Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Judgment’

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 40-Christ’s Second Coming, and Resurrection

October 1, 2014 1 comment

Christ’s Second Coming, and Resurrection

THE incarnation of the Son of God is not his last manifestation in the flesh to men on earth. The Scriptures speak of another appearing, in connection with which is taught the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgement. Each of these subjects demands special discussion. In some works on theology, the doctrine of the Resurrection is first treated because of its intimate connection with death and immortality; and because it terminates the intermediate state. But, inasmuch as the coming of Christ will precede the resurrection of the dead, it seems best that it be first considered.

I. THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST.

1. The fact is distinctly revealed.

Whatever doubts any may have about the passages sometimes quoted as teaching it in the Old Testament, there can be none that it is clearly made known in the New.

(1) It was taught by our Lord. Matt. 16:28; 24:36-40; 26:64; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27.

(2) It is the teaching of the Apostles and other inspired writers. 1 Cor. 1:7; 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; Heb. 9:28; James 5:7, 8; 2 Pet. 3:4; 1 John 2:28.

2. The manner of it is distinctly set forth.

(1) It will be a personal appearance. It is not questioned that Christ may be said to come in other ways than personally. The hour of death is admitted to be the way in which he comes at present to his saints, at what is to them the end of time. But the Scriptures teach such an especial personal final coming as can only be fulfilled in the bodily appearance of Christ to men. Mark 8:38; Acts 1:11; Heb. 9:26-28; 1 Thess. 4:16.

(2) His coming will be “apart from sin, to them that wait for him, unto salvation,” as contrasted with that time in which “he hath been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” and was “offered to bear the sins of many.” Heb. 9:26-28.

(3) It will be an appearance with power and glory; “for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God,” (1 Thess. 4:16); “in the glory of his Father,” (Matt. 16:27); and “in his glory, and all the angels with him,” (Matt. 25:31); fulfilling to believers their expectation of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Tit. 2:13.

(4) It will be instantaneous and unexpected. It is indeed to be preceded by signs both spiritual and physical. But, as with those in the days of Noah and Lot, few will recognize these signs. Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:28. Even to these the coming will be instantaneous; as a flash of lightning, Matt. 24:27; as a thief in the night, 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:15.

3. The time of Christ’s coming. This is represented as peculiarly unknown. Christ declared that even the Son knew not when it would be. It is hidden from all men. Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32. Our Lord rebuked the disciples, just before his ascension, for questioning him again upon this subject. Acts 1:7. The apostle Paul indeed wrote to the Philippians, “The Lord is at hand,” (Phil. 4:5), and Jesus Christ announced, “The time is at hand,” (Rev. 1:3), and to the church at Philadelphia sent the message: “I come quickly,” Rev. 3:11. This is again repeated unto his servants in Rev. 22:7, 12, 20. But that these expressions, if they refer, as they apparently do, to his second coming, were not intended to teach what man would call an early coming, is evident from the fact that this second coming has been delayed over eighteen hundred years. The apostle Peter gave those in his day who were troubled about this delay the true solution, writing them: “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Pet. 3:8.

4. The aspects in which he will come.

(1) Christ always spake of his coming as that of the Son of Man. By this he himself taught the same truth with which afterward the angel at the ascension reassured the disciples who stood “gazing up into heaven,” namely, that he that shall come then shall be the “same Jesus” which was taken up. It will then be in human form that he will appear, and with the same sympathizing human as well as divine love towards his own which he so wonderfully displayed while on earth.

(2) But the apostle Peter, at Pentecost, said, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:36. Hence the apostles, almost exclusively, speak of Christ as Lord in connection with his second coming. This was their common name for Christ, and thus they recognized the glorious reward bestowed upon him for the salvation wrought for them, and the “all power” given unto him in heaven and earth.

(3) It is as Judge of the whole earth that he shall appear, both as Son of Man and as Lord; thus giving confidence to those who know him and have believed in him, and striking with terror those who have rejected his love.

(4) He also comes as King to take final possession of his kingdom, to share its blessings and glory with all his willing subjects, and to inflict punishment upon all who have refused to have him reign over them.

5. The signal events which that coming will introduce.

These are the resurrection of the bodies of the dead, and the change of those of the saints who are still alive; the judgement of all men; and the bestowment, according to the highest equity, of his due reward or punishment upon every one of mankind.

 

II. THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY.

The first in point of time of the events which accompany the second coming is the resurrection of the bodies of the dead.

1. This fact is the teaching both of the Old and the New Testaments.

It is admitted that some places in which resurrection is mentioned may speak only of a reappearance upon the stage of being of those who have died, and do not necessarily assert the final resurrection of the body. Thus our Lord’s reply to the Saduccees, Luke 20:37, only involves the idea of continued life. So also his language in Luke 14:14; John 6:39; and that to Martha, and her reply, John 11:23, 24.

It may also be acknowledged that, sometimes, the life and death, in connection with which resurrection is taught, is only spiritual, and that of the soul only. This seems to be the case in John 5:24-26, although the resurrection of the body is not unnaturally spoken of in the verses immediately succeeding.

There are also places in which the resurrection of the body is spoken of, but not the general, or final resurrection. These may be quoted only as showing that such a resurrection is not impossible. Thus, the writer to the Hebrews refers to the faith of Abraham in the power of God “to raise” Isaac “up even from the dead.” Heb. 11:19. We are also told that, after the death of Christ, “the tombs were opened; many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many.” Matt. 27:52, 53. The resurrection of Christ himself is taught to be a fulfillment of prophecy, Acts 2:24-31; 13:34-37, and a proof, not only of the possibility of a resurrection from the dead, 1 Cor. 15:12-18, but even an assurance, and earnest of the resurrection of the bodies of his people. 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 35-45, 48-54.

