Thursday, May 16, 2013

Antichrist: Past or Future?

ANTICHRIST: PAST OR FUTURE? By Clarence H. Hewitt, Pastor Advent Christian Church, Peace Dale, RI An address delivered before the Boston Advent Christian Minister’s Meeting January 6, 1919 Originally published by Advent Christian Publication Society 160 Warren Street, Boston, MA 1919 Edited for release as a Word Document by Dr. John H. Roller 2013 The subject of the biblical Antichrist is a challenge to careful and painstaking study. The principal passages of Scripture having an undisputed application to the mystical figure of Antichrist are 1 John 2:18-22, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Daniel 7, Revelation 13 and Revelation 17. At once fascinating and intricate, no theme of prophecy is more important than this, and none demands greater care and sanity in its treatment. To be wrong in this matter is to distort and confuse the whole picture of last-day developments. To be right is to be able to view eschatology in the correct perspective. There have been three great interpretations of this problem: the Preterist, the Historicist and the Futurist. The Preterist opinion is that some ancient tyrant such as Nero or Antiochus Epiphanes is the Antichrist. The Historicist view is that he has played a dominating role in history in the person of the popes of Rome, and the politico-ecclesiastical counterfeit of Christianity which is personated in the papal succession. The Futurist hypothesis is that Antichrist is yet to come, and that he will be a wicked, infidel king, who will deceive the whole world, receive the worship of men, and lead the nations in a mad attempt to overthrow the rule of Christ. An analysis of the arguments of the Futurist and Historicist schools reveals that there are ten points of striking contrast between them. These are the pivotal points of the debate. The decision rests upon how these points are maintained or lost by their respective defenders. These ten points of diverging views concern: (1) the nature of Antichrist (2) the character of his denial of Christ (3) the identity of the power that hinders his manifestation (4) the time of his revelation (5) the length of his reign (6) the scene of his activities (7) his relation with the nations (8) his relation with fleshly Israel (9) his role in the battle of Armageddon (10) the manner of his overthrow The Historicist view may be stated succinctly as follows: Antichrist is to be found in an apostate Christian bishop or line of bishops, together with a terrible counterfeit of true Christianity which will head up in, and be personated by, this false bishop. The false Christ denies the true Christ by his unfaithfulness and apostasy, and by elevating himself into the true Christ's place. The errors which are to culminate in the revelation of Antichrist were already working in Paul’s time, but the mighty Roman Empire, by its opposition to Christianity, was then preventing the ripening of world conditions for the emergence of this terrible monster. Antichristianity could not culminate until Christianity should dominate. So the throne of the Caesars is the hindering power mentioned by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, and the fall of Rome is to be the signal for the rapid culmination of Antichristian practices and tendencies until the chief bishop of the nominal Church shall himself impersonate a hideous and malignant world-force, the product of hellish machinations, under whose cross-crowned tiara shall be marshaled all the subtlest and most potent energies of Satan. The length of this Christ-dishonoring imposter's reign is to be a period of 1,260 years. He is to be, not the fiery star of a brief and meteoric career, but the domineering Christ-opposer of the ages. The scene of his abominations is the visible Church – the spiritual temple of God – and the seat of his power is to be Rome, “that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” He is to be revealed (O subtle marvel!) at the heart both of the church and of the world. Such are the subtlety of his nature and the commanding advantages of his position that he will be able to foist a despotic control upon the nations of the Christian earth, wielding over them a tyranny at once the most refined and most cruel of all time. This mysterious figure is to be the arch-persecutor of history, and his victims are to be the saints of God. Antichrist is to preserve his existence down to the time of the return of the true Christ. He is at that time to be an instigating agency in the final conflict of the ages, sending forth his emissaries to help stir up the nations to the fateful field of Armageddon. Antichrist will reign for 1,260 years. At the expiration of this period, he will be judged, and his overthrow will begin. His destruction is not so much an event as a process. When his reign proper ceases, his dominating position in worldly affairs will be lost. From this time until the end, the Holy Ghost will cause a gradual atrophy and consumption of his power. Finally, he will be smitten with paralysis, and he will be destroyed by the dazzling brilliance of Christ's second advent. Historicist interpreters, as they scan the pages of history, believe that they find the fulfillment of this picture in the character and course of the Roman papacy. Let us turn now to the Futurist advocates. They believe that there are fatal objections to the former view. They rehearse a story vastly different in every detail. Working from the same general prophetic basis, they postulate an ambitious program of Antichristian dominance in the near future. Antichrist is to be a single individual. Just as Christ was the incarnation of God, the Antichrist will be a last-day incarnation of. Satan. A blatant infidel and atheist, he will deny both the Father and the Son. He will be the embodiment of blasphemy. He will oppose God and Christ, and he will exalt himself as one to receive divine honors. Either the Holy Spirit or the Church is the mysterious hindering power mentioned by Paul. These, being yet present in the world, are still restraining the manifestation of Antichrist. But soon these will be taken out of the way. Christ will come down into the air, and His Bride will be caught up secretly to meet Him. This is called the Rapture, and is supposed to be the first of two phases in the Parousia, or Coming, of Christ, between which lies the career of Antichrist. Following the Rapture, there being no Spirit and no working force of righteousness in the world to hold him back, the mystery will be unveiled, and Antichrist will appear. The reign of Antichrist will be for seven years – three and a half years as the world’s idol, and three and a half years as the world’s tyrant. This period will be the most awful in all the history of the world. First, the wonderful personality of Antichrist will win the whole world over to an open admiration and acceptance. By the artful employment of hellish craft and cunning, he will make himself the world’s great and pampered hero. Then, after three and a half years, a great change will take place. “The world’s popular idol will become the world’s diabolical despot.” The second half of his reign will be characterized by surpassing lawlessness and persecution of saints – both Jewish and Christian. “The Antichrist and his henchmen will rage, and in their ragings they will conquer the righteous. Great joy and high carnival will attend the death of the saints; and gifts will be exchanged and festive banquets ordered whenever a new company of Christians shall have been slain. Unspeakable orgies will be preferable to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. With mad and insane lawlessness will the inhabitants of the earth break into a spree of murder and debauchery. God will be despised and missionaries of hell will direct worship toward the wonderful Antichrist.” – H. Pierson King, The Imperial Hope, p. 158. Antichrist will rebuild the old city of Babylon by the Euphrates River, making it his capital and seat. This brilliant ribald, in fulfillment of 2 Thessalonians 2:4, will also seat himself in the Jewish temple at Jerusalem, which will be rebuilt, and will there receive the worship of men, so that he, “as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” Antichrist will be received by the nations. In particular, ten European kingdoms, fragments of the old Roman Empire, will unite in a mighty league of nations, choosing the Antichrist as their chieftain. In this way, the Roman Empire will practically be restored under a ruler who will put the vices and cruelties of Nero and Domitian in the shade. Backed by this powerful ten-kingdom coalition, Antichrist will make himself the godless tyrant of the earth. He will be received by the Jews, who will have been restored to Palestine, and will make a treaty with them, called by Isaiah “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” The turning point in Antichrist’s career at the end of the first three and a half years will be the breaking of his treaty with the Jews. From this time on, the brilliant and plausible features will give way to the exhibition of consummate demonism. Hell will hold high carnival in the earth, led by the incarnated Devil. Antichrist will speedily mobilize the armies of earth into a universal conspiracy of rebellion against God and Christ. “Each nation will contribute its quota of soldiers. The great coalition will create the most wonderful fighting machine ever organized.... It will be a world-wide militaristic organization mobilized for the express purpose of refuting the claims of Jesus Christ. It will be a gigantic uprising against Almighty God! It will be a colossal array of millions upon millions of armed warriors, perfectly drilled, fired with diabolical hatred, and sensitive to the faintest orders of their commander, the Antichrist.” – H. Pierson King, The Imperial Hope, p. 159. The hour of Armageddon will have struck. Antichrist, the generalissimo of the forces of evil, will take the field with his federated armies. It will be the proudest moment of his life – the very zenith of his career. At this very moment, the heavens will open. The true Christ, accompanied by armies of raptured saints, will reveal Himself, and Antichrist will be suddenly paralyzed, and his power completely dissipated, by the brilliance of this event. Such, in outline, is the bold plan of the Futurists for the mystical drama of the Man of Sin in the near future. The following table will be found of value in clearly grasping the essential points of contrast between the two views. HISTORICIST FUTURIST I. Nature of Antichrist Apostate Christian bishop Last-day incarnation of Satan I. Nature of His Denial Apostasy Bold atheism and infidelity III. Hindering Power The Roman Empire The Church or the Holy Spirit IV. Time of Manifestation After (a) a great apostasy (b) the fall of Rome After the so-called Rapture V. Length of His Reign 1,260 years 7 years VI. His Seat In the Church At Rome (a) In the restored Jewish temple (b) At Babylon rebuilt VII. His Relations with the Nations Religio-political idol and despot, exercising long and cruel tyranny Idol and King of a ten-kingdom coalition VIII. His Relation with Israel Only incidental; not prophesied First a confederate; then a persecutor IX. His Role at Armageddon An instigator Generalissimo in actual command of the forces of evil X. Manner of His Destruction (a) A gradual consuming away (b) Final paralysis at the Parousia Sudden destruction at the zenith of his power, at the Revelation, so-called From this resume of contending views, it will be discovered at once that the essential conceptions of the two schools are diametrically opposed. The one is a conception of refined subtlety; the other of blind, brute force. The Historicist looks upon the Antichrist as the essence of Satanic opposition to Christ, camouflaging itself with sly cunning in an outward show of piety; and, robed as an angel of light, poisoning, ruining, and destroying the heritage of Christ through long centuries under the very sign and scepter of the cross. This picture proves too elusive for the Futurist. Like the unbelieving Jew, he seeks for