, , , , ,

Hell 1 – Conditional Immortality

Hell - Conditional Immortality

Hell 1 — Conditional Immortality explains Scripture best.

Is hell eternal in duration or effect?

On 30 March 1976 I went to the Christian Union at the college where I was studying for A levels.

I had been arguing against Christianity with the Christians at Godalming College for months and now they’d invited me along to hear a speaker they’d asked in to explain the Christian faith.

I had been taken to church just twice as a child. No explanation had been given me as to why we were taken. And after we’d been my parents did not discuss the experience with me and my sister. I had always believed in some kind of spiritual existence. By the time I was 18 that belief had settled on the idea of a universal, impersonal consciousness, or something like that.

Despite my arguments with the Christians at college, there was, nevertheless, something about these people that attracted me. Their apologetics was poor. But their lives were rich. Without ever verbalising it, I just thought the world would be a better place if there were more people like them. So I accepted the invitation and went along to the CU meeting.

On the evening of 30 March the speaker, named Mike Frisby, gave the classic CS Lewis talk about Jesus being either a liar, a lunatic, or else Lord. I went up afterwards to argue with Mike. “What about hell?” I challenged him.

Wisely Mike gently redirected me to much better questions:

  • Is Jesus God?
  • If yes, will I follow him?

He also gave me Michael Green’s book ‘Runaway World’ (which did contain apologetics) and sent me off.

By God’s grace I did set aside that question, ‘what about hell?’ and focussed on the far more important questions he suggested I ask instead. As I read ‘Runaway World’ it seemed to settle with me that yes, Jesus very well might be God. So there and then I prayed and told Jesus I’d follow him for three weeks and see how that went.

It went so well, that I forgot about the three-week trial. It’s now nearing 50 years later and I’m still walking with Jesus. It’s the best decision I ever made.

And the question, ‘what about hell?’

Well I have circled round to that question numerous times. It is not an unimportant question. But it is a secondary question. I have found that it is NOT essential to answer it. Nevertheless, after a few years walking with God I accepted the traditional view and so, for most of my walk with Jesus, I have tried to make people love the teaching that God will punish the wicked with everlasting conscious torment in an eternal hell.

In the last few years, however, I have changed position not because of anything other than exegeting Scripture. I now hold that position commonly called Conditional Immortality or Annihilationism. And I propose to publish a series of blog posts to explain my changed view.

This is the first. In the second I will tell what changed my mind.

This first post introduces the series on Conditional Immortality and sets out my starting points.

In the series I hope to explain how Conditional Immortality or Annihilationism is a more Biblical view of personal eschatology and to show that Conditional Immortality is to be preferred over against the commonly held ‘Eternal Conscious Punishment’ or Traditional view of hell.

The questions are to do with what is the nature, purpose, and experience of hell.

These are questions of personal eschatology.

Some of the key questions to be answered to develop an account of personal eschatology that accords with Scripture are:

  • The Bible describes God as a morally righteous Judge of all. How does each account of personal eschatology do justice to the vision of God’s justice found in Scripture?
  • The Bible describes the final defeat of evil. How is that achieved in each account of personal eschatology?
  • God is love. How do the accounts of personal eschatology fit with various notions of God’s love that accord with Scripture?
  • And, specifically when it comes to Conditional Immortality:
    • Are human beings intrinsically immortal or not?
    • When the Bible speaks about the destiny of the unrepentant and unbelieving person, and it uses words like death and destruction, what do those words mean?

To answer these questions, Christians go to the Bible — but we also consider the teaching of the church down the ages.

We esteem Scripture above all — but we do not deny some authority to the tradition of church teaching.

What has the church taught? Here is a brief summary of the varied beliefs in the time of the Church Fathers.

Three broad views emerged in the patristic era (the era of the church fathers up to the third century) about personal eschatology as people wrestled with Scripture on the nature of hell:

  • Universal Salvation
  • Conditional Immortality
  • Eternal Conscious Torment

Here is a table summarising the three views that emerged in the Patristic era.

