Theories as to a Future State
L. C. BAKER: THE FIRE OF GODS ANGER
SIMPLE annihilationism has probably passed through all the
forms of which it is capable. It varies but in proportion to the materialism on
which it is ingrafted, or from which it springs. Of these, too, the most
materialistic are those that prevail most. They are the most self-consistent if
the most removed from Christianity; and thus the tendency here is rapidly
Restorationism, on the other hand, verges naturally to the opposite pole of a hyperspiritualism. Resurrection, upon which all is based for annihilationism, here tends to be slighted and displaced, if not, as in Swedenborgianism, denied altogether. Judgment upon sin, too, is here pared down to the minimum, and atonement loses all true significance. Quite true it is that Universalism began by insisting upon its efficacy for all, and that there are doubtless some who still occupy such a ground. But its untenableness soon makes itself felt, and Unitarianism is more rapidly reached by this road than by the former one.
It is no wonder, then, that a middle path should be sought between these two - a path which, in the nature of things, can only be found in affirming both of them with necessary limitations on either side. Mr. Henry Dunn was, as we have seen, in modern times, the leader in this direction. He has been since followed by others, who have perfected his scheme after their own fashion; and of these, the first and most respectable by far is Mr. LC. Baker, till lately a presbyterian minister, but who, on account of his persistent advocacy of his views, has been disowned by his denomination. In their defence , he publishes a monthly magazine, "Words of Reconciliation," and has embodied them in the book which we are now to examine.
The fundamental principles of his teaching are given in the preface, in which he insists upon "two fatal misconceptions" in the general faith of the Church.
"1. She has interpreted the Scripture-teaching concerning final judgment as relating chiefly to a remote assize to be held after a general resurrection of the dead. Whereas, Jesus was careful to teach His disciples that He would enter upon His office as Judge of the world before that generation passed away.
"2. She has therefore misconceived the place and meaning of resurrection in the divine economy, as a gracious provision for another life to those who must suffer the wages of sin under that judgment! That which was meant to be a boon, the purchase of a ransom given for all, has been perverted into an untold curse to all who have died unsaved in this life, - the prelude to an aggravated retribution and endless despair.
"This mistake has largely arisen from the attempt to fix a meaning upon the words of Christ concerning the wicked without a previous study of the Old Testament conceptions out of which this teaching grew, and upon which it was based."
The exaction of penalty in the intermediate state, and a redemptive resurrection, are the two pillars, therefore, of Mr. Bakers position. We shall reserve our remarks until we come to his arguments, merely desiring, by this anticipative statement (as he himself does), that we should be able to see from the beginning whither these are tending.
In beginning, then, with the Old Testament teaching, the "song of Moses" (Deut. xxxii.) is that in which he finds the first intimation of these truths. I shall concentrate in one his scattered comments, omitting nothing that touches the subject in hand, that we may have before us at once the whole argument.
The song "asserts the wickedness and ingratitude of the chosen people, and recounts their mercies and apostasies. Observe here (v. 17) that, behind the forms and forces of nature worshipped as gods, there were demoniac powers, the real recipients of this homage. They sacrificed unto devils.
"It declares the Lords abhorrence of their sins, their consequent rejection, and the calling out from the Gentiles of a new people (vv. 19-21). Their rejection, however, would not be final.
"It affirms that the Lords anger, which must burn against them on account of their sins, must burn also to the final destruction of this world-system under which this depravity in His people bad been developed. For a fire is kindled in Mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains (v. 22). Here occurs the first mention in Scripture of the fire of hell. It is represented as burning down to the regions of the dead, and to the very foundations of this natural order, as if it were the source of that corruption which had come upon His people.
"Here we meet with a principle of the divine judgments which cannot be overestimated: that which views the present cosmos, or natural system, as sharing in the responsibility for mans evil nature. As subject to vanity, and in bondage to corruption, it has put its yoke on its highest creature, and it is therefore bound over to the consuming fire of Gods judgments. It may seem to us irrational that accountability should attach in any way to the material system. But if the whole system is pervaded by living forces, - if it is the visible representative of things invisible, which, according to Col. i. 14, are living powers, it will not appear so strange that the searching fire of Gods anger should find evil intrenched at its very foundations, and that this present order and the powers that rule in it, with the devil, who is declared to be its prince (Jno xii. 31), should be involved in a common judgment. . . .
"The term fire stands for the concentrated energy of the dissolving forces of nature. It is a rapid consumer of created forms. But this devouring energy operates in slower ways. It is more or less resisted, and for a while baffled. And yet Scripture groups all the forms in which human lives are blighted and destroyed under this one head, and refers them to one agency. Our God is a consuming fire? And so we read vers. 23-25. . . .
In vers. 25-27, the song "brings to view an enemy and certain adversaries who have well-nigh brought Gods people to ruin, and who would have made an utter end of them, but whom Jehovah, for the love He bears them, and for the honour of His name, shall baffle and defeat. . . .
"The mystery of Gods people as thus inthralled is next referred to. And the times during which this mystery of iniquity should work, with the final issues of it, are declared to be in His own Power (v. 34). . . . He will judge His people, and turn toward them after they have been brought low and are convinced that the false gods can bring no help (vv. 36-38).
"And so the Lord proclaims Himself as their only Saviour, in that He alone is Lord of life and of death. His judgments must fall upon his people unto death. They must be handed over to the great Destroyer. And one generation after another must go down as captives unto His gloomy realms. In this, the triumph of their enemy over them seemed complete and irreversible. But nothing is too hard for a God who can heal as well as wound, who can make alive as well as kill, and out of whose hands none can fall (v 39). Here we have an early intimation of that grand truth which runs through the Bible and underlies its whole redemptive system. Our redeeming God can make alive from death. He is the God of resurrection. So that not even death, which holds of right His people captive, can annul or defeat His gracious designs toward them.
