CAUSE OF THE SINNER'S DESTRUCTION
WHAT question does Peter ask regarding the wicked?
"What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God ?" 1 Peter 4:17.
What does the Bible say is the wages of sin?
"For the wages of sin is death." Romans 6:23. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezekiel 18:4. Die: "To pass from physical life; to suffer a total and irreparable loss of action of the vital functions; to expire; perish."—WEBSTER. The original Greek and Hebrew words for "death" and "die" are equally literal.
COMPLETENESS OF THE DESTRUCTION
What will be the character of this death?
"Who shall be punished with everlasting destructionl" 2 Thessa- lonians 1:9. Destroy: "To unbuild; to ruin the structure, organic existence, or condition of; to demolish; to abolish; to bring to naught; to annihilate."—WEBSTER, Greek, olethros, destruction.
What will befall those who do not repent?
"Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." Luke 13:3. "But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption." 2 Peter 2:12. Perish: "To be destroyed; to pass away; to come to an end; to be lost; to die."—WEBsTER. Greek, be destroyed (apollume).
To what are the wicked in their punishment compared?
"But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." Psalms 37:20. Consume: "To destroy the substance of, especially by fire; formerly and still figuratively used of any destructive or wasting process, as evaporation, decom- position, and disease."—WEBSTER. Hebrew, kalah, be completed, finished, con- sumed.
How does John the Baptist describe this destruction?
"He will ... gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matthew 3:11, 12. For whom was this fire originally prepared? "Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Matthew 25:41.
NOTE.—This fire is called "everlasting" (aionion, Greek, "age lasting") be- cause of the character of the work it does; just as it is called "unquenchable" (Greek, asbestos, "unquenchable," "unquenched") because it !cannot be put out, and not because it will not go out when it has done its work. "Eternal fire" reduced Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes. (Jude 9; 2 Peter 2:6.)
Will any part of the wicked be left?
"For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." Malachi 4:1.
What will then be their condition?
"They shall be as though they had not been." Obadiah 16. "As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more." Proverbs 10:25.
Where will the place of the wicked then be?
"For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be." Psalms 37:10.
After the body is destroyed, will not the soul live on in torment in hell?
"Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28.
NOTE.—God, who made soul and body, can destroy both; He nowhere tells us that the soul is immortal, indestructible, but says that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (See reading on page 496.)
The everlasting punishment—"everlasting destruction"—of the wicked is this destruction of soul and body in hell (Greek, Geenna [Gehenna]).
"Hell" in the New Testament is translated from three Greek words: Hades, 10 times. Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14. (Hades is also "grave" once, 1 Corinthians 15:55.) Geenna (Gehenna), 12 times. Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
Tartaroo, 1 time (the only occurrence in the Bible). 2 Peter 2:4. Hades (the lower world, place of the dead, the grave) is the equivalent of sheol. It is used in Acts 2:27, 31, to translate from Psalms 16:10. Tartaroo, describing the fall of Satan's rebel angels, is a verb, meaning "to cast down to Tartarus." This is a striking figure of speech, alluding to the Tartarus of Greek mythology, an abyss deeper than Hades, the prison of the Titans, who fought against the gods. Gehenna, the only other word for hell, is the Valley of Hinnom, the place outside Jerusalem for burning refuse, dead animals, and the bodies of crim- inals. Any such bodies if incompletely burned would be devoured by worms. So long as the fires were never quenched and the worms did not die, the result of being cast into Gehenna was utter destruction. The unquenched flames of hell, then—of Gehenna—which do not preserve, but consume, whatever they feed on, aptly picture what other texts describe as the utter destruction of the wicked in unquenchable fire.
WHERE, WHEN, AND How
Where will both righteous and wicked be recompensed?
"Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." Proverbs 11:31.
When will the wicked be punished?
"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." 2 Peter 3:7.
NOTE.—The present heavens and earth and sinners await the fires of the last day. The Greek for "perdition" is apoleia, "loss," "destruction."
What will be the result of the fires of the last day?
"Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." "The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." Verses 12, 10.
How does Christ say sin and sinners will be eliminated?
His angels . . . shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire." Matthew 13:41, 42.
When are the wicked dead to be raised to receive this final punishment?
"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." Revelation 20:5. Whence will come the fire that will destroy them? "And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." Verse 9.
NOTE.—This is called God's "strange act" and His "strange work"—the work of destruction. (Isaiah 28:21.) But by this means God will once and forever cleanse the universe of sin and all its sad results. Death itself will then be at an end—cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14.)
To what will this fire reduce the wicked?
"And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet." Malachi 4:3.
NOTE.—The wicked are to be utterly destroyed—consumed away into smoke, brought to ashes. Through sin they have forfeited the right to life and an immortal existence, and chosen the way of death and destruction. By their choice they have proved themselves worthless, like chaff, briers, thorns, etc. They will themselves have lost their opportunity to obtain eternal life, by the way in which they used their probationary time. Their destruction will, in fact, be an act of love and mercy on the part of God; for to perpetuate their lives would only be to perpetuate sin, sorrow, suffering, and misery. Ter- rible, therefore, as this judgment will be, there will, in consequence of it, be nothing of value lost—nothing lost worth saving. The experiment of sin will be over, and God's original plan of peopling the earth with a race of holy, happy beings will be carried out. (2 Peter 3:13.)
What is this final destruction of the wicked called? "Tbic ;c the d "path_" 10:14.
After the burning day, what will appear?
"We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2 Peter 3:13.
How will the righteous be recompensed in the earth?
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5. (See also Psalms 37:11, 29; Isaiah 65:17-25.) "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Matthew 13:43.
NOTE.—Satan and the wicked now have this world as their "place." In due time Christ will have it. He will cleanse it from sin and sinners, and restore it, that He may give it to the saints of the Most High for an everlasting possession. (See Daniel 7:18, 22, 27.)