Annihilationism, Universalism and the Angelic Problem

Derek Ouellette —  April 17, 2011

The best that I can tell, Annihilationist’ and Universalists have very similar concerns. Both do not like the idea that an all loving and all merciful God would punish a human being in Hell for all of eternity. (Frankly I don’t like the idea either.)

My facebook friend Chad Holtz (the only advocate of universalism that I “know”) presents a reasonable argument: how can God reconcile all things if some things remain unreconciled (Colossians 1:20)? But when I asked him if “all things” included Satan, my question was met with silence.

This is what I call “the Angelic Problem”, and it is just as much a problem for the Annihilationist as it is for the Universalists because it challenges the basic premise: that an all loving and all merciful God would not punish a human being in Hell for all of eternity. To this I ask; would an all loving and all merciful God punish an angelic being in Hell for all of eternity? If the answer is no, then they have some very difficult passages to contend with and not a shred of evidence to the contrary (the scriptures have nothing nice to say about “the evil one”). If the answer is yes, they I would charge that they are being inconsistent in their premise. Why is it that God is too loving to send fallen human beings to hell, but not loving enough to save fallen angelic beings from Hell?

In Matthew 25:41 we read:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’.”

Whatever we can say about this parable and the images in it, one thing is for sure: God will send some to a place (“eternal fire”) prepared for the devil and his angels. In other words, whatever this place of “eternal fire” represents, its intended inhabitants were not fallen humans, but fallen angelic beings. It seems then that some fallen human beings will join their fallen angelic counterparts.

In Revelation 20:10 we read:

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Again, though pregnant with images, we can say one thing for sure: wherever it is that the devil, false prophet and beast are “thrown” (the “lake of fire”), torment will be “night and day forever and ever”. For the Universalist who believes that all things will be reconciled, I ask, what about the angelic beings? For the Annihilationist who with great emotion and sympathy (and rightly so) cannot fathom a God who would throw a fallen human being into a place of Hell “forever and ever” because God is all loving and all merciful I ask, what about fallen angelic beings. Why does God’s love and mercy not extend to them?

Why is it that our sympathy, and thus our image of God’s sympathy, fall short of them?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Kyle Pitts

    Derek, you have a lot more patience than me, I usually answer such arguments “stop using your emotions and girlie feelings to interpret the Bible.” Usually I feel harsh and end with, “but we can still be friends!”

  • xTraex

    I think of this too. To me, when it comes to what we as humans consider “good” people suffering for eternity, we squirm. But when it comes to those who we feel deserve to be shunned or outcasted we certainly place those people in Hell. No one that I know, thinks of spending an eternity in God’s presence with Hitler or Stalin. You hit the nail with this one, if all fallen human beings are reconciled back to God, why not Satan. I have often also thought of the question, does God still love Satan?

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    I have no idea whether satan and the demons will be reconciled or not; heck, I don’t know that all humans will be reconciled, but I do think that the latter is possible. In any event, remember, the “fire” in question is the Divine Presence itself, as in the tongues of fire at Pentecost, etc. See also, for example, Hebrews 12:29.

  • http://firsttestamentstudies.wordpress.com/ Ryan Collins

    Even though I do not think universalism is the way life and the age to come goes, I desperately desire it to be that way. In fact, I would be quite concerned with any Christian who would not want universalism to be true. This conversation, in my personal experience, ends up being a Metaphysical Libertarianism interaction. Inevitably, the question will arise: “If God so love the world, why did he not reconcile the entire world and human race to himself?”

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Hey Ryan, I agree. I think there is a problem when people want Hell as everlasting torment to be true. I think there is a problem when people don’t want everyone to be saved.
      But I don’t want to force my wants into God’s Word. Like forcing a square block into a round whole, I don’t want to cut corners. :)

    • http://firsttestamentstudies.wordpress.com/ Ryan Collins

      Derek,

      I agree; I am not going to commit myself to eisegesis like so many Christians choose to do today. Do you think it is dangerous to consider the possibility of universalism? What I mean is, should a Christian be questioned and deemed a universalist because one desires and, maybe even hopes for, the universal atonement of all humanity? If we deny that possibility, could that be considered limiting God’s nature of love and grace into a box, as well as his power to save all?

      So many Christians automatically reject universalism discussions because they have been trained to. However, I have found that some genuine and influential discussions have come from engaging in such discussion. The above questions are some that I wrestle with when contemplating the universal reality of God’s love.

