Notes to the Poem
1 No one, that is, in the area of the foothills where Brother Bird lived. Brother Bird’s position may also be unique in that his argument rests solely on the wording of the English Bible (though the underlying Hebrew and Greek text bears the same eloquent testimony) 2 Matthew 3:10-12 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will BURN UP the chaff with unquenchable fire. 3 Paul’s primary hermeneutic (method of interpretation) was simply “What saith it?” (Rom. 10:8), “What saith the scripture?” (Rom. 4:3; 11:2, 4; Gal. 4:30), and “It is written” (Rom. 1:17; 2:24; 3:4, 10; etc). For the Christian, the first appeal and final authority is the very words of God in the very Word of God, the certain and sufficient answer to the question “What is written?” (Luke 10:26; 20:17). 4 Malachi 4:1 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. (And verse 3 speaks of the wicked being “ashes under the soles of your feet.”) 5 Malachi speaks of “that day” in similar fashion to many Old and New Testament writers: “in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (3:17). “The great and dreadful day of the LORD” (4:5) is consistent with many New Testament passages referring to the final judgment at the coming of Christ (Acts 2:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). The contrast between the reward for the righteous and the punishment of the wicked is dramatically clear (Cf. Mal. 3:18; 4:2,3). The element of fire is prominent as in many other passages of final judgment (see chart on inside back cover). Does Malachi give any indication of conscious, eternal torment? To the contrary, he states in lucid language that “the day that cometh shall burn them up.”


6 The duration of the result is everlasting, but the nature and extent of the punishment itself is a final consumption that is equal to utter destruction, not endless torment. If Malachi’s prophecy has already been fulfilled in past history in a temporal overthrow of Israel’s enemies, it nevertheless has eschatological intimations (“the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD”) that anticipates and illustrates the final judgment. 7 2 Peter 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ASHES condemned them with an over-throw, making them AN ENSAMPLE unto those that after should live ungodly. Jude 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for AN EXAMPLE, suffering the vengeance of ETERNAL FIRE. 8 As in the statement of John the Baptist, we see that though the nature of the fire is of an unending quality, i.e. “eternal” (unquenchable- Matt. 3:12), the result of the fire is nevertheless final: “ashes.” (will burn up- Matt. 3:12). Because of the assumed errors of our traditional interpretation we have persistently read endless conscious torment into these passages because of the adjective eternal modifying the noun fire, and have remarkably failed to see that the result is clearly pronounced final by the end product of the consumptive fire, which is ASHES. The wording is not “eternal torment” but “eternal fire”- it is not “everlasting suffering,” but “everlasting destruction”- it is not “unquenchable chaff,” but “unquenchable fire.” John tells us what we readily should understand – that if a fire cannot be put out, then what’s in it would certainly burn up, especially chaff! Eternal fire turned Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, and Christ will “BURN UP the chaff with UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.” 9 Let it be reiterated that the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrha that destroyed “all the inhabitants” (Genesis 19:24, 25), though temporal and earthly in scope, is asserted to be “an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” and “set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” There is no inference here of eternal torment. The fire is eternal, but ashes are the everlasting result of a complete consumption and total destruction. This does not preclude torment (“suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”), nor demand instantaneous extinction, but it does exclude retribution that endlessly torments. 10 Please do not attach some worn-out yet sticky label of an aberrant doctrine or peculiar cult to this view. What is presented here is not the conclusion of a modern sect that has its own sacred book, special revelation, or exclusive Bible translation. The reasons proposed are not the formulation of a liberal exegete who undermines the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, nor the rumination of a sentimental philosopher who questions the supernatural on the basis of humanistic rationale. Most of my Christian friends would classify my personal beliefs as conservative, orthodox, and evangelical (on the new birth, deity of Christ, and inspiration of Scripture, for example). See "About Us." 11 Someone asked, “If people were to think they will just burn up, then why would they care about being a Christian?” The response: “If you were to convince professing Christians that they would only burn up anyway, and then they would respond Just forget about it thenDo you think they were really Christians to begin with?” 12 John 3:15,16 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH, but have ETERNAL LIFE. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH, but have EVERLASTING LIFE.


13 The most familiar verse in the Bible teaches

both the conditional immortality of believers, and the ultimate end of unbelievers.
14 The Scriptures use of the word perish makes a persuasive case for conditional immortality (eternal life as a gift to believers) and the complete everlasting destruction of the lost. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For the preaching of the cross is to THEM THAT PERISH foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). “Them that PERISH” are in contrast to “us which are SAVED,” as it is in 2 Corinthians 2:15, 16: “them that are SAVED, and… them that PERISH.” To them that perish, Paul says “we are the savour of DEATH unto DEATH,” but unto them that are saved, “the savour of “LIFE unto LIFE,” reinforcing the connection of perish and death, and the contrast of perish and life. A similar distinction is made of perish and life in John 3:15, 16: “not PERISH but have ETERNAL LIFE… not PERISH but have EVERLASTING LIFE;” John 6:27: “meat which PERISHETH… meat which endureth unto EVERLASTING LIFE;” and John 10:28: “I give unto them ETERNAL LIFE; and they shall never PERISH.” Perish is contrasted with remaining in Hebrews 1:10, 11: “They shall PERISH; but thou REMAINEST.” All of the above texts emphasize the fact that the saved are distinct from “them that perish” in at least this obvious difference: they do not perish. 15 Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second DEATH hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. Revelation 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second DEATH. Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second DEATH. 16 Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT? The traditional view only asks and answers one question here: “How long is the punishment?” They should also ask “What is the punishment?” To illustrate what I mean, I will ask you to fill in the blank: EVERLASTING ___________? You say, “Punishment.” But, again, what IS the punishment? You say, “Torment.” And truly that is how most people fill in the blank. They make of it punish-ing, which in their mind includes torment and pain. BUT LET’S ALLOW SCRIPTURE TO FILL IN THE BLANK. The Bible persistently says that the punishment is destruction (“who shall be PUNISHED with EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION” – 2 Thessalonians 1:9; “whose end is DESTRUCTION” – Philippians 3:19; “broad is the way that leadeth to DESTRUCTION” – Matthew 7:13; “the wicked is reserved to the day of DESTRUCTION” – Job 21:30; “vessels of wrath fitted to DESTRUCTION” – Romans 9:22; “And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet (Christ) shall be DESTROYED” – Acts 3:23; “fear him which is able to DESTROY both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28). Scripture consistently fills in the blank with destruction, not torment! THE PROCESS OR THE RESULT? Many have thought that endless torment is implicit in terms that are describing as “everlasting” the result, not the process, of punishment and destruction. The result of the punishment is everlasting; therefore it is everlasting


punishment. How long does the destruction last? It is everlasting! The punishment is destruction, the destruction is everlasting- it is everlasting punishment! The book of Hebrews gives three examples of the New Testament Greek aionos referring to the result and not the process, the end and not the means: “And being made perfect, he became the author of ETERNAL SALVATION unto all that obey him” (Heb. 5:9); “he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained ETERNAL REDEMPTION for us” (9:12); “Of the doctrine… of resurrection from the dead, and of ETERNAL JUDGMENT” (Heb. 6:2). It is not eternal saving, eternal redeeming, eternal judging, eternal punishing, or eternal destroying- each of these has a limited duration as to process, but an unlimited extent as to the end result. The process of redemption was in what Christ once obtained, but the result of redemption is eternal, therefore it is rightly called eternal redemption. The process of the judgment (the judging) is not everlasting, but the result is (the judgment). The destruction is everlasting, not the destroying. SYNONYMS OF PUNISHMENT. Some synonyms of punishment are sentence, penalty, consequence, and retribution. Punishment does not equal pain or torment; in fact, it doesn’t even necessarily include pain or torment. The duration of “Capital Punishment,” such as death by hanging, beheading, the electric chair, gas chamber, or lethal injection, is extremely brief, and often with a minimum of pain (if any, as far as the physical sensation of it). Yet it is a punishment, and a capital one at that! The result of capital punishment, however, is final and permanent- it is everlasting. EXAMPLES OF PUNISHMENT. While Scripture fills in the blank by telling us that the punishment is destruction, it also tells us by its use of the word punishment that the word should not be equated with torment or pain. Cain said that his punishment of being a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth was greater than he could bear (Genesis 4:12-14). Under Moses, death without mercy was the “punishment” alluded to in Hebrews 10:28,29; to be destroyed the “punishment” of Ezekiel 14:9,10; and captivity in Lamentations 4:22. Jeremiah makes this enlightening comment: “the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the PUNISHMENT of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown AS IN A MOMENT, and no hands stayed on her”(Lamentations 4:6). Here is punishment that happened “as in a moment,” of which Jude tells us was accomplished by “ETERNAL FIRE” (Jude v. 7), and Christ says, “DESTROYED them all” (Luke 17:29) and Peter writes ended in “ASHES” (2 Peter 2:6). Though the process of punishment happened “AS IN A MOMENT,” the result of the punishment was “A PERPETUAL DESOLATION” (Zephaniah 2:9). How long did it take to accomplish the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Not long at all- as in a moment. How long will the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah last? Without endeverlasting- a perpetual desolation. THE CONTRAST TO LIFE ETERNAL. Another point to consider concerning this text is the contrast of everlasting punishment to life eternal. As J. H. Pettingell writes, “It will be seen that the contrast here is not between the everlasting happiness of the one class, and the everlasting misery of the other – as traditionalists would have it, but between the Everlasting Life of the one class, and the everlasting – punishment of the other – which, that the antithesis or contrast may be carried out, must be the punishment of Death, from which there is no resurrection – that is the Second Death” (Pettingell, J. H. , The Unspeakable Gift, 1884, p. 225). This understanding of the contrast is in perfect harmony with the many times a contrast is made to eternal life (see chart on this page). In contrast to the righteous receiving life eternal, the wicked will be eternally dead – destroyed with an everlasting destruction in which they perish, die the second death, are consumed in the lake of fire, burned up like chaff, and are no more- truly an “EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT.”


17. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, WHEN the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10 WHEN he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in THAT DAY. WHEN? The term “that day” appears, and the passage reveals when “them that know not God” will be “punished”: “WHEN the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,” and “WHEN he shall come to be glorified in his saints.” Paul specifies that the everlasting destruction will be accomplished at the limited WHEN of THAT DAY. This limited WHEN goes even further to contradict the conjecture of torment that continues unabated through the infinite reach of a never-ending eternity. 18 To argue that destruction means endless torment is to twist the normal usage of this word in Scripture. In fact, the traditional understanding does this many times, usually subconsciously, to several words (such as perish, destroy, destruction, end, perdition, consume, and death) that in their ordinary use would certainly indicate the final destruction of the wicked, not their continual existence in conscious, everlasting torment (see notes 5356). 19 Those who usually react so vehemently are those who have not searched the Scriptures on the subject. For this reason, the curt scribe of this tale has harshly connected the two words shook and dusty. 20 Some of the opponents of Brother Bird’s view are genuine but guarded folks who have absorbed endless torment as the unquestioned and unquestionable orthodox Scriptural view. Anything else is liberal, and anything liberal is loathsome, and therefore the “liberal” label is often all that is necessary to get such people to not bother to search the Scriptures to see whether these things are so. To these Brother Bird says, “Relax! If endless torment is true, no amount of argument can put it out of existence, but if endless torment is not true, white knuckles clinching a cherished creed will not make it so. The important thing is this: Do we love our God more than our religion, and do we love our Bible more than our tradition? If so, then find out what the Word of God truly says, and stand right there! 21 On the subject of the final judgment and punishment of the wicked, Brother Bird sincerely believes we have been mistaken in our understanding as to its nature and duration. We have not willfully erred, but have unknowingly absorbed unscriptural tenets, and read them into the applicable texts. We have unwittingly ignored the precise wording of many other scriptures, holding to our assumed traditional interpretations instead of arriving at a convinced conclusion after a fresh and personal search of the Word of God (see John 5:39; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15). 22 Brother Bird has an extremely high view of Scripture that some would view as highly extreme. He believes in the supernatural inspiration of the original text and its providential preservation in the English translation. With him the issue is not whether to accept the Bible’s teaching concerning endless torment, but whether or not the Bible actually teaches it. In his own words: “I appeal to the Scriptures, and ask, ‘Have ye not READ?’ (Matt. 22:31) ‘What SAITH it?’ (Rom. 10:8) ‘WHAT IS THIS THEN THAT IS WRITTEN?’ (Luke 20:17).” 23 Unscriptural teachings are not always the imagination of a clever heretic, the invention of a crafty cult, or the interpretation of a cunning scholar. Sometimes they are simply the


assumed errors of those who are sure they know what the Bible means but haven’t carefully examined what it actually says. Such may be able to cite a few proof-texts, refer to a historic confession or denominational creed, or take solace in the conclusions of esteemed exhorters or revered expositors of the past or present. They are woefully unacquainted, however, with the entire relevant texts concerning the subject. Christ often answered doctrinal queries by asking, “Have ye not READ?” He once countered an objection with “What is this then that is WRITTEN?” He would then quote what the Scriptures actually say as the authoritative answer (Cf. Matt. 12:3, 5; 19:4; 22:29, 31; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17). 24 Endless life, as many would quantifiably define “eternal life,” is not the possession of immortal souls, but the gift of the immortal God. It is in distinction to the wages of sin: death. “For the wages of sin is DEATH; but the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23). Note particularly the contrasts: wages/gift; sin/God; death/eternal life. By definition, wages are earned, but a gift is not. Sin pays harsh wages, while God bestows a gracious gift. The harsh wages is death, the END OF LIFE; the gracious gift is eternal, ENDLESS LIFE. WAGES of SIN DEATH end of life GIFT of GOD ETERNAL LIFE endless life

25 Death is a word universally understood and there is a death universal to all: “DEATH passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12). But in this same discussion of Paul to the Romans, the clear contrast is made between death and eternal life. This corresponds to Christ’s words to Martha (John 11:25, 26): “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead (i.e. the universal death common to all men), yet shall he live (i.e. be resurrected): And whosoever liveth and believeth in me SHALL NEVER DIE” (i.e. shall not perish but have everlasting life). And Christ’s question ends with words appropriate to this discussion: “Believest thou this?” The brilliant legal master, John Locked ponders, “It seems a strange way of understanding a law which requires the plainest words, that by death should be meant Eternal Life in misery.” (Cited in J. H. Pettingell, The Unspeakable Gift, 1884, p. 322.) 26 Brother Bird has noticed that when someone does not have an adequate answer to the conclusions above, they quickly resort to what they presume are the safe confines of patented proof-texts. Actually many so-called proof-texts for endless torment, when examined free of creedal dogmatism, often actually refute what they are cited to prove. Because of the power of preconceived notions and absorbed assumptions, such texts are seldom allowed to speak for themselves. Context is ignored and particular details are shoved to the side as one phrase or line is lifted to bolster the unproven interpretation. 27 One of the most oft quoted proof-texts for endless torment is Christ’s thrice-repeated statement “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48). Many contend that this is unmistakably referring to conscious, eternal agony in “hell fire.” What they fail to realize is that Christ is quoting a phrase from Isaiah 66: 24 that portrays a scenario vastly different from that of never-ending retribution: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh”


28 Presumably Christ’s listeners would have recognized the source of the repeated phrase. The context of Isaiah 66 describes the aftermath of a battle scene and pictures slain carcases (vv. 16, 24)! The passage says the wicked “shall be consumed together” (v. 17), but that the seed and name of the righteous shall remain “as the new heavens and the new earth” (v. 22). If it is argued that Isaiah 66 is speaking of a temporal, earthly judgment, and not the final one, it is still the context of the phrase “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” 29 Brother Bird puts it this way: “It is inconceivable to me that Christ would quote a familiar phrase from a well-known prophet, and use it to convey something entirely different from the obvious meaning of its context. What would you think of a preacher who would take as his text a verse that speaks of something limited in duration and final in result, but then use it out of context to deliberate on something without end?” 30 “Their worm” shall not die, but continues to eat the burnt corpse until it is consumed; the fire is not quenched- it cannot be put out, but continues to burn until it reduces the rotting flesh to ashes. The observations of physical science tell us that even if it is impossible for worms to get inside a sealed casket, there are enough worms in our own bodies (“their worm”) to consume our decaying corpses from the inside out. Job uses an illustration from nature to describe how the grave consumes the body: “Drought (no water - “that he may dip the tip of his finger in water” – Luke 16:24) and heat (“their fire”?) consume the snow waters, SO DOTH THE GRAVE those which have sinned” (24:19). Thus lack of water and presence of heat expedite the consuming process. It is also known that dead bodies give off a detectable heat as they decay, and tracing that heat through infrared sensors is a means of locating a hidden corpse. Their worm and their fire describe the destructive agents that devour the carcases of the slain of the Lord. “The Lord will come with fire… to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire” (v. 15) to show “his indignation to his enemies” (v. 14) who “shall be consumed together” (v. 17). Admittedly, this grotesque description of the gory results of the “fire and sword” (v. 16) may be the depiction of a literal battle scene to portray a figurative representation of the final judgment. Nevertheless, such a picture reveals an ultimate punishment that ends in final consumption and complete destruction, not endless torment. And it is the text Christ used to warn his listeners about the fire of hell. 31 “the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes…” (Luke 16:22,23). Brother Bird ceremoniously announces: “I now call a well-fed and fashionable dead rich man to the stand. That’s right, I desire to cross-examine the star witness for endless torment. This notorious character has been incessantly exhibited as proof-positive for the traditional view of hell. Using the exact wording of his story in Luke 16:19-31, instead of the assumed meaning in so much of the preaching on the passage, we will let this son of Abraham answer some pertinent questions about whether his story is talking about a neverdying disembodied soul or a very dead and buried body:” BB: Did you find yourself in hell immediately after death? RM: Very shortly thereafter. BB: But was it immediately after your death? RM: Well, not exactly immediately, but very soon. BB: How soon? RM: What does it matter? I died, and the next thing I know I’m in hell! BB: Oh, it matters greatly. Was it a few minutes, or a few hours after your death? RM: Well, it obviously takes more than a few hours. BB: What takes more than a few hours?


RM: Preparation for burial, of course. BB: Burial? RM: That’s right. BB: You mean you were buried before you found yourself in hell? RM: Yes. I guess that is a minor detail that few have bothered to notice, but the record is clear that I “died, and was buried; and in hell… lift up (my) eyes.” Just as I died before I was buried, I was buried before I found myself in hell; the obvious chronology is plainly stated. NOTE: Herman Bavink awkwardly lumps DEATH AND BURIAL together with an immediate arrival in hell: “the rich man, upon his death and burial, immediately arrives in Hades… unbelievers from the moment of their death enter a place of torment… must… judgment immediately after death” (Bavink, Herman, The Last Things, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996, p. 36, italics mine). How does the rich man immediately arrive in hell upon death and burial? If he did not arrive in hell until burial, then he did not arrive in hell immediately upon death, unless he was buried as soon as he died! John R. Rice states emphatically, “When a Christian dies, he goes without delay to be with God (though Dr. Rice just said, “Lazarus died and immediately… found himself with… Abraham”). So with the sinner on the road to Hell. The rich man died, was buried, ‘And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.’ There is no evidence here of any delay in punishment… When a lost man dies, he goes immediately to Hell and torment, says the Word of God” (Rice, “Hell, What the Bible Says About It” in Great Preaching on Hell, Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1989, p.17). Though Rice acknowledges the little detail of “was buried” he nonetheless maintains that sinners go immediately (“without delay… no evidence of any delay”) to hell upon death. Family and friends of the rich man would have washed his body and anointed it with spices: “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury” (John 19:40). Time would have elapsed between death and burial. Bavink and Rice, as others who read a disembodied spirit into the story, assume that the immortal soul of the rich man went immediately into Hades at the death of his body. “And was buried,” in their estimation, is merely incidental, and should not be so strictly interpreted as a literal chronology. Though they clumsily allow “and was buried” to be squeezed between death and hell, their interpretation is really that when the rich man died his spirit or soul immediately lifted up its eyes in hell (? - Luke 24:39), and sometime later, incidentally, his body was buried. “They insist that it was not ‘the rich man’ who died – that it was the rich man’s body, and the rich man was not buried, only his body was buried,” Otis Sellers summarizes (The Rich Man and Lazarus, Lafayette, IN: Truth for Today Bible Fellowship, 1962, p. 11). The point is that the “and was buried” of the text, and the “immediately after death” of most interpretations of it, do not fit together. But if the story is a satirical parable, then the dead rich man could not be in the gravedom of Hades (equal to the Hebrew Sheol, see note 41) until he was buried! 32 Brother Bird’s interview with the rich man continues: BB: And was it you, you yourself, in the body, or was it an immaterial, disembodied spirit? RM: Well, most everyone has assumed it was my soul or spirit. BB: But Jesus does not mention a soul or a spirit.


RM: No, He does not. BB: But He does say that it was you, the rich man, who died, and you, the rich man, who was buried, and you, the rich man, who lifted up your eyes in hell. RM: Indeed He does. BB: He makes no distinction between body, soul, and spirit, but simply identifies you as the rich man. RM: That is correct. BB: But Jesus does say that you lifted up your eyes, and saw Abraham, and Lazarus in his bosom. RM: Yes. BB: So you had eyes to see with, and a tongue that felt torment, and none of this took place until after your corpse was laid in the grave. RM: True, but what is the significance of that? BB: In the same Gospel, it is recorded that Jesus urged his disciples after his resurrection, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and SEE; for A SPIRIT HATH NOT FLESH AND BONES, as ye SEE me have” (Luke 24:39). A tongue is certainly flesh, and I doubt that real material water could cool the tongue of an invisible, immaterial spirit. Fingers (Lazarus’) and bosoms (Abraham’s) are made of flesh and bone as well. So was it not your buried body, and not your soul or spirityou, yourself, dead and in the grave? RM: I can’t deny it. NOTE: Closely compare the wording “and SEETH Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” with Luke 24:39, “a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye SEE me have.” It is obvious that Abraham and Lazarus were not invisible spirits, and there is no reason to suggest that they took on the form of a body, or that they had a ghostly outline with apparent but transparent features. Also, Isaiah 14 gives a clear illustration of a figurative conversation of dead bodies, not ghoulish spirits: “HELL from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up THE DEAD for thee” (v. 9). The figurative nature is quite evident when FIR TREES REJOICE, and CEDARS SPEAK (v. 8); KINGS IN HELL GET UP OFF OF THEIR THRONES, and ask the newcomer, “Art thou also become WEAK as we?” (v. 10). Sheol is the figurative whole of the gravedom (“hell”) in verses 9 and 15, while it is the individual and literal hole of the grave in verse 11 (See notes 41-47). Carefully read the narrative in Isaiah 14 and ask yourself if Luke 16 is not a similarly allegorical story: (1) Hell (Sheol in Isaiah 14; Hades in Luke 16) is the gravedom of the dead; (2) Dead bodies are there (the rich man was first buried; the characters in the story had flesh and blood parts that could be seen; worms covering the dead body and a cast out carcase is spoken of in Isaiah 14; (3) a conversation occurs between the dead. 33 If it is acknowledged that the story speaks of a buried body, then the context and point of the story can be pursued and understood. Whether or not one calls it a “parable” (a short, simple story from which a moral lesson may be drawn – Webster’s New World Dictionary) it is an instructive story that should not be yanked from its context, but should be understood in light of its point. Though many have unfortunately failed to notice, it does have a context, and it does have a point. It was not Christ’s intention to give an isolated description of the torments of hell as if it were an eschatological chapter in a book of systematic theology. Lifting the passage from its setting has produced exhortations long on traditional oratory, but short on scriptural exposition. A brief consideration of the situation surrounding the narrative and some interesting but overlooked details of the account will go far in our comprehension of its intended meaning. Otis Sellers concurs, “When a speaker announces that the story of the rich man and Lazarus is to be the text of his message, it would be well if someone would arise and say, ‘Now that


