Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

Support via Patreon | Subscribe

Header Image: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin (1852)

I know this is quite a divisive topic, and one you may have come across before (sometimes referred to as “Annihilationism”); and have been told outright that it’s “heresy” or false, or that it’s an emotional argument people want to believe because it ‘sounds nicer’ than the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT). Or maybe you’ve never even heard of this before and you didn’t realise there were alternative interpretations and views on hell.

Any discussion on “hell” is going to cover a lot of ground, and refer to many, many places throughout Scripture; so with that said, this will be a long one, so get comfy! I will do this in two parts as it will become too lengthy for one blog post.

This article will just focus on the Scriptural basis for the position of Annihilationism, as opposed to ECT, but to begin with I’ll define some terms as words like “hell” have become quite loaded with extra and unbiblical meaning over the centuries.

What is hell, anyway?


If you read through the Old and New Testament in older translations like the KJV, you’ll see the word “hell” a lot more often than in more recent Bible translations, which will most likely transliterate the Greek words instead. Not all the words get this treatment, and some still get presented as the word hell in English, for example, the NIV and NRSV will convert the word Gehenna into “hell”, but keep the Greek word Hades as-is (see: Matt. 5:22; 11:23).

The etymology of “hell” and its origins and how it became the word we know today in English, would take more time than I have space for here, but in short, there are three main Greek words which often get translated as the word “hell”, even though they are each different words with different underlying meanings:

  • Gehenna
    Literally means “valley of Hinnom”, which is a place near Jerusalem where children were once sacrificed to Baal (see Jer. 19:5–6). Due to its history, it took on a more eschatological/spiritual meaning as a place of judgement and destruction.
  • Hades (Sheol)
    This is the Greek form of the Hebrew Sheol found in the Old Testament, usually (and properly) translated as “grave”, or meaning the general place of the dead (similar to the place of the same name in Greek mythology).
  • Tartarus
    This only appears once in the New Testament in 2 Peter 2:4 and is used in relation to the angels who sinned and were put in chains. Interestingly, it’s another word borrowed from Greek mythology, for the prison where the Titans were sent as punishment.

If you are interested in how we got the word “hell” in our English language, and more importantly, into our Bibles, I highly recommend that you read this study: The Real Hell.

A Case for Conditional Immortality (aka Annihilationism)

We are often taught that our souls, human souls, are inherently immortal. But where does this idea come from, because it’s never actually stated in Scripture that this is so. This is an Hellenistic philosophical assumption brought into the text (mainly from Plato’s influence) which can taint our interpretations. If we look at 1 Timothy 6:16 we can see that it is God alone who is immortal:

It is he [God] alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

Any other mention of immortality or eternal life is only ever spoken of as a gift given to us by Jesus, and is often contrasted with the alternative: death, perishing and/or destruction.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Timothy 1:10
…but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
John 10:28; 17:2
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. […] since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
1 John 5:12
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

See also the many other times the New Testament authors speak of this as a gift: John 3:16,36; Rom. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:42–43; 50, 54; Gal. 6:8. We also see from Hebrews 1:3 that Christ “sustains all things by his powerful word”, so even if the soul survives death, it would only be because God willed it to be so for his purpose of judgement. There’s nothing to suggest immortality (or even life in general) is inherent in anyone other than God unless it is given or sustained by him.

Destruction and Annihilation

This then leads us to the other side of the coin — death and destruction of the wicked. Throughout the Bible the way of salvation and following God is always presented as a choice between life and death; eternal life with God, or destruction and perishing. Both of these consequences for our choices are eternal as well, but it’s the how of it which is the key factor here.

In the first verse below which renders the Greek as “hell”, I’ll put in brackets the underlying word for clarity, which you can contrast with the previous section where I discussed these words. This Matthew passage is especially important in this discussion as it is where Jesus makes a strong point that what humans can do to one another (ie. kill the physical part), God can do to the spiritual part. A similar message is taught by James in his epistle (Jam. 4:12).

Matthew 10:28
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna).

It’s also interesting to note that in this next Galatians verse, the word rendered “corruption” in the NRSV, is translated as “destruction” in the NIV and others. Looking at the Greek word φθορά (phthora) it can mean ‘destruction, corruption, perish’, all of which still speak to the finality of the fate of the wicked.

