DESTRUCTION is one of the great key words of the
Scriptures, hence no amount of investigation is excessive if it provides
us with a clear comprehension of its meaning. There have been interminable
discussions, resulting in divergent schools of interpretation, but, so far
as we have observed, none of these gives a satisfactory answer to all of
the evidence. The difficulty, it seems to us, has been in an appeal to
reasonable inferences based on nature and revelation instead of a direct
investigation of the facts of Scripture. As it is helpful to start any
line of thought in some familiar field, we will commence by giving a
recent attempt to define the meaning of this word, and will pay special
attention to the method used, in order to destroy it, and banish it from
this discussion forever.
THE MAJOR PREMISE
"[DESTRUCTION. Some remarks having been made as to the
primary meaning of 'apollumi,' we desire to point out that it is a sound
principle to follow the meaning given to the first occurrence of a word in
the Bible. This will be its primary meaning. If any will turn to the first
three occurrences of this word, viz., Matt.2:13; 5:29,30, they can see
for themselves that the deprivation of life, whether as to the whole
person, or a member of the body, is its primary meaning. To destroy the
child, to Herod, meant the putting him out of existence. To pluck out an
eye, to cut off a hand, is to deprive them of living connection with the
rest of the body. When in John 10:10 we have apollumi after the word
kill, we can see its true force; and it is the same in Matt.10.28 where,
after dwelling upon what man can do according to his limited power, we
have, 'but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy (apollumi) both soul and
body in Gehenna].'"
Here we have a line of reasoning with a view to fixing the "primary"
meaning of apollumi, destroy. The syllogism may be stated thus:
Major Premise: The first occurrence of a word fixes its primary meaning.
Minor Premise: In Matthew 2:13 apollumi means "deprivation of life."
Conclusion: The primary meaning of apollumi is "deprivation of life."
We have often pointed out that, unless the major and minor premises are
absolutely true, the conclusion is false. Hence we should always insist
that these be stated in full. We should always test them for their
truthfulness. In this syllogism neither premise is reliable, hence the
conclusion, though logical, is misleading.
What is the "first" occurrence of this word? As to time, Paul was the
first to put it into the Scriptures (2 Thess.2:10). Matthew did not write
until later. Was it necessary for the Thessalonians to wait until Matthew
had written in order to know its meaning? In the early Hebrew Scriptures,
which are arranged in approximately chronological order, and which were in
the hands of the people long before the subsequent revelations, such a
rule may have some weight. But it is not at all sound logic to argue that
the vocabulary of the Greek Scriptures was not defined until the so-called
"Gospels" were written. Words which occur in John's account "first" could
not be defined in the first century, according to this rule. It makes
Matthew's usage of a word dominate all the rest of the divine records.
Let us test its truth. Biblion is the diminutive form of SCROLL. In
Matthew 19:7 (its "first" occurrence) it is a short legal instrument
which we call a "divorce paper." This is not its primary or usual
"meaning," for it is used of the book of Isaiah and of the Unveiling. Its
essential meaning, in all of its forms, is SCROLL. This diminutive form is
SCROLLet. In usage it is applied to any book, even a large one. All
scholars put this first in their definitions. It is useless to multiply
instances. The major premise is absolutely false. The "first" occurrence
of a word is not necessarily its "primary" meaning. That is a mere
assumption brought in to furnish a false foundation for error, and to
eliminate the passages which prove it to be untrue.
The only sound system of determining the "primary" or essential meaning
of any word is to canvass all of its occurrences, and inject nothing
into its meaning which clashes with any of its contexts. This is more
readily seen in determining the identity of definite objects, such as
plants and animals. We have changed "eagle" to vulture because, in two
passages, these creatures are said to congregate, which is not the custom
of eagles. Definition consists in limiting the sphere of a word to
distinguish it from other words, not in adding to it all the implications
of its contexts, so that it presents a blurred image to our minds.
In order that our readers may have all of this evidence before them in
concordant contexts we present a complete list of the passages containing
apollumi in the Greek Scriptures as they are translated in the
Concordant Version. In each ease the English word or words which represent
it are printed in italics, so that the student can perceive its usage at a
glance. Read the whole list over carefully and note the contexts. Pay
special attention to its synonyms and antonyms. Its meaning is similar to
steal and kill. It is the opposite of find and save. The means of
destruction are various. Some lead to the loss of life, but many do not.
apollumi, FROM-WHOLE-LOOSE, lose, destroy, perish
Matt. 2:13 seeking the little Boy to destroy Him."
