The Immortality Of The Soul;

An Enquiry Into The Meaning Of Words, The True Force Of Which Is Denied By Such As Reject The Immortality Of The Soul.

There is nothing new under the sun. The Jewish Mystics and Cabalists and the Gnostics of the second and third centuries (against which last Paul warns us, and who, though beginning earlier, were then fully developed) held the doctrine of the non-immortality of the soul and its end, just as heretics on these points do now. They were divided even into the same two classes as now; that is, some held that the soul died with the body, others that it would be cast into the fire afterwards on being judged, and then consumed. Not only so, but they founded their teaching on the same reasonings as to nephesh, psuche, chaia, and ruach, &c. It may be well therefore, after shewing the facts to be so, to examine the various words and ascertain their use in scripture, as well as that of some others sought to be employed to the same end.

The doctrine of Jewish Rabbis was not, as is evident, that of Jesus Christ being eternal life, or they would not have been Jewish Rabbis. But wherever they found it, basing it on the merit of works and keeping the law, as we may suppose, they taught that the higher spiritual life was a distinct thing from the animal life, and received at a distinct time. Their system is not uniform; more scriptural, but in many parts the same as our modern doctors, and the Gnostics completely so. The records of Jewish mysticism are comparatively of late date, but they record early opinions, many of which are found in early christian fathers, such as Origen, Jerome, and others, and in Philo and even Josephus. The Gnostics formed their systems in the same countries, Syria, and particularly Alexandria the great seat of all these opinions. My impression is that all these views came from the East. But I have not used research enough to verify this, nor is it necessary for the reader. My object is to meet from scripture the assertions of ancient and modern error in the present case by enquiry into the use of words.

The Jewish doctors distinguished three souls: the nephesh, the ruach, and the neshama. The nephesh they held, as our moderns also tell us, to be the animal soul, the soul by which the body lives; ruach is the spirit suited to the middle world; neshama that suited to the upper, and in which was the image of and union with God. Thus in the book Sohar26 we have: “Let a man sanctify himself and they shall sanctify him more, and when a man is sanctified with the holiness of his Lord, he is then clothed with a holy mind, which is the inheritance of the holy one, and then he becomes heir of all things, and such are called the sons of the holy blessed God, as is written in Deuteronomy 14:1, ‘Ye are the sons of Jehovah your God.’” This doctrine of the three souls or parts of man pervades the Sohar. Nephesh, the animal soul, is annexed to the body; the spirit to the soul, ruach to nephesh; and mind, the neshama or superior spirit, to the ruach. Some of them held that, if the child at least behaved well, having only the nephesh, he got the ruach at thirteen years and a day old, and the neshama at twenty or twenty-one: otherwise not. Some held there are those who never had any soul but the nephesh; others, that and the ruach; and others, again, the neshama also—and these would be with God. If they had only the nephesh, it remained in the grave with the body—ended with it.

There was another system, which Origen applied even to Christ, that the higher soul could not come into this world without taking a secondary soul, and so, consequently, the body.27 Indeed, according to him, they are born here according to their conduct in a previous existence. Josephus says the Pharisees held the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls. It would seem that this trinity of the soul was someway connected with their speculations about the Godhead, the Memra, Shekinah, and a tissue of irreverent absurdities, which I need not enter into here.

In all ancient mythology and tradition, heathen and Jewish, will be found the craving of the human mind after truths which revelation gives as in their perfection. Infidels have consequently alleged that these truths were borrowed from the traditions, than which nothing can be more false. They were the source of Arianism and Gnosticism, Universalism and Annihilationism. Thus Rationalists tell us that the doctrine of the lovgo", or Word, was derived from the Alexandrian or even Palestinian Jews. These had their Memra, those their lovgo"; and Philo speaks largely of it, and makes the visible world itself an expression, so to speak, of the lovgo", a living expression of it. But mark the real bearing of this. The reason was, that the supreme God could not by any possibility be in connection with matter. The mystic Rabbins held God for a kind of non-existence, because there was no such connection with what we hold to exist.28 Hence there was a secondary God, the lovgo", or Word, which partook of His nature but was not the Supreme, and He then revealed Himself and was in communication with the creature. Yet in general, matter (u{lh) was a thing evil in itself, a bond to the soul, and eternal too.

Now Christianity teaches the exact contrary of this doctrine of the lovgo" (word). The lovgo" is God—created everything; and the very essence of Christianity is the immediate personal connection, in incarnation, between God and the creature—God and man in one person. All the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” that Word which, in the beginning, was, when all began. In eternity He was God, and personally too with God. By Him was everything made, and the Father dwelt in Him and He was in the Father. “We know him that is true, and are in him that is true, in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” One of the striking facts of the First Epistle of John is that it is impossible to separate Christ and God. It is one Person, one Being. Thus, “And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (Chap. 2:28.) Whose coming? Clearly, Christ’s. Continue: “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” Of whom? Of God; and so it follows, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God… Beloved, now are we the sons of God.” Here, clearly, the person or being of whom he speaks is God. But continue: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” Here it is again Christ; for it is, “Christ our life shall appear.” And “He was manifested to take away our sins,” continues John himself. That is, the apostle, the Spirit of God, does take up, and in a great measure anticipatively, the question of the lovgo", and gives us the exact opposite to the Platonic and Alexandrian doctrines—the full divine truth, in answer to all the wanderings and speculations which the cravings of need and the glimmerings of tradition had led men’s hearts to suggest to themselves and systematize.