"Hence this song passes on to declare His sworn purpose to defeat and destroy all their enemies. . . . And so we have in grand outline a series of revenges upon all their enemies, human and diabolic.
"The English version translates the last clause of this verse (v. 42) from the beginning of revenges on the enemy. The Septuagint give the sense as above," - the "head or chief of the princes of the enemy." "And this is the meaning assigned to the word pereoth by Gesenius. . . .
"And so the song closes by calling upon the nations to join with Israel in their joy over this coming deliverance. That a triumph over other than mere human enemies of His people is referred to is manifest from the fact that the nations are summoned to rejoice with them."
I have quoted probably at superfluous length, emphasizing some portions which contain the stress of Mr. Bakers argument. After all, my readers may have difficulty in finding it. What is essential is simply supplied by himself. At least, he is like Mr. Dunn before him, listening for prophetic "whispers," which it is hard for other men to perceive.
It is plain that the gist of his argument is that the generations of Israel go down under Gods judgment to death, are judged there, and delivered by the mercy of God in a resurrection from the dead, the nations sharing in their blessing. As to the latter, if they are to be partakers in resurrection, it is only indicated in their rejoicing with His people; and this will scarcely do, for it is His mercy to these simply that they are called to rejoice in (v. 43). But as to Israel also, where is the resurrection of their generations of the dead declared? Why, nowhere but in this, that God says of Himself, "I kill and I make alive"! This where He is not speaking of mercy, but challenging any to deliver out of His hand! That the power of death and of life is in His hands, He declares, but where His purpose of bringing up in a resurrection of blessing the lost generations of the impenitent dead?
Look back to the chapters immediately preceding this: you will find the history of their rebellions and of their punishment predicted, and along with this Gods mercy in their final deliverance; but it is a very different picture from that which Mr. Baker draws for us. "And it shall come to pass, when all these things shall come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind" - not among the dead, but - "among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart and with all thy soul; that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee" (chap. xxx. 1-3).
Thus it is plain why the song, in which these prophecies culminate, says nothing of the impenitent dead, or of the dead at all. It is the nation as such that it is occupied with, and out of this the dead generations are dropped forever.
But is it not said that the fire of Gods wrath shall burn to the lowest hell, and consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains? Yes, certainly; but it is His wrath that does this, and there is no hint of mercy in the passage. Nor is it in connection with the enemies that this is threatened, but in connection with Israel themselves. And, while the earth will in the end be thus burned up, this is in Scripture rather associated with the judgment of ungodly men (2 Pet. iii. 7) than of angels. Its subjection to vanity is on account of its subjection to man (Rom. viii. 20), not of man to it, and thus it is delivered at the manifestation of the sons of God.
Moreover, "the enemy" throughout is a generic term, and there is not the least reason for applying it to Satan; and if the forty-second verse be translated, as many prefer, "the head of the princes of the enemy," it would still seem by the context that an earthly leader is spoken of, his fall showing the completeness of the deliverance.
In fact, there is not an atom of evidence for what Mr. Baker finds in this wondrous song. His proofs are read into it, not taken out of it. His wish is father to his thought. And this is the way in which Scripture is constantly perverted.
"It remains for us," he says, "now to see how these principles give tone to all subsequent psalm and prophecy." He then goes on to assure us that "death, bondage in sheol, is viewed in the Old Testament as a final vindication of Jehovahs righteousness, the supreme expression of His anger against sin." The idea of death, too, is "cessation of being" "But before resurrection, the dead, in the Hebrew conception, were not men who had passed into another form of being. They were dead; not absolutely extinct; otherwise they could not be resurrected. But their being was only the miserable consciousness of not being. . . . It was not, therefore, judgment after death that men were taught to fear, but judgment in death."
Scripture, however, says, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and AFTER death the judgment" (Heb. ix. 27).
He next, from the fact of Gods judgments being disciplinary and restorative this side the grave, raises the inquiry whether this principle of divine dealing does not reach beyond this sphere of temporal suffering. He takes from Moses song the idea of a deliverance from death. "And therefore the frequent promises of God to hear the cry of His imprisoned people, to loose their bonds, to plead their cause against the enemy (Mic. vii. 8, 9), and to bring the prisoners out of the pit wherein there is no water (Zech. ix. 11) must reach over to and include their bondage in death."
In neither of these cases is there the least warrant for such a view. But he says, "The words of Moses (Deut xxx. 4) seem to imply precisely this, - If any of thine be driven out into the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee." These "outmost parts of heaven" "imply precisely" sheol or hades, then, for Mr. Baker; but unfortunately for his view, the Medes who destroy the land of Babylon "come from a far country, from the end of heaven" (Isa. xiii. 5), exactly the same expression in the original. And in Deut. iv. 32, the people are bidden to "ask of the days that are past, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side (or end) of heaven to the other, whether there has been any such thing as this great thing." Mr. Baker is himself, therefore, not precise enough here. In fact, he is very careless. Nor will the quotation of Isa. 57:16 avail him more, as undoubtedly the Lord is speaking of His dealings with men on earth. The principle he is contending for is surely not to be established by such methods as these.
The next chapter is devoted to considering the "redemptive" character of the Lords judgment of His people as to which we have little to object, and none at all to the principle. Nor need it be contested that resurrection has the same character for the saint. On the other hand, to make the deliverance from Egypt "a primal type of Jehovahs redemption from sheol" is only to show how far ones prepossessions may destroy ones sobriety. Is it so the apostle uses this grand type in Corinthians? or does the wilderness-journey follow resurrection?
The same prepossession is shown when Mr. Baker would substitute the marginal "sons of death" for "those appointed to die," in Ps. lxxix. 11, cii. 20, and would here also read in a bringing up of the dead. Such assertions should be rebuked for they show gross carelessness, while misleading with an appearance of knowledge. If our author will use his concordance, he will find that "he shall surely die" (i Sam. xx. 31) is, in the margin, "he is the son of death;" that in chap. xxvi. i6, "ye are worthy to die," is similarly "ye are Sons of death," and similarly in 2 Sam. xii. 5 and I Kings ii. 26. The Hebrew expression never has the meaning Mr. Baker attaches to it.