we know your text, will you tell us what your context will be.’ This story is as a rule placed in a context of human opinion and traditions about heaven, hell, death, life, and future punishment. It is seldom if ever left in the context that God has given to it” (Sellers, footnote on p. 32). 34 That a parable may not contain a proper name is an arbitrary verdict without any substantiation whatsoever. The incessant repetition of this “rule” does not give it any iota of validity. Otis Sellers perceptively points out that the Scofield Reference Bible has this note in the margin of Luke 16: “In no parable is an individual named.” But the same source contradicts itself with this chapter heading for Ezekiel 23: “The parable of Aholah and Aholibah.” Mr. Sellers writes, “If there is any single passage in the Word that is manifestly a parable it is Ezekiel 23:1-4, and yet two names are given in it. ‘Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah.’ I think it would be well for all to read this portion, then cease forever the puerile argument that Luke 16:19-31 cannot be a parable because a man is named in it” (Sellers, p. 19). The names used in Luke 16 reinforce the understanding of this story as a satirical parableABRAHAM and MOSES, to rebuke mammon worshippers who assumed that their kinship to one and allegiance to the other made them right with God, and LAZARUS, to most likely rebuke those who hadn’t or would not believe though Lazarus had risen from the dead. 35 Matthew 18:23: Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a CERTAIN king… Matthew 21:28: But what think ye? A CERTAIN man had two sons… Matthew 21:33: Hear another parable: There was a CERTAIN householder… Matthew 22:1,2: And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like a CERTAIN king… Mark 12:1: And he began to speak unto them by parables. A CERTAIN man… Luke 12:16: And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a CERTAIN rich man… Luke 13:6: He spake also this parable; A CERTAIN man… Cf. Luke 7:40,41; 10:30 ff.; 14:16; 15:11; 19:11,12; 20:9. In fact, Luke 16 begins with another story of “a certain rich man…” 36 Brother Bird elaborated: “The discourse actually begins in verse 15: “And he said unto them…” them being the Pharisees who had heard his earlier story of another “certain rich man” (16:1) addressed to his disciples. Christ concluded the first story with an admonition concerning riches that ended with the stern reproach, “No man can serve two masters… Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (v. 13). This brings us to the context and point of the story of the rich man and Lazarus: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto THEM…” (vv. 14, 15). Covetous Pharisees who scorned the previous message but who justified themselves before men is what prompted Christ’s second speech that ends with the story in question. The consequences of covetousness are a primary aim of our Lord’s remarks (but when have you ever heard a sermon that included this story in this context and emphasized this point?) This same group of self-righteous hypocrites persistently touted their kinship to “Father Abraham” (Cf. Matt. 3:9; John 8:33-39, 53), and gloried in their strict adherence to the Law of Moses (Cf. Matt. 23:2; John 9:28, 29). The story exposes both claims as worthless for those who serve mammon and not God. The rich man calling Abraham “Father,” and Abraham answering “Son,” was a potent means of stressing this reality. If it was an actual account, how did the rich man immediately know it was Abraham? How did he so quickly carry on such a coherent conversation in the midst of extreme agony and intense pain? The evocative language, and the parallel contrasts of the principal characters, reveals the


allegorical grain of this illustrative picture. It is a picture portrayed by the poignant strokes of Christ’s bold brush. It is a story with a point, a point it makes very clear. 37 Consider that Lazarus’ raising had caused such a stir and attracted such a crowd (“MUCH PEOPLE of the Jews therefore knew that he was there”- John 12:9) that it would have been well-known news far and wide, especially by the inquisitive and suspicious Pharisees (“the people also met him, for that THEY HEARD that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves… the world is gone after him”- 12:18, 19). The chief priests had even plotted to put Lazarus to death: “But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus” (John 12:10,11). 38 We do not know if the Lazarus of Bethany was or ever had been a beggar, but he had certainly risen from the dead. And whether or not he had sores, he had definitely been sick, a sickness that led to his apparently untimely death. Incidentally, he is introduced in John 11:1 as “a certain man… named Lazarus,” almost identical to the introduction of the beggar in Luke 16. Furthermore, he is the only identifiable Lazarus in the Biblical record. Christ “became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9), came “to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18), and “the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). The sibling trio of Bethany was evidently some of these “blessed” (Luke 6:24) common, poor folk (Cf. Mark 14:8; John 12:7). 39 Abraham’s statement “neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31) was remarkably fitting considering the response of the Pharisees to the resurrection of Lazarus: “The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him” (John 12:17-19). Lazarus did come back from the dead, but the Pharisees were not “persuaded.” Neither would they be when the Raiser of the dead arose from the dead Himself (Matt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15). 40 Carefully examine the exact wording of this text and ask yourself if it really says what you have understood it to mean. Is it speaking of a departed soul or a buried body? Was there an immediate entrance into hell, or an interval of time between death and torment? Is there any thing in the story that reveals the duration of the torment, or has the assumption of the endless agony of an immortal soul been read into it? Does it concern the final judgment or the intermediate state? Carefully consider the context: to whom was Christ speaking, and why? Is the story a definitive treatise on life after death, or an illustrative allegory that rebuked the covetousness of mammon servers who flaunted their kinship with Abraham and allegiance to Moses? Do you consistently interpret the passage, or do you subjectively pick apart what’s literal or figurative, normative or illustrative, vital or incidental? For example, do you treat the fact that he was buried first as incidental (see note 31), or that his tongue and Lazarus’ finger were figurative (see note 32), or that it is not vital that Abraham explained their opposite fates as based on what they had in this life? And is your interpretation in harmony with the majority of the relevant passages concerning the subject? The overwhelming preponderance (high proportion, vast majority) of the scripture texts relevant to final judgment depict the punishment of the wicked as an utter destruction that is everlasting in its result, but not its duration; that ends in consumption and does not continue with endless torment; and is consistently expressed by unequivocal words such as perish, corruption, and death. Christ’s story of the rich man and Lazarus does not contradict or alter this preponderance.


41 When the New Testament quotes the Old concerning Sheol, the Greek word used is Hades (Cf. Hosea 13:14 w/1 Cor. 15:55; Psalm 16:10 w/Acts 2:27). Strong defines Hades as “the place (state) of departed souls: — grave, hell.” Hades occurs eleven times in the New Testament, translated “hell” in every case except 1 Cor. 15:55 which uses “grave.” With Sheol, sometimes the more specific grave- a literal hole in the ground dug for the purpose of burying a body- is obviously meant. Sometimes the more general hell, a term representative of the chambers of death, the abode of the dead, is the intended sense. Sometimes it is the grave; sometimes it is the gravedom. Ezekiel 31 provides an example. Sheol is the grave where “he (one man) went down to the grave,” and God “covered the deep for him” in verse 15, but in verse 16 and 17 Sheol is hell when God “cast him down to hell with them (more than one) that descend into the pit… they also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword.” Sometimes it is a hole of a grave; sometimes it is the whole of the kingdom of the grave. 42 The Scripture does not distinguish Sheol as the specific abode of the damned, but describes it as the general abode of the dead, wicked and righteous. Jacob anticipated going to Sheol mourning his son Joseph (Gen. 37:35). Job wished to be hid there (Job 14:13). In a Maschil of Heman, the writer cries, “O LORD God of my salvation… my life draweth nigh unto the grave (Sheol)” (Psalm 88:3). Hezekiah lamented that his days being cut short would mean he would go to the gates of Sheol (Isa. 38:10). All of these texts are cited as evidence of the universality of Sheol as the general abode of the dead, and not just the limited, specific abode of the damned, especially since even righteous men spoke of their anticipation of it. 43 Psalm 139:7,8 7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed IN HELL, behold, thou art there. David’s use of the word in his Psalms is a clear example. The hell that David describes is a place where his soul would go, but not be left (Psalm 16:10), and where even God would be with him (139:8). Interestingly enough, beds can be made there (139:8; Cf. Ezek. 32:25). It is a place David was delivered from because God spared him from death at the hands of his enemies (Cf. Psalms 18; 116). 44 Psalm 89:48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the GRAVE (Sheol)?” The “preacher” of Ecclesiastes assumes the eventuality of Sheol for all of his readers: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the GRAVE (Sheol), WHITHER THOU GOEST” (Eccl. 9:10). 45 Jonah 2:2 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the BELLY OF HELL cried I, and thou heardest my voice. Matthew 12:40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the WHALE'S BELLY; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 46 It is found 65 times in 63 verses, translated “hell” and “grave” evenly by the King James (30 verses apiece; “grave” doubling up in two verses for a total of 32 occurrences), with “pit” the chosen word 3 times (Num. 16:30, 33; Job 17:16). Brother Bird comments: I have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the word choices of the King James translators. Their choices show the general and specific natures of hell and grave, especially where both English words are chosen for Sheol in the same passage. In Isaiah 14 hell was


chosen for the broader concept of the abode of all the dead: “HELL from beneath is moved for thee at thy coming: it stirreth up THE DEAD for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations” (v. 9). In the same passage, grave was chosen for the limited idea of the burial place of one man: “THY pomp is brought down to the GRAVE… the worms cover THEE” (v. 11- See also Note 41 concerning Ezekiel 31). Though most if not all of the King James translators may have held to the traditional view of endless torment, I believe their translation of Sheol is both accurate and consistent in revealing whether a more specific, limited, and literal grave, or a more general, broader, and figurative gravedom (hell) is meant. 47 In Proverbs 7:27 the house of the strange woman is said to be “the way to HELL, going down to THE CHAMBERS OF DEATH.” In a similar passage, he who is fooled by a foolish woman “knoweth not that THE DEAD ARE THERE; and that her guests are IN THE DEPTHS OF HELL” (Prov. 9:18). Hell represents the deep chambers of death where the dead are. Whether these chambers include conscious torment is not stated in these verses, but the idea of hell as the abode of the dead is clearly expressed. The Bible often defines its own terms by clear usage within an explanatory context. Hell is so defined in Scripture. Its clear usage within an explanatory context reveals Hell to be a general, and oft times figurative, term representative of “the chambers of death,” the gravedom, the shadowy deep pit of the departed, the abode of the dead. Everything within the explanatory context of Isaiah 14 (dead; grave; worms; pit; lie; slain; carcase; burial) defines hell as the place of the dead, not the torture chamber of the damned. In Ezekiel 32:18-32, the word hell is used twice; pit, six times; grave or graves, six times; lie, five times; and slain, fifteen times. All of these words are spiced among the contrastive phrase “land of the living” which is found six times. Not only is hell defined within explanatory contexts by the language of death and the grave, it is often paralleled with death (Psalm 18:4,5; 55:17; 116:3,8,9; Isaiah 28:15,18; Habakkuk 2:5) linked with destruction (Job 26:5; Proverbs 15:11; 27:20; Matthew 10:28) and contrasted with life (Psalm 16:9-11; Proverbs 15:24; 23:13,14). 48 From Isaiah to Malachi we find the following words mentioned in dire warnings: Some form of FAMINE (famine, famish, dearth, hunger, hungry, etc.) – 50+ times; DEATH (death, die, dead, grave, slain, kill, etc.) – 220+; BUGS (pestilence, locusts, worms, caterpillars, etc.) 50+; WAR (battle, sword, enemy, etc.) – 290+; WOE – 50+; CAPTIVITY – 100+. All together – 700+ compared to ZERO warnings about either the torments of hell or of endless existence in hell. 700+ to ZERO. WARNING OF THE PROPHETS FAMINE DEATH BUGS WAR WOE CAPTIVITY TOTAL ENDLESS TORMENT 50+ 220+ 50+ 290+ 50+ 100+ 700+ 0

