Loading...
Larger font
Smaller font
Copy
Print
Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "undefined".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents

    EXAMINATION OF TEXTS SUPPOSED TO PROVE ETERNAL MISERY

    a. Daniel 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.” The shame is here made to stand in connection with the contempt, and so like that to be everlasting. But we reply, it is not so connected; and even if it was, neither the shame nor the contempt are emotions to be exercised by those who are thus raised in this condition, but by others toward them. This consideration at once removes this text entirely from the field of this controversy. The Syriac reads, “Some to death and the eternal contempt of their companions.”MOI 85.1

    b. Matthew 25:41. “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.” Provided the term everlasting here means endless duration, we might inquire how the fact that the fire was to be eternal could prove the indestructibility of the beings or substances cast into it. We venture to say that in any other book but the Bible it would be considered as proof of just the reverse. The expression is similarly used in Matthew 18:8.MOI 85.2

    c. Matthew 25:46. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” We raise no issue on the duration of the punishment brought to view in this text, but only on its nature. The difficulty we apprehend arises from confounding punishment with conscious suffering, whereas it is not necessarily such. Mark where the antithesis occurs: it is between life and punishment. Do not change these terms, as is too often done, to happiness and misery. we enter our solemn protest against such treatment of the word of God. We believe that Inspiration knew what ideas it wished to convey, and in what language to convey them. We therefore plead for the plain and literal import of its terms. Life then means life; and life here is just the opposite of the punishment brought to view. But is eternal life in misery the opposite of eternal life as such? This will hardly be claimed by any one. It is rather an eternal “cutting off” from life; an idea which enters largely into the definition of the word here translated punishment. That an eternal deprivation of life would be eternal punishment we think must be evident to all, besides being directly declared to be such by an inspired apostle. See 2 Thessalonians 1:9, where we are told what the punishment is, and the same term is used to denote its duration: “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from [or by, see chap 2:8; Acts 3:19] the presence of the Lord.”MOI 86.1

    d. Mark 3:29. “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” And what is this damnation? a continual and never-ending infliction of torment? Nothing of the kind; but a judgment or condemnation, the effects of which will be eternal. Just as we read of eternal salvation, Hebrews 5:9, eternal judgment Hebrews 6:2, and eternal redemption, Hebrews 9:12: not that these are perpetually going on, but only are in their effects eternal.MOI 86.2

    e. Mark 9:44. “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” This declaration is repeated in verses 46, 48. We are told that if a hand or foot offend us it is better to cut it off, or an eye, to pluck it out; for it is better to go into LIFE maimed, than having two hands, two feet, etc., to go into hell [gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched. If this language were for the first time met with in the N.T. it might strike some, perhaps, as the most expressive imagery of eternal torment; but even in this case others might reply, and we think upon as good ground, No: fire is the very symbol of complete destruction, and the expression can denote nothing less than the complete consumption of those who are cast into it. But as the expression was familiar to those whom Christ was addressing, let us turn to instances of its use, and thus learn the idea it would convey to their minds. If we can ascertain this, we have, of course, the true sense of this passage.MOI 87.1

    Turn then to Jeremiah 17:27. “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.” Here it is expressly declared that a fire kindled in the gates of Jerusalem should not be quenched; but no one can suppose that a fire thus kindled could burn eternally. And thus we learn the meaning of one expression, which is that fire which is not by any extraneous means extinguished, but is suffered to burn on till it has entirely consumed whatever it preys upon, is said to be unquenchable, or never to be quenched. To the same purpose see Ezekiel 20:47, 48: “Thus saith the Lord God: 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. And all flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it: it shall not be quenched.” Again: Isaiah 66:24. “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched: and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Here the same phraseology is used as in Mark 9, and from this no doubt, the latter was taken; but here it is said to be carcasses upon which the worm riots and the flame feeds. Notice also the place of punishment to which Mark alludes: it is Gehenna. And what was Gehenna? Ans. “The valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, once celebrated for the horrid worship of Moloch and afterward polluted with every species of filth, as well as the carcasses of animals, and dead bodies of malefactors; to consume which, in order to avert the pestilence which such a mass of corruption would occasion, constant fires were kept burning.” Greenfield. Such is the scene to which our Lord alludes; and from this allusion, men for eighteen hundred years this side of that time, would fain derive the idea of eternal suffering to suit the genius of their own age. But this is nothing less than an effort to derive the idea of indestructibility from figures of the most utter and complete destruction.MOI 87.2

    To this we may only add a remark more: The unquenchable fire of verse 43 (used also in Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17), is πυρ ασβεστον; and this very term, Eusebius, who was a learned Greek, and doubtless understood his native tongue sufficiently to write it accurately, employs in two instances in recounting the martyrdom of Christians. Cronion and Julian, after being tortured in various ways, were consumed in an “unquenchable fire,” πυρι ασβεστω. The same is also said of Epimachus and Alexander. “The πυρ ασβεστον,” says Wetstein, “denotes such a fire as cannot be extinguished before it has consumed and destroyed all.” And Bloomfield, speaking of the oriental custom of burning straw and stubble, adds, ‘The πυρ ασβεστον completes the awful image of total destruction.’” 1Debt and Grace, p.197.MOI 88.1

    f. Romans 2:6-9. “Who will render to every man according to his deeds, ... unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish.” We notice this portion of scripture only because it is sometimes urged as an objection to the doctrine of the destruction of the wicked. But the objector should not thus ignore the fact that we have never denied, but believe as firmly as any can, that indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish will be recompensed upon every soul of man that doeth evil. The question between us is concerning the duration of this tribulation and anguish, and on this, the text is entirely silent.MOI 89.1

