The State of the Impenitent Dead

Edited By Alvah Hovey, D.D., LL.D.

Section 5




Against the doctrine now presented, several objections have been raised, some of which deserve our careful attention. It is our purpose to examine in this section the most considerable of those which are drawn professedly from the word of God. And,  — 

I. The penalty of sin, the final doom of unbelievers, is frequently called death; hut death is an event which puts an end to conscious existence. The whole matter turns of course upon the proper definition of the term " deaths In support of the definition here given, we are reminded that Adam must have looked upon death as the extinction of conscious being, and hence that he was not fairly treated, if it signified anything worse than this in the threatening, " Thou shalt surely die." Says Mr. Hudson, " The advance of geological science has proved that animals had lived and died for thousands of years before the creation of man. Did Adam not know of their mortality, when he was told that he might die? And if he did, must he not understand by death just such an expiring and decay as he saw among the brutes around him? . . . Was he fairly treated, if that was only the prelude of death, and if, without a word of express warning, he was still liable to endless woe?"1 Dobney expresses the same argument. " I submit," he says, "that Adam could never have understood the sentence to include what the popular belief finds in it, unless the words had been so explained to him; of which, as there is no account, so it may not be taken for granted in order to make out a theory.... There is nothing indeed on which it more behoves, or in fact so much behoves, that there should be perfect and transparent explicitness, as in a sentence denouncing evil in case of transgression. One who is in any danger of violating law ought to be able by due painstaking to understand the threatened consequences of voluntary ill-doing. It would not be righteous in a human lawgiver to threaten ten stripes and inflict a thousand, or to threaten a day's imprisonment and then commit to the galleys for life, or hand over to the executioner. This, amongst men, would be properly denounced as most flagrant tyranny. Let the man whom it is wished to deter from a criminal act know explicitly the full legal consequences of crime."2

On the correctness of the position here taken, that the righteousness of a punishment depends upon the criminal's knowledge of it beforehand, or in other words, that it is the knowledge of consequences, and not the knowledge of right and wrong in conduct itself, which makes man responsible to God and deserving of reward or punishment, we shall have something to say in the sequel. For the present we simply remark, that neither science nor revelation assures us that Adam had observed the phenomena of death in the brute creation before the fall, and had thus been taught to regard this event as an extinction of being. There is perhaps no more reason to suppose that he had anything like a correct idea of physical death without divine instruction, than that he had a somewhat distinct idea of shame, remorse, and spiritual ruin by means of direct instruction from God. The narrative in Genesis suggests quite as readily the presence of Jehovah as the presence of death in the garden, knowledge derived from communion with God as knowledge derived from the study of expiring animals.

In support of this view, it is also said that the soul of man is itself material, or at least dependent for its conscious existence upon material organization. And to prove this we are again reminded of Jehovah's language to Adam: " In the day thou catest thereof, thou  —  not thy body  —  shalt surely die," and further along in the narrative, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." But here the original text does not permit us to emphasize the pronoun and paraphrase thus  —  thou as a person, a self-conscious being  —  thou as to the very centre and principle of thy rational nature  —  art from the dust, and shalt return to the same. No such thought can be fairly evoked from the passage. We are told, however, that other portions of the sacred record authorize us to find this meaning in the words of Jehovah to Adam. Let us look at one or two of these passages:  — 

And first we may look at the words of Balaam: " Let my soul die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his,"3 and then at those of Samson: " Let my soul die with the Philistines."4 Death, we are assured, is here predicated of the soul, and hence the soul is regarded as dying with the body. We have at least the opinion of Balaam and Samson that it comes to an end with its earthly house. But to this we may reply, that the expression, " my soul," appears in both these cases to take the place of a pronoun, and differs from the latter, if at all, only by way of emphasis. Hence the common version is correct in sense, and nothing is here affirmed of the death of the soul per se. But should this use of the expression, " my soul," be challenged, the frequent choice of the word, translated by us "soul " to signify merely the animal life, the anima, ψυχή cannot be called in question for a moment, and this signification, be it observed, suits the design of each passage, and is selected for each by Gesenius.5 Accordingly we say again that neither of these texts should be adduced to prove the death of the soul per se. The former suggests rather the idea of a life beyond the grave. For why, otherwise, should Balaam wish to die the death of the righteous? Was it because the wicked suffer more pain in articulo mortis than the righteous? Such an hypothesis does not accord very well with the rapt condition of the seer, if, indeed, it be not too trivial a thought for any man who is anticipating the close of life. Or was it because he knew of the resurrection, the final judgment, and the second death, from the last of which he would fain be delivered to enjoy eternal life? This view is inconsistent with the acknowledged fact, that very few references are made in the Old Testament to the doctrine of a resurrection, while references to a future life are not infrequent. To us it is manifest that Balaam was looking forward to a conscious existence beyond the grave, depending for its blessedness or misery upon his character in this life.

