Tag Archives: John Stott

“You REALLY Believe in HELL?! But WHY?” (Ten Reasons) (Reason 8) The False Alternatives: ANNIHILATIONISM

Why in the world would someone believe in hell? And what exactly does it mean to “believe” in hell? These are a couple of the questions we want to answer in this ten-part series of posts. We’ve looked at REASON #1 — I got saved out of a fear of hell. We’ve also thought about REASON #2 – Hell makes sense. We’ve also considered REASON #3 — How does the doctrine of hell relate to the doctrine of God? We also touched on REASON #4 – How does the doctrine of eternal lostness relate to the doctrine of Man? We’ve  thought about REASON #5 – How does hell relate to the doctrine of Sin? We’ve also considered REASON #6 — How does the doctrine of eternal hell relate to the doctrine of SALVATION (Soteriology)? In our last post on this topic we asked about hell’s relationship to the Person of Christ.

In our last three posts we want to consider the THREE ALTERNATIVES suggested to take the place of eternal conscious punishment. This morning we will think about the most popular alternative view — and that is ANNIHILATIONISM.

This view teaches that the wicked will be destroyed, put out of existence, cease to be at God’s judgment. I must admit that if I could vote on a doctrine, I’d consider voting for this one. But doctrine is not determined democratically. The only issue is: what does the Bible teach?

Those who hold (or held) to annihilationism are such Evangelical notables as John R.W. Stott, Clark Pinnock, and Michael Green. [I’ve examined each of these three alternative views carefully in my book The Other Side of the Good News]. The most prominent American who has vigorously advocated this view (sometimes called “conditionalism”) is Edward Fudge in his book The Fire Which Consumes.  [I think my friend Robert Peterson does a good job refuting Fudge in the book they co-authored entitled Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue].

Stott’s view was revealed in his book Evangelical Essentials (co-authored with David Edwards); Michael Green’s view shows up in his Evangelism Through the Local Church: A Comprehensive Guide to All Aspects of Evangelism. There Green writes that the Bible “does not teach the conscious unending torment of those who are eternally separated from God. The language of ‘destruction’ is the most common description of final loss in the Bible… there is no need to think of eternal ongoing enjoyment of God being necessarily matched by eternal ongoing torment away from God.”

Annihilationism is the doctrine held by Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This doesn’t make that view wrong; I’m just stating a fact.

John Stott provided his four major reasons for holding to this view.
(1) Scriptural Language: He argues that the use of words like “destroy” and expressions like the wicked “are not” prove that the wicked will cease to exist.
(2) Scriptural Imagery: Stott argues that the primary purpose of fire is destruction.
(3) Scriptural Justice: Stott reasons that eternal punishment for finite sins makes no sense.
(4) Scriptural Universalism: He insists that the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment contradicts the very concept of God’s final victory over evil.

My brief response to Stott (I’ve answered his arguments more thoroughly in my The Other Side of the Good News) is as follows: To argument #1, “destroy” does not mean ceasing to exist. My teenaged son “destroyed” my car when he drove it into a snow-covered ditch, but the car still existed. “Destroy” can mean ruin. The expression that the wicked “are not” (such as in Proverbs 12:7 which says “The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.” KJV) does not prove that the wicked will cease to exist. We read in Genesis 5:24 that “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” To “be no more” does not equal cessation of existence.

To argument #2, Stott says the primary purpose of fire is destruction. However, the fire of hell is described as indestructible and eternal and unable to be quenched (Mk. 9:48; Jude 1:7; Mt. 18:8; 25:41). And the burning bush in Exodus 3:2 in the wilderness was not consumed; its purpose was to get Moses’ attention.

To argument #3, Stott reasons that eternal punishment for finite sins makes no sense. But the time needed to commit a crime isn’t the criterion for judgment. The nature of the crime and the person against whom it is committed are the critical issues. Rejecting the Son of God — what could be a greater crime than that?

Stott’s fourth argument could be called “Scriptural universalism.” The very idea of eternal conscious punishment, according to Stott, contradicts the biblical concept of God’s final victory over evil. However, when we incarcerate criminals and remove them from society, such a removal doesn’t diminish our finite “victory” over evil, does it? Annihilationism is indeed a form of universalism, for if the only category of human beings who exist forever are the redeemed, then salvation is universal (the wicked being put out of existence). All the language that indicates the wicked will be expelled from God’s presence (“Depart from me. I never knew you,” Mt. 7:23) as well as Jesus’ teaching about the expulsion of the wicked into the “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41).

