Please read the following articles before making any attempt to read and understand this article: The Doctrine of Final Destruction (Updated), The Doctrine of Eternal Torment (Updated), The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
E. J. HILL – THE STRANGE, STRANGE WORLD OF CALVANISM
“it’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack” was a hit song of the South African group “For Jacks and a Jill” that peaked #18 on the American charts in 1968 and, believe it or not, prophetically foretold what would happen in die Calvinistic sheep fold during the 21st Century. Not really. Nonetheless, some very strange things are happening in the reformed camp. Who in their wildest dreams would have guessed that some Calvinists are extending a hand of friendship to annihilationism, the doctrine that condemned unbelievers will be completely annihilated, or destroyed after their resurrection, instead of spending an eternity of punishment in hell.
At least one Calvinist in South Africa who believes in the doctrine of annihilationism has put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons and is causing quite a stir in the Calvinist sheep fold. His name is E. J. Hill who says of himself the following on his blog.
The South African Theologian, Independent Nonconformist Christian Apologist, IT Consultant, Martial Artist (Emphasis added), Author, and former Charismatic/Pentecostal Pastor, E. J. Hill (1977-) , but is in fact now a Reformed Charismatic – defended the Doctrine of Final Destruction in a number of essays, including “Annihilationism Throughout History”[and "The Doctrine of Final Destruction".
What motivates a Calvinist who believes in every iota and tittle contained in TULIP to embrace the SDA’s and JHW’s doctrines on hell? Is it compassion, mercy and grace that drives a Calvinist to believe in the doctrine of annihilationism or is it merely wilful (excuse the pun) ignorance of the core doctrines of the Bible that is leading him up the garden path to destruction (Proverbs 14:12)? It cannot be his Calvinistic proclivities of compassion, mercy or grace that seduces him into believing that God is going to utterly destroy the wicked because there is no room for either one of these Godly attributes in the Calvinists’ so-called doctrines of grace. What is so merciful, kind, gracious and compassionate about a God who sovereignly hurls billions upon billions of people into hell just because He sovereignly chose to send them there and because it provides Him great pleasure? Believe it or not, some Calvinists have found a way to alleviate God’s sovereign choice to cast billions upon billions of non-elect varmints into a literal hell.
Ahaa, this seems to be precisely the reason why our Calvinist friend is trying to soften the harsh and severe punitive doctrines of grace by condemning the non-elect, not to an eternity of punishment and misery in a literal hell, but to an eternity of a post-resurrected-White-Throne-Judgement-non-existence. Not even a sovereign God can send, contain and punish a non-existent, non-elect varmint in a horrendous place like hell. Hallelujah, at last there is a “compassionate Calvinist” who has learnt how to mitigate the ungodly doctrines of grace in reformed theology by obliterating the idea of hell from the minds of both the elect and the non-elect. Henceforth the non-elect who are as dead as a cadaver and are completely void of a free-will, a living and eternal soul, and responsive attributes like putting their trust in Jesus, no longer need to harbour any thoughts of hell. Why should they when their present complete deadness (lack of sensation) is going to be transformed into an even greater deadness (complete lack of sensation) when God completely annihilates them?
Anyway, here, for now, is a thought you may want to ponder. E. J. Hill defines annihilationism as “"The historically Christian Belief that following the Resurrection of the Dead and Final Judgment, the wicked will be annihilated from existence" According to Scripture the Great White Throne Judgment where all the unbelievers (the non-elect) are going to be judged (Revelation 20), will take place after the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth which to the Chiliast is still a future event and to the Anti-Chiliast (among them Calvinists) it is a present occurrence. Whichever one of these is true, is not my concern for now. What I would like to point out, is that all the non-elect who have been cast into hell since the beginning of time – some having been there for thousands of years and others for not so long – are in torment this very moment and have been for hundreds and even thousands of years. If, as E.J. Hill believes, their annihilation is going to take place after their resurrection, then billions upon billions of non-elect people have been suffering in a place filled with excruciating misery and torment for many thousands of years. Ahaa (once again), but E.J. Hill believes that the narrative in Luke 16:19-31 is merely a parable that does not support intermediate consciousness and the doctrine of eternal torment in hell. To use his own words, “The passage does, however, support the Doctrine of Intermediate Unconsciousness (Psychopannychism) and the Doctrine of Final Destruction (Annihilationism).
