Man: Immortal Or Not?

Q. I heard a sermon recently based on the premise that mankind’s soul is not immortal (that we were created immortal but by choosing to sin, we died and could only be resurrected by God thru Jesus) and that hell was permanent – not ongoing. The pastor gave several Bible references to bolster his understanding.

I’ve always envisioned hell as an everlasting (meaning ongoing) fire – not just a fire or judgment that completely destroys us and that there is no chance to reverse our path once we are there. The last part, he embraced – no second chances. He quoted John 3:16 – that believers in Jesus would not perish ( not suffer eternally, consciously). He also spoke from Rev. 20 where God would send the fire to devour, (not just make it a continuing punishment for) the wicked. I would appreciate your understanding of this concept.

A. Of those who believe that there is judgment and punishment for non-believers (some don’t) there are two views. One is that punishment continues forever. I’s called the traditional view because for a long time it was the only one. The other is that punishment is conditional, shorter for those who led “good” lives and longer for those who led “bad” ones. This view comes primarily from Rev. 20:12 which says that that the dead will be judged according to their works.

Most proponents of this view believe that when the unbeliever’s time of punishment is over, he or she will be destroyed and will cease to exist in any form. They claim that this is the way a just God would act, that eternal punishment for everyone, regardless of how they lived would be cruel.

I’ve studied both of these views and while I see how the conditional view has been developed, I am not persuaded that it’s correct.

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