Examination of Conditional Immortality, "Soul Sleep" and "Annihilationism"

A Biblical Response to a Seventh-day Adventist


These posts originally appeared in March 1996 in FidoNet OpenBible.

Representing the historic, orthodox Christian teaching

P, resident Catholic apologist of FidoNet OpenBible

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

366. The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God -- it is not "produced" by the parents -- and also that it is IMMORTAL : it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection [cf. Pope Pius XII -Humani Generis-; Pope Paul VI CPG 8; Lateran Council V (1513)].

Representing the teaching of Annihilationism and "Soul Sleep" propounded by Ellen G. White and condemned as heresy as early as the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D.

PHIL MORRISON, resident Seventh-day Adventist of OpenBible

Phil M on "Soul Sleep" --

PM> Immortal soul-ism is not taught in the BIBLE, which defines a living soul as being the combination of the dust and breath.

PP> He also buys into "soul sleep" which even Fundy Baptists don't believe. :)

PM> However, BIBLE-believing Christians believe it...

PM> NT uses the word "sleep" 66 times, (I'm told) to mean death. PTL, we will arise, at the proper time, ala John 5:28

Phil M on Annihilationism --

PM> The COMPLETE destruction is indicated by the expressions that what the fire may have missed, the worms ate. You lose.

PM> But the BIBLE is replete with texts showing the "end" of non-believers to be (not the lack of well-being) but --> the lack of being!

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The following is an examination of what is commonly called "conditional immortality" -- that a person's "immortality" is conditioned on receiving eternal life. In this view, the "soul" is not immortal but rather "sleeps" (see Lazarus for example in John 11:11ff) until the resurrection. The "soul" is defined as a combination of the dust of the ground and breath (see KJV translation of Genesis 2:7). And "the soul that sins" shall die (Ezek 18:4,20), not be tormented forever.

Immortality is said to be only of God (1 Tim 6:16) while the believer "seeks for" (Rom 2:7) and "puts on" immortality at the resurrection (1 Cor 15:50ff). Therefore, man does not have immortality until the resurrection. The "soul" is not separate from the body and therefore is not immortal. There is no conscious existence, neither in heaven, hell, nor purgatory, after death. The body rests in an unconscious state until the final resurrection.

The resurrected believer enjoys eternal bliss in heaven while the wicked or unbeliever is to be annihilated or extinguished or snuffed out of existence at the final resurrection. The penalty in this view is eternal death (meaning extinction) and not eternal torment. As we see from the above, three ideas are contrasted --

(1) Conditional Immortality v. Unconditional Immortality

(2) Soul Sleep v. Immortal Soul

(3) Annihilation v. Eternal Torment

The main question to be examined -- Which view is biblical?

Before answering that, I want to deal with another important question.

Which view is orthodox? Which view has been the historical teaching of the Christian church down through the centuries? Here are some early Christian writers on the "soul" and a human being's nature --

(from William A. Jurgens THE FAITH OF THE EARLY FATHERS in 3 volumes)

"...for what is man but a rational living being composed of soul and body?" (St. Justin Martyr, The Resurrection 8, AD 100-165)

"The bond of the flesh is the soul; that which encloses the soul is the flesh. Such is the form of man's constitution: and if it be like a temple, God desires to dwell in it through the Spirit..." (Tatian the Syrian, Address to the Greeks 15, AD 165)

"...every example of human nature is made up jointly of an immortal soul and the body with which it is united at creation...." (Athenagoras of Athens, Resurrection of the Dead 15, AD 177)

"When, then, is there left to call the mortal body, except that which was shaped, that is, the flesh, of which it is also said that God will make it to live? It is this which dies and is decomposed, but not the soul nor the spirit." (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:7:1, AD 180)

"We define the soul as born of the breath of God, immortal, corporal, having form, simple in substance, acquiring knowledge by its own operation, showing itself in various ways, free to choose, subject to misfortunes, changeable according to natural inclinations, rational, the mistress, she who divines, descended from a single source." (Tertullian, The Soul 22:2, AD 208)

And that is only the first and second centuries of the early Church.