Galatians 6:8
If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

The following verses use the word “destruction”, which is an accurate rendering and a different word from the Galatians verse, all of which come from same Greek word ἀπώλεια (apóleia) that can be defined as: destroying, utter destruction, a perishing, ruin, destruction.

Romans 9:22
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction…
Philippians 3:18–19
For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.
1 Thessalonians 5:3
When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!
2 Peter 3:7
But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the godless.

As you can see from these few examples, there is a pretty uniform semantic range here, which in any other context would mean what it says without any implication of ‘unending pain and torment’ which is often read into the text; and shows that the fate of the wicked is consistent in the New Testament as it is in the Old. See Psalm 92:7 for one (of many) examples which speaks of evil people being condemned to “destruction forever”, rather than them in a constant state of being destroyed continuously forever, as the ECT doctrine would suggest.

It’s also interesting to note that the contemporary usage of this particular Greek word in various non-Biblical texts uses it in the same face-value meaning of the word (i.e. being completely destroyed), and some translations even rendering the word in English as “annihilation”, as in the quote below:

Elsewhere in Greece, as people learned the seriousness of the danger hanging over the Thebans, they were distressed at their expected disaster but had no heart to help them, feeling that the city by precipitate and ill-considered action had consigned itself to evident annihilation (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, 17.10.1 — emphasis mine)

See the other examples of the word usage in: Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, 14.28.2; Galen, De placitis Hippocratis et Platonis, 7.4.17; Philo of Alexandria, Legatio ad Gaium, 233; Josephus, Bellum Judaicum, 5.559–560; and 1 Maccabees 3:42. This in itself should display the normal usage and understanding of this word around and during the first century. If something is destroyed, it’s gone.

The Eternal and Unquenchable Fire

Other than destruction, Scripture has references to an “unquenchable fire” and “undying worm” throughout the Old Testament as well. If looked at in context, this becomes clear that it is speaking about the finality of judgement, and not its duration; see: Isa. 66:24; 2 Kings 22:17; 1:31; 51:8; Jer. 4:4; 7:20; 21:12; Ezek. 20:47–48. Looking closely at these passages, we can see that the fire is “unquenchable” and the worm “undying” in the sense that nothing and nobody can stop the process before it’s achieved its purpose of destruction and consuming — but the object in the fire doesn’t last forever, only until it is destroyed or dead.

The idea of an eternal fire doesn’t originate with Jesus, as we see from the verses above, so clearly the imagery is being drawn from the Old Testament and its usage in those texts, and is then applied in the new covenant Kingdom context (eg: “It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire.” Matt 18:8).

This phrase is not only restricted to the Gospels, though; Jude and Peter shed light on the meaning of the eternal fire and the punishment of the ungodly:

Jude 1:7
Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
2 Peter 2:6
…and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly

Here we can employ the principle of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. Jude says that Sodom and Gomorrah underwent the punishment of “eternal fire” in their destruction, and yet, that fire isn’t burning anymore. Likewise, Peter says that the reduction of Sodom and Gomorrah to “ashes”, and condemnation “to extinction”, is an example of what is coming to the ungodly in the final judgement. These two passages alone give a pretty clear demonstration that eternal fire and complete extinction go hand-in-hand within the judgement of God.

Just when this concept was beginning to become a little clearer, Isaiah throws another spanner in the works when he speaks of the “devouring fire” and “everlasting flames” and those who are to be burned in the fire;

Isaiah 33:12, 14–15
And the peoples will be as if burned to lime,
 like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.
The sinners in Zion are afraid;
 trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can live with the devouring fire?
 Who among us can live with everlasting flames?”
Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly,
 who despise the gain of oppression,
who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it,
 who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shut their eyes from looking on evil…

The phrase translated “everlasting flames” in the Septuagint (LXX) is very similar to the phrase “eternal fire” in the New Testament. But here we see that it is God himself who is the fire, and the righteous are able to dwell within the eternal fire, whereas the wicked are burned up like discarded thorns and chaff.

Wheat, Chaff and Gnashing Teeth

This leads us nicely to the final point I want to make in this post. There’s still much more that can be covered, but I will leave that for a second part as this is already getting pretty long and heavy!


Jesus also uses images like chaff in a furnace or the destruction of body and soul. His parable in Matthew 13 foretells a day when the wicked will be cast into a fiery furnace like chaff (which has echoes of that Isaiah passage above), where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

It is often assumed that weeping and gnashing of teeth refers to pain and torment, which seems logical and understandable, but that’s not how either of those figures of speech are used in the Old Testament. Instead, they are phrases speaking of mourning and anger:

Job 16:9
He has torn me in his wrath, and hated me;
he has gnashed his teeth at me;
my adversary sharpens his eyes against me.
Psalm 35:16
…they impiously mocked more and more, gnashing at me with their teeth.
Psalm 112:10
The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.
Lamentations 2:16
All your enemies open their mouths against you; they hiss, they gnash their teeth, they cry: “We have devoured her! Ah, this is the day we longed for; at last we have seen it!”

Notice how gnashing, anger and despair are linked together throughout these verses. Contrast this with how Jesus uses the phrase in his parables and teaching on those who will be locked or thrown outside of the Kingdom, and it becomes clearer that this is a figure of speech displaying the anger of those people who aren’t allowed in, rather than any physical torment or fire put on them;

Luke 13:28
There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out.

After analysing these texts, phrases and the underlying Greek words, I find it just threads everything together and keeps the whole of Scripture consistent in the message of the Gospel: turn to God and have life, else go your own way in sin and end up with its wages: death. All of the times where Scripture speaks of the end result for the ungodly and wicked, their end is destruction, fire and ashes, not a continual life of torment forever. These ideas must be read into the text if we aren’t going to take what it says at face-value (or the “plain meaning”).

The Early Church


If we can accept that this view of Scripture is accurate, and that the Bible doesn’t say that humans are inherently immortal, then logically it should follow that the earliest teachers of Scripture, after the Apostles, should have said the same, or similar, following their forebears.

Clement of Rome, one of the earliest Church Fathers writing somewhere between AD 30–100, wrote about the punishment of God on the unrighteous in terms of death and perishing; he even uses a phrase similar to a Pauline term found in 2 Thess. 2:8 (“The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth”):

Because they could furnish no assistance to themselves, they perished. He breathed upon them, and they died, because they had no wisdom. […] for wrath destroys the foolish man, and envy killeth him that is in error.
— Clement of Rome, 1 Clement, chap. 39

Ignatius of Antioch, another early bishop, writing around AD 107, sent a letter to the Ephesian church to teach against heresy. He used similar language found in the Biblical texts of “everlasting fire”, but also speaks in such a way that suggests the wicked will “perish” if they haven’t received the immortality which Christ breathed into his Church:

[False teachers] shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him. […] For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that He might breathe immortality into His Church. […] Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?
— Ignatius of Antioch: Letter to the Ephesians, chaps. 16–17

Similarly, in his epistle to the Magnesian church, Ignatius makes the claim that if Jesus were to “reward us according to our works, we should cease to be”! Though he doesn’t elaborate on this point, it squares with the New Testament message that the “wages of sin is death”.


Written around the same time as Ignatius, was the Epistle of Barnabas, who, in his conclusion, states that: “For the day is at hand on which all things shall perish with the evil [one].”. This would even imply that the devil will eventually perish as well, along with everything that doesn’t belong to the Lord.

A little later on from these text around AD 130, the anonymous Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus gives a similar interpretation that “death” truly means death and that the fire consumes those in it “even to the end”, implying the condemned survive long enough to be punished, but will eventually be consumed by the fire:

…when thou shalt despise that which is here esteemed to be death, when thou shalt fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it.
— Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, chap. 10

So we see that even the earliest writers seemed to keep within the biblical tradition of speaking about death and perishing as being the final end to those who turn from God or do evil. It’s later on, towards the end of the second century that we really begin to see a shift in interpretation of the fire being more of an eternal torture chamber rather than a furnace.

To Be Continued…

I will continue with this exposition on the fate of the wicked in a second part soon, where I’ll examine more of the Old Testament usage of “unquenchable fire” and also the references we find in the book of Revelation.


I hope that you have found this study edifying, useful and eye-opening; or maybe it’s given you more questions than answers! Whichever the case, please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.

Further Reading/Sources

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 357 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates and join over 121 subscribers today!

Order my new book today from Amazon or

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

That Ancient Faith is Expanding!

| 11th May 2020 | General Interest

That Ancient Faith is Expanding!

