Make no mistake about it: eternal punishment is a very serious issue that is to drive people to tears “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Unlike the Tanach or Old Testament, where there is the assurance of a final condemnation for unrepentant sinners, but not much specific detail is given about it—both annihilationists and those who adhere to models of a never-ending eternal punishment are agreed that the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament gives us many specific details about eternal punishment. Yeshua the Messiah, Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and others all discuss the sober realities of the judgment that will face the unredeemed. Do the Apostolic Scriptures teach annihilationism, or do they teach that the condemned will have to experience some never-ending form of punishment?
Before we move toward examining the views expressed in the Apostolic Scriptures regarding the final condemnation facing the unrighteous, it is important that we briefly recognize some of the opinions expressed in both Intertestimental and Rabbinic literature. Did Judaism from the broad First Century believe in an ongoing model of never-ending punishment for the wicked, or in a model of annihilation? Was there any single, definitive view, about what the unrighteous would face with eternal consequences?
When commonly encountering the statements of annihilationists, one will frequently detect the view that any belief in an ongoing, eternal punishment for the condemned is rooted in some kind of Hellenistic philosophy, as opposed to Biblical doctrine. Is this something really sustainable? When we consider the commonly known aspects of Greco-Roman religion germane to the First Century C.E., to claim that any kind of final condemnation—as anticipated by the Holy Scriptures, and as affirmed by both annihilationists and advocates of an ongoing Hell alike—is actually Hellenistic, has no basis. There is no warrant for claiming that the Greeks and Romans believed, that at one point in future history, all of those who would be regarded as “evil people” would have to stand before a divine judge (or being polytheists a tribunal of gods and goddesses), to be given a final sentencing for all of their crimes.
“Until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.”
“Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there…But the wicked will perish; and the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.”
“The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth…Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.”