Piper and Annihilationism

Piper and Annihilationism January 20, 2015

Here’s a tweet from John Piper, which I read about on FB on a day when my DMin had a day-long conversation about eternal conscious punishment and annihilationism. We had a spirited conversation @nseminary but there were some who thought annihilation is actually more to be dreaded than ECP.

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Here is a collection of Jewish texts from the 2d Temple period that show that Judaism knew a spectrum: from an annihilationism to eternal conscious punishment. Into this kind of diversity Jesus and the apostles stepped and spoke of judgment. There is support here for both sides of this debate.

5.1      Destruction or Perishing

Tobit 14:6-8: Then all the nations in the world will come back to God. They will worship him as the only true God and give up the idols that led them into false worship. The nations of the world will praise the everlasting God by doing what he demands.

At that time God will save all the people of Israel who have been faithful to him. He will bring them together to Jerusalem, and let them take possession of the land of Abraham, and there they will live securely forever. All who love God with their heart and soul will rejoice, but all sinners and evil people will be wiped off the face of the earth.

1 Macc 2:62-63: Do not fear the words of sinners, for their splendor will turn into dung and worms.  63 Today they will be exalted, but tomorrow they will not be found, because they will have returned to the dust, and their plans will have perished.

Wis. 4:18       The unrighteous will see, and will have contempt for them,

but the Lord will laugh them to scorn.

After this they will become dishonored corpses,

and an outrage among the dead forever;

19       because he will dash them speechless to the ground,

and shake them from the foundations;

they will be left utterly dry and barren,

and they will suffer anguish,

and the memory of them will perish.


Wis. 5:14       Because the hope of the ungodly is like thistledown carried by the wind,

and like a light frost driven away by a storm;

it is dispersed like smoke before the wind,

and it passes like the remembrance of a guest who stays but a day.

15       But the righteous live forever,

and their reward is with the Lord;

the Most High takes care of them.

1QHa 11:35-37:

For God thunders with the roar of His strength and His holy dwelling roars forth in His glorious truth.  36  Then the heavenly hosts shall raise their voice and the everlasting foundations shall melt and quake. The war of the heroes 37  of heaven shall spread over the world and shall not return until an annihilation that has been determined from eternity is completed. Nothing like this has ever occurred.

Sibylline Oracles 4:171-192:

But if you do not obey me, evil-minded ones, but love impiety, and receive all these things with evil ears, there will be fire throughout the whole world, and a very great sign with sword and trumpet at the rising of the sun. The whole world will hear a bellowing noise and mighty sound. He will burn the whole earth, and will destroy the whole race of men and all cities and rivers at once, and the sea. He will destroy everything by fire, and it will be smoking dust.

But when everything is already dusty ashes, and God puts to sleep the unspeakable fire, even as he kindled it, God himself will again fashion the bones and ashes and he will raise up mortals again as they were before. And then there will be a judgment over which God himself will preside, judging the world again. As many as sinned by impiety, these will a mound of earth cover, and broad Tartarus and the repulsive recesses of Gehenna. But as many as are pious, they will live on earth again when God gives spirit and life and favor to these pious ones. Then they will all see themselves beholding the delightful and pleasant light of the sun. Oh most blessed, whatever man will live to that time.

5.2      Earthly judgment (= destruction as well)

Baruch 4:32-35:

32  Wretched will be the cities that your children served as slaves;

wretched will be the city that received your offspring.

33       For just as she rejoiced at your fall

and was glad for your ruin,

so she will be grieved at her own desolation.

34       I will take away her pride in her great population,

and her insolence will be turned to grief.

35       For fire will come upon her from the Everlasting for many days,

and for a long time she will be inhabited by demons.

Just as likely this is a historical judgment.

5.3      ECP

Judith 16:17: Woe to the nations that rise up against my people!

The Lord Almighty will take vengeance on them in the day of judgment;

he will send fire and worms into their flesh;

they shall weep in pain forever.

Fudge sees a substantive change of Isaiah by Judith.

Josephus, Jewish War 2.157 on the Essenes:

Their aim was first to establish the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and secondly to promote virtue and to deter from vice ;   for the good are made better in their lifetime by the hope of a reward after death, and the passions of the wicked are restrained by the fear that, even though they escape detection while alive, they will undergo never-ending punishment after their decease.

Josephus may well be attributing to them his own view since some DSS scholars today think the DSS witness to annihilationism.

1QS 4:11-14:

1QS 4:11  a reviling tongue, blind eyes, deaf ears, stiff neck, and hard heart—to the end of walking in all the ways of darkness and evil cunning. The judgment  12  of all who walk in such ways will be multiple afflictions at the hand of all the angels of perdition, everlasting damnation in the wrath of God’s furious vengeance, never-ending terror and reproach  13  for all eternity, with a shameful extinction in the fire of Hell’s outer darkness. For all their eras, generation by generation, they will know doleful sorrow, bitter evil, and dark happenstance, until  14  their utter destruction with neither remnant nor rescue.

Maybe T. Reuben 5:5; T. Benjamin 10:7, 8.

Jubilees 36:10-11?:

And on the day of turmoil and execration and indignation and wrath, (then) with devouring burning fire just as he burned Sodom so too he will burn up his land and his city and everything which will be his. And he will be wiped out from the book of the discipline of mankind, and he will not be written (on high) in The Book of Life for (he is written) in the one which will be destroyed and pass on to eternal execration so that their judgment will always be renewed with eternal reproach and execration and wrath and torment and indignation and plagues and sickness.

1 Enoch 27

At that moment, I said, “For what purpose does this blessed land, entirely filled with trees, (have) in its midst this accursed valley?” –Then, Uriel, one of the holy angels, who was with me, answered me and said to me, “This accursed valley is for those accursed forever; here will gather together all (those) accursed ones, those who speak with their mouth unbecoming words against the Lord and utter hard words concerning his glory. Here shall they be gathered together, and here shall be their judgment, in the last days. “There will be upon them the spectacle of the righteous judgment, in the presence of the righteous forever.” The merciful will bless the Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, all the day. In the days of the judgment of (the accursed)/ the (merciful) shall bless him for the mercy which he had bestowed upon them.” At that moment, I blessed the Lord of Glory and gave him the praise that befits his glory.

Also 1 Enoch 67:4-13; 2 Enoch 63:4.

4 Maccabees 9:9 (“torment by fire forever”); 10:11 (“torments without end”)

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