G.W. Hawthorne notes that ‘expressions such as “your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20), “whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:3), “whose name has not been written … in the book of life” (Rev. 13:8), and “I will not blot his name out of the book of life” (Rev. 3:5), crop up several times within the NT. The figure is taken from the OT (cf. Isa. 4:3; Ezk. 13:9; Dan. 12:1), or from the secular world where a criminal’s name was removed from the civic register to take from him all rights of citizenship.’
Hawthorne appears to offer tentative support for a doctrine of conditional immortality when he adds: ‘If one could argue from these statements that all names have been recorded in the book of life, thereby assuring existence for each person, and if one might also argue that for some reason, e.g., wilful disobedience to God’s commands, deliberate refusal to accept Christ as Savior and Lord, etc., one’s name could be removed from this divine register, “blotted out,” then one might argue that that person would cease to exist, for his name would no longer exist.’
Does the Greek root ‘aion*’ always entail infinite duration?
One relevant set of evidence is provided by Douglas Jacoby, who notes that in not a few instances, the Greek aion* is used in the Septuagint in ways in which ‘everlasting’ (i.e. infinite duration) cannot be the meaning:-
Genesis 6:4—“Men of old” (giants/ungodly persons/fallen ones/sons of Cain) did not live infinitely
Jeremiah 25:12—Destruction of Babylon (though not literally destroyed)
Genesis 9:12—Perpetual generations
Exodus 21:6—The man or woman would become one’s servant “forever” (!)
Leviticus 25:34—Perpetual possession of fields
Deuteronomy 23:3—“Forever” || the 10th generation
1 Samuel 2:22—Young Samuel was to serve at the house of the Lord “forever”
Some notes based on (and quoting from) a sermon by Glenn Pease:-
There once was a woman who always was tired She lived in a house where no help was hired. On her death bed she said, dear friends I am goin Where washing aint done nor cookin nor sewin, And everything there will be just to my wishes, For where they don’t eat there’s no washin of dishes. Don’t mourn for me now, don’t mourn for me ever, For I’m goin to do nothin, forever and ever.…
Paul’s desire was ‘to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (Phil 1:23).
That sparkling Puritan, Thomas Watson, writes:-
To a believer death is great gain. A saint can count what his losses for Christ are here—but he cannot count how great his gains are at death…Death to a believer is the daybreak of eternal brightness. To show fully what a believer’s gains are at death, would be a task too great for an angel; all hyperboles fall short of it; the reward of glory exceeds our imagination.…
Douglas Moo observes that in most English versions, the word ‘hell’ is not found in Paul’s writings. That is because he never used either of the two words usually translated ‘hell’ – gehenna and hades.
So what language does the apostle use concerning the fate of the wicked? They are, in order of frequency:-
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV).
These words constitute the go-to text for Christians who wish to assert that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. It is also the go-to text for those who feel that Christianity condemns itself as abhorrent and intolerant by reason of the very exclusiveness of this saying.
But does does the text actually mean what most of its friends (and, indeed, most of its enemies) think it means?…