5:29 that one of your members should perish
30 that one of your members should perish
8:25 "Lord! Save us! we are perishing!"
9:17 the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are destroyed
10: 6 yet rather be going to the lost sheep of the house
28 able to destroy both the soul and the body in Gehenna.
39 who is finding his soul will be destroying it, and he who destroys
his soul on My account will be finding it.
42 should by no means be losing his wages."
12:14 so that they should be destroying Him.
15:24 for the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
16:25 should be wanting to save his soul will be destroying it. Yet
whoever should be destroying it
18:14 of these little ones should be perishing.
21:41 Evilly will he be destroying them.
22: 7 destroys those murderers and
26:52 shall be destroyed by the sword.
27:20 yet should be destroying Jesus.
Mark 1:24 Did you come to destroy us?
2:22 wine skins will be destroyedÄÄ
3: 6 that they should be destroying Him.
4:38 Carest Thou not that we are perishing?
8:35 save his own soul, will be destroying it, yet
whoever shall be destroying his soul
9:22 into waters, that it should be destroying him
41 no means be losing his wages.
11:18 how they should be destroying Him.
12: 9 coming and destroying the farmers
Luke 4:34 Did you come to destroy us?
5:37 wine skins will be destroyed.
6: 9 to save a soul or to destroy?"
8:24 "Doctor! Doctor! we are perishing!"
9:24 save his soul shall be destroying it, yet
should be destroying his soul
25 yet destroying or forfeiting himself.
11:51 who perished between the altar and the house.
13: 3 you will all be perishing likewise
5 you will all be perishing similarly.
33 that a prophet be destroyed outside
15: 4 sheep, and losing one of them
ÄÄ after that which is lost,
6 my sheep that was lost!
8 if she should be losing one drachma,
9 I found the drachma which I lose!
17 yet I am perishing here of famine!
24 he was lost and was found.
32 and was lost and was found.
17:27 the deluge came and destroys them all.
29 from heaven and destroys them all.
33 preserve his soul will be destroying it.
ÄÄ yet whoever should be destroying it
19:10 to save that which is lost.
47 people sought to destroy Him.
20:16 be coming and destroying these farmers.
21:18 your head should by no means perish.
John 3:15 Him should not be perishing
6 into Him should not be perishing,
6:12 that nothing should be lost.
27 the food which is perishing,
39 these I should be losing none,
10:10 should be standing and sacrificing and destroying.
28 should by no means be destroyed for the eon,
11:50 nation should not be destroyed.
12:25 fond of his soul is destroying it,
17:12 and not one of them was destroyed
18: 9 of them I lose not one.
Acts 5:37 and he was destroyed,
Rom. 2:12 shall be lost without law,
14:15 destroying that one for whose sake Christ died.
1 Cor. 1:18 to those who are being destroyed,
19 be destroying the wisdom of the wise,
8:11 weak one is being destroyed
10: 9 and were destroyed by serpents.
10 and were destroyed by the exterminator.
15:18 reposing in Christ, were lost.
2 Cor. 2:15 and in those who are being lost.
4: 3 it is covered in those who are lost,
9 cast down but not destroyed
2 Thess.2:10 injustice among those who are being destroyed,
Heb. 1:11 They shall be destroyed, yet Thou art continuing,
James 1:11 the comeliness of its aspect was destroyed.
4:12 is able to save and to destroy.
1 Peter 1: 7 than gold which is perishing,
2 Peter 3: 6 being deluged by water, was destroyed.
9 not intending any to be destroyed,
2 John 8 should be destroying your work,
Jude 5 secondly destroys those who believe not.
11 and they were destroyed in the contradiction of Korah.
THE MINOR PREMISE
The minor premise, that destroy in Matthew 2:13 must
mean "deprive of life," is an unfounded inference. The dictionary uses
precisely these words to define kill. It fits slay, dispatch, slaughter,
murder, assassinate, and massacre. It does not define destroy. "Deprive of
life" would partially define the Greek words apokteinoo, KILL; sphazoo,
SLAY; anaireoo, despatch, assassinate, massacre, or phoneuoo, MURDER, for
every occurrence of each of these words actually means to "deprive of
life." How can a phrase so general that it fits every occurrence of four
other Greek words, define a word which often is applied to the opposite?
