Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail
By Charles Pridgeon
Chapter Twenty-six: Concerning the Salvation of Angels and Demons
It is blessed to think that probably a large portion of angels never fell. In the book of Revelation, 12:3,4, it is prophesied that a third of the stars of heaven will be cast to the earth, as the name "star" is an angelic name (Job 38:7), one may infer that two thirds of the angels did not fall. These are interested in redemption, and are God's special messengers in helping those who are heirs of salvation. There is no doubt that they are advancing in knowledge, in faith and fidelity. They have an eager desire to learn more of redemption (1Pet. 1:10-12), and their humility is so great that they are willing to learn and to work unseen.
All the angels were originally good, and as "God is no respecter of persons," we believe that they were all created equal; but through faith and faithfulness some became greater than others, in fact, some became exceeding great and mighty.
In Ezek. 28:12-19 the reference is not only to an earthly king, but also to Satan who inspired and possest him. Here one can learn how great an angel Satan was.
In Isa. 14:12-15, the reference is to the earthly ruler of Babylon and also to Satan, the unseen and invisible ruler. This text gives some clue to Satan's greatness and fall. He is the greatest sinner in the universe. Sin began with him and he led multitudes astray. There is one passage of Scripture that speaks of two hundred millions of evil spirits (Rev. 9:16), and this is but a part of their great number. Satan has real personality, but he is only a creature. He and the angels and demons were created sons of God, Job 1:6; 2:1, etc., "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them." In Job 38:6, 7, we read of God's laying the foundation of the earth, "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy."
Satan and his coadjutors are the great sinners in the universe. They were sons of God, now they are prodigal sons. God does not hate any of His creatures, even when they sin; He hates the sin, but not the sinner. His heart still yearns over them. The flight of time does not change God's love, Death and Hell do not alter His affection. The hosts of fallen angels are fallen sons of God. The Scripture tells us that Adam was created a son of God and that he and his descendants also fell (Luke 3:38; Gen. 3:1-6). In fact, it is difficult to see that in the original creation man and angel differed, because they are both called "sons of God." Through sin and diverse experiences they may have different outer forms; but they must have been essentially the same, else it would not be proper to call them both "sons of God." This fact is further attested by the Word of God showing us that when man is restored and resurrected, he will be "as the angels" and "equal unto the angels" (Matt. 22:30 and Luke 20:36). The argument for the justice and fitness of Christ's having all judgment committed to Him, is founded upon the fact of His similarity of nature; viz., that He is Son of man (John 5:27). The Scripture teaches in 1Cor. 6:3 that man shall judge angels, justice demands a similarity of nature. It may seem difficult to think of man as having a nature as glorious as an angel, but this difficulty arises from looking at man as he is. It is easier to understand this when we consider what man was originally, and this can be further apprehended by what he is to be when he is fully redeemed, restored and glorified and even still further advanced.
Does God love fallen man? "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). There is no text in Scripture that tells us to hate Satan, nor any of God's creatures, no matter how fallen they are. We are to resist him, give no place to him; but we are not commanded to hate him, nor any of his company. In fact, the plain teaching of the Word is that we should not bring any "raining accusation" against him, for even an archangel dared not do this, but had to say, "The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude, verse 9).
Many over-zealous Christians need their speech on this line. When there is anything left in any one that is worthy of respect, no matter how sinful he is, there is something for God to work upon; God has put limits to evil in that one, and he is therefore not incapable of being saved.
There is such an abhorrence against the evil wrought by Satan that in many cases it has turned into a personal hate. It is most healthy to love righteousness and to hate iniquity; but it is not in the spirit of Christ to hate the sinner no matter how vile he is. If there is a revolt in the heart of any against these considerations, there must be something there that needs the cleansing of the precious blood and the help of His Spirit.
Again we read in God's Word that "the devils (demons) also believe, and tremble" (Jas. 2:19). In the trembling there is hope. They are not "past feeling." They will be hard to reach, it may take a long time. Only God has the patience, love, and power. "His grace is sufficient." The harder the case, the greater the glory.
In Acts 19:14-16 we read, "And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, . . . and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded."
Here are evil spirits on this occasion and in various other places of the Bible (Matt. 8:31; Luke 10:17), who acknowledged the authority of our Lord and His servants. We do not say that they were converted: they were far from that, but they fought for the authority of Christ. Their motives may not have been the highest; but we do affirm that if missionaries who were in a savage country should hear some vile man insisting upon the authority of Christ and His Name being used by those alone who had the right to use it, they who witnessed it would say that there was something in that savage upon which God could work.