49 In the book of Acts we have this frequency of occurrences: GOSPEL – 6x; FAITH – 14; REPENT/REPENTANCE – 10; GRACE – 10; CRUCIFIXION (references to Christ’s death) –


7; RESURRECTION – 15; SALVATION – 14; LORD - 102; JESUS – 67; CHRIST – 30; PREACH/TEACH – 37; JUDGMENT – 1; HELL – 2; ENDLESS TORMENT – 0. The two references to hell mention nothing of it being endless torment, but rather refer to David’s prophecy: “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:27, 31). PREACHING OF THE APOSTLES GOSPEL FAITH REPENT / REPENTANCE CHRIST’S DEATH RESURRECTION SALVATION LORD JESUS CHRIST PREACH/TEACH JUDGMENT HELL ENDLESS TORMENT 6 14 10 7 15 14 102 67 30 37 1 2


50 Paul speaks (including Hebrews) of God’s WRATH at least 13 times, and God’s JUDGMENT 14, but not once of HELL or TORMENT. He speaks of IMMORTALITY 6 times, twice of God’s intrinsic immortality, and four times of the immortality to be received by believers. To the contrary however, Paul speaks of the future destiny of the wicked using these terms: DESTRUCTION/DESTROY- 9x; END – 2; DEATH – 5; PERISH – 5; CORRUPTION – 1; PERDITION – 3. A few examples: “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” (Romans 9:22); “whose end is destruction” (Philippians 3:19); “whose end is to be burned” (as rejected “thorns and briars” - Hebrews 6:8) “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9); “in them that perish… the savour of death unto death” (2 Corinthians 2:15,16- Cf. “them that perish” in 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:10); “which. drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9); and “them who draw back unto perdition” (Hebrews 10:39). And the writer of Hebrews contrasts “perish” with “remainest”: “They shall perish, but thou remainest” (1:11). WRITINGS OF PAUL WRATH JUDGMENT IMMORTALITY DESTRUCTION / DESTROY END DEATH PERISH CORRUPTION PERDITION HELL/TORMENT 13 14 6 9 2 5 5 1 1 0


53 The thrust of Brother Bird’s position has been to see what the Scriptures actually sayto base conclusions on the exact wording of the text, and not on the dictum of an assumed meaning inevitably colored by an absorbed dogma. To believe that God wrote it, and then to propose that simple and clear words do not mean what they plainly and consistently say is to accuse God of careless negligence or a limited vocabulary. To establish meanings of words, the Bible is self-defining by its own clear usage within explanatory contexts. If the Divine Author has used a word over and over again to mean one thing as is made obvious by its context, then there must be plenty of reasons and an abundance of evidence to suggest that the same word does not mean the same thing in a similar context! Suffice it to say that the Creator of language uses His creation to clearly communicate, not to confuse. 54 The traditionalist view of endless torment maintains that the wicked experience the SECOND DEATH but never really die, suffer the outcome of EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION, but are never really destroyed, are CONSUMED yet endure conscious torment, and PERISH yet continue to be. It is a dying that never results in death; a destroying that never ends in destruction; a consuming that never ultimately consumes; a perishing of which nothing perishes; and an end without an end. Not only do such interpretations alter the normal sense of these words, they actually turn them inside out to give them an opposite meaning. 55 The Scriptural use of the word perish is clearly in contradistinction to the prospects of the saved who will be resurrected to LIFE, and is so forcefully employed to mean the END OF LIFE, that it is remarkable that its use has not caused more students of the Bible to conclude that the wicked dead will not be kept alive to be tormented, but will die, utterly perish, be consumed burned up, and destroyed. The result is everlasting through the means of an eternal, unquenchable fire, but the torment of the destruction is not without end, for total destruction is the end for them that perish. The normal usage and understanding of perish in both the Old and New Testaments, the other words translated from the Hebrew and Greek root words, and the contrastive nature of the word to the expectation of the saved, leads inescapably to the conclusion that perish says what it means and means what it says: a final end of life, a total destruction, and not continued existence in conscious torment. 56 Even when God’s Word uses figurative or allegorical language, the meaning is true to the figure; the sense is consistent with the allegory. The figure of water is used for the Word in Ephesians 5:26: like water, the Word cleanses. The figure of light is used for the Word in Psalm 199:105: like light, the Word reveals. Water and light are understandable figures of God’s Word. The sense is consistent, and the meaning is true to the figure. Scripture is teeming with references to fire as an agent of punishment. Fire, figurative or literal, is the inspired word used to communicate, not to confuse. It is not a foggy concept, nor a mysterious expression. Fire is something we understand. We know what it is, and we know what it does. Fire consumes! By examining the abundant occurrences of fire in Scripture, we learn that GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE, and FIRE CONSUMES. Water cleanses; light reveals; and fire consumes. We learn that while the fire itself may burn on, whatever is in the fire will burn up. But fire as an instrument of torment that never consumes anything in it is contrary to our understanding of fire. As such, it is neither a literal truth nor a true figure. Such a fire is not a fire that we know anything about (The only understanding of fire that is left intact with such an interpretation is the understanding that fire causes pain). And if it is meant figuratively, as some maintain, then it is a use of fire that we do not comprehend- it uses fire to illustrate something (endless torment) that is not consistent with the nature of fire (fire consumes). Water cleanses; light reveals; fire consumes. The divinely chosen word, fire, used to describe the element of punishment, whether used literally or figuratively, is


literally true, or true to the figure. Either way, it is a fire that does what we consistently understand fire to do, and what Scripture persistently says it does- it consumes. 57 God is described in Scripture as “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Hebrews 12:29). There are a multitude of references that speak of “the fire of God,” and “the fire of the LORD,” most often in connection with judgment. When God used fire to punish anyone, the fire always consumed. Always! The only exceptions to fire not consuming its contents is when God appeared to Moses “in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Exodus 3:2, ff.) and the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace. These are indeed remarkable exceptions, but no one maintains that the bush or the three were being punished or experienced any sensation of the fire. One was the fire of God, but not of judgment; the other was a fire of judgment, but not of God. These exceptions indicate that God can appear in a fire that does not consume its contents, and is able to protect His own from a fire’s consuming power, but when the God of fire, or the fire of God is referred to in connection with judgment and punishment, it always, without exception, indicates a fire that consumes, devours, and destroys. Our God is a consuming fire, and the fire of God consumes. It is this God and this fire that the Scripture repeatedly and consistently says will consume the wicked at the final judgment (Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Psalm 21:9; Malachi 4:1; Matthew 3:12; 13:40; 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9; Hebrews 10:27; 12:29). 58 The Divine Intelligence paints vivid and lucid word pictures that are unmistakable: unquenchable fire burns up the chaff (Matthew 3:12), devours the stubble (Isaiah 33:11, 12; Malachi 4:1); turns the ungodly to ashes (2 Peter 2:6; Jude v. 7), consumes the wicked (Psalm 37:20; Ezekiel 22:31), and destroys those who know not God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). 59 We know what fire is, and we know what it does, and in every depiction of final wrath and judgment, the items drawn (chaff, tares, stubble, briars, thorns, lime, dry branches) are not only flammable, but are some of the most highly combustible materials imaginable! But consider that other options were available: God’s preserved Word is pictured as silver tried in a furnace (Psalm 12:6,7); our faith as gold tried in fire (1 Peter 1:7; Cf. Job 23:10; Zechariah 13:9; Revelation 3:18); gold, silver, and precious stones as being revealed by fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15); Christ’s feet being “like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15); the unburned but burning bush in the wilderness (Exodus 3:2,3) and the unconsumed three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:22-29)- thus the sacred paintbrush did not lack a sufficient palette to describe endless torment. But when God chose to depict how it would be for the wicked at the final judgment, He painted a picture of complete consumption, not endless torment. When supporters of endless torment explain their theory, however, they inevitably use the pictures God didn’t (such as the burning bush), and completely avoid any of the vivid pictures God did employ. Strange? Yes, but oh, so revealing! 60 Isaiah 5:24 Therefore as the fire DEVOURETH the STUBBLE, and the flame CONSUMETH the CHAFF, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 33:11, 12 Ye shall conceive CHAFF, ye shall bring forth STUBBLE: your breath, as fire, shall DEVOUR you. And the people shall be as the burnings of LIME: as THORNS cut up shall they be BURNED in the fire.


Malachi 4:1 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. Matthew 3:12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will BURN UP the CHAFF with unquenchable fire. Matthew 13:40 As therefore the TARES are gathered and BURNED in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a BRANCH, and is WITHERED; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are BURNED. Hebrews 6:8 But that which beareth THORNS and BRIERS is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be BURNED. 61 A fire that cannot be put out does not mean that what is in the fire will not burn up! It actually means just the opposite: “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). If the fire could not be put out, how would the chaff keep from burning up? If Old McDonald’s barn caught fire, and firemen could not put it out (unquenchable fire), would anyone foolishly suppose that the barn would keep burning? No, they would obviously understand that the barn completely burned up. 62 God’s fire, the unquenchable “eternal fire” does not need the fuel of its prey to exist. For example, when the fire of God has fallen, it was already burning before it had its target as fuel. For temporal, earthly fires, “where no wood (as fuel) is, there the fire goeth out” (Proverbs 26:20). But the eternal fire is not a temporal, earthly fire. Neither does fire that cannot be put out mean that it never goes out. It cannot be extinguished, but it does not keep burning when it has consumed its prey. For example, the fire that destroyed Idumea (Isaiah 34) could not be quenched and the smoke resulting from its consuming power “shall go up for ever” (v. 10), but no one would suppose that a fire is still burning in Idumea, or that the inhabitants are to this day enduring its torment. 63 I have yet to read any attempt to reconcile “burn up” with endless torment. Someone wondered aloud if perhaps “chaff” in Matthew 3:12 didn’t mean the wicked at all, but perhaps “burn up the chaff” was talking about something like “dross” being removed from gold (the word “purge” is in the verse). The wonderer then read the context and decided against such a conjecture. The wicked or ungodly are identified as chaff as follows: “as chaff that the storm carrieth away” (Job 21:18); “The ungodly… are like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (Psalm 1:4); “Let them be as chaff before the wind” (Psalm 35:5); “as… the flame consumeth the chaff” (Isaiah 5:24); “as the chaff of the mountains before the wind” (Isaiah 17:13); “as chaff that passeth away” (Isaiah 29:5); “Ye shall conceive chaff… your breath, as fire, shall devour you” (Isaiah 33:11); “as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor” (Hosea 13:3); and the various kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were “like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away” (Daniel 2:35). 64 The identification “fire and brimstone preachers” is not meant to belittle sincere men who warn folks of what they genuinely understand to be the fate of the wicked, namely, endless torment. But there are others who speak in uncouth terms and Unchristian tones who are not worthy to be called “preachers.” I’ve heard them, and you probably have to. “You’ll split hell wide open.” “They’ll fry like a sausage.” “Somebody’s gonna have some hell to pay!”


