Eternal Punishment; Gehenna

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
As regards Isa. 66, there cannot be a doubt that the Lord's words refer to Hinnom, where they burnt the filth of Jerusalem; Isa. 66 refers to the same; Gehenna is the valley of Hinnom. I take the passage as simply as possible, that the apostate Jews judged at the coining of the Lord will be then a memorial of their folly and the Lord's judgment, to those who come up; their carcasses also I take simply as such (it is used, it seems, of man or beast), left there an instructive spectacle of divine judgment terrible to behold. But this is just what shows that it has nothing to do with souls, nor resurrection for judgment.
But the use of Gehenna in the New Testament, beyond all controversy, goes beyond this In Mark 9:42-4842And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43And 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: 44Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:42‑48), it is evident it is no question of the judgment of Jerusalem at the last day. But Luke 12 puts it out of all question, where the Lord says,"Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell;" and, Matt. 10:2828And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28), "Able to destroy both soul and body in hell." These passages show that though the Lord uses the figure of the valley of the son of Hinnom, He uses it figuratively in reference to what is not of this earth; and hence "worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" must be used in a like way.
The quotation of Isa. 66 is absolutely futile, and proves nothing at all about the matter, save as a figure; and the figure is, that the judgment should not disappear, as in ordinary cases. I know they would use the word "destroy," but that is not the question here, but the value of Isa. 66 I have discussed it elsewhere; it is false to suppose it means to cause to cease to exist. I do not remember the three passages in which αἰωνίων is used for the past, but I think there is πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων used in reference to all the dispensed ways of God. The promise of eternal life was in eternity, before the question of dispensational dealings, for in Christ was life, and we receive of His fullness; but the word χρόνος here gives the clearest force (it is 2 Tim. 1:99Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, (2 Timothy 1:9)) to αἰώνιος as αἰῶνα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου. There is no doubt that αἰών is used in this way, the end of this αἰών, etc.; that is not the question: is it not used in an eternal sense? Now several passages prove it is; as eternal God, eternal Spirit, eternal covenant, eternal life, along with which is eternal punishment. As to Rom. 2:6-106Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: 8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: (Romans 2:6‑10), there is no doubt that eternal life is presented as the portion of those who are characterized by the conduct there described, leaving aside, that is, Jew and Gentile, and fixing the portion given of God on realities, realities of moral state, be they found in Jew or Gentile. I do not see any difficulty here; he shows plainly enough how this can be found in a man, that is, solely through Christ, but it is found in those that are really His.
As to Rom. 5, it is not exact to say that all sinned in Adam; though, as a general expression, I should apprehend a person. All fell in him who descend naturally from him, and are under sin, κατεστάθησαν ἁμαρτωλοὶ, which it is important to maintain; but in dealing with conscience we have always ἐφ ᾡ "for that all have sinned." Death does not merely follow as a corruption of nature—that is a terrible mistake; death came on Adam and all his descendants at once by sin, as a judgment of God—a very different thing. Moreover, Satan has the power of death; that is not mere corruption of nature, as the Lord fully felt, who had no corruption of nature. "Sinned" is ambiguous, because it conveys the idea of personal responsibility in will; all were involved in sin, in Adam's sin. If you have further difficulty in this, let me know, for it is important to be clear...
I have no doubt the Lord is sifting, most rightfully, and I am disposed to think God in grace has stepped in and turned the tide, and that blessing may flow—I speak of England. But the sifting was needed; corruption and laziness, Laodiceanism, was creeping in, and fearfully; it was quite polite to be a brother. Peace be with you. Kindest love to the brethren around you. The Lord be with them and all His beloved ones.
Your affectionate brother in the Lord.
Sims, December 12th, 1849