Or, Passages of
Scripture Sometimes Quoted to Prove Endless
Shown to Teach Consequences of Limited Duration
John Wesley Hanson, D. D.
INDEX OF TOPICS
THE SON OF PERDITION,
PUNISHMENT OF HEATHEN ORIGIN THE
"ONE OF YOU IS A DEVIL"
BETTER NEVER BEEN BORN
HIS OWN PLACE
BAD CAST AWAY
WAS JUDAS A SUICIDE?
SHALL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH
TO RENEW THEM
SIN UNTO DEATH
THE OLD TESTAMENT
WITH THINE ADVERSARY
THE END OF AIONIAN
WICKED DRIVEN AWAY
LIVING GOD FEARFUL
LAUGHS AT MAN'S CALAMITY
JEWISH GREEK USAGE
SHALL NOT FIND ME
THE NEW TESTAMENT
INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD
BARREN FIG TREE
ANGRY EVERY DAY
THE GREAT PROOF TEXT
BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY GHOST
THE LAST DAYS
WRATH OF GOD
AN OBJECTION ANSWERED
WRATH TO COME
SPIRITS IN PRISON
ALL NATIONS NOT
PRAY NOT FOR THE WORLD"
RIGHTEOUS SCARCELY SAVED
SCRIPTURES TO DESTRUCTION
MURDERER HATH ETERNAL LIFE
PRESENCE OF THE LORD
HIM BE ACCURSED
BANISHED FROM GOD'S
SMOKE OF TORMENT FOR
THE CHRISTIAN FATHERS
HIM BE UNJUST STILL
THE EMPEROR JUSTINIAN
UNTO THE RESURRECTION
NOT SEE LIFE
THE TREE FALLS SO IT LIES"
SHEOL AND HADEES
DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST
ONLY FIVE OT TEXTS ARE
HARVEST PAST AND WE NOT SAVED
THE LOWEST HELL IS ON
GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE"
IS A "REFINER'S FIRE"
THE OT REPUDIATES THE HEATHEN…
JUDGMENTS LIKE FIRE
"ORTHODOX" AND HEATHEN VIEWS…
JEWISH AND PAGAN
HELL IN THE NEW
AND CHAFF," "AXE," ETC
MEANING OF HADEES
OPINIONS OF SCHOLARS
IS A JOYFUL OCCASION
THRUST DOWN TO HADEES
IS IN THIS WORLD
THE GATES OF HADEES
IS NOT HEREAFTER
HADEES IS ON EARTH
IS FOR EVERY ACT AND THOUGHT
THE RICH MAN AND
JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
THE BOOK OF ENOCH
DAY OF JUDGMENT
WHAT DID PETER MEAN?
THE JUDGE OF THE WORLD
THIS THE JUDGMENT
OPINIONS OF SCHOLARS*
JEWISH VIEWS OF GEHENNA
AND DRINKING DAMNATION
DANGER OF HELL-FIRE
CAST INTO HELL-FIRE
THEY ALL MIGHT BE DAMNED
DESTROY SOUL AND BODY
RESURRECTION OF DAMNATION
THE DAMNATION OF HELL
CASE OF JUDAS
SET ON FIRE OF HELL
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
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
BIBLE THREATENINGS EXPLAINED
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
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.
"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden
thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof
thou shalt surely die." --Gen. ii : 16,17.
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 describes
"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God
through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their
heart." --Eph. iv:18. "You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses
and sins." --Eph.ii:1
Jesus describes it in the parable of the Prodigal son: "It was meet that
we should make merry and be glad; for this, thy brother, was dead and is
alive again, and was lost and is found." --Luke xv:32
So does Moses: "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and
death and evil. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing;
therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may
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
"And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of
thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying,
Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow
shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles
shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return unto the
ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust
shalt thou return." --Gen.iii:17-19
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
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.iii. 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.i. 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:
OLD TESTAMENT PUNISHMENTS
"It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the
Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and statutes which I
command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and
overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou
be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall
be the fruit of the body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy
kine and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest
in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send
upon thee cursing, vexation and rebuke in all that thou settest thine
hand unto for to do. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption, and
with a fever, with blasting and mildew; etc. In the morning thou shalt
say: Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say: Would God it
were morning!" --Deut.xxviii:15-29, 67.
Abimilech's is a case in point: "Thus God rendered the wickedness of
Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy
brethren." --Judges ix:56.
So with Ahithophel, the suicide: "And when Ahithophel saw that his
counsel was not followed, he put his household in order, and hanged
himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his
Is it asked how this suicide was punished? Paul answers:
"Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment," --I
Hence Paul tells us that under the Law: "Every transgression and
disobedience received a just recompense of reward." --Heb.ii: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.
The question was asked by some one (Luke xiii:23 and Matt. vii:13, 14):
"Lord, are there few that be saved? and he answered: "Strive to enter in
at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and
shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and
hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without and to knock at the
door, saying, Lord, open unto us, and he shall answer and say unto you,
I know you not whence ye are; then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten
and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he
shall say, I tell you I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all
ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,
when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in
the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out."
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.
This same subject is thus treated in Matt. vii:13, 14.
"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 travelled. 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 BAD CAST AWAY
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the
sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to
shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the
bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world, the angels shall come
forth and sever the wicked from the just; and shall cast them into the
furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of
The "furnace of fire" and "gnashing of teeth" will be fully explained,
as also the "end of the world," or age (aion) in subsequent parts
of this book. The material universe, this world (kosmos) is never
spoken of as ending, but it is always the aion, or age, the end of which
is announced. "The field is the world," kosmos, v.38, but "the
end of the world," when the harvest comes, v. 39, is aion. The
age ends, but not the world.
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. xxiv, were visited upon the people of Judea. These
expressions will be more fully explained hereafter.
YE SHALL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH
"I tell you, nay; except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." --Luke
xii : 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
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 vi: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
The word here has the same force as in Matt. xix:26, where it is said to
be impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In reply to
the apostles' question, "who, then, can be saved?" Jesus said: "With men
it is impossible, but with God everything is possible;" or, more
exactly, "With men it is hard, but everything is easy with God."
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
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
THE SIN UNTO DEATH
"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. --I John v:16, 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 Talmudical writers have distinguished the capital punishments of
the Jews into lesser deaths and such as were more grievous; but there is
no warrant in the Scriptures for these distinctions, neither are these
writers agreed among themselves what particular punishments are to be
referred to these two heads. A capital crime generally was termed a
sin of death (Deut. xvi:6); or a sin worthy of death (Deut.
xxi:22), which mode of expression is adopted, or rather imitated, by the
apostle John, who distinguishes between a sin unto death, and a sin not
unto death (I John v:16). Criminals, or those who were deemed worthy of
capital punishment, were called sons or men of death (I Sam. xv:32;
xxxi:16; II Sam. xix:28, marginal reading), just as he who had incurred
the punishment of scourging was designated a son of stripes
(Deut.xxv:16; I Kings xiv:6). A similar phraseology was adopted by Jesus
Christ, when he said to the Jews: "Ye shall die in your sins" (John
viii:21-24). Eleven different sorts of capital punishment are mentioned
in the sacred writings."
THE HYPOCRITE'S HOPE
"And the hypocrite's hope shall perish." --Job viii:13
Why this passage was ever quoted in support of endless punishment, we
have no conjecture. There is nothing in it to indicate that it has the
remotest reference to anything beyond this life. Its meaning is that the
wicked shall be disappointed; that the will not realize what they
desire. It is exactly equivalent to Prov. x:28: "The expectation of the
wicked shall perish."
AGREE WITH THINE ADVERSARY
"Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him;
lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge
deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, I say
unto you, thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the
uttermost farthing." --Matt. v:25, 26.
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.
THE WICKED DRIVEN AWAY
"The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath
hope in his death." --Prov. xiv:32.
Solomon had not the most remote reference to post mortem suffering in
this language. What he meant to say was that when the wicked is driven
away to death in his wickedness, the righteous has hope. 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. iv:2. When the wicked
die in their wickedness, the righteous have hope even in their death, is
what Solomon says in this language.
THE LIVING GOD FEARFUL
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living
To fall into the hands of God, the living God, is as when (I Sam. v:6)
"the hand of the Lord was heavy," and "the hand of the Lord was against
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
GOD LAUGHS AT MAN'S CALAMITY
"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
reproofs. I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear
cometh." --Prov. i:24-26.
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
YE SHALL NOT FIND ME
"Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am thither ye can
not come." --John vii:34. "Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way,
and ye shall seek me, and die in your sins; whither I go ye cannot
come." --John viii:21.
These verses are usually misquoted thus: "If ye die in your sins, where
God and Christ are ye never can come." But Jesus said just the same
thing to his disciples in John xiii:33.
"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
True, he said to his disciple Peter: "Thou canst not follow me now, but
thou shalt follow me afterward," and so he told the wicked Jews: "Ye
shall not see me till ye shall say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the
name of the Lord" (Matt. xxiii:39). In both instances he meant that he
should not be followed at that time, but in neither case did he mean
that they should be excluded from his presence forever.
NOT INHERIT THE
KINGDOM OF GOD
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery,
fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred,
variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings,
murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you
before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such
things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." --Gal.v:19-21. "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." --Eph. v:5. "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." --I Cor. vi:9,10.
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.
THE BARREN FIG TREE
"Cut it down why cumbereth it the ground?" --Luke xiii:7. This language
is parallel to that in Matt. iii:10: "and now also the axe is laid unto
the root of the tree; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good
fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire."
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
GOD ANGRY EVERY DAY
"God is angry with the wicked every day." --Psalm vii:11.
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. vii: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 contenteth 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 versions 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
It will be seen that David expressly says that God is not angry
every day, though those who quote the text as found in our version to
prove God petulant, wrathful and passionate, do not seem to reflect that
it is no proof of endless punishment, for the same author and
others declare (Micah vii:18; Psa. ciii:8,9; xxx:5) that "He retaineth
not his anger forever." So that, if he were--as he is not--angry every
day, the time would come when his anger would no longer exist.
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.
David says; "Thou shalt make the wicked as a fiery oven in the time of
thy anger, the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire
shall devour them." --Psa. xxi:9. The prophet declares: "The Lord reserveth wrath for his enemies." --Nahum i:2,3. Paul affirms; "The wrath
of God cometh upon the children of disobedience." "The power and wrath
of God is upon all them that forsake him." --Eph. v:6; Col. iii:6. Jesus
says: "The wrath of God abideth on him that believeth not the
Son." --John iii:36. He also says: "God is kind to the unthankful and
evil." --Luke vi:35. "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the
good, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust." --Matt. v:48.
Now these are not contradictory statements. They are consistent with
each other. What God is determined to destroy in the sinner is that
which makes him a sinner, and he proceeds towards him as a good parent
must, to eradicate it by punishment. An angry mother--a true
mother--punishes her wayward boy, just as God punishes the wicked,
because she loves him. The boy may call it anger, but it is that kind
which will not harm a hair of his head. It is indeed the highest love;
it is determined on the child's welfare, and so will not shrink from
inflicting pain. But it is temporary. This is evident when we remember
that men are told to be like God, and yet they must not let the sun go
down upon their wrath. We must love our enemies that we may be children
of the highest. If God were angry every day, and we were like him, we
should be cross, petulant, wrathful, vindictive and hateful all the
time. But we can only be like God as we "put off anger" (Col. iii:8) and
"put away all wrath, anger and malice," (Eph. iv:31) inasmuch as "a
fool's wrath is presently known," (Prov. xii:16) while "he that is slow
to wrath is of great understanding." (Prov. xivv:28)
"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."
THE BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY GHOST
The passages that relate to this subject are in Matt. xii:31, 32:
"Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be
forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be
forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh against the Son of man, it
shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it
shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor the world to
come." Mark iii:28-30: "all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men,
and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall
blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in
danger of eternal damnation; because they said, he hath an unclean
spirit." Luke xii:10: "And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son
of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against
the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven."
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
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
Prov. viii:10: "Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge
rather than choice gold." Matt. vi::19, 20: "Lay not up for yourselves
treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where
thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do
not break through nor steal." Luke xiv:12, 13: "Then said he also to him
that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy
friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors;
lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when
thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind."
John vi:27: "Labor not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat
which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give
unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed."
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
Bishop Pearce declares: "This is a strong way of expressing how
difficult a thing it was for such a sinner to obtain pardon. The Greek
word aion seems to signify age here, as it often does in
the New Testament (see Matt. xiii:40; xxiv 3; Col. i:26; Eph. iii:5,21)
and according to its most proper signification. If this be so, then
'this age' means the Jewish one, and 'the age to come' (see Hebrews vi:5
and Eph. ii:7) means that under the Christian dispensation. The end of
the world took place during the time of the apostles. 'Now once
in the end of the world hath he [Christ] appeared to put away sin by
the sacrifice of himself.' --Heb. ix:26. 'Now all these things happened
unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon
whom the ends of the world are come.' I Cor. x:11."
Gilpin observes, "Nobody can suppose, considering the whole tenor of
Christianity, that there can be any sin which, on repentance, may not be
forgiven. This, therefore, seems only a strong way of expressing the
difficulty of such repentance, and the impossibility of forgiveness
without it. Such an expression occurs Matt. xix:24: 'It is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter
heaven;' that is, it is very difficult. That the Pharisees were not
beyond the reach of forgiveness, on their repentance, seems to be plain
from verse 41, where the repentance of Nineveh is held out to them for
Clarke says: "Any penitent may find mercy through Christ Jesus; for
through him any kind of sin may be forgiven to man, except the sin
against the Holy Ghost, which I have proved no man can now commit." --Clarke
on I. John v:16. And again: "No man who believes the divine mission
of Jesus Christ, ever can commit this sin."
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.
THE WRATH OF GOD
Paul speaks (Col. iii: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. iii:8. 'The Lord
is a man of war' 'Thy right hand O Lord, hath dashed,' etc.; 'The blast
of thy nostrils.' --Exod. xv:3-6-8. 'Smoke out of his nostrils;' 'Fire
out of his mouth;' 'Darkness under his feet;' 'He rode' and 'Did
fly.' --Psa. xviii:8,9,10.
