In the last 2 blogs we saw how death leads to life. We saw that death is the one appointed way for man to rise to a higher form of life through the loss of his old fallen life. We also saw that this death must be experienced both physically and more importantly – soulishly. Previous to that we saw how this death is accomplished via a baptism of fire – a.k.a the Lake of Fire which is the 2nd Death.
We have thus far covered 3 very significant terms that Scripture uses to describe both judgment for sin and judgment in the afterlife. And each one has confirmed yet again that Judgment will not be endless, but the very process by which we are all transformed into God’s image through Christ. But there still remain a few terms for judgment that we need to look at.
The next related term that we need to explore, and the one that we will be looking at in this blog and the next, is “destruction.”
“But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)
“These will pay the penalty of eternal (age-long) destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
The main word that we will be exploring here is the Greek word Apollumi; which the Strong’s Concordance defines as “to destroy, destroy utterly” and the Louw and Nida Lexicon defines it as “to destroy…” with a sense of, “to cease to exist…to no longer exist, to come to an end, to disappear.”
Along with Apollumi, there are 2 other words used to denote destruction; Apoleia and Olethros. Both of these words come from the same root word that Apollumi comes from – Ollumi; which simply means “to destroy.”
684. ἀπώλεια – apoleia; from 622. 622 ἀπ-όλλυμι – apollumi; from 575 ἀπό – apo; and the same root as 3639b. 3639b. Ὄλεθρος – olethros; from ὄλλυμι – ollumi (to destroy).
Indeed, for the majority of times that these words are used in Scripture this is the sense of the word – utter destruction. You will notice how it carries the force of ceasing to exist or coming to an end. This certainly aligns with what we have seen so far concerning refining fire and death; how it brings to an end the old man – our selfish, evil, sinful nature. In Scripture judgment, death or destruction does not imply a never ending state. Rather it refers to bringing something to an end; it is the absolute and final end for what God condemns and judges.
This Greek word Apollumi is one of the main reasons why annihilation theology rejects the idea that hell is never ending. As I have shown in previous blogs, I agree in part with annihilation, b/c God certainly does bring our wicked nature to an end; but Annihilationists only see 1 side of the coin. The other side is resurrection and restoration which especially connects with this concept of destruction as we will see shortly.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves. In order to get an accurate view that destruction certainly means annihilation, or ceasing to exist in the sense of death, lets look at some references.
“the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed (apollumi), being flooded with water.” (2Pet. 3:5,6)
“They were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed (apollumi) them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed (apollumi) them all.” (Luke 17:27-29)
“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed (apollumi) those who did not believe.” (Jude 5)
“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were…Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed (apollumi) by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed (apollumi) by the destroyer (olothreutes; derivative of olethros). Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)
“But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death (apollumi).” (Matt. 27:20)
“from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed (apollumi) between the altar and the house of God;” (Luke 11:51)
Now these are all historical references to people who died. The wicked in the days of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, Egyptians, disobedient Israelites, the prophet Zechariah and even Jesus Himself. This makes it clear that we are certainly dealing with a concept that concerns the end of life. Those who perished all ceased to exist in this physical realm; Jesus being somewhat of an exception b/c He was raised from the dead.
Now lets take a look at this word as it is used concerning a future judgment.
“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (apoleia)?” (Romans 9:22)
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction (apoleia), and there are many who enter through it.” (Matt. 7:13)
“and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction (apoleia) is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3)
“But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction (apoleia) of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy (apollumi).” (James 4:12)
“For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction (olethros) will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2,3)
“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction (olethros), away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
From the above selection we can especially see the 3 related words that all stem from the root word Ollumi – to destroy. And we can see that it certainly refers to a future destruction that will come upon all those who were disobedient in this life.
There are certainly more instances of this word found in Scripture, but we simply don’t have the time or space to look at them all. One can find them easily enough with a Concordance, or a simple Bible Software program. This word is also many times translated as “perish” but you can also easily find those instances yourself if you are so inclined. What I have given here is sufficient to get a good grasp of how this word and its relatives are used.
Destroyed and Lost
But this is where it gets interesting. For having seen how prolifically this word is used to denote a state of utter destruction, it is also curiously used in the context of being lost.
“But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost (apollumi) sheep of the house of Israel.’” (Matthew 15:24; see also 10:6)
“What woman, if she has 10 silver coins and loses (apollumi) 1 coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost (apollumi)!’” (Luke 15:8,9)
This is highly significant b/c that means that utter destruction, though being an end, is not final. On top of this, Jesus Himself declares that,
“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (apollumi).” (Luke 19:10 and Matthew 18:11)
It is the lost that Jesus comes to seek and to save! It is those who have been utterly destroyed through judgment that He will seek out and save! Again, even though it certainly means an end of some form of life, it is these that Jesus comes to seek out and to save!
And it gets better. Jesus actually makes utter destruction the prerequisite for salvation!
“For whoever wishes to save his life (psuche – soul) will lose (apollumi) it, but whoever loses (apollumi) his life (psuche – soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24)
And that statement is made 4 more times in Scripture! See Matthew 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35 and John 12:25. As we saw in the previous blog, it is one of the only statements that is recorded in all 4 gospels! In order to attain salvation, you must have your old life utterly destroyed, wiped out, no longer existing! Paul the apostle affirms this same truth when referring to a certain rebellious member of the church in Corinth, saying,
“I decided to deliver such a one over to Satan for the destruction (olethros) of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of judgment.” (1 Cor. 5:5)
The destruction of your old, fallen, sinful, evil nature is the prerequisite for complete salvation! No wonder it is the lost (destroyed) that Jesus comes to seek and to save! It does not matter when a person is lost (suffering the penalty of destruction) or how badly a person is lost Jesus will not cease seeking them out until He has saved every last one of them.
“So He told them this parable, saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost (apollumi) one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost (apollumi) until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost (apollumi)!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’” (Luke 15:3-7)
This is obviously a parable, and as such, open to interpretation. In fact parables are perfect for conveying truth that can have multiple levels of interpretation/application. I am convinced that one the highest truths that Christ is teaching us through this parable is that even when 99% of all humanity has be found, saved and restored to righteousness, God will refuse to rest until He has found and saved every last person.
There is a great and wonderful truth to this parable and the ones following it in Luke as it concerns this word apollumi. But there remains more that we still need to examine. The next blog will focus on the parable of the prodigal son as an example of mankind being “lost (destroyed) and then found; dead and come back to life.” (Luke 15:32) We will also look at the Hebrew concept of Destruction conveying the sense of full devotion to God.