In the Chapter on The Limitations of Human Freedom we see that God always limits sin in the creature, so that there is a nidus or ground left for Him to work upon, and whatsoever He can not overrule for good, He restrains.
Satan is not yet confined to the pit nor cast into the lake of fire. He has not yet gone as far into sin as he will go, for God has always limited his activities. We are not asserting that the fires are not already kindled in his own breast, but he still is in the heavenlies (Eph. 6:12); Christians know this not only by Scripture, but also by experience. In the highest and most heavenly approach to God the believer often encounters the enemy. He is still "the accuser of our brethren." His judgment has been accomplished in Christ's death on the cross, but it has not yet been wrought out.
This leads us to ask the question, Has the death of Christ on the cross accomplished anything for angels and especially anything for fallen angels or demons? (Demons are spirits not as great as angels, and probably disembodied.) Everything on earth, and also in heaven has been reconciled by His death on the cross (Col. 1:20). We can understand that it was through the fall of the angels that the heavens became unclean, and we have the Scripture also that He charged His angels with folly (Job. 4:18). Through the precious blood, all in the heavens as well as in the earth are to be reconciled.
Let us see what was included in the death of Christ. Man was in Christ for "the Head of every man is Christ" (1Cor. 11:3).
Angels were also in Him, for He "is the Head of all principalities and power" (Col. 2:10). The angels and all creations were in Him. "For in Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created through Him, and for Him" (Col. 1:16, literal). These words, "thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers," refer to the different ranks of angels.
Col. 1:19 tells us that all fulness dwells in Him. We know that besides all the fulness of God, all creation was in Him, so that when He died all creation died in Him as a seed, and when He arose all creation rose in Him. In reference to His resurrection and glorification He is called the first-born of all creation (Col. 1:15), and as a result of His death and resurrection, the whole creation is to be made anew: even those who never fell will receive a higher glory, and all those who fell, being in the seed, will be in the resultant harvest. Then shall be fulfilled that word, Phil. 2:10,11 (literal): "In the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
The Mosaic worship and ritual was patterned after a heavenly worship. We see the heavenly worship very clearly in the Apocalypse where angelic priests ministering in the earthly tabernacle was typically the blood of slain animals; but Christ's blood is necessary to purify the heavens. Heb. 9:23,24. "It was therefore necessary that things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, . . . but into heaven itself." This text teaches that the blood of Christ purifies the heavens. Some think that because Christ did not come as an angel (Heb. 2:16), that, therefore, there is no redemption for angels; it is necessary to remember that Christ "was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death" (Heb. 2:9). Had He not gone as low as any man or angel could fall, He would not reach all; but passing through the highest He became the lowest that He might include all from he lowest to the highest.
All these wondrous facts help to explain the interest of angels in all the work of Christ. The good angels helped Him, and the wicked angels assaulted Him. It is in reference to the great salvation in Christ that 1Peter 1:10-12 records, ''which things the angels desire to look into." It is because of these considerations that Eph. 3:10 speaks, not of the ministry of angels to us, but our ministry to the angels. It reads: "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God." This is certainly a remarkable text, and a remarkable ministry is pointed out. This testimony and work belongs especially to the Church, the body of Christ spoken of in these later Epistles of the Apostle Paul. They, the Church, have all their blessings in the super-heavenlies (Eph. 1:3, literal), and one of their special works is to be, and it began when Paul wrote these words, to witness to angels. When we read that the principalities and powers spoken of in Ephesians are, for the most part, if not entirely, the evil angelic principalities and powers (Eph. 6:12), the force of this testimony of the Church becomes stronger and clearer. It is certainly not to mock these evil angels that the testimony is given, but to teach them; and no one can learn the wisdom of God as revealed in Christ without a change of heart.
When our Lord died, He descended into hades, and had a message to the spirits which were disobedient in the days of Noah. The disobedient spirits were evidently those of both men and fallen angels (2Pet. 2:4) who did wickedly in the days of Noah. The earth became polluted and the judgment of the flood was poured out upon them. Christ went and preached to these, 1Pet. 3:18-20; 1Pet. 4:6, tells us the purpose of the preaching of the gospel to the dead. It is, first, "that they might be judged according to men in the flesh," and second, that they might "live according to God in the spirit." The purpose, therefore, was to bring them judgment in order to live "according to God in the spirit." This is certainly spiritual life. This implies repentance, and faith and a real conversion.
If what we believe is true, the sons of God of Gen. 6:4 are a fallen race of men, fallen from the angelic state; and to this agrees the Septuagint Greek Bible which was much used by our Lord and His apostles, which calls these sons of God angels. We have in 1Peter 3:18-20 and Gen. 6:4 the confirmation of the unity of the race of men and angels, and the power of the cross of Christ to make all "live according to God in the spirit." All this gives point to that important word in "the mystery of godliness" that He was "seen of angels," not only in hades but on earth and in heaven.