"In like manner they injure the Hebrews who affirm they thought God was
moved by anger, jealousy, hatred, revenge, grief, and other human
passions, because in their Scriptures it is said: 'It repented the Lord'
'It grieved him.' --Gen. vi:6. 'A jealous God.' --Ex.xx:5. 'The wrath of
the Lord.' --Num. xi:33. 'I hate." --Prov. viii:13. 'The indignation of
the Lord' 'His fury' --Isa. xxxiv:2. 'God is jealous' 'Revengeth and is
furious' 'Will take vengeance' and 'He reserveth wrath.' --Nahum i:2.
"They also injure the Hebrews who affirm that they believe the Deity
subject to human infirmity, because it is said: 'God rested.' --Gen.
ii:2. 'The Lord smelled.' --Gen. viii:21. 'I will go down and see,' and
'if not, I will know.' --Gen. xviii:21. 'He that sitteth in the heavens
shall laugh' 'Shall have them in derision.' --Psa. ii:4. 'The Lord
awaked,' etc. --Psa. lxxviii:65.
"These and the like expressions are highly metaphorical, and imply
nothing more but that in the divine mind and conduct (to human
perceptions) there is somewhat analogous to, and resembling the sensible
objects and the human affections, on which these metaphorical
expressions are founded. If from the passages of Scripture in which the
members of the human body are ascribed to the Deity, it is inferred that
the ancient Hebrews believed the Deity hath a body of the same form with
the human body, we must conclude they believed the Deity to be a tree,
with spreading branches and leaves which afforded an agreeable shade;
and a great fowl, with feathers and wings; and even a rock. because he
is so called. --Deut. xxxii:15; Psa. xvii:8; xviii:2-31; xci:4." --MacKnight
on the Epistles, Essay viii: Sec.I.
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.
"And said to the mountains and rock, Fall on us, and hide us from the
face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the
Lamb." --Rev. vi:16. At the opening of the sixth seal, "the sun became
black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the stars
of heaven fell unto the earth, and the heavens departed as a scroll,"
etc. --Rev. vi:12, 13.
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
"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.
THE WRATH TO COME
"O, generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to
John Baptist addresses this language to the Scribes and Pharisees. By
"wrath to come" he meant the approaching desolation of the Hebrew
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.
THE SPIRITS IN PRISON
"By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which
sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in
the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is,
eight souls, were saved by water." --I Peter iii:19,20.
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 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
"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 xvii:9.
Jesus was offering a special prayer for his disciples. He frequently
employs this form of expression; that is, he uses the negative in order
to give the greater emphasis to the affirmative, as when he says, in
reference to forgiveness: "Not seven times, but seventy times seven;"
or, "Lay not up treasures upon earth, but lay up treasures in heaven."
He does not forbid us to forgive seven times, nor to lay up treasures on
earth, but he precedes his command to forgive seventy times seven, and
to lay up heavenly treasures, by a negative, in order to give the
greater force to what follows. He offers a special prayer for his
disciples, but in verse 21 he extends it to others, and on his cross he
prayed for his murderers (Luke xxiii:34); and he also prayed for all men
when (John x) he prayed for all the sheep for whom he had laid down his
"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
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.
THE RIGHTEOUS SCARCELY SAVED
"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of
God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that
obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved,
where shall the sinner and the ungodly appear?" --I Peter iv:18.
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
Dr. MacKnight says: "Indeed the time is come, that the punishment to be
inflicted on the Jews as a nation, for their crimes from the first to
last, must begin at you Jewish Christians, now become the house of God.
And if it begin first at us, who are so dear to God, what will the end
be of those Jews who obey not the gospel of God? And when God thus
punishes the nation, if the righteous Jews, who believe in Christ, with
difficulty can be saved, where will the ungodly and sinful part of the
nation show themselves saved from the divine vengeance? That the apostle
is not speaking here of the difficulty of the salvation of the
righteous, at the day of judgment, will be evident to anyone who
considers II Peter i:11. What he speaks of, is the difficulty of the
preservation of the Christians, at the time of the destruction of
Jerusalem; yet they were preserved, for so Christ promised (Matt.
xxiv:13). But the ungodly and wicked Jews were saved neither in Judea,
nor anywhere else."
Dr. Adam Clarke: "Judgment must begin at the house of God. Our Lord had
predicted that, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem, his
followers would have to endure various calamities. (See Matt. xxiv:9,
21, 22; Mark xiii:12, 13; John xvvi:2, etc.) Here his true disciples are
called the house or family of God. And if it first begin
at us, Jews who have repented and believe on the Son of God, what
shall be the end of them, the Jews who continue impenitent, and
obey not the gospel of God? Here is the plainest reference to the
above Jewish maxim; and this, it appears, was founded upon the text
which St. Peter immediately quotes.
"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.
WRESTING THE SCRIPTURES TO DESTRUCTION
"As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which
are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and
unstable wrest, as they do also other scriptures, unto their own
destruction." --II Peter iii:16.
When these words were written the land of Judea was full of confusion,
and many portents indicated its approaching desolation, which was
usually spoken of as identical with the "coming of the Lord."
Jesus had said: "And when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then
know that the desolation thereof is nigh." --Luke xxi:20.
Now Peter wrote this epistle to keep the church in remembrance of the
prophecies of the coming event. He refers to those who asked, "Where is
the promise of his coming?" (v.4) and added (v.42) "Watch, therefore,
for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
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."
Jesus had said: "The stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the
heavens shall be shaken." --Matt.xxiv:29. See also II Peter iii:10.
He exhorts (v.11) "seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye
also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own
steadfastness." Thus they misunderstood, perverted, the words of Jesus
and Peter, and so were destroyed in the coming calamities, "before that
generation passed;" when, had they understood and obeyed the Scriptures,
they would have escaped. Those who misunderstood and misapplied those
Scriptures were involved in the general overthrow.
NO MURDERER HATH ETERNAL LIFE
"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no
murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." --I John iii:15.
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:
God 'will by no means clear the guilty." --Ex.xxxiv:7. "He that doeth
wrong shall receive for the wrong that he hath done; and there is
no respect of persons." --Col. iii:25. "Though hand join in hand, the
wicked shall not be unpunished." --Prov. xi:21. "There is no peace, saith
my God, to the wicked." --Isa. lvii:21.
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,
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." --I Cor. vi: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
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.
LET HIM BE ACCURSED
The word anathema, improperly rendered "accursed" in Gal. i: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. ix: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.
THE SECOND DEATH
"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. xxi:8
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God'; and the books
were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and
the dead were judged out of those things which were written in those
books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were
in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead that were in them, and
they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell
were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death." --Rev.
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. xx, verses 13 and 14, it is said
that "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the
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
The first death is described by the prophet Ezekiel, chap. xxxvii:12-14:
"Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold,
O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of
your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know
that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and
brought you up out of your graves. And shall put my spirit in you, and
ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye
know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord."
The second death was when the Jews were again extinguished as a nation.
The Revelator declares it was to be very soon.
"And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man
according as his work shall be. He which testifieth these things saith,
Surely I come quickly." --Rev. xxii:12, 20.
Jesus thus announces the same event: "And then shall appear the sign of
the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth
mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven
with power and great glory." --Matt. xxiv:30.
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
In Rev. xxi: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.
THE FIRST RESURRECTION
"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. xx:5, 6.
The first resurrection was when the morally dead of our Savior's time
heard and obeyed his call:
"Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead." --Eph. v:14.
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."
LET HIM BE UNJUST STILL
"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let
him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous
still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still." --Rev. xxii:11.
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 xii:4, because that these things
should be quickly accomplished, and did even now begin."
ATTAIN UNTO THE RESURRECTION
"If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the
dead." --Phil. iii:11.
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. vi: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
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 Sanskrit 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
SHALL NOT SEE LIFE
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that
believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth
on him." --John iii:36
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:
"You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." --Eph.ii:1.
The believer hath "passed from death unto life." --John v:24. "We know
that we have passed from death unto life because we love the
brethren." --I. John iii:14. "To be carnally minded is death, but
to be spiritually minded is life and peace." --Rom. viii:6.
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.
TREE FALLS SO IT LIES"
"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
"If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place
where the tree falleth, there it shall be." --Eccl. xi: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."
THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are
alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them
which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a
shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and
the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in
the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." --I Thess. iv:15-17.
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
The imagery all points to that second coming which occurred while some
of those lived to whom the words of the epistle were addressed.
THE HARVEST PAST AND WE NOT SAVED
"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." --Jer.
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
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 II Kings
xxv: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
It is made synonymous with punishment in Matt. xxv. 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.
"OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE"
This language (Heb. xii:29) is usually misread thus: "God out of
Christ is a consuming fire," but it must not be supposed that the
unchangeable God, he who is "the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever, "
"without variableness or the shadow of turning," is modified for better
or for worse, in any mode of his manifestation to man. What God is in
Christ he is, and ever must be, out of Christ. He "is a consuming
fire" always and everywhere. But this fact does not render God
forbidding, repulsive, when we understand it. There is no relation
sustained by our heavenly Father, no figure by which he may properly be
represented, that can be understood, without inspiring impulses of
gratitude and joy in the mind that comprehends the truth presented.
"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
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
HE IS A "REFINER'S FIRE"
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.
Inasmuch 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.
GOD'S JUDGMENTS LIKE FIRE
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
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:
"For thou, oh God, hast proved us; thou hast tried us as silver is
tried; we went through fire and through water, but thou broughtest us
out into a wealthy place." --Psa. lxvi:10-12.
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. iii:2, 3.
God's consuming fire refines, purifies, and purges away the dross of
sin. Hence says the apostle:
"Every man's work shall be made manifest for the day shall declare it,
because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's
work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built
thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned,
he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by
fire." --I Cor. iii:13-15.
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.
"He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." --Matt. iii:12 "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 the worm dieth not, and the fire is not
quenched." --Mark ix:43, 44.
Many suppose that the words "unquenchable fire" mean a fire of endless
duration, whereas, it is a fire that cannot be quenched until its
purpose is accomplished.
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
Dr. Hammond, a very judicious commentator, says: "They put fire to the
chaff at the windward side, that creeps on and never gives over, till it
hath consumed all the chaff, and so is a kind of asbeston pur,
here, a fire never quenchable, till it have done its work." --Com. on
The Old Testament shows the application of the figure of fire burning
chaff: Job says, the wicked are "as chaff that the storm carrieth away,"
xxxv:5, xxi:18. See also Psalms. Isaiah v:24. xvii:13. xxix:5.
xxxiii:14. xli:15. The Jewish nation, which was about to be destroyed,
was represented by chaff, reserved for destruction, as it was in Matt.
iii:10, by the tree which was to be hewn down and cast into the fire.
The fire by which the Jews were destroyed was the fire of divine
judgment: and as it did its work effectually, so it was unquenchable.
It is for this reason that the punishment and destruction of the Jews
are described in the Old Testament as being effected by unquenchable
See Isaiah lxvi:23, 24. "And it shall come to pass from one new moon
to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh
come to worship before me, saith the Lord. 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." The unquenchable fire
here spoken of is in this world, as is evident from the phrase "new
moon" and "Sabbath." Again, Jer. xvii:27. "But if you 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." Fire kindled in the gates of
Jerusalem, which devoured the palaces of Jerusalem, is said to be
unquenchable. Ezek. xx:45 "Moreover, the word of the Lord came unto me,
saying, Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and prophesy against
the forest of the south field; and say to the forest of the south, Hear
the word of the Lord: --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."
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.
The phrase unquenchable fire, is found in six places in the New
Testament. Matt. iii:12. Luke iii:17. Mark ix:43, 44, 45 and 46. In all
of these passages the phrase should be quenchless fire. The Greek word
asbestos, unquenchable, inextinguishable, is the original term in
all the passages, verses 44 and 46 in Mark having the verb form,
sbennutai. What does it mean? That the fire was never to expire,
literally, or that nothing could extinguish it till it accomplished its
purpose? The usage of the word will determine. How did Greek authors at
the time of Christ employ it?
Josephus says, [Jewish War, B. ii, ch. xvii: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. ix: p.
Plutarch, [A.D. 110] in Numa, [p. 262] speaks of places in Delphi and
Athens, "where there is a fire unquenchable," (asbeston) though
in the same breath he describes it as having ceased to burn.
Eusebius, [A.D. 325], Eccl. Hist. Lib. vi, 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.
Lev. vi:12, 13, "And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it
shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every
morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; and he shall burn
thereon the fat of the peace offerings. The fire shall ever be burning
upon the altar; it shall never go out."
Now this fire was long ago extinguished, and yet it was "never to go
out." So we read in Isa. xxxiv: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
This language is all figurative; the unquenchable fire has long since
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.
God's judgments are denoted by fire in frequent passages: "For there is
a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon; it
hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon."
Num. xxi:28. David represents the judgments of God upon the wicked in
this life: "A fire goeth before him and burneth up his enemies round
about." Psalms xcvii:3.
God is spoken of as a "consuming fire." because he brought judgments
upon the disobedient and sinful. In the prophecy of Isaiah, the
destruction of Babylon is spoken of under the same figure: "Behold they
shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them: they shall not deliver
themselves from the power of the flame." Isaiah xlvii:14. "He is a God
that judgeth in the earth." Psalms lvii:11. Paul uses nearly the same
language that Moses employed when addressing the children of Israel,
Deut. iv:24. "For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous
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.
