We reject the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked...

 

J.H. Gosden

 


 

"We reject the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked, and believe that all who die out of Christ shall be turned into hell, the fire of which shall never be quenched, the wicked there suffering for ever the torments of eternal fire. Bible Verses

"Note. - It is the same word in the Greek which in Matthew 25.46 declares the eternity of life for the sheep, which declares the eternity of punishment for the goats. So (Rev. 20.15) those who are 'not written in the book of life' are cast into the lake of fire,' where they are 'tormented for ever and ever' (verse 10). Now, the same words which are there translated 'for ever and ever' are also used in Rev. 10.6 where the angel 'sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever.' Therefore, if God is to 'live for ever and ever,' the torment in the lake of fire is to be for ever and ever; for the words are exactly the same in both passages."

The Word of God, that only perfectly pure fountain of truth, is the standard by which every statement must always be measured and judged. Natural feelings, general opinions, philosophical reasonings, universal charitableness, must all give place to the superior authority of Holy Scripture. Whatever is opposed thereto, or may not be justly inferred therefrom, must be rejected as erroneous. Hence our specific denial here of the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked, already rejected by implication in Article 14, wherein we affirm our belief in the resurrection of the just and of the unjust, and the final acquittal and eternal blessedness of the former, and the ultimate condemnation and eternal perdition of the latter.

Probably the devil never promulgated a more serpentine and deceitful heresy than that at death the wicked cease to exist. Though the heart of men is "fully set in them to do evil" (EccI. 8. 11), yet the Lord God has in His goodness retained in man generally more or less a fear of punishment together with a varying degree of conscientious susceptibility to right and wrong, whereby society has been preserved from utterly unrestrained wickedness. But the hardening influence of error largely nullifies this restraint; sin being so exceedingly deceitful that each successive degree of daring intensifies the obduracy and recklessness. Hence the grievous wickedness rampant on all hands to-day. Thus the long-suffering patience of heaven is abused, and wrath is treasured up against the day of wrath by impenitent sinners (Rom. 2. 5). The belief that there is no hereafter, no accountability to God after death, no judgment seat and no retribution, is eminently calculated to encourage defiance of authority, divine or human, contempt of law, neglect of moral obligations, and to foster the free indulgence of every corrupt propensity. Probably millions living in sin to-day quieten their consciences by this very lie. The American "Judge" Rutherford's Jehovah's Witness Movement is one of the many bodies which include this terrible deceit in their schemes. We actually noticed recently they called the doctrine of eternal punishment "that Satanic doctrine." As, however, Holy Scripture teaches this solemn truth, it must be blasphemy to attribute it to the devil: a near approximation to that sin for which there is never forgiveness, neither in this world nor in that which is to come (Matt. 12.32).

1. We deny annihilation. Annihilation we believe to be impossible to an immortal being. But man is immortal, although through sin his constituent parts - soul and body - are liable to temporary dissolution, and his bodily frame is subject to death. For at the creation God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul (Gen. 2.7). Sin deprived man of the image of God wherein he was made, and brought upon him the death denounced: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." In that day he died spiritually, although there was a "stay of execution" as to death eternal (Eccl. 8.11). But this did not constitute him a soulless being, nor obliterate the difference between the spirit of man that goeth upwards, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth (Eccl. 3.21).

Sin marred man's nature, defaced the image of God in him, alienated him from God, but it did not change the constitution of his person. It rendered his body subject to corruption, so that it shall return to the earth as it was (Eccl. 12.7). It depraved his soul in every faculty: estranged his affections, perverted his will, darkened his understanding - but it did not eradicate them. Hence, at the resurrection, when soul and body reunite, the person becomes subject to final judgment - condemnation or justification - according to the condition of the soul when dissolution took place. "If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there shall it be" (Eccl. 11.3). "It is appointed unto men once to die. but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9.27). That the soul lives when the body dies, Scripture clearly teaches. The rich man who had died lifted up his eyes in hell - torment and envied the beggar now comforted in Abraham's bosom (emblematical of covenant blessings). Both their bodies await the resurrection and the fulfillment of John 5. 28, 29: "Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."