65 Even now, no one has tried to explain how “burn up” doesn’t contradict endless torment. Any attempt to reconcile PERISH with the traditional theory has feebly centered around broken wine bottles, and remarkably, LIFE and DEATH aren’t life and death in their normal, natural, and primary sense, but words in an unknown tongue that speak of different states of existence. Those who believe the Bible teaches that immortality is a gift to those in Christ, and that all others perish, have repeatedly and painstakingly attempted to answer any challenge. Their opponents, however, generally box and label any other view as cultic or liberal, and then run and hide behind a few isolated “proof-texts” that are either lifted out of context (such as 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9, and Revelation 14:11), or that say nothing of endless duration (Mark 9:44; Revelation 20:15; Luke 16:23). If the traditional theory of endless torment is what the Scripture teaches, then why are its supporters so evasive when it comes to explaining the plain words and clear pictures of Scripture? Will Christ burn up the chaff or not? Will the wicked perish? Will their end be destruction? Is having a part in the lake of fire the second death? If you believe you have the truth, then face these questions fairly and squarely! 66 Saying something over and over again does not make it true. Quit harping, and start searching. It seems that such defense tactics of the supporters of endless torment stem from their inability to answer the questions posed in note #65. More words and louder words do not suffice to take the place of clear words and Scriptural words. Just who are tormented day and night? Where does it take place? In whose presence? How does Scripture use the phrase for ever? Exactly what is described as for ever? Search and see if any of the answers to these questions contradict the consistent and clear utterances of all the relevant texts on the subject. Connect the dots and see the overall picture of the persistent teaching of Scripture, and that is that the wicked perish, die, are destroyed, and are no more, and that fire consumes, especially an unquench-able fire whose object is such combustible materials as chaff, tares, and stubble. 67 As to the Hebrew and Greek, they speak in as clear a manner as does our good old plain English Bible, as a perusal of Strong’s Concordance will attest. It would take a crafty theologian and a creative lexicon indeed to make the wording of the Hebrew and Greek to testify on behalf of endless torment, and then it would require an interpreter of an unknown tongue to explain it. Greek specialist Dr. R. F. Weymouth weighs in: “My mind fails to conceive of a grosser misrepresentation of language, than when five or six of the strongest words which the Greek tongue possesses signifying destroy or destruction are explained to mean ‘maintaining an everlasting but wretched existence.’ To translate black as white is nothing to this.’ (Cited in Pettingell, J. H., The Unspeakable Gift, 1884, p. 322.) It is also illuminating that of the various Hebrew words translated “perish,” the English words most often used (in a convincing high percentage) for the same word are forms of the root “destroy” (destroy, destroyeth, destroyed, destruction) as in the destruction of the world through the flood and of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone. 68 In my own personal search of the Scriptures on this subject, the unraveling of what I’ve always been taught, and likely the hemming, if you will, of what has predominantly been set forth, is the issue of the immortality of the soul. While perusing Bible commentaries and dictionaries, it soon became evident that many writers had postulated the immortality of the soul as the starting point of any discussion on death, the intermediate state, and final judgment.


The eloquent William Elbert Munsey lays his foundation: “Man is immortal… That man is immortal is the recognized and fundamental truth in the Bible, and in every system of religion… Man, good or bad, is immortal, so you all believe” (Munsey, Eternal Retribution, p. 70). Loraine Boettner suggests (without offering any substantiation), “In general the Bible treats the subject of the immortality of the soul in much the same way that it treats the existence of God, - such belief is assumed as an undeniable postulate” (Immortality, Eerdmans, 1956, p. 78). That immortality of the soul is assumed is undeniable – but not on the part of Scripture, but on the part of writers like Munsey and Boettner. If “the Bible treats the subject of the immortality of the soul in much the same way that it treats the existence of God” then where are such similar declarations as “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1), “he that cometh to God must believe that He is,” (Hebrews 11:6), or “I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22)? The Scripture nowhere teaches, assumes, or takes for granted the immortality of the soul. To the contrary, it states unequivocally that only God hath immortality (1 Timothy 6:16), that souls die (Ezekiel 18:14), can be destroyed by God in hell (Matthew 10:28), and that immortality is not an intrinsic possession of the soul, but is a sought-after goal, and if obtained is given by God (“Who will render… to them who… seek for… immortality, eternal life” -Romans 2:6, 7). 69 For me, the nagging question that begged an answer was “Where does the Bible teach the immortality of the soul?” What saith the Scripture? I began asking friends who were students of the Word. In accord with the commentaries and dictionaries, there was no clear verse cited, but the theory was often maintained as an undeniable funda-mental. Some feebly suggested that perhaps the worm that “dieth not” was the immortal soul. Others drew back as if in fear of being infected by such a heretical inquiry. But I want to know where it is! If “the Scripture clearly teaches it,” then no less than chapter and verse will do. And for something of such unquestioned status with numerous auxiliary implications, it should be chapters and verses, as in many. But is there any? And where are they? 70 Apologists for conditional immortality contend that the traditional view on the immortality of the soul and its corresponding relationship to final punishment is rooted in the impact of pagan philosophy (such as that of Plato) on many influential Christian thinkers and writers. These subsequently bequeathed the assumed underpinning on centuries of unsuspecting and unquestioning believers who were fighting too many other theological battles to successfully debunk the standard shibboleth on final punishment (though conditionalist apologists document many persistent voices of dissent). 71 The concordance is of no help here. Some try to proof innate immortality from the fact that God “breathed… the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7), but fail to notice that God breathed that breath “into his nostrils,” not his spirit, or that the Hebrew word nephesh, translated soul in 2:7, is the same word translated creature in 1:21 (“every living creature that moveth”), and the word “living” that describes soul and creature is the same word in Hebrew (chay) as well. And it is this same nephesh that will muwth: “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:14, 20). And it is important to note that man “became a living soul,” not that his body received a living soul. Also, the exact same wording of “the breath of life” is used in Genesis 7:21, 22 to speak of the animals as well as man: “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. In Genesis 6:17 God says, “I do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh,


wherein is the breath of life.” Again in Genesis 7:15: “And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.” Scripture is its own best commentary. The Apostle Paul gives us his interpretation of “living soul” in 1 Corinthians 15. “And so it is written, the first man Adam WAS MADE A LIVING SOUL; the last Adam was made a quickening (life-giving) spirit” (v. 45). How does Paul understand living soul? What does he write down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for succeeding ages to read? “Howbeit that was not first which was spiritual, but that which is natural… the first man is of the earth, earthy… flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (46-50). In other words, Paul uses words of mortality to describe the first Adam, the living soul: NATURAL, EARTHY, FLESH AND BLOOD, CORRUPTION. The second Adam, the quickening spirit, is contrasted as spiritual, heavenly, and as giving victory over death by giving immortality to the mortal. Thus Paul uses the very term, living soul, which many theologians use to support the tenet of the soul’s immortality- the very same term he uses to introduce his description of man’s mortality. If Paul believed in the immortality of the soul, and if he had any inkling that “living soul” was an indication of it, he sure picked an odd time to use the term, and he certainly missed the perfect opportunity to explain it as such. 72 1Timothy 6:15-16 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who ONLY hath IMMORTALITY, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. The fact that man was created in God’s image no more makes man immortal than it makes him invisible, or omnipotent. Romans 1:23 contrasts “the glory of the uncorruptible God” and “an image made like to corruptible man.” In 1Timothy 1:17, immortal is listed between eternal and invisible, adjectives that exclusively describe “the only wise God.” One of Job’s miserable comforters asks a question that expresses an understood difference between man and God, “Shall mortal man be more just than God?” (Job 4:17). Only God hath immortality! 73 This text confirms that neither man nor his soul has intrinsic immortality, but that immortality is the exclusive possession of God. As one friend conceded, “Only is rather exclusive.” Christ explained this intrinsic immortality of the Godhead, “For as the Father hath life in himself: so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself… And ye will not come to me that ye might have life” (Read the entire context- John 5:17-40). The Father hath life “in himself.” Once we understand that only God hath immortality, we begin to see other pertinent matters in clear focus. One such matter is the clear teaching of Scripture that eternal life is “the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23), not the inherent possession of immortal souls. 74 The first reason to believe that a worm is a worm is that the context of the passage Christ quoted (Isaiah 66:24- see notes 27-30) speaks specifically of carcases on a battlefield, carcases that would be seen and abhorred by others. There is no contextual reason, or any collaborative evidence elsewhere, to imagine that the worm is the soul or the conscience, as many have conjectured. There certainly should be a valid reason if one suggests their worm is not a worm. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, however, we can discern that worm does indeed mean worm. Job laments, “If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister,” and speaks of going “down to the bars of the pit, when our rest is in the dust” (17:13, 14, 16). Later Job testifies of the resurrection of the body even after its consumption


by worms: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (19:25, 26). Job also bemoans the common death experienced by people of varying circumstances: “They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them” (Job 21:26). “Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned,” Job elaborates, “The womb shall forget him; the worm shall feed sweetly on him; he shall be no more remembered” (24:19, 20). Isaiah connects worms with the grave: “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee” (14:11). Isaiah also makes this contrast: “the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation” (51:7, 8). And then inspired Doctor Luke tells us that the gruesome result of Herod’s pride has to do with physiology, not psychology: “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:23). The consistency of these texts reveals the truth that real worms devour dead bodies. This is in harmony with Mark 9 where Christ contrasts entering “into life” with going “into hell.” The weight of the contrast is compelling: it is better to be missing a body part and enter into life than have your “whole body cast” (as it is worded in Matt. 5:29, 30) into the destructive power of hell fire, where God has the power “to destroy both soul and body” (Matthew 10:28). Entering into life with offensive body parts removed is far superior and infinitely to be preferred over having a “whole body” destroyed in hell- never ending life over everlasting death. The contrast is not between life and torment, as has been supposed, but between immortality and perishing, remaining or being consumed, entrance into the kingdom of God or being cast into hell fire (v. 47), eternal glory or everlasting destruction, life eternal or the second death, delivered from woe or devoured by worms. Isn’t that a convincing contrast and compelling reason to choose life no matter the cost to the temporal body! 75 Christ states plainly that there is a “resurrection of life,” and a “resurrection of damnation.” 1 Corinthians 15 is the classic passage on the resurrection of believers, the resurrection of life. Paul says emphatically: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (v. 50). For “this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (vv. 53, 54). It is incredible how many writers attempt to make this resurrection of life (mortality putting on immortality) universal to the righteous and the wicked. It is impossible to understand how obtaining an immortal body to endure endless torment could be understood as “victory.” And the context speaks of “the image of the heavenly” and inheriting “the kingdom of God.” Paul uses the inclusive pronoun “we” (“We shall not all sleep… we shall all be changed…we shall be changed” –vv. 51, 52) and addresses his readers as “brethren” (vv. 1, 50) and “my beloved brethren” (v. 58). He writes of those “which are fallen asleep in Christ” (v. 18), and “they that are Christ’s” (v. 23). This resurrection is obviously the resurrection of believers, the resurrection of life. What theologian or exegete would venture to claim that the wicked will be given glorified bodies (v. 43) that bear the image of the heavenly (v. 48) at the resurrection? Believers are given eternal life through Jesus Christ (conditional immortality). Unbelievers are raised to be damned. Though all the dead will be raised (John 5:28, 29), and 1 Corinthians does speak of the general “resurrection of the dead,” nowhere does the Scripture indicate that unbelievers are given immortality, or an incorruptible or glorified body at the resurrection.


