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or, Passages of Scripture Sometimes Quoted to Prove Endless Punishment
Shown to Teach Consequences of Limited Duration.
by J. W. Hanson, D.D.
Reprinted and Electronically Reformatted by:
(This version has changed the Roman Numerals to modern English)
Tentmaker Ministries and Publications, Inc.
Hermann, MO 65041
When one who has been reared in the Evangelical Church is favorably impressed with the doctrine of Universal Salvation, it frequently happens that the many texts he has heard quoted against it, operate as stumbling blocks in his way. The author of this book believes that no text of Scripture, properly understood, in any manner traverses the grand central truth of the Gospel: God's triumph over all his foes, converting them to himself; and he has arranged these expositions in a brief and popular style for the purpose of showing that the Threatenings of the Bible are perfectly harmonious with the Promises of Scripture; in fact, that the threatenings are given in order that the promises of Universal Redemption may be fulfilled.
He agrees with the Canon Farrar of the Episcopal Church, who says: "If the decision be made to turn solely on the literal meaning of the scriptures, I have no hesitation whatever in declaring my strong conviction that the Universalist and Annihilist theories have far more evidence of this sort for them than the popular view. It seems to me that if many passages of Scripture be taken quite literally, universal restoration is unequivocally taught, * * * * * * * * but that endless torments are nowhere clearly taught --the passages which appear to teach that doctrine being either obviously figurative or historically misunderstood."
If these pages shall assist any mind to remove obstacles that prevent it from beholding God as the Savior of the world, its purpose will be fulfilled.
When considering the threatenings of the Bible, it must never be forgotten that they are always to be interpreted and understood in harmony with the great principles declared in the Scriptures, and more especially with the revealed character of God, and his promises to man. They must be so explained as to harmonize with the rest of the book that contains them. For instance, we read that "God is a spirit," and yet the same book speaks of the eye, hand, arm and ear of God. As an infinite spirit can have no such organs, we must not say either (1) that God is not a spirit, or (2) that one part of the book contradicts another part. Such passages must be interpreted so as to agree with the great central fact that God is a spirit.
Now we read that "God is Love"--is a "Father." And at the same time we are told that he will cast the wicked into hell--into everlasting fire--will punish them forever, etc. On the same principle we must not (1) deny that God is Love and a merciful Father, nor (2) believe that the Bible contradicts itself; but we must believe that the threatenings harmonize with the promises, and that no penalty can be accepted as taught in the Bible, that would prove God not a father, or destitute of love towards each and all of his children. In other words, we must shed the light of infinite, boundless, unending love on all threatened penalties, and interpret them in perfect accord with the Divine character. Believing that God is love, we must not only be prejudiced against believing that endless or any other cruel punishment is threatened in the Bible, but we must, with all the resistance of which our moral natures are capable, refuse to credit any statement that represents God as permitting any penalty to befall the sinner which will not result in his final welfare. The love of God, the Divine Paternity, is an efficient guaranty against the possibility that unending agony can be experienced by any human creature. So that, if the letter of Scripture seemed to teach endless punishment--which it does not, when properly understood--the light of the great central fact of revelation-God's Love--would dispel all darkness from the declaration as soon as the light of that truth should fall upon it. In this frame of mind we should consider the threatenings of the Bible.
ENDLESS PUNISHMENT OF HEATHEN ORIGIN.
We should also bear another fact in mind. When the doctrine of endless punishment began to be taught in the Christian Church, it was not derived from the Scriptures, but from the heathen converts to Christianity, who accepted Christ, but who brought with them into their new church that doctrine which had for centuries been taught in heathen lands, but which neither Moses nor Christ accepted. And having received the idea from heathen tradition, it was natural that the early Christians should transfer it to the Bible, and seek to find it there.
That heathen invented this doctrine is undeniable.
Says Cicero" "It was on this account that the ancients invented those infernal punishments of the dead, to keep the wicked under some awe in this life, who without them, would have no dread of death itself."
Says Polbius, the Greek historian: "The multitude is ever fickle and capricious, full of lawless passions and irrational and violent resentments. There is no way left to keep them in order but by the terrors of future punishment, and all the pompous circumstances that attend such fiction! On which account the ancients acted, in my opinion, with great judgment and penetration, when they contrived to bring those notions of the gods and a future state into the popular belief."
Strabo, the Greek geographer and philosopher, says: "it is impossible to govern women and the gross body of the people, and to keep them pious, holy and virtuous, by the precepts of philosophy. This can only be done by the fear of the gods, which is raised and supported by ancient fictions and modern prodigies." And again he says: "The apparatus of the ancient mythologies was an engine which the legislators employed as bugbears to strike a terror into the childish imagination of the multitude."
This horrible heathen dogma sought entrance into the Christian church in vain for the first three centuries after Christ, and though here and there a heathenized Christian announced it, it did not become an accredited Christian doctrine till after more than five centuries. Dr. Edward Beecher candidly confesses that as late as three hundred years after Christ it had hardly obtained a foothold.
He says: "What, then, was the state of facts as to the leading theological schools of the Christian world in the age of Origen and some centuries after? It was, in brief, this: There were at least six theological schools in the church at large. Of these six schools, one, and only one, was decidedly and earnestly in favor of the doctrine of future eternal punishment. One was in favor of the annihilation of the wicked. Two were in favor of the doctrine of universal restoration on the principles of Origen, and two in favor of universal restoration on the principles of Theodore of Mopsuestia."
That is to say, here were four times as many Universalist theological schools, where clergymen were educated, as there were schools in which endless punishment was taught, even as late as A. D. 300. But from that time onward, as darkness increased, the heathen idea was more and more transferred to the sacred page, till it entirely overlaid and obscured the truth, and it was not until the light of the Reformation began to dawn that the profane inscriptions of heathen tradition were erased from the palimpsest of the Scriptures, so that the meaning of the inspired authors could be apprehended.
We propose in this volume to show that the texts quoted in behalf of the heathen error do not contain it; that none of the threatenings of the Bible teach endless punishment.
The penalty that God intended to threaten to Adam would certainly be found at the very promulgation of the consequences of his sin. But it is nowhere intimated in the account of the first human transgression that he had incurred endless torment.
Adam was told: "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die," or, as a literal translation would read, "Dying thou shalt die." Whatever death Adam died, it was in the day he sinned. What death did he die, in that day?
This threatened death is not (1) of the body, for physical dissolution was the natural result of physical organization, and the death threatened was to be "in the day he sinned." His body did not die in that day. (2) It was not eternal death for the same reason. He certainly went to no endless hell "in the day" of his transgression. It was (3) a moral, spiritual death, from which recovery is feasible. Paul describe it:
Adam died this kind of death, and no other, "in the day" he sinned. This is apparent from the description of his fate subsequent to his transgression."
If the reader will carefully consult the accounts of the sin and punishment of Cain, the Antediluvians, the Diluvians, Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the transgressors whose sins are recorded for four thousand years, he will find not a whisper, not a hint, that any but a limited and temporal penalty was received. This is agreed by all scholars.
TESTIMONY OF CRITICS.
Warburton: In the Jewish Republic, both the rewards and punishments promised by heaven were temporal only: such as health, long life, peace, plenty, and dominion, etc.; diseases, premature death, war, famine, want, subjections, and captivity, etc. And in no one place of the Mosaic Institutes is there the least mention, or intelligible hint, of the rewards and punishments of another life.--Div Leg. vol.3. Jahn: We have not authority, therefore, decidedly to say that any other motives were held out to the ancient Hebrews to pursue the good and avoid the evil, than those which were derived from the rewards and punishments of this life.--Archaeology, p.398. Milman: The lawgiver (Moses) maintains a profound silence on that fundamental article, if not of political, at least of religious legislation rewards and punishments in another life. He substituted temporal chastisements and temporal blessings. On the violation of the constitution followed inevitably blighted harvests, famine, pestilence, defeat, captivity; on its maintenance, abundance, health, fruitfulness, victory, independence. How wonderfully the event verified the prediction of the inspired legislator! How invariable apostasy led to adversity--repentance and reformation to prosperity!--Hist. Jews, vol.1. Dr. Campbell: It is plain that in the Old Testament the most profound silence is observed in regard to the state of the deceased, their joys and sorrows, happiness or misery.
The punishments, then threatened and received, are thus described:
Is it asked how this suicide was punished? Paul answers:
Hence Paul tells us that under the Law: "Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward."--Heb. 2:2
Now for four thousand years every wicked act was fully punished in this life. "Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward ."
Would God have an endless hell and keep it a secret from the world for four thousand years? Would he keep sinners for four thousand years from a hell he had made, and then use it as a prison for other sinners no worse? No; the silence of God for forty centuries is a demonstration that he had no such place reserved for any of his children; and if not thence under the severe dispensation of Moses, it is impossible that it should be found in the milder message of the Gospel of the grace of God.
Before proceeding to consider the chief supports of the doctrine of endless torment, we will give brief expositions of several passages that are usually quoted in its defense.
THE STRAIT GATE
"The Strait Gate" and the "Few saved" are thought by many to indicate the final salvation of only a portion of the human family.
No intelligent reader supposes this language literal--that there is a gate at which men knock, after death, for admission into heaven. The Kingdom of God is Christ's reign on earth, and its gate signifies entrance into it. "The Kingdom of God," "Kingdom of Heaven," etc. is always in this world.
And every careful reader will see that the language is entirely confined to the present.
"Lord, are there few that be 'saved'?" The literal rendering is: "Are those being saved few?" The question relates entirely to the number then accepting Christianity. But inasmuch as all partialist Christians believe that the great mass--all but a small minority of mankind--will be finally saved, it is very inconsistent for any one thus believing to apply this language to man's final condition. "Are there few that are now being saved?" is the literal rendering of the question From what? Not from endless torment, but from certain evil consequences in this world.
And the answer to Jesus shows that the application was confined to those to whom he was speaking.
"Lord" (they say) "we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets."
The words apply entirely to those who had heard him speak in their streets, namely the Jews, whose advantages were about to be taken away, and given to the Gentiles, who were to enter the kingdom by faith, with faithful Abraham, while they were thrust out. The weeping and gnashing of teeth represents their chagrin and rage at their lot, despising the Gentiles as they did.
"Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because, strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
As we just said, it is entirely inconsistent for any advocate of endless punishment to quote this language in support of that doctrine, inasmuch as all such believers now teach that the great majority of souls will be finally saved, while only the small minority will be forever lost. The Savior referred, by the Strait Gate, to the exacting nature of his religion. The road was narrow, and difficult to follow, and but few then followed it, while the many avoided it, and pursued the broad road of error and sin. The words have the same application today, well expressed by good Dr. Watts:
Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there,
But wisdom shows a narrow path,
With here and there a traveller.
The language teaches that only the few then walked in the narrow way marked out by Christ while the many chose the broader way of wrong.
If we refer the passage to the future world, we cannot escape the conclusion that heaven will only contain a few souls, while the great majority will be damned. It has no reference to the future world whatever, but denotes the few who in our Savior's day went right, while the great multitude went wrong. Dr. A. Clarke says: "Enter in through this strait gate--i.e. of doing to every one as you would he should do unto you; for this alone seems to be the strait gate."
The language in Luke has a more special application to the Jews than that in Matthew, which may be applied to every age since Christ, and to the present. It is as true now as at the time Jesus spoke, that the path of Christian goodness is a difficult one, followed by a comparative few, while the way of wickedness is broad and much traveled. But it will not always be so.
Whoever refers the language to the final condition of the human race must admit that only a few will ever be holy and happy, while the great multitude will be lost. It has no such application, but teaches that at the time Jesus spoke the many went wrong, while only the few chose the way of life.
The kingdom of heaven is Christ's rule among men, his church. It is a net which catches good and bad, and at the end of that age, so often referred to, when severe judgments were to come, the angels, or messengers to execute God's judgments, would separate Christians from others, and the bad were to suffer in the furnace of fire, the burning city, and perish in Gehenna.
Dr. Clark says: "It is very remarkable that not a single Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem, though there were many there when Cestius Gallus invaded the city; and had he persevered in the siege, he would have rendered himself master of it; but when he, unexpectedly and unaccountably, raised the siege, the Christians took that opportunity to escape."
This language has sole reference to the remarkable trials through which the early Christians were about to pass, when Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Christian religion was fairly established on the ruins of the Jewish church. The "furnace of fire," the "wailing and gnashing of teeth," were when the awful calamities of those fearful days, so fully described in Matt. 24, were visited upon the people of Judea. These expressions will be more fully explained hereafter.
"I tell you, nay; except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."--Luke 12:3.
Many readers of the Bible suppose that the word perish always relates to the immortal soul, and that it means to suffer torment without end. And this passage has been quoted blindly, ignorantly, thousands of times to denote the final loss of the soul. But it is only necessary to consult the immediate context to perceive that Jesus was referring to nothing of the sort. He asks:
"Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
That is, perish in a manner similar to their death. "Except ye repent, ye shall all perish as they died." How was that? There were "some who told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices," and of a certain eighteen "upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them."
"Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay; but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish."
That is, be slain as they were. No better explanation of these words can be given than in the language of "orthodox" commentators.
Says Dr. Clarke: "ye shall all likewise perish. In a like way, in the same manner. This prediction of our lord was literally fulfilled. When the city was taken by the Romans, multitudes of the priests, etc. who were going on with their sacrifices. were slain, and their blood mingled with the blood of their victims; and multitudes were buried under the ruins of the walls, houses and temple."
Dr. Barnes (Presbyterian) observes: "You shall all be destroyed in a similar manner. * * This was remarkably fulfilled. Many of the jews were slain in the temple; many while offering sacrifice; thousands perished in a way very similar to the Galileans."
Whitby says: "I tell you, nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish, for the same cause, and many of you after the same manner."
IMPOSSIBLE TO RENEW THEM
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."--Heb 6:4-6.
Any reader of the New Testament ought to see that this language is not to be understood as literal, when he remembers that Peter himself "fell away," and was "renewed again unto repentance." What Paul says is that it is difficult, not impossible, to renew those who have once tasted the heavenly gift.
Calmet says: "St. Paul by no means intended to exclude the baptism of tears and repentance, for the expiation of those sins which we commit after regeneration."
Rosenmuller, a celebrated German theologian, says: "Adunaton. in this place, does not mean absolutely impossible. but rather a thing so difficult that it may be nearly impossible; thus we are accustomed to say of very many things in common conversation."
Dr. Macknight observes: "The apostle does not mean that it is impossible for God to renew a second time, by repentance, an apostate; but that it is impossible for the ministers of Christ to convert a second time, to the faith of the Gospel, one who, after being made acquainted with all the proofs by which God has thought fit to establish Christ's mission, shall allow himself to think him an impostor, and renounce the gospel. The apostle, knowing this, was anxious to give the Hebrews just views of the ancient oracles, in the hope that it would prevent them from apostatizing.
"If a man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin unto death.--1 John 15:6, 17.
"The sin unto death" has often been supposed to be the "unpardonable sin," so called, as though any sin could be unpardonable by a God whose mercy is without limit and without end. The apostle was merely alluding to the various offences under the Jewish law, some of which were unto death, or capital offences, while others were less heinous. The latter were to be interceded for, but the former were to be regarded as beyond intercession. On this passage Bishop Horne correctly says:
The adversary here is a legal one, the language refers to those who were opposed to the disciples in some way, as is evident from the references to a "judge", an "officer" and a "prison." If God were the adversary, as is sometimes claimed, and the prison is after death, then limited punishment is certainly taught, for when "the uttermost farthing" is paid, then deliverance from the prison follows. But it has no such reference. The language has a local reference to the times of the disciples, and relates entirely to legal opponents.
He expresses the same idea when he says: "I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive."--Ecc. 4:2. When the wicked die in their wickedness, the righteous have hope even in their death, is what Solomon says in this language.
To fall into the hands of God, the living God, is as when (1 Sam. 5:6) "the hand of the Lord was heavy," and "the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines."
It denotes the judgments of God falling on the sinful. It is fearful to merit and receive those penalties. God has a merciful purpose in them, but they are often fearful to experience. We are always in God's hands, but we are said to "fall into" his hands when we suffer the consequences of sinfulness. It is a fearful thing to merit and receive the results of wickedness, even though a beneficent purpose moulds them, just as an amputation is a fearful process to undergo, though it may save life and restore health.
This language is sometimes wrongfully applied to God, who is represented as laughing at man's calamity, and mocking him when in future and final torment, whereas it is Wisdom that is personified as saying:
"Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets; she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates; in the city she uttereth her words, saying: How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof! Behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind: when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me. For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord; they would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof; therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."
The idea of wresting this language from its application to Wisdom, and applying it to the merciful God and Father of all, is one of the many illustrations of the manner in which the advocates of endless torment have misapplied the language of the Bible to make it seem to sustain the horrible doctrine. Think of God mocking the sinner's groans, and laughing as he listens to his cries of torment! And why should he not, if he has, in infinite wisdom and love, created an endless hell for his abode?
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you."
The popular rendering of these passages is, that those who commit these sins in this life will never find heaven, unless they repent before they die; but that idea is not expressed nor implied. The kingdom of God, of heaven, is a condition of purity, and whoever is guilty of these sins shuts himself out from the enjoyment of the kingdom. No Christian sect teaches this doctrine more earnestly than do Universalists. All Christians teach that this language is not to be interpreted literally. All those thus guilty; may, by repentance, enter the kingdom.
Man is compared to a fruitless tree, that is destroyed because barren. No point of the description is literal--neither the tree, the axe, the fruit, nor the fire. The nation, or the individual, that does not serve God, perishes; that is, passes through a process of decay, destruction, as the penalty of sinfulness. Not annihilation, nor ceaseless torment, but that moral condition for which the Scriptures have no better name than death.
Anger, as the word is ordinarily used, is not a noble emotion; it is altogether unworthy of God, and he is incapable of it. The wise man says (Ecc. 7:9): "Anger resteth in the bosom of fools." Then God cannot be "angry every day," all the time. What is the meaning of these words?
Dr. Adam Clarke, the well known scholar and commentator, has examined the text with equal learning and candor, and he gives us the result of his investigation in the statement that a mistranslation of the language puts a false meaning on the words. He gives these as authorities:
The Vulgate :--"God is a judge, righteous, strong and patient. Will he be angry every day?" The Septuagint :--"God is a righteous judge, strong and long-suffering; not bringing forth his anger every day." The Arabic is the same. The Genevan version, printed in 1615:--"God judgeth the righteous, and him that contenmeth God, every day;" marginal note: "he doth continually call the wicked to repentance by some signs of his judgments."
Dr. Clarke says: "I have judged it of consequence to trace this verse through all the ancient version in order to be able to ascertain what is the true reading. where the evidence on one side amounts to a positive affirmation, 'God is angry every day,' and, on the other side, to as positive a negation, 'He is not angry every day.' The mass of evidence supports the latter reading. The Chaldee first corrupted the text by making the addition, 'with the wicked ,' which our translators have followed, though they have put the words into italics. as not being in the Hebrew text. Several of the versions have rendered it in this way: 'God judgeth the righteous, and is not angry every day." The true sense may be restored thus; el with the vowel tsere signifies God; el, the same letters with the point pathach. signifies not .
