Jefferson Vann – Spring Up, Oh Well

But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.”

We have been surveying the use of the Greek word ζωή (life) in John’s Gospel. We first looked at an author’s commentary in John 1:4, and saw that already in scripture, the idea existed of a coming light in the form of a person: a son, a gift from God who will bring life to his dying people, and deliver them from darkness and death.2

Next, we visited Jesus by night, along with Nicodemus, (John 3:1-21) and learned that this gift would be God’s own Son, who would be lifted up like the desert snake,3 so that the ones believing in him might have permanent life.4 But those who do not believe will be condemned. Jesus did not go into detail with Nicodemus about the nature of that condemnation, but Nicodemus knew the fate of those Israelites who did not look in faith at the desert snake. They rejected the remedy. They died. They never made it to the promised land.

Then, we looked at the words of John 3:31-36, where we discovered there are two kinds of people. There are the believers (ὁ πιστεύων) in Christ, and the rejectors (ὁ ἀπειθῶν) of Christ. Only the believers will receive permanent life (ζωή αἱώνιος). The rejectors await God’s wrath, which will destroy them.

To continue reading Jefferson Vann’s article, click here.

Ronnie Demler and William Tanksley Jr. – Annihilation in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (Part 2): Separation or Obliteration? The Present Controversy

Around the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul wrote the following to the church in Thessalonica:

which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe

This is how the NKJV renders 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 (note in particular verse 9, in bold). Some other translations render this passage a little differently, so you might be surprised to learn that it is often touted as a text which speaks in favor of traditionalism. On its face, “affliction” leading to “everlasting destruction” at the revealing of Christ from heaven sounds a lot like the punishment that conditionalists believe will befall God’s enemies. And as the previous article in this series shows, a simple yet thorough reading of the text in its context does indeed support conditionalism.

Despite this, some traditionalists well-versed in the biblical languages have raised arguments suggesting we should look beyond the apparent meaning of this passage. We will now consider their arguments, as we study this passage more closely. What we will discover will add nuance to our understanding, but it will also confirm that the simple, obvious reading is just what Paul intended.

To continue reading Ronnie Demler and William Tanksley Jr.’s article, click here.

Pierce Hibbs – Writing to Strangers for the Savior

Why do we write? Perhaps more precisely, For whom do we write? This question might be easier to answer for preachers putting pen to paper on a weekly basis: they write for God himself, to proclaim the truth, to expand the kingdom by delivering God’s Word unvarnished to a world in the throes of deception. But for those of us outside of the pulpit, the answer isn’t always so obvious. If it is, it doesn’t stay long at the forefront of our mind.

This is a reminder: If you are a Christian writer, you write for the Son of God. Jesus is your boss. What does that mean? At first glance, it might pose a problem to the writing industry: Jesus never put quill to parchment. The Word never inscribed his words on a physical surface, save his tracings in the dirt before an angry mob (John 8) — right?

In one sense, this may be true. But in another sense, it’s misleading. What is writing, after all? Writing, in a broad sense, is merely marking the world with your presence. It is a system of symbolized communication that externalizes our thoughts and emotions, inscribing them on a service, or pixelating them on a computer screen. Writing draws the inside to the outside; it places thought, sentiment, and argument on a canvas to be viewed by the wider world. And it tells the world that we are here.

To continue reaading Pierce Hibbs’ article, click here.

Peter Grice – Annihilation in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (Part 1): Destroyed by the Glory of His Manifest Presence

2 Thessalonians 1:9 is one of those texts which first convinced me to take the idea of annihilation seriously. Not just in isolation, where it seems obvious that destruction due to Christ’s coming is the point, but in the context of what is being said in the first couple of chapters of the epistle. (The NRSV even uses the word “annihilating” a mere eleven verses later concerning the “man of lawlessness,” which is intriguing enough on its own!) The overall impact of the passage I think should give anyone pause about this issue, since it portrays the day of judgment and the fire of judgment differently from familiar expectations from Christian tradition. Too often, our critics treat a single word of this verse as an isolated proof-text, or suggest that’s how we treat it, when of course each side must give due consideration to the fuller structural context.

Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” 2 Thessalonians 1:9, KJV

The conditionalist reading is that the glorious presence and power of the Lord causes the punishment of destruction, which is everlasting because it is God’s permanent judgment. Let’s explore how this makes the best sense.

Essential Context: Power and Manifest Presence (2 Thess 1:5–2:12)

From 2 Thessalonians 1:5, Paul connects the suffering of persecuted Christians with their inheritance in the kingdom of God, saying that when God judges the wicked, this will “grant you relief.” Jesus is coming back “on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (v10). It is the day of judgment, and the impression given is that once judgment occurs, the community of the righteous will continue on with their Lord and King, without unbelievers.

To continue reading Peter Grice’s article, click here.

