CHRIST’S EXPOSURE OF THE ‘LARGER HOPE’
A REPLY TO
BY ADOLPH E. KNOCH
THE following is an editorial in the March, 1921, number of “Our Hope.”
Advertising matter is being sent to many believers throughout our country. It comes from Los Angeles. Whatever comes from Los Angeles should be treated with suspicion, unless it has the imprint of the “Los Angeles Bible Institute” or the “Los Angeles Bible House.” These two institutions are safe and sound.
The advertising matter we mean concerns a new translation of the New Testament in an inter-linear way. It comes assuming great learning, etc. Who is behind the movement is secreted. We know who the people are. They belong to the class, which teach some of the errors mentioned in the preceding paragraph. We owe it to our readers to warn them against this “new” translation. Why do they shun the light? Why do they not come out into the open and say we do this work to make propaganda for our views as to the non-eternity of punishment? Why this secrecy?
A letter was sent to the editor, A. C. Gaebelein, protesting against its insinuations and showing how impossible the charge was. The version was begun long before its editor believed in the universal reconciliation and the principles on which it is based make it a practical impossibility for him to use it as propaganda. It is not by any means the first translation to change the rendering of aioon. The revisers have age in their margin part of the time, Rotherham and Young’s literal translation render it so most of the time. The editor of Our Hope himself commends the change. Speaking of Matt.13:39, he says “The harvest is the completion of the age. Our authorized version has it ‘world.’ This has misled many readers of the Word.” (Gospel of Matthew, page 279)
The CONCORDANT VERSION is the first, however, to render it consistently all of the time, and to use a rendering, which allows of an adjective, eonian. This is the only course, which will not mislead readers of the Word. It is the only method of translation, which does not admit of propaganda.
Let us give one example. Though rightly condemning the rendering “world” instead of “age,” he insists on the word “never” instead of “not for the age.“ (Mark 3:29) The only apparent reason is, that the rendering “never” strengthens his position on the doctrine of eternal torment. Does the CONCORDANT VERSION render it “not for the age” to suit any doctrine held by the editor, or is it compelled to translate thus, whatever the editors believe? Its principles are such that it cannot correct an error in one passage and leave it stand in another–not even if it should conflict with the editor’s views. In other words, the editor of Our Hope has done the very thing, which he charges against the Version. He renders aioon by “age” when it suits him, but leaves it stand for an infinitely longer period of time when it supports one of his beliefs. The Version always renders it eon, hence cannot advance any cause but the truth.
In response to our letter we were sent an article on “Christ’s Exposure of the `Larger Hope,'” with the notation: “Read this carefully it will just show you your blunders and evil teaching.” The main portion of the article consists of a series of passages and arguments purporting to show how our Lord dealt with this doctrine.
Practically all of the arguments advanced have been fully dealt with before in our pages, but we will reprint them all, giving a brief reply, showing in practically every instance, that the scriptures quoted have been perverted and distorted, and that our Lord never on any occasion said aught against the universal reconciliation.
AN OPEN LETTER
My Dear Bro. Gaebelein:
I thank you for your letter and the article On “Christ’s Exposure of the `Larger Hope,'” by Archibald E. Glover, M. A. I take it that you would like me to publish the arguments of the article in our magazine, so all our readers may consider carefully what you deem such a complete refutation of the universal reconciliation. We will do this, giving each argument as it stands, followed by our answer to it. We will do more than this. We will also publish your rejoinder so that you will have every possible advantage.
We suggest that you publish the same in your magazine, and thus refute the charge constantly made against you that you hesitate giving your readers both sides, lest they see how little real basis there is for your position.
But the main issue before us is not what I believe, but what effect that belief has had on the translation of the CONCORDANT VERSION. Practically, it resolves itself into the question, how have I rendered the words aioon and aioonios? The Authorized Version translates them by age, course, world, eternal, everlasting, etc. It uses these same expressions to translate a dozen other Greek words. Is this exact? Is this safe? Is this right? The Revisers have given age in the margin in about half the occurrences, leading the reader to infer that the remaining occurrences are not the same Greek word. Is this fair?
Rotherham uses age and age abiding nine tenths of the time. His witness will confirm ours at almost every point. He did not believe in the universal reconciliation.
We would like to have used “age,” but one of the foundation principles of the CONCORDANT VERSION is never to use the same English word for two Greek words if it can possibly be avoided. “Age” was absolutely necessary for another Greek word of a different signification.
