Vol. 21 New Series February, 1959 No. 1
BOOK REVIEW
Compared with his previous books on various "Bible Doctrines" (Society; Wealth and Work; Womanhood; Salvation; Man; Sin; and Grace), Dr. C. Ryder Smith's latest volume, on "The Bible Doctrine of the Hereafter" {Epworth Press, London), published at the end of 1958, is a great disappointment.

Some of the chapters deal with the following: The Rule of God, past, present and future; Death and Sheol; The Hebrew Terms rendered 'for ever'; The Old Testament Apocalypses; Death and Hades; Aion and Aionios; The Resurrection; The Two Ages and the Parousia; Gehenna and Paradise; The Date of the Parousia; The State of the Dead; The Future of the Wicked; The Future of the Righteous; The Evidence for Universalism.

As regards words translated "forever," this book does not seem to contain one with the meaning we give to "eonian" or "age-lasting." For example, dealing with Eccl. 3:1l, he says the Hebrew word olam (God hath set olam in men's heart) "seems to mean. . . . . that men can look a long way both into the past and into the future, but that, as this gift of God is useless, a man's wisdom IS to make the best of the immediate present." This assuredly does not flatter the Most High. Are any of His gifts "useless"? And is it true that men can look a long way into the future?

This verse means that God puts obscurity into human hearts. Our view of the future is meantime somewhat obscure, and for unbelievers very obscure. In this connection I would refer readers to the February, 1956, issue of The Differentiator, and "The Purpose of the Ages" (Hebrews 11:3) for more information. Even the best students of the Bible can tell us very little concerning the Millennium or the New Earth. God has a purpose in putting obscurity into men's hearts. His ways are untraceable meantime. In due course He will put Truth and Revelation into all human hearts.

Our author says of olam when used of the past, that it means "ever," "of old," but best "ancient." "When used of the future it means 'endless' in-history even when it describes God." He calls it "a very elastic term." So we can make it mean practically what we care. The phrase "His mercy endureth for ever" means that it is 'everlasting.' This is rather interesting, as it assumes that God will ever require to shew mercy, to some at least, in history.

As for the Greek terms, aion and aionios, we are told the phrase "from age to age" in the Septuagint means "from generation to generation" when used of men, but "from everlasting to everlasting" when used of God. Thus these Greek terms directly contradict their real meaning. Words are made to mean their opposite.

There is some truth in saying "The days (or day) of the aion" denotes vaguely ancient times (e.g. Amos 9:11; Micah 7:14). But that is the same as saying "obscure times."

It is strange that our author should revert to the old explanation of the Greek eis ton aiona (unto the age) as meaning, in the case of God, "everlasting," but in the case of human beings, only "for life" or "as long as he lives." Yet of the expression "until the age" (heos tau aionos) he says "It is tempting to render the phrase as 'until the (future) age (comes)' or 'as long as the (present) age (lasts).'" It is more than tempting: it is very correct.

Then we are informed that "The common word for 'always' in classical Greek, pantote, does not occur in LXX. It is displaced by eis ton aiona. If this phrase does not mean 'always,' what did LXX use for this common word?" Dunbar's Greek Lexicon says of pantote, "This word is not found in the Septuagint," but he adds, "and very rarely in profane writers." It was not used in the LXX because of its uncommonness. Besides, the Seventy Translators had to find a Greek term answering to l-olam, "to (the) age."

As for the Greek word aion in the New Testament, we are told its meaning is the same as found in the O.T. The author finds that history falls into two Ages, the N.T. writers having inherited the idea from the Old, just as the Lord had done. But what the author does not here tell us is, that in the N.T. the Greek word pantote is found, and found about forty times, meaning "always," So why use "unto the age" in the N.T. at all?

As for the plural word "ages" (aiones) and phrases such as "the age of the ages," "the ages of the ages," all these plural uses are, as in the LXX, "synonyms for aion, used just to emphasize length, as in the English phrase 'for ever and ever.'" But the English phrase "for ever and ever" means nothing longer than "for ever."

Then we are told that "the writer to the Hebrews is just using four synonyms when he says that the Son reigns 'unto the age of the age,' that He is priest 'unto the age,' that He was 'manifested at the consummation of the ages,' and that His 'glory' is 'unto the ages of the ages' (Hebrews 1:8; 5:6; 9:26; 13:21). Again if all these expressions only mean "always," why did the writer of Hebrews not simply say so, using the word pantote? Why puzzle readers with four differing phrases? Again, "When the first Christians wanted to say 'for ever,' the natural phrase was eis ton aiona." But they could have said pantote, always.

As for the adjective aionios (eonian), we are informed that it is "never used to describe God for there was no need to use it of Him." Can that be so? What then of Romans 16:26? Here we find "according to an injunction of the eonian God, for faith-obedience unto all the Gentiles being made known." So this term is not "always used about men.

These ideas concerning the ages are found in a chapter entitled "The Two Ages and the Parousia." The teaching is that there are just two Ages, One before the Parousia or presence of the Lord, and one after. No proof whatever of this is produced. The supposed idea found in the 0.T. is followed.

The author retains the term "everlasting" for life, fire, sin, salvation, redemption, inheritance, covenant, punishment, glory, destruction, judgment, gospel, kingdom. Yet he says that only four of these do not require that the word aionios must mean everlasting—fire, punishment, destruction, and judgment. But who is to be the judge of this rule?