  • Josh

    From perhaps a more annihilational perspective, I think it could be argued that God destroy’s Satan and all other rebellious angels in the “Lake of Fire”. A good question would be, why would God desire to torment/torture (most? – 90%? of) His creation for all eternity? Wouldn’t it be better for God to not have created at all then to create a world where He must torture His creation for all eternity? Why would God perpetuate evil’s existence for all eternity just to sustain the evil of torment?

    Greg Boyd (and also Ed Fudge) have some good questions and thoughts on this topic.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      “A good question would be”… why wouldn’t God just save everyone? Wouldn’t it be better for God to not have created at all then to create a world where He must annihilate His creation for all eternity? Would God perpetuate evil – not just for eternity, but evil at all in this world! – just for the sake of free-will? Those are just as good a question as the one you posed, and leads to Universalism. My friend Chad Holtz has some good questions and thoughts on this topic. :)

      God would not create a world like this (ha! Our presupposition says we don’t really exist) just like your presupposition says God will annihilate everyone (except the devil and a select few apparently – Rev 20:10).

    • Josh

      Eh Derek, I’m saying the Devil will be annihilated as well from my understanding of annihilationism (I haven’t read nearly enough on this topic). I think Boyd’s presentation (as well as Fudge) on the issue is pretty good.

      I guess my issue is with torture/torment and evil being perpetuated for all eternity… Why would God have the desire or need to do that? Again, I don’t find Universalism to square well with Scripture as I know it to stand, but I also find serious issue with the traditional view of an eternal torture chamber for most? of humanity for all of eternity… And I find more of an annihilational view to square with God as love revealed in Christ and with alot of the texts on the issue (not that any of the views fits “perfectly” with a “wooden” reading of the text mind you…).

  • http://hiddenirony.wordpress.com James

    Why would it be a “bad thing” if Satan and the rest of the fallen angels got restored to God? Wouldn’t that also be the best possible thing to happen?

  • Kyle Pitts

    Really, it is not that a person wants to suffer in Hell for all eternity, but that a person desires God to truly be just and true to His Word.

    What we are saying when we say that we want all men to be saved regardless of faith in Christ is that we want God to not be true to His revelation of Himself.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Right on Kyle.

  • Kyle Pitts

    Lol. wow, there are some typo’s there, I just told my company to hold on a sec because I need to correct what I just said.

    Really, it is not that a person wants OTHERS to suffer in Hell for all eternity, but that a person desires God to truly DO IS be just and true to His Word.

    What we are saying when we say that we want all men to be saved regardless of faith in Christ is that we want God to not be true to His revelation of Himself.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      I knew what you meant. :)

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    First: yes, if a Christian WANTS the classic Western account of eternal damnation to be true, there is a problem.

    Second: once again, y’all, remember: that Fire in the Lake of Fire is God. If you and I are saved in the end, we are going to be in fire yourselves, but we are going to rejoice in it because we will experience it as a good thing, a wonderful thing, in fact, the best, most wonderful thing ever: we will be sharing in the Divine Life of the Most Blesed Trinity.

    However, for those who do not love God, who have not aquired that love, that communion with God, within themselves, this fire will be torment. In the Age to Come, the omniscience of God is immediate and unavoidably manifest everywhere and to everyone, so, as I understand it (and, if I recall correctly, this is also C.S. Lewis’ understanding), repentance is always possible, at least for any human, who is experiencing God as torment in the Lake of Fire. The question is, however, will any repent? Lewis thought that none would. Sin is addictive, and I cannot hang on to my sin and at the same time experience God as good. The Divine Fire will either burn away the sin and leave me more whole, or I will hold on to the sin and the Fire will be torment. Similarly, it may also be possible for the demons to repent, but this is far less clear.

    In any event, in either case, God is not stopping either humans or demons from repenting. Addictions are very hard to break and impossible to do so without repentance. This is the essence of the problem.

    We also note that after the fall, God stops humanity from “eating of the Tree of Life” in order that they do not become like the demons, fallen yet immortal. Because of this, I personally strongly doubt that the demons will ever repent. I think that they rebelled with full knowledge of what they were doing and what the consequences would be. Humans? I’m more hopeful about humans, and I also hold as an opinion that many, if not most, humans who die apparently unrepentant will repent between their death and the general resurrection. I suspect that the particular judgment probably has a way of really focusing the mind, not to mention the (again fiery) experience of hades, as with the rich man in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

    Again, however, this is not a reason not to evangelize, nor is it a reason to put off converting. I may well be able to get to San Francisco from New York by hitch-hiking through Dallas, but…

    • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

      Finishing the above:

      “Again, however, this is not a reason not to evangelize, nor is it a reason to put off converting. I may well be able to get to San Francisco from New York by hitch-hiking through Dallas, but…”

      if I desire to get to Frisco as quickly and as easily as possible, I’m gonna catch a flight.