The way in which this method depraves men's mental processes is seen in
the reference to John 10:10: "The thief is not coming except that he
should be stealing and sacrificing and destroying." Sound and
wholesome sense would say that such a series of synonyms demands that each
be distinct from the other, though related in meaning. Stealing does not
denote sacrificing ("killing") or destroying, and destroying does not mean
sacrificing or stealing. The presence of sacrifice in this series is
against the idea that destroy necessarily means to deprive of life. It
would be just as reasonable to argue that steal also means to deprive of
life, for the evidence is the same.
Apollumi is used of things which have no life. Skin bottles (Matt.9:17;
Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37) do not die when they are destroyed. A reward
(Matt.10:42; Mark 9:41) is not mortal. Gold and money do not decease (1
Peter 1:7; Luke 15:8). The words which actually do mean to deprive of life
could not be used in these passages. Neither the primary nor the secondary
nor the tertiary nor any other meaning of destroy demands that life be
taken. That is entirely a matter of the context. It is not included in the
significance of the word.
Apollumi is used of that which is alive. If the lost destroyed sheep
(Luke 15:4) has been "deprived of life," would the shepherd have rejoiced
when he found its carcass? Our Lord directed His disciples to go to the
lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.10:6). They were no more dead
than the strayed sheep which the shepherd sought. A word whose "primary"
meaning is "to deprive of life" cannot have a "secondary" meaning of a
state of life. Death cannot be modified into a form of life. White is not
a secondary meaning of black. Life, in any form, is not expressed by a
word which means death.
Let us apply this definition to our Lord's exhortation to His disciples.
He said, "He who is finding his soul will be destroying it, and he who
destroys his soul on My account will be finding it" (Matt.10:39, see Mark
8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33). Is He urging them to commit suicide? The
destruction of the soul does not mean death. It means to forgo the
pleasure of life and endure the sufferings due to faithfulness to Christ.
How contrary is this to our modern gospel of "soul-saving!" We exhort the
sinner to save his soul, but our Lord pleaded with His disciples to
destroy their souls. It is utterly absurd to give destroy the meaning
As we have often pointed out, the statement that the Son of Mankind came
to seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19:10) is the key to the
meaning of apollumi. It refers specifically to Zaccheus. He was lost,
destroyed. Because he was lost he was ready to be found and saved.
The real object of most false definitions of apollumi is to prove that
it means death from which there is no resurrection, practical
annihilation, a state from which salvation is impossible. This passage
directly destroys this idea. Instead of the lost being beyond salvation,
they alone are eligible for salvation. You cannot rescue a man who is
safe and sound. It is only when he is in the state denoted by apollumi
that salvation can operate in his behalf.
Antithetic statements, such as this, are of great value in the study of
words. The terms seek and save are accurate indications of the
opposite of destroy. One who is destroyed must be lost, or no one
would seek him. He must be in a state which calls for salvation or
Christ would not have come for him. This passage proves beyond
peradventure that destruction is a salvable condition, not a state beyond
the reach of deliverance. Add to this the fact that only the lost are
saved, and it reverses the usual idea of destruction. God seeks what He
Another passage, which should have kept the reasoner from his illogical
conclusion, is then introduced:
"...If any will take up a Greek Concordance, they will see at once how
often the word is used for the deprivation of life in comparison to its
other meanings, which ought to be conclusive. We never used the words
'annihilation' and 'non-existent' so it is simply throwing dust over the
issue. For us, 1 Cor.15:17,18 is as plain as anything can be that
'perished' apollumi apart from the resurrection means that they would
never live again; hence to alter the meaning of apollumi because of the
resurrection is unwarranted. No other word is treated in this fashion, and
all is done to bolster up two pagan theories, (1) the doctrine of the
immortality of the soul, and (2) the doctrine that all will finally be
saved, no matter how they have lived and despised God's grace in this
life. We think it more Godlike to put out of existence those who have no
desire for God and His Christ. We see Him doing this very thing to both
individuals and nations in this life, and this is but a prelude to what He
is going to do in the future.
