BIBLE PROOFS of UNIVERSAL SALVATION;
Containing The Principal Passages of Scripture
That Teach The
Final Holiness and Happiness
By J. W. Hanson, D.D.
Published by The Author
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1877, by J. W. Hanson in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington
UNIVERSAL SALVATION THE DOCTRINE OF THE BIBLE
The author of these pages proposes, in the briefest and simplest manner of which he is capable, to set forth the leading Scriptural arguments in favor of the doctrine of Universal Salvation. He will not attempt to exhaust the subject, nor will he endeavor to explain what are called “The difficult passages,” that is, those that are popularly supposed to teach a different doctrine. Remanding that task a perfectly easy one…to another volume, a proper companion to this, he will only attempt, in these pages, to present the prominent consideration that are contained in the Bible in support of the final redemption of all souls. In this important task he invokes the benediction of Almighty God: praying that any word herein contained, that is false, may perish, fruitless, while whatever is in harmony with the Divine Oracles may bring forth many good results in the promotion of truth and righteousness in the world.
The first thought that astonishes the mind when, the Scriptures are consulted on this great question, by one who has taken for granted that they teach endless torture, for any part of the human family, is
THE SILENCE OF GOD.
The Almighty Father of the human family would not fail, at the very beginning of human history to announce to his children the penalty of sin. To conceal such a doom as that of endless torment from any would be cruel treachery towards those whom he had created, and who would have the right to know all the consequences of disobedience. And yet only limited consequences…temporal punishments…were threatened at the announcement of the law to
Adam or when the penalty of their sin was referred to, in the history of the earliest transgressor. If endless punishment were true, it would be stated as the threatened penalty of the original sin.
But Adam was neither before nor afterward told that he had incurred or should receive endless woe. Here is the law, and its penalty:
“And the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of Every tree of the garden, thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”. Genesis 2:15-17
Adam died as the penalty of his sin. How? This threatened death is not (1) of the body, for physical dissolution was the natural result of physical organization, and the death threatened was to be “in the day he sinned.” His body did not die in that day (2) It was not eternal death for the same reason. He certainly went to no endless hell “in the day” of his transgression. It was (3) a moral, spiritual death. From which recovery is feasible.
Paul describes it:
“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts.” Ephesians 4:18 “You hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:7
Jesus describes it in the parable of the Prodigal son:
It was meet that we should make merry and be glad: for this, thy brother, was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” Luke 14:32 “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Deuteronomy 30: 15-19
Adam died this kind of death and no other “in the day” he sinned. The death God threatened was in this life. The devil denied this penalty. If it was any different from that threatened, then the devil told the truth. This penalty is described in the language used toward Adam after he had sinned:
“And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast harkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed it the ground for thy sake: in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee: and thou shalt eat the herb of the field: in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground: for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:17-19
Would all these consequences be so fully described, and the one of surpassing importance be concealed? Would God perpetrate a “snap judgment” on his poor deluded creatures? Impossible. Our first parents died in trespasses and sins, as did the prodigal; “in the day” they sinned. The whole penalty to which Adam or any other should ever be liable was fully described but not a word of endless punishment is there.
The case of Cain is equally explicit. What penalty did the first murderer experience? Here it is fully stated: “And the Lord God said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And He said, what hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength: a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth: And Cain said unto the Lord, my punishment is more than I can bear. Behold, Thou has driven me out this day from the face of the earth: and from Thy face shall I be hid: and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth: and it shall too pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.”
Not a word of endless punishment for this greatest of crimes. “A fugitive and a vagabond in the earth,” not torment in an endless hell, is the punishment for the first murderer. His punishments were all temporal, and were so understood by him. Is it credible that in addition to all this an endless hell was in store for this first fratricide, and not a word said of the awful doom?
Read the detailed account of the flood and of multitudes of antecedent transactions for the long period of more that seventeen hundred years, and not an instance can be found in which any other than temporal and limited consequences are described as the result of sinfulness.
The wicked people who were overwhelmed by the deluge were not threatened with endless punishment. Noah, the first great “preacher of righteousness,” Titus 2:5 did not say a word of it when he announced the flood. He threatened drowning, but said nothing of post mortem sufferings. Would he have spoken of this comparatively slight disaster, and conceal the enormous one of endless suffering, if he knew anything of it?
“And behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh, where in is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die.” Genesis 6:17 “The earth also was corrupt before God: and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me: for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth; and Noah only remained alive and they that were with him in the ark.” Genesis 5:11-13,23
Just think of charging God with describing the height of the waters, the amount of the flood, the number of days, and all the small particulars of a limited penalty, and entirely overlooking the dreadful fate in store for the millions destroyed!
