The fate of unbelievers.

“…every one of those that transgress the law of God, offend any that believe in Christ, retain their sins, and sinful companions; every one of them that are cast into hell, where the worm of conscience is always gnawing, and the fire of divine wrath is always burning, with that fire every one of them shall be salted: that fire shall be to them, what salt is to flesh; as that keeps flesh from putrefaction and corruption, so the fire of hell, as it will burn, torture, and distress rebellious sinners, it will preserve them in their beings; they shall not be consumed by it, but continued in it: so that these words are a reason of the former, showing and proving, that the soul in torment shall never die, or lose any of its powers and faculties; and particularly, not its gnawing, torturing conscience; and that the fire of hell is inextinguishable; for though sinners will be inexpressibly tormented in it, they will not be consumed by it; but the smoke of their torments shall ascend for ever and ever; and that they will be so far from being annihilated by the fire of hell, that they shall be preserved in their beings in it, as flesh is preserved by salt.” – John Gill

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12 thoughts on “The fate of unbelievers.

  1. Let me say straight-up, that I believe in the doctrine or reality of Hell, but Gill’s statement simply goes beyond what we read directly in/from Scripture. Even in our Lord’s statements, there is the hyperbole & metaphorical. But truely the real Hell is the loss of God’s presence for eternity! And the human soul does live forever and eternally.

  2. Peter Lombard, the Master of Sentences

    “Therefore the elect shall go forth…to see the torments of the impious, seeing which they will not be grieved, but will be satiated with joy at the sight of the unutterable calamity of the impious .” Sent. Iv 50, ad fin

    Martin Luther
    When questioned whether the Blessed will not be saddened by seeing their nearest and dearest tortured answers, “Not in the least.”

    Jonathan Edwards

    “The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.”

    The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss.

    [“The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]

    J.I. Packer

    “…love and pity for hell’s occupants will not enter our hearts.” J.I. Packer in article “Hell’s Final Enigma” in “Christianity Today Magazine, April 22,2002.”

    Richard Baxter

    It is not a terrible thing to a wretched soul, when it shall lie roaring perpetually in the flames of hell, and the God of mercy himself shall laugh at them; when…God shall mock them instead of relieving them; when none in heaven or earth can help them but God, and he shall rejoice over them in their calamity . –(“The Saint’s Everlasting Rest” 1846)

  3. “Reprobate infants are vipers of vengeance, which Jehovah will hold over hell, in the tongs of his wrath, till they turn and spit venom in his face!” – Jonathan Edwards

  4. Yeah, I most certainly don’t always agree with many of our Fathers of the Faith, especially on this subject and mystery! Note btw, the Reformed Anglican, Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, and his book: The True Image, The Origin And Destiny Of Man In Christ. He seems to take a position of annihilation of the non-elect. But even the pagan Plato taught that the soul was eternal! Of course Hughes is with the Lord, RIP.

  5. Where is Dr. Gill’s writings is this quote found? It appears to be a good one to utilize in responding to those who teach the error of conditional immortality. It is not a nice quote, nor is it a pleasant subject, but thank you for posting it. Some may object, but such teaching is needful these days.

  6. Btw, Hughes, born in Sydney Australia, had much of his later ministry.. 1968 to 1990, in America. He had three earned doctorates, two from South Africa, and one from London. Always the scholar, but always Reformed! (Died in the USA, 1990) And yes, I have a copy of The True Image, etc.

  7. I questioned Dr. Bruce Waltke about Dr. Philip Edgcumbe Hughes at Pinebrook Bible Conference (East Stroudsburg, PA) in 1990 since at that time both men were, at least in my understanding, on the faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary. This was one year after the publication of P. E. Hughes’ book, “The True Image”. I had such high regard for Hughes, especially for his work on Hebrews and 2 Corinthians, that I was struggling with the issue of how he could have aligned himself with the heresy of conditional immortality. I asked Dr. Waltke privately if Hughes was driven to this by the exegesis of specific Scripture passages or something else. I also asked him how Hughes could continue on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary while holding such a view since it appeared to be contrary to the Westminster Standards. Dr. Waltke asked me if I was aware of the fact that Dr. Hughes had recently passed away. I was not. He told me that he felt Hughes had not come to this view exegetically, but that his convictions on the matter were “philosophically driven”. He went on to make me aware of the facts that:

    1) Dr. Waltke had been asked to head up a faculty committee to investigate whether Hughes should continue on the faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary or not based on the conflict between his allegiance to conditional immortality and the Westminster Standards;

    2) The committee had concluded that given his continued belief in conditional immortality Dr. Hughes should not continue on the faculty;

    3) Dr. Hughes was then approached, and agreed with the committee’s findings;

    4) However, before any action could be taken he passed away.

    Needless to say, I never forgot this conversation with Dr. Waltke from 22 years ago this summer.

    • @John: Even though I am a Brit, I have been reading Rev. P.E. Hughes for years too (I’m 62, 3 in late Oct. Btw, I see ya were or are an Army guy. I was a RMC, Royal Marine Commando, mustang – enlisted to officer, for well over ten years, some broken time and reserve at the end. Though way back when, I was attached to the Marine 3rd Force Recon, in the Nam (’68), as an RMC. Out of Phu Bai. And of course years later, I was in Gulf War 1 in my early 40’s). As to Hughes, he was of course born and somewhat educated a Brit, being an Anglican. I too have his most theological work, in ‘The True Image’, etc. Being myself a Reformed Anglican, I have not had that much problem myself with Hughes. I don’t see myself this issue as all that much an absolute, as GOD can do what GOD wants with those who are not ‘In Christ’! (Noting Jude 13, which is certainly metaphorical and hyperbole in the main.) Though I do myself tend toward the position that the soul-spirit is eternal. Note, I am myself rather conservative too, both biblical-theological, and political. I have both the D. Phil.,Th.D. (British). As an Anglican Reformed, I prefer the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, and even the Irish Articles 1615, but all of us Reformed use all of the Reformed Creeds, certainly. Btw, we can’t think and reason without some depth of philosophy! I did my D. Phil. on Luther’s Ontology of the Cross, (years back now, of course).

