Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. A belief in hell is not confined to Christians. All nations, who have held to an existence beyond this life, have believed that there was a place of torment for the wicked. How the heathen came to hold this doctrine may be disputed. But Christians learned it from the Old and New Testaments, where it is very clearly taught.

II. Hell is a place. It is so called—"this place of torment." Luke 16:28. It must be a place, for it is to be the abode of the wicked after their bodies shall be raised. Matt. 5:29, 30; 10:28; Luke 12:5. Yet we know not where this place is. It would do us no good to know that. Wild and bold assertions have been made as to the locality of hell, but some one says: "We must here confess our ignorance, and shall be much better employed in studying how we may avoid this place of horror, than in laboring to discover where it is."

III. All the names given to this doleful place and to the sufferings there endured, are suited to fill us with dreadful apprehensions. It is called a prison. 1 Pet. 3:19; Rev. 20:7. There shall be confined all incorrigible criminals. It is called a pit—the bottomless pit. Rev. 20:3. Those who fall into it rise no more, but sink still lower forever and ever. It is called outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt. 8:12. It is called the blackness of darkness, Jude, 13, where no ray of light or hope ever enters. It is the darkness outside. It is called the second death, which is explained as being the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, and forever tosses on its angry billows the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars. Rev. 21:8. It is called the place of torment. Luke 16:28. This cannot mean anything that can comfort, or calm, or quiet the soul. Perhaps there is not a more awful word in any language than our English word torment, unless it is its plural, torments, found in Luke 16:23.

IV. All the punishments inflicted on the wicked will be righteous. One of the most dreadful elements of their miseries will be their perfect justness. If the wicked could truly say that they had been unfairly dealt with, this would take away something, yes, much of the poignancy of their anguish. But because God is "a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he," Deut. 32:4; therefore all pleas of injustice will forever be set aside. Sin is an evil of such magnitude as to deserve all that God has ever threatened against it, or shall ever inflict upon it.

V. Yet the Scriptures freely admit that there will be different degrees of punishment among the wicked. To those who heard his words and sinned still, Christ said, "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon and the land of Sodom at the day of judgment, than for you." Matt. 11:22, 24. The same doctrine is taught in Romans 2:12; Heb. 10:28, 29.

VI. The punishment of those who die in their sins shall be everlasting. So teaches the Old Testament: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Dan. 12:2. So teaches the New Testament. The Lord of Life and glory says of the wicked: "These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Matt. 25:46. In both these verses we have the same word to express unending duration in the case of the righteous and of the wicked. If they do not prove that the punishment of sinners shall be eternal, they do not prove that the happiness of the righteous shall be everlasting. Thus we would take away all meaning from the word of God. By Paul God declares that the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power. 2 Thess. 1:9. Of certain reckless men Judas (not Iscariot) says that they are "wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." Jude 13. Of others John says, "they shall be tormented day and night forever." Rev. 20:10. That these terms and phrases declare the punishment of the wicked to be unending, is very clear. Dwight says, "The phrase commonly rendered forever and ever, is found in the New Testament eighteen times. In fifteen instances it is applied to the glory, perfection, government, and praise of God. In one case (Rev. 22:5) it is said of the righteous in the future world, 'they shall reign forever and ever.'" In the other two instances it is applied to the sufferings of wicked men, and once of wicked men as associated in misery with devils. Rev. 19:3; 20:10.

VII. The same doctrine is taught by fair and legitimate inference. Of Judas Iscariot our Lord said, "It had been good for that man if he had never been born." Matt. 26:24; Mark 14:21. Now if Judas merely suffered remorse here, and a temporary punishment in the next life, and yet at last attains to everlasting life in glory, it was good for him that he had been born. In this case it is certain that unending misery has followed transgression.

VIII. Nor is this all. Our Savior declared that the sin "against the Holy Spirit has never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation," and "that it shall not be forgiven neither in this world nor in the world to come." Matt. 12:32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10. Language could not be clearer. If a sin has no forgiveness, the sinner is forever under condemnation, and of course must be liable to endless punishment.

IX. Speaking of the doom of the wicked, our Lord declared that in their misery, "their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched." Mark 9:44, 46, 48. Is not this both clear and terrible?

X. Nor is this all. The Scriptures say: "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." 2 Cor. 6:2. But if the doctrine of Restorationists is true, this is no more the accepted time and the day of salvation, than some hundreds or thousands of years hence will be.

XI. When Jesus Christ was upon earth he said, "The night comes when no man can work." John 9:4. But if we are to believe the doctrines of some modern errorists, there is a great deal of work done in the grave; yes, some men do all their work after the night has come. Many other Scriptures might be quoted to the same effect.

XII. Some men say God is too good to send them to hell forever. But a God who is too good to do such a thing, is certainly too good to say that he would do it. And he has often said he will do it. Dare any say he is a false witness? Others in like manner declare their confidence in the divine mercy—the very mercy which they slight and abuse. Have they forgotten the awful words of the evangelical prophet? "He who made them will not have mercy on them, and he who formed them will show them no favor." Isaiah 27:11. Or have they forgotten the no less awful words of the apostle? "He shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy." Jas. 2:13.


1. Let all men beware of the leaven of false doctrine. To old and young, to wise and simple, its approaches are cunning. The enemies of the truth are full of guile. They boast. They flatter. They cozen. They have no mercy.

2. Sin is a dreadful thing. No wise man makes light of it. Its fruits are bitterness and death. If men would avoid eternal wailings, let them cease to do evil, and learn to do well.

3. How glorious is the work of Christ. He saves from sin. He saves from wrath. He saves from an eternal hell.

4. What a mercy it is to be allowed to live in a gospel land, to hear the gospel call, and to know that hearty prayer will be heard. Soon it will be different, when once the Master of the house shall have risen up and shut the door. Luke 13:23-28.

5. No prospects are so dark or dismal as those of impenitent men. Oh that they were wise!