THE STUDY OF HUMAN DESTINY
An Introduction to a Series on
What Is Man
What Is His Destiny
BY Otis Q. Sellers
Much of the material in this pamphlet was first published in the March, 1940
issue (Vol. 4-No. 2) of The Word of Truth. The interest it created and the
demand for copies resulted in the article being carefully reconsidered and
completely rewritten. It was then published as a separate pamphlet in April
1943. This issue was also exhausted and it has been out of print for several
years. Now it has again been rewritten and enlarged, and is sent forth with the
earnest prayer that it will quicken many minds to a faithful study of these
OTIS Q. SELLERS
THE STUDY OF HUMAN DESTINY
It is a rule in publishing that the title of a book must be as short as
possible. If it were not for this, the title of this pamphlet would probably be,
An Appeal to All Professing Christians to Reexamine and to Restudy the Subjects
of the Nature of Man and the Destiny of Man. This is the purpose of this
By inspiration of God, David asked the question, "What is man?" Psalm 8:4. Those
who seek the Biblical answer to this query will be studying man's nature. Job by
inspiration asked the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" Job 14:14.
Those who seek the answer to this query will be studying man's destiny. This
pamphlet is an appeal to all who profess to love God's truth to take up anew the
study of these two great subjects.
It is the firm opinion of the writer of these lines that every possible detail
of God's revelation that has any bearing upon the nature of man and the destiny
of man needs to be reinvestigated and carefully appraised. All the ideas which
are now held need to be laid aside for a time so that the Biblical revelation
can be studied without prejudice. Once they are laid aside they should not be
taken up again until we find them coming to us from the pages of God's book. The
revelation of Scripture concerning the nature and destiny of man is not yet
understood. If it is ever understood in this era. it will be because free and
faithful men have dedicated themselves to the assiduous and progressive study of
In the years that have elapsed since 1937 I have been actively engaged in
setting forth certain teachings in regard to the nature of man and the destiny
of man. These teachings have not been in the nature of dogmatic assertions,
since, as a rule, they have been spoken or written studies in which I have tried
to set forth what the sacred Scripture has to say upon some subject related to
this theme. For example, I have taken classes, started out with Matthew's
gospel, and have had the members to examine with me every passage in the New
Testament that could have any possible bearing upon the nature and duration of
future punishment. Studies such as these are bound to result in certain definite
conclusions. They are of great value to the teacher as well as to those who are
taught, for they result in an ever increasing understanding of the subject being
considered. The conclusions resulting from this type of teaching have formed my
beliefs upon the subjects under consideration. I present these conclusions to
others because I sincerely believe them to be the truth of God. They are, to me,
the Biblical answers to two of the most important questions the human mind can
ask, "What is man?" and "What is his destiny?" These questions concern man's
existence in this life and his position in the life to come. The true answer to
them is to be found only in the Word of God. When this answer is found and
believed it will bring satisfaction to the heart that longs for the truth, and
it will give peace and assurance in the face of death and the grave.
My first honest, open study of these subjects began in 1934, and it has never
ceased since that time. It still goes on, for I do not claim to have reached
perfection of truth in regard to these great themes. I refuse to be identified
with any "closed system of belief" concerning these matters. The only claim made
is that I have labored diligently in the sacred Scriptures to find its message
concerning these things. These labors have been progressive. The things which I
now believe and teach are the fruit of these efforts.
I do not hesitate to say that my teaching on these subjects is radically opposed
to what many godly and sincere men hold to be the truth. My views are not
"orthodox" according to the way men measure orthodoxy, but I. sincerely believe
that they are in harmony with the Word of God. Many "orthodox" men would brand
my teachings as rank heresy. This disturbs me not at all. In answer to all such
charges I repeat the words of Paul recorded in Acts 24: 14: But this I confess
unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my
fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets.
It also needs to be said that my teaching upon some of these subjects may not be
pleasant to the average hearer. No man would ever think of declaring some of the
things which I do if he desired to have a popular ministry. Neither would he
think of proclaiming them if he were anxious to proclaim a message which is
already generally believed, one which the superficial hearer can grasp apart
from any exercise of heart and mind.
A very definite antipathy and antagonism is continually being created toward any
teaching that veers in the least from the generalities that make up the
so-called "orthodox" position. This antagonism often turns into resentment and
bitterness toward the teacher. All this must be patiently endured. Therefore, it
is in the hope that a better understanding of my mind and purpose may be had by
all who hear and consider my teaching on these subjects that this testimony and
appeal is sent forth.
From personal observation I know that in many places sincere men and women are
now inquiring whether the commonly accepted views of man's nature and destiny
are derived from the Word of God. The spirit of honest inquiry is being
manifested in many places. This is sure to increase, and it will increase in
spite of the efforts of some self appointed custodians of the faith to stifle
it. Never again will it be stifled, as it has been in the past, by the
convenient but uncharitable cry of "damnable heretic:' This is not the Middle
Ages. Men are no longer afraid of the word heretic. They do pot quickly turn
away from ideas because men have said they are "damnable." They know that every
precious truth which the Christian holds today was called "damnable heresy" by
some man at one time. In many hearts the desire to be Scriptural, the desire to
know what God has revealed, far exceeds the desire to be praised by men for
At the present time there is a great resurgence of interest in the things of
God. This is cause for thanksgiving, even though the seekers are having some
difficulty ascertaining the true things of God. The two world wars that are now
history have done much to accelerate interest in the question of human destiny.
