Part 3 The Eternal Issues

Chapter 21.

A Further Survey of the Scripture Terms

Death and destruction are clearly Scripture phrases for the end of the wicked. But the first is never extinction as we have seen, and all this class of texts are clearly against the views they are quoted for. Destruction again is the ruin of the thing or being of which it is predicated, but by no means its passing out of being. The importance of the point is such, however, that we shall again review the matter in company with others of Mr. Constable's school of thought, allowing them to state it to us in their own way, and to bring forward the arguments by which they believe their own view triumphantly sustained.

Mr. Hastings has given us a summary as to "The Destiny of the Wicked" in a small tract bearing that title, and consisting of Scripture texts arranged under ten different heads. To these Mr. Jacob Blain has added others in his book, "Death not Life." These two will furnish us with divisions under which we may arrange the material furnished by several other writers.

Mr. Blain has indeed recalled his book since the change of views already mentioned, and he owns "that part of the texts quoted to prove endless loss of life" he now sees "by further research only to refer to temporal death or earthly judgments." Still, as many yet hold his former views, we may use his headings as above said, as convenient enough for the purpose of our intended review.

To begin with Mr. Hastings' headings as to the destiny of the wicked:
"1. They shall not live forever." To which we may add —
"2. They shall die."

The texts quoted under the first we have already considered for they are those which speak of eternal life, that which with God is really life. Take as an example: "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:12). Or again, John 6:53: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." How is it that Mr. Hastings does not see that, according to the passages he quotes, taken as he would take them, not only the wicked will have no future existence, but have none now? That is what his proof texts show, if his system is correct.

But what his texts do prove is, that eternal life is not merely existence or immortality, and that in the Scripture language one may be (to use Paul's expression of the woman that lives in pleasure), 1 Tim. 5:6: "dead while living." Now, if there be such a living death even now, as we are thus assured there is, why not for eternity 9 And if the believer, having now (as we have seen) eternal life, yet enters into it as his general state hereafter, why may not the unbeliever, dead now as alas he is, and alienated from the life of God, yet go into death as his final adjudged condition, by the sentence of the Judge hereafter?

Mr. Roberts, apparently following Mr. Edw. White,* contends against this application of 1 Tim. 5:6. He asks of the person in question whether she was "actually dead, or in a state relating to death as a consummation? Is it not the sense actually expressed in the words of Christ, Let the dead bury their dead '? (Luke 9:60): the living said to be dead, because destined to share the fate of the corpses in question? This," he says finally, "cannot be gainsaid."

{* Life in Christ, p. 281.}

But one would think it could. For very plainly, if that be all, the man whom the Lord addressed was as dead as anybody else, and the language would be quite unmeaning. Nor can Mr. Roberts talk about the second death. "The dead" who were to be buried could not mean dead of that death.

Moreover, we have a similar phraseology sufficiently elsewhere to determine its meaning very precisely. For instance, where the Lord (in John 5:24, 25) speaks of the dead hearing His voice and living, He is plainly not speaking of those subject to the first death, for the life must of course be in contrast to the death. If therefore those subject to physical death are "passed from death to life," they cannot physically die, which we know is not the truth. The "dead" must then be considered as subjects of, or sentenced to, the second death, according to Mr. Roberts; but this will not hold either. Under the power of the second death they are not yet, and need' not in that sense deliverance, for the second death is the lake of fire. And again if we say sentenced to the second death, deliverance from this sentence would not be quickening. But as such our Lord represents it, the impartation of a true life here and now, a life which is morally characterized by the knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. The death in contrast with this can only be what we rightly call spiritual death, "alienation from the life of God through the ignorance that is in men, because of the blindness of their hearts" (Eph. 4:18). Where this life is not, death is.

Spiritual death is what the apostle intends then plainly by "dead while living." Nor can Mr. Roberts prove that Scripture anywhere intends by the dead the fiction he conceives. People dying of the first death are never in Scripture called dead until they are so; and he is merely evading the force of words too plainly against him as they stand. I ask again then, if there be such a living death now, as it is proved there is, why not for eternity?

Again let us remind ourselves also that the second death is the lake of fire, beginning when death (as it is ordinarily understood) ends and is no more, and certainly not therefore its continuance or repetition. In no way can the threatening of "death" imply extinction.

All Mr. Constable's arguments as to the primary sense of words and the necessity of their being kept to their literal meaning, which so many beside himself insist upon, completely break down in the face of the facts of Scripture. It is in vain to urge a use of terms such as Macaulay and Hume in their character as historians of the present would necessarily require to make, when the things in question belong to that future where we see en ainigmati, in a riddle. God has not mocked us indeed, nor used words in an unreal or untruthful sense. His solemn statements are not unfitted surely to convey a meaning which the general consent of Christendom unequivocally attaches to them. And writers such as Mr. Constable show plainly that they are not, by the way they constantly pervert that meaning in order to force it into contradiction with the Bible terms. Thus Goodwyn says: "If death does mean ceaseless suffering in life, there can be no confidence in expression by words"; and so Constable, "death is made to mean its direct opposite — life"; and so Dobney asks, "How was Adam to understand that death meant life endless life — endless life in torment?"

But who asserts such a meaning? The second death is the lake of fire, and therefore torment cannot be excluded from the idea of it, as we have seen. But death in itself does not "mean" torment even here. It means anything but "life." It means separation from the Blessed Source of life: that "alienation from the life of God" on man's side, which is spiritual death, meeting its end in God's final withdrawal on the other. And as God's withdrawal cannot mean indifference, and as He cannot cease to be the Moral Governor of His creatures, it implies the manifestation of that eternal displeasure, which the lake of fire is.

This may suffice to answer Mr. Minton's question as to what life the wicked can lose in the day of judgment, and which he settles by a process of exhaustion can be only physical life. We might answer that, if that be the judgment, surely it would be release to many, and scarcely, in comparison of preceding anguish, judgment at all. But his question is founded upon a misapprehension. We have seen that the righteous "enter into life" in the world to come, and yet that that does not imply that they have not got it here; and similarly the wicked enter into death, find it in all its awful reality, in that judgment day. It is their whole condition, unrelieved and unmitigated as before it might be, aye, even for the rich man or for Cain. The resurrection for just or unjust alone can give them their full capacity for enjoyment or for suffering. The resurrection of the wicked precedes their judgment to the second death.

We may pass on to consider Mr. Hastings' third head, with which we may take as merely synonymous with it in the original, his fifth. These are —
"3. They shall perish."
"5. They shall be destroyed."

Mr. Hastings depends mainly if not entirely here upon what he considers the simple force of the words "destroy," etc. Says Mr. Jacob Blain: "If destroy is sometimes applied to calamities on earth, it still means the ending of a thing, as of prosperity, liberty, country, character, etc.; so to say it does not mean the ending of the thing to which it refers is false."

So it seems a question of some simple English words, which strangely enough, we do not understand. Our translators used however both destroy and perish for ruin where the thing remained in ruins, and did not come to an end. The bottles burst by the new wine are thus said to be "perished," as we have seen. They were ruined, looking at the original purpose for which they were destined. And so, though the righteous "perished," he entered into peace. So again we have, "the land perisheth," "the valley also shall perish;" so over and over again is it said that Israel was to be "destroyed," and after this had come upon her her captivity was to be turned (Deut. 28, 30). The constant reference to death agrees entirely with this. In none of these cases is there an end of the thing destroyed. Mr. Roberts, in order to find an end somewhere, must say that if "the land perishes," the state of prosperity does, and this is what is meant by "the land"! "In the case of an article lost" — the same word in the original, — "possession is destroyed"! and so on. The case is very plain that destruction does not mean "annihilation" in any of these examples.

But there is one text which we must specially look at in this connection, and a very important one it is. Mr. Minton has given it the fullest examination that I have seen, and therefore we may best follow his argument as to it. It is in his "Way Everlasting" (pp. 27-33), and follows what he calls the "settlement" by "exhaustion" of what life the wicked have yet to lose in the day of judgment. This we have seen he decides must be natural life, and he goes on: —

"And is not that just the life which our Lord Himself precisely defines to be what will be taken away from them? 'Fear not them which kill the body and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt. 10:28). Now I put it to your conscience whether you can find a more distinct and positive utterance than that upon any subject whatever in the whole Bible. Would it be possible for any human being who read that text with an unprejudiced mind, to have the smallest doubt as to its meaning? Does it not distinctly threaten that God will do to both body and soul that which man can do to the body, but is 'not able' to do to the soul — 'kill' them? "

No, Mr. Minton, it does not. The word is expressly altered to avoid saying so. And what is not said here is not said anywhere moreover in Scripture. The soul is never "killed." Let Mr. Minton say, what would be the result if it were said: —

"And what is killing? Why, depriving of life. While the body retains one spark of life of any sort or description, it is not killed; and while the soul retains one spark of life of any sort or description, it is not killed."

I quite agree with him. And how then can he account for the fact, that having used this decisive word in the first clause of the sentence, the Lord refuses it for the second part? Certainly not without some reason for it, He turns aside from saying what would seem the most natural thing for Him to say, and instead of using again the word "kill," which he had just used, He substitutes "destroy" for "kill."

Nor only so. Mr. Minton cannot find this word kill applied anywhere to the soul or to future punishment. It is rejected as unfit both here and everywhere. And I ask, why? Why does the Lord substitute "destroy" for "kill"? Would it be believed, after Mr. Minton telling us so emphatically what "killing" is, and how decisive of the controversy in his favor, that he has the boldness to reply, "Undoubtedly to increase the force of the threatening. It is the same thing, but expressed by a stronger word — in fact the strongest word that can be used"!

Now the word "kill" is only employed for taking life, and scarcely ever in any figurative sense at all. Mr. Minton appeals to Liddell and Scott as his authority. We will accept the appeal, and contrast the words. The latter word in the verse, apollumi is indeed given as "to destroy utterly, kill, slay, murder," but it is added that it means "very frequently in all sorts of relations, to destroy, ruin, spoil, waste, squander," and in the middle form, not only "to perish, die, fall," but "also simply, to fall into ruin, be undone," and even "to be wretched or miserable."

Now compare the other word apokteino, and we find the only meanings given to be "to kill, slay, smite to death, to put to death, to weary to death, torment" — but this last metaphorical use a very rare one, and in Scripture never employed. Now I ask Mr. Minton, — I ask any honest man, — if our Lord had designed to use a word which should unequivocally set forth the annihilation of the soul, which would have been the fitter for his purpose, the one which in Scripture language has no other sense than that of taking life, or the one which is very frequently used in other senses?

And even this, decisive as it ought to be, does not put the argument in its strongest form. For if we will be at a little pains to go beyond the lexicon, and inquire for ourselves the force of the terms in Scripture, we shall find — and I do not doubt the same to be true elsewhere than in Scripture — that apollumi is NEVER the word used simply to express the taking of life. That may be (often is, no doubt) necessarily implied; but that is quite another thing. It is never once translated "kill" in our version, only once (in the middle) "die," where "perish" would be better (John 18:14), and is actually put alongside of kill in the same sentence to convey a different thought (John 10:10). The more any one will study the Scripture use of the words, the more he will be convinced that the very opposite of Mr. Minton's assertion is the truth, and that the decisive word to convey the annihilationist meaning is the very word that the Lord rejects, and deliberately rejects, after having used it in the beginning of the very sentence from which He rejects it at the end.

I close in Mr. Minton's own words that "it would really seem as if the force of demonstration could no further go."

We may pass on then to Mr. Hastings' next class of texts:
"4. They shall be cut off."

All that he quotes in this way is from the Old Testament, and refers, as the quotations themselves prove, to the extirpation of the wicked out of the earth simply, without intimating their after-condition. Thus Ps. 37, speaking of millennial days "for evil doers shall be cut off; but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth." Again, Nahum 1:15: "O Judah . . . the wicked shall no more pass through thee: he is utterly cut off." Or again, Prov. 2:22: "But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it."

There are few more frequent causes of mistake with that class of annihilationists to which Hastings, Miles Grant, Blain, and Roberts, among others, belong, than this confounding of the destruction of the wicked out of the earth in order to the great predicted blessing for it with the eternal judgment when the earth and heavens flee away. They believe in no heavenly portion of the saints, nothing more than a sort of "heavenly condition" upon earth. For them consequently destruction out of the earth is apparently indistinguishable from final judgment. We shall have to consider the difference hereafter, but the passages quoted speak for themselves.

The same remarks apply to his sixth class: —
"6. They shall be consumed."

Take Zeph. 1:2, 3, for example: "I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the Lord. I will consume man and beast I will consume the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked, and I will cut off man from of the land, saith the Lord." So Ps. 104:35: "Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more." These are some of Mr. Hastings' own texts adduced for the annihilation of the wicked! The cause must be weak that requires such arguments.

Mr. Hastings' next three heads I must leave for after consideration. They are these: —
"7. The agent of punishment shall be fire and brimstone.
"8. They shall be burned up root and branch.
"9. Their punishment shall take place, not at death, but at the coming of Christ."

To the tenth again the same remarks apply. It is all the earthly judgment which precedes millennial blessing. And upon the principle of interpretation which must be adopted in order to make texts such as these apply to the final extinction of the wicked, I could not only prove that Enoch was annihilated (because he "was not") but could find the doctrine of annihilation in most books that were ever written. According to Mr. H., if I but find Israel assured that "they that war against thee shall be as NOTHING, and as a THING OF NOUGHT," or "that they shall diligently consider the place [of the wicked] and it SHALL NOT BE," I am entitled to put these expressions in small capitals, and consider them conclusive proof that the wicked are annihilated! Once more I ask, what can I think of such arguments as these, or of the cause that needs them?

Mr. Blain adds to these quotations: —
11. "Slay, slain, kill." All his texts as usual applying to earthly judgments.
12. "Blot out." Here he quotes Ps. 69:28, which is earthly judgment, and Rev. 3:5, which has reference to the peculiar case of those in Sardis who had "a name to live" on earth, showing that it applies to the profession of eternal life. Man had, as it were, written these names in the book of life. Christ would blot them out, where it was only that. What eternal life is we have already seen.
13. "Hewn down." Here he quotes Matt. 3:10; Matt. 7:19. But compare as to the force of the expression Dan. 4:14: it does not at all imply even the taking away of natural life. His argument about the fire we may see the force of by and by but certainly if "hewn down" itself signifies the extinction of natural life, there would be little cause to dread the "fire" afterwards.
14. "Lose life." These texts have been already considered.

"End." Mr. B. remarks, "If the wicked are immortal, they have no end, and this language is absurd." But of what then, or of whom, is "everlasting life" (according to Rom. 6:22) "the end"? If everlasting life be an end in any way, whether of a saint or of his works, then "end" is not necessarily cessation of existence. A man's final estate is his end, and the end of the wicked is "destruction" but annihilation it is not.

As to Ps. 7:9, "O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end!" it is the groan of a soul feeling the strong hand of oppression, and has no reference to eternal judgment.

Mr. Blain's following texts (except one) have all reference to that clearing out of evil from the earth, which he everywhere seems to overlook. Yet it is a most real thing, and figures largely in the word of prophecy, as what is to take place at the coming of the Lord, before the earth shall have its blessing under the dominion of the Prince of peace.

As to the way these texts are quoted I have the same protest to make in general, as I had with regard to Mr. Constable's quotations before. The citations are loose, random and careless. They are heaped upon one another, as if to make impression by their numbers, and overwhelm the judgment, rather than invite inspection. Words and phrases are taken from their context, and assorted in the fashion of a concordance, with no discrimination of the texts in which they are found. The examination of them leaves the impression of unmistakable carelessness in the use of Scripture, and a most thorough will to push to the utmost every expression that in the least may seem to favor their doctrine. Against it I appeal to the very texts they have cited. They need but a little patient examination, with singleness of purpose and waiting upon God, to give true and unambiguous testimony as the word of the blessed God who cannot lie, cannot fail the soul that looks in faith to Him.

Note. Messrs. Constable and White both press an argument here from certain passages in Plato's Phaedo in which some of the New Testament words are used by him to give the idea of the literal destruction or "extinction of the soul." But Plato's use of the words cannot avail to set aside a use Of them, proved as we have proved it from the New Testament itself. Spite of their protest, it is well known that many words attain a moral or spiritual significance in Scripture, which will be vainly sought for in classical Greek. They will hardly deny this, as it can so easily be proved. That Plato should use some of these words therefore in a physical sense, while Scripture uses them in a spiritual, is no great cause of wonderment. Let them meet frankly the argument from Scripture, and not settle the question by appeal to the terms of Greek philosophy.