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Does Scripture teach Annihilationism?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/15/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,653 times Debate No: 29246
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (16)
Votes (1)





The debate shall adhere to the following structure:

Round 1: Acceptance, Rules, and Definitions
Round 2: Opening Statements, No Rebuttals
Round 3: New Arguments and Rebuttals
Round 4: Rebuttals and Closing Statements (No new arguments)

Posting links is not allowed.


I accept the terms and conditions laid out by my opponent
Debate Round No. 1


I will do my best to follow these two basic rules of hermeneutics. I challenge my opponent to do the same.

  1. We interpret unclear verses in light of the clear and not the other way around.
  2. The usual meaning of a word should be assumed unless the context proves otherwise.

Argument from the language of scripture

It is evident that annihilationism is the teaching proclaimed by scripture because of the wide variety of words and expressions that God uses to convey the same idea, that the wicked will be annihilated.

Please note that my argument does not rest on the amount of verses quoted in the following material. If it were my intention to simply overwhelm my opponent with verses that teach annihilationism I could post approximately 100 verses that I believe show annihilationism to be true. Instead, my argument is based on variety in the phraseology used to in both the New and the Old Testament to describe the fate of the wicked.

Imagine that you were to go up to a man of God and were to ask him about the nature of death and the fate of the wicked and he was to answer:

The wicked will vanish like smoke, they will wear out like a garment, the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool. (Isa 51:6-8) In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. (Psa 37:10) The wicked are doomed to destruction forever. (Psa 92:7) Unlike a man who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul, God can destroy both body and soul in Hell. (Matt 10:28) The wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. (Psa 37:20) They will undergo the punishment of eternal fire just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jud 1:7) “The wicked will be destroyed in the day of the son of man just as it was when they were destroyed in the days of Noah when the flood came or in the days of Lot when fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all. (Luk 17:26-29) All evildoers will be stubble on the day of the Lord and it will leave them neither root nor branch. (Mal 4:1) They will be ashes under foot. (Mal 4:3)They will be completely burnt up. (Matt 13:30) The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. (Psa 21:9) Evildoers will fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. (Psa 37:2) The wicked will be cut off. (Psa 37:28) There is a future for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. (Psa 37:37-38) The wicked will be like beasts that perish and their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. (Psa 49:12-14) To those who forget Him, God says that he will “tear you apart, there will be none to deliver.” (Psa. 50:22) The dead know nothing. (Ecc 9:5) They lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick. (Isa 43:17) The wicked man gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish! (Psa 112:10) The wicked shall be as nothing and shall perish. (Isa 41:11)

After the old man of God told you this in response, would you believe that you had just been told that the wicked would be eternally preserved alive so that they could be tortured? Of course not! The old man described the same thing to you in so many different ways that we must conclude that he is teaching annihilationism. Yet this is the same consistent language that the bible uses to describe the fate of the wicked.

Moreover, many of these words and phrases that our old man of God quoted are repeated many times over in the scriptures and sometimes, in their original language, they are stronger words then in the English.

For example, when Christ speaks about the ultimate fate of the wicked on the last day and says that they will share the same fate as bundles of weeds that are thrown into a fire and burnt up in Matthew 13:30 and in verse 40, He uses the word Katakausai, a form of katakaio which refers to something being utterly consumed through burning. Notice that Christ did not use kaio alone which refers to something being burnt in general but instead says katakaio, which specifically refers to something being utterly consumed through burning.

Here is the reference from Strong’s Lexicon.





From G2596 and G2545; to burn down (to the ground), that is, consume wholly: - burn (up, d).

Argument from Conditional Immortality

Ultimately, the traditionalist doctrine of eternal torment rests on the idea that all men will live forever either with God or in torment.

