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Duty of Preparing for the Future World: Heaven: Book Eight- Chapter 4

September 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Book Eighth

CHAPTER IV.

HEAVEN.

THE RIGHTEOUS WILL BE TAKEN TO HEAVEN, AND MADE PERFECTLY HAPPY FOR EVER IN THE PRESENCE AND ENJOYMENT OF GOD.[1]

Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. It often happens that the believer in Christ has an afflicted lot in the present world; but, in the midst of tribulations, be is enabled, through grace, to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. So much does the happiness of his present life depend on the hope of a better portion hereafter, that he is said to be “saved by hope.”[2] This hope has for its object an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.[3] He is taught by the doctrine of Christ, to look for this portion, not in this world of sin, not in the pursuits and enjoyments of carnal men, but in another and better world, to which his faith and hope are ever directed.

The believer’s portion is laid up in heaven.[4] That heaven is a place, and not a mere state of being, we are taught by the words of Christ, who said, “I go to prepare a place for you;”[5] but in what part of universal space this happy place is situated, the Bible does not inform us. It is sometimes called the third heavens[6] to distinguish it from the atmospheric heaven, in which the fowls of heaven have their habitation, and from the starry heavens, which visibly declare the glory of God. The glory of the third heavens is invisible to mortal eyes; and the place may be far beyond the bounds within which suns and stars shine, and planets revolve. Some have imagined that it is a vast central globe, around which the stars of heaven are making their slow revolutions, carrying with them their systems of attendant planets. There is something pleasing in this conjecture, which connects astronomical science with the hopes of the Christian: but it must be remembered that it is mere conjecture. No telescope can bring this glorious place within the reach of human view. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[7] Yet, though science cannot give us a knowledge of this happy world, divine revelation has made us to some extent acquainted with it. Paul adds to the words just cited, “but God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit.” By faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, we look at things unseen and eternal. The light of revelation brings the glories of the distant land before the eyes of our faith; and in the spiritual enjoyment which we are made to experience, even in this land of exile, we have an earnest[8] and foretaste of heavenly joy. These drops of heaven sent down to worms below, unite with the descriptions found in God’s holy word, to give such ideas of heaven as it is possible for us to form; but at best, we know only in part. “It doth not yet appear, what we shall be,” or where we shall be, or in what our bliss will consist. But though in looking forward to the inheritance in prospect, we are compelled to see through a glass darkly, we may yet discover that the future happiness of the saints will include following elements:

1. An intimate knowledge of God. Now we know in part, but then we shall know even as we are known.[9] Heaven is “the high and holy place, where God resides, the court of the great King.” He says, “heaven is my throne.”[10] Though present everywhere throughout his dominions, he manifests himself in a peculiar manner in this bright abode, of which the glory of God and the Lamb are the light. Here the blessed are permitted to see God. To see God, as human eyes now see material objects, by means of reflected light, will be as impossible then as it is now, for God is a spirit: but we shall have such a discovery of God, as is most appropriately expressed by the word see; otherwise, the promise of Christ would not be fulfilled. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”[11] The knowledge of God will be communicated through the Mediator. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”[12] Though God dwells in light which no man can approach unto, and is a Being whom no man hath seen, or can see;[13] yet the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, the same that shines into the hearts of God’s people on earth, fills the world of bliss. There no sun or moon shines; but “the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” The glory of God is the illumination, and the Lamb is the luminary from which it emanates. Jesus will still be our teacher there, and through him we shall acquire our knowledge of the perfections and counsels of God.

Our knowledge of God will be for ever increasing. On earth, believers “grow in the knowledge of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” and the advantages for attaining to higher knowledge, instead of ceasing at death, will be far greater in heaven. The perfections and counsels of the infinite God, will be an exhaustless source of knowledge, a boundless subject of investigation; and the Mediator, the equal of the Father, and his bosom-counsellor, will be our all-sufficient instructor; and our glorified spirits will be fitted to prosecute the study through eternal ages. It follows, that we shall continue to grow in the knowledge of God, while immortality endures.

The angels diligently study the dealings of God with his people on earth, and, by this means, acquire knowledge of God’s manifold wisdom. They saw his creative skill and power displayed, when the creation sprang forth from his hand in its unmarred beauty; and they rejoiced in songs and shoutings. They learned the justice of God, when some of their number were driven from heaven for their transgression, and doomed to interminable woe. While the angels have been making the dispensations of God’s providence and grace their delightful study, we cannot suppose that the spirits of the just, who are their companions in glory, have been indifferent to these subjects; which interested them so deeply while on earth. It must be, that they continue to make progress in the knowledge which, while here below, they so earnestly desired to acquire, and in which they made a small beginning. Here, the ways of God appear dark and mysterious, and the doctrine taught us in his word, is attended with difficulties, which our finite minds labor in vain to remove. We desire instruction on these points; and Jesus has said, “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.”[14] We wait now for the fulfilment of this promise; and we hope hereafter, with the spirits that are before the throne, to drink in the knowledge which we are here so desirous to obtain, which we so greatly long to acquire.

How far the learning of the future world will include the sciences which are taught in the schools on earth, it is of little use to inquire. It will certainly include whatever is necessary to the knowledge of God. We shall study his works, his moral government, and the mysterious scheme of redemption. New truths, of which we have now no conception, will be unfolded to our view; and the truths of which we have now some knowledge, will be exhibited in new relations, and with new attractions. The truths which now appear discordant with each other, will have light thrown on their connecting links; and the whole will be seen, in one grand system of beautiful proportion and perfect harmony, and in everything God will be displayed. All our knowledge will be the knowledge of him.

2. Perfect conformity to God. The first man was made in the image of God; and the subjects of regeneration are renewed, after the image of God. But the likeness given in creation has been lost; and that which is reproduced in regeneration is incomplete. God’s people are striving and praying for a higher degree of conformity; and they are looking to the future world for the consummation of their wishes: “Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness.”[15] They are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son,[16] who is the image of the invisible God.[17] As they study the divine character here, they grow in conformity to it: “We, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”[18] The same transforming influence which the knowledge of God exerts in this life, will continue in the future world. As we make progress in the knowledge of God, we advance from glory to glory, in the likeness of God; and this progress will be interminable, through all our immortal existence. “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”[19]

In being conformed to God, who is love, we shall love the display of divine perfection, of which we shall obtain increasing discoveries in our study of the character, works, and government of God. As our knowledge enlarges, our love to the things learned will become more intense, and the new developments which will be made at every stage of our endless advancement will be increasingly ravishing. What would be subjects of barren speculation to merely intellectual beings, will be to us as moral beings, having a moral likeness to God, sources of ineffable bliss, ever rising higher and higher in its approach towards the perfect and infinite blessedness of God.

3. A full assurance of divine approbation. In this world we groan, being burdened. A sense of sin, and God’s displeasure on account of it, often fills the mind with gloom. We see, in the gospel of Christ, how God can be just, and the justifier of the believer in Jesus: but our faith is often weak. We are conscious of daily offences against infinite love; and the bitterness of grief possesses the soul. Oh! to see our Father’s face, without a cloud between, and to feel that perfect love occupies the full capacity of our hearts, and governs every emotion! We pant after God, the living God. We long for heaven; because there we shall dwell for ever in the light of his countenance. The sentence of the last judgment, “Come, ye blessed of my Father,” will give an eternal assurance of divine acceptance, and perfect love in the heart will for ever exclude all fear.

4. The best possible society. Paul thus describes this society: “Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.”[20] Our brethren who have gone before us, with some of whom we took sweet counsel here, and went to the house of God in company, are there waiting to welcome our arrival. The angels that attend on us as ministering spirits, during our pilgrimage here, will convey us, when we leave the world, to the glorious abode, in which they ever behold the face of our Father in heaven, and will form part of the happy society into which we shall be introduced. There we shall be with Jesus, the Mediator, who loved us, and gave himself for us, in whose blood we shall have washed our robes, and made them white; there we shall approach to God, the Judge of all, who is our Father, the object of our love, and the source of our joy. In such society we shall spend eternity. We are travelling to our final home, through a desert land, a waste howling wilderness, but we seek a city; and God is not ashamed to be called our God, for he hath prepared for us a city.[21] A city is a place where society abounds. The rich and noble resort to cities, that they may enjoy life. Here they display their wealth, erect magnificent palaces for their residence, and multiply the means of enjoyment to the utmost possible extent. In our eternal home, we shall not be lonely pilgrims; but we shall dwell in the city of our God; where the noblest society will be enjoyed, where the inhabitants will be all rich, made rich through the poverty of Jesus, and all kings and priests to God; and where the King of kings holds his court, and admits all into his glorious presence.

5. The most delightful employment. The future happiness of the saints is called a rest: but it is not a rest of inactivity; which, however desired it may sometimes be, by those who inhabit sluggish bodies, is not suited to spiritual beings. The rest resembles the Sabbath, the holy day, in which the people of God now lay aside their worldly cares and toils, and devote the sacred hours to the worship of God. Such a sabbatism remains for the people of God, when the cares and toils of this life shall have ceased for ever. To the glorified saints, inaction would be torture, rather than bliss. Their happiness will not consist of mere passive enjoyment. They will serve God day and night; and, in this service, will find their highest enjoyment. They pray now, that his will may be done on earth, as it is done in heaven; and when they are themselves taken to heaven, they will delight to do his will, as it is done by all the heavenly host. The worship of God, and the study of his holy word, form a part of the delightful employment of the saints on the earthly Sabbath. So, to worship God with joyful songs of praise and suitable ascriptions of glory, constitutes, according to the Scripture representation, a part of the saints’ employment in glory. The subjects of their transporting songs, and rapturous ascriptions of praise and glory, will be supplied by their continually fresh discoveries of the divine perfections, the study of which will also form an important part of their blissful employment.

6. The absence of everything which could mar their happiness. Sin, which here pollutes all our joys, will never enter there; for nothing entereth that defileth.[22] Devils and wicked men will be confined in their eternal prison, and will be able to molest no more. The sorrows and afflictions of this world will have passed away. There will be no more sickness, no more curse; and death, the last enemy, will have been destroyed.

7. A free use of all the means of enjoyment. Future happiness is promised as a kingdom: “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”[23] “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom.”[24] A king is superior to all the nobles of his realm, and holds the highest place of dignity in his dominions. Christ, as king, is crowned with glory and honor; and believers also will be exalted to glory, honor, and immortality. The subjects of earthly despots are often deprived of their possessions by the injustice of those who have power over them; but the king is above the reach of such injustice. He commands the resources of his dominions, and makes them contribute to his pleasure. Hence, to minds accustomed to regal government, royalty conveys the idea of the most abundant resources, and the highest measure of undisturbed enjoyment; hence the language of Paul: “Now ye are full; now ye are rich; ye have reigned as kings.”[25] In this view, the children of God will be made kings. Besides the honor to which they will be exalted, their enjoyments will be boundless. All the resources of creation will be made tributary to them, and no one will dispute their claim, or hinder their enjoyment. Earthly crowns are often tarnished by the iniquity of those who wear them, but the crown bestowed on the children of God is a crown of righteousness, not only because it is righteously conferred, but because, without any unrighteous violence, the wearers will have all the honors and enjoyments of royalty secured to them for ever.

[1] Matt. xxv. 34; Luke xii. 32; John xiv. 2; Col. iii. 4; 1 Thess. iv. 17; Luke xxii. 29, 30; Acts xiv. 22; Rev. iii. 21; vii. 15-17; xiv. 4; 1 Pet. i. 3, 4; Matt. xxv. 21; John xvii. 24; Rev. xxi. 4; xxii. 3.

[2] Rom. viii. 24.

[3] 1 Pet. i. 3, 4.

[4] Col. i. 5.

[5] John xiv. 2.

[6] 2 Cor. xii. 2.

[7] 1 Cor. ii. 9.

[8] Eph. i. 14.

[9] 1 Cor. xiii. 12.

[10] Isaiah lxvi. 1.

[11] Matt. v. 8.

[12] John i. 18.

[13] 1 Tim. vi. 16.

[14] John xiii. 7.

[15] Ps. xvii. 15.

[16] Rom. viii. 29.

[17] Col. i. 15.

[18] 2 Cor. iii. 18.

[19] 1 John iii. 2.

[20] Heb. xii. 22-24.

[21] Heb. xi. 16.

[22] Rev. xxi. 27.

[23] Luke xii. 32.

[24] Matt xxv. 34.

[25] 1 Cor. iv. 8.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

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Duty of Preparing for the Future World: The Last Judgment: Book Eight- Chapter 3

Book Eighth

CHAPTER III.

