THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES of April 19, 1931, contained an article with the above
heading, which is reproduced herewith. As we have already covered this ground, it was not
our purpose to publish another discussion of this subject. But the high standing of THE
SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES, and its evident desire to be faithful to the Word of God gives
this exposition special interest and importance, even if it had not been written by the
pastor of the Moody Memorial Church, Chicago, H. A. Ironside, Litt. D., a man who, from
childhood, has been associated with the so-called Plymouth Brethren, who was, for many
years, a leader amongst them, and whose wider ministry has been so acceptable that he was
chosen to fill Moody's pulpit.
Apart from the subject itself, it is
instructive and helpful to see how such a man, with a lifelong acquaintance with the
Bible, and a sincere desire to know and teach the word of God, is subconsciously
controlled by the traditions which he has inherited. It should lead each one of us to test
himself by the one touchstone --the exactitude of the Word of God.
It is the value of this exposition as a
background for the truth which tempts me to make use of it. We must reach people where
they are and lead them on from that point. Doubtless many who have read the article
sincerely hold that it is God's truth.
|The Spirit Returns to God,
It Does not Go to "Hell"
With such a caption and such an expositor, we have a right to expect that all of the
statements will be in exact accord with the Scriptures. As we are taken past the English
to the original, we are entitled to look for perfect accord with the documents of
The article is reprinted in small type to
distinguish it from our comments. The following are the first two paragraphs:
| "Our English word
hell, meaning literally `the hidden place' in the expressive language of our Anglo-Saxon
forbears, is used in the Authorized Version of the New Testament to translate three Greek
words, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartaros.
"Hades is the equivalent of the Hebrew
Sheol, and refers to the abode of disembodied spirits between death and resurrection only.
It is never used after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in connection with those
who are saved, but only to describe the place of punishment of the lost. In the Old
Testament Sheol is used in a very broad sense as covering the state and condition of all
the dead, and is sometimes wrongly rendered `grave,' but a careful examination of every
passage where it is so translated will show that the reference is not to the tomb, but to
the place where the spirits of the departed, whether saved or lost, await their final
bliss or woe. There is a sense in which both the words Sheol and Hades set forth not only
a place, but the state of a spirit without the body. When the resurrection takes place,
the spirit is reunited to the body and the Hades condition is over."
The first statement which challenges
investigation is the definition of hades. It is said to be "the abode of
disembodied spirits." The Scriptures distinctly teach that the spirit returns to
God Who gave it (Ecc.12:7). Shall we combine these statements logically and teach the
startling doctrine that "hell" is where God is? If the spirit returns to God and
this is "hell," how can we avoid such a conclusion?
Is there a single passage in God's Word that
teaches that, at death, the disembodied spirit goes to "hell?" If so,
where is it? Let us test this definition in some of the occurrences of the word hades.
Did our Lord predict that Capernaum (Matt.11:23; Luke 10:15) should subside into the abode
of spirits? In the story of the rich man and Lazarus was Abraham disembodied? He had a bosom.
Lazarus had a finger. The rich man had a tongue. The flame gave him pain.
He could not cross the gulf between them. If these are disembodied, then words are useless
for the purpose of revelation.
Our Lord actually went to "hell" and has
left us a record of it. In the last dread hour of His sufferings did He say, Hell,
into they hands I commend My spirit? Such would have been His cry if the
"disembodied spirit" goes to "hell" at death. Instead, He said, "Father,
into Thy hands I am committing My spirit." His spirit did not go to
Hell. His soul went to hades. He said, "Thou wilt not abandon My soul
in the unseen" (Acts 2:27). His body was not allowed to decay. His soul
was not left in "hell." His spirit returned to God, His Father.