Peter Berthelsen – For I Am Undone: Conditionalism, New Creation Theology, and the Annihilating Power of God’s Presence

It is often the case when discussing matters of eschatology that a variety of terms will be used to argue for one’s position. Subtle nuances drive the need for additional terms, and our position of conditional immortality (“conditionalism”) is no exception. The primary reason that we prefer that term over “annihilationism” is that the study of eschatology involves much more than a narrow focus on what happens to the risen lost. While it is certainly true that the majority of our effort is often spent arguing for the annihilation of the risen lost, that’s not the full scope of what conditional immortality is.

With that in mind, I would like to offer a biblical case for the compatibility of conditionalism and what is often called “new creation” (NC) theology. For my purposes here, I will define that as the belief that the new heavens and new earth mentioned in Isaiah, 2 Peter and Revelation refers not to some other plane of existence where we will dwell after this world is destroyed, but rather to this world fully redeemed (even if possibly recreated), in which risen humanity will dwell with God, enveloped by His glorious, manifest presence—the final realization of God’s purposes for creation.

To continue reading Peter Berthelsen’s article, click here.

Book Review – Places of Punishment in the Synoptic Gospels by Kim Papaioannou

Save us from the fire! Concept for fire victim, help, helplessness, hell, desperation, etc.

This is not truly a book review, but rather a review of a dissertation by Kim Papaioannou that formed the basis for his book The Geography of Hell in the Teaching of Jesus. The latter work is next on my list of hell titles. Depending on how much of his dissertation turned into book form, I may be able to work through the book rather quickly.

With that bit of explanation and introduction out of the way, let me state I do not often (if every for that matter) do reviews for dissertations. Given most people do not read dissertations, interaction with such works is typically at the scholarly level, with academics responding to the works of their peers via journal articles or perhaps using information from a dissertation, be it something from the bibliography or statements contained in a dissertation that may be of value for their own efforts.

Why then did I read a dissertation on the places of punishment in the Synoptic Gospels? I suppose such a question is work answering. I came across Dr. Papaioannou’s book while looking other reference material on the subject of hell. Additionally, I noted he was interviewed by Chris Date from Rethinking Hell. After listening to the Rethinking Hell podcast interview and hearing good things about his book, I decided to see if I could look up his dissertation. Thankfully, I was able to locate it rather easily on the internet free of charge. I will provide a link to the dissertation at the conclusion of this review for those desiring to read through it.

Reading about places of punishment at first glance might seem to be a bit of a boring subject. After all, isn’t hell just simply hell? What could there possibly be to learn about what is traditionally thought of as the place of eternal conscious torment for the wicked? Isn’t Scripture quite clear about hell and as such, why write a dissertation on this subject matter let alone read about it? These are all valid questions. I can only speak for myself in that my journey through studying the nature of the final fate of the wicked has presented a resounding response that there is more to this issue than what has traditionally been understand not only in the Synoptic Gospels, but throughout Scripture.

Clarity of terms is vitally important. As such, Dr. Papaioannou devotes his disseration to the investigation of terms such as Gehenna, Hades, the Abyss, and the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Additionally, he provides an excursus on Tartarus given its close relation to the Abyss.

Firstly, a few notes on the writing style of this dissertation. Some might be frightened away from reading a dissertation and that is understandable. Many dissertations are written on very specific, almost minute areas of study for which are frankly not interested. As such, the language of dissertations can be replete with scholarly terminology that is not easily understood except by fellow academics or experts in the field of study being investigated. Dr. Papaioannou, while certainly writing in an academic style, presents the information in a way that is not outside the bounds of anyone simply willing to take the time to absorb the information. He does use original languages when needed which will force those not skilled in those languages to look up what those words mean. Given the ease of use of websites such as, such an effort is not difficult. Dr. Papaioannou presented his position well, support for his assertions were founded in sound exegesis and examination of relevant material, and his flow of thought is quite notable. I never felt lost in this material or unsure of the point Dr. Papaioannou was attempting to make.

Secondly, Dr. Papaioannou does an excellent job of demonstrating the traditional approach of lumping all the references to the final fate of the wicked (or the dead…more on that in a moment) can be done under the umbrella of the singular term “hell”. Quite unfortunately, this is the methodology of many bible translations. As a result, the reader of Scripture can and does end up with an incorrect understanding of the biblical context. Thus, terms such as Gehenna, Hades, the Abyss, and the oft used phrase weeping and gnashing of teeth are given a meaning not intended by the biblical authors. Furthermore, the Old Testament background from where many of the terms are derived, are overlooked or treated as irrelevant. Dr. Papaioannou seeks to correct this incorrect approach by examining in great detail the history of these terms and most importantly, their use in context within Scripture. To that end, I applaud his efforts to clear up the proverbial fog in this area of study. I especially appreciated his treatment of hades as the place of the dead for both the righteous and the wicked as well as his emphasis on the importance of the bodily resurrection that is required for both the righteous and the wicked to be judged and to receive their eternal reward. Dr. Papaioannou presents a plethora of biblical evidence that presents the necessary OT background for Hades (i.e. the Hebrew word Sheol that is the equivalent of the Greek word Hades). Those who might believe the OT has little to say about this issue will have that assumption rightfully challenged by Dr. Papaioannou’s efforts in this area.

