A Gentle Alternative to Punishment in Hell for Those Who Reject God’s Offer of Eternal Life—Conditional Immortality

Some believers (like me) think it likely that everyone who ever lived will have opportunity, with a clear mind free of confusion and misinformation, to understand God’s love and his offer of eternal life. This might be during their lifetime or it might be after death.

I anticipate that the vast majority of people who ever lived will align with God and live with God forever. If everyone responded to God’s offer, it would be called Universalism, which we discussed last time. But what if someone does not wish to live with God forever? Will God override their free will?

The question arises, though, as to who with a clear mind would NOT respond positively to God! We can only guess, but C. S. Lewis’ suggests in Mere Christianity (Christian Behavior, chapter 8) that it is pride, by which Lewis means a competitive, dominating pride—strong egotism.

I once knew such a person very well. He was a minister and would suck every bit of competing ego out of a room. I often wondered how he would react face-to-face with God; I am not sure it would go well. Would such a person really want to be faced with God forever? If not, would God force them to do so against their will? And what would happen to that person who rejected eternal life with God?

Conditional Immortality

conditional3
I first became aware of conditional immortality in 1998. I was so excited! It made such good sense, was consistent with the character of God, and provided a very satisfactory resolution to the old ‘Heaven or Hell’ perspective. Let me explain.

I think most Christians assume that once we are born our ‘souls’ or ‘spirits’ live forever. But this is not a biblical idea; it comes from Plato. Plato taught that ‘spirits’ exist eternally from the past and eternally into the future. While Christians do not embrace the first part, many do embrace the second part—that all ‘spirits’ continue forever. One might call this ‘unconditional immortality’.

However, God does offer us the possibility of eternal life—which we might call ‘conditional immortality’. And we can understand the condition as our simply aligning with God and accepting his provision of eternal life. If we do not accept God’s gift of immortality, then presumably conditional immortality does not apply for us and we simply cease to exist.

This would be ‘annihilation‘—the cessation of life and thought—and it is not a punishment but the natural result of death without God’s provision of eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Jesus, Immortality (Eternal Life), and Destruction

This throws new light on John 3:16 that some might not have considered:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Some assume ‘perish’ means to be punished in hell for eternity. But the contrast is not between eternal life and eternal torture in hell but between eternal life (immortality) and perishing (not eternal life). Despite what some believe, Jesus does not teach eternal punishment in hell. But he does share vivid warnings to those who carelessly pursue a path toward potential calamity, death, and destruction.

Old Testament images he employs to illustrate these warnings are the story of Gehenna in Jeremiah 19 and the destruction of the rebels in Isaiah 66. There is destruction in both cases. The worms do not die, and the fire is not extinguished. However, the people are destroyed—they DO die and ARE extinguished.

Some believers have taken Jesus’ imagery and references to ‘destruction’ and turned them into an eternal conscious punishment in hell. But the issue is not eternal punishment but personal destruction—final annihilation—cessation of existence.

Jesus’ talks about eternal life, which includes our becoming immortal, and demonstrates the power of that immortality in his victory over death in his resurrection. However, this immortality is a gift the Father offers us and does not apply to those who reject the offer. Those rejecting the Father’s provision of eternal peace and happiness are also rejecting immortality—so they experience annihilation by their own choice, which is the natural and normal result of death.

Annihilation is the Natural Result of Death

The final death, or annihilation, of those who do not wish to live eternally with God is NOT punishment; it is simply the natural result of our innate mortality. We don’t posses innate immortality, but God offers immortality to us on the condition that we accept it. But if we reject the offer then we experience the natural consequence of mortality–extinction. Annihilation. It is our choice.

I believe God is infinitely merciful. I believe God will offer eternal life to everyone who ever lived. But I don’t think God will override anyone’s free will and force them to live with him eternally. So, annihilation is not the Father robbing immortality from those who say ‘No’ to eternal life. Final death is the natural experience of all people.

Now I would not say that annihilation is a pleasant prospect. In fact, I think annihilation is terrible to contemplate even if we choose it for ourselves. There is nothing worse than final destruction and extinction.

But wait! There is something worse—eternal torture in burning fire! Fortunately, though, that is not a valid prospect.

God’s Universal Love

I believe God’s love is universal and his offer of eternal life will be universal, but I don’t think God will force those to live with him for eternity who do not wish to do so. I think God’s love is balanced by respect for a person’s free will.

On the other hand, perhaps everyone WILL accept God’s offer of eternal life. I hope so! After all, I AM a hopeful Universalist.

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.

