Is annihilationism Biblical and orthodox?


Annihilationism is the belief that the final fate of the damned is complete destruction of their souls. In other words, non-being.

Verses in the Bible that seem to support this view include Romans 6:
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. 21 But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

According to the Annihilationist understanding, death as here described is not “conscious, eternal suffering.”

Another verse cited by Annihilationsists is Matthew 10:28
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

There is also 1 John 5:17, the classic Catholic citation for the distinction of mortal and venial sin: “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has a number of passages that, to me, don’t clearly undercut the notion that souls lacking in sanctifying grace die.

*1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. *

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

Of course, the Catechism also cites Bible verses that suggest that there is a resurrection of those who are not saved:
1038 The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,” [CITATION: Acts 24:15] will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”[CITATION: Jn 5:28-29] Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him … Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left… and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [CITATION: Mt 25:31, 32, 46.]

Has this issue been taught definitively?




A little explanation please?


Annihilation of the souls of the damned is something that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in. See the following from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

III. ETERNITY OF HELL.—Many admit the existence of hell, but deny the eternity of its punishment. Conditionalists hold only a hypothetical immortality of the soul, and assert that after undergoing a certain amount of punishment, the souls of the wicked will be annihilated. Among the Gnostics the Valentinians held this doctrine, and later on also Arnobius, the Socinians, many Protestants both in the past and in our own times, especially of late (Edw. White, “Life in Christ”, New York, 1877). The Universalists teach that in the end all the damned, at least all human souls, will attain beatitude (apokatastasis ton panton, restitutio omnium, according to Origen). This was a tenet of the Origenists and the Misericordes of whom St. Augustine speaks (De Civ. Dei, XXI, xviii, n. 1, in P.L., XLI, 732). There were individual adherents of this opinion in every century, e.g. Scotus Eriugena; in particular, many rationalistic Protestants of the last centuries defended this belief, e.g. in England, Farrar, “Eternal Hope” (five sermons preached in Westminster Abbey, London and New York, 1878). Among Catholics, Hirscher and Schell have recently expressed the opinion that those who do not die in the state of grace can still be converted after death if they are not too wicked and impenitent.

Holy Writ is quite explicit in teaching the eternity of the pains of hell. The torments of the damned shall last forever and ever (Apoc., xiv, 11; xix, 3; xx, 10). They are everlasting just as are the joys of heaven (Matt., xxv, 46). Of Judas Christ says: “it were better for him, if that man had not been born” (Matt., xxvi, 24). But this would not be true if Judas were ever to be released from hell and admitted to eternal happiness. Again, God says of the damned: “Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched” (Is., lxvi, 24; Mark, ix, 43, 45, 47). The fire of hell is repeatedly called eternal and unquenchable. The wrath of God abideth on the damned (John, iii, 36); they are vessels of Divine wrath (Rom., ix, 22); they shall not possess the Kingdom of God (I Cor., vi, 10; Gal. v, 21), etc. The objections adduced from Scripture against this doctrine are so meaningless that they are not worth while discussing in detail. The teaching of the Fathers is not less clear and decisive (cf. Petavius, “De Angelis”, III, viii). We merely call to mind the testimony of the martyrs who often declared that they were glad to suffer pain of brief duration in order to escape eternal torments; e.g. “Martyrium Polycarpi”, c. ii (cf. Atzberger, “Geschichte”, II, 612 sqq.). It is true that Origen fell into error on this point; but precisely for this error he was condemned by the Church (Canones adv. Origenem ex Justiniani libro adv. Origen., can. ix; Hardouin, III, 279 E; Denz., n. 211). In vain attempts were made to undermine the authority of these canons (cf. Diekamp, “Die origenistischen Streitigkeiten”, Munster, 1899, 137). Besides, even in Origen we find the orthodox teaching on the eternity of the pains of hell; for in his works the faithful Christian was again and again victorious over the doubting philosopher. Gregory of Nyssa seems to have favored the errors of Origen; many, however, believe that his statements can be shown to be in harmony with Catholic doctrine. But the suspicions that have been cast on some passages of Gregory of Nazianzus and Jerome are decidedly without justification (cf. Pesch, “Theologische Zeitfragen”, 2nd series, 190 sqq.). The Church professes her faith in the eternity of the pains of hell in clear terms in the Athanasian Creed (Denz., nn. 40), in authentic doctrinal decisions (Denz., nn. 211, 410, 429, 807, 835, 915), and in count-less passages of her liturgy; she never prays for the damned. Hence, beyond the possibility of doubt, the Church expressly teaches the eternity of the pains of hell as a truth of faith which no one can deny or call in question without manifest heresy.

But what is the attitude of mere reason towards this doctrine? Just as God must appoint some fixed term for the time of trial, after which the just will enter into the secure possession of a happiness that can never again be lost in all eternity, so it is likewise appropriate that after the expiration of that term the wicked will be cut off from all hope of conversion and happiness. For the malice of men cannot compel God to prolong the appointed time of probation and to grant them again and again, without end, the power of deciding their lot for eternity. Any obligation to act in this manner would be unworthy of God, because it would make Him dependent on the caprice of human malice, would rob His threats in great part of their efficacy, and would offer the amplest scope and the strongest incentives to human presumption. God has actually appointed the end of this present life, or the moment of death, as the term of man’s probation. For in that moment there takes place in our life an essential and momentous change; from the state of union with the body the soul passes into a life apart. No other sharply defined instant of our life is of like importance. Hence we must conclude that death is the end of our probation; for it is meet that our trial should terminate at a moment of our existence so prominent and significant as to be easily perceived by every man. Accordingly, it is the belief of all people that eternal retribution is dealt out immediately after death. This conviction of mankind is an additional proof of our thesis.—Finally, the preservation of moral and social order would not be sufficiently provided for, if men knew that the time of trial were to be continued after death.