Canon Farrar, in "Eternal Hope," "Consequences of Sin," says: "The
expression 'quenchless fire,'--for the phrase 'that never shall be
quenched,' is a simple mistranslation--is taken from Is.
lxvi:24, and is purely a figure of speech, as it is there, or as
it is in Homer's Iliad, xvi:123." In his Appendix to the volume he
observes: "it was in answer to the bitter taunt of Celsus, that the God
of the Christians kindled a fire in which all but the Christians should
be burned, that Origen first argued that the fire should possess a
purifying quality (katharsion) for all those who had in
themselves any materials for it to consume. All, even Peter and Paul,
must pass through this fire (Isa. xliii:2) and ordinary sinners must
remain in it till purged. It is in fact, a baptism of fire, at the
resurrection, for those who had not received effectually the baptism of
the spirit (Peri Arkon i:6, Cels. vi:26; Hom. in Psalm iii:1; in Jer.
ii:3; in Ezek. i:13). It was not a material fire, but self-kindled, like
an eternal fever. It was in fact remorse for remembered sin, a
'figurative representation of the moral process by which restoration
shall be effected.'"
FURNACE OF FIRE
The phrase "furnace of fire," occurs in these passages in the old
Deut. iv:20: "But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you forth out of
the iron furnace, even out of Egypt." I Kings viii:51: "For they
be thy people, and thine inheritance which thou broughtest forth out of
Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron." Jer. xi:4: "Which
I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the
land of Egypt, from the iron furnace." Isa. xxxi:9: "Saith the
Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem." Isa.
xiviii:10. "Behold I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have
chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." Ezek. xxii:18-21: "Son
of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass,
and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they
are even the dross of silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Because
ye are all become dross, behold, therefore, I will gather you into the
midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and
lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire
upon it, to melt it, so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury,
and I will leave you there, and melt you."
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.
Matt. xiii:41, 42: "The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, 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." Verse 50: "And shall cast them into the
furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
It is nowhere said that God has a furnace in eternity, in which to burn
souls. His furnace was in Jerusalem, Isa.xxxi: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. II Pet. ii: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
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. II. 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, x:7, which says: "Of whose wickedness even in this day the waste
land that smoketh is a testimony."
Dr. Shaw (see Clarke's Com. on Genesis xix: 24), says that "the
appearance of smoke and fire of which he speaks, and to which Philo and
the author of Wisdom allude, is undoubtedly to be explained by the well
known existence of bituminous matter in the bed of the lake Asphaltites,
which now occupies the site of those cities. These considerations are
sufficient to justify the language of Jude, without resorting to the
idea that he had reference to the future world."
Similar language is found in Matt. xviii: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
"And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore
every tree 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 gather his wheat into his garner; but he will burn up the
chaff with unquenchable fire." --Matthew iii:10-12.
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast
into the fire." --Matthew vii:19.
"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 iii:9-17.
John here announces a calamity about to come on the Jewish people. The
trees were the Jewish people, the axe the cause of their overthrow. Such
is the use of these terms in the Old Testament. See Isa. xl:24; Jer.
x:2-3: xxi:6-8. We need only quote the latter passage to illustrate the
Old Testament usage.
"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.
"It was customary with the prophets to represent the kingdoms, nations
and individuals whose ruin they predicted, under the notion of forests
and trees, doomed to be cut down. See Jer. xlvi:22, 23; Ezek. xxxi:3-11,
12. The Baptist employs the same metaphor. The Jewish nation is the
tree, and the Romans the axe, which, by the just judgment of God, was
speedily to cut it down." --Dr. A. Clarke.
"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 xxii. 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.
FIRE AND BRIMSTONE
Fire and Brimstone, only mentioned in Revelation in the New Testament,
though it is frequently found in the Old, is always used as an emblem of
earthly calamities. Job xviii:15: "Brimstone shall be scattered upon his
habitation." Psa. xi:6: "upon the wicked he shall reign snares, fire
and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: and this shall be the
portion of their cup." Isa. xxxiv:9, 10: "and the streams thereof (Idumea)
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
The Revelator says the beast and false prophet were cast alive
into the lake, (Rev. xix:20), and that they were tormented day
and night, showing that the calamities referred to are in this
world. The "Lake" belongs with the "pale horse," "the beast" and other
imagery in this remarkable composition; undoubtedly it has reference to
the destruction soon to befall the Jewish nation, of which Revelation
seems to be a prophecy.
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
fullness 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 xcviii:4-9. It is not a scene
to cause horror but delight.
IT IS IN THIS WORLD
"Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth." --Psalm lviii:11. "He
shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the
earth." --Isa. xlii:4.
IT IS NOT HEREAFTER
"For judgment I am come into this world." --John ix:39. "For the
Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the
Son." --John v:22. "Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth."
"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more the
wicked and the sinner." --Prov. xi:31.
IT IS NOW
"Now is the judgment of this world." --John xii:31. "Fear God, and give
glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come." --Rev. xiv:7. I Pet.
iv:17: "For the time has come that judgment must begin at the house of
God." Says Dr. Clarke on this passage:
"Judgment must begin at the house of God. --Our Lord had predicted
that, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem, his followers would
have to endure various calamities; see Matt. xxiv:9-12, 22. Mark
xiii:12, 13. John xvi:2. Here his true disciples are called the house or
family of God. That the converted Jews suffered much from their
brethren, the zealots or factions into which the Jews were at that time
divided, needs little proof; and some interpreters think that this was
in conformity to the purpose of God; Matt. xxiii:35. That on you may
come all the righteous blood shed from the foundation of the world."
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."
IT IS FOR EVERY ACT AND THOUGHT
"But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they
shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." --Matt. xii:36. "For
all these things, God will bring thee into judgment." --Ecc. xi:19. "God
will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it
be good, or whether it be evil." --Ecc. xii:14.
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.
iii: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.
JUDGMENT TO COME
"And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come,
Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time. When I have a
convenient season, I will call for thee." --Acts xxiv:25.
Felix was a Roman pagan--a believer in a future judgment whose
punishments were post mortem, and his wickedness, and the
iniquity of the pagans around Paul illustrate the evil influence of a
belief in a far-off and uncertain, and a disbelief in a near, immediate
and certain retribution. Paul preached to Felix, not a remote, but an
impending judgment. The Greek kai tou krimatos, tou mellontes esethai,
rendered "judgment to come," ought to be translated by "the judgment
about to be." The passage reads literally, "And as he was discoursing
concerning justice, self-government, and that judgment about to come,
Felix, being terrified, answered," etc.
Parkhurst says, "mello signifies, with an infinitive following,
to be about to do a thing. (Matt. ii:13; xvi:27). Both the verb and
participle are in the New Testament joined with the infinitive future,
as esethai. So likewise in the purest Greek writers."
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.
THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
"For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." --Rom.
xiv:10. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that
every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he
hath done, whether it be good or bad." --II Cor. v:10.
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
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
"Verily I say unto you it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom
and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city." --Matt. x:15.
"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works
were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto
thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you had
been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in
sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for
Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou,
Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell;
for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in
Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that
it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment,
than for thee." --Matt. xi:23, 24. "and whosoever shall not receive you,
nor hear you, when ye depart hence, shake off the dust under your feet
for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more
tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that
city." --Mark vi:11. "But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable
in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe
unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and
Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented,
sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre
and Sidon at the judgment, than for you." --Luke x:10-14.
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
--"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."
Wakefield: --"In the day of vengeance, punishment or trial. This
is undoubtedly the genuine sense of the phrase, which has not the least
reference to the day of general judgment. All that our Savior intends to
say is, that when the temporal calamities of that place come upon it,
they will be even worse than those of Sodom and Gomorrah. See this
phrase employed in precisely the same meaning by the LXX, in Prov.
CHRIST, THE JUDGE OF THE WORLD
"Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world
in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath
given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the
dead.": --Acts xvii:31.
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
"For judgment I am come into this world." --John ix:39. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." --John
v:22. "And hath given him authority to execute judgment also." --verse
27. "Now is the judgment of this world." --John xii:31.
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. xiii:1. "In that day there shall be one Lord, and
his name one." --Zech. xiv: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. xxiii:5.
The apostle refers to that period as a day: "The day is at hand." --Rom.
xiii:12. "Now is the day of salvation." --II Cor. vi:2.
And Jesus himself speaks of his reign, or government, or time of
judgment, as a day.
"Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was
glad." --John viii:56.
MacKnight says: "In the Hebrew language, to judge, signifies to
rule, or govern."
Jesus came to rule or govern the world, and he shall continue his work
till he has called all unto himself, and God is all in all. (I Cor.
xv:24.) Then the Gospel day ends, and Jesus surrenders his office as
judge to his Father. Christ's day of judgment began when he was on
earth, and will continue till his object is accomplished, in the
reformation of all.
AFTER THIS THE JUDGMENT
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die; but after this the
judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto
them that look for him, shall he appear the second time, without sin
unto salvation." --Hebrews ix:27, 28.
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:
"For Christ did not enter holy places made with hands, the antitypes of
the true ones; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of
God in our behalf; not that he should offer himself often, even as the
High Priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of
others: for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the
world: but now once for all in a completion of the ages hath he appeared
to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is
appointed unto those men (that is the high priests) once to die, but
after this, judgment: so Christ once offered to bear the sins of
the many; and unto them that look for him shall appear the second time
without a sin-offering unto salvation. --Heb. ix:24-28.
This is a literal translation. The plain statement is: As the high
priests, the antitypes, died a figurative death, annually, (see Ex.
xxviii:29, 30), so Christ was offered once for all in the sinner's
behalf. The ordinary reference to the dying of all men leaves the "as"
and "so" without meaning or application. But when we see that the
apostle was showing the superiority of the mission of Christ over the
annual sacrifices of the Jewish high priest, the meaning becomes plain.
He employed "the men" as types of the superior sacrifice of Christ.
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. xxx: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."
Having performed this rite, having died by proxy, the high priest
entered the holy of holies, and pronounced the sentence of absolution
from the mercy seat. Ex. xxv:22; Num vii:89. "And there will I meet with
thee, and will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between
the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things
which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel. And
when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak
with him then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the
mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two
cherubims; and he spake unto him."
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.
GNASHING OF TEETH
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you
yourselves thrust out. --Luke xiii:28.
The "Kingdom of God" is the reign of Christ, a spiritual realm of truth
and goodness and consequent happiness. It was "at hand" when
Christianity was first announced. --Matt. iii:2. It is "not of this
world," --John xviii:36. It came to the people when Jesus spoke --Matt.
xii:28, and men pressed into it, --Luke xvi:16. It was taken from the
Jews and given to the Gentiles, --Matt. xxi:43, and Jesus declared:
"And many shall come from the east and the west, and sit down with
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, but the "children
of the kingdom, the Jews, shall be cast out into darkness, where there
shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." --Matt. viii:11.
This was when the Saviour's prophecy was fullfilled. --Luke xiii:34, 35;
"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."
Dr. Whitby gives the correct view when he says; "To lie down with
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, doth not signify
to enjoy everlasting happiness in heaven with them, but only to
become the sons of Abraham through faith, (Gal. iii;7) and so to be
blessed with faithful Abraham coming on them, that they may receive the
promise of the spirit, (verse 14) through faith in Christ to be the seed
of Abraham and heirs, according to the promise, (verse29) viz. the
promise made to Abraham (Gen. xii:3) renewed to Isaac (Gen. xxvi:4) and
confirmed to Jacob (Gen xxviii:14) and to be, according to Isaac, the
children of promise." (Gal. iv:28)
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
Damnation, damned, etc., in the New Testament, are precisely equivalent
to condemnation, condemned, etc. The former words, with their generally
accepted meaning, would never occur if the Greek words thus rendered
were correctly translated. What is the meaning of the word damnation? It
is not a condition of suffering in an endless hell. The bible defines it
as meaning condemn, judge, punish, etc. When Paul says, Rom v:18,
"Therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to
condemnation;" when Christ says, "And this is condemnation,
that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than
light, because their deeds were evil;" John iii:18, "He that believeth
not is condemned already; because he hath not believed in the
name of the only begotten son of God;" John ix:39, "For judgment
I am come into this world," and in John xii:31, "Now is the
judgment of this world:" and when the Revelator says: Rev. xixv: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;" the meaning is precisely the same. Dr. Campbell says that
damned "is not a just version of the Greek word. The term damned,
with us, relates solely to the doom which shall be pronounced upon the
wicked at the last day. This cannot be affirmed, in truth, of the Greek
katakrino, which corresponds exactly to the English word
condemn." Such is its meaning in the passage which speaks of
EATING AND DRINKING DAMNATION
"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh
damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." --I Cor. xi:29.
The word translated "damnation" is very improperly rendered. Krima
denotes punishment, resulting in improvement, according to verse 32:
"But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we should
not be condemned with the world." The best rendering of krima is
judgment, by which word it is usually represented in English. Matt.
vii:2, "For with what judgment ye judge," etc. Luke xxiii:40, it
is rendered condemnation: "Thou art in the same condemnation."
Luke xxiv:20, it is rendered condemned: "Deliver him to be
condemned to death." Jesus applied the word to himself, in John ix:39,
"For judgment I am come into this world."
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.
Whitby: --"Damnation: the word imports temporal judgments; as when
St. Peter saith, the time is come, arxasthai to krima, that
judgment must begin at the house of God. (I Peter iv:17)
THE UNBELIEVER DAMNED
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth
not, shall be damned." Mark xvi:16.
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 same word occurs and has the same meaning in several places. In
Matt. xx:18, it is applied to Christ; "They shall condemn him to death.
Again in Matt. xxvii:3, "Then Judas, who had betrayed him, (Jesus) when
he saw that he was condemned, repented himself," etc. John viii:10,
Jesus said to the guilty woman, "Hath no man condemned thee:--neither do
I condemn thee." "They all condemned him (Christ) to be guilty of
death." Mark xiv:64.
The word has no reference to what the word damnation is popularly
supposed to mean.
The text had a primary application to the apostolic age, though by
accommodation it may be employed today to state the great fact that
believers are saved from the penalties of unbelief, while unbelievers
are condemned. John iii:18, 19, "He that believeth not, is condemned (or
damned) already, and this is the condemnation, that light is come into
the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds
were evil." The language has not the remotest reference to the idea of
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 word skirisis
and krima. This single fact ought to be decisive to every
He makes these corrections: "Damnable heresies," in II Peter ii:1,
should be "destructive heresies." II Thess. ii:12, "might be damned"
should be "may be judged." "Greater damnation in Matt. xxiii:14, Mark
xii:40, Luke xx:47, should be "severer judgment." Matt xxiii:33,
"damnation of hell" should be "judgment of Gehenna." Mark iii:29,
"Eternal damnation" should be aeonian sin. "Mark xvi:16, "He that
believeth not shall be damned," ought to be "disbelieving shall be
condemned." John v:29, "Resurrection of damnation" should be
"resurrection of judgment," etc.