THE LAST JUDGMENT.

IN THE LAST DAY JESUS CHRIST WILL COME TO JUDGE THE WORLD; AND HAVING ASSEMBLED ALL MEN BEFORE HIM, WILL PASS SENTENCE ON THEM ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS.[1]

Natural religion leads us to expect future retribution; and of course some sort of judgment, by which that retribution will be awarded. Even the heathen mythology had its judges, Æacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthus, by whom the dead had their place and condition assigned to them in the other world. But the doctrine of a public, general judgment, is peculiar to revelation. This teaches, that, besides the judgment passed on each individual when he leaves this world, there will be a final judgment, in which all men will stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and receive their final sentence from his lips. “God hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.”[2] “It is appointed unto all men once to die, and after this the judgment.”[3]

As the condition of each soul will be determined, when it leaves the body, another judgment may, to our finite minds, appear to be unnecessary; but the wisdom of God has determined otherwise. All the reasons for this divine appointment, we cannot presume to understand; but we are able to conceive of some important advantages which may arise from a general judgment.

The general judgment will publicly and impressively vindicate the ways of God, in the view of all intelligent beings. The mystery of the divine administration will then be fully unfolded; the wisdom and righteousness of all God’s dispensations will then be made apparent; the justice of the sentences then pronounced will be rendered perfectly clear; and, on every creature, as he leaves the tribunal, to go to the place assigned him, an impression will have been made, which will last throughout eternity. It is for the glory of God, that his perfections should thus be displayed, in the view of his intelligent creatures; and the remembrance of this great day will constitute an important element in the happiness or misery to which each individual will be adjudged.

The general judgment will be honorable to Jesus Christ. It is called “the day of Christ.”[4] When Jesus stood, as an arraigned malefactor, before the Jewish council, he claimed, in their presence, to be the Christ, and he referred to this day as the time when his claim would be acknowledged. This will be the day of Christ, the day when every knee shall bow to him,[5] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.[6]

The general judgment will extend to the bodies of men. The previous judgment, at the death of each individual, affects the spirit only. But men are to be judged according to the deeds done in the body, and it is fit that they should be judged in the body, and especially inasmuch as the body is to participate in the final retribution.

The general judgment will suitably mark the final victory over all God’s enemies. Among men, days of triumph have been observed, when wars have terminated, and victory has been attained. In the great day of the Lord, all the enemies of God will have been subdued; the kingdom, which, as rebels against him, they have seized and claimed, will have been fully restored; and universal peace and order will have been established in Jehovah’s empire. At this day of triumph, it is suitable that all creatures should be present, to do honor to the victory, and to him by whom it has been achieved.

The judge on the last day will be Jesus Christ, the same who was condemned at the bar of Caiaphas and of Pilate. How changed the scene! They who then condemned him to death, will now tremble before him, and be condemned by him to death eternal. “The Father has committed all judgment to the Son.”[7] The transactions of the great day will form a part of his mediatorial administration. Having undertaken to restore order to God’s empire, in which the rebellion of the human race had broken out, and having assumed the office of Mediator for this purpose, it will be proper, in this office, to complete the work; and therefore Christ the Mediator will be the Judge in the last great day: “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”[8]

At the day of judgment Christ will make his second coming. This coming is frequently spoken of in the Holy Scriptures. He instituted the Lord’s supper, to be observed until he come.[9] Believers are described as looking for his appearing.[10] As men look for a beloved friend who has gone away, leaving a promise of return; so believers in Christ look for the return of their Lord, who has promised, “I come quickly;”[11] and they pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”[12] He came, formerly, with sin; not sin of his own, but the sin of his people, which the Lord laid on him. Having fully expiated this by his death, he will come, the second time, without sin unto salvation.[13] On this great and terrible day, Christ will come to the salvation of his people, and will, at the same time, take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel. In a subordinate sense, he is said to come, when he displays his power, either in the deliverance of his people, or in the destruction of his enemies. But all these times are over-

looked in the, computation, when, with reference to his appearing for judgment, it is said, “he will come the second time.” This will be the great day of deliverance and of wrath. There are other comings mentioned in Scripture, not included in this computation, which are only preparatory and subordinate.

An impression has often prevailed among the followers of Christ, that his second coming was near at hand. This impression, when soberly entertained, has a salutary influence. Compared with the eternity which is to follow, the interval until the day of judgment is exceedingly short; and but a very little part of this short interval is included in the life of any one individual; whose preparation for judgment must be completed before he is called away by death. It is therefore true concerning every one, that the time is short,[14] and that the Judge standeth before the door.[15] But the expectation that Christ’s coming will be so hastened as not to leave time for the fulfilment of prophecy, or for the measure of duty and suffering to which he has appointed us, is of injurious tendency. An erroneous impression on this subject had so disquieted the minds of the Thessalonian Christians, that Paul thought it necessary, in his second epistle to them, to free them from its influence: “Be not shaken in mind, or troubled, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”[16] It may be that they had mistaken his design, when, in his first epistle to them, he said, “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep.”[17] They may have understood him to intimate, by his use of the word “we,” that he expected to be alive and remain when Christ should appear. He may have used this word as including himself, in interest, in the number of those who will be alive at the second coming; or he may intimate that believers of each successive generation should regard themselves as placed, for the time, on the watch-tower, to look for the coming of Christ, and that, compared with those who had fallen asleep, all who at any time are alive and remain, should regard themselves, though looking for his coming, as having no advantage to prevent [go before, or get the start of] those that are asleep. Whatever may have been Paul’s design in using this mode of speech, it is clear, from his second epistle, that he did not mean to make the impression that the coming of Christ was so near at hand. He stated explicitly, that the day will not come, “unless there be a falling away first, and the man of sin be revealed.”[18] It was necessary that time should be allowed for the Romish apostasy. So now, there are various prophecies remaining to be fulfilled; as, the calling of the Gentiles, the conversion of the Jews, and the millennial state of the Church. All these must be, accomplished before the coming of Christ; and, while these prophecies remain unfulfilled, believers should not permit themselves to be troubled in mind by those who would persuade them that the end of the world is just at hand.

Some suppose that the coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous dead, will precede the millennium, and that the resurrection of the wicked will be at the end of the thousand years. This opinion, according to which the reign of Christ will be personal, is founded chiefly on Rev. xx. 4, 5: “And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” In carefully examining this passage, we may observe that the first resurrection here mentioned does not include all the righteous dead, but only the martyrs; and that it is not a resurrection of their bodies, but of their souls: “I saw the souls of them, and they lived,” &c. Making due allowance for the boldly figurative language employed in this prophetical book, we way understand this passage to mean, that generations of holy men will arise, at the time here referred to, who will so much resemble the ancient martyrs in zeal and devotion to the service of God, that it will be as if the souls of these martyrs had returned in new bodies. So Elijah reappeared, in the person of John the Baptist; not literally, but in the figurative sense in which we may interpret the passage before us; which, so understood, teaches a spiritual, and not a personal reign of Christ. It is true that Paul says, “the dead in Christ shall rise first:”[19] but the meaning of this is, that the dead in Christ shall rise before the living saints shall be changed. The interval, however, he represents to be exceedingly short: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”[20] Whether the wicked dead will be raised at the precise moment at which the righteous dead will be raised, we are not expressly informed; but, from the representations of the scene which are given in the Scriptures, we may infer that one voice, one trumpet will call forth all the dead, and that one hour[21] will suffice for the resurrection of all. In one and the same day,[22] the great day of the Lord, he will be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God; and will come, to be glorified in his saints, and admired of all them that believe.[23]

The place of the final judgment will be on earth. Here Jesus was humbled, condemned, and crucified; and here he will be glorified, and sit in judgment over all the world. When he ascended from the earth, it was foretold that he would return as he had ascended.[24] A cloud received him out of the sight of his disciples,[25] who were gazing after him as he went up; and, on his return, he will be soon coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[26] A multitude of angels and the spirits of the just will attend him. The bodies of his saints, called forth from their graves, will rise to meet him in the air, and reunited with their spirits, will appear before him. The living saints will be changed and form a part of the company at his right hand. The wicked dead will be raised, and will stand on the left hand of the Judge. On what part of the earth the Saviour way choose to fix the throne of judgment, we are not informed, nor is it a matter of any moment. Why Sinai was selected for the giving of the law, Calvary for the crucifixion, and Olivet for the ascension, we know not. It is enough for us to know, that he will come, and that we must appear before him.

In the description of the great day, contained in the book of Revelation, it is said, that the Judge will be seated on a great white throne, and that the books will be opened; and that another book will be opened, which is the book of life: and the dead will be judged out of the things which are written according to their works.[27] The representation is doubtless figurative, but we may learn from it that the decisions will be made in perfect justice; and that the acquittal of the righteous will be an act of grace. Their names will be found in the Lamb’s book of life. They will be accepted in that day, because they belong to Christ, and in proof of their attachment to him, their work and labor of love in his cause, and towards his people, will be brought into remembrance.[28]

In the transactions of this great day, notwithstanding the greatness of the multitude that will be assembled, no individual will feel himself lost in the immense throng, or concealed from the view of the omniscient Judge. Every one will be brought to judgment, as if he were the only creature present, and every one will give account of himself, and receive sentence for himself with as much discrimination and perfection of justice, as if the judge were wholly absorbed in the consideration of his single case. So rapidly do our minds move, even now while bound to our sluggish bodies, that we can review our past history in a few moments, and judge and condemn ourselves before God. With a rapidity beyond our present conception, the deeds, words, and thoughts of our whole lives will pass in review before us on that day, and we shall realize that the eye of God is fixed on each particular with as thorough knowledge of it, as if that deed, word, or thought, were the only one on which he sat in judgment. How can we bear a scrutiny so severe, a knowledge so perfect? How shall we abide a judgment so strict? Who shall be able to stand?

[1] Rev. xx. 11, 12; Acts xvii. 30, 31; Eccl. xi. 9; xii. 14; Matt. xii. 36; 1 Pet. iv. 4, 5; 2 Cor. v. 10.

[2] Acts xvii. 31.

[3] Heb. ix. 27.

[4] Phil. i. 6; 2 Thess. ii. 2.

[5] Rom. xiv. 11.

[6] Phil. ii. 11.

[7] John v. 22.

[8] Rom. xiv. 10.

[9] 1 Cor. xi. 26.

[10] Heb. ix. 28.

[11] Rev. xxii. 12.

[12] Rev. xxii. 20.

[13] Heb. ix. 28.

[14] 1 Cor. vii. 29.

[15] James v. 9.

[16] 2 Thess. ii, 2.

[17] 1 Thess. iv. 15.

[18] 2 Thess. ii. 3.

[19] 1 Thess. iv. 16.

[20] 1 Cor. xv. 52.

[21] John v. 25.

[22] Acts xvii. 31.

[23] 2 Thess. i. 8-10.

[24] Acts i. 11.

[25] Acts i. 9.

[26] Matt. xxiv. 30; Rev. i. 7.

[27] Rev. xx. 11, 12.

[28] Matt. xxv. 34-40.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Duty of Preparing for the Future World: Resurrection: Book Eight- Chapter 2

Book Eighth

CHAPTER II.

RESURRECTION.

THE BODIES OF ALL WHO DIE, WILL BE RAISED FROM THE DEAD, AND RE-UNITED TO THEIR SPIRITS, FOR THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT DAY.[1]

Philosophy and natural religion may attain to an obscure discovery of the soul’s immortality; but we should have remained ignorant concerning the resurrection of the body, if we had not been instructed by divine revelation. From God’s book we learn that the body is redeemed,[2] as well as the soul; and that the body shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. That no doubt may remain on the subject, the body which is to be raised again, is described as the corruptible, the vile body, the body deposited in the grave:[3] “This corruptible shall put on incorruption.”[4] “Who shall change this vile body.”[5] “All that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.”[6] Paul urges not to use the members of the body for sinful purposes, because the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost;[7] and, with reference to the same body he says, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwelt in you.”[8] No doubt can remain that the Scriptures teach the resurrection of the mortal body, the body that dies, and enters the grave.