Besides, it has a variety of usages not in line with the scriptures. Moreover it does not make a good adjective. “Age abiding” or “age lasting” have not won their way into good English. Therefore we decided on eon and eonian. These are good dictionary English, which if used uniformly for the corresponding Greek words, are bound to take on their true scriptural significance from their contexts.
This course is absolutely impartial. It does not create a prejudice for my opinion or your opinion, but leaves it open for each one to get God’s mind on the matter apart from any man’s opinion.
A version which translates each Greek word uniformly, when it is possible, and confines each rendering to only one Greek word, when that is possible, leaves practically no chance for the operation of the translator’s prejudices on any vital point. Anyone who opposes such a version must necessarily arouse the suspicion of all who want God’s word in its purity.
It would take me less than a year to make a translation which would embody my own opinions. But the CONCORDANT VERSION has been under way for over twenty years, more than a dozen assistants have spent much time in its preparation and years of labor are still required to complete it. Does it look as if we wanted to exploit our doctrines, when practically all this labor is not only unnecessary for that end, but, in many instances, has compelled us to change our opinion? This has been the case with the doctrine before us.
Trusting that we shall have the favor of your rejoinder in due time, I remain,
Yours in Christ Jesus,
Matt.12:31, 32; Mark 3:29.Christ says there is a sin beyond the reach of the pardoning mercy of God. “It shall not be forgiven him’ – ‘neither in this age, nor in that which is to come.”
The Restorationist gives an open denial to the statement.
Our Lord is careful to limit the time in which no pardon can be given to this eon] and the coming one. As the universal reconciliation does not occur in this eon, or in the coming one, or even in the one which follows these, but at the consummation after the eonian times have run their course, it is evident that He deliberately limited the time, so that no one could honestly draw the inference that it was “beyond the pardoning mercy of God.”
There is no conflict between this scripture and the declaration of the apostle, “God locks all up together in obstinacy, that He may be merciful to all” (Rom.11:32)
Matt.7:14.Christ says that few there be that find `the narrow gate and straitened way’ to life.
The Restorationist says that, sooner or later, all without exception will find it.
This is a part of the Sermon on the Mount. The immediate subject is the law: “this is the law and the prophets.” Then He said, “Be entering through the cramped gate, seeing that wide is the gate, and spacious is the path which leads off into destruction, and many there are who are entering through it, seeing that cramped is the gate and narrow the path which is leading off into life, and few there are who are finding it.”
Is our evangel a cramped gate? Does the path we tread lead to life? This is true of the law, but not of the gospel. Those under law depended on their walk for life. We depend on Christ. We have life, we are not on the path that leads to it. Of those who seek life by the law few, very few, (if indeed any) will find it. All the others are on the spacious path that leads to destruction. This word destruction in its verbal form, is usually translated “lost.” The Son of Mankind came to save those who had been destroyed (Matt.18:11). He came to the destroyed sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.10:6). In fact, the sacrifice He made on Calvary would not be needed by those who could get life by keeping on the narrow path. But shall we deny that many of the lost (or destroyed) did not find life through His death? And shall we allow such a passage to deny the inspired assurance that “As in Adam all are dying, thus in Christ all shall be made alive?“ (1 Cor.15:22) Let us freely acknowledge that few (or none) find the way to life by the law. Only those who believe will be vivified at the presence of Christ. But at the consummation, when death itself is abolished, all will be made alive (1 Cor.15:23-26).
Luke 13:23-28.Christ says that “many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able.”
The Restorationist says that every one of them shall be able.
Entrance into the kingdom is the subject of this scripture. Many, indeed, will be seeking, to enter by means of the law and will not have the strength. If salvation depends upon our strength, who will be saved? Salvation today is the portion of those who are without strength (Rom.5:6). It is not of works, but of grace. Only those who believe will have a portion in the kingdom of God. Salvation during the eons, is limited to those who believe. But after that will be fulfilled the faithful saying for which we are being reproached, that “We rely on the living God, Who is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who believe.” We are commanded to charge and teach this truth (1 Tim. 4:9-11).
Luke 20:18. Christ says that the doom of those upon whom the Stone falls is irremediable; or language has no meaning. The brokenness of those who fall upon the Stone is remediable; but not so the brokenness of those upon whom the Stone falls.
The Restorationist contradicts the statement, and asserts that the one is as remediable as the other.
