Life, Death and Everlasting Punishment

the Biblical soul-life and the ultimate end of sinners

— on annihilationism and conditionalism —

Brian Kuehmichel
November 9, 2016

"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Eze 18:4)

Let us start by asking some Questions of Faith.

Q 1.  In issues of faith and spirituality and of Christian belief and doctrine, have you accepted the sovereignty of God's Word, the Holy Scriptures of the Bible? Is Biblical truth the benchmark for all belief?

Q 2.  Should we view "syncretism" as beneficial to God's people?

Q 3.  Should we use the view(s) of fallen, unregenerate men to establish the Biblical issues of life and death?

Q 4.  Should we use scripture to interpret scripture?

Q 5.  When shouldn't we use scripture to interpret scripture?

Q 6.  Do you hold Q1 and Q4 to be the only standard?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 Apostle Paul says that we must "Test all things; hold fast to that which is good." The authority test is this: "Does the idea/statement/presupposition that I am confronted with have man as the ultimate authority or the God of the Bible as the ultimate authority? Are man's thoughts exalted above God's Word, or is the Word of God wholly honored?" To present oneself as "evangelical" is to pledge before God and man to regard as divine revelation whatever Scripture teaches, and to humbly accept divine revelation as one's standard of doctrine, rule of life, and court of final appeal. To do otherwise is to contradict our claim.

Many, if not most, Biblical scholars agree that Plato is the primary source of the teaching about the body-soul dichotomy. From the time of Augustine of Hippo (11/13/354 - 8/28/430 AD) the vast majority of Christians have built their interpretation of the Biblical "soul" upon the pagan beliefs of the Grecian culture and its philosophers. This concept started long before Plato formalized them when teaching his disciples. (From Pythagoras, to Aristotle, to Socrates, to Plato, to Philo of Alexandria, to Tertullian, and much later Calvin.) Augustine was enamored with and steeped in these before he became a Christian. He brought his Platonic beliefs into the church via his promotion of it. Augustine used these same Platonic concepts to argue various aspects of Biblical interpretation. One of the most profound in its implications, durable in its results, detrimental to evangelism, and contradictory to God's word is the concept of "eternal torment" built upon the pagan Grecian idea of the indestructability of the uncorporeal ethereal soul. Pagan beliefs are all built upon Satan's words: "And the serpent said unto the woman, ‘Ye shall not surely die.’" (Gen 3:4)

Platonist believe that all humans have an immortal element within them, normally referred to as the "soul" . . . In the New Testament, however, immortality is something that only God possesses by nature and that he then shares, as a gift of grace rather than as an innate possession with his people.
Wright1, Surprised by Hope, 160-161

Dispensationalist, J. N. Darby expressed his conviction that the idea of the immortality of the soul "is not in general a gospel topic; that it comes, on the contrary, from the Platonists; and that it was just when the coming of Christ was denied in the Church, or at least began to be lost sight of, that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul came in to replace that of the resurrection.
Fudge2, The Fire That Consumes, 24-25.

Contrast the pagan beliefs with God's clear statements which is what Christians ought to believe and build their faithful teaching upon.

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Gen 2:7)

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof (dying, alt.) thou shalt surely die." (Gen 2:16-17)

"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Eze 18:4)

"The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (Eze 18:20)

"His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." (Psa 146:4)

"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." (Eccl 9:5)

The Hebrew word translated "soul" in Genesis 2:7 Authorized Version of the Bible is nephesh which designates temporary physical life. It means a living, breathing creature and is the same word used frequently in the first chapter of Genesis and elsewhere in reference to animals.A. "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Gen 2:7) "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." (1 Cor 15:45) First God formed the body, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26) “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them“ (Gen 1:27) perhaps somewhat like Ezekiel chapter 37. And when God breathed life into the body, then it became a living soul.