This is not reassuring as to the trustworthiness of a guide who will have us "not accept any interpretation of such expressions in the Psalms and Prophets" - he has quoted some real passages speaking of resurrection, figurative or literal, as Isa. xxv. 8; Hos. xiii. 14; Ps. xlix. 15; lxxxviii. 10-12 - which does not view them as looking forward (1) to the Messiahs victory over death, (2) to the rescue of His people from its bondage, and (3) to an ultimate recovery of the generations of mankind who have gone down as prisoners into its realm."
For the last of these applications, Mr. Baker has not given as yet one solitary proof. Assumption takes the place of argument all through. And here we are amidst those "Old-Testament conceptions," which are to be the key to the words of the New hereafter. Here is (such as it is) his argument
"Bondage in Egypt, captivity in Babylon, and among all nations stands out, no doubt, on the foreground of such passages. There is also a hidden reference to the spiritual darkness and bondage into which the people had fallen by reason of their sins, and a promise of quickening from this spiritual death. BUT the deliverance promised would be no message of mercy to the men to whom it was spoken, it would not meet the case, it would not execute the judgment written against all Gods enemies, (!) nor vindicate the honour of His name, did not these prophets look forward to the ransom from sheol of these very generations of men whom the wrath of their enemies and the justice of God had consigned to its gloomy prison."
Were, then, the messages of the prophets to be messages of mercy unconditionally to all, and even to those upon whom they denounced judgment? That is a strange principle of interpretation surely. The judgment of Gods enemies and the honour of His name, moreover, require this! In what way, then? What imperious necessity compels us to stretch the prophecies beyond their plain meaning into predictions of that which is no where plainly announced?
And how would it affect Mr. Bakers principle of interpretation to put against it the canon of the apostle of the circumcision; "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory" (rightly, "glories") "which should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven" (1 Pet. i. 10-12).Here certainly the apostle shows us (i) that the New Testament is clearer than the old; (2) that the glories beyond were not clear even to the prophets that wrote of them. How much less, then, could the Israelites in general make these strange and recondite applications of them, if which we are only hearing now through Mr. Baker?
But let us look at the sample instances which he gives us: -
"The sixty-eighth psalm is a glorious anticipation of this deliverance by One who ascends on high, leading captivity captive, and obtaining gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them (v. 18). He that is our God is the God of salvation, and unto God the Lord belong the issues of death. (The outgoings of death, - Young.) This Lord over death shall wound the head of His enemies, and bring again His people from Bashan, and from the depths of the sea (vv. 21, 22). Bashan was a region on the other side of Jordan - type of death. (!)"
So far, the direct proof, such as it is. But this evidently, if we allow it, does not touch the proper subject of Mr. Bakers book. But this must be accomplished: here is the argument, -
"That deliverance is more than that of an elect remnant, or even of the nation of Israel, is clear from the scope of the whole psalm, which celebrates a salvation for which all the kingdoms of the earth are invited to sing praises unto God (v. 32)." That is, after prophesying the salvation and blessing of Israel, the Psalmist says, "Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord:" and that proves "an ultimate recovery of the generations of mankind who have gone down as prisoners into the realm of death." (!)
If this has not quite proved it for you, reader, Mr. Baker has another and yet another witness: -
"Ps. cxlii. is a resurrection-psalm, to be understood first of the Messiah, but also of those in whose behalf He went down to death. The writer expresses his confidence that while no man sought after his soul (v. 4, margin), the Lord would be his portion in the land of the living, and bring out his soul from prison."
That is the second witness; here is the third: -
"In Ps. cxliii. we hear the same complaint, - "For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath bruised my life to the earth; he caused me to dwell in dark places, as the dead of old (v. 3 - Youngs translation). We have the cry for deliverance, - Hear me speedily, O Lord; my spirit faileth; hide not Thy face from me, for I am become like unto them that go down into the pit (v. 7, margin). Cause me to hear Thy loving kindness in the morning (the time of awakening), for in Thee do I trust. And then we have the confident expectation - For Thy names sake, O Lord, Thou wilt quicken me; in Thy righteousness Thou wilt bring my soul out of distress. In Thy loving-kindness Thou wilt cut off mine enemies, and wilt destroy all the adversaries of my soul; for I am Thy servant" (vv. 11, 12, see Youngs and Conants versions).
Now we have a fourth: -
"Ps. cxvi. records a similar experience: Compassed me with the cords of death, and the straits of sheol have found me; distress and sorrow I find, and in the name of the Lord I call; I pray Thee, O Lord, deliver my soul -for Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, my feet from overthrowing. I walk habitually before the Lord in the land of the living (vv. 3-9, - Young). Whatever application these words may have to release from spiritual death, ver. 15 makes it clear that the ultimate deliverance in view is from death in sheol. For this must be the death of His saints which remains precious in the eyes of the Lord, and rescue from this the reason of the thanksgiving, "Thou hast loosed my bonds" (v. 16)."
This closes the testimony of the Psalms, as Mr. Baker presents it. I have given it in full, and leave it to make its due impression. I am persuaded that with any sober mind it will be more convincing than comments of my own would be. Had I simply put into my own words these arguments of his, it might have been reasonably doubted whether I could have represented them aright. But we have yet to see what he can produce from the prophets.