UniversalismConditional Immortality Eternal Conscious Punishment
Also named:Ultimate reconciliationAnnihilationismEternal Conscious Torment
The experience
in hell is
RedemptivePunitive and destructivePunitive and unimaginably awful and without end
Justice is:Always restorative,
and hardly punitive
Served proportionately which means for a determinate periodServed proportionately throughout eternity, not restorative
In terms of population
hell is ultimately:
(Almost) empty
of people
Filled temporarily with the wicked until destroyed by their punishmentPopulated eternally with the wicked
Access to salvation is:Through
Christ alone
Christ alone
Christ alone
Repentance is possible:At any timeOnly before physical deathOnly before physical death
Escape from
hell is:
Always openImpossibleImpossible

This table is a simplification that blurs subtle differences within each camp. Many commentators agree that the eternal conscious punishment view became dominant through the influence of Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD) — see, for example, Spiegel, p.2. This is what we can style the ‘traditional position’ of the western churches, Catholic and Protestant.

All three views have an evangelical expression today.

The Traditionalist view remains the dominant position among conservative evangelicals. The Conditionalist position is widely held among evangelicals in the UK. The other position, that emerged in the Patristic period, the Universalist position, is not being explored in this blog series because space and time do not allow. Let it be noted, however, that I can see that there are several credible reasons for evangelicals to adopt this position, although I don’t find these persuasive myself.

So successful has been the propagation of the traditional ‘eternal conscious torment’ view that it is widely held by most secular people in Western cultures, and is the assumed position in many secular books and film screenplays.

Those outside orthodox churches also have views on the meaning of hell.

There are many people who are not Christian who believe in hell as a place of eternal torment, also those who believe in universal redemption, and those who believe that hell is a place of destruction. Does this matter? No! Why not?

Discovering who else believes a proposition is not a material fact.

The substantial question is why we believe something — and for evangelical Christians there is a primary commitment to honouring the Bible as the final authoritative source of truth with regard to God, God’s person, God’s ways, God’s purpose, God’s call to mankind, etc. We do not decide beliefs in reaction against the ideas of secular people, or people from other religions. We settle our views based on Scripture.

Since all three views emerged in the patristic era, believers today must turn to Scripture to resolve these questions.

I accept that there are credible, evangelical versions of all three views. And I think at our best evangelical Christians take care not to attack straw-man versions of opposing views.

Exegesis of Scripture will be central to this review of hell across a series of blog posts.

John Wenham, a known Conditionalist, asserts that “philosophical arguments concocted by sinful humans as to how a holy God should order the world to come cannot be relied on… For a Christian one simple sentence of revelation must in the end out-weigh the weightiest conclusions of man-made philosophy.” (Wenham, 1994, pp.70-71).

JI Packer, who rejects Universalism and Conditionalism, states that “we are forbidden to become enslaved to human tradition… even ‘evangelical’ tradition. We may never assume the complete rightness of our own established ways of thought and practice and excuse ourselves the duty of testing and reforming them by Scripture.” (Packer, 1970, p.70)

John Stott when answering a question on his position (as a tentative Annihilationist) in an interview in 1996 for Christianity Today answered:

“The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform.

“Evangelicalism is fundamentally loyal to a past revelation, and because we are tied forever to what God did and said in the historic Jesus, we look back more often than we look forward.” [1]

Like all those who attempt theological thinking the aim is to engage with what Jesus and the apostles meant in the words recorded for us in Scripture.

Trying to work out what the Bible’s human authors meant when they wrote is not some new-fangled idea, of course. And it’s long been understood to be fraught with difficulty.