a sign – a visible, physical manifestation. So, having dined upon exegetical Welsh rare-bit, he dreams of a horrid ogre about to emerge from the abyss, who will turn hell loose upon the earth; and who, glutted with blood, and intoxicated with power, will organize a mammoth military array, and go forth with cannon and air-ships and tanks to fight against God and the angels! The Futurist, let it be said, is serious. He really believes all this. He finds no difficulty in adjusting both faith and reason to fit the requirements of his Procrustean program. To support his position, he produces a perfect Armada of proof texts. He believes that Antichrist will be an individual, literal personage. He cites (from 2 Thessalonians 2) the phrases, “man of sin,” “son of perdition” and “lawless one” – and (from 1 John 2) the name “the Antichrist” – to prove that one individual is meant. He seems to forget that these expressions are symbols and that a symbol always represents something else from its own proper nature. There is no more logic in making “that man of sin” mean a literal man than if one were to assert that “the beast” of Revelation 13 must be a quadruped because the word beast is employed. Both “beast” and “man of sin” are symbols. Both refer to Antichrist. Even if one were to grant that “man of sin” might stand for an individual, yet “beast” cannot, since it is a law of prophetic symbolism that a beast always represents governmental power, but never a single person. Again, Futurists claim that the ten horns on the fourth beast of Daniel 7 represent ten kingdoms. Then, by parity of reasoning, the little horn, which comes up amongst them, should represent also a kingdom, or political power of some description. And this little horn stands for Antichrist. A point is also made of the “king of fierce countenance” in Daniel 8: 23-25. This “king” they tell us, is an individual, and he is a figure of Antichrist. The first statement is correct. We willingly admit that this fierce king typifies an individual, but that he symbolizes Antichrist we will never admit. Let us remember that Daniel saw this king under the vision of the ram and he-goat, beasts that are expressly stated to represent Medo-Persia and Greece. It must be accepted as a principle of interpretation that whatever is seen to occur in a symbol applying to a certain power must be fulfilled in history during the actual existence of that power. When the thing symbolized ceases to exist, the symbol also expires by limitation. Does the horn upon the head of the he-goat appear to be suddenly broken? We shall look for the historic parallel in the sudden fall of some Macedonian monarch. Are four horns observed to arise instead of the horn that is broken? We must seek the interpretation in the partition of the Macedonian kingdom into four divisions. All this seems perfectly clear. If then a “king of fierce countenance” is seen to arise in the latter time of the kingdom of the four horns, we are to look for that one to appear some time during the historic subsistence of those kingdoms, and not two thousand years after their disappearance from history. Accordingly, the “king of fierce countenance” must have appeared in history between the partition of Alexander's empire about 300 B.C. and the year 31 B.C., when the last surviving division of the Macedonian kingdom gave up its scepter to the Romans at Actium. He positively must be looked for between these two termini, and neither before nor after. Hence, to transfer this symbol to the remote future, and apply it to Antichrist, is sheer exegetical folly. The same may be said with equal force of the “king of the north” in Daniel 11:43-45. Futurists also see Antichrist lurking in these verses. This vision parallels that of the eighth chapter. Both were seen by the prophet to transpire under the third world empire, that of Greece. The “king of the north” is a symbol representing one of the four divisions of that empire. When the last of these divisions ceased to exist historically, the symbol also ceased by limitation. It has no force today, other than as a fulfilled prophecy, and can have no bearing upon the coming of an Antichrist. The failure of the attempt to intrude this chapter into the picture of latter day events is strikingly shown by the recent collapse of the theory which made the Sultan of Turkey to be the “king of the north.” Now against the Futurist notion that Antichrist must be an individual, the Historicist school urges many weighty considerations. Concerning Paul’s expression, “man of sin”: this phrase should be contrasted with its direct opposite, “man of God,” in 2 Timothy 3: 17. Here “man of God” evidently means the succession of true Christian pastors or bishops. The Church extending on through the ages is called “one new man” in Ephesians 2: 15. The line of Jewish pontiffs is referred to as “the high priest” in Hebrews 9:7. If ho antikristos in 1 John 2:18 must mean an individual because the definite article is used, what about ho kristos in 1 Corinthians 12:12? In this place ho kristos, the Christ, means the true churchly succession through the ages. In all of these instances a name analogous to “the Antichrist” is used with the definite article to indicate a succession of persons rather than a single individual. All this agrees with the common usage of speech today. The American Constitution provides that “The president shall be the commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States.” Futurist logic would restrict this provision to an individual. Romanists say that “the pope is infallible.” Futurist logic would insist that a particular, individual pontiff is meant. Antichrist is called “that man of sin, the son of perdition.”' The only other time in the New Testament that the name “son of perdition” is used, it is applied to Judas (Acts 1:30). Judas was an apostate Christian bishop who betrayed his Lord for money (Acts 1:20). It seems only reasonable to see in Iscariot a type of that other son of perdition, and to believe that he, too, is an apostate bishop of Christ, selling his Lord into a new shame and mockery for the glamour of worldly wealth and position. We are told that there were many Antichrists in the early days (1 John 2:18-19). These are described as Christians who had fallen into heresy. The spirit of Antichrist was working in them. It was the spirit of false doctrine. Then must we not expect that when the Antichrist shall develop, he, too, will be a Christian who has fallen into grievous error? As Christ and His Church are the personification and embodiment of Truth through all ages (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 3:15), so is the Antichrist the personification and embodiment of Error throughout the entire dispensation (1 John 2:18-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). Then he is not an individual infidel appearing away down at the close of the dispensation, who cannot be the arch-heretic for the simple reason that he makes no pretensions of belief. One is not a heretic unless he pretends to believe, and believes wrongly. Futurists reject the pope as the Antichrist because he is a professed Christian. The Roman Church, they remind us, is a part of the Church of Christ, just as much as the Protestant Church. But this is no objection. The very fact that the pope claims to be “the representative of God and the vice-gerent of Christ upon earth” gives him his position as the Antichrist. This claim constitutes that “blasphemy” and that “lie” which are such inseparable characteristics of the man of sin. And if the Roman Church were not a part of the Church of Christ, her head, the pope, would not be sitting in “the temple of God” as the self-constituted “representative of God and vicar of Christ upon earth.” Futurists look upon Antichrist as an atheist and infidel, a being absolutely opposed to Christ. They lay great emphasis upon the preposition anti, which means “against.” Hence they deem it a great mistake to call the papacy the Antichrist, because the pope is the pretended vicar of Christ and not His opponent. Regarding anti: in the parathetic compound antikristos, the preposition has the force of “instead of” rather than “opposed to.” Antichrist is therefore one acting in the stead of Christ, rather than one absolutely opposed to him. A parallel instance occurs in Acts 13:7 – ho anthupatos, literally, the pro-consul. This man was not an opposer of the consul, but simply an anti-consul, or one acting in the consul’s place. For the primary signification of anti in composition in Hellenistic Greek, see Green’s “Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament,” paragraph 147a. Under anti, Donnegan’s “Greek Lexicon” says that “anti in composition expresses opposition; also, taking the place of another, e. g., antibasileus.” Anti so used is an exact equivalent of the Latin preposition vice, as in vice-president. From vice is derived vicar. The pope of Rome pretends to be “the vicar of Christ upon earth.” Thus he proclaims himself to be the vice-Christ, or, in equivalent Greek, the Antichrist. But, contends the Futurist, “John says, ‘He is Antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son.’ Denying the Father is atheism, while denying the Son is infidelity. Antichrist, accordingly, will deny the existence of God. His ultimate purpose will be to refute the claims of Jesus Christ.” John certainly teaches that Antichrist shall deny both God and His Son Jesus. However, it is well to remember that open skepticism and opposition is not the only form of denial. Apostasy and unfaithfulness is the most cutting denial possible. Futurists should study carefully the use of the verb arneomai, to deny, in the New Testament; 2 Peter 2:1, e. g., reads, “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies even denying the Lord that bought them.” The denial of Christ is here shown to be turning the truth of his Gospel into a falsehood; and Peter expressly states that this denial would be made by false teachers within the Church. Of similar import are Titus 1: 16, and Jude 4. One of the best dictionaries of the Greek New Testament, the Grimn, edited by Thayer, gives as the second definition of arneomai that it is “used of these who, by cherishing and disseminating pernicious opinions, are adjudged to have apostatized from God and Christ.” Apostasy, not infidelity, is the character of Antichrist’s great denial. A quotation from Newman’s “Protestant Idea of Antichrist” is in point here. “We observe,” says that future Romish Cardinal, “that the essence of the doctrine that there is only one Catholic and Apostolic Church lies in this, that there is on earth a representative of our absent Lord, or a something divinely interposed between the soul and God, or a visible body with invisible privileges. All its subordinate characteristics flow from this description. Does it impose a creed, or impose rites and ceremonies, or change ordinances, or remit and retain sin, or rebuke and punish, or accept offerings, or send out, ministers, or invest its ministers with authority, or accept of reverence and devotion in their persons? All this is because it is Christ's visible presence. . . . All the offices, names, honors, powers which it claims depend upon the determination of the simple question, ‘Has Christ or has He not left a representative behind Him?’ Now if he has, all is easy and intelligible, this is what churchmen maintain; they welcome the news; and they recognize in the Church’s acts but the fulfillment of the high trust committed to her. But let us suppose for a moment the other side of the alternative to be true; supposing Christ has left no representative behind Him. Well then, here is an association which professes to take His place without warrant. It comes forward instead of Christ and for Him; it speaks for Him, it develops His words, it suspends his appointments, it grants dispensations in matters of positive duty; it professes to minister grace; it absolves from sin; and all this of its own authority. Is it not forthwith according to the very force of the word ‘Antichrist’? He who speaks for Christ must be His true ambassador or Antichrist. And nothing but Antichrist can he be if appointed ambassador there is none. Let his acts be the same in both cases, according as he has authority or not, so is he most holy or most guilty. It is not the acts that make the difference; it is the authority for those acts. The very same acts are Christ’s or Antichrist’s according to the doer; they are Antichrist’s if Christ does them not. There is no medium between a vice-Christ and an Antichrist.” Well may we thank the Cardinal for thus clearly stating the alternatives! With the scalpel of inevitable logic, he has revealed the position of the Futurists as wholly untenable. They must be prepared to acknowledge that the pope in all his preposterous claims and blasphemous usurpations has acted as the vicar of Christ with authority, or else admit that, lacking authority for them, he is very Antichrist. Now there was in Paul’s day a certain power “that restraineth . . . until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one.” Here is one of the most critical points of the argument. For the identity of this restraining power determines the time when Antichrist must appear. And if we can determine when to look for him, we shall be in a position to identify him with positive assurance. For, if Paul is a true prophet, must not the predicted “man of sin” be revealed at the promised time? And if, at the right time, which is shortly after the restraining power is taken away, we shall observe a monstrous and awful likeness of the lawless one emerging into view, shall we not say, “This is that which was spoken of by the prophet”? Futurists accept the Holy Spirit or sometimes the Church as this hindering power. When the Spirit and the Church shall have been taken out of the way at the so-called Rapture, then will appear the Antichrist. But what proof of this assertion can be made? The writer confesses to having been greatly puzzled by this particular Futurist contention. In none of their published literature which he has examined has he found a line of argument offered in substantiation of their claim. In one long and elaborate treatise upon the Futurist scheme, the brilliant author does not once refer to this important point. Another writer merely says, “There has been a hindering power, which, we believe, is the Holy Spirit,” but offers no proof. So I wrote to a well-known Futurist author asking to be informed upon what basis the claim is made that the restraining agency is the Church. Following is the reply. “First of all, in reply to your theological inquiry would state that the only strong proof reference concerning the restraining agency is the one that you have mentioned (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). The line of argument that holds to that theory is largely determined upon the fact that the Christian church is the official body through whom the Holy Spirit works. At its inception at Pentecost the outstanding feature was the full baptism of the Holy Spirit. That remarkable endowment characterized the early believers as no other former association with the Christ had done. The accounts in Acts further emphasized the fact of the Holy Spirit’s power as a potential force in the work and fellowship of the Church. Therefore, augmented by the obvious statement in Thessalonians, it would be quite natural to assume that this agency, when removed from the earth, would let loose to some extent the forces that had hitherto been bound by it. The agency would be comprised of both the church and the Holy Spirit. This dual removal would naturally affect conditions in the world. This is as far as the argument seems to go. I am inclined to accept it because of its plausibility.” The basis underlying this argument seems to be that since the man of sin is an evil agency, the power that restrains him must be a good agency, and would naturally be the Holy Spirit working through the Church. But instances might be multiplied without end of evil powers that have held back and restrained the operations of other evil powers. Certainly there is no positive statement or necessary implication in the passage under consideration that the Holy Spirit is the agent in mind, while, as will later be shown, there do exist in the text itself strong implications which forbid the consideration of the Spirit – or the Church, for that matter – in this connection. Accordingly the Futurist position at this, one of the most critical points of the debate, is seen to rest upon the most shadowy of foundations. The Historicist, however, has a very definite claim indeed. The restraining power, he avers, is the Roman Empire. Paul says, “And now ye know what withholdeth.” If the early Christians did know, and passed the secret from lip to lip, then primitive tradition on this point will settle the matter. The great expositor, Elliott, says concerning this withholding agency that “we have the consenting testimony of the early Fathers from Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, down to Chrysostom and Jerome, to the effect that it was understood to be the imperial power ruling and residing at Rome.” It is passing strange that Paul should employ an elaborate circumlocution about the Holy Spirit. The whole passage, 2 Thessalonians 2:5-8, is most guarded in its reference to the hindering power. The Holy Spirit is never indicated elsewhere in this mysterious, cryptic manner. If the apostle had meant the Holy Spirit he would have said so here. Why not? On the other hand, accepting the unanimous tradition of the early Fathers that the empire is here meant, surely there would be most excellent reasons for guarding a doctrine which involved the fall of the empire. Accepting this as the true meaning of “he that restraineth,” we have additional light upon the nature of Antichrist himself. If “he that restraineth” is a succession of public personages, the Roman Caesars, how clear that “he that sitteth” should be the succession of the Roman pontiffs! Now the contention that Antichrist will make his appearance in direct connection with the return of the Lord is absolutely essential to the Futurist scheme. Listen to one writer. “To assume that he (Antichrist) has come, necessitates the removal of all premillennial conclusions from popular eschatology.” This is true, from their standpoint. The gruesome picture of the hideous, last day Antichrist is the foundation of their whole house of cards. Remove him from their scheme, and the whole fantastic edifice falls about their ears. What information do we possess concerning the time of Antichrist’s unveiling? It is most precise, vivid, and unmistakable. First, we are assured by Paul that his coming will be preceded by a great apostasy. “Except there be a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed.” Now we must remember that this was spoken in Paul’s day, not ours. We are not shut up to the period of the future to find this apostasy. The Thessalonians were erroneously thinking that Christ’s coming was at hand. To show them their misconception, Paul undertook to tell them that a long time must elapse before Christ would come, and he mentioned some of the “highlights” that would characterize this interval (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8). These were: (1) An apostasy will occur in the Church; (2) the hindering power will be taken away; (3) Antichrist will be revealed; (4) he will be consumed by the Holy Spirit, called the “spirit of his mouth”; and (5) he will be destroyed by the manifestation of Christ’s coming. How Futurists can think that these great events are all to be grouped in quick sequence in immediate connection with the Parousia, I cannot understand. On such an assumption, the series might conceivably occur speedily in the then near future, and so the day of the Lord – after all – be near at hand to the Thessalonians. Only as we understand that Paul was sketching in bare outline a whole dispensation which would elapse before the Lord would come, and that the events which he mentions stand out against this vast background, can we grasp the picture of the lawless one in its true perspective. We address ourselves to the question, “Has the promised apostasy occurred?” Who is so blind he cannot see it? For although there have been many periods of spiritual declension, there has been but one great, outstanding apostasy. “Looking backward over the history of the Church for eighteen hundred years, we ask how the prediction could be more literally fulfilled than in the astonishing eclipse of pagan and idolatrous superstition under whose shadow two-thirds of nominal Christendom now rests.” This eclipse of true Catholicity by the false which now parades under that name may be said to have experienced its penumbra in the elevation of the Church to a union with the World State, when Constantine summoned and sat in the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325. The papacy was the ultimate fruit of the union of Church and State which began then to be at least tacitly recognized. Of course, this was but the faintest beginning. Apostasy always creeps in gradually. But when the apostasy had come to a head, the Church, her lamps gone out, was ready for the long slumber of the Dark Ages. We must look for Antichrist to appear as the deepening shadows of this terrible eclipse gather around the altars of Christendom. Now since this apostasy is so absolute, so flagrant, can we think it profitable to strain our eyes in search of some yet future falling away, of the likeness of which we can have not the faintest conception? Antichrist cannot be revealed, Paul tells us even more definitely, until the hindering power is removed. The unanimous tradition of primitive times is that the Empire is the restraining agency. So we must look for Antichrist to arise shortly after the fall of Rome. That event took place in A.D. 476, when the last emperor to rule in Rome, Augustulus Romulus, was deposed. The features of Antichrist will begin to be discernible not long after that date. A glance at the Roman beast of Daniel 7 will give strong corroboration to this conclusion. The little horn came up on the head of the nondescript beast after the ten first horns had appeared. Horns in general symbolize divisions of the political power represented by the beast, upon whose head they are seen. For example, the two-horned ram of Media and Persia, and the four-horned goat of Grecia and her four subkingdoms. The ten horns upon the Roman beast are thus a prediction of the division of Rome into ten kingdoms. And by the prophetical law that whatever is typified in the symbol must be fulfilled during the actual historical subsistence of the power indicated, the ten kingdoms must actually have arisen out of the Roman Empire while it was still a fact of history. Rome, like Greece, is today a tradition. There are kingdoms in existence which in their inception were formed out of the actual empire of the Caesars, but there is no Roman Empire now out of which a last-day coalition of ten kingdoms can spring. We must look far back into history for the emergence of the ten horns. Nothing fills the mould except the partition of western Rome amongst the various barbarian tribes which occurred in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. While it is true that more than ten kingdoms were in this way formed – some of which are of no historical importance – it is also true that looking at that age at any given time, the number ten is highly significant of the general facts. No other number would represent the truth as well. Therefore Antichrist must have appeared about the time of the formation of thee Gothic kingdoms, since Daniel observed the little horn arising in the midst of the ten. Need we adduce further proof? If so, let us turn to the familiar prophecy of the beast in Revelation 13, whose number is 666. In this double symbol of the beast and his confederate, the two-horned lamb, we have another vivid characterization of the Antichrist. We remember that in the preceding chapter is the vision of the great red dragon. We cannot go astray in our understanding of this dragon, for the dragon was seen prepared to devour the Christ child as soon as He should be born (Revelation 