But there are enough passages, of no doubtful import, both in the Old and New Testaments, which establish a general resurrection of the bodies of all men, as Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2-13; Hos. 13:14; and John 5:28, 29; Rom. 8:11-22, 23; 1 Cor. 15:20-23, 42-45, 48-54; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:13-17. the last two passages refer, indeed, to the change in the body only; the last one also to the change in those who shall not die, but remain at the coming of Christ; their appositeness is readily recognized.

2. The resurrection will not be confined to the righteous only; but will include the wicked also.

The New Testament treats sometimes exclusively of the resurrection of the righteous. This is not unnatural; for all hope connected with it is confined to them. So blessed is that hope, that it was fit that it should be frequently held out for their encouragement and comfort. Especially the connection between their resurrection and that of Christ, as the first fruits of them that sleep, tended to lead them into the joys produced by the consciousness of union with him, and their triumph with, and through him. This was not to be confined to their spiritual resurrection with him in newness of spiritual life; and this fact needed to be enforced, lest that of the body should be forgotten in their experience of that of the soul. The objections to it also arose in connection with Christian hope. It is not strange that some should have denied it, even among the people of God, as the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians was true of some of them. 1 Cor. 15:12. The doctrine was too wonderful to believe. Perhaps they had specific objections to it in that day, as there have been in other ages of Christianity, even down to our own times. We are not to be surprised, that others also should have declared that it was passed already, and should have thus overthrown the faith of some. 2 Tim. 2:18. It became necessary, therefore, that it should be especially emphasized to the Christian believers of that day. With the single exception of “those that remain,” who were to be “changed,” it is expressly announced as the joyful destiny of all believers. Thus, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Cor. 15:22. That this assertion related only to believers is evident, not only from the natural construction of the original Greek, but from the fact that his language is limited in the context to them “that are Christ’s at his coming.” 1 Cor. 15:23. In like manner, also, comforting the Thessalonians as to the Christian dead, he assigns as a reason why they should “sorrow not, even as the rest which have no hope,” (1 Thess. 4:13), that “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him;” asserting the change in those that shall remain on earth, and stating that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thess. 4:14-18.

But, that this teaching about the righteous, was not intended to exclude the resurrection of the wicked, is plain enough from other places. Thus, our Lord said “all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgement.” John 5:28, 29. What is also especially significant, in view of his teachings exclusively elsewhere as to the resurrection of the just, is that Paul, in his address before Felix, confessed that he had “hope toward God, . . . that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust.” Acts 24:15. In the vision of John of the day of judgement he saw that “the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them, . . . and if any one was not found written in the book of life, he cast them into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:13-15. These passages show distinctly a resurrection of the wicked also from the grave, and, therefore, a resurrection of their bodies.

3. The nature of the resurrection body.

We are told nothing as to the nature of the resurrection bodies of the wicked. But enough is said as to those of the saints to show that their change will be most blessed.

The all embracing fact is distinctly declared that they shall be like unto that of their Lord. If we knew the precise nature of his body we should know the nature of those of all his saints. But it is enough to know that he will “fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” Phil. 3:21. We are taught many things, however, about the resurrection body; the chief source of information being the fifteenth chapter of 1st Corinthians, where Paul states,

(a.) That it will be incorruptible,

(b.) That it will be immortal,

(c.) That it will be a glorified body,

(d.) That it will be raised in power,

(e.) That it will be identical with the present body. That which is raised is the “it” which is sown. It is “this corruptible” that “puts on incorruption,” this “mortal” that “puts on immortality.”

(f.) Yet is the identity one which exists not without a great change, v. 51.

(g.) Yet with no greater change than occurred in the body of Christ. It is his image which is to be borne instead of that of Adam, v. 49.

(h.) When Paul asserts that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” v. 50, he means only to deny that a corrupt and mortal body can thus inherit, and not to assert that such inheritance is not true of a glorified body of material substance, from which all corruption and mortal elements have been removed.

(i.) We consequently see what he means by the spiritual body in vv. 44-46, where he contrasts it with the “natural,” and declares the resurrection body to be “spiritual.” It is not spiritual in the sense that it is not material; for it is composed of matter. But, it is spiritual, as being fitted for the spiritual life hereafter, as it had previously been natural, as fitted for the animal life of this world. This is the pneumatic body as opposed to the physical. As the first body had been suited to the present life, and could not be used in the life to come without change; so the resurrection body is suited to the life to come, and not to the present stage of being. Hence it is that the change, with or without death, does not take place until the time of reunion in which the pneumatic life is to begin.

4. There shall be a general resurrection of the bodies of the righteous, and of the wicked at the coming of Christ to judgement.

(1.) The rewards of the righteous are especially associated with Christ’s coming in the great day. Matt. 16:27; Luke 12:37; 1 Cor. 1:7, 8; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:7, 10; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 John 2:28; 4:17.

(2.) The suffering and punishment of the wicked are also intimately connected with the day of Christ’s coming to judgement. John 12:48; 2 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:7.

(3.) There are passages also in which both the reward of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked are set forth unitedly in connection with the second coming of Christ. Matt. 16:24-27; 24:36-51; Mark 13:24-27; Rom. 2:1-16; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Pet. 2:9; 2 Pet. 3:7-9.

(4.) The righteous and the wicked are judged together. Ecc. 3:17; Dan. 12:2; Matt. 16:27; Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:1-16; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27.

(5.) The resurrection of the dead occurs at the same time with the judgement. Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:12, 13.

(6.) The resurrection and the change that occurs in it are also associated with the coming of Christ. 1 Cor. 15:52; Phil. 3:21; 1 Thess. 4:16.