Is there a single passage in the Word of God
which connects the human spirit with "hell?" Hades is always
associated with the soul. This is basic. How can we know what the Bible really
teaches on this subject if we confuse the soul and the spirit, and send the spirit to
hell," when it really returns to God who gave it? Will THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
TIMES correct this grave departure from God's Word? Will it insist that man's spirit
goes to "hell" when the Bible really teaches that it returns to God? We
Is there any place in divine revelation where
we read of the time "between death and resurrection?" Death, in the
Scriptures, is a state which continues until resurrection. The act of dying is not
spoken of as death, but is referred to by a special term, apothnskoo,
literally FROM-DIE, die off. Men are dead until resurrection, rousing, or vivification
restores them to life. It is the dead who are raised, as such, not those who died
at some time in the past and who are not dead at the moment of resurrection. God raises
the dead and makes them alive!
|The Bible Really Teaches that
the Soul Returns to the Unseen
The implication that the disembodied spirit is conscious during death is absolutely
unwarranted. The Spirit returns to God. God gave it. Was it conscious when it was
with Him, before He imparted it to us? If it was not, neither is it conscious when it
returns to Him. Consciousness is never associated with the human spirit in God's Word. It
is always associated with the soul, during life, not in death. In the death state between
the act of dying and the resurrection, human spirits return to God, the soul returns
to "hell," whence it came, and the body returns to the soil, of which it
The statement that hades is never used
of those who are saved after our Lord's resurrection, but only to describe the punishment
of the lost, does not seem to accord with the facts. Our Lord, speaking to the beloved
disciple on Patmos, said, "I have the keys of death and of `hell.'" Anyone who
will read the context will see how incongruous any idea of punishment is here. The fact
that Christ has the keys of "hell" indicates that He would rouse John from the
dead, not thrust him into torments. Nowhere, in God's Word is hades or sheol
limited to the unsaved. It applies to all who die, saint and sinner alike. All go to the
unseen at death and emerge when they are roused.
We are told that "a careful
examination of every passage where it is so translated grave will show that the
reference is ...to the place, where the spirits of the departed, whether saved or lost,
await their final bliss or woe...Sheol and Hades set forth...the state of a spirit without
a body." The word sheol occurs less than seventy times. It is translated grave
only thirty-one times (Gen.37:35; 42:38; 44:29,31; 1 Sam.2:6; 1 Kings 2:6,9; Job 7:9;
14:13; 17:13; 21:13; 24:19; Psa.6:5(6); 30:3(4); 31:17(18); 49:14(15),14(15), 15(16);
88:3(4); 89:48(49); 141:7; Prov.1:12; 30:16; Ecc.9:10; Cant.8:6; Isa.14:11; 38:10,18;
Ezek. 31:15; Hosea 13:14,14). Let anyone read these passages and see if a spirit is
ever associated with the "grave" or sheol. Even a careless reading
will show that it is not.
What the Bible really teaches is seen in
the following, which we take from the Authorized Version to avoid giving offense:
16:10 thou wilt
not leave my SOUL in hell
30: 3(4) brought up my SOUL from the grave
49:15(16) redeem my SOUL from the power of the grave
86:13 deliver my SOUL from the lowest hell
89:48(49) his SOUL from the hand of the grave
23:14 deliver his SOUL from hell
Normally, only the soul goes to sheol.
It is only in a figurative sense that gray hairs (Gen.42:38) and pomp (Isa.14:11) go
there. And it is an abnormal event, when live men, with their bodies, descend to the
unseen (Num.16:30). Does not the Bible really teach that the soul, not the
disembodied spirit, goes to sheol?
In contrast to this the spirit is spoken of as
follows, showing that it goes to God, not to "hell." I quote from the Authorized
Job 34:14 If he set his heart upon
man, If he gather unto himself
his spirit and his breath; all flesh shall perish together,
and man shall turn again unto dust.
Psa. 104:29 Thou takest away their breath
[spirit], they die,
and return to their dust.
Ecc. 12: 7 Then shall the dust
return to the earth as it was and
the spirit shall return to God who gave it.
Luke 23:46 into thy hands I commend my spirit
The spirits of all flesh, as well as
those of God's saints and that of our Saviour go to God at death. Can any passage be found
to the contrary?
At death the Scriptures return the body to the
soil, the spirit to God. The soul is the sensation resulting from the combination of these
two (Gen.2:7). How, then, can there be any sensation, any perception, in hades?
There is not, for God calls it the imperceptible, where perception is impossible.