They are not raised to “life,” but to “damnation,” to be cast into the lake of fire, “which is the second death” (Cf. Revelation 20:12-15; 21:8). 76 The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23); God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (1 John 5:11); Whosoever believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16); the water that I shall give… springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14); everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you (John 6:27); that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him (John 17:2); ye will not come to me, that ye might have life (John 5:40). Immortality is not the intrinsic possession of souls, but rather the gift of the immortal God to those in Christ. Receiving immortality is conditional on being in Christ. We do not receive it by our first birth in Adam, but by our second birth in the second Adam, Christ! The truth of Scripture is LIFE IN CHRIST! 77 John 10:27, 28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 78 Because the assumed belief in immortal souls is so prevalent, the language of evangelism has been Heaven or Hell, not death in sin or life in Christ, which is the language of Scripture. Now life in Christ will mean heaven for the believer, and death in sin will mean to perish in the fire of hell, but not because souls are immortal, but because without the immortality only given to those in Christ, the wicked will most assuredly perish! This is the clear language of Scripture. Christ will give eternal life to mortal man, not merely allow immortal souls to enter heaven. This is the consistent language of Scripture. Souls can and will die. God is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. 79 Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. In the Old Testament, the “living soul” of Genesis 2:7 is the same “soul that sinneth, it shall die” of Ezekiel 18:4. It is the same word in English and Hebrew. It is a living soul, but it can and will die. In the New Testament, the “soul” that God “is able to destroy… in hell” of Matthew 10:28 is the same “soul” saved from “death” in James 5:20. It is the same word in English and Greek. Man can’t kill that soul, but it can be saved from death, or be destroyed by God in hell. So the truth of Scripture is not the immortality of the soul, but that only God hath immortality, and souls can be destroyed and die. 80 There is no doubt that Hell sells tickets. Holding the threat of endless and unimaginable torment over the heads of prospective converts has certainly produced results in persuading people to make a profession of salvation, whether walking an aisle, praying a prayer, or signing a card. But whether such a method produces true conversions, genuine new births into the family of God, it is doubtful. Many a person has had sense enough to know that they did not want to burn in hell, but neither did they desire to truly repent of sin and follow Christ. In Medieval times, the potential of being stretched at the rack, enduring the thumbscrew, or burning at the stake forced many a verbal confession and outward conformity, but did it win the heart? This is not to impugn the motives behind zealous witnesses elaborating on the endless agony of hell as they understand it, but it is to question the foundation and fruit of such an emphasis in evangelism. Heaven or Hell? is an easy question to ask and answer. But Sin or Christ? is an altogether different proposition! And “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”


(Acts 20:21) is the requirement of the gospel. The New Testament presentation of the gospel reveals the alternatives of death in sin, or life in Christ; a second birth or a second death; utterly perishing or eternally enduring; everlasting life or everlasting destruction. So Brother Bird scolds torment peddlers because he fears that many folks are responding to their presentation out of nothing more than fear of pain, not out of true conviction, genuine repentance, or sincere faith. And the nothing more of such a response generates something less than true conversion. This is not to say that some have not genuinely come to Christ out of an initial fear of hell, but that the fear of hell itself will not save anyone. If the fear of hell could lead someone to genuinely consider the claims of Christ and His gospel, then a true understanding of the dreadful final judgment, and the awful prospect of being completely consumed and finally destroyed would also lead to such consideration. As Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled” (Acts 24:25). Such a presentation of the teaching of Scripture concerning perishing would bring forth “a certain looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27). 81 Revelation 14:10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: Those who “drink of the wine of the wrath of God” are specifically those who “worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand” (v. 9). This does not include or imply all unbelievers of all ages. Those who “have no rest day nor night” are those “who worship,” not worshipped, the beast. And this passage is six chapters away from the Great White Throne Judgment. It does not say that the torment is for ever and ever, but that “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” As in the case of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon, and Idumea, the destruction is final, and the torment of it has an end, but the smoke bearing testimony to the destruction ascends up on and on (See note 86). “No rest day nor night” does not demand eternal torment, and should not be so construed in light of the weight of the rest of Scripture on the subject. 82 Matthew 8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:40-42: As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:49, 50: So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:50, 51: The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Matthew 25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Luke 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. It is vitally important to note that the preceding verses are not speaking about a place of weeping and wailing, but about a time of weeping and wailing. The “weeping and wailing” does not give expression to endless torment, but rather to the grief and anger of those being “cast out.” These passages do not say “where shall be,” but “there shall be,” specifying time, not location- when, not where. Each of the above passages indicates that it is at the time of the casting out (or “cutting asunder” in Matthew 24:50, 51) that the weeping and wailing occurs. Luke 13:38 tells us exactly when the weeping and wailing takes place: “when ye shall see…” Psalm 112 shows the same anguish of the wicked seeing the glories of the righteous while facing their own doom of perishing: “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness… Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance… his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour. The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall perish” (vv. 4, 6, 9, 10). Notice in both cases that the gnashing of teeth came as a result of seeing: “when ye shall see;” “wicked shall see.” Weeping and gnashing of teeth does not speak, therefore, of the pain of endless torment, but rather of the distress and terror, the sorrow and horror, of being cast into outer darkness while seeing the righteous being received into the kingdom. 83 Peter mentions darkness as the eternal reservation of the wicked: “to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever” (2 Peter 2:17). Does mist of darkness picture visible flames of torment or the nothingness of irreversible destruction? In the passage above it is the end of those who “utterly perish.” Jude refers to the same fate: “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever” (v. 13). In Christ’s teaching of the kingdom, “outer darkness” is the lot of those “cast out” (see the references in note 82). Darkness is also characteristic of the detention of the fallen angels awaiting judgment: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4); “And 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 1:6). The poetry of the Old Testament is replete with references connecting death with darkness (Job 3:5; 12:21, 22; 28:3; 34:22; Ps. 107:10, 14; Isa. 9:2; Jer. 13:16). Psalm 49 says that those who descend in death “shall never see light” (v. 19). 84 Some traditionalists have made an attempt to reconcile “outer darkness” with the fire of endless torment by reasoning that the hottest of all flames are black. Whether or not this is credible science, as an explanation it seems to me to be contrived, sadistic, and unconvincing. Such a thought may be creative apologetics, but it is not sound exegesis. Others would contend that fire and darkness are only figurative anyway. But even if that were so, what would they figure? Fire consumes, and mist of darkness and outer darkness are not words that figuratively express endless torment. 85 Revelation 18:8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.


Revelation 18:10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come. Revelation 18:17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. Revelation 18:19 …for in one hour is she made desolate. Revelation 18:21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. The above verses clearly indicate that the duration of Babylon’s overthrow was limited (in one day; in one hour), and that the result was that Babylon “shall be found no more at all.” The phrase no more, or any more, is found eight times in Revelation 18 concerning the result of Babylon’s overthrow. She “shall be utterly burned with fire” (18:8), and “the kings of the earth shall lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning” (18:9). Now here is the important thing to note: though the duration of her punishment was limited, and her torment had an end, yet we are told “her smoke rose up for ever and ever” (19:3). Remember the pictures of the billowing smoke days after the terrorist attack in New York City on 9-11-01? Even weeks later a residue of smoke lingered and ascended. Yet many of the victims of the attack were nothing but ashes buried beneath tons of debris. 86 The smoke that rises up for ever and ever speaks of consumption, not endless torment. Once again Scripture teaches this by its clear usage. The smoke of Babylon’s desolation “rose up for ever and ever” (Rev. 19:3), yet her destruction took only “one hour” (Rev. 18:10, 17, 19; see note 85). Isaiah tells us that the destruction of Idumea will include unquenched fire and unending smoke (“it shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke shall go up for ever”), but that this bears witness to its utter destruction (“from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever”- 34:10). What is smoke but the evidence of consumption- the testimony of destruction by fire? “They saw the smoke of her burning” (Rev. 18:18). Can there be smoke without consumption? Sodom was “overthrown as in a moment” (Lamentations 4:6), yet Abraham saw the smoke from the destruction of Sodom go “up as the smoke of a furnace” (Gen. 19:28). “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” (Psa. 37:20). Cremate the body of a 200pound man, and his ashes will weigh less than 10 pounds. His body has been “reduced to ashes”- his body has been burned up. Scripture’s use of smoke and ashes powerfully speak of final, everlasting destruction by fire, not endless torment in fire. 87 Deuteronomy 15:17 Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever. (Cf. Exodus 21:6). Many feasts and ordinances given to Moses were said to be “a statute for ever,” with the qualifying phrase often added at the end “throughout your generations” (for example, Leviticus 23:14, 21, 31, 41; Numbers 10:8; 18:23). The pile of twelve stones set up beside the Jordan River were to be “a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever” (Joshua 4:7). Even if they had survived to this day, would they be a memorial throughout the unfathomable recesses of eternity? “Joshua burnt Ai, and made it a heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day” (Joshua 8:28). Hannah desired to take little Samuel to the tabernacle in Jerusalem, “that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever” (1 Samuel 1:22). Achish, the king of Gath, trusted David’s feigned loyalty, proclaiming, “he shall be my servant for


ever,” and “said to David, Therefore will I make thee keeper of my head for ever” (1 Samuel 27:12; 28:2). The old men counseled Rehoboam, “”If thou wilt… speak good words unto them, then they will be thy servants for ever” (1 Kings 12:7). Gehazi was told “the leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever” (2 Kings 5:7). Jonah cried from the belly of the great fish, “I went down to the bottom of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever” (Jonah 2:6). The point of all these references is to show that the phrase for ever does not always mean without a final end. It may, and most often does, mean eternally, but only as indicated by the context. 88 If you said, “We’ll be traveling out of town for two weeks,” you would be expressing a definite time duration of your trip. “For two weeks” is a prepositional phrase, for being the preposition. If you said, “He lived in that house for thirty years,” again you would be using a prepositional phrase that expresses a specific length of time. But if it be said that something will be “for ever,” that is a prepositional phrase that expresses an indefinite amount of time, that may or may not mean without end. How long will the man with the hole bored in his ear be servant to his master? A definite time limit could not be stated. How long will he or his master live? How long will the smoke bearing evidence to consumption ascend upward? On and on? Yes. A long time? Yes, but not without end. A definite time that the smoke will cease to ascend could not be specified, therefore it is perfectly understandable to express it with the prepositional phrase “for ever and ever.” Such usage has survived in our language even to this day. “How long did it take you to get through that line?” someone may ask. “Oh, for ever,” may be the exasperated reply. For ever? Yes. Eternally? No, but for a long and indefinite period of time. “He’s for ever talking about his hunting dogs,” a neighbor complains. Really? Yes. He never stops talking about them? Well no, but he talks about them a lot, and who knows when he’ll stop talking about them. Thus, ever is certainly indefinite, but not necessarily eternally! (Be sure to read note 87) 89 Psalm 146:4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Numbers 24:20 …his latter end shall be that he perish for ever. Psalm 92:7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever: 90 Proverbs 10:25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting (please note the contrast) foundation. This is consistent with many other passages that indicate the wicked will be completely destroyed, relegated to nothingness, darkness their everlasting reservation: “the day that cometh shall burn them up… that it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Mal. 4:2); ““For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth” (Ps. 37:9-11). The prayer and expectation of Psalm 105:34 is “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.” 91 Acts 28:24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.