The meaning of language must be decided by usage, not by prejudice. The word here used, likmaoo, occurs several times in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures. Its primary meaning is to winnow (Ruth 3:2). The Hebrew word which it most frequently represents is zahrah, DISPERSE. It is used of the scattering of Israel beyond the Euphrates (1 Kings 14:15). We know that this was “remediable,” for they afterwards returned. It is used again in the quotation so often used by those who believe in the restoration of Israel, “He that scattered Israel will gather him.” (Jer.31:10) If this scattering was irremediable, they will never return! All the promises to Israel are void!
There is no escape from this dilemma. If the doom of those on whom the Stone falls keeps them from having any part in the benefits flowing from the efficacy of the blood of Christ at the consummation (Col.1:20) then Israel did not return to the land in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah and they will never again be gathered back to their lost heritage.
Mark 14:21. Christ says to Judas—“Good were it for that man if he had not been born.”
The Restorationist says it would have been an incalculable misfortune for him; for, however long and heavily his miseries hereafter might lie upon him, the endlessness of bliss in which they are ultimately to terminate would immeasurably outweigh them all; and the blessedness of his existence in the condition to which he is to be finally introduced would be infinitely in favor of the fact that he had been born.
The true translation is, “woe to that man through whom the Son of Mankind has been betrayed! Ideal were it for Him if that man were not born!” “That man” in Greek, as in English, is a special expression used to distinguish “that man” from the Son of Mankind, who is referred to as “Him.” We could say, “Ideal were it for him (Judas) if he were not born,” but we cannot say “Ideal were it for him if that man were not born.” The Him must refer to the Son of Mankind. So Christ did not say of Judas, “Good were it for that man if he had not been born.” It is only when we corrupt the text by transposing “Him” and “that man,” as the authorized version has done, that we have any reason to think that Judas will be excepted from the purpose that God has formed of reconciling the entire universe to Himself. (Col.1:20)
John 6:70 If Judas is ultimately to be saved so also is the devil; for Judas `is a devil;’ and the possibility of salvation in the case of one devil argues the possibility of the salvation of all devils.
Judas is called a “devil” or slanderer. (John 6:70) The Jews, also, were of their father the devil (John 44). Those in the ecclesia, whose wives were devils (or slanderers) were debarred from being servants of the ecclesia (1 Tim.3:11). Paul did not wish the aged women to be devils (Titus 2:3). In the last days men will be devils (2 Tim.3:3). According to the argument there is no salvation for any of these. The same word is applied to all.
The same sort of reasoning may be applied to Peter. He was called “Satan” by our Lord (Matt.16:23). We know that Peter will be saved. Adopting exactly the same mode of argument, “the possibility of salvation in the case of one `Satan’ argues the possibility of the salvation of all `Satans.'” Satan is the Devil. Hence all devils can be saved. Hence Judas can be saved. But what avail are such reasonings when we have God’s sure word? The blood of Christ is the basis for the reconciliation, not only of all mankind, but the entire universe (Col.1:20). This is not reasoning from false premises. It is God’s word that will stand when all human appeals to prejudice have vanished.
Acts 20:21. “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” are essential conditions of salvation. But “repentance unto salvation” is only wrought by “godly sorrow” for sin (2 Cor.7:10) and is always directed “toward God.” And the faith that saves is that which carries its subject into actual union with our Lord Jesus Christ, making him partaker of the divine nature, in newness of life – the faith which worketh by love, producing an obedience in holiness inspired by the Spirit of God.
The Restorationist has to prove from the Word of God that a devil is capable to such repentance and such faith. If not, then Judas can never be saved (John 6:70). And if one man may be endlessly lost, the whole fabric of “Final Restoration” is shattered.
During, the eons or ages, there are various “essentials” for salvation. Abraham believed God. No repentance or baptism were required is his case, as it is for those who receive the evangel of the kingdom. The time is coming when those who endure to the end shall be saved. Now salvation is purely a matter of faith, as it was with Abraham. But at the consummation, when the eons come to a close, salvation will be effected as it is now, by the will of God. He wills that all mankind should be saved and come to a realization of the truth. The real “essentials” are a Mediator and a Ransom. Christ Jesus is both (1 Tim.2:4-6). Nothing in the creature can balk the will of the Creator.
There is no provision made by God for the salvation of demons (Heb.2:16; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6); nor yet for the salvation of those who, in this life, have “willfully sinned” in a final rejection of God’s grace and love in Christ Jesus. (John 8:21,24; Heb.6:4-6; 10:26-29)
Heb.2:16 is not concerned with the subject in hand and makes no reference whatever to demons. Neither has 2 Peter 2:4, or Jude 6. They are all concerned with messengers or “angels.”