EXCITING UPDATES! Just a quick update for you about a couple of new and exciting things I am offering now! Firstly, I have now launched a new range of faith-inspired clothing, which you can see some examples of in the image banner above. If you want to proclaim Christ and your faith via what you wear (especially in these dark times where churches are closed), head on over to:     The second thing to mention, as you may gather from the logo above, is that I now have a YouTube channel! I have begun it by doing a read through of my book, 40 Days with the Fathers, through Lent, so you can listen to the whole book for free. I also plan to create videos discussing the topics I write about where I can go into things in more detail or explain some of the thinking behind the various topics which I can't always fit into the blogs. So if you enjoy watching things on YouTube, come on over and subscribe to my channel.   That's right: I have a new book in the works! It draws on some of the series and articles I've written on this site to do with Old Testament prophecy and its links into the New Testament, the Incarnation (briefly) and the Second Coming and what we have to look forward to (or worry about). Stay tuned for updates, I'll post some more information soon when there's something more solid to show. If you want to get some insider previews or maybe some advanced reading or snippets etc. then come on over to my Patreon and sign up. Members will get advanced access to any news and updates before anyone else, plus other bonuses! That's all for now, leave a comment if you have any queries or thoughts! ...

What are the Seraphim, and was the devil one of them?

| 23rd April 2020 | Angels

What are the Seraphim, and was the devil one of them?

Have you ever wondered about what the devil is — or was, pre-Fall? You’ve probably been told that he used to be an angel with God, so then why is he often described as a snake, serpent or dragon? Though there isn’t a great deal given away in Scripture as to the nature of angels, or the heavenly realms in general, we get some glimpses from the visions of the prophets. But what we can also look at is the words which the Bible uses; some of which aren’t translated and so lose their original meaning in English. The Seraphim The word “seraphim” is a transliteration of a Hebrew word, rather than a translation, so in English we often will miss the meaning the original hearers and readers would have understood that word to mean. A transliteration, for those unfamiliar with the term, simply means that a foreign word has been converted into its English equivalent of letters, rather than its meaning being used. A relevant example of this would be for the word “satan”. Although it’s come to be used as a name, it’s actually a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “adversary” (שָׂטָן). You can see a few examples of the word usage here as an adversary: 1 Samuel 29:4; 1 Kings 11:14 and as a name in Job 1:6 (The Adversary if translated). So what does seraphim mean if it were translated? Basically “fiery serpents”! The Hebrew word has obscure etymological roots related to burning (literally), which is likely why translators choose to transliterate rather than translate it. We also find similar connections to fire in other parts of Scripture where the heavenly host are mentioned or described; see Ps 104:4 and Ezk 1:13-14 for two examples where God's ministers are "fire and flame", and the living beings move "like a flash of lightning" with fire moving between them. There are some links with the root word to Babylonian fire-gods and also in Egypt there are eagle-lion-shaped figures referred to as seref which is where we get our English term (and concept) for the “griffin” from. There’s also the possibility that “fiery snakes” is a reference to the venom in a bite, which has allusions to the “fiery darts” of the enemy in Eph 6:16 — though this could just be more about symbolism with Roman soldiers and their weapons than anything else. The seraphim are one of, if not the highest order of angelic beings, often depicted close to the throne of God singing praises. We first see them in Isaiah 6:2–3 and then briefly again in verses 6 and 7 where one puts a coal on Isaiah’s lips. Isaiah 6:2–3Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory.” As we see from Isaiah’s description of the seraphim, they have wings, faces and feet, and in verses six and seven, they must have hands of some sort to be able to hold tongues and give coal to Isaiah. We don’t really hear from the seraphim again until we get an inference in John’s Revelation, where they are called “living creatures” in a similar scene that Isaiah saw, described very much in the same way, except with the terrifying visual addition that they are covered in eyes: Revelation 4:8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,“Holy, holy, holy,the Lord God the Almighty,who was and is and is to come.” That Ancient Serpent How does this all relate to the devil? As you probably know, one of the recurring themes for Satan in Scripture is that of a snake, serpent or dragon. The word used in Genesis 3 for the serpent isn’t the same as the word for seraphim — it uses the word nachash [נָחָשׁ] for serpent instead. But looking through the word usage between saraph and nachash the two can get translate...