It is needless to examine other passages of this class; for no one of them teaches that natural death involves the extinction of man's rational spirit or conscious being; while, on the other hand, the words of Christ, '- Fear not them that kill the body," etc., prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it involves no such extinction.

Again we are told by Mr. Hudson, that all the passages which we have referred to spiritual death, together with the account in Genesis, lead naturally to a very different view, namely, that men are pronounced dead in these instances, proleptically, or by way of anticipation, because they are as good as dead, are virtually dead, that is, are sentenced to death, and perhaps are even now in the process of dying. As illustrations of this figure of speech he cites a passage in Genesis: " But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold thou art a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken;"6 another in Exodus: " And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people that they might send them out of the land in haste: for they said. We be all dead; "7 and another in Numbers: " And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying. Behold we die, we perish, we all 'perish."8

But these texts are by no means similar to the expression in Genesis which they are said to elucidate. For (1) the prolepsis is here quite self-evident. In each case the language plainly refers to natural death, and cannot be supposed to signify anything else. Yet those who are alive in the flesh are pronounced to be now dead or dying. Here the verb or participle is in the present tense, and a declaration is made which cannot even be imagined true, except by way of anticipation. That which is conceived of as certain, just at hand, and as good as done, is spoken of as now actually accomplished. How different is this from the deliberate prediction of an event which is to occur in the future! How different from the same language when the context leads us to think of the moral rather than the physical nature of man! And (2) the passages adduced by Mr. Hudson are preceded b}^ narratives which prepare the reader for emphatic and impassioned language. From the circumstances related, he is led to expect the utterance of deep emotion, of severe indignation and frantic alarm, in words fitted to express not so much a historical fact as a feeling of the heart. But nothing of this can be imagined in Jehovah, when he forewarned Adam, yet sinless, of the sure and penal reward of transgression, nor in Paul when he reminded the Colossians that previous to conversion they "were dead in their sins and in the uncircumcision of their flesh." They speak with the deliberation and precision of a lawgiver and a historian, and there is no reason to assign a proleptical import to the language. But Mr. Hudson appeals with still greater confidence to the words of Pharaoh, " Get thee from me; take heed to thyself; see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face, thou shall die.''9 And to the words of Solomon, "Build thee an house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and go not forth thence anywhither; for it shall be that on the day thou goest out, and passeth over the brook Kedron, thou shalt know for certain that thou shalt surely die."10 Yet these passages, in our opinion, make against the view advocated by Mr. Hudson. For it cannot well be doubted that both Pharaoh and Solomon meant to he understood as threatening the death of Moses and of Shimei, respectively, on the very days indicated. The warning depended, no doubt, in a great measure, upon this circumstance for its force. There shall be no delay, no reprieve, but immediate death  —  this was the meaning of both these princes. Had Solomon passed a formal sentence of death upon Shimei, when the latter had returned from Gath, but deferred the execution of it ten, twenty, or forty years, no man would hesitate to ascribe this delay of execution to some change in the views or the feelings of the king  —  no man would pretend that he had done as he meant to do when he uttered the warning, or as he wished Shimei to understand him as resolved and pledged to do.

We conclude, therefore, that Mr. Hudson has not justified his interpretation of the words in Genesis, " In the day of thy eating of it thou shalt surely die," by a single passage from the word of God, which does not refer to the question in debate, and hence we must either pronounce it untenable in philology, or assume that on this one theme, the penalty of sin, inspired writers use a figure of speech with great frequency in a quite extraordinary, and, indeed, unprecedented manner.

