Annihilationism is a theological viewpoint which denies the concept of eternal damnation (that the wicked suffer eternally in Hell after death). It relies on a straightforward understanding of the Bible's descriptions of death as "destruction," "consumed," "burned up," etc., rather than dogmatic liberal denial which attempts to misconstrue the second death as eternal torment.
There are two variants on the viewpoint:
- The predominant view is that there is no real place called Hell: the wicked simply are annihilated and cease to exist after death. (This differs from atheistic teaching about no life after death, in that the righteous would go to Heaven.)
- An alternate viewpoint is that the wicked will be punished in Hell for only a time, after which they would cease to exist.
- A variant on this would teach that Hell is reserved only for the "most wicked"; the term is not specifically defined by those who teach it but is generally accepted to refer to persons who historically are considered evil (e.g., Nero, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, MS-13, Timothy McVeigh, papal murderers of Waldensian Christians, white supremacists who committed lynchings, direct murderers and torturers in the Holocaust, Nanking Massacre, etc.).
The teaching is frequently held by groups which dissent from both Roman Catholicism and contemporary mainline Protestantism (e.g., Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses). However, within evangelical, fundamentalist, and Pentecostal/charismatic groups (along with Catholic and Orthodox ones), it is still considered to be heretical.
- Official Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Seventh-day Adventist Church.