(A continuation of “Jehovah’s Witnesses Part I” bulletin article from April 10th, 2022)
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that there is no such thing as a fiery hell or eternal torture for the wicked. The reason(s) they hold this position, according to Walter Martin*, are fourfold. 1) Eternal torture is unscriptural (in their view); 2) It is unreasonable; 3) It is contrary to God’s love; 4) It is repugnant to justice. So what do they believe happens to the wicked instead? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in “eternal annihilation” or the belief that no afterlife exists for the wicked. Instead, the soul/spirit of the individual is completely erased. What is wrong with their position and how can we teach those in Jehovah’s Witnesses what the Bible has to say about the place of the wicked?
We will first focus our attention on Matt. 8:11-12. In verse 11, the righteous are promised to share in the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. In contrast, the wicked, rather than taking part in an enjoyable and pleasurable banquet, will endure the exact opposite. They will be thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In this verse, we see two things. 1) a place; 2) what happens in that place. If annihilation of one’s soul would have been a Biblical concept, how come Jesus describes a place in which souls weep and gnash their teeth?
Secondly, I would like for us to consider the consequences of teaching the doctrine of eternal annihilation. If man teaches that hell is not a place, but rather an erasing of one’s soul, the consequences can be devastating. For example, if an atheist is taught by a Jehovah’s Witness that his soul will only be erased if they continue in their wicked ways, what benefit would that have for him? An atheist already denies the existence of life after this, and there would be no reason for them to change their attitude towards religion. The doctrine of eternal annihilation that Jehovah’s Witnesses promote only confuses the matter and has no backing from the Word of God. We serve a God that is a loving God, but He also stays true to His justice (Nah. 1:3). If a soul is completely erased, would that be true justice? I’d argue that true justice comes in the form of equality. Just as there is an eternal reward for the faithful, there is an eternal punishment for the wicked. The reward of an Eternal Heaven drives one to continue to do good and continue in the faith (Phil. 3:10; Rev. 2:10), just as the risk of Eternal Hell drives one away from evil (Rev. 20:11-15).
* “Jehovah’s Witnesses” by Walter Martin
Article Published on May 1st, 2022