In our next post, we will discuss another alternative to eternal conscious punishment — after-death opportunities for salvation. (to be continued)

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Posted by on February 21, 2020 in hell


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Review of Article: “Why Do People Believe in Hell?” Why SHOULD People Believe in Hell Part 5 (Conclusion)

This is Part 5 and the conclusion of my response to David Bentley Hart’s article entitled “Why Do People Believe in Hell?” (found here). In this last post I want to continue to present my case for why Christians SHOULD believe in hell.

In our previous post we surveyed the gospel of Matthew to see what the Lord Jesus had to say about hell. He is — or should be — our final authority for what we believe. And His statements are unambiguous.

Is there a more unpleasant topic than eternal lostness? Of course not! Are we free to hold various views about the afterlife for those who die without Christ? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that we can believe whatever we want to believe. But such an exercise of our free will does not make us immune from the consequences of our beliefs. No, in the sense that if we profess to be Jesus-followers, we ought to follow Him in His teachings. And Hart’s position is a detour (“departure” might be the better word) in his discipleship, I would suggest.

If we assume (on good grounds) that God has made clear what we ought to believe about the afterlife, then holding a contrary position to the Scriptures, as John Stott once said, is foolish. He wrote, “Freedom to disagree with the Bible is an illusory freedom; in reality, it is bondage to falsehood.”  Stott also wrote: “If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices.” (Culture and the Bible).

There are many echoes in our culture, so holding to hell as eternal conscious punishment (ECP) is not, nor should it be thought of as, popular! That should not surprise us!

I suspect that Hart’s beef is not with Augustine or Calvin or other ECP believers, but with Jesus Himself. If it is unequivocally true that Jesus taught eternal conscious punishment, then Hart and the rest of us have a choice to make between two options. (1) Jesus was Himself deluded. He was “a man of his time” and shared some of the same pre-scientific misconceptions of his contemporaries. [This view eviscerates Christ’s deity, does it not?]; (2) Jesus purposely taught hell (knowing that it would not be eternal, nor conscious, nor punishment) to motivate people to faith. His warnings were merely hortatory (def. “urging to some course of conduct or action; exhorting; encouraging”). [In that case would He not be rightly thought of as deceptive?].

Those two scenarios are unsatisfying, to say the least. To suggest that Jesus was Himself deluded?! Or to imply that He purposely taught an un-truth in order to get people to believe?!

In conclusion, the testimony of the Lord Jesus about eternal lostness is clear. To reject what He said or to twist His words to fit an alternative theological theory is dangerous.

If it is a crime to shout “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, how much more criminal is it not to shout at all when the fire is raging all around and people are asleep in their seats? The biblical Christian does not want to be alarmist, but he ought to be sounding the alarm!

Lessening the severity of hell or redefining its biblically declared nature is, in our opinion, more dangerous than outright denial. To promote the hope that hell will be a place of growth (rather than a place of groaning) is to twist the tenor and content of Christ’s teaching. Redefinition is more serious than total rejection, not only because the one doing the redefining appears to still be a member of the camp. Redefinition does nothing to change that which is being redefined; it only causes less caution to be taken in the face of a dangerous reality. A cup of poison relabeled Kool-Aid is not less lethal, only more enticing. (from The Other Side of the Good News).







Posted by on January 25, 2020 in hell


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John Stott on the Importance of Careful Bible Study!


Posted by on February 11, 2019 in Bible study


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Back to the Basics: Theology Proper #10 God’s JEALOUSY!

One of the many attributes of God which is seldom preached on — is His JEALOUSY!  But, wait a minute!  Isn’t jealousy as SIN?  How can it be right for God to be jealous and for us not to be?  As with all other questions, we need to ask not what we think, but what does the Bible actually say?

Here are some texts on the jealousy of God:

Exodus 20:5 – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

Exodus 34:14 – Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:24 – For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 32:16 – They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.

Psalm 78:58 – They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.

Psalm 79:5 – How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?

Ezekiel 16:42 – Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry.

