A Primer on Revelation 20:10

A Primer on Revelation 20:10

Of all the passages used to defend the traditional view of final punishment, one stands out as by far the most difficult for the conditionalist. ((Some would point to Revelation 14:9-11 as being equally or more difficult. However, this is only true if one is not aware of Isaiah 34:9-10. Revelation 14:9-11 doesn’t actually say anyone is eternally tormented. Rather it is inferred that smoke rising forever means that the fire burns forever and thus everyone being burned is eternally tormented in an ever-burning fire. However, Isaiah 34:10 uses the idiom of smoke rising forever to speak of the destruction of a city, not of anyone or anything actually burning and producing smoke. The resources in the footnotes for Revelation 20:10 can also give more explanation of this passage.)) As you might imagine, I don’t consider the challenge to be insurmountable. However, it is a challenge. This is the one passage in the entire Bible that actually says, on its face, that anyone will be tormented for eternity. ((Some passages mention torment (e.g. Luke 16:19-31), some mention eternity (e.g. Matthew 25:46), and some say things that one who has been told from childhood that hell is a place of eternal torment will understandably assume is referring to eternal torment (e.g. Mark 9:48). Revelation 20:10, however, actually outright says, of the devil, beast, and false prophet, that “they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”))

The explanation I would give, which many other conditionalists would give (in varying forms), is itself simple: John sees a vision where three beings are thrown into a lake of fire to be tormented for ever and ever, but the vision itself symbolizes the destruction of the things the images represent in real life.

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6 Reasons Preachers Avoid Sermons on Hell

6 Reasons Preachers Avoid Sermons on Hell

Recently, the modern standard-bearer for neo-Calvinism, The Gospel Coalition (TCG), published 5 Reasons Preachers Avoid Sermons on Hell. Their list boils down to a few causes:

  • Bad theology
  • Bad praxis
  • Fear of man

But we here at Rethinking Hell believe there may be a more accurate, longer list (6 is greater than 5; see what we did there?) of noble reasons why preachers are not preaching the doctrine of eternal conscious torment (ECT). Read more about 6 Reasons Preachers Avoid Sermons on Hell

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 3)

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 3)

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) recently published an article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.” ((Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here.)) In it, TGC reproduces four arguments Packer originally offered against annihilationism in his 1997 article, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.” ((J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer.)) In Part 1 of Rethinking Hell’s response, we demonstrated that Packer’s first argument fails at every point. ((Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-1 (accessed October 23, 2015).)) In Part 2, we refuted most of Packer’s second argument, demonstrating that the texts he cites actually support annihilationism. ((Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-2 (accessed October 23, 2015).)) In this third and final installment, we will wrap up our response to Packer’s second argument and refute his third and fourth arguments as well.

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Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2)

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 2)

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) recently published an article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.” ((Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here.)) In it, TGC reproduces four arguments Packer originally offered against annihilationism in his 1997 article, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.” ((J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer.)) In Part 1 of Rethinking Hell’s response, we critiqued TGC for calling into question the motives of annihilationists and doubting our commitment to the authority of Scripture, and demonstrated that the first of Packer’s reproduced arguments fails at every point as a challenge to annihilationism. ((Chris Date and Nicholas Quient, “Why J. I. Packer is (Mostly) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1),” Rethinking Hell [blog], posted October 23, 2015, http://www.rethinkinghell.com/2015/10/why-j-i-packer-is-mostly-wrong-a-response-to-tgc-part-1 (accessed October 23, 2015).)) As we shall see, Packer’s remaining arguments fare no better.

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Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1)

Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1)

In its eschatology-themed, Spring 1997 issue, Reformation & Revival magazine published an article by J. I. Packer entitled “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review.” ((J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationism in Review,” Reformation & Revival 6, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 37-51. Online: http://www.rethinkinghell.com/research/critical/j-i-packer.)) In it Packer attempts to refute what he understands to be several arguments advanced in favor of annihilationism, though he has some refreshingly charitable things to say about those who offer them. Reproducing quotes from John Wenham and John Stott in which they warn against the unreliability of emotion and its ability to cause us to twist Scripture, Packer acknowledges that these men embraced annihilationism from a commitment to the authority of Scripture, and not from emotionalism or sentimentality. In the end he calls them and other evangelical annihilationists “honored fellow-evangelicals,” and says “it would be wrong for differences of opinion on this matter to lead to breaches of fellowship.”