The great fifth century theologian Saint Augustine also said --

"And while man consists of these three elements: spirit, soul, and body -- which sometimes are reckoned as two, for often soul is included in the designation of spirit (for it is that certain rational part, which beasts do not have, that is called spirit) -- our chief element is the spirit." (Faith and the Creed 10:23, AD 393)

"Now, however, about the soul, which God breathed into man by blowing on his face, I affirm nothing, except that it is not the substance of God; and it is incorporeal, which is to say, it is not a body, but a spirit; not begotten of the substance of God, nor proceeding from the substance of God, but created by God; nor was it so created that any other nature of body or irrational soul might be changed into its nature; and consequently it was created out of nothing, and is immortal according to a certain mode of life, which it can in no way lose; but in accord with a certain mutability, by which it is able to become better or worse, it can also rightly be understood to be mortal; for He alone has true immortality, of whom the words were properly spoken: 'Who alone has immortality' [1 Tim 6:16]." (Literal Interpretation of Genesis 7:28:43, AD 401-415)

This could go a long way in answering how the soul could be "immortal" while God "alone who has immortality" (1 Tim 6:16) since God has "essential immortality" (cf. "from everlasting to everlasting" Psalm 90:2). More on that later when I deal with some of Phil Morrison's (and others) specific objections.

Furthermore, we have this testimony from the Protestant Reformers --

"In the interim [between death and resurrection], the soul does not sleep but is awake and enjoys the vision of angels and of God, and has converse with them." (LUTHER'S WORKS, Vol XXV, page 321, cited in Morey, page 201)

"This verse [commenting on Acts 7:59] clearly testifies that the soul of man is not a vanishing breath, according to the ravings of some madmen, but that it is an essential spirit, and survives death." (John Calvin, Commentary on Acts cited in Morey, page 209)

According to Dr. Morey, Calvin's first book was a treatise against the doctrine of soul sleep, titled -Psychopannychia-.

Finally, from the WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH XXX 2.1 cited in Robert Morey DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE (Bethany House, 1984) page 201-202

The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and outer darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day.

All the great Protestant Evangelical revivalists -- Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, Spurgeon, and Moody -- believed in the orthodox teaching of an immortal soul and a conscious afterlife as well as eternal punishment.

For the official Catholic position, see the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH paragraphs 355ff, 1033ff --

363. In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person [Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41; also Ezek 18:4,20]. But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him [cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6:30], that by which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man.

365. The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body [cf. Council of Vienne (1312)] : i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

1034. Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna," of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost [Mt 5:22,29; 10:28; 13:42,50; Mk 9:43-48]. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather...all evil doers, throw them into the furnace of fire" [Mt 13:41-42], and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" [Mt 25:41].

1035. The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

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Now where did this idea of "soul sleep" and annihilation come from?

It was first defended by Arnobius of Sicca (c. 327 A.D.), a/k/a Arnobius the Elder, born a pagan and for many years was a vigorous opponent of Christianity. Dr. Morey, citing standard reference works such as BAKER'S DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY and Protestant church historian Philip Schaff, traces the belief to Arnobius in the early fourth century.

From a warning in his dreams, Arnobius was converted to the faith and became a teacher of rhetoric at Sicca in Africa and numbered Lactantius among his pupils. He is author of a treatise in seven books titled "Against the Pagans" (c. 305 A.D.). Fr. Jurgens comments --

"Presented as a defense of Christianity against the numerous false charges of its adversaries, and written about the year 305 A.D., the work has little to recommend it. It was written hastily by a man who had very little understanding of Christianity; yet, it does have a certain value of its own: it is a precious source of information on the pagan cults of Arnobius' time." (THE FAITH OF THE EARLY FATHERS, Volume 1, page 262)

Protestant church historian Philip Schaff says of Arnobius' work --

"Meager and unsatisfactory. Arnobius seems as ignorant about the Bible as Minucius Felix. He never quotes the Old Testament, and the New Testament only once. He knows nothing of the history of the Jews and the Mosaic worship, and confounds the Pharisees and Sadducees."

"As to man, Arnobius....DENIES his immortality. The soul outlives the body but depends solely on God for the gift of eternal duration. The wicked go to the fire of Gehenna, and will ultimately be consumed or ANNIHILATED."

(HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, Volume 2, page 858ff cited in Morey, page 199)

This "soul sleep" view was later defended by various Anabaptists, Waldensian, and Socinian heretics during and just before the Reformation period which caused Calvin to write his -Psychopannychia- in response.

