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This conversation has been discussed multiple times over the last couple years. In general, it is a hard, uncomfortable topic. In some sense, I am hesitant to write this. But I never want my son to ever feel like any topic is taboo. This includes homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, etc.

Anyways, a conversation proceeded from this. Enjoy.


Oaks: “Dad.”

Me: “Yes?”

Oaks: “Is Hell a real place?”

Me: “Before I answer, why do you ask?”

Oaks: “I don’t know. Been thinking about it lately.”

Me: “Well — like I often tell you — this answer requires nuance.”

Oaks: “What is nuance?”

Me (smiling): “Some things are black and white. Other things require more explanation. This is one of the issues that require more explanation.”

Oaks: “Okay. But sometimes you talk a lot. And — I get confused.”

Me: “I know Son. I will try to be clear.”

Oaks: (waiting)

Me: “I believe God never wanted Hell to exist. But after the fall of Satan and his angels, God created Hell for those angels.”

Oaks: “So if Adam and Eve never sinned, there would still be a Hell?”

Me: “That is what the Bible says.”

Oaks: “What about people?”

Me: “This is where the nuance comes in.”


Hell is a tough topic. The traditional view is called ECT. Or the Eternal, Conscious, Torment view. This view states that those who willfully choose to reject the gospel will spend eternity away from enjoying the blessed presence of God. There is no escape. There are no second chances. Demons and unrighteous people will spend eternity there.

I should probably mention that the imagery of the Bible are likely symbols. Is Hell an actual “lake of fire”? Maybe, but I doubt it. Is Hell a place of darkness? Maybe, but again — I don’t know. What I do know is that God uses language to accommodate us because we are finite beings. I have said often that the reality will be more awful (with regards to Hell) and more beautiful (with regards to Heaven).

There is another view that most would say is theologically tenable. This view is historically called annihilationism or more recently, conditional immortality. Since it is more recent, I am only going to engage the conditional immortality view.

Conditional immortality is the name given to the doctrine that states that human beings are not inherently immortal, but rather have immortality conferred upon them as part of the experience of salvation. Therefore, all the redeemed will be immortal, and life in heaven will be everlasting and consist of a perfect and glorious existence. Annihilationism, which is usually associated with conditional immortality, states that the wicked will not suffer conscious torment for ever, but that after death and judgment they will be destroyed, ceasing to exist.

At this point, it must be stated that this view is NOT akin to universalism. Universalism is the belief that all people will at some point be saved and enter into Heaven. This view is not biblical and therefore, must be rejected.

Furthermore, if conditional immortality can be found as a legitimate, biblical understanding of judgment, then evangelicals should examine it seriously and at the least, affirm that this doctrine is orthodox (unlike universalism).

The point of this blog post is not to give a biblical defense to either position. There are many more apt theologians who do this much better and more comprehensively than I can. I will say that any true seeker, who holds to the inspiration of the Bible, must let scripture speak. Additionally, please hear my heart. Emotionally speaking, I want conditional immortality to be true. I will even admit I have moments, in a purely emotional sense, I want universalism to be true. But then I remind myself (emotionally speaking) that I don’t want universalism to be true. There is no justice with universalism. There is no justice for the pedophile, the murderer, the rapist, etc. I certainly cannot stomach that emotionally either.

Since I am not one to shy away from planting a flag, especially when I believe God says something, I am not convinced conditional immortality holds up exegetically. Verses like Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” are still difficult for me. The idea that the word “eternal” changes meaning in the same verse is one of my main struggles if I were to embrace the conditional immortality view.

I conclude with the wise words of John Wenham.

“And let it be quite clear that these realities are awful indeed. Jesus and his disciples taught again and again in terrible terms that there is an irreversible judgment and punishment of the unrepentant. Warnings and loving invitations intermingle to encourage us to flee the wrath to come.”

Good question, Son. Until next time.


For a deeper look at this issue, click on the link below.