"Here is the meaning of 'perish' in 1 Cor.15:18 by those who oppose us,
which speaks for itself. 'In case there is no resurrection the saints
perish in the sense of remaining in unconscious existence with all the
elements in solution, but without the life to call then into conscious
reunion.' (Italics ours). This means that for all practical purpose they
have ceased to be what they were. We affirm that its primary meaning is
the deprivation of life through their rejection of Christ the Source of
Life. He is our life, and we know that 'He that hath the Son hath life:
and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.'"
Without reasoning at all, anyone can see that saints who are reposing in
Christ, who are "deprived of life," are NOT lost or destroyed, for
they will be roused. Add to this that those who ARE lost or destroyed,
to whom the Son of Mankind was sent, are NOT "deprived of life." What
shall we say of the "reasoning" which declares, in the face of this
evidence, that deprivation of life is the primary meaning of apollumi?
Let no one say that we are reasoning this out. Our deductions are not
based on reason, but evidence. We are exposing the false system of
reasoning which flies in the face of the irrefutable facts.
We are all subject to infirmity, and misunderstanding and error. But when
the evidence is clearly pointed out and anyone still persists in
corrupting the Scriptures, we can only say with sorrow, that such a one no
longer deserves any consideration as a teacher of God's word. His mind is
disqualified. Instead of believing God he seeks to pervert His word by
The minor premise, that, in its first occurrence, Matthew 2:13, it
denotes "the deprivation of life" is a pure assumption, contrary to its
"primary" meaning, and imported into it from the context. The massacre of
the minors was merely the means of destroying the Boy, not the
destruction itself. If Christ could have been put out of Harod's way by
some other method, that also would have suited the king and fulfilled the
force of the word. We can destroy one of our brethren by eating food
which he deems unclean (Rom.14:15; 1 Cor.8:11). Does our eating deprive
him of life? That would be an easy way to commit legal murder!
Let us beware of reasoning out the meaning of words by means of
syllogisms, subconscious or expressed. Very few general statements, such
as the one we are criticizing, are true. They are useless for the
truth-seeker, and needed only by those who wish to evade the facts. Let us
call for all of the evidence. Words have essential meanings, which they
preserve at all times. In their usage, they change their coloring in
varied environments, so as to conform to these to some degree. It may be
necessary in English, to use a different term, but the central conception
continues constant. This alone is safe, sane, and satisfactory.
A broad, general term, which includes many other words in its embrace, is
difficult to define. The dictionaries simply give a list of more specific
words which are included within its range. It is evident that these do not
define it, but only give us an indication of the territory which it
covers. In such cases it is best to fall back upon its etymological
meaning in combination with those passages in which it is applied in its
most literal sense.
This is important, so I will repeat it for emphasis. To discover the
central significance of a word, its essential meaning, that which it
conveys at all times, apart from the coloring of its contexts, we should
seek those passages in which the literal meaning most nearly coincides
with the literal force of its elements. This undoubtedly was its first
meaning in point of time, and it continues to be its primary meaning, no
matter what its usage. The success of a lexicographer depends largely on
his skill in selecting such passages. For instance, there is much
controversy as to the meaning of the word sin. No occurrence is so
illuminating as that in Judges 20:16. The slingers did not miss what
they aimed at. Sin is missing the mark. This literal, etymological
meaning is worth more than all the arguments which can be advanced. What a
sin [mistake] it would be to reason from its first occurrence (Gen.20:6)
that its primary meaning confined it to social trespasses!
We can almost use the elements of apollumi in some of the passages. "Be
going to the FROM-WHOLE-LOOSED sheep of the house of Israel (Matt.10:6)
is literal Greek and intelligible even in English. "He should by no means
be FROM-WHOLE-LOOSING his wages" (Matt.10:42). "Whosoever should be
wanting to save his soul will be FROM-WHOLE-LOOSING it" (Matt.16:25).
Sometimes it helps to introduce another step. The Greek word FROM-LOOSE apoluo
has two of the elements of apollumi, FROM-WHOLE-LOOSE. It merely leaves
out the central element, WHOLE. Apoluo, FROM-LOOSE, means to dismiss,
as in Matthew 1:19. Joseph intended to dismiss Mary. If he had wholly
dismissed her he would have lost her, or "destroyed" her. So he who
wholly dismisses his soul on Christ's account will be finding it
Apollumi is made up of three well-known Greek elements,
FROM-WHOLE-LOOSE, and literally means to wholly loose from, to lose.
