Human Destiny

by Alan Burns

Part  One

Am I a mere passing flash in the universal pan--a transient spark struck off on the anvil of Chance--an accident in the realms of Space? Have I just "happened?" or am I instead the partial fruition of some great design--a finite expression of an infinite thought, atomic in proportions, divine in grand potentiality? If there be a "Power not ourselves" behind the phenomena of creation, have I a place in His purpose? Have I been included in the wide sweep of His extensive plans? or am I of as little consequence to Him as is the dust upon the chariot-wheel, or the mote in the sunbeam's path? Such is the problem as it affects the individual; and full evidence of its universal interest may be found in the never-ceasing attempt to dissolve those mysteries which hide its solution from the eyes of men, as also in the case with which priestcraft has gained its unholy ascendancy through claiming a special knowledge of, and power over, such matters.

When we rise from the problem as it affects the individual to the problem in its relation to the race, the sheer immensity of the question stuns us. The mere thought of an ocean of souls sweeping with unceasing flow over the falls of death makes us realize how impotent we are to find a solution of the enigma through a mere process of logic.

Such problems are the heritage of every man; and every religion which men have followed, and every philosophy which has engaged the mental powers of humanity, owe their existence to the pressure with which such problems have borne in upon the human heart. Religion--the manmade kind--need not even be considered by us here; in its most presentable forms it is but a pious agnosticism--a devout ignorance. Religion seeks for feeling: Philosophy knowing; but neither the head nor the heart are competent in themselves to grapple with the problem of destiny. Philosophy must necessarily prove itself inadequate for the task, for it has nothing from which to reason as a starting-point, and beginning nowhere it naturally ends nowhere. Philosophy being nothing more than a comparison of possibilities, ending in the selection of the most probable, cannot ever hope to attain to assured certainty. From such broken reeds we gladly turn, and all the more gladly since God has not left us like

"Orphans crying in the night;
Orphans crying for the light;
And with no language but a cry!"

He has graciously revealed Himself, and in His word has given us all necessary knowledge concerning "things to come."

In Christianity alone can we find the solution of this great mystery. Its teachings bear no trace of the labored speculations of the Philosophers. Its assertions have no affinity with the rash dogmatism of mere cultured guesswork. Its pronouncements have the finality of truth. It lifts the veil between things present and things to come without the slightest vestige of that timidity which naturally springs from uncertainty of mind. It pushes materialism aside as being nothing but the weird fancy of disordered brains and callous hearts, shows that man is more than a product of blind forces with an origin in the unknown and a destiny in chaos, and instead traces his genesis to the God of a love which knows no ending, a patience which never wearies, and a wisdom able to overcome every obstacle with which rebellious wills would seek to thwart His purposes of grace. It declares that this earth is not a whirling speck of matter severed from all other spheres of being, but rather that its past and future are intimately linked with the history and destiny of all other worlds, and that instead of its being--like a straw in a whirlwind--the sport of gigantic forces, is guided on its onward course by the Finger of God to a place of government and rule in the reconstruction of the Universe. Nor must we imagine that the plans of the Creator include merely the majority of men, for the God of the surplus sparrow will have no ultimate "waste" in the fulfillment of His will.

But the truth of Christianity and the theories of Christians are not synonymous terms, and as we are about to examine the latter the question as to how we may distinguish the true from the false here presents itself, or if every theory contains something of the truth then we must determine how we may separate those elements we should accept from those we should reject. If we bear in mind that there is in truth a symmetry between its parts, then we shall find that harmony is one of the best tests we can apply to any doctrine submitted to us for examination. If a belief does not harmonize in full with the teaching of Scripture, and the revealed character of God, or if it emphasizes one of God's attributes so as to exaggerate it over His other perfections, then it must be more or less untrue. In reading a poem if there is not a perfect balance maintained between the different lines we become aware of its imperfection of the lack of rhythm which it betrays, and we know that the meter has been thrown out of balance either by the presence of a superfluous syllable, or the absence of a necessary one. God is the great Poem of the Universe, and His ways are but the poetry of His attributes in their activity. When, therefore, we seek to translate His ways into the terms of doctrinal statement, and our translation betrays a lack of the poise and balance belonging to His perfections, we know that such lack of harmony owes its existence to our having put into our statement something that should have been left out, or having left out something we should have put in.

In studying the theories of human destiny, instead of finding this symmetry and balance in them, we find the reverse: and, as this doctrine does not stand alone but is intimately connected with such vital subjects as the atonement, etc., we are not surprised to find that incongruity here has transmitted itself to these other articles of faith. And we may consequently expect that clearness of vision in one of these doctrines must exert a clarifying influence on our views in regard to those other subjects.

The importance of the doctrine of human destiny may also be inferred from the fact that so many departures from the Christian faith owe their existence to a revolt of conscience against those dogmas we call "traditional." Much of the deplorable teaching in regard to such doctrines as Inspiration is but the result of a revulsion against intolerable conceptions of God. If we can show that Scripture gives us a view of God marvelous in its perfect harmony, and altogether foreign to the caricatures of the Creeds, then we shall have deprived Error of the main apology for its existence.*
[*It is not denied that in many the apostasy is due to a moral antagonism to evangelical truth, with which we cannot have the slightest vestige of sympathy, but this should not blind us to the fact that with others the departure from traditional views arises rarely from intellectual difficulties. The latter class call for sympathy rather than caustic stricture.]

Without further preface we will proceed to the examination of the principal theories which men have held, and still hold, in relation to the future life.

Part  Two

AN exhaustive examination of the doctrine before us would require more space than could be profitably allotted to it in the pages of a magazine. The reader must therefore be prepared for a suggestive, rather than an exhaustive treatment of the subject; and not be disappointed should he find here but seed thoughts requiring mental effort in their proper development.

We cannot rise from nature up to God; nor can we ascend from theory to truth. When we know God, then we can descend to an intelligent and enjoyable knowledge of nature, for then we have the key which unlocks the mysteries of the material world; similarly, when we possess truth we are in a position to analyze theory, for only then can we accurately discriminate between the various elements of which each and every theory is composed.

There is no truth (as held by man) entirely free from error, nor any error altogether devoid of truth; indeed, not a few doctrines which we call false are but grotesque truths-orthodoxies become heretical by distortion, exaggeration, or under-statement. The theory of everlasting punishment is no exception. It has elements of truth without a doubt, elements which have never failed to commend themselves to such as are "spiritual;" but, because other of its elements are "carnal," or earth-born, these latter have ever been the producing causes of heart-pain and soul-misery, the entire doctrine being accepted, nevertheless, supported as it apparently is by what purports to be a translation of the words of God, but which in reality is merely a transcription of certain theories of the translators. This is no reflection upon the personal integrity of the translators, nor upon the general excellency of their version, their work being referred to only so far as it touches upon the subject of human destiny. The truth of this will become evident as we proceed.

The dogma of endless torment rests upon a threefold basis, viz.,


These are the three main props of an unsound doctrine, the strength of each depending to a large extent upon its fellows. We shall see how they bear the test of investigation.