Articles in this series:
How Some Misguided Christian Beliefs are Very Harmful
Belief in Angry God is Perhaps the Most Damaging, Misguided Christian Belief of All
If We Are Free to Approach God Without Fear, What Becomes of Our Other Religious Fears—Like Hell?
Hopeful Universalism and a Gentle Alternative
A Gentle Alternative to Punishment in Hell for Those Who Reject God’s Offer of Eternal Life—Conditional Immortality

***

This entry was posted in C. S. Lewis, conditional immortality, eternal life, hell, resurrection and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to A Gentle Alternative to Punishment in Hell for Those Who Reject God’s Offer of Eternal Life—Conditional Immortality

  1. theotherlestrangegirl says:

    Conditional Immortality is a relatively new concept to me, and I daresay it’s even radical compared to what I used to believe, but it’s the view I hold now. It makes the most sense.

    I don’t necessarily fault people for their belief in hell–it’s usually just a belief that keeps getting passed down, and many people don’t know any different. But what I do fault them for is telling others about their impending stay in hell should they not change their ways.

    I don’t understand why anyone would ever say that to a person. I realize it’s supposed to show them what could happen if they don’t straighten up (which I suppose is meant to be tough love or something), but it just seems cruel to me. I’ve been told I’m going to hell simply because I don’t believe in hell. I’ve also been told I’m going to hell for affirming gay marriage. Okay then.

    It was statements like these, before I broke out of the fundamentalist perspective, that made me into an angry Christian. I used to say that I would whether be loving, accepting, and in hell rather than judgmental, haughty, and in heaven. Those, at the time, were really the only two possibilities I saw.

    Since you mentioned Plato, it shocks me how much of our beliefs are not based in the Bible at all. So much of it is actually based on philosophy or other works of literature.

    While I enjoy respectfully debating these topics with others, I have found that it is usually useless to do so. I share my liberal views and why I feel that way, and they tell me I’m wrong. Since I am a married woman and I have very liberal views about married women (and women in general), I usually get told I have been “strayed by the enemy.”

    If I tell them I don’t believe there is any enemy, well, that just opens up a new can of worms.

    Liked by 3 people

    • tonycutty says:

      Brilliantly put. And feel free to ignore those who disagree with you so violently. I’m sure they would, in turn, ignore your assertions too. They always expect others to listen to them, without themselves listening to others. Convenient, eh? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ken Hogan says:

        I used to be more adversarial about the disagreements to which you refer. I sort of reconciled with my own self by saying that some of us are destined to question and search, and others need a more structured model of things and thus find challenges to it uncomfortable. What matters is their relationship with the Almighty and so reckon he adjusts accordingly, we we should take that lead.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Ken, I like your thought here. There is no reason to argue with people about this or try to change their minds. If they are not already questioning what they have been taught, it is very unlikely that they will listen. But some day they might begin to question and then to ask and to listen. Then is the time to share with them gently.

          Like

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Tony, why should the people you mention not “always expect others to listen to them, without themselves listening to others.” After all, they know the total truth. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Strange Girl. You are not alone, of course. I am told repeatedly that I am going to hell and, beyond that, that I am leading other people to hell.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

        Well, I know one thing. I bet a lot of people rejected You for Your faith.

        No worries, I experienced the same… Some people I loved sold me a butt kick from their life after I told them what is my faith… So You’re not alone Tim.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

      Hi!

      Well, You said about Your faith. Thank You for that ^U^.

      You see. I have to tell You something too. I’m no longer the Christian, but I still believe, love and respect the God. I want to believe God is pure love and I hate the Bible because this book is demonising God and disshaping the meaning of love to me.

      Someone asked me what is my signspot to God once. Well… It is my heart. And according to this topic I don’t believe in any punishment after the death. No matter it would be for evil or faithless life… I just can’t believe God would allow us to say “no” to His eternal gift.

      As I said below God is our father and parents can to spare their children from making big faults in their life… Who would been the parent who would allow the unwise child to do everything and accept the consequencess of this later? Well, it wouldn’t been the real father or mother. If You will tell “no” to God’s eternal life gift He won’t accept it. He will just yell “don’t go!” to You.

      It is my faith.

      Liked by 2 people

    • It stinks when the people who are judging you for your beliefs happen to be your family. That is what I’m experiencing right now, and I have a feeling it will only get worse.

      Liked by 1 person

      • theotherlestrangegirl says:

        I’m sorry to hear that, Prog Mind, but I can definitely sympathize. I have been judged for my beliefs–by family–for most of my life.

        I don’t care anymore. I don’t try to pick fights with them or anything, but I don’t let their judgment or words affect me. I just know that they are deeply entrenched in what they have been taught to believe. I’m pretty sure I’m the black sheep of my family, but oh well.

        I find that it helps to talk with people who have experienced the same things as me, so don’t feel afraid to reach out or look for people to connect with.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Prog, I have a particular close relative who judges me for my beliefs from time to time; but it has died down a good bit with the passage of time. I don’t confront them with my beliefs anymore.