(7.) The judgement and the coming of Christ, take place in immediate conjunction. Matt 16:27; 25:31-46; 2 Pet. 3:7-10.

(8.) The resurrection of both just, and unjust, shall occur at the same time. Dan. 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.

(9.) The unrighteous are kept unto the day of judgement. 2 Pet. 2:9.

(10.) At the time of Christ’s coming, the world is to be destroyed, and the promise fulfilled of “new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Pet. 3:8-13. But, that day is also the day of “judgement and destruction of ungodly men;” for which “the heavens that now are and the earth by the same word have been stored up for fire,” v.7.

These statements show that the general teaching of the Word of God is that the Lord will come; that at his coming there shall be a general resurrection of the just and unjust, who shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body. Not only is it not taught that there are two resurrections of the body, the one of the righteous at the second coming of the Lord, and the other of the wicked at the general judgement after an interval of one thousand years; but the judgement and the coming of the Lord are recognized as contemporaneous. The day of both events is called by various names, some of which are repeated more than once: as “the day,” (1 Cor. 3:13); “that day,” (Matt 7:22); “the day of judgement,” (2 Pet. 2:9); “the day of God,” (2 Pet. 3:12); “the day of the Lord,” (1 Thess. 5:2); “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. 1:8); “the day of Jesus Christ,” (Phil. 1:6); “the day of Christ,” (Phil. 2:16); “the day of the Lord Jesus,” (1 Cor. 5:5); “the last day,” (John 6:39); “the great day,” (Jude 6); “the great day of their wrath,” (Rev. 6:17); “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God,” (Rom. 2:5); “that great and notable day of the Lord,” (Acts 2:20); “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men . . . by Jesus Christ,” (Rom 2:16); “the day that the Son of Man is revealed,” (Luke 17:30); “the coming of our Lord Jesus,” (1 Thess. 3:13); “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Tim. 6:14); “the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:13); the “appearing of glory of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ,” (Tit. 2:13), etc.

There is, however, one passage of Scripture which some claim teaches one resurrection of the bodies of the just, and another of those of the unjust; and places them at a wide interval apart, with numerous intervening parts. Those who maintain this view hold that the thousand years of the Millenium succeed the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the righteous. This passage constitutes the twentieth chapter of the book of Revelation. It is the record of that vision, in which John saw the angel bind Satan, in the bottomless pit, for a thousand years; during which the souls of the saints lived, and reigned with Christ. “This,” says John, “is the first resurrection.” v.5. On those having part in it, “the second death hath no power.” v.6. When the thousand years have expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and go out to deceive the nations. When the number of the forces which he gathers, which are like the sands of the sea, surround the camp of the saints, these forces will be devoured by fire from Heaven, and the devil cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Then appears the great white throne, and the judgement of the dead, both small and great, and the judgement of the dead out of the books. And then death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire. “This,” says John, “is the second death.” v. 14.

It is readily admitted as to this passage that whatever is truly taught in it must be accepted as the word of God. But,

(1.) We must be careful how we receive any interpretation which does not accord with the rest of Scripture. Before doing so, we should examine thoroughly both the interpretation we wish to accept, and the views attained from other parts of the Word of God. We know that Scripture cannot contradict itself, when rightly interpreted. All its parts must, therefore, be carefully compared to see in what interpretation they agree.

(2.) If, after the best efforts to harmonize this with the other portions of God’s Word, it should seem to be irreconcilable with them, the apparent interpretation of this passage should yield to that of others; Not so much because it is one only, as compared with a great number; but because it is found in a book of highly figurative prophecy, in which the literal interpretation is not so justly to be pressed, as in others, which are not of this character, and in which the literal meaning is more apt to be the mind of the Spirit.

(3.) The language of this passage, however, is, at least, in some respects, opposed to the idea of two resurrections of the body; the first, that of the saints to reign with Christ for a thousand years, and the second, that of the wicked to judgement.

(a.) Because those who are represented as belonging to the first resurrection, are not spoken of as clothed in resurrection bodies; but, on the contrary, John declares simply that he saw “the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, etc.” v. 4.

(b.) It is not only not said that those who partake of the first resurrection are not among the dead, who are subsequently delivered up by death and Hades to be judged, v. 13, but it is implied that they are among these by the universal terms used when John says that he “saw the dead, the great and small, stand before God,” v. 12. But, if this be true, then there must be either two resurrections of the bodies of the saints, or one of the resurrections at least cannot be of the body.

(c.) Especially is it not taught that the resurrection to judgement is confined to the wicked, nor that the first resurrection is of the bodies of all the saints; because along with the books “which were opened,” “another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works,” v.12; “and if any was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire,” v.15. This language implies that, among those then raised and judged, there were some whose names were written in the book of life. Consequently, reference must here be made to the general resurrection and judgement, taught elsewhere as contemporaneous, and the first resurrection cannot be that of the body; or only some of the saints partake of the first resurrection; or there must be two resurrections of the bodies of the saints. The first of these is the only interpretation that accords with what is elsewhere taught.

(4.) The interpretation of this passage which makes it harmonious with all other Scripture is,

(a.) That the resurrection is a spiritual resurrection of the soul from the death of sin, of which Scriptures elsewhere speak so plainly as being a passage from death unto life. See John 5:24-26; Rom. 6:2-7; Eph. 2:1, 5; 5:14; Phil. 3:10, 11; Col. 2:12, 13; 1 John 3:14; 5:11, 12.

(b.) That the second death, which has no power over those which have part in the first resurrection, constitutes the punishment of those condemned at the judgement day, which consists in their being cast, both body and soul, into a lake of fire.

