Annihilationism Error: Greek Word Definition Charts

Question
What do the Hebrew and Greek words means in reference to the false doctrine of Annihilationism?
Answer

Some "teachers" are twisting, turning, and torturing many words in the Hebrew and Greek language and stating that they mean "total annihilation or nothingness" - "ceasing to even exist," as they relate to the Doctrine of Hell.

Regarding the Doctrine of Hell,
there are no words in the entire of Scripture that can be accurately
translated as "total absolute annihilation;" not one.

Throughout the Bible, Hebrew and Greek words interpreted as "destroy," "destruction," "perish," "kill," and "death," as they relate to Hell, never mean "to go into absolute nothingness or oblivion," but rather they mean "eternal" or "forever and ever" ongoing "everlasting" conscious "destruction" (Phil 3:19; 1 Thess 5:3; 2 Thess 1:9; 2:8; Rev 14:11; 20:10-15, et. ). The "gloom of utter darkness" (Jude 1:13; cf. 1:6) refers to being cut off entirely from God, who is "light" (John 1:9; 8:12; 1 Tim 6:16; Jas 1:17; 1 John 1:5; cf. Isa 9:2; John 3:20; Acts 26:18; 1 Thess 5:5). The word "gloom" in Jude 1:13 refers to "a state of depression or despondency." To be in a "state of depression" one must be alive!

Words such as "cut off" (Exod 31:14-15; Lev 23:29-30; Rom 11:22, 24; Gal 5:12, etc.) also do not mean "absolute nothingness," as even Jesus was "cut off" (Dan 9:26) and is alive "forevermore" (Rev 1:18). Many times the word "cut off" simply means to be cut off from Israel, its congregation, etc., (Exod 12:15, 19; 30:33, 38; 31:14; Lev 7:20, 21, 25, 27; 17:4, 10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; 23:29; Num 19:13, etc.).

One of the most celebrated defenses of Annihilationism has been from Psalm 37:20, "the wicked...they vanish-like smoke they vanish away." Sounds convincing, right? However what is the Psalm really about? The Psalm itself is not even dealing with Hell; Psalm 37:20 refers to that the fact the success, fame, and prosperity of the wicked is as temporary as mere smoke. However, let's say we desire to apply the passage to Hell anyway - we shouldn't, but since Annihilationist's already have, let's review their case from their faulty perspective. Since "smoke" is an important theme here, we should ask the obvious question, "What is smoke?" Smoke is made of two basic things: (1) little drops of water and (2) ash. First, ash can't burn! Second, the reason smoke appears to vanish away is that, as the smoke rises: (1) the droplets of liquid water change states into gas and (2) the ash joins the dust in the atmosphere. Therefore, both elements in smoke still exist, but just in different states. Therefore, there is no total annihilation!

As the reader will observe, in the "Annihilation Error: Hebrew Word Definition Charts" (not the Greek) there're many notes that refer to "physical destruction, not eternal destruction" (i.e."devoted to destruction," or "curse;" Deut 2:34; 3:6; Judg 21:11; cf. Gal 1:8-9). Please understand that in these notes, we're not saying that those who died did or did not go to Hell or Heaven (that's another topic), but simply the context of the verse is speaking of only "physical destruction," which carries with it the idea of stopping, scattering, putting to flight, and up to and including physical death, etc. Yet, some of the "spin doctors" of the false doctrine of Annihilationism desire to use these examples of "physical destruction" and apply it to "eternal destruction." However, unless otherwise revealed in Scripture, this is not a proper application; as the Bible speaks of two different types of bodies (one that is able to die; the other is not; 1 Cor 15:44, 53) and two different types of death (one temporal and one eternal; Matt 10:28). Besides, the physical body in this world is never totally annihilated anyway; it returns to the dust from which it came (Gen 2:7; Eccl 3:20; 12:7; Psa 103:14; Isa 40:15). In addition, if we follow the Annhilationist's interpretation as such to its logical conclusion, than the wicked can send the righteous to total annhilation (absolute non-existence); 'if they totally annihilate me, they totally annhilate mel' (Est 4:16, etc.) - which is ludicrous, as the righteous know that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). Please see "An Eternal Hell is for Real; the Heresyof Annihilationism?" below.