The resurrection of the body is not only taught in the Scriptures, but it is exemplified in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that he was raised from the dead, is testified by many witnesses, who saw him, and conversed, and ate and drank with him, after his resurrection; and who confirmed the truth of their testimony by astonishing miracles and sufferings. On this grand fact the truth of Christianity depends; and therefore the doctrine of the resurrection is fundamental and vital to the Christian system. If it is not true, Christ is not risen; and, if Christ is not risen, Paul admits “our preaching is vain, and your faith is vain, and we are found false witnesses of God.”[9]

As the resurrection is a desirable privilege to the just, only, it is treated of, in some passages of Scripture, as if it appertained to them exclusively: but other passages teach that it will be universal: “There shall be a resurrection of the just and of the unjust.”[10] “All that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.”[11] The only exception to its universality will be in the case of those who still be found alive at Christ’s second coming. Concerning these, Paul has taught us that they will undergo a change[12] equivalent to that which they pass through who shall have died and risen again. Their case, therefore, is virtually no exception to the general rule: “It is appointed unto all men once to die.”[13] “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”[14]

The power by which the dead are raised, is God’s. To the Sadducees, who erred respecting the resurrection, the Saviour said, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.”[15] It is a work which nothing short of omnipotence could accomplish. The Son of God is represented as the immediate agent, “Who shall change our vile body, that it only be fashioned like unto his own glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”[16] Even when he was on earth, weak and despised, he claimed this power: “The hour is coming when all that are in their graves shall hear his voice [the voice of the Son of God], and shall come forth.”[17] At his command, who said, “Lazarus, come forth,” the dead shall quit their graves, and assemble at his tribunal: and the power which he will manifest, in bringing them before him, will demonstrate his right to judge them.

The resurrection, though it will require the same power that created the world out of nothing, will not be another creation. The glorified body will not be created out of nothing, but will be formed out of the vile and mortal body which the spirit once inhabited: “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned,” &c.[18] The same body of Jesus which was nailed to the cross and laid in the tomb, was raised from the dead, and was seen by the disciples ascending from Mount Olivet. It had been transfigured on Mount Tabor, and rendered glorious in the view of the disciples who were present; and now it is crowned with glory and honor, in the presence of all the celestial hosts. It is now the “glorious body,” into the likeness of which he will fashion our vile bodies, when he fits them to inhabit the mansions that he has prepared.

How the “vile body” will be changed, we know not. We are under no obligation to suppose that all the gross matter of which it consists, will be included in the glorious body into which it will be fashioned. The corruptible body is perpetually losing, in the daily waste which it undergoes, the atoms of matter which compose it, and having their place supplied by other atoms, received from the nourishment taken in to supply the waste. The nails are pared away, and the hair shorn off; and other growth succeeds, to take the place of that which is lost. The bones, muscles, and all other parts of the body, undergo a change as real, though not so apparent, and as unceasing. The fluid parts of the body change more rapidly; and the solid parts are absorbed and renewed by the deposit of other matter, in the processes of nutrition and assimilation. It is not necessary to suppose that all the matter thus lost, during a life of fourscore years, will be gathered again. The identity of the body during life did not imply an identity of the atoms composing it: and much less is an identity of atoms necessary to be preserved, when it is changed into the glorious. Paul’s teaching on this point is explicit: “Thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain; but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him.”[19] What is deposited in the ground, is bare grain; but the body which God giveth consists of the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear. The body deposited, dies; that is, it is decomposed, and ceases to be the bare grain deposited. Part of its matter is lost, and part enters into the composition of the new plant, and God adds other matter, constructing such a body as pleases him. Such is the illustration which this inspired writer gives of the process by which the dead will be raised; and we are certainly freed by it from the obligation of regarding a philosophical identity of atoms, as necessary to be preserved in the resurrection of the dead.

Yet, let us observe the relation which the glorious body has to the vile body. It is not another body, but the vile body changed. In Paul’s illustration, he says: “God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.”[20] So, every man who rises from the grave, will come forth with his own body. However changed, he will recognise himself, and will be recognised by others, as the same. When wheat, rye, barley, and other grains, are sown in the ground, a grain of each may be deposited in the same bed; and when they spring up together, though all have bodies differing from the bare grain that was sown, they differ also from each other. Every seed has “his own body;” and it may be determined with certainty which is the wheat, which the rye, which the barley, &c. The illustration is doubtless incomplete: but the wisdom of inspiration has given it, to assist our conceptions of this mysterious subject; and our faith, without presuming to be wise above that which is written, should thankfully receive the instruction graciously imparted.

What will be the form and the properties of the glorified body, it is impossible for us to know. Even the beloved disciple who lay on the bosom of Jesus did not claim to know this:- “Beloved, it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he

shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”[21] It ought to satisfy us that we shall be fashioned like the glorious body of Christ. But though this general information ought to be sufficient, the Scriptures, while they do not attempt to describe a glorified body, have given us some information respecting it.

It is incorruptible. Our bodies here undergo perpetual decay and perpetual renewal; and they finally suffer decomposition, and return to dust. The glorified body will suffer no decomposition, no waste, and, therefore, will not need renewal. The process of nutrition by food, and the organs of digestion, will not be needed. “Meats are for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them.”[22] The glorified body will be adapted to all the purposes for which it will be used; but, as our mode of life will be entirely different, corresponding changes will be made in the members and organs, to adapt the body to the mode of life into which it enters.

It will be spiritual. Paul affirms this. He says, “It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”[23] What a spiritual body is, we are unable to say. We shall not be pure or uncompounded spirit, as God is; for we shall have a “body,” which God cannot be said to have. But that body will be “spiritual,” as distinguished from the natural or grossly material bodies that we now possess. It will be freed from the inactivity, the ponderableness that now binds us to the earth; and will be fitted for swift motion, similar to that of which angelic spirits are capable.

It is immortal. “Now this mortal must put on immortality.”[24] As there will be no need to supply a daily waste in each individual body, or to preserve it from corruption, so there will be no need to supply a waste of the race by death. “They neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels.”[25] In a state of being so different from the present, we shall need bodies of far different construction and properties; and, from the likeness which we are to bear to the angels, we may infer that our spiritual bodies will resemble, to some extent the spirituality of these holy and immortal beings. The true and perfect pattern to which we shall be conformed, is the glorious body of the Redeemer, who, though once dead, now liveth for ever, and who will give us to share his own immortality. “Because I live, ye shall live also.”[26]

With what body the wicked will come, and to what likeness they will be conformed, the Scriptures do not tell us. As they will be raised, to stand in the judgment, and receive the sentence under which they will suffer everlasting punishment, in the fire prepared for the devil and his angels; we may conclude that, both in body and spirit, they will be fitted and capacitated for the everlasting endurance of the torments inflicted. We know that their bodies will not be “glorious,” for their resurrection will be “unto shame and everlasting contempt.”[27] Conjecture, on points which revelation has not enlightened, must be unprofitable.

[1] John v. 28, 29; Dan. xii. 2; Job xix. 25-27; Ps. xvii. 15; Acts iv. 2; xxiv. 15; xxvi. 8; Rom. viii. 11; 1 Cor. xv. 12-54; 1 Thess. iv. 14-17; Rev. xx. 6, 12, 13.

[2] 1 Cor. vi. 20

[3] John v. 28.

[4] 1 Cor. xv. 53.

[5] Phil. iii. 21.

[6] John v. 28.

[7] 1 Cor. vi. 19.

[8] Rom. viii. 11.

[9] 1 Cor. xv. 14, 15.

[10] Acts xxiv. 15.

[11] John v. 28, 29.

[12] 1 Cor. xv. 52.

[13] Heb. ix.27.

[14] 1 Cor. xv. 22.

[15] Matt. xxii. 29.

[16] Phil. iii. 21.

[17] John v. 28.

[18] Phil. iii. 21.

[19] 1 Cor. xv. 37, 38.

[20] 1 Cor. xv. 38.

[21] 1 John iii. 2.

[22] 1 Cor. vi. 13.

[23] 1 Cor. xv. 44.

[24] 1 Cor. xv. 53.

[25] Luke xx. 35, 36.

[26] John xiv. 19.

[27] Dan. xii. 2.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Attributes of God: Eternity and Immutability-Book 2- Chapter 2- Section 4

Book Second

CHAPTER II.

SECTION IV. – ETERNITY AND IMMUTABILITY.

GOD IS ETERNAL.[26]

In our knowledge of the objects which surround us, we include not only their present state, but their continued existence, and the changes which they undergo. Some things pass before our eyes, as visions of the moment; others, as the rocks, the sun, the stars, outlast many generations of men. Few living creatures remain in life as long as man; but the shortness of his life is a subject of daily remark, and of impressive scriptural representations.[27] The duration of the deity is exhibited in contrast thus: “Lord, make me know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as a handbreadth, and mine age is as nothing BEFORE THEE.”[28] A thousand years, include many of the ordinary generations of mankind; yet, in comparison with God’s duration, they are said to be “as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”[29] Tomorrow, while future, may appear to our view, as a duration of considerable length; but yesterday, when it is past, how short it is! An hour of the day, filled with a great variety of incidents, which it might require many hours to narrate, is lengthened out in our view; but how short, how contracted is a watch of the night, in which we sleep and awake, and know not that time has passed! Such to the view of God is the long period of a thousand years. To heighten our conception of God’s eternity, it is contrasted with the duration of those natural things which appear to possess the greatest stability: “Thou, Lord, in the beginning, has laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands; they shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment: and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou are the same, and thy years shall not fail.”[30] But when we have enlarged our conceptions to the utmost, they still utterly fail to comprehend the vast subject. We stretch our thoughts backward and forward; but no beginning or end of God’s existence appears. To relieve our overstretched imagination, and to stop the unavailing effort to comprehend what is incomprehensible, we bring in the negative idea–no beginning, no end. Duration without beginning and without end, becomes the expression of God’s eternity.

That every thing, except God, had a beginning, is a doctrine of revelation: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[31] This doctrine, philosophy cannot contradict, and perhaps cannot fully demonstrate. But there are manifestations of design, even in unorganized matter, in the kinds and quantities that exist, and the uses to which they are adapted. If matter is eternal, or a production of chance, why is it not all of one kind; and why are the kinds of it, and the proportionate quantities of each, so apparently the result of design? Revelation answers this by declaration, “In wisdom thou hast made them all.”[32]

In contemplating God as the First Cause, we consider his existence uncaused. As we look back through duration past, till we find one existence that is without beginning, so we look back through the long chain of effect and cause, till we have found one existence that is without cause. Sometimes, however, the conception is clothed in language, that has not merely negative import. Not satisfied with the merely negative idea, without cause, learned men labor to assign a cause for God’s existence, and represent it as the cause of itself, or as including its cause within itself. They express this, by saying, that God is self-existent. This mode of expression accommodates our tendency to philosophize; but it perhaps conveys no other intelligible idea, than that God’s existence is without cause.

Another philosophical expression, God necessarily exists, seems to possess some deep meaning; but when we labor to explore its depths, we shall, perhaps, find in it no other intelligible idea, than that God exists, and has always existed. His existence has always rendered his non-existence impossible, because it is impossible for anything to be, and not to be, at the same time. If philosophy goes behind the existence of God, in search of a cause necessitating his being, she wanders out of her proper province. We may permit her to trace the relation of cause and effect, as far as that relation is to be found; but when she has arrived at the uncaused existence of the eternal One, we should say to her, thus far shalt thou go, and no further.

The eternity of God has been defined, existence without beginning, without end, and without succession. Time with us, is past, present and future; but God’s existence is believed to be a perpetual now. The subject is beyond our comprehension; but it is most reasonable to conclude, that God’s mode of existence differs from ours, as it respects time, as well as space; and that, as he exists equally at every point of space, without division of his immensity, so he equally exists at every moment of time, without division of his eternity. Possibly this may be intimated in the Scripture phrase, “inhabiteth eternity.”[33] We dwell in time, a habitation with its various apartments; and we pass from one to another in order; but God’s habitation is undivided eternity. Our lifetime has its parts, childhood, boyhood, manhood, and old age; but God’s life is as indivisible as his essence.

GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE.[34]

The doctrine of God’s eternity, and that of his unchangeableness, are nearly allied to each other; and if his eternity excludes succession, it must also exclude the possibility of change. Unchangeableness applies not only to his essence, but also to his attributes. His spirituality is ever the same, his omnipresence the same, and so of the rest. His purpose, also, is unchangeable; it is called “his eternal purpose.”[35] He says: “My counsel shall stand.”[36] He is said, in Scripture, to repent; but, in the same chapter[37] in which it is twice said that God repented, it is also stated: “He is not a man, that he should repent.” We cannot suppose that the sacred writer intended to contradict himself palpably in the compass of a few verses. In accommodation to our modes of speaking, God is said to repent when he effects such a change in his work as would, in human actions, proceed from repentance. Repentance, in men, implies grief of mind, and change of work. The former is inconsistent with the perfection of God, but the latter is not. To destroy the world by the deluge, no more implied a change in God than to create it at first. Each set effected a great change, but in both God remained unchanged. No other language could so impressively represent God’s abhorrence of man’s wickedness to be the cause of the deluge, as that used by the sacred historian: “It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”[38]

When we contemplate the shortness of human life, and the incessant change of everything with which we have to do on earth, and of ourselves, as we pass from the cradle to the grave, we may well exclaim, as we look up to the eternal and unchangeable God, “Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him.” A sense of our comparative nothingness is eminently conducive to humility. A view of God’s eternity and unchangeableness is necessary to the due exercise of confidence in him. It is folly to trust in uncertain riches, and in the things which perish in the using of them; but we wisely put our trust in the living God. The men with whom we converse are passing away; the condition of life is perpetually changing; we are, in all our relations to earthly things, as if we were on the surface of a restless ocean; but God is as a rock amidst the fluctuating waters; and, while we repose unshaken confidence in him, our feet stand firmly, and we can look without dismay on the troubled scene around us. Men of age receive our reverence, and the counsels of their long experience are highly prized. Who will not reverence the Ancient of Days, the eternal God; and who will reject the counsel of Him “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”?[39]

The immutability of God has been made a pretext for restraining prayer before him; but this is wrong. Even if the giving or withholding of the blessings desired were unaffected by the prayer, there still remains sufficient reason for perseverance in offering the petition. The devotional feeling is acceptable to God, and profitable to the soul. If prayer will not bring God to the soul, it will at least, bring the soul to God. A man in a boat, on a dangerous water, may be saved by means of a rope thrown to him from the shore. When he pulls, though the rock to which the other end of the rope may be fastened does not come to the boat, the boat comes to the rock. So prayer brings the soul to God.

But it is not true, that the giving or withholding of the blessing desired is unaffected by the petition presented. Though God is unchangeable, his operation changes in its effect on his creatures, according to their changing character and circumstances. The same sun hardens clay and softens wax. Adam was in God’s favor before he sinned; but afterwards was under his displeasure. When a man becomes converted, he is removed from under the wrath of God into a state of favor with him, and all things now work together for his good. In all this, God changes not. God has, in time past, bestowed blessings in answer to prayer, and his unchangeableness encourages the hope that he will do so in time to come. His whole plan has been so arranged, in his infinite wisdom, that many of his blessings are bestowed only in answer to prayer. The connection between the prayer and the bestowment of the blessing, is as fixed by the divine appointment as that between cause and effect in natural things. The unchangeableness of God, therefore, instead of being a reason for restraining prayer, renders prayer indispensable; for our weak petitions have their effect with God, according to his immutable purpose; and, to deny the possibility of this, would be to deny the efficacy of Christ’s intercession.

[26] Deut. xxxii. 40; xxxiii. 27; Ps. ix. 7; xc. 2; cii. 27; cxlvi. 10; Isaiah lvii. 15; lxiii. 16; Jer. x. 10; Lam. v. 19; 1Tim. i. 17.

[27] 1 Chron. xxix. 15; Job vii. 6: Job ix. 25, 26.

[28] Ps. xxxix. 4, 5.

[29] Ps. xc. 4.

[30] Heb. i. 10, 11, 12.

[31] Gen. i. 1.

[32] Ps. civ. 24.

[33] Is. lvii. 15.

[34] Num. xxiii. 19. Ps. cii. 27; Mal. iii.6; Heb. i. 12; xiii. 8; Jas. i. 17.

[35] Eph. iii. 11.

[36] Is. xlvi. 10.

[37] 1 Sam. xv.

[38] Gen. vi. 6.

[39] Micah v. 2.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1-Chapter 7-The Infinity of God

January 16, 2015 1 comment

CHAPTER 7-THE lNFINlTY OF GOD

INFINITY, when applied to God, means that He is unbounded, unlimited, unsearchable, immeasurable, incomparable, and incomprehensible. These are big words, both in size and meaning, and big words are needed to describe such a great and glorious God. God is so great that in comparison with Him. “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and 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?” (#Da 4:35). Infinity contrasts God with His creatures. God is infinite; man is finite. God is infinite in all His attributes, but infinity has chief respect to His omnipresence and eternity. God is not bound by space, therefore He is everywhere; nor by time, therefore He is eternal.

1. HIS ETERNITY.

God’s infinity as to duration is called His eternity. He has neither beginning nor end. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (#Re 1:8). This attribute is possessed by each of the three persons, who have a common and undivided nature. He is eternal whether you look backward or forward. God’s nature is not subject to the law of time. God is not in time; time is in God. God gave existence to time. There is no succession of time with God; to Him past, present, and future is “one eternal now.” “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (#2Pe 3:8). It has been well remarked that God is no older now than in the days of David, or when the world was created; for time makes no changes in Him. “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him” (#Da 7:13), But not ancient in days. “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (#Ps 90:1,2).

He is without end. This is not difficult to understand. We think of men as existing forever, so it is easy to believe this of God. That which has no beginning, obviously could have no end. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (#Re 22:13).

He is without beginning. At this point God is incomprehensible. But whether we can conceive of life without beginning or not, we are bound to attribute this kind of existence to God. This may be argued:

1. From His necessary self-existence. The existence of God is either arbitrary or necessary. If arbitrary, it must lie from His own will or from the will of another. If from His own will, this would suppose His previous existence, which would be a contradiction. If His existence is from the will of another, that other would be both prior and superior, and so be God. This would involve another contradiction. God then must necessarily exist. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (#Isa 43:10).

2. That God is without beginning may be argued from His immutability. If God is not eternal, He must have passed from non existence into being, and this would involve a change. “But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end” (#Ps 102:27). “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (#Mal 3:6).

3. The eternity of God may also be argued from His attributes, several of which are said to be eternal. His power is expressly said to be eternal: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (#Ro 1:20). His knowledge is from eternity: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (#Ac 15:18). His mercy is said to be from everlasting to everlasting: “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children” (#Ps 103:17). His purposes are eternal: “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:” (#Eph 3:11). His love is called everlasting: “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (#Jer 31:3).

4. The eternity of God may be concluded from the covenant of grace which is styled an everlasting covenant: “Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow” (#2Sa 23:5). It is called the everlasting covenant not only because it will endure immovable forever, but because it was from everlasting. It is sometimes called a new covenant, not because newly made, but because it is always new and never grows old.

5. The incommunicable name of God is Jehovah, which means “The Existing One.” “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth” (#Ps 83:18). God exists naturally and necessarily, which means that there is no cause of His existence. He is the great First Cause, and therefore cannot be the effect of any other cause. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (#Heb 13:8). There are no wrinkles on the brow of the eternal God. There is no feebleness of old age with Him.

2. HIS OMNIPRESENCE.

This means that God is everywhere. He is not bound by space. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (#Ps 139:7-10). There is no escape from Him for the wicked and no separation from Him for the righteous. This may be proven:

1. From His power, which is everywhere, as appears in creation and providence. “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:” (#Heb 1:3).

2. From His knowledge. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (#Heb 4:13); “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (#Pr 15:3). The presence of God may be considered in different ways. He is not present everywhere in the same sense or way. His glorious presence is in heaven, where He displays Himself to angels and to the spirits of just men made perfect. His powerful and providential presence is with all His creatures, ” upholding all things by the word of his power” (#Heb 1:3). His gracious presence is with His people, regenerating, sanctifying, comforting, and blessing them. His wrathful presence is in hell, inflicting punishment upon the wicked. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (#Ps 139:8). “But 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 burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (#Re 21:8). God’s omnipresence is particularly and fully expressed in Psalm 139: “O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” This speaks of His essential presence. So immense is God that the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (#1Ki 8:27). “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” (#Isa 66:1).

OBJECTIONS TO GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE

It has been urged in objection to the omnipresence of God that Cain went out from the presence of the Lord: “And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden” (#Ge 4:16), and that Jonah fled from God’s presence: “But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” (#Jon 1:3). But in reply it may be said that Cain only went away from the place of worship where God’s gracious presence was manifested. And Jonah was fleeing from the service of God, foolishly supposing that he could avoid being urged to do his duty. He soon found that God was everywhere, and could met with him on the sea as well as on the land.

The God with whom we have to do has no limitations. One of the sins charged against Israel was that they limited the Holy One of Israel: “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (#Ps 78:41), that is, they thought there were some things too much for Him; they circumscribed Him in their thoughts and in lack of faith.

There are no crises with God, and no secret places to Him. All things are naked and open to His eyes. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (#Heb 4:13). There is no hiding from Him, and no withstanding Him when His anger is aroused and when He chooses to execute His wrath.

May both writer and reader say with the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (#Ps 139:23,24).

 

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1

Chapter 42-The Final States of the Righteous and the Wicked

October 15, 2014 1 comment

The Final States of the Righteous and the Wicked

IN the last chapter, nothing was said specifically of the awards of the judgement day. Yet is the public bestowal of these the culminating point of interest in that occasion. Judgement, without the expression of its results, in rewards and punishment, would be empty and vain. Hence the Scriptures do not leave us ignorant of what sentences will be pronounced upon the righteous, and wicked, and of what will be the final state of each. Of necessity, these must, in some respects, resemble those of the intermediate state; of which the condition of the righteous and wicked after judgement will be an enlargement and a culmination. It is not strange, therefore, that the Scriptures teach more fully, and emphatically upon these subjects.

 

I. THE FINAL STATE OF THE RIGHTEOUS.

There is upon this point little dispute as to the meaning of the Scripture statements. As they are numerous, they will best be presented under several classes of description.

1. The sentence of the judgement day may be stated.

Our Lord declared that “then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matt. 25:34. This is called “eternal life” in v. 46. As this is, probably, a description of the nature of the blessings to be attained, rather than a declaration of the literal language that will then be used, other statements may here be added which are of the same nature. One that is given in the parable of the talents, in which his lord said to him of the five talents, “Well done, good and faithful servant:thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things:enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Matt. 25:21, (cf. Matt. 24:27). The righteous are spoken of as “wheat,” and it is said that the householder at the harvest time will say to the reapers, “gather the wheat into my barn,” Matt. 13:30. Our Lord, in his explanation of this parable, says of those thus represented by the wheat, “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” v. 43. Corresponding to this language, is the declaration of Peter, that, “when the chief shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Pet. 5:4. There may be added, also, the promises made in Revelation to “him that overcometh,” viz.: to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God,” (Chap. 2:7); “That he shall not be hurt of the second death,” (2:11); “That he shall be given of the hidden manna,” and “a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written,” (2:17), and given authority over the nations, (2:27,) to “rule them with a rod of iron,” (2:27); to “be arrayed in white garments,” (3:5), and “walk with me (Christ) in white,” (3:4), to be made “a pillar in the temple of my God, the new Jerusalem, and the new name of Christ, written upon him,” (3:12); to sit down with Christ in his throne, 3:21; “to inherit these things,” with the promise, “I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” 21:7. These declarations, however figurative, are descriptive of the condition of the saints in glory, and may, therefore, be appropriately added to the sentence of their Lord.

2. The future state of the righteous, is also stated, with reference to his past condition on earth, as “salvation,” (Mark 16:16; 1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Tim. 2:10); deliverance :from every evil work,” (2 Tim. 4:18); “redemption,” (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 4:30); “liberty,” (John 8:36; Rom. 8:21); “rest,” (Heb. 4:10; Rev. 14:13); deliverance from earthly sufferings, such as hunger, thirst, tears, etc., (Rev. 7:16, 17); “no night,” (Rev. 21:25; 22:5); “no uncleanness,” Rev. 21:27.

3. It is also described, in contrast with present possessions, as blessedness, (Matt. 25:34); perfect knowledge, (1 Cor. 13:12); holiness, (1 Thess. 3:13; Rev. 21:27); glory, (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:4); life, (Mark 8:35; 9:43, 45, 47; John 5:29; Rom. 8:13); crown of life, (James 1:12); eternal life, Matt. 19:29; 25:46; John 6:27, 47, 54; Rom 2:7.

4. Declarations are made which connect the believer with Christ, viz.: As of his being with Christ, (1 Thess. 4:17); in the presence of his glory, (Jude 24); holding his glory, (John 17:24); conformed to the body of Christ in his glory, (Phil. 3:21); Christ showing him the riches of his grace, (Eph. 2:7); Christ glorified in them, (2 Thess. 1:10); entering into the joy of their Lord, (Matt. 25:21, 23); reigning with Christ, 2 Tim 2:12, etc.

