Brethren Archive

Everlasting Punishment.

by B.W. Newton

Holiness and justice are as much attributes of God as love.  He may be pleased in the riches of His wisdom and grace, to find a way of manifesting His love toward sinners without compromising His righteousness, and this He has done, but as it pertains to Him alone to devise the method, so He only is competent to declare what that method is, and what are the consequences of rejecting it.  He has revealed that the only means of deliverance from the wrath to come, is faith in a substitutional wrath-bearer, and He has declared that they who reject this one way of reconciliation, must themselves meet His wrath and bear it for ever and ever.
Few, I believe, reject the doctrine of everlasting punishment without also manifesting a tendency, and more than a tendency, to reject the doctrine of Christ being, in any real sense, a wrath-bearer.  The same habit of mind that refuses to bow to the plain declarations of Scripture respecting everlasting punishment, finds equal difficulty in recognizing that such passages as Ps. xxii. 14, 15, reveal the action of God's hand in bruising the Son of His love, ''I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and THOU hast brought Me into the dust of death."  Can we wonder that they who scorn the salvation thus provided for them through the sufferings of the Holy One, should themselves be left to experience that eternity of wrath, of which God has warned them, and from which He has sought to deliver.
When we read in Matthew xxv. 46, ''These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life everlasting," are we to believe that in these two conjoined clauses, the same word "everlasting," varies in its sense?  Are we to say that in the last clause, it means never-ending duration, but in the former not?  Surely if language be subject to such arbitrary variations as this, it must cease to be useful as a medium of instruction, for if the contextual association of words affords no indication of their meaning, to what else are we to appeal?  Are the varying fancies of each individual reader to be our guide?  In the passages in which we read of "the everlasting God" (Rom. xvi. 26), "who liveth for ever and ever" (Rev. xv. 7), and of "everlasting life," and of "everlasting punishment," our thoughts are in each case called away from this sublunary sphere, and consequently, we have to attach to these expressions, that sense which they must bear in that world which stands in emphatic contrast with the present, as being one in which transitoriness of existence is unknown.
Some indeed, admit that the punishment spoken of in Matthew xxv. is "everlasting," but say that the punishment indicated is to be annihilation, a punishment not involving infliction of torment, but simply deprivation of blessing.  The annihilated, they say, will lose the life, glory, and blessing prepared for the righteous, and so be punished; but that by ceasing to exist, and therefore to feel, they will be incapable of torment.  Now, in the first place, this system requires us to admit that the soul of man is perishable; a doctrine which even the Pagans hesitated, and in many instances refused to maintain.  Further, this doctrine is at utter variance with the words of our Lord, when He says: "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched," as likewise with Rev. xx. 10, where we find the words, "tormented day and night for ever and ever." "Torment" is not annihilation; it is a word that necessarily implies existence and feeling, nor does a "never-dying worm," and "fire unquenched," imply either the extinction of the instrumental means of the torment, nor the cessation of feeling in those who are tormented.  Why should the fires of torment be declared to be unquenched fires, if there were none to be subjected to the power of their burning?  In these and in like questions, are we to become judges of God, or are we to bow with implicit subjection to the declarations of His Word, and to say, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?  He shall be justified in His sayings and overcome when He is judged." (Rom. iii. 4).  It is no less a sin to alter or to conceal that which He has revealed respecting His judgments, than to alter or conceal that which He has written concerning His love.
"Perilous Times" Oct. 1907

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