Maxey - Thrasher Debate

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

Friday, March 8, 2002

Comments by Al Maxey
on Thomas' Last Post and Hades

I appreciate Thomas' latest effort in our continuing discussion of the nature of man and the eternal destination of the unredeemed. I must admit, however, that there are so many statements made by him in dire need of clarification and correction that I hardly know where to begin. Some will be dealt with more fully as this debate progresses, but I will try to address as many of them as I can in this current contribution to our study.


In my previous post I declared that I agreed with Thomas' conclusion that "death" is a separation. I think the word "separation" aptly depicts the severing of one thing from another. I devoted a large portion of my previous post to discussing the three major types of "death" which directly affect man --- physical, spiritual and eternal. Although there are obvious distinctions among the three, as I sought to display, nevertheless the concept of "separation" is detected in each of them.

Thomas declared he was "puzzled" by my analysis, however. He wrote, "In order to avoid misunderstanding him on such a crucial matter (what 'death' is), I ask him simply: What is 'death'?" He then stated, "I anticipate Al's unequivocal response to the question."

I believe I was very clear and "unequivocal" in my previous analysis of the concept of "death." I not only answered the question, but discussed in some depth my perception of the concept in each of the three major views: physical, spiritual and eternal. In each of these a "separation" has occurred, and in each that separation results in a loss of life in some sense. I think where Thomas has perhaps become "puzzled" by my position is in his apparent failure to perceive that it is the resultant state of such a separation in each of these three views of death that truly defines "death," rather than the mere fact of separation itself. Yes, in each of the three (physical, spiritual and eternal) a separation takes place. But, and this is the real issue, what is the nature of that separation (what exactly is being separated) and what is the resultant state? How does such separation impact the person or persons involved?

I believe Thomas has further failed to perceive the distinction between literal and figurative language in one's analysis of the biblical concept of death. Both are employed, and a failure to perceive this fact can indeed lead to "puzzlement." For example, with regard to the "wanton widow" who was said to be "dead even while she lives" (1 Timothy 5:6), and my comments about this person, Thomas wrote, "Please take note of the admission that one can be 'truly dead' yet 'physically animated!' Therefore, DEATH is not cessation of existence or extinction!" This is a perfect illustration of how my opponent has seemingly failed to distinguish between literal and figurative meanings and applications of the concept of death.

Spiritual death is figurative. Physical death is literal. One can be spiritually "dead" and yet physically "alive" ... at the same time! One can be physically animate, yet completely severed (with regard to relationship) from one's God ... at the same time! "Remember that you were at that time SEPARATE from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and WITHOUT GOD in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). There was a "separation between you and your God" (Isaiah 59:2), and that separation constituted a spiritual "death." Such persons were cut off from LIFE! Not physical life, but the abundant relational life in Him.

I sought to emphasize this point in several ways in my last post. I even quoted from several noted scholarly works that made the same observation and distinction. There is a literal bodily "life," just as there is a literal bodily "death" (when the body becomes inanimate and returns to the dust from which it came). There is also a figurative "life" in relationship with deity, just as there is a figurative "death" (when one is separate from such a relationship with deity). This latter is typically characterized as "spiritual death," the former as "physical death." Thus, there is NO conflict whatsoever in declaring one "dead even while she lives," for two completely different applications of "death" are in view --- one physical, one spiritual.

So, Thomas is partially correct in saying, in this particular case, that death "is not cessation of existence or extinction." In the physical sense, that is correct. The woman is still literally, physically animate. However, with regard to "spiritual death" something HAS ceased to exist. What no longer exists, because of her willful, wanton sin against her God, is a saving relationship with that God. She has been severed from the very Source of Life Himself. She is DEAD with regard to relationship with deity; that relationship NO LONGER EXISTS!!! It was this that the father similarly spoke of in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). Because of the son's willful severing of himself from the home of the father, he was, during that time, considered "dead," but came back to "life" when the relationship was restored (vs. 24, 32). Thus, this "spiritual death" is indeed an extinction of something precious beyond compare, both now and potentially later (i.e., the hope of immortality, an everlasting relationship with the Father in His home).

