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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    WHAT shall the end be of them that obey “not the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17. By this direct interrogation, inspiration calls us face to face to the great question of the final destiny of the lost, not to leave us at last in perplexity and doubt, but to give us full information in reference thereto.MND 275.2

    By the foregoing examination of themes which have a bearing upon this question, we have been brought to a place where the way is all clear to listen unbiased to the direct testimony of the Bible on the point now before us. No immortality is anywhere affirmed of the soul; no eternal misery is anywhere threatened against the lost. What, then, is to be their fate? - Again and again the solemn declaration is made that they shall die.MND 276.1

    The inquiry into the nature of the death threatened Adam, in chapter 25, brought very clearly to view the fact that the penalty pronounced upon his sin reduced him in his entire being back to the dust of the earth, leaving no part of him conscious and active in the intermediate state. And the same penalty stands against sin now as at the beginning. For our personal sins, death is now threatened against us, as it was against him. This is the second death; and those who fall under this will be reduced to the same condition as that into which Adam was brought by death, with no promise nor possibility of ever being released therefrom.MND 276.2

    Ezekiel 18:26: “When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.”MND 276.3

    Two deaths are here unmistakably brought to view: first, the death common to this state of being, which all share alike, good and bad, which is called the first, or temporal, death; secondly, a future death to be inflicted on the following conditions: if a person dies the first death in a state of sin, that is, with sins upon him of which he does not repent before he dies, then for, or because of, those sins that he has committed he shall die again.MND 276.4

    Another death awaits him. The first death was not for his personal transgressions; for this is entailed upon all alike through Adam, both good and bad. But every one is to die for his own sins unless he repents. How is this to be brought about? - He is to be raised from the first death, and judged; and if sins are then found upon him, for those sins he suffers the same penalty, death; and being thus reduced to death again, he will forever remain dead; for from this death there is no release nor redemption provided. This is the second death, and is the everlasting punishment in store for all the workers of iniquity.MND 277.1

    Paul says (Romans 6:23), “The wages of sin is death,” and James 1:15 corroborates this testimony by saying, “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth, death.” In Romans 2 Paul tells us of certain characters which are certainly deserving, if any can be, of eternal torture; but, in passing sentence upon them, he does not draw out before us a picture of unending conscious misery, a course for which he has the most appropriate occasion, if it be true but only tells us, in accordance with reason as well as revelation, that they are worthy of death. But death is a state which can be reached only on a complete extinction of life. As long as there is any life about a man, he is not dead. “The death that never dies” is a contradiction of terms. Nor can a person properly be said to be dying, unless he is tending to a state of death which he will by and by reach. And yet the popular view of this subject is well expressed by Thomas Vincent in the following language:-MND 277.2

    “The torments of hell will not be in one part only, but in every part; not in a weaker degree, but in the greatest extremity; not for a day, or a month, or a year, but forever: the wicked will be always dying, never dead; the pangs of death will ever be upon them, and yet they shall never give up the ghost; if they could die, they would think themselves happy; they will always be roaring, and never breathe out their last; always sinking, and never come to the bottom; always burning in those flames, and never consumed; the eternity of hell will be the hell of hell.”MND 277.3

    Again the Lord says, speaking of a certain class of his enemies, “For yet a little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction.” Isaiah 10:25. This is conclusive testimony that all those with whom the Lord has occasion to be angry, as he is with all the wicked (Psalm 7:11), will be finally destroyed, and in that destruction his anger toward them will cease. Yet the majority of divines tell is that God’s “fiery indignation and incensed fury” toward them will never cease; that he will never literally destroy them alive expressly that he may torment them. Says Benson:-MND 278.1

    “He will exert all his divine attributes to make them as wretched as the capacity of their nature will admit.” And he continues, “They must be perpetually swelling their enormous sums of guilt, and still running deeper, immensely deeper, in debt to divine and infinite justice. Hence after the longest imaginable period, they will be so far from having discharged their debt that they will find more due than when they first began to suffer.”MND 278.2

    Thus the sinner is represented as being able to distance in sin the power of Omnipotence to punish. They go on accumulating loads of guilt in the rebellion against the divine government; while God exerting all his divine attributes, follows tardily after, in fruitless efforts to make the terrors of his punishment adequate to the infinitude of their guilt. Oh horrid picture of perverted imagination! Did we not believe its authors labored under the sincere conviction that they were doing God service, and did we not know that many good and estimable persons still defend the doctrine under an earnest, though mistaken, zeal for God, it would deserve to be styled the most arrant blasphemy.MND 278.3

    This condition of the finally reprobate, so often and so distinctly defined as a state of death, is also set forth by very many other expressions, by every variety of phrase, in fact, which expresses, in the most complete and absolute manner, an utter loss of existence.MND 279.1

    Henry Constable, A.M., in his work on “The Duration and Nature of Future Punishment,” p.12, says:-MND 279.2