If, now, we reflect that the spirit of man was made originally incorruptible and fitted to exist forever; that the fall did not result in a speedy termination of his conscious being, but rather in a moral separation from God, often called death, and that the terms "death" and "life" are sometimes used by the sacred writers to denote the opposite spiritual conditions of those equally alive in the flesh,  —  all presumption in favor of the annihilation of unbelievers, arising from the use of the word " death " to describe their final punishment, vanishes away. And if, moreover, this term, when applied in the Scriptures to the final state of unbelievers, is surrounded by adjuncts which naturally imply conscious existence, these adjuncts must be taken as full proof of such existence; for there is nothing in the word "death" to impair their force. This has been already shown in a previous section. Yet it may be well to add, that if it is proper to say of a man who has lost his fellowship with sin and with a sinful world, that he is dead to sin,11 or dead to the rudiments of the world,12 it is equally proper and even more natural to describe one as dead unto God when he has lost all fellowship with him, and the faculties of his soul reason, conscience, affection have ceased to perform their noblest function, to unite him consciously with the Father of Spirits and make his existence truly normal and blessed. When we shall have attained such conceptions of life and death as are taught by a sound philosophy and by the word of God, these terms will no longer be confounded with " personal existence," or " non-existence."13

But we pass on to another objection, namely,  — 

II. The final doom of unbelievers is often called "destruction'' or "perdition," in the New Testament; hut the word14 thus rendered in our version signifies the extinction of conscious being, that is, when applied to man or to any being possessed of consciousness. If the meaning here assigned to "destruction" and "perdition" be correct, this objection is valid and decisive; for we readily admit that wicked men are frequently threatened with destruction both in this world and in the world to come. But we do not find this definition sustained by the law and the testimony. It will, therefore, be suitable for us to examine briefly a few passages which are said to justify and even require it; and then several others may be noticed which seem to call for a different explanation. If we do not select those passages in the former case which are clearest for the objection, our failure to do so will spring from oversight or ignorance, not from design.

Christ is represented by Matthew as saying, " Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."15 It has already been observed that this verse distinguishes between body and soul, affirming that one may be killed without destroying the other. And if we look at the parallel record made by Luke, it will be found to go still further, and imply that bodily death does not injure the soul: "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him."16 Dr. Whately is unable to perceive any connection between these verses and the subject of the soul's consciousness after death.17 To us the connection seems to be most obvious; for if men, by killing the body, extinguish the soul's consciousness until the resurrection, they do, to all intents and purposes, kill the soul no less than the body. For a soul minus consciousness is no more a human soul than a corpse without life is a human body. Consciousness organizes and holds together the faculties of the soul, as the principle of natural life does the elements of the body  —  the one is as necessary to personal being as the other is to animal existence. Hence, we say, if men put an end to consciousness, until the resurrection, by killing the body, they do ipso facto kill the soul as well. Both, as such, arc rendered by this act virtually nonexistent, and, indeed, apart from the intervention of God, forever so. Both must be raised again by divine power, or remain forever destitute of their characteristic being. We are well aware that various analogies have been urged against this view, as, for example, that the soul is unconscious in deep sleep, or after a stunning blow, etc. But these analogies are worthless; for many well-attested facts make it probable, if not certain, that the soul is not, in such instances, really unconscious. Even Whately affirms that "the mind, certainly for the most part, and probably always, continues active during sleep, though in a different manner, and though the confused ideas occurring in 'sleep, which we call dreams, are but imperfectly remembered."18 If the mind is active during the profoundest sleep, when the brain, utterly exhausted, refuses to obey the will, why may it not be active when the brain is disturbed by a blow, and its power to serve the mind suspended? True, it must be active " in a different manner; " and hence, doubtless, the fact that its action is not recalled when the normal connection between the mind and its organ is restored. But, leaving this point, we desire to know precisely how the final destruction of the soul by God is supposed to differ from its exinanition at the death of the body? If the result is really the same in both cases, then it must be granted that not only God, but man also, is able to kill the soul; though it may depend upon the will of God whether the soul remain dead forever, or rise again. But this, manifestly, is not the import of the text. The text asserts that man is unable to kill the soul; and this, we repeat, is equivalent to saying that the soul continues alive when the body is slain.