5. Statements are made about their activity in the heavenly life. The rest of heaven is not a state of inactivity. This is pointed out in the very passage which speaks of the rest as a particular blessedness: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours (toil, trouble, suffering, pain, weariness); for their works (deeds, works, especially those of necessity or duty,) [see Lexicon of Liddell-Scott,] follow with them.” Rev. 14:13. Here we are taught that, while they rest from onerous and painful toil, they continue to be actively employed. We may not know what all of these employments shall be. They will be such as will be suited to their intellectual and moral nature and position. The statements of the book of Revelation give us an insight into what some of them may be. The servants of God are there depicted as serving God, Rev. 7:15; 22:3; as giving praises in song, Rev. 14:2, 3; 15:3, 4; 19:5, 6; as engaged in prayers of adoration, Rev. 6:9-13; 7:11, 12; of thanksgiving, Rev. 11:17; and in acts of humiliation, Rev. 4:10.

6. The blessedness of the future state of the righteous, is also set forth in connection with the place of their abode.

This is usually called heaven. It is readily admitted that the word “heaven” is used otherwise than for the abode of God, and Christ, and angels, and the future dwelling-place of the saints. But in numerous places it has only this special signification. The following selection of passages will suffice. Matt. 5:12, 45; 6:20; Luke 6:23; 15:7; 22:43; John 3:13; 6:38; Rom. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:47; 2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 1:10; 3:15; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 9:24; 1 Pet. 1:4; 3:22.

The plain teaching of these passages, and of others that might be mentioned, is that heaven is a place, and not merely a condition of happiness.

The same fact is justly argued from its being the abiding place of Christ. His human body must occupy a specified place in space. It has been replied to this argument that, “since deity and humanity are indissolubly united in Christ’s single person, it is difficult to consider Christ’s body as limited to place, without vacating his person of its divinity.” But this objection is made in forgetfulness of the fact that Christ, in his divine relation, is not limited by his human nature, much less by his human body. This was shown by him, while on earth, when, in conversation with Nicodemus, he spake of himself as being in heaven, (John 3:13), although his body was manifestly on earth. Was his ubiquity as God interfered with by his location then in space as man? It was in like manner that Christ saw Nathanael under the fig tree, when he was not bodily present. John 1:48.

The idea of ubiquity of the body of Christ has been abandoned, however, while still it is denied that his human soul is limited to space. Thus it is said that “since deity and humanity are dissolubly united in Christ’s single person, we cannot regard Christ’s human soul as limited to place without vacating his person of its divinity.”

But this is equally erroneous. Divine attributes are not conferred on Christ’s soul because of its union with a divine person. But ubiquity, or omnipresence is a divine attribute. It is much more difficult for us to understand how the unity of Christ’s person did not convey to the human soul all knowledge belonging to Christ as God. Yet we are distinctly told (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32), that there was such a limitation of knowledge as to the time of Christ’s second coming, as could only be true of Christ in his human nature, and not of him as God. The perfect humanity of Christ, which is his as truly as his perfect divinity, makes necessary such location in space as is suitable to a human soul. Whatever superiority may accrue to either the human body or soul of Christ can never place either of these beyond the excellence of created existence, or confer upon either the nature or attributes of God.

No similar objection, however, can be made to an argument to the same effect, drawn from the bodies of the saints. Heaven cannot be regarded as only a state in which they have communion with God, but must be accepted as the place of their abode in their glorified bodies, in which they dwell with each other, and rejoice in the state of happiness and glory which is also theirs.

We have no means of ascertaining the location of heaven. That this earth, in its renewed condition, may be the future heaven is favoured by Rom. 8:19-23; 2 Pet. 3:5-13, and Rev. 21:1-3. But these passages are entirely to indefinite and doubtful to give any certainty, or even very strong probability, on this point.

Heaven is spoken of in certain descriptive terms. It is called “a better country, that is a heavenly.” Heb. 11:16. It is the place which we shall have a “a building from God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” (2 Cor. 5:1, 2); and “a place” among the “many mansions” in the “Father’s house;” John 14:2. It is called “the kingdom,” Matt. 13:43; 25:34. It is possible that heaven is also meant by the “Jerusalem that is above,” (Gal. 4:26), and “the new Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven,” (Rev. 3:12), and “the holy city Jerusalem,” (Rev. 21:10); as well as by Paradise, Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7, (cf. Rev. 21:10-27).

7. The blessedness of this state of the righteous is made supreme by the fact that it will last forever. It will never end; it will never be diminished. If there be any change, it will be from its increase; because of better intellectual perception and knowledge of God, and of divine things; because of a constantly and increasingly endearing communion with God in Christ; because of an increased capacity to behold the glory of Christ; and because of a greater exaltation of the spiritual nature in the worship and service of the Lord. There is no reason why there may not be such increase in beings whose natures can never attain the infinity of excellence and the complete fulness which belong only to God.

This perpetuity of the happiness of the saints is stated in various ways.

(1.) It is called “eternal life,” and “everlasting life” in the King James version, which are translations of the same Greek words. They are translated “eternal life,” or “life eternal” in Matt. 25:26; Mark 10:30; John 3:15; 10:28; 12:25; 17:2; Acts 13:48; Rom. 2:7; 5:21; 6:23; 1 Tim. 6:12, 19; Tit. 1:2; 3:7; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 5:11-13; Jude 21. They are translated “everlasting life,” or “life everlasting” im Matt. 19:29; Luke 18:30; John 3:16, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:27, 40, 47; Rom. 6:22; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 1:16. The Greek should have been translated in all these places by the same word; and the better word would have been everlasting, because only a relative eternity, or what is called eternity a parte post, belongs to created things. God alone has true eternity. [See pages 68-70.]

(2.) It is declared to be “for ever,” John 6:51, 58; and “for ever and ever,” Rev. 22:5.

(3.) Similar expressions are also used, as “everlasting tabernacles,” Luke 16:9; “eternal weight of glory,” (2 Cor. 4:17); “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever,” (Eph. 3:21); “eternal comfort,” (2 Thess. 2:16); “Salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory,” (2 Tim. 2:10); “eternal salvation,” (Heb. 5:9); “eternal redemption,” (Heb. 9:12); eternal inheritance,” (Heb. 9:15); “eternal glory,” (1 Pet. 5:10); “eternal kingdom of our Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ,” 2 Pet. 1:11.

(4.) In John 4:14; 8:51, 52, and 10:28, it is declared of believers that “they shall never thirst;” “never taste of death;” “and never perish;” by which is taught the same everlasting condition expressed in the three preceding classes. Reference is made in these passages to the spiritual life of the soul.

The numerous declarations of everlasting life and happiness, thus classified above, make certain what might have been inferred from the scriptural statements of the natural immortality conferred upon spirit, which forbids its annihilation; and from security, against the spiritual; death of the soul, arising from the gracious work of Christ wrought out, for, and in the believer, through which he is forever delivered from the condemnation, and presence of sin, and clothed in the unfailing righteousness of God. The same blessing is unquestionably attained through the relation borne to Christ by the saints, as constituting the church of first born ones, which is his bride, Eph. 5:23-33, and also that body, of which he is the head, which is declared to be “the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Eph. 1:23. The vital connection between Christ and his people has no elements of dissolution, and, therefore, everlasting must be that cause of their existence announced by him when he said, “because I live, ye shall live also.” John 14:19.

 

II. THE FINAL STATE OF THE WICKED.

The judgement day is no less signally to be marked by the punishment decreed against the wicked, than by the blessings conferred upon the righteous. These, also, are set forth in the Bible, and in fearful words of warning; and should be effective for driving men to Christ for salvation, while the day of probation continues.

1. We have here the sentence to be uttered against those who are still in sin. It occurs in the same chapter with that of the righteous. Christ tells us that “Then shall he (the King) say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels, . . . and these shall go away into eternal punishment.” Matt. 25:41, 46. A similar sentence occurs in Luke 13:27, “I tell you, I know not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”

The different elements, included in this sentence, are also taught of the wicked elsewhere in the Scriptures; some examples of which may be here added.

(1.) Punishment. “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned,” Mark 16:16; “the resurrection of judgement,” John 5:29; “rendering vengeance to them that know not God . . . who shall suffer punishment,” 2 Thess. 1:8, 9; “keep the unrighteous under the punishment unto the day of judgement,” 2 Pet. 2:9.

(2.) Pain: (a) as expressed by fire. (Matt. 13:42, 50; 18:8, 9; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thess. 1:8; 2 Pet. 3:7); (b.) fire and brimstone, (Rev. 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8); (c.) flame, (Luke 16:24); (d.) “the unquenchable fire,” (Mark 9:44, 48; cf. Luke 3:17); (e.) “tribulation,” Matt. 24:21, 29; Rom. 2:8, 9.

(3.) Deprivation: severed from among the righteous. Matt 13:49; “outer darkness,” Matt. 25:30; “cast forth without,” Luke 13:28; “shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 6:9; “no rest,” Rev. 14:11; “blackness of darkness hath been reserved forever,” Jude 13.

(4.) The punishment and suffering are recognized by those punished and that recognition is shown by their “weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” Matt 8:12; 13:50; 25:30; Luke 13:28. The Rich Man is represented as acknowledging his torments. Luke 16:24.

2. The nature of this punishment.

(1.) It is unwarrantable to take for granted that it will not be in part physical. The wicked will go from the judgement seat with the bodies which belong to them in their resurrection state. We know not what will be the nature of these bodies, and, therefore, have no right to affirm that they may not be capable of physical pain. That the language of Scripture, as to fire and brimstone, is figurative, is true. But men are not authorized, on that account, to deny that some physical pain, and, that of a most excruciating and agonizing character, will form a part of the agony and woe of the hereafter of the sinner. So far from men drawing comfort from any conviction they may have that there will not be literal fire, they should only the more be filled with dread and apprehension of some fearful condition, which the Scriptures here attempt to describe by terms which express the severest anguish men can endure in the body; the statements made evidently falling far short of telling the nature of a punishment which our present condition forbids that we should understand. In the range of animal life here on earth, we know that the higher the organism the more keenly is it alive to suffering as well as enjoyment. This teaches us to expect that the bodily enjoyments of the saints will far surpass anything ever experienced on earth. If the resurrection bodies of the wicked are, in any degree, higher than those of this world, the only result will be to make them capable of anguish utterly inconceivable by men in their present state.

(2.) The spiritual agony, then to be endured, is equally beyond the possibility of present expression. We may say that it will necessarily consist in certain evils; but who can tell how great those evils will then be realized to be. Some of them may be suggested: as; consciousness of an unclean and unholy nature; when there is no way to cleanse or escape it: conviction of the nature and ill desert of sin; when sinful habits have such prevalence and control that sin must still be committed willingly, yet with horror of what is done;– indications of which are seen in men in this life, who, by debauchery, or drunkenness, are driven forward to evil even against their will–: remorse for past indulgences, for neglected opportunities, for rejections of Christ;– especially as then will be seen how nigh unto each one had come the kingdom and grace of God–: knowledge of banishment perpetually from the presence of Christ, and deprivation of the favour and love of God:– these, and evils like unto them, with the mutual reproaches of the damned, for the influences of each other by which such evil has come, will make a Hell compared with which all the torture men have ever known in this life will be looked back to as though it were heaven itself.

3. The place of this punishment.

There are three words used in Scripture which are translated “Hell” in the King James version, viz.: Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna. Hades is simply transferred in the Canterbury Revision. It is used for the general place of departed spirits, both righteous and wicked. In no place is punishment, or torment, associated with it, except in Luke 16:23, in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. This is to be explained, in accordance with the use of the word in all other passages, by the fact that, as Hades contains the wicked, as well as the righteous, and as the wicked there are in a state of sin and suffering, so the rich man in Hades was tormented, while Lazarus who was in the same general abode, was enjoying the blessed state expressed by his being in Abraham’s bosom.

The word Tartarus appears only as a participle [tau]a[rho][tau]a[rho][omega][sigma]a[varsigma] (tartarosas) of the verb [tau]a[rho]a[upsilon][rho][omicron][omega] (tartaroo), which means to cast down to Tartarus. The place in which it is found is 2 Pet. 2:4, which is translated “For God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to hell, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement.” The Revisers point out in the margin that the word Hell is expressed in the Greek by Tartarus. This passage evidently has respect to the condition of these angels before the judgement day.

The places in which Gehenna occurs are Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5, and James 3:6. All of them refer to torture and punishment hereafter. This is distinctly associated with the punishment of the judgement day, in Matt. 18:9, by the preceding verse where “eternal fire” is used as the equivalent term to Gehenna; in Matt. 23:33, where Christ asks the Scribes and Pharisees, “How shall ye escape the judgement of Hell (Gehenna)”; in Mark 9:43, where the language is “to go into Hell (Gehenna), into the unquenchable fire,” and in Luke 12:5, in which Christ says, “Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into Hell (Gehenna).”