Without the organs of the body or the life of the spirit there is no sight, no hearing, no
smelling, no feeling of any kind. This gives "hell" its real name--the
|"The second word translated hell is Gehenna, which was the name
of a valley just outside Jerusalem where the offal and refuse of the city were burned. In
ancient times, the abominable rites of Moloch worship involving human sacrifice had been
celebrated there, so it was looked upon as a place accursed. Perpetual fires were kept
burning in this valley, and into the flames were thrown the carcasses of beasts and
sometimes even human criminals; upon these rotting, burning bodies the worms were
continually feeding, until the flames destroyed them. Our Lord uses this awful picture as
a figure of the place and state of the lost after the day of judgment. Other figures are
used to describe the same dreadful condition, as for instance, `outer darkness,' `the
blackness of darkness forever,' and `a lake of fire and brimstone.'"
|Gehenna is Not the Final State
It Operates during the Kingdom
The first part of this paragraph is good. But when did our Lord use Gehenna as a figure
of "the place and state of the lost after the day of judgment?" The dozen
passages where this word occurs (Matt.5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47;
Luke 12:5; James 3:6) seem to contain no hint of such a thing. Can it be that the writer
has added to God's Word on this solemn theme? The "outer darkness" also
is dated during the kingdom, before the judgment (Matt.8:12). The "blackness
of darkness" is for a single eon (Jude 13). These refer to dealings with special
classes previous to the great White Throne, not to all humanity after it.
| "The third term,
Tartaros, literally the abyss, is found only once in the Scriptures, and that in 2 Peter
2:4, where we read of the fallen angels who have been cast down to hell. From this we
would gather that it refers to a special punishment reserved for the angels who sinned,
though elsewhere we are told that the lost are to depart `into everlasting fire prepared
for the devil and his angels' (Matt.25:41), so that the punishment is evidently of the
Tartarus should not be confounded
with abussos, abyss. It is a place where sinning messengers are kept for
chastening judgment (2 Peter 2:4). It is a place of detention, before, the lake of
fire, not a place of punishment.
WHAT CHRIST TAUGHT ABOUT HELL
| "It is noteworthy
that the greater part of the New Testament teaching on the subject of hell and the future
punishment of the impenitent comes to us from the lips of our blessed Lord himself. He it
was who related the solemn story of the rich man and Lazarus. It was he who warned of the
dangers of being cast into the Gehenna of fire; it was he who contrasted eternal life with
everlasting punishment and who solemnly averred, `If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall
die in your sins' (John 8:24), and, `Whither I go ye cannot come' (John 8:22). We hear
much sentimental talk in our day about refusing the stern teaching of the apostles in view
of the teaching of the gentle Nazarene. But men forget that it was the Lord Jesus who gave
us the heart- rending picture of the intermediate and the final condition of men in
eternity who die in their sins. He negatives all thought of any second chance or eternal
hope for such. His words as recorded in John 3:36 are conclusive. `He that believeth on
the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but
the wrath of God abideth on him.' It is impossible logically to couple the thought of
universal salvation or of final annihilation of the wicked with these words. `Shall not
see life,'--there will then be no second chance in another world for men who have rejected
the Gospel in this one. `The wrath of God abideth on him,'--you cannot have abiding wrath
The preceding paragraphs fail to clearly
distinguish hades, the imperceptible, the unseen, which receives the souls of all
in death, from Gehenna, which operates only during the day of the Lord and is located
outside Jerusalem, and from Tartarus, which keeps messengers for judgment, and from the
lake of fire, for unbelievers after resurrection and judgment. This paragraph is equally
confusing in regard to time. Eonian life is contrasted with eonian
chastening only in regard to the nations who do not succor the Jews in the end time.
It has no reference whatever to other sinners. What bearing has John 8:24 on this subject?
|Our Lord Speaks of Process, not End
Does John 8:21,22 prove that the Jews will never go to Him? A really careful
examination of the Greek will show that our Lord carefully chose verb forms which do not
allow and will not uphold that inference. He did not put it in the indefinite, "I
go" and "you come," but "I am going" and "you be
coming." He avoided the very forms which might give us ground for thinking that this
was more than a temporary arrangement. But we need not ask our readers to examine this in
the original. Could our Lord say these words to His own apostles? Were they also
eternally shut out from His presence? If this interpretation is true, they were!
Listen to His word: "Little children, I am still with you for a little time. You
shall be seeking Me, and, according as I said to the Jews, that `Where I am going, you
cannot be coming,' at present I am saying it to you also." The tense is
temporary. The disciples go to Him later, and also the Jews (John 13:33).
Where did our Lord give us a picture of the
final condition of men in eternity? Is it wise to make "pictures" out of His
plain statements unless they are warranted by the text in so solemn a subject?