Augustine of Hippo displays characteristic charity towards how others interpret Scripture (in this case the opening chapters of Genesis) in his Confessions — and also expresses his belief that as time passes more light can be derived from these same Scriptures.. He wrote in Book XII, Chapter 31, Paragraph 42:

“Accordingly when anyone claims, “He meant what I say,” and another retorts, “No, rather what I find there,” I think that I will be answering in a more religious spirit if I say, “Why not both, if both are true? And if there is a third possibility, and a fourth, and if someone else sees an entirely different meaning in these words, why should we not think that he was aware of all of them, since it was through him that the one God carefully tempered his sacred writings to meet the minds of many people, who would see different things in them, and all true?” Of this I am certain, and I am not afraid to declare it from my heart, that if I had to write something to which the highest authority would be attributed, I would rather write it in such a way that my words would reinforce for each reader whatever truth he was able to grasp about these matters, than express a single idea so unambiguously as to exclude others, provided these did not offend me by their falsehood. It would therefore be over-hasty to conclude that Moses did not enjoy the same favour from you, O my God, and I am unwilling to think so. I am convinced that when he wrote those words what he meant and what he thought was all the truth we have been able to discover there, and whatever truth we have not been able to find, or have not found yet, but which is nonetheless there to be found.”

In the next chapter, Augustine continues on this theme to assert that ideally the one intended meaning of the author should be paramount in our interpretation, but still leaves the question open of whether God can intend greater meanings than the original human author envisaged — but which ‘the truth (the Holy Spirit?) intended all along.

Augustine puts it this way (italics mine — and note that Augustine assumed Moses to be the author of Genesis):

“Finally, Lord, what if human vision is incomplete? Does that mean that anything you intended to reveal by these words to later generations of readers — you who are God, not flesh and blood — was hidden from your good Spirit, who will, I pray, lead me into the right land? Is this not the case even if the man through whom you spoke to us had perhaps only one of the true meanings in mind? If he did, by all means let that one which he intended be taken as paramount. But as for us, Lord, we beg you to point out to us either that sense which he intended or any other true meaning which you choose, so that whether you take occasion of these words to make plain to us the same thing that you showed him, or something different, you still may feed us and no error dupe us.

“Mark how much we have written about so few words, O Lord my God, how remarkably much! If we continue in this style, where shall we find sufficient energy or time to cover all your books? Grant me, then, to make my confession to you more briefly as I comment on them, and to select one meaning only, one that is inspired by you as true, certain and good, even if many suggest themselves in those places where indeed many may. For this is the assurance on which I make my confession: that if I manage to expound the sense intended by the writer who served you, that will be correct and the best course I could take, and that I must endeavour to do; but if I do not succeed in that, I may at least say what your Truth wills to reveal to me through the words of Moses, since it was your Truth who communicated to him also whatever he willed.”

(Augustine, pp.404-406)

This illustrates how our ambition to understand the intention and meaning of Scripture is made at once easier and more complex by nigh-on 2,000 years of theologising that has already gone ahead of us — not least on this subject of the nature of hell.

The traditional eternal conscious punishment view cannot be lightly dismissed.

Any decision to abandon the traditional and widely held Eternal Conscious Punishment position will involve overturning the majority position of the church through the ages. This should only be done with very great caution.

It is natural for those who hold to a Traditional position, that hell is eternal conscious torment, to defend their position. I expect no less.

I myself once aimed to lead Christians to a place where they can love, indeed, delight in the Bible doctrine of eternal conscious punishment — not just tolerate it. If I still held to that position, that would still be my aim. My aim now is to enable Christians to delight in the doctrine of hell as I now understand it. I hope that those who hold to the traditional position will be happy to read and understand the grounds on which I have changed position.

Cosmic eschatology is the necessary context for personal eschatology.

When we speak of hell we speak about the fulfilment or frustration of the telos or purpose of human beings as moral agents made in God’s image and answerable to God. For Christians to speak of the telos or purpose of the Creation is to acknowledge that the Creator is purposeful—that is to think eschatologically and theologically.

Personal eschatology must always be placed within a context of cosmic eschatology. The Bible presents an account of the universe that looks backwards and projects forwards. It starts with the Creation, quickly followed by the Fall which saw a separation between heaven and earth, a separation between God and humanity. The Fall is followed by promises of how God will reconcile the world to himself again. That project, the Missio Dei, culminated in God himself taking on human flesh to enact a redemption that would lead to a New Creation. Participation in the promised New Creation is secured through, and conditioned on, faith in Christ. Participation will be experienced through resurrection. Scripture consistently predicts a final judgment when the just God will bring all people before himself to determine whether they are participating in the New Creation or not. This brings us to personal eschatology.