"Such a deliverance is proclaimed in Isa. xxvi. 14-19, a passage which speaks plainly of resurrection from death, as even rationalistic interpreters admit. The prophet had just declared that the judgments by which Jehovah would restore His people and bless all nations would be carried on to this climax, - "He will swallow up death in victory (chap. xxv. 8). A careful reading of the whole of the magnificent prophecy (chaps. xxv.-xxvii.), shows that there is before the writers mind the burden of woes under which not only Israel, but all the inhabitants of the earth, suffer. And the deliverance foreseen is as wide as the misery. And yet it comes in the way of judgments (chap. xxvi. 8). Only in this way will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (v. 9). If favour be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness (v. 10). Therefore Jehovahs hand must be lifted up against him in judgment. The fire of His enemies must devour them (v. 11). They must go down to death. Their condition is thus described: Dead, they shall not live; Rephaim (shades), they shall not rise: therefore Thou hast visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish (v. 14)."
Certainly no destruction would seem more complete and final than this; it is the very text claimed as most decisive by those who deny the resurrection of the unjust. But the truth is, that the prophet is only speaking of the Gentile "lords," and as lords. "O Lord our God, other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us, but by Thee only will we make mention of Thy name" (v. 13). Indeed the question may well be raised whether they are not the idols of the heathen that are spoken of here, as Mr. Birks takes it. The last clause of the thirteenth verse - "by Thee only" - seems to require this, and it makes the non-resurrection spoken of in what follows easy.
However, taking the usual application, it is plainly only Israels "lords" that pass away and come up no more, and this language shows that the prophet is by no means speaking of men at large who are to "learn righteousness" in death and come up in resurrection. The ninth verse is quite distinct that when Gods "judgments are in the earth," (not in sheol, or the death-state,) the inhabitants of the world, - that is, the living, not the dead, will learn righteousness.
But Mr. Baker goes on: -
"This removal of all the ends of the earth (that is, of its inhabitants into sheol. The italics in the English version obscure the sense,) had enlarged the nation of Israel, - that is, it had given it wide scope for the accomplishment of its mission (v. 15). At the same time, it had compelled these banished ones to cry in their trouble unto the Lord for relief (v. 16)."
The rendering and application are certainly ingenious here. The omission of the preposition, not uncommon in Hebrew, and the change of person in the seventeenth from the sixteenth verse, again not at all uncommon in the prophets, unite to give plausibility to an interpretation otherwise extravagant enough. Yet Mr. Baker himself cannot show that we are in the least necessitated to adopt it. Why on his own view of the matter, "the ends of the earth"? The expression could naturally apply to people beyond the countries in which were the nations previously named and addressed as hostile to them. Why, then, should judgment be specially leveled against these? And why their removal be connected with the enlargement of Israel? Of its "mission" nothing is yet said.
On the other hand, applying it in the usual way to Israel all through, there is simple consistency and truthfulness. It is notorious enough that they have been removed to the ends of the earth. It is natural enough to mention this when the prophet is just providing to predict their penitent confession. In this very dispersion of theirs they have grown to a multitude, and in that dispersion will their hearts be turned to God (Deut. xxx. 1-3). Certainly, then, Mr. Baker must give us some better reason than it appears he can do for such an application as he proposes.
He goes on to speak of Israels mission, and of their failure in it.
"And then comes the announcement of redemption for Israel, whose mission had ended in failure, and for mankind through resurrection. Thy dead men shall live, my dead body they shall arise. The Lord here asserts His property in them, foreshadowing His identification with them in Christ, who went down to death with and for them. The ransom from death of His people, the first-fruits, should be as dew upon the dust of the earth in which all the dead lie buried. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs (Heb. lights, i.e., vivifying dew). And the land of the Rephaim thou wilt cause to fall (s. 19). The verb is the same as at the close of ver. 18. Hence Young gives it a similar rendering.
"The idea is, that while the inhabitants of the world had not fallen before Israel and Israels Lord, yet, as captives in sheol, they should be forced to confess His name. The resurrection grace and power which should some day reach Israel would finally subdue and rescue them. This deliverance, however, could only be in the way of judgment: and hence Jehovah invites His people to shelter themselves from the coming storm of His indignation, which should beat upon the earths inhabitants, the issue of which shall be that the earth should disclose her blood, and no more cover her slain."
The error here is in the bringing in of others beside Israel, who are really seen as brought up from the dead upon their penitent return to God. Vers. 16-18 give their confession; ver. 19, the answer of God in their national resurrection. They do not repent or confess in sheol. That they do, or that any do, this is what Mr. Baker should have first proved. He adds in a note as to ver. 19: "The English version reads, And the earth shall cast out the dead. The force of the Hebrew verb and the collocation of the words are such that either rendering is admissible." And this being so, it ought to be plain that the common translation is the right one. Taking his own, it could only speak of victory over the dead, which the connection with the previous verse, if real, would confirm. "Neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen" is not expressive of any spiritual change, and when in the twentieth verse the Lord summons Israel to enter into her chambers, and hide herself till His indignation be overpast, it is because He comes "to punish," not the dead, but "the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity."
Nothing is here said of restoration, except for Israel, and for her it is as from the dead, according to a simple but strong figure, frequently used. How much must Mr. Baker import into this to make it yield the meaning for which he contends!
So in the opening of the next chapter: while it is true that "Leviathan" represents the power of Satan, it is to Israel, and through them to the nations of the earth, that the deliverance is. There is no disciplinary judgment and deliverance of those gone down to the grave, save in the case of Israel, where the context always makes plain that the language is figurative. Mr. Baker on his side has, in order to make good his meaning, and to see in the inhabitants of the world the tenants of hades, to make figurative whatever stands in his way. Thus the "perishing in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt," are alike "seen to be typical of victims of a real and lasting captivity in the land of death. The people robbed and spoiled, snared in holes, hid in prison-houses, a prey whom none delivereth, a spoil, of whom none saith, restore (Isa. xlii. 22), are the people that are bound in the prison-house of death." And so a promise of restoration is easily found for them.