Some of the more popular words several dictionaries’ use for “unconsciousness” are “oblivion,” “sleep,” “nothingness,” “insentience,” “catalepsy,” “blackout” and “swoon.” Is their a slight possibility that Jesus Christ, the Logos of God who created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in it, has always been completely oblivious to the meaning of expressions such as “opening the eyes,” “calling out for mercy,” “a tongue craving for a little drop of water,” “hearing father Abraham speak,” “pleading in behalf of brethren” and haphazardly interpret them in terms of severe cataleptic unconsciousness (a condition characterized by lack of response to external stimuli and by muscular rigidity, so that the limbs, including the tongue, remain in whatever position they are placed)? I have heard many conscious mockers accusing Jesus Christ of all kinds of silly things but never have I heard it suggested that Jesus was an illiterate ignoramus who did not know how to articulate human experiences in a state of consciousness and unconsciousness.
My question to E. J. Hill is this: If God is going to annihilate from existence the non-elect only after the Great White Throne Judgment, why is He allowing those who are already in a place of torment to suffer excruciating pain and torment for so long? Why didn’t He just annihilate them at the moment of their demise? That, at least, would seem to have been the most feasible and compassionate thing to do, bearing in mind that the body itself undergoes annihilation in the grave. I can only imagine what the non-elect who have been in hell for thousands of years are saying to one another this very moment: “Hang in there, friends; we are not going to plead with and beg someone to pour a drop of water on our enflamed tongues for the alleviation of our suffering in this horrible place of torment much longer. The time for our judgment at the Great White Throne is drawing nigh and that, my dear fellow tormented, will be a great blessing because God is going to . . . all together now shout Hallelujah . . . is going to annihilate us – destroy, obliterate, demolish, eliminate, eradicate, reduce to nothing each and everyone of us for all eternity. Now you see us and then . . . poof . . . you don’t”
Then again, E. J. Hill does not believe that Luke 16:19 to 31 must be taken literally. It is merely a parable and parables aren't meant to portray reality. He wrote:
Even IF Taken Literally the Passage Still Does NOT Teach Eternal Conscious Torment
Even IF Lazarus was consciously in bliss and the Rich Man consciously in torment - "that still doesn't give us any justification for believing in eternal conscious suffering in hell" . Let me explain.
The Rich Man of Luke Chapter 16 Verses 19 to 31 found himself in what the original Hebrew text calls “hades” (Lk. 16v23, AMP/ASV/ESV/NASB/YLT), often correctly translated in English as “the realm of the dead” (Lk. 16v23, AMP) and “the place of the dead” (Lk. 16v23, NLT); or incorrectly simply as “hell” (Lk. 16v23, KJV).
In Revelation chapter 20 verses 14 to 15, we read that:
“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.” (Rev. 20v14-15, ESV)
It is very clear from Revelation chapter 20 verses 14 to 15, that at the end of the world [as we know it], following Armageddon and Final Judgement, God Himself would scoop up both, Death and Hades itself, and cast them both into the Lake of Fire, to be destroyed.
Hence, the Rich Man’s torment wouldn’t be everlasting, since both he and Hades [the realm of the dead], would in the end be destroyed in the Lake of Fire.
For more information on the Final Destruction, please review the Doctrine of Final Destruction (Annihilationism).
This is the general trend of E.J. Hills arguments against a literal and eternal hell which I will discuss in a follow-up to this article. The purpose of this article is to discuss with you the dangers and consequences of the atrocious doctrine of annihilationism.
IT DENIES JESUS CHRIST’S SUBSTITUTIONARY SUFFERING AND DEATH ON THE CROSS
Need I say that the abominable doctrine of total annihilationism is very dangerous because it is an outright denial of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. If it were true that the wicked are going to be completely annihilated after their resurrection, then Jesus Himself, who suffered the pangs of hell on the cross in behalf of all mankind, should have been completely annihilated as well. To what do I owe a corollary such as this, you may rightly ask. For Jesus’ substitutionary suffering and death on the cross to have been a genuine substitutionary one, His Father had to pass the exact same judgment on Him than the one He is going to adjudicate upon unrepentant unbelievers in hell, which is absolute separation from Him and his life-giving Living Water (the Holy Spirit). Jesus’ own personal experience as God/Man on the cross, when He was forsaken by his Father, is the ultimate proof of what unbelievers are going to experience in hell – not annihilation but separation from God and his Living Water for all eternity.
Living unbelievers are presently also separated from God and therefore spiritually dead, although they consciously lead lives blessed by the kindness and longsuffering of God (Matthew 8:22: Luke 9:60; Romans 2:4). It was for this very reason that Jesus had to die spiritually (suffer the pangs of hell by being completely separated from his Father and not by being annihilated) so that whosoever believes in Him could/can be reconciled to God. Reconciliation to God, therefore, was accomplished, not through His annihilation on the cross but through his separation from his Father when He shed his precious blood.