12:4-5). Historically, the Roman Empire, in the person of the Roman procurator and. his authority, stood ready to slay Jesus. The marks of the dragon, with his seven heads and ten horns, are too characteristic of Rome as she figures in prophetic symbolism to be applied to any other agency whatsoever. Now, this dragon, the Rome of the Caesars, passes off the symbolic scene in order that the wild beast of Antichristianity may appear. Observe Revelation 13:2 – “And the dragon gave him (the beast) his power and his seat and great authority.” Thus we are given to understand that the Empire will surrender its power and seat to Antichrist as that one emerges into view from the sea of national life. Could anything be more perspicuous? The fall of Rome will be the signal for the emergence of Antichrist, who will fall heir to Rome’s power and seat. The seat of the Roman Empire, of course, was the city of Rome. And it was to be the seat also of Antichrist. This conclusion is so inevitable that we wonder at the theory which places the man of sin in far off Mesopotamia upon the site of ancient Babylon, and in the closing days of time. Compare with these plain prophetical intimations of the time and place of Antichrist’s appearance the following wards of Cardinal Manning: “The possession of the pontiffs commences with the abandonment of Rome by the emperors . . . . No sovereign has ever reigned in Rome since except the vicar of Jesus Christ.” Put with them this confession from the Pope’s Allocution of 1866: “By a singular arrangement of Divine Providence . . .it happened that, the Roman Empire having fallen, and being divided into many kingdoms and divers states, the Roman pontiff, in the midst of such great variety of kingdoms, and in the actual state of human society, was invested with his civil authority.” “Singular,” does he think? – “inevitable,” rather; for it was predicted long centuries before by the Holy Ghost through the prophets. The writer has dwelt with considerable length upon this point. He believes that this is the pivot of the entire argument. The question of the era of Antichrist’s manifestation is the heart of the problem. If it is not until after the Rapture (so called), then Futurism is correct. But if it is following the great apostasy, and the subsidence of the Roman Empire, the Historicist has proved his case. For nothing came up in history during the era thus indicated that can fill the mould except the papacy. And the papacy fills it as the face of a coin answers to the die in which it was struck. How long the career of Antichrist is to last is a question which hinges upon the understanding of prophetic time periods in general. Two prominent theories are to be considered. There are expositors who maintain that all time measurements are to be accepted literally, day for day, and year for year. Other interpreters – and they number a great host –believe that as the objects and activities with which prophecy deals are expressed in symbols, so the periods of time are also contemplated in a figurative manner; that as great personages and powers are represented under the comparatively diminutive figures of animals, heads, and horns, so the actual length of their existence in history is expressed by greatly shortened periods – time in miniature. These students accept what is called the “year-day theory.” According to this hypothesis, a year of history is frequently represented in prophecy by a day. Thus the various time periods mentioned in many prophetic passages are to be reduced to days, and these days are to be understood as typifying a like number of years. A most astonishing confirmation of this theory is furnished by the computations of H. Grattan Guinness, a recent Historicist expositor. Having made the discovery that the prophetic periods of Daniel and Revelation are extremely perfect astronomical cycles harmonizing solar and lunar revolutions, Mr. Guinness was able to compute from these sacred numbers, understanding them of years, a series of tables, giving the dates, to the hour and minute, of all the vernal equinoxes and mean and true new moons, for 3,555 years, from the probable date of the Exodus, B.C. 1622, to A.D. 1934. These tables, upon their publication, were received as more accurate than any previously in use. This phenomenal result cannot be dismissed as the mere freak of chance. The time periods of prophecy must be the revelations of the Omniscient, in the ratio of a day for a year. Antichrist’s reign is given in Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 13:5 as a period which figures out to 1,260 days. This number is one of the cycles entering into Mr. Guinness' computations, and should therefore be accepted as representing 1,260 years. This describes with convincing accuracy the sovereignty of the papal curia, which began with the elevation of the bishop of Rome to the position of universal bishop by the decree of Emperor Phocas in 607 A.D., and expired with the loss of the pope’s temporal power in the events of A.D. 1867-1870. Against this overwhelming evidence the Futurists (understanding these as literal days) postulate a period of three and a half years. Then, perverting Daniel 9:27, and applying this passage out of all reason to Antichrist, they provide for an introductory period of the same length, making seven years in all for Antichrist’s career. Again, the Antichrist of Futurism receives his adoration, and shows himself as God, in the Jewish temple, which it is supposed will have been rebuilt in Jerusalem. That ancient Hebrew fane, it is claimed, is the only “temple of God” Paul knew about, and hence must be the one in which he said the “man of sin” would be revealed. Have we forgotten that when the antitypical Lamb was offered on the altar of the Cross, and the veil of the temple was rent, that edifice ceased to be the tabernacle of God? That when God by the Holy Ghost had taken up His abode in the Christian Church, that became “an holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”? Did not Paul himself ask, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We submit that a candid exegesis of the phrase ho naos tou theou will indubitably fix the seat of the man of sin within the circle of the Church. And, upon other grounds, we are persuaded that the city of Rome is also indicated. We think that Rome is meant because Rome was the seat of the great red dragon, and the dragon surrendered his seat to the beast (Revelation 13: 2). In the Church, and at Rome, is the divine plan. The question of Antichrist’s relation with the nations is another point of interest and importance. The Futurists make a bold claim here. They believe that the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s metallic image, the ten horns of Daniel’s fourth beast, amongst whom the little horn of Antichrist arose, and the ten horns 'of the scarlet-colored beast of Revelation 17, are all parallel prophecies and typify the same facts. As one of their writers puts it, “They unite in the battle cry of the end: an Antichrist and a ten-kingdom coalition in rebellion against the kingdom of God!” This argument at first seems consonant with reason. The ten horns of the beast of Revelation 17 certainly are said “to receive power as kings one hour with the beast,” to “have one mind” and to “give their power and strength unto the beast.” Furthermore, “these shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them.” And we recall that the ten horns of Daniel’s fourth beast were seen grouped about the “little horn speaking great things.” Certainly, also, the toes of the image represent the very last kingdoms of history, upon which the kingdom of the stone is precipitated; a figure which is representative of the subjugation of earthly principalities to Christ at His second coming. So then, if the ten horns of the beasts of Daniel and Revelation parallel the ten toes of the image, they evidently symbolize last-day powers, and it is easy to conclude that in the closing days of time there will indeed arise a coterie of ten kingdoms which will federate together into a league of Antichristianity, with a personal Antichrist at the head; and that to destroy the power of this vast conspiracy of hell, Jesus Christ will be suddenly revealed in the paralyzing brightness of His glory, although it is somewhat of an effort to reconcile the uprooting and subduing of three horns by the little horn in Daniel 7 with the conception of the ten kingdoms uniting in amity and concord, to choose the Antichrist as their leader. The whole conception hinges upon the parallelism which is asserted between the various groupings of ten. The writer wishes to enter a vigorous denial that any such parallelism exists. Regarding the ten toes, Futurists put a strained emphasis, wholly unwarrantable, upon the number ten in connection with these toes. The numeral ten is not once mentioned in the image prophecy. The fact that there are ten toes has absolutely no more significance than that there are ten fingers. The ten fingers are merged in the symbolism of breast and arms of silver. Similarly the ten toes are merged in the figure of “feet part of iron and part of clay” (Daniel 2:33). As a factor in the interpretation, the existence of the toes as separate digits simply has no bearing. Consequently, no parallelism whatsoever is intended between the toes and the horns; a fact which nullifies the only reason that can be adduced for believing that the ten horns in connection with whom Antichrist arises are last-day powers. Furthermore, the feet and toes constitute a new and separate division of the image, as distinct from the iron legs as the latter are from the brazen sides. The image has five metallic divisions, the last of which is a mixture of iron and clay. This represents a period of time, following the disappearance of iron Rome, when no predominant world power will exist, but which will be the era of fragmentary kingdoms, of weakness mingled with strength. Therefore, even if we should admit that there is a significance in the ten toes, these could not be described as bona fide parts of the Roman Empire, but as arising after its disappearance, and under another phase of the image. Therefore they do not parallel the ten horns of Daniel 7, since these are manifestly actual divisions of Rome, arising during her historic existence, and not away down in the closing days of time. The Historicist school has its own conceptions regarding the relation of Antichrist with the nations. They believe that he was foreseen to be for a long period of 1,260 years the politico-religious idol and tyrant of the world. They view him as an ecclesiastical despot in political affairs. They remember that Paul saw him arising within the Church, receiving adulation and worship as if he were God, and not outside the Church in latter-day infidelity. He is therefore an ecclesiarch. They call to mind also that in the double symbol of beast and rider in Revelation 17, the harlot, representing an apostate ecclesiasticism, is seen riding upon the beast, a type of governmental power. In other words, apostate Christianity is represented as united with and controlling the world state. Antichrist is therefore not only an ecclesiarch, but an ecclesiarch acting the role of political despot as well. With their penchant for precise details, Futurists rehearse a most absorbing and dramatic story of the future dealings between Antichrist and the Jews. The essential points of this interesting recital are three. First, Antichrist will be received by the Jews. Then he will make a treaty with them called a “covenant with death,” which will shortly be broken. In consequence of the broken agreement, Antichrist will fall upon the Jews with terrible and cruel persecutions. As may be imagined, these fanciful positions are maintained by the most amazing misappropriations of texts. That Antichrist will be received by the Jews is said to be proved by John 5:43: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” Could anything be more irrelevant? Yet it is by such dubious and shadowy supports as this that the whole Futurist position is buttressed. Back in Isaiah 28:14-18 occurs a passage which