Several of the versions have read in this way: 'God judgeth the righteous, and is not angry every day.' He is not always chiding, nor is he daily punishing, notwithstanding the daily wickedness of man; hence the ideas of patience and long-suffering which several of the versions introduce."
It will enable the reader to understand the meaning of anger, as ascribed to God in the Scriptures, if he will consider how the word is used in the Bible. There are two kinds of anger. One is right, and is exhibited by God, good angels and good men, and the other is wrong and is an animal characteristic, of which God is incapable. Abstract anger is a disposition to combat, destroy, and its legitimate use is to remove obstacles. Employed by the good it never harms, but used by the evil, its work is mischief and woe.
The first sort is referred to in the passage we are considering, and is exercised by God, who is said to "hate all the workers of iniquity." And how does he exhibit his anger? Not against the sinner, but against the sin. Men, smarting under the penalties of sin, seeing only the stroke, and not realizing the love that impels it, say with Saul that God hates them, but it is Infinite Love that wields the rod, and that inflicts every stroke because it loves the sinner, and will destroy that in him that alienates him from his best friend, and ruins his best interests.
"God is not angry with the wicked every day," is the correct reading of this passage, and it must be true of him who is Love, and who is unchangeable, that he never was, never is, and never will be--for he never can be--angry with any human being in any other sense than that his righteous indignation burns towards those traits that cause his children to sin, and that it will continue to burn until it destroys those traits, and transforms his enemies into friends. "The man who destroyed his enemies" transformed them to friends. God's anger will destroy the enmity of his enemies. He will always be kind to the unthankful and evil. He "is not angry with the wicked every day."
What is this sin? It consisted in ascribing the power by which Jesus wrought his wonderful works to Satan. He was accused of being aided by Beelzebub, of having an unclean spirit, and of working his miracles by the power of an evil spirit. From this it follows that but very few persons are exposed to the doom here threatened, inasmuch as very few have ever committed this sin.
But if we take this language literally, we must hold that all other sinners, of every character and kind, will be saved, because just as positively as the Scripture declares that these blasphemies shall never be forgiven, it declares that all others literally and absolutely shall be forgiven. "Verily I say unto you all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme." The sin against the Holy Ghost is the only sin that shall not be pardoned. All other sinners. thieves, liars, murderers, all except that very small number that accused Jesus of receiving diabolical help, shall be forgiven. Does not this show that the terms of the passage are not to be taken literally? Does it not appear that men must either believe that all kinds of sinners, and all of them, except this small number, must be pardoned, or else that the rest of the language is not to be taken literally? It is asserted just as positively that all others shall be, as that these few shall not be forgiven.
If the "shall" and "shall not" are to be understood literally, then the number of the damned is entirely limited to the very few who actually saw Christ's miracles, and ascribed them to Beelzebub. No one since, and no one hereafter can be damned, for all other sin but that shall be forgiven. This saves all mankind except those few persons who said, "He [Christ] hath an unclean spirit." This reduces hell to a mere mote in the universe, and excludes all now living, or who hereafter shall live, from any exposure to it.
What does that language mean? Campbell says this is "a noted Hebraism;" that is, a term of speech common among the Jews, to teach that one event is more likely to occur than another, and not that either shall or shall not occur.
Dr. Newcome says: "It is a common figure of speech in the oriental languages, to say of two things that the one shall be and the other shall not be, when the meaning is that the one shall happen sooner, or more easily, than the other."
Grotius and Bishop Newton are to the same purport. For illustration, when Jesus says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," he does not mean that heaven and earth shall actually pass away, but they will sooner fail than his words. It is a strong method of asserting that his words shall be fulfilled. This is common in the Bible.
The plain meaning is, all other sins are more easily forgiven than this. The words "never," "neither in this world nor the world to come," do not change the sense, but only strengthen and intensify the Savior's meaning that this is of all sins the worst.
The popular impression that 'the world to come" here means the life after death is an error.
Dr. Clarke well observes: "Though I follow the common translation, yet I am fully satisfied the meaning of the words is, neither in this dispensation, viz. the Jewish, nor in that which is to come. Olam ha-bo. the world to come, is a constant phrase for the times of the Messiah, in the Jewish writers."
Wakefield, Rosenmuller and Hammond also give the same opinion. And it should be added that the word "never" is no part of the original Greek. That is, not under either dispensation, or age (aion --mistranslated "world"), will this inexcusable sin be less than the greatest of transgressions.
These are all "Orthodox" commentators, whose opinions were certainly not formed by prejudice in favor of our views of the passages in question. They agree with what seems the meaning of the Savior, that this sin is of all others most inexcusable. But that any sin is literally unpardonable, by a God and Father of infinite love and mercy, is nowhere expressed or implied in the Bible.
Mark's language "hath never forgiveness" should read "has not forgiveness to the age," but is liable to aionian judgment; that is, to an indefinite penalty. See the word aionios. explained in subsequent pages of this book.
Paul speaks (Col. 3:6) of "the wrath of God on the children of disobedience." We have shown that wrath is a reprehensible passion, unworthy of men and impossible to God. The word can only be applied to God in a figurative sense, to denote his disapproval of sin.
Macknight (Presbyterian) gives a lucid exposition of the subject: "Thus, many words of the primitive language of mankind must have a twofold significance. According to the one signification, they denote ideas of sense, and according to the other they denote ideas of intellect. So that although these words were the same in respect of their sound, they were really different in respect of their signification; and to mark that difference, after the nature of language came to be accurately investigated, the words which denoted the ideas of sense, when used to express the ideas of intellect, were called by the critics metaphors, from a Greek word which signifies to transfer ; because these words, so used, were carried away from their original meaning to a different one, which, however, had some resemblance to it.
"Having in the Scriptures these and many other examples of bold metaphors, the natural effect of the poverty of the ancient language of the Hebrews, why should we be either surprised or offended with the bold figurative language in which the Hebrews expressed their conceptions of the Divine nature and government? Theirs was not a philosophical language, but the primitive speech of an uncultivated race of men, who, by words and phrases taken from objects of sense, endeavored to express their notions of matters which cannot be distinctly conceived by the human mind, and far less expressed in human language. Wherefore they injure the Hebrews who affirm that they believed the Deity to have a body, consisting of members of the human body, because in their sacred writings, the eyes, the ears, the hands and the feet of God are spoken of; and because he is represented as acting with these members after the manner of men.
"'The voice of the Lord walking in the garden.'--Gen. 3:8. 'The Lord is a man of war' 'Thy right hand O Lord, hath dashed,' etc.; 'The blast of thy nostrils.'--Exod. 15:3-6-8. 'Smoke out of his nostrils;' 'Fire out of his mouth;' 'Darkness under his feet;' 'He rode' and 'Did fly.'--Psa. 17:8, 9, 10.
The consequences of human misconduct, the judgments of God on wickedness, are ascribed to wrath, anger, hatred, to God, but always in a figurative sense; for he who is the same always, and whose nature is love, cannot literally be angry or wrathful.
The fearful evils of the times here prophesied are figuratively attributed to God's wrath. But all these scenes transpired on earth.
Dr. Clarke says: "All these things may literally apply to the final destruction of Jerusalem, and to the revolution which took place in the Roman Empire, under Constantine the Great. Some apply them to the day of judgment, but they do not seem to have that awful event in view."
Whatever the phrase means, it applies wholly to this life, and has no reference to the world beyond the grave. The phrase "Wrath of God" is an adaptation of human language to human apprehension; to ascribe human passions to him, is a metaphorical employment of terms. Man, smarting under God's chastisements, or beholding the results of his judgments, characterizes as wrath, hatred, what is dictated by love. God has not wrath as men are angry. There can be no such thing as hatred in him who is perfect love.
Prof. Stuart, in his comments on Romans, observes: "It is impossible to unite, with the idea of complete perfection, the idea of anger in the sense in which we cherish that passion; for with us it is a source of misery, as well as sin. To neither of these effects of anger can we properly suppose the Divine Being to be exposed. His anger, then, can be only that feeling or affection in him which moves him to look on sin with disapprobation and to punish it when connected with impenitence. We must not, even in imagination, connect this in the remotest manner with revenge ; which is only and always a malignant passion. But vengeance, even among men, is seldom sought for against those whom we know to be perfectly impotent, in respect to thwarting any of our designs and purposes. Now, as all men and all creation can never endanger any one interest (if I may so speak) of the Divine Being, or defeat a single purpose; so we cannot even imagine a motive for revenge on ordinary grounds. Still less can we suppose the case to be of this nature, when we reflect that God is infinite in wisdom, power and goodness. This constrains us to understand the anger and indignation of God as anthropapathic. i.e. speaking of God after the manner of men. It would be quite as well (nay, much better ) to say that when the Bible attributes hands, eyes, arm, etc. to God, the words which it employs should be literally understood, as to say that when it attributes anger and vengeance to him it is to be literally understood. But if we so construe the Scriptures in this latter case, we represent God as a malignant being, and class him among the demons; whereas by attributing to him hands, eyes, etc. we only represent him to be like men."
Dr. Clarke thinks that the word "wrath" in the New Testament ought to be "punishment."
"Taken in this sense, we may consider the phrase as a Hebraism; punishment of God, i.e. the most heavy and awful of punishments; such as sin deserves, and such as it becomes divine justice to inflict. And this abideth on him (the unbeliever), endures as long as his unbelief and disobedience remain."
These comments express our views, and they certainly afford no support to the idea of endless torment.
"O, generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"--Matt.3:7
John Baptist addresses this language to the Scribes and Pharisees. By "wrath to come" he meant the approaching desolation of the Hebrew nation.
Bishop Pearce says, "the punishment to come in the destruction of the Jewish state" Kenrick, "the impending punishment in the destruction of the Jewish state;" Dr. Clarke, "the desolation which was about to fall on the Jewish nation."
But the same words may be applied to the consequences of any sinful career, whether of an individual or of a nation. The wrath to come is awaiting, not in endless hell, but here, in this world.
Why this passage is ever quoted against the Universalist faith cannot be seen. If Jesus went to hell to preach to the damned who were disobedient in the time of Noah, as many understand the text to teach, it was for the purpose of converting them, and therefore probation extends into the future state of existence We should be very glad to believe this to be the meaning of the text, but the facts compel a different view. What is the meaning?
The spirits in prison are the minds of men imprisoned in sin. By his spirit Jesus preached and preaches to such.
Dr. Clarke says: "I have before me one of the first. if not the very first edition of the Latin Bible, and in it the verse stands thus: 'By which he came spiritually. and preached to them that were in prison.'"
Wakefield says Christ here makes comparison between the Antediluvians and the Gentiles:
"By which he went and preached to the minds of men in prison, who were disobedient, as those upon whom the long suffering of God waited, as in the days of Noah."
That is, the Gentiles to whom Christ came to preach by his spirit were as disobedient as the Antediluvians. The language has no reference whatever to a future state of being.
There is no objection--based on our views--to the exegesis of the passage that represents Jesus as having gone to Hadees to preach to spirits there yet unredeemed, but the doctrine finds no warrant in this passage.
"I PRAY NOT FOR THE WORLD."
"I pray for them; I pray not for the world but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine."--John 17:9.
"Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring; and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
Barnes (Presbyterian) says: "This passage settles nothing about the question whether Christ prayed for sinners." Whitby says: "He made this prayer out of affection to the world, and with this design, that the preaching of the apostles to them might be more effectual for their conversion and salvation."
The language is simply a special prayer for the disciples.
In preference to any comments of our own on this passage, we present the views of "orthodox" commentators, who express our opinion of the passage exactly.
"Verse 18--And if the righteous scarcely be saved. If it shall be with extreme difficulty that the Christians shall escape from Jerusalem, when the Roman armies shall come against it, with the full commission to destroy it, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? Where shall the proud Pharisaic boaster in his own outside holiness, and the profligate transgressor of the law of God, show themselves, as having escaped the divine vengeance? The Christians, though with difficulty, did escape, every man; but not one of the Jews escaped, whether found in Jerusalem or elsewhere. I have, on several occasions, shown that when Cestius Gallus came against Jerusalem, many Christians were shut up in it; when he strangely raised the siege, the Christians immediately departed to Pella, in Coelosyria, into the dominions of King Agrippa, who was an ally of the Romans; and there they were in safety; and it appears from the ecclesiastical historians that they had but barely time to leave the city before the Romans returned under the command of Titus, and never left the place till they had destroyed the temple, razed the city to the ground slain upwards of a million of those wretched people, and put an end to their civil polity and ecclesiastical state."
This salvation relates exclusively to deliverance from the approaching terrors of those times, and not to any sufferings after death by those to whom Jesus spoke, or to any others.
But by "accommodation" we may apply the language to all men, and say that if now, in this world, even the righteous but just escape the temptations and evils that surround them--"scarcely be [not shall be] saved"--the ungodly and sinner experience no such deliverance. "They are like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt continually." But in no event can the words be applied to any other state of existence than the present, without perverting the meaning of the Savior.
He gives, in similar imagery to that employed by Jesus, the signs of the coming: "The heavens passing away with a great noise, and the elements melting with fervent heat."
This language shows that there are millions of murderers who never destroyed life, for every one who hates his brother has already committed murder. If no murderer can ever reach heaven, then millions must be lost forever, for, observe, it does not say that a murderer who does not repent before he dies, but "no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him;" that is, no one who hates his brother.
Partialists of every name do not act on the theory that the murderer must be lost, for every felon's cell and gibbet is surrounded by zealous Christians seeking to secure the repentance of the murderer: and it is notorious that nearly every executed murderer anticipates heaven, notwithstanding his crime, and there have been thousands of murderers who have, if the popular view be correct, by a repentance on the gallows escaped all punishment.
Now we accept no such easy, immoral theory as this. We are confident that no murderer swings from the gibbet to glory in a moment of time. The Scriptures include all transgressors when they say:
The murderer who dies unpunished will receive what he deserves before he can be happy. But here or hereafter it will always be true that no murderer, whether he hate his brother or destroy his brother's life, hath eternal life abiding in him.
There is no more difficulty in applying infinite grace to convert and save the murderer than any other sinner. Indeed, as if to guard Christians against refusing to apply God's converting power to such, Paul says:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God."--1 Cor. 6:9-11.
Some of Paul's associates had been guilty of the grossest sins, and had cast them off. As long as they were thus sinful, they had not eternal life, but when they were reformed, regenerated, they possessed that life.
This will always be true of all souls. No murderer, or other gross sinner, no one whose heart is controlled by evil, possesses eternal life; but when the bad spirit is exorcised, the divine life will enter.
The word anathema. improperly rendered "accursed" in Gal. 1:8, has no such meaning. It's real significance is: "Let him go," "Ignore (or disregard) him." It really means "to separate." The apostle uses it here as he applies it to himself (Rom. 9:3): "I could wish myself separated from Christ." This is the view of all good critics.
Hammond: "And if any attempt to do that, though it were I myself, or even an angel from heaven, I proclaim unto you mine opinion and apostolic sentence, that you are to disclaim and renounce all communion with him, to look on him as an excommunicated person, under the second degree of excommunication, that none is to have any commerce with in sacred matters. And that he may take more heed to what I say, I repeat it again: Whosoever teaches you any new doctrine, contrary to what I at first preached unto you, let him be cast out of the church by you."
Wakefield: "But, if even we, or an angel from heaven, should preach the gospel differently from what we did preach it unto you, let him be rejected. As we told you before, so now I tell you again, if any one preach a different gospel to you from what ye received from us, let him be rejected."--Trans. in loc.
Clarke: "Perhaps this is not designed as an imprecation, but as a simple direction; for the word here may be understood as implying that such a person should have no countenance in his bad work, but let him, as Theodoret expresses it, be separated from the communion of the church. This, however, would also imply that, unless the person repented, the divine judgments would soon follow."--Com. in loc.
Nothing like what is implied in the common use of the English word "anathema" is meant by the Christian use of the Greek word. The Catholic church has employed it to mean accursed, or damned, in the Evangelical meaning of those words, which is as foreign to the spirit of Christ and Christianity as it is to curse and damn in common profanity.
"But the fearful, ant unbelieving, and the; abominable, and murderer, and whoremonger, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."--Rev. 21:8
Popularly "hell" and the "lake of fire and brimstone" are the same thing; but it is seen, as we read the description in Revelation, that they are entirely different. In chap. 20, verses 13 and 14, it is said that "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
There are four opinions as to what the second death is. 1. Some suppose it refers to those who, having once been dead in trespasses and sins, have become quickened into newness of life, and then have returned to their wicked ways. 2. Others apply it to the apostasy of the Christian church. 3. Others to the second destruction or death of the Jewish people, which soon occurred. 4. Others refer it to the endless torment of the soul after death.
This last view is evidently incorrect, for a man's death in trespasses and sins is the first death, the dissolution of the body is the second death, and the endless torment of the soul would be the third death, if the term death were allowable. But it bears no resemblance to death, and if such a fate were in store for any it could not be called death.
The first, second, or third opinion may be adopted. Jude describes those who were "twice dead, plucked up by the roots." Such are all who have once been good, and who have fallen into evil ways.
We favor the first or third view indicated above; but whichever view we take, the popular one has no warrant in the language employed.
The careful reader of the book of Revelation will see that this second death is a temporal destruction to befall the Jewish nation soon after the book was written. The Apocalypse was written just before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. It had once before been laid waste. The Jewish nation had lost its national life, and now it was to pass through a similar experience, undergo a second death, which it did when Titus (A.D.70) overwhelmed the people, and inflicted national death on the Jews. The first death lasted seventy years, the captivity in Babylon; the second has lasted now eighteen centuries, and justifies the term everlasting.
The second death was when the Jews were again extinguished as a nation. The revelator declares it was to be very soon.
John says: "Behold, he cometh with clouds;" Jesus says: "The Son of man cometh in the clouds of heaven;" John: "And all the kindred of the earth shall wail because of him;" Jesus: "And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn."
In Rev. 21:8, the same idea is taught. "The fearful, unbelieving," etc. are to be burned in "the lake of fire, and this is the second death." The lake of fire denotes the fearful judgments of those days during which the Jews experienced their second death. Or, it may be used as a figure, and denote the idea marked "1" above.
"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power.--Rev. 20:5, 6.
They lived and reigned with Christ. This spiritual living was the first resurrection. It was here in this world. Those who experienced it were not exposed to the second death; it had no power over them. Eusebius, the historian, says not a Christian was slain during those fearful times. They lived and reigned with Christ. The first resurrection and the second death were entirely confined to this world.
If any one objects to the exclusive application of these terms to the times and circumstances to which they were applied by John, it may be said that they also are applicable to us. We are dead in trespasses and sins. If we awake to righteousness, we rise out of this moral death, and this is our first resurrection. But if we continue indifferent and sinful, we are experiencing the second death, a condition that will continue until he who led captivity captive shall destroy our destroyers, and "the last enemy, death, shall be destroyed," and the final resurrection shall come, beyond which there shall be "no more death, neither shall there be any more pain."
This language is often understood to teach that those who are unjust, or filthy, or righteous, or holy, at the death of the body, will remain unalterably fixed in that condition forever. If this were true, then millions of infants would be miserable to all eternity, for those who understand the text to relate to the future state of existence also teach that infants are born and die with depraved and corrupt natures.