E.J. Hill doesn’t seem to know or understand what happened on the cross. Surely he ought to know that Jesus’ agonizing words “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani” articulates the very essence of hell, that is, to be utterly and completely abandoned, cut off, severed, separated from God whose Holy Spirit is the Living Water. The thirst Jesus experienced on the cross was not mere physical thirst but a thirst after the Living Water from which He was cut off when his Father had forsaken Him. It was the same thirst the rich man in hell experienced when he besought father Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue (Luke 16:24). Neither the rich man’s tongue nor the water could have been literal. The disembodied soul of the rich man in hell did not have a tongue and therefore literal H20 could never have quenched his thirst.
The unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17) and the worm that never dies (Mark 9:44, 46 and 48), are not physical because a literal fire cannot burn and literal worms cannot gnaw away at a disembodied soul. In any case how are worms going to survive in a literal lake of fire? Therefore, the suffering must be something far more painful, gnawing away at the souls of unbelievers for an eternity, than a literal fire. What can be more horrifying than the eternal thirst after God’s Living Water whist it is totally absent in hell for all eternity? God’s own absence and the absence of his Living Water from hell is the direct result of the unbelievers’ refusal to have Him live in their spirits when they were yet alive on earth? Those who refuse to have Him abiding in their spirits through the new birth here on earth, will graciously be granted their wish to live without his presence for an eternity, the exact way they wanted it when they were yet alive on earth. Jesus did not say “You cannot come wither I go because God does not want you to be with Him or because He predestined you to an eternity in hell.” He said: “I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.” (John 8:21), implying that they are going to end up in hell because they refused to have their sins forgiven and cleansed by his blood, and hence died in their sins.
Might I add that atheists have managed to understand something more about hell than most Christians, although they do not believe in its existence. They ridicule the idea of an outer darkness (Matthew 25:30) in the light of an unquenchable fire and in so doing have unwittingly proven that the fire cannot be literal because a literal fire lights up and illumines darkness. Darkness is the complete absence of light and God being Light causes the darkness by not being eternally present with those who are eventually going to be detained in hell for an eternity.
Some may counteract the above arguments by saying that the resurrected wicked are going to receive their bodies before they are cast into hell, or more precisely, their spiritually dead spirits and souls are going to be reunited with their bodies to equip them for the suffering in a literal fire. The Lake of Fire, we learn from Matthew 25:41, was prepared for the devil and his angels who are spirit beings and, as I’ve already pointed out earlier, physical fire has no effect on bodiless spirit beings. Had the Lake of Fire been a literal fire the physical bodies of the wicked would have been burned to ashes which suggests that God would have to repetitively provide them with new physical bodies in order to continue their suffering in hell.
IT DENIES JESUS CHIRST’S AGONIZING MOMENTS IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE WHEN HIS SWEAT BECAME LIKE DROPS OF BLOOD
There are some who wrongfully believe that Jesus’ agonizing moments in the Garden of Gethsemane, when his sweat became like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44), were triggered by his fear of his looming suffering through the inhumane whipping and scourging, the crown of thorns and the nails that were driven through his hands and feet. Jesus was no wimp who feared to be beaten and treated the way He was. If that were so He would have had to live in the shadow of many martyred saints who “overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and . . . loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:11).
No! Jesus agonized over the fact that His Father with whom He lived in the closest loving relationship since eternities past was going to forsake Him on the cross (which amounts too spiritual death). The eternal bond of love was going to be broken for a time and it was this and this alone over which Jesus agonized in the garden. Not only that; He also agonized over his own brethren (the Jews) and all those whom He knew would reject Him and ultimately be cast into hell. He hardly would have agonized to such an extreme, with his sweat being turned into blood, if He knew that his Father was going to completely annihilate into non-existence the wicked.
The thought of annihilation from existence and thus an escape from a fearful suffering and torment in a place like hell would rather have prompted a feeling of thankfulness and joy than of agony. I would have thought that the doctrine of total annihilation would have inspired Jesus to rather have jumped and danced with jubilation than to having been masticated into a position of humiliation and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Surely, E. J. Hill and his buddies who believe in total annihilation would agree that it is more humane and gracious to obliterate the wicked into a state of complete non-existence and that it calls for jubilation rather than agony, trepidation and fear. Listen up; I have no joy in the eternal suffering and torment of the wicked in hell. I too rather would have it all obliterated into non-existence, but that would do God and his holiness and righteousness no justice. It degrades and demeans his holiness and righteousness.
