The “Destruction” Passages. Having pointed out the solemn fact that the Bible does not give us reason to look for a second chance for salvation after death, we are now ready to consider the implications of the word destruction when used to describe the destiny of the wicked and unbelieving. In 2 Thessalonians 1:9, for example, we are told that those who refuse to know God and to obey the gospel “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” The word here is olethros, the same word used in 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, and 1 Timothy 6:9.
Jesus made the solemn declaration. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The Greek word here for “destroy” is apollumi. It occurs scores of times in the New Testament. Jesus used this term when He said that new wine would “ruin” an old wineskin (Luke 5:37) and when He referred to the food we eat as “the food which perishes” (John 6:27).
The fact that the Greek terms sometimes rendered “destroy” and or “perish” can mean “to bring to an end” or “cease to exist” has led some Bible students to say that the unsaved will be resurrected, judged, punished according to their works, and then annihilated. They point out that the doctrine of human immortality comes from Greek thought rather than the Hebrew of Greek Scriptures. Paul declared that God “alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). These Bible scholars are well aware of our Lord’s statement that the unredeemed go into “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). But they see eternal extinction as eternal punishment, pointing out that Jesus didn’t say eternal conscious punishment.
These teachers are not simple annihilationists. They take seriously the Bible verses that speak of the resurrection, judgment, and appropriate punishment of the lost. But they believe that the eventual destiny of the unsaved will be extinction. They view hell as a grim reality. They recognize that the terms destroy and destruction can mean more than annihilation. They declare that “the fire will not be quenched “ until God has vindicated His holiness in the punishment of all sin. They look forward to a point in eternality after which nothing sinful or painful will exist in the entire universe.
Most orthodox Bible scholars have not accepted this teaching. They have difficulty equating “eternal punishment” with “eternal nonexistence.” They also think of mankind in God’s image as created for an eternal conscious destiny in either heaven or hell.