        Like

        • It doesn’t help when my sister is having a particularly “off the beaten path” experience right now, and is drawing the attention of my siblings and their judgment. I’m trying to defend, especially since I’ve been with her on this journey for years, and they only seem to care when she is doing something “wrong”. So, it provides a setting where we clash, otherwise we wouldn’t really discuss beliefs at all. They have known for years that I believed something different, but they all tend to be afraid to confront me on it. With my sister’s situation, lots of things have come to light, and now they are afraid for my salvation, etc.

          Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Prog, I have no idea about your sister’s issues, of course, but I am glad you are there to defend her against your sibling’s judgment. One can understand their concerns about your salvation based on their views–but often these cases still come off as judgment and condemnation and sometimes rejection.

            I am sorry for your family conflict.

            Liked by 1 person

          • tonycutty says:

            Maybe this might help. It was certainly an eye-opener for me. It is normal as part of a *healthy* Christian life to question, and even to change our beliefs. This is what growing into His likeness looks like. But many are afraid of it, and they also fear those who make them afraid by (even unintentionally) shaking their foundations. But the truth is that each of us is on our own unique spiritual path; God deals with us all as individuas because we *are* all individuals, each with different needs in terms of the change that the Spirit brings to our lives. This will always look different from one person to another, and many find this threatening. However this should not be a hindrance to our own growth, because it is our job to follow Jesus – and yes, consider our brethren and sistren (ha just made that up!) where we can, but we cannot let them hold us back from following Him. That’s pleasing Men, not God.

            Anyway, to my point: I have nearly finished a series on my blog about the Stages of Spiritual Growth, examining the way in which people at different phases in their spiritual walk hold their beliefs. You may find it useful in working out what is going on in your family’s circumstances, because (were I a betting man) I’d bet that the problem is caused because they are all at different stages in their growth, and don’t realise it.

            Here’s the link:

            http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/series/the-stages-of-spiritual-growth/

            Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Well said, Tony! And I read your link as well–excellent article.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. tonycutty says:

    I get the idea of conditional immortality, especially as a means of ‘allowing’ those whose free will would not submit to God a way of not choosing Heaven. Ok so far.

    What I don’t believe is that God’s love will be resistable for even the strongest will.

    Also, I don’t want to forget the idea of judgement, in terms of a constructive, restorative judgement as opposed to a destructive judgement. If such a judgement is indeed in the future of those who do not believe (those who *do* believe have already been judged), then this may not be compatible with an annihilationist policy at all anyway.

    The other thing for me is that the Bible was written by men; humans who didn’t really know all that much about the hidden things of the spiritual, similar to how we don’t. No-one does. So for us to base our beliefs about the afterlife on the Bible is not all that different from thinking about it ourselves logically and under the Spirit’s guidance, which is after all what our forebears were doing.

    That said, I appreciate that not everyone feels the same about the Scriptures, and their ideas must be based on Scripture. For that reason, it makes sense to base stuff on the Scripture, even if only to make it more accessible for those who depend on it for doctrine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, you raise some good points. You said: “What I don’t believe is that God’s love will be resistable for even the strongest will.” And I fervently hope that you are right. God’s love IS powerful, and it may be that it draws everyone to accept eternal life with God.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

      Hello there.

      I said what I’m thinking about the soul annihilation stuff… So I’ll say shortly I don’t believe it.

      You said about the Bible… Well, Bible We know is full of contradictions and frogeries. We might not know the real one.

      Anyway. Bible isn’t any signspot to me, not only because it is a manmade book to me which demonises God and shows the disshaped image of love ( You know, animals’ and humans’ sacrifices, extermination, Moses’ Law and etc. ).

      Bible doesn’t shows the one path to God… Some of people believe only pure faith will lead them to salvation, some others says about the path of good deeds. For the first ones the path of good deeds is the path of sin because it makes a person who made something good a pridefull one when I’m finding those who bases on pure faith as pridefull too.

      Anyway I don’t trust Bible, Christianity but I trust God… I told below why I don’t agree with Tim this time so I’m inviting You to talk about it if You wish.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I also believe that God’s love is irresistible. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we need in order to fill that void in our hearts.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

    Hello there Tim! I still believe You understand my faith and Your opinion is accepted…

    But please. Let me show my own opinion without forcing You to it.

    You said there is something like annihilation, a death some of us might wish… Interesting. But I won’t agree with You this time.

    As You said God is pure love… So I believe He won’t accept the annihilation wish… Not to insult Your family Tim, but if any part of Your family would want to suicide himself or herself what would You do?

    I believe nobody would accept the suicide of those they love. So why God could? I still believe the soul is immortal thing, a flame which will never be lost in the darkness… Maybe some of us will spend some time as someone unhappy in Heaven. But I believe God will rather yell “don’t go!” more than accepting our lethal choice.

    I believe He is doing everythings’ life much longer. So I wo’t believe You… Sorry for that. If He would accet the choice You said then He would not been any kind of love ( look at my point about suicide I mentioned above ).