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
Nothing is said of endless punishment in connection with the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
“The Lord God rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven: and He overthrew those cities and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and all that which grew upon the ground. And Abraham got up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord, and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” Genesis 19:24-28
The fire and brimstone that these people suffered were here, in this world. And that it was limited is evident from the following: “For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her” Lamentations 4:6
Jerusalem experienced a greater punishment than Sodom, as we know from the words of Jesus: “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not, since the beginning of the world to this time. No, nor ever shall be.” Matthew 24:21
All this shows that the suffering was in this world. The Sodomites never received a hint that they were exposed to endless punishment, nor is there any record that they ever went to such a doom.
The wicked, whose character is described from Adam to Moses, a period of twenty-five hundred years, are never threatened with endless punishment, nor is it ever said to have been visited upon any. The builders of Babel, Joseph’s brethren, Pharaoh, many wicked people are their threatened and punished, but not a word is said of endless punishment. Is it credible that for twenty-five hundred years God should have led men along to the brink of the grave, threatening them with all sorts of things, and entirely conceal this doom, which, if true, should have been reiterated to all from the cradle to the grave?
The punishments of sin, are thus described two thousand five hundred years after Adam: “It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and statues which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shalt be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy cattle, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexation and rebuke in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do…..He shall smite thee with consumption, and with a fever, with blasting and mildew; etc. In the morning thou shalt say, would God it were evening, and at evening thou shalt say “would God it were morning’”
All through the Old Testament, subsequent to the enunciation of the law, the wicked that are spoken of are never threatened with any but temporal penalties. Abimelech is a case in point: “Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren.” Judges 9:56
So with Ahithophel, the suicide: “And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulcher of his father.” 2 Samuel 17:23
Is it asked how this suicide was punished? Paul answers: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment.” 1 Timothy 5: 24 Hence, Paul tells us that under the Law “Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.” Hebrews 2:2
Now for four thousand years every wicked act was fully punished in this life. “Every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward.” Would God have an endless hell and keep it a secret from the world for four thousand years? Would He keep sinners for four thousand years from a hell He had made, and then use it as a prison for other sinners no worse? No: the silence of God for forty centuries is a demonstration that He had no such place reserved for any of His children.
If God all the time He was threatening these limited consequences of sin, intended to inflict a doom compared to which all these are as nothing, then He deceived the people, for this is the full statement of the law:
“These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the Lord made between Him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” Leviticus 26:46
The laws of Moses enumerate many forms of punishment, many different penalties, but never list a hint of endless woe.
THE TESTIMONY OF SCHOLARS
That endless punishment is not revealed in the law, the wisest theologians of all creeds agree:
WARBURTON: “In the Jewish Republic, both the rewards and punishments promised by heaven were temporal only. Such as, health, long life, peace, plenty, and dominion and etc. Diseases, premature death, war, famine, want, subjections, and captivity, etc. and in no one place of the Mosaic Institutes is there the least mention, or intelligible hint, of the rewards and punishments of another life….”
JAHN….Div. Leg. Vol 3: “We have no authority, therefore, decidedly to say, that any other motives were held out to the ancient Hebrews to pursue the good and avoid the evil, than those which were derived from the rewards and punishments of this life.”
MILMAN Archaeology page 398….. “The law-giver (Moses) maintains a profound silence on that fundamental article, if not of political, at least of religious legislation….rewards and punishments in another life. He substituted temporal chastisements and temporal blessings. On the violation of the constitution followed inevitably blighted harvest, famine, pestilence, defeat, captivity on it maintenance, abundance, health, fruitfulness, victory, independence. How wonderfully the event verified the prediction of the inspired legislator! How invariably apostasy led to adversity…repentance and reformation to prosperity!”
DR. CAMPBELL…History of the Jews Vol. 1 … “It is plain that in the Old Testament the most profound silence is observed in regard to the state of the deceased, their joys and sorrows, happiness or misery.”
If then, the penalties of sin are limited in duration, we can understand this reticence, even though those penalties should continue in the future state, but if God meant all the time He was thus declaring temporal consequences, to inflict endless torment, He was deceiving His children….an impossible supposition.