But to the main question: Does the word ἀπολέσαι (to destroy) here signify "to put an end to?" We reply in the negative, (1) because the parallel record by Luke gives us instead of this expression the equivalent words "to. cast into hell;" and we have seen, that the latter phrase does not imply; extinction of being. (2) Because the essential distinction between soul and body here intimated, and the selection of different terms to express the danger to which they are respectively: exposed, suggests, to say the least, a diversity of peril, and not one common danger. Says Bengel: ἀπολέσαι, (perdere). Nan dicitur occiderc. Anima est inimortalis.19 And (3), because the Greek word here rendered "to destroy " is often used, as we shall presently show, m a different sense, precisely adapted to this passage, and quite in harmony with other declarations concerning the final state of unbelievers.

We pass on to the words of Christ, " He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."20 This verse teaches, it is said, that the man who preserves his personal existence in this world by declining to follow Christ, shall forfeit the same for the world to come; while, on the other hand, whoever loses his life here for Christ's sake, shall have, by means of the resurrection, eternal consciousness hereafter. Doubtless the language of Christ is in itself alone capable of this interpretation; but it is also equally capable of another, more in harmony with the greater part of God's word. For nothing is more natural than a play upon the term ψυχή (life), using it now in a lower and then in a higher sense. In the latter, it is equivalent to the term ζωή, as used, by the disciple whom Jesus loved, to designate that spiritual life which begins in time, but reaches its bloom and perfection in eternity. So that one who declines the service of Christ has his reward in this world  —  a life of ease, and indulgence, and temporal safety; but he forfeits all interest in the world above, where the true life of the soul culminates in eternal joy, where fellowship with God is perfect, the spirit seeing as it is seen, and knowing as it is known.

Again: the passage, " Then, also, those who fell asleep in Christ perished,"21 is insisted upon as proving beyond a peradventure that destruction is an event which terminates conscious existence. Says Ham: " The apostle, in this concise piece of reasoning, distinctly affirms that if there be no destruction of the dead, then there is no future life. He shows, also, what was his doctrine of the intermediate state of believers  —  'They which have fallen asleep in Christ,' not they which are in a state of disembodied consciousness and activity in glory. But can the orthodox of the nineteenth century agree with Paul in this affirmation, that if the dead rise not. Christians who have departed this life are perished? No, they say; 'if the dead rise not,' the soul lives on  —  its life does not depend upon the resumption of the body. . . . Let criticism and exegesis (on the part of the orthodox) be consistent, and we have the following as the signification of the passage before us: ' Then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perishcd,' they have gone to Gehenna, to endure the endless torments of the unquenchable fire. This is the theological sense of perishing. I need not characterize such an interpretation as most awfully and insultingly absurd. What! the holy and self-denying followers of Christ, because the dead rise not  —  a hope which they had fondly cherished  —  to be consigned to endless misery! Paul never meant this."22

To this it may be replied in a word: Paul teaches that all men have sinned, even " the holy and self-denying followers of Christ; " that all, without exception, arc guilty and condemned before God; that the penalty or wages of sin is death, and pre-eminently the second death, the lake of fire, eternal punishment; that eternal life or blessedness is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ, and him alone; and that Christ cannot be the true Messiah, unless he rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures. Hence, to set aside the resurrection of Christ is to set aside the whole economy of grace. Well, then, may the apostle say to believers in Jesus, " If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" If the doctrine of the orthodox were this, that the followers of Christ are to be saved because of their holiness and selfdenial, there might be some force in Ham's appeal; but since, in their judgment, the most earnest and self-sacrificing Christian has no title in himself to the favor of God, but is to be saved in consideration of Christ's work alone, there is in it no force at all. Says Dr. Hodge: " Perdition, according to Scripture, is not annihilation, but everlasting misery and sin. It is the loss of holiness and happiness forever. If Christ did not rise for the justification of those who died in him, they found no advocate at the bar of God, and have incurred the fate of those who perished in their sins."

This evidently is the apostle's meaning in the verse before us; and it perfectly agrees with the representations which he everywhere makes of the way of life. There is therefore no reason for rejecting the " theological sense of the word perish, as most awfully and insultingly absurd," for this passage.