The Platonic body-soul dichotomy is offered in replacement to the Biblical soul, a wholistic being, a psycho-physical unit of multifaceted, integrated systems: emotional, volitional, intellectual, spiritual and physical. The Biblical "living soul" is a sentient, personal, bodied existence comprised of cognitive capacities: spiritual, relational, intellectual, rational, emotional, creative, and communicative; interwoven (integrated) with physical capacities: sensorial, locomotive, vocal and expressive, and procreative. In all of these mankind depends upon God for both physical and spiritual nourishment for continued existence. A living man is a biblical soul and it is not something a man has. Notice the testimony of Jewish and other scholars themselves:

"The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is... nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture .... The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato its principal exponent, who was led to it through 'Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended."
The Jewish Encyclopedia, article, "Immortality of the Soul"

"It is probable, in my opinion, that, with very few exceptions, indeed, the dead sleep in utter insensibility till the day of judgment. ... On what authority can it be said that the souls of the dead may not sleep... in the same way that the living pass in profound slumber the interval between their downlying at night and their uprising in the morning?"
Martin Luther

Man is an indivisible whole. Seen from different points of view, he is by turns body, flesh and blood, soul, spirit, and heart. Each of these portrays a specific human characteristic, but they are not parts into which man may be divided. Body is man as a concrete being; "flesh and blood" is man as a creature distinguished from the Creator; soul is the living human individual; spirit is man as having his source in God; heart is man as a whole in action. What is distinctively human is in every respect derived from God. Man is in every cell the work of God (body), he is in all circumstances the property of God (soul), he is absolutely dependent on God (spirit), and in all his activity he is either obedient to God or disobedient (heart). The God-relationship is not merely the life of the "highest part" of man. The whole man "from top to bottom" exists only by relation to God.
Kantonen3 (The Christian Hope, 3off) quoted by Heller, "The Resurrection of Man," 222

In the Platonic, Hellenistic view, immortality is a native possession of the human soul. But such a doctrine, from the Christian point of view, is in line with the Fall; it is man's attempt to make himself like God, to make himself God; it is an assault on God's divinity. Instead of taking eternal life from God's hand as a gift of his unmerited Agape, man insists that he possess it in his own right in virtue of the divine nature of the soul. That is why the idea is godless and blasphemous. (italics supplied)
Nygren4, Agape and Eros, 281

In answer to English lord chancellor Sir Thomas More's claims for the immortality of the soul, William Tyndale, Oxford-trained scholar, Reformer and Bible translator, replies:

And ye, in putting them [departed souls] in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection. . . . The true faith putteth the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put that souls did ever live. And the pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree, no more than the Spirit and flesh do in a christian man. And because the fleshly-minded pope consented unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupted the scripture to stablish it. ... And again, if souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?

Let us continue by asking some more questions.

Q 7.  Is Plato God's choice to understand the Biblical soul?

Q 8.  Would the answers to Q1 thru Q6 be applicable to Q7?

Q 9.  If the answers to Q1 thru Q6 are consistent, and Q7 is negative, why do you follow Plato?

Q 10.  Should we set aside Plato's perspective and only seek what God says (without wearing Plato's glasses)?

The pagan beliefs of the Grecian culture and its philosophers that Augustine held undermined the careful teaching of the early Christian church fathers. Their hope was simply in the resurrection of the dead. The early church fathers did not speak about reuniting that dead body with a departed, separated or lost soul. They always spoke of the resurrection of the body, where the newly formed body (1Cor 15:35-53; 2Cor 5:1-4; 1Jn 3:2) was given life. A future event (1Th 4:15-17; 1Jn 3:2) that was not only parallel to but also superior (1 Cor 15:42-44) to that in the Genesis account (Gen 2:7).

"This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." (Acts 2:32);

"And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses." (Acts 3:15);

"Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24);

"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28-29 RSV);

"Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31);

"Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." (Romans 6:9);

"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28);

"And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power." (1 Corinthians 6:14);

"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Corinthians 15:51-53);

"Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you." (2 Corinthians 4:14)

The formation of the body in Genesis 2:7 has an instructive parallel in the Ezekiel 37:1-9 account. Starting with pieces from the earth (dust, Gen 3:19) God assembles a lifeless body (Gen 1:27), He animates it (Gen 2:7) bringing man to life whereby man "became a living soul" (Gen 2:7), and then God places the living man in the garden (Gen 2:15). The scriptures thereby assert that human life is only in an animated or energized corporeal body. [See: Psa 146:4; Eccl 9:5]

"For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." (Psa 139:13-16)

"Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me." (Heb 10:5 from Psa 40:6-7)

"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Gal 4:4-5)

Death is described as sleep

There were three re-awakenings in the Old Testament scriptures. The first with the widow Zarephath's son in 1 Kings 17, the second with the woman of Shunem's son in 2 Kings 4, and the third was while burying a man in 2 Kings 13.