Even Wycliff, Tyndale, and apparently Luther early on taught soul sleep as an answer to the Catholic Church teaching on purgatory. However, these early "Reformers" did not deny eternal punishment in hell.

Soul sleep is clearly not the orthodox view of the Christian church and both Conditionalism and Universalism was condemned as early as the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD while the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517) later condemned erroneous views on the soul.

Even Leroy Froom, who has written the largest defense of the teaching titled THE CONDITIONALIST FAITH OF OUR FATHERS (Review and Harald Publishing, 1966) is forced to admit that no Christian thinker before the 12th century can clearly be claimed as a "conditionalist" (see Morey's work which deals extensively with Froom's arguments).

Now that we have discussed the historical background showing the doctrines of "soul sleep" and its concomitant teachings of both conditional immortality and annihilationism (although they are not necessarily linked) are clearly not the orthodox teaching of the historic Christian church (neither Catholic nor Orthodox nor Protestant), we shall delve into the proposed biblical support for these unorthodox teachings.

For an exhaustive discussion of all the relevant biblical passages dealing with the afterlife, I highly recommend getting the book by Dr. Robert Morey DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE (Bethany, 1984) which cult expert Walter Martin has called "the most comprehensive biblical study of the subject in the last half century." (front cover)

Several verses from the Old Testament (a few from the NT) have been suggested by Phil Morrison and Brian Gay as well as Derek Tin to support either conditional immortality or "soul sleep" or the extinction or annihilation of the wicked at the final judgment. I want to respond to the verses often brought up in defense of "soul sleep" or the so-called unconscious state of the dead.

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Date: 03-02-96 -- From: BRIAN GAY -- To: WILLIAM PUTNAM

BG> Ecclesiastes 9:5 Psalm 6:4-5 Psalm 49:14-15 Psalm 88:10-12 Psalm 89:48 Psalm 115:17-18 Job 7:7-10

BG> If you want to create a distinction between the person, their body, and their soul, please post the verses for it. If you do not accept clear scriptures that say Me, we, men, etc. and turn them into my soul, our souls, men's souls, etc. then feel free to. I do not add to scripture to fit a doctrine. If the dead know nothing that "means" "the dead know nothing". You can say that it means "Once a man's body dies and his soul leaves, his "body" knows nothing" but that is not what the scripture actually says. That is what you think it must say because of your preconceived ideas.

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What must first be noted is the sloppy hermeneutical principle used by the soul sleep advocates is rejected by all biblical scholars (except SdA scholars). One does not go prancing through the Old Testament looking for obscure passages to develop any coherent view of the afterlife. The proper hermeneutic or interpretive principle is to look first to the clarity of the NT which revealed what was obscure in the OT.

We have the word of the OT prophets "MADE MORE SURE" in the NT revelation of Christ and His holy apostles as "a lamp shining in a dark place" (2 Pet 1:19f). So we don't ignore or suppress the clear doctrinal teaching of the NT in favor of some poetry in the OT Psalms, Job or Ecclesiastes. Indeed,

"....this means that we cannot base our understanding of death and an afterlife solely upon passages found in the Old Testament. Since the Old Testament prophets awaited the coming of the New Testament to supply them with the last pieces of the puzzle before the whole picture could be seen, we must recognize that the vision of the Old Testament prophets was intrinsically blurred and, as a result, was vague on most of the details.

"This point directly applies to such groups as the Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. A survey of their literature reveals an almost total dependence on Old Testament texts to support their theory of soul sleep and annihilationism." (Dr. Robert Morey, DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE, page 23)

Now let's take a look at these passages Brian Gay has brought up a number of times. He says these are "clear scriptures" but this is far from the case. Just grab a few Evangelical commentaries and you will see a variety of interpretations on any one passage.

I must comment that Brian certainly did not arrive at this soul sleep belief by any close reading of the whole Bible on the subject. He has taken a few OT texts that have been made popular and dogmatized by certain soul-sleep advocates such as the SdAs and JWs, texts that have been around since the founding of the Christian church. They did not take the early Fathers nor the entire orthodox Church by surprise.

Robert Morey deals with such texts in his chapter on Annihilationism.