    Anyway, even then I’m not longer the Christian I still trust God and I’m begging Him to save all of us, humans, animals, simply everyone and everything. Even those who doubt in God. I heard that atheists’ ghosts disbelieves in God even after their death, but they are still alive.

    So I strongly believe if there will be someone who will tell the God “I don’t to live eternaly” then our Father will yell “don’t go!” instead accepting the choice. God is our Father and parents might to not accept our choices if they might hurt us – and it musn’t be any brainwashing like then with pharao in Exodus.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is my thought, as well. I don’t believe that God will let even one of this sheep go. He will pursue them forever. He knows them and loves them individually as if they were the only one in existence. I don’t see how we could be perfectly happy with God when we have loved ones who are disappearing forever. I don’t see how God could be happy with that, either, since he loves them even more than we do.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

        Your point is my point. I agree with everything You said. If I would lose even my enemy – even it would been one enemy – I would been sad… God would be too I believe.

        People! Tell me please! Why God created us? I used to believe He created the life as His companion, as those to share love with. He wanted us because He wanted to have His own family. So I can’t believe He would accept anyone’s death wish.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I saw a pastor say that God created this life to perfect us in His image. He didn’t create us in his image, but is progressively creating us in his image. That is the purpose of life, loss, love, suffering, etc. That’s the first answer I’ve heard that makes any sense as to why God would have us live a life.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

            A lot of priests say that. Even the catholic ones… But I don’t buy it… It is like making the art for art – it has no sence to me. Not to offence that pastor… But according to his opinion God is rather cold creature who made us for nothing special, just for same creation… But the question is… Why should I trust that pastor? I know God is feelingless for them, but not for me!

            God is pure love for me and I want to believe there is something much deeper than the pastors or priests say.

            Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Black Fox, I hope no one will face voluntary annihilation, but I cannot imagine God overriding someone’s free will. I think that would be abusive; it is the individual’s choice. However, your love and hope for others is very apparent–and good.

      Like

      • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

        I understand You Tim… But I said He won’t brainwash us as the Exodus mentioned. Your… Simply everyone’s will be still free…

        Nobody said anything about brainwashing…

        Let me explain You this by simple story. Lets say We have a dude, his name is Frank. Frank never wanted to live after death with God. But God didn’t killed his soul.. He didn’t brainwashed Frank… Frank lives in Heaven, maybe he is unhappy… But God wants him to be happy… He does everything to see Frank’s smile… And maybe He will do it for eternity but it doesn’t means God must to brainwash him or as You like to say manipulate Frank’s will or soul. It is not abusing to me.

        God love us also because We are the living beings, the life is His greatest treasure. He don’t want to lose it. So don’t worry about the “abusing”. If You will feel You don’t want to be saved one day then don’t worry… He won’t touch You.

        Yes, I know that as the inteligent man You’re You heard about romantic literature and it’s idea of the “pain of existence” ( I remember Adam Mickiewicz loved to use this theme so much in his sick books ) so I know there must be still a lot of people who don’t want to exists. But I’ll never believe God will accept their wish… He would stop them – for me it is like then when parent forbids the child to go to some shady place because it is dangerous place, it isn’t abusing, it is carring.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Black Fox, I see your point and I hope your are right.

          Like

          • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

            I know my dear… But remember. God cares about all of living beings… Maybe You have the great enemy in Your life. You will meet him or her in Heaven as Your new friend… We will be all saved – it is my faith.

            Liked by 1 person

    • theotherlestrangegirl says:

      Black Fox, I like your image of God continuously pursuing His children like a loving parent, refusing to give up on them. I think that’s a very good thing. I also like that you say you hope He saves everything; I do too.

      I think Tim is right, though, about the issue of free will. At some point, our free will comes into play and God is forced (by His own rule that He won’t violate our will) to back off. If he relentlessly pursues us, then it can quickly turn into manipulation, and I don’t believe He would do that.

      I do think His pursuing is much gentler, noticeable but respectful. I felt it myself.

      I wrote about this in an article about my journey leaving fundamentalist, but I briefly left Christianity altogether because I was so angry with God. After some time, I felt Him pursuing me to come back.

      It was very gentle, though. It would be like letting someone know they’d always have an open invitation to visit, and continuing to send them thoughtful messages, but letting them make the choice if they actually visited or not.

      This probably sounds crazy to some, but I truly believe that God left me alone for a while. When I first left my old church, I was so mad at everything and I didn’t care to have anything to do with Him. So He backed away for a while, not that He wasn’t still watching over me, but just that He allowed me to work through my feelings on my own for a while, because He knew that’s what I needed.

      When He did reappear, like I said, it was little more than the faintest knock at my door. If He’d been any more forceful than that, I don’t think I would have listened. I was still very hurt.

      So, while I do believe God will pursue His children as much as he can, I believe it will be very loving and respectful of their choice, no matter what that is. I can’t say for sure that He will manage to win everyone over.

