Kiemelt bejegyzés

1. The snowball Trinity versus the Father Almighty

The snowball Trinity versus the Father Almighty Who is the real God? A tri nity of persons (The Trinity) or just one person, the F at h...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

14. THE FIRE THAT CONSUMES: "Eternal" with Words of Action

THE FIRE THAT CONSUMES: "Eternal" with Words of Action

"Of the 70 usages of the adjective "eternal" (aionios) in the New Testament, six times the word qualifies nouns signifying acts or processes, as distinct form persons or things. These cases call for special consideration. They are "eternal salvation" (Heb. 5:9), "eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12), "eternal judgement" (Heb. 6:2), "eternal sin" (Mark 3:29), "eternal punishment" (Matt. 25:46) and "eternal destruction (2Thess. 1:9). Three occur in Hebrews; all six have to do with final judgement and its outcome.
Here we see again the other-age quality of the "eternal". There is something transcendent, eschatological, divine about this judgement, this sin, this punishment and destruction, this redemption and salvation. They are not merely human, this-age matters, but are of an entirely different nature. On the other hand, something about this judgement, sin, punishment, destruction, redemption and salvation will have no end. If in one sense these things are timeless, they are in another sense without temporal limits. They belong to that Age to Come which is not bound by time and which will never end.
"Eternal Judgement" (Heb. 6:2). Among the "elementary teachings" which make up the "foundation" of Christian teaching are "the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement". This is literally the resurrection "of the dead ones" (plural, nekron), seemengly both good and bad, and it is linked to that judgement which is of the Age to Come, not merely a judgement made by man or God in the here and now. That is quality, but what of its duration? How is the last judgement "eternal" in the sense of everlasting?
The act of judging will certainly not last forever. But we notice that the text speaks of judgement (kirimatos) and not judging. There will be an act or process of judging, and then it will be over. But the judging results in a judgement - and that will never end. The action itself is one thing; its outcome, its issue, its result, is something else. "Eternal" here speaks of the result of the action, not the action itself. Once the judging is over, the judgement will remain - the eternal, everlasting issue of the once-for-all process of judgement.
"Eternal Redemption" (Heb. 9:12). Christ has entered upon His high-priestly service through the greater tabernacle that is not hand-made or a part of this creation. "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." It is clear that "eternal" here also has a qualitative aspect. These matters are of that order which is not a part of this creation (v. 11). They pertain to the "eternal Spirit" (v. 14), not the flesh. They belong to the new covenant and the "eternal inheritance" (v. 15). By faith these "eternal" things are already operative and even visible (Heb. 11), though they are of an order different from the space-timpe creation of which we are presently a part.
This redemption is also "eternal" in the sense of everlasting. Not that the act or process of redeeming continues without end - Christ has accomplished that once for all! Our author specifically makes the point that Christ did not have to suffer "many times since the creation". Rather, "He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:25,26). But this once-for-all act of redeeming, which is finished, will never be repeated and can never be duplicated, issues in a redemption which will never pass away. "Eternal" speaks here again of the result of the action, not the act itself. Once the redeeming has taken place, the redemption remains. And that "eternal" result of the once-for-all action will never pass away.
"Eternal Salvation" (Heb. 5:9). Trough reverent submission and perfect obedience, Jesus became "the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him." This salvation partakes of the eternal quality of the new order - that order in which Jesus may be priest like Melchizedek (v. 10). It is already a reality (Heb. 4:15,16), for it partially intersects the present order even while it transcends it. But this salvation is also "eternal" in that it will have no end. Jesus is not forever saving His people; He did that once for all, as we have already seen. This salvation is eternal because it is the everlasting result which issues from once-for-all process or act of saving. The result remains even after the act has ended.
The expression "eternal salvation" here may come from Isaiah 45:17. There God promissed that "Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation." It is clear from the following words that God has in mind the result He will accomplish rather than the act He will perform. "You will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting." Once the saving has taken place, the salvation remains. And that "eternal" outcome of God's finished action will never pass away.