The other form these speculations took was wilder, if not worse. There was a plhvrwma, a fulness, of Godhead, which, in spiritual abstractions, of which depth, man, church, wisdom, and other scriptural subjects, formed part in male and female characters: an idea which entered into all Brahminical, Rabbinical, Egyptian, and Gnostic theology, the Egyptian being nearest to the Rabbinical. The plhvrwma was limited by o{ro" (boundary). The plhvrwma was within; outside was u{lh, or matter. The male and female of each pair were called suzuvgei", or yoked pairs. Sofiva (wisdom), one of the lower members of the plhvrwma, wanted to unite herself with, penetrate into by research, bavqo", or depth, the first origin of the whole plhvrwma. She got outside the limit (o{ro"), and hence this world, a mixture of matter and spirit. Christ, a new member of the plhvrwma, came out to disengage what was spiritual from what was material, and bring it back within the limit or o{ro". This branched out into a thousand forms and speculations useless to follow here. It connected itself with Manicheism in Persia, and reached on to the Bulgarians and Albigenses in France and Italy. But for a long time it was a great plague for the Church. They forbade to marry; commanded to abstain from meats. Christ had no real body (there was ,no atonement—could not be, if He was not a man). Abstinence and disengaging spirit from matter—that was really saving. This also the Spirit anticipated. The apostle John carefully tells us that confessing Jesus Christ come in flesh was essential to Christianity; that the Word was made flesh, that they had touched Him with their hands; and Paul, that all the fulness (plhvrwma) was pleased to dwell in Him; and He was not an aijwvn, as they were called, but that all the fulness (plhvrwma) of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily; that every creature of God is good and to be used with thanksgiving—marriage honourable in all.

It may be asked why I refer to all this. First, the divine perfection of scripture is interesting. It anticipated and met all the wandering speculations of the human mind. But there is another reason. The doctrines of the soul’s mortality and of annihilation have their origin in these speculations—were the doctrines of the Rabbis and Gnostics, of whom we have been speaking, and are met by the scriptures also. Some of the Rabbis, holding a little more to scripture, were not so far gone in their speculations as their fellow doctors and modern Annihilationists. They held that it was by the communication of the neshama, the highest kind of life, that man became a living soul; but that if he was not faithful, denied this life, he lost it.

I shall now give the passages from Rabbis and Gnostics which confirm what I have just said. First, the general idea from the Rabbins. Rabbi Abr. Seba says, “God has created three parts [souls] of men, the nephesh, the ruach, the neshama.” In another mystic book, “Three forms of souls are in men: the first, the neshama, the intelligent soul; the second, the ruach, the speaking soul; the third, the nephesh, the animal soul, which always lusts.” There are other passages to which I have already alluded, but these will suffice to give the idea. The doctrine was, as I have already remarked, largely developed in the mystic Jewish writers. There were rewards suited to each. The Gnostics added their notions as to the evil of matter. The fleshly (sarkikov") connected itself with the soul life (yucikov"); translated “natural man” in scripture, and “flesh.” For scripture, as I have said, meets all these questions, and gives the divine answer to them. Truth is one, but it meets consequently all error—all that is not truth. The simple soul has only need of the truth itself—thank God. But there is in it what meets gainsayers. So we read in Jude, “sensual [yucikoiv], not having the spirit.” The Gnostics treated the question according to their views of matter, using scripture of course. Man was uJlikov", material (uJlik—from u{lh, matter), coi>kov", from covo". (1 Cor. 15:47.) “The first man,” translated “earthly,” literally “of dust,” from Genesis 2:7; 3:19. Then ipvxtxdg, “having a soul,” and nvevfiartxdg, “spiritual.” But all this with them was man as man; for they held, as Origen and Grecian philosophers, that the spirit, or neshama, being from the upper world, could not be connected with matter without taking the cover or embodiment of a soul—a ruach, to speak with the Rabbins. This took then a nephesh, or animal soul and body. If this last soul (here was their religion) was not spiritually married to that above it, it remained a mere beast’s or animal life, and died. The mystic Rabbis and Gnostics were exactly on the same ground here as modern deniers of immortality.