Is John 3:36 finally conclusive? Then Luke
17:22 is also, for the word and the tense are the same. "Yet He said to His
disciples, `The days will be coming when you will be yearning to perceive one of the days
of the Son of Mankind, and you shall not see it.'" Did He mean that they would
never see it? By no means! He goes on to explain that it is only a temporary delay.
So, in John 3:36, the "shall not see life" is not final. This is absolutely
certain in the case of the word "abide." He could have said, "the wrath of
God remains, emeine" (Matt.11:23) but He chose a term referring only to
a present process, is remaining menei. None of these passages refers to
The implication that universal salvation (1
Tim.2:4; 4:10) involves a "second chance" is purely gratuitous. If man is
the active agent in salvation, no number of chances will be sufficient, but if God
is our Saviour He does not need even one "chance." He has distinctly said that He
will justify all (Rom. 5:18) and vivify all (1 Cor.15:22) and reconcile all (Col.1:20).
There is no chance that He has lied or overestimated His abilities, or His riches
|"It is very evident, then, that the Bible plainly teaches the
eternal punishment of those who, because of their sins, shall be shut away from the light
and glory of Heaven in the sorrow and darkness of hell. For them all hope must forever be
abandoned. In spite of all that advocates of other theories have written, I have never
been able to find in my Bible one ray of hope for men who die spurning the grace of God In
Christ. For them, `it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God'
|Scriptures Wrenched from their Time
Where is the evidence, the plain teaching, on which these statements are based?
It seems to be based on that unscriptural idea of "only two destinies--heaven and
hell." What about the myriads of Israel's saints who go to neither, but are blessed
on earth? "Eternal [everlasting] punishment" in God's Word is not applied to
sinners in general, for their sins. It is said only of a very small class at the beginning
of the kingdom. Their sins are not the basis of this judgment. It turns entirely on their
treatment of Israel (Matt.25:46). It is very painful, indeed, to find honored servants of
God habitually misplacing this passage. Their consciousness seem to be thoroughly inured
to this serious perversion. Let us pray that God will lay this fault on their hearts.
Hebrews 10:31 deals with those in the covenant
nation who outrage the spirit of grace. Why apply this to all? And why not bring up a
definite passage showing that there is no hope? No such Scripture exists. There are
definite statements in God's Word which can easily be found, but which demand faith,
which is evidently lacking here. God says that death, the last enemy, shall
be abolished (1 Cor.15:26). God says that He will justify all mankind
(Rom.5:18). God says that He will make all alive (1 Cor.15:22). God
says that He will reconcile all to Himself (Col.1:20). And each of these
statements definitely speaks of the ultimate consummation. The statements used in this
article do not refer to the end, but to the process. They are dislocated in time.
|"But, having seen this, there is another side of the truth which
it is well for us to keep in mind. Nowhere in Scripture is hell presented as a vast
pandemonium where lost men and demons are indiscriminately huddled together harassing one
another while they vilify God and curse his blessed Son throughout an eternity of hideous
torture. All such conceptions come from paganism and belong to medieval theology, not to
the teaching of Bible-instructed Christians. In other words, we are not to think of
eternal torment as though it involved the eternal torture of the lost either by the Devil
or his agents, or by one another, and certainly not by God who is love. But torment of a
mental and spiritual character will be inescapable. `I am tormented in this flame,' cried
Dives (Luke 16:24). We need to remember that it was a disembodied spirit who was speaking,
so that the flame of very necessity could not be any more literal than the physical terms
which he uses when he speaks of finger and tongue. In 1 John 4:18, we read, `Fear hath
torment.' It is the same word, and refers of course to what is mental and spiritual. How
could it be otherwise with men who remember throughout eternity opportunities neglected,
grace despised, and abide beneath the awful sense of being under divine indignation
because of their rejection of Christ? This indeed will be torment."
|The Rich Man
How can we "remember" that the torment of the rich man was of a "mental
and spiritual character" when there is no indication of this in previous scripture
and the whole setting of the scene is contrary to it? This is hades. We have shown
that the spirits of Abraham and Lazarus and the rich man are with God, not in hades
if this is to be taken literally. If not, then the men are there, especially their bodies
and their souls, for the scene is based on their actual presence and sensations.
Take the whole as a parable of Israel's sufferings while they are lo ammi, and the
comfort of those who believe, which is figured by Abraham's bosom, and it is filled with
prophetic light. Make it a mixed literal-figurative phantasmagoria, and all is confusion.