The first, "And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the Lord, and said, O Lord my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again. And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth." (1Kgs 17:17-23)

The second, "And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out." (2 Kgs 4:18-21); "And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes." (2 Kgs 4:32-35)

The third, "And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet." (2 Kgs 13:21)

In the New Testament there are re-awakenings or re-animations of three people with their varying length of time of decomposition. The first is the daughter of Jairus in two Gospel accounts: Matthew 9:18-26 and Luke 8:41-56.

"He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose." (Matt 9:24-25); "And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done." (Luke 8:52-56)

The second is the son of the widow in Nain.

"And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother." (Luke 7:10-15)

The third is brother to Mary and Martha.

"These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. ... Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." (John 11:11-14, 41-45)

In due course, all six of these individuals had their subsequent death (in Adam, 1 Cor 15:22) again. Regarding Jairus' daughter and Lazarus, Jesus said that they were asleep. Jesus used perfectly sensible terms from the familiar human necessity of deep restful slumber each night. He then applied the common expectation, to awaken from sleep with their body intact each morning, to awakening these from the dead. When he raised both Jairus' daughter and Lazarus to life again Jesus validated the use of the term "sleep" with the state of death. And by using this expression Jesus pointed to the future resurrection awakening as coming out of sleep. Apostle Paul uses the same expression in exactly the same way, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." (1 Cor 15:51)

In derogatory ignorance some use the expression soul-sleep while in Biblical brilliance Job (Job 7:21), Moses (De 31:16), David (2Sa 7:12; 1Ki 1:21; Psa 13:3), Jesus, Paul, and others use soul-sleep to clearly portray the state of the dead waiting resurrection. There is no other life offered in all of the Holy scriptures than by Christ Jesus raising them to life by giving them a body. For God's word says that the life is in the blood and blood belongs in the living body. (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:11-14; Deut 12:23; Zeph 1:17; Isa 53:12; Luke 22:20; see: John 6:53-54; 1 Cor 15 ch)

The human body is man's only vehicle for life. The body is so valuable for life that everything in the created cosmos points to sustaining of physical life. (anthropic principle or anthropic fine-tuning [See: How Contemporary Physics Points to God and A Finely Tuned Universe]) Every healing action as an act of love toward his fellow man was done by Jesus to their physical bodies. Even his teaching was transmitted from His body to their body by the ordinary physical means of senses that God had established for human life. All acts of love from person to person are done to the living body. God's love for all mankind is shown by the benefits we derive from His provision for us through natural and spiritual laws. (Matt 5:45) The same is true for God's acts of justice, death works dissolution to the body while ultimately salvation benefits the body with eternal life.

What then is the nature of death, the original punishment God established for disobedience by mankind?

Let us dig deeper.

If we are to understand both language and the Bible correctly we must start with the literal concept and have it in plain usage, i.e. clearly understood in common usage, before we make alternate usages. [Ex: sarcasm (excess for the circumstance), humor (substitution of alternate meaning or rhyming word), etc.] The expressions (words or phrases) used in symbols and rhetorical statements must first be clearly understood in literal terms and only then can their symbolic meaning be discerned and applied. If we take the symbolic expression to interpret or cast a defining position upon the literal expression we negate the plain statement to establish a preferred interpretation. This is clearly exegeting backwards.

