by A.E. Knoch

THE Moody Monthly for September, 1935, contains several articles on future punishment. One, with this title, simply reasons that, because God allowed the horrors of the great war, and Christ foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, therefore there must be "future punishment." As we insist that God will pay each one in accord with his acts, "indignation and fury, affliction and distress, on every human soul which is effecting evil" (Rom.2:9), we are in hearty agreement with the argument, but protest against the unsound word, "punishment," which God never uses in relation to the future of mankind as a whole. The Greek word which really means punishment timooria occurs only in Hebrews 10:29, is limited to a small class and is temporal in its application. The verb, punish timooreoo, occurs only twice (Acts 22:5; 26:11), and is used of Saul's persecution of the ecclesia before he met the Lord Jesus. The Scriptures speak of future judgment, not punishment. In this lies all the difference between truth and error. If we refuse to hold fast the pattern of sound words, the truth will elude us. Man speaks of "responsibility" and "punishment" while God speaks of "accountability" and "judgment."

But the most interesting and important contribution is the answer given by the Editor-in-Chief to a letter asking him to explain the lack of harmony between those Bible statements which teach that God will draw all to Him, every knee should bow to Him, etc. This letter also asks for the meaning of aioon and aioonios. The reply is short and sets forth the evangelical position so clearly that it deserves extraordinary consideration. Besides this, it is generally acknowledged that the writer is perhaps the ablest champion of eternal torment now before the public. We shall therefore test his words by the Scriptures, and seek to find the cause of the apostasy from the truth in this matter. We will reprint the whole of his reply in smaller type, followed by our discussion. We have repeatedly asked for a similar courtesy, but, while we are not afraid to let our readers see all that is written against us, others do not care to have their followers see both sides.

Dear Friend:
"Yours of the thirteenth does not offer me a very pleasant subject to write upon, except as every subject is pleasant which brings us to the interpretation of the Word of God. "First, let me say that I believe Christ in John 12:32 means by 'all men,' both classes of men named in that chapter, Greeks as well as Jews, if they will believe on Him (see verse 20). The words cannot teach universal salvation because if so, they would contradict Christ's words in other places, to say nothing of the inspired words of the apostles."

First, let us acknowledge that the passage "I...shall be drawing all to Myself" (John 12:32) is not the best one to teach universal salvation. It were far better to quote God, our Saviour, Who wills all mankind to be saved..." (1 Tim.2:4) and "we rely on the living God, Who is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of believers" (1 Tim.4:10). Still, it clearly denies eternal torment.

The scope of the word "all" is always defined by the context. The previous verse speaks of the world. That is the scope of the immediate context. Should our Lord be exalted out of the earth, He will be drawing all [the world] to Himself. There is no word for "men" in the Greek. It is simply "all." Is it wise to go back a dozen verses, when our Lord was engaged with a different topic, in order to find the scope of "all?" If it were a question of two classes, then the word would not have been all (which is plural in the accusative), but both (cf Eph.2:14). All refers to world, not to Greek and Jew.

But does this argument not evade the real point? Are we to understand that all Greeks and Jews are to be drawn to Him, but not all of other nationalities? Does this not lead to far more difficulties than if we take it to mean all the world? I feel sure that everyone who really investigates will find that the limitation of "all" by "Jews and Greeks" is contrary to the grammar of the original, it rejects the immediate and proper context for an artificial and irrelevant one, and it creates far more difficulties than it "straightens." Why should our Lord single out the Greeks from the other nations, place them with the Jews as the two which He will draw to Himself? Reasoning which goes so far should continue and prove that all in these nations will be saved. Is it not evident that this is a false turn?

The real point lies in the phrase which is added to God's Word, "if they will believe on Him." THE MOODY MONTHLY once charged me with adding to God's Word, so I know how fearful and painful such an accusation is. They have never withdrawn their charge publicly, although the writer of the article did so privately. But am I not justified in saying that, for all practical purposes, THE MOODY MONTHLY has here added thoughts, if not words, which are not in the record? God has not connected faith with the drawing of all to Christ. He has not limited salvation to believers. They are a special class. He is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who believe (1 Tim.4:10). Now, in this administration, faith is essential. This truth has been exaggerated to such an extent that its light has become darkness. It should not be forced into passages where God has been pleased to omit it.

