A false doctrine called, Annihilationism, is growing in popularity within Christian circles.
It is the belief that those who are spiritually lost will not face eternal punishment.
This doctrine claims that a lost person might face God at the last judgment but will not suffer for all eternity. Instead, that person will be destroyed once and forever with no further consciousness.
No everlasting fire, pain, regret, torment, hell, nor Lake of Fire. Just lights out and good night.
Although sometimes known by other names, this has long been a popular belief held by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh-Day Adventists and others.
The doctrine of eternal punishment has always been a big problem for Christian apologists. It is one of the most common excuses that people use for rejecting the gospel.
Is It Sin or Just Bad Self Esteem?
In our culture, which is saturated with Humanistic philosophy, man’s fulfillment and pleasure is placed above all other concerns. Judgment by God is simply not an acceptable theological concept to most modern men. Even the simple idea of a man suffering on the basis of his sin is rejected. Because it causes people to feel poorly about themselves — in a kind of ultimate bad-self-esteem scenario?
I remember when Robert Schuller, the false prophet of positive thinking, defined sin. He said that sin was simply the absence of self-esteem. As if sin was an illusion. That to lack self esteem was sin in itself.
So, there you go. I guess we have nothing to fear then. We are all OK. There is no real sin to worry about. And God has no basis to judge anyone.
Alternative Religious Views
While treading that garden path, many religions water down the eternal-suffering aspects of their theology. Some teach that people will be reincarnated to give life another try — in a seemingly endless cycle of self improvement. Thus avoiding a final judgment.
Others teach that God will give everyone another chance to repent and come to Christ after they die. A second opportunity to avoid hell and the Lake of Fire.
And, of course, who wouldn’t make the choice to get out of hell and eternal suffering?!
Who could be so stupid to refuse?!!!
Others have created doctrines such as Purgatory where ones sins may be paid by their suffering over an indefinite period of time. Maybe the time would last an hour, maybe a day, or maybe a million years; with ascent into heaven the eventual hope.
Others just say that God is too loving to make people suffer. At least not for a long period of time. And definitely not in some eternal “torturous” state. Because no God could be so cruel and sadistic to allow such a thing.
My experience growing up in the United Methodist Church was no different. There was no discussion of hell or eternal judgment when I was there. God was considered more of a grandfatherly figure that might scold a really bad person. Maybe even withholding some good stuff when they die. Sort of like Santa Claus dealing with naughty children. Where he would give you a stocking full of switches and lumps of coal instead of candy and presents.
But most everyone would end up in heaven according their teaching.
And even if there was a place called, hell, it was reserved for only the really bad people like Hitler or Stalin.
Saved by Allegory
There is a conspicuous absence of preaching on “hell” and “judgment” within the mainline Protestant churches. Whenever it is discussed, there is a basic denial of what the scriptures actually say in favor of a softer or allegorical interpretation.
Religious groups that reject biblical inerrancy love to take the allegorical route. That way nothing in the Bible is quite as bad as it seems (nor as true). And it is always interpreted as something other than the clear, straight-forward meaning. Allowing one to remain open to new ways to interpret and believe the Bible.
But, the Fundamentalists are different. They teach that every person must come to God through Christ alone, by Faith alone, by the word of God alone.
In their thinking, if you come into the “fold” by some other “door” (other than through Jesus Christ) you are not of the “fold”. Simple. Regardless of what denomination you are in, what church you go to, or what good works you have done.
But the Fundamental position has not been a popular one with the mainline churches. Nor has it been popular within much of Evangelicalism.
Shockingly, soft doctrine on eternal judgment is becoming popular in Evangelical circles. It is a mystery that so many are questioning what the scriptures so clearly teach. That those who reject Jesus Christ by faith will face hell and the lake of fire forever.
What the Bible Says
- “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.“ (Matthew 25:46)
- “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
- “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14)
- “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14: 9)
- “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)
- (Note: At least 1,000 years will have gone by from the time the beast and the antichrist were first cast in, alive, until Satan himself was judged after the final battle.)
- “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25:41)
- “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” (Luke 16:23)
The Annihilationist doctrine is at the core of many religious movements that reject biblical authority and inerrancy. These groups carefully pick and choose those doctrines that best fit their spiritual worldview.
All of this flows from a spirit of unbelief which is attempting to replace biblical Christianity with Inclusivism. With beliefs that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Beliefs that are easy on morality and short on punishment.
Or, better yet, absent of punishment altogether.
A single post cannot do this subject justice. Eternal punishment is not easy for anyone to understand. So, we will go deeper to try to understand why God has established this. And also to show the amazing cost He has paid to prevent anyone from experiencing it.
To Be Continued . . .