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.
THAT THEY ALL MIGHT BE DAMNED
"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they
should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the
truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." --I Thess. ii:11, 12.
The word "damned" here should be "judged". In I Tim. v:12 --"Having
damnation because they have cast off their first faith," and in Rom.
iii:8, of slanderers, "whose damnation is just" the present tense is
used, showing that the damnation is already experienced.
THE RESURRECTION OF DAMNATION
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming when all who are in their
graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done
good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto
to resurrection of damnation." --John v:28, 29.
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."
The "Damnation" in v:29, is the same Greek word that is translated
"condemnation" in the 24th, and "judgment" in the 27th. Jesus was
repeating the substance of Daniel, xii:2, "And many of them that sleep
in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting contempt;"
words that are fulfilled in Eph. ii:1, "and you hath he quickened, who
were dead in trespasses and in sin."
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
Says Dr. George Campbell, a learned "orthodox" divine, in his "Notes" on
the Four Gospels, vol. ii. 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:
"Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God: Behold,
O my people, I will open your graves, and bring you into the land of
Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your
graves, O my people, and brought you up out of our graves; and shall put
my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own
land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed
it, saith the Lord." --Ezek. xxxvii:12-14.
And the poet enforces the same idea:
"But when the Gospel comes,
It sheds diviner light,
It calls dead sinners from their tombs,
And gives the blind their sight."
But beyond the final resurrection there is no condemnation. All are then
"made alive in Christ," (I Cor. xv.) and are "equal to the angels, and
are the children of "God," (Luke xx:36, Mark xii:25) The language in
John v:27-29 had its fulfillment in this world, in our Savior's day, in
the moral awakening he caused.
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.
Lightfoot observes: "These words might also be applied to a spiritual
resurrection, as were the former, (and so, coming out of graves
meaneth, Ezek, xxxvii:12) the words of the verse following being only
translated and glossed thus: and they shall come forth, they that do
good, after they hear his voice in the gospel, to the resurrection of
life; and they that do evil, after they hear the gospel, unto the
resurrection of damnation. But they are more generally understood of the
general resurrection," etc.--Harm. Evang Part III. John v:28
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.
THE CASE OF JUDAS
These passages relate to the sin of Judas, and its consequences.
Acts i:16-18. "Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been
fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake before
concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was
numbered with us, and hath obtained part of this ministry. Now this man
purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and, falling headlong, he
burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." Matt.
xxvi:24. "Woe unto that man by whom the son of man is betrayed; it
had been good for that man if he had not been born." Mark xiv:21.
"Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed; good were it for
that man if he had never been born." John xvii:12. "Those that thou
gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost but the son of
perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled." Acts i:25. "That
he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by
transgression fell, that he might go to his own place." John
vi:70. "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of
you is a devil?" Matt. xxvii: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."
Surely if any person's final punishment should be taught in the Bible,
that of Judas should be explicitly stated. Is it?
None of the terms employed of him teach any such doctrine. As we come to
understand their meaning, we see that while they characterize his
wickedness, and describe his punishment, they confine it to this world.
Besides, the Bible declares, "the Scripture must needs be fulfilled,
which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake concerning Judas,"
that it was "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" that
Jesus was delivered up, and "by wicked hands crucified and slain." Acts
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...
THE SON OF PERDITION, ETC
"Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but
the son of perdition." --John xvii:12.
"Kept" and "lost" are here employed antithetically. The eleven were
"kept," by remaining true, and Judas was "lost" out of the apostleship.
He was lost as all men were, for Christ came to "save that which was
lost." The language has no reference to his final condition, but to his
then present state.
Judas is called "the son of perdition," John xvii:12; the apostle speaks
of those "who draw back unto perdition," Heb. x:39; and of "the
perdition of ungodly men," II Pet. iii:7; and the Revelator, xvii:8-11
declares that certain ones are destined to perdition. What is the
meaning of this word, (apoleia)? It is the same word found in the
following passages: Matt. vii:13, "broad is the way that leadeth to 'destruction';"
Acts viii:20, "Thy money perish with thee;" II Pet. ii:1, "shall
bring in damnable heresies; 2, "follow their pernicious
ways;" 3, "their damnation slumbereth not;" Matt. xxvi:8, "to
what purpose this waste of the ointment? Acts xxv:16, "it is not
the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die." It is found
twenty times in the New Testament, and is translated destruction, waste,
perdition, die, damnable and pernicious. Its meaning is never endless
torment; but it denotes loss, waste, etc.
In Heb. x:39: "But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but
of them that believe to the saving of the soul;" the meaning is that the
disciples would not experience the destruction about to overtake the
wicked people of those times. This is the view given by orthodox
"But we are not they who withdraw unto destruction, but who faithfully
persevere, to the deliverance of our lives." Clarke. --"We are not
cowards who slink away, and notwithstanding, meet destruction;
but we are faithful, and have our souls saved alive. The words
peripoiesis psuche signify the preservation of life. See the
note Ephesians i:11. He intimates that, notwithstanding the persecution
was hot, yet they managed to escape with their lives." Lightfoot. --"As
Christ's pouring down his vengeance. in the destruction of that city and
people, is called his 'coming in his glory,' and his 'coming in
judgment;' and as the destruction of that city and nation is
characterized, in Scripture, as the destruction of the whole world, so
there are several passages that speak of the nearness of that
destruction, that are suited according to such characters. Such as that
in I Cor. x:11, 'Upon whom the ends of the world are come;' I Pet. iv:7,
'The end of all things is at hand'; Heb. x:37, 'Yet a little while, and
he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry. --Sermon on James,
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:
--"And none of them is lost; i.e., either by temporal death (chapter
xviii:9) or by falling off from me, but the son of perdition, i.e.,
Judas, worthy of perdition. So a son of death is worthy of it, (II Sam.
xli:5) and ethnos apoleias is a nation fit to be destroyed.
(Eccl. xvi:9; Matt. xxiii:15, and the note on Eph. ii:2) Rosenmuller --"No
one is ignorant that Judas is here the intended betrayer of Christ, and
who had fallen off from him. Apoleia, (perdition) therefore, as
the preceding words teach, in this place, seems to indicate a defection
from Jesus, the teacher; as in II Thess. ii:3, where the phrase ho
uhios amartias, (the son of transgression) and is used concerning a
noted impostor, who persuaded many to a defection from the Christian
There is nothing in the use of the word perdition to intimate that it
means more than loss. In fact, the more utterly he was lost the more
certain he is to experience the saving power of Christ, who came to
"seek and save that which was lost, Matt. xviii:11, "to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel," x:6. The prodigal son, the piece of silver, and
the hundredth sheep were lost, but all these were found. Their being
lost was the sole reason why they were sought and saved from their
perilous condition. We have "all gone astray like lost sheep," but the
lost shall be found, and "there shall be one fold and one shepherd."
The word apollumi is the word usually rendered lost and
lose, and it is also translated destroy, perish, and
marred." Lord, save us, we 'perish'," Matt. viii:25; "Go,
rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," Matt. x:6;
"Whosoever will save his life shall lose it," Mark viii:35; "I
have found my sheep, which was lost," Luke xv:6; "There shall not
a hair of your head perish," Luke xxi:18, are instances of the
use of the word. As applied to the soul it means a condition of
sinfulness. Matt. x:6, "The lost sheep of the house of Israel;"
xviii:11, "The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost." But
nothing is more distinctly taught than that Jesus, who came to seek and
save the lost, will continue his work until he finds them. There is no
final loss in the New Testament.
THE GOSPEL HID
"But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." --II
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 LOST SOUL
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose
his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" --Matt.
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.
BETTER NEVER BEEN BORN
"The son of man goeth as it is written of him; but woe unto that man by
whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had
not been born." Matt. xxvi:24. Mark xiv:21. Luke xxii:22.
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 iii: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. vi: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, it is said, "Whosoever knows the law, and does not do
it, it had been better for him had he never come into the world. In
Vayikra 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.'
HIS OWN PLACE
"That he might go to his own place." Acts i:25. "His own place" does not
mean hell, for first, it is not Judas, but Matthias who is referred to,
and the "place" is the apostleship "from which Judas by transgression
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
WAS JUDAS A SUICIDE?
The common view of the death of Judas, is, that he committed suicide
after his great crime, and so went to endless woe. But it is doubtful if
he did commit suicide. In one place we read that he "departed and went
and hanged himself," and in another, "falling headlong he burst asunder
in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." --Acts i:18. The phrase
"hanged himself" can properly be read "was suffocated." His suicide is
by no means certain.
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 case of the suicide is not hopeless, for when Ammon had taken his
own life, and Absalom, equally wicked, was living, the father of the
boys was at rest concerning the suicide. "David longed to go forth to
Absalom but he was comforted concerning Ammon, seeing he was dead." --II
It is a remarkable fact--militating very much against the idea of the
final damnation of Judas--That Jesus placed him on a throne with the
other apostles, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, after his betrayal.
Jesus said to Peter: "Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed
me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of
his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve
tribes of Israel," Matt. xix:28.
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. 2nd. 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.
3rd. 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
The definitions of other lexicographers and critics are to the same
purport. We name: Schrevelius, Schweighauser, Valleys, 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,
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 Taylor 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 necessarily carry
the meaning of endless duration. 'These shall go away into the
restraint, imprisonment of the world to come,' is all we can
etymologically or exegetically make of the word in this passage." --His.
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
*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.
(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 religions, 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 Greek 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.
Gen. vi:4, "Mighty men which were of old, men of renown." Gen. ix:12;
God's covenant with Noah was "for perpetual generations." Gen. ix:16;
The rainbow is the token of "the everlasting covenant" between God and
"all flesh that is upon earth." Gen. xiii:15; God gave the land to Abram
and his seed 'forever'. Dr. T. Clowes says of this passage that it
signifies the duration of human life, and he adds, "let no one be
surprised that we use the word Olam (Aion) in this limited sense. This
is one of the most usual significations of the Hebrew olam and the Greek
aion." In Isa. lviii:12, it is rendered "old" and "foundations." "And
they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places; thou shalt
raise up the foundations of many generations." In Jer. xviii:15, 16,
ancient and perpetual. "They have caused them to stumble in their ways
from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; to make
their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing." Such instances may be
cited to an indefinite extent. Ex. xv:18. "for ever and ever, and
further." Ex. xii:17, "Ye observe this day in your generations by an
ordinance forever." Numb. x:8, "For an ordinance forever, throughout
your generations." "Your generations" is here idiomatically given as the
precise equivalent of "forever." Canaan was given as an "everlasting
possession;" (Gen. xvii:8, slviii:4; Lev. xxiv:8-9) the hills are
everlasting (Hab.iii:6) the priesthood of Aaron (Ex. xl: 15; Numb.
xxv:13; Lev. xvi:34) was to exist forever, and continue through
everlasting duration. Solomon's temple was to last forever, (I Chron.
xvii:12) though it has long since ceased to be; slaves were to remain in
bondage forever (Lev. xxv:46) though every fiftieth year all Hebrew
servants were to be set at liberty. (Lev. xxv:10) Jonah suffered an
imprisonment behind the everlasting bars of earth, (Jon. ii:6) the smoke
of Idumea was to ascend forever, (Isa xxxiv:10) though it no longer
rises; to the Jews God says (Jer. xxxii:40) "and I will bring an
everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be
forgotten;" and yet, after the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in,
Israel will be restored. Rom. xi:25, 26.
Not only in all these and multitudes of other cases does the word mean
limited duration, but it is also used in the plural, thus debarring it
from the sense of endless, as there can be but one eternity. In Dan.
xii:3, the literal reading, if we allow the word to mean eternity, is,
"to eternities and farther." Micah iv:5, "We will walk in the name of
the Lord our God to eternity, and beyond," Psa. cxix:44, "So shall I
keep thy law continually, forever and ever." This is the strongest
combination of the aionian phraseology: eis ton aiona kai eis ton aiona
tou aionos, and yet it is David's promise of fidelity as long as he
lives among them that "reproach" him, in "the house of his pilgrimage."
Psa. cxlviii:6, "The sun and moon, the stars of light, and even the
water above the heavens are established forever," and yet the firmament
is one day to become as a folded garment, and the orbs of heaven are to
be no more. Endless duration is out of the question in these and many
similar instances. This is the general usage: Eccl. i:10, "Is there
anything whereof it may be said, see, this is new! it hath been already
of old time, which was before us." Psa. xxv:6, "Remember, O Lord, thy
tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been even of
old." Psa. xcic:52, "I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have
comforted myself." Isa. xlvi:9, "Remember the former things of old."
Isa. lxiv:4, "since the beginning of the world." Jer. xxviii:8, "The
prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied both
against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil,
and of pestilence." Jer. ii:20, "For of old time I have broken thy yoke,
and burst thy bands." Prov. viii:23, "I (wisdom) was set up from
everlasting from the beginning, or ever the earth was." Here aionos and
"before the world was," are in opposition. Psa. lxxiii:12, "Behold,
these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world." Deut. xxxii:7,
"Remember the days of old." Isa i:9, "Generations of old." Micah vii:14,
"Days of old." --Same in Malachi ii:4. Psa. xlviii:14, "For this God is
our God, for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death." This
plural form denotes "even unto death." Christ's kingdom is prophesied as
destined to endure "forever," "without end," etc. Dan. ii:44; Isa.
lix:21; Psa. cx:4; Isa. ix:7; Psa. lxxxix:29. Now if anything is taught
in the Bible, it is that Christ's kingdom shall end. In I Cor. xv, it is
expressly and explicitly declared that Jesus shall surrender the kingdom
to God the Father, that his reign shall entirely cease. Hence, when we
read in such passages as Dan. ii:44, that Christ's kingdom shall stand
forever, we must understand that the forever denotes the reign of
Messiah, bounded by "the end," when God shall be "all in all."