Further, it was not only earthly rulers but also the angelic rulers that brought about the crucifixion of our Lord. In Dan. 10:20 etc., we learn that there were earthly kings of different countries, and also angelic kings over the same countries; and all of these angelic kings were fallen angels. God's purpose included in its scope, the free agency of men and angels. They all meant for evil the death of Christ; but God worked it all for good. They were ignorant, to a great degree, of the enormity of their sin and also of the blessed outcome through God's overruling. Satan is especially called "the prince of this world" (John 16:11). In 1Cor. 2:8 we read, "Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." There was evidently much ignorance on the part of evil men and the evil angels. In the typical teaching of the old dispensations, it is sins of ignorance that are provided for in their sacrifices (Lev. 4:1; Num. 15:28). How much more in the anti-type, the precious blood of Christ, is there provision for all sins of ignorance! This is not implying that there is not full punishment for sin; but it is establishing the principle that men and angels were in large part ignorant in their great sin of crucifying Christ, and, therefore, because of their ignorance, there is provision for them in the death of Christ. Our Lord had this in mind, for He saw all who were instigating and executing His crucifixion. He called it the "hour of darkness," that is, Satan's hour; but looking at all of them, men and evil angels, He prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). That prayer of our Lord has been in part and will be fully answered; for every prayer of His is in accord with God's will, and no prayer of His will ever go unanswered.
In this light, we can better understand Heb. 2:14, the last part of the verse, "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." Satan and evil men brought, about the death of our Lord; and, without knowing it, they were bringing about their own overthrow. The word translated "destroy" means to render "ineffective," "to conquer." We know that men are rendered ineffective for evil and conquered by the precious blood and the love and Spirit of God in Christ. God's method of conquering is always to "overcome evil with good." He is never satisfied with a negative result. He does not end with trying and imprisoning an enemy; He converts them into friends (2Kings 6:21-23). "And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them? And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captivity with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the band of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.''
Again we read 1John 3:8, "For this purpose the, Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." This word for ''destroy'' means ''to loosen," ''to unbind,'' ''to set at liberty''; also ''to demolish'' and ''to break"; also "to declare to be lawful" and "to admit to privileges. In destroying the works of the enemy, God will do all these things. He will loosen, that He Himself may make anew. "He will outlaw, that they may become His own again. The redeeming and recreating work of Christ will continue till all the work of the enemy is abolished. The last enemy that He thus conquers will be death. He gets the victory over death by conquering the one who caused death (1Cor. 15:26; Heb. 2:l4).
In 1Tim. 5:21 there is another word that deserves special notice; it is the phrase, "elect angels." Whenever in Scripture the phrase "elect" occurs in reference to men, it means the ones whom God has chosen from among the sinful and fallen for salvation in this age. Likewise the phrase, "elect angels" signifies that God's purpose for angels are entirely analogous to that of men; viz., that God chooses out in this age some for salvation.
The doctrine of election has been too little understood. We need to remark again that election has been misunderstood, because it is a small part of the arc of the circle of God's great purpose of salvation. God purposes the salvation of all (2Pet. 3:9; 1Tim. 2:4). And in order to the accomplishment of this great purpose, He selects His first agents. When our Lord desired to give the gospel to all Israel, He chose but twelve disciples. The age in which we are is an elective age, but God is not unrighteous. He is no "respecter of persons. He elects and trains a few as the best means to reach the remainder. "Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming, and these are "a kind of first-fruits" (Jas. 1:18). And "then cometh the end," the end of the ages, when the whole harvest is reaped and saved (1Cor. 15:23, 28). In this light, in place of the doctrine of election being a stumbling-block, it becomes a help in the revelation of God's plan in the ages. "Elect angels" means nothing less than the saving of some angels in order to the salvation of all angels ultimately, for His elections are always a first-fruit; and a first-fruit of any kind of crop is a promise of the whole harvest.
We need to look at the Chapter on The Judgments of God and see that all of God's judgments are but part of the process of salvation. Man looks too closely at the judgments themselves, without seeing their grand outcome. 2Peter 2:4 says: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (Tartarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment. . . ." The argument in this passage is, Can you expect Him to spare guilty men? The answer is emphatically, No. We will be justified in continuing the line of reasoning thus:--If God has prepared a way of salvation for His sons who as men are on a lower plane than angels, will He not prepare a way of salvation for His sons who are on a higher plane? As soon as we read the word "judgment" in reference to angels we have hope for them, for the path of judgment is His path to convict them and to get them ready for His great salvation in Christ.