      You mention that good parents do not allow their children to make the wrong choices, but don’t they? I’m not a parent, but I’m sure any parent will tell you that you can preach and advise and guide your children as much as humanly possible. In the end, they’re going to do what they’re going to do. At some point, you have to just let them do it, because that’s the only way they will learn.

      Liked by 2 people

      • tonycutty says:

        What a fabulous testimony. Thaks for sharing it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Strange Girl, I must agree with Tony. This is wonderful story! Thank you for sharing more of your story with us.

        Like

      • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

        I understand and respect Your point… Nothing to force You.

        But death is over, end, fin, finito, koniec! So… I’m not sure if We can to compare by the lesson You mentioned in the end of Your comment. Maybe You’re right about learning at our mistakes, but if We will die or dissapear what will be our lesson?

        Okay, I’ll speak for myself this time… But if I would face the problem We are talking about then I’m not sure if I could to stop myself from yelling “don’t go!”… I love so many people, animals, I love the life! When my past pets died it was like the end of the world to me. But I hope that I’ll meet my pets again… As well as my human friends or beloved ones who passed away… But if some soul will want to be annihilated the hope will die too.

        It is only my point but end of existence in any kind is nothing gentle, it is cold.
        Anyway, I doubt that You all might die… So I should be peacefull now…

        God loves us all, that is the fact for all of us I see so I doubt He won’t prevent us from suicide our souls… We don’t even know what the Heaven is so maybe We don’t know what kind of happiness awaits us.

        By the way, I heard once that the ghosts of atheists will not believe in God even after their death, but they are still alive… What do You think about it?

        Liked by 1 person

        • bugsyb7238 says:

          Black Fox, I understand your point about learning a lesson after death being final as opposed to the way we would learn now. I did think about that, but I couldn’t think of a much better example. That’s one of those things I won’t pretend to understand, but I do the best I can.

          And I completely agree with and understand your feelings about pets. I have had many pets over the course of my life, and I can’t imagine not spending the afterlife with them. Since the idea of souls going on is not a biblical concept, I have no idea how that would work either. But I have great hope that we will see them again somehow.

          It’s interesting that you point out that we don’t really know what Heaven will be–because I think that will very much play into how many people choose God over death. Once they see how very real God and Heaven is, I believe that will be enough to convince many people to change their minds.

          I have never heard that about the ghosts of atheists, so I don’t know. I suspect that it’s not true though. It sounds more like a philosophical concept of some kind, if anything.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Bugsy, I really like this observation: “It’s interesting that you point out that we don’t really know what Heaven will be–because I think that will very much play into how many people choose God over death. Once they see how very real God and Heaven is, I believe that will be enough to convince many people to change their minds.”

            Like

          • Grzegorz Black Fox Szurlej says:

            Hi!

            Thank You for reply my dear^^

            Well, I’m not focusing on Bible – for me it is not the real word of God. But okay, no matter!

            You’re right, if every life form will see what Heaven is they will accept it.

            But I have one more point to tell about. My father believes God is the creature with a nature hard to understand by us. As I told to Tim once…. We don’t know what means to be God… So I don’t trust priests, Bible and etc. when they are talking about God. I believe that He is looking at all of us and awaits the day when We will meet Him. I believe there is no narrow gate but the passage open for all of us. God wanted us because creating us was the only cure for His lonelisess…

            Lets think about it this way. We are appearing in this dark, cold, silent space alone. So what can We do to heal that? Well, creating the life is that cure.

            I agree with Tim that He won’t abuse us, but preventing the will of annihilation is not abusing, it is carring.

            Liked by 2 people

  4. This brought up some things I had never considered. While I already believed that “perishing” in Christ’s message is not “hell” (like most fundamentalists would say), I had never thought about the idea that eternal life is something that we don’t already have. You are right: The Bible doesn’t teach immortality of the soul, but perhaps the whole point of Christ’s message is that he is offering the chance at eternal life. That’s how he defeated “death”; not the physical death we all experience, but the spiritual and ultimate death—the second death. Now, I’m adamant at the fact that “eternal” means without beginning and without end, so it’s less “eternal life” (since we have a beginning) and more “life with the Eternal”, if you know what I mean. That would play into your thoughts even more, though. Of course, I do have one thing that I want to bring up: If my loved one rejects God, is there a way that I can be perfectly happy and thankful to God if my loved one is annihilated? Sure, I can take solace in the fact that it was my loved one’s decision, but won’t that still leave a scar on me? That’s something I’m considering now.

    Liked by 3 people

    • tonycutty says:

      That’s why I am more of a Universalist. God will wipe away *every* tear from your eye. I believe that not only means He will comfort us from all the hurt we have had in our lives, but also that He will put right all the things that caused that hurt. So, we will get our pets back, our loved ones, that sort of thing. And there will be *no more* crying or pain of any kind, not even (and especially not) the knowledge that our loved ones are either burning in hell or non-existent. There are passages in the Gospels where Jesus says that even someone who gives you a cup of water will not lose his reward. How much more so, then, those of our family, friends, colleagues and loved ones that we sanctify merely by our presence in their lives?

      Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Prog, you raise a good question: “I do have one thing that I want to bring up: If my loved one rejects God, is there a way that I can be perfectly happy and thankful to God if my loved one is annihilated? Sure, I can take solace in the fact that it was my loved one’s decision, but won’t that still leave a scar on me? That’s something I’m considering now.”

      And I have no answer for it. Theoretically, we can be happy that God gave them their desire rather than cruelly forcing them to be with him/her for eternity. I don’t know that God would even be ‘happy’ about it. But the entire idea of conditional immortality is speculative; perhaps everyone will choose God after all.

      By the way, your mention of happiness brought to mind something I have heard many times from those who believe in eternal conscious torment–that we will be able to view them being punished and will delight that they are getting what they deserve. I think that is absolutely horrid!

      Like

      • You are right. I’ve heard of Puritan preachers who actually said that we will hear the gnashing of teeth, and it will enhance our enjoyment of heaven to hear sinners punished. Absolutely disgusting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • theotherlestrangegirl says:

        You’re right, Tim, that is a pretty despicable way to see it.

        If I can play devil’s advocate for a moment, let’s pretend that eternal conscious torment does, in fact, exist, and those who deserve it will go there. Well, if I were in heaven while that happened, I can’t imagine myself doing anything but begging God for mercy on those people. I wouldn’t care what sins they committed or even if they hurt me. I just wouldn’t be able to stand it knowing that was going on (much less take delight in it).

        I know the argument is usually that, even though we can’t imagine it now, at that time we will be so holy that we will not be bothered by God’s justice (whatever that means). But since when did holy translate to cruel and heartless, not to mention sadistic?

        Hell is nothing more than extortion, plain and simple.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Strange Girl: “I know the argument is usually that, even though we can’t imagine it now, at that time we will be so holy that we will not be bothered by God’s justice (whatever that means). But since when did holy translate to cruel and heartless, not to mention sadistic?”

          I totally agree! Holy does not equal cruel, heartless, and sadistic.

          By the way, I noticed recently that your name is not ‘theotherSTRANGEgirl’ as I thought (misread it all this time) but ‘theotherLESTRANGEgirl’. Can you share what that means?

          Like

          • theotherlestrangegirl says:

            Yes, I simply cannot reconcile the image of a loving Father with eternal hell. I don’t believe I’ll ever believe in hell again, at least not like I used to.

            Haha, my username is very old and was chosen probably ten or more years ago. It is actually a Harry Potter reference–there is a character with the last name of Lestrange–combined with the popular historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl. My version is The Other Lestrange Girl.

            Plus, “Lestrange” simply means “the strange” in French, so that, combined with the fact that I am the only non-fundamentalist in my family, thus making me the strange one, means that Strange Girl still applies on many levels to me.

            Like

          • tonycutty says:

            Hehe this is great. I’d spotted it and it made me wonder if your first name is Bellatrix. (For those who don’t know, the girl in the Harry Potter books is called Bellatrix Lestrange)

            Lol

            Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Strange Girl, once you mentioned it I kinda remembered the name ‘Lestrange’ from Harry Potter. But I had to Google it to place it. Thanks for solving my mystery!

          Like

          • theotherlestrangegirl says:

            Well then, just for clarification, don’t take it to mean that I am evil! Haha, since the Lestrange character is probably the worst character (in terms of morality) in the series. But 1) I enjoy her complexity and 2) She happens to be played by one of my favorite actresses, so there’s that.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Strange Girl, I couldn’t find who played Leta except in Fantastic Beasts.

            Like

          • theotherlestrangegirl says:

            Oh, I’m sorry, the character I’m referring to is Bellatrix Lestrange played by Helena Bonham Carter. I forgot about Leta Lestrange–she is minor character and I don’t know much about her, but I think she’s a distant relation.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Tim, why do you think Jesus spoke of eternal fire? Here is an example:
    Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
    Matthew 25:41 NASB
    And why is He not offering eternal life to those on His left?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. cmgatlin53 says:

    I feel like this whole debate over immortality and hell is mis-framed. I don’t find it convincing to explain away the problem of eternal separation from God with arguments like “A loving God wouldn’t torture people for eternity.” Of course a loving God wouldn’t do that—He wouldn’t torture people at all.

    But almost everything said about the afterlife in the Bible beyond the simplest concepts, even most of the Dominical statements, is necessarily metaphorical, because the whole subject of eternity is so beyond our normal comprehension—our real ability to understand—that only figurative or symbolic presentation can get the ideas across.

