Pollock: The Word “Death” Has Three Uses

In today’s post I will be quoting from pages 26-27 of A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment” where he discusses the three different meanings of the word “death”. These definitions are identical to what I have always been taught and indeed; they must hold true if eternal conscious torment is to be valid.

Pollock says two things in this quote that he has asserted time and again. The first is that “separation from God” cannot be the same as “annihilation”. As far as I am concerned Pollock has never come close to proving this. In fact it seems to me that a person who has been annihilated has more separation between himself and God than someone who is being actively tormented by God. Of course to Pollock separation means a separation from God’s grace and mercy rather than a physical separation. I do see that annihilation would not be separation in the sense that he is using it but I don’t see that he has proven his definition to be the correct definition. I think the question is open until Pollock can produce more than an assertion.

The second assertion that Pollock makes is that the unbeliever must be alive physically, but dead spiritually, for God’s wrath to abide on him. This belief rests on at least two pillars that I don’t think he has proven either:

  • The first is that annihilation isn’t punishment. I will agree that it is not as gruesome as burning in hell for eternity but is it really not punishment? It is the equivalent of an eternal death penalty where “death” is defined in its normal usage as the “lack of life”. I believe that eternal annihilation is indeed punishment.
  • The second pillar is that somehow our omniscient God would forget about the unbeliever if he is annihilated. If God remembers the unbeliever, and His wrath abides on the unbeliever forever, why can’t this mean that there is no way that the unbeliever will be resurrected? That definition fits the scriptures quoted by Pollock as well as Pollock’s definition does.

The anecdote that Pollock provides below about the Seventh Day Adventists is entertaining but it really doesn’t prove anything either. I assume that if the two Seventh Day Adventist’s left that denomination/cult/whatever-you want-to call-them after crossing swords with Pastor Pollock he would have told us. I suspect that they didn’t find Pollock’s argument convincing.

Here is Pastor Pollock:

The word ‘death’ is used in three ways.

It expresses:-

First, separation morally from God through sin.

Second, separation of the body from the soul and spirit.

Third, eternal separation from God.

In no case does it mean annihilation.

As to the first, we read of those “dead in trespasses and sins” when body and soul were both alive together on this earth. Death in the sense of the second needs no comment, save to say it does not mean ceasing to exist, as we have abundantly proved. The third way in which the term is used is plain. “And death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death ” (Rev. 20:14). The second death is an abiding, eternal existence of misery. We speak of “a living death,” and the meaning is plain. Here the meaning is equally plain: “second death” means everlasting, conscious existence under the wrath of God – eternal separation from God, which must mean misery and torment, for all true blessing and joy consist in our right relation to God.

Now let us come more directly to the question, Is the punishment of the lost everlasting? If the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever, as Scripture states, there must be the unbeliever for it to abide on. There can be no getting out of the plain meaning of these words. If the unbeliever is annihilated the wrath of God can not abide on what does not exist.

We remember years ago two Seventh Day Adventists in Jamaica informing the writer that they believed in everlasting punishment. If the sinner were annihilated, the punishment, they argued, would be eternal because irrevocable. And then they added triumphantly, “Eternal punishment does not mean eternal punishing.”

I replied, “Does three months’ punishmemt mean three months’ punishing?” They admitted that it did. “Then,” I replied, “eternal punishment means eternal punishing.” A leading writer of the Conditional Immortality School uses the same illogical fallacy: “We believe in eternal punishment, not eternal punishing – the latter a great delusion, the former a great truth” (Report of Ilford Conference, 1913 page 56).

 HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock
p. 26-27

[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Point-Counterpoint: Pollock on Apollumi]

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