    “But it is not only by this phrase, ‘death,’ that the Old Testament describes the punishment of the ungodly. By every expression in the Hebrew language, significant of loss of life, loss of existence, the resolution of organized substance into its original parts, its reduction to that condition in which it is as though it had never been called into being, by every such expression does the Old Testament describe the end of the ungodly. ‘The destruction of the transgressors and the sinners shall be together:’ ‘prepare them for the day of slaughter:’ the slain of the Lord shall be many:’ they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have sinned:’ ‘God shall destroy them:’ they shall be consumed:’ ‘they shall be cut off:’ ‘they shall be rooted out of the land of the living:’ ‘blotted out of the book of life:’ ‘they are not.’ The Hebrew scholar will see from the above passages that there is no phrase of the Hebrew language significant of all destruction short of that philosophical annihilation of elements which we do not assert, which is not used to denote the end of the ungodly.”MND 279.3

    The wicked shall be destroyed. - “The Lord preserveth all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy.” Psalm 145:20. Here preservation is promised only to those who love God, and in opposition to this, destruction is threatened to the wicked. But human wisdom teaches us that God will preserve the wicked in hell - preserve them for the mere sake of torturing them. Mr. Benson again says: -MND 280.1

    “God is therefore present in hell to see the punishment of these rebels. His fiery indignation kindles, and his incensed fury feeds the flame of their torment, while his powerful presence and operation maintain their being, and render their powers most acutely sensible, thus setting the keenest edge upon their pain, and making it cut most intolerably deep.”MND 280.2

    The wicked shall perish. - “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. A double enunciation of the truth is couched in this short text. It is that eternal life is to be obtained only through Christ, and that all who do not thus obtain it will eventually perish. John testifies further on the same point in his first epistle (5:11): “And this is the record: that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” From which it follows, as a most natural consequence, that “he that hath not the Son of God hath not “life.” Verse 12.MND 280.3

    The wicked shall go to perdition. - “We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:39. We either gain the salvation of our souls by a perseverance in faith, and obtain eternal life by a patient continuance in well doing (Romans 2:7), or we sink back into perdition, which is defined to be utter ruin, or destruction.MND 281.1

    The wicked shall come to an end; and be as though they had not been.” “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall “not be.” Psalm 37:10. If this testimony be true, there will be neither sinner nor any place for a sinner, after God has executed upon them his just judgments. “They shall be as though they had “not been.” Obadiah 16.MND 281.2

    The reader is requested to mark the significance of these texts. They are not figures, but plain enunciations of truth, demanding to be understood in the plainest and most literal manner. And though they are so abundant, and can be so easily produced, they are not to be passed over any more lightly on this account.MND 281.3

    The wicked are compared to the most inflammable and perishable substances. Had the wicked been compared to the most durable substances with which we are acquainted in nature; had they been likened to the “everlasting hills,” the during rock, or the precious metals, gold and gems, the most incorruptible of all substances; such comparisons would not have been without their weight in giving us an idea of an eternity of existence; nor can we think they would have been overlooked by the other side. We therefore claim an equal significance on our side of the question for the fact that they are everywhere compared to just the opposite of the above-named substances - substances the most perishable and corruptible of any that exist. For no idea can be drawn from such comparisons at all compatible with the idea of eternal preservation in the midst of glowing and devouring fire.MND 281.4

    Thus it is said of the wicked, that they shall be dashed in pieces like a potter’s vessel (Psalm 2:9), they shall be like the beasts that perish (Psalm 49:20), like the untimely fruit of a woman (Psalm 58:2; Proverbs 10:25), like a waterless garden scorched by an eastern sun (Isaiah 1:30), like garments consumed by the moth (Isaiah 51:8), like the thistle down scattered by the whirlwind (Isaiah 17:13, margin). They shall consume like the fat of lambs in the fire (Psalm 37:20), consume into smoke (ibid.) and ashes (Malachi 4:3), melt like wax (Psalm 68:2), burn like tow (Isaiah 1:31), consume like thorns (Isaiah 34:12), vanish away like exhausted waters (Psalm 58:7).MND 282.1

    The illustrations which the New Testament uses to represent the destiny of the wicked are of exactly the same nature. They are likened to chaff, which is to be burned entirely up (Matthew 3:12), tares to be consumed (Matthew 13:40), withered branches to be burned (John 15:6), bad fish cast away to corruption (Matthew 13:47, 48), a house thrown down to its foundations (Luke 6:49), to the destruction of the old world by water (Luke 17:27), to the destruction of the Sodomites by fire (verse 29; 2 Peter 2:5, 6), and to natural brute beasts, that perish in their own corruption (verse 12).MND 282.2