But a careful reading of the context shows that the revelator has no such reference. He declares that the time of its application was "at hand;" saying, "Behold, I come quickly." The whole book was written, according to its author, to "show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." The approaching destruction of Jerusalem, and overthrow of the Jewish state are the topics prophetically described throughout the book. The second overthrow of the Jewish nation was at hand. This event was to signalize the establishment of the Christian religion, and therefore it assumed immense importance. When the great event took place, those who had not previously become converted were fixed in their wicked ways, were filthy still; while those who had embraced Christianity were righteous still. The death of those spoken of is not referred to; the condition described is in this life. Tomson's Beza gives the correct view:
"This is not as were other prophecies, which were commanded to be hid till the time appointed, as in Daniel 12:4, because that these things should be quickly accomplished, and did even now begin."
All men are to attain unto the literal resurrection. It does not depend upon human effort. What resurrection can man accomplish by his efforts? The context shows. Paul is exalting the Gospel when he says:
"And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death: if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead."
Evidently he refers here to a rising into that moral condition that Jesus occupied. He frequently employs this idea.
"Knowing this, that the old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."--Rom. 6:6.
The resurrection to be attained follows the crucifixion of "the old man." Seeing he had not yet reached that condition, Paul says: "Not as though I had already attained, neither were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."
He inculcates the same idea when he says: "How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" Again he says that we should "walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together, in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection."
The resurrection which Paul strove to attain unto, and for which we should all strive continually, is from sin to holiness, from the death in trespasses and sin to the life in Christ. The Greek word ana-stasis signifies "resurrection." The element stasis may be traced back to the old Sanscrit root sta. "to stand," or, "to stand up." The element ana is intensive, and in this case has the sense of "again." The word ana-stasis. then, signifies literally a standing up again. or the "resurrection." It is standing up a second time, after having fallen down in death. The resurrection to be attained by human effort is the rising out of sin into Christian manhood or womanhood.
This is a simple statement of the effects of belief and unbelief, regardless of the duration of the consequences. As long as one believes, life abides with him, the aionian life of the Gospel, while the unbeliever is deprived of this life. "He that believeth hath everlasting life," though by unbelief he may forfeit it, and regain it again by believing again. Such passages as these illustrate the New Testament use of the term:
The question of the duration of the life or the wrath is not raised in this passage. It remains, in either case, as long as the condition remains that causes the life or the wrath.
"And as death leaves us, so judgment finds us," is the home-brewed method of misquoting the language of Solomon. There is no such text or idea in the Bible, nor anything like it. The language referred to reads thus:
"If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be."--Eccl. 9:3.
It has no reference whatever to death, or the end of probation, though so often quoted both in and out of the pulpit. The book of Ecclesiastes is the wail of a misanthrope, who looks back at the end of a wasted life, spent in the gratification of ambition and sensuous appetite, and from its wreck draws a lesson for those who are setting out upon the voyage which he has ended. In the eleventh chapter, he counsels men to prepare for misfortunes before they come, and in this counsel is embodied the advice of the text, which may thus be paraphrased: "It never rains but it pours; and when the wind has blown over the trees you have planted with such care, that is the end of them; there is no putting them up again."
We regard this as obscure and highly figurative language.
Christ's second coming was not a literal, visible, but a spiritual coming. All the other language is to be interpreted in harmony with his coming. There was no shout, no literal trump, nor did the literal dead literally rise at his coming, which occurred during the generation which was on earth when he lived. "The dead in Christ were first;" that is, those who had died Christians rose to the first position in the estimate of mankind.
The imagery all points to that second coming which occurred while some of those lived to whom the words of the epistle were addressed.
This is the text of many a revival sermon, the word "saved" being wrested from its true meaning, and forced to relate to deliverance from an endless hell. The prophet applies it to deliverance from those national calamities to which the Jewish nation were at the time subjected by Nebuchadnezzar. They were besieged, without preparation, on the verge of winter after harvest, and were not saved from their enemies.
Dr. Clarke says: "The harvest is past. The siege of Jerusalem lasted two years: for Nebuchadnezzar came against it in the ninth year of Zedekiah, and the city was taken in the eleventh. (See 2 Kings 25:1-3.) This seems to have been a proverb: 'We expected deliverance the first year--none came; we hoped for it the second year--we were disappointed; we are not saved--no deliverance is come.'"
The word "Fire" is employed in the Bible; sometimes it is to be understood literally, and at other times it is emblematic of God's judgments.
It is made synonymous with punishment in Matt. 25. The wicked nations are sent into a fire that is called "everlasting punishment." This "everlasting punishment" we shall hereafter show to be reformatory. The fire prepared for "the devil and his angels" is equivalent to the punishment to which they were sent.
"God is Love," therefore is the consuming, unquenchable fire of infinite and divine love. He cannot, therefore, be anything else than love to his children, and what the fire of human love is in the heart of a human parent, the fire of God's love is in him, only multiplied by infinity.
Trace this sacred element from its lowest manifestation in the heart of reptile or brute, up through its holy of holies in the breast of the human mother, and onward up to God himself, and it has but one purpose, and that is to cherish its object, and to destroy all that would harm that object. God is a consuming fire towards his children--but it is the fire of love and not of hate.
George MacDonald well says: "Nothing is inexorable but love. For love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love's kind, must be destroyed. 'Our God is a consuming fire.' It is the nature of love, so terribly pure that it destroys all that is not pure. It is not that the fire will burn us if we do not worship God, but that the fire will burn us until we worship thus; yea, that will go on within us, after all that is foreign to us has yielded to its force, no longer with pain and consuming, but as the highest consciousness of life, the presence of God."
It is not because God hates us, but because he loves us, that he will burn towards us by all the disciplinary processes needful, until he has burned away that sin in us which is contrary to his nature and hurtful to us.
He burns to purify. "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." Could the melting metal feel, how might it misunderstand the process through which it is passing. The unrelenting fire burns beneath the crucible, and the dirty, unsightly ore becomes like liquid light, and circulates as useful coin, and sparkles on the fingers of happy brides, and shines on the sceptres of kings, and in the coronets of queens. And all because the severe and purifying fire of the refiner has tried it.
Inasmch as the consuming fire of God is refining, we learn that it only destroys the dross of sin, and leaves the spiritual gold, the immortal soul, unscathed and pure when its blessed work is finished.
Many phenomena are feared because not understood. The savage thinks thunder the voice of an angry deity, when it is the rolling of God's chariots as they carry health and life through the air. Because fire is sometimes the author of apparent calamity, its beneficent character is lost sight of. It is the right hand of civilization. Its chief office is not destruction, but service. In fact, it destroys nothing. It decomposes substances, releasing constituents from existing relations, but all the elements remain intact, undiminished. Every particle in a substance burned exists still, and is ready to be taken up again in new forms.
If we burn a stick of wood, and carefully preserve the smoke and the ashes, we shall find that they weigh a little more than the wood weighed--just as much more as the oxygen weighed that combined with the flame in the process of combustion. The ultimate particles are all preserved, not one disturbed or changed from its original form and size, and they are released by fire that they may go out into the great laboratory of nature, to be again employed in new forms of utility and beauty. Science declares that the ultimate particles of which all substances are composed are like microscopical bricks; they never lose form or identity, but, let loose from any combination by fire, or otherwise, they are ready to be again taken up in other forms. Destruction is a mere incident in the biography of fire--a preliminary process; fire is the great emblem of purity.
When, therefore, we read in the Scripture that God's processes of dealing with his children resemble fire, or that he is a fire, we must remember these characteristics, and interpret the allusion in the light of scientific facts. If fire never destroys an atom of the material universe; if fire is only a process by which God is reconstructing his universe, why should men imagine that God's moral fires are other than healthful and beneficial in the moral world?
It need not be claimed that the authors of the Scriptures were familiar with these facts, but we shall find that they so far perceived the office of fire as to use it accurately. Thus:
Silver is tried that its impurities may be purged away. The hotter the furnace, the more certain is the precious ore to be purified. Again:
"Who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."--Mal. 3:2, 3.
The exacting love of God, demanding purity, can do no less than destroy all that is opposed to the purity and happiness of its object.
Thus "everlasting fire," the "furnace of fire," "consuming fire," "unquenchable fire," and all the forms in which fire figures in the Bible as an emblem of God's dealings with men, denote the severe but kindly and disciplinary character of God's judgments. There is always a beneficent purpose in all God's dealings with men. Divine love is seeking and securing by severe processes, sometimes as though by fire, the welfare of those towards whom the flame burns.
"The holy flame forever burneth,
From heaven it came, to heaven returneth."
When Universalists say, "God is Love," and others reply, "Yes, but he is also a consuming fire," our reply should be, "No, he is Love and a consuming fire," The two terms are not contradictory but synonymous. Nothing precious will perish or permanently suffer from the consuming fire of God. Sin, error, evil, will perish; but the soul will come forth from the conflagration purified as silver is purified, perfectly reflecting its Maker's image as it never can until the impurities of time are consumed, and it returns to that purity it had when it came from the hand of that being in whose image every human soul is created.
Says Dr. Paige: "When a house is destroyed by fire, the fire, strictly speaking, is unquenchable, because no effort that is made could extinguish it; but no one would allege that it would never expire of itself."
Here the forests are devoured in an unquenchable fire. The meaning is, not that the fire was endless, but that it was not quenched,--it continued to burn--until all the material was destroyed. So the judgments of God on the Jews were effectually done--the nation was completely devastated and destroyed. They were like chaff of the summer threshing floor in the consuming fire of God's judgment.
Josephus says, [Jewish War, B. 2, ch. 17:6.] speaking of a fire that used to burn in the temple--though at the time he wrote [A.D.80] it had gone out, and the temple was destroyed--"Every one was accustomed to bring wood for the altar, that fuel might never be needed for the fire, for it continued always unquenchable."
Strabo, [A.D. 70> described the "unquenchable lamp" that used to burn in the Parthenon, though it has long since ceased to burn. [Lib. 9: p. 606.]
Eusebius, [A.D] 325, Eccl. Hist. Lib. 6, chap. 41] in his account of the martyrdom of Cronon and Julian, at Alexandria, says they were "consumed in unquenchable fire, asbesto puri ," though it burned only long enough to destroy their bodies.
In the Scriptures an unquenchable fire is one that cannot be extinguished until it has fulfilled its purpose.
Now this fire was long ago extinguished, and yet it was "never to go out." So we read in Isa. 34:9-10, "And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up forever; from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever."
This language is all figurative; the unquenchable fire has long since expired.
These passages and extracts suffice to exhibit the Biblical and common usage of this term. In all cases it denotes fire of temporal duration. Of course our Savior used the words in the same sense in which they had always been employed.
Stuart says: "In the valley of Hinnom (gehenna, ) perpetual fire was kept up, in order to consume the offal which was deposited there; and, as the same offal would breed worms, hence came the expression--where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched."
Dr. Parkhurst adds" Our Lord seems to allude to the worms which continually preyed on the dead carcasses that were cast out into the valley of Hinnom, (gehenna). and to the perpetual fire, kept up to consume them."
The idea of endless duration was not in the minds of the authors of these terms. They used the language to denote either literal fire that should burn until its object was accomplished, or as an emblem of divine judgments, thorough but limited.
The Savior had this usage in his mind, and conveyed the same thought, namely, the approaching woes on his country and race in the only places where we find the same language in the New Testament.
It is nowhere said that God has a furnace in eternity, in which to burn souls. His furnace was in Jerusalem, Isa. 31:9. At the end of that age, (aion) Jesus said: "The Son of Man shall send forth his angels (messengers), and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
This was all fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed.
"Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Jude 7; 2 Pet. 2:6.
For an exposition of the phrase "eternal fire," see hereafter in this volume. The cities referred to by Jude are a perpetual example. Their fire has long since expired, but their example still remains, it is one perpetually before the world. The fire is eternal, though it was long since extinguished.
By the phrase eternal fire. according to Rosenmuller we may understand a destructive fire, such as laid waste and annihilated the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, or we may understand by it a fire perpetually smoking. Philo, the Jew, who wrote in the time of our Savior, says, de vita Mosis, Lib. 2. p. 662 A, that even then there were memorials to be seen in Syria of the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah; ruins, ashes, brimstone, smoke and lurid flames which were still emitted, indicative of abiding fire. With this agrees the Book of Wisdom, 10:7, which says: "Of whose wickedness even in this day the waste land that smoketh is a testimony."
Similar language is found in Matt. 18:8. "Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire."
Similar to the foregoing is the use of the phrases:
"WHEAT AND CHAFF," "AXE," ETC.
"For thus saith the Lord unto the king's house of Judah: Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, and cities which are not inhabited. And I will prepare destroyers against thee, everyone with his weapons; and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them into the fire. And many nations shall pass by the city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor. Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city?"
Orthodox commentators of all churches apply this language to this world.
"We risk little in referring this to the Roman power and armies, which, as an axe, most vehemently cut away the very existence of the Jewish polity and state."--Calmet .
"By the axe being now laid to the root of the tree, may fitly be understood, first, the certainty of their desolation; and second, the nearness, in that the instrument of their destruction was already prepared, and brought close to them; the Romans that should ruin their city and nation, being already masters and rulers over them."--Lightfoot .
"In this whole verse (the 12th,) the destruction of the Jewish state is expressed in the terms of husbandmen; and by the wheat being gathered into the garner, seems meant, that the believers in Jesus should not be involved in that calamity."--Bishop Pearce .
"The Romans are here termed God's fan, as in verse 10, they are called his axe, and in chapter 22:7, they are termed his troops or armies. His floor--does not this mean the land of Judea, which had been long, as it were, the threshing floor of the lord? God says, he will now, by the winnowing fan, (viz: the Romans,) thoroughly cleanse his floor--the wheat--those who believe in the Lord Jesus, he will gather into his garner--either take to heaven from the evil to come, or put in a place of safety, as he did the Christians, by sending them to Pella, in Coelosyria, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem. But He will burn up the chaff--the disobedient and rebellious Jews, who would not come unto Christ that they might have life.'--Dr. Adam Clarke .
The distinguished author Chas. Kingsley, writes: ("Letters") "Fire and Worms, whether physical or spiritual, must in all logical fairness be supposed to do what fire and worms do, viz: destroy decayed and dead matter, and set free its elements to enter into new organisms; that as they are beneficent and purifying agents in this life, they must be supposed such in the future life, and that the conception of fire as an engine of torture, is an unnatural use of that agent and not to be attributed to God without blasphemy, unless you suppose that the suffering (like all which he inflicts) is intended to teach man something which he cannot learn elsewhere. * * *
"Finally, you may call upon them to rejoice that there is a fire of God the Father whose name is love, burning forever unquenchable to destroy out of every man's heart, and out of the hearts of all nations, and off the physical and moral world, all which offends and makes a lie. That into that fire the Lord will surely cast all shams, lies, hypocrisies, tyrannies, pedantries, false doctrines, yea and the men who love them too well to give them up, that the smoke of their basanismos (i.e.) the torture which makes men confess the truth, for that is the real meaning of it; (basanismos meaning the touchstone by which gold was tested) may ascend perpetually for a warning and a beacon to all nations, as the smoke of the torment of French aristocracies, and Bourbon dynasties, is ascending up to Heaven, and has been since 1793."
It may be added that, if endless fire were taught, something more durable than "chaff" would be named as fuel.
The popular idea of God's judgment, is, that some time in the far future, in the spiritual world, there will be a post-mortem assize, a literal throne, and judge, and all the paraphernalia of a legal tribunal, where human beings will be sent either to endless happiness or final woe; not for the characters they bore on earth, not for all they did, of good and evil, but that their fate will be determined by the condition they were in during the last few moments of life. So that one whose life was good in the main, but who fell into evil ways during the last few moments in life, will receive nothing for the chief art of his career, but will be endlessly tormented for a day or an hour of sin, while another, who was wicked for seventy years, but good only a day, will escape all punishment for a vile life, and will receive heaven for only a day of obedience. And still further, that the happy one will look from Abraham's bosom into the lake of fire, and see there the companions of his iniquity on earth, while the bad one will gaze from endless fire into heaven, and see there the man with whom on earth he took sweet counsel in godly companionship. Such a judgment rewards and punishes, not for this life, but for only a small part of it. What is the true doctrine of the divine judgment?
It is a joyful occasion.
"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the lord; for he cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity."--Psalm 98:4-9. It is not a scene to cause horror but delight.
Macknight's testimony is the same: "That the Jewish Christians were to be involved in the same punishment; and that it was proper to begin at them as a part of the devoted Jewish nation, notwithstanding they were become the house of God; because the justice of God would, thereby, be more illustriously displayed. But, probably, the word, krima, which we here translate judgment, may mean no more than affliction and distress; for it was a Jewish maxim that, when God was about to pour down some common and general judgment, He began with afflicting his own people. in order to correct and amend them; that they might be prepared for the overflowing scourge."
Now if every act, and word, and thought whether good or evil, is judged, and so punished or rewarded, it is plain enough that judgment must follow hand in hand with conduct, and cannot be deferred. And it is plain enough that the endless future cannot be determined by the last hours of life. The Biblical language of a throne and a day of judgment are figurative descriptions of the unfailing decisions of the great judge who "every morning doth bring his judgment to light,"--Zeph. 3:5; and who never fails to bring upon each one for his good, just what he deserves; so that God's judgments "are more to be desired than fine gold, and are sweeter to the taste than honey and the honey-comb," of all who perceive their beneficent purpose. With these expositions of the nature and character of the Divine judgments, we are prepared to consider the texts that are usually quoted to teach a fearful day of judgment after death, to be followed by unending doom.
Dr. Campbell says: "Mellon often means not future. but near. There is just such a difference between estai. and mellei esesthai, in Greek, as there is between it will be, and it is about to be in English. This holds particularly in threats and warnings."
Now Felix was a corrupt man; he was living in open adultery with Drusilla, and was a sample of the wickedness of his times, and as Paul announced the sure results of his wickedness, and of that of his contemporaries, the fearful picture aroused the conscience of the wicked ruler, and he was alarmed. Within ten years, Nero, the Emperor, was killed, and Felix, his favorite, went under in the general downfall, and the awful times that followed vindicated the prophecy of the apostle, and justified the fears of the guilty and conscience-smitten king. The apostle proclaimed to the procurator of Judea the legitimate judgment about to come, and that did come within a decade on him and those who like him were sinners against God and man and their own souls.
A vicious translation destroys the apostle's meaning in the second passage quoted above. "Done" and "his" are not in the original, but are words supplied by the translators. The passage reads, "That every one may receive the things in body ." The literal reading is, "We must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive the things through the body," etc. That is, Jesus came into this world for the purpose of judgment; his tribunal is now set up, and we are all before it, and while in the body we are receiving the consequences of our conduct.
Of course these cities were not to go into the eternal world, to be judged. Their day of judgment had passed, and as cities they were conspicuous examples of the consequences of wickedness. Dr. Clarke Observes:--
"The day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah was the time in which the Lord destroyed them by fire and brimstone, out of heaven."
Hammond:--"I assure you, the punishment or destruction that will light upon that city will be such, that the destruction of Sodom shall appear to have been more tolerable than that."
The idea of a literal day of judgment seems to be taught in this language. But it should not be overlooked that it is not a literal day hereafter, but a period, now, that constitutes the era of Christ's judgment.
Christ's time of judging this world was prophesied as a day.
