Shepherd’s Chapel denies eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46
). This view is commonly called annihilationism and is very popular in heretical groups (Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah Witness, etc.). Although it is a deep topic and needs much to be said, in this post I want to address just some of the errors that Shepherd’s Chapel teaches.
If one discusses the subject of hell with a student of Shepherd’s Chapel probably the first verse that they will quote to defend annihilationism is Matthew 10:28.
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28, KJV)
Arnold Murray along with his followers will latch on to the word “destroy” in this verse and claim that it means blotted out
or annihilation. Thus, to them, this verse teaches annihilationism straight from Jesus’ mouth. The word destroy used in this verse is the Greek work apollymi (#G622).
A few words must be said about this word. First, as used in Scripture the words “destroy,” “destruction,” “perish” etc. never signify cessation of existence. Second, you can go back in this same chapter in verse 6 and see how this word is used:
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matt. 10:6, KJV)
The word “lost” used in this verse is the exact same Greek word apollymi
that is used in verse 28 for “destroy”. As you can tell the word does not mean blotted out or annihilated. These sheep (Israelites) that Christ is talking about were not obliterated or blotted out, they were rather lost or separated from the true Shepherd (Christ). This is similar to those “destroyed” in hell, they are separated from Christ for all eternity (Rev. 22:15
). This refutes Shepherd’s Chapel’s claim that the meaning of apollymi
in Matthew 10:28
teaches annihilation. The Greek word apollymi
is also used in the following verses (the bolded word is the Greek word apollymi
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11, KJV)
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which islost, until he find it? (Luke 15:4, KJV)
For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.(Luke 15:24, KJV)
As can be seen the Greek word apollymi does not mean total annihilation, blotted out, or cessation of existence. Arnold Murray, as he has done many times, misuses the Greek or shows lack of understanding of how the Greek language works.
So, briefly, what does the Bible teach on hell? Well here is one thing that Christ said about it:
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matt. 25:46, KJV)
This punishment of hell Christ describes as everlasting. I have heard Shepherd’s Chapel students claim that since annihilation is everlasting then it is everlasting punishment. This is not possible in the Greek syntax. the word for everlasting is aionios in the Greek and it modifies the nature of the punishment, not the results of the punishment. In this verse aionios modifies kalasis “punishment”, which is an action noun. Greek nouns that end with –sis will focus on the action of the noun and not it’s results. You can compare 2 Thess. 2:16 to see a parallel. In that verse aionios modifies paraklesis “comfort”, another –sis ending action noun. So this verse proves that Christ taught an everlasting hell of punishment. Also we have this:
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. (Rev. 14:11, KJV)
This again is another favorite verse for Shepherd’s Chapel. When you use this verse to prove the Biblical view of everlasting hell then they will jump on you and say “look it says the smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever. Only the smoke.”. Ha! Gotcha right? Well no.
First, what is the smoke? It is of their “torment”. It doesn’t say it was the smoke of their annihilation, but the smoke of their torment. If the smoke ascends forever and ever, and the cause of the smoke is the torment, then it stands to reason that the torment lasts forever and ever. Second, if you continue to read this verse it states clearly thatthey have no rest day nor night. It does not say they were annihilated and the smoke rose for eternity. This verse clearly teaches that they are tormented for eternity and have no rest day or night.
This verse is very similar to Revelation 20:10
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Rev. 20:10, KJV)
After judgment is passed down to Satan and his minions they are all thrown into the lake of fire and tormented day and night forever and ever. If this verse teaches anything, it at least teaches that Satan is tormented in hell for eternity. If you continue reading Revelation chapter 20 then you will see that all those in hell are cast into this exact same lake of fire (Rev. 20:14, also Matt 25:41). Again since they are cast into the same lake of fire the Devil is then the same punishment is dealt out. Also if you continue reading Revelation and in the last chapter (after all this has taken place) you see that the unsaved were not annihilated in Revelation chapter 20 but cast outside the Great City:
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev. 22:14-15, ESV)
I have heard the students of Shepherd’s Chapel claim that “forever and ever” does not mean eternity but simply a period of time. This is absolutely impossible in the Greek. The Greek phrase is eis tous aionas ton aionon and is often translated as forever, forevermore, and forever and ever. It is also used of the attributes of God which we know are unchangeable and are eternal. Please compare how this Greek phrase is used in the following verses of Scripture especially the ones in Revelation: Gal. 1:5, Phil. 4:20, 1 Tim. 1:17, 2 Tim. 4:18, Heb. 13:21, 1 Pet. 4:11, Rev. 1:6, Rev. 1:18, Rev. 4:9, Rev. 4:10, Rev. 5:13, Rev. 7:12, Rev. 10:6, Rev. 11:15, Rev. 15:7, Rev. 22:5
If you do your research and actually read those verses you will see that eis tous aionas ton aionon does not mean a temporary amount of time, but is basically the Greek way of saying eternity.
One last note, even Daniel in the Old Testament saw that evil people are not annihilated at end of this age:
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2, KJV)
Notice this verse says that in the end at the resurrection and judgement (Revelation 20) the saved receive everlasting life and the damned everlasting contempt (not annihilation).
So in conclusion we have shown that Shepherd’s Chapel view of hell cannot be supported exegetically nor systematically from Holy Scripture.
Soli Deo Gloria!