Pollock’s Concluding Remarks
We have now reached the end of A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment” where he presents us with his concluding remarks and observations. There aren’t any new arguments presented here so I am going to provide a long quote with some comments interspersed. I am not going to quote the last two pages of Pollock’s treatise which are footnotes. Any interested reader is encouraged to read them for his or herself.
I have two general comments to make before I begin the extended quote. First, as I have said again and again, many of Pollock’s arguments work only if annihilation is not punishment. I will certainly agree that eternal conscious torment (ECT) is punishment but that does not mean that annihilation is not punishment. Christians often say that human life is sacred and I completely agree with that. However, when the debate turns to annihilationism all of the sudden life isn’t so sacred. The concept of the permanent extinction of human existence is considered a non-punishment. This really does confuse me. Annihilation may or may not be true but it is not a non-punishment.
The other comment I have is that the issue of the translation of the Greek aionios (Strong’s G166) is pivotal in this debate. If you follow the link and read Strong’s definition of aionios you will see that it is defined as eternal or unending. Of course the definition chosen often depends on which side of the ECT/annihilation debate one takes. I know that Strong was a Calvinist so he would definitely come down on the side of aionios having a connotation of eternality. I have dealt with the aionios issue in several previous posts:
- Point-Counterpoint: Pollock on Aionios
- Point-Counterpoint: Vincent on Aionios
- Aionios: How Do Pollock’s and Vincent’s Arguments Stack Up?
Edward William Fudge (an annihilationist) spends an entire chapter on aionios in his book “The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment”. On a lark I did an internet search for word studies on aionios and I quickly found three that reject the idea that aionios has a meaning of eternal or everlasting:
Okay, so who’s right? I am leaning toward the idea that the correct translation of aionios is context dependent (text without context is pretext). If that is the case then Pollock cannot claim that the use of aionios in the New Testament automatically proves the doctrine of ECT.
Here is Pastor Pollock:
I have invariably found, in personal conversation, that those who affirm non-eternity of punishment make little or no appeal to Scripture, but to sentiment and carnal reason. They tell us God cannot do this and will not do that. Scripture may teach the exact opposite. That with them I have generally found matters little. They sit on the judgment seat and affirm what God will or will not do.
I hope that any reader recognizes that my posts have appealed regularly to scripture.
We beg the reader to pay no attention to sentiment or carnal reason in this matter for Scripture plainly tells us, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him” (1 Cor. 2:14), and again, “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).
Let it be only and altogether, “What saith the Scripture?” There only are we on firm ground. There only are we safe.
In connection with this subject we lately read through a book affirming Universalism, written by the Rev. Arthur Chambers. Over one hundred editions have been called for, so that the book is well known.
The author boldly denies the thought of eternity in any sense to the word aionios. He ought to know the way even heathen writers have used the word in that sense, as we have pointed out, but he makes no allusion to them. He takes upon himself to teach us on the subject and we might, therefore, expect him to be fully conversant with it.
Further, he boldly denies eternal punishment, saying it is age-lasting and to be consistent affirms that everlasting life is only age-lasting. Alas! the sophistry of his plea is threadbare in the extreme. Fifty-six times is eternal life spoken of in the New Testament. This author has the effrontery to tell us that fifty-six times does God tell us in His Word that the divine life He gives is only age-lasting, yet he at once affirms that life is not age-lasting at all, but is for ever and ever, going to other Scriptures for proof.
Does God then juggle with words like that in His Holy Book? Is divine life affirmed again and again to be age-lasting when all the while it is eternal and nothing else? Such arguments are unworthy of any honest man, not to say of God Himself.
I do not know Reverend Chambers or his book so I can offer no defense or condemnation of his writings.
But this clergyman probably finds it convenient to forget that aionios is used once in regard to God Himself. Is He only age-lasting? Once in relation to His power? Is that only age-lasting? Twice in relation to the Lord Jesus, in whom all the believing sinner’s hopes are founded? Is He only an age-lasting Saviour? Twice in relation to the Holy Spirit. Is the Godhead only age-lasting? To ask these questions is to answer them.
Why did this clergyman not mention one of these passages in which the word aionios is thus used? Why? He knew of them. That is certain. Why did he not refer to these texts? The fact is he could not face them and so he ignored them. Was this consistent? Is a cause helped by such conduct?
He does not stand alone in the condemnation that Scripture metes out to those who handle the Word deceitfully. All the anti-Christian apostate religions, such as Millennial Dawnism, Christian Science, Christadelphianism, Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, New Theology, unite in openly denying eternal punishment, and do so by handling the Word of God deceitfully. Along with this go blasphemous doctrines as to the deity of the Lord Jesus and His atoning work.