Furthermore, the emphasis which is now being placed upon psychiatry and
psychology has kindled a desire in the hearts of many for a true Biblical
psychology. It is most evident that those who have become interested in things
divine are not rushing forward to embrace the traditional ideas concerning man's
nature and destiny. The time may very soon come when many of those who now
appear to be little more than superficial converts will turn to men who profess
to know and to teach the Word of God and demand of them to be told what the
Bible has to say about the nature and destiny of man.
If this should happen, the man who professes to teach the Word will fail God if
he attempts to pass on to them the confused and illogical errors of the Platonic
philosophy as to the nature of man. He will also fail God if he attempts to
persuade them of the correctness of the Augustinian view of "eternal, conscious
If we are to be ready to give to men a reason for the hope that. is in us, then
we will need to reconsider and restudy every word that God has spoken upon these
subjects. The facts are in the Word of God, but we must find these facts and
then fit them into an honest formula that will speak the truth when it is
It is a great tragedy that to many minds the very idea of reexamining and
reinvestigating the subject of man's nature and destiny is felt to be disloyal
to the Lord Jesus Christ. They feel that a blind acceptance of traditional ideas
is the only way to honor Him, that Bible study along these lines cannot lead us
into any truth, that it will only result in the loss of what truth we have. They
insist that we must preach "hell" without ever trying to discover what the word
"hell" means, that there is nothing to be gained by studying the Scriptures
concerning these subjects.
There came a time in my own experience when I determined that the entire subject
of man's nature, man's destiny, and the nature and duration of future punishment
needed to be thoroughly investigated and studied. This determination had slowly
developed through a previous decade. It was no sudden inspiration. In time it
became a powerful conviction, and this has kept me steadily engaged at the task
throughout the years that have passed. This labor has ever been a source of
increasing joy, since as a result of it I have entered into an ever increasing
understanding of God's revelation concerning these subjects.
It is written in the Word of God that the tiller of the soil must be the first
to get a share of the crop (2 Tim. 2:6). This has been my happy experience. The
personal benefits derived from these labors have been more than sufficient
reward. Other men may despise my efforts or ridicule my findings. I cannot
complain if they do this. I rest in the satisfaction of having gone to the Word
of God and to the best of my ability having considered everything written there
that has any bearing upon the subjects of man's nature and man's destiny.
My studies have increased the conviction that a correct understanding of the
truth concerning these matters is fundamental to a true understanding of all
other doctrines that relate to man. If our theology is false on these matters,
it will be warped and twisted on all other matters. Because of this it has ever
been my earnest desire to lead others over the paths that I have traveled, in
order that they might check for themselves the things I believe I have
However, I am not too hopeful in regard to this, since there is an almost
complete unwillingness among professing Christians to give any honest
consideration to the subjects in question. My efforts along this line are often
dismissed with a word of contempt. Many refuse to believe that I have found or
could find anything that might even remotely be the truth.
One would need to be totally devoid of feeling if he did not experience a keen
sense of disappointment when, after years of devotion to the Word of God, he
reads the comments of those who insist that he bought someone's book and found
in it the teachings he now sets forth. This has been my experience. Men who
claim to have personal knowledge of me say that I have cast my lot with some
group whose unwritten creed requires me to accept certain ideas as being the
.truth. This is entirely false. The truth is that this student of the Word of
God came as a result of his own studies to the place where certain inexorable
facts and all their implications had to be faced. I came to a place in my
studies where the results had to be embraced or rejected. I made choice of what
I sincerely believe to be "the way of truth."
Therefore, to the end that my labors in behalf of the Word of God may not be
hindered by misconceptions and misunderstandings, it seems well that I should
here relate some of the personal experiences that in part led me to my present
position in regard to these subjects. This will help any who hear or who read my
teachings on man's nature and destiny to better understand the heart and mind of
the one who declares these things.
It is a practice in many evangelical churches and movements to urge a new
convert to get busy in the Lord's service just as soon as he makes his initial
confession of faith in Jesus Christ. They think it best to make a "Martha" out
of every Christian, forgetting that it was Mary who chose the better part,
namely, to sit at the feet of Christ and hear His word (Luke 10: 38-42). This
happened in my experience. Everyone urged me to serve. No one urged me to study.
I earnestly desired to serve the Lord, but I was not interested in the "make
work" activities offered by the local church. I launched out, and had not known
the Lord many months before
I was busily engaged in preaching in street meetings, mission halls, and small
churches. Inasmuch as I went from place to place, such work did not require much
knowledge or many messages. The half-dozen sermons that I had developed on as
many subjects soon became very familiar to me. I was able to give them with all
the assurance of an experienced veteran. I had no background of Biblical
knowledge, but by stringing together the few things that I did know, condemning
the things that I knew to be wrong, commending the things that I knew to be
right, adding to all this some anecdotes and illustrations, I was able to
satisfy that class of people who have no thirst for knowledge, but who do like
to hear a lively message.