If we say that these promises apply to Israel, and their restoration from spiritual and national bondage, Mr. Baker is anxious to be understood not to deny this (p. 54). But, he contends, we must not limit them to this. "For the men to whom they were made are long since dead. They never realized the promised salvation. They died without the sight. " Doubtless, if our author could show that the promise of salvation was made to all the nation irrespective of faith, the argument would be unassailable: the pledged mercy could not fail. But where will he turn to prove it? The very opposite is plainly to be proved.
"Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect," says the apostle. "For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. ix. 6-8). How simply do these words refute Mr. Bakers whole argument! "For the promise that he should be the heir of the world," he says elsewhere, "was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith" (chap. iv. I3). And again, "Know ye, therefore, that they which be of faith. the same are the children of Abraham. . So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful" - or believing "Abraham" (Gal. iii. 7, 9). And once more, "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, though the number of the children be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" (Ro. ix. 27).
Mr. Baker does not seem able to accept this witness. Or shall we say that, so great are his prepossessions, he does not see it? It is needless, then, to look at the other texts he brings forward, the nature of their testimony being precisely similar. Not a scripture that he quotes but may be otherwise interpreted; and he even himself admits this.*
*The application by Matthew of Jer. xxxi 15 to Herods murder of the children (chap. ii. 17) is shown by the formula of quotation to be only an application, and the promise which follows is not necessarily therefore applicable. Rachel manifestly did then weep for her children: it does not follow that in the prophecy the "land of the enemy" must be the land of death, as our author asserts. The context refuses this (comp. v. 8).
He now takes up the subject of "unquenchable fire," as the Old Testament speaks of it. He quotes the usual passages, and remarks, "It is manifest that Gods consuming anger against men and nations is everywhere represented as an unquenchable fire, and its work as a work of destruction and death. These denunciations do not carry with them the idea of torment beyond death. They do not exclude it. But retribution beyond the grave is never in view in the Old Testament, only so far as captivity in sheol is such a retribution. . . . But one thing is made clear. This destruction in death is not final extinction. The hope of resurrection, of ransom from this captivity, we have seen gleaming all along these Old-Testament pages."
So far, then, as the Old Testament is concerned, saint and sinner beyond this present life are very equally treated. All descend unto death alike; and there is no torment for the sinner any more than for the saint. The "fire" that "goeth before Him and burneth up His enemies on every side," burns up, too, Gods people no less certainly. "War, famine, pestilence, death." says Mr. Baker, "all destructive agencies are included in it." And if for the righteous there is a promise of deliverance, there is as real a hope for the wicked also. There is no "torment" revealed for the one in hades more than for the other! Whatever is distinctive, then, must be in the temporal calamities afflicting men on earth. Strange it is that the writer of Ecclesiastes had not discovered this (chap. vii. 15; viii. 14; ix. 2,3), while the verdict of Jobs friends was exactly right. And yet it is not upon earth where Gods strokes come on men, but in tormentless hades that the mass of men repent! And, moreover, the fire of Gods anger is nevertheless denounced only on His "enemies"!
However, this is only the view of the Old Testament; another thing may be in fact the truth; to discover which, we must now go on to consider with Mr. Baker the teaching of the New Testament.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
We first come to the Baptists words, in which, according to Mr. Baker, the ax is laid at the root of the tree of the old man in order for the "God of resurrection to come in and work out His salvation for man upon a new basis, and in the power of a new life." The baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire he takes, with the burning up of the chaff in unquenchable fire, as part of the, same salvation-work. Can the endurance of Gods wrath, then, do in hades (what it cannot here) the work of the Holy Ghost? Are men born again there, but not of the Spirit? Or does the work of the Spirit go on in hades? This is a dream of Mr. Bakers own, scarcely needing to be seriously discussed here. In the failure of more positive texts it could scarcely be convincing even to himself.
Starting from this, however, he goes on to identify this unquenchable fire with eternal fire and the fire of hell, or gehenna, and of course to locate this latter in hades also. As usual, he takes Isa. lxvi. as showing that Mark ix. cannot imply eternal torment, and especially closing as it does with vers. 49 and 50. "The most that could possibly be drawn from it," he says, "would be the destruction in the fire of those who will not submit to this sacrifice of self. But even this inference is made to be an uncertain one by a comparison of this fire, to which every one must be subjected, to salt, the effect of which is to preserve." We have already discussed the whole matter (pp. 310-319).
He then takes the punishment of the rich man in hades as identifying this with gehenna. It is clearly not the case. Yet in passing to the question, "What punishment do these terms describe?" he answers, "We have no doubt that the one idea in which they all unite is that of complete destruction"! "Eternal fire is the one term which comprehends all those devouring forces which destroy man from off this strange heritage of creation of which God made him the heir and lord, and quench in him the light of life; and gehenna is the maw of these whirling forces down into whose vortex man disappears at death."
This complete destruction, however, he decides, is not annihilation; the continuity of the being of the wicked is somehow preserved. "So constant is the use of these terms that we are obliged to regard them as involving either the extinction of mans existence, or his destruction qua homo, - that is, of his being as a man." He thinks that as death disembodies the soul, so in gehenna the destruction of the soul may leave the spirit entirely naked.
So that it would seem that in the case of the resurrection of the unjust there must be a resurrection of the soul as well as of the body! For them, also, judgment must be in death, and not "after" it, and as introduced to it by a "resurrection of judgment." On the other hand, Scripture is clear that the reckoning with men is not when they die. There is a fixed future "time of the dead to be judged" (Rev. xi. 18); and Christ "shall judge the living and the dead" (2 Tim. iv. i), not have been and ever is judging them. So all the New Testament, from first to last. "As many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law . . . in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Rom. ii 12, 16).
Again, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city" (Matt. x. 15); "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you;" - "for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you" (Matt. Xi. 22, 24).
The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." (Jude 6). And "The Lord cometh to execute judgment upon all" (vv. 14, 15).
"The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day" (Jno. xii. 48).
"Who shall give account unto Him that is ready to judge the living and the dead" (1 Pet. iv. 5).