"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."--Zech. 13:1. "In that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one."--Zech. 14:9. Again: "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth."--Jer. 23:5.
And Jesus himself speaks of his reign, or government, or time of judgment, as a day.
This text is usually misstated in this shape. "it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment." But the reader of the context will perceive that Paul was not speaking of the physical death of mankind, but of the sacrificial death of the high priest, and was contrasting with the death of Christ, the ceremonial death of the Aaronic priesthood. The language of the original shows this more clearly than does the language of our version. In the Greek, the definite article tois, (the or those) precedes the word translated men, (anthropois ), and thus it reads, "it is appointed unto the (or those) men once to die." What men? The context shows:
The reader cannot fail to see that it is not mankind, but certain men, "the men" who all the way through this chapter and the next are compared to Christ, who are said once to die. These men are the priests, or the successors of the high priests under the law. They died, figuratively, once a year, on the great day of atonement in the offering of sacrifices. Ex. 30:1-10--"And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon; and thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning; when he dresseth the lamps he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon. And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements; once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations; it is most holy unto the Lord."
The priests represent Christ, and their death illustrates and prefigures the death of Christ; but man's death, and an after death judgment bears no relation to the death of Christ. The common use of this text is but little less than an outrage on the sense of the apostle. No one can carefully read this and the following chapter, and fail to see that the language is exclusively applicable to the Jewish high priests and the death of Christ, and has no reference to an after-death judgment.
Judgment begins with each soul on its arrival at the period of accountability, and continues, a severe, but disciplinary process until it converts and saves.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not? Behold your house is left unto you desolate."
But this was not to be final, for he adds: "verily I say unto you, ye shall not see me until the time shall come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
The gnashing of teeth denotes the vexation and wrath of the spiritually proud Jews, when they should find themselves outside the kingdom, while the Gentiles they had so despised, were within. The Rich Man and Lazarus pictures the two classes, and exhibits the wide contrast, in that parable.
If we substitute damnation for these words, we shall see how improperly it is said, he "eateth damnation, etc." Verse 30 explains krima. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Those who had made the Lord's Supper an occasion of gluttony, had eaten and drunken condemnation.
If we admit that "damned" means final torment, we shut out of salvation all infants, idiots, insane, and heathen, for they do not believe. We also consign all the rest of mankind to endless torment, for according to the test given, there is not a believer on earth today. We are told in the next verse that all believers may be known by their being able to heal the sick, and take poison without injury: "and these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. Now all are damned who cannot perform these wonderful deeds, because no others are believers in the sense meant. In other words, all souls must be endlessly tormented if the word damned denotes endless torment. It has no such signification. The Greek word rendered damned denotes condemned, says George Campbell, the Presbyterian. Bishop Horne thus translates it: "He that believeth not shall be condemned, or accountable for his sins."
The word has no reference to what the word damnation is popularly supposed to mean.
All men have been unbelievers, and therefore--as there is no saving clause for such--if damnation means endless woe, then all men must experience endless torment. But if we give the word its true meaning, and render it condemn, then it will appear that, having experienced the full amount of condemnation earned, faith can follow, and the salvation resulting from Christian faith will ensue.
Cannon Farrar says, (preface to "Eternal Hope"): The verb "to damn and its cognates does not once occur in the Old Testament. No word conveying any such meaning occurs in the Greek of the New Testament. The words so rendered mean "to judge," "judgment" and "condemnation;" and if the word "damnation" has come to mean more than these words do--as to all but the most educated readers is notoriously the case--then the word is a grievous mistranslation, all the more serious because it entirely and terribly perverts and obscures the real meaning of our Lord's utterances; and all the more inexcusable, at any rate for us with our present knowledge, because if the word "damnation" were used as the rendering of the very same words in multitudes of other passages (where our translators have rightly translated them) it would make those passages both impossible and grotesque."
In his sermon, "Hell--what it is not," he says: "The verb 'to damn' in the Greek Testament is neither more nor less than the verb 'to condemn,' and the words translated 'damnation' are simply the words which, in the vast majority of instances the same translators have translated, and rightly translated by 'judgment' and 'condemnation.'" And in Excursus II, in 'Eternal Hope,' he says: "In the New Testament the words krino, krisis and krima occur some one hundred and ninety times, the words katakrino, katakrisis, katakrima twenty-four times, and yet there are only fifteen places out of more than two hundred in which our translation has deviated from the proper renderings of 'judge' and 'condemn' into 'damn' and its cognates. It is singular that they should have used 'damnation' only for the milder words krisis and krima. This single fact ought to be decisive to every candid mind."
Chas. Kingsley says, ("Letters"): "The English damnation, like the Creek katakrisis, is, perhaps, krisis simple, simple meaning condemnation, and is (thank God) retained in that sense in various of our formularies, where I always read it, e.g., 'eateth to himself damnation,’ with sincere pleasure, as protests of the true and rational meaning of the word, against the modern and narrower meaning."
The unbeliever experiences the condemnation which unbelief imparts--this is the plain and total meaning of the passage.
This resurrection is a moral awakening, and not the final, literal resurrection, as is evident from its phraseology. All men do not participate in it. Only "those that have done good," and "those that have done evil." come forth to "life" or to "damnation." Such a resurrection would not include more than half of the human race; infants, dying without ever having done good or evil would not rise. Such a resurrection would leave countless millions in their graves. This demonstrates that the final resurrection is not here referred to.
What sort of a resurrection did Jesus here teach? The context shows. He had just cured the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda, and declared that he had derived his power from God. "For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the son quickeneth whom he will," and he then continues to talk of a moral quickening or spiritual resurrection, then about occurring: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." That is, the resurrection he was referring to had taken place with some who were then living on earth. And he then adds: verses 25-27--"Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is. when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man."
It was a moral awakening that occurred in consequence of the annunciation of Christianity, which this language announces. Those who were quickened into a perception of the truth, and disregarded the heavenly message, experienced a resurrection from their death in trespasses and sins, but it was to condemnation, and thus to the "second death".
Says Dr. George Campbell, a learned "orthodox" divine, in his "Notes" on the Four Gospels, vol. 2. p. 113:
"The word anastasin, or rather the phrase anastasis tou nekron, is indeed the common term by which the resurrection, properly so called, is denominated in the New Testament. Yet, this is neither the only nor the primitive import of the word anastasis ; it denotes simply being raised from inactivity to action, or from obscurity to eminence, or a return to such a state after an interruption. The verb anastemi. has the like latitude of signification; and both words are used in this extent by the writers of the New Testament, as well as by the LXX. Agreeably, therefore, to the original import, rising from a seat, is properly termed anastasis; so is waking out of sleep, or promotion from an inferior condition."
This is the sense in which the prophet speaks:
"But when the Gospel comes,
It sheds diviner light,
It calls dead sinners from their tombs ,
And gives the blind their sight."
The absurdity of the popular view will be seen when we observe that it makes all men saved, and at the same time all men damned forever. Apply it to all who have reached accountability, and it will be seen that as all have "done good" all will be forever happy, and as all have "done evil"--for "no man liveth and sinneth not," all must be forever unhappy. Observe, it says nothing of those who, having done evil, repent, but the damnation is for all who have done evil. But if we give the word its proper meaning, we find no difficulty, for each evil act can receive its proper condemnation, and then be followed by salvation.
The resurrection to damnation was a moral awakening, and not the final resurrection, and the word damnation wherever used, has precisely the same meaning as condemnation, with no reference whatever to the duration of the condition thus designated.
These passages relate to the sin of Judas, and its consequences.
Surely if any person's final punishment should be taught in the Bible, that of Judas should be explicitly stated. Is it?
To believe that Judas was consigned to endless torment for doing what must be done in consequence of God's determinate counsel and foreknowledge, is to accuse the Almighty of an act that would blast his name with infamy. Now do the terms used of Judas allow us to regard him as outside the pale of mercy, or beyond God's power to restore and save? For instance, he is said to be lost, and to be.
As "son of thunder" in the New Testament meant an eloquent man, and "son of peace," a peaceable man, so "son of perdition" denotes one abandoned to wickedness. Judas was lost, was a son of perdition, because of his great wickedness. He was lost out of the apostleship, but nothing indicates that his loss was final. The best critics of other churches give this view. Whitby:--
"But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost."--2 Cor. 4:3.
The present tense is here employed. Those who are lost in trespasses and sin, are blind to the excellences of the Gospel; it is hid from their sight, is all that can be made out of this language. It seeks those who "are lost," not shall be finally and eternally lost. These suggestions shed light upon the following passage:
The word soul here should be life. It is psuche. which never denotes soul, and is the word rendered life twice in the preceding verses. Dr. Clarke says: "'Lose his own soul, or lose his life.' On what authority many have translated the word psuche. in the twenty-fifth verse, life, and in this verse, soul, I know not; but am certain it means life in both places. If a man should gain the whole world, its riches, honors and pleasures, and lose his life, what would all these profit him, seeing they can only be enjoyed during life?"
But it is not the mere animal life that is referred to; it is the faculty of enjoying life. The selfish man, who chiefly seeks to save his life, loses it, and he who unselfishly is willing to sacrifice it, gains thereby. It profits one not at all to gain even the world, if he lose his life, or degrade the quality of his life by the process.
It is true, also, that one may lose his soul in the process of seeking gain, but the text does not refer to the soul, true though it is that the soul is often lost--not beyond recovery, but still lost, like the silver, the sheep, and the prodigal, to be at length found by the great Seeker, who will not cease from his divine labors "until he finds " all the lost.
The other terms referring to Judas, are susceptible of a meaning in harmony with the foregoing.
"ONE OF YOU IS A DEVIL."
Peter was thus addressed, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" Judas was a devil, as Peter was Satan, because of his conduct; but his final condition and character were not intimated by this language, any more than was Peter's.
It is said that this language cannot be true of Judas, if he is ever to be redeemed, no matter how much he may have suffered previously. The answer to this is, that this was a proverbial expression among the Jews, and was not employed literally. Job says: "Let the day perish wherein I was born." Job 3:3. Solomon said: "If a man live many years, and his soul be not filled with good; and also that he hath no burial; I say that an untimely birth is better than he."--Eccles. 6:3.
The commentator, Kenrick, says: "'It had been good for him, if he had never been born,' is a proverbial phrase, and not to be understood literally; for it is not consistent with our ideas of the divine goodness to make the existence of any being a curse to him, or to cause him to suffer more, upon the whole, than he enjoys happiness. Rather than do this, God would not have created him at all. But as it is usual to say of men who are to endure some grievous punishment or dreadful calamity, that it would have been better for them never to have been born, Christ, foreseeing what Judas would bring upon himself, by delivering up his Master into the hands of his enemies, applies this language to him."
Dr. Clarke quotes the common use of the saying. In Shemoth Rabba, sect. 40 fol. 135, 1, 2, Rabba, sec. 26, fol. 179, 4, and Midrash Coheleth, fol. 91, 4, it is thus expressed: 'It were better for him had he never been created; and it would have been better for him had he been strangled in the womb, and never have seen the light of this world.'
Dr. Clarke says of Judas: "The utmost that can be said of the case of Judas is this: he committed a heinous act of sin and ingratitude; but he repented, and did what he could to undo his wicked act; he had committed the sin unto death, i.e. a sin that involves the death of the body; but who can say, (if mercy was offered to Christ's murderers, and the gospel was first to be preached at Jerusalem, that these very murderers might have the first offer of salvation through him whom they had pierced), that the same mercy could not be extended to the wretched Judas? I contend, that the chief priest, etc. who instigated Judas to deliver up his Master, and who crucified him--and who crucified him, too, as a malefactor, having at the same time, the most indubitable evidence of his innocence--were worse men than Judas Iscariot himself; and that if mercy was extended to those, the wretched, penitent traitor did not die out of the reach of the yearning of its bowels. And I contend further, that there is no positive evidence of the final damnation of Judas in the sacred text."--Clarke in loco.
But if he took his own life, he did not commit a deed deserving endless torment, for as "no man ever hated his own flesh," so no one ever took his own life in a sound mind.
The Universalist "Book of Reference" thus sums up his case: 1st. Judas was actually one of the twelve apostles, and chosen as such, by Christ himself. 2d. That for a long time, at least, he was as true to his trust, and acted his part in as good faith, as did any other apostle. 3d. That the part he took in the betrayal of Christ was the part for which God had raised him up, and that which was predetermined by the counsel of Heaven. 4th. That notwithstanding he was a sinner, yet that no man ever left the world manifesting greater sorrow for sin, more compunction of heart, deeper contrition, or more regret for offenses, than did Judas. 5th. That there is no shade of evidence that Judas will be eternally miserable. 6th. That, in common with all transgressors. he suffered in this world the just demerit of all his crimes. 7th. That the last account of him is, he had gone the way of all the earth--he was dead: and if any one can give a further or better account of him, we will kindly receive it.
In order to learn just what this important word signifies when connected with the penalties of sin, it will be instructive to inquire into its history. We shall ascertain that the original word whence it is derived, denotes indefinite, and not endless, duration, and that it never has the force of endless, except when it is applied to a subject that is intrinsically endless, and that it then acquires an added force from its subject. The Hebrew word olam and the Greek aion, and their reduplications and derivatives are the original Scripture terms that are rendered everlasting in the English Bible. We can best ascertain the meaning of the translated words by consulting the history of the original Greek term.
Indefinite duration is the real meaning of the word. The oldest lexicographer is Hesychius, (A. D. 400) and he defines it thus: "The life of man, the time of life." Theodoret, at the same time gives this definition; "Aion is not an existing thing, but an interval denoting time, sometimes infinite when spoken of God, sometimes proportioned to the duration of the creation, and sometimes to the life of man." John of Damascus (S. D. 750) says, "1, The life of every man is called aion. 3, The whole duration or life of this world is called aion. 4. The life after the resurrection is called 'the aion to come.'"
Phavorinus (sixteenth century) shows that theologians had corrupted the word. He says: "Aion, time, also life, also habit, or way of life. Aion is also the eternal and endless as it seems to the Theologian." Theologians had succeeded in using the word in the sense of endless, and Phavorinus was forced to recognize their usage of it and his phraseology shows conclusively enough that he attributed to theologians the authorship of that use of the word. Schleusner: "Any space of time whether longer or shorter, past, present or future, to be determined by the persons or things spoken of, and the scope of the subjects; the life or age of man. Aionios, a definite and a long period of time, that is, a long enduring, but still definite period of time." Grove: Aion "Eternity; an age, life, duration, continuance of time; a revolution of ages; a dispensation of Providence, this world or life, the world or life to come; aionios, eternity, immortal, perpetual, forever, past, ancient." Macknight: (Scotch Presbyterian) "These words being ambiguous, are always to be understood according to the nature and circumstances to which they are applied. They who understand these words in a limited sense, when applied to punishment, put no forced interpretation upon them." Alex. Campbell: "Its radical idea is indefinite duration." T. Southwood Smith: "Sometimes it signifies the term of human life; at other times an age, or dispensation of Providence. Its most common signification is that of age or dispensation." Scarlett:
"That aionion does not mean endless or eternal, may appear from considering that no adjective can have a greater force than the noun from which it is derived. If aion means age (which none either will or can deny) then aionion must mean age-lasting, or duration through the age or ages to which the thing spoken of relates." Donnegan: "Time, space of time, life-time and life, the ordinary period of man's life; the age of man; man's estate; a long period; eternity; the spinal marrow. Aionios, of long duration, lasting, eternal, permanent." Dr. Taylor, who wrote the Hebrew Bible three times with his own hand, said of Olam, (Greek Aion) it signifies a duration which is concealed, as being of an unknown or great length. "It signifies eternity, not from the proper force of the word, but when the sense of the place or the nature of the subject requires it, as God and his attributes."
The definitions of other lexicographers and critics are to the same purport. We name: Schrevelius, Schweighauser, Valpey, Haley, Lutz, Wright, Benson, Gilpin, Clarke, Wakefield, Boothroyd, Simpson, Lindsey, Mardon, Acton, Locke, Hammond, Rost, Pickering, Hincks, Ewing, Pearce, Whitby, Le Clerc, Beausobre, Doddridge, Paulus, Kenrick, Lenfant, Olshausen, etc.
Dr. Edward Beecher remarks, "It commonly means merely continuity of action. all attempts to set forth eternity as the original and primary sense of aion are at war with the facts of the Greek language for five centuries, in which it denoted life and its derivative senses, and the sense eternity was unknown." "Pertaining to the world to come," is the sense given to "These shall go away into everlasting punishment," by Prof Tayler Lewis, who adds: "The preacher in contending with the Universalist and the Restorationist, would commit an error, and it may be suffer a failure in his argument, should he lay the whole stress of it on the etymological or historical significance of the words aion, aionios and attempt to prove that of themselves they imprisonment of the world to come,' is all we can etymologically or exegetically necessarily carry the meaning of endless duration. 'These shall go away into the restraint, make of the word in this passage."--His. Fut. ret.
Undoubtedly the definition given by Schleusner is the accurate one: "Duration determined by the subject to which it is applied.' Thus it only expresses the idea of endlessness when connected with what is endless, i.e. God. The word great is an illustrative word. Great applied to a tree, or mountain, or man, denotes different degrees, all finite, but when referring to God, it has the sense of infinite. Infinity does not reside in the word great, but it has that meaning when applied to God. It does not impart it to God, it derives it from him. So of aionion; applied to Jonah's residence in the fish, it means seventy hours; to the punishments of a merciful God, as long as is necessary to vindicate his law and reform his children; to God himself, eternity. What great is to size, aionios is to duration. Human beings live from a few hours to a century; nations from a century to thousands of years; and worlds, for aught that we know, from a few to many millions of years, and God is eternal. So that when we see the word applied to a human life, it denotes somewhere from a few days to a hundred years; when it is applied to a nation, it denotes anywhere from a century to ten thousand years, more or less, and when to God it means endless. In other words it denotes indefinite duration.
Dr. Beecher well observes: "The word olam, as affirmed by Taylor and Fuerst in their Hebrew Concordance means an indefinite period, age past or future and not an absolute eternity. When applied to God, the idea of eternity is derived from him, and not from the word."
This is the deduction as we study the lexicography of the word. It expresses the indefinite duration according to the subject with which it is connected.*
*See "Aion-Aionios," by J. W. Hanson, D.D. for an exhaustive treatise on the lexicography, etymology, classic usage and of the usage of the Old and New Testaments, and of the Christian Fathers.
Before the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek (200-300 B. C. according to Prideaux, or during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, 384-347 B. C. say other authorities) this word was in common use by the Greeks. Homer, Hesiod, AEschylus, Pindar, Sophocles, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Empedocles, Euripedes, Philoctetes, and Plato, all use the word, but never once does one of them give it the sense of eternity. Homer says:
(Priam to Hector) "Thyself shall be deprived of pleasant aionios," (life). Andromache over dead Hector, "Husband, thou hast perished from aionos," (life or time). Hesiod: "To him (the married man) during aionos (life) evil is constantly striving, etc." Aeschylus: "This life, (aion) seems long, etc." "Jupiter, king of the never-ceasing world" (aionos apaustau). Pindar: "A long life produces the four virtues." (Ela de kai tessares aretas ho makros aion.) Sophocles: "Endeavor to remain the same in mind as long as you live." Aristotle: "The entire heaven is one and eternal (aidios) having neither beginning nor end of an entire aion." The adjective is never found until Plato. He uses aion eight times, aionios five, diaionios once, and makraion twice. Of course if he regarded aion as meaning eternity, he would not prefix the word meaning long to add duration to it.