Were endless punishment true, the Garden of Eden should have sighed the awful tidings from all its leaves, it should been thundered from the rocky pulpit of Sinai, and have been shrieked into the ears of every transgressor from Adam down. Would a good being, a Father, would a decent being, any one better than a demon, sum up and particularize a score of trivial penalties and conceal the one that should be mentioned most of all? Would a wicked human king threaten three months imprisonment, say, for a crime, and then behead the criminal, when convicted, all the time concealing from them this capital penalty? Is it supposable that God would stay to talk about drought, and fever, and scab, and itch, when He intended to burn, or even to imprison in an endless hell? Such a supposition is too enormous for the human mind to cherish.
The silence of God for four thousand years, the fact that He never hinted at such a doom, demonstrates that it was not then impending, and if not then, under the severe dispensation of Moses, it is impossible that it should be found in the milder message of the gospel of the grace of God.
Now all Christians admit that the people in the times of the Old Testament accepted the doctrine of the resurrection. Is not the fact that nothing is said to the contrary prima facie evidence that the resurrection state, was by them regarded as one in which all was to be well? Is not the silence of the scriptures concerning any evil fate then, a powerful argument in behalf of the New Testament doctrine of the resurrection, that all there, are equal to the angels?
But let us proceed to some of the most striking of the positive declarations teaching universal salvation. We adduce first:
THE PROMISE TO ADAM
While we would not claim that God gave to Adam a distinct declaration that our first parent understood to mean universal salvation, we are certain that He gave him the germ of that sublime result when He announced the consequences of the warfare between man and evil. After Adam had sinned, the first promise was given: “ I will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel” Genesis 3:15
This was an announcement of the destruction of satan, the tempter and enemy of man, inasmuch as a wound on the head of a serpent indicates his destruction, while a wound on the heel of man is not irremediable. What is the serpent? It is explained as follows: “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. From whence come wars and fighting amongst you? Come they not hence even of the lusts that war in your members?” James 1:14; 4:1
But satan and his works, the lusts and sins of mankind, are to be destroyed: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their life-time, subject to bondage” Hebrews 2:14,15 also… "For this purpose the son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” 1 John 3:8 …also… “So Death and Hell were cast into the Lake of Fire” Revelation 20:14
And the apostle exulted over their destruction: “ Oh Death where is thy sting? Oh Grave where is thy victory?” 1 Corinthians 14:55
The promise to Adam was fulfilled in Christ, who came to vanquish the vanquisher, and who placed in operation those means that will result in delivering man from all his foes, death, hell, the devil and the works of the devil. The original promise to Adam contained in embryo the idea of universal deliverance through Christ.
THE ABRAHAMIC PROMISE
How can any believer in the Bible escape the conclusion that the reconciliation of all men to God is taught in the promise to Abraham?
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee; and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12: 1-3
“And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time and said, By myself I have sworn, saith the Lord, or because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which upon the sea shore: and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” Genesis 22:15-18
“Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindred’s of the earth be blessed. Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts 3:25, 26
It is a Universal Promise……. Every human being who ever lived or ever shall live is included in “all the nations families and kindred’s of the earth.”
The blessing is Christian Salvation……. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed which is Christ.” Galatians 3:8
It consists in a Gospel Blessing….. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel to Abraham, saying: In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Galatians 3:8
It is Salvation from Sin, through faith. “Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee all nations shall be blessed. So then they, which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Galatians 3:7-9
It included the murderers of Christ. “But ye denied the Holy one, and the Just and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead: where of we are witnesses. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant, which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindred’s of the earth be blessed. Unto you first, God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts 3:14,15, 25, 26
It is to be fulfilled in the resurrection. “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? Acts 26: 6, 8
“Which Hope we have as an anchor of the should, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedek.” Hebrews 6:19, 20
It has been attested by the Oath of God. For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no one greater, He sware by Himself, saying surely, blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying, I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail: whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus made a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedek. Hebrews 6:13-20
7. Man’s unbelief will not prevent its fulfillment… “For what if some do not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar: as it is written, that Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou are judged.” Romans 3: 3-5 also…. “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13
Man’s disobedience will not always exist. “And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, can not disannul that it should make the promise of none effect.” Galatians 3:17
9. All the conditions are to be complied with, and it so certain that it is spoken of as already accomplished. “And the Lord said, shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” Genesis 18:17, 18
10. Abraham believed it. “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Galatians 3:6 also… “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded, that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And, therefore, it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:20
11. All Christians are required to believe it. “Now, it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him: but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Romans 4:23-25
Thus God’s promise to Abraham is (1) a universal one, (2) of Christian salvation, (3) consisting in a gospel blessing, (4) of deliverance from sin, including even the murderers of Christ, (5) and will be finally fulfilled in the resurrection, to which (6) the oath as well as (7) the promise of God is pledged, and (8) against which man’s unbelief, (9) and sinfulness will not always be opposed, but (10) all the conditions will be complied with, and it is so clearly stated that (11) Abraham believed it, and enjoyed the righteousness that comes through faith and (12) all men are under obligations to see in Christ the promised seed that will deliver humanity from sin. Can scriptural demonstrations go beyond this positive language?