      Semper Fi! 🙂

  8. @Robert – I just turned 62 this month. I was in Nam in ’71 in Quang Tri and then Da Nang. We went through Phu Bai on the way down. Following a 16 year break in service I joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard so our careers definitely have some similarities. I was in Ramadi from 2005-2006. The 2nd MARDIV and the 1st MEF (FWD) put us in for authorization to wear their patches which I consider an honor. Semper Fi! I retired as an SFC/E7 over 24 due to arriving at age 60. Still in good shape. Thank you for your service from one 2 war vet to another, and mustangs make the best officers!

    I understand your point about the interplay between exegesis and philosophy, but I think that Dr. Waltke’s comment had more to do with a driving motive or underlying presupposition that produced Dr. Hughes’ conclusion.

    My concern with this error is how pertinent passages of Scripture are handled. These must be considered on a case by case basis.

    Some sources I have recommended to others on this matter are as follows:

    W. G. T. Shedd, The Doctrine of Endless Punishment (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1885).

    William C. Irvine, ed., Heresies Exposed, 10th ed. (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., n.d., 1978 reprint, 29 printings between 1917 and 1955 from original “Timely Warnings”), pp. 15-19.

    Robert Morey, Death and the Afterlife (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2001, 1984).

    John H. Gerstner, Repent Or Perish: A Biblical Response to the Conservative Attack on Hell (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990, and Ligonier Ministries Incorporated, 1997).

    William V. Crockett, Zachary J. Hayes, Clark H. Pinnock, and John F. Walvoord, Four Views on Hell, Counterpoints Series, gen. ed. William V. Crockett, series ed. Stanley N. Gundry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, 1992).

    Robert A. Peterson, and P. L. Peterson, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1995).

    John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1995).

    Gregory K. Beale, Daniel I. Block, Sinclair B. Ferguson, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Douglas J. Moo, Christopher W. Morgan, J. I. Packer, Robert A. Peterson, Robert Yarbrough,
    Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, gen eds. Christopher W. Morgan, and Robert A. Peterson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, 2004).  
    See also:

    J. I. Packer, “Evangelical Annihilationalism in Review”, Reformation and Revival, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Spring 1997), pp. 1-51; on Theological Studies at http://www.theologicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ref-rev/06-2/6-2_packer.pdf [accessed 24 JUL 2012]; and on The Highway at http://www.the-highway.com/annihilationism_Packer.html [accessed 24 JUL 2012].

    Robert A. Peterson, “Undying Worm, Unquenchable Fire: What is hell—eternal torment or annihilation? A look at the Evangelical Alliance’s The Nature of Hell”, posted 10/23/2000 to Christianity Today at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/october23/1.30.html?order=&start=1 [accessed 24 JUL 2012].

    “I can well understand those who search the Scriptures with great diligence in order to arrive at this teaching about annihilation, but we must not base doctrines on our feelings. People say, “I can’t conceive of the love of God doing something like that.” Perhaps they cannot, but our beliefs are not to be based upon what you and I can conceive, but upon what we read in the Scriptures. We are not only finite, we are sinful. You and I are incapable of adjudging the love of God truly. Our minds are not big enough; they are not straight enough; they are not clear enough; they are not pure enough. And to argue in terms of what you think the love of God should be is not only to be unscriptural but to put yourself into the position of the unbeliever for that is precisely what he does about the atonement and about almost every other doctrine of our glorious salvation. He does not see it, he does not understand it, therefore he does not believe it. Let us be very careful that we do not align ourselves with unbelievers or argue as philosophers rather than as those who submit their minds to the teaching of the Scriptures.”
    – David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), Great Doctrines of the Bible: The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton: Crossway, 1998), s.v. “Conditional Immortality or a Second Chance?”

  9. @John: Thanks to share your military life and service, indeed we are from another time, at least in our youth, but even in our 40’s, and you your 50’s and to 60 (you retired later than I). Semper Fi!

    I have some of the books your mention, and of course Sir Packer is a favorite being Anglican. I agree btw, that we must be careful with philosophy, this is of course where Roman Catholicism has gone wrong in the past. (Note, I was raised and early educated Irish Roman Catholic in Dublin, Ireland). But, I am certainly not Ordinariate (Anglicanorum Coetibus) friendly or bound, though I do admit being an Anglo-Catholic many years ago now. But those days are over! (Though I am somewhat friendly to the EO on their idea of the regal nature and monarchy of the Father in the Godhead – even Augustine believed in the monarchy of the Father – and also follow their position of the “filioque”). See btw, Robert Letham’s nice book: Through Western Eyes, Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective.

    As with this whole subject however, of GOD’s judgement and separation of the non-elect, I am a bit close to Hughes in his chapter 37, Is the Soul Immortal? (The True Image, etc.)…noting Calvin there, as he quotes (note too Luther in his position here); there has always been different ideas about the soul-body and death. Myself, I am just somewhat open to Hughes general ideas, I am not an advocate of the position however. But, I admit, that I see the need again (generally speaking) for a better understanding of the Pauline Mysticism! Here Calvin’s Christology and “Offices” of Christ as prophet, priest and king, i.e. The Mediator is so profound!

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