The whole Bible is Oriental. Every line breathes the spirit of the East, with its hyperboles and metaphors, and what to us seem utter exaggerations. If such language be taken literally, its whole meaning is lost. When the sacred writers want to describe the dusky redness of a lunar eclipse, they say the moon is “turned into blood.” He who perverts Scripture is not the man who reduces this sacred poetry to its true meaning. Nay, that man perverts the Bible who hardens into dogmas the glowing metaphors of Eastern poetry—such conduct LANGE calls “a moral scandal.” So with our Lord’s words. Am I to hate my father and mother or pluck out my right eye literally? Or take a case by Farrar. Egypt is said to have been an iron furnace to the Jews (De. 4:20; Jer. 11:4), and yet they said, “it was well with us there,” and sighed for its enjoyments (Nu. 11:18). Therefore I maintain that no doctrine of endless pain can be based on Eastern imagery, on metaphors mistranslated very often, and always misinterpreted.16
Likewise, Barclay wrote, “It was the eastern custom to use language in the most vivid possible way. Eastern language is always as vivid as the human mind can make it.”17 Though men will weep and even gnash their teeth, they will not do so forever. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). “[I] ...will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol.” (Ps. 16:9-10).
Most Christians think death and destruction, whether of unbelievers or unfaithful believers, refer to an eternal hell of suffering or to a state of annihilation. Thus, they are understood to be a permanent state. I think if we closely compare Scripture with Scripture, line upon line, we will see this falls short of what God is really all about. Even in death and destruction, He will not be defeated. His promises to restore all (Ac. 3:21; 2Co. 5:19; Ep. 1:10; Col. 1:19-21) will come to pass in their appointed times (Ep. 1:9-11; 1Ti. 2:6). In his An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words regarding apollumi, W. E. Vine stated, “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well being….”18
Andrew Jukes, graduate of Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge and pastor of St. John’s Church, was a well-respected Christian author in 19th century England. Also the author of The Law of the Offerings, Four Views of Christ, Types in Genesis, The Names of God, and the Restitution of all Things, he wrote:
Death for man is simply an end to, or separation from, some given form of life which he has lived in… We must… by Christ die to this dark spirit-world, to return to live in God’s light-world... [It] is a ceasing from some particular form of life which has been lived in by man, yet it is never non-existence absolutely; rather the means to bring the fallen creature into a new life, a chaos being ever the necessary condition for a new creation.19
Here are a few passages for you to think about:
Please take a moment to reflect on what we have just read. Adam dies on the same day he sins, yet lives 900 more years. Israel and Jerusalem perish. The blameless are destroyed. “The way of life is
and must be through
be otherwise.” 24 The righteous perish. Wineskins are marred. The dead are alive to God. Death produces grain and frees from sin. Death cannot separate from God’s love. What is sown is not made alive unless it dies.
Utter or permanent annihilation cannot be the true meaning of death and destruction in any of these cases. Destruction is the prerequisite for subsequent change. Is this not what the cross is all about in the life of the believer? He kills and makes alive. He destroys to make new.
Andrew Jukes wrote:
The meaning of Christ’s cross is not understood, but rather perverted and therefore death is shrunk from. It is not welcomed as God’s appointed means to deliver us from him that has the power of death.…Christians misunderstand destruction and judgment are the only way for fallen creatures to be delivered from their bondage, and brought back to God’s life in His kingdom. This is a point of all importance. It lies at the very root of the cross of Christ and of His members. It is the clue to all His judgments, who “kills and makes alive,” who “brings down to the grave and brings up” (1Sa. 2:6; Dt. 32:39). The way of life is and must be through death…and cannot be otherwise.24
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been called to carry our cross, to die (Mk. 8:34; Jn. 12:24-25). Unless we do, we will not have His life abiding in us (Jn. 15:4-5). We are to partake of the divine nature (2Pe. 1:3-12). What does this mean except that we are to die? Our salvation is not brought to perfection until we have died to sin and live to righteousness (Ro. 6). Death is not optional. Only in dying to our self-will do we truly live and bear fruit to God (Jn. 12:24). Scripture frequently alludes to this purpose in salvation (Ro. 6:3; 8:13; 12:1, 2; 2Co. 4:11, 16; 5:15; Ga. 2:20; Ph. 3:10; 2Ti. 2:11; He. 5:7- 9; 1Pe. 2:21, 24; 1Jn. 3:16).
Often in Scripture, two statements are made side by side that together shed greater light on a given theme. Consider 1Co. 1:19; Ro. 2:12; 14:15, 20-21. “I will destroy [apollumi] the wisdom of the wise; I will bring to nothing [“set aside”—NAS] the understanding of the prudent” (1Co. 1:19).
Here apollumi is used in the same sense as “set aside” or “bring to nothing.” “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish [apollumi] without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law” (Ro. 2:12). Scripture is clear that all are judged including unbelievers who have sinned without law (Re. 20:12-13). Thus, to “perish” here cannot be utter annihilation, for judgment must follow. Consider also Ro. 14:15: “If your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy [apollumi] with your food the one for whom Christ died” (Ro. 14:15). Do you think apollumi here means we can cancel out another’s eternal redemption paid by Christ by our diet? Or consider 1Co. 8:11 where Paul asks, “because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish [apollumi] for whom Christ died?” Can we really annihilate others for whom Christ died by our knowledge?
Note how Paul defines apollumi by his comments regarding his use of it in Ro. 14:15. “Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food” (Ro. 14:20 NAS). “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak” (Ro. 14:21). He contrasts apollumi (v. 15) with “tear down,” “stumble,” “offend,” and “make weak” (v.20-21).
In all the above, whatever is meant by death and destruction, it cannot be unending torment or utter annihilation. Could Jukes be right in saying death for man is an end or separation from some given form of life in which he has lived? What did our Lord mean when He said in order to save our life, we must lose apollumi it? Is this not to end living a self-centered life and instead to live for God—to stop being ruled by sin, but instead by righteousness?
Did you realize the very ones Christ came to save are the “destroyed” ones? “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost [apollumi]” (Lu. 19:10). Apollumi is the very condition qualifying us for salvation. Are the apollumi the annihilated ones or those not yet found? At what point does apollumi become so permanent it exceeds God’s power and will to save? What justifies us to put limits on Him who is able to turn stones into worshippers (Lu. 3:8)?