My reader will now see why I have referred to all these views. We are now exactly on the ground of modern Annihilationists, and, as will be seen, of both classes of them; for they differed then as now. The mystic Rabbis say men who have only nephesh die simply. The nephesh goes down and remains in the grave: if it got united to the ruach, then it did not. “There is a garment,” they said, “which subsists and which does not subsist, is seen and is not seen; with this the psuche [animal soul, or nephesh] is clothed.” But the nephesh was not for them immortal, and where this only was there, the life of the soul was in the blood, and, as an infidel would draw from Ecclesiastes, “That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them. As the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they all have one breath. So that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; for all is vanity. All go unto one place, all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” That is, indeed, all that is seen “under the sun,” as to “the life of our vanity.” The Positivists, as one class of infidels are called, go no farther. They have not the sense to add with the Preacher, “Who knoweth the spirit of man? it goeth up on high; and the spirit of the beast? it goeth downward to the earth.” So one modern class believe death is simple death— ceasing to exist. If a man has not received the divine life, the neshama, his nephesh dies with his body like a beast. They have answered the “Who knoweth?” of the Preacher—have taken, as the Positivists, the ignorance they are in as a proof that there is nothing beyond it. The beast ceases to exist, and so does the man; nephesh is all one has, nephesh is all the other has, both go to dust alike. They lie in the hell like sheep: death gnaws upon them. The mystic Rabbis are found again and the ancient Gnostics. The nephesh has not put on the e[nduma ajfqarsiva", the garment of incorruptibility and immortality. It has gone down under death, and there it lies. So in the Clementina;, 3:20 (early Gnostic writings pretending to be Clement’s), on Genesis 2:7, he attributes to the breath of God, Qeou' pnohv, as an indescribable clothing of the psuche, its being able to be immortal.

But I shall be told that all do not hold this. They believe in resurrection, judgment, punishment, and then destruction, or, if preferred, as one of their teachers once put it, “the soul will lose its personality and individuality and pass off into its elements; for nothing is ever annihilated.” It is true there are the two classes, and so there were then. Hear the Clementinse, 3:6: “Those who have not repented will come to an end (toV tevlo"), by the punishment (kolavsew", the word in Matt. 25) of fire. They will be put out (extinguished), becoming extinct by eternal fire: puriV aijwnivw/ sbevsqente" ajposbesqhvsontai. Here is exactly the other class of modern Annihilationists, the intellectual and theological children of the mystic Rabbis, and the Gnostics of the early ages, the object of special warning on the part of the Spirit of God in the apostles Paul and John, as the special power of evil in these days.

If we examine scripture, we shall see it furnishes the simple truth, and, at the same time, by its statement of it, meets all these human wanderings. It speaks of nephesh, and ruach, and neshama, but it speaks in a way which, in a few sentences, sets aside all the speculations of men. In the leading text on the subject, the revelation of God on the subject, we read, God formed man (as a potter, vayizar) from the dust of the ground, and blew into his nostrils a breath of life (a nishmath chaia), and man became a living soul (nephesh chaia). Here we find that it was by God’s breathing this highest power of life from Himself that man became a living soul. He had formed his body before, as he saw good, and it was by the communication of life from Himself that He animated the form He had made. The animals had issued by His will from the earth. He had said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind [a nephesh chaia came forth (yozu)], and it was so.” Not so with man. God consults solemnly as to his creation, and resolves to make man in His image, after His likeness. So God created man in His image, and gave him dominion, and God blessed him, and God said to him and gave him to know his place, his food, the beasts’ food. He was the vessel of divine communications, as of the divine breath of life, and the object of divine counsels. He was to have a help meet for him, as an intelligent and affectionate and devout creature. God made a paradise, a dwelling for him, and for none else, gave him his easy and pleasant service, putting him into the garden.

But more than this, He put him into conscious relationship with Himself, as son of God, and put him under responsibility, giving him a law not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That would bring death in. The sea monsters were made to multiply themselves, beasts created after their kind; and we know they multiply] and it is enough. But not only God formed the human form, and animated it from Himself, of which there is no hint as to beasts, but He formed (builded) the woman too, by a mysterious process, which gave her a simple and the closest tie to the man—builded her, as the word is, Himself, and when He had, presented her Himself to Adam.

Man is said to be of the race—the offspring—of God (Acts 17:28); and Adam is called son of God. (Luke 3:38.) “In him we live, and move, and have our being,” and, though fallen, are still recognized as made after the image of God. (James 3:9.) So God, though He found him lost, could come down and walk in paradise and have intercourse with Adam. And it is the more important to recognize that he was fallen, because it gives the distinct and definite witness, that, though death had come in, man was still the responsible being he was before, having to say to God in a double way—the exercise of present government in the earth, and exclusion from God’s place of blessing and His presence.

The case of Cain shews us the same thing, the responsibility and its results being distinctly stated: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? if ill, sin (or a sin-offering, which I doubt not is the sense) lieth at the door.” Man’s relationship, and responsible relationship, with God is thus clearly placed before us. The whole history of scripture up to his rejection of Christ is the development of it. Sin, from the entrance of lust up to hatred of God, is as fully as sadly brought out. He had a soul capable of affections towards God; for it was found that the mind of the flesh was enmity against God. This, mark, was the unregenerate man, the man with only a psuche, a nephesh chaia, if they will have it so. He, God’s offspring, had a soul capable of feelings towards God in this relationship. Alas! enmity was his state.

