Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail
By Charles Pridgeon
Chapter Nineteen: God's Accomodation to a Fallen World
The creation was originally in Christ and in God, "For in Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, . . . all things were created through Him, and for Him" (Col. 1:16, literal). The original creation in eternity was made out of the things that proceed from God, the invisible things. The outraying glory made up the eternal nature, and the original creation was generated out of this eternal nature. We can not imagine the glories that existed then!
But sin entered, and there was a fall. We do not know how many of the original angels fell. We gather from Rev. 12:4, that at the time of the end of the age Satan will draw one third of the stars, or angels, of heaven with him. Possibly a third, or less, of the original created beings fell; and with each fell his kingdom or principality. Before this, everything was spiritual. There was no gross matter, nor anything but spiritual beings and spiritual substance in God's creation. With the fall, time began; and what we call nature, instead of remaining eternal, also fell and became fallen and temporal. The remarkable thing about the ordinary word for the "foundation" of the world in time is that it is a word signifying "casting down"; so that the temporal foundation of the world is synonymous with the "casting down" of the world (Heb. 1:10; Eph. 1:4).
God did not forsake the world even when it was cast down because of sin; but recreated it for its new temporal and fallen conditions. His creative work stopt the fallen creation from going so far that there would be nothing in it, upon which God could work. Fallen nature still has some remnant which witnesses to its former goodness and greatness. It is like the tree of knowledge of good and evil, even that tree was not all evil. God's great love caused him to manifest Himself on this fallen plane. The absolute God without such condescension and adaptiveness would have been entirely unknown and unknowable.
God's great law of circularity* then came into special operation. All worlds and suns have circles for their pathway, and truth of every kind has also its circular orbit. Science is beginning to tell us that in the highest development of physics and mathematics the old theory of straight lines of infinite length has to be changed and modified to satisfy all the data of electro-dynamics, light, and of some of the new electrical phenomena. There is probably no such thing in the universe as an absolutely straight line of infinite length. There are straight lines for all practical purposes; except for these new mysterious yet natural forces that transcend our former knowledge. All straight lines will, no doubt, be found to be portions of immense circles. This law of circularity runs through all nature. It was Harvey's discovery of the fact that the flow of blood in our bodies went, as it were, in a circle that lies at the foundation of most of the science of modern medicine. He was laughed at and mocked. He suffered all kinds of detraction at first, but he lived long enough to have all this changed and to be heaped with honors.
*See Popular Science Monthly for March, 1920, page 77.
Theology needs to be arranged according to the vast sweep of this law of circularity. Then there will be the proper place for every one of its great truths; and no generalization will be in error because too few facts have been taken into account. In place of shreds of truth and piece-meal principles, the wholeness and roundness of God's own plan will appear; truths will be held in proper perspective and proportion, and harmony will reign. In the falling from an eternal condition into a fallen, temporal condition, God permitted it to fall according to the law of circularity so that all would return to Him after self-will had been conquered by judgments and grace. We have already exprest that law in Rom. 11:26, "For out of Him, and through Him, and (back) into Him are all things" (literal). Thus the complete circle is accomplished, and the end returns to the beginning.
We know that God is not only the God of eternal creation, but also the absolutely Eternal God; but what does He do when so much of His creation falls out of eternity? We have seen that He does not forsake His fallen creatures and works. He is called in 1Tim. 1:17, "The King eternal"; but the literal Greek is, "The King of the Ages." He is not only the King of eternity but this verse tells us that He is the King of time. He has a plan for the ages; and He will accomplish His purpose for time as well as for eternity. When in several passages of Scripture it speaks of God "who liveth forever and ever" (Rev. 15:7, etc.), we know that the correct translation is, "who liveth for the ages of the ages," which means that during the ages that intervene between the "casting down" from the eternal creation to the return back into God in the eternity to come, God is King and God lives. The word "lives," still further shows what love did when the fall came. God began then to live His life, and manifest it in the fallen universe. This life He lived, or rather manifested, was not the absolute life of eternity, but a life accommodated to His creatures. It was the kind of spiritual life that was best suited for the time of the ages. When we live in a warm climate we can live in a house with scores of windows and doors, with great openness to light and air. If we moved to the frigid zone, we might have to live in a house of rock or snow, with but one aperture to serve both for windows and doors, and that opened the least possible number of times. The verb that defines the kind of life that God lives is connected with the word for creature and animal; the verb is zao, and the noun is zoe. We are familiar with this word; we find the same root in the word, "zoological." This word means that, because of love, God so humbles Himself that He manifests His spiritual life on the creaturely plane to help His fallen creatures.
