Gary Amirault on March 7th, 2011

by Thomas Whittemore

Many early American Christians discovered Jesus as the Savior of the whole world. I have come across hundreds of old books written in the late 1700s and early 1800s that declare in Scriptural form the Everlasting Gospel that Jesus will redeem every single soul created. One of these books had a chapter, reprinted below, that commented on 100 Scriptures that declare the salvation of all mankind. I will be doing some editing since the English of today is quite different from that of 150 years ago. Any comments I may make will be in parenthesis. It was written in 1840 by Thomas Whittemore.



1. God is the Creator of all men. “He hath made of one blood, all nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17:26 He would not have created intelligent beings, had he known they were to be forever miserable. To suppose that God would bring beings into existence who he knew would be infinite losers by that existence, is to charge him with the utmost malignity. The existence itself would not be a blessing, but a curse; the greatness of which cannot be described. As God is infinite in knowledge, and as he sees the end from the beginning, he must have known before the creation, the result of the existence he was about to confer, and whether, upon the whole, it would be a blessing; and , as he was not under any necessity to create man, being also infinitely benevolent, he could not have conferred an existence that he knew would end in the worst possible consequences to his creatures.


    2. God is the Father of all men. “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?” Mal. 2:10 A kind Father will not punish his children but for their good. God is evidently called the Father of all men in the Scriptures, and this is not an unmeaning name; he has the disposition and principles of a Father. He loves with a Father’s love; he watches with a Father’s care; he reproves with a Father’s tenderness; he punishes with a Father’s design. God is the Father of all men; and, therefore, he cannot make mankind endlessly miserable.


    3. All men, of right, belong to God. “Behold, all souls are mine,” saith the Lord. “As the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine.” Ezek. 18:4 God will not give up what belongeth to him, to the dominion of sin and Satan forever. All men are God’s by creation; he made them all. They are his by preservation; he sustains them all. They were his at first, and they always have remained in his care. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” That God, who says to men, “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel,” can never abandon his own creatures. He will ever exercise a gracious care over them, as will be more fully seen in the following reasons.


    4. God hath given all things to Christ, as the moral Ruler of the world. “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Psalms 2:8 “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” John 3:35 “All things,” here, means all intelligent beings. So say the best commentators. (The word things is in italics in the KJV which means it is not in the Greek. We are not talking about trees here.)5. God gave all beings to Christ that he might save them. “Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” John 17:2 This plainly evinces, that it was God’s design, in giving Christ dominion over all flesh, that they should all enjoy eternal life.

    6. It is certain that Christ will save all that the Father hath given him. “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out.” John 6:37 These three propositions are irrefragable evidence of the final happiness of all men. 1st. God hath given all things to Christ. 2d. All that God hath given him shall come to him; and 3d. him that cometh he will in nowise cast out. All are given; all shall come; and none shall be cast out. What is the unavoidable conclusion?


    7. It is THE WILL of God that all men shall be saved. “Who will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.” KJV 1Tim. 2:4 By “all men”, in this passage, is undoubtedly to be understood all the human race. Salvation comes through the belief of the truth. God wills that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved thereby.8. God inspires the hearts of the good to pray for the salvation of all men, and say, as Jesus said, “Thy will be done.” Matt. 6:10. Adam Clarke says, “Because he wills the salvation of all men, therefore he wills that all men should be prayed for; as in 1 Tim. 2:1. “I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” Would God inspire the hearts of his saints to pray for the salvation of all mankind, if he knew they would not all be saved?

    9. Jesus came to do the will of God. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” John 4:34 “Lo, I come to do they will, O God.” Heb. 10:9 The will of God is, that all men be saved. This is his will, by way of distinction and preeminence. Jesus came to do this will. He came as the Savior, as the Savior of all men. He came as the good Shepherd, to seek and save that which was lost. He came to save all men, not only those who lived on the earth while he was here, but all who lived before, and all who have since lived, and all who shall live. Jesus gave himself a ransom for all; he tasted death for every man; and unto him, at last, every knee shall bow, and every tongure shall confess him Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Such is the way in which Jesus does the will of God.

    10. The will of God cannot be resisted. “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Dan. 4:35. Who can resist a being of Almighty power? What God wills to take place, must take place. He wills the salvation of all men because it is right. A God of purity cannot desire endless sin and rebellion. If he wills the salvation of all men, he wills all the means by which it shall be accomplished; it must therefore take place.

    11. God has no other will besides the will to save all men. “He is in one mind, and who can turn him.” Job 23:13.


    12. God is love and love worketh no ill. “God is love.” 1 John 4:8. “Love worketh no ill.” Rom. 13:10. This is a very forcible argument. God’s nature is the very essence of benevolence, and benevolence cannot be the origin of endless evil. If love worketh no ill, God can work no ill; and, therefore, God cannot be the author of endless evil.13. God loves all mankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” John 3:16: and, as Jesus died for all men, so God loves all men. This argument adds great force to the last.

    14. God loves even his enemies. For he requires men to love their enemies, which he could not do if he hated his. (Matt. 5:44) And Jesus declared, “for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” Luke 6:35. This is but an amplification of the preceding argument. If God loves his enemies, he certainly loves all men; for no one doubts that he loves his friends. And can God cause those to be endlessly miserable whom he loves?


    15. God is wise; and it cannot be a dictate of wisdom to create beings, and then make their existence a curse by entailing endless suffering to it. God foresaw all the consequences of our creation when he made us. He knew fully what the result would be to each individual. Is it possible, that infinite goodness could breathe life into unoffending dust, when it was clearly foreseen that endless evil would ensue? It was not possible. God must have created only to bless. “Love worketh no ill.”16. The wisdom of God is “full of mercy,” and “without partiality.” James 3:17. “Full of mercy,” says Adam Clarke, i.e. “ready to pass by a transgression, and to grant forgiveness to those who offend; and PERFORMING EVERY POSSIBLE ACT OF KINDNESS.” Surely, a God of infinite power and skill, who “performs every possible act of kindness,” will save his fallen creatures from their sins. “Without partiality,” i.e. without making a difference. God is no respecter of persons. He is kind to all men, and he will perform every “possible act of kindness” to all men.


    17. The pleasure of God is in favor of the salvation of all men; and therefore, neither death, sin, nor pain, can be the ultimate object of God in reference to man. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Ezek. 33:11. Death and sin and pain may exist for a time; but if God has no pleasure in them of themselves, they are not the end at which he aims, but the means by which he accomplishes that end. The end in which God rests as his pleasure, design, or purpose, must be essentially benevolent, because he is essentially a benevolent God. Neither death, nor sin, nor pain can be his ultimate plan or pleasure; they are the means by which his holy and righteous designs are carried into effect.18. God created all men expressly for his pleasure, and, therefore, not for ultimate death. “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Rev. 4:11 Adam Clarke has a fine remark on this passage. He says, “He made all things for his pleasure; and through the same motive he preserves. Hence, it is most evident, that he hateth nothing that he has made; and could have made no intelligent creature with the design to make it eternally miserable. It is strange, that a contrary supposition has ever entered into the heart of man; and it is high time that the benevolent nature of the Supreme God, should be fully vindicated from aspersions of this kind.”

    19. The pleasure of God shall prosper in the hand of Christ. “The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.” Isaiah 53:10 Clarke says, on Isaiah 53:10, that the pleasure of God is, “to have all men saved, and brought to the knowledge of the truth.” Compare this with the 20th section.

    20. God’s pleasure shall surely be accomplished. “So shall by word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11. “I will do all my pleasure.” 46:10 Does not this passage show that God’s pleasure shall certainly be accomplished? His word shall not return unto him void: it shall accomplish what he please, and prosper in the object which he sent it to accomplish. God has no pleasure in the death or suffering of the sinner. That was not the object of creation. God created men for his pleasure, and his pleasure shall certainly be accomplished.

    21. God has purposed the salvation of all men. “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him.” (Eph. 1:9,10) It is evident from this passage, that God has purposed to gather together all things in Christ. God’s purpose agrees with his will or pleasure. He wills to have all men saved; he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; and accordingly he has purposed to gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth. This is God’s purpose; this is what he has purposed in himself. And this is not the gathering together of those things only which are in Christ, but the gathering together of all things in him. “Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen. 49:10) And Jesus confirms this: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) Thus we see all things are to be gathered into Christ. They are all to have his spirit, and partake of his new creation; for “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) By the phrase “all things,” as Archbishop Newcome says, it meant, “all persons, all intelligent beings. See the neuter for the masculine, John 6:37,39.” See more on this subject under the 78th section.

    22. The purpose of God cannot fail: it must certainly be accomplished. “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, surely as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” (Isaiah 14:24) “For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?”( verse 27) “I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (46:11) Now, whatever God purposes must take place. God can have no second thoughts; hence, Paul speaks of “the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel (i.e. the previous consultations or deliberations) of his own will.” (Eph 1:11) What, then, shall hinder the accomplishment of this purpose? Has he formed a plan which he cannot execute? No; the concurrent testimony of the sacred writers is, that whatever God has purposed, SHALL BE DONE. So let it be, O Lord.


    23. God promised to Abraham, his servant, that he would bless all mankind, in his seed. “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) All the nations of the earth, all the families of the earth, according to this promise, are to be blessed in the seed of Abraham. The language is absolute: it is without any condition. “All the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” And who is this “seed of Abraham,” in whom all the nations and families of the earth shall be blessed? I agree with Dr. Adam Clarke on this matter. He says, in his note on Gen. 12:3, “in thy posterity, in the Messiah, who shall spring from thee, shall all families of the earth be blessed; for as he shall take on him human nature, from the posterity of Abraham, he shall taste death for every man; his gospel shall be preached throughout the world, and innumerable blessings be derived on all mankind, through his death and intercession.”

    24. God made the same promise to Isaac. “I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham they father, and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 26:3,4) This passage is precisely of the same import with those quoted under section 23. It refers to precisely the same subject, and asserts the same facts. We repeat it here, because God saw fit to repeat the same promise to Isaac which he had made to his father Abraham; and it forms a distinct argument of itself.

    25. The same promise was repeated to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. “and in thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 28:14) The apostle Paul (and higher authority we do not wish) fully settles the question in regard to who is meant by the “seed of Abraham.” He says, “Now to Abraham and his seed, were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, WHICH IS CHRIST.” (Gal. 3:16) Christ, then, is the seed of Abraham; and in him ALL the nations and families of the earth shall be blessed.

    26. Peter, the apostle, understood this promise as referring to the salvation of men from sin, by Jesus Christ. “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, in thy seed shall all kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first, God, having raised up his son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Acts 3:25,26) Here we have a third term,-kindreds. All nations of the earth, all families of the earth, and all kindreds of the earth, must certainly signify all mankind. The import of this absolute, unconditional promise is, they shall all be blessed in Christ Jesus.

    27. The apostle Paul repeats this promise, and calls it THE GOSPEL. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8) This is a further confirmation, that the blessing promised men in the seed of Abraham, is a spiritual, gospel blessing.

    28. There is no threatening of any kind whatsoever in the Scriptures, no law, no penalty, no punishment denounced, which when rightly understood does not harmonize with this promise, for the law is not against the promises of God. “Is the law, then, against the promises of God? God forbid.” (Gal. 3:21) The law mentioned in this verse was undoubtedly the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. God was specially careful to frame that law in such a manner, that not a single sentence or particle of it should contradict the promises made by him to Abraham. What those promises were, we have seen. It is equally true, that not a single threatening of punishment for sin, or for unbelief, not a denunciation of hell-fire, or condemnation of any kind of sin, is opposed to the promises of God. Now as those promises most explicitly assert, the final blessing of all nations, kindreds, and families of the earth with salvation from sin in Jesus Christ, so no portion of God’s law, no threatening of punishment, should be so construed, interpreted, or explained, as to contradict this; and as the doctrine of endless condemnation for sin does explicitly contradict those promises, that doctrine we may be sure is not revealed in any portion of God’s word.


    29. God hath confirmed his promise by an oath. See Gen. 12:16-18. Heb. 6:13. But the most striking passage, perhaps, is this-”I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear, surely shall say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” (Isaiah 45:23,24) I think the words of Adam Clarke on the oath of God, are worthy of the deepest consideration. On the words of God, “he sware by himself,” Clarke remarks, “He pledged his eternal power and Godhead for the fulfillment of the promise; there was no being superior to himself, to whom he could make appeal, or by whom he could be bound; therefore he appeals to and pledges his immutable truth and godhead.” Com. on Heb. 6:13 And again, the same commentator remarks, “The promise pledged his faithfulness and justice; the oath all the infinite perfections of his godhead; for he sware by himself. There is a good saying in Beracoth, on Exodus 32:13. ‘Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swearedst by thine own self.’ What is the meaning of “thine own self?” Rab Eleazar answered, thus said Moses to the holy blessed God, Lord of all the world, If thou hadst sworn to them by the heavens and the earth, then I should have said, as the heavens and the earth shall pass away, so may thy oath pass away. But now thou hast sworn unto them by thy great Name, which liveth and which endureth forever, and forever, and ever; therefore thy oath shall endure forever and forever and ever.” (Com. on Heb. 6:18.)


    30. God is almighty; nothing can resist his will; nothing can defeat his purpose; nothing can prevent the fulfillment of his promise. “What he had promised he was able to perform.” (Rom. 4:21) If God were not almighty, then the world might not be saved; but he is almighty; “none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?” and therefore, in God’s own time (and that is the best time), and by his own means, the whole world shall be saved.


    31. Because God not only wills the salvation of all men; not only hath purposed to save them all; not only hath promised it; not only hath confirmed that promise by an OATH (see previous issues); but also hath provided the means, in the death of Christ, for the salvation of all men. Jesus died for all. “He gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:6) “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” (Heb. 2:9) “And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Here are three expressions: 1st, “ALL;” 2nd, “EVERYMAN;” 3d, “THE WHOLE WORLD.” It seems as though the sacred writers took the utmost care to guard against being misunderstood in this important particular. Some would have us believe (see Prof. Stuart’s Com. on Heb. 2:9) that these expressions are to be understood only in a general sense, in opposition to the contracted opinions of the Jews, who confined the blessings of God to their own nation only; and that the words are intended to declare, that Jesus died for Gentiles as well as Jews. We cannot so restrict the sense. Look at the connection in which these passages are found, and it will be seen that the terms used, apply to all men, in the widest sense of these terms. Paul instructs Timothy to pray for all men; not for Jews and Gentiles in the general sense, but for kings and all in authority; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, who will have all men to be saved. So John says, “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father.” (1 Epistle John 1:1) Is not the language here designed to apply to all men: Who can dispute it?32. The labor of Christ will be efficacious for all for whom He died. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” (Is. 53:2) “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” (John 12:32) If the Redeemer died for all men, can He be satisfied with the salvation of a part only? Can He look back upon his work and say, it is well done? Will He not rather draw all men unto Him, by the power of His truth, and make them holy and happy forever? Are we not authorized to expect such a result, from the fact, that He gave Himself a ransom for all? And if they are all drawn unto Him, will they not all be saved?

    33. When Jesus was born, the angel said to the fearful shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” (Luke 2:10) The tidings of the Redeemer’s birth, were certainly good tidings to all people. They should all hear these tidings, and to all they should be good tidings. But how can this be, if a part of the human race are never to be benefited by the Redeemer’s sacrifice?

    34. The people who heard Jesus preach said, “we have heard Him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42) Jesus cannot be the Savior of the world, if the world will never be saved. What Jesus taught the Samaritans, that induced them to regard Him as the Savior of the world, may be inferred, 1st. from His conversation with the woman at the well of Jacob, (John 4) and 2nd, from the exclamation of the Samaritans, in the 42nd verse. He evidently did not preach to them the doctrine of endless misery; for would they have concluded from the fact of his preaching that doctrine, that he was THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD?”

    35. John, the beloved disciple of Christ, said, “We have seen, and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14) This is the same character that the Samaritans judged the Lord to possess, from his personal instruction. (John 4:42) John says, “We have seen;” i.e. he knew it from his acquaintance with his Master. And do testify. We cannot hide this truth; we will proclaim to men, that Jesus is the Savior of the world.


    36. All the holy prophets have spoken of the restitution of all things. “And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets, since the world began.” (Acts 3:20,21) This is an important passage of Scripture. “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you, (but who hath been crucified, and hath ascended unto heaven, and ) whom the heaven must receive (or contain) until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” This “restitution of all things” is to take place, when Jesus comes down from the heavens, in the sense in which he had ascended into heaven. He had ascended into the heaven bodily; the heavens would contain Him until the times of the restitution; and then He would bodily visit the earth again. Now when shall he visit the earth again bodily? Answer, at the resurrection of the dead. (See Acts 1:10,11, and 1 Thess. 4:16) We conclude from this, that the restitution of all things is to take place at the resurrection of the dead. The learned Parkhurst gives this view of the subject, and quotes Stockius at large as agreeing with him. We do not understand, that the restitution shall not begin until the time, but that it shall then be completed, and filled up, so that it may be said, all things are restored. This is begun in part in this life; but it will be completed and finished at the resurrection. What is this restitution? It is the putting of things back into their original condition. See A. Clarke, on the passage. Man was originally created in God’s image; but the divine image has been obscured by sin; and men now bear the image of the earthly. But at the resurrection, when Christ shall appear, the restitution of all things shall take place, and then mankind will be restored to the image of God again; for St. Paul says, that at the resurrection mankind shall be changed from the earthly to the heavenly image. (1 Cor. 15:49) This heavenly image which we have lost, we obtain back again at the resurrection of the dead; and to this the Saviour’s language agrees, for He saith, that in the resurrection men shall be as the angels of God in heaven; i.e. they shall bear the heavenly image; (Matt. 22:30) that they can die no more, and “shall be the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” (Luke 22:36) This God hath spoken by all his holy prophets since the world began; not fully and clearly as He hath revealed it in the gospel; but He hath spoken by the prophets of the recovery of all things from the dominion of sin, and their reconciliation to God, and the gaining again of the heavenly image. The reader is referred to a long and excellent passage in A. Clark’s Com. on Acts 3:21, which he closes by saying, “as therefore, the subject here referred to is that, of which all the prophets from the beginning have spoken, (and the grand subject of all their declarations was Christ and His words among men,) therefore the words are to be applied to this, and no other meaning. Jesus Christ comes to raise up man from a state of ruin, and restore to him the image of God, as he possessed it at the beginning.”37. head the seed of the woman was to bruise. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)

    38. David also said, “all the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him.” (Psalms 22:27) This agrees precisely with the promise of God to Abraham, that all the nations, families, and kindreds of the earth shall be blessed in Christ Jesus.

    39. David also said, :all kings shall fall down before Him (Christ), all nations shall serve Him,–men shall be blessed in Him, all nations shall call Him blessed.” (Psalms 72:11,17) This is of the same import with section 38.

    40. David also said, “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name.” (Psalms 86:9) This must certainly include all the nations of the earth; God made them all, from Adam to the latest born.

    41. David also said, not less than twenty-six times, in that part of his meditations embraced in the 136th Psalm, “his mercy endureth forever.” What kind of a mercy is the mercy of God, which is to endure forever: it is a universal mercy. See the next section.

    42. He also declared, that that mercy which is to endure forever, is over all the works of God. “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psalms 145:9) God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

    43. He also said, “all thy works shall praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints shall bless thee.” (Psalms 145:10) Can all God’s works praise Him, if a part are consigned to eternal fire?

    44. He also said, “the Lord is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy.” (Psalms 145:8) Can endless misery be ordained by such a god as this?

    45. He also said; “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will He keep His anger forever.” (Psalms 103:8,9) This could not possibly be true, if God purposed to make any of His creatures forever miserable. If we allow that torment shall be endless, can we say, that “God will not always chide,” nor “keep His anger forever?”

    46. Isaiah represented, that there was no sin which might not be pardoned. “Though you sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa. 1:18) The evident intent of this language is, that there was no sin so deep-dyed in the soul, that it could not be washed away. That is here said of Israel, is true of every individual.

    47. It is said, that “all nations shall flow into the mountain of the Lord’s house,”–a figurative representation of the covenant of the Gospel. (Isa. 2:2)

    48. In this mountain, the Lord of Hosts hath made for all people a feast of fat things. “And in this mountain, shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well-refined.” (Isa. 25:6) By “mountain,” here, is meant the covenant of the Gospel; the place of the establishment of the ark is made a metaphor, to signify the Gospel. Adam Clarke says, this feast is “salvation by Jesus Christ.” Com. On the place. This salvation is prepared for all people; it is sufficient to supply the wants of all.

    49. “God will destroy, in this mountain, the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil, that is spread over all nations.” (Isa. 25:7) This salvation is not uselessly prepared. Unbelief shall be done away. The darkness of the nations shall be removed. The covering cast over all nations shall be destroyed; they will then all see the truth.

    50. “God will swallow up death in victory. ” (Isa. 25:8) This is to take place at the resurrection of the dead, for Paul quotes these words, and applies them to the resurrection of the dead, in 1 Cor. 15:54.

    51. “The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces: (Isa. 25:8) The work of the Gospel will not be fully done, until tears shall be wiped away from all faces. Sorrow shall cease. Paul applies the subject to the resurrection of the dead.

    52. Isaiah said, “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” (Isa. 40:5) This is the declaration of Yahweh, for the prophet adds, “the mouth of the lord hath spoken it.” If the Lord hath declared, that all flesh shall see his glory together, surely it must be done.

    53. Isaiah represents the Gospel as being completely successful in accomplishing the purpose for which it was sent into the world”–that, as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and return not thither, but water the earth, and cause it to bring forth and bud, so shall the word of God be; it shall not return void, but it shall accomplish the divine pleasure, and prosper in the thing for which God sent it. (Isa. 45:10,11) Thus all who allow that God sent the Gospel to benefit all mankind, must here see, that that beneficent object will surely be accomplished. If any reject the Gospel, and are lost forever, can it be said in truth, that God’s word does not return unto Him void?

    54. Isaiah, speaking in the name of Yahweh, said, of Christ, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” (Isa.49:6) In this verse, the prophet affirms, that the blessings of the Gospel should not be confined to the Jews. “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles;” for what purpose? Answer; “that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” This expression is intended to signify the greatest possible extension of the blessings of the Gospel. Is this consistent with the supposed fact, that countless millions of the human race shall never hear of the blessings of the Gospel?

    55. Isaiah represented Yahweh as saying, “I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.” (Isa 57:16) Is this declaration consistent with the doctrine of endless misery? According to that doctrine, will not God contend forever? Will He not be always wroth?

    56. Yahweh saith, by Jeremiah, concerning the covenant He made with the house of Israel, ” I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their heats; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his Neighbor, and every man his brother, saying , know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:33,34) The spirit of the passage is universal grace. What God here saith He will do for the Jews, He will also do for the Gentiles. The former is a pledge of the latter. (See, for additional argument on this subject, section 88)

    57. “THE LORD WILL NOT CAST OFF FOREVER. But though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies, for He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” (Lamen. 3:31-33) O, what a precious declaration is this! Though God cause grief, yet He will have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies, for He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. This is the principle of the divine government. God does not afflict for the purpose of afflicting, but for the good of the sufferer. How, then, can endless torment be inflicted?

    58. Daniel said, of the reign of Christ, “there was given Him dominion, and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom, that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7:14) If all people, nations, and languages serve the Savior, will they be endlessly miserable? Will they not be endlessly happy? This passage should be applied, undoubtedly, to all for whom the Savior died. Jesus seems to have referred to the declaration of the prophets, in what He said after His resurrection. (Matt. 28:18)

    59. Hosea said, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave (or Hell, Sheol), I will be thy destruction.” (Hosea 13:14) Let the light of inspiration guide us. St. Paul applies these words to the resurrection of the dead, at the last day. (1 Cor. 15:54,55) At the resurrection of the dead, then, God will destroy Sheol, HELL. He does not raise His creatures from the dead in order to punish them forever in sheol,(Hell) for sheol (Hell) shall then be destroyed.

    60. Micah said, of Yahweh, ” He retaineth not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18) A most precious assurance! Altogether at variance with the doctrine of endless misery.


    61. Jesus, when on earth, preached in such a manner that the people “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” (Luke 4:22) This could not have happened, had he threatened the people with endless misery. He preached salvation to sinful, guilty man; he preached the love of God to the whole world; and declared, that God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but, that the world, through Him, might be saved. Well might the people wonder at his “gracious words.”62. Jesus inculcated the strongest confidence in God; and reasoned in the most tender and judicious manner with the people, to dissuade them from taking anxious thought for the future. Read Matt. 6:25-34. This is one of the most striking passages in the whole New Testament. The object of the Savior was, to encourage, in the hearts of those whom he addressed, the most implicit confidence in God, for all future blessings. God is good; he is kind, even to the unthankful and to the evil; therefore said the Savior, “take no anxious thought.” Be not afraid; God will do thee good. He has already proved his beneficence to thee. He takes care of the lower orders of beings; why shouldst thou doubt? He clothes the flowers of the field with beauty; why shouldst thou despair? Take not anxious, painful thought for the future. Sufficient unto the present is the evil therof. Such is the spirit of the passage, which is perfectly consistent with the doctrine of Universalism, but utterly inconsistent with the doctrine of endless misery.

    63. Jesus warned the people against the doctrine of the Pharisees, who are well known to have believed in endless punishment. Matt 16:6; compare verse 12. There is no doubt, that the doctrines of the Pharisees were of a partial nature. Jesus was impartial in his teachings. He was the friend of publicans and sinners, and for this the Pharisees hated him. This was the great point on which he differed from the Pharisees. Their doctrine peculiarly was a doctrine of cruelty, wrath, and partiality; his was a doctrine of love, compassion, and universal grace. No person, who will make the comparison fairly, can avoid coming to this result. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.

    64. Jesus taught, that men in the future world will be like the angels of God in heaven,–holy, spotless, and pure. “In the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30 Luke 20:35,36) In what sense shall they be as the angels of God in heaven? Let the passage in Luke 20 answer this question. “Neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” Here are two points, in which they will be equal to the angels, viz. 1st. they will be immortal; and 2nd. they will be children of God, bearing a moral likeness to him. This will be the state of all who shall be raised from the dead.

    65. Jesus reproved the Pharisees for shutting up the kingdom of heaven. “Woe into you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matt. 23:13) These Pharisees were never charged with having shut up the kingdom of hell; that, they appear to have kept open. But they shut up the kingdom of heaven. Jesus desired to have all men enjoy his kingdom; and we are assured, that, at last, all shall know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest. They will then all have entered the gospel kingdom.


    66. Peter saw, in the vision of the vessel like a sheet knit at the four corners, that all men came down from heaven; that they are all encircled in the kind care of God, while here on earth; and , that “all will be drawn up again into heaven.” (Acts 10:15; 11:5-10)


    67. Paul represented the free gift of life as extending equally with sin. “As, by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Rom. 5:18) This is a very important passage. It teaches us, that the free gift of eternal life shall extend equally with sin. On the one hand we are told, judgment came upon all men by sin; on the other we find, that “the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” This free gift is eternal life, see Rom. 6:23. But, for a further view of the argument of the apostle in this place, see section 68.68. Paul also says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” The same many that were made sinners, Paul declares “shall be made righteous.” This certainly asserts the salvation of all sinners. Parkhurst in his Greek Lexicon, says, Oi polloi, the many, i.e. the multitude, or whole bulk of mankind, Rom. 5:15,19, in which texts oi polloi are plainly equivalent to Pantas anthropous, all men, verses 12, 18.” The learned Dr. Macknight is to the same purport. “For as oi polloi, the many, in the first part of the verse, does not mean some of mankind only, but all mankind, from first to last, who without exception, are constituted sinners, so the many in the latter part of the verse, who are said to be constituted righteous, through the obedience of Christ, must mean ALL MANKIND, from the beginning to the end of the world, without exception.” See his commentary on the place. The evident sense of the passage is this: For as the many, that is, the whole bulk of mankind were made sinners, so shall the many, that is, the whole bulk of mankind, be made righteous. What can be plainer than this fact? We agree with the authors of the Improved Version, who say, “Nothing can be more obvious than this, that it is the apostle’s intention to represent all mankind, without exception, as deriving greater benefit from the mission of Christ, than they suffered injury from the fall of Adam. The universality of the apostle’s expression is very remarkable. The same “many” who were made sinners by the disobedience of one, are made righteous by the obedience of the other. If all men are condemned by the offense of one, the same all are justified by the righteousness of the other. These universal terms, so frequently repeated, and so variously diversified, cannot be reconciled to the limitation of the blessings of the Gospel, to the elect alone, or to a part only of the human race.” (Note of Rom. 5:19)

    69. Grace shall abound more than sin, and reign more potently, so that at last all shall end in everlasting life. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:20,21) What a blessed assurance! Grace shall conquer sin? In every heart where sin has reigned, grace shall set up its empire. Grace shall reign triumphantly and successfully. We see not yet all this done; but it shall be done at last.

    70. Paul teaches, that the same creature which was made subject to vanity, “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) It is worthy of remark, that it is the same “creature,” or creation, which was made subject to vanity, that is to be delivered. Rev. Thomas White, in his sermons preached at Welbeck Chapel, translates the passage thus: “For THE CREATION was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected it; in hope that THE CREATION ITSELF also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” (Horne’s Intro. II. 540) Dr. Macknight decides, that creature, in the passage, signifies, “every human creature,” “all mankind.” Let us read the passage with such a rendering, as it undoubtedly gives it its just sense. For every human creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who had subjected the same in hope; because every human creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

    71. Paul teaches the eventual salvation of both Jews and Gentiles. “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in ; and so “ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED.” Rom. Xi. 25, 26. The terms, Jews and Gentiles, comprehend all mankind. Paul asserts the ultimate salvation of both Jews and Gentiles, that is, all men. What serious man can pretend, that by the fulness of the Gentiles he meant only a portion of them, and by all Israel, he meant only a small part of Israel? Was it such a view, that led Paul to exclaim, at the conclusion of his luminous argument on this subject, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God?” If God sought to save the whole, and succeeded in saving only a fraction, was the depth of his wisdom so surpassingly great? And remark what he says at the conclusion of the 11th chapter. “For of him (God) and through him, and TO HIM are all things,” (Gr. ta panta) the universe ; as Dr. Whitby says, “For of him (as the donor) and through him (as the director and providential orderer) and to him (as the end) be all things.” The argument is complete.

    72. Paul teaches, that whether living or dying we are the Lord’s. “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live we live unto the Lord; and whether we die we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.” Rom. xiv. 7, 8. Does Paul here mean to include all mankind? Does he here mean to assert, that all without exception, are the Lord’s? We can come to no other conclusion. He adds, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living,” verse 9. The terms “dead and living,” evidently signify all the human race. Of course, all the human race are Christ’s for ever.

    73. Paul saith, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” I Cor. xv. 22. “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature.” 2 Cor. v. 17. Hence, if all shall be made alive in Christ, they shall all be new creatures in the resurrection of the dead. Belsham says, “The apostle’s language is so clear and full with respect to the final happiness of those who are thus raised, and that their resurrection to life will be ultimately a blessing, that the generality of Christians have supposed, that he is here treating of the resurrection of the virtuous only. But that is not the fact. He evidently speaks of the restoration of the whole human race. All who die by Adam shall be raised by Christ; otherwise the apostle’s assertion would be untrue. The case then would have been this, as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall a select number, a small proportion, be made alive. But this is not the apostle’s doctrine. His expressions are equally universal in each clause. ALL die in Adam. The same ALL, without any exception, without any restriction, shall by Christ be restored to life, and ultimately to holiness and everlasting happiness.”

    74. Death, the last enemy, shall be destroyed. 1 Cor. xv. 26. If death be the last enemy, and if that shall be destroyed, there will be no enemies to the happiness of man remaining after the resurrection.

    75. Paul, in his account of the resurrection, does not admit of the existence of sin in the immortal state. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised incorruption ; ***** it is raised in glory. ***** it is raised in power; ***** it is raised a spiritual body.” 1 Cor. xv. 42-44. When the apostle cries out triumphantly, “O death ! where is thy sting?” he certainly means, that sin was absent, for “the sting of death is sin.”

    76. Paul saith, “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Cor. v. 19. It is not said, that God was in Christ reconciling himself to the world, for he was never unreconciled to the world; but God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. By “the world” in this place is undoubtedly intended all for whom Christ died. God was engaged in this work ; he had appointed the means for its accomplishment ; and we believe, under his wise direction, it will be done.

    77. Paul saith to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gal. iii. 28, 29. According to what promise? Answer. According to the promise of God to Abraham, that in him, and his seed [Christ], all the nations, kindreds and families of the earth shall be blessed. In Christ, therefore, none of the distinctions are known of which Paul there speaks. “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” That point being settled, he adds, “and if ye be Christ’s [as he had proved] then are ye Abraham’s seed, [that is, not by lineal descent, but spiritually], and heirs according to the promise.”

    78. He saith, that to Jesus was given “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.” Philip. ii. 9-11. Professor Stuart, of Andover, says, in his “Letters to Dr. Channing,” “Things in heaven, earth, and under the earth, is a common periphrasis of the Hebrew and New Testament writers, for the universe. What can be meant by things in heaven, that is, beings in heaven, bowing the knee to Jesus, if spiritual worship be not meant?” So much from Professor Stuart. Now if the universe [that is, all men without exception] are to render spiritual and divine worship to Christ, will they not all be holy and happy ?

    79. The foregoing reason is confirmed by the fact, that “if we confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in the heart that God hath raised him from the dead, we shall be saved.” Rom. x. 9.

    80. It pleased the Father, by his son Jesus, “TO RECONCILE ALL THINGS UNTO HIMSELF, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:19-20) This is a similar periphrasis to that spoken of by Professor Stuart, [see section 78] which signifies the universe. The phrase, “all things,” as Archbishop Newcome observes, signifies all intelligent beings. It is God’s pleasure “to reconcile all things unto himself”, — an irrefutable argument in proof of the final holiness andhappiness of all men.

    81. Paul directed Timothy to pray and give thanks for all men, which was agreeable to the will of God to “have all men to be save,” who had appointed a mediator to give himself “a ransom for all.” (1 Tim. 2:1-6) Paul’s argument in this place is as follows: I exhort first, that supplication, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men. None are excluded from the divine favor; all have something to be grateful for; for God is kind and good to ALL. He will have all men to be saved, which is the highest proof of his regard for all men, in execution of the divine purpose to bring all to the enjoyment of salvation.

    82. God is called “the Saviour of all men.” (1 Tim. 4:10) This title is applied to Jehovah, because he is the source of salvation. He wills the salvation of all; he has purposed the salvation of all; he has promised salvation to all; and has confirmed that promise by an oath. Hence, he is originally the Saviour of all men.

    83. The “grace of God bringeth salvation to all men, and teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” (Titus 2:11,12) Adam Clarke remarks, “It cannot be said, except in a very refined and spiritual sense, that this Gospel had then appeared to all men ; but it may be well said, that it bringeth salvation to all men ; this is its design ; and it was to taste death for every man, that its author came into the world.” Again, he adds ; “As the light and heat of the sun are denied to no nation nor individual, so the grace of the Lord Jesus ; this also shines out upon all ; and God designs that all mankind shall be as equally benefited by it, in reference to their souls, as they are in respect to their bodies, by the sun that shines in the firmament of heaven.”

    84. Christ is to “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Heb. 2:14) Christ will destroy all evil, and banish it entirely from the universe.

    85. Paul says, “we which have believed do enter into rest;” which could not be true, if they believed in the doctrine of endless misery. (Heb. 4: 3)

    86. “It is impossible for God to lie,” who has sworn to Abraham to bless all the kindreds of the earth, in his seed, which is Christ. (Heb. 6:18) If God could be false to his own promise, then the world might not be saved ; but “it is impossible for God to lie.” Therefore, all men, without exception, shall at last be blessed in Christ Jesus.

    87. Paul has repeated the testimony of Jeremiah, concerning God’s covenant with the house of Israel ; “all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” (Heb. 8:11) This is a pledge of the previous salvation of the Gentile world. The word of God assures us, that the Gentiles shall be fellow-heirs with the Jews, of the blessings of the Gospel. God says, “all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” All the children of Israel, all the descendants of Abraham ; not those who may happen to be upon the earth at any particular time, but the whole posterity of the patriarch, without exception. This is similar to what Paul declares. (see Rom. 11:26)

    88. God never chastens us but “for our profit,” causing all chastisement “afterward to yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb. 12:10,11) How, then, can the doctrine of endless punishment be true? If God’s chastisements afterward yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness, how can they be endless?

    89. “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from ALL sin.” (1 John 1:7) There is no sin, that the blood of Christ will not wash away. Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; and, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Jesus can save the chief of sinners. (1 Tim. 1:15) He has the will, no less than the power; therefore, all men will be saved by his grace.

    90. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) Sin is the work of the devil, and will be destroyed; but men are the workmanship of God, and will not be ultimately destroyed. Jesus shall destroy all sin ; he came into the world for that special purpose ; and, having begun the work, he will not give over, until it is completely accomplished.

    91. The record, which God has given of his Son, is this; “That God hath given to us eternal life ; and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:11) Is this record true? it surely is. Who are called on to believe it? all mankind. If any man believe it not, he makes God a liar, by saying, that God’s record is not true. God, then, has certainly given eternal life to all men in his divine purpose.

    92. John, the revelator, said: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13) Here is another instance of the “common periphrasis” of the Hebrew and New Testament writers for the universe. Every creature shall at last pay divine honors to God and the Lamb. “If this be not spiritual worship,” saith Prof. Stuart, “I am unable to produce a case, where worship can be called spiritual and divine.”

    93. The same illustrious writer says: “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy ; for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Rev. 15:4) Does this mean only all those nations who may happen to be upon the earth at a certain time? or, does it mean “all nations,” in the sense of the divine promise to Abraham? Judge ye.

    94. He also says: “The tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Rev. 21:3) When this is fulfilled, all men will be reconciled to God. The Gospel is designed to make every heart the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit; and, when the purpose of the Gospel shall be fully accomplished, God shall reign in the hearts of all men.

    95. He furthermore declares, that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes ; and THERE SHALL BE NO MORE DEATH, neither sorrow, nor crying ; neither shall there be any more pain ; for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) Thus, we see the doctrine of eternal weeping, eternal sighing, eternal sorrow, eternal pain, is false; false as the Bible is true. And, although we read, in the Scriptures, of the second death, yet, if we read of thirty deaths, it would be no argument against Universalism, since the time is to come, when “THERE SHALL BE NO MORE DEATH.”

    96. God induces all good people to pray for the salvation of all men, which he could not do, if it were opposed to his will; because, “if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us,” (1 John 5:14) and because “the desire of the righteous shall be granted.” (Prov. 10:24)

    97. Peter said; “Believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and FULL OF GLORY.” Can it be possible that they believed in the doctrine of endless sin and misery? Would this have made them rejoice with unspeakable joy? Not unless they were demons in human form.

    98. All the threatenings of the word of God, when properly understood, harmonize with the doctrine of Universalism ; the punishments spoken of being limited punishments only, and no threatening or law extending sin, or its consequences, beyond the resurrection.

    99. Universalism is the only hypothesis in which the perfections of God can harmonize, -since, if men are lost forever by God’s decree or permission, it impeaches his goodness; if, by his neglect or want of foreknowledge, it impeaches his wisdom; or, if sin be too mighty for him, and rebels too stubborn for him to subdue, it impeaches his power.

    100. Lastly; “All things shall be subdued unto Christ, -Christ shall be subject unto him that put all things under him, that GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL.” (1 Cor. 15:28)

  • Gary Amirault on March 7th, 2011

    from The Saviour of the World Series

    by J. Preston Eby


    A king in Europe, a kindly monarch, went to visit a school. Children were being taught concerning the various kingdoms into which nature and man were divided. The King wished to ask the children some questions. A sweet little maid stood forth, and the King said, “Now, my dear, tell me what these are,” holding objects in his hand. She said, “A flower, a bird, a beast.” “Tell me to what kingdom the flower belongs.” “To the vegetable kingdom, sir,” said the child. “Tell me,” said the monarch, “to what kingdom do these animals belong?” holding up various animals. “To the animal kingdom, sir…… Tell me, my dear,” said the King, “to what kingdom do I belong?” Now, I think if she had said he belonged for the most part, to the animal kingdom, she would not have been far wrong; but the little one had great reverence for the King, although he had so often failed to recognize the Kingdom to which he belonged. The little, blushing maid did not want to say that he belonged to the animal kingdom, but “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God perfected praise.” The little one, with her eyes full of tears, for she had heard the tittering laughter which was running through the school at her embarrassment, looked up into the face of the King. “Now, tell me, dear,” he said, “to what kingdom do I belong?” “You belong to the Kingdom of God, sir.” And the King bowed his head, for the arrow had gone to his heart. He said, “My dear, pray that I may be worthy of that Kingdom, and of God.”

    The answer of the child is the answer which I give you. Do you desire to teach the child that which will enable it to triumph over the lusts and passions of a mere animal nature? Teach it that it is the Offspring of the Father of spirits, and that first and greatest of all is the spiritual nature which it has and not the psychical or the physical nature. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness … so God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him” (Gen. 1:26-27). “And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also HIS OFFSPRING. Forasmuch then as we are the OFFSPRING OF GOD…” (Acts 17:26-29). Teach the child that sex, race, or nationality is nothing in the Kingdom of God. Teach them that “there can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Teach them to seek for that New Creation which God’s Spirit alone can impart, that they may be worthy of that Kingdom and that they may have the love which rules in that Kingdom from its divine center to its utmost circumference, and which crushes lust and sin and death beneath its feet.

    “…which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (Lk. 3:38). Adam – the SON OF GOD! God has a wayward sinner for a son, that wayward boy sprang, originally from the heart of God after a creaturely manner. He was created out of the glory of God and was a radiant creature, more radiant than an angel; and that boy, dead in scarlet sins, is still God’s son, but he is a prodigal son. Some fathers may disown their sons, but the Father of the prodigal son never said that that wayward boy of His was not His son. The Bible says that such become the children of the devil; but, nevertheless, God still has a double claim upon them: they are His by creation; and they are His by right of redemption. They are dead in trespasses and sins. They need to be saved, to be converted, regenerated. They need to repent and come home; but when they do, the sorrowing Father is made glad and says, “For this My son was dead, and is alive again; be was lost, and is found.” God is a bereaved God. It brings sorrow to our hearts, too, to think that our God and Father is bereaved of His children!

    But to whatever depths of depravity, destitution, emptiness, sorrow, pain, and disaster the prodigal finally comes, it is good for him, for it ultimately destroys the pride and arrogance, the independence and selfhood, and the wickedness and rebellion in his heart. It would be well worth our time to consider prayerfully the deep import of the piercing words of the prophet: “Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backslidings shall reprove you” (Jer. 2:19). Those who suppose that hell and the lake of fire represent the eternal doom of the sinners of Adam’s race are ignorant and understand nothing whatever of God’s great laws, and purposes, and dealings in judgment. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy about two apostates in the Church: “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (I Tim. 1:19-20).

    Were these two reprobates turned over to Satan to be tormented for ever in the lake of fire? Nay I They were delivered unto Satan that they might LEARN! Learn what? “Learn NOT TO BLASPHEME. ” It should be obvious to every thinking mind that as soon as the lesson had been learned, the apostle called Satan off the case, and the erring one was restored to God and His people!

    There is a beautiful story in Luke chapter fifteen, the parable of the Prodigal Son. While feeding hogs in the “far country,” the prodigal came to himself. It was the lack of food that changed him. His body was made to need food, even as his heart was made for friendship and love, but he was destitute. “No man gave unto him,” the story says. Alone! Forsaken! Stripped! Then he remembered: “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” He was suffering the results of his own selfishness, and lust, and rebellion. His body was in agony without the sustenance it was created for. Rags, and filth, and stench were his surroundings. All this the result of his sin! To be “without God in the world” is life’s ultimate in desolation and despair. The reality of judgment is separation from God’s love and fellowship and blessing and the consequent recognition of condemnation and the processes of wrath and judgment.

    We often forget that God not only allows Satan and sin and evil, but that He also uses them. Again and again, when trouble stalks his path, a man turns back to the God he has despised. When his wife dies, or his children go wrong; when loss and disaster fall upon him, again and again he will seek the God he has neglected. Many of our men who fought in past wars found that danger and privation turned their minds toward God. Foxholes cure atheism, they say. Weeks on a lifeboat adrift in the ocean do something to a man, and he is often a very different person when he lands on shore again. That is not because God coerces the man, but because God brings upon him such experiences as change his attitudes and priorities. And God brings such experiences upon men, not in vindictive hatred, but in love. He is too wise to err, too loving to be unkind!

    Some argue that because we affirm that the judgments of God are not eternal, but corrective, we teach a “hell redemption.” We are accused of believing that hell can accomplish in a man what the mercy and blood of Jesus could not accomplish. Many years ago Charles G. Finney (and we respect his ministry) opposed the teaching of the ultimate salvation of all by ridicule. Finney was a master of the invective. He said that those who were saved after this “age of grace” ends would unceasingly sing, “Thanks be to the hell that saved us by our own suffering!” Just how much weight is there to that criticism? It is a marvelous truth that CHRIST ALONE can save! There is no other way! How we rejoice that it is so! But there is one thing that must be dealt with before any man can come to Christ and be saved. MAN’S REBELLION MUST BE REMOVED. His pride and self-confidence and stubborness and trust in things and pleasures that damn and lead away from God must be broken. And this is where judgment comes in. Judgment destroys the power of the carnal mind which blinds, which is enmity against God but judgment does not grant redemption. It only breaks rebellion! It breaks man’s stubborn will! But redemption was purchased upon the cross.

    It is a small matter for God to break the resistance of men. Men without God live like animals. They eat, sleep, entertain themselves, labor, but they are not in touch with God at all. He has no place in their thoughts nor in their lives. Finally man awakens. Like the old country preacher who was telling of the prodigal son. He said, “He took off his coat and spent that. Then he took off his vest and spent that. Then he took off his shirt, and when he took off his shirt, he came to his self.” We come to ourselves in various ways! When the prodigal was feeding hogs in the “far country” he “came to himself,” according to Jesus. Did he, then, have a “hogpen redemption?” Not at all! The hogpen didn’t save him, but he did get some sense knocked into him there it was there his willfulness and rebellion left him, but he was not saved until he got back to his Father.

    I have read about men in the foxholes on the battle front getting saved. Did they get a “war redemption?” Did the war save them? No! No! No! Men in the danger and horror of war often begin to think as they never thought before, but war does not save. At best, it can only awaken them, and turn men to the Christ they have ignored. And if they are saved at all it is because they call in all sincerity upon the Saviour who died for them on Calvary’s cross.

    Now the prodigal didn’t have to go home. He was not compelled to do so, no one dragged him. He wanted to! But he didn’t want to until all his money was gone and he got to feeding hogs. The circumstances had to crowd in upon his life which caused him to come to the place where he chose to “arise and go to the Father.” The heart of the Father is calling, calling, calling to His wayward children, “Come unto Me.” Long before the prodigal son had come to his home, the Father was waiting, and looking for him. He saw him coming along the weary way, no longer with servants attending, no longer in rich robes; but ragged, poor, dirty, in wornout sandles, he came along the road, with the stench of the swineherd and the stains of the fleshpots upon him. Creeping along, sick, sore, and weary, he said, “Oh, if I could but be one of my Father’s hired servants! “Is it he? Can it be – O God, can that be he who left only a few months ago, so strong, so happy, so bright, with the world all before him? Can that be he?” “It is. It is he.” Will the Father reject him? Will the Father not say, “I gave him his portion and he has spent it all in riotous living; let him stay away for ever?” No, no. The Father saw him afar off, and he ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him, not heeding his filthiness and his rags. The Father interrupted the prayer, after the son told him of his sin, that he might become a slave in the Father’s house; for there are no slaves in our Father’s house. They are all sons and daughters of the Most High God. Thank God for that!

    Why, then, should we be slaves to Satan, and to sin, and to death, and to hell? The Father took him and kissed him. He told the servants to bring the best robe and the signet ring that made him controller of his Father’s estate. He told them to get out the musical instruments and the dancers, and to make merry and be glad. “Spread the feast, for this my son was dead; dead to me; dead to mother; dead to purity; dead to truth; dead to love; dead to God; and he is alive again. He was lost and is found.” Whenever judgment has done its work; whenever a man comes to himself and says “I will”; “I will arise and go to my Father, and I will say to my Father, I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight and am no more worthy to be called your son,” then the Great and Eternal God and Father will take that man, sin-stained and foul as he is in spirit, and in soul, and in body, and He will make him whiter than snow. If you ask Him to give you the lowest place as a servant, He will lift you up, and kiss you and say, “My Son! My Daughter!” The robe of the Father’s righteousness will be placed upon you, you will be bountifully fed from His very own table with the wisdom of His Word, and the signet-ring that gives you power and authority over all things in His Kingdom, will be upon your finger. Cleansed and robed and empowered by the Father, you can go out and do His work.

    All creation groans for the FIRSTFRUITS of His redemption to be revealed in all the majesty and power and glory of their regained inheritance! Blessed be God for ever.


    You may remember the story of the man who was trying to get his mule into the barn. The man was tugging on the rope and pulling with all his might. He got behind the mule and pushed; he put his shoulder to its back but he could not budge the mule who just stood there, stifflegged, and would not move. He could not get it into the barn! A fellow walked up and watched for quite a while. Finally he said, “Mister, I’ll get your mule into the barn for you if you like.” The man stopped in astonishment and said,” Can you?” He said,” Of course, it is easy.” The stranger walked over and picked up a two-by-four, came over to the mule, quietly lifted the two-by-four, and whacked him on top of the head, right between the eyes. The mule went a little crosseyed! Then he hit him behind the ears. Before the mule could quite straighten up again, he struck him underneath the chin. With that he took hold of the rope and with two fingers led the mule into the barn! The man stood there astonished. The fellow came out again and said, “You see, mister, actually this mule is a very cooperative critter. You just got to get his attention!”

    Sometimes God has to GET OUR ATTENTION. And to do that He chooses to use events which are instruments of His judgment. God told Moses that the reason for His judgment upon the Egyptians was to make them know that He is God. Everything God does shows us something about who He is, but in this instance of judgment God particularly expressed that His intent was to show Himself to the Egyptians. And He was successful in this, for in chapter eight of Exodus Moses records the magicians telling Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”

    Our God has foretold the blessed era when He shall be ALL IN ALL. How can God ever be ALL- IN – ALL? Are there not some creatures and men too calloused and hostile to bend to His omnipotence? Let each one who knows Him as their ALL give answer thus: “He who has broken my stubborn will and brought me to His feet can lead the most obstinate to Himself.” His will is more than a match for any man’s. Were it His decree to become their DOOM, they could not stop Him. But as it is His will to become their ALL (which is a far nobler, greater goal), their ALL He shall become. His indignation may break and destroy pride and rebellion for the ages, but His love will endure endlessly and He will pursue all men until at last they surrender to His love. Ah, yes, God knows just how to GET OUR ATTENTION! He can get it here and now. If He doesn’t get it here, He will get it in hell. If He doesn’t get it in hell, He will get it in the lake of fire. He will get it by gracious words and tender mercies, if He can. But if not, He will get it by severe judgments and awful wrath. But, blessed be His name, He will get our attention!

    God gives us power, in the positive realm, to get men’s attention, to subdue them to Christ. Jesus has said, in effect, “All Authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, I give you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. I give you this authority. I am behind you, and all the powers of heaven are on your side. Go therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES.” They were a poor lot to go. They were nearly all fishermen, with one honest tax-gatherer. If you can find one honest taxgatherer in America, I think you might make him an apostle without further investigation.

    These men whom Christ sent out were uneducated for the most part. They had no political clout and no social rank, until Christ took them in hand. They did not know very much until He took them in hand for three years. It was astonishing what He made of them. They did not realize their mission until the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and brought to their remembrance the things which Jesus had said, and showed them the meaning of Jesus’ words after He had risen from the dead, when, on the mountain side in Galilee, He gave them authority to make disciples.

    Dr. J. A. Dowie, years ago, related the following incident: “A man said to me once, ‘You talk as if you could make people believe.’ I said, ‘I can; of course I can. You give me a chance at you, and I will make you believe before I am through.’ He said, ‘You will never make me believe.’ I said, ‘Will you come and attend services at Zion Tabernacle for ten consecutive Sundays, and see if I cannot?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I will, but you will be just as far away from it at the end of the ten weeks as you were at the beginning.’ I looked for that man every Sunday, and I studied him from every point of view. I got to know all about him. I got to know all of his meannesses. I got to know the wickedness he had done. I ‘spanked’ him for about five consecutive services. I had him writhing in his seat and swearing under his breath, and wondering who had given him away. Every now and then I would look at him from this platform and say, ‘I will have you yet.’ He was wondering what I meant; but he was breaking up fast. After about five weeks I did not know if he would come any more. But on the sixth Sunday I forgot about him and did not know whether he was in the place or not. That day I said, ‘There are some of you whom I have been pounding, and I suppose you have about come to believe that there is no hope for you anywhere on earth or in hell.’ Suddenly I saw him and said, ‘There is hope for you. You are a mighty hard case, but I will have you today. You will be a disciple today. Dare you to put it off any longer?’ When I said, ‘Stand,’ I saw that fellow try to sit when thousands arose, but he could not. Before the ten weeks were up he said, ‘Doctor, I surrender.’ I said, ‘All right; come and be baptized next Sunday.’ God enabled me to MAKE HIM A DISCIPLE” -end quote.

    But at times God has to use more severe means. Some months ago I turned on my car radio while enroute to a meeting on a Sunday morning and heard a preacher relate a most interesting and illustrative story. He said, “I remember a friend of mine that I was in school with. He was a pastor in the East Texas oil fields at the time of the explosion at the New London School. I shall never forget that night when word came in over the radio that that school had exploded and that over 300 boys and girls had been killed. I was speaking the next morning on the radio in Dallas, Texas. And that morning I directed everything I had to say to the parents and loved ones of those boys and girls. We had cards and letters from New England, from Cuba, from Mexico, from all over the country.

    “But this pastor friend of mine told me this story. He said, In the parish in which I was the pastor, there lived a man that had become suddenly rich. He was a Texan who had become oil rich, even had put up a small refinery. And he had made already several millions of dollars. He had built a lovely home. He had a wife and two beautiful boys. And the wife and two boys were Christians, fellowshipping in our Church. And this pastor went on and said, This man was the worst blasphemer I had ever met in my life. I’ve never heard a man talk as that man would talk. He would blaspheme God, curse God. And his wife was so concerned about him and asked me to go see him. I went to see him, and I’ve never been treated like that in my life. He cursed me from the time I opened my mouth until I got out of earshot. He called me everything that was in the book and some things I didn’t know were in the book. He was vile. His wife and one of his little boys took sick during the flu epidemic and both died at the same time. I went over that night to see them. I went in and there sat the father and the little boy that was alive. I went over and sat down beside them and began to talk, and he began to abuse me again. And curse – I’ve never heard anything like it! It was vile beyond description. He blasphemed God’s name. There was nothing left for me to do but get up and walk out of there, which I did. I had the funeral. The man wouldn’t even speak to me. And he became more vile after that. But all of the love that he’d had for his family, and that seemed to be the only thing about the man that was a redeeming feature, was now turned to this one little boy that was left.

    “That little boy was in the New London School. This man, when he heard of the explosion, went out to that school and went through that rubble like a madman until he found the torn and twisted, broken body of that little boy. Then he took it in his arms and walked up and down that schoolyard like a madman until they actually took it away from him and carried it to the funeral home. You know, I felt it was my duty to go and talk with him. So that night I went over to that big home, and I went in and there was that little white casket and there he sat, the same place he’d sat before. I just steeled myself for the cursing that I was to get. I was afraid to say anything. I just sat down. Then that great big hulk of a fellow looked up and our eyes met. He hadn’t cried before, but there were tears in his eyes. And instead of cursing me, he said to me, God has been after me all the time. He’s tried to speak to me all my life, and I turned my back on Him. He took my wife and my other little boy, and I knew He was talking to me. But I was afraid of what men might say, those I worked with and was associated with. Oh, what a coward I’ve been. And now He’s had to take this one! Well, he said, God can have me now. And that man got down on his knees beside that casket and took Christ as his Saviour. The last time I saw that pastor friend of mine he told me that that oil man was still serving God” -end quote.

    That man did not respond to the POSITIVE witness of the Gospel of God’s grace, so corrective measures were needed, and God stretched forth His hand and brought NEGATIVE forces into action, thereby getting his attention. Once broken under the judgmental dealings of God, he knelt before the Lord and received the goodness and mercy and deliverance so graciously proffered. Hallelujah! It should be clear to every thinking child of God that God does not use the same means and measures with every man to bring them to Christ. It would be very simple to fill this book with instance after instance from Holy Scripture which loudly and unmistakably proclaim the nature and purposes of all God’s judgments from the banishment of Adam and Eve from Eden’s fair garden in Genesis to the blazing inferno of the lake of fire in Revelation. But I would point you briefly to one plain and positive illustration which proceeded from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ. “But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delays his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will APPOINT HIM HIS PORTION WITH THE UNBELIEVERS. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be BEATEN WITH MANY STRIPES. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be BEATEN WITH FEW STRIPES. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Lk. 12:45-48).

    In this parable it is plain that Christ is teaching degrees of punishment. The Christ teaches that those who have committed things worthy of many stripes, will receive many, and those who were ignorant, and with lesser light did not know or understand the will of God, yet did things worthy of stripes, shall receive but a few.

    Here is set forth in the plainest of language not only varying degrees of punishment, but also varying lengths of time for the punishment. What ever the judgment typified by the “stripes,” it takes longer to inflict many stripes than just a few, so it should not be difficult to understand that some men are punished for a longer period of time than others. The Word of God declares that the Judge of all the earth shall do right, and I believe that He shall do just that. As our children were growing up we did not have one stock punishment for all their misdeeds. We suited the punishment to the disobedience, yet we haven’t granted the same privilege to God! We have said that everyone is to receive the very same common punishment, hell fire, and that that judgment would endure for the very same length of time for all – eternity!

    How, then, I ask, can some be beaten with “many stripes” and others with “few stripes” if all receive the same punishment of endless hell fire? How foolish can we be! It is always extremely foolish to hold to a doctrine that clearly contradicts the Word of God. I can almost feel the holy wrath, I can almost hear the stinging invective of some who think they have me now -”Ah, ” they say, “but Jesus is not talking in this parable about the condition of the lost; He is teaching about the punishment of disobedient SERVANTS OF GOD!” And you are so very right, my friend! We never want to forget it. Nothing could be plainer, for Jesus prefaces His remarks with these significant words: “Who then is that FAITHFUL AND WISE STEWARD, whom his Lord shall make ruler over His household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that SERVANT, whom His Lord when He comes shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that He will make him ruler over all that He has” (Lk. 12:42- 44). There would be no answer to your argument; I would be forced to throw up my hands and admit that these words of our Lord apply only to the correction and discipline of servants of the Lord, and have absolutely no bearing whatever on the judgment of unbelievers, or on hell, or on the lake of fire, were it not for one significant statement that appears in verse forty-six. The Lord says, “The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for Him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will APPOINT HIM HIS PORTION WITH THE  U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-E-R-S.” Do you see that? Ah, the punishment of this SERVANT is the SAME PUNISHMENT as the UNBELIEVER receives! He is appointed his portion WITH THE UNBELIEVERS!

    The punishment, therefore, of this servant of the Lord and the punishment of the unbelievers is equal, identical, of the same intensity, for the same length of time, the very same punishment, and that punishment is? -MANY STRIPES! Not unending stripes; not everlasting whipping; not eternal torment under the hands of the tormentors; but – many stripes. And of what precise judgment speaks our Lord when He commands “appoint him his portion with the unbelievers?” What is the “portion of the unbelievers?” Hear it! “But the fearful, and UNBELIEVING … shall have their part (portion) IN THE LAKE WHICH BURNS WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE” (Rev. 21:8). The “portion of the unbelievers” is the lake of fire. And not only are the unbelievers judged there, but the unfaithful servants of God are dealt with there, too! And, by Jesus’ own words, this punishment is called “many stripes,” and is shown to be limited in its duration and corrective and remedial in its nature.


    I believe every word that the Bible says about the lake of fire; I don’t believe what Rome says about it, nor what the apostate Churches say about it, nor what tradition says about it; but I certainly believe what the Bible says about it.

    The teaching concerning the lake of fire does not appear anywhere in Scripture except in the book of Revelation where it is spoken of in the following passages: Rev. 14:10-11; 19:20; 20:10; 20:13-15 and 21:8. This last passage definitely states, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

    There should be no question remaining as to the certainty of this lake of fire; neither should there be any doubt as to the awful consequence of having to be cast into it. These Scriptures with their dreadful foreboding should be a fearful warning to all unthinking and foolish people who, because of their love for the world, the flesh, and the devil, have dared to ask why we should serve God now if all are going to be saved eventually. Such people have no love for God nor fear of God, and they manifest by what they say that their professed serving of God is only a pretense, arising – not from any true love for Him – but from fear of punishment. If there were no prospect of hell these would promptly tell God to go to hell and they would, themselves, go to the devil. It is not thus with those who truly love God, for they serve not from fear, but from pure love and devotion. Remove punishment completely from the universe, and they would still serve God with all their hearts.

    Because of the gross misunderstanding of almost all people concerning the lake of fire, I would like to draw your attention to three words found in the passage quoted above. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which BURNS with FIRE and BRIMSTONE: which is the second death.”

    The word BURN means combustion, or to consume. To consume does not mean to annihilate, for there is no such thing as annihilation in the absolute sense. When fire consumes a log in your fireplace it does not destroy any of the elements within the log, it merely changes their form. Combustion is the process by which chemicals combine to form new chemicals. For example: a tree might be cut down, sawed into fire wood, and burned. When the wood is burning the heat causes the chemicals of which the wood is composed to vaporize, mixing with the oxygen in the air to form new chemicals, including water and the gas carbon dioxide. So what was formerly a tree is no longer identified as the form of a tree, but the substance thereof is now simply CHANGED into a DIFFERENT FORM and exists in its new form within the atmosphere as water, carbon dioxide, etc. Thus, to bum, means to CHANGE. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that fire does not burn down; it always burns up; it seeks the highest level. And all that it consumes “goes up in smoke,” to exist in a new form in a higher dimension. Even if you take a pan of water and place it over a fire, before long the water will take on the property of the fire and will begin to go up in steam. To burn means to CHANGE, and the change is always UPWARD in its motion.

    FIRE is the heat and light that you feel and see when something burns. It takes heat to start a fire, but once the fire is started it produces heat that keeps the process going. Thus, fire is really HEAT and LIGHT. In my study of the lake that burns with fire and brimstone I was very much helped and impressed by the understanding given by Charles Pridgeon and I would like to quote from his scholarly work on the subject of BRIMSTONE. He says: “The Lake of Fire and Brimstone signifies a fire burning with brimstone; the word ‘brimstone’ or sulphur defines the character of the fire. The Greek word THEION translated ‘brimstone’ is exactly the same word THEION which means ‘divine.’ Sulphur was sacred to the deity among the ancient Greeks; and was used to fumigate, to purify, and to cleanse and consecrate to the deity; for this purpose they burned it in their incense. In Homer’s Iliad (16:228), one is spoken of as purifying a goblet with fire and brimstone. The verb derived from THEION is THEIOO, which means to hallow, to make divine, or to dedicate to a god (See Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, 1897 Edition). To any Greek, or any trained in the Greek language, a ‘lake of fire and brimstone’ would mean a ‘lake of divine purification.’ The idea of judgment need not be excluded. Divine purification and divine consecration are the plain meaning in ancient Greek. In the ordinary explanation, this fundamental meaning of the word is entirely left out, and nothing but eternal torment is associated with it” -end quote.

    I realize that the above thoughts define the subject very briefly, but let us summarize the meanings thus: BURN means combustion; to change the form of. FIRE means heat and light. BRIMSTONE means divine. Putting these three together can we not see that the lake burning with fire and brimstone is, actually, DIVINE HEAT AND LIGHT PRODUCING A CHANGE! Is such a process eternal? All the laws of nature shout that it is not!

    More than 2500 years ago the Holy Spirit warned the wicked inhabitants of Jerusalem that God would kindle a fire at Jerusalem’s gates which would devour her palaces. “But if you will not hearken unto Me … then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not he quenched” (Jer. 17:27). Did not God say this fire “shall NOT BE QUENCHED?” This prophecy was fulfilled and the fire did occur a few years later and it did destroy all the houses of Jerusalem (Jer. 52:13). Since God said no person or thing would “quench” this fire, did that mean that it would burn for ever? Since it accomplished the work it was sent to do, and since it is NOT BURNING TODAY, it obviously went out by itself after accomplishing its purpose!

    Unquenchable fire is not eternal fire – it is simply fire that cannot be put out until it has consumed or changed everything it is possible for it to change! It then simply goes out, for there is nothing more to burn. Yet I hear the preachers ranting and raving about poor souls being cast into bell fire where “their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched” and this, we are told, means eternal, unending torment. How foolish, illogical, and deceptive! Such a view contradicts the plain meaning of the term “unquenchable” and its use in the Word of God.

    Are the judgments of God permanent? Isaiah says, “When Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9). And Mat. 12:20 says, “A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory.” Judgment, therefore, is not an eternal condition, but it is given to produce that victory. Judgments of themselves do not save anyone, but they are used by God to bring one to one’s self, to effect a change of attitude and will, to consume away the stubbornness and rebellion of men. Punishment by fire is a beneficent one. “Our GOD is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).

    The basic purpose of this divine fire of God is to cleanse, purify, purge, temper and change. It is to rid of impurities, of filth, of undesirable elements. There is no better way to deal with filth than to deal with it by fire. The punishment by penal fire leads back to the beginning of things. The final work of God in this world will be the destruction of the world (order) by penal fire. That will change all things. That will melt all the elements, so that no man can tell you where his original grab was. It will burn up all the governments, institutions, systems, and fruitage of the carnal mind. It will melt all the customs, cultures, traditions, and practices of society and make of this earth a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. Every man’s work will eventually be tested in this fire. The fire will try every man’s work of what sort it is. If you and I build into our walls wood, hay, and stubble, that fire will find it out, and the wall will come tumbling down.

    When God turns on the HEAT, the BLAZING LIGHT OF HIS SPIRIT AND WORD – some things begin to change! The fire is never sent to destroy the PERSON, but to purge out all that hinders and separates him from his God, to consume the pride, arrogance, hostility, defiance, and rebellion of the flesh, the carnal mind, that He might then be wooed and drawn by the Holy Spirit unto the Father of Spirits and live.

    More than three centuries ago when the Black Plague swept through London, England, more than 68,000 men, women, and children were sickened with the putrid fever, suffered nameless agonies, passed into delirium, sometimes with convulsions, and then died. Before the end of the terrible nightmare of anguish and death, what was thought to be an even greater tragedy occured. The city caught fire, the whole heavens were ablaze as the Great Fire destroyed more than 13,200 homes and 89 churches. Most of the city, which was built largely of wood, lay in ashes. Wonder of wonders! As soon as the last dying embers cooled and the smoke cleared, the inhabitants of the city discovered that the Plague had been stayed! Not another person died of the epidemic. The Plague never returned. The fire had killed the bacteria-carrying fleas and rats that caused the Plague. It took a fire to do it!

    Fire is a great cleanser, purifier, and changer. We all know that a horse must be broken, that is, its will must be broken before it is of any practical use to man. God put that will in the horse, but it must be broken and made to conform to the will of man. Just as surely did God put the will in man, BUT IT MUST BE BROKEN and we will benefit by the very process of breaking. Man may do a lot of crying and wailing, but when he is broken to HIS will, what a wonderful condition it is. God may take man over some rough places, even through the lake of fire and brimstone, but the love of God will break every man to His will. If you think the Kingdom of God is rosewater, or eau-de-cologne, you are mistaken. You cannot war on the devil with that. You cannot war on the carnal minds of men with that. You have to make war on the world, the flesh, and the devil with a sword sharper than any twoedged sword. You have to make war on the carnal mind with fire, divine fire that must burn up every inherent altar of Baal, and lick up the very dust around.

    Make no mistake! OUR GOD is a consuming fire! He is man’s “horse breaker” and He will break you, precious friend of mine, and bring you to the foot of the cross of Jesus no matter how hot He has to build the fire around you! Even if long ages of fiery judgment and tormenting darkness fall upon you, they will last no longer than till the Great Fire of God has melted all arrogance into humility, and all that is self has died in the bloody sweat and all-saving cross of the Christ, which will never give up its redeeming power till sin and sinners have no more a name among the creatures of God.


    The book of Revelation is a book of symbols. In the introduction to this marvelous book the beloved John explains, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John” (Rev. 1:1). The word “signified” is from the Greek SEMAINO meaning to indicate or communicate by means of signs and symbols. The meanings of all the symbols of the Revelation are given, either in the book itself, or elsewhere in the Scriptures.

    The first things John beheld when in Spirit was One like unto the Son of man, standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks, holding seven stars in His right hand. The One like unto the Son of man is identified as the resurrected and glorified Lord, for this One says, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: I am He that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:10, 17-18). The other symbols of that first vision are interpreted as follows: “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels (messengers) of the seven Churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven Churches” (Rev. 1:20). Children in school learn what we call definitions. A definition is an explanatory statement which tells us exactly what a certain thing is, as “an island is a tract of land completely surrounded by water.”

    God also gives us definitions in His Word. He tells us exactly what certain things are. And in the Scripture just quoted He has told us exactly what the seven stars and the seven candlesticks are. Those are God’s definitions. And in Rev. 20:14 God tells us exactly what the SECOND DEATH is. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH.” Now let me make this a little plainer. Definitions of men can be given backward. For instance, the definition, “An island is a tract of land completely surrounded by water,” can be given thus: “A tract of land completely surrounded by water is an island.” This is but another way of stating the same fact. It does not, in any way, change the meaning. Now let us try this on the definition of the second death. The Bible states it thus: “Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. THIS IS the second death.” Now let us turn this around for clarity. “The second death IS death and hell cast into the lake of fire.” Therefore we have exactly the same meaning either way it is stated.

    What is the second death? It is the first death and hell cast into the lake of fire! This fact is very IMPORTANT. The second death is not merely the lake of fire. The second death is not men being tortured for ever in the lake of fire. The Holy Spirit has made it very simple and plain. The second death is the first death and hell CAST INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE. That is the Holy Spirit’s definition, not mine. Can we now open the eyes of our understanding to see that everything cast into the lake of fire pertains to DEATH? Death itself is cast into the lake of fire. Hell, the realm of the dead, is cast into the lake of fire. And those whose names are not written in the Book of Life, those who are dead, in trespasses and in sins, who inhabit hell, are cast into the lake of fire. That is the end of death and hell and sin, for God shall destroy death in the lake of fire, He shall burn up hell in the lake of fire, and He shall consume sin and rebellion in the lake of fire.

    How I long to see the end of sin and death and hell! The time is coming, praise His name! when God’s Kingdom shall be All in All, and there shall be neither sin, nor sinners, nor death, nor hell. It is clear that God does not destroy men in the lake of fire, nowhere does it say that, for that would be a contradiction of terms. How can you destroy death by creating death? How can you abolish death by bringing men under the power of eternal death from which there is no escape? Oh, no, it is not men who are destroyed in the lake of fire – it is SIN and DEATH and HELL that are destroyed. “And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Cor. 15:26). Thus, the lake of fire is nothing more nor less than THE DEATH OF DEATH!

    The following words by Ray Prinzing give fresh insight into this wonderful truth: “The offence of the first Adam brought all men under the sentence of death for sin. Hence presently our mortal bodies are in a state of dying, while our minds need to be freed from minding the things of the flesh, to mind the things of the Spirit. The act of disobedience of Adam brought forth death. Now, the obedience and work of righteousness of the last Adam also brings forth a death for every man. The question arises, Is the SECOND DEATH the same kind of death as the first? Many people think that it is a repetition of the first, and that the results are the same, while its action is more severe and cruel, and destructive, being by fire. And some Christians add very sorrowfully, ‘and from this second death there is no resurrection, it is an endless torment in agony,’ BUT NOT SO! For God’s seconds are never duplicates of the first, they are always better, higher, and more powerful than the firsts, and used to counter-balance all the action of the firsts, and MUCH MORE – He always saves the best until last.

    “All Bible statements prove that the two deaths are absolutely UNALIKE, and that the two are opposite and antagonistic. The second death undoes all the work of the first death in the same manner that the last Adam undid all the work of the first Adam. Not to nullify the purpose being wrought out by the plan of God in the firsts, but to bring a release from the firsts in a MUCH MORE manner of majesty and glory and power and scope of coverage, into the greater and glorious things of God. Creation was made subject to vanity for a purpose! Sin was allowed for wise ends, but when those ends have been secured it will have to cease to exist. The purpose is not nullified, but the means whereby the purpose has been executed shall be done away. Discipline is a means to an end, but not an end in itself, it leads up to the ‘AFTERWARDS YIELDING THE PEACEABLE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.’

    “The first Adam died to God and righteousness, and became alive unto sin. The last Adam died unto sin (Rom. 6:10), and lives unto God, and so fulfills all righteousness. The first made all men sinners, the last makes all men righteous. The lives and the deaths of the two Adams are thus greatly contrasting the one to the other. The FIRST DEATH was a transition from life to death, the SECOND DEATH is a transition from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality. Transformed from the carnal mind to the spiritual mind, which is life and peace, which transformation is wrought by a dying out to the one realm, to come alive to the higher realm. Because – the second death is prepared to purge out and burn away sin and its results, and so doing cleanse all of God’s universe.

    “Death came as an enemy, the fruitage of an act of disobedience that turned man away from God and into the realm of carnality, minding self and flesh. Now God makes death overcome itself. It is by death that death is rendered powerless, and there arises an upspringing, a new life. It takes death to destroy death, and thus Christ ‘did taste death for every man’ – ‘that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage’ (Heb. 2:9,14-15). Since we are all under the effects of the first death, it is appointed unto us to die once more – not physical death, we are already in a state of mortality – but now a dying out to this present death state. We conquer this death of the carnal mind by dying to it – only God could use such a process bringing victory, but praise God, He is destroying the first death with the second death!

    “All the Crucifixion, our identification with the cross of Christ, must first be accepted by faith as a fact, and then the working of it in and through us is a process. If it is done now, through our yieldedness to the call and the claims of Christ upon us, we won’t have to face it later, in what is called ‘the lake of fire,’ which is the second death. The passing through that lake of divine purification will thoroughly purge out the last remaining fragments of the rebellion and waywardness of man, till the mystery of iniquity is no more, and then the carnal mind being abolished, death is no more” -end quote. It is true that some men are cast into the processing of the lake of fire. But what a disreputable lot!

    “…the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” These are men saturated with the power of the first death – dead in trespasses and in sins, sold under sin, slaves to every devilish passion, possessed of corrupt and perverse natures, obsessed with every evil device, unrelentingly driven by the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And nothing God has done has yet broken these stubborn wills or brought these men to repentance. The wages of sin has not broken them. The harvest of evil has not broken them. Hell has not broken them. The tender mercies of the Lord have not broken them. The Spirit has faithfully told us of a second death into which unbelieving and incorrigibly wicked men shall surely go. They go there with death and with hell. The second death will be an experience and a period of time similar to this first death we are now experiencing, but much more terrible and severe than anything we now know. The penalty of sin is very great. The processes of God to break the resistance of willfully wicked men are extremely severe. Not only in this present age do they smite us, but in that second death which is to come. It can only be described as the “lake of fire.” This terrible death is reserved for those who have not profited from the previous judgments and still need further correction to subdue them to the will of God. When the process is complete, and the last sinner has emerged from the discipline with a broken and contrite spirit, having learned the lessons of the awful fruit of man’s “own way,” fully yielding to the Lordship of our Saviour, then at last shall be fulfilled the beautiful promise: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be NO MORE DEATH, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make ALL THINGS new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful” (Rev. 21:3-5).

    Whatever we hold as the nature of the death state, may we let this truth sink deep into our hearts: DEATH IS TO BE ABOLISHED. The ringing declaration, “The LAST enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Cor. 15:26), overthrows the whole structure of accepted, but unproved, theology which shuts up the mass of the human race in “eternal death.” When the “last” enemy is abolished it is self-evident that none remains. Those wretched religionists who demand the endlessness of death, who argue for eternal torment in the lake of fire, the second death, do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. The lake of fire MUST end because death and hell are cast into it, which is the second death, and in the end THERE SHALL BE  N-O  M-O-R-E  D-E-A-T-H.

    No more death! No more first death. No more second death. No more of any kind of death. To say there is no more death is to say that there are no more sinners, for sinners are DEAD MEN, dead in trespasses and in sins. To say there is no more death is to say that God has not “burned up” all the wicked and left them dead, or in hell, for as long as any creature of God is in a state of death, death is not abolished. To say there is no more death is to say there is no more hell, for hell is “the realm of the dead.” To say there is no more death is to say there is no more a lake of fire, for the lake of fire IS the second DEATH. To say there is no more death is to say there is no more sin, for “the wages of sin is DEATH.” What a universe of truth is contained in three little words: NO MORE DEATH! This grand truth seems to be almost unknown in the Church systems. Although the very climax and fulfillment of all revelation, it has been eclipsed by human perversions. As a result the God of the popular Churches has lost the essential attributes of Deity. He is like the foolish man who started to build but could not finish. Man’s theology brings nothing to a conclusion. It attains no definite goal. Sin, suffering, and insubjection are never conquered. Death is never destroyed. Redemption is never fully secured. God is compelled to work an eternal miracle in order to maintain a never-ending eyesore in His creation, once so subject, so sinless, and so good. He has to eternally keep His great foot on the lid of hell; for if even one of the devils should get out there would be hell everywhere! But death in all its forms shall be destroyed until it shall be said, “There is no more death!” Jesus is Conqueror! Then shall every creature in the universe bow and in glad chorus sing, “O death, where is they sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Cor. 15:55-57).


    There is a strange and wonderful statement found in Rev. 2:11. “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the Churches; He that overcomes shall not be HURT of the second death.” I would draw your attention to the fact that it does not say that the overcomer experiences nothing of the second death, that he does not pass through it, or that its work is not wrought in his life; but the thought is that he will not be “hurt” by it.

    It is possible to pass through the most terrible experience and not be hurt by it. Listen! “And these three men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spoke, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they HAVE NO HURT; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Dan. 3:23-25). Oh, to know that we can pass through the darkest night or the hottest fire and not be hurt by it if Jesus goes with us! How heartening and assuring to read such promises as these: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: and when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you” (Isa. 43:2).

    The word “hurt” is from the Greek ADIKEO meaning to be unjust, do wrong, injure or offend. Armed with this understanding we may paraphrase Rev. 2:11 thus: “He that overcomes shall not be done an injustice, wronged, injured or offended by the second death.” The great difference between the unbeliever and the child of God is that the unbeliever is taken hand and foot and “cast” into the lake of fire, fighting, kicking, screaming, cursing, and resisting all the way, while the child of God willingly and obediently walks into the fiery processings of God hand in hand with his blessed Redeemer. And, one way or the other, ALL MEN MUST DIE UNTO SIN.

    When the natural man becomes the spiritual man, the great change is described by the Holy Spirit as a passing from death unto life. Before the transistion occurred, the practical difficulty was this, how to get into harmony with the new environment of the Kingdom of God? But no sooner do we enter into the Kingdom of God than the problem is reversed. The question now is, how to get out of harmony with the old environment of the flesh, the world, and the devil? The moment the new CHRIST LIFE is begun there comes a great anxiety to break with the old, for the regenerated spirit has nothing in common with the old. The former way of life now becomes embarrassing. Because of “sin in our members” it refuses to be dismissed from our consciousness. It competes doggedly with the new nature of the Christ. And in a hundred ways the former traditions, the memories and passions of the past, the fixed associations and habits of the earlier life, now press in to draw us to walk after the flesh, complicating the new walk. The complex and bewildered soul, in fact, finds itself confronted by two contrasting faculties, the flesh and the spirit, each with urgent but yet incompatible claims. It is a dual consciousness of a double world, a world whose inhabitants are deadly enemies, and engaged in perpetual civil war!

    The position is perplexing. It is clear that no man can attempt to live both lives. No man can walk both after the flesh and after the spirit anymore than one can walk down two roads at the same time. His testimony will agree with the apostle who wrote: “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot perform it. I have the intention and urge to do what is right, but no power to carry it out; for I fail to practice the good deeds I desire to do, but the evil deeds I do not desire to do are what I am ever doing. Now if I do what I do not desire to do, it is no longer I doing it it is not myself that acts – but the sin (principle) which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law of my being that when I want to do what is right and good, evil is ever present with me and I am subject to its insistent demands. For I endorse and delight in the Law of God in my inmost self – with my new nature. But I discern in my bodily members – in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh – a different law at war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner to the law of sin that dwells in my bodily organs – in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh. O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from the shackles of this body of death?” (Rom. 7:18-24, Amplified).

    To walk both after the flesh and after the spirit is morally impossible. “No man,” as Christ so often emphasized, “can serve two masters.” And yet, as a matter of fact, here is the new-born child of God being in relation to both worlds – flesh and spirit. With sin and purity, with light and darkness, with God and the devil, the confused and undecided soul is now in relation. What is to be done in such an emergency? How can the New Life deliver itself from the ever-persistent call of the flesh? The ready solution of the difficulty is – TO DIE! Not for our “old man” to die, for he is already crucified with Christ, but for us to DIE TO SIN, or to KILL THE EVIL DESIRE LURKING IN OUR BODILY MEMBERS. To die to any reality is to withdraw correspondence with it, to cut ourselves off from all communication with it. The solution of the problem will simply be this, for the spiritual life to REVERSE CONTINUALLY the processes of the fleshly life. The spiritual man having passed from death unto life – the fleshly man must next proceed to pass from life unto death. Regeneration of the spirit in short must be accompanied by degeneration of the flesh, the carnal mind. And this DEATH PROCESS is the SECOND DEATH – the DEATH OF DEATH! Now it is no surprise to find that this is the process everywhere described and recommended by the Holy Spirit! Paul asked the burning question, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” and swift came the answer, “O thank God! – HE WILL! through Jesus Christ our Lord! ” (Rom. 7:24-25).

    Listen to the words of the apostle as he presses this beautiful truth home to the hearts of the understanding saints in Colosse: “If then you have been raised with Christ to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead, aim at and seek the rich, eternal treasures that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above – the higher things – not on the things that are on the earth. For as far as this world is concerned you have died, and your new real life is hid with Christ in God. So KILL (DEADEN, DEPRIVE OF POWER) the evil desire lurking in your members – those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and coveteousness, for that is idolatry. It is on account of these very sins that the holy anger of God is ever coming upon those who are obstinately opposed to the divine will, the sons of disobedience, among whom you also once walked, when you were living in and addicted to such practices. But now PUT AWAY AND RID YOURSELVES COMPLETELY OF ALL THESE THINGS: anger, rage, bad feeling toward others, curses and slander and foulmouthed abuse and shameful utterances from your lips! Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old unregenerate self with its evil practices, and have clothed yourselves with the new spiritual self, which is ever in the process of being renewed and remolded into fuller and more perfect knowledge upon knowledge, after the image (the likeness) of Him who created it” (Col. 3:1-10, Amplified).

    Let me repeat – all men shall die to sin. Some lovingly submit to God’s dealings that the dreadful death of the carnal mind in their members may be “mortified” or put to death, while others must be subdued and broken under the severe heat of judgmental fire. The former pass through the death to self – but are not “hurt” by it. In dying by a living and active faith to everything of the flesh, and living by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, a perfect work is wrought in which everything that is in any way opposed to God is brought to death. These become what God seeks in order to satisfy His heart.

    In the measure that we are identified with the cross of Christ, and made conformable to His death, in which it is no longer our will but HIS, in that measure we are “dying out” to the first death, via the process of the second death, the death of death, our whole being coming up in the likeness of His resurrection. The second death, the destruction of the carnal mind and its hostility and enmity against God, is not to be feared by the blood-bought over- coming saints of God – it is God’s arrangement whereby all the effects of the first death shall be disannulled, and all carnal-mindedness shall cease.

    For us who willingly submit to this process “no man takes our life from us, we lay it down.” But for those who will not lay it down, I do not hesitate to say that IT WILL BE TAKEN FROM THEM. To quote the timely words of Ray Prinzing once more: “Now – while we see the victory of the ultimate, a complete triumph over death, first death, second death, ALL DEATH to ultimately be brought to an end, there is a present-tense application which is before us. God has apprehended in this hour, as in all preceding generations, a remnant in whom HIS SPIRIT is working, and they are becoming daily experiencial partakers of His death, overcoming all the desires and lusts of the carnal mind. To those who now OVERCOME, the same shall not be ‘hurt’ of the ‘second death,’ when it is manifested in its more severe forms, as portrayed in the term of being ‘a lake of fire.’ Praise God, with the inworking of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to overcome all the evil of this present age, and all the carnal mind, we shall not be done an injustice by the second death. THE WHOLE PROCESS IS UNTO VICTORY. There may be suffering involved, for indeed, it means death to all our pre-conceived ideas, death to all the rebellion of our self-will, but it also means that we shall be loosed, set free from the shackles that bind, and with the inflow of His life we shall walk in the glorious liberty of the sons of God” -end quote.

    Make no mistake about it. There are multitudes who shall resist God until the extreme measures He must use to subdue them are beyond our comprehension. For them the second death shall hold terror, and will prove a most painful experience. Let us die now! Let us die to sin now! Let us die to our own stubborn wills now! Let us die to our fleshly ways now! Let us take the cup of suffering and submit to the refining fires now! Let us arise in the newness of HIS LIFE now, to be conformed to His image. He that overcomes NOW shall not be HURT by the second death!


    The words torment, tormented, tormentors, and torments occur twenty-one times in the King James version, and all in the New Testament. Three of these are in connection with the lake of fire. Let me give you the quotations. “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be TORMENTED WITH FIRE AND BRIMSTONE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY ANGELS (MESSENGERS) AND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB: and the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever (Greek: unto the ages of the ages): and they have no rest day nor night…” (Rev. 14:10-11).

    “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Greek: unto the ages of the ages – see Part One of this series -’Just What Do You Mean … ETERNITY!’)” (Rev. 20:10).

    Notice please, in both instances, the subjects are tormented with fire and brimstone, and we have previously established what the fire and brimstone are. But Rev. 14:10 sheds further light, those are also tormented by and through another agency, which in reality sums up and constitutes the fire and brimstone, and that agency is THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB and the holy angels, or messengers. What an amazing divine paradox! The Lamb – precious embodiment of the very character of innocence, patience, meekness, gentleness, holiness, sacrifice, and redemption – being made TORMENT to men for whom He died! The very thought seems incongruous. You see, dear ones, IT IS NOT THE NATURE of a lamb to torture anyone. It is simply not in the nature of the lamb to want to hurt in any way. Really! What could a lamb do to torture anyone? It has no capability for such a thing. And so it is with the LAMB OF GOD! The Lamb of God has no desire, no ability to inflict torture in any way – His desire is entirely redemptive – that men might have life and have it more abundantly!

    I cannot imagine One with the nature of a lamb packing poor lost souls like brick into a kiln, standing there blowing the fires of hell through them for ever. Such a grotesque representation charges the blessed Redeemer with crimes more heartless than those of Adoph Eichmann. Ah, the torment comes not from the Lamb. The torment lies within the bosoms of the tormented. The Scripture does not say that the Lamb torments them! If you think it does, you are mistaken. It states that THEY ARE TORMENTED IN THE PRESENCE of the Lamb. What a thought! TORMENTED IN THE PRESENCE. The Lamb is merely present. He does not torment. The condition is within themselves. Because they are wrong and sinful in nature, wicked in their hearts, selfish in their minds, and impure in their desires, they are CONDEMNED IN THEIR CONSCIENCES by the very PRESENCE of the pure, holy, sinless, selfless, sacrificing Lamb of God. Hell is at its fiercest when it sees heaven, and not till then.

