In Isa. xxxiii: 14, we read, "Who among you shall dwell with everlasting burnings?"
This language refers entirely to this life. The prophet had said (Isa. xxxi:9) that the Lord's "fire is in Zion and his furnace in Jerusalem," and he adds: "And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones."
When he asks who shall dwell amid these "everlasting burnings" he refers to those fires which he had spoken of as about to consume the land. Ezekiel describes them, xx:47.
"Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree; the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein."
Jeremiah agrees with the other prophets, xvii:27.
"But if ye will not hearken unto me, to hallow the Sabbath day and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched."
The "everlasting burnings" denote the temporal judgments about to come upon the Jewish people.
Out of more than five hundred occurrences of the word in the Old Testament more than four hundred denote limited duration, so that the great preponderance of the Old Testament usage fully agrees with the Greek classics.
Now if endless punishment awaits millions of the human race, and if it is denoted by this word, is it possible that only David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Malachi use the word to define punishment, in all less than a dozen times, while Job, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Solomon, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Hahum, Habbakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai and Zachariah never employed it thus? Such silence is criminal, on the popular hypothesis. These holy men should and would have made every sentence bristle with the word, and thus have borne the awful message to the soul with an emphasis that could neither be resisted or disputed. The fact that the word is so seldom, and by so few applied to punishment, and never in the Old Testament to punishment beyond death, demonstrates that it cannot mean endless.
The best critics of all creeds agree that endless punishment is not taught in the Old Testament, and if so, of course the world everlaslting cannot mean endless in the Old Testament, when aplied to punishment.
Says Milman" "The lawgiver (Moses) maintains a profound silence on that fundamental article, if not of political, at least of religious legislation—rewards and punishments in another life." Warburton: "In no one place of the Mosaic institutes is there the least mention of the rewards and punishments of another life." Paley, Jahn, Whately are to the same purport, and H. W. Beecher says, "if we only had the Old Testament we could not tell if there were any future punishment."
Three questions here press the mind with irresistible force, and they can only receive one answer. 1st, Had God intended endless punishment, would the Old Testament have failed to reveal it? 2d, If God does not announce it in the Old Testament, is it supposable that he has revealed it elsewhere? 3d, Would he for thousands of years conceal so awful a destiny from millions whom he had created an exposed to it? No child of God ought to be willing to impeach his Heavenly Father by withholding an indignant negative to these questions.
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