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§ 157. After Judgment. Future Punishment.


The doctrine of the Fathers on future punishment is discussed by Dr. Edward Beecher, l.c., and in the controversial works called forth by Canon Farrar’s Eternal Hope (Five Sermons preached in Westminster Abbey, Nov. 1877. Lond., 1879.) See especially

Dr. Pusey: "What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment?" A Reply to Dr. Farrar’s Challenge. Oxf. and Lond., second ed. 1880 (284 pages).

Canon F. W. Farrar: Mercy and Judgment: A few last words on Christian Eschatology with reference to Dr. Pusey’s "What is of Faith?" London and N. York, 1881 (485 pages). See chs. II., III., IX.-XII. Farrar opposes with much fervor "the current opinions about Hell," and reduces it to the smallest possible dimensions of time and space, but expressly rejects Universalism. He accepts with Pusey the Romanizing view of "future purification" (instead of "probation"), and thus increases the number of the saved by withdrawing vast multitudes of imperfect Christians from the awful doom.


After the general judgment we have nothing revealed but the boundless prospect of aeonian life and aeonian death. This is the ultimate boundary of our knowledge.

There never was in the Christian church any difference of opinion concerning the righteous, who shall inherit eternal life and enjoy the blessed communion of God forever and ever. But the final fate of the impenitent who reject the offer of salvation admits of three answers to the reasoning mind: everlasting punishment, annihilation, restoration (after remedial punishment and repentance).

I. Everlasting Punishment of the wicked always was, and always will be the orthodox theory. It was held by the Jews at the time of Christ, with the exception of the Sadducces, who denied the resurrection.11381138    The point is disputed, but the 4th Maccabees, the 4th Esdras, the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Baruch, and the Psalms of Solomon, contain very strong passages, which Dr. Pusey has collected, l.c. 48-100, and are not invalidated by the reply of Farrar, ch. VIII. 180-221. Josephus (whose testimony Farrar arbitrarily sets aside as worthless) attests the belief of the Pharisees and Essenes in eternal punishment, Ant. XVIII. 1, 3; Bell. Jud. II. 8, 11, Rabbi Akiba (about 120) limited the punishment of Gehenna to twelve months; but only for the Jews. The Talmud assigns certain classes to everlasting punishment, especially apostates and those who despise the wisdom of the Rabbis. The chief passage is Rosh Hoshanah, f. 16 and 17: "There will be three divisions on the day of judgment, the perfectly righteous, the perfectly wicked, and the intermediate class. The first will be at once inscribed and sealed to life eternal; the second at once to Gehenna (Dan. 12:2); the third will descend into Gehenna and keep rising and sinking" (Zech. 12:10). This opinion was endorsed by the two great schools of Shammai and Hillel, but Hillel inclined to a liberal and charitable construction (see p. 596). Farrar maintains that Gehenna does not necessarily and usually mean hell in our sense, but 1) for Jews, or the majority of Jews, a short punishment, followed by forgiveness and escape; 2) for worse offenders a long but still terminable punishment; 3) for the worst offenders, especially Gentiles—punishment followed by annihilation. He quotes several modern Jewish authorities of the rationalistic type, eg. Dr. Deutsch, who says: "There is not a word in the Talmud that lends any support to the damnable dogma of endless torment." But Dr. Ferd. Weber who is as good authority, says, that some passages in the Talmud teach total annihilation of the wicked, others teach everlasting punishment, e.g. Pesachim 54a: "The fire of Gehenna is never extinguished." Syst. der altsynag. Poläst. Theologie, p. 375. The Mohammedans share the Jewish belief, but change the inhabitants: the Koran assigns Paradise to the orthodox Moslems, and Hell to all unbelievers (Jews, Gentiles, and Christians), and to apostates from Islam.138 It is endorsed by the highest authority of the most merciful Being, who sacrificed his own life for the salvation of sinners.11391139    Matt. 12:32 (the unpardonable sin); 26:24 (Judas had better never been born); 25:46 ("eternal punishment" contrasted with "eternal life"); Mark 9:48 ("Gehenna, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched"). In the light of these solemn declarations we must interpret the passages of Paul (Rom. 5:12 sqq.; 14:9; 1 Cor. 15:22, 28), which look towards universal restoration. The exegetical discussion lies outside of our scope, but is the meaning of αἰώνιοςhas been drawn into the patristic discussion, it is necessary to remark that the argumentative force lies not in the etymological and independent meaning of the word, which is limited to aeon, but in its connection with future punishment as contrasted with future reward, which no man doubts to be everlasting (Matt. 25:46). On the exegetical question see M. Stuart, l.c., and especially the excursus of Taylor Lewis on Olamic and Aeonian words in Scripture, in Lange’s Com. on Ecclesiastes (Am. ed. p. 44-51).139

Consequently the majority of the fathers who speak plainly on this terrible subject, favor this view.