      Bottom: all will be saved who in the end want to be saved.

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    One other thing: that desire y’all evince that all be saved. Well, that’s an indication of the fact that you are, after all, created in the image of God and that God is active in your life by way of your relationship with Christ, healing the image and manifesting the Divine likeness.

    God does, after all, indeed “desire that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth”.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Greg, please keep your comments in bites sizes lust I begin to think that the Orthodox and Calvinist are one and the same in character :) (see here)

      As to your comment, I’m disappointed. I thought the Orthodox were, well, orthodox. You continue to press all issues as if it is the “West” verse “Greg” (which incidentially means the “West” verse the “East”). The view I’m espousing is equally valid among many ancient Greek scholars (Oecumenius of Isauria, Andrew of Caesarea et al).

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Sorry about the length of the comments. I do try to keep them short.

    Which view, Derek, the possibility that demons might repent and be reconciled? Indeed, my own patron, Gregory of Nyssa, held that this is possible, and there is that famous passage from St. Isaac of Ninevah about having compassion on the demons. Like I say, I don’t know, but I tend to think that they will not repent and therefore, not be saved.

    As for having any sympathy for the demons, well, it seems that they don’t like us very much precisely because we, and not they, are created in the image and likeness of God and because the Second Person of the Trinity took our flesh and blood and became human. They are extremely envious of us and, again, really did rebel with full knowledge of what they were doing and what the consequences would be. Humanity did not, and for the most part, does not.

    If it is possible that the demons be saved, so be it. However, my concern is for humanity and the rest of creation. Demons are nasty buggers. They hate humanity precisely because God loves us so much. If you haven’t done so, let me suggest you read the late Malachi Martin’s “Hostage to the Devil.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Hostage-Devil-Possession-Contemporary-Americans/dp/006065337X

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Thanks Greg, I appreciate your courtesy.

      No, I was speaking about your defense of postmortem reconciliation which came on the heels of your comment about us “Westerners”. Just wanted to remind you that this is not a “Western” issue. Many of the “Eastern” ancients soundly rejected it too.

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog Ronnie

    If the answer is no, then they have some very difficult passages to contend with and not a shred of evidence to the contrary. If the answer is yes, they I would charge that they are being inconsistent in their premise.

    Your second response would, of course, only have force against those who reject eternal torment because of some intuition they have about God’s love. There are conditionalists (aka “annihilationists”) who believe that while humans will be destroyed, Satan will be tormented forever. They hold this view because they think it’s what the Bible actually teaches. Now, I don’t think that view is correct, but it is a plausible interpretation of the relevant passages.

    Your assertion that there is “not a shred of evidence” to support the claim that demons will not be tormented forever is unwarranted and my hunch, with all due respect, is that you haven’t spent much time looking into the issue (but I’m open to correction on that point). In fact, a straightforward reading of Colossians 1:20 would clearly be evidence for such a claim–your friend’s silence notwithstanding.

    Matthew 25:41 poses no threat to the conditionalist because it says nothing of eternal torment. Jude 1:7 demonstrates that “eternal fire” is something that destroys forever; it is NOT something that torments forever.

    As for Revelation 20:10: in apocalyptic visions, both the symbols and what happens to the symbols represent something else. The fact that John sees a dragon and two beasts being tormented in a lake of fire does not mean that the things represented by the dragon and beasts will literally be tormented in a lake of fire. Anyone who uses that hermeneutic might as well believe that Daniel 8 teaches that Media and Persia would literally be trampled upon by a goat.

    Most Christians who believe in eternal torment are unbelievably inconsistent in how they apply their “literal interpretation hermeneutic” to Revelation. Just curious, do you actually think that angels will gather countless people into a giant wine press and crush them so that billions of gallons of blood flow out? You should, if you apply the same hermeneutic you used with Revelation 20:10 to Revelation 14:14-20.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Hi Ronnie, your tone and accusations are not appreciated.

      My Hermeneutic is consistent. I intentionally avoided delving into a hermeneutic of Revelation 20 or any other passage in Revelation (as will be clear if you read the post more carefully). So your charge is unwarranted. Certainly the images in Revelation 14, 20 and throughout mean something. “Torment” means something, “forever and ever” means something. “Day and Night” means something. Whatever these images point to, I don’t see how it is possible to make them mean “annihilate” without stretching all rules of hermeneutics so far out of distortion as to not be recognized as a legitimate form of interpretation.