    Such are the illustrations of the Scriptures on this subject. If the wicked are to be tormented forever, all these illustrations are not only unnatural, but false; for in that case they are not like the perishing beasts, the passing whirlwind, the moth-consumed garment, the burning fat, the vanishing smoke, or the melting wax; nor like chaff, tares, and withered branches, consumed and reduced to ashes: These all lose their form and substance, and become as though they had not been; but this the wicked never do, according to the popular view. There is an enormous contradiction somewhere. Is it between the writers of the Bible? or between uninspired men and the word of God? The trouble is not with the Bible; all is harmony there. The discrepancy arises from the creeds and theories of men.MND 282.3

    The language of Moses and of Paul shows that an eternal existence of moral corruption and fiery torture is not the doom of the wicked. When Moses besought the Lord to forgive the sin of Israel, he said, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin - ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” Exodus 32:32. This book must be the book of life, in which the names of the righteous are written. By being blotted out of this book, Moses evidently meant being devoted to the doom of sinners. If Israel could not be forgiven, he would himself perish with that unfaithful people. But no one can for a moment suppose that he wished throughout eternity for a life of sin, pain, and blasphemy in hell. He only wished for an utter cessation of that life which, if his prayer could not be granted, would be an intolerable burden. And if this is what he meant by being blotted out of God’s book, it follows that this will be the doom of the ungodly; for the Lord answered, “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”MND 283.1

    In a similar manner, Paul speaks concerning the same people: “For I could wish that myself were “accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Romans 9:3. We cannot suppose that Paul would desire a life of sin and moral corruption, such as that of the sinner in hell is said to be, even for the sake of his people. But he was willing to give up his life for them, and cease to exist, if thereby they might be saved.MND 284.1

    To notice more particularly some of the scriptures in which a portion of the foregoing figures are found, their testimony may be summed up in the following final proposition: -MND 284.2

    The wicked shall be consumed and devoured by fire. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness,” etc. “Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust”! Isaiah 5:20-24.MND 284.3

    Reader, have you ever seen fire devour stubble or flame consume chaff? Then you have seen a figure of the destruction of the wicked. And let the advocate of eternal misery tell us, if such language does not denote the utter consumption of the wicked, what language would do it, if the doctrine were true. Let us know what language inspiration should have used, had it wished to convey such an idea. Is it such as this? “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume, into smoke shall they consume away” (Psalm 37:20); or this? “And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” The word here rendered “devour,” kataphagen, says Stuart, is “intensive, to eat up, devour,” so that it denotes utter excision.”MND 284.4

    In the light of this scripture, we can readily understand how it is that the wicked are to be recompensed in the earth. Proverbs 11:31. Coming up in the second resurrection, at the end of the one thousand years of Revelation 20:5, they come up around the New Jerusalem, the beloved city, the abode of the saints, then descended from heaven to earth (chap. 21:5), and then their fearful retribution overtakes them. It is then that they have their portion in those purifying fires that sweep over the earth, in which, according to Peter’s testimony, the elements of this great globe itself shall melt with fervent heat. 2 Peter 3:10, 12. For it is at the day of Judgment (by which of course we must understand the execution of the Judgment) and perdition of ungodly men that this takes place. See verse 7.MND 285.1

    So, too, the righteous, as they go forth upon the new earth (verse 13), destined to be their eternal and glorious abode, will receive their recompense in the earth. Then will have been fulfilled the word of the Lord by the prophet Malachi, which says, “For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven: and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” Mark the distinctness of this language. It does not say that the wicked shall be as ashes, nor does it introduce any comparison here whatever, but plainly states a plain fact, that they shall be ashes, under the soles of the saints’ feet, - not that the saints will literally walk on ashes, but the wicked, having been reduced to ashes, like all the sin-and-curse-polluted things, are incorporated into the substance of the new earth, which the saints are evermore to inhabit, as it emerges from the renovating fires of the last day.MND 285.2

    Then will the universe be clean and pure. Then the stain of sin will all be wiped away forever; sinners, and the great enemy, Satan, that deceived them (for he, too, shall be destroyed, Hebrews 2:14), being rooted out of the land of the living. Its every scar now impressed upon the handiwork of God shall be effaced; and this unfortunate earth shall be re-adorned, as only God, omnipotent in power and omniscient in wisdom, is able to adorn it. And then will arise that glad anthem of universal Jubilee, in which shall join every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, ascribing blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Revelation 5:13. There is no room here for a great receptacle of fiery torment, where an innumerable company of human beings shall burn and blaspheme and sin and suffer forever and ever. There is no room in this great song of joy for the discordant and hopeless wailing of the damned. There is no provision made for an eternal rebellion against the government of God, and eternal blasphemy against his holy name! No! only the loyal subjects of the great Captain of our salvation, only such as love immortal life, and seek for it, and prepare themselves for its inestimable blessings, shall ever enjoy the glorious boon; while those who put from themselves the word of God, and “judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life” (Acts 13:46), will be remanded back to the original elements from which they sprung; and strict justice will write upon their unhonored and unlamented graves that the Judge of all the earth dealt impartially and mercifully with them, and that they themselves were the arbiters of their own fate, the authors of their own hapless doom.MND 286.1

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