    Once we accept the statement about survival of the individual after death, and the corollary statements that some survivors are united with God and others are not—the simplest truth, the absolute minimum we can say with certainty is authentically the teaching of Jesus and his disciples—it’s a mistake to defend or attack the reward/punishments model, which is clearly inadequate to understand what Jesus teaches us about the nature of God. Attacking the model is as bad as defending it, because that in effect accepts that concept as if it were literal. It is metaphorical, part of the way that the fatherhood of God is presented, and only valid to the extent that it relates to the idea of a father correcting his child for the child’s welfare. Eternal torture doesn’t match that metaphor, as Jesus himself teaches us when he talks about fathers not giving their children scorpions and stones.

    To me, this is what we know, because we have been told it: we are created in the image of God, which means we have free will and are immortal. God and evil are incompatible. Jesus died to make it possible for sinful people to be united with God by taking away their sin. Every person that will be reunited with God will be reunited by way of Jesus. Separation from God will be more terrible than we can imagine,so terrible that God became man and died so we could be united with him. Because God is just, good, and loving, the details of what happens are not only fair, but merciful.

    None of this necessitates belief that God torments people by putting them in hell, or that people who don’t hear about Jesus and accept him will go to hell, or that an angry God condemns sinners to hell. It does imply that we need to be reconciled with God, and the consequences after death, even if there’s some sort of purgatorial state to cleanse souls before eventual reunification with God, are worse than anything we can go through while alive. It is also unclear (that is, reasonable believers may come to different conclusions) whether death puts an end to the period of decision and correction, but it’s pretty clear that all the teaching in the Bible strongly advises not to put off the promptings of conscience and repentance, less our hearts become hardened and incapable of response to God. The fate of a soul grown incapable of response to God is frightening to contemplate.

    And I don’t see any evidence in the teaching of Jesus or any of the Scriptures of annihilation, conditional immortality or otherwise—unless one argues that the images of the bottomless pit and so on are metaphors for annihilation. One could reasonably argue that, although I don’t find it convincing.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. jesuswithoutbaggage says:

    Chuck: “almost everything said about the afterlife in the Bible beyond the simplest concepts, even most of the Dominical statements, is necessarily metaphorical, because the whole subject of eternity is so beyond our normal comprehension—our real ability to understand—that only figurative or symbolic presentation can get the ideas across.”

    Chuck, I agree. Any details we entertain regarding the afterlife are very speculative due to the lack of any real information and by being beyond our current experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Todd says:

    Like everyone else, I have some opinions on this subject, most of which are only loosely linked to scripture. One idea is this: A place of eternal torment would be a permanent blemish on God’s otherwise good creation. Those not in that place would always know that others, including loved ones (and we’re supposed to love all sinners), are there suffering.

    Second: We did not ask to be born. We are here, and God gives us the opportunity to stay here, but on his terms. In fairness, God allow us to opt out, if that is what we finally choose. I am a believer that, in creating beings with free will, God does something irrevocable. Just as that creative act necessitates his allowing us to do all manner of evil to each other in this life, it also necessitates his allowing us to exit. We have many opportunities in this life to get with the program; maybe there are more opportunities in the next life, and maybe not. That’s a disputed point. But I don’t think he owes us infinite opportunities. At some point there must be a final choice: Are we in or are we out?

    In C.S. Lewis’s wonderful The Great Divorce, the idea is presented that the only people in hell are those who choose to remain there. He was able to make that seemingly crazy idea seem reasonable. People can have many reasons for choosing hell. But another theme of that book is that, as people keep choosing to turn away from God they become less real. In a sense they bring about their own annihilation.

    A contrasting view, which I also find very sensible, is the one that Swedenborg claimed to have been shown in visions. Swedenborg said that hell–or hells, rather–were designed to provide the only kind of “happiness” those committed to evil could expect: the “happiness” of their own special kind of misery. The bully in this world ends up in a hell populated by similar individuals, each seeking to bully the other. It’s not so different from how people live in this world, except those who seek to follow God would be missing, rather like a present-day prison for violent offenders. For these people, hell would be “normal”; it would only seem hellish to those of us on the outside looking in.

    One last point, concerning this comment: “I think most Christians assume that once we are born our ‘souls’ or ‘spirits’ live forever. But this is not a biblical idea; it comes from Plato. Plato taught that ‘spirits’ exist eternally from the past and eternally into the future. While Christians do not embrace the first part, many do embrace the second part—that all ‘spirits’ continue forever. One might call this ‘unconditional immortality’.” Plato didn’t just claim this; he provided several arguments for the point that immaterial souls must be immortal by their very nature. That would not imply, however, that they could not be destroyed by God. Matthew 10:28 does imply some kind of dualism: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” That is, the soul is something other than the material body, and it cannot be killed by the physical processes that we are familiar with. Only God can destroy it. So I would say that this idea is not entirely unbiblical.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Todd, I really enjoyed your thoughts and reflections; thank you for sharing them here!