      You’re welcome to disagree with me, that’s why the comment box is open. But play nice (and read this!)

    • http://conditionalism.net/blog Ronnie

      I’m not aware that I accused you of anything, unless you count my “hunch” that I explicitly said I was open to correction about. I suppose that single comment is what upset you, as I can see nothing else (including my “tone”) that anyone could possibly take umbrage at.

      I read your post very carefully; I’m not sure why you would think otherwise. I said most Christians inconsistently apply a certain hermeneutic to Revelation. I then asked you a question to see if you fell within that group. You said that we can be certain (“we can say one thing for sure”) that the things thrown into the lake of fire will be tormented forever. So unless you’re now taking that back, my question about Revelation 14 stands (and remains unanswered).

      For you to assert that the words “torment day and night forever” could not possibly mean “annihilate” is to miss the point completely. The question is not “what do the words mean?” the question is “what do the symbols and visions represent?” John sees grapes thrown into a giant press, which is then trodden, unleashing a torrent of blood. Those words mean exactly what they say. But what do those symbols represent? What does the vision of grapes being crushed represent?

      Likewise, John sees a dragon and two beasts being tormented in a lake of fire. What does that vision represent? We have a few contextual clues:

      1. The two beasts symbolize corporate entities (e.g. some say the first beast is the Roman Empire). Does it even make sense to say that the Roman Empire will tormented? Is it unreasonable to suggest that the vision represents the divine judgement and permanent end of the empire? Does it make sense to say that death, which is also thrown into the fire, will be tormented forever? Of course not; that’s why almost every commentator that I’m aware of takes death being thrown into the lake as representing the annihilation of death forever. Should not “being thrown into the lake of fire” be consistently interpreted?

      2. John explicitly interprets the lake of fire for us, twice. It is “the second death” (20:14). And yes, this is an interpretation, following the normal interpretation formula used throughout Revelation (and Daniel and Zechariah) of “[symbol] is [interpretation]”

      Oh and I read your rules; they are taken word for word from Michael Patton’s blog (unless, of course, he got them from you) I hope that me saying so doesn’t further upset you.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Good rules. Not word for word, slightly modified.

      1) You accused me of having a “literal interpretation hermeneutic” (the Amillennial that I am no less!) simply because I cannot see how “day and night forever and ever” and “torment” could possibly mean “annihilate”, no matter how the symbols are understood. 2) You’ve misunderstood my point with Matthew 25 and its connection to Revelation 20. 3) My continued use of “whatever this might mean” shows that I was not wanting to get into endless debates on how to interpret all the nuances Revelation, but wanted to stick to my main points.

      As carefully as you claim to have read the post, I’ll give the points directly and clearly anyways (perhaps the post was not clear):

      IF one holds to Universalism and yet believes that the devil will not be reconciled, I see a problem of consistence there.
      and
      IF one holds to Annihilationism and yet believes that the devil will be tormented forever, I see a problem there.

      This being my point renders your arguments (at best) irrelevant and (at worst) moot. Why? Because you’ve set a case for 1) the possibility that the devil will be redeemed (a la Col 1:20, a verse I did bring up in the post) and 2) that the devil may be annihilated.

      Obviously there are arguments for both cases. You could have saved your energy simply by saying you affirm both or either/or or whatever. Conversation over because the post no longer applies to you or to the person who holds those views.

      Again, to be clear, the angelic problem is only a problem for Universalists who do not believe the devil will be redeemed and for Annihilationist who do not believe the devil will be annihilated.

    • Josh

      Eh Derek, Just throwing this out there. You mentioned this in the post:

      “This is what I call “the Angelic Problem”, and it is just as much a problem for the Annihilationist as it is for the Universalists because it challenges the basic premise: that an all loving and all merciful God would not punish a human being in Hell for all of eternity. To this I ask; would an all loving and all merciful God punish an angelic being in Hell for all of eternity? If the answer is no, then they have some very difficult passages to contend with and not a shred of evidence to the contrary (the scriptures have nothing nice to say about “the evil one”).”

      So that would mean there should be a there “if” in your synopsis of the post (namely, the one that Ronnie is addressing). It would maybe go something like this:

      IF one holds to Annihilationism and believes that the devil will not be tormented forever (not annihilated), I see a problem with Scripturally supporting this.

      Just some thoughts. You guys are being a tad aggressive. Chill out about Ronnie (and Zeke). : )
      As important as this issue is we should strive to dialogue in love. It makes the meaningfulness and value of the discussion that much more apparent!

