Annihilation of Wicked Souls at Death

I’ve noticed that some Christians, in an attempt to mitigate the horrors of Hell, accept the idea that the souls of the wicked are totally destroyed rather than eternally tormented (by their own free choice). Have you encountered this line of thinking?

I’ve composed some argument against this false doctrine over on my blog (if interested you can read it here:

Annihilationism )

But, more to the point, I was wondering what arguments (Scriptural and Philosophical) you’ve found successful in the past when dealing with this error.

God Bless and Happy Friday!! :slight_smile:

I have never encountered Anhiliationism from someone professing to be a Catholic, but I have encountered it in various evangelical circles and discussed it with Seven Day Adventists, who hold to it.

How’d you refute it? What worked to break through with them?

Same here. Annihilationism is a formal teaching of the Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some “dissident” Evangelicals, such as Clark Pinnock, have written books about the teaching.

However, it doesn’t make sense. The end of the Book of Revelation makes it clear that, at the Last Judgement, all souls will be judged, and if their names are not in the Book of Life, they will face eternal separation from God and eternal punishment in Hell.

There is no direct Scriptural quote in favour of Annihilation; some quote 2 Thessalonians 1, but there are translation issues there.

On the other hand, there are plenty of Scriptural passages that speak about Hell as eternal separation and punishment: Matthew 25: 31-46, Mark 9, the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Parable of the Ten Virgins…

Moreover, both philosophy and Church teaching affirm the immortality of the soul. Something that is immortal cannot be annihilated.

I, as a Catholic, do struggle with this concept of eternal torment but do not disagree with it. I struggle because in Revelation 20: It first states this:

[9] And there came down fire from God out of heaven, and devoured them; and the devil, who seduced them, was cast into the pool of fire and brimstone, where both the beast [10] And the false prophet shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

So this is obviously torement forever in the lake of fire, but then right after it says this:

[12] And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works. [13] And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; and they were judged every one according to their works. [14] **And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. **This is the second death. [15] And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire.

The damned go to Hell and suffer under the tormenter and controller of Hell, Satan but at Judgement Satan is thrown into the Lake of Fire which I take differently as Hell so even he is tormented now for all eternity where I guess right now he is not suffereing. Then those that were in hell with Satan too are now cast into the lake of fire. What is the lake of fire? Is the torment for all eternity burning in torment or is it final destruction or annihilation. I think I struggle with this because I feel at final judgement being completely destroyed and no more so to speak seems more loving and God while eternal torment while in hell before final judgement feels so evil and terrible by the devil. Does God need eternal torment after final judgement is the question I always have in my mind. Any help in this stumbling block I have would be greatly appreciated!!

Thank you and God Bless you all and may the Lord Our God truly save everyone from the fires of Hell and lead all souls to Heaven!

It is also an acceptable position held by some within Judaism.

May I recommend some blogs I’ve written that might be an aid to you? First, THIS ONE looks at whether God even could destroy an immortal soul. In other words, if God has given us an immortal soul (which philosophy and revelation support) then can God still choose to destroy it? Spoiler alert: The answer is No, you can read the post there to find out why.

Second, this post, asks whether God couldn’t have made Hell (i.e. eternal separation from Himself) a nicer reality.

Third, you might enjoy this quote from CS Lewis where he reflects on how the blessed can enjoy Heaven while the damned suffer.

Lastly, I’d remind you that the damned are not sent to Hell by God, they freely choose to separate themselves from Him by preferring their sins to God. They are ultimately Idolaters - something else (lust, money, hatred, anger, etc) has dethroned God in their lives and they are left with that forever.

Being left only with their idolatrous passion after death, are they happy with that? If not, they surely did not choose to be so miserable for eternity. On the other hand, if they are happy in their idolatry for eternity, does that mean they are not spiritually or physically tormented except in the sense they do not realize the blissful happiness with G-d that they are missing?

No, they are not happy. They have freely chosen to be separated from God, the inescapable consequence of which is that they have chosen misery. They didn’t actively choose misery, but they made a choice which could lead to no other possible outcome.