The accepted principle of interpretation among mankind is this: "that all language relative to law and jurisprudence, all language descriptive of the sanctions of government, all language setting forth penalties of crime and disobedience, is to be accepted in its primary sense and in no other . . . Thus when death is announced as a penalty for crime, no controversy would for an instant be admitted as to its meaning. No lawyer, for or against the criminal, would search for dramatic or poetic secondary senses . . . A secondary sense may be more usual and more proper elsewhere, but not here. Poetry and the drama, the literature of passion, imagination, and feeling, may use these terms differently; but their use is not to affect in the smallest degree the interpretation of a law. Here we take our stand. Here we are on sure and steady ground. The terms we have been discussing are the terms of the Divine Law: the jurisprudence we have been discussing is God's jurisprudence. The Great Governor is laying before his subjects the penalties which attach to sin. He speaks to them in the only language they can understand — their own language. He puts no new rules of interpretation upon it when he addresses them. He accepts, adopts, and used the language of those to whom he speaks. We can then only interpret the divine penalty for sin in the sense which man has put upon all such penalties, viz. in the primary sense.
Constable5, Duration and Nature of Future Punishment, 54

We already understand the first death by its universality around us with its cessation of life processes and the decay and dissolution of the body. The first death came via Satan to Adam and Eve and subsequently to each of us born in their image (1 Cor 15:22). But we, all born "in Adam," who accept the salvation offered by God are redeemed from the finality of the first [Adamic] death by the blood of Jesus Christ. The curses shown in the law belong to us as sinners.

In Leviticus and Deuteronomy 28-30 these curses come in handfuls. They are awful threats which may first appear out of all proportion to the sins committed. But sin, being a breach of the covenant, is an affront to the covenant of God and an insult to his infinite majesty . . . The curses included hunger and thirst (Deut 28:48; Isa 65:13), desolation (Isa 5:6; Zeph 1:15), poverty (Deut 28:31), the scorn of passers-by (Jer 19:8), darkness (Isa 13:10; Amos 5:18-20), earthquake (Isa 3113; Amos 1:1), being "cut off" from among the people (Exod 12:15, 19; 31:14; Lev 7:25; Jer 44:7-11), death by hanging on a tree (Deut 21:23), a brass heaven (Deut 28:23) and no help when one cries for help (Deut 28:31; Isa 10:3).

Christ . . . was hungry (Matt 4:2; 21:18). He was so poor he had no place to lay his head (Matt 8:20) On the cross he cried, "I am thirsty!" (John 19:28) He was mocked and derided (Mark 15:29-31) and deserted by his friends (Matt 26:56, 69-75). He was hanged on a tree as a cursed man (Gal 3:13) and "cut off" from his people (Isa 53:8). As he hung on the cross, the heavens were as brass. He was as one who cries for help and receives none (Mark 15:34). He died as the great covenant breaker and endured the unabated fury of all the covenantal curses. The cosmic scope of the curses is portrayed in Matthew. As Christ bore the sins of the broken covenant, darkness descended over the land (Matt 27:45), the earth shook, and the rocks split (Matt 27:51). But by dying Jesus carried away the curses of the covenant.
Brimstead6, Covenant, 81-83.

When death occurs, then it is the soul that is deprived of life. Death cannot strike the body or any other part of the soul without striking the entirety of the soul . . . It is deliberately said both that the soul dies (Judg 16:30; Num 23:10; Ezek 18:4, 20; et al.), that it is destroyed or consumed (Ezek 22:25, 27), and that it is extinguished (Job 11:20).
Pederson7, Israel: Its Life and Culture, 179

The consistent Old Testament witness is that the soul dies. (Gen 2:16; 3:19; Psa 104:29; 146:4; Eccl 3:19; Ezek 18:4, 20; et al.) In the same manner we can understand the second death that is described in the New Testament. The second death means no less than the first but it comes by our own choice (Eze 18:20), not "in Adam." And Jesus Christ dies no more (Rom 6:9; Heb 10:10) so that those thrown into it never shall be redeemed from it.

The New Testament uses a variety of different pictures to describe hell: fire is one of them, destruction is another, exclusion from the presence of God another. Burning in fire for eternity is the picture which got fixed in much traditional teaching about hell as though it were a literal description. The New Testament does not require us to think of hell in this way. Hell is not an eternal chamber of horrors across the way from heaven. Hell is the fate of those who reject God's love. God's love cannot compel them to find their fulfillment in God, but there is no other way they can find fulfillment. They exclude themselves from the Source of all being and life.
Bauckham8, at:

The "lake of fire" as given in Rev 20:14 is defined to be "the second death." This rhetorical device of parallel expressions is previously used in Dan 7:17; Dan 8:20-21; Zech 5:2-3, 6-7 to make a statement and then define it so as to make its concept and subsequent usage unambiguous. In the same manner, John in the book of Revelation takes a symbol and defines it to establish the concept and restrict it to unambiguous use.

