Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail
By Charles Pridgeon
Chapter Eight: The Neglected Age
The phrase, "the Age of the Ages," is found in Eph. 3:21. The literal reading of this verse is:
To Him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus, for all the generations of the Age of the Ages." The reader may look up the marginal reading of the Revised Version and find it practically the same.
We learned in the Chapter on the Ages that the phrase, "Ages of the Ages," referred to the two last great Ages; viz., the Millennium and the Age of the Ages. We saw that the Age of the Ages denoted the greatest age of all, just as the expression the "Holy of the Holies" signifies the holiest of all.
We gathered from the Chapter on the millennial age that that age was far from ideal, even tho it surpassed former ages in natural and spiritual grandeur. We find that many Scriptures tell of the age when all things will become new; when all things will be subdued to God; when "in the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"
(Phil. 2:10,11, literal). The title "Age of the Ages" is a fitting title for such a glorious time, for it is still time. We have already seen that all ages refer to the temporal.
In 2Peter 3:10 we noticed in a former Chapter the Day of the Lord in which the heavens shall pass away; and in verse 12 of the same chapter, we are exhorted to look for the "Day of God," when there will be a "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
We are living in "Man's Day" now (1Cor. 4:3, margin). The supremacy of man and his practical deification belong to our time. In the antichrist this deification of man will head up (2Thess. 2). This is the fruitage of Satan's lie in Eden, "Ye shall be as God" (Gen. 3:5, literal).
The Lord's Day will follow Man's Day and will extend from the close of this present age to the end of the Millennium. The Millennium will be followed by God's Day, or the "Day of God," according to 2Peter 3:12. This is the final age of which we have any account in the Bible. No other age is needed to fulfill the Scriptures and the work of redemption. It is closely connected with the Millennium and springs from it. "Thy throne, O God, is for the age of the age" (Heb. 1:8), which means that the last age springs from the Millennium. In the Hebrew Scriptures Ps. 45:6,7, from which Heb. 1:8 is quoted, literally reads, "Thy throne, O God, is for the Age and beyond." The Millennial Age is often called "the Age"; The Age of the Ages is the "beyond" age. This final Age might be called The Neglected Age, for so many Bible students have no place for it and this is one reason why the complete redemption and reconciliation is not apprehended.
Before this final age and during this age, there is ample space for every promise and every threat to be fulfilled. There is enough time for the punishment of the wicked, also for the reconciliation and for God to make "all things new." So this age of the ages might be called the Age of the New Creation, according to Rev. 21:5, "Behold, I make all things new," Or perhaps more in accord with the fact and in accord with the Greek, "Behold, I am making all things new." The new creation is not sudden in its completion, even if it is in its beginning. In 2Cor. 5:17 we read: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (or creation); old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." We know that the new creation of man begins as soon as his conversion takes place, but his new creation in its fulness takes a long time (the Greek word for "creation" indicates by its ending, a process). So in the new creation of the universe, its initial work will probably be sudden, but its completion will take long periods of time, for the expression is used "for (or) throughout all the generations of the Age of the Ages" (Eph. 3:21 literal; see also margin, R. V.). It is fitting that this last age should be so extended, not only that there may be time for making all things new and getting everything right; but that our Lord may have right of way for a far longer time than Satan and man have had in spoiling the old creation. Some have supposed that such passages as the following give us more than a hint of the length of time of God's covenant with Israel and that by subtracting the years of Israel that are past from the estimated length of a thousand generations, we may find how many thousands of years there will be left for the Millennium and for the age of the ages. Deut. 7:9," Know therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations." Also 1Chron. 16:15: "Be ye mindful always of His covenant; the Word which He commanded to a thousand generations." Whether this calculation will be correct or not, the implication of these passages is that the promises to Israel are to extend in the future for an exceedingly long time.
We find in Eph. 1:10, "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth." We believe that this dispensation of the fulness of times" will form a part of this greatest age of all. The above phrase, "He might gather together in one," literally means that "He might head up all things in Christ."
According to Col. 1:16, all things were originally created in Christ. Through sin, separation, confusion and all the consequences of sin have entered. The object of this final Age of the Ages is to get all things back under the original headship again. To this 1Cor. 15:25 and 27 agree, "For He (Christ) must reign, till He (God) hath put all enemies . . . and all things under His (Christ's) feet." This age will include even more than "the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." For the restoration of a wrecked universe is not enough. God's creatures must be so established that another fall will be a moral impossibility. Bare restoration will only take His children where they were before. It is further His purpose to bring them all to the same place as that He promised the Church in Paul's day. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13, literal). God is no respecter of persons, His promise to one is His promise to all.