THE PROMISES TO THE OBEDIENT
In the Old Testament, it teaches that immortal blessedness is not, but that limited happiness and prosperity are the reward of goodness:
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction what wasteth at noonday. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him My salvations.” Psalms 91:1-16
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and He delighteth in his way. Though he falls he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. He is ever merciful and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.”
Psalms 37: 23-25
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3
“My son, forget not My law, but let thine heart keep My commandments, for length of days and long life, and peace shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; bind them about thy neck; write them on the table of thine heart; so shalt thou find favor and good understanding in he sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:1-4
“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, and His statutes, and His judgments that thou mayest live and multiply; and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.” Deuteronomy 30: 15, 16
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently to the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kind, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shalt be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blest shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in the storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and He shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee a holy people unto himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways. And all people of the earth shall see that, thou are called, by the hand of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of the body and the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open unto thee His good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in His season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head and not the tail: and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; If that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this, to observe and to do them.” Deuteronomy 28:1-13
This was the reward, and the extent of it, of well doing…Exactly opposite were..
THE THREATS TO THE WICKED
These were not endless but limited, not hereafter but here.
“Thorns and snares are in the way of the forward.” Proverbs 22:5 also “A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.” Psalms 107:45 and “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
“There is no peace saith my God, to the wicked.” Isaiah 57:20,21 and “This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of the oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty. If his children be multiplied, it is for the sword; and his off-spring shall not be satisfied with bread. Those that remain of him be buried in death; and his widows shall not weep. Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay; he may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver. He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth that the keeper maketh; the rich man shall lie down but he shall not be gathered; he openeth his eyes, and he is not. Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night. The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth; and as a storm hurleth him out of his place for God shall cast upon him, and not spare: he would fain flee out of His hand. Men shall clap their hands at him and shall hiss him out of his place.” Job 27:13-23
To attempt to quote all the passages that teach this doctrine would be to cite every precept and every declaration in the Old Testament. All that refers to Adam, Cain. The Antediluvians. Sodom and Gomorrah, Lots wife, Pharaoh, The Egyptians, Ahab, Solomon, Jeroboam, Absalom, Amnon, David, and the Israelites, teaches that all are visited by limited, temporal punishments and pains, and the doctrine is continually taught, that after the wrath of God has run its full career in pain and penalty to the transgressor, the Divine mercy remains unspent and inexhaustible.
GATHERED TO THEIR FATHERS
The reader of the Old Testament is frequently met by passages that demonstrate that the ancient worthies who spoke as, they were moved by the Holy Spirit, cherished this sublime faith. Is not this the teaching of such passages as these?
“Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.” Genesis 25:8 “And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died and was gathered to his people” Genesis 25: 17 “And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days.” Genesis 35:29 “And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost and was gathered unto his people” Genesis 49:33
They all went to “one place” to meet the “great majority,” and there is no hint that any part of them went to any endless prison house. Indeed, the testimony is that at death all go to God.
THE SPIRIT RETURNS TO GOD
Solomon declared, when describing the dissolution of the body: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7
He depicts the destiny of every member of the body: “the keepers of the house:” the hands, “the strong men” the legs, “the lookers out at the windows,” the eyes, “the silver cord,” the spinal marrow, “the golden bowl,” the skull, “the pitcher at the fountain, the wheel at the cistern,” the heart. All these become dust. Would he not tell us the fate of the soul? He does. It “returns to God who gave it.” There, in the hands of its maker and owner, it cannot fail to be cared for.
THE FATE OF AMNON
Incidental passages frequently occur in the Old Testament showing that the Bible worthies entertained the idea that the next state of existence is an improved state, even to those who die in sin. We find an instance where it reads:
“And the soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom, for he was comforted concerning Amnon seeing he was dead.” 2 Samuel 13:39
The King of Israel loved his two sons, but when the wickeder of them died, he felt at ease concerning him, and was even comforted, while he still mourned over the living one.