This group of non-progressive Christians was predominant at that time. They
still dominate the religious world today. It is this group that the time-serving
minister must keep in mind as he prepares his message and performs his service.
They give organized religion the character that it displays today. The hireling
shepherd feels that it is best to go along with them. Therefore, he does not
permit his message to rise above the level of their superficial knowledge.
Neither does he say anything that might disturb them or cause them any spiritual
exercise. Their childish beliefs must never be challenged.
As I look back upon my first year of Christian experience, I am both amazed and
amused at how little one can know and yet satisfy the average audience that has
gathered for a religious service. And it was during this first year that I
discovered how sudden and violent the reaction would be when a speaker said
something that did not fit into well worn patterns of thought
One thing that stands out in my memories of that first year is that in those few
messages I had quite a bit to say about "hell-fire" and "eternal conscious
torment" No hesitation was shown in declaring these things, and, since they
were in harmony with what the average religious man believed, they usually
brought forth some emphatic "amens" from those in the audience. This encouraged
me to strengthen my declarations. It was with some satisfaction of faithfulness
that I felt I held men over the pit until they smelled the smoke. I now feel
that I spoke of hell with all the assurance and knowledge of one who had
recently been there.
I am still wondering where all this knowledge came from. I had never been a
student of the Bible, had never sat under the ministry of a Bible teacher, yet
my ideas as to the nature of future punishment had already reached finality. At
that time I would have readily admitted that I could learn more about my
beliefs, but I would not have admitted that I could learn anything which would
change them. In regard to the nature and duration of future punishment, my
beliefs were fixed before I ever began to study.
My attitude at that time will have to be attributed to a zeal without knowledge.
Such an attitude could have gone on throughout my lifetime, but it did not. It
took no more than a year of such trifling with the service of God and the Word
of God to awaken me to the superficiality of the work I was doing. An intense
desire awakened within me for a full and accurate knowledge of the Bible. I
believe that this was in answer to a prayer which I daily uttered to God - "Make
me a real student of your Word:'
The second year of my Christian experience found me enrolled as a student in a
Bible Institute. In the course of my studies there, the time arrived when we
were to consider in the Bible Doctrine Class the subject of future punishment.
On other subjects the students had been willing to take the notes as given by
the teacher without asking too many questions. But on this subject they were
filled with questions, problems, doubts, and difficulties. These had been
generated by a discussion that had arisen several weeks before in another class,
one on personal evangelism. We were considering the question of how to deal with
the objector who says, "there is no hell" We were being taught to have ready a
half-dozen passages in which the word hell appears and to quote these to the
objector. A student declared that he did not believe that it would be honest to
use any of these verses in this manner. This started a discussion which consumed
the rest of the class period. It produced no concrete results, and the
discussion continued in the dormitory for several days. Because of this many of
the students looked forward to the time when the subject of future punishment
would be taken up in the Bible Doctrine Class.
In this class the teacher listened with patience as these problems were
presented and discussed for the greater part of an hour. When he took up the
subject he admitted the reality and the sincerity of the problems that had been
presented. He stated that most of these had troubled theologians for many years,
and reminded us that we were only beginners without the necessary background of
experience for grappling with such great themes. He further declared that a
knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew was essential to the study of these subjects,
and that many of our problems would be solved as our knowledge of the Bible
increased. As a final word he warned us that if we persisted in trying to answer
all our questions and solve all our problems, we might end up by embracing one
of the heresies that had troubled the church throughout its history.
At that time I agreed heartily with all that the instructor had said. Being the
youngest student in the class, my part in the discussion had been only that of
an interested listener. I was fully satisfied to leave all such problems and
difficulties to those who had the experience and knowledge required for dealing
with them. I had gone to that Bible school because I understood it taught what I
believed. Therefore, I took the notes, studied them carefully to become familiar
with them. By so doing I added a little to my knowledge of the orthodox view of
future punishment without making any changes in my beliefs. I was happy to know
that I was believing the same as godly men had believed down through the
centuries. I did not know at that time that there had never been any agreement
among godly men as to the nature and duration of future punishment.
This complacent state of affairs continued for about five years, until I found
myself trying to do faithfully the work of a Bible - teaching pastor. I was
exhorting all who came under my ministry to become personal students of the Word
of God. Our work was an open one. We were inviting all who were interested in
knowing what the Bible said to come and study with us. It was then that I
discovered that I was expected to answer the same questions and solve the same
problems that had arisen in the Bible Doctrine Class five years before. These
questions had not been answered then, and I had not found the answers in the
years that had passed. I had no answers to these questions. This disturbed me
quite a bit, especially so since I had determined before God always to try to
give honest answers to the questions of honest people.
I could have accused those who raised these questions of "heresy," but if I had
done so I would have been accusing myself of heresy for I had been a party to
the raising of such questions five years before this. I could have charged that
they were seeking to inject their "heresies" into our work. This would have
driven them out, but it would have left me with a disturbed conscience. True,
some of them may have been seeking to put over their own ideas 'by means of
questions, but most of them were honestly looking for help from the one who
professed to have help to offer on Biblical matters.
I felt the need of fortifying my beliefs. To this end, I secured a copy of Facts
and Theories as to a Future State by F. W. Grant, Human Destiny by Sir Robert
Anderson, and Progress in the Life to Come by James M. Gray, also a number of
other books' and pamphlets, all of which I understood to be in harmony with the
orthodox views upon the subject. Once again I learned more about what I already
believed, and I avoided changing anything which I did believe.
