An Open Letter By the Editor

by W.B. Screws

The Pilgrim's Messenger

"Have a pattern of sound words which you hear from me, in faith and love
which are in Christ Jesus."--11 Timothy 1:13
Published Monthly By W. B. SCREWS, Glennville, Georgia
Twenty-five Cents a Year

Volume XX

December, 1940

Number 5.

Entered at the postoffice at Glennville, Ga., as second-class matter.

My dear brother,

You say, "I must believe in an eternal hell, if I believe in an eternal heaven, which I do."  

I suppose it has never occurred to you that, while heaven and hell are set in opposition to each other in theology, it is never done in the scriptures.  Heaven and earth are often mentioned in the same breath, as in opposition to each other, but heaven and hell never. 

You seem to believe that every time hell is mentioned in the Bible, it means the same place.  And, the unbelief of Christendom is shown in its use of the phrase, "eternal hell" - a phrase never found, even in the King James Version of the scriptures.  However, let me suppose, for the moment, that whenever hell is mentioned, it is proper to interpolate the word, "eternal," and see how you like it.  

David spoke of the possibility of making his bed in eternal hell, and said if he did, he would find God there, Ps. 139:8.  The soul of Christ went to eternal hell when He was crucified, and, contrary to your teaching, was brought out, Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27.  Jonah went to eternal hell, and prayed, and was brought out, also contrary to your teaching, Jonah 2:2.  A man may call his brother a fool, and be in danger of eternal hell, Matt. 5:22.  (By the way, didn't you say, once, that I had read the Bible so much that it had caused me to become a fool?)  A man may escape eternal hell by a surgical operation, Mark 9:43-48.  (I thought salvation to be by grace, not by surgery.)  

How do you like this picture?  You will know that, in the preceding paragraph, I am not stating my position.  I am stating the conclusions that would be logical, if, every time hell is mentioned, it means "eternal hell."  

It seems that you need a revised version of the Bible.  You should have a version that reads, in Gen. 1:1, "In the beginning God created heaven and hell and earth."  The version you have, and all versions, mention only the heavens and the earth.  Yet, one would gather, from your words, that heaven is one planet, earth is another, and hell is another.  

If that is not what you believe, then you must think hell is either on the earth, or else on one of the planets called the heavens.  If it is a separate planet, why must it be eternal, in order for the heavens to be eternal?  (You use the word, eternal, in the sense of endlessness.)  Or, if it is on either the earth of one of the heavenly planets, would its discontinuance necessitate the annihilation of the heavenly planets?  If a volcano on earth should burn out, would it cause the earth to be destroyed?  When you make the eternity of heaven dependent on the continuance of hell, you remind me of the preacher who said in Augusta, Ga., in the course of a sermon, "When the fires of hell go out, heaven will be as dark as midnight."  To this, the pastor of the church replied, "I never knew, before, that heaven is dependent on hell for its light!"  

I have told you, many times, that three Greek words are translated "hell," in the King James Version.  You could ascertain for yourself that this is true.  "Hades, " which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word, "Sheol," means the Unseen.  This is the hell in Ps. 139:8; 16:10; Acts 2:7; Jonah 2:2, and in many other passages.  When I tell you that the soul of Christ went there, you should know it is not a place of punishment.  It is never mentioned as such, except in a parable.  

"Gehenna" is another word translated hell.  The description of it in Mark 9:43-48, compared with the last few verses of Isaiah, shows us it is near Jerusalem, and is the place where worms will eat dead bodies while they are exposed to view, in the kingdom era.  They will later be thrown into the fire.  This is the hell in Matt. 5:22, and many other passage.  "Tartarus," is the hell of II Pet. 2:4, and is for sinning messengers, (angels).  

So hell is eternal, is it?  I am reminded of a preacher in South Carolina, who had spent nearly an hour preaching on eternal hell, when a man in the audience arose and said, "Brother, turn to Revelation 20:14, and read where your eternal hell is to be burned up."  The preacher said it was not true.  "Turn and read it," the other dared him.  He did so, and declared he would never again preach on eternal hell.  The King James Version says hell is to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.  But first it must give up all who are in it.  It is an empty hell that is cast into the lake.  Those of whom it empties itself, stand in the judgment, and go into the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death, and which is to be abolished at the end, I Cor. 15:22-28, King James Version.  When it is abolished, all will be make alive in Christ.  If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature, says the King James Version, in II Cor. 5:17.  If you believe the Bible, you are compelled to believe that when all are made alive in Christ, they will be new creatures.  And if you believe the Bible, you are compelled to believe that, as in Adam all die, even so, in Christ shall all be made alive.  Therefore, all mankind are to become new creatures in Christ.  This will be done long after all hells have become inoperative, and when death is destroyed, or abolished.  