It seems amazing, and somewhat amusing, that those who believe in a destruction that doesn’t destroy, an unquenchable fire that doesn’t burn anything up (even chaff, tares, thorns, briars, and stubble), a consuming in which nothing is consumed, an end without an end, a death in which nothing dies, and a perishing in which nothing perishes- that those who handle plain language in such fashion would dare say that Brother Bird is “twisting up the Word.” 92 There are many who do not want to risk going to hell, but, nevertheless, have no intention of following Christ. Will Heaven be predominantly populated with those who simply did not wish to go to hell? So just because unbelievers would hope that endless torment is not so, does not mean that convincing them that it is would win their hearts for Christ (neither will they be persuaded- Luke 16:31). And neither the flimsy hopes of unbelievers, nor the firm dogmatism of scholars, can make it one whit true or false. 93 It has truly been refreshing to hear the hearts of some true believers who have at least hoped that no one would have to endure endless agony. Their love for the Lord and for others was not lessened in the least by whether or not the torments of hell would be endless. In fact, their love for God and compassion for men caused them all the more to hope for final destruction instead of perpetual torture. And those who have come to understand it thus have expressed that such an understanding has only increased their love for a God so gracious to give eternal life to those who would otherwise surely perish. Unfortunately, all professed believers don’t feel that way. One Christian Brother said to another, “Well, I sure hope that endless torment is not so.” The other, a defender of immortal souls and eternal misery, responded, “Why would you hope a thing like that?” The first, dismayed by such a reaction, replied, “Why would you not?” We do well to remember, “he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13). 94 “If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him” (1 Cor. 8:2, 3). Those referred to in the poem know enough to know they don’t know it all. Most often their lack of certainty is not because they are ignorant of God’s Word, but rather because they are intimately familiar with it. This familiarity makes them aware of the repeated use of words like perish, destruction, death, consume, end, devour, etc. They have noticed the repeated contrasts of death and perish with everlasting life. And this familiarity also makes them aware of the conspicuous silence of the prophets and apostles concerning an endless duration of torment. They know enough to know it is valid to ask, “Do any of the 154 usages of a form of the word perish ever express a process without an understood end?” They know enough to know it is valid to ask whether immortality comes from Adam or Christ, a first birth or a new birth, the nature of the soul or the gift of God. They know enough to know that “only God hath immortality,” that He can “destroy both body and soul in hell,” that Christ will “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,” and that the lake of fire “is the second death.” They know enough to know these are credible points, and they know that Brother Bird believes what he does because of a firm confidence in the perspicuity (it means what it says) of Scripture, and not because he has embraced the tenets of a clever heretic, crafty cult, or cunning scholar. 95 Jonah was angry that God was not going to destroy Nineveh after all. The Lord asked His fuming prophet, “Doest thou well to be angry?” Jonah defended his fury, and God gave him an object lesson on compassion using a worm and a gourd. “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great


city, wherein are more then sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle? (Jonah 4:10, 11). Charles Spurgeon, the celebrated preacher of Victorian England, maintained and propagated the traditional dogma, but I remember reading a snatch of his that expressed the sentiment that he would not react like Jonah if the judgment of the wicked were not as he had understood it. 96 It is the hope of this endeavor to stimulate more study in the Word. Surely even the proponents of endless torment would welcome more study in the Word (see notes 19-23). “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). 97 But, alas, some neither welcome, nor encourage more study in the Word. It should be apparent that if their theory is truly the doctrine of Scripture, then they should promote more study in the Word as the best means of defense of their view. But they do not. And the worst offenders in this regard are those in positions of leadership who fear the peers and desire to retain their approval. Nicodemus wisely asked, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51). Apparently the law of earthly kingdom builders does judge a man before it hears him. Earthly kingdom builders are afraid to hear him, whoever he may, usually in fear that such a hearing may either reveal that he is possibly right, or expose their pitiful inability to prove him wrong. It is far safer to gag and slander him. This is no exaggeration. It is the norm of past history and the status quo of present reality. 98 While able and articulate defenders of the traditional dogma of endless torment have written thoughtful and thorough works, many, if not most, knee-jerk protectors of accepted doctrine tend to bluster and bristle, protest and rant, and suppose that by quoting one or two “proof-texts” that they have ended the argument and won the day. 99 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject (Titus 3:10). It must be much easier to identify a heretic than it is to admonish one. One of the qualifications of an elder is that he will hold fast the faithful word, and be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers (Titus 1:9). I have found that most men will libel and label heretics instead of admonishing them in direct proportion to their lack of knowledge of the Word- their own inability to search and then teach the truth of the Scriptures. For example, a pastor may not have a real clear grasp of a Biblical subject, but he knows what he’s always been taught, is familiar with a few proof-texts, and knows what he better espouse if he is to continue in the good graces of his particular circle of peers. Such a man, when confronted with “heresy,” finds it more expedient to either speak with sad pity or angry disgust about the heretic than he does to rescue the offender and protect the flock from his error by a careful and thorough exposition of the relevant texts on the subject. “Did you hear what Brother Openmind believes now? Isn’t that sad?” he piously moans. Or “I was afraid Brother Freespirit was going to end up dappling in that rubbish. Well, he better keep that stuff away from here!” Now wasn’t that a lot easier than studying? Someone has well said, “The hardest thing to do is not to learn a new truth, but to unlearn an old error.” Old errors die hard in the white-knuckled clasp of defenders of the status quo. Sadly, most men are not free enough in mind and spirit to make a fresh search of Scripture to see if whether what they have long been taught is so (Acts 17:11). Scripture must yield to the final authority of pragmatism. So if you don’t know enough to answer a heretic, or don’t care enough to bother, just label him, libel him, and be done with him. Little men have


always stooped to such low means to protect their little kingdoms. The longer I live, the less I’m impressed or disappointed, and I’m certainly not surprised. 100 John 12:42, 43 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43). Nothing has changed in this department: AMONG THE CHIEF RULERS- the pressure is too great for those in positions of leadership; BECAUSE OF THE PHARISEES - the peers are too important for those who crave their acceptance; LEST THEY SHOULD BE PUT OUT the price is too high for those intent on keeping their position; THEY LOVED THE PRAISE OF MEN MORE THAN THE PRAISE OF GOD - the praise is too much to give up for pleasing God. Once in a long while a rare bird like Paul will take wing: “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). 101 Luke 9:53-55 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 102 If you have never shed a tear over Hell, then please don’t try to convince me you believe in it. If you can teach and preach on Hell with an arrogant air, or explain your orthodoxy on the subject as if you are reciting the alphabet, then take your pretense elsewhere and don’t imagine that anyone should have confidence in the validity of your belief, or the sincerity of your character. You may be technically “orthodox” but you are spiritually unsound. 103 Yes, our God is holy, but His holiness compels His mercy to limit His wrath: “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of HIS HOLINESS. For HIS ANGER ENDURETH… (would those who hold to eternal torture wish to end the verse here as proof that God’s holiness demands endless torment? But we read on and learn the wonderful reason to sing:) “For HIS ANGER ENDURETH BUT A MOMENT” (Psalm 30:4, 5). “His holiness” is hinged (“for”) to the merciful limitation of his anger, which “endureth but a moment.” His “anger endureth but a moment,” but His “mercy endureth for ever.” The defenders of endless torment assert that God is “a God of wrath.” This is not true. God is NOT a God of wrath. There is a wrath of God, but God is not a God OF wrath. My meaning is that though God can get angry, anger is not the essence of His character. There is a difference between an act and an attribute. There is a difference between what God does, and what He is. “God is merciful.” “God is just.” “God is good.” Is it ever said, “God is wrath”? It does say that “God is angry,” yes, but it continues “with…”- this is what God does as an act, not what God is as an attribute. It never says, “God IS anger.” John tells us “God IS love,” but no inspired writer ever dares to impugn God’s character with the assertion that “God is wrath.” Wrath may be a part of the Divine weather, and a final storm of it is to come, but wrath is not the Divine climate. 104 Let me repeat: Yes, our God is holy, but His holiness does not induce His wrath to continue unabated through the unfathomable reaches of eternity, but His holiness compels His mercy to limit His wrath: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and HAVE MERCY upon the whole house of Israel, and will BE JEALOUS FOR MY HOLY NAME” (Ezekiel 39:25). Our Great God’s jealousy for His holy name


provokes… His anger? No, His mercy! “I WILL NOT EXECUTE THE FIERCENESS OF MINE ANGER, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: FOR I AM GOD, AND NOT MAN; THE HOLY ONE in the midst of thee (Hosea 11:9). Why would God not execute the fierceness of His anger? Because He is holy! Enough of the slanderous charge that imputes endless wrath to Divine holiness! It is in THE HOLY OF HOLIES that we find THE MERCY SEAT! And when we pray to our God, we should lift “up HOLY HANDS, WITHOUT WRATH” (1 Timothy 2:8), which is apt for Christ, our high priest who “ever liveth to make intercession” for us is “HOLY, HARMLESS” (Hebrews 7:25, 26). His holiness does not compel His wrath to continue unabated, but His holiness compels His mercy to limit His wrath! 105 “The Scripture doctrine (conditional immortality), as we have felt constrained to declare it here, removes, we believe, a great stumbling block from the path of believers. We are no longer compelled to conceive of God as possessing two different natures; on earth tender and beneficent, even repaying man’s ingratitude and wickedness by His mercies; but beyond the tomb, unmoved by the endless tortures and excruciating pains of His enemies.” Emanuel Patavel, The Problem with Immortality. 106 In an effort to reduce the charges against the goodness of God, many well-meaning teachers and preachers have portrayed Him as passive relating to the endless torment of the wicked. Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, not man (Cf. Matthew 25:41), the reasoning goes, and God has done everything within His power to keep anyone else from going there. Unfortunately, many will share the same fate with the Satanic horde, the explanation continues, but not by God, but in spite of His best efforts to the contrary. Some even go so far to picture Satan as the ruler of hell, and the chief tormentor of its wretched prisoners (Chick tracts, for example). God is the Judge who renders the verdict, but Satan is the executor of the sentence. It is as though the Lord has allowed hell as a necessary concession to the freewill of man and immortality of the soul, and is otherwise powerless to change its design or shorten its duration. When stripped of its superficial sentimentality, this view depicts a God who is not the all-powerful Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe, but rather a limited opponent of Satan who will ultimately win the war, but with a much higher casualty rate. In other words, Satan will be in hell, but so will the majority of all people who ever lived. Therefore this God of Endless Torment is either weak or he is cruel. Either he would change it if he could (he is weak), or he could, but won’t (he is cruel). Please don’t be offended at such an assertion. According to the theory of endless torment, either he would, but can’t, or could, but won’t. It really is that simple (unless one would venture a third possibility- he can’t, but he wouldn’t even if he could). But those who subscribe to either view have to rationalize why he would, but can’t (what about OMNIPOTENCE?), or why he could, but won’t (what about GOODNESS?). 107 It is not within the objective of this writing to differentiate or decide between Calvinism and Arminianism. If there is a subject adherents of both wholly agree upon, it is endless torment. The horrors of their hell have driven some of their “hyper” advocates (those who