It has not been inaptly remarked that Gehenna is used by Christ himself in all of the twelve passages in which it occurs in the New Testament, except James 3:6.

4. The duration of this punishment.

The New Testament Teaching upon this subject is that it will endure throughout all the infinite future. This is expressed in various ways.

(1.) By the term [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu] a[iota][omicron][omega][nu]a (eis ton aiona), “forever.”

This occurs about thirty times in the New Testament. An earnest and learned opponent of the doctrine of Eternal punishment, (Oxenham in “What is Truth as to Everlasting Punishment?” p. 101), has been able to point out only one place in the New Testament where he thinks the meaning of “forever” cannot be applicable to this form of words. It is the language of Paul in 1 Cor. 8:13, translated “I will eat no flesh forevermore.” For any other use, Oxenham is obliged to refer to the Septuagint, where he claims that it is used of “duration, throughout the age of the Mosaic dispensation,” “of the world,” “of a family,” and “of the political condition of slavery.” But this application accords with that very derivation, made by the best lexicographers, that makes a[iota][omega][nu] (aion), equivalent to the Latin aevum, which word, however is the basis of the very idea of eternity which is the sole meaning of [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu] a[iota][omega][nu]a (eis ton aiona), in the latter Hellenistic Greek of the New Testament.

This term is applied to the punishment of the wicked, in Jude 13.

2. Other similar expressions to the first are used where plural forms of a[iota][omega][nu] (aion) appear, as [epsilon][iota][varsigma] [tau][omicron][nu][varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu]a[varsigma] [tau][omega][nu] a[iota][omega][nu][omega][nu] (eis tous aionas ton aionon), “forever and ever,” in Rev. 19:3, and 20:10, and [epsilon][iota][varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu]a[varsigma] a[iota][omega][nu][omicron][nu], (eis aionas aionon). Rev. 14:11. The plural forms only intensify, and certainly do not diminish the duration.

3. The word a[iota][omega][nu][iota][omicron][varsigma], (aionios). This word occurs about seventy times in the New Testament, and invariably in the sense of eternal or everlasting duration. Just as the English word “eternal” refers to the true eternity which is in God alone, so is this word applied to God in Rom. 16:26; and to the Holy Spirit or to the divine nature of Christ, in Heb. 9:14. In like manner, as we inadequately divide eternity into eternity a parte post, and eternity a parte ante, meaning by each indefinite, unlimited and illimitable duration in the past or in the future, from the present, or some fixed period of time; as from the time of Christ’s appearance on earth; so this word is used for each of these two kinds of eternity. It has no other application in the New Testament than to one or other of these three forms of eternity. As applied to the endless life of the righteous or wicked, it signifies the future eternity, or eternity a parte post.

Those who oppose the doctrine of eternal punishment suppose that there are many ages, or periods of the existence of man, and they attempt to explain the language used accordingly. But while the phrases upon which this opinion is based, might as a matter of language mean this, there is no evidence from Scripture of the existence of any such several periods. The only distinction clearly made is between the dispensation prior to the time of Christ, and that since his day; the Scriptures evidently regarding that as the central point, unto which all things tended in the past, and from which all things proceed in the future.

It is not to be overlooked that these words, which express the eternity of the punishment of the wicked, are those by which the eternal life of the righteous is also made known. As that is unending in its happiness, so this is in its punishment and suffering. These words express as strongly as the Greek language can, the everlasting duration of the destiny assigned to each at the judgement day.

This is questioned by Oxenham, who says, p. 114, “There are several ways in which Almighty God could have expressed this endlessness of future punishment, if he desired to tell us that it would be endless; ways, about the meaning of which there could be no mistake; ways, in which, in Holy Scripture, he has expressed the endlessness of things which will be endless: e.g., of his own dominion God declared by the prophet Daniel that it was ‘and everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed,’ Dan. 7:14. Of the endless life of the blessed, our Lord declared, Luke 20:36, neither can they die anymore. By the angel Gabriel, Luke 1:33, God announced that of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ there shall be no end. Where is any language used of the Kingdom of Darkness, or of future punishment, or of the wicked? Where is it said of the lost that they can live no more? Where of future punishment, that of it there shall be no end?”

To this it may be replied,

(a.) That, if no similar instances can be given relative to future punishment, and the wicked, yet so far as any of these expressions are used of the righteous, they are explanatory of the kind of eternity ascribed to their happiness; and, as this is described by the same words as that of the misery of the wicked in all other cases, these instances teach us the meaning of these common words, when applied to the wicked, by thus explaining them when applied to the righteous.

(b.) That the same ingenuity, and quibbling, which attempts to deprive the expressions used of their true meaning, would be applied in like manner to such terms as these.

If a similar passage to that from Daniel could be presented, we should immediately have pointed out to us that it was to the Son of Man that the kingdom was given, and that, of this very kingdom which “shall not pass away,” we are told that “then cometh the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom of God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule, and all authority and power.” 1 Cor. 15:24.

(c.) But there are like instances which may be adduced. In Luke 20:36, “neither can they die any more,” the impossibility of dying is expressed by [omicron][upsilon]d[epsilon] d[upsilon][nu]a[tau]a[iota] (oude dunantai.) Corresponding to this is the language used by our Lord to the Pharisees in John 9:21, “Ye shall seek me and shall die in your sin: whither I go ye cannot come,” [omicron][upsilon] d[upsilon][nu]a[sigma][theta][epsilon] [epsilon][lambda][theta][epsilon][iota][nu] (ou dunasthe elthein).

Parallel to the expression in Luke 1:33, “there shall be no end,” [omicron][upsilon][kappa] [epsilon][sigma][tau]a[iota] [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (ouk estai telos), is “the endless genealogies,” [gamma][epsilon][nu][epsilon]a[lambda][omicron][gamma][iota]a[iota][varsigma] a[pi][epsilon][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][iota][varsigma] (genealogiais aperantois), in 1 Tim. 1:4; for, although different words are used to express endlessness in the Greek, they are of substantially equal force. Oxenham is himself authority for the strong meaning of a[pi][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][iota][varsigma] (aperantois), for he refers to a[pi][epsilon][iota][rho][omicron][nu] (apeiron), aand [pi][epsilon][rho]a[zeta], from which a[pi][epsilon][rho]a[nu][tau][omicron][varsigma] (aperantos) is likewise formed, as meaning “without a limit,” and says of it and others “by these and by several other words and expressions of unmistakable meaning, Almighty God could have expressed the endlessness of future punishment if he had desired to do so,” p. 115. Yet, had he used this word, or others of the same form, how quickly should we have been referred to the endless genealogies as exegetical of them.

With respect to the two final questions of Mr. Oxenham, the passage in 1 Cor. 6:9, may be suggested as one that fully meets them. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God,” (see also verse 10). The same expression occurs in Gal. 5:21. The insincerity with which such questions are asked is seen in the fact that, when these and similar passages are presented, these opponents resort to the assumption that the unrighteous will not always be unrighteous, and that only so long as unrighteous shall they not inherit; but that they may do so after their unrighteousness has passed away. They will attempt to maintain the possibility of this in the face of such a passage as Rev. 22:11, “He that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still: and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still.”

(4.) Here may properly be added three other expressions as to the unending nature of the punishment of the wicked.

(a.) ‘A[iota]d[iota][omicron][varsigma] (aidios), which appears in the “eternal Godhead” of Rom. 1:20, and in the everlasting chains of the angels which kept not their first estate in Jude 6. As the wicked are to be sentenced to the “eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), this passage has probable reference to the duration of the punishment of both devils and wicked men.

(b.) ‘A[sigma][beta][epsilon][sigma][tau][omicron][varsigma] (Asbestos), unquenchable fire. Oxenham claims that all that is involved in this word is that the fire “is unquenched,” and that the language does not forbid a time when it may be quenched. This word occurs in three undisputed places in Scripture, Matt. 3:12; Mark 9:43, and Luke 3:17, and in three others, Mark 9:44, 45, 46, which Westcott and Hort omit from their text, and which are also omitted in the Canterbury Revision. Mark 9:48 has a different form of the same word. Oxenham objects to the translation “unquenchable,” and insists upon the meaning, “is unquenched;” but the duration of the punishment and the propriety of the translation “unquenchable” is shown by the words, “where their worm dieth not,” used in connection with the expression in verse 48.

(c.) [Omicron][upsilon] [tau][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][upsilon][tau]a[iota] (Ou teleutai), “does not end,” “ceases not,” is declared of the worm in Mark 9:48. [Tau][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][upsilon][tau]a[iota] (Teleutai) corresponds exactly in meaning, as well as in root, with the [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (telos) in the [omicron][upsilon][kappa] [epsilon][sigma][tau]a[iota] [tau][epsilon][lambda][omicron][varsigma] (ouk estai telos), in Luke 1:33, which Oxenham regarded as so strongly expressive of endlessness as to challenge the finding of such a term applied to the future punishment of the wicked.

5. Objections and opposing theories.

The objections to this doctrine of eternal punishment, and the opposing theories, may be briefly stated and replied to.

First, the objections.

(1.) It is objected, that the punishment is disproportioned to the sin. But,

(a.) No one but God can know what is the real desert of sin, and if he has plainly taught us that it deserves eternal punishment, we may be sure that the infliction of such punishment must be right, and in accordance with what it merits. The question is simply, What does God say? and upon this point he has taught us plainly.

(b.) The objection is based upon the idea that all the sin that will be punished is that committed in this life. It is true that men will be only judged for the deeds done in the body. But these will not constitute all the sins in the life to come. The Scriptures teach that there will be sinful acts and habits after death. Rev. 22:11. Ever-continuing sin will deserve ever-continuing punishment. If sin is worthy of any punishment at all, and if, at every moment sin is committed, punishment may be forever, without assuming that any one or more sins will cause everlasting infliction.

(c.) Mark 3:29 tells of “an eternal sin.” [See Greek text of Westcott and Hort.]

(d.) The objection supposes that the punishment of the damned is something actively inflicted by God, and not the working out and result of the natures of men. It will doubtless consist, in great part, in their sinful and corrupt natures, which will still work out sin, and thus continue to separate from the favour and complacent love of God. The only probable exception will be “remorse,” arising from the memory of past sins and neglected opportunities; and these are not active inflictions of God, but the results of former sin.

(2.) It is said that God is too merciful to inflict everlasting punishment. But,

(a.) God, in declaring that he will inflict it, thus declares that he is not too merciful to do so.

(b.) God teaches us that, while he takes no delight in such punishment, it is demanded by justice, which is as unabounded an attribute of his nature as mercy.

(c.) God has given signal exhibitions in his providential government that he can and will punish severely. As a moral Governor, his punishment must be proportioned to the offense. His merciful disposition cannot interfere with his righteous action. Even in the salvation of those saved through Christ, it is necessary that he should be just in justifying the believer in Jesus.

(3.) It is claimed that provision has been made in Christ for the certain salvation of all men.

If this be so, there is no difficulty in God’s justice in the bestowment of salvation upon all. But that such is not the case is manifested,

(a.) By the fact that salvation is offered only on the condition of repentance and faith. None, therefore, can have part in that salvation except those who fulfil this condition.

(b.) Regeneration is declared to be essential to entrance into the kingdom of Christ. Those who are not thus born again can, therefore, have no part in his salvation.

(c.) Not only is holiness declared to be essential to admission to heaven, but it is foretold, expressly, that certain classes of unholy men shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; and at the head of the list given are “the fearful and unbelieving.” Rev. 21:8.

(d.) While the value of Christ’s work is indeed ample for all, we are taught that its benefits are not bestowed upon all. There are special sins mentioned which will exclude those who commit them from all hope of salvation. Matt. 12:31; Luke 12:10; Heb. 6:4-6, (cf. verse 9); 10:26, 27, (cf. verses 28-31). But the assertions made about the certain punishment of those who commit these particular sins are not stronger than the declarations of the certain damnation of all the finally impenitent and unbelieving.

(4.) Inasmuch as it is asserted in 1 Tim. 2:3, 4, that “God our Saviour . . . willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth,” it is even claimed that it is the purpose of God to save all.

That the word [theta][epsilon][lambda][epsilon][iota] (thelei), translated “willeth,” often involves purpose or determination on the part of God is readily admitted, as well as that, if it mean this here, all men will be saved according to that purpose. But such purpose cannot be concluded from this passage alone, unless it accords with what is elsewhere taught; much less when it is in direct opposition to the general tenor of the Bible, as well as to distinct statements to the contrary. The reason for this is that this word does not always mean “will,” in the sense of purpose, but is sometimes used in that of a mere “wish.” There are many cases in Scripture in which God is said to wish what not only he does not purpose to accomplish, but what actually fails to take place.

There are numerous examples in which this word has only this meaning of “wish”: thus as used in general of men only, Matt. 7:12; 12:38; 15:28; of Christ, Matt. 23:37; Mark 14:36; Luke 13:34; John 17:24; and of God, 1 Cor. 15:38; Heb. 10:5, 8. [theta][epsilon][lambda][eta]ua (thelema), the corresponding noun, is used as expressive simply of this “wish” of God in Mark 3:35; Rom. 2:18; Eph. 6:6; and in other places.

(5.) It is further objected that God must forgive those who are truly penitent, and that the wicked, in the full knowledge of God and sin afforded by the next world, must certainly repent.

(a.) This objection arises from a misconception of the nature of the repentance acceptable to God. It is not mere sorrow for sin, especially for its effects, of which probably hell will be full; it is reformation of character, turning away from sin and seeking holiness. Sorrow accompanies it, but does not constitute it. It is not awakened by the painful effects of sin, but by conviction of its evil nature. How can such sorrow arise in those who have learned to love sin? or such reformation in those who are confirmed in habits of sin? Remorse for the past, loathings of their then condition, even desires to overcome the power which enchains them, may abundantly exist, but, as often occurs in this life, where passion and appetite get the mastery of men, pleasure will be taken in sin, and evil appetites indulged, even when it is hated with all the bitterness of a despairing soul. 

On the other hand, what is the teaching of Scripture as to God’s readiness to accept the penitent after the day of opportunity has passed away? What does the case of Esau teach, Heb. 12:16, 17? What is meant to be taught by the language of Wisdom, Prov. 1:24-28? Did Christ accept, did God forgive the wretched, sorrowing, remorseful Judas? or was his penitence permitted to plunge him into the further sin of suicide? Even here on earth, where the day of probation ordinarily ends only in death, such rejection of such sorrow for sin is possible. Who shall dare to say that it is impossible in the hereafter? “For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” Luke 23:31.

(b.) “Punishment appears to have very little, if any, tendency to work reformation in offenders. It often deters from crime, but it rarely brings one to genuine repentance.

(c.) “During the middle state, if at any time after this life, a return to God might be expected; yet the language of Scripture does not permit us to expect it then.” Hovey’s Manual of Sys. Theol., p. 362.

(d.) The experience of this life shows that, for any violation, even of physical law, the penalty attached to it must be endured, and that no sorrow for what has been done, nor determination to avoid such action in the future, will release from the evil which follows. Why should it be supposed that, after the judgement, law will be less inexorable than now, or that penitence and reformation will then, of themselves, avail any more than they do now? Even in this life, repentance and faith have no value nor power in themselves, but are only effective as conditions upon which salvation in Christ is offered. But the Bible carefully warns men that this offer, on these conditions, is only made in this life. To suppose it is possible in the hereafter requires not only the possibility of repentance and faith then but also that salvation through Christ will then be still attainable. This can only be upon the supposition that men will have a future probation, and the same or other means of grace than those here afforded.

(6.) In further objection, therefore, it is assumed that another probation will then be enjoyed. The strongest form in which this objection is urged, is that, inasmuch as despite the positive threatenings of God to our first parents that they should die, he had purposed to provide redemption for at least a part of mankind; therefore, despite the positive statements as to the future condemnation and punishment of the wicked, there may still be mercy in store, and final deliverance from the presence and taint of sin, as well as its punishment.

The replies afforded to this are obvious.

(a.) The case quoted affords a warning to those who teach contrary to what God teaches. Our first parents were even then, before their sin, assured that the threatened sentence would not be executed. But this came from Satan, who is declared by Christ to be “a liar and the father thereof.” John 8:44. Those who, upon any other authority than God, call in question any statement which he makes, should fell that they do it at the peril of their own souls and that of those whom they teach. Matt. 15:8, 9, 13, 14; 23:13, 15, 16; Luke 6:39. Those who deny a doctrine which they know is taught in God’s word, or attempt by any subterfuge or mere supposition to induce others to reject it, act precisely the part of Satan in the transaction of the fall.

(b.) The penalty which God threatened has actually been inflicted upon all mankind. Even the death of the body has only thus far been escaped by two of the race. But spiritual death, the death of the soul, manifestly the especial death of the curse, for this alone was inflicted upon the day of transgression, has, in the corrupted and sinful nature, become the so-called “natural” state of mankind. The objection evidently supposes that eternal death was also threatened against Adam. But this is not true. It becomes part of the penalty only because it is the consequence of moral corruption and depravity, which must continue to deserve punishment, and also to work out sin deserving of still further punishment, unless some means of deliverance from this corruption shall arise. Eternal death, therefore, was not a penalty threatened against Adam, but only a consequential penalty, resulting from what was threatened, and which, therefore, may be escaped through the deliverance in Christ.

But eternal death is threatened against the finally impenitent of the present probation. The case of Adam, therefore, teaches us that it will assuredly be inflicted upon them. As God did not withhold the flood of corruption and misery, which the corrupted nature has brought upon mankind,– the deliverance of any from which demanded the gift and the sufferings of his own Son,– we may be assured that, in like manner, he will inflexibly allow eternal punishment to come upon all against whom he has threatened it.

(c.) When all suspicion that God may intend something different from what he says in his threats to prevent sin, has been removed by perceiving that he has, to the letter, fulfilled his threat against Adam; we are prepared to give due weight to what he teaches about the possibility of future probation.

To the question of one asking, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” Christ replied, “Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.” Luke 13:24. [See the context, which shows reference to entrance into the kingdom in the future world]. The exhortation of Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found” implies a time when he may not be found. This exhortation has reference to the new and everlasting covenant of the sure mercies of David. [See verse 3]. How distinctly does the hortatory question of Heb. 2:1-3 apply here; when we see, not merely how steadfast has been the word spoken by angels, but how literally fulfilled has been that uttered by God. Well may all ask, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” The intimate connection between this passage and the exhortation against the hardening of the heart in the present moment in Hebrews 3:7-11, are worthy of especial note, as well as the warning of verse 12, and the continued exhortations and warnings, as far as and beyond chapter 4:7, which declares of the present period of probation, “He again defineth a certain day, saying in David, after so long a time To-day, as it hath been before said, To-day, if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” The declaration, “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation,” 2 Cor. 6:2, with the context, in like manner teaches that the present is the only period of probation.

(d.) It may be questioned whether very many persons who die impenitent do not come under some one of the forms of sin which are specifically declared unpardonable, viz.: wilful sins, (Heb. 10:26); falling away, (Heb. 6:4-6); and the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, Matt. 12:32. Certainly they all come under the declaration of Christ of everlasting punishment.

(e.) Nor should such passages be forgotten here as Luke 16:26, which teaches that, even in Hades, there is an impassable gulf between the righteous and the wicked; as John 8:21, in which Christ told the Pharisees that they could not come to him in the future world; and Rev. 22:10, 11, which teaches the continued unrighteous and unholy condition and conduct of the finally impenitent. The language of Christ about Judas, (Matt. 26:24), is not quoted against all, because spoken of one man only, though none can tell how many others it may be true. But there are doubtless very many liable to the similar woe denounced by Christ; that “it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.” Matt. 6:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2.

Second, the opposing theories.

There are different forms in which the objections to the eternal punishment of the wicked take the shape of doctrinal theories.

(1.) The theory of annihilation. This does not deny that the punishment will be eternal; but only that there will be eternal conscious pain. It supposes, however, that the death of the sinner is absolute annihilation of being, and that in this sense only is it an eternal punishment. This theory admits that the soul may suffer hereafter, for a longer or shorter time, according to its deserts, but that there will be a time when existence will absolutely cease. The object of those who hold this theory, is not opposition to everlasting punishment, on the ground that God cannot justly punish so severely, or is too merciful to do so, but to escape the idea that sin and misery will always exist under the government of God.

This theory claims Scriptural support from the use of such words as speak of the condition of the wicked hereafter. One of these is a[pi][omega][lambda][epsilon][iota]a (apoleia), translated sometimes “perdition,” and sometimes “destruction,” in both the King James version and the Canterbury Revision. It appears, in reference to the future punishment of the wicked, among other places, in John 17:12; Rom. 9:22; Phil. 3:19; Heb. 10:39; 2 Pet. 3:7.

But this word is very far from having the idea of annihilation. It is simply an equivalent to our English words destruction, loss, ruin, misfortune. In Matt. 26:8; and Mark 14:4, it is used of the ointment poured upon Christ’s head, and translated “waste.” In all other passages it apparently refers to the future condition of the wicked. But these two show that it does not mean annihilation, as indeed it does not elsewhere, either in the Classic or Hellenistic Greek. The verb a[pi][omicron][lambda][lambda][upsilon]u[iota] (apollumi) signifies no more than to destroy utterly, and is chiefly used in Homer for death inflicted in battle. [See Liddell-Scott’s Lexicon].

Another word is [omicron][lambda][epsilon][theta][rho][omicron][varsigma] (olethros). This occurs in connection with the punishment of the wicked, in three or four places in the New Testament, viz.: in 1 Thess. 5:3; 2 Thess. 1:9; and 1 Tim. 6:9. In none of these does it mean more than destruction, by which word it is translated, not only in these places, but also in 1 Cor. 5:5. This last place is that in which Paul directs the Corinthians to “deliver” the incestuous man “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Surely, no one imagines that the annihilation of the flesh is meant.

Neither does this word mean any greater destruction than is involved in death.

Another expression is “the second death;” “And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:14.

The lake of fire, the casting into which is here said to be the “second death,” is expressly set forth as the place in which “the beast and the false prophet” are, and in which “they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever,” verse 10. There is certainly no annihilation here, for annihilation is inconsistent with torment continued forever.

It may be stated in general, as to all the places which speak of the destruction and death of the soul, that reference is made to its spiritual loss of God’s favour and of holiness, and not to the extinction of its being. This extinction would be contrary to the natural immortality conferred on spirit. It is not even true, so far as we can know, that even matter will ever be annihilated. What is called its destruction is simply such change of form as makes it unfit for the uses for which it had been so formed. Thus we speak of the utter destruction of a house, of machinery, of an animal, not being the annihilation of the matter which composed it; but the destruction of the form in which that matter appeared, and which was essential for its use. In like manner, the death of the soul means its becoming unfit for the uses for which it was made; viz.: for happiness, for holiness, for the service of God, for the complacent love of God and for the reflection of his image. Such an utter deprivation of all the faculties for which the moral nature of man was made, may well be called its death, even its utter destruction.

(2.) Restorationism.

This is based upon three different grounds, each of which may be held separately, or any two, or all of them together. Two of these have been sufficiently considered in the replies already made to the objections against Scriptural doctrine.

One of these is that reformation of life will hereafter take place among some, at least, of the condemned, through natural ability and sufficient grace and the influences of the Spirit; and that thus these will be made holy, and therefore acceptable to God.

The other is that the benefits of the work of Christ, will, after this life, also be for the first time imparted to many men, and if this is done salvation must ensue.

It is to be noticed, however, that when the objections, previously answered, are put in the form of a theory, the idea that there can be no everlasting punishment, is modified so as to assert only that all but a few will be saved. This is done to escape the cases of Judas and others already mentioned. But in so doing, all the principles, upon which the possibility of such future salvation is based, have to be abandoned, and the theory becomes a mere supposition, without any support, presented in the face of positive declarations of the Word of God to the contrary.

The third ground upon which Restorationism is imagined, is that the Scriptures speak of such restoration. The chief passage supposed to teach this is Acts 3:20, 21, “that he may send the Christ who hath been appointed for you, even Jesus: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things.” The passage itself fixes the period of the time of the restoration, which is at the second coming of the Lord. This precedes the judgement, and thus necessarily that of the restoration supposed by these parties.

Another passage is Eph.. 1:9, 10, which speaks of God “having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth.” The fulness of the times here is probably the present dispensation, and has nothing to do with some new period. See Gal. 4:4, “When the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, etc.” cf. Heb. 1:2; 9:10; 1 Pet. 1:20. So, again, in Col. 1:19, 20, it is said to have been the good pleasure of the Father, “through him (Christ) to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him I say, whether things upon the earth or things in the heavens.” This place is also quoted to show that all will be finally saved.