Packer also concludes, however, that John Stott was wrong to suggest that “the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.” ((David L. Edwards & John Stott, Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue (InterVarsity, 1988), 320.)) Packer says Stott “asks too much, for the biblical foundations of this view prove on inspection, as we have seen, to be inadequate.”

Much ink has been spilled in defense of annihilationism in the nearly twenty years since Packer’s article. ((See, for example, David J. Powys, ‘Hell’: A Hard Look at a Hard Question: The Fate of the Unrighteous in New Testament Thought (Wipf & Stock, 2007); Edward W. Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, 3rd ed. (Cascade, 2011); Edward W. Fudge, Hell: A Final Word (Leafwood, 2012); J. Webb Mealy, The End of the Unrepentant: A Study of the Biblical Themes of Fire and Being Consumed (Wipf & Stock, 2012); Kim Papaioannou, The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus: Gehena, Hades, the Abyss, the Outer Darkness Where There Is Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth (Pickwick, 2013); J. Gregory Crofford, The Dark Side of Destiny: Hell Re-Examined (Wipf & Stock, 2013). See also David Hilborn, The Nature of Hell: A Report by the Evangelical Alliance Commission on Unity and Truth Among Evangelicals (ACUTE) (Paternoster, 2000), as well as Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle, Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We’ve Made Up (David C. Cook, 2011), both of which side with the traditional view but acknowledge annihilationism as a plausible reading of Scripture. Books which attempt to present both views of final punishment neutrally include Douglas A. Jacoby, What’s the Truth About Heaven and Hell? Sorting Out the Confusion About the Afterlife (Harvest House, 2013); Steve Gregg, All You Want to Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin (Thomas Nelson, 2013).)) It seems strange to some of us, therefore, that The Gospel Coalition (TGC) would republish some of Packer’s arguments without dealing with the responses annihilationists have since offered, but that’s what they did in a recent article entitled “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong.” ((Gavin Ortlund, “J. I. Packer on Why Annihilationism Is Wrong,” The Gospel Coalition, posted October 7, 2015, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/j.i.-packer-on-why-annihilationism-is-wrong (accessed October 8, 2015). Ortlund was a breakout speaker at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference. An audio recording of his presentation is available for free download here.)) Stranger still, the article’s author says of these arguments that they “are some of the more pithy and incisive points I’ve read regarding annihilationism, and are still relevant today.” ((Ibid.)) In reality, Packer’s arguments do not hold up to scrutiny as challenges to annihilationism, and TGC’s commentary reflects uncharitable and inaccurate assumptions concerning the motives of annihilationists, assumptions Packer demonstrates to be false in his own article. Read more about Why J. I. Packer Is (Still) Wrong: A Response to The Gospel Coalition (Part 1)

How Conditionalists Approach Wrath, Love, and Other Things

How Conditionalists Approach Wrath, Love, and Other Things

In discussions of heaven and hell, one is hard-pressed to find a conversation in which questions of God’s love, wrath, and mercy do not arise. What is God’s wrath? How does it get reconciled with God’s love and mercy? Does God give every sinner what he or she deserves, or does he show some degree of mercy to the unrepentant by annihilating them? ((For our purposes here, we will not even entertain the idea that God would do unto anyone worse than they deserve.)) Is it loving for God to destroy the wicked—i.e. to send them to hell in the manner that the Bible actually describes (e.g. Matthew 10:28)?
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Episode 77: Burning Love (and Consuming Fire), a Response to Robin Parry (Part 2)

Episode 77: Burning Love (and Consuming Fire), a Response to Robin Parry (Part 2)

Rethinking Hell contributors Nick and Allison Quient join Chris Date to respond to some clips from Dr. Robin Parry’s plenary speech at the 2015 Rethinking Hell Conference, in which he presented a theological case for universalism. This episode contains the second half of their two-and-a-half-hour discussion; listen to the first half in episode 76.

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