Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word "apologetics" derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense.

What is conditional immortality?

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  • What is conditional immortality?

    Conditional immortality or conditionalism, for short, is the idea that not everyone will be raised immortal—only the saved will live forever. Conditional immortality as a label became popular in the nineteenth century for its ability to more holistically describe a view many Christians know as annihilationism.

    Traditionally, most Christians have believed that those who die in unbelief will ultimately be raised immortal and live forever in hell to suffer mental and physical torment for eternity as punishment for their sins. Conditionalists, however, believe that God will grant immortality and eternal life only to those who meet the condition of saving faith in Christ. Everyone else—the unsaved—will suffer a second, irreversible death, perishing forever and ceasing to consciously exist.

    Conditionalists believe the Bible teaches that human beings have been mortal ever since the Fall. In his fallen condition, man is incapable of living forever and doomed to die unless the Lord intervenes by giving him immortality. In Genesis 3:22–23, God evicts Adam and Eve from the garden so that they could not “take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” But in Revelation 22:2 access to the tree of life is restored—but only for the inhabitants of New Jerusalem. Proponents of conditional immortality believe the lost will indeed be resurrected, but to judgment, not to life (John 5:29). Only those covered by the blood of Christ will be raised immortal, unable to die any more (Luke 20:35–36); only those who are being made fit to “inherit the kingdom of God” will be made imperishable and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:50, 53). Thus, immortality and enduring life are conditioned upon salvation. The lost will not live forever, according to conditionalists.

    Integral to all orthodox views of the atonement is the idea of substitution. In atoning for our sins, Jesus took our place, suffering what we would have otherwise suffered. Conditionalists argue that it stands to reason, then, that what Christ bore on our behalf is the fate that awaits those who refuse His gift. The biblical testimony is that Christ’s substitutionary atoning work consisted in His death. Paul says that “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) and that His death is “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). The fact of Christ’s substitutionary, bodily death is also taught by Peter (1 Peter 3:18) and the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:10). Conditionalists argue that therefore the risen lost must literally die a second time: if in dying Jesus took our place, how can it be said that the penalty for unbelief is eternal life in hell? If Jesus died in the place of sinners, then the fate that awaits those who reject Him is death, not life.

    Conditionalists point further to the many passages in the Bible that promise death and destruction to the wicked. God “gave His only Son” not so that believers should escape eternal torment but so that they “should not perish” (John 3:16). Paul says, “The wages of sin is death”—not living forever in torment (Romans 6:23). Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:28 to fear God who “can destroy both soul and body in hell.” He says in Matthew 7:13—14 that the narrow and difficult path leads to “life,” while the wide and easy path leads to “destruction.” In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares, the weeds are “burned up” or “consumed” (Matthew 13:30) by fire, which Jesus interprets as meaning that the unrighteous will be thrown into a fiery furnace (verses 40–42). This is an allusion to Malachi 4:1–3, which promises that the wicked will be reduced by fire to ashes beneath the feet of the righteous. Peter says that, in condemning Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by burning them to ashes, He “made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were incinerated. Therefore, the ungodly will not live forever in ruin; they will be utterly destroyed.

    There are other texts that are often cited as challenges to conditional immortality, but which conditionalists contend are better support for their view. For example, Isaiah 66:24 speaks of unquenchable fire and undying worms that consume “corpses.” Proponents of conditional immorality point out that corpses are dead, not living, and that elsewhere in Scripture inextinguishable fire and unstoppable scavengers completely consume (Ezekiel 20:47–48; Jeremiah 17:27; Amos 5:6; Deuteronomy 28:26; Jeremiah 7:33). Further, Isaiah says these corpses will be “abhorrent” (NET) to the living righteous, the same word used of the wicked in Daniel 12:2, which promises that only the righteous will be granted eternal life. The same promise is made in Matthew 25:46, where “eternal punishment” must therefore be eternal capital punishment. Conditionalists believe this conclusion is confirmed by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, which says that the punishment of the wicked will be “eternal destruction.” They argue that “eternal punishment” and “eternal destruction” do not imply ongoing activity any more than “eternal salvation” and “eternal redemption” imply ongoing saving or redeeming in Hebrews 5:9 and 9:12. Conditionalists also contend that the eternal torment in the lake of fire in Revelation 20:10 is not literal but imagery that John and God interpret as a symbol for the “second death” (Revelation 20:14; 21:8).

