Does the Greek word apollumi, translated as ‘perish’, ‘destroy’, ‘lost’ in some Bible passages, mean to annihilate a thing so that the thing destroyed, perished or lost ceases to exist and no longer has life?
Or does it mean something else.
In Luke 15 Jesus told three parables about something that was lost. These were of the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son. In each parable, the word ‘lost’ is used to translate the word ‘apollumi’. If apollumi means to destroy something so that it ceases to have life and no longer exists, then we have a problem. The reason is that the coin, the sheep and the son ALL existed WHEN they were in their lost state as well as after they were found. In addition to this, the coin never had life… so how could it lose its life?
The word apollumi CANNOT be used to describe something that still exists (the coin) and also has life (sheep and son) but at the same time be used to mean the annihilation of something that existed!
Apollumi CANNOT refer to the state of existence AND non-existence!!!
So can something be destroyed but still exist? Of course! The word, apollumi is used to describe things which have no life being destroyed - yet they continue to exist in some form. One example is the wine which is lost (apollumi) when the wineskins burst. The wine that is spilt on the ground still exists but is useless and no longer able to be used (Matthew 10:39, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Luke 17:33).
In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill (apokteino) the body, but are unable to kill (apokteino) the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy (apollumi) both soul and body in hell." This shows that when man kills (apokteino) it is not the same as when God kills (apollumi). Man can only kill (take away life) from the body and cannot do anything to the soul. God on the other hand, can kill the physical body and also kill (cause to be lost) both the body (the bodies of the wicked will be resurrected) and soul in hell. The person God kills in hell is spiritually lost and separated from the loving presence of God, forever. They still exist but they are eternally lost or destroyed (apollumi).
While the word apollumi is sometimes translated as ‘lost’ it is also translated as ‘destroy’. In both instances, it speaks of the STATE of something that still exists.
John 10:9, 10 Jesus says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. . ."
There are three things the thief does: to steal, kill and destroy. If ‘destroy’ means to kill then the verse would read, “the thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill and to kill”!! This is clearly NOT what this verse is saying for two reasons (1) “to kill and to kill” would make one of the words, ‘kill’ redundant, and, more importantly (2) there are TWO different Greek words from which ‘kill’ and ‘destroy’ come from, not one! There is the Greek for ‘kill’ (thuo) which means to slaughter as in a sacrifice. Secondly, there is the Greek word for ‘destroy’ (apollumi) which means: destroy, loss, mar…). These are completely different words! The thief comes to steal, to kill and to cause the lost soul to stay lost. He desires to bring down to hell with him as many has he can; to keep them lost in this life so they may be eternally lost in the next.
Apollumi CANNOT have two OPPOSITE meanings: the state of having life and the state of being dead!
Jesus himself says in the Bible that, "Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost (destroyed)" (Luke 19:10). If ‘lost’ in this verse meant annihilated or did not exist, there would be nothing to seek and save!!! However, the fact is that because the fallen sinner is spiritually lost and his relationship with his creator destroyed, he/she is in the very state that Jesus came to save. Jesus did not come to save someone who did not exist but rather, people whose original image was marred, lost, destroyed by sin.
Jesus came to seek and save those who had been destroyed by sin before they were ultimately and irrevocably destroyed/lost in the eternal lake of the fire of God’s wrath.
Therefore, to be lost or destroyed (apollumi) is relational. The sheep was lost in relation to the shepherd, the coin was lost in relation to the woman and the son was lost in relation to his father.
All unrepentant sinners who do not believe in / put their trust in Jesus Christ and his death as full payment for their sin, are lost in relationship to God. Because of this they remain condemned (John 3:18) and the wrath of God abides over them (John 3:36) waiting to fall on the day of judgement. On that day, the wicked will be finally lost through eternal separation from God’s loving presence. They will to exist in eternal corporeal (bodily) conscious torment punctuated by wailing and gnashing of teeth, with no one coming to seek or save them. This is what it means when the Bible speaks of God destroying body and soul in hell.