    When these realize the presence, or the character of the Lamb, they are tortured in their consciences, for in the Light of the Lamb they see themselves for the wretched little devils they are. The very PRESENCE of TRUTH torments the deceitful and the liar. The very PRESENCE of HOLINESS torments the immoral and corrupt. The very PRESENCE of LOVE is torment to the mean and hateful. The PRESENCE of Him who is the PRINCE OF PEACE is torture to those who live by violence and the sword. The very PRESENCE of the LIFE OF THE LAMB is the most awful torment and torture to all the opposing forces, both deceiver and deceived, until all the deceit and hostility has been taken out of them, and they come to KNOW THE LORD. When these have been exposed for a sufficient time to the PRESENCE of the Lamb, the Lamb will overcome them; His love and power will conquer their hearts; the rebellion and waywardness will be taken from them and they will at last ENJOY the Presence of the Lamb!

    When the maniac of Gadara encountered the Christ the devils cried out, saying, “Have You come here to TORMENT US before the time?” (Mat. 8:29). IT WAS TORMENT FOR A POSSESSED PERSON TO BE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE CHRIST. It is torment for any enemy of God to be ushered into the presence of God. Anyone who is unacquainted with God and happens to come into a group who are worshipping and praising God, is in torment all the time he is there. The sooner such a person can leave, the better he likes it. Such an atmosphere is hell for that person! Why is it so hard to get your unsaved loved ones and friends to go to Church? They are unhappy and miserable in a Church meeting! They are tormented when with the saints worshipping God. They are estranged from God, citizens of the devil’s kingdom, and cannot relate to the praises of God, the moving of the Holy Spirit, giving tithes, and the Word that is ministered. This all makes them unhappy and uncomfortable.

    Peter Marshall said that when the apostles preached the Gospel there were either riots or regeneration. The fact of the matter is that in most cases there were both, for the same Gospel melted some hearts and turned others to stone. People were led either to faith in Jesus Christ or they were stirred to the most violent animosity and enmity. Jesus Christ has always been either a stone of stumbling or the sure foundation stone. We build upon it or we stumble over it and are crushed by it. Riots or regeneration! Joy unspeakable and full of glory or torment! A person under deep conviction is tormented. Tormented with what? He is tormented with the fire of God’s holy presence, the fire of His penetrating, burning Word. He has no peace or rest, day or night. His conscience troubles him continually. When you and I were under deep conviction for our sins and past life we were tormented by the Holy Spirit, the presence of God. And we had no rest day or night. When we were finally broken by the Holy Spirit’s dealing and repented and confessed those sins to Jesus, we cried often and shed many bitter tears of remorse and regret. THAT, my friend, is exactly what the rebellious will do in the ages to come as God deals with “every man in his own order.” There was no short cut to salvation for us, and there will be none for them. In some cases it took months and years, sometimes a lifetime, of preaching and dealings to win our hearts to the Lord. And I am sure that it will take much preaching and many dealings along with the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to win the ignorant, disobedient, and defiant masses who lived and died in this world outside of Christ.

    A brother in the Lord shared this illustration of wicked people being tormented in the presence of the Lamb: “A few years ago, we often preached to ALL the women in the state penitentiary for women. They were forced to sit and listen while we sang about Jesus, talked about Jesus and preached about Him. Some wept, some stared, and some faces showed bitter hatred toward us. Others seemed to writhe and twist in mental anguish and physical torment. Why? Because they were forced to listen.There was no escape” -end quote.

    Suppose a few filthy, vile men and a few immoral women from some house of prostitution were forced to sit in the midst of a large congregation of singing, shouting, worshipping saints. This certainly would he torment to most of them. They would be tortured in the flames of the blazing glory of God in that place! If they were not held in their seats by force, most of them would rush out of there. I have been in meetings where I witnessed three responses to the glorious manifestation of the Lord’s presence. First, the saints who loved the Lord rejoiced and adoringly worshipped. Some who were not Christians, but whose hearts were tender toward the Lord, came under deep conviction and, weeping and broken, gave themselves into the loving hands of Jesus. But others, filled with self, haters of righteousness, I have seen jump up and literally run out of a meeting – TORMENTED IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LAMB! Sure, they would rush, even run to get away from the convicting power of the Holy Ghost! I have seen it, and so have you.

    To the unsaved, HIS GLORY is a LAKE OF FIRE AND BRIMSTONE – divine, cleansing, purging, purifying, consuming fire! In ages yet unborn God shall expose ALL MEN to the sweet abiding presence of the Lamb. They will come under such severe processings, under such profound conviction that they will be tormented and have no rest day or night until they finally yield. And when they do, many fountains of tears will flow with weeping, praying, and calling upon the Lord. I believe it! God hasten it!


    by Gary Amirault

    When it comes to the final destination of the wicked, or unrighteous, Christians over the past two millenniums have divided themselves into three beliefs: 1. Eternal Torment, 2. Eternal Death (Annihilationism), and 3. Salvation of the whole world through Jesus Christ. Each of these views can be supported with Scriptures. Having been in all three groups, I know that there are sincere Bible centered believers in all of them. Obviously, all three cannot be true. Two of them have to be false.

    This writing is primarily for Christians who have embraced the Doctrine of Conditional Mortality, often referred to as “eternal death” and also “annihihationism.” Many who hold this view, have come to this conclusion because the “doctrine of eternal torment” was repugnant to them. They felt they could bow down to such a God, but could not truly love Him. I know most Christians who hold this view are Bible students, that is, they spend time in the Bible, and enjoy deep study. This writing is design for that kind of mind and attitude. Some of it is rather technical. It has to be. Having studied and been in all three camps regarding the outcome of the fate of the wicked, (eternal torment, eternal death, and the ultimate salvation of all mankind) I feel what is contained in this writing will be helpful to those who cannot love an Eternal Tormentor. This work will also be useful to those holding a view other than eternal death, but the focus of the study is on passages used to support “eternal death.” Therefore, I did not deal with many passages of scripture that the other two groups would perhaps want covered. I have other literature and audio tapes on the other viewpoints.

    Several denominations, Bible study groups, and many millions of Christians believe and teach the doctrine of “Eternal Death.” I know many Christians, even though they attend a main line Protestant or Catholic Church, do not believe God will really torture people forever. These often believe they will just go into unconsciousness never to wake. Millions of people who do not consider themselves Christians believe in “eternal death.” Many atheists, agnostics, as well as other religions believe we will just return to dust. Is it Scriptural? It certainly is more merciful than “eternal torment,” but can it stand on Scriptural ground? Let us see.

    This study deals with the leading scriptures which are used to justify the “Doctrine of Eternal Death.” We will look into the Greek and Hebrew words as well as the English verses used to teach this doctrine to see if this doctrine can stand up to a thorough test. After all, I think most people would agree, it would be much easier to love a God who just ends a life as opposed to One Who viciously tortures His own creatures. When we see this in a human being, we call them sick, but somehow we don’t seem to have the nerve to call this kind of God “sick” also. The beginning of wisdom is to “fear” the Lord, so they say, but what kind of fear, terror or awe?

    The word “annihilation” is used in this study as meaning that the ungodly, the wicked, the “unsaved,” will be ultimately completely destroyed. The English words used in the scriptures to prove this teaching are destroy, perish, abolish, destruction, loss, etc. And words such as everlasting, eternal, and forever.

    This teaching is not a new doctrine. It has been taught by some Christians throughout the history of the Christian Church. It is a fact that many scriptures in English translations do teach the destruction of some people. In this study, we will consider the original Greek words translated, destroy, destruction, etc., and what these words meant at the time they were written. We will also look at the words translated everlasting, eternal, forever, world, age, damn etc. This study will not deny that “destruction” is taught in the English scriptures. We do, however, want to be certain what “destruction” meant to the original writers of the scriptures. We often read words in Bibles through our sectarian definitions.

    It is usage of words that determines the meaning of words. The meaning of words are often changed as the word travels through the history of a people. The word “carriage” referred to “that which is carried” in King James England. Today, it refers to a vehicle that carries. The English word “let” was often used to mean “restrain” in King James English. Today, it has taken on the opposite meaning of “allow.” These are a couple examples of thousands of occurrences of dramatic changes in word usage. The word “villain” used to mean someone who lived in a villa, a rural person. Obviously, that meaning has been completely replaced. This is why it is important to study the words in their historical and cultural sense. There are places in the King James Bible where one would actually completely change the meaning of the passage if one used today’s definitions of certain words found in the King James Bible.

    This study will include a study of the original Greek words and the English words, destroy, destruction, etc., as used in our Bibles. In order to compare the Greek with the English, we must have certain tools to work with. In this study, we must first have a good reference Bible. There are several good reference Bibles. One of the best as far as King James Versions go, is Dr. Bullinger’s Companion Bible.

    The original texts of the Bible were inspired by the Creator, but no translation or version is inerrant. Now, I realize there will be readers who will differ with me on what I just said, but if you lay any of the ten leading English Bibles before me, it will be very easy to show differences in translation among them which involve key doctrinal issues. I will be more than happy to point out a few for those who do not believe me. Write me and I will send you examples.

    We also do not have the original writings. When we translate, we translate from copies of copies of copies, often many generations away from the original. Since the copies were made by hand, there is not one copy today which agrees with another copy. This is a fact! If Christians were made aware of some of these things, perhaps they would spend more time in study and less time watching the Super Bowl, or the soaps.

    A reference Bible that shows some of the variants of different manuscripts is very helpful. Also, a good concordance to the translation you are using is essential. Notice I said a “good” concordance. Many Christians do not even realize that each translation requires it’s own concordance. The famous Strong’s Concordance is only useful for the King James Translation. Should you be using the KJV, I recommend using the Young’s Concordance over the Strong’s Concordance because it is much easier to see the original words in the context of the sentences in which they are located. Mr. Young was also brave enough to make notice of places where he believes the King James translators made some grave mistakes. He also wrote a literal Bible translation which is very useful. I highly encourage at this time, for the reader to get their concordance and use it as we go through the following word study. Although, I personally think the KJV is a terrible translation to use in the twentieth century, we will use it for this study because most people have one and a concordance that works with the King James Bible. The truth can be found even in archaic translations if one searches honestly.

    Many of the passages below which deal with the Greek language have been taken almost word for word from audio tapes prepared by Louis Abbott from Stover, Missouri. Mr. Abbott has the largest library of New Testament Greek references of anyone I know. Many Bible colleges and seminaries do not have many of the books he possesses. Mr. Abbott spends most of his evenings and weekends reading and studying Greek. He has studied these particular words more than anyone I know. An objective reading of his findings would serve us all well.

    We hear the words “eternal death” in Christian creeds. Although many Christians use these words, the words “eternal death” are not in the scriptures. Again, I repeat, the words “eternal death” are not in our Bibles. Therefore, to study the teaching of “annihilation” or “eternal death” we will have to look for other words to study, “eternal death” is nowhere to be found.

    The opposite of life is death and the opposite of death is life. According to the scriptures, there cannot be an eternal death. The scriptures declare an “end” to death. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26, KJV) Let us see that “death” cannot be “eternal.”


    Resurrection Versus “Being Made Alive”

    The Greek word translated destroy in the above scripture (1Cor. 15:26,27) is not “apollumi.” The word used here is “katageo” and means to nullify, discard, exempt, abolish, to make unproductive. This “last enemy” of Christ will ultimately be “nullified, discarded, abolished, or destroyed.” Therefore, this clearly teaches that death is the last enemy and that in the future “death” will be destroyed. Hence, there can be no “eternal death.” To teach an “eternal death” is to contradict the scriptures.

    How will death be destroyed? Paul give the answer in the context, “For as in Adam all die, even so, in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:22, KJV) Now I know that some say that Paul is teaching in this verse that all will be resurrected, but the word used by Paul is “zoopoiethesontai” and this is a future passive verb meaning to vivify, to make alive beyond the reach of death. The Greek word “anastasis” means resurrection and is used in verse 21. We know that Jesus resurrected several people as recorded in the Gospels, but that does not mean they received unending life at that point. 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 teaches that there are three classes of orders that will be made alive. First, Christ, the first fruit. The word “first fruit” is singular in the Greek, not first fruits plural as in the King James Version. Second, they that are Christ’s at His coming (Greek, parousia, appearing). This class includes all the Christians dead or alive. (See 1 Thess. 4:13-18) The third class is referred to as “then cometh the end.” This includes the residue of all mankind who died in Adam. This is clearly taught in 1 Cor. 15:22-28. Therefore, these scriptures teach that all mankind who die in Adam will be made alive in Christ and I repeat, this is not resurrection. Unfortunately, many translations put a period between the second and third order of being made alive. The Greek does not have a period here. (1 Cor. 15:23,24) It is supplied by some translators.

    The scriptures teach that all will be resurrected. (Study John 5:28,29) The dead in Christ when made alive will be resurrected as being “made alive” which includes resurrection but being “made alive” means more than resurrection. “Made alive” means make alive beyond death. May I remind you that not all Christians will be resurrected. Many Christians will be alive when Christ returns. Therefore, living Christians will not be resurrected, but they will be made alive or vivified. Notice these scriptures: “Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:51-53) “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep,. That ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:13-18, KJV; here is an example of a KJV word “prevent” which has completely lost its meaning. In the 1600′s the word meant “precede,” not “hinder.”)

    It is most important to remember vivification or being made alive cannot be limited to resurrection of the dead. Resurrection is limited to the dead. You cannot resurrect the living, yet the living in Christ will be “made alive” at Christ’s coming (Gr. Parousia). I am speaking of the literal meaning of the resurrection. I do not want to dwell any longer on these words as our subject is “destruction.”


    There are two elements one needs to determine the meaning of a word which has been important over a long period of time: 1. The original meaning of the root word from which it is derived, so far as we are able to determine. 2. The history of the word as it passes from one generation to another. Other languages, social pressures, or one important person’s or an institution’s variant use of the word whose definition sticks with that word.

    When we go back to the earliest uses of the word “apollumi,” “apolleia” and their cognates, we find the words very indistinguishable from each other. We find the word in Homer where the “slayers and the slain” were “perishing from the world,” but they reappear in Hades as persons capable of sorrow, joy and the ability to think. (Iliad 24:725) “We were ‘undone’ by their wisdom,” says Odysseus. (Od. 10:27) According to Professor Plumtree, he knows of no passages in the earliest uses of these words which would mean destruction of conscious existence. (The Spirits in Prison, E.H. Plumtree) Searching the Greek Old Testament called the Septuagint, we find exactly the same usage of these words that we find in the New Testament. Below are examples of how these words were used in the Biblical sense.

    Those who teach “eternal death” or “annihilation” believe the Greek words translated “destroy,” “perish,” “loss,” mean cessation or end of life with no hope of recovery at a later time. The original words used in the Greek New Testament are: the verb “apollumi,” and the noun, “apolleia.” The verb “apollumi” is translated as follows in the King James Version: perish (33 times), destroy (46 times), lose (42 times), be lost (5 times), lost (4 times), bemarred (1 time), die (1 time), for a total of 92 times. The noun “apolleia” is translated as follows in the King James Version: perdition (8 times), destruction (5 times), waste (2 times), damnable (1 time), damnation (1 time), to die (1 time), perish (1 time), pernicious way (1 time), for a total of 40 times.

    It is important that Christians understand the meaning of these two Greek words. An improper understanding of these words will result in an inaccurate faith in the destiny of the unbelievers and an inaccurate understanding of God’s plan and love. To apply these words to the final destiny of the unbelievers will result in the denial of many scriptures that do refer to the ultimate plan of God’s love. I recommend that you check the following scriptures with your concordances. It is not practical for me to quote over 110 verses. Therefore, I will quote only those passages used by those who are teaching that these words mean “destruction with no future resurrection to immortality.”

    First of all, let me state that I believe the original Hebrew and Greek scriptures were inspired by God. I believe the Creator allowed imperfect man to add his imperfections into Bible translations. When we look at the apostles and prophets, we quickly notice they were far from perfect, and yet were still mightily used. We see Peter, years after he received the Holy Spirit, play the hypocrite when being around gentiles. Paul had to rebuke him to his face. We read Paul saying, “I, not the Lord, say . . .” We find this in the scriptures in 1 Corinthians 7:12. I believe the Creator left us with imperfect English translations that we might rely on the Holy Spirit first. When one puts the scriptures above being lead by the Spirit, religious rigor mortus quickly sets in. The letter of the law produces death apart from the Holy Spirit quickening to us. This is true whether it is the Old Testament or New Testament. If one’s witness in this world does not go past the Written Word, it will only be a witness to religious death . . . not life.

    When quoting the scriptures contained herein, I will read the King James Version, and immediately after the English word, I will quote the original Greek vocabulary word. Thus the listener will know the original inspired word. By this method, I believe that Christians who do not know Greek will be able to understand how these words are used in the inspired text. I will quote verses that will clearly illustrate what these two Greek words mean.

    The meaning of a word depends on its usage. Words get their color from their context. Without any dictionary whatever, it is possible to determine the meaning of almost any word if it is seen in a dozen sentences. From this we made deduce the notable conclusion that the actual and understood meaning of a Greek or English word in the Bible is not necessarily its current or dictionary meaning, but that which it absorbs from the passage in which it is found. A dictionary simply records the usage as employed by careful writers of the time for which the dictionary is written.

    The word “destruction” is one of the key words of the scriptures. Hence, no amount of investigation is excessive if it provides us with a clear comprehension of its meaning. There have been endless discussions about this word resulting in diverging schools of interpretation. But most of the discussions that I have studied, do not give a satisfactory answer to all of the scriptures.

    The argument has been propounded that the first occurrence of a word in the scriptures fixes its primary meaning thus the first occurrence of “apollumi” is Matthew 2:13. “Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” In this context, it is argued that “apollumi” means deprivation of life. Now what is this first occurrence of this word in the Greek New Testament. As to chronological time, Paul was the first to put “apollumi” into the scriptures; see 2 Thessalonians 2:10. Matthew did not write until later. Was it necessary for the Thessalonians to wait until Matthew was written in order to know its meaning? It is not at all logical to argue that the vocabulary of the Greek scriptures was not defined until the Gospels were written. Let us test this theory.

    The Greek noun “ta Biblion” is the diminutive form of “ha Biblios.” Ha Biblios means a written volume, a scroll. The diminutive “Biblion” means a scrollet or scroll. In Matthew 19:7, its first occurrence, it is a short legal instrument what we call a divorce paper. This is not its primary or usual meaning. For it is used to describe the book of Isaiah and the book of Revelation (see Luke 4:17 and Rev 22:19). Thus in usage this is applied to any book even a large one.

    Here is an excellent example from the Old Testament. For instance, there is much controversy as to the meaning of the word “sin.” No occurrence is an illustration better than in Judges 20:16. “Among all this people there were 700 chosen men left handed; every one could sling stones at a hairs breadth and not miss.” The Septuagint reads: “Kai ouk examartanontes.” Therefore, sin in this context, is missing the mark. This literal etymological meaning is worth more than all the arguments which can be advanced. What a mistake it would be to reason from its first occurrence in Genesis 26 that its primary meaning confines it to social trespasses. It would greatly distort the meaning of Judges 20:16, if that meaning were applied to the word “sin” in this context. The only sound system of determining the primary meaning of any word in the scriptures is to study all its occurrences and to inject nothing into its meaning which clashes with any of its contexts.

    Again, I ask the reader to study these two words “apollumi” and “apolleia” in a concordance that lists all of the occurrences of these words. This is the only method to know the true primary meaning of these words. The argument that “destroy” in Matthew 2:13 means “deprive of live” is an unfounded inference. “Deprive of life” would partially define the following Greek words. I quote the Greek word first followed with a literal English translation. “Apokteino” (kill), “sphatto” (slay), “onireko” (dispatch, assassinate, massacre), “phoneuo” (murder). Every occurrence of these words actually mean “to deprive of life.”

    “Destroy, perish, (apollumi) are used of things which have no life. “Wine runneth out and the bottles perish (apollumi).” (Matt. 9:17, see also Mark 2:22, Luke 5:37) Skinned bottles do not die when they perish. “Verily I say unto you he shall in no wise lose (apollumi) his reward.” Matt. 10:42 (Compare Mark 9:41) A reward is not mortal. “That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perish (apollumi)” (1 Peter 1:7, compare Luke 15:8) Gold and money may perish and be lost but they are not deprived of life. The words which actually do mean “to deprive of life” could not be used in these verses. Neither the primary nor secondary nor any other meaning of “destroy” demands that life be taken. This is entirely a matter of the context. It is not included in the meaning of the words “apollumi” and “apolleia.”

    “Apollumi” is used of that which is alive. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose (apollumi) one of them, does not leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after that which is lost (apollumi) until he find it. And when he has found it he layeth it on his shoulders rejoicing. And when he commeth home he calls together his friends and neighbors saying unto them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost (apollumi).’” (Luke 15:4-6) If the lost (apollumi) sheep had been deprived of life, would the shepherd have rejoiced when he found the carcass? The word “apollumi” occurs 8 times in Luke chapter 15. See verses 4, 6,8,9,17,24, and 32. Not one of these occurrences means to deprive of life. Our Lord directed His disciples “Go rather to the lost (apollumi) sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10:6) The lost” sheep of Israel were no more dead than the “lost” destroyed sheep which the shepherd sought and found.

    A word, whose primary meaning is to deprive of life cannot have a secondary meaning of a state of life. Life is not a secondary meaning of death. Our Lord said to His disciples, “He that findeth his life (psuche, soul) shall lose it, and he that loses (apollumi) his life (psuche, soul) shall find it.” (Matt. 10:39, compare Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, and 17:33) Is our Lord urging them to commit suicide? The text refers to the destruction of the soul. Please note the Greek text reads “psuche” soul, not “zoe” life, as the King’s translators translated this passage. The destruction of the soul does not mean death, it means to forgo the pleasure of life and endure the suffering due to faithfulness to Christ. Surely, no one will argue that “He that loses (apollumi) his soul” for Christ will be destroyed without hope of life later. Many Christians martyrs were destroyed by burning at the stake. Their souls were destroyed but who will argue that they will not be resurrected in the future and enjoy immortality.

    I believe there is one paramount scripture that should teach us what the word “apollumi” means. “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost (apollumi).” (Luke 19:10) This passage refers specifically to Zacchaeus; he was lost, destroyed. Because he was lost, he was ready to be found and saved. The theory of most false definitions of “apollumi” is to prove that the word means “death” from which there is no resurrection, practical annihilation, a state from which salvation is impossible. This passage directly destroys this theory. Instead of the lost being beyond salvation, they alone are eligible for salvation. You cannot rescue a man who is save and sound. It is only when a man is in the state denoted by “apollumi” that salvation can operate in his behalf. Antithetical statements such as this are of great value in the study of words. The terms “seek” and “save,” are accurate indications of the opposite of destroy. One who is “destroyed” must be lost or no one would seek him. He must be in a state which calls for salvation or Christ would not have come for him. This proves that destruction is a salvable condition, not a state beyond the reach of deliverance. Add to this the fact only the “lost” are “saved” and it reverses the usual theory of “destruction.” God seeks what he has “lost.” It is a sad fact that most Christians believe that Jesus is seeking to save the “lost” yet on the other hand they do not believe that He will save the “lost.” They do not believe that Jesus will save “lost” mankind. Thus Jesus will not be successful in seeking and saving the lost.

    “Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished (apollumi).” (1 Cor. 15:18) Are the Christians who are now sleeping deprived of future life? They are at present time “perished.” They are now deprived of life, but in the future, they will be resurrected to life that is immortal.

    “But if thy brother be grieve with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitable, destroy (apollumi) not him with thy meat for whom Christ died.” (Rom. 14:15, compare 1 Cor. 8:11) According to these scriptures, we can destroy one of our brethren by eating foods which he deems unclean. Does our eating deprive him of life? That would be an easy way to commit legal murder.

    Destruction is a relative term. The coin was lost in relation to the woman. (Luke 15:8,9) The sheep was destroyed as regards to the shepherd. (Luke 15:4-7) The prodigal son had perished in relation to his father. (Luke 15:11-32) So with the destroyed sheep of the house of Israel. (Matt. 10:5,6) They were not deprived of life, they were away from the great shepherd, their Creator. The prodigals were far off from their father who created them, who loves them, who commissioned His Son Jesus to come to seek and save them. Does this prove they were outside of this affair of salvation? It proves the opposite. Destruction is a prelude to salvation. It never means ultimate annihilation.

    The method of destruction or losing is not included in the meaning of the word. It varies with the context. Those who use the sword “shall perish” (apollumi) with the sword.” (Matt. 26:52) “But the chief priest and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy (apollumi) Jesus.” (Matt. 27:20) Destroy Jesus? Thus our Lord was destroyed by crucifixion. Who will argue that the destruction of Jesus was annihilation? Jesus was only destroyed 3 days and nights, and He returned to life and has immortality.

    The disciples were afraid that they would perish by drowning. (Mark 4:38) The sheep was destroyed by straying. ( Luke 15:4) The prodigal son was lost for the same reason. (Luke 15:24) The fragments that remain would have been lost (apollumi) by neglect. (John 6:12) Food perished (apollumi) by decay. (John 6:27) We may destroy a brother by means of food. (Romans 14:15) We may destroy a weak saint by our knowledge. (1 Cor. 8:11) Especially note the last two passages since they apply to believers in Christ. Can we “annihilate” one of our own brothers with food? Christians saved in Christ may be lost or destroyed. God ultimately will not put out of existence those who are lost. God commends His love to us in that He gave His Son Christ Jesus while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8) Our Lord spoke the parable of the Lost Sheep in order to assure His disciples that God was concerned about the one sheep that had strayed. There is no line that the sinner crosses that brings him beyond the reach of God. Neither life, nor death, nor destruction, neither a career of sin, nor a decaying corpse is any obstacle to Divine Love. Nay, they are challenges which omnipotence must victoriously conquer or suffer defeat. No death, either first or second, can cope with our God or frustrate His purpose. Study Ephesians 1:9-11, Isaiah 46:8-13.

    Everyone who has lost anything will bear me witness that the moment it is missing, it assumes an interest and importance which it never had before. Its value increases and we desire it more than ever. Its loss, instead of breaking our connection with it, forges a new link which did not exist before. This becomes tragically true when we lose a loved one. Loss alone brings a realization of the preciousness of possession. Let us never imagine that God is not concerned about the lost; that He is insensible to their condition, or that He would sit complacently by and see them rush to endless oblivion, if He could do anything to head them off. There are a million ways in which we could do this if we had but a tenth of His power. God is able. If the reader of this message will not acknowledge this, he must wait until God makes him realize this.

    “Ha Theos agape estin,” God is love and all His creatures are dear to Him. Is it not striking that He does not even try to express His affection until they are lost? Whom does God love? He undoubtedly loves all. Whom does He say He loves? God loves the world, (John 3:16) and sinners and His enemies, (Romans 5:8, 1 Cor. 15:22-28) and those who are lost. In God’s wisdom, He has decreed that many shall be lost to Him until the end of the ages. Men are often compelled to abandon an enterprise which proved too much for their power. Image that God is also compelled to abandon His “will to have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth?” (1 Tim. 2:4, compare 1 Tim. 4:9-11) Thus God is unable to save all? Or being able He does not? These errors have polluted the minds of millions of men that they have corrupted the Scriptures to teach everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46) or everlasting destruction, (2 Thess. 1:8,9) and neither of these translations are correct.

    Men are sometimes compelled to kill an animal to put it out of pain. They would not do so if they could cure it. Is our God like this? Is God impotent, powerless to cope with those who are destroyed? All that man can do is kill. They cannot recall from death. Is God also limited like we are? Christ proclaimed Himself as the resurrection and the life. Is the Creator unable to make man respond to His unconditional love? Is His love so repugnant or powerless that it can not loose those enchained to hate, fear, ignorance, etc.?


    The Greek noun “apolleia” is in the Greek text which the King’s translators used in Acts 25:16 which reads: “To whom I answered, it is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die (apolleia).” Many scriptures clearly teach that all the dead will be resurrected for judgment. (See Daniel 12:1-3, John 5:28,29, Acts 24:15, Rev. 20:11-15) Therefore those delivered by the Romans to die will be resurrected to life. A Christian martyr is resurrected unto immortality. The sinners, the unbelievers are resurrected to judgment. But death is not the ultimate destiny of any man. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:26) How will death be abolished? The context gives the answer. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor.15:22) According to the historians, Paul was later to die at the hands of the Romans and surely will not ultimately be destroyed.

    his word , apolleia, is also translated into damnable, damnation, perdition, destruction, pernicious, waste, and perish long with the above meaning of “to die.” Those of you who believe in “annihilation” should know that it doesn’t matter how bad the word may sound if it only applies to a person before the second death. The resurrection will raise everyone up and give them an opportunity to “get it right.” But for those of you who lean toward “eternal punishment,’ this study of the word “damn” should prove worthwhile.


    I will begin with a large quote from a book entitled Mercy and Judgment by F.W. Farrar, a canon of the Anglican Church. He writes on page 369:

    The words “damn” and its derivatives do not once occur in the Old Testament. In the New Testament they are the exceptional and arbitrary translation of two Greek verbs or their derivatives; which occur 308 times. These words are “apollumi” and “krino.” “Apolleia” (destruction or waste) is once rendered “damnation” and once “damnable.” (2 Peter 2:3, and 2 Peter 2:1); “krino,” (judge) occurs 114 times, and is only once rendered “damned.” (1 Thess. 2:12). “Krima, (judgment or sentence) occurs 24 time, and is 7 times rendered “damnation.” “KataKrino,” (I condemn) occurs 24 times, and is twice only rendered “be damned.”

    Now turn to a modern dictionary, and you will see “damnation” defined as “exclusion from divine mercy; condemnation to eternal punishment.” In common usage the word has no other sense.

    But to say that such is the necessary meaning of the words which are rendered by “damn” and “damnation,” is to say what is absurdly and even wickedly false. It is to say that a widow who marries again must be damned to endless torments (1 Tim. 5:12, “having damnation,” krima), although St. Paul expressly recommends young widows to do so two verses later on. It is to say that everyone who ever eats the Lord’s Supper unworthily, eats and drinks “eternal punishment” to himself, though St. Paul adds, almost in the next verse, that the judgment (krima) is disciplinary or educational, to save us from condemnation. (1 Cor. 11:29-34) It is to say that “the Day of Judgment” ought to be called “Day of Damnation.” (John 5:29) It is curious that our translators have chosen this most unfortunate variation of “damn” and its cognates only fifteen times out of upwards of two hundred times that krino and its cognates occur; and that they have used it for “krisis” and “krima,” not for the stronger compounds “katakrima,” etc. The translators, however, may not be to blame. It is probable that “damn” was once a milder word than condemn, and had a far milder meaning than that which modern eschatology has furnished to modern blasphemy. We find from an Act passed when a John Russell was Chancellor (in the reign of Richard III or Henry VII.), that the sanction of an Act against extorted benevolences is called “a damnation”–that is, “the infliction of a loss.” This is the true etymological meaning of the word, as derived from damnum, “a loss”; and this original meaning is still found in such words as “damnify,” “indemnify,” and “indemnity.” In the margin of I Cor. 11:29, we find “judgment” for “damnation”; whereas in verse 32 the “judgment” of the Lord is milder than His” condemnation.” Dr. Hey, in his lecture on the Ninth Article, thinks that the phrase, “it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation,” is used in the milder sense of the word which was originally prevalent. However this may be, the word has, as the Bishop of Chester says, undergone a modification of meaning from the lapse of time, and it is an unmixed gain that both it and its congeners will wholly disappear from the revised version of the English Bible. “Judgment” and “condemnation” are the true representatives of krisis and katakrisis, and they are not steeped, like the word “damnation,” in a mass of associated conceptions which do not naturally or properly belong to them. Equally unfortunate is the word “hell.”

    The above was written in 1881, the year the first revision of the King James Bible appeared. It appears the author above, in his prediction about the “damn” words being removed from the revision was true. Checking a Revised Standard Concordance, I discovered the “damn” words were gone. To show you the above scholars were correct in tracing the “damn” word, I will quote from a modern dictionary of word origins by John Ayto. It is entitled Dictionary of Word Origins published in 1990.

    Damn Damn comes via Old French “damner” from Latin “damnare,” a derivative of the noun “damnum.” This originally meant ‘loss, harm’ (it is the source of English ‘damage’), but the verb “damnare” soon spread its application to ‘pronounce judgment upon,’ in both the legal and the theological sense. These meanings (reflected also in the derived ‘condemn’) followed the verb through Old French into English, which dropped the strict legal sense around the 16th century but has persisted with the theological one and its more profane offshoots. Condemn, damage, indemnity.

    In conclusion, I must repeat that these words “apollumi” and “apolleia” like so many other words such as “krima,” “krino,” and “krisis” are relative terms. The first two words usually carry the sense of loss by someone. God is the great loser in many of their occurrences. The coin was lost by the woman, the sheep was lost by the shepherd, the prodigal son was lost by the father, Israel was lost by Yahweh, men are lost by God. Who was it that created them? Are they not His work? Will He not be the loser if they are not saved?

    Almost all the reasoning about the words translated “destruction” fails to recognize the deity of God. We are asked to consider the fate of wineskins which were destroyed. We are told that as wineskins they past out of existence. Therefore, those who teach annihilation say, men pass out of existence as such when they are destroyed. The fact that these words “apollumi” and “apolleia” are never used of the second death in which this final destruction is supposed to take place should show the fallacy of this reasoning. The fact that all who are destroyed or lost are resurrected to be judged, absolutely refutes the idea of any final destruction. In the theory of annihilation, God is left out of it. We should not equate men losing wineskins to God losing men. Who lost the wineskins? Who lost the men?” Suppose we are not able to recover what we lost. Is that proof that God cannot do so? Are we the equals of the Creator? Did anything originate with us? Why then reason about God as though He were unable to find and save what He has lost. God can recall His creatures from the tomb, can we? All mankind was lost and all mankind will be justified and made alive by God. Study Roman 5:18,19 and 1 Cor. 15:22-28 and Col. 1:16-20.

    When we touched the “damn” words (because apolleia was translated as such a couple of times), we found that changes in our English language combined with theological tamperings, have introduced words into our Bibles that no longer convey the true spirit in which the original writers wrote. The word “hell” has almost completely disappeared in most Bible translations. Many of the religiously tainted renderings found in our Bibles are being removed. This is coming about because we are beginning to bypass the inadequate scholarship of the dark ages and reformation which was plagued with superstition and medieval concepts. Due to discoveries such as those found at Qumran, Israel and the deserts of Egypt, we are able to get closer to the original manuscripts and the original meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words contained in the Bible. For more information about words in some of our Bibles which do not faithfully convey the original meaning, write for the audio tape, A Word About The Word.

    Matthew 10:28

    There is no reasoning so utterly vain as that which uses one passage of scripture in order to destroy our faith in another. Correctly translated and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit, there is no conflict in the Word of God. Matt. 10:28 says, “And fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Greek, Gehenna).” These words are supposed to prove ultimate destruction of sinners. In this passage, our Lord is speaking to His disciples regarding the suffering required for entrance into the kingdom. Men will hate them and kill them. Literally death always effects body, soul, and spirit, but our Lord is speaking of their experiences, what they will suffer for His sake. Men will slay them. James and Peter were killed. After they were killed, they suffered no more. In a very real sense, those who killed their bodies ushered their souls into the kingdom without further pain. Speaking of God being able to destroy both body and soul, He is able to do many things, but that does not mean He will do them. He is able to blot a name out of the Lamb’s book of life. You are able to stick a dagger into your right eye, but that doesn’t mean that you ever will. Be careful what you tell the world that the Creator is going to do. You may find yourself adding to His Word. To be able to do something is not the same as actually doing it.

    Every Christian was once lost, destroyed. Not only was this no hindrance to their deliverance, but it was absolutely essential to it. God had lost them. Through Christ, God has found and saved them. The same is true of those who are not now saved. Please remember there is not one except Jesus Christ, who was not lost and had need of a Savior. Some God will call tomorrow, many He will not call until another age. God has definitely declared that He is the Savior of all mankind. (Study 1 Tim. 2:3-6, 4:9-11) Since God has lost them and He has said He will save them, they will be saved in their own order. (Study 1 Cor. 15:22-28.)

    Destruction, like aionian life, is relative to the eons or the ages. After the eons, all will be vivified. The word used in 1 Cor. 15:22 is not resurrection (anastasias). As mentioned before, the word used is the Greek “zoopoieo” which means to vivify, to make alive, to be made immortal. The apostle Paul tells us very clearly in that verse that all that are dying in Adam, the same all, will be or shall be made alive in Christ. Neither destruction nor aionian life are the end or aim of God. Imagine a God Whose very essence is love, losing a single creature who has an endless capacity of loving and glorifying Him. To create a creature whose purpose is to manifest the image of God, and then destroy it because it did not live up to the Creator’s expectations sounds like something Hollywood would dream up. It sounds like a Frankenstein movie. Is this what God has produced? An error? Then God is sinful. He missed the mark, His purpose, His creation is flawed. What foolish thinking this is! We do not have such a God; He destroys nothing that He cannot restore. He loses nothing that will not return to Him. Destruction is a passing process, not a finished goal. What He destroys is our life to sin that we might live to Him who is Life! First comes death from which He brings life. We produces a field well fertilized with death and then He plants His seed in it to produce life. He produced the exact amount of death to produce the exact amount of Life He intended. Believe me, our Father wastes nothing! Through destruction, God will work out the welfare of His creatures and bring unending glory to our Savior and Creator.

    I know that the scriptures say that God loves the world, thus all mankind, and that God’s love will never fail. (Study 1 Cor. 13.) Therefore, God will resurrect all sinners and judge them and ultimately save them all. We forget that when God’s judgments are in the earth, the world will learn righteousness. (Isa. 26:9) This is God’s will and He will not be defeated. God’s love will be victorious. The scriptures clearly teach that the lost will be judged in accord with their works. “For the Son of Man shall come in the Glory of His Father with His angels and then He shall reward every man according to his works.” (Matt. 17:27) And again, “Who will render every man according to his deeds.” (Rom. 2:6) And again, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it and death and hell (Hades) delivered up the dead which were in them. And they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Rev. 20:13,14) Hence all at the Great White Throne Judgment will be judged according to their works and as every man’s works are different, thus every one’s judgment will be as variable as their works. Thereafter, they are returned to the second death which is the lake of fire. There is no variance in the second death. It is the same for all thus it cannot be the judgment according to works.

    Many teach that the lake of fire is a place where the sinners are alive and consciously suffering endless misery. On the other hand, many are teaching that the lake of fire is endless destruction. Both of these doctrines are making God the loser of some or most of His creation. He came to “seek and save that which was lost,” but apparently He will fail to fulfill His mission. (Luke 19:10) “Who will have all men to come into the knowledge of the truth, Who is the savior of all men.” (1 Tim. 2:3, 4:10) God says,

    “I am God and there is none like me declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done saying ‘My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country. Yea, I have spoken it. I will also bring it to pass. I have proposed it; I will also do it.” (Isa. 46:9-11)

    Hence God declares He will do all His pleasure. He has proposed it and will bring it to pass. Notice this quotation in which God says through the apostle Paul,

    “Having made known unto us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He has proposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of time He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth even in Him in Whom also we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” (Eph. 1:9,10)

    Therefore it is the good pleasure which God has proposed in Himself to have an administration in the fullness of the era to head up all in the Christ. See the Greek text. Thus in the scriptures we have grace which exhibits God’s glory and results in forgiveness and salvation to all. (See Phil. 2:9-13, Col. :16-20)

    In these verses in Colossians chapter one we have the word all used 7 times in the King James Version. All Christians will accept all of these all’s through verse 16, 17, 18, 19, but when we come to verse 20, they argue that it cannot be. God is not going to reconcile all, they say. (Greek, ta panta). Now, I ask you is this being fair to God’s word? Verse 16 says He creates all and we have many other passages of scriptures which tell us He creates all, but yet, they will reject verse 20 where He says He will reconcile all. Again, I ask, is that being fair to scripture? Why not believe the scriptures? We go to church, hear that beautiful hymn, There is Power in the Blood, yet we do not believe there is enough power to do what Colossians 1:20 tells us, that is, to reconcile all.

    If one refused to believe these plain statements in the scriptures, then they will have to wait until God displays He marvelous grace in the coming administration. Then they will see His grace displayed and this can be expressed in three words: seeing is believing. Therefore, I assume, in spite of the dozens of scriptures that teach God loves all and will reconcile all, many people will have to see God’s grace manifested before they will believe.

    But men make God’s love to narrow
    by false limits of their own
    and they magnify His vengeance
    with a zeal He will not own.

    Remember, our Lord Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This He said signifying what death He should die.” (John 12:32,33) We know Jesus was lifted up on Calvary. Why not believe these clear plain words of our Savior and also the words of apostle Paul where he says, “all will be reconciled” (Col. 1:20) “all will be justified” (Rom. 5:18,19), “and all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Why not believe these clear plain statements. Why argue that these plain statements are not true. There can be no statements in the scriptures correctly interpreted and translated that contradict this glorious truth of the salvation of all people.


    2 THESSALONIANS 1:7-10

    Another scripture in the King James Version used to teach annihilation is:

    “and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all of them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (1 Thess. 1:7-10, KJV)

    Question: Do the Greek words translated by the King’s translators “everlasting” and “destruction” mean a condition from which there is no hope of a future life?



    First let us look at the word translated “everlasting.” The following few pages should clearly show that some English translators of the Bible have caused some serious problems for Christians and the rest of the world. It will be shown that a little four letter word can totally change the character of the Creator and our relationship to Him. May translations of the future be more faithful to the Greek and Hebrew languages and to the nature of the Creator of us all which is love, a love which the most eloquent of words cannot describe. This one little four letter word, mistranslated by many Bible translations has tarnish His Character to where an earthly father’s love exceeds that of the Creator’s. After all, few earthly fathers would burn their children in a barbecue pit for even a few hours. Many modern Bibles portray the Father of all mankind torturing most of mankind not for just a few hours, but for all eternity. According to the majority view of church theology, He will not change His mind in this area, it is a finished deal. Let us see if the Greek and Hebrew texts bears this out. The word “aion” in the New Testament in Matthew 24:3 is translated “world” in the King James Version. As we can see from the other versions below, scholars now believe it should have been translated “age.”

    “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?” (KJV)

    “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (New KJV)

    “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (NIV)

    “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (NASB)

    Why is it so important to differentiate between these two words one might ask? Because there are many different “ages” according to the Bible, but our theological minds picture basically only two “worlds,” the one that is and the one to come. It is this mistranslation of “aion” that has caused many people to rightfully say the Bible contradicts itself. The King James Version speaks of the “end of the world”(Matt. 24:3) and then talks about the same world “without end.” (Eph. 3:21, Isa. 45:17) It speaks of “everlasting hills” (Gen. 49:26, Deut. 33:15) which will one day no longer be “everlasting.” Isaiah 40:4 tells us “every mountain and hill will be made low” and “all the earth shall be burned up” in 2 Peter 3:10. Revelation 11:15 speaks of Jesus as reigning “forever and ever” ( a double use of “aion”) while 1 Corinthians 15:25 says Jesus must rule “till He hath put all enemies under His feet.” He then will deliver up a perfected kingdom to the Father who becomes “all in all.” Does He reign “till” or “forever.” Exodus 21:5,6 tells us a slave will serve his master for “ever,” when clearly death will end his servitude. Leviticus 24:8 says the Mosaic covenant is to be an “everlasting” covenant whereas Hebrews 8:7-13 speaks of the end of that covenant. The Aaronic priesthood is an “everlasting” priesthood in Exodus 40:15 and Numbers 25:13 yet the book of Hebrews makes it very clear it is to be superseded by the Melchizedek priesthood. (Hebrews 7:14-18) According to the King James Version, God would dwell in Solomon’s temple “forever” yet Solomon’s temple has long been destroyed. The Sabbath (Saturday according to the Old Testament) was to be observed for a statute “forever,” yet Hebrews says it was just a “fleshly ordinance imposed until the time of refreshing.” Animal sacrifices were to be offered “forever,” (Exodus 31:16, 17; 2 Chr. 2:4; Lev. 16:31) yet every Christian knows these all ended in the work of Jesus Christ. Circumcision was an “everlasting covenant” and this was before the Mosaic Covenant, according to Genesis 17:9-14), but 1 Corinthians 7:19 and Galatians 5:6 tells us it is worthless!It is this kind of confusion that has turned many sincere seekers away from the Bible. Here we have clear contradictions. The problem is not in the original languages of the Bible, the problem is with human error in translating the Greek and Hebrew texts into current languages. The tradition of the elders is difficult to break. Men and women have built power systems upon error. The love of power, money, and position make many leaders continue the errors. Many church leaders know these contradictions exist, but are unwilling to bring about correction. Their systems are built upon fear and ignorance. To reveal the truth would be the end of their kingdoms.. Also keep in mind we, ourselves, often prefer to create our own image of God rather than the true one. We often project our corrupted view of things upon God. Now let us see if there are contradictions in the Greek and Hebrew languages.

    This word “aion” translated by the King James Bible as “age,” “ever,” “forever,” “forever and ever,” “never,” “world without end,” “evermore,” “course,” and “eternal,” along with its adjective “aionios,” has caused the world many serious problems. It has made the Creator a God whose mercy endures “forever” yet the King James Bible says there are sins that will not be forgiven in “this world or in the world to come.” (Compare 1 Chr. 16:34 with Matthew 12:31,32) The New King James and most other Bibles now translate this passage as: “in this age or in the age to come.” This was spoken in the “law age.” We are now in a different age and the scriptures clearly teach of ages to come. If Jesus wanted to refer to the world, he would have used the word “kosmos,” but He didn’t. Therefore, when this scripture is correctly translated “age,” the Bible does not contradict itself. There is still hope for the Pharisee who would not be forgiven under the “law age” nor under the present age, but there is still hope for him to receive mercy in the ages to come. For a study as to how many ages there are, study the following scriptures:

    he past ages (aions)-Col. 1:26; the present age (aion)-Luke 20:34; future ages (aions)-Eph. 2:7. It will become clear that there are at least five ages with no indication when the ages will end. This radically changes pet end-time eschatological schemes. This is one reason why many theologians do not want to look at this. They will have to dismantle some of their favorite fear-based doctrines.

    Can this word “aion” be consistently translated one way and make sense without bringing about contradictions in the Bible? The answer is yes! Can this word be consistently translated with words that indicate “eternity?” The answer is no! Let us see how the Bible would read if we translated this word “aion” into eternity in some passages where it appears. We would get some of the following kinds of reading:

    “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of eternity (aionios).” (2 Tim. 1:9) There can be no time before “eternity.”

    “According to the revelation of the mystery hidden for eternity (aionios) past.” (Rom. 16:25) If it was hidden in eternity, it can never manifest.

    “Who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil eternity (aion).” (Gal. 1:4)

    “The harvest is the end of this eternity (aion).” (Matt. 13:39) What then, another eternity?

    “Who tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming eternity (aion).” (Heb. 6:5) [There is only one eternity, not past and future ones.]

    As one can see, when we translated this word consistently with eternity, the scriptures make no sense. But if we translated that word “aion” age, and its adjective “aionios” of or belonging to an age, or age-during, age-abiding, then all the scriptures dealing with time and eternity begin to make sense without any contradictions whatsoever. What is even more exciting is that this lines up perfectly with all of our Father’s attributes. All seemingly hypocritical, or contradictory scriptures relating to our Father’s will, desire, plan, purpose, and power, vanish away. He finishes what He said He was going to do from the foundation of the world, draw all mankind unto Himself. So why don’t the translators change? Jesus said there was something more powerful than the Word of God. “You have made the word of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites!” (Matthew 15:6,7) All the systems of Christendom would have to dismantle, and I mean all of them. You can be assured, the heads of these systems have no intentions of giving up the little kingdoms you and I have helped them build. As we have seen earlier, many of the Bibles have cleared up some of the contradictions by translating more of the passages “age” where they used to put “world.” Many Bibles today have even put in “age or “ages” in some places where they use to have “forever and ever,” etc. Some Bibles, written within the last 200 years, have become consistent all the way through the Bible and have translated the word “aion” and its adjective “aionios” age, eon, age-during etc. Some of the Bibles that have been bold enough to buck the tradition of the elders are: Young’s Literal Translation, Rotherham’s Emphasized Translation, Concordant Literal Version, The Holy Bible in Modern English (Fenton), The New Testament in Modern Speech (Weymouth, 1910), The Twentieth Century New Testament, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Anointed, The Western New Testament, The New Testament, a Translation, Scarlett’s Translation, etc. Even many evangelical\fundamentalist Bibles are breaking from the “traditions of men.” The Companion Bible, a King James Reference Bible, shows clearly in the footnotes and appendages, that the word “aion” and its adjective “aionios” was grossly mistranslated by the King’s translators. For further information on the subject of how many Bibles are changing for the better, write for the booklet, The Gates of Hell shall not Prevail.

    Let us return to the subject of “aion.” Many Bible scholars today are willing to concede that the noun “aion” means an age as opposed to forever or eternal, but they are not willing to concede that its adjective “aionios” means pertaining to an age, age-abiding, age-during or something like that. They say this word must mean “eternal,” everlasting,” etc. In doing so, they make themselves look very foolish. They break a rule in grammar found in every language of the world. An adjective must get its force from the noun from which it is derived. It cannot take on a stronger force. For example, hourly cannot pertain to a year, or month, or eternity; it pertains to the noun from which it came, that is, an hour. To say that “aion” means an “age,” and then turn around and say its adjective means “everlasting,” “eternal,” forever and ever” is breaking all the rules of language. Why would they do this? If they stay within the rules of grammar, they would have to concede there is no such thing as “eternal” punishment or “everlasting” death. Religious man usually will go into their graves before admitting their errors. After all, huge empires are built upon these two false doctrines.

    This noun “aion” occurs in the plural and the singular about 127 times. The plural form occurs over 60 times in the Greek text. May I remind you at this time that if the singular form means endlessness, absolute eternity, time without an end, forever, everlasting, then what on earth does the plural form mean? To top it all off, this word “aion” in the Greek shows up in forms such as this:” eons (plural)of the eons(plural)” (see Gal. 1:5, Phil. 4:20, 1 Tim. 1:17, 2 Tim. 4:18, etc.), and as “eon (singular) of the eons” (plural) (see Eph. 3:21), and “eon (singular) of the eon” (singular) (see Heb. 1:8). Clearly, because orthodox translators are stuck with their concept of “eternal” hell, they have butchered the Greek forms of this word “aion.” Why? To maintain their long held traditions. It is quite obvious that you cannot have a plural of infinity or eternity. You cannot have a plural of “forever.” You can not have “eternities of the eternities,” “eternity of the eternities,” and “eternity of the eternity.” This is nonsense. But that is exactly what one would get if they translated “aion” and its adjective “aionios” into eternity in these passages. When we translate the word “aion” into its proper English equivalent “age,” all begins to make sense. There is also a sense in the word indicating a flowing like streams flowing into rivers which find their way to the seas only to be draw up again to fall to become streams again. The ages are marked, but they cannot be determined until it has ended. The life of a man was an “olam,” the Hebrew word translated into “aion” in the Greek. One could not measure a man’s life until he died. It is an indefinite, but not infinite.

    In Ephesians 3:9, 11, 21, we have two Greek words “ton aionon.” This is the genitive plural noun with the genitive plural article “ton.” In the 9th verse in the KJV, it is translated “from the beginning of the world.” In verse 11, it is translated “eternal” with the word “purpose.” In verse 21, it is translated, “world without end.” So here we have the Greek genitive plural with the article translated three completely different ways within the same sentence! It is quite obvious this is very poor translating.

    If you want to see this word translated correctly in the King James, turn to Colossians 1:26. Here we find “apo ton aionon” which it translated “from the ages.” Notice the reference to “age” and that it is in the plural form. The King James Bible was very inconsistent with this word. Fearing to break the KJV tradition, many orthodox Bibles have also wreaked havoc with this little four letter word, unfortunately to our misfortune.

    In 1 Corinthians 15:25, we have a very interesting verse. In fact, this whole context from verse 22 through 28 is very interesting. Verse 25 says, “For He must reign till He has put all His enemies under His feet.” This passage is speaking about Christ Jesus. The word “till” has the same meaning as “until.” The word “until: in the English and Greek means, “to the time of, up to, as far as, etc.” It definitely limits the reigning of Jesus Christ until He puts every enemies under His feet. It tells us the last enemy to be put under His feet is death. This passage speaks of the end of “death.” If there is a second “death,” (Lake of fire) there is still death. Please note the scripture does not speak of “soul death,” or “spiritual death,” or “Adamic death.” It simply states that death is an enemy of God which will one day be destroyed. Very simple. Let us keep it that way. One day there will be no more death. Then Jesus Himself becomes subjected that God may be all in all. The passage speaks of an end of Christ’s reign. But in Revelation Chapter 11:15 we read, “And the seventh angel sounded and there were great voices in heaven saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign ‘forever and ever.’” This passage clearly contradicts 1 Corinthians 15:25 in the KJV. Which will He do, reign “until” or reign “forever and ever?”

    There are four places in the New Testament in which the adjective of “aion” occurs which proves beyond a doubt it cannot mean “endlessness, etc.” These occurrences are: Romans 16:25, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2, Philemon 15. I will also try to show with the first of these verses that the leading translations of this century contradict each other regarding this word. This should cause one to seriously study this out. You will clearly see that most translators followed their creeds instead of the Greek when it came to this word.

    The 1901 American Standard, the first revision of the King James Bible, translates Romans 16:25: “Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal.” According to the way this verse is translated, the mystery has been kept in silence through times that are eternal. If it was kept secret in eternity, it can never be made manifest! But the verse tells us that now it is made manifest. This is total nonsense. The King James Bible says it was “kept secret since the world began” while the New International Version says “hidden for long ages past.” Here we see how leading translators are not in agreement as to how to handle this word. We have “eternal,” ” world,” and “ages.” This should at least cause one to seriously study this out. After all, the reputation of our Father is at stake. Does He torture mercilessly forever, annihilate a creature He made, or correct until He accomplishes a perfect work in each of His children through love and patience?

    In 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2, the 1901 American Standard reads “before times eternal.” Now what on earth is that supposed to mean? If “eternal,” an adjective means without beginning or ending, how can there be a “before?” This is a contradiction is three words! This shows that the translators obviously did not understand the clause which they were working with. If they had not been locked into their “eternal torment creeds,” they might have been able to correctly translate the verse. The traditions of men do often blind us to obvious truth.

    The King James Bible in Philemon 15 says of the runaway slave, “For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever.” The American Standard also says “forever.” So according to these two leading translations, this slave will remain Philemon’s slave for all eternity. The New International has him back “for good.” That makes more sense than “forever,” but it is not correct. “Aion” never means “for good.” This is paraphrasing of the most corrupt kind.

    “Ages” have ends. All of the ages will one day end. To teach otherwise is to contradict scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 10:11 and Hebrews 9:26 which speak of the “end of the ages.” The King James in Hebrews 9:26 speaks of “end of the world,” but the Greek word “aion” here is in the plural form “ton aionon.” This is nothing short of just sloppy translating. In many other passages of scripture, the King James Bible does not pay attention to the number of the word, that is, whether it was plural or singular.

    The Bible clearly teaches a “pre-aion” period, at least 5 aions or ages, and a “post” aion period. There is a “before the ages,” “times past,” “present ages,” “these ages,” “future ages,” and a “consummation of the ages.” If the translators of some of the leading Bibles dropped their tradition of translating according to their doctrines and translated according to what the Greek and Hebrew languages say, we would not have apparent contradictions in our translations and we would clearly have a Bible that is in perfect agreement to all of the attributes of our Father, not just some of them. The scripture “Love never fails” would be true for every person born under the sun. Some denominations make Him to be clearly a “respecter of persons” which ,again, forces the Bible to contradict itself due to people forcing their traditions into the Scriptures. Clearly, He is not a respecter of persons if we see the whole picture. Our problems have always stemmed from judging the end by what we presently see. We must be seated in “heavenly places’ in order to see the beginning and the end.

    Now let us go back to our study. We dealt with “aion.” Now let us look at the word “destruction.” The Greek word translated “destruction” in 2 Thess. 1:9 is “olethros.” This word is a cognate of the Greek word “apollumi.” See Strong’s Concordance. This word “olethros” occurs in other scriptures that proves this word does not mean “destruction without hope of life.” I will quote a scripture to show that this is true. “To deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction (olethros) of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Cor. 5:5, KJV) As this same Greek noun is used in 2 Thess. 1:9 and 1 Cor. 5:5, it is clear that this kind of destruction, does not eliminate the possibility of future life.

    If one studies the scriptures and reads 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and reads “everlasting destruction,” they would assume the scriptures teach annihilation, but as we know, “aion” and “aionios” cannot mean endlessness, and “destruction” (olethros) cannot mean destruction with no hope of future salvation. Enough said.



    As we have seen, one cannot make a scriptural case for “everlasting destruction” when one looks at what the Greek words refer to. Clearly these words do not teach a destruction from which there is no hope of restoration or else Jesus could not have been resurrected. We will now look at the Old Testament and discover that the Hebrew is harmonious with the Greek on this subject.

    “Thou turnest man to destruction and sayest ‘Return ye, children of men.’” (Psalms 90:3, KJV)

    In this scripture, we have the word “destruction” followed by “Return ye.” Therefore, the word “destruction” cannot refer to “everlasting destruction.”

    “He has destroyed me on every side and I am gone and mine hope has He removed like a tree.” (Job 19:10, KJV)

    Job spoke these words, yet Job was not annihilated. He lost all that he had, but it was all restored to him and more. When Job was in the condition that everything was lost, he was “destroyed.”The following scriptures are often quoted to prove “endless destruction,” or annihilation.

    “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of host.” (Malachi 4:1-3)

    This scripture certainly teaches “destruction” as the wicked will burn as stubble; they shall be ashes, but there is nothing in this scripture which indicates they are beyond the power of the Creator to restore life later. In fact, many of the Hebrew saints are now sleeping in the dust, but their sleep will come to an end. Many saints were burned to death by the church and their ashes were treated in a worse manner than to be stepped on, but this does not mean they will not receive life later on. The fact that man, whether righteous or unrighteous returns to ashes and dust, presents no problem for the Creator since these are the very materials man first came from.


    Isn’t rather strange, that this whole business of “eternal torment,” “eternal death,” and the “salvation of all” seems to center around what kind of “fire” we are going to meet? John said the Judge of all men would immerse people with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus said His words were “Spirit and Life.” Remember the words of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us. . .?”There was a time when I felt led to go into a particular jewelry store. I had no desire to enter, as I had felt I had worn out my welcome with the Jewish woman owner. Being located next door to my business, I frequently visited her trying to lead her to Christ. She, in very definite words, told me she had had enough. But following the leading, I entered again. She was by herself. The meeting was very awkward, but I felt I couldn’t leave. A customer then entered. The owner went to the back to get a custom piece of Jewelry this customer had ordered. “You will like this piece of Jewelry, Gary,” said the store owner. Seeing from a distance that it was a silver cross, I told her that I really didn’t care for religious jewelry of any kind. When she handed it to the customer, I could see that it was the words “Let go, Let God” in the form of a cross. At this point I found myself giving the shortest testimony I had ever given of how Jesus delivered me from alcoholism. With my head bowed down, I spoke for perhaps one and one half minutes. Upon finishing my brief testimony, this stranger came up to me and gave me a giant hug and said something like, “Your words are burning in my heart!” I will never forget that incident. I knew that short little testimony touched the very heart of her being and the best description she could come up with was “fire!” I present this story as a way of introduction to a subject much misunderstood by all of us. Let us look into the subject of “fire” from a Biblical point of view and not from our imaginative religious artists such as Dante and His “Inferno” and Michael Angelo’s “Last Judgment.” Let us put the wild scenes of our carnal imagination aside and look into the “fire of God.”

    Perhaps the best way to test which of the three doctrines of the ultimate fate of all mankind, is to test each doctrine with the ultimate acid test, “fire.” If “eternal torment” or “annihilation” by fire is the wages of sin, then surely, the scriptures should be full of examples to that effect. Symbols, parables, and real events in the scriptures should boldly declare this fate, and with no confusion or contradictions. But when we comb the scriptures for examples of a fire barbecue finale, instead, everywhere we look we find heaven filled with fire and even earth filled with fire. As a matter of fact, when we really analyze fire, apart from misuse of fire, fire is very beneficial. Will we attribute to God that He will ultimately misuse fire? Let us look at the subject of fire.

    First of all, we know today, that we are literally on fire. Do we not burn our food? The military has binoculars which see in the dark. They see heat. Human beings can be seen because they are giving off heat. We are slowly burning.

    Does not fire make meat taste better and rid it of disease? Do you not enjoy the warmth of fire in the winter time? Do you enjoy the comforts of electricity, light, radio, computers, telephones, ovens, laser technology, etc.? Fire, when properly controlled, is very beneficial to mankind. Apart from the sun, there would be no life on this planet. Even the stars billions of miles away are helpful to man in navigation and make the dark night more enjoyable to behold.

    When we come to the scriptures, it is even more abundantly clear, that “fire” is the very symbol, not of death, not of eternal torment, nor of fearful judgment, but of life itself. Fire, in the scriptures, is not a symbol of His judgments, but of His very being! It is here we find the true touchstone of which of the three teachings we have been discussing is true.

    Fleshly minded thinking is very fearful of God who is an all-consuming fire! His fiery presence, however, will not destroy or eternally torture, but will purify, will cleanse us from sin, from false images of Him, from earthly thoughts. From science we have discovered that fire does not really destroy, in the sense of leaving nothing. Fire takes compound elements and reduces them to simpler forms. Did He not say, “Unless you become as little children, you will not see the kingdom of God.” Simple thoughts. Religions, all of them, is very complex. The longer it has been around, the more complex it becomes. When Peter talked about the “very elements will melt with heat,” he was talking about something much more complex that atomic elements that would be melted. The Greek word translated “elements” in 2 Peter 3:12, is the word “stoicheion.” When one looks at other places this word is used such as in Galatians 4:3 and 4:9, we discover that atoms are not what Peter had in mind. The very laws, rudiments, principles which hold people in bondage will be burned. Systems of religion will be destroyed! The word “religion” comes from two Latin words “re” and “ligare” which means to “return to bondage.”

    Yes, the carnal, religious mind has always been fearful of God. When God manifested Himself as fire on the mountain, the children of Israel told Moses they didn’t want to meet Him. The flesh and carnal (fleshly) thinking never wants an encounter with God. The carnal mind wants to worship its own creation and concepts of God. He will consume, burn all earthly thinking (low life) and break it into lowly, meek, simple, child-like faith. Prideful religious thoughts cannot stand in His Presence. Perfect Love casts out fear. Religious systems are built on fear. These complex systems of myriads of do’s and don’ts, rituals, creeds, formulas will be reduced to nothing for that is what a lie is . . .nothing.

    “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:8-10)

    An encyclopedia could be written on this beautiful verse which few Christians really understand. If truly understood, this verse alone would dismantle the religious monstrosities of the world. If one studies this verse carefully, one will discover that salvation is an “All God” situation depending upon nothing but Himself. Is not Jesus Christ the author and finisher of your faith? (Heb. 12:2) We are His workmanship; we are created in Christ Jesus; the works are His prepared before the foundation of the world. It is the faith of Jesus that saves us and finishes our salvation. Look, Abraham wanted to cut a covenant with God. I won’t go into the long details of how covenants were make in those days, but the final part of the ritual was cutting some animals in half (flesh) and walking between the pieces saying something to the affect “If you break this covenant, then let your body become as one of these animals.” “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.” (Gen. 1512) Then: “And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram.” Gen. 15:17,18)

    This is the kind of covenant that God makes with all of us. Our flesh falls asleep and is ridden with fear. Then God cuts the covenant with Himself, Father and Son. Man under the fear of death which was inherited from Adam, is absolutely incapable of cutting any kind of covenant with God. Our religious do’s and don’t fall far short of God’s free gift. The works of our flesh will be burned up. The above covenant requires two parties, but man was not one of them. In this passage, God represents Himself as a “smoking oven” and a “burning torch.” In this covenant, that which was burned up was flesh, but not Abraham’s body, it was his works that were burned up. He is the Father of many nations and “all the families of the earth” will be blessed through the “man of faith” who fell asleep while cutting a covenant with God. You, too, will fall asleep, and the works of your flesh which you offer Him for your salvation will be totally destroyed and counted as nothing. The “salvation” that we are to “work out” are the “good works” God put in us when we became part of His body. They are His works, his gifts, not ours, lest we boast.

    Let us look into the Kingdom of our Father and see what we behold. As we have been told by scripture, our God is an all-consuming fire and He is a jealous (zealous in some translations) God. We find this in Deuteronomy 4:24. He then tells them they will worship idols, do evil in His sight which will cause Him to be angry. He will then utterly destroy them, but then immediately tells them He will not forsake them, nor destroy them because He is also a merciful God and will not forget the covenant He made with our fathers. (Deuteronomy 4:24-31) Unless we understand that He has the power to kill and then make alive again, this kind of talk is foolishness. But our Father and Potter of men can and will refashion us for our good.

    As we approach His Kingdom, the flesh and carnal mind become extremely fearful. Why? Because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom. We already mentioned Abram. When Ezekiel was approached by Him, His glory appeared as fire. (Ez. 1:27,28) This righteous man fell like a dead man. When Isaiah saw Him, the house was filled with smoke and a seraphim had to touch his lips with a hot coal because he, Isaiah became a man of unclean lips. The hot coal took away his iniquity. (Isa. 6:6,7) When Daniel saw the “Ancient of Days” His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire and a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. (Daniel 7:9) In Daniel we also read of the three young Hebrew men thrown into fire 7 times hotter than normal and One like the Son of Man in their midst. When one truly refuses to worship the images made by man’s carnal mind, this kind of fire will only burn off the ropes put on by religious men! I do not hesitate to say, most reading this article are bound by ropes of religion, whether you are sitting on a padded pew, or at a home Bible study. Zechariah says He will be a wall of fire to Jerusalem. (Zech. 2:5) God’s ministers are a flame of fire according to Psalms 104:4 and Hebrews 1:7. He purges the blood of Jerusalem by the “spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning.” When this happens “then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assembly, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.” (Isaiah 4:4-6) In Malachi chapter 3, Yahweh describes Himself as a refiner’s fire to purify the sons of Levi and to purge them as gold and silver that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness. Please note these are God’s priest being purged (burned) by fire for a good purpose, that they might present a righteous offering unto the LORD. Speaking of the sons of Levi, the priestly group, it is when His own people offer to the world “strange fire,” that is when God really gets mad. (Lev. 1:10) When the real fire is present, the types and shadows do not need to be paraded. These two Israelites were robbing God of His glory. They wanted to perform the “shadow ritual” when the reality was actually present. Much that we count as holy and righteous will disappear when the True Righteousness appears. Does “eternal torment” or “annihilation” really glorify Him or is it beginning to sound more like “strange fire?”

    When our Father answers prayers or manifests Himself in the earth, how does He manifest Himself? Moses saw Him as a burning bush. (Acts 7:30,31) Gideon was answered by fire. (Judges 6:21) David’s prayer was answered by fire. (1 Chron. 21:26) When God filled Solomon’s temple, how did He manifest? By fire! (2 Chron. 7:21) Elisha was aided by chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:17) The very Words that come out of His mouth are fire. (Psalm 18:6) I do not have enough pages in this book to declare that “God is an all-consuming fire!”

    Now, man under his own religious system of do’s and don’ts, whether it is based on the Bible or not, will always be fearful of the “All-Consuming Fire.” By the “law” shall no one be justified in His sight and therefore comes that expectation in the carnal mind of adverse judgment leading to an awful decision. If we choose “eternal torment” or “annihilation” as the end for anyone on this earth, we will find our conscience will condemn us to the same fate. And so, should the fire fall into our own laps, we will most certainly have a right to be fearful. With our conscience in such a condition, we will gravitate towards teachings that put off judgment as long as possible. Therefore, these systems have consigned the ultimate judgment to the end. The Bible shows no such thing. We are constantly judged. We are told we are to judge ourselves. We are to learn to judge amongst each other. The judgments of God are in the earth today. Nature all around us declares this, but because of our fear of meeting our Maker, we deceive ourselves.

    In preparing this article, I read some of the leading teachings on the doctrine of annihilation. One very well written book was entitled, “The Golden Future” published by Bible Fellowship Union in England. The author begins the book by declaring “The voice of God has two mediums of expression–the Bible on the one hand, supreme in the sphere of ethics, and on the other hand Nature, now rapidly yielding her secrets to the scientist and investigator.” This statement, perhaps, unveils the depth of the error of “annihilationism.” Where is God is this statement?. He can only speak to man by a little book or by trees and birds and clouds? How foolish! Has He lost His presence? Is He mute? Is His fire out? Are dreams and visions off limits now? Have words of knowledge and prophesy disappeared now that the incorrectly called “New Testament” has appeared? Does the dove again have no place to land? Where did this idea come from that because God added 27 more books to the Bible, He can only speak through the Bible and “nature?.” In these last 27 books, do we not find angels? Don’t men and women dream dreams and prophesy? Does He not also speak to men like He did with Paul? Are men and women no longer supernaturally gifted? Were the dead no longer raised? The last 27 books reveal that rather than these things being eliminated, they were increased! If you have not experienced this increase, please don’t blame God, perhaps you need to move out of the realm of unbelief you reside in. Let us return to the fire!

    Jesus said, “I am come to send fire on the earth” and on the day of Pentecost “tongues of fire” came upon a group who testified in the power of the Holy Spirit and 3000 persons were added to the ekklesia. John and James wanted fire to come down on the Samaritan’s heads to destroy them and Jesus told them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s live but to save them.” (Luke 9:56) I am afraid Jesus would have to repeat these words to most of the ekklesia, because this spirit is still very much alive in those who belong to Him. John the Baptist tells us the Jesus would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Matt. 3:11) Everyone shall be salted with fire. (Mark 9:43) Fire will try everyone’s works. (1 Cor. 3:13) People will be saved “so as through fire,” even though their works will be burned up. (1 Cor. 3:15) There is a scripture where He tells us to be like Him. He tells us to pour coals of fire on our enemies heads. Those coals of fire are love! (Rom. 12:20) He tells us to expect fiery trials. (1 Peter 4:12)

    Going into the last book of the Bible, should we expect to find a different kind of fire than what we have seen throughout the rest of the Book. We find lampstands that are the Ekklesia, seven stars in His right hand, gold refined by fire, lightenings, seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which are the seven Spirits of God, mornings stars, His eyes like a flame of fire, and a sea of glass mingled with fire.

    It seems we had better get used to fire, in a literal sense, symbolic sense, and a spiritual sense. God did manifest Himself on earth as fire that consumed material substances. He also spoke of fiery trials, but they were not necessarily being burned at the stake as a heretic. He spoke of good deeds as “hot coals” on our enemies heads. The tongues of fire on the disciples heads did not burn their physical flesh. The tongue James says that “sets the course of nature” on fire has not destroyed this world with literal fire. (James 3:5,6) The 7 Ekklesia are not literal stars and Jesus Christ is not a literal lamb.

    The book of Revelation begins with a sentence the carnal nature has overlooked. The carnal nature cannot receive the things of the spirit and as a result always finds itself overlooking the obvious. The book begins by saying in the King James Bible that this book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass: and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” (Rev. 1:1) The word for “signified” is a verb whose noun form “semeion” literally means “a sign.” A sign that says “to Jerusalem” is not Jerusalem. It points in the direction of the real city of Jerusalem. It is helpful to find the place called Jerusalem, but it is not Jerusalem.

    Paul said he went to the third heaven and saw things unlawful to speak about. (2 Cor. 12:2) I know he said “I know a man in Christ . . .was caught up to the third heaven,” but I am certain Paul was speaking of himself. Why was it unlawful for him to speak of these things? I also know a man who was caught up to the third heaven and I will tell you why it was unlawful for Paul to speak of these things. The spirit world, the real world cannot be truly expressed by human language. The clearest expression in human language falls far short of painting the reality of that world. The expression “unlawful” was used by Paul to say that if he talked about it in human words, it would not truly express the reality, it would fall short, which is what the Greek and Hebrew word for “sin” really means. I point this out that we may read the Book of Revelation with a proper perspective. We are dealing with symbols here which are mere representatives of spiritual realities. Do not expect frogs coming out of peoples mouths, a physical woman sitting on a beast which is also a city which will utterly be burned with fire. Why do people always put a physical sword into Jesus’ hands when in fact it is a sword coming out of His mouth? Because that picture looks foolish to the natural mind, so we put the sword in His hands. The churches are not really stars nor candlesticks. Jesus doesn’t really want you to be 212 degrees or minus 32 degrees indicating you are hot or cold but not luke-warm. The kings of the earth never really fornicated with this woman on a beast which is really a city. Is Jesus really dripping in blood? Is there really a winepress He is tredding and is He really a dead Lamb sitting on the throne?

    The Hebrew language is a language designed to create great pictures. It is a picture language full of great exaggeration to magnify things. Unless one leaves much room for hyperboles, allegories, and parables, one will most certainly twist the scriptures to their own destruction. While the last 27 books of the Bible come to us in Greek, they borrow the symbols of the Hebrew to convey to us the symbols He uses to express spiritual truths. Even in the last 27 books, Jesus did not speak apart from parables.

    I am afraid most of us are very guilty of picking and choosing what is symbolic, what is spiritual, and what is literal. John’s statement at the beginning of the Book of Revelation says this book is a book of signs. Signs point to a reality, they are not the reality themselves. How does one express something that happens to a nation over many generations in one word or sentence? It cannot be done. The only way to truly understand an event covering millions of people over decades of time in earthly languages is to give “signs,” which will fall short of conveying reality.

    I have been pierced by the sword which comes out of Jesus mouth. He slew me and yet I live! It was not the words written in the book of Revelation about a sword out of His mouth that slew me, but the very Word of God Himself! The reality, not the symbol, nor the written word. And this death actually brought me to life!

    The carnal mind cannot separate the physical, the symbol, and the spiritual reality. It will bypass the spiritual reality and call the symbol, reality. Only when it becomes absurd, will the carnal mind treat the symbol as a symbol. The reason I am spending so much time belaboring this point, is because this desire for man to bring God and His symbols down to man’s language is perhaps one of our greatest errors. We make beautiful parables designed to each us something very beautiful into something terrible and grossly distorted. The parable of Lazarus and the Rich man is a classic example. I will not go into the 5 parables in Luke 15 and 16 which have been twisted into all kind of devilish foolishness. We have literature and audio tapes on that specific subject. I have spent so much time laying down this foundation of understanding the difference between these three different forms of expression because the book of revelation is perhaps THE book with which all kinds of liberty have been taken to twist these “symbols, signs” to conform to all sorts of scenarios of what God is going to ultimately do with you, your friends, and your enemies.

    Only when we read this book with a heart after Him, only after we have begun to truly be conformed to His image by the renewing of our mind, only when we keep all of His attributes together, not setting one or the other aside, and only when we leave the signs exactly what they were meant to be MERE SIGNS, can we begin to harmonize and see what this book is all about. Leave the sword in His mouth and then try to kiss Him. And when you have been put to death by His Word and you have died to sin and been made alive to Christ, then you will begin to see that the lake of fire is as much a symbol as every symbol in the whole book. Now let us talk about what the “lake of fiery brimstone” speaks about. Remember, if you have a hard time picturing yourself kissing the Son with a sword in His mouth or if you have a hard time snuggling up to a dead lamb on a throne, you should have just as hard a time seeing yourself, friends, family, or enemies, either being tortured in an eternal lake of burning sulfur, or see them being nuked, or vaporized into nothing. They were not made from nothing and they will not return to nothing!

    I find it absolutely amazing how our carnal mind works. The scriptures tell us that our minds cannot conceive that things He has in store for us. His love is infinitely greater than ours, and yet we manage to concoct scenarios which make the love of a mother more loving than the love of our Father. It never ceases to amaze me. One would think that if His love truly manifested in our hearts, we could not help but to hope and believe He will save all mankind, even if our Bible translation said the opposite. It seems even if our Bible said He would torment everyone, it would seem there would be people today who would act like Abraham and Moses and plead and intercede for mankind. Moses, asked Him to forgive Israel when they worshipped the calf and committed many sexual sins. Abraham dared reason with God about Sodom and Lot.

    It would seem that those filled with the love of God would spend hundreds of hours combing the scriptures, spend days praying to Him, pleading for mankind. But that is not the case. Most Christians, when doing what they call “Bible Study” spend hours memorizing scriptures to prove He is a torment or annihilator. When we try to prove the Love of our Father, we find His love is steadfast and true, even if our translation of the Bible is ridden with error. When your heart is after Him, He will reveal many things to you like what I am about to show you.

    In the book of Revelation, while I was studying the lake of fiery brimstone for this article, I came across some major discrepancies among the leading selling Bibles. Looking further, checking the Greek manuscripts, there were differences between various manuscripts. As a result, we have renderings such as the following:

    “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (King James Version)

    “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (New King James)

    “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (New International Version) Footnote: “Or written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain.

    “All on earth will worship it, except those whose names the Lamb that was slain keeps in his roll of the living, written there since the world was made.” (New English Bible)

    “And all mankind–whose names were not written down before the founding of the world in the slain Lamb’s Book of Life- worshiped the evil Creature.” (Living Bible) (Includes a very long and confusing footnote)

    “And all the inhabitants of the earth will fall down in adoration and pay him homage, every one whose name has not been recorded from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb that was slain {in sacrifice} from the foundation of the world.” (Amplified Bible)

    “and all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered.” (New Revised Standard Version)

    “And ALL who DWELL on the EARTH shall worship him, Whose NAME has not been written from the FOUNDATION of the World in the SCROLL of the LIFE of THAT LAMB who was KILLED.” (Emphatic Diaglott)

    “And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (New American Standard) Footnote: Or, written in the book . . . slain from the foundation of the world.

    I left the word “worshiped” spelled incorrectly in Living Bible because that is how it is spelled in the two copies I have. The old translations like the King James and the new ones have something in common, they both made mistakes, like this simple spelling error. However, they also make some great mistakes, some which will affect your whole life and your relationship to God. This passage is an example which I just recently found. Those of you who carefully read each translation above should have discovered four completely different ways the passage was written. There are clear important doctrinal issues involved. Focus on the clause “before or from the foundation of the world.” Notice the KJV and NKJV have the lamb being slain from the foundation of the world, but translations such as the NRSV and the NEB have the names written from the foundation of the world. Others such as the NIV write it is such a way as to not be able to tell when the names were written, and then we have the Amplified which puts the clause in twice to make it appear that the names written before and the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. The NAS notes both ways. That is more honest, but it doesn’t solve the problem for us.

    You see, if your name was written in the book before the foundation of the world, and that is why you will not worship the beast, then it is not your doing, it is all God. It is true predestination, something which the “annililation groups” don’t care for because it takes away “free will.”

    Now which of the four ways is correct? Or is there a fifth and a sixth way? We are dealing with major doctrines here which Christians have literally killed each other over. Can one determine the true meaning of this passage? Is it important? Does you life depend upon you knowing the correct way to deal with this passage? If you were pre-elected, you can’t miss, but those who weren’t pre-elected cannot help but to worship the beast. How can God find fault? Bibles are full of these kind of problems. Why are not these kind of issues brought up in Bible studies? I had to find these things out on my own. Now then, if your salvation is depended upon your knowing the Bible and what says to you, these kind of problems should have you worried. I have 15 feet of shelving full of different Bible translations. Believe me when I say there are major doctrinal differences among the best of Bibles. Does that bother you? It doesn’t bother me.

    You see, for me, these tormenting questions are meaningless. I know that if it was up to me, I could never hold up to my part of any agreement with Him. I, like Abram and Jesus’ disciples would fall asleep. I have cast my cares upon Him for I have discovered He truly cares for me, has given His life for me. I know who the author and finisher of my faith is. Do you? If you don’t, you will live in torment. You will work out your salvation in your strength and come up short. It is guaranteed. And all your efforts and all your works which your soul is full of, will find itself cast among the other filth found cast into the Refiner’s Fire, the Lake of fiery brimstone. Or have you not heard that “unbelievers” will have their part in the lake of fire? Those who trust in their own works do not believe Jesus did it all. Unbelievers! Did you not hear idolaters would be cast into the lake of fire? If God is not the “eternal tormentor” or “great annihilator” then have you not been worshipping a false image of God?! Idolater! And if you told those poor sheep around you all the things they must do to get right with God and put burdens upon them they could not carry, and He says He didn’t put any of them on their backs, are you not a liar?! Liars will have their part in the lake of fire! And if the “letter of the law” is truly death and you have been using the “letter” against people, are you not a murderer?! Murders will have their part in the lake of refining fire! If God truly Loved the world and saved the whole world, are not the Doctrine of Eternal Torment and Annihilation abominable?! The abominable will have their part in the lake of fire!. Are you getting the message? With this perspective in mind, let us take a look at the death of this kind of deadly thinking and see if there is hope for the abominable, murdering, lying, idolater who trusted in themselves and their own works, instead of the finished work of Christ.



    We find this term only in this apocalyptic writing which has been attributed by many modern writers to John, the apostle. Much has been written about this writing. It was one of the last books to be accepted by the Catholic church as scripture. It is hard for some today to imagine, but large portions of the early church did not consider books such as Hebrews, 2nd and 3rd John, 2nd Peter and others including the book of Revelation as scripture. One of the reasons for the Book of Revelation’s late acceptance as scripture was the poor quality of the Greek. A thorough study of the process of canonization is time well spent. It is a real fire that will test your faith. Fortunately, I have the faith given by Jesus Christ, not my faith in Jesus Christ. There is a world of difference. Perhaps two of the main reasons this book has attracted so much attention is because of the promise of being blessed to those one who read it and to those who hear the words of this prophesy and to those who keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Rev. 1:3) This was written 1900 years ago. Other translations say that the “time is at hand.” There are generally four different types of interpretations of the book of Revelation: Preterist, Idealist, Historical, and Futurist. There are also four general theological perspectives on the book: Postmillennial, Amillennial, Premillenial, and Apocalyptic. A thorough study of the teachings of each of these eight camps should wean one from holding onto any of their pet eschatological systems too tightly. I am not going to touch any of the above. The subject is much to large. I am going to stick with two points: 1. The nature of our Father and His attributes, and 2. the language of the Greek regarding the subject of the lake of fire. This, apart from theological speculation, should convince anyone with a heart full of the love of our Father, that it never entered His mind to either eternally torment any human being nor to put them to eternal death. When the children of Israel burned their children to death in the worship of Moloch, He said, “such a thing never entered my mind.!” (Jer. 32:35) Let us look at the Greek words in the book of Revelation which will bear this out. We will look at the lake of fiery brimstone.

    The scriptural references for this lake are only to be found in the apocalyptic book of Revelation: Rev. 19:20, 20:10, 20:14, 20:15, and 21:8. The Bible defines this lake for us as the “second death.” We find this term “second death” also only in the book of Revelation in the following places: Rev. 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, and 21:8. Perhaps Revelation 20:11-15 gives us the most clear definition:

    The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

    I could write dozens and dozens of pages on this one portion of scripture and not run out of material. I will try to stay focused and limit myself to the point that the “lake of fire” which is the “second death” does not refer to “eternal death” for any human being. I would like to point out at this time, most Christian writings of the first 3 or 4 centuries do not speak of a fire of “eternal torture” or “eternal death.” They speak of “refining fire.” For an article on the early Christian view of salvation, write for the article or tape The Early Christian View of the Savior. The sea was made up of brimstone, called today sulfur. The word for sulfur in Greek in the word “theion.” The words in Greek for God and divine are “theos” and “theios.” The Greeks used brimstone for purifying their temples! Although carnal man is usually afraid of fire, fire is a symbol for God. Everyone’s works will be tested by fire. Who do you think that fire is? A lump of coal or a piece of wood or literal sulfur? NO! Our Father Who is an all-consuming fire will test the works. This is a symbol for God just as the Lamb and the Lion are but symbols of Jesus.

    What happens to those who go into the lake of divine fire? Well, according to the KJV and the NIV, the devil, along with the beast and false prophet, will be “tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Those of you who have received the teaching of “annihilationism” or “conditional mortality” have, I am sure, discovered that the word translated “torment” has a primary meaning quite different from the picture we get from the KJV and NIV. I won’t belabor the point. Just a few brief comments for those who do not know the primary definition for the Greek words translated “torment” in this passage is “touchstone.” Webster’s tells us a touchstone is “a black siliceous stone allied to flint; used to test the purity of gold and silver by the streak left on the stone when rubbed by the metal. Any test or criterion by which to try a thing’s qualities.” It was not until religious folks used instruments like racks and other painful devices to “test” the faith of accused heretics that the thought of torment and pain was added to a perfectly good Greek word which again referred to a “divine test.” Gold also symbolizes divinity. Gold with impurities (dross) would show up deficient under the test of fire.

    Both the KJV and the NIV say that they will be “tormented” day and night for ever and ever. Here again, we will see both translations producing contradictions which would not occur had they translated “aion” correctly. The words “for ever and ever” are in Greek, “aionas ton aionon.” The Zondervan Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, which has the KJV, NIV, the Nestle’s Greek text with a literal rendering beneath the Greek, reveals on page 771 that “aionas ton aionon” literally reads “ages of the ages.” This makes much more sense since this passage also refers to “day and night.” Technically, if “aion” means eternity, then this would be rendered “eternities of eternities” which is “absurdities.”

    A few more things about fiery sulfur. It cannot be put out by water. The benefits of sulfur are too numerous to mention. In its pure state, it is tasteless, odorless, and colored light yellow. It is used in various compounds for fungicides, sulfa drugs, many skin ointments, matches, vulcanization of rubber, dyes, fixatives in photography, special cements for anchoring metals, hardening paper and woods. Sulfuric acid is one of the most important of all industrial chemicals because it is employed not only in the manufacture of sulfur-containing molecules but also in the manufacture of numerous other materials that do not themselves contain sulfur such as phosphoric acid. The acid is used in numerous industries from fertilizer, petroleum, pigments, metals, and making organic products.

    A little side story here just to stir further research on this subject. Brimstone was first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis where the “circuit” of the five cities was destroyed by fire and brimstone. This region is where we now have what is known as the “Dead Sea.” This region has been known to be active off and on with fire for hundreds of years. The “Dead Sea” has brimstone deposits. Gehenna (hell) is a valley which leads to the Dead Sea. Although the subject is too detailed and complicated to get into in this article, there seems to be enough material to indicate that the “Dead Sea” and “Lake of Fiery Brimstone” which is the “second death” have some possible connections which have not been thoroughly evaluated in orthodoxy. Remember, Sodom, will one day be restored to her former estate. Sodom is in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. (Ex. Chapter 16)

    Most of you have heard at least one end-time scenario of how the end of this age or world will come about. The book of Revelation is always the center of the story. Without the beasts, false prophets, lake of fire, and plaques, these stories lose their holding power. The charts would not be so graphically gruesome without these images. Perhaps the reader should know, that probably every generation in Christendom has lived through the so-called “end-time.” Starting with the Montanist’s at the end of the second century among whose followers is none other than the church father, Tertullian, who was perhaps one of the leading influences of turning the church toward legalistic death. They prophesied the descent of New Jerusalem to a plain in Phrygia seven years straight, obviously missing it each year. We then come to St. Jerome who predicted the present destruction of Rome would usher in the end of the world. The church then became God on earth under Roman Catholicism so there was no need to declare an end to the earth. The “city of God” had arrived.

    When the Reformation came on the scene, the end of the world prophets came out in full force. Luther predicted the end of the world in his generation. Zwingli prophesied doom. Many of the leading Protestant Reformators called the Pope of their time anti-Christ which indicates the end of the world. Dozens of minor players predicted the end throughout the 1500′s, 1600′s and 1700′s. In the 1800′s we had the following false prophets: William Miller, Ellen G. White, Charles T. Russell, Joseph Rutherford, Herbert Armstrong, C.I. Scofield, and Clarence Larkin just to name a few. Moving into the 20th century we have H.A. Ironsides, Milton Lindberg, Oswald Smith, Herbert Lockyer, William Orr, Jack Van Impe, John Walvoord, Hal Lindsey, Pat Robertson, and the list goes on into the thousands. Pulpits, T.V. stations, radio stations, newsletters, and books are full of fear-filling prophets and prophetesses. The closer we get to the year 2000 thousand, the crazier it will get. The year 1000 brought similar responses. Fill your heart with fear, or fill your heart with love. You will get hotter or colder as the years roll by. I would like to point out that many who set dates who were in error taught the doctrine of “eternal torment,” or the “doctrine of eternal death.” I am not aware of any who believed in the salvation of all mankind who have misled people in “judging before the time.”