Revelation 16:7 extolls God by saying: “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” Those who shun and sweep aside God-honouring doxologies such as this have no right to call themselves Christians because they do not know or understand God’s character. Indeed, Jesus Himself once said that eternal life is to know (understand, comprehend) God ( his character and attributes) as well as the character and attributes of the One whom He sent (John 17:3). Anyone who dares to separate God from his attributes pertaining to his righteous judgments and justice are not worshiping the God of the Bible but another God and another Jesus. They are worshiping a God who has relinquished his righteousness and justice for the sake of a feigned humanitarianism and kind-heartedness. It misleads people into believing that ultimately there is no hell and consequently no justifiable punishment for the wicked and their rejection of Jesus Christ. It teaches them that is OK to reject Jesus Christ and his cross because God is compassionate, kind and most merciful and will never allow anyone to suffer an eternity in a horrible place like hell.
E. J. Hill may be a Calvinist but is he saved? I ask this on account of his willful sin to teach people that it is OK to reject Jesus Christ and his cross because there is allegedly no justice and righteousness with God to eternally torment and punish human beings in a horrible place such as hell and therefore will completely annihilate them from existence. Ahaa, but his belief in election and predestination unto salvation compensates more than enough for his willful atrocity to teach people that it’s OK to reject Jesus and his cross. The non-elect whom the Calvinists ought to hate because they are God’s enemies have no need to be told that it’s OK to reject Jesus and his cross because God has already rejected them, even before the foundation of the world. However, E. J. Hill’s hatred for the non-elect has one great plus point – he allows them to be exterminated, annihilated, obliterated from existence out of sheer kindness and compassion which is more than any other Calvinist can say and wish for.
Of course, Calvinists would interpose and shout out loud: “Jesus never agonized over the non-elect; He agonized over the elect in the Garden of Gethsemane.” Why would Jesus agonize over the elect and sweat great drops of blood when He knew that the elect were chosen never be separated from God? Such a conclusion is, to say the least, preposterous.
IT DENIES THAT MAN IS MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
When God said “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26) He was obviously not referring to something physical. God alone has immortality in his own essence (1 Timothy 6:16); His immortality is not constituted by the will or the doing of another. He is the self-existent One who has been, is and shall be the same forevermore. As such He is the only One who can give and sustain life. In order for this life to have been created in man in accordance with God’s own image, man’s soul has to be infinite as well. God, being infinite in the essence of his being, made the souls of his creatures to be equally infinite. If He hadn’t made them thus, they could not have been made in his image.
A key passage in Scripture to be considered very seriously is Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Assuming that the word “destroy” in this verse conveys the meaning of total annihilation, it would be difficult to construe why Matthew warns his readers to rather fear God who is capable of destroying body and soul in hell. There is nothing to fear in nothingness, the state to which the wicked are allegedly consigned after their resurrection, as E.J. Hill asserts. In fact, atheists make it very clear that there is nothing nightmarish in total annihilation and complete nothingness. On Quora the question was asked: “How does one cope with the eventuality of eternal annihilation?” Rob Vint, an Agnostic atheist and law student answered as follows which is more or less the same what the other atheists said on the site:
There’s no ‘solution’ outside of religion, other than accepting the inevitable.
I don’t believe death is a nightmarish truth, and nor do I believe my future children’s and grandchildren’s passing is a nightmarish truth. It’s just life – that’s what happens.
To think about death continually, although very morbid, is not a nightmarish truth. If anything, a very sobering fact of reality. Nothing more.
Besides, I don’t want to live forever anyway, and I assume that my future children won’t want me hanging around for eternity either.
Personally, (and without sounding arrogant) as a rational thinking person, unless there’s an alternative, then I see no point in trying to delude myself into thinking something that there’s no evidence to suggest is true. I can’t make myself believe something my brain is telling me not to.
Accept the unavoidable and live as full and interesting life as you can, as you’ll only get one shot at it, and don’t get hung up on misleading words such ‘annihilation‘ and ‘eternal sleep‘.
If it were true that the wicked are going to be annihilated into sheer nothingness, Matthew had no reason to warn his readers to fear God. As I explained earlier, there is no pain, suffering, torment, consciousness, regret or distress in nothingness. Such a disposition does not give rise to fear but gratitude.
Matthew 10:28 unmistakably says that God is going to destroy the unbelievers’ bodies and souls in hell. There is no indication whatsoever that He is going to annihilate the wicked subsequent to their resurrection. Had it been so there wouldn’t have been a single unbeliever’s soul and body left to destroy in hell, making Matthew who was inspired by the Holy Sprit an infamous liar. The very fact that their souls and bodies are going to be destroyed in hell proves that the destruction is not a once-off occurrence but an eternal on-going one. If it had not been an eternal on-going occurrence hell itself and the devil and his angels for whom it was made will also have to be annihilated into oblivious nothingness. What does the Bible say?
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (Revelation 14:10-11)