DEVELOPMENT OF THE DOCTRINE OF FUTURE ETERNAL PUNISHMENT
We have considered the earliest statement of the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked, by a believer in the Scriptures. We have also set forth the first development of the doctrine of their universal restoration. We now proceed to consider the earliest presentation of the doctrine of future eternal punishment. This is found in the book of Enoch.
Book of Enoch.
This book was first quoted by the apostle Jude, and after him was quoted or referred to by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Augustine. After this it gradually disappeared, and was lost till in 1773 Bruce brought from Abyssinia to England a complete Ethiopic translation of it. This in 1838 was translated by Archbishop Laurence into English and Latin. This gave a great impulse to the study of the book. Prof. Stuart published an able view of it, and Hoffman, Gfrorer, and Dillman, translated it into German and Latin. Ewald also and others have made a thorough study of the book. The most important authorities concur in the belief that it was written before Christ, some carrying its composition, at least in part, back to the early part of the age of the Maccabees. The evidence seems clearly to sustain these views, but we cannot now enter into this question, but, resting on these results, shall proceed to consider its utterances on the subject now under consideration.
It would be easy, by direct and multiplied quotations taken out of their connection, to show that it teaches, in most explicit terms, the eternal punishment of the fallen angels, and of wicked men. But such insulated extracts would not give a fair idea of the light in which these doctrines are presented in the book. We should at once weave them into a modern fabric of doctrine such as is now held, whereas we ought to see them in the relations in which they stand in the book.
System of Enoch.
One grand peculiarity of the system of Enoch is, that it is not founded on the fall in Adam, but on the fall of the angels. This view was extensively read and studied and appealed to by the early Christian fathers. Who, then, are the fallen angels of whom the book speaks, and whose judgment and eternal punishment it so clearly sets forth? They are not the devil and his angels, of whom we should naturally think, with our modern views, but those particular angels, supposed of old to be spoken of in the sixth chapter of Genesis, who, seeing the daughters of men that they were fair, took them wives of all that they chose. By these wives, the angels aforesaid became the fathers of the giants by whom the earth was desolated, and whose spirits, after death, became evil spirits, or demons.
But it will be said that the Bible does not speak of angels as thus taking wives of men, but of the sons of God. This is true of the Hebrew text, and of our English version.
But some manuscripts of the Septuagint have the reading angels of God, instead of sons of God. This was the reading followed by Philo (“De Gigantibus,” Section 2), and Josephus. And even now this is the reading of the Alexandrian manuscript, which is followed in the edition of the modern Greek Church, sanctioned by the Synod of all Russia. So, also, the edition of the English Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, agrees purposely with the Greek Church in following the same manuscript, edited by J.E. Grabe, and then by F. Field: Oxford, 1859. The early fathers seem to have followed the same reading, as did also Augustine.
The Septuagint translators, in Job xxxviii. 7, where all the sons of God are spoken of as shouting for joy at the creation, have introduced the word angels as the translation of sons of God. In this, they clearly expressed the real fact of the case. And this shows how the translation angels of God, could have been introduced in Gen. vi. 2. This translation the author of the book of Enoch followed, and it was generally followed y the early fathers. Nor should we wonder at them, for, as we have seen, even to this day, the Greek Church does the same.
The Foundation of the Book.
Here, then, is the foundation of the system of the book of Enoch, for, according to him, it was not the fall in Adam that corrupted the world. Of the fall of Adam there is no mention in the book. It was the fall of the angels before the allurements of the beautiful daughters of men that filled the earth with corruption, violence, and ruin, and called for the flood. For this, too these angels were bound in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.
Seduction, Corruption, Oppression.