Yet scripture does not teach that all men are immortal. Instead, the bible very plainly teaches that Christ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10) and that eternal life is given only to those who are saved from death by God ( John 3:16, John 5:24)

Just as Adam became alive by being given the breath of life, (Gen 2:7) God could kill us all by withdrawing his breath. (Job 34:15) We are alive only because God keeps us alive (col 1:17)

After Adam had broken God’s command, God says “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”(Gen 3:22-23)

Note that the punishment for Adam’s sin is not eternal torment. Instead, His judgment is that Adam will suffer on earth and ultimately “return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen 3:17-19)

So, as death came into the world through Adam’s sin, and sin spread to all men as all men sin, salvation came to those of us in Christ by the work of Christ (Romans 5:8-18) who lived a perfectly righteous life and was scourged and killed on the cross thereby covering our sins. (Isa 53:4-5) Since the bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) it makes sense that this is the penalty that Christ paid on the cross. (Mar 10:45)

God prevents Adam’s access to the tree of life by expelling him from the Garden and preventing Adam’s reentry. Instead, the fruit of the tree of life which can give a man the ability to live forever is eaten only by certain individuals and not every individual. (Rev 2:7)

Therefore, scripture makes it known that we are mortal and unless we have eternal life by grace through faith we will remain mortal. (1col 15:53-54)

Argument from God’s Triumph over His Enemies

If evil were to exist for all of eternity then God’s justice and purpose would never be complete. God would eternally be working to accomplish His Justice completely and it would never come. Death, suffering, and the wicked would always exist, forever thwarting His revealed plan. Yet the scripture makes it abundantly clear that God will destoy all evil , so that the wicked die in the lake of fire which is “the second death” where death itself as well as Hades will be thrown and will also die. (Rev 20:14)

In 1 Corinthians Paul presents a picture of the end where God will triumph over His enemies “destroying every authority and power”. Even death itself is destroyed as Paul says “the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” The purpose of this is so that “God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:24-28)

In Ephesians Paul makes it clear that God’s will, “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment” is to “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”. (Eph 1:9)

In the end, God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of the righteous”, “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4) Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev 21:4-5)

Click "comments" to see all of the verses referenced.


Thank you to my opponent for accepting this challenge to debate the issue of Annihilationism vs Eternal Conscious torment. As noted my opponent argues in the affirmative and seeks to defend this view. I will argue in the negative the scriptures do indeed teach the traditionalist view of hell. This view of Annihilationism is a rather new concept that extends only into the 4th century this can been seen in works such as Arnobius in his work "Apology of Christianity" cited in the Baker's Dictionary of Theology (pg 194) and in Phillip Schaff 8 volume series History of the Christian Church. This doctrine is also taught by cults such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist and Christadelphianism. So I think before we begin to deal with the arguments in favor of Annihilationism it is best to understand the history behind it.

Now to begin my opponent has laid out verses that seem to argue in favor of his position so I shall do like wise arguing in the negative Matthew 25:41 and 46 Mark 9:47-48, Rev 14:11, 19:20 20:7,10, 15 and Daniel 12:2 speak of hell being a place of conscious existent where punishment continues to exist and is in fact a place of torment Luke 16:27-31.
Debate Round No. 2


The Ancient Doctrine of Annihilationism

Annihilationism is not only the teaching of all of scripture (which would make it a very ancient teaching) but has had a place in Judaism since the beginning.

Even in the first century, after hundreds of years of Hellenization, the audience to whom Christ spoke would likely have held to some form of belief in annihilationism.

The Sadducees

It seems probable that the Sadducees denied the immortality of the soul since they denied the resurrection and this is confirmed by Flavius Josephus who wrote:

“But the doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies;… “

Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, Sections 4

The Pharisees

Jewish literature that records the views of the Pharisees presents Gehenna as a place where most souls suffer for a short time of refining torment only to pass through to the other side. It seems that the accounts vary on whether or not the few who were especially wicked would remain in Gehenna forever or would be annihilated. The school of Hillel, founded by Hillel (c.110 BCE, died 10 CE) one of the most beloved Pharisees from the time (and likely holding the majority opinion) is recorded as having taught both:

4. The transgressors of Israel and the transgressors of the heathen who are in the world go down to Gehenna with their bodies, and are judged there for twelve months; after twelve months their souls are destroyed and their bodies burnt; Gehenna casts them forth and they become dust; the wind blows them about and scatters them under the soles of the feet of the righteous, as it is written: AND YE SHALL TREAD DOWN THE WICKED, FOR THEY SHALL BE DUST UNDER THE SOLES OF THE FEET OF THE RIGHTEOUS IN THE DAY THAT I DO THIS, SAITH THE LORD OF HOSTS

t. Sanh 13:4

The Community at Qumran

Certain manuscripts currently known as the Dead Sea Scrolls give us further insight into the various views of the day. Here, The Community Scroll, gives us insight into one communities view of hell.