This use made of these two passages, Eph. 1:9, 10, and Col. 1:19, 20, to build up a doctrine, without other support from the Word of God, and so contrary to so much that is therein taught, is a warning against the pernicious manner in which isolated passages of the Word of God are separated from their contexts, and used to establish preconceived theories. Both of them occur in epistles written exclusively to professed Christians. The subject of both of them is the Church of Christ. The all things in heaven, or earth, mentioned in each of these epistles, are those only which are connected with the church. So far as persons are referred to, they are those who constitute “every family in heaven and on earth,” Eph. 3:15, called also “the general assembly and church of the first born who are enrolled in heaven,” Heb 12:23. They have, therefore, not the remotest reference to any future restoration to holiness, and happiness, and God, of those condemned at the judgement.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

Chapter 6-Divine Attributes

Chapter 6-Divine Attributes

 

THE Attributes of God are those peculiarities which mark or define the mode of his existence, or which constitute his character.

They are not separate nor separable from his essence or nature, and yet are not that essence, but simply have the ground or cause of their existence in it, and are at the same time the peculiarities which constitute the mode and character of his being.

As they are not separable from his essence, so they are not to be regarded as so many different powers and peculiarities or faculties, which so belong to God that he is “composed of different elements.” Hedge, 1:369. This would take away the simplicity of the divine nature and make it compound and therefore divisible and changeable.

But, on the other hand, they are not simply our different conceptions of God. They have existence independently of his creatures. There is some true foundation in God himself for the distinctions between them, so that, when we speak of God as wise, we do not only say that we conceive of him differently than when we call him just, but we mean that there is that in God which makes it proper that we should conceive of him under the different aspects of wisdom and justice.

 

CLASSIFICATIONS.

Various divisions have been made of the attributes of God.

1. One is into communicable and incommunicable.

The communicable attributes are those which, to a limited degree, he can also bestow upon his creatures. Such are power, knowledge, wisdom, love, holiness, &c.

The incommunicable are those which cannot thus be bestowed, but which, of necessity, exist only in God. Such are self-existence, immutability, and infinity including immensity and eternity.

2. Another division is into relative and absolute. The relative are those which may be exercised towards objects which are without, the absolute, which exist only in connection with God.

3. Still another division is into transient attributes, or such as pass over to his creatures, and immanent, or such as ever remain in God alone.

4. A fourth division is into positive and negative attributes, the positive being those which ascribe perfections to God, and the negative those which deny imperfections.

These four divisions are however identical. The attributes ranked under the communicable are also placed among the relative, and the transient, and the positive, and those defined as incommunicable are classified as absolute, and immanent, and negative.

5. A further division has been made into the natural and moral attributes.

By the natural attributes are meant those which describe the mode of his existence without respect to personal character; by the moral, those which describe his character.

Dr. Charles Hedge justly objects to this division because the “word natural is ambiguous. Taking it in the sense of what constitutes or pertains to the nature, the holiness and justice of God are as much natural as his power or knowledge. And on the other hand God is infinite and eternal in his moral perfections, although infinity and eternity are not distinctively moral perfections. In the common and familiar sense of the word natural, the terms natural and moral express a real distinction.”–Sys. Theol., Vol. I., pp. 375, 376.

In the discussion of the divine attributes, those which belong to the incommunicable, or absolute, or immanent, or negative class will first be considered. These are simplicity, which denies composition; infinity, which, either as eternity denies limitation as to time, or as immensity denies it as to space; and immutability, which rejects all possibility of change in God. After that will be taken up, in the order named, the communicable, relative, transient, or positive attributes of power, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, goodness, love, truth and justice. The remainder of this chapter will be devoted to the simplicity and infinity of God.

 

THE SIMPLICITY OF GOD.

By this we mean, that the nature of God, comprising his essence and his attributes, is simple or uncompounded pure spirit.

It means more than his unity, for the latter expresses only the fact that there is but one being, that is, God. Were God both matter arid spirit, or compounded in any other way, his unity would not be affected.

Were there but one man in the world, we should ascribe to him unity, and if there could be but one we should ascribe essential unity.

It means more than the spirituality of God, for that includes only that he must be spiritual, and, also, as we have seen, that he should be purely spiritual.

But there is nothing contradictory in the idea, that created spirits might have a composite spiritual nature, composed, for example, of mind, soul and spirit, as three distinct essences, or that a spiritual nature should have a spiritual body, as well as a spiritual soul.

But in God there can be no composition, and therefore his spiritual nature must be uncompounded. Even his attributes and his nature must be in such a manner one, that his attributes essentially inhere in that nature and are not capable of separation from it, which really makes them one with that nature.

The reasons for this are:

1. Because composition (or a putting together,) involves possibility of separation. But this would involve destructibility, and changeableness, each of which is inconsistent with absolute perfection and necessary existence.

2. Composition involves a time of separate existence of the parts compounded. If so, then there was a time when God did not exist, because the parts of his nature had not been united, or, when he existed imperfectly, not having yet received to his essential nature the additions subsequently made; all of which is inconsistent with absolute perfection and necessary existence.

3. If the parts have been compounded, it has been done by some force from without, or has been a growth in his nature. They have not been added from without, because God is independent, and therefore cannot be affected from without. Besides all outward form and all else than God had its origin in him, and he existed as God before it. They have not been a growth in him, for, if so, he is not unchangeable. Any such addition to God or growth in him is also inconsistent with absolute perfection and necessary existence.

In ascribing simplicity to God, therefore, we declare that his nature is so purely or simply one as not to be compounded of separate substances, as matter and spirit, or even of the same substance, in different forms, or of a substance with separable attributes; and we assert that even his attributes are one with his essence, and that he is not only essentially spiritual, but also essentially wise, and good, and holy, and just, and true, and almighty, and omnipotent.

 

INFINITY OF GOD.

When we say that God is infinite, we deny to him all limitation in his nature or essence. We are conscious of the finite nature of our soul as well as of our body; it has limitations as to place, time and capabilities. In arriving at the idea of the perfect being by way of negation, we deny all such limitation in him, and therefore ascribe to him infinity as to time and space, as well as infinite perfection in his mode of existence, in his power, wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness and truth.

The infinity of God as to time is called

 

HIS ETERNITY.

By this we mean:

(1.) That he has no beginning nor end.

(2.) That with him there is no succession of moments.

It is difficult to attain any conception of the mode of existence which is thus ascribed to him. It is so different from our own. Yet a brief consideration of what is involved in the nature of God must convince us that the idea which we express by these statements is just and true.

1. As to the statement that he has no beginning nor end.

When we say that we shall live forever, we can understand how a life once begun may never be completed.

But it is difficult to conceive of a life which goes back equally forever as one may go forward. The past is always completed, and as completed, must be measurable. That which has been by succession of moments or days must have had some first day or moment with which it began. We can form no other conception of it.

That division of eternity, therefore, which is called eternity a parte post we can comprehend; but the complement of it, the eternity a parte ante, which is united with it to express infinite duration, is felt at once to be an attempted conception of the mind to express the eternity which we know must be true, and yet which we perceive is inadequately conceived as well as incorrectly expressed.

While, therefore, we know that God has had no beginning, we see that his mode of existence cannot have been one in which he has had in the past that ever continuing indefinite duration which corresponds to what may be ours in the future.

2. When we say that during some period a certain being has always existed and will always exist, we mean that there has not only been no moment in that period when he has not existed and will be none in which he will not exist, but that during that period he has been and will be existent in a constant succession of moments. There is at all times, after the beginning, a past and present, and will be, until the end, a future. One moment passes away, and another succeeds. But with God there can be no succession of moments.

(1.) Because then he would have had a beginning, which is opposed to his infinity.

(2.) Because then he would not he unchangeable, for that would be true of him to-day which was not yesterday and will not be tomorrow.

(3.) He would not be perfect because something could be added to him from day to day. He would become older. He would have new experiences. Indeed there would be either increase or diminution of his power, wisdom, etc.

The schoolmen attempted to express the eternity of God by saying that it is “punctum stans” or “nunc semper stans.”

This is the conception of eternity which we strive to attain. Our difficulty in doing so is that we can no more conceive of duration without succession than we can of an eternity a parte ante. But we see that in this conception we are not arriving at a thought in itself erroneous, as in the other case, but are simply recognizing the fact that God’s mode of existence, as to time, is different from ours. Ours has succession of moments, increase in the length of the period, is not all of it possessed at the same time, has had beginning and might have an end, and has a past and future as well as present. God has no succession, no increase of life, is possessed of the whole of his existence at once, and eternally possessed, has had no beginning, can have no end, and lives in the present only, having no past or future.

This accords with the statements of Scripture. God is always spoken of in the present.

He calls himself I AM. His name Jehovah has been supposed mystically to express this.

The psalmist says: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Ps. 90:2.

Thus our Lord, when he would declare his equality with the Father, uses the present tense for each. “My Father worketh even until now, and I work.” John 5:17.

So also in like manner he declared his divinity by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58.

A question arises, what then is the relation of time and eternity to each other?

Time is not a part of eternity, for if it were, eternity must have succession, viz.: before time, during time, after time.

They are in reality different modes of existence which are unlike each other, time being suited to the measurement of creation periods and creature life. True eternity belongs only to the life of God.

While time, however, is not a part of eternity, it co-exists with it.

Through the divine purpose all its events have been eternally present with God, and as well known and realized by him as though actually existent. And, in the actual existence of time, it has been present actually with God and with eternity, although not constituting a part of eternity.

The nature of these relations we cannot understand. Our ideas are vague, and the language in which we would convey them is incapable of expressing even what we perceive and know. But while this is true, we have no question as to the possibility of better knowledge in the future on this point. The difficulty is in reality no greater than in the connection between the immensity and omnipresence of God. Yet from the knowledge of the presence of our spirits as compared with that of our bodies, we comprehend the fact of the omnipresence of God with all created things, while the space in which they exist is no more a part of his immensity than is time a part of his eternity.

Corresponding to the infinity of God in respect to time, is his infinity in respect to space, which is called

 

HIS IMMENSITY.

God is not confined to space any more than he is measured by time.

Space must have its limitations because its existence is commensurate only with the universe. Where there is no creation, there can be no space nor time. But creation cannot be infinite, but must have its bounds, impossible as it may be for us to imagine the nonexistence of space. In our mode of existence, space and time are so necessary that we cannot even deny their existence without using words which involve that existence. Thus if we say, “Where there is no universe, there is no space,” the very words “where” and “there” involve the notion of space.

But notwithstanding this, we know that, just as time is the period, so is space the location, in which creation exists.

When, therefore, we speak of God’s immensity, we mean more than his filling all space, just as when we speak of his eternity, we mean more than his existing throughout all time.

We can only express the idea by the fiction of infinite space, as in the other, we have done by that of infinite time.

Immensity is the absolute attribute of God to which corresponds the relative one

 

HIS OMNIPRESENCE.

By this word we express the relation of God as present with creation.

He is present everywhere. He is present at one and the same time everywhere.

His presence is not merely contact, but energy and power.

It is not merely through his knowledge of it, or the exertion of his power upon it, but he fills it with his essence.

He fills it, not as part to part, but the whole infinite deity is entirely, undividedly present, at each point of creation, in each moment of time.

The following valuable questions and answers are taken from the Outlines of Theology, by Dr. A. A. Hodge, p. 141, of the new edition.

“What are the different modes of the divine presence?

“God may be conceived of as present in any place, or with any creature, in several modes; first, as to his essence; second, as to his knowledge; third, as manifesting that presence to any intelligent creature; fourth, as exercising his power in or upon his creatures. As to essence and knowledge his presence is the same everywhere and always. As to his self-manifestation and the exercise of his power, his presence differs endlessly in different cases, in degree and mode. Thus God is present to the church as he is not to the world. Thus he is present in hell in the manifestation and execution of righteous wrath, while be is present in heaven in the manifestation and communication of gracious love and glory.

“How may it be proved that he is everywhere present as to his essence?

“That God is everywhere present as to his essence is proved from Scripture. 1 Kings 8:27; Ps. 139:7-10; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 17:27, 28. And from reason. (1.) It follows necessarily from his infinitude. (2.) From the fact that his knowledge is his essence knowing, and his actions are his essence acting, yet his knowledge and his power reach to all things.

“State the different relations that bodies, created spirits and God sustain to space.

“Turretine says: ‘Bodies are conceived of as existing in space circumscriptively, because, occupying a certain portion of space, they are bounded by space upon every side. Created spirits do not occupy any portion of space, nor are they embraced by any; they are, however, in space definitely as here and not there. God on the other hand is in space repletively, because in a transcendent manner his essence fills all space. He is included in no space; he is excluded from none. Wholly present to each point he comprehends all space at once.”

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D.D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887