is regarded as proving that the Jews will make a treaty with Antichrist, and afterwards disannul it But these words, we discern by little study, are not in any sense a prediction. They are found in a sermon of warning preached by Isaiah to the drunken rulers and priests of Jerusalem in his own day. The unworthy leaders of Judah back there were making the “covenant with death” and the “agreement with hell” – not the Jews who should be living thirty centuries thereafter! Again, we are told that this covenant is predicted in Daniel 9:27. Upon turning to this passage, we are bewildered to find that it is a portion of the famous prophecy concerning the sixty-nine weeks “unto Messiah the Prince,” which most certainly cannot find a fulfillment this side of the year of our Lord’s crucifixion, when the specified time expired by limitation, for upon what basis can two thousand years be interjected between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of this consecutive chronological period? And bewilderment turns to resentment when we discover that the “covenant” referred to in this place is none other than the New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ, confirmed by the shedding of His own most precious blood! What mad persuasion is this, that (to bolster its fanciful positions) will filch a precious prophecy of the Messiah, the true Christ, and fasten it upon the awful Antichrist? But, it is maintained, Antichrist will persecute the Jews. Certain passages in the eighth and eleventh chapters of Daniel are supposed to reveal this (Daniel 8:9 ff.; Daniel 11:25 ff.). We have already shown the utter irrelevancy of these two chapters to the subject of the Antichrist. The persecutions which they foretell for the Jews were visited upon that people during the oppressions of Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria. There is a clash of opinion, also, between the two schools of Premillennial thought, touching the role which Antichrist will play in connection with Armageddon. Futurists teach that he will appear upon the field in person to command his armies. This position, of course, hinges upon the conception of Antichrist as an individual. We think we have adduced reason to show that the passages which are relied upon to prove this are to be applied to a principle of Christ-opposition, expressing its malevolence in a system of mock Christianity; in which case there is no sense in looking for a personal generalissimo in these prophecies. Indeed it may be seriously questioned whether Armageddon itself is not a splendid symbol, if the picture drawn in this name may not be understood of the final onset in the age-long moral struggle between the opposing forces of good and evil, of the utter discomfiture of all evil activities which will be wrought by the .sudden appearance of Christ for judgment. There is a striking hint in Revelation 16:13-14, in the “three frogs” out of the mouths of dragon, beast, and prophet, of the real place of the Antichristian system in the picture of Armageddon. These frogs are unclean spirits that go forth from these symbolic beings to stir up the nations to the great conflict. This is to say that Antichrist will be the arch-instigator of the fray. He will contribute by his malevolent intrigues to the “zeitgeist” (the “spirit”) of those times, which will make way for the coming of Armageddon. His waning power – and perhaps the sending forth of these frog-like spirits may be in the nature of an attempt to regain it – will be finally broken and destroyed by the returning Christ. But it is safe to say that there will be at Armageddon no literal Antichrist, seated, Napoleon-like, upon a charger, and directing a mad attempt to resist with military measures the authority of Christ, imposed by hosts of translated and immortal saints returning in the air. We come now to consider the denouement of this drama of mystery. Futurism sees the doom of the man of sin as a sudden cutting off at the very height of his power. This spectacular climax will coincide with the battle of Armageddon. On the other hand, the Historicist school maintains that a great change occurs in the fortunes of Antichrist some time before his final destruction (Daniel 7:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 16:10; Revelation 17:16-17). The first of these references states that “the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.” This is said to occur upon the completion of the “time, times, and the dividing of time,” the 1,260 years of papal supremacy. This period expired in the epoch of 1867-1870, dating the 1,260 years from the pope-exalting decree of Emperor Phocas in A.D. 607. The “judgment” sat upon the papal little horn when it lost its temporal power and the papal dominions were absorbed into the kingdom of Italy. Antichrist is now being “consumed” and “destroyed” according to the prophecy. This process of gradual wasting will continue until the “end.” Then will occur his complete demolition. Paul gives the parallel of this picture: “Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.” We observe two distinct phases set in clear contrast. The “consuming” by the agency of the “spirit of his mouth” is contrasted with, and precedes, the “destroying” by the agency of “his coming.” The “spirit” issuing from the Lord’s mouth, is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit, working through human instruments, has brought judgment upon the papacy, and is now causing its further “consumption”" The recent downfall of autocracy has been a terrible blow to the spiritual autocrat of the Vatican. The pope did not succeed in his attempt to make a peace advantageous to the Kaiser, and he did not sit at the peace table, as he had hoped. The man of sin is sadly indisposed these days; and the malady – can you guess? – is prophetical consumption. He is rapidly hastening on to his doom; for, if one phase of the prophecy is being fulfilled, the other must be also. Since the process of being “consumed” has already started, it is moving on to a predestined “end.” Since the true Christ through His Spirit has commenced the “consuming” of Antichrist, He will surely climax it by overtly “destroying” him at His appearing. And then will the angel cry mightily with a strong voice, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.” It would be out of place to conclude this paper without adverting to the fact that the Historicist view of prophecy may be regarded as the orthodox interpretation, made sacred with the authority of antiquity. H. Grattan Guinness pertinently writes, “Modern Historicist interpreters . . . are in good company; they stand with the Fathers, the Confessors, the Martyrs, the Reformers, with men who suffered for the truth they believed, and were practically guided and inspired by the interpretations they have handed down to posterity. The . . . vague interpretations of a modern school, German and English, which . . . reduce the prophecy to a nebulous mass of anticipations of things in general in human history, have wrought no victories, have accomplished no reformations, have sustained no martyrs, and are self-refuted by their impotence and unworthiness as expositions of the last great revelation of Jesus Christ concerning the ‘things’ which were to ‘come to pass.’ The same may be said as regards the reveries of the Futurists; barren of practical and worthy effects; they have denied accomplishments recognized by the great mass of prophetical interpreters in the past; they have invented future fulfillments, as unsubstantial and impossible as the dreams of those who mistake bizarre imaginations for sober realities; they have forsaken the great trend, the main path, the well-trodden highway of Apocalyptic interpretation, based upon divine explanations of prophetic symbols, and unquestionable historic facts, for empty speculations about the future; unprofitable speculations as to the coming universal dominion of a short-lived, infidel Antichrist, to be seated in a literal temple to be erected by the Jews in Palestine, who, in the brief space of three and a half years, is to fulfill all the wonders of the Apocalyptic drama, and exhaust the meaning of the majestic prophecy which the Church of God has been blindly misinterpreting and misapplying throughout all these ages. Surely it is time for such interpreters to consider the unscripturalness and unreasonableness of the method of interpretation which they employ, the absence of authority, of warrant for their views, the entire lack of demonstration human or divine; and the fruitlessness of their speculations as affording no present guidance to the Church, and their injuriousness as extinguishing the lamp which God has given His people to guide their steps along the perilous way of their pilgrimage.” – “History Unveiling Prophecy,” Preface, pp. 17-18. It would be difficult to imagine a more deleterious influence upon the morale of the peoples of the earth in this hour when there is so much need of optimism and faith than the continued propaganda of Futurism. Futurists are already pointing to the present League of Nations as at least the precursor of the “ten-kingdom coalition” which they predict will amalgamate into the empire of Antichrist. The one great ray of hope for this age is the successful constitution of such an international league with requisite sanctions as a bulwark against the unspeakable horrors of modern, scientific warfare. When the Futurist with smiling complacency tells us that the proposed league, the fruit of the best hearts and best minds of the most altruistic age of earth, is the very broth of hell, and the Devil’s instrument of Antichristian dominance, with all its lurid terror and its welter of blood and ruin – the maddest, most wretched, most profligate, most abandoned era of a long and ugly history – he is guilty of an assault upon the morale of the world, and ought to be enjoined from preaching his perverse philosophy during the period of the emergency. In conclusion, a word as to the future of this question. Today, the Historicist view is unpopular even with the bulk of Premillennialists. Postmillennialists either adopt the Preterist opinion, or transfer prophecy from the realm of historic facts to that of philosophic abstractions in general. Several months ago, in conversation with a recent Futurist author of prominence, he said to the writer, “The coming view will be neither pre- not post-, but anti-millennial.” He was probably correct. A large body of constructive and conservative students, unable to embrace the roseate anticipations of Postmillennialism, and revolting from the melancholy and unnatural scheme of Futurism, will adopt a view of eschatology not built upon Revelation 20, and which will not hinge upon an exegesis of the thousand years. They will reject in toto the conception of a special millennial period as ushering in the ages to come. Thus they will cut out the very heart of semi-political, Zionistic Futurism; and it is highly probable that with the rest of the wreckage they will jettison also the theory of a personal Antichrist, and turn their thought once more to the far more subtle, and therefore more characteristically Satanic, Antichrist of history. The drama of the man of sin lies largely in the past. Only the closing scenes of the great tragedy remain now to be enacted. But all men are Futurists in one sense. We are all interested in what lies before. The true Christian, with face to the light, looks ardently into the future for the further unfolding of the infinite plan of redemption. “Watch ye, therefore,” is the command of our divine Lord. And for what are we, with prayerful heart and vision enthralled, to watch? Ah, not for the day of Gospel labor and privilege to sink in a night of awful despair and Satanic malevolence under the gory scepter of the great false Christ; nay, not for this are we bidden to watch, but for the Gospel day to be crowned by the everlasting, golden, sunset glory of the true Christ and His coming kingdom. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” For more information, contact: Dr. John H. Roller 5847 Brookstone Dr. Concord, NC, USA 28027-2535 704-425-3911