This is its exact force in the complete tense, where it is translated
lose. The sheep and the coin and the prodigal were lost, although none
of them was necessarily injured or dead on that account. These are key
passages, because they combine the etymological evidence with the usage.
Many words have, as their "secondary," or derived meaning, the factitive
sense of making what the verb signifies. This is regularly the case in
Hebrew, so that the Massorites have separated this sense from the light
form, and invented the so-called Piel, to make. The ancient Hebrew verb
for PERISH means also to make-PERISH, or destroy. So the Greek verb to
lose comes to mean to make lose, to perform any act which will result
in loss, relative to the loser. Herod wanted to lose the Boy, so he gave
orders to destroy the minors (Matt.2:13). Relative to him, these
innocents were lost.
Destruction is a relative term. The coin was lost in relation to the
woman. The sheep was destroyed as regards the shepherd. The prodigal had
perished in relation to his father. So with the destroyed sheep of the
house of Israel. They were not necessarily suffering or dead, but they
were away from the Shepherd. The prodigals were far off from the Father.
Does this prove that they were outside the sphere of salvation? It proves
the opposite. The ninety and nine were not then found. The elder brother
was not then saved. Destruction is the prelude to salvation. It never
means annihilation, however closely it may seem to approach that idea in
The method of destruction, or losing, is not included in the meaning of
the word. It is varied. Those who use the sword shall perish by the
sword (Matt.26:52). Our Lord was destroyed by crucifixion
(Matt.27:20). The disciples were afraid that they would perish by
drowning (Mark 4:38). The sheep was lost by straying (Luke 15:4).
The prodigal was lost for the same reason (Luke 15:24). The fragments of
food would have been lost by neglect (John 6:12). Food perishes by
decay (John 6:27). We may destroy a brother by means of food
(Rom.14:15). We may destroy a weak saint by our knowledge (1
Cor.8:11). Note the last two passages particularly. They apply to
believers in Christ. According to the usual dialectics they prove that we
can annihilate one of our brethren by means of food or by simply acting
according to our knowledge, if we do not consider his ignorance! Saints,
safe in Christ, may be lost or destroyed, in the sense of the context.
It is decidedly unlike either man or God to put out of existence those who
are lost. There is not a line of encouragement for this idea in God's
word. God commends His love to us in that He gave His Christ while we were
still sinners. Our Lord spoke the parable of the lost sheep in order to
assure His disciples that God was more concerned about one sheep that had
strayed than ninety-nine that were in the fold. There is no line that the
sinner crosses that brings him beyond the reach of God. Neither life nor
death, neither a career of sin, nor a mouldering corpse is any obstacle to
divine love. Nay, they are challenges, which Omnipotence must meet or
suffer defeat. No death, either first or second, can cope with our God, or
frustrate His purpose.
Everyone who has ever lost anything will bear me witness that, the moment
it is missing, it assumes an interest, an importance, which it never had
before. Its value increases and we desire it more than ever. Its loss,
instead of breaking our connection with it, forges a new link which did
not exist before. This becomes tragically true when we lose a loved one.
Loss alone brings a realization of the preciousness of possession. So let
us never imagine that God is not concerned about the lost, that He is
insensible to their doom, or that He would sit complacently by and see
them rush on to eternal oblivion if He could do anything to head them off.
There are a million ways in which we could do this if we had but a tithe
of His power. He is able. If my reader will not acknowledge this I must
wait until God makes him realize it. Until then all his reasonings on this
subject are based on the false major premise that there is no God worthy
of the name.
God is love, and all of His creatures are dear to Him. Is it not striking
that He does not seem to even try to express His affection until they are
lost? Whom does God love? He undoubtedly loves all. Whom does He say
that He loves? God loves the world, and sinners, and His enemies,
and those who were lost. It takes destruction to open the sluice gates
of the divine feelings. This it is which makes contact between God's love
and His creatures' hearts. In His wisdom He has decreed that many shall be
lost to Him until the end of the eonian times (for ever and ever!). Men,
who are often compelled to abandon an enterprise which proved too much for
their powers, imagine that He also is balked and unable to save the vast
majority, or being able, He does not care. This basic error has so
vitiated the minds of men that they have corrupted the Scriptures to
uphold it, and will go to any length to rid the world of anyone who
believes that God lacks the impotence and heartlessness which is the
foundation of all their religion.
