HELL: Where is it? What is it? Study No. 194
by E.E. Franke
Published by: Church of God Publishing House Meridian, Idaho.
Retypeset, 2001, by Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849.
“Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to light,” — Milton.
ELL — What monster of iniquity invented thee? What demon of sin thrust thee forth to crush the heart of man with thine infernal fires of torture? What imp of darkness and despair drew the picture of thy hideous dwelling place, to soil the fair name of the God of love? What mind conceived thee to drive men into doubt, infidelity, insanity, and self-slaughter?
Thou enemy of God and man, who hast made the earth a waste wilderness of woe, and hast built the fires of hate in the hearts of thine advocates. Thou, who hast robbed heaven of its praise by those who have contemplated thee.
Doomed, doomed, DOOMED — to perpetual agony and pain, pleading for mercy, with only the echo of thine own voice to taunt and mock thee, and an accusing conscience to chide thee. No hope, no light, no tender hand to soothe the aching frame. No ear to hear the pleadings and groanings of the soul, and though the eternal ages roll on — age upon age brings no relief, nothing but an eternity of pain, suffering, torture, and torment.
Is it any wonder that some who have listened to this horrible theological lie have gone mad — stark mad? Is it any wonder that some who have believed in this fiendish hell, when contemplating the fate of those near and dear to them who died in their sins, have found no peace day nor night, until by their own hands, in frantic agony they have ended it all by suicide, while others have gone to fill the cells of a madhouse?
A more damning, soul-destroying doctrine could not be taught. Untold thousands have been driven into doubt, despair, and infidelity through the preaching of this hell — a place of eternal torture and torment. The fair name of our kind, compassionate, and loving heavenly Father has been dragged in the dust, and the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ has been made a cruel mockery by those who believe and teach that this lie of Satan is taught in the Bible.
Dr. R. A. Torrey, the noted evangelist and pastor of the church established by the late D. L. Moody, in Chicago, speaking of the punishment of the wicked, said:
“Not merely throughout an age, but throughout all ages. It is a picture not merely of years tumbling upon years, but of ages tumbling upon ages in endless succession. It is not in a single instance used of a limited period. Nothing could more plainly or graphically picture absolute endlessness . . . . The future state of those who reject the redemption offered them in Christ is plainly declared to be a state of conscious, unutterable, endless torment and anguish. This conception is an awful and appalling one. It is however the Scriptural conception and also a reasonable one when we come to see the appalling nature of sin,” Torrey’s What the Bible Teaches, pages 110-111.
The foregoing is a picture of Dr. Torrey’s hell, and represents the views of a large majority of so-called orthodox ministers and evangelists.
I use the term, “Dr. Torrey’s hell,” because he, like Billy Sunday, is among its greatest champions. If these men would read their Bibles and preach what is found therein, the flags of hell would be half-masted and hell itself would be draped in the sable mantle of mourning.
The complacency with which these men contemplate the millions whom they consign to a perpetual inferno, is enough to shock the religious sensibilities of those who know God as a merciful heavenly Father.
What can be said of ministers of the gospel (good news, glad tidings) who consign men to an endless hell of misery, without warrant of Scripture, or by grossly distorting the Word of God, and then gloat over it, as the following from the pen of Dr. Torrey shows? He said:
“If, after men have sinned and God still offers mercy, and makes the tremendous sacrifice of His Son to save them; If they still despise that mercy and trample God’s Son under foot; If, then they are consigned to everlasting torment, I say: ‘Amen! Hallelujah!’ “ Torrey’s What the Bible Teaches, page 312.
With the foregoing quotation before us it must be clear to all that a doctrine that can lead men to rejoice at suffering and to shout “Amen” and “Hallelujah” at torture and distress, is soul hardening, conscience searing, and God dishonoring, and should be rejected by all who love the God of truth.
I will quote again. This time from an article in a recent issue of a religious paper, as follows:
“The silly, deluded devotees of such superstition, such idolatry, must all, in the end, unless they repent in sackcloth and ashes, make their way down the slippery steps of time, and take their final leap at last into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the old devil will take special delight to wrap them around his fingers, gouge their eyes out, and toss them like a rubber ball around the black walls of the dark, dismal pandemonium, the sport of demoniacal millions, while the ages of oncoming eternities roll up from the dark realms below.”
Can the reader imagine what heaven would be like to these pious (?) souls when they think of the damned in endless torture, pain, and suffering? Will they still their golden harps while they lean over the battlements of glory and listen to the cries of the damned? Will they strike a higher note on their harps and shout, as Dr. Torrey says, “Amen!” “Hallelujah!” at every cry of distress?
Is this religion? Is it Christian? Perish the thought.
Our God is a God of love, and desires such to worship Him who do so because they love Him.
Fear of hell can never make a single Christian. Men who serve God only because they are afraid of hell are not Christians. They are the worst kind of hypocrites. Remove the hell from their minds and they will soon expose their naked villainy.
A Christian is moved by love, and knows no fear — “for fear hath torment” and “perfect love casteth out fear.”
A real Christian will do right because it is right. He will love God because He is so lovable; and if indeed a true Christian, he will not only do right because it is right, but no amount of suffering, no, nor hell itself, will be able to drive him from loving the blessed Father, who — “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
The English word hell comes from the same Teutonic root as heal, hall, hull, hold. It originally meant — to cover, conceal, make whole, to restore to health, and no doubt when first used in connection with the wicked, it was intended to indicate their concealment; gradually, however, it lost its original meaning as many other old English words, whose original meaning could hardly be recognized by their modern usage.
