There is a concept that some people believe, that says hell will eventually burn out, and everyone in hell will be completely destroyed, ceasing to exist.

Originally posted 11/1/2004 on

The overwhelming majority of Christian scholarship that I have seen rejects the concept of annihilation.

Matthew 25:46 seems to make it pretty clear:
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Commentary from the People’s New Testament:

These things are certain: (1) A separation between the righteous and the wicked takes place at judgment. (2) The righteous inherit the kingdom; the wicked “depart into everlasting fire.” (3) The state of the righteous is “life eternal;” the state of the wicked is “everlasting punishment.” (4) The duration of these two states is the same, exactly the same Greek word being used in each case (aionios). Then if the state of punishment has an end, so has the life.

One other thought, “destruction” does not equal “cease to exist.”

I think we can all agree that we have a spiritual existence (our spirit) and a physical existence (our body). (Then there’s the soul, which is a little more confusing.)

I think we can also agree that both the spiritual and the physical can die, and both can be resurrected. You can’t be resurrected unless you’re dead, so death happens first, then resurrection.

Physical death is fairly straightforward; I think we all understand what it means for our bodies to die. Our physical death on earth is not final. A number of people in the Bible were physically resurrected, but they would still be subject to another physcial death. Then, at the final judgement, there will be one final physical resurrection. The Bible indicates in Acts 24:15 and Revelation 20:13 that both believers and unbelievers who have died will be rejoined (at least temporarily) with their bodies for the judgement. After that point, unbelievers will be physically dead for good, and believers will be physically alive for good.

Spiritual death is a little harder to understand, but from what Paul says in Romans 7:9 (“Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.”), it appears that spiritual death has already occured. Since unbelievers are already spiritually dead, it becomes clear that spiritual death does not mean our spirits cease to exist. (Just as physical death does not mean our bodies cease to exist; it just means they’re dead, not alive.) As with physical death, spiritual death doesn’t have to be final. Spiritual resurrection occurs when we give our lives to Christ and He breathes new life into our spirits. We are not granted spiritual life or death at the final judgement. The final judgement will be a confirmation of our current spiritual state. Those who are spiritually dead, will remain dead eternally. With this understanding, eternal death does not necessarily mean obliteration, it simply underscores the finality of death; there are no longer any second chances.


What will heaven be like? Will we “start over” with new bodies, new interests, new personalities, etc.?

Orginally posted 8/13/04 at

I’m fairly certain that life in heaven is not a “new existence.” We get new bodies, and our imperfections are eliminated, but we’re still the same people with the same spirits. It’s a continuation of our life, so I think to a large extent, our memories, personalities, etc., will survive.

There will be some differences; there is no marriage in heaven, so does that mean your relationship with your (former) wife will be the same as your relationship with your sister or any other woman, or is there still a unique bond? There is no more pain, so does that mean painful memories are wiped out, or just that we may remember the event, but it is no longer painful?

Orginally posted 3/9/2005 on

Our “soul” is not “another person inside of us,” it’s simply who we are. Our body is just the package. Our mind is how we think. Our soul encompasses our thoughts and emotions; it’s the “real us.”

When we get to heaven, we will not begin a “second existence.” Heaven will be a continuation of our lives here, except with the imperfections removed. Some conventions from our life on earth will no longer exist, such as marriage and family, but we’ll still be the same people. I think we will retain our memories and our personalities. Bad memories will no longer haunt us, and personality flaws will be gone, but the things that make us “who we are” will remain. We won’t all be converted into clones.