Mortal or Immortal? Which?



The question still recurs, “what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” We have seen that the arguments used to show that they will forever exist in conscious and intolerable torture are not valid. What then is to be their doom? Answer: “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. But it may be necessary to inquire into the meaning of this term, so completely has modern theology loaded with mysticism the word of God. What is the death with which the Bible threatens the sinner? To facilitate our inquiry here, let us look at MOI 94.1

The death threatened Adam. “In the day that thou eatest thereof” [of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil], said God to Adam, “thou shalt surely die.” What was meant by this sentence? Death spiritual, death temporal, and death eternal, is the glib answer of thousands of religious teachers. But what is death spiritual? It is a state of sin and alienation from God. But this was the result of Adam’s act of disobedience, and not its penalty. To make this a part of the threatening is to make God say to Adam, “In the day thou sinnest thou shalt surely be a sinner!” This is making too sad nonsense of the words of Jehovah to be for a moment tolerated. And could it be death eternal? by no means; for were it such, Adam could have no release from it; but the bands of that death will be broken, and Adam brought to life again; for in Christ shall all be made alive. Death temporal is alone left to fulfill the penalty. But it is objected that such a death cannot be meant, as Adam did not die upon that very day. Nothing is gained by such an objection; for there is probably no one who will not admit that literal death is embraced in the penalty and takes place as the result of Adam’s transgressions; and then the objection lies equally against themselves; for Adam did not die literally till he had reached the age of nine hundred and thirty years. MOI 94.2

An exact parallel to this case is found in 1 Samuel 15:28: “And Samuel said unto him [Saul], The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine that is better than thou.” Yet, although the kingdom was declared to be rent from him that very day, it was not till several years after this that the sentence was carried into execution, Saul slain, and the kingdom actually given to his successor. MOI 95.1

So with Adam. The sentence of death passed upon him in that very day. He had no sooner broken that command, the penalty of which was declared to be death, than he was as good as a dead man. He then entered upon a dying state. Dying thou shalt die, reads the margin; but it is more fully explained by the Lord himself when, pronouncing upon Adam the sentence of his guilt, he said, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:19. The gradual process by which he should return again to his native element is here fully implied. The threatened punishment was inflicted. Adam has suffered the penalty of his first transgression, death. Death temporal, or rather we should say, death temporary, is entailed in consequence upon all our race. And had not the plan of salvation immediately supervened upon the fall, this would have been the end of Adam and his posterity; for we have already seen that death is a state of non-existence, and the only avenue there is from that land of dark unconsciousness back to life is through the resurrection, which is effected by Christ. We now know what death means in one instance, at least, when pronounced as the penalty of sin. We see to what state Adam has been reduced as the result of his transgression, as the wages of his sin. MOI 95.2

We are now prepared to carry our investigation a step further. The temporary death which men suffer in this state, entailed on them through a fallen nature, happens to all alike, irrespective of character. But there is a death before us which is not irrespective of character. We all are to answer for our personal acts and transgressions. “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12. For this purpose we are all to have a future life. And if then there are found remaining against us, sins unrepented of and unforgiven, what will be our sentence? Answer: The same fearful sentence which has everywhere from first to last been pronounced against sin, “The soul that sinneth it shall die!” Sentence was pronounced upon Adam for his sin; it is pronounced upon us for our sin. It was told Adam he should die; it is told us that we shall die. We have seen the effect that death had upon Adam; and who shall affirm that it will have a different effect upon us? The death we die in this state is called the first, because there is another lying beyond it for the transgressor to experience; and that is called the second in relation to the temporal, which is the first. Now do these deaths differ in their nature? we have no reason so to infer. Every consideration which can be brought to bear upon the subject leads us inevitably to the conclusion that they do not differ, and holds us immovably there. Let this point be carefully considered. We are confident it will prove a grand nucleus around which nothing but truth can cluster. MOI 96.1

But we hasten to notice some of those scriptures which speak to us unmistakably of the sinner’s doom. In entering upon this department it is not our object to multiply testimony. One plain declaration of the Lord of hosts is sufficient for implicit faith: it would not be materially strengthened though an hundred times repeated. MOI 97.1

The wicked shall be destroyed. “The Lord preserveth all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy.” Here preservation is promised only to those who love God, and in opposition to this, destruction is threatened to the wicked. But human wisdom teaches us that God will preserve the wicked in hell - preserve them for the mere sake of torturing them. Mr. Benson, an English divine, says, “God is therefore present in hell to see the punishment of these rebels. His fiery indignation kindles, and his incensed fury feeds the flame of their torment, while his powerful presence and operation maintains their being, and renders all their powers most acutely sensible, thus setting the keenest edge upon their pain, and making it cut most intolerably deep.” MOI 97.2

The wicked shall perish. “For 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. A double enunciation of the truth is couched in this short text. It is that eternal life is to be obtained only through Christ, and that all who do not thus obtain it, will eventually perish. John testifies further on the same point in his 1st epistle, 5:11: “And this is the record: that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” From which it follows, as a most natural consequence, that “he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” Verse 12. MOI 97.3

The wicked shall go to perdition. “We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:39. We either gain the salvation of our souls by a perseverance in faith, and obtain eternal life by a patient continuance in well-doing, Romans 2:7, or we sink back into perdition, which is defined to be utter ruin or destruction. MOI 97.4

The wicked shall come to an end and be as though they had not been. “For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place and it shall not be.” Psalm 37:10. No: there will be neither a sinner nor any place for a sinner, after God has executed upon them his just judgements. “They shall be as though they had not been.” Obadiah 16. MOI 98.1

The wicked shall go down into death. “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. “Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” James 1:15. In Romans 2, Paul tells us of certain characters which are certainly deserving, if any can be, of eternal torture; but in passing sentence upon them, does he draw out before us a picture of unending conscious misery, a course for which he has the most appropriate occasion, if it be true? Not at all: he only tells us in accordance with reason as well as revelation, that they are worthy of death. But death is a state which can be reached only on a complete extinction of life. As long as there is any life about a man, he is not dead. “The death that never dies,” is a contradiction of terms. Nor can a person properly be said to be dying, unless he is tending to a state of death which he will by and by reach. And yet the popular view of this subject is well expressed in the following language of Thomas Vincent: “The torments of hell will not be in one part only, but in every part, not in a weaker degree, but in the greatest extremity; not for a day, or a month, or a year, but forever: the wicked will be always dying, never dead; the pangs of death will ever be upon them, and yet they shall never give up the ghost; if they could die they would think themselves happy; they will always be roaring and never breath out their last; always sinking and never come to the bottom; always burning in those flames, and never consumed; the eternity of hell will be the hell of hell.” MOI 98.2

But again the Lord says, speaking of a certain class of his enemies, “For yet a little while and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction, Isaiah 10:25: showing us conclusively that all those with whom the Lord has occasion to be angry, as he is with all the wicked, Psalm 7:11, will be finally destroyed, and in that destruction his anger toward them will cease. Yet the majority of divines tell us that God’s “fiery indignation and incensed fury” toward them will never cease; that he will never literally destroy them, but will forever torment them, and keep them alive expressly that he may torment them. Says Benson again, “He will exert all his divine attributes to make them as wretched as the capacity of their nature will admit.” And he continues, “They must be perpetually swelling their enormous sums of guilt, and still running deeper, immensely deeper in debt to divine and infinite justice. Hence after the longest imaginable period, they will be so far from having discharged their debt, that they will find more due than when they first began to suffer.” Thus the sinner is represented as being able to distance in sin the power of Omnipotence to punish. They go on accumulating loads of guilt in their rebellion against the divine government, while God, exerting all his divine attributes, follows tardily after, in fruitless efforts to make the terrors of his punishment adequate to the infinitude of their guilt. Oh, horrid picture of perverted imagination! Did we not believe its authors labored under the sincere conviction that they were doing God service, and did we not know that many good and estimable persons still defend the doctrine under an earnest though mistaken zeal for God, we should pronounce it the most arrant blasphemy. MOI 99.1

The wicked are compared to the most inflammable and perishable substances. Had the wicked been compared to the most durable substances with which we are acquainted in nature; had they been likened to the “everlasting hills,” the during rock, or the precious metals, especially gold, the most incorruptible of all substances; such comparisons would not have been without their weight in giving us an idea of an eternity of existence; nor can we think they would have been overlooked by the other side. We therefore claim an equal significance on our side of the question for the fact that they are everywhere compared to just the opposite of the above-named substances - substances the most perishable and corruptible of any that exist. For no idea can be drawn from such comparisons at all compatible with the idea of eternal preservation in the midst of glowing and devouring fire. Thus they are likened to chaff, Matthew 3:12, stubble Malachi 4:1, tares, Matthew 13:40, withered branches to be burned, John 15:6, bad fish, Matthew 13:47, 48, and thistle down, Isaiah 17:3, margin. MOI 100.1

The wicked shall be consumed and devoured by fire. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, etc. Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust! Isaiah 5:20-24. Reader, have you ever seen fire devour stubble, or flame consume chaff? Then you have seen a figure of the destruction of the wicked. And let the advocate of eternal misery tell us, if such language does not denote the utter consumption of the wicked, what language would do it, if the doctrine were true. Let us know what language Inspiration should have used, had it wished to convey such an idea. Is it such as this? “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. “And they went up on the breadth of the earth and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” The word here rendered devour, κατέφαγεν, says Stuart, is “intensive, to eat up, devour, so that it denotes utter excision.” In the light of this scripture we can readily understand how it is that the wicked are to be recompensed in the earth. Proverbs 11:31. Coming up in the second resurrection at the end of the 1000 years of Revelation 20:5, they come up around the New Jerusalem, the beloved city, the abode of the saints, then descended from heaven to earth, chap 21:5, and then their fearful retribution overtakes them. It is then that they have their portion in those purifying fires that sweep over the earth, in which, according to Peter’s testimony, the elements of this great globe itself shall melt with fervent heat. 2 Peter 3:10, 12. For it is at the day of Judgment [by which of course we must understand the execution of the Judgment] and perdition of ungodly men, that this takes place. See verse 7. So, too, the righteous as they go forth upon the earth, verse 13, destined to be their eternal and glorious abode will receive their recompense in the earth. Then will be fulfilled the word of the Lord by the prophet Malachi, which says, “For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven: and all the proud, yea, and 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 of 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.” Mark the distinctness of this language. It does not say that the wicked shall be as ashes, nor does it introduce any comparisons whatever, but plainly states a plain fact, that they shall be ashes, literally, under the soles of the saints’ feet. MOI 100.2

Then will the universe be clean and pure. Then the stain of sin will all be wiped away forever; sinners, and the great enemy that deceived them (for he, too, shall be destroyed, Hebrews 2:14) being rooted out from the land of the living. Its every scar now impressed upon the handiwork of God shall be effaced; and this unfortunate earth shall be re-adorned, as only God, omnipotent in power and omniscient in wisdom, is able to adorn it. And then will arise that glad anthem of universal Jubilee, in which shall join every creature which is in Heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, ascribing blessing, and honor, and glory and power, unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Revelation 5:13. There is no room here for a great receptacle of fiery torment, where an innumerable company of human beings shall burn and blaspheme and sin and suffer forever and ever. There is no room in this great song of joy for the discordant and hopeless wailing of the damned. There is no provision made for an eternal rebellion against the government of God, and eternal blasphemy against his holy name! No! only the loyal subjects of the great Captain of our salvation, only such as love life, and seek for it, and prepare themselves for its inestimable blessings, shall ever enjoy the glorious boon; while those who put from themselves the word of God, and “judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life,” Acts 13:46, will be remanded back to the original elements from which they sprung; and strict Justice will write upon their unhonored and unlamented graves that they themselves were the arbiters of their own fate. MOI 102.1