The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1


III. Eternal Torment No Part of Death Penalty

It will be observed that in this vast array of Scripture passages there is uniform testimony as to utter destruction—without a single statement implying Eternal Torment for the finally impenitent wicked. And even if a few perplexing texts are found, they could not reasonably be allowed to reverse the preponderant emphasis of Scripture or nullify its overwhelming testimony. The notion of Eternal Torment came out of paganism, as a corollary to the postulate of the universal Innate Immortality of the soul. But that presumption did not penetrate Jewry until about 150 B.C., or begin to infiltrate the Christian church until nearly A.D. 200. 2 CFF1 111.3

God’s blessings in this life extend to a “thousand generations” of those who love Him and keep His commandments, while He punishes only to the “third and fourth generation” of those who hate Him (Exodus 20:5, 6; Deuteronomy 7:9). If the punishments of the future life were to go on forever, paralleling the bliss of the righteous, it would logically follow that God would likewise punish to the thousandth generation. But even here there is intimation that the wicked are doomed to ultimate and utter extinction. CFF1 111.4


As previously pointed out, in the Levitical sacrificial offerings the victim in the sin offering stood for the sinner. It typified Christ, atoning vicariously for the guilt of man’s sin—Christ bearing our sins and standing in our place and stead. Those who offered the sin offering were neither required nor allowed to inflict prolonged torture upon the sacrificial offering—be it lamb, goat, bullock, or turtle dove—but simply to impose death. In the burnt offerings the animal was already dead before it was burned upon the altar, where it was wholly consumed (Leviticus 4-7). The rite, therefore, was not based on extended suffering but on the suppression of the life. In Jewish practice, if the execution was prolonged the sacrifice had to be rejected. CFF1 112.1


Likewise in the penal code of the Mosaic theocracy the heaviest punishment prescribed was the imposition of the death of the offender (Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 24:14-16; Numbers 15:33-36; Deuteronomy 17:5; Deuteronomy 22:21). Long-continued torture was foreign to Old Testament legislation. The odious practice of torture, so common in ancient pagan civilizations, had no equivalent in the code of Israel. (Crucifixion, it should be noted, was of Roman origin.) In case of stoning, under Israel, care was taken that the first stone cast should be large enough to crush the victim’s chest, resulting in death. CFF1 112.2

Death, not torture, as the wages of sin (Romans 6:23), is consistently set forth in Scripture. The punishment fitted the crime. CFF1 112.3