Personal eschatology fascinates people.

When reading the Bible people are often more interested in how it answers our questions about personal eschatology, rather than what it shows about God’s agenda, that is, what we call cosmic eschatology. Why?

Every day across the world some 150,000 people die— that’s about 100 people every minute[2]. Among them are (1) people we know personally, (2) people who are famous, and (3) many thousands of people not known to us personally. For those who seek to let the Bible be their plumb line for measuring human experience, we wonder what the destiny is of those who die? Indeed, what awaits us? This is the field of personal eschatology.

The following diagrammatic overview of personal eschatology is offered as a way to define terms and set aside some issues from the start.

There is much danger in setting things out in the way of an analytic diagram because to draw boxes and arrows flattens all nuance and makes definite some things that Scripture leaves undefined.

Please note: this diagram tries to capture a chronology not a geography.

A diagram of death and death Description automatically generated[3]

Take care. This diagram is my representation of the Scripture. We are at risk of assuming that our map is the terrain. It’s not. The revelation of God, his person, his ways, his call as revealed in the Bible is our terrain. Maps are a representation, an approximation — very useful but never to be mistaken for the terrain itself. Maps of the earth are profoundly political artefacts. So are all maps of theology. There are better maps, and worse maps, and some downright misleading maps. Provenance and methodology need assessment. We must ask how often the map is recalibrated by taking fresh bearings and measurements of the actual terrain itself. This series of posts is part of the ongoing effort to re-examine the terrain with respect to hell. I discuss this process in another post here.

There is diversity amongst those who take any of these three positions on the nature of hell.

It is not uncommon when we first research any topic to simplify the options into well-defined camps. Simplification is memorable but it can obscure important variations.

Those evangelicals who believe in eternal conscious punishment vary widely in how they characterise the experience of hell. The following table attempts to distinguish three major parties within that wide camp.

The three main variants of the Traditional position can be set out as follows:

Eternal separation from GodEternal conscious spiritual tormentEternal conscious spiritual and physical torment
The experience
in hell is
The impenitent knowingly endure the deprivation of a relationship with a loving God. Hell is viewed in relational rather than physical terms.

Gradual loss of personhood.

The impenitent knowingly endure spiritual anguish.

This is considered worse than physical torments.

The impenitent knowingly endure spiritual and physical anguish.

This includes literal experience of fire, worm, darkness and gnashing of teeth.

Key Scriptures:Matt. 7:23; 25:41

2 Thess. 1:9

Scriptures describing fire, worm and gnashing of teeth are taken metaphorically.Isaiah 66:24

Mark 9:48

Matthew 25:46

Rev. 14:11

Rev. 20:10

History:The most widely attested view in church history.

[in no
particular order, as they say]

CS Lewis

Alec Motyer

Peter Head

The Lausanne Covenant

Tim Keller

William Lane Craig

Steve Jeffrey

Anthony Hoekema

Murray Harris

Peter Toon

Robert Peterson

Jonathan Edwards

JI Packer

Ajith Fernando

David Pawson

John Blanchard

Don Carson

(Adapted from the text on pages 69-72 in The Nature of Hell, 2000, ACUTE)

Similarly, those who advocate Conditional Immortality have diverse views.

Those who advocate Conditional Immortality have a variety of views on such things as Soul Sleep, whether hell exists for ever after the wicked have been destroyed, anthropology (whether human persons consist of one, two or three parts), etc. I will not engage with all these differences but rather, for the sake of controlling the number of posts, put forward the position I find most persuasive.

Conditional Immortality
Guernica ceramic mural

Have I gone soft on punishment? No, I strongly affirm that God will judge evil.

It’s true that when I was 18 I was offended that God would judge people.

I believed that if there was a god, then judging was not what he should do.

