And how could Paul characterize the damned, over and over, as “destroyed” if their fate is to be punished and then saved?
(Rom 9:22 ESV) What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
(Rom 14:15 ESV) For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
(Rom 14:20 ESV) Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.
(1 Cor 3:17 ESV) If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
(1 Cor 6:13 ESV) “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”– and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
(1 Cor 8:11 ESV) And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.
(1 Cor 15:24 ESV) Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
(1 Cor 15:26 ESV) The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(Phil 1:28 ESV) and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
(Phil 3:19 ESV) Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
(1 Thes 5:3 ESV) While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
(2 Thes 1:9 ESV) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
(2 Thes 2:3 ESV) Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
(1 Tim 6:9 ESV) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
And those not referred to as destroyed are referred to as “perishing” — literally dying, meaning eternal death —
(Rom 2:12 ESV) For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
(1 Cor 1:18 ESV) For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(1 Cor 9:25 ESV) Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
(1 Cor 15:18 ESV) Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
(1 Corinthians 15:42 ESV) So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
(1 Cor 15:50 ESV) I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
(1 Corinthians 15:53 ESV) For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
(1 Cor 15:54 ESV) When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
(2 Cor 2:15 ESV) For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,
(2 Cor 4:3 ESV) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
(2 Thes 2:10 ESV) and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
And so, if we take “destroy” to mean destroy and “perish” to mean perish, Paul’s letters make perfect sense if the damned are punished for a finite, perfectly just duration and then destroyed — to cease to exist for all eternity. That is, Paul’s vocabulary seems particularly well suited to Conditionalism.
Moreover, then the “fire that consumes” of the OT (e.g., Exo 15:7; Psa 59:12-13; 104:35; Isa 9:18-19; 47:14), the gehenna (garbage dump) of Jesus, and the destruction and perishing of Paul all fit together.
If you begin your study assuming that souls are, by nature, inherently immortal, then a good, thoughtful person easily winds up with something like Universal Reconciliation (or Universalism). But if you accept that only God is innately immortal and that immortality is a gift from God, there’s no need to go there — and the text supports Fudge’s Conditionalism much better than Universal Reconciliation.
[more to come]