    Traditionalists and conditionalists need not divide as brothers and sisters in Christ over this issue. Whether the eternal destiny of those who die in unbelief is eternal conscious punishment or a destruction that lasts for eternity, it is a fate to dread. The message of the gospel is the same, no matter which understanding of hell is correct: Jesus saves!

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  • #2
    Originally posted by William View Post
    Traditionally, most Christians have believed that those who die in unbelief will ultimately be raised immortal and live forever in hell
    It would be more accurate to say that those who die in unbelief will be raised to experience eternal existence in Hell. To be immortal means to never experience death and Hell is the second death.

    It is customary to speak of people as having immortal souls. It would be more accurate say they have eternal souls. They will exist forever but unless they put their faith in Christ they will not live forever.
    Clyde Herrin's Blog
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    • #3
      Originally posted by theophilus View Post
      It would be more accurate to say that those who die in unbelief will be raised to experience eternal existence in Hell. To be immortal means to never experience death and Hell is the second death.
      You don't believe in a second death, rather you believe in eternal life in Hell. Death, by definition, is the ceasing of all functions. The dead can't experience suffering. And, you say raised, raised to what? Raised from death to death? What you quoted from the first post is accurate. What you state yourself makes no sense.



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      • #4
        Originally posted by William View Post
        The message of the gospel is the same, no matter which understanding of hell is correct: Jesus saves!

        That's true. And, we spend a lot of time debating doctrines that may not matter much. We should probably spend more time asking if something matters enough to dispute. My list of essensuals is rather sort. Love God. Love your neighbor. And, do what flows from that. Doctrines are just details. But, details can matter.

        Universalism, aside from being glaringly contradictory to the BIble, teaches that "Jesus saves" is irrelevant. It invites people to reject the Gospel. This is what Satan wants us to believe.

        Torment forever dictates the importance of accepting Christ. But, I wonder if the perceived pointlessness and cruelty of it pushes people away from God. It damages the credibility of the Gospel. On the other hand, I can't link people rejecting the Gospel to the doctrine of torment.

        Annihilation, I believe, is what the Bible teaches. I wonder if it may give evil men comfort in their sin that they won't face torment, and therefor won't repent. Many such men are miserable and would welcome annihilation. But, death and losing paradise is no little thing.
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        • #5
          Conditionalism is an error (a heresy) that the Church rejected long ago. Jehovah's witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists would be today's most well known advocates for the doctrine, but it appears that an increasing number of non-church christians and christians who attend independent meetings are moving to that view. I wonder if the denominations and independents may one day call a kind of council and definitively reject this error ...
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
            Death, by definition, is the ceasing of all functions.
            Whose definition are you citing? Jesus defined eternal life.

            And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
            (John 17:3 ESV)
            If eternal life consists of knowing God and Jesus Christ then eternal death consists of not knowing them. All of us were once in a state of spiritual death.

            And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
            (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)
            We weren't dead because the functions of life had ceased but because we had never possessed life in the first place. Those who do not receive eternal life will continues in this state all their time on earth and for all eternity in Hell.

            Clyde Herrin's Blog
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by peppermint View Post
              I wonder if the denominations and independents may one day call a kind of council and definitively reject this error ...
              The Athanasian Creed addresses that error:

              1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
              2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

              38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
              39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
              40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
              41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
              42. and shall give account of their own works.
              43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
              44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

              God bless,
              William
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