Part 3 The Eternal Issues

Chapter 32.

Gehenna

Gehenna is twelve times rendered "hell" in the common version, and is essentially* the only other word so rendered, beside "hades" already looked at. The rendering has, it is well known, been the object of special attack by Canon Farrar in his Westminster Abbey Sermons, as one of the three words (the others being "damnation" and "everlasting") which in his opinion ought to be expunged out of our English Bibles.**

{*Once, referring to a class of fallen angels, the word tartarosas is used (2 Peter 2:4), and translated "cast them down to hell," literally "to Tartarus."

**"Eternal Hope," Serm. 3.}

Gehenna, says Dr. Farrar, "means primarily the valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, in which, after it had been polluted by Moloch-worship, corpses were flung, and fires were lit; and is used, secondarily, as a metaphor, not for fruitless and hopeless, but — for all at any rate but a small and desperate minority — of that purifying and corrective punishment, which, as all of us alike believe, does await impenitents both here and beyond the grave.

"But, be it solemnly observed (he continues) the Jews to whom and in whose metaphorical sense the word was used by our blessed Lord, never did, either then or at any other period, normally attach to the word Gehenna that meaning of endless torment which we attach to hell.' To them, and in their style of speech — and therefore on the lips of our blessed Saviour who addressed it to them, and spake in terms which they would understand — it meant not a material and everlasting fire, but an intermediate, a remedial, a metaphorical, a terminable retribution."

To this is appended a note in which the Jews as a church are stated never to have held either (1) the finality of the doom passed, or (2) the doctrine of torment, endless, if once incurred. For this he quotes various authorities, among others as the most distinct utterance of the Talmud, one in which it is said "that the just shall rise to bliss; ordinary sinners shall be ultimately redeemed; the hopelessly bad shall be punished for a year, and then annihilated." In another place, "Gehenna is nothing but a day in which the ungodly shall be burned."

In his fifth excursus at the end of the book he adds other testimonies, among which is another from the Talmud, to the effect that "after the last judgment Gehenna exists no longer." His testimony of the Rabbins concerns us very little. He does not notice the views of either Pharisees or Essenes, who both held eternal punishment, as Josephus explicitly affirms.

Mr. Hudson has made a similar appeal to the Talmud, naturally laying the stress upon the annihilationism contained in it, that Dr. Farrar lays upon the restorationism. Both allow that there are some passages which may be pleaded against these, although they believe not really against them. I do not lay any stress upon it, nor propose at all to take up this line of argument. I leave it to those more competent to do so, and shall confine myself entirely to Scripture.

It is of Gehenna that the Lord speaks when He asserts God's ability to "destroy both body and soul in hell." We have seen how little the text can be made to mean annihilation. It would seem to be no less decisive against Dr. Farrar's view. Indeed he gives it up explicitly, if to be taken as implying that God will put forth this power that He claims. The passage, he says,* "merely attributes to God a power which we know the Omnipotent must possess. He can destroy the soul, but it says not that He will. If any think that this is implied, it seems to me that no logical choice is open to them, but to embrace the theory of conditional immortality."

{*"Eternal Hope," Pref., p. xl.}

But surely the Lord holds out no vain warning here. In a parallel passage in the same way He says, "Fear Him who after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell;" and we certainly know that threat will be fulfilled. If He never wills to do this, men need no more fear it than if He had not power. And how strange a thing for the Lord thus to claim for Him a power none can deny, and which notwithstanding He will never exert! We do not at all on that account believe in the logical necessity of annihilation, but we do believe that God will fulfil the awful warning, and destroy both body and soul in hell.