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why I Believe in Conditional Immortality

by Sidney A. Hatch



Chapter 1. Conditional Immortality Explains What Man Is

Chapter 2. Conditional Immortality Explains Where Man Goes at Death

Chapter 3. Conditional Immortality Explains What the Gospel Is

Chapter 4. Conditional Immortality Explains What God Is

Chapter 5. Conditional Immortality Explains Why Christ Must Return


Why I Believe in Conditional Immortality


The purpose of these remarks is to give a personal testimony as to why this writer believes in conditional immortality. No attempt has been made to completely cover the subject of conditionalism. It is hoped that – in addition to being a witness – the words written herein will prove to be a stimulus to further study.

Certain portions of this testimony are necessarily autobiographical, but an effort has been made to avoid mentioning names and places. The desire is admittedly to propagate – but not to “answer back” (or reply to) critics.

As the writer looks back (over the last decade especially), he can only thank and praise God for the way in which he has led.


I placed my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ when in high school. A godly pastor schooled us in the fundamentals of the faith. This included a confidence that at death a man’s “soul” went either to heaven or to hell. (I was confident that mine would go to heaven because of the decision which I had made.) It also included a belief that all men would spend eternity alive either in heaven or in hell.
Upon graduation from university, I felt that God was calling me to the ministry. Training for this work was begun and then completed after military service during World War II. Graduation from theological seminary took place in 1948. The Lord made it possible, however, to obtain further schooling and in 1953 an advanced theological degree was secured. This, in turn, was followed by two years of resident graduate study in Hebrew. With the exception of university, all of this work was done in thoroughly evangelical schools.
Despite this training, however, my childhood concept of the nature and destiny of man remained practically unchanged. I still thought of man as a creature who possessed an “immortal soul” or “immortal spirit.” This, supposedly, distinguished him from the other animals which did not possess an “immortal soul.” Hence this soul, because it was immortal, had to be assigned to spend all time and eternity somewhere, and the choice was limited to the above-mentioned two places, heaven or hell!
However, two things occurred in seminary that later were to influence my thinking. One was a question asked by a student; the other was a realization of my desire to learn all the Hebrew possible while still in the classroom.
One day in a theology class one of the school’s leading professors was asked if it were really necessary as ministers of the gospel to believe in the eternal hell-fire torment of the lost. I was surprised that the student would dare to ask such a question, and expected a firm, solid, scriptural answer squelching its heretical implications.
But the answer proved more surprising than the question. The gist of the professor’s reply was that, admittedly, there were problems, and the traditional view did seem harsh, but, after all, it was the orthodox view and the most practical one to hold. Suffice to say I left the class with a seed of doubt in my heart; small, yes, but it was there just the same.
The study of Hebrew led to a determination upon graduation to prepare all Old Testament lessons and messages, so much as God enabled me, directly from the Hebrew Scriptures rather than from any English translation. At that time I was conducting a mid-week, verse-by-verse study in Genesis, and following this method of preparation. Needless to say, it did not take long to see that the Hebrew word for soul, nephesh, was used for all other living creatures as well as for man.
In connection with this the original text of Leviticus 17:11 had been studied. Here, along with Genesis 9:4, it is clearly stated that the soul or life of the flesh is in the blood. To be more explicit, Leviticus 17:14 makes it quite clear that the soul or life of all flesh is the blood thereof. Thus my view as to soul and the nature of man had collapsed. No longer could I believe and teach that man was an immortal soul living for the moment in a temple of clay, and that this separable soul could and would leave him at death. Help and new light upon the Scriptures were needed.
As has been well said, God is never too early, but neither is he ever too late. A new acquaintance handed me some literature published by the Conditional Immortality Mission of London, England. There I read of everlasting life only in Christ, sometimes called “conditional immortality.” This presented a solution to the problems at hand which I found to be thoroughly scriptural.
Let it be said at this point that conditional immortality is a very simple and clear doctrine. It resorts to no difficult theological or philosophical gyrations. It is the belief that man may become immortal on one condition and that is that he believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. This immortality, or everlasting life, shall then be put on at the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the believers, not before.
On the negative side it is the belief, in the light of Scripture, that man does not posses any innate, inborn immortality of his own. Such can only be “the gift of God.” This precious doctrine is sometimes simply called “life only in Christ.”
The presentation of life only in Christ subsequently became a vital part of my ministry. Ultimately it led to several things: a change of pulpits, a change of denominations, a change of friends, and the misunderstanding of many people. For a time, it even meant a change of vocation.
But it also meant new light on the word, a clearer grasp of the gospel, a greater appreciation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a greater dependence on him. It brought into my experience a new and increased fervor to preach this true gospel, as well as new friends, new fellowship, and a newly opened door of ministry. And, through it all, never for a moment did I doubt the truth of this glorious message; rather, faith and devotion to it became stronger.
With the circumstances associated with the discovery of this truth explained, the following sets forth the basis for my acceptance of conditional immortality as a teaching of the Word of God.

Sidney A. Hatch

Chapter One
Conditional Immortality Explains What Man Is

Conditional immortality does not attempt to speculate as to what man is. It does not attempt to read into the biblical account any more than what is there. It does not attempt to see or argue whether man is two parts, three parts, or any number of component parts. This precious doctrine takes Genesis 2:7 at face value. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
What is man? The word of God says he is a creature formed from the dust of the ground into which God breathed the breath of life. The result of this creative action is “a living soul” or “a living being.” Not an “immortal soul”! Nowhere is this expression found in Scripture.
Nor does it say that God breathed into Adam a soul, whether immortal or not. The verse must be read carefully. God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
It may be suggested by some that “the breath of life” is an immortal soul or immortal spirit. Again we must insist on a careful reading of Scripture. This verse does not say such, nor does any verse of the Bible say that “breath of life” is an “immortal soul” or “immortal spirit,” a separate and conscious entity in itself, apart from man’s flesh.
The expression “breath of life” is in Hebrew “breath of lives.” The word “life” is plural in form. I have heard it taught that this plural form – “lives” – indicates that God put into man his components, such as body, soul, and spirit. However, the fact that the word “lives” is plural in form proves nothing of the kind. Grammatically, it is an abstract plural; but the reader does not need to find in grammar the solution to the problem. A quick check of “life” in Young’s Analytical Concordance, pages 603-604, will reveal that the plural (“lives”) is used in many passages, including that of the animals going into the ark two by two. “And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of lives” (Genesis 7:15). Hence animals also possess this “breath of life” from God. One would hardly say that this proves that they are body, soul and spirit in the popular sense of these terms.
A most revealing and helpful fact, discovered in my own personal study, is the fact that the Hebrew word for “soul” (nephesh) is used not only of man in Genesis 2:7 but also of all the other living creatures mentioned in Genesis 1 and 2. The waters swarm with “soul of life” or “living souls” (Genesis 1:20), and God also created the sea monsters and all “the creeping living souls” with which the waters abound (Genesis 1:21). God also said that the earth should bring forth “the living creature after his kind,” or more literally, “the soul of life after its kind.” This included all of the animals from the stately creatures of the forest to the reptiles and worms of the soil (Genesis 1:24-25). The Creator calls them all “living souls.”
Genesis 1:30 and 2:19 provide excellent summaries of the abovementioned fact. “And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life [nephesh], I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so” (Genesis 1:30). “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature [soul of life, or living soul], that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:19).
It is for this reason that John Nelson Darby, in his translation of the Bible, consistently uses the word “soul” in these verses. We certainly are not to infer from this that these animals are “immortal souls.”
If it be argued from Genesis 2:7 that men possess immortality, the same argument would apply to the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and the fish of the sea; for they too are “living souls” possessing “breath of lives.”
Although this writer does not know with certainty why they felt as they did, it should be mentioned that there are distinguished names which have encouraged a belief in animal immortality: Bishop Joseph Butler, John Wesley, Augustus Toplady, and Louis Agassiz. St. Francis of Assisi preached to the birds (Cf. Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology. Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1945, pp. 984-985). Certainly these men have as much justification in this as others have in reading human immortality into the Genesis account.
Conditional immortality, however, accepts the scriptural definition of man as a “living soul” or “living being,” but never as an “immortal soul” or “immortal being.” The latter condition shall come about only at the resurrection of the just.