Ignatius speaks of "the unquenchable fire;"11401140    Ep. ad Eph. C. 16: ὁ τοιοῦτος, ῥυπαρὸς γενόμενος, εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ ἀσβεστον χωρήσει–ϊ.–ͅϊ.140 Hermas, of some "who will not be saved," but "shall utterly perish," because they will not repent.11411141    Vis. III. 2, 7; Simil. VIII. 9 (ed. Funk, 1. p. 256, 488 sq.). Dr. Pusey claims also Polycarp (?), Barrnabas, and the spurious second Ep. of Clement, and many martyrs (from their Acts) on his side, p. 151-166.141

Justin Martyr teaches that the wicked or hopelessly impenitent will be raised at the judgment to receive eternal punishment. He speaks of it in twelve passages. "Briefly," he says, "what we look for, and have learned from Christ, and what we teach, is as follows. Plato said to the same effect, that Rhadamanthus and Minos would punish the wicked when they came to them; we say that the same thing will take place; but that the judge will be Christ, and that their souls will be united to the same bodies, and will undergo an eternal punishment (αίωνίαν κόλασιν) and not, as Plato said, a period of only a thousand years (χιλιονταετῆ περίοδον)"11421142    Apol. I. 8. (Comp. Plato, Phaedr. I). 249 A; De Republ.p. 615 A.)142 In another place: "We believe that all who live wickedly and do not repent, will be punished in eternal fire" (ἐν αἰωνίῳ πυρί).11431143    Apol. I. 21: Comp. C. 28, 45, 52; II. 2, 7, 8, 9; Dial. 45, 130. Also v. Engelhardt, p. 206, and Donaldson, II. 321.143 Such language is inconsistent with the annihilation theory for which Justin M. has been claimed.11441144    By Petavius, Beecher (p. 206), Farrar (p. 236), and others.144 He does, indeed, reject with several other ante-Nicene writers, the Platonic idea that the soul is in itself and independently immortal11451145    Dial.c. Tr. 4. 5; Comp. Apol. I. 21. Tatian, his disciple, says; against the Platonists) Adv. Graec. c. 13) "The soul is not immortal in itself, O Greeks, but mortal (οὐκ ἐστιν ἀθάνατος ἡ ψυχὴ καθ’ ἑαυτήν, θνητὴ δέ). Yet it is possible for it not to die."Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Arnobius, and Lactantius held the same view. See Nitzsch, I. 35l-353.145 and hints at the possibility of the final destruction of the wicked,11461146    In Dial.c. 5, he puts into the mouth of the aged man by whom he was converted, the sentence: "Such as are worthy to see God die no more, but others shall undergo punishment as long as it shall please Him that they shall exist and be punished." But just before he had said: "I do not say that all souls die: for that would be a godsend to the wicked. What then? the souls of the pious remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse, waiting for the time of judgment." Comp. the note of Otto on the passage, Op. II. 26.146 but he puts that possibility countless ages beyond the final judgment, certainly beyond the Platonic millennium of punishment, so that it loses all practical significance and ceases to give relief.

