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

    CHAPTER 15. Destiny of the Wicked

    We have now briefly examined the testimony of the Bible in regard to the nature of man and his condition in death. The only remaining branch of the subject, namely, his destiny beyond the resurrection, next claims attention. From the evidence already presented, it is clear that the final doom of the wicked cannot be endless suffering, because we have seen that man has no immortal element in his nature. It only remains, therefore, that we take up those passages which are supposed to teach eternal suffering, and see if they can be harmonized with the scriptures already examined.SYNPT 147.1

    1. What is shown by the testimony already examined?
    2. What, then, remains to be done?
    3. To what contradictory conclusions does the doctrine of the immortality of the soul lead?
    4. In what terms does Christ describe the final destiny of the righteous and the wicked?

    It may be remarked, first, that the immortality of the soul leads to some very grave conclusions. For instance, the punishment of the sinner is set forth as being eternal; and if the soul cannot cease to be conscious, the doctrine of eternal misery inevitably follows. On the other hand, we read of a time when every intelligence in the universe will be ascribing honor, blessing, and praise to God. And if the soul is immortal, we are just as clearly taught by this declaration the universal restoration of all the race. Christ says, speaking of the wicked, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment;” but he immediately adds concerning the righteous, “But the righteous into life eternal.” Here the same word is used in reference to the punishment of the wicked that is used to measure the life of the righteous. The punishment of the wicked, therefore, is eternal; and this overthrows Universalism and the restoration view of Origen. How, then, can this scripture be harmonized with the declaration just quoted, that all living intelligences shall finally bless and praise the God of heaven? The harmony is found in the nature of the punishment. This the Scriptures show to be death; and this view overthrows alike the restoration view of Origen and the eternal hell of Augustine.SYNPT 147.2

    We will now examine those passages of Scripture which are put forth as evidence that the punishment threatened to the wicked is eternal misery.SYNPT 148.1

    5. How long is the punishment of the wicked to be?
    6. What doctrines does this overthrow?
    7. How can this be harmonized with Revelation 5:13?
    8. What is the punishment of the wicked?
    9. What doctrines does this overthrow?
    10. What objection is based on Daniel 12:2?
    11. What is here said to be everlasting?

    1. Daniel 12:2: “But 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 objector couples the shame with the contempt, and makes both to be everlasting; but the scripture does not so express it. It is the contempt, and that only, that is said to be everlasting. The contempt is an emotion exercised not by the wicked, but by the righteous. The Syriac reads: “Some to shame, and the eternal contempt of their companions.” The shame they will feel for themselves which shows that they are raised to consciousness; but the contempt is exercised by the righteous so long as they hold then in remembrance at all. This text, therefore, furnishes no proof of the eternal suffering of the wicked.SYNPT 148.2

    2. Matthew 25:41: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Wicked men are not said in this text to be everlasting; and this destroys all the force of the passage for the popular view. Not even the devil is said to be everlasting, but only the fire. And in what respect is this everlasting? Not in its process of burning, but in its effects. Just as we read in Hebrews 5:9, of eternal salvation; in Hebrews 6:2, of eternal judgment; in Hebrews 9:12, of eternal redemption, - not a salvation, judgment, and redemption that are forever going forward, and never accomplished, but such as are eternal in their effects.SYNPT 149.1

    12. By whom is the contempt spoken of exercised?
    13. How does the Syriac read?
    14. In Matthew 24:41, what is said to be everlasting?
    15. Why is the fire here called everlasting?
    16. What parallel passages explain this?
    17. What is the punishment spoken of in Matthew 25:46?
    18. What is the Greek word here used for punishment?

    3. Matthew 25:46: “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” As we have said, the punishment and the life mentioned in this text are of equal duration. But what is this punishment? The Greek word here used for punishment is kolasis, which is defined a curtailing, or pruning. “Cutting off” is the prominent idea. The righteous go into everlasting life, but the wicked into an everlasting “cutting off” from something. What is that from which they are cut off? Happiness? No; but life, or existence, such as is given to the righteous.SYNPT 149.2

    But how, it will be asked, can death be an everlasting punishment? It is well understood that death is considered the severest punishment that can be inflicted in this world; and why? Because it deprives the individual of all the blessings of life which he might have enjoyed had he lived. So in the case of the wicked at the final Judgment, they are cut off from the eternal blessings of life in the kingdom of God, which the righteous enjoy; and hence it is to them an everlasting punishment.SYNPT 150.1

    19. What is its primary signification?
    20. How does this apply to the wicked?
    21. From what are the wicked cut off?
    22. Is death a punishment?
    23. How can it be called everlasting punishment in the cases of the wicked?
    24. What is the language used in Mark 9:43, 44?
    25. What is the word here translated hell?
    26. What was it used to designate?
    27. What was the peculiarity of this valley of Hinnom?

