(From Chapter Six (Part 3C – The Final State): The Judgment of God from Life, Death and Destiny)
THE FINAL STATE OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED
(c) Literal Destruction. It is often supposed that this view is merely an attempt to evade unpalatable biblical teaching. The fact is, that it is advocates of views (a) and (b) who most often proceed on the basis of a small handful of texts, while ignoring the massive weight of biblical teaching in favour of annihilation.
The biblical case will be detailed in the next two chapters. To conclude this preliminary survey, here is the testimony of two scholars. First, H. E. Guillebaud, formerly Anglican Archdeacon of Rwanda (d. 1941). After setting out to explain and justify the doctrine of everlasting torment, Guillebaud changed his mind and wrote an excellent conditionalist study. Here is why:
“…the fundamental reasons which led the present writer to abandon the doctrine of everlasting torment are two, both founded on the Word of God itself. First, the Bible teaching that God will sum up all things in Christ, and that ultimately He Himself will be all in all, seems incompatible with the eternal existence of sin and sinners in hell. Secondly, the belief that the Bible teaches everlasting torment rests mainly upon the notion that every soul, good and evil, is immortal; and this latter idea is entirely lacking in biblical authority…. Put on one side that traditional belief that every soul must be immortal, and the immense majority of Bible texts about the doom of the condemned are seen to teach their destruction, not their endless torment. In our Lord’s teaching, even the two or three texts which have some appearance of teaching everlasting torment, have that appearance mainly because of the unconscious influence of that traditional but unscriptural belief.”1
Second, Edward Fudge. Commissioned to investigate the whole subject, Fudge produced, in 1982, the most thorough treatment of the biblical evidence in print. His book, The Fire That Consumes, can reasonably claim to be precisely that “fresh, radical and unbridled examination of the biblical data” which D.J. Powys has called for.2 Here is Fudge’s testimony.
“We were reared on the traditionalist view – we accepted it because it was said to rest on the Bible. This closer investigation of the Scriptures indicates that we were mistaken in that assumption. A closer look discovers that both Old and New Testaments teach instead a resurrection of the wicked for the purpose of divine judgment, the fearful anticipation of a consuming fire, irrevocable expulsion from God’s presence into a place where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, such conscious suffering as the divine justice individually requires – and, finally, the total, everlasting extinction of the wicked with no hope of resurrection, restoration or recovery. Now we stand on that, on the authority of the Word of God.”3