Some of these texts Mr. Baker seeks to explain elsewhere from his own point of view; others I cannot find that he has noticed. But they are all decisively against him. If Sodom and Gomorrah, Tyre and Sidon, and even the apostate angels, still await their judgment, - if the sinners that had crept into the professing church in Judes day were to receive it at the coming of the Lord - if Christ is Himself (and because He is Son of Man - Jno. v. 27) the appointed Judge of all, how impossible to believe in this judgment as one entered upon by all at death: therefore by Sodom and all the sinners before the present dispensation when as yet there was no Son of Man; or by any before that coming of His to judgment, which is manifestly future yet. "The time of the dead to be judged" he himself admits to be future, but thinks it refers to the reward of the righteous simply; but this is never called their judgment, and "into judgment," the Lord positively assures us, he that heareth His words, and believeth on Him that sent Him, shall never come. (Jno. V. 24, - R. V)
What has Mr. Baker to bring forward against this general positive language of Scripture? This, that when the Lord bids us cut off foot or hand rather than go with two hands or two feet into hell-fire, He must speak of the present (not a future) resurrection body! That gehenna as a present fact "is certified by James in his epistle (iii. 6), where he speaks of the tongue as now set on fire of hell (gehenna). And that the casting into hell is not a remote but an immediate punishment, is made as plain as it can be, by the plainest of all passages that refer to it - the parable of the rich man and Lazarus"!
Now, the single fact that is made plain by it in this connection is, that there is retribution in the death-state; and that is at once and always has been admitted. It is no new discovery of Mr. Bakers. But hades (which is here the word for "hell ") is not gehenna nevertheless, nor does it include it.
"Gehenna," says Mr. Baker, "is the maw of these whirling forces down into whose vortex man disappears at death." "Fear not them which kill the body," says the Lord, "but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell" (gehenna). I would ask Mr. Baker, Does the body of the righteous perish in a different way from that of the wicked? or in what sense does God destroy the body of the wicked in gehenna, and not that of the righteous? Or are the righteous dead partly in gehenna and partly not? It would certainly be a new discovery (as it would seem of necessity Mr. Bakers doctrine), that the righteous dead are half in hell. Happily for them, it is a half that does not feel!
But then, as to the body, this is the same with the wicked; so what becomes of our Saviours words "both body and soul?" What becomes of "who, after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell," when the body is in hell by the mere fact of death?
On the other hand, by the very fact that God destroys both body and soul in hell, is it not plain that resurrection has taken place in order that they may be there together?
Now, the rich man is not body and soul in hell; resurrection confessedly has not taken place; the day of judgment is not come, and he has brethren upon earth who may yet be reached and saved. Hades and gehenna are not the same.
But, says Mr. Baker, -
"There is not the slightest warrant for the assumption that, when Jesus urges men to cut off a hand or a foot, if need be, rather than having two hands or two feet, the whole body should be cast into hell, He means, not the present body, but a resurrection body of the far distant future. His words evidently refer to a now-impending loss of this present embodied life in a present gehenna."
Wonderful reasoning, certainly! So, then, when the Lord speaks in this self-same passage of entering into life maimed or halt or with one eye, He must with equal certainty be speaking of this "present embodied life," and not at all of resurrection ! And this is quite indubitable, for how could a resurrection-body be maimed or halt, or with one eye!
And yet there are difficulties; for if we enter life at death, when the body drops, how can we speak of entering it even with one eye?
It is hard to speak seriously of Mr. Bakers argument: all the more, perhaps, that it is so satisfactory to himself. Surely he ought to see that if gehenna be just the maw of the natural destructive forces, the body at least disappears into it at death; and that when the Lord says (Matt. v. 29). "It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell," He is not speaking of something which happens at any rate at death, and which no one could escape by any plucking out of the eye, or cutting off of a limb at all.
As for the final argument that gehenna is certified as a present fact by James expression as to the tongue as "set on fire of hell," it would seem scarcely serious, and yet we must suppose it is. But does he take this for a literal truth, or an energetic figure of speech? I should have thought the latter. The "of," of course, is "by," as the R. V. translates, and "hell" stands by metonymy for the incorrigible evil which necessitates it. The tongue is an unruly evil, he says: no one can tame it.. Just for such unruly evil is hell designed. Setting on fire the course of nature, this fire in the tongue seems communicated to it from that which is worst in kind - the evil for which nothing but hell suffices.
Thus Mr. Bakers argument collapses: indeed, it might seem scarcely worth while replying to it did we not know that gossamer-webs like these hold captive many minds with chains like adamant. The thinner a bubble is, the brighter it shines; and blown with our own breath, the light fabric floats to admiration. But let us go on still with our author.
The next chapter, in which he labours to show that "eternal fire" - which means for him fire that is distinctly not eternal - is "a fact of science, as well as of Scripture." This is to be proved with the help of Herbert Spencer and the doctrine of the "survival of the fittest." " Fire stands in Scripture," he says, "as the representative of all the death-dealing forces of nature." And the forces of nature he conceives to be "closely identified, if not identical, with" angelic powers. "It is in their agency that we find the proper explanation of the angels which attend the administration of the Son of Man. They gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and cast them into a furnace of fire, " etc., etc.
There is no need, surely, to follow out all this. But it needs to be said that, according to Mr. Baker, the destructive forces are the devil and his angels, that the whole world has been rescued from their grasp, though to fall back into it again, save where the power of eternal life prevails, and that "the eternal fire, which is the concrete expression of all these devouring agencies of nature, must finally consume them all in its own bosom. For we read that it is prepared for the devil and his angels. "
We should have thought this a difficulty rather, but difficulties only display the resources of great minds. Still, we confess that Mr. Baker has not solved them for us. He is very anxious to tell us, on the one hand, that in these same destructive forces "God is seen as a consuming fire " (p. 107), and yet they are "evil powers," - nay, the devil and his angels. God and the devil are made to be in complete accord, although in the end the destructive forces are, it seems, to destroy, and were "prepared" for the destruction of the destructive forces; Satan is to commit suicide, I suppose.