Lent, Lament and Lockdown

| 03rd April 2020 | Coronavirus

Lent, Lament and Lockdown

Lent is a time of self denial and of giving things up, and also a period of lament in the lead up to Easter where we remember the Passion and death of Christ before we celebrated the glorious resurrection.  Often this is a personal affair on the discipline side of things, even if it's a practice shared within your church community, but this year has been so very different. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the whole world has slowly gone into lockdown country by country, creating a strange sort of global “Lent” where everyone is having to practice self control and self denial. This has been underpinned with a sense of lament at the way things were, the way things should be, and all of the things—and people—we've lost.  I don't think it's coincidental that the most isolating part of this pandemic happened during the Lenten season, causing us all, Christian or otherwise, to stop, step back and reflect on life. While it can feel a little gloomy of late with all the isolation and lack of social and religious meetings, we mustn't think that God has abandoned us—likewise we also shouldn't lose faith.   The Bible isn't a stranger to times of lament and distress, and we see it often in the Psalms. At times like this of limited food and resources and job loss, we can probably relate to David when he wrote things like this: Psalms 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Psalms 102:1-2 Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to you. Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress. Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call. And such poetic sadness from the book dedicated to lament; Lamentations 3:16-18 He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD.”   Hope in the face of darkness As we look forward to the end of this pandemic with hope like a light at the end of a tunnel, in the meantime we just learn to live in the darkness as the Apostles did on those gloomy days between the crucifixion and the resurrection; when their world ended but was then reborn better than ever expected! They only had to wait a couple of days to see their hope realised, whereas we have no idea how long this will last. How long will we go without seeing friends and family, meeting up at restaurants or going to church again? Only time will tell, but in the midst of this, we shouldn't worry but rather cling onto the hope of God as the Psalmist did, as the Apostles did and so many others before us.  And in the words of the author of Lamentations: “...the Lord will not reject forever … for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.” (Lamentations 3:31,33).  There is always light at the end of darkness if we put our hope in Christ.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)...

Christians and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

| 20th March 2020 | Coronavirus

Christians and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We currently live in troubled times lately with a lot of uncertainty around us, both locally and globally. But even now as I write this and think on the topic of the virus, one verse in particular springs to mind: Psalm 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of deathI fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff — they comfort me. It does feel a little bit like we are all walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” at the moment! But as the Psalmist says, “I fear no evil” for God is with us and comforts us. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get sick (or die), but that no matter what is happening around us, internally we should be at peace and have a stilled mind; not one filled with worry and hopelessness. John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. Not to mention the mandate to not worry about what we’ll eat or wear etc. (Matthew 6:25–34) especially in this time of panic buying where shops are facing food shortages. We must strive to avoid this type of thinking and behaviour, because not only does it not help anyone (and is incredibly selfish), it just causes more panic. As Christians we should keep in mind what God has spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10), and what Paul wrote to Timothy that “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power” (2 Timothy 1:7). Christians and Plagues Throughout History Disease, plagues and pandemics are not new things in this world. History is replete with sickness and death, the only difference now is that since around the 20th century, modern medicine and vaccines have improved to such a degree that we are fairly well protected against anything on a pandemic, or even an epidemic, level. Sickness is often relegated to a temporary inconvenience during winter, which we can pop pills for; whereas the more serious sickness and death are hidden away in hospitals and care homes out of sight for the most part. Prior to this time, past generations just had to deal with recurring diseases and plagues killing off the populations fairly regularly. Just take a look at this infographic to see the scale and frequency of them! It dates back all the major pandemics to the second century, of which there are about twenty, so that’s just over one global disease per century. As scary as the current times are, this is nothing new, historically speaking. In these past times of plague and disease, many people would flee their towns and cities if they weren’t obviously sick to try and escape the looming deadly virus — but the Christian communities often had the opposite response: they stayed with the sick and dying! In the year 249 AD, a pandemic swept the Roman Empire known as The Plague of Cyprian, named in commemoration of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, as he was a witness to it. At the height of the outbreak, it was thought that around 5,000 people a day were dying, and it almost toppled the Empire. Cyprian wrote about the plague in his On Mortality, describing its symptoms, which some modern historians think could describe a type of Ebola: This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened… As gruesome as that sounds, Cyprian, a couple of chapters later, writes in praise of those who forsook their own well-bei...