I am not a member of any of the groups listed and this is nothing more than guilt by association. I am sure that if I comb through the teachings of these groups I will finds a few things that Pastor Pollock would agree with. Would this cause Pastor Pollock to immediately denounce these teachings as heretical?
We heard one of these deceivers lately telling nearly one thousand hearers that God passed the sentence of death on the disobedient sinner, and that when Adam sinned the judgment was:-
“In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17);
that is, that man became mortal, and in due time died, perished, body died, soul died, spirit died, and that that was THE judgment. That after death there was no consciousness. He kept pressing that death was the entire judgment – that God said it, that we must believe it.
Such deceitful handling of the Scriptures moved us to righteous indignation, so we said loudly, clearly, solemnly, so that all could hear, “Scripture says,
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but AFTER THIS [that is death] the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
“If after death is the judgment, how can death be the judgment?”
The speaker seemed quite staggered for a moment or two under the assault, behind which we are assured was the power of God’s Word and Spirit. Recovering himself, this deceiver said words to this effect, “I cannot explain every verse in the Bible at once; I am dealing with Genesis 2:17 just now.” Evasion was the only course open to him. It was not a brave or manly course, but it affords a sample of the way in which multitudes are deceived.
What if the judgment after the first death is the second death? Then everything depends on what the second death is doesn’t it?
Is the theory of non-eternity of punishment held by spiritual Christians, by those deeply taught in the Scriptures, or characterized by sanctity of life, earnestness of purpose, success in reaching the unconverted?
Our experience is that it is not. This theory was first promulgated in our early days by such scurrilous infidels as Charles Bradlaugh and Colonel Ingersoll, then put forward by a bold spirit here and there among professing Christians, such as Canon Farrar and Archdeacon Wilberforce, woven subtly into novels, temptingly put forward in poetry and then advanced till now it is the general belief in Christendom. Show me the mere professing Christian, the worldly Christian, the man with low ideas of the Scriptures, of God, of sin, of the atonement and this theory finds in his mind a ready response.
On the contrary, the truth of eternal punishment is found among those one can look up to with reverence as living exponents of Christianity, those characterized as true students of Scripture, those who are prominently used by God in helping His people or reaching the unconverted.
All this, whilst not exactly an argument, now that we have clearly established the truth from Scripture, comes in as a confirmation, and is as we should expect it to be.
We are certain Scripture states things in a way that it desires the truth should be received. We would rather listen to the exposition of a disciple, like the apostles of old, “unlearned and ignorant,” but who is spiritual and godly, than to that of one who rests alone upon his scholarship and powers of intellect. A knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is most useful, but there are other things far more necessary and that is to be a true believer on the Lord Jesus and dependent on the Holy Spirit for the teaching and reception of the truth. Scholarship in the hands of such an one is of great value and the writer would be the last to undervalue it.
It is a comfort to approach the Scriptures with the feeling that it is written for the benefit and instruction not only of the learned and scholarly, but of the simple believer in Christ, among whom the learned and scholarly, if found, are happy.
Any such simple believer reading the Scriptures for the first time, untampered by twentieth century religious unbelief, would certainly rise from his task believing that God has warned the unbelieving sinner of the awful risks he runs, even of everlasting punishment, that is, of conscious existence for all eternity under the wrath of God.
And when it becomes necessary to carefully enquire into this question, to take nothing for granted, but go step by step through the teaching of Scripture on the subject, one can only rise from the inquiry without the shadow of a doubt as to the teaching of the Word of God on the subject.
The solemn teaching of Scripture is that the punishment of the unbeliever is eternal, that it is conscious, never-ending torment in the lake of fire. We bow to its teaching, and can only pray that writer and readers may be stirred up to more diligent whole-hearted zeal in the Gospel, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
If this meets the eye of an unbeliever, may he without a moment’s delay turn to the Lord and trust Him as the Saviour, who died on that cross of shame, that the way of life and salvation might be righteously made plain to “whosoever will.” What a glorious gospel!
But remember it is the Saviour who warned His hearers solemnly about hell.
Is He your Saviour on the Mercy Seat, or will He be your Judge at the Great White Throne? Will everlasting life or eternal punishment be your portion? I beseech you to answer these questions in God’s holy presence. You may be saved, and saved now.
“Christ Jesus… gave Himself a ransom for ALL ” (1 Tim. 2:6).
“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
“Behold, NOW is the accepted time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
HADES and Eternal Punishment
A J Pollock
[Click on this link to see the next installment in this series: Final Thoughts on A. J. Pollock’s “HADES and Eternal Punishment”]