Whatever science falsely-so-called may say, God's Word is solemn and precise: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works" (Rev. 20. 12, 13). Consequently death is no escape for the wicked from the wrath of almighty God, for although it be sought for to that end, it shall not be found (Rev. 9.6). Whoever hopes in annihilation at death will prove it to be a "refuge of lies" - non-existent. Neither will life provide escape from the judgment, apart from divine grace in the heart. For when the righteous who remain unto the coming of the Lord are caught up, changed, and taken to be for ever with the Lord, the wicked shall be reaped into the great winepress of the wrath of almighty God (1 Thess. 4.17; 1 Cor. 15.52; Rev. 14.19). As neither death nor life can separate the Christian from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8. 38, 39), so neither can deliver the wicked from His just curse.

2. We assert eternal punishment. We believe that the punishment of the wicked is everlasting, as the Note in the Article declares and the following Scriptures prove: "For ever and ever" (Rev 14 11). Everlasting fire (Matt. 18.8). "Into the fire that never shall be quenched where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9 43 44). "These shall go away into everlasting punishment but the righteous into life eternal" (Matt 25 46). Some [shall rise] to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12.2).

Our puny minds cannot comprehend eternity, we cannot understand what a bottomless pit is; but such Scripture expressions convey some feeble idea of the incomprehensible vastness and endlessness and hopelessness of the "second death." Yet terrible beyond expression as everlasting punishment is (to be mentioned only with utmost solemnity), it is nevertheless absolutely just. This every one really instructed of the Holy Ghost feels. God owes us, as sinners, only His holy curse. We deserve, as transgressors, banishment from Him for ever and ever. We have known a godly man so thoroughly convinced of this his hell-deserving condition that before he was delivered through faith in Christ, he would fervently implore the Lord at least not to put him amongst the murderers in that dark and dread abode. Speculations as to degrees of punishment - a subject upon which we cannot here enter - are not very profitable. It would be a very poor consolation indeed to he assured of a tolerable place in hell! And let none anticipate heaven on the ground of their being but little sinners. Scripture very clearly states that: "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20.15).

To die an impenitent unbeliever is to be lost for ever and ever. "If ye believe not that I AM (He) ye shall die in your sins" (John 8.24). A solemn word for deniers of Christ's eternal Deity! And to die in sin is to be damned: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16.16). Whoever heard of temporary damnation? Unbelief is gross immorality. Faith is a precious gift of grace. Priceless is the blessed declaration that Christ is "exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5.31).

No imaginary fires of popish purgatory can accomplish remission. No blasphemous masses can make an atonement. "Without shedding of blood is no remission." The blood of Christ, shed in His one sacrifice of Himself, cleanseth from all sin. For this remission of all sin "every one that is godly shall pray unto God in a time when He may be found" (Psa. 32.6), that is, in this life. No unpardoned sinner enters heaven, as nothing that defileth or maketh a lie can gain admittance. Heaven would be hell to an unsanctified person. It is the blessed Spirit's prerogative to show sinners their danger, to empower them to flee from the wrath to come, and to lead them to Christ, who by shedding His precious blood made atonement for sin and who is able to save to the uttermost (evermore, margin) all who come unto God by Him (Heb. 7.25).

The issues are tremendous. There is no middle state between eternal life and eternal death, between the irrevocable sentence, "Depart, ye cursed," and the irreversible welcome, "Come, ye blessed." "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him" (Psa. 2. 12). The Lord enable each Spirit-convicted sinner to trust in His gracious promise: " Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out"! "Safety on earth and after death the plenitude of heaven" shall be their experience.

"Fly, then, awakened sinners, fly:
Your case admits no stay:
The fountain's opened now for sin:
Come, wash your guilt away."

 


What Gospel Standard Baptists Believe. J.H. Gosden. 8 Fairleigh Rise, Kington Langley, Chippenham, Wilts, England. SN15 5QF. 1993. Article 31, pages 145-149.