In sheer helplessness we are sometimes compelled to kill an animal to put
it out of pain. We would not do so if we could cure it. Is God like this?
Is He impotent, powerless to cope with those who are destroyed? All that
we can do is to kill. We cannot recall from death. Is He also limited as
to life? Christ proclaimed Himself as the Resurrection and the Life. It is
Godlike to deal with those who have no desire for God in such a way that
they will respond to His love. It is most unlike a deity to give up and
lose that upon which the heart is set. Theology has made a little man out
of a great God. It reasons in the wrong direction. Where man is impotent
it imagines that God is also. Were it truly wise, it would debar all
inferences and implications and deductions which are not based on the
rock-ribbed fact that God is God.
Let us, in conclusion, press the point that, like so many other words,
this is a relative term. It usually carries the sense of loss by some
one. God is the great Loser in most of its occurrences. The coin was
lost by the woman. The sheep was lost by the shepherd. The prodigal was
lost by the father. Israel was lost by Jehovah. Men are lost by God. Who
was it that created them? Are they not His work? Will He not be the Loser
if they are not saved? Let us remember what Israel was taught to say
concerning their forefathers: "A perishing Syrian was my father." (There
is nothing about "ready to perish" in the Hebrew). As a lost man
Jehovah saved him. Though the sinner be lost a thousand times, he is not
beyond the reach of the great Seeker. They may be lost for the eons of the
eons [for ever and ever!], but He will seek the lost until He finds.
Here we come back to the great truth with which we started. Almost all of
the reasoning about the word destruction fails to recognize the deity of
God. We are asked to consider the fate of the wine skins which were
destroyed. We are told that, as wine skins, they pass out of
existence. Therefore, say they, men pass out of existence as such when
they are destroyed. The fact that this word is never used of the second
death, in which this "final" destruction is supposed to take place, should
show the fallacy of this reasoning. The fact that all who are destroyed,
or lost, are raised to be judged, absolutely refutes the idea of any
God is left out of it. We should not reason from wine skins to men. We
should ask, Who lost the wine skins? Who lost the men? Suppose we are not
able to recover what we lose? Is that any proof that God cannot do so?
Are we the equals of the Creator? Did anything originate with us? Why,
then, reason about God as though he were unable to find and save what He
has lost? Is it not true that this very thing is His greatest glory? He
can recall His creatures from the tomb. Can we? All mankind are lost,
destroyed. And all mankind will be justified and vivified by Him
(Rom.5:18; 1 Cor.15:22). Shall we who know God fail to glorify Him as God
and become vain in our reasonings (Rom.1:21)?
There is no reasoning so utterly vain as that which uses one passage of
Scripture in order to destroy our faith in another. Concordantly rendered,
there is no conflict in the Word of God. In the last analysis it will
usually be found that the major premise in such false reasonings depends
upon disbelief of the plain statements of God's Word regarding His deity.
Once our subconscious mind is saturated with the great truth that all is
out of God, and through God and for God, our reasoning will no
longer hurl us off at a tangent, out of touch with Him and His word, but
will always be God-centered and prove what He has elsewhere expressed.
Down with human reason! Up with faith in God!
We will now consider in detail all of those passages which are supposed to
prove the practical annihilation of sinners. The first is in Matthew
10:28. "Yet be fearing Him rather Who is able to destroy both the soul
and the body in Gehenna." The Lord is speaking to His disciples regarding
the suffering required for entrance into the kingdom. Men will hate them
and kill them. Literally, death always affects body, soul, and spirit. But
He is speaking of their experiences, what they will suffer for His sake.
Men will slay them. James and Peter were killed. After they were killed
they suffered no more. Their next conscious moment will be bliss in His
presence. So that, in a very real sense, those who killed their bodies
ushered their souls into the kingdom without further pain. Our Lord
condenses all this in His striking figure. As to feeling, their enemies
cannot touch their souls by killing their bodies.
On the other hand, those who persecute them will suffer the judgments of
the kingdom. There is One Who is able to kill them in Gehenna, the place
outside Jerusalem where criminals will be cremated during the millennium.
The effort to make Gehenna mean the lake of fire or a final place of
punishment is futile and confusing. It hinders rather than helps. What of
the experience of such a case, in contrast to the martyr just mentioned?