Servants were declared to be bound forever, when all servants were
emancipated every fifty years. Thus in Deut. xv:16, 17, we read, "And it
shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he
loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee, then thou
shalt take an awl, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he
shall be thy servant forever."
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.
Prof. Taylor Lewis says, "'One generation passeth away, and another
generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever.' This certainly
indicates, not an endless eternity in the strictest sense of the word,
but only a future of unlimited length. Ex. xxxi:16, 'Wherefore the
children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath
throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.'" Where the
context demands it, as "I live forever," spoken of God, he says it means
endless duration, for "it is the subject to which it is applied that
forces to this, and not any etymological necessity in the word itself."
THE END OF AIONIAN THINGS
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
The principal passage in the Old Testament containing the word
everlasting, connected with suffering, is Dan. xii: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." When was this to take
place? "At that time." What time? Verse 31, chap. xi, speaks of the
coming of "the abomination that maketh desolate." Jesus says, Matt.
xxiv:15, 16, Luke xxi:20, 21, "When ye therefore (the disciples) shall
see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand
in the holy place, then let them which be in Judea flee to the
mountains. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then
know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in the
midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter
thereinto." Daniel says this was to be (xii:7) "when he shall have
accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people." And he says, "At
that time there shall be a time of trouble, such as there never was
since there was a nation even to that same time." Jesus says, "for then
shall be great tribulations, such as was not since the beginning of the
world to this time; no, nor ever shall be." And when that was Jesus
tells us, "this generation shall not pass away till all these things be
fulfilled." The events announced in Daniel are the same as those in
Matt. xxiv, and occurred in the generation that crucified Jesus. The
phrase "sleep in the dust of the earth" is employed figuratively, to
indicate sloth, spiritual lethargy, as in Psa. xliv:25; Isa. xxv:12,
xxvi:5; I Tim. v:6; Rev. iii:1; "For our soul is bowed down to the
dust;" "And the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and
bring to the ground, even to the dust;" "For he bringeth down them that
dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low even
to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust;" "But she that liveth in
pleasure is dead while she liveth;" "I know thy works; that thou hast a
name, that thou livest and art dead." Cruden says that "dust" signifies
"a most low and miserable condition." "God raised up the poor out of the
dust." (I Sam. ii:8) "Thy nobles shall dwell in the dust." (Nahum
iii:18) They shall be reduced to a mean condition."
It was a prophecy of the moral awakening that came at the time of the
advent of Jesus, and was then fulfilled. When we come to Matt. xxiv and
xxv we shall see the exact nature of this judgment. Walter Balfour
describes it, "They," (those who obeyed the call of Jesus) "heard the
voice of the Son of God and lived." See John v:21, 25, 28, 29. Eph.
v:14. The rest kept on till the wrath of God came on them to the
uttermost. They all, at last, awoke; but it was to shame and everlasting
contempt, in being dispersed among all nations, and they have become a
by-word and an hissing even unto this day. Jeremiah in chapter
xxiii:39-40 predicted this very punishment, and calls it an "everlasting
reproach and a perpetual shame."
Isaiah uses similar language: "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O
Zion: put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for
henceforth there shall no more come unto thee the uncircumcised and the
unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem."
etc. Isa lii:1, 2. This call was obeyed, and the language of Daniel was
fulfilled when "among the chief rulers, also many believed on him, but
because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they
should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men
more than the praise of God." John xii:42, 43. Those who accepted him
enjoyed the eternal life of the gospel, but those who rejected him had
shame and contempt. This language is exactly parallel to Matt. xxiv,
In Isa. xxxiii:14, we read, "Who among you shall dwell with everlasting
This language refers entirely to this life. The prophet had said (Isa.
xxxi: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."
When he asks who shall dwell amid these "everlasting burnings" he refers
to those fires which he had spoken of as about to consume the land.
Ezekiel describes them, xx:47.
"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
Jeremiah agrees with the other prophets, xvii: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
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
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,
Nahum, Habakkuk, 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
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? 2nd, If God does not
announce it in the Old Testament, is it supposable that he has revealed
it elsewhere? 3rd, Would he for thousands of years conceal so awful a
destiny from millions whom he had created and 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
Philo, who was contemporary with Christ, generally used aidion to
denote endless, and always used aionion to describe temporary
duration. Dr. Mangey, in his edition of Philo says he never used
aionion for interminable duration. He uses the exact phraseology of
Matthew, xxv:46, precisely as Christ used it. "It is better not to
promise than not to give prompt assistance, for no blame follows in the
former case, but in the latter there is dissatisfaction from the weaker
class, and a deep hatred and everlasting punishment (kolasis aionios)
from such as are more powerful." Here we have the exact terms employed
by our Lord, to show that aionion did not mean endless but did
mean limited duration in the time of Christ.
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.
1 It is applied to the kingdom of Christ. Luke i:33, "And he shall reign
over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall
be no end." See also i:55; Heb. vi:20; vii:17-21; I Pet. iv:11; II Pet.
i:11, iii:18; Rev. i:6; xi:15. But the kingdom of Christ is to end, and
he is to surrender all dominion to the Father, therefore endless
duration is not taught in these passages. See I Cor. 15.
2 It is applied to the Jewish age more than thirty times: I Cor. x:11,
"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are
written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are
come." Consult also Matt. xii:32; xiii:22, 39, 40, 49; xxiv:3; xxvii:20;
Mark iv:19; Luke i:70; xvi:8; xx:34; John ix:32; Acts iii:32; xv:18;
Rom. xii:2; I Cor. ii:6, 7, 8; iii:18; II Cor. iv:4; Gal. i:4; Eph.
i:21; ii:2; iii:9; I Tim. vi:17; II Tim. iv:10; Titus ii:12; Heb. ix:26.
But the Jewish age ended with the setting up of the kingdom of Christ.
Then the word does not denote endless duration here.
3 It is used in the plural in Eph. iii:21; "the age of the
ages," tou aionas ton aionon. Heb. i:2; xi:3, "By whom he made the
worlds." "The worlds were framed by the word of God." There can
be but one eternity. To say "By whom he made the eternities" would be to
talk nonsense. Endless duration is not inculcated in these texts.
4 The word clearly teaches finite duration in such passages as Rom.
xvi:35; II Cor. iv:17; II Tim. i:9; Philemon 15; "Titus i:2. Read Rom.
xvi:25: "Since the world began." --II Cor. iv:17: "a far more
exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Here "and" is a word supplied by
the translators, and the literal is "an excessively exceeding aionian
weight." But endless cannot be exceeded. Therefore aionion does not here
Let us give more definitely several passages in which all will agree
that the word cannot have the sense of endless. We print the word
denoting duration in italics; Matt. xii:22: "The care of this world,
and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, the cares of that age
or "time." Verses, 39, 40, 49, "The harvest is the end of the world"
i.e. age, Jewish age, the "end" taught in Matt. xxiv, which some who
heard Jesus speak were to live to see, and did see. Luke i:33, "And he
(Jesus) shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his
kingdom there shall be no end." The meaning is, he shall reign for ages.
That long, indefinite duration is meant here, but limited, is evident
from I Cor. xv:28, "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then
shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under
him, that God may be all in all." His reign is forever, i.e. to the
ages, but it is to cease. Luke i:55, "as he spake to our fathers, to
Abraham, and to his seed for ever, (to an age, aionos). Luke
i:70. "As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been
since the world began, or "from an age." "Of old," would be the
correct construction. Luke xvi:8, "For the children of this world
are in their generation wiser than the children of light." That is, the
people of that time were more prudent in the management of their affairs
than were the Christians of that day in their plans. John ix:32, "Since
the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of
one that was born blind." From the age, that is from the beginning of
our knowledge and history. Rom. xvi:25, "Since the world began," clearly
shows a duration less than eternity, inasmuch as the mystery that had
been secret since the world began, was then revealed. The mystery was
aionian but did not last eternally. It was "now made manifest" "to all
nations." Phil. iv:20. "Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever
and ever, for the ages of the ages. "For the eternities of the
eternities," is an absurd expression, but ages of ages is a proper
sentence. Eternity may be meant here, but if the word aion expressed the
idea, such a reduplication would be weak and improper. I Tim. vi:16,
"Charge them that are rich in this world," (age or time). I Tim.
i:17, "Now to the King eternal (of the ages) be glory for the
ages of the ages." What is this but an ascription of the ages to the
God of the ages? Eternity can only be meant here as ages piled on ages
imply long, and possibly endless duration. "All the ages are God's; him
let the ages glorify," is the full import of the words. Translate the
words eternity, and what nonsense. "Now to the God of the eternities be
glory for the eternities of the eternities." Heb. i:8. "The age of
the age" Eph. ii:7, "That in the ages to come he might show
the exceeding riches of his grace." Here at least two aions are in the
future. Certainly one of them must end before the other begins. Eph.
iii:21, "The generations of the ages of the ages." II Tim. iv:1
8, "The ages of the ages." The same form of expression is in Heb.
xiii:21; I Pet. iv:11; Rev. i:6, iv:9, v:13, vii:12, xiv:11, xv:7,
xx:10. When we read that the smoke of their torment ascends for ages of
ages, we get the idea of long, indefinite, but limited duration, for as
one age is limited, any number, however great, must be limited. The
moment we say the smoke of their torment goes up for eternities of
eternities, we transform sacred rhetoric into jargon. There is but one
eternity therefore as we read of more than one aion, it follows
that aion cannot mean eternity. Again, I Cor. x:11, "Our
admonition, on whom the ends of the aions have come." That is,
the close of the Mosaic and the beginning of the Gospel age. How absurd
to say "ends of the eternities!" Here the apostle had passed more than
one, and entered consequently, upon at least a third aion. Heb. ix:26,
"Now at an end of the ages." Matt. xiii:39, 40, xxiv:3. "The
conclusion of the age." Eternity has no end. And to say ends of
eternity is to talk nonsense. II Tim. i:9, "Before the world
began, i.e., before the aionian times began. There was no
beginning to eternity, therefore the adjective aionion here has
no such meaning as eternal. The fact that aion is said to end and
begin, is a demonstration that it does not mean eternity.
Translate the word eternity, and how absurd the Scriptural phraseology
becomes! We represent the Bible as saying, "To whom be the glory
during the eternities even to the eternities." Gal. i:5, "Now all
these things happened unto them, for ensamples, and they are written for
our admonition upon whom the ends of the eternities are come." I
Cor. x:11. "That in the eternities coming he might show the exceeding
riches of his grace." Eph. ii:7. "The mystery which hath been hid
from the eternities and from the generations." Col. i:26.
"But now once in the end of the eternities, hath he appeared to
put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Heb. ix:26. "The harvest is
the end of eternity." Matt. xiii:39. "So shall it be in the
end of eternity." Matt. xiii:40, "Tell us when shall these things
be, and what the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the eternity."
Matt. xxiv:3. But substitute "age" or "ages" and the sense of the Record
It occurs seventy-two times in the New Testament. Of these fifty-seven
are used in relation to the happiness of the righteous; three in
relation to God or his glory; four are of a miscellaneous nature; and
seven only relate to the subject of punishment. The word in all its
forms describes punishment only fourteen times in thirteen passages in
the entire New Testament, and these were uttered on ten occasions only.
The Noun. Matt. xii:32, Mark iii:29, II Pet. ii:17, Jude 13, Rev.
xiv:11, xix:23, xxI:10. The Adjective, Matt. xvii:8, xxv:41, 46,
Mark iii:29, II Thess. i:9, Heb. vi:2, Jude 7.
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.
THE GREAT PROOF TEXT
Matt. xxv:46 is the great proof text of the doctrine of endless
punishment: "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the
righteous into life eternal."
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.
2 God's punishments are remedial. All God's punishments are those of a
Father, and must therefore be adapted to the improvement of his
children. Heb. xii:5-11, "My son, despise not the chastening of the
Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the lord loveth
he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure
chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom
the father chasteneth not: Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh
which corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather
be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for
a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our
profit that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening
for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless,
afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them
which are exercised thereby." Prov. iii:11, 12, "My son despise not
the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom
the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son of whom he
delighteth." Lam. iii:31-33. "For the Lord will not cast off forever:
But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the
multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve
the children of men." See also Job v:17; Lev, xxvi; Psalms
cxix:67,71,75; Jer. ii:19.
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 Sanskrit, 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. xxiv: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. xxiv and xxv. 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. xxiv:3, 27, 30, 37, 39, 42, 46, 48, 50, and
xxv:6, 10, 13, 19, 27, 31). He addresses those who shall be alive at his
coming. Matt. xxiv: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.,
age-lasting. 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.
Therefore, (1) the fulfillment of the language in this life, (2) the
meaning of aionion, (3) the meaning of kolasis, and (4)
the nature of the divine punishments, demonstrate that the penalty
threatened in Matt. xxv:46 is a limited one. Prof. Taylor Lewis,
(orthodox) thus translates Matt. xxv:46: "These shall go away into the
punishment (the restraint, imprisonment) of the world to come, and those
into the life of the world to come." And he says "that is all that we
can etymologically or exegetically make of the word in this passage."
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. xix: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
Matt. xiii:40-50: "The harvest at the end of the world," should be "end
of this age." Dr. Wakefield thus comments: "The harvest is the
conclusion of this age, and the reapers are the messengers; as therefore
the weeds are picked out and burned up with a fire, so shall it also be
in the conclusion of this age." Dr. A. Clarke renders end of the world
(vs. 19, 43) "end of the age--Jewish polity." So also Dr. MacKnight. Dr.
Campbell translates it the "conclusion of the state." Bishop Pearce
says, on verse 40: "End of this world; rather end of this age, viz: that
of the Jewish dispensation.": And Dr. Hammond translates it, "conclusion
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.
