Is Annihilationism Biblical?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Is a belief in annihilation Biblical? Is it taught in the Bible?

What is Annihilationism?

Annihilationism is the belief that non-believers will simply be annihilated or be destroyed after death, rather than spending all of eternity in hell. It is believed that they will cease to exist after they’re judged and then annihilated, and even their memory will be gone, but is this biblical? Is it true as some believe that at Jesus’ appearance, the unsaved will vanish into nothingness? Is this in the Bible? Or is it that the unsaved person will suffer for a specific amount of time that is directly related to their sins and then cease to exist? In this case, judgment takes place at Jesus’ return, they suffer for a time, and then they are annihilated. Some even suggest we’re disembodied souls after death and we are on an endless journey into nothingness and even being in a state of unconsciousness. If you’re like me, none of these sounds right from what I’ve read in the Bible, so let’s use the Bible as our guide for truth.

is annihilationism biblical

Their Worm Never Dies

Jesus, in talking about hell, said “if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell” (Mark 9:47) and “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). There are at least two important things that Jesus says here; one is that “the fire is not quenched” and that’s the same place where “their worm does not die.” Both of these statements speak of an ongoing condition and where both are in a continual state (eternal). A fire that can’t be quenched is a fire that will burn forever and there is a worm that turns, meaning it does not die. This “worm” is not just “a” worm but “their worm,” indicating a personal affiliation with their worm. Is this their conscience turning on them over and over again in the eternal torments of hell? Regret can be its own hell, but how much more so than one that never ends? This may be their own worm that turns on them in hell and that place is where that fire isn’t quenched. Fire is symbolic of God’s judgment, so in order for annihilation to be true, the fire must eventually be quenched and the worm must stop turning. Jesus could not have been any clearer about the length of time in hell.

Is Destruction the same as Annihilationism?

I have heard the few verses where they say that the lost will be utterly destroyed or their total destruction is coming, but is destruction the same thing as annihilation? Annihilationism holds to the belief that at the Last Day or Last Judgment, all who reject Christ will be destroyed, and after a time in the fire, they burn up and cease to exist. This basically means they don’t believe in the immortality of the soul. There are no shortages of false teachers and cults that teach this heresy. The drunk in the street doesn’t have to worry about the law, which shows us what sin is. If hell is not eternal, then he’s just going to live it up today, for tomorrow he may die. No problem. What holds him back from taking another drink? After death, it’ll be all over…or so he thinks. He may have even been led to believe this lie. A few years ago I was mowing my lawn when I suddenly lost control and my mower hit the curb. Needless to say the mower was ruined. I looked at the blades and they were twisted and the engine block had cracked. I had just destroyed my mower, but did it cease to exist? No! It’s still in my garage and I can’t get rid of it! It continues to exist, even after it’s been destroyed. That’s the point about Bible verses citing the lost are going to be destroyed. Something that’s destroyed doesn’t mean it ceases to exist. It still exists, but it simply destroyed and has lost all usefulness and purpose, just like my mower had.

Does This Promote Sin?

Think about what this may tend to make non-believers think about or how it may cause them to behave. If you were a person who loved to party and you heard that once a person dies without Christ, they’re simply burned up and cease to exist, wouldn’t that promote a “eat, drink, and be merry” mentality, “for tomorrow we die?” If there are no repercussions for what you did in this life except to burn up and cease to exist, it’s “everything goes!” If sinners believe they simply passed into oblivion, they would have no inhibitions to sin and would sin as much as they can for as long as they live. This may lead to the belief that there’s no penalty for breaking God’s law, therefore, they can choose to live the way they want to live, with no regard for God’s law. If you were not saved and you knew that God will simply snuff you out of existence someday, wouldn’t you love that; and secondly, wouldn’t that make you not even think about sin in the first place? It’s like if someone knew they wouldn’t get caught, they’d break as many laws as they could, no matter who got hurt. Some who believe in annihilation see it as the “burning up” with fire as being more severe for some than for others. Their punishment will be equal to the time in the fire but annihilation compromises the doctrine of hell’s eternality. My own selfish motives may induce me to like this; yes, it seems more merciful to me, but He is God and I am not and His ways are not my ways.

Conclusion

Jesus said that you have eternal life or you face eternal judgment, and that judgment will come “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2nd Thess 1:7-9). Since God is light, then hell must be utter darkness, since it’s “away from the presence of the Lord” and “the glory of His might.” That would be hell enough, but the worm that turns forever may be that utter regret and despair from a life of rejecting Jesus Christ and the free offer of eternal life. Please consider trusting in Christ, if you have not done so already. Perhaps God is bringing you to repentance right now, and so why not place your trust in Christ? No one who puts their trust in Him will ever have to be ashamed again (Rom 10:11).

Something more for you to read: Is Hell Really Eternal?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Jansen August 28, 2016 at 10:12 am

Thank you Jack, another thing I have though about is the eternal torment of realizing all of the times a person was faced with the decision of choosing Jesus or not. The anguish of knowing it didnt have to be this way, but that they themselves chose this path.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57.
God Bless you Jack

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Jack Wellman August 28, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Hello Mr. Jansen. You are right and you are also encouraging sir. Thank you.

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