Our author now goes on to the judgment of the "goats" in Matt. xxv. Much of his argument here does not at all affect us, and much of it has been already fully answered (pp. 355 - 368). We believe, as he does, that it is not a judgment of risen men, but of men yet alive upon the earth. We believe, moreover that it is not a judgment of all that have ever lived, but of those of a certain class and time only, viz.. the nations, or Gentiles, at the appearing of the Lord. Here, indeed, we are in decided opposition to Mr. Bakers views who takes it to be a judgment going on secretly all through the present period, though it become in the end manifest. For the proof of this, he would refer us to the old argument from our Lords words, that "this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled." He is aware of "the efforts made to evade the force of this declaration," but does not vouchsafe any serious examination. So we are to believe that the Son of Man is come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, and has sat down on the throne of His glory, and before Him all the nations have been gathered, and the rest of the scene is being enacted all the time! Certainly no book whatever is treated as men treat Scripture. By the same rule the sign of the Son of Man has appeared in heaven, all the tribes of the earth mourning and seeing the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven in power and great glory (chap. xxiv. 30) By this marvelous method of interpretation we are only perplexed to know why, if men say Christ is here or He is there, we may not as well believe it. Certainly in the secret chambers He would seem to be. Nor do we know how it could be said that "as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (chap. xxiv. 23-27).
However, it is all plain to Mr. Baker, and the angels cause him no difficulty, though how they have gathered (?) or are gathering (?) the elect with a great sound of a trumpet, he has never explained. Perhaps it is all the scientific trumpeting about natural forces that has been going on so vigorously of late; or, at least, we would commend this to Mr. Baker as a possible explanation, though the gathering of the elect by this means does not yet look probable.
He will complain, perhaps, that we are answering him rather with sarcasm than argument. We answer, that just to carry out his own principles of interpretation is indeed the bitterest sarcasm upon them. He must not blame us for this. There are certainly systems farther from orthodoxy than is his own upon this subject, but it may be questioned if there are any that more completely set aside Scripture as to it.
But we pass on, and may take the next three chapters together, as the "resurrection of judgment" is really the subject of all. Mr. Baker contends that this phrase "expresses a characteristic quality by which this resurrection is distinguished from the resurrection of life," implying a "lower order of being in which the wicked dead come forth." "They are invested again with human bodies; and as these cannot be of the heavenly order, they MUST BE of the earthy. The bodies, therefore, MUST BE mortal and corruptible."
Mr. Baker speaks with decision; but decision does not always decide. Winer, who has written a pretty large volume of New Testament grammar, gives in his eighth edition, with reference to these expressions, "resurrection of life," "resurrection of judgment," " resurrection to life," "to judgment," as equivalent terms; and calls the genitive here "the genitive of destination." He brings forward many examples of this use. Certainly, Scripture, in a passage very familiar to our author, speaks of the righteous going away into life eternal" (Matt. xxv. 46). And although this is not resurrection, it is equivalent. There are many similar texts which speak of entering into life.
Then our author allows that the resurrection of Rev. xx. 12-15 is the "resurrection of judgment;" yet we find there no thought of judgment as expressed in the resurrection, but rather of its following it: "And death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to his works."
I know well that Mr. Baker believes this judgment following to be of works done after resurrection, in a possibly long dispensation of trial, which, in defiance of the plain sense of the passage, he would insert into it. He can, find nowhere that the resurrection of the wicked embodies the discriminative judgment of the last day.
But he thinks that as to the righteous, he has found the announcement of the principle in 2 Cor. v. 10. He reads it, "For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things through the body, according to what he hath done, whether good or bad;" and remarks that "here it is implied that the future bodies of saints will gather up and perpetuate the fruits of previous character."
But I venture to say Mr. Bakers translation will find no advocacy among the critics. "The things through the body" - to use his language - are connected together, as every Greek scholar must know, and mean the things done by its instrumentality; not that we "receive through the body the things done," - a very different thing indeed. The R. V. gives accordingly, "That each one may receive the things done in the body."
The congruity of thought is as much against our author as is the plain rendering of the Greek. For we are to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive the things in question. But how do we appear there? Disembodied? to receive embodiment according to the issue of the trial? No, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor. xv. 52). "We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (or precede) them which are asleep, for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first; than we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess. iv. 15-17).
Every way, Mr. Bakers view is disowned by Scripture. His own witnesses testify against him.
He allows, indeed, that the "resurrection of the unjust introduces them to judgment," but insists "that no where do the views of Christians need broadening more than in their notions of judgment. Our theology has but little use for this word save in its narrow, legal, and technical sense. But in Scripture, this represents but a small part of the divine work of judgment which is a benevolent as well as a judicial administration, and one for which the nations were to be glad." "So the unjust, in resurrection, continue under judgment. But as this brings to men now corrective discipline, we may infer that this will be its character and issue in the life to come."
A large inference indeed! We may as suitably "infer" that when the apostle says, "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. vi. 2), he means that it always will be that! True, we have not supposed so hitherto, but Mr. Baker would have us re-read such passages under the interpretation of his new theory. Yet he allows that at some time there is to be a "second death," for which he discerns, moreover, no resurrection. Here it would not be safe to infer the hereafter from the now, and we must plainly, therefore, limit the "always" accordingly. But now, if you begin to limit, you will perhaps find it hard to know where the limit is to be put. perhaps, then, the "now" is strictly what it appears, and the "now is the day of salvation" means, after all, that there is no future day.
