Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Eternally separated - a myth?

It was so strange.

Even after all my studies and research, I still assumed that the phrase "eternally separated from God" was in the Bible. And it wasn't just the concept; I have heard that phrase so many times and have said it myself many times. I had even thought it was a 'safe' way for those who still wanted to believe in hell to feel that they were expressing their doctrine while still being biblical.

Well, guess what I couldn't find in the Bible?

This post has been a long time in the making. It was probably a year ago when I was writing or researching a topic and decided to look up "eternally separated" to get a clearer idea of what the Bible was saying with that phrase. It disturbed me how it sounded like a conscious state of being. 

And, as you have probably guessed, it was not to be found.

Now hold on. If you are familiar with judgment verses then 2 Thess. 1:9 will come to mind. Certainly that clearly says some will be eternally separated from the Lord. Or does it?

The NASB translation reads: "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord...". Some translations (like NLT) say 'separated from' but the actual word there in the original language is just the preposition 'apo' basically meaning 'from'. The word 'separated' is not there at all.

There is a similar situation in Romans 9:3 where Paul says, "For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren...". That word 'separated' is italicized in honest translations, indicating that the actual word is not there. Again, it is just the preposition 'apo' meaning 'from'. 

It is not evil or unreasonable to assume that 'separated' is implied in these instances. However, since the actual word 'separated' (for example, chorizo, in Romans 8:35,39 - "who will separate us from the love of Christ?") is not used in the original language, it should not be inserted with careless certainty.

There may be a very solid reason the word separated is not used. It may be that the Bible doesn't teach eternal [conscious] separation; and that God does not intend to cause people to exist in an eternal conscious state for the sole purpose of torturing them forever. God and His people over here and the lost over there. Separated. But that isn't what the Word says.

2 Thess. 1:9 may mean just what it says. Certain ones will be punished in the age to come by being destroyed - never to see the face of the Lord again.

This corresponds to the parables of Jesus, when he described how certain ones would be 'thrown out' (Luke 13:28, Matt. 22:13), or when He will declare, "Depart from Me" (Matt. 7:23, 25:41). As God is the giver of life and the source of it, if He casts from His presence, there remains nothing for that one except death (destruction). How could a mere mortal survive without the life that comes from God?

Immortality is a gift from God alone. If that one does not receive the Life from Jesus, then that one's mortality is realized in full.

Now, beyond eternal considerations, there is a very real separation from God that can happen in the life of a person in the land of the living. "Your iniquities have separated you from your God..." (Is. 59:2) "Remember at that time you were separate from Christ... without hope and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12). Someone who dies having rejected Jesus is already "separated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18).

This clarification of separation from God may seem trivial or even imperceptible to some. However, if 'eternally separated' implies consciousness, then it is misleading concerning the nature of God's judgment. And that, in my estimation, is a big deal.

If you use the phrase "eternally separated from God" when you teach others, please study it out for yourself in the Bible. If it is not there, please consider removing that phrase from your vocabulary for the purpose of sound doctrine. (If it is there, please let me know straight away!)


  1. Dirk Waren comments: "I have an article in Chapter Six of HELL KNOW that goes over the “death means eternal separation from God in roasting torment” theory in detail and thoroughly disproves it. You can check it out here: "

  2. Dirk Waren writes, '...adherents of eternal torment “explain” that death... does not really mean death but rather “separation from God.” When you press them for details as to exactly what they mean by “separation from God,” it turns out that what they really mean is never-ending conscious life in fiery torment. Do you see the obvious problem with this theory? Under the guise of “interpretation” they would have us believe that death actually means the exact opposite of what it really is! In other words, since “the wages of sin” to them is not death at all, but rather immortal life in conscious torment, their definition of death means something entirely opposite to literal death!' (excerpt from above link)


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!