In Matt. xiii:36-42, "the field is the world (kosmos) but "the
harvest is the end of the age," (aion, improperly rendered world)
that is, the end of the Jewish dispensation. But one passage need be
consulted to learn when that event was to occur. Jesus told his
disciples when they asked (Matt. xxiv:3) "What shall be the sign of the
end of the world," (Matt. xxiv:34) "This generation shall not pass till
all these things be fulfilled." It had almost arrived, a little later
when Paul said (Heb. ix:26) "But now once in the end of the world
hath he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." The end of the world
in all cases means the end of the age, or epoch then transpiring, that
is the Jewish dispensation.
THE LAST DAYS
The terms "last days," "end of the world," etc. found in connection with
judgment, are made very clear to the careful reader of the Bible. The
words "last day," "last days," etc., refer to the closing of the Mosaic
dispensation, and not, as is often supposed, to the final closing up of
mundane affairs. Peter demonstrates this, by applying the words of Joel
to what was then transpiring, Acts ii:16-20, "But this is that which was
spoken by the prophet Joel, And it shall come to pass in the last
days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and
your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants, and on
my handmaidens, I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they
shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in
the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: the sun shall be
turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and
notable day of the Lord come." Paul testifies to the same idea, Heb.
i:1, 2, "God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners spake in times
past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days
spoken unto us by His Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by
whom also he made the worlds," I Peter i:20. "Who verily was
foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in
these last times for you." See, also, I John ii:18, "Little children,
it is the last time." Peter says, I Peter iv:7, "But the end of
all things is at hand."
The "last days" always refer to the end of Judaism, and the
establishment of Christianity, and not to the closing of human affairs
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. iii: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.
The phrase "everlasting" or "eternal life" does not usually denote
endless existence, but the life of the gospel, spiritual life, the
Christian life, regardless of its duration. In more than fifty of the
seventy-two times that the adjective occurs in the New Testament, it
describes life. What is eternal life? Let the Scriptures answer. John
iii:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
John v:24, "He that believeth on Him that sent me hath
everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed
from death unto life." John vi:47, "He that believeth on me hath
everlasting life." So verse 54. John xvii:3, "This is life eternal to
know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent."
Eternal life is the life of the gospel. Its duration depends on the
possessor's fidelity. It is no less the aionion life, if one
abandon it in a month after acquiring it. It consists in knowing, loving
and serving God, regardless of the duration of the service. How often
the good fall from grace. Believing, they have the aionion life,
but they lose it by apostasy. Notoriously it is not, in thousands of
cases, endless. The life is of an indefinite length, so that the usage
of the adjective in the New Testament is altogether in favor of giving
the word the sense of limited duration. Hence Jesus does not say "he
that believeth, in this life, shall enjoy endless happiness in the next,
but hath everlasting life, and "is passed from death unto
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."
WORDS DENOTING ENDLESSNESS
Besides, the endless life is described by words that are never applied
to anything of limited duration. This appears from the following
Heb. vii:15, 16, "And it is yet far more evident: for that after the
similitude of Melchizedek there ariseth another priest, who is made, not
after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an
endless (akatalutos, imperishable) life." I Pet. i:3, 4,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according
to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the
resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance
incorruptible, (aphtharton) and undefiled, and that fadeth
not (amaranton) away." I Pet. v:4, "and when the chief Shepherd
shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not (amarantinos)
away." I Tim. i:17, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal (aphtharto),
invisible, the only wise God be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen."
Rom. i:23, 'And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into
an image made like to corruptible man." I Cor. ix:25, "Now they do it to
obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." I Cor.
xv:51-54, "Behold I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we
shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the
last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible, (aphthartoi) and we shall be changed. For this
corruptible must put on incorruption, (aphtharsian) and
this mortal must put on immortality (athanasian) So when
this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, (aphtharsian)
and this mortal shall have put on immortality, (athanasian)
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is
swallowed up in victory." Rom. ii:7, "To them who by patient continuance
in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality (aptharsain)
eternal life." I Cor. xv:423, "So also is the resurrection of the dead.
It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption (aphtharsian)."
See also verse 50. II Tim. i:10, "Hath brought life and immortality
(aphtharisan) to light, through the gospel." I Tim. vi:16,
"Who only hath immortality (athanasian).
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.
ALL NATIONS NOT GATHERED THEN
If it be said "all nations were not gathered, we reply that the terms of
this parable are not to be understood as literal, but as they are used
in the New Testament. Matt. xxiv:9, Christ says the disciples are to be
hated by all nations. The Gospel was to be preached to all nations
before the destruction of Jerusalem. (v;14) Paige says, "The terms
nation and kingdom were sometimes applied by the Jews to any
state, province, or even a separate municipal district."
It is objected that the fire was prepared for the devil and his angels.
We answer wicked men are called devils in II Tim. iii:3, (diabolos)
translated false accusers. Rev. ii:10, "Behold the devil shall cast some
of you into prison." Judas was called a devil, John vi:70. I Tim.
iii:11, Titus ii:3, Wives and aged women are exhorted not to be devils (diabolos,
rendered false accusers). The devil and his angels were wicked people.
The events in Matt. xxv 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.
"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.." --Hebrews vi:1, 2.
The word eternal is here used in the sense of ancient, and alludes to
the calamities that had come upon wrong-doers. The comments of Bishop
Pearce are clear and accurate: "I think, therefore, that the words are
to be understood in a very different manner, and krima here seems
to me to be put for temporal judgments. Thus the word used I Pet. iv:17
'the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God,' where
the context will not suffer us to take it in any other sense; compare
verses 16, 18, 19. So again, I Cor. xi:29, 'He that eateth and drinketh
judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.' What this judgment
was, appears by the next verse: 'For this cause many are weakly and sick
among you, and many sleep.' The word aionios, which we have
rendered eternal, I take to respect not the time to come, but the
time past, and to signify ancient, or past long ago." Thus
the destruction, fire, punishment and judgments of God that are called
eternal or everlasting, are limited. They are ordained by a Father for
the correction and discipline and welfare of his children, the issue of
which is restoration to righteousness.
"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.
The word here rendered everlasting is not aionios, indefinite
duration, but aidios, whose intrinsic meaning is endless. It is
found in one other place in the New Testament, Rom. i:20, "For the
invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal
power and Godhead."
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, 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." --II Thessalonians i:6-9
Who were troubling the Christians of the Thessalonican Church? We are
told in Acts xvii: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."
Also, I Thess. ii:14, 15: "For ye also have suffered like things of your
own countrymen.... Who have killed the Lord Jesus and their own
prophets, and have persecuted us."
When were they persecuted? In a few years from that time:
"For the son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his
angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not
taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his
kingdom." --Matt. xvi:27, 28.
PRESENCE OF THE LORD
How were they banished from the "presence of the Lord?" "The presence of
the Lord" is a form of expression denoting God's approbation. Such is
its usage in the Bible. "Cain went out from the presence of the Lord,
and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden." Gen. iv:16. "Jonah
rose up to flee into Tarshish, from the presence of the Lord, and went
down to Joppa." Jonah i:3 "My presence shall go with thee, and I will
give thee rest." Exodus xxxiii:14.
In the former years when the Jews were captive in Babylon, they were
cast out of the presence of the Lord. II Kings xxiv:20.
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.
"Therefore, behold I, even I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake
you, and the city that I gave you, and your fathers, and cast you out of
my presence; and I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a
perpetual shame which shall not be forgotten." --Jer. xxiii:39, 40
A similar doom was visited upon them when they were again overwhelmed,
before the death of some who were then living. (Matt. xvi:2-28. Matt.
xxiv) Was this everlasting destruction without end, and final? Paul
expressly says not. "For if the casting away of them (the Jews) be the
reconciling of the world, (the Gentiles) what shall the receiving of
them be but life from the dead." Rom. xi:15. "Blindness in part has
happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and
so all Israel shall be saved." Rom. xi:25, 26. "For God hath concluded
them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." Rom. xi:32
The Commentator, Gill, says: "'And to you who are troubled rest with
us;' this is another branch of the justice of God, in rendering to
them who are afflicted and persecuted for righteousness sake, rest; a
relaxation or rest from persecutions, for a while, at least; as the
churches of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had, from that persecution,
raised at the death of Stephen, (Acts ix:31) and as the Christians had,
at the destruction of Jerusalem; which, though it was a day of vengeance
to the unbelieving Jews, were times of refreshing to the saints, who
were now delivered from their persecutors."
Thus the word everlasting connected with destruction denoted limited
duration, for it is followed by restoration. The word destruction
denotes sometimes annihilation, Matt. v:17, "I am not come to destroy,
but to fulfill;" I John iii:8, "Might destroy the works of the devil;"
Hos. xiii:14, "O grave, I will be thy destruction;" I Cor. v:5, "Deliver
such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit
may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus," that is, the mortification
or subjection of the fleshly propensities, etc. Sometimes it indicates
tribulation as Psa. xc:3. "Thou turnest man to destruction;" Hos. iv:6,
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;" and xiii:9, "O Israel,
thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help.'
BANISHED FROM GOD'S PRESENCE
The following extract from Balfour's Second Inquiry presents this
"By the presence of God, or presence of the Lord, in
scripture, is sometimes meant his being everywhere present. Thus, David
says, Psa. cxxxix:8, 'If I ascend up into heaven thou art there; if I
make my bed in hell (sheol), behold, thou art there,' etc.
Admitting for argument's sake, that hell is a place of endless
punishment, how could the wicked even there be out of God's presence?
Yet, in II Thess. i:9, the Jews are said to be punished with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord. Again; I find the
phrase presence of the Lord, refers to heaven, or the
dwelling-place of the Most High. Christ is said to have gone 'into
heaven now to appear in the presence of God for us.' Heb. ix:24.
And it is said, Luke i:19, 'I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence
of God.' But how could the wicked be punished with everlasting
destruction from God's presence in this sense? For surely no one will
say that they were in heaven, and like Gabriel stood in the presence of
"But there are still some passages which deserve our particular notice,
because they clearly decide what is the meaning of the phrase,
presence of the Lord. The first is, II Kings xiii:24, 'And the Lord
was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, because of his
covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy
them, neither cast them from his presence as yet.' This was
spoken of the Jews; and just notice, that God speaks of destroying
them, and casting them from his presence. What he here says.
That as yet, he would not do to this people, in the following
passage we find that he did do. II Kings xxiv:20, 'For through the anger
of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast
them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king
of Babylon.' God's presence was enjoyed by the Jews in Judea, and in
their temple service. To be cast out of God's presence, is to be
banished form Judea into captivity, and from all the privileges which
the Jews enjoyed in their land, and temple worship. This was the same as
destroying them. They were thus destroyed or cast out of God's
presence for seventy years in their captivity at Babylon. But they were
brought back from this captivity, and again enjoyed God's presence in
their own land. At the time Paul wrote the words in Thessalonians, the
time was drawing near when they were to be again cast out of God's
presence, and dispersed among all nations. Paul adopts the very language
of the above passages, used in speaking of their former captivity, to
describe the judgments of God which awaited them in their being cast out
of their land, their city and temple destroyed, and they destroyed with
an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. The Jews now
are just as certainly destroyed from the presence of the Lord, as
they were during the seventy years' captivity in Babylon. How, then, can
any man affirm that Paul meant, by this phrase, either annihilation or
endless misery? If the Scriptures are allowed to interpret themselves,
Paul only describes the temporal destruction and banishment of the Jews,
and in the very language by which the prophets had described their
former punishments. It is added by the apostle, 'and from the glory of
his power;' or, as some render it, 'his glorious power.' Should this be
understood of Jehovah, the God of Israel, it is certain his glorious
power was displayed among the Jews. Should it be understood of Christ,
it agrees with what is said of him; for at the destruction of Jerusalem
he is said to have come in the glory of his Father; and he was then seen
coming with power and great glory. Matt. xvi:27, and xxiv:30."
Of course it is impossible to go out of the presence of God. Even in
hell, God is there. Psa. cxxxix: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
Those who persecuted the early Christians, their countrymen, (Acts
xvii: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
SMOKE OF TORMENT FOR EVER AND EVER
"And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever 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." --Rev. xiv:11.
The two chapters preceding this, and also this, treat of the church in
this world, and its enemies. The pagan power is the "red dragon," and
the Roman Empire is "the beast." The Lamb is Christ. The 144,000 denotes
the Jewish converts, etc. The wrath of God on the worshippers of the
beast and his image indicates the judgment of God on those who rejected
Christ. "Fire and brimstone" and smoking torment is the imagery that the
Revelator uses to describe such calamities as befell the wicked people
of those times. All the scenery is on earth, as the careful reader will
This torment was to continue "forever and ever," not literally without
end, but as the smoke of Idumea, Isa. xxxiv:10, went up "forever and
ever," though it has long ceased; so that of the worshippers of the
beast would be forever and ever. This language is applied to length of
days. Psa. xxi:4, to the duration of a book, Isa. xxx:8, to the sojourn
of the Jews in Canaan, Jer. vii:7; xxv:5, etc. All these have ceased.
The language refers to scenes and events occurring in this world. The
smoke and fire and torment are all of temporary duration.
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 Ireneus 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
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."
ONLY FIVE OLD TESTAMENT TEXTS ARE CLAIMED
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.
Psa. ix:17 "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations
that forget God." The wicked here are "the heathen," "mine enemies,"
i.e., they are not individuals but "the nations that forget God."
They will be turned into Sheol, death, die as nations, for their
wickedness. Individual sinners are not meant.
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."
Job xxi:13: "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to
the grave." It would seem that no one could claim this text as a threat
of after-death punishment. It is a mere declaration of sudden death.
This is evident when we remember that it was uttered to a people who,
according to all authorities, believed in no punishment after death.
Prov. v:5: "Her feet go down to the grave; her steps take hold on hell."