The fact that the second death has "Death, and "Hell/Hades" as well as a "beast" and "false prophet" thrown into it (Rev 20:10, 14) tells us it is extinction because each of these concepts (concepts are not literal entities) are destroyed. And for any concept to be destroyed it must cease to exist — finding no discernable place or experienced meaning in the eternal ages prepared for those who love God and serve Him.

Only after this prior establishment of the meaning of second death — cessation of existence — does John state, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev 20:15) Therefore the extinction of each person is also established because they are thrown into the second death — joining into the extinction of those before them. And nothing, no one, not even God will stop their destruction, hence the New Testament use of unquenchable fire to describe their complete removal.

If we are willing to let the Bible define its own terms, the metaphor [in Matt 3:10-12] of unquenchable fire is easily recognized, immediately understood, and consistently used. No evangelical can logically or morally refuse to allow this of Scripture, for, as J. I. Packer points out, the presupposition that Scripture possesses an "inner coherence and consistency and power to elucidate its own teaching from within itself" is "a controlling principle in all interpretation."
Fudge9, The Fire That Consumes, 131.

We agree that "eternal" here [in Matt 25:41-46] modifies "punishment," but it does not modify an action here for at least three reasons. First, Greek adjectives do not modify simple verbs. Second, when we come to this adjective, there is no verb in sight. Third, the final letters of the noun that "eternal" does modify (English: -ment; Greek: -sis) remind us that this is a result-noun, formed off the verb root that names the action (punish: kolazo) that produced it. It is not wordplay but solid grammar to say that what is "eternal" here is not the punish-ing but the punish-ment.
Fudge10, The Fire That Consumes, 145.

Advocates on both sides [traditionalists, conditionalists] agree that, whether the imagery is understood literally or in some other manner, God will first judge the wicked, pronounce sentence, and then banish them from his presence. If "destruction" is allowed its ordinary meaning, it must of necessity come last. Conscious suffering in hell is not possible until one has arrived there (having been banished by God to that fate). And, because no one who is cut off entirely from God, the only source and ground of being, can continue to exist, conscious suffering will necessarily have reached its end when destruction is fully accomplished.
Fudge11, The Fire That Consumes, 147.

Instead of teaching that man is of such infinitely incontestable value, that God, to be worthy of his name, must preserve him with immortality, the Christian follows Paul's judgment that there is none righteous, no not one (Rom 3:10). Man, then, deserves death, not life. The Christian cannot appeal to the rationality of the universe, for all rationality is from God. He cannot claim an independent rule of goodness and justice to assure himself of life, for all goodness and justice flow from God. In short, the Christian knows that man, a vile, wretched, filthy sinner, will receive immortal life solely and only by God's grace; man neither deserves immortality nor is worthy of it. Unless he that made man sovereignly elects to give him salvation and life, by grace and not by works, man is absolutely without hope. Man came into this world naked and it is certain that he will depart in exactly the same manner; and he who gave life in the first place can also recall it either to damnation; blessedness, or annihilation.
Carnell12, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics, 344-345

The original everlasting fire:

The Levitical sacrificial system with the fire upon the brasen altar was the original "everlasting fire." In this continual fire the bodies of those beasts were consumed to ashes. This full burning unto ashes on the brasen altar, day by day continually, wholly consumed the sacrifice. Everything put into the fire upon the brasen altar was consumed to ashes.13

"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. ... And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn thereon the fat of the peace offerings." (Lev 6:9-10, 12) "And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes." (Lev 1:16)

