Does John 3:36 Dispel Annihilationism?
In this post we come to A. J. Pollock’s first argument against annihilationism:
One verse of Scripture destroys the theories of both the Universalist and Annihilationist.
“He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
“Shall not see life,” destroys the Universalists’ theory. He says, “All shall see life”. God says the unbeliever shall not see life.
“The wrath of God abideth on him,” destroys the Annihilationists’ theory. The unbeliever must exist for the wrath to abide upon him.
HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock
I don’t believe that Pollock’s case is as strong as he claims it to be. He may be right but I can get around this argument pretty easily.
Indulge me for a moment while I try and do a little English Grammar:
Verb: The part of speech (or word class) that describes an action or occurrence or indicates a state of being. In John 3:36 the verb is “wrath”.
Subject: The part of a sentence or clause that commonly indicates (a) what it is about, or (b) who or what performs the action (that is, the agent). In John 3:36 the subject is “God”.
Direct Object: Direct objects indicate the person or thing that undergoes the action denoted by the verb, or the participant directly affected by the action. In John 3:36 the direct object is “him” [the unbeliever].
I will admit that if Pollock’s belief in eternal conscious torment is correct then this verse can easily be interpreted to be consistent with that belief.
However if the annihilationist position is true then this verse can also be easily interpreted in a way that is consistent with annihilationism. How can this be? God is the subject of the sentence; He is the one producing the action of “wrath.” It is the subject (God) that has to be eternal not the object (the unbeliever). Remember that God is omniscient and He never forgets anyone who ever existed including those who are annihilated (assuming that is the case). There is no reason for Him to stop being angry (wrathful) because the unbeliever has been annihilated. God remembers them, and their unbelief, with crystal clarity.
I would also like to make the point that God can resurrect anyone at any time even if that person has been annihilated. Why wouldn’t He resurrect an unbeliever at some point in eternity? The answer is because He is still angry with them (full of “wrath”).
John 3:36 is parallel to Daniel 12:2 which annihilationist writers have written about in detail. Please read this quote of Douglass Barry who runs the Jewish Not Greek website and decide for yourself:
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2
This verse is used constantly to prove the Traditional view. However, upon closer examination of the text, it is nowhere to be found. The Hebrew word here for “contempt” is “darone.” It is very important to note that the only other time it is used in all of Tenach (The Hebrew Bible) is in Isaiah 66:24, which was discussed earlier. In Isaiah 66:24, those who have “darone” (“contempt” or “disgust”) are the believers who go out and look upon the dead bodies (not living souls) of those who have been turned into ashes–cremated (2 Peter 2:6, Malachi 4:3).
It would be similar to us looking at the burned corpse of Adolf Hitler. We will always have contempt or disgust for him. Even in eternity. Isaiah 66:24 and Daniel 12:2 are inextricably linked by the same Hebrew word and that Hebrew word speaks of our contempt for the wicked, not their eternal conscious torment.
There are two emotions here, shame and contempt. It is obvious that the unsaved have the shame emotion. And it is the righteous that have the contempt emotion towards the wicked. Notice that only one of those emotions lasts forever. It is contempt, which proves that we (believers) will live forever and still feel emotion. However, nothing is said about shame being felt forever. Why? Because the wicked will be destroyed in body and soul. (Matthew 10:28).
Evangelical author William West states the same thing in his book The Resurrection and Immortality:
Strong says both contempt (Daniel 12:2) and abhorrence (Isaiah 66:24) are from the same Hebrew word. Strong’s word # 1860, “To repulse, an object of aversion, abhorring, contempt.” Contempt and abhorrence are the way others think about them. It does not say they will forever be conscious or in torture, but that others will forever have shame and contempt for them. It is the contempt that is said to be everlasting, not persons. How does “everlasting contempt” become “everlasting torture”?
(The Resurrection and Immortality, William West, Xulon Press, 2006)
[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Pollock on Conditional Immortality: First Argument]