Does “Destruction” Mean Annihilation?

The second part of Greg and Tim’s series on Hell is posted on the website. You can read the first part here, and the third part will be up next month. Here’s an excerpt from this installment:

Edward Fudge—who some consider the father of the modern conditionalist movement—writes, “The Old Testament utilizes some 50 Hebrew words and 75 figures of speech to describe the ultimate end of the wicked—and every one sounds…like total extinction.” The venerable John Stott weighed in with, “It would seem strange, therefore, if people who are said to suffer destruction are in fact not destroyed.”

The point sounds compelling at first glance, but note D. A. Carson’s important observation:

Stott’s conclusion…is memorable, but useless as an argument, because it is merely tautologous: of course those who suffer destruction are destroyed. But it does not follow that those who suffer destruction cease to exist. Stott has assumed his definition of “destruction” in his epigraph. [Carson’s emphasis.]

Do not miss Carson’s meaning. Treating “destruction” words (et al.) as if they had only one meaning (the conditionalists’ meaning) is not an argument, but question-begging (Carson’s “tautology”). His point applies equally to Fudge’s references and to Pinnock’s “strong impression of the destruction of the wicked.” So here’s our question. Do those words mean total destruction, that is, complete non-existence—annihilation—as conditionalists conclude? They do not—at least, not necessarily, and that is the key.

Read the rest here.

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Amy K. Hall