The following quote is taken from For Ever: An Essay on Eternal Punishment (you can download it here), written by Marshall Randles. Randles (1826-1904) was a Methodist minister, of whom I could find very little information online. His book is excellent, however, in its treatment of the heresy of annihilationism, even though his Methodism sometimes creeps into his arguments in defense of the Scriptural doctrine of Hell. In the quote I have selected, Randles is highlighting some of the absurdities of the annihilationist position, specifically in regard to “life” in Christ and “death” outside of Christ.
Life in Christ Only
Apparently, some of the advocates of an absolute end to the unsaved delight most of all to dwell on the theme of Life in Christ only; from which they draw the inference. that all ultimately found out of Christ will cease to be. It is their Goshen in which they love to luxuriate. It affords ample scope for lauding Christ and the potency of His work, and wears the aspect of evangelism. Their jubilance, however, far exceeds their logic. We have no fault to find with their extolling the Redeemer; but we emphatically deny their inference. The pith of their argument is that men can only have eternal life in Christ, and therefore all who do not become savingly united to Him will drop out of being.
We more than admit, we long to impress on mankind, that life eternal comes to man only by Christ, ‘Who is our life,’ and in whom our life is hid. We have ‘life through Him’ Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him…’
But what is the life? Mere existence? or a holy and blessed state? If the former, the argument is good to prove that of all mankind only those shall continue in their being for ever who die in Christ. If life means the latter, all the argumentation from it to the future nonentity of the ungodly is the veriest waste of words, at which the love of truth may well grow indignant.
…it may be well here to observe that the life in Christ is to some extent realized on this side dissolution. For, Paul says, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;’ ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’ And Jesus said, ‘Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.’ It includes freedom from guilt. Accordingly, the Saviour declares the believer ‘hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.’ Agreeably to which Paul adds, ‘As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.’ Another element is love to God. Jesus taught that to keep God’s commands was to ‘enter into life,’ and that the two great commandments are love to God and our neighbour. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.’ And, ‘He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.’ It is to be under the purifying and felicitating influence of the Spirit of Christ. ‘For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’
Manifestly the death from which Christ redeems is not non-existence, but a certain conscious, sentient, moral state; and the life in Christ is not existence, but humanity restored to holy and blissful union with God. Eternal life is this for ever continued and expanded in the inheritance of the saints in light. How mistaken then to contend that the only alternative to this life-state is non-existence! It would be as reasonable to contend that the unbelievers of our Lord’s day were at the same time non-existence because they not the life which He offered them. They had been without Christian life, as too many have now, proving the life was not existence, but a state of existence. The one is the effect of His work as Creator; the other of His work as Redeemer. Hence the relation of creature to Creator remains, when that of redeemed to Redeemer ceases or is rejected. The life eternal in Christ is begun on earth and consummated in heaven; the second or eternal death is the perpetuation of the Christless state, chosen and commenced in time. Christ did not die to restore man to existence, but to life. The departed wicked have not Christian life while awaiting the judgment; yet most annihiationists would hesitate to affirm that they have no being; showing there may be loss of life without loss of existence. Understand ‘life’ to mean existence, and ‘perdition’ to mean non-existence in the third chapter of John, and we should read, ‘God so loved the world that He His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not cease to be, but should have everlasting existence.’ Could bathos be more complete?
The essential notion of Mediator presupposes the existence of two parties (God and man in this case) between whom He mediates. Hence, mediation is not the basis of the existence of either party, but is superinduced upon it.If existence, in the strict meaning of the word, were procured by the redeeming work of Christ, then to be out of Christ would be nothing less than absolute non-existence [!] Yet, at this moment, how many men exist who are out of Christ! “