- Published: 07 August 2012
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As we are all aware, the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, from which the various translations have been made. It is utter folly to bolster up arguments and doctrines by words occurring in a translation; our only appeal and absolute authority must be the words of the original Scriptures.
We therefore propose to bring under review the various words used in the Scriptures, seeking to explain their meaning not merely from dictionaries or lexicons, but from the usage of the words themselves within the bounds of the written Word.
Abad. For the sake of clearness we shall use English letters as equivalents for the Hebrew and Greek, believing that those who desire a fuller acquaintance with the originals will be able to discover the words quite easily. The first word which we will consider is the word abad. It is translated 'perish' 79 times in the Old Testament (A.V.); other renderings are as follows, 'be perished' 12 times; 'be ready to perish' 4 times; 'cause to perish' 3 times; 'make to perish' twice; 'destroy, be destroyed, destruction' 63 times; 'be lost' 8 times. Other translations of only one or two occurrences are 'be broken'; 'be undone'; 'be void of'; 'fail'; 'lose' and 'spend'.
Let us now consider some of the passages wherein this word occurs.
'Ye shall perish among the heathen' (Lev. 26:38).
The context speaks of 'they that are left'. The word may not mean utter extinction here, but for the purposes for which Israel were chosen and placed in their land, they are as good as dead, perished.
The next reference, however, is quite clear in its usage of the word.
'They ... went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation' (Num. 16:33).
This doom is spoken of by Moses in verse 29, 'If these die the common death of all men'. They went down alive into the pit, but not to live therein, for they died an uncommon death, and thereby perished from among the congregation.
Again in Numbers 17:12-13 the word 'perish' is used synonymously with dying,
'Behold we die, we perish ... shall we be consumed with dying?'
The words are used with full unequivocal meaning by Esther, before she dared, unbidden, to enter the presence of the king,
'If I perish, I perish' (Esther 4:16).
The perishing here is again explained by the words of Esther 4:11,
'All the king's servants ... do know that whosoever ... shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live'.
Esther dared the death penalty, and expressed her feelings by the words quoted, 'If I perish, I perish'. The multiplication of terms in Esther 7:4 is striking,
'For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue'.
Here it is evident that perishing is much more than the horrors of eastern slavery; it is used in connection with destruction and death, not life in misery.
Shamad. Another Hebrew word which we must consider is shamad. This word is translated 'destroy', 66 times; 'be destroyed' 19 times; once only by the following, 'destruction', 'be overthrown', 'perish', 'bring to nought', 'pluck down', and twice 'utterly'. It will be seen that just as the word abad was translated the greater number of times by the word 'perish', so shamad is translated in the majority of cases (86 out of a possible 92 occurrences) by the word 'destroy'. It occurs in Deuteronomy 9:3, and is the result of a consuming fire. Again in Deuteronomy 9:14 it is threatened against Israel, and explained as being the words of God,
'Let Me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven'.
This reference will show the awfulness of the word shamad. It is this word which comes first in the decree of the Jews' enemy, 'to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish' (Esther 3:13).
When the Lord spoke concerning Israel and its punishment, He said;
'I will destroy it from off the face of the earth: saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord' (Amos 9:8).
Here the Lord makes a provision, an exception, a clause which does not allow the threatened destruction of the sinner. Jacob used the word 'destroy' in Genesis 34:30 to mean the effect of being killed (see for further reference such passages as Lev. 26:30; Deut. 1:27 and Judges 21:16).
To destroy, abolish, or demolish is the meaning of the word. This is the fate of the wicked, e.g.:
'The transgressors shall be destroyed together' (Psa. 37:38).
'When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever' (Psa. 92:7).
'All the wicked will He destroy' (Psa. 145:20).
Again we submit that the cumulative witness of the use of these two words confirms the Scriptural statement that 'the wages of sin is death', and that the idea of eternal conscious suffering is as foreign to the meaning and usage of shamad as it is to the meaning and usage of abad.
Tsamath. There is another word which is translated 'to destroy', and that is the Hebrew word tsamath. The following is a list of the renderings in the A.V., with the number of occurrences: 'cut off' 8 times; 'consume' once; 'destroy' 5 times; 'vanish' once.
