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Such is a very brief review of all the texts where life, and everlasting life are spoken of in the New Testament. On the whole of them I would now propose a few queries and remarks. If eternal life refers to the happiness of heaven in a future state, how is it accounted for, that eternal death is never spoken of as its counterpart to the wicked in a future state? Everlasting punishment is mentioned, Matth. 25: 46. as the counterpart of everlasting life, but everlasting or eternal death is not once named in the Bible. But it is well known that eternal death is a favorite expression with many preachers. But it may be said, "everlasting punishment, everlasting fire, everlasting destruction, are mentioned in the Bible, and are not these equivalent to eternal life?" We answer no: and it will be seen in the next Section that such expressions have no respect to punishment beyond this life. But again, if eternal life refers to the happiness of heaven in a future state, how happens it that it is so often spoken about as a thing enjoyed in this life, and dwelling in persons by believing in Jesus? It is defined to consist in knowing God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. It could not only be enjoyed here, but people could enter into this life, and is the same as entering into the kingdom of God. Further, though eternal life is sometimes spoken of as future, and an object of hope, yet I do not find it spoken of as an object expected after the resurrection of the dead, or once mentioned as equivalent to the happiness to be enjoyed in the resurrection state. It is rather spoken of as something expected after the end of the Jewish age, during the age of the Messiah or "the world to come." The promise of eternal life in this age to come, was made to Christ's disciples; for when our Lord spoke, the old dispensation had not then vanished away, and it was not until it ended, that our Lord's kingdom came
in its glory and power. It was a matter of hope to his disciples, for then they were to enter into life, or into the joy of their Lord. But again, the term life is used both in the Old and New Testaments to express happiness or enjoyment. We have seen that it is used very often to designate the spiritual or moral life of believers. Those who believed were not condemned, did not perish, but were saved. Those who did not believe of the Jewish nation, and those believers who did not endure to the end did perish. The wrath of God abode on them, and his wrath came on them to the uttermost at the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews, by putting the word of God from them, judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life. The apostles turned to the Gentiles, and thus the kingdom of God was taken from the Jews, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. I would only add, that this eternal life is expressly said to be enjoyed in the world to come. This world or age to come, we are told by the orthodox authors above, began at our Lord's first advent, and shall be completed at his second coming. How then is eternal life to be enjoyed if the world to come ends, according to their own explanation of this expression?
In regard to the word everlasting being associated with the term life it can occasion no serious difficulty. The term everlasting is also applied to the kingdom of Christ, and the gospel of this kingdom is called "the everlasting gospel." But surely no one ever thought that the gospel is to be preached to the endless ages of eternity. Is it said, "How could the apostles enjoy everlasting life in the kingdom of God here, seeing a few years terminates the existence of every man in this world?" I answer this by asking, how could Samuel abide before the Lord forever? Or how could the slave serve his master forever? In short, how could the priesthood be enjoyed by Aaron and
his sons forever? Or the land of Canaan be an inheritance to Israel forever? But these remarks I have merely suggested for consideration. Allowing they have no weight, the grand subject of our investigation stands unaffected; for all must admit the remarkable fact, that frequent as eternal life is mentioned, yet no sacred writer ever ventured to speak of eternal death; and it is with the application of this word to future punishment we are at present chiefly concerned.
In Luke 20: 34–36. we have this world and that world mentioned, or, this age and that age or state. But as it requires no particular consideration, it is unnecessary to transcribe it. I would only remark, that aionos here cannot mean endless duration or forever. It would not do to say the children of this forever marry, and the children of that forever do not marry.
ALL THE PLACES WHERE AION AND AIONIOS ARE USED TO EXPRESS THE DURATION OF PUNISHMENT, PARTICULARLY CONSIDERED, IN WHATEVER WAY RENDERED IN THE COM
MATTH. 25: 46. "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." See also verse 41. which refers to the same persons, and the same punishment. Before we proceed to consider these words directly, we beg
leave to make some general remarks on chapters 24. and 25. together.
1st. What is contained in these two chapters, is one continued discourse of our Lord's, addressed to his disciples. The word then, in verse 1. of chap. 25. shows this. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins." When was the kingdom of heaven to be likened to this? The answer is found in chap. 24. which is, at the coming of Christ to destroy Jerusalem. It is further manifest from chap. 26: 1. "And it came to pass when Jesus had finished all these sayings." And what sayings could these be but all the sayings contained in the two chapters? For it will be difficult to point out any change of subject or interruption of our Lord's discourse, from verse 4. of chap. 24. to the end of chap. 25. That this discourse was delivered to the disciples alone, is plain from comparing chap. 24: 1-4. with chap. 26: 1, 2.
2d. The whole of this discourse is in answer to the questions put by the disciples, verse 3. of chap. 24.
Tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world," or age? This supposes he had said something about his coming, which we find was the case from the last verse of chap. 23. The questions put, were to obtain information about this coming, and the signs whereby they might know its approach. All allow, that the coming, in chap. 24. refers to our Lord's coming at the end of the Jewish age or dispensation, but many contend that the coming in chap. 25. refers to his coming at a day of general judgment at the end of this world. But the word then, so clearly marks the connexion of these two chapters, as to forbid such a supposition. Nor can any man point out where our Lord left off speaking of the one coming, and began to speak of the other. He mentions his coming, chap.
24: 3, 27, 30, 37, 39, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50. and in chap. 25: 6, 10, 13, 19, 27, 31. as one: nor can any one doubt that the same coming, chap. 25: 31. is the same as that, chap. 24: 30-35. from the language used and the circumstances mentioned. See also Matth. 16:27, 28. Luke 9: 26, 27. Mark 8: 38. and 9:1. From verse 4. of chap. 24. our Lord proceeds to answer the disciples' questions, and points out particularly the signs whereby they might know that his coming was at hand. These I need not particularize.
3d. What has led many to conclude, that chap. 25. refers to a day of general judgment, is, overlooking the connexion between the two chapters, marked by the word then, in verse 1. of chap. 25. and not noticing how exactly the three parts of chap. 25. correspond to and illustrate three things inculcated on the disciples from verse 42. to the end of chap. 24. These I shall briefly notice, hoping the reader will compare the passages I refer to. Notice, then,
1st. That our Lord inculcates on his disciples the duty of watchfulness, in view of his coming. See chap. 24:42-44. Let the reader then compare these three verses with chap. 25: 1-13. and we think he must be convinced, that the parable of the ten virgins was spoken to illustrate, and enforce on his disciples this very duty. Hence the parable ends with these words, expressive of its object-" Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh;" which are almost the very words in which he stated the duty of watchfulness in chap. 24: 43, 44. Who can dispute this? But admit it, and this part of Matth. 25. must be given up as referring to a day of general judgment at the end of this world.
2d. In chap. 24: 45. our Lord also inculcates on his disciples the duty of faithfulness, in view of his coming. Let the reader again compare the second