ARGUMENT: That death is a state of unconsciousness is clear from such passages as Psalm 6:5; 88:10,11; 115:17; Eccl 9:5,10. The dead are unconscious and are incapable of knowledge, wisdom or activity. (Morey, page 215)

No one remembers you when he is dead. Who PRAISES you from the grave? (Psalm 6:5 NIV)

Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and PRAISE you? (Psalm 88:10 NIV)

It is not the dead who PRAISE the Lord, those who go down to silence; it is we who extol the Lord, both now and forevermore. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 115:17-18 NIV)

ANSWER: First, in such places as Psalm 6:5; 88:10,11; 115:17, the psalmist used those Hebrew words which are virtually always used in respect to public worship in the house of God in the midst of the congregation. The Hebraist, John Gill, comments: 'These passages only respect praising God before men, and in the church militant, as is done by saints in the land of the living."

For example, in Psalm 6:5, David laments that if the Lord does not deliver him out of his depression by destroying his enemies (v. 3,10), he would die. Once in Sheol, he could not give "thanks" -yadah- unto the Lord. So, the Lord should deliver him in order to receive David's thanksgiving. The word -yadah- in its various forms is found 103 times in the Hebrew OT. Almost without exception, it is the word used for public worship in congregational meetings and refers to public testimonies, praise, thanks [Psalm 9:1f; 18:49; 35:18; 43:4; 71:14ff].

The psalmist is simply saying that once he is dead, there will be no further opportunities to give public praise in the midst of the congregation. (Morey, page 215-216)

The NIV Study Bible (a standard and scholarly Evangelical translation) comments on Psalm 6:5 as follows --

"The psalmist urges that God's praise is at stake. It is the living, not the dead, who remember God's mercies and celebrate his deliverances. The Israelites usually viewed death as they saw it -- the very opposite of life. And resurrection was not yet a part of their communal experience with God. The grave brought no escape from God (see Psalm 139:8), but just how they viewed the condition of the godly dead is not clear....the death of the righteous was reputedly better than that of the wicked (see Num 23:10). It seems clear that there was even an awareness that death (as observed) was NOT the end of hope for the righteous, that God has more in store for them (see especially Psalm 16:9-11; 17:15; 49:14-15; 73:24; also note on Gen 5:24). But when the psalmists wrestled with God for the preservation of life, it was death as they saw it, in its radical contradiction to life, that was evoked."

Now the other two psalms Brian quoted (Psalm 49:14-15 mentioned above and 89:46-48) deal with the power God has over the grave, the futility of life, and the image of death as "an insatiable monster feeding on its victims" (NIV note for Psalm 49:14 lists related texts Psalm 69:15; 141:7; Prov 1:12; 27:20; 30:15-16; Isa 5:14; Jonah 2:2; Hab 2:5).

On Psalm 49:15 the NIV comments "...the context strongly suggests that the author, as one of the upright, speaks of his final destiny. Perhaps the thought is of being conveyed into the presence of God in his heavenly temple, analogous to the later Jewish thought of being conveyed to 'Abraham's side' (Lk 16:22)." So, while neither resurrection nor the afterlife was clear in the OT, we do have traces of a conscious afterlife at least for the righteous.

This was made perfectly clear in the New Testament as we will see.

The cases of Enoch and Elijah are clear Old Testament examples of those who were taken by God (body and soul) into heaven (Gen 5:18-24; 2 Kings 2; cf. Matt 17:1ff; Heb 11:5). The phrase found in Ps 49:15 and Ps 73:24 of God "taking" the righteous to Himself is probably an echo of Gen 5:24 where God "took Enoch" to heaven. Both Enoch and Elijah (OT saints as well as NT saints) are conscious in heaven according to the Bible (cf. Matt 22:29ff; Heb 11; 12:1, 21ff; Rev 6:9ff; and especially Luke 16:19-31 which is not a "parable" since proper names -- "Lazarus" and "Abraham" -- are used).

Phil Morrison brought up another psalm in defense of annihilationism.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace...But the wicked will perish : The Lord's enemies will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish -- vanish like smoke. (Psalm 37:10-11,20 NIV)

The question is whether such expressions as "no more" and "vanish like smoke" should be understood as "cease to exist" or annihilated. The phrase "no more" should not be interpreted as non-existence -- note Job 7:8,10,21 discussed next. The wicked shall be "no more" on earth plotting and fighting against the righteous, gnashing their teeth (see the context Psalm 37:12ff,35-36; also Ezek 27:36).