(c.) The thousand years of the binding of Satan is a period of time, of unknown, perhaps of indefinite length, possibly from the time of Christ’s conquest of Satan, in his death, resurrection, and ascension, or possibly from some other period, even perhaps of a later epoch in the history of Christianity, during which Satan is restrained from the exercise of the power he might otherwise put forth against man; the thousand years terminating at some time prior to the day of Christ’s second coming; at which time Satan shall be loosed to consummate his evil deeds by such assaults upon the saints as shall bring down the final vengeance of God at the appearing of Christ in glory.

(d.) The judgement and the resurrection, in Rev. 20:12, 13, are general, and are those of the last day which immediately follow the coming of Christ.

 

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

God gives sinners over to the lusts of their hearts

August 11, 2014 2 comments

rcsproul.jpgIn the first chapter of Romans, God “gives sinners over to the lusts of their hearts.” What does it mean for God to give someone over to sin? Is this giving over active or passive?

What does it mean that God gives someone over to his sin? We find this not only in the first chapter of Romans but also in the Old Testament. Jeremiah warned the people of Israel that this was exactly what their punishment would be, that God was not going to forbear with them forever but that there would come a time when he would give them up. There would be a point when he would give them over to their sin.

Early in Genesis, at the time of the Flood, we are warned that the Spirit of God does not strive endlessly with men. God is patient, but his long-suffering is designed to give us time to come to ourselves, to repent, to acknowledge him, and to be restored to fellowship with him. But at the same time, we are warned that that forbearance does not go on forever and that there can come a point in our obstinate refusal to repent and to respond to God when he will say it’s too late and will abandon us to our sin, withholding from us his saving grace. That’s a very terrifying thing to consider.

The idea of giving a person over to his sin is a significant part of the final chapters of the book of Revelation, in which we read of John’s vision of the inner sanctum of heaven and of the last judgment. We’re told that those who have responded to Christ receive marvelous benefits, but those who have obstinately endured in their refusal to repent receive judgment at the hands of God. God says, “Let him who is wicked be wicked still.” There’s kind of a poetic justice here. To the people who want to be wicked and refuse to restrain themselves in their sin, God says, “I’m not going to restrain you anymore. I’m going to take the restraints away. I’ll take the leash off, give you your freedom. I’ll let you do exactly what you want to do. It’ll be to your everlasting destruction; it’ll be to your dishonor and to your ultimate dismay, but if that’s what you want, I’ll give you over to it.”

Is this giving over active or passive? It’s active in the sense that God acts to do it. God actually does give a person over to that person’s own desires. It’s passive in that God remains passive toward that person’s self-destruction.

 

R. C. Sproul-Now That’s a Good Question Page 165

Question 81-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 6Q. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?

A. It is required of them who would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, (1 Corinthians 11:28,29) of their faith to feed upon him, (2 Corinthians 13:5) of their repentance, (1 Corinthians 11:31) love, (1 Corinthians 11:18-20) and new obedience, (1 Corinthians 5:8) lest coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

The Romanists change the term idolatry to make it seem as if they do not commit this sin

June 25, 2014 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Refutation of another evasion or sophism, viz., the distinction of dulia and latria.

11. I am not ignorant, however, and I have no wish to disguise the fact, that they endeavor to evade the charge by means of a more subtle distinction, which shall afterwards be fully considered, (see infra, s. 16, and chap. 12 s. 2.) The worship which they pay to their images they cloak with the name of “idolodulia”, and deny to be “idolatria”. So they speaks holding that the worship which they call “dulia” may, without insult to God, be paid to statues and pictures. Hence, they think themselves blameless if they are only the servants, and not the worshipers, of idols; as if it were not a lighter matter to worship than to serve. And yet, while they take refuge in a Greek term, they very childishly contradict themselves. For the Greek word “latreuein” having no other meaning than to worship, what they say is just the same as if they were to confess that they worship their images without worshipping them. They cannot object that I am quibbling upon words. The fact is, that they only betray their ignorance while they attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the simple. But how eloquent soever they may be, they will never prove by their eloquence that one and the same thing makes two. Let them show how the things differ if they would be thought different from ancient idolaters. For as a murderer or an adulterer will not escape conviction by giving some adventitious name to his crime, so it is absurd for them to expect that the subtle device of a name will exculpate them, if they, in fact, differ in nothing from idolaters whom they themselves are forced to condemn. But so far are they from proving that their case is different, that the source of the whole evil consists in a preposterous rivalship with them, while they with their minds devise, and with their hands execute, symbolical shapes of God.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 11-Henry Beveridge Translation

By the preaching of predestination man is duly humbled, and God alone is exalted

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY
PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

III. -By the preaching of predestination man is duly humbled, and God alone is exalted; human pride is levelled, and the Divine glory shines untarnished because unrivalled. This the sacred writers positively declare. Let St. Paul be spokesman for the rest, “Having predestinated us – to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph 1:5,6). But how is it possible for us to render unto God the praises due to the glory of His grace without laying this threefold foundation?

(1) That whosoever are or shall be saved are saved by His alone grace in Christ in consequence of His eternal purpose passed before they had done any one good thing.

(2) That what good thing soever is begun to be wrought in our souls (whether it be illumination of the understanding, rectitude of will or purity of affections) was begun altogether of God alone, by whose invincible agency grace is at first conferred, afterwards maintained, and finally crowned.

(3) That the work of internal salvation (the sweet and certain prelude to eternal glory) was not only begun in us of His mere grace alone, but that its continuance, its progress and increase are no less free and totally unmerited than its first original donation. Grace alone makes the elect gracious, grace alone keeps them gracious, and the same grace alone will render them everlastingly glorious in the heaven of heavens.