John 8:21 reads “Where I am going, you cannot come.” This is interpreted as indicating their hopeless doom. No one of whom such words could be spoken would ever be saved! But the Lord repeats these very words, a little later, to the eleven apostles (not including Judas, who had just gone out). He told them “According as I said to the Jews that `Where I am going you cannot come,’ at present I am saying it to you, too.” Are the eleven apostles among the hopelessly lost?
The sixth and tenth of Hebrew’s are cases of eonian judgment (Heb.6:2). This can have no bearing on post-eonian salvation. Vengeance, belongs to God, He will repay. But, as judgment is limited to the eons in the immediate context, it is clear that His eonian vengeance does not conflict with His great purpose to become All in all. Rather it is one of the means to that end, for, through Christ He will subject the universe to Himself (Phil.3:21).
John 17:12; Rom.2:5-11; Rev.22:11. Christ says, “None of them is lost, but the son of perdition.”
The Restorationist affirms that the son of perdition is not so hopelessly lost as Christ would have us believe–an affirmation which amounts to this, that, if Christ’s word is not final in the one case, neither is it in the other.
If I am to believe that the son of perdition is not finally lost what security have I for believing that the rest of whom Christ speaks are finally saved? Indeed, it is not a whit more unscriptural to say that a saved soul in glory can be finally lost, than it is say that a lost soul in hell can be finally saved. (Rom.2:5-11)
Our Lord said of Judas, “not one of them was destroyed but the son of destruction.” It is an unwarranted addition to the Scripture to use the word final either of salvation or destruction. Salvation is eonian, and so is judgment. Beyond the eons there is no sin, hence no salvation is needed and judgment is unknown. Just as human science persists in beginning with chaos where God begins with creation, so human theology persists in a final state far worse than chaos for all except a few, while God reveals a final state of universal and boundless bliss in which He is All in all. This false assumption is the stronghold of eternal torment. Appealing to our ignorance and prejudice, we are continually reminded that salvation and judgment are of the same duration. This is true. Both are eonian. But just as salvation from thirst ends when we reach a river so salvation from sin ends when we reach the consummation. The danger is past. The object has been attained. There is no need to worry further about our salvation, for Christ has fully succeeded in undoing the work of the devil. For this the Son of God was manifested, that He might annul the acts of the Slanderer. (1 John 3:8)
The salvation of the saved is in virtue of their final choice of good in Christ, as “made unto them from God righteousness and sanctification and redemption;” and it is a state in which the will can never again determine towards evil. The damnation of the lost is in virtue of their final choice of evil in a willful rejection of Christ so revealed; and is a state in which the will can never again determine towards good. The judicial mercy of God is seen in the one case; the judicial hardening of God in the other. (Rom.9:18)
For all who harden their hearts, and will not to hear His voice, there remains nothing but the just correspondence – the hardening of the heart by God Himself. The one follows the other as necessarily as effect follows cause. The power to hear and turn which he once had is taken away from the obstinate refuser of God’s long-suffering grace; the eyes which he deliberately closed are at last judicially sealed by God Himself, and the power to see again is for ever “taken from him.” (Matt.13:12-15; 25:29,30; Mark 4:24,25) “They did not believe…therefore they could not believe, because… He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not” (John 12:37-40). And the volume of the Book closes with the positive assertion of the truth of the final permanence of character in the direction of the soul’s choice, as well for “the unjust” and “the filthy” as for “the righteous” and “the holy.” (Rev.22:11) Hence, a lost soul can no more be finally saved than a saved soul be finally lost.
The salvation of the saved is emphatically not “in virtue of their final choice of good in Christ.” He declared most emphatically to His disciples, “You, do not choose Me, but I choose you.“ (John 15:16) Did Paul choose good in Christ? (Acts 9:1-8). His was the pattern for us. We were chosen by God in Christ. (Eph.1:4) If salvation depends on human choice or will or effort we are prepared to believe in the ultimate damnation of all, rather than their salvation. “It is not of him who is willing nor yet of him who is racing, but of God, the Merciful.“ (Rom.9:16)
The inference is drawn from God’s “judicial” acts of hardening and blinding, that this is final. Without the unscriptural addition of the word “final” not one of the passages quoted is in the least degree contradictory to the express declarations that all mankind will be justified and vivified and reconciled. Indeed, the strongest passage of all distinctly states that God’s “judicial” acts are with a view to His glory and their good. “God locks all together in obstinacy, that He may be merciful to all.” (Rom.11:32) This is the conclusion of the section of Romans which deals with the hardening of Pharaoh.