    • http://conditionalism.net/blog Ronnie

      Perhaps my main concern with the Annihilation view is that is seems to be a judgmentless Gospel.

      Please don’t think that! At the resurrection, all men will be raised and judged according to their deeds. Conditionalists have always believed that the death of the wicked will not be instantaneous, and that analogous to executions in this life, there will be some process involving pain. In similar fashion, the severity and length of the punishment that culminates in death can (and will) vary from person to person. Conditionalists do not deny torment, they just don’t think that it lasts forever.

      Conditionalism can therefore account for degrees of punishment much better than traditionalism–which envisions everyone suffering unimaginable agony for ever (how can there be meaningful degrees of endless, unimaginable agony?). My own view is that some people will suffer very little, if at all, before their destruction, but that’s speculative.

      If what I say is true, then Josh’s suggestion makes perfect sense. Satan, because of his massive guilt, will experience an unimaginably severe (or lengthy) “execution”. “Tormented forever” would then be a hyperbolic way of expressing this in a vision, in the same way that Isaiah prophesied that Edom would burn forever.

      I’m genuinely trying to figure out what gives so many people the impression that annihilationism posits that the destruction of the wicked will necessarily be relatively quick and painless. My hunch is that it’s due to the word “annihilation”, which is just one reason I shy away from that expression.

  • Josh

    * there should be a third “if in your synopsis…

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      I realized that I hadn’t nuanced my post enough while responding to Ronnie. Always looking to be more polished.

      Thanks Josh

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog Ronnie

    Derek, I specifically quoted the text from your original post that I took exception with, so I’m not sure what the problem is.

    I first explained that there is not necessarily an inconsistency in believing that humans will be destroyed while also believing that Satan will be tormented forever. This specifically addressed the main point of your post, but you offered no comment in response to it.

    I then took exception with your assertion that there is not “a shred of evidence” to support the claim that demons will not be tormented forever. Now, while that comment wasn’t absolutely essential to your main point, I did think it mistaken, and therefore worth commenting on.

    The fact is that you gave Matthew 25:41 and Revelation 20:10 as examples of “very difficult passages to contend with.” But Revelation 20:10 is only “very difficult to contend with” if it is interpreted with a literal hermeneutic. I merely showed that interpreting the passage in such a way is inappropriate, and often inconsistent.

    So again, I don’t see the problem. I’m sorry if you think my comments are irrelevant. Hopefully not everyone reading agrees.

  • http://conditionalism.net/blog Ronnie

    And I apologize for my brusque tone–that’s how I tend to come across when discussing any serious issue in written form, even with close friends. I suppose I should use emoticons more liberally to show that I’m not angry :)

    • Brian MacArevey

      I think that your comments are spot on Ronnie. I think that it is rather demeaning when people say things like “not a shred of evidence”, for it communicates that one believes that people who disagree with them on a certain position have not done their homework, that they are not as intelligent as them, or that they have an agenda that is based more on “emotion” than exegesis. Often they fail to realize that from another person’s perspective, it is they who must do some hermeneutical gymnastics in order to prove their position, and it is they who are driven by emotion over exegesis. I think we should be careful, and possibly even scrap these kind of statements altogether; unless of course we would rather win an argument, than encourage one another in the faith.

      Peace.

    • Brian MacArevey

      But then again, surely I am guilty of these things myself; and need to scrap these kinds of statements as well (even when I am convinced).

      God bless :)

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Ronnie, I have been humbled by your comments all the way along. Let me just address your last comments:

      I first explained that there is not necessarily an inconsistency in believing that humans will be destroyed while also believing that Satan will be tormented forever. This specifically addressed the main point of your post, but you offered no comment in response to it.

      If the belief arises from the nature of God, that he is too loving and merciful to torment humans forever, then it seems inconsistent to say that God is too loving to allow humans to go to hell but not loving enough to save satan from hell. That seems inconsistent to me. Where’s the line drawn?

      I then took exception with your assertion that there is not “a shred of evidence” to support the claim that demons will not be tormented forever.

      The evidence you offered was addressed in the post, Col 1:20. I said:

      My facebook friend Chad Holtz (the only advocate of universalism that I “know”) presents a reasonable argument: how can God reconcile all things if some things remain unreconciled (Colossians 1:20)? But when I asked him if “all things” included Satan, my question was met with silence.