In these writings I found what claimed to be the answers to many of the
questions and the solutions to many of the problems that had arisen. However, it
was impossible .for me to fully sympathize with some of the lines of argument
used by these writers. For example, it did not seem reasonable for a man to say
that the Greek word hades does not mean hell, then go right on and use the
passages in which hades is translated "hell" to prove something about hell.
Furthermore, they proved far too much by the story of "the rich man and
Lazarus," ignoring altogether the great number of other things that could be
proved by it if someone set himself to take literally every word of it. These
things caused me some doubt; nevertheless, these writings greatly strengthened
my mind in regard to the orthodox position.
With my beliefs thus fortified, I prepared some new studies on the subjects of
man's nature and destiny. These were given with much assurance for a time, but I
was far from satisfied. I can now say in all humility that my one desire and one
goal was the truth, but I had become fouled up for a time with the desire to be
orthodox. However, the desire for accurate truth was always paramount in my
A change of location brought a temporary end to the discussion of these
subjects. I was no longer under pressure to say something almost every week
about them. I went on to increase my familiarity with the Word of God, and as
familiarity increased, I realized that many things which I believed concerning
the nature and destiny of man were not in harmony with the inspired Scriptures.
The conviction grew that it was my duty under God to begin anew and restudy
these subjects from the Word of God. The task seemed so great that I hesitated.
I hardly knew how or where to begin. For some time I postponed the beginning of
the work, but gave much time to meditation upon the task before me. The matter
was seldom out of my mind. I knew the price that would have to be paid if I made
any radical change in my beliefs. However, this price was paid because o£
another matter (the question of ordinances) and I was free to begin the work. It
began with just one goal before me - the truth of God's Word, whatever it may
be. This labor has now continued over a space of twenty years. It is not yet
complete. It will not be completed in my lifetime. However, much progress has
been made, and the labor has given me much joy because of the rich treasures I
have found in the Word of God.
It is my present conviction that the Scriptures cannot be rightly comprehended
without a true knowledge of the nature and destiny of man. I believe it is the
sacred. duty of all who profess the name of Christ to reexamine and restudy
these subjects in order to find what is revealed concerning them in the Word of
I have no dogmatic teachings to present concerning these matters. I have reached
no irrevocable conclusions. I do not desire to impose my findings upon others.
But I do desire with all my heart to stir up men to undertake the study of these
subjects. Honest investigation and study will always bring results. The benefits
that would come from a great host of men studying the Word of God to find what
it reveals as to the nature and destiny of man would result in still greater
blessings to the people of God. This would in reality be the great revival of
Bible study that is so sorely needed today. Many are praying for such an
Therefore, for the purpose of stirring up minds and provoking God's people to
become personal students of the Word, I desire to set forth a series of
propositions which I believe are deserving of consideration by all thinking
Christians. Each proposition will present an argument for the reexamination and
restudy of man's nature and man's destiny
PROPOSITION 1. People are again seeking for the fresh and pure water from the
living fountain of God's Word in regard to these subjects.
Those who minister the Word of God by means of radio or the printed-page, which
results as a rule in many questions being sent to them, know very well the vast
amount of interest in any matter that is related to the nature of man or to the
destiny of man. My own experiences in such ministries have brought the
conviction that the people are longing for something fresh, accurate, and
definite upon such subjects as the soul, the human spirit, the nature of death,
the state of man between death and resurrection, and the nature and duration of
future punishment. They desire to know the exact meaning of such words as sheol,
hades, gehenna, destruction, perish, torment, paradise, and heaven. They would
like to have accurate knowledge as to the nature and meaning of the second death
and the lake of fire. These people are not turning from the Word of God, but
they are asking that those who profess to teach the Word shall take them into
the sacred Scriptures in regard to these subjects.
We who profess to be teachers of the Word can direct them to the Bible for the
knowledge they desire, but we must face the fact that they will come back to us
with the same words that the Eunuch spoke to Philip, "How can I understand
except some man should guide me" (Acts 8: 30, 31). If this should happen shall
we then seek to satisfy their honest desire for the truth by leading them to
drink of the stagnant pools of human tradition, or shall we take them to the
fountainhead of all truth, where the facts of God gush forth in all their
If men ask us to lead them into truth, how can we lead them over paths we have
never traveled ourselves? How can we help them unless we have first helped
ourselves? Shall we deliberately assume the role of the blind leading the blind?
Can we ask God to bless our teaching of others if we have refused to study in
To every believer in Jesus Christ who professes to be a dispensational Bible
student, I would make the following plea. In view of the fact that we have
discovered that there is no satisfying or abiding truth in the old creedal
theology on most Biblical subjects, why should we deceive ourselves into
thinking that there is perfection of truth in the old creedal theology
concerning man's nature and man's destiny? As we seek to deliver men from the
bondage of tradition upon every other subject, should we not just as zealously
seek to deliver them from tradition concerning these two subjects. Since we have
turned our backs upon so many ideas that have no authority in the Word of God,
shall we not rigidly examine everything that is taught upon these subjects to
see if the present popular conception has any real support in the Scriptures?