Plato uses the adjective to denote indefinite duration. Referring to certain souls in Hades, he describes them as in aionion intoxication. But that he does not use the word in the sense of endless is evident form the Phaedon, where he says, it is a very ancient opinion that souls quitting this world, repair to the infernal regions, and return after that, to live in this world. After the aionion intoxication is over, they return to earth, which demonstrates that the word was not used by him as meaning endless. Again, he speaks of that which is indestructible, (anolethron) and not aionion. He places the two words in contrast, whereas, had he intended to use aionion as meaning endless, he would have said indestructible and aionion.
Aristotle uses the word in the same sense. He says of the earth, "All these things seem to be done for her good, in order to maintain safety during her aionos," duration, or life. And still more to the purpose is this quotation concerning God's existence: "Life and 'an aion continuous and eternal, zoe kai aion sunekes kai aidios.'" Here the word aidios, (eternal) is employed to qualify aion and impart to it what it had not of itself, the sense of eternal. Aristotle could be guilty of no such language as "an eternal eternity." Had the word aion contained the idea of eternity in his time, or in his mind, he would not have added aidios.
Ezra S. Goodwin, in the Christian Examiner, sums up an exhaustive examination of the word in the Greek classics, thus: "Those lexicographers who assign eternity as one of the meanings of aion, uniformly appeal for proofs to either theological, Hebrew or Rabbinical Greek, or some species of Geek subsequent to the age of the Seventy, if not subsequent to the age of the apostles, so far as I can ascertain. I do not know of an instance in which any lexicographer has produced the usage of ancient classical Greek, in evidence that aion means eternity. Ancient classical Greek rejects it altogether.
So when the seventy translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and rendered the Hebrew olam, (or gnolam) into aion and its reduplications, they must have understood that aion meant indefinite duration, for that was its uniform usage in the Greek at that time. When Jesus quoted from the Old Testament he quoted from the Septuagint, and when he used the word aionion, he used it with the exact meaning it had in Greek literature, to denote indefinite duration. This will appear as we examine:
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The noun is found 394 times, and the adjective 110 times in the Old Testament. We will give instances of its use, that the reader may see that limited duration is the sense it carries, and we print the words translated from aion aionion in italics.
No one can read the Old Testament carefully and fail to see that the word has a great range of meaning, bearing some such relation to duration as the word great does to size. We say God is infinite when we call him the great God--not because great means infinite, but because God is infinite. The aionion God is of eternal duration, but the aionion smoke of Idumea has expired, and the aionion hills will one day crumble, and all merely aionion things will cease to be.
The Jews have lost their excellency; Aaron and his sons have ceased from their priesthood; the mosaic system is superseded by Christianity; the Jews no longer possess Canaan; David and his house have lost the throne of Israel; the Jewish temple is destroyed, and Jerusalem no longer the holy city; the servants who were to be bondmen forever, are all free from their masters; Gehazi is cured of his leprosy; the stones are removed from Jordan, and the smoke of Idumea no longer rises; the righteous do not possess the land promised them forever; some of the hills and mountains have fallen, and the tooth of Time will one day gnaw the last of them into dust; the fire has expired from the Jewish altar; Jonah has escaped his imprisonment; all these and numerous other eternal, everlasting things--things that were to last forever, and to which the various aionion words are applied--have now ended, and if these hundreds of instances must denote limited duration why should the few times in which punishments are spoken of have any other meaning? Even if endless duration were the intrinsic meaning of the word, all intelligent readers of the Bible would perceive that the word must be employed to denote limited duration in the passages above cited. And surely in the very few times in which it is connected with punishment it must have a similar meaning. For who administers this punishment? Not a monster, not an infinite devil, but a God of love and mercy; and the same common sense that would forbid us to give the word the meaning of endless duration, were that its literal meaning, when we see it applied to what we know has ended, would forbid us to give it that meaning when applied to the dealings of an Infinite Father with an erring and beloved child.
This language refers entirely to this life. The prophet had said (Isa. 31:9) that the Lord's "fire is in Zion and his furnace in Jerusalem," and he adds: "And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire. with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones."
"Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree; the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein."
"But if ye will not hearken unto me, to hallow the Sabbath day and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched."
The "everlasting burnings" denote the temporal judgments about to come upon the Jewish people.
Out of more than five hundred occurrences of the word in the Old Testament more than four hundred denote limited duration, so that the great preponderance of the Old Testament usage fully agrees with the Greek classics.
Now if endless punishment awaits millions of the human race, and if it is denoted by this word, is it possible that only David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Malachi use the word to define punishment, in all less than a dozen times, while Job, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Solomon, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Hahum, Habbakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai and Zachariah never employed it thus? Such silence is criminal, on the popular hypothesis. These holy men should and would have made every sentence bristle with the word, and thus have borne the awful message to the soul with an emphasis that could neither be resisted or disputed. The fact that the word is so seldom, and by so few applied to punishment, and never in the Old Testament to punishment beyond death, demonstrates that it cannot mean endless.
The best critics of all creeds agree that endless punishment is not taught in the Old Testament, and if so, of course the world everlasting cannot mean endless in the Old Testament, when applied to punishment.
Says Milman" "The lawgiver (Moses) maintains a profound silence on that fundamental article, if not of political, at least of religious legislation--rewards and punishments in another life." Warburton: "In no one place of the Mosaic institutes is there the least mention of the rewards and punishments of another life." Paley, Jahn, Whately are to the same purport, and H. W. Beecher says, "if we only had the Old Testament we could not tell if there were any future punishment."
Three questions here press the mind with irresistible force, and they can only receive one answer. 1st, Had God intended endless punishment, would the Old Testament have failed to reveal it? 2d, If God does not announce it in the Old Testament, is it supposable that he has revealed it elsewhere? 3d, Would he for thousands of years conceal so awful a destiny from millions whom he had created an exposed to it? No child of God ought to be willing to impeach his Heavenly Father by withholding an indignant negative to these questions.
JEWISH GREEK USAGE
Josephus and Philo, Jewish Greeks, who wrote between the Old and New Testaments, use the word with the meaning of temporal duration, always.
Josephus applies the word to the imprisonment to which John the tyrant was condemned by the Romans; to the reputation of Herod; to the everlasting memorial erected in re-building the temple, already destroyed, when he wrote; to the everlasting worship in the temple, which in the same sentence he says was destroyed; and he styles the time between the promulgation of the law and his writing a long aion. To accuse him of attaching any other meaning than that of indefinite duration to the word, is to accuse him of stultifying himself. But when he writes to describe endless duration he employs other, and less equivocal terms. Alluding to the Pharisees, he says:
"They believe that the wicked are detained in an everlasting prison (eirgmon aidion ) subject to eternal punishment" (aidios timoria ) and the Essenes (another, Jewish sect) "Allotted to bad souls a dark, tempestuous place, full of never-ceasing punishment (timoria adialeipton) where they suffer a deathless punishment, (athanaton timorian ).
Thus the Jews of our Savior's time avoided using the word aionion to denote endless duration, for applied all through the Bible to temporary affairs, it would not teach it.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
The different forms of the word occur in the New Testament one hundred and ninety-nine times, the noun one hundred and twenty-eight, and the adjective seventy-one times.
In our common translation the noun is rendered seventy-two times ever, twice eternal, thirty-nine times world, seven times never, three times evermore, twice worlds, twice ages, once course, once world without end, and twice it is passed over without any word affixed as a translation of it. The adjective is rendered once ever, forty-two times eternal, three times world, twenty-five times everlasting, and once former ages.
Of course the word must mean in the New Testament what it does in all Greek books and among Greek-speaking people. Temporal, indefinite duration, we have shown to be its meaning in the Classics, the Old Testament, and the Jewish Greek. The New Testament meaning is the same. The fact its usage shows.
Now if God's punishments are limited, we can understand how this word should be used only fourteen times to define them. But if they are endless how can we explain the employment of this equivocal word so few times in the entire New Testament? A doctrine, that if true, ought to crowd every sentence, frown in every line, only stated fourteen times, and that too, by a word whose uniform meaning everywhere else is limited duration! The idea is preposterous. If the word denotes limited duration, the punishments threatened in the New Testament are like those that experience teaches follow transgression. But if it mean endless, how can we account for the fact that neither Luke nor John records one instance of its use by the Savior, and Matthew but four, and Mark but two, and that Paul employs it but twice in his ministry, while John and James in their epistles never allude to it?
Let us consider all the passages in the New Testament in which the word is connected with punishment.
1 That the popular view of this language is incorrect is evident, because those punished are those who have not been good to the poor. Only such are to suffer everlasting punishment. Endless life is the reward, and endless punishment the penalty of works, if this passage teaches the doctrine of endless punishment. Those receive that punishment who have not been kind to the poor.
3 The word translated punishment means discipline, improvement. The word is kolasin. It is thus defined: Greenfield, "Chastisement, punishment." Hedericus, "The trimming of the luxuriant branches of a tree or vine to improve it and make it fruitful." Donnegan, "The act of clipping or pruning--restriction, restraint, reproof, check, chastisement." See Grotius, Liddell, and others. Says Max Muller, "Do we want to know what was uppermost in the minds of those who formed the word punishment, the Latin poena or punio. to punish, the root pu in Sanscrit, which means to cleanse, to purify, tells us that the Latin derivation was originally formed, not to express mere striking or torture, but cleansing, correcting, delivering form the stain of sin." That it had this meaning in Greek usage we cite Plato: "For the natural or accidental evils of others, no one gets angry, or admonishes, or teaches or punishes (kolazei ) them, but we pity those afflicted with such misfortunes. * * For if, O Socarates, you will consider what is the design of punishing (kolazein ) the wicked, this of itself will show you that men think virtue something that may be acquired; for no one punishes (kolazlei ) the wicked, looking to the past only, simply for the wrong he has done,--that is, no one does this thing who does not act like a wild beast, desiring revenge, only without thought--hence he who seeks to punish (kolazein ) with reason, does not punish for the sake of the past wrong deed, * * but for the sake of the future, that neither the man himself who is punished may do wrong again, nor any other who has seen him chastised. And he who entertains this thought, must believe that virtue may be taught, and he punishes (kolazei) from the purpose of deterring from wickedness ."
4 These events have occurred. The events here described took place in this world within thirty years of the time when Jesus spoke. They are now past. In Matt. 24:3, the disciples asked our Lord when the then existing age would end. The word (aion) is unfortunately translated world. Had he meant world he would have employed kosmos, the Greek word for world. After describing the particulars, he announced that they would all be fulfilled, and the aion end in that generation, before some of his auditors should die. If he was correct, the end came then. And this is demonstrated by a careful study of the entire discourse, running through Matt. 24 and 25. The disciples asked Jesus how they should know his coming and the end of the age. They did not inquire concerning the end of the actual world, as it is incorrectly translated, but age. This question Jesus answered by describing the signs so that they, his questioners, the disciples themselves, might perceive the approach of the end of the Jewish dispensation, (aion ). He speaks fifteen times in the discourse of his speedy coming, (Matt. 24:3, 27, 30, 37, 39, 42, 46, 48, 50, and 25:6, 10, 13, 19, 27, 31). He addresses those who shall be alive at his coming. Matt. 24:6. "Ye shall hear of wars, etc." 20, "Pray that your flight be not in the winter," 33, 34. "So likewise ye when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled ."
This whole account is a parable describing the end of the Jewish aion. age, or economy, signalized by the destruction of Jerusalem, and the establishment of the new aion world, or age to come, that is the Christian dispensation. Now on the authority of Jesus himself, the aion then existing ended within a generation, namely, about A. D. 70. Hence those who were sent away into aionian punishment, or the punishment of that aion. were sent into a condition corresponding in duration to the meaning of the word aion, i. e. agelasting. A punishment cannot be endless, when defined by an adjective derived form a noun describing an event, the end of which is distinctly stated to have come.
But did Christ come the second time as he had said he would before the death of some of his hearers? He did not personally, but spiritually, by the power of his grace and truth. On this subject here is what the most prominent orthodox commentators say:
Archbishop Newcome: "The coming of Christ to destroy the Jews, was a virtual and not a real one, and was to be understood figuratively and not literally. The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is emphatically the coming of Christ. The spirit of the prophecy speaks particularly of this, because the city and temple were then destroyed, and the civil and ecclesiastical state of the Jews subverted. The Jews also suffered very great calamities under Adrian; but not so great as those under Vespasian; and the desolation under Adrian is not so particularly foretold. But I think that any signal interposition in behalf of his church, or in the destruction of his enemies, may be metaphorically called a coming of Christ." Dr. Campbell remarks on the expression, "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: We have no reason to think that a particular phenomenon in the sky is here suggested. The striking evidences which would be given of the divine presence, and avenging justice, are a justification of the terms." Kenrick observes: "The great power and glory of Christ were as conspicuously displayed at the destruction of Jerusalem, and other circumstances which accompanied that event, as if they had seen him coming upon the clouds of heaven, to punish his enemies. When the prophet Isaiah represents God as about to punish the Egyptians, he speaks of him as riding upon a swift cloud for that purpose. (Isa. 19:1) In that case there was no visible appearance of Jehovah upon a cloud; but it was language which the prophet adopted, in order to express the evident hand of God in the calamities of Egypt. The same thing may be said of the language of Christ upon the present occasion." Dr. Hammond interprets Christ's coming, to be a "coming in the exercise of his kingly office to work vengeance on his enemies, and discriminate the faithful believers from them." Again he says: "The only objection against this interpretation is, that this destruction being wrought by the Roman army, and those as much enemies of Christianity as any, and the very same people that had joined with the Jews to put Christ to death, it doth thereupon appear strange that either of those armies which are called abominable, should be called God's armies, or that Christ should be said to come, when in truth it was Vespasian and Titus that thus came against the people. To this I answer, that it is ordinary with God, in the Old Testament, to call those Babylonish, Assyrian heathen armies his, which did his work in punishing the Jews, when they rebelled against Him. Christ is fitly said to come, when his ministers do come, that is, when either heathen men, or Satan himself, who are executioners of God's will, when they think not of it, are permitted by Him to work destruction on his enemies." Dr. Whitby says: "These words, this age or generation shall not pass away, afford a full demonstration that all which Christ had mentioned hitherto, was to be accomplished, not at the time of the conversion of the Jews, or at the final day of judgment, but in that very age, or whilst some of that generation of men lived; for the phrase never bears any other sense in the New Testament, than the men of this age."
The end of the material world is never taught in the Bible. We have no Scriptural evidence that the earth will ever be destroyed. The word rendered world in all passages that speak of the end, is aion. which means age, and not kosmos. which denotes world. The phrase only occurs seven times in the whole Bible, and that in three books, all in the New Testament.
The "last days" always refer to the end of Judaism, and the establishment of Christianity, and not to the closing of human affairs on earth.
An objection answered.
Objectors sometimes say, "Then eternal life is not endless, for the same Greek adjective qualifies life and punishment." This does not follow, for the word is used in Greek in different senses in the same sentence; as in Hab. 3:6. "And the everlasting mountains were scattered, his ways are everlasting ." Suppose we apply the popular argument here. The mountains and God must be of equal duration, for the same word is applied to both. Both are temporal or both are endless. But the mountains are expressly stated to be temporal--they "were scattered," --therefore God is not eternal. Or God is eternal and therefore the mountains must be. But they cannot be, for they were scattered. The argument does not hold water. The aionion mountains are all to be destroyed. Hence the word everlasting may denote both limited and unlimited duration in the same passage, the different meanings to be determined by the subject treated .
Clemence in his work on "Future Punishment" observes, correctly, that aion and aionion are "words that shine with reflected light," i.e. says Canon Farrar, "that their meaning depends entirely on the words with which they are joined, so that it is quite false to say that aionios joined with zoe must mean the same as aionios joined with kolasis. The word means endless in neither clause." Clemence continues: "If good should come to an end, that would come to an end which Christ died to bring in; but if evil comes to an end, that comes to an end which he died to destroy. So that the two stand by no means on the same footing."
Besides, the endless life is described by words that are never applied to anything of limited duration. This appears from the following passages:
Now these words are applied to God and the soul's happiness. They are words that in the Bible are never applied to punishment or anything perishable. They would have been affixed to punishment had the Bible intended to teach endless punishment. And certainly they show the error of those who declare that the indefinite word aionion is all the word, or the strongest one in the Bible, declarative of the endlessness of life beyond the grave.
The events in Matt. 25 have all taken place; the life and the punishment were both limited, and neither the reward promised nor the punishment threatened was to be in the future life. There is no reference to a "General Judgment" in any part of the language.
"And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day."--Jude 6
Now it must be admitted that this word among the Greeks had the sense of eternal, and should be understood as having that meaning wherever found, unless by express limitation it is shorn of its proper meaning. It is further admitted that had aidios occurred where aionios does, there would be no escape from the conclusion that the New Testament teaches Endless Punishment. It is further admitted that the word is here used in the exact sense of aionios. as is seen in the succeeding verse:
"Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of aionian fire." That is to say, the "aidios chains" in verse 6 are "even as" durable as the "aionion fire" in verse 7. Which word modifies the other?
1 The construction of the language shows that the latter word limits the former. The aidios chains are even as the aionion fire. As if one should say "I have been infinitely troubled, I have been vexed for an hour," or "He is an endless talker, he can talk five yours on a stretch." Now while "infinitely" and "endless" usually convey the sense of unlimited, they are here limited by what follows, as aidios. eternal, is limited by aionios, indefinitely long.
2 That this is the correct exegesis is evident from still another limitation of the word. "The angels. he hath reserved in everlasting chains unto the judgment of the great day." Had Jude said that the angels are held in aidios chains, and stopped there, not limiting the word, it might be claimed that he taught their eternal imprisonment. But when he limits the duration by aionios and them expressly states that it is only unto a certain date, it follows that the imprisonment will terminate, even though we find applied to it a word that intrinsically signifies eternal duration, and that was used by the Greeks to convey the idea of eternity, and was attached to punishment by the Greek Jews of our Savior's times, to describe endless punishment, in which they were believers.
But observe, while this word aidios was in universal use among the Greek Jews of our Savior's day, to convey the idea of eternal duration, and was used by them to teach endless punishment, Jesus never allowed himself to use it in connection with punishment. nor did any of his disciples but one, and he but once, and then carefully and expressly limited its meaning. Can demonstration go further than this to show that Jesus carefully avoided the phraseology by which his contemporaries described the doctrine of endless punishment? He never adopted the language of his day on this subject. Their language was aidios timoria, endless torment. His language was aionion kolasin. age-lasting correction. They described unending ruin, he, discipline, resulting in reformation.
Who these angels were, that fell from their first estate, it does not belong to our purpose to inquire at length. Their chains were to be dissolved when the judgment should come. They were only to last "unto judgment." See remarks under Tartarus in this volume.
"Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."--2 Thessalonians 1:6-9
Who were troubling the Christians of the Thessalonican Church? We are told in Acts 17:5-8, that their persecutors were the Jews.
"But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And they troubled the people, and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things."
When were they persecuted? In a few years from that time:
So when, during that generation, the Jews were overwhelmed, they went into everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. Long before these very terms had been applied to them as a people, and to their sorrows in this world.