We may notice, in the next place, the words, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord; and from the glory of his power."23 We first inquire what is the relation here expressed by ἀπὸ. (1) Some have said it is a temporal relation; the word here signifies after, and marks the terminus a quo, the date from and after which the punishment is to be suffered. But the instances in which ἀπὸ refers to time are in the first place very rare, and in the next quite unlike the one before us, since from the nature of the genitive following it, it is known to designate a terminus a quo.24 This interpretation may also be considered well nigh obsolete. (2) Others have said it is a causal relation; the punishment is represented by ἀπὸ, etc., as proceeding from the face, or presence, and from the glory of God, as its source or efficient cause. But they arbitrarily explain the expression "from the face of the Lord " as synonymous with " from the Lord," or they explain προσώπου of an angry or dark countenance, which is no less arbitrary. (3) Others, still, have said it is a local relation; ἀπὸ here expresses the idea of separation or absence, and the thought is, " away from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power." This explanation gives to προςώπου its full significance, for the face or presence of the Lord is a well-known Biblical designation of the source of true blessedness,25 and separation there from of misery. Besides, this interpretation best accords with the following verse. It is advocated by Alford and Lunemann,26 given by Robinson in his Lexicon, and preferred by Olshausen. Ellicott closes his examination of ἀπὸ by saying, " We therefore adopt the simply local translation, according to which ἀπὸ marks the idea of 'separation from/ while προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου retains its proper meaning and specifies that perennial fountain of blessedness to be separated from which will constitute the true essence of the Poena Dami.'' This view we deem correct; and if it be so, the "everlasting perdition" spoken of results in part, if not chiefly, from a want of fellowship with God, and pre-supposes the continuance rather than the extinction of conscious being.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul speaks of " foolish and hurtful lusts, which plunge the men into destruction and perdition;" that is to say, into utter and irretrievable ruin. The second noun seems in this place to be more emphatic than the first  —  ἀπώλεια than ὄλεθρος  —  although elsewhere New Testament writers employ either of them, and indiscriminately, to denote the final doom of unbelievers. Now, let it be observed, that there is nothing in the context which requires us to understand these terms as denoting an extinction of being. If they signify this, it is purely vi termini, by virtue of their inherent force, and not by virtue of any associated word or clause, which favors such a signification. The same, also, may be said of every passage thus far examined; none of the adjuncts point to extinction of being, and determine this to be the meaning of ^ destruction,' or ' perdition,' when predicated of the soul. Two of them naturally suggest a different meaning. We are therefore bound to inquire whether the words have not another sense equally adapted to these passages, and at the same time consistent with all similar statements in the word of God.

It may be remarked, in the first place, that the New Testament, as well as the Old, generally employs the language of common life. Its style is popular, and therefore figurative. Instead of defining its leading terms beforehand, and then using them always with philosophical accuracy in the same sense, it freely adopts the vital and elastic speech of real life, and abounds in metaphor, comparison, and parable. The affluence of its imagery is truly oriental. But this imagery rests upon definite truth, unbending reality. The point of difficulty, then, lies in ascertaining the exact idea which is represented by a particular metaphor or parable. To do this it is often necessary to compare different representations of the same idea, event, or process, as e g. the different pictures of the state of the lost hereafter.

It may be remarked, in the second place, that nearly all words have a tropical as well as a literal use. A resemblance, perhaps, in but a single point, is perceived between that which a word literally signifies and something else quite different in other respects; yet the word is applied for want of a better, or for the sake of vivacity. A poet is said to soar on the wings of imagination, and a report to fly through the city, thoughts are said to be dark or bright, and affections to be cold or warm. On the same principle, Christ is called a lion, a lamb, a shepherd, a vine, a root, a branch, &c., and the further back we trace the history of any language, the greater shall we find to be the number and variety of meanings given to a word by the context. This results from the fact, that in the order of nature and development, thought goes before speech.

It may be remarked, in the third place, that the manifold use of the term "death" in the word of God leads us to anticipate a similar use of the similar term " destruction." The latter is no more precise or descriptive in its meaning than the former; and if it were, this would afford no argument against a figurative use of it. Hence, if the adjuncts of the term "death," when applied to the final state of unbelievers, justify us in attributing to them conscious being in that state, they certainly justify us in doing the same, although destruction, or eternal destruction, is predicated of unbelievers in that state. These adjuncts, we mean to say, are sufficient of themselves to establish a tropical use of the leading terms, had we no other instance of such a use in the New Testament.

