The question that we are facing in this paper is: Do the reprobated sin in hell. As was said, to determine what it means that the wicked shall be destroyed is to answer the above question. That God will destroy the wicked means that He will make an end of them. But the question is: in what sense will he make an end of them. In answering this question we set out with taking notice how the wicked in this life, as dwellers on this earth, react to God, to the revelation of Himself in His moral law, in providence, in history and in the face of Christ. The wicked are ethically opposed to God. We saw that the Scriptures make it unmistakably clear that the wicked will be destroyed first in the sense that they will be humbled, brought low, not merely objectively, so that, as they lie there in the dust before God and Christ, their souls still seethe with rebellion, but also subjectively in their mind and heart, For, as was shown, the wicked are to be seized by utter fear in the presence of Christ. Rebellion in them will cease, as the will to rebel will be broken. The idolatry of the wicked will cease. All the attacks of the wicked upon God will cease, as the texts that were quoted plainly show. Should the wicked continue defiant, it could only be because God had not the power to subdue them, and in that case sin were mightier than God. This ethical dualism, antithesis, shall not continue, Attention was called to the fact that this ethical dualism must clearly be distinguished from metaphysical dualism. The latter, as was shown, is not.
The old Persians had both an ethical and metaphysical dualism.
The questions with which these old Persian philosophers busied themselves are these: How to explain the transition from the infinite God to the finite?—how to conceive the beginning of creation?—how to conceive of God as,, the author of the material world, so alien to His essence?—whence, if God is perfect, the imperfections of this world?—whence the destructive powers in nature?—when is moral evil, if a holy God is man’s creator?—whence the great diversity existing among men.
Now these old Persian philosophers were pantheists. The Pantheist identifies God and His creation. He thus maintains that the two are essentially one, that thus creation originated not in God’s creative will but is an efflux of His being. The Persians, however, did not allow matter, the physical world that we see, to emanate from the being of God for two reasons: 1) God is good, and matter, according to the conception of the Persians, is intrinsically evil. 2) God is spiritual and matter is physical. Denying, as they did, that matter originated in the creative will of God, they were shut up to the view that matter, like God, is uncreated and, thus eternal. The problem in which this theory involved them is this. If matter exists of itself, it opposes and limits God necessarily. But they had a solution. Matter, they said, is by itself dead; and what is dead cannot limit and oppose. The Persian explanation of the Spirit world is this. The spirits emanate from the incomprehensible essence of God. They are so many divine essences and their class name is aeon, meaning eternity. Each of these spirits has its own name such as truth, goodness, wisdom, names of God’s attributes. In fact they are divine attributes, which were all hidden in the depth of God’s being. The gap between God and the physical world, the Persians bridged as follows: These spirits or divine essences evolve themselves into self-subsisting beings and are now the germs of still other evolutions of life, that is, these essences, as so many spiritual cells continue to develop and individualize themselves but in such a way that the successive grades of this evolution of life are ever sinking lower and becoming feebler the further they are removed from God, their original source. Thus the perfect is ever evolving itself into the less perfect. Out of the last step of the evolution proceeds an aeon, a spirit, so imperfect and defective that it cannot retain its connection with the world of aeons and consequently sinks down into dead matter and chaos. Thus a drop of the fullness of divine essence spills over into the bordering void. As a result, dead matter becomes alive and the foundation has been laid for a new world beyond the confines of the world of spirits.
The Persian explanation of the origin and existence of evil is as follows. The origination of evil resulted from matter acquiring life. Evil is thus not an efflux of the divine essence. It cannot be, say they, for God is good. Neither did it originate in the will of man, as the Scriptures teach. Evil, according to the Persians, originated in matter, when matter became alive. The problem in which this conception of the origin of evil evolved them is this. If evil originated in matter, independent of God’s will—according to the Persian it did so—then evil necessarily limits and opposes God not only ethically but also metaphysically, which means that evil frustrates God’s determinate will, so that in this conception evil is another God, as, mighty as or, better said, mightier than God. To escape this conclusion, the Persians maintained that evil is purely negative, lacks reality and therefore does not exist, and what does not exist cannot oppose. Evil, however, does exist. It is actual. The Persian solution is no solution. On their basis there is none. The Scriptural teaching on this point has already been given. It is this. God sovereignly and efficaciously willed the origination of evil in the will of man (not in matter). He is therefore the sovereign Lord also of evil, of moral evil, though not the author of it. Evil therefore does not oppose, limit, God metaphysically, does not frustrate His counsel. To the contrary, it was included in His counsel and serves His purpose.
Thus the Persians had a metaphysical dualism first and then also a ethical dualism. The Pelagians have these two dualisms; and also the exponents of a common grace. The Bible knows only of this ethical dualism, and it teaches, as has been shown that, in the appearing of Christ, also this ethical dualism will cease. As was said, to maintain that this ethical dualism is to continue, is equivalent to saying that sin is mightier than God. Thus, implicit in the philosophy of the continuation of the ethical dualism is the doctrine of the existence of the metaphysical dualism and its continuation.
