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Brief review:

Evangelical Christians agree that Hell is a real place of punishment where the vast majority of humans will go after death. However, there are many views about the experiences that the "unsaved" will have in Hell. Two common views are:

bulletAnnihilationism (a.k.a. Conditionalism and conditional immortality): Inmates of Hell will be subjected to time-limited punishment, and then will be exterminated in what is referred to as "the second death." Following that, no part of them -- body, soul, mind and spirit -- will continue to exist in any form. As Matthew 10:28 states, God: "is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." 1
bulletTraditionalism: Eternal punishment without any possibility of relief. This is the historical belief held in the past by almost all Christian faith groups, except for Universalists.

Annihilationism is a growing belief among Evangelicals. It is promoted by many Evangelical leaders including F.F. Bruce, Edward W. Fudge, Michael Green, Philip E. Hughes, Dale Moody, Clark H. Pinnock, W. Graham Scroggie, John R.W. Stott and John W. Wenham. 2

Edward W. Fudge writing in support of Annihilationism suggests that:

"The fact is that the Bible does not teach the traditional view of final punishment. Scripture nowhere suggests that God is an eternal torturer. It never says the damned will writhe in ceaseless torment or that the glories of heaven will forever be blighted by the screams from hell. The idea of conscious everlasting torment was a grievous mistake, a horrible error, a gross slander against the heavenly Father, whose character we truly see in the life of Jesus of Nazareth." 3

Biblical passages relating to the fate of the dead, as interpreted from an Annihilationist perspective, is described below.

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Passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament):

The Hebrew Scriptures teach an evolving belief about life after death.

bulletThe earliest-written passages imply that everyone -- good and bad; righteous and sinful -- pass into an underworld after death. It is Sheol, and is literally under the earth. In Sheol, they were believed to exist in a lifeless, energy-less mode of existence separated from God. Belief in Sheol was based on the assumption that the good are rewarded and the sinful are punished while they are alive on earth. A righteous person will have many children and will live a long life. Thus, it would be just to treat everyone alike after death.

Eventually, this assumption wore thin, when people realized that many bad people were rich and lived long lives, whereas many good people lived short lives in poverty. 
bulletNewer passages in the Hebrew Testament introduced the concept of rewards for the righteous and punishments for the sinful after death.

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Passages from the Apocrypha:

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Passages from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament):

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Related file in this section:

bulletBiblical support for traditionalism

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  1. King James Version.
  2. E.W. Fudge & R.A. Peterson, "Two views of Hell: A biblical and theological dialog," InterVarsity Press, (2000), Page 21. Read reviews and/or safely purchase this book from Amazon.com online bookstore
  3. Ibid, Page 20.
  4. Jeff Spencer, "The Destruction of Hell: Annihilationism examined," Christian Apologetics Journal, Volume 1, #1, 1998-Spring, at: http://www.ses.edu/journal/articles/1.1Spencer.pdf
  5. "After death -- what?....according to Jesus," Comments from the Friends, at: http://www.cftf.com/
  6. "Is there LIFE after death?" Jehovah's Witnesses, at: http://www.watchtower.org/

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Copyright © 2001 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-APR-5
Latest update: 2005-NOV-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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