Are we to understand from this that no punishment is physical? Why, then, resurrect the
bodies of the dead for judgment?
| "But even the lost in
hell are included in the universal subjugation of Philippians 2:9-11, where we read:
`Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every
name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in
earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ
is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' The word `things' in each instance is italicized
in the text, and does not appear in the original. The word `those' might just as well be
inserted, for it is clearly of intelligent beings that the apostle is speaking. He is
declaring that in the coming day of our Saviour's exaltation, all in Heaven and on earth
and in the infernal regions shall bow the knee in subjection to him, and every tongue
shall confess his Lordship. In Gehenna there will be `wailing and gnashing of teeth,' but
no actual insubordination will be permitted."
|All will Bow
to their Saviour
There is nothing about "hell" in Philippians 2:9-11. The term katachthonion
is simply subterranean. To change it to "infernal regions" savors of
medieval priestcraft. The whole passage deals with the exaltation of Christ under the name
Jesus, which is His title as Saviour, not Judge. No knee can bow in the name
of our Saviour and not be saved. No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by holy
spirit (1 Cor.12:3). It is to be for the glory of God as Father. How much
"hell" exalts our Lord's Saviourhood and God's Fatherhood we must leave to each
one to decide in His presence. "Gehenna" has its place in the kingdom in the eon
preceding the one in which our Lord becomes Head of all. The connection is most
| "We are to think of
hell, therefore, as God's well-ordered prison house, where men who never behaved before
will have to behave at last; where absolute justice will be meted out to all, but where
mercy never shall come and hope shall be forgotten."
Where, in God's Word is "hell" His
"prison house?" God keeps the messengers who sinned in Tartarus, not in
"hell." Satan will be locked up in the abyss, not in "hell."
Who ever heard of justice being meted out in "hell?" Are we not drifting away
from God's Word altogether? Hades is the Greek imperceptible. Sheol
is the Hebrew questionable, from the verb shal, to ask. They denote a
state where there is no perception with any of our senses, no sight, no hearing, no
feeling of any sort. Literally, there is no soul when the spirit leaves the body.
Figuratively, the same sense is given by saying that the soul goes to hades or sheol.
| "According to the
crude thoughts of many, hell will be Satan's kingdom and realm of despair, where he will
reign despotically throughout eternity, taking fiendish delight in torturing his unhappy
subjects. Needless to say, this conception is not found in the Word of God. According to
Scripture, hell is the Devil's prison where he and his demon hosts will be shut up and
unable longer to injure men or to defy or insult a holy God."
|The "Devil" Never
will Be in "Hell"
But the "Devil," or Slanderer, has never been in "hell" and never
will be! There is not a word of Scripture for the assertion. His place is in heaven until
he will be cast down (Rev.12:9). Then he is shut up in the abyss (Rev.20:3), from
which he is loosed on earth (Rev.20:7) and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). How
can my dear brethren preface "according to Scripture" to statements which have
absolutely no basis in God's Word?
WHERE DEATH WORKS NO CHANGE
| "In the very nature
of things, men who die impenitent, possessing only an evil nature, a carnal mind, which
`is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,' could not be happy in Heaven
with God and his redeemed. Constitutionally opposed to his holy will, they will not be
changed, by passing through death, into gracious, obedient saints. Death in itself has no
purifying or saving power. After death men will be judged for the deeds done in the body.
When souls have passed out of the body, it is too late for repentance and restoration.
Therefore the tremendous importance of closing with the divine offer of mercy while it is
called today, and while the Holy Spirit speaks in power to the soul. Scripture everywhere
intimates that it is a fearful thing to die out of harmony with God. `If,' to use Joseph
Cook's trenchant phrasing, `men die hating what God loves and loving what God hates,' the
Bible suggests no post-mortem means of changing their character. It rather declares the
very opposite; for, portraying the eternal state in the last chapter of the Book of
Revelation, the Spirit declares: `He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which
is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still:
and he that is holy, let him be holy still' (22:11).
"In other words, character tends to
permanency. Through the infinite mercy of God, no matter how low and vile one has become
while in this life, there is still hope through Christ's atonement. But if unregenerated
before passing into another world, one can but meet God according to the character already
formed. `It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Heb.9:27).
