Matthew 10:15 reads: "Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town." NIV
How do annihilationists like Jehovah's Witnesses or Adventists understand this verse?
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Annihilationism allows for different degrees of punishment on the Day of Judgment, so long as the wicked are ultimately destroyed rather than enduring everlasting torment. Below is a response to this specific verse from "rethinkinghell".
Those arguing for the traditional view of hell often appeal to such texts as this and others like it as evidence that final punishment will be meted out in varying degrees, according to each individual’s level of guilt before God. This is contrary to the conditionalist view, they suggest, which holds that all unsaved human beings will eventually cease to be.
Yet none of these texts indicate exactly how varying degrees of punishment will be accounted for. They indicate only that the day of judgment will be more tolerable for some than for others, and that each person will be judged according to his works. Only the text in Luke is more explicit, but its servants who are beaten with different numbers or severity of blows appear in a parable, one that is not taken literally by even most traditionalists.
Conditionalists debate amongst themselves when it comes to how degrees of punishment will play out. Perhaps some will be forever remembered as more shameful than others (cf. Daniel 12:2), much like Hitler’s legacy of evil is considered more contemptible than that of less noteworthy unbelievers. Alternatively, the annihilationist view allows for an array of possible combinations of type, intensity and duration of suffering as part of the process by which the lost are destroyed. Perhaps it is these differences in the degree of suffering, experienced while being destroyed, that accounts for degrees of punishment.
In the end, conditionalists can account for degrees of punishment in multiple possible ways, though they might hasten to add that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10), and as such everyone deserves death.