PROPOSITION 2. In regard to man's nature and destiny, vast spheres of
revelation have been disregarded, and this has resulted in the confusion which
As an example, it can be pointed out that there is a vast reservoir of
information in the Old and New Testaments in regard to heaven. There are
hundreds of positive references, but none of these are ever considered by men in
forming their opinions concerning the meaning of this word. They bury all this
information under the rubbish heap of the childish idea that heaven is a
beautiful place where all good people go when they die. Thus, the idea of heaven
that prevails in Christendom is wholly imaginary, and has no real basis in the
Word of God. This subject alone is worthy of the most diligent study ;upon the
part of all who profess to be students of the Word.
PROPOSITION 3. The commonly accepted views on man's destiny were developed by
a process that eliminated the greater part of the Word of God from the witness
This is one of the prime reasons why the whole subject needs to be restudied and
restated. We who honor the Word cannot be satisfied with doctrines that can only
be maintained by ignoring the Old Testament revelation and refusing to permit it
to give its testimony. This attitude goes to such extremes that men deny that
Ecclesiastes is a revelation from God. This denial has been made by many leaders
in the fundamentalist movement. Ecclesiastes is regarded as being nothing more
than the inspired record of the faulty reasonings of a man. This charge is
severe, but it can be supported by quotations from their own writings.
In the introductory words to his exposition of Ecclesiastes, Arno C. Gaebelein
makes the following declaration:
"But this inspired record is not revelation in the sense, for instance, as the
Epistle to the Ephesians. It is not divine revelation for man to be guided by.
It is not revelation concerning that which is above the sun, nor the future. We
mention this because those who hold the evil doctrines of soul-sleep and also
annihilation go to Ecclesiastes and quote (9:5-10) as being "the Word and
Revelation of God" when it is not" 'The Annotated Bible, Vol. 4 page 57
(Publication Office, "Our Hope" 1921).
I do not believe in either soul-sleep or annihilation, but I do most surely
believe that Ecclesiastes is a revelation from God, and that its testimony must
not be excluded when men seek the truth concerning man's destiny. The above
quotation is not an isolated example. Here is another. In a note on Ecclesiastes
9: 10, C. 1. Scofield declares:
"Verse 10 is no more divine revelation concerning the state of the dead than any
other conclusion of "the Preacher" (Eccl. 1: 1) is such a revelation . . . No
one would quote verse 2 as a divine revelation. These reasonings of man apart
from divine revelation are set down by inspiration just as the words of Satan
(Gen. 3:4; Job 2:4, 5, etc.) are so set down." 'The Scofield Reference Bible,
From these two quotations it will be seen. that no part of the book of
Ecclesiastes is allowed to give any testimony concerning the destiny of man. And
that this attitude is not confined to that one book alone can be shown by
another quotation. In discussing the matter of death and that which follows
after it, H. A. Ironside says:
"The Bible alone gives us positive knowledge. But to what part of our Bible
shall we turn for light on these great matters? Not to the Old Testament. Please
keep that distinctly in mind." "Death and Afterwards by H. A. Ironside, page 17,
Loizeaux Brothers, New York.
In view of such statements as these, it is evident that the whole subject of
man's nature and destiny needs to be reconsidered by men who will permit the
first thirty-nine books of the Word of God to freely shed their light upon this
subject. And it must not be thought strange that men who have studied these
subjects, and who have permitted the whole Bible to give its testimony should be
found believing somewhat different from those who limit their study to the New
PROPOSITION 4. The results of Biblical research .have not been allowed to
shed their light upon the great subjects of man's nature and man's destiny.
During the past century much labor has been expended upon the task of uncovering
and recovering the truth of the Bible. God has raised up men who at great
sacrifices have provided us with excellent, sharp tools in the way of
Concordances, Lexicons, and Versions. Certain Greek manuscripts have been
discovered, and other manuscripts, not hitherto available, have been made
available to students of the Word. Biblical research has brought forth some
excellent aids to the study of the sacred Scriptures. All this has resulted in
great advances in Biblical knowledge. However, the great advances made in Bible
study during the past century have not been allowed to shed their light upon the
subjects of human nature and human destiny. Past and present leaders of Biblical
thought have not permitted these subjects to be restudied, revised, or restated
in the light of many truths now generally known concerning the Word of God,
truths that were unknown or hidden a hundred years ago. To all present leaders
the ideas of restudy and revision are suggestive of the rejection of the Bible,
and are looked upon as being a wandering into "heresy." In regard to this the
words of Emil Brunner are certainly true:
"It is a well-known fact that dogmatists and Church leaders often pay but small
attention to the results of New Testament research." 'Emil Brunner, The
Misunderstanding of the Church, page 5, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia,
PROPOSITION 5. Christendom as a whole has no definition of the soul that
conforms to the revealed facts of Scripture, and it has no teaching upon the
subject that is in harmony with the Word of God,
Just as the commonly held views of Satan came from Milton and not from the
Bible, even so the commonly held views of the soul came from Plato and not from
the Word of God. I do not believe that any man can honestly examine the
statements of Scripture concerning Satan and still hold the Miltonic view.