In our study on The Lake of Fire and Brimstone, which is the great final judgment for the obdurate and impenitent, we saw that fire and brimstone meant one thing, viz., that the word "brim-stone" defined the character of the fire. We were surprized to find that the word "brimstone" was the same word as "divine," and the verb derived from the same signified "to fumigate," "to purify," "to dedicate to a god." The lake of fire and brimstone is the lake of divine purification which dedicates to the living God those who have to endure such judgments. Judgments do not save any one, but they are used by God to bring one to one's self; as the prodigal son of Luke 15:17 had to be brought to his true self by suffering before he returned to his father. The salvation in Christ is not accepted now because one feels he is all right. Judgments are used to reveal our true self and our dire need. Judgment is a "John the Baptist" to prepare the way of the Lord. Divine purification keeps on for the ages of the ages. This process is called "the second death." The first death is the physical death; the second death is the death of the self-life. The lake of fire and brimstone will continue its judgments till all is accomplished that God has planned, and till in all God's universe there is no more death, for "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1Cor. 15:26). When death is abolished and the new creation progresses unto completion, in all God's new creation there will be no place for any kind of hell, for all things will be made new.
We know that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, and that the great work of Satan is sin, and that Christ came "to make an end of sins" (Dan. 9:24). "The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin." "He is the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1John 2:2). There is no such thing as eternal sin. The phrase so translated means sin for an age or for the ages. Sin will be finally and utterly put away at the end of the ages by the sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:26). All sin can only be put away by the conquest of Satan, the beginner and tempter to sin.
We quote the Rev. Thomas Allin:
"To this in fact it comes, that the popular view, while admitting God's power and goodness to be infinite, yet teaches that evil shall ultimately prevail--a position obviously untenable and indeed absurd. 'Order and right can not but prevail finally in a universe under His government'--Butler's Analogy. For argue as you please, refine, explain away, it continues still an insuperable difficulty, on the popular view, or any mere modification of it, that the Devil is victor, and triumphs over God and goodness. It is nothing at all to the purpose to allege, either that those who perish finally have chosen evil of their own will, or that all evil beings are shut up in chains and torment: it is the very permanence of evil in any shape: its continued presence--no matter from what cause--that constitutes the triumph of the Evil One. 'To suppose,' says Canon Westcott, 'that evil once introduced into the world is forever, appears to be at variance with the essential conception of God as revealed to us'--Hist. Faith. I repeat that if evil be as strong as good, as enduring as God Himself, there is no escape from the conclusion that you proclaim in so teaching the triumph of the Evil One. You are proclaiming not the Catholic faith, but a dualism. You blot from the faith of Christendom its fundamental article, 'I believe in one God the Father Almighty.' What are all heresies, all errors, that have stained the Church of God, compared with this supreme heresy, this dualism, which seats evil on the throne of the universe, a power enduring as God Himself? The torments, physical and mental, of the popular Hell, awful as they are, recede into almost nothing as compared with the far more awful spectacle of God vanquished, of God trying to save but failing, and watching His children as they slowly sink beneath the endless sway of Satan; of God's Son returning, not in triumph, but in defeat; of the Cross shattered, prostrate, paralyzed."*
Sin would not be effaced if all the angelic sons of God were not saved, for He came to make an end of sin.
The victory of Christ would not be complete with all those lost who were once His. If Satan could say to Christ, "I hold in my power one man, angel or demon that you can not get," the victory would not be complete. "Every knee" would not bow and "every tongue" confess. The greatest victory will be when Satan himself bows the knee and confesses "that Jesus is the Christ to the glory of God the Father." And remember this has to be done "in the name," that is, in the nature of Christ. Satan and his angels were once in Christ (Col. 1:16). He will be in Christ again when he makes his great submission and confession and the cleansing blood makes him clean. There is power in the precious blood for us and for all (lJohn l:7; lJohn 2:2).
Again, "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." That means that every one who was in Adam died in his sin, and every one who was in Christ lives through His death and resurrection. But as Satan and all creation were in Christ (Col. 1:16); all shall, therefore, be made alive in Him.
There is nothing that so shocks the sensibilities of some people as to hint at the possibility of Satan and the evil angels being saved. This is not saying that every one in God's universe is not to reap what he sows, that every one will not receive punishment, not only adequate for the guilt of sin, but also sufficient to burn the lesson in so deeply that it can never be effaced. Satan's power has always been limited. God is overruling it now for good to them that love Him. Satan's sins are, in part, sins of ignorance. Our Lord can say to Satan and his angels, "But as for you, ye thought evil against Me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Gen. 50:20).
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