Question: As some of our listeners may know, there are those who teach annihilationism. They believe that the Bible does not teach that the wicked are eternally punished in Hell, but rather, that they are annihilated. They claim that the death of Christ on the cross disproves eternal punishment.
Answer: This is a common argument put forth by those who are annihilationists, or who believe in conditional immortality. One annihilationist was asked what he considered top be the most powerful argument against eternal punishment. He said: “The fact that Jesus paid the price and penalty for our sins. What was that price? It was suffering and death, not eternal torment.”
However, that argument does not support annihilationism, but rather refutes it. If Jesus paid the price and penalty of our sins He should have been annihilated on the cross—zapp . . . He should have disappeared. But He didn’t. He was still very much present, and very much visible.
The distinction that annihilationists make between eternal punishment by annihilation, and eternal punishing is an oxymoron. How can punishment be eternal when the subject of the punishment has ceased to exist?
Question: Is this really an important issue? I mean, does it really matter whether a Christian believes in eternal punishment, or in eternal annihilation?
Answer: My response would be, “Does it matter for what?” The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Some would say that I am too latitudinarian in this, but God saves people who do not understand everything about Heaven and Hell. The Bible doesn’t say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and get your theology straight, and thou shalt be saved.”
Furthermore, the requirements for fellowship with an individual on a personal basis are relatively flexible. If a person says he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and holds to basic Christian morality, I can have fellowship with him.
But for full fellowship, where we are going to allow a person to preach in our churches, or teach in our seminaries, I think we ought to exclude someone who is an annihilationist. If we are not careful, we are going to contribute to the doctrinal and moral confusion that is abounding in Christian circles. Our former president is an example. According to a WorldNetDaily report dated October 7, 2007, President Bush repeated his belief that all religions, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, pray to the same God. He was the commander-in-chief but I am sure glad he is not the theologian-in-chief.