I agreed with the famous words of German poet and writer, Heinrich Heine (Jewish by birth, but converted to Lutheran Christianity as an adult). As he lay dying in February 1856 he was asked about whether God would forgive him. He said, “Gott wird mir verzeihen, das ist sein Beruf”, which means, ‘Of course God will forgive me. That’s his job.’

Some 50 years later I have heard of and seen enough human cruelty and wickedness to believe that a God who did not punish evil would not be worth following. Miroslav Volf has, perhaps, written most compellingly on this point. In 2005 he wrote:

“The apostle Paul … spoke rather freely of God’s “judgment”, “condemnation”, even of God’s “wrath” (see Romans 1:18-3:20). Setting aside the litany of things that the Apostle believed merit God’s condemnation, let’s focus on the fact of it. In particular, let’s examine the appropriateness of God’s wrath, the strongest form of God’s censure…

“I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandparently fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators’ basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.

“Once we accept the appropriateness of God’s wrath, condemnation, and judgment, there is no way of keeping it out there, reserved for others. We have to bring it home as well. I originally resisted the notion of a wrathful God because I dreaded being that wrath’s target; I still do. I knew I couldn’t just direct God’s wrath against others, as if it were a weapon I could aim at targets I particularly detested.” (Volf, pp.138-139)

This is the third time in my life that I have explored the subject of hell in depth.

In my last review in 2010, I concluded narrowly that the exegesis pointed to the traditional position being the best fit with the Biblical data — although I was almost persuaded to change.

On this, my third review, which was provoked in 2020 by noticing how consistently Scripture describes the fate of the wicked by using words like death, perish and destruction, I have moved towards the position that those who have no faith in Jesus will be sentenced to be punished in a proportionate way in hell, by exposure to God’s fiery wrath. This will lead to an irreversible destruction of each person, that is of both the spirit and body of the wicked and, therefore, justifies the label ‘eternal punishment’.

This is the view that immortality is conditional on faith. It’s often called:

Conditional Immortality.

In this blog series I will set out the Scriptural evidence for adopting Conditional Immortality as our view of hell — evidence which I now consider to be compelling.

In the next post I describe what changed my mind so that I moved from the Traditional eternal conscious torment view to the position often called Conditional Immortality or Annihilationism.


This is a list of books used in the whole blog series.

Evangelical Alliance Commission on Unity and Truth Among Evangelicals (ACUTE), The Nature of Hell, (2000), ACUTE, Paternoster, Carlisle

Thomas AQUINAS, Summa Theologica (Complete & Unabridged) written 1265–1274) Complete American Edition Translated by Fathers of the English, Coyote Canyon Press. Kindle Edition.

AUGUSTINE of HIPPO, The Confessions, (1997, 2012), Translated by Maria Boulding, Ignatius Press, San Francisco

William BARCLAY, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 1, (1975), The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh

Rob BELL, Love Wins, (2011), Collins, London

Robert N BELLAH, Richard MADSEN, William M SULLIVAN, Ann SWIDLER, Steven M TIPTON, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, (1985), Harper and Row, New York

David BENTLEY HART, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, (2019), Yale University Press

John BLANCHARD, Whatever Happened to Hell, (1993), Evangelical Press, Darlington

Ralph G. BOWLES, Does Revelation 14:11 Teach Eternal Torment? Examining a Proof-text on Hell, (2001), article pp.21-36 in Evangelical Quarterly 73.1,

Colin BROWN, Ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 1, (1986), The Paternoster Press, Exeter

Colin BROWN, Ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 2, (1976), The Paternoster Press, Exeter

Colin BROWN, Ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Volume 3, (1978), The Paternoster Press, Exeter

Denny BURK in Stanley GRUNDY and Preston SPRINKLE (Eds), Four Views on Hell 2nd Edition, (2016), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

D A CARSON, Exegetical Fallacies 2nd Edition, (1996), Baker Book House, Paternoster, Grand Rapids, Carlisle

D A CARSON, The Gospel According to John, (1991), Eerdmans/Apollos, Grand rapids, Leicester