The book states, at length, how the angels who had fallen seduced and corrupted men by magic, and the disclosure of various other unlawful secrets. It narrates, also, how men were oppressed by the giants who were born from these unlawful connections. And, indeed, the despotism of the giants must have been terrific, for the book expressly states that they were 300 cubits (450 feet) high, and devoured the labors of men, and animals of all kinds, and finally men themselves. They must, also, have been somewhat numerous, for we are told that there were two hundred fallen angels and from so many a numerous progeny would naturally descend. Not only is the number of these angels given, but the names of their leaders, and the evil arts which each taught.
The Crisis and the Angels.
Here, then, was a crisis. Men were corrupted, oppressed, and in danger of destruction beneath a fearful despotism, and cried for aid. The case was first laid before God by a deputation of angels; and God gave directions to the good angels what measures to adopt to destroy the power of so fearful a combination.
The Call of Enoch.
God also sent a direct message to the fallen angels through Enoch, who for this purpose was taken up into the presence of God, and saw his glory. This message denounced retribution and destruction on them, and on their children, the giants. On receiving the message, the sinful angels were overcome with terror, and entreated Enoch to intercede in their behalf He complied with their request.
Reply of God.
God sent by Enoch a message, refusing to spare them, because of the magnitude of their crimes. God denounced their guilt in forsaking the elevated spiritual sphere, for which they were made immortal, and without the need of marriage after the manner of men, and coming down to the low plane of carnal lust. He reproved them for forsaking their proper and elevated station as guardians and watchmen over men, and coming down to the degradation of sensual lust to seduce and corrupt them. In view of such crimes, he declares that their case is hopeless, and that they are beyond the reach of mercy.
The holy angels are then ordered to bind them in chains, and reserve them till the great day of the final judgment. Thus in chapter x., it is said, concerning Samyaza, and the fallen angels who had intercourse with women: “Bind them for seventy generations underneath the earth, even to the day of judgment and of consummation, until the judgment, the effect of which will last forever, be completed. Then shall they be taken away into the lowest depths of the fire in torments, and in confinement shall they be shut up forever.”
In chapter xxi. 5, is given a striking account of the place of their eternal punishment: “I beheld a great fire, blazing and glittering, in the midst of which was a division. Columns of fire struggled together to the end of the abyss, and deep was their descent. Then I exclaimed, ‘How terrible is this place, and how difficult to explore!’ Uriel, one of the holy angels, who was with me, answered and said: ‘Enoch, why art thou alarmed and amazed at this terrific place, at the sight of this place of suffering? This,’ he said, ‘is the prison of the angels; here they are kept forever.’”
Thus are these fallen angels singled out as the greatest criminals of the ages. They are not confined and punished with sinful men, but in a prison appropriated to them, where they suffer for their great and peculiar crimes, as the great traitors who betrayed and corrupted humanity, over which they had been placed as guardians, and opened the flood-gates of evil on the world. This is the view of them presented from the beginning to the end of the book. It is also noteworthy that these fallen angels are not placed in any immediate connection with the devil, for, though their leaders are enumerated, he is not one of them. Indeed, Satan is but once referred to in the book.
Sinful Men Punished.
So much for the eternal punishment of the fallen angels. As to the eternal punishment of sinful men, and the eternal rewards of heaven, the book is no less explicit. Enoch was conducted by the angels, at divers times, through the spiritual universe, and saw the abodes of the sinful and of the holy. Many quotations might be made as to eternal punishment, for he has vision after vision. But one or two extracts from the twenty-first chapter will remove all uncertainty. After a general view of the places assigned to souls until the day of judgment, he says of the abodes of the wicked: “Here their souls are separated. Moreover, abundant is their suffering until the time of the great judgment, the castigation and the torment of those who eternally execrate, whose souls are punished and bound there forever.”
The Final Prison.
Of the final prison, he says: “A receptacle has been formed for the souls of unrighteous men and of sinners: of those who have completed crime, and associated with the impious, whom they resemble. Their souls shall not be annihilated in the day of judgment, neither shall they arise from this place."