Conversion and salvation must, in the very nature of things, be wrought and effected either by ourselves alone, or by ourselves and God together, or solely by God Him self. The Pelagians were for the first. The Arminians are for the second. True believers are for the last, because the last hypothesis, and that only, is built on the strongest evidence of Scripture, reason and experience: it most effectually hides pride from man, and sets the crown of undivided praise upon the head, or rather casts it at the feet, of that glorious Triune God, who worketh all in all. But this is a crown which no sinners ever yet cast before the throne of God who were not first led into the transporting views of His gracious decree to save, freely and of His own will, the people of His eternal love. Exclude, therefore, O Christian, the article of sovereign predestination from thy ministry or from thy faith, and acquit thyself if thou art able from the charge of robbing God.

When God does, by the omnipotent exertion of His Spirit, effectually call any of mankind in time to the actual knowledge of Himself in Christ; when He, likewise, goes on to sanctify the sinners He has called, making them to excel in all good works, and to persevere in the love and resemblance of God to their lives’ end, the observing part of the unawakened world may be apt to conclude that these converted persons might receive such measures of grace from God because of some previous qualifications, good dispositions, or pious desires and internal preparations, discovered in them by the all-seeing eye, which, if true, would indeed transfer the praise from the Creator and consign it to the creature. But the doctrine of predestination, absolute, free, unconditional predestination, here steps in and gives God His own. It lays the axe to the root of human boasting, and cuts down (for which reason the natural man hates it) every legal, every independent, every self-righteous imagination that would exalt itself against the grace of God and the glory of Christ. It tells us that God hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in His Son, “according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world,” in order to our being afterwards made “holy and blameless before Him in love” (Eph 1:).

Of course, whatever truly and spiritually good thing is found in any person, it is the especial gift and work of God, given and wrought in consequence of eternal unmerited election to grace and glory. Whence the greatest saint cannot triumph over the most abandoned sinner, but is led to refer the entire praise of his salvation, both from sin and hell, to the mere goodwill and sovereign purpose of God, who hath graciously made him to differ from that world which lieth in wickedness. Such being the tendency of this blessed doctrine, how injurious both to God and man would the suppression of it be! Well does St. Augustine argue: “As the duties of piety ought to be preached up, that he who hath ears to hear may be instructed how to worship God aright; and as chastity should be publicly recommended and enforced, that he who hath ears to hear may know how to possess himself in sanctification; and as charity, moreover, should be inculcated from the pulpit, that he who hath ears to hear may be excited to the ardent love of God and his neighbour, in like manner should God’s predestination of His favours be openly preached, that he who hath ears to hear may learn to glory not in himself, but in the Lord.”*

* De Bono Persever. cap. 20.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

The Doctrine of Predestination Should be Openly Preached

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

I.-The Gospel is to be preached, and that not partially and by piece-meal, but the whole of it. The commission runs, “Go forth and preach the Gospel”; the Gospel itself, even all the Gospel, without exception or limitation. So far as the Gospel is maimed or any branch of the evangelical system is suppressed and passed over in silence, so far the Gospel is not preached. Besides, there is scarce any other distinguishing doctrine of the Gospel can be preached, in its purity and consistency, without this of predestination. Election is the golden thread that runs through the whole Christian system; it is the leaven that pervades the whole lump. Cicero says of the various parts of human learning:”Omnes artes, quae ad humanitatem pertinent, habent quoddam commune vinculum, et quasi cognatione quadam inter se continentur,” 1:e., The whole circle of arts have a kind of mutual bond and connection, and by a sort of reciprocal relationship are held together and interwoven with each other. Much the same may be said of this important doctrine:it is the bond which connects and keeps together the whole Christian system, which, without this, is like a system of sand, ever ready to fall to pieces. It is the cement which holds the fabric together; nay, it is the very soul that animates the whole frame. It is so blended and interwoven with the entire scheme of Gospel doctrine that when the former is excluded, the latter bleeds to death.

An ambassador is to deliver the whole message with which he is charged. He is to omit no part of it, but must declare the mind of the sovereign he represents, fully and without reserve. He is to say neither more nor less than the instructions of his court require, else he comes under displeasure, perhaps loses his head. Let the ministers of Christ weigh this well.

Nor is the Gospel to be preached only, but preached to every creature, 1:e., to reasonable beings promiscuously and at large, to all who frequent the Christian ministry, of every state and condition in life, whether high or low, young or old, learned or illiterate. All who attend on the ministrations of Christ’s ambassadors have a right to bear the Gospel fully, clearly and without mincing. Preach it, says Christ (Mark 16:15), publish it abroad, be its cryers and heralds, proclaim it aloud, tell it out, keep back no part of it, spare not, lift up your voices like trumpets. Now, a very considerable branch of this Gospel is the doctrine of God’s eternal, free, absolute and irreversible election of some persons in Christ to everlasting life. The saints were singled out, in God’s eternal purpose and choice, ut crederent, to be endued with faith, and thereby fitted for their destined salvation. By their interest in the gratuitous, unalienable love of the blessed Trinity they come to be, subjectively, saints and believers, so that their whole salvation, from the first plan of it in the Divine mind to the consummation of it in glory, is at once a matter of mere grace and of absolute certainty; while they who die without faith and holiness prove thereby that they were not included in this elect number, and were not written in the book of life.

The justice of God’s procedure herein is unquestionable. Out of a corrupt mass, wherein not one was better than another, He might (as was observed before) love and choose whom and as many as He pleased. It was likewise, without any shadow of injustice, at His option, whom and how many He would pass by. His not choosing them was the fruit of His sovereign will, but His condemning them, after death, and in the last day, is the fruit (not of their non-election, which was no fault of theirs, but) of their own positive transgressions. The elect, therefore, have the utmost reason to love and glorify God which any beings can possibly have, and the sense of what He has done for them is the strongest motive to obedience. On the other hand, the reprobates have nothing to complain of, since whatever God does is just and right, and so it will appear to be (however darkly matters may appear to us now) when we see Him as He is and know Him even as we are known.