    The words “destroy,” “perish,” “destruction,” etc., mean that whatever is destroyed is not at the time of destruction useful for what it is intended. Man was created to enjoy a life of commune with his creator. Because of sin, man finds himself estranged from his purpose and as a result is destroyed during the ages. Our Father says He kills and He makes alive, He creates good and He creates evil, He makes vessels, can and does destroy them, and He is able to refashion them for future use. If you are presently a Christian, did you not find your former life, in the words of Paul, “dung?” Christian, is He not refashioning you presently? Are you so vain as to think that He cannot do the same for the lowest of men or the greatest of men? What do you have to offer the Creator that wasn’t given to you? And if received and not earned, why do you boast? Why do you call the Creator a “respecter of people?” If you did not “earn” your estate in Him, be very careful before you exclude one single human being from His goodness and mercy. Do not find yourself complaining to Him if in the last hour He decides to “hire” every person under the sun and give them the same wages you will receive. Do not find yourself calling His goodness “unrighteous” and “unjust.”

    In this present age (aion) we are experiencing sin, sickness, dying death, judgment which are all relative truths, but not one of these will be experienced by anyone after the end of the ages. Let us not confuse the present process of eonian chastening, correction during the ages with the ultimate goal of our Father’s love. After the present experience of separation in our minds from our Creator, we will be able to truly appreciate the glory of being in the will and purpose of our Father. We will never succumb to the temptation of believing any other voice except our Creator’s. Everything He does for His children is for our good, including the painful time of learning what it is like for men to be separated from their Creator in the vanity of their carnal minds. Man has never been separated from Him. Where can man go that the Creator is not? Of Him, for Him and to Him are all things. It is only in the realm of the “lie” in our minds that we believe we are separated. One day, that lie will be completely dispelled. The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, and the remedy for the consequences of the “lie” was also provided for before man was ever created.

    The scriptures declare that the glory of the latter house will be greater than the former. There will come forth something wonderful from these many ages of pain and suffering. After the present experiences of our Father’s chastening, and our suffering the consequences of not being our brother’s keeper, we will be able to appreciate the glory of our Father’s blessings and universal reconciliation in the future. It is an obvious fact that when we lose something or something we have is destroyed, it becomes more precious to us and a return of something which has been lost brings much joy.

    I am reminded of a popular song sung in the 1970′s which contained the line: “Don’t it always seem to go, that we don’t know what we got till its gone.” It seems deep gratefulness is best ingrained by “losing” it for a season. For Adam (mankind, in Adam all died), his separation from the presence of his creator will be something that laws cannot teach. His experience in darkness, his ignorance of the ways of his Creator will be remembered. The prodigal, while being restored to the kingdom, will never forget his “pigpen” experience. That experience will do something that the prodigal’s brother did not learn. As a result, the prodigal’s brother had a flaw in character. Often we, Christians have that flaw . . . self-righteousness. We constantly need to search our hearts for that disease. Is there anything in you that might desire to see some people eternally “below” you either as dust and ashes or eternally tormented in flames of fire? Would you like to see yourself in a seat a little closer to Jesus than some others you are familiar with? Search your heart. These kind of attitudes most assuredly will find the flames.

    The last enemy to be destroyed is death. The lake of fire is the second death. It is the death of death which brings life! The deathly attitude of wanting one’ brother is a lower state will certainly find itself eventually destroyed. It is not in line with the character of the Almighty Who loves all and is willing that all mankind be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He Who is greatest in the kingdom of our Father is servant of all. Have we come to the place of truly desiring to serve? If not, then we have other things in our heart which must be replaced.

    We have covered most of the main scriptures and arguments used to teach “eternal death.” Those we did not cover, are as easy to deal with as the scriptures we just discussed. Most of the arguments stem from the words we covered in this article.

    The doctrine of annihilation, when thoroughly analyzed, is not to be found in the languages of the Bible. Unfortunately, most best-selling Bible translations, due to the allegiance by the translators to the traditions of their forefathers, teach all three views: annihilation, eternal torment, and the reconciliation of all mankind. This has caused many people much grief and has perplexed many theologians to make statements like this one from a leading scholar, Dr. C Rider Smith:

    “In the earlier chapter, it has been shown that the New Testament teaches everlasting punishment. On a review of the whole evidence, therefore, it follows that throughout the book there are two doctrines which to the human mind are irreconcilable; the doctrine of Universalism and the doctrine there are those who will not be saved. It is then to be concluded that on this subject there are two doctrines in the New Testament which cannot be both true, or if the right conclusion that here there are two doctrines that are both true, though the mind of man cannot reconcile them.” (The Bible Doctrine of the Life Hereafter, page 258 by Dr. C. Rider Smith)

    If one stays within the English of the best-selling Catholic and Protestant Bibles and remains objective, one must come to the above conclusion. However, if one digs deeper, through a little search into the meaning of a few key words such as “eternal,” “destroy,” “lose,” “perish,” we will discover there is no inconsistency throughout the scriptures regarding the fate of mankind. We can be assured that our Omnipotent, Omniscient, Loving, Just, Wise Father knows exactly what He is doing and His is doing all His good pleasure. Man, as a builder, has shown that in the end, apart from the Creator, he is able to produce nothing but “dung,” waste. Look at our landfills. Look at the thousands of cities now beneath the sand. Vanity, emptiness, futility . . . these are the products of man. This most certainly speaks of “annihilation.” But it is man who is the annihilator, not our Father. He can take our “dung,” plant his seeds into it, and produce wonderful everlasting life. He not only can, but He will. He is not the builder who set out to build and could not complete it. He is not the general who went to war too short handed. We, in our short-sighted Christian traditions and creeds have made Him fit this mold. But I assure you, He will break this teaching from the minds of men and bring forth the everlasting truth that His Love for His Creation, of which we are a part, will not end up in a garbage pile of ashes, as the annihilation doctrines teaches, nor will any of His creations experience a “living death” being torment for eternity as the “eternal torment” doctrine teaches. No, Our Father is not a waster, destroyer, He is a Creator and the mind of man cannot conceive of the riches of His kingdom.





    Therefore judge nothing before the time , until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and [to] Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think [of men] above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. (I Corinthians 4:5, KJV)For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30, NKJV)

    Whether we admit it or not, nearly all believers “judge before the time.” We do not know the end from the beginning, yet most of us have pet doctrines as to what will happen to mankind when it is all finished. We bring out our little pet end-time doctrines and tell the world what one must do to avoid eternal punishment, or annihilation. What we, unfortunately, do not realize is that in doing so, we have also judged our Maker. We have judged His work, His people, and since He identifies with His people, we have judged Him. When we, through our doctrines determine whether our Creator will roast or annihilate someone, we have made a judgment. When we state a person is going to “hell” if he or she does not invite Jesus into their heart, we have judged our Creator. When we say that He will resurrect all, give all a chance to “make the decision” and those refusing to join up with Jesus, will be annihilated, we have judged our Maker. Of course, we say we are just quoting what the Bible says, but are we really quoting what the Bible says, or are we chaining scriptures out of context to make the Bible says what is really just in our hearts? Are we just projecting onto the Creator what we feel would be just if we were the Creator?

    Let us take the above scripture in Hebrews as an example. How often have we heard this scripture used to tell people that God is vengeful, wrathful, and angry toward sinners. It is said that one day His wrath will be poured out upon his enemies and when it does, it will result in terrible eternal torment or utter destruction. However, the above scripture says no such thing. In the first place, notice the Lord will judge His people, not those who are not his people. Also notice this verse does not say what the outcome of His vengeance will be. He just states that it belongs to Himself, not us.

    When we study that scripture further, we see that that first part is a quotation from Deuteronomy (Deut. 32:35). We discover it is found in what came to be called the Song of Moses. Moses, just before his death prophesies to Israel, not the world, that they would rebel and do evil in the sight of the Lord and provoke Him to anger. Please note that this verse speaks of an entire nation who are called God’s people and he does not specify individual people. He is referring to Israel as one. When studying the Bible, notice how often the Lord deals with nations, tribes, and lands as one entity. The judgments are inflicted upon the entire people as a group, not on individuals. This is most important to understand when handling the scriptures.

    In the midst of this prophecy, predicting God’s people Israel will fall away from the Lord and righteousness, is the scripture, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” In this same song is found the scripture many Christians seem to be unfamiliar with, “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from my hands.” (Deut. 32:39, NKJV) Our Maker follows that with extremely strong language which is typical of judgments against nations throughout the Bible. “If I whet My glittering sword, and My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, and repay those who hate Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the heads of the leaders of the enemy.”

    Now please note, we have here a prophecy from the Creator through Moses the leader of His people, that they would do wickedness which will result in them becoming enemies of the Lord. He would take vengeance upon his enemies with “arrows drunk with blood” and his “sword” would be wet with the “blood from the slain and his captives, from the heads of the leaders of the enemy.” Now let me ask you this: if I end the story here and begin to preach “hell-fire, annihilation, and damnation,” would I be rightly dividing the Word? The answer is absolutely not! Why? Because I failed to show the true end of His judgment. Read the paragraph right after the arrows and sword devouring flesh and you will see the final outcome His judgment.

    “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people.”

    The ultimate outcome of His vengeance will provide atonement for His land and His people. This is the same people who He prophesied would be His enemies! The gentiles are everyone else in the world who are not “his” people and the scripture tells them to “rejoice”. His vengeance brought atonement. You see the reason why vengeance must belong to the Lord is because only He can kill and then make alive again, wound and then heal. You and I can only kill. We do not have the power to resurrect, but He does. You may say at this point, but He will not save all of physical Israel, He will only provide atonement for spiritual Israel, those who are born again. Those who teach this usually point out that only those who have the circumcision of the heart are true Jews or true Israel. If you will turn to Romans chapter 11 verses 26 through 36, I want to ask you a plain question: Did spiritual Jews or Israel become the enemies of the church or did physical Jews or Israel? It is abundantly clear that the “all Israel” who would be saved was clearly physical Israel.

    “The Deliver will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.

    Now, one may perhaps say, “Well, of course, the Lord will eventually provide atonement for the sins of His people, even though they may become His enemies, but do not carry this to the extreme of including pagans, heathen, sinners, the ungodly, etc.” I would say to that statement, “Be careful who you think are ‘God’s people.’”

    “It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,” says the Lord; I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel (God will sow). Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”

    Do you really want to get on the judge’s seat and conjecture who will receive mercy and who will not? Do you really want to judge our Maker and tell him who will respond to His love and mercy and who will not?The Bible is absolutely full of these kinds of examples where He speaks very strongly using language of wrath, judgment, and destruction. Remember, however, He Who kills, even though one’s theology may deny it, can make alive; He can heal and He can take the clay and remold it. The Bible makes it very plain that “in Adam” all would die. (1 Corinthians 15:22) Be careful, before you say that when He shows His mercy to all, that not all will live and be healed. Despite what John Calvin has carved in stone, the Lord will have mercy upon all. That mercy will bring deliverance.

    The following scripture is another one that warns us not to be dogmatic about consigning multitudes into abysses of torture that would make Hitler look like a mercy killer or to conclude that our Father created a huge garbage landfill where He dumps all of His mistakes. He makes no mistakes, even though we cannot see his wisdom in some of His creation.

    “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

    His ways and judgments are past finding out, yet does not each denomination have formulas, dogmas, doctrines which spell out what God will do to the “unrighteous?” Do they not tell you whether you are in good standing or not? Do they not warn you of the consequences of violating their doctrines? They most certainly do, despite the fact the scriptures warn, “Judge nothing before the time.”


    Perhaps the leading example used to express God’s wrath and the finality of His judgments is the example of Sodom and Gomorra. Those who wish to project their own vengeful wrath upon our Creator who is love often use this example to consign the basest of society to everlasting torture. They point to the passage in Jude where Jude describes them as examples of “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, KJV) Peter said they were condemned to destruction. (2 Peter 2:6) We are presently going to take these five words and dig a little deeper than the level the King James translators dug. The theology of the Anglican Bishops who presided over the translating work was not far removed from Roman Catholicism. Do not forget that the Anglican church was formed due to Henry VIII’s love life, and not from a love of the scriptures, mind you. We must keep in mind, when we read our Bibles, men, for the most part, did the translating. As to the King James Bible, all 46 or so people involved were males filled with the knowledge and superstition of their times. The scholarship of King James day has been grossly exaggerated. I will not spend any more time on this point other than give one example to provoke you to study this out further yourself.

    One of King James’ favorite medicines, which he swore by as did many other leading “intellectuals” of his days, was a salve for the healing of sword wounds. The following is an account of how it was made and applied: “Take of moss growing on the head of a thief who has been hanged and left in the air; of real mummy; of human blood, still warm, of each, one ounce; on human suet, two ounces; of linseed oil, turpentine, and Armenian bole-of each, two drachmas. Mix all well in a mortar, and keep the salve in an oblong, narrow urn. With this, salve the weapon, after being dipped in the blood from the wound, was to be carefully anointed, and then laid by in a cool place. In the mean time, the wound was to be duly washed with fair clean water, covered with a clean, soft, linen rag, and opened once a day to cleanse of purulent or other matter.” As we can see from the above example, the scholastic community had a mixture of truth mixed with gross darkness.

    One last point dealing with King James and his translators, be very careful about consigning homosexuals to “hell” as if this sin was “the unpardonable sin.” While doing some research on the King James Bible, I came across some love letters written by King James to men.

    In The Wisest Fool in Christendom by William McElwee, we read: “The cheerful, unaffected and unselfconscious ordinariness of James’s behavior in public, though it lacked dignity, had hitherto been in many ways an asset in his dealings with his subjects. But now it led him to treat Carr in public with the same exaggerated, gross affection as in private, and what had already been a little odd in a sixteen year old boy when he was worshipping at the shrine of Esme’ Stuart, became grotesque in the middle-aged man. He appeared everywhere with his arm round Carr’s neck, constantly kissed and fondled him, lovingly feeling the texture of the expensive suits he choose and bought for him, pinching his cheeks and smoothing his hair.” James considered himself to be a brilliant intellectual and scholar.

    James selected the scholars who were to be on the King James Bible translation committee. The leading Hebrew scholar of that day in England, Hugh Broughton, when asked to endorse the translation said he would rather “be rent to pieces by wild horses than have had any part in the urging of such a wretched version of the Bible on the poor people.” (Men and their Motives by Jimmie H. Heflin and many other sources) It would be very unwise to believe that the superstitions, politics, and religious biases of sixteenth century England did not find their way into the English Bible of that time. Even today, when comparing twentieth century translations, the doctrinal positions of the translators finds itself on the pages of the Bibles they produce. Calvinists, for example, will translate predestination, and “total depravity” type scriptures quite differently than Arminianists.

    With this in mind, let us examine the “vengeance of eternal fire” and see if we cannot get past fifteenth century and twentieth century scholarship with their doctrinal biases. Let us look at this scripture as it appears in the Greek and leave the theology to the theologians.



    Suffering: In modern thinking, the English word conveys pain and agony which would correspond to a condition of being in hot fire. This word, however, did not have that meaning in seventeenth century England. The English word in that time period meant “allow” or “let.” The underlying Greek word in this passage in the word “hupecho,” is Strong’s number 5254. Strong’s definition of the word is “to hold under.” Young’s Concordance has to “to hold up under.” If Jude wanted to express pain or torture in this passage, he could have used many Greek words to express that, pathema, atimazo, pascho, are but a few examples. Clearly are problem here is the change in meaning of the English word “suffer” which meant “allow” in the seventeenth century which today has an entirely different meaning. This is a clear example of the need for Bible translations to convey the meaning of the original languages in clear present-day English. King James Bible English is just too archaic. This is also an example to show that current dictionaries offer little help and actually hinder the discovery of the true meaning behind original Greek and Hebrew words. A contemporary dictionary offers the meaning of words as defined by the present society. The meaning of a word today may be completely different from the same word used in a previous time period. This is very important to understand. Vengeance: This English word conveys in the twentieth century an idea of “getting even, settling scores, an eye for an eye.” Often it is synonymous with the word “revenge” as one will find out in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Vindictive is the first definition in Webster’s under “vengeful.” Clearly, this English word conveys the idea of retribution, a final getting even, or of someone finally getting what they deserve in the form of punishment, an ‘eye for an eye’ justice, so to speak.”

    In the Seedmaster Bible program, using its Strong’s numbering system, we find the Greek word used here for “vengeance” is “dike.” The Thayer’s lexicon in this Bible program lists the following definitions for this word in the following order: 1. Custom, usage. 2. Right, just. 3. A suit at law. 4. A judicial hearing, judicial decision, esp. sentence of condemnation. 5. Execution of a sentence, punishment. 5a. To suffer punishment. 6. The goddess Justice, avenging justice. Please note that the primary definitions do not indicate a negative quality. It is not until we get to pagan concepts such as the “Justice Goddess” that we begin to see a vindictiveness in the definition. This word “dike” is also used in Acts 25:15 where the chief priests wanted a “judgment against” Paul. In the Greek, a word had to be added to “dike” to make it a “judgment against” Paul. Clearly, the word simply means “judgment” in both these cases.

    Why do we often think in negative terms of His judgments? It seems that Christians have been taught that the Creator’s righteous judgments are without mercy, that heavenly justice demands “getting what you deserve.” A recent book edited by William Crockett entitled Four Views on Hell will illustrate the point. One essay in this book is written by one of the leading spokesmen for the doctrine of a literal burning of literal bodies in an eternal fire. John Walvoord, former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, writes, “The problem for all is to comprehend the infinite righteousness of God that must judge those who have not received grace. The human mind is incapable of comprehending an infinite righteousness and must bow to the Scriptures and their interpretation when directly and faithfully set forth.” He makes God’s righteousness almost appear as if it contradicted His mercy. We see in the natural all kinds of examples where our legal systems grant pardons, clemency, plea bargaining, lighter sentences, etc. The Creator’s mercy and love is far greater than the legal system of this world, yet we refuse Him the right to make the end of His judgment, mercy for all, jubilee! James says that mercy will triumph over judgment. (James 2:13) James even warns that judgment without mercy is to those who show no mercy! This should serve as a strong warning to those who refuse to acknowledge that ultimately mercy will triumph over judgment.

    Eternal: We have many tapes, booklets and tracts proving that the Greek word aion, translated by the KJV translators several different ways, cannot possibly mean “eternal.” This King James Bible error is perhaps the most grievous of them all. Other popular Bibles have followed the tradition of the “Authorized Version” in perpetuating this error. The early revisionists of the KJV received (and still do) great persecution for correcting this error in dozens of places. Write and we will be happy to send you complete documented research proving that the Greek word “aion” when properly translated is a time word with a beginning and an end.

    The word “eternal” in this verse is the adjective of the word “aion.” An adjective cannot have a greater meaning than the noun from which it is derived. The adjective “hourly” must pertain to the “hour,” it cannot mean “weekly, “monthly,” or “eternally.” The Greek word “aion” means “age.” It would be improper grammar to give the adjective “aionios” a greater meaning than its noun. Aions (ages) are made (Heb. 1:2), there is before the aions (1 Cor. 2:7, 2 Tim. 1:9), the end of the aions (ages) (Heb. 9:26, 1 Cor. 10:11, Matt. 24:3). There are at least five ages mentioned in the Bible: ages past (Col. 1:26), present age (Luke 20:34), and at least two more in the future (Eph. 2:7). Ages have beginnings and endings, they deal with time, space, and matter. Before He made the “ages, aions” our Father was still the “I Am.” The King James Bible translated this word many different ways ranging from “world,” “age,” to “forever,” “everlasting,” and “eternal.” Many recent translations have cleaned up much of the mess. There are a few dangling places where some translators refuse to be consistent. I am familiar with many translations which have consistently translated the word “aion” and its adjective “aionios” into English words pertaining to periods of time with beginnings and endings. Most of you who are reading this booklet realize these two words do not speak of eternity in its true sense. Therefore I will not spend any more time on the subject.



    We have all seen, and probably are all guilty of taking portions of scripture out of context and distorting the true spirit behind the words. A passage of scripture must be interpreted in context and with a true knowledge of the heart and intent of those involved in the passage. Most of us have heard bad reports about persons we know to be of outstanding character. We are less apt to receive a bad report about such a person than about a person who has a bad reputation. I believe most people, including Christians, do not personally know the true character of our Father. We are too quick to put Him on a throne of judgment casting all his enemies into eternal oblivion whether it be eternal torment or eternal annihilation.

    The following chapter of Ezekiel depicts very well the transgressions of those who claim to know Him and His methods of judgment. This portion of scripture classically reveals who the greatest transgressors against Him are and how our Father will deal with the minor transgressors. It also reveals how He will deal with the greatest transgressors, that is, those who claim to be His own.

    The entire sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel is such a segment of scripture. It is a classic example of the creators view of what modern Christendom calls the chiefest of sins. As pointed out in the previous section, our Bibles have been twisted somewhat to reflect the doctrines of the translators. The larger the portion of scripture, the more difficult it is to change its meaning. In a short sentence, one word can entirely change the whole sentence. It is much more difficult to change the meaning of an entire chapter. Ezekiel chapter sixteen, I believe, truly reflects our Father’s view of the grossest of mankind’s sins and his ultimate dealings with our infractions.

    I leave it to the reader to study the entire chapter carefully and prayerfully. We will just refer to certain passages that express the Creators view of the sins of Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem and his ultimate judgment of each of them. I believe it shows very clearly why vengeance must be left to our Father and what the outcome of His vengeance will be. As you read the chapter, please note:

    1. Our Maker begins the chapter with His grievances against those who were at this time called “His chosen people.” He reminds them they were heathen when He called them and it was He who turned them into “chosen.” (Ez. 16:1-14)
    2. His “chosen people” trusted in their own beauty, played the harlot and chased after foreign gods. He called this adultery which, according to the law was punishable by death.
    3. The God of Israel said He would judge their sins by bringing against them all those with whom she committed adultery.

      “And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. . . They shall “throw down your shrines and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. (Please note the symbolism) They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords.” (Ez. 16:38-41)

    4. This was their judgment, He would then be quiet, and angry no more. Question: will He judge them again for this sin, or is this the judgment for that sin? If this is their judgment, let us see what follows their judgment. “‘You have paid for your lewdness and your abominations,” says the Lord. “For this says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, who despise the oath by breaking the covenant. Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed . . .when I provide an atonement for all you have done,’ says the Lord God.” Please note the final judgment for Israel would be an atonement for their sins even though He had them “stoned and thrust through with a sword.” They were killed! “I kill and I make alive.”
    5. In this chapter which graphically describes the sins of the “chosen people” and their judgment, is also the sins of Sodom, and her judgment. Sodom’s sins, from the Creator’s viewpoint were not nearly as bad as His “chosen people’s” sins. “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abominations before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit. Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all the abominations which you have done.” (Ez. 16:50-54)
    6. Our Maker’s own people committed more wicked sins than the heathen. They broke the covenant with the Creator. In spite of this, He would provide atonement for their sins, forgive their iniquity, and will at that time give Sodom and her daughters to God’s chosen as daughters! (Ez. 16:53-63) If one looks at the history of Israel or the Church, one will discover that the sins of His people have always been greater than the sins of the heathen. We just refuse to acknowledge them. We are blinded by our pride, which was Israel’s problem as well. It is perhaps a believer’s biggest problem, pride and self-righteousness.
    7. When this happens God’s own people will remember their ways and be ashamed and will receive their sisters Sodom and Samaria as sisters.

    This chapter is a classical example showing how the Creator kills and then makes alive again. It shows that while He judges for grievous sins against Him, the ultimate end of His judgments is mercy. It shows that the most heinous of sins are committed by those who claim to know Him, not those who do not. It also shows we have judged Him before the time. Have we received Sodom back as a sister? I think not. We see the Ruler of the Universe pronounce the same kind of judgments He gave to Israel upon the heathen nations surrounding Israel. Moab shall be like Sodom, Ammon like Gomorra. He will destroy Assyria, and make Nineveh desolation. (Zeph. 2:13-15, 2:9) Yet in Jeremiah our Maker promises to “bring back the captivity of Moab in the latter days.” (Jer. 48:47) In the 49th chapter of Jeremiah, He said He would totally destroy Ammon, yet in the 6th verse He promises to afterwards “bring back the captives of the people of Ammon.”

    The Father of all’s chastening and judgments of the nations are severe, but ultimately will end in mercy. Mercy will triumph over judgment even though His people have usually represented Him as ultimately “getting revenge.” We, who have become Able’s voice still cry out for revenge and call it our Father’s voice. No, it is not the Father’s voice. It is time to stop projecting our self-righteousness and vengefulness upon a God Who desires mercy not sacrifice. We are the ones who call revenge “Justice.” We must repent from our false judgments. When we do, our Father will give us the heathen for an inheritance. (Psalm 2:8) Our sisters will come back into the family.



    We will not do a thorough word study of the various Hebrew and Greek words used to express what we in English call “glory.” There are many studies on these words. These words center around concepts such as: weight, honor, valuable material things, divine presence, an opinion, estimate, high esteem, dignity, praise, worship, etc. We will not enter into a deeper study of “glory” than the above definitions. Jesus Christ was said to be the express image of the invisible God.

    n the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

    The entire book of Hebrews is really a warning to Jews who were beginning to forsake the glorious latter day house by returning back to the former house consisting of outer appearances, rituals, and customs. In the above passage, the writer refers to his days as the “last days.” The writer warned of severe consequences of going back to shadows of things to come. In 70 A.D. those shadowy things were completely destroyed by the Roman army.

    So the writer of Hebrews was telling us the very image of the shadow the Jews felt they were giving glory to had appeared. When Jesus began to focus on fully glorify the True Father through His suffering on the tree, they began to abandon Him in droves. Even those closest to Him could not bear the weight of this “glory.” From Gethsemane to the tree of crucifixion was a lonely walk indeed.

    Why did the vast majority of the Jews forsake Jesus and return to the shadow? What was the shadow? The shadow was the “law.” What is the “law?” When we look at the foundation of what came to be called the “Mosaic Law,” it was really nothing more than a second hand word, an intermediary word. The Creator said He wanted to speak to them personally, but when they saw the mountain in thick black smoke they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:18) When Jesus manifested as the word of the Creator, they again said, “We have Moses.”

    Moses speaks of written words, yesterday’s message, not living. Since he is dead, we can twist his words to say whatever we want them to say because he is not here to tell us the “spirit” behind the words. Religious man, whether he has just the Hebrew portion of the Bible or both the Greek and Hebrew portions never really wants the Creator around, who is a spirit. Religious man seeks revenge which he calls “justice.” The true heart behind all of our Father’s words is love, mercy, grace. These things religious man, whether he is Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Moslem, Pentecostal, Kingdom, Charismatic, or whatever, really is not interested in except for himself. We want the Judge of all to judge us with mercy but give “an eye for an eye” to everyone else.

    When we look at the harsh strong words of rebuke which Jesus spoke, they were not directed to the same people to whom the religious leaders directed strong harsh words. Religious man, past or present, has directed the strong words of judgment towards those whom he deems a “sinner.” This may mean breaking a set of laws, or not being in the right denomination, or being born on the wrong side of the tracks, or having the wrong color or lineage or such a simple thing as not having spoken the right set of words or being baptized a certain way. Religious man says we have “the law” and each sect has its own “law.” Those who do not conform to these laws is a sinner. When observing a religious person, one will observe they spend much of their time judging according to their laws which, of course, are also their God’s laws.

    Now one would think that Jesus would be thankful and lavish much praise upon those who were the guardians of “God’s law.” But made themselves the guardians of “yesterday’s word.” “We have Moses!” was their reply to the Living Word. This is the very group to whom He spoke those harsh words. This is the very group that shut their ears and gnashed their teeth when they heard “the Father’s Words” coming through Jesus Christ. This group, according to Jesus, sat in Moses seat, a seat of judgment. He said this group was not willing to enter the kingdom and hindered others from entering into it. Religious man loves law and judgment which he equates to “justice.” The heart of the Father is “love covers a multitude of sins.” The law man asks, “how many times do I have to forgive before I can do away with him forever.” The heart of the Father is “His mercy endures forever.”

    Jesus came to show how far the mercy of the Father goes. If ever there was a time for the Creator of the Universe to manifest “justice” which means “judgment” to the religious man, it was at the crucifixion of His Son. Jew and Gentile both were guilty of the greatest of sins, greater perhaps than all the sins of the world combined. If ever there was a moment in which no man would have found fault with the Creator if He blasted that entire group of people into eternal flames, this was the moment. Yet what were the words of the Almighty Himself through Jesus Christ who only spoke what He heard the father say? “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Did the Father forgive them for the highest of sins in the entire universe? Many Christians still say no. Millions of Jews have been tortured, burned, maligned as Christ killers by the church.

    How quick the church is to parrot the famous words of John and James who wanted to command fire to come upon the heads of the Samaritans because they refused to acknowledge Jesus Christ. We, Christians, are so quick to consign to flames those who have refused to yield to our disgraceful counterfeits we call the gospel.

    Imagine this situation. Imagine the greatest evangelists of all time converging on your town, evangelists who personally knew Jesus Christ himself. Imagine these evangelists holding a revival at the local Baptist church. The advertising would read, “the world’s greatest evangelists.” It would bring the entire town. They would preach their hearts out and then give the usual Roman Road close with the usual invitation to raise their hands while no one is looking. Those who secretly raised their hands would then be told they must now come up front. But no one comes forward. How often I have heard Christians consigning those who refuse their version of the gospel to everlasting punishment. They feel justified in consigning them there. They heard “the Gospel” and refused it. They had their chance. If they go to “hell” now, they deserve it! Have you ever seen this kind of response? I have seen it more times than I care to remember. But listen to the words of Him of Whom the Gospel is all about. Listen to His words dealing with this exact situation which occurred in the first century A.D. in Samaria. Jesus said to His disciples who wanted to destroy these men who refused their gospel, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s life but to save them.” (Luke 9:56)

    Not much has changed in the last 2000 years. Jesus’ disciples did not know what manner of spirit they were of then, and neither do they know what manner of spirit they are of today. They still would rather bring down real coals of fire rather than use the coals of fire Jesus would rather us use.

    Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    The above passage reveals our Father’s vengeance and His Glory. One can justify their hatefulness, self-righteousness, religious pride all they want. The touchstone (test of their faith) is right here. Those who lack the patience of the Saints will always quickly turn the true coals of fire of overcoming evil with good into natural coals of fire meant to hurt and destroy men’s lives. How well we have rehearsed, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Do we really understand the magnitude of that statement? No, of all the denominations I have been a part of, none of them have seen the depth of that verse. We often take a measure of that verse for our personal sins, but most of us cannot or will not extend the depth of that verse to our enemies.

    The glory of the Creator will be seen when He will manifest what He has said a thousand times in the scriptures and yet we refuse to believe Him. His mercy will triumph over judgment. He will overcome all evil with good. His mercy will not end when your heart stops beating, nor will it end in the ages to come. It will not end at the supposed Great Judgment when all our enemies are expected to get what we think they should have coming to them, nor will it end if one ultimately “decides” not to “choose” Jesus. Salvation never was a choice, which requires effort, forethought, will, etc. We are born of the will of God, not of our own will. (John 1:13) Salvation is a gift that will come upon all, even upon those too ignorant to know what it is or is not.. NO, His glory will be seen when we see that His love, even though we didn’t believe Him, will conquer all enemies, They will submit to Him not because He bent their necks into submission with vindictiveness and human wrath, but that He indeed had all time, power, and authority to bring about the circumstances to finally draw mankind unto Himself. He, Jesus Christ glorified His Father by loving all His enemies enough to bring them all to the Father through His love manifested on the tree of crucifixion. “‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all mankind unto myself.’ This He said, signifying by what manner of death He would die.” Did the Father not give into His hands all things? (John 13:3, 16:15) Did Jesus not have all power and authority? (John 17:2) Was it not the Father’s desire or will to save all mankind? (1Tim. 2:3,4) Was this not Jesus’ mission? To seek and find that which was lost? (Luke 19:10) Do you dare say that Divine Love will not accomplish that which He was sent forth to do?

    Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

    I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. (John 17:1-10)

    Jesus came but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. (Matt. 15:24) “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”) His body indwelled with the Holy Spirit is sent to the rest of the whole world. The scriptures declare, “He shall see the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” Anyone, who has ever been touched by His love knows He will never be satisfied until He finds every single sheep that was ever lost in the world of religion, superstition, sin, selfishness, vanity, pride . . .no, He will only be satisfied when Perfect Love is complete.

    I am reminded of a story J. Preston Eby tells in his book God is love. It was a story of an incident which occurred in mid-nineteenth century Russia.

    A Russian nobleman accompanied by his faithful servant of many years was making his way home across the frozen steppes of Russia in a dogsled. They had traveled many, many miles across the barren wastes and were now but twenty miles or so from home, when the servant spied something which, indeed, brought great terror to their hearts. About a mile or two behind them they could make out the form of a huge pack of wolves that had scented them and was now descending upon them. They gave the reins to the dogs, cracked their whips, and shouted whatever the Russian equivalent of ‘mush’ is. The dogs strained their muscles and tried to go faster. Yet, irresistibly, the wolf pack closed the gap until finally there were only a hundred or so yards behind them . . .then only fifty . . . then only ten . . . then only five. Their eyes glowed like coals out of hell and their large yellow fangs were visible. The growling deep within their throats and the panting noises of their breathing, could be heard as they drew closer and closer. There was no hope; there was no place of escape. Suddenly, the servant threw himself off backward from the dogsled, with predictable results. The onrushing pack converged and stopped, tearing the servant to pieces while his master escaped. I thought to myself, ‘What a wonderful illustration of love!’ but upon more mature reflection, I realized that it only vaguely glimpsed the real meaning of love. It hardly touched the fringe of its garment. Ah, it would have come closer if the nobleman had thrown himself off for the servant! ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’” (1 John 4:10)

    In both, the doctrine of eternal torment, and the doctrine of annihilation is an element quite foreign to our Father’s plan of redemption, that of man’s choice. We forget so quickly that when our Father Abraham cut his covenant with the Maker of us all, he, Abraham fell asleep. It has always been a one sided covenant. In the garden of Gethsemane, again, the faithful fell asleep. The arm of salvation is the Lord’s and none other. It is all of Him, including and especially the decision. He subjected creation to futility and He will restore it. And the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former house. It is time to put our pride away and give Him true worship and honor. “Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalm 127:1) We are His workmanship. How quickly we forget. He finds the lost sheep, and He loses none. Believe it, little lost sheep. Another love story taken from Eby’s God is Love will illustrate the point.

    “While reflecting upon the parental love of God, a story came to mind that I read some months ago. In this story a man who was entirely careless of spiritual things died and went to hell. And he was much missed on earth by his old friends. His business manager went down to the gates of hell to see if there were any chance of bringing him back. But, though he pleaded for the gates to be opened, the iron bars never yielded. His cricket captain went also and besought Satan to let him out for just the remainder of the season. But there was no response. His minister went also and argued, saying, ‘He was not altogether bad. Let him have another chance. Let him out just this once.” Many other friends of his went also and pleaded with Satan saying, ‘Let him out, let him out, let him out.’ But when his mother came, she spoke no word of his release. Quietly, and with a strange catch in her voice, she said to Satan, ‘Let me in.’ And immediately the great doors swung open upon their hinges. For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the damned! Our Father and God, incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ, holds in His nail-pierced hand the keys to death and hell. O grave, where is they victory? O gates of hell, thou shalt not prevail, for the Redeemer of Israel and the Savior of the world, the God who is LOVE holds in His triumphant hand they key!

    This is how the doctrine of eternal torment and the doctrine of annihilation will come to an end. There is no true victory in either teaching, not for The God Who is Love. In fact, it has already ended. Have you not heard, “It is finished!”I ask you to prayerfully humble yourself and meditate with all earnestness on the following scripture. Pride will keep one out of this realm, so I encourage you to ask our Father to “destroy” your pride before you read this scripture.

    “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, no in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.’”

    I would like to point out an interesting observation regarding the teaching of the doctrine of “annihilation.” The two leading denominations of the teaching, (Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists) had their origins in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It was at this time evolution destroyed many peoples faith. Many denominations lost thousands of members. One of the principles of evolution is the possibility of matter being created apart from God. That everything came out of nothing. This principle made it easier for people to accept the doctrine of annihilation, which is a return to nothing, total destruction. However, the scriptures are very clear there is no thing that is not:

    “out of Him, and through Him, and unto Him.” (Rom. 11:36) And again, “For by Him were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist . . . For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Col. 1:16-20) And again, for a triple confirmation, “for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (1 Cor. 8:6)

    No, things do not come out of nothing, as evolutionists conclude, all things come out of God. Will He take a part of Himself and utterly destroy it or will all things return unto Him through Jesus Christ? Consider this very carefully as you read through the rest of this article. Another point I would like you to consider is this: When we have a pet that becomes so ill that we feel it would be better to end it’s life, we say things like, “It would be best for the cat if we put it to sleep.” While this may sound very humane, the fact is, we are killing the cat. Many who embrace the utter destruction of millions of human beings, use terms such as “Conditional Mortality” and “Eternal Death.” They get uncomfortable when someone uses plain speech like, “God is going to annihilate, utterly destroy, ‘nuke’ or disintegrate them.” Why do they feel uncomfortable inside? Could it be their conscience telling them their doctrine is wrong? Could it be that dozens of scriptures pass through their minds like “love your enemies,” and “love never fails,” etc. And they find themselves repulsed by their own beliefs? You see, if annihilation is a true doctrine, then all the butchers of the world like Hitler begin to become justified by God actions. If God can burn to death His enemies, and we are made in His image, then Hitler was just conforming to the image of God. After all, the Jews were Hitler’s “enemies.” When bloody Mary killed thousands of Protestants, it has been said her comment was something to the effect of, “I only do here on earth what my God will do to them in Heaven.” Our concept of God will be acted out in our daily actions here on earth. Be very careful in formulating a concept (image) of God. You may become just like it. Now if your image of the Creator is One Who wants to, can, and will win all of His enemies through His love, then we will begin to conform to that image. Which image will make this world a better place to live in? I think the answer is obvious.

    We must ask our Father to destroy “pride” in us because it is religious pride which makes us think we are receiving from the Holy Spirit when if fact we are receiving from the mind of man. Think the highest thought of the Creator, and that thought will fall short of His glory. Surely, annihilation and eternal torment fall very short of the glory of the All Powerful and Loving Father which He is. These teachings line up very nicely with the history of man ruling over man, don’t you think? That is truly the source of these monstrous doctrines, the carnal, vain, mind of man. It is full of all manner of unclean thoughts which will one day be consumed in the lake of fire.

    Now read and study the following scriptures and allow your spirit to soar to heavenly heights as the Spirit of Truth guides you into the riches of His kingdom and His love for you, your family, your friends, and the enemies in your mind.

    1. 1Tim 2:4 God will have all to be saved. (KJV) Can His will be thwarted?
    2. 1Tim 2:4 God desires all to come to the knowledge of truth Will His desire come to pass?
    3. 1Tim 2:6 Salvation of all is testified in due time Are we judging God before due time?
    4. Jn 12:47 Jesus came to save all Will He succeed?
    5. Eph 1:11 God works all after the counsel of His will Can your will overcome His?
    6. Jn 4:42 Jesus is Savior of the world Can He be Savior of all without saving all?
    7. 1Jn 4:14 Jesus is Savior of the world Why don’t we believe it?
    8. Jn 12:32 Jesus will draw all mankind unto Himself To roast or to love?
    9. Col 1:16 By Him all were created Will He lose a part of His creation?
    10. Rm 5:15-21 In Adam all condemned, in Christ all live The same all?
    11. 1Cor 15:22 In Adam all die, in Christ all live Again, the same all?
    12. Eph 1:10 All come into Him at the fullness of times Are you getting tired of seeing the word, all?
    13. Phl 2:9-11 Every tongue shall confess Jesus is Lord Will the Holy Spirit be given to everyone?
    14. 1 Cor 12:3 Cannot confess except by Holy Spirit See what I mean?
    15. Rm 11:26 All Israel will be saved But most Jews don’t believe yet!
    16. Acts 3:20,21 Restitution of all How plain can you get?
    17. Luke 2:10 Jesus will be joy to all people Is there joy is “hell”?
    18. Heb 8:11,12 All will know God How long, O Lord?
    19. Eph 2:7 His grace shown in the ages to come Have we judged Him before the time?
    20. Titus 2:11 Grace has appeared to all Experientially to prophetically?
    21. Rm 8:19-21 Creation set at liberty How much of creation?
    22. Col 1:20 All reconciled unto God There’s that word “all” again.
    23. 1Cor 4:5 All will have praise of God What for?
    24. Jms 5:11 End of the Lord is full of mercy Is “hell” mercy?
    25. Rev 15:4 All nations worship when God’s judgments are seen Could His judgment be mercy?
    26. Rm 11:32 All subject to unbelief, mercy on all All?
    27. Rm 11:36 All out of, through, and into Him All into Him?
    28. Eph 4:10 Jesus will fill all things Including “hell?”
    29. Rev 5:13 All creation seen praising God Including Satan?
    30. 1Cor 15:28 God will be all in all What does that mean, preacher?
    31. Rev 21:4,5 No more tears, all things made new “All” made new?
    32. Jn 5:25 All dead who hear will live How many will hear?
    33. Jn 5:28 All in the grave will hear & come forth How will the “righteous” judge, judge?
    34. 1 Cor 3:15 All saved, so as by fire How can fire save you?
    35. Mk 9:49 Everyone shall be salted with fire Including you?
    36. Rm 11:15 Reconciliation of the world Will fire save the world instead of destroy it?
    37. 2Cor 5:15 Jesus died for all Did He died in vain?
    38. Jn 8:29 Jesus always does what pleases His Father What pleases the Father? (1Tim 2:4)
    39. Heb 1:2 Jesus is Heir of all things Does “things” include people?
    40. Jn 3:35 All has been given into Jesus’ hands Can you accept this?
    41. Jn 17:2 Jesus gives eternal life to all that His Father gave Him How many did the Father give Him?
    42. Jn 13:35 The Father gave Him all things Study the word “things” in the Greek.
    43. 1 Tim 4:9-11 Jesus is Savior of all! Can’t seem to get away from that word “all.”
    44. Heb. 7:25 Jesus is able to save to the uttermost How far is “uttermost?”
    45. 1Cor 15:26 Last enemy, death, will be destroyed Including “lake of fire” which is “second death?”
    46. Is 46:10 God will do all His pleasure Does Old Testament agree with the New?
    47. Gen 18:18 All families of the earth will be blessed Here comes that word “all” again.
    48. Dan 4:35 God’s will done in heaven and earth What can defeat His will?
    49. Ps 66:3,4 Enemies will submit to God Can any stay rebellious in “hell?”
    50. Ps 90:3 God turns man to destruction, then says return How can one return from “destruction?”
    51. Is 25:7 Will destroy veil spread over all nations All nations?
    52. Deut 32:39 He kills and makes alive Kills to bring life?
    53. Ps 33:15 God fashions all hearts “All” hearts, including men like “Hitler?”
    54. Prv 16:9 Man devises, God directs his steps What about “free will?”
    55. Prv 19:21 Man devises, but God’s counsel stands So much for “free will.”
    56. La 3:31,32 God will not cast off forever Why does He cast off in the first place? (1 Cor 11)
    57. Is 2:2 All nations shall flow to the Lord’s house “All” nations?
    58. Ps 86:9 All nations will worship Him “All” nations!
    59. Is 45:23 All descendants of Israel justified Including the wicked ones?
    60. Ps 138:4 All kings will praise God Are you catching on?
    61. Ps 65:2-4 All flesh will come to God That sounds wondrous.
    62. Ps 72:18 God only does wondrous things I wish we would believe that.
    63. Is 19:14,15 Egypt & Assyria will be restored Really?
    64. Ezk 16:55 Sodom will be restored to former estate Sounds impossible.
    65. Jer 32:17 Nothing is too difficult for Him Nothing? No, nothing!
    66. Ps 22:27 All ends of the earth will turn to Him For what purpose?
    67. Ps 22:27 All families will worship before Him Praise His name!
    68. Ps 145:9 He is good to all Including your worst enemies.
    69. Ps 145:9 His mercies are over all his works Let’s start believing that.
    70. Ps 145:14 He raises all who fall Who hasn’t fallen in sin?
    71. Ps 145:10 All His works will praise Him For “eternal torment?”
    72. Is 25:6 Lord makes a feast for all people And you are invited.
    73. Jer 32:35 Never entered His mind to torture his children with fire This came from the carnal mind.
    74. Jn 6:44 No one can come to Him unless He draws them You can’t “chose” to follow Him.
    75. Jn 12:32 I will draw all mankind unto Myself Amen!!!
    76. Ps 135:6 God does what pleases Him If it pleases Him to save all that He might be in all, are you upset?

    The death of living for sin, error, missing the mark, is the second death. The death of deathly living which was inherited from Adam. The glory of our lives living in Adam, in our sinful nature falls far short of the Glory of living in a sinless life, no error, hitting the mark. The Glory of the Latter House will be far greater than the glory of the former house, not only in terms of quantity, but in terms of quality. The covering the Adam had was far from the Glory that Jesus has. Jesus’ covering is our True covering. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)If we do not put off the flesh, the Sword in His mouth will cut us in half and as with the animals Abram offered, the fire of the Almighty will consume it. The law of death in our members will be utterly destroyed, but we live, as a result of the second death, the death to death. The fiery Word of God will eventually find us out and we will finally live to bring true glory to our Wonderful, Awesome, and Loving Father through our Life in Jesus Christ, His Son.

    “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as you have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true god, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

    And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. (John 17:3-5)

    The Father loves the Son and has put everything in His Hands. (John 3:35, NIV)

    The Father and the Son have Glorified One another. Can we give them more glory than “eternal torture” and “eternal death?” Jesus came to destroy death. His last enemy is death. To be carnally minded is death. Pray for the death of your death, that you might see and live in the glorious liberty of the sons of God. This is your inheritance. We may partake of your aionian life today. Believe, and watch the grave stone roll off the mind of death . . .the carnal mind which prevents one from truly bringing glory to our Father.

    “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctified Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:18-21)

    “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:5,6)

    Are we abiding in Him, or in our works? What is death? Death is anything that we do that does not come from abiding in Him. We were created unto good works prepared for us in Him. If we draw from that well and manifest it in the world, we are alive to Christ and dead to the flesh (self works). But if we are building religious kingdoms, no matter how small, we are drawing our glory from the earthy which is death. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Righteousness, Peace, and Joy, in the Holy Spirit. Gifts, fruit of the Spirit, good works that do not produce pride and self-righteousness. A servant’s heart that does not grumble. Do you know these things? Rivers of living waters flowing out of our bellies. If this all sounds foreign to you, then come to the fire. He will cleanse you of all death, dead works which are so wearisome. Take His yoke upon you for His burden is light and His yoke is easy and enter into His labors that you may find rest for your soul. Let His Word divide your heart into soul and spirit. Then let the All-consuming Fire of the Father and Son, the smoking furnace and the burning lamp consume all that is not of Them that you might live in the realm of true Glory.

    Some of the primary written works used to promote the teaching of conditionalism are The Fire That Consumes by Edward Fudge, The Conditional Faith of Our Fathers by Leroy Froom, and Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead by Oscar Cullman. Theologian John Stott has also written on the subject although it is difficult to ascertain his exact beliefs on the subject. We hope the material enclosed in this article is sufficient to prove the Bible does NOT teach eternal death, it teaches the restoration of all things — it teaches the Victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Savior of ALL mankind, loser of none.

    One will find most adherents to conditionalism belonging to denominations and movements springing out of the Millerite movement of the eighteen century. Denominations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Bible Students Groups like Epiphany and Dawn and millenianists like Christian Millenial Fellowship, Sacred or Holy Name groups like Assembly of Yahweh. Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God and all its splinter groups taught conditionalism. Recently the main branch of the original Worldwide Church of God changed their beliefs on the afterlife to line up more with the traditional Evangelical model.

    For more writings on the subject of what happens to the dead, visit Tentmaker’s Scholars Corner that contains dozens of fine articles and books on punishment, heaven, hell, salvation, etc.

    Gary Amirault on March 7th, 2011



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    1. Retribution.–The Great Discussion at Hand.—Temporal Retribution.—The Mosaic Law.—Causes leading the Jews to a Belief of Eternal Retribution.—Its Full Development in the Age of the Maccabees.

    2. Opinions in the Age of the Maccabees.–?Influence on the Jews of Egyptian, Persian, and Greek Systems.–Persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes.–?The Age of War, Martyrdom, and Glorious Heroism.­Full Belief in Eternal Retributions

    by the Biases and their Teachers.

    3. The Age of the Maccabees.–?Three Systems as to the Destiny of the Wicked.—Character of the Age in the Gentile World. -Celebrated Jews.–Historical Documents .

    4. Origin of Jewish Views of Future Retribution not from Egypt, or Persia, or Greece, but from their own Scriptures, Historical Facts, and Religious Experience.—Persian Theology and Prayers for the Dead.–Their Doctrine of the Final Purification of the Wicked, and Annihilation of Ahriman and his Angels.

    5. Eight Historical Proofs of the Jewish Origin of their Doctrine of Retribution.–Influence of the Translation of Enoch and Elijah on the Maccabees.- Sublime Death?Scene.–The Book of Enoch.–Its Great Power.

    6. Views of the Patriarchs and of Moses as to Future Retributions.–Statements of the Epistle to the Hebrews.–Egyptian Immortality and Retribution transcended by Moses and the Patriarchs.–Belief in the Resurrection.–Its Origin.

    7. David, the Psalms, and the Prophets.–Development in them, through Religious Experience, of the Hope of Future Re­wards.–Retribution threatened to the Wicked, yet not definite as to Duration.–The Resurrection.­Grounds of Belief in Immortality.–Comparison of the Psalms and the Zend Avesta.

    8. From the Maccabees to the Christian Ages.–A Full Belief in Immortality and Future Retributions not first produced by Christianity.–ItEexisted in all its Forms in the Age of the Maccabees, and Powerfully Affected the Christina Ages.–Philo and Annihilation.

    9. Development of Universal Restoration.–The Sibylline Oracles.–Their Great Influence on the Church.–Recognition of them in the Celebrated Judgment Hymn.–The Judgment.–The Doom of the Wicked.–?Their Punishment in Rivers of Fire.–Their Misery.–The Compassion and Intercession of the Saints move God to purify and save the Lost.-?Great Influence on Augustine of this Idea.–He States it without Reply.

    10. Endless Punishment Developed in one Form in the Book of Enoch. ?-Not based on the Fall of Adam, but of the Angels.–His System developed.–The Judgment.­–Endless Doom of the Wicked a Punishment by Fire.­–Great Influence of this Book in the First and Second Centuries.

    11. Eternal Punishment in Another Form.–Based on the Fall in Adam.–Mode of Presentation.–A Dialogue between God and Ezra.–Ezra assails the Doctrine, on this Basis, as Horrible.–God is Represented as Replying, but has the Worst of the Argument.–Ezra Saga that no System would be better than such a System, but is Silenced and Submits.–The Resurrection and Judgment described.

    12. Contemporaries of Christ.–Three Great Jewish Centres.– to Existing Opinions as to Retribution.–­The Evangelists.–Paul, Josephus.- Preexistence and Transmigration.–The Pharisees, According to Josephus, Held to Endless Punishment.

    13. Christian Ages.–Apostolic Fathers.–Conflict as to their Testimony.–Four Theories.–\V. E. H. Lecky.–Prof. Shedd, Constable, and Hudson.–Dr. Ballou.–Deficiency of Evidence.

    14. The Words of Christ in the Judgment.–The Need of Witnesses as to their Import, to Prove the Understanding of that Age.–Aristotle Summoned by the Defenders of Eternal Punishment.–Point to be Proved by him.–His Testimony Considered.–He has been Falsely Translated.– He Refutes those who have Summoned him.

    15. Appeal to the Ancient Greeks by Aristotle.–Their Testimony Considered.–It Tefutes those who have Summoned Aristotle as their Witness.–Its Import given.

    16. Testimony of the Later Greeks.–Transitions of Meaning in Aion.–Philosophical Nomenclature.-­Ultimate result.

    17. The Septuagint.–Its Origin, Extensive Use, and Authority.–It Testifies against Eternity as the Original and Primary Sense of Aion, and Illustrates the Formation of Aionios and its True Sense.

    18. The Coincident View of Dr. Taylor Lewis as to Aionios.–Views Unfolded.–His Witness the Peshito.- Great Authority of that Version of the New Testament.–Its Testimony Decisive.

    19. Testimony of the Ancient Creeds.–They Sustain Dr. Lewis.- Testimony of the Emperor Justinian also, and that of the Philosopher Olympiodorus, Strongly Sustain him.–Conclusion.

    20. Age of Free Thought and Inquiry.–Great Facts.–The Words of Christ were not Understood to Teach the Endlessness of Punishment, or any Particular Theory.–The Preceding Writings had Advocated Different Views.–There were no Creeds or Fathers; hence Men Thought and Spoke Freely as to Punishment.–They were absorbed, too, in Other Themes.–These stated.

    21. Origen and his Age.–A Mountain Top of Vision.–Origen at Alexandria a Leading Teacher in the Great Catechetical School.–Founder of Scientific Theology.- System based on Preexistence and results in Universal Restoration.–His Elevated Character, Life, and Labors.–Testimonies to him.–­Character of his Age Contrasted with that of Justinian.

    22. Early Theological Schools.–Dr. Shedd’s View.–The Real Facts.–Of six Schools Four Taught Universal Restoration, one Annihilation, and one Eternal Punishment.–The Restorationists were Orthodox and Devotedly Pious.–Theodore of Mopsuestia.–Testimony of Dorner to him.- The Schools Enumerated and Characterized.

    23. Irenaeus and the School of John.–His General View of the Final Issue of all Things.–God will Annihilate all Evil and Pollutions, and Restore all Things to Harmony.–The Mode of Effecting this.–The Ultimate Annihilation of the Wicked.–Vain Attempts to Neutralize his Testimony.

    24. Justin Martyr and Arnobius Teach Annihilation.–Their Lives and Character.–Their Systems.–Vain Attempts to Neutralize the Testimony of Justin.

    25. The Systems of Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia Compared.–Their Respective Spheres of influence.–Theodore Anticipates Dr. Bushnell in some Points.–His Views Stated.–The Liturgy Composed for the Nestorians by him.–It teaches Universal Restoration.

    26. Relations of Theodore and the Nestorians to Asia.–Their Field of Labor.–They and the Jacobites Outnumbered the Greek and Latin Churches United.–The Intelligence, Enterprise, and Missionary Zeal of the Nestorians. -Influence on the Arabs, and on the World through them.

    27. Fate of Origen While Living and of his Character and Doctrine after his Death.–Not Assailed during his Life  for Universal Restoration, nor for Some Time after his  Death.–At last, in the Sixth Century, he and his Doctrine Anathematized by the Emperor Justinian.

    28. The School of Africa and Aionios.–­Characteristics of this  School.–Learned in Latin and Ignorant of Greek.–Its Theology Animated by the Ideas of Roman Law.–Augustine the Leading Mind.–His Argument for Eternal Punishment.–His Assertion as to Aionios refuted.- The Latin Forms of Aion Considered.

    29. Names of other Restorationists.–Clement of Alexandria,  Didymus of Alexandria, Jerome , Eusebius Pamphilus,  Theodoret, Ambrosiaster, Macrina, Pamphilus.–Thir­teen Others Eminent, but less Known.

    30. Esoteric Believers in Universal Restoration Characterized.- Views of Neander as to Chrysostom and Gregory of  Nazianzum.–­Relations and Acts of Athanasius and Basil the Great.–What they did and what they did not do, and its Significance.

    31. The Period before Origen.–Historic Character.–Deficiency of Materials.–­Apostolic Fathers- who?–Their Testimony.–Apologists: their Testimony.–Some say Nothing, Others do not Agree.

    32. General Councils on Universal Restoration.–Never Condemned by a General Council.–Endless Punishment in no Ecumenical Creed.–Fate of the Nestorians.–­John of Damascus.

    33. Answers to Inquiries.–My Position in Former Years.–In Some Points a Change, in Others not.

    34. Possible Results of the Facts stated as to Investigation,  Piety, and Fellowship.–Is the Question insoluble?

    35. Has THE CHURCH Decided the Question?

    36. What should be done? -Make the Church Holy and Near to God, and Thoroughly Investigate the Meaning, Relations, and Reasons of the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment as now Held, in the Light of the Word of God.

    37. A Lesson from these Facts as to Liberty, Spirit, and Methods.


    1. Christ and the Testimony of Josephus.

    2. Origen and Universal Restoration.

    3. Dr. Tayler Lewis and the Critics.

    4. Olympiodorus and aionios.

    5. Theophilus and Restoration.

    6. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Gregory of Nyssa.

    7. Augustine and the Sibylline Verses.

    8. Life of the World to Come.




    No idea is more universal among men than retribution.  The laws of the material world exert a retributive power, rewarding those who regard and obey them and punishing those who disobey.  So also the laws of all social organizations involve retribution.  It is found in the family, in the school, in the social circle, in business, and in the state.

    Retribution, also, has been believed to exist in the various systems of supernatural powers which men in various ages and climes have accepted as true.  Under these systems some things are required and some things forbidden, and rewards and punishments are expected in accordance with obedience or disobedience.

    If the idea of retribution is carried into a future life, and to this the idea of eternity is added, it becomes a motive of supreme, all-controlling power, for what is this short life compared with eternity?

    Moreover, if the power of assigning the retributions of eternal joy or woe is believed to reside in a certain order of men, then this belief invests them with terrific sway.  Such was the fearful influence once wielded by papal excommunications and interdicts.  The power of priesthoods and governments has for ages rested on such convictions.  The most terrible despotisms under which men have ever groaned have had this basis.

    It is, therefore, a matter of great moment to understand the real system of the universe under which we live, and the real retributions which we are to expect.  For this true knowledge we are dependent on the Word of God.  Nor do we rely upon it in vain.  Nothing is more full than divine revelation on this subject.  And yet there is far from being unanimity of views among those who follow this standard.  And though the subject has been often discussed, yet it is thought by some learned and pious divines that the full energy of investigation in the Church has never yet been put forth on this subject, and that a more profound discussion is needed and is at hand


    A Profound Discussion Inevitable.

    Prof. Schaff, of Union Theological Seminary, eminent alike for learning and piety, seems to think thus.  In his “History of the Apostolic Church” he speaks as follows:  ”Each period of Church history is called to unfold and place in a clear light a particular aspect of doctrine to counteract a corresponding error; till the whole circle of Christian truth shall have been traversed in its natural order.”  He illustrates this as to the Trinity, the person of Christ, the depravity of man, and the system of redemption.  He then adds:  ”In our times the doctrine concerning the Church seems to be more and more challenging the attention of theologians.  And finally, Eschatology, or the Doctrine of the Last Things, will have its turn.”  There is a profound reason why the radical discussion of future retribution should come last, for that retribution is the final issue of the whole system, and, to explain and justify it, all false conceptions of God must have been exposed and his true character revealed, the highest forms of the principles of honor, justice, sympathy, and love, must have been disclosed and invested with divine authority, and the preceding system as a whole, and in all its parts, have been understood and vindicated.  This is the most profound and all-comprehending work to which the mind of man can be summoned.  To this all things are now tending.  Nothing can be more evident than that a peculiar, profound, and universal interest is felt on the subject of future retribution, and that, to prepare for the coming investigation, a careful review of past discussions and opinions is indispensable.  In the common histories of doctrine, such as those of Munscher, Hagenbach, Neander, and Shedd, the history of the doctrine of retribution is not considered at all under this title.  Neither is it so considered under any title as to include more than one part of the Scripture doctrine of retribution.  So far as it is treated, it is included under the head Eschatology.  By this is meant, as stated by Dr. Schaff, the doctrine as to the last things, or the winding up of the present system.  Viewed thus it includes death, the world of spirits, the final coming of Christ, the last judgment, and the retributions of the world to come.

    Temporal Retribution in the Old Testament.

    This mode of viewing the subject is defective, in that it omits a large and important part of the Scriptural doctrine of retribution.  The only form of retribution prominently presented in the Old Testament as existing for four thousand years was temporal, and did not refer to the spirit-world and a future state.  This, the common histories of doctrine omit, and consider only the doctrine concerning the retributions of the future state.

    Of this omission one important effect has been to take from the divine system of temporal retributions the importance and influence which God once assigned to it, and to produce a tendency to entirely overlook it, and to concentrate the thoughts on the retributions of the eternal state.  But certainly temporal retributions must have been, in the judgment of God, an element of great power, and well worth of attentive consideration, or he would not have mainly derived the motives of his revealed government from them for four thousand years.

    These remarks on the predominance of temporal retributions in the Old Testament are not meant to affirm or imply that there was not some belief in a future state and its retributions, among the Old Testament saints, going beyond any express revelations of the Mosaic law, and disclosing itself in their recorded experience.

    What is meant is this:  that in the law of Moses, taken as a law, a rule of life, individual and national, there is not one motive derived from a future state and its retributions.  All is derived from this world and the present life.  The same also is true of the Patriarchal dispensation, and of the world before the flood.

    It is true that the Christian Fathers carry back to the retributions of the Old Testament their ideas of future retribution.  This is owing to the fact that the analogical relations of this material system to the spiritual world are such that these punishments may be intended as types of spiritual punishments.  Thus, natural disease and death may be types of spiritual disease and death; natural defeat and bondage, of spiritual defeat and bondage; natural darkness, of spiritual darkness; natural fire, of spiritual fire.  But, even it is so, nothing is expressly said about it in the Law of Moses.  The system of temporal punishments is set forth without any express reference whatever to the spiritual world and a future state.  Nevertheless, the analogies are often so striking that, in after-ages, they have been extensively regarded as types and shadows of coming events in the spiritual world.  Thus the judgments of God on Pharaoh, and the redemption of Israel out of Egypt, have been regarded as types of God’s judgments on the great adversary, and the redemption of the Church.  Yet of this the Law of Moses says nothing.

    It may have been God’s purpose, as suggested by Fairbairn, since the Mosaic dispensation was typical, to keep always within the typical sphere of the material world, so as not to mingle the two spheres, and anticipate the spiritual dispensation.  This may be the reason why no direct reference is made to the spiritual world and the future life, even when otherwise we should expect it.  But, whatever that reason may be, I shall not attempt to develop it, but, following Moses, shall, in considering his system, keep within the temporal sphere.

    As a general fact, we little realize how long this world was under the system of temporal retributions.  It is not yet four thousand years from Abraham to our day.  How long is such a period to us!  But from Adam to Christ was fully four thousand years.  In these years there was a long progress of thought and of revelation.  In order to form any distinct conception of it, we need to unfold it somewhat, and not, as is often done, to attempt to present in one comprehensive summary what is called the teaching of the Old Testament.

    The four thousand years before Christ, according to the common chronology, may be divided into five periods.  The first, of two thousand years, from Adam to Abraham; the second, of five hundred years, from Abraham to Moses; the third, of five hundred years, from Moses to Solomon; the fourth, of five hundred years, from Solomon to the return from the captivity in Babylon; the fifth, of five hundred years, from the return from the captivity to Christ.

    Without going into detail, the outline or illustration of temporal retributions during these periods will next be set forth.


    Natural Death Pronounced on Adam.

    In the first period, the first and most striking instance of retribution was the sentence of natural death pronounced upon Adam and Eve for their transgression.  This sentence, as interpreted by Paul, included in its scope all their posterity.

    Great efforts have been made under dogmatic influences to carry back the idea of spiritual death to the sentence pronounced on Adam and his race.  But that sentence is its own interpreter. ”Till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”  The Jewish writers of the Alexandrine period and the Greek Fathers took this view, and their interpretation is confirmed by the Apostle Paul.  Any other view is contrary to the whole genius of the Old Testament typical dispensation.

    Another instance of threatened retribution was the future punishment of the tempter by the seed of the woman, of which more will be said hereafter.  It is the first hint of a redeeming and avenging Messiah, which, in after-ages, was so fully developed as the central theme of revelation.

    The deluge, also, was threatened and inflicted by God during this period.  To this divine retribution our Saviour emphatically refers as an illustration and warning of coming judgments on Jerusalem.

    Temporal Motives Addressed to the Jews.

    In the second period occurred the judgment of God on Sodom and Gomorrah, to which our Saviour also refers, as a solemn warning to the men of his age, in view of the impending ruin of Jerusalem.  In the third period were the divine judgments on Egypt, the redemption of the Israelites from bondage, and the development of the Mosaic economy in the wilderness, and the establishment of the nation in Canaan.  It is not wonderful that the civil and criminal law of the nation thus established should be sustained by temporal retributions.  But it is very remarkable that the providential rewards of  fidelity to God and his system were derived entirely from the material sphere.  If the nation was loyal and obedient, God promised that they should have health, long life, fruitful seasons, military ascendency among the nations, national wealth, honor, and power.  If disobedient and idolatrous, God threatened that they should be scourged by famine, disease, defeat in war, captivity, poverty, shame, and contempt.  The powers of language are exhausted in giving intensity to these motives.  A brief experiment easily made will bring the whole subject before the mind, and for the sake of vividness of conception it is well to make it.  Let any one read attentively the twenty-sixth chapter of Leviticus, and then ask, What are the rewards and punishments by which God here sought to induce the Israelites to obey?  Is there any allusion to a future life and eternal retributions?  Do they not relate to fruitful seasons and health, and victory in war, and the protecting presence of God, on the one hand, and drought, famine, disease, defeat, captivity, and death, on the other?  Then read the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy – a still longer and more earnest and eloquent chapter, full of promises and threatenings – and see if one can be found that does not relate to this life.  In that whole chapter we shall find not one reference to a future life, not one motive derived from it.  The same is true of the whole law.

    During the wanderings of the nation in the wilderness, temporal rewards and punishments were always close at hand, of the most powerful kind.  During the period of the Judges, the fortunes of the nation varied with their obedience or rebellion, as God had threatened.  The ascendency of the kingdom under David was the result of fidelity and obedience to God.  The division and decline of the nation in the fourth period, and their final ruin, were owing to the apostacy of Solomon, and to subsequent relapses into idolatry, till the ten tribes were led captive by the King of Assyria, and the rest by the King of Babylon.

    The great prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, in all their warnings of the apostatizing nation, did not refer to future punishments in the spirit-world, or to redemption from them, but to the terrors of the siege, of famine, of the capture of the city, and of captivity in a strange land, or to redemption from such captivity.

    In the fifth period, after the return from the captivity until Christ, the system of temporal retributions was still pursued, and finally culminated in the terrible destruction of Jerusalem, in anticipation of which the Saviour wept.


    Temporal Retribution Taught by Christ.

    It is worth of special notice that, although he had the most vivid conceptions of future punishment, he yet confined himself in his prediction of coming retribution on Jerusalem to the temporal sphere, as did Moses.  Listen to his words:  ”And when he was come near, he beheld the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this, thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.  For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall dash thee to the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”

    In addition to the special theoretical government of the Jews, God represents himself as administering a providential government during the ages over the surrounding nations of Egypt, Assyria, Tyre, Moab, Edom, and the like, and inflicting on them temporal retributions.

    But, if we examine this whole governmental system for four thousand years so far as express promises or threats are concerned, we cannot infer from it any knowledge or thought of a future life, or of any retributions beyond this world.

    How Was Belief in Future Life Developed?

    Nevertheless, there was in fact a course of feeling and thought on the subject of a future life, during all these ages, which had finally culminated in well-defined opinions as to retributions in a future life before Christ came.

    It is not often realized, but it is true, that in the last period, during the persecutions of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes, one hundred and seventy years before Christ, a spirit of martyrdom was developed, based on an open-eyed vision of the resurrection, a future life, and eternal rewards, which was not exceeded even by the glorious martyrs after Christ.  This wonderful development of a full belief of eternal rewards in a future world must have been the result of powerful antecedent causes, the accumulated force of which, during the Old Testament dispensation, was thus finally developed.

    Of the facts there can be no doubt.  They are fully developed in trustworthy and universally accredited historical records.  They are facts that cannot be ignored, and that demand a thorough investigation of the causes of such wonderful results.

    It is necessary now to consider these causes, and the mode of their operation.  There is an intimate connection between this inquiry and the development of opinion on the doctrine of retribution, both at and after the days of Christ.




    In the preceding chapter, a general view has been given of God’s system of retribution.  It appears that by Moses, as a lawgiver, he made no revelation of a future state, and no appeal to its retributions, but derived his rewards and punishments entirely from this life.

    From this many have inferred that there was among the Jews no knowledge or belief of a future life.  In opposition to this view, we alleged that there were causes among the pious Jews leading to a belief of a future life and its retributions, growing out of a covenant with God, and their personal experience and habits of communion with him, and confirmed by certain prominent and sublime events of their history.  In proof of this, the great fact was alleged that in the days of the Maccabees, nearly two centuries before Christ, there was developed among the Jews a clear conception and a firm belief of the doctrine of the resurrection, and of the retributions of a future life, a belief of such power that it sustained illustrious heroes in the torments of most cruel martyrdom.  These facts are of such fundamental importance that they deserve a more full development.  Moreover, the age and circumstances in which they occurred call for particular consideration, if we would thoroughly understand the thinking of subsequent ages.

    Point of Vision.

    It is for this reason that we shall make the age of the Maccabees a point of vision for the whole history.  It is a remarkable point in many respects.  It is the beginning of Jewish theological and religious writing outside of the Bible.  Before this time there was the Bible alone.  We, at this day, can hardly conceive of such a state of things.  The Bible is now so imbedded in commentaries and systems of theology by the Fathers, the Scholastic divines, the Reformers, and the modern sects, that it is quite overshadowed by them.  But up to this point the Old Testament stands in sublime majesty and solitude, overshadowed by nothing.  But here, human comments, reasonings, inferences, and developments, begin to make their appearance.

    It is no less remarkable as making the completion of the circuit of those great periods of foreign influences to which the Jews were, in the providence of God, exposed, and by which it has been alleged that their religious thinking was greatly affected.

    Egyptian, Persian, and Grecian Periods.

    The first of these periods was during their early captivity in Egypt, in which they came in contact with a clearly-defined doctrine of the immortality of the soul and of future retributions, connected with the theory of the transmigration of souls.  The second was during the captivity of Babylon, and during their subjection to the Persian power.  During this period they came in contact with the system of Zoroaster, of Eastern origin, containing a doctrine of future retributions, involving the resurrection of the body, the eternal reward of the righteous at a future judgment, the temporary punishment and final restoration and purification of wicked men, and the annihilation of evil spirits, so as to harmonize the universe in good.  This system is based on professed direct revelations from God, and not on philosophical speculations.

    The third period was during the Greek power of Alexander and his successors.  During this period they came in contact with a doctrine of the immortality of the soul and of future retributions, based, not on a professed revelation, but on philosophical principles.  It was also, as in Egypt, connected with a doctrine of the transmigration of souls.  In it, also, the doctrine of the preexistence of souls was held, based upon their divine, immortal and eternal nature, they being regarded as a kind of self-existent and immortal divinities.  These views were developed by Plato, and are repeated by Cicero as derived from him.  The first of these periods lasted over two centuries, and terminated in the fifteenth century before Christ.  The second lasted from the Babylonian captivity to the conquests of Alexander, over two centuries, terminating in the fourth century before Christ.  The third lasted till Christ, for the religious and philosophical systems of the Greeks and Romans were substantially the same.  The age of the Maccabees is a part of the third period.  Now, it is certainly remarkable that, though the doctrines of a future life and of eternal retributions are not taught in the law of Moses, yet the Jews were, in the providence of God, so long and so repeatedly brought into contact with various forms of those doctrines that they could not but think of them, and the age of the Maccabees is noteworthy as marking the completion of this great circuit of influences on the Jewish mind.  It is no less remarkable as the point at which we unmistakably meet the first clear and full development among the Jews, and outside of the Bible, of the doctrine of retribution in a future life as an element of all-pervading popular power.  Before this point we have no Jewish theological and religious writing, except what is contained in the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament.  And it has been earnestly debated whether the doctrine of future retribution occurs in the Old Testament at all.  But it cannot be debated whether that doctrine was promulgated at this point, for it was clearly proclaimed – as clearly as at any subsequent time.

    General Plan.

    We shall, therefore, in the first place, clearly prove this statement, and then, from this point of vision, cast our eyes backward and endeavor to trace its river of opinion upward to its source; then returning, we shall trace it downward to Christ, and thence onward through the Christian ages.

    Martyrdom and War.

    The fundamental characteristics of the age of the Maccabees are, in the first place, a great religious persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes, and then a great religious war.  This war, like that under Cromwell, or that of the Netherlands, was based on deep religious convictions, by which a handful of heroes were enabled to encounter and defeat the whole power of the Syrian kingdom of Antiochus, and these convictions were based on eternal retributions.  It was a crisis not only in the history of the Jews, but in that of the religion of the Bible and of humanity.  It affected the Jews, not only in Palestine and Egypt, but throughout the world.  Antiochus, cooperating with a party of Jewish apostates, deliberately undertook to eradicate the religion and religious usages of the Jews, and to replace them by those of Greece.  He repeatedly took Jerusalem, and plundered the temple and massacred the people.  He set up the altar of Jupiter on that of Jehovah, and defiled the temple by sacrifices of swine’s flesh thereon.  He sought to destroy all the copies of the Law of Moses, and punished with death any with whom they were found.  He prohibited not only the temple-service, but the keeping of the Sabbath and circumcision.  Women who circumcised their children were put to a cruel death with their infants.  Edicts commanding these things were published throughout Judea, and officers were appointed to enforce them.  Inasmuch as Christianity was involved in Judaism, this was, by anticipation, a fundamental assault on the kingdom of Christ.  This assault was met first by martyrdom and then by war.  And the story of the heroic warfare of Judas Maccabeus and his brothers in defense of the law of God, the narrative of their victories, defeats, and martyrdoms, resulting in the final independence of the Jews, is inferior in interest, sublimity, and importance, to no history in the language of man.

    A lofty and noble enthusiasm of faith in God and in eternal retributions was developed, from which a great religious reaction toward faith, and the more spiritual observance of the law of God, took its rise, which by sympathy elevated the tone of spiritual Judaism among all the Jews dispersed in all parts of the world.

    Faith in Eternal Retributions.

    This faith in the resurrection and in eternal retributions pervaded the whole army of Judas Maccabeus as thoroughly as it did the army of Cromwell, and was testified by public acts in behalf of those who died in battle, of which we shall elsewhere more fully speak.  It was still more strikingly manifested in the case of the martyrs.  Among these a mother and her seven sons were put to death by Antiochus for refusing to abjure the law of Moses and sacrifice to the gods of Greece.  They endured extreme torments with wondrous and heroic power, through the hope of the resurrection and of eternal life.  The second of the seven martyred brethren said, with his last breath, as he was dying of extreme torments, “Thou, O persecutor, removest us from this present life, but the King of this world will raise us up to everlasting life, since we die for his laws” (2 Macc. vii. 9).  The fourth said to the tyrant:  ”It is a great blessing, when dying by the hands of men, to cherish the hope inspired by God, that we shall be raised up again by him.  But to thee there shall be no resurrection unto life” (2 Macc. vii. 14).

    The heroic mother, after cheering and sustaining her seven sons in the mighty conflict, at last died a triumphant martyr’s death.

    Dogmatic Statements.

    Not only was the belief in immortality and eternal retributions thus set forth in heroic actions and suffering, but it was also embodied in didactic statements.  The author of the Wisdom of Solomon wrote in the second century before Christ, after the establishment of the kingdom of the Maccabees.  He does not refer to these martyrs by name, but no one can doubt that they were before his mind when he wrote the following eloquent unfolding of the doctrine of future retribution and of eternal life:

    “But the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and there shall no torment touch them.  In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction; but they are in peace.  For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality.  And having been a little chastised they shall be greatly rewarded, for God has proved them and found them worthy of himself.  As gold in the furnace hath he tried them; and received them as a burt-offering.  In the time of their visitation they shall shine and kindle a conflagration, as sparks among the dry straw.  They shall judge the nations and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign forever” (Wisdom of Solomon iii. 1-8).

    “But the ungodly shall be punished according to their own imaginations, who have neglected the righteous and forsaken the lord.  He shall rend them and cast them down headlong that they shall be speechless; and he shall shake them from their foundation, and they shall be utterly laid waste and be in sorrow, and their memorial shall perish.  Then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted him and made no account of his labors.

    “When the wicked see it they shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed at the greatness of his salvation.  Repenting and groaning in spirit they shall say, This is he whom we once derided.  We fools accounted his life madness and his end without honor.  But now is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints.”  Then they lament over the extreme brevity and worthlessness of worldly joys.  They are like dust blown away by the wind, like the foam of the ocean scattered by the storm, like smoke dissipated by a tempest.  The writer then proceeds:

    “But the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the Most High.  Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom and a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand” (iii. 10; iv. 19; v. 2-5, 15, 16).

    Retribution on the wicked is then described in sublime, figurative language.

    The right-aiming thunderbolts shall fly to the mark.  Hailstones of wrath shall fall.  Floods and tempests shall sweep them away.

    Can anything be more explicit than this vivid account of a future life and future retributions?  Indeed, the beautiful expression “a hope full of immortality” has been transferred from this passage to the religious language of Christendom.  On the points of modern controversy such as the literal eternity of punishment, or the annihilation of the wicked, the language is not explicit.  Of this we shall say more.  But as to a glorious reward of the righteous, and a fearful punishment of the wicked in the world to come, the testimony is unequivocal.




    We have ascended the chosen mountain-top of thought.  We have seen, in the Maccabean age, the full and vivid development of the doctrine of the resurrection, and of the retributions of a future life.  Standing on this mount of vision, let us survey the present, the past, and the future.  Let us inquire whence came these clear and sublime views of a future life?  Who were these men and these women who thus anticipated the martyr-spirit of the Christian age?  What were their habits of thought?  What their books and historical documents?  What the character of the age?  In short, what means have we of reproducing, in sympathetic forms, the opinions, feelings, and acts, of the men of that age?  We do not feel content with dry dates, or the skeletons of heartless abstractions. We desire to meet them heart to heart, and to sympathize with them in the great conflicts, physical, intellectual, and moral, in which they were called to engage.  Nor is it from mere curiosity that we desire this investigation.  It is indispensable to a thorough historical presentation of the great question which we have undertaken to consider.

    Antecedent Relations.

    For want of it, the history of the doctrine of retribution in the early Christian ages has been presented without a proper regard to its antecedent relations.  In the most common histories of doctrines, such as those of Hagenbach, Neander, and Shedd, the subject is treated as if Christ were the fountain-head of the doctrine of future eternal retributions, and as though the history of opinions on this subject properly begins with him.

    But the fact is that, in the three centuries preceding Christ, nearly or quite every form of the doctrine of future retribution had been developed that was promulgated and defended after Christ.

    Leading Forms of Doctrine.

    The three leading forms promulgated among the early Christians were – 1.  The eternal blessedness of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked.  2.  The eternal blessedness of the righteous and the annihilation of the wicked.  3.  The eternal blessedness of the righteous and the limited remedial punishment of the wicked, resulting in the final restoration to holiness of all fallen beings, and the unity and harmony of the universe in God.  Every one of these doctrines of retribution had been held and defended before Christ came, by the Jews or among them.

    In addition to these, in the early Christian ages the doctrine was promulgated of a conflict between two eternal and self-existent gods; one good, the other evil, each creating a system of his own – a conflict which involved in its issues the eternal duration of evil; though good was, on the whole, to be victorious in the conflict.  This view, though promulgated by men claiming the Christian name, was generally regarded as extra-Christian and heretical.  This view also had been promulgated in the centuries before Christ, and had come in contact with the Jews.  Hence it is clear that the influence of these preceding centuries must have been deeply felt in all the early Christian discussions of the doctrine of retribution.  It was, in fact, so felt.

    Character of the Centuries Before Christ.

    It has also been supposed that the centuries immediately preceding Christ were centuries of relative darkness, since prophecy and revelation ceased soon after the return from captivity, four hundred years before Christ, and in the interval the most important works of a literary kind produced by the Jews were those books entitled Apocryphal, and which by Protestants generally have been undervalued, if not contemned, under that title.  Though intelligent Romanists esteem them more highly as a kind of Deutero-canonical books, yet the masses for the most part do not popularly appreciate them or the centuries during which they were written.

    And yet the five centuries preceding Christ are some of the most remarkable centuries in the history of man, and most highly distinguished for an intense and wide-spread mental activity, in which the Jews participated, especially those at Alexandria.

    Philosophers, Historians, Poets.

    In these centuries flourished such philosophers as Socrates, Plat, and Aristotle, and also, except Homer, the leading poets and historians of Greece.  In the same centuries the great luminaries of Rome arose, in whose light we still walk in our classical studies, such as Cicero, Horace, Virgil, and Livy.  In these centuries was the great scientific and literary development of Alexandria under the Ptolemics.  In this development the language of Greece took the lead, and the fact that the Jewish writings called Apocryphal are in Greek, and not, like the Old Testament, in Hebrew, is a result of that wonderful providence of God, by which the language of the Greek Testament was prepared.

    Alexandria A Great Centre.

    When Alexander founded Alexandria he created not only a great centre of political power, commerce, and wealth, but of literary and scientific development.

    The Museum.

    What was called the Museum was, in fact, a great royal university.  ”To it” (says Draper), “as to a centre, philosophers from all parts of the world converged.  It is said that at one time not fewer than fourteen thousand students were assembled there.”  In it were established two great libraries, which together contained 700,000 volumes.  Here grammar and criticism were developed. Here the inductive sciences were cultivated under the lead of Aristotle.  Here the world-famed Geometry of Euclid was composed.  From this school came such mathematicians, astronomers, and geographers, as Appollonius and Eratosthenes.  Its influences extended to Archimedes and Hipparchus.  Draper says:  ”Astronomical observatories, chemical laboratories, libraries, dissecting-houses, were not in vain.  There went forth from them a spirit powerful enough to tincture all future time.”  In short, the intellectual activity of the Old World came to its highest development in the five centuries before Christ.  In this respect he came in the fullness of time.

    The Bible in Greek.

    In the providence of God, the Jews and their sacred books were brought into the very centre of this great intellectual movement.  When the Ptolemies carried above 100,000 Jews into Egypt they at once felt the power of the surrounding mental excitement, and studied the language, history, and philosophy, of the Greeks.  As a result the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, and thus prepared for universal circulation.  Thus, too, the Alexandrine or Hebraizing Greek of the New Testament was formed.

    Celebrated Jews.

    From this great movement came Philo, the celebrated Jewish commentator on Moses, whose works exerted a world-wide influence both in the Church and out of it; and Josephus, the eminent and well-known Jewish historian.  Both of these lived near the time of Christ, yet they were not formed under his influence, but under that of the preceding ages.

    The Apocrypha.

    What, then, are the writings commonly called Apocryphal?  They are mainly historical and ethical compositions of Jews, to whom the Old Testament was the supreme standard of religious truth.  Besides these there were works of religious fiction, intended to develop religious and patriotic enthusiasm for the institutions of the Jews.

    At the same time they were under the influence of ideas which of necessity had come in through the thinking of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, to whom their nation was subjected in successive centuries.  Hence, in view of the relations of the events of those ages to the future of Christianity, these writings are of great value and profound interest.

    Apocalyptic Literature.

    The same is true of the literature of those ages not commonly called Apocryphal, but rather Apacalyptic; such as the early parts of the Sibylline Oracles, the book of Enoch, the Fourth Book of Ezra, and the like.  Indeed, in these are the most complete statements of the views then held among the Jews of the system revealed in the Old Testament, in its future development and final retributions.  Thus in the book of Enoch there is a very full development of the rewards of the holy and the final punishment of the wicked, as conceived of at that time by a Jew.

    Prejudice Removed.

    I am aware that a prejudice is felt against such apocalyptic works, on account of the moral element involved in the false assumption that they were written by the authors whose names they bear; as, for example, Enoch, or the Sybil.  But without entering into that question, it is enough to say that it does not affect their value for the purpose now contemplated, that is, the throwing of light on the thinking and feeling of the age of their composition.  This may be illustrated by a modern example.  In Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” the angel Michael is represented as giving to Adam a long and tolerably minute prophetic outline of the destinies of his descendants.  It is in form a prophecy; it is in fact a statement of history up to the days of Milton from his theological standpoint.   To this is added Milton’s view of the future destinies of mankind, as coming from the lips of the angel.  As a prophecy all this is of no worth, but it is of great value as throwing light on the opinions of Milton and of the great body of Christians of his age.  In like manner the authors of these apocalyptic works represent the Sybil, or Enoch, or any other prophet, as predicting events according to what the writer held to be the true view.  Regarded thus, they throw very great light on the thinking and feeling of the age in which they were written.  In these works, too, is found a very wide range of thought and great mental activity.

    Pharisees and Sadducees.

    It adds a new interest to this age of the Maccabees to know that in it are the roots of the two great parties of the Pharisees and Sadducees, whose opinions on future retribution are so prominently presented in the New Testament.  The Pharisees honorably represented at the outset those whose firm faith in the resurrection and the rewards of a future life sustained them in the great persecution.  They truly represented the main body of the Jews, and they were zealous defenders of the law of Moses, but it was as encompassed with the traditions of the Fathers.  The Sadducees, on the other hand, represented the Epicureanism that rejected the retributions of a future life, and they repudiated all efforts to introduce into the law of Moses by tradition what was not there in express statement.

    The Zend-Avesta.

    To the sources of information already noticed we may add the Zend-Avesta and the recent learned investigations into the system of Zoroaster by German, French, English and American scholars.  The question how far, if at all, what is regarded as the Christian doctrine of the future life and of retribution has been derived from the system of Zoroaster cannot be satisfactorily answered except by a thorough study of that system, and for this the materials and aids are more satisfactory and abundant than they ever have been before.

    The Mishna.

    The Mishna is the first part of the Talmud, and is a digest of Jewish observances and traditions.  Its author, Rabbi Juhudah the Holy, a Jew, wealthy and influential, composed it toward the close of the second century.  Yet it refers back to the decisions of Hillel and Shammai, who flourished before Christ; and also to those of Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul.  It is therefore of great value in studying the progress of doctrinal opinion as well as practice among the Jews, even before Christ.  On some points at issue we shall freely appeal to this authority.



    We have gained our point of vision, and from it have looked down on a broad and deep river of opinion flowing by us.  We have seen that although the law of Moses was sustained by sanctions merely temporal, yet, under it, in the days of the Maccabees, there was a remarkable development of a mighty current of belief in a future life, in a resurrection of the body, and in eternal retributions.  This river of opinion was broad and deep, and carried a nation in its current.  It was derived from no abstract and unpractical speculations of philosophy, adapted only for the few.  It flowed from simple and intense faith in God and his Word.  It was a belief popular and powerful enough to rally a nation, and to sustain them in the intense struggles of a fierce and bloody religious war, and conduct them to victory and independence.

    From this point of vision we are now to cast our eyes backward, and to trace this river of opinion to its sources.

    Two Opinions Possible.

    As to these sources, two opinions are supposable.  One, that the fountain-heads of the river are found in great events in the history of the Jewish nation and their ancestors, in their covenant relations to God, and in the habits of communion with him that distinguished their great leaders, rulers, and teachers, during the course of centuries.

    Another view is that this river took its rise either in Egypt, or Persia, or Greece.  But as the doctrine of the resurrection was not found in Egypt or in Greece, and as Greek philosophy was specially antagonistic to it, and as the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was a prominent element in the Persian theology, as set forth by Zoroaster, the great river which we have seen is traced back to its fountain-heads in Persia.

    If any one would see an argument for this view set forth with great zeal and affluence of historic lore, he will find it in Mr. Alger’s learned work on a future life.  He will find, at the same time, a very radical presentation of this view.  Mr. Alger does not believe that the resurrection is a part of the true system of a future life as taught by Christ.  Yet he concedes that it was taught by Paul and other writers of the New testament.  But they had not yet been freed from the errors of Pharisaic teaching which had been corrupted by the Zoroastrian error of the resurrection as well as by other errors.  By this erroneous teaching of the writers of the New Testament the Apostolic Church was led to adopt these errors of the Persianized-Pharisaic theology, and they have come down even to this age, and have pervaded the whole Church.  Moreover, to eliminate them from true Christianity is the great work of the present age.  In this work Mr. Alger has engaged with great zeal.