Because Rev.22:11 occurs near the close of the book it is rashly assumed that it belongs to the latest time in the vision and that it has reference to conditions as they obtain on the new heavens and new earth. This is not so. The section, which commences at the sixth verse of the twenty-second chapter, takes us back to the time when John wrote the prophecy. Then, in view of the swift coming of the Lord, he said “Let him who is injuring, injure still; and let the filthy be filthy still; and let the just do justice still; and let the holy be hallowed still.” This is in view, not of the “final state” as the last eon is sometimes erroneously called, but in view of the impending judgments. (Rev. 22:10)
Luke 16:26. Christ says that between the just and the unjust, in the after state, ‘there is a great gulf fixed,’ so that to pass from the side of death to the side of life is as impossible as it is to pass from the side of life to that of death.
The Restorationist necessarily denies it.
Without pressing its true interpretation, all will admit that the rich man and Lazarus were in hades, the unseen. This is not by any means the final state for hades does not continue beyond the present earth. It is cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). The lake of fire is the second death. Death is the last enemy to be abolished (1 Cor.15:26). Hence the gulf will have long since passed away when all will be made alive in Christ.
Matt.12:45. Christ declares that “the last state” of the deliberately wicked man is “worse that the first.” So also, says the Holy Ghost, using precisely the same words. (2 Peter 2:20)
The Restorationist absolutely denies this. “The last state of that man,” as he represents it, is beyond all conception good; for it is not “corruption” (even though God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost say it is–Matt.12:33; Gal.6:8), but “eternal life.”
That this parable has nothing to say regarding the final destiny of mankind is evident, for our Lord limits it to that generation (Matt.12:45). The word “last” is often used in Scripture in a comparative sense. We, are living in the “last” days. Is this absolute or comparative? Are there no more days to follow? What of the millennium and the last eon? The former state of the man in this parable when he had one unclean spirit, is compared with the later state, in which he harbors seven. The word “first” is likewise often used of the first of two, the former. The “first” resurrection (Rev.20:6) is first only with reference to the resurrection of judgment. The resurrection in which we share is before this “first” resurrection. Christ was seen last of all to Paul (1 Cor.15:8). The same reasoning which would make this parable teach finality would absolutely prove that we shall never see our Lord! Paul was the last of a series who saw Him. The state in the parable was the last of a series. It has no application beyond the generation in which our Lord lived. The same is true of the passage in Peter, where the common version, indeed, changes to latter, but adds the word “end” without warrant. Indeed, how many men go from bad to worse! But this does not nullify God’s word, which explicitly says: “as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus, too, it is through one just award for all mankind for life’s justifying.“ (Rom.5:18,19)
Psalm 49:19; Jude 13. The Holy Spirit says that the wicked “shall never see light,” and that for them “is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
The Restorationist says we are not to believe any such thing; for that in God’s light all shall eventually see light.
This psalm speaks not of the wicked, but of the fathers of the rich. They shall “never” see light. The LXX renders the “never” by “not for the eon.” The Hebrew word, netzagh, has no close English equivalent, as is evident from the renderings, strength, victory, forever, perpetual, constantly, etc.
One passage is sufficient to show that it does not mean forever. “A false witness shall perish: But the man that heareth speaketh constantly.“ (Prov. 21:28)
In Jude we are concerned only with the length of the judgment. It is not “forever,” but for an eon.
Exodus 32:33. The Holy Spirit says that God, will finally blot the willful sinner out of the Book of Life. (Psa.9:5; 69:28; Rev.13:8; 20:15; cf Isa.4:3; Heb.12:23; Rev.3:5)
The Restorationist declares that God has no such intention.
“Thou hast blotted out his name for the eon, and for the eon of the eon” (Psa.9:5) is the LXX translation. The book of life will be opened at the great white throne. (Rev.20:12) “And if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.“ (Rev.20:15) This is the second death, which will be abolished at the consummation. When there is no death, there will be no book of life.
Phil.3:19. The Holy Spirit affirms that the “end” of the enemies of the cross of Christ is destruction.
The Restorationist affirms that it is no such thing – their `end’ is everlasting life.