Mr. Jukes indeed thinks even this to be for eventual salvation: he asks,

" Is not the losing ' or destruction ' of our fallen life the only way to a better one? Does not our Lord Himself say more than once, that the way to ' save our life ' or soul ' is to lose it,' or have it destroyed,' in its fallen form, that it may be re-created? These last words," he answers, ' should of themselves settle the question, for in one place they occur in immediate connection with those other well-known words as to fearing Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.'. . . And yet, in the very closest connection with those words, our Lord repeats this selfsame word destroy ' to express that death and dissolution of the soul, which, so far from bringing it to non-existence is the appointed way to save it."*

{*"Restitution," Appendix, p. 172.}

But Mr. Jukes can scarcely make so much out of the texts he cites. The destruction in them is not the destroying of the body of sin, or of the old man, with which Mr. Jukes evidently confounds it. For he goes on to say, "Christ saves it, as we have seen, by death; for being fallen into sin, what is needed is, that the body of sin should be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.'" This is not, I say, the destruction spoken of in Matt. 10:39; but the Lord is speaking of our taking up the cross — our cross — in face of the opposition of the world. Is this the destruction of our old man, or what really, in the spiritual sense, saves us? The Lord is not then here speaking of "losing our life, or having it destroyed in its fallen form, that it may be re-created." There is nothing about either destruction or re-creation, in that sense; He does not speak of "that death or dissolution of the soul, which is the appointed way to save it."

Nor does Scripture anywhere speak of such a thing either. Dissolution of the soul is nowhere mentioned, nor its death as a way to save it. Similarly as to destruction: can Mr. Jukes point out one instance in which the destruction of the soul is the method of its salvation? He cannot; and his words are mere delusion. "Christ saves the soul by death," he tells us, "for the body of sin must be destroyed," but that is not the soul. He says again, "The elect, that is the first-fruits, are the living proof of this.' A new man ' is created in them; and the old man ' dies and is destroyed while yet he in whom all this is done remains the same person." But if the new man is created in people, he is not destroyed first, to be created; and if the "old man" dies and is destroyed, he is not re-created at all; nor is the person destroyed in whom this takes place either. Mr. Jukes adds: "it is only the riddle of the cross, that by death God destroys him that has the power of death.'" But then is he that has the power of death destroyed also in order to his salvation? Certainly there is not such a thought in the passage.

It is in vain then for him to seek to escape from the force of the words. What folly, indeed, to suppose the Lord saying, "Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body, in order to save them." No; it is impossible to read the thought of salvation into its very opposite, the awful destruction hopeless of deliverance, just because it is God who "destroys," and destroys not to save, but as the alternative of salvation. Annihilationism and restorationism fail alike and fail utterly here.

But then Gehenna is the place of this utter destruction, and though the terms used may be more or less "metaphorical," a "remediable" and "terminable" retribution they do not teach.

Nor does Dr. Farrar attempt to produce Scripture to establish his position as to Gehenna. It is the Talmud and the Jewish doctors that are to define for us what the Scripture means, and Dr. F. even brings in the thought of "the pleasant valley of Hinnom,"* as if to bear its part in transmuting darkness into light, and making tolerable the wrath of God itself.

{*Preface, 32.}

"In the Old Testament it is merely the pleasant valley of Hinnom (Ge Hinnom), subsequently desecrated by idolatry, and specially by Moloch worship, and defiled by Josiah on this account. Used, according to Jewish tradition, as the common sewer of the city, the corpses of the worst criminals were flung into it unburied, and fires were lit to purify the contaminated air. It then became a word which secondarily implied (1.) the severest judgment which a Jewish court could pass upon a criminal — the casting forth of his unburied corpse amid the fires and worms of this polluted valley; and (2.) a punishment which — to the Jews as a body — never meant an endless punishment beyond the grave."

As to this we have seen, however, what the Lord affirms of it, in a threat according to Dr. Farrar never to be executed. The destruction of body and soul can hardly be this side of the grave, and cannot consist with restoration. Dr. Farrar's words, too, are contradicted explicitly by Josephus, as is well known, both with regard to the Pharisees and the Essenes: a testimony he never even alludes to, and which as strangely Mr. Hudson sets aside as unreliable, But let us see now whence the Jews drew (or might have drawn) their views of Gehenna. We have the Old Testament as they had, and from it alone all right views, such as the Lord could Himself adopt, must surely be taken. Revelation alone could be a light beyond the grave.

To one of these Old Testament passages (Isa. 66:24) we have already referred, in which we find both the fire and the worm attributed to the valley of Hinnom, and which more certainly are the basis of the well-known warning of our Lord which we must almost immediately consider now. As millennial and not final, it may be concluded to have given risen to thoughts of the temporary nature of Gehenna, which Dr. Farrar's extracts have so much of as well as also to have furnished argument for the annihilation doctrines of the day, in behalf of which also we find them quoting Mal. 4:1, quite as do the present annihilationists.

The main passage beside is also in Isaiah, and here Tophet, the valley of Hinnom, is expressly named as the place of judgment for the Assyrian, where the breath of the Lord like a stream of brimstone kindles the pile (30:33). Here, while the literal Tophet might furnish the terms of the prophecy, the language points to something deeper, which the fuller revelation could alone perhaps make plain.

We must now look at the well-known passage in the Gospel of Mark (9:43-50), which I quote in full:

"And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell [Gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched [or rather, the fire unquenchable], where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell [Gehenna], into the unquenchable fire; where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna of fire; where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another,"

It was to be expected that annihilationists should have stumbled over this passage as they have. The admitted borrowing of phraseology from Isa. 66:24, and the word Gehenna, with the associations which we have just been looking at, are taken to show that the terms used in these verses imply the "utter destruction" (in the new sense) of the ungodly.

Mr. Constable, appealing to the passage in Isaiah, says: "A moment's glance shows us that both the worm and the fire are alike external to and distinct from the subject on which they prey; and also, that what both prey upon are not the living but the dead . . . These most solemn words of the prophet, so solemnly endorsed by Christ, assert a state of eternal death and destruction, not one of eternal life in hell, as the destiny of transgressors in the world to come."*

{* Eternal Punishment, p. 195.}

Mr. Minton thinks it —

"difficult to conceive of any two images that our Lord could have put together, more hopelessly irreconcilable with the idea of never-ending misery, than the worm and the fire." And he adds, "It is contended that the worm not dying and the fire not being quenched, implies the continuance of being of that on which they prey . . . If the worm could die, or the fire be quenched, before they had done their work upon the body, it might possibly be rescued or left half consumed. But if neither the ravages of the worm, nor the burning of the fire, can be checked, then nothing can save the body which is exposed to them from complete extinction of being. If it be asked, what becomes of the worm and the fire after the body is consumed? it is enough to reply, that we have nothing whatever to do with that . . . And I will venture to say, that no one would ever imagine the idea of an eternal worm to be contained in this passage, if they did not bring to it the assumption that it is an eternal being who is preyed upon by it. Without that assumption the image is as plain and simple as possible. With it you have the monstrous incongruity of an eternal worm, and of a human body which is being eternally devoured by it, but yet remains forever as whole and entire as if the worm had never touched it. . . It is no reply to say that the punishment represented is not merely that of the body but of the soul also, or even, as some would now say, of the soul only. For the figure used to represent it is the consumption of a body by worm and by fire; and that figure does represent destruction, but does not represent eternal existence."

He further refers to Jer. 17:27: "I will kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched," which, he adds, "can hardly mean that Jerusalem will continue in flames to all eternity."*

{*Way Everlasting, pp. 50, 51, 53.}

Mr. Hudson again says, "It is not the immortality of the individual soul, but the multitude of those who finally perish, that challenges the unquenched fire and the unfailing worm."*

{*Debt and Grace p. 192.}

Other writers speak very similarly, but it is not necessary to repeat more of what they say just now. The first thing to be noted in answer to Mr. Constable is that he makes no difference between type and antitype; yet it is scarcely the literal valley of Hinnom of which the Lord is speaking, and as for Isaiah, "the carcases" which he sees a prey to the worm and fire are surely not those of all the wicked, who are only raised from the dead at the time the earth and the heavens flee away. "Gehenna," as we have seen, was in point of fact used by the Jews in our Lord's day in this figurative way, as the Talmud has at any rate shown us. The typical character of millennial things also I have already pointed out. Consequently the carcases, fire, and worm are all the figures of deeper things. Does Mr. Constable even himself suppose that all the Lord threatens men with is that fire and worm should consume their carcases? This would be infinitely less than extinction itself, and instead of being the picture even of destruction, would be a picture merely of what would happen after they had ceased to suffer, and had been in fact destroyed!

But then, Mr. Minton argues, we must take the words at any rate as a figure of destruction, not of eternal existence. Surely nobody contends that it is a figure of the latter. The question is, is it consistent with eternal existence? and that is a different thing. Now material destruction, if a figure, should be a figure of something else, and not of itself. The material should figure the spiritual: and spiritual destruction may be, nay, is, entirely consistent with continued existence of body and soul. If the fire were material fire, and man's body the prey, according to its present constitution the body would come to an end. If the fire be a figure of divine judgment, however, this will not be so perfectly clear; and as a figure fire does surely speak of this. I have already so fully shown that the destruction of the sinner is in fact not annihilation, that I may be excused from going afresh into the proofs of this.

The unquenchable fire may have been, as to the mere force of the phrase, unduly pressed by those against whom Mr. Minton contends; and I concede fully that the fire in the gates of Jerusalem could not be "everlasting." He must be aware, however, that "everlasting fire" is spoken of by our Lord elsewhere: if (that is) the New Testament has any word for everlasting. But if he will look even at the passage in Isaiah once again, I think he will find reason to own that unquenched fire does there imply at least perpetuity. If "from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another," all flesh, as they come up to worship before Jehovah, "go forth and look upon the carcases of those that have transgressed against" Him, this implies a perpetuity of the awful spectacle surely. And the words following give the reason for this: "for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." The fire being unquenchable is not then given, as Mr. Minton argues, as a reason for the utter consumption of what it preys upon, but on the other hand for its abiding before the eyes of all flesh Sabbath after Sabbath and month after month. In the scene which Isaiah pictures it would matter little for the carcases themselves, whether the worm died or not, or the fire were quenched or not. Their being "carcases" doomed them to destruction, apart from all question of worm and fire; and these are surely added, not to bring them to any more speedy or certain end, but to intensify the solemn picture of judgment, and their being "an abhorring unto all flesh."

Thus even as to the passage in Isaiah, Mr. Minton's arguments are only plausible when the words he comments on are divorced from their context, and looked at as mere isolated expressions. Take the whole passage, and they be come worse than unmeaning. For worm and fire make no more certain the destruction of a carcase already secured by simple natural law; and instead of being given as hastening the destruction, the undying worm, and unquenched fire give assurance of the perpetuity of an awful spectacle, which abides indefinitely before the eyes of men month after month.

Still more do the arguments fail when we compare them with the passage in the gospel: for here the Lord is plainly not speaking of a spectacle before the eyes of others, but warning those who might suffer from it themselves. In Isaiah it is "they shall go forth and look," from one new moon and one Sabbath to another, for the fire shall not be quenched. In the other case it is in effect: Fear it,* for the fire shall not be quenched. And as these words in Isaiah announce the perpetuity of the judgment, so must they do when transferred to the passage in Mark.

 {* Mr. Tipple, quoted approvingly by Mr. Cox, says, "The flame of the valley of Hinnom cannot be made to represent the awful suffering in store for sin; it can only fitly represent the certain consumption of sin to be effected by the sharpness of the fire" (Echoes of Spoken Words). They were to find the certain consumption of sin, without suffering! And this because the fires of Gehenna were not lighted to inflict pain and anguish! The same might be said of the burning up of chaff and all other figures! Cannot a figure figure anything but just itself?}

On the other hand who could call that "severest judgment which a Jewish court (even) could pass upon a criminal," — as Dr. Farrar puts it, — "the casting forth of his unburied corpse amid the fires and worms of the polluted valley," a "purifying and corrective," or "remedial" retribution? None, I think, who were not under hopeless bias, with which reasoning becomes impossible. Nor, as far as the Jewish court was concerned, was it "terminable" either. Of course it could not hinder the resurrection of those whom it adjudged to this; and in this way no human sentence could be eternal or irreversible; but it could represent this notwithstanding: for a final sentence, irreversible and not terminable by any after human one, would be the proper figure of irreversible and eternal judgment if divine. And only of such divine judgment would it be the proper figure. Dr. Farrar's facts are hopelessly against his inferences.

But the 49th verse in the passage of Mark adds something more; and Mr. Jukes has made what use he could of it for his purpose: "Take the ordinary interpretation," he says, "and there is no connection between never-ending punishment and the law here quoted respecting salt in sacrifice. But as spoken by our Lord the fact or law respecting the meat-offering is the reason and explanation of what is said respecting hell-fire, — 'for every one must be salted with fire, and every sacrifice must be salted with salt.'"

Then after explaining the meat offering as shadowing the fulfilment of man's duty towards his neighbor,* he goes on —

{*The meat-offering applies (like all other offerings) in the first place to Christ, the Bread of Life. Is this what it signifies as to Him?}

"The passage which we are considering begins with this, man's duty to his neighbor, and the peril of offending a little one. Then comes the exhortation to sacrifice hand or foot or eye, lest we come into the worse judgment, which must be known by those who will not judge themselves. 'For,' says our Lord, thus giving the reason for self-judgment, 'every man,' whether he likes it or not, if he is ever to change his present form and rise to God, 'must be salted with fire.' This may be done as a sweet savor to God; though even here 'every sacrifice is salted with salt,' — for even in willing sacrifice and service there is something sharp and piercing as salt, namely, the correction which truth brings with it to those who will receive it. But if this be not accepted, the purgation must yet be wrought, not as a sweet savor, but as a sin-offering, where the bodies are burnt as unclean without the camp; 'where their worm, dieth not, and the fire is not quenched' (the 'worm' alluding to the consumption of those parts which were not burnt with fire); 'for,' in some way, 'every one must be salted with fire,' even if he be not a sweet-savor 'sacrifice,' which is 'salted with salt.' But all this, so far from teaching never-ending punishment, only points us back to the law of sacrifice, and the means which must be used to destroy sin in the flesh, and to make us ascend in a new and more spiritual form as offerings to Jehovah."

This is decidedly a new interpretation. Mr. Jukes throws Gehenna and the passage in Isaiah of course aside or else applies them as types parallel to the "holy" sin-offering! But here he can find no "worm," so he invents one, to consume what the fire ought wholly to have burnt But we must look at this further.

The Lord certainly says "Gehenna." Is this in any way connected with such a type as the sin-offering, or are they not in every sense contrasts?

The sin-offering was a thing "most holy." It was an offering for sin, and therefore "without blemish," to be a fit type of such an one as alone could make atonement. The fat upon the inwards was put upon the altar of burnt-offering, and thus linked with those sweet-savor offerings of which Mr. Jukes speaks. The blood on the day of atonement went into the holiest, and at ordinary times was sprinkled before the veil, and anointed the horns of the golden altar of incense. That blood made atonement for the soul.

Dare Mr. Jukes apply all this to the abhorred Gehenna judgment of the unholy and unclean? Dare he include under one figure the One who bare judgment suffering for others only, and those upon whom, because of what they are personally, God's wrath abides? Dare he connect the "worm" of corruption with the type of God's Holy One, who therefore could (even as to His body) know none? Will he say that the sin-offering figures a corrective judgment purifying the victim offered? Will he make the blood of the sinner an atonement for his sins? Carry his view of the matter out, and he must do all this. He may say (and I trust would) he has no thought of carrying it so far. But then the whole is one consistent type, and a type expressly of the putting away of sin: that is its proper force — its use. If Mr. Jukes is but applying language used of the sin-offering to something wholly different, let him say so, and then take scrupulous care how he does apply it. But what he says is very different from this. He says distinctly that if a man will not judge himself about sin, "the purgation must yet be wrought as a sin-offering." Now this is what in the very nature of it he could not be. A blemished beast could not be offered. And here, if I take his words in their simple force, the sinner becomes his own offering, his own Saviour! The worm and the fire point us back to "the law of sacrifice, and the means which must be used to destroy sin in the flesh, and to make us ascend in a new and more spiritual form as offerings to Jehovah! "

"Sin in the flesh" is just what the sin-offering did not, and could not, typify, but the very opposite, a Holy One bearing sin not His own. And therefore, while the fire had its place, for the wrath of God Christ bore for us, the "worm," bred of corruption, could not possibly enter into such a figure. In Gehenna there are both: the torment of God's wrath upon sin, but the torment also bred of the corruption within. The two things are essentially and wholly distinct. Even as to the body God's Holy One could not see corruption: and these are types, whose significance and power become more and more realized the more we consider them. Gehenna judgment and the sin-offering are in their nature opposed.

"Every one must be salted with fire,"* the Lord says Mr. Jukes adds, "if he is ever to change his present form and rise to God," and thus assumes his whole ground. There is nothing of this expressed or implied in the passage. "Every one must be salted with fire; and every sacrifice must be salted with salt." Here salting with fire and with salt are distinguished. Salting is the figure of preservation. "Salt," which, as the Lord says, "is good," and always has a good meaning in Scripture, is the figure of that energy of holiness which preserves for God by keeping out corruption. But salting with fire is a widely different thing from salting with salt, fire being as always the figure of divine judgment.

{* Morris and Goodwyn prefer another rendering: "But the word 'pas ' in the Greek may mean every one person or every one thing, and the word for fire is in the dative, purl,; and the real force of the passage is this: For every one shall be salted TO or FOR the fire (that is, of the altar), even every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (What is Man? p. 93).

There is no ground for this: pas, standing alone as here, can only mean "every person," and the word "salt" is just as much in the dative (hali) as "fire" is, so that there is as much ground for saying "salted TO or FOR the salt." Put without article as here, puri and hali are both datives of instrument, and exact parallels "salted with fire," "salted with salt."}

Now every one (it is quite unlimited) shall be salted with fire — even the saint, for he needs the discipline of it, and it is for his preservation as such, and salvation (comp. 1 Peter 4:17, 18). But the ungodly will have it after another sort. To them it will be "unquenchable" fire, because of evil ever needing to be kept down: repression by judgment, where judgment alone will avail. The Lord adds, "And every sacrifice shall be salted with salt." There is the point of transition, at which he begins to speak of the saint alone.

Mr. Roberts finally has still another sense: he says:

"The meaning of Christ's words is made perfectly plain by Paul when he says (1 Cor. 3:13-15), 'The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is, and if any man's work be burnt he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.' Through this fire of judgment every man and all his works will pass, and this fact gives the strongest point to Christ's exhortation; but the action of the judgment-fire is only preservative on certain kinds of men and work. The judgment justifies and makes such incorruptible; the others are destroyed."

This is fatal false doctrine. Mr. Roberts does not yet see that if a man comes into judgment, judgment can never justify him: "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in Thy sight shall no flesh living be justified." How could a man, if judged according to his works, have his work burnt up and yet himself be saved, as the text he quotes says? Plainly he could not. The man is saved because building on the foundation, — on Christ, — and not because of what he builds, which is burnt up; he is saved not "by fire," but "through the fire," and in spite of it. But this question of judgment we have already sufficiently examined.

We must pass on now to other testimony of the word as to the final judgment.