They might be spiritually tormented (& physically after the general resurrection, before which they lack a physical body to be tormented), but by far the greatest pain is separation from God. The descriptions in the Scriptures are meant to point us to that reality, the reality of eternal pain and loss, not necessarily to give us a physical description of Hell.

Out of curiosity, who determines whether a position is or is not acceptable within Judaism?

It is often asked, “If people did not accept God in this life, why would they accept him after death?” in reference to questions about repentance after death.

So I must ask the same question: If people are not tormented by their sins in this life, why would they be tormented for eternity, after death, in the next life?

Unlike Catholicism, Judaism has no central authority who makes this determination. The Law (Torah) is the main guide; however, the Law can be interpreted in different ways according to rabbinical authority and based on the Oral Law. If something is not clearly in opposition to the Law, it may be acceptable. Rabbis disagree, however, on some of the more complex points of the Law so that in certain instances, there is the possibility of more than one correct course of action. This is especially true when the Law is not explicit and lends itself to diverse interpretations. However, there are also basic principles which are (nearly) universal within all of Judaism.

Interesting. If you don’t mind me picking your brain a bit more…

  1. Is the final determination then up to the individual Jewish believer as in Protestantism?

  2. Was the situation different in ancient (pre-Rabbinical?) “Temple” Judaism or did the High Priest / Sanhedrin play a role in determining the correct interpretation of the Torah? For that matter, did the Davidic Kings or perhaps the Prophets play that rule during the kingdom?

They are tormented in eternity b/c they have definitively turned their back on God, something a person cannot fully do in this life. Definitively turning your back on God leads necessarily to eternal misery. I explore why more HERE.

Pax Christi!

Following this…

God bless.

The same is also true for definitely choosing God in this life, we cannot fully do that until after being purified.

And if a person hasnt fully turned their back on God now in this life, how does that translate to eternal torment for something a person didnt fully do?


The Great Sanhedrin was the final arbiter on Jewish law, akin to the US Supreme Court. Matters of ritual law, crime, and civil cases were all decided upon by this body of sages. Still, their verdict was based on the teachings of the Law (Torah) and their interpretation of those teachings. Further, there were local Sanhedrin in the towns and villages, similar I suppose to tribunals or trial courts as well as appellate courts. The High Priest may or may not have played a role in the Great Sanhedrin. No one was considered as above the law, even a king or prophet.

The final determination (that sounds ominous) is not exactly up to the individual Jewish believer, at least not in theory. This is because one’s decision must be informed by rabbinical teaching and the Law itself. It is not simply a matter of following one’s own conscience. However, in practice, one has the free will–as in Catholicism–to agree or disagree with the teachings of the Law and act accordingly. One must also keep in mind that, despite a small body of commonly held beliefs, Judaism does not have a doctrinal creed in the same way as Catholicism does. It is more of an orthoprax religion than an orthodox one, in which behavior is valued more than belief.

I find it strange God did not utterly destroy Satan and the other fallen angels when they rebelled against him. I would think a grave sin like this would demand immediate annihilation, and God turns them all to dust within seconds…but that did not happen…kind of odd IMO. Unlike humans, they cannot be forgiven and redeemed, so what is the purpose of them continuing on?

Unless this entire event was predestined by God and he allowed it to happen. Satan was different from a mortal human, in the way that he and the other fallen angels KNEW the power of God first hand, so they would have known they stood no chance against him, keep in mind, they are much more intelligent than we are as well, taking this into consideration, I have a hard time understanding this.

From our perspective it does seem that no matter what a person may have been guilty of, it seems unfair that they receive Gazillions of light years of torment. That it would only seem right that eventually those suffering would be freed from it.

However this is from our perspective and not the objective perspective. Sin is against God, whom we have barely an idea of his magnitude. I think if we ever glimpsed his immense greatness just momentarily, we would understand the reason for hell, for going against what is unexplainable glory. What is rather unfortunate is that noone will experience this until it is too late. Thus the necessity for faith and trust in the revealed truth of God.

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