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foolish virgins lost their place in this epoch of the kingdom by not being fully prepared to meet the Lord at his coming, and that the unfaithful servant, for his wilful negligence, entered not into the joy of the Lord, but was thrust into the darkness that was without. And now we see here how those represented by the sheep are received into the kingdom, to enjoy the blessedness of living under the reign of Christ and his saints, while those represented by the goats are bidden to go away from the presence of the Lord into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Reserving for another chapter the consideration of the punishment inflicted upon those on the left hand, a few words may be added in further elucidation of the nature of the reward bestowed upon the righteous. That reward will consist in their being invited to enter into the kingdom, into the life and light and blessedness of the millennial era, under the immediate rule of Christ and his saints. If the view which has been propounded be the true one, that these are such as, not having the law, the revelation of the divine will, had yet done the things of the law, living up to the light of conscience and natural religion, then do we not see what 'glory, honour, and peace,' to use St. Paul's expres- Rom. ii. 10. sions, are opened out before them by their entering into the kingdom, in the discoveries of truth, in the enlargement of knowledge, in the advancement in righteousness, in the perfecting of holiness, thereupon to be vouchsafed to them? Already a revelation of wondrous import had been given them. Hitherto ignorant of Christ, and not knowing
126 The Judgment on the Non-Christian Nations. the true bearing of their deeds of benevolence and love, they are told, to their own overwhelming surprise, that all they had done had been done to and for Him. Oh! the supreme blessedness of that moment, when, thus standing before the Son of Man, there shall flash forth upon them, from his countenance and lips, such a revelation of light and life. But this will only be the beginning of their instruction and training in truth and holiness. If even reigning saints be capable, as too the angels are, of spiritual and intellectual advancement, how shall their admission into the kingdom, bringing them as it will into near and constant communion with the Lord and his saints, be to these the starting point of a new and higher career of spiritual knowledge and moral attainment! And how shall the love which had felt its way, though in darkness, to Him who so gracionsly acknowledged it, now that they are to stand in the light of his countenance, ripen and expand into that conscious, devoted, all-absorbing love which is the grand element in the glory and bliss of the kingdom of the Son of Man! Oh, methinks that out of that great multitude before the throne, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, none more rapturously than these will join in the anthem of the saved, 'Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb.'
Rev vii. 9, 10.
FUTURE PUNISHMENT CORRECTIVE, NOT VINDICTIVE.
THE reward of those on the right hand will consist, it has been argued, in their being brought under the immediate rule of the Son of Man and his saints, and so being trained and educated in the truth and righteousness of that kingdom for yet higher degrees and developments of blessedness and glory. But what of the punishment inflicted upon those on the left hand ? With that question we must now fairly and fully grapple; more especially so, because the passages containing the sentence upon them, are confidently appealed to by those who hold the dogma of endless perdition, as conclusively and undeniably proving it. "Go ye from Matt. eco, 41, 46.
. . . me, accursed ones, into the fire tò aioviov, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.' * And these shall go away into punishment aióviov but the righteous unto life aióvlov. Formidable, no doubt, as at first sight these passages appear, I am prepared to maintain that rightly translated, and fairly interpreted, they not only do not sustain the dogma in question, but rather suggest a presumption to the contrary.
In the first place, let it be noticed that the Greek word aióvios and its equivalent in the Hebrew, here
Gen. xlix. 26.
and in so many other places translated 'eternal' or 'everlasting,' do not of themselves express the idea of never-ending duration. Apart from any exact etymological analysis of the word, this is sufficiently evident from the fact that, over and over again, the term is applied both to things that are not in their nature capable of unlimited duration and to things that have actually ceased to exist. For instance, in his death-bed prophecy Jacob speaks of the everlasting hills, unto the utmost bound of which his blessings had prevailed. Similarly the Prophet Habakkuk represents 'the everlasting mountains' as being scattered,''the perpetual hills' as bowing before the majesty of God. But though the mountains are thus styled everlasting, we do not for a moment imagine that they are of unlimited duration. In the
book of the Prophet Isaiah the land of Idumea and Isa. III 0.5–10. its capital Bozrah are threatened, in the day of the
Lord's vengeance' upon it, with a consuming fire that shall not be quenched night nor day’; that 'the smoke thereof shall go up for ever'; that 'from generation to generation it shall lie waste’; that 'none shall pass through it for ever and ever. Yet these places are not burning now, and the land is not wholly uninhabited. So in like manner the Apostle Jude, referring to the awful and overwhelming destruction that befell Sodoin and Gomorrha and the other cities of the plain, depicts them as
suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Yet those cities are not burning now, the very site of them not being clearly traceable. In the book of the
Prophet Jeremiah God's displeasure upon rebellious r. xxiii. 39, 40. Judah and Israel is thus denounced; Therefore,
and . 6.
behold I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and I will cast you out of my presence: and I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.' Yet Jer. xxiii. 5–8. in the very same chapter the ultimate restoration of Israel and Judah, under the reign of Messiah, is distinctly and emphatically predicted. So of Moab and Aminon it is said, “Thou shalt not seek their Deut. xxiii. 3–6. peace for ever’; ‘They shall not come into the congregation of the Lord for ever'; and yet to these Jer. xlvii. 47; very nations mercy is promised in the latter days.
To take another class of instances, we find the terms everlasting,' or 'for ever,' or 'eternal,' applied to offices, ordinances, and things which have long since passed away. Thus, the office of Aaron and his sons is called an 'everlasting priesthood,' 'a Ecod. xxviii, 43 ; statute for ever.' Of the Levites it is said, that the Lord had chosen them to carry the ark of God and 1 Chron. xv. 2. to minister unto Him for ever.' The passover is enforced on the children of Israel as an ordinance to be observed for ever.' Various parts of the Exod. xii. 14, 17. tabernacle service are in like manner spoken of as 'a statute for ever.' Of the servant who would not Exod. xxvii. 21. take his freedom, preferring to remain with his master, it is said, “He shall be thy servant for ever. Deut. xv. 17. The temple of Solomon is described as a house of habitation or a place of God's ‘dwelling for ever,' 2 Clwon. vi. 2. and yet that temple lasted barely four hundred years.
The foregoing instances, and they are only a few of the many that might be quoted, will suffice to show that the word, both in the Hebrew and in the