Finally, I appreciated the length Dr. Papaioannou went in working through the parables in the Synoptic Gospels. He did an excellent job of noting the similarities and differences in the various gospel accounts, he noted why those differences and similarities are present, and he provided helpful exegesis and application of the relevant terminology. This is especially notable in his discussion of the phrase weeping and gnashing of teeth. It was quite interesting to see how many of the parables that utilize this phrase are related to the concept of a banquet. This is something I had not noted before and this speaks of the important connection between what it means to be cast out into darkness and what it means to be part of the kingdom of God as it relates to eschatology and the final fate of the righteous and the wicked.

If you are at all interested in an in-depth and helpful study of the biblical terms related to places of punishment in the Synoptic Gospels, I highly recommend this dissertation. To help facilitate finding this work, it can be obtained here.

Amy Mantravadi – John Bunyan on Prayer (Part 1)

Reading John Bunyan’s A Discourse Touching Prayer is a real pleasure, and not only because it is the first such work I have ever read that includes the phrase, “Therefore give me leave a little to reason with thee, thou poor, blind, ignorant sot.” This treatise, also known as I Will Pray with the Spirit, was composed while Bunyan was imprisoned in 1663. It is an exposition of the Apostle Paul’s statement that “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also”. (1 Corinthians 14:15 KJV) It contains some of Bunyan’s clearest teachings on prayer, which he defined in the following manner.

Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.”

Bunyan argued, “Thou then art not a Christian that art not a praying person.” He declared that prayer “is the opener of the heart of God, and a means by which the soul, though empty, is filled. By prayer the Christian can open his heart to God, as to a friend, and obtain fresh testimony of God’s friendship to him.” This type of prayer is much more than a stiff, formal activity. It is an action of both the head and the heart, even as Paul taught.

To continue reading Amy Mantravadi’s article, click here.

Lee Roy Shelton, Jr. – The True Gospel of Christ versus the False Gospel of Carnal Christianity

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7

A False Gospel

There is rampant in this age a false gospel of carnal Christianity, which has deceived many souls. The vast majority of Christendom today have not bowed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. These are on sinking sand and are an easy prey to such a teaching that has permeated our land and our pulpits. So our purpose is to bring out the true gospel and the false, showing clearly the warnings from God’s Word that we should not sow to the flesh, but rather to the Spirit. May you have an open heart and an open Bible, as we pray that God will deal with us all by His Spirit.

We are warned concerning this false gospel of carnal Christianity in Galatians 6:7-8:

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

This to me is a most solemn warning to all of our hearts, and especially in this day of “freebelievism” and carnal Christianity, which is preached on such a large scale. You see, the vast majority of Christendom today is deceived1 as to the state of their never-dying souls before God. What is happening is justification in Christ is preached alone, at the expense of holy living; and the hearers of this one-sided gospel are left in the dark as to God’s requirement of the necessity of a holy life. God’s grace has been turned into lasciviousness; the attitude of most has been: “A little sin won’t hurt—I’m just a ‘carnal Christian’ you know, and besides, doesn’t grace cover it all?”

To continue reading Lee Roy Shelton’s e-book, click here.

Crossway – 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible

1. We don’t let the Bible speak for itself.

It is a common mistake to ask the wrong questions when reading the Bible. Rather than asking “Who am I?” and “What should I do?,” Jen Wilkin, author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds, suggests asking “Who is God?” and “What has he done?”

The Bible is a book that boldly and clearly reveals who God is on every page. In Genesis, it does this by placing God as the subject of the creation narrative. In Exodus, it places him in comparison to Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. In the Psalms, David extols the Lord’s power and majesty. The prophets proclaim his wrath and justice. The Gospels and Epistles unfold his character in the person and work of Christ. The book of Revelation displays his dominion over all things. From beginning to end, the Bible is a book about God.

The Bible certainly has something to say about who we are and what we should do, but it is important to remember that it is much less a book about us and much more a book about him.

To continue reading Crossway’s article, click here.

David Prince – The Battle for a Man’s Mind

Paul concludes his majestic treatise on the gospel of Jesus Christ in the book of Romans with a call for a renewed mind that is transformed by the gospel. He writes, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). In other words, the believer has an entirely different worldview because his thinking is liberated from the mold of this age (fallen world) by the lens of the gospel. This worldview transformation is the only way the believer can live out the will of God in daily life.

A worldview is how we frame the world and make sense out of everything we experience. God has not given Christians a set of detailed instructions for us to mindlessly follow. Rather, he has given us his word, gospel and Spirit to transform us. Taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 5:10) involves redefining every category in life, including manhood. A Christian man must rethink the very meaning of his existence in the world as a man. Manhood is to be radically reoriented and framed according to the gospel deeply within a man’s heart. This gospel reorientation involves the most fundamental categories of a man’s life.

To continue reading David Prince’s article, click here.