Since "the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out" (Lev 6:12), this was the first "everlasting fire" because it was to be continually renewed "throughout your generations" by the morning and evening sacrifices as stated in Exo 29:38-42 [except for transport per Numbers 4:13 when the hot coals were placed into a censer (Lev 16:12) and were used to return the (ongoing) fire to the brasen altar]. This death and destruction of every sacrifice provides the real meaning from Scripture to Jesus' words in Matthew 25:46, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal;" and Apostle Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." Likewise for Isa 33:14; Matt 18:8; 25:41. Note, too, where God himself consumed the offering with fire in Lev 9:24, Judg 6:20-21; 1 Kgs 18:36-38 and 1 Chr 21:26. This death and destruction of every sacrifice is God's emphatic statement as to the penalty for sin since the requirement for the offerer to "lay his hand upon the animal's head" means that the person emphasizes that this ceremony applies to himself, that the death of the animal (death by bloodshed and destruction by burning to ashes) is his due penalty, the consequence for his own sin.

The everlasting results:

The Bible only ascribes immortality to a holistic resurrected people in 1 Corinthians 15. It is applied to those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, that is the righteous. But the ungodly never get immortality. Traditionalists concur:

1) God alone possesses inherent immortality (deathlessness);
2) Scripture promises immortality only to the redeemed;
3) Scripture always ascribes human immortality to a whole embodied person, never to a disembodied soul or spirit; and
4) Scripture always speaks of human immortality as God's gift in the resurrection, never as the result of creation, or even of regeneration in the present age.

"It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. ... Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (vs 43-44, 51-54, KJV).

... some affirmations of human immortality are misleading, since they tend to give the impression of intrinsic indestructibility that not even God could reverse.
Carson14, The Gagging of God, 535

These are passages that traditionalist authors concede to teach conditionalism: Matt 3:10, 12; 7:19; 10:28; 13:30; 13:40-42; John 10:28; 15:6; 17:17; Rom 2:12; 9:22; Phil 2:28; 3:19; 1 Thess 5:3; Heb 10:27; 12:29; Jas 4:12; and 2 Pet 3:7-9. (Peterson, Hell on Trial, 163) [He is a traditionalist.]

The Greek adjective aionios, usually translated as eternal in the New Testament, carries a qualitative sense as something that pertains to the divine realm. It is best understood as pertaining to two ages and therefore out of the reach of man but inside of God's domain. The usage of aionios eternal are: eternal salvation Heb 5:9, eternal redemption (Heb 9:12), eternal judgement (Heb 6:2), eternal punishment (Matt 25:46), and eternal destruction (2 Thes 1:9). These reach beyond the present and have ongoing effects into the future. When an adjective modifies a noun it describes the result of an action. A noun gives a name to an action, so the adjective applies to the noun, i.e. the named result or consequence of the action. Thus eternal salvation is not an eternal act of saving, eternal redemption is not an eternal process of redeeming, eternal judgement is not an eternal act of examining/judging, eternal punishment is not an eternal process of punishing, nor is eternal destruction an unending eternal process of destroying. The result will last forever but not the process of arrival at that result.

No one has mined the Old Testament for information about the end of the wicked more than LeRoy Edwin Froom, author of a cyclopedic two-volume study titled The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers. Froom finds fifty different Hebrew verbs that describe the final fate of the wicked—and all signify different aspects of destruction. Such verbs are buttressed, he says, by figurative or proverbial expressions that also speak "everywhere and always" of "the decomposition, of the breaking up of the organism and final cessation of the existence of being—never that of immortal life in endless suffering."
Fudge15, The Fire That Consumes, 51-52.

Does soul death matter?

The account of the thief on the cross:

"And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)

All translation from language to language uses some translator's license, especially with punctuation. The standard translated expression used the comma in a different position than Jesus implied. Historically, translators placed the comma so as to make the emphasis appear upon Jesus telling the thief, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ This implied that Jesus said that the thief would be in paradise on this day. A much much better application of punctuation puts the comma so that the scriptures are consistent. Translators could have placed the comma so as to make the emphasis appear upon Jesus telling the thief on this day, "today," that he would in the future at the resurrection be in paradise. "Verily I say unto thee today, ‘Thou shalt be with me in paradise.’" The second form is the real form since it agrees with and does not detract from other scriptures. Three clear voices speak to us about the resurrection coming at the last day: Jesus, Martha and Paul.