Banished from god's presence
The following extract from Balfour's Second Inquiry presents this subject correctly:
Of course it is impossible to go out of the presence of God. Even in hell, God is there. Ps. 139:7-13. The term is used figuratively. To act in accordance with God's commands, and enjoy communion with him, is to be in his presence. To be out of his presence is to act contrary to God's laws.
Those who persecuted the early Christians, their countrymen, (Acts 17:1-7) were driven away from the place they loved best of all, where God's honor and glory dwelt, and were manifested. But they will be restored, for "when the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, all Israel shall be saved," so that his "everlasting destruction" is not without end.
The christian fathers
That the words "Eternal," etc. did not denote endless duration at the time of Christ is demonstrated by the usage of the Christian fathers. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus believed in punishment to end in annihilation, and Origen, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and others were Universalists, and yet they all employed the Greek words aion-aionios, to denote their ideas of the duration of future punishment. This proves that from A.D. 115 to A.D. 400, these words meant limited duration when applied to punishment. (See Beecher's His. Fut. Ret.)
The fact that Origen and others taught an aionion punishment after death, and salvation beyond it demonstrates that at that time the word had not the meaning of endless, but did mean at that date, indefinite or limited duration.
The emperor justinian
And still later the Emperor Justinian (A.D. 540) in calling the celebrated local council which assembled in 544, addressed his edict to Mennos, Patriarch of Constantinople, and elaborately argued against the doctrines he had determined should be condemned. He does not say, in defining the Catholic doctrine at that time "We believe in aionian punishment,” for that was just what the Universalist Origen himself taught. Nor does he say, "The word aionion has been misunderstood, it denotes endless duration," as he would have said had there been such a disagreement. But, writing in Greek, with all the words of that copious speech from which to choose, he says, "The holy church of Christ teaches an endless aionios ( ateleutetos aionios) life to the righteous, and endless (ateleutetos ) punishment to the wicked." Aionios was not enough in his judgment to denote endless duration. and he employed ateleutetos to describe endless duration. This demonstrates that even as late as A.D. 540 aionios meant limited duration, and required an added word to impart to it the force of endless duration.
These and other testimonies (See Hanson's "Aion-Aionios,") prove that these words did not mean endless duration among the early Christians for about six centuries after Christ. To say that any one who contradicts these men is correct, and that they did not know the meaning of the word, is like saying that an Australian, twelve hundred years hence, will be able to give a more accurate definition of English words in common use today than we ourselves. These ancients could not be mistaken, and the fact that they required qualifying words to give aionion the sense of endless duration--that they used it to describe punishment when they believed in the annihilation of the wicked, or in their restoration subsequent to aionion punishment, irrefragably demonstrates that the word had not the meaning of endless to them, and if not to them, then it must have been utterly destitute of it.
The uniform usage of these words by the early Church demonstrates that they signify temporal duration in the New Testament.
From these and other considerations it is evident that there is nothing in the use of the words Everlasting, Eternal, Forever, etc. to teach endless punishment. All forms of the word mean substantially the same, limited duration, such being the meaning of the noun aion. and of course its reduplications and derivatives can mean no more.
The one word that stands in thousands of minds as the synonym of endless torment, is the word Hell. The popular belief is that in the Bible a place or condition of endless woe is denoted by this word. Does the Bible teach the ideas commonly held among Christians concerning Hell? Does the Hell of the Bible denote a place of torment, or a condition of suffering without end, to begin at death? What is the hell of the Bible?
Manifestly the only way to arrive at the correct answer is to trace the words translated Hell from the beginning to the end of the Bible, and by their connections ascertain exactly what the divine Word teaches on this important subject. It seems incredible that a wise and benevolent God should have created or permitted any kind of an endless hell in his universe. Has he done so? Do the Scripture teachings concerning Hell stain the character of God and clothe human destiny with an impenetrable pall of darkness, by revealing a state or place of endless torment? Or do they explain its existence, and relieve God's character, and dispel all the darkness of misbelief, by teaching that it exists as a means to a good end? It is our belief that the Bible hell is not the heathen, nor the "orthodox" hell, but is one that is doomed to pass away when its purpose shall have been accomplished, in the reformation of those for whose welfare a good God ordained it.
The English word Hell grew into its present meaning. Horne Tooke says that hell, heel, hill, hole, whole, hall, hull, hole, halt and hold are all from the same root. "Hell, any place, or some place covered over." The word was first applied to the grave by our German and English ancestors, and as superstition came to regard the grave as an entrance to a world of torment, Hell at length became the word used to denote an imaginary realm of fiery woe.
In the Bible four words are translated Hell: the Hebrew word Sheol, in the original Old Testament; its equivalent, the Greek word Hadees, in the Septuagint; and in the New Testament, Hadees, Gehenna and Tartarus.
Sheol and hadees
The Hebrew Old Testament, some three hundred years before the Christian era, was translated into Greek, and of the sixty-four instances where Sheol occurs in the Hebrew, it is rendered Hadees in the Greek sixty times, so that either word is the equivalent of the other. But neither of these words is ever used in the Bible to signify punishment after death, nor should the word Hell ever be used as the rendering of Sheol or Hadees, for neither word denotes post-mortem torment. According to the Old Testament the words Sheol-Hadees primarily signify only the place, or state of the dead. In every instance in the Old Testament, the word grave might be substituted for the term hell, either in a literal or figurative sense. The word, being a proper name, should always have been left untranslated. Had it been carried into the Greek Septuagint, and thence into the English untranslated Sheol, a world of misconception would have been avoided, for when it is rendered Hadees, all the materialism of the heathen mythology is suggested to the mind, and when rendered Hell, the medieval monstrosities of a Christianity corrupted by heathen adulterations is suggested. Sheol primarily, literally, the grave or death; secondarily and figuratively the political, social, moral or spiritual consequences of wickedness in the present world, is the precise force of the term, wherever found.
Sheol occurs exactly sixty-four times, and is translated hell thirty-two times, pit three times, and grave twenty-nine times. Dr. George Campbell, a celebrated critic, says that Sheol signifies the state of the dead in general, without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery."
Professor Stuart (orthodox Congregational) only dares claim five out of the sixty-four passages as affording any proof that the word means a place of punishment after death. "These," he says, "may designate the future world of woe," though he adds: "I concede, to interpret all the texts which exhibit Sheol as having reference merely to the grave is possible; and therefore it is possible to interpret " them "as designating a death violent and premature, inflicted by the hand of Heaven."
An examination shows that these five passages agree with the rest in meaning consequences of temporal duration.
Dr. Allen, of Bowdoin College, says of this text: "The punishment expressed in this passage is cutting off from life, destroying from the earth by special judgment, and removing to the invisible state of the dead. The Hebrew term translated hell in the text does not seem to mean, with any certainty, anything more than the state of the dead in their deep abode." Professor Stuart: "It means a violent and premature death inflicted by the hand of heaven."
That the Hebrew Sheol never designates a place of punishment in a future state of existence, we have the testimony of the most learned of scholars, even among the so-called orthodox. We quote the declarations of a few:
Rev. Dr. Whitby: "Sheol throughout the Old testament, signifies not a place of punishment for the souls of bad men only, but the grave, or place of death." Dr. Chapman: "Sheol, in itself considered has no connection with future punishment." Dr. Allen: "The term Sheol itself, does not seem to mean anything more than the state of the dead in their dark abode." Edward Leigh, who, says Horne's "Introduction," was one of the most learned men of his time, and his work a valuable help to the understanding of the original language of the Scriptures," observes that "all learned Hebrew scholars know the Hebrews have no proper word for hell." Prof. Stuart: "There can be no reasonable doubt that Sheol does most generally mean the underworld. the grave or sepulchre. the world of the dead. It is very clear that there are many passages where no other meaning can reasonably be assigned to it.
Accordingly, our English translators have rendered the word Sheol grave, in thirty instances out of the whole sixty-four instances in which it occurs." Dr. Thayer in his "Theology of Universalism" quotes as follows: "Dr. Whitby says that Hell 'throughout the Old Testament signifies the grave, or the place of death.'" Archbishop Whately: "As for a future state of retribution in another world, Moses said nothing to the Israelites about that." Paley declares that the Mosaic dispensation "dealt in temporal rewards and punishments. The blessings consisted altogether of worldly benefits, and the curses of worldly punishments." Prof. Mayer says, that "the rewards promised the righteous, and the punishments threatened the wicked, are such only as are awarded in the present state of being." To the same important fact testify Prof. Wines, Bush, Arnauld, and other distinguished theologians. All Hebrew scholars agree that the Hebrews had no word proper for hell as a place of punishment.
If we consult the passages in which the word is rendered grave, and substitute the original word Sheol, it will be seen that the meaning is far better preserved:
It was not into the literal grave, but into the realm of the dead, where Jacob supposed his son to have gone into which he wished to go.
Why the word should have been rendered grave and pit in the foregoing passages, and hell in the rest, cannot be explained. Why it is not the grave, or hell or better still, Sheol or Hadees in all cases, no one can explain, for there is no valid reason.
"For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest Hell (Sheol-Hadees) and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction; I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without and terror within shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs. I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men." Thus,
"Though they dig into Hell, thence shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down." Amos 9:2. "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in Hell, behold, thou art there. Ps. 139:8. "It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than Hell; what canst thou know." Job 11:8.
The following are only a few of the reasons why Sheol-Hadees in the Old Testament denotes a condition of temporal punishment:
3 Jonah was in the fish only seventy hours, and declared he was in hell forever. He escaped from Hell. Jon. 2:2, 6: "Out of the belly of Hell (Sheol--Hadees) cried I, and thou heardest my voice, earth with her bars was about me forever. " Even an eternal Hell lasted but three days.
4 It is a place where God is, and, therefore, must be an instrumentality of mercy. Ps. 139:8: "If I make my bed in Hell (Sheol--Hadees) behold thou art there."
5 Men having gone into it are redeemed from it. 1 Sam. 2:6: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave (Sheol--Hadees) and bringeth up."
6 Sheol is precisely the same word as Saul. If it meant Hell would any Hebrew parent have called his child Sheol? Think of calling a boy Hell!
7 Nowhere in the Old Testament does the word Sheol, or its Greek equivalent, Hadees, ever denote a place or condition of suffering after death ; it either means literal death or temporal calamity. This is clear as we consult the usage.
14 It has a mouth. is in fact the grave. See Ps. 141:7: "Our bones are scattered at Sheol's--Hadees' mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth."
15 The overthrow of the King of Babylon is called Hell. Isa. 14:9-15, 22-23: "Hell (Sheol--Hadees) from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from the thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave and the noise of thy viols; the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. For I will rise up against them saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the Lord. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts." All this imagery demonstrates temporal calamity, a national overthrow as the signification of the word Hell.
21 No one in the Bible ever speaks of Hell (Sheol--Hadees) as a place of punishment after death.
22 It is a way of escape from punishment. Amos 7:2.
23 The inhabitants of Hell (Sheol--Hadees) are eaten of worms, vanish and are consumed away. Job. 7:9-24. Ps. 4914.
24 Hell (Sheol--Hadees) is a place of rest. Job 17:6.
Dr. Strong says, that not only Moses, but "every Israelite who came out of Egypt, must have been fully acquainted with the universally recognized doctrine of future rewards and punishments." And yet Moses is utterly silent on the subject.
Dr. Thayer remarks: "Is it possible to imagine a more conclusive proof against the divine origin of the doctrine? If he had believed it to be of God, if he had believed in endless torments as the doom of the wicked after death, and had received this as a revelation from heaven, could he have passed it over in silence? He knew whence the monstrous dogma came, and he had seen enough of Egypt already, and would have no more of her cruel superstitions; and so he casts this out, with her abominable idolatries, as false and unclean things."
We believe we have recorded every passage in which the word occurs. Suppose the original word stood, and we read Sheol or Hadees in all the passages, instead of Hell, would any unbiased reader regard it as conveying the idea of a place or state of endless torment after death, such as the English word Hell is also generally supposed to denote? Such a doctrine was never held by the ancient Jews, until after the Babylonish captivity, during which they acquired it of the heathen. All scholars agree that Moses never taught it, and that it is not contained in the Old Testament.
Thus not one of the sixty-four passages containing the only word rendered Hell in the entire Old Testament, teaches any such thought as is commonly supposed to be contained in that
Now do popular Christian descriptions resemble anything in the Old Testament? Do they not exactly copy the heathen description? Whence came these ideas? They are not found in the Old Testament. And yet the world was full of them when Christ came.
Jeremy Taylor, of the English Church, says: "The bodies of the damned shall be crowded together in hell, like grapes in a wine-press, which press one another till they burst; every distinct sense and organ shall be assailed with its own appropriate and most exquisite sufferings."
Calvin describes it: "Forever harrassed with a dreadful tempest, they shall feel themselves torn asunder by an angry God, and transfixed and penetrated by mortal stings, terrified by the thunderbolts of God, and broken by the weight of his hand, so that to sink into any gulf would be more tolerable than to stand for a moment in these terrors."
Johnathan Edwards said: "The world will probably be converted into a great lake or liquid globe of fire, in which the wicked shall be overwhelmed, which will always be in tempest, in which they shall be tossed to and fro, having no rest day or night, vast waves and billows of fire continually rolling over their heads, of which they shall forever be full of a quick sense within and without; their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins, and their vitals, shall forever be full of a glowing, melting fire, fierce enough to melt the very rocks and elements; and, also, they shall eternally be full of the most quick and lively sense to feel the torments; not for one minute, not for one day, not for one age, not for two ages, not for a hundred ages, nor for ten thousand millions of ages, one after another, but forever and ever, without any end at all, and never to be delivered.'
And Spurgeon uses this language even in our own days: "When thou diest, thy soul will be tormented alone: that will be a hell for it; but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul, and then thou will have twin hells, thy soul sweating drops of blood, and thy body suffused with agony. In fire exactly like that which we have on earth thy body will lie, asbestos-like, forever unconsumed, all thy veins roads for the feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the devil shall forever play his diabolical tune of Hell's unutterable Lament."
These horrible ideas were not obtained from the Old Testament, and yet they were fully believed by Jew and Pagan when Christ came. Whence came these views? If the New Testament teaches them, then Christ must have borrowed them from uninspired heathen. What does the New Testament teach concerning Hell ?
The Jews of the time of Christ had abandoned the Old Testament teachings concerning retribution. They had made void the word of God by their traditions. How did they come to change their views?
We repeat that during all the time that generations following generations of Jews were entertaining the ideas taught in the sixty-four passages, the surrounding heathen believed in a future, endless torment. Their literature is full of it. Says Good in his "Book of Nature":
"It was believed in most countries, that this Hell Hadees, or invisible world, is divided into two very distinct and opposite regions, by a broad and impassable gulf; that the one is a seat of happiness, a paradise, or Elysium, and the other a seat of misery, a Gehenna, or Tartarus; and that there is a supreme magistrate and an impartial tribunal belonging to the infernal shades, before which the ghosts must appear, and by which they are sentenced to the one or the other, according to the deeds done in the body. Egypt is said to have been the inventress of this important and valuable part of the tradition; and undoubtedly it is to be found in the earliest records of Egyptian history." (It should be observed that Gehenna was not used before Christ, or until 150 A.D. to denote a place of future punishment.)
Dr. Anthon says, "As regards the analogy between the term Hadees and our English word Hell, it may be remarked that the latter, in its primitive signification, perfectly corresponded to the former. For, at first, it denoted only what was secret or concealed; and it is found moreover, with little variation of form, and precisely with the same meaning, in all the Teutonic dialects."
The heathen sages admit that they invented this doctrine.
Strabo says: "The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds. For it is impossible to govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue--but this must be done by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (of the furies) the dragons, etc. are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology." Geo. B. 1.
Seneca says: "Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment-seat, etc. are all a fable, with which the poets amuse themselves, and by them agitate us with vain terrors."
Dr. Thayer in his "Origin and History," says "The process is easily understood. About three hundred and thirty years before Christ, Alexander the Great had subjected to his rule the whole of Western Asia, including Judea, and also the Kingdom of Egypt. Soon after he founded Alexandria, which speedily became a great commercial metropolis, and drew into itself a large multitude of Jews, who were always eager to improve the opportunities of traffic and trade. A few years later, Ptolemy Soter took Jerusalem, and carried off one hundred thousand of them into Egypt. Here, of course, they were in daily contact with the Egyptians and Greeks, and gradually began to adopt their philosophical and religious opinions, or to modify their own in harmony with them."
We must either reject these imported ideas, as heathen inventions, or we must admit that the heathen, centuries before Christ, discovered that of which Moses had no idea. In other words either uninspired men announced the future fate of sinners centuries before inspired men knew anything of it, or the heathen and "evangelical" descriptions of Hell are wholly false.
Jewish and pagan opinions
At the time of Christ's advent Jew and Pagan held Hadees to be a place of torment after death, to endure forever.
"The prevalent and distinguishing opinion was, that the soul survived the body, that vicious souls would suffer everlasting imprisonment in Hadees, and that the souls of the virtuous would both be happy there, and, in process of time, obtain the privilege of transmigrating into other bodies." (Campbell's Four Gospels, Diss. 6, Pt. 2§19.) Of the Pharisees, Josephus says: "They also believe that souls have an immortal vigor in them, and that, under the earth, there will be rewards and punishments, according as they lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again." (Antiquities, B. 18, Ch. 1, §3. Whiston's Tr.)
Hell in the new testament--hadees
The word Hadees occurs but eleven times in the New Testament, and is translated Hell ten times, and grave once. The word is from a not, and eido. to see, and means concealed, invisible. It has exactly the same meaning as Sheol, literally the grave, or death, and figuratively destruction, downfall, calamity, or punishment in this world, with no intimation whatever of torment or punishment beyond the grave. Such is the meaning in every passage of the Old Testament containing the word Sheol or Hadees, whether translated Hell, grave or pit. Such is the invariable meaning of Hadees in the New Testament.
Says the "Emphatic Diaglot"; "To translate Hadees by the word Hell as it is done ten times out of eleven in the New Testament, is very improper. unless it has the Saxon meaning of helan, to cover, attached to it. The primitive signification of Hell, only denoting what was secret or concealed, perfectly corresponds with the Greek term Hadees and its equivalent Sheol, but the theological definition given to it at the present day by no means expresses it. "
The Greek Septuagint, which our Lord used when he read or quoted from the Old Testament, gives Hadees as the exact equivalent of the Hebrew Sheol, and when the Savior, or his apostles, used the word, they must have meant the same as is meant in the Old Testament. When Hadees is used in the New Testament we must understand it just as we do (Sheol or Hadees) in the Old Testament.aaaaa
Dr. Campbell well says: * * "In my judgment, it ought never in Scripture to be rendered Hell, at least, in the sense wherein that word is now universally understood by Christians. In the Old Testament, the corresponding word is Sheol, which signifies the state of the dead in general without regard to the goodness or badness of the persons, their happiness or misery. In translating that word, the seventy have almost invariably used Hadees. * * It is very plain, that neither in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, nor in the New, does the word Hadees convey the meaning which the present English word Hell, in the Christian usage, alwlays conveys to our minds.---Diss. 6. pp. 180-1.