Another example from Thomas' post which reflects his lack of perception of this point is his comment pertaining to Christ's statement in Matthew 8:22 ("Follow Me; and allow the dead to bury their own dead"). Thomas wrote, "If DEATH is 'cessation of life for the ENTIRE person,' how could a dead person bury anyone?" Once again, Thomas has failed to perceive the distinction between the literal and figurative applications of "death" ... a lack of insight that I find astonishing in one so seemingly astute!

In this passage from Matthew's account Jesus speaks of both concepts (just as Paul did in his first epistle to Timothy). Some were using the physical death of loved ones to hinder them from immediately following Jesus. Our Lord stated that the "dead" (those outside of a relationship with deity ... thus figuratively "dead") should bury the "dead" (those who had physically ceased to live ... thus literally "dead"). The former class of persons was still literally, physically animate, and thus they could easily provide a funeral for that second group which was not.

Yes, Thomas, PHYSICAL death is indeed a separation of the entire person from life (the animation of the physical body). Man is a unified whole, not an immortal being trapped within a mortal one. Thus, when man dies, man is dead ... ALL of him. However, SPIRITUAL death is figurative, and indicates that sin has brought about a separation of a man from his God with respect to intimate relationship. This is a death that does not necessarily render one's physical body DEAD, but which renders one's relationship with God as DEAD. The body can still continue to function while a person lives in open rebellion against his or her God. The consequence of such continued relational separation from God in THIS present existence, however, is a literal forever separation of the person himself from God after judgment. Those who remain "dead to God" in sin throughout their lives here on earth will one day, after the resurrection, stand before God in judgment. They will be sentenced to the "second death," and will be cast into the lake of fire. There they will be destroyed "both body and soul" (Matthew 10:28). It will be a cessation of life not only for the body but also for the very BEING (soul) of the man. In other words, he will, when the destruction is complete, CEASE TO BE. In the destruction of one's BEING, there is cessation of BEING --- as independent persons/souls, they cease to be/exist.

Thomas asked, "Is he denying that he believes 'death' is extinction, annihilation, or cessation of existence?" No, I am not denying that at all. I am affirming it. However, I am also affirming the distinction in Scripture between literal and figurative applications, and the understanding that there are physical, spiritual and eternal concepts of "death," as well as here-and-now applications and also hereafter applications. A failure to distinguish the significant aspects of each will lead one to the false conclusions of my brother in Christ, and will contribute to a state of "puzzlement."

I could point to other clear examples where Thomas has failed to note this distinction (such as Ephesians 2:1-2 where he wondered, "how could they 'walk' while they were 'dead'...?" Once again, they were "dead," by reason of their sin, to a relationship with the Lord, but still physically animate and thus capable of mobility; again, both literal and figurative applications of "death" are in view) but I shall let these few examples suffice. Hopefully, my opponent's puzzlement is now somewhat lessened.


In seeking to establish his view of "death," Thomas quoted several passages of Scripture as possible validation for the correctness of his interpretation. I would like to examine those passages more closely in an effort to determine if these things are so (Acts 17:11).

With regard to physical death I had made the statement, "Death, therefore, is a cessation of life for the entire person, not just a part of him." To this Thomas responded, "Again, is that 'death' a complete separation from EXISTENCE? Does 'that person' still exist after death? Al evidently says, 'No.' The Bible says, 'Yes.'" In an effort to support this assertion, Thomas gave several Scriptures. The first was Acts 2:27, 31. These two verses are a quotation by Peter, during his "sermon" on the day of Pentecost, of Psalm 16:10 (which was written by David). It is a prophecy of the Messiah, and declares, "Thou wilt not abandon My soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay." Verse 31 interprets for us: "...he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay."