1QS 4:13-14

… And all the ages of their generations they (the ungodly) shall spend in bitter weeping and harsh evils in the abysses of darkness until their destruction, without there being a remnant or survivor among them.

The Church Fathers

There are several quotes from early Church fathers that lead me to believe that several of them held to Conditional Immortality which I argued for earlier in the debate.

Take for example this quote by the early Church Father Irenaeus:

“It is the Father of all who imparts continuance for ever and ever on those who are saved … [who] shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. But he who shall reject it … deprives himself of [the privilege of] continuance for ever and ever … shall justly not receive from Him length of days for ever and ever.”

Against Heresies (Book II, Chapter 34, Section 3)

Doctrine of the Cults

It is true that JW’s and Christadelphians believe in Annihilationism.

However, I would like to remind my opponent that eternal punishment is prevalent in Islam as well as many of the ancient pagan religions from all over the world, including the pagan Greek and Roman religion, the Greeks and the Romans both having had a tremendous impact on the Jewish culture after having conquered the land of Israel.

Matthew 25:41

Jud_1:7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

In the Greek the language is stronger. Where in the English it uses the phrase “serves as an example”, in the Greek it uses the word deigma which signifies that something is a sample of the whole. In other words, Jude shows us that the punishment of the eternal fire which will befall the wicked is the same punishment that befell Sodom and Gomorrah. We know that fire rained down on the twin cities and they were annihilated!

a G1164




From the base of G1166; a specimen (as shown): - example.

Matthew 26:46

I believe that the wicked will not have eternal life but instead will be dead for all of eternity and that this is an eternal punishment.

Through King David, God expresses it this way:

Psa 92:6 The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:

Psa 92:7 that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever;

Mark 9:47-48

Christ’s message is incredibly poetic and even more so when you understand the nuances of his message. The man in hell is tortured and then annihilated and ultimately is left with no eyes or hands at all. In other words: It is better to have one eye and life then have no eyes or body or life at all. The same idea goes for hands.

When Christ says 'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ He is quoting from an end-time prophecy in Isaiah that pictures dead bodies (not living souls) that are fully eaten up by worms and by fire. No one will quench the fire or make it so the worms do not eat the corpses so that the desecration of the corpses will be complete.

Isa 66:24 "And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."

The idea of corpses being fully consumed would represent a shameful death. The same kind of idea exists in Jer 7:33:

And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away.

As we can see, Christ was not teaching traditionalism in Matthew 9:48 but was actually teaching annihilationism.

Rev 14:11, 19:20 20:7,10, 15

We interpret unclear verses in light of the clear and not the other way around.

The book of Revelation is an apocryphal text, written in complicated, metaphorical, language depicting visions revealed to John and is not intended to be read as we might read a recipe for fried eggs.

Revelation is notorious for being difficult to understand and it would be a terrible hermeneutical approach if we were to take these commonly misunderstood apocryphal verses and then reinterpret a large amount of clear text that teaches that the wicked will be annihilated in light of these apocryphal passages.

Without going into a deep theological study of these symbols I will address why I do not believe that these verses teach eternal torment.

It seems likely to me that the false prophet is the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:11-14 and that “beasts” are loose symbols for a “king/a kingdom/a dominion of a kingdom” as I see the vision of the beasts in Revelation paralleling the vision of Daniel 7.

In Daniel 7 it is the dominion of the beast that is destroyed at the end of the vision (Dan 7:26). I believe that Revelation is conveying a similar message when it conveys the idea that these wide array of metaphors (including Death and Hades) are thrown into the other metaphor (lake of fire).