Observe: not `after this another chance, or second probation,' but stern, relentless
Men do not possess an "evil nature." The statement that the Circumcision
were, "by nature" children of Indignation, even as the rest, has been
misinterpreted so as to directly deny the teaching of Romans that man's nature is not
evil. Sin is beside nature (Rom.1:26). The gentiles may be doing by nature
what the law demands (Rom.2:14). It is allied with conscience. Paul say that the
Uncircumcision, who by nature, are discharging the law's demands, will judge the
Circumcision (Rom.2:27). As the idea that human nature is evil is one of the foundations
of "evangelical" theology, it is taken for granted, and its basis in the
Scriptures is not examined. The "carnal mind" (disposition of the flesh)
(Rom.8:7) is present in the believer today. Hence the argument of this paragraph applies
to believers quite as well as to unbelievers. Are they also hopelessly lost?
In Revelation 22:8 John returns to Patmos. Read
the passage down to verse eleven. The standpoint is not the final eon, where John has been
in vision, but the days in which he wrote the scroll. It is before the Lord's
coming, which is promised in the next verse. How can it refer to the "eternal
state?" That is utterly out of line with its context. Have we a right to take a
statement which refers to the past and shift it to eternity? What will become of God's
revelation if this course is pursued?
In Hebrews 9:27 the argument absolutely
repudiates the popular interpretation here given. What parallel is there between the death
of a man and his judgment and the offering of Christ? It was the death of the high priest
in Israel which led to the "judgment" of the man slayer (Num.35:22-29). The
statement has no reference to men in General. The "judgment" here is restoration.
It cannot be applied to suffering for sin on the part of the unbeliever at the Great White
Throne. How often have great saints wrested this passage from its context so as to bolster
up their theology! Where this is necessary, does it not indicate a defect in their
will be Vivified
It is true that death works no change for the better in either saint or sinner. It has
no purifying or saving power. What is it, then, that will change the saints from fleshly
minded failures, quite unfit for heaven, into incorruptible, immortal beings with bodies
like His glorious body? Resurrection, or rousing, will not do it, for men have been
brought back to life without such a change, and even the unbeliever will be resurrected
for judgment. Vivification is the solution. Ours will be a resurrection of life.
What ails us now all comes from lack of vitality. Abundant life will transform us
into His image.
The question remains, Will the unbeliever
ever be vivified? He will be raised and roused at the Great White Throne, but after
being judged he will be cast into the lake of fire, the second death. Is there any escape
from it? There is. Death, as the last enemy (which can refer only to the
second death), will be abolished, not by resurrection anastasis or rousing egersis,
but by vivification, or making alive zooopoithsontai (1
Cor.15:22). If this changes saints it will also change sinners. All men sin because they
are dying. They will cease from sinning when beyond the operation of death.
| "The order of events
would seem to be as follows: When God says to the wicked man, `Thou fool, this night thy
soul shall be required of thee' (Luke 12:20), that soul, which cannot be killed when the
body dies, passes immediately into Hades. This is the clear teaching of the story of the
rich man and Lazarus. `The rich man also died, and was buried; and in Hades he lifted up
his eyes, being in torments (Luke 16:22,23). It is evident our Lord meant us to understand
there was an instantaneous transition from the life of luxury to a state of wretchedness
and woe. And it should be noted, in connection with what has already been said, that there
is no hint of this lost soul being in a condition where demons or demon-controlled men are
torturing him by inflicting upon him any suffering other than that which results from the
fact that he carries within himself the means of his torment and grief. `Son, remember!'
(Luke 16:25). What a world of anguish is involved for the lost soul in these words.
Eternal memory! This in itself must needs involve eternal torment unless one has been
washed from his sins by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ."
|The Soul, as well
as the Body, Dies
The idea that the soul cannot die certainly never had its origin in the Word of God.
The notion that man dies in sections is based on some figurative, passages in which a part
is emphasized. Herod "Sought the young child's soul" (Matt.2:20). God is
able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (Matt.10:28). "The soul that sinneth,
it shall die," though a figure, shows clearly that the soul is included with the body
and spirit in the return called death. The soul is often spoken of as dying. Here are a
few passages from the Psalms: "Let my soul live" (Psa.119:175), "Thou hast
brought up my soul from the grave" (Psa.30:3), "Thou hast delivered my soul from
death" (Psa.56:13), "He spared not their soul from death" (Psa.78:50),
"None can keep alive his own soul" (Psa.22:29). In the Unveiling we read every
living soul died (Rev.16:3). The determined effort of evangelicals to make death some form
of life has led them to invent the nonscriptural phrase "the resurrection of the
body" because they really do not believe God's word that the man is dead,
including his soul and his spirit. To them the rousing (of the soul) and the vivification
(of the spirit) are unknown.