In Psalm 101:8 we read, 'Morning by morning will I destroy all the wicked of the land' (R.V.). The Psalm has for its theme, 'The coming King and His rule'. In that day sin will be summarily dealt with, even as we have a foreshadowing of the kingdom in the judgment which fell upon Ananias and Sapphira, as recorded in the Acts of the apostles. The Scriptures enlarge upon this meaning in no uncertain way in 2 Samuel 22:41, 2 Sam. 22:43:
'Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them that hate me ... then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth, I did stamp them as the mire of the street, and did spread them abroad'.
Karath. We will now turn our attention to another Hebrew word, namely, karath. In its various forms it is translated in the A.V. 'cut off' 88 times; 'be cut off' 59 times; 'cut down' 19 times; and 'cut', 'destroy', 'hewn down' and 'perish'. It is further rendered 'covenant' twice, and 'make a covenant' 84 times. Its primary meaning is 'to cut off' as a branch (Num. 13:23), 'to cut down' as a tree (Isa. 37:24). The word kerithuth, a feminine noun from karath, is translated 'divorce' and 'divorcement' in Deuteronomy 24:1,3; Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8.
Karath is used continually with reference to the cutting up of the bodies of the animals slain for sacrificial purposes (Jer. 34:18). Psalm 50:5 literally rendered is, 'those who have cut in pieces My victim in sacrifice'. Genesis 15:9-17 is an illustration of the practice of cutting or dividing the bodies of the victims, but in this passage another word is used instead of karath. This word karath is used in that solemn prophecy of Daniel 9:26,
'Messiah shall be cut off and shall have nothing'.
This cutting off was the death on the Cross. 'He was cut off (gazar) out of the land of the living' (Isa. 53:8).
The repeated threat found in the law against offenders is, 'that soul shall be cut off from among the people' (Exod. 12:15; Lev. 19:8; Num. 15:30, etc.). The words of Jeremiah 48:2, 'Come let us cut it off from being a nation', give us some idea of the force of the word, but when we read it in Genesis 9:11 in reference to the Flood, we realize how tremendous this cutting off really is. There in Genesis 9 the words 'cut off' correspond to the words 'die' and 'destroy' of 6:17 and 9:11, and 'curse' and 'smite' of Genesis 8:21.
Turning from these historical references we find that this severe judgment is held over the head of impenitent sinners:
'Evil doers shall be cut off' (Psa. 37:9).
'The end of the wicked shall be cut off' (Psa. 37:38).
We have already said that the primary meaning of the word karath had reference to the cutting down of a tree. This is clearly substantiated by reading the closing verses of Psalm 37. The words 'cut off' occur five times in this Psalm (Psa. 37:9, Psa. 37:22, Psa. 37:28, Psa. 37:34, Psa. 37:38).
If in verse 9 we read that the evil-doers shall be cut off, we read in Psa. 37:10, 'For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be', and lest the reader should object to this strong term indicative of extinction, the Scripture continues, 'Yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be'.
Psa. 37:28, 'the seed of the wicked shall be cut off';
the antithesis is given in the sentence before concerning the saints, 'they are preserved for ever'.
Psa. 37:34 says, 'when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it'.
We are not left to our own speculations as to what the saints shall see, for Psa. 37:35-36 continue, and give us the figure of the wicked 'like a green bay tree, yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not, yea, I sought him, but he could not be found'. The 'end' of the righteous is 'peace', but 'the transgressors shall be destroyed together and the end of the wicked shall be cut off'.
Again we pause to consider the testimony of this word to the doctrine before us. What are the wages of sin? Abad, 'to perish'; shamad, 'to be destroyed'; tsamath, 'to be cut off'. Every figure used concerning the three words just considered enforces the meaning. The divorcement of man and wife; the complete loss of the unredeemed dwelling house; the vanishing of the stream; the extinction of the tree whose very place could not be found, all alike testify to the truth of the Scriptures, that the wages of sin is death, and give the lie to the vain deceitful philosophy which says, 'There is no death, what seems so is transition', and which tells us that death is but life in another place. Oh to believe God! let man call us what he will. It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.
We have now considered four of the most important Hebrew words used by God in connection with the wages of sin, abad, shamad, tsamath and karath.
One or two more words of less frequent usage will complete our studies in this section, and then we must turn to the Greek words used in the New Testament.
Kalah. This word is translated by a great many different English words. We give a few of the most important: 'to consume, be consumed, consume away' 60 times. Other renderings include, 'be accomplished', 'be finished', 'cease', 'destroy utterly', 'utter end'.
Let us look at the way the word is used, apart from the question of future punishment.
'On the seventh day God ended His work which He had made' (Gen. 2:2).
Comment is unnecessary here. Totality and completion are clearly expressed by the context in this passage.
'And He left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham' (Gen. 17:22).
'The famine shall consume the land' (Gen. 41:30).
'The water was spent in the bottle' (Gen. 21:15).
'My soul fainteth for Thy salvation ... mine eyes fail for Thy Word' (Psa. 119:81-82).
'I will not make a full end with you' (Jer. 5:18; Jer. 30:11).
'The Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption ...' (Isa. 10:23).
The underlying idea of the word kalah may be seen in the fact that kolis the Hebrew word for 'all' and 'every'. It signifies, as we have observed, totality and the utter end. It is the word used by the Lord when He said to Moses,
'Let Me alone, that I may consume them' (Exod. 32:10),
or as in
Numbers 16:21, Num. 16:26 'that I may consume them in a moment'.
The Psalmist uses this word when speaking of the ungodly.
'Consume them in wrath, consume them that they may not be' (Psa. 59:13).
The added words, 'that they may not be' amplify the inherent meaning of the word 'consume'. Again, in Psalm 37 we read, 'But the wicked shall perish (abad) and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume (kalah), into smoke shall they consume away (kalah)'.
Here we have not only the figure of the utter consumption of fat by fire, but also the parallel word 'perish', which we have considered together earlier.
Perhaps the passage in the A.V. which gives a complete idea of the nature of the word is
Zephaniah 1:18. 'Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured (akal) by the fire of His jealousy: for He shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land'.
Evil is not to be forever; God's universe is to be cleansed; He shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend; He will make a speedy riddance of evil. Again we pause to consider yet another word used by the Lord in relation to the wages of sin, and again the unfailing testimony is borne by the Scriptures to the fact, that to perish, to destroy, and to consume, in their primary meanings are everywhere the words used by God to describe the penalty of sin.
Nathats. This word is translated 'beat down' 3 times; 'break down' 22 times; and once or twice 'cast down'; 'pull down'; 'throw down'; etc., and 'destroy' 5 times. The primary meaning is, 'to break down', 'to demolish'.
It is applied to altars (Exod. 34:13; Deut. 12:3), to houses, towns, cities, walls (Lev. 14:45; Judges 8:9; Jud. 9:45; 2 Kings 10:27, etc.). In Psalm 52:5 we find the word translated 'destroy'. The words of the context are suggestive, 'destroy' ... 'take away' ... 'pluck out' ... 'root out'. The Psalm, originally written with reference to Doeg the Edomite, has prophetic reference to the Antichrist, 'the man who made not God his strength' (verse 7). It is interesting to note that the gematria (the numerical value) of this sentence is 2,197 or 13 x 13 x 13, the number of Satan and rebellion.
Muth. Let us now examine the word which is translated 'death'.
Scripture declares in both Testaments that the wages of sin is death. Much has been written to show that death means everything else except death. The current conception seems to be that death, as a punishment for sin, is endless life in misery. Presumably if tradition had its way it would alter the Scriptures, and would declare that 'he that believeth hath everlasting life in happiness, but the wages of sin is everlasting life in misery'. The Bible, however, knows no such doctrine.
We have already examined several words, and find that the wages of sin is destruction, perishing, a full end, consumption, riddance, death. The oft quoted John 3:16 declares unmistakably that the alternative to everlasting life is perishing. However, our present studies are devoted to the consideration of the Hebrew words themselves. How is the Hebrew word muth rendered in the A.V.? It is translated 'to die' 420 times; 'be dead' 60 times; 'be put to death' 57 times; 'put to death' 19 times; 'dead' 62 times; 'kill' 32 times; 'slay' 81 times; and 'dead body'; 'worthy of death'; 'destroy'; 'destroyer'; 'death'. We have enough in such a number of occurrences to provide a demonstration of the meaning and usage of the word muth. Let us examine a few passages.
'And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died' (Gen. 5:5).
The word is used throughout Genesis to record the deaths of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph etc.
It is used of the death of animals (Exod. 7:18; Exod. 8:13; Lev. 11:39). It is this selfsame word that is used in Ezekiel 18:4,
'The soul that sinneth, it shall die'.
Moses used this word in Deuteronomy 4:22, 'I must die in this land'. The word muth is used to describe a corpse.
'Abraham stood up from before his dead' (Gen. 23:3).
'Bury therefore thy dead' (Gen. 23:15).
Maveth (from muth) is translated 'death' in both Genesis 21:16 and Ezekiel 18:32.
Death, physical and inflicted death, was continually presented to the mind of the Jew under the law. 'He that smiteth a man ... shall be ... put to death' (Exod. 21:12), so he that smiteth his father, stealeth, or curseth (Exod. 21:15-17). Murder, adultery, witchcraft (Num. 35:16; Lev. 20:10 and Exod. 22:18, respectively) were similarly punished. Nowhere throughout the whole range of inspiration, is man ever told to torture, torment, or in anyway foreshadow the horrors of the traditional penalty of sin; the extreme penalty is always death. Thus was it so in the beginning. In Genesis 2:17 the penalty for disobedience was, 'in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die'. We are fully aware that this passage has been made to mean death, spiritual and eternal, which in orthodox teaching comes to mean life in conscious torment.
What was the penalty threatened in Genesis 2:17? 'Dying thou shalt die'. This is the same idiomatic construction as is translated 'freely eat', viz., 'eating thou mayest eat' (Gen. 2:16). It is of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament (cf. marginal notes at Gen. 26:28; Gen. 27:30; Gen. 43:3, Gen. 43:7, Gen. 43:20), and it is false to seek to make the Hebrew idiom (Gen. 2:17) speak of a process of 'dying' or of 'spiritual' death. Adam, who was of the earth, earthy, who was not a spiritual being as is so often taught (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45-47), was treated by God upon a plane suitable to his nature. His obedience would have meant a continuance in the state of innocence and the temporal blessings of Eden, while his disobedience involved himself and his descendants in the forfeiture of these blessings. What is true concerning the first death is true of the second death also. If the second death means eternal conscious agony, it cannot be justly named the second death, for it differs in its every character. Into the second death God will cast Hades (i.e. hell, gravedom), and death, the last enemy to be destroyed, not to be tormented or perpetuated.
The lake of fire is God's great destructor. All things that offend are gathered out of God's kingdom, not to be perpetuated by constant miracle, but to be destroyed, root and branch. We hope to prove this definitely when we have considered the New Testament words. Muth, 'death', is the expression of abad, 'perish', shamad, 'destroy', tsamath, 'cut off', karath, 'cut off', and kalah, 'to make an utter end'.
The witness of every passage in the Old Testament is unanimous; it says with one voice that,
'The candle of the wicked shall be put out' (Prov. 24:20).
'The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction' (Job 21:30).
'As wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God' (Psa. 68:2).
'For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be' (Psa. 37:10).
'He is like the beasts that perish' (Psa. 49:12).
'Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more' (Psa. 104:35).
'They shall be as though they had not been' (Obad. 1:16).
'They shall be as nothing' (Isa. 41:11).
'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them' (Isa. 8:20).
We would now direct the reader to the New Testament, and the examination of the words used therein in the teaching, warning, or demonstration of the wages of sin.
Apollumi. This word is translated in the A.V. as follows: destroy 23 times; be marred once; lose 28 times; die once; be destroyed 3 times; perish 33 times; be lost 3 times.
In examining 'the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth' we must ever remember that the literal sense of the words is prima facie their true sense.
It is this literal sense which is the common, ordinary, fundamental basis of all language, and accurate communication of thought.
'Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to age-abiding life'
'They shall perish, but Thou remainest' (Heb. 1:11).
None can fail to see that the word perish in these passages is the opposite of enduring or remaining. By what system of contrariety's do men seek to explain the Bible when the object of perishing is the sinner? Why should perishing in this special case mean remaining or enduring in conscious suffering?
When we read in Hebrews 11:31,
'By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not',
we do not understand the word 'perish' to signify living in agony or remorse, but that Rahab was saved from the fate which awaited the inhabitants of the city of Jericho. Let Scripture tell us what 'perishing' in Hebrews 11:31 means:
'And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword ... and they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein ... and Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive' (Josh. 6:21-25).
Here inspired comment is absolutely opposite to the orthodox teaching concerning this word 'perish'.
In Luke 6:9 the Lord Jesus, speaking with reference to healing on the Sabbath Day, says, 'Is it lawful ... to save life or to destroy it?' Here the word 'destroy' (apollumi) is used in its simple primary meaning, and is contrasted with 'save'. A reference to Matthew 12:11 will show, further, that the Lord used as an illustration, the case of saving the life of an animal. In Luke 17:27 the same word is used of the Flood which 'destroyed them all', and in verse 29 of the effect of the fire and brimstone which fell upon Sodom and 'destroyed them all'. When we read,
Luke 9:56, 'For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them',
why should we distort the meaning of the word? Why not believe that the Lord used a fit and proper word, indeed the most suitable word which the language provided?
It is the same word translated 'perish' that occurs in that oft-quoted passage
John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life'.
Here the subject is lifted to the highest level. Here is no ambiguous phraseology, neither figure, nor parable, but the plain gospel spoken in solemn earnestness by the Lord Jesus Himself. He stated that there are two alternatives before men, the one -- life everlasting, the other -- perishing, utter destruction (Heb. 11:31; Josh. 6:21), and from this doom, He came to save those that believed in Him. Hence we read in Luke 19:10,
'The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (apollumi)'.
Man by nature was on the road which leadeth to destruction.
The primary meaning, 'perish' or 'destroy', becomes changed in the transition of language to the derived and secondary meaning 'lost'. Thus we read of the 'lost' sheep, and the 'lost' son in the parables of Luke 15, and in the 'lost' sheep of the house of Israel in Matthew 10. The fragments left over from the miraculous feeding of the five thousand were gathered so that nothing should be lost (John 6:12). It is pitiable to hear those who should know better, arguing that because we read of a 'lost' sheep, which could not mean a 'destroyed' sheep, therefore the plain, primary meaning of the word must be ignored and the secondary derived meaning understood in such clear, solemn passages as John 3:16 etc.
Notice the way in which the Lord uses the word in Matthew 10:28,
'Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear Him Which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (gehenna)'.
Here we have an argument which proceeds from the lesser to the greater. Man can only kill the body. God can destroy body and soul. Man may kill, but he cannot prevent resurrection. The murdered man will as surely rise in the resurrection as the one who dies of natural causes. It is different, however, with God. He can cast men into the lake of fire, from which there is no resurrection. Those who are thus cast in are destroyed body and soul, as being no more fit to live.
The parallel passage to this, Luke 12:4,5 shows that to 'cast into gehenna' is to be taken as synonymous with 'to destroy' or 'to perish'. This is further evidenced by Matthew 5:29,
'It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into gehenna'.
Here the plain meaning is that it is better that a limb should perish than that the whole body should perish. There is no thought of agony and torment, for the Lord would have used the word in Matthew 10:28, 'Fear Him who is able to torment both body and soul in hell', had He meant to convey such teaching.
The fact that men are 'perishing' and need salvation is emphasized again and again. We have noticed the word in John 3:16. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 we read, 'For the preaching of the cross is to them who are perishing foolishness, but unto us who are being saved, it is the power of God'. It is the same word (translated 'lost' in A.V.) in 2 Corinthians 4:3, 'If our gospel is veiled, to them who are perishing it is veiled'.
Yet again in 1 Corinthians 15:17-18 we read, If Christ hath not been raised, to no purpose is your faith, ye are yet in your sins, hence also they who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. What does this mean? Does it mean that believers, apart from the resurrection of Christ, would at this moment be suffering the agonies of hell fire? Certainly not. It means exactly what it says. Without resurrection the believer, like the unbeliever, will have perished, will have passed out of being, will have been destroyed. The idea of a conscious intermediate state, with departments in some mythological hades, is foreign to the Scriptures and antagonistic to this passage. Death ends life, and apart from resurrection death means utter destruction. Resurrection, which is everywhere the one theme of hope in the Scriptures, is set aside by orthodoxy, and death instead is eulogized as the gate to life.
Some have adopted the errant teaching that the evil dead are perished not to rise again in the resurrection but the Scripture says perishing (2 Cor. 4:3). The teaching that only the faithful rise can not be for the whole of Scripture speaks against such an idea. The apostle Paul crystallizes the truth that all men good and evil rise in the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.
1 Cor. 15:12: 'Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?'
We have here an argumentum ex absurdo. The apostle had established upon indubitable evidence and the testimony of Scripture that 'Christ rose again the third day'. How, therefore, could anyone say, 'There is no resurrection of the dead', for if resurrection is proved to have taken place once it may take place again.
'If the species be conceded, how is it that some among you deny the genus?' (Alford in loco).
1 Cor. 15:13 takes up the other position and shows its disastrous results:
'But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen'.
If it be absurd and un-philosophical to give credence to the idea that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, it renders also faith in the resurrection of Christ absurd and vain too. Pursuing this aspect, the apostle with relentless logic shows that they who deny the doctrine of the resurrection deny the whole scheme of salvation. The apostles? preaching would be vain. The word literally means ?empty?. Their proclamation would be like sounding brass or tinkling cymbals. So also their faith was vain who had put their trust in the Christ they had preached. Then for a moment the apostle pauses to consider the position in which this denial placed the apostles themselves -- men who had hazarded their lives for the truth they believed -- men who had all to lose and nothing to gain in this life by their testimony -- these must be branded as false witnesses of God, if Christ rose not from the dead, for they declared that God had raised Him from the dead as the very basis of their evangel.
Notice further the way in which the impersonal doctrine of the resurrection, is used interchangeably with the historical fact of the resurrection of Christ. He does not say, 'Whom He raised not up, if so be that Christ rose not', but 'Whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not', and that this is the thought, 1 Cor. 15:16-17 shows:
'For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins'.
Surely the apostle perceives, and would have us see, that Christ took no empty title when He called Himself ?The Son of man?. His resurrection is the pledge, not merely of the resurrection of some, but of 'the dead'. We thus see that this thought is carried not to some but to all who are the sons of Adam.
Continuing our study of this word apollumi we have yet further evidence as to its meaning by considering the inspired interpretation of the word Apollyon (Rev. 9:11), which is a derivative of apollumi. The passage gives us the Hebrew equivalent of Apollyon, it is the word Abaddon, from abad. The unmistakable meaning of abad is 'to destroy', and thus we are given, to confirm our faith, the divine warrant that the word under consideration means to 'destroy'. In the context of Revelation 9:11 the scorpions, whose king is Apollyon, are definitely withheld from destroying or killing (their normal work), and are only permitted to torment men for five months, after which other horsemen receive power to kill those who had not the seal of God in their foreheads. Before passing on to the consideration of the next word, we would like to quote the primary meaning of apollumi:
'Apollumi. To destroy utterly, to kill, slay: of things, to demolish, to lay waste, to lose utterly'.
Apoleia. This word is a noun derived from the word apollumi, and means 'destruction'. It is rendered by the A.V. as follows: 'damnation' once; 'damnable' once; 'destruction' 5 times; 'to die' once; 'perdition' 8 times; 'pernicious ways' once; and with eimi eis and accusative, 'perish' once; 'waste' twice.
The words 'damnation' and 'damnable' both occur in 2 Peter 2:1,3, 'damnable heresies' and 'their damnation'. The same word is rendered 'pernicious ways' in verse 2, and 'destruction' in verse 1. Here the one word apoleia is rendered by four words in those verses. The R.V. renders the word 'destruction' and 'destructive' consistently (the word 'pernicious' in verse 2 is not apoleia in the best Greek mss and is rendered 'lascivious doings' in R.V.). In 2 Peter 3:7 the word occurs again, translated 'perdition', and finally in verse 16, it is translated 'destruction' which passage the R.V. renders as in the second chapter -- 'destruction'.
Once again we shall find that this word, like apollumi, is contrasted with life,
'Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction ... narrow is the way that leadeth unto life' (Matt. 7:13-14).
The context immediately continues, 'Beware of false prophets', which connects this passage with its inspired exposition in 2 Peter 2:3. In John 17:12 we have a solemn passage wherein the Lord uses both apollumi and apoleia. 'None of them is lost, but the son of perdition'. This is also the title of Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Again the word occurs in Acts 8:20, 'Thy money go with thee to destruction'. In Romans 9:22 we read of 'vessels of wrath fitted to destruction'. The apostle uses the word twice in Philippians, 'token of perdition' (1:28), and 'whose end is destruction' (3:19). In 1 Timothy 6:9 we have a collection of words, of which the Greek language does not possess any stronger, to express literal death and extinction of being. Hurtful lusts which drown men in destruction (olethros) and perdition (apoleia).
Does it not appear utterly unreasonable to say continually that men will perish or be destroyed if they are, in fact, to be kept alive in suffering, and they are to be miraculously preserved from perishing or from being destroyed?
There is one more point which we must bring forward before closing this study. The subject of the soul, its nature and immortality, is discussed at great length by Plato in the Phaedo, a dialogue on immortality, and therein is discussed the question of the literal destruction and extinction of the soul. Plato wrote in Greek, his native tongue, and the Phaedo became the great classic treatise on the subject of immortality, read, studied and debated throughout the Greek-speaking world during the four hundred years between its writing and the ministry of Christ. Plato's words practically stereotyped the philosophical phraseology of the time. The purpose of the dialogue is to show that in death the soul does not become extinct, that it cannot die, perish, or be destroyed. Modern orthodoxy, therefore, is found ranged with Plato against the Word of God. These words of Plato were known and of fixed meaning in the days of Christ and the apostles. Christ came to reveal the truth. Shall we say that, knowing as He did the meaning of the words used on the subject of the soul, He willfully, and without explanation, took those very words concerning the very same subject, and used them in an altogether contradictory sense! The idea is impossible. With reference to the philosophic usage of apollumi, we give the following extract from Phaedo:
'Socrates, having said these things, Cebes answered: I agree Socrates, in the greater part of what you say. But in what relates to the soul men are apt to be incredulous, they fear ... that on the very day of death she may be destroyed and perish ... blown away and perishes immediately on quitting the body, as the many say? That can never be ... the soul may utterly perish ... the soul might perish ... if the immortal be also perishable.
The soul when attacked by death cannot perish'.
To those who knew these words, who taught them, and argued about them, was sent a 'Teacher from God', and standing in their midst, He reiterated the fact that Plato was wrong, that the soul could be destroyed, that it would perish. What would any of that day have thought of the suggestion to make such words convey the sense of endless misery so diametrically opposed to their meaning? Would he not have been justified in replying in the language of a well-known Greek scholar, Dr. Weymouth:
'My mind fails to conceive a grosser misinterpretation of language than when the five or six strongest words which the Greek tongue possesses, signifying "destroy", or "destruction", are explained to mean maintaining an everlasting but wretched existence. To translate black as white is nothing to this'.
We believe sufficient has been shown to establish the fact that, in the usage and meaning of apollumi and apoleia, destruction, utter and real, is the true meaning, and that this is the wages of sin.
It will be remembered that certain words have been considered with regard to their primary etymological meaning, their secondary or figurative meaning, and their usage. We would encourage the believer to get a concordance and look up these words to further discover 'the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth' that define the wages of sin.
Hebrew Words: Nephesh; Olam; Abad; Shamad; Tsamath; Karath; Kalah; Nathats; Muth; Sheol;
Greek Words: Apollumi; Apoleia; Olethros; Olothreuoo; Olothreutes; Kolasis; Kakouch; Oumenos;
Odunaomai; Basanizo; Basanistes; Basanos; Basanismos;