A REPLY by A. E. Knoch
by Arthur W. Pink
THE foregone conclusion of those who oppose the great truth of Universal Reconciliation without giving it consideration is that it does away with judgment. It is the natural reaction from one extreme to the other. There is nothing in the truth as set forth in the Scriptures or in our writings which suggests this thought. Indeed, we have always taken pains to guard this point and to insist that there is no escape from God's wrath except through faith in the Son of God.
In "All in All," the pamphlet under review, we begin our summary as follows: "We have borne testimony in the pages of this pamphlet to our uncompromising belief in the reality of punishment. There is no law in God's universe more sure than the inexorable decree that every transgression and disobedience shall receive a just recompense of reward. The absolute certainty of punishment should be insisted upon..." (All in All, page 110).
In "The Salvation of the Unbeliever," which is especially referred to in what follows, the judgment of the unbeliever is actually referred to on every single page except the last! We speak of "the infliction of the pains and penalties each deserves" (page 11). Again "whatever may be the variety and degree of the tribulation and anguish meted out to each..." (page 13).
Not only that, but in the very quotation which is adduced to prove that we do not believe in any future suffering at all, is the phrase "unstinted force in his judgment."
The eternal punishment of the lost Mr. Knoch denounces as a `damnable dogma' ("The Divine Mysteries," page 67). What punishment, then, does he consider consistent with the perfections of the Divine character? No doubt many of our readers will now be able to forecast the answer to this question. Mr. Knoch does not believe in any future suffering at all. This is very evident from what is to be found in the last issue but in one of his bimonthly magazines. There, in an article entitled `The Salvation of the Unbeliever,' he says, `This leaves the way open to consider the moral effect of this doctrine as it relates to our conception of God's love. The sinner is dead, and, apart from the power of God in resurrection, quite as good as annihilated. What possible benefit can accrue to the sinner to expend unmeasured power in his resurrection, and unstinted force in his judgment, only to return him to OBLIVION?' (Italics ours). Similar language is used in the paragraph following, where Mr. Knoch speaks of `the extinction of the unbeliever in the lake of fire.' The words we have emphasized in this quotation reveal Mr. Knoch's real views with sunlight clearness and leave us in no doubt whatever as to what school of error he belongs. After he passes out of this life, and previous to the time of his resurrection, the sinner is `quite as good as annihilated,' and thus the teaching of God's Son, as found in Luke 16:22-31, is boldly repudiated. After the lost sinner has been raised and judged at the Great White Throne, instead of suffering for `the ages of the ages,' he is merely returned `to oblivion.' Thus it cannot be gainsaid that Mr. Knoch blankly denies any suffering for those who die in their sins."
the Judgment Session
The moral turpitude of these emphatic statements should make us blush for shame, for he is a brother in Christ. He has deliberately put himself beyond the pale of consideration by honest men, and this while seeking to stand for God's truth. It is not necessary to prove his statement false, for words would be wasted on anyone who cannot see it in the very words he uses for his proof. No one who speaks of unstinted force in the judgment of the unbeliever can possibly believe they have no suffering. No one who is not totally blinded by a mad desire to defend error at any cost would say that the "inflictions of the pains and penalties" each unbeliever deserves, denies that they suffer at all.
We cannot argue with him on this matter, for we are not on the same moral plane. We have put up with his perversion of 1 Cor.15:22; we have suffered his subversion of the true texts and the substitution of the false when dealing with the phrase "the all;" we have borne with his attempt to prove that the ages have long since ended; but our Lord does not wish us to descend into a moral atmosphere far beneath the dignity of one who is His slave.
The Lord's slave ought not to be fighting (2 Tim.2:24). I have always believed and taught, both by tongue and pen, that "indignation and fury, affliction and distress" will come "on every human soul which is effecting evil" (Rom.2:9). I believe the unbeliever will suffer at the judgment of the great white throne. Our brother says I do not. Nothing but a fight can settle this, and I will not fight. I will wait until we stand before our Lord and let Him decide, not for me, nor for my brother alone, but for the thousands whom he is seeking to turn against the truth by a method so low that it is a kindness not to call it by any name.
The quotation he uses was written to appeal to so-called annihilationists, and the terms used and concessions made, for argument's sake, are such as they would understand. We believe that there is no life except in Christ. We find no warrant in Scripture for punishment before judgment, or in death.
For many years we preached the gospel in the city jail. It was a rule there that we were not allowed to even see those who were awaiting trial. Only those who had stood before the judge and received their sentence were allowed to come into the tank where the meeting was held. The reason given was that no one was deemed guilty until his case had been tried, and it might be punishment for an innocent man even to be seen in such a place.
We Believe that Sinners
will Suffer for Sin
Everyone who has given the subject serious thought has wondered at the orthodox view which punishes the criminal for thousands of years and then brings him before the Judge. It is everywhere recognized that justice demands that all should have a speedy trial. It is a most hateful form of tyranny when conditions before trial are oppressive, or when unnecessary delay halts the free course of justice. What then shall we say of a theology which represents God as acting a thousand times more tyrannically than the worst of human rulers? It should be a most welcome relief to find that the Scriptures give us a God as ideal in His judgments as He is in grace.
As to the parable of Luke 15--16, we boldly believe that the prodigal son was not literally dead in the first part and have the best of reasons for taking a similar view of the corresponding section concerning Lazarus and the rich man. As we have a full exposition elsewhere, we will not repeat it here.
We boldly affirm that not a single passage of Scripture can be found to support the assertion that all unbelievers suffer for the ages of the ages. That is only for a very few.