The wicked have died (perished) by their own swords (Psalm 37:14-15). This does not mean they will not be resurrected ( "no more" in an absolute sense) but refers to their earthly wicked lives which shall "be no more." They shall no longer be a threat to the righteous. Another image is that the wicked shall be like "ashes under the soles of your feet" (Mal 4:1ff).

On the wicked "vanishing like smoke" (Psalm 37:20) we need to remember this is poetry and not some in depth theological treatise on the afterlife. See Psalm 68:2 which uses the same poetic analogy comparing the wicked to smoke that is blown away by the wind; to wax that melts before the fire. In the prayer of the afflicted man, his days "vanish like smoke" and his bones burn like glowing embers (Psalm 102:3). The heavens also are said to "vanish like smoke" (Isaiah 51:6).

In no sense can we say that the wax or days or the bones are annihilated when they "melt away" or are burned. Nor can we say the heavens cease to exist. The NT reveals the old heavens and earth and its elements shall be destroyed but there will be a NEW heavens and a new earth (Matt 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10; Rev 21:1; cf. Isa 34:4; 65:17; 66:22).

So to say something has "vanished like smoke" does not mean a cessation of existence.

The passages from Job 7:7-10 and Ecclesiastes 9:5,10 are also brought up as proof of soul sleep. Back up to the beginning of Job 7 and Eccl 1.

Does not man have hard service ON EARTH? Are not his days like those of a hired man? (Job 7:1 NIV)

What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils UNDER THE SUN? (Eccl 1:3 NIV)

The context in both passages is the man "on earth" who as a chronic sufferer has lost all sense of purpose: "...my life is but a breath" (Job 7:7,16) and "Everything is meaningless" (Eccl 1:2). The tone is pessimistic here, same for the Ecclesiastes "man under the sun" which refers to this present world and its limits. This is the key to the whole book (the expression "under the sun" is used some 29 times).

Another key is the word "eye" and "see" in Job 7. People no longer SEE the dead physically walking around. They are "no more" on EARTH.

The eye that now sees me will see me no longer; you will look for me, but I will be no more. As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so he who goes down to the grave does not return. He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more....For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more. (Job 7:8-10,21 NIV)

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that HAPPENS UNDER THE SUN....Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you UNDER THE SUN -- all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor UNDER THE SUN. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. (Eccl 9:5-10 NIV)

The meaning is clear if such phrases as "he who goes down to the grave does not return" (Job 7:9) and "the dead know nothing" and "have no further reward" (Eccl 9:5) are not dogmatized to mean the souls of the dead are unconscious or asleep.

If it is absolutely true that he who goes to the grave "DOES NOT RETURN" (NIV) or "DOES NOT COME UP" (NKJV translation) this would contradict the resurrection of the dead proclaimed throughout the New Testament and even by Job (19:26-27) who is certain that after death he will see God with his own eyes in his flesh.

If it is absolutely true that the dead "have NO further reward" why all the NT statements about "rewards" (Mt 5:12; 1 Cor 3:14; Rev 22:12; etc)?

The expression that those who go to the grave "do not return" means they do not return to their "house" (which could refer to the body or "house of clay" where the soul resides as well -- cf. Matt 12:44; Luke 11:24) and former places of earthly life. They are "no more" on earth. To read "soul sleep" or annihilation in here is to ignore the context and discard the NT. The afterlife is not discussed in these passages.

