Life in Christ Only [An Excerpt from For Ever: An Essay on Eternal Punishment]

The following quote is taken from For Ever: An Essay on Eternal Punishment (you can download it here), written by Marshall Randles. Randles (1826-1904) was a Methodist minister, of whom I could find very little information online. His book is excellent, however, in its treatment of the heresy of annihilationism, even though his Methodism sometimes creeps into his arguments in defense of the Scriptural doctrine of Hell. In the quote I have selected, Randles is highlighting some of the absurdities of the annihilationist position, specifically in regard to “life” in Christ and “death” outside of Christ.

-h.

Life in Christ Only

Apparently, some of the advocates of an absolute end to the unsaved delight most of all to dwell on the theme of Life in Christ only; from which they draw the inference. that all ultimately found out of Christ will cease to be. It is their Goshen in which they love to luxuriate. It affords ample scope for lauding Christ and the potency of His work, and wears the aspect of evangelism. Their jubilance, however, far exceeds their logic. We have no fault to find with their extolling the Redeemer; but we emphatically deny their inference. The pith of their argument is that men can only have eternal life in Christ, and therefore all who do not become savingly united to Him will drop out of being.

We more than admit, we long to impress on mankind, that life eternal comes to man only by Christ, ‘Who is our life,’ and in whom our life is hid. We have ‘life through Him’ Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him…’

But what is the life? Mere existence? or a holy and blessed state? If the former, the argument is good to prove that of all mankind only those shall continue in their being for ever who die in Christ. If life means the latter, all the argumentation from it to the future nonentity of the ungodly is the veriest waste of words, at which the love of truth may well grow indignant.

…it may be well here to observe that the life in Christ is to some extent realized on this side dissolution. For, Paul says, ‘I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;’ ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’