An Analytical Study of Words
Punishment? Yes - Everlasting? No
"He saves all, but converting some by punishment, and others who follow by their own will-that every knee may bend to Him, of things in heaven and earth and under the earth."
-St. Clemens of Alexandria
"As of the purification of all human
nature either in this world or some after ages, I fully believe it."
Let us consider some of those passages used to refute universal salvation. Jesus, speaking to the Jews, said, "I go My way and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins; where I go, ye cannot come" (John 8:21). This has been used in argument and in sermons as a verse to attempt to show some will go into eternal punishment. But Jesus was telling those to whom he spoke that He would be returning to His Father, but they could not go with Him there. He also used the words "ye cannot come" when He spoke to His believing disciples (John 13:33-36). In neither case was he speaking of their final disposition.
At John 3:36: "He that believeth on the son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Here Jesus is speaking of eonian life, not eternal life. As shown previously, there are those who will not enjoy the life of the two eons following the present one, but they will be raised at the consummation of the eons, reconciled to God, and He to them, as a result of the white throne judgment. Again, Jesus was not speaking of their final state.
Some refer to the "eternal damnation" of the KJV as proof of eternal punishment. The Greek words apollumi and krino, correctly translated, mean: appolumi, "destroy," "lose" (in the active voice) and "perish" or "be lost" (in the passive); krino, "judge" (in the active voice), and "am being judged" (in the passive). The noun derived from apollumi, apoleia, means "destruction" or "waste." But this word was translated "damnation" at 2 Peter 2:3 in the KJV, and "damnable" at 2 Peter 2:1. Apoleia is used in the Textus Receptus Text in Acts 25:16. This is the text supposedly used by the King James translators. However, the truth of the matter, is that the Greek text used by the King's translators differed with the so-called Textus Receptus in at least 287 places. (See Facts on the Textus Receptus and the King James Version by Dr. Allan A. MacRae and Dr. Robert C. Newman, Biblical School of Theology, Hatfield, Pa.) They translated apoleia "die." It is obvious that any man the Romans delivered to "die" apoleia, will be resurrected and judged. (See John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15) Therefore, apeleia cannot mean "no future life," it cannot mean the ultimate annihilation of any man. Krino, the word for "judge" occurs 14 times, and is once rendered damned (2 Thes. 2:12). The noun derived from it, "judgment," occurs 24 times and in seven of these occurrences was translated "damnation," yet in 13 instances in the same version it was translated "judgment." Krisis, another form derived from the verb, and meaning "judging," occurs 49 times in the Greek text. The translators of the KJV rendered it "judgment" 41 of those times, "condemnation" 3 times, "damnation" 3 times, and "accusation" twice. All those judged are not condemned nor are they damned. Judging involves setting affairs right between two parties in a suit, deciding an issue, coming to a conclusion. The English words "damn," "damnation," and "damned" have no equivalent in the Greek text, and should not have been used as the translation of any word appearing there. There is a compound of the word for "judge," katakrino, "condemn" which occurs 24 times in the N.T. Twice the KJV translated it "be damned." To condemn means to judge adversely, but again, the final state is not in view where the word appears in the text.
Perhaps the best summary against the use of the word "damn" and its derivatives in the Bible come from the pen of F.W. Farrar, a Canon of the Church of England. He writes in his Mercy and Judgment on page 369:
"The words 'damn' and its derivatives do no once occur in the Old Testament. In the New Testament they are the exceptional and arbitrary translation of two Greek verbs or their derivativeswhich occur 308 times. these words are 'appolumi' and 'krino.' 'Apolleia' (destruction or waste0 is once rendered 'damnation' and once 'damnable.' (2 Peter 2:3, and 2 Peter 2:1); 'krino,' (judge0 occurs 114 times, and is only once rendered 'damned.' (1 Thess. 2:120 'Krima,' (judgment or sentence) occurs 24 times, and is 7 times rendered 'damnation.' 'Katakrino,' (I condemn) occurs 24 times, and is twice only rendered 'be damned.'
Now turn to a modern dictionary, and you will see 'damnation' defined as 'exclusion from divine mercy; condemnation to eternal punishment.'
But to say that such is the necessary meaning of the words which are rendered by 'damn' and damnation,' is to say what is absurdly and even wickedly false. It is to say that a widow who marries again must be damned to endless torments (1 Tim. 5:12, 'having damnation,' krima), although St. Paul expressly recommends young widows to do so two verses later on. It is to say that everyone who ever eats the Lord's Supper unworthily, eats and drinks "eternal punishment' to himself, though St. Paul adds, almost in the next verse, that the judgment (krima) is disciplinary and educational to save us from condemnation. (1 Cor. 11:29-34) It is to say that 'the Day of Judgment' ought to be called 'Day of Damnation' (John 5:29) It is curious that our translators have chosen this most unfortunate variation of 'damn' and its cognates only fifteen times out of upwards of two hundred times that krino and its cognates occur; and that they have it for 'krisis' and 'krima,' not for the stronger compounds 'katakrima,' etc. The translators, however, may not be to blame. It is probable that 'damn' was once a milder word than 'condemn,' and had a far milder meaning than that which modern eschatology has furnished to modern blasphemy. We find from an Act passed when a John Russell was Chancellor (in the reign of Richard III or Henry VII), that the sanction of an Act against extorted benevolences is called 'a damnation'-that is, 'the infliction of a loss.' This is the true etymological meaning of the word, as derived from damnum, 'a loss'; and this original meaning is still found in such words as 'damnify,' 'indemnify,' and 'indemnity.' In the margin of 1 Cor. 11:29, we find 'judgment' for 'damnation'; whereas in verse 32 the 'judgment' of the Lord is milder than His 'condemnation.' Dr. Hey, in his lecture on the Ninth Article, says that the phrase, 'it deserveth God's wrath and damnation,' is used in the milder sense of the word which was originally prevalent. However this may be, the word has, as the Bishop of Chester says, undergone a modification of meaning from the lapse of time, and it is an unmixed gain both it and its congeners will wholly disappear from the revised version of the English Bible. 'Judgment' and 'condemnation' are the true representatives of 'krisis' and 'katakrisis,' and they are not steeped, like the word 'damnation,' in a mass of associated conceptions which do not naturally or properly belong to them. Equally unfortunate is the word 'hell.'"