    4. Mark 9:43, 44: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Twice, in verses 46, 48, our Lord repeats this solemn sentence against the wicked. The word here used for hell is ge-enna, a word used to designate the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem. The use of this word throws much light upon the passage before us; for in this valley fires were kept constantly burning to consume the bodies of malefactors and the filth of the city, which were cast into it; and what the fire failed to consume, the worms preyed upon and destroyed. The figure, then, to which Christ called the minds of his hearers, was that of complete and utter destruction.SYNPT 150.2

    28. What, then, would be suggested to the minds of Christ’s hearers by these terms?
    29. Were the Jews familiar with such imagery?
    30. What is said in Jeremiah 17:27?
    31. Was this unquenchable fire?
    32. Where is the fulfillment of this threatening recorded?
    33. What did this unquenchable fire do?
    34. What is the meaning, then, of unquenchable, in this instance?
    35. What does David say in Psalm 37:20?
    36. What does Malachi say in Chap. 4:3?
    37. Where does Ezekiel use the term “unquenchable” in similar manner?
    38. Where is the language found from which Mark 9:43, 44, was borrowed?

    With such language and such figures the Jews were familiar. Isaiah and Jeremiah frequently used them. The Lord, in Jeremiah 17:27, said that he would kindle a fire in the gates of Jerusalem which should not be quenched. 2 Chronicles 36:19, 21 records the fulfillment of this prophecy. It was simply a fire which burned until it had entirely consumed the gates of Jerusalem. Psalm 37:20 says that the wicked shall consume into smoke. In Malachi 4:3, we are told that they shall be ashes under the feet of the righteous. Ezekiel, in Chap. 20:47, 48, speaks of unquenchable fire in a similar manner. Our Lord, in the passage under consideration, undoubtedly borrows the language he uses from Isaiah 66:24; but in Isaiah those that are subject to the unquenchable fire and the undying worm are not living persons, but dead bodies. So the Jews would understand Christ by these terms to threaten complete and utter destruction against the wicked. Eusebius even uses the same term, unquenchable fire, in reference to the martyrdom of Christians.SYNPT 151.1

    5. 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.” What is said to be eternal in this text? Not the people, not the suffering, but only the fire. And why is this called eternal? Simply because it is eternal in its effects. Sodom and Gomorrah will never recover themselves from that destruction. 2 Peter 2:6 says, “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.” This text therefore proves that the wicked will be punished, not with eternal conscious suffering, but with an utter consumption, even as Sodom was consumed.SYNPT 152.1

    39. What does Isaiah represent the unquenchable fire as preying upon?
    40. How does Eusebius use the term?
    41. What is the next passage quoted to prove eternal misery?
    42. What is said to be eternal here?
    43. Why is it called eternal?
    44. How does 2 Peter 2:6 explain this?
    45. What is the next passage?

    6. But two more texts remain which are urged in favor of the doctrine of the eternal torment of the wicked, and both of these are found in the book of Revelation. The first is in Revelation 14:11, being a part of the third angel’s message, which is now under consideration: “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.”SYNPT 152.2

    We first inquire of whom this is spoken. It is only of a particular class, - those “who worship the beast and his image.” This text, therefore, is not decisive relative to the punishment of the wicked in general. But we inquire further, Does it mean eternal torment for those of whom it is spoken? As was said of the language quoted from Mark 9, so it may be said of this. It is not original with the New Testament, but is borrowed from the Old. In Isaiah 34:9, 10, the prophet, speaking 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.”SYNPT 153.1

    46. Of whom is this spoken?
    47. Is this language original with the New Testament?
    48. From what is it borrowed?
    49. What does Isaiah 34:9, 10, say of Idumea?
    50. What are the only two ways in which this can be understood?
    51. If it refers to the literal land of Idumea, what conclusion are we led to?

