« PreviousContinue »
whole system therefore fails, as applied to the Gentiles. Few of the Gentile nations knew any thing about Gehenna, and none but Jews could be supposed familiar with their localities, and peculiar cus
As this is evidently a prophetic warning of the destruction of the Jewish nation and polity, we may gain further information by consulting corresponding passages in the other evangelists. In Mark 13: 14, we read a quotation from Daniel, which will presently be examined. "But when YE shall SEE the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (LET HIM THAT READETH UnDERSTAND) then let them that be in Judea flee to the mountains." That this is an account of the same discourse noticed by Mat. 23: is too obvious to gainsay. But can we see the propriety of fleeing to the mountains, if the torments of hell in a future world, are threatened in this passage? A reference to Dan. 12: 11. will set us right in this matter, and point to the very time of Jerusalem's overthrow. "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." At what time was this to happen? Answer, v. 7. "When he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." But when? See v. 1.-"there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time." But how does this settle it? Answer-By reference to our Lord's words, Mat. 24: 21. -"For THEN [at the destruction of Jerusalem, when the power of the holy people, the Jews, should be scattered] shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor EVER SHALL BE. Could any thing be more definite? Such an entire destruction, so much suffering, had not
occurred before the time of our Saviour, and he declares should not again happen. Daniel then describes this very time, of which our Lord prophesied, as about to happen in that generation. The description is perfect, and the time of the accomplishment of the prophecies respecting that city, put beyond a cavil. How then does the tenet of endless misery gather an iota of strength from this passage? The hope, if so dreadful, so diabolical a HOPE could be cherished, is certainly a forlorn one.
In the account of this same prediction given us by Luke, we find no cause for variation in the views already given.
"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side; and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
We now ask why Jesus wept over the city? Was his grief occasioned by a prospective view of their sufferings in an endless hell? The enemies of his people would cast up a trench, besiege the city, and take it. That city, the pride of Palestine, and of the nations, with its temple, was to be razed to the ground, and great wrath was to be poured upon that people. But nothing is said of their miseries in another world. Nor did he, immediately prior to his crucifixion, utter a syllable like it. "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children." Why this weeping for themselves and chil dren? On account of the desolation of the city, most
certainly, and the sore afflictions which are the concomitants of war, and the horrors of a siege. He knew that the delicate women would seethe their own children, and that the most dreadful tortures awaited them. And in Mat. 24: 19, 20, the reason of this admonition is made apparent. "And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days." The reason is obvious. For then shall be great tribulation." Whether a combination of the horrors of war, famine, pestilence, and intestine divisions, were not sufficiently dreadful to render his commiseration pertinent to the occasion, let those judge, who have experienced but one of these evils at a time -or let him or her who can feel for other's wo, read the history of the Jewish wars, and judge righteous judgment.
But we think sufficient has been written, to convince every reasonable being, who is in earnest to understand the subject, that "damnation of hell," or the condemnation of Gehenna, has no allusion to future limited, or interminable punishment, and that the threatening was long ago fulfilled on the outcasts of Israel.
But we shall now notice some facts, to show that if the term Gehenna, always translated hell, in the common version, really signifies a place of inexpressible torture in a future state of being, it is certainly remarkable, that this word is not more frequently used in the New-Testament. The whole number of times which Gehenna is found in the New-Testament, is but twelve. That it was not used as many times as it appears, is evident from the circumstance, that the different evangelists relate the same discourses, and several are therefore a repetition. In the various places used, it is imputed to our Lord eleven times, and to James once. No other disciple of our Lord, nor one solitary apostle, uses it a single time, in any way. James, speaking of an unruly tongue, says it is set on
fire of Gehenna, or hell. In this case, it is so evidently used figuratively, that it needs no comment. But what shall we say of the messengers who were sent out into the world to preach the gospel to every creature? Is not the preaching of hell torments, gospel, or good news? If it were, why did they not thus preach? or if they did so preach, why do we not hear something about it? Let those who believe their master thus taught them, offer an excuse for their negligence.
But did Christ ever hint, that God had reserved to himself the privilege of inflicting endless pains on any of his creatures, either for unbelief, or an unholy life? No-never. In the passage which we have just examined, the affirmative method of asking the question, renders it certain they could not, by any means, avoid the punishment of Gehenna. Had they been able to avoid this catastrophe, the prophecy must have failed, and the 25th of Matthew, instead of proving Christ a true prophet, would have proved both him, and Jeremiah, and Daniel, false prophets !
In the next section, we shall examine all the remaining passages in the New-Testament where the word Gehenna occurs.
The remaining places where Gehenna occurs in the New-Testament fairly examined.
BY THE EDITOR.
WHOSO READETH, LET HIM UNDERSTAND.
In our previous examination of Gehenna, we have endeavoured to show, that the Jews did not under
stand a place of endless misery by the use of this word. It was in common use among the Hebrews as the name of a polluted place, near Jerusalem, of which they needed no explanation. But if they did not impute any other meaning to the word, under the Mosaic dispensation, by what means should they gain the knowledge that the same word in the mouth of Christ, should be subject to a different definition? To those who profess to believe that the term conveyed to the Jews the same ideas which are attached to it by the moderns, belongs the burden of proof. We shall content ourselves with a demonstration of the negative.
A particular point to which we now wish to turn your attention, is the language at the head of this section. Christ, referring to the prophecy of Daniel, relative to the destruction of Jerusalem, points directly to the understanding which the Jews had of their prophetic language-whoso readeth, let him UNDERSTAND. But how were they to understand, by a reference to the language of their prophets, that which had never been predicted? Daniel predicted the overthrow and dismemberment of the Jewish nation, and the consequent dispersion of the people. This was to come upon them for their iniquities, and the description of their iniquities, and the consequences which would result from them, are the same, as given by Daniel and by Christ. The time is reduced to the most accurate certainty of which language is capable. The damnation of hell spoken of by Christ, is therefore the same to which the prophet refers. But this is so plain, that we doubt if any one who has intelligence and honesty will doubt it.
As Mat. 5: 22, has already received particular attention, we have but ten passages left for examination. To these then we shall attend, after a few explanatory remarks.