Same for the Eccl 9 passage. The expression "the dead know nothing" and that there is no working nor planning in the grave is similar to a verse in the Psalms. See Psalm 146:4 which is often used for soul sleep --

His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his THOUGHTS PERISH. (KJV)

His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his PLANS PERISH. (NKJV)

When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his PLANS PERISH. (RSV)

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their PLANS COME TO NOTHING. (NIV)

Reading just the KJV one might think a sort of spiritual unconsciousness was being taught here. But comparing all the modern versions, it is clear the verse is referring to the earthly plans of the person coming to nothing (perishing). This is how I would understand Eccl 9:5,10 as well. Compared with the living who know that they will die, the dead -- referring to the dead as they appear to us "under the sun" -- know nothing (verse 5). In fact, there is no more work nor planning nor chasing after earthly knowledge or wisdom for them in the grave from our perspective "under the sun" (verse 10). Compare with Eccl 1:12-18 --

I have seen all the things that are DONE UNDER THE SUN; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind....I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge. Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. (NIV)

Again, the context of this chapter and the whole book is the man "under the sun" (1:3,9,14; 2:11,17-26; 9:3,6,9,11,13,etc) which the NIV says "refers to this present world and the limits of what it offers" -- the autonomous man on earth without God. Only in this context should Ecclesiastes 9:5,10 be interpreted and understood. Dr. Morey comments:

"In many other ways, Ecclesiastes reveals the warning that without God, nothing in life will have any meaning or significance. The texts seized upon by the annihilationists to prove their doctrine of soul sleep must be interpreted in the context of the basic theme and message of Ecclesiastes. After giving the perspective of autonomous man for eleven chapters, the author concludes by bringing the Creator into the picture (12:1), defining death as the ascent of the spirit to God (12:7), and the necessity of beginning with God and the keeping of His commandments (12:13,14).

"As we mentioned in our chapter on hermeneutics, the annihilationists fail to realize that the context of a book as a whole must be taken into consideration in the interpretation of any given verse in that book." (DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE, page 216)

That is enough for now. Next will be answers to Phil Morrison's objections to the immortality of the soul by refuting the case made for conditional immortality. Also I will present several New Testament texts relating to the soul/spirit and the afterlife.


The following is a post "Great Soul Sleep Debate" from P to Phil Morrison (PM) in FidoNet OpenBible. Sean M. Brooks is SMB.

SMB> Nonsense. Our bodies die, but our spiritual souls are immortal.

PM> Would you give me the BIBLE text for this? Some clear text will clinch the matter, Sean. I certainly want to believe the Truth! Present some!

As usual, Sean Brooks is correct. Consider the matter CLINCHED!

CLEAR TEXT #1 -- Matthew 10:28 RSV

And do not fear those who kill [Gr apokteino] the body but CANNOT kill [apokteino] the SOUL [psuche]; rather fear those who can destroy [apollumi] both soul and body in hell [Gehenna].

(1) The Greek word for kill is -apokteino- = "to kill" physically. See also Mt 14:5; Jn 18:31; Rev 2:13; 9:15; 11:13; 19:21.

(2) According to Mt 10:28 the person's SOUL -psuche- CANNOT be killed. Why? The soul is not physical but spiritual and immortal.

(3) The "soul and body" together can be "destroyed" in hell (Gehenna). The Greek word here is -apollumi- meaning "to destroy utterly" or "to perish." See also Lk 13:3,5; Jn 3:16; 10:28; 17:12; Rom 2:12; 1 Cor 15:18; 2 Cor 2:15; 4:3; 2 Thes 2:10; James 4:12; 2 Pet 3:9.

(4) This word -apollumi- does not mean "annihilation" as some SdA people argue. According to W.E. Vine the "idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being" (under "destroy").

(5) In fact we know it does NOT refer to total extinction of being because the same word is used of DEMONS as in Lk 4:34; Mk 1:24. "Have you come to DESTROY us?" EQUALS "Have you come here to TORMENT us before the time?" See Mt 8:29; Mk 5:7; Lk 8:28 (the NIV uses the stronger word "torture" in these texts); and Revelation 9:5; 11:10; 14:10-11; 20:10; cf. Matt 25:41,46.

The fate of demons is eternal torment. Hence, "destroy" cannot mean annihilation or total extinction in this context.

(6) As Dr. Robert Morey points out also in his exhaustive book on the subject DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE (Bethany House, 1984) the Bible uses the word "cast" -ballw- as the synonym for "destroy" -apollumi- in the parallel text Luke 12:4-5 -- "CAST into hell" (Lk 12:5) EQUALS "DESTROY...in hell" (Mt 10:28).

The wicked are "cast" or "destroyed" (delivered up unto eternal misery). Hence, -apollumi- cannot mean extinction or annihilation. Matthew 10:28 clinches it. The soul cannot be "killed" but is immortal.