    Those who have seen the Mississippi after the Missouri has entered it will have a striking illustration of Christianity after this Persian theology has entered it as represented by Mr. Alger. Before the Missouri enters, the Mississippi flows clear, pure, and tranquil; after it enters, the whole aspect of the river is changed.  It is turbid with mud, and rushes with a fierce current, boiling, struggling, and almost frantic, in its downward course.  As the Mississippi is entirely revolutionized by the Missouri, so (according to Mr. Alger) has Christianity been entirely revolutionized by the influx of this river of Persian-Zoroastric theology.

    The True View

    We do not adopt this view.  We rather adopt the view first stated, that the river that we saw from our point of vision rose from the mountain-summits of God, in his providence and in his revealed Word.  For this belief we propose to give historic reasons.

    Persian Theology

    But, before proceeding to do it, we shall say a few words on some points of this Persian theology.  We shall not attempt to unfold the system as a whole.  It will suffice for our present purpose to mention three noticeable points in which this Zoroastric system is the earliest on record in developing certain modes of thinking as to retribution, which have since appeared in various forms in the Church.

    We refer to a doctrine of the purification and resurrection of wicked men after the judgment-day, also to a doctrine of the annihilation of some of the wicked – that is, wicked spirits – and, finally, to a doctrine of prayer for the dead.

    The doctrine of the purification and restitution of the wicked was afterward stated, but on very different grounds, by Origen, at Alexandria; and on still different grounds, subsequently, by Theodore of Mopsuestia, as we shall show hereafter.

    The doctrine of annihilation in the system of Zoroaster is limited to Ahriman, and wicked spirits created by him.  Afterward, a doctrine of annihilation was applied by Philo, and then by Irenaeus and others, to sinful men.

    The doctrine of prayer for the dead is an important part of the Zoroastrian system.  The twelfth Fargard of the Vendidad is almost entirely occupied in directions as to the prayers to be offered when any relatives of various degrees die.  Twice as many prayers are enjoined for those who had died in sin as for the pure, and certain seasons of the year were regarded as times of special prayer and of peculiar success in the delivery of the souls of the dead from punishment.

    Jewish Prayers for the Dead.

    Nothing of this kind is prescribed in the Bible, and the first recorded instance of its being done by those who regarded the Bible as their supreme authority is found in the Maccabean war of independence.  After a victory of Judas Maccabeus over Georgias, they found, on burying the dead, under the coats of every one that was slain, things consecrated to idols, an saw that for this cause they were slain.  The historian then proceeds:  ”All men, therefore, praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid, betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might be wholly blotted out.  Moreover, the noble Judas exhorted the multitude to keep themselves free from sin, since they saw so manifestly the disastrous consequences of the sins of those who were slain.  Moreover, he made a collection throughout his army, amounting to two thousand drachms of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem, to offer a sin-offering for them.  In this he acted well and reverentially, in that he had respect unto the resurrection.  For if he had not hoped that those who were slain would rise again, it would have been vain and profitless to pray for the dead.  He also thus indicated his belief that glorious rewards were laid up for those who died a godly death.  It was a holy and reverent thought.  Wherefore, he made a propitiation for the dead, that they might be redeemed from their sins” (2 Macc. xii. 36-45).

    Even in this case, we do not affirm that the noble Judas Maccabeus was, of course, under the influence of Persian theology.  Believing firmly, with his whole army, in a future life and in a coming resurrection, he could not endure the thought that any who had died in battle for their country should perish; and, therefore, he and his army resorted to prayer and propitiation in behalf of the slain.  In our more advanced age, and during our civil war, it seemed to be assumed by perhaps the majority, that all who died fighting for their country would go to heaven, of course.  They seemed to regard it as the ancient Church did – a baptism of blood in the case of martyrs.  Of course, there was no resort to prayer and propitiation, as in the army of Judas Maccabeus, in a less enlightened age.

    Annihilation of Ahriman, and Purification of Wicked Men.

    We have stated it as the Zoroastric doctrine that Ahriman and his evil spirits are to be annihilated, and that sinful men are to be purified and restored, after adequate punishment.

    Scholars Differ.

    We are aware that there seems to be some diversity of opinion on both these points among scholars.  Prof. Whitney, in the article on the Avesta, in his “Oriental and Linguistic Studies,” p. 186, says that the good are supposed by the Zoroastrians to go to the paradise of the holy and benevolent gods.  ”The souls of the unbelieving and the evil-doers, however, were not deemed worth of that blessedness, and were thought, so it seemed, to be destroyed with the body.”  So eminent a scholar would not say this without some evidence, to himself, at least, of its truth.  But we have been unable to find any such evidence, and there seems to be decided proof, which we shall soon adduce, that the ultimate purification and restoration of wicked men was the real Zoroastric doctrine.

    In like manner we found Mr. Alger and J. F. Clarke asserting, in the strongest terms, the final purification and restoration of Ahriman, the great centre and head of evil.  We were quite interested in this as a seeming anticipation of Origen’s doctrine of the ultimate conversion and restoration of the devil.  But, on looking for evidence of the truth of the statement, we were unable to find any; and, on the other hand, we found, in the supreme authority, decisive statements affirming his annihilation with his angels.

    The Avesta.

    The Avesta, as translated by Spiegel, contains the doctrine of the resurrection, and of the ultimate purification of all men.  But it decisively represents Ahriman and his evil spirits as annihilated.  In the Khordah-Avesta, Patet Erani 1st, this profession is made:  ”I am wholly without doubt in the coming of the resurrection of the later body, in an invariable recompense of good deeds and their reward, and of bad deeds and their punishment, as well as in the continuance of Paradise, in the annihilation of hell and Ahriman and the Devas; that the god Ormuzed will at last be victorious, and Ahriman will perish, together with the Devas and the offshoots of darkness (Spiegel, vol. iii., p. 163).  In the Khordah-Avesta,  Nanmetaisne 7th, occurs this doxology:  ”Praise to the Overseer, the Lord who rewards those who accomplish good deeds according to his own wish, purifies, at last, the obedient, and at last purifies even the wicked out of hell” (Spiegel, vol. iii., p. 15). This passage, as quoted by J. F. Clarke, in his work on “The Ten Great Religions,” would lead to the conclusion that even Ahriman himself was to be purified out of hell, and not annihilated, as is elsewhere stated.  But this is owing to a single error in quotation.  In every other case he quotes Bleek’s translation of Spiegel exactly.  In this case he quotes him (p. 190) as translating thus:  ”who purifies even the wicked one of hell,” instead of “who purifies even the wicked out of hell.”  ”The wicked one of hell” is of course Ahriman, who is elsewhere said to be annihilated.  I am aware that this doctrine of the purification of the wicked out of hell is not found in the oldest portions of the Avesta, but in those parts of the Khordah-Avesta which are not in the Avestan dialect, but in Parsec, and were, as Spiegel states (vol. iii., p.2), written in a comparatively modern period.

    The doctrine of the resurrection, however, occurs in the older portions of the Avesta, if those parts that teach it are not interpolations, as some suggest.  But there is, on the whole, good reason to believe that these portions are genuine, and that the doctrine of the resurrection was an early, if not an original, part of the system of Zoroaster.  The purification of the wicked out of hell was also probably introduced very early into the system.

    Mr. Clarke’s Authorities.

    Mr. Clarke, in his statement of the purification of Ahriman, follow Rhode, who relies on the Bundehesh and the later writings of the Parsees.  The same seems to be true of Mr. Alger.  In order to ascertain whether the Bundehesh does thus contradict the Avesta, I requested Prof. Abbott, of Cambridge, to consult the most recent authorities on the point.  From his reply to me I take the following statements, which seem to be decisive.

    Professor Abbott’s Statements.

    “The statement that the Bundehesh teaches the final conversion or purification of Ahriman (Angro Mainyus) is founded, I believe, solely on the translation of Anquetil du Perron, afterward Germanized by Kleuker.  The doctrine does not appear in the translations of Spiegel and Windischman, whose authority is, of course, much higher than that of Anquetil.  Those who have maintained the conversion of Ahriman as a Zoroastrian doctrine have relied mainly on Rhode, who, in addition to the Bundehesh, cites the Yasna (Izeschne, in Anquetil and Kleuker).  But this proof disappears in Spiegel’s translation.  Nor is there any proof of it in the Zemyad Yasht (Yasht, xix., Khordah-Avesta, xxxv.), to which Miss Cobbe refers.  In the Sadder Bundehesh, the annihilation of Ahriman is expressly taught in connection with the doctrine of the redemption of the wicked from hell, after long and severe punishment.”  These statements are all decisively sustained by quotations from Windischman and Spiegel, which we have not room to introduce.

    The Conclusion.

    The positive statements of the Avesta must, therefore, stand uncontradicted by the Bundehesh, as the true Zoroastrian doctrine.  Wicked men are at last to be purified out of hell; Ahriman and his angels are to be finally annihilated.

    We shall make other statements as to the theology of Zoroaster as we proceed, to prove that the Jewish system which we have set forth did not originate in Persia, but was the natural development and result of (1) great facts in the history of the Jews, and of (2) the peculiar and unexampled habits of their leaders of communion with God, and of (3) the covenant relations of the Jews and their ancestors to God.




    Standing at our point of vision, in the age of the Maccabees, we have seen a great river of belief and emotion as to the retributions of a future life flowing by us.  It is not, however, merely belief in a future life and future retributions, but still more specifically in a resurrection of the body.  We have also considered an effort to find the great fountain-heads of this river in Persia, and not in Judea.  This view we have declined to accept.  We are willing to concede that not only the Persians, but also the Egyptians and the Greeks, did exert an influence on Jewish thought and belief.  Of what kind it was, and to what degree exerted, will be considered elsewhere.  But that the original, main, deep current of thought and belief as to a future life and its retributions originated with any of these nations, there is no good reason to believe.

    On the other hand, there is decisive evidence that it originated from the divine system disclosed in the Old Testament, and the beginnings of which long preceded the law of Moses.

    Historical Positions.

    In opposition to the theory of Persian origin, we lay down these historical positions:

    1.     The idea of a future life and of its retributions is wrought, in the most impressive

    manner, into the fundamental history of the Old Testament, a history ever before the mind of the Jews, while that of Persia was remote and unknown.

    2.     The belief in a future life and its retributions is implied and assumed in the covenant

    with Abraham and his descendants, which preceded the law of Moses by four hundred and thirty years.

    3.  This belief was cherished and avowed by the patriarchs before they went down to

    Egypt, and in Egypt.  Moses also in Egypt cherished the same.

    4.     This belief was clearly and fully developed in the religious experience recorded in the

    book of Psalms, long before the Jews had come in contact with the Persians.

    5.     The covenant with the patriarchs as to their personal possession of the land of Canaan

    was such as to suggest to them the doctrine of the resurrection.

    6.     The most ancient and influential Jewish Rabbis, and among them Gamaliel, the teacher

    of Paul, positively and decidedly assert that the doctrine of the resurrection did arise from this source, thus, in effect, positively denying its Persian origin.

    7.     The doctrine was taught in the book of Psalms, and by Isaiah and Hosea, before the

    Jews came in contact with the Persians, as well as by Daniel, after the captivity in Babylon.

    8.     The tendency of the Jews in all ages to necromancy, and the need of laws against it

    even in the time of Moses, is decisive proof of the popular belief of the survival and activity of the soul, and, of course, of a life after death and its retributions.

    The most interesting part of this array of historical positions, and perhaps as conclusive and unanswerable as any, is found in the first great fact, that the idea of a future life, and of its retributions, is wrought in the most impressive manner into the history of the Old Testament.

    Power of the Teaching of Facts.

    Doctrines are never so powerful to affect the popular mind as when embodied in some great historical event.  Thus the doctrine of the resurrection was invested with an all-pervading popular power when embodied in the resurrection of Christ.

    Was there, then, any embodying of the doctrine of a future life and its rewards in any great act by which the popular mind could be affected under the Old Testament dispensation?  There was.

    Influence on the Maccabees.

    And this great act is invested with peculiar interest by the certainty with which we are assured that it was a main element in kindling the hope of eternal life in the minds of the Maccabees themselves, in the very crisis of their struggle against Antiochus Epiphanes.

    There is not perhaps in history a more interesting scene than the death-bed of Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees.  No scene more deserves the highest efforts of an inspired painter.

    Mattathias began in Modin, single-handed, the war for the law of God against the king.  Fired with zeal, he slew the king” officer, who was endeavoring to enforce the offering of sacrifice to the gods of Greece.  Then he fled to the mountains with his sons, and rallied to his standard all who were true to the law of God from all the land of Judea.  His followers at first were few and heroic. But he led them to victory, and emboldened and aroused the nation.  But the infirmities of age were upon him, and death drew near.  Then, upon his death-bed, he gathered around him his sons, and nominated the hero Judas Maccabeus to take his place, and delivered a parting address, in which he endeavored to embolden his sons by holding up before them the great heroes of Jewish history.

    Translation of Elijah.

    But among them all there was no one whose example seemed so much to inspire him as that of the great prophet Elijah, who, like him, had periled his life in defending the law of God against an idolatrous king and queen.  This example, with glowing words, he held up before his sons, and with it the glorious reward of his fidelity.  He says (1 Mac. xlviii. 61), after mentioning other heroes, “consider that Elijah, for being zealous and fervent for the law, was taken up into heaven.”  In effect, he says: Remember the great prophet Elijah.  Remember his zeal for the law of God in the face of danger and death, and remember his reward.  He was taken up even into heaven into the presence of God.  Doubt not, then, that eternal life is in reserve for you, if you, in like manner, are faithful to god and to his law.

    The Popular View.

    That this view of that great event was not peculiar to him is plain from the manner in which the son of Sirach thus apostrophizes the great prophet (Ecc. xlvii. 4, 9, 11):  ”How wast thou glorified, O Elijah, in the wondrous deeds, who wast taken up in a whirlwind of fire and in a chariot of fiery horses!  Blessed are we who behold thee, and are adorned with love, for we too shall surely live.”  That this was the popular view of the case is perfectly plain from these facts, and thus we come at least to one fountain-head of that river of belief and emotion which we are endeavoring to trace upward to its sources.  We find it flowing not from Persia, but from the mountains of Judea, where Elijah was very zealous for the law of God, and as a reward was taken up to heaven.

    Translation of Enoch.

    But this is not the highest source of the river.  There is still another in times still more remote, and before Persia had ever been heard of.  A similar transaction is recorded, even before the flood, in the case of the great prophet Enoch.  An inspired writer makes his case the centre of the great doctrine of retribution (Heb. xi. 5, 6).

    The Septuagint Version.

    But before we advert to his remarks it is necessary to give the Septuagint version of the passage upon which they are based (Gen. v. 24).  Our translation is this:  ”Enoch walked with God and he was not; for God took him.”  Of this the Septuagint translation is, “Enoch pleased God, and was not found, for God translated him.”  So, also, where our translation says, “Enoch walked with God three hundred years,” the Septuagint translators say, “Enoch pleased God three hundred years.”  This is no doubt, in essence, the same idea as is implied in walking with God, but to see the full force of the words of the inspired writer we must have before us the very words of the translation to which he was appealing.  Looking at and using this version he thus speaks when properly translated:  ”By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him; for he had this testimony, that before his translation he pleased God.  But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  The translation of the Septuagint was made under the early Ptolemies, long before the days of the Maccabees, and is an unanswerable proof of the manner in which the account of the translation of Enoch was then regarded by the Jews.  The translation of Enoch is also referred to in the Wisdom of Solomon, as a reward for his pleasing God (iv. 10, 100).  ”He pleased God, and was beloved of him, so that living among sinners he was translated.”

    The Fountain-Head

    This great event, then occurring before the flood, as shone as a light through the ages, disclosing the real existence of the spirit-world, and of a life with God with its retributions before the present.  This great event, like the sun, has shone through each succeeding generation, and in the days of the Maccabees it was appealed to as a proof of a future life and its retributions, in the same way in which the translation of Elijah was appealed to, as we have seen.  Indeed, no character of the Old Testament seems more powerfully to have affected the Jewish mind and imagination in every age than Enoch.  He was regarded as an eminently holy man, taken into the immediate counsels of God, and as, therefore, the fittest person to unfold the destinies of coming ages.

    The Book of Enoch.

    Upon this conception the book of Enoch is based.  There is no reason to doubt that this book contains many of the traditions of past ages as to this great prophet.  One of these traditions is quoted in common by the apostle Jude and the author of the book of Enoch, unless we prefer to regard the apostle as quoting and sanctioning a part of that book.  Certainly the prophecy occurs in the book of Enoch substantially as it is reported by Jude.  ”Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed against God, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

    We have not time now to speak at length of the important and deeply-interesting contents of the book of Enoch.  That it was written long before Christ, by a Jew, and that it was extensively read and exerted great influence among the Jews, are the important facts of the case.  Thus viewed, one thing it makes sure, that the river of Jewish belief as to a future life and its retributions did not originate in Persia, but in the earliest narratives of the Mosaic record.  This the whole book, full of eternal retributions, clearly proves.

    Magnitude of These Events.

    Let us now pause and reflect.  No one, we suppose, will deny that, next after Moses, the prophet Elijah is the greatest and most impressive character of the Old Testament record.  Nowhere are there such brilliant and intense lights and shades as in his history.  The scene on Carmel, when he stood up alone for God against the three hundred prophets of Baal, and called down fire from heaven to testify for God, and to turn back the people to his service, has never been exceeded in grandeur, sublimity,[sic] and thrilling power.  Of the place occupied in the mind of the Jewish nation by Enoch, we have already spoken.  These two great men had probably never heard of Persia, and in their days Persia had no connection whatever with the Jews.  And yet the idea of a future life and of its retributions is wrought in the most impressive manner into their lives, and thus into the fundamental history of the Old Testament, a history ever before the mind of the Jews, while that of Persia was remote and unknown.

    Denial by Mr. Alger.

    We are aware that Mr. Alger earnestly insists that these narrations do not teach what they are supposed to teach.  But it is a manifest historical fact, as we have shown, that the Jews did so understand them, and that is sufficient for our purpose; we have historically traced their opinions to their real sources, even if the Jews erred in their philology.  But they did not err.  The more thoroughly these records are studied, the clearer will it become that the Jews truly understood them, and that they really teach what they have ever held them to teach.  To the Jewish writers already quoted may also be added Philo, the distinguished commentator on the books of Moses.  In his questions on Genesis, he derives from this passage the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, of the reward of Enoch for a holy life, and of his translation to live and act in the spirit-world.  From this reward of Enoch for a holy life, from which he never receded, Philo derives encouragement for the good, in all ages, to expect divine rewards in the life to come.

    The Patriarchs and Moses.

    The case of the patriarchs and of Moses next demands our consideration.  So far as they are concerned, no connection with Persia can be alleged.  Their relations to Egypt, however, will deserve careful consideration, for, among the Egyptians, ideas of a future state and its retributions were fully developed.  We shall make it plain, however, that they did not adopt the Egyptian system, but that, nevertheless, they were excited and stimulated by it to develop such a system of a future life and its rewards as would grow naturally out of their own covenant with the God of the Bible.

    For we must never forget that the great covenant of god was formed with Abraham and his posterity long before they went down into Egypt.  The promise of a land and of a posterity, in whom all future ages and all the families of the earth should be blessed, had been made to them.  And Christ assures us that Abraham looked forward to his day with peculiar joy.  The character of the one God, the Holy One, the Creator of all things, acting on an eternal plan, had been fully revealed to them.  From this we shall find that they did not recede, but developed their ideas of future rewards beyond this life in accordance with this plan.  The ideas of the Egyptians on future retributions, as we shall see, did not corrupt them, but rather stimulated them more fully to develop their own system.



    It is worth of notice that during the long period from Abraham to David, and the composition of the book of Psalms, there is but little record of experimental communion with god, or of the hope of immortality with him.  Experience of this kind, as we shall see, becomes abundant in the book of Psalms.  Are we to suppose that there was no such experience in the patriarchal ages, or only that it was unrecorded?

    Causes of the Doctrine of Immortality.

    The causes that produced the experience of the book of Psalms we certainly do find in the patriarchal ages.  Take the case of Abraham.  Here we find the revelation of God to him as a personal God, and intimate confidential communication between them.  We find a plan organized to bless all the nations of the earth through him and his seed.  A system is organized for the ages.  A covenant is formed including him and his seed.  God says to him, “I am thy shield and exceeding great reward.”  As a means of executing this plan a land was pledged as the centre of operations. Isaac and Jacob were taken into the same covenant.  Nor was the great plan confined to this world and to man.  An angelic world of heavenly spirits in fellowship with God, and his messengers and ministers in carrying out this plan, was also revealed.  This idea was developed in peculiar sublimity when there was presented to Jacob a ladder reaching up to heaven, on which the angels of God were ascending and descending, and at the top of which God stood and renewed his covenant with him.  It is plain that men with whom God thus covenanted in a plan for eternal ages, must have regarded themselves as immortal, and partakers with god in that plan, and not as the perishing creatures of a few years.  The immortality of God, and their union with him in a plan for eternal ages, must have given them an assurance of their own immortality.  Lange is right when he says that such a covenant for the ages, by a personal God, with the pious, contains in itself the assumption of their immortality, and that this is just as distinct an assumption in the Old Testament as the being of God.

    Case of Moses.

    This argument applies with even greater force to the case of Moses.  How intimate, how various was his communion with God!  How glorious, how wonderful, how unsurpassed, was the revelation of the divine character made by God to him at his request!  How vast the plans for all coming ages in which he was associated as a fellow-laborer with God!  How vividly did he anticipate his great antitype – the prophet like unto himself!  Is it possible that he did not expect to live with god to see the consummation of these plans?

    Case of Abraham.

    Nor were such previsions of Christ confined to Moses.  That Abraham took enlarged views of the plans of god in Christ, our Saviour assures us.  He said to the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.”

    Epistle to the Hebrews.

    The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews also assures us that the minds of the patriarchs did not rest merely on temporal rewards.  Of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, he says:  ”These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a heavenly fatherland.  And truly if they were thinking of that fatherland whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to return to it; but now they desire a better fatherland, that is a heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.”  Of Moses, he says, that he endured as seeing him who is invisible, and that he had respect unto the future recompense of the reward, and therefore refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.  Moses, it seems, even in Egypt, had a view of the day of Christ in the future, and bore reproach for his sake.

    Objections to the Epistle, and Reply.

    But there are those who regard these statements as not historical, but only as the opinions of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, whoever he was.  But even those who make light of the historical or inspired authority of this epistle, cannot deny that it represents the opinions of a learned and eloquent Jew, perhaps Apollos, if not Paul, on this historical question.  Nor can they deny that Philo also, the most learned Jew of the age of Christ, represents Moses and the patriarchs as acting with reference to the retributions of a future life. For the present, then, leaving out of view the question of inspiration, we allege that there are other historical facts which render this view not only credible, but even necessary to account for the course of events.

    Historical Facts.

    The facts are these:  The posterity of Abraham, when they went down to Egypt, for a residence of centuries, encountered there a system of future retribution which was popular, and all-pervading in its influence.  It was also adapted, unless it was resisted by the influence of another system, firmly and intelligently held, to bring the children of Israel under its control.  But its influence was resisted.  Though Joseph was married to Asenath, daughter of the priest of On; though Moses, as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, was educated in the highest schools of the Egyptians, and was learned in all their wisdom, yet they did not adopt their system of theology, nor of future retribution.  To understand the full force of the system to be resisted, and its influence on the popular mind, let the following statements of Wilkinson, which could be greatly enlarged by similar testimony, be thoughtfully considered.

    Egyptian System of Immortality.

    “The great care of the Egyptians was directed to their condition after death, that last stage toward which their present life was only the pilgrimage; and they were taught to consider their abode here merely as an inn upon the road.  They looked forward to being received into the company of that being who represented the divine goodness, if pronounced worth at the great judgment-day; and the privilege of being called by his name was the fulfillment of all their wishes.  Every one was then the same; all were equally noble; there was no distinction of rank beyond the tomb; and, though their actions might be remembered on earth with gratitude and esteem, no king or conqueror was greater than the humblest man after death; nor were any honors given to them as heroes.”

    We call particular attention to the statement that among the Egyptians this present life was regarded as merely a pilgrimage to a better country, and that they were taught to consider their abode here as merely an inn upon the road.  Now, if the pious Israelites were acting in view of a future life, growing out of their own views of the god of their fathers, the Creator of all things, then they too could, from their own point of vision, look on this present life as a pilgrimage, and a heavenly country as their home.  And if, when this was the current use of language, they so spoke of this life, it is fair to ascribe to their language the meaning which it would then receive.

    Strangers and Pilgrims.

    Fix your eye, then, on one of the most striking scenes recorded in the Old Testament, the introduction of Jacob to Pharaoh.  Joseph, the son-in-law of the priest of On, brought in his father and set him before Pharaoh.  The old patriarch then blessed the King of Egypt.  ”And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, How old are thou?  And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimageare an hundred and thirty years.  Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”  Is it possible to doubt what this use of the word pilgrimage must have meant to Pharaoh and to Joseph, and to all the Egyptians?  Was it not a distinct recognition of this life as a pilgrimage to a future country, a heavenly home?  In the circumstances and in view of the usages of language at that time, could the words admit of any other meaning?

    Now, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews probably was better acquainted with these and similar facts than some of his modern critics.  And he was perfectly justified in drawing from the language of the patriarchs the inferences that he did.  He adverts first to the fact that they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and from this he draws the conclusion that they were seeking a better country, even an heavenly.  For we are to call to mind that Abraham also, for a considerable time, was a resident in Egypt, and on intimate terms with the reigning Pharaoh (seeGen. xii. 10-20).  By such a residence in Egypt, in the very centre of Egyptian life and power, he must have been fully informed on the views of the Egyptians as to a future life, and of this life as a pilgrimage to a heavenly country.

    Egyptian Funerals.

    Indeed, no one could reside in Egypt without seeing these views acted out in their funerals.  Nothing was so prominent, nothing so influential in the lives of all classes of men in Egypt, from the king to the peasant, as the doctrine of future retributions.  On this was based a judgment at death, not only of the common people, but of kings, in view of their past lives, and a presumptive sentence was passed on them with respect to their future destiny.  The good were assigned to union with Osiris, the sinful but corrigible to transmigration as a means of purification, the incorrigibly and hopelessly bad to endless punishment.  All this was acted out in so public a manner that no one could remain ignorant of it.  It penetrated to every family and every individual.

    Influence on the Israelites

    Now, the influence of such a system on the children of Israel must have been great in one respect.  It must have compelled them to think o9f future retributions.  How could Joseph, connected as he was with the priesthood, avoid it?  How could Moses, with his princely education in the court of Pharaoh, avoid it?  How could the Israelites at large avoid it?

    Another thing is plain.  They must have been drawn into the current of this system, if they had not been anchored by a system of their own, centred in a higher and truer doctrine of immortality and of retribution.  For the human mind, as all history shows, tends in all nations to some doctrine of a future life and of future retribution.  It is absurd to suppose that, with the subject forced on their attention on every side, such men as Joseph and Moses could have remained in a state of mere negation and ignorance on such a question.  Hence, when the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (xi, 25-27) represents Moses as enduring as seeing the invisible God, and acting in view of future retributions, he simply states what in the circumstances is indispensable to account for his conduct, and what of necessity must have been true.

    The Counterpoise.

    But it may be asked, “What was this system by which the Israelites in Egypt were anchored, and how did it take hold of future retributions?”

    In reply to this we answer, it was the system growing out of the covenant of God with Abraham, which in its scope took in all men in all future ages.  In Abraham and in his seed all the families of the earth in all future ages were to be blessed.  Of the coming future Abraham must have taken enlarged views, since Christ himself assures us that he saw his day and was glad.

    As a part of this system God gave to the patriarchs, personally, and to their seed, the land of Canaan.  Before going down into Egypt, they had been prophetically warned of their bondage there and of their deliverance, and this God, this covenant, and these promises, held them, while in bondage, from drifting away into the polytheism of Egypt.  Moses was educated by his mother to understand and to believe this system.  Hence, also, Jacob refused to be buried in Egypt, and was buried by Joseph and his other sons in the land of promise.  So, too, Joseph, before he died, said to his brethren:  ”I die; and God will surely visit you and bring you out of this land unto the land which he swore to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob.  And he took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (Gen. 1. 24, 25).  These promises, anticipations, and hopes, were common to all the Israelites, and when the time came they were rallied by Moses to leave Egypt and march for the promised land, and the Egyptians were compelled by the terrific judgments of God to let them go.

    Influence of the System.

    Now, from a system like this, extending through the ages, a logical inference is the immortality of those involved in it.  This is not, indeed, capable of positive demonstration.  But one thing is clear: the idea of an immortal God, organizing a system for all coming ages, through the patriarchs and Moses, cannot be held with any consistency or dignity, except on the assumption of the immortality of the soul and a future life.  If men perish in their generations, the system dies with them.  There is nothing to connect the future with the past.  Where but one generation exists at a time, the sympathy and cooperation of the ages cease, and the universe is comparatively an unsympathetic solitude.  Upon such a future as this Abraham did not look when he rejoiced in view of the day of Christ, nor did Moses when he anticipated the coming of his antitype, the Great Prophet, like unto himself, and for him endured reproach.  They lived in the future, and felt that the future was theirs.  Christ sanctions this reasoning when he says (Luke xx. 38): “God is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”

    Belief of the Resurrection.

    But this belief of immortality may assume two forms.  It may, as in Greece, ignore the body at death, and hold to an immediate passage to an eternal spirit-world, or it may lead to a doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and a future life in a renewed body.  That it assumed the latter form among the Jews is admitted by all.  But it is asserted by Alger and others, as has been stated, that the idea came from Persia.  On the other hand, it is asserted by the ancient Jews that the idea of a resurrection arose from the nature of the promises of God to the patriarchs, as to their personal possession of the promised land.  It was promised, they said, not merely to the seed of the patriarchs, but to them personally, as well as to their seed.  And yet, personally, they never inherited it.  Of this fact the martyr Stephen thus speaks in his dying speech: “God gave Abraham no inheritance in it, not so much as to set his foot on; yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him” (Acts vii. 5).  Hence the Jews came to the conclusion that, inasmuch as God would surely fulfill his promise, he would raise up Abraham and the other patriarchs, at the time of the coming of the Messiah, to inherit the land, with their descendants.  In connection with this resurrection, they also looked for a renovation and restitution of all things.  Whether these were fair inferences from the promises of God, is not now the question, but whether, in fact, the Jews so reasoned, and thus came to the doctrine of the resurrection.  On this point there can be no doubt. Fairbairn also justifies this reasoning.

    Testimony of the Jews.

    Speaking of the belief that the patriarchs, personally, should inherit the promised land, he says: “No doubt such a belief implied that there must be a resurrection of the dead before the promise could be realized; and, to those who conceive immortality as altogether a blank page to the eye of an ancient Israelite, the idea may seem to carry its own refutation along with it.  The rabbis, however, with all their blindness, seem to have had juster,[sic] because more Scriptural, notions of the truth and purposes of God in this respect.”

    He then quotes from the comment of the Talmud, in Gemara, on Ex. Vi. 4, where God, speaking of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, says, “I have established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.”  Here it is noticeable that the patriarchs are spoken of personally, and not as joined with their seed.  Here, also, the Talmud raises the question, “Where does the law teach the resurrection of the dead?”  The distinct answer given is this:  ”In that place where it is said I have established by covenant with thee, to givethee the land of Canaan, for it is not said with you, but with thee.”  We are told also that when the Sadducees pressed Rabbi Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul, with the same question, he returned in substance the same answer.  Menasseh Ben Israel states the argument still more fully: “God says to Abraham, I will give to thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger.  But it appears that Abraham and the holy patriarchs did not possess that land; therefore it is of necessity that they should be raised up to enjoy the good promises; else the promises of God would be vain and false.  So that we have here a proof, not only of the immortality of the soul, but also of the essential foundation of the law, the resurrection of the dead.”  After making these quotations, Fairbairn remarks: “It is not surely too much to suppose that what Jewish rabbis could so certainly draw from the Word of God may have been perceived by wise and holy patriarchs.  Indeed, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, not that of the mere immortality of the soul, is the form which the prospect of an after-state of being must have chiefly assumed in the minds of the earlier believers.” These views are defended at large by Fairbairn, in section 7, chapter ii, vol. I, of his “Typology,” and the whole section is well wrought out, and very interesting and able.

    Persian Origin Excluded.

    We, however, at present, are chiefly interested in the historical question of the origin among the Jews of the doctrine of the resurrection.  And we see that the rabbis clearly testify that it originated from their own system in its earlier development, and was not a later importation from Persia.

    Certainly, in the book of Daniel, where the doctrine of the resurrection is most clearly declared, it has this Jewish form.  Daniel is referred for consolation to his own future resurrection to possess the holy land in these words:  ”Go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand up on they lot at the end of the days” (Dan. xii. 13).

    Fairbairn thinks that the promised land really meant was this earth renovated and made the eternal abode of the Church.  Dr. Chalmers and others are disposed to adopt the same view.  This question, however, is beyond our present province.  It is enough to have traced historically the origin of the doctrine of the resurrection among the Jews.




    In our remarks on the patriarchs and Moses, we said that the union with an immortal God, in a covenant, and in carrying out a plan for eternal ages, tended directly to a belief in eternal life and endless retributions.  The want of any recorded early belief of this kind we explained by the fact that the experience of the early ages lacked a poet like David to record it in sacred songs.  But we proved, by the testimony of the Epistle to the Hebrews, sustained by coincident historic evidence, that such an experience did exist.

    The Book of Psalms.

    But, as soon as we come to the book of Psalms, all doubt on this question is removed.  The tendency which we alleged is there seen in its full development.  We do not commonly realize the magnitude of the change effected by David when he introduced into the worship of God the singing of psalms.  For centuries the Mosaic ritual had been observed without this act of worship.  Moses made no provision for it.  Only one of the psalms is ascribed to him, and there is no evidence that even that one was sung until the time of David.  But, as soon as we enter the book of Psalms, the wanting element of recorded religious experience appears in full power.

    Now, what we stated of the tendency of a covenant with an immortal god, and with reference to an eternal plan to produce the belief of eternal life with him, is fully verified.  There is disclosed a doctrine of immortality, and of eternal rewards, that has its roots in the covenant of God with the fathers.  It is our purpose to prove that this doctrine of eternal life and future retributions is, in fact, found in the book of Psalms, and that it has its roots in a system essentially unlike that of the Zend-Avesta, and cannot be traced to Persia.

    Grounds of Belief in Immortality.

    But before doing this it will be expedient to consider the real foundations of any reliable belief in immortality.  Plato sought to find them in the inherent nature of the deathless soul, existing from eternity to eternity.  Others have sought them in the aspirations of the soul, and the imperfect development of retribution in this life.  But the fundamental positions of the system of the Bible are not of this kind.  It does not recognize, nay, it expressly denies, the natural and inherent immortality of the soul.  It assures us that God only hath immortality (1 Tim. Vi. 16).  By this we understand that he only has immortality in the highest sense – that is, inherent immortality.  All existences besides himself he created, and he upholds.  Men are not, as Plato taught, self-existent, eternal beings, immortal by their very nature.  There is no such being except one, and that is God.  There is no inherent immortality of the soul in this sense.  What God created he sustains in being, and can annihilate if he will.  It is by his will that we live, and move, and have our being.

    The true and only sure basis of eternal existence is found in the fact that God is immortal, and chooses to have an eternal system, in which his rational creatures can know and love him and cooperate with him in his eternal plan.  So long as God wills this, he will render immortal those intelligent moral beings who are involved in his plan.  His will, his power, and not their inherent nature, is the pledge of their immortality.  How, then, under such a God can the highest assurance of immortality be given?  Not by philosophical reasoning on the nature of the mind.  God himself must give it.  He must reveal himself as immortal; he must disclose an eternal plan; he must take his intelligent creatures into covenant relation with himself; he must reveal himself to them as their portion and their God; he must disclose to them the eternal plan in which they are to cooperate with him, and give them the assurance that their action with him is to be eternal.  Let this be done, and there will be the highest possible assurance of immortality.  It rests upon the assurance of the immortality of God and the eternity of his kingdom, and that he is the God and the eternal portion of the soul.

    So in the Psalms: Not in the Zend-Avesta.

    Now, it is in this way that the assurance of immortality is in fact given in the book of Psalms, and it is given on grounds which the Zend-Avesta does not furnish, but rather contradicts.  We shall not attempt a full contrast of the two systems.  We shall only consider the God of the Bible and of the Zend-Avesta as centres of systems.  The Oromasdes of the Zend-Avesta differs essentially from the Jehovah of the Bible.  He is not self-existent, but is derived – as is also Ahriman, his antagonist – from Zervan Akerane.  Hence, in the Zend-Avesta they are called twins.  Of these twins, the progeny of Zervan Akerane, one turns to good, the other to evil, and hence the conflict between them.  Hence, if gods, they are derived and created gods.  And, although the work of creation is ascribed to Oromasdes, it is limited to this earth and men and good spirits.  The firmament and heavenly bodies he did not create.  They are praised in the Zend-Avesta as self-existent and eternal.  To Ahriman, also, creative power is ascribed.  He created evil spirits, the devas, to oppose the good spirits of Oromasdes.  Moreover, the praise, not to say worship, given to the heavenly bodies and the elements and the good spirits, though the supremacy is verbally given to Oromasdes, is opposed to the all-pervading spirit of the Bible, which presents Jehovah as the creator and upholder of all beings and worlds, and as the supreme and only proper object of worship.  The comparison could easily be carried further, evincing that, though there are some points of similarity, yet the systems are essentially antagonistic in their fundamental elements.  In particular, the great idea of a Messiah, who is God incarnate, which is the essence of Christianity, is wanting.  Moreover, Zervan Akerane, from whom Oromasdes, the chief acting god, is derived, is worshiped [sic] but rarely, if at all. So inconsistent is the Zoroastrian system with itself.

    Probable Origin of.

    It is not improbable, however, that the system began as a system of pure dualism, teaching the existence of two self-existent and eternal gods, one good and the other evil, each having creative power, the one creating good spirits and the other evil.  This system may have been, and probably was, modified by contact with other systems, and reduced to a unity in Zervan Akerane, who was represented as the father of Oromasdes and Ahriman.  At the same time their creative power was not taken away from them, and, as before, Oromasdes is worshiped [sic] as the main and active God, while the worship of Zervan Akerane, who was merely a philosophic centre of origin and unity, remained undeveloped.

    System of the Bible.

    The system of the Bible is not distracted by any such contradictory elements, but is essentially monotheistic, and gives rise to its own consistent doctrine of eternal life and retributions.

    In the first place, all the elements of the assurance of eternal life are presented in the most perfect devotional and experimental forms that are found in the language of man.


    In contradistinction to the Zend-Avesta, which ascribes to Oromasdes, the good divinity, only a limited creation, i.e., of the earth, good spirits, and men, while the higher lights are without a beginning and self-existent, the Psalms thus praise God as creator of all:  ”Praise ye the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights; praise ye him all his angels; praise ye him all his hosts; praise ye him sun and moon; praise him all ye stars of light; praise him ye heavens of heavens and ye waters that be above the heavens.  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.”  In like manner, the creation of man and of this lower world, and the divine supremacy in them, are not only narrated historically, but celebrated poetically in strains of unequaled sublimity and beauty.

    God’s Kingdom Universal and Eternal.

    The absolute universality of God’s kingdom and the eternity of his plans are also declared in the highest strains of devotion:

    “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord, and thy saints shall bless thee.  They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power, to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.  Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth through all generations” (Ps. cxlv. 10-13).  ”The Lord shall reign forever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations.  Praise ye the Lord” (Ps. cxlvi. 10).  God, too, by a beautiful metaphor, is described as the dwelling-place of his children in all generations, and we are told that those who love him shall dwell in the secret place of the most High, and abide beneath the shadow of the Almighty.

    Communion with God.

    The personality of God and his self-revealing power are presented in full action, disclosing a character not only of holiness, power and wisdom, but of condescension, love, sympathy, tenderness, compassion, and forgiveness, that removes fear, perfects faith, and gives a full and experimental knowledge of God and communion with him in all his glorious perfections which fills the soul with unutterable joy.  Neither in the Zend-Avesta nor in Plato do we find any such full, experimental, joyful knowledge of and intimate communion with a present, loving, self-revealing God.

    It is such an experience that gives rise to such utterances as these:  ”With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Ps. xxxvi. 9).  ”Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.  Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.  My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.  Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.  My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me” (Ps. lxiii. 3-8).

    All the Elements Combined.

    Now, here are all the elements of a profound and perfect certainty of eternal life.  Here is an immortal and eternal God, the creator, upholder, ruler of all things.  Here is an eternal plan, an eternal kingdom, here are men who know and love this God, and are in covenant with him, and are cooperating with him in intimate fellowship as his instruments in carrying out his eternal plans.  Is it not an intuition of the soul that they too must be immortal?  Does not the very idea of a divine eternal plan demand it?

    But, it will be said, why leave it to intuition or inference?  Why not fully reveal and declare it?  Why not combine all these elements in an explicit declaration of the full assurance of eternal life in God?

    Explicit Declarations.

    To this we reply, all these elements are combined not in one, but in many explicit declarations of the full assurance of eternal life in God.

    Why, then, it may be said, have they been overlooked?  Why has it been represented as doubtful whether the Old Testament saints had a full assurance of eternal life in God?

    We reply, because such declarations occur not in abstract metaphysical and philosophical forms, but in the form of religious experience, and of lofty and intense devotion.  True, there is neither reason nor philosophy in ignoring them for this reason.  For it is undeniably true that the highest forms of devotion in communion with god involve not only the highest and noblest emotions of the soul, but the highest and most philosophical intuitions of truth.  There cannot be a higher form of intellectual philosophy than full communion with God.  For if God is a personal, a loving God, if he has a self-revealing power, if he can make his presence and love a reality, if he can give the assurance of eternal life in that love, then the most highly devotional passages are the very place where we should expect to find a glowing declaration of the assurance of eternal life in the love of God.


    Out of many such declarations, take one, and examine it critically, and see what it can be except an unequivocal declaration of the firm belief of eternal life in the love of God.

    In the seventy-third Psalm (v. 23-26), after describing the assaults of unbelief and the victory of faith, the Psalmist thus proceeds:  ”Nevertheless, I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.  Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth whom I desire beside thee.  My flesh and my heart fail: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”  Weigh well the import of those few words, “God is my portion forever,” and can the full belief of eternal life, in the love of God, be more clearly or more joyfully declared?  Consider too the antithesis:  ”My flesh and heart fail: they die: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”  Consider another antithesis:  ”thou shalt guide me by thy counsel (in life), and afterward receive me to glory (with thee).”  Nor is this a solitary instance.  There are numerous declarations of a similar import in the book of Psalms.  Listen to some of them:

    “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. xvi. 11).

    “He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days forever and ever” (Ps. xxi. 4).

    “They shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall love forever” (Ps. xxii. 26).

    “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. xxiii. 6).

    “O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever” (Ps. xxx. 12).

    “This God is our God, forever and ever” (Ps. xlviii. 14).

    “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me” (Ps. xlix. 15).

    “I trust in the mercy of god, forever and ever.  I will praise thee forever (Ps. xlix. 15).

    “I will abide in thy tabernacle forever: I shall abide before God forever.  I will sing praise unto thy name forever” (Ps. lxi. 4, 7, 8).

    “I will declare forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob” (Ps. lxxv. 9).

    “We will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore” (Ps. cxv. 18).

    “Let Israel hope in the Lord, from henceforth and forever” (Ps. cxxxi. 3).

    “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever: forsake not the works of thine own hands” (Ps. cxxxviii. 8).

    “Lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. cxxxix. 24).

    In these passages we have but a specimen of the hope of eternal life caused by a self-revealing power of god, and communion with him as a covenant God and portion in an eternal plan.  In one of them is also expressed the hope of a resurrection from the grave (Ps. xlix. 15).  The same hope is expressed in Is. xxvi. 19, and in Hos. xviii. 14; Dan. xii. 2, 3.

    There is also implied in all these passages a retribution of evil to those who are not in communion with God, but at enmity with him.  Indeed, this is expressly stated in Ps. lxxiii. 17-20, and in other places.  It is true that the retribution of evil is indefinite as to duration and locality.  Nor is the idea of locality prominent in the case of the good.  The leading idea is eternal life in God, and with God, wherever he may be.  In the words of Moses, God is the dwelling-place of the holy soul forever.

    If it is said the word leolam does not by itself denote absolute eternity, I concede it.  But the relation to God is which it stands imparts to it that force.


    The idea of retribution in a future life for the good and the bad is also found in the proverbs of popular life, as well as in the records of devotion.  We are told that “the wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death;” and, again, “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish, but the righteous hath hope in his death” (Prov. xi. 7, 14, 32).

    We have thus traced the river of belief that we saw from the mountain-tops of the age of the Maccabees.  We have found its sources, not in Persia, but in the revelations of god to his covenant people, beginning in the earliest ages, and coming down the tracts of time.

    We propose next to trace the stream to the days of Christ, and then through the Christian ages.



    We have stood upon the mountain-top of vision in the times of the Maccabees, and surveyed the mighty river of belief as to future retribution, that bore a nation to victory and independence, through martyrdom and war.  We have traced its sources in the Word and the dispensations of God in the Old Testament.

    We are now to trace it down to the development of Christianity, and the formation of the system of Christian doctrine under the completed canon of the New Testament.

    Diversity of Views.

    Up to the point at which we have arrived, we have found a clear belief in the resurrection, and the retributions of a future state, but no definite details as to the nature and duration of the punishment to be inflicted on the wicked.  It is, in fact, generally supposed that clear statements on these points are peculiar to Christianity.  This, however, is not the fact.  It is, indeed, true thatauthoritative declarations were first made by Christ and his apostles; but, as we have before said, in the interval between the Maccabees and Christianity, all the leading forms of thought on these points which are now found in the Christian community were fully and vividly developed.  This was not done, however, in the writings commonly called apocryphal, but in those designated as apocalyptic.  The reason why these writings more fully considered these themes is found in the fact that they undertook to set forth in prophetic vision the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of his kingdom.  Of course, this would involve a statement of the rewards of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked, analogous to the sublime statement found in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew of the coming of Christ, and the rewards of his faithful followers, and the punishment of his enemies.

    Basis of Apocalyptic Writings.

    These apocalyptic writings are based on the predictions of the Old Testament, and are intended to be a faithful development of the true system of the Bible.  But here, as among modern authors, interpreters of prophecy differ among themselves.  Hence, it happens that the winding up of all things is variously represented, so far as the punishment of the wicked is concerned.  By some they are represented as finally annihilated, by others as ultimately restored to holiness, and by still others as eternally punished.  Hence, before we come to Christ and his statements, we shall find that the public mind of the religious world had been intensely exercised with the investigations on all the leading questions as to man’s eternal destiny.

    Influence of Apocalyptic Writings.

    Before we enter upon the history of Christian discussions, it is of special importance that we familiarize ourselves with these earlier developments.  They not only affected the age in which they were written, but also the Christian ages.  Some even of the inspired writings were greatly affected by one of these apocalyptic writings – the book of Enoch.  The influence of another, the sibylline verses, is visible in the Church for many centuries, as we shall see.

    Other Authorities.

    But before we enter upon a direct consideration of the teaching of these works, it is proper to say that these are not the only works by which we can fill up the representation of the thinking of this period.  There are two other prominent Jews – Josepheus and Philo – one of whom, as an historian, the other as a philosopher and commentator on Moses, will throw light on the opinions of the age.

    General View of the Period.

    It is expedient, also, before descending to details, to take a general view of the period of about three centuries between the Maccabees and the formation of the New Testament canon.  The influence of the Maccabean age runs across the whole and there is a strange commingling of Jewish and Christian writings.  The sibylline verses were begun by Jews and finished by Christians.  The Jewish apocalypse of Ezra was provided by Christians with a Christian introduction and close.  It was not until the completion of the New Testament canon that all the elements needed for the full development of Christian doctrine in a pure form were in the hands of the Christian community.

    Character of the Apostolic Age.

    It is natural to suppose that the nearer we come to Christ and the apostles the purer and more full will be our statements of the true Christian doctrine as to retribution.  Hence many carefully examine the writings of the apostolic fathers.  This implies an utterly erroneous view of the real state of things in the apostolic age, and up to the formation of the canon.  The apostolic age was eminently the age of verbal testimony and of oral preaching.  And yet very often it happens that the whole New Testament is in imagination carried back to the days of Christ, just as we have it now in one volume.  It is not realized that the earliest gospels, as we now have them, were not reduced to writing till between the years 60 and 70 after Christ, and that the earliest epistle, the first of Paul to the Thessalonians, was not written earlier than the year 52.  The gospels, epistles, and apocalypse of John, were not written till near the close of the century.

    Formation of the Canon.

    After the writing of the gospels, and epistles, and other books, another work still remained – to collect them, authenticate each of them, and unite them in a volume, thus forming the canon of the New Testament.  This work, too, was to be done for a wide geographical territory – for Europe, for Asia, and for Africa.  Westcott, in his elaborate work on the canon, and elsewhere, has shown that this work was virtually, though not completely, done by the year 170 after Christ.

    What, then, was the state of things before that time?  Beginning with the day of Pentecost, in the year 30 till the year 60, none of our gospels were in existence, and after they were written, for a considerable time, many churches had but one gospel and one or two epistles, the number of each being gradually increased as fast as they could be copied and verified.

    If, then, it is asked, how was the gospel at first spread through the world? we reply by the living testimony of the original witnesses, who had been with Christ, and who could testify to the great facts of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  It was, in fact, through this process of oral teaching that the gospels were finally formed, and by practice and selection condensed into their present limits.

    Written Standard.

    During this great and long-continued work of oral teaching, before either gospel or epistle had been written, what was the supreme written standard of appeal?  It was the Old Testament.  The life of Christ was held up as the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Paul and the twelve alike assume this ground, and reason from the Scriptures to prove it.  Westcott truly says:  ”The written gospel of the first period of the apostolic age was the Old Testament, interpreted by the vivid recollection of the Saviour’s ministry.  The preaching of the apostles was the unfolding of the law and of the prophets. . . . The knowledge of the teachings of Christ, and of the details of his life, to the close of the second century, were generally derived from tradition, and not from writings.  The gospels were not distinguished by this, their prophetic title.  The Old Testament was still the great storehouse from which Christian teachers derived the sources of consolation and conviction.” – “Introduction to Gospels,” p. 181.

    Great Facts Explained.

    This view of the case is important in order to understand the reasons of a great fact, rarely adverted to, and yet undeniable.  That fact is this:  The account of the last judgment by Christ, and of the consequent retributions of eternal life, and eternal punishment, which in after-ages has exerted more influence on the doctrine of the Church than all other parts of the Bible united, is not referred to at all in the writings of the apostolic fathers, and is prominently brought forward for the first time in writing in the latter part of the second century, by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.  This should not surprise us.  This account of the judgment by our Lord is found in but one gospel, that of Matthew, and this particular gospel the apostolic fathers may have never seen.

    The general view given of this period may also explain another characteristic fact, namely, the great variety of views held in it as to the final destiny of the wicked.  Assuming the Old Testament as a standard, the everlasting life of the righteous is plainly taught.  So also the punishment of the wicked in a future state is clearly declared; but the nature and duration of that punishment are not definitely and fully set forth.  There are passages in the Old Testament which were regarded of old, and still are by many, as teaching the ultimate annihilation of the wicked.  Other passages were regarded as teaching their restoration after punishment, while others were regarded as teaching future eternal punishment.

    Having given these general views of the period, I shall set forth the history of opinions in the following order:

    1.     The doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked.

    2.     That of the restoration of the wicked.

    3.     That of future eternal punishment.

    It is not necessary to say that the advocates of all of these doctrines hold to the eternal blessedness of the righteous, and to a just punishment of the wicked.  But shrinking from endless misery, and regarding a final unity of all things in God as infinitely desirable and reasonable, some seek to gain it, either by final annihilation of the wicked, or by their restoration to obedience.

    In the first class I place Philo and the author of the ascension of Isaiah; in the second, the authors of the apocalypse known as the sibylline verses; in the third, the author of the apocalypse of Enoch and of that of Esdras.

    To these I shall add the statements of Josephus as to the belief of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, in his day.

    After this I shall consider the development of the first Christian theological schools, out of which sprang a doctrine of restoration, which led to a controversy of centuries, the effects of which are still universally felt.  Finally, I shall speak of the apostolic fathers.

    Philo Judaeus and Annihilation.

    This eminent Jew was a result of the great intellectual movement of which we have spoken, and the centre of which was Alexandria.  He was a native of this city, and was probably born twenty-five years before Christ, and had finished his education under the influence of the schools of Alexandria before Christ appeared.  But, as he lived to an advanced age, he not only was developed contemporaneously with him, but survived him, though in all probability he never came in contact with him.  Certainly he never recognizes him.  He was of a priestly family, and was a Pharisee.  He was zealous beyond expression for Moses, and regarded his law as the sum of all wisdom and destined for the human race.  And yet he was learned in all the systems of Greek philosophy, but especially an admirer of Plato.  He was also a man of influence in political life and in business, as was evinced by the fact that the Jews of Alexandria chose him as their representative to the emperor at Rome, to justify them with reference to a tumult that had taken place at Alexandria.  There is no need at this time to speak of his principles of Scriptural interpretation, except to say that they exerted for ages a profound influence on the Church through Origen and the theological school of Alexandria.  But these principles have no influence on the question now before us, as he speaks in accordance with the general principles of moral government, and without any mystical interpretation of the Scriptures.  Of him Dollinger says, “Philo represents the wicked as perishing with the dissolution of their bodies.”  Others quote passages from him, representing the wicked as surviving death and suffering in Hades.  There are, however, passages that go beyond this.  Hades was regarded as an abyss in the centre of the earth.  But Philo held that even the earth itself was to be destroyed, and Hades and the wicked with it, probably as the Stoics taught, by fire.  This view is fundamental, and is copiously set forth in his treatise on “Providence,” Section 34.  He says:

    “There is a Providence that directs the obedient, and places rulers and judges over the disobedient, and by them corrects the contumacy of men, so that by obedience they may obtain honor from God for their virtue.

    “But providence is annihilated if the good things of the world are equally distributed so that the wicked always enjoy them.”

    In this we see the same line of thought that led the Psalmist, in Ps. lxxiii., to feel the need of retribution on the wicked who prosper in this world.  The Psalmist says, accordingly, that they are “cast down into destruction in a moment, and utterly consumed with terrors,” when God awakes to judgment.  Philo may have understood this to denote annihilation.  At all events this is the final retribution on the wicked which he anticipate, for he proceeds to say:

    “But their fairest flower is withered by a just judge, by their destruction when

    heaven and earth pass away.”

    He then shows that the prospect of divine retribution and of so fearful a final doom will destroy all the pleasures of a sinful life.  As to the final destruction of the world he thus speaks:

    “The destruction of the world is to be ascribed to the judicial retribution of the Creator.  Since the folly of sin corrupts the development of the moral nature of sinners, it impels the judge to retribution, although for a time he has judged it proper to sustain and nourish their corrupt and infamous life.”

    He then sets forth the benevolent purpose of god in all of this forbearance:

    “The eye of the judge does not overlook the burning of the mind set on fire by lascivious and unclean deeds, but rather like a father educating children, now by fear and now by great gifts, he knows how to dissuade from such unjust and aggressive deeds.”

    The influence of sinful habit in rendering all this vain is next set forth in striking terms:

    “But those who are dissolved in all effeminate pleasures, and deceived by the show of transient joys, since they cannot endure to go without them, are impelled by them to an impious and violent life.”

    He then sets forth the final issue, destruction with a burning world:

    “Since they have thus entirely withdrawn themselves from the interests of divine Providence in the creation of the human mind, they must undergo that destructive wrath which hangs over all the elements.”

    He then justifies this retribution on principles of justice:

    “Since they endeavored to destroy this world, this most perfect work of divine Providence, when this most beautiful workmanship of the Creator is destroyed, they will be involved in the destruction.  Thus on those who have been disobedient he will inflict a deserved retribution.  Then that in and by which they executed their desires, namely, this beautiful world, will be dissolved and destroyed, since, through the absorption of their hearts in sin, all regard to what is honorable and right, and due to God, has perished from among them.”

    In his “Questions on Genesis,” Section 51, he exhibits the idea of the annihilation of the spirit in another form.  Speaking of the return of man to the earth, from which he was taken, he says, “Man was not made from earth alone, but from the divine Spirit also.”  He then says: “If one is inflamed with the love of virtue, which makes the mind immortal, he has obtained a lot wholly heavenly.  But he who is absorbed in the love of pleasure, by which the death of the spirit is caused, again gives himself up to the earth.  So, then, of a wicked and depraved man the beginning and end are earth, of a virtuous man heaven.”

    Such opinions of such a man could not be without influence.  Of him Dollinger says: “With the exception of the apostolic circle he was the man most distinguished for intellectual attainments whom the Jew then possessed.  He was a man of rare endowments and high cultivation, from his comprehensive studies and intimate acquaintance with Greek literature; his piety was earnest and his faith firm” (p. 398).

    Ascension of Isaiah.

    That these views did affect some Christians is plain from the fact that they occur in substance in the ascension of Isaiah, a Christian apocalypse of the same class with that of Isaiah, a Christian apocalypse of the same class with that of Enoch.  It was written by a Christian Jew, in the years 68 and 69 after Christ.  In the fourth chapter occurs the following passage:  ”There shall also be a resurrection and a judgment in those days.  Then the beloved shall cause to ascend from him a fire to consume all the ungodly who shall be as if they had never been created.”  The basis of this work is laid in the assumption that Isaiah ascends to the seventh heaven, and reveals the mysteries of the spirit-world and the destinies of the future.  It has, of course, to us, no authority, but it clearly reveals what one Christian writer, at that time, believed and taught as to the destiny of the wicked.

    Other Advocates.

    The doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked will also be found in Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, in the next century, but we shall defer our notice of them to another occasion.  The manner in which they arrive at this result differs from that which Philo presents.  It will demand and repay careful consideration.

    Our attention will next be directed to the earnest development of the doctrine of the final restoration of the wicked to holiness and to heaven.



    By the doctrine of universal restoration, in its broadest and most generic sense, we mean the doctrine that all sinful beings will be finally restored to holiness and eternal life, and that thus the harmony and unity of the universe will be restored.  It was in this broad sense that Origen held it, when he taught the future restoration, not only of all men, but also of all fallen spirits, not even excepting the devil himself.

    Various Forms.

    But the doctrine has been held by some as applicable to all men, without any hope as to the devil and his angels, either because they have no belief in their existence; or because, like the Persian divines in the Zend-Avesta, they believe in their annihilation; or because, if all men are saved, they are willing to vie up the evil angels to endless punishment, though this would not be very consistent with their principles.

    The doctrine of universal restoration applied to men has also been held in different forms.  In the statements of some, ideas of material purification by fire and torment have been predominant. Others, like Origen, have entirely excluded material fire, and, holding to the eternal possession of free agency, made the process of purification to depend on the truth operating to produce deep conviction of sin, and of ill desert, filling the spirit with unspeakable anguish, until, by repentance and a return to holiness, it is delivered and restored to eternal life.  Others, like Theodore of Mopsuestia, have regarded a temporary process of sinning as indispensable to full spiritual development, and the formation of a firm and established holy character, and have taught that God will surely conduct all men through this process of education, until finally they are established in holiness and eternal life.

    Need of Discrimination.

    These views were historically developed in the order in which we have stated them, and will be more fully set forth in the course of this history.  This summary view is here given for the sake of greater clearness of conception during our narrative.  Much confusion and error have arisen in different ages from the fact that the analogical, spiritual sense of the word fire has been overlooked, and that thus that which was in the Word of God spoken analogically and spiritually has been used to sustain a doctrine of literal fire in the punishment of the wicked.  The merits of Origen are great in having entirely rejected the gross literalism of torrents by material fire.  Before him such literalism was universal.  Accordingly, we shall find an example of it in the first appearance of the doctrine of universal restoration.

    First Statement.

    The first statement of this doctrine is found in the Sibylline oracles.

    It is in them, however, as part of a general account of the day of judgment, including its antecedents and consequents.  It has a peculiar interest as probably the first written description of that day by a Christian.

    Increased Interest.

    This interest is increased by the fact that it is distinctly appealed to in the hymn on the Judgment, that greatest Latin hymn of the middle ages, Dies Irae, the “Day of Wath.”  Of this Prof. Schaff says, “It excites new wonder on every reading, and to it no translation in any modern language can do full justice.”  He calls it “That incomparable giant hymn on the Judgment, the tremendous power of which resides first, indeed, in its earnest matter, but next in its inimitable mastery of the musical treatment of the vowels.”  Yet in this great hymn there is a virtual indorsement [sic] of the Sibylline verses, by appealing to the Sybil alongside of David as authority, with reference to that day:

    “Dies Irae, dies illa,

    Solvet seclum in favilla,

    Teste David cum Sibylla.”

    “The day of wrath, that dreadful day, shall dissolve the world into ashes, according to the testimony of David with the Sibyl.”  Some of the versions of this hymn do not show this appeal to the Sibyl, for the translators, having outgrown the faith of the middle ages, seem to shrink from so prominent and sacred a recognition of the Sibyl.  Hence, in the translation adopted in the “Plymouth Collection,” we find this version of the first three lines:

    “Day of wrath, that day of burning,

    All shall melt to ashes turning,

    All foretold by seers discerning.”

    Here the unlearned English reader would have no conception who these discerning seers could be.  Least of all would be conjecture that they were David and the Sibyl.  But as soon as this is known, the inquiry at once arises, How and when did these seers foretell these things?


    As to David, it may meet the exigencies of the case to say that, in Psalm ciii. 26, 27, he testifies that the heavens and the earth, which God of old created, shall perish and be changed as a vesture.  But there is no such deficiency in the case of the Sibyl.  In her testimony the fire is prominent, dissolving the universe, and explicit mention is made of the ashes into which all things are dissolved.

    But if any shrink from such an appeal, they should recall the usages of the age of the poet.  In this appeal the author of this hymn did not act without illustrious precedent.  Dr. Schaff says, vol. i., p. 205: “The first appeal of the apologists was, of course, to the prophetic writings.  But even a Clement of Alexandria, and, with more caution, an Origen, a Eusebius, and St. Augustine, employed, also without hesitation, apocryphal prophecies, especially the Sibylline Oracles.”  Lactantius quoted these oracles so freely that over two folio pages of Gallandius are needed to present a conspectus of his quotations.

    The Sibyl.  Who?

    The word sibyl means a revealer of the counsels of God, that is, a prophetess.  It was applied to at least ten in the heathen world, and Dr. Schaff as well as Bishop Horsley believes that some of their revelations were true.  ”All was not error and pious fraud.  Through all heathenism there runs, in truth, a dim, unconscious presentiment of Christianity.”  In proof, he refers to the fourth “Eclogue” of Virgil.

    But the Sibyl of these verses was not one of these heathen prophetesses, but, according to her own testimony, one of the daughters-in-law of Noah, a person of strict veracity, who was with him in the ark, and who was therefore, able to give a summary of the history of the world before the flood, as well as to predict its future fates.  Of the Sibylline verses there were at least two authors. One was a Jew, who wrote about one hundred and twenty years before Christ, and foretold the coming and kingdom of the Messiah, following, mainly, the Hebrew prophets.  Of his views of the Messiah and his kingdom Westcott has given a summary (pp. 114-116, “Study of the Gospels”).  In these, although there is retribution when the Messiah establishes his kingdom, and rewards his people, and punishes his enemies, yet the peculiar features of the final day of judgment and its results spoken of in the New Testament are not found.  These are presented in the second book, which obviously proceeded from a Christian writer.  And yet he follows no one of the New Testament writers absolutely, and sometimes introduces matter found in none of them.

    The Judgment.

    The great drama is opened by a night of fearful and universal gloom, during which a deluge of fire from heaven is suddenly poured upon the earth, resulting in the utter dissolution of the elements of the universe, for this fiery deluge extends not only to the earth and all the works that are therein, but also to the heavenly luminaries.  All worlds are thus dissolved into one great ruin, and the seer expressly informs us that ashes shall cover all things, and thus justifies the appeal of the poet.  Of such a deluge of fire nothing is said in our Saviour’s account of the day of judgment in Matt. xxv.  But in 2 Peter the burning of the heavens and the earth by fire, and the consequent dissolution of the elements, are expressly mentioned, and the Sibylline poet may have followed him or his authorities.

    The Judge.

    In the personalities of the judgment he follows Dan. vii., where the Ancient of days first is seen enthroned, and then the Messiah comes to him in the clouds of heaven, to receive his glorious kingdom.  In like manner the Eternal Father is first enthroned, and then Christ the judge, himself immortal, appears in glory with his holy angels, and, throned on a cloud, comes to the immortal Father, and sits in majesty at his right hand on the judgment-seat to judge the life and the deeds of godly and of ungodly men.

    The Assembly.

    Before the judgment the dead of all ages are raised, and reinvested with bodies by the mighty power of God.  No account is made of difficulties.  The writer specifies those who died before the flood, hose consumed by birds, beasts, and serpents, and those burned by fire.  But over all difficulties the almighty power of God triumphs.  Then, by the angels, all, good and bad, are gathered before the judgment-seat. Moses, Abraham, and other eminent saints, are specially named.  But here a remarkable deviation from our Saviour’s account occurs.

    The Separation.

    No public summation of their deeds by the Judge is made, nor is a sentence pronounced; on the other hand, they are divided by being made to pass through a river of fire.  By this process the righteous are separated from the wicked and saved.  The angels convey them safely through the burning river to their heavenly home.  But the wicked are abandoned to the river of fire, where they suffer for whole ages according to the deeds they have done.  A long list of their crimes is given, such as murder, lies, theft, adultery, slander, apostacy [sic] from God, idolatry.


    The punishment inflicted on them is then set forth in great detail.  They are chained by God with fiery chains to a mountain, around which flows the river of fire, and the angels of the eternal God scourge them, with fearful severity, with fiery scourges.

    After this they are exposed in the darkness of Tartarus to horrid monsters.  Then the most wicked are condemned to go through a fiery circuit of the river of fire.  Meanwhile their ceaseless lamentations ascend, until at last they pay in suffering thrice as much as they have sinned.  In their torments they gnash with their teeth, and in vain desire to die.  They implore god for deliverance, but he turns from them and reminds them that by the incarnation he gave them the opportunity for repentance in the seven ages of the world’s history.

    After all this the good are fully described and their happy lot.  A long account is given of the heavenly world, and its holy society and various forms of happiness.

    Final Restoration.

    But according to this prophetess the holy cannot be happy even amid the joys of heaven while others are suffering.  Hence, with one voice, they petition God for their delivery.  Nor is their petition vain.  Thus entreated, he will deliver them from the devouring fire and from eternal gnashing of teeth.  Having thus delivered them, he will firmly establish them and assign them, through his people, to a new and eternal life among the immortals.

    This view of restitution is not peculiar in distinctly bringing out that feeling of compassion an d sympathy for the lost that has since been repeatedly expressed during the ages.  But it is peculiar in this, that it makes the expression of it to God the turning-point of the system.  God at first rejects the prayers of the wicked for salvation, and it is not until he is moved by the earnest entreaties of the holy that he interposes to deliver them.

    Influence of this View.

    That this view was not without popular power is plain from one fact.  Augustine states, in his “City of God,” that there were many tender-hearted souls in the west who were moved with sympathy for the lost, and denied the eternity of their punishment.  In stating their reasonings he gives a prominent place to this view of the merciful prophetess, and devotes one whole chapter to setting forth the principles of their reasoning.  As he presents them they have no little plausibility.  They insisted on the fact that Christians, even in this imperfect state, were imbued with the spirit of forgiveness and of prayer even for their enemies.  Will they, then, lay aside these traits when perfect and in that perfect world?  Will they not pity and forgive and pray for the wicked?  Will not the whole church of the redeemed unite in this prayer?  And if they do, can it be that God will not feel it and be moved to answer the united petitions of the glorious host of the redeemed?

    What Augustine would have said in reply to such reasonings must be matter of conjecture, for he is content to state them without making a reply.

    The account of the judgment and its consequences thus reported has been much abbreviated.  In full it occupies 143 lines of Greek hexameters.  Yet to a great extent we have translated and used the words of the writer.  A view of the Sibylline oracles as a whole excites admiration at the amount of study requisite for their composition.  The author aims to use the vocabulary of Homer, and the composition of such a work in twelve books by a Jew or a Christian would have been impossible, had it not been for the careful and extended study of the poems of Homer in the schools of Alexandria.  Westcott speaks of the Sibylline writings as exhibiting much enlargement of views.  He says, “They stand alone as an attempt to embrace all history, even in its details, in one great theocratic view, and to regard the kingdoms of the world as destined to form provinces in a future kingdom of God.”

    View Physical.

    Yet the views of retribution presented are not elevated.  The punishment of the wicked is inflicted by literal fire, nor are the ideas of a moral purification as the means of restoration, afterward promulgated by Origen, visible in the work.  It more nearly accords in this respect with the Zoroastrian Bundehesh, in which the final punishment and purification of the wicked are represented as effected by a river of literal fire.

    Not Zoroastric.

    But one striking fact proves that this prophecy of the judgment was not derived from Persian sources.  There is no reference to the devil and his angels in the whole account; whereas Ahriman and his angels figure conspicuously in all Zoroastrian accounts of the final day of retribution.

    The development of the higher forms of universal restoration will be considered hereafter.  We shall next consider the first statement of the doctrine of future eternal punishment in the book of Enoch, a work which affected the public mind and filled the imaginations of men more perhaps than any other apocalyptic work of the ages before Christ.





    We have considered the earliest statement of the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked, by a believer in the Scriptures.  We have also set forth the first development of the doctrine of their universal restoration.  We now proceed to consider the earliest presentation of the doctrine of future eternal punishment.  This is found in the book of Enoch.

    Book of Enoch.

    This book was first quoted by the apostle Jude, and after him was quoted or referred to by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Augustine.  After this it gradually disappeared, and was lost till in 1773 Bruce brought from Abyssinia to England a complete Ethiopic translation of it.  This in 1838 was translated by Archbishop Laurence into English and Latin. This gave a great impulse to the study of the book.  Prof. Stuart published an able view of it, and Hoffman, Gfrorer, and Dillman, translated it into German and Latin.  Ewald also and others have made a thorough study of the book.  The most important authorities concur in the belief that it was written before Christ, some carrying its composition, at least in part, back to the early part of the age of the Maccabees.  The evidence seems clearly to sustain these views, but we cannot now enter into this question, but, resting on these results, shall proceed to consider its utterances on the subject now under consideration.

    Insulated Quotations.

    It would be easy, by direct and multiplied quotations taken out of their connection, to show that it teaches, in most explicit terms, the eternal punishment of the fallen angels, and of wicked men.  But such insulated extracts would not give a fair idea of the light in which these doctrines are presented in the book.  We should at once weave them into a modern fabric of doctrine such as is now held, whereas we ought to see them in the relations in which they stand in the book.

    System of Enoch.

    One grand peculiarity of the system of Enoch is, that it is not founded on the fall in Adam, but on the fall of the angels.  This view was extensively read and studied and appealed to by the early Christian fathers.  Who, then, are the fallen angels of whom the book speaks, and whose judgment and eternal punishment it so clearly sets forth?  They are not the devil and his angels, of whom we should naturally think, with our modern views, but those particular angels, supposed of old to be spoken of in the sixth chapter of Genesis, who, seeing the daughters of men that they were fair, took them wives of all that they chose.  By these wives, the angels aforesaid became the fathers of the giants by whom the earth was desolated, and whose spirits, after death, became evil spirits, or demons.

    But it will be said that the Bible does not speak of angels as thus taking wives of men, but of the sons of God.  This is true of the Hebrew text, and of our English version.

    The Septuagint.

    But some manuscripts of the Septuagint have the reading angels of God, instead of sons of God.  This was the reading followed by Philo (“De Gigantibus,” Section 2), and Josephus.  And even now this is the reading of the Alexandrian manuscript, which is followed in the edition of the modern Greek Church, sanctioned by the Synod of all Russia.  So, also, the edition of the English Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, agrees purposely with the Greek Church in following the same manuscript, edited by J.E. Grabe, and then by F. Field: Oxford, 1859.  The early fathers seem to have followed the same reading, as did also Augustine.

    The Septuagint translators, in Job xxxviii. 7, where all the sons of God are spoken of as shouting for joy at the creation, have introduced the word angels as the translation of sons of God.  In this, they clearly expressed the real fact of the case.  And this shows how the translation angels of God, could have been introduced in Gen. vi. 2.  This translation the author of the book of Enoch followed, and it was generally followed y the early fathers.  Nor should we wonder at them, for, as we have seen, even to this day, the Greek Church does the same.

    The Foundation of the Book.

    Here, then, is the foundation of the system of the book of Enoch, for, according to him, it was not the fall in Adam that corrupted the world.  Of the fall of Adam there is no mention in the book.  It was the fall of the angels before the allurements of the beautiful daughters of men that filled the earth with corruption, violence, and ruin, and called for the flood.  For this, too these angels were bound in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.

    Seduction, Corruption, Oppression.

    The book states, at length, how the angels who had fallen seduced and corrupted men by magic, and the disclosure of various other unlawful secrets.  It narrates, also, how men were oppressed by the giants who were born from these unlawful connections.  And, indeed, the despotism of the giants must have been terrific, for the book expressly states that they were 300 cubits (450 feet) high, and devoured the labors of men, and animals of all kinds, and finally men themselves.  They must, also, have been somewhat numerous, for we are told that there were two hundred fallen angels and from so many a numerous progeny would naturally descend.  Not only is the number of these angels given, but the names of their leaders, and the evil arts which each taught.

    The Crisis and the Angels.

    Here, then, was a crisis.  Men were corrupted, oppressed, and in danger of destruction beneath a fearful despotism, and cried for aid.  The case was first laid before God by a deputation of angels; and God gave directions to the good angels what measures to adopt to destroy the power of so fearful a combination.

    The Call of Enoch.

    God also sent a direct message to the fallen angels through Enoch, who for this purpose was taken up into the presence of God, and saw his glory.  This message denounced retribution and destruction on them, and on their children, the giants.  On receiving the message, the sinful angels were overcome with terror, and entreated Enoch to intercede in their behalf  He complied with their request.

    Reply of God.

    God sent by Enoch a message, refusing to spare them, because of the magnitude of their crimes.  God denounced their guilt in forsaking the elevated spiritual sphere, for which they were made immortal, and without the need of marriage after the manner of men, and coming down to the low plane of carnal lust.  He reproved them for forsaking their proper and elevated station as guardians and watchmen over men, and coming down to the degradation of sensual lust to seduce and corrupt them.  In view of such crimes, he declares that their case is hopeless, and that they are beyond the reach of mercy.


    The holy angels are then ordered to bind them in chains, and reserve them till the great day of the final judgment.  Thus in chapter x., it is said, concerning Samyaza, and the fallen angels who had intercourse with women:  ”Bind them for seventy generations underneath the earth, even to the day of judgment and of consummation, until the judgment, the effect of which will last forever, be completed.  Then shall they be taken away into the lowest depths of the fire in torments, and in confinement shall they be shut up forever.”

    In chapter xxi. 5, is given a striking account of the place of their eternal punishment:  “I beheld a great fire, blazing and glittering, in the midst of which was a division.  Columns of fire struggled together to the end of the abyss, and deep was their descent.  Then I exclaimed, ‘How terrible is this place, and how difficult to explore!’  Uriel, one of the holy angels, who was with me, answered and said: ‘Enoch, why art thou alarmed and amazed at this terrific place, at the sight of this place of suffering?  This,’ he said, ‘is the prison of the angels; here they are kept forever.’”

    Thus are these fallen angels singled out as the greatest criminals of the ages.  They are not confined and punished with sinful men, but in a prison appropriated to them, where they suffer for their great and peculiar crimes, as the great traitors who betrayed and corrupted humanity, over which they had been placed as guardians, and opened the flood-gates of evil on the world.  This is the view of them presented from the beginning to the end of the book.  It is also noteworthy that these fallen angels are not placed in any immediate connection with the devil, for, though their leaders are enumerated, he is not one of them.  Indeed, Satan is but once referred to in the book.

    Sinful Men Punished.

    So much for the eternal punishment of the fallen angels.  As to the eternal punishment of sinful men, and the eternal rewards of heaven, the book is no less explicit.  Enoch was conducted by the angels, at divers times, through the spiritual universe, and saw the abodes of the sinful and of the holy.  Many quotations might be made as to eternal punishment, for he has vision after vision. But one or two extracts from the twenty-first chapter will remove all uncertainty.  After a general view of the places assigned to souls until the day of judgment, he says of the abodes of the wicked: ”Here their souls are separated.  Moreover, abundant is their suffering until the time of the great judgment, the castigation and the torment of those who eternally execrate, whose souls are punished and bound there forever.”

    The Final Prison.

    Of the final prison, he says:  ”A receptacle has been formed for the souls of unrighteous men and of sinners:  of those who have completed crime, and associated with the impious, whom they resemble.  Their souls shall not be annihilated in the day of judgment, neither shall they arise from this place.”

    In chapter xxxviii. He says:  ”When the light of the righteous shall be manifested, where will the habitation of sinners be?  Where the place of rest for those who have rejected the Lord of spirits?  Better would it have been for them had they never been born.”

    In chapter civ. it is said:  ”In those days shall the mouth of hell be opened into which they shall be immerged [sic]; hell shall swallow up and destroy sinners from the face of the elect.”

    The Messiah as Judge.

    The agency of the Messiah in the judgment on the angels and on sinful men is clearly set forth in chapter lxviii.  The names of the leaders of the seducing angels are first given.  Then God’s oath is proclaimed.  Then it is said:  ”The Son of Man sat upon the throne of his glory, and to him the principal part of the judgment was assigned.  Sinners shall disappear and perish, while those who seduced them shall be bound with chains forever.”

    Range of the Book.

    But the book is not entirely confined to the angels.  It gives the great outlines of human history, and the relations of kings and nations to the coming judgment.  It also contains disclosures as to the elements, the seasons, and the great laws of the natural world.

    Punishment by Fire.

    Thus far, no particular mention of fire in the punishment of wicked men has been made.  In chapter cv. This deficiency is supplied.  He says:  ”I beheld a flame of fire blazing brightly, and, as it were, glittering mountains whirled around and agitated from side to side.  In it was the clamor of exclamation, of woe, and of great suffering.”  In reply to his inquiry, “What is it?” the angel said: ”There into that place which thou beholdest shall be thrust the spirits of sinners and blasphemers; of those who shall do evil, and who shall pervert all that God has spoken.”

    Rewards of the Good.

    Of the good, God says:  ”I will bring them into the splendid light of those who love my holy name, and I will place each of them on a throne of glory, of glory peculiarly his own, and they shall be at rest during unnumbered periods.  Righteous is the judgment of God.”

    Good Things in This World.

    Of sinners who have lived in prosperity and luxury, and been envied by men, therefore, he says, chapter ciii., Section 4:  ”Has it not been shown to them that when to the receptacle of the dead their souls shall be made to descend, their evil deeds shall become their greatest torments?  Into darkness, into the snare, and into the flame that shall burn to the great judgment shall their spirits enter, and the great judgment shall take effect forever and ever.  Woe to you, for to you there shall be no peace!”

    The whole of chapter xcvi. Is full of warnings to the wicked in view of the record of their crimes, and the coming day of judgment and retribution – as full as any modern sermon on the same subject.


    In this book, also, the doctrine of the resurrection is fully declared for the good, but not for the wicked.  It is not a part of their privilege and honor.  It is their spirits that are said to be thrust into eternal fire.

    Influence of the Book.

    This Jewish book of Enoch was extensively read in the early centuries.  Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius, and not a few others, adopted the view presented in it of the angels and their fall by carnal lust and sinful intercourse with women.  Their ideas of spirits were not so immaterial as to render it incredible.  No protest was made against the idea of giants four hundred and fifty feet high.  Indeed, even these would not probably reach the indefinite height of Satan as given by Milton, to whose staff the tallest mast of “some great admiral” was but a wand.

    Not in the Canon.

    But though the book was so extensively read, and exerted so wide an influence, it was not regarded as an inspired work, or a part of the Old Testament canon.  Tertullian is the only exception to this statement.  Although the statements of the book are without authority on us, as to future punishment, they show that, even before Christ came, the minds of the Jews had trodden a wide range as to the future life and endless retributions.  Of the book Westcott says, “No apocryphal book is more remarkable for eloquence and poetic vigor.”  In various parts of the book there are evidences of a Miltonic imagination acting in scenes of judgment and fiery terror.  From this apocalypse of Enoch we pass to that of Ezra, which also sets forth future eternal punishment, but from a different standpoint, and as the development of an entirely different system, one far more in affinity with modern modes of thought.  This, also, was widely read, and exerted great influence in the early church.  It deserves more careful consideration in many respects than it has yet received.  In some respects it is an enigma as yet unsolved.



    We have set forth future eternal punishment as it is presented in the Apocalypse of Enoch.  We have seen that the basis of the system of which it was a part was the fall of the angels through the love of the fair daughters of men, spoken of in Gen. vi. 2, and the corruption thence originating.  In the Apocalypse of Ezra the doctrine of future eternal punishment is retained, but this basis of the system disappears. And no reference is made to evil angels at all.   Even the devil utterly disappears.  An entirely new basis comes in sight.  This fact deserves more attention than it has ever received.

    New Basis.

    This new basis, however, is not quite so remote from modern thought as the other.  Indeed, it is likely to meet a very general recognition, for it is nothing else but the doctrine of the fall in Adam.

    This is not, however, in the Augustinian form of the identity of Adam and his posterity, and their guilt for his sin, nor in the form of Dr. Hodge, of Princeton, of a covenant with the race through Adam as their representative head, so that his sin is reckoned as their sin.  It is the doctrine that, by an inscrutable law of evil through Adam’s sin, original righteousness passed away from the race; and the same evil heart that was in Adam reappears in all his posterity, and results in the eternal perdition of the great majority of the human race, not by annihilation, but by endless misery. This is set forth as emphatically announced by God, and is assumed by Ezra.  The condemnation of men is justified on the ground that they are, notwithstanding, free moral agents, knowing their duty, and wickedly refusing to do it.

    Mode of Discussion.

    This doctrine is discussed in a kind of dialogue, in which the speakers are God, Ezra, and an angel.  The doctrine is defended, not by Ezra, but by god or by the angel who is God’s representative and sometimes speaks as God himself, and is so addressed.  On the other hand, Ezra presents very serious objections to the doctrine as set forth, and protests against it with great keenness on moral and rational grounds.  Indeed, as the case is presented, he has altogether the advantage as to moral impression.  Nor is this all.  He repudiates the doctrine as based on the fall of Adam with the highest and most affecting forms of moral and sympathetic emotion.  On the whole, the Apocalypse of Ezra must be regarded as one of the most remarkable productions of antiquity.

    It seems to present the doctrine of future eternal punishment based on the fall of Adam as true, according to the statements of God and the angel, and yet as entirely unsatisfactory to Ezra on moral and rational grounds.  And the marked feature of the case is that, though Ezra seems to have decidedly the best of the argument, yet, without retracting anything, he simply submits to God.

    Origin of the Book.

    The book professes to have been written by Ezra, in the thirtieth year after the Babylonish captivity.  Luche, Van der Vlis, Laurence, and Hilgenfeld, place its composition in the latter part of the century before Christ.  Other eminent scholars place it somewhat later.  But all agree that a Jew was the author.  As it stands in the Apocrypha of our English Bible, it is called the Second Book of Esdras.  But there is decisive evidence that the two opening and two concluding chapters are a Christian interpolation, and that a whole chapter has been omitted at vii. 35, which Archbishop Laurence has restored from the Ethiopic and Arabic translations of the book.  Laurence has also given a new translation in English and Latin of the whole.  It is upon the Apocalypse of Ezra, thus restored to its original form and newly translated, that our remarks are based.

    The book was extensively read, and exerted great influence among the fathers.  By Clement of Alexandria it was ascribed to the prophet Ezra, and regarded as inspired and canonical.  With him Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Ambrose, agreed.  Indeed, Ambrose made large quotations from it as of divine authority.  The book deserves, therefore, attentive study, by reason of its influence on ancient thought.  It does not open with a consideration of eternal punishment.  It begins with a consideration of the doctrine of original sin in its relations to God’s dealings with Israel in the captivity.

    Ezra’s Opening and Rejoinders.

    Ezra was convinced that if an evil heart was derived to all men in Adam, it was so deeply at the foundation of all history that everything needed to be explained and justified in the light of it in order to understand it truly and thoroughly.

    He recounts, therefore, the facts of history to God – the wickedness that called for the flood; the speedy apostacy after the flood, and again, after the giving of the law, and again, after the building of the temple; and he declares that the deep cause of all these apostacies was the evil heart, derived from Adam, which God caused and did not take away.  To this he recurs again and again through his book.  He earnestly calls on God to justify his dealings with his people from this standpoint.

    He is met by the assertion of the angel that to understand this doctrine of the evil heart is beyond his capacity, and that it is an immodest boldness for him to undertake it.

    He is not intimidated by this repulse, but gives a bold and profound reply.  He says, “It were better not to exist than thus to live under the power of the law of sin, and to suffer for it, and yet not to know how or why it is.”

    The angel then tells him:  ”God only in heaven can understand such high things; you are a man on earth and cannot do it.  Why aim at such high mysteries?”

    Ezra boldly replies, “Why, then, are we endowed with a reasoning soul?”  He adds:  ”I was not asking as to high things, but as to things taking place daily before us.  I am inquiring into God’s dealings with us from this standpoint.”

    Final Relief Promised.

    This boldness is not further precede; it is rather yielded to.  Ezra is told that the end of the world and the final judgment are near, and that in their light even the mysteries of Adam’s sin can and will be explained.  After many questions as to the time and to the signs of the day and what shall precede it, the judgment itself is described.  Nothing is taken from the New Testament descriptions of the day.  It is the view of a Jew familiar with the Old Testament, and in some things it widely differs from the New Testament.

    The Resurrection and the Judgment.

    The resurrection and the judgment are thus set forth to Ezra:  ”The earth shall restore those that are asleep in her, and so shall the dust those that dwell in silence; and the secret places shall deliver those souls that were committed unto them.  And the Most High shall appear upon the seat of judgment, and misery (of the good) shall pass away, and the long-suffering shall have an end. But judgment only shall remain, truth shall stand and faith shall wax strong, and the work shall follow, and the reward be shewed, and the good deeds be of force and wicked deeds shall bear no rule” (vii. 32-35).

    (At this point the omitted and restored chapter begins.)

    “Then shall the deep pit of condemnation lie open before the region of consolation, and the furnace of hell appear before the paradise of joy.  On that day shall the Most high say to the wicked who are risen:  ’Look and understand who it is that you have denied, whom ye would not obey and whose commands ye have despised.  Before you on one side joy and consolation, on the other judgment and fire.’  Thus shall he speak to them in the day of judgment.”

    Ezra’s Dissatisfaction.

    In view of this result, so favorable to the good, Ezra does not, as might have been expected, express joy.  On the other hand, he grieves because the number of the good is so small.  On account of Adam’s sin he sorrows that so few are saved, and so many condemned.  The evil heart, he says, derived from Adam, leads to sin and ruin.  This is true almost universally.

    God’s Reply.

    To this God in substance replies:  ”That which is scarce is most valuable.  Gold is more scarce than silver, iron, lead, clay, and therefore more valuable.  So shall I rejoice in the few that live, for in them I am glorified.  Nor do I grieve on account of them who perish, for, like a fire and smoke, they burn, rage, and are extinguished.”  This seems to be a very cold-hearted reply.

    Ezra’s Rejoinder.

    The reply of Ezra to this deserves particular notice.  It is in effect this:  The possession of responsible free agency under such a system is not a blessing but a curse.  To be an irresponsible animal is far better than to be an accountable free agent under such a system.