We will examine more closely the significance of "Hades" later in this post, but merely note at this point that the promise is simply that the Messiah will not be LEFT there, nor will He undergo decomposition. Thomas sees some kind of "existence" after physical death here in this passage, and would suggest to you that it is the soul that is ALIVE in some Hadean realm, while the body lies DEAD. Thus, for Thomas, the state of death (if defined as "loss of life") only applies to the physical body (which he would declare mortal) and not to the soul (which he would declare immortal, and thus incapable of ever truly forfeiting life itself).

What Thomas has failed to perceive, however, is the Jewish concept of the nature of man. It was not dualism, as with the Greeks and other pagans, but a much more holistic, unified approach. As we shall see later in this debate, when we examine "body, soul and spirit," the Jews viewed man much differently than many, Thomas included, do today. In commenting on this very passage, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia observed, "For the Hebrews a person was a unity, not to be divided into body, soul, and spirit as the Greeks did" (Volume 2, page 592). The word "nephesh," which is used in Psalm 16:10, and which is sometimes translated "soul," " often used for a person and as a substitute for the personal pronoun" (ibid). Even the Greek "psuche," which Peter used to translate "nephesh," "...also can mean the whole person" (ibid). The ISBE further declares that the parallelism used in this poetic presentation "suggests that the whole person is referred to," and that "this is especially clear in Hebrew" (ibid). "Thus Acts 2:27, 31 offer little help in understanding the afterlife" (ibid).

The point of this prophecy is that death could not hold Him. He would ARISE from the dead; He would not undergo decay in the grave. The concepts of conscious "soul existence" and an afterlife in some Hadean holding place have to be read into this passage, they cannot logically be drawn from it.


Thomas gave two other passages in addition to the above reference to Peter's quote of David's sixteenth psalm --- Luke 16:22-23 (an excerpt from the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus) and Luke 23:43 (a comment made by Jesus on the cross to the dying thief next to Him). Both of these are very significant passages, and considered by some to be the "crown jewels" in the Traditionalist theory. I consider both of these to be important enough to warrant independent in-depth examination, and will devote the necessary time to both in a future post to this debate.

Before delving deeply into them, however, I am convinced we need to examine more fully the nature of man himself, and I respectfully suggest to Thomas that our next posts address the matter of "body, soul and spirit." In short, what IS the biblical teaching with respect to the nature of man? Our interpretations in various other areas, some of which we have already addressed somewhat, will be affected greatly by our understanding, or lack thereof, with regard to the nature of man. Thus, I would personally prefer, and think it only logical, to address this foundational doctrine before we get too deeply into the particulars of some so-called "Intermediate State," or into what befalls the unredeemed after judgment. If man is wholly mortal, with no part of him surviving physical death, as I believe the Scriptures teach, then the question of an "Intermediate State" between physical death and resurrection becomes moot!! Before debating the details of such a realm, therefore, one would be advised to determine if there is some part of man in NEED of it.

Thomas declares, "With respect to the first part of his statement (that I embrace a dualistic view of the nature of man), it seems to me that the Bible is very clear on this truth." My opponent cites several Scriptures and then writes, "I invite our readers to study the Bible passages cited above." Again, I think this is great advice, and I once more respectfully suggest we devote our next posts to examining the nature of man from a biblical perspective. Man is said to consist of "body, soul and spirit." I think we both would agree on that. But, what does that mean? I will offer what I believe the Scriptures teach on this in my next post, and encourage Thomas to do the same. Our positions on other major doctrines during the remainder of this debate will rest upon the foundation of our understanding of this most basic question: What is man?

Even our debate over the nature of "death" is really based on our differing views of the nature of man. If one believes man is inherently immortal, then cessation of existence is not even remotely possible to this way of thinking. Thus, the nature of final punishment, according to this theory, must consist of everlasting, never-ending, conscious punishment of some kind. Death can never be considered a termination of life by such theorists, but rather a preservation and continuation of it. However, if man by nature is wholly mortal, then immortality becomes a GIFT bestowed by a gracious life-Giver (as Scripture teaches), and not something inherently ours which can never be taken from us!