"Eternal Sin" (Mark 3:29). In a controversy with some teachers of the law, Jesus said: "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Mark's next statement tells us what this "eternal sin" was. "He said this because they were saying, 'He has an evil spirit' "(Mark 3:30). This sin of attributing to the demonic the Holy Spirit's power manifested in Jesus had a quality other sins did not. It was "eternal" in that sense because it resisted and contradicted the power of the Age to Come. It stood in opposition to the inbreaking kingdom of God, as Luke points out in the parallel passage (Luke 11:20). Nor will it be forgiven, even in the Age to Come, which for Matthew is equivalent to saying it is an "eternal sin" (Matt. 12:32). The act of sinning does not continue forever; it was committed on that occasion in Jesus' ministry and may possibly never be repeated in exactly the same way. Men are punished in hell for sins committed during this Present Age, not for evil done following the last day (Rom. 2:6-16). This "eternal" sin was committed once. But its result remains for eternity.
"Eternal Destruction" (2Thess. 1:9). When Jesus comes, He will punish His enemies who have refused to know God and to obey His gospel. "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power." 
This destruction clearly partakes of the Age to Come. It belongs to those eschatological realities which are now unseen and mysterious to our Present Age. In that sense it is "eternal" in quality. In keeping with what we have seen already, we suggest that the destruction is also everlasting and unending. 
The New International Version uses two verbs to describe what will happen to the wicked on that day. "They will be punished" (with everlasting destruction), and they will be "shut out" from the Lord's presence and power. The second verb is not in Greek but is supplied by the New International Version's  translators to express what they think it means. We will discuss that more later. For now it is important to see that whatever happens will happen "on the day He comes" (v. 10). It will not be happening forever, but when He has brought about their destruction, its result will never end.
In keeping with the rest of the teaching of both Old and New Testaments, to be examined in following chapters, we here suggest that this "eternal destruction" will be extinction of those so sentenced. This retribution will be preceded by penal suffering exactly suited to each degree of quilt by a holy and just God, but that penal suffering within itself is not the ultimate retribution or punishment. There will be an act of destroying, resulting in a destruction that will never end or be reversed. The act of destroying includes penal pains, but they will end. The result of destruction will never be reversed and will never have an end.
"Eternal Punishment" (Matt. 25:46). Jesus concludes His Parable of the Sheep and Goats with the statement that the wicked "will go to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Both the life and the punishment partake of the quality of the Age to Come. We have some experience here and now of life and of punishment. But we cannot know now what the eternal life will be - in its fullness - nor can we know now what the eternal punishment will be - in its actual horror. There is more to either than a timeless extension of what we can now experience. We are acquainted to some extent with the nouns; the adjective tells us they will then be of a quality we do not yet comprehend. There is a clearly a qualitative aspect to "eternal" punishment.
At the same time, the life and the punishment of this passage are never to end. They are "eternal" in the sense of everlasting. But we need to note, as in the five cases above, that "punishment" is an act or process. In each case so far, and indisputably in the firs four, the act or process happens in a fixed period of the time but is followed by a result that lasts forever. In keeping with that scriptural usage, we suggest that the "punishment" here includes whatever penal suffering God justly issues to each person but consists primarily of the total abolition and extinction of the person forever. The punishing continues until the process is completed, and then it stops. But the punishment which will remain forever.
Conclusion. This is a powerful argument which conditionalists have pressed with vigor. In all the literature covered by this study, no traditionalist writer has dealt with it at all except perhaps to assert that it is false without giving any reasoning evidence - and that but rarely. Like most of the conditionalistst arguments, this one has simply been ignored. If the traditionalist understanding of hell is to stand, a cogent and persuasive answer must be forthcoming. Since all we want to know is God's truth as revealed in Scripture, no one need be threatened on either side of the discussion. This is a challenge which calls for careful exegesis and prayerful study within a commitment to the final authority of the Word of God."

With the kind permission of the author: 
Edward William Fudge: The Fire That Consumes, chapter 3, page 44-48 
The movie: Hell and Mr. Fudge

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