Subtitle: A Biblical and historical study of the doctrine of final punishment.
Unfortunately, I have to start with a disclaimer. It has been 4 years since I have read the book, and as far as I remember, I did write a review on NazNet BC. So the review is as far as I remember and can find in the book.
Secondly, this is about the 2nd edition, 2001. There is a third edition now, printed in 2011. Of course it is best to use that one, but I don't have it.
With this out of the way, let's go!
To start off, Fudge is not some kind of liberal. In his own words, he is "a Christian and an Evangelical, persuaded that Scripture is the very Word of God written. For that reason I believe it is without error in anything it teaches." Which means that any disagreement would be based on interpretation, not on differences of opinion regarding the value of the Scriptures.
The book is as thorough a study as I can imagine. The concepts of Aionios, immortality, sheol and the destiny of the wicked in the OT are discussed.
He proceeds with the intertestamental period and the pseudeoigrapha, before it goes to Jesus' teaching, thus laying a proper foundation for the paradigm in which to read those first. COntinues with the wages of sin in the writings of Paul and final punishment in the rest of the NT. We have arrived at page 313 by then! The final chapters are devoted to the doctrine of final punishment among the Apostolic Fathers, the Middle Ages and the views since the Reformation.
Finally some conclusions are drawn, which brings us to page 439 and the appendixes.
Here he especially refers to the worm that never dies, the fire that is not quenched etc."The question, therefore, is not whether man will exist forever on his own (Christian theologians have always denied that). It is not whether God, who created man, can also bring him to total extinction (that is also conceded by all). Neither is it whether God is able to make even the wicked immortal if He so chooses (which no one denies). The question is whether or not Scripture teaches that God will make the wicked immortal (along with the righteous) in the resurrection for everlasting life in pain rather than everlasting life in bliss, or whether immortality in the Age to Come is a boon promised only the righteous on the basis of Christ's redemption and victory over sin and death".
Reduced to these terms, there is no longer any controversy. For no one, not even the greatest traditionalist, has ever presented a clear and convincing case in the affirmative of that question.
Unending conscious torment was first read into biblical language on the presupposition that man's soul could never be destroyed, although that was verbally denied from the beginning. Under pressure, the ancient traditionalists began to apply descriptions of the glorified and incorruptible body to the wicked as well as the redeemed. Now that presupposition is being recognized as alien to the Scriptures and is rapidly being discarded on that basis, the traditional interpretation of Scripture which it bore so long ago still continues. Most evangelical, somewhat shellshocked from the discovery of pagan parasites in what they thought was healthy thinking, have simply lacked the strength, nerve or will to follow through on the information they have assimilated already" (p 409-410)
"Which is everlasting - the punishing or the punishment? The Bible explicitly affirms the latter and points to it throughout. It nowhere states the former, and New Testament language can be given that sense only by ignoring its ordinary usage throughout the Old Testament." (p 416)
I guess these few and short quotes do no justice to the book. I would say, if you are interested, read it. You may disagree with interpretations, but at least you will have read ALL of what the Bible has to say on the subject. Which for us Nazarenes, who believe in the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, can be the only option. No mentioning of a few proof texts will do. For whatever view.