But I am told that Hebrew will tell us wonders, and I have only to make some square Chaldaic letters and immortality disappears. Let us follow the scripture use of these Hebrew words. Now I think it will be found that neshama is the act of respiration, or breathing—if from God, in the power of the life in Him—but breathing. Ruach, spirit (but used for the Spirit of God, a wind, or other spirit, the spirit of man, or even of beast, in Ecclesiastes), is that by which man or beast breathes, the life which expresses itself in breathing. Hence, in the flood, all wherein was the nishmath ruach chaiim, the breath of the spirit of life, died, man or beast, all whose present life was sustained by breathing. Nephesh chaia is the actual result in a living individual. The man or beast doing this is a nephesh chaia, a living soul, any living animal, man or beast. And nephesh so fully gives the idea of what is individual (seen and known, moving about, represented to us by bodily presence) that it is used for a dead body, because the same once living form is there. An Israelite was not to profane himself by a dead body (nephesh), rightly so translated, but there is no neshama or ruach. So we should call dead relatives by their names and shew their corpses as themselves, though we well know there is no life in them. It is called nephesh meeth, a dead body, or simply nephesh. Priests were not to profane themselves by it unless for their nearest of kin.

But the scripture rejects the thought of the soul’s not living distinct from the body, where it uses nephesh properly for the soul of a man, as it does (see 1 Kings 17:21, 22), where Elijah prays that the child’s soul may return to him again, and the Lord heard him and it returned. On the contrary, but proving the same point, Paul says of Eutychus, “his soul is in him.” (Acts 20.) What the creation, therefore, affords us is the most careful elaborate distinction between man and other animals: they, by God’s will, springing up out of the earth to live by breathing, and being nephesh chaia, a living individual being with a body having breath, neshama, and a ruach, a life which lived by breathing; man having all this too, as every one on the face of the earth knows, without knowing Hebrew at all. But it teaches us that man got to be such on the earth in a totally different way from other living animals, namely, by God’s breathing from Himself into him, when He had formed his body of the dust, a breath of life, and thus he became a living soul. Hence he was the offspring (gevno", offspring, race, kind, generation, is the only true meaning of this word, and it is so used in Acts 17) of God, lived and moved and had his being in Him, and was in responsible relationship with Him, intelligently subject to a law, and alas! not only disobedient, but capable of hating God, of such an apprehension of Him as ought to have drawn out love, but from his moral state brought out hatred; capable of receiving communications from God as in nature and place in relationship with Him; and that he has, in fact, received these communications, and God has dealt with him as acceptable, if good, or, if sinful, the object of a provided sin-offering when in that natural state, no question of the gift of eternal life having been raised. The whole scripture proceeds on this ground exactly, where the gift of eternal life is not spoken of. That is a new thing given; but man is dealt with all through as a responsible being where it is not given, and this, whether (to use the first grand statement of it) you say, sin, or as I should a sin-offering, lies at the door. The death of Christ (though surely a means, and in fact a needed means of it) applies not to the gift of eternal life in the first instance, but to a responsible sinner, a child of Adam.

The Old Testament saints, however obscurely, did gather the truth of the subsistence of the soul after death, and the resurrection too: I admit obscurely; but they gathered it. Abraham looked for the city which hath foundations. The Preacher speaks of the spirit’s returning to God who gave it. The Psalms told of the King’s soul not being left in hades, nor His body seeing corruption; and in God’s presence fulness of joy (Ps. 16); and being satisfied when one awoke after God’s likeness. (Ps. 17.) Many suffered, looking for a better resurrection, to say nothing of Job’s hope shining through his wasting disease. And the Lord’s judgment is pronounced on the Sadducees, that they greatly erred, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God; and we read in Luke, not only there was a resurrection, but “all live unto God.” They are dead for man, they are not for God.

But eternal life, we are told, is “God’s gift in Christ,” and so only. Admitted fully. But first, then, let it be admitted that “eternal” emphatically means eternal; for otherwise, after the reception of eternal life, a man may as little have immortality as before; and after its reception even, in the scripture use of immortality, that is true; for mortal applies to his body, and it is only in resurrection that the saint ever puts on immortality. But that (the gift of eternal life in Christ alone) has nothing to do with the question of the immortality of the soul. It neither proves it nor disproves it, save only that, in a very vague way, it suggests immortality; because the gift of eternal life to a beast would make him a wholly new kind of being. Eternal life, though above and out of the reach of man’s responsibility, yet is connected with it. It is grace to a being capable of it, while remaining the same being, and dealt with on the footing of his previous responsibility. Were it given to a beast, it would have no connection at all with it as a being, nor have anything to say to its previous existence. It would be itself simply a new being. But while eternal life is a new gift to man, in Christ, and comes in Christ become man, yet it is fully connected with, and refers to, man as previously existing, is, by the word acting on his mind, heart, conscience, and, while a new thing, in itself, wholly acts in and connects itself with him to whom it is given, so that he remains the same person, and by it recognizes and takes notice of all that he was before, as a responsible and the same person. The “I” remains the same. The nature is acted on, and by it judged and condemned, and the “I” for so acting in it.