Gehenna, being the garbage place of the kingdom, will cease operation when the thousand years have passed, Rev. 20.  Tartarus will be no longer needed after the judgment of the great day, for angels are confined there until then, Jude 6.  

However, I don't even believe the present heaven is eternal.  But the fact that hell is not eternal has nothing to do with it.  Your Bible says heaven and earth shall pass away, Matt. 24:35, and other passages.  You have read it, but I dare say, you have never preached it.  You have often spoken of the end of the world, meaning the earth, but you have never said a word about heaven passing away.  In the mind of a sectarian person, nothing in the Bible "registers," except what he already believes.  Hundreds of times, you have read, "Heaven and earth shall pass away," but you always preach, "Earth shall pass away."  Is it not so?  Perhaps you are afraid it will upset your theory of eternal heaven.  But if you would do a little more reading, you would discover that there are to be new heavens and a new earth, Rev. 21:1, and other passages.  These will be permanent.  But you will, perhaps, be terribly disappointed at your failure to find that there is to be a new hell.  But it is even so.  The empty one that is to be cast into the lake of fire, will be the last one, and it will disappear before the new heavens and new earth come into existence.  

The disregard - shall I say, the contempt? - that Christendom has for the word of God, is appalling.  For instance, it is a proper in practically all the churches, and in the mouth of nearly all preachers, that, "Those who do not go to heaven, go to hell."  The scriptures, however, teach us that those who do not go to heaven, enter the new earth.  Not in just those words, to be sure, but just as plainly as if that very expression were used.  

What is known as the Old Testament, abounds in promises of an earthly kingdom for Israel.  Not until we reach the epistles of Paul, do we find promise of anyone being taken to heaven.  In the epistles we have assurance that members of the ecclesia, (church, if you like that term better), which is the body of Christ, are to be taken into the heavens.  The "New Testament" writings, with the exception of Paul's epistles, reiterate the "Old Testament" promises of a kingdom for Israel.  I qualify this statement by saying that in the last two chapters of Revelation, we find the promise of the new earth.  While the Old and New Testament scriptures tell of an earthly kingdom for Israel, they also tell of gentiles who are to be on earth at the time, and under the rule and blessing of Israel.  In the last two chapters of Revelation, we find that both, Israel and gentiles will be in the new earth.  for some time after the new earth comes into existence, many of mankind are in the second death.  but when they are made alive in Christ, the new earth is their home.  If not - then where will they live?  Why is the new earth made without any sea, if not to make room for all mankind?  

The ecclesia which is the body of Christ is to be in the heavens, not only during the "millennium," but in the last eon, as well.  Paul says we have a house there "eonian," II Cor. 5:1.  Whether we shall remain there after the consummation of the eons, no one can say.  If not, we will be in the new earth.  The heavens are already populated, Eph. 3:10.  We will be taken there to be a blessing to the inhabitants.  

I would love to know just what is your reaction to Rom. 5:18.  You admit that all are in condemnation because of the offense of Adam.  I wonder if the rest of the passage has ever impressed you.  Probably not.  Neither will it ever impress you, until now learn that your creed is not superior to the word of God.  The rest of the verse says that through the righteousness of One, "the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."  Verse 15 of the chapter tells us that by the offense of one, the many died, and I am sure you will admit that "the many" of that passage means all the human family.  If it does not, what part of the human family was not effected by the offense of Adam?  All right, if "the many" are all, then how do you know the next "many are not all?  For we are told that the grace of God and the gift in grace, which is of the one, Man, Christ Jesus, abounds to the many. "Superabounds," would be a better word.  Does the second "many" include the same number as the first?  And in verse 18, is the second "all," the same as the first?  

What is your reaction to I Tim.2:3-6?  You say I should be non-fellowshipped, because I say, "God will have all men to be saved."  You have no doubt that I am teaching that all mankind shall be saved.  Do you doubt that the Bible means it, when it uses that identical language? 

But I want you to be more careful about using the expression "eternal hell."  You must find a hell after the white throne judgment, or else you will not find an eternal one.  Can't you rejoice with me, that there will be new heavens, a new earth, but NO NEW HELL?  God help you to do so. 

A reader thinks I was stating my position when I said, in the last issue, "It seems the scriptures constitute a puzzle," etc.  I thought everyone would know I was stating what seems to be the position I was opposing.  No, I do not believe the scripture is a puzzle.  Its solution is not left to the "smartness" of man. 

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