      I, too, am a fan of CS Lewis and of The Great Divorce and I thought your references were right on target: “In C.S. Lewis’s wonderful The Great Divorce, the idea is presented that the only people in hell are those who choose to remain there. He was able to make that seemingly crazy idea seem reasonable. People can have many reasons for choosing hell. But another theme of that book is that, as people keep choosing to turn away from God they become less real. In a sense they bring about their own annihilation.”

      The fact is that any suggestions on the details of the after life are purely speculative, but I don’t think eternal punishment in hell is a valid one. I agree with you that, “A place of eternal torment would be a permanent blemish on God’s otherwise good creation.”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. tonycutty says:

    Another aspect on this subject is this. We are all talking about some afterlife event, heaven/hell/destruction. But salvation is not about where we go when we die. In fact Universalism frees us from that afterlife-focus, important though it is – at least it frees us from worrying about it – and allows us to live out real salvation *on this earth*. What does salvation bring? Healing, wholeness, restored relationship with God, the ability to walk with Him closely all our earthly lives, which is a foretaste of what we will indeed have in the afterlife. It is inescapable that most of what Jesus spoke about in the Gospels was about *this life*. Salvation is about living the Kingdom of God here on Earth. Praise the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. He forgives all my sins, He heals all my diseases, He redeems my life from the pit (Psalm 103). This is salvation. It’s about both freedom from the fear of death and freedom from fear in this world. We get the whole deal! All the talk about destruction, perishing and all the other stuff is, to me, more about the balls-up we will likely make of our own lives if we do things our own way. Living with Jesus helps us to ensure that we do not waste our lives like that. Maybe read the ‘perishing’ and ‘destruction’ passages again with that idea in mind, and maybe a different set of ideas will come into focus. This ties up nicely with the ideas that Gehenna (the New Testament word most commonly translated as ‘hell’) is the destination for those who waste their lives – not as a place of punishment, but on the rubbish dump of useless lives lived for nothing good. And so the argument becomes not so much is it heaven or hell or destruction/annihilation, but what are we going to do with our lives *now* such that they are not wasted in ‘sin’? If, as Universalism suggests, eternity with God is a given, then the hell and destruction passages are not about the afterlife at all but must be about something else. In my opinion, it’s about life here on earth with Jesus and not wasting that opportunity.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Tony, I really like your observation: “What does salvation bring? Healing, wholeness, restored relationship with God, the ability to walk with Him closely all our earthly lives, which is a foretaste of what we will indeed have in the afterlife. It is inescapable that most of what Jesus spoke about in the Gospels was about *this life*. Salvation is about living the Kingdom of God here on Earth.”

      I agree. And I also liked your insightful description of perishing, destruction, and Gehenna as referring to wasted lives here on earth. I think people need to focus on living this life as Jesus teaches rather than on the next life which is so murky and speculative.

      Of course, many believers are focused on the next life–specifically avoided eternity in hell. It’s a shame and a waste.

      Liked by 1 person

      • newtonfinn says:

        Thanks, Tony and Tim, for pointing out that Jesus was focused on THIS life, the LIVING of this life, under Abba’s gaze and with His guidance. I think a key to how we are to live this life is found in one of my favorite sayings of Jesus, that we are to let each day’s troubles be sufficient for the day. To me, this indicates that we are not to become trapped in either the past or the future, the former with its guilt and remorse, the latter with its fear and uncertainty. No, I think we are to live here and now, with what Eastern religious traditions call mindfulness, in accord with another favorite saying of mine–Thoreau’s famous comment: “One world at a time.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          “we are not to become trapped in either the past or the future, the former with its guilt and remorse, the latter with its fear and uncertainty.”

          Well said Newton! I love this!

          Like

  10. tonycutty says:

    And this abundant life, life in all its fulness, is in fact one of the best pointers to others about the endless life of eternity. Some see us living a life here free of fear of all kinds, and they think ‘I want some of that’. Others will try to crucify us or at least take away our hope. But our hope is steadfast and certain, we have the Spirit as a guarantee of what is to come, and we have Grace to keep us free from sin (Titus 1:12). What more could we want? It is in fact qite an idea that our life here may be mainly to showcase the life of eternity for those who do not yet have it. Now there’s a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. michaeleeast says:

    Tim, I’m not a believer in annihilation because I believe that all people are good people who have been abused in some way. This abuse, which they blame on God. may be revealed to be of human origin, perhaps even from God’s representatives on Earth, My understanding is that this will release the soul to accept God’s everlasting forgiveness and love.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Pingback: Hopeful Universalism and a Gentle Alternative | Jesus Without Baggage

  13. Pingback: If We Are Free to Approach God Without Fear, What Becomes of Our Other Religious Fears—Like Hell? | Jesus Without Baggage

  14. Pingback: Belief in Angry God is Perhaps the Most Damaging, Misguided Christian Belief of All | Jesus Without Baggage

  15. Pingback: How Some Misguided Christian Beliefs are Very Harmful | Jesus Without Baggage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.