(1) ASSUMPTION. Speculation--the mother of assumption--has, of course, no power for either good or evil in itself, it being simply a wild hazard at possible truth--drawing the bow at a venture, as it were; but when erroneous speculation crystallizes into unquestioned dogma, when its assumptions are foolishly and blindly accepted as incontrovertible fragments of absolute. Truth, then it acquires an authority, and wields a tyrannous despotism, to which it can advance no rightful claim. The baneful effects of such folly may be found in abundance in the sphere of Science, where learned men have fathered not a few absurdities and, on the discovery of their mistakes, have attributed them to this very practice of accepting certain assumptions as being so obviously true as to require no proof. Many a scientific dogma has collapsed the moment its assumptive basis was called in question.

Taking things for granted, receiving without question certain propositions the truth of which is supposedly self-evident, has produced its own evil harvest in the domain of Theology. Thus, having preconceptions as to what God cannot be, we interpret every Scripture which declares what He is in such a way as will not conflict with those pre-conceptions of ours; having assumed that Heaven cannot be this or that, we read every Biblical reference to it in the light of these suppositions; having affirmed that the only way the saint can leave the world is through death, we explain (?) every allusion is the Second Coming in harmony therewith. The Church has found to its sorrow that its assumptions in regard to these and kindred subjects have been but so many barriers and obstacles in the way of entering into the mind of God on such topics, and that real progress only commenced with a serching criticism of theories we had brought to Scripture, rather than derived from it. But we have been slow to question the assumptions on which the dogma of endless torment is founded, assumptions just as gratuitous as those which have hindered progress in the other subjects referred to.

Now when Scripture describes the duration of punishment it does not do so in terms expressive of eternity. The Greek language was not without terms descriptive of endlessness, but the Holy Spirit, in revealing the truth of God, persistently refused to use those terms in connection with either sin itself, or its consequences. Instead of those terms--terms which man unquestionably would have employed--the Spirit of God made use of others, denoting not endless but age-long duration. Whether the "ages" are eternal or not is a question which obviously cannot be determined by the word itself. In order to settle this point appeal must be made to that which alone can define the meaning of words, i.e., usage.

Just at this point we would mention one of the self-evident axioms of literary interpretation, namely, that to understand the scope of a writer's terminology we must study--not some other author's usage, but--the usage of that particular writer whose meaning we would obtain. If the writer himself defines the sense, and points out the limitations attached to the words he employs, then it would be sheer idiocy to try and force upon them the sense which other writers may have attached to their use. If Aristotle was the author of the New Testament Epistles, then Aristotelian usage would define New Testament terms; but, seeing that Paul was the Apostle whose pen was used in their production, common-sense itself demands that we consult the Pauline usage.

Had Paul's use of words been studied, the assumption that the age-times are eternal would never have been made. Had that assumption not been made, the dogma of endless torment would never have been foisted upon the Church of God; but once made the sluice-gates were opened to admit a torrent of semi-philosophical trash into the crystal stream of Bible truth. It is our urgent duty to filter out the adulterations as rapidly and as thoroughly as we can, depending on our gracious God for the ability necessary in such an important ministry.

As this--the definition of terms--is an important point, we will be pardoned for repeating ourselves a little. What the writer desires to emphasize is, that even if it were granted that Grecian philosophers conceived the ages and eternity as being synonymous terms, that would not prove that Christian writers intended to convey Pagan conceptions, especially when the New Testament use of the terms forbade such a supposition. To say that because Christian writers and Heathen philosophers employed the same terms they must therefore have used them with exactly the same associated ideas, is equivalent to saying that because this term "aions" was used to describe personal emanations from Deity--beings midway in station between Creator and creature-—that consequently Paul taught the same Gnostic ideas when he also employed that word.

The theory that the ages are eternal is the main assumption on which the dogma of endless torment rests, being always appealed to in fact as the final "proof" of every other assumption it contains. Think of appealing to one error in order to prove others! Imagine a heretic appealing to heterodoxy in order to prove his heresy! A chain, we are told, is only as strong as its weakest link. This link in error's chain is not only weak, but FRAGILE.

Hitherto we have considered the purely assumptive basis on which the dogma of eternal torment is founded. God said this, but as men thought He meant that, they found no difficulty in omitting the words He used, and employing instead such words as they felt sure He meant to use! Alas for the day when Theology undertook to correct Revelation!

It is now in order to mention some other assumptions which have given to this dogma whatever consistency it possesses. Proving these assumptions false we destroy its consistency; and, its consistency destroyed, further belief in it is an affront to both revelation and reason.

The ideas of endless torment and the soul's inherent immortality are closely related; endless pain being impossible apart from conscious endless existence. And it is in keeping with this, that if men derived their doctrine of the ages from Aristotle, they should derive their doctrine of immortality from Plato. They are therefore related in their being so dependent on each other, as well as in having their sources amongst the Gentiles, to whom without a doubt the Oracles of God were not entrusted.

The supposition that immortality is the birthright of the natural man, without any reference to his moral fitness for such a priceless treasure, is one absolutely foreign to Biblical revelation. So self-evident is this, many advocates of the doctrine feel constrained to claim, "Immortality in Scripture, is nowhere revealed but everywhere assumed." The point they would wish to make is that inherent immortality was so obvious a truth it required no statement! Gladstone, in his "Studies of Butler," remarks that the doctrine of immortality "crept into the church by the back door" and his concluding remarks on the "History of Opinion" are of value:

"Another consideration of the highest importance is that the natural immortality of the soul is a doctrine wholly unknown to the Holy Scriptures, and standing on no higher plane than that of an ingeniously sustained, but gravely and formidably contested, philosophical opinion. And surely there is nothing, as to which we ought to be more on our guard, than the entrance into the precincts of Christian doctrine, enter without authority or by an abuse of authority, of philosophical speculations disguised as truths of Divine revelation. They bring with them a grave restraint on mental liberty; but what is worse is, that their basis is a pretension essentially false, and productive of rational retribution of other falsehoods."

How true is his closing statement, "productive by rational retribution of other falsehoods!" One error must be sustained by another error; one assumption demands another in its support. "Taking for granted" something about the Ages of Time, is quickly followed by "taking for granted" something about the souls of men. And if the assumption concerning the ages produced evil fruit in its effect on related subjects, so also did the acceptation of Philosophy's "grand guess" in regard to the human soul weave a web of enchantment over every doctrine affected by it.

The Scriptures defined the limits of the Ages, and clearly distinguished them from the Eternity of which they formed a part: men, blinded by false pre-conceptions, defined the Ages to be Eternity, and not merely a part of it. The Scriptures emphasized man's mortality: men, under the glamour of Philosophy, wrote poems about their immortality. The Scriptures spoke of the Creator as a God who suffered from sin, who could love and hate with the intensity of an emotion unknown to man: men taught that God was beyond being affected by men's misdeeds. We cannot illustrate such methods of interpretation by the Philosopher's Stone, for whereas that mythical wonder-worker turned all it touched into gold, this method transformed the gold of divine truths into the dross of human deceits.