"In the above-mentioned article, in which Mr. Knoch gives his conception of how unbelievers are saved, or rather, how their salvation is to be brought about, instead of appealing to Scripture he relies solely on the deductions of human reason. He supposes that the resurrection of the wicked and the awful display of God's majesty at the Great White Throne judgment will cause all unbelief to be `swept away,' and this in the face of Luke 16:31! He says, `in the process of winning the unbeliever we judge their resurrection and final vivification to be ample to account for their salvation and reconciliation.' He affirms, `the resurrection and judgment of unbelievers leave no reasonable alternative but their ultimate salvation.' He appeals to carnal sentiment thus, `Is the Christ who saved you capable of completing His work by saving all like you? Or, if He can, why will He not? Would you, if you could?' Thus, it will be seen that when he boasts that his appeal is solely to Scripture his claim is as false as that made by all other Universalists and Annihilationists."
Again we are confronted by that pitiably immoral method which is so distressing to the soul of Christ's slave. Nine pages of our pamphlet deal with many passages of Scripture. Then, on page 10, those who insist on reasoning about these things are taken up on their own ground. The passage quoted above is preceded by the following: "Let those who are fond of reasoning about the destiny of the universe accept their own premises and follow them out logically..." If others "appeal to carnal sentiments" and we condescend to humor them, should we be blamed, especially when there is nothing to be blamed for? We do base all on God's Word, but our position will stand the test of reason as well, and we have the best of authority for defending it from that quarter. Eternal torment is not only unreasonable but absolutely devoid of sanity and has driven many into actual madness. I know of one bright young believer who was so wrought up by constant contemplation of the fate of the damned that he lost his mind and is today utterly insane.
The only Scripture which is brought to bear is characteristic. In Luke 16:31 we read that "neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." The One referred to here can mean none other than Christ Himself. The nation refused Him when He came at first, and they refused Him again in the person of His apostles after He rose from the dead. Even taking this literally it has no connection with the resurrection of the sinners themselves. Had it read, "neither would they be persuaded though they be roused from the dead," it might be considered. However unscriptural the doctrine that unbelief will be swept away before the great white throne may be, he has not been able to find a passage to refute it. All he is able to do is to try and distort one.
"But mark the inconsistency and horrible absurdity of the scheme Mr. Knoch has advanced. First, he tells us that `the unbeliever will be saved by sight,' i.e., by a sight of the Sitter on the Great White Throne. Then, he tells, this `will be followed by their death in the lake of fire.' So, they are first `saved' and then cast into the lake of fire! That this is not an unstudied statement--a mere slip of the pen--appears from a subsequent remark. `The change which eventuates in the ultimate salvation of the unbeliever is wrought, not only by his resurrection but by the august session, when he stands in the presence of Christ with all his unbelief swept away by the awful realization of His power and the justice of His throne. We are asked, Is it possible for them to repent? Rather, we would like to know, Is it possible for them not to repent, or change their minds? We cannot conceive an unrepentant sinner before the great white throne.' Thus it will be seen that Mr. Knoch teaches that God will cast into the lake of fire those from whom all unbelief has been swept away and who are then penitent. Surely Satan himself cannot originate anything more diabolical; and surely only those whose minds are blinded by the Arch-enemy can receive such horrible blasphemies."
The Unbeliever will not
be Saved through Faith
In explanation of the passage that God is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of those who believe, we desired to press the fact that salvation is on the principle of faith for us, but will be on the principle of sight for the unbeliever. We did not say "by a sight of the Sitter on the Great White Throne." Christ is Judge, not Saviour, there. The absurdity which he scouts is of his own creation. The process by which the unbeliever will be saved does not end until the consummation. He is cast into the lake of fire before his salvation. Witness the next statement which he quotes: "The change which eventuates in the ultimate salvation of the unbeliever..." He certainly did not study this statement!
How many have ever marked the "horrible absurdity" of God actually saving men first, and afterward allowing them to be burned at the stake! Not sinners, mind you, such as those who appear in judgment, but holy, godly witnesses for His truth, burned alive with far more attendant shame and suffering than will be the lot of unbelievers! But, some will say, their sufferings ended when they died. So will those cast into the burning lake, for it is the second death.
Our brother seems to think that the gospel of repentance and pardon of sins (which pertains to the kingdom of Israel) should be applicable to the unbeliever before the great white throne. That is, if the sinner changes his mind then, he should be forgiven. But the time for that will long have passed. Many a criminal stands before the judge and repents. Many a judge is "diabolical" enough to sentence a man for his crime even if he has changed his mind with regard to it!
As a matter of fact, our brother himself believes that a man can repent and yet be lost. Judas repented (regretted) his action (Matt.27:3). Will that save him?
Let us briefly restate our position. We speak of the judgment of the individual sinner after death, not of the many judgments of various classes in life. There is no judgment before they stand before the Judge at the great white throne. Each one is judged according to his acts. The judgment consists of the affliction and anguish suited to each case. It ends in the second death.
Many passages will come to mind which seem to teach otherwise, but a careful consideration of each will show that it concerns a different judgment. There are many judgments before the great white throne is set up, but they are concerned with sinners before they die and have no bearing on their ultimate destiny, for all of these sinners appear again at the great white throne.
We all agree that, after this judgment, the unbeliever is in the lake of fire. That is as far as some can see. But God has given us two grand declarations which pierce this gloomy future and show that beyond it is the glory of God. One is, that the lake of fire is death (Rev.20:14). It is the last enemy. The other is that it shall be abolished (1 Cor.15:26).
And the grand result guarantees the correctness of our deductions, for then, when death is abolished, God shall become All in all. So we sum up the simple statement of the case like this: Shall God be
ALL IN ALL
or, All in a few?
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