The gift of eternal life proves, as far as it goes, an immortal soul that has relationship to God, not a beast’s estate—“made to be taken and destroyed”—”the beasts that perish.” Indeed, why should such language as I here quote be used if man were just the same? But scripture does not so speak. It does express the darkness of man, who sees his present life disappearing and knows nothing beyond; but even then it carries him onward in thought and hope—cravings, not knowledge—that the spirit returns to God who gave it. It does not know, but asks “who knoweth the spirit of man? It goeth up above.” There is not knowledge here; there is the heaving desire of what was breathed from God—not the answer to it. Man had plunged himself in darkness. Death was there—what beyond? Hope, saintly confidence in God, a deliverer and a deliverance to come which would not leave believers without hope. But life and incorruptibility were brought to light by the gospel; they were not brought to light before (mind, he does not say, did not exist). The poor and shallow sophistry that would use this to say they began to be then must deny that saints had life from God, were born of God, or that Enoch and Elijah were other than fables, or exceptions to the truth as to others even in their souls, and say Abraham’s faith was vain, and that God was the God of the dead, not of the living. They were brought to light then in the gospel revelation, because they were there to be brought to light, though the incorruption had only been wondrously exhibited, the life dimly apprehended, though certainly there, and not the subject of the immediate government and revelation of God. In Christ life has become the light of men; and we have the light of life, we do not walk in darkness.

But I am told, God only has immortality. Undoubtedly. But if this use be made of it, the saint has not it. The angels are mortal too. But both statements are clearly unscriptural: see Luke 20:36, not to cite other passages. It is not therefore what the passage means. It is a false use of it. God only has, possesses, immortality in Himself independently. But we—all men, live, move, and have their being, in Him who is so. None of us have it independently in ourselves. All things subsist in Him. But whether a being is perishable or not by His creation is a question of fact. The angels do not die. God only possesses in Himself immortality. On the other hand, qnhtov" (mortal) is never applied to the soul, always to the body, as Romans 6:12; 8:11; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 5:4; 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54, and (which is the important point here) man is mortal when he certainly has eternal life and his soul will never die. Mortality applies to his body. He is only called mortal in the New Testament, when, by the confession of all, he has a life which can never die. That is, mortality does not apply to his soul at all, as used in the New Testament, where the truth is brought to light. So as to death: in the Old Testament it is applied to the fact of dying, and generally darkness lies beyond.

It is sought to use “The soul that sinneth it shall die” as meaning that the soul shall die after death, or, as the out-and-out Annihilationists would say, in death itself. These last fly in the face of scripture, because, to say no more of it, after death comes judgment. But if it is not in death, then death does not mean ceasing to exist—as, in fact, it never does—but ceasing to exist in the way and relationship men were living in. Of the second death we will speak farther on. Man ceases by death to be a nephesh chaia—a living soul and body in this world, and becomes, as to this world, a nephesh meeth—a dead body, or body of death.

But, if we turn to the passage in Ezekiel where the expression is found and whence it is taken, we shall see that it has nothing to do with the death of the soul as apart from the body, but a man’s death as living in this world. Such a use of soul for person is common now. I say, It is a town of fifteen thousand souls. Who misunderstands me? Israel complained that they were in trouble and cut off for their fathers’ sins, that the fathers had eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth were set on edge (Ezekiel 18:2), and, such was the law, the son bore the iniquity of the father—the iniquity of the father was brought upon the children. This should no longer be done. As the soul of the father, so the soul of the son was Jehovah’s. The soul that sinned, it should die. A devout father had a wicked son: “Should he live? (ver. 13) he shall not live; he hath done all these things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.” So when the righteous turned away from his righteousness and committed sins, he should die in them. As the Lord said, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” “Our father” (says the daughters of Zelophehad, Numb. 27) “died in the wilderness; he died in his own sin.” But with a wicked father, “if the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.” “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his ways and live?” So if the righteous turn from righteousness, in his sins that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

What light may be thrown on the final result by the New Testament is another question. But in Ezekiel what is spoken of is a man belonging to this world dying in his sins. Death never means ceasing to exist. It is used for other things than physical death. The woman that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. The believer has passed from death unto life. He who loves the brethren has passed from death unto life. That is, when applied to the soul, it has nothing to do with ceasing to exist, but separation of the soul from God, as a state of a soul which was alive as to existence, not possessing divine life, but as much alive as a being as when he had. So Romans 7 (10, and verse 24) teaches us the same truth. Paul found the commandment to be to death; but he was just as much alive, as to existence, as ever. The sin unto death is physical death. In a word, death means either simple physical death as we see it, or separation from God—not having divine life—when a man is alive.

We have now to see if physical death is the extinction, or even the sleep, of the soul. And, further, we must search the New Testament, where these things are brought to light. First, it is stated that all live to God. This is given as a general principle, when the living state of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is declared to the Sadducees, who held annihilation doctrine. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Thus far it may be reasoned that it only applies to the saints, whose God God is. The Lord therefore adds “For all live unto him.” It is a general truth, not merely applicable to Abraham and those that had his faith. It is true of all: pavnte" gaVr aujtw'/ zw'sin. And this, the more important because the .Lord is speaking of saints. For, though they were born of God, He does not rest the truth of even their being alive on that, but says “God is not the God of nekrw'n, but of zwvntwn”—not of dead men or bodies, but of living persons. What is the great principle on which it is founded?—“For all live unto him.” No one is really dead as regards God. Accordingly, the Lord charges His disciples not to fear them that can kill the body and have no more that they can do, but Him who, after He has killed, can cast into hell. That is, death is positively declared not to be the end or cessation of existence. Death means “men killing the body,” and no more. Killing (ajpokteivnw. Qanatovw is more to have a person put to death, as in a persecution, or judicially) and death are fully correlative, as may be seen in Romans 7. Further, the parable of Dives and Lazarus plainly pictures the same truth. Death is no ending of existence for wicked more than for just. Hades was known to the Jews, and hades was owned of the Lord as true.

