On Everlasting Punishment

“The Eternity of Evil.”

“Finding that great misconception prevails with regard to the views propounded in a course of sermons lately preached at Eaton Chapel, I think it well to give the following summary of them.

“1. Scripture declares that the ‘everlasting punishment’ of the wicked will consist of ‘everlasting destruction,’ after the infliction of ‘many ‘or ‘few stripes,’ according to their several deserts. The popular theory teaches that it will consist of everlasting pain.

“2. Scripture declares that God will ‘destroy both body and soul in hell.’ The popular theory teaches that He will destroy neither one nor the other; but preserve both of them alive for ever, in unmitigated agony.

“3. Scripture declares that ‘our God is a consuming fire,’ The popular theory teaches that He is only a scorching fire.

“4. Scripture declares that the c fiery indignation’ will ‘devour the adversaries.’ The popular theory teaches that it will do no such thing, but only torture them.

“5. Scripture declares that the wicked will perish ‘like natural brute beasts.’ The popular theory teaches that there will be no analogy whatever between the two cases.

“6. Scripture declares that whosoever ‘will save his life’ by unfaithfulness to Christ, shall ultimately ‘lose it’ in a far more terrible manner. The popular theory teaches that no man can lose his life more than once, and that ‘the second death’ is no death at all, but eternal life in sin and misery.

“7. Scripture declares that whosoever’ doeth the will of God abideth for ever.’ The popular theory teaches that every man will abide for ever, whether he does the will of God or not.

“8. Scripture declares that if we desire ‘immortality,’ we must seek it ‘by patient continuance in well doing.’ The popular theory teaches that every man possesses inherent indefeasible immortality, and what we have to seek for, is, that it may prove a blessing, and not a curse, to us.

“9. Scripture declares that’ the wages of sin is death.’ The popular theory teaches that it is eternal life in misery; in other words, that God will inflict upon impenitent sinners a punishment infinitely greater than what He has pronounced to be their due.

“10. Scripture declares that ‘the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ The popular theory teaches that eternal life is the common possession of all men, and that the gift of God, through Christ, is the privilege of spending it in holiness and happiness.

“11. Scripture declares that ‘the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.’ The popular theory teaches that they never will be destroyed at all, but that a portion of the universe will be specially set apart for the eternal exhibition of them in their fullest maturity.

“12. Scripture declares that Christ is to ‘reconcile all things to God.’ The popular theory teaches that all things will never be reconciled to God; that discord and disorder will never cease, but only be confined to one particular locality.

“13. Scripture declares that in Christ ‘all things consist.’ The popular theory teaches that a whole kingdom will ‘consist’ for ever, although not ‘in Him.’

“14. Scripture declares that ‘he that hath the Son, hath life; but he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life’; that ‘if we live after the flesh, we shall die, but if, through the Spirit, we mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live.’ The advocates of the popular theory, say, that the life of the believers and unbelievers, of natural men and spiritual men, must be of equal duration—that the doctrine of eternal happiness, and the doctrine of eternal misery, must stand or fall together—in other words, that if what scripture asserts be true, what it denies must be also true.

“I take my stand, therefore, on the plain, consistent, emphatic teaching of the whole bible, from beginning to end, as opposed to the ‘traditions of men,’ which have so grievously perverted it, and thereby obscured the glory of Christ, reduced to an unmeaning form the declaration that ‘God is love,’ produced a frightful amount of infidelity, robbed the law of its terrors, by making it threaten sinners with what they are sure will never be executed, incalculably weakened the saving power of the gospel, and damaged the believer’s whole spiritual constitution, by putting an unnatural strain upon it, that God never intended it to bear.

“The three or four passages that are thought to confirm the traditional view have been examined in a volume entitled, ‘The Glory of Christ in the Creation and Reconciliation of all Things ‘(Longmans), and been found either to entirely fail in lending it even the appearance of support, or to be but as dust in the balance against the overpowering weight of testimony on the other side.