Neither can I believe that any man can honestly consider the 859 occurrences of
the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psuche (the words that mean soul) and
still hold the Platonic view of the soul. There is at all times much talk about
the immortality of the soul, yet the only support offered for such a belief are
inferences that could just as properly be used to teach the exact opposite.
Scripture speaks of souls dying and of dead souls, but never once of an immortal
The early Apologists spent most of their time and energies seeking to reconcile
Christianity with Greek philosophy. They never demanded that Greek philosophy
yield to the Word of God, for they labored to show that the Bible said the same
as the philosophers. Thus the Bible was twisted to teach the ideas of Plato
concerning the soul. His ideas were superimposed upon the Word of God. All this
needs to be reconsidered.
PROPOSITION 6. The statements of many respected Christian leaders and
thinkers reveal that the - matter of man's nature and destiny needs to be
Martin Luther, in his response to Pope Leo X said:
"I permit the Pope to make articles of faith for himself and his faithful, such
as . . . the Pope is the emperor of the world and the king of heaven, and God
upon earth, the soul is immortal, with all those monstrous opinions to be found
in the Roman dung-hill of decretals:'
J. N. Darby, in The Hopes of the Church, published in 1841, made the following
"We would express our conviction that the idea of the immortality of the soul
has no source in the gospel; that it comes on the contrary from the Platonists
and that it was just when the coming of Christ was denied in the church, or at
least began to be lost sight of, that the doctrine of the immortality of the
soul came in to replace that of resurrection. This was about the time of Origen.
It is hardly needful to say that we do not doubt the immortality of the soul; we
mark the fact only that this view has taken the place of the doctrine of the
resurrection of the church, as the epoch of its joy and glory."
While this statement reveals the blinding and binding power of tradition, it
very pertinently shows the need for examining the basis for all such doctrines
as the immortality of the soul.
Consider also these statements from the writings of J. Gresham Machen, one of
the greatest men in the Presbyterian Church in the past century. His words make
a powerful argument for a restudy and restatement of the Biblical truth of man's
nature and destiny.
"The Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body is very different from
the Greek idea of immortality.
"I think, then, that the threefold division of man's nature into body, soul, and
spirit is out of accord with the true meaning of that great passage in the
second and third chapters of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. But are
there not other passages in the Bible that seem to favor that three-fold
It seems to me that the only passage which can be appealed to with any
plausibility as doing so is found in I Thess. 5:23, where Paul prays that his
readers' spirit and soul and body may be kept whole and without blame at the
appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ. But certainly that passage cannot be used
to overthrow the clear teaching of the rest of the Epistles of Paul and the rest
of the Bible. It seems clear that Paul is just using a fullness of expression
there to express his hope that the whole being of the Thessalonian readers may
be kept so as to stand blameless at the coming of Christ. He is just heaping up
words to express that idea. I think we may say that if there had been other
words, in addition to the two words 'soul' and 'spirit', to express the idea he
would have used those other words too.
"We ought to reject very firmly, therefore, the view that the nature of man is
divided by the Bible into body, soul, and spirit. The more I reflect about the
matter, the more I am convinced that the view of the threefold nature of man is
a rather serious error. It is an error that has been held by a great many devout
Christian people, and it has been learnedly and reverently defended; and yet it
is a serious error all the same." J. Gresham Machen, The Chrisian View of Man,
(The Macmillan Company, New York. 1937) PP. 186-187.
We will do well if we give due heed to Dr. Machen's statement that the idea of
the tripartite nature of man is "a serious error:' A correct understanding of
the nature of man is primary and foundational. Apart from it no abiding
structure of truth can be built. Its study should be the beginning of all Bible
study. If this conviction should seize every believer, it would result in a
great revival of Bible study - the real revival that is needed today.
PROPOSITION 7. It is quite evident to anyone who has gained some familiarity
with the Biblical facts concerning the subject, that the present generation of
ministers has no accurate teaching about the subject of future punishment.
Future punishment for the sins of the present life is certainly taught in
Scripture. However, the complete silence of the majority of ministers concerning
this subject is appalling. Sermons are announced upon it, but the time is spent
warning men to flee from it. Those who do declare that there will be future
punishment for the sins committed in this life do not give any evidence that
they have gone to the Scriptures and done the work that is necessary before one
can claim to possess the truth. Their messages do not show that they arrived at
their convictions as a result of analysis and understanding of the revealed
facts. They have not learned the facts, so they have no facts to put together.
Some boldly speak of "hell bound sinners," "the doomed and the damned," warn men
that when they die they are going to "wake up in hell:' However, such language
as this never came out of the Word of God. Some make sheol to be hell, hades to
be hell, gehenna to be hell, or the lake of fire to be hell. They are not quite
sure just which place is hell, or which word hell should be used to translate.
The fact is they have taken some things spoken concerning sheol, hades, gehenna,
destruction, and the lake of fire, mixed these up with some things said about
the punishments of the great tribulation, seasoned this with some wailing and
gnashing of teeth, and then served this concoction with the bold claim that it
is the Bible doctrine of future punishment.
These men do not dare to separate, classify, and appraise their materials. They
have not taken Scriptural facts and worked them into an honest teaching. Such
actions are not worthy of those who claim to be proclaiming the Word of God.