In both cases consciousnessÄÄthe soulÄÄis absent during the period of
their death. But the martyr misses the sufferings which precede the
kingdom and his enemy will miss the bliss of the kingdom. The martyr
wakes to blessing. The enemy is roused to judgment. The effects on their
souls are opposite. One loses suffering and gains bliss. The other loses
bliss and gains suffering. God does not lose the sinner by these
intermediate processes. After Gehenna, after the judgment, he will be made
alive at the consummation.
Of all the apostles, only one was destroyed. Seldom, indeed, did the
translators speak of Judas Iscariot without coloring their rendering with
their own misconceptions and the superstitions of their times. Here they
say that he "is lost," as though it were a fact beyond recall. The
ending of the verb here, as well as the initial letter, definitely marks
the past, and has no reference to the future of Judas. He was lost.
Elsewhere we have discussed his case more fully. I have no hesitation in
saying that all twelve of the apostles would have betrayed their Lord if
Satan had entered into them as he did Judas. He was not as great a sinner
as Saul of Tarsus. He will doubtless remain lost during the eons, and will
suffer the just penalty for his sin. But he was lost by God, and God
Himself will be the chief Sufferer if He does not fulfill His will, that
all mankind shall be saved.
The chief trouble with those who seek to reason out the destiny of Judas
Iscariot is this: They fail to see that he was lost in relation to God.
They did not lose him. God made him for His own glory. So long as he
clouds that glory the loss is God's. No one else suffers from it as He
does. If we do not acknowledge God's deity, if we make Judas the creature
of a rival god, then he should be annihilated. That is the real issue.
Reason from the godhood of God, and your conclusions will harmonize with
the Scriptures. Dethrone God, and not Judas only, but all men will
inevitably be lost.
The statement that "as many as have sinned without law shall be lost
also without law" (Rom.2:12) occurs in the midst of an argument which
demands that all the "lost" shall be roused from the dead to receive
payment for their acts in the just judgment of God. All is definitely
against the thought that the lost are beyond the reach of God's payment.
God will raise them for judgment in order that He may vivify them for
The passage usually produced to prove the utter destruction of all sinners
is found in second Thessalonians (2:10,11). Perhaps no stronger one can
be found. Yet it refers to a special crisis, when the lawless one is on
the scene. They receive the falsehood because the love of the truth is not
in them. Their destruction is preliminary to their judgment. This
precludes the idea of utter extinction, and points to the fact that God
will adjust all the differences between Him and them. Why do this, if it
is of no consequence to either? It is that a righteous basis may be laid
for God to seek and find those whom He has lost. The fact that they have
strayed far from Him does not disprove the great truth that they came out
of Him and will be for Him at the consummation.
It is quite astonishing to find how few passages even appear to speak of
the "final destruction" of the wicked. Not one really does this. They all
deal with that phase of God's operations which is covered by the phrase
"all is through Him." Again we insist that sound, wholesome reason,
based on the deity of God, recognizes that destruction is a divine
process. Superficially, it may be of Satan, or of man, but absolutely and
actually it is the work of Him Who is operating the universe in accord
with the counsel of His will (Eph.1:11).
Every single one who receives eonian salvation was once lost, destroyed.
Not only was this no hindrance to their deliverance, but it was absolutely
essential to it. God had lost them. Through Christ He found and saved
them. The same is true of those who do not receive eonian salvation. God
has definitely declared that He is the Saviour of all mankind (1
Tim.2:4; 4:10). Since they do not believe, eonian salvation is not theirs.
But, since God has lost them and He has said He will save them, they will
be restored to Him at the consummation, after the close of the eons, on
the basis of sight.
Destruction, like salvation, is eonian. It is not the end or aim of God.
That would be sheer insanity. Imagine a God, Whose very essence is love,
desiring to lose a single creature with an endless capacity for loving and
glorifying Him! Imagine a man so berserk as to smash a machine which could
bring him an unlimited income! We would put such a creature under
restraint, where he could not harm others, as well as himself. We have not
such a God. He destroys nothing that He cannot restore. He loses nothing
that will not return to Him laden with praise and glory for Himself.
Destruction is a passing process, not a finished goal. Through God it
will work out the welfare of His creatures, and the glory of our Saviour
and His Father.