To examine in detail the other assumptions on which this doctrine is founded is hardly necessary just now, it being desired to merely emphasize the fact that these pre-conceived theories concerning the endlessness of the ages, the immortality of the soul, and the impassivity of God--theories which have so largely molded current theology--are but assumptions, and consequently are not to be regarded as clinching proofs of such a tremendous doctrine as the one before us.

(2) TRANSLATION. The second great support of this dogma is to be found in "versions" of the Bible, which we should ever bear in mind are not Scripture but translations of it. When the Bible was written, in its various parts, it was not written in English, French or German, but in Hebrew and in Greek; and, therefore, whenever a question of doctrine arises, resort must be made to the very terms God used, in order to obtain the very idea which God meant to convey. That the assumptions made by translators influenced their translations of the Bible is an undeniable fact, patent to every student who compares a literal translation with the ordinary version. For instance, where we read in the authorized "everlasting" and "eternal," in Young's Literal Translation, we find the term "age-during" --the latter leaving the question open as to whether age-duration is eternal or not. The assumption that age-duration MUST be eternal led the translators of most versions to use infinite terms to describe a duration which the very Bible they were translating proved could not be endless.

False philosophy having produced this false translation, finds most of its strength and proof, to the great mass of Bible readers, in its own production. If Englishmen thought that the framers of the Magna Charta meant something other than just what they said, and altered it accordingly, subsequently appealing to this altered document as proof of their ideas, the situation would be analogous to the one before us--theologians appealing to the translation of their own views in order to prove them.

(3) TRADITION. Next, we find the element of stability which tradition yields. Tradition is the time-element in both truth and error; it does not make the truth a whit more certain, nor does it in the least detract from the falsity of error. Buddhism is older, but not truer, than Christianity. Sin itself is hoary-headed.

If we but grant the premises on which the dogma of endless torment is based, we cannot deny the rationality of the doctrine itself. The doctrine, as developed, may be manifestly inconsistent with the attributes of God, and still retain a logical consistency with its own arguments. Viewed in relation to its premises it may have a logical consistency: viewed in relation to the divine perfections it may manifest a moral inconsistency. The mental conflict, which the doctrine has occasioned in the minds of men whose orthodoxy cannot be questioned, cannot be attributed to any glaring, logical absurdity in itself--if all its premises were correct, the absurdity would lie with those who would contradict it. If sin be eternal, there is nothing illogical, and certainly everything is moral in the conclusion that eternal suffering is eternal sin's natural concomitant. We therefore find a logical consistency in the doctrine's agreement with its premise, but a moral inconsistency in the relation of that rashly-conceived premise with the known attributes, and revealed truths, of the God who made man for Himself.

Assumption, Translation and Tradition are then the triple foundation on which this mighty dogma rests. The assumptions may have been made by very wise men; the translations made by men of vast literary skill, who had accepted these assumptions; and the doctrines, thus supported, may have been accepted in unquestioning simplicity by very good men--AND STILL BE WRONG! In order then to regain the Word of God, in all its purity, we must pass by good men, learned men, and wise men, not because they have been wise, good, or learned, but just because they were MEN, and get back to GOD. We must let God speak for Himself, and instead of molding His words into conformity with our philosophies, rather mould and fashion all our thinking into harmony with His truth; and instead of vitiating His divine revelations with our human premises, find all our premises as well as our conclusions in Himself alone, who is the Alpha and the Omega of Truth.

Part  Three

Having considered the soul-crushing dogma of endless torment, it becomes us to make brief reference to its alternative doctrines. Before dismissing from our minds, however, the Augustinian doctrine--as it is called--of endless woe, we must be permitted to remark that if the assumptions on which that dogma is based are correct, and harmonious with Scripture, no matter how strange it may appear to us, nor how foreign it may seem to our conceptions of truth, we must, in the name of reason as well as faith, bow unquestioningly before the utterance of the Omniscience to which alone the entire and unbroken circle of truth can be familiar. The same reason that insists upon a thorough criticism of every human interpretation demands, with equal insistence, an unquestioning acceptance of every divine revelation. The mere whisper of God into the listening ear of faith is more conclusively final than the loudest thunder of unaided reason. "Unaided reason" we say, wishing to distinguish between that misnamed "reason" which seeks to wrench the secrets of the Universe from God by sheer force of mental powers, and the "reason" which most amply evidences its rationality in a recognition of its own limitations. Nor should we forget that reason is as much of a necessity to faith, as is faith to reason--to an idiot, bereft of reason, faith is impossible. Without faith reason degenerates into agnosticism: without reason faith declines into superstition. Faith, then, is not irrational; it may be opposed to sight, but should not be spoken of as if it were in opposition to reason. If then faith exists not apart from reason, and if reason be blind apart from faith, the question presents itself, will the truth as touching human destiny produce such a mighty conflict between the two as history and personal experience shows to exist in relation to the dominant doctrine? The consequence of such a conflict has been that some have doubted that to be faith at all which could so disagree with reason, and others have denied that to be reason which could be so out-of-joint with faith.

True reason acknowledges that sin must be met with punishment, and acquiesces in the thought that punishment must continue as long as sin endures. With such a doctrine it is not reasonable to quibble. But the theory to which reason objects is that of endless sin and endless punishment as necessary factors in a universe supposed to come from the creative designs of a perfect Deity; and the picture of a universe eternally midway between chaos and perfection--eternally half-damned--is one to which reason has never been able to reconcile itself. It is obvious that such a conflict was bound to give birth to doctrines which would bear evident marks of their distressful origin; some being mere expressions of an intense desire to see reason bludgeoned by faith; others manifesting a desire equally intense, to reciprocate such an attitude by dispensing altogether with belief.

Universalism, however, is not the product of either faith or reason, but the result of a sentimental shrinking from the facts of life, and the stern necessities of moral government--in short, it is neither rational nor believing. It is the extreme of two other extremes--the third point in a triangle of opposing theories; Materialism deifying reason and excluding faith; Orthodoxy exalting faith to the denial of reason; Universalism denying both by its misuse of sentiment. The Augustinian dogma failed to preserve the equipoise of the divine attributes, and sustain the harmonious relation of every divine perfection, but the Universalist did not right the wrong by merely shifting the undue emphasis from one set of attributes to another. Nor does a system commend itself to us which, in order to evade all thought of future punishment, found the fulfillment of every prophecy of judgment in the fall and ruin of Jerusalem. We may, therefore, brush Universalism aside without further comment and proceed to the less objectionable views of Annihilation, or as its advocates prefer to call it, Conditional Immortality.

The doctrines of Endless Torment and Conditional Immortality have this in common that both view the sinner's punishment as being eternal in its infliction--the first consciously so, the second unconsciously. Further, both doctrines are based upon assumption--the former assuming the endlessness of the ages, the latter assuming the endlessness of death. The prematurely accepted theory of the infinity of the age-times yielded strong support to the assumption concerning death's endlessness; for, the punishment of sin being revealed in Scripture as age-lasting, and that punishment being death, the supposed endlessness of the ages naturally attached itself to the wages of sin.

The advocates of Eternal Torment declare that, once sentence has been passed upon the offender against law, that offender can never come from under the law's decree. In this the exponents of Conditional Immortality agree. Both schools, therefore, are united against any possible restoration of the lost; the Augustinian finding the impossibility of such restoration in the fixed character of the punished; the Annihilationist finding it in the nature of the punishment. The Augustinian reached his dogma by a series of presumptions as to man's being: the Annihilationist reached his by presuming that death in its final infliction is instantaneous instead of being a process spread out over the periods of the Eons; or, of acknowledging its infliction to be protracted, by concluding that the sinner's destruction is such as will preclude all hope of his resurrection in a body minus that depravity of nature which so loudly demanded its own eradication.

The problem which confronts the Annihilationist, of the dead being raised to die again, those once punished being raised in order to suffer a repetition of their punishment, is one of those jagged difficulties which no line of reasoning can ever remove from the doctrine of Conditional Immortality as generally formulated. But the suggestion that this resurrection of the wicked dead has reference to a fulfilling of God's gracious purposes in them is one which the Annihilationist must reject in consequence of his assumptions regarding death, even as the Augustinian must equally reject it because of his assumptions regarding the eternity of eonian time.

The Universalist exaggerated the scriptural terms descriptive of universal bliss--i.e., exaggerated them by ignoring, or minimizing, the import of those scriptures describing God's punitive attitude towards sin. No attempt was made to explain, or reconcile, the discord between these two classes of scripture, but one class was taken and the other, by a process of gross misinterpretation, simply ignored or explained away. The Annihilationist, on the other hand, lacking a full-orbed conception of the divine wisdom, and failing to perceive how those threats of destruction could be reconciled with the promises of salvation, by minimizing the extent of the promises, exaggerated the real import of the threats. The problem as to how there can be a real and complete fulfillment of the threats, and yet an equally real and complete fulfillment of the promises, is but the old problem of how Law and Grace can both be fulfilled, without being fulfilled at the expense of either. It is but the old problem re-stated in the future tense--the problem of soteriology becomes eschatological. Nor is the problem made more difficult of solution when considered in relation to all men than when considered in relation to but one . If God's righteousness and mercy both are abundantly magnified and satisfied in the salvation of one soul, it is ample intimation that the restoration of every soul, without diminishing or dimming the glory of that righteousness, is not within the sphere of improbability.

Augustinianism involves the idea that some grim necessity demands the continuous maintenance of an eternal inferno within the bounds of the universe. Men have tried to apologize for such conceptions, and have not hesitated to teach that the terror of such a spectacle will effectually prevent a repetition of sin's entrance into the heavenly realms. A universe dependent for its stability partly upon love, and partly upon hideous terror—an apology as nauseating as is the concept for which the apology is made.

Annihilation involves the view that whereas puny man possesses the unlimited ability to resist the will of God indefinitely, God is limited in His power to overcome that resistance, unable to influence the human heart so as to remove all rebellious feelings, unable to control circumstances so that by bitter experience itself man may learn the unprofitableness of sin, and turn from it to find true life and liberty in obedience to the divine will. We must choose either horn of the dilemma. Either God is limited by man, or else man is encompassed by divine limitations, which, while they do not interfere with the freedom of the creature, still prevents ultimate suicide on his part. On our doctrine of destiny will depend our belief whether God, in creating man, created him so that he could never really get beyond the reach of his Creator's love and enabling grace, or else made him as the pioneer engineers constructed their experimental locomotives--without a safety-valve.

The three great theories of human destiny may consequently be described as three great exaggerations. The Augustinian exaggerates the duration of punishment. The Annihilationist exaggerates the nature of punishment. And the Universalist exaggerates certain elements in the nature of God. Each and all of these views amply illustrate what we referred to in the introduction as being "mistranslations of the divine perfections in the terms of our doctrinal statements." The final truth we must look for elsewhere, satisfied that when found it will combine the truth common to each, while eliminating the error attached to all.

We may talk, and write, as we please concerning the Creator's right to do as He pleases with those He creates; but we must not forget that the Will of God is not something which can be understood apart from the Nature of God. "Show me Thy glory," was Moses' plea, and God revealed it to him in the statements of His power and freedom to confer forgiveness upon His erring creatures. God is not experimenting in human life. He does not adventure at His creature's risk. He does not gamble on chance, or trust to a lucky turn of the wheel of life to bring a possible handful of His creatures back to Himself. In order to save one soul He is not compelled, by some hideous necessity, to damn a hundred. When His purpose in human life is completed, no debris will remain to mar the finished perfection of His work. The circle of human freedom is itself enclosed within the larger circle of the divine decrees. "Known unto God are all His works." Sin's entrance into the Universe was no accident, nor did it take the Almighty by surprise. God knew what it would do when He allowed it to enter; and when sin finally vacates the scene it will do so defeated in every particular, not even a partial victor over any that God brought into existence for Himself. Sin will not remain in the Universe, either as wielding the lash of endless torment, or holding the scepter of endless death. Death itself shall die, and destruction be itself destroyed. That such a glorious end is to be the grand climax of eonian time it is now our province to show from the storehouse of God's revealed truth.

Part  Four

What men teach about destiny we have seen. It is our province now to enquire what God has to say concerning it.


The reader will bear in mind that the words "eternal" and "everlasting" are not a translation of Scripture but an interpretation of it. Where man has "for ever" the original has "for the age," or "for the ages;" indeed, whereas man always defines the duration of punishment in terms of infinity, the Word always defines it in terms of age-duration. The original words, therefore, would leave the question in a somewhat unfixed state, giving the terms defining time, or duration, in such form as would leave them subject to that progress of truth which has characterized God's revelation of His ways to man. The Holy Spirit, in other words, left unsettled the question whether the ages were eternal in duration or not; left untouched the matter of their being limited or unlimited, number or numberless; and, in the Old Testament at least, preserved silence as to whether they were enclosed within bounds or otherwise; in fact, we might say that God, in using these terms, and in using them in such an undefined way, left the door of revelation "on the latch" for such subsequent definition and enumeration as He would be pleased to give. But the door that was thus divinely left ajar was rudely bolted and barred by the human attempt to crystallize and petrify expressions which, when given, were given in a fluid state. So well--or ill--did the attempt succeed that our expressions "eternal," etc., are at best but stalactites representing, in their fixed form and rigidity of meaning, the arrest with which Theology checked the progress of divine revelation.

The perversion of the idea contained in the Scriptural terms may be seen in the fact that whereas the Hebrew and Greek words preserve and in fact emphasize the age-broken, or periodic character of that portion of Eternity within the scope of revelation, the English terms obliterate its age-divided peculiarity, and state the idea of duration in the form of monotonous changelessness. As long as progress will be possible change will be necessary, for where there is no change there can be no progress. The Biblical term "ages" in itself, without any additional word, suggests this idea of progressive change. When all possible perfection is attained, change (as associated with progress) will become obsolete. Of such a state the terms "eternal" and "everlasting," with their atmosphere of iron-bound rigidity, might well be used, as they are ill-used when applied to the changing seasons of imperfect though progressive age-time.

What God revealed (and man concealed) was that sin and its punishment are age-during, and what He did not reveal was that age-duration is eternal. But that which God was silent on—the extent or number of the ages--upon that man became trumpet tongued. What God (in the Old Testament) had left undefined, that man hastened to stereotype into an exact term. God's foolishness was in this, however, as in everything else, wiser than man's wisdom, and God's silence more eloquent than human speech; so much so indeed, that it is more necessary we should have a right understanding of what God left out of the words He used in describing duration, than that we should have clear ideas of what man brought into them. Such phrases as "the endless ages of eternity," so remarkably present in religious literature of every description, are just as remarkably absent from the inspired literature of the Bible. The phrase "immortal soul" is a similar unscriptural expression.

The full doctrine of the eons and the final truth of destiny are to be found in the Pauline epistles. The endeavor to find the doctrine of the ages in the Old Testament, can only be likened to an attempt to read the detailed doctrine of Romans into the prophecy of Isaiah. True, it may be granted that as we have germinal beginnings of the apostle's masterpiece in Isaiah's "Old Testament Gospel," even so the intimations of the Hebrew Scriptures involve the subsequent teaching of Paul concerning the eons. Nevertheless, whatever may be said as to the involved truth of the Old Testament, it is only in Paul's writings that we find the evolved and complete doctrine of the ages. In Paul's epistles we therefore find the key to Old Testament teachings on this subject, and the solution of the entire problem.

If the traditional theory that eternity and the ages are synonymous is correct, then obviously the ages can never have had a commencement, and can never come to a conclusion. If the age-times define the entire span of the divine existence (as we ar e told they do), it must be patent that as God has never had a beginning, neither can the ages have had one either; and, as God cannot die, neither can the ages cease. As to the definition of the duration of Deity, supposedly found in the linking of the ages with the name of God, we will remark in passing that age-terms so used do not define the duration of the Self-Existent,* though they do define the duration of certain manifestations of His character, manifestations or assumptions which are not eternal but transient. In other words they denote, not the existence of God in Himself, but of God in certain aspects of His Being, aspects necessitated be the very ages which define their continuance. When faith learns the secret of the eons, it can rejoice "with joy unspeakable" that these manifestations are but transient revelations of the eternal God, and that even eonian life, blessed though it be, is also transient, merging into a higher state of bliss and glory than is suggested in even that priceless gift.
[*The name JEHOVAH--I AM reveals in itself, and without any adjective being prefixed to it, the duration, or perhaps better the being of the Creator, which is the ground of all duration in the Universe of Time and the Universe of Things.]

To sustain the claim that eternity is a synonym for age-duration it must be shown that what is said of one can, with equal propriety, be also said of the other. Eternity, like space, is shoreless; passes comprehension; and defies measurement. Not so with the ages. These, as spoken of in the Pauline epistles, are measured, or numbered; unlike eternity they had a definite beginning; and, unlike eternity, will also have a definite end. If this be provable from the Word of God, then "eternal" and "eonian" are not equivalent terms, do not convey the same meaning, and are entirely unsuited for interchangeable use. There is something imperious, it is true, in the claim that the ages must be eternal, but the demand of faith for divine, rather than merely human dicta, is more imperative still. The seeker after truth who has paid attention to the characteristics of Biblical age-reference, and its marked silence as to their supposed endlessness, will perceive that the matter before us is one that demands investigation rather than declamation, and patient analysis in preference to obstinate dogmatism.

In 2 Tim.1:9 Paul uses an expression which is absolutely opposed to the theory that the eons and eternity are synonymous terms. The words used are "pro chronon eonian," which we find in our English Version thus: "before the world began." Now the word for "world" is not "eon" but "cosmos," and as we do not find "cosmos" in the text, but "eon," it is apparent at our very first glance that here was something in Scripture which its translators did not understand and which their translation was certain to keep anyone else from understanding either. Giving the word "eon" its rightful meaning, we translate the phrase thus, "before the times of the ages." (See also Titus 1:2 and 1 Cor.2:7). Eonian time is recognized, but so also is time not eonian. Eternity cannot have had a beginning, but here we learn that the eons, or "ages," did have one. They are therefore not synonymous terms. If it be said that the term "everlasting" or "eonian God" makes the eternity of God's Being dependent upon the eternity of the age-times, how can we square such an assumption with such plain statements of the Word? If there was a past eternity in which the ages had no existence, is it not patent that then, at least, God could not have been spoken of as the "eonian God?" And, should it be still insisted upon that God's existence is defined by terms descriptive of age-duration, shall we be logically consistent: the ages had a beginning--did God have one? And if we acknowledge that the Being of God overlaps the eons in past time, shall we not acknowledge the possibility of its overlapping them in the future also? But many will acknowledge that the ages were not eternal in the past, and yet insist that they must be eternal in the future. We are obliged therefore, not to meet one opinion with another equally groundless, nor to affirm in counter-dogmatism what we think they must be, but to inquire humbly what God reveals they will be.

Our attention is first drawn to the fact that the ages are numbered. It is unnecessary to point out that this ill consists with their supposed endlessness. In Eph.1:10 Paul makes reference to the administration with which the eons conclude. He speaks of it as being "the economy of the pleroma of the seasons." Pleroma is not a term which can be consistently translated by a single English word. Its meaning varies--though but slightly—with its context. When applied to the attributes of Deity, it signifies that their totality dwells in the ascended Christ. When used of a liquid, or that which can be measured, it signifies full measure. When applied to that the quantity of which is determined by a weighing process, it means full weight. When used of persons, or things, or years, or anything else which is enumerated by units, it describes their full number. As we are dealing with ages, or periods of time, which we compute by neither measure, nor weight, but by number, in this case it denotes their totality, or full number. It may be objected that the ages could thus be numbered and still be endless--by the last, or concluding age, being an eternal one. To sustain such an objection it will have to be shown, in the first place, where any age is spoken of in Scripture as being endless; and, secondly, it will have to be remembered that what constituted the preceding portions of time, "ages" was the fact of their being finite, and hence should the concluding "portion" become infinite it would then cease to be an age.

But God does not "re-head" the universe in Christ merely because the clock of the ages strikes the appointed hour. He does not thus consummate His purposes merely because the right time has arrived, but because the right time is according to the right condition. The husbandman gathers in the crop, not merely because it is harvest time, but because the crop is ripe. This is beautifully shown in the suggestive use of the word kairos seasons, instead of the customary chronos times. It reveals that crowning economy as being not merely a period of numerical completeness, but also one of moral ripeness for the Headship of God's Anointed One.

In connection with all this it is pertinent to draw the reader's attention to such New Testament phrases as "the ages of the ages"--that is ages, two or more, which are distinct from all preceding ages; and "the age of the ages"--the crowning eon of all the eons, the grand goal of eonian time, in which will be found that "economy" which marks the numerical completion and moral maturity of the eons. The ages will cease when the universe is ripe for eternity.

The truth of the preceding becomes very plain, when viewed in connection with what Paul further reveals concerning the eons. In Eph.3:11, RV, we read "according to the purpose of the ages." It is here intimated that the eons witness the working-out of a divine plan, and that they are necessary factors in this plan. In this passage Paul looks to the commencement of the ages, when they came into being; as in chapter 1:10, he views their consummation when they pass away. The ages, therefore, are but the scaffolding which marks the building process of the Temple; but, when the Temple is completed, each jewelled stone in its rightful place, with God All in all, then is the scaffolding of the eons removed, their work being completed, God's purpose in them being attained, the further continuance of such scaffolding but marring the divine perfections of God's dwelling-place. Well may we speak of the eons as being the workshop of God, beyond which lies the sabbath of His eternal rest.

Contrary then to the popular idea, the ages are not the treadmill of time, on which Eternity steps in ceaseless motion, but at best, or most, a mere by-path, a temporary digression from the broad and endless highway of Infinity, from which they take their course, and to which they find an ultimate return.

Part  Five

The doctrine of the eons is by no means an isolated one, but is intimately associated with every other Biblical doctrine. Clarity in this doctrine is essential to clearness in others, and error here will inevitably produce confusion elsewhere. Proof of this is very evident in the epistle before us, the very lack of anxiety, or carefulness, on the author's part to prevent the reader from accepting his teaching in a full racial sense being only equalled by the corresponding anxiety on the part of his interpreters lest his words should be construed to have that meaning. Why Paul should have been so careless, and his modern expositors so careful, shows, if anything, a difference in point of view between him and them. Should we accept the Biblical doctrine of the eons, then Paul's choice of terms will be appreciated by us ; but, should we prefer the Pagan notions concerning them, Paul's lack of restrictive language will become a matter for wonder, if indeed it does not become a fit subject for our criticism.

The most casual reader of chapter five must recognize that the author deals in universal terms. He does not balance a universal over against an elective expression, but when writing of sin's ruin and redemption's scope employs the same unrestricted word in both connections, without even a passing hint that we should understand sin and salvation as being other than co-extensive. He does not contrast "all" with "some", nor "many" with "few", his parallels are consistently drawn, and show that his object is not to present a numerical contrast but a moral one—the number involved remaining unaltered throughout his argument, the same quantitative words being used, where different qualitative terms are employed. The marked contrast between the qualitative words is no more evident than is the lack of contrast between the quantitative expressions. Paul's object then is not to show the difference between one part of the race and another, nor between a majority in one condition and a minority in another, but to develop the difference between the race as related to Adam in nature and the race as related to Christ in grace--a moral and not a numerical contrast.

The mischievous assumptions concerning the ages effectually paralyze every attempt to interpret this great chapter in a way that will allow such obvious facts as these to have their proper force. The taking away of the limitations with which Scripture has surrounded the eons compels the adding of limitations to the revealed extent of reconciliation. Adding to Scripture in one respect necessitates taking from Scripture in another. The introduction of the eternal element into the age-terms leads naturally to the elimination of the universal element from the redemptive-terms. The commentaries of Christendom are witnesses to the beggarly shrinking processes which men have resorted to in order to make Romans five utter the shibboleths of the Augustinian dogma.

Crediting the average man with an intelligence sufficient to express his thoughts in adequate language, it ill becomes us to question the ability of the divine Author of Scripture to reveal His mind in terms remarkable for their delicate and exquisite precision. When the Word declares "the many shall be constituted righteous," why should we find it necessary to whittle down, or discount, such a statement into meaning no more than that they shall have an opportunity to become righteous presented to them? If what God meant was different to what God said, shall we conclude from that that God was at a loss for the right word when Romans was indited? Perish such thoughts! And yet the reader who would seek to learn the very thoughts of God by closely scrutinizing His very words must recognize that his method must ultimately lead to believing what God has taught concerning the finite eons, and enjoying what He has revealed concerning His infinite grace. The belief that the words used by God in revelation adequately and exactly reveal His thoughts will not so much enable us to interpret the Scriptures as it will manifest how wonderfully the Scriptures interpret themselves.

Without the doctrine of the eons Romans five becomes a labyrinth, or maze, which the truth-seeker, bewildered by a thousand conflicting thoughts, and harassed by a myriad theories, may well hesitate to tread. With the key-truth of God's eonian purpose grasped, the passage loses its terror, and invites the simple to enjoy the rich banquet it sets before them. It reveals the awful potency of a single sin to ruin the race of man but shows on the other hand an act of righteousness no less potent in effecting its redemption. In Romans Paul declares: "By one man--sin; by one man--righteousness." In Corinthians he proceeds: "By one man--death; by one man--resurrection." Throughout the entire Pauline literature, the Apostle exhausts the possibilities of both logic and language in showing the super-ability of God in dealing with His erring creatures. Romans five is especially remarkable for the manner in which it combines an exposition of "the love that all will not be denied," with an exaltation of the righteousness that will not be stained.

Human sin and divine righteousness--what are they but the antipodes of the moral universe? How then can the righteousness be maintained, the sin condemned, and yet the sinner saved? We are writing on destiny, shall we then bring in the cross? Nay! rather, how shall we write of destiny and leave it out? It is the cross which has made grace possible. It is the cross which has made grace righteous. The eons find their center in it. Before they had being, it loomed--the altar of the sacrificial lamb--in all its crimson majesty, full in the vision of Deity. And the eons face crossward, bearing onward to its sacred base the humanity committed to the restoring discipline of Time. The cross is the grand foundation on which grace alone can build, and the appointed ground for the divine dispensation of life.

What would the reader have? Whittle off, and pare down the terms which Paul employs in our chapter, contract the language of the Apostle, and the glories of that cross must inevitably be dimmed. View it as the triumph of Infinite Wisdom over the finite folly of the race, and we bow in worship before the One who planned it, and Him whose blood has stained it red. Widen its sphere of triumph and we deepen our conceptions of it as the instrument of Omnipotent Grace. The cross is adequate to the task of cleansing the Adamic race from the moral pollution of sin. May our faith prove adequate to believing that glorious truth!


Romans reveals to us the coming triumph of divine righteousness over human sin: Corinthians discloses the ultimate victory of resurrection life over Adamic death. The resurrection of all is involved in Romans five; the righteousness of all in 1 Corinthians fifteen. In both epistles national distinctions are not touched upon, but both righteousness and resurrection are viewed in their racial issues.

In line with the method adopted in the previous articles, the writer is more anxious to point out the erroneous assumptions which have molded current theology, than to give a detailed exposition of each passage. When we succeed in reading out of the Scriptures the many additional phrases which men have read into them, then the way becomes clear to enjoy the truth as Paul wrote it, and as God inspired it. Allowing the Bible to be its own interpreter; receiving its definitions as needing no correction by us; paying strict attention to what it says, and how, in order to learn what it was meant to reveal; and accepting its language as requiring neither contraction nor expansion by us, has shown itself to be the only method of interpretation worthy of being called exact. We mention this because the unhappy process, and habit, of "discounting the grace of God," and the unfortunate position which compels those who occupy it to be perpetually explaining how the terms descriptive of salvation's scope really mean much less than they appear to convey on their surface, is as apparent in comments on 1 Corinthians fifteen, as it is in those on Romans five.

It is of course self-evident that if limitations be introduced into Romans five similar limitations must be also introduced into 1 Corinthians fifteen.

The doctrine of Romans forbids our contracting the scope of resurrection in 1 Corinthians fifteen--in fact the revelation here can only be limited by ignoring the Scripture evidence concerning the eons, by changing or weakening some of the words employed, and by interpolating others.

It is generally conceded that in verses 23 and 24, resurrection is spoken of as taking place in three grand divisions, or companies. Now, the only method by which allowance may be made for three resurrection groups, in order not to conflict with the daring assumption of endless sin and torment, is to divide them as follows:

(1)  The resurrection of Christ;--"Christ the firstfruits."
(2)  The resurrection of those in Christ;--"those that are Christ's at His
(3)  The resurrection of those out of Christ;--"the end when Christ delivers
       up the kingdom."

But it is evident that the Scripture under consideration challenges such a classification, for while the above analysis makes the third and last rank, consist of the unsaved dead—those out of Christ--the passage itself refers only to the raising of those in Christ. To be "in Christ" means righteousnes and life; "out of Christ" means condemnation and death. To read the resurrection of Revelation twenty, with its dread uprising of sinful men to meet their doom, as if it could thus be described as a resurrection "in Christ," is but to betray a deplorable ignorance of the precious and fragrant truths which cluster around these immortal words. But if Paul's language forbids our reading the rising of the lost into these three orders, or ranks, what shall we do with the third resurrection group spoken of here, which consummates the ranks, and which the context shows synchronizes with death's destruction?

How impossible it is to read Revelation 20 into 1 Corinthians 15 may also be seen from what both passages have to say about death. In the Apocalypse we learn that, at the close of one thousand years of the reign of Christ, death is limited to the lake of fire. Nothing is said about death's destruction, nothing about its cessation, but on the contrary its continuance for "the ages of the ages" is revealed. In Corinthians we read not of its limitation, but of its destruction. To interpret its destruction as being fulfilled in its localization is not to distinguish between things that differ, and in short, is but to quarrel with God's choice of terms, and question His mastery of man's vocabulary.

The attempt has been repeatedly made to identify the reign spoken of here (v.24) as being Messiah's reign as Son of David, an attempt which may only succeed when the testimony of the context is either explained away or placidly ignored. It is evidently as the divine Son that He finally subordinates Himself, and as Father that God takes over the kingdom rule from Him. As the reign of the Son is not located in the "impending eon," but in the "eon of the eon" (Heb.1:8), it becomes evident that the "end" or "consummation" spoken of here, has nothing whatever to do with the events connected with the transition from the thousand years to the new creation. The truth is the event of Revelation 20 is not so much as touched on, or referred to in our chapter, the order of resurrection being:

(1)  The outrising of Messiah from the dead:
(2)  The out-resurrection of those who are Christ's at His
       presence; and,
(3)  The resurrection of all who become Christ's in the "age
       of the ages."

The final rank rises in the last eon, that age which witnesses the termination of the eonian reign, the triumph of eonian love, and the full and final extermination of death--God's last enemy.

The design and purpose of all creation is that it might be the temple of its Creator, God. Before ever a creative fiat went forth, the purpose that He should be "all in all" was formed—not All in some, not Much in All, but ALL in ALL. But, if death be eternal, God must necessarily be excluded from being all in some. Should eternal death be spiritual, then God must be excluded from the most kingly part of many of His creatures; should it be physical, His design of being All in all is just as impossible of attainment. But the destruction of death, connected as it is here with resurrection, shows that He will be All in all physical beings; while their being raised "in Christ" shows that He will be All in all spiritual beings. It is in reference to this purpose of the Eternal that death is reckoned as an enemy. Spiritual death can never be other than an enemy of God. Physical death may be used by Him in carrying out His pre-eonian plan. But when spiritual death--the fallen creature's antagonism and enmity--is finally overcome in the crowning triumph of reconciliation, physical death is then denuded of its spoils and abolished, having no further function to perform in the perfected Universe of God.

That the ultimate subjection of the Universe to God will be internal and spiritual, rather than merely external, may be gathered from verse 28. In the matter of the "Orders" of resurrection, as detailed in verse 22, we drew attention to the way in which all those ranks were grouped together under the common designation "in Christ." Here we notice that the subjection, to be shared in by all creation, is one which knows no difference in its intensity or reality, is no more perfect in some than in others, but equally perfect in all, and indeed, linked as it is with the subjection of the Son, intimates that their subjection is not different in kind from His, nor His from theirs. It is true of course that the acts of Christ in both resurrection and subjection are unique, for He is the First in resurrection, and the Last in subjection--the Alpha of the one, as He will be the Omega of the other; but, as His resurrection is the ideal norm, or type, of all subsequent resurrections, so will His subjection be the glorious crown and consummation of all preceding subordinations. The exponents of endless torment must be sadly conscious of the infinite difference between that merely, external subjection which they consider possible in the outer darkness of the damned, and that true and spiritual submission which will characterize the attitude of the redeemed, and the filial subjection which the divine Son will render to His Father--God. Recognizing such distinctions, let such find them, if they can, in the language before us.

Here let us direct our attention to the result of God's eonian dealings. God is ALL in ALL. The kingship has been delivered up to God, even the Father--as if to suggest that the family, rather than the kingdom, characterizes the ultimate state. The Adamic dead have all been raised in Christ; and now, perfected in His perfections, God Himself becomes ALL in them. Humanity in the Son, and God in humanity--do we wonder if the eyes of faith at times have blinked when called to gaze upon that wondrous goal? And God will have it ALL; He has written it ALL; and He meant to write ALL, and not a weaker word. Nor is it over all, as He could only be, in part at least, were millions damned in endless antagonism to His will. Nay! nay! Faith, too, will have it "God all in all."


In our remarks on the teachings of Paul's earlier epistles, we noted that the burden of their message concerned the "things on the earth"--in other words, the Adamic race. In them we found no definite allusion to the future destiny of fallen angels, except so far as it was involved in, or affected by, that of humanity. But, if explicit mention of the "things of heaven" is absent from Paul's earliest writings that certainly cannot be charged to his later epistles, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. These, forming perhaps the smallest group of the New Testament writings, have the largest scope of any of the groups. They contain a digest of universal history, a compendium, we might say, of "the ways of God with men," and angels, too, the moral glories of which are sufficient to their own justification. The group is a complete Bible in itself, though compressed within the narrow confines of a trinity of sacred writings. These epistles especially (and not the writings of Plato, nor the philosophic guesses of any other heathen writer) contain the solution of the problem of universal destiny, as Paul's earlier writings solve the question of human destiny.

Pharisaism is of many kinds. There is, for instance, the individual Pharisee, who, priding himself upon his fancied attainments, duplicates in every age him who, "speaking within himself," said "God, I thank thee." Again, we have the national Pharisaism so sadly prominent in Israel's history, which looks upon special national place and privilege as being the result of, instead of an incentive to, a greater holiness than that manifested by those nations who were not so favored as they. And we also have a racial Pharisaism which speaks, and reasons, as if the children of Adam had a peculiar right to divine grace, a title to mercy, and a claim on God, not shared by any other race or rank of beings, in all the vast spaces of the universe. It is but the "I more" spirit of Saul the Pharisee drawn to the scale and magnitude of the human race. The publican (whether an individual, a nation, or a race), who draws nigh on the ground of sprinkled blood alone, is surely not the one who should dictate to God as to who shall, and who shall not, be partakers of the bounteous largess of grace divine.

In Ephesians, where the vision of faith is directed onward to the "economy of the full number of the seasons," the all things, heavenly and earthly, angelic and human, are seen as re-headed up, consummated and completed, in God's Anointed One. There is not the slightest indication, in the language used, of a special class who are excluded from the universal Headship of Christ. It is apparently a "heading-up" of the universe which knows nothing of an exclusion from, nor a distinction within, its sphere.

In Colossians, where the same words ("the all things") are used in different connections, first as created products and then as the subjects of reconciliation, we are reminded of Romans five, where, throughout the argument, the quantitative terms remained rigid and unchanged, and entirely unaffected by the constant flux in the qualitive expressions.

Philippians will be found to combine in one the teachings of both Ephesians and Colossians. In Ephesians we have Messiah's future Lordship, or Headship, over the "all things." In Colossians we find Him reconciling these "all things" unto Himself--for He must first cleanse in blood, before He may crown with glory, the sin-stained creation which He by grace has made His own, though it were already His by virtue of creative power. Philippians, without drawing distinctions of extent or degree, brings the entirety of universal being within the sphere of Jehovah-Jesus' name. "In the name of Jesus," or Saviour,--not "at the name," which could imply a merely external, or formal acknowledgment--"every knee shall bow." Here we have the Colossian grace, as we are now to view the Ephesian glory. "And every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord"--the Headship of Ephesians, and the perfect submission of Corinthians, in one precious verse. As we remarked the absence of distinction between different kinds, or degrees of submission, in the Corinthian epistle, so must we likewise notice how distinguishing expressions are similarly absent from the passage before us. The acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord is not to be the product of the lash in some, and in others the luscious fruitage of redeeming love. The bended knee of all creation will be the uniform token of a universe whose heart is bowed in loving worship before the divine Joshua of God.

In Colossians we had a passing glimpse of the cosmos as it came fresh from the hands of the Creator. "In Him were the all things created, in heaven and on earth." Then ensued creation's swift descent into chaos, moral and physical. But Philippians discloses One "mighty to save" standing by, who looked not unmoved upon the sin-wrecked scene. The glory of the "form of God" is laid aside, and He who bore it begins to empty Himself, in order that He might fill creation's uttermost expanse. From depth to lower depth He goes, unfaltering in His love, and visits every plane of universal life which sin had marred by its defiling touch. If ruin had entered by means of hateful pride, redemption comes by way of Him who "humbled Himself." If vain pride expressed its nature in acts of disobedience, He (whose glories were past the telling) "made Himself of no reputation" and "became obedient." The cross itself could not deter Him who already had sacrificed so much, from becoming Himself the crowning sacrifice of God upon the accursed tree. Sin had emptied heaven and earth of God; He takes upon Himself the emptying of earth and heaven of sin. To this end does He bear sin to the tree, there to judge and condemn it in the full righteous blaze of an ever-holy God. And the result? Who can find words which will bear the burden of glory the answer holds? He who lay a lifeless form within the tomb, breaks forever the iron rule of death, and claims the captive underworld for His own. He died, but not for Himself. He lives, and it is still for others. Heaven, earth, and the underworld, which each and all had witnessed the grace of His downward stoop, now shares without restriction in the glories of His upward rise. And if redemption had its genesis in the abdication of His rights on the part of the Lord of All, it finds its apocalypse in the abdication of all rebellious self-will, and insubordination, on the part of those who, in every sphere, have questioned and denied the authority of God. Beginning with the laying aside of glory, Phil.2:6-11 ends with the ingathering of all the glory gladly rendered by a redeemed universe. Nevertheless, He who "thought equality with Go not a thing to be grasped," receives not the glory to Himself alone. The Self subordinating One of 1 Cor.15 is the Self-emptying One of Phil.2, who lays the glories of a restored creation, in all its parts, at the feet of "God the Father."


We have but barely suggested the Biblical doctrine of destiny. An exhaustive exposition would require many volumes. Nor have we more than outlined the false methods, and the baneful results, of traditional interpretation. The "exegesis" which would seek to crush the idea of eternity into the time of the eons, which would inject a supposed numerical contrast into the moral contrasts of Romans five, which would insist that the raising of those "out of Christ" at the end of the impending eon is identical with the final rank of those raised "in Christ" at the end of the eon of the eon, as revealed in 1 Corinthians 15, and which would make the limitation of death to the lake of fire the fulfillment of its destruction, bears its own refutation in the confusion which its methods create. It is not to be wondered at if such modes of interpretation necessitate the continual introduction into Scripture of countless interpolations and distinctions, the inspired omission of which can be appreciated by us when we start our inquiries with an acceptance of the Biblical doctrine of the ages, but which becomes a baffling mystery when we seek to open the locks of Scripture with a key forged on the anvil of Pagan philosophy.

If the Cross was not Empty,
Why a cross in world as beautiful as this?
Why a cross, has something gone amiss?
An enemy has set to work to thwart God's plan,
Spoil His fair creation, ruin man.
Who occupied that cross, and why?
Who was it, gave Himself thereon to die?
It was the blessed Son of God,
None other could, none other would.
What has been accomplished since He died?
Sin has been put away, God has been glorified;
In proof of this, the One who died
Is now exalted, at His Father's side.
It is the message of the empty cross I bear;
'Tis mine, to give that message everywhere;
To testify to men by sin undone,
The only question is about the Son.
And what about the Son must I declare?
That He is risen, is no longer there;
He entered and passed through death's gloom,
And now an empty cross and empty tomb.
If the cross was occupied,
'Twould matter not, e'en though He died;
'Twould be a vanquished God we'd see,
And all things left in hands of enemy.
But in the empty cross there comes to me,
The fact, and glorious certainty
That all my sins were covered o'er,
In Jesus' grave for evermore.
Now as I gaze upon the throne,
I see Him there, but not alone;
But in the One who lives for me,
I see myself for ever free.
I take the empty cross, and hold it up.
I cry to sinful man, there's hope;
For He who once was crucified
Is seated at His Father's side.
'Tis here the guiltiest may find hope,
But nowhere else but here;
An empty cross, an empty tomb,
Both sin and man have met their doom.
Suppose the cross still occupied,
God's plan could ne'er completed be;
'Tis empty, this the guarantee,
The travail of His soul He yet shall see.
An empty cross and empty tomb
Takes away from earth its gloom.
A throne now occupied in heaven
Eternal life to man is given.
W. H. W.

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