Derived from the word nihil meaning “nothing” this view holds that humanity will return to nothing.
There are various forms this view takes although often they are philosophical rather theological. Some hold simply that humanity is mortal and death is the end. From a theological perspective however, this view holds a different meaning.
Orthodox Christianity believes Christians will spend eternity in heaven. However, it is the fate of the unbeliever that divides Christians. Christian annihilationists hold that a loving God cannot eternally punish unbelievers. They will be punished by not being allowed to enter heaven and they may be punished in hell, but only for a time. At some point they are annihilated or simply cease to exist.
Support for this view is seen in use of the terms death, destruction, and perish in reference to the unbeliever.
Opponents of this view point out the use of terms such as unquenchable fire and use of words such as eternal and everlasting. While proponents hold that everlasting and eternal may simply mean “a long time” these are the same words used in reference to heaven and heaven is understood as eternal and not just “a long time.”
For further discussion on this and other interpretations of the unbeliever’s fate, see the article Fate of the Unbeliever.