Maxey - Thrasher Debate

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

Monday, February 4, 2002

Thomas Thrasher's
Early Remarks & Questions

First, I wish to thank Al for the gentlemanly tone of his "Introductory Remarks." I will make every effort to see that this approach continues throughout our discussion. My fervent desire is that our readers will be able to see that religious debates can be conducted with courtesy and kindness, even as the participants strive to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). As someone once said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable."

Furthermore, I agree with Al that "we both have much to learn as we seek to comprehend the mind and will of the Infinite One." No claim is being made that I already know 100% of what there is to know on this subject (or any subject for that matter). During the course of this discussion, if Al can demonstrate conclusively that I have taken an erroneous position on any point or passage, I will not hesitate to admit my mistake. We do not need to cling to false arguments in order to uphold the truth. On the other hand, just because a person may make a weak or faulty argument, or misunderstand the teaching of a particular passage of scripture, does not mean that his position is necessarily wrong. Therefore, as I have done in the past on several matters, I am quite willing to change my view of a Bible passage if I am convinced that I had misunderstood it, and I will also relinquish any argument if I am convinced it was an unsound one (cf. Apollos, Acts 18:24-28).

Al apologized "for including the word 'eternal' in the subject," since it was not actually in our agreement. However, I do not object to the insertion of this word, since (as he remarked) it clarifies "the distinction between temporal judgments upon the wicked in this life, and the ultimate destiny of the unredeemed (an eternal judgment)..." The punishment that comes upon the wicked during this life is not our issue. Both of us recognize that such punishment/suffering occurs (cf. Proverbs 11:21; 19:5; 24:16; 1 Peter 4:15).

Al states, "... the ultimate destiny of the unredeemed (an eternal judgment) ... will certainly transcend anything experienced in this life." Al, please tell us exactly what "the ultimate destiny of the unredeemed" is! Clarifying this now will help to focus upon the issue.

"For many years," Al says, "I embraced the same position on the destiny of the wicked that is currently held by Thomas." He proceeds to describe his "conversion" to the position he now holds after reading The Fire That Consumes by Edward Fudge. I would observe that although a person can be "converted" to truth (Acts 3:19; James 5:19-20), he can also be "converted" to error (Galatians 1:6; 3:1; 5:4; 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 2 Peter 2:20-22). Tragically, many Christians (and even some gospel preachers) have left the faith. A few years ago, I debated Farrell Till (an atheist and the editor of The Skeptical Review) who had been for many years a preacher of the gospel. Therefore, the fact that Al changed from "the same position ... currently held by Thomas" to "basically" the position held by Edward Fudge proves nothing about what the truth is on this topic!

With reference to his former view of the eternal destiny of the wicked, Al explains, "I blindly accepted it and set about proclaiming it." I have no reason to deny Al's account of his early preaching. However, my approach to preaching was (and still is) radically different. I did not "proclaim" things I had "blindly accepted." Rather, I preached what I had studied in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:2; 3:16 - 4:2; 1 Corinthians 2:13). My procedure in preparing lessons was (and still is) to "search the Scriptures" to find out what is so (Acts 17:11).

Concerning the view he now holds, Al states: "... 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 [Fudge] was basically right in his conclusions." After Ed's The Fire That Consumes was published in 1982, my wife purchased a copy for me as a gift. After reading the book and studying Ed's arguments, I found his argumentation to be unconvincing for a number of reasons. However, since Al says Ed's views were "basically right," perhaps he will explain to us how Ed's views were wrong (and, consequently, how Al's view is different from Ed's)!

Al asserts that "the word we translate 'eternal' in the pages of the NT writings can have both a qualitative and quantitative meaning and application." This assertion will be one of the points of discussion. We already agree that eternal "denotes time without end, endlessness, forever and ever." However, Al says, "... 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." Taking him up on this offer, I ask him to prove the "qualitative" use of "eternal" in passages addressing the "eternal destiny of the wicked"-- the issue in this discussion. The reader will find the word translated "eternal" or "everlasting" used in the following passages:

In my "Introductory Article," I suggested five points regarding "the destiny of the wicked," and called upon Al to comment. He was kind enough to do so, acknowledging that "each of his [Thomas'] five points pertain to the destiny of the wicked." He then comments on each point individually.

#1 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to die physically, unless living at Christ's return. This is also true of the righteous." Al agrees completely. He recognizes the exception of those "living at Christ's return" to the principle stated in Hebrews 9:27. In addition to these, he mentions the cases of Enoch and Elijah. For completeness on this point, I also mention the exception of those (such as Lazarus of Bethany) who were raised from the dead in the Bible. These did not die "once"; they died "twice" physically. I think Al will agree on this as well. Consequently, I see no need for further discussion of point #1.

#2 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to enter Hades, unless living at Christ's return. This is also true of the righteous. However, the righteous and wicked are in separate parts of Hades." Al's comments clearly indicate the need for future discussion about "Hades." Among the passages I will introduce for study are Matthew 16:18; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14.

#3 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to be raised from the dead, unless living at Christ's return. This is also true of the righteous." Al agrees with the statement; however, he disagrees with the idea of "souls placed back in bodies." Therefore, we will need to consider the nature of the resurrection.

#4 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to be judged. This is also true of the righteous." Al says, "I agree with this." Then he asks, "Would not Thomas regard this as a second judgment ...?" In view of the context of his question, my answer is "no" (to be explained when we discuss Hades).

#5 -- "The destiny of the wicked is to go into everlasting punishment. This is not true of the righteous." Al agrees completely; however, he points out that we "have vastly different perspectives of what constitutes this 'punishment' upon the wicked." Since Al "basically" agrees with Ed Fudge, I conclude that he does have a "different perspective" that we will need to explore as the discussion progresses. Some of the verses for future consideration are the following:

Al lists four things he seeks to accomplish during our exchange. I have summarized them as follows:

  1. Focus "on the need for better understanding with regard to the nature of man ... [and] of the final punishment of the unredeemed." I seek to accomplish this, too.

  2. Demonstrate "that no part of man survives physical death, and thus there is no intermediate holding area." These will be points of dispute.

  3. "Convey the true nature of final punishment." I will also pursue this objective.

  4. "Demonstrate that the traditional teaching pertaining to the destiny of the wicked comes ... from the great deceiver himself." Naturally, I think Al will attempt to demonstrate this, but he will fail miserably!

I agree that these four items need to be incorporated into this debate. Therefore, at this early stage of the process, we appear to have mutually agreed upon the ground to be covered.

In his closing paragraph, Al comments, "I am pleased that more and more disciples of Jesus Christ are beginning to seriously challenge what has been handed down to them." Of course, he is referring to the topic of this debate. However, "more and more disciples" are also "beginning to seriously challenge" other God-given "traditions" (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 11:2), including, but not limited to:

The fact that some brethren are accepting error in such matters fulfills the Spirit's declaration that "some will depart from the faith" (1 Timothy 4:1).

"Truth has nothing to fear from honest investigation." I totally agree! Truth, and only truth, will make us free (John 8:32).

Al concludes, "May the only 'winner' in this exercise be TRUTH!!!" To which I respond, "Amen!" And, as a result, may all who learn, accept, and proclaim that truth share in that magnificent victory!

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