Apologetics to the Glory of God

Annihilationism: ἀπόλλυμι word study by Anthony A. Hoekema

(1)    Sometimes apollumi  simply means to be lost. It is so used in the three “lost” parables in Luke 15, to designate the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. In the case of the sin, his being lost meant that he was lost to the fellowship of his father since he went against his father’s purpose.

(2)    The word apollumi may be applied in a somewhat related way to mean become useless. So in Matthew 9:17 it is used to show what happens to old wineskins when you pour new wine into them: the skins “perish” or become useless. And in Matthew 26:8 a related word is used for what the disciples thought was a waste of money – the pouring of ointment on Jesus’ head: “To what purpose is this waste?” (the word rendered waste is apooleia, the noun derived from apollumi). In neither of these instances can the word or its derivative possibly mean annihilation.

(3)    Sometimes apollumi is used to mean kill. For example, note Matthew 2:13, “for Herod will seek the young child to destroy (apolesai) him.” Even aside from the fact that Jesus is involved here, is killing annihilation? As we have learned from Matthew 10:28, one is not annihilated when he is killed. Further, strictly speaking, one does not even annihilate the body when he kills a man. The particles of a decaying body pass into other forms of matter.

(4)    There is a significant type of passage in which apollumi cannot possibly mean annihilation: Luke 9:24, “For whosoever would save his life (psuchee) shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Lose his life in the second half of the verse is a translation of apolesee teen psucheen. One could render psuchee by soul, if he wished. In either case, annihilation is out of the question. If apollumi meant annihilation in the second half of this text, the person who would enter into a state of annihilation would be the saved person! To lose one’s life or soul must mean something quite different from annihilation: to be willing to subordinate one’s own interests to those of the Kingdom of God.

(5)    We come now to those passages in which apollumi is used to describe the future destiny of the wicked. In the light of the usages we have noted, we certainly would not expect the word to mean annihilation in these instances. If it did have this meaning when applied to man’s future state, apollumi would have undergone a rather abrupt change of meaning. Now in the abstract such a change of meaning would be possible. But if this were so, there would have to be a clear indication in the relevant passages that the meaning of the word had thus changed. If this were so, moreover, descriptions of the final destiny of the wicked in which the word apollumi is not used should unambiguously support the idea of annihilation.

Anthony Hoekema. The Four Major Cults: Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventism. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963.), 361-362.