Proposition 8. Since God has spoken concerning death, it becomes our duty to
give earnest heed to all that He has said and to be found believing His
testimony concerning it.
For many centuries there has been a studied and deliberate effort upon the part
of men to make death to be everything except that which it is declared to be in
the Word of God. There we find that death entered the world by sin, that is-- it
is the penalty for sin, that it came in by sin, that it is an enemy, and that it
is to be abolished. Men are willing to accept the true meaning of the word death
as long as it is related to animals, but when they find it used of man, they
reject its true meaning and make it mean something altogether different. They
have tried to change the character of death by calling it attractive names. They
speak of it as "departure to be with Christ," "the entrance into a fuller life,"
or "going to be with the Lord." But as long as God has branded it as an enemy,
the child of God cannot consider it as a friend. God always associates life with
good and death with evil. He declares that the wages of sin is death. In spite
of His declarations, man refuses His testimony and denies the reality of death
altogether. Man makes his hope to be in death, and exalts it as being the very
door of entrance into all the blessings that God has promised to men. All this
needs to be carefully reconsidered.
PROPOSITION 9. The generally accepted view of death makes the grand
experience of resurrection to be an anti-climax, and, of no essential value to
If, as it is so confidently asserted, death ushers the believer into the
presence of Christ, then resurrection can add nothing to this, neither can it
accomplish anything that will in any way compare with this grand experience. If
the "orthodox" conception of death is true, then the dead will be happy in
heaven or miserable in hell whether they rise from the dead or not. But if the
Scriptural conception is true, then resurrection is of the utmost importance,
for without it then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (1 Cor.
Since death is the result of the sin of one man (Adam), and resurrection is the
result of the righteousness of one man (Christ), it cannot be right to make the
result of Adam's sin to be the experience that will usher us into the blessings
of Christ. We should be willing to reexamine any teaching that causes the hope
of men in Christ to be in death rather than in resurrection. God's answer to
death is resurrection. God's remedy for death is resurrection. We dishonor God's
testimony when we make resurrection to be the reversal of a disembodied
condition. Resurrection is the reversal of death.
We preach the death of Christ. But what would our answer be if an honest
enquirer came to us asking if He really died, and if He were truly dead for
three days and three nights. What answer would we give if asked, "If He had not
risen from the dead, would He still be dead?" Would we still be able to say, "We
do not preach a dead Christ," if He had not risen from the dead?
When the Apostle Paul sought to comfort the sorrowing saints in Thessalonica,
did he comfort them by assuring them that their loved ones were happy in heaven,
or did he set before them the hope of resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13-18)? Did not
the greatest Comforter who ever spoke a word of consolation say to the one whose
brother had recently died, "Thy brother shall rise again" (John 11 :23) ? If
these questions are honestly considered they will increase the conviction that
the whole matter of death and resurrection needs to be restudied.
PROPOSITION 10. The coarse, repulsive, mediaeval doctrine of hell that was
proclaimed for many centuries has been abandoned by most men as being out of
harmony with the character of God as revealed in His Word.
Men of God no longer preach that "the damned shall be packed like brick in a
kiln, and be so bound that they cannot move a limb, nor even an eyelid; and
while thus fixed, the Almighty shall blow the fires of hell through them
forever." Neither do they preach that "the miser shall have molten gold poured
down his throat," nor that "the drunkard shall have plenty of his cups, when
scalding lead shall be poured down his throat, and his breath draw flames of
fire instead of air." It is cause for thanksgiving that such declarations as
these have been banished from the lips of men of good will. But the tragedy is
that nothing that is truly Biblical has come in to take their place. 1£ such
sadistic ideas are not true, then just what is the truth of God concerning the
nature of future punishment.
About all that men of today have to declare upon the subject of future
punishment is a few generalities. These generalities are supported by passages
in Scripture, but no serious attempt is made to honestly interpret or explain
the passages. They do not dare to go into detail or to be plain-spoken in regard
to the nature of future punishment. They take refuge behind an implication that
this whole subject is so shrouded in mystery and that it belongs to the secret
things of God. The result is that we find those who claim to be Bible-taught
believers, yet they know nothing more about future punishment than the few
generalities that are also known to the men of the world. The shame of such a
state of affairs should drive every believer to the Word of God. The pagan ideas
of future punishment should never have been allowed to defile the pure truth of
God's Word. The wild, misguided sayings of men lost in the mazes of their own
sadistic speculations should not be accepted as the truth from God's revelation.
The professing church is afraid to reexamine its beliefs in this important
matter. Ministers are afraid to open up this subject for thought and discussion.
They hold that the faith of many will be upset if the matter is reconsidered.
Must we admit that our faith in this matter is such a fragile flower that we
fear lest the least wind of controversy should cause it to shed its delicate
petals on the ground? What is behind all this fear of reopening this subject for
reexamination and reinvestigation? Are we afraid that men will disfellowship us?
Are we afraid of the name-callers who specialize in the uncharitable cry of
"heretic" ? Are we afraid that our efforts will be misrepresented and
misunderstood? Away with all such fears! The time has certainly come, even as
in the days of Ezra, to open the Book.
PROPOSITION 11. The teaching that the punishment of the unrighteous begins
at the moment of death is a very serious blot on the justice of God.