It may be remarked, in the fourth place, that the Greek root, which, together with its derivatives, is often represented by the words to "destroy," "destruction," and "perdition," is used not unfrcquently in the New Testament, apart also from the case under consideration, when the object of which they are affirmed continues to exist, and is conceived of as existing. The importance of this statement will be at once recognized, and the propriety of illustrating its truth admitted.

We commence with the words of Christ: ""Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily, I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward."27 It would not, perhaps, be a very great refinement of criticism to say, that the object of the verb; the reward, is here conceived of as belonging, in a certain sense, to the subject; it is his by promise, or in equity, and therefore he may be said to lose it. Yet it is equally probable that ἀπολέσῃ means " to lose," in the sense of "to fail of." The compound word is not intensive, as some have averred, for Christ surely did not mean to intimate that the benefactor described might partially, though not utterly, lose his reward. But we would invite special attention to the fact, that ἀπολέσῃ does not here signify to destroy or put an end to its object, but rather to lose  —  loose  —  let go that object, or, what is equivalent, to fail of having and holding it. This verb, which is relied upon to prove the extinction of personal being, simply marks in this place the sundering of a connection, the dissolving of a relation. The object of it may still exist, but the tie which binds together object and subject is no more. To put the matter in another and more usual form: Destruction involves loss; hence the verb signifying to destroy has also the meaning to lose, a derived sense, and may be used where the object in question is not itself destroyed.

Again, we read as follows: "What man of you, if he have an hundred sheep, and lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost? "28 Here verb and participle are both employed, signifying " to lose " and " lost." The lost sheep is still in existence, and is eagerly sought by the shepherd. But its connection with the latter is sundered, and for this reason it is declared to be lost  —  ἀπολωλός. Passing now from the parable to the thing signified, Christ represents sinners as lost or destroyed. By wandering away from God, they have destroyed themselves; by sending them away from himself, God will ultimately destroy them. In both cases, it is the separation of the soul from God, the sundering of the connection and communion which normally bind them together, that constitutes the destruction or the loss of the soul. When the King shall say to those on his left hand, " Depart from me," and "these shall go away into everlasting punishment," then will the final perdition29 of the soul be brought to pass.

Another passage in the same chapter will repay examination: " This my son was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found."30 It is to be distinctly noted, that the father of the prodigal does not seem at any time to have lost sight of his son, or to have supposed him physically dead. ^' He speaks," says Euthymius Zigabenus correctly, " of the deadness and destruction which flow from sin, and of the reviving and finding which flow from repentance."31 He speaks as God would speak of the sinner; for " God loveth all men, and counts that as " lost " in itself which he cannot feed and bless, and save forever." When we hear in this parable a father saying of his son, now in his house: " This my son was dead  —  ἦν νεκρὸς  —  and was lost  —  ἦν ἀπολωλὼς"  —  a fact in the past, and also bear in mind that the father had known all along? the conduct of his son,32 and therefore could not speak of him as dead, in this sense merely, that he had supposed him to be so, we must be convinced that the words "dead" and "lost" refer to moral character, to the total separation in spirit of the son from the father, in a word, to his spiritual death; and at the same time we must be convinced that the words "death" and "destruction" do not, when predicated of the soul, involve its extinction.

Again, an "unclean spirit" is said to have cried out to Jesus: " Hast thou come to destroy us? " Are we, then, to conclude that this demon was in fear of immediate annihilation? Or may we believe that he was in fear of penal confinement? The language of a passage in Matthew may assist us in replying to these questions. For the demons are there reported to have said, "Hast thou come hither to torment us before the time?" etc.33 The verb employed by them, βασανίσαι reminds us at once of the rich man, "who in hades lifted up his eyes, being ἐν βασάνοις," (in torments.) So, also, we are told in Luke,34 that the evil spirits besought Christ not to send them away into the abyss. And by examining the use of ἄβυσσος in the New Testament it will be found to denote a place of darkness and torment, the abode or prison-house of Satan and his angels.35

Now, if fallen spirits were spoken of in the Scriptures as being at present in a state of blessedness, or even of freedom from misery, we might easily account for their dread of annihilation; but if they are represented as being now in a state of woe, and if annihilation is so much less appalling than endless suffering as we are told, it is not so easy to account for their deprecating the final hour and the eternal sleep. Besides, the language, "Hast thou come to torment us before the time? " implies that fallen spirits look forward to a predestined epoch of special suffering  —  a time when Christ shall, in a very eminent degree, affect them. The word βασανίσαι refers to the infliction of suffering upon a conscious being, and does not accord with the idea of extinction. It is one thing to annihilate, and quite another thing to " torment" a spiritual being.

