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Friday, 15 January 2016

edward fudge, david reagan: the heresy of annihilationism

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)

The traditional biblical view about hell is the eternal torment of the wicked in the Lake of Fire after the Great White Throne judgement of Christ. Annihilationism (from the Latin annihilō) is the doctrine that apart from salvation the death of human beings results in their total destruction (annihilation) rather than their everlasting torment.

Pro annihilationist theologian Edward Fudge author of The Fire That Consumes has posed the troubling question: "Must we conclude that God who gave his Son for sinners, will keep billions of them alive – to torment them without end?" 1 The heresy of annihilationism has been promoted in its various forms by John Stott, Phillip E. Hughes, John Wenham, Stephen Travis, Stephen Davis, Clark Pinnock, and more recently by David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries. Reagan suggests that the concept of eternal torment converts God into a "cosmic sadist" and finds "difficulties" with the traditional view of hell,2  one of the pitfalls of relying on ones own understanding I think! (Proverbs 3:5) 

David Reagan: "I believe the Bible teaches the unrighteous will be resurrected, judged, punished in Hell for a period of time proportional tot heir sins, and then suffer destruction (the death of body and soul)." 3

The main controversy stems from the adjective αἰώνιος which is derived from aiṓn (an age). There is a distinction in the scriptures between "this age" which will come to an end, and "the coming age" which will be eternal/unending/perpetual. Context is everything. If we restrict αἰώνιος to a cycle of time when referring to eternity, this presents a problem, since eternity stands outside the constraints of time as we know it. Eternity (forever) can be defined as "endless time" in that there is no past, present or future, suggesting that it is a place where one experiences a perpetual state of being. Annihilationism is a line of thought that totally deconstructs the gospel, since it must logically follow that if we deny eternal damnation, then we must also deny eternal life! The very same word αἰώνιος is used to describe the state of those who will inherit eternal life as well as those who will inherit eternal punishment. 

Examples of αἰώνιος

.....but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age (αἰῶνι) or in the [age] to come (μέλλοντι) (Matthew 12:32)

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the [αἰῶνος] age?” (Matthew 24:3)

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the [αἰῶνος] age. (Matthew 13:40)

And these will go away into eternal [aiōnion] punishment, but the righteous into eternal [aiōnion] life.” (Matthew 25:46; cf. Matthew 19:16, 29; Mark 10:17,30 etc.)

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever (αἰῶνα) and ever (αἰῶνος).. (Hebrews 1:8). Is Christ’s throne forever or is it for a cycle of time? Once again, we have to change our theology completely to accommodate the meaning of αἰώνιος to mean a cycle of time.

The apostle Paul gives further insight: They will suffer the punishment of eternal [αἰώνιον] destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…. ( 2 Thessalonians 1:9) The Greek preposition ἀπό means ‘away from’. In other words they are denied access to the presence of the Lord in addition to suffering the punishment of eternal destruction.

..but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the [αἰωνίου] eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— (Romans 16:26) Would anyone doubt that God Himself has always existed and is eternal in the way we traditionally conceive eternal?

..how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the [αἰωνίου] eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14)

In the Old Testament the equivalent word for αἰώνιος in Hebrew is עוֹלָם (olam) which means eternity, forever, perpetual, everlasting etc. but like the Greek αἰώνιος, עוֹלָם can also means of long duration, ages. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting (מֵֽעֹולָ֣ם) (Psalm 93:2; Isaiah 40:28).

The prophet Isaiah wrote: you will lie down in torment - literally you will תִּשְׁכָּבֽוּן die/sleep/rest in מַעֲצֵבָה torment/pain. (Isaiah 50:11)

Daniel: And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2) Daniel uses עוֹלָם to describe the fate of all the dead.

Hades and Sheol are interchangeable words in the Bible. Hades or hell is an intermediate place of torment according to Jesus Christ’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:29). The Lake of Fire is the final destination of the wicked after the millennial reign of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgement (Revelation 20:11-15). Gehenna (the valley of Hinnom) was a constantly burning refuse dump southwest of Jerusalem which Jesus Christ used as a metaphor for hell eleven times in the gospels.

And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20/13-15)

The unredeemed in Gehenna express their indescribable anguish and despair which is described as “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28).

The words of Jesus Christ himself indicate that eternal torment is a place where there is perpetual conscious pain and distress:

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41-42)

Jesus Christ calls this place "eternal fire” (αἰώνιον eπῦρ) in Matthew 25:41, 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-45 (see also Jude 1:7). John the Baptist calls hell “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:12; Luke 3:17). Jesus Christ confirms this:

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell to the unquenchable fire. (Mark 9:43). Other versions say: never goes out or cannot be put out - in Greek: ἄσβεστος = perpetual, inextinguishable.