    “Then I answered him and said, Surely it would have been better not to have had an understanding heart formed in us than to have had it formed, and to increase with us, and yet an account of this to be condemned; for we know that we must perish.”

    Ezra’s First Lament.

    Then follows an expression of sorrow over the sad condition and destiny of man, unparalleled in theological literature:  ”Let the human race lament, while the beasts of the field rejoice.  Let all who are born of woman weep, while all the flocks of cattle bound for joy.  For their condition is much better than ours.  No judgment awaits them, nor are they obnoxious to punishment.  Nor do they hope for life after death.  What profit is our life to us?  All who are born are immerged [sic] in sin, full of iniquity and laden with transgressions.  Truly it would have been better for us if we had not been capable of being judged after death.”

    God’s Reply.

    The reply put into the mouth of God does not meet the point of this appeal.  It simply states the fact that God, from the beginning, determined that men should be responsible to judgment, and they are.  They know their duty, and do not do it, and therefore they shall be punished.  ”He replied, when the Most High created the world, Adam, and his posterity, he previously ordained judgment and punishment.  Now then learn wisdom from they own words, for thou saidst an understanding heart has increased within us; therefore will all who inhabit the earth be punished, because they are conscious of their crimes.  Knowing, they have not obeyed.  Having understood his law, they have broken it.  What can they say when judged?”

    Questions of Ezra.

    Ezra is silent and does not pursue the discussion further at this point, but inquires as to the state of the soul after death.  He is told that all souls return to God, and then are assigned places where they anticipate the judgment-day; and the various sources of suffering to the wicked, and joy to the righteous, during the interval, are pointed out.

    He then asks whether the righteous can effectually intercede for sinners after the judgment – fathers for children, children for fathers, friends and relatives for each other – and he is told that they cannot.  No man can assist another.  No man can cast his burden on another.  Every man must bear his own burden.  (Here the omitted and restored chapter ends, and vii. 36 proceeds.)

    Ezra then refers to many cases of effectual intercession of the saints in the Old Testament, and asks why should it not be so after the judgment?  He is told that this world is not a final and fixed state, but the world to come is.  In this world, therefore, they have effectually interceded for sinners.  But the day of doom is the end of this state and the beginning of immortality.  Then shall no man be able to save him who is destroyed, nor to overcome him who hath gotten the victory.

    Ezra’s Final Reply.

    The final reply of Ezra is as remarkable as anything that has preceded.  I answered them and said:  ”THIS IS MY FIRST AND LAST SAYING, THAT IT HAD BEEN BETTER NOT TO GIVE THE EARTH UNTO ADAM; OR ELSE, WHEN IT WAS GIVEN HIM, TO HAVE RESTRAINED HIM FROM SINNING.”  The import of this is plain.  No system, blank non-existence of rational beings in this world, would be better than such a system as is based on the fall of Adam.  It deserves notice, also, that this is after he has heard the defense ascribed to God -i.e., that men are intelligent beings and know their duty, and cannot justify themselves for their crimes.  Ezra goes beneath all this, and calls in question the rectitude of the system itself which could terminate in such results.  Nothing can be bolder than his reply.


    Ezra’s Second Lament.

    After this he bursts out into a loud and moving second lament over the inevitable results of the system, as seen in the certain sinfulness and ruin of the vast mass of mankind:

    “O thou, Adam, what has thou done?  For though it was thou that sinned, thou art not fallen lone, but we all who come of thee.  For what profit is it to us if there be promised us an immortal life, whereas we have done the works that bring death?  That there is promised to us an everlasting hope, whereas we, being most wicked, are hopeless of it?  And that there are laid up for us dwellings of health and safety, whereas we have forfeited them by wicked lives?  And that the glory of the Most High defends such as have led a holy life, whereas we have walked in the most wicked ways of all?  And that thou should be shewed a paradise whose fruit endureth forever, wherein is security and health, since we shall not enter into it?  And that the faces of those who have abstained from sin should shine above the stars, but our faces shall be blacker than darkness?  For while we lived and committed iniquity we considered not that we should begin to suffer for it after death.”

    God’s Reply.

    The reply to this in the name of God is based on a repeated assertion of the free agency, responsibility, and disobedience, of man:

    “Then answered he me and said, This is the condition of the battle which man who is born upon the earth shall fight; that if he be overcome, he shall suffer as thou hast said; but if he gain the victory, he shall receive the reward as I say.  For this is the life whereof Moses spoke unto the people while he lived, saying, Choose life, that thou mayst live.  Nevertheless, they believed not him, nor yet the prophets after him; no, nor me, who have spoken unto them, that there should not be so much sorrow for their destruction as joy over those who are persuaded to salvation.”

    Spirit of the Book.

    The book then proceeds to consider at great length the signs of the times and future developments, in which we cannot follow it.

    In form it defends, by the authority of God, the doctrine of future eternal punishment, as based on the fall of Adam.  On the other hand, the moral influence of Ezra’s protest against it is very great, and is met by no adequate reply.

    What the author actually meant is not clear.  The book is an enigma; yet it has generally been accepted as a defense of the doctrine.  One thing is sure – it goes down to the very depths of human thought and feeling on this great theme.  In every age the doctrine of the fall in Adam has been felt to add a new horror to the doctrine of endless punishment, and to make the system utterly indefensible.




    Christ is the great central luminary of history.  We rejoice in proportion as we are able to see all events in his light.  As to future retribution, as we have seen, there had been great mental activity before his day, and various and decided opinions had been formed and widely promulgated.  Let us now endeavor to conceive who they were with whom our Saviour would come in contact, and what forms of belief he would encounter.

    Jewish Centres.

    The Jews of his age had three main centres of population and development – Babylon, Alexandria, and Jerusalem.  The Jews of Babylon, as we have seen, were more exposed to Persian and Oriental influences.  Those of Alexandria were more under the influence of Greek philosophy.  Those of Palestine were more conservative of the original and unaltered institutions of Moses.  And yet, at the great yearly festivals at Jerusalem, leading Jews from all these centres were assembled from year to year, and Christ must have met them there.  He may have met even Philo in this way. John also tells that on a certain occasion some Greeks – proselytes, no doubt – came to worship at the feast of the Passover, and desired to see Jesus – John xii. 20.  Probably this was not a rare event. In these great gatherings there would be scribes, or expounders of the law (called sometimes lawyers), as well as priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees.  Probably he met also Essenes, though of them nothing is said in the New Testament.  Besides these, he would meet with Roman magistrates and soldiers, and finally, and more than all, he would come in contact with the common people.  And in these great convocations there would be those who had read whatever works had been written or published on the great theme of retribution – works called by us apocryphal or apocalyptic.  What forms of belief, then, did he meet?

    Testimony of the Evangelists.

    Looking at the Evangelists, we at once discover one great fact.  Christ stood in the midst of a very great, keenly-contested, and wide-spread controversy.  On one side were the Sadducees, denying future life and all its retributions, as entirely unknown to the law of Moses.  On the other side stood the Pharisees, teaching with emphasis the resurrection, and a future life and its retributions.  In this great controversy he sided with the Pharisees.  So much we gather clearly from the Evangelists.  But what, in their view, were these retributions?  On this point the New Testament gives us no definite information whatever.  It is not even expressly said that the Pharisees taught that the rewards of the good would be eternal life, though it may be reasonably supposed that they did.  Much less does it inform us whether, with Philo, they held to the annihilation of the wicked, or, with the book of Enoch, to their endless punishment.  Nor is it intimated that they held to the doctrine of universal restoration.  Indeed, it is not probable that, as Jews, full of conceit of their own peculiar prerogatives, they even adopted an idea so enlarged and liberal as the salvation of universal humanity, and their exaltation as sons of God, though it might have been suggested in Persia.

    If we had a work on the questions involved in the great controversy of the day by a Sadducee or a Pharisee then living, with what interest should we scrutinize it!  Especially would it be interesting to hear from a Sadducee the reasons of their belief, or rather unbelief.  But no one arose to represent or defend them to the ages.  All that we know of them comes from their opponents.

    Of the Pharisees this is not true.  There are at least two Pharisees, contemporaries of Christ, who have spoken of them, and these are both distinguished men.  One is the apostle Paul and the other is Josephus.

    Testimony of Paul.

    But the testimony of Paul in one case is indirect, and bears only on the fact that the Pharisees held to the resurrection.  Luke informs us that, on his trial before the Sanhedrim [sic] in Jerusalem, Paul, perceiving that one part was Sadducees and the other Pharisees, made a diversion of the Pharisees in his own favor by declaring his faith in the resurrection to be the point on which he was called in question.  On this, Luke says, the multitude was divided.  ”For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess both” (Acts xxiii. 6-8).

    But after this, on his trial before Felix at Cesarea, he distinctly declares, “I have hope toward God which they also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts xxiv. 15).

    But Paul nowhere states what their views of the punishment of the wicked, or of the rewards of the righteous.


    Belief of the Masses.

    That the doctrine of the Pharisees, on the subject of the resurrection, was believed by the masses, there is no reason to doubt.  It is clearly indicated by the reply of Martha to Jesus, when he said to her with reference to the time then present, “Thy brother shall rise again.”  She said unto him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John xi. 24).

    Testimony of Josephus.

    From Paul let us now turn to the other Pharisee, Josephus, and question him.  At first sight it seems as if we should thus obtain full satisfaction, for in each of his great works he professes to give a careful account of the doctrines of the Pharisees, as well as of the Sadducees and Essenes.

    But, though he was a priest as well as a Pharisee, he perplexes rather than enlightens us by his disagreement with the testimony of Paul, and of the Evangelists, as to the resurrection.

    He Seems to Teach Transmigration.

    His language teaches rather the transmigration of souls – not into animals, but into new human bodies – than the true doctrine of the resurrection.  It is suggested that he uses words ambiguously, so that the Greeks, who held to transmigration, and not resurrection, might put their sense on his words, and, at the same time, believers in the resurrection might interpret them in their own sense.  This may be the truth, and, if so, Josephus simply acted on the slippery principle of compromise, which even Christian councils have not hesitated to follow.  But the force of his language predominates on the side of transmigration.  Take the statement in his speech at Jotapata, to deter his companions from suicide in a great extremity.  He says to them: “Do you not know that those who depart out of this life according to the law of Nature, and pay that debt when he that lent life is pleased to require it back again, enjoy eternal fame?  That their souls are pure and obedient, and obtain a most holy place in heaven, whence, in the revolution of ages, they are again sent into pure bodies, while the souls of those whose hands have acted madly against themselves are received into the darkest place in Hades?”  (“Jewish War,” iii., 8, 5).  It deserves notice here that he is speaking to Jews, and not to Greeks, and, unless in reporting his speech for the Greeks he modified his address to his comrades, it is clear that he set forth to them the doctrine of transmigration, and not of resurrection.  Again, in ii., 8, 14, he says of the Pharisees: “They say that all souls are immortal, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, and that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.”  Here the resurrection of the unjust is expressly denied, and that of the just is transformed into a removal into other bodies, as already stated.  In another place, he states the case thus: “The wicked shall be detained in an everlasting prison, but the righteous shall have power to revive and live again” (“Antiquities,” xviii., 1, 3).  This last form of words is nearest to a compromise of the two systems, for it can be taken so as to express either.

    Views of Alger and Twisleton.

    Different views are taken of these facts.  Mr. Alger does not hesitate to say that “the Greek culture and philosophical tincture wit which Paul was imbued led him to reject the doctrine of a bodily resurrection; and this is probably the reason why he makes no allusion to that doctrine in his account of the Pharisees.”  If he was reporting his own opinions, there would be a good reason for saying nothing of the resurrection, if he did not believe it.  But it would not be a good reason for misrepresenting the main body of the Pharisees, who held it.  We cannot suppose that the Evangelists, and Paul, and our Saviour, were mistaken in asserting that the Pharisees held the doctrine.  E.B.T. Twisleton, in Smith’s “Bible Dictionary,” says: “The value of Josephus’s account of the Pharisees would be much greater if he had not accommodated it, more or less, to Greek ideas.  So that, in order to arrive at the exact truth, not only much must be added, but likewise much of what he has written must re retranslated, as it were, into Hebrew conceptions.”  This implies that Josephus, in order to adapt his narration to the Greeks, translated the Jewish resurrection into the transmigration of souls, and that, in order to get at the exact truth, we must translate it back again into the Jewish doctrine of the resurrection of the body.  One other view of the case is possible.

    Another View.

    It may be that among the Pharisees there was, in fact, a Grecian party of Alexandrian Jews and their sympathizers, who held to the transmigration of the soul, and called it a resurrection.  It would appear, from Luke ix. 7-9, 19, that some of the Jews regarded Christ as one of the old prophets risen again.  Hence it would seem that if the spirit of an old prophet was born into this world in a new body, it would be called by some of the Jews a resurrection from the dead; for it is hard to suppose that any of them were so ignorant of the fact that Christ was born in the usual way as to suppose that in his case there had been a literal resurrection of the dead body of any old prophet.  If there was such a party, Josephus, in dealing with the Greeks, in order to avoid their prejudices against the resurrection, may have chosen to make these views prominent, though perhaps the majority of the Pharisees held to the literal resurrection of the body.  In this supposition there is nothing improbable.  The Alexandrian Jews thought very freely.  We have seen that Philo held to the annihilation of the wicked, though eternal misery, according to Josephus, was the prevailing doctrine of the Pharisees.

    Hence an exact agreement among the Pharisees is improbable.  The doctrine of preexistence among the Greeks was generally associated with the transmigration of souls, and there is evidence that the doctrine of preexistence was widely spread among the Jews of Alexandria.  Of it we have an illustration in the Wisdom of Solomon, in which the wise King of Israel is introduced as saying of himself, “I was an intelligent child, and had a good spirit, yea, rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled” (Wisdom viii. 19, 20).  This resembles, in no small degree, the statement of Josephus to his fellow-soldiers that, “In the revolution of ages, the good are sent into pure bodies.”  The extent of this belief in preexistence finally became so great that Alger says, “The Talmudists generally believed in the preexistence of souls in heaven.”  Indications of this belief in preexistence occur also among the masses in Palestine, as is indicated by the inquiry of the disciples, “Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John ix. 2).  On this supposition we see that Josephus may have stated the truth, though not the whole truth, in saying that the Pharisees held to the transmigration of souls.  Of a large number it may have been true, though the majority still held to the resurrection of the body.


    Eternal Punishment.

    But, on one point, the testimony of Josephus is full and explicit, and he is our only witness on that point.  The Pharisees, as is proved by his testimony already given, held to the doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked.  According to them, they were never raised from Hades.  They never could enter other bodies.  They were confined in an everlasting prison.  They were subject to eternal punishment.

    As to the nature of this punishment, Josephus is silent.  He makes no mention of fire, though this means of torment seems to have been naturally suggested among many nations.

    The Essenes.

    Concerning the Essenes, the third Jewish sect, Josephus says that they taught that the body is corruptible and the soul immortal; that their bodies are prisons of the soul; that the soul, when set free, rejoices, and mounts upward.  He says that their views are like the opinions of the Greeks: that good souls dwell in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain or snow, or with intense heat; while the bad are consigned to a dark and tempestuous region, full of never-ceasing punishments (“Jewish Wars,” ii., 8-13).

    So much for the contemporaries of Christ.  We will next consider the Christian ages.



    We come now to the Christian ages.  Of these, the nineteenth is fast drawing to a close.

    Christ came at the fullness of the times, and laid hold of the destinies of the world, but not in the manner anticipated.  Not by armies, and conquest, and a universal worldly empire, but by principles, thoughts, enlarged views of God, man, and the universe, deep and intense emotions, and tireless mental activity.  He came to save man from sin, and to renovate society.  His own profound words express the character of his coming more perfectly than any other; it was to be as a vital leaven, inserted in human society and destined not to cease its action till the whole system, in all departments, was leavened.  The dispensation was to be closed by his second coming and a final judgment.

    Hence, these ages are full of thought, of controversies, of conflicts and of revolutions.  They are also full of historical documents, in the various languages of men, calling for intense study thoroughly to understand them.

    The history of these ages is a vast and sublime ocean on which we are to launch.  Nor is it without its dangers.  In it are gulf streams and fogs, rocks and shoals, gales and icebergs.  Yet, in one part, at least, it has a fascinating aspect to all, for in it are the beginnings of that vast revolution which is yet shaking the world, and which is destined not to cease till every form of evil is overthrown.

    As there is to travelers a fascination in Palestine, Sinai, and Egypt, because in them associations of Moses and of Christ meet them on every side, so the first century till its close, from its constant contact with Christ and his apostles, is full of powerful attractions.

    Apostolic Fathers.

    Hence, too, the deep interest in those who are supposed to be apostolic fathers, that is, those who were associated with the apostles or with their immediate disciples.

    Thus, when Irenaeus, that great defender of the faith against the Gnostics, says of Polycarp, that he was “instructed by apostles, and had intercourse with many who had seen Christ;” when he further tells how he saw Polycarp when a boy, and adds: “I can tell even the spot in which the blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, and his outgoings and incomings, and the character of his life, and the form of his body, and the conversations which he held with the multitude, and how he related his familiar intercourse with John and the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he rehearsed their sayings, and what things they were which he had heard from them with regard to the Lord and his miracles and teaching,” certainly it invests this venerable apostolic father with a deep and peculiar interest.  And when Irenaeus proceeds to say, “All these things Polycarp related in harmony with the Scriptures (the gospels), as having received them from the eye-witnesses of the word of life,” our faith in the historical verity of the gospels in opposition to all mythical theories is gratefully confirmed.

    Historical Foothold.

    We need not wonder, therefore, if all parties seek to gain a foothold in this region.  This foothold is secured only by means of a statement of their case in history.

    It was said of Daniel Webster that his great power with a jury lay in the statement of the facts of his case.  His argument was virtually complete and he had carried the jury before they supposed that he had begun to reason at all.

    In the same way histories have been written in behalf of the papacy, and, when the desired original documents were not found, they were manufactured, and for ages accepted as genuine.

    Hence, in the Reformation, a fundamental work was needed, in exposing false documents, and writing the true history of the early ages, and in this work the Magdeburg Centuriators labored with terrific effect.  Of course, the papacy was not silent.  Baronius was their advocate, and a cardinalship was his reward.  He was a man of vast learning and resources, and as honest as his cause would allow him to be, which is not saying much, for, even to-day [sic], Dollinger, the learned leader of the Old Catholics, has warned the nations of a universal Jesuit conspiracy to falsify and corrupt history in support of the claims of the papacy.

    Contested Ground.

    Hence, almost the whole territory is contested ground.  There are hundreds of millions in the Romish and Greek Churches whom modern historical science and criticism have not reached, and who are sensitive to an attack upon even the grossest forms of error and imposition.  The subject of our history is no exception to this general course of remark.  Every part of it is contested ground.

    Four Ends.

    History has been written as to the doctrine of retribution with reference to at least four ends.

    The first is to depreciate the early fathers as holding almost universally to a system of eternal torments by material fire, thus subjecting the world to a system of degrading terrorism.

    The second is to establish as true the current orthodox view of eternal punishment.

    The third is to sustain the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked after a just degree of suffering.

    The fourth is to vindicate the doctrine of universal restoration and salvation as having its roots in the early ages.

    It will prepare the way for our future investigations if we illustrate, by examples, some of these statements.

    W. E. H. Lecky.

    W. E. H. Lecky is a scholar of extensive reading and original research.  His “History of European Morals, from Augustus to Charlemagne,” is a work of great value, and his account of the philosophic systems of the Roman Empire indicates a careful study of the original sources of evidence.  But when, in his “History of Rationalism” (vol. I, page 316), he speaks of the fathers, he obviously has not studied the original sources, and refers to second-hand authorities of no weight at this day, in the historical world.  Thus only can we explain the fact that such a man has committed himself to the statement that follows:  ”Origen, and his disciple Gregory of Nysssa, in a somewhat hesitating manner, diverged from the prevailing opinion (eternal torments), and strongly inclined to a figurative interpretation, and to the belief in the ultimate salvation of all.  But they were alone in their opinion.       With these two exceptions, all the fathers proclaimed the eternity of torments, and all defined these torments as the action of a literal fire on a sensitive body.”  The general accuracy of Mr. Lecky, in his historical statements, need not be called in question.  But nothing can be more erroneous than this statement.  It would require more time than we can here spare to mention and characterize all those among the father who did not hold to the doctrine of eternal torments at all, in addition to the two mentioned by Mr. Lecky.  But all that is necessary will be said in the course of this history.

    Prof. Shedd.

    We will next consider the statement of a defender of the current orthodoxy.  This we will take from a work of decided ability and merit, a “History of Christian Doctrine,” by Prof. Shedd, of the Union Theological Seminary.  In vol. ii., p. 414, he says, “The punishment inflicted upon the lost was regarded by the fathers of the ancient Church, with very few exceptions, as endless.”  He then makes quotations to that effect from four fathers of the Western Church, to whom he adds Justin Martyr and Chrysostom. He then says, “The only exception to the belief in the eternity of future punishment in the ancient Church appears in the Alexandrian school.”  He then shows how this denial grew out of their anthropology, and adds in conclusion”  ”The views of Origen concerning future retribution were almost wholly confined to his school.  Faint traces of a belief in the remission of punishments in the future world are visible in the writings of Didymus of Alexandria, and in Gregory of Nyssa.  The annihilation of the wicked was taught by Arnobius.  With these exceptions the ancient Church held that the everlasting destiny of the human soul is decided in this earthy state.”

    The argument of this passage is plain.  It is this:  If this is a true statement of facts, then the case of the current orthodoxy is very strong, and little more need be done.  The Church has settled the question.  But we ask, Is it true?

    This statement somewhat transcends the limits set by Lecky to the doctrine of restoration.  It is not confined to two individuals, but it is confined to one school, the school of Alexandria. What, then, shall be said of Didore of Tarsus, not of the school of Alexandria, the eminent teacher of Chrysostom, and a decided advocate of universal restoration?  What shall be said of his disciple, Theodore of Mopsuestia, that earnest defender of the same doctrine, of whom Dorner says that he was “the climax and the crown of the school of Antioch?”  What shall be said of the great Eastern school of Edessa and Nisibis in which the scriptural exposition of Theodore of Mopsuestia was a supreme authority and text-book?  Was Theodore of the school of Alexandria?  Not at all.  He was of the school of Antioch.  He was an opposer of Origen in interpretation, and psychology, and anthropology.  And yet he not only taught the doctrine of universal restoration on his own basis, but even introduced it into the liturgy of the Nestorian Church in Eastern Asia.  What, too, shall we say of the two great theological schools in which he had a place of such honor and influence?  But of this we shall speak more fully at another time, when we consider the relation of the early theological schools to this question.  Dr. Shedd should have called to mind a statement in Guericke’s “Church History,” as translated by himself:  ”It is noticeable that the exegetico-grammatical school of Antioch, as well as the allegorizing Alexandrian, adopted and maintained the doctrine of restoration” (p. 349, note 1).

    Messrs. Constable and Hudson.

    But there is another statement of the case by Messrs. Constable, of Ireland, and Hudson of this country, in their elaborate works designed to prove the final annihilation of the wicked. According to Mr. Constable, all the apostolic fathers believed in this doctrine.  His list of authorities is quite impressive.  Beginning with Barnabus, and going to the year 242, he claims Clemens Romanus, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, and Clement of Alexandria, so that Arnobius does not stand alone as Prof. Shedd represents, but has very illustrious company.  He leaves only Athenagoras, Tatian, and Tertullian, as advocates of eternal torment, and finally he represents Origen, so late as the year 253, as first introducing the doctrine of universal restoration.  Mr. Hudson is not less exacting in his claims.  He says:  ”It now remains to show that the early Christians, heralds as they were of the word of life, taught nothing else than the death of the wicked.  The documents which here offer themselves are the writings of the so-called apostolic fathers, and other early records” (“Doctrine of a Future Life,” p. 289).

    Of these claims it is enough to say that some of these witnesses do undeniably testify as alleged, but that a large number do not definitely testify to any view except the general one of future retribution, because the subject had never been up as a controverted question, and the end at which they were aiming did not call for it.

    Dr. Ballou.

    Dr. Ballou also has written a “History of Ancient Universalism,” in which is presented a very different state of facts that [sic] alleged by Mr. Lecky and Prof. Shedd.  He claims, and truly, a much wider range, and far greater power for the doctrine of universal salvation, than they admit.  The work is one of decided ability, and is written with great candor and a careful examination of authorities.  In our opinion, it would benefit Mr. Lecky and Prof. Shedd attentively to consider all the facts and authorities presented in it.  We think, however, that he, and especially his editors, in a number of cases, draw conclusions that go beyond the authorities to which they refer.  The view given of the theology of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and of the difference between him and Origen, is also incomplete, and needs to be more fully wrought out.

    Plan of the History.

    What, then, do we propose to do in a field of history, every part of which has been, and is, so sternly contested?

    We do not propose to go over all the ground in minute detail, fighting our way as we go.  We propose rather, first of all, to begin with the account of the last judgment given by Christ, and the views taken of it in the early church, and to give a history of the interpretation of the leading word in that passage, the word aionios, translated first everlasting, and afterward eternal.  In a true view of the historical sense of this word is the only key to much of the writing of the fathers, which would be contradictory without it.  We propose next to develop certain great and undeniable historical facts as to the first system of Christian theology that was ever published, and which promulgated universal restoration, of which the illustrious Origen, in or about the year 230, was the author.  We propose also to consider the foundation and growth of the first Christian theological schools and their relations to this doctrine.  Thus will be developed certain great facts concerning which there can be no controversy, and these will furnish us with a point of vision from which we can survey the whole field, backward toward Christ, and onward to the action of Justinian, through a local council, in condemning the doctrine of universal restoration, so late as the year 644, more than three centuries after it was promulgated by Origen.  After this year, there is no special difficulty in the history of the doctrine.



    No portion of the Word of God exceeds in sublimity, and wide and enduring influence, the account of the judgment given by Christ, the final judge.  A full history of the modes in which it has been understood, and of the influence it has exerted, would be of intense interest, for it has been the great channel of thought and emotion in the Christian ages.  The views taken as to the time of the judgment, its nature, and the duration of the consequent retributions, if fully set forth, would make an extended history.  But at present we shall consider only the last point, and this brings up the history of opinions on the meaning of the word aionios used by Christ and translated eternal and everlasting.  After all, the main question that most deeply moves the mind of man is this:   Did Christ, in his account of the judgment, proclaim endless punishment to the wicked?

    It is not wonderful that this question moves the world.  The nations must stand before his judgment-bar.  No investigation as to the nature of the threatened penalty can be too exact or profound.  This has created an earnest desire for the testimony of some witness as to the import of his words whose testimony shall be absolute and decisive.  The question is, Does ainios mean endless?

    The history of ecclesiastical opinions on this point does not go back to the apostolic fathers, for, as we have before stated, there is no reference to Christ’s account of the judgment in their writings.


    But some have thought that they have found the desired witness in the eminent philosopher Aristotle.  They regard him as declaring that the word aion, from which aionios is derived, denotes originally and primarily eternity, in the absolute sense, and hence that aionios must mean eternal in the same sense.

    This supposed testimony of the illustrious philosopher has exerted a great influence in producing an assured conviction on that point, in the minds of many, which leads them to assume that the idea of eternity is so plainly declared by the words of Christ that to call it in question is a sinful evasion or denial of the Word of God.

    This great philosopher has in fact stated that aion is derived from two Greek words, the adverb aei, always, and the participle on, existing.  Hence, assuming that aeialways denotes eternity, is adapted to exert great influence on candid minds, and has extensively done so.

    The eminent Andrew Fuller, in his letters to Mr. Vidler, refers to this passage of Aristotle as deciding the original sense of the word and its usage in the days of Aristotle.  (“Works,” i., 349). The same passage is also referred to as decisive of the question in the “Encyclopaedia of Religious Knowledge,” of which the eminent Prof. B. B. Edwards, of Andover Theological Seminary, was one of the editors (p. 73, aion).  The passage referred to in support of these assertions occurs in the treatise of Aristotle, “De Coelo,” i., 9.  On it two questions arise:  First, is the etymology of Aristotle correct?  Second, admitting it to be correct, does aei always denote eternity and does it sanction the translation of the passage given by these writers, and their inference from it that aionoriginally and primarily means eternity?  On the first point it must be said that by the general consent of scholars, though Plato and Aristotle were great philosophers, they were very poor etymologists.  The true principles of etymology they neither understood nor acted on.  For a full view of the facts in the case see Grote’s “Plato,” vol. ii., pp. 500-550.  Sufficient reasons could be given for rejecting this etymology.  Yet, though some lexicographers of repute reject it, others of equal authority accept it.  And as I prefer to meet the question radically, and to test the argument in its full strength, I will for the present concede the correctness of the etymology of Aristotle.

    But, in reply to the second question, I remark that even if the etymology of Aristotle were to be accepted, it is not at all decisive of the question; for the word aei does not always or even commonly denote or imply eternity, and in this passage it manifestly does not, and to give it that sense involves Aristotle in inconsistency and absurdity, and in a war with notorious facts in the history of the Greek language.  But as this passage has exerted so extensive an influence, I propose to pay particular attention to these statements.  Any careful study of the word aei will show that singly or in compounds it does not always denote or even imply eternity, but more frequently continuity of being, or character, or action, or habitual action in a given way.  The same is true of our English words ever and always.  An evergreen [Greek letters used here!] is not a tree green to all eternity, but a tree continuously green during its life.  In the New Testament aei is never used in the sense of eternity, but always to denote habitual action, or a stated mode of action at all proper times.  It was Pilate’s usage to release yearly unto the Jews one prisoner.  The mob, therefore, desired him to do as he had ever (aei) done unto them, not to or from eternity, but as an annual usage.  Peter exhorts the Christians (1 Epis. iii. 15) to be ready always (aei) to give a reason of the hope that is in them, that is habitually, at all proper times, not to all eternity.  The same usages are found in the Latin semper (always), and in the German.  Aristotle, moreover, refers to the ancients as sanctioning this etymology of aion.  But in Homer, the great leader of the ancients, aei is rarely used to denote eternity.  Damm, in his elaborate “Lexicon and virtual Concordance of Homer,” thus defines the wordaei:

    “Ever, always, perpetually, constantly.  It does not always denote duration to infinity, but often continuity of action in a small space of time, or assiduous and earnest action in a limited time, or frequent, or oft-repeated, or habitual action.  Often aei is completed on the same day, and denotes great earnestness and effort.”  A few illustrations may suffice.  Achilles says to Calchas, “It is ever (aei) pleasing to you to foretell evils to me” (Il., i., 107); Menelaus says, “Always (aei) the minds of the young are unstable” (Il., iii, 109); Homer says that “Atreides took a knife that always (aei) hung by the sheath of his great sword (Il., iii, 272); Jupiter says to Juno, “The laughter-loving Venus is always (aei) near to Paris, and averts death from him” (Il., iv. 11); Jupiter says to Juno, “It is always (aei) pleasant to you to engage in clandestine counsels apart from me” (Il., i., 541).  In all these cases, not eternity, but continuous or habitual action in a limited time, is denoted.  Damm in his “Lexicon,” derives aion from a intensive and on.  Yet he looks at it as possibly derived from aei and on.  On this assumption he introduces the idea of continuity of action as involved in it, and rejects the idea of absolute eternity.  He thus defines it:  ”Continuance or duration to the end; any perpetuity.  It denotes properly the whole duration of the life of man, the duration of mortal life. Hence, to finish one’s aion is to die.  The words aei on denote existing perpetually, and without any intermission, until the end comes.”

    It is the neglect of these plain and undeniable facts and principles that has led to a false and absurd translation of the passage of Aristotle on which so much has been made to rest.  I shall now translate it, after premising that it contains certain peculiar views of Aristotle based on the assumption that the earth is the centre of the universal system; that the sun, moon, and stars, revolve around it; that all the matter in the universe is included in it, and yet that, beyond the extreme limit of all revolving worlds, other beings exist.  He has been speaking of these spiritual beings beyond all the revolving bodies of the whole material system, and he attempts to prove that there is to them neither matter, nor time, nor a vacuum.  Of these beings he says:  ”they are not in place, nor does time cause them to grow old, nor is there any change in them.  But without change, and enjoying the best and the most satisfying life, they pass their whole existence” (aion).  We are here to remember that, according to Aristotle (it matters not whether we can receive his ideas or not), to these beings there is neither time nor place, but only existence, and we are bound not to translate aion eternity, which is infinite time, but existence, continuous existence, as it is defined by Damm.  He next proceeds to say:  ”And indeed this word aion, by a divine inspiration, was employed by the ancients; for they called the boundary which surrounds and takes in the time of the life of every man, beyond which, by necessity of Nature, no action exists, the aion; that is, the whole continuous existence of the man.”  This statement, in fact, agrees with the usage of the ancients, for, as we shall see, they did use aion to denote the whole duration of the life of man.  It is also a demonstration that by aionAristotle did not mean eternity.  Is a definitely bounded human life eternity?  To call such a life eternity would be absurd and contradictory.  And yet most translators have so absurdly rendered Aristotle.  Grote is an exception.

    Aristotle proceeds:  ”On the same principle, the boundary of all the heavens, and the boundary that incloses [sic] and comprehends all time and space, is aion, a continuous existence, immortal and divine, deriving its name from [two Greek words appear here - using Greek letters], to exist continuously.”  On this passage, Liddell and Scott say that aion denotes the complete period of the universe, as previously it denoted the complete period of human life.  It is manifest that this aion is repeatedly said to be a boundary or limitation inclosing [sic] the universe.  But eternity, from its very idea, is not a definite boundary of anything.  Therefore, to translate aion eternity would be contradictory and absurd.  It is a continuous existence.

    Moreover, as human existence implies a being who exists, so here the existence (aion) of the universe implies a being who exists in the aion.  Hence, Aristotle calls the aion immortal and divine.

    In this case, the being who exists can be no other than the Supreme God, the immovable mover of all revolving worlds, of whom Aristotle says so much.  He, too, is beyond the revolving universe, where there is existence, but not time.

    That Aristotle meant this Supreme God by aion is plain from what he adds:  ”On whom the being and life of all other beings and things are dependent, in some cases more clearly and obviously, in others more obscurely.”

    Of eternity none of these things are true.  It is not immortal and divine.  On it the being and life of all other beings and things are not dependent.  Hence to translate aioneternity is absurd.

    I have thus shown that, if aion is rendered eternity in this passage, it involves Aristotle in self-contradiction and utter absurdity.  Hence, the argument from his testimony utterly fails.



    But, besides what has been said, we are to remember that Aristotle appeals to the ancients as sustaining his view of the import of the word.  But, to translate aioneternity would also bring him into direct conflict with all the ancients.  For, in the early centuries, the idea of eternity does not occur at all in the word, and it was introduced into it only in the later centuries of the language.  Nor is it hard to trace the process by which this sense was finally introduced.  It is the more important to do this, as there is, in some lexicographers, a disposition still to give eternity as the original sense ofaion, and the popular mind cannot be thoroughly freed from this fallacy until the real facts in the case are clearly understood.

    Moreover, a biographical sketch of this word, and its changes from the beginning to this day, would develop a history of peculiar interest and great profit.  But I cannot enter into it in detail.  I will only give a sketch of the great river of thought connected with this word, from its earliest beginnings down to this day, when it is the centre of a world-wide controversy.

    Who, then, are the ancients to whom Aristotle appeals?  Beyond all doubt Homer and Hesiod come into this list, and also the Orphic hymnists.  Here, then, if anywhere, we are to look for the testimony of the ancients.  After these come the great lyric and dramatic poets Pinder, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.  To these may be added the historians Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon.  Let us then see if Aristotle’s appeal to the ancients will sustain the position that the primary and original sense of aion was eternity.

    What, then, was the original and earliest meaning of this word?  I reply LIFE, denoting a physical energy of the system that causes normal action and averts decay.  Of this we have a striking illustration in Homer (Il., xix., 27).  Here Achilles expresses to his mother his fears that flies will breed worms in the wounds of the slain Menoetius, and cause putrefaction in his body, for life (aion) has been destroyed.  Here the mind is fixed on life, the vital power, the destruction of which creates the danger of putrefaction.  Here, then, the idea of time is utterly excluded.  Again, in the lamentation of Andromache over the death of Hector, she says, “Oh, my dear husband, too early hast thou perished from life (aion) and left me a widow!” (Il., xxiv., 725).

    So, also, Sarpedon says pathetically to Hector, “Do not leave me disabled by a mortal wound, a prey to the Greeks, but defend me, and permit my life (aion) to leave me in your city.”  Here he had no idea of time or of eternity, but only of the privilege of giving up his life in the beloved city Troy, which he had come to defend.

    The same use of aion to denote life is found in the Homeric “Hymn to Mercury,” v. 42., 119, in which that god is described as destroying the life ([Greek word for aion]) of a mountain-tortoise and making a lyre of its shell, and as destroying the lives (aionas) of two cows to prepare a feast.  In the fragments of Pindar, “Hypochor.” iii., 5, to describe the death of a man killed by a club, it is said, “His life [(Greek word for aion)] was dashed out through his bones.”

    Aeschylus, also, in “Prometheus,” 862, refers to animal life when he says, “Each wife shall deprive her husband of life (aion), plunging into his breast the sharp two-edged sword.”

    From this abstract idea of life, it passed to a concrete form to denote a living spirit, an [Greek word], or aeon.  We see such a transition illustrated by Virgil, in the use of the Latin vita, life. Speaking of the spirits of departed men who thronged to meet Aeneas, he calls them (Aen., vi., 192) “vitas sine corpore” (lives), i.e., living spirits, without bodies.  This use of aion to denote living spirits does not occur in the Homeric poems.  But it does occur in Euripides (“Herac.” 900).  By the chorus, Jupiter is called aion, i.e., the Supreme living Spirit.  This accords with Aristotle’s use ofaion.  It is found also at a later period in Epictetus, book ii., chap. V., who declares that he is not an aion (a spirit), but a man.  In accredited ecclesiastical writers also various orders of angels are called aions.  The excess of the Gnostics in multiplying aions in their manifold systems seems to have caused a timid reaction in lexicographers, and a desire to drop the word in this sense, as denoting no reality, and as no regular Greek word.  Yet its claim to be a true part of the Grecian language cannot be rationally denied or ignored.  It ought to have its place in every good lexicon. Hitherto the idea of eternity is so far from being primary and original, that it is entirely excluded.  The element of time, in any form, is not included in these original uses of the word.

    Nevertheless, as the idea of duration is essentially connected with prolonged life, the word assumed an idea of time and denoted the continuous time of life at any given point, and also the total duration of life, as stated by Aristotle.  Ideas of the circumstances and character of life were also introduced, as a prosperous, honorable, joyful life, or the reverse.  In this sense it is commonly used, not only by Homer, but by the great poets, lyric and dramatic – Pindar, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides – who show undeniably how it was understood in common life.  In Euripedes (“Orestes,” 603) Orestes says, “A happy life (aion) is theirs who are well united in marriage.”  In “Bacchae” the chorus says that Semele, “having given birth to Dionysus, left this life (aion), being smitten by a divine thunderbolt” (92, 93).  In Sophocles (“Philoctetes,” 179), the chorus laments, “O miserable generations of mortals, to whom not even a tolerable life (aion) is assigned!”  So Philoctetes says (1348), “O sad, hateful, gloomy life!” (aion).  So Euripides (Hecuba, 754-7), Agamemnon says to Hecuba:  ”What do you long for?  Is it to lay aside your servile life (aion)?  She replies:  ”No, indeed; but having punished the evil-doers to be in servitude all my life” (aion).  In “Phoiniss.” (1520) Antigone laments that she is to live always a single life (aion) with flowing tears. Pindar (“Nemea,” ix., 106) says, “From labors in youth, and justice, proceeds in old age a happy life” (aion).  In “Frag.,” p. 96, vol. iii., “Do not while you live darken pleasure, for a pleasant life (aion) is the best portion for a man.”  ”Isthmia, vii., 39, “Enjoying daily pleasures, I approach old age, and the fated duration of life” (aion).  In all these popular writers the idea of eternity does not occur.

    But the idea duration of life, or age, does occur; and, as our word age, denoting the time of the life of a man, also comes to denote the lifetime of a generation, and then a period marked with some characteristic, as the antediluvian age, or the Mosaic age, and then those living in that period, so was it with the word aion.  This is conceded by all.

    The senses of the word thus far spoken of, in which the idea of physical life is at first predominant and exclusive, and afterward is united with ideas of time, outward state, and moral character, occur for over five centuries in such writers as Homer, Hesiod, the Orphic hymnists, Sophocles, Euripides, Pindar, Herodotus, Xenophon, and Thucydides; but we do not yet come to the idea of eternity.



    Another change was necessary in order to arrive at the idea eternity.  That change took place, and it was this:  The original idea of life was subordinated and disappeared, and ideas of time alone took possession of the whole ground, and aion, instead of denoting life, came to denote time.

    The change is seen in its greatest completeness in Marcus Aurelius.  In his twelve books of “meditations,” so called, he uses aion twenty times, and always denotes by it some form of time, and never life.

    He says (iv. 43):  ”Time (aion) is a sort of river of events, and a mighty current; for as soon as each event has appeared and has been borne by, still another is carried by and shall be borne onward.”  Again (vii., 19):  ”how many a Chrysippus, how many a Socrates, how many an Epicetetus, has time (aion) already swallowed up!”  Again he says (iv., 50):  ”Behold the immensity of time (aion) behind thee, and before thee another boundless expanse.”

    Speaking as a Stoic, he says (v., 32), “The reason, which pervades all substance, through all time (aion) administers the universe by fixed periods.”

    Again he says (v., 24), “Call to mind the universal substance of which thou sharest a very small part, and the whole of time (aion), of which a short and insignificant portion has been assigned to thee.”

    Again (x., 17):  ”Contemplate habitually universal time (aion) and universal substance, and consider that all individual things as to substance are as a fig-seed, and as to time [Greek letters] the turning of a gimlet.”

    It deserves notice that here he uses [Greek letters] (time) as a synonym of aion.

    Again (iv., 3), he says, “Consider the boundless extent of infinite time (aion) on each side of the present.”

    Again (xii., 32), “How small a part of the boundless and unfathomable time (aion) is assigned to every man!”

    Again, in iv., 21, he speaks of the bodies of preceding generations as “buried in time (aion) so remote.”

    We are now in a position to see how there could be, without absurdity, a transition of (time) into the sense eternity; for, when it is qualified by adjectives denoting totality, it acquires the sense eternity.  All past time is past eternity.  All future time is future eternity.  All time past, present, and future, is absolute eternity.  At first this qualifying adjective was expressed, as we see in Marcus Aurelius.  But by degrees it came to be sometimes implied and understood, but not expressed, and aion, with this understanding, was used for eternity.  Marcus Aurelius almost always expresses the qualifying adjective, but, in one or two instances, he implies it, and aion alone stands for eternity.  Thus (vi., 36), “The present time is a point in (universal) time,” i.e., eternity (aion).  The same process is seen in Diodorus Siculus, who, in the introduction to his history (i., 1), qualifies aion, and says that “Divine providence has its circuit through all time (aion), and by worlds and seasons creates common relations among men, and causes every age so to revolve as to assign a destined end to each.”  Here the qualifying adjective is used; but in his statement of theories of the origin of mankind, he introduces it once and omits it once.  Thus he says (lib. i., Section 6):  ”There are two theories as to the origin of men: one that the world was uncreated and immortal, and that men existed from (all) time (aion) and had no beginning of their generation; the other, that all men, by the weakness of nature, live but a small part of all time (aion), and perish for all after-time.”  In this case, the qualifying adjective is expressed once and omitted once, but the sense in each case is the same.  Thus the expression eis ton aiona came sometimes to mean for all time, that is forever, and to eternity.  In such cases, Cremer says that it means “for the future,” that is, for all time to come.  In such a case the article is commonly used.

    But this same form, that may thus denote eternity, may also denote for an age, or for a dispensation, in other circumstances.

    The transition from the sense life to time and from time to eternity can thus be explained by actual facts.  But suppose that the word had, as alleged, begun with the idea eternity.  How could it ever have reached the sense life, not including time or eternity?  What links could there be for such a transition?  The supposition is as much at war with the laws of the mind as it is with actual historical facts.

    But, besides this approach to the sense eternity, there is still another of a rhetorical kind, in which aion in the plural is taken in the sense of ages, and, by reduplicated ages, approximates to the conception of eternity.  Of this I shall soon speak.

    There is still another use of aion, introduced by Plato to denote a kind of philosophical eternity, from which past, present, and future time are eliminated, and absolute being only is retained. This philosophical speculation is unknown to aion in its earlier centuries, and was developed by those who supposed that it had some meaning, though to common-sense minds it is nonsense.

    I have thus shown that an appeal to the ancients, like that of Aristotle, can never sustain the assertion that eternity is the original sense of aion.  I have shown that for many centuries this sense was unknown, and that it came in only in the later ages of the Greek language.  To translate aion eternity in the passage of Aristotle which has been considered would do him a great wrong, for it would represent him as ignorantly contradicting the universal usages of those to whom he appeals.



    But the biography of that momentous word, aion would be incomplete if I should neglect to notice its destinies in connection with the Septuagint; that is, the Greek translation of the Old Testament made at Alexandria, according to tradition, by seventy translators, over two centuries before Christ.  Think what it was.  It was practically the only bible of the early church, and it had been in use over four centuries when Christ came.  It furnished terms for the theology of the early church.  By a careful examination of it we can be sure of the usage of aion and aionios when Christ came.  The word aion occurs in it about four hundred times in every variety of combination.  The adjective aionios derived from it, is used over one hundred times, and often in circumstances imparting to it an absolute definiteness of meaning;  It is always pleasant to pass from the ground of mere opinion to that of absolute certainty.  This was never more possible than in the present case.

    In this translation (aion) is universally used as the equivalent of olam.  What, then, is the meaning of olam?  Is it eternity?  I answer, no.  It is derived from a verb denoting to hide, or to conceal, and denotes a period of time past or future, the boundaries of which are concealed, obscure, unseen, or unknown.  So say Taylor and Furst in their Hebrew Concordances.  It is true of eternity, past and future, that their boundaries are unseen and unknown.  But it is also true of other undefined periods that are not eternal, and that may be called ages or dispensations.  Of olam thus viewed aion is the universal representative.

    Moreover, in the Septuagint the adjective aionios for the first time came into extensive use, for previously it had been rarely used in all Greek literature.  And as aiondenoted an age, great or small, so the adjective aionios expressed the idea pertaining to or belonging to the aion, whether great or small.  Cremer, taking aion as denoting time, defines aionios as “belonging to the aion, that is, to time in its movement.”  But in every case this adjective derives its character and duration from the aion to which it refers.

    Let us now enter the Hebrew Bible, and the Septuagint version of it, and note the use of olam and its equivalent aion, and its adjective aionios.  Olam has no Hebrew adjective, but certain forms of it are rendered by the Greek aionios.  Thus a covenant of olam is rendered an aioinian covenant.

    Creation, Time, and eternity, in the Old Testament.

    On entering the Old Testament, two great facts strike us – the absolute eternity of God, and the absolute creation of all things by him.  There is no self-existent matter, as in the Greek philosophy, to limit the former of the universe, and to give rise to moral evil by its intractable nature, as in the Platonic and Gnostic systems.

    Again, we find in the Old Testament no Platonic speculations as to an eternity in which there is no past or future, but one eternal now.  On the other hand, all time is divided into the present, the past, and the future.  Time, also, is divided in two ways:  one by the measurements of the solar system, which God is represented as making to measure time by days, hours, weeks, months, and years; the other by indefinite periods.


    This indefinite division of time is represented by olam (Greek, aion).  Hence we find, since there are many ages or periods, that the word is used in the plural.  Moreover, since one great period or age can comprehend under it subordinate ages, we find such expressions as an age of ages, or an olam of olams, or an aion of aions, and other reduplications.

    Olam and Temporary Ages.

    Of the fact that olam is used to denote limited periods, notice has been often taken in incidental cases; such as, “He shall be his servant forever;” i.e., for his olam or his aion, in this case his life (Ex. xxi. 5).  But no proper notice has been taken of the extent and variety of this usage.  Let us, then, take a general survey of temporary ages, and of the application of olam and aion to them.

    There are six ages, or aggregates of ages, involving temporary systems, spoken of in the Old Testament.

    These ages are distinctly stated to be temporary, and yet to them all are applied olam and aion and their reduplications, as fully and as emphatically as they are to God.  This is positive demonstration that the word olam, as is confirmed by Taylor and Furst in their Hebrew Concordances, means an indefinite period or age, past or future, and not an absolute eternity.  When applied to God, the idea of eternity is derived from him and not from the word.

    Material System.

    1.  The first temporary system that occurs is that of the material universe.  The Bible teaches the absolute creation of all things out of nothing.  It also teaches the ultimate passing away of the system, especially in those sublime passages, Ps. cii., 25-27, and Is. li, 6:  ”They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed, but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”  ”Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old as a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner.”  I call attention to these definite statements, that they may be compared with the words said to denote an absolute future eternity, when applied, as they often are, to the material system.

    Of this an instance occurs in Ps. cxlviii. 6, in which it is said of the sun, moon, and stars, and the whole system, “he hath established them forever and ever (eis ton aiona kai eis ton aiona tou aionos), he hath made a decree that shall not pass.”  The same is said in Ps. civ. 5, with great emphasis, “He laid the foundations of the earth that it should not be removed forever and ever.”  See, also, Eccl. i. 4, “The earth abideth forever.”  The same is repeated in Ps. lxxxix, again and again, as to the sun and moon, v. 28-37.  In all these cases olam and aion are used.  They denote the great but indefinite and unknown period of the heavens and the earth.

    Past Ages.

    2.  We next notice the system of past ages, before and since the creation, up to the time then present.  The existence of ages before the creation is distinctly brought out in that sublime passage, Prov. viii, 22-29, when Wisdom says, “I was from everlasting, before the earth was.”  Of these past ages in the great abyss of past eternity, there is only an indefinite knowledge given in the Word of God.  But they are often referred to.  Besides these ages there are others since the creation, down to the days of the inspired writers, to which they refer as the past olams, aions, or ages.

    I call attention also to the fact that to these past ages, even those since the creation, the same terms are applied that are said to denote absolute eternity.  See Jer. ii. 20, “Of old time I have broken thy yoke,” and Prov. viii. 23, “I was set up from everlasting.”  In these passages, the same word, olam, is used to denote the eternity of Wisdom, and the time of the early ages of the Jewish nation.  In both cases it is from olam.

    So also in Ps. xciii. 2, “Thou art from everlasting” (from olam), the same identical forms of olam and aion are used to denote the eternity of God that are used in Gen. vi. 4, to denote the antiquity of the mighty antediluvian giants, or in Josh. xxiv. 2, to denote the antiquity of the ancestors of Abraham, on the other side of the flood; or in 1 Sam. xxvii. 8, to denote the ancient ages of the inhabitants of Canaan and the parts adjacent.  In every one of these cases it is from olam; Septuagint, from aion.

    Abrahamic Covenant.

    3.  We note next the Abrahamic or patriarchal system, founded on a covenant with Abraham, and which in its final results was to bless all the families of the earth in his seed.  This covenant included also the possession of the land of Canaan by his descendants.  I call particular attention to this system, and the covenant, and the possession of the promised land, for the terms olam andaionios, said to denote eternity, are applied to them with great emphasis.  See Gen. xiii. 5, and xvii. 7, 8, and 13 and 19.  Here, in the Septuagint, the covenant is said to be aionian, and so is the inheritance of the land.  See also Jer. vii. 7, and xxv. 5.

    Mosaic System.

    4.  The Mosaic typical and ceremonial system was introduced by the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, and by their organization in the wilderness.  This was followed by the conquest of the promised land, and the establishment of the system in it.  It was designed to be, and was, in fact, a temporary system, and its passing away was clearly foretold.  Especially do I call attention to this system since in all its parts the words olam and aionios, said to denote eternity, are applied to it abundantly and with great emphasis.  The Mosaic covenant was olamic and aionian.  So was the priesthood; so was every ordinance and rite.  The Passover was an aionian ordinance, and, if olam and aion mean absolute eternity, it was ordained unto eternity.  The same was true as to olive-oil in the lamps, as to the priests wearing linen breeches, as to the heave-offering, as to the priests washing hands and feet at the laver, as to the Sabbath, as to not eating fat or blood, as to the meat-offering, as to the priests not drinking wine or strong drink, as to the shew-bread, as to the great day of atonement; all these, and other ordinances, too numerous to mention, are eternal ordinances, by the same words that declare the eternity of God - olam, aion, and aionios.

    Messianic Kingdom.

    5.  There is presented also the future Messianic system under which redemption is completed, and the kingdom of God is established in this world.  I call attention to the fact that it is clearly said to be established in this temporary world, both in Dan. vii. and in Rev. xxi. and xxii.  The Ancient of Days comes, and judgment is given to the saints, and the time comes that the saints possess the kingdom.  This is the kingdom elsewhere represented as given in this world to the Son of Man, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve him.  This kingdom is therefore temporary, as this world is.  Yet to this kingdom are applied the terms said to denote eternity.  It is said the saints of the Most High shall, in this world, take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.  So many and so various are the temporary ages and dispensations characterized by olam and aionios.

    Covenant With Noah.

    6.  Besides these, there is also the covenant with Noah, after the flood, in its scope embracing the natural world and all its inhabitants, man and beasts, for all future generations; giving a guarantee against another flood, and insuring the perpetuity of the seasons.  Of this covenant the rainbow was the sign.  It deserves particular notice that to this covenant, also, are applied the terms that are said to denote eternity.  It is olamic and aionian (Gen. ix. 12-16).

    These designations of ages are in Hebrew, for the most part forms of the word olam.  In a few instances other words are used.  But, as a general fact, to denote indefinite ages or periods, olamis the term used; and of olamaion is the general translation.

    Development of “Aionios.”

    We are now prepared to understand the peculiar development of the word aionios, used by our Lord in his account of the judgment.  It was developed and became a common word, by the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek.  Before the times of Plato it was a very rare word in classic Greek.  It does not occur in Homer or in Pindar, and very rarely, if at all, in the dramatic writers, or in the orators, and historians.  It was first made a common word in popular religious use by the Septuagint.  Its origin was this:  When olam was governed by the preceding noun, it was translated as an adjective, and instead of aion, aionios was used.  Thus a covenant of olam is translated an aionian covenant, and not a covenant of aion.  Hence, in the Mosaic ritual, its usage became very frequent.  It was also used in many other cases, till it must have been a household word.

    The Question.

    Here, now, we are brought face to face with an extended use of the word aionios, the same word that was used by Christ in the judgment.  Occurring so often in the Septuagint, with regard to all the rites of the Mosaic system, and other dispensations spoken of in the Bible, it must have been one of the most familiar words.  What, then, did it mean to the readers of the Septuagint?  What did it mean in common life?  To this question two answers can be given.  One has already been stated.  It assumes the falsely alleged Aristotelian sense of aion as denoting absolute eternity, and declares that the original and primary sense of aionios is eternal.

    To this we reply that the original and primary sense of aion was not eternity, as has been shown, and that the word derived its sense not from classic Greek, but from olam, in the Old Testament; and again we say that the assumption of this sense fills the Old Testament with contradictions, for it would make it declare the absolute eternity of systems which it often and emphatically declares to be temporary.  Nor can it be said that aionios denotes lasting as long as the nature of things permits.  The Mosaic ordinances might have lasted at least to the end of the world, but did not. The possession of Palestine might have lasted to the end of the world, but did not.  Moreover, on this principle, the exceptions to the true sense of the word exceed its proper use; for, in the majority of cases in the Old Testament, aionios is applied to that which is limited and temporary.

    One other view is possible:  that aionios means pertaining to an age or dispensation. It may also mean pertaining to ages or dispensations.  This view is sustained by the fact that there are cases in which no other sense is possible.


    Take the case of a familiar proverb, in Prov. xxii. 28:  ”Remove not the ancient landmarks, which thy fathers have set.”  In Hebrew it is, remove not the landmarks of olam; in the Greek it is, remove not the aionian landmarks.  Here our translators saw at once the folly of translating aionios eternal, as applied to landmarks which the fathers of the Jewish nation had placed, and which could be easily removed.  They saw that they were simply the landmarks of former ages, placed by the fathers, and therefore they translated aionios ancient, and not eternal.  Here the sense existing in, or pertaining to past ages, is absolutely necessary in translating aionios.  The word aionios means pertaining to, or existing in, an age or ages.  The context shows whether the age is past or future.

    Take another case.  The prophet Jeremiah, in a time of apostacy to idolatry, commands the nation to ask for the old paths of the founders of the nation.  What does he call the old paths? Theyare the paths of olam.  What are they called in the Septuagint?  They are called the aionian paths.  The context at once shows that these paths were those of the early ages, as they were established by Moses.  Hence they called them the old paths, that is, the paths of the early ages.  Here aionios must mean pertaining to the former ages.

    So in Ps. lxxvii. 5, Asaph, reviewing the works of God in the earlier ages of Jewish history, calls them the years of the olams; the Septuagint calls them the aionian years; our translators call them the years of ancient times.  The most exact sense is the years of former ages.  So, in two other instances, in Is. lviii. 12, and lxi. 4, the ancient ruins of Jerusalem that are to be rebuilt are calledaionian, that is, the ruins of former ages.  In our translation they are called old waste places.  It deserves notice, also, that the new foundations to be laid are called aionian.  This cannot mean lasting as long even as the world, for soon after Christ they were subverted.  Aionian in this case denotes only foundations for future ages, just as elsewhere it denotes past ages.

    There are many other cases in which the sense “pertaining to the age, or the ages,” is necessary to avoid contradiction.  On the other hand, in all cases this meaning makes good sense, and avoids all inconsistency.  Introduce eternal, as the translation of aionios, and all the laws and dispensations which are elsewhere spoken of in the Old Testament as temporary, like the covenants with Noah and Abraham and the Mosaic ritual, are called eternal.  The system of this world is declared in the strongest language to be eternal, and to endure forever.

    On the other hand, let olam, or aion, denote an age or a dispensation, and aionios mean pertaining to an age, and all is consistent and harmonious.  Now, the aioniancovenant with Noah is simply a covenant pertaining to the coming ages of the world.  The aionian covenant with Abraham is a covenant for the future ages of this world.  The aionian covenant and ordinances of the Mosaic dispensation are not eternal, but for the ages until the coming of Christ.  The aionian inheritance of the promised land becomes an inheritance for coming ages.

    Even in the case of God himself, the same translation would hold good.  The aionian God is now the God of the ages.  This mode of denoting God is used in the sublime passage, 1Tim. i. 17, in which God is called the King eternal, immortal, invisible.  In the original, the King eternal is designated as the King of the ages (aions).  A similar usage occurs in Ecclesiasticus, in which God is called “the God of the ages,” and in Tobit xiii. 6, in which he is called “the King of the ages.”



    Having particularly considered the testimony of Aristotle, and of classic Greek, and of the Septuagint, I shall proceed to other evidence of the meaning of the word aionios, as used by Christ in the judgment.  This is found in the Peshito, a Syriac version of the Greek Testament, the earliest version after Christ.

    Prof. Tayler Lewis.

    We are indebted, for what we shall say on this version, to that eminent scholar Prof. Tayler Lewis.  To see the full force of it, it is necessary to state first his own views of the word aionios. They are found in a profound development of the use of what he calls the Olamic or Aeonian words of the Scripture.  He complains, and that justly, that their Scriptural use is hidden by our translation.  His views will be found on pp. 44-51 of Lange’s “Commentary on Ecclesiastes,” and also pp. 135-143 of the “Commentary on Genesis.”

    Views of Prof. Lewis.

    He very correctly assumes that aion has the sense of an age, that is, a period of time.  He regards the boundless duration of god as filled with successive ages or dispensations.  These ages are numberless before our world was created; during this world there are ages, and there will be numberless ages after its close.

    Scriptural Names.

    The usual Scriptural names of these ages are Olam in Hebrew, and Aion in Greek.  These words are, in themselves, wholly indefinite, and the ages may vary greatly in length. They are not measured by ordinary astronomical computations of time, as days, months, years.  (See Lange’s “Genesis,” p. 141, note.)

    Use of the Ages.

    Now, in this state of things, two modes are conceivable of impressing the mind with the magnitude of the duration of God and his kingdom: to use simple negations of beginning or end, leaving eternity, past and future, an undivided blank, or, to fill the mind with the conception of innumerable ages, past or future, and to reduplicate the expression “by ages of ages.”

    He insists upon it that this latter mode of speaking is the Scriptural mode, and that it affects the mind more with approximate conceptions of eternity than what he calls conceptionless, negative words.

    Neither Denotes Eternity.

    But he insists that this use of olam and aion, in the plural to denote ages, and ages of ages, implies of necessity that neither of the words, of itself, denotes eternity.  He admits that these words are used to give an idea of eternity, as applied to God and his kingdom, while yet the ages that are reduplicated are themselves finite, but by their magnitude and number raise an impressive approximate conception of eternity.  (See Lange’s “Ecclesiastes,” pp. 45, 50).


    In view of these facts we need not be surprised at finding in Prof. Tayler Lewis the following clear development of the logical result of these views.  He says:  ”The preacher, in contending with the Universalist and the Restorationist, would commit an error, and it may be suffer a failure in his argument, should he lay the whole stress of it on the etymological or historical significance of the words aion, aionios, and attempt to prove that of themselves they necessarily carry the meaning of endless duration” (Lange’s “Ecclesiastes,” p. 48).  What, then, does aionios here mean?  He says that it means pertaining to the age or world to come, taking world in the time-sense, and thus translates the passaage.  ”These shall go away into the punishment [the restraint, imprisonment] of the world to come, and these into the life of the world to come,” and he adds, emphatically, “that is all that we can etymologically or exegetically make of the word in this passage.”

    The Peshito.

    It is in support of this translation that he appeals to the venerable Syriac version, the Peshito.

    The Peshito is, as we have said, the earliest version of the New Testament.  Its value and authority it is not easy to over-estimate.  Westcott says:  ”Gregory Bar Hebraeus, one of the most learned and accurate of Syrian writers, relates that the New Testament Peshito was ‘made in the time of Thaddeus (the apostle), and Abgarus, King of Edessa,’ when, according tot he universal opinion of ancient writers, the apostle went to proclaim Christianity in Mesopotamia” (Canon, p. 259).  He adds that Gregory assumes the apostolic origin of the New Testament Peshito as certain, and that it preceded all the sects of the Syrian Church, and was received and appealed to by all.

    How, then, was aionios translated by this version?  In support of his own translation Prof. Tayler Lewis says, “So is it ever (translated) in the old Syriac version, where the one rendering is still more unmistakably clear.”  ”These shall go into the pain of the Olam (the world to come), and these to the life of the Olam (the world to come).”  He refers to many other passages, as Matt. xix. 16; Mark x. 17.; Luke xviii. 18; John iii.15: Acts xiii. 46; 1 Tim. vi. 12, in which aionios is rendered belonging to the Olam, the world to come.  In all these cases we find in our version, eternal life, the same words that are used in the sentence of the judge, but in all they are rendered in the Peshito, the life of the world to come; and such, he tells us, is the rendering in all similar cases.  Certainly evidence more direct and conclusive it is hard to imagine.

    Aim of Prof. Lewis.

    We are not to suppose that so eminent an orthodox divine says these things in support of universalism, a system which he decidedly and earnestly rejects.  He says them in behalf of what he conceives to be the truth in philology, and rests for proof of eternal punishment on the finality of the whole aspect of the scene, and the absence of any reason to look for a reversal of the sentence. But he is unwilling to support what he regards as a true doctrine with false arguments.  Besides the idea of finality in the judgment, he would doubtless derive arguments from other sources.

    Change of Position.

    Nevertheless, if we admit the validity of the evidence adduced by him, and certainly nothing can have higher claims to confidence than this ancient apostolic version, and the argument that sustains him seems to be irrefragable [sic], yet it effects a fundamental change in the position of the whole question, for it is now fair to raise the question, What is the life, and what is the punishment, of the world to come?  Is that punishment ultimate annihilation after deserved suffering?  Still it would be the punishment of the world to come.  Will it be a long-continued but remedial punishment? Still it will be the punishment of the world to come.  This translation leaves the question between the three theories undecided.  Eternal torment is now only one supposition out of three, and we are not by the sentence of Christ shut up to the belief of it.  It may be proved from other sources.  But these words of Christ are no longer the main bulwark in defense of that doctrine.

    So, also, the argument that the punishment is characterized by the same word as the life, looses its power to prove eternal punishment.  The allegation is true.  But what does it prove?  Solely that, as the life is of the world to come, so is the punishment.

    Fidelity to Truth.

    The fact that these results conflict with the generally-accepted statements of the defenders of eternal punishment should not, however, tend to produce a reaction against that eminent orthodox scholar and divine by whom they are sustained, nor against the learned, scholarly, and Christian work in which they are published.

    We trust that the time will come when, in all departments of history and philology, men will write, not for denomination or party, but for the truth; when the inquiry will not be, what will this or that sect say of this, but what will God say of it, to whom all suppression of the truth and all pious fraud are an abomination.

    Proper Course.

    The proper course to pursue with reference to the statements of Prof. Lewis is to compare them with other usages of language in the early Christian ages, and see if his results accord with general usage to such an extent as to give them an aspect of general verisimilitude.  For there is something striking and peculiar in such an idea as “the life of the world to come.”  If this was a common mode of thought, we should be likely to meet it elsewhere.  Is Prof. Tayler Lewis’s view sustained by any other ancient and authoritative usage?  There are many ancient creeds.  Do we find any traces of it in them?  Are there any facts in the writings of the ancient fathers which imply that they understood Christ to be speaking of the life and the punishment of the world to come, in the sentence of the judgment-day?  To these questions we propose to give careful attention, for they reach the heart of the whole momentous inquiry.



    We have seen that Prof. Tayler Lewis has come to the conclusion that, in the sentence of our Saviour on the judgment-day, the word aionios means pertaining to the world to come, and not eternal and everlasting, as it is translated.  We have seen that he claims the Peshito as on his side.  We have seen that this effects a change of position in the whole subject, allowing us to raise the question:  ”What is the life, and what the punishment, of the world to come?  Is it ultimate annihilation after just punishment, or final restoration after severe remedial punishment, or endless suffering?”

    We have said that the proper course in this case is not to be excited or react against him, but to compare his results with the language of the early creeds and of the fathers, and to see if there is such an agreement as to produce a sense of verisimilitude.

    Importance and Authority of Ancient Creeds.

    There is a special reason for looking to the ancient creeds for light on this question.  They do not go into metaphysical systems as do some of the later creeds, but confine themselves to the great facts that cluster around the incarnation of Christ, his life, sufferings, death, and resurrection, and coming to judge the world.  They include also our resurrection, judgment, and awards.  The public creeds generally mention the awards of life, and say nothing of punishment.  Some early creeds, drawn up by individuals, mention both.  Two of the earliest creeds use the very words of Christ, aionian life; other creeds throw light on their sense, especially on the sense of the word aionios.  This kind of evidence is as direct and authoritative as is possible.  It is the testimony of the early Church, speaking in her creeds.

    Principles of Reasoning.

    If we state a self-evident principle, it may prepare the way.  If, then, aionian life was introduced into the earliest creeds, and if aionios was held to mean everlasting or eternal, and if the idea was felt to be of fundamental importance, it is highly improbable, not to say impossible, that in subsequent creeds it should be dropped, and in place of it the idea “pertaining to the world to come” should be introduced.  If the creeds began with the idea everlasting, it could not have been universally dropped, and another idea taken in its place, without protest and without controversy.

    The Facts.

    Now, what are the facts?  They are these:  The earlier creeds introduce “aionios” to qualify life.  The later creeds drop it, and in place of it introduce the idea “of the world to come,” as a perfect equivalent to aionios.  Thus the early creeds say, “I believe in the aionian life;” the later creeds say as a perfect equivalent, “I believe in the life of the world to come;” and this change was made without controversy or protest.

    Early Creeds.

    The earliest creed is that which is called the Apostles’ Creed.  It is used in the Episcopal Prayer-Book, and is recognized by all denominations.  The closing article of this creed is, “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the aionian life” (aionios).  The creed of the church of Jerusalem, also, which was a very early creed, closes in the same way.

    Here, now, we have the very words used by Christ, zoe aionios, introduced as an article of faith in two of the earliest creeds.  If, now aionios means “eternal” here, how can it in subsequent creeds assume the form “of the world to come?”  But where does it assume that form?  We reply, at the close of the completed Nicene Creed.

    Nicene Creed.

    The Nicene Creed is the first great ecumenical creed established by a council of the early church.  In it the doctrine of the supreme divinity of Christ was promulgated, and the foundation laid of the church doctrine of the Trinity, in the year 325.  Afterwards, at Constantinople, in the year 381, this creed was confirmed and completed by the more full development of the doctrine concerning the divinity of the Holy Spirit, thus fully developing the doctrine of the Trinity.  This is the creed which the American Episcopal Church has introduced into its Prayer-Book in the place of the Athanasian Creed which was omitted.  It is, therefore, a very prominent and important creed.  It is in this that the expression “life of the world to come” is used as an equivalent to the aionian life. The last article of this creed is, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”  The connection of the resurrection and the awards of the judgment is so intimate that we cannot avoid the conclusion that these words refer to the life spoken of by the judge on that day.  It is called the life of the world to come, as one of the great results of the judgment which must be well known to all.  Now, if this is the true meaning of zoe aionios, in the great award, it is easy to account for this usage in the Nicene Creed.  It simply presents in another form the true meaning of the award of Christ to the righteous on the great day of retribution.  This is worthy of such a place of honor in the creed.  If, now, the word aionios was universally understood to mean everlasting, it is utterly improbable that that idea would be dropped in any creed and a different one taken in its place.  But, if zoe aionioswas universally understood to mean the life of the world to come, then the Nicene Creed did not drop the idea, but, as we have said, simply used another mode of expressing it, which was a little more stately and impressive.

    Other Creeds.

    That this was the prevailing, or rather universal sense attached to this last article of the early creeds, is obvious, from the fact that it is introduced in the same place in other creeds besides the Nicene.  In the apostolic constitutions a creed is given to be used in the reception of members to the church.  It has, of course, no apostolic authority, but it fairly represents the general and early usage in the church.  At the close of this creed all the church are represented as believing in the resurrection and the life of the world to come.  This shows clearly how general and how familiar this mode of expression was, and that it was the true idea of the Church in all her creeds.

    The same thing is clearly shown in the creed presented by Arius to Constantine, in proof of his orthodoxy.  In this, his aim, of course, must have been to come as near to the universally recognized orthodox expressions as possible.  Accordingly, he professes his belief in the resurrection and the life of the world to come.

    Harmony of Confessions.

    It must not be forgotten that alongside of all these later creeds the Apostles’ Creed was everywhere used, professing faith in the resurrection and in the aionian life.  If it had not been felt that the sense was exactly the same, plainly the concord of confessions would have been felt to be interrupted, and the question must have arisen, Which is the true idea?  But no such question arose; no disagreement of sense was perceived.  Whichever creed was cited, all seemed to feel that they professed one and the same thing.  This coincidence of idea between the ancient creeds and the Syriac version, which, as has been stated, always speaks of the life of the world to come, as denoted by aionios zoe, seems to be decisive of the generally-accepted meaning of what is translated, life everlasting, in the Apostles’ Creed.  It should, therefore, be translated life of the world to come, in the Apostles’ Creed, even in the Prayer-Book, so as to agree with the other creeds as a profession of faith in the life of the world to come, because this is the true sense.

    So much for public creeds.  Let us now consider certain creeds drawn up by individuals whose sentiments are well-known.

    Individual Creeds.

    Of these, we shall refer to two, one by Irenaeus, and the other by Origen.  I refer to these creeds for this reason, that they throw light on their understanding of the word aionios, translated eternal.  It will be conceded that, if a writer openly declares the punishment of the wicked to be eternal suffering, he will not immediately proceed to represent them as finally annihilated, or as ultimately restored to holiness, for this would involve a contradiction too gross to escape his notice.

    Creed of Irenaeus.

    But it is true that Irenaeus, in a creed drawn up by him, and designed to give a summary of the great facts in which the whole Church is agreed, does, in fact, use the word aionios to describe the punishment of the wicked.  Now, if he understood this as meaning simply the punishment of the world to come, he would feel at perfect liberty to proceed and set forth the suffering and the final annihilation of the wicked, for this would but define the nature of the punishment of the world to come.

    What, then, are the facts as to Irenaeus?  Since he has been canonized as a saint, and since he stood in such close connection with Polycarp and with John the apostle, there has been a very great reluctance to admit the real facts of the case.  Massuetus has employed much sophistry in endeavoring to hide them.  Nevertheless, as we shall clearly show hereafter, they are incontrovertibly these:  that he taught a final restitution of all things to unity and order by the annihilation of all the finally impenitent.  Express statements of his in his creed, and in a fragment referred to by Prof. Schaff, on universal restoration (“History,” vol. i., p. 490), and in other parts of his great work against the Gnostics, prove this beyond all possibility of refutation.  The inference from this is plain.  He did not understand aionios in the sense eternal, but in the sense claimed by Prof. Lewis; that is, pertaining to the world to come.  He held that wicked men and devils would be consigned to the punishment of the world to come, and that this, at a time to be decided by the wisdom and justice of God, would result in their annihilation, and thus in cleansing the universe from every form of sin.

    Creed of Origen.

    The case of Origen is no less striking and conclusive.  As an introduction to his system of theology, he states certain great facts as a creed believed by all the Church.  In these he states the doctrine of future retribution as aionian life and aionian punishment, using the words of Christ.  Now, if Origen understood aionios in the sense pertaining to the world to come, there would be nothing to prevent him from regarding aionian punishment as a remedial punishment destined to result in the ultimate restoration of all to holiness.  On the other hand, if he understood aionios as meaning strictly eternal, then to pursue such a course would involve him in gross and palpable self-contradiction.  But no one can hide the facts of the case.  After setting forth the creed of the Church as already stated, including aionian punishment, he forthwith proceeds, with elaborate reasoning, again and again to prove the doctrine of universal restoration.

    The conclusion from these facts is obvious.  Origen did not understand aionios as meaning eternal, but rather as meaning pertaining to the world to come.

    Case of the Emperor Justinian.

    Other cases of a like kind could be adduced, but these are sufficient, at least for the present.  Yet there is one case so striking that it deserves special mention, though it involves an anticipation of some facts of history in order to understand its full force.

    Some centuries, then, after the death of Origen, that great theologian in his own esteem, the Emperor Justinian, directed Mennas, the Patriarch of Constantinople, to call a local council in the year 544 to condemn errors of Origen.  Among these errors was the doctrine of universal restoration.  Justinian, in his letter to Mennas, presents an elaborate argument against that doctrine among others, and concludes it with a careful statement of the true faith.  Here, now, was a call for an unambiguous word to denote eternal, as applied to life and punishment.  The emperor, writing in Greek, had his choice of words.  What word, then, from the full vocabulary of Greece, did he select?  Did he rely on the word aionios as, of itself, sufficient for his purpose?  Not at all.  As if aware that it could denote simply “pertaining to the world to come,” he prefixes to it a word properly denoting eternal, so that his language is this, “The Holy Church of Christ teaches an endless aionian life to the righteous and endlesspunishment to the wicked.”  Here the word used to denote endless in both cases is ateleutetos.  In the case of punishment he omits aionios entirely.  To denote the endless life of the righteous he uses the same unambiguous word ateleutetos, but prefixes it to aionios.  But when he thus said the Church teaches an endless aionian life to the righteous, did he mean so flat a tautology as an endless endless life?  Or did he prefix to the life of the world to come, as used in the creeds, a word that truly denotes eternal?

    It deserves, also, particular notice, that, in a deliberate and formal effort to characterize the punishment of the wicked as strictly eternal, he does not rely on or use the word aionios at all, but employs an entirely different word, ateleutetos.

    There was good reason for the distrust of Justinian of the power of the word aionios to express endless life and endless punishment.  One of his contemporaries, the philosopher Olympiodorus, had pointedly used the word as directly opposed to endless punishment, and denoting a limited period.  Speaking of the punishments of Tartarus, he says, Do not suppose that the soul is punished for endless aions [Greek letters here] in Tartarus.  Very properly, the soul is not punished to gratify the revenge of the divinity, but for the sake of healing.  But we say that the soul is punished for an aionion period [Greek letters here], calling its life, and its allotted period of punishment, its aion.”  Of the very worst, he says that they need a second life, and a second period of punishment, to be made perfectly pure, and that Plato called this double period their aion.  With this distinct denial of endless punishment before his eyes, and a recognition in its place of aionianpunishment as the direct antithesis to it, how could Justinian express endless punishment except by another word denoting endlessness?

    This usage of Olympiodorus coincides in principle with that of Dr. Tayler Lewis.  Aionian punishment is for an age, or aion.  Besides, the view of Prof. Lewis is in striking accordance with the usages of ancient creeds and ancient fathers, and has a verisimilitude so remarkable as to satisfy even a skeptical mind.  It is a new instance of that linguistic sagacity for which he is so highly distinguished.

    Our purpose can now be seen.  We have aimed to open the way for a true understanding of the opinions of the fathers as to the meaning of the words of Christ at the judgment, and to show that they did not feel themselves bound by them to the belief of the eternity of future punishments.

    That purpose we have effected by evidence of the highest kind, amounting to philogical demonstration.

    It does not prove that they are not eternal.  There may be evidence from other sources that they are so.  But, by the words of Christ in the judgment, the early fathers did not feel themselves bound to any particular view, and, accordingly, thought and reasoned freely on the whole subject.



    We have arrived,  by our previous discussions, at the result that the early fathers so understood the words of Christ in the sentence of the day of judgment, that they were free to adopt different views as to the duration of the sufferings of the wicked.  By this the way has been prepared to take a preliminary view of the state of thought and feeling on future retributions in the centuries before the age of Justinian, in the sixth century.  Then, for the first time, the doctrine of future restoration was condemned by a council, not ecumenical, but local.  This too, was more the arbitrary act of Justinian than the result of any free movement of the intellectual leaders of the Church.

    Such A View Indispensable.

    To any intelligent understanding of the history of opinion on this subject, a clear understanding of the state of feeling among the leaders of the churches in those ages is indispensable.  As every painting must have a background and a ground-color as indispensable to set forth the leading figures to be represented, so in an historical painting of past ages there is the same necessity.  There must be an historical background and ground-color, or the actors of history cannot be truly presented or seen.

    There is a constant and powerful tendency to carry the feelings and opinions of this age back to the early ages.  The whole evangelical Church is now sensitive on the subject of eternal punishment, especially in America.  It was the influence of the American clergy that induced the Evangelical Alliance to introduce a belief in eternal punishment into their creed, when otherwise it would have been omitted.  In this country elaborate controversial works have been written on it by Chauncey and the second Edwards, and their successors.  Aionios has been profoundly discussed by the aid of the concordance and dictionaries.  Public debates have been held, and the whole community aroused and filled with intense emotion.  The weight of the creeds of recent ages rests upon the churches.

    There is a constant tendency to carry back this state of things to the early ages.  Such statements as are made by Hagenbach, whom Prof. Shedd has followed, do not correct the illusion, but rather favor it.  But a greater falsehood in history is not possible than is involved in transferring the feelings and views of the orthodox bodies of this age back to those early centuries.

    The Great Facts.

    The great facts of the case were these:  There was a universal agreement that, on the final coming of Christ, there would be retributions to the good and to the bad in the world to come.  They also held that the punishment of the wicked would be so fearful as to furnish most powerful motives to accept the great salvation presented by Christ.

    But as to the nature and duration of the punishment of the wicked there was no established and united opinion, and every man thought, and investigated, and spoke, with the utmost freedom, and different persons arrived at different results.  Some taught the ultimate annihilation of the wicked; others their ultimate restoration after a long and severe remedial punishment; others taught the endless punishment of the wicked.  As to the numerical proportion of the advocates of these opinions we will speak at another time.  The men who arrived at these different results were eminent Christians, as in the case of such men as Iranaeus, Tertullian, and Origen.  Nor was any penalty of public censure visited on them for their different views.  Moreover, they were not assailed by elaborate controversial attacks, such as have been common in our age.  On the other hand, they held and promulgated their peculiar views unquestioned and uncensured [sic].

    Reasons of These Facts

    It is not hard to discover the reasons of this state of things, and, as these reasons will act as proofs of its existence, we will state some of them:

    1.  In the first place, then, there were no creeds elaborately wrought out in which any doctrine as to future retribution was distinctly presented.  Of this we need to attempt no proof, for no one even pretends that such creeds were in existence.

    2.  In the second place, there were no fathers to fall back upon whose opinions might supply the want of a creed.  It is natural in every age to lean upon the writers of preceding ages.  They are its fathers.  The Reformers are the fathers of the Protestant churches.  New England had its peculiar fathers in Edwards and others of his school.  The early teachers of the Church are the fathers of subsequent ages.  But who were the fathers of the Church of the first and second centuries?

    3.  The writings that came down from the ages before Christ, and which were extensively read, and were very influential in the early centuries, did not tend to produce any fixed and established type of doctrine, since they did not agree among themselves.  Our previous exhibition of their views has made this plain.  The Sibylline Oracles were extensively read and quoted, and exerted great influence, but these tended to establish the doctrine of universal restoration.  Philo was very extensively read, but he taught the annihilation of the wicked.  The book of Enoch was widely circulated and read, but it taught neither restoration nor annihilation, but endless punishment, based not on the fall of Adam, but of the angels.  What the apocalypse of Ezra was designed to teach it is hard to say.  In form, it taught future eternal punishment, based on the fall in Adam, but it filled the mind with unanswerable objections to the doctrine in that form.

    4.  The sentence of Christ at the day of judgment was not understood to establish any doctrine except the general doctrine that the wicked would be severely punished in the world to come. Whether this would result in annihilation, or restoration, or endless misery, in their view it did not decide.  Of this we have already given much proof, and shall soon produce more.

    5.  So far was it from being true that there was a deep interest, and a united and decided opinion in the churches in favor of any one of these views so that they wished to insert it in a creed, that, though the subject of the reward of the righteous was in every public creed, yet till the days of Justinian the punishment of the wicked was omitted from all creeds established by general or local councils.

    6.  For centuries there was an intense absorption in other vital questions on which the life of the Church was dependent, and all who were agreed in these were accepted as in fellowship, whatever might be their diverse view as to the punishment of the wicked.  In our war with slavery, for the life of our country, a common interest and common danger united all who were willing to fight for their country.  There was a readiness to subordinate all else to a great common interest and common danger.  So was it during these early ages in the Church.

    That the union of so many and so powerful causes should produce the result we have set forth will seem perfectly natural and inevitable to every thinking man.

    Subjects of Thought and Feeling.

    But the strength of this conviction will be increased if we will consider what the subjects were that successively interested the heart and intellect of the Church.  Some of these, which were of vial moment in their day, have so far receded from the view of the modern world that they have little conception what they were, or how certain errors could endanger the Church.  They look upon them as we do upon the fossilized remains of the geologic ages – with a kind of incredulity as to the fact that they ever could have been alive.  This is especially true with respect to the various forms of Gnostic errors.

    The course of thought and interest in the early Church was this:

    1.  To diffuse as widely as possible the great facts of Christianity, such as are recorded in the gospels, and were orally proclaimed by the apostles and early Christians.  They did not wait for written gospels, or a completed canon, but gave all their energy to the oral proclamation and dissemination of these great facts.

    2.  Then came a period in which the defense of Christianity against its enemies and assailants was called for.  Christianity was to be defended as a system against the assaults of Jews and pagans, and against the persecutions of the Roman power.  This raised up that class of writers known as the Apologists, among whom Justin Martyr stands conspicuous as one of the earliest and most important.  He wrote in the days of Marcus Antoninus, in the second century.  He and his fellow-laborers in this cause were united in defending the Christians against the slanders, the arguments, and the persecution of the opponents, whether popular or imperial, for until the fourth century the power of Rome was arrayed against Christianity, and by it he suffered a martyr’s death.  Hence he has ever been held in high honor, though he did teach the ultimate annihilation of the wicked.


    3.  Then they were called to meet a wide-spread effort to invalidate the great facts of Christianity, or to frame false systems of the universe out of them.  Christ was retained in name, but the reality of his incarnation was questioned or denied on philosophical grounds.  The fact that Christianity was a true development of the Old Testament was denied.  By many it was asserted that the God of the Old Testament, the Creator of this world, was not the true God, but an evil spirit who had enslaved men in matter.  All vulnerable points of the Old Testament were assailed, as showing the evil character of the God who made the world.  Christ came, they asserted, to deliver men from his power.  They framed new systems of the universe, into which they wove Christ.  All this and much more they did with the assumption of a high degree of rationalism and insight.  They looked into the nature of things; Christians were unintelligent believers in the letter.  These were the Gnostics, i.e., the rational, intelligent, advanced party.  For a long period it was necessary to encounter them and to defend Christianity against their false constructions and denials.  It was during this war that the great elementary facts of Christianity were framed into the Apostles’ Creed.  The great leader in this war was Irenaeus of Lyons, in the second century.  He defended the great facts of Christianity, and refuted the allegations of the Gnostics, and did such service to the Church that in all ages he has been honored and revered as a saint.  Yet he held to the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked.  Did it awaken odium or lead to controversy?  Not at all.  The Church was waging a war for the vital elements of Christianity, and in that war he was a faithful and valiant leader, and that was enough.  They were absorbed in the great controversy of the age, and had no disposition to raise a controversy on other points held by men with whom they were standing shoulder to shoulder in a great conflict for the very essence of Christianity.

    The Trinity and the Person of Christ.

    4.  Then came the development of the three persons of the Trinity, as set forth in the baptismal formula.  Origen led the way in this discussion.  Arius denied the supreme divinity of Christ, and a great controversy arose, which led to the first general council, called by Constantine the Great, in 325.  From this point the emperor became a party and often the arbiter in doctrinal questions, and a period of bondage to the civil power begins, the malignant influences of which the world still feels.  During this controversy the intellect and emotions of the Church were absorbed in it.  All who were true to the orthodox side were accepted, whatever their views of future retribution.

    5.  Then came the great controversies as to the person of Christ, which absorbed all minds, divided the Church, and shook the empire.  The orthodox creed was promulgated and completed at Chalcedon, and fidelity to it covered all sins and all errors.  Hence it is that Gregory of Nyssa, who powerfully defended it, though a decided advocate of universal restoration, escaped unscathed, and died as a saint in the odor of holiness.


    Hence we can account for such great facts as these, that up to the time of Justinian no article as to future punishment was introduced into any creed, but only an article as to the life of the world to come, and that up to that date no great controversial work on future retribution had been written by any one, on any side.  All that is said on the subject is said incidentally, or in hortatory and practical works.  Origen’s work on the principles of theology is the nearest to an exception to this statement.  But this is not written controversially, and by far the greater part of the work is occupied with other themes.  But it is a striking fact that, though the positions of Origen were clearly stated, and also his reasons for them, in his own works, no one undertook a formal argumentative reply to him.  What the Emperor Justinian has said about him on this point, in his letter to Mennas, has a profession and show of argument, but he makes no statement at all of the arguments of Origen, and no reply to them.

    Substantially the same is true of Augustine in his “Enchiridion” and his “City of God.”  He does not state the argument of Origen, or expound the texts on which he relies, or take an enlarged view of the subject.  He speaks in a judicial style, and gives his opinions, but these bear no marks of profound investigation.

    It is of very great moment to understand this train of thought and feeling during the early centuries, for any effort to transfer into them the interests, the convictions, or the emotions of any of the existing parties of Christendom will, of necessity, result in an utter falsification of history.

    In order truly to understand history, we must go back through the ages, dropping as we go, in succession, the controversies that grew up in later ages, until we can see clearly what Christians were, in fact, thinking about in the early ages, and what was the leading interest in every subsequent age.

    The way is now prepared to consider the first effort to set forth the principles of a comprehensive theology by Origen, in which universal restoration occupied an important or rather a fundamental position.



