What is the biblical basis for saying that unsaved souls are completely destroyed?

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The following link covers the basis for saying that the unsaved are eternally punished, but not for the opposing claim that unsaved souls are destroyed:

What is the biblical basis for the eternal existence of the lost in hell?

The following is also similar but asks why God didnt annihilate Adam and Eve (and hence eliminate future souls) when Adam fell:

What is the Biblical basis for saying that God can annihilate human souls?

  • 1
    Does this answer your question? christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/25794/…
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 19 at 2:01
  • 1
    It did. But the answer is buried in the latter part of a long answer which covers conditionalism first. And more importantly, the question being asked is different, or at least confused, so I wouldn’t have found it. Im tempted to leave my question so this can be asked and answered clearly and cleanly somewhere in this stackexchange. Does that thinking seem right? What do you think? Im happy to delete if that’s best
    – Al Brown
    Jul 19 at 3:30

Death is not the same as being annihilated.

There are two ways of defining dead.

  1. the lack of physical life - not breathing, no consciousness, no pulse and eventually, no body. Just 'dust' remains and maybe some teeth! From this death, life is again possible by a resurrection at the time of God's choosing.
  2. Spiritually dead is the state of being dead to sin, even if you are still breathing. Like the term, 'dead man walking' - referring to a prisoner who is sentenced to death, and is on his way to dying - he is essentially dead already! The spiritually dead includes all men who ever lived, except Jesus. All are essentially waiting for the execution of the penalty handed to Adam - "the penalty of sin is death". So even while they live, they are dead. These too can be raised to new life - physical or spiritual, by God.

Annihilation is the removal (or expiry) of the resurrection option. They simply no longer exist in any form. This can only happen after the second death mentioned in Rev 20. This is not 'dead' in either of the previously noted states - it is irreversible.

The biblical basis for this understanding is not based on what scripture explicitly says this, but what it does not say.

The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise; Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, And You have eliminated all remembrance of them. Is 26:14

The context of this passage is not end-time, post second-death; it is a song about life and troubles and the God who provides.

What we do have is no mention of any evil person being given eternal life. None! How can the wicked be tormented forever in some kind of demented, spiteful God scenario who takes delight in giving life to all and letting the wicked suffer for eternity!

As explained here, eternity does not have mean 'forever' and punishment does not mean torture or even death.

In the absence of scripture and the biased 'hellfire' interpretations like Matt 25:46, it seems many would rather make up what they want and pursue a theology not of the bible, but of men, desperate to justify their jobs, influence and income.

Certainly the theology of an eternal hellfire for the wicked is intended to extinguish the true revelation of the Judgement and the true God who is Saviour first and Destroyer second. Also addressed in the link provided.

After the 'second death' Rev 20:14, the next revelation in Rev 21 is,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea...

This is a time when all physical life is gone. All remaining have spirit lives and life eternal.

God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” v3

At this point, God's plan of salvation has been completed - all created humanity that has accepted Christ as their Saviour has been changed to spirit life.

What we are also told is that 'God is love' - torturing a broken and deceived humanity is not part of His plan. He will however hold to account the perpetrator of evil in ways that we are not privy to.


Credit to user Mark Edward from whom this text is taken, from the end of a long answer to a different question

I’m pasting it because it is the only text we found on the se addressing what Annihilationists use as basis. If you dislike it, you can try to provide a better answer:


Where conditionalism defines human immortality as conditional upon a right relationship with God, annihilationism is defined as a direct punishment of death from God. Qualitatively, there is no distinction between 'death' and 'annihilation'; the latter word is used solely to clarify just what it is that 'death' consists of.

Again, on a broader level, annihilationists believe the bible teaches that humans who are ultimately unrepentant will suffer death / cessation of existence. Poetic idioms in the Psalms are said to accurately describe a lack of existence, prophetic metaphors are said to capture the essence of a lack of existence, and the 'plain meaning' of basic words are said to describe a lack of existence directly.

The final fate of the unsaved is:

  • To vanish like smoke (Psalm 37:20)
  • Like the snail that melts into slime, like the stillborn child that never sees the sun (Psalm 58:8)
  • Like smoke that is driven away, like wax melts before a fire (Psalm 68:2)
  • Like a dream when one awakes (Psalm 73:20)
  • Destroyed, wiped out all remembrance of them (Isaiah 26:14)
  • Stubble in a burning oven; leaving them neither root nor branch; ashes under the soles of the righteous' feet (Malachi 4:1-3)
  • Slaying of body and soul (Matthew 10:28)
  • Eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46)
  • Death (Romans 6:23)
  • Eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
  • Like Sodom and Gomorrah: turned to ashes, and condemned to extinction (2 Peter 2:6)
  • The second death (Revelation 2:11ff)
  • 2
    Welcome. Anyone can quote 20 verses - the object is to explain them in a way that draws them together for a succinct and accurate meaning that is in concert with the broad scriptures. You haven't done yet.
    – steveowen
    Jul 19 at 4:20
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    'We are using' ; 'are said to' ; and 'are said to' (again) and 'are said to' (yet again) and 'plainly mean' all point to the expression of an opinion without reference to accepted authorities. In order to firmly establish a 'biblical basis' one must quote (substantially) from recognised authorities such as lexicons. That is what often makes such questions a poor fit for this site (a comparative site) and a better fit for SE-Biblical Hermeneutics, the reason that the other site exists.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 19 at 6:16
  • As far as I know this is the only text on the whole se describing what annihilationists base their views on. Question should be cleanly asked and answered somewhere, and now is. Thats why I pasted it here. He clearly claims the “plain meaning” interpretation and says so. Seems a reasonable claim. It’s unfortunate that it will be missed due to five downvotes in the first nine minutes. Btw the original much longer answer this is pulled from got dozens of likes, including this same portion.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 6 at 17:12
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    I do find it very strange that this answer has four down-votes while the answer it was copied from has 23 up-votes, no down-votes, and no criticism of the "said" problems. Sep 6 at 17:43
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    @AlBrown Agree with Ray about the downvotes. +1 from me today. This article acknowledges that the biblical basis is not that strong, but still worthy to be considered (John Stott & CS Lewis take the agnostic position). Another good article raises the possibility that the wicked are punished for a while but not forever, by interpreting some key verses as figurative not literal. Sep 6 at 20:24

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