      So Chad’s reasonable argument and yours are the same. If that verse is used to support that the devil will be reconciled, then fine. I probably should have said, “aside from that one passage there is not a shred of evidence”. I thought that would have been clear since I had already ref. Col 1:20, my apologies. I did do an online search for other evidence that could be employed for the idea that satan will be reconciled, and found none. If there is more evidence than that I stand corrected.

      I’m sorry if you think my comments are irrelevant. Hopefully not everyone reading agrees.

      Not all of your comments were irrelevant obviously. But I took your first comment as attempting to make a case for the a universalist (that humans and that the devil may be reconciled), not that that were your views, but that you wished to show how they can make their case. I found that argument irrelevant in that the post wasn’t meant to have been written against the idea that satan will be redeemed.

      The other point you made (which took up the bulk of your second comment) is a bucking against my use that these symbols “mean something” to which you responded, “The question is not “what do the words mean?” the question is “what do the symbols and visions represent?”” Well that was exactly what I meant. Sorry for the confusion, and since I agreed with you on that, the rest of your comment was more of an expounding of the difference between “mean” and “represent” in Revelation. That hold bit was irrelevant to the post.

      To ask “what do these symbols mean” was not to ask, “what is the definition of this or that particular word”, but I was asking, “what was meant by the author” or “by using these symbols, what was he trying to communicate” or, to word the same thing your way: “what do these symbols represent”. I was saying the same thing.

      Brian, I was not (and am not) trying to just win an argument. In fact I’ve been trying to avoid one. Read the blockquote above and the following paragraph. I was not trying to be demeaning at all. I could not find any evidence (except Col 1:20 which I cited!) and do not know anyone who believes that satan will be reconciled. It was not a matter of thinking that others are less intelligent than I (clearly Ronnie has shown himself to be of superior intellect, and it is not beyond me to admit this) or that others have not done their homework. I simply don’t know anyone who believes that satan will be reconciled. I took my view for granted. Apologies.

    • Josh

      Eh Derek, Aren’t you saying that like Death and Hades (20:14), the Beast, the False Prophet, fallen angels, and all who are rebellious to God (most? of humanity) will be sent to the literal “lake of fire” to be tormented forever? Can Death and Hades be tormented forever? Or are they going to be destroyed?

      Aren’t you saying that Rev 20:10 in “torment forever and ever” means word for word what it says. As you guys discussed: “The question is not “what do the words mean?” the question is “what do the symbols and visions represent?”

      Can “tormented forever and ever” not be considered hyperbolic language much like We need to go to the text that John is referencing in the OT to understand the proper context of the language and the measure of God’s judgment. As Greg Boyd comments on this topic:
      “Perhaps the most significant example of this for our purposes is Isaiah 34:9-10, for it closely parallels the two passages in Revelation. In this passage Isaiah says that the fire that shall consume Edom shall burn “[n]ight and day” and “shall not be quenched.” Its smoke “shall go up forever” and no one shall pass through this land again “forever and ever.” Obviously, this is symbolic, for the fire and smoke of Edom’s judgment isn’t still ascending today. If this is true of Isaiah, we should be less inclined to interpret similar expressions in the book of Revelation literally.”

      Can Rev 20:10 be interpreted differently then it traditionally has in light of the complications the rest of the chapter on the “lake of fire” which is aptly self-interpreted to be called the “second death”?

    • Josh

      Two interesting annihilationist perspectives come from Greg Boyd:
      http://www.gregboyd.org/essays/god-essays/judgement/the-case-for-annihilationism/

      And Ed Fudge (1 of 4):

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Hey Josh,

      “Aren’t you saying that Rev 20:10 in “torment forever and ever” means word for word what it says.”

      Not exactly. What I am saying is that whatever “torment forever and ever” means (read: “represents“), I don’t see how that language could be applied to annihilation. Hyperbolic language is exaggerated language. If the word “torment” (whatever that word represents in this context) is bad, it is going to be really bad. The word “annihilate” seems to be the exact oppose of what the passage says. This is not hyperbole. It is better to be annihilated than to be tormented.

      Perhaps my main concern with the Annihilation view is that is seems to be a judgmentless Gospel. The options are either live forever in the Age to Come by accepting Christ, or cease to exist. I know so many people who would rather be obliterated than live forever. If that is what they want, there are no consequences to a life lived that rejects God’s purpose. It also seems to weaken the purpose of the cross and the mission. On the other hand, it hurts me to think that my grandfather, who was as simple as a child when he died in his old age, is in Hell because he did not confess the right things before hand. So that is my struggle.

    • Josh

      Is it “judgmentless” though? Is the death penalty “judgmentless” then? I don’t think that’s a strong philosophical defense of why God desires to perpetuate evil’s existence and torment most? of His creation for all eternity.