Chapter Two
Conditional Immortality Explains Where Man Goes at Death

It has long been my conviction that the first four chapters of Genesis are the theological seed-plot of the Bible. Genesis 3:15 is an illustration of this. In Genesis 3:19, we find a clear statement to the first man as to where he would go at death: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Conditional immortality chooses to believe this verse. It believes that here God spoke to Adam the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It does not for a moment intimate that God told Adam only half the story, half the truth; for there can be no guile or deceit in the words of God.
There is nothing in this verse, or in any of God’s dealings with Adam, to suggest that he or any part of him would go anywhere but “unto the ground” – “unto dust.” There is nothing here to suggest that Adam would find himself, after death (and much to his surprise), in some sort of spirit world.
The conditionalist believes that God has never abrogated this verse. He prefers to believe the Bible rather than Homer’s The Odyssey as to the intermediate state between death and resurrection. (This writer has read both.)
Jacob, in his great moment of anguish, thinking Joseph to be dead, confirmed the truth of Genesis 3:19, when he cried, “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning” (Genesis 37:35). (The King James translators have here correctly rendered sheol as “the grave.”) In such an hour of heartbreak, of crushing sorrow and grief, when the human heart is laid bare, the great patriarch held on to no Babylonian or Egyptian hope of life after death, of life in a spirit world.
This condition – to be in the grave, in the dust of the earth – is often spoken of in the Scriptures as “sleep.” Thus the Lord spoke candidly when he said to David, “When thy days be fulfilled… thou shalt sleep with they fathers” (2 Samuel 7:12). We may believe that the Scripture was fulfilled when it says, “David slept with his fathers” (1 Kings 2:10; Cf. Acts 13:36).
Daniel writes “of them that sleep in the dust of the earth” (Daniel 12:2). There is nothing vague or obscure in this statement. Language could not be more definite. There is neither the slightest hint nor the remotest allusion to the dead being anywhere else. Such clear and unmistakable wording cannot be dismissed as only the language of appearance.
Matthew writes of “the saints which slept” (Matthew 27:52). Our Lord speaks of the little maid sleeping (Matthew 9:24; Mark 6:39; Luke 8:52). Of Lazarus he said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth” (John 11:11). When the disciples failed to understand his meaning, John tells us, “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead’” (John 11:14).
Luke tells us that the martyr Stephen “fell asleep” (Acts 7:60). Paul gives great comfort – the coming of the Lord and resurrection from the dead – concerning them when are asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15). In 2 Peter 3:4, we read that, “the fathers fell asleep.” In no case are we told that they went anywhere else except “to sleep.”
Finally, it should be noted that our Lord said, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice” (John 5:28). It is in the graves, not somewhere else, that his voice is heard.
Doubtless some will immediately think of the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. A careful reading of both Luke 15 and 16 will show that this is one of several parables given there. To demonstrate its parabolic nature the rather facetious question might be asked, “Where was ‘Abraham’s bosom’ before Abraham?” Or, “Do souls in torment have tongues that taste water?”
The Scripture had already declared, “In death there is no remembrance of thee” (Psalm 6:5), and also, regarding man, “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Psalm 146:4); but the Pharisees made void the word of God by believing that dead men could communicate with one another. The Lord thus shows them that even if one rose from the dead they would not believe. This was proven by the desire to put to death the real Lazarus of Bethany for “by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus” (John 12:11). The events of Matthew 28:11-15 also demonstrate the attempt to suppress the fact of the resurrection.
Others of our readers may cite our Lord’s reply to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). But his words must be interpreted in the light of the thief’s request to be remembered by the Lord whenever he comes into his kingdom. This can only be when Christ returns to establish his kingdom. Hence Christ tells the thief that he shall be with him in paradise to be established in the next age, not at death. It should be considered that our Lord did not leave this earth to go anywhere until 43 days after his crucifixion.
Still others may cite 2 Corinthians 5:8, where Paul says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” This expression, “to be present with the Lord,” or to be “at home” or “living” with him, can only be realized when Jesus comes. This is indicated by the context. 2 Corinthians 5:1 says that we have a body which is “eternal in the heavens.” Therefore Paul cannot be speaking here of a temporary body or state, to be put on at death and to last only until resurrection.
Furthermore, in 2 Corinthians 5:4, Paul speaks of “the mortal” being swallowed up by “the life” (compare the Greek here). This can only refer to mortal man, dust, being invested with “the life” (immortal resurrection life) at the coming of the Lord, when “this mortal shall have put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Mortality cannot be swallowed up by the resurrection life before the resurrection.
Finally note that in the same context Paul tells us that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This occurs, not at death, but at the coming of the Lord.
A last redoubt of many brethren may be Philippians 1:23, “Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” The Greek verb translated “depart” here is analuo. Its only other occurrence is in Luke 12:36, where it is translated “return.” “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding.”
It is fair to ask, “Why is it not so translated in Philippians?” The reader familiar with Greek will note that a more literal rendering would be, “Having the desire for the return.” Certainly the return of the Lord from heaven is “far better.”
The noun form of this same word is analusis. Its proper meaning is to loose or to dissolve. From it comes our English word “analysis” which means, basically, the separation or anything into its parts or elements. Analusis occurs once in Scripture, in 2 Timothy 4:6: “The time of my departure is at hand.” We would certainly come closer to the sense of Paul’s statement if we rendered it, “The time of my analysis [that is, the dissolution of his body] is at hand.” The translation “departure” is surely acceptable, however, if we see in it “departure” from life and a “return” to that place of which God told Adam in Genesis 3:19. We are confident that Paul, in his final hour, did not abandon that glorious hope of resurrection, outlined to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians, for the Platonic idea of departure to a spirit world.
It has been the observation of this writer that all those arguments which contend that man goes somewhere else at death besides the grave are based on the assumption that there exists such a thing as “an immortal human soul.” For this supposition there is not one verse of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation.
Conditional immortality, therefore, accepts the scriptural teaching that at death a man returns to the ground out of which he was taken, and that he sleeps there until the resurrection.

Chapter Three
Conditional Immortality Explains What the Gospel Is

Conditional immortality clarifies the gospel; it does not complicate it. Again it takes scriptural language in its simplest sense. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Here “death” means “death,” and “life” means “life.” But in the popular way of presenting this verse, “death” is said to mean “life somewhere in time or space in separation from God,” and “life” is said to mean “life in the presence of God.”
But the issue in Romans 6:23 is not life in one place or life in another place. The issue is life or death, the complete possession of life or the complete absence of life. The definition that eternal death is a form of eternal life in separation from God is not in the Bible.
Conditional immortality takes John 3:16 at face value. The issue therein is “perish” or “everlasting life.” Again conditional immortality believes that perish means the utter loss and destruction of any form of life; hence, death. Shall we read into this word some pagan notion of life in a spirit world of the damned? The Greek word here is apollumi, which means to kill, or to destroy, or to utterly destroy. It has secondary meanings, of course, and this writer is aware of them. But why destroy the splendid simplicity of the gospel by imposing here upon the word some secondary meaning?
It should be mentioned that Hebrews 1:11 speaks of the heavens and the earth perishing and uses this same Greek word. Are we to think that the heavens and the earth are to be kept somewhere and tortured forever?
Hence, according to conditional immortality the gospel is very simple: Life or death. To say that it is life in one place or eternity in another place is to reduce “the good news” to little more than the offer of an opportunity to live in the comforts of the new heavens and the new earth rather than in the wretched conditions of the traditional hell.
Furthermore, to say that the issue before men is life in one place or eternity in another location is to deny the claim of the Lord Jesus that he is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), for every man would already have life that is unending. In short, it is to succumb to the Satanic lies, first uttered in Eden, that men do not really die and that they may be “as gods” (Genesis 3:4-5).
I therefore also believe in conditional immortality because it preserves the clear-cut gospel issue from Genesis to Revelation. For example, if eternal torment, not death, is the penalty of sin, then the great promise of Genesis 3:15 should read, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall torture forever thy head, and thou shalt torture forever his heel.”
If eternal torment, not death, is the penalty for sin, many types, illustrations, and parables would have to be changed. The sacrificial animals of the Old Testament should never have been slain and burned; rather they should have been kept alive, caged up, and subjected to some kind of unending torment, perhaps burnings. David should never have slain Goliath and cut off his head. He should have brought him back alive, imprisoned him somewhere, and tortured him indefinitely. In the parables of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the tares should not have been bound in bundles to be burned up; they should simply have been bound.
If the penalty for sin is eternal torment, not death, then who has paid that penalty? Who has suffered unending, everlasting torture or torment for our sins? The Word of God says, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6), “Christ died for us” (Romans 6:8), “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3), and, “that he by the grace of God should taste death [not eternal torment] for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).
Furthermore, Romans 14:9 says, “Christ both died and rose,” and 1 Thessalonians 4:14 says, “Jesus died and rose again.” Only evasive theological sophistry will attempt to say that death, cruel as it was, and the three days and three nights in the grave, were the equivalent of eternal torment. It may also be pointed out that Christ was not, according to the word, in the flame of hell-fire during those three days of death. He was in the grave (Cf. Matthew 12:40 and 28:6).
Thus we see that conditional immortality preserves the sharply defined, concise issue of the gospel and of the ages, life or death. It also avoids the unscriptural extremes of universal or final reconciliation on the left and eternal torment on the right. Life is life and death is death. And, it should be added, everlasting punishment remains punishment, not everlasting punishing.