And now why should not this doctrine be preached and insisted upon in public? – a doctrine which is of express revelation, a doctrine that makes wholly for the glory of God, which conduces, in a most peculiar manner, to the conversion, comfort and sanctification of the elect, and leaves even the ungodly themselves without excuse. But perhaps you may still be inclined to question whether predestination be indeed a Scripture doctrine. If so, let me by way of sample beg you to consider the following declarations – first, of Christ; secondly, of His apostles.

“If the mighty works that have been done in thee had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented,” etc. (Mat 11:), whence it is evident that the Tyrians and Sidonians, at least the majority of them, died in a state of impenitency, but that if God had given them the same means of grace afforded to Israel they would not have died impenitent, yet those means were not granted them. How can this be accounted for? Only on the single principle of peremptory predestination flowing from the sovereign will of God. No wonder, then, that our Lord concludes that chapter with these remarkable words, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” Where Christ thanks the Father for doing that very thing which Arminians exclaim against as unjust and censure as partial.

“To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Mat 13:). To sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, except to them for whom it hath been prepared by My Father,” q.d., salvation is not a precarious thing; the seats in glory were disposed of long ago in My Father’s intention and destination; I can only assign them to such persons as they were prepared for in His decree” (Mat 20:23).

“Many are called, but few chosen” (Mat 22), 1:e., all who live under the sound of the Gospel will not be saved, but those only who are elected unto life.

“For the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Mat 24.), and ibid, “If it were possible, they should deceive the very elect,” where, it is plain, Christ teaches two things:(1) that there is a certain number of persons who are elected to grace and glory, and (2) that it is absolutely impossible for these to be deceived into total or final apostasy.

“Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mat 25.).

“Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to them that are without” (i.e., out of the pale of election) “all these things are done in parables; that seeing, they may see, and not perceive and hearing, they may hear, and not understand: lest at any time, they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 11:).

“Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:).

“It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:).

“One shall be taken and the other shall be left” (Luke 17:).

“All that the Father hath given Me shall come unto Me” (John 6:), as much as to say these shall but the rest cannot.

“He that is of God, heareth God’s words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:), not chosen of Him.

“Ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep” (John 10:).

“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:).

I come now, second, to the Apostles.

“They believed not on Him, that the saying of Esais the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake; Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:37,40). Without certain prescience there could be no prophecy, and without predestination no certain prescience. Therefore, in order to the accomplishment of prophecy, prescience and predestination, we are expressly told that these persons could not believe; they were not able, it was out of their power. In short, there is hardly a page in St. John’s Gospel which does not, either expressly or implicitly, make mention of election and reprobation.

St. Peter says of Judas, “Men and brethren, the Scriptures must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake before concerning Judas” (Acts 1:). So, “That he might go to his own place” (ver. xxv.), to the place of punishment appointed for him. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:).

“Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:):predestinated should come to pass.

“And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed” (Acts 13:):designed, destined or appointed unto life.

Concerning the Apostle Paul, what shall I say? Everyone that has read his epistles knows that they teem with predestination from beginning to end.* I shall only give one or two passages, and begin with that famous chain: “whom He did foreknow” (or forelove, for to know often signifies in Scripture to love) “He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren,” that, as in all things else, so in the business of election Christ might have the pre-eminence, He being first chosen as a Saviour, and they in Him to be saved by Him: “moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom 8:).

* A friend of mine, who has a large property in Ireland, was conversing one day with a popish tenant of his upon religion. Among other points, they discussed the practice of having public prayers in an unknown tongue. My friend took down a New Testament from his book case and read part of 1Co 14: When he had finished, the poor zealous papist rose up from his chair and said with great vehemence, “I verily believe St. Paul was a heretic!” Can the person who carefully reads the epistle of that great apostle doubt of his having been a thorough-paced predestinarian?

Chapters 9:, 10: and 11: of the same epistle are professed dissertations on, and illustrations of the doctrine of God’s decrees, and contain, likewise, a solution of the principal objections brought against that doctrine.

“Who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace” (Gal 1:).

The first chapter of Ephesians treats of little else but election and predestination.

After observing that the reprobates perish wilfully, the apostle, by a striking transition, addresses himself to the elect Thessalonians, saying, “But we are bound to give thanks unto God always for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath, from the beginning, chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2Th 2:).

“Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose, and grace, which was given us in Christ before the world began” (2Ti 1:). St. Jude, on the other hand, describes the reprobate as “ungodly men, who were, of old, foreordained to this condemnation.”

Another apostle makes this peremptory declaration, “Who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed: but ye are a chosen generation [an elect race], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, a people purchased to be His peculiar property and possession” (1 Peter 2:8,9); to all which may be added, “Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 17:8).

“Who stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed: but ye are a chosen generation [an elect race], a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, a people purchased to be His peculiar property and possession” (1 Peter 2:8,9); to all which may be added, “Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 17:8).

All these texts are but as an handful to the harvest, and yet are both numerous and weighty enough to decide the point with any who pay the least deference to Scripture authority. And let it be observed that Christ and His apostles delivered these matters, not to some privileged persons only, but to all at large who had ears to hear and eyes to read. Therefore, it is incumbent on every faithful minister to tread in their steps by doing likewise, nor is that minister a faithful one, faithful to Christ, to truth and to souls, who keeps back any part of the counsel of God, and buries those doctrines in silence which he is commanded to preach upon the house-tops.