      And in reading Rev 20:10 in light of Isaiah 34:9-10, just as the fire and destruction of Edom came to an end though it wrote (in hyperbolic prophecy) “it will not be quenched night or day; its smoke will rise forever.” I think that Rev 20:10 can be understood in the same context or language (since this is the OT passage that John’s writing is eluding to).

    • Josh

      And if you’re not saying that “torment forever and ever” literally means “torment forever and ever”, what are you saying it means?

  • Bill Mayor

    This is an interesting discussion. Might I point out though that if we discuss the possibility of demons or angels being cast into the lake of fire, we might wish to consider just what their nature is. I find that most theology involves itself with philosophical questions and neglects to consider the implications for the physical life we lead.

    I would suggest that if we consider some theological points in “real life” terms, rather than philosophical ones (the Bible says is valid only so long as we are properly understanding the Bible)that many of the problems can rapidly vanish. One point that I would suggest is that in real life terms it is questionable as to whether or not demons are a creation of God, and if they are not then why should they be reconciled to God, or even can they be?

    Another question, based on proper understanding of the Bible is that while it is clear that the Bible states that God does not change, does this mean that God is incapable of change or simply that He chooses not to change. The two different answers can imply vastly different theologies.

  • http://livingmindfullyuustyle.blogspot.com/ Beth Cardall Leehy

    Not identifying as a Christian, I approach theological questions from a systematic point of view. The version of Christianity that seems most logical to me would be a version of process theology wherein sin would be that which alienates or breaks relationship and all-that-is is ever desireous of closer connection with all entities. This then would be a “universalist” view, as an entity can never be separated from all-that-is.

    Admittedly, I am not Trinitarian nor Christian as most Christians would define it. I encourage respectful exploration. Thanks for inviting me to deeper thought today. I feel my own “blog-muse” stirring…

    Blessings to you and your readers.

  • Brian MacArevey

    Sorry if my comment was too harsh, Derek. I appreciate your clarification, and ask that you would pardon me if I have jumped to conclusions too quickly. I am not a universalist, nor do I believe in eternal conscious torment. But I do think that an examination of the character and purpose of God, as well as the biblical narrative as a whole, utlimately leads us to a universalistic perspective (obviously, you are free to disagree). That said, I also see a place for judgment and wrath, which cannot be avoided exegetically. What I am beginning to see is that the scriptures are far less interested in “the after-life” than Christians usually are; and that judgment and wrath are usually historical, rather than post-historical, events, which serve God’s universalistic purposes “for this present creation”. How things work out for individuals within that overall purpose (with regard to “the after-life”) is, I think, usually much more murky than we assume. We can be confident that those who participate in God’s universal reconciliatory purpose are guaranteed a resurrection unto life, but it is in my opinion, mere speculation with regard to the fate of those who “blaspheme the Spirit”. While on the one hand, we have every reason to believe, on the surface of the text, that all that awaits them is the grave, on the other hand, the big picture, along with the nature of God’s love for humanity, His sovereign power, and his unconditional grace, might lead to conclude that there is a possibility that God will be merciful to all, in the end. This is my hope, but I do not wish to speculate on issues of the after-life, where I do not believe that the scriptures speak to them.

    Just because you asked though, I thought that I would give you a couple of the passages you were asking about.

    Eph. 1:9-10, 2 Cor 5:18-19, and I would also add Gen. 3:15 (because the promise of the seed is the promise of the salvation of Adam’s race, not merely Adam and Eve alone, at least I think). I’m not trying to leave proof texts, in fact, these texts don’t really “prove” anything; but I think their placement in the scriptural narrative leads us to see them in a more or less universalistic sense. My two cents.

  • Brian MacArevey

    I forgot for a minute that this post was about “angels”; so I realize that the last two verses in my last comment apply to mankind (along with another verse that I thought of, Rom 5:18). That said, in light of Romans 8:19, these may, or may not, refer to angels in a backhanded sens, since they are part of “creation”, which awaits the manifestation of the sons of God so that it might be released from bondage. I realize fully that these verses do not prove one thing, and honestly, the angel question is difficult; but I think that has more to do, once again, that the bible is not as concerned with answering all of the questions that we have about angels as we might have hoped.

  • Brian MacArevey

    Derek, I was a little shocked by something you said in a comment above:

    “Perhaps my main concern with the Annihilation view is that is seems to be a judgmentless Gospel.”