The word hell is so ambiguous in its original meaning that it is hard to determine, from the word itself, what thought it was meant to convey, or the reason for its use. It is certain, however, that the word hell as used in our English Bibles is translated from words which do not have the same meaning at all. The fact that three different words, having as many different meanings, are translated hell, should lead to honest inquiry, investigation and study.
The word “hell” occurs fifty-three times in the Bible (King James version); thirty-one times in the Old Testament, and twenty-two times in the New Testament.
In every one of the thirty-one times that the word, “hell,” is found in the Old Testament, it is translated from the Hebrew word, sheol, and means the grave. The same Hebrew word sheol is translated “grave” thirty-one times and “the pit” three times.
Why the word sheol, which appears sixty-five times in the Hebrew Old Testament, should be translated “hell” thirty-one times, or even once, is beyond reason.
In the New Testament the word hell is translated from the Greek words hades, ten times, ge-enna, eleven times, and from tartaroo just once.
The word hades is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word sheol, and for the English word grave. In every instance it means “the grave.”
The Greek word ge-enna means literally, the “Valley of Hinnom,” and has reference to a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, which was defiled by the worship of Molock, and afterwards used as a place to burn all kinds of filth and carcasses of animals, the bodies of criminals, and refuse generally.
The Greek word tartaroo means “darkness.”
Thus the reader can readily see that the word hell, with all that goes with it, is simply an invention, dating its origin long after the Bible was written.
If the words translated hell in the Bible were given their true meanings, the English word hell would not appear in the Scriptures at all.
In the Revised Version of the Old Testament, the word hell bas been retained in the prophetical books, and the Hebrew word sheol has been used in the poetical books, except in three instances, Deuteronomy 32:22, Psalm 55:15, and Psalm 86:13, where it is translated “pit.”
In the Revised Version of the New Testament, the Greek word hades is used instead of hell in ten instances. The word hell is retained where translated from the Greek words ge-enna and tartaroo.
Nearly, if not all, of those engaged in translating the Bible, were believers in a literal burning inferno, hence the tenacity with which they retained the word hell.
It is enough for me to repeat that Bible writers had no word for hell; did not believe in what we call hell, and in the original language the word hell, as defined today, is not found. I challenge the world to produce one single instance where the word hell, as used today, is found. So much for the word itself.
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” I Peter 4:17.
The fate of the wicked, is a question which without doubt has caused much more discussion than any other of a theological nature, and will continue to do so as long as men are pleased to place their own constructions on the Bible. If ministers and people could be induced to study the Bible, the question suggested in the foregoing text would be one of the easiest to understand, and would end every controversy on the punishment of the lost.
Few present-day theologians would ask the question, as Peter does, “What shall the end be?” but on the contrary, “What shall the future life be?”
How often we hear the question asked — “Where will you spend eternity?” Before we can accept the teachings of modern theology concerning the “future life,” or “eternity” of the wicked, we must ask in all honesty: What did Peter mean by the word END in the text quoted? Our question involves two things as opposite as day and night.
First — If Peter was right, when he referred to “the end” of them that obey not the gospel of God, then modern theology is wrong, and ministers who are teaching a future life or eternity of torment for the wicked, are wrong.
Second — If there is a literal burning hell, where the damned are suffering and will suffer throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity, as taught by so-called orthodox ministers, then, Peter was wrong, and the Bible either false or contradictory.
The two foregoing propositions are entirely fair, and the reader may choose which he will believe, either the Word of God and an end of the wicked, or modern theology and an eternity of living, suffering, and torture. The discussion of this subject might end here if men would only believe the Bible. Answering Peter’s question, “What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” we might get our answer from the Apostle Paul, who said:
“But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned,” Hebrews 6:8.
Burned, like thorns and briers, or literally burned up. But let us note another text by the same Apostle. He said:
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction,” Philippians 3:18-19.
This text speaks of destruction, and destruction is not endless torture. Can anything be more clear than these statements? Do they not show that modern theological thought and teaching is entirely out of harmony with the Word of God?
When these Bible texts are read, and the Biblical teaching on this subject expounded, we are called “materialists” and “annihilationists.” The overly wise men among them say, with an air of scientific superiority — “You believe in annihilation, do you?” and then add, “Matter cannot be annihilated, nothing can be destroyed or annihilated.”
This sort of argument is simply begging the question. Death is not annihilation. It is simply a cessation of life; and life is a force, still unknown to man, a mystery, sealed in the mind of the infinite God.
Dissolution of the body into its original elements — “dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return,” is not annihilation.
Still, withall, I am not so foolish as to believe that God, who made all things, cannot, at His will, annihilate anything He made. The foolish notion of the stability of matter is giving place to the more sensible and scientific Biblical view that “the things which are seen were not made out of things which do appear,” Hebrews 11:3.
Since the discovery of the ultraviolet ray and the radiation emitted by the substance which we call radium, for want of a better name, the “ultimate atom” has been scattered into countless electrons, which in the last analysis are proven to be disembodied electric charges, motion, force, or call them what you will.
What, and where is this hell we hear so much about? Some of the so-called early church fathers who shaped its doctrine when the church was in its most corrupt period, held that hell was in the centre of the earth, and some modern religionists still hold this view.
Most Protestant writers speak of hell as a bottomless lake, somewhere on the outskirts of creation, where the sinners, throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity will be writhing in agony — crying from the depths of their hearts, “How long, O Lord?” only to be mocked by the echo of their own words answering, “eternity.”
It is useless to ask those who have for years believed in this literal, burning hell, to believe some simple texts of Scripture that clarify the subject. Tradition, hoary tradition, has so covered the truth, that men seem to fear the light on this subject. It is as if Milton had spoken to this generation, when he said:
“Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.”
When we quote the Word of God, — “The soul that sinneth it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4) and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), do they believe these texts? Oh, no, they tell you it does not mean a literal death, or absence of life, but that this is the death that never dies. Be astonished, Oh ye heavens, at this. “A death that never dies” is just about as sensible as a life that never lives.
Death is defined to be, “a total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions; extinction of life.”
Men are driven to the most absurd reasoning when they try to avoid the force of a plain Bible text. In all the realm of thought, reason, and logic, there is nothing quite so foolish as the deductions of theological systems, which misconstrue the Word of God and build their faith on tradition. Even the hymnology of some churches is so unthinkably silly that it is robbed of its seriousness. What could be more foolish than the sacred song, “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere”? Or the old hymn sung by our mothers:
“Beyond the bounds of time and space
Look forward to that heavenly place
The saints secure abode.”
Beyond the bounds of time is no time, and beyond the bounds of space is nowhere. It would certainly require a stretch of the imagination to comprehend a heavenly place that is nowhere, to be attained at no time. It is all silly twaddle, too foolish for grown-up men and women. Let us be reasonable in our religion.
Now read this stanza from a well-known church hymn:
“Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save
When this poor lisping stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.”
Question — How are we going to sing without tongues?
The foregoing is given to show the absurdities and incongruities of modern religious thought. Why not be sensible? God does not want us to be led astray with foolish verbiage and imaginary ideas, couched in unthinkable terms.
Let us believe the Bible. Believe just what it says — no quibbling — no dodging, for God does not address us in meaningless phrases.
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
“The wages of sin is death.”
Believe these simple statements and you will know the truth about the fate of the wicked, and “the truth shall make you free” from the many errors and deceptions that have no warrant or sanction in God’s Word.
The reason why people believe in a literal burning hell of endless torture is because they were taught it in their youth, probably by their parents. They were taught it in the Sunday schools, and have heard the sinner threatened by ministers everywhere with eternal torture. As a matter of fact, it is much harder to unlearn a thing so instilled into our minds, than to learn the truth when we have no preconceived opinions.
This doctrine has been handed down from generation to generation until it has become so firmly rooted in the minds of some that it seems almost sacrilegious to say there is no hell, and more so when we positively assert that it is not only not taught in the Bible, but that the Word of God is squarely against it.
It is a God-dishonoring doctrine, and was handed down to us by the heathen converts to Christianity in the early years of the third century. These converts were anxious to reconcile their new faith with their former pagan systems. Through these so-called early Church fathers, many other errors entered the church until the whole system of Christianity was corrupted.
At first the hellfire doctrine was held by only a few, but as time went on, it became quite popular with those who were only part Christian and part heathen — men who wore the philosopher’s garb to their dying day, and who are responsible for all the errors that have disgraced the church from that time to the present.
Tertullian, who wrote about 200 to 220 A.D., is said to be the first of the early Christian fathers who openly taught the doctrine of an eternal hell of torture. He wrote thus:
“How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult when I behold so many proud monarchs and fancied gods, groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates who persecuted the name of the Lord, liquefying in fiercer fires than they ever kindled against the Christians; So many sage philosophers blushing in red-hot flames with their deluded scholars, so many celebrated poets trembling before the tribunal not of Minos, but of Christ; so many tragedians more tuneful in expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers.” — Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, Vol. I, Ch. 15, Page 537.
Gibbon stops abruptly, and adds:
“But the humanity of the reader will permit me to draw the veil over the rest of the infernal description.”
The next writer of note to teach this doctrine was Augustine, and little by little it became a part of the religious teaching of the church during the years of moral darkness that followed the third century.
St. Augustine was a great lover of the Platonic system of philosophy and studied the Bible from a Platonic view. “Of all the fathers of the Latin church,” says Villemain, “St. Augustine manifested the most imagination in theology.” He was a poor Greek scholar and understood nothing of Hebrew but was quite a good scholar in Latin, and an eloquent speaker. He taught and wrote during the most corrupt state of the church. The “mystery of iniquity,” which Paul said was already working in his day, was now bearing fruit in the development of error and intolerance. All sorts of pagan practices and doctrines were already incorporated into the so-called Christian church. Hell became the “shihboleth” of the priests — the “big stick” of a false religion to drive men to a fallen church.
The whole idea of hell as taught in our day can be traced to the old pagan systems of Greece and Rome. Even to the present day, there are some who quote St. Augustine as authority for this doctrine.
Addis and Arnold’s Catholic Dictionary, says:
“So great a punishment says St. Augustine that no torment known to us can be compared with it.” Article, “Hell.”
St. Gregory Nazianzen believed that the punishment of sinners in the next world would not last forever; and St. Jerome believed and taught that all sinners would suffer eternally, except those who had died in the Catholic faith. That the suffering of these might be mitigated by the prayers and good works of the faithful, was taught by many early Catholic Saints. Even unbaptized infants are consigned to hell by some of these. They had a limbus infantum for the children, probably a little sideshow in hell itself. The haste with which some send for a minister or priest to sprinkle a dying infant, is evidence of the fact that some churches still believe in the damnation of unbaptized children.
The reader must reach a place where reason is enthroned instead of blind credulity, for as Milton says: “He who does not reason is a slave.”
The words of the poet are to the point here:
“By education most have been misled
We so believe because we so are bred
The priest continues what the nurse began
And thus the boy imposes on the man.”
To get right down to cold facts, let me give Bible proof against this God-dishonoring doctrine of an endless hell.
I will make several propositions, and then proceed to sustain them by the Scriptures.
First: — The wicked are not being punished now, and will not be until the day of judgment.
Second: — The wicked will be punished on this earth.
Third: — The punishment of the wicked will be eternal death and not eternal torture.
To sustain my first proposition, that the wicked are not being punished now, and will not be until the day of judgment, I will quote the following texts:
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished,” II Peter 2:9.
“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men,” II Peter 3:7.
“Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens, that the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath,” Job 21:29-30.
Here are three texts. The first tells us that the wicked are “reserved” unto the Day of Judgment to be punished. The second says “kept in store,” “reserved unto fire against the day of judgment,” and the last text quoted says “The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction.” The one word in these texts that settles the question is “reserved.” The definition for the word reserved is as follows: “Reserve — To keep in store for future or other use; to keep back.”
My first point is clearly sustained by the texts quoted, but aside from this the justice of God demands that all receive according to the deeds done in the body, and no person can possibly be punished more or longer for a crime than another who committed a like offense.
To illustrate, by assuming for argument’s sake the position of the majority of religious teachers, that the sinner goes to hell immediately after death, we will suppose a case:
Cain killed Abel six thousand years ago and if our friends are right, he went to hell immediately after death.
Czolgotz killed President McKinley and immediately after his execution, he too, went to hell. Both are to remain in hell throughout all eternity. Now both of these men committed the same crime; Cain went to hell six thousand years before Czolgotz, and must still remain in hell as long as Czolgotz, or to eternity.
Conclusion: Cain is punished six thousand years longer than Czolgotz for the same crime. In view of this, I ask: Would this be justice? Would it be fair? Would it be in keeping with the character of a just God?
When we face a proposition like this, we can immediately see that the Scriptures are reasonable when they say the sinner is “reserved,” and the popular idea that man goes to heaven or hell at death is unreasonable, as well as unscriptural.
The question may be asked — Where are the wicked reserved? The Catholic might answer in Purgatory, and some Protestant preachers, driven from their position that the wicked go immediately to hell at death, have built up a sort of halfway, purgatorial stopping place, which they call Paradise.
But unfortunately for these, the Bible does not sustain the Catholic purgatory, and Revelation 2 destroys the position of these Protestant preachers by telling us that Paradise is where God is, and Paradise is no place for sinners. See Revelation 2:7 and 22:1-3.
Again we ask, Where are the wicked reserved? and answer by referring again to the Bible. In Job 21, after telling us in the 30th verse that the “wicked is reserved to the day of destruction,” the 32nd and 33rd verses add this:
“Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb. The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him.”
The Bible is plain enough if we only believe. The fact stated in these verses, that “he shall be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb,” is God’s answer to the statement that the sinner goes to hell at death.
Does the reader believe in a general judgment? Does he believe the Bible, which says: “He [God] hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world,” Acts 17:31? Nearly all ministers preach most eloquently of this Day of Judgment, which is still in the future. Now let me ask — Will God consign men to hell before they are judged? Does the reader see the difficulty here? If the sinner goes to hell at death, will he be brought out of hell at the judgment, to be tried, to determine whether he should have gone there? A false doctrine, like any other lie, is a dangerous thing, for it leads to some very awkward conclusions, and the hell of orthodoxy clashes most seriously with a coming day of judgment.
No — the dead are in their graves and will remain there until the voice of God calls them forth. Jesus said:
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation,” John 5:28-29.
No sort of mysterious spiritualizing of these texts will do. God means just what He says, and I am just foolish enough to believe God, though every man be found a liar.
Truth is eternal and we can afford to believe the truth. Error is error no matter how long believed, and a lie that has grown hoary with age is not sanctified by its antiquity. “The truth shall make you free.”
There is to be a judgment at the end of the age (end of the world) and this judgment will be just. Speaking of the judgment, Paul says:
“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds,” Romans 2:5-6.
The wise man, Solomon, speaking of these things, tells us that in the judgment, every phase of our life work will be considered. He says:
“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil,” Ecclesiastes 12:14.
In the work of God there is perfect order, and the record of the life of every individual will be spread out in the judgment. In the last book of the Bible we read:
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works,” Revelation 20:12.
God says — “He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world,” Acts 17:31. As to the time of this judgment we need only give one text as follows:
“And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth,” Revelation 11:18.
Therefore the only logical conclusion from these texts is that there can be no punishment meted out to the sinner, until all of his deeds have been weighed in God’s balances. And that judgment takes place at the end of the age (end of the world).
Our second proposition is that the wicked will be punished on this earth.
I shall give two texts that ought to be conclusive. I only ask the reader to believe these Bible statements. Peter says:
“But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men,” II Peter 3:7.
The word “perdition” in this verse is from the Greek word apoleia and means destruction. Another text here is so directly to the point, that it will be needless to quote more:
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth,” Isaiah 24:21.
Our proposition, that the wicked will be punished on this earth, is established beyond cavil, and it would serve no good purpose to give more texts here, so we will leave this point and proceed to our third and last proposition, that the sinners will be punished with death, and not endless torment. Before doing so however, it might be well to remind you that this punishment of the wicked will be in the fires of the last days, when the earth will be purified by fire, and all the works of man destroyed, to give way to the ushering in of the new heavens and the new earth. Peter expresses it thus:
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” II Peter 3:10-13.
We have given four verses so that the reader may get the facts firmly fixed in his mind. Now we can safely believe at least, that we have made it clear that there is no hell where the wicked are suffering at the present time, but that they are “reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished.”
They are reserved in their graves. Death is called a sleep all through the Scriptures. “The dead know not anything” says the Bible.
On the question of death, so-called orthodoxy is all at sea. It is no uncommon thing at a funeral service to hear them sing:
“Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep
From which none ever wake to weep;
A calm and undisturbed repose,
Unbroken by the last of foes.”
And in a few minutes after singing this hymn, the minister proceeds to deny it all, by telling the bereaved that their loved one is alive and in heaven. Is it any wonder the poet wrote:
“One question more than others all
From thoughtful minds implores reply,
It is, as breathed from star and pall
What fate awaits us when we die?”
My third proposition is as follows:
The punishment of the wicked will be eternal death, and not eternal torture.
We have already proven this, but if any reader has failed to see the point, I will call his attention to the fact that Peter, in the texts before quoted, told us that the wicked would meet with “perdition,” literally destruction, in the fires of the last days.
Destruction is defined thus:
“Destruction; ruin; overthrow; desolation; death; slaughter.” Referring to the wicked, in the fires of the last days, the Revelator, looking with prophetic eyes to that time, says:
“Fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them,” Revelation 20:9.
Sinners are compared to the most combustible material and to substances most easily destroyed. Jesus compares them to chaff, in these words:
“Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,” Matthew 3:12.
Kindly notice the little word “up” in this text. What meaning can be attached to the words, “burn up,” if not utter consumption, or destruction? The term unquenchable fire will receive due consideration in another part of this work, but suffice it to say that the unquenchable fire is fire that utterly consumes — cannot be quenched, but after all are burned “up,” when it has nothing to feed upon, goes out of its own accord. How often we use this term ourselves. We say of a fire consuming a building and which could not be extinguished until it had wrecked the place, “It could not be quenched.” It is so used in the Scripture, as we shall show elsewhere.
Another illustration is used in the book of Nahum, to show the perishable nature of the wicked and their utter destruction:
“What do ye imagine against the Lord? He will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time. For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry,” Nahum 1:9-10.
It is almost unbelievable that men can read these statements, that “He [God] will make an utter end” and “they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry,” and still believe in a literal, endless hell. Jesus compares the wicked to tares:
“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world,” Matthew 13:40.
Now if by any manner of reasoning, one can construe these texts to teach eternal hell-fire doctrine, I fail to comprehend his logic. There are other passages equally plain. Christ compares the wicked to withered branches thus:
“If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned,” John 15:6.
The destruction of the wicked is compared by the Psalmist to the fat of lambs on Jewish sacrificial alters, in these words:
“But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away,” Psalm 37:20.
Like the fat of lambs, which is wholly consumed in the sacrificial offerings, so shall the wicked be consumed. “Into smoke shall they consume away.” It is unthinkable that men can pass over these texts of Scripture and not understand their import. “The wicked shall perish.” How could you more clearly express utter destruction and death? I will quote two or three more verses from this same Psalm:
“For such as be blessed of Him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of Him shall be cut off,” verse 22.
“Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off thou shall see it,” verse 34.
If the above verses mean anything, they mean utter destruction and death, — “Cut off”; and the verses that I shall now give should put an everlasting quietus on the whole argument, and vindicate the fair name of God, the God of love and mercy:
“For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be,” verses 9, 10.
Reader, do you get the thought in the verses quoted? “The wicked shall not be . . . thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.” The sense of this verse is so plain that the only construction possible is, that the time is not far off when there will be no wicked; all will have perished, and there will be no place where there are any wicked — there will be no hell — “It shall not be.”
Now if these verses do not prove the truth of the statements — “The soul that sinneth it shall die” and “The wages of sin is death” — how would you state it, to make it plainer? Write it down, if you can. Put in it the most simple English, — in your own words — that there is no hell, but that the end of sinners will be eternal death, and then compare your statement with the texts quoted, and I venture to say that you will agree with me that the Bible has made the ultimate end of the sinner so clear that there is no room for construction, comment, or doubt. One text more and I shall leave this point:
“When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth inquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die,” Ezekiel 18:26.
The illustrations used to denote the fate of the wicked are such as to leave no room for doubt as to their utter extinction. I will give some of these in this connection, and let the reader draw his own conclusion. It is said of the wicked:
They shall be dashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel, Psalm 2:9.
They are like the beasts that perish, Psalm 49:20.
As the snail that melteth, let every one of them pass away, Psalm 58:8.
Like the untimely birth of a woman, Psalm 58:8.
As wax melteth before the fire, Psalm 68:2.
He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, Psalm 58:9.
As a whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more, Proverbs 10:25.
As an oak whose leaf fadeth and as a garden that hath no water, Isaiah 1:30.
Shall be as tow, Isaiah 1:31.
Like chaff before the wind, Psalm 1:4.
Like wool eaten by moths, Isaiah 51:8.
Consume as the fat of lambs, Psalm 37:20.
Into smoke shall they consume away, Psalm 37:20.
Shall become ashes under your feet, Malachi 4:3.
Like chaff that is burned up, Matthew 3:12.