follow each system to a logical dead end) into disastrous ditches- predestination to hell on the one side (had picked some folks to go), and easy-believism on the other (If we’d just say yes or no). 108 They are called noble because they, like the Bereans who were “more noble than those in Thessalonica,” were willing to search the Scriptures to see “whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). These “questioned endless reason, and doubted endless rhyme” based on the compelling results of their intensive search of the Word. 109 There have been many who have questioned the validity of endless torment on the basis of sentimental philosophy and dubious interpretation. But many others, such as Edward White, R. W. Dale, Henry Constable, Samuel Minton, and J. H. Pettingell, stood firmly on the authority (what it says is true) and perspicuity (it means what it says) of Scripture. They are called valiant rebels because it took sacrificial courage to stand for what they were convinced was the truth of Scripture in the face of the creedal dogmatism of the organizational establishment. They were “valiant for truth” (see Jeremiah 9:3), loved the Lord and esteemed His word “concerning all things to be right” (Psalm 119:128). 110 Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through PHILOSOPHY and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his SUBTILTY, so your minds should be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY that is in Christ. “Plato in their Credo” refers to the tendency of the defenders of endless torment to build their case on the assumed dogma of the immortality of the soul, which is the teaching of the Greek philosopher Plato, not the Scriptures. “The dogma of everlasting torment did not creep into the Church until she yielded to the influence of Platonic philosophy” (E. Petavel, cited in Pettingell, The Unspeakable Gift, 1884, p. 326). “We would express our conviction that the idea of the immortality of the soul has no source in the Gospel; that it comes, on the contrary, from the Platonists” (J. N. Darby, cited in Pettingell, p. 324). Henry Constable writes, “The Christian fathers as a general rule adopted the Platonic dogma, ‘every soul is immortal’ (see Tertullian, Resurrection, c. iii.). This became the motto upon the patristic banner. On this point Plato took rank, not among prophets and apostles, but above all prophets and apostles…This dogma of Plato was made the rigid unbending rule for the interpretation of Scripture” (Constable, The Duration and Nature of Future Punishment, pp. 276, 277). Hippolytus (AD 238) builds a case on Plato: “For if ye believe that the soul is originated and is made immortal by God, according to the opinion of Plato, we ought not to refuse that God is able to raise the body which is composed of the same elements, and make it immortal.” Constable exposes Tertullian’s reliance upon immortality of the soul: “No one knew better than Tertullian the primary and proper meaning of the Latin verb pereo and that it meant ‘to vanish,’ ‘to die,’ ‘to perish,’ ‘to be annihilated.’ Why would he not attach this meaning to it when he was commenting upon the text of the Latin version? Here is his own account (Tertullian, On the Resurrection, c. xxxiv): ‘We, however, so understand the soul’s immortality as to believe it lost, not in the sense of destruction, but of punishment, that is, in hell. And if this is the case, then it is not the soul which salvation will affect, since it is ‘safe’ already in its own nature by reason of its immortality; but rather the flesh, which, as all readily allow, is subject to destruction’” (Constable, p. 18). 111 Brother Bird is persuaded that most theologians are lazy parrots- better at repeating the stale suppositions of the assumed dogmas than they are at making a thorough search to


arrive at a fresh and personal conclusion. The history books actually tell us that the theory of endless torment did not gain precedence until Tertullian (died AD 235), and that many others such as Barnabas (died AD 90), Clement of Rome (100), Hermas (104), Ignatius (107, Polycarp (147), Justin Martyr (164), Theophilus of Antioch (183), Irenaeus (202), and Arnobius (303) taught final destruction and not endless torment (for documented evidence, see Constable, Henry, The Duration and Nature of Future Punishment). To Augustine belongs the infamy of solidifying endless torment as orthodoxy, and what he accomplished for Catholicism, Calvin perpetuated for Protestantism. 112 For those of us who adhere firmly to the final authority of Scripture, salvation by grace through faith, and a free church under the headship of Christ, we assuredly acknowledge that the majority opinion of those professing the name of Christ at any one point in time is hardly to be considered authoritative. So if we are to ask, “What has the church always believed?” we do well to also inquire, “Which church?” and “Do we consider its interpretations authoritative on every doctrine?” The reality is that God’s people have never been fully agreed in their interpretations, and just as any individual must humbly consider the voice of the many, the many need also acknowledge that no one group has ever had a corner on all truth. 113 The year was 1517; the Roman Catholic Church was ascendant and dominant in Europe; salvation through sacramental priestcraft was the prevalent understanding of the populace. But Luther dared to assert that Scripture teaches the priesthood of every believer and salvation by faith. When he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, it was little more than a challenge to scholars to debate the subject of indulgences (as far as we know no one responded). But much, much more resulted from such an inauspicious beginning. 114 Acts 24:14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call HERESY, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: Edward White wrote to J. H. Pettingell: “At the present moment, they have somewhat discredited you for ‘heresy’; but this is the name given to every divine verity, before it has received the imprimatur of the leaders of orthodoxy. There is not a doctrinal truth now dear to Protestants which has not been burned alive in this fire in the early days of its testimony. But out of the fire the Lord has delivered all the truths vindicated at the Reformation.” (“London, Nov., 1883,” used as an introduction to Pettingell’s The Unspeakable Gift, p. 17). 115 Edward White continues in his letter to J. H. Pettingell (see note 114): “The truth for which, during so many years, we have labored together, will similarly triumph. This I firmly maintain, because our conclusions are founded upon the application of the orthodox principle of interpretation to Holy Scripture. Protestants learn their creed in every particular except one, by applying to the Scripture the common sense rule of taking the plain and obvious sense of the main current of Biblical expressions as the ruling sense. The one exception is in all that relates to man’s nature and destiny. From first to last, the Protestant Churches, imitating the Romish Church, have persisted in applying to Scripture, on this matter, a non-natural or figurative law of exegesis. Man is thus declared by theology to be an immortal being, and then, all that the Bible says on the mode of his gaining Eternal Life, and on the punishment of those who reject God’s redeeming mercy, is tortured into unnatural senses. This perverseness cannot hold out long against steady protest and brotherly rebuke. Already a vast multitude of the ablest and most Christian minds are in full revolt


against such perversion, and their numbers are increasing daily in all directions.” (And what was happening in 1883 is happening again today!) 116 Before attempting to versify the Scriptural case for Conditional Immortality, the author had written a lengthy treatise on the subject. Unfortunately, he found it difficult to get any of his peers to wade through it. Thus with a burning desire to be heard, he determined to use the vehicle of a poem to interest folks in considering the argument for eternal life through Christ only to believers, and the final destruction of unbelievers (“should not perish but have everlasting life”- John 3:16). It is his sincere hope that a thoughtful poem will inspire honest hearts to make a thorough search of the Scriptures on this subject, and it is his optimistic anticipation that such a search would indeed lead to a reformation of the understanding of this doctrine within the body of Christ. 117 Does Brother Bird really exist? Yes and no. While there is not one person named “Brother Bird,” he is real, nevertheless. Some have assumed that he is the author of the poem, but the scribe of this tale does not consider himself to be Brother Bird alone. Brother Bird is an aggregate- he is representative of the cumulative personage of the author, several of his dear friends who as “iron sharpeneth iron” have helped whet the edge of his axe, and hone the gist of his thrust, and, to some extent, various authors on the subject, such as Henry Constable and Edward Fudge. In this sense, every conversation “Brother Bird” has in the poem is based on actual exchanges of at least one of these who collectively are “Brother Bird.” Bird was chosen for several reasons: one, it has good rhyming partners (heard, word, absurd, preferred, and perturbed); two, it is an epithet often given to someone considered somewhat peculiar or eccentric (as in “he’s a real bird). 118 The pure and perfect Word uses plain and powerful words to express the final fate of the wicked: perish, second death, destruction, end, consume, devour, corruption, burn up, ashes, and be no more. The Creator of language carefully, consistently, and continually employs His creation to define the end of the wicked as a final and everlasting destruction, not an endless and conscious tormenting. The Divine Intelligence paints vivid and lucid word pictures that are unmistakable: unquenchable fire burns up the chaff, devours the stubble, turns the ungodly to ashes, consumes the wicked, and destroys those who know not God. We know what fire is, and we know what it does, and in every depiction of final wrath and judgment, the items drawn (chaff, tares, stubble, briars, thorns, dry branches) are not only flammable, but are some of the most highly combustible materials imaginable! If the plain words and clear pictures are not enough, Scripture supplies examples. When the fire of God has fallen from the God of fire in wrath, it destroyed its prey completely, and consumed all in its path. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah, the followers of Korah, the companies of fifty before Elijah, and Nadab and Abihu, to mention a few. Our God is a consuming fire, and the fire of God consumes. How do we know? The Author of Scripture tells us so, clearly and often. But perhaps an even more eloquent expression on the subject than even the plain words of death, the clear pictures of consumption, and the powerful examples of destruction, are the defining contrasts to the positive truth of immortality given to believers in Christ: “I give unto them ETERNAL LIFE, and they shall never PERISH” (John 10:28); “whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH, but have EVERLASTING LIFE” (John 3:15,16); “For the wages of sin is DEATH, but the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23); “broad is the way, that leadeth to DESTRUCTION… narrow is the way, which leadeth unto LIFE” (Matthew 7:13,14); “But God will redeem my soul from the POWER OF THE


GRAVE: for he shall receive me… they shall never see light… like the beasts that PERISH” (Psalm 49); “God hath given to us ETERNAL LIFE, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son HATH LIFE; and he that hath not the Son of God HATH NOT LIFE” (1 John 5:11,12); “the resurrection of LIFE… the resurrection of DAMNATION” (John 5:29); “reap CORRUPTION… reap LIFE EVERLASTING” (Galatians 6:8). These illustrate, but do not begin to exhaust, the persistent contrast the Scripture maintains between “THEM THAT PERISH,” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:10), and those who do not. I am convinced that what has been presented in Peculiar Brother Bird is the truth of Scripture! Yes, a neglected truth- yea, even a maligned truth- but ignored or condemned, truth is patiently persistent, and to the true heart, ultimately persuasive. The doctrine of endless torment is initially influential because it is generally assumed through gradual absorption (hardly anyone remembers when they were first taught it). Most, if not all, who endorse endless torment have never believed any different (nor examined the evidence of all the relevant texts on the subject), while the most committed supporters of conditional immortality formerly held to endless torment. How were they able to let go of such a long held, and deeply ingrained tenet? They learned the truth, and the truth was compelling, convincing, and conclusive. The chaff of error is not immortal, but will eventually burn up in the unquenchable fire of eternal truth.

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Jeremiah 23:28


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