But, once more, also this ethical dualism, or better said, antithesis, will cease, according to the Scriptures. It can cease because God is God and none else. It must cease because God cannot endure Edom as everlastingly defiant. All Edom’s rebellion will cease, when he has done serving the ends of God’s kingdom. 2) That Edom will be destroyed includes more. It includes that his present sinful reactions to God will cease altogether and that he will be brought to a state of absolute passivity or negative activity in which state he will suffer only—suffer the punishment of the doomed. It means that all his sinning against the first table of the law will cease. 3) That Edom will be destroyed implies even more. According to the Scriptures it implies the complete eradication of the sinful lusts, strivings, ambitions, aspirations, pride, and egotism peculiar to a totally depraved somatic moral-rational being on this earth. It is certain that in death the reprobated as well as the redeemed permanently lose their earthly soul, their lower nature, by which they are adapted to an earthly life on this earth. Yet, as was said, this must not be taken to mean that the lost will spend eternity in hell as disembodied spirits. But the body in which they shall come forth out of the grave will be one adapted to their utterly desolate state of existence. Hell, it must be considered, is a place of outer darkness and utter desolation. Said Paul to the heathen in Lystra, “Nevertheless he—God—left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” The doomed will not eat and drink and make merry in hell. They will not marry and be given in marriage. All the sinful pleasures of the wicked in this life, summed up in the statement, “wine, women and song” will be no more. Hell is not a modified form of our earthly mode of existence. All the means through which sin in this life attains expression will not be in hell. Hence, there can be in hell no such things as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The envies and hatreds, the hungers and thirsts, the ambitions and aspirations, the hopes and expectations of men on earth are not in hell. The expectations of the wicked shall perish. Their places will be taken by hopeless despair, remorse, unutterable fear, spiritual anguish, pain and distress. The dead, says the preacher, know not anything, neither have they anymore reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love and their hatred and their envy is perished, that is, the love, hatred, and envy of somatic moral-rational beings on this earth. The preacher here speaks of men in the state of death. But the same holds true of the doomed in hell, and also for that matter of the redeemed in heaven. The house of this earthly tabernacle will be completely destroyed, for both the lost and the redeemed. However, there is this difference. The redeemed have and receive a building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. That “house not made with hands” is the heavenly and glorified and supremely blissful state and mode of existence of the redeemed. It includes all the blessings of Christ’s heavenly kingdom. Now the reprobated will also receive a house in the room of the house of this their tabernacle that is to be broken down. The house that they will receive is the mode of existence peculiar to the reprobated in hell. In that house, they will be solely occupied with God and will taste his wrath as it will consume their being and permeate their entire existence. They will be so constituted physically and spiritually as to be wholly and exclusively adapted to the suffering of the torments of hell.
That the wicked will be destroyed implies more. It implies that the lost, in their fear and terror arid remorse, will condemn themselves for their Works done in the flesh, will decry the sinfulness and utter foolishness of sin, and, as so decrying, will be wholly devoted to God in the bearing of His wrath as revealed arid operative in them, and in the acknowledgment of His mercy upon the redeemed in heaven. It is as the prophet says, the idols of the wicked, their idol worship, shall be destroyed. There is no idolatry in hell, no blaspheming of God’s name, no kneeling down before gods other than the true God. There will be no adulteries in hell, no thieveries and robberies; no lustings of the flesh, no drunkenness and gluttony. In hell the reprobated are as completely devoted to God as are the redeemed in heaven. For the wicked shall be destroyed. That the wicked will be destroyed implies rill this.
But the question is whether the destruction of the wicked implies, still more, whether it implies also the removal of the ethical fountain of sin, that the Scriptures call heart. From this fountain and center of man’s spiritual being are all the issues of life, so that as the heart is, so is the man. Of the elect we read, that God takes away their stony heart and gives them a heart of flesh, that thus He eradicates in them the principle of sin and implants in them a principle of new life.