    There are but two ways in which this language can be understood, and in one of these ways it must be understood. It refers either to the literal land of Edom, east and south of Judea, or it is a figure to represent the whole world in the day of final conflagration. But in either case the meaning of the language is evident. 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 declaration that “the smoke thereof shall go up forever;” for the judgments that fell upon that land have long since ceased. But if it refers to the fires of the last day, when the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up, even then the terms must be understood as denoting only limited duration; for from the ashes of the old earth, after a suitable lapse of time, through the working of Him who maketh all things new, there shall come forth a new heavens and a new earth, according to the declaration of Peter, which shall be the eternal abode of the righteous.SYNPT 153.2

    52. If it is a figure representing the general conflagration of the last day, what is the conclusion still?
    53. What does the term “forever and ever,” as used in the Bible, represent?
    54. What are the Greek terms employed for these words?
    55. What is the meaning of these terms?
    56. What lexicographers give this among the significations of these terms?
    57. What is Dr. Clark’s rule, and where found?

    As we thus see that the terms used in the Bible denote limited duration, we inquire if the lexicons define then in the same manner. The terms used are anion and aionios. Anion is defined by Greenfield, Schrevelius, Liddell and Scott, Parkhurst, Robinson, Schleusner, Wahl, and Cruden, as meaning finite duration as well as infinite. The term seems to imply, primarily, simply duration, or the flow of time; but the extent of time must be defined by other terms. When it is applied to objects which we are told will endure absolutely without end, as God, Christ, angels, the saints’ inheritance, and immortal beings, it means unlimited duration; but when it is applied to objects which we know will come to an end, it then covers only the length of time during which those things exist. Dr. Clarke, in his closing remarks on 2 Kings 5, gives us this rule for the interpretation of the words “forever and ever.” He says they “take in the whole extent or duration, of the things to which they are applied.” If, therefore, we find other declarations stating positively that the wicked will come to an end, - and we do find multitudes of such, - then this term, “forever,” or “forever and ever,” applied to them, must signify only the length of time during which they exist.SYNPT 154.1

    The second word, aionios, is subject in all respects to the same definition and rule which is noticed above in reference to aion.SYNPT 155.1

    The second passage, Revelation 20:10, being exactly parallel to the one found in Revelation 14, is explained in the same manner. Revelation 14:11 doubtless applies at the beginning of the thousand years, when the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, as stated in Revelation 19:20; while the passage in Revelation 20:10 refers to a similar scene of destruction visited upon Satan and all his host at the end of the thousand years.SYNPT 155.2

    7. Having now examined all the texts supposed to teach eternal misery, and having found that all are easily harmonized with the view of the destruction of the wicked, and that some even furnish the strongest testimony for that doctrine, we now look at a few of the passages of the Bible which speak positively of the doom of the lost.SYNPT 155.3

    58. What may be said of aionios?
    59. How is Revelation 20:10 explained?
    60. When does Revelation 14:11 doubtless apply?
    61. When, Revelation 20:10?
    62. What is taught in Ezekiel 18:26?
    63. What texts sustain this view?

    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.” Here two deaths are brought to view, - the first, a death in sin, and the other a consequence following that, - a death for sin. We have seen that the first death leaves a man unconscious in the grave; and the second must leave him in the same condition, with no promise of a resurrection.SYNPT 155.4

    Paul says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death;” and James 1:15 corroborates this testimony in saying, “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Death cannot, by any proper definition, be made to mean continuance in life. “The death that never dies” is a contradiction of terms.SYNPT 156.1

    64. What does Psalm 145:20 say of the wicked?
    65. John 3:16, what?
    66. Hebrews 10:39, what?
    67. Psalm 37:10 and Obadiah 16, what?
    68. To what kind of substances are the wicked compared?
    69. Name the texts, and tell how they speak of them?