..where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9/48)

The above verses are unequivocal and cannot indicate annihilation.

DA Carson: "…..one is surely entitled to ask why the fires should burn forever and the worms not die [cf. Mark 9:47-48] if their purpose comes to an end.”  4


These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:13)


For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgement; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly..... (2 Peter 2:4-6)

Reagan: "The concept of eternal torment seems to run contrary to biblical examples. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire — suddenly and quickly. He destroyed Noah’s evil world with water — suddenly and quickly. He ordered the Canaanites to be killed swiftly."  This is an incomplete comparison. What happened to Sodom was their physical destruction. According to Jesus Christ the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah still exist and face further future consequences for their wickedness in eternity. 

Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgement for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (Matthew 10:15)

 The Bible tells us that there will be a resurrection for every person:

..there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. (Acts 24:15)
..those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgement. (John 5:20)

When words or phrases are repeated in the Bible it is specifically for special emphasis to reiterate a point:

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’ (Daniel 7:18)

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever….. (Revelation 14:11)

They will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)

Annihilationism has always been a minority view historically amongst traditional Christians. The doctrine of annihilationism is held by cult groups like Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Christadelphians etc. The Church of England’s slide into apostasy reached new depths in 1995 when their Doctrine Commission issued the popish pronouncement that: "[h]ell is not eternal torment", but "non-being." 5 Should accept what those wolves say?

Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? (Ezekiel 34:18-19)

In the 1980s, prominent Anglican theologian John Stott (as well as being anti-Israel) was an advocate of annihilationism, but his position was problematic for many traditional Christians and in many people’s eyes he lost credibility. Stott was a very highly esteemed pastor and teacher in traditional Christian circles, but this is where we have to be "alert" as the Bible says…… Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Whatever does not agree with the Bible, no matter who is saying it, whether highly esteemed, charismatic and having the appearance of spirituality, intellect, wisdom, academia, superiority and reputation– it all means nothing –it is vanity. To dare to contradict the Word of God is a very serious matter. Eternal hell is an inconceivable proposition, but we cannot contradict the horrific view that eternal torment is unequivocal in the Bible. We may have struggles, questions and fears because eternal torment goes against our own natural inclinations, but only a fool would dare to challenge the Word of God. The influence of people in authority like Stott is enormous; they are people whose worthless opinions influence the eternal destiny of others. People like this are a shame and a disgrace to the name of Christianity. He may have had some very good teaching, but to voice this opinion was to voice his very doubt of God Almighty and the plan of salvation. Would that people like him leave the Word of God alone rather than upset the faith of others. Let God be true and every man a liar. (Romans 3:4)

I have paraphrased some of Edward Fudge’s statements below from his presentation on YouTube. 6

Fudge: The traditional teaching about hell fails to meet the demands of higher learning in that it does not exemplify the open minded study of scripture. 
Response: On the contrary, the traditional teaching about hell cannot be disproved from scripture. Really this argument backfires on Fudge since so called “higher learning” does not prove him right. This is an appeal to intellectual pride and puts traditionalists in the category of being stupid and narrow minded – this is an old tactic of the enemy (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11).

Fudge: The Reformers did not finish the job regarding eschatology and hell – it is up to 'us' to carry forward with teaching of hell today. This doctrine is still open to adjustment. 
Response: The Reformers are not the ones we should be looking at, but the Bible itself and the apostles teaching which are not open to adjustment! A careful study of hell in context leaves the annihilationist position untenable.

Fudge: Why does it matter anyway ----it is not a salvation issue --- you are not going to hell or going to hell depending upon what you believe about hell; it is how you deal with the Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a fellowship issue; there should not be a division amongst Christian people because of this. It matters because we speak in God’s name; It matters because it impacts evangelism; it matters because there are many atheists because they can’t believe in the traditional Christian doctrine of hell commonly understood. It is an impediment to evangelism. Gods character is at stake - a terrible slander on God to say he will keep people alive forever torment people without end. It makes atheists out of those who cannot believe it. 
Response: Fudge’s words have the enemy’s fingerprints all over them:

Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:1,4)

Did God actually say, "Hell is an eternal reality?” (Satan through the annihilationists)

If it doesn't matter, then exactly why is Fudge promoting annihilationism? This foolishness shows contempt for God’s wrath and justice. The teaching about hell is inextricably bound up with the Gospel – it most certainly is a salvation issue. Jesus Christ warned a great deal about hell in order for people to escape it – who are we to argue against His methods? If people are put off by the warnings about hell then that is not our business. This is not just a theological debate; anything that misrepresents God is an extremely serious matter with untold consequences. Fudge’s doctrine is more likely to make atheists than the doctrine of eternal torment: If unbelievers are convinced that they are simply annihilated after death, then they may reason that they might as well enjoy this life to the full while they can rather than make the costly decision of following Christ. As the Apostle Paul quoted: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die," (1 Corinthians 15:32 cf. Isaiah 22:13).