The above writing was penned before the first major revision of the King James Bible was printed. His words came true. The Revision of the KJV removed the "damn" words from the pages of the Word bringing us a few steps closer to removing the tarnish the church has put upon the character of the Creator of all human beings.
Another argument against Universalism is Matthew 7:13,14. "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be with go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (King James Version)
This passage must be interpreted according to its context. The context of the Gospels is the kingdom in which Jesus will be reigning on this earth. Matthew 7:13,14 is in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon presents the principles and the rule of Jesus in His Kingdom on this earth. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Matt. 5:5) This passage tells us the real nature of this sermon, for the meek have never inherited the earth nor have they ever reigned. It is important that we do not confuse events which will happen here in earth in future ages with what happens in eternity. Generally, revelation about events far into the future are not revealed by God until it is time.
(Editor's note): Unfortunately, the doomsday preachers of all generations have made this mistake over and over again. Tertullian, a leading third century theologian who, unfortunately gave us many of our theological words that we never seem to be able to understand, was certain Jesus was going to come in his life-time and set up his kingdom. They were even certain where it would begin and it was not Jerusalem. He and the rest of the Montanist sect were obviously wrong. Martin Luther stated he was certain the world would end within 50 years. Martin Luther was wrong. There are dozens of denominations of Christianity that were founded by people who were certain enough of when Jesus would return that they set exact dates. They were wrong, but many of the denominations which were formed based on their false dates are still with us.
The entrance way into the fullness of the Life Jesus Christ desires for us to have is certainly strait and narrow. There is room for only one person to pass through and that is Jesus Christ Himself. No one apart from being crucified with Him an becoming one with Him will enter into this realm. Our pastors, elders, Popes cannot stand besides us. There is room for only one. Our traditions, creeds, "correct" doctrines cannot come with us. There is only One Word. There is room for only Him. Our prejudices, anger, bitterness, self-righteousness, self-pity etc., cannot come with us. There is only room for Love.
While millions of Christians think that their denomination is the way ...that is why they are it, they are greatly mistaken, and are on the road that leads to destruction, that is, they will suffer great loss. That is what that word translated "destruction" means. We will have to let go of our denominational titles to get in. We will have to let go of our self-righteousness which came from our theology, our traditions, our heritage, our "correct" keeping of His laws. All that will have to go. The list is endless of the things we will have to let go of which actually keeps us from experiencing the fullness of His Life. The carnal Christian will suffer great loss when facing The Door Who is the door. It is truly best to let go of these things now. Then we may enter into that "aionion zoên" right here on earth
While it is outside the focus of this paper, I want to make a brief comment on the subject of aionion life, translated by the King James translators "eternal life." In the 16th Chapter of John's Gospel verses 32 and 33, Jesus leaves some departing words for his disciples. He said,
"Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has
now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me
alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things
I have spoken to you, that in Me you my have peace. In the world you will
have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father,
the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that the Son also may glorify You,
as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal
life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they
may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
So then aionion zoên, incorrectly translated "eternal life" is knowing God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son. How well do you know God, the Father and His Son? The Bible tells us that to be carnally minded is death. (Rom. 8:6) The Scriptures say we can grieve and quench the Holy Spirit. They tell us our traditions can make the word of God of none effect. (Matth. 15:6; Mark 7:13) They tell us that the "Kingdom of God" is "righteous, peace, and joy." (Rom. 14:17)
Unfortunately, for most Christians too much of their "relationship" or "knowing" God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ is nothing more than memorizing the Scriptures and believing their church traditions. "Knowing" someone is not the same as knowing the Scriptures or church traditions about Jesus. There is a real intimacy which we can enter with Them even while here on earth. This intimacy varies with each individual, and it varies from day to day within a believer's life. To be carnally-minded cuts off the flow of "aionion zoên." Does that mean we have lost our place in heaven after this life? Of course not! But the quality of our Christian life here on earth is at jeopardy. "Righteousness, peace, and joy" as words are nothing more than words. But the reality of those words when we truly abide in Him are beyond words, nevertheless, very real. Aionion Zoên, translated by some of the more accurate translations with "age-lasting life" "age-during life," "life of the ages," or "eonion life" emphasize that Jesus is not only interested in redeeming everything lost, but those who have been brought into the kingdom in this dispensation, should taste and experience some of the reality of His life right now! It should manifest! We should be able to get to know more and more each day the reality of Him because we have a relationship with Them beyond words on a page in a Bible. The mistranslation of the word aionion to "eternal" has robbed millions of Christians of the fact that God wants us to experience His life now. Most Christians think of "eternal life" as something we get after we die. This is sad, because as a result of this concept, we are not manifesting a quality of life that we should presently be walking in. "Righteousness" is not just being moral. His peace far exceeds being calm during tough times. And His joy leaves the "happiness" the world lusts for, far behind. The fruit of the Spirit unfortunately for many Christians are empty words memorized in a Bible study. A proper understanding of "aionion zoên" will restore to us a key to "knowing" Jesus Christ, the Savior of the Whole World and His Father. The reality of this "life" which He gave us, will speak much more to the inhabitants of this world than words "about" Jesus. (End of editor's note)