The argument that, if these words actually mean what they say, they would contradict Christ's words in other places exposes one of the greatest snares before God's people today. Instead of really and heartily believing God's Word in each case as it stands, and seeking to get rid of the erroneous ideas which make it difficult for them to do so, they refuse to believe some, and seek to hide their unbelief even from themselves. It is exceedingly difficult to rouse them out of this self-deception, and it is only the truest kindness and the most genuine exhibition of love to trumpet into their ears: You do not believe! At first they resent it, but I find that it is wholesome in the end. Therefore I solemnly and considerately charge THE MOODY MONTHLY with seeking to distort and to add to John twelve thirty-two, because they refuse to believe it as it is written.

There is not a single one of Christ's words in other places, or one among the words of the apostles, which contradicts this passage as it stands, provided they are taken accurately, as they stand, in the original. If it were not so, we would not have a divine revelation. If each and every passage must be changed or limited by human expositors, so as to agree with the rest, the Bible becomes a book of riddles, as indeed it has become among those who follow this system. It is like a lie. Another is usually needed to support it. If we begin with error (and we all do), and seek to mold the Bible to conform to it, we will treat it thus. But if we wish the truth we will let each passage stand as it is, acknowledge to ourselves that we do not believe, and wait until God opens the eyes of our hearts to believe Him. Let us believe that our Lord was exalted and will draw all to Himself. Not some, but all!


"Secondly, Paul's words in Philippians 2:10,11, 'Every knee should bow and every tongue should confess,' include, I believe, both friends and foes of Christ in that day when He shall sit on the throne of His glory. It is subjugation rather than reconciliation that is taught there. The whole trend of the Bible points to that."

"Jesus" denotes Jehovah-Saviour. In His name is salvation. All who bow in this name are saved. But Philippians is the epistle of service. It was written by slaves (Phil.1:1) to supervisors and servants. Hence all will acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. Subjugation is there, but it is of the heart. And it is for God's glory as Father. There is not the slightest hint of enmity in this passage. The reference to "the throne of His glory" is unfortunate, for our Lord is not presented here in the character of King. He will sit upon the throne of His glory at the beginning of the kingdom, when all nations will be judged for their treatment of His brethren according to the flesh. There can be no reference to this in Philippians, for this bowing includes many other creatures, celestial and subterranean, which do not appear before the glory throne.

When "the trend of the Bible" is appealed to, it is always well to call for specific texts, for, strange to say, this text and many other texts do not agree with this supposed "trend." In fact a close analysis of every text which could be presented would show that no text agrees with the trend of the Bible, but that this is a euphemism for our own [mis]understanding of the Bible. We make each text conform to this, so, as a result, we have no inerrant divine revelation, but a human light, which we consider superior to the Scriptures. This has marked the downward course of Christendom. Councils, creeds, Catholicism, and "Evangelical" teaching - all with some light, yet all held as the light which is to illumine even the Scriptures, so that it operates as darkness, and keeps us from the true light which comes from God only.


"The same is true also in the instance of Romans 5:19, which you quote. Paraphrased it means that as by the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many in that case were constituted sinners, so too by the obedience of the one (Christ) the many in that case, the many who believe on Him, are constituted righteous. You cannot isolate a scripture like that from its context and make it teach that which it would then seem to teach. It must be considered in the light of the whole revelation of which it is a part, and when that is done the paraphrase above is conclusive."

What has been said above is well illustrated by this "paraphrase." The actual and vital context says nothing of faith. Up to Romans 5:12, especially in connection with justification, faith was essential. But in this whole section, dealing with Adam's one act as illustrating Christ's one sacrifice, the word faith does not even occur, and the thought is not only foreign, but confusing. What right has anyone to insert it? None of the parallels between Adam's sin and Christ's death have anything to do with faith. All of Adam's descendants are sinners whether they believe in Adam or not. As this passage begins with "for," the statement immediately before it is the closest context. It reads, "as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus it is through one just award also for all mankind for life's justifying." The parallel demands no faith. May God forgive us when we seek to better His own revelation!


