Pollock on Universalism
We are finally coming to the section of A. J. Pollock’s booklet where he confronts both Universalism and Annihilationism. First he deals with Universalism which I do not believe is possible given what scripture says therefore my commenting on this section will be light. I want to reproduce his section for the record so I can say I have read every paragraph of Pollock’s argument.
Immediately following this section Pollock will make his case against Annihilationism and I will engage his arguments then. I would like to make the point once again that I am not 100% convinced by the Annihilationists and am doing this series of posts as a kind of stress test to see how their arguments hold up.
Here is Pastor Pollock:
Is the punishment of hell EVERLASTING?
A well-known recent writer says bluntly:-
“If the Bible teaches ‘everlasting punishment,’ so much the worse for the Bible, because we cannot believe it: you may quote texts and have behind the texts the very finest scholarship to justify certain interpretations, but it is no good. We are no longer the slaves of a book, nor the blind devotees of a creed – we believe in love and in evolution.”
“There never was, is, or will be any right in the name of the gospel of Christ to speak of ‘eternal torments.'”
For my part, I would rather have to meet these blunt open denials than the whispered insinuations of many. It is much better to fight a foe in the open than to have to do with the stiletto and poisoned dagger.
If I believed the Word of God taught non-eternity of punishment, I would seek grace to proclaim it from the house-tops. Why be ashamed or afraid of the truth? There are literally thousands of ministers today, paid by congregations to propagate the gospel, who are veritable agents of the devil in undermining the faith of their hearers in the authority and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. Such are traitors in the camp.
And one of the vital points of attack is the doctrine of eternal punishment.
There are two schools of thought who teach non-eternity of punishment. Their adherents are respectively called Universalists and Annihilationists.
The Universalist believes that those who die unsaved will undergo a period of suffering of more or less duration, which will purify them, and in the end all will be saved. God, they say, will triumph over evil. True, but not in the way they say. The legitimate end of their argument, though they do not put it so baldly, is that the devil and the fallen angels will ultimately be saved. Seeing Christ did not die for the devil and his angels, it lands the Universalist into the blasphemous doctrine of salvation apart from atonement.
Let us briefly examine the Universalist theory. “God is almighty,” they say. “He abhors sin, and He must triumph; therefore He will empty hell, some time, by swinging open the door of mercy to all mankind – or else His character of goodness and love is destroyed.” The Universalist admits that God has a character of goodness and love. He bases his appeal on this. If this be so, the Universalist must admit that a God of love – and He is a God of love – has allowed sin to come into this world, and that it has continued with all its unspeakable sorrow and blight and death for six thousand years.
And if He has allowed its presence for so long, why cannot He allow its punishment to be FOR EVER? No logic can give a satisfactory answer to this. We are shut up to revelation as to this, and the answer is plain and unmistakable.
But it may be argued that there are good reasons why sin should exist now. Then how may it be known by us that there are not good and weighty reasons that its punishment should exist for ever? What right have we to speculate on such a subject? “What saith the Scripture?” is our only safe inquiry.
‘But,’ says the objector, ‘How can an offence, it may be done in a moment of time, merit never-ending punishment?’ We reply again, that here we are out of the region where speculation is of any use. Revelation alone can help us.
When man punishes sin, he weighs it as it affects himself, its effect on society, as it relates to time. And yet, even in that case, a crime, which may take considerably less time to perform than it would take the reader to peruse this short pamphlet, is often followed by many years of punishment, or it may be by capital punishment.
But when we come to sin against an infinite Being, we have no measure to use except what is given us by that infinite Being. The problem is beyond our solving. Sin, which took nothing less than an infinite Sacrifice, cannot be measured by the justice of the law courts. We are thus shut up to what God says in His Word and our wisdom is to refuse our own reason in this matter. [Please see my post “Does Sin Against An Infinite God Require Infinite Punishment?” where I discuss this issue].
Again, it is argued that a second chance of salvation after death will empty hell. It is urged that God’s character as a God of love demands this.
But is there any guarantee that sinners who refuse the gospel in this life will accept it in the next? We may well ask in astonishment, Why should people refuse the first offer? Will the nature that rejects it with scorn in this life embrace it in the next? Will the thorns of this life bear grapes in the next; or the thistles of this age bear figs in the next?