    Do you really think that this is a fair assessment of the annihilationist position? I am sure that you would not want to argue against the fact that consequences for sin in this world, and the ultimate consequence of death, are not forms of judgment, would you? True, the “judgment” is not eternal conscious torment, but it still judgment nonetheless. Perhaps you do not feel that death alone is a just response to sin, but I would argue that both the writer of Genesis 1-3, and the apostle Paul (for starters), were comfortable with the idea that death is a just penalty for sin.

    The next sentence in you comment concerned me a little more:

    “The options are either live forever in the Age to Come by accepting Christ, or cease to exist. I know so many people who would rather be obliterated than live forever.”

    I know people who are similar to those whom you are concerned about; and in fact, I’ve probably been one of them myself. In my opinion, the gospel is a message that corrects our misunderstandings of God; a correction which will give people a desire, and a purpose to live. Therefore, if people would rather die (and thus, not exist) than live forever, we can be confident that their view of God is highly flawed. Given their understanding of God, it is really quite logical that someone would wish to be annihilated, rather than live forever, with a god like that.

    It appears that you are saying that the way to prevent people from wanting to die is to scare them into believing that God has prepared a place of eternal torment for them if they don’t continue to live in this world of misery and suffering that He created. In my mind, that will only serve to harden them, and convince them even more so, that their misconception of God’s character is correct, if they do not conclude that God does not exist at all. Ultimately, I do not believe that this will produce a Christlike ethic, and at best, it can only produce a legalistic approach to Christianity, which is founded upon fear rather than love, which casts out all fear. It seems better to me that we would try to give people a reason for which to live, by correcting their understanding of God by pointing them to the cross, rather than trying to scare them into trying to preserve themselves from hell, which in my mind, is…

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    Ronnie, Josh and Brian:

    Since all three of you expressed the same concern with my comments, I’ll reply to ya’ll in one go.

    Josh said: “Is it “judgmentless” though? Is the death penalty “judgmentless” then? I don’t think that’s a strong philosophical defense of why God desires to perpetuate evil’s existence and torment most? of His creation for all eternity.

    Josh, I expressed by concern in a way that shared my heart. The concern is both legitimate and real (not “philosophical”). Real enough to keep me from accepting your form of annihilism. Real enough to stand as one of the mentioned reasons why the ex-Christian pastors and scholars who wrote The Christian Deluslion left the Christian faith. Real enough to make the atheist wonder what he has to lose since if he’s right to gets what he expects (annihilism) and if he’s wrong he gets what he expects (annihilism). Real enough… (fill in the blank).

    In short, I felt your response was belittling. I of course know you well enough to know that you wouldn’t intentionally belittle me. But still, I think my concern is legitimate enough that if the annihilist whats to persuade the traditionalist to their side, you cannot just wave your hand at this very real concern.

    Brian said: “Do you really think that this is a fair assessment of the annihilationist position?

    Brian, no. I have not studied fully the annihilationist position. That assessment was based on my understanding of the annihilationist position: that at the last judgment everyone outside of Chtrist will cease to exist. Whether that assessment is correct or not, neither you nor Josh have even suggested otherwise. If that assessment is correct than yes, that is a judgmentless gospel in my oppinion. I wish there were time to explain further what I mean by “judgmentless gospel”, but I am on break and have to move on…

    Ronnie said: “Please don’t think that! At the resurrection, all men will be raised and judged according to their deeds. Conditionalists have always believed that the death of the wicked will not be instantaneous, and that analogous to executions in this life, there will be some process involving pain. In similar fashion, the severity and length of the punishment that culminates in death can (and will) vary from person to person. Conditionalists do not deny torment, they just don’t think that it lasts forever.

    Ronnie, this statement alone changes everything! If Brian and Josh both affirm this than I wonder why they did not say so in their responses. The hesitation by the traditionalists is that annihilism presents a judgmentless Gospel (since at the last judgment those outside of Christ simply cease to exist), makes me wonder how many annihilist have this misconception of their own view!

    I should be obvious through this whole discussion that “Hell” is a subject I have never investigated or reconsidered. There’s only so much time to reconsider each presupposed idea we all have. I am willing to change my view on this subject if annihilism (or should we say “Conditionalism”) were as you say.

    If this is so, then the issue is not whether we believe in Hell after the last judgment, this issue is merely the nature and duration of Hell. It’s as Clark Pinnock said:

    My difference with [the traditional] view is about the nature of hell, not the fact of hell.

    Thanks for the discussion everyone. I consider this conversation over but look forward to further dialogue. (I hope I have dispelled any accustions that Derek at Covenant of Love is unteachable!) :)