"Coming to the Greek word aioon or aioonios, it is true that Dr. Young defines it 'age-lasting,' but it also means 'eternity.' The Greek language has no stronger word to express the idea of eternity, and Dr. Young himself uses it of 'everlasting life' and 'the everlasting God.'"

If aioon means "age-lasting" and also "eternity," who is going to tell us when it means one, and when the other? Once more we are delivered into the hands of men, when we wish to hear the words of God! There is a world-wide difference between those who claim that the word has several meanings and those who take it to have only one. The latter need no human inspiration to interpret any passage but rely only on God, and they are never disappointed. The others take it upon themselves to say that, when God said one thing, He meant one thing here and another there. The light in such interpreters becomes darkness, and it is very great. God is the God of the eons in a very special sense, just as He is the God of Israel, or of the believer, in a special sense. Yet they say He cannot be the eonian God. Then neither can He be their God, for He created all! Knowing that their life in Christ is endless, they fail to see that a part of it is eonian, and think they must correct God's Word to agree.

The Greek language has a number of terms to express endlessness, all of which are "stronger" than aioon, for it never expresses endlessness. Five distinct "eternities" are clearly marked in the Scriptures. How can any one of them be endless? This present eon is about to end with Christ's advent. That will usher in the coming eon, which will not last much longer than a thousand years. The rendering "forever and ever" ought to show even a sober English reader that "forever" cannot be endless. The words akataluton, indissoluble (Heb.7:16), aperanton, interminable (1 Tim.1:4), involve endlessness, as do aphtharton, incorruptible, and athanasia, immortality. In each case Greek uses the negative to express endlessness. The strongest expression is ouk telos, no consummation (Luke 1:33). Here again Scripture is made subject to tradition, and man's word replaces God's.


"It seems to me, my dear friend, that you have an erroneous idea of the purpose of punishment. You think the 'lake of fire' is purifying, but there is nothing in Scripture to justify that thought. The rich man in hell (Luke 16) was not purified and did not become penitent. He made no effort and offered no prayer to be delivered from the place of torment, but only wished to have his condition there made more comfortable. "You are in error even concerning the cause of endless punishment, for you speak of it as "too great to fit the crime." But souls are not in hell for crime, but for sin, which is quite different from, and antecedent to crime..."

Here it seems, the letter writer as well as the answerer has left the ground of Scripture. One would suppose that the thought of the "punishment" of the lost pervaded the Scriptures. We must admit that there is a good reason for confusion on this theme, for the Authorized Version uses the word punishment only four times in the so-called "new Testament," yet each time for a different Greek word! These are: ekdikeesis, vengeance (1 Peter 2:14), epitimia, rebuke (2 Cor.2:6), kolasis, chastening (Matt.25:46), and timooria, punishment (Heb.10:29). No wonder there is murkiness in the minds of those who use it! In no case is it applied indiscriminately to all the lost. In the one passage from which the phrase "everlasting punishment" is taken, it is limited in scope to the living nations at the commencement of the day of the Lord, and in time to the eon of the kingdom. "Everlasting punishment" is unknown to God's holy Word in the original.

Let us hold ourselves to the one passage, in which "everlasting punishment" (eonian chastening) is mentioned. Why are they "punished?" Because they are sinners? No. But because they did not succor Israel (Matt.25:31-46). Not for their sin or their sins are they "punished" at that time. They will have to answer for their sins later, at the great white throne. And is their "punishment" "purifying?" The term used is a special word which denotes that which is for the good and improvement of the offender. It is chastening, not "punishment." But none of this has to do with the final destiny of those concerned. It is all limited to the kingdom in this passage. The judgment of the dead, after the millennium, is not in view.

When the dead stand before the great white throne, after being roused, then is the time for "punishment" if such is the mind of God. But this word does not occur in this connection, because it is not in line with God's thoughts. Man talks about "future punishment." God speaks of future judgment. But, alas, the word judgment has also been spoiled by theology. In God's Word it always means to set right, whether by good or evil. We "judge" the widow by helping her. The dead out of Christ will be judged by suffering evil and distress in accord with their acts. There is no "punishment" in the unseen. The rich man and Lazarus is a parable of Israel's present torment. No one will go to "hell" because he is rich, nor to Abraham's bosom because he is poor. Either accept the whole literally or all of it figuratively.