    g. Jude 7. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah ... are set forth for an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Let it be noticed here, that it is the example and not the suffering which is in the present tense, and all difficulty vanishes at once. To be set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, and to be eternally suffering in fire, are two very different conditions. Sodom suffered the vengeance of eternal fire; and what was the effect of that vengeance? Was it a never-ceasing preservation in the devouring element? By no means. The vengeance of that fire turned those cities into ashes. “Turning,” says Peter, “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.” 2Epis.ii,6. But those fires are not now burning. Seek out the site of those ancient and abandoned cities, and you will find the brackish waters of the Dead Sea rolling their sluggish waves over the spot where they once stood. To the example here set forth, the ungodly would do well to take heed; for just such an overthrow, just such a destruction awaits them, unless they speedily turn from their wicked ways that they may live.MOI 89.2

    h. Revelation 14:11. “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” In the preceding verse we are told that they drink of the unmingled wrath of God, and are tormented in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. This scripture is taken to prove the unending torment of all the unregenerate of our race. But a moment’s consideration is sufficient to convince any one that it cannot have so broad an application. It is a definite and limited class that is here referred to. It is only against the worshipers of the beast and his image that this threatening is directed; and this appellation can include but comparatively a small portion of all the sinners who have ever lived. And hence even if this scripture proves eternal torture for some it does not for the whole. But the phrase upon which eternity of suffering is here especially suspended is, that the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever. Does this convey such an idea? We will see; for the expression was not new in John’s day. It was borrowed from the Old Testament. See Isaiah 34:9, 10. The prophet here speaking of the land of Idumea, says: “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 forever and ever.”MOI 90.1

    Whether this language refers to the literal land of Edom south and east of Judea, or to the general destruction of the ungodly at the end of this age, is altogether immaterial to the argument. if the literal land of Idumea is meant, and the language has reference to the desolations which have fallen upon it, then certainly no eternity of duration is implied in the smoke’s going up forever. And if reference is had to the overflowing desolation of this earth which shall wrap the sinner in its fiery folds, at that time when the Man of Sin shall be consumed with the spirit of Christ’s mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of his coming, no eternity is even then found in the expression; for this earth is destined eventually to be purified from its stains of sin, and become the abode of the righteous. The phrase therefore, the smoke of their torment shall go up forever and ever, must be limited in its duration; and being so, another proof for the eternity of conscious misery ceases to exist. Aion, the word here translated forever, is thus defined by Schrevelius in his Greek Lexicon: “An age; a long period of time; indefinite duration; time whether longer or shorter.”MOI 91.1

    i. Revelation 20:10. “And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The same explanation may be offered here as on the former objection. It only speaks of the Devil, the beast and the false prophet. But the ancient world and the present heathen world are alike ignorant of either the beast or false prophet. It does not therefore refer to the whole race. The means of torture, the lake of fire, is again mentioned in verse 14; and there it is the symbol of complete and utter destruction. Death and Hades (personified), it says, were cast into the lake of fire. But of death we read that the “last enemy that shall be destroyed is death;” and “there shall be no more death.” Being cast into the lake of fire denotes their utter extinction. In verse 15 we read further: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire.” And why may not the lake of fire in this instance denote as utter an extinction of the persons who are cast into it, as it did in the verse before of death which was cast into it? Yes, why? since the definition of the original word forever cannot prove its torment to be unlimited in duration.MOI 91.2

    But it may be asked if the same term is not employed to express the existence of the righteous, and if the torture of the wicked will not be equally long. We answer that the term forever, according to a rule laid down by Dr. Clarke, signifies only, as long as a thing considering the surrounding circumstances can exist. In his closing remarks on 2 Kings 5, speaking of the curse of leprosy pronounce upon Gehazi forever, he says: “Some have thought, because of the prophet’s curse, ‘The leprosy of Naaman shall cleave unto thee and to thy seed forever,’ that there are persons still alive who are this man’s descendants, and afflicted with this horrible disease. Mr. Maundrell, when he was in Judea, made diligent inquiry concerning this, but could not ascertain the truth of the supposition. To me it appears absurd; the denunciation took place in the posterity of Gehazi till it should become extinct; and under the influence of this disorder, this must soon have taken place. The forever implies as long as any of his posterity should remain. This is the import of the word, leolam. It takes in the whole extent or duration of the thing to which it is applied. The forever of Gehazi was till his posterity became extinct.”MOI 92.1

    Cruden says, “The words eternal, everlasting, and forever, are sometimes taken for a long time, and are not always to be understood strictly. Thus, ‘Thou shalt be our guide from this time forth even forever,’ that is, during our whole life. And in many other places of scripture, and in particular when the word forever is applied to the Jewish rites and privileges, it commonly signifies no more than during the standing of that commonwealth, until the coming of the Messiah.” 1Unabridged Concordance, under the word Eternal. Now the people of God are declared to be clothed at last with incorruptibility and immortality: their “lifetime,” will consequently be absolutely without end. But the “surrounding circumstances” in which the wicked are placed, utterly preclude a long extenuation of their existence.MOI 93.1

    We have now noticed all the more prominent passages which are supposed to teach eternal misery. If we have not noticed every text which is urged to this end, we may safely take the position that if these do not prove it, there are none which can. If the reader has never before examined this subject, he will perhaps be surprised to learn how few texts there are which have even a semblance of proving the immortality of the lost. Whether or not it is proved by the texts examined he can now judge. Should he however still be inclined to think it is, we would request him to suspend his judgment for a while till we have briefly glanced at another class of scriptures.MOI 93.2

    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents