Eternity - “Tous Aionas Ton Aionon”
Heaven – The Country I Love
During the past years of my life I have visited many countries - sixty-six to be exact. Some I have enjoyed, others I have disliked. Always I have longed to return to Canada, my native land. There are a few countries like those of North America, where it is possible to have any kind of climate and scenery desired; where there is an abundance of everything and but little to fear. To these countries thousands in Europe and other lands long to go.
But there is not a country in the world where anyone of us would want to live for ever. Even in the country we love best there is so much sin, so much crime and lawlessness, debauchery and selfishness, that we long for a better environment.
Let me tell you of a country where there are no tears and heartaches, a country where there is no sickness, pain or death. It is a country free from war and bloodshed, where no one is poor and none are rich. The people who live in this country never get tired; they carry no burdens and they never grow old. No one ever says goodbye, for separations are unknown, and there are no disappointments.
MEN AND WOMEN ARE PURE
In the country of which I am speaking there is no sin, for no one ever does wrong. There are no accidents of any kind. You will travel for thousands of miles and never see a cemetery or meet a funeral procession. You will never see crepe on the doors, for no one ever dies. I know a country where nothing ever spoils; the flowers never lose their fragrance and the leaves are always green. There are no thunderstorms, no erupting volcanoes, and no earthquakes. Upon those fair shores hurricanes and tidal waves never beat.
There are no drunkards in this country, for no one ever drinks and tobacco is unknown. None are immoral, men as well as women are pure. Prisons, jails, and reformatories never darken the landscape. Yes, and let me tell you something else. There are no cripples to be seen anywhere. Nor is anyone blind, deaf or dumb. No beggars clutter the streets, for none are destitute and all have enough. No asylums are there, for none are feeble-minded. Doctors are never needed and hospitals are unknown.
You ask me how I know all this? Have I been there? No, I have not yet had the privilege of visiting this wonderful country of which I speak, but others have. And One at least, who has lived there for a long, long time, has come and told me a great deal about it. Ever since He told me about it I have been longing to go. I have decided to make His country mine. I cannot understand why everyone does not want to go. But they don't. Many, I find, like their own country better, and prefer to indulge in the sins to which they are accustomed, even though it means heartache and suffering. I cannot persuade them to go with me. Some day the quota will be full and then it will be too late.
A MARVELLOUS CITY
In this country there is a marvellous city, a city larger by far than any city I have ever seen, and beautiful beyond description. This city is 1,500 miles wide, 1,500 miles long, and most amazing of all, it is 1,500 miles high. I don't know whether it is a square or a cube, but it doesn't matter, for it staggers my imagination anyway.
It would cover the whole of the United States from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Atlantic Ocean almost to the mountains - this one city. The wall around it measures 216 feet in height, and it is made of jasper. It is supported by twelve foundations named after the twelve Apostles, and these foundations are overlaid with all kinds of precious stones. What a city!
The light that illuminates it is like the radiance of a jasper stone. It is entered through gates of which there are twelve, each one guarded by an angel. Each gate is a single pearl. The city itself is of pure gold. There is a beautiful river in the city that flows from the throne of the King. On the river's side stands a tree, full of life and capable of bringing healing to multiplied thousands beyond the city's walls.
At the very heart of the city is the glittering palace of the King. His throne is surrounded with a gorgeous rainbow, similar to an emerald. At the foot of the throne are twenty-four seats, each one occupied by a holy being dressed in white, and on the head of every one is a golden crown. Four magnificent beings stand on guard and chant praises to the King. How I wish I could describe it. Jesus called this amazing city "The New Jerusalem," and "The Holy City." Generally it is alluded to as "Heaven."
Where will it be located, this enchanted city? One of these days this earth of ours will be destroyed by fire. But we are told that a new earth will take its place. There are but two things stated about this new earth. First, "there will be no more sea." Second, "wherein dwelleth righteousness." What a joy it is to know that sin at last will be gone and that righteousness will triumph.
Best of all, Jesus, our Lord, will be there, but oh, how different from what He was when last He was here. John saw Him in His glory, ('clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” “Fear not.” He cries with triumphant voice, “I am the first and the last; I am He that liveth and was dead, and, behold I am alive for evermore!”
YOU ARE INVITED HERE
This, my friend, is Heaven. Do you not want to go there? “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” And if you should die out of the Lord, heaven will never be yours. To “die in the Lord,” you must have the Lord. You must accept Him as your Saviour; and then you must live in the Lord. If you are now in the Lord, and if you are living in the Lord, then you will some day “die in the Lord.”
What about our loved ones, those who have already gone to this wonderful country? Are we not urged to run with patience the race set before us because of the cloud of witnesses watching from above?
The city of God. “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” This is the country about which I have been trying to tell you. Do you not now want to go? Open your heart to Jesus Christ, the Lord of the country, and let Him save you.
BIBLE FACTS ABOUT HEAVEN
Heaven is a definite place. Here Jesus is seated on the right hand of the Throne of God, surrounded by the angels and the saints of God. We read of seraphim and cherubim who cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” Then we read of the innumerable company of angels. They are the messengers of heaven. They are called “ministering spirits,” sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation.
Then there is a third company around the throne in Heaven. They are the saints of God who have gone before. The great men of God of the Old Testament times, and Peter, John, Paul, Stephen, and Timothy, and multitudes of others. Millions upon millions of Christians have gone ‘to Heaven down the ages, waiting upon the Resurrection, and to live in God’s presence forever.
Among the buildings in Heaven, we are told, there is a temple. There is also a tabernacle, a house of many mansions, and a great city, the New Jerusalem.
Heaven also contains a Library In this Library are many, many books of record, records, records, seemingly without number. These books record the words and deeds of men. God knows all about all men, and He keeps books. These records will form the basis of God’s judgment of all men.
Future Punishment – What the Bible Teaches
There is no doctrine of the faith of our fathers which is more widely questioned at the present day than that concerning the future destiny of those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. There is widespread denial, or at least doubt, of the endless, conscious suffering of the finally impenitent. Where there is no denial or doubt regarding this doctrine, there is at least silence concerning it. Very grave evils have arisen from the general questioning regarding the reality and awfulness of a future hell.
A firm belief that there is a hell and that men would receive, in a future life, punishment for sins that went unpunished in the life that now is, exerted a mighty restraining influence over the lives of men. With the weakening of this belief there has been an appalling increase in suicide, social impurity, unfaithfulness of husbands to wives, divorce, and all kinds of lewdness, lawlessness and anarchy.
There has also been an appalling decrease in the churches, of separation from the world, and of concern and prayer for the salvation of the lost, at home and abroad. A strong belief in a stern doctrine, regarding the future punishment of the impenitent, drives Christians to prayer and to effort for the salvation of the lost, as almost nothing else does.
The only really important question regarding future punishment is, What does the Bible teach? Human speculations on such a subject as this have no real value whatever. All we know about it is what God has been pleased to reveal. Of ourselves we know nothing of the life beyond the grave. God knows all about it. God has been pleased to reveal to us much that He knows; and on a subject like this, one ounce of God's revelation is worth ten tons of man's speculation.
Most of the false theories regarding future punishment are built upon the proposition that God is love. But how do we know that God is love? Only from the Bible. Human reason cannot prove that God is love if we discard the Bible. The physical universe, and human history, teach that there is a God who is a wise and beneficient being, but they do not teach that God is love. We learn that entirely from the Bible. Discredit the Bible, and we have no satisfactory proof that God is love. Now the teaching of the Bible is true, or else it is not true. But if the teaching of the Bible is true, then we must accept all that it teaches, and we must accept what it teaches about future punishment.
Many seek to discredit the Bible in order to get relief from this stern doctrine regarding future retribution, but no relief can be obtained by discrediting the Bible.
TWO CERTAIN FACTS
There are two absolutely certain facts of experience and observation. The first fact is, whoever sins must suffer, and suffer more or less for every sin which he commits. We all know that to be true. The second certain fact of experience and observation is that the longer one sins, the more deeply he sinks down into the moral bondage and blindness and misery and shame and agony and despair which are the consequence of sin.
Now put these two facts together, that whoever sins must suffer, and the longer he sins the deeper he sinks down into the moral bondage, blindness, misery, shame, agony and despair which are the consequence of sin, and when the possible day of repentance has passed (and it must be passed sometime), what have we left but an everlasting hell?
The only change that the Bible introduces into the problem is that it points out the way of escape and salvation from sin and its consequences; and those who seek to do away with the doctrine of an awful and eternal hell, by discrediting the Bible are guilty of the incredible folly of trying to shut up hell, by closing the only door of escape. Loose doctrines, regarding future punishment, do not come from consulting reason, but from consulting our prejudices and our unsanctified wishes.
BUT WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?
That there is a hell. In MATTHEW 5:29, Jesus says,
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” These words certainly teach that there is a hell. Again our Lord Jesus says, in MATTHEW 25:41,
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” And in the forty-sixth verse of the same chapter, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” These words also certainly teach that there is a hell.
The Apostle Paul says, in 2 THESSALONIANS 1:7-9,
“And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” When we come to see later what destruction means in the Bible we will see that these verses also plainly teach that there is a hell.
The Apostle Peter says, in 2 PETER 2:4,9,
“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment… The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." These words certainly teach that there is a hell.
The Apostle John says, in REVELATION 20:15,
"And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." These words teach that there is a hell. Our Lord Jesus says once more, in REVELATION 21:8, after He Himself had died and gone down into the abode of the dead and come up therefrom and risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father - He certainly knows now what He is talking about -
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." These words certainly teach that there is a hell. All these passages taken in their context, point unmistakably to a hell, and to a hell that is not merely a condition, but a place, and a place of awful and prolonged conscious suffering.
In the second place the Bible teaches that hell is a place of extreme bodily suffering. That is plain from many passages in the New Testament. But a few illustrations will serve our present purpose. The commonest words used in the Bible to express the doom of the impenitent are 'Death' and "Destruction." They constantly recur. Now what do "death" and "destruction" mean? God always takes pains to define His terms and He has defined these terms. We will find God's definition of destruction by a comparison of REVELATION 17:8 with REVELATION 19:20 and REVELATION 20:10.
In REVELATION 17:8 we are told that the beast shall "go into perdition." The word here translated "perdition" is the same word which is elsewhere translated "destruction,” and ought to be so translated here, or else it ought to be translated differently in the other passages. Now if you can find where the beast goes, we will have God's definition of "perdition" or "destruction." In REVELATION 19:20 we are told that the beast was "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone."
THE BEAST AND THE FALSE PROPHET
Now if we turn to REVELATION 20:10 we are told that a thousand years after the beast was cast into the "lake of fire burning with brimstone" that the Devil is cast into the same "lake of fire burning with brimstone" where the beast and false prophet still “are" (that is, they are there still after a thousand years) and “shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." By God's own definition “Perdition" or "Destruction" is a portion in a place defined as a "lake of fire burning with brimstone," whose inhabitants are tormented consciously forever and ever.
We will find God's definition of "death" in REVELATION 21:8,
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters and all liars, shall have their part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." God's definition of death, therefore, is a portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, just the same as His definition of ‘perdition.'
We should remember that in the next life we do not exist as disembodied spirits. All this theory, so common today of the immortality of the soul independent of the body, where we float about as disembodied spirits, is ethnic philosophy, and not New Testament teaching. According to the Bible, in the world to come the redeemed spirit is clothed upon with a body, perfect counterpart of the redeemed spirit that inhabits it and partaker with it in all its blessedness. On the other hand, according to the Bible, there is "a resurrection of the unjust as well as of the just (JOHN 5:28,29), and the lost spirit is clothed upon with a body, perfect counterpart of the lost spirit that inhabits it and partaker with it in all its misery.
The Bible teaches that hell is a place of memory and remorse. Our Lord Jesus has given us a picture in LUKE 16:19-31, of the condition of a lost man after death. It is true that this picture has to do with the intermediate state, that is, the condition of the lost before the final judgment of the great White Throne, but it clearly indicates what will be the condition after this also. In the picture which Christ has given us of the rich man in Hades, Abraham said to the rich man “Remember."
WHAT WAS THE MATTER? MEMORY!
The rich man had not taken much that he had on earth with him into Hades, but he had taken one thing; he had taken his memory. And men and women today who go on in sin, and therefore are doomed to spend eternity in hell, will not take much with them that they have in their present life, but they will take one thing, they will take their memories. Men will remember the women whose lives they have blasted and ruined; and women will remember the lives they have squandered in fashion and frivolity and foolishness that they ought to have lived for God. Everyone will remember the Christ they have rejected, and the opportunities for salvation which they have despised.
There is no torment known to man like the torment of an accusing memory. I have seen, in my office in Chicago, strong men weeping like children. What was the matter? Memory! I have seen one of the brainiest, nerviest, strongest men I ever knew throw himself upon the floor of my office and roll and sob and groan and wail. What was the matter? Memory! I have had men and women hurry up to me at the close of a service with pale cheeks, with drawn lips, with haunted eyes, and beg a private conversation. What was the matter? Memory! And the memory and the conscience that are not set at peace, in the life that now is, by the atoning blood of Christ and the pardoning grace of God, never will be. Hell is a place where men remember and suffer,
The Bible teaches that hell is a place of insatiable and tormenting desire. Jesus tells that the rich man in Hades cried, “Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” These are dreadful words, appalling words, but they are the words of Jesus. Hell is evidently a place where desire and passion exist in their highest potency, and where there is nothing to gratify them. The men and the women who, in this present life, are living in sin, or living in worldliness, are developing into ruling-power passions and desires for which there is no gratification in that world toward which they are hastening on, and where they must spend eternity.
Happy is that man or woman who, by setting their affections on things above, in the life that now is, cultivates into ruling-power desires and aspirations for which there is abundant satisfaction in the eternal world to which we are going. Wretched, indeed, is that man or woman, who, by living for sin or living for the world, cultivates into ruling-power passions and desires for which there is no gratification in that eternal world toward which they are hastening on. What could more accurately represent their condition, than the picture of a man in a scorching flame, with parched tongue, longing for one drop of water to cool his tongue, but no water to be had.
The Bible teaches that hell is a place of shame and contempt. We read in DANIEL 12:2,
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." How heart-breaking is the agony of shame. How many it drives to despair, insanity, and suicide. Hell is a place of universal shame where every inhabitant is dishonoured, disgraced and exposed to everlasting contempt and abhorrence.
The Bible teaches that hell is a place of vile companionship. Jesus Christ Himself has given us a picture of the society of hell in REVELATION 21:8,
"But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers and idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." This is the society of hell. It may be said that some men and women of brilliant gifts, and attractive character reject Christ, and, therefore, according to the teaching of the Bible, must spend eternity in hell. This is true, but how long will it take the most gifted men and women to sink in such a world as that, beneath the level of the vilest moral leper that now walks our streets.
THE LOWEST DIVES IN CHICAGO
I can go to the lowest dives in Chicago, and pick you out men who were once physicians, lawyers, congressmen, college professors, leading business men, and even ministers of the Gospel, but who are now living with thugs, drunkards, whoremongers, and everything that is vile and bad. How did they get there? They began to sink. And in such society as that of hell, the best man or woman that ever enters there, will soon sink beneath the level of the vilest that we know here upon earth.
The Bible teaches that hell is a world without hope. There are those that contend that there is hope even in hell, and that men and women who die impenitent will have another chance to repent and be saved. For many years men have been seeking to prove this from the Bible. I do not wonder that men try to prove it. If anyone could give me one good proof (i.e. Bible proof, for no other proof on this subject is of any value) that there is hope, even in hell, and that those that die impenitent will have another chance, and that all will ultimately repent and accept Christ, it would be the happiest day of my life.
If anyone could show me one single passage of Scripture that properly interpreted in its context taught that, it would bring unspeakable gladness to my heart, but they cannot do it. I have carefully examined every passage on this subject that has ever been produced to prove that proposition. I have read and pondered the best literature on this subject in English and in German, with the hope that I might find proof that was really satisfying, that even after death men might repent and be saved, but at last I had to give up the hope.
In MATTHEW 25:46, we read,
“These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." The word which is translated "everlasting" in the first part of the verse, is the same as the word translated "eternal" in the latter part of the passage. No one doubts that in the last part of the verse it means absolutely endless: therefore it must mean the same in the first part of the verse. We must admit that our Lord was too honest to use a word with one meaning in one half of a verse, and with another meaning in the other half of the verse. Our Lord Jesus then teaches the absolute endlessness of the future punishment of sin.
“TOUS AIONAS TON AIONON”
But this is not the worst of it. There is another expression, "Eis Tous Aionas Ton Aionon,” which is used thirteen times In the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible. This is the strongest known expression for absolute endlessness.
Nine times it is used describing the existence of God, and the duration of His reign. Once it is used of the duration of the blessedness of the saints in Heaven. Three times it is used describing the eternal duration of the torments of Satan, and lost sinners in the lake of fire.
"Eis Tous Aionas Ton Aionon" means absolute endlessness. It represents not merely centuries following centuries, but ages following ages, in endless procession.
I have hunted my Bible through again and again and again for one ray of hope for men that died impenitent - just one ray of hope that can be called such when the passage is properly interpreted by the right laws of exegesis, and I have failed after years of search to find one. The Bible does not hold out one ray of hope for men and women who die without Christ. Anyone who dares to do so, dares to do what God has not done, and takes a fearful responsibility upon himself.
The Bible teaches that the eternal future destiny of men is settled in the Life that now is. Jesus says in JOHN 8:21.
"Ye shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come." Thus settling it that a man who dies in sin dies unsaved, cannot go where He does. In HEBREWS 9:27, we read.
"It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this (that is after death, without an opportunity of further repentance)
the judgment." We read in 2 CORINTHIANS 5:10, that
"We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that which he has done whether it be good or bad." That is to say, "the things done by the body," the things done this side of the grave; the things done before we shuffle off this mortal coil, are the basis of eternal judgment.
We read in REVELATION 20:12,
“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." The clear teaching of this passage is that the eternal judgment of the Great White Throne is decided by what one has been, and done, in the life that now is. The Bible does not contain one hint of another chance.
Someone may ask, May not those who have never heard of Christ in this world have another opportunity? To this we must answer, that there is not a line of Scripture upon which to build such a hope. All men have sufficient light to condemn them if they do not obey it. We read in ROMANS 2:12,16,
“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ."
It is sometimes strangely imagined that this passage was given to show how men are saved by the light of nature. Anyone who will study the context will see that it was given to show not how man was saved by the light of nature, but how the Gentile is under condemnation by the law written in his heart, just as the Jew is under condemnation by the law of Moses. The conclusion of the whole matter is found in ROMANS 3:19,20,21,22,23,
"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified In His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER
The conclusion of the whole matter is that the future state of those who reject the redemption offered to them in Jesus 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 the reasonable one, when we come to see the appalling nature of sin and especially the appalling nature of the sin of trampling under foot God's mercy toward sinners and rejecting God's glorious Son Whom His love has provided as a Saviour.
Shallow views of sin and of God’s holiness and of the infinite glory of Jesus Christ and of His claims upon us lie at the bottom of weak theories of the doom of the impenitent. When we see sin in all its hideousness and enormity, the holiness of God in all its perfection, and the majesty and glory of Jesus Christ in all its infinity, nothing but a doctrine that those who persist in the choice of sin, who love darkness rather than light and who persist in the rejection of the Son of God, shall endure everlasting anguish, will satisfy the demands of our own moral intuitions.
Nothing but the fact that we dread suffering more than we loathe sin, and more than we love the glory of Jesus Christ, makes us repudiate the thought that beings who eternally choose sin, shall eternally suffer; or that men who despise God's mercy and spurn His Son shall be given over to endless anguish.
WHAT ABOUT FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES?
But someone will ask, What about our impenitent friends and loved ones? To these we would answer, it is better to recognize facts, no matter how unwelcome they may be, and try to save those friends from the doom to which they are certainly hurrying on, than to quarrel with facts and seek to remove them by shutting our eyes to them. Furthermore, if we love Christ supremely, as we should love Him, and realize His infinite glory, and His supreme claims upon man, as we should realize them, then will we say, if even the dearest friend we have on earth persists in trampling this infinitely glorious Christ under foot, he ought to be banished from the presence of God and to suffer forever and ever.
If someone you greatly loved should commit some hideous wrong against one whom you loved still more and persist eternally in that wrong, would you not consent to his eternal separation from the one whom he seeks to wrong and to his eternal suffering? If, after men have sinned against God, and God still offers them 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, all right-minded people, all persons who are in sympathy with God and His righteous government, must exclaim, “Amen! True and righteous are Thy judgments, O Lord!"
At all events, the doctrine of the conscious, endless suffering of persistently impenitent man is clearly revealed in the Word of God, and it is our business to believe it, and to proclaim it, and to leave it to the clear light of eternity to explain what we cannot now understand; realizing that an infinitely wise God may have many infinitely wise reasons for doing things, for which we, in our ignorance, can see no sufficient reason at all. It is the most unpardonable conceit for beings, so limited in knowledge, and so foolish, as the wisest of men are, to attempt to dogmatize how a God of infinite wisdom must act. All we know about how God will act is what God has been pleased to reveal to us.
Two things are certain. First, the more closely men walk with God, and the more devoted they become to His service, the more likely are they to believe this doctrine. There are many who tell us that they love their fellowmen too much to believe this doctrine, but the men who show their love in more practical ways than sentimental protestations about it, the men who show their love for their fellowmen as Jesus Christ showed His love, by laying down their lives for them, they believe this doctrine.
JESUS BELIEVED IN HELL
And what is more to the point, Jesus Christ Himself believed it, and taught it, and surely no one of us would think of comparing our love to our fellowmen with His love to man. As professed Christians become worldly and easy-going, they grow loose in their doctrine concerning the doom of the impenitent.
The fact that loose doctrines regarding future punishment are spreading so rapidly and so widely in the churches in our day, is nothing in their favour. It is rather against them, for who can deny that worldliness is also spreading in the church (See 1 TIMOTHY 4:1; 2 TIMOTHY 3:1, 2 TIMOTHY 4:2,3). Increasing laxity of life and increasing laxity of doctrine go arm in arm. The church member that dances and frequents theatres, and plays cards, and lives in all manner of self-indulgence during the week, enjoys a doctrine on the Lord's day that makes the punishment of the wicked not so awful after all.
The second thing that is certain is that those who accept a loose doctrine regarding the ultimate penalty of sin (whether it be restorationism, or universalism or annihilation, or millennial dawnism, or whatever it may be) lose their power for God.
They often are very clever at argument and zealous in proselyting, but they are always poor at soul-saving. They are seldom found beseeching men to be reconciled to God. They are far more likely to be found trying to upset the faith of those already won, by the efforts of others, than trying to win men who have no faith at all.
If you really believe the doctrine of the endless, conscious suffering of the persistently impenitent, and the doctrine really gets hold of you, you will work as you never worked before for the salvation of the lost. If you, in any wise abate the doctrine, it will abate your zeal.
Time and time again, the writer of these pages has come up to this appalling doctrine, and tried to find some way of escape from it; but when he has failed to find such a way of escape, as he always has, he has returned to his work as a soulwinner, with an increased burden for souls, and an intensified determination to spend and be spent for their salvation.
Hell is a moral necessity in a moral universe. Do away with the punishment of evildoers, and the whole moral fabric of society breaks down completely. Think of the Neros, the Hamans, and the Hitlers of this world, whose hands are stained with blood. Does death end all for these men?
THE LAKE OF FIRE - THE GRAVEYARD OF TORMENT
In REVELATION 19:20, we read of two men being cast into the lake of fire, the beast, and the false prophet. In this place of torment we read they remain for 1,000 years; then they are joined by their master, Satan. We read in REVELATION 20:10,
“And the devil was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
Notice that the beast and the false prophet have been in this lake of fire and brimstone for 1,000 years, and they are still there, and alive, and will be tormented for ever and ever. Satan is cast into the same place with them, and then soon after they are joined by all his wicked followers. In the last verse of this chapter we read,
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." REVELATION 20:15.
Jesus said in MATTHEW 25:41, "Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” What a solemn revelation. The fires of everlasting hell were never meant for mankind. But if you choose to serve Satan, and refuse to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, isn't it right and proper that you should spend eternity with Satan your master?
DEGREES OF PUNISHMENT
The Bible clearly teaches that there will be degrees of punishment in the lake of fire. God's judgment on sinners will be according to justice and righteousness. This is clearly taught in REVELATION 20:11,12,
“And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away. 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."
The destiny of every lost soul is settled in this life. That is determined by their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. But here at the Great White Throne of Judgment, the degree of their punishment is settled. It is determined by the light and the Gospel opportunities enjoyed, and the sins committed.
"LET THE TEARS FLOW"
After the death of Robert Murray McCheyne, a minister called to see his manse and pulpit. The old sexton took him reverently into the library, and bade him sit down at the desk. “Now," he said, “put your elbows on the desk, and your face between your hands, and bow your head. Now let the tears flow. That was the way my pastor studied."
Then the Sexton took him to the church, and made him stand at the pulpit, open the Bible, and again put his face between his hands, and bow his head. “Now,” he said again, “Let the tears flow. That was the way my pastor preached and prayed.” McCheyne preached as a dying man to dying men. To him it was a fact that every man out of Christ was lost, and on the way to Destruction.
STAND IN AWE AND SIN NOT
The revelations of the Bible concerning the future are very striking. St. John wrote, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth…and I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven…and I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.”
The Bible also reveals something of the future doom of lost souls. Jesus draws aside the veil and we are allowed to look into hell. It is fearful and full of horror. It is called a bottomless pit. Deathless souls are cast therein. The Bible reveals a “lake of fire and brimstone”, and you see lost sinners thrown into its waves or rolling fire; and they lash its burning shore and gnaw their tongues for pain. There the worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched, and “not one drop of water” can reach them “to cool their tongues” – “tormented in that flame”.
“What think you? Has God said these things to frighten our poor souls? Did He mean to play on our fear for His own amusement? Can you think so? Nay, does it not rather grieve His heart that He must build such a hell, and must plunge therein the sinners who will not honour His law – will not embrace salvation from sinning. Ah, the waves of death roll darkly under the eye of the Holy and compassionate One! He has no pleasure in the death of the sinner! But must sustain His throne and save His loyal subjects if He can.
Turn to another scene. Here is a death-bed. Did you ever see a sinner die? Can you describe the scene? Was it a friend, a relative, dear, very dear to your heart? How long was he dying? Did it seem to you the death-agony would never end?
Suppose it should actually occur in some dear circle of sympathizing friends. A poor man cannot die! He lingers in the death-agony a month, a year, five years, ten years – till all his friends are broken down, and fall into their graves under the insupportable horror of the scene; but still the poor man cannot die! He outlives one generation – then another and another; one hundred years he is dying in mortal agony and yet he comes no nearer to the end! That would be an illustration – that is all – a feeble illustration of the awful “second death!”
Think of this: “The wages of sin is death!” God is aiming to erect a monument that shall proclaim to all the universe – Stand in awe and sin not! So that whenever they shall look on the awful expression, they shall say – What an awful thing sin is! People are wont to exclaim – Oh, how horrible the penalty! They are but apt to overlook the horrible guilt and ill-desert of sin!
The Bible locates hell in the sight of heaven. The smoke of their torment as it rises up for ever and ever, is in full view from the heights of the Heavenly City. There, you adore and worship; but as you cast your eye afar off toward where the rich man lay, you see what it costs to sin. There, not one drop of water can go to cool their burning tongues. Thence the smoke of their torment rises and rises for evermore! Take care what you do today!
Suppose you are looking into a vast crater, where the surges of molten lava boil and roll up, and roll and swell, and ever and anon belch forth huge masses to deluge the plains below. Once in my life, I stood in sight of Etna, and dropped my eye down into its awful mouth. I could not forbear to cry out "tremendous, TREMENDOUS!" There, said I, is an image of hell! O sinner, think of hell, and of yourself thrust into it. It pours forth its volumes of smoke and flame forever, never ceasing, never exhausted. Upon that spectacle the universe can look and read - "The wages of sin is death! O, sin not, since such is the doom of the unpardoned sinner!” Think what a demonstration this is in the government of God! What an exhibition of His holy justice, of His inflexible purpose to sustain the interests of holiness, and happiness in all His vast dominions! Is not this worthy of God, and of the sacredness of His great scheme of moral government?
Sinner, you may now escape this fearful doom. This is the reason why God has revealed hell in His faithful Word. And now shall this revelation, to you, be in vain and worse than in vain?
What would you think if this whole congregation were pressed by some resistless force close up to the very brink of hell: but just as it seemed that we are all to be pushed over the awful brink, an angel rushes in, shouting as with seraphic trump, "Salvation is possible - Glory to God, GLORY TO GOD, GLORY TO GOD!" You cry aloud - Is it possible? Yes, yes, he cries, let me take you up in my broad, loving arms and bear you to the feet of Jesus, for He is mighty and willing to save!
Is this all mere talk? Oh, If I could wet my lips with the dews of heaven, and bathe my tongue in its founts of eloquence, even then I could not describe the realities.
Christian people, are you figuring round and round to get a little property, yet neglecting souls? Beware, lest you ruin souls that can never live again! Do you say - I thought they knew it all? They reply to you – “I did not suppose you believed a word of it yourselves. You did not act as though you did. There is no help for me now. You will sometimes think of me then, as you shall see the smoke of my woe rising up darkly athwart the glorious heavens. After I have been there a long, long time, you will sometimes think that I, who once lived by your side, am there. O remember, you cannot pray for me then; but you will remember that once you might have warned and might have saved me."
O methinks, if there can be bitterness in heaven, it must enter through such an avenue and spoil your happiness there!
Edited by Wm. E. Allen
Revival Movement Association, 43 Oakland Avenue, Belfast 4, N. Ireland
“Heaven – The Country I Love” by Dr. Oswald J. Smith
“Future Punishment – What the Bible Teaches” by Dr. R. A. Torrey