It also seems that the good angels, who did not fall, took upon them such spiritual bodies that they could manifest themselves in time to a fallen world. The highest angels that control the judgments recounted in the book of Revelation are called zoa. There were four of them joined to God's throne. They have a nature in which they can manifest themselves in this Arctic world. What love must God have so to humble Himself and create, anew for time, His unfallen ones! We believe they voluntarily yielded themselves, so that they all might become "ministering spirits to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation."
We can understand, then, why it is that God calls zoe, "life," the kind of spiritual life that we get when we trust Him, because this is the kind of spiritual life best adapted for time. This explains why in some way the word "age" is practically associated with this life; and it is called in John 3:16, and many other places, not "everlasting" or ''eternal'' life, but ''eonian'' or ''age'' life.
When eternity begins the ages end, and eternal life in its absolute sense begins. The age-life has the germ and first-fruits of eternal life. How glorious must real, full-orbed eternal life be, if the little sample in time is so grand!
To express the idea of the eternality of God and Christ, the verb ''am'' is employed. God as the absolute God, is the "I am." Another word that carries us back to eternity is the verb huparcho, which means subsisting from the beginning. It is translated "being" in Phil. 2:6.
With this understanding of the difference between the spiritual life in time and the spiritual life in eternity, one can easily answer the objection that seems so formidable that if sin and punishment come to an end, then the Scriptures would seem to make God and eternal life come to an end. This difficulty arises from a wrong translation in our English Bibles already pointed out.
When God is called "the King eternal" (1Tim. 1:17), the correct translation is the King of the ages. It is easily seen that when the ages end (1Cor. 15:24) God is no longer the King of the ages.
We also know that the words "everlasting" and "eternal" life, when rightly translated, mean life for the ages, and when the ages end the age-life is left behind and real eternal life begins. The very word for ''life,'' zoe, shows that the spiritual life that we receive now is for time. There will be a grander kind of life when time ends and eternity begins.
Some one asks, "But does not absolute eternity exist in God always?" Yes, in God Himself; but the manifestation of God's life, on account of His love, is tempered and adjusted to be apprehended by us in time and in a fallen world. Otherwise we would never have a point of contact to attain to the fulness of eternal life.
Another says, "Sin must have started in eternity, if it was sin that caused 'the casting down of the world.'" This is a little difficult to explain, but easy when once apprehended. If evil existed in the eternity of the past, it would be difficult to prove that it would not exist in the eternity that awaits us; but it did not exist in the eternity past. It required a separation from God and from the eternal nature to commit one sin. Let us suppose that silence stands for eternity, and sound, for time. As soon as we speak we are not in silence, but in sound; and, hence, by this comparison, out of eternity into time. So, when sin began it was no longer eternity.
All the purpose of God was made in eternity before time began. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the ages" (2Tim. 1:9, literal). The purpose of God antedates the times of the ages (Titus 1:2). "In hope of eternal life, which God, that can not lie, promised before the world began." Let us make a literal translation of Titus 1:1,2: "Paul, a slave of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of the chosen ones of God, and a full knowledge of the truth which is according to a right worship, founded upon the hope of age-life, which God, who can not lie, promised before the times of the ages." Here we have the promise of God made before time. "Even as He chose us in Him before the casting down of the world" (Eph. 1:4, literal). Here we have His choice before the casting down of the world, that is, before time began.
Divine Love was not surprized, but had His whole plan made for the ages, "according to a plan of the ages which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:11, literal). God's plan will never miscarry. Where sin abounded, grace will much more abound (Rom. 5:20); and the creation that was cast down, will be lifted up and made anew. Time conditions will be overruled for good (Rom. 8:28). God will again be "all in all" and there will never again be any sin or suffering in all His domain.
God so accommodates and adjusts His truth that it is given at the most fitting season. "Who gave Himself a ransom for all to be testified in its own fitting seasons" (1Tim. 2:6, literal).
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