Sunday Terminology: Annihilationism


Annihilationism: The word is from the Latin nihil, “nothing,” and expresses the position of those who hold that some, if not all, human souls will cease to exist after death. As observed by Warfield, this point of view may take three main forms: (1) that all human beings inevitably cease to exist altogether at death (materialist); (2) that, while human beings are naturally mortal, God imparts to the redeemed the gift of immortality and allows the rest of humanity to sink into nothingness (conditional immortality); (3) that man, being created immortal, fulfills his destiny in salvation, while the reprobates fall into nonexistence either through a direct act of God or through the corrosive effect of evil (annihilationism proper). The distinction between conditionalism and annihilationism, as indicated above, is frequently not observed, and these two terms are commonly used as practical synonyms. A fourth form of advocacy of the ultimate extinction of evil is the view that God will finally redeem all rational beings (universalism). Over against all the above positions, historic orthodoxy has always maintained both that human souls will eternally endure and that their destiny is irrevocably sealed at death.[1]

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[1] Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical dictionary of theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1984), 50. Print.

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