The great St. Augustine, in his valuable treatise, De Bono Persever., effectually obviates the objections of those who are burying the doctrine of predestination in silence. He shows that it ought to be publicly taught, describes the necessity and usefulness of preaching it, and points out the manner of doing it to edification. And since some persons have condemned St. Augustine, by bell, book and candle, for his stedfast attachment to and nervous, successful defences of the decrees of God, let us hear what Luther, that great light in the Church, thought respecting the argument before us.

Erasmus (in most other respects a very excellent man) affected to think that it was of dangerous consequence to propagate the doctrine of predestination either by preaching or writing. His words are these: “What can be more useless than to publish this paradox to the world, namely, that whatever we do is done, not by virtue of our own free-will, but in a way of necessity, etc.? What a wide gap does the publication of this tenet open among men for the commission of all ungodliness! What wicked person will reform his life? Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven? Who will fight against his own corrupt inclinations? Therefore, where is either the need or the utility of spreading these notions from whence so many evils seem to flow?”

To which Luther replies: “If, my Erasmus, you consider these paradoxes (as you term them) to be no more than the inventions of men, why are you so extravagantly heated on the occasion? In that case, your arguments affect not me, for there is no person now living in the world who is a more avowed enemy to the doctrines of men than myself. But if you believe the doctrines in debate between us to be (as indeed they are) the doctrines of God, you must have bid adieu to all sense of shame and decency thus to oppose them. I will not ask, ‘Whither is the modesty of Erasmus fled?’ but, which is much more important, ‘Where, alas! are your fear and reverence of the Deity when you roundly declare that this branch of truth which He has revealed from heaven, is, at best, useless and unnecessary to be known?’ What! shall the glorious Creator be taught by you, His creature, what is fit to be preached and what to be suppressed? Is the adorable God so very defective in wisdom and prudence as not to know till you instruct Him what would be useful and what pernicious? Or could not He, whose understanding is infinite, foresee, previous to His revelation of this doctrine, what would be the consequences of His revealing it until those consequences were pointed out by you? You cannot, you dare not say this. If, then, it was the Divine pleasure to make known these things in His Word, and to bid His messengers publish them abroad, and leave the consequences of their so doing to the wisdom and providence of Him in whose name they speak, and whose message they declare, who art thou, O Erasmus, that thou shouldest reply against God and say to the Almighty, ‘What doest Thou?’

“St. Paul, discoursing of God, declares peremptorily, ‘Whom He will He hardeneth,’ and again, ‘God willing to show His wrath,’ etc. And the apostle did not write this to have it stifled among a few persons and buried in a corner, but wrote it to the Christians at Rome, which was, in effect, bringing this doctrine upon the stage of the whole world, stamping an universal imprimatur upon it, and publishing it to believers at large throughout the earth. What can sound harsher in the uncircumcised ears of carnal men than those words of Christ, ‘Many are called, but few chosen’? And elsewhere, ‘I know whom I have chosen.’ Now, these and similar assertions of Christ and His apostles are the very positions which you, O Erasmus, brand as useless and hurtful. You object, ‘If these things are so, who Will endeavour to amend his life?’ I answer, ‘Without the Holy Ghost, no, no man can amend his life to purpose.’ Reformation is but varnished hypocrisy unless it proceed from grace. The elect and truly pious are amended by the Spirit of God, and those of mankind who are not amended by Him will perish.

“You ask, moreover, ‘Who will dare to believe himself a favourite of heaven?’ I answer, ‘It is not in man’s own power to believe himself such upon just grounds until he is enabled from above.’ But the elect shall be so enabled; they shall believe themselves to be what indeed they are. As for the rest who are not endued with faith, they shall perish, raging and blaspheming as you do now. ‘But,’ say you, ‘these doctrines open a door to ungodliness.’ I answer, ‘Whatever door they may open to the impious and profane, yet they open a door of righteousness to the elect and holy, and show them the way to heaven and the path of access unto God.’ Yet you would have us abstain from the mention of these grand doctrines, and leave our people in the dark as to their election of God; the consequence of which would be that every man would bolster himself up with a delusive hope of share in that salvation which is supposed to lie open to all, and thus genuine humility and the practical fear of God would be kicked out of doors. This would be a pretty way indeed of stopping up the gap Erasmus complains of! Instead of closing up the door of licentiousness, as is falsely pretended, it would be, in fact, opening a gulf into the nethermost hell.

“Still you urge, ‘Where is either the necessity or utility of preaching predestination?’ God Himself teaches it or commands us to teach it, and that is answer enough: We are not to arraign the Deity and bring the motives of His will to the test of human scrutiny, but simply to revere both Him and it. He, who alone is all-wise and all-just, can in reality (however things appear to us) do wrong to no man, neither can He do anything unwisely or rashly. And this consideration will suffice to silence all the objections of truly religious persons. However, let us for argument’s sake go a step farther. I will venture to assign over and above two very important reasons why these doctrines should be publicly taught:-

“(1) For the humiliation of our pride and the manifestation of Divine grace. God hath assuredly promised His favour to the truly humble. By truly humble, I mean those who are endued with repentance, and despair of saving themselves; for a man can never be said to be really penitent and humble until he is made to know that his salvation is not suspended in any measure whatever on his own strength, machinations, endeavours, free-will or works, but entirely depends on the free pleasure, purpose, determination and efficiency of another, even of God alone. Whilst a man is persuaded that he has it in his power to contribute anything, be it ever so little, to his own salvation, he remains in carnal confidence; he is not a self-despairer, and therefore he is not duly humbled before God; so far from it, that he hopes some favourable juncture or opportunity will offer when he may be able to lend a helping hand to the business of his salvation. On the contrary, whoever is truly convinced that the whole work depends singly and absolutely on the will of God, who alone is the author and finisher of salvation, such a person despairs of all self-assistance, he renounces his own will and his own strength, he waits and prays for the operation of God, nor waits and prays in vain. For the elect’s sake, therefore, these doctrines are to be preached, that the chosen of God, being humbled by the knowledge of His truths, self-emptied and sunk, as it were, into nothing in His presence, may be saved in Christ with eternal glory. This, then, is one inducement to the publication of the doctrine, that the penitent may be made acquainted with the promise of grace, plead it in prayer to God, and receive it as their own.

