Please note that, as a ministry, Got Questions Ministries and its affiliated websites (including CompellingTruth.org) rejects conditional immortality / conditionalism / annihilationism. We believe that hell will be eternal conscious punishment for all who die without faith in Jesus Christ. However, we believe that conditional immortality is a valid viewpoint that a Christian can hold. In no sense is conditional immortality heresy and in no sense should conditionalists be shunned as not being brothers and sisters in Christ. We thought it worthwhile to have an article that positively presents conditional immortality, as it is beneficial for our viewpoints to be challenged, motivating us to further search the Scriptures to make sure our beliefs are biblically sound.
Conditional immortality – What is it?
Also known as conditionalism, conditional immortality states that those who do not know Jesus as Savior will not live eternally. Only believers will live eternally, in heaven. Others, who reject Jesus, will die on earth, then die again forever. Some label this belief as annihilationism.
The more traditional Christian belief is that unbelievers will live eternally in hell, separated from God forever and enduring eternal torment.
Conditionalists believe that the fall caused human mortality and that immortality is only given by God's granting of it through salvation. After Adam and Eve sinned, God removed them from the garden of Eden and out of reach of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22–23). In Revelation 22, inhabitants of New Jerusalem are given access to the tree of life once again (vs 2). Only believers, then, are given access to the tree of life. Conditionalists understand this as meaning that only believers will be immortal.
Conditionalists do believe that the unsaved dead will be resurrected, but they will be raised to judgement, not to life. "For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:26–29). Immortality and new life eternal are for those covered by the blood of Jesus (Luke 20:35–36). They will inherit the kingdom of God and will be immortal (1 Corinthians 15:50–53).
Most Christians see Jesus' death on the cross as a substitution for the punishment we each deserve for our rebellion against God, our sins. Paul writes that "Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6); Peter writes that Jesus' death was substitutionary (1 Peter 3:18) and the author of Hebrews agrees (Hebrews 10:10). Conditionalists emphasize that the punishment was death. As it is not a substitute for unbelievers, they believe the punishment that awaits those who refuse Jesus' salvation is death. Rather than an eternal life in hell, they believe those not covered by Jesus' death will have no life in eternity.
Conditionalists point to verses in the Bible that describe death and destruction for the wicked. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Conditionalists say that those who do not put their faith in Jesus will perish completely. Paul writes that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Jesus instructs that we are to fear the one who "can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28) and that the wide and easy path "leads to destruction" (Matthew 7:13–14). Also, in the parable of the wheat and tares, the tares are "burned" presumably to nothing (Matthew 13:30). Peter compares those who are ungodly with those in Sodom and Gomorrah, who were destroyed, incinerated (2 Peter 2:6).
Those who argue against conditionalism point to Isaiah 66:24 which describes an unquenchable fire and undying worms that consume corpses. Conditionalists argue that corpses are not alive. They point further to Scripture that speaks of inextinguishable fire and unstoppable scavengers who completely consume (Ezekiel 20:47–48; Jeremiah 17:27; Amos 5:6; Deuteronomy 28:26; Jeremiah 7:33).
Daniel 12:2 indicates that eternity awaits all. "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." As does Matthew 25:46, "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
When 2 Thessalonians 1:9 describes "eternal destruction" conditionalists contend it means a destruction that is final, forever, like an eternal salvation and eternal redemption in Hebrews 5:9 and 9:12.
Conditionalists explain Revelation 20:10's lake of fire as imagery of the second death in Revelation 20:14 and 21:8.
As stated above, conditionalist views are not heresy and there is no reason to avoid fellowship with those who disagree. An eternity of continual death and an eternity marked by a forever death are both to be avoided. Praise God He has made a way to avoid such a fate! The Good News is that Jesus offers us eternal life with God in heaven.
Is eternal hell really a fair punishment for a lifetime of sin?
Why are so many repulsed by the idea of eternal damnation?
Eternal death – What is it?
What is the second death the Bible talks about?
How can I be sure that when I die I will go to heaven?
Truth about Eternity