Now the question is whether the destruction of the wicked does actually include also the eradication of the principle of sin in him? Is this idea taught in the Scriptures? Not directly certainly, as far as I am aware. That is, to say, I know of no statements or combination of statements, occurring in the Scriptures, that set forth this teaching or doctrine directly. But do the Scriptures, perhaps, teach the idea by implication? That is to say, does all that the Scriptures teach us about the destruction of the wicked necessarily imply the destruction of the principle of sin in the reprobate? The only way in which this can be determined is to examine the view in order to determine whether or not it is encumbered by difficulties of such a nature as to forbid its adoption. What are the difficulties in which such a view would involve us? There is, in the first place this difficulty. A reprobate, in whom the very heart of sin has been destroyed, is a sinless being; he is a being without a sinful heart. For the term “heart” taken in the ethical sense, is but another term for “principle of sin”. I speak now of the sinful heart. Do the Scriptures allow us to think of the reprobated in hell as sinless beings in this sense? But the difficulty greatly increases if it cannot be allowed that God implants in the essence of the reprobate, in which the heart of sin had been destroyed, a holy principle of life. For a rational-moral being, in whom dwells neither a principle of sin nor a new principle of life is not a rational-moral being at all, as far as I can see. The animal is neither sinful nor holy; but neither is the animal a rational-moral creature. Now the punishment in hell is adapted to rational-moral creatures. So then, if the reprobated in hell are non-rational- moral beings, how can they suffer the punishment of hell? On the other hand, if we do allow that God implants in the reprobated in hell a new principle of life, after destroying in them the root of sin, we are driven to the conclusion that hell will be populated by holy beings, Satan and his angels included. But this is not according to the Scriptures. Besides, how could God actually hate the persons of sinless, positively holy, reprobated men? How could God actually be angry with such men? How could He be angry with their persons? But was God not angry with the person of Christ? Certainly not. Though Christ bore the burden of God’s wrath, God loved His person. He was the obedient servant of God, obedient in love. These difficulties, it seems to me, forbid the adoption of this view.
Doubtless it is incorrect to say that God takes the stony heart out of the flesh of the lost and gives them a heart of flesh. This He does to His people only. In the lost the evil fountain of ethical corruption that the Scriptures call heart is not removed, but it is dried up, so to say. How is this to be understood? We need here the distinction between states active and passive, productive and perceptive and between actions positive and actions that are negative. These distinctions are true. To illustrate, when we speak we are active, productive. When we listen, we are passive and receptive. The former is positive action, the latter negative. The state of a man who is smitten by another and who does not resist nor rebel in his soul is passive and receptive. That man endures only. Now in the lost, the evil spring that Scripture calls heart no longer wells, up. The evil fruit of the bad tree has withered and the tree no longer bears. The raging wave no longer rages and foams out its shame. In the lost in hell all positive action is ended. The lost suffer only—suffer the wrath of God as filled vessels of wrath, fitted to destruction. Their state is one of absolute passivity and receptivity. It means that the wicked are destroyed. It means that in hell the moral dualism, the antithesis, is ended. This must be maintained in opposition to those who teach that in this life the antithesis is relative and that in hell it does not end at all but even attains to an absolute degree of intensity. A recent issue of “The Banner” (March 16) contains an article that reads, in part, “There is among many of our people great confusion of mind respect to the antithesis. Thank God that the antithesis is still preached among us. The majority of those who confess Christianity in this land of ours seem to be entirely ignorant of what it means, which accounts for the conformity to the world seen everywhere. The enmity which God has placed between the church and the world, dating from Paradise, is being wiped out and it spells nothing but calamity for us. Fences, both in doctrine and life, are being torn down and being left to deteriorate. Mr. World and Miss Church member are carrying on a courtship together and are being wed in many cases. If ever the injunction to watch and pray is in order, it is today. . . . The Antithesis, even during the best period of the church’s history, is very incomplete. When in the great day of days the sheep are separated from the goats and the chaff is winnowed from the wheat, then the Antithesis shall be seen in its fullness.”
Here the view is expressed that the Antithesis, which, according to this writer, is now relative, on account of the worldliness of God’s people and the checking of sin in the world by common grace, will be completed in the final judgment day. According to this conception, the fierce antagonism to God and His people on the part of the reprobated wicked will not cease, but it will continue everlastingly in hell even as having attained the highest degree of intensity in the final judgment day. Thus the Antithesis will remain. The wicked will not be destroyed, as the Scriptures everywhere teach. But they will continue supremely active in hell, opposing and taunting God, crying out their rebellion in His ears. If this is true, hell is not hell. If this is true, there is, no hell. Here we have one of the official organs of the Christian Reformed Churches blossoming out with the teaching virtually denying the existence of hell. For consider what is properly to be understood by the antithesis or moral dualism. On the part of the wicked, the antithesis, or moral dualism. On the part of the wicked, the antithesis is Satan’s nay which Satan and the wicked oppose to God’s yea. Now God’s yea is truth, righteousness, holiness; it is God, for He is the truth. It is Christ, for He is the truth and the life. The yea is God’s people, not their flesh certainly but the new creature in them. Thus the nay of darkness is, the lie. It is contempt and defiance of God. The nay of darkness is the world at the cross crucifying the Christ, the Son of God, the light and the life. The nay of darkness is this same world killing God’s people. The nay of darkness is the antithesis on the part of darkness. Thus, according to the writer quoted above, of the opposition of darkness, to light, of truth to the lie, of unrighteousness to righteousness, of unholiness to holiness, of Satan to Christ, of the world to the church, there will be no end. The antithesis will continue eternally. Darkness will everlastingly be opposing the light ethically, and the light will everlastingly be striving with darkness in the vain attempt to overcome it. This is pagan dualism of the purest wool. Thus it is not the Scriptures. According to the Scriptures, the wicked shall be destroyed.