Abraham says "Son, remember."
Hence he is the torturer of hell! But we have no hint that this actually did torture the
rich man. The record says "I am tormented in this flame." Why try to deny
this? Flame is painful. Who started this flame? Who keeps it burning? We are agreed that
it is not the Slanderer or his messengers. If God does not do it, who does? Abraham seems
to be especially favored, for he has an unobstructed view of the torment of the damned,
and he need not be unduly concerned about them for he cannot help them anyway. He must be
very happy, indeed! Would any of my readers care to reserve a seat where they can enjoy
the torturing of the damned for eternity?
| "This intermediate
state continues unchanged (on the wrong side of the great gulf which is irrevocably fixed
so that none can pass from one side to the other) until the end of time, when the day of
the last great assize shall dawn. Then we learn from Revelation 20 that he who once hung
on Calvary's cross will sit on the great white throne, and before him all the wicked dead
will be gathered. They will come forth in the resurrection of judgment. We are not told
anything as to the nature and condition of the resurrection bodies of the lost. That they
will be raised is perfectly plain. `Death and hades' will give up the dead that are in
them. That is, death, the grave, will give up the bodies; Hades will give up the souls;
and so the unsaved will rise and stand before the throne. There the books of record will
be opened and men will be judged out of the things written in the books. Every secret sin
will be exposed; every evil thing brought to light. The Word of God, too, will be opened,
for our Lord declared to the Jews that Moses in whom they trusted would be a witness
against them in that day. Then, too, `the book of life' will be unfolded, for many in that
vast throng once thought their names were written there, having made profession of faith
in Christ, but they will search in vain to find themselves enrolled among the possessors
of life eternal. And so we read, `Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was
cast Into the lake of life' (Rev. 20:15). Thus death and Hades will come to an end. There
will be no more place for the grave, for all will then be resurrected. There will be no
more use for Hades, for every lost soul will be called forth for judgment. Therefore death
and Hades will be cast into the lake of fire."
State" is Death
This "intermediate state" of torment will continue only one or more thousand
years before the sinner will be brought before the Judge to be tried! Can anyone imagine a
greater travesty on justice than this? Human courts cannot help being unjust, but how many
of them inflict the severest penalty long before the prisoner's sentence has been passed?
I preached in a jail for many years. They would not let us even see those inmates who had
not been tried and condemned, lest it should be to their disadvantage. Yet we are asked to
believe that God uses the unbeliever as a sort of spectacle for his saints for thousands
of years before the sinner is brought to trial! Surely THE SUNDAY SCHOOL TIMES will
repudiate this teaching! God is just! He is not an abandoned fiend!
Death, in the Scriptures, is figured by sleep.
Let us not make this literal, as our Lord's disciples did, when He spoke of Lazarus, for
then death would be a restorative. There are many things about sleep which are not true of
death. There is a measure of subconscious activity in sleep, but not in death. There are
dreams in sleep, but not in death. The point of likeness is oblivion. God, at
death, makes the sinner entirely oblivious of everything until the moment of his
resurrection, so that, to the sinner's consciousness, he is brought into judgment immediately,
the moment after his demise. This is just. This is Godlike. This is
THE FIRE OF HELL
| "The lake of fire is
expressly called the second death. It is clearly the same as Gehenna; that hell-fire
concerning which our Saviour spoke so seriously. This is hell in all its awfulness. It is
not annihilation, for the wicked are to `have their part in' it.
"Much time has been wasted debating
whether this fire is material or symbolical. But the awful fact is that it depicts a
punishment that is endless, and a suffering that is beyond anything ever known in this
"`Our God is a consuming fire,' and to be
exposed to his wrath will burn the soul like the fiercest flame throughout eternal ages,
in which each individual will suffer only for his own sins. Thus for some it will be more
tolerable in the day of judgment than for others, for `God shall render to every man
according to his works.'"
|The Lake of Fire is not Gehenna
The lake of fire is not the second life, as is here intimated. The sinner is judged
for his sins before the great white throne, not in death, either the first or the
second. This lake of fire is nowhere associated with the vale of Hinnom, below Jerusalem.