Virtually every aspect of our future discussion hinges on our view of this one issue. It is perhaps the most vital matter to discuss early on in this debate. Understanding how Thomas and I believe on this will better help the reader appreciate our respective theologies with regard to the nature of final punishment. They are inseparably linked.


I had previously spoken of the qualitative and quantitative significance and application of this Greek term. Thomas calls this into question: "Al, what Bible verse have you given that PROVES the 'qualitative' aspect?" My opponent apparently thinks that this term only conveys the concept of "enduring without end." However, "aionios" does indeed refer to things that have a termination point in view. One such passage, just by way of example, is Jude 7 --- Sodom & Gomorrah underwent "the punishment of ETERNAL fire."

In what sense was this fire "eternal?" Is it still burning? Of course not. It is "eternal" in the qualitative sense that it depicts a fire which had its origin in the realm of the Eternal One, rather than a natural fire with its origin on earth (a temporal fire). "Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire FROM THE LORD OUT OF HEAVEN" (Genesis 19:24). The fire itself lasted only for a few hours. When Abraham rose early the next morning and looked toward these cities, all he saw was smoke ascending (vs. 28). God had DESTROYED the cities. The fire had done its work and was no longer needed. It was ETERNAL fire in the sense that it came from GOD, and was sent from OUT OF HEAVEN, but it clearly went out. This is the "qualitative" sense of the word. The RESULT of this fire, however, is certainly "forever" --- those cities were destroyed so thoroughly that their exact location is still a matter of speculation. They have CEASED TO EXIST. We are told they "are exhibited as an example" (Jude 7) " those who would live ungodly thereafter" (2 Peter 2:6). God reduced them to ashes, just as the wicked will be reduced to ashes in the final fire "on the day which I am preparing," declares our God (Malachi 4:1-3). The example of Sodom and Gomorrah, and their experience with the "eternal" fire, is an example of what the wicked can expect at the final outpouring of God's wrath upon the unredeemed. "But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for FIRE, kept for the day of judgment and DESTRUCTION OF UNGODLY MEN" (2 Peter 3:7).

Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, a world-renowned professor of theology from Andrews University, points out this dual significance of "aionios" in the following statement: "The punishment of the wicked is eternal both in QUALITY and QUANTITY. It is 'eternal' in QUALITY because it belongs to the Age to Come. It is 'eternal' in QUANTITY because its results will never end" (Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, page 208).

At the risk of again being accused of deriving my theology from Edward Fudge, I would simply share the following quote from his chapter on the nature of this Greek adjective: "The traditionalist writers who deny any qualitative sense in 'aionios' have overreacted" (The Fire That Consumes, page 49). He also states, "Those nontraditionalist writers who deny any temporal sense in 'aionios' have also overreacted. They have not needed to deny the unendingness of the 'eternal' in order to hold to its otherness" (ibid). I think this states the problem well. The significance of "aionios" is not an "either - or" proposition. It is BOTH qualitative and quantitative. Those who persist in the premise that it can ONLY be one or the other show lack of understanding of this term.

"Such reasoning fails to recognize that what determines the meaning of 'eternal' is the object being qualified. ... Ancient Greek papyri contain numerous examples of Roman emperors being described as 'aionios.' What is meant is that they held their office for life. Unfortunately, the English words 'eternal' or 'everlasting' do not accurately render the meaning of 'aionios,' which literally means 'age-lasting.' In other words, while the Greek 'aionios' expresses perpetuity WITHIN LIMITS, the English 'eternal' or 'everlasting' denotes unlimited duration" (Dr. Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, page 208).

