sent back to the ground from whence we came. This is clearly the outworking of the warning in Genesis 2:17, and what it means to die and thus not continue forever to live (Gen 3:22).

So whatever dualism might have to say about a disembodied consciousness, the Bible says they are dead, and we must not surreptitiously say that "man" is now a living consciousness. Human beings are a certain kind of creature that isn't a simplex of spirit. The salient point, then, is that death does not mean "living in a different mode." Rather, death is the cessation of life.

The Scriptures consistently speak into the human vantage, looking down the lens of the future from where people stand, on Earth, alive. It is only a post-hoc, abstract, theologized approach which would indiscriminately project back on to the text notions of intermediate and final estate. There is a reason that the Word became flesh, that we will have resurrected bodies, and that it's important that we affirm Christ's bodily resurrection. There is a reason that Job expected "the end" to involve God standing upon the earth; a reason that the meek shall inherit the earth; a reason that creation is awaiting liberation from bondage to decay. There is a reason that the disciples anticipated an earthly kingdom (Acts 1:6). Isaiah despaired of Israel's failure to be a light to the nations: "We have not brought salvation to the earth, and the people of the world have not come to llife. But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up..." (Isaiah 26:18,19). Of the wicked, Isaiah says "They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise." (v14).

Peter Grice said...

"The Scriptures speak of people being dead who are perfectly conscious.."

So it emerges that this is a red herring, as the Bible makes it significant that the wicked do not come back to life, and the righteous do. It doesn't shift the emphasis or definition to some dismebodied "consciousness." Dualism shouldn't be employed to subvert the biblical frame here.

"The Scriptures speak of people being dead who are perfectly conscious... So if death and destruction mean to never be conscious again then the Scriptures contradict themselves."

As I had stated, by those kinds of terms "we simply mean dead (never to be made alive again)." Not "never be conscious again," but "never to come back to life." This is hopefully clearly after I've explained it in more depth.

But I notice you ignored my concern regarding Matthew 10:28a, which I said "makes clear that souls are alive. If a murderer could kill my soul, I should be afraid of that, but he can't, so I shouldn't. It would be absurd to try to have Jesus mean that this is becaues the soul is already dead. In fact the soul's demise is implicated in the holistic destruction of gehenna."

And that brings us to the application of our view to final punishment. We do not insist that a conscious part of me doesn't survive death. But that doesn't redefine what death is. On dualism, the souls of the wicked will be re-embodied, in fact. Jesus spoke there quite explicitly of both body and soul being destroyed/killed. He quite clearly didn't allow for this second death to mean some sort of separation of soul and body.

Chuck Wiese said...

You wrote:

"Yes, I believe that final punishment renders a person nonexistent. But no, this isn't how I define death. Death is the termination of life (the cessation of past and present life, and privation of future life).
It is by no means a supposed "shedding" of bodily form, so that the body is dead but a disembodiable part of us is by implication still "alive.""

I would agree that death is the termination of life. But how you define death and life are unbiblical and this seems to be the real root of the dispute. There are certainly many OT texts that speak of death from the perspective of our earthly experience and speak of the dead in terms of unconsciousness. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus speaks of the dead as being in a conscious state. In 1 Peter, Peter speaks of Jesus proclaiming his victory in Hades prior to the earthly manifestation of his resurrection. And as I've already said a few times already, Paul speaks of people as being once dead in their trespasses and sins as well as those who are currently dead in their trespasses and sins who at least in medical terms are still alive.