Only a few, called the "first fruits," "the elect," have usually been thought of as attaining this full stature of Christ, but God says for them as a first fruits and hence for all, "till we all come." (See Chapter on headship of Christ.) It would seem unthinkable to suppose that we all were to attain the full measure of the true humanity of our Lord, but God has promised it. Note, not the measure of His Deity, but of the Christ who was made flesh. This is to be part of the astounding work that is to be completed in this final and grandest age. Our Lord’s work would not be fully done if He did not hand over to the Father a finished product. This takes the conceit out of the great ones of mankind and puts a divine, unselfish inspiration and aspiration in all. Men are all different now, no two absolutely equal. The inequality has come through sin, through diligence and also through so-called natural talent. In the original creation, we were all equal. The standing of every man in the work of Christ on the cross (for He tasted death for every man and purchased a complete redemption for every man, Heb. 2:9) is absolutely equal. God will bring this result about no matter how long He has to continue the age of the ages. Here is an ultimate equality that staggers us with its ideal and accomplishment.
Some one says, What advantage is it then to those who yield to the Lord and serve Him now? The advantage for such a course will be rewarded through the myriads of years in the ages. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." But what discipline; what suffering; what anguish; what fires; "what a forge and what a heat," must the last-born ones go through to overtake the firstborn ones! Eternity can not dawn till everything that can be learned in time is thoroughly apprehended and burned in.
The Age of the Ages is the final age but not the final state. God can not bring in Eternity and be- come "all in all" until the Son has fully finished His redemptive work. When Christ was made flesh and went through the whole process that all have to undergo, He went through as the seed of the whole creation. The vital germ of every one and everything was in Him. "The Head of every man is Christ" (1Cor. 11:3). Adam was only a typical head (Rom. 5:14). Christ was the Head of all ranks of angels and of men and of the whole creation (Col. 1:16). The potential universe, animate and inanimate, was in Him on the cross and is now in Him in glory. The seed will certainly bring forth everything that is within it. Through the death on the cross, the universe was potentially reconciled (Col. 1:20) and before the end of time, will be so actually.
Some one asks, Does He save without their having a change of heart? By no means; it would not be salvation without a change of heart. We do not have to know the method if He states the fact. We may, however, know much of this also. He does state the fact when He says, as the Greek and the Revised Version put it, "that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth; And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10,11). Join to this text Isa. 45:23, "I have sworn by Myself, the word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness and shall not return, That unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear."
In looking at Phil. 2:10, "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow," it may be objected that they "should," but they will not. But the original here means that they not only "should," but that they also will; the same construction is in John 3:16 where the Word reads "that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish," etc. There is no doubt exprest in the word "should," a believer will certainly not perish. Besides, the passage in Isa. 45:23 states by the divine oath that "every knee shall bow."
"In the Name of Jesus" (Greek and R. V.) means more than simply using the name of Jesus. It signifies, according to the Hebrew idiom, in the very nature of Jesus. This implies not only a change of heart, but that He has bestowed His own nature and spirit. Besides, the confession is that "Jesus Christ is Lord." No hypocritical confession will satisfy God. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (1Cor. 12:3). Further, Phil. 2:11 says that the confession is "to the glory of God the Father." No confession compulsion and force would glorify God the Father." The whole text implies a real change of heart to make this confession truly "in the Name of Jesus" and "to the glory of God the Father."
Note, further, that those who "bow" and "confess" are in heaven," "in earth," and "underearth." This includes the whole creation of God.
1Cor. 15:22-28 needs to be specially noted: "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." These two clauses are not an equation but a comparison. There were far less in Adam than in Christ. The seed of the Adamites was in Adam, the seed of the universe and all in it was in Christ. Adam's death brought death to all in him, Christ's death and resurrection bring life to all in Him. The result is not instantaneous. "But every man in his own order." Some are first-born ones, that is, a kind of first fruits (Jas. 1:18); but "first-fruits" implies that the fulness of the harvest has not yet come. The Millennium and the Age of the Ages is the full harvest time; it comes in "the fulness of times" (Eph. 1:10).
"Then cometh the end" (1Cor. 15:24). The word "end" here means the "goal," the "final consummation." It signifies that the purpose of God is accomplished. In Jas. 5:11, in speaking of the Lord's accomplishing His purpose with Job, the Word says, "Ye . . . have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." "The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning" (Job 42:12).
