Matt. xxv:46 is the great proof text of the doctrine of endless punishment: "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal."
1 That the popular view of this language is incorrect is evident, because those punished are those who have not been good to the poor. Only such are to suffer everlasting punishment. Endless life is the reward, and endless punishment the penalty of works, if this passage teaches the doctrine of endless punishment. Those receive that punishment who have not been kind to the poor.
2 God's punishments are remedial. All God's punishments are those of a Father, and must therefore be adapted to the improvement of his children. Heb. xii:5-11, "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons: for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not: Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." Prov. iii:11-12, "My son despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son of whom he delighteth." Lam. iii:31 -33. "For 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." See also Job v:17; Lev, xxvi; Psalms cxix:67,71,75; Jer. ii:19.
3 The word translated punishment means discipline, improvement. The word is kolasin. It is thus defined: Greenfield, "Chastisement, punishment." Hedericus, "The trimming of the luxuriant branches of a tree or vine to improve it and make it fruitful." Donnegan, "The act of clipping or pruning-restriction, restraint, reproof, check, chastisement." See Grotius, Liddell, and others. Says Max Muller, "Do we want to know what was uppermost in the minds of those who formed the word punishment, the Latin poena or punio, to punish, the root pu in Sanscrit, which means to cleanse, to purify, tells us that the Latin derivation was originally formed, not to express mere striking or torture, but cleansing, correcting, delivering form the stain of sin." That it had this meaniang in Greek usage we cite Plato: "For the natural or accidental evils of others, no one gets angry, or admonishes, or teaches or punishes (kolazei) them, but we pity those afflicted wiht such misfortunes. * * For if, 0 Socarates, you will consider what is the design of punishing (kolazein) the wicked, this of itself will show you that men think virtue something that may be acquired; for no one punishes (kolazlei) the wicked, looking to the past only, simply for the wrong he has done,—that is, no one does this thing who does not acflike a wild beast, desiring revenge, only without thought—hence he who seeks to punish (kolazein) with reason, does not punish for the sake of the past wrong deed, * * but for the sake of the future, that neither the man himself who is punished may do wrong again, nor any other who has seen him chastised. And he who entertains this thought, must believe that virtue may be taught, and he punishes (kolazei) from the purpose of deterring from wickedness."
4 These events have occurred. The events here described took place in this world within thirty years of the time when Jesus spoke. They are now past. In Matt. xxiv:3, the disciples asked our Lord when the then existing age would end. The word (aion) is unfortunately translated world. Had he meant world he would have employed/cosmos, the Greek word for world. After describing the particulars, he announced that they would all be fulfilled, and the aion end in that generation, before some of his auditors should die. If he was correct, the end came then. And this is demonstrated by a careful study of the entire discourse, running through Matt, xxiv and xxv. The disciples asked Jesus how they should know his coming and the end of the age. They did not inquire concerning the end of the actual world, as it is incorrectly translated, but age. This question Jesus answered by describing the signs so that they, his questioners, the disciples themselves, might perceive the approach of the end of the Jewish dispensation, (a/on). He speaks fifteen times in the discourse of his speedy coming,
(Matt. xxiv:3, 27, 30, 37, 39, 42, 46, 48, 50, and xxv:6, 10, 13, 19, 27, 31). He addresses those who shall be alive at his coming. Matt. xxiv:6. "Ye shall hear of wars, etc." 20, "Pray that your flight be not in the winter," 33, 34. "So likewise ye when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
This whole account is a parable describing the end of the Jewish aion, age, or economy, signalized by the destruction of Jerusalem, and the establishment of the new aion world, or age to come, that is the Christian dispensation. Now on the authority of Jesus himself, the aion then existing ended within a generation, namely, about A. D. 70. Hence those who were sent away into aionian punishment, or the punishment of that aion, were sent into a conditin corresponding in duration to the meaning of the word aion, \. e. agelasting. A punishment cannot be endless, when defined by an adjective derived form a noun describing an event, the end of which is distinctly stated to have come.
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