I think that another clue to understanding the ultimate fate of men, and not symbols or angels, is how we understand that “This is the second death, the lake of fire.” (Rev 20:14)

Men will die two literal deaths. Of course, I say that men die two literal deaths, because we know that they do not die two spiritual deaths as men are born already spiritually dead. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

The first death is the one that we are all awaiting. The second death is the death of eternal annihilation.

Dan 12:2

Today, we view the long dead Adolf Hitler as disgraced, and with abhorrence. In the same way we will view the wicked dead as shamed and with abhorred as expressed in Isaiah 66:24

Luke 16:27-31

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus occurs during the intermediate state and not after the resurrection. Therefore, it does not teach either my view or the view of my opponent. If I can find the space later in this debate I will further explain the parable and by doing so give further evidence of why it does not teach traditionalism.



ReformedPhilosopher forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


savedbythegraceofgod forfeited this round.


ReformedPhilosopher forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Mangani 3 years ago
You actually defined annihilationism in the exact same way I did, and the only argument I ever made was specific to your boxed in definition. So...
Posted by Mangani 3 years ago
Told you he'd forfeit ;)
Posted by savedbythegraceofgod 3 years ago
I didn't choose a weak debater. I was listening to a group discussion on this topic and told the group that I personally believed in annihilationism and that I felt that a debate would be the best way to explore the issue and would be happy to debate anyone interested on this topic. Reformedphilosopher was the only one of the group of people who were criticizing annihilationism to accept my debate proposal.

Moreover, I would have been happy to debate you Mangani if I didn't feel that you were cheating by stacking the deck against me in the acceptance phase of the debate by setting up rules that I never had the opportunity to see or approve of, talking about the burden of proof (which didn't belong in the acceptance phase of the debate at all) and then defining my position and doing it inaccurately.

My intention was to give you an opportunity to clarify your position in case you felt that you needed to give a definition. It was not an opportunity for you to begin to set up your argumentation.

Instead you used the acceptance phase of the debate, not to define your own position but to define annihilationism and you did it in an inaccurate way that seems to have been intended as a way of arguing from the bullpen.

Moreover you used it to talk about the burden of proof which did not belong in that phase of the debate and you set up rules without giving me an opportunity to say whether I agreed or disagreed.

I want to have an honest discussion/debate on this topic because I actually care about what the bible says. I don't see any reason to believe that you honestly feel the same way or you would not have behaved the way that you did.
Posted by chrisdate 3 years ago
I don't believe they are the same person, but I prefer not to speculate. Yes, I agree with SBTGOG concerning the debate proposition, but that is not why I disagreed with your assessment.

I'd be happy to engage in a debate with you concerning this topic, but I'd prefer not to spend a round hashing out the details, like proposition, definitions, etc. Would you like to discuss those things over email? I'm new to (but I'm neither SBTGOG nor RP :P).
Posted by Mangani 3 years ago
Well, if you disagree, I assume you already agree with Pro... otherwise you couldn't possibly find fault in a debate where he didn't even present an argument. You're also very welcome to debate me on the same subject matter, if you wish. RP is not a separate account holder. He will not respond. He will forfeit. SBTGOG was created 7 days ago- RP 5 days ago, after SBTGOG whined in Round 1 of our debate. I believe they are one and the same- one account created to help the other reach 3 debates so both can vote ;) Yes... people are THAT childish.
Posted by chrisdate 3 years ago
I read through both participants' statements in the other debate to which you're referring, and I don't agree with your assessment. But we shall see how competent RP is if he submits his response in the next 11.5 hours.
Posted by Mangani 3 years ago
That is... if they are not one and the same ;)
Posted by Mangani 3 years ago
Pro chose a weak debater because he knows his arguments would not hold against a more experienced one. Con isn't even attempting to debate.
Posted by chrisdate 3 years ago
I'm looking forward to RP's response in round 3...
Posted by Mangani 3 years ago
You didn't answer my question...
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by gordonjames 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: CON was first to forfeit