The context clearly shows that the enemies of the cross are not unbelievers, but many believers. Paul laments for these because, while availing themselves of the death of Christ, they do not conform their walk to the manner of that death, but are disposed to earthly things (Phil.3:18-19) Alas! Today not only many but most of the saints do not know the power of His cross, but are disposed to earthly things. Are all these to suffer eternal torment also? There can be no doubt but that the finish, or culmination, or consummation of such a walk is destruction. Just as all false teaching, wood, hay, and stubble, will be burned up in that day, so all conduct contrary to the truth will be destroyed and we will suffer loss at the dais of Christ. This word “end” never carries the meaning of cessation or limit, but always that of culmination or consummation.
1 Tim.6:5; 2 Peter 2:1,12-22. The Holy Spirit declares that the deniers of the Lord who bought them are men “corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth,” who, as such, are incapable of hearing the truth. So also says Christ most expressly. (cf John 5:37,38; 8:43-47; 18:37)
The Restorationist says that all such may, can, and eventually will, come to the knowledge of the truth: for that no such state is continuously possible.
The Scriptures say that God, our Savior, “wills all mankind to be saved and to come to a realization of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator, also, between God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus, Who is giving Himself a Ransom for all (the testimony in its own eras)…” (1 Tim.2:3-6). There is absolutely nothing in the passages quoted, which in the least denies that God is able to carry out His will. Paul was the foremost of sinners, yet God succeeded in saving him. Why should He fail to bring all the rest to a realization of the truth in His own time? We shall see Him do it!
Isaiah 38:18. The Holy Spirit says the condition of the lost is one in which they “cannot hope for God’s truth.”
The Restorationist flatly denies this, and emphasizes his denial by styling his theory “the doctrine of Eternal Hope.”
Hezekiah, king of Judah had been sick, and when he was recovered he wrote a song in gratitude for his deliverance from death. He had been delivered from the pit of corruption by the addition of fifteen years to his life. Had he died he could not have written this song of praise. Hence he says, “They that go down to the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I this day.”
We are now asked to believe that if he had died, he would be “lost!” Yes, and all who “go down to the pit” are lost! He did die fifteen years later, and, consequently, was lost! If all who go to sheol and the grave and the pit are lost, then the doctrine of universal damnation is practically established.
Hezekiah was a most godly king, a type of the suffering Messiah. The fifty-third of Isaiah is, primarily, his experience. And yet he is singled out as beyond hope!
Psalm 52:5; John 3:36; 2 Thess.1:8–9. The Holy Spirit says that those who know not God and that “obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” shall be “rooted out of the land of the living” (Psa.27:3; 116:9; 142:5); that they “shall not see life,” that they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the Presence of the Lord” (cf Luke 19:27); and that “the wrath of God” thus fearfully manifested “abideth on them,” constituting a permanent condition of being described as “death” (1 John 3:14,15) – “the second death” (Rev. 20:14), from the power of which there is no deliverance (Psa.49: 14; Rev.21:8; 22:15 cf Rev.2:11; 20:6).
The penalty meted out is here said to be of the nature of condign vengeance in the way of pure retributive, justice–an expression which excludes any idea of correction (i.e., of punishment with a view to the betterment of the offender). Typical illustrations of the force of its meaning are to be found in the slaying of the Egyptian by Moses (Acts 7:24); the “death without compassion” of him who set at nought Moses’ law (Heb.10:28-30); and the judging of the great harlot, Babylon the great (Rev.19:2).
The word used by our Lord, and translated “punishment” in Matt.25:46, is in perfect agreement with the thought of ekdikeesis though presenting the doom of the ungodly in a somewhat different aspect; its primary meaning being, not “correction” but “restraint.” Lawless offenders, inveterate in their hatred of, and active opposition to, the known will of God, (Luke 19:14; Rev.20:8,9) will no longer find themselves free, as heretofore, to break in upon the established order of His authority, and disturb the reign of absolute righteousness and truth, when God is all in all. (1 Cor.15:24-28; Rev.21:8; 22:15) They will be relegated, together with the lawless one to the “everlasting restraint” of a prison whose bars are “everlasting fire” (Matt.25:41), and whose bounds they shall never be able to overpass. (Luke 16:26)
The term aioonios–“everlasting”–is used interchangeably with its equivalent–“for ever and ever” (literally, “unto the ages of the ages”), which, again, is the equivalent of the Hebrew phrase, “le-olam-va-ed’–“unto the ages and beyond.” The limitless “and beyond” of the Hebrew is defined by its Greek equivalent, revealing an illimitable succession of “ages,” and conveying, as far as it is possible for language to do so, the conception of endless duration. The substantive aion (“age”) in itself denotes a time-period of indefinite (not necessarily of limited) duration. In the compound expression, “unto the ages of the ages,” the idea is that of a series of time-periods merging into one another in a never-ending succession, and may be not improperly rendered, “unto the ages which (endlessly) succeed the ages,” For the sense of “le-olam- va-ed” in its application to the wicked, compare Psalm 9:5 with 10:16; and for that of its Greek equivalent, compare Rev.4:10 with 20:10: whereby the Holy Spirit affirms finally that the duration of “the second death” is coterminous with that of the life of the Lord God Almighty.