More will be said about this Greek adjective, and that which it describes, when we get further into this debate on the nature of final punishment. We will need to determine in what sense that ultimate punishment is "eternal" -- is it qualitative, quantitative, or aspects of both?


Once again I appreciate Thomas providing a list for us, in this case the occurrences of the Greek word "Hades" in the New Covenant documents. He gave eleven references, although one of them (1 Corinthians 15:55) is contested. "The word Hades is used only ten times in the NT -- eleven times if one includes 1 Cor. 15:55, which had the word Hades in the tr. but which prob. should be 'thanate' (death), as in the more reliable MSS" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 7). It is interesting to note, however, that the KJV, which accepts the less reliable use of "Hades" in the Corinthian passage (although this word is never used elsewhere by Paul), translates it "grave" in that passage. Unfortunately, the KJV translates this word "Hell" in the other ten references (a most regrettable rendering, and one that has contributed to much theological confusion. For example, one is left wondering how "hell" can be cast into the "lake of fire" -- Revelation 20:14). I was pleased to see that when Thomas quoted the eleven passages he provided us, he wisely chose to quote from the NKJV rather than the corrupt KJV. I assume, therefore, he also has perceived the problem with that pitiful rendering of the word "Hades." It should additionally be noted that the KJV further confuses the issue by using the word "hell" to translate other key biblical words (Sheol, Gehenna, Tartarus), each of which have significantly different meanings and applications.

As to the etymology of "Hades," most scholars recognize that it is at best uncertain. It is thought to perhaps come from the negation of a word meaning, "to see, perceive" (Greek: "a" + "idein"), thus implying, "that which is unseen or beyond human perception." It has its popular roots in paganism, and, according to Homer, was the name both of the "underworld" and the god of that realm (also known as Pluto). "Hades is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, it being the translation for Sheol in the LXX sixty-one times (in every instance except in 2 Samuel 22:6)" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 7).

"The Greek word 'hades' came into biblical use when the translators of the Septuagint chose it to render the Hebrew 'sheol.' The problem is that hades was used in the Greek world in a vastly different way than sheol. ... Hades in Greek mythology is the underworld, where the conscious souls of the dead are divided in two major regions, one a place of torment and the other of blessedness. ... This Greek conception of hades influenced Hellenistic Jews, during the intertestamental period, to adopt the belief in the immortality of the soul and the idea of a spatial separation in the underworld between the righteous and the godless" (Dr. Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 170).

"The literature of the intertestamental period reflects the growth of the idea of the division of Hades into separate compartments for the godly and the ungodly. This aspect of eschatology was a popular subject in the apocalyptic literature that flourished in this period. Notable is the pseudepigraphical Enoch (written c. 200 B.C.), which includes the description of a tour supposedly taken by Enoch into the center of the earth. ... In another passage in Enoch, he sees at the center of the earth two places -- Paradise, the place of bliss, and the valley of Gehinnom, the place of punishment. The above illustrates that there was a general notion of compartments in Hades that developed in the intertestamental period" (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 7).

"In the intertestamental period the idea of the afterlife underwent some development. In Jewish apocalyptic literature Hades was an intermediate place (1 Enoch 51:1) where all the souls of the dead awaited judgment (22:3f). The dead were separated into compartments, the righteous staying in an apparently pleasant place (vs. 9) and various classes of sinners undergoing punishments in other compartments (vv. 10-13)" (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 591).

"Under the influence of Persian and Hellenistic ideas concerning retribution after death the belief arose that the righteous and the godless would have very different fates, and we thus have the development of the idea of spatial separation in the underworld, the first instance being found in Enoch" (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 1, p. 147). "Nowhere in the Old Testament is the abode of the dead regarded as a place of punishment or torment. The concept of an infernal 'hell' developed in Israel only during the Hellenistic period" (The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 788).