“Samuel Minton, Incumbent of Eaton Chapel, Eaton Square.”

* * * * *

I see, as I have ever seen in like cases, simply Satan and the will of man, in the paper of Mr. M. on “The Eternity of Evil.” The accompanying inquiry,23 is in a different spirit; but it is a mere fallacy. The scripture does not merely teach that the “wages of sin is death,” though this be true; it states that after death comes the judgment—that is, that the whole proper final punishment of sin is after death. It never speaks of everlasting death; it does several times of everlasting punishment or torment. This no one can deny. That is, the facts are quite opposed to what the inquirer states. It does speak of everlasting destruction. But this proves, not that they cease to exist, but that destruction does not mean what they say, as it may last. And those who hold these doctrines admit it does last, and may a long time, for the everlasting destruction is at the coming of the Lord to be glorified in His saints (that is, at the beginning of their punishment, not at the end). That is, “destruction” does not mean their ceasing to exist. Adam was not threatened with never-ending torments! Quite true. Life, incorruptibility, and wrath from heaven (though gathered from a few passages in the Old Testament, and rightly) were not revealed and brought to light but by the gospel. The gospel does speak expressly of everlasting punishment. And everlasting (though accommodated to what lasts as long as the thing it is attached to—to what only ceases with the existence of the object spoken of) yet properly means eternal, always existing. We read of the “eternal God,” the “eternal Spirit,” and “eternal redemption,” and “eternal inheritance,” and “eternal life.” It means eternal, or everlasting; and eternal life and eternal punishment go together in Matthew 25, as of equivalent import as to the word ‘eternal.’ Any attempt to get rid of the force of this word, proves the will of him who attempts it, and nothing else. Further, the. same words are used as to torment and the existence of God. He lives “for ever and ever,” and they are tormented “for ever and ever,” Rev. 14:11.

1. As to the first statement of the accompanying paper, it is false. Scripture does not speak of everlasting destruction after the infliction of many or few stripes. It is simply false; it speaks of everlasting destruction from His presence, when Christ comes, and it speaks of many or few stripes at the same time—in Luke not after; proving quite the contrary—that destruction does not mean ceasing to exist.

2. Destruction does not mean causing to cease to exist. “The lost sheep of the house of Israel” is the same word. “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.” “Carest thou not that we perish? “Destruction cannot be everlasting, if it means causing to cease to exist. Indeed, it is not said (which I merely note to shew the carelessness of the writer) that “God will destroy both body and soul in hell,” but that He is able. Man can only kill the body. It is a question of power to be feared.

3. As to the third, it is clap-trap; and when Scripture is consulted, it proves the contrary. In Deuteronomy 4:24, God is a jealous God, a consuming fire, and Israel are destroyed (that is, perish off the land, and are scattered). They are destroyed, and perish, but do not cease to exist.

4. This, again, proves the idle inattention to Scripture on this weighty subject. If devouring adversaries means ceasing to exist, it is the end of sore punishment, and is the same result as for those who died without mercy. Yet it is “much sorer punishment”; that is, the whole principle of interpretation is careless and false.

5. As to this, the scripture never says anything of the kind. The people are compared to beasts, not the destruction. The word, too, itself is used here for moral corruption, shewing it does not mean mere ceasing to exist. Compare 1 Corinthians 3:17 in Greek.

6. As to this, Scripture says nothing of the kind. This is too bad, because Scripture speaks expressly of the second death, which is the lake of fire; that is, as far as language goes, that he does lose his life more than once. A second death is declared to be the torment of the lake of fire, not its termination; at any rate, a second death is a statement of losing life more, than once. I notice it to shew the extreme carelessness of assertion; for I do not believe that, in the full sense of ceasing to exist, life ceases in either case.

7. In saying he that does the will of God abides for ever, it is wholly in contrast with the fashion of this world, and there is no allusion to the wicked, good or bad; nothing is said about them. Elsewhere it is taught that they survive death, and are punished eternally.