Chapter Four
Conditional Immortality Explains What God Is

Conditional immortality rejoices in the truth of 1 John 4:8: “God is love.” The man who accepts the plain biblical statement that the end of the wicked is “destruction” (Philippians 3:19) is not faced with the ever-present question, “How can a God of love maintain a chamber of horrors somewhere in the universe throughout eternity?”
What would we think of a parent who punished his child by holding even the tip of its finger in searing flame for a few minutes or a few seconds? Such an individual would certainly be regarded as bestial and demented. Nevertheless we are asked to believe that the Scriptures teach that God will thus torture “immortal human souls” for all time and eternity.
Yet the Christian who believes in conditional immortality also believes that God is just and righteous. He rejoices in “just and right is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). He believes in “the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). He sees that the justice of God requires the punishment of sin.
Recognizing that there are in God the two attributes of love and justice, the conditionalist notes first that “Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). He is aware that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
But he is also aware that those who “obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Hence the wicked are destroyed with an everlasting destruction, or they are destroyed once and for all forever. “Everlasting destruction” does not mean “everlasting torment” for then nothing is destroyed; it is simply preserved, kept alive, in torment. “Let ‘destruction’ mean ‘destruction,’” is the plea of the conditionalist.
It should be said that this position has God vindicating his holiness and his perfect law, but it in no way makes him vindictive. In short, our heavenly Father is a just judge (Psalm 7:9-12; 1 Peter 1:16), but he is neither a monster nor a fiend.
While discussing this point – that conditional immortality accepts what the Bible says as to the nature of God – there is one other often-heard argument that should be considered. This writer has frequently been told, orally and in writing, that by believing in the destruction of the wicked he is aligning himself with many and various cults, which are then named.
Now the evangelical Christian who brings this charge against the conditionalist is forgetting that the issue is not what any group believes, but what the word of God says. He immediately reveals in himself a party spirit and a reluctance to put the word of God ahead of the word of man.
He also forgets that it is still true that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. For example, the Christian who persists in clinging to the eternal torment theory is aligning himself with the Muslims’ Qur’an. The reader need only go to a bookstore or library, secure a copy of the Qur’an, and glance through it, to see the correctness of this fact.
He might note the second surah (chapter), where it is said that those who misbelieve are fellows of the fire and shall dwell therein forever (The Koran, translated by E.H. Palmer, [Vol. 328, The World’s Classics. London: Oxford University Press, 1953], pp. 5,10,20). He should note the close of surah 44, in which the Qur’an says that the sinful shall be dragged into the midst of hell and the torment of hot water poured over his head (Ibid., p. 429).
He should consider surah 47, which speaks of the wicked not only dwelling in the fire forever but also being given boiling water to drink that shall rend their bowels asunder (Ibid., p. 438). Finally, he may observe surah 111, a very brief chapter, where the Qur’an describes the fate of Abu Laheb who, the footnote informs us, was an uncle of Mohammed and a bitter opponent of Islam. Here we read that Uncle Abu Laheb shall broil in a fire that flames, with his wife carrying faggots (Ibid., p. 537).
Such may be a part of the Qur’an but it is not a part of the old original gospel of John 3:16.
Finally, let the evangelical Christian consider that if he persists in his eternal torment theory he must also, of necessity, include in his thinking the unscriptural idea of the immortality of the soul. In this way he opens the door to all sorts of vagaries such as the invocation of saints, prayers for the dead, purgatorial theories, reincarnation, transmigration of souls, spiritism, and universal reconciliation. The foundation of all is the word of the serpent, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).
Let it be recognized once and for all that conditional immortality is the true message that proclaims both the love of God and the judgment of God, without compromising either.

Chapter Five
Conditional Immortality Explains Why Christ Must Return

The scriptural position of conditional immortality recognizes the biblical truth that the only hope of the world is the Second Coming of Christ. This is because his return brings about the resurrection of the saints of the ages and the establishment of his kingdom upon the earth.
Paul tells us that at the resurrection we shall put on immortality, not before (1 Corinthians 15:49-55). Hence Christ must return to raise his own in order that they many rule and reign with him.
If at death the righteous go immediately into his presence and immediately to their reward, then what need is there for the return of Christ and the resurrection of his people? It is no wonder that the preaching of these great doctrines became passé in some areas for many years.
The Second Coming of our Lord culminates in the judgment of the wicked dead, the lost. However, if at death they have already gone to the traditional hell, then what need is there later of a great judgment day? It would become hardly more than an empty procedure, for judgment would actually have been imposed at death.
The Scripture, however, speaks of judgment as occurring at a particular time in the future, not at death. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). So our Lord spoke of “the resurrection of damnation (judgment)” (John 5:29). The scriptural order is death, resurrection, then judgment – not death, partial judgment, resurrection, then more judgment.
It may be argued that the sentence imposed in the Day of Judgment only increases and renders permanent the punishment entered into at death. But this still violates the scriptural principles “once to die, but after this the judgment” and “resurrection unto judgment.” Furthermore, this would have a sentence being executed long before the case had entered the divine court. To have a sentence imposed at the moment of death is to deprive the Son of Man of his particular prerogative for a time to come. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). “And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).
The problem belongs to the adherent of eternal torment. He has on his hands “disembodied immortal souls” which must be consigned somewhere until a future day. Where to put them and what to do with them is for him a perplexing question requiring a solution. The conditionalist, however, is content to let men sleep until their resurrection, being aware that “the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25) shall satisfy the demands of divine justice (compare Romans 2:3-8).
Conditional immortality, therefore, recognizes the absolute necessity of the return of Christ. Without it there can be no resurrection, no immortality, no judgment, and no kingdom of God upon the earth. In its faith and message these truths retain their proper place.


I, therefore, believe in conditional immortality because it enables one to say, “Thus saith the Lord.” It explains what man is, it explains where man goes at death, it explains what the gospel is, it explains what God is, and finally, it explains why Christ must come back. In other words, conditional immortality accepts the simple scriptural definition of these matters, nothing more. It does not embellish them with the ornaments of tradition or philosophy.
It is the conviction of this writer that conditional immortality has been the hope of saints of the ages. The coming of the redeemer and the resurrection of the dead was certainly the hope of Job (19:25-26). Joseph gave instructions concerning his bones, not his “immortal soul,” and this despite the years in Egypt (Genesis 50:25).
Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22), but rejected it for the hope of God’s people (Hebrews 11:24-26). David said, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
Isaiah sang this song, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust…” (Isaiah 26:19). Ezekiel prophesied, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:12). Daniel wrote, “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). Such was also the hope of Martha (John 11:24), of John (1 John 3:2), of Paul (1 Corinthians 15:51-54), and of Peter (2 Peter 3:4-7).
Since the days of the apostles, other saints of God have held fervently to a simple and pure hope: The sleep of the dead, Christ’s return, and the resurrection of his people. A.J. Mills, in his work, “Earlier Life-Truth Exponents” (London: Elliot Stock, 1925), pages 2-15, mentions various groups that have held conditionalist views: Early Arabian Christians of the third century, whose views persisted in southwest India until the arrival of the Portuguese about 1500; the Lollards, followers of John Wycliffe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; the Anabaptists of Reformation days; and the Flemish Baptists who fled to England in the sixteenth century. Two of the latter, Hendrik Terwoort and Jan Pieters, were burned at the stake on July 22, 1575, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (Ibid., pp. 13-15).
John H. Pettingell, in his book, “The Unspeakable Gift” (Malvern and London: “The Faith” Press, 1898), pages 260-292, cites as conditionalists such distinguished names as William Tyndale, Lyman Abbott, John Locke, Richard Francis Weymouth, Archbishop Whately, and Edward White. The great poet, John Milton, was also a believer in the sleep of the dead during the intermediate state (Cf. Augustus Hopkins Strong, “The Great Poets and Their Theology.” Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1897. pp 266-67. Mills, op. cit., pp. 33-34).
The name William Whiston (1667-1752) is familiar to many, for it was he who translated the complete works of Josephus. He was a mathematician, writer, preacher, and deputy to Sir Isaac Newton at Cambridge, whom he later succeeded (Cf. Encyclopedia Britannica, article “William Whiston”). But it is little known that in his works he vigorously opposed the teaching of eternal torment, pointing out that the wicked, like chaff, will be entirely burned up, utterly consumed, rather than preserved and subjected to never-ending pains (Mills, op. cit., pp. 40-41).
In more recent times, Oscar Cullman, theological professor at the University of Basel and the Sorbonne in Paris, took his stand on the side of conditionalism. In his book, “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead?” (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1958), he pointed out that the answer of the New Testament is clear; the true Christian hope is the resurrection of the dead, not the immortality of the soul.
The late William Temple (1882-1944), Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke out in favor of conditional immortality and against the endless torment of the lost (Bernard L. Bateson, “Archbishop Temple and Conditional Immortality,” Words of Life, The Organ of the Conditional Immortality Mission, February, 1959, pp. 28-32). So also has Professor Norman H. Snaith of Leeds University, a name familiar to many seminarians and theologians. He has written that the immortality of the soul is not a Christian doctrine, that it comes from Plato, and that he finds no suggestion of it in the Bible. Then, in the same article, he has written that God holds out to mortal man the hope and promise of immortality, of a life in Christ, and that this is a free gift to every repentant sinner who comes in faith (Norman H. Snaith, “Easter and Spring,” Words of Life, June, 1960, pp. 136-138. With acknowledgment to Church of England New Life Monthly). Many other prominent names might be mentioned and are indeed mentioned and quoted in a recent and learned work, “Modern Discussions of Man’s Immortality,” by Moses C. Crouse (Concord, N.H.: Advent Christian Publications, 1960).
As we close, we again remind ourselves that what men outside the canon of Scripture have believed or written is not the final determinant of truth. We thank God for their testimony, and we pray for more like them. But we are well aware that the truth of God’s word has never been reached by majority vote. If the words written here serve no other purpose than to incite the reader to search the Scripture, then they have achieved a measure of true success.
To a world steeped in Platonic tradition, the plea of the man who believes in conditional immortality, or life only in Christ, is the plea of the Apostle Paul as he stood before Agrippa, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8).

About the Author

Sidney A. Hatch was born in Glendale, Arizona. His parents later moved to La Puente, California, where his father conducted a citrus ranch.
He received his A.B. degree from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1940. During the years 1942-46 he served as sergeant in the 86th Infantry Division which saw action in Europe and the Philippines. Following this, he studied in the California Baptist Theological Seminary and received the degree of B.D. in 1948. Graduate study continued at Dallas Theological Seminary where he received the Th.M. degree in 1953. In the two years following, he studied Semitics at Dallas Seminary, which completed the residence work for a Th.D. Studies continued at the University of Southern California.
Ordained into the Baptist ministry, Mr. Hatch served several churches in California and Texas. A conviction of the biblical basis for conditional immortality led Mr. Hatch in 1961 to accept a call to the pulpit of the First Advent Christian Church of Portland, Oregon.

For more information, contact:
Dr. John H. Roller
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