Eternal destiny, part 3: Eternal what?

An implicit point in many discussions of the state of a human being after death, revolve around the theory that we were created with immortal souls, which live on after corporeal death. The belief is that we will all live forever, either in bliss or torment. I did not find any conclusive evidence of this in the New Testament. In fact, the majority of the passages I found speak of resurrection from the dead, not a continued existence after death. A worldview that states that we are all “fully dead” (for want of a better term) at death, but that God will, at the end of time, raise us all either to eternal life or to judgment, is just as consistent—perhaps more so—with the scriptures I read, as is a belief in the immortality of the soul.

Furthermore, numerous passages in both the Gospel of John and the epistles, seem to set up a contrast between death or destruction on one hand, and eternal life on the other. The classic John 3:16 is a good example of this. The contrast is not between “eternally conscious punishment” and “eternal life,” but rather between “perishing” and “eternal life.” “Eternal death” (my phrase, not in the Bible) is also eternal—that is, death from which there is no resurrection or reprieve. The “second death” of Revelation may be just that.

I’m not necessarily advocating annihilationism (although I find it logically compelling). As my notes on individual passages will show, I in fact came across a variety of places in both the gospels and the epistles, some of which might be taken more to indicate an ongoing punishment, and others of which seem more to suggest a finality to the punishment—rather like the contrast between life in prison and the death sentence. Both are final, complete, and irrevocable, and nothing I found in Scripture suggests anything less.

My point is that an equally-honest case can be made, either for eternal conscious punishment, or for annihilation, depending on the Scriptural passages to which one gives more weight, and no clear-cut, conclusive pattern emerges. I may decide the preponderence of evidence points one direction, and another believer may see it pointing the other way, and neither of us is conclusively on solid Scriptural ground. I cannot agree to a doctrine which attempts to clarify a point that I believe the writers of Scripture—under divine inspiration—left vague.

4 thoughts on “Eternal destiny, part 3: Eternal what?”

  1. Rex

    The Seventh- Day Adventist’s believe after the judgement of God the unrighteous will be cast in the lake of fire, made for Lucifer. They will be punished, the amount of time, according to their wicked deeds done here on earth and then be comsumed by burning. Something to think about!

  2. Dan Martin Post Author

    Interesting, Rex. Though I studied among the SDA for a couple years (Loma Linda grad) I don’t believe I knew that about their teaching. Thanks for dropping in!

  3. Steve Kline

    actually, dan, I do believe there is a verse in the bible that does talk about “eternal death,” but I’m not sure where. I know it talks about a place where the worm dieth not, perhaps a reference to maggots, which do not die but go on to live as flies.

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      You’re probably referring to Mark 9:42-48, Steve. Two thoughts … first of all, if we assume for the moment that this is literal, just because the worm doesn’t die, doesn’t mean that whatever the worm is eating doesn’t die either. But since nobody I know takes the previous verses about cutting off hands and gouging out eyes literally, it seems a little unfair to suddenly insist that the part about worms and fires has got to be literal. Besides, I’d say it’s my head that usually “causes me to sin.” I’m not prepared to go for beheading or a frontal lobotomy, and I don’t think Jesus meant I should.

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