It must not be forgotten that contact with the heathen had corrupted the opinions of the Jews, at the time of our Savior, from the simplicity of Moses, and that by receiving the traditions and fables of paganism, they had made void the word of God. They had accepted Hadees as the best Greek word to convey the idea of Sheol, but without investing it at first with the heathen notions of the classic Hadees, as they afterwards did. What these ideas were, the classic authors inform us.
Gibbon says, (Milman's Gibbon, Ch. 21): "The Jews had acquired at Babylon a great number of Oriental notions, and their theological opinions had undergone great changes by this intercourse. We find in Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon, and the later prophets, notions unknown to the Jews before the Babylonian captivity, which are manifestly derived from the Orientals. Thus God, represented under the image of light, and the principle of evil under that of darkness; the history of good and bad angels; paradise and Hell, etc. are doctrines of which the origin, or at least the positive determination can only be referred to the Oriental philosophy ."
Let us consult all the texts in which the heathen word Hadees is employed.
Rev. 6:8: "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him, and power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." All the details of this description demonstrate that this Hell is on this earth, and not in the future world.
Canon Farrar in Excursus II, "Eternal Hope," observes: "Hell has entirely changed its old harmless sense of the dim under-world; and that meaning, as it now does, to myriads of readers, a place of torment by material fire, into which all impenitent souls pass forever after death,--it conveys meanings which are not to be found in any word of the New or Old testament for which it is presented as an equivalent. In our Lord's language Capernaum was to be thrust down, not 'to Hell' but to the silence and desolation of the grave (Hadees); the promise that 'the gates of Hadees' should not prevail against the church is perhaps a distinct implication of her triumph even beyond death in the souls of men for whom he died; Dives uplifts his eyes not 'in Hell', but in the intermediate Hadees where he rests till the resurrection to a judgment, in which signs are not wanting that his soul may have been meanwhile ennobled and purified."
Of course the language is all figurative, and not literal. Hell here denotes evil and its consequences. It is in this world, it opposes truth and human happiness, but it is to meet with a destruction so complete that only a sea of fire can indicate the character of its destruction.
If this is a literal history, as is sometimes claimed, of the after-death experiences of two persons, then the good are carried about in Abraham's bosom; and the wicked are actually roasted in fire, and cry for water to cool their parched tongues. If these are figurative, then Abraham, Lazarus, Dives and the gulf, and every part of the account, are features of a picture, an allegory, as much as the fire and Abraham's bosom. If it be history, then the good are obliged to hear the appeals of the damned for that help which they cannot bestow! They are so near together as to be able to converse across the gulf, not wide but deep. It was this opinion that caused Jonathan Edwards to teach that the sight of the agonies of the damned enhances the joys of the blest!
1 The story is not fact, but a parable. This is denied by some Christians, who ask, does not our Savior say: "There was a certain rich man?" etc. True, but all his parables begin in the same way, "A certain rich man had two sons," and the like. In Judges 9, we read: "The trees went forth, on a time, to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, reign thou over us." This language is positive, and yet it describes something that never could have occurred. All fables, parables, and other fictitious accounts which are related to illustrate important truths have this positive form, to give force, point, life-likeness to the lessons they inculcate.
Dr. Whitby says: "That this is only a parable and not a real history of what was actually done, is evident from the circumstances of it, namely, the rich man lifting up his eyes in Hell, and seeing Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, his discourse with Abraham, his complaint of being tormented in flames, and his desire that Lazarus might be sent to cool his tongue, and if all this be confessedly parable, why should the rest be accounted history?" Lightfoot and Hammond make the same general comments, and Wakefield remarks, "To them who regard the narrative a reality it must stand as an unanswerable argument for the purgatory of the papists."
We give an indubitable proof that this is a parable. The Jews have a book, written during the Babylonish Captivity, entitled Gemara Babylonicum, containing doctrines entertained by Pagans concerning the future state, not recognized by the followers of Moses. This story is founded on heathen views. They were not obtained from the Bible, for the Old Testament contains nothing resembling them. They were among those traditions which our Savior condemned when he told the Scribes and Pharisees, "Ye make the word of God of none effect through your traditions," and when he said to his disciples, "Beware of the leaven, or doctrine, of the Pharisees."
Our Savior seized the imagery of this story, not to indorse its truth, but just as we now relate any other fable. He related it as found in the Gemara, not for the story's sake, but to convey a moral to his hearers; and the Scribes and Pharisees to whom he addressed this and the five preceding stories, felt--as we shall see--the force of its application to them.
Says Dr. Geo. Campbell: "The Jews did not, indeed, adopt the pagan fables on this subject, nor did they express themselves entirely, in the same manner; but the general grain of thinking, in both, came pretty much to coincide. The Greek Hadees they found well adapted to express the Hebrew Sheol. This they came to conceive as including different sorts of habitations, for ghosts of different characters."
Now as nothing resembling these ideas is found in the Old Testament, where did the Jews obtain it, if not from the heathen?
The commentator, Macknight (Scotch Presbyterian) says truly: "It must be acknowledged that our Lord's descriptions are not drawn from the writings of the Old Testament, but have a remarkable affinity to the descriptions which the Grecian poets have given. They represent the abodes of the blest as lying contiguous to the region of the damned, and separated only by a great impassable gulf in such sort that the ghosts could talk to one another from the opposite banks. If from these resemblances it is thought the parable is formed on the Grecian mythology, it will not at all follow that our Lord approved of what the common people thought or spoke concerning these matters, agreeably to the notions of Greeks. In parables, provided the doctrines inculcated are strictly true, the terms in which they are inculcated may be such as are most familiar to the people, and the images made use of are such as they are best acquainted with."
But if it were a literal history, nothing could be gained for the terrible doctrine of endless torment. It would oblige us to believe in literal fire after death, but there is not a word to show that such fire would never go out. We have heard it claimed that the punishment of the rich man must be endless, because there was a gulf fixed so that those who desired to, could not cross it. But were this a literal account, it would not follow that the gulf would last always. For are we not assured that the time is coming when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low?" Isa. 40:4. When every valley is exalted, what becomes of the great gulf? And then there is not a word said of the duration of the sufferings of the rich man. If the account be a history is must not militate against the promise of "The restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all God's holy prophets since the world began." There is not a word intimating that the rich man's torment was never to cease. So the doctrine of endless misery is, after all, not in the least taught here. The most that can be claimed is that the consequences of sin extend into the future life, and this is a doctrine that we believe just as strongly as can any one, though we do not believe they will be endless, nor do we believe that the doctrine is taught in this parable, nor in the Bible use of the word Hell.
Charles Kingsley, the celebrated English author, says in his "Letters":
"You may quote the parable of Dives and Lazarus (which was the emancipation from the Tartarus theory) as the one instance in which our Lord professedly opens the secrets of the next world, that he there represents Dives (Rich man) as still Abraham's child, under no despair, not cut off from Abraham's sympathy, and under a direct moral training of which you see the fruit. He is gradually weaned from the selfish desire of indulgence for himself, to love and care for his brethren, a divine step forward in his life, which of itself proves him not to be lost. The impossibility of Lazarus getting to him, or vice versa, expresses plainly the great truth that each being is where he ought to be at that time, interchange of place, (i.e., of spiritual state) is impossible. But it says nothing against Dives rising out of his torment, when he has learnt the lesson of it, and going where he ought to go." So that on the theory that this is a literal account, it affords no evidence of endless torment.
But allowing for a moment that this is intended to represent a scene in the spirit world, what a representation we have! Dives is dwelling in a world of fire in the company of lost spirits, hardened by the depravity that must possess the residents of that world, and yet, yearning with compassion for those on earth. Not totally depraved, not harboring evil thoughts, but benevolent, humane. Instead of being loyal to the wicked world in which he dwells, as any one bad enough to go there should be, he actually tries to prevent migration thither from earth, while Lazarus is entirely indifferent to everybody but himself. Dives seems to have more mercy and compassion than does Lazarus.
The rich man died and was buried. This class died officially, nationally, and its power departed. The kingdom of God was taken from them, and conferred on others. The beggar died. The Gentiles, publicans and sinners, were translated into the kingdom of God's dear son, where is neither Jew nor Greek, but where all are one in Christ Jesus. This is the meaning of "Abraham's bosom." They accepted the true faith and so became one with faithful Abraham. Abraham is called the father of the faithful, and the beggar is represented to have gone to Abraham's bosom, to denote the fact, which is now history, that the common people and Gentiles accepted Christianity and have since continued Christian nations, enjoying the blessings of the Christian faith.
What is meant by the torment of the rich man? The misery of those proud men, when, soon after, their land was captured, and their city and temple possessed by barbarians, and they scattered like chaff before the wind--a condition in which they have continued from that day to this. All efforts to bless them with Christianity have proved unavailing. At this very moment there is a great gulf fixed so that there is no passing to and fro. And observe, the Jews do not desire the gospel. Nor did the rich man ask to enter Abraham's bosom with Lazarus. He only wished Lazarus to alleviate his sufferings by dipping his finger in water and cooling his tongue. It is so with the Jews today. They do not desire the gospel; they only ask those among whom they sojourn to tolerate them and soften the hardships that accompany their wanderings. The Jewish church and nation are now dead. Once they were exalted to heaven, but now they are thrust down to Hadees, the kingdom of death, and the gulf that yawns between them and the Gentiles shall not be abolished till the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in, and "then Israel shall be saved."
Lightfoot says: "The main scope and design of it seems this: to hint the destruction of the unbelieving Jews, who, though they had Moses and the prophets, did not believe them, nay would not believe though one (even Jesus) arose from the dead."
Our quotations are not from Universalists, but from those who accepted the doctrine of eternal punishment, but who were forced to confess that this parable has no reference to that subject. The rich man, or the Jews, were and are in the same Hell in which David was when he said: "The pains of Hell (Hadees) got hold on me, I found trouble and sorrow," and "thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest Hell." Not in endless woe in the future world, but in misery and suffering in this.
In brief terms then, we may say that this is a fictitious story or parable describing the fate in this world of the Jewish and Gentile people of our Savior's times, and has not the slightest reference to the world after death, nor to the fate of mankind in that world.
Let the reader observe that the rich man, being in Hadees, was in a place of temporary detention only. Whether this be a literal story or a parable, his confinement is not to be an endless one. This is demonstrated in a two-fold manner:
So that the instances (sixty-four) in the Old Testament, and (eleven) in the New; in all seventy-five in the Bible, all perfectly agree in representing the word Hell, derived from the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hadees, as being in this world, and of temporary duration.
This word occurs but once in the Bible: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell (Tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." 2 Peter 2:4. The word in the Greek is Tartarus, or rather it is a verb from that noun. "Cast down to Hell" should be tartarused (tartarosas ).
The Greeks held Tartarus. says Anthon, in his Classical Dictionary, to be "the fabled place of punishment in the lower world." "According to the ideas of the Homeric and Hesiodic ages, it would seem that the world or universe was a hollow globe, divided into two equal portions by the flat disk of the earth. The external shell of this globe is called by the poets brazen and iron, probable only to express its solidity. The superior hemisphere was called Heaven and the inferior one Tartarus. Here the poet of the Odyssey also places Erebus, the realm of Pluto and Proserpina, the final dwelling place of all the race of men, a place which the poet of the Iliad describes as lying within the bosom of the earth. At a later period the change of religions gradually affected Erebus, the place of the reward of the good; and Tartarus was raised up to form the prison in which the wicked suffered the punishment due to their crimes."
Virgil illustrates this view, (Dryden's Virgil, Aeneid, viz.):
"'Tis here, in diff'rent paths, the way divides:--
The right to Pluto's golden palace guides,
The left to that unhappy region tends,
Which to the depths of Tartarus descends--
The seat of night profound and punished fiends.
* * * * * * * * * *
The gaping gulf low to the centre lies,
And twice as deep as earth is from the skies,
The rival of the gods, the Titan race,
Here, singed with lightning, roll within th' unfathomed space."
Now it is not to be supposed that Peter indorses and teaches this monstrous nonsense of paganism. If he did, then we must accept all the absurdities that went with it in the pagan mythology. And if this is an item of Christian faith, why is it never referred to in the Old or New Testament? Why have we no descriptions of it, such as abound in classic literature?
Peter alludes to the subject just as though it were well-known and understood by his correspondents. "If the angels that sinned," what angels? "were cast down to Tartarus," where is the story related? Not in the Bible, but in a book well-known at the time, called the Book of Enoch. It was written some time before the Christian Era, and is often quoted by the Christian fathers. It embodies a tradition, to which Josephus alludes, (Ant. 1:3) of certain angels who had fallen. (Dr. T.J. Sawyer, in Univ. Quart ) From this apocryphal book, Peter quoted the verse referring to Tartarus. Dr. Sawyer says:
"Not only the moderns are forced to this opinion, but it seems to have been universally adopted by the ancients. Irenaius, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Hilary," says Professor Stuart, "all of whom refer to the book before us, and quote from it, say nothing which goes to establish the idea that any Christians of their day denied or doubted that a quotation was made by the apostle Peter from the Book of Enoch. Several, and in fact, most of these writers do, indeed, call in question the canonical rank or authority of the book of Enoch; but the apologies which they make for the quotation of it in Peter, show that the quotation itself was, as a matter of fact, generally conceded among them." There are, it is true, some individuals who still doubt whether Peter quoted the Book of Enoch; but while as Professor Stuart suggests, this doubt is incapable of being confirmed by any satisfactory proof, it avails nothing to deny the quotation; for it is evident if Peter did not quote the Book of Enoch, he did quote a tradition of no better authority."
This Book of Enoch is full of absurd legends, which no sensible man can accept.
But no one can fail to see that the apostle employs the legend of the Book of Enoch to illustrate and enforce his doctrine of retribution. As though he had said: "If, as is believed by some, God spared not the angels that sinned, do not let us who sin, mortal men, expect to escape." If this view is denied there is no escape from the gross doctrine of Tartarus, as taught by the pagan, and that, too, on the testimony of a solitary sentence of Scripture!
But whatever may be the intent of the words, they do not teach endless torment, for the chains referred to last only unto the judgment .
While nearly all "orthodox" authorities of eminence concede that sheol and Hadees do not denote a place of torment in the future world, most of those who accept the doctrine of endless torment claim that Gehenna does convey that meaning. This place is the last ditch of those who are struggling to establish the fact of the endless supremacy of sin and sorrow. It is the malakoff of orthodoxy.
But no such force resides in this word, nor is there a scintilla of evidence that it ever was imagined to carry such an idea until many years after Christ. An examination of the Bible use of the term will show us that the popular view is obtained by injecting the word with current pagan superstition. Its origin and the first references to it in the Old Testament, are correctly stated by eminent critics and exegetes.
As we trace the history of the locality as it occurs in the Old Testament, we learn that it should never have been translated by the word Hell. It is a proper name of a well-known locality, and ought to have stood Gehenna, as it does in the French Bible, in Newcome's and Wakefield's translation, in the Improved Version, Emphatic Diaglott, etc. Babylon might have been translated Hell with as much propriety as Gehenna.
These and other passages show that Gehenna was a well-known valley, near Jerusalem, in which the Jews in their idolatrous days had sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch, in consequence of which it was condemned to receive the offal and refuse and sewage of the city, and into which the bodies of malefactors were cast, and where, to destroy the odor and pestilential influences, continual fires were kept burning. Here fire, smoke, worms bred by the corruption, and other repulsive features, rendered the place a horrible one, in the eyes of the Jews. It was a locality with which they were as well acquainted as they were with any place in or around the city. After these horrible practices, King Josiah polluted the place and rendered it repulsive.
These passages show that Gehenna or Tophet was a locality near Jerusalem, and that to be cast there literally, was the doom threatened and executed. Every Bible reference is to this world.
In Dr. Bailey's English Dictionary, Gehenna is defined to be "a place in the valley of the tribe of Benjamin, terrible for two sorts of fire in it, that wherein the Israelites sacrificed their children to the idol Moloch, and also another kept continually burning to consume the dead carcasses and filth of Jerusalem."
But in process of time Gehenna came to be an emblem of the consequences of sin, and to be employed figuratively by the Jews to denote those consequences. But always in this world. The Jews never used it to mean torment after death, until long after Christ. That the word had not the meaning of post-mortem torment when our Savior used it, is demonstrable: Josephus was a Pharisee, and wrote at about the time of Christ, and expressly says that the Jews at that time (corrupted from the teachings of Moses) believed in endless punishment, but he never employs Gehenna to denote the place of punishment. He uses the word Hadees, which the Jews had then obtained from the heathen, but he never uses Gehenna, as he would have done, had it possessed that meaning then, This demonstrates that the word had no such meaning then. In addition to this neither the Apocrypha, which was written from 280 to 150 B.C. nor Philo, ever uses the word. It was first used in the modern sense of Hell by Justin Martyr, one hundred and fifty years after Christ.
Dr. Thayer concludes a most thorough excursus on the word ("Theology") thus:
"Our inquiry shows that it is employed in the Old Testament in its literal or geographical sense only, as the name of the valley lying on the south of Jerusalem--that the Septuagint proves it retained this meaning as late as B.C. 150--that it is not found at all in the Apocrypha; neither in Philo, nor in Josephus, whose writings cover the very times of the Savior and the New Testament, thus leaving us without a single example of contemporary usage to determine its meaning at this period--that from A.D. 150-195, we find in two Greek authors, Justin and Clement of Alexandria, the first resident in Italy and the last in Egypt, that Gehenna began to be used to designate a place of punishment after death, but not endless punishment, since Clement was a believer in universal restoration--that the first time we find Gehenna used in this sense in any Jewish writing is near the beginning of the third century, in the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, two hundred years too late to be of any service in the argument--and lastly, that the New Testament usage shows that while it had not wholly lost its literal sense, it was also employed in the time of Christ as a symbol of moral corruption and wickedness; but more especially as a figure of the terrible judgments of God on the rebellious and sinful nation of the Jews."
The Jewish Talmud and Targums use the word in the sense that the Christian Church has so long used it, though without attributing endlessness to it, but none of them are probably older than A.D. 200. The oldest is the Targum (translation) of Johathan Ben Uzziel, which was written according to the best of authorities between A.D. 200 and A.D. 400.
"Most of the eminent critics now agree, that it could not have been completed till some time between two and four hundred years after Christ." Univ. Expos. Vol. 2, p.368.
At the time of Christ the Old Testament existed in Hebrew. The Septuagint translation of it was made between two hundred and four hundred years before his birth. In both Gehenna is never used as the name of a place of future punishment. A writer in the Universalist Expositor remarks, (Vol.2)):
"Both the Apocrypha and the works of Philo, when compared together, afford circumstantial evidence that the word cannot have been currently employed, during their age, to denote a place of future torment. And we cannot discover in Josephus, that either of these sects, the Pharisees or the Essenes, both of which believed the doctrine of endless misery, supposed it to be a state of fire, or that the Jews ever alluded to it by that emblem."
The Apocrypha, B.C.150-500, Philo Judaeus A.D.40, and Josephus, A.D.70-100, all refer to future punishment, but none of them use Gehenna to describe it, which they would have done, being Jews, had the word been then in use with that meaning. Were it the name of a place of future torment then, can any one doubt that it would be found repeatedly in their writings? And does not the fact that it is never found in their writings demonstrate that it had no such use then, and if so, does it not follow that Christ used it in no such sense?