    Here are some of the declarations of the Bible respecting the wicked: They shall be destroyed (Psalm 145:20); they shall perish (John 3:16); they shall go to perdition (Hebrews 10:39); they shall come to an end, and be as though they had not been (Psalm 37:10; Obadiah 16). They are compared to the most inflammable and perishable substances; as a potter’s vessel (Psalm 2:9); beasts that perish (Psalm 49:20); a whirlwind that passeth away (Psalm 58:9); a waterless garden (Isaiah 1:30); garments consumed by the moth (Isaiah 51:8); thistle down scattered by the whirlwind (Isaiah 17:13); the fat of lambs consumed in the fire (Psalm 37:20; ashes (Malachi 4:3); wax (Psalm 68:2); tow (Isaiah 1:31); thorns (Isaiah 33:12); exhausted waters (Psalm 58:7).SYNPT 156.2

    In the New Testament 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 (Luke 6:49); the old world destroyed by water (Luke 17:29); the Sodomites destroyed by fire (2 Peter 2:5, 6); natural brute beasts, that perish in their own corruption (2 Peter 2:12).SYNPT 157.1

    Finally, the teaching of the Bible on this subject may be summed up in this proposition: The wicked shall be consumed, and devoured by fire. Isaiah 5:20-24; Psalm 37:20; Revelation 20:9. The word in this last reference rendered devoured, says Prof. Stuart, “is intensive, so that it denotes utter excision.”SYNPT 157.2

    In the light of these testimonies from the Scriptures, 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 thousand years, they surround the beloved city, New Jerusalem, then descended from heaven, and their fearful retribution overtakes them. This is the day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men, described by Peter (2 Peter 3:10, 12); and this is the fire that melts the earth and the elements with fervent heat.SYNPT 157.3

    70. What are the New Testament representations?
    71. What general proposition covers the teaching of the Bible on this question?
    72. What is Prof Stuart’s definition of “devour” in Revelation 20:9?
    73. What bearing have these testimonies on Proverbs 11:31?

    We can also understand how the righteous are recompensed in the earth, according to the same passage in Proverbs; for they, after the destruction of the wicked, go forth and take possession of the earth made new, as their eternal inheritance.SYNPT 157.4

    We can also understand how and when Revelation 5:13 is to be fulfilled; for now we have a universe clean and pure. Satan and all his followers are destroyed, the last taints of the curse, and the least stains of sin, are all wiped away, and all creatures raise their voices in the glad anthem of universal jubilee, ascribing “blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, unto Him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”SYNPT 158.1

    There is something most dishonorable to God in the idea that sin, introduced contrary to his will, must continue to all eternity. Its origin and its temporary continuance we can explain on Scriptural and rational principles; but its eternity, never.SYNPT 158.2

    74. How does the doctrine of the eternity of sin affect our views of the character of God?
    75. How can sin and the punishment be balanced on the ground of eternal misery?
    76. What does Benson say?
    77. How does this represent the sinner?
    78. What does the Bible say we are to be punished for?

    With this view of eternal misery, there is the most fearful discrepancy between the sins of this finite life and the eternal suffering visited upon them; hence divines are driven to say that the sins will continue in hell. Benson says that they (sinners) “must be perpetually swelling their enormous sums of guilt, and still running deeper, immensely deeper, in debt to divine and infinite justice.” This represents the sinner as being able to accumulate his load of guilt faster than God can devise terrors and judgments adequate to their punishment. But the Bible says that we are to give an account for the deeds done in the body, or in this life only, and be rewarded according to our works here. God has made no provision for the eternity of sin, but has devised the most effectual means to prevent it.SYNPT 158.3

    The philosophical objections, resting on the ground of immateriality and that matter cannot think, the capacities of the soul and the analogies of nature, are disproved by an examination of the powers and capacities of the brute creation. It is said that immortality is assumed in the Bible, or, as Bishop Tillotson says, “taken for granted.” But it cannot be taken for granted any more than the immortality of Jehovah, and that is expressly revealed.SYNPT 159.1

    It is said, again, that annihilation is impossible, We answer, True, in reference to matter as matter (that is, we have no evidence that God will annihilate matter, though he could do so if he chose), but not in reference to intelligent and conscious beings. And we claim that the wicked are to cease to be, only in this respect.SYNPT 159.2

    It is said that this doctrine has an evil tendency. If so, let the objector show us the infidels and criminals, and profane, wicked, and corrupt persons in the ranks of the friends of this doctrine. The truth is just the opposite of this. Multitudes in the light of this teaching are able to exclaim for the first time that they can harmonize the ways of God with reason and revelation; and therefore can believe the Bible to be his word.SYNPT 159.3

    79. Does God provide for the eternity of sin? 80. How are some of the objections of philosophy disproved? 81. What may be said about annihilation? 82. What about the charge that this doctrine has an evil tendency?SYNPT 159.4

    Larger font
    Smaller font