In fact, inference, theory, conjecture, reign and revel in Mr. Bakers pages; no where more so than in those we are reviewing now. He skims over Scripture, reads between the lines, forces the words apart to make room for his conjectures, strangely mixes authoritative speech with confessed uncertainties; the premises are not sure, but the result conclusive. And by dint of thoroughly mixing up the living and the dead, the nations of the millennial earth with the past and present generations of unsaved men, the judgment of the world in the age to come with the judgment of the wicked dead, he confuses first of all himself, and then possibly some of his readers. But they have only to examine the arguments by the adduced proof-texts, to find a plain road out of the maze.
For instance, take those of his chapter on "The Judge of quick and dead." His object is, to show the merciful side of judgment on which he dwells, and that it extends to the dead after their resurrection in the world to come. What are the texts by which this is to be made good? They are here: -
"And He charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is He which is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead" (Acts x. 42).
"For to this end Christ both died and rose and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living" (Ro xiv 9).
A reference again to Matt. xxv. 31-46 and Jno. v. 29.
Far more of promise than threat in the announcement that He shall judge the world in righteousness (Ps. xcvi., xcviii.; Isa. xi.; Jer. xxiii.)!
The reason for judgment being in the hands of the Son, "that all men may honor the Son even as they honor the Father" (Jno. v. 23).
Christ about to judge the world in righteousness (Acts xvii. 31).
About to judge the quick and dead (2 Tim. iv. 1).
Ready to judge the quick and dead (1 Pet. iv. 5).
"The time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (iv. 17).
Reference to 1 Pet. iii. l9, 20, and iv. 6 (spirits in prison, and preaching to the dead).
These texts are mostly simple enough. The argument is mostly imported from elsewhere. The texts which speak of Christ as "about" to judge show that He has already assumed the office; and we are not "by any means sure that the judgment of the dead is wholly future" in view of the last texts in the list! The judgment is, of course, largely "benevolent," because His judgment of the world in Ps; xcvi., etc., is! And, beside, the dead are raised by Him that all - even the wicked - may honour the Son as they honour the Father!
But we too believe that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow; and so we have said elsewhere.
It would not be profitable, plainly, to follow further these fine-spun reasonings. Let us proceed to the examination of Rev. xx. 11 - xxi. 5, to which Mr. Baker devotes the next chapter.
Now, we agree with him that the judgment of the dead here is not a general one of righteous and wicked all in one. We agree that the saints are raised in the first resurrection - a wholly distinct company - and a thousand years before the end as depicted here; and that this is the judgment of the "rest of the dead" who did not rise with them - the wicked only.
But Mr. Baker would leave out, with the Sinaitic MS. and the Syriac version, the fifth verse of this chapter, and demurs to the statement that "the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were finished." Not an editor of the Greek text agrees with him, nor raises even a, doubt with regard to it, not even Tischendorf, well known for his attachment to the Sinaitic MS., his own discovery. But Mr. Baker is not disconcerted by this. He has his own reasons: for, he says, -
"It certainly harmonizes better with all we have learned (?) from the study of the Old Testament concerning Gods purpose to redeem mankind from death through the resurrection, to suppose that the times of the kingdom here referred to as the reign of the saints with Christ, are, throughout, times of resurrection. The various orders of mankind would then be raised, not all at once, but as each class was fitted for it."
Precisely. The text as it stands is a felt difficulty; for if he who died yesterday is to be raised today, and along with him the one who has been millennia under judgment, it does seem strange that the purposes of this disciplinary process should be equally served by a day under it as by centuries. But if the text can be dismissed, the gloss, though without a text, may be substituted.
And there is need; for he allows that "no other passage in the Bible seems to militate against" his "view so strongly as the one now before us." But he does not despair. "We have already indicated, however, the way by which it may be brought into harmony with this primary truth. We have simply to regard it as presenting in a pictorial way the final results of that age, or of those ages, of trial and judgment through which the nations are to be conducted by Christ and His risen saints, and to which they shall be introduced through a resurrection from the dead.
Certainly one would not, without help from Mr. Baker, think of a dispensation passing while the heavens and the earth were fleeing away from the face of Him that sits upon the throne! And that they are all "dead" who stand there adds considerably to the difficulty. It certainly looks as if all dispensations were at an end. But then we have, only got to see it differently, as Mr. Baker tells us!
His real argument is that, take it for what it evidently seems to be, it manifestly contradicts his whole system. Not seeing the object of a discriminative "day of judgment," when all that is now hidden shall be brought to light, and award given strictly according to works, he naturally finds it in conflict with the general sentence of guilt which lies against all the unsaved already, and with death as the wages of sin, which as the "dead," these have already endured; We have long since looked at all this, though in other connections, and have seen that there is no contradiction at all in it, but completest harmony. The argument, therefore, falls to the ground. The view he combats does not "make this trial-scene to be the raising of an issue which was settled long before, the re-enactment of a sentence already passed and of a penalty already inflicted." The tenor of Scripture requires no protraction, then, of the period represented in the vision.
Our author refers to the analogy of Dan vii. as sustaining his view. There is really no analogy such as he supposes. In Daniel there is a crisis of judgment, but also a kingdom received, and the lapse of time, or rather its eternal duration, is plainly declared. The judgment is not continuous, but the reverse. Also as to Jno. v. 28, which he adduces, all that there is really there is the word "hour" for a protracted period. There is no vision as in Revelation, and the stages of resurrection and of the putting down of Christs enemies in i Cor. xv. 22-27, by which he would strengthen the weakness of his position, are all against him. There is no concealment of the time in these, and we do not in the least confound Messiahs reign with a brief assize of judgment. This is but an incident of the reign, whatever its importance.
The Lords reign had begun a thousand years before, according to the testimony of Revelation here, and is not confounded with the session of judgment at the end of that time. It is only Mr. Baker who confounds them.
In the thought of the final destruction of the persistently wicked, he is on common ground with all annihilationists. All this has been fully examined already. And Mr. Bakers own system need not detain us longer. We have given all his main arguments, and in their full strength. If these fail, as assuredly they have failed, it is utterly useless to protract the discussion.
Go To Appendix Six
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