Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 28, 1957
NUMBER 30, PAGE 10-11a

Eternal Punishment, Is It Annihilation?

Billy W. Moore, Pryor, Oklahoma

Have you had someone knocking at your door recently? Someone who told you that there would be no eternal, continual punishment of the wicked. If not, you probably will have in the near future, for the Witnesses (?) are at work across the nation. This idea of no continual punishment for the wicked is only one of the many false doctrines taught by the Witnesses, as well as by believers, skeptics, and atheists. The doctrine will stand or fall on Bible teaching, for God's word is the standard.

Following are some quotations from the Watchtower, official publication of the Witnesses, (Quotations taken from Churches of Today, by Tomlinson, pages 105, 106. Watchtower Volume and page number will be given.), which show conclusively that the Witnesses teach:

1. That death is a destruction.

"The penalty is death, not dying; and death is the absence of life, destruction." (Vol. 5, page 465.)

2. That death is annihilation.

"It should be remembered, however, that it is not the pain and suffering in dying, but death — the extinction of life — in which the dying culminates, that is the penalty of sin." (Vol. 1, page 154.)

3. That death is unconsciousness.

"As the natural sleep, if sound, implies total unconsciousness, so with death, the figurative sleep; it is a period of absolute unconsciousness; more than that, it is a period of ABSOLUTE NONEXISTENCE." (Emphasis mine, BWM) (Vol. 5, page 329.)

4. That there is no eternal punishment.

"The theory of eternal punishment is inconsistent with the statements that 'the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all,' and that Christ 'died for our sins'." (Vol. 1, page 159.)

Webster defines "annihilate" as, "1. To reduce to nothing; to cause to cease to exist; exterminate." Thus according to the Witnesses the death of man and the punishment of the wicked will be a complete extermination of them — no continual punishment. But what does the Bible teach? Jesus said that "ALL . . . shall come forth." (John 5:28,29.) The wicked with the righteous shall be raised. The wicked are raised to "everlasting destruction." (2 Thess. 1:9.) There will be no partial resurrection. (see Rev. 20:12-14.) Paul taught that "EVERY knee shall bow . . . EVERY tongue confess . . . EACH one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:11,12 RV.) EVERY work will be brought into judgment. (Eccl. 12:14.)

When the "dead, small and great" stand before the judge, the wicked will be judged by their works ... cast into the lake of fire . . . "this is the second death" (Rev. 20:14.) This is the "everlasting destruction" of 2 Thess. 1:9. This punishment will be worse than being stoned to death. (Heb. 10:28-31.)

It is true that we all die, physically, but this death is not annihilation. It is not "non-existence." What we all lose in Adam, because of his sin, and our sin in him (Rom. 5:12,15), we gain through the "righteousness of one," Jesus Christ. As death was passed upon all because of the sin of one man, even so shall life be given to all because of the righteousness of one, Jesus. (Rom. 5:15-18.) When we are raised at the resurrection it will not be to be annihilated, but to live, live forever, for man was created to live.

Some Questions Considered

When meeting the Witnesses we are often confronted with some questions such as: Doesn't death mean extinction? Doesn't destruction mean annihilation? Doesn't the expression "forever and ever" or "everlasting" merely mean unto the end of the age? So, I direct your attention to these questions.

Does Death Mean Extinction?

Physical death does not mean extinction or annihilation for those who died are pictured before the judge. (Rev. 20: 12-14.) God is the "God of the living," but He is the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," therefore, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are yet living. (Matt. 22:32.) The death of Christ did not mean extinction, then why would the putting off of this body, with the anticipation of receiving a new one (2 Cor. 5:1-10) be extinction? The physical (first) death is merely the separation of the soul from the body. The second death will be the separation of the soul from God, and this separation will be everlasting (2 Thess 1:9)

Does Destruction Mean Annihilation?

If so those cast into hell will be annihilated, for they shall suffer "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord." (2 Thess. 1:9.) Jesus said, God is "able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28.) Thus, if to destroy means to annihilate, or to cause to cease to exist, then the wicked will be annihilated, for they shall be destroyed. The word "destroy" is used some six times in Deut. 28 with reference to the punishment that would befall the Israelites if they did not follow God, but never did it mean that Israel would be annihilated. Hosea the prophet said, "0 Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." (Hos. 13:9.) Did the prophet mean that they had annihilated themselves? Absurd! We therefore conclude that the term destroy, which is sometimes used to mean, "To bring to naught by putting out of existence; to kill; to abolish; to nullify" (Webster), does not always have this meaning, and most certainly does not have when used to describe the punishment of the wicked. Webster says, "That is annihilation which is' reduced (really or virtually) to nothing." (See Syn. under destroy.) Man at neither the first death nor the second is reduced to nothing, for the wicked "have no rest day or night" (Rev. 14:11), and that "forever and ever." Man can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul, therefore when death comes man is not annihilated.

Does "Forever And Ever" Mean Unto The End Of The Age?

The expression "forever and ever" is used no less than five times in Revelation to describe the duration of the life of God. (See Rev. 4:9, 10; 5:14; 10:6; 15:7.) Does this mean that God will live only unto the end of the age? If not, the expression "forever and ever" does not have this meaning. The wicked shall be "tormented day and night forever and ever." Rev. 20:10.) The torment of the wicked will be as long as God lives, for He "liveth forever and ever."

The Duration of the Punishment of the wicked will be just as long as the reward of the faithful, for the same words are used to describe both. The wicked will receive "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46), and the righteous "everlasting life." (Matt. 19:28.) The term "eternal" is used regarding damnation (Mk. 3:29), and also to describe the life of the righteous. (Matt. 25:46.) One will be as long as the other. But we are told that the wicked will "burn up," based upon the teaching of John in Matthew 3:12, "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." If the expression "burn up" in this passage is literal then the rest of the passage must be literal also. Then that which is burned will be "chaff", not men. However, this language is figurative. The placing of the wheat into the garner represents the saving of the righteous, while the burning of the chaff represents the punishment of the wicked. But note the inconsistency of the Witnesses regarding the expression "burn up." When applying it to the wicked they make it literal, saying that it means annihilation. But they also teach that the destruction of the earth will not be a reducing of the earth to nothing, but merely a purifying. But Peter said that the earth will be "burned up." (2 Peter 3:10.) Thus the Witnesses take a figurative passage and give it a literal interpretation (Matt. 3:12), but deny the plain teaching of 2 Peter 3:10.

Friends, "be not deceived, God is not mocked." There is a punishment for the wicked and that punishment will last as long as God liveth — forever and ever. None of us desire to go to eternal punishment, but we shall unless we: believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:22,24); repent of our sins (Luke 13:3,5); confess Jesus before men (Matt. 10:32,33); are baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16); and serve the Lord faithfully, even "unto death." (Rev. 2:10.) You MUST obey the gospel of Jesus Christ or he will come to take vengeance upon you and will punish you with "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power." 2 Thess. 1:9.) Why not obey him today and escape the fire of God's wrath?