There are words however in Greek that may be translated as "annihilate." However, when regarding the Doctrine of Hell, even they do not mean "total absolute obliteration." As the reader will discover, a word may be translated in numerous ways depending upon its context. Hopefully, these charts will serve as an aid to help keep people from the "spin zone" of false teachers (Matt 7:15; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 2 Pet 2:1).

The charts below are divided into three sections: (1) text; (2) translation; and (3) comments.

Greek Charts

Greek word "apoleia" = may mean annihilate, but in context:

Text
Meaning Comments
Matt 7:13
destruction eternal destruction; waste; Matt 26:8; Mark 14:4;
eternal as this is what the Lord in his perfect justice ordained;
cut down and thrown into the fire; Matt 7:19
Matt 26:8
waste wasted perfume according to disciples;
perfume still existed though it was wasted
Mark 14:4
waste wasted perfume according to disciples;
perfume still existed though it was wasted
John 17:12
destruction lost, Judas; perdition, Hell;
final state of ruin and punishment;
Beast going to destruction (Rev 17:8, 11
eternal fire; Rev 20:10)
Acts 8:20
perish Peter didn't want Simon's money (perish
with you) but the money still existed
Rom 9:22
destruction John 3:18; Jude 1:4; "prepared"
for destruction Hell was "made" for the
devil and his "sent ones," (Matt 25:41; the seed of the
serpent; Gen 3:15)
Phil 1:28
destruction destruction; reveals wrath already
upon the wicked; John 3:36
Phil 3:19
destruction [eternal] destruction compared with
eternal citizenship; Phil 3:20; eternal perdition contrasted
to eternal Savior token of perdition meaning
there is more to come, so they will be living
in Hell
2 Thess 2:3
destruction son of destruction, therefore living;
same character as Judas; John 17:12;
everlasting destruction; Rev 20:10
1 Tim 6:9
destruction meaning physical ruin and destruction;
wreck and ruin of the body
Heb 10:39
destroyed turn back to destruction; Lot's wife
looked back; turned into a pillar of salt, now still
exists in another form; salt in biblical times was a
preservative; unbelievers will be preserved (kept alive)
in everlasting judgment (cf. 2 Pet 21-22)
2 Pet 2:1
used twice; (1) destructive and (2) destruction God owns the wicked/false teachers; they have
destructive teachings and their condemnation
was set long ago; 2 Pet 2:3; John 3:18, 36;
Jude 1:4
2 Pet 2:3
destruction condemnation and judgment are surely coming
2 Pet 3:7
destruction destruction of ungodly; fire of judgment;
chapter uses images of fire, burn, dissolved,
and melt = precursor to Hell
2 Pet 3:16
destruction twisting of Scripture to their own destruction; 2 Pet 2:1
Rev 17:8
destruction and go to destruction; Beast going
to eternal destruction; Rev 20:10; John 17:12; Rev 17:11
Rev 17:11
destruction and it goes to destruction Beast going
to eternal destruction; Rev 20:10; John 17:12; Rev 17:8

Greek word "olethros" = may mean annihilate, but in context:

Text
Meaning Comments
1 Cor 5:5
destruction destruction of flesh;
purpose spirit may be saved
church discipline
1 Thess 5:3
sudden destruction Second Coming; wicked destined for eternal wrath;1 Thess 5:9
2 Thess 1:9
destruction eternal destruction;
both of soul and body
cut off from Lord's presence (face)
1 Tim 6:9
ruin harmful utter ruin;
irrecoverable physical wreck and ruin of the body

Related Topics:

Annihilation Error: Hebrew Word Definition Charts
An Eternal Hell is for Real - The Heresy of Annihilationism?
How can God exact infinite punishment for a finite sin?
When was Hell created?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).