"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. ... No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. ... Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:39-40, 44, 54)

"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28-29 RSV)

"Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24)

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thes 4:13-18)

Another reason to use the second form stating that the thief would be raised "at the last day" is that of prophecy and the declaration of Jesus being the "firstborn" from the dead. The scripture is explicit that Jesus arose on the third day. If the thief arose to eternal life on the first day, then the thief is the real firstborn and not Jesus. Only Jesus is the "first of the firstfruits", the fulfillment of the OT prophecies about the barley harvest. [See OT types: barley harvest on Jesus resurrection day before the wheat harvest at Pentecost] Jesus has the preeminent position of being "the first from the dead." This is consistent with the OT and NT statements about the 3rd day resurrection. The supposed resurrection of the thief on this day, "today," would violate the pattern in the OT type and also give the thief the preeminent position of the first of the firstfruits.

"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matt 16:21)

"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Rom 8:29)

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." (1 Cor 15:20-23)

"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. ... And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Col 1:15, 18)

Feast of Firstfruits, [(Yom habikkurim) - Nisan 16-17] This feast anticipates and celebrates the resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord as the very First Fruits from the dead and points to the gathering [i.e. the early influx of the Jews into the church of Christ (Rom 11:16) with many more Gentiles to follow] and the resurrection of the entire Church (1 Cor 15:20, 23). "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord." (Lev 23:9-12); " ... And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." (Genesis 22:6-13); "I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psa 16:8-11); "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah." (Psa 49:15); "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them." (Psa 68:18); "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies." (Psa 110:1-2)

"Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. ... 2:10 And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." (Jonah 1:17 & 2:10); "Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt 12:38-40)

By the way, this also precludes Enoch and Elijah and any OT saints from being in heaven. [See: Did Enoch Die?] Note seriously Jesus' words affirming the exact same thing: 1) about John the baptist, "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (John)." (Matt 11:11) and 2) "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead ..." (Rev 1:5) Apostle Paul concurs saying: 1) "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: ... and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Heb 9:24, 28) and 2) "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us (before us) should not be made perfect." (Heb 11:40) [See: John 6:39-40, 44, 54]

The resurrection body:

It was necessary for Jesus to take upon himself a corporeal body in His resurrection as a pattern of the promised resurrection. We have already noted that the life of all humans is in the corporeal body. For Jesus to have only a resurrected spirit body and then whisper "I am alive!" in the disciples ears would not constitute valid proof of being alive. The real, tangible, sensorially perceived body of Jesus is the only valid proof for his resurrection. He appeared to, spoke with, ate with, walked with, and cooked a meal for his disciples. And he appeared and spoke with various sized groups of his disciples, both men and women, in very different settings. The mere absence of a body from the grave is not proof of life. (Neither is the absence of a body accepted in court as essential proof of death.) The ascension of Jesus by a physical body in Acts 1:9-11 was also testified by two angels.

Paul goes to great length to affirm the necessity of a body designed for immortatlity in the resurrection.

"But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor 15:35-49)

Paul's misunderstod statement:

The statement by Apostle Paul in 2 Cor 5:8 about his preference "willing rather" cannot be the reality itself. A preference does not establish reality otherwise every wishful expression would have the validity of being real. Paul is merely expressing a desire in 2 Cor 5:8. This preference is to be considered within the context of various visions Paul had received. We note the parallel statement by Apostle John after his series of previews (written in the Book of Revelation) where John says, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Both expressed their longings or desires and these texts should only be treated and understood in that manner. [See: Absent From The Body]

The ten commandments:

The ten commandments refer to relationships with the living. If the ethereal soul is real and supposedly alive, then why not apply the ten commandments consistently? Why not apply these commandments to the dead, since some suppose that the previous human person is somehow alive after death? But, since marriage, ownership of property and contracts all change at death it presupposes the non-existence of the person. [this is Apostle Paul's argument in Heb 9:15-17] Then which way is it, soul-death or partly alive?