The Restorationist says: Nothing of the sort. They shall surely be planted in due season. They, too, shall be shown the path of life, and have fullness of joy in the presence of the Lord for evermore.
To be “rooted out of the land of the living” is not a determining factor of human destiny. The words might be applied to the treatment accorded Christ Himself.
The words “shall not see life,” apart from their context, seem to contradict the great truth that, in Christ, all shall be made alive (1 Cor.15:22). It even seems to conflict with the statement that “the rest of the dead do not live until the thousand years are finished.” If all the dead are raised either at the resurrection of life or at the resurrection of judgment, how could it be said of any that “they shall not see life.”
The answer lies in the context. In repeating the name of something we have just described we do not need to repeat the descriptive terms. What life? That of which the Lord has just spoken – eonian life. This harmonizes all the passages. He who is not believing on the Son will not be made alive at His presence. Even if they are raised at the great white throne, they are consigned to the second death, from which there is no escape during the eons. But after this, when death is abolished, all will be made alive.
The word “abideth” is the same tense as in John 1:38, “where dwellest Thou?” Did He abide there forever? It should be rendered consistently “is abiding.”
That the expression “dealing out vengeance” (2 Thess.1:8) is no denial of God’s determination to save them at another time and under different circumstances, as He has declared He will, is clearly shown when God makes Himself the Avenger when one brother in the faith overreaches another (1 Thess.4:6). If avenging necessarily included the pains of eternal torment, then it is quite possible for one who is slaving for the living and true God and waiting for His Son from heaven (1 Thess.1:9–10) to find himself a victim of God’s insatiable and vindictive wrath. A word, which is applied to believers, can hardly be used to prove everlasting torture.
Rev. 21:22. The Holy Spirit affirms that the lake of fire and the doom of the lost belong as much to the fixed and final order of things, when God is all in all, as the new heavens and the new earth.
The Restorationist “takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,” and deliberately affirms that they do not.
There is not one word in the Unveiling, which states or implies that the lake of fire and the doom of the lost belong to the fixed and final order of things. There are many who append the words “fixed” and “final” to the things which are written in the scroll, but they are not there.
The apostle Paul reaches out much farther into the future than John does. In the fifteenth of first Corinthians he speaks of a time when all enemies will be put out of action. All the enemies he enumerates – suzerainty and authority and power and death–are still present in these chapters of the Apocalypse. The throne of God and the Lambkin is a symbol of their suzerainty (22:1). The reign of the saints is proof of delegate authority (22:5). Lastly, the very passages concerning the second death, which are adduced, prove it to be a temporary, not the final condition, for, in that eon, the last enemy, death, is still present.
The consummation (Scripture is careful not to speak of a “final state”) is marked by the absence of some of the prominent features in the Apocalyptic vision. To speak of a reign of righteousness in which there is authority, as the time when God is All in all, when the Scriptures expressly stipulate that God is not All in all until all authority is abolished, makes it evident that the author of the article is ignorant of the simplest elements of that “final state” of which he speaks. Indeed the whole argument may be summed up as an attempt to force a multitude of passages on the final state, which have no place there, and is a definite denial, in the very words of the one passage, which does speak of it.
In the light of all this, what is the conclusion to which we are irresistibly led? Simply this – that the “Larger Hope” is a doctrine, which makes God a liar, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is no escape from it. We are shut up to it, when we honestly “try the spirits whether they be of God.” In the light of the Word of God, and of the direct warning of the Son of God Himself, the doctrine of the “Larger Hope” is a lie, the father of it is the devil, and the end of it is the murder of souls.
He who made God a liar by his first lie, “Thou shalt not surely die,” is still the same; and the lie that first took hold of man is the same that appeals most readily to him still. Every soul of man that lends a sympathetic ear to the doctrine of a second chance after death, with the ultimate certainty of everlasting life, for the reprobate wicked is doing it at his own eternal peril; for he is a party to the Satanic sin of exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and of calling the very Truth Himself a liar.
