Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about what some people call Annihilationism. It goes by other names too – ie Conditional Immortality, and Conferred Immortality. I prefer the latter term – conferred. One thing I realized is that this view is received with MUCH confusion. This has caused me to reflect upon my own beliefs about the fate of unbelievers. I realized I was pretty ignorant about the topic and had, up until that point, handled it like I had handled other views of eschatology in the past. I refer to futurism, of course, with views of the rapture, tribulation, antichrist, etc. It wasn’t until I started studying the area for myself that I embraced Orthodox Preterism. In the same way, upon studying the arguments for the place most people call hell or the Lake of Fire, I found myself embracing the view known as Conferred Immortality.
But what the heck is it? Conferred or “gifted” immortality is the belief that immortality is a gift from God. And the other names I mentioned above should be defined too. Conditional immortality is so named since immortality is conditioned upon faith. And Annihilationism is a label ascribed to the view because of the implications it has regarding the fate of those who die apart from faith in the gospel. Namely
– that the final punishment of the risen wicked will be the permanent end of their conscious existence.
It’s not that I don’t believe in “hell”, or the Lake of Fire. I’ve just come to differ on what will actually happen there. In this short article, I just want to establish that the Scriptures do plainly teach that immortality is a gift of God. Scripture nowhere ascribes immortality to the reprobate. It isn’t something inherent to humanity. The implication of course is that the Scriptures teach that the end of the wicked will not be neverending conscious torture for that would also present immortality for the wicked, even if it is immortality spent in torment. In regard to the final judgment, Scripture does not pit two qualities of life against each other. Rather it is life or death.
And there are always ad hominems abounding like, “Annihilationism? That’s a Jehovah’s Witness view,” (implying that the view must be wrong), and ignorantly ignoring other views held by JW’s that the one slinging ad hominems might not be thinking of – ie Scriptural inerrancy. Not to mention, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view differs from the Conferred Immortality view. I still believe the gospel, and don’t believe this view alters the gospel. I don’t believe that the wicked pay for or atone for their sins in the Lake of Fire. I know this is a real hot button (pun intended) issue for folks, and I want to treat it with care. I plan to write more about it throughout the week, but will do so in tiny digestible chunks. So, if this should happen to not answer EVERY. SINGLE. QUESTION. you have, just hold tight, and maybe your question will be answered on another article. Now, for starters, let’s take a look at what Scripture says about immortality.
First of all, Scripture tells us that God is immortal. This is a no brainer, right?
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:17
But notice what else Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11-16
11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will bring about at the proper time–He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
1 Timothy 6:11-16
From the plain teaching of this text, the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus Christ alone, God alone, has immortality. Humanity as inherently immortal? No. Not presented here. He alone possesses it.
What else does Scripture say? Let’s look at Romans chapter 2.
5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:
7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor andimmortality, eternal life;
8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
We observe from this text that those who seek for glory, honor and immortality are given eternal life. Paul also isn’t saying that if we have good works we get eternal life, or if we look for immortality, we will get eternal life. The book of Romans paints a very clear picture of our depravity as a fallen creature, and how blind we are to God’s truth apart from His giving us life. That aside, it is not as though immortality and eternal life are the same thing. That’s a common straw man against conferred immortality. Rather, eternal life includes immortality. By contrast, those who do not obey the truth are subjected to God’s wrath and indignation.
Notice what Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:8-11:
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God,
9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,
11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.
2 Timothy 1:8-11
From the apostle Paul’s salutation, we can plainly read that Christ abolished death, and brought both life and immortality to light through the gospel. Along these same lines, we read about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:51-57
Notice that verse 54 says when the “perishable puts on imperishable, and the mortal put on immortality,” then the saying will come about, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For those who die apart from believing the gospel, there is no victory. Verse 57 tells us that this victory is given by God through Jesus Christ. And that to His elect people.
Lastly let’s consider the tree of life. When Adam and Eve fell, what was it that God said?
22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever “–
23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.
24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
God banished Adam from the garden of Eden and guarded the tree of life so that Adam would not eat from it and “live forever.” We are introduced to this tree later in the book of Revelation. It is granted to His elect people to eat from it.
‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;
19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.
The Belgic Confession says this of the fate of the wicked,
“The evil ones will be convicted by the witness of their own consciences, and shall be made immortal– but only to be tormented in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
But is this what the Scriptures say? Certainly not. Where does this view come from? I think as we have clearly seen, Scripture tells us that immortality is a gift of God.