Jewish views of gehenna
Gehenna is the name given by Jews to Hell. Rev. H. N. Adler, a Jewish Rabbi, says: "They do not teach endless retributive suffering. They hold that it is not conceivable that a God of mercy and justice would ordain infinite punishment for finite wrong-doing." Dr. Deutsch declares: "There is not a word in the Talmud that lends any support to that damnable dogma of endless torment." Dr. Dewes in his "Plea for Rational Translation," says that Gehenna is alluded to four or five times in the Mishna, thus:
Rev. Dr. Wise, a learned Jewish Rabbi, says: "That the ancient Hebrews had no knowledge of Hell is evident from the fact that their language has no term for it."
Before considering the passages of Scripture containing the word, the reader should carefully read and remember the following
2 Gehenna is never employed in the Old Testament to mean anything else than the locality with which every Jew was familiar.
3 The word should have been left untranslated as it is in some versions, and it would not be misunderstood. It should no more be rendered Hell than should Babylon. It was not misunderstood by the Jews to whom Jesus addressed it. Walter Balfour well says:" "What meaning would the Jews who were familiar with this word, and knew it to signify the valley of Hinnom, be likely to attach to it, when the heard it used by our Lord?"
4 The French Bible, the Emphatic Diaglott, Improved Version, Wakefield's Translation, and Newcomb's retain the proper noun, Gehenna, the name of the well-known place.
5 Gehenna is never mentioned in the Apocrypha as a place of future punishment, as it would have been, had such been its meaning before and at the time of Christ.
6 No Jewish writer contemporary with Christ, such as Josephus, or Philo, ever uses it as the name of a place of future punishment, as would have been done had such then been its meaning.
7 No classic Greek author ever alludes to it, and therefore, it was a Jewish locality, purely.
8 The first Jewish writer who ever names it as a place of future punishment is Johnathan Ben Uzziel; who wrote, according to various authorities, from the second to the eighth century, A.D.
9 The first Christian writer who calls Hell Gehenna, is Justin Martyr, who wrote about A.D. 150.
10 Neither Christ nor his apostles ever named it to Gentiles, but only to Jews, which proves it a locality only known to Jews, whereas, if it were a place of punishment after death for sinners, it would have been preached to Gentiles as well as Jews.
11 It was only referred to twelve times, on eight occasions, in all the ministry of Christ and the apostles, and in the Gospels and Epistles. Were they faithful to their mission, to say no more, on so vital a theme as an endless Hell, if they intended to teach it?
12 Only Jesus and James ever named it. Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jude ever employed it. Would they not have warned sinners concerning it, if there were a Gehenna of torment after death?
13 Paul says he "shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God," and yet, though he was the great preacher of the Gospel to the Gentiles he never told them that Gehenna was a place of after-death punishment. Would he not repeatedly have warned sinners against it, were there such a place?
Dr. Thayer significantly remarks: "The Savior and James are the only persons in all the New Testament who use the word. John Baptist, who preached to the most wicked of men, did not use it once. Paul wrote fourteen epistles, and yet never once mentions it. Peter does not name it, nor Jude; and John who wrote the gospel, three epistles, and the book of Revelations, never employs it in a single instance. Now if Gehenna or Hell really reveals the terrible fact of endless woe, how can we account for this strange silence? How is it possible, if they knew its meaning, and believed it a part of Christ's teaching, that they should not have used it a hundred or a thousand times, instead of never using it at all; especially when we consider the infinite interests involved? The Book of Acts contains the record of the apostolic preaching, and the history of the first planting of the church among the Jews and Gentiles, and embraces a period of thirty years from the ascension of Christ. In all this history, in all this preaching of the disciples and apostles of Jesus, there is no mention of Gehenna. In thirty years of missionary effort, these men of God, addressing people of all characters and nations, never, under any circumstances, threaten them with the torments of Gehenna, or allude to it in the most distant manner! In the face of such a fact as this, can any man believe that Gehenna signifies endless punishment; and that this is a part of divine revelation, a part of the gospel message to the world?"
19 Gehenna is never said to be of endless duration, nor spoken of as destined to last forever, so that even admitting the popular ideas of its existence after death, it gives no support to the dogma of endless torment.
20 Clement, one of the earliest Christian fathers, was a Universalist, and yet he uses Gehenna to describe the sinner's punishment, showing that then the word did not denote endless punishment.
21 A shameful death, or a severe punishment, in this life, was, at the time of Christ, denominated Gehenna, (Schleusner, Canon Farrar and others) and there is no evidence that Gehenna meant anything else, at the time of Christ.
With these preliminaries let us consider the twelve passages in which the word occurs.
The purpose of Jesus was to show how exacting is Christianity. It judges the motives. This he affirms in the last sentence of the verse, after referring to the legal penalties of Judaism in the first two. The "Judgment" here is the lower ecclesiastical court of twenty-three judges: the "council" is the higher court, which could condemn to death. But Christianity is so exacting, that if one is contemptuous toward another, he will be adjudged by Christian principles guilty of the worst crimes, as "he who hateth his brother has already committed murder in his heart." We give the true meaning of this passage in the words of "orthodox" commentators.
Dr. Adam Clarke says: "It is very probable that our Lord means no more here than this: 'If a man charge another with apostasy from the Jewish religion, or rebellion against God, and cannot prove his charge, then he is exposed to that punishment (burning alive) which the other must have suffered, if the charge had been substantiated.' There are three offenses here which exceed each other in their degrees of guilt. 1. Anger against a man, accompanied with some injurious act. 2. Contempt, expressed by the opprobrious epithet 'raca', or shallow brains. 3. Hatred and mortal enmity, expressed by the term moreh, apostate, where such apostasy could not be proved. Now proportioned to these three offenses were three different degrees of punishment, each exceeding the other in severity, as the offenses exceeded each other in their different degrees of guilt. 1. The judgment, the council of twenty-three, which could inflict the punishment of strangling. 2 The Sanhedrim, or great council, which could inflict the punishment of stoning. 3. The being burnt in the valley of the son of Hinnom. This appears to be the meaning of our Lord. Our Lord here alludes to the valley of the son of Hinnom. This place was near Jerusalem; and had been formerly used for those abominable sacrifices in which the idolatrous Jews had caused their children to pass through the fire to Moloch." Com. in loc.
We do not understand that a literal casting into Gehenna is here inculcated--as Clarke teaches--but that the severest of all punishments are due those who are contemptuous to others. Gehenna fire is here figuratively, and not literally used, but its torment is in this life.
Barnes: "In this verse it denotes a degree of suffering higher than the punishment inflicted by the court of seventy, the Sanhedrin. And the whole verse may therefore mean, He that hates his brother without a cause, is guilty of a violation of the sixth commandment, and shall be punished with a severity similar to that inflicted by a court of judgment He that shall suffer his passions to transport him to still greater extravagances, and shall make him an object of derision and contempt, shall be exposed to still severer punishment, corresponding to that which the Sanhedrin or council inflicts. But he who shall load his brother with odious appellations and abusive language, shall incur the severest degree of punishment, represented by being burnt alive in the horrid and awful valley of Hinnom." (Com.)--A. A. Livermore, D.D. says: "Three degrees of anger are specified, and three corresponding gradations of punishment, proportioned to the different degrees of guilt. Where these punishments will be inflicted, he does not say, he need not say. The man who indulges any wicked feelings against his brother man, is in this world punished; his anger is the torture of his soul, and unless he repents of it and forsakes it, it must prove his woe in all future states of his being."
Whether Jesus here means the literal Gehenna, or makes these three degrees of punishment emblems of the severe spiritual penalties inculcated by Christianity, there is no reference to the future world in the language.
These passages mean that it is better to accept Christianity, and forego some worldly privilege, than to possess all worldly advantages, and be overwhelmed in the destruction then about to come upon the Jews, when multitudes were literally cast into Gehenna. Or it may be figuratively used, as Jesus probably used it, thus: It is better to enter the Christian life destitute of some great worldly advantage, comparable to a right hand, than to live in sin, with all worldly privileges, and experience that moral death which is a Gehenna of the soul. In this sense it may be used of men now as then. But there is no reference to an after-death suffering, in any proper use of the terms. The true idea of the language is this: Embrace the Christian life, whatever sacrifice it calls for. The latter clause carries out the idea in speaking of the undying worm.
Bloomfield says of this text in his Notes: "Deny thyself what is even the most desirable and alluring, and seems the most necessary, when the sacrifice is demanded by the good of thy soul. Some think that there is an allusion to the amputation of diseased members of the body, to prevent the spread of any disorder." Dr. A.A. Livermore adds: "The main idea here conveyed, is that of punishment, extreme suffering, and no intimation is given as to its place, or its duration, whatever may be said in other texts in relation to these points."
Dr. Ballou says (Vol. I, Universalist Quarterly): "Jesus uses this well-known example of a most painful sacrifice for the preservation of corporeal life, only that he may the more strongly enforce a corresponding solicitude to preserve the moral life of the soul. And if so, it naturally follows that those prominent particulars in the passages which literally relate to the body, are to be understood as figures, and interpreted accordingly. If one's eye or hand become to him an offence, or cause of danger, it is better to part with it than to let it corrupt the body fit to be thrown into the valley of Hinnom."
The reader of these verses and the accompanying language, will observe that Jesus is exhorting his disciples to have entire faith in God. The most that men can do is to destroy the body, but God "is able," "hath power" to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna. It is not said that God has any disposition or purpose of doing so. He is able to do it, as it is said (Matt. 3:9) he is "able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." He never did, and never will raise up children to Abraham of the stones of the street, but he is able to, just as he is able to destroy soul and body in Gehenna, while men could only destroy the body there. Fear the mighty power of God, who could, if he chose, annihilate man, while the worst that men could do would be to destroy mere animal life. It is a forcible exhortation to trust in God, and has no reference to torment after death. Fear not those who can only torture you--man--but fear God who can annihilate, (apokteino ).
1 This language was addressed by Christ to his disciples, and not to sinners.
2 It proves God's ability to annihilate (destroy) and not his purpose to torment. Donnegan defines appollumi. "to destroy utterly."
As though Jesus had said: "Fear not those who can only kill the body, but rather him, who, if he chose could annihilate the whole being. Fear not man but God."
"So much may suffice to show the admitted fact, that the destruction of soul and body was a proverbial phrase, indicating utter extinction or complete destruction." Paige
Dr. W. E. Manley observes that the condition threatened "is one wherein the body can be killed. And no one has imagined any such place, outside the present state of being. Nor can there be the least doubt about the nature of this killing of the body; for the passage is so constructed as to settle this question beyond all controversy. It is taking away the natural life, as was done by the persecutors of the apostles. The Jews were in a condition of depravity properly represented by Gehenna. The apostles had been in that condition, but had been delivered from it. By supposing the word Hell to denote a condition now and in the present life, there is no absurdity involved. Sinful men may here suffer both natural death and moral death; but in the future life, natural death cannot be suffered; whatever may be said of moral death. Fear not men, your persecutors, who can inflict on you only bodily suffering. But rather fear him who is able to inflict both bodily suffering, and what is worse, mental and moral suffering, in that condition of depravity represented by the foulest and most revolting locality known to the Jewish people."
Looking upon the smoking valley, and thinking of its corruptions and abominations, to call a man a "child of Gehenna" was to say that his heart was corrupt and his character vile, but it no more indicated a place of woe after death, than a resident of New York would imply such a place by calling a bad man a child of Five Points.
This verse undoubtedly refers to the literal destruction that soon after befell the Jewish nation, when six hundred thousand experienced literally the condemnation of Gehenna, by perishing miserably by fire and sword. The next words explain this damnation:
"And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of Hell." James 3:6.
A tongue set on fire of Gehenna, when James wrote, was understood just as in London a tongue inspired by Billingsgate, or in New York by Five Points, or in Boston by Ann Street, or in Chicago by Fifth Avenue, would be understood namely, a profane and vulgar tongue. No reference whatever was made to any after-death place of torment, but the allusion was solely to a locality well known to the Jews as a place of corruption, and it was figuratively and properly applied to a vile tongue.
We have thus briefly explained all the passages in which Gehenna occurs. Is there any intimation that it denotes a place of punishment after death? Not any. If it mean such a place no one can escape believing that it is a place of literal fire, and all the modern talk of a Hell of conscience is most erroneous. But that it has no such meaning is corroborated by the testimony of Paul, who says he "shunned not to declare the whole counsel of God," and yet he never, in all his writings, employs the word once, nor does he use the word Hadees but once, and then he signifies its destruction; "Oh Hadees, where is thy victory?" If Paul believed in a place of endless torment, would he have been utterly silent in reference to it, in his entire ministry? His reticence is a demonstration that he had no faith in it, though the Jews and heathen all around him preached it and believed it implicitly.
The primary meaning then, of Gehenna is a well-known locality near Jerusalem; but it was sometimes used to denote the consequences of sin, in this life. It is to be understood in these two senses only, in all the twelve passages in the New Testament. In the second century after Christ it came to denote a place of torment after death, but it is never employed in that sense in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Apocrypha nor was it used by any contemporary of Christ with that meaning, nor was it ever thus employed by any Christian until Justin and Clement thus used it (A.D. 150) and the latter was a Universalist, nor by any Jew until in the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, about a century later. And even then it only denoted future, but did not denote endless punishment, until a still later period.
The English author, Charles Kingsley, writes ("Letters") to a friend:
"The doctrine occurs nowhere in the Old Testament, nor any hint of it. The expression, in the end of Isaiah, about the fire not quenched, and the worm not dying, is plainly of the dead corpses of men upon the physical earth, in the valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, where the offal of Jerusalem was burned perpetually. The doctrine of endless torment was, as a historical fact, brought back from Babylon by the Rabbis. It may be a very ancient primary doctrine of the Magi, an appendage of their fire-kingdom of Ahreman, and may be found in the old Zends, long prior to Christianity. St. Paul accepts nothing of it as far as we can tell, never making the least allusion to the doctrine. The Apocalypse simply repeats the imagery of Isaiah, and of our Lord; but asserts distinctly the non-endlessness of torture, declaring that in the consummation, not only death but Hell shall be cast into the lake of fire. The Christian church has never held it exclusively till now. It remained quite an open question till the age of Justinian, 530, and significantly enough, as soon as 200 years before that, endless torment for the heathen became a popular theory, purgatory sprang up synchronously by the side of it, as a relief for the conscience and reason of the church."
Canon Farrar truthfully says, in his "Eternal Hope": The word rendered Hell is in one place the Greek word "Tartarus", borrowed, as a word, for the prison of evil spirits, not after, but before the resurrection. It is in ten places 'Hadees', which simply means the world beyond the grave, and it is twelve places 'Gehenna', which means primarily, the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jeruslaem, in which, after it had been polluted by Moloch worship, corpses were flung and fires were lit; and, secondly, it is a metaphor, not of final and hopeless, but of purifying and corrective, punishment which, as we all believe, does await impenitent sin both here and beyond the grave. But, be it solemnly observed, the Jews to whom and in whose metaphorical sense, the word was used by our blessed Lord, never did, either then or at any other period, attach to that word 'Gehenna', which he used, that meaning of endless torment which we have been taught to apply to Hell. To them, and, therefore, on the lips of our blessed Savior who addressed it to them, it means not a material and everlasting fire, but an intermediate, a metaphorical, and a terminal retribution."
The English word Hell occurs in the Bible fifty-five times, thirty-two in the Old Testament and twenty-three in the New testament. The original terms translated Hell (Sheol-Hadees) occur in the Old Testament sixty times and in the New Testament twenty-four times; Hadees eleven times, Gehenna twelve times, and Tartarus once. In every instance the meaning is death, the grave, or the consequences of sin in this life.
Thus the word Hell in the Bible, whether translated from Sheol, Hadees, Gehenna, or Tartarus, yields no countenance to the doctrine of future, much less endless punishment.
It should not be concluded, however, from our expositions of the usage of the word Hell in the Bible that Universalists deny that the consequences of sin extend to the life beyond the grave. We deny that inspiration has named Hell as a place or condition of punishment in the spirit world. It seems a philosophical conclusion, and there are Scriptures that seem to many Universalists to teach that the future life is affected to a greater or lesser extent by human conduct here: but that Hell is a place or condition of suffering after death is not believed by any, and, as we trust we have shown, the Scriptures never so designate it. Sheol, Hadees and Tartarus denote literal death, or the consequences of sin here, and Gehenna was the name of a locality well known to al Jews, into which sometimes men were cast, and was made an emblem of great temporal calamities and of suffering resulting from sin. Hell in the Bible, in all the fifty-five instances in which the word occurs always refers to the present and never to the immortal world.
Thus we have shown that there is nothing in the Threatenings of the Bible that at all militates against the great truth of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouths of all his holy prophets since the world began.
The purpose of this book will not be fully accomplished if the reader shall perceive only that God's punishments of sin are not endless. The fatal defect of the doctrine of endless torment is that it teaches that punishment can be avoided by repentance, and so that any sinner who chooses can escape all penalty. But the Bible teaches that "Wrath," "Judgment," "Fire," "Damnation," "Hell," and all the words by which the consequences of sin are designated, denote penalties that are limited in duration because they are means to a good end, but that those penalties are absolutely certain. Every sinner will infallibly receive the exact amount of punishment deserved: "Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not go unpunished." It is because God is good and holy that he has ordained,
When the sinner shall repent and return to God here or hereafter, God will be more willing to receive than the sinner can be anxious to return. God's threatenings are a portion of his methods of securing the final gathering of all the nations, families and kindreds of the earth into the one holy and happy family in heaven.
And it is because of this sublime purpose of restoring all to himself that he has made sorrow to continue in every human soul until sin is discarded.
"The more profoundly learned any one was in Christian antiquity, so much more did he cherish and defend the hope that the suffering of the wicked would at some time come to an end."--Doederlein.
"Is the Law then against the Promises of God? God forbid!"--Paul
Boston: Universalist Publishing House,
Copyright, J.W. Hanson, 1878
Ex. 20:5, 6 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Ps. 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks.
Ps. 30:9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
Prov. 5:5 Her feet go down to the grave; her steps take hold on hell.
Eccl. 11:3 If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
Isa. 31:9 Saith the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.
Isa. 34:2 For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
Isa. 34:9-10 And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up forever; from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.
Dan. 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Jonah 1:3 Jonah rose up to flee into Tarshish, from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa.
Nahum 1:2, 3 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.
Mal. 3:2, 3 Who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
Matt.3:7 O, generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Matt. 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into Hell-fire.
Matt. 25:1-11 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Matt. 27:3-5 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that; and he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Luke 3:9-17 And also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into the garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
Luke 12:3 I tell you, nay; except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Luke 12:5 But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into Hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him.
Luke 13:7 Cut it down why cumbereth it the ground?
1 Cor. 6:9, 10 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Eph. 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Col. 3:6 The wrath of God on the children of disobedience.
2 Thessalonians 1:6, 9 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
Heb 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Hebrews 6:1-2 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of Hell.
2 Pet. 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.
2 Peter 2:4, 9 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.
2 Thessalonians 1:6, 9 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
2 Cor. 4:3 But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.
Jude 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Jude 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Rev. 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Rev. 14:6, 7 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come.
Rev. 20:5, 6 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power.
Rev. 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderer, and whoremonger, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.