And this leads me to the question: Is the state after death, for just or unjust, a state of unconsciousness? Is the soul asleep? The reader has the answer from Luke 16 already. But a word more. It is never said nor hinted that the soul sleeps after death. That is all a fable. Death is called sleep, or falling asleep, as to the just. But there is not the most distant suggestion that the soul sleeps. When Christ told His disciples “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth,” He explained the word: Lazarus ajpevqane, has died. “He spake,” we are told, “of his death,” not of his state after death. Falling asleep is a man living in this world’s dying, not his state after dying. Stephen fell asleep, not Stephen’s spirit, which surely was received up by Christ, as Christ’s had been by the Father. Did He cease to exist, or was He unconscious?

Again, the Lord said to the thief, replying exactly to the point in question, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Did that mean he should go to sleep and know nothing? Paul thought it far better to depart and be with Christ. Did that mean, go fast asleep and know nothing? To be absent from the body and present with the Lord—which meant, that he should be fast asleep and not know whether the Lord was there or not! I have said the thief’s case applies directly to the point. The thief, in his bright faith owning Christ to be King when all had forsaken Him, asked, thinking only of this, that the Lord would remember him when He came in (not into) His kingdom. The Lord’s answer is “You shall not wait for that happiness. I have a heavenly place for my people’s souls meanwhile: to-day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Which means, I promise you, you shall be fast asleep and know nothing till the kingdom comes! Are we to be mocked with such interpretations?

Finally, the rich man in hades and the poor man in Abraham’s bosom were very far from being asleep. We are told it is only a picture on Jewish principles. No doubt; but it is the Lord’s picture, who meant to teach us by it, and certainly not that the dead are fast asleep, but just the contrary.

But we are told it is in the second death they are extinct. But this destroys itself, for then death does not mean ceasing to exist; for if death meant ceasing to exist, there could be no second death, for the being would have ceased to exist in the first. It is all a fable, so using death. Christ has died. The saints have died, just as truly as the wicked. They may have a life the wicked have not, but they have as truly died, and they have not become extinct nor ceased to exist. And if the wicked undergo a second death, death does not mean ceasing to exist; for they died the first death, and did not cease to exist, for they have to undergo the second. But then, we are told, the second will be—not because it is death, we have seen. And we must look to scripture to see if that is meant by the second death (i.e., if ceasing to exist is what is meant). It teaches the contrary. Men at the final judgment are cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. The second death is the punishment of the lake of fire—not that punishment’s ceasing by the punished ones ceasing to exist. The punishment destroys them, we are told, as the Clementine Gnostics had told us before. But then, the lake of fire, the punishment, is the second death, not their ceasing to exist so that the punishment ceases. “They have their part in the lake of fire, which is the second death,” existing there in it, having their part in it, is the time they are in the second death. Their part is not said to be punishment’s ending by death, but the actual punishment of the lake of fire. So the devil that deceived the nations was cast into the lake of fire, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. There is no word of the close of their existence and of torment being the second death. It is the punishment itself, of the lake of fire, which is so called—the outer darkness, where are weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This naturally leads me to the word eternal (aijwvnio"). We are told it does not mean eternal. If I go out of scripture, I find the fullest proof that it means eternal.29 Aristotle defines it, aijeVn (w[n, always existing. I have found several others, but I quote only one passage from Philo, because it is so directly to the point, and is the Greek used at the time of our Lord: ejn aijw'ni deV ou[te parelhvluqen oujdeVn ou[te mevllei ajllaV movnon uJfevsthke—in eternity nothing is either past or to come, but only subsists —it is proper eternity. What we have then to look to is how aijwvnio", the adjective, is used in scripture.

Now I say that the word regularly means in scripture “eternal,” in the sense of contrast with any period of time. “If our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:1.) “To whom be honour and power everlasting.” (1 Tim. 6:16.) “The God of all grace, who hath called us to his eternal glory.” (1 Peter 5:10.) “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:9.) “Having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb. 9:12.) “They which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Heb. 9:15.) “Who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God.” (Heb. 9:14.) “For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18; Rom. 16:26), which is conclusive. Now these suffice to shew that the regular meaning of aijwvnio", in its own plain and absolute sense, is eternal. Where it is used of punishment, in Matthew 25, it is in purposed and expressed contrast used of life: the one have eternal life, the others eternal punishment. The duration of the punishment of the wicked, and of the life of the just, are expressed by the same identical term—I may add, that of the existence of God Himself; and this term, put in contrast elsewhere with all that has a temporary duration, so that I do not see how it could be stated more plainly.

