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”
In 1990, aware that respected evangelicals such as John Stott, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes and John Wenham had recently lent their support to annihilationism/conditionalism, J.I. Packer gave a lecture on ‘The Problem of Eternal Punishment.’
Packer began by affirming what all evangelicals should affirm, namely that our views about ultimate destiny should be shaped not by what what we might like to be so, but by what Scripture actually says is so. Packer also observed what many before and after him have observed: that the Scriptural voice which speaks most frequently and firmly about hell is that of Jesus himself.…
Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology, p1150) notes the following arguments that are advanced in favour of annihilationalism:-
the biblical references to the destruction of the wicked, which, some say, implies that they will no longer exist after they are destroyed (Phil. 3:19; 1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:9; 2 Peter 3:7; et al.);
the apparent inconsistency of eternal conscious punishment with the love of God;
the apparent injustice involved in the disproportion between sins committed in time and punishment that is eternal;
the fact that the continuing presence of evil creatures in God’s universe will eternally mar the perfection of a universe that God created to reflect his glory.
I present here arguments for and against this difficult and disputed question.
Traditionalists argue that the Gk words for ‘eternal’ (‘aion‘ and ‘ainios‘) often carry a clear idea of duration, Heb 13:8; Rev 4:10; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 20:10. Cp Mk 3:29 w Mt 12:32. They frequently note the parallelism between ‘eternal life’ and ‘eternal punishment’ in Mt 25:46.
The word ‘eternal’ is used over 60 times to refer to the blessings of the future state. …