Why turn to Plato, a heathen philosopher, for an understanding of God's word? It was Plato's followers who promoted platonism and were refuted by the early Christians. In platonic thinking this brings us to the idea of fatalism. In their view it does one no good to go against nature (natural impulses), for in doing so, you are going against reason and what is true. The natural world was very ordered and thus, subject to the law of cause and effect. In platonic belief, this causality that rules the universe is impenetrable. As such, the stoics supported the deterministic argument stating that humans have no true free will. Because Platonists and Stoics held the concept of the ethereal life absent from the body it led to a desire to depart from the constraints of the determinism and the absence of free will to seek life outside of the body.

Since the mainstream view of Christianity holds to the soul being an add-on entity to the human body which departs at death, it leads to the church's present inability to speak into this belief system, "the culture of death." The culture of death, in alignment with platonic thinking, asserts that a person is set free from the encumbrances of this life when dead or released from the constraints of the body. Then and only then is their spirit free to soar and become all it was meant to be. The culture of death is encompassed in: abortion, suicide, assisted suicide, euthansia, gothic lifestyle, heavy metal music, reincarnation, Hindu caste system, self-mutilation, body disfiguring art, escape through drugs, evolutionism, death through jihad, cultural/social revolution, racism, radical greenism, and even the animal rights movement. It is also embodied in various political systems: communism, Islam, totalitarianism, one-world government, the new world order, etc. Each of these devalues the human body and/or seeks the removal of unwanted persons.

But for Christians, only in valuing the body do we value the living person. We started hospitals, studied the physical body, developed surgery with anesthesia, examined physical laws and processes, and developed innumerable creature comforts: all to benefit the body. To believe that the real person is not the living body flies in the face of this. If the words of Jesus have any meaning in John 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," then surely He showed us the true way to life. It was by death and resurrection of the body.

The idea that there is life for humans, by a separated soul, in a form outside of the body aligns well with Satan's words, ‘Ye shall not surely die.’ If in any aspect, an immortal soul is true, that an ethereal soul exists and lives beyond death into eternity, then Satan is right, he tells the truth and God does not. Then all of our faith is built upon lies, too. But if God's words are true, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Gen 2:7); "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof dying (alternate margin translation) thou shalt surely die." (Gen 2:16-17) Then man—a living soul, dies with the body dying.

The question then becomes, Who will you believe?

Books to read and consider are:

Search for the Immortal Soul, Daniel Knauft, Torchlight Intel (2006) ISBN-13: 978-5134429477 (Read this first because it gives a good overview and introduces the subject well.)

The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition, Edward William Fudge, Wipf & Stock Pub; (2011) ISBN-13: 978-1608999309

A third book that is very comprehensive and referenced in the book The Fire That Consumes (by Fudge) is this:
God's Judgments & Punishments, Homer Hailey, Nevada Publications (2003) ASIN: B0006S5JFW2003


A. The first occurance of nephesh is in Genesis 1:20, "the moving creature that hath life (nephesh)." Note that nephesh is used of lower animals 4 times before it is used of man. Of its 754 occurances in the Hebrew Old Testament, 29 times nephesh is used for animals as living, moving creatures. It is used in various ways for man 725 times. Nephesh is used of Man as being "cut off" by God and as being slain or killed by man in 54 passages. These 83 usages support the cessation of — the termination of the "soul."


1. Wright, N.T. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, New York: HarperOne, 2008.

2. Fudge, E. W. The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Pub., 2011.

3. Kantonen (The Christian Hope, 3off) quoted by Heller, James J. "The Resurrection of Man," Theology Today 15(1958 ).

4. Nygren, Andres, Agape and Eros, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1953.

5. Constable, H. Duration and Nature of Future Punishment,

6. Brinsmead, Covenant, Fallbrook, CA, Verdict, 1979.

7. Pederson, J. Israel: Its Life and Culture, 2 vols., London: Oxford University Press, 1926

8. Bauckham, R. at:

9. Fudge, E. W. The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Pub., 2011.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Carnell, E. J. An Introduction to Christian Apologetics: A Philosophic Defense of the Trinitarian-Theisitic Faith, Grand Rapids, MI, Erdmans, 1948

13. Levitical Sacrifices - “Burnt Offerings”

14. Carson, D. A. "On Banishing the Lake of Fire." In The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, 515-36, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996

15. Fudge, E. W. The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment, Third Edition, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Pub., 2011.


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