But we do not escape these efforts to elude what is plain, even by this. Punishment, we are told, does not mean punishment. It means pruning, or I know not what, cutting off a branch—kovlasi" is the word. It is used in one other place in scripture: “Fear hath torment.” Its scriptural sense is torment. So in a passage I have quoted from the Clementina;, it is used as torment. And that is its meaning—punishment or torment. This, according to this verse, is eternal, not temporal. But the verb kolavzw (punish) is found elsewhere in the New Testament. “Finding nothing how they might punish them.” (Acts 4:21.) “Reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished.” (2 Peter 2:9.) This is the plain sense of the word.

But the word “destroy” also is referred to, to shew that, though the punishment is everlasting, the punished are not—a thing hard for a simple mind to understand. For if there remain none to be punished, it is hard to conceive how punishment remains. Hard to suppose that where the Lord uses the figure “their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched,” they die, or cease to exist, though the worm and the fire remain, though it be their worm that does not die. Still we will see if destroy means what is said. It is very hard to understand “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” to mean that nothing exists. What is out of the presence of the Lord? What is everlasting destruction? If a thing ceases to exist, and destruction means that, it cannot be everlasting. But the truth is, on their own shewing, the passage has not this sense at all. For this happens at Christ’s appearing, at the beginning of the millennium, when there is no destruction in their sense of it at all. They are punished with destruction, but in that destruction they still subsist, as is admitted. It is the time of weeping and gnashing of teeth in outer darkness. (Matt. 13.) That destruction is everlasting in which the punished ones subsist.

But the word does not mean the ceasing to exist. The angel of the bottomless pit is called Apollyon, or Abaddon, the destroyer, in Greek and Hebrew words. But he can destroy nothing. It is written, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help.” “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” “Destroy not thy brother with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” “And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish?” “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” “Zacharias perished between the temple and the altar.” “Carest thou not that we perish?” “The scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him.” “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” “Art thou come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24.) In Matthew is an analogous case. They say, “Art thou come to torment us before the time?” This was in the bottomless pit. But Satan, we read, is tormented in the lake of fire “for ever and ever”—the term used for the existence of God. In Matthew 10:39, “He that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them”—confessedly here no ceasing to exist. 1 Timothy 6:9, “Foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” “They perish in the gainsaying of Core.” “So the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.”

The word then is used for ruin, moral or physical. It is false to say it means simply a ceasing to exist. It may mean a ruin of the state in which a thing existed. Hence the driving a human being from the Lord’s presence, or his present state of alienation from it; and it is so used. I doubt if a single passage could be found which proves it means causing to cease to exist.30 I have known Annihilationists object to the name, because nothing can be annihilated. But if so, their whole theory falls to the ground. It is merely making a physical thing of the soul, dispersed then into its elements, instead of moral ruin, for which, as to the soul, the word is certainly used, as we have seen. I have cited passages where ajpovllumi, ajpwvleia, and o[leqron are used. The root is all the same. The statements made on these subjects set aside one another. If death be ceasing to exist, there can be no judgment after. It is in vain to say they are raised; for if they have ceased to exist, there is no one to raise. Nor can punishing or destruction, in the sense of ceasing to exist, come afterwards.

My object has been, to go through the words by which, or as to which, Annihilationists seek to puzzle simple minded Christians —not to reason out the subject. I add only two or three words to shew why their fair words and smooth speeches do not attract me, where they seem fairest. We have seen that the morally dead and the lost may be alive, and that scripture so speaks. But if the soul be simply mortal with the body, and there is no life out of Christ; beyond this, where do sinners get the life they are punished in till burned out? It must be from Christ, for creation has not given it to them. That is, they get (not their wicked life in which they are fallen and enemies to God, but) a new life of Christ in which to be punished in another world! I do not see the moral sense or attractiveness of this doctrine.

Further, I understand an immortal soul that is at enmity with God and excluded from Him, though once formed to own Him, being for ever miserable. But why God, out of pure pleasure, should keep alive a soul to torment it for a time, only to burn it out at the end, for no possible effect, I cannot conceive. It does not alarm men now. For to tell them that they will simply perish in the end, and it is “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” — the infidel finds it a very comfortable and reasonable doctrine. It is in vain to say, it is not honest to say, that men fear total destruction and perishing more than anything; for its advocates resist eternal punishment because it is dreadful to think of. They know it is not the same thing. No doubt man does not like dying or perishing in itself as to this world, where he is alive, but to end in a future one, where there is only torment, he likes very well.

My horror of this doctrine is its weakening our sense of the nature of sin, of our responsibility, and of the atonement. If sin means eternal exclusion from God’s presence, it is dreadful enmity against God now, exclusion from God then. If death is the only wages of sin, Christ had no more to suffer for me. Nay, if I am a Christian, He had nothing to suffer, if I die before the Lord comes. I have paid the wages myself. If it be only some temporary punishment I had incurred, He had only that to bear. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” has lost its force. It is in vain to say, He gives us life. He can, in itself, quicken without dying. If He died, He died for my sins, and bore them. If death be the wages, millions of saints have paid them. And if a partial punishment be all I had to bear, it is all Christ had to bear. The sense I have of sin and its desert is not, being forsaken of God, shut out from Him when I can know what it is, but a temporary punishment, a quantum of offence, which is all I have to think of, and all Christ had to bear, if anything.