(Continued from the Catholic Encyclopedia)

Many believe that reason cannot give any conclusive proof for the eternity of the pains of hell, but that it can merely show that this doctrine does not involve any contradiction. Since the Church has made no decision on this point, each one is entirely free to embrace this opinion. As is apparent, the author of this article does not hold it. We admit that God might have extended the time of trial beyond death; however, had He done so, He would have permitted man to know about it, and would have made corresponding provision for the maintenance of moral order in this life. We may further admit that it is not intrinsically impossible for God to annihilate the sinner after some definite amount of punishment; but this would be less in conformity with the nature of man’s immortal soul; and, secondly, we know of no fact that might give us any right to suppose God will act in such a manner.

The objection is made that there is no proportion between the brief moment of sin and an eternal punishment. But why not? We certainly admit a proportion between a momentary good deed and its eternal reward, not, it is true, a proportion of duration, but a proportion between the law and its appropriate sanction. Again, sin is an offense against the infinite authority of God, and the sinner is in some way aware of this, though but imperfectly. Accordingly there is in sin an approximation to infinite malice which deserves an eternal punishment. Finally, it must be remembered that, although the act of sinning is brief, the guilt of sin remains forever; for in the next life the sinner never turns away from his sin by a sincere conversion. It is further objected that the sole object of punishment must be to reform the evil-doer. This is not true. Besides punishments inflicted for correction, there are also punishments for the satisfaction of justice. But justice demands that whoever departs from the right way in his search for happiness shall not find his happiness, but lose it. The eternity of the pains of hell responds to this demand of justice. And, besides, the fear of hell does really deter many from sin; and thus, in as far as it is threatened by God, eternal punishment also serves for the reform of morals. But if God threatens man with the pains of hell, He must also carry out His threat if man does not heed it by avoiding sin.—For solving other objections it should be noted: (I) God is not only infinitely good, He is infinitely wise, just, and holy. (2) No one is cast into hell unless he has fully and entirely deserved it. (3) The sinner perseveres forever in his evil disposition. (4) We must not consider the eternal punishment of hell as a series of separate or distinct terms of punishment, as if God were forever again and again pronouncing a new sentence and inflicting new penal-ties, and as if He could never satisfy His desire for vengeance. Hell is, especially in the eyes of God, one and indivisible in its entirety; it is but one sentence and one penalty. We may represent to ourselves a punishment of indescribable intensity as in a certain sense the equivalent of an eternal punishment; this may help us to see better how God permits the sinner to fall into hell—how a man who sets at naught all Divine warnings, who fails to profit by all the patient forbearance God has shown him, and who in wanton disobedience is absolutely bent on rushing into eternal punishment, can be finally permitted by God’s just indignation to fall into hell.

In itself, it is no rejection of Catholic dogma to suppose that God might at times, by way of exception, liberate a soul from hell. Thus some argued from a false interpretation of I Peter, iii, 19 sq., that Christ freed several damned souls on the occasion of His descent into hell. Others were misled by untrustworthy stories into the belief that the prayers of Gregory the Great rescued the Emperor Trajan from hell. But now theologians are unanimous in teaching that such exceptions never take place and never have taken place, a teaching which should be accepted. If this be true, how can the Church pray in the Offertory of the Mass for the dead: “Libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de poenis inferni et de profundo lacu” etc.? Many think the Church uses these words to designate purgatory. They can be explained more readily, however, if we take into consideration the peculiar spirit of the Church’s liturgy; sometimes she refers her prayers not to the time at which they are said, but to the time for which they are said. Thus the offertory in question is referred to the moment when the soul is about to leave the body, although it is actually said some time after that moment; and as if he were actually at the death-beds of the faithful, the priest implores God to preserve their souls from hell. But whichever explanation be preferred, this much remains certain, that in saying that offertory the Church intends to implore only those graces which the soul is still capable of receiving, namely, the grace of a happy death or the release from purgatory.



Annihilation is not a Catholic Doctrine and is definitely not taught. Hell is eternal and conscious,dogmatically.


Existence is undeniably, irrefutably good. We can deny that fact, reject it; we can hate ourselves and our existence and the God who gave it to us but everything He creates is good and He cannot be faulted for, once created, eternally keeping a being in existence.


The concept of annihilation, I believe has been condemned by the Church as heretical,

however I found this quote from Saint Thomas Aquinas interesting

For creation is a change from nothing to existence. But there are two kinds of existence, namely, of nature and of grace. The first creation was made when creatures were produced by God from nothing to exist in nature; and then the creature was new, but became old by sin: “He has made my flesh and my skin waste away” (Lam. 3:4). Therefore, a new creation was required by which we would be produced to exist in grace. This, too, is a creation from nothing because those who lack grace are nothing:


The Seven Day Adventists believe in annihilation and so do the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the founder having picked it up from the Adventists.


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