Why? Because he believed in his heart that he had gone where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.” Job 3:17 Would David have been comforted concerning his son who committed a horrible and nameless crime, and died drunk, had he believed that he had gone to a world of endless torment? No, he was comforted because he believed he had bettered his condition. This harmonizes with what his son Solomon subsequently said:
“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead, more that the living which are yet alive.” Ecclesiastes 4:1,2
When the wise seer uttered these words millions of sinners had died….the ante-diluvian's, the people of the wicked cities, and multitudes besides, and yet he could say of the dead….all the dead….they are more to be praised, that is, better off, that the living. He therefore agreed with his father David that those who leave this world improve their condition. He teaches that those who lay aside what Paul calls “the body of this death” our earthly nature, are in improved relations. They cannot therefore be in a state of ceaseless torment, but must be in a world where divine disciplines are being administered for the purpose of working out the redemption of the sinner. The dead are not more to be praised that the living unless they are better, purer, holier; and no father, loving a son, could be comforted because he was dead, unless he believed in his heart of hearts that he was better, happier, and so better off than when living. David mourned over wicked Absalom, living, but was reconciled, “COMFORTED,’ as he thought of wicked Amnon, dead. The dead son must have been better off that the living son.
Let us glance at a few of the declarations in the Old Testament, confessedly less numerous and less explicit than those of the New testament, and yet developing the increasing purpose that grows and augments from the beginning to the end of Revelation.
KNOWLEDGE OF GOD GIVES PEACE
Job says: “Acquaint thyself with God and be at peace.” Job 22:21
If He were the Being, the creeds describe, the better we knew Him the more we should be tormented. Ignorance of His character would be the soul’s bliss. But the better He is known the more peace the soul enjoys. Hence He must be incapable of torturing the soul forever, or punishing it more than its good demands. It is ignorance of God that makes the soul unhappy, while knowledge of Him renders the soul peaceful. Hence it follows that God has no attribute that would harm or injure.
To know His purposes, to understand His disposition, to see Him as He is, gives joy.
GOD’S ANGER IS LIMITED
A great number of passages of Scripture speak of what the Bible calls God’s anger or wrath……meaning thereby His disapprobation and punishment of sin….as limited, brief and destined to end, frequently contrasting it with His mercy, which, it is said, will never end, and declaring that the soul of man could not exist as the victim of endless wrath.
God’s delight is in mercy, and He displays anger towards men for their benefit, and when the purpose of the anger is accomplished, mercy is resumed.
“He retained not His anger forever, because He delighteth in mercy.” Micah7:18
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide; neither will He keep His anger forever.” Psalms103: 8,9
“For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5
“In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.” Isaiah 54:8
One reason why God will not “be angry forever” is because no soul could endure the storm of God’s endless wrath. The benevolence of God is demonstrated in the statute of limitations, by which, when pain becomes unendurable, the victim dies. Endless torture no soul could endure.
“For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit would fail before me and the soul which I have made” Isaiah 57:16
“Hence the Lord will not cast off forever; but, though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies, for He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:31-33
God could not be angry, with any soul forever, because it would be infinite folly in Him to do so. The wise man says”
“Anger resteth in the bosom of fools!” Ecclesiastes 7:9
Can it rest forever in the great heart of infinite wisdom? Preposterous thought, Anger is contrary to God’s nature, but mercy is His delight. Hence:
GOD’S MERCY IS UNLIMITED
“Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever.”
In Psalms136, this language, “His mercy endureth forever” occurs twenty times. There never can come a moment, in the endless existence of the sinner, when he cannot resort to the fountain of infinite mercy, and find a full supply of Divine grace. It is for all souls, and the fountain will ever be accessible.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE PROPHETS
The prophets often “built better than they knew,” and uttered truths which later generations comprehended better than they did themselves. Especially is this true of some of their utterances concerning man’s final destiny. Even in the times of our Savior, the prophets were not understood, even by those, who professed to follow them. For instance, the Sadducees did not accept the doctrine of the resurrection, while they professed to follow Moses, and yet Jesus told them that God taught the resurrection to Moses when He said:
“I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, for God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Luke 20:38
So the apostle declares: “And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:20, 21
We have shown that Moses prophesied the destruction of man’s passions and sins, when he announced the death of the serpent. And we must accept the declaration of the Apostle, that all the holy prophets, ever since the beginning of the world, foresaw and foretold “the restitution of all things.” Let us consult a few of the prophetic declarations.
The sweet singer of Israel often utters the great truth on which he built the hopes he cherished.
“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish: and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth.” Psalms 72:6-8
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindred’s of the nations shall worship before Thee.” Psalms 22:27
“All nations whom Thou has made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify Thy name.” Psalms 86:9
This is David’s method of expressing universal obedience.