It is alleged, I have been told since I wrote this, that there is another view held, namely, that the soul, having its life in Christ, is in Christ when a man dies, and is, so to speak, lost in Him, and then at the resurrection becomes a conscious person again. This is a mere notion and a foolish one too. It destroys, not consciousness nor has anything to do with sleeping, but personality. It applies only to saints, and as to them is in direct violation of the testimony of scripture, which attributes personality to the saints when gone hence. “To-day shalt thou be with me.” There are the distinct persons present with the Lord. There must be a distinct person to be present with the Lord. And so with other texts. That our life is hid with Christ in God (the only allusion to an idea approaching it in scripture) proves, as far as it goes, the contrary; because it is spoken of saints living on the earth, where their personality is unquestionable. But the best answer to it is, it is a mere human invention. In the hiding in God we are associated with Christ. He also now is hid in God—I suppose a conscious person; and it is in contrast with our appearing to others when He appears, not to any living personality in which we enjoy His presence. It is, we have seen, spoken of our present state, when living personality is unquestionable.

There is another word I have omitted to notice, basanivzw, and basanismov", torment. This, we are told, comes from a Lydian stone used to test gold. Very likely; but the conclusion that therefore the words, when passed into common use, meant “to prove,” and not to torment,” is simply false. Thus Matthew 8:6: “My servant lieth sick, grievously tormented.” What has that to do with the lapis Lydius? 2 Peter 2:8: “He [Lot] vexed his righteous soul.” In Revelation 9:5 the verb and the noun are used for the torment of a scorpion’s sting. Matthew 14:24: “tormented by the waves.” So of the men—Mark 6:49—shewing how the etymological meaning was wholly forgotten for the fact of torment. Revelation 14:11: those who worship the beast are tormented for ever—have no rest. Revelation 18:15: we read of Babylon’s torment; chapter 20:10, the devil is tormented day and night. Is he put to the proof as gold by the lapis Lydius? Matthew 18:24: the unforgiving servant delivered to the tormentors. The attempt to deny that basanismov" (because that in its etymology it is borrowed from the lapis Lydius) means torment, in the ordinary sense of the word, is a mere fraudulent effort to pervert the plain fact.

There are a number of Hebrew words out of which something has been attempted to be made, in one tract I have seen, as acharith tikvah, opker, etzem and otzem, tzelem, and others; but what is said of them does not really deserve any notice. It astounds somewhat a person who has the smallest acquaintance with Hebrew, or can use a dictionary and concordance. But I recall the reader’s attention to the fact, that “this mortal” is said distinctly of the body, not of the soul: “this mortal shall put on immortality,” “our mortal bodies,” and the like; that consequently we read of killing the body, and having no more that they can do. We read of God as the “Father of spirits,” “the God of the spirits of all flesh,” and that formeth the spirit of man within him. The fact that the angels do not die and are not mortal is the plain proof that it is a false use of God only having immortality, using it to prove men have not immortal souls; for the same argument would prove angels were also mortal—which is false. But of this I have spoken. It is immortality in and of Himself.

It has been attempted to say, there is no appeasement of wrath with God. The words iJlavskesqai, iJlasmov", iJlasthvrion, all have exactly this sense. They meet the qualities or attributes in God which are necessary and must be maintained or He is not God as He is (or not God at all), to maintain what He is, His holiness and righteousness. But He is supreme in love.

I press too on my reader, that when a man receives eternal life, he takes notice of all his past evil and sin as that for which he is responsible. If a beast received eternal life—and the theory makes animal life the same in all—could a beast hold himself responsible for all his previous conduct as a guilty, responsible soul? Are they to be judged as in their nature capable of guiltily rejecting Christ? If not, the whole theory is a disgraceful fraud on our minds. If ajqanasiva was literally, as to the fact, to be applied only to God when Paul wrote it, then the saints who had got eternal life had no immortality even then, or else mortality applied only to their bodies, which is the fact in scripture; for, as I have said, the saints are spoken of as mortal, like the rest. Thus it is evident that “mortal,” “corruptible,” “death” applies to the state in which we are down here as men living on the earth, where death is entered by sin, and to the separation of soul and body. It is, as scripture speaks, killing the body, and has nothing to do with the soul. A person who in his soul has eternal life has not ajqanasiva more than another—has still to put it on. That is, it has nothing to do with the dying nature of the soul, or the contrary. It means that it cannot cease to exist in the state in which it exists at present; not that it has it in itself as God, but that it is its condition by His will. What puts on immortality is what was liable to death—this body, which could be killed in a saint as in a sinner, for the saint lives because Christ lives; his soul cannot die more than Christ now; yet he is as mortal as the sinner; and so, in fact, did Christ die. Did He cease to exist, or did He not truly die? Does it cease to be true that God “only hath immortality” when we are raised, for then we certainly have ajqanasiva?

When I find all these efforts to falsify the use of words, I know the source of this doctrine, and that no lie is of the truth.

26 I make use of Gfrörer in all the Jewish part of my subject, the only one I can at this moment refer to.