Alex Casuccio, a Phoenix-based animal doctor, has written a book in which he repudiates the historic teachings of the Christian Church.
I will provide brief response to each of his heresies, beginning with the first one:
Do you have an immortal soul inside of you that will live for eternity, no matter what?
Casuccio answers his own question in the negative, believing that upon judgment a sinner is merely extinguished and does not face eternal judgment for their sins. In theological jargon, Casuccio would be classified as an annihilationist.
It is not a coincidence that Alex Casuccio’s first assault on the teachings of the church is found in his embrace of annihilationism. It tends to be the one of the first doctrines given up by people who are moving away from a commitment to the Bible as absolutely truthful in all that it affirms.
Because the Bible’s pronouncement of eternal conscious punishment is so foreign to the thought patterns of our modern culture, it is emotionally one of the most difficult doctrines for modern people to affirm. Were it not for the wealth of scriptural passages that establish the opposite doctrine, annihilationism would be a charming alternative.
There are three main arguments advanced in favor of annihilationism: 1) the biblical references to destruction of the wicked implies they will no longer exist after they are destroyed (Philippians 3:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:7; and others); 2) the supposed inconsistency of the love of God with eternal conscious punishment; and, 3) the apparent injustice involved in the disproportion between the sins committed in time and the punishment that is eternal.
In response to the first point, it must be said that the passages listed above which speak of destruction do not necessarily imply termination of existence. The terms used for “destruction” do not mean they will be eliminated; they can simply be ways of referring to the adverse and caustic effects of the final verdict upon the unbelievers.
With respect to the love of God, the same difficulty arises in reconciling God’s love with the idea of divine punishment in any degree. Furthermore, the disproportion argument wrongly assumes that we know the extent of the evil done when a person rebels against God. Unbelievers in hell go on sinning. Having no changed nature they continually receive just punishment for their new sins. They simply never repent. Revelation 22:11 points in this direction: “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy…” God has abandoned them and they have no chance of renewal. They remain in hell forever and continue to sin, cursing Him and disavowing their own sins as one would expect of any prisoner.
Bible verses that teach that the souls of unbelievers go immediately into eternal punishment:
Isaiah 33:14 Sinners in Zion are terrified; Trembling has seized the godless. “Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?”
Isaiah 66:24 – Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.
Jeremiah 17:4 – And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance That I gave you; And I will make you serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger Which will burn forever.
Daniel 12:2 – Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
Luke 16:24-26 – And he cried out and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”
Matthew 18:8 – If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
Matthew 25:41,46 – Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Mar 9:43-48 – If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.
2 Thessalonians 1:9 – These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power
Jude 1:6,7 – And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
Revelation 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.
Revelation 19:3 – And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! HER SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER.”
Revelation 20:10 – And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
We see in these passages that a) the rich man in hell was in conscious torment; b) hell is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth; c) it is a place of everlasting torment; d) hell will endure as long as heaven endures (same Greek word is used to describe both eternities); e) punishment can only be experienced by those who are conscious; f) hell is a place of unquenchable flames; and g) not only is the future judgment of unbelievers irreversible, but their judgment is eternal.
When examined carefully and in context, none of the passages that are used to support annihilationism are reliable proof texts. Certain words may permit that meaning, but no where do they demand it. In view of the other clear passages regarding eternal punishment, annihilationism must be rejected, for it rests on sentimental grounds rather than a scriptural basis. It is rooted in emotion rather than the Bible. Numerous passages plainly state that the unredeemed will suffer consciously and the punishment unending.