Thursday, July 3, 2014

The wicked He will destroy

What does the Old Testament say will happen to the wicked?

Traditionalists teach that the OT is mostly silent concerning hell. It is true that you will not find eternal conscious torment taught there, but there is plenty mentioned about the fate of the wicked and God’s enemies. Their end is routinely described as perish, be destroyed, come to a complete end and be no more. The following are typical statements:

“...behold, these are the wicked...Then I perceived their end... You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away...For behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.” (See Psalm 37)

One of the main points to consider as you read the historic, poetic and prophetic verses concerning the fate of the wicked is: When the Apostles and the newly forming Church would 'read the Scriptures' - it was what we call the Old Testament. Their theology was shaped by and guided by Jesus' words through the solid foundation of the early Books! We know this by the multiple times Jesus and other writers quoted from the OT (about 263 times with Psalms and Isaiah being quoted the most).

We also know that "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." (2 Tim. 3:16) Paul was referring to the Scripture that was available to them - the Torah, the poetic books, and the prophetic books. We do receive additional 'light' from the NT in many areas, including final punishment. For example, we learn that the wicked will be finally and permanently destroyed in the lake of fire, which is the second death (Jesus called it Gehenna).

Peter also teaches us "that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:20-21) From that exhortation, I gather that we should let the plain language of Scripture speak to us, instead of superimposing a pre-formed doctrine onto the words. For example, in the above verses from Psalm 37 to say that 'destruction, swept away, destroy, and perish' actually mean to stay alive to be tormented forever is a twisted way to interpret those words. (You can also see the same error being repeated by Traditionalists in the NT by reading John 3:16 and Romans 6:23, among many others.)

For your consideration:

"The LORD your God... repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face."  Deut. 7:10

"Moses said, 'THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN: TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. 'And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.'"  - Acts 3:22-23   (NT quote clarified from Deut. 18:15, 18-19)

"…You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever… The enemy has come to an end… the very memory of them has perished."  - see Psalm 9:3-6

"Your enemies… Your foes… You will burn them up as in a blazing furnace. The LORD will swallow them up in His wrath, and His fire will consume them."  - Ps. 21:8-9

"Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there."   -Psalm 37:10

"But the wicked will perish; And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures, They vanish--like smoke they vanish away."  – Psalm 37:20

"For the LORD loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off."  - Psalm 37:28

"I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.
Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. -  Psalm 37:35-38

"Man in his pomp will not endure;
He is like the beasts that perish."  Read Psalm 49:12-20

“Do not slay them… destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more…”  - see Ps. 59:11-13

"As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; 
As wax melts before the fire, 
So let the wicked perish before God."  Ps. 68:2

"For, behold, those who are far from you will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You."  - Psalm 73:27

Forsaken among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And they are cut off from Your hand.  – Psalm 88:5

"For, behold, Your enemies, O LORD,
For, behold, Your enemies will perish;
All who do iniquity will be scattered."  - Ps. 92:9

"Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes on every side…" Ps. 97:3

Let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!   - Psalm 104:35

The wicked will see it and be vexed, He will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish. – Psalm 112:10

“The LORD keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.” (Ps. 145:20)

"When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation."  – Prov. 10:25

"Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death."   Prov. 11:4

"The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
But the house of the righteous will stand."  - Proverbs 12:7 

"O LORD… fire will devour Your enemies… The dead will not live, the departed spirits will not rise; Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, and You have wiped out all remembrance of them." Is. 26:11, 14

"For the LORD's indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to slaughter."  - Is. 34:2

"Your hand will be lifted up against your adversaries,
And all your enemies will be cut off." - Micah 5:9

"Therefore they will be like the morning cloud 
And like dew which soon disappears
Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor 
And like smoke from a chimney."  - Hosea 13:3

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch."  - Malachi 4:1

Make no mistake, there will be punishment. "Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; He who hates reproof will die." (Prov. 15:10). And "The wages of the righteous is life; The income of the wicked, punishment." (Prov.10:16). We also know very well from Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death." So, the punishment awaiting the wicked may involve agony, torment and pain, but in the end their final punishment is death.


  1. Hi Theresa,

    I appreciate this post, and your effort on this blog to deconstruct a prevailing and very problematic idea of (one half of) the afterlife. A quick comment. It is a very, very specific idea of hell you go after (i.e. eternal conscious torment), one which had, because of its vindictive spirit, originally made a home in vindictive hearts... and now unfortunately resides in even more or less well meaning, but perhaps unreflective, people. It is, therefore, a historical aberration you are dealing with. It is good to keep that in mind. You’ll find some of the church fathers espousing it (e.g. Augustine has quite the juicy description of the eternal torment in City of God), but one can only understand why if one understands the history. What I’m saying is, the doctrine of hell as eternal conscious torment is not “biblical,” as you argue, but that is not the decisive argument. The doctrine is vindictive and loveless; its imaginative scope does not rise above the retributive zeal of a slighted school boy. It is a doctrine that emerged in certain historical conditions that bred a spiteful spirit in some minority Christians. It is not integral to the tradition.

    Ultimately, getting caught up with doctrines, reading the bible with scientific exactness, waging fact wars with biblical “data,” etc. is not the point. It is useful among certain expressions of the Christian faith. But it is good to remember that love is the best, and ultimately the only real argument. Meister Eckhart, in a wild blaze of passion, said once that he opt for hell with Jesus than have a heaven without Him. This is love. If God is a god who puts people in eternal conscious torment, I would have to take my stand against him. That god is simply evil.

    1. Patrick, thanks for the comment! I agree with your insightful description of 'well-meaning but unreflective people' - it seems that is the main barrier to thought-change in this day and age. I will have to think about the 'love' argument more, as that seems more philosophical than biblical (?). I was impressed by the biblical evidence when I finally took the time to look at it. I suppose I am convinced that others who carefully review the 'facts' will also come to the same conclusions. I have seen positive changes to several people who stop to listen. I've got to keep trying!


I understand this is a difficult subject and there are different views from folks who all value God's inspired word. I value your feedback, corrections and questions. Please leave a comment!