Is Hell Annihilation?
Not a few today unashamedly deny the existence of hell. For the most part, they are either motivated out of the "God is too good to eternally punish" philosophy or they are a product of the positivity movement ("hell is not positive"). This is really strange, since most of these same people who deny hell believe in heaven. Others, even religionists, attempt to acknowledge hell is a biblical subject, but they then proceed to alter and distort the teaching of the Bible on this basic Bible truth. These religionists are known as materialists. Allow me to quote from the writings of one such religion:
"Is hell a hot place? Do sheol and hades refer to some place where the wicked suffer after death? It is plain that they do not, for we have already seen that the dead are not conscious and therefore cannot suffer….So this illustration (Lk. 16: 19-31, dm) does not teach that some dead persons are tormented in a literal fiery hell….So when Jesus said that persons would be thrown into Gehenna for their bad deeds, what did he mean? Not that they would be tormented forever…" (The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, pg. 41, 43, 44, a Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society publication, the Jehovah Witnesses).
Hell is indeed a biblical doctrine. The Greek word translated "hell" is found twelve times in the Greek New Testament. Materialists successfully mislead some into believing hell is simply annihilation or non-existence by artfully confusing hell (geenna) and hades.
Hades and hell are two different words. Hades has not been translated, only transliterated. Hades is found eleven times in the Greek New Testament. Out of the eleven occurrences, Hades is translated "grave" once and "hell" ten times in the King James Version. Hell is from the Greek geenna. Geenna is found twelve times and is consistently translated "hell" in most translations.
Hades and hell are not the same. Geenna (hell), as used in the scriptures, denotes a place of eternal punishment. Jesus associates damnation with geenna (Matt. 23: 33). In fact, Jesus used geenna in such a way as to identify hell as the place of damnation (Ibid.). Hell (geenna) is the place of eternal punishment, "fire that never shall be quenched" and "... their worm dieth not" (Mk. 9: 43 ff.). Hades, on the other hand, should never be translated hell.
Those who deny the plain teaching of the Bible regarding hell and the fact hell is a place of everlasting conscious punishment make a play on the word "destroy." Jesus said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matt. 10: 28). They say "destroy" means to extinguish or annihilate.
"Destroy" is from the Greek apollumi and is found 92 times in the Greek New Testament. The world of Noah's day perished with water, we are told (2 Pet. 3: 6). "Perish" is from apollumi. Did the antediluvian world cease to exist or was it annihilated? We continue on the same earth or world; hence, it was not annihilated! When the apostles were engulfed in the great tempest, they said: "Lord, save us, we perish" (Matt. 8: 25). Did they believe they were about to be annihilated (apollumi)?
One of the common purposes of "destroy" (apollumi) is to suggest the spiritually lost. Jesus came "to save that which was lost (apollumi, Matt. 18: 11). Apollumi suggests the opposite of saved (Jn. 3: 16). The prodigal son was lost (apollumi (Lk. 15: 24). Was he annihilated? The answer is no. Allow me to quote W. E. Vine regarding "destroy" (apollumi):
"A-1, apollumi, [Verb, 622] a strengthened form of ollumi, signifies "to destroy utterly;" in Middle Voice, "to perish." The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being. This is clear from its use, as, e.g., of the marring of wine skins, Luke 5:37; of lost sheep, i.e., lost to the shepherd, metaphorical of spiritual destitution, Luke 15:4,6, etc.; the lost son, Luke 15:24; of the perishing of food, John 6:27; of gold, 1 Pet. 1:7. So of persons, Matt. 2:13, "destroy;" Matt. 8:25, "perish;" Matt. 22:7; 27:20; of the loss of well-being in the case of the unsaved hereafter, Matt. 10:28; Luke 13:3,5; John 3:16 (ver. 15 in some mss.); 10:28; 17:12; Rom. 2:12; 1 Cor. 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:15, "are perishing;" 2 Cor. 4:3; 2 Thess. 2:10; Jas. 4:12; 2 Pet. 3:9. Cp. B, II, No. 1. See DIE, LOSE, MARRED, PERISH" (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
Do the scriptures, though, present hell as a place of endless and conscious punishment to be suffered by the wicked after the Judgement Day? Jesus used gehenna (or geenna) to describe it as a place of "fire that never shall be quenched" (Mk. 10: 43, Jesus used the illustration of the literal Valley of Hinnom or Geenna to teach the spiritual truth of the spiritual geenna, see "Hell" in the subject index on the Archives page). He then said, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (vs. 46). It is said of the lost: "…he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone…and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…" (Rev. 14: 10, 11). Hell appears to be more than annihilation, does not it? How could such described "for ever" punishment not involve consciousness? (See also Luke 16: 19-31.)
Beloved, Jesus was plain regarding the eternality of the punishment of the wicked. Hear him: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt. 25: 46). Beloved, "everlasting" (state of the wicked) and "eternal" (state of the saved) are both derived from the same Greek word (anionios). Hence, the everlasting punishment of the wicked will be just as eternal as the eternal life of the saved. After a similar fashion, just as the saved will be conscious in heaven (Rev. 21, 22), so will the wicked be conscious in gehenna. One source of the punishment will be "everlasting fire" which was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25: 30). In hell there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25: 30, indicative of a conscious state).
A great source of motivation to serve God today is the teaching of the Bible regarding hell, and the conscious and eternal punishment to be experienced in hell. In closing, "And to you who are trouble rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power…" (2 Thes. 1: 7-9, see also John 15: 6, Matt. 13: 41, 42. For an additional study, be sure to read "Death and the State of the Soul").