8. It is false; it speaks of incorruptibility, which Scripture distinguishes from immortality; and in the passage, a state of glory is referred to, not the mortality, nor immortality, of the soul, neither of which is spoken of.

9. Of this I have spoken. It is dishonest, because all admit judgment comes after.

10. Eternal life and immortality are distinct things. Christ is eternal life (see 1 John 1), and God gives it us in giving Christ; nor is it ever said even to be in us, but in His Son; and so we have it. Eternal life is in the Son; and he that has the Son, has life. This the wicked have not. The angels are immortal, but they are never said to have eternal life. There is no such thought as that eternal life is the common possession of all men; there is, that men have immortal, undying souls— a very different thing.

11. It is a gross blunder. The punishment of the wicked is not the work of the devil; he is in the punishment himself.

12. This, again, is quite false. Destruction is a strange reconciliation! But it is not said. It is said, in Colossians, that God will reconcile all things to Himself, in heaven and in earth, by Christ. But in Philippians it is said that all things bow, in heaven and in earth and under the earth (infernal), shewing that there are things forced to bow which are not reconciled.

13. It is another blunder. All things are said to consist in Him now, or subsist by Him; and so, if this argument be of any avail, the devil and wicked men do so now—and may much more reasonably when presented. But it speaks of all as creatures simply being upheld in existence by Him, as they must be by God. There is no kingdom at all.

14. It proves simply nothing. It speaks of spiritual life. “He that hath not the Son, hath not life “; but he is fully alive now in this world; existence has nothing to do with the matter. All this is really trifling with Scripture.

But I have a word to add. The doctrine presented does not say all. I have not, according to it, an immortal soul, now or at all, but a mere animal life, such as a beast has, though superior in degree of intelligence. God, it may be alleged, could give eternal life to a beast. Be it so; but the beast cannot be responsible for sin while he is a beast, nor repent of what he had done; nor can I; nor can any atonement be made for it. Thus, with a pretended doctrine of eternal life and love and mercy, responsibility, repentance, and atonement disappear. This is wholly of Satan. Scripture everywhere teaches these truths; and I cite, as first distinctly establishing it, the case of Cain; Gen. 4:6, 7. The creation of man brings out as distinctly as possible, the difference of man’s position as to his soul; Gen. 1:24. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind.” And man is not included. “God saw that it was good.” It was the subject creation; man’s is taken up apart in verse 26, when man is created in God’s image, and after His likeness. And the manner is taught in chapter 2:7. He formed man out of the dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. That is, it was by a direct communication from God Himself that he became a living soul.

Hence we are declared, in Acts 17, to be the offspring of God. And the body is distinctly and expressly said to be mortal, in contrast with the soul, as in 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4, etc. And where it is said, “Be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do… Fear him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell.” The testimony of Scripture is express; “their [not, the] worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” It is not punishment, if there is no one to bear punishment; and the contrast with life leaves no ambiguity as to the force of everlasting.

There is a passage which illustrates this doctrine: “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.”

I can only briefly reply to what is before me. It is much more elaborately taught in other publications. Nor does it in any shape approve itself to a right-feeling mind. A hater of God, if immortal, must be miserable when time has ceased to be. Pure vengeance for a lengthened period on which is to perish is gratuitous misery. I admit fully this is no proof. It merely shews that what men may allege as better to attract may, when rightly viewed, repel as offensive.

The remarks of Mr. M. seem to me singularly weak and careless; but it is these I have to meet here. I know it is spreading; but so is infidelity in other shapes. I have had a good deal to say to the doctrine elsewhere. Responsibility and the atonement are lost, and must be so, wherever it is received. It is simply a work of Satan. It is infidelity even as to what man is; for in this case we are beasts with a bigger brain. The creation of man directly contradicts this.

23 “The bible teaches that ‘the wages of sin is death’; its general teaching is not endless pain, but everlasting death and destruction. Adam was not threatened with never-ending torments. Do favour me with your thoughts on this great subject.”