Most scholars freely admit that the compartmental concept of Hades popular during the time of Christ was a development of the so-called "intertestamental period," and was largely influenced by pagan notions. The basic OT concept promoted in "Sheol" was simply "the grave." In fact, the KJV translates "Sheol" with the word "grave" in 31 of its 65 occurrences in the OT writings (it renders it "pit" 3 times, and unfortunately calls it "hell" in the remaining 31).

"These interpretations of 'sheol' as the dwelling place of souls (rather than the resting place of the body in the grave) or the place of punishment for the wicked, known as hell, do not stand up under the light of the Biblical usage of 'sheol'" (Dr. Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 158). In his classic study, Johannes Pedersen writes, "Sheol is the entirety into which all graves are merged; ... where there is grave, there is sheol, and where there is sheol, there is grave" (Israel: Its Life and Culture, Vol. 1, p. 462). "Any attempt to turn sheol into the place of torment of the wicked or into the abode of spirits/souls clearly contradicts the Biblical characterization of sheol as the underground depository of the dead" (Dr. Bacchiocchi, Immortality or Resurrection? -- A Biblical Study on Human Nature and Destiny, p. 161).

The late editor of Gospel Minutes, brother Dillard Thurman, devoted an entire issue of his publication (Vol. 34, No. 5, Feb. 1, 1985) to the false notion of the "Intermediate State of the Dead." A person had asked him to set forth the views of the "churches of Christ" with respect to what occurs after death. Dillard wrote, "I can only state what I have found in over half a century of studying God's Word, and THAT MAY NOT BE WHAT HE EXPECTED TO RECEIVE!" (emphasis mine). Brother Thurman stated, "I have heard funeral orations extol the happiness and bliss the departed has instantly with death: but on checking the New Testament assiduously, I have yet to find a single promise where the dead go into heaven on an instant pass, or have immediate conscious happiness!" He pointed out that man "is mortal," and thus is simply going to die and return to the dust. The hope of the Christian is the resurrection, not some false doctrine of "immortal soulism." Dillard reflected, "The hope and aspiration of many has been shifted from His coming again to receive His own, to an immediate immortality and heavenly bliss immediately at death! Jesus DID NOT (emphasis his) promise that!"

William Tyndale (1484-1536), an English Bible translator and martyr, wrote, "And ye, in putting them (the departed souls) in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection." Tyndale argued that if souls were already in either bliss or misery, "then what cause is there of the resurrection?" And what cause is there even of judgment? In another part of this same writing, Tyndale said -- "The true faith putteth forth the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put that the soul did ever live. And the Pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshly doctrine of philosophers together; things so contrary that they cannot agree. And because the fleshly-minded Pope consenteth unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupteth the Scripture to stablish it. If the soul be in heaven, tell me what cause is there for the resurrection?"

Justyn Martyr, who wrote around 150 AD, stated -- "If you meet some who say that their souls go to Heaven when they die, do not believe that they are Christians!" (Dialogue With Trypho). Martin Luther wrote in his Table Talk -- "Now if one should say that Abraham's soul lives with God but his body is dead, this distinction is rubbish. I will attack it. That would be a silly soul if it were in heaven and desired its body!!" In his Defense, Luther declared that it was the Pope, not the Bible, who taught, "the soul is immortal." In his exposition of Ecclesiastes he wrote, "Solomon judgeth that the dead are asleep and feel nothing at all. For the dead lie there counting neither days nor years, but when they are awaked they shall seem to have slept scarce one minute."

John Milton (1608-1674), once called the "greatest of the sacred poets," declared, "Inasmuch as the whole man is uniformly said to consist of body and soul ... I will show that in death, first, the whole man, and secondly each component part, suffers privation of life ... the grave is the common guardian of all till the day of judgment."

In short, I must simply reject, as countless giants of faith before me have rejected, the apparent view of my opponent that "Hades" is some intermediate holding place for disembodied immortal beings. Such a pagan notion is simply NOT the teaching of Scripture. The terms "Hades" and "Sheol" merely denote the GRAVE. The dead "descend into the earth" (the grave), dust returning to dust. "For there is no activity or planning or wisdom in Sheol where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). "There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked ... There is one fate for all men ... They go to the dead ... The dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward" (Ecclesiastes 9:2-5). When we die we are DEAD. The whole man, not just the physical part of him, while some immortal spirit being trapped within him flies off to even greater life than before.