As salvation is not a matter of “chance,” there can be no “second chance.” Apart from the power of God, those who refuse Christ now, would do so again, if they had a “chance.” It is a matter, not of man’s will but of God’s. Left to his own will, no man would be saved. All we need to do is to inquire, What is God’s will? He operates the universe in accord with the counsel of His own will. He wills all mankind to be saved. That settles it.
It is useless to array God’s judgments during the eons against the purpose He will fulfill through them. It is a part of the great apostasy to deny a part of God’s revelation by distorting other passages so that they appear to conflict with them.
The favorite argument that the second death is “co-terminous” with the life of the Lord God Almighty is another appeal to ignorance and prejudice. God is the “everlasting” or eonian God (Rom.16:26). Was He God “before” the “everlasting” or “eonian times” (1 Tim.1:9)? Will He be God after the “end” or consummation of the eons (Heb.9:26)? Satan is the god of this eon. Did He live before it? Will He live after it? We have lived through the period of the great war. But does this prove that we are dead? Not only God, but all His saints live for the last two eons or ages. At their end death disappears. All are made alive in Christ. It is useless and absurd to predicate life when there is no death. The lake of fire is co-terminous, not with the life of God, but with the eonian life of God and His saints. Almost all of these objections are a violation of that cardinal precept for the truth seeker, the correct partitioning of the word of truth. Perhaps the objector himself would strongly insist on what is usually termed “dispensational truth.” What is true in one dispensation or economy is not true in another. But the ages, or eons, differ from each other far more than the dispensations. It is far more important not to import truth foreign to the age or eon. Error itself becomes truth in its time. That “the resurrection is past already,” is false now, but will be a blessed fact in the coming eon.
So, also, truth becomes error of the most insidious kind when applied to an eon or age to which it does not belong. To teach that the kingdom of the heavens is in force now with all its powers and blessings is prolific of the most disastrous effects. It nullifies the word of God. In the next eon it will be blessed fact.
But far more important than “dispensational” distinction, far more necessary than correctly partitioning the truth for the eons, or ages, is the great and vital division between the eonian or age-times and time outside of the ages or eons. Inside the eons there is sin, outside there is none. All delegated government is confined within their limits. Rule ends when they end. Death itself is abolished when the eons come to a consummation and is replaced by life. The special salvation of the saints is eonian. The salvation of all is post-eonian. So that, while it is heinous error to say that all will be saved during the eons, it is blessed truth when they are past.
It may be objected, Why did not our Lord reveal the truth of universal reconciliation, rather than Paul? He had many things to say to them, which they could not bear. The time was not ripe. It was outside the scope, of His ministry. Paul found it necessary not only to explain this in his day but pauses to insist that he is not lying. He tells us that God wills (not desires, or wishes but wills) “ALL mankind to be saved and to come to a realization of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator, also, between God and mankind, a Man, Christ Jesus, Who is giving himself a correspondent Ransom for ALL the testimony in its own eras for which I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) a teacher of the nations in knowledge and truth.”
The testimony to this truth was entrusted to the hands of Paul. It is useless for us to seek it elsewhere. Nevertheless our Lord never said one word which conflicted with God’s will in this matter. He knew that He was a Ransom for all. And thus, whenever he spoke on such a subject as the unpardonable sin He was exceedingly careful to define the time limits to which His words apply. To wrest them outside of these limits makes Him a liar and distorts the truth of God.
The subject in hand is the ultimate destiny of mankind. How many of the passages, which are here quoted against the universal reconciliation, deal with this subject? Not one. Here we have a sad example of a most unprofitable and irrational method of study. In the practical affairs of life we do not act so. We seek information where it can be found. We do not sedulously avoid the very sources of the knowledge, which we seek. Yet here is an article, which never refers to those passages in the Scriptures, which deal with its subject, but presses into service a mass of evidence, wrested from its legitimate context, which has no bearing on the real subject at issue. Only a mistranslation, a misapplication, or an unfounded inference, connects any of the Scriptures, which are produced with the grand subject of God’s ultimate. All are concerned with the intermediate process by which He attains it. Realizing this, the writer constantly perverts the Scriptures by adding “final” or words to that effect.
The scriptures, which do treat of this subject have been referred to in this reply. None of them needs any explanation, or reasoning, or argument. They are plain statements of fact, which have disturbed the minds of all true students who do not believe them. May God give us grace to believe all that He has revealed!
A REPLY TO CHRIST’S EXPOSURE OF THE LARGER HOPE [Adolph E. Knoch] 1