The evil which is the portion of all those out of Christ in the judgment, comes not in any "hell," either Gehenna, which is for the corpses of evil doers in the kingdom, or in the lake of fire, which is the fate of all unbelievers after they have been judged, or in the unseen sheol, hades, for the dead must be roused out of it before they can be judged. They suffer in the judgment, not in "hell." And this judgment is meted out according to their acts. The idea that unbelievers suffer in hell for all eternity because of inherited sin is so unutterably horrible and such a slander upon the name of God and His Christ that I protest against it with all the vehemence of my being. No fiend could compare with this caricature of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"...Indeed, your error is still deeper, for you ask if God is going to be 'thwarted by men's puny will,' as if God hammered men into heaven! He draws men. They are free moral agents, and 'whosoever will, may come.' History discloses that the fear of hell is one of the means which a benevolent God employs to draw men to Him. The great Faber said, 'We cannot doubt but that hell has sent into heaven more than half as many souls as it contains itself.'"

What a wonderful means for a "benevolent" God to use! Hell has "sent" to heaven half as many as it torments! Let a man carry a similar plan into execution and his name will be cursed by everyone. If this is benevolence, give us justice! But why emphasize the thought that God draws men? In the first passage considered our Lord said that He would draw all, not a third.

Are we so sure that God does not use force in breaking man's opposition? Is not drawing using force? How about Saul of Tarsus, who is the pattern for this time? He was not coaxed or wheedled or even asked. In the kingdom, our Lord gives orders to His slave to compel them to come (Luke 14:23). "Free moral agency" is human philosophy, without a shred of support in God's Word. Nor may we take a passage concerning conditions on the new earth in the far future, on a different theme, and apply it at any time to human destiny in general. It is better to go to a passage that definitely deals with this subject, as the ninth of Romans. It is not of him who is willing. We are clay. God is the Potter. No one can withstand His intention (Rom.9:19). He locks all up together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all (Rom.11:32).

"I do not know whether the foregoing will be of any real help to you, but it shows that I have taken the time to go into the subject for your sake as well as I know how."

To sum up: It is evident that the one who replied as well as the writer of the letter recognizes the fact that, in the passages discussed, the obvious sense is that Christ will draw all unto Him, that every knee will acclaim Him Lord, that by the obedience of Christ the many will be constituted just, just as, by the disobedience of Adam, the many were constituted sinners. In each case the article in THE MOODY MONTHLY wishes to make the words mean what they do not say by injecting words or thoughts from their own system of teaching. Instead of Scripture correcting them, they correct God. The Bible as it stands is not acceptable to Moody. It must needs be modified to accord with the type of teaching to which they are committed. I once held this teaching, but a study of God's Word caused me to abandon it. With them God's Word is really only secondary, so its force is weakened and it fails to convince them of their error.

This is not written to criticize the reply but, by examining the method used, to glean valuable lessons for ourselves, for we all are strongly tempted to corrupt God's Word by injecting our own ignorance into it. Let us learn to be subject to its most minute intimation, and value even an omission more than any addition that we may deem necessary. The greatest help, however, in connection with this theme, is to seek out those passages where God has really spoken of the final outcome of His purpose, such as the consummation, God All in all (1 Cor.15:28), the universal reconciliation (Col.1:20), and especially Romans 9 to 11, above all the closing words, "all is out of Him and through Him and for Him." Knowing the end by faith, we will not wish to change His holy Word, but will admire its superhuman exactitude and divine perfection, and have the delicious assurance that we are believing, not men, but God.

As this article is all ready to be published, comes the news of the death of the writer of the letter quoted. Our first impulse was to cancel it out of respect for his memory. But we are satisfied that he himself would not have us make this a personal matter. Moreover, we are sure that, in the great reunion in the presence of our gracious Lord, he will be thankful for anything which was true to God's Word, even if it was opposed to his own interpretation of it. He was a really great man, and stood staunch for evangelical orthodoxy, which he deemed the best guide for the elucidation of the Scriptures. And, indeed, humanly speaking, great institutions, such as the Moody Bible Institute, which depend on the religious public for their supplies, dare not do anything to disturb the confidence of their supporters. Hence he was not in a position to receive what we so ardently wished to share with him. God greatly used him in his forty years at Moody, and his reward will be great.

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