CLEAR TEXT #2 -- Acts 7:59-60 RSV

And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, RECEIVE MY SPIRIT." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell ASLEEP.

Questions for elder Phil to consider --

(1) What was this "spirit" (Greek pneuma) if not the immaterial, invisible, immortal soul of man? See also Luke 8:55; 1 Cor 5:5; and James 2:26 for the same use of "spirit" (pneuma).

(2) What fell asleep? Was it the soul/spirit or Stephen's BODY? See also John 11 for "sleep" referring to the BODY of Lazarus. Concerning Jairus' daughter, see Mt 9:24; Mk 5:39; Lk 8:52. The BODY is said to "sleep" but her "SPIRIT" returned (Lk 8:55).

CLEAR TEXT #3 -- from your favorite book Ecclesiastes 12:7 RSV

"...and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the SPIRIT [Hebrew -ruach-] returns to God who gave it."

Question: What is this -ruach- (spirit) that "returns to God" ?

BTW, this is not a book to build any doctrine of "soul sleep" or spiritual unconsciousness after death since the emphasis is on the meaninglessness of life on this earth without God. There is no clear discussion of the afterlife in this book. The context of the whole book is the man "under the sun" (an expression used 29 times) referring to the person on earth in this present world and under its limitations. In this context such texts as Eccl 9:5,10 should be considered.


The following is a post "The Hell There Is" from P to Phil Morrison in FidoNet OpenBible.

Is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?

PM> Bear in mind, that a God who would bring into existence those who His foreknowledge knew to never accept His Grace, and then BURN them as long as He, God, shall live... well, P would this qualify as a gruesome tyrant?

The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?"

"But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment."

"There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked." (Tyrant Isaiah 33:14; 50:11; 57:21 NGV New Gruesome Version)

Bear in mind, that a God who would bring into existence those who His foreknowledge knew to never accept His Grace, and then ANNIHILATE them into nonexistence as long as He, God, shall live...well, elder Phil, would this qualify as a silly tyrant? If God knew these people would cease to exist, why create them? Your question boils down (pun intended) to the following -- If God knew there would be pain, suffering, and punishment of His creatures in this world and the next, why do any creating at all? Is it better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all?

Read JOB and then C.S. Lewis THE PROBLEM OF PAIN for some good answers.

For an exhaustive treatment of all the biblical and lexical material, see Protestant/Evangelical/Reformed author Robert A. Morey DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE (Bethany House, 1984).

Your argument from emotion might seem to make sense, but we should stick with the words of Scripture. This is the Open_Bible echo and Closed_EGW. Please, elder Phil, have you ever Opened one?

If ever there were a gruesome tyrant, it was meek and humble Jesus.

Question: Was Jesus a Seventh-day Adventist?

Hell is described by our Lord in such gruesome language as the following: "unquenchable fire" (Mt 3:12), "the fire of hell [Gehenna]" (Mt 5:22), "thrown into the fiery furnace" (Mt 13:42,50), "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt 13:42,50), "thrown into eternal fire" (Mt 18:8), "thrown into the fire of hell" (Mt 18:9), "eternal fire" (Mt 25:41), "eternal punishment" (Mt 25:46), "where the fire never goes out" (Mk 9:43), "where the fire is not quenched" (Mk 9:48), "unquenchable fire" (Lk 3:17).

And let's not forget our favorite gruesome tyrants Paul, Jude, and John

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power....(Gruesome Tyrant St. Paul, 2 Thess 1:7-9 NGV)

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Gruesome Tyrant St. Jude, Jude 7 NGV)

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." (Gruesome Tyrant St. John, Rev 14:9-11 NGV)

It is clear from the above passages that the fire connected with Gehenna

1) is ETERNAL (Mt 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7)

2) is UNQUENCHABLE, i.e. it will never die out or be put out (Mt 3:12; Mk 9:43,48; Lk 3:17)

3) signifies TORMENT and not annihilation (Rev 14:9-11; 20:10)

PM> Strange love, indeed. (not the movie) :)

No stranger than allowing punishment in this life for sin. We were made to exist eternally -- either with or without God (Mt 25:46). I've seen the movie. Try the Hellraiser series by Clive Barker.

P (March 1996)


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