This language, making death and Sheol parallel, announces that
the strange woman walks in paths of swift and inevitable sorrow and
death. And so does Prov. ix:18: "But he knoweth not that the dead are
there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell." Sheol is
here used as a figure or emblem of the horrible condition and fate of
those who follow the ways of sin. They are dead while they live. They
are already in Sheol or moral death.
Prov. xxiii:13, 14: "Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou
beatest him with the rod he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the
rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." Sheol is here used either as
the grave to denote the death that rebellious children experience
early, or, it may mean that moral condition of the soul which Sheol,
the realm of death signifies. But in neither case is it supposable that
it means a place or condition of after-death punishment, in which, as
all scholars agree, Solomon was not a believer.
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:
Gen. xxxvii:34, 35: "and Jacob rent his clothes, and put sack-cloth upon
his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all
his daughters rose up to comfort him: but he refused to be comforted:
and he said, For I will go down into the grave (Sheol--Hadees)
unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him."
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.
Gen. xlii:38 and xliv:31, are to the same purport: "And he said, my son
shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he is left
alone: and if mischief befall him by the way in which ye go, then shall
ye bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to the grave." "It shall
come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will
die; and thy servants shall bring down the gray hears of thy servant our
father with sorrow to the grave."
The literal grave may be meant here, but had Sheol remained
untranslated, any reader would have understood the sense intended. The
remaining passages where the word is rendered grave are I Sam. ii:6-13;
I Kings ii:6-9; Job vii:9, xiv:13; Num.xvi:33; Job xvii: 13, 14; xxi:13;
xxxiii:21, 22; Psa. vi:5; xxx:3; lxxxviii:3; Prov i:12; Psa. xx:3,
cxl:7; Cant. viii:6; Ecc. ix:10; Isa xxxviii:19; Psa. xxxi:17,
lxxxix:48; Prov. xxx:16; Isa. xiv:11, xxxviii:18. Of the latter passage,
"For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee;
they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth," Prof. Stuart
says, "I regard the simple meaning of this controverted place (and of
others like it, e.g. Psa. vi:5; xxx:9; lxxxviii:11; cxv:7; Comp.
cxviii:17) as being this namely, 'The dead can no more give thanks to
God nor celebrate his praise among the living on earth, etc.'" And he
properly observes: "It is to be regretted that our English translation
has given occasion to the remark that those who made it have intended to
impose on their readers, in any case a sense different from that of the
original Hebrew. The inconstancy with which they have rendered the word
Sheol, even in cases of the same nature, must obviously afford some
apparent ground for this objection against their version of it.
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.
SHEOL--HADEES RENDERED HELL
The first time the word is found translated Hell in the Bible is in
"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;
THE LOWEST HELL IS ON EARTH
And its torments consist in such pains as are only possible in this
life: "hunger," "the teeth of beasts," "the poison of serpents," "the
sword," etc.; and not only are real offenders to suffer them, but even
"sucklings" are to be involved in the calamity. If endless torment is
denoted by the word, infant damnation follows, for into this hell "the
suckling and the man of gray hairs" go, side by side. The scattering and
destruction of the Israelites, in this world, is the meaning of "fire in
the lowest hell," in this text, as any reader can see by carefully
consulting the chapter containing this first instance of the use of the
word. Similar to this are the teachings wherever the word occurs in the
Old Testament: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell nor suffer thine
holy one to see corruption." Psa. xvi:10. Here "corruption" is placed
parallel with Sheol, or death.
"Though they dig into Hell, thence shall my hand take them; though they
climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down." Amos ix:2. "If I
ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in Hell, behold,
thou art there. Psa. cxxxix:8. "It is high as heaven; what canst thou
do? deeper than Hell; what canst thou know." Job xi:8.
The following are only a few of the reasons why Sheol-Hadees in the Old
Testament denotes a condition of temporal punishment:
1 Hell is in this world. The Lowest Hell is on earth. Deut.
xxxii:22, 24, 25. "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." See
Jonah ii:2; Rev. vi:8.
2 Hence David, after having been in Hell, was delivered from
it. Psa. xxx:3; II Sam. xx:5, 6. "O Lord, thou hast brought up my
soul from the grave; thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down
to the pit. When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly
men made me afraid. The sorrows of Hell (Sheol--Hadees) compassed me
about; the snares of death prevented me," so that there is escape from
Hell. Psa. xviii:5, 6; cxvi:3; lxxxvi:12, 13; Rev. xx:13; Psa. xvii:5,
3 Jonah was in the fish only seventy hours, and declared he was in
hell forever. He escaped from Hell. Jon. ii: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
4 It is a place where God is, and, therefore, must be an
instrumentality of mercy. Psa. cxxxix:8: "If I make my bed in Hell
(Sheol--Hadees) behold thou art there."
5 Men having gone into it are redeemed from it. I Sam. ii: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
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.
8 Jacob wished to go there. Gen.xxxviii:35: "I will go down into
the grave (Sheol--Hadees) unto my son mourning."
9 If the word means a place of endless punishment, then David was a
monster. Psa. lv:15: "Let death seize upon them, and let them go
down quick into Sheol--Hadees."
10 Job desired to go there; xiv:13: "Oh that thou wouldst hide me
11 Hezekiah expected to go there. Isa. xxxviii:10: "I said in the
cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of Sheol--Hadees."
12 Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers xvi:30-33) not only went
there, "but their houses, and goods, and all that they owned," "and the
earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all
the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all
that appertained to them, went down alive into Sheol--Hadees, and the
earth closed upon them; and they perished from among the congregation."
13 It is in the dust. Job xvii:19: "They shall go down to the
bars of Sheol--Hadees, when our rest together is in the dust."
14 It has a mouth, is in fact the grave. See Psa. cxli: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.
xiv: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
16 The captivity of the Jews is called Hell. Isa. v:13, 14:
"Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no
knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude
dried up with thirst. Therefore Sheol--Hadees hath enlarged herself and
opened her mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude,
and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it."
17 Temporal overthrow is called Hell. Psa. xlix:14: "Like sheep
they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright
shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall
consume in Sheol--Hadees, from their dwelling." Ezek.xxxii:26, 27: And
they shall not lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised,
which are gone down to Sheol--Hadees, with their weapons of war, and
they have laid their swords under their heads." Men are in hell with
their swords under their heads. This cannot mean a state of conscious
18 All men are to go there. No one can escape the Bible Hell,
(Sheol--Hadees) Psa. lxxxix:48.
19 There is no kind of work there. Eccl. ix:10.
20 Christ's soul was in Hell (Sheol--Hadees) Acts ii:27, 28.
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 vii:2.
23 The inhabitants of Hell (Sheol--Hadees) are eaten of worms,
vanish and are consumed away. Job. vii:9-24. Psa. xlix:14.
24 Hell (Sheol--Hadees) is a place of rest. Job xvii:6.
25 It is a realm of unconsciousness. Psa. vi:5. Is xxxviii:18.
26 All men will be delivered from this Hell (Sheol Hadees). Hos.
27 This Hell (Sheol--Hadees) is to be destroyed. Hos xiii:14: "Oh grave
I will be thy destruction." I Cor. xv:55: "O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?" Rev. xx:13, 14: "And death and Hell
delivered up the dead which were in them, and death and Hell were cast
into the lake of fire."
THE OLD TESTAMENT REPUDIATES THE HEATHEN DOCTRINE
At the time these declarations were made, and universally accepted by
the Hebrews, the surrounding nations all held entirely different
doctrines. Egypt, Greece, Rome, taught that after death there is a fate
in store for the wicked that exactly resembles that taught by so-called
orthodox Christians. But the entire Old Testament is utterly silent on
the subject, teaching nothing of the sort, as the sixty-four passages we
have quoted, the only texts containing the word Hell, show, and as the
critics of all churches admit. And yet "Moses was learned in all the
wisdom of the Egyptians": (Acts vii:22) who believed in a world of
torment after death. If Moses knew all about this Egyptian doctrine, and
did not teach it to his followers, what is the unavoidable inference?
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."
In addition to the passages already quoted, the word Sheol--Hadees is
rendered Hell in the following texts: Job. xi:7, 8; Psa. cxxxix:8;
xviii:5; lxxxvi:13; cxvi:3; Prov. xv:11; xxiii:14; xxvii:20; Isa.
xxviii:15-18; lvii:9; Ezek. xxxi:16, 17; Jon ii:2; Amos ix:2; Hab. ii:5.
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 therein.
"ORTHODOX" AND HEATHEN VIEWS IDENTICAL
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 harassed 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."
Jonathan 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
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
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?
Whitby on Acts ii:27, says: "That Sheol throughout the Old Testament,
and Hadees in the Septuagint, answering to it, signify not the place of
punishment, or of the souls of bad men only, but the grave only, or the
place of death, appears, 1st. From the root of it, Sheol, which
signifies to ask, to crave and require. 2nd. Because it is the place to
which the good as well as the bad go, etc."
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
inventers 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."
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
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 Diaglott"; "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."
MEANING OF HADEES
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.
OPINIONS OF SCHOLARS
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, always conveys to our minds. --Diss. vi.,
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. xxi): "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
THRUST DOWN TO HADEES
Matt. xi:23, and Luke x:15: "And thou, Capernaum, which are exalted unto
heaven, shalt be brought down to Hell." And thou, Capernaum, which art
exalted to heaven shall be thrust down to Hell." Of course a city
never went to a place of torment after death. The word is used here just
as in Isa. xiv, where Babylon is said to be brought down to Sheol or
Hadees, to denote debasement, overthrow, a prediction fulfilled to the
letter. Dr. Clarke's interpretation is correct: "The word here means a
state of the utmost woe, and ruin, and desolation, to which these
impenitent cities should be reduced: for, in the wars between the Romans
and the Jews, these cities were totally destroyed; so that no traces are
now found of Bethsaida, Chorazin or Capernaum."
That Hadees is the kingdom of death, and not a place of torment, after
death, is evident from the language of Acts ii:27: "Thou wilt not leave
my soul in Hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see
corruption.: Verse 31: "His soul was not left in Hell, neither his flesh
did see corruption," that is his spirit did not remain in the state of
the dead, until his body decayed. No one supposes that Jesus went to a
realm of torment when he died. Jacob wished to go down to Hadees to his
son mourning, so Jesus went to Hadees, the underworld, the grave. The
Apostle's creed conveys the same idea, when it speaks of Jesus as
descending into Hell. He died, but his soul was not left in the realms
of death, is the meaning.
THE GATES OF HADEES
Matt. xvi:18: "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon
this rock will I build my church; and the gates of Hell shall not
prevail against it." The word is here used as an emblem of destruction.
"The gates of Hadees" means the powers of destruction. It is the
Savior's manner of saying that his church cannot be destroyed.
HADEES IS ON EARTH
Rev. vi: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.
The word also occurs in Rev. i:18 "I am he that liveth, and was dead;
and, behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hell and
of death." To understand this passage literally, with the popular view
of Hell added, would be to represent Jesus as the devil's gate-keeper.
If Hell is a realm of torment, and the devil is its king, and Jesus
keeps the keys, what is he but the devil's janitor, or turnkey? The idea
is that Jesus defies death and the grave, evil, destruction, and all
that is denoted either literally or figuratively by Hadees, the
under-world. Its gates open to him.
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."
I Cor. xv:55: "O death, where is thy sing? O grave, where is thy
victory?" This is parallel to Hos. xiv:14, where the destruction of
Hadees is prophesied. Whatever Hadees means, it is not to endure
forever. It is destined to be destroyed. It cannot be endless torment.
That its inhabitants are to be delivered from its dominion, is seen from
Rev. xx:13, "And Death and Hell delivered up the dead that were in
them." This harmonizes with the declaration of David, that he had been
delivered from it already. (Psa. xxx:3. II Sam. xxii:5, 6) It does not
retain its victims always, and therefore whatever it may mean, it does
not denote endless imprisonment. Hence the next verse reads, "And death
and Hell were cast into the lake of fire." Can a more striking
description of utter destruction be given than this? 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.
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
The only remaining occurrence of the word Hadees is in the parable of
Dives and Lazarus:
"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the
angels into Abraham's bosom; the rich man also died, and was buried; and
in Hell (Hadees) he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and seeth
Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." Luke xvi:22, 23.
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 ix:8, 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
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 endorse 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
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. xl: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
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 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.
But what does the parable teach? That the Jewish nation, and especially
the Scribes and Pharisees were about to die as a power, as a church, as
a controlling influence in the world; while the common people among
them, and the Gentiles outside of them, were to be exalted in the new
order of things. The details of the parable show this: "There was a
certain rich man clothed in purple and fine linen." In these first
words, by describing their very costume, the Savior fixed the attention
of his hearers on the Jewish priesthood. They were, emphatically, the
rich men of that nation. His description of the beggar was equally
graphic. He lay at the gate of the rich, only asking to be fed with the
crumbs that fell from the table. Thus dependent were the common people,
and the Gentiles, on the scribes and Pharisees. We remember how Christ
once rebuked them for shutting up the kingdom of heaven against these.
They lay at the gates of the Jewish hierarchy, for the Gentiles were
literally restricted to the outer court of the temple. Hence in Rev.
xi:12, we read; "But the court, which is without the temple, leave out,
and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles." They could only
walk the outer court, or lie at the gate. The brief, graphic
descriptions given by our Savior, at once showed his hearers that he was
describing those two classes, the Jewish priesthood and nation, on the
one hand, and the common people, Jews and Gentiles, on the other.
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.
But this is not a final condition. Wherever we locate it, it must end.
Paul asks the Romans, "Have they (the Jews) stumbled that they should
fall? God forbid! but rather through their fall salvation is come unto
the Gentiles." "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of
this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits, that
blindness is in part happened to Israel until the fullness of the
Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved. As it is written,
There shall come out of Zion the deliverer, and shall turn away
ungodliness from Jacob, for this is my covenant with them when I shall
take away their sins. Rom. xi:11, 25, 27.
