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Eternal Existence is not the same as Eternal Life

Eternal Existence is not the same as Eternal Life

By Ron Bedell


In a discussion with annihilationists, one of the conceptual roadblocks encountered is an inability to distinguish between eternal existence and having eternal life. 


 Some annihilationists reason this way: “To have eternal life means to exist forever. Only believers in Christ have eternal life, therefore only believers will exist forever. Since unbelievers lack eternal life, they will not exist forever. Therefore, they will cease to exist, i.e., be annihilated.”


The basic mistake there is to confuse eternal existence with eternal life.


Eternal life includes the idea of unending existence, but it goes beyond that. It means being born-again (John 3:6), being a partaker of God’s own nature (2 Pet 1:4), being children of God (1 John 3:10),    knowing God (John 17:3), and fellowshipping with Him forever on the new heavens and the new earth. 


Unbelievers in Jesus Christ do not have eternal life. That is, they are not partakers of the divine nature, etc. However, whether or not they have unending existence is a different issue. I believe they will exist eternally in the Lake of Fire (the final hell). 


 I recently came across a blog by William Lane Craig where he tried to explain this distinction to someone asking about annihilationism. Craig made the point: 


 “Many people fail to understand that everlasting existence is not the same as everlasting life. The damned in hell have everlasting existence but not everlasting life. In the New Testament everlasting life is not bios  (physical life, from which our word biology derives), but rather zōē (spiritual life). The damned, even if they have physical life, having been resurrected, do not have zōē. They are, in fact, spiritually dead and will remain so forever.” 


 The bodies of all unbelievers in Christ will be resurrected at the Great White Throne Judgment (of Christ). This will be the second and final resurrection of mankind. Only unbelievers in Jesus Christ will appear at this resurrection to determine the degree of punishment they will receive in hell. These bodies given to the unbelievers are eternally existent bodies that will never die.


The point is every person from the point of their conception will be given a body that will live forever. Believers in Christ will be given glorified bodies that will live forever on the new heavens and the new earth and unbelievers in Christ will be given eternally existent bodies that will be eternally tormented in the final hell, the Lake of Fire.


Recently I talked to a Jehovah Witness about Jesus Christ. And, of course, he rejected what I had to say about the deity of Jesus Christ and h rejected the existence of hell. Jehovah’s Witnesses are an example of annihilationists. Jehovah Witnesses do not believe in hell; that is, they believe hell does not exist. They also do not accept the deity of Jesus Christ; they believe Jesus Christ is not God.  Please understand that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christians. Christians are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation; Jehovah’s Witnesses are not. As you know it is very difficult to talk to a Jehovah’s Witness. They are like “quick silver.” It is very difficult to get them to agree on any Biblical truth especially relating to salvation. They’ll run to another passage of scripture. I remember this Jehovah’s Witness and I talked about Revelation chapter seven and the 144,000 Jews from the 12 tribes of Israel who will be sealed by God to bring the salvation message to the Gentile world during the seven years of Tribulation, but, as you know, that is not how Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret Revelation seven. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the 144,000 are God’s elect; that is, there will only be 144,000 people who will enter Heaven. We also talked about Isaiah 9:6, and this Jehovah’s Witness man was quick to point out that the passage says “mighty God” and not “almighty God.” But I showed him that this child is the “everlasting Father.” That is when this Jehovah’s Witness got off Isaiah 9:6 very quickly. Then I remember I showed him Jude verse seven, “suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” He said to me that was talking about building being burned up. I said, “No! Building do not suffer eternal punishment in fire, people do!” Anyway the last thing I said to him was something like this. “If what you believe is true, and I don’t believe it, all I must face is being annihilated. But if what the Bible says about hell is true, and you don’t believe it and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, you face an eternity in the Lake of Fire, and I don’t want you to go to hell. That is why I am telling you that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to earth 2000 years ago to die for all your sins, and He offers to you freely eternal life. But that is up to you whether you want to receive God’s gift of eternal life or not. You would receive God’s gift of eternal life by believing on God’s Son, Jesus Christ.


 John 3:16-18 


16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17 For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


Please look at the three links below that give more information about Jehovah’s Witnesses.