    We have taken the age of Origen (A.D. 185-253) as a point of vision from which to survey the course of opinion as to the doctrine of retribution.  It was the age of the first development of scientific theology, and of the extensive establishment of theological schools.  In this age began the extended movement in behalf of the doctrine of universal restoration, which continued until the sixth century in two forms, that of the Alexandrian and that of the Antiochian school.  Origen is on the dividing line between this movement and that of the school of Asia Minor, which can be traced back to the apostle John, and in which Melito of Sardis, and Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, were the most celebrated teachers.  Irenaeus taught the annihilation of the wicked, agreeing in this with Justin Martyr.  But this movement was interrupted by Origen and his successors, and for centuries the doctrine of universal restoration took its place, so far as the doctrine of eternal punishment was not held.  The only exception to this statement is found in Arnobius, who wrote a little after Origen, and taught the doctrine of annihilation.  We propose to give an account of the leading theological schools that were developed in this age, and of the influence exerted by them on the great question of future retribution.

    But, before doing this, it is indispensable to take a more particular view of Origen himself, for he stands in relations to the whole Church such as are sustained by no other one of the early Church teachers.

    Great Facts.

    Two great facts stand out on the page of ecclesiastical history:  One, that the first system of Christian theology was composed and issued by Origen in the year 230 after Christ, of which a fundamental and essential element was the doctrine of the universal restoration of all fallen beings to their original holiness, and union with God.

    The second is, that, after the lapse of a little more than three centuries, in the year 544, this doctrine was for the first time condemned and anathematized as heretical.  This was done, not in a general council, but in a local council called by the Patriarch Mennas at Constantinople, by the order of Justinian.

    During all this long interval, the opinions of Origen and his various writings were an element of power in the whole Christian world.  For a long time he stood high as the greatest luminary of the Christian world.  He gave an impulse to the leading spirits of subsequent ages, and was honored by them as their greatest benefactor.  At last, after all his pupils were dead, in the remote age of Justinian he was anathematized as a heretic of the worst kind.  The same also was done with respect to Theodore of Mopsuestia, of the Antiochian school, who held the doctrine of universal restitution on a different basis.  This, too, was done long after he was dead, in the year 553.  From and after this point the doctrine of future eternal punishment reigned with undisputed sway during the Middle Ages that preceded the Reformation.

    Origen and His Age.

    To prepare the way for our history, we propose to set forth the character of Origen and his age, and also of the age in which he was condemned.

    The time of Origen was a great turning-point of opinion on a practical question that lay at the foundation of all theological and social development.  Before him, the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity was not expected.  It was generally believed that it was to be destroyed by the coming of Christ, and that his millennial reign was to follow.  Origen first developed the idea of the conversion of the empire to Christianity, exposed the chiliastic illusions, and, with wide-reaching views, undertook to prepare Christianity for its future destinies.

    The great facts of Christianity had been proclaimed and recorded in the gospels, and the canon of the New Testament had been substantially completed.

    The assaults of the Gnostics on the Old Testament were, to a great extent, on rational and moral grounds.  For example, the conduct of God, in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and then punishing him for hardness of heart, was assailed by them as unjust, and unworthy of the true God of the universe.  Many of the assaults of Celsus were of a like kind, and had not been fully answered.  In particular, he had assailed, as unworthy of God, the doctrine of eternal punishment in unquenchable fire.

    Origen at Alexandria.

    At Alexandria also, his native place, and the seat of the great Catechetical School, in which he was a teacher, there was a great concourse of pagan philosophers, Gnostics, and other heretics, to be encountered and refuted, or to be converted.  Origen was in fact instrumental in the conversion of many, especially of Ambrose, a wealthy nobleman of Alexandria, once a Gnostic, but ever after his zealous patron and supporter.

    Founder of Scientific Theology.

    It ought not to surprise us that, under such a pressure on all sides, Origen felt the need of rising above the mere detail of facts, and of developing some fundamental principles out of which might spring some system of the universe which could be defended on rational and moral grounds.  This was his object in his work on the fundamental principles of Christianity (Peri Archon), which was the first system of Christian theology ever issued.

    The two great foundations of this system were preexistence and universal restoration.  Without preexistence he could not explain and defend the state of things in this world in accordance with the benevolence and the justice of God.  Without universal restitution he could not bring the system to a final issue worthy of God.

    He based his whole system on a real and not nominal free agency, which could never be lost.  On this basis he defended God’s dealings with Pharaoh with a keenness and sagacity that have not bee exceeded since his day.

    He considered, also, the attributes and relations of the three persons of the Trinity, and their action in the general system.

    It deserves notice how deeply imbedded in his scheme is the doctrine of universal restoration.  Without it the whole system falls to pieces.

    Other topics, as to eternal creation, and future systems, were included, and also as to the resurrection.  Kurtz, in view of his labors in this department, says that, notwithstanding his errors are rejected, he is justly honored as “the founder of scientific theology.”

    But this was but a small part of the work undertaken and executed by him.

    Other Labors of Origen.

    The whole science of textual criticism, of commentary, and exposition, and homiletical application, was as yet undeveloped.  Origen entered this wide field, and labored with an energy and learning that stimulated, excited, and instructed, the whole Christian world.

    Of him Dr. Schaff says:  ”Origen was the greatest scholar of his age, and the most learned and genial of all the ante-Nicene fathers.  Even heathens and heretics admired or feared his brilliant talents.  His knowledge embraced all departments of the philology, philosophy, and theology, of his day.  With this he united profound and fertile thought, keen penetration, and glowing imagination.  As a true divine, he consecrated all his studies by prayer, and turned them according to his best convictions to the service of truth and piety.”

    Those who recall the impulse communicated to Biblical studies in this country by Prof. Stuart, can form some conception of the still greater work effected by Origen in his Hexapla, his commentaries, homilies and notes, and reply to Celsus.

    Of him Dr. Schaff says again:  ”He may be called, in many respects, the Schleiermacher of the Greek Church.  He was a guide from the heathen philosophy, and the heretical gnosis, to the Christian faith.  He exerted an immeasurable influence in stimulating the development of the Catholic theology, and forming the great Nicene fathers, Athanasius, Basil, the two Gregories, Hilary and Ambrose, who, consequently, in spite of all his deviations, set great value on his services.”

    Moral Character of His Age.

    Notice now the moral peculiarities of this and the preceding ages.  Lecky, after a careful survey of the history of morals in the Roman Empire, says:  ”There can be little doubt that for nearly two hundred years after its establishment in Europe, the Christian community exhibited a moral purity which, if it has been equaled, has never for any long period been surpassed.  Completely separated from the Roman world that was around them, abstaining alike from political life, from appeals to the tribunals, and from military occupations; looking forward to the immediate advent of their Master, and the destruction of the empire in which they dwelt, and animated by all the fervor of a young religion, the Christians found within themselves a whole order of ideas and feelings, sufficiently powerful to guard them from the contamination of their age.”

    At this time, too, there was no intervention of imperial despotism in religious questions, no ecumenical councils called by imperial authority, and the only valid appeal was to Scripture and to reason.  It was during the close of this age, and before the imperial age was developed, that Origen lived and wrote.

    Piety of Origen.

    And it is conceded by all that he was as eminent for piety and for a truly Christian spirit as any saint of any age.

    Of him the dispassionate and judicial Mosheim says, while faithfully exposing what he deems his errors:  ”Origen possessed every excellence that can adorn the Christian character; uncommon piety from his very childhood; astonishing devotedness to that most holy religion which he professed; unequaled perseverance in labors and toils for the advancement of the Christian cause; untiring zeal for the Church and for the extension of Christianity; an elevation of soul which placed him above all ordinary desires or fears; a most permanent contempt of wealth, honor, pleasures, and of death itself; the purest trust in the Lord Jesus; for whose sake, when he was old and oppressed with ills of every kind, he patiently and perseveringly endured the severest sufferings. It is not strange, therefore, that he was held in so high estimation, both while he lived and after death.  Certainly if any man deserves to stand first in the catalogue of saints and martyrs and to be annually held up as an example to Christians, this is the man, for, except the apostles of Jesus Christ and their companions, I know of no one, among all those enrolled and honored as saints, who excelled him in virtue and holiness” (“Historical Commentary on Christianity before Constantine,” vol. ii., p. 149).

    Defender of Free Inquiry.

    One thing deserves special notice.  The influence of Origen was always exerted by, and in favor of, free investigation and argument; and in a number of cases he effected what has rarely been done – he convinced errorists by kind personal argument so thoroughly that they renounced their errors and returned to the truth.

    Rejects Material Fire.

    Before we come to the age of Justinian, in which Origen and his doctrine of restoration were finally condemned, one thing more should be made exceedingly prominent.  It is that Origen utterly rejected the idea of punishment by literal fire.  He taught that there would be punishment, intense, fearful, and long-continued, but that it would be by intellectual and moral forces, adapted as a final result to reform the sinner.  He thus never passed out of the region of intellectual philosophy and moral influence into the region of brute force.

    Age of Justinian.

    Let us now pass from the age of Origen to that of Justinian.  It may be thus briefly characterized:  It was an age in which all free inquiry was utterly proscribed, in which all questions were settled by authority, and in which unreasoning credulity, falsely called faith, was regarded as the crowning Christian grace.  It was an age in which the keys of heaven and hell were in the hands of the hierarchy through the exclusive power to administer the sacraments, and to admit or exclude from the Church.  It was an age in which the fires of hell were held to be material, and thus not dependent for their punitive power on moral character, but meet instruments of despotic force.  In the hands of the clergy the doctrine of eternal punishment had thus become an instrument of degrading terrorism, to extort money or to enforce the belief of doctrines at war with the most sacred moral convictions implanted by God in the human mind.  It was an age, too, in which the moral degeneracy of the Church had reached an extreme point of degradation.

    Moreover, the manner in which Origen and Theodore were condemned and stigmatized as heretics was in keeping with the character of the age, as a simple narrative of the course of events in the councils would clearly prove.

    Had we time we could easily confirm all these statements by abundant testimony.  But two witnesses must suffice.  We shall refer to Dr. Schaff and to Mr. Lecky.

    Dr. Schaff.

    Dr. Schaff tells us that, even before the days of Justinian, all free inquiry had been destroyed by the results of the assaults on Origen of Epiphanius, and others.  Of these he says:  ”They show the progress of orthodoxy under the twofold aspect of earnest zeal for the pure faith, and a narrow-minded intolerance toward all free speculation.  The condemnation of Origen was a death-blow to theological science in the Greek Church, and left it to stiffen gradually into a mechanical traditionalism and formalism” (vol. ii., p. 698).

    Mr. Lecky.

    In the days of Justinian, old Rome had fallen before the barbarians, and the centre of the Roman Empire was in Byzantium.  Lecky, after a careful survey of the pagan empire, says of this Christian Byzantine Empire:  ”The universal verdict of history is, that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilization has yet assumed. Though very cruel and very sensual, there have been times when cruelty assumed more ruthless, and sensuality more extravagant aspects; but there has been no other enduring civilization so absolutely destitute of all the forms and elements of greatness, and none to which the epithet mean may be so emphatically applied.  The Byzantine Empire was eminently the age of treachery.  Its vices were the vices of men who had ceased to be brave without learning to be virtuous.  Without patriotism, without the fruition or desire of liberty, after the first paroxysms of religious agitation, without genius or intellectual activity; slaves, and willing slaves, both in their actions and their thoughts, immersed in sensuality and in the most frivolous pleasures, the people only emerged from their listlessness when some theological subtlety [sic], or some rivalry in the chariot-races, stimulated them into frantic riots.”  It will be remembered that, at this time, in this Christian empire, the Church and the state were essentially one.  Of this period, and of the Catholic period of the middle ages, he says:  ”Credulity being taught as a virtue, and all conclusions dictated by authority, a deadly torpor sank upon the human mind, which for many centuries almost suspended its action, and which was only broken by the scrutinizing, innovating, and freethinking habits that accompanied the rise of the industrial republics in Italy” (vol. ii., p. 16).

    The Interval.

    Between the age of Origen and this degraded age in which he was condemned and stigmatized, and in which future eternal punishment was developed in its worst and most despotic and debasing form, there is a wide interval of time, as well as a wide range of moral influence.

    During this period there was the action of theological schools, as well as of prominent leaders in the Church, with reference to this doctrine of universal restoration.

    We are now prepared to take a general view of these theological schools and of their action on this great question.



    We have spoken in general terms of Origen and of his system of theology, based on preexistence and universal restoration.  We have spoken of his age, and of his relations to it, and to the coming ages.  We have spoken of his eminent piety, of his distinguished scholarship, of the great work accomplished by him in the field of sound literature, and of his educating power on the great minds of the generations that followed him.  We have also, in general terms, given the debased character of the age in which his doctrine of universal restoration was denounced as heretical and subjected to an anathema by the local Council of Constantinople in the year 544.  We now come back to his age to unfold it more fully in its relations to theological schools, which from his time were most fully developed.  At the time when he published his system of theology he was the leading teacher in the great Theological School of Alexandria.

    Dr. Shedd’s View.

    But we are told by Dr. Shedd, in a passage which we have quoted in a preceding chapter, that the doctrine of future universal restoration was entirely confined to that school.  He does not say how many other schools there were, nor what course these dissenting or opposed schools took, when, in a school so prominent and influential as that of Alexandria, a doctrine was promulgated which they regarded as erroneous and dangerous.  It is, therefore, the more important for us, if we would get a true view of the facts of history, in all their relations, to consider these points.  The idea conveyed by him is that of a general and united public sentiment in the Church, from which one theological school dissented as a kind of wandering star, while all the other luminaries revolved harmoniously around the great centre of truth.

    Consequences of the View.

    If this is a true view of the facts of the case, then it is morally necessary that certain other facts should be found in the records of history.  It cannot be supposed that any teacher in a theological school would be allowed to continue from year to year to train up teachers hostile to the prevailing views of the main body of the churches, without some effort to arrest the course of the evil, either by his removal, or by founding opposing schools, or by elaborate argumentative refutations of the errors promulgated, or by all these measures at once.

    Appeal to Facts.

    What was done when Dr. Ware, a Unitarian, was appointed professor in Harvard College, and it was felt that the institution had come under the control of Unitarians, and would be used as a means of promulgating their views?  Why was Andover founded, except because it was felt that the college, originally designed to train up godly, orthodox, religious teachers, was to be used in opposition to the doctrines of the churches by which it was founded?  Why was Amherst College founded, except to make good the loss?  Why did the Unitarian controversy break out, and lead to earnest argument and profound research?  Was it not to vindicate and defend the endangered truth?  Suppose now, after Andover had been founded, that Dr. Griffin, or Prof. Stuart, had published an elaborate system of theology, resulting in the doctrine of universal restoration, would an orthodox board have allowed them to continue to teach in peace?  Would they not have been speedily removed?  Or, if not, if they could carry the trustees and overseers with them, would not the seminary have become at once the object of ceaseless attacks from Princeton, and other schools devoted to the defense of the true faith?

    If then, the state of opinion existed of old in the Church at large which is alleged by Prof. Shedd, ought we not to find in history facts analogous to those which have been briefly sketched from the history of the Church in New England?  And, if we do not find them, is it not proof conclusive that the state of things alleged did not exist?

    Real State of Facts.

    What, then, was the state of facts as to the leading theological schools of the Christian world, in the age of Origen, and some centuries after?  It was, in brief, this:  There were at least six theological schools in the Church at large.  Of these six schools, one, and only one, was decidedly and earnestly in favor of the doctrine of future eternal punishment.  One was in favor of the annihilation of the wicked.  Two were in favor of the doctrine of universal restoration on the principles of Origen, and two in favor of universal restoration on the principles of Theodore of Mopsuestia.  It is also true that the prominent defenders of the doctrine of universal restoration were decided believers in the divinity of Christ, in the Trinity, in the incarnation and atonement, and in the great Christian doctrine of regeneration; and were, in piety, devotion, Christian activity, and missionary enterprise, as well as in learning and intellectual power and attainments, inferior to none in the best ages of the Church, and were greatly superior to those by whom, in after-ages, they were condemned and anathematized.

    It is also true that the arguments by which they defended their views were never fairly stated and answered.  Indeed, they were never stated at all.  They may admit of a thorough answer and refutation, but, even if so, they were not condemned and anathematized on any such grounds, but simply in obedience to the arbitrary mandates of Justinian, whose final arguments were deposition and banishment for those who refused to do his will.


    If all these things are so, it does not of course follow that the doctrine of universal restoration is true.  That is a question to be decided on Scriptural grounds.  But it does follow that the assumption that this question was settled by the Church, so called, in a manner deserving either confidence or respect, is utterly fallacious and delusive.

    Demand of Proof.

    Of course the statements that have been made by us demand proof.  They differ greatly from the statements of Prof. Shedd, and, though they can be sustained by the combined testimony of all the most authoritative Church historians, yet they present the case in a stronger light than will be found in any one of them.  But a careful examination of the original sources of evidence will abundantly sustain every historical proposition that we have laid down.

    It will be in order, then, to mention the six leading theological schools of which we have spoken.

    Geographical Position.

    Geographically, they are situated around the Mediterranean Sea, except one, which is on the upper courses of the Euphrates.  Beginning, then, at the great school of Alexandria, whose position on this question is conceded, and passing up on the east end of the Mediterranean Sea, we come to Cesarea, which for some years was the seat of a distinguished theological school, under the care of Origen and his friend Pamphilus.

    For a time, Dr. Schaff tells us, it “outshone that at Alexandria, and labored for the spread of the kingdom of God.”  From this school came the celebrated Gregory Thaumaturgus, ever the grateful scholar and admirer, and finally the eulogist of Origen.  Passing on to the north we come to Antioch, in West Syria, where was the celebrated Antiochian school to which belonged such representatives as Diodore of Tarsus, and Theodore of Mopsuestia, those well-known advocates of universal restoration, not as followers of Origen, but on principles of their own.  Passing on farther to the east, we come to Edessa, in Eastern Syria; and, farther on, to Nisibis.  The Eastern Syrian great theological school was sometimes in one of these places, and sometimes in the other, according as they were tolerated or persecuted by the orthodox Greek Church and the emperor.  But here was the great centre of the persecuted Nestorians, when excommunicated and anathematized by the orthodox Greek Church and the imperial decree.

    Theodore of Mopsuestia.

    As Nestorians, they could not but revere the great Theodore of Mopsuestia, who was, in fact, the father of Nestorianism.  Accordingly, his works were translated into Syriac, and he was revered in the Nestorian churches, as “The Interpreter” of the Word of God.  It must be conceded that he was especially honored as the father and defender of Nestorianism.  But it is impossible that his views of restoration should have been unknown, for they are an essential element of his system, and are prominently declared in his works and in his creed.  In addition to this they are, as has been said, introduced into the liturgy which he drew up for the Nestorian Church.  Yet his views on this point were not enforced as a creed, and the eminent James of Nisibis, and Ephraim the Syrian, in their popular discourses, teach future eternal punishment.  Whether this was their interior belief we cannot say, but the fact that Theodore was so honored, as “the interpreter,” and that his works were translated, studied in the seminary, by the students, and circulated without protest, authorizes the statement that the influence of this school was in favor of universal restoration.

    Analogous Case.

    To see the force of these facts, suppose that the theological works of the most eminent modern advocate of universal restoration were to be introduced into the Union Theological Seminary at New York, or into the Princeton Theological Seminary, as a text-book, and that he was highly honored as “the interpreter” of the Word of God, and that no protest was uttered against the doctrine of universal restoration, would it be unfair to say that the influence of those seminaries was in favor of that doctrine?  Add to this that he was permitted to introduce it into certain acts of public worship in that denomination, and would not the evidence be complete?

    Testimony to Theodore.

    Consider, now, who Theodore of Mopsuestia was, not as viewed by a slavish packed council, met to execute the will of a Byzantine despot, but as judged by one of the most eminent evangelical scholars of Germany, Dorner.  Of him, he says:  ”Theodore of Mopsuestia was the crown and climax of the school of Antioch.  The compass of his learning, his acuteness, and, as we must suppose, also, the force of his personal character, conjoined with his labors through many years, as a teacher both of churches and of young and talented disciples, and as a prolific writer, gained for him the title of Magister Orientis (“Master of the East”).  He labored on uninterruptedly till his death in the year 427, and was regarded with an appreciation the more widely extended as he was the first Oriental theologian of his time,” (“Doctrine of the Person of Christ,” Div. Ii., vol. i., p. 50, Edinburgh).

    Statement of Neander.

    Add to this the statement of Neander as to other schools springing from the school of Edessa and Nisibis:  ”From this school arose others among this church party (the Nestorian); and through many centuries it contributed to diffuse great enthusiasm for Christian knowledge and theological culture, and particularly for Biblical studies, to which the spirit of Theodore of Mopsuestia had given the incentives; and the Nestorian churches became an important instrument of diffusing Christianity in Eastern Asia” (“Church history,” vol. ii., p. 552).

    We cannot at this point speak of the wonderful missionary spirit of the Nestorian churches whom Theodore thus inspired, nor of their connection, through the Saracens, with the revival of Europe from the paralysis and darkness into which they had been plunged by the corrupt and persecuting despotism which anathematized Theodore.  Humboldt, Dr. Draper, and Lecky have noticed it as one of the sublime and wonderful dispensations of Providence, and at another time we may speak of it more fully.  But now we must resume our circuit of theological schools.

    School of John.

    Returning, then, to Antioch, and passing to the north of the Mediterranean, we come to Asia Minor, the field of the seven churches of the Apocalypse, and of the apostle John.  As the evangelist Mark is said to have founded the school of Alexandria, so the apostle John is regarded as the founder in Ephesus of the school of Asia Minor, from which came Polycarp, Melito, and Irenaeus, the great defender of the Church against the Gnostic heresies, and Hippolytus his hearer and follower.

    Dr. Schaff on Irenaeus.

    Of this father Dr. Schaff says:  ”Irenaeus was the leading representative of the Asiatic Johannean school in the second half of the second century, the champion of Catholic orthodoxy against Gnostic heresy, and the mediator between the Eastern and Western Churches.  He united a learned Greek education and philosophical penetration with practical wisdom and moderation, and a sound sense of the simple and essential in Christianity.  We may plainly trace in him the influence of the spirit of John” (“Church History,” vol. i., p. 488).

    Dr. Kurtz.

    Of this school Dr. Kurtz says that it was “distinguished by its firm adherence to the Bible, its strong faith, its scientific liberality, its conciliatory tone, and its trenchant polemics against heretics” (“Text-book of Church History,” p. 137, Philadelphia).  It is, therefore, the more remarkable that the doctrine of future eternal punishment was not taught by any of this school so far as we know, nor the doctrine of universal restoration; but, on the other hand, the doctrine of the final annihilation of the wicked was clearly taught by so eminent a man as Irenaeus.  Thus in five out of six of the early theological schools we do not find the doctrine of future eternal punishment.  Nor do we find any assault on the schools of Alexandria, Cesarea, Antioch, Edessa, and Asia Minor, from any quarter, for their unfaithfulness to that doctrine, nor any general combination against them, nor any effort to found seminaries against them, nor any general excitement and controversy in behalf of the doctrine of future eternal punishment.  What shall we say, then?  Was it held in no school?  Yes, in one – the school of Northern Africa.  Making the complete circuit of the Mediterranean Sea, we come at last to the field in which labored Tertullian, Cyprian, Minucius Felix, and, greatest and last of all, Augustine.  In this school the doctrine of future eternal punishment had faithful defenders, and universal restoration and final annihilation found no place.  From it came an influence that, maturing during the course of centuries, united at last with other attacks on both Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, and led to their condemnation for their heresy as to future eternal punishment.

    General View.

    This, however, is but a general view of the position of these schools on the question of future retribution.  But it illustrates and confirms our previous statement as to the freedom of opinion that long prevailed on the subject, for the believers in eternal punishment encountered no odium from any quarter.

    Particular View.

    But a more particular view of these schools and their eminent teachers and scholars is necessary to a clear understanding of the state of things at large in the churches, and the course of events.  We shall first look a little more closely at the school of Asia Minor founded by the apostle John, and of which Polycarp and Irenaeus are representatives.  It is of great moment to verify the statements which we have often made concerning Irenaeus, of his belief of the annihilation of the wicked, and also to inquire to what extent these views were adopted by others.  After this it will be in order to consider the different grounds on which the doctrine of universal restitution was held and defended in the different schools.




    We have, in our history of previous ages, spoken of an earnest desire to produce an harmonious universe, as the ultimate result of all things – a universe free from every form of sin and suffering.  We have also remarked that this final result may be conceived of as secured in two ways:  One is the annihilation of all unholy beings after enduring a punishment of such duration and severity as are demanded by infinite benevolence and justice, from a regard to the welfare of the universe.  The other is a final restoration of all to holiness, through the influence of remedial punishment.  It also appeared that, of the six early theological schools, the influence of four was in favor of the doctrine of universal restoration, of one in favor of the doctrine of eternal punishment and suffering.  It appeared, also, that, although the majority of the schools were in favor of universal restoration, yet the doctrine of annihilation was earliest developed, and that very great claims are made for it in the earliest ages of the Church by the modern advocates of that doctrine.  Of these claims we have admitted that some are well founded, while we reject others.


    The strongest and most influential authority for this doctrine is clearly Irenaeus, of the school of John.  But from his prominence as a saint, and the great defender of Christianity against the Gnostics, as well as from his relations to Polycarp, and through him to the apostle John, there has been a very great reluctance in the ranks of the orthodox, in modern times, to concede that he was a defender of the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked.  It is important, therefore, to state his case very clearly.

    Course Pursued.

    When it has been alleged that Irenaeus defended this doctrine, the common mode of refuting the allegation has been to quote from him in various forms his statement of the sentence of the Saviour at the last judgment, by which the wicked are consigned to aionian punishment, and to regard it as proof conclusive of his belief in eternal suffering, and, on the strength of these passages, to explain away the passages in which he seems to teach annihilation.  This is the course pursued by Massuetus, in his standard edition of Irenaeus.  At the same time he overlooks other parts of the system of Irenaeus which ought to exert a decisive influence on the question, and which render it certain that he did not understand aionian punishment to mean eternal punishment, but rather the punishment of the world to come, as affirmed by Prof. Tayler Lewis.


    System of Irenaeus.

    In order, then, to present his system in all its parts, it is necessary to consider, first, his views as to the final reorganization of all things.  Then the way will be prepared to present his views of the annihilation of the wicked, and to confirm them by his account of the proceedings of the last judgment, in conferring immortality on the righteous, and not on the wicked.

    Reorganization of the Universe.

    His views on the final reorganization of all things are given in the fourth of the passages of his writings discovered by Pfaff at Turin, in 1715, and first published by him.  Dr. Schaff refers to it in vol. i., p. 490, of his history, and sates that it relates to “the object of the incarnation, which is stated to be the purging away of sin, and the final annihilation of all evil.”  He also says that “the genuineness of these passages has been called in question by some Roman divines, but without sufficient reason.”

    This statement of Irenaeus would not decide of itself whether all evil was to be annihilated by the restoration of all sinners to holiness, or by their annihilation.  We therefore give an exact translation of the passage itself, from the edition of A. Stieren, Leipsic, 1853, vol. i., p. 888:

    “Christ, having been proclaimed the Son of God before the ages, appeared in the fullness of time, that by his blood he might purify us who were under sin, and present us holy to the Father, if we surrender ourselves obediently to the teaching of the Spirit, and at the end of the times he is about to come, to do away with all evil, and to restore all things to harmony, so that there shall be an end of all pollutions.”

    It will be seen that this passage is perfectly decisive against his belief of the eternal existence of sinful and polluted beings in the universe of God; for, according to him, Christ is to produce universal harmony, and to bring all sin and pollution to a perpetual end.  But still this passage, by itself, is not decisive of the mode in which these results are to be attained, though, if there were nothing more, it would slightly countenance the idea of universal restoration by the annihilation of sin; for it does not expressly speak of the annihilation of sinners, but of sin and pollution.

    Decisive Passages.

    But we are not left to doubt or conjecture as to the real views of Irenaeus.  Nothing can be more explicit and unequivocal than his utterances in other places, especially in one in which he speaks expressly as to the annihilation of the wicked.  The passage occurs in his work, “Contra Haereses,” ii., 34, 2, 3, 4.  He begins by denying the necessary annihilation of the spirit after death, by referring to the case of the rich man and Lazurus.  This, he says, teaches that at death souls do not cease to exist, or pass into other bodies, but so live as to be recognized.  To those who assert that souls, not being self-existent, but coming into being, must die with the body, he replies that, though God only is by nature immortal, yet by the will of God they can continue to exist as long as he pleases.  The material system is not self-existent, but was called into being by the will of god, and yet it exists for ages by his will; so also can it be with the souls and spirits of men.  From this he passes to consider the question, What, in fact, is the will of God as to the future existence of men?


    On this point we will give an exact translation of his words.  Referring to Psalm xxi. 4, he says:  ”Thus it is said concerning the salvation of man, ‘He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days forever and ever,’ indicating that the Father of all gives to those who are saved length of days forever and ever.  For our life comes not from ourselves nor from our nature.  We have life, but it is given to us by the grace of God.  And therefore he who cherishes the gift of life, and is thankful to him who bestowed it, shall also receive length of days forever and ever.  But he who casts it away, and is ungrateful to his Creator for his creation, and does not acknowledge him who conferred the gift, deprives himself of eternal existence.”  In this passage Irenaeus is plainly speaking of the continuance of natural life forever, as denoted by eternal existence, and not of spiritual life in holiness.

    This view of the case he sustains by referring to a principle stated in another portion of Scripture:

    “Therefore, the Lord says to those who were ungrateful to him, ‘If ye have not been faithful in that which is little, who will give you that which is much?’ signifying that those who have been ungrateful to the giver for temporal life, which is little, shall justly be deprived by him of eternal existence.”

    Philosophic Immortality.

    This view of the case he proceeds to sustain by refuting the Platonic doctrine of the necessary immortality of the soul.  This, also, we shall quote; for, though what we have quoted is explicit beyond all evasion, yet efforts are made to render the position of Irenaeus on this question doubtful, and therefore we will give line upon line till doubt is impossible.  He thus proceeds to refute the doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul:

    “As the animal body is not the spirit, but partakes of the spirit so long as God wills, so the spirit is not life, but partakes of the life given by God.  Hence, as the inspired Word says concerning the first man, he became a living soul, teaching us that he became a living soul by participating of life, so also the spirit is to be conceived of as something separate from the life of which it partakes. So long, then, as God gives life and continued existence, it follows that minds, though called into being from non-existence, will hereafter exist so long as God wills them to have existence and being.  The will of God must be supreme in all things, and everything must give way to it and obey it.  This completes what I have to say as to the creation and continued existence of the mind.

    Attempt of Massuetus.

    We can now judge of the attempt of Massuetus to neutralize the positive testimony of passages so explicit.  He says that Irenaeus, in these passages, is speaking of spiritual life or the life of holiness, and not of the eternal existence of the soul.  Truly, this is a desperate evasion.  It lies upon the very face of the passage, that he is speaking of eternal existence as the reward of holiness and gratitude, and the loss of eternal existence as the punishment for ingratitude and disobedience.  He begins by showing that the soul does not cease to exist at death, since life is the gift of god, and can be continued as long as he pleases.  And to exclude the evasion that by life he means holiness, he calls it temporal life, and contrasts it with eternal existence, and not with holiness.  In conclusion, he says that, in the whole discussion, he has spoken of the creation and continued existence of the mind, thus denying that he has been speaking of spiritual life.  Yet the loss of existence which he teaches does not take place at once.  He distinctly sets forth great and fearful punishments to be endured by the wicked in the future state, before they cease to exist.

    The Judgment.

    This general view is illustrated and confirmed by the closing part of his creed, in which he states that at the final judgment God will bestow upon the righteous the gift of immortality.  His words are these:  ”Wicked spiritists and angels that have transgressed and become apostate, and the impious and unjust, and lawless and blasphemous among men, Christ will send into the aionianfire.  But upon the just he will mercifully bestow life, and confer on them the gift of immortality and heavenly glory.”  This plainly implies that all on whom this gift is not bestowed – that is, all the wicked – will finally cease to exist.

    These passages remove all doubt as to the manner in which, in the opinion of Irenaeus, all evil and pollution were to be removed from the universe, and all things restored to the harmony of love.  It is plain, also, that he understood the sentence of Christ at the last judgment in accordance with these views.

    Relations to John.

    The question now naturally arises:  If so prominent a man as Irenaeus, in such relations to Polycarp, the disciple of John, held these views, are we authorized to trace them up to the apostle himself?  If we could find them in Polycarp, and also a declaration that he received them from John, the case would be a very strong one.  But this we cannot do.

    Epistle of Polycarp.

    There is, it is true, an authenticated epistle of Polycarp in existence.  But in that we can find nothing decisive as to any view of retribution.  In the second chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians v. 11 (Wake), he says:  ”If we please the Lord in this present world, we shall also be made partakers of that which is to come, according as he has promised us that he will raise us from the dead; and that if we walk worthy of him we shall also reign together with him if we believe.”  Again, in chapter ii. 8, he says, “he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also raise us up in like manner, if we do his will and walk according to his commandments.”

    In these passages, especially the last, a holy life seems to be made the condition of a resurrection from the dead.  And in no part of the epistle is the resurrection of the wicked spoken of. Again, in i. 7, it is said that “to Christ all things are made subject that are in heaven, and that are in earth, whom every living creature shall worship.”  All this, at first, might seem to imply either that all the wicked were to be converted or annihilated, and that so none of them would be raised.  But the conclusion would be premature, for he proceeds to say, “He shall come to be the judge of the quick and the dead, and his blood God shall require of them that believe not in him.” So, then, there will be wicked ones to be judged, although nothing is said of their resurrection.  The fact is, that the epistle is almost entirely confined to the Church, and all allusions to the wicked are incidental.  The only doctrine taught is that the righteous shall be raised and rewarded, and the wicked judged. But nothing is said of the nature or the duration of the punishment of the wicked.  The connecting link therefore fails, and the authority of John cannot be invoked to sustain the teachings of Irenaeus. They must stand or fall according to their agreement with the Word of God.

    Eminence of Irenaeus.

    Irenaeus was not the only one who held these views, but we have not time at present to consider the case of others with any sufficient care and accuracy.  The case of Irenaeus assures us that a man may be, as Irenaeus was, to use the words of Dr. Schaff, “the leading representative of the Asiatic Johannean school, in the second half of the second century, the champion of Catholic orthodoxy against Gnostic heresy, the mediator between the Eastern and Western Churches, the enemy of all error and schism, and, on the whole, the most orthodox of the ante-Nicene fathers,” and yet hold the doctrine of the final annihilation of the wicked and the reorganization of the universe, and the end of all evil thereby.  That such a man, standing in such relations, should hold this doctrine, does not prove it to be true; but it does teach us that there was something that strongly recommended the doctrine to him, and this was, that it was one way, and to him the most reasonable and Scriptural, of reaching a united universe, in which there should be neither sin or misery.  After his day, this result was predominantly sought in another way.  But as to the result there has been a craving for it by many of the noblest minds in every age.




    In our exhibition of the views of Irenaeus, we have finished what we have to say of the views of the school of Asia Minor.  We have seen that the annihilation of the wicked after severe punishment was clearly taught by that eminent father.  But we remarked that there were others by whom the same views substantially were held.  We referred especially to Justin, the Martyr, and Arnobius.  Of Justin we shall now speak, as the first in time and in importance.  And that he may not be a mere abstraction to us, but a living personage with whom sympathy is possible, we will say a few words concerning his history and labors.

    Justin Martyr.

    In the first place, he was not one of the regular clergy.,  He was not the bishop of any church.  He wielded no ecclesiastical authority.  He was not properly even a preacher upon whom the hands of the presbytery had been laid.  What then, it may be asked, was he?  He was a traveling Christian philosopher, engaged in the work of evangelization, and the world at large was his diocese. He was born in Palestine, in Flavia Neapolis, formerly Shechem, and lived between A.D. 100-166.  He had a classical education, and was an ardent student of the Greek philosophers.  In the opening part of his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, he tells us how he sought for the truth first under the guidance of a Stoic philosopher, then of an Aristotelian, then of a Pythagorean, but all in vain.  At last, seeking a solitary walk for reflection, on the sea-shore, he was met by an old man, a Christian, by whom he was guided to the true philosophy in Christ.  To parts of his dialogue with the old man we shall have occasion to refer, as throwing light on his views of future retribution.

    Justin As Apologist.

    From the time of this great change, he devoted himself to the promulgation and defense of Christianity.  He stands as the leader of a class of writers known as Apologists, not that he was actually the first, but the first whose works have come down to us.  He wrote two defenses of Christianity, called his first and second Apologies, addressed, as is generally believed, the first to that illustrious Roman emperor, Antoninus Pins, the second to the no less eminent Marcus Aurelius.  These are of intense interest, by reason of the light which they throw on the state of Christianity and the churches in the first part of the second century.  He seeks to lay open to the Roman emperors the whole truth as to the slandered and persecuted Christians.  He describes their belief, their mode of life, their meetings, and worship, and invokes for them protection and justice at the hand of the mighty Emperors of Rome.  He also defended Christianity against the assaults of the Jews, in his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew.

    Justin As Evangelist.

    In his work of evangelization he traveled from place to place, talking with all to whom he could have access, and still wearing the philosopher’s cloak, as he did when he was converted, for he thought that thus he should gain more ready access to men of all classes.  He was a very learned man and a great reader.  He led the way in using the Platonic philosophy in the exposition and defense of Christianity, finding in it much truth, though he rejected, or intended to reject, all its errors.  In this respect he was in sympathy with the Alexandrian school.  He died as a martyr at Rome under Marcus Aurelius.  His writings are very noteworthy in one respect.

    Recognition of Christ’s Sentence.

    We find in them the first full recognition of the words of Christ as judge at the last great day, and he sets forth the Christian doctrine of future retribution in language derived directly from the words of Christ.  Especially he uses constantly the word aionios to denote its nature.  To quote all the passages in which he does this would transcend our limits.  We will exhibit only his presentation of the Christian doctrine to the Roman emperor.  To him he says:  ”More than all men we are your helpers and allies in promoting peace, seeing we hold this view that it is alike impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and also for the virtuous, to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to aionian punishment or salvation, according to the desert of his actions.  For if all men knew this, no one would choose wickedness, even for a short time, knowing that he goes to the aionian punishment of fire” (Apology I., chapter viii.).  Again, he says to the emperor:  ”You can only kill us, which indeed does no harm to us, but to you, and to all that unjustly hate us and do not repent, brings aionian punishment by fire” (chapter xiv.).

    If, now, we assert that Justin by aionian understood absolutely eternal, he is represented as not in accord with the general usage.  But, as in the instance of Irenaeus, there are other parts of his writings inconsistent with that view.

    Other Statements.

    These occur especially in his statement, in his dialogue with Trypho, of the reasonings of the old Christian by whom he was converted, and which, it is generally conceded, are indorsed [sic] by Justin as his own.  Of these we propose now to give some account.

    The first step in preparing the way for the doctrine of the final annihilation of the wicked is to refute the Platonic doctrine, of which we have before spoken, of the self-existence and necessary and essential immortality of the soul.  Denoting the old man by S. (Senex), and Justin by J., the dialogue thus proceeds:

    S. These philosophers know nothing on this point, nor can they even prove that the soul exists at all.

    J. Very likely they cannot.

    S. Certainly they ought not to call it immortal, for if it is immortal it must be uncreated, and self-existent.

    J. In fact, it is held to be thus immortal by some who are called Platonic philosophers.

    S. But do you believe that this world is uncreated, and self-existent?

    J. There are those who say so, but I do not agree with them.

    S. In this you are right.  For what show of reason can there be for supposing that a body which has such solidity and reaction, and which is composite and changeable, and subject every day to decay and new growth, can exist without an originating cause?  But if this world is not self-existent, but created, it is necessary that souls also should have been created from previous non-existence.  For they were made for the sake of man, and other living beings, even if you say that they were first created by themselves, and not in connection with their proper bodies.

    J. It appears to me that you are correct.

    S. so, then, they are not essentially immortal?

    J. No; since we are agreed in the fact that the world was created.

    S. Nevertheless, I do not affirm that all souls do in fact cease to exist at death.  This truly would be a fine arrangement for the wicked!  But how is it, then?  Thus:  The souls of the good still continue to exist somewhere in a better place, all awaiting the time of the judgment.  Then the good, being manifested as worthy of the favor of God, shall never die, but the wicked are punished so long as God wills to have them exist, and be punished.”

    Here by antithesis he asserts that the wicked do finally cease to exist but that they exist and are punished as long as God pleases.

    This View Indorsed by Justin.

    This view Justin indorses [sic] as in accordance with what Plato has obscurely said about the world, as existing by the will of God.  This he applies to the soul and all things else, and thus sustains his view:  ”All things which have come into being, or shall begin to exist, are by nature liable to die, and can disappear and be no more.  For God only is uncreated and incorruptible, and, therefore, is God.  But all things that come into being after him are created and mortal – for this reason souls also die and are punished;” i.e., after they have been sufficiently punished, as he had before said, they cease to exist.

    Old Man Responds.

    To this view the old man responds with additional reasoning, as follows:

    “The soul either has life in itself, or it receives it from something else.  But if it has life in itself it would be the cause of life to something else, and not to itself; as motion may be said rather to move something else than itself.  That the soul lives no one can deny, but, if it lives, it lives not as being itself life, but as receiving life.  Now, whatever partakes of anything is different from that of which it partakes.  But the soul partakes of life, because God wills it to live; and just so, too, it will no longer partake of life, whenever he does not desire it to live.  For it cannot live of itself as God does.  But as the personal man does not always exist, and body and soul are not ever united, but the soul leaves the body, and the man ceases to exist whenever this unity is dissolved, so also, when it is necessary that the soul should no longer exist, the vital spirit leaves it, and the soul is no more, but returns again thither whence it was taken,” i.e., to non-existence.

    In parts of this reasoning a striking similarity to the reasoning of Irenaeus is seen, and, as Justin was his senior, Irenaeus may have followed his line of thought.

    We have carefully considered what has been said in favor of a different translation of the old man’s statement, “I do not affirm that all souls do in fact cease to exist at death.”  We cannot now enter into the principles of the case, but are assured that the translation which we have given is required by the whole context, and is the only one capable of a sound philological defense.

    That Justin did hold and teach the final annihilation of the wicked the most eminent scholars concede.  In the number of such Mr. Hudson appeals to Grotius, Huet, Ropler, Du Pin, Doederlein, Munscher, Munter, Daniel, Hase, Starck, Kern, Otto, Ritter, J.P. Smith, Bloomfield, and Gieseler.

    Reasons For Doubt.

    The only reason for another view is found in the strong language used by him as to aionian punishment.  To those who have not considered the view defended by Prof. Tayler Lewis, the subject must seem to be involved in an inextricable contradiction.  But, even without this principle of harmony, J. Donaldson, in his learned work on the writings of the fathers, comes definitely to the conclusion that Justin did not intend to teach a philosophical eternity of punishment, even by his strongest expressions, and that aionios is an indefinite word.

    But, to judge fairly of the case, let us take a thorough modern believer in the absolute eternity of punishment, and is it supposable that he should, by any possibility, write such statements as have been quoted from Justin as to the annihilation of the wicked?  Could any man have written them who thoroughly believed in eternal punishment?

    But to remove all uncertainty, there are in Justin still other passages which put his views beyond all doubt.

    Apol. I., xxi., he says, “We have been taught that only those who live near to God in holiness and virtue are made immortal, but that those who live unjustly and do not reform shall be punished in aionian fire,” that is, in the fire of the world to come.

    Here he expressly states that the Christians for whom he is pleading had been taught that only the holy who live near to god are made immortal.  Apparently to evade this conclusion, Dodds, in Clark’s translations, renders [Greek letters] (apathanatizesthai) are deified.  But this implies that Christians were taught in the days of Justin that the holy were in fact deified, which is false.  No trace of such a doctrine can be found among the early Christians.  The doctrine which Justin declares Christians were taught was, that only the holy were made immortal.  His words can properly mean nothing else.

    Again, in Trypho 45, he speaks of the wicked and the righteous in these words:  ”The wicked shall be sent to the judgment and to condemnation to fire, to be punished incessantly, but the righteous shall be free from pain and grief, incorruptible and immortal, and together with God.”  Here immortality is presented as peculiar to the righteous.

    Again, in Apol. I., lii., he says that Christ “will raise the bodies of all men, and invest with immortality those of the worthy.”  Here the immortality of the wicked is by implication denied.

    It is indeed true that Justin speaks of punishment as extending beyond any boundary that can be defined by man, and not limited to one thousand years, as Plato taught.

    But in all this his motive is plain.  He says that to teach that the wicked are annihilated at death would be a god-send to them, as removing all fears of future punishment.  To avoid this result, and increase the power of motives to repent, he teaches the existence and sensibility of sinners in a future state, and their punishment in fire for a very long but undefinable period, because, as he says, the wicked will exist and be punished in the world to come, as long as God pleases, and no man can tell how long that is.

    To make him teach more, and to assert the eternal existence and punishment of the wicked, is to involve him in a direct and inevitable self-contradiction.  We are not at liberty to impute such a contradiction to him if his statements can be so interpreted as to agree.  But his statements, that the holy alone are rendered immortal, are absolute and positive, and cannot be explained away.

    But his statements as to the wicked can all of them be properly explained as teaching no more than that the wicked will live in the future world, and be punished by God as long as he sees fit, even to many ages; that neither Plato nor any other man can fix a definite limit to this time; that as it depends on the will of God, it cannot be defined or bounded by man; and that it may properly be spoken of as the punishment of ages, which no man can limit, but which finally results in annihilation.

    In Apol. I., xxviii., when Justin says that the devil and his angels, and the men who follow him shall be sent into fire to be punished for an unbounded ([Greek letters], aperanton) age, he uses the word as does Pindar, when he says, N. viii., 64, “Some men seek gold, and others ([Greek letters]) a vast or unbounded extent of land;” or when in P. ix., 61, he speaks of unbounded or immeasurable strength ([Greek letters]).  Again, when Justin says (Trypho 45) that the wicked are punished ([Greek letters]) incessantly or without cessation, he means that this is true during the time of their punishment, however long it may be.

    To illustrate the sensibility of the wicked in the future world, he quotes (Apol. I., lii.) Is. lxiv. 24, “Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched,” and says that their bodies shall be raised, and in the future life be invested with sensibility, and that God will send them into the fire of the world to come, or, as it may be translated, into the fire of ages.

    In Apol. I., viii., he says, “Plato used to say that Rhadamanthus and Minos would punish the wicked who came before them for a thousand years; and we say that the same thing will be done, but at the hand of Christ, and upon the wicked in the same bodies, united again to their spirits, which are now to undergo the punishment of ages, and not, as Plato said, for a period of only a thousand years.”  It is only by assuming, without reason, that in this passage aionios means eternal, instead of for ages, that eternal punishment can be proved.

    And in Trypho, 130, where Justin says that the bodies of those who have transgressed are to be devoured by the worm and ceaseless fire, remaining deathless, no stress can be laid on the word deathless (athanata), for it simply denotes the fact that, during the time of exposure to the fire, the bodies cannot die, but not that they cannot be annihilated by God, at such time as he shall see fit.

    It now is manifest that both Justin and Irenaeus are intent on so stating the doctrine of annihilation that the terrors and moving power of future punishments shall not be diminished.  Both of them are very careful to deny that the soul ceases to exist at death, they do not, at all, teach that the soul is material, and is dissolved with the body.  They are very careful to state, in strong terms, that, after the day of judgment, there will be a fearful and long-continued punishment, enduring for ages which no one could bound.

    In these things they were very unlike many modern advocates of the annihilation of the wicked.  They use the very strongest language as to the nature and duration of future punishment, not being willing to release the wicked from the restraining powers of salutary fear.


    We come now to Arnobius.  But his case need not detain us long as to the historic fact, for it is denied by no one that he taught the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked.  Prof. Shedd fully concedes it.  But we will briefly consider his opinions.  They agree substantially with those of Irenaeus and Justin.  He taught that souls have such a nature that they need God in order to secure eternal existence.  If they refuse to acknowledge him, and reject his gifts and favors, they will finally be annihilated.  He says, “This is the real death of man, when souls that know not God are annihilated by long-continued torment in a fierce fire.”  Any alleged immortality of the soul that is inconsistent with this he repudiates and disproves.  And certainly no considerate Christian can adopt or defend the idea of an endless existence that is not upheld by God, and that cannot be annihilated if God sees fit.  It is a question as to the fact.  Arnobius believed the fact to be that the wicked will be annihilated, in the manner above stated.


    But the questions may arise:  ”Who was Arnobius?  What is the weight of his opinion?  Was he eminent as a Christian?”

    We reply, he was an African, from Sicca in Numidia, once a teacher of rhetoric and an opponent of Christianity.  After his conversion he wrote a vigorous work in its defense.  He also taught theological scholars, among whom was the eminent and classical Lactantius.  Jerome commends his writings as worthy of study, for their learning, with those of Origen, Tertullian, and others. Neander speaks highly of his defense of Christianity, conceding at the same time that in a number of points he was not orthodox according to the views of the Church.  Certainly he has never had the prestige and influence of Irenaeus.  He lived about A.D. 250-300.

    These, then, are the leading defenders of the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked.  We mention none of the apostolic fathers as teaching this doctrine, herein differing materially from Mr. Hudson and others.  But even he concedes that it is not expressly taught by them or by the early creeds.  It is inferred rather from such facts as this, that Christ is spoken of as the giver of immortality to the good, and that the endless punishment of the wicked is not expressly taught.  But, as we have said, that question was not then up for discussion, and it is unsafe to infer any doctrine from incidental remarks, or from omissions.  We shall advert to them again in speaking of the doctrine of endless punishment, for, though none of them refer at all to Christ’s sentence on the wicked, yet one of them, Hermas, speaks of endless sin, and endless exclusion from heaven – but says nothing of fire, or of physical torment of any kind.

    Mr. Hudson’s appeal to Athanasius we also reject.  It is true that that eminent father taught that man was by the sin of Adam made liable to annihilation, and that if Christ had not interposed he would have been annihilated.  But he did interpose, and by his death secured the resurrection of all men, and redeemed them from annihilation.  Theodore of Mopsuestia from these premises inferred the doctrine of universal restoration, otherwise the resurrection would be no blessing but a curse to the majority of mankind.  Athanasius did not carry out his premises to this issue, nor did he teach annihilation.  He was busy with the Trinity, and is quite reticent as to the details of eternal retribution.

    We turn next to the Christian schools in which the doctrine of universal restoration was taught.  From the days of Origen, as we have seen, an extended and widespread movement existed in favor of that doctrine.  Of the leading agents in this movement we propose to take a comprehensive and critical view.




    We have considered the development of the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked by Irenaeus, of the school of John in Asia Minor, and also by Justin Martyr and Arnobius.  We now come to the schools in which the doctrine of the final restoration of all men to holiness was taught, or favored.

    School, What?

    The word school is used in two senses:  One, more general, to denote certain teachers and those who adopt their opinions, though not collected in one place where buildings are erected and teachers employed for purposes of instruction.  The other is applied more strictly to denote institutions at which scholars are gathered, and teachers, libraries, and buildings, are provided for their instruction.

    Of the former kind were the schools of Asia Minor and of Northern Africa.  Of the latter were the schools of Alexandria, Cesarea, Antioch, and Edessa.  Of these, that of Alexandria and that of Cesarea were properly schools truly Origenistic; that at Antioch, and that at Edessa, were schools under the influence of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodore of Tarsus.

    Error of Historians.

    As Theodore agreed with Origen in teaching the doctrine of final restoration, he has, by some historians, been spoken of as of the school of Origen.  Hagenbach (Section 142, note 6) speaks of Diodore of Tarsus, and Theodore of Mopsuestia, as adopting the milder notions of Origen concerning a final restoration.  This may have led Prof. Shedd, who follows Hagenbach as to his authorities, and is misled by him, to consider them as of the school of Origen.

    But as the principles of interpretation adopted by Theodore, as well as his anthropology, were opposed to those of Origen, the result in which they agreed was reached in ways so different that it is not proper to call Theodore a scholar of Origen.  Moreover, the history of the opinions of Origen, and their final condemnation under Justinian, is entirely separate from the history of the opinions of Theodore, and their condemnation under the same emperor.  In addition to this, the extension of the influence of Theodore among the Nestorian churches was peculiar to him, and was not at all shared by Origen.

    Origen and Theodore Contrasted.

    We will, therefore, before continuing the history of the opinions of Origen, and then of Theodore, give a summary statement of their points of difference, and as Theodore, though a voluminous writer in his day, is little known by us, since his condemnation led to the destruction of the greater part of his works, we shall be more full in the presentation of his opinions.  A great ignorance of them seems to be manifested even by some intelligent historians.

    Theodore rejected almost entirely the spiritual, allegorical, and mystical interpretation of Origen; and, in common with the Antiochian school, adopted the principles of historical and grammatical interpretation.

    Origen on Free-Will and Preexistence.

    The system of Origen, also, was based on free-will, carried to its utmost extent, and never lost, so that reformation in sinners would be always possible.  He also held to the preexistence of men, and that the original sinfulness of man in this world was the result of his fall and transgressions in a previous state of being.  This fall, however, they had the power to avoid, and multitudes did avoid it.  The hope of their final restoration lies in the fact that they have this indestructible power of free agency, and that God is able, in the course of ages of suffering, to induce them finally to use it aright, and to return to him, in love and obedience.

    Opposite View of Theodore.

    The fundamental principles of Theodore differed entirely from these.  He did not hold to preexistence, or to any such extreme power of free agency as Origen taught.  He held, on the other hand, that sin is an unavoidable part of the development and education of man; that some carry it to a greater extent than others, but that God will finally overrule it for their final establishment in good.

    Dr. Bushnell Anticipated.

    His principles of development and establishment in stable virtue, through an experience of sinning, in some points anticipate those of Dr. Bushnell, except that the latter does not push them to the result of universal restoration.  Neander thus states his fundamental principles:  ”Human nature, nay, the nature of all created spirits, is, according to this system, so constituted from the beginning that it could no otherwise than by a redemption attain to its final destination.”  Of course, sin is unavoidable.  This resembles Dr. Bushnell’s idea of the necessity of turning the corner of a fall and redemption.  But Dr. Bushnell would not agree with all the statements of Theodore, some of which we give, from the records of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, in which he was condemned for his Nestorian doctrines.

    Two States.

    He says:  ”It pleased God to divide his creatures into two states.  One is the present, in which he has made all things mutable; the other is to occur when he shall renew all things and render them immutable.  Of this final state he has showed us the beginning, in the dispensation of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom in his human nature he raised from the dead, and rendered immortal in body and immutable in mind, by which he demonstrated that the same result shall be effected in all his creatures.”  To illustrate the extent of his last remark, he proceeds to say that millions of angels and spirits will be established with men in immutability.

    This immutability is to be the result of a final and full communion with God, in order thus to be pervaded by a principle of divine life.  Any created beings, left to themselves, would be sure to sin and to need redemption.

    Reason of the First State.

    The reason why God left his creatures to themselves, in the first mutable and sinful state, was that they could in no other way than by an experiment of evil learn the worth of the opposite blessings.  In book v., “De Creatura,” he says:  ”God knew that men would sin in all ways, but permitted this result to come to pass, knowing that it would ultimately be for their advantage.  For since God created man when he did not exist, and made him ruler of so extended a system, and offered so great blessings for his enjoyment, it was impossible that he should have not prevented the entrance of sin, if he had not known that it would be ultimately for his advantage.”

    What the Benefit?

    But, it may be asked, what is the benefit to be derived from leaving the creatures at first to a state of mutability and sin?  This question he thus answers:  ”It was not possible that in any other way we should have a full knowledge of the nature and consequences of sin, and the evils of our sinful passions, and know our weakness, disclosed in these experiences, so as to show by contrast the greatness of the immutability to be given to us, unless it had been so ordained by God from the beginning, that by experiment and comparison we might know the magnitude of those infinite benefits that are to be conferred on us.  On this account knowing that it would, on the whole, be for our advantage, he permitted sin to enter.”  And, again:  ”It is the prerogative of a rational creature to distinguish between good and evil things.  If, therefore, there were not opposite qualities, it would not be possible for him to discern the differences.  Therefore, at the outset, he introduced these great contrarieties into his creation.

    General View.

    We will give another extract from Theodore, in which some of the things already said are repeated, but in new relations, and with a more full view of his system:  ”God did not introduce death among men unwillingly, and contrary to his judgment, nor did he permit the entrance of sin for no beneficial end.  He was not unable to prevent it if he desired, but he permitted it, because he knew that it would be beneficial to us, or rather to all intelligent beings, that there should be first a dispensation including evils, and that then they should be removed and universal good take their place.  Therefore god divided the creation into two states, the present and the future.  In the latter he will bring all to immortality and immutability.  In the former he gives us over to death and mutability.  For if he had made us at first immortal and immutable, we should not have differed from irrational animals, who do not understand the peculiar characteristics by which they are distinguished.  For if we had been ignorant of mutability we could not have understood the good of immutability.  Ignorant of death, we could not have known the true worth of immortality.  Ignorant of corruption, we could not have properly valued incorruption.  Ignorant of the burden of sinful passions, we could not have duly exulted in freedom from such passions.  In a word, ignorant of an experiment of evils, we should not have been able properly to understand the opposite forms of good.”

    Agency of Christ.

    In the view of Theodore, therefore, this universal restitution of all to holiness was the end aimed at in the first dispensation, involving sin and to be effected through it.  Christ and his cross, moreover, he regarded as the centre of the great movement toward universal restitution.  In support of this view he appealed to such passages as Col. i. 19, 20:  ”For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” These, then, were the doctrines of Theodore “the Interpreter,” the great oracle of the Nestorians and of their schools

    Person of Christ.  - Nestorianism.

    Out of this system grew his peculiar views of the person of Christ, whose supreme divinity he fully believed.  God ordered, in his view, that in his human nature he should go through a development which should be the type and exemplar of the development to be wrought in us, and therefore he maintained that sharp separation between the human and divine in the person of Christ that resulted in Nestorianism.  For these reasons to the Nestorian churches he was ever the great Scriptural interpreter and theological oracle.

    Nestorian Liturgy.

    We are now prepared to understand the full import of the following extracts from the sacramental liturgy which he drew up for the Nestorian churches, in which he introduced the great proof passage from Colossians, which we have quoted.  (See E. Renaudot’s “Oriental Liturgies,” vol. ii., p. 610.)

    In the opening part of the service, in accordance with the statements of Theodore as to the relations of Christ to the harmonizing and establishment of the universe in holiness, the priest sets forth “the Son of man, an acceptable victim offered to God the Lord of all for all creatures in the universe.

    Then, in prayer, the priest reviews the dispensation of the incarnation, and says of Christ:  ”He is the head of the Church, the perfecter of all beings, by whom all things are accomplished.  He, by the Eternal Spirit, offered himself an unspotted offering to God, and sanctified us by the oblation of his body once made.  Moreover, he made peace by the blood of his cross, among those in heaven and in earth.”  After this he says, “Let us celebrate the great, tremendous, sacred, and divine mystery, by which a great salvation was made for the whole human race.”

    After this he says in prayer:  ”We offer with contrite heart and humble spirit, before thy glorious Trinity, this sacrifice, living and holy, which is the mystery of the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, asking and entreating before thee, O Lord, that thy adorable divinity may take pleasure in it, and by thy compassion this pure and sacred offering, by which thou art appeased and reconciled, may be accepted in behalf of the sins of the whole world.”

    Farther on he says, “This sacrament is offered for all kinds of men who live in sin and error, that by thy grace thou wouldst make them worthy to know thy truth and adore thy majesty, that they may know thee whose will it is that all men should live, and turn to and acknowledge the truth.”

    The true meaning of this liturgy no one can doubt who knows the system of Theodore, and notes the emphatic extension of the atonement to all the universe declared in it, presenting Christ as the perfecter of all creatures, and who considers the fact that it does not confine the efficacy of the sacrament almost or quite exclusively to the Church, as the Romish liturgy does, and others of that class, but extends it to all mankind without exception, and to the whole creation.  Any one who will read this liturgy side by side with the Romish will not fail to be struck with this radical difference.

    Of the liturgy of Theodore, Renaudot says it is the second of those generally used in the Nestorian Church, and is found in all the manuscripts.  It was also translated for the use of the churches of India.

    Of the Nestorian churches, he says they peculiarly revere Theodore, and call him, by way of eminence, the Interpreter, on account of his numerous commentaries on the word of God.

    Theodore’s Confession of Faith.

    In Theodore’s confession of faith this relation of Christ to the salvation of all is once more clearly presented.  Of him he says:  ”He is called the second Adam, by the blessed Paul; constituted an Adam of the same nature, and showing to us the future state, and exhibiting so much difference from the first Adam as will exist between him who bestows the ineffable gifts of the future state, and him who began the present mournful state of things.  In like manner, he is called the second man, as disclosing the second state, because Adam began the first, a state mortal, and possibly full of many pains, in which he showed a typical similitude to him.  But Christ the Lord began the second state.  He in the future, revealed from heaven, will restore us all into communion with himself.  For the apostle says, The first man was of the earth earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven, that is, who is to appear hereafter thence, that he may restore all to the likeness of himself.”

    Those who recall the statements of Dorner and other leading historians, of the influence of Theodore as a theologian, and the most eminent divine, and the master of the East, will regard as of great historical moment the statements we have given coming directly from himself.  Of the influence of these Nestorian churches more will be said hereafter.




    The history of the Nestorians and of their connection with Theodore of Mopsuestia is less known than it should be.  In like manner, the history of their connection with the destinies of humanity through the Arabians is less understood than their merits require.  Indeed, there is not a more interesting and important chapter in the development of human destiny than this.

    Followers of Theodore.

    We have exhibited in contrast the principles of Origen and of Theodore of Mopsuestia.  We have seen that, although they agreed in the doctrine of the final restoration of all beings to holiness, yet their systems were based on very different fundamental principles.  It should now be added that the range of their influence was very different.  The followers of Origen were chiefly in the Greek and Latin Churches.  Those of Theodore in Central and Eastern Asia.  They are commonly known as the Nestorians, and are by the so-called Catholic Church reckoned among the heretical sects.

    The Church – What?

    But, in order to understand the relations of the Nestorians to Christianity and the Church, it is of special moment to know what the Church was by which they were condemned, and by which Theodore was anathematized.  In our history before Christ, the geographical scene of our investigations was limited.  It was mainly confined to Palestine, and to the scenes of the captivities in Egypt and Babylon.  After the coming of Christ, it was enlarged until it included large portions of Asia, Europe, and Africa.

    Triple Division.

    Beginning in Palestine, Christianity extended its conquests until, in the sixth century, there were three great geographical divisions of the Christian body, two of which were sometimes called churches.  The Western Church included Italy, Gaul, Spain, England, and the western part of Northern Africa.  Its centre was Rome, and it was called sometimes the Latin Church.  The Greek Church included the rest of the Roman Empire to the east of the Western Church, to the Euphrates.  This was also called the Greek Church, whose centre was Constantinople.  East of this, and without the bounds of the Roman Empire, there was a large body of Christians, not united around one centre.  They were, to a great extent, Christians who had been driven out by the other two churches because they did not agree with the Ecumenical Councils, so called, in their decisions as to the person of Christ.  Those thus driven out were organized as separate, independent, dissenting churches, not centralized by one government, but called heretical sects by those from whom they dissented.  Prominent among these independent bodies were the Jacobites and the Nestorians, called sometimes the Chaldean Christians.

    It is a matter of indispensable necessity to form a clear idea of the condition and extent of all these churches at the sixth century, in order to obtain a vivid conception of the early history of the Church, for that history lies to us in a kind of world beyond the flood.

    The Flood.

    By the flood, I mean the great Mohammedan invasion and conquests.  Of Christendom, as it then was, the greater part came under Mohammedan control, and to this day Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch – in short, all the great centres of the Christian world as it then was, except one, Rome – are under Mohammedan sway.  Moreover, every one of the great ancient centres of theological study is at this hour in the hands of the Mohammedans.  This is true of Alexandria and Carthage, in Africa, of Asia Minor, and of Cesarea, Antioch, Edessa, and Nisibis, in Asia.  To understand the history of those six centuries, we must go back beyond that Mohammedan flood, and think of Christendom as it then was, and not of Christendom as it now is, for what is now the most powerful part of Christendom was not then included in it at all, but was under the sway of German barbarism and idolatry.

    The Church Outnumbered.

    It is of more importance to do this, inasmuch as statements are often made of the Church, collectively, that will fall asunder at once when tested by an accurate and comprehensive view of geography and of history.

    Although, according to common parlance, The Church, had condemned these independent churches as heretical sects, yet two of them, the Nestorians and the Jacobites, soon became so numerous in Central and Eastern Asia that they outnumbered both the Greek and Latin Churches united.  Of this fact Gibbon gives a statement, based on authorities, in his great history (chapter xlvii., vol. iii., p. 272, Harper’s edition).  Dr. Draper, in his “History of the Intellectual Development of Europe,” makes the same statement (p. 291).  To give some idea of the extent of the Nestorian Church, it is sufficient to say that, at the time of the capture of Bagdad by Hulaku Chan, the Nestorian Patriarch was recognized by twenty-five metropolitan bishops as the head of the Eastern Church.  A list of these is given by Layard (“Nineveh,” vol. i., p. 214).  Of them, he says:  ”This list will show the success of the Chaldean (Nestorian) missions, and the influence which they possessed at this time in Asia.  The sees of these metropolitans were scattered over the continent, from the shores of the Caspian to the Chinese Seas, and from the most northern boundaries of Scythia to the southern extremity of the Indian Peninsula.”  When to the Jacobites and Nestorians we add the Armenians and the other independent bodies, we see how entirely they outnumbered what was called the Church of which the Roman emperor was the head, and the doctrines of which were dictated by his authority.  Indeed, these Oriental churches did not hesitate to charge on the Church that excommunicated them, and truly, that it was not a free Church, but he slave of the emperor.  This idea they expressed in the word Melchites (“King’s men”), by which they designated them.

    Nestorian Church and Theodore.

    We shall at this time consider only the Nestorian churches, inasmuch as they stand in a peculiar relation to Theodore of Mopsuestia, the father of Nestorian views as to the person of Christ. As we have seen, Theodore and Diodore of Tarsus held and taught universal restoration.  We have given an outline of the views of Theodore.  To what extent these views were positively adopted by the clergy of the Nestorian churches, it is impossible to say.  Certain great facts only are sure.  These views were introduced by Theodore into the liturgy which he drew up for the Nestorian Churches.  Of this Renaudot says that it was generally used in the Nestorian Church, and is found in all the manuscripts, and that it was translated for the use of the churches of India.  Moreover, there was no protest against these views ever issued by any of the Nestorian churches or clergy.  On the other hand, Theodore is spoken of at all times and everywhere as the great interpreter of the Word of God.  Neander says that the seminaries of the Nestorians were conducted in the spirit of Theodore of Mopsuestia.  It cannot be denied that the doctrine of universal restoration is an essential part of his system, and is inwrought [sic] into its whole development.  Yet, besides Theodore, and his confession and liturgy, I can find the doctrine expressly stated in no other Nestorian creed and no Nestorian writer.

    Nestorian Creed.

    They adhered to the general councils up to the condemnation of Nestorius.  Layard gives their creed as it was up to that date, and it differs very little from the Nicene creed.  (Layard’s “Nineveh,” ii., 219, New York).  In this creed no reference is made to eternal punishment.  After this they seem to have issued no additional creed of their own.  Hence, the Rev. T. Laurie, a missionary to the modern Nestorians, says of them:  ”It is difficult to give an accurate statement of the doctrines of the Nestorians.  For as a church they have no regular confession of faith, and their treatises on Christian doctrine express the views of individuals, rather than the belief of the whole body” (“Dr. Grant and the Mountain Nestorians,” p. 55).  But to a certain extent Theodore’s sacramental liturgy is practically a confession of faith, for it sets forth the incarnation, and its ends and results, as based on the unfolding of the Trinity.

    Influence of the Doctrine.

    It is a matter of great interest to ascertain what was the influence exerted by the declaration of this doctrine by Theodore.  Were those who came most under his influence injured thereby? Were those who held the doctrine of eternal punishment elevated thereby above the followers of Theodore?  Universalism in America has generally been connected with a denial of the Trinity and the evangelical views of atonement, depravity, and regeneration.  It was not so with ancient Restorationism.  Its advocates were in all other respects orthodox.  Were they less imbued with the spirit of active, self-denying missionary Christianity?

    Reply As To Nestorians.

    Account for it as we may, the fact is beyond denial, that the Nestorian churches were the most distinguished for a missionary spirit of any of those ages.  They, too, were most inclined to reform the leading errors of the Church.  They were the providential channel through which Europe was aroused from the ignorance and torpor of the dark ages.  Of them in the fifth century Gieseler says:  ”They were found in every part of Asia and were of great use in diffusing the learning of Greece in that part of the world, as well as in founding schools and hospitals.  At a later period they became the instructors of the Arabians” (Hist. Period ii., sec. 87).  As late as the fourteenth century Gieseler says, “Of all the Christian parties, the Nestorians alone had penetrated as yet into the interior and eastern parts of Asia” (Period iii., sec. 90).

    Dr. Anderson.

    Of the extent of their missionary enterprises, Dr. Anderson gives an account in an extract taken from Tracey’s “History of Missions.”  Of the Nestorians he says:  ”This sect continued to flourish, though occasionally persecuted under the Persians, the Saracens, and the Tartars.  They had celebrated schools for theology and general education.  For centuries they maintained missions in Tartary, China and other Eastern regions.  Their churches were scattered from Syria and Cyprus to Peking, and from the coast of Malabar and Ceylon to the borders of Siberia” (R. Anderson, “History,” vol. i., p. 167).  Dr. Anderson, in a note on p. 168, speaks thus of their seminaries:  ”Narses, on being expelled from Edessa, opened a school at Nisibis, A.D. 490, which became celebrated.  About the same time Acacius, also from Edessa, established a school at Seleucia.  It was revived in 530, and was in existence as late as 605.  A school was established at Dorkena, A.D. 585.  At Bagdad were two schools in 832, and two others were in its neighborhood.  Schools existed at Terhana, Mahuza, Maraga, and Adiabene, in Assyria, and at Maraga in Azerbijan.  There were also schools in Elam, Persia, Khorassan, and Arabia.  The school at Nisibis had a three years’ course of study.  The studies to a great extent were theological; but to the study of the Bible they added, in the schools generally, the study of grammar, rhetoric, poetry, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy, medicine,” etc. (p. 168).

    Dr. Draper.

    Of the anathematized Nestorians Dr. Draper says:  ”The philosophical tendency of the vanquished was soon indicated by their actions.  While their leader (Nestorius) was tormented in an African oasis, many of them emigrated to the Euphrates, and founded the Chaldean (Nestorian) Church.  Under its auspices the college at Edessa, with several connected schools, arose.  In these were translated into Syriac many Greek and Latin works, as those of Aristotle and Pliny.  It was the Nestorians who, in connection with the Jews, founded the medical college of Djondesabour, and first instituted a system of academical honors which has descended to our times.  It was the Nestorians who were not only permitted by the khalifs the free exercise of their religion, but were intrusted [sic] with the education of the children of the great Mohammedan families, a liberality in striking contrast to the fanaticism of Europe.  The Khalif Alraschid went so far as even to place all his public schools under the superintendence of John Masue, one of that sect.  Under the auspices of these learned men, the Arabian academies were furnished with translations of Greek authors, and vast libraries were collected in Asia” (p. 290).

    Of the expulsion of the Nestorians from the Church by Cyril, Dr. Draper truly says:  ”The expulsion of this party from Constantinople was accomplished by the same persons and policy concerned in destroying philosophy in Alexandria.  St. Cyril was the representative of an illiterate and unscrupulous faction that had come into power through intrigues with the females of the imperial court, and bribery of eunuchs and parasites.  The same spirit that had murdered Hypatia tormented Nestorius to death.  Of the contending parties, one was respectable and had a tincture of learning; the other ignorant, and not hesitating at the employment of brute force, deportation, assassination.  Unfortunately for the world, the unscrupulous party carried the day.”

    Is it not a striking fact that the midnight of the dark ages in Europe, hastened by Cyril, coincided with the noon-day of Arabic learning, kindled at the fires of the Nestorians, expelled for no good reason from the so-called Church?


    Alexander von Humboldt, in the second volume of his “Kosmos,” is quoted by Dr. Schaff as recognizing this obligation of the Arabs to the Nestorians, and of the world to them through the Arabians.  He says of the Nestorian school of Edessa:  ”It awakened the scientific search for materia medica in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms.  When it was dissolved by Christian fanaticism under Zeno, the Isaurian, the Nestorians scattered toward Persia, where they soon attained political importance, and established a new and thronged medical institute at Dschondisapur, in Khusistan. They succeeded in spreading their science and their faith to China.”

    Of the Arabs he says that “they were a race which had long lived in free converse with Nature, and had preserved a more fresh sensibility to every sort of study of Nature than the people of Greek and Italian cities.  What gives the Arabian epoch the universal importance which we must here insist upon, is in great part connected with the trait of national character just indicated.  The Arabians, we repeat, are to be regarded as the proper founders of the physical sciences in the sense which we are now accustomed to attach to the word.”


    In addition to the merits of the Nestorians thus far indicated, we ought to mention another.  We will express it in the words of Mosheim:  ”It is to the honor of this sect that, of all the Christians resident in the East, they have preserved themselves most free from the numberless superstitions which have found their way into the Greek and Latin Churches.”  Layard illustrates this statement in many particulars, such as the rejection of the worship of the Virgin Mary, of the worship of images, of the doctrine of purgatory, and transubstantiation, and of the celibacy of the clergy.  At first all the clergy were allowed to marry.  Afterward the patriarch and bishops were forbidden.


    In view of these facts one thing is plain.  The belief of the doctrine of eternal punishment, as it was held, did not save the so-called Church from the dark ages of intellectual and moral degradation.  On the other hand, the full and firm belief and earnest advocacy of universal restoration by Theodore of Mopsuestia did not prevent those churches who revered him as the great interpreter of the Word of God from unexampled missionary enterprises, from establishing wide-spread systems of education, from illuminating the Arabs, and through them the dark churches who had sunk into a midnight gloom.

    As to the real efficient causes in each case, those who can must judge.  It is a field for deep thought and careful inquiry.



    We have said, in a previous chapter, that the doctrine of Origen as to the universal restoration was not condemned and anathematized until the year 544, in the local council of Constantinople, more than three centuries after it was first published.  A view of the steps by which the early state of freedom of opinion of which we have spoken was terminated, by the condemnation of Origen, will throw great light on the state of opinion on the question of retribution during those intervening centuries.

    A Test.

    It may be assumed that, when an eminent religious teacher is at any time assailed, if he holds sentiments generally regarded as heretical and dangerous at that time, they will be made points of attack.  Thus, at the present time the doctrine of universal Salvation in any form is regarded, in most or all American evangelical bodies, as a dangerous error.  Now, if an eminent religious teacher holding this doctrine were to be made the subject of repeated attacks, is it possible that, while he was assailed on various other points of secondary moment, this, which is esteemed so great and so dangerous an error, would remain unnoticed?  We know that it is impossible.

    Another Test.

    Let us make another assumption.  If, during any centuries there were men of great eminence as scholars and divines, and celebrated for their elaborate and learned writings in defense of orthodoxy, is it possible that they would leave unnoticed and unassailed what they regarded as a great and dangerous error?  For example, take such a man as Athanasius, the great father of Orthodoxy, renowned for his labored treatises against the Arians, is it to be supposed that he would leave any doctrine which he regarded as a great and dangerous error unassailed?  Would he content himself with simply stating his own belief to the contrary?  Would he not assail it by arguments as he did Arianism?  Would he not seek to annihilate it by the full power of his intellect? Would he not lift up a voice of warning, loud and clear, against it?

    A Third Test.

    Let us make another supposition.  Suppose, then, that a great ecumenical council were to be convened in behalf of orthodoxy, would any man who held to what was then regarded as a great and dangerous error be invited to it?  Still more, would he be allowed to take the lead in it?  Would they elect him as their representative in an extended visitation of the churches?  If in the recent meeting of the Evangelical Alliance so eminent a Universalist as Dr. Ryder, of Chicago, or such a noted Universalist divine as Dr. Thayer, were not only gladly welcomed, but assigned leading parts in the services of the occasion, and one of them sent to England as a representative of the body, would it not be a fair and irresistible conclusion that Universalism was not regarded as a great and dangerous error?


    Now, these are the tests to be applied to the Church before the sixth century to discover the real status of Universalism.  It is not enough to find in Athanasius, or Chrystostom, and other eminent men, as we do, an occasional indication that they publicly professed to believe in eternal punishment.  What we want to know is, how they regarded and treated those who held the opposite doctrine.  What did they do to resist it and oppose its spread?  If we apply these tests, we shall find that the feeling that now exists in evangelical bodies against this doctrine did not exist, and was notfully developed until in the sixth century.  Let us now trace the course of events from the day of Origen till the day of the condemnation of his doctrine of restoration in the local council of Constantinople.

    Origen Early Assailed.

    It cannot be denied that Origen was the subject of attack from the time of the publication of his first theological treatise, the work on the first principles of theology.  But we should not wonder at this.  That work took a wide range.  It spoke of god, of the Trinity, of the incarnation, of the person of Christ, of preexistence, of creation and the material world, of the body of Christ and of men, of the resurrection and the spiritual body, of the interpretation of Scripture, and other topics too numerous to mention.  In particular he opposed the gross doctrines of the millennarians who taught the speedy advent of Christ to reign in a worldly kingdom that should destroy the Roman Empire.  In short, his active mind pervaded the whole field of thought, and stimulated not only his generation, but all the great scholars of the following generations.  He was above any mind of his age, and furnished material of thought for all the leading minds of coming ages.  He was therefore widely open to attack, and might have been assailed on twenty points, or even more, without censuring his doctrine of final restoration.  Such in fact was the case.

    Assault of Demetrius.

    He was first assailed by his bishop, Demetrius of Alexandria, who first deposed and then excommunicated him on the ground of ecclesiastical irregularities, in making himself a eunuch from a false construction of Christ’s words in Matt. xix. 12, and afterward being ordained a presbyter in Palestine, without leave from his bishop.  But Jerome expressly says that he was condemned “not on account of any new doctrines, nor on account of any heresy, as mad dogs now pretend,” but from jealousy of the glory of his eloquence and knowledge.  But the Bishops of Palestine, Phoenicia, Arabia, and Achaia, refused to acknowledge his deposition and excommunication, and he founded a new theological school at Cesarea, which became illustrious and powerful.  This was about 232.


    He also suffered by misrepresentation.  Of him Gieseler says:  ”Even in the lifetime of Origen his peculiar notions were as often opposed as approved; so that he found it necessary by a public confession of faith to attempt to remove the unfavorable impressions made not so much by his theology, as by the exaggerations and misrepresentations of common report.”

    Assault of Methodius.

    After his death, about 250, he was first openly assailed, in three treatises by Methodius, Bishop of Olympus, and afterward of Tyre.  This was near 300.  If, now, the doctrine of universal restoration was then regarded as a dangerous error, we should expect to find it in one of these treatises.  Was it so?  Did Methodius lift up a voice of warning against it?  No.  Against what errors, then, did he inveigh?  Errors as to the resurrection, and his theory of creation, preexistence, etc., and his views of the witch of Endor.  In Alexandria, also, Peter the bishop opposed the doctrine of preexistence.

    New Assaults And A Vindication.

    When the Trinitarian controversy came on, all of Origen’s writings were scrutinized as to their bearing on the controversy, and some assailed him as favoring heretical views.  So great was the excitement against him on this and other grounds that, about 310, Pamphilus and Eusebius wrote a labored vindication of him.  Of this all but the first book is lost, but fortunately this contains all the charges against him that his defenders could find.  These were nine in number.  How, then, was the assault conducted at that time?  Did the assailants include the doctrine of universal restoration among his errors?  No; it is not even alluded to.  But some did charge him with denying all future retribution.  And it deserves particular notice that, in refuting this charge, his defenders adduced passages proving clearly that he did hold to future retribution, but proving just as clearly that he regarded it as limited, and remedial, and to terminate in universal restoration.  Had this been then regarded as a dangerous error, would his defenders thus have given it needless publicity?  In the year 330 Marcellus of Aneyra, himself a Universalist, opposed some of Origen’s views on the Trinity.  Eustathius also opposed his view of the witch of Endor.

    Assault of Epiphantius.

    Pass on now to the year 376, and his great enemy, Epiphanius, the assailant of all heresies and heretics, leads a crusade against Origen.  In his “Panarion” he professedly exposes the heresies of Origen.  How is it now?  Has universal restoration become a heresy yet?  Not at all.  We have carefully examined his book, and cannot find it.  It is not till about 394, in his letter to John of Jerusalem, that he calls in question any part of the doctrine of universal restoration.  Even then it is not the doctrine of the salvation of all men, but of the salvation of the devil, that he condemns.

    Combination Formed.

    In the final crisis of condemnation, A.D. 399 and 400, in which Epiphanius, Jerome, and Theophilus of Egypt, combine their forces, Origen is condemned in a synod; but even then the doctrine of the universal salvation of the race is not condemned, but the doctrine of Christ’s death for the salvation of the devil.  Still, since there was at that time a general and indefinite condemnation of Origen and his works and readers, it tended to suppress Origenism in all its forms.  Nevertheless, through the fifth century he had many followers, especially in Palestine.

    Final Condemnation.

    At last, in the sixth century, under the influence of a quarrel in Palestine between the followers of Origen and his enemies, the Emperor Justinian was brought into the conflict.  The opponents of Origen indoctrinated him in the controversy, and furnished him with arguments and extracts; and the emperor, ambitious to shine as a theologian as well as a legislator and a statesman, wrote an elaborate letter to Mennas, the Archbishop of Constantinople, in which he professes to refute at length the errors of Origen, and the doctrine of universal restoration, in its full form, was, for the first time, included among them, and was condemned with an imperial anathema with the rest.  The archbishop being thus furnished by the emperor with theological arguments, and with the requisite anathemas, assembled an obedient council at Constantinople, and carried out the mandates of the emperor, in 544.  This council was not an ecumenical council, but an imperial synod of the bishops in and about Constantinople.

    Eminent Men.

    It deserves notice that, up to this time in the Greek Church, there had been no attempt made by eminent men to refute universal restoration.  Let us look back over this long period, and ask who are the great men who distinguished themselves as opponents of the doctrine of universal restoration, as they did against the Arian heresy?  Did Athanasius so distinguish himself, or Gregory of Nazianzum, or Basil the Great, or Gregory of Nyssa, or Cyril of Jerusalem, or Ambrose, or Hilary, or Chrysostom?  As a matter of fact, there is no treatise of any kind by any leading mind, such as Edwards against Chauncey in modern times, or the orations of Athanasius against the Arians.  The only apparent exception to this remark is Augustine, in the Latin Church; but even he treated the subject superficially, and not with the thoroughness with which he treated the Pelagian heresy.  In particular, he does not meet the argument of Origen and his followers from 1 Cor. xv. 28, which is a kind of corner-stone to their system.  Nor does Justinian touch the argument from these and other similar passages.

    Beyond all doubt, however, Augustine led the way in that style of reasoning on the subject which now prevails in the orthodox world.

    First Council of Constantinople.

    Let us now turn to the first great Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381, in which the doctrine of the Trinity was completed by a decree as to the Holy Spirit; and the scale was turned toward the permanent triumph of Orthodox Trinitarianism.  Who is the great intellectual leader of this council after the resignation of Gregory of Nazianzum?  Neander says, “Gregory of Nyssa seems now, by the superiority of his well-trained intellect, to have acquired special influence over the doctrinal transactions of the council.”  Dr. Schaff also says, “The council intrusted [sic] to him, as ‘one of the pillars of Catholic orthodoxy,’ a tour of visitation to Arabia and Jerusalem, where disturbances had broken out which threatened a schism” (vol. ii., p. 906).  But who was this so-honored Gregory of Nyssa?  He was a second Origen in his views of free-agency and universal restoration, and that openly and with elaborate and oft-repeated arguments.  This doctrine underlies and colors his whole system.  Nor is this the only case.

    Testimony of Historians.

    Neander says of the Oriental or Greek Church that “many respectable church teachers stood forth, without injuring their reputation for orthodoxy, as advocates of universal restoration.”  He mentions in particular, besides Gregory of Nyssa, Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia.  Gieseler says:  ”Gregory of Nyssa and Didymus were known as Origenists, and many others held to single points of Origen’s creed without being, therefore attacked.  The belief in the unalienable power of amendment in all intelligent beings, and the limited duration of future punishment, was so general even in the West, and among the opponents of Origen, that it seemed entirely independent of his system, to which doubtless its origin must be traced” (vol. i., p. 212).  Augustine himself says, “Some, nay rather, multitudes, do not believe in the eternal punishment of the condemned” (Enchirid., 112).  Deoderlein says, after giving the condemning decree of Justinian, “That was not the belief of all, and, in proportion as any one was eminent in learning in Christian antiquity, the more did he cherish and defend the hope of the termination of future torments” (Theol., ii., 199).

    The Conclusion.

    But at last the time came when the final Origenistic controversies, and the condemnation of Origen by Justinian and his council, caused this belief to be regarded as something decidedly heretical.

    Thus it appears, by applying penetrating tests to history, that the modern orthodox views as to the doctrine of eternal punishment, as opposed to final restoration, were not fully developed and established till the middle of the sixth century, and that, then, they were not established by thorough argument, but by imperial authority.

    It is also a striking fact that, while Origen lies under a load of odium as a heretic, Gregory of Nyssa, who taught the doctrine of the restoration of all things more fully even than Origen, has been canonized, and stands high on the roll of eminent saints, even in the orthodox Roman Catholic Church.




    We have considered the issues of the doctrine of Origen as to universal restoration, as taught in the two schools of Alexandria and Cesarea; and also the issues of the doctrine of Theodore of Mopsuestia, as taught in the schools of Antioch and Edessa.  We have also considered the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked as taught in the school of Asia Minor.  We now come to the last of the six schools which we have enumerated, the school of Northern Africa.  This school lies to the west of Alexandria, and is composed of a series of teachers without a central location or buildings.  Tertullian stands first in the series , and is followed by Cyprian, Minucius Felix and Augustine.


    The most striking characteristics of this school are three:  the use of the Latin language instead of the Greek, in which Christianity was first promulgated; an exemption from the influence of Origen, who wrote in Greek; and the fact that their theology was developed by them under the influence of the great system of Roman law, to which they had access in the Latin language.

    Maine, in his history of ancient law, has not hesitated to say that the difference between Eastern and Western theology is accounted for by the fact that, in passing from the East to the West, theological speculation had passed from a region of Greek metaphysics to a climate of Roman law.  The highest energies of the Roman mind had been employed in developing their wonderful system of law.

    Latin Theology and Calvinism.

    Hence in this school were laid the foundations of that Latin legal and anthropological theology which through Augustine gained such ascendency [sic] in Europe, and gave rise to Calvinism and the systems which have reacted from it.  The fact that it was a legal school, and that it took a strong, deep hold of the question of human depravity and regeneration, gave it peculiar elements of power.

    If any one would obtain a full impression of all that is involved in these facts, let him read the exposition of orthodox theology by John of Damascus, and compare it with any Augustinian or Calvinistic system.

    The metaphysical energies of the Greek mind developed themselves in the subtile [sic] questions raised by the doctrine of the Trinity and the person of Christ, and were so absorbed by these that they never entered into the great legal questions which were the staple of Western theology.  In particular, they did not enter into any profound investigations as to law, penalty, atonement, pardon, and retribution.  But, as we have seen, decidedly the most powerful minds adopted the doctrine of universal restoration, and those who did not adopt it entered into no controversy about it with those who did.  In the African school all this was reversed.  From the very beginning they took strong ground in favor of the doctrine of eternal punishment, as an essential part of a great system of law of which God was the centre.

    Investigation Limited.

    And yet they did not enter into an extended investigation of its deep foundations in the character of God, or of man.  They published no treatises on it, but as occasion called for it they assumed it as true on the authority of the Latin version of the Greek Testament, in which aionios is rendered aeternus.  There is no need of citing many passages in proof of this, inasmuch as it is conceded on all hands.  Minucius Felix, quoted by Hagenbach, Section 78, says, “The torments of the wicked will be extreme and endless.”  Cyprian, as quoted by him, says:  ”A burning hell and devouring punishment shall burn the condemned in living flames, nor can they ever find cessation or end to their torments. . . .  They are preserved with their bodies for infinite mental torments and for suffering. . . .   After this life there is no place for repentance, and no satisfaction for sin.  Here life is lost or gained.  Here eternal safety is gained, by the worship of God and works of faith (“Ad Demetriad.,” pp. 195, 196).

    Question As to Aionios.

    It is also worthy of note that, although this is a Latin school, yet it was in this that the argument now so familiar, for eternal punishment, from the necessary meaning of the word [Greek letters] (aionios), was first distinctly propounded by Augustine.  It came to pass thus: Orosius, a Spanish presbyter, having a high respect for Augustine, visited him, about 413, to lay before him certain errors of Priscilian and Origen, with which he was troubled.  Among these was the doctrine of universal restoration.  Among other things, Orosius stated to Augustine that the Origenists affirmed that the word aionios did not denote an absolute eternity, but an indefinitely long duration.

    Augustine’s Argument.

    In reply to this assertion, Augustine, in a letter to Orosius, informed him that although [Greek letters] (aion) could be applied to a limited age, as well as eternity, yet it was not so with aionios, since the Greeks applied this word only to things without end.  But happening to think that in the Old Testament it was applied to the covenant and observances of the Mosaic economy, he was rather perplexed, and suggested that the things typified by the Mosaic dispensation were eternal; as if a type was not in its very idea temporal.  Not resting quietly on this ground, he at length resorts to the idea that absolute eternity is taught in the words of our Lord, “Their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.”  He resorts, also, to the argument that, as an absolute eternity is involved in theaionian life proclaimed by Christ, so an absolute eternity is involved in the anti-thetic aionian punishment.  This is also the substance of his argument in his “City of God” (book xxi., 23), and in his “Manual of Theology” (Enchiridion) ch. cxii.  The great influence of Augustine gave currency to these views in the Western Church.

    Universal Restoration Not A Heresy.

    But it deserves notice that he does not at that time speak of the doctrine of universal restoration as a heresy condemned by the Church.  The doctrine of the salvation of the devil he speaks of as already condemned (book xxi., 17), and heretical, and he argues against the doctrine of universal restoration, that its principles tend to the restoration of the devil, a doctrine condemned by the Church.  In the controversies in Palestine during the fifth and sixth centuries, this tendency was realized more and more, until at length, when the opposers of the Origenists called in Justinian to plead and defend their cause, the doctrine of the restoration of the human race was condemned, as well as the restoration of the devil.

    Justinian’s Letter.

    The letter of Justinian to Mennas, the Patriarch of Constantinople, is an interesting letter, as developing what the enemies of Origen regarded as his greatest errors.  It is also important as a specimen of imperial reasoning, designed as a guide for ecclesiastical legislation.  The argument of the emperor against the doctrine of universal restoration is in substance the same with that of Augustine.  He does not, however, venture with Augustine to say that aionios is applied by the Greeks only to that which has no end, but he argues that the punishment must be endless because the life is; and at the end of his argument, as we have previously said, he exchanges aionios for an unambiguous word, to denote absolute endlessness of punishment, and qualifies it by the same word to denote eternal life.

    But Justinian understood Greek.  On the other hand, Augustine bases his argument solely on the assumption that aionios always means endless.  We see from these statements how true was the confession of Augustine that he knew little or nothing of Greek.  He says, “I am not so accustomed to the Greek language that I am at all competent to read and understand books on such subjects” (“De Trinitate,” iii., Proem); and again, “I have learned very little of the Greek language, and almost nothing” (“Contra literas Petiliani,” I., ii., c. 38, written in 400).  For these extracts Dr. Schaff is my authority.

    Hence we need not be surprised that Augustine treats aionios as if it had the one simple sense endless.  He did not seem to be aware that aion had many senses, and that therefore the adjectiveaionios, based on it, might also have many senses.  He did not seem to be aware that aion had many senses, and that therefore the adjective aionios, based on it, might also have many senses.  He did not seem to be aware that it might mean pertaining to or existing in the coming age or world, as shown by Dr. Tayler Lewis, or that it could mean occurring at the opening of an age, as is shown by Herodian (iii., 8, 18), who calls the secular games celebrated at the close of one period and the beginning of another aionian games.  He did not know that the word could mean having the characteristics of an age, or lasting through an age, or that, taking aion to denote a spirit, it could mean spiritual.

    Our English word age has no adjective that can represent aionios in its range of meanings, and hence to translate it properly we are obliged to resort to periphrases.

    There may be no doubt cases in which it can imply endlessness.  If it relates to an age that is by concession endless, or if it relates to God as the God of all ages, and as therefore the aionianGod – in such cases it implies the idea endless, but not from its own proper force, but from the age or ages to which it refers.  But to assert, as Augustine did, that it means endless in all cases and of necessity, is possible only to one who is ignorant of the meaning of aion and the usages of aionios, in the Greek language.

    If Augustine had thoroughly studied the usages of the Greek language as to aion and aionios, and had compared them with those of the same words when transferred into the Latin language, he would have found a very striking and instructive coincidence between them.  The Greek [Greek letters] was thus transferred.  How was the transfer effected?  Thus:  It has a digamma after ai, which is equivalent to our v.  This appears in the Latin word, and by the change of the diphthong ai into [Greek letters] , and [Greek letters] into um, as was usual in such cases, [Greek letters] was transferred into Latin as aevum; but the word in both cases is essentially the same.  How, then, is aevum used in Latin?  Augustine would have found that it is not used to denote eternity, but life, lifetime, time, age, period, and the men of an age or period, just as [Greek letters] is in Greek.  I am aware that some lexicographers, among whom is Andrews, under the influence of Aristotle’s derivation of [Greek letters], wrongly translated, introduce, as the first and original sense, eternity.  But of this they give only a few alleged instances, and these are cases where the word means time, and an adjective is expressed or understood which gives it universality.  Thus, Horace, “Odes,” iii., 11, 35, 36, eloquently says of Hypermnestra, the only daughter of Danaus who refused to murder her husband on the bridal night, after promising to do so that she was

    “Splendide mendax, et in omne virgo Nobilis aevum;”

    that is, “a virgin gloriously false to her promise, and illustrious to every age.”  This implies eternity, though the word age does not mean it of its own force.

    The four cases given by Andrews in his Lexicon are easily explained thus:  And the great river of usage is at war with the idea of eternity, and shows that it could not have been the original and primitive sense.  Facciolatus, also, than whom there is no higher authority, says that in aevum is the same as in omne aevum, that is, for every age, for all time, and thus sustains the position assumed by me.

    Take, now, another word, based on this.  From aevum was formed aevitas, and by syncope this became aetas.  What, now, does aetas denote?  It is not even pretended that it ever means eternity.  It denotes, like aion, life, the lifetime of man, an age, a space of time, time, the men of an age.  These senses are abundantly illustrated by Andrews in his “Latin Lexicon.”

    Take, now, another case.  From the Latin aevum was formed the adjective aeviternus, synonymous with aionios.  This, by syncope of the syllable vi, became aeternus, and was used in the Latin version of the words of Christ, as an equivalent to aionios.  From this, too, comes our word eternal, which therefore has its roots in aion.

    What, now, are the facts as to the Latin usage of the word aeternus?  I answer, in popular usage, it very rarely denotes endlessness.  I have examined its usages in Virgil, of which there are at least twenty-six, and in other authors, and will state some facts.  It means, frequently, during life.  Thus, in Plautus, “Captivi,” iv., 1-13, “I hope that, because of this message, I shall obtain eternal food” (aeternum cibum).  He did.  His king was restored, and he had abundant food for life, not for eternity.  Again (Most. i., 3, 37, 38).  A friend says to a confiding young girl, enticed by a deceitful lover:  ”You  are a fool to think that he will be an eternal friend to you” (that is, a friend for life); “I warn you that, by reason of increasing age and satiety, he will desert you.”

    Again (“Captivi,” iv., 2, 117), “I will give you eternal food, if you speak the truth.”  In this case, food for eternity was out of the question.  Food for life was the meaning.  Hence we see clearly that the meaning life, in aion, still lived in the Latin aeternus.

    In view of these cases, Facciolatus, in his great “Lexicon,” says, “It is very frequently used to denote what endures for life.”

    A striking instance occurs in Cicero (“Catiline,” iv., 5), in the debate on the punishment of Lentulus, an associate of Catiline.  In that, Cicero speaks thus of the opinion of Caesar, that he should be confined for life, “That very mild and merciful man doesn’t hesitate to consign P. Lentulus to eternal darkness and chains.”  Caesar had just disavowed a belief in a future life, in the hearing of Cicero.  All that eternal so used can mean, is, for life.

    Ovid says (“Trist.,” v., 2, 15), “Telephus, wasted by an eternal disease, would have died, if the right hand that wounded him had not brought a cure.”  Telephus was wounded by Achilles, and cured by him by the rust of the wounding spear.

    Virgil (“Georgies,” ii., 400) says, “The soil must eternally be pulverized by cross-ploughing,” i.e., this must be a fixed and stated usage in agriculture.  Of Cerberus, vi., 401, he says that “he is eternally barking.”  He speaks of eternal leagues between lenders, or between nations, and of the eternal fires of Vesta.  To Camilla he ascribes an “eternal love of weapons and of virginity,” that is, a love for life.  He comes nearest to an absolute eternity in speaking of the immortality of Juturna (“Aeneid,”"xii., 879), and the power of the gods (“Aeneid,”"i., 2, 30; x. 18).  But here the things spoken of impart this sense to the word.  Horace (“Ep.,” i., 10, 41), says of one who cannot live without riches, and fears poverty as the greatest evil, “He will be an eternal slave because he does not know how to live on a little.”  Here the sense is a slave for life.  Pliny, xiii., 5, 11, speaks of the “eternity of the wood of the cedar-tree.”

    Virgil (“Aeneid,”"ii., 154), calls the sun, moon, and stars eternal fires.  So, by an inspired writer, the same worlds are called eternal.  And yet both writers believed that they would pass away and be dissolved.

    Such cases represent the popular use of the word.  But in Cicero’s philosophical writings, when he is under the influence of the Greek philosophers, he introduces the philosophical sense of an absolute eternity which they originated in later ages.

    Still another word used in translating aion in the Latin version deserves notice.

    Seculum is used by Jerome in translating the reduplications of [Greek letters], aions of aions, which our version renders forever and ever; that is, truly translated, for ages of ages.  In the book of Revelation this expression occurs fourteen times.  What, now, is the rendering of Jerome?  He in every instance renders it “secula seculorum.”  What, now, is the sense of seculum in Latin?  Does it ever mean eternity?

    No.  It means a race or generation of animals or of men; then a lifetime; then an age; then the men of an age; then an indefinite period – of marked characteristics, as “in our age.”

    Thus the expression in secula seculorum may be rendered for generations of generations, or for ages of ages.

    Indeed, our expression forever and ever, traced to its original sense, means “for an age and an age.”  For our word ever is, in fact, the old Greek word aion, or the Latin aevum, modified by transmission to our times.  (See Webster’s “Dictionary.”)  To our expression “forever and ever” we attach the idea of endlessness, by usage and habit.  But, in fact, as a translation of the Bible, it means no more than the Greek for aions of aions, or the Latin for secula of secula, or the English for ages of ages.  If Augustine had fully understood the Greek usages of aion and aionios, and the Latin usages of aevum, aestas, aeternus and seculum, he would have placed no stress on aion, or aionios, or aeternus, as proving endless punishment.

    But it so happened that the Latin school of Augustine, in Africa, in which the leading writers were not Greek scholars, was mainly instrumental in establishing the doctrine of endless punishment on this false basis.  Even if the doctrine were true, the basis on which they placed it was false.




    Thus far I have followed the great current of events, and spoken of the men who were most influential in directing it.  I have considered the great theological schools of the early centuries, and made prominent the names of those who chiefly gave character to them, as Irenaeus, Origen, Diodorus of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Augustine.  I have spoken of councils and of men prominent in them, as Gregory of Nyssa.

    But there are others of the fathers, who believed in universal restoration, whose names deserve mention in a history of opinions.

    Clement of Alexandria.

    Among these is Clement of Alexandria, who preceded Origen as the president of the Catechetical School of Alexandria.  He was the teacher of Origen, and imparted to him those principles which imply universal restoration.  These Origen more fully developed in his system of theology.  Clement taught that all punishment is remedial, and that God uses means to reform and purify man after death.  In proof of this, he appeals to the statement of Peter that Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison, which almost all the fathers understood to be a literal fact.  He also taught that these means will be effectual.  As quoted by Neander, he says:  ”If in this life there are so many ways of purification and repentance, how much more should there be after death!  The purification of souls when separated from the body will be easier.  We can set no limits to the agency of the Redeemer; to redeem, to rescue, to discipline, is his work; and so will he continue to operate after life.” That he held that thus all will be saved is conceded by other eminent orthodox scholars.  Daille says:  ”Clement was of the same opinion as his scholar Origen, who everywhere teaches that all the punishments of those in hell are purgatorial; that they are not endless, but will at length cease, when the damned are sufficiently purified in the fire.”

    Archbishop Potter, the learned editor of the works of Clement, regards him as teaching not only the salvation of all men, but even of the devil himself, inasmuch as “he taught that the devil can repent, and even the most heinous sins are purged away by punishments after death.”  The testimony of these two scholars is taken from Ballou’s “History of Ancient Universalism,” page 52.  It is given there more fully.

    Though Clement generally goes no further than to state principles from which universal restoration results, yet in one or two passages he explicitly declares the salvation of all men.

    Of him Dr. Schaff says:  ”He sprang either from Athens or from Alexandria, and was brought up in heathenism.  He was versed in all the branches of Hellenic literature, and in all the existing systems of philosophy; but in these he found nothing to satisfy his thirst for truth.  In his adult years, therefore, he embraced the Christian religion, and by long journeys east and west he sought the most distinguished teachers, “who preserved the tradition of pure, saving doctrine, and implanted that genuine apostolic seed in the hearts of their pupils. . . .  In A.D. 189 he succeeded Pantaenus as president of the Catechetical School of Alexandria.  Here he labored benignly some twelve years for the conversion of heathens and the education of the Christians” (vol. i., pp. 498, 499).

    He says also:  ”Clement was the father of the Alexandrian Christian philosophy.  He united thorough Biblical and Hellenic learning with genius and speculative thought.  He rose, in many points, far above the prejudices of his age, to more free and spiritual views.”

    He complains, however, that his system, as a whole, was not logical and consistent and purely Christian, but introduced Stoic, Platonic, and Philonic ingredients, not in harmony with Christianity.  In this, however, he was not peculiar.  No eminent father, and very few, if any, modern orthodox divines, can be mentioned who have not introduced into their systems the elements of some foreign philosophy, or who are not involved in some form of self-contradiction.

    Didymus of Alexandria.

    This great man was born in the year 309.  He became eminent against great discouragements.  In the fourth year of his age he entirely lost his sight.  Yet, as Dr. Schaff says, “by extraordinary industry he gained comprehensive and thorough knowledge in philosophy, rehtoric, and mathematics.”  He became a devoted Christian, and for nearly sixty years labored as president of the Theological School of Alexandria.  He was, as Dr. Schaff says, “a faithful follower of Origen.”  Of his belief in universal restoration, evidence may be found in his work on the Trinity (iii., 10), and in his notes on 1 Peter iii., 22, and i., 12.  Here he teaches the salvation of sinning angels, and of all rational beings.  The passages are too long to quote.  There would be more evidence had not his works been expurgated or destroyed, after his condemnation as a universalist, by the General Council of Constantinople.  Jerome, Rufinus, and Photius regarded him as undeniably such.

    Such being his character and his theology, how was he regarded by the orthodox men of his age?  Dr. Schaff shall reply.  He says, “Athanasius nominated him teacher in the Theological School.  Even men like Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius, and Isidore, sat at his feet with admiration” (ii., 922).


    It may cause surprise in many minds to hear that Jerome, the most learned of all the fathers, unless we except Origen, was also a universal restorationist.  Yet he has expressly taught that doctrine.  On Gal. v. 22, speaking of joy as a fruit of the Spirit, he says:  ”It should be considered that after love comes joy.  For he who loves any one always rejoices in his felicity.  And if he shall see him deceived by any error, or to have fallen on the slippery places of sins, he will grieve indeed, and hasten to rescue him.  But he will not be able to turn his joy into sorrow, knowing that no rational creature before God will perish forever.”  Gieseler quotes this last sentence (vol. i., p. 212) as decided proof that Jerome held to the salvation of all, and that belief in the doctrine was general in the West.  Nor is this the only passage in which Jerome advances these views.

    On Eph. iv. 13 he says:  ”The question should arise, Who those are of whom he says that they all shall come in the unity of the faith?  Does he mean all men, or all the saints, or all rational beings?  He appears to me to be speaking of all men.”  Other passages might be quoted in which these views are more fully developed.  To be sure, in another place in this epistle he rejects as heretical the idea that all rational creatures shall be changed into angels, and that, at the restitution of the world, every creature shall become just what he was when first created.  This he understood as implying that Satan would be restored to his old position as head of the universe.  But these ideas are not essential to the system of universal restoration.  And his general views as to universal salvation, just stated, he has nowhere retracted.

    On Eph. iv. 10 he says:  ”The Son of God therefore descended into the lower parts of the earth, and ascended above all heavens, that he might not only fulfill the law and prophets, but also other secret dispensations which he alone understands with the Father.  For we cannot understand how the blood of Christ benefited the angels, and those who were in the infernal regions (in inferno), and yet we cannot but know that it did benefit them.  He descended to those in the infernal regions (inferos), and ascended to heaven that he might fill those who were in those regions, according as they were able to receive him.  From which we should learn that, before Christ descended and ascended, all were empty and needed his fullness.”

    On Gal. iv. 1 he says “that heir who is a child who in nothing differs from a servant though he be Lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time fixed by his father, signifies the whole human race, even to the coming of Christ, and, that I may express myself more fully, even to the consummation of the world.  For as all in Adam though not yet born die, so even all those who were born before the coming of Christ are made alive.  And so it comes to pass that we were servants under the law in our fathers, and they shall be saved by grace in their sons.  The coming of Christ is regarded as designed for the perfection of the human race.  For as soon as he has come and we all have grown up to a perfect man the tutor and schoolmaster depart.”  This agrees with what he says on Eph. iv. 4, “one hope of your calling,” he says:

    “The question is raised how there is one hope of our calling when with the Father are different mansions.  To which we reply that the one hope of our calling is the kingdom of heaven, which is as it were one house of God the Father, and that in this house are various mansions, for there is one glory of the sun, another of the moon, another of the stars, or certainly the following idea is indicated more accurately and acutely, that, in the end and consummation of the universe, all things are to be restored into their original harmonious state, and we all shall be made one body and be united once more into a perfect man, and the prayer of our Saviour shall be fulfilled, that all may be one” (John xvii. 21).

    These passages may be the ones referred to by Neander when he says that “from the want of a logical systematizing mind, Jerome, in making use of Origen in his Biblical commentaries, adopted several of his expositions which were of such a kind as to agree neither with his own other views of the faith, nor with the dominant Church, without deeming it necessary to utter a word of warning, until his attention had been directed by others to this opposition of views.”

    But, even then, he did not retract these views, but only other views that Origen did not teach, namely, that all rational creatures shall be changed into angels, and that at the restitution of all things each being shall be what he was at first, e.g., Satan the head of the created universe.

    The truth probably is that Jerome, so far as these passages were concerned, always continued to believe with Origen.  His comment on Gal. v. 22, which has been quoted, clearly intimates it. But he was afraid of Epiphanius and sensitive as to his reputation for orthodoxy.  He therefore repudiated certain things falsely charged by Epiphanius on Origen, to satisfy him, and left the passages exhibiting his real sentiments unaltered.

    I think that Dr. Ballou is correct also in supposing (p. 229) that in finally resorting to a modified form of future eternal punishment for the devil and his angels, and persistent assailants of Christianity, and malignant blasphemers, leaving all others to be saved by purgation through suffering, temporary, but long-continued if necessary, he was simply interposing a shield against his assailants, while notwithstanding in his heart he believed with Origen.  There is nothing in his theory of morals, or in his actual course in controversies, to forbid this view.  Of him Dr. Schaff says: ”With all his gifts, he was not free from faults, as glaring as his virtues are shining, which disturb our due esteem and admiration.  He lacked depth of mind and character, delicate sense of truth, and firm and strong convictions.  He allowed himself inconsistencies of every kind, especially in his treatment of Origen, and, through solicitude for his own reputation of orthodoxy, he was unjust to that great teacher to whom he owed so much” (ii., 971).


    Probably it will surprise many more to hear that the learned Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history, was a universal restorationist.  But it is not strange.  He was an admirer of Origen, and taught with him in the seminary at Cesarea, and with Pamphilus published a labored defense of him in six books, five of which have been unfortunately lost; yet Dr. Ballou dares not claim him, and things that we cannot decide what his opinions were.

    But Eusebius clearly sets them forth, “De Ecc. Theol.” (Migne vi., p. 1030).  There, speaking on 1 Cor. xv. 28, he says, in effect, that “if the subjection of the Son to the father means union with him, then the subjection of all to the Son means union with him.”  He then thus proceeds:  ”As the apostle when he said all shall be subjected to the Son did not mean union of essence, but obedience flowing from free-will, together with the honor and glory which all give him as the Saviour, and King of all, in the same way his subjection to the Father means nothing else than the glory, and honor, and veneration, and exaltation, and voluntary subjection, which he is to give to God the Father, when he has made all worthy of his paternal Godhead.  For, so long as they are not worthy of this, he, anticipating the future as a common Saviour of all, administers a kingdom restorative of the imperfect and curative of those who need healing.”

    The nerve of the argument of Origen, on the same passage, is this:  As the same word is used to denote the voluntary subjection of the Son to the Father, that is used to denote the subjection of all things to Christ, it follows that this subjection to Christ is voluntary and not forced.  Nor is the word adapted to express a forced subjection.  Hence, all will be finally brought to a voluntary subjection to Christ.  Eusebius reasons on essentially the same principle.  If the subjection of the Son to the Father means voluntary union with him, then the subjection of all to the Son implies voluntary union with him, and if so all will be ultimately restored from sin to holiness, by him, as he more fully states.

    He states (p. 1031) the same principle and its results in a still more striking manner:  ”Christ is to subject all things to himself.  We ought to conceive of this as such a salutary  subjection as that by which the Son will be subjected to him, who subjects all to him.  We ought to believe that he will effect a subjection ineffable, indescribable, and befitting him alone, when he shall present to God, even the Father, those subjected to himself, collecting them like a heavenly choir ascribing to him glory and honor and salvation and majesty, who is the source and cause of all good things.”


    This illustrious man was Bishop of Cyprus, A.D. 423-447, and, as Dr. Schaff says (vol. ii., Section 162), “was formed upon the writings of Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia,” those great teachers of universal restoration.  He also published a defense of them, which is lost.  It is not wonderful, then, that he should adopt their views.  That he did may be seen in his comment on the celebrated passage 1 Cor. xv. 28:

    “That God may be all in all.  Now, by nature, God is everywhere, for he has a nature that cannot be circumscribed, and in him we live and move and have our being, as says the divine apostle.  But he is not in all by complacency.  For he is pleased with those who fear him and hope in his mercy.  And yet, even in these, he is not all.  For no one is free from pollution (Ps. cxlii. 2, and cxxx. 3).  But in the future life, corruption ceasing, and immortality being conferred, the passions have no place, and these being removed, no kind of sin is committed.  So from that time God is all in all, when all freed from sin and turned to him shall have no inclination to evil.”

    We see here the view of Theodore of Mopsuestia as to the two states of man.  In the first he sins, and learns the evil of sin.  In the second he is raised above it, perfected, and established.  In his tenth oration on “Providence” he twice refers to the cessation of the passions in a future state,  and repeatedly extends the saving effects of the works of Christ to the whole human race.  In his comments on Ephesians i. 10 and Hebrews ii. 9, are similar views.  On Ephesians i. 10, he extends salvation and joy to the whole creation.  In the Nestorian controversies, Theodoret suffered much persecution.  His “Ecclesiastical History,” in the judgment of Dr. Schaff, is the most valuable continuation of that of Eusebius.  He also wrote commentaries and theological works.  As a bishop, he had no ambition but to perform the duties of his office irreproachably, and especially to take care of the poor.  He did not aim to accumulate wealth.  He purchased books, but, beyond this, he devoted the revenues of his see to the public good.


    This is the name of an author who wrote commentaries on the epistles of Paul, of decided merit, and which are published in the works of Ambrose.  His real name is unknown.  Hence he derives his name from Ambrose.  In the commentary on 1 Cor. xv. 28, he says:  ”This is implied in the Son’s subjecting himself to the Father; this is involved in God’s being all in all; namely, when every creature learns that Christ is their head, and that god the Father is the head of Christ.  Then God the Father is all in all.  This implies that every creature thinks one and the same thing, so that every tongue of celestials, terrestrials, and infernals, shall confess God as the great one from whom all things are derived.”  These views he frequently repeats.

    As to Ambrose himself he appears to have adopted the limited doctrine of eternal punishment put forth by Jerome.  The devil and his angels, blasphemers, and stubborn infidels, shall be punished forever.  The rest, in various ways and at various times, shall be purged and saved.


    This beautiful and noble woman was the sister of Gregory of Nyssa and Basil the Great.  She was engaged to be married to one whom she tenderly loved, and, as he died before their marriage, she lived, from fidelity to him, a single life, in religious retirement.  She exercised a great and benign influence on her brothers, and Gregory of Nyssa, in one of his works, disclosed his system on final restoration, in which she fully agreed with him, through her.  He introduces her as uttering his views, which were also her own.  The prayer that she uttered in death has been handed down, and is heart-thrilling and sublime.  Her Christian character was eminent, and her influence great, and she was canonized as a saint.


    This learned and eminent man was a presbyter of Cesarea in Palestine.  He was wealthy, and devoted his means to founding a theological school in Cesarea, in which Origen taught after he left Alexandria.  He also established a valuable library there, and copied for it, with his own hand, the works of Origen, of whom he was an ardent admirer and follower.  He wrote a defense of him in connection with Eusebius, his devoted friend.  To this Eusebius added a sixth book.  Of this work only the first volume is extant.  So ardent was the love of Eusebius for Pamphilus that he added his name to his own, Eusebius Pamphilus.  There is no reason to doubt that he believed in the doctrine of universal restoration, although so large a portion of his writings have perished that we cannot prove it by extracts.

    Names Less Known.

    In addition to those thus far characterized, there are two classes who deserve notice:  one, of those who were believers in universal restoration, though not extensively known as such; the other, of those who in all probability were such.  It will not be possible to give a detailed account of these two classes.  But to complete the outline of the state of that system, and to give the shades of the picture, their names should be mentioned.

    In the first class come Titus, Bishop of Bostra, who was eminent from 360 to 370, and probably earlier; Ambrosius, a convert of Origen in Alexandria, who aided him by his wealth to compose his works, and was his intimate friend; Evagrius Ponticus, Archdeacon of Constantinople, and anathematized by the Fifth General Council for having taught universal restoration; F. M. Victorinus, a converted rhetorician of Rome, 350 to 370 (he agreed with Gregory of Nyssa – he also defended the Trinity); Domitian, Bishop of Galatia, who briefly but powerfully defended Origen and universal restoration.

    In the second class come the intimate friends, scholars, and admirers of Origen, who have not left on record a full expression of their views.  In this class come the celebrated Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Noecesarea, a convert and a scholar of Origen, and his panegyrist, his brother, Athenodorus, who was also a student under Origen, and afterward a bishop in Pontus; Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem; Heraclas, Origen’s convert, and assistant and successor in the school of Alexandria, and Bishop of Alexandria; Firmilian, Bishop of Cesarea, a scholar of Origen, who afterward visited him in Palestine, and invited him into his own province to preach and teach; Palladius, a Bishop of Asia minor; and John, Bishop of Jerusalem, who defended Origen against Epiphanius.  Because positive evidence cannot be obtained in written declarations, these are not stated decidedly to be universalists; and yet in every case moral and circumstantial evidence leaves no rational doubt of the fact.




    It was very common with pagan philosophers to hold that certain doctrines were needful for the masses, though not absolutely true.  In such cases the absolute truth was held as an esoteric doctrine, and the other proclaimed to the people.  The fathers of the Christian Church did not escape the infection of this leprosy of pious fraud.  In the judgment of Neander, this was true of a father no less eminent and celebrated than the great Chrysostom.


    The facts concerning this eminent man are, that he was a scholar of Diodore of Tarsus for six years, and during that time Theodore of Mopsuestia was his fellow-student.  Both of these were decided advocates of universal restoration.  Of course, Chrysostom must have understood their views of 1 Cor. xv. 28, the corner-stone of that system.  In expounding this passage, what course does Chrysostom take?  He simply says that the doctrine of universal restoration has been inferred from that passage, makes a striking statement of the result, and says nothing to refute the opinion.  From this, Neander infers that he believed it, since if he had held it to be erroneous he would have contradicted it (“History of Dogmas,”) vol. ii., p. 415).  Elsewhere Neander says that in his field of labor he felt that the doctrine of eternal punishment was necessary to alarm the worldly and deter them from sin, and so he preached it to the multitude  (“Ch. History,” vol. ii., p. 676, Torrey’s translation).

    Again, in commenting on Phil. ii. 10, 11, ” that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,” he asks:  ”What does this mean of things in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth?  It means the whole world, and angels, and men, and demons.  Or it signifies both the holy and sinners.”  He, of course, knew the use made of this text, that bowing the knee involves true worship in the good, and that it should not be taken in two senses, as it would be if it were said to mean only a forced and hypocritical pretense of worship on the part of sinners.  If he thought this argument invalid, why did he give such an answer as he did, and not expose the false inference derived from it?  Neander would say, as before, esoterically he believed that the inference was valid, but that the other view was needed by the masses, to deter them from sin by fear.

    Gregory Nazianzen.

    This distinguished father, Neander puts in the same class.  He says:  ”Gregory Nazianzen did not venture to express his own doctrine so openly, but allows it sometimes to escape when he is speaking of eternal punishment” (“History of Christian Dogmas,” vol. ii., pp. 414, 415, London 1866).  Hagenbach takes a similar view (vol. i., Section 142, note 6), but with less decision.  Gregory, referring to the fire that Christ came to kindle on earth, calls it a purifying fire.  But he then goes on to describe another fire as penal, as the fire of Sodom, or that prepared for the devil, or the fire that is never quenched, but is everlasting, for the punishment of wicked men, “unless in this case also we may understand the fire more moderately as purifying, which is more benevolent and humane, and more worthy of God, who punishes” (Benedictine Ed., Orat. xl., p. 721, Section 6).  In this last flash of feeling, there is a revelation of his esoteric view.  Yet he thought it best often to preach the other.  Even Origen thought that it was sometimes best to take this course, as he expressly says.


    By his acts, this great man has indicated that either he believed in universal restoration, or that he regarded it as not a dangerous error.  He nominated, as I have said, Didymus the Blind, a decided follower of Origen, as president of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, where he taught for sixty years, while even men like Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius, and Isidore, sat at his feet with admiration.

    Athanasius, too, was a student and admirer of the works of Origen, and defended him as orthodox, and quoted him as authority in controversies.

    Basil The Great.

    This eminent man was a brother of Gregory of Nyssa, and of the saintly Macrina, of whom I have spoken.  They lived in love and in peace.  What were Basil’s inward views of the opinions of such a brother and such a sister?  Did he make any effort to turn them from dangerous error?  Or, had he, too, an esoteric view, which enabled him to regard their views without distress, and even with complacency?  Certainly some passages in his writings imply it.  And yet, in other cases, he proclaims endless punishment, to warn and arouse delaying sinners.

    It is not necessary to pursue this view further.  But it is very important, as explaining the great fact to which I have already adverted, that not one of the great fathers has ever made an elaborate argument for future eternal punishment, or against universal restoration as a dangerous error.  Augustine is nearest to an exception; but he is superficial and limited in his range of thought.  We cannot fully understand such a proclamation of future endless punishment as has been descried, while it was not believed, until we consider the influence of Plato on the age.  He not only justified, but enjoined the use of, falsehood for the masses in his “Republic.”  He describes a fiction as to the origin of the different classes of the republic which is to be taught from childhood.  Socrates is introduced as saying, “It is indispensable that this fiction should be circulated and accredited, as the fundamental, consecrated, unquestioned creed of the whole city, from which the feeling of harmony and brotherhood among the citizens springs” (Grote’s “Plato,” vol. iii., pp. 56, 57).  Such principles, as a leprosy, had corrupted the whole community, and especially the leaders.  In the Roman Empire, pagan magistrates and priests appealed to retributions in Tartarus, of which they had no belief, to affect the masses.  This does not excuse, but it explains, the preaching of eternal punishment by men who did not believe it.

    This want of a high sensibility to veracity injured the early church immeasurably, and all subsequent ages have suffered by it.

    A vivid sensibility to truth is needed above all things in this age.  The power of denominational interests or prejudices to affect the true statement of historical facts has been great.  It should wholly cease, and every man should write as in the presence of god, who cannot be deceived, and who abhors all fraud and deceit.




    It Will be noticed that, as we took the era of the Maccabees as a point of vision before Christ, so we took the era of Origen, A.D. 230, for the same purpose after Christ.  But from this point of vision we have not as yet surveyed the early ages, as we proposed to do.  True, in our survey of theological schools, we noticed the school of John in Asia Minor, and Irenaeus, its representative.  We also fully considered Justin Martyr, as coinciding with him in the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked.  But of the other writers of this period no adequate notice has as yet been taken.  In particular, those who are called the Apostolic Fathers have not been formally considered.  In this I have departed from the usual course, which has been to attempt to present some recorded, established, and settled system of belief as existing in immediate connection with the apostolic age.  I mentioned four conflicting systems in the interest of which this field of history has been surveyed, and declined to enter into the conflict, for want of adequate materials, and because I was sure that no definite established doctrine could be found on the main points now in controversy. But now, from our point of vision, I propose to survey that field.


    Historical Character of the Period.

    But before we attempt to make positive statements in the history of doctrine, it is well for us to form a clear conception of the historical character of this period.  It is set forth in a striking manner by Stanley in his “Eastern Church,” p. 36.  In answer to the question, How was the transition effected from the age of the apostles to the age of the fathers? he says:  ”No other change equally momentous has ever since affected the fortunes of Christianity, yet none has ever been so silent and so secret.  The stream in that most critical moment of its passage from the everlasting hills to the plain below is lost to our view at the very point where we are most anxious to watch it; we may hear its struggles under the overarching rocks; we may catch its spray on the boughs that overlap its course; but the torrent we see not, or see only by imperfect glimpses.  It is not so much a period for ecclesiastical history as for ecclesiastical controversy and conjecture.  A fragment here, an allegory there; romances of unknown authorship; a handful of letters, of which the genuineness of every portion is contested inch by inch; the summary examination of a Roman magistrate; the pleadings of two or three Christian apologists; customs and opinions in the very act of change; last, but not least, the faded paintings, the broken sculptures, the rude epitaphs, in the darkness of the catacombs, these are the scanty though attractive materials out of which the likeness of the early Church must be reproduced, as it was working its way.”  Though the genuine works of two Apostolic Fathers and others under their name are not particularly specified here, yet, as a general view of the scanty historical materials of the age, it is a true picture.  We have no historian till Eusebius, A.D. 330. This state of things is, moreover, a warning against all pretentious attempts to make out histories of doctrines for which the materials do not exist.

    The fundamental thing in history is to criticise thoroughly the original sources of evidence.  The most recent and thorough critical English work, as to the Apostolical Fathers and other ante-Nicene writers, is that of James Donaldson, entitled “A Critical History of Christian Literature and Doctrine from the Death of the Apostles to the Nicene Council” (London, 1866).  In this and in the work of Hefele on the Apostolical Fathers will be found a thorough discussion of the written sources of authoritative history on this early period.

    Writers of the Period.

    Let us now briefly survey the writers of the period before Origen, as was originally proposed, with some care.

    These writers may be divided into two classes.  In the first are those generally called the Apostolic Fathers.  In the second are those generally known as the Apologists.  The idea of an Apostolic Father is one who was alive in the days of the apostles, and had intercourse with them, or was even one of their disciples.  Of these the names of six are given:  Barnabas, the companion and fellow-laborer of Paul; Clement, of Philippi (Phil. iv. 3), afterward regarded as Bishop of the Church of Rome; Hermas, saluted by Paul in Rom. xvi. 14; Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch; and Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.  These last two are not mentioned in the New Testament, but are stated in the martyrdom of Ignatious to have been fellow-disciples of John.  Irenaeus also testifies that Polycarp, whom he well knew, was a disciple of John.

    The Apologists.

    The Apologists are those who undertook to plead the cause of the Christians in days of persecution under the emperors.  They were generally converted philosophers, and men of a higher grade of education than the Apostolic Fathers.  Of these the works of some have perished.  Those whose works have survived, and are available in our investigations, are Justin Martyr; Tatian, his disciple; Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch; and Athenagoras, said to be of Athens.  To these may be added the letter to Diognetus, and, in the Latin Church, Tertullian.  Of Irenaeus, the great opponent of the Gnostics, we have spoken; Justin, also, has been fully considered.

    Apostolic Fathers – Who?

    If, now, the reputed five Apostolic Fathers were what they have been held to be, and if they had undertaken to give historical narratives of the course of events or general views of the Christian system, or discussions of particular doctrines, their writings would be of unspeakable value.  But as a matter of fact two of the five, Barnabas and Hermas are not the persons spoken of in the New Testament, and who they are cannot be decided.  The letters of another, Ignatius, and the narrative of his martyrdom, are distrusted by Neander as devoid of verisimilitude and unhistorical, or, at least, much interpolated.  Donaldson, in his learned and critical work, decidedly transfers them to a later age, and, though many eminent scholars receive them, yet they cannot, without clearer evidence, be relied on as trustworthy documents of an Apostolic Father.  What, then, have we left that is sure?  Simply the first epistle of Clement, and that of Polycarp.  These can stand the test of thorough criticism.

    What is called the second Epistle of Clement, though often quoted, is decidedly spurious.  It is probably the part of a later homily.

    As to the Apologists, the works of those whose names have been mentioned are genuine and reliable.  But they do not profess to be either historical or doctrinal.  They are vindications of Christians against slanderers and persecutors.  Materials of history and of doctrine can be extracted from them, but these are incidental and not systematic.

    General View.

    Let us now proceed to inquire what light can be derived from the writers of these two classes on the subject of retribution.

    In the first place, it may be said that until we come to the Apologists, and especially Justin Martyr, there is no reference at all to our Saviour’s account of the judgment and the doom to aionianfire and aionian punishment.  The contrast between them and Justin Martyr in this respect is very striking.  He refers repeatedly to the words of Christ in both of his Apologies, and in his debate with Trypho, and all his language is colored by them.  But in the letters of Clement and Polycarp they are not referred to at all, though they often speak of retribution.  The same is true of the works under the name of Barnabas and Hermas, which were ancient, though not apostolic.  It is also true of the letters of Ignatious, at whatever time and by whomsoever they are written.

    It is true that in the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp the words of Christ are referred to.  But of this the historical reliability has been thoroughly shaken by Donaldson.  He proves that though the church of Smyrna in all probability wrote an account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, yet by successive copyists various interpolations have been inserted in it.  He then asks, “How do these interpolations affect the historical character of the work?”  His reply is:  ”In our opinion they completely damage it.  We have no security for any one fact in it, because we have no means of eliminating what was written by the Church in Smyrna from what was fabricated by Pionios and other transcribers. . . .  And we are confirmed in this when we see the various efforts made by Tillemont, Jortin, and others to reconcile the various statements or elicit the truth” (vol. i., p. 176).

    Particular Authors – Clement.

    Let us now come to particular authors.  What, then, can we learn from the letter of Clement to the Church of Corinth?  It was written not as a theological treatise, but for a definite practical end, to secure the restoration of certain presbyters whom that church had unjustly deposed, and to heal the division thence resulting.  He rebukes the spirit of those who had caused the schism, and warns them of coming retribution unless they repent and reform.  But whence are all his examples of retribution and all threats of it taken?  I answer, from the Old Testament.  Hence, they do not refer to a future world.  True, he speaks of the rewards of the good in a future life, after the resurrection, in glowing terms, but of the doom of the wicked hereafter he says nothing definite.  Parts of his letter have been construed as proving the salvation of all.  They prove only that the forgiving love of god is great and immeasurable, but not what it will finally effect.  (See chapters xxi., xix., pp. 86, 82, Hefele).


    The letter of Polycarp to the Church of Philippi is not doctrinal, but is a general exhortation to godliness, in all the relations of life.  It speaks in general terms of the rewards of the righteous, and the punishment of those who do not believe in Christ.  Of Christ he says, “He comes as the judge of the living and the dead, and his blood god will require of those who do not believe in him” (chapter ii.).  Of those who believe and live holy lives he says that he will raise them from the dead, and they shall reign with him (chapter v.).  Of eternal punishment, or of restoration, or of annihilation, he says literally nothing.  These, then, are the two genuine works of Apostolical Fathers, and this is all that they contain on the subject in question.


    Let us next come to Barnabas and Hermas, whose works are ancient (about A.D. 140), though not written by Apostolic Fathers.  Barnabas, in chapter xviii. 21 (Hefele’s edition), describes the two ways of light and of darkness.  Of the way of darkness he says:  ”It is crooked and full of cursing; for it is the way of aionian death, with punishment, in which they that walk meet those things that destroy their own souls” (chaper xx.).  Of him who chooses the side of sin he says:  ”He shall be destroyed, together with his works.  For this cause there shall be both a resurrection and a retribution”  (chapter xxi.).

    Again he says, “The day is near in which all things shall be destroyed with the wicked one” (chapter xxi.).  What he says may be understood of the annihilation of the wicked.  But it may also be explained otherwise; for the nature of the destruction here spoken of he does not unfold; nor can we decide whether he believed in the final annihilation of the wicked after punishment or not.  His views are not fully developed.


    In the work of Hermas we find something more like a system, presented in the form of an allegory.  The Church in the form of a woman, and the angel of repentance in the form of a shepherd, present the characters of the allegory to Hermas.  They represent the Church as the great end of God in all things, and set forth the formation of it by the building of a tower (Vis. iii. and Sim. ix.).  In this tower Christians are stones.  Those who enter the Church and prove unfit are represented as cast out, to remain out permanently, unless they are refitted to enter by repentance.  The work is designed to warn and excite backsliding or apostatizing Christians.  He sets forth about twenty classes of such, and says clearly that unless they repent and reform they will die forever; yet he teaches the possibility of repentance and delivery from punishment, even after this life, to some who do not enter the tower here.  So he is understood by Rothe, Hefele, and the editors of the “Bib. Max. Patrum,” and clearly with good reason.  Other scholars deny it (see book i., Vis. iii., Section 7, Hefele).  Of the heathen, outside of the Church, he says little.  The book is not addressed to them.  He briefly says they are to be burned, like dry trees, for not recognizing and worshiping [sic] God (book iii., Sim. iv.).  But he regards the guilt of sinners in the Church as greater than theirs, and deserving a twofold punishment.  ”These Christians who have known the Lord, and seen his wonderful works, if they live wickedly, shall be punished twofold, and shall die forever” (Sim. ix., 18 Hefele).  But this is merely a restatement of our Lord’s decision that the servant who knew not his lord’s will and did it not shall be beaten with few stripes.  Whether burning means annihilation Hermas does not say.  The same burning is also assigned in the same place to sinners in the Church who do not repent.  The language generally used to denote the state of the lost is that they never repent, but die forever.  There are also statements that life consists in holy action and emotion, and death in unholy action and passions.  If we take this view of the import of his language, Hermas does not teach the annihilation of the wicked, but an eternity of sinful action and suffering to all who do not repent after death.  But his views are not clearly and sharply developed.  There had been no controversy.


    We came now to the so-called letters of Ignatius.  They say very little on the points at issue.  The most decided expression is in the letter to the Ephesians.  Of certain corrupt, false teachers, he says, “such a one shall go into unquenchable fire, and in like manner all who hear him” (chaper xvi., Hefele).  He also says of those who make schisms that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  Of Christians he speaks as having true life and immortality in Christ.  But he does not say positively that the wicked shall be annihilated.  He may mean that they shall die in their sins forever; yet in some cases the idea of annihilation is suggested.  The truth is, that he did not fully develop his views on this point, the same is true of all whom we have considered thus far.  There had been no sharp controversy on the points now at issue, and therefore their statements are undeveloped and indefinite.

    Justin Martyr.

    We come now to the Apologists.  Of Justin Martyr we have formerly spoken as teaching the annihilation of the wicked.

    In Athenagoras, Tatian, and Theophilus, there is much less found on the subject of retribution than in Justin Martyr.


    Athenagoras, however, in his Apology, denies the annihilation of the wicked, and says that while the holy enjoy a better and heavenly life, the wicked shall pass a worse one in fire (chapter xxxi.).  He states this to Aurelius to prove that the views of the Christians deterred them from an impure and sinful life.  Of restoration he says nothing.


    Theophilus, in his treatise to Autolycus, in three instances applies aionios to denote the fire and the punishment of sinners.  He says of Christians that they are taught to abstain from sins that they may escape aionian punishments.  Again, i., 14, he says to Autolycus:  ”Believe now, lest you should be made to believe by the torments of aionian punishments. . . .  Study the Scriptures that you may escape aionian punishments, and obtain aionian blessings of God.”  Again he says, “God will give to those who persist in good, immortality and aionian, i.e., heavenly life.”  To sinners, wrath, and finally aionian fire, shall receive them.

    He thus agrees with Irenaeus in ascribing immortality only to the good, but does not like him expressly teach the annihilation of wicked.  There is no reason to deny that he used aionios, as did Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, to denote a long and indefinite period or age, and in one passage (ii., 26) he seems to teach universal restoration.  It is quoted by A. St. John in Ballou’s “History,” p. 46, note:  ”As a vessel, which, after it has been made, has some flaw, is remade or remoulded, that it may become new and right, so it comes to man by death.  For in some way or other he is broken up, that he may come forth, in the resurrection, whole – I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal.”




    It is well known that a peculiar authority is ascribed to the results of general or ecumenical councils.  Any doctrine recognized by them as fundamental is ever after regarded as an essential part of the faith of the Church.  Any doctrine condemned and anathematized by them is ever after stigmatized as a heresy.

    It is, therefore, a question of considerable interest, Has the doctrine of universal restoration ever been thus condemned and anathematized?  Not that we give to general councils any inspired authority to establish articles of faith, but because such decisions have ever exerted, and still do exert, great influence on hundreds of millions of professing Christians.  In the Church of Rome, as well s in the Greek Church, the decisions of an ecumenical council are conclusive, and from them there is no appeal.

    Ancient Creeds.

    In a previous chapter we considered the expression of belief in the life of the world to come, in the Nicene and other ancient creeds, as an equivalent to the belief of aionian life, professed in the Apostles’ Creed, and which is translated “eternal life.”

    Remarkable Fact.

    It is a remarkable fact that this brief annunciation of belief in the life of the world to come is all that is found in any ecumenical creed, and that this relates to the future state of the righteous, and not at all to the retribution of the wicked.  However important the questions as to eternal punishment or annihilation or universal restoration may be, they have found no place in the creed of any ecumenical council; so absorbingly did the questions of the Trinity and the person of Christ occupy the mind of the Church, and fix the standard of orthodoxy.  But, though such are the facts, they are not in general so apprehended.

    Historical Explanation.

    We have seen that in the local Council of Constantinople, in the year 544, Origen’s doctrine of universal restoration was for the first time condemned and anathematized.  In addition to this, the impression has been general that it has been condemned by an ecumenical council also.  It is not difficult to explain the origin of this impression.  There was a general Council of Constantinople held in 553, nine years after the local council in 544; and, by a not uncommon species of pious fraud, the action of the local council has been ascribed to the ecumenical council, for the sake of giving to it greater authority.  But the matter of fact is, that the doctrine of universal restoration was not condemned in that council, and has never been formally condemned in any ecumenical council whatever.  It is no doubt true that in two or three general councils Origen was condemned, among other heretics, but his alleged errors were so numerous that a general condemnation of him as a heretic would not imply a specific condemnation of this particular doctrine, especially as in a number of local councils it was passed by, while many other Origenistic errors were condemned.  But that it was not condemned at the general Council of Constantinople in 553 will be apparent from a consideration of the end for which that council was called, and from the nature of their action.  It was called in opposition to the Nestorians, and not in opposition to Origen or his doctrines.  This is plain from the nature of their results and their anathemas.  These are all aimed at the Nestorian errors of Theodore of Mopsuestia and others.

    Remarkable Evidence.

    One thing is very remarkable and conclusive as an evidence that the council did not intend to condemn the doctrine of universal restoration, namely, that though it was repeatedly avowed in the extracts from the writings of Theodore laid before the council, yet it was not specifically condemned, and no anathema was directed against it.  The council devoted itself to the condemnation of the peculiar errors of Nestorianism.

    A striking proof that the condemnation of Origen was no part of the intended original action of the council, but was afterward introduced by fraud, is found in the fact that in the letter of Justinian to the council the name of Origen does not occur in the list of the heretics whom the emperor called on them to condemn.  Hence, when we find it in the list of heretics condemned by the council, there can be no doubt that it was fraudulently introduced by the same person who introduced the action of the local council, and who neglected to introduce the name of Origen into the list of Justinian.  He did not complete his work of fraud, but exposed himself by not surveying the whole ground to be covered to make his fraudulent work complete.

    Testimony of Historians.

    This view of the action of the second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople is substantially sustained by the suffrages of the leading modern historians of the Church, such as Neander, Hagenbach, Gieseler, Mosheim, Dr. Schaff, etc.  It is true that some of them ascribe the transfer of the doings of the local Council of Constantinople to the Ecumenical Council, to a mistake in confounding the two councils, and not to fraud.  But the facts of the case, and the known usages of the age, lead us decidedly to the belief of a pious fraud, as we have stated.  At all events, whether by mistake or by fraud, an action was imputed to the second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople which was never taken by them.  So far were they from condemning the doctrine of universal restoration in Origen, that they did not even condemn it in Theodore of Mopsuestia, though it was clearly and repeatedly placed before their eyes in the extracts from his writings, which we have quoted in a former number.

    Effects of False Belief.

    Nevertheless, the fact that it was generally believed that Origen’s doctrine of universal restoration was condemned by this general council, exerted a great influence, in subsequent ages, in suppressing that doctrine.  Neander says, “It had great influence in bringing about the later more general practice of treating Origen as a heretic, that a decree of this sort was ascribed to an ecumenical council” (vol. ii., p. 704).

    We need not be surprised, therefore, if from this time, at least in the Latin and Greek Churches, the doctrine of universal restoration should generally disappear.  The sixth century is generally regarded as the beginning of the dark ages, that extended to the sixteenth century.  Barbarian invasions more and more arrested the progress of intellectual culture.  Free thought was generally suppressed, and ecclesiastical authority was supreme.

    The Nestorians.

    For some centuries, as we have formerly stated, in the extreme East, beyond the boundaries of the Roman Empire, there was among the Nestorians more intellectual progress and extended missionary enterprise.  This period extended from 762 to 1258.  After this they suffered persecutions from the Tartars, and were almost exterminated by the merciless Tamerlane.  Of him Rev. T. Laurie, in his history of the Nestorians, says:  ”It will give some idea of his ferocity to state that in 1380 he built up two thousand men alive, with mortar, in the form of a tower, who thus miserably perished.  Seven years later, he piled up seventy thousand human heads in the public squares of Ispahan; and in 1401 ninety thousand in the city of Bagdad.  Three years previous, he massacred one hundred thousand prisoners in his invasion of India, and in 1400 he buried alive four thousand Armenian horsemen, whom he had taken prisoners at Sivas.  Such was the man whose fury seems to have put an end to the missionary activity of the Nestorians, while from many countries it blotted out their very name” (“Dr. Grant and the Mountain Nestorians,” p. 54).


    The result of all these causes has been that although for some centuries the doctrine of final restoration was widely prevalent in the early Church, yet it disappeared about the sixth century in the Latin and Greek Churches, and has not reappeared in the leading modern Evangelical Churches.

    It is also true that, in the Romish Church, as well as in the Greek, the doctrine of future eternal punishment is clearly taught.  This, at least, is true of the authorized catechisms in use in these churches.

    The doctrine of universal restoration, in the Nestorian churches, disappeared by a nearly universal extermination of those churches.  During the dark ages it was held by now and then an individual like John Scotus Erigena.  The Romish Church also has accused the Albigenses and some other sects of holding this doctrine.

    But since the Reformation, as all are aware, it has extensively revived in Europe and America.  In Europe, very many evangelical men, eminent for learning and for Christian character, have advocated the doctrine.  In this country it has not been generally connected with the evangelical system.

    We have thus traced our history to the sixth century, and given an outline of the course of belief from that century to the present time.  We shall not at present enter further into the details of the history, but shall suspend our narrative with a view of the doctrine in the eighth century, as set forth by John of Damascus.

    John of Damascus.

    He represents the orthodoxy of the Greek Church after the council of Justinian had condemned universal restoration, and was a believer in future eternal punishment.  His use of the wordsaion and aionios, as a writer of Greek, will be found interesting and instructive.

    Of his leading theological work, “An Accurate Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” Neander says that it is “the most important doctrinal text-book of the Greek Church.”  He was the most eminent man of his century in theology and philosophy, and is revered as a saint in the Latin as well as in the Greek Church.  He aimed not at originality, but at a clear exposition of the established orthodox system.

    His system closes with these words:  ”We shall rise from our graves, our spirits shall be united to our bodies, and we shall stand before the tremendous judgment-seat of Christ, and there the devil, and antichrist, his man of sin and also all impenitent and flagitious men, shall be given over to the aionian fire, a fire not material as ours, but one which God understands.  But they who have done good shall shine forth as the sun with the angels unto aionian life, with our Lord Jesus Christ, seeing him always, and being seen, and enjoying an endless joy from him, praising him with the Father and the Holy Spirit to endless ages of ages.”

    Aion and Aionios.

    In what sense he uses the word aionian we can ascertain from other parts of his work.  In book ii., chapter i., he has a full and labored discussion of aion, which I will translate.  In the first place we are to notice that he regards aion as always a designation of a period of time, and not of a material world.  He also speaks of God as the maker of the ages (aions), giving a time-sense to passages like Heb. i. 2, “By whom also he made the (worlds) ages.”  Of God he says, “He made the aions who was before the aions, to whom David said from aion to aion thou art, and the apostle by whom also he made the aions.”  How God can create ages, he does not say.

    After this introduction, he enters upon a full exposition of the senses of the word aion.  He says:  ”We should know that the word aion has many significations.  For, 1. The life of every man is called aion; 2. Again, the period of one thousand years is called aion; 3. Again, the whole duration or life of this world is called aion; 4. The endless life after the resurrection is called the aion to come.”

    In another place he says:  ”There are reckoned seven aions of this world (each one thousand years), that is, from the creation of heaven and earth until the common consummation and the resurrection of men.  For the death of each one is an individual close; but the common and universal close and consummation is when the resurrection of all shall occur.  But the eighth aion is theaion to come.”

    Again he says:  ”There are aions of aions.  Since the seven aions of this present world include many aions or lives of men, and that great aion of the world includes them all, and the presentaion and the aion to come is called the aion of the aion, the expressions aionian life (i.e., life of the world to come), and aionian punishment (i.e., punishment of the world to come), disclose the endlessness of the coming aion.”  Hence the idea of eternity is not in the word aionios, but is derived from the endlessness of the aion which it designates.  For he had previously stated that the coming age is to be endless.  Thus, as in Olympiodorus, when the periods spoken of are limited, aionios is used to denote a limited duration, as opposed to endless ages, so, here, when the coming age is by assumption endless, aionios receives a corresponding force.  That the coming aion will be endless, he proceeds to show.  He assumes the statement (Rev. xxii. 5), “there shall be no night there,” and says that “after the resurrection time shall not be numbered by days and nights, for there shall be to the righteous one day without night, the Sun of righteousness shining above them, but to sinners a dark and endless night.  To designate the idea endless, he does not here use aionios, but aperantos.

    An Endless Aion.

    He also applies aion to denote the undivided temporal movement and interval of such an endless world.  He says:  ”That which is not time nor any part of time measured by the motion and course of the sun, or composed of a succession of days and nights, but that temporal movement and interval which extends alongside of eternal things, is called aion.  For what time is to those under time, that is this aion to eternal things.”  Of this aion he says:  ”In this aspect there is one aion with reference to which God is called aionios and proaionios (before the aion), for he made the aion. For God alone being without beginning is the maker of all aions, and of all things that exist.”

    According to this, no aion denotes an absolute eternity, for God exists above them all, and is the maker of them.  We think that in these speculations John has wandered beyond the sphere of comprehensible thought.  But one thing is plain, that aion never by itself denotes eternity any more than does our word age, and that to impart to it this idea the age must be extended forever by supposition or definition.  It is equally evident that aionios has not in itself the idea of eternity, and acquires it only when it relates to an age which by definition and assumption is eternal.

    What precedes concludes the history essentially as published in the Christian Union.  I have carefully considered all criticisms, and believe my positions to be impregnable.




    While the articles of which this volume mainly consists were coming out in the Christian Union, and subsequently, there came to me letters containing inquiries as to my own views, and I was requested to declare them.  To these communications I replied that I had undertaken to give an impartial history, and not to state my own views.  I relied also on the fact that, in two works of mine, “The Conflict of Ages” and “The Concord of Ages,” there is a full statement of my views up to the date of the last of those publications, 1860.  But, as in one respect I have changed my views, a brief statement may be necessary to indicate my position, and to throw light on what I may proceed to say.  I do not indeed attach any weight to my opinions as authority, and I confide in intelligent readers to draw their own inferences impartially from historical facts, established by competent evidence.  Yet my views in this history can be better understood in view of a few facts.

    In the year 1827, being then pastor of the Park Street Church, in Boston, and in the midst of the great Unitarian controversy of New England, I became satisfied of two things:  in the first place, that the true and Scriptural doctrine of original sin and human depravity, and a thorough doctrine of regeneration, could not be sustained on any form of the doctrine of the fall of the human race in Adam, but that on the ground of preexistence they could be maintained, in a form honorable to God and salutary to men.

    I was satisfied that things were tending, by reason of the power of well-founded objections to the common doctrine of the Fall and its consequences, to such concessions as would finally explain away the true doctrine of original sin and human depravity, and introduce in its place one light and superficial.

    I also believed, in the second place, that, as a result of this development, the doctrine of future eternal punishment would be given up, and a system of universal restoration take its place.

    In writing those two books, after a study of more than twenty years, I aimed to prevent these results.

    One sentence from “The Conflict of Ages” will show this as to future eternal punishment.  In the fifteenth chapter of the fifth book, I stated eleven arguments for the truth of a system based on preexistence.  Of these, the eighth was as follows:

    “It alone leads to such an understanding of the doctrine of future eternal punishments as, connected with the previous suffering of God, shall properly throw the sympathies of all holy minds on the side of God, and put an end to that reaction which tends so fatally to destroy the true and indispensable power of that doctrine.”

    In the sixth chapter of the fifth book of “The Concord of Ages,” I set forth at length and defended that view of eternal punishment.  I did not, however, enter into the scriptural proof of it, but assumed it.

    At that time I was under the power of a full belief that aionios means endless.  In coming to this belief, I had been greatly influenced by the elaborate treatise of Prof. Stuart on aionolam, and other words connected with the doctrine of retribution.  I was also influenced by the article “Aion,” in the “Religious Encyclopaedia,” in which an appeal was made to the supposed testimony of Aristotle.  I then supposed that it was correctly translated.  But, as this work shows, my opinion on the import of those words has undergone a change.  This was originated by reading the profound essays of Prof. Tayler Lewis, in Lange’s “Commentaries,” to which I have referred, and by the subsequent extensive investigations which I felt it to be my duty to make.

    My views, also, on another point have been changed.  Like Prof. Shedd, I had been too much influenced by Hagenbach’s statements.  The statements, also, of Munscher, in his “Elements of Dogmatic History,” translated by Dr. Murdock, had exerted a great influence on me.  I had heard of “faint intimations” and “feeble glimmerings” of hope of future restoration by authors in whom, on examination of their original writings, I found the full assurance of hope.  In like manner, their numbers, Christian character, and power, I found to be undervalued.  It was not until I had gone to the original sources, and read the ancient restorationists themselves, that I understood their history in its relations and full extent.  The same was true of my conceptions as to the ancient believers in annihilation.  The results of those investigations I have given.

    On one point I have undergone no change, and that is, in the belief that the doctrine of eternal punishment cannot be sustained or defended on the ground on which it is placed by the orthodox generally; that is, the doctrine of the fall in Adam, as it is explained either by Dr. Hodge, of Princeton, or Dr. Shedd, of New York, or Dr. Woods, of Andover, or any other orthodox man whom I have ever read.  I believe that to punish endlessly men born as any form of that system represents, and placed in this world as men are, under satanic delusions and powerful evil social influences, would be an extreme of injustice and cruelty that would entirely transform the character of God.  My views on that point have been published, and generally known, over twenty years, and I have seen no cause to change them.

    If, therefore, I were called on to choose between the doctrine of eternal punishment as generally held by the orthodox, and some form of universal restoration, I should decidedly choose the latter.  I regard the doctrine of future eternal punishment on the basis of the fall in Adam, as an impossibility with God.  What God’s nature is, we know.  He has so fully revealed it in Christ that we cannot misunderstand it.  We know, too, that it cannot produce effects contrary to itself.  And the facts alleged as to eternal punishment, on the basis of the fall in Adam, are contrary to the essential nature and character of God.

    I do not propose now to enter into this argument.  I have done it fully in the works which I have mentioned.  I did this as required by a sacred sense of duty.  I felt called on to testify for God before men, that I did not impute such acts to him.  I did it, also, to fulfill a duty to my fellow-Christians, and to all men; that is, to let them know that, though I still continued to preach the doctrine of eternal punishment, I did not do it on a ground dishonorable to God, and injurious to man.

    Notwithstanding my testimony, and arguments, the leaders of the Church have, as a general fact, declined to accept the basis on which alone I believe the doctrine of endless punishment can be defended.  It follows, of necessity, that as between them and the restorationists – if I were shut up to that choice – my sympathies and convictions would be with the restorationists.  But I am not shut up to that alternative.  I can take another position.  But, as things are, in the controversy between the orthodox, who base the doctrine on Adam’s fall, and Evangelical restorationists, my sympathies are with the restorationists.  Still I do not hold that the doctrine of preexistence necessarily results in future endless punishment.  In the case of Origen it did not.  But if endless punishment is declared in the word of God, then that is the only basis on which it can be defended.  The great question then is, “Is it so declared in the word of God?”

    It appears, however, that one of the Scriptural proofs of the endlessness of punishment on which I mainly relied is fallacious.  The words of Christ do not expressly declare it.  Neither do they deny it.  Nor do the opinions of the ancient restorationists disprove it.  They are not infallible.

    But the question still arises, “Does not the general system of the Bible imply it, and other statements prove it?”  On this point the Scriptures ought to be more profoundly examined than they ever have been, and I claim the right to reserve my opinion until I have reexamined them, and listened to the arguments of candid and impartial Christian men.  At a proper time I shall not hesitate to speak freely and fully.

    I will only say that, if the doctrine is to be sustained, I have given, in the books mentioned, the only basis on which in my opinion it can be done.

    With regard to these books I may be excused for saying that, although there have been many judicial opinions pronounced against them, yet the arguments contained in them have never been fairly stated, considered, and answered.  If the Church desire universal restoration in some form, or even annihilation, to prevail, they have taken, in my opinion, the most effectual course to product that result.  On the common basis the doctrine of endless punishment, in my judgment, admits of no defense.

    It is in vain to say that we are incompetent to reason from the attributes of God what he can or cannot do.

    This is not the doctrine of the Bible.  It teaches us not only that we can know god, but that we can know him intimately and certainly.  Indeed, it was the main end of Christ to bring men to such a knowledge of God.  He has revealed himself as sympathetic, self-denying, and self-sacrificing:  ”In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him;” and again, “Hereby we perceive the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.”  Such God always has been, and we can know that there are some things which such a God cannot do, and among them are the things ascribed to him by the doctrine of the fall in Adam.  On this subject I refer to the works in which I have considered this point at large.




    It was indicated, in my opening remarks, that I have had reference in this history to the existing world-wide discussion as to future endless punishment.  I propose, accordingly, to consider what some of the results of the facts stated may be.

    Is It An Open Question?

    The important facts stated may raise the inquiry, “Why should not the question as to the nature and duration of punishment in the world to come be an open question, as it was in the best of the early ages of the Church?”

    If anything has been proved beyond all rational question, it is that in the days of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and his first great circle of friends, and hearers, and readers, it was so.  Each of the three theories as to future retribution was held by eminently pious men, without alarm, protest, or prosecution.  Who ever assailed Justin Martyr, that zealous advocate of Christianity, who boldly defended the cause of Christ in two pleas addressed to the two Antonines, and who sealed his testimony with his blood, or Irenaeus, the great defender of Christianity against the delusions of the Gnostics, because they taught the annihilation of the wicked?  Who ever in his own age assailed Origen, that eminent Christian, excelled in devoted piety by no man in the history of the Church, and the intellectual leader of his own age, because he taught the restoration of all men to holiness?  In subsequent miserable years he was assailed for this; but when Eusebius and Pamphilus wrote their apology for him, and stated all the charges against him that they could find, this wasn’t one.  Even Epiphanius, in his earliest assaults, does not mention it.

    If any man had been professedly an earnest defender and champion of endless punishment in this age, he would not have suffered odium for it, but there was no such man.  True, some eminent men did avow their belief of it, and appeal to it as a motive, but no man zealously defended it as the established doctrine of the Church, the only catholic doctrine – not even Augustine did this.  This was reserved for a more degraded age, and for such divines as the despotic emperor Justinian, who, if he had not seasonably died, would have been involved in the gross heresy of Aphthartodocetism, which tended to neutralize or annihilate the purely human element in Christ.  He was preparing to enact it by a law, when, fortunately for the peace and reputation of the Church, he died (see Neander, “Church History,” ii., 772, Torrey).  In view of such facts the inquiry will naturally arise, “Why should we not in this respect follow the earliest development of the primitive Church?”  An appeal to the example of the early Church is often made with great solemnity and emphasis.  The inquiry will naturally arise, “Why should we not follow their example in this respect also?”

    Is It Safe?

    But there are those who fear the result of relaxing the stringency of belief in the doctrine of eternal punishment.  Man, they tell us, is deeply depraved, and needs the power of infinite motives to deter him from sin, and turn him to God.  It is also said to be necessary, in order to teach the infinite demerit of sin, to assign to it an endless punishment.

    It is impossible not to respect the sincerity and the motives of those who thus reason.  But this is not the time and place to enter into such a discussion.  I wish simply to say that the facts stated in this history will be looked on by thoughtful men in their bearings on that question.  These statements clearly show that all who held to universal restoration in the early ages were, as a universally-conceded fact, eminent and devoted Christians.  Nor is this all.  They were peculiarly distinguished for the excellence and loveliness of their Christian character.  I will not repeat the eulogium of the calm and judicial Mosheim on Origen, as the most eminent saint of any age.  It is easy to turn to it, and read it on pp. 182, 3.  In like manner Gregory of Nyssa and his sister Macrina were among the most beautiful and lovely Christians of that age.  The same is true of others; and as to missionary zeal, those who revered and followed the great Theodore of Mopsuestia were distinguished for their intelligence, liberality, zeal in the cause of education, and enthusiasm in missionary enterprise, and were immeasurably in advance of the debased Church of Justinian and his successors, by which they were excommunicated and anathematized.  In short, I do not know an unworthy, low, or mean character in any prominent, open, and avowed restorationist of that age of freedom of inquiry, which was inaugurated by Alexandrian school and defended by Origen.  As to Theodore of Mopsuestia, who introduced the doctrine of universal restoration into the liturgy of the Nestorians, it would be well once more to read Dorner’s eulogium of him, which I will not here repeat.  It may be found on page 193.  It may not be true that these results were owing mainly to the doctrine of universal restoration.  It may be that their views of Christ and the gospel, which were decidedly orthodox exerted the main power to produce these results.  But one thing is true:  The doctrine of universal restoration did not hinder them.  If not, then the inquiry will arise, “Why should it now?”

    But besides this it is true, and their works show it, that these ancient believers in final restoration lived and toiled and suffered in an atmosphere of joy and hope, and were not loaded with a painful and crushing burden of sorrow in view of the endless misery of innumerable multitudes.  It is also worthy of notice that in Dwight’s “Travels in the North of German,” published in New York, 1829, coincident facts are stated, as to evangelical German restorationists.  He says:  ”So far as an opinion can be formed of them from their reputation and from their conversation, we must look in vain for brighter examples of piety than they exhibit.  They certainly manifest a greater spirit of love for those who differ from them than is found in most of our sects, and they feel very unwilling to shut the gates of heaven against those who do not believe every article of their creed.  In this charity and love, the Christians of most Protestant countries would do well to imitate them” (p. 423).  He also makes very strong statements as to the extensive prevalence of these views among the evangelical Christians of Germany.

    Is It Fundamental?

    The inquiry will also arise in view of the historical facts which have been developed, “Is the doctrine of endless punishment a fundamental doctrine?”  By this is not meant, is it a part of the general belief or creed of a denomination, but is it essential to accomplish the work for which Christ died?  What is that work?  To regenerate and sanctify men by faith in Christ.  If this is so, then the most fundamental truths are those which relate to human depravity, and regeneration, and the atonement of Christ, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, and the life of Christ as the great exemplar of the Christian life.  These are of fundamental importance.  For, if the nature and depth of the disease are unknown, how can a radical cure be effected?  And how can it be effected except by faith in Christ and his atonement by the regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit.  But if these are held and faithfully used to convince men of sin and turn them to God and a holy life through faith in Christ, the inquiry will arise, “Why should differing views as to the exact nature and duration of the retributions of the future state prevent their successful operation?”

    The words of the very orthodox Dr. George Hill, of Scotland, whom Dr. Chalmers followed as his guide in his own theological lectures, are weighty on this point.  He says:  ”The great doctrine which theology clearly teaches, with regard to the future condition of men, is this, that by the righteousness of Jesus Christ there is conveyed to all who believe a right to eternal life.  This is the only point which it is of any importance for us distinctly to understand.“  At the close of the chapter he adds a few words on the question of eternal punishment.  They amount to this:  ”That on subjects so infinitely removed beyond the sphere of our observation” we should speculate with extreme caution; that that view of the love of God, and its efficacy, which is implied in the doctrine that hell-torments are not eternal “naturally creates a prejudice in favor of it,” but as the happiness of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked are described by the same term, “it seems to teach us that both are of equal duration.”  If, now, he had been convinced that aionios does not designate duration, but the scene of the life and punishment of the world to come, this well-poised man might have been still less inclined to make the doctrine of eternal punishment a fundamental doctrine.  Robert Hall, who believed it, openly declared that it was not fundamental, and many of the most eminent Christians of modern times have not held it, and yet, so far as we can judge, have not suffered in their Christian character by reason of the denial.

    The English and American Episcopal Church do not regard it as fundamental.  It was once in the articles of the mother Church, but after mature consideration it was removed.  It never was in the Articles of the American Church, and a belief of it is not requisite for ordination.

    Is The Question Insoluble?

    The view of that learned scholar and eminent orthodox divine, Dr. Tayler Lewis, that aionian punishment does not mean endless punishment, but “the punishment of the world to come,” and the proof that has been given that in the early ages the words were so understood, will naturally raise the inquiry, “Since Christ has not decided the duration of future punishment, can it be proved at all?”  Indeed, it has already raised the inquiry.  An anonymous writer in Massachusetts, understood to be an eminent Congregational clergyman, in good standing, has undertaken in an able work to show, on these grounds, that the question is insoluble, and that neither of the three theories can be proved, clearly and decidedly, from Scripture, and that a man questioned on his belief as to endless punishment, or annihilation, or universal restoration, has a right to say, “It is not revealed which is true, and I do not know, and no man or body of men has a right to impose on me a positive belief of either of the three current answers to the question.”

    The question will arise – nay, it has arisen -”If a man takes this ground, and yet says that

    there will be a fearful punishment hereafter, from which God has warned men in earnest words to escape, by faith in Christ, shall he be excluded from Christian fellowship, and a regular ministerial standing in the Congregational denomination?”  As yet, no steps have been taken to put the clergyman spoken of, out of fellowship, and probably none will be.  Very probably, the words of Dr. George Hill, as to salvation by faith in Christ, which have been quoted, will be applied to such a case:  ”This is the only point which it is of any importance for us distinctly to understand.”  If the punishment is regarded as fearful, and so great in the sight of God, that he gave his Son to die for us to save us from it, the inquiry will arise, “Is not that enough?”  How it will be answered remains to be seen.



    I have already presented the view of Dr. Shedd, that the doctrine of eternal misery is a Catholic doctrine, firmly held by the early Church, with a few exceptions, and by the Church universal in every subsequent age.  This history will probably awaken inquiry on that point, and perhaps lead to a revision of judgments.

    Others besides Dr. Shedd have assumed that the doctrine of endless punishment has been the doctrine of the Church universal from the beginning.  Many have said that there is no way to explain this fact except to admit that the doctrine is plainly taught in the Word of God, for it is a doctrine repugnant to the natural feelings and wishes of mankind.  This view once had great weight with me, for I relied on the statements of Hagenbach and Munscher, and I am disposed to treat all who hold it with great respect.

    But, after a careful investigation, I have come to the conclusion that the fact alleged does not exist.  In this history I have given my reasons for this belief, and, if well founded, they may effect a change of opinion in those who have been wont to appeal to an early Church united in the belief of endless punishment.  I have shown that until the sixth century, under Justinian, there was no decision against universal restoration, and in favor of endless punishment, and that it had never been made the subject of elaborate and profound discussion, as was the case with the Trinity and the person of Christ.  I have shown the reason of this, that previous influential writings, generally read in the days of Christ and the apostles, had presented conflicting views on the subject.  I have also shown that when universal restoration was developed in the Alexandrine school, and in the school at Antioch, and at Cesarea, and at Edessa, there was but one school that defended eternal punishment.  It is also true that the defenders of the doctrine of restoration were not exceeded in intellectual power, learning, and Christian character, by any men of the age.  Who were greater in all these respects than Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Didymus the Blind, Gregory of Nyssa, Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Eusebius of Cesarea, and Theodoret?  All these were avowed restorationists.  And there is no reason to doubt that Heraclas of Alexandria, Gregory Thaumaturgus, and Athenodorus of Pontus, should be added tot he list.  These were all illustrious men.  They were zealous, working Christians.  They were honorable men.  Who, on the side of future punishment, deserves such a eulogy as Dr. Schaff has given to Origen, and Dorner to Theodore of Mopsuestia?  If Jerome is mentioned, I concede his learning; but he would have been counted on the side of Origen if he had been a bold and honorable man, for he has left on eternal record, and unretracted, a full declaration of the principles of Origen as his own.  And his subsequent abbreviated and eviscerated doctrine of endless punishment was only a shield against attacks by Epiphanius and others on his orthodoxy.  Great in learning he was, but he was not a noble-spirited and honorable man, or he would boldly and openly have taken a stand with Origen, to whom he owed so much – not indeed on all points, but certainly on this.

    Are Chrysostom, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzum, mentioned?  They were great men; but they all had been taught by restorationist teachers, and were in intimate fellowship with restorationists, and never attacked the system of restoration, but gave indications that they, esoterically at least, believed it.

    But, at least, there was Augustine.  Yes, and he was a great and good man; and there may have been Cyril of Jerusalem, and Cyril of Alexandria, who was not an honorable man; and Lactantius and Hilary.  But, of all these, Augustine only has come out as an open and decided opposer of the doctrine of restoration.  But, if the others had believed and taught endless punishment, weigh them and compare them with the other side.  Are they the Church?  After all, the statement of Doederlein is in perfect accordance with facts:  (“Quanto quis altius eruditione in antiquitate Christiana eminuit, tanto magis spem finiendorum olim eruciatuum aluit atque defendit” (“Theology,” Section 223, Obs. 8).  That is, “The more profoundly learned any one was in Christian antiquity, so much the more did he cherish and defend the hope that the sufferings of the wicked would at some time come to an end.”

    In fact, there was no early organized decision of a council on the subject; but, beyond all doubt, in the age of Origen and his scholars, and in the times of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the weight of learned and influential ecclesiastics was on the side of universal restoration.

    There were in this age all the materials of an elaborate and profound discussion, if the advocates of eternal punishment had known how to use them.  The mind of Origen was of wide reach and fruitful.  He introduced elements of great power.  By his doctrine of preexistence he enabled them to remove the difficulties from the doctrine of original sin, that made eternal punishment so horrible to Ezra.  But Epiphanius and the monks were incapable of seeing the relations of this powerful element to the system.  As pearls before swine, so were the enlarged views of Origen before them.  There was a lamentable and humiliating course of things downward till the days of Justinian.  Then that despotic emperor assumed to declare, by his subservient council, in the name of the Church, what the Church had never debated or decided, and what, in her best days, her most eminent leaders had rejected.



    To this inquiry I reply by referring to the statement of Dr. Schaff, quoted at the opening of this history.  The import of that is, that the whole energy of the Church, in the highest state of holiness and communion with God, has never been brought to bear upon this subject, so as to result in a thorough and reliable investigation of the whole great question.  And do not the facts show it?  For, since the time of the miserable decision of Justinian, there has never been in the Church an investigation of this subject worthy of the name.  True, since the Reformation, individuals have defended universal restoration or annihilation, but there has been in the great organized churches a fixedness and immobility which is not the result of any antecedent profound investigation, but simply of unreasoning inertia and uninquiring tradition.  This great apathetic mass should be penetrated by a profound interest in all that is involved in this greatest of all questions.  For it is a question that more distinctly involves the character of God than any other, and it cannot be settled merely by quoting texts.

    The Previous Question.

    There is a previous question to be settled, and that is, What is the doctrine of endless punishment as it is in fact held by the Church? This can be decided only by ascertaining whether there is in fact any other doctrine inseparably connected with it, and on which its whole moral character depends.

    The doctrine of future endless punishment can be held as it is presented in the book of Enoch, as based on the fall of the angels, or it can be held as it is presented in the apocalypse of Ezra, as growing out of the fall of Adam, by a divine law of transmission of evil.  As it is now generally held by the Church, the view of Ezra is modified, but still the fall in Adam, and original sin thence resulting, are regarded as the fundamental facts that called for the interposition of Christ.

    Historic View.

    It is a noteworthy fact that at the time of Justinian’s decree, establishing endless punishment, the Augustinian doctrine of original sin, through the fall in Adam, was imposed on the Latin Church for the first time, and through her on European and American Christendom.  This doctrine, in all its forms, so changes the doctrine of endless punishment as to darken the divine character, and fill the mind with anguish.  It was this doctrine that caused the lamentations of Ezra, which I have quoted, in view of the doom of man, and his declaration that no system would be better than such a system, and this feeling has revealed itself in every age.  Yet, by Augustine, the doctrine of eternal punishment, against most impassioned protests, was based on the fact that all men sinned in Adam, and were condemned in him, and lost their power to all good.  This has been modified by Dr. Hodge, of Princeton, into a representative sinning, but with the same results.  But Dr. Shedd adheres to Augustine.  New England has modified the system, but has not removed the difficulty.


    All admit that there are acts supposable, which would be unjust, merciless, unfeeling, and cruel, in God.

    Now, what must be directly looked in the face is this, that, even if the doctrine of endless punishment were true, and actually revealed in the Bible, yet it is possible to connect it with such statements as entirely to reverse its character, and make it an infinite dishonor to god.  If this were in fact done, not intentionally, but really, then to prove the doctrine, so connected, by any number of texts, is not to prove the truth, but falsely to cast infinite dishonor on God.

    Now, when it is said that God regards men as guilty of an act which they never committed, and which was done before they had a being, and for it declares them guilty, and out of communion with god, and incapable of any holy action, and dead in sin, and sure to reach endless misery if not regenerated by God, and when it is added that the majority are not so regenerated, it certainly seems that these acts are unfeeling, unjust, cruel, merciless; and yet these acts are by orthodox men indissolubly connected with the doctrine of eternal punishment.  Now, if these acts are, in fact, what they seem to be, then to prove the doctrine of eternal punishment by Scripture texts is to make the Bible impute to God the greatest dishonor in the universe.  Has it ever been proved that these acts are not what they seem to be?  No.  Dr. Hodge expressly declares that the system thus stated “cannot be explained on the common-sense principles of moral government.  The system which Paul taught was not a system of common sense, but of profound and awful mystery.”  Dr. Woods makes the same confession as to the New England theory.  ”Here,” he says, “our wisdom fails.  We apply in vain to human reason or human consciousness for an answer.”  Nay, more: he even admits that such conduct is “contrary to the dictates of our fallible minds.”  Dr. Hodge has exposed the baselessness of Dr. Shedd’s defense of God, in his review of Dr. Baird, and Dr. Baird has exposed that of Dr. Hodge.  Dr. Schaff, in his “Commentary on the Romans,” dissents from Dr. Hodge.  He says, “How can an infinitely just and holy God punish countless millions of human beings simply and solely for the sin of another, in which they had no part whatever?”  For relief he resorts to the equally absurd theory of Augustine, that all men virtually, or potentially, though not personally, sinned in Adam.  But even this does not give rest, and harmonize the leaders of the Church.  Dr. Schaff sets forth their division between three theories, and then adds, “Or they look for a still more satisfactory solution of the difficult problem by a future Augustine, who may be able to advance, from a deeper study of the Scriptures, the knowledge of the Church, and reconcile what now seem to be irreconcilable contradictions.”  Think of it!  This is the result of the toil of centuries, to vindicate God from the charge of the most atrocious injustice and cruelty that the mind of man can conceive.

    The acts seem to be unjust, merciless, unfeeling, and cruel, in God.  No one has shown, or can show, that they are not; the leaders acknowledge that they cannot do it, and yet the whole doctrine of eternal punishment is based on this transaction; it grows out of it, and is indissolubly connected with it.

    Now, what I wish to impress upon the minds of all is, that if there is a great responsibility, as is alleged, in denying the doctrine of future eternal punishment, there is a still greater responsibility in affirming it on such a basis.  It does not dishonor God to declare that he will not punish sinners forever.  It does infinitely dishonor God to assert that he will punish sinners forever if he has dealt with them as this doctrine of sinning in Adam teaches.

    It is a well-known fact that this doctrine so connected with eternal punishment has produced infidels – God only knows how many.  The poet Shelley was one.

    It has tended also to produce a false conception of God, as absorbed in himself, unsympathizing, intent on his own glory, and sacrificing his creatures to it.  The almost universal denial of the suffering of God from the sins of his creatures, and the neutralizing of his sympathetic character in general, has resulted from such systems.

    No discussion of the doctrine of future eternal punishment can be thorough that does not meet the doctrine in all its connections and relations.  And, although the inertia of that vast body called the Church is almost unconquerable, when God’s time comes, when the Church is holier and in more intimate communion with him, their apathy will pass away, and they will penetrate the whole subject to its very depths.

    Meantime I will only say that the doctrine of eternal punishment is a heavy weight to bear in itself, and in the best manner in which it can be presented, but on the common basis of Christendom it is a crushing burden that cannot be borne.  The Lord will remove such a burden in his day.

    It is only a question of time.  That result is sure to come.  The whole system is based on a false interpretation of only one passage, which, properly interpreted, declares that, to make Adam a type of Christ, God passed on him a sentence of natural death, which fell on his posterity also.  It declares this, and no more.  The proof of this may be seen in the “Conflict of Ages,” pp. 410-423. The argument there stated remains unanswered.



    Having spoken of what may be some of the results of this history, I propose now in few words to consider one of the great lessons which are taught by it.  I do not call in question the ability of my readers to interpret those lessons for themselves, yet I will not for that reason withhold by own interpretation of one of them.

    Intellectual and Moral Liberty.

    The great lesson is, that we ought to restore that intellectual and moral liberty that for a long time existed in the early Church on this subject, and which was destroyed mainly by Epiphanius, through his assault on Origen.  I need not repeat what I have said on this liberty.  It is enough to refer my readers to Chapter XX. of this history.  After they have reconsidered that, I will proceed to show how that liberty was destroyed, and how it should be restored.  That it was destroyed by Epiphanius and others, is conceded by the most eminent Church historians.  Epiphanius had a monastic education, and relied on monastic followers as his troops.  Hear now what Gieseler says:  ”In proportion as monachism gained strength, the prejudice strengthened against all use of human science or learning.  There arose a crowd of traditional theologians, who, rejecting all free investigation, would hear of no opinion which could not be found in the writings of the fathers.  This character we see exemplified in Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia, in Cyprus, from the year 367 to 403.  Even in his “Panarion” (haer. 63 and 64) he betrays his bitter hatred of Origen; and, as soon as the Arian controversy was at an end, he appeared as his open assailant.  While this new contest stopped the advance of theological science in the East the Western world was bound in spiritual bondage by Augustine, and thus all free inquiry banished from the Church.”

    Of Epiphanius Dr. Schaff says:  ”He achieved his great fame mainly by his learned and intolerant zeal for orthodoxy. . . . He was a man of earnest monastic piety, and of sincere but illiberal zeal for orthodoxy.  His good-nature easily allowed him to be used as an instrument for the passions of others, and his zeal was not according to knowledge.  He is the patriarch of heresy-hunters.  He identified Christianity with monastic piety, and ecclesiastical orthodoxy, and considered it the great mission of his life to pursue the thousand-headed hydra of heresy into all its hiding-places.” (vol. ii., pp. 926, 927).  He also, in speaking of the assaults on Origen which Epiphanius introduced, says that they show “the progress of orthodoxy under the twofold aspect of earnest zeal for the pure faith, and a narrow-minded intolerance toward all free speculation.  The condemnation of Origen was a death-blow to theological science in the Greek Church, and left it to stiffen gradually into a mechanical traditionalism and formalism.”

    But it may be said:  ”What is all this to us?  We are free men.  We have never been in bondage to any man.”  To this I reply, This is more true than it was.  But very extensively it is not true. For an evil spirit was developed at that time in putting down Origen which has ever since poisoned the Church of all denominations.  It has been as a leprosy in all Christendom.  Nor is this all: measures were then resorted to for the suppression of error which exerted a deadly hostility against all free investigation, from the influence of which the Church universal has not yet recovered.

    The Evil Spirit.

    The spirit that I refer to was a spirit of alarmism, and outcry, which appealed to the prejudices of the laity and clergy, and of the ignorant monks in the name of God and of Christianity, as if the interests of humanity were in danger of being shipwrecked, unless there was a universal rally and combination to put down some dangerous heretic.  No state of mind can be more hostile to calm, free, loving inquiry than this.

    Yet this state of feeling was introduced by Epiphanius against Origen, and after him was augmented from year to year, until the great Origen was not only condemned as a heretic, but it was made a point of orthodoxy by many, to believe that he was in hell, to experience forever the eternal torments which he had impiously denied.

    Still it may be said:  ”What is this to us?  No such things are done in this age and country.”

    I grant that the action of this spirit is not as violent and shameful as it was.  But it is not yet purged out of the constitution of Christendom at large, nor even out of Protestant bodies in this country that talk of freedom.  I have been knowing [sic] to a similar combination against one of the most eminent and godly divines of this country, Dr. N. W. Taylor, where the same kind of alarmism and outcry was used.  I have known another eminent divine requested to join this combination, and to denounce Dr. Taylor, with the promise that, if he would, the attack on his own orthodoxy should cease.  And, when he nobly refused, I have known the vials of ecclesiastical wrath poured out on his head.  Ridicule, misrepresentation, odium, and alarmism, were used against him, till, loaded with other cares, he almost sank beneath the burden.  I was with him in his hours of trial, and did all in my power to aid, and cheer, and sustain him.  I do not speak of a case which I do not fully understand, for, as a son, I was in full sympathy with him as my father, in all his trials.

    Yet the men who did these things were, I believe, on the whole, real Christians, just as Epiphanius was.  But obviously they had not recovered from that malignant disease which he introduced into the Church, and which has infected it in every subsequent age to this day.