“(2) The nature of the Christian faith requires it. Faith has to do with things not seen. And this is one of the highest degrees of faith, stedfastly to believe that God is infinitely merciful, though He saves, comparatively, but few and condemns so many, and that He is strictly just, though of His own will He makes such numbers of mankind necessarily liable to damnation. Now, these are some of the unseen things whereof faith is the evidence, whereas, was it in my power to comprehend them or clearly to make out how God is both inviolably just and infinitely merciful, notwithstanding the display of wrath arid seeming inequality in His dispensations respecting the reprobate, faith would have little or nothing to do. But now, since these matters cannot be adequately comprehended by us in the present state of imperfection, there is room for the exercise of faith. The truths therefore, respecting predestination in all its branches, should be taught and published, they, no less than the other mysteries of Christian doctrine, being proper objects of faith on the part of God’s people.”*

* Lutherus, De Serv. Arbitr. in respons. ad ult. part. praefat. Erasmi.

With Luther the excellent Bucer agrees, particularly on Eph 1:, where his words are: “There are some who affirm that election is not to be mentioned publicly to the people. But they judge wrongly. The blessings which God bestows on man are not to be suppressed, but insisted and enlarged upon, and, if so, surely the blessing of predestination unto life, which is the greatest blessing of all, should not be passed over.” And a little after he adds: “Take away the remembrance and consideration of our election, and then, good God! what weapons have we left us wherewith to resist the temptations of Satan? As often as he assaults our faith (which he is frequently doing) we must constantly and without delay have recourse to our election in Christ as to a city of refuge. Meditation upon the Father’s appointment of us to eternal life is the best antidote against the evil surmisings of doubtfulness and remaining unbelief. If we are entirely void of all hope and assurance, respecting our interest in this capital privilege, what solid and comfortable expectation can we entertain of future blessedness? How can we look upon God as our gracious Father and upon Christ as our unchangeable Redeemer? Without which I see not how we can ever truly love God; and if we have no true love towards Him, how can we yield acceptable obedience to Him? Therefore, those persons are not to be heard who would have the doctrine of election laid (as it were) asleep, and seldom or never make its appearance in the congregations of the faithful.”

To what these great men have so nervously advanced permit me to add, that the doctrine of predestination is not only useful, but absolutely necessary to be taught and known.

(1) For without it we cannot form just and becoming ideas of God. Thus, unless He certainly foreknows and foreknew from everlasting all things that should come to pass, His understanding would not be infinite, and a Deity of limited understanding is no Deity at all. Again, we cannot suppose Him to have foreknown anything which He had not previously decreed, without setting up a series of causes, extra Deum, and making the Deity dependent for a great part of the knowledge He has upon the will and works of His creatures, and upon a combination of circumstances exterior to Himself. Therefore, His determinate plan, counsel and purpose (i.e., His own predestination of causes and effects) is the only basis of His foreknowledge, which foreknowledge could neither be certain nor independent but as founded on His own antecedent decree.

(2) He alone is entitled to the name of true God who governs all things, and without whose will (either efficient or permissive) nothing is or can be done. And such is the God of the Scriptures, against whose will not a sparrow can die nor an hair fall from our heads (Mat 10:) Now what is predestination but the determining will of God? I defy the subtlest semi-pelagian in the world to form or convey a just and worthy notion of the Supreme Being without admitting Him to be the great cause of all causes else, Himself dependent on none, who willed from eternity how He would act in time, and settled a regular, determinate scheme of what He would do and permit to be done from the beginning to the consummation of the world. A contrary view of the Deity is as inconsistent with reason itself, and with the very religion of nature, as it is with the decisions of revelation.

(3) Nor can we rationally conceive of an independent, all-perfect first cause without allowing Him to be unchangeable in His purposes. His decrees and His essence coincide, consequently a change in those would infer an alteration in this. Nor can that being be the true God whose will is variable, fluctuating and indeterminate, for His will is Himself willing. A Deity without decrees and decrees without immutability are, of all inventions that ever entered the heart of man, the most absurd.

(4) Without predestination to plan, and without providence to put that plan in execution, what becomes of God’s omnipotence? It vanishes into air. It becomes mere nonentity. For what sort of omnipotence is that which may be baffled and defeated by the very creatures it has made? Very different is the idea of this attribute suggested by the Psalmist, “Whatsoever the Lord willed, that did He, in heaven and in earth, in the sea and in all deep places” (Psalms 113.), 1:e., He not only made them when He would, but orders them when made.

(5) He alone is the true God, according to Scripture representation, who saves by His mere mercy and voluntary grace those whom He hath chosen, and righteously condemns (for their sins) those whom He thought fit to pass by. But without predestination there could be no such thing either as sovereign mercy or voluntary grace. For, after all, what is predestination but His decree to save some of His mere goodness, and to condemn others in His just judgment? Now it is most evident that the Scripture doctrine of pre-determination is the clearest mirror wherein to see and contemplate these essential attributes of God. Here they all shine forth in their fullness of harmony and lustre. Deny predestination and you deny (though, perhaps, not intentionally, yet by necessary consequence) the adorable perfections of the Godhead in concealing that, you throw a veil over these; and in preaching that, you hold up these to the comfort, the establishment and the admiration of the believing world.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady