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Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy?
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TOPIC: Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy?

Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy? 3 months, 1 week ago #5097

  • webb
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There is one particular argument that ECT subscribers seem always to feel is such a slam dunk that anyone who tries to deny it is delusional. That argument goes like this:

In Mt. 25:46 the goats go off to eternal punishment (εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον), but the righteous go off to eternal life (εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον).

Since the two statements are parallel, and eternal life lasts forever, the eternal punishment has to last just as long as the eternal life, i.e. forever.

Any other reading is blatant special pleading.


I'm aware that most CI subscribers would say that eternal annihilation, given that it is permanent and irrevocable, lasts just as long as eternal life.

I have a different take, since I believe Jesus is alluding to Isa. 24:21-23 in this passage (esp. compare Isa. 24:23 and Mt. 25:31, and compare Isa. 24:21-22 and Mt. 25:41). As a premillennialist, I read these two passages in parallel (and in parallel with Rev. 19:17--20:5), so that the "eternal fire" that is the shared experience of both the devil (and presumably his angels) and the kings of the earth (and presumably their erstwhile subjects) is the fire of Hades/the underworld/the abyss, and their "eternal punishment" lasts for the whole age to come--which lasts a thousand years. Similarly, the righteous experience eternal life, which is to say, the resurrected life of the age to come. It is true that they will live not only forever, εἰς αἰώνα (i.e. for the whole age), but forever and ever, for the ages of the ages (Rev. 22:1-5). But that does not mean that Jesus is saying that here. He doesn't have to say everything everywhere. To assume that is to commit the fallacy of plenary meaning (there is another name that escapes me)--that every biblical text on a subject must somehow mystically contain all the information about that subject that is revealed in every other biblical text on that subject.

Is there a good analogy to explain that the parallelism here stops at what Jesus is specifically affirming, so that it makes a mess to try to insist on importing what we know from elsewhere (that the righteous live forever and ever)? Alternatively, is there an analogy that makes the point that the fates of the sheep and the goats don't have to be parallel in absolutely every respect?

Re: Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy? 3 months ago #5101

  • kgddds
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I agree with not trying to fit in more than what is intended to be communicated, even if what is being fit in is true.

I disagree with the traditionalist when they interpret Matthew 25:46 like this:
“And these will go into an endless age of punishment, but the righteous into an endless age of life.”

That interpretation influences too forcefully into thinking like this:
“And these will go into their fate of forever bad living, but the righteous into their fate of forever good living.” Or, really, like this: “And these will go into eternal life in Hell, but the righteous into eternal life in Heaven.”

Of course, when one believes in inherent immortality, it’s reasonable to understand Matthew 25:46 along these lines.

Not being bound to universal inherent immortality, I think a more consistent active punishing interpretation of Matthew 25:46 would be along the lines of:
“And these will go into lasting (age-long) punishment, but the righteous into lasting (age-long) life.”

Even if Matthew 25:46 is to be interpreted as a state of active punishing of the unrepentant, then I still don’t see a convincing parallelism that ought to be carried beyond that of the entirety of the respective ages (whatever that timeframe may be) and into eternity like the traditionalists believe. Also, the thought of different time spans of different ages for the unrighteous and the righteous is possible, so they need not be exactly parallel with respect to time. The age of Final Punishment might be a week-long (or millennial-long) timeframe, and the age of Life with Christ might be multiple ages or an eternity-long timeframe.

Like you mentioned as being common among conditionalists, my primary thoughts with Matthew 25:46 are along the lines of comparing final fates, and that being a gifted life that lasts forever versus a consequence of a final death that lasts forever.

I think Matthew 25:46 primarily communicates a concluding and dramatic CONTRAST in fate, where the traditionalist focuses too heavily, I think, on seeing an equal PARALLEL in time.

If I understand you correctly, you seem to think Matthew 25:46 means:
“And these will go into millennial-long punishment, but the righteous into millennial-long life”
after which the lives of the righteous continue on in the next age among many ages, and the unrighteous cease to live and die a final death at end of their age (and these last two points being true, but not communicated in Matthew 25:46). I think this is a supportable position.