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:
1. Death and Hadees will deliver up their occupants. Rev. xx:13.
2. Hadees is to be destroyed. I Cor. xv:55; Rev. xx:14.
Therefore Hadees is of temporary duration. The Rich Man was not in a
place of endless torment. As Prof. Stuart remarks: "Whatever the state
of either the righteous or the wicked may be, whilst in Hadees, that
state will certainly cease, and be exchanged for another at the general
Thus the New Testament usage agrees exactly with the Old Testament.
Primarily, literally, Hadees is death, the grave, and figuratively, it
is destruction. It is in this world, and is to end. The last time it is
referred to (Rev.xx:14) as well as in other instances (Hosea xiii:14; I
Cor. xv:55) its destruction is positively announced.
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." II Peter
ii: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
THE BOOK OF ENOCH
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. i: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
This Book of Enoch is full of absurd legends, which no sensible man can
WHAT DID PETER MEAN?
Why did Peter quote from it? Just as men now quote from the classics,
not sanctioning the truth of the quotation, but to illustrate and
enforce a proposition. Nothing is more common than for writers to quote
fables, "As the tortoise said to the hare," in Aesop; "As the sun said
to the wind," etc. We have the same practice illustrated in the Bible.
Joshua, after a poetical quotation adorning his narrative, says: "Is not
this written in the Book of Jasher?" (Josh. x:13) and Jeremiah
(xlviii:45) says: "A fire shall come forth out of Heshbon," quoting from
an ancient poet, says Dr. Adam Clarke. Peter alludes to this ancient
legend, to illustrate the certainty of retribution, without any
intention of teaching the silly notions of angels falling from heaven,
and certainly not meaning to sanction the then prevalent notions
concerning the heathen Tartarus. This is the only alternative: either
the pagan doctrine is true, and the heathen got ahead of inspiration by
ascertaining the fact before the authors of the Bible learned it--for it
was currently accepted centuries before Christ, and is certainly not
taught in the Old Testament--or Peter quotes it as Jesus refers to
Mammon, rhetorically, to illustrate the great fact of retribution he was
inculcating. If true, how can any one account for the fact that it is
never referred to in the Bible, before or after this once? Besides,
these angels are not to be detained always in Tartarus, they are to be
released. The language is, "delivered them into chains of darkness, to
be reserved unto judgment." When their judgment comes, they
emerge from duress. They only remain in Tartarus 'unto judgment." Their
imprisonment is therefore a limited one, so that the language gives no
proof of endless punishment, even if it were a literal description.
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 malefic 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.
OPINIONS OF SCHOLARS*
Says Campbell: "The word Gehenna is derived, as all agree, from the
Hebrew words ge hinnom; which in diverse forms; e.g.,
Chaldee Gehennom, Arabic Gahannam, Greek Gehenna.
The valley of Hinnom is a part of the pleasant wadi or valley
which bound Jerusalem on the south. Josh. xv:8; xviii:6. Here, in
ancient times, and under some of the idolatrous kings, the worship of
Moloch, the horrid idol-god of the Ammonites, was practised. To this
idol children were offered in sacrifice. II Kings xxiii:10; Ezek.
xxiii:37, 39; II Chron. xxviii:3; Lev. xviii:21; xxx:2. If we may credit
the Rabbins, the head of the idol was like that of an ox; while the rest
of the body resembled that of a man. It was hollow within; and, being
heated by fire, children were laid in its arms and were literally
roasted alive. We cannot wonder, then, at the severe terms in which the
worship of Moloch is everywhere denounced in the Scriptures. Nor can we
wonder that the place itself should have been called Tophet, i.e.,
abomination, detestation (from toph, to vomit with loathing)."
Jer.viii:32; xix:6; II Kings xxiii:10; Ezek. xxiii:36, 39.
"Gehenna, originally a Hebrew word, which signifies the valley
of Hinnom, is composed of the common noun, Gee, valley, and
the proper name Hinnom, the owner of this valley. The valley of
the sons of Hinnom was a delightful vale, planted with trees, watered by
fountains, and lying near Jerusalem, on the southeast, by the brook
Kidron. Here the Jews placed that brazen image of Moloch, which had the
face of a calf, and extended its hands as those of a man. It is said, on
the authority of the ancient Rabbins, that, to this image, the
idolatrous Jews were wont not only to sacrifice doves, pigeons, lambs,
rams, calves and bulls, but even to offer their children. I Kings ix:7;
II Kings xv:3,4. In the prophecy of Jeremiah, (Ch. vii:31) this valley
is called Tophet, from Toph, a drum; because the
administrators in these horrid rites, beat drums lest the cries and
shrieks of the infants who were burned, should be heard by the assembly.
At length, these nefarious practices were abolished by Josiah, and the
Jews brought back to the pure worship of God. II Kings xxiii:10. After
this, they held the place in such abomination, it is said, that they
cast into it all kinds of filth, together with the carcasses of beasts,
and the unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed. Continual
fires were necessary, in order to consume these, lest the putrefaction
should infect the air; and there were always worms feeding on the
remaining relics. Hence it came, that any severe punishment, especially
a shameful kind of death, was denominated Gehenna." Schleusner.
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
It is fully described in numerous passages in the Old Testament, and is
exactly located on earth.
"And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the
south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem, and the border went
up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom
westward." Joshua xv:8. "And he (Joshua) defiled Tophet, which is
in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son
or daughter to pass through the fire to Moloch." II Kings xxiii:10.
"Moreover, he (Ahaz) burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom,
and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the
heathen." II Chron. xxviii:3. "And they (the children of Judah) have
built the high places of Tophet which is in the valley of the son
of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I
commanded them not, neither came it into my heart. Therefore, behold,
the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet,
nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter; for
they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place." Jer. vii:31,
32. "And go forth into the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the
entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell
thee. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place
shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of
Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter." Jer. xix:2, 6.
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.
"Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more
be called Tophet, nor the valley of the sons of Hinnom, but the valley
of slaughter; for they shall bury in Tophet till there be no place. And
the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heaven,
and for the beast of the earth; and none shall fray them away. Then will
I cause to cease from the cities of Judea, and from the streets of
Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of
the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride; for the land shall be left
desolate." Jer. vii:32-34. "And I will cause them to eat the flesh of
their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every
one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straightness, wherewith
their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them. And
they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury. Thus
will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants
thereof, and even make this city as Tophet. And the houses of Jerusalem,
and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of
Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned
incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings
unto other gods. Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the Lord had
sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord's house, and
said to the people: Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel:
Behold I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the
evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their
necks, that they might not hear my words." Jer. xix:12-15.
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")
"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
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.
"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?
Canon Farrar says of Gehenna (Preface to "Eternal Hope"): "In the Old
Testament it is merely the pleasant valley of Hinnom (Ge Hinnom)
subsequently desecrated by idolatry, and especially by Moloch worship,
and defiled by Josiah on this account. (See I Kings, xi:7; II Kings
xxiii:10; Jer. vii:31 xix:10-14; Isa. xxx:33; Tophet). Used according to
Jewish tradition, as the common sewerage of the city, the corpses of the
worst criminals were flung into it unburied, and fires were lit to
purify the contaminated air. It then became a word which secondarily
implied (1) the severest judgment which a Jewish court could pass upon a
criminal--the casting forth of his unburied corpse amid the fires and
worms of this polluted valley; and (2) a punishment--which to the Jews
as a body never meant an endless punishment beyond the grave. Whatever
may be the meaning of the entire passages in which the word occurs,
'Hell' must be a complete mistranslation, since it attributes to the
term used by Christ a sense entirely different from that in which it was
understood by our Lord's hearers, and therefore entirely different from
the sense in which he could have used it. Origen says (c. Celsus vi:25)
that Gehenna denotes (1) the vale of Hinnom, and (2) a purificatory fire
(eis tem meta basanon katharsin). He declares that Celsus was
totally ignorant of the meaning of Gehenna."
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: "The judgment of Gehenna is for twelve months;" "Gehenna
is a day in which the impious shall be burnt." Bartolloci declares that
"the Jews did not believe in a material fire, and thought that such a
fire as they did believe in would one day be put out." Rabbi Akiba, "the
second Moses," said: "The duration of the punishment of the wicked in
Gehenna is twelve months." Adyoth iii:10. Some rabbis said Gehenna only
lasted from Passover to Pentecost. This was the prevalent conception.
(Abridged from Excursus v, in Canon Farrar's "Eternal Hope," He gives in
a note these testimonies to prove that the Jews to whom Jesus spoke, did
not regard Gehenna as of endless duration). Asarath Maamaroth, f. 85, I:
"There will hereafter be no Gehenna." Jalkuth Shimoni, f. 46, I:
"Gabriel and Michael will open the eight thousand gates of Gehenna, and
let out Israelites and righteous Gentiles." A passage in Othoth,
(attributed to R. Akiba) declares that Gabriel and Michael will open the
forty thousand gates of Gehenna, and set free the damned, and in Emek
Hammelech, f. 138, 4, we read: "The wicked stay in Gehenna till the
resurrection, and then the Messiah passing through it redeems them.":
See Stephelius' Rabbinical Literature.
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
1 Gehenna was a well-known locality near Jerusalem. see Josh. xv:8; II
Kings xvii:10; II Chron. xxviii:3; Jer. vii:31-32; xix:2.
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 Jonathan 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
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 Revelation, 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?"
14 Jesus never uttered it to unbelieving Jews, nor to anybody but his
disciples, but twice (Matt. xxiii:15-33) during his entire ministry, nor
but four times in all. If it were the final abode of unhappy millions,
would not his warnings abound with exhortations to avoid it?
15 Jesus never warned unbelievers against it but once in all his
ministry, (Matt. xxii:33) and he immediately explained it as about to
come in this life.
16 If Gehenna is the name of Hell then men's bodies are burned there as
well as their souls. Matt. v:29; xviii:9.
17 If it be the place of endless torment, then literal fire is the
sinner's punishment. Mark ix:43-48.
18 Salvation is never said to be from Gehenna.
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
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.
DANGER OF HELL-FIRE
"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a
cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his
brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall
say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of Hell fire." Matt. v:22.
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
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.
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
CAST INTO HELL-FIRE
"And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee;
for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and
not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell. And if thy right hand
offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for
thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body
should be cast into Hell." Matt. v:28-29. "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. xviii:9. "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. And if thy
foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into
life, than having two feet to be cast into Hell, into the fire that
never shall be quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it
is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than
having two eyes to be cast into Hell-fire." Mark ix:43-49.
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
"Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Undoubtedly
Jesus had reference to the language of the prophet: "And it shall come
to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to
another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And
they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have
transgressed against me: for the worm shall not die, neither shall their
fire be quenched: and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Isa.
The prophet and the Savior both referred to the overthrow of Jerusalem,
though by accommodation we may apply the language generally
understanding by Hell or Gehenna, that condition brought upon the soul,
in this world by sin. But the application by the prophet and the Savior
was to the day then soon to come. The undying worm was in this world.
The worms that bred in the filth of "Gehenna" are made emblems of the
corruption of the sinful soul in this world; so Isaiah taught, and Jesus
quoted his language.
Strabo calls the lamp in the Parthenon, and Plutarch calls the sacred
fire of a temple "unquenchable," though they were extinguished ages ago.
Josephus says that the fire on the altar of the temple at Jerusalem was
"always unquenchable," abeston aie, though the fire had gone out
and the temple was destroyed at the time of his writing. Eusebius says
that certain martyrs of Alexandria "were burned in unquenchable fire,"
though the fire was extinguished in the course of an hour! The very
expression in English, which Homer has in Greek asbestos gelos,
(Iliad, i:599) unquenchable laughter.
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."
DESTROY SOUL AND BODY IN HELL
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the
soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in
Hell. Matt. x:28. "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 xii:5.
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. iii: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
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
"Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and
land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him twofold
more the child of Hell than yourselves." Matt. xxiii:15.
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.
THE DAMNATION OF HELL
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers! how can ye escape the damnation
of Hell?" Matt. xxiii:33.
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:
"Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes;
and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them ye shall
scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that
upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the
blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias,
whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you all
these things shall come upon this generation." Matt. xxiii:34. This was
long before prophesied by Jeremiah, (chapter xix:14, 15): "Then came
Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he
stood in the court of the Lord's house, and said to all the people, Thus
saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring upon
this city, and upon all her towns, all the evil that I have pronounced
against it; because they have hardened their necks, that they might hear
my words." Isaiah has reference to the same in chapter lxvi: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."
This explains the "unquenchable fire" and the "undying worm." They are
in this world.
SET ON FIRE OF HELL
"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 iii: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.
A careful reading of the Old Testament shows that the vale of Hinnom was
a well known and repulsive valley near Jerusalem, and an equally careful
reading of the New Testament teaches that Gehenna, or Hinnom's vale was
explained as always in this world. (Jer. vii:29-34: xix:4-15: Matt.
x:28) and was to befall the sinners of that generation (Matt. xxiv) in
this life (Matt. x:30) that their bodies and souls were exposed to its
calamities. It was only used in the New Testament on five occasions,
either too few, or else modern ministers use it altogether too much.
John, who wrote for Gentiles, and Paul who was the great apostle to the
Gentiles, never used it once, nor did Peter. If it had a local
application and meaning we can understand this, but if it be the name of
the receptacle of damned souls to all eternity, it would be impossible
to explain such inconsistency.
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 Jerusalem, 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."
In Excursus II, "Eternal Hope," he says the "damnation of Hell," is the
very different "judgment of Gehenna;" and Hell-fire is the "Gehenna of
fire". "an expression which on Jewish lips was never applied in our
Lord's days to endless torment". Origen tells us (c. Celsus vi:25) that
finding the word Gehenna in the Gospels for the place of punishment, he
made a special search into its meaning and history; and after mentioning
(1) the Valley of Hinnom, and (2) a purificatory fire (eis teen meta
basanon katharsin) he mysteriously adds that he thinks it unwise to
speak without reserve about his discoveries. No one reading the passage
can doubt that he means to imply the use of the word "Gehenna" among the
Jews to indicate a terminable and not an endless punishment."
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.
To the reader:
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
1 That all sin and sorrow shall end; and,
2 That sin and sorrow shall be inseparable.
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
"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