Nahum 1:2 – [ The Lord’s Anger Against Nineveh ] The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.

Zephaniah 1:18 – Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath.” In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.

Zechariah 8:2 – This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”

James 4:5 – Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?

There is no doubt that God is a jealous God, that idolatry makes Him furious, that His jealousy is intimately connected to His anger and vengeance, etc.  We even read in the book of Numbers about a law of jealousy:  Numbers 5:15 – then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

However, believers are told in Romans 13:13- Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. We also read in 2 Corinthians 12:20 – For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.  The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:2 – I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

How are we to understand the jealousy of God?  The answer, I believe, is that there is a godly jealousy.  Just as there is a godly hatred and a godly anger, there is a godly jealousy.  How can jealousy be a virtue in God and a vice in men?

  1. Biblical statements about God’s jealousy are anthropomorphic, i.e. descriptions of God in language drawn from the life of man. In reading anthropomorphisms, we need to remember that man isn’t the measure of his Maker, and that none of the limitations of humanhood are implied. Consequently, God’s jealousy isn’t tainted with frustration, envy and spite, but is a zeal to preserve something precious.
  2. There are two kinds of jealousy among men. One says, “I want what you’ve got, and I hate you because I haven’t got it.” The other is manifested in romantic relationships, and is the fruit of marital affection. This sort of jealousy is a positive virtue, as its aim is to keep the marriage intact.

John Stott says, “In the second commandment God goes on to describe himself as ‘a jealous God’. There is no need to be disturbed by this. Jealousy is a resentment of rivals, and whether it is good or evil depends on whether the rival has any right to be there. Since God is unique, and there is no other, he has the right to ask that we worship him alone.” (John Stott, from page 96 Christian Basics, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969).

J.I. Packer in his Knowing God put it best:  “But there is another sort of jealousy—zeal to protect a love-relationship, or to avenge it when broken. This jealousy also operates in the sphere of sex; there, however, it appears, not as the blind reaction of wounded pride, but as the fruit of marital affection. As Professor Tasker has written, married persons ‘who felt no jealousy at the intrusion of a lover or an adulterer into their home would surely be lacking in moral perception; for the exclusiveness of marriage is the essence of marriage’ (The Epistle of James p.106). This sort of jealousy is a positive virtue, for it shows a grasp of the true meaning of the husband-wife relationship, together with a proper zeal to keep it intact.”

Are you thankful for God’s JEALOUSY today?

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Posted by on March 17, 2018 in doctrine of God


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An Excellent Way to Theologically Quench the Spirit of God!

This is Part 2 in our series on theologically quenching the Spirit of God.  FirefoxScreenSnapz456We saw in our 1st post that we may theologically quench the Spirit of God when we fail to be Berean believers.  That is, when we don’t test all we hear or read or see with the Scriptures, we are effectively disarming the Spirit of God.  If His primary tool in our lives is the Word of God, the Bible, not to take the Bible seriously concerning all matters of life and belief (theology) inevitably quenches His work in our lives and thinking.

The second way we may theologically quench the Spirit of God is —


The late John R.W. Stott in Authentic Christianity put it this way:  “We need to repent of the haughty way in which we sometimes stand in judgment upon Scripture and must learn to sit humbly under its judgments instead. If we FirefoxScreenSnapz457come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”

How does the Word of God “confront us”?  How does it “disturb our security”?  How does it “undermine our complacency and overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior”?  God’s Word can certainly do those things when we individually read and study what it says, but so often those outcomes are the result of God the Holy Spirit using other believers in our lives.

I believe that much of the work of the Holy Spirit which He does He does mediately, not immediately.  “Immediately” here does not refer to time but to directness.  In other words, much FirefoxScreenSnapz458of His work (conviction of sin, illumination of our minds, assurance of our adoption into God’s family) is done through the Spirit using God’s people.  He works mediately through the people of God to convince us of our need to call sin sin and to repent, to aid our understanding and receptivity to what the Word of God is saying, and to remind us that our place in God’s family is neither earned nor retained by our own goodness. (to be continued)


1.  What do you think?  Why are we so reluctant to listen to the voice of God’s Spirit through other believers?

2.  Some make claims today that the Holy Spirit is speaking directly to and through them.  How do we test such claims?



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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in the church


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