Like tares that are burned in the fire, Matthew 13:40.
Like dried and withered branches are burned, John 15:6.
Like bad fish cast on the shore, Matthew 13:48.
Like a house built upon sand is ruined, Matthew 7:26-27.
Like Sodom and Gomorrah turned to ashes, II Peter 2:5-6.
In addition to the above we have the following expressions applied to the sinners: “Burned up” — “Consumed”— “Perish” — “Shall die” — “Be cut off” — “An utter end” — “Shall not be” — “Be as though they had not been.” Reader, add a few words to the foregoing Bible expressions and see if you can make them any stronger. No, you cannot do it.
The doctrine of an endless hell of torture is a lie of the devil, a stain on the religion of Christ, and a dark blot on the mercy of God. Let us, for God’s sake, for the sake of truth, vindicate the fair name of the Christian religion by repudiating this wicked lie.
The term “bottomless pit” appears only in the book of Revelation. It is used by some to teach the doctrine that there is a literal burning hell somewhere in God’s creation, where sinners are confined in agonizing torture.
This silly notion has given rise to the most foolish speculations and confusing ideas.
The term “bottomless pit” appears three times in our English Bible. In one instance, (Revelation 20:1), it is translated from the Greek words phreatos tes abussou, and means “pit of the deep.”
In two instances, (Revelation 9:11, 20:3), it is translated from the one Greek word abussos, meaning literally “abyss” or “deep.”
The Hebrew equivalent for this word is tehom, and is translated “deep” in Genesis 1:2, as follows: “Darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
The use of this word is Genesis, where it is translated “deep,” gives us its true meaning. It is this earth in its original chaotic state, hence, as the same word is translated “bottomless pit” we can only conclude that it means this earth when it is desolated and returns to a chaotic condition again at the second coming of Christ. And with this interpretation agree all real Bible critics.
After all that has been given in the preceding pages, it would seem unnecessary to even mention that old heathen doctrine of eternal torment. There are, however, some few expressions in the Bible that are puzzling to many, and these are often quoted by our hell-fire advocates to sustain their view. They bring the changes on the terms “Everlasting punishment” — “Unquenchable fire” — “for ever and ever” — and “the worm that dieth not” — so much, that we shall gladly notice these expressions as found in Holy Writ. We shall take them just as we find them; no twisting or turning of these texts is necessary. First we will quote the words of Christ, as follows:
“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal,” Matthew 25:46.
The explanation of this text lies in the meaning of the word “punishment.” As to the duration of this punishment we have no controversy with the text, the word everlasting is the right word and means eternal. Note please, that it says “everlasting punishment,” not everlasting misery or torture.
Question: When a man commits murder what is his punishment? You must answer “death.” So the Bible says — “the wages of sin is death.” It is everlasting, eternal death.
Now, another question, — If a man commits a crime and is sentenced to serve six months in prison, when does his punishment begin? You must answer “When he is sent to prison” — correct. Now, when does it end?
Answer — “When he is liberated” — which is correct again.
Now, take another case. If a man is convicted of murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair; when does his punishment begin? The answer is “When he is put to death.” When does it end? Answer: The duration must be estimated by the length of time the criminal would have lived, if he had not been executed. It deprived him of all his life that he might have lived.
Now use your reason in the same way in the case of the sinner. He might have had eternal life, but no, he continues in sin, — “The wages of sin is death” — “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” — is the sentence of God. When does his punishment begin? Answer: “When he is executed for his sins.” When does it end? Never — he would have had eternal or everlasting life had he not sinned, therefore, being deprived of an eternity of life, his punishment is everlasting death.
The Greek word for punishment in this text is kolassis, and is defined in Greek Lexicons as “a curtailing or pruning,” more literally it would be “cutting off.” The righteous go into life eternal and the wicked are everlastingly curtailed, or are “cut off.” A simple question suggests itself. Is death a punishment? You do not require a legal mind to see that it is.
Death then, being a punishment; and, as when it is meted out to the sinner there will be no release, it is everlasting punishment, and here we wish to quote just one text of Scripture:
“For as ye have drunk upon My holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been,” Obadiah 1:16.
“They shall be as though they had not been” — Eternal, everlasting death; no other punishment could be more severe. Look at the loss — an eternity of bliss and joy. The book of Job says: “All that a man hath will he give for his life.” And the sinner loses all, life, happiness, joy, and an eternity of bliss.
There is a text that is frequently used to bolster up the doctrine of endless misery that needs but a few passing thoughts.
“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation,” Mark 3:29.
The word translated “damnation” in this text is the Greek word krisis and is defined by Robinson’s Greek Lexicon — “separation, division, decision, a decisive moment, a crisis, a turn of affairs. In N.T. Judgment, also judgment in a judicial sense.” This same word is translated “judgment” thirty-nine times in the New Testament, and is rendered “damnation” only three times. It means literally a crisis or judgment, decision or separation; hence the sinner is in danger of an eternal crisis, judgment, decision, or separation. Eternal in its consequences. In no other sense can this text be used, therefore it needs no further comment here. We shall say more on the word eternal under the next heading. To give a fair and honest rendering of the last part of this verse, it would read as follows: “But is in danger of an eternal crisis or judgment.” As before stated, eternal, not in duration, as applied to time, but eternal in its consequences as applied to its results, — an eternal decision and separation.
“Then shall He say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” Matthew 25:41.
The above text speaks of “everlasting fire.” The Greek word rendered “everlasting” in this verse is aionios and is the same word translated eternal.
We freely concede the fact that the wicked will be destroyed by fire. This has been fully set forth in the foregoing pages; but we must maintain that when the fires of the last day have destroyed all that there is to destroy, they will go out. We deny the eternity of existence of these fires.
It is truly everlasting fire, this we believe. Not everlasting in duration, but everlasting in its consequences. Whatever that fire destroys will be everlastingly destroyed. Now to prove that this application of the text is correct, I will quote a verse from the book of Jude:
“Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” Jude, verse 7.
This text tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with “eternal fire,” the words eternal and everlasting, as before noted, are from the same Greek word. Now if everlasting or eternal in these texts has reference to time, we must conclude that the fire which destroyed these cities of the plains is still burning, and will continue to burn throughout eternity. But what are the facts? Are these cities still burning? No, the blackish waters of the Dead Sea roll their sluggish waves above the place where these cities once lifted their mighty structures, and where their abominations were practiced. The Apostle Peter gives us light on this, that none can fail to grasp; he says:
“And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly,” II Peter 2:6.
Do not forget, dear reader, that the seventh verse in Jude says that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered “the vengeance of eternal fire,” and Peter, in the text just quoted says: “turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes.”
Then the conclusion is clear. Eternal fire turns everything it touches into ashes, and eternal or everlasting fire is “eternal” or “everlasting” in its consequences. Sodom and Gomorrah will never be restored, but are eternally destroyed, and the wicked who go into everlasting or eternal fire will in like manner be turned “into ashes,” never to be restored. Malachi says of the wicked — “They shall be ashes under the soles of your feet,” Malachi 4:3 — and Peter, in the above verse, referring to the turning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah “into ashes” by what Jude calls “eternal fire,” tells us that what happened to these cities, was “an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly.”
Having then an ensample (or example) of what shall happen to the sinner, we can be sure that we have the truth. The sinner will be destroyed, turned to ashes, and cease to exist.
To oppose this view is of no avail. It is God’s eternal truth. Apostles and evangelists of perpetual misery have their guns trained on the Word of God, and against the citadel of the Most High. The Bible is God’s Word and it is the truth. No matter how long we have held these false views, nor how strange the facts may be, we should accept the truth without question. The old proverb says:
“Antiquity cannot privilege an error, nor novelty prejudice a truth.”
Another text that is often quoted to prove the theory of an endless hell will now be considered.
“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name,” Revelation 14:11.
The grammatical construction of this text shows that it does not refer to the future state but to the present, while they worship. The verbs “ascendeth” — “have” — and “worship” are in the present tense, and prove beyond cavil that the class referred to in this text are tormented, and have no rest while they worship an apostate power. The language of this text is figurative and refers to the agony and torment of an accusing conscience. Who has not felt the inward groaning of mind, void of rest, while knowingly doing wrong?
The term “for ever and ever” refers to the present state, in this text, for in the preceding verse the future tense is used when speaking of the future. It says:
“The same SHALL drink of the wine of the wrath of God . . . and he SHALL be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb,” Revelation 14:10.
“For ever and ever,” in this verse, has reference to the torment of a special class living just before Christ’s second coming, and can only mean a comparatively short time. Moreover, this term, although it is also used in connection with all of the wicked, must be understood in the same sense as it is used elsewhere in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah, declaring the destruction of ancient Idumea, the land of Edom, southeast of Judea, says:
“And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever,” Isaiah 34:9-10.
Could any language be stronger? Do we not find here the identical expressions mentioned previously? But this judgment on Idumea has long since been fulfilled, and the use of the terms “for ever” and “for ever and ever” in these texts show plainly that they do not mean endless in duration.
“For ever” is translated from the Greek word aion, and is defined by all lexicographers to mean — a period of time, limited by surrounding circumstances, — a lifetime, — and when speaking of God it means as long as God lives, eternally, never ending. When speaking of man it means a lifetime, or until death.
Greenfield’s Greek Lexicon defines it thus: “Duration, finite or infinite, unlimited duration, a period of duration past or future, time, age, lifetime.” It is used in all these ways.
An instance where “for ever” means a human lifetime, or until death, is found in Exodus 21:5-6:
“And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.”
One can plainly see that the expression “for ever” in the foregoing text means as long as he lives.
The term is similarly used in the book of Samuel. Hannah had just given birth to Samuel and wished to dedicate him to the Lord. Her husband was, going to sacrifice to the Lord and what follows in the verse relates the facts:
“And the man Elkanah, and all his house, went up to offer unto the Lord the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the Lord, and there abide for ever,” I Samuel 1:21-22.
Here we have the same expression (for ever) used again, and to show what it means, I will give the facts after the child was weaned and brought to the house of the Lord. She (Hannah) said:
“Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there,” verse 28.
The term “for ever,” as used in the 22nd verse, means then, “as long as he liveth.”
One text now to show that “for ever” is used in a very limited sense.
Jonah, according to the first chapter of the book of Jonah verse 17, was in the belly of the great fish “three days and three nights” — and yet, when referring to his experience in this connection he uses these words:
“The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever,” Jonah 2:5-6.
“For ever,” in this case, was just three days and three nights. It seemed an age to Jonah; hence the definition, — “age lasting.”
Those who hold the endless hell-fire theory have not so much as one text in their favor. Their doctrine has not a leg to stand upon, and for the sake of truth, for the sake of our kind heavenly Father, this doctrine should be abandoned. You may rest assured that the wicked will be punished according to the deeds done in the body, and the punishment will be by fire, but the end will be eternal death.
The God-dishonoring, soul-destroying lie, that there is a perpetual, hopeless hell of eternal torment, should, as Luther said of the doctrine of natural immortality, be relegated “to the dunghill of Roman decretals.”
“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-44.
The above text has troubled some because of the expressions “their worm dieth not” and “the fire is not quenched.”
First let us consider the unquenchable fire. Do not hastily draw the conclusion, that this means that the fire will burn through all eternity. No, it has a far different meaning. In the days of Jeremiah, God warned Jerusalem against their sins, and the consequences which would follow their disobedience in these words:
“But if ye will not hearken unto Me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched,” Jeremiah 17:27.
From this text we can certainly learn what God meant by “unquenchable fire.” The Jews did not obey, and the fire was kindled as promised. Now remembering that this was to be “unquenchable fire” read the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy in the verses, which follow:
“And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years,” II Chronicles 36:19-21.
Jerusalem was destroyed with unquenchable fire. The fire consumed all there was to consume. It was not quenched, but went out of its own accord. Less than a century after this, Jerusalem was rebuilt, and a new temple was erected. Question: — What does the Bible mean by “unquenchable fire”? Answer: — A fire that will utterly destroy and not be quenched, but that will burn all that can be burned and go out for lack of fuel. The reader can see this, hence, I proceed to the next point in this text. The word hell in the text (Mark 9:43) is from the Greek word ge-enna. Greenfield defines this word — “Gehenna — the Valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, once celebrated for the worship of Moloch and afterwards polluted with every species of filth, as well as the carcasses of animals and the dead bodies of malefactors: to consume which, in order to avert the pestilence which such a mass of corruption would occasion, constant fires were kept burning.”
The Valley of Hinnom South of Jerusalem, or the Gehenna of Mark 9:45-47, is translated “hell” in the King James Version.
Christ, using the word ge-enna, which is translated hell, pointed them to the Valley of Hinnom as an illustration of the punishment of the wicked. In this valley complete destruction was going on. What the flames left, the worm consumed, hence the expression “their worm dieth not.” Christ refers to the worms that would consume the dead bodies, and is probably quoting from the prophecy of Isaiah where we find these words:
“And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against Me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched,” Isaiah 66:24.
Reference is made, as the reader can see, to the worms consuming the carcases (dead bodies) and to the fires which assist in the destruction.
So then, what does the text prove? Just this: — Utter destruction. The fire will consume and the worms devour, until, as Obadiah 16 says: “They shall be an though they had not been.”
Having answered the arguments of our friends, who insist on teaching an endless hell of misery and torture for the wicked, I will quote the words of Malachi, to show that the wicked will be turned to ashes on the earth, and that after the earth is purified the words of Christ will be fulfilled — “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Malachi says:
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts,” Malachi 4:1-3.
Not only the wicked, but Satan as well, will meet his fate. The Prophet Ezekiel, speaking of Satan said:
“Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more,” Ezekiel 28:17-19.
When this Scripture is fulfilled, God will have a clean universe. There will be no sin, no sinners, and no devil, and all will be bliss and joy forevermore. The Revelator, looking forward to those days said:
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever,” Revelation 5:13.
Modern evangelists and revivalists, as the famous Dr. Torrey and the notorious hell-fire evangelist Billy Sunday, with a lot of other ex-baseball players, ex-prize fighters, ex-gamblers, ex-convicts, and ex-this and ex-that preachers, who should have another “ex” (extremist) added to their names, are hell-fire specialists.
All of these play on the emotions of the people, and try to frighten men into religion. Like the old colored lady praying for an ungodly young man, in a public meeting. She said: “O Lord take his little soul in the hollow of Your hand, and give it a mighty shake over hell.”
The writer heard this prayer when only a boy, almost thirty-five years ago, but the odor of brimstone was so strong in her supplication that the words became indelibly stamped on his memory. Let me say once and for all, that this is not Christianity, it is not Christ-like.
No, hell-fire is not gospel preaching. Men cannot be frightened into the religion of Christ. It is the gospel of fear — the club of force — unknown to the true followers of Christ.
Our Savior said:
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, wilt draw all men unto me,” John 12:32.
The very word gospel means good news or glad tidings, and the man who cannot preach good news and glad tidings should step down out of the pulpit. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:16.
The incentive to Christian living is love; and “greater love hath no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.”
The man who can study the Word of God and not see the love, peace and joy in Christ must be a superficial reader indeed. Christ’s life of holiness, love, and sacrifice for us, His suffering, His cruel mockings and death, and His glorious resurrection
to endless life, will draw men as the magnet draws the steel.
No man with a heart can read of what Christ did for us, that we might have life, without loving Him. Read the 26th and 27th Chapters of Matthew. See Him in agonizing prayer in the garden. See Him betrayed by His friends, forsaken by His own brethren, spit upon, scourged, tormented, mocked, and at last like a vile criminal, nailed to the cruel Roman cross, and yet, in the midst of all His suffering, His great heart goes out to his enemies, and he says: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
See the prints of the nails in His hands. Hear Him, through the Prophet, saying to you and to me, “I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands” and at last when He ascended up on high, hear the message that He sends to His people from the Pearly Gates ajar:
“I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore,” Revelation 1:18.
How can you help loving Him? How can you, in view of His great love, offend or refuse Him? I commend you to God with these words, from Holy Writ:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us,” I John 4:18-19. W