And, still further: "The angel of the bottomless pit" is called in the Hebrew tongue Abaddon, and in the Greek Apollyon, both words signifying destroyer; chiefly, we think, because he perverts and morally destroys the souls of men; certainly not because he annihilates their conscious being, nor indeed because he inflicts upon the ungodly their final doom. It is not quite clear to our mind how those who insist so much upon the literal sense of words, and who maintain that death and destruction, whether affirmed of body or of spirit, signify extinction of being, are to explain the name Abaddon, and yet assert that "the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power" will, at the last, flash unconsciousness into the souls of the wicked, and petrify them forever. Whom is Apollyon to destroy if Christ puts an end to the impenitent? But, on the other hand, if the great adversary is to blot out the soul hereafter, then, doubtless, the words of Christ, according to the dismal interpretation of Stier, warn us to fear the devil, " who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," though very few, we think, will be able to bear this interpretation.

The result of our examination is this: That the words " destruction," " perdition," etc., need not, when predicated of the spirit, be supposed to assert, vi termini, or by reason of their intrinsic force, the extinction of its conscious being; and that the adjuncts employed with these words prove that they do not involve or affirm such extinction. And it may be added, that the use of the Greek words thus translated by classical writers corroborates the result just given. We rest, therefore, with a strengthened conviction of its truth, in the long-established belief of Christendom that the impenitent dead will be forever conscious and miserable. We rest in this doctrine, not because reason teaches it, or feeling welcomes it, but because it is clearly revealed, as we judge, by One who is just and true, as well as benevolent, and who declares, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."36 It is a great and terrible doctrine, not to be received with any due sense of its solemnity except by him whose conscience feels the unspeakable guilt of sin, and whose heart says with Job: " I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."37



1) Doctrine of a Future Life, p. 170.

2) Scripture Doctrine of Future Punishment, p. 128.

3) Num. xxiil. 10.

4) Jud, xvi. 30.

5) Cf. Ex. xxii. 23; 1 Kings xix. 3; with Odys. xix. 423.

6) Gen. XX. 33.

7) Ex. xii. 33.

8) Num. xvii. 27.

9) Exod. X. 28.

10) 1 Kings ii. 36, 37.

11) Rom. vi. 2. 6, 11.

12) Col. ii. 20. Sec also iii, 3, where the word "dead" is to be understood in the same sense. Compare the learned and accurate commentary of Ellicott on these passages.

13) See the Meth. Rev., vol. XXXIV. p. 250 sq., for some discriminating remarks on this point.

14) Ἀπόλλυμι and its derivatives.

15) Matt. x. 28.

16) Luke xii. 4, 5.

17) "Future Life," p. 64.

18) "Future State," p. 82.

19) See Meyer, De Wette, and Alford.

20) Matt. x. 39.

21) 1 Cor. xv. 18.

22) "Man in Death," p. 81.

23) 2 Thess. i. 9.

24) Rom. i. 20, ἀπὸ κτίσεως κόσμου (from the foundation of (he world), and Phil. i. 5,  ἀπὸ τῆςπρωσῆα ἡμέρας (from the first day.)

25) The able continuator of Meyer's commentary.

26) 1 Tim. vi. 9. i

27) Matt. x. 42.: cf. Mark ix. 41.

28) Luke xv. 4.

29) Compare the word ἀπόλλυμι with its synonym perdere, in the Greek Lexicon of Liddell and Scott and Latin Lexicon of Andrews; and note especially the use of perditus in a moral sense.

30) Luke xv. 24, 32.

31) Quoted from Meyer, in loco.

32) Sec verse 30.

33) Matt viii. 8, 29.

34) Luke viii. 31.

35) Rev. ix. 1, 2, 11; xi. 7; xvii. 18; xx. 13; 2 Pet. ii. 4. 11

36) Matt. xxiv. 35.

37) Job. xlii. 5, 6.