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Greek, which in our English version is rendered eternal,' everlasting,' or 'for ever,' by no means conveys the idea of unending duration, but rather of a period more or less protracted. And this, indeed, as before noticed, is the proper significance of the term. The word aióvios is simply the adjectival form of the substantive aióv, which means, like the Latin ævum, an age or era, or the period of a dispensation. A proper rendering, therefore, of the adjective aióvios would be 'age-long,'' belonging to the age,''age-lasting. So translated and so understood, the apparent inconsistency and contradiction would at once be removed which is involved by rendering it everlasting' or 'for ever' in passages like those before quoted, where what was for a period or an era only is represented, by such rendering, as being of unending duration.
Such, then, being its simple etymological meaning, such, too, being its only allowable acceptation in a multitude of passages, I refuse to understand it in any other sense in the following passage, which I submit might fairly and accurately be thus rendered, And these shall go away into punishment æonial,' that is, of the age, but the righteous into life æonial,' or of the age. In my view, therefore, this passage, so far from lending any countenance to the dogma of endless perdition, looks rather the other way, and denotes that the punishment, whatever it be, into which those on the left hand go away, is coincident in duration with that millennial era which, as we have seen, these judgments usher in.
And if the Greek word rendered 'everlasting'in the English version does not support the notion
of endless suffering, much less does the word which is translated 'punishment. The distinctive meaning of this word, kólaois, is corrective punishment, being derived from a verb which means to prune. I say its distinctive meaning is this, in relation to another word, Tiuwpla, which signifies vindictive punishment. Ιη τιμωρία the vindictive character of the punishment is the predominant thought; it is the Latin ultio, vengeance, punishment as satisfying the inflictor's sense of outraged justice, as defending his own honour and that of violated law. In kólaois, on the other hand, is more the notion of punishment as it has reference to the correction and bettering of him that endures it; it is castigatio, chastisement, and has naturally for the most part a milder use than tiuopia. Thus, we find Plato joining κολάσεις (corrective chastisements) and νουθετήσεις (warnings) together. Clement of Alexandria defines κολάσεις as μερικαι παιδείαι (particular corrections) and τιμωρία as κακού ανταπόδοσις (recompense or retribution of evil). And this is Aristotle's distinction, who in his Rhetoric defines kólaous as the correction of the offender, and touwpla as the satisfaction of the offended.
The distinction thus drawn between Tijwpla and kólaors is derived from Archbishop Trench's Synonyms of the New Testament. In giving, however, this distinction, he considers that it would be a very serious error to attempt to transfer it in its entireness to the words as employed in the New Testament. And no doubt, if endless torment be indisputably revealed in Scripture, that distinction could not be pressed. But not believing myself
that dogma to have any real foundation in Holy Writ, I claim to understand the word here in its true etymological signification; and when, therefore, it is said, 'These shall go away into kónaow aióvlov,' I take it to mea that those on the left hand shall go away into a punishment corrective rather than vindictive, a punishment not consisting of everlasting torment, as some tell us, nor to terminate in annihilation, as others think, but to have its gracious issue in the improvement and ultimate restoration of those subjected to it.
And is not this view, I would ask, both in accordance with the character of God, the love of Christ, and the design of his kingdom, as well as in analogy with divine punishments generally? Think what God is, as set before us in his Word. He is holy, He is just, He is good. God is love. It was this God made the souls of men; and when they had fallen He sent his Son to redeem them, 'not being willing that any should perish. And Jesus came and died for the world, and because He did this all power in heaven and earth was given to Him, in order that He might accomplish the good pleasure of the divine will, to gather together in one all things in Christ. But this purpose is to be accomplished in successive eras. One era being completed, the Son of Man is coming with his saved ones of that era to introduce another epoch of his kingdom, by reigning visibly and personally on the earth. And yet, according to the view we are now combating, we are to believe that the first act, by which the Saviour King is to inaugurate his reign on the earth, will be the consigning to hopeless and endless torment millions of chap. XII. the souls He died to redeem. But can this be reconciled with what St. Paul says, that it pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell, Col. i. 19 20, and having made peace by the blood of his cross by Him to reconcile all things to Himself? Could it be reconciled with either divine love or divine justice, that these on the left hand, without excuse though they were in not having acted up to the light of nature and of conscience, should yet be sent away into irremediable perdition, though they knew nothing of Christ and had not even heard of Him? Happily the passage in question imposes on us no such cruel necessity as the acceptance of the dogma of endless suffering. Punishment, indeed, it does reveal, but punishment, as the word imports, not vindictive but corrective. And that it should be of this nature, is not only in analogy with other dealings of God in the way of judgment, but accords also with what Holy Scripture reveals as the design and ultimate issue of divine judgments, and more particularly with that emblem which is most frequently used to set forth the operation and effect of them, fire. In the world of nature there occur from time to time tremendous visitations of fire and flood, of hurricane and tempest, of plague and famine. These are very awful in their aspect, causing terror and desolation, and inflicting terrible woe on the children of men. And yet a sound philosophy leads us to believe that all these, severe as is the intermediate suffering, are rectifying processes in the world of nature, and in their result the beneficial working out of great physical laws.
2 Pet. iii. 9.
And seeing that the laws of nature, as we call them, are after all but the expressions of his will who is the Lord of nature, a sound divinity leads to the same conclusion as sound philosophy, that these visitations, awful as they are, cannot be otherwise, both in their design and issue, than outgoings of wisdom and love. That these visitations have also a moral aspect and bearing we of course admit; and herein again they are the products of divine goodness, as being morally instructive and corrective. They are voices from heaven, reminding the children of men of their own weakness and helplessness, rebuking their pride and haughty selfreliance, rousing them from their apathy, thoughtlessness, and selfishness, calling out sympathy and succour for the distressed, inspiring reverential awe, and causing many to bethink themselves of the Lord, and to turn to Him as a stronghold in the day of trouble. In various ways do these visitations exert a beneficial moral influence, and so warrant our regarding them, both physically and morally, as the corrective dispensations of a God of love. But the way in which a shallow divinity too often speaks of them seems more heathenish than Christian, representing them as the ebullitions of an angry, vengeful Being, pouring out the vials of his wrath upon the wicked, strangely forgetting that, as upon the one hand our Heavenly Father causes his sun to shine and his rain to fall upon the evil and the good, so on the other hand, in these visitations of distress and suffering, the saint and the sinner, the just and the unjust, are alike the subjects of them.
Nahum i. 7.