Evangelical Christians affirm together that a dreadful destiny awaits those who reject God's grace throughout life. According to the traditional view, that destiny will involve unending conscious torment in hell. However, believers are increasingly questioning that understanding, as both unbiblical and inconsistent with the character of God revealed in the Scriptures and in the man Jesus Christ.
This internationally acclaimed book—now fully updated, revised, and expanded—carefully examines the complete teaching of Scripture on the subject of final punishment. It concludes that hell is a place of total annihilation, everlasting destruction, although the destructive process encompasses conscious torment of whatever sort, intensity, and duration God might require in each individual case.
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“‘One issue alone divides traditionalists and conditionalists: Does Scripture teach that God will make the wicked immortal, to suffer unending conscious torment in hell? Or does the Bible teach that the wicked will finally and truly die, perish, and become extinct forever, through a destructive process that encompasses whatever degree and duration of conscious torment God might sovereignly and justly impose in each individual case?’” (Pages ix–x)
“And although the doctrine that every soul is immortal is still the majority view, it is increasingly regarded as a post-apostolic innovation—not only unnecessary but positively harmful to proper biblical interpretation and understanding.27 Critics patiently explain that the traditional view of immortal souls is without support either from Scripture28 or even from human wisdom.29 These critics often quote the passages of Scripture that speak of human immortality, noting that in every instance immortality is associated with the glorified resurrection body still future, never to the soul or spirit at present. And, they also observe, the Bible always speaks of human immortality as God’s gift to the saved, never as an inherent quality or birthright of every person born into the world.” (Pages 23–24)
“God will not forever be destroying, but when the destroying is over, the destruction will endure forever.” (Page 41)
“The immortality of the soul became a subject of intense controversy during the Reformation, but the convergence of Calvin’s vehemence, Luther’s reticence, and the antipathy of both men toward the Anabaptists, resulted in the inclusion of Catholic traditionalism into the new Protestant creeds and eventually into unquestioned Protestant ‘orthodoxy.’ Despite the traditionalists’ nuanced definition of immortality, some major theologians have built their doctrine of unending conscious torment directly on the foundation of immortal souls.” (Page 22)
I commend this book warmly. It is likely to remain a standard work to which everyone engaged with this issue will constantly return.
—Richard Bauckham, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Studies, University of Saint Andrews
The Fire That Consumes has long been recognized as one of the most thorough and compelling statements available of the view that the destiny of the unsaved will be final destruction rather than eternal torment. In this new edition, Edward Fudge provides extended engagement with traditionalist critics and an overview of developments in the last thirty years ensuring that it will remain a definitive work on the issue for years to come.
—John R. Franke, Theologian in Residence, First Presbyterian Church, Allentown, PA