It is clear that in the 1800’s J N Darby and other godly men and women had to contend with those who taught that eternal punishment in hell was inconsistent with a loving God. Some positions were:
- – After a period of punishment all eventually would be saved.
- – Unbelievers would be annihilated – not banished to hell
- – The lost would gradually be consumed and therefore be annihilated
I guess it is not much different now. This year the Pope was reported to have told an interviewer (a well-known 93-year-old atheist) that those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven just disappeared, that is he questioned the existence of hell. (See The Guardian 30 March 2018). The Vatican unsurprisingly maintained that this was a misrepresentation of what the Pope said. The same article said that Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI said in 2007 that hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much anymore”. Whatever these Catholic leaders said, or did not say, it is clear that Satan is as active in the 21stCentury as he was in the 19th, to obfuscate biblical teaching as to the Lake of Fire, and so to lull people into a sense of false security.
Darby produced a paper ‘Brief Scriptural Evidence on the doctrine of Eternal Punishment, for plain people’. Collected Writings Vol 7 (Doctrinal 2) page 1
In that paper, Darby listed a number of scriptures to arrest believers and make them consider that is certainly the truth. These are listed with comments in the companion posting to this one ‘Eternal Punishment – Where JND Points to it in Scripture’.
Subversion of the Truth
The faith of many has been undermined by subverting the doctrine of eternal punishment. Many claim that the Greek for eternal or everlasting (αἰώνιος/aiónios/Strong 166) as in ‘And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal’ (Matthew 25:46), does not really mean what it says. But the problem is tthat so many persons who say that the word does not really mean ‘without end’ do not know Greek well enough to form a judgment. Darby said he knew Greek, even if he said he was not very learned (!) and he was convinced that eternal meant just that. (My Greek is very limited, so I will respect JND- Sosthenes.)
The Spirit of God would help a humble, plain man who is with God as he reads the scriptures, far more than those who trust in their knowledge of Greek. The statements of his English Bible leave not a doubt that the punishment of the wicked is eternal. It is clear that God meant to produce in the mind of the reader the conviction that eternal misery is the portion of the wicked. God would not frighten souls by telling them a lie.
As a digression here is that statement in various translations – in short, there is hardly any difference. So whichever reliable translation you go by the message will be the same.
|And these shall go away into everlasting punishment||King James|
|Then they will go away to eternal punishment||New International|
|These will go away into eternal punishment||American Standard|
|And these shall go away into eternal punishment||Darby|
Universalism and Annihilationism
There are two mutually exclusive concepts:
- All will be saved, all, even the devil himself, though most would not like to say anything so plain as that – universalists.
- The wicked will not be saved (the soul not being immortal at all), and that the fire of hell will in time consume them– annihilationists.
Neither believe in eternal punishment.
Darby said that annihilationism was most prevalent in the UK, whilst universalism was prevalent elsewhere. ( I gather that some Baptidsts hold it – Sosthenes). Proponents of both are at loggerheads with each other, though of course both are wrong.
Annihilationists contend that the universalists’ position is monstrously unscriptural, because it is clear that some people are damned and others saved. Universalists must also reject the gospel and the truth of Christ’s sacrificial atonement. They have no Christ and no Saviour. They wanted to believe that a loving God would want everybody to be happy in the end – some having to wait a little longer.
Similarly annihilationists believe that there is no everlasting hell, and they have set up another absurd and untenable notion: that the soul is not immortal at all, and that death means simply ceasing to exist, and therefore, that life is to be found only in Christ; and that, after a certain quantity of punishment, the wicked will be turned out of existence, or consumed by the fire of hell, and exist no more.
If life is only in Christ, how come the wicked are alive after death in order to be punished? They quote ‘He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life(1 John 5:12). How come then they exist in order to be punished? Did God keep the alive in order to punish them. Was that His purpose“`/.Scripture is clear though, ‘It is appointed unto men once to die, and AFTER THIS the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27). Their argument limits the efficacy of the blood of Christ. If He bore our sins, all He saved us from was a certain measured quantity of punishment, then His work would not have been an eternal one. There is a suggestion that ‘eternal’ pertains only to the millennial age. Scripture does no support that.
Eternal contrasts with temporal.
|For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.||2 Corinthians 4:18|
|A house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens||2 Corinthians 5:1|
|To whom be honour and power everlasting||1 Timothy 6:16|
|The God of all grace who hath called us to His eternal glory.||1 Peter 5:10|
|He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;||Hebrews 5:9|
|By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. . .How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?||Hebrews 5:12,14|
And ‘eternal’ does not mean ‘millennial’. When scripture speaks of this it sometimes says ‘the next world’. Also, we get the expression ‘for ever’. Sometimes this may infer eternity, though often it has a more limited scope, e.g. the course of a person’s life, this present evil world, or a dispensation.
In short, eternal means eternal – nothing else.