Besides which, the Bible holds out no such hope of a second chance. One or two passages of Scripture are twisted in order to support this theory. The following Scripture is appealed to: –
“Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometimes were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Pet. 3:18-20).
But the meaning of this is plain. Noah preached to the antediluvian world, whilst he was building the ark. It was the Spirit of Christ in him that was the motive and power of his testimony. That “the Spirit of Christ” was the motive power of Old Testament testimony is confirmed in 1 Peter 1:11. He is careful to tell us that eight souls were saved in the ark. It follows that the rest rejected Noah’s testimony – the very preaching of the Spirit of Christ in him. The flood overwhelmed them and they perished. When Peter wrote, for something like two thousand five hundred years they had been “spirits in prison.” This meaning presents no difficulties. We know that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5). It is in keeping with the whole tenor of Scripture.
On the contrary, the Universalist’s explanation that the Lord actually went into hades and preached a second chance is beset with insuperable difficulties.
The passage in question is limited to those who lived while Noah was preparing the ark, which seems to have occupied about one hundred years. Before the flood some fifteen centuries rolled their course; after this, until Peter wrote the words we are examining, some twenty-five centuries had passed, in all some four thousand years since the creation of man. Does it not seem absurd to explain a verse in such a manner as to make it necessary to say that the people, who lived just at that particular period of just one hundred years should have had a second chance? What about the people who lived during the other thirty-nine centuries?
This Scripture does not prove enough for the Universalist. According to him, it speaks of a few people who lived during a few years before the flood getting a second chance. They cannot affirm that one of the millions of the post-diluvian world had a second chance, not to mention the multitudes who lived before the flood. It is simply absurd to think that of all the millions in hades when our Lord died, that by way of comparison a mere handful was singled out to receive the offer of a second chance which was not given to the rest. Really, to have to base a theory on such grotesque grounds only proves the poverty of the Universalists’ case. But we utterly deny that those living just before the flood got a second chance. There is no such thought in Scripture.
Then notice, it does not say what Christ preached to these spirits nor reveal the effect produced. If the Universalists’ explanation is correct we should have had these particulars, and they would have been affirmed of ALL mankind and not of a special handful who lived in a particular period.
Why then did Peter introduce that particular period? It was not done at random. Scripture is inspired. The answer is obvious. He drew upon the narrative of the flood and the ark to use it as an illustration of baptism, as bringing home the meaning of the death of Christ, applied in a practical way to the believer.
In the same way another Scripture is used by the Universalists.
“For this cause was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6).
But the explanation of this Scripture is most obviously the same as the other. “The gospel was preached to them that are now dead,” would be a proper paraphrase for the thought of the writer. Note he does not say, “For this cause is the gospel preached to them that are dead,” but “for this cause was the gospel preached.”
Now if such an important doctrine as that of a second chance after death were true we should find the affirmation of it running throughout Scripture, but the contrary is the case. The Apostle Paul writes:-
“Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2); whilst our Lord’s own words are plain,
“Beside all this, between us and you there is A GREAT GULF FIXED: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26).
Scripture is silent as to any remedial change wrought by punishment after this life. God has got no other Gospel than the one the Scriptures proclaim. Man’s heart will not be altered by change of circumstances. Men who hate the gospel now will hate the gospel then. If men will have none of it during their whole lifetime, will it be certain that eternity will suffice to make them change their minds? There is no evidence of it in Scripture.
For what do we find? Did punishment gain Cain’s heart for God? Did heavy judgments soften Pharaoh’s will and make him sue for mercy? Was Ahab moved by what overtook him? Were the Israelites kept true to God when the scourge fell upon them, or did they lapse again and again into idolatry?
Demons spoke to Christ, prayed that He would not torment them before the time, but did a cry for mercy ever escape their lips?
We read of “spirits in prison” where they had been for twenty-five centuries. There is no hint of any change in their minds. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah have been suffering since the days when the guilty cities of the plain were overthrown, but the inspired writer Jude leaves us under the full impression that punishment had effected no change of heart, and his inspired lines hold out no hope of the punishment coming to an end.
One Scripture for long has been illuminating to the writer on the subject:-
“They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Rev. 16:10-11).
Pain does not lead to repentance in this passage. “The goodness of God leadeth… to repentance” (Rom. 2:4), is the testimony of Scripture. When this is despised, there is only the treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath.
HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock
[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Does John 3:36 Dispel Annihilationism?]