Brian E. DALEY SJ, The Hope of the Early Church: a handbook of patristic eschatology, (1991), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Christopher M DATE, A Consuming Passion: Essays on Hell and Immortality in Honor of Edward Fudge, (2016), Pickwick (Wipf & Stock)

Christopher M DATE, The Hermeneutics of Conditionalism: A Defense of the Interpretive Method of Edward Fudge, (2018), in Evangelical Quarterly 89.1, pp.71-90

Christopher M DATE, Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, (2014), Cascade Books (Wipf & Stock)

David L. EDWARDS & John R.W. STOTT, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, (1988), Hodder and Stoughton, London

John CALVIN, Genesis, (1965), Banner of Truth Trust, London

Millard ERICKSON, Christian Theology 2nd Edition, (1998), Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Gordon D. FEE, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, (1984, 1988), New International Biblical Commentary Series, Paternoster Press, Carlisle

Gordon D. FEE, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (1987) Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan

Gordon D. FEE, Philippians, (1999), The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, IVP, Leicester

Sinclair B. FERGUSON & David F. WRIGHT, New Dictionary of Theology, IVP, Leicester

Edward William FUDGE, The Fire That Consumes 3rd Edition, (2011), Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon

Edward William FUDGE & Robert A. PETERSON, Two Views of Hell, (2000), IVP Academic, Downers Grove, Illinois

Graeme GOLDSWORTHY, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, (2000), IVP, Nottingham

Tony GRAY, Destroyed For Ever: An Examination of the Debates Concerning Annihilation and Conditional Immortality, pp.14-18 in Themelios 21:2 January 1996 (accessed 15 December 2011 at

Michael GREEN, 2 Peter and Jude Tyndale NT Commentary Series, (1987), IVP, Leicester

Michael GREEN, Evangelism in the Early Church, (1970), Highland Books, Crowborough

Wayne GRUDEM, Systematic Theology, (1994), IVP, Leicester

Stanley GRUNDY and Preston SPRINKLE (Eds), Four Views on Hell 2nd Edition, (2016), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

HOMER, The Odyssey, translated by E V RIEU, (1946), Penguin Books

John HOSIER, The Lamb, the Beast and the Devil, (2002), Monarch Books, London

Tim KELLER, The Reason for God, (2008), Hodder & Stoughton, London

Derek KIDNER, Psalms 1-72, (1973), Tyndale OT Commentaries, IVP, Leicester

Philip LARKIN, ‘Aubade’ from Collected Poems, (2001), Faber and Faber Ltd, Farrar Straus and Giroux, (Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin)

CS LEWIS, The Great Divorce, (1946) Geoffrey Bles, London

CS LEWIS, The Problem of Pain, (1940) Geoffrey Bles, London (citations from 1957 Fontana Books edition)

Andrew T LINCOLN, Ephesians, (1990) Nelson Word Biblical Commentary, Dallas, Texas

Douglas MOO, The Epistle to the Romans, (1996) Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan

Leon MORRIS, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, (1959), Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Alex MOTYER, The Prophecy of Isaiah, (1993) IVP, Leicester

John OWEN, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, (1959) Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh

John OWEN, The Works of John Owen Volume 1, Banner of Truth Trust, London

JI PACKER, Fundamentalism and the Word of God: Some Evangelical Principles, (1970) Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan

JI PACKER, Introductory Essay, pp.1-25 in John OWEN, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, (1959) Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh

Edwin H. PALMER, The Five Points of Calvinism, (1980), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Robin A PARRY in Stanley GRUNDY and Preston SPRINKLE (Eds), Four Views on Hell 2nd Edition, (2016), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Robin A PARRY with Ilaria RAMELLI, A Larger Hope? Universal Salvation from the Reformation to the Nineteenth Century, (2019), Cascade Books, Eugene, OR

James PATRICK, comment at the Newfrontiers Theology Forum (February 2012)

Ian PAUL, Revelation: An Introduction And Commentary, (2015), Tyndale New Testament Commentary, IVP

Robert A. PETERSON, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment, (1995), P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg

Edward William FUDGE & Robert A. PETERSON, Two Views of Hell, (2000a), IVP Academic, Downers Grove, Illinois

Robert A. PETERSON, Undying Worm, Unquenchable Fire — What is hell—eternal torment or annihilation? A look at the Evangelical Alliance’s The Nature of Hell, (2000b) 23 Oct 2000 in Christianity Today magazine (accessed 15 Dec 2011 at

Alastair ROBERTS, Death Before the Fall blog post, 2014, at (accessed 26 October 2022)

JK ROWLING, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, (2007), Bloomsbury, London

Martin A. SHIELDS, “Death,” ed. John D. BARRY et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary, 2016, Lexham Press, Bellingham, WA.

W SCHMITHALS, Death, article on pages 430-441 in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 1, General Editor Colin BROWN, 1986, Paternoster Press, Exeter

James S SPIEGEL, Hell and Divine Goodness: A Philosophical-Theological Inquiry, (2019), Cascade Books, Eugene, Oregon,

Stanley GRUNDY and Preston SPRINKLE (Eds), Four Views on Hell 2nd Edition, (2016), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

John G STACKHOUSE Jnr. In Stanley GRUNDY and Preston SPRINKLE (Eds), Four Views on Hell 2nd Edition, (2016), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

David L. EDWARDS & John R.W. STOTT, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, (1988), Hodder and Stoughton, London

Christopher TOWNSEND, Hell: a difficult doctrine we dare not ignore, (1999), Cambridge Papers, Vol. 8 No. 3

Stephen H. TRAVIS, I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, (1982), Hodder and Stoughton, London

Miroslav VOLF, Free of Charge: giving and forgiving in a culture stripped of grace, (2005), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Jerry L WALLS in Stanley GRUNDY and Preston SPRINKLE (Eds), Four Views on Hell 2nd Edition, (2016), Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Gordon WENHAM, The Psalter Reclaimed, Crossway, (2013), Wheaton, Illinois

John WENHAM, The Enigma of Evil: Can we believe in the goodness of God, (1994), Eagle, Guildford, Surrey

Sinclair B. FERGUSON & David F. WRIGHT, New Dictionary of Theology, IVP, Leicester

Nigel WRIGHT (1996), Radical Evangelical, SPCK, London

Tom WRIGHT, For All the Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed, (2003), SPCK, London

Tom WRIGHT, Surprised by Hope, (2007), SPCK, London

  1. See | Website visited 18 November 2011. Stott continued: “In my debate with David Edwards [published in book form with the title Essentials], I drew a distinction between the liberal, the fundamentalist, and the evangelical. The liberal, to me, is like a gas-filled balloon which takes off into the ether and is not tethered to the earth in any way. The fundamentalist is like a caged bird, unable to escape at all. To me, the true evangelical is like a kite, which flies high but at the same time is always tethered. This demands a particularly unusual combination of loyalty to the past and creativity for the future.”
  2. Mortality statistics taken from | website visited on 14 February 2021
  3. In the diagram, and also in my written sketch of cosmic eschatology, I have omitted all reference to the millennium. This is because I, personally, hold an a-millennial position. If you take a pre-millennial view of cosmic eschatology this will look like a glaring omission. I ask you to forbear on the grounds that people with a variety of millennial views have adopted the view that hell will have a limited duration, so this question need not be argued in this blog series. Some readers expect the ‘intermediate state’ (the Hades box on the diagram) to be an experience of soul sleep. Again, belief one way or the other on soul sleep does not correlate with one or the other position on hell so it can be ignored.


Share this post...

Related articles

Theologica Logo Aqua Green on White

Andrew Ryland's Blog

To love God thoughtfully

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30 NIV-UK

Our favourites

Maybe do not try to fix people

Maybe do not try to fix people? Love them, observe them, build community, instead. When I am coaching or mentoring or supervising others I rely mainly on imitation to see people learn new skills and grow in experience. Obviously head knowledge can be imparted directly by instruction – but skills are usually caught more than taught. The same is true for bringing up children.

Read more »