Future Punishment Of The Wicked As Revealed In The Old Testament -- By: Henry Cowles

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 035:139 (Jul 1878)
Article: Future Punishment Of The Wicked As Revealed In The Old Testament
Author: Henry Cowles

Future Punishment Of The Wicked As Revealed In The Old Testament

Prof. Henry Cowles

This Article will assume that future punishment is taught clearly in the New Testament. It proposes to inquire whether it be taught also in the Old; and if so, how.

If taught by Christ and his apostles in the New Testament, it is certainly true, and therefore does not need the endorsement of the Old Testament to establish its truth. Yet our question has real interest and importance, notwithstanding. The opinion is somewhat current that future punishment is not taught in the Old Testament; and it is proposed to infer from this silence that the doctrine is not in any wise fundamental; that religion can be maintained without its aid; and perhaps that gospel ministers may do good work for truth and righteousness without preaching or even believing it. Hence one reason among many for our inquiry into the Old Testament teaching (or silence) as to future punishment.

Our question carries us back to the beginnings and the earlier stages of divine revelation. We may fitly suppose that the problem of making a written revelation to man lay before the divine mind in thought and plan before it became an act. In this problem the special point now before us — the future doom of the wicked — was included, and the question how to reveal it to any good moral purpose, must have involved two main points, viz. (1) How to make men understand it; (2) How to make them believe it.

A moment’s thought will show that both these points are thoroughly vital; for unless it be understood, it could be no revelation at all, and could have no moral force. Moreover,

if understood intellectually, yet if it were not so revealed as to enforce belief, it would be even worse than worthless, serving only to harden human hearts in their sin and madness. We shall need to hold these points well in mind throughout this discussion.

It may require some little reflection to suggest the real difficulties of this problem in both these aspects. Let it be considered that the doom to be revealed lies in another world, not in this; a world that none of the race has ever seen, and none are expected to see till the time of needing a written revelation of it shall have passed forever. The problem, then, is to get into the human mind some ideas pertaining to an unknown world — a world with which our present life may not be rich in helpful analogies. In so far as the revealing of this truth depends on written words, single terms — e.g. death, hell, Gehenna — it will be entirely essential that these words have an intelligible meaning. But any just apprehension of their meaning must start from and be built u...

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