On the Parousia, our author says that before the Lord's Presence there will be another Parousia, that of the Man of Lawlessness, the Son of Perdition, and with it a falling away of believers. He thinks the first Christians were mistaken in their belief that the Parousia was near. This is partly supported by 2. Peter 3:8, "one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Peter may have thought that the Parousia would come quickly, but he may also have thought that it would be postponed for millennium. Peter's reference in ch. 1:16 to the power and Parousia of the Lord recalls not the Resurrection, but the Transfiguration, which anticipated the manner of the Parousia better than the Resurrection.

A peculiar opinion of the author is that at the Parousia Death and Hades, having yielded up their dead, will be cast into the Lake of Fire, and cease to be. He ought to have postponed this for a thousand years or so.

Although he does admit that at a certain stage in Hebrew history the concept arose that history falls into a number of " ages," he says this concept later crystallized into the belief that there are two Ages, separated by the Day of the Lord, one being the Age of Sin, and the other the Age of Righteous ness. The Lord's return or Parousia will be the dividing point between these two Ages. He explains the term Parousia as not being adequately rendered by the word "presence." "The term is everywhere used of the 'presence' of someone who has not always been present," and he gives examples to prove this.

Dr. Ryder Smith believes in an Intermediate State, and accepts the common explanation of the dying thief's request of the Lord, and the Lord's reply, that the thief would that same day be with Him in Paradise. "It follows that Jesus Himself expected to pass to Paradise when He died, and not to any 'Harrowing of Hell.'" But the Lord knew He would go to Hades, and Hades is no Paradise surely.

Then we have a strange statement concerning 2. Cor. 12:2-4, which tells us that Paul was caught away to a third heaven, "and calls this 'Paradise.'" Paul does not call "a third heaven" "the Paradise." His two statements are quite distinct, and speak of two places. "A third heaven" would mean a third one in time, whereas "the third heaven" could signify a third one in height.

As for Man's future home, Dr. Ryder Smith is of opinion that mankind will not dwell in an undefined 'heaven,' but in the present world remade. The righteous and the wicked will be finally separated, the righteous forming the new man kind. We are also told that there will be no merely spiritual universe, or future kingdom in heaven.

Our author says it seems impossible to deny that there is a doctrine of 'everlasting punishment' in the New Testament. He also says that "extinction is not a biblical concept." On Universalism he says this is very difficult to find in the New Testament. But when he comes to ask, "Does Paul teach Universalism?" He answers, "There are passages where he does so, explicitly or implicitly," and he commences with some verses in Romans 11, and 2. Cor. 5:19. Then he mentions Col. 1:20; Romans 8:21; Eph. 1:10; 1. Tim. 2:4; 4:10. Then he elaborates on "four other passages where the Apostle seems to teach Universalism." These are 1. Cor. 15:24-28, in which subjection is "voluntary subjection"; Eph. 1:20-23, where at the End, Christ will "fill all in all," which would be universalism. His third passage is Eph. 4:8-10 and his fourth Phil. 2:9-11. "Here the whole passage thrills with exultation in the Lordship of Christ." On the word "confess" he says this "implies willing submission."

In spite of this, however, our author cannot make up his mind. He finds that in the four Gospels and the Epistles, "the beliefs that the world will be saved and that dis-believers will 'perish' in ruin are held in unresolved tension." He finds that the passage, John 3:16-21 implies that 'everlasting life' is not for disbelievers. "Being 'judged already,' they are left to 'perish.' On the other hand, 'God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him,' and surely He will at last save it." How unfortunate that he did not perceive that there are verses which hint that the Lord's death meant "perishing" or "being destroyed" (Matt. 2:13; 12:14; Mark 3:6; 11:18; Luke 13:33; 19:47. In Luke 13:33 the Lord admits it of Himself).

Thus, unfortunately, Dr. Ryder Smith has to fall back on "antinomies." He finds two opposing doctrines, simply because he has not discerned the truth concerning the Greek term aiOnios, age-lasting. This has for him artificially produced his" antinomy," so he cannot decide which doctrine is correct. Yet he leaves room for "a truth that seems to the mind of man to contradict itself, but that is harmonious to the mind of God." Praise God that there is such a Truth.

Dr. Ryder Smith uses the Apocrypha and other ancient Jewish books a great deal, and seems to respect them as much as the canonical books. It is unfortunate he does not utilize a concordant system when translating from Hebrew and Greek. He uses terms which are not concordant at times, and reproduces the Authorised Version at times when its text is poor.

In spite of all I have said, the book is quite interesting and contains items of use and help. He gives a fine explanation of the text "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14), which he takes as meaning "I will be what I will be" (it would be better still as, "I shall become what I shall become"), by shewing how Jehovah did manifest His Name later on in power, on behalf of His People.

If only Dr. Ryder Smith had studied Rev. 20:14 (Death and Hades cast into the lake of fire, which is the Second Death) in the light of 1. Cor. 15:26 (literally: A final enemy is being undone or brought to nothing—Death), he would have discovered that the First Death cannot possibly be the last enemy. The Second Death will be the last enemy.

A.T. Last updated 22.1.2006