In chapter xxxviii. He says: “When the light of the righteous shall be manifested, where will the habitation of sinners be? Where the place of rest for those who have rejected the Lord of spirits? Better would it have been for them had they never been born.”
In chapter civ. it is said: “In those days shall the mouth of hell be opened into which they shall be immerged [sic]; hell shall swallow up and destroy sinners from the face of the elect.”
The Messiah as Judge.
The agency of the Messiah in the judgment on the angels and on sinful men is clearly set forth in chapter lxviii. The names of the leaders of the seducing angels are first given. Then God’s oath is proclaimed. Then it is said: “The Son of Man sat upon the throne of his glory, and to him the principal part of the judgment was assigned. Sinners shall disappear and perish, while those who seduced them shall be bound with chains forever.”
Range of the Book.
But the book is not entirely confined to the angels. It gives the great outlines of human history, and the relations of kings and nations to the coming judgment. It also contains disclosures as to the elements, the seasons, and the great laws of the natural world.
Punishment by Fire.
Thus far, no particular mention of fire in the punishment of wicked men has been made. In chapter cv. This deficiency is supplied. He says: “I beheld a flame of fire blazing brightly, and, as it were, glittering mountains whirled around and agitated from side to side. In it was the clamor of exclamation, of woe, and of great suffering.” In reply to his inquiry, “What is it?” the angel said: “There into that place which thou beholdest shall be thrust the spirits of sinners and blasphemers; of those who shall do evil, and who shall pervert all that God has spoken.”
Rewards of the Good.
Of the good, God says: “I will bring them into the splendid light of those who love my holy name, and I will place each of them on a throne of glory, of glory peculiarly his own, and they shall be at rest during unnumbered periods. Righteous is the judgment of God.”
Good Things in This World.
Of sinners who have lived in prosperity and luxury, and been envied by men, therefore, he says, chapter ciii., Section 4: “Has it not been shown to them that when to the receptacle of the dead their souls shall be made to descend, their evil deeds shall become their greatest torments? Into darkness, into the snare, and into the flame that shall burn to the great judgment shall their spirits enter, and the great judgment shall take effect forever and ever. Woe to you, for to you there shall be no peace!”
The whole of chapter xcvi. Is full of warnings to the wicked in view of the record of their crimes, and the coming day of judgment and retribution – as full as any modern sermon on the same subject.
In this book, also, the doctrine of the resurrection is fully declared for the good, but not for the wicked. It is not a part of their privilege and honor. It is their spirits that are said to be thrust into eternal fire.
Influence of the Book.
This Jewish book of Enoch was extensively read in the early centuries. Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Lactantius, and not a few others, adopted the view presented in it of the angels and their fall by carnal lust and sinful intercourse with women. Their ideas of spirits were not so immaterial as to render it incredible. No protest was made against the idea of giants four hundred and fifty feet high. Indeed, even these would not probably reach the indefinite height of Satan as given by Milton, to whose staff the tallest mast of “some great admiral” was but a wand.
Not in the Canon.
But though the book was so extensively read, and exerted so wide an influence, it was not regarded as an inspired work, or a part of the Old Testament canon. Tertullian is the only exception to this statement. Although the statements of the book are without authority on us, as to future punishment, they show that, even before Christ came, the minds of the Jews had trodden a wide range as to the future life and endless retributions. Of the book Westcott says, “No apocryphal book is more remarkable for eloquence and poetic vigor.” In various parts of the book there are evidences of a Miltonic imagination acting in scenes of judgment and fiery terror. From this apocalypse of Enoch we pass to that of Ezra, which also sets forth future eternal punishment, but from a different standpoint, and as the development of an entirely different system, one far more in affinity with modern modes of thought. This, also, was widely read, and exerted great influence in the early church. It deserves more careful consideration in many respects than it has yet received. In some respects it is an enigma as yet unsolved.
FORWARD>> (Next Chapter: FUTURE ETERNAL PUNISHMENT IN THE APOCALYPSE OF EZRA )