DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Intro and purpose. What death is not equal to.
- Death is not separation from God
- Death is not separation from the life of God
- There’s no such thing as “spiritual death”
- Death is not separation of soul from the body
- Death is not separation – summary
- Physical death is not annihilation
- Divine bio-engineering. How Jesus Christ solves the problem of death of fleshly bodies
- Death according to the Bible: lack of life, loss of life
The “physical death is equivalent to annihilation” viewpoint is held only by a minority of Bible-believing followers of Jesus, we still need to address it. The Scriptures speak of two deaths: of first death (physical) and, in the book of Revelation, of second death. Physical death is what all of us are unfortunately familiar with, and I will address this first.
If physical death was the same as annihilation, then none of the people who died could be resurrected. Nihilo in Latin means “nothing”. Logically speaking, you can’t re-surrect something from nothing. You can’t even re-create something from nothing, since all these verbs prefixed with “re-” imply re-storing something from a diminished condition to a greater condition. Annihilation would mean that the subject can’t be found to exist in any sort of condition, in either physical or any kind of metaphysical realms, period. So no resurrection is possible with this viewpoint (Atheists default to this view, by definition). Without the resurrection of the dead, the whole of Christianity is a moot point, as apostle Paul stated in 1 Cor 15:12-19. That’s as simple of a proof as it gets.
That logic, however, won’t apply to the second death. C.S. Lewis summed up this predicament quite well in his book “Problem of Pain”:
Whether this eternal fixity implies endless duration – or duration at all – we cannot say.
There have been small wars fought over what the latter means exactly, and those wars were fought with a lot of hostility and acrimony. For those claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, that will simply not do.
That goes for both sides of the debate. My personal impression is that too many of those fights are nothing more than theological bullying and shaming. Many expositions are based not so much on Biblical faithfulness or logic, but rather on protecting the egos vested into certain interpretations. Logical fallacies abound in this area of theological inquiry perhaps more than anywhere else: appeal to human authority / tradition (traditional views), appeals to emotions (non-traditional views), appeal to consequences (both sides), slippery slope (traditional view), “no true Scotsman” (traditional view), appeal to novelty (non-traditional views), and some rather strange appeals to infinity (traditional view). By the way, appealing to infinity is committing a clear category error, which is a type of logical fallacy. Perfection, not infinity, is in question here. I am quite surprised that no major theologian (that I know of) has seriously caught on to this one.
To be sure, differing interpretations of this issue will have potential domino effects on major elements of one’s belief system. They will also require examining a lot more material than can practically be done in one sitting. So for now I’ll simply leave this question open for scripturally-based, amicable, and collegial discussion.