    In consequence of this treatment of Origen, who was one of the greatest men of any age, an unreasoning and violent prejudice has been connected with his doctrine of universal restoration, that makes those who are sensitive to their character for orthodoxy shrink from reading him, as from an infectious heretic, and neglect to study the history that is necessary to a true understanding of the man and of his system.  We can all recall the day when the writings of the abolitionists, although written with candor, and clear and strong argument, and in a good spirit, were regarded as so odious that leading men were ashamed to be seen to read them, and, to use a familiar but expressive phrase, would not touch them even with a pair of tongs.

    The same kind of feeling has been felt toward the writings of these ancient universalists.  The Roman imperial Church has anathematized them,  and covered them with odium.  The original slanders have flowed down through the ages, and men have feared to know the truth concerning them, if it was in their favor, as if it involved moral infection.

    And even for what I have said in this history, although my simple aim has been to tell the truth, before God, as to these universalist Christians of the early ages, I have been publicly reproved by an old friend of mine, and a good Christian man, as if I had been unfaithful to orthodoxy.  I am free to say, however, that these ancient and excellent Christians have been slandered and slurred, and obscured too long, and that, before god, I have had a zeal to vindicate them, and to set forth the truth concerning them.

    And, further, I do not hesitate to say that the spirit that has slandered and depressed these men ought to be purged out of Christendom as it has not yet been, for it is a malignant and infectious disease, hostile to the best interests of humanity.  I do not say that we ought to adopt their views.  But I do say that all odium, and excitement, and alarmism, and misrepresentation, are hostile to the true liberty and intellectual progress of the Church.  God is love, and to see all truth we must dwell in love.  Much has been done to purge the moral atmosphere of Christendom by such loving writers as Neander, who endeavors to take the best view of every man, and to place his sentiments in the fairest light.  We owe much to Germany for similar vindications of intellectual and moral liberty.  And I do not deem it uncalled for to say that our Dr. Schaff, in his historical works, has honorably cooperated with Neander in the same great cause of intelligent Christian liberty.  There are very many men among us of an enlarged, loving, and free spirit.  But all of the evil and malignant spirit has not yet been purged out, so that all can freely walk in the light of God, and in the atmosphere of divine love.

    The leaders of the Church, among whom I include the editors of religious newspapers, profess to believe that there is an assembly of holy saints and angels before the throne of an omniscient God, whom no false statement can deceive, and who abhors every unholy feeling.  And yet how often do they write and speak as if afar off from that heavenly sphere, and under the influence of some earthly circle, some denomination or some party, or some body of patrons!  They do not seem to realize that the great defense of truth is the presence of God, and that, to secure that presence, the indispensable requisite is that holiness which makes every man a temple of the Holy Ghost.  When this is the case, and God is fully revealed, all error will be consumed by the truth of his mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of his coming.

    Pernicious Measures.

    Besides this evil spirit, I have spoken of pernicious measures resorted to in the case of Origen.  It was the resort to the votes of a majority in a synod or council, without thorough investigation and argument.  Epiphanius attacked Origen in Jerusalem, after he was dead, and tried to make the Bishop John denounce him.  Failing here, he tried to compel Jerome, through fear for his reputation for orthodoxy, to do the same, and succeeded so far as to disgrace Jerome forever for his meanness, and cowardice, and double-dealing.  Then Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, came to his aid in anathematizing Origen.  He called a synod in 399, in which he condemned Origen and anathematized all who should read his works.  After this, Epiphanius died.  But his followers pursued the same work in his spirit, till Origen was condemned again by Justinian, through a local council at Constantinople, as has been related.  After this, in many general councils he was anathematized by name among other heretics.  During all this persecution, Origen made no reply, for he was dead.  Nor was any competent man requested to defend him.  The previous defense of him by Eusebius and Pamphilus shows to what an extent he had been slandered in their times.  And yet the votes of synods and councils, thus manipulated, have expelled him from the Church, brought coarse accusations against him, and covered him with odium.  Are such proceedings the voice of God through the Church?   When to this mode of settling questions by the votes of councils was added imperial dictation, it made the Church in the Roman Empire a great electioneering campground, in which to get votes in a general council, and to gain imperial favor, and so to secure a majority.

    Of these councils Milman has truly said:  ”Nowhere is Christianity less attractive, and, if we look to the ordinary tone and character of the proceedings, less authoritative, than in the councils of the Church.  It is, in general, a fierce collision of two rival factions, neither of which will yield, each of which is solemnly pledged against conviction.  Intrigue, injustice, violence, decisions on authority alone, and that the authority of a turbulent majority, decisions by wild acclamation, rather than after sober inquiry, detract from the reverence and impugn the judgments, at least, of the later councils.  The close is almost invariably a terrible anathema, in which it is impossible not to discern the tones of human hatred, of arrogant triumph, of rejoicing at the damnation imprecated against the humiliated adversary” (“Latin Christianity,” i., 227).

    To add to the evils of this unchristian mode of arriving at the truth, the decisions of such councils were sustained by civil pains and penalties.  Bishops who refused to obey were banished.

    In the days of Origen, there were the elements of a profound and radical discussion of all the great problems of eschatology.  All the leading solutions of the great questions involved had been produced.  Why was there not such a discussion?  The reasons are moral.  The tone of piety had deteriorated.  Intellectual propositions took the place of a holy life, and a highly-developed Christian spirit.  If the intellectual problems were settled rightly, it was done in the spirit of the devil, and not of God.

    But, it may be said, “What is all this to us, and to the question of retribution?”  I answer, Much.  In the first place, this state of things unfitted the leaders from understanding God as a suffering God, a long-suffering God, and made them capable of conceiving of a vengeful God, supremely absorbed in himself, and capable of malignant retribution; and this has been transmitted to us, and has not been universally renounced.

    Again, it made them capable of ascribing to God such wrongful acts toward men, that they turn eternal punishment into a system of atrocious injustice, which makes God as much worse than the devil as he is greater and more widely influential in the universe.  I refer to the various theories in which uncounted millions of the human race, by an act which they never committed, are said to be disabled, and made opposite to all good, and unable to do good, and then punished forever because they did not do good.

    There is a supposition on which the doctrine of eternal punishment may be true, without wronging man, or introducing any new sinners into the universe.  I have endeavored to show what it is in “The Conflict of Ages.”  But the solution has not been accepted.  I showed by historical induction that every form of the doctrine of the fall in Adam, from the Augustinian to the Princetonian, warred with justice, honor, and love in God.  Dr. Baird then came out and renounced the Princeton theory, of representative sinning by Adam, and adopted the Augustinian view of sinning in him. Dr. Hodge annihilated him, and he in return annihilated Dr. Hodge.  Dr. Schaff, in his commentary on the Romans, as I have said, comes to the conclusion that no satisfactory explanation of the contradictions of justice has been given, and that we must wait for God to raise up some new Augustine to explain it.  Meantime, the doctrine of eternal punishment is made to carry all this weight. And, even admitting that the doctrine of eternal punishment is the word of God, it seems to be forgotten that allegations may be attached to it that shall make it to be not the word of God, but the greatest falsehood in the universe.


    *        *        *        *        *

    Note 1.

    Christ and the Testimony of Josephus (Chapter XII.).

    It is sometimes said that in the days of Christ the belief of endless punishment was universal, and that he so spoke that he would be understood to teach it unless he guarded against such an understanding, and that he did not.  Was this belief universal?  What shall we say of Philo?  Was he the only one who believed in annihilation?  Again, in what language did Josephus represent those who believed in endless punishment?  Did he express their views by the word aionios?  Not in one instance.  He speaks of the eternal prison of the bad, but does not use the word aionios, but [Greek letters] (aidios) (“Ant. Jud.,” b. xviii., ch. i., Section 3; Hudson, vol. ii., p. 793).  Again (“De Bel. Jud.,” b. ii., ch. viii., Section 14, vol. ii., pp. 1064, 1065), he says the bad are punished with endlesstorment – [Greek letters] (aidio), not aionio.  In the case of the Essenes, he expresses the same idea by [Greek letters] (never ending).

    Christ did not use these words, which are definite and unambiguous, but chose a word that had been used again and again to denote punishments already ended, and of which the prevailing sense was, pertaining to an age or ages.  If, then, the belief in endless punishment was universal, Christ avoided the language in which it was expressed by Josephus for the people, and chose language not adapted to express it.  Of course, he did not mean to teach it by such language.


    Note 2.

    Origen and Universal Restoration.

    To destroy the influence of the great Origen, it is sometimes said, to use the words of Dr. Pond, “he did not teach a system of universal restoration (as now understood), but rather of perpetual rotation.  Origen did not deny the existence of eternal sin and suffering somewhere, but rather that there is any such thing as a settled, confirmed state of character anywhere.”

    In reply to this, I would say three things:

    1.  There are passages in which Origen denies and refutes this doctrine of rotation in the most explicit terms.

    2.  The passages in which he is alleged to teach it do not occur in his works as we have them.

    3.  Those who alleged them against him have undeniably slandered him on another point.  They falsely charged him with teaching the transmigration of men into animals, and professed to prove it by extracts from his works.  This has been proved.  This fact renders the alleged quotations of these men untrustworthy.

    It may be added that, even if Origen ever suggested the idea, it may have been merely to call out discussion, and not as his settled opinion, for he declares expressly that he did state some things for such a purpose.

    But however that may be, in his last and mature writings he not only disavows it, but states the arguments sometimes presented for it, and refutes them.

    In Rom. vi. 9, commenting on the assertion, “Christ being dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him,” he says, “The apostle decides, by an absolute decision, that now Christ dies no more, in order that those who live together with him may be secure of the endlessness of their life.”

    Again, in the same chapter, he states the arguments used for the idea of a fall hereafter in heaven, based on free-will.  He replies to them thus:  ”Free-will indeed remains, but the power of the cross suffices for all orders, and all ages, past and to come.  And that freewill will not lead to sin is plain, because love never faileth, and when God is loved with all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, where is the place for sin?”

    After this, he adverts to the statement of John, on dwelling in love and in God, and adds, “For good reason, then, love, which alone is greatest of all, will keep every creature from falling. Then God will be all in all.”

    He considers the trials and temptations of Paul, and his exclamation, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ!” and thus reasons:  ”If all these cannot separate us from the love of God, much more free-will cannot separate us.  For, though that power remains, yet the power of love is so great that it will subordinate all things to itself, especially since God has first given us such causes of love.”

    He applies this even to Lucifer.  Of him he says:  ”He once could fall, before he was bound by the power of love, though placed among the cherubim.  But after the love of God is shed abroad in the hearts of all, it is sure to be true, even of him that love shall never fail.”

    These extracts are taken from one of his latest and most mature works.  But even in his earliest, his “Principia,” he sets forth similar views.  After describing the consummation of the course of restoration, he says:  ”When all reasonable beings have been restored to this state, then the nature of this body of ours will be changed into the glory of a spiritual body, . . . in which state we are to believe that it will remain always and immutably by the will of the Creator, and this view is confirmed by the testimony of the apostle, ‘we have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’” (“De Princip.,” cap. 6).

    Note how expressly this contradicts the charge of Jerome and Justinian, that he taught that the redeemed would hereafter fall and need new material bodies, and a new redemption.


    Note 3.

    Dr. Tayler Lewis And The Critics.

    The views of this eminent orthodox divine on aionios were put forth under the sanction of the learned Prof. Schaff, of the Union Theological Seminary, and as a part of that great ecumenical work, Lange’s “Commentary,” and for four years they awoke no one of the watchmen of Zion to sound the note of alarm.  At last I adopted them, and indorsed [sic] them, and applied them to their legitimate use.  And lo! An eminent professor at once sounds the note of alarm, and arrays himself against me.  Why is this?  Was he afraid to encounter such an orthodox host, and did he think me a more vulnerable antagonist?  In charity I impute to him an ignorance of the fact that what he deems so dangerous an error had been put forth by such authorities.  But, if so, why, when I had called his attention to it, did he confine his censure to me, and leave them uncensured?  Ought he to be a respecter of persons?  Is not error as dangerous sanctioned by such authorities as it is when I promulgate it?

    A case similar to this is called to my memory by this occurrence:  My sister, Mrs. Stowe, by speaking sympathetically of one of her friends that believed in a probation after death, created an alarm in an editor of a religious newspaper lest she should spread that error.  This led him to publish a piece censuring her, and derogatory to the Beechers in general, and to myself in particular. Upon this I wrote to him stating that, in Lange’s commentary on 1 Peter, the same idea was expressed and defended, and calling on him not to confine his censures for it to my sister, but to meet it and expose it where it could do so much more harm.  He declined either to do this or to publish my letter.


    Note 4.

    Olympiodorus And Aionios.

    I have given no reference to the striking passage from Olympiodorus on page 166.  It was first brought to my notice by the great lexicon of Henry Stephens, but in a condensed form, and I could not find in any accessible library a copy of the work referred to.  Upon this I wrote to my learned friend Prof. Abbott, of Cambridge, to whom I am under great obligation for his many favors and valuable aid.  He informed me that, so far as he knew, only one edition of the commentary of Olympiodorus on the “Meteorologica” of Aristotle has ever been published, namely, the Aldine edition (Venice, 551, fol.).  That was not in the Harvard College Library.  But in Ideler’s excellent edition of the “Meteorologica” (2 vols., fol., Leipsic, 1834-’36, 8vo), he found copious extracts from Olympiodorus containing the passage.  He quoted for me not only the passage which I have used, but also all the context in both directions.  It may be found in folio 32 of the original Aldine edition of Olympiodorus, and in vol. i., p. 282, ff., of Ideler’s edition of the “Meteorologica.”

    It is certainly a very remarkable passage.  He is speaking of future punishment, and explicitly denies its absolute eternity; but, on the other hand, says that it is aionian, that is, lasting for a definite aion, or period, in which the sinner is purged.

    Olympiodorus was an Aristotelic philosopher, and resided at Alexandria.  He was a contemporary of Justinian, and survived him.  In the passage quoted he is obviously using the word in its common, popular sense.  That this is so is plain from the context, for he proceeds to say that there is another, a philosophical sense to the word, and he develops that, according to Plato, as I have explained it.  But our Lord was not a Platonist.  He spoke to the people, and used words in their popular sense.


    Note 5.

    Theophilus And Restoration.

    The case of Theophilus, of whom I have spoken on previously, shows strikingly how indefinitely, and, if I may so say, carelessly, men will write on a subject on which there has been no controversy and no sharpening of terms.  In him there is now a passage that suggests eternal punishment, another that suggests annihilation, and another like that quoted from Mr. St. John, that suggests universal restoration; and yet each, by sharp criticism, can be rendered uncertain.  The passage quoted by Mr. St. John may be explained by saying that he was thinking only of the holy, as is said of Paul in I Cor. 15.  Again, he says that to those who do good deeds God will give immortality and aionian life.  This seems to imply that the wicked are not rendered immortal, and perish in the aionian fire.  Other passages, to those who believe that aionios means endless, seem clearly to teach endless punishment.

    Athenagoras is more definite, for he positively and explicitly denies annihilation, and speaks of living a miserable life in fire, and says nothing of restoration.


    Note 6.

    Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Gregory of Nyssa.

    The believers in the doctrine of the Church, and of eternal punishment, are greatly stumbled that three such eminent Christian men should, in different ways, deny that doctrine, and hold to annihilation, or universal restoration.  Desperate efforts have been made to remove this great stumbling-block.  In the case of Gregory of Nyssa, Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, finding that he could not eliminate the doctrine of universal restoration from his works as they stand, endeavored to prove that all the passages teaching it were spurious, and had been introduced by restorationists to sustain their doctrine.  Even if he convinced himself, he has convinced nobody else to this day.  For that doctrine is so wrought into his system that to cut it out would destroy his works.

    But as to Justin, violent and unprincipled interpretation is resorted to.  Thus, Maranus tries to get a denial of annihilation out of the sentence, [Greek words], which means, “” do not say that all souls die.”  He by a wrong position of the negative, and a wrong translation of it, brings out the assertion, “I say that no souls die.”  Otto well says that such a position of the negative cannot be defended, and that Maranus must have known it.  Besides, it produces an immediate contradiction; for Justin soon goes on to say that some minds are punished and die.  In the case of Irenaeus, they rely on the passages in which he declares that punishment is aionian, which need not be translated eternal, and by them needlessly bring him into conflict with his express declarations that the wicked do at length cease to exist.  Such criticism is audacious, but it cannot prevail.


    Note 7.

    Augustine And The Sibylline Verses.

    I have said, on page 86, that Augustine, after stating the argument from the sympathy, pity, and prayers of the saints for the lost, in favor of their pardon and restoration, does not answer it.  It is true that he does not immediately answer it.  He passes to other topics for the five following chapters, but then resumes the subject, and answers the argument.  The argument is found in “The City of God” (book xxi., chapter xviii.), and is not there answered; but after five chapters – in chapter xxiv. – it is considered in substance, and answered.  This influence of the prayers of the saints is presented as the great means of saving the lost in the Sibylline verses; and the fact that Augustine devotes two whole chapters to the subject shows how extensive and powerful was the influence of those verses.


    Note 8.

    On the Life of the World to Come – (On pp. 154, 158-162)

    Our translation of the Bible, by absorbing all the forms and reduplications of aion and olam in the original, into modern abstract terms, such as eternal, eternity, forever, and forever and ever, has destroyed much of the variety, sentiment, beauty, and sublimity of the Hebrew and Greek originals.  Take, for example (in 1 Tim., i. 17), the original expression, that God is the king of the ages, and to the imagination it pictures the dominion of God through the innumerable ages of the past and the future in their sublime procession.  Translate this merely the eternal king, and the wings of the imagination are clipped, and we fall down upon a flat, prosaic abstraction.  There are, in the Hebrew Bible and in the Septuagint, very many varieties of expression, made by compounding and reduplicating the olamic and aeonic terms of the original, in which there is no blank abstraction, but the living ideas of ages and dispensations in their endless procession; but these are all swallowed up in some abstract phrase, such as forever, forever and ever, and all their variety, vitality, and sublimity, are fatally eclipsed.

    In the translation life eternal, there is a similar loss of sublime and affecting associations.  At the time when the words were uttered, all minds were absorbed in thoughts of the great, the coming age, called the world to come.  Its glory, its purity, its hosts of angels and glorified saints, its vision of the revealed Godhead, its palms of victory, and thrones of power, were the objects which inspired and irradiated every mind.  Even the Judge presents to the redeemed the kingdom prepared before the foundation of the world as their final reward.  How radiant, how glorious, how affecting to the heart, would be the life of that world!  And, even now, what affects the mind more than the thought of heaven as our glorious home.  All these thoughts are vividly presented in the hymn “Jerusalem! My glorious home, name ever dear to me,” which, as we sing it, seems to make heaven a reality.  All these glorious conceptions are annihilated by the passionless abstract termeternal.  It is plan that aionios was changed, in the later creeds, into the full form “of the world to come,” under the influence of a desire to present that world more fully to the imagination.

    Our words denoting eternity have their roots in the words of the original, which appealed to the imagination and to the heart.

    But they have been deprived of all their vitality, and eloquence, and beauty, and have become lifeless abstractions.  They are like dead flowers, faded, dried, and pressed in an herbarium.

    Is it not possible to raise a new crop of flowers from the old roots, for they are yet vital, which shall convey to us some of the sublimity, beauty, and imaginative power, of the originals?

    The progress of science is revealing to us the successive ages of the immeasurable past.  That in the future there are to be successive ages or dispensations, the language of the Bible would declare, if it were not deprived of a true and full utterance.  Of the theories of the future which exclude such ages, Dr. Tayler Lewis well says, “What a narrow idea that the great antepast, and the great future after this brief world or olam has passed away, are to be regarded as having no chronology of a higher kind, no other (time) worlds and worlds of worlds, succeeding each other in number and variety inconceivable!”  To see the full force of this passage, we must notice that he is not speaking of material worlds in space, but of time worlds, that is, of ages and dispensations.

    As things are, heaven is looked on as a finished world in which there is nothing that fires the imagination, to be done in all the vast, the immeasurable ages of the coming future.


    Gary Amirault on March 7th, 2011




    A Biblical Study

    By G.T. Stevenson







    The apostle Paul, addressing a crowd of Athenian philosophers declared, ‘He (God) made also of one, every nation of men to dwell upon the face of the earth, marking out fitting opportunities and the bounds of their dwelling places, that they might be seeking God if after all (Concordant Version, consequently) indeed they might feel after him and find.’ (Rotherham) Acts 17:26.

    Thus Paul described the universal human search for meaning in creation and existence. To seek to discover purpose in the universe is in a large measure to search for the God of creation and of humanity. The Bible affirms that there is one God who operates the universe in accord with a supreme divine purpose. and the sacred scriptures profess to reveal that One – his nature, objectives, and activity, the latter particularly in relation to mankind. One major question concerns the ultimate destiny of the great mass of humanity who generation after generation pass into the unseen.

    Of these some, having heard and appropriated the Good News concerning Jesus and the Resurrection, have been assured a future life with the Lord; but these form only a small portion of the human race. What of the rest?

    Speaking broadly, theologians and Bible students have advanced three conflicting answers, each held by its proponents to be soundly based upon scriptural evidence.

    (a) The lost will suffer endless punishment in ‘hel’. (The reader is requested to refer to appendix ‘Hell’).

    (b) Only believers have everlasting life; the rest either remain dead or are resurrected for judgment and then annihilated.

    (c) Resurrection, judgment, and discipline of the ‘lost’ are processes leading to ultimate reconciliation with God through his Son and consequent enjoyment of his favour.

    Those who hold to doctrine (a) point to passages in the common English versions where ‘everlasting’ or ‘eternal’ is applied to the state of the ‘lost’; but those who hold (b) or (c) above, interpret such texts quite differently. We may use Matt.25:46 as an example. The A.V. reads ‘These shall go away into everlasting punishment’. Now if ‘everlasting punishment’ be the correct translation of ‘aionion kolasin’, and ‘ceaseless punishing’ the meaning, and if the passage refers to individuals, then doctrine (a) is stated in that passage.

    Expositors who favour doctrine (b) will say the meaning of ‘aionion kolasin’ is irreversible punishment by death, not continuing punishing of individuals kept alive for no other purpose.

    Protagonists of doctrine (c) reject both the above interpretations, and point out that ‘kolasis’ basically meant ‘pruning’ and in this verse may well be rendered “discipline, chastening or correction’, a process, not a finality, and that ‘aionios’ not always, and most probably never meant ‘everlasting’ or ‘endless’. Further it may be argued that ‘these’ applies to ‘nations’ as such and has no direct application to individual persons.

    Also there arises the question of whether death seals the sinner’s destiny. Expositors holding to the affirmative refer to II Cor.6:2 and quote the Authorized Version, ‘Now is THE accepted time; behold now is THE day of salvation’, but those who believe that post-resurrection judgment will lead on to reconciliation with God, point out that neither in the Greek of II Cor.6:2 nor the Hebrew of Isa.49:8 is the definite article ‘THE’ linked with ‘time’ or with ‘day’. The English translation should read, ‘Now is an accepted (or acceptable) time; behold now is a day of salvation’. There have been many such days, and it is claimed, there will be many more.

    Another moot point is whether forgiveness, grace, and mercy can apply to those who have not believed the gospel message. Some people argue that forgiveness can cover a debt or injury only when the debtor hears of and accepts such grace. It is then said of statements such as I John 2:2, ‘He (our Lord) is the propitiation (mercy seat) for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world’, that these passages are to be subjected to the conditions of hearing and accepting.

    Those who disagree point out that salvation depends ultimately upon the attitude and act of God, no upon human experience; and illustrate their view by analogies such as the following.

    Let us assume that ‘A’ owes ‘B’ a large debt which ‘C’ unknown to ‘A’ graciously settles on ‘A’s’ behalf, or ‘B’ in kindness simply wipes out. Does the debt remain, whether ‘A’ hears or even accepts the gracious settlement? It would appear not. ‘A’ may continue to be burdened by the thought of his obligation which in fact does not exist. His experience may conflict with fact.

    Many years after the close of World War II, a lost Japanese soldier was found in the New Guinea jungle. Unaware that Australia and Japan had long been at peace, he thought his rescuers were enemies when in fact they were his reconciled friends. His limited experience had long been at variance with the facts.

    The emancipation of American slaves may be even more closely analogous to the relationship of the God of Love to the estranged sinner. The liberating parliamentary enactment covered every slave within American territory. From that moment all were free; but some in isolated areas did not hear the declaration, some who heard did not (properly could not) believe the good news; others content with their existing lot did not seek (perhaps even feared) the change. So quite a number continued to experience slavery when in fact legally they were free.

    When the needy sinner can say with the poet,
    ‘God will not payment twice demand,
    Once at my bleeding Surety’s hand
    And then again at mine.’

    his experience accords with fact.

    Expositors who rely absolutely upon he God of Infinite Grace see no reason to limit His reconciling to the human’s present life, but anticipate a future season when the experience of all humanity will accord with the fact of God’s grace for all.

    Basically the differing interpretations of scripture statements regarding the destiny of the ‘lost’ may be divided into two main groups:-

    (a) those that apply the word ‘eternal’ to either the complete annihilation of unbelievers or to their endless suffering, and

    (b) those who hold that the judgment of sinners and the subsequent chastening occur within the ages of time.

    It appears obvious that a grasp of scriptural concepts of ‘time’ and ‘eternity’ is vital to an understanding of biblical teaching on this and on other important matters. Since the two main terms used in this regard are ‘olam’ in Hebrew and ‘aion’ and its derivatives in Greek, a study of the usage of these words must be basic to any investigation of doctrines respecting the destiny of mankind.

    For those who believe that the sacred autographs in their original form, provide an inspired record of the Creator’s dealings with humanity, his present attitude, and future purpose, a study of biblical concepts and doctrines uncluttered by superimposed dogmas and interpretations, must ever provide an edifying exercise, especially as every such enquiry leads inevitably to Christ our Lord, who is himself The Truth. The research in the following pages is offered in the hope that it may contribute a little to the strengthening of faith in the readers as it has done for the writer. Though the original study was based on the use of the Hebrew and Greek texts, foreign words and phrases are in this discussion, transliterated into English spelling.




    Chapter 1


    The past century of biblical studies has been marked by the increasing importance of the historico-critical approach and method. This means that the student seeking revealed truth must endeavor to gain knowledge of the background of circumstances, customs, beliefs and aspirations of the inspired writer and his contemporary readers. In recent years much fresh light has been thrown on the biblical records by archaeological discoveries and scientific research into the languages, cultures, religions and general environments of the Semitic peoples, about whom, among whom, and to whom the O.T. (and much of the N.T.) was written; yet it is still difficult to gain release from the process of reading the scriptures with a predetermined background of inherited Greek philosophy, medieval dogma, and youthful indoctrination. This is particularly true regarding the biblical concept of time. Thus in his valuable book ‘Christian Doctrine of History’ (Edin. 1957) John MacIntyre wrote,

    ‘What we regard as the Biblical view of time and history can only by anachronism be said to be that of the Biblical writers themselves, yet that is the anachronism of which so many of our contemporaries are guilty’. (p. 5-6).

    Further, much modern thought is based upon a tacit acceptance of the idea of some evolutionary process in nature and humanity. Throughout the Bible there is evident an awareness of a developing process in time; but this is seen as involution, a purposeful movement toward a goal – the Kingdom of God – that “far off divine event to which the whole creation moves’ the ‘TELOS’ or ‘sunteleia’ or end-purpose of the ages of probation, discipline, preparation, and ‘salvation history’, to which the patriarchal covenants, apocalyptic prophets, N.T. writers, and Jesus himself pointed.

    In contrast with the Grecian static view of history, time bound within a constantly repeated cyclic pattern (a concept common to much oriental religious thought) from which mortals might obtain release only by escape into timelessness, Hebraic thought is dynamic, empirical, realistic; that is, secondary causes are short circuited and events attributed directly to God Who is seen as immanent and active in history and therefore in time. This Hebraic linear concept envisages continuous progress toward a future consummation. (I Cor.15:28).

    There is also the problem of the relationship between ‘time’ and ‘eternity’. The usual practice in discussing biblical topics is to use these terms as if everyone knew the precise meaning of each, when in fact no on seem able to define either, nor state the relationship in terms universally acceptable. Still our common usage seems to imply that we do have some general ideas which arise from experience in respect to time, and regarding eternity, develop from our envisaging either some infinite extension of temporality or a negation of it.

    Some scholars hold that in the Scriptures there is evidence of a concept of endless extension of time both before and after the aeons covered by history and predictive prophecy. Others think of eternity as timelessness, a sort of everpresent NOW.

    While the idea of endless extension of time baffles our finite comprehension, as does spatial infinity, that of timelessness seems logically untenable. It appears almost axiomatic that awareness of time arises from sequence of events. It is related to movement and change. If the whole universe stood still, time, or our perception of it, would cease. To try to conceive how time is related to the Deity may be futile, but certainly that God exists in endless stagnant inertia but rather the reverse.

    However it is possible that the biblical terms for time periods were not meant to extend beyond the ages covered by history and predictive prophecy, the writers describing events, processes, and purposes within these bounds. Eternity itself may not have been a topic or concept within the scope of their thinking.

    Actually there is no scriptural example of eternity and no direct reference to the concept in terms such as ‘I shall tell you about eternity’ or ‘Eternity is like this or that’. This does not mean that the idea of future duration unending is absent; but just as in English it appears to be impossible unequivocally to express the notion of ‘eternal’ and ‘eternity’ (Latin terms for which Greek does not seem to have had exact equivalents), except by negatives, not end (Luke 1:33), immortality and incorruption (I Cor.15:53,54), indissoluble (Heb.7:16).

    Whether the adjective ‘aionios’, derived from ‘aion’ an age or period of time, may ever rightly be rendered ‘eternal’ will be discussed in relation to its usage and contexts. A century ago, in the study of words, great importance was attached to etymology, that is to accounts of their origins. It seems obvious that, while this may be a useful staring point, it is not at all decisive for determining meaning in later contexts, and in fact one may gain a thoroughly sound grasp of the significance of a word without any knowledge at all of its origin or history, provided it is examined in enough meaningful occurrences and contexts, hence the emphasis on concordance and context in these studies.

    Using the concordance of all the 448 occurrences of the Hebrew words OLAM (sing) and OLAMIM (plur.) and paying careful attention to the context in each case, the writer classified these examples into three groups:-

    (a) cases where by context the period indicated by olam was limited at both its beginning and its end.

    (b) passages where the periods have a known beginning but obscure end.

    (c) those examples were olam, its repetition (from olam and to olam), or the plural olamim, have been regarded by some writers as indicating duration without beginning or ending and hence thought to mean ‘eternal’.

    An example of the method of classification by context is with regard to Gen.9:16 where the rainbow is designated the token of berith olam, an olam covenant (A.V. everlasting covenant). Since the inception of this covenant is stated as being at the recession of the flood, it had a beginning in time.

    Hence it is not an eternal covenant. Further, since the rainbow results from meteorological factors – sunshine, rain cloud etc., its continuance depends on the recurrence of these terrestrial phenomena. For how long? No one knows. Maybe while the earth remains. But the conclusion of this terrestrially oriented covenant is hidden in obscurity, hence the appropriateness of olam which in its verb form, ‘alam’ means ‘to hide’.

    Some attention must now be given to the matter of terminology and precise definitions. Much confusion has arisen from the common practice of treating ‘eternal’ and ‘everlasting’ as synonyms, no indication being given as to whether everlasting is meant to cover duration without beginning or end, or a period having a beginning in time but no ending, or one whose ending, if any, is so remote as to be lost in obscurity. When people speak of a believer in Christ having everlasting life, do they mean life without beginning or end, or having a beginning but no ending, or a quality or mode of life to which beginning and ending or even time itself have no application?

    When we read in Ephesians 3:11 regarding God’s ‘eternal purpose’ (A.V.), should we conclude that this objective will never be realized , or should we translate the Greek ‘prothesin ton aionion’ literally ‘purpose of the ages’ and hence to be accomplished in time?

    So that there may be exactitude and consistency throughout the following pages ‘eternal’ will connote duration without beginning or ending.

    It is here maintained that in the study of the Bible we should regard this concept of infinite duration as axiomatically applicable to the Deity alone, not needing to be stated and certainly incapable of proof; in the beginning or to begin with, God (Gen.1:1). God is eternal. All else is out of Him.

    ‘Everlasting’ will be used for entities that have a beginning, but are stated to have no ending. For those known to have had a beginning but whose ending or time of ending, is obscure,we shall use the word ‘permanent’. A permanent building does not last endlessly, but the length of time of its existence is obscure. For periods of short duration, e.g. Jonah’s incarceration, olam, “temporary’ will suffice. Jonah 2:6.

    The reader is requested to keep these definitions clearly in mind.

    (a) God is eternal.

    (b) The life received through faith is everlasting.

    (c) The open eared slave (Deut.15:17 was a permanent possession.

    (d) Jonah’s olam was temporary.




    Chapter Two


    In academic circles a century ago a popular exercise consisted of research into the origins of important words. It was thought that this would shed much light upon the meaning attached to such terms by writers who later used them. It is now realized that such research, though useful, is of minor importance since words take on new meanings, and old connotations are modified so that ancient origins cease to have much significance respecting usage and meaning. This semantic process is well known. The term ‘hell’ provide a good example. In Chaucer’s day ‘hele’ meant ‘to hide or cover over’and ‘hell’ formed a fitting rendering for ‘sheol’ and ‘hades’, the unseen realm into which the soul entered at death. But under the dogmatic theology of the Middle Ages, it came to be used for other more sinister concepts, till in 1611 A.V. it was applied not only to ‘sheol’ and ‘hades’ but also to ‘Gehenna’ and ‘Tartarus’; and then came to imply the doctrine of unending torment. In modern times the most common usage surely must be in a rather vulgar phrase, ‘hell of a mess’, of extremely versatile application far removed from Chaucer’s usage.

    However a few remarks respecting the derivation of the Hebrew word ‘olam’ are included here. This noun is derived from the verb ‘alam’, universally accepted as meaning ‘to hide’, ‘keep secret’, or ‘obscure’. Included in each occurrence of the verb is the idea of hidden-ness of inability or unwillingness to perceive or disclose something. This underlying idea is probably best expressed in English by the term ‘obscurity’.

    In keeping with this basic concept there occurs in Hebrew the noun ‘almah’, (derived from alam) a young woman or virgin (Gen.24:43, Ex:2:8, Psa.68:25, Pro.30:19, Song.1:3, 6:8, Isa. 7:14) for whom Jewish modesty enjoined concealment of her feminine charms.

    Bearing these facts in mind, we may readily anticipate that when olam is applied to time, some element of concealment, obscurity, or indefiniteness will be present. One need read only a few of the four hundred plus occurrences to realize that this is so.

    The first time we meet the term is in Genesis 3:22 ‘Lest they take of thee the tree of life and live le-olam’.

    Commonly, uncritical thinking employs the English phrase ‘for ever’, but this cannot mean ‘eternal life’, since (a) it had (or would have had) a beginning in time, either at the creation, or hypothetically at the eating of the fruit (whatever we may take that to mean); and (b) its duration is unspecified. The most one can assuredly draw from the text is that the life would last for some indefinite period, no specific end being stated. Both its nature and duration are hidden in obscurity, hence ‘olam’ seems as appropriate word to use in such a context.

    Jonah’s case is important. In Jonah 2:6 olam is used to denote the time of his sojourn in the interior of the great fish. Shut away in complete darkness, he would have no means of judging the passing of time, which along with most other percepts, would be quite ‘obscure’. In his case olam represents but thee days, but the idea of obscurity is obvious.

    Or, taking another case at random, in I Kings 1:31, Bathsheba is reported to have greeted David upon his death-bed thus, ‘Let my Lord the King live le-olam’. Neither she nor David could have expected this period to be more than a few days, but its indefiniteness, its obscurity, correspond with the basic meaning of olam, so the term was fitting.

    Quite often the sense of indefiniteness may be expressed in English by ‘again’ or ‘anymore’, e.g.Exodus 14:13. ‘Ye shall see these Egyptians…no more olam’, where one might translate ‘no more at all’, or ‘not any more’, or ‘not again’ without any thought of eternity.

    The foregoing discussion suggests that we may examine references to olam and olamim without any preconceived notions about the duration of time indicated by these words.

    Usage, context, and common sense must determine any conclusions that may emerge.




    Chapter Three


    We shall now look at some passages where ‘olam’ is obviously used of periods limited by context respecting beginning or ending, or both. The total number is too great to permit comment on every case so a typical sample is taken from each book of the O.T. in which ‘olam’ occurs.

    Gen.6:4 serves as a useful staring point.

    ‘The Nephilim were in the earth in those (pre-flood) days…mighty men which were of old,’,literally ‘from olam’. Hence ‘olam’ must mean ancient times and one might well translate ‘from obscure or remote time’. These Nephilim had had their day and ceased to be so long ago, the writer of Genesis could refer to their time as olam, obscure.

    In Gen.13:15 is recorded the promise to Abraham, ‘All the land which thou seest, to thee will I give and to thy seed to olam’.

    The implementation of the promise was then seen as future. Possession would begin in time and the terrestrial nature of the covenant items raises doubts about any proposal that the writer or editor of Genesis had either unending time or timeless eternity in mind. There is no clear indication respecting the period envisaged. The intermittent occupation of the Land of Promise, the subsequent history of the nation and the present (1977) Middle Eastern situation do not clarify the matter – ‘olam’ remains obscure.

    In Genesis 49:26 we have Jacob’s blessing upon Joseph, ‘Unto the utmost bounds of the olam hills’, but we find in Isa.54:10 ‘The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed’. All these are poetic expressions, not being quoted here with any object of showing contradictions in the Bible, since contradictions appears only if we translate olam here as either ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’.

    By mankind in general, the terrestrial hills are regarded as symbolic of long lasting stability, but Isaiah uses them but as foils for the concept of the permanency of the future ‘glory of the Lord’ when ‘all flesh shall see it together’. The hills are old (but not eternal); they appear immutable, but their longevity falls far short of Yahweh’s glory and grace.

    How long will the hills endure? No one knows; but not for ever. the period is obscure, so olam is the fitting term for use here.

    In Exodus 21:6 (and Deut.15:17) the ‘open-eared’ slave is bound to his master le-olam. His servitude lasted till he died; its termination is certain, but the date is obscure.

    A somewhat similar case occurs in Leviticus 25:46, where the Israelites were enjoined to purchase as bond slaves, the children of strangers, le-olam. For how long? Obviously while the opportunity existed. The period may have been long ; it came to a close; and the situation was reversed, the Hebrews themselves becoming servants to strangers in Assyria and Babylon.

    In Numbers 10:8, the trumpets signals for the march are described as olam. Surely no one then or since would suppose that these would continue when the need had passed, much less ‘for ever’; but the time when the circumstances for which the signals catered would conclude was an obscure matter (olam).

    The arrangement was temporary.

    Deuteronomy 32:7 commands, ‘Remember the days of olam. Consider the years of many generations, Ask thy father…thine elders about the time when the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance’. The whole context suggests a period long past, remote, shrouded in mystery, but still within history.

    Joshua 4:7 states that the twelve stones carried out of Jordon were set up as a memorial ad olam. It is possible that someone thought the cairn would last ‘for ever’. It has long since been lost. ‘Permanently’ with the meaning set out earlier seems appropriate here.

    Similarly in Joshua 8:28, of Ai, it is reported that Joshua made the city a tel olam. Archaeological evidence shows Ai was occupied again in the Iron Age. The question of the dating of Joshua is still debated, but as in Joshua 4:7 above, ‘permanent’ meaning ‘with no ending of the period foreseeable at the time’, appears adequate.

    In Samuel 1:22 Hannah is said to have promised that when her son was weaned she would take him to Shiloh that he might abide there ad olam, obviously for his lifetime – the duration of which at that stage was unpredictable, but still not limitless. I Chronicles 23:25 records David’s words, ‘The Lord…hath given rest unto his people and he dwelleth in Jerusalem ad le olam’. If David or the author-editor of Chronicles envisaged Jerusalem as God’s abode throughout endless time or timeless eternity, such expectation has been sadly disproved, not only by history, but by condemnatory pronouncements of later prophets. If we keep to the basic idea of indefinite duration or obscure point or period, then all become consistent, David saw no end to the happy theo-centered kingdom. That does not imply that he had infinity in view.

    In Ezra, the two cases of olam are very simple and clear. In Chapter 4:15, the Jews are reported to the Persian king as ‘seditious subjects olam’, and in verse 19, ‘had made insurrection olam’, obviously in past time, no specific date being given. The period of revolt had a beginning and had passed. Nothing precise as to time or times is stated.

    Nehemiah 13:1 states that the exiles read ‘in the book of Moses… that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not enter into the assembly of God ad olam’. There can be little doubt that the reading was from Deuteronomy 23:3, where the specified period of exclusion was ten generations, no fixed number of years, a long indefinite period.

    Job 22:15 asks “Wilt thou keep the olam away which wicked men have trodden?’ The common rendering is commended – ‘old, ancient, or old-time way’, the customs of some past era.

    In Job 41:4 the question is whether man may tame the crocodile to be his servant olam, for the beast’s lifetime, not the ‘for ever’ of common versions.

    Psalm 21:4 reads, ‘He (the king) asked life of thee, Thou gavest it (to) him, even length of days olam wa ad. The A.V. and R.V. have ‘for ever and ever’. One wonders what the second ‘ever’ can mean. If the king was one of the monarchs of Israel the period must be limited to a long lifetime. Since olam so often means for the rest of someone’s life, it may be that the meaning of the formula is ‘for a normal life span and something more beyond’. As no specific monarch can be identified and a check of his life span made, it may be correct to regard this as a liturgic type of hymn. To treat the passage as Messianic is to open the door to various interpretations which cannot be proved to have been in the author’s mind. It is here suggested that an extra long life was the original thought.

    There seems to be a good reason for holding that Psalms 24 was the triumphant antiphonal anthem which was sung to celebrate the Davidic carrying up of the Ark into the city of Zion after its capture from the Jebusites (II Sam.6:12-19). In verses 7 and 9 we have, ‘Be lifted up ye doors olam.’ Various Messianic interpretations have been advanced for this psalm but there is not evidence to show that such far off matters were the subject of the poet’s song. Though the versions give ‘everlasting doors’, the construct expression should, one would think, be translated ‘doors of old time’ or ‘ancient doors’. Even if a future reference could be proved, since the doors were terrestrial objects, they would not be ‘everlasting’. The view that the psalmist here envisaged the entry of the Messiah into ‘heaven’, involves concepts not found elsewhere in the O.T., so is not considered here.

    The many other examples of olam in the pslams, referring to times periods, bounded in some way by their contexts may be grouped thus; (a) those meaning ‘for all one’s lifetime’ (Psa.78:66, 79:13, 86:12, 89:1, 110:4, 112:6, 115:18 etc.) or (b) ‘while the occasion or need exits’. (89:2, 100:5, 106:1, 107:1, 118:1,2,3 and 4 and so on).

    Proverbs contains two examples – the same sentence repeated. (Proverbs 22:28 and 23:10) ‘Remove not the olam landmarks’. ‘Ancient landmarks’ is obviously meant.

    Ecclesiastes 1:10 contains the plural olamim, and will be discussed later. In Ecc.2:16 the preacher remarks, ‘ For the wise man even as the fool, there is no remembrance le-olam’. The context refers to death. ‘No remembrance at all’ seems adequate – both are forgiven, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

    Isaiah and Jeremiah both contain many examples of olam bounded both as to beginning and ending. In Isaiah 42:14, ‘I have held my peace me olam. Now I will cry out’. Me olam must mean ‘from long ago’ or ‘for a long time’. In 58:12, ‘They shall build the waste places of olam’, offers no alternative to ‘ancient’ or ‘old time’.

    Jeremiah 5:15 states, ‘I will bring upon you an olam nation’, ‘ancient’ obviously fits as also in 6:6, ‘olam paths’.

    The many other similar cases of olam in Isaiah indubitably referring to limited periods of time need not be quoted here.

    Lamentations 3:6 mentions ‘those olam dead’ where ‘ancient’ or ‘long time fits’.

    Ezekiel 25:15, 35:5, 36:2 all have the same sense – ‘ancient’ as also Joel 2:2, Amos 9:11. Micah 5:2, and 7:14 and Malachi 3:4.

    In Daniel the following contain examples of ritualistic court flattery.

    (‘O King live le olamin’) Daniel 2:4, 3:9, 5:10, 6:6, 6:21, (M.T.22). What the speakers had in mind, if anything, respecting the time factor, is a moot question not regarded as worth any attempt at analysis here. Daniel 9:24, a much more important passage, is discussed later along with other examples of the plural, in Chapter 4. The question may now be asked, ‘What do the above passages, covering all the O.T. writings, suggest about the most common meaning of olam?’ In the case quoted, and these are representative of the great majority of occurrences, olam certainly refers to periods of time, which when considered contextually cannot possibly be rightly rendered ‘for ever’, or ‘everlasting’, much less ‘eternal’; and these words should be eliminated from English translations of all the passages in which olam is bounded by contexts.




    Chapter Four


    The form of these Hebrew words suggests a normal noun and its plural. Unless there are convincing arguments to prove otherwise, we should so regard them. However during the last century much discussion has centered around the question of whether the plural when used in the O.T. represents a concept of eternity, or is in fact indicative of a plurality of the entity covered by the singular. A related question might be put thus. If it can be shown that ‘olam’ expressed the concept of an ‘age’. some identifiable period of time, should we then conclude that ‘olamim’ represented a concept of a number of such periods or may it have been used in a loose way as meaning an extended time, as when we say, ‘I’ve been waiting here for ages’? In the latter case ‘olamim would be a plural of grammatical form, but scarcely of concepts. This matter will be discussed later when the occurrences of ‘ha olam’ and the plural are listed synoptically and some conclusions suggested.

    For the present the questions to be kept in mind are these,

    (a) If the assumption that the Hebrew had some concept of endlessness as to both past and future, was not injected into the ‘olamim’ passages, would these bear a rational interpretation consistent with the contexts in which this word occurs and with the Bible in general? In other words, should we use ‘for ever’, ‘everlasting’ or ‘eternal’ to translate ‘olamim’?

    (b) Are there better alternatives?

    In I Kings 8:13, Solomon is quoted as saying regarding the temple,

    ‘I have built Thee a house to dwell in olamim’. It appears most unlikely that Solomon had in mind a ‘timeless eternity’ or eternity at all; but rather long periods or extension of time stretching into obscurity. We can scarcely think that he or his editor thought his edifice of wood and stone would last for ever.

    Besides, it could be only a future duration anyway, and so but a portion of ‘eternity’. Actually the temple stood about five hundred years. And thus it belonged to a limited time. II Chron.6:2 repeats I Ki.8:13.

    Pslam 61:4 has ‘I shall dwell in Thy tabernacle ‘olamim’. If we could be sure that the Hebrews had expectation of resurrection life in some state figuratively represented by, ‘Thy tabernacle’, we would have some grounds for regarding this statement as approximating to endless future bliss in heaven.

    If we take this verse literally we still find difficulty unless we regard ‘olamim’ as having connotations similar to those ‘olam’ frequently possesses, i.e. constantly till the end of one’s life. The passage may well be understood as a pious aspiration of longing to practice the presence of God all one’s days. At any rate the ‘dwelling’ began in this life and so cannot be ‘eternal’. In Psalm 77:5 the psalmist with poetic hyperbole expresses his state of depression. He looks back over past history – presumably Israel’s – seeking comfort.

    ‘I have considered the days of old, years of ancient times (olamim).’

    One seriously doubts whether anyone should hold that ‘olamim’ here could refer to ‘eternity’, ‘everlasting’ or even ‘perpetuity’.

    In all probability ‘the days of old’ and ‘years of ancient times’ are meant to cover the same periods of past history with ‘olamim’ signifying the plural ‘periods’. We express the same thought, ‘O God, our help in ages past’.

    The R.V. ‘ancient times’ appears a quite satisfactory translation.

    In Pslam 77:7 the writer continues his lament,

    ‘Will the Lord cast off le olamim?’ (A.V. & R.V. ‘forever’)
    The Hebrew may be translated literally.
    “For ages will my Lord reject,
    And not again grant favour any more?’
    Rotherham, ‘Hath his loving kindness come to a perpetual end?’

    If one reads the poetic couplets of verses 7,8 and 9, in any translation, the impression gained is that the Psalmist is asking, ‘Hath God withdrawn His Grace from us altogether? Shall we see it no more at all?’ (cf. Ex.14:13). Since the plea refers to the future, ‘everlasting’ might be acceptable, but ‘eternity’ is ruled out since in the past God’s favor had been enjoyed. It seems very far fetched to claim that the writer had any thought of eternity in mind any more than when we say, ‘He doesn’t love me any more’.

    Psa.145:13 states,

    ‘Thy kingdom is kingdom of all olamim,
    And thy dominion over all, generation and generation (Lit.).’
    R.V. ‘over all generations’
    Rotherham ‘generation after generation’.

    ‘Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all ages’ (or even periods of time) fits well with ‘all generations’. It is possible to construe this into meaning that the rule of Yahweh is co-existent with the being of the Eternal but ‘all generations’ suggests that the thought of the writer was that God rules in the affairs of men (Daniel 4:25) and there seems to be no reason to think the psalmist had any concept beyond time in mind. The literal ‘all ages’ appears to be quite satisfactory.

    It seems obvious that these two probably liturgic expressions in this poetic couplet cover the same duration of time. Evidence must be very scarce, if it exists at all, to show that O.T. authors, even if exilic, had any expectation of an everlasting future, whether in time or timeless, in which generations of humans would go on reproducing their kind ad infinitum. When the Sadducees (Matt.22:23, Luke 20:27) posed the question of the much married woman’s relationship with her seven husbands in resurrection life, our Lord is recorded as answering, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God, for in resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage’. The phrase ‘not knowing the Scriptures’ of course must refer to the O.T., and the force of the reply must be, ‘The Scriptures will teach you that in the future life there are no generations at all’. Hence the idea that ‘all generations’ and ‘all ages’ refer to duration beyond the period of human life on earth appears untenable.

    Isaiah 26:4 (b) has, ‘in the Lord Jehovah is an everlasting Rock’. R.V. (Heb. a rock ‘olamim’). The R.V. note reads ‘a rock of ages’ and so also Rotherham. The A.V. text has ‘the rock of ages’ a concept enshrined in the time honored hymn. The thought appears to be that Yahweh is a safe refuge in any time of need. Isa.45:17 reads; ‘Israel shall be saved by the lord olamim. Ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded.’ The difficulty of the Hebrew tenseless verbs is apparent here. The A.V. and R.V. (1884) give ‘Israel shall be saved’; the R.S.V. and Rotherham, ‘hath been saved (delivered),’ which, in view of Israel’s history from Isaiah’s time until now, and her present (1977) condition, make one wonder what the latter translators took the passage to mean. The use of the future tense avoids the clash with the facts of Israel’s history. There seems to be no sensible alternative to “Israel shall be saved by the Lord, olamim’. But then, of course ‘olamim’ can scarcely be the plural of extension meaning ‘eternal’ for obviously this ‘eternity’ has not even began yet. Apart from holding that the biblical writer was mistaken in his expectations, there are but two alternatives. Either (a) the time of Israel’s deliverance has not yet begun, or (b) there is a big interim gap of several millenniums in the period. Neither (a) nor (b) will accord with the concept of eternal.

    ‘Salvation of ages’ may better be thought of as deliverance for which Israel has waited ‘long time’. This interpretation avoids the dilemma, and shows the verse to be in harmony with Israel’s history and the prophet’s expectations.

    The parallel, “Ye shall not be confounded ‘ad olamei ad’ is universally rendered future in English. The A.V. and R.V. ‘world without end’ cannot be regarded as translation at all. Jerome’s ‘aeternum plus ultra’ may be considered feasible only if we accept the probability that in his day ‘aeternum’ did not mean ‘endlessness’, otherwise to speak of a ‘beyond’ is a contradiction in terms which one is not prepared to ascribe to a scholar of Jerome’s skill and devotion. It is here suggested that the meaning is ‘unto the ages of the future’ or ‘for ages of times to come’ a concept consonant with inter testamental writings and the Qumran scrolls.

    That the faithful in Israel even today, still retain this hope that the deliverance awaited so long, for ages (olamim), will someday come and will extend beyond the foreseeable future periods – indefinitely or to obscurity – shows that their understanding corresponds with the view set out above. The introduction of the terms ‘eternal’, ‘everlasting’ or ‘forever’ involves incongruities at variance with known facts.

    Isa.51:9 ‘Awake , awake put on strength, O arm of the Lord. Awake as in the days of old, the generations of ancient times (olamim)’. For this latter phrase, the A.V. has ‘in generations of old’; R.V., ‘of ancient times’; R.S.V., ‘of long ago’; Rotherham ‘of by-gone ages’.

    Any if these makes good sense. Obviously ‘olamim’ coupled with ‘generations’ and ‘days of old’ must be limited to humanity’s history. The apposition of the two phrases confirms the reasoning of the discussion above.

    Ecclesiastes 1:10

    ‘Is there a thing whereof men say, See this is new? It hath been already in the ages which were before us’ (olamim) (R.V. and R.S.V.). The A.V. has ‘of old time’. More literally the verse would run, ‘Already hath it been for ages; it is something which was before us’, and so Rotherham renders it.

    The use of ‘old time or times’, ‘Ages before us’ or ‘for ages past’ would seem to reproduce both the wording and the thought of the text.

    Daniel 9:24, “Seventy weeks have been divided (A.V. ‘determined’, R.V. ‘decreed’, Rotherham ‘divided’) concerning thy people and concerning thy holy city,

    (a) to put an end to the transgression,
    (b) and fill up the measure of sin,
    (c) and put a propitiatory cover over iniquity.
    (d) bring in the righteousness of ages, (olamim),
    (e) and fix a seal to vision and prophecy,
    (f) and anoint the Holy of Holies (or most holy)’.

    We have here first a definite time period, ‘seventy weeks’ (probably weeks of years). Then follow six items indicating the objectives to be accomplished in the divided period. The first three (a), (b) and (c) above, are preparatory, negative prerequisites for the three long-awaited positives (d), (e) and (f) to emerge.

    Of these latter (d) mentions ‘olamim’. Perhaps one way to think of this ‘righteousness’ may be as an attribute of the Deity and hence as ‘eternal’, but the context in which the passage is to be understood must be that of the author who is thinking of ‘thy people’ and the ‘holy city’. If that interpretation is right then righteousness ‘olamim’, may well mean a righteousness that rectifies the wrongs of ages and last for ages. There is considerable evidence, as we shall later see, to indicate that the time of writing of the book of Daniel, the concept of ‘an age’ and ‘the age’ had evolved. ‘Righteousness of ages’ is commended as a satisfactory translation.

    It can now be claimed, with considerable assurance, that the above examination of all the ‘olamim’ passages indicates that the questions posed earlier should be answered thus.

    (a) All the texts containing ‘olamim’ can be logically translated and interpreted without any reference to eternity at all.

    (b) The introduction of concepts of endless time or timelessness leads to incongruities in almost every case.

    (c) The view that ‘olamim’ is a normal plural signifying extensive periods of time, often obscure as to dating either of inauguration, or ending, or both, provides meaningful renderings consistently throughout, and consonant with the context, in every case.




    Chapter Five


    The phrases ‘from olam and to olam’ and ‘from the olam and to the olam’ are not common in the O.T. There are eleven examples of which eight are liturgical. The phrase follows such expressions as ‘Blessed the Lord or Blessed be the Lord’ (six cases). “Thou art God’ (Psa.90:2) and ‘The mercy of the Lord’, (Psa. 103:17). Three others refer to the promise or possession of the land or kingdom. (Jer.7:7 and 25:5, Dan.7:18).

    Some cases are anarthrous (no ‘the’) a few contain the definite article. These latter are in Chronicles, Nehemiah, Daniel and the Psalms (41:13; 106:48). The use of the definite article strongly suggests the existence of some concept of time which we may call ‘ages’.

    The very use of ‘min’, (from) and ‘ad’ (to) demands a distinguishable difference between two entities. In respect to time (as of course to space) one may speak of passing ‘to’ and ‘from’ a single entity (to-X-from); but to go ‘from’ one point or period ‘to’ another logically requires two entities (from X to Y). Of course if we are talking about eternity itself then ‘from’ and ‘to’ can have no meaning at all.

    Therefore the form of the phrase ‘from the olam and to the olam’ demands the concepts of separate periods and proves that the idea of periods of some sort expressed by olam had developed.

    In Jer.7:7 and in 25:5, the Jews are urged to mend their ways that ‘I may cause you to dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers ‘from olam to olam’. One Jer.7:7 Rotherham comments,

    ‘From times long past even unto times long to come. Scarcely from everlasting to everlasting’.

    We might add, certainly not ‘from all eternity to all eternity’. Both the promise of the land and its occupancy had a beginning in history, so cannot be eternal, but are terrestrial in location and scope. There must be an element of devious eisegesis in introducing either ‘everlasting’ or ‘eternal’ into these two passages.

    Daniel 7:18 states (R.V.) ‘The saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever’ (to olam and to olam of olams).

    The form of this composite phrase is unique in the O.T. There are no other identical formulae for comparison. the following comments are offered as likely pointers to its original meaning.

    (a) The repetition of ‘olam’ suggests that this term did not of itself represent unlimited duration, otherwise the first ‘olam’ would have covered all time.

    (b) The whole context is oriented to a future period, which had then not even begun.

    (c) In the one phrase we have both singular (olam) and plural (olamim). A plural eternity is by definition an impossibility, so the terms must refer to some periods of time.

    (d) ‘Remotest time’ is more plausible; but ‘remotest time and remotest time of remotest times is self contradictory.

    (e) To a remote time even a remote time of remote times would conform to Hebrew idiom making the second phrase a normal Hebraic polytotonic superlative. (Compare King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Holy of holies, Song of songs, etc.)

    (f) Presently evidence will be advanced to show that at least by the time of the writing of the book of Daniel, late by any theory of dating, the concept of an age, and of ‘periods’ of time had developed. If this be accepted, the text may then be translated ‘to (or for?) an age, even an age of ages’. By treating ‘an age of ages’ as a normal Hebraic superlative we get, “the saints…shall possess the kingdom unto (perhaps, for) an age even (the best) age of ages’.

    From the standpoint of the Jew of the exile even to the present day, the envisaged age of their nation’s possessing the kingdom has been regarded as the ‘age of ages’, the time of restoration and promised blessing of which the O.T. has much to say.

    This rendering and interpretation is simple, direct, and consistent with Hebrew grammar, with the context, with the overwhelming majority of the cases of olam, and with the Bible throughout.

    Further, acceptance of the above remarks removes all difficulty from Jeremiah 25:5, “Return…from the wickedness of your doings, so shall ye remain on the soil which Yahweh hath given you and to your fathers even from age to age’.

    Of the eight liturgical passages containing ‘from olam and to olam’ or ‘from the olam and to the olam’ four call for blessing of the Deity. (I Chron.16:36,29: 29:10, Neh.9:5 and Psa.41:13). What does it mean to ‘bless the Lord’? In each case the root of the verb is barak. Davidson gives the primary adoration, meaning as “to bend the knee’, ‘to worship’. This suggests adoration, and if the verb were applied only to man’s attitude to God, this would suffice; but often the order is reversed and God is said to ‘bless’ individuals, groups and nations; and this seems to mean the conferring of benefits.

    However in the texts now being considered the expression appears to be a call to worship the Lord, made to human beings and as such must apply at the most to a period co-terminus with that of the human race. This sets a limit so far as the past is concerned.

    Liturgical expressions tend to be poetic and unsure grounds for precise doctrinal statements of fact. The common liturgical expression ‘world without end’ is in conflict with credal statements about ‘the end of the world’, and eschatological matters related thereto.

    The sentences calling for “blessing Yahweh” from olam and to olam read like pious aspirations or desires that men would remember God’s goodness and thank him always. If it could be shown that in other contexts the phrase (or its component terms) embraced infinite duration, then it would be fair to regard it so here also. The evidence set out in the preceding pages suggests, ‘Bless the Lord from age to age” is a proper translation. Probably the writers had nothing more definite in mind than ‘all the time’.

    In Psa. 90:2 “From olam and to olam Thou art God’, the author appears to be struggling to express the concept that the existence of Deity precedes all creation, reaching into the past beyond the capacity of the human mind to comprehend, and likewise with regard to the future, but the repetition of olam and the form of the phrase show that this Hebrew word did not itself compass infinity. The same conclusion arises from the present survey of the cases of olam repeated.

    It may of course be urged that it is the whole formula which is meant to convey the sense of eternity. For those who think of eternity as time extended beyond measure into both past and future that could be a possible interpretation wherever the content will permit, but then it would not be olam which implied unbounded duration since when that concept is attributed to the term itself incongruities continually emerge.




    Chapter Six


    The question of whether ‘olam’ in O.T. times ever represented a concept of an age or period of time possessing some distinctive characteristics and therefore recognizable as separate in some sense from another age or ages, has some importance in this attempt to discover the meaning of the above terms during the composition of the O.T.

    In modern times we commonly speak of ‘the stone age’, ‘the scientific age’, ‘the age of reason’ and so on without envisaging any exact limiting date lines. the beginning and end are obscure, but nevertheless the use of the definite article and some qualifying adjective or phrase indicates the existence of the idea of a recognizable period in some way individualistic. Such periods often overlap, and many complex factors are involved, so precise limits cannot be determined.

    Also when we use the term ‘age’ figuratively and hyperbolically, we omit the definite article e.g. ‘She takes an age (or ages) to choose a frock’. the relatively long time, and the uncertainty of the moment of conclusion of the project correspond, as we have seen, with the majority of the O.T. cases of the use of ‘olam’.

    While it is common knowledge that the Hebrew of O.T. times showed little regard for the sort of logical systematic thought patterns for which Greek philosophers are noted, it seems both rational and psychologically sound to expect that if the concept of an age existed, and did not mean the whole time, there would also accompany it, not only the plural form of the word but also the concept of a plurality of ages. The two ideas are necessarily related and supplementary – the one cannot exist without the other and the use of one presupposes the existence of the other.

    The argument might be set out thus.

    (a) Unless ‘an age’ means all the time i.e. if it means a part of time, there must be another part or parts. Hence the existence of ‘one age’ necessitates a plurality.

    (b) Normally a plural for which a singular exists presupposes the existence of single individual entities. There cannot be more than ‘one’ of an entity of which there do not exist separate ‘ones’.

    Therefore we present in this chapter a list of the occurrences of the terms ‘the olam’, ‘olam’ repeated and ‘olamim’ in the O.T., and the following questions should be kept in mind as the passages are considered.

    (a) Can we establish the period in which ‘the olam’ appeared in writing?

    (b) Does its usage (the way it is used) indicate the nature of the concept it represented?

    (c) Is the emergence of “the olam’ in any way contemporaneous with the earliest cases of the plural and/or with ‘olam’ repeated?

    I Chron.16:36
    Joel 2:2
    I Chron.16:36
    II Chron.6:2
    I Kings 8:13
    (a and b)

    Since dating of O.T. books can be no more than approximation,

    no precise conclusions can be drawn from these lists. The following notes are suggestive only.

    Chronicles is now generally regarded as a late compilation.

    It is placed first on the list because in it all three terms appear.

    From this we may infer that by the time of its editing into the form we have, “the olam” and the plural “olamim” were being used concurrently.

    In I Ki.8:13 ‘olamim’ is used in Solomon’s prayer at the temple dedication. If these words are those actually used by him, that would show that the plural was then in use. It is likely that many psalms should be dated earlier than this; Psalms 41 is commonly attributed to David. Both ‘the olam’ and ‘olam’ repeated occur in verse 13. the fact that all three expressions appear a number of times in the Psalms suggests that in answer to question (a) (Can we establish the time when ‘the olam’ appeared in writing?) we may tentatively reply, ‘Yes, broadly speaking in the days of the Undivided Kingdom’. The fact that in Psa.41:13 we have ‘from the olam to the olam’, which implies two periods and hence plurality, supports the view that ‘the olam’ and ‘olamim’ if not contemporary in emergence, at least were linked in usage.

    Since the expression here, as is common with most cases of ‘the olam,’ is liturgic, it probably does not justify any specific statement respecting the idea behind the term. For example it gives no indication of any idea of a beginning or an end, nor any characteristic features. This obscurity or indefiniteness is not to be equated with eternity; non-clarity is not equivalent to endlessness.

    To our second question (b) (Does the way ‘the olam’ is used indicate the nature of the concept it represented?) the answer must be , ‘No. It is not at all clear’.

    To the third question (c) (Is the emergence of ‘the olam’ in any way contemporaneous with the earliest cases of the plural, or of ‘olam’ repeated?) the answer must be, ‘Yes. These terms appear in the same books or those usually ascribed to the same period’.

    In this regard, we repeat, it is important to keep in mind that the element of obscurity regarding a concept of time does not at all justify the introduction of endlessness when time periods are indefinite. In such cases the imposing of post biblical or philosophic concepts upon the text instead of admitting that we do not know, is worse than useless; it impedes the progress of the search for the truth.

    The synoptic lists above suggest that the development of the use of ‘olam’ in the sense of a period of time similar to that covered by ‘aion’ and accompanied by the use of the plural ‘olamim’ arose during the existence of Israel as a united nation somewhere about 1000 B.C.




    Chapter Seven


    At the outset of this chapter it will be wise to recall the definition of ‘eternal’ as ‘duration’ without beginning or end’. The writer confesses that when he set out to examine the four hundred plus occurrences of ‘olam’ and its plural the held the view that a number of these, especially those relating to the Deity, would at least support the view that some, if not all, O.T. writers had a concept of eternity for which the term ‘olam’ was used. That view has been severely shaken, as upon critical examination, passage after passage initially listed as possible examples of ‘olam’ signifying infinite duration were found in contexts that required the meaning of indefiniteness or obscurity in reference to time.

    Some folks may say that since God is eternal, whenever ‘olam’ or any other time term, is applied to the Deity, it must mean eternal. Such specious argument can never lead to valid results. This point may need some clarification.

    Let is be agreed that God is eternal. To then say that he is God of time, God of this age, God of the days of old, or even God of this moment, does not in any way conflict with his eternal being. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not by that title limited to the patriarchs, nor does the ‘Lord of the whole earth’, (Joshua 3:11,13) confine him to the terrestrial sphere. By association finite concepts of time or space with the name of God, we do not in any sense question or impugn His infinite transcendence.

    If then a study of the context or grammar of a passage where ‘olam’ is linked with the divine name points to some meaning other than ‘eternal’ our course is clear. In cases where it is not possible to determine the meaning precisely, honesty of purpose and of method demands that we admit our ignorance and refuse to equate ‘obscurity’ with ‘eternity’.

    Looseness of expression should be rigidly avoided. In English ‘eternal’ is often used ambiguously. In the aphorism, ‘The price of freedom is eternal vigilance’, the meaning is ‘constant’, ‘unremitting, perhaps ‘perpetual’, whereas to infer that such vigilance was, is, and will be needed through the duration of the being of God, without beginning or end, must be rejected as having no relevance to the matter at all. Such loose use of ‘eternal’ is eschewed throughout these studies.

    Further it must be remembered that whatever may possibly have been the effect of Greek concepts upon N.T. writers, an open question still,any process by which unconsciously, such ideas may be applied to O.T. statements must be guarded against. Then too, liturgical ascriptions are seldom critically examined. How many millions of times has ‘Glory to the Father…world without end’ been recited, the participants giving no consideration to the meaning of the last phrase which presumably signifies simply ‘always’ or ‘perpetually’. Constant vigilance then is necessary lest we read into biblical passages extra-biblical concepts, modern views, theological indoctrination, or our private ideas. to avoid all such influences many be a counsel of perfection, but it should engage our utmost endeavors.

    The following passages have been chosen for examination in this chapter because at first glance it may appear that in them ‘olam’ could represent a concept of eternity in the mind of the biblical author. The question to be asked is, ‘Do these verses demonstrate that their writers had that concept, and expressed it by ‘olam’?

    In Genesis 21:33 the statement appears, ‘Abraham called there (at Beersheba) on the name of Yahweh , God olam’.

    Here we have the only instance of ‘el’ (God) and ‘olam’ conjoined.

    Various renderings have been advanced:-

    God, the Hidden One, the Unseen God, the Obscure Deity (i.e. unknown, unless self revealed). Luther suggested, ‘God of the Ages’, Rotherham, ‘age abiding God’. Some scholars have linked Abraham’s planting of the tamarisk tree in Beersheba with the tree cult of pre-Israelite Canaanitish religion and have regarded the name ‘el olam’ as a titled borrowed from that source. If this should be the case we can see why the term is never

    repeated in O.T. writings since its use would tend to favor the syncretism of monotheistic Yahwahism with pagan cults against which the Hebrew prophets unanimously campaigned. The only conclusion we may draw from the expression is a negative one. Genesis 21:33 does not disclose the meaning of ‘olam’.

    Now Ex.3:13-15 uses ‘olam’ in a different grammatical sense. Verse 15 reads ‘Yahweh, the God of Abraham hath sent me unto you. This is my name le olam’. In Gen.21:33 ‘olam’ appears to be used adjectively, in Ex.3:15, adverbially, with a time reference to the name not to the duration of God himself. Several reasons may be given for rejecting eternity here.

    (a) As Yahweh was a new name for the Deity, it could not have been His eternal name.

    (b) All names couched in human language must of necessity be limited in relation to the time period during which humanity has lived (or lives) and thought (or thinks) on such matters.

    (c) This name, in fact every name for God, represents a concept; hence it must follow, not precede the emergence of the idea, and so cannot be eternal.

    (d) The name ‘Yahweh’ is recorded as emerging in Hebrew history as a point in time. it will be used for an indefinite period, ‘olam’, by humans on earth. For how long? No one knows; hence ‘olam’ with its basic sense of obscurity is an appropriate expression. Let it be clearly recognized her that this discussion is not about what may possibly be the name to be used by humans or any other creatures in some envisaged further life in ‘eternity’. The Hebrew O.T. has nothing to say about that, and this enquiry concerns the thought in the Hebrew writers mind, not that is some modern theological system. Therefore the question is, ‘What did this verse mean to the Israelite of pre-kingdom days?’

    The parallel is very suggestive: ‘This is my name le olam. And this my memorial to generation (after) generation.’

    Though preserved in most versions, the parallel is lost in the R.S.V. which translates the second line ‘and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations’ which suggests and imperative rather than indicative mood.

    First we should inquire as to the antecedent of ‘this’. Is it (a) Yahweh or (b) the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Issac, of Jacob or (c) the whole formula?

    That (c) should be chosen seems to be indicated by the repetition of the whole formula in verse 16. This repeated reference to the patriarchal generations, ‘your fathers’ emphasizes the ‘generation (after) generation’ and directs the thought backwards, as well as forwards in time. So the idiomatic ‘le dor dor” almost certainly takes in some generations past and possibly all future activities on earth.

    the memorial name must be limited in time as to its inception, and indefinite as to the period of its future usage, the only indication at all being the parallel, which certainly should not be equated with infinite duration or even everlasting futurity. Since the period for which the memorial name was predicted would be as obscure to the Hebrews as it is to us, ‘le olam’ may have meant throughout Israel’s history, about the absolute duration of which, the Exodus writer appears not to have had nay views, or if he possessed some, wisely refrained from committing them to writing.

    Regarding the oath attributed to Yahweh in Deuteronomy 32:40 , similar remarks apply. The passage is intensely anthropomorphic. To interpret it literally would be naive in the extreme. The Deity is represented as taking an oath respecting the vengeance He proposes to take upon ‘the long-haired head of the enemy’ and he begins with hand raised to heaven.

    If we were writing in similar context today we would use the words, ‘As I live eternally’, employing a Latin term, but no evidence can be gained by anachronistically applying our concepts to writings about 3000 years old. It is possible that the writer of Deuteronomy may have had limitless being in mind here, but the use of ‘olam’ for time periods limited at least as to their beginnings, in more than four hundred other cases, must be little short of proof that eternity was not here envisaged, but just some indefinite period stretching into the unknown past and future.

    Deut.33:27 forms part of a highly poetic, metaphoric, anthropomorphic passage.

    ‘The ancient God is a dwelling place and beneath are the olam arms’.

    The interpretation one arrives at is simply that the Lord is a constant comfort to those in need at any time, always. When today a person quotes this verse, he is not thinking of endless eternity spent upheld in God’s arms; but that God is always a support in time of need; and that thought, along with the associated parallelism appears to be the idea intended in Deut. 33:27.

    An uncritical reading of Psalms 45:6, “Thy throne O God olam wa ad’, suggests that here eternity is in view, and that ‘olam’ had been used to convey that concept, but a little analysis throws grave doubt on this conclusion; for, if ‘olam’ itself meant eternal, then ‘ad’ becomes redundant. A suggested analogy with the English idiomatic ‘for ever and ever’ cannot be entertained, since in that phrase we have repeated the same word ‘ever’, while in the Hebrew phrase being examined ‘olam’ and ‘ad’ are two different terms. Also ‘ever’ has a nebulous adverbial nuance, and as soon as it is replaced by some noun or phrase, either the idea of endlessness disappears (long time and long time) or incongruity emerges (endless time and endless time), or eternity and eternity), and so it would be if both Hebrew terms meant the same. Even if it could be proved that the phrase ‘olam wa ad’ formed an idiomatic expression meaning infinite duration, that would still not show that ‘olam’ itself meant eternal. A more likely explanation seems to be that the author wished to express his concept of the inexhaustible unlimited power of Yahweh and knowing that ‘olam’ did not signify infinity, added ‘wa ad’ ‘and beyond’, or ‘further still’, so that his readers might de directed to think of duration beyond that usually covered by ‘olam’.

    The dozen or so litugic repetitions of ‘His mercy endureth le olam’. (I Chron.16:34,36.41; II Chron. 5:13, 7:3,6; 20:21) and in the psalms provide little support for using ‘eternal’ to translate olam. Mercy relates to sinful humans. No one supposes such folk to have existed eternally. God’s mercy operates in human need. The liturgy would recognize its availability at all times – perhaps conditioned by repentance and faith.

    Some special attention should be given to the use of ‘olam’ in Deutero-Isaiah (the present writer is using the term Deutero-Isaiah to mean the second section of the book from chapter 40 onwards). Some writers have claimed that because of the development of new concepts regarding the ‘eternity of God’, ‘olam’ is here used to denote temporal infinity. A careful systematic objective study of the usage of this word and other expressions in theological contexts in Deutero-Isaiah tends rather to a different view. Only once (Isa.40:27,28) is ‘olam’ linked with the divine name and then in the context of past history ‘Hat thou not known. Hast thou not heard that the God olam, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not?’ If olam elsewhere signified eternity we might well accept that meaning here, but when Isaiah wishes to express a concept of the being of Yahweh as transcending that of creation he resorts to circumlocutionary phrases such as ‘I am the First and I am the last’ (Isa.41:4; 48:12).

    Perhaps Isaiah was struggling to express some idea of infinite duration but it must be doubtful whether ‘first’ and ‘last’ and ‘from the beginning’ indicate that concept. Rather do these terms suggest Yahweh’s casual creative activity as Originator and Controller of cosmic forces, dynamic rather than temporal references.

    It would appear that if Isaiah wished to express the eternity of God all that would have been needed would have been to say that Yahweh had no beginning and would have no ending. At the same time we must recognize that the human mind cannot compass the infinite and this present study leads to the view that the O.T. biblical writers wisely refrained from attempting the impossible. Nor does there seem to be any passage in the O.T. where olam is employed to convey an idea of absolute eternity infinite in duration without beginning or end, a concept that has probably been anachronistically associated with the word by writers influenced by later philosophy.




    Chapter Eight


    It is fitting now to set out the conclusions which may be drawn from the material in the preceding pages.

    (a) Eternity, without beginning or ending is never mentioned as such in the ‘olam’ passages of the O.T., nor so far as we can discover, is there any statement from which convincing evidence can be obtained in relation to ‘olam’, to show that the concept of infinite future duration existed among Hebrew writers in O.T. times. Hence the words ‘eternal’ and ‘everlasting’ should not be used to translate the ‘olam’ terms.

    (b) In books now usually regarded as late (I Chronicles, Nehemiah, Ecclesiastes and possibly late Psalms 41,48,106,133) the occurrence of ‘the olam’ suggests the emergence of some idea of an ‘age’. This is supported by the use of the plural in books of the same period (II Chron., Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Daniel, Psalms 61,77,145, and in I Kings 8:13). But there is no indication of any view of boundaries of any sort pertaining to age or period such as say, form creation to the flood, or the like. This of course corresponds to our usage also; the stone age, the age of steam, the dark ages, and other such expressions are never precisely dated.

    (c) The element of hidden-ness, indefiniteness as to duration, and of obscurity pervades the whole range of ‘olam’ terms throughout. Even in cases where the meaning is clearly for the rest of one’s life, ‘a slave olam’, or a limited period such as Jonah’s three days, because of the imprecision respecting the length of the period (in Jonah’s case the impossibility of his assessing the time), the sense of obscurity is still present. This highlights the difficulty of transferring nuances from one language to another particularly from Oriental to Western. The contexts require the use of terms such as – ‘any more’, ‘always’, ‘remote or obscure times’, ‘long past’, and ‘far future’. Sometimes ‘everlasting’, if understood as futuristic only, may be considered, but only if the ‘ever’ is regarded as equivalent to ‘long time future to the point of obscurity’, and even then ‘remote or obscure future’ would be more accurate as a rendering for ‘olam’.

    ‘Age abiding’ (Rotherham) and ‘age-during’ (Young), while more appropriate than ‘eternal’, or ‘for ever’ are too suggestive of a concept of time composed of , or divided into recognized ‘ages’, an idea which probably was merging in post exilic Hebrew thought but of which there is no sure evidence (elsewhere) in the O.T. However by N.T. times the idea of several ages had become explicit in Rabbinic thought (see Chapter 10) and formed an important element in the doctrines taught by our Lord and the apostolic writers.




    Chapter Nine


    Translation from one language to another is a notoriously difficult task, the expression of nuances felt to be present in one tongue being often practically impossible in another because of lack of appropriate vocabulary. Therefore it is to be expected that some discordance will arise.

    In the translation of ‘aion’ in well-known English versions,the following forty different renderings appear: Age, eon, time, period, today, the future, universe, course, world, worldly, world without end, since the world began, from the beginning of the world, ever, evermore, for ever and ever, end of my days, eternal, everlasting, always, permanently, constantly, of old, ancient times, all time (since) time was, (since) time began, (before) time began, all time, (since) the beginning of time, eternal ages, eternal life, eternity, course of eternity, utter (darkness), (the son) does (remain), ages of the eternities, (in and through) the eternities of the eternities, etc.

    For ‘aionios” the English versions use:- everlasting, eternal, eonian, age lasting, age during, age duringly, age abiding, (in) the time of the ages, age times, (before) the ages of time, of the ages, (in) the periods of past ages, (before) the ages began, for the ages of time, (before) the beginning of time, since the world began, (before) the times of the world, (before) times eternal, from eternity, from all eternity, for ever, unfailing, final, unending, permanent, immemorial, enduring, lasting, eternally, long, perpetual, an immeasurable eternity, last, heavenly.

    The above lists, compiled by J. Kirk, Eonian, Everlasting or Age-lasting? (Sacred literature Concern, Los Angeles, undated) have been gathered from The Douay Version (1582), The King James Version (1611), Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott (1881), Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible (1872), The English Revised Version (1881), The American Standard Version (1901), Young’s Literal Translation, The Modern Reader’s Bible (1898), The Numerical Bible (1899), The Twentieth Century New Testament (1901), The N.T. in Modern Speech (Weymouth) (1903), The Complete Bible in Modern Speech (Fenton) (1906), Moffat’s N.T. (1922), Goodspeed’s N.T. (1923), The Centenary N.T. (Montgomery) (1924), Darby’s W.T., The Concordant N.T. (1930), The Numeric English N.T. (Ivan Panin) (1935), The N.T. or Covenant (Cunnington) (1935).

    The present writer express his indebtedness to the late Mr. J. Kirk, for these lists.

    From the above multiplicity of terms it is evident that there has been no uniformity among translators as to how these Greek words should be rendered in English. While it is to be expected that, in different contexts, the terms will carry varying shades of meaning, it should be possible by studying all the occurrences of the derivatives of the root, to arrive at a common basic significance. Since aion is used consistently in the Septuagint to render ‘olam’. our study of that word should form a basis for work on Greek terms.

    The N.T. however provides only two quotations from the O.T. containing ‘olam’, both in Hebrew. In chapter 1 verse 8, Psalm 45:6 is cited,

    ‘Thy throne O God (is) olam wa ad’. The LXX has ‘eis aiona aionos’ Heb.1:8 alters the phrase to ‘eis ton aiona tou aionos’, ‘unto (or into) the aeons of the aeon’.

    These phrases and other similar one have no particular meaning in Greek.

    They must be regarded as Hebrew constructions in Greek words. The use of the definite article in the N.T. text suggests that in the intervening 300 years since the translating of the LXX about 250 B.C. the concept of an aeon as a time period corresponding in some degree with ‘the olam” had been established in biblical thought patterns. A simple explanation of the slight difference in the LXX phrase and the N.T. quotation may be that the psalm writer envisaged the rule of God as extending into the remote unforeseeable future and beyond any human prognostication, whereas the N.T. eschatology embraced the concept of several aeons to come, the conditions in the second being resultant from the activity of Christ as the Son in the preceding one; that is, one aeon the outcome of the other and hence ‘the aeon of the aeon’. On the other hand the N.T. phrase may be due to the carrying over of the Hebrew construct idiom into the Greek. The influence of the normal Hebrew polytotonic expression of the superlative degree, upon the Greek N.T. phrase will be discussed later.

    In Heb.5:6, Psa.110:4 ‘Thou shalt be a priest ‘to olam’, is quoted as in LXX ‘to (or for) the aion’. No difficulty arise here. Rev.21:22 states that in the New Jerusalem, the seer saw ‘no temple’. It matters little how one interprets the term ‘New Jerusalem’, the fact remains that the N.T. predicts that in those far off future times of the consummation of the aeonian purpose of God, sin and death, enmity and sorrow “shall be no more’. Where no sin remains, no sacrificial priestly service can be needed. the Son’s office as priest therefore cannot be ‘for ever”, but only for the age or period in which any humanity are estranged from God.

    The whole argument of this section of Hebrews is that the Aaronic priesthood and sacrificial ritual ‘brought nothing to completion’. It was a treadmill of repetitive service which could not make the participants perfect. But Christ’s priestly intercession is to continue “for ever”, his priesthood will have no more attained its objective than the Aaronic. Once human estrangement has been replaced by universal reconciliation, no further priestly mediacy will be needed. Hence Christ is, ‘priest after the order of Melchisadech for the age, ‘eis ton aiona’. These remarks apply also to Heb.6:20, 7:17,21,24 and 28 each of which refers to the Son’s priesthood.

    By N.T. times there had developed in Hebrew Rabbinic thinking the concepts of ‘the present age’ and ‘the age to come’. Since the N.T. writers were familiar with the LXX Greek version of the O.T., from which they frequently quoted , and which employed ‘aion’ (age) and ‘aiones’ (ages) to translate ‘olam’ and ‘olamim’, we can readily see how these Greek terms took on the meaning belonging to the Hebrew words. The phrases ‘the present age’ and ‘the age to come’ are common in the N.T.

    The dozens of various English expressions used by translators to render ‘aion’ and its derivatives can readily be divided into two groups, (a) those relating to finite time such as ‘age’, ‘aeon’, ‘old time’, ‘age-abiding’ and the like; and (b) those pertaining to infinity, ‘eternal’, ‘eternity’, and probably in the translators’ thinking, ‘everlasting’ and ‘for ever’. The distinction in definition set out in Chapter 1 regarding ‘eternal’ and ‘everlasting’ should be kept in mind, but translators who use these terms for ‘olam’ and ‘aion’, often appear to regard them as synonyms, and along with many theological writers, employ them interchangeably with consequent confusion.

    Since consideration of space precludes discussion of all of the 180 occurrences of ‘aion’ and its derivatives, a selection of typical cases follows, along with an examination of contexts, the objective being to discover the concept or concepts represented by these terms.

    The questions to which answers will be sought are these:

    (a) Does the basic meaning of ‘an age’ or ‘aeon’ of time pervade the whole N.T. usage and provide a basis for a consistent understanding of those writings?

    (b) Does the use of the plural, ‘aiones’, indicate a concept of some recognizable periods within the total duration covered by biblical history and predictive prophecy?

    (c) Are these expressions used to say something about ‘eternity’, thought of either as timelessness or as infinite time?

    Definitive answers to these questions must basically affect our understanding of predictive prophecy and the N.T. teaching regarding human destiny.




    Chapter Ten


    It is common practice to base a discussion of the N.T. use of ‘aion’ upon some association with the Rabbinic concepts of ‘this age’ and ‘the coming age’. This is a useful starting point for it shows that by N.T. times the concept of recognizable periods with distinguishing characteristics had become established in Hebrew thinking and, although the earliest proven occurrence of the above expressions in Rabbinic writings belongs late in the first century A.D., the frequency of N.T. references to ‘this aeon’, ‘the present aeon’, ‘that aeon’, ‘the coming aeon’ indicates that the idea of one age giving place to another was common in both Judaic and Christian thought. An important question is to determine what events or developments were regarded as bringing about or indicating the change over from ‘this aeon’ to ‘the coming aeon’.

    In Rabbinic works the advent of Israel’s long awaited Messiah forms the disjunctive point, and therefore may biblical scholars and students have argued that since Christians hold that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, the Christ event formed the demarcation between ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’.

    Now the concept of the messianic advent and associated developments took definite shape and became invested with urgent expectation during the inter-testamental period. The Qumran scrolls provide much evidence of the Messiah(s) upon the sect’s religious theory and conduct. Also the utterances of Simeon and Anna recorded in Luke 2, indicate the state of expectancy existing in devout Jewish circles at the time of the birth of Jesus.

    Little definite material can be found in the O.T. itself to show what characteristics were anticipated in the Messiah. The ‘Deliverer who should come out of Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob’ (Isa.59:20,21 quoted in Rom.11:26) appears to have to have been envisaged as an ideal king who would establish Israel as the supreme terrestrial race in a kingdom without end. This concept is expressed in Luke 1:32,33, which contains ideas from II Sam.7:11-13 and 16; Psa.89:4; 132:11; Isa.9:6,7; and 16:5. Looking back with hind-sight, N.T. writers and Bible students ever since have linked up many O.T. passages and even isolated sentences with the person and work of Jesus; but that the O.T. authors or their pre-Christian readers regarded many of such statements as applying to the Messiah seems doubtful. Probably the establishment of Israel as a people faithful to their God in a kingdom holding world-wide sway, formed the most important ingredient in the Messianic hope. The disciples’ question in Acts 1:6 accords with this view.

    Of course the Rabbis did not regard the first advent of our Lord as the disjunctive episode between the two ages, but since the N.T. writers regarded Jesus as the promised Messiah, the question arises whether they believed his birth, life, death, and resurrection actually and completely fulfilled the O.T. prophecies on which the Rabbinic expectations were based, and hence the then ‘present age’ closed with his birth and ‘the coming age’ opened with say Pentecost so that the whole Christ event formed a transition period between the two ages.

    For an answer we turn to a study of the N.T. usage of the word ‘aion’ and its derivatives. Respecting ‘this aeon’ it should be noted that Jesus is recorded as using the phrases ‘in this aeon’, ‘in the coming aeon’ and sons ‘of this aeon’ (Matt.12:32, Mark 10:30 and Luke 16:8; 18:30, 20:34 and 35) but the great majority of occurrences are in the Pauline letters. (Rom.12:2, I Cor.1:20; 2:6,8; 3:18, II Cor.4:4, Gal.1:4, Eph.1:21; 2:2, II Tim.4:10, Tit.2:12). The only other case is in Heb.6:5. In popular versions translators have frequently used the word ‘world’ to render ‘aion’, thus deleting the time reference inherent in the original Greek term.

    Now in determining the location of the demarcation between ‘this aeon’ and ‘the coming aeon’ Luke 20:34,35 provides a definite indication.

    “the sons of this aeon marry and ar