Our Lord delivers up the kingdom to the Father when He finishes His work. All enemies are subjected. Death is conquered. There is no death in God's universe--no first death, nor second death, nor any kind of death. There is no place for hell when everything is made new. The Father is the only One who is not made subject to the Son. In verses 27 and 28 of 1Cor. 15, the same word is used, in different forms, six times. It might be translated "subjected." It is rendered in verse 27 three times by the words "put under"; in verse 28, it is translated "subdued," "be subject" and "put under." It is the same word that is used of our Lord as a boy, when the Scripture says that Jesus was subject to His parents (Luke 2:51). It expresses loving and loyal obedience. Here no other meaning is possible, for it is the fruitage of Christ's death and resurrection; and the same word is used of Christ, the Son, becoming subject to the Father. If the other subjection was not loving and voluntary, some modifying word would be necessary in this connection. Notice, the Scripture does not say that the Father "may be all in all," but that "God may be all in all." Christ as Redeemer and Son of man becomes subject; but as Son of God He is part of the Godhead that becomes all and in all.
One of the able writers on the Ages says:
"This principle of rule by delegated authority, which dates before the fall of the angels (Jude 6, for 'estate' read 'principality'), was conferred on Adam, till he too fell (Ps. 8:6-8), then on Israel (1Kings 4:21) till she apostatized, then on the Gentiles (Dan. 2:36-43), whose 'times' continue until now and are to close in the blasphemous ambition of one who shall set up his throne in the temple of God and claim Divine worship (2Thes. 2). This principle is seen in full force in the Millennium. For (1) Christ Himself shall reign (by His deputy, the prince), as God's king in Zion (Ps. 2), the saints of the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4) being His associates on the throne; (2) then the twelve disciples (the apostle of the Gentiles is not of them) shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28); and (3) of the sons of Israel Christ will make 'princes in all the earth' (Ps. 45:16), that is sovereign delegates in each Gentile nation of the world. In other words, a complete system of deputed rule, authority, and power will be set up on the earth, the whole of it being in the hands of Israel."*
*After the Thousand Years by George T. Trench, B.A.. (London: Morgan & Scott), page 70.
But in the final Age deputed rule will gradually cease, till Christ will reign alone with the whole universe joined to Him as a living body to its head. It is this sort of a redeemed and glorified cosmos" that is handed over to the Father.
We will mention a few texts of Scripture that may need a word of comment:
"And he shall reign over the House of Jacob for the ages and of His kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:33, literal).
This text harmonizes with all others and tells us that Christ shall reign for the ages of the ages. We know that His reign comes to an end when He delivers the kingdom to the Father.
The second clause means that there shall be "no end" of His kingdom while the ages (which are time) last. This makes no reference to eternity. In Isa. 9:7 the same is said, "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end." We know that Christ's personal reign lasts as long as time and He delivers up the kingdom to the Father at the end of time (1 Cor. l5:24). Any difficulty with these passages arises only from trying to take "end" in an absolute sense when it is relative, for the Bible is a book for time and time relationships. When the Word says, "neither is there any end of their treasures; neither is there any end of their chariots"; we all understand that the usage of the word "end" is relative.
There are those believing in ultimate salvation who say that the kingdom does not end even if Christ's rule ends. Let those who desire, accept that interpretation. We think that there is no reference in this text to eternity in its absolute sense but it is relative and refers to time.
It might be wise to consider another text which is thought, by some, difficult to explain. "For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). The verse is not correctly translated, it should read "the things which are seen are for a while (Matt. 13:21 has the same word), the things which are not seen are for the ages." The transient things around us pass away, the invisible things last for the ages. We know that many of the in- visible things pass away, such as hate, sin and sorrow, even the good invisible things pass from their temporal manifestation into an eternal state at the end of the ages. The Apostle is speaking in the preceding verse of "the light affliction which is but for a moment works for us an exceeding weight of glory for the ages" (literal). These little afflictions which are for the brief span of our life, work an age-abiding glory. He is not speaking of eternity where all God's creatures have reached equality of glory in Christ, the inequality is only for the ages. The standing of every one in our Lord's redemption is equal and eternity will not arrive till God has brought all into this fulness and equality as wrought for them by Christ.
We have often thought of how great the change must be for a Christian "to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better: we have often marveled at the thrill of life and joy that the redeemed will enjoy at the resurrection. We believe that the greatest experience that will ever come to any living being will be to have all things of time and sense disappear and God and His creatures and creation in ineffable and eternal union.
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