If this is the truth, then Cain, who died about six thousand years ago has
already endured six millenniums of punishment, while another murderer who dies
today begins to suffer today. Therefore, Cain will have to suffer six thousand
years more for the same crime than the murderer who dies today.
If two men charged with identical crimes and equally guilty were sentenced, one
for five years and the other for ten years, all men who love justice would cry
out against such a miscarriage of justice. Shall we not also cry out against any
teaching that insists that one man shall suffer six thousand years more than
another for an identical crime? It is indeed a fearful travesty on truth to
teach that men are tortured for their sins before they ever have their day in
court, and that later they do have their day in court merely to receive a
sentence that is determined beforehand. Would not this make the justice of the
great white throne to be of the same character as the justice ordered by a
Mexican general who said, "Give the man a fair trial, then shoot him." Can this
be the justice of God? Can this be the teaching of the Word of God? Do you know
that it is? Are you sure that it is? Or can it be that you just do not care?
PROPOSITION 12. The contention that God's holiness is of such nature that His
justice can never besatisfied by anything save eternal conscious
suffering as the penalty for sins needs to be carefully examined.
If this dogma is true, then this is the penalty Christ should have paid when He
died for our sins. He paid the debt that we owed to God, but He did not suffer
eternally. If the debt we owed was "eternal suffering" then that debt has never
been paid. Jesus Christ suffered just six hours on the Cross. He did not suffer
If we would know of God's wrath against sin, we need to look at the Cross. We
will learn from this that our God does punish sin, but we will also learn that
the wages of sin is death and not eternal conscious torment.
Some have met this objection by saying that Christ being divine could bear an
eternity of punishment in one great shock lasting just six hours. They also say
that man being human could not stand this. But will those who think after this
fashion tell us what they think would happen to a human being if an eternity of
punishment were visited upon him in six hours of time? Would it destroy him?
Would it annihilate him? If so, would it not be better this way than that God
should keep him in existence solely for the purpose of tormenting him eternally?
Furthermore, if eternal conscious suffering is the only penalty that will
satisfy God, how then can Isaiah 40:1-2 be true? Here the prophet says:
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to
Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity
is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins."
The twelve propositions that have been set forth are sufficient to demonstrate
the imperative need for restudy and reexamination of the entire subject of man's
nature and man's destiny. It would be easy to set forth a dozen more
propositions that are just as pertinent to the matter under consideration. It
has been the things set forth in these propositions that have kept me
progressively studying the subject of human nature and human destiny for a
period of twenty years. I now thank God that when He first exercised me
concerning these subjects that grace was given me so that I did not seek to stop
His work in my heart and mind. The study has indeed been a profitable spiritual
experience. And even though the labor has continued for twenty years, I feel it
has only begun. It will not be finished till my life's work is ended, and I
fully expect to resume it in the life to come.
In this pamphlet I have not tried to set forth my findings. This has been
written for the sole purpose of awakening others to the need of such a study.
However, being a realist, and being fully cognizant of the manner in which the
study of these subjects has long been held in contempt, I see no hope at present
that the present generation of professed Bible students and teachers will take
up the study of these subjects. Bible Conferences today avoid a study of these
subjects as men would a pestilence or disease. If the people refuse to receive
without question a certain creedal conception of man's nature and destiny, they
are berated for refusing to accept the Word of God. Even though in many sermons
they are exhorted to read and study the Bible, yet they are classed as heretics
if they seek to discover what it has to say about the nature and duration of
In this land we are free to study, free to speak, and free to believe. All men
should avail themselves of this freedom. The next twenty-five years could well
be spent by all students of the Word in pursuit of a true, accurate, and
complete understanding of man's nature and man's destiny. If this were done, the
next generation would have much truth for their portion as a heritage from us,
and the million-and-one difficulties which have surrounded these subjects would,
for the greater part, be cleared away.
My own labors in this field have resulted in certain conclusions, but this is
not the place to set these forth. However, to avoid confusion and
misunderstanding I would make the following statements:
After a most careful and exhaustive study of everyone of the 859 occurrences of
the Hebrew and Greek words that mean "soul," I have never found any hint, or
suggestion of any doctrine of soul sleep. No matter what my detractors may say,
I do not believe in soul sleep. I do not even understand what men mean by this
I do not believe that the dead are either conscious or unconscious. These words
can be applied only to the living. I believe that the dead are dead until they
I believe that whatever punishment the wicked dead receive at the great white
throne will be eternal. It will never be altered or changed. I believe that the
lake of fire is penal and not remedial.
I do not believe in any form of universal salvation, universal restoration, or
Some of the results of my studies concerning man's nature and destiny have been
set forth in a series of eight pamphlets, some of which are already out of
print. Since, in harmony with our principle of progressive study, nothing is
reprinted apart from careful restudy and rewriting, the reissuing of these
pamphlets will take considerable time. However, correspondence is welcomed
concerning those titles which are now available.
My study of the Biblical facts concerning human nature and destiny have brought
me much satisfaction. I know that I have gone to the Word of God to study with
microscopic exactitude everything that has any bearing upon these subjects. Many
of the facts I have found are difficult to understand. Therefore, I know I have
not reached finality of truth. Everything I now hold is held subject to revision
if further light should be granted me from the Word of God.