Irenaeus has been represented as holding inconsistently all three theories, or at least as hesitating between the orthodox view and the annihilation scheme. He denies, like Justin Martyr, the necessary and intrinsic immortality of the soul, and makes it dependent on God for the continuance in life as well as for life itself.11471147    Adv. Haer. 11. 34, § 3: "omnia quae facta sunt ... perseverant quoadusque ea Deus et esse et perseverare voluerit." Irenaeus reasons that whatever is created had a beginning, and therefore may have an end. Whether it will continue or not, depends upon man’s gratitude or ingratitude. He who preserves the gift of life and is grateful to the Giver, shall receive length of days forever and ever )accipiet et in saeculum saeculi longitudinem dierum); but he who casts it away and becomes ungrateful to his Maker, "deprives himself of perseverance forever "(ipse se privat in saeculum saeculi perseverantia). From this passage, which exists only in the imperfect Latin version, Dodwell, Beecher (p. 260), and Farrar (241) infer that Irenaeus taught annihilation, and interpret perseverantia to mean continued existence; while Massuet (see his note in Stieren 1. 415), and Pusey (p. 183) explain perseverantia of continuance in real life in God, or eternal happiness. The passage, it must be admitted, is not clear, for longitudo dierum and perseverantia are not identical, nor is perseverantia equivalent to existentia or vita. In Bk. IV. 20, 7, Irenaeus says that Christ "became the dispenser of the paternal grace for the benefit of man ... lest man, failing away from God altogether, should cease to exist " (cessaret esse); but he adds, "the life of man consists in beholding God " (vita autem hominus visio Dei). In the fourth Pfaffian Fragment ascribed to him (Stieren I. 889), he says that Christ "will come at the end of time to destroy all evil (εἰς τὸ καταργῆσαι πᾶν τὸ κακὸν) and to reconcile all things (εἰς τὸ ἀποκαταλλάξαι τὸ πάντα, from Col. 1:20) that there may be an end of all impurity." This passage, like 1 Cor. 15:28 and Col. 1:20, looks towards universal restoration rather than annihilation, but admits, like the Pauline passages, of an interpretation consistent with eternal punishment. See the long note in Stieren.147 But in paraphrasing the apostolic rule of faith he mentions eternal punishment, and in another place he accepts as certain truth that "eternal fire is prepared for sinners," because "the Lord openly affirms, and the other Scriptures prove" it.11481148    Adv. Haer. III. 4, 1; If. 28, 7. See Pusey, p. 177-181. Ziegler (Irenäus, p. 312) says that Irenaeus teaches the eternity of punishment in several passages, or presupposes it, and quotes III. 23, 3; IV. 27, 4; 28, 1; IV. 33, 11; 39, 4; 40, 1 and 2.148 Hippolytus approves the eschatology of the Pharisees as regards the resurrection, the immortality of the soul, the judgment and conflagration, everlasting life and "everlasting punishment;" and in another place be speaks of "the rayless scenery of gloomy Tartarus, where never shines a beam from the radiating voice of the Word."11491149    Philos. IX. 23, 30.149 According to Tertullian the future punishment "will continue, not for a long time, but forever."11501150    Apol. c. 45. Comp. De Test. An. 4; De Spect. 19, 30. Pusey 184 sq.150 It does credit to his feelings when he says that no innocent man can rejoice in the punishment of the guilty, however just, but will grieve rather. Cyprian thinks that the fear of hell is the only ground of the fear of death to any one, and that we should have before our eyes the fear of God and eternal punishment much more than the fear of men and brief suffering.11511151    De Mortal. 10; Ep. VIII. 2. Pusey, 190. he quotes also the Rocognitions of Clement, and the Clementine Homilies, (XI. 11) on this side.151 The generality of this belief among Christians is testified by Celsus, who tells them that the heathen priests threaten the same "eternal punishment" as they, and that the only question was which was right, since both claimed the truth with equal confidence.11521152    Orig. C. Cels. VIII. 48. Origen in his answer does not deny the fact, but aims to prove that the truth is with the Christians.152

II. The final Annihilation of the wicked removes all discord from the universe of God at the expense of the natural immortality of the soul, and on the ground that sin will ultimately destroy the sinner, and thus destroy itself.

This theory is attributed to Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and others, who believed only in a conditional immortality which may be forfeited; but, as we have just seen, their utterances in favor of eternal punishment are too clear and strong to justify the inference which they might have drawn from their psychology.

Arnobius, however, seems to have believed in actual annihilation; for he speaks of certain souls that "are engulfed and burned up," or "hurled down and having been reduced to nothing, vanish in the frustration of a perpetual destruction."11531153    Adv. Gent. 11. 14. The theory of conditional immortality and the annihilation of the wicked has been recently renewed by a devout English author, Rev. Edward White, Life in Christ. Dr. R. Rothe also advocates annihilation, but not till after the conversion of the wicked has become a moral impossibility. See his posthumous Dogmatik, ed. by Schenkel, II. 335.153

III. The Apokatastasis or final restoration of all rational beings to holiness and happiness. This seems to be the most satisfactory speculative solution of the problem of sin, and secures perfect harmony in the creation, but does violence to freedom with its power to perpetuate resistance, and Ignores the hardening nature of sin and the ever increasing difficulty of repentance. If conversion and salvation are an ultimate necessity, they lose their moral character, and moral aim.

Origen was the first Christian Universalist. He taught a final restoration, but with modesty as a speculation rather than a dogma, in his youthful work De Principiis (written before 231), which was made known in the West by the loose version of Rufinus (398).11541154    De Princ. I. 6, 3. Comp. In Jer. Hom. 19; C. Cels. VI. 26.154 In his later writings there are only faint traces of it; he seems at least to have modified it, and exempted Satan from final repentance and salvation, but this defeats the end of the theory.11551155    It is usually asserted from Augustin down to Nitzsch (I. 402), that Origen included Satan in the ἀποκατάστασις τῶν πάντων, but In Ep. ad Rom. l. VIII. 9 (Opera IV. 634) he says that Satan will not be converted, not even at the end of the world, and in a letter Ad quosdam amicos Alex. (Opera I. 5, quoted by Pusey, p. 125) " Although they say that the father of malice and of the perdition of those who shall be cast out of the kingdom of God, can be saved which no one can say, even if bereft of reason."155 He also obscured it by his other theory of the necessary mutability of free will, and the constant succession of fall and redemption.11561156    After the apokatastasis has been completed in certain aeons, he speaks of πάλιν ἄλλη ἀρχὴ. See the judicious remarks of Neander, I. 656 (Am. ed.)156

Universal salvation (including Satan) was clearly taught by Gregory of Nyssa, a profound thinker of the school of Origen (d. 395), and, from an exegetical standpoint, by the eminent Antiochian divines Diodorus of Tarsus (d. 394) and Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 429), and many Nestorian bishops.11571157    Nitzsch (I. 403 sq.) includes also Gregory Nazianzen, and possibly Chrysostom among universalists. So does Farrar more confidently (249 sqq., 271 sqq.). But the passages on the other side are stronger, see Pusey, 209 sqq., 244 sqq., and cannot be explained from mere "accommodation to the popular view." It is true, however, that Chrysostom honored the memory of Origen, and eulogized his teacher Diodorus, of Tarsus, and his comments on 1 Cor. 15:28 look towards an apokatatasIs. Pusey speaks too disparagingly of Diodor and Theodore of Mopsuestia, as the fathers of Nestorianism, and unjustly asserts that they denied the incarnation (223-226). They and Chrysostom were the fathers of a sound grammatical exegesis against the allegorizing extravagances of the Origenistic school.157 In the West also at the time of Augustin (d. 430) there were, as he says, "multitudes who did not believe in eternal punishment." But the view of Origen was rejected by Epiphanius, Jerome, and Augustin, and at last condemned as one of the Origenistic errors under the Emperor Justinian (543).11581158    Posey contends (125-137), that Origen was condemned by the fifth Œcumenical Council, 553, but Hefele conclusively proves that the fifteen anathematisms against Origen were passed by a local Synod of Constantinople in 543 under Mennas. See his Conciliengesch., second ed., II. 859 sqq. The same view was before advocated by Dupin, Walch, and Döllinger.158

Since that time universalism was regarded as a heresy, but is tolerated in Protestant churches as a private speculative opinion or charitable hope.11591159    At least in the Lutheran church of Germany and in the church of England. Bengel very cautiously intimates the apokatastasis, and the Pietists in Würtemberg generally hold it. Among recent divines Schleiermacher, the Origen of Germany, is the most distinguished Universalist. He started not, like Origen, from freedom, but from the opposite Calvinistic theory of a particular election of individuals and nations, which necessarily involves a particular reprobation or praetermission rather, but only for time, until the election shall reach at last the fulness of the Gentiles and the whole of Israel. Satan was no obstacle with him, as he denied his personal existence. A denomination of recent American origin, the Universalists, have a creed of three articles called the Winchester Confession (1803), and one article teaches the ultimate restoration of "the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness."159



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