The teaching about hell is clearly meant as a deterrent against the fear of man and a warning, even for believers:

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5)

The Bible clearly says we should warn unbelievers of the judgement to come as a fearful prospect. Fudge’s teaching is diametrically opposite to the Bible:

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5)

..it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, (Hebrews 9:27)
For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution,how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3)

Jesus Christ said to the Pharisees: “Your sin remains” (John 9:41) This will be the case for those who have not accepted Christ in this world. God’s wrath is satisfied if we repent and accept that our sin has been paid for by Jesus Christ. For Christ also suffered once [for all] for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…..(1 Peter 3:18) This phrase “once for all” is repeated several times by the apostles (Romans 6:10; 10:10 etc). If God’s wrath is not satisfied and remains on those who have not accepted Him – no remedy remains. The Bible does not give any assurance that there will be another opportunity to believe after death, in fact quite the reverse.

Does the punishment fit the crime? Many people, myself included, probably do not fully understand the full horror of what it means to reject Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the World, but the Bible is quite clear that outside Christ there is no life – only death.

Included in the company of today’s "wolves" are "nice" old men with plausible arguments who attempt to neutralise hell. Edward Fudge has gained some notoriety and rewards in this life from his annihilationist position. However it is doubtful that he will gain rewards eternally by putting obstacles in the way of the salvation of the wicked – in fact he and others might very well find themselves on the receiving end of what they so vehemently reject.

1 http://www.afterlife.co.nz/2012/new-to-conditional-immortality/edward-fudge-a-troubling-question/ 
2 http://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-nature-of-hell/ 
3 "The Nature of Hell: An Eternal Punishment or Eternal Torment?" 
4 DA Carson The Gagging of God (Zondervan, 1996, p 525) 
5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annihilationism  
6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHUPpmbTOV4


  1. A most excellent refutation of this unbiblical doctrine that many today are embracing.
    Annihilationism is a doctrine that God's Word does NOT teach. Reagan and Fudge are offering false hope to all their followers and others who would happen upon these unbiblical teachings of theirs.
    At a simplistic level, we may say "what is the point of hell if it is only for a brief period?" (What is 300,000 million years compared to ETERNITY when we know we can look forward to an eventual everlasting peaceful sleep? If Reagan, Fudge and others are teaching the truth, we may then say; "live a riotous lifestyle and do what you want regardless of God's commandments-because all will be well in the end-you will sleep blissfully forever!" How can this ever be? This would make a mockery of God's Word!
    I would also recommend W.G.Shedd's "The Doctrine of Endless Punishment" a classic defence of Christian orthodoxy against universalism. When men say "this is not a salvation issue" as advocated by Fudge troubles me greatly; because these false teachers are diluting the plain meaning of God's Word. How do they know it is "not a salvation issue"? Eternal damnation is NOT a teaching you want to be deceived about. They are the "blind leading the blind" Matthew 15.14.
    'Higher learning' Bah!

    1. I'm not sure about Reagan as I never read his writings. That you refer to Fudge as a universalist indicates to me you have neither read his writings or listened to his sermons. What I find amusing about the article above is that whether you believe in a conscious tormenting eternal hell or whether you believe in annihilation, this is not a salvation or fellowship issue. However, given Colin's article above it would lead me to believe he would say "We are saved by grace through faith plus what we believe about hell." I find a lack of grace and love in the words written above towards brothers who love the Lord and want to be as faithful to the Holy Scriptures as you.

  2. Thank you Colin.... not much I can add really. God bless x

  3. Amen, Colin. May the Lord bless you and Treena and all other readers of this superb site that Treena devotes her godly skills to.

  4. I look this website to learn. Gal 1.8 is interesting vers as I thought another gospel may be Islam Buddha or whatever but previous verse suggest powerful that another gospel is one that has only been distorted. There is another Jesus being preached it seem to me that any distortoin/perverting of bible teaching esp if intentional can be laid to this charge? This make me think hard. Thanks

  5. Thank you for your encouragement Rach. The deception is very subtle, it is inside the professing church.. we need to be so careful to test everything. God bless you x