Once again, the many and varied issues we will be discussing in the course of this debate all hinge upon our understanding of the nature of man. Is man inherently immortal or is his immortality conditional and derived? It is really rather futile to attempt a rational discussion of the other issues until we have each presented our view on this one matter. Thus, again, I respectfully urge Thomas (after addressing whatever statements I have made in this post that he feels compelled to comment upon) to present his understanding from God's Word of the nature of man (body, soul and spirit). In my next post I shall do the same. We can then continue on to the other major matters pertaining to our debate.

The fact that we desperately need to examine the nature of man is seen in some of Thomas' comments. For example, he declared that the "soul" of Jesus would "re-enter His body when it was raised." He further observed, "Jesus' body was buried, but His soul went to Hades. He didn't 'cease to exist' when He died. Al, do you believe that Jesus' death upon the cross was the 'cessation of life for the ENTIRE PERSON, not just a part of him'???" With regard to Abraham, Thomas believes, "he still existed although he had 'died' centuries earlier." And he also wrote: "When Jesus and this former criminal died on their crosses, their souls/spirits continued to exist in Hades (more specifically in the Paradise portion of Hades)."

All of these statements reflect a theological confusion resulting from a fallacious concept of the nature of man. One can also clearly see the associating of misconceptions of a so-called intermediate state that arose from pagan influences in the centuries prior to Christ. In later posts I will deal in some depth with the concepts of Paradise and its biblical significance, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and the comment of Christ to the thief on the cross. These must logically and necessarily be deferred until after our presentation of our respective views on the nature of man himself.


Later in this debate, based upon Thomas' apparent views pertaining to the atoning death of Christ Jesus, I must pose to him a most significant question, one with which discerning disciples have been challenging the Traditionalists for centuries: If his view of the nature of final punishment is valid, did Jesus actually provide a true "substitutionary" death for mankind at the cross? In other words, in the lyrics of a well-known hymn we frequently sing, did Jesus truly "pay it all?" Was the ultimate "wage" of sin "paid in full" by Jesus on behalf of the redeemed who accept that gift of His sacrifice, or will wicked men, who do not accept that gift of life in Him, pay a greater price after the judgment? If the wages of sin for the unredeemed is everlasting separation from God, with accompanying perpetual torture, did Jesus pay that price?

This is an extremely important question that I will raise later in this debate (and which I am not asking Thomas to address at this time). I merely raise it here for the purpose of provoking greater thought in the minds of our readers (and perhaps in Thomas, as well). This whole question, by the way, is given extensive treatment in the book What The Bible Teaches About Immortality and Future Punishment by Curtis Dickinson (a longtime minister in the "churches of Christ" and a personal acquaintance). It is also suggested in Leroy Edwin Froom's massive two volume (2000 pages) classic work The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers: The Conflict of the Ages Over the Nature and Destiny of Man (perhaps one of the most thorough and in-depth biblical examinations of this topic in existence).

Thomas closed his post with this comment: "I urge our readers to accept what the word of God teaches, not what any man's opinion may be." To this I merely add a hearty AMEN! I would also echo the words of my brother-in-Christ Edward Fudge, who concluded his book with this challenge:

I appreciate the many private emails from the readers of this debate, and the kind remarks extended to both Thomas and me. May God richly bless each one who is following this vital study. As before, I shall continue to seek to respond in a timely fashion to brother Thrasher's posts, as I know many, even in other nations, are eagerly following this debate. Thus, it is only fair to them to keep our study moving along. I personally remain committed to that goal.

I eagerly await my brother's next effort to reconcile his views with the biblical record.

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