Maxey - Thrasher Debate

Eternal Destiny of the Wicked
Perpetual Torment or Ultimate Extinction
(An In-Depth Biblical Discussion)

Saturday, February 2, 2002

Al Maxey's
Introductory Remarks

I want to take this opportunity to personally thank my brother in Christ, Thomas Thrasher, for his willingness to engage in what many would consider a controversial, and potentially volatile, subject matter. I also appreciate greatly his tone and willingness to present a Christ-like demeanor throughout this exchange. The eternal destiny of the wicked has been hotly debated for centuries. It is not likely that either of us will present "the final word" on this matter in the course of our discussion, although each of us undoubtedly is convinced that he, and not the other, has come to a reasoned and reasonable understanding of what God truly teaches. Most likely, however, we both have much to learn as we seek to comprehend the mind and will of the Infinite One. Perhaps we can learn from one another over the coming months. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). It is my prayer that this discussion between us will be an "iron sharpening" experience. It may become heated, and sparks may fly, as often happens when "iron sharpens iron," but if the goal is Truth, and we each maintain our Christian focus and a constant love and respect for the other, the end result will be of benefit to us all.

On a purely personal note, it appears Thomas and I have much in common. He states he is 53 years old. That is how old I will be in just four short weeks. He also is a preacher for the churches of Christ, although he has been preaching longer than I (Iíve only been preaching for 26 years, as opposed to his 36). He is a school administrator, and my father is a retired school Superintendent (and currently an elder in Colorado). He and his wife, Jaretta, have been married for 30 years .... my wife, Shelly, and I will celebrate 29 years this coming July. We too are proud grandparents. Our two oldest sons are married, and between them have blessed us with four grandchildren (two boys and two girls). Our youngest son is a Junior at New Mexico State University.

I have preached in Germany for a few years (back in the early 80Ďs), and also in Hawaii (for six years). The rest of my years in ministry, however, have been in New Mexico and Colorado. I have a BS degree and MA degree from Eastern New Mexico University in the fields of Psychology, Theology and Sociology. More about me, should any be interested, can be discovered at my web site, which is easily accessible from this debate site.

I should probably point out that for many years I embraced the same position on the destiny of the wicked that is currently held by Thomas. It was the perspective I was raised with, and I never saw reason to question it. Thus, I blindly accepted it and set about proclaiming it. In the late 80ís, however, a member of the congregation for which I was preaching handed me a book by brother Edward Fudge entitled "The Fire That Consumes." He asked me to read it. No other explanation .... just read it, and then let him know what I thought.

I must admit that at first I thought Edward (with whom I have since corresponded) was "nuts!" He challenged everything I was taught to believe. He even dared, in his book, to challenge the reader to take up the Bible and show him where his conclusions were false. Well, that was good enough for me! I set out to do just that.

To make a long story short, after a couple of years of perhaps the most intense and extensive study of a topic I have ever done, I had to admit that Edward was basically right in his conclusions. In the years since, I have continued to do research and study on this issue, and the more I do the more I become convicted that the perspective I will be sharing in this exchange IS the will of our God with respect to the eternal destiny of the wicked. Thus, I welcome this opportunity to present it to you via this discussion with Thomas. He will ask me many of the same questions I asked myself repeatedly, and he will challenge me in areas where I have also challenged myself time and again.

I sincerely pray that as this exchange between us develops and deepens that he will begin to perceive the same Truths that I struggled with many years ago, and that he will be open to embracing this gracious teaching pertaining to the destiny of the wicked.

Thomas defined some terms in our subject, and I would agree with his definitions of "wicked" and "destiny." I apologize to my brother Thomas for including the word "eternal" in the subject, but felt it was essential to clarify the distinction between temporal judgments upon the wicked in this life, and the ultimate destiny of the unredeemed (an eternal judgment) which will certainly transcend anything experienced in this life.

For those unfamiliar with the Greek, the word we translate "eternal" in the pages of the NT writings can have both a qualitative and quantitative meaning and application. Indeed, it is used about half one way and half the other. Many suppose, when they hear the term "eternal," that it denotes time without end, endlessness, forever and ever. Yes, this is the quantitative significance of this term. However, it also can be used qualitatively to distinguish the realm of the eternal from the realm of the temporal (the spiritual from the physical, for example). This is a vital distinction, and it will become more evident as we get into our discussion. If Thomas would like to comment on this term, or if he needs me to elaborate further on this qualitative - quantitative distinction, then we can certainly take some time in the next posts to do just that.

Thomas also listed five points that he hopes to prove during the course of this discussion. He wrote: "If Al and I actually agree on one or more of these points (as I suspect we do), we can then focus upon the areas of disagreement." Each of his five points pertain to the destiny of the wicked. In actuality, I agree with almost all of them, but we probably differ on how to interpret and apply certain terms employed. I will list the five individually, and then provide my perspective on each.

#1 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to die physically, unless living at Christís return. This is also true of the righteous."

#2 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to enter Hades, unless living at Christís return. This is also true of the righteous. However, the righteous and wicked are in separate parts of Hades."

#3 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to be raised from the dead, unless living at Christís return. This is also true of the righteous."

#4 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to be judged. This is also true of the righteous."

#5 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to go into everlasting punishment. This is not true of the righteous."

There are several things I shall seek to accomplish in the course of this exchange. I shall attempt to demonstrate to my "opponent," and the readers as well, that much of the traditional teaching on this subject is based on a very basic, and horribly flawed, theology known as "immortal soulism." I do not believe the Bible teaches such a doctrine, but it has become the very basis for much of the teaching through the centuries on the destiny of the wicked. Thus, I will be focusing early on the need for better understanding with regard to the nature of man himself, in addition to better understanding with regard to the nature of the final punishment of the unredeemed.

I hope to demonstrate that no part of man survives physical death, and thus there is no intermediate holding area. Indeed, there is no need for one. I will demonstrate the hope of the Christian is resurrection, not inherent immortality. If man is not inherently immortal, then for the wicked to be perpetually tortured in the lake of fire God would have to confer immortality upon the wicked for the express purpose of inflicting ceaseless torture. I will demonstrate this is contrary to the nature of our God, and to His dealings with His creation.

I will seek to convey the true nature of final punishment as taught in Godís Word --- it will consist of the wicked being raised, condemned in judgment, and cast into the lake of fire. There they will suffer a horrible process of dying which will result in a death from which there will never be any subsequent resurrection to life. It is the "second death," and it is final. For as long as the redeemed will be alive with the Lord, the wicked will be dead apart from Him. The two destines of mankind are LIFE and DEATH, not LIFE (in bliss) and LIFE (in misery).

I will seek to demonstrate that the traditional teaching pertaining to the destiny of the wicked comes NOT from God Almighty, but from the great deceiver himself. The Truth has been so swallowed up and covered up by deception over the centuries that many actually regard it as heresy. My challenge in the course of this discussion will be to strip away the layers of traditional misunderstanding and reveal the beauty of Godís Truth beneath.

This is a most serious topic of debate, and I am pleased that more and more disciples of Jesus Christ are beginning to seriously challenge what has been handed down to them. Truth has nothing to fear from honest investigation, only darkness flees from the light. Thomas and I will be opening up the LIGHT of Godís Word and shining it upon the otherís teaching. May the only "winner" in this exercise be TRUTH!!!

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