Ken
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Re: Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy? 3 months ago #5102

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kgddds wrote:
If I understand you correctly, you seem to think Matthew 25:46 means:
“And these will go into millennial-long punishment, but the righteous into millennial-long life”
after which the lives of the righteous continue on in the next age among many ages, and the unrighteous cease to live and die a final death at end of their age (and these last two points being true, but not communicated in Matthew 25:46). I think this is a supportable position.
I won't say that it "means" that, if saying it "means" that constitutes a claim that Jesus, in his incarnate ministry in putting forward this teaching, was thinking of a thousand-year age to come. I don't know that. I kind of suspect that he didn't feel led to teach about what happens after the Messianic age, i.e. the age to come. He says that only some will be found worthy of resurrection to take part in that age (Lk. 20:35; cf. 14:14), and he talks about cities going down to Hades (the temporary abode of the unresurrected dead) at the judgment (Mt. 11:23; Lk. 10:15). Other than that, however, and saying as a matter of general principle that the final fate of the unrepentant is destruction of body and soul in Gehenna, he doesn't teach directly about the timing or the meaning of the resurrection and judgment of the unrepentant. In my view, he fills in that gap in eschatological teaching in the Book of Revelation, which shows a preliminary judgment at his coming in glory, which sends the "kings of the earth" and the devil and all the unrepentant still living to the underworld--variously described in Revelation as Hades and the abyss--Rev. 19:17--20:3, but a final judgment when both the devil and the unrepentant are drawn out of the underworld (Rev. 20:7-10 || Rev. 20:13-15). I personally think that conflating these two judgments results in a mess, but I understand the impetus: a kind of extension of Occam's Razor ("Do not multiply entities without necessity") to eschatological schemata as "The eschatological model with the fewest complications is the best." No, the eschatological model that explains the most biblical data and results in the fewest contradictions is the best--whether that be the least complicated or not.
Last Edit: 3 months ago by webb. Reason: stray parenthesis

Re: Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy? 2 months, 2 weeks ago #5149

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Would it be an over simplification to say:
Punishment is not torture.
If God put someone to death for a year, and then brought them back to life that equals a 1 year 's punishment.
If God put someone to death for 5 yrs, and then brought them back to life that equals a 5 year punishment.
If God put someone to death and never brought them back to life.....that would be an eternal punishment.

Just wondering how this plays?
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Re: Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy? 2 months, 2 weeks ago #5150

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chloebess wrote:
.If God put someone to death and never brought them back to life.....that would be an eternal punishment.

That’s not too simple, that’s genius. I love that!
The beauty of grace is seen in the glory it reveals.
Grace is glory's seed; Glory is grace's bloom.
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Re: Best Analogy for Mt 25:46 Fallacy? 2 months, 2 weeks ago #5154

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chloebess wrote:
Would it be an over simplification to say...If God put someone to death and never brought them back to life.....that would be an eternal punishment.
In the particular case of Mt. 25:46 I would say yes, it would be an oversimplification. I'm not in the majority in this interpretation, but (1) I see the scene of Mt. 25:31-46 as being set at the moment when Jesus Christ comes in glory to judge the world (whereas premillennialists usually see it as set after the age to come, the millennium of Rev. 20:1-10). This scene absolutely belongs at Christ's coming in glory because his language about sitting on his glorious throne and the judgment scene connects squarely with other things he has said earlier, especially Mt. 7:22-23; 16:27; 19:28; 24:30; Mk 8:38; Lk. 9:26. (2) I see Jesus alluding in Mt. 25:31, 41 to Isa. 24:21-23 (and 25:1-10a):
24:21 On that day the Lord will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven, {i.e. the devil and his angels, Mt. 25:41; Rev. 20:1-3}
and the kings of the earth, on the earth. {i.e. the leaders of the human unrepentant; see Rev.19:17-21}
22 They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison, {the devil and his angels and human unrepentant ones sent to the underworld together, Mt. 25:41}
and after many days they will be punished. {note that this punishment is not their final fate, but it will be lengthy}
23 Then the moon will be confounded
and the sun ashamed,
for the Lord of hosts reigns
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and his glory will be before his elders. {note the themes: inauguration of kingly reign, Jerusalem, seat of God's (which is also Messiah's) reign, glory; Mt. 25:31}
25:1 O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
2 For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners' palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
3 Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;
cities of ruthless nations will fear you.
4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
5 like heat in a dry place.
You subdue the noise of the foreigners;
as heat by the shade of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is put down.
6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples {reward for the faithful of all nations, Mt. 25:31}
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever; {end of death for the faithful || eternal life, Mt. 25:46}
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
10 For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain,
and Moab shall spread out his arms to swim
like straw floating in a cesspit. {different figure from Mt. 25:41, 46, but enemies of the faithful are completely excluded from the good things just described, and have an experience that is completely the opposite.
In this case imprisonment in the underworld (Isa. 24:21-22) is pictured as treading water in a cesspit, rather than being in a burning place as in Mt. 13:42, 15 and Lk. 16:23-24.}
Note the many correspondences here. This strongly suggests to me that Jesus is intentionally alluding to Isa. 24:21-23 in Mt. 25:31, 41, 46 and that the punishment that is described as aiōnios (usually translated here as "eternal") is to be understood as age-long rather than as everlasting. Because in Isaiah 24, the co-imprisonment of the rebellious angelic and human forces is long but limited--pending a judgment that will determine their final disposition. Not many take this approach, but I think it makes the best sense of the inner-biblical connections here. In addition, I have found, in the popular (in the time of Jesus) apocryphal book of 4 Maccabees a very close parallel to Jesus' language:

In 4 Macc. 12:12, not only do we have aiōnios, but also a reference to fiery punishment described as aiōnios. In the story that the author is telling, the youngest of seven brothers has just witnessed all six of his older brothers being tortured and burned to death by an evil king because they have refused to give up their Jewish faith. When the king threatens the youngest brother with being burned alive just like his elder brothers, he stands firm in his faith, and defiantly says to the king:
Because of these [crimes], divine justice is going serve you up to a more concentrated and age-long (aiōnios) fire, and to tortures that will not release you for the whole age.
What is a fire that is aiōnios? The boy’s next words tell us exactly what it is. It’s a fire that will torment the evil king “for the whole age.” Let’s compare Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:41:
Get away from me, all of you cursed ones! Go away into the age-long (aiōnios) fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Where else in Scripture (besides Isa. 24:21-23 and Mt. 25:31-46) do we find the idea that unrepentant humans will be incarcerated in Hades, the fiery underworld pictured in Lk. 16:23-24, at the same time as the devil is incarcerated in the abyss, another name for the underworld (the abyss itself is also pictured as fiery: see Rev. 9:1-2)? And note that they are both pictured as prisons that have keys and are locked and unlocked--Rev. 1:18; 9:2; 20:1-3). The answer is, in Rev. 19:19-20:6. The "kings of the earth" and their armies--and "all the rest" of rebellious humanity--are slain, which, in the terminology of Revelation, sends them to Hades. Next the devil too is sent the underworld for a thousand years, a good round number to describe an age. Then the faithful are raised to reign, but the rest of the dead are not raised until the thousand years are over, which is to say, they remain imprisoned in Hades (see again Rev. 1:18).

What happens to all these rebellious angelic and human beings when they are released from the underworld where they have been imprisoned together "for many days" (Isa. 24:22), for a whole age (Mt. 25:46), for a thousand years (Rev. 20:3, 5)? I believe that Isa. 26:10-11; 27:1-5; 66:22-24; Rev. 20:7-10 reveal what happens. They are raised to "a resurrection of judgment" (Jn 5:29), in which they show themselves to be incorrigible. Self-deceived into attacking the resurrected faithful, they are removed from the creation for good.
Last Edit: 2 months, 2 weeks ago by webb. Reason: format Greek word as italic
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