Worms cannot exist in a lake of sulphurous fire. It is not annihilation, but it is
death for those who appear before the Great White Throne, and have died before. They
suffer for their sins during their second life. That is why they are raised. They cannot
have eonian life. That is for the saints only. Hence once more they enter oblivion until
the abolition of death, the last enemy. Then they are vivified, made alive, that God may
be All in all.
How can God render to every man according to
his works when, according to this unjust arrangement, the mildest sinner, even infants,
must suffer in fire for eternity? In time there can be no distinction, for infinity
admits of none. In severity, what choice is there between various flames? The babe and the
murderer, the Christ rejector and the ignorant heathen who never heard of our Saviour, all
partakers of a doom infinite in duration and beyond imagination in severity! And who would
suffer most? The god that would plan and permit such a fiendish "hell." His
glory would be eclipsed, as it is now being dimmed by those who think Him capable of such
| "The Scriptures have
told us about hell in order that we may never go there. The Word of God makes plain the
way of life and salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore in our stead on
Calvary's cross the bitter anguish that lost men must endure eternally if they refuse his
grace. Thrice happy the man who, turning in repentance to the risen Christ, finds in him
an all- sufficient Saviour and so can exclaim with assurance in the language of Paul
Gerhardt, the German singer:
"There is no condemnation
There is no hell for me,
The torment and the fire
My eyes shall never see."
"How foolish for men to reason and
argue about the possibility of an end to hell when they may find here on earth One who
will save them forever from entering upon its woe. The apostle links together in one
passage (2 Cor.5:11,14) two motives for sending this Gospel out into the world. He says,
`Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...for the love of Christ constraineth
Go to "Hell"
Quite the contrary is true. Unless our Lord comes, the souls of all believers will
return to hades, as their spirits return to God, and the bodies return to the soil.
Death is still a return. Our bodies came from the soil and may return thither. Our spirits
came from God and must return to Him. Our souls came from hades ("hell!")
and they cannot possibly return elsewhere! The Circumcision are warned against
Gehenna and the lake of fire, but these are not in operation now.
will Save All
Where, in the Scriptures do we learn that Christ bore "in our stead" the
bitter anguish that lost men must endure eternally? Is an infant capable of bearing such
anguish? Is any man equipped for agony such as He endured? Are our Saviour's sufferings so
insignificant that they will be duplicated for unnumbered infinities by each and every
sinner of the race? I much prefer the theory that His sufferings were so much greater than
that of others that He endured an amount equal to that of all the doomed. However lacking,
it at least glorifies His sacrifice. But never before have I heard that the slightest
suffering of the sinner will equal that of Emmanuel when forsaken by His God.
After having said "death and hades will
come to an end" why call it foolishness for others to even consider the possibility
of the same thing? When death is abolished there will be no hades. There is no
Gehenna on the new earth. Even the lake of fire is no longer the second death when there
is no death. But this does not do away with the fearful judgments of God. He will visit
indignation and fury, affliction and distress on every human soul which is effecting evil
(Rom.2:9). The sinner must suffer for his sins unless he is sheltered by the blood of
There have been times when even a slight
offense called for the extreme penalty. Men were hanged for stealing food to keep from
starving. But such laws are no deterrent to crime. Their very unreasonableness makes them
a dead letter. It is useless to threaten sinners with eternal torment. It is so contrary
to every sense of justice that they distrust the evangel which must be propped by such an
alternative. Let us preach the sane and wholesome truth that God is just, that He
will vindicate Himself to the sinner, and win his approval even of His severe judgments.
After all, it is God Who is most affected by the sinner's judgment.
|All will be Vivified,
Many phases of this question are not touched in this brief reply, for they are
expounded elsewhere. The fact that the future is always spoken of in terms of limited eons
(not endlessness) is the key to the problem. In this article the writer has consistently
appealed to passages which deal with the process to God's goal, but he has absolutely
ignored those passages which actually deal with the consummation itself. Our Lord and His
twelve apostles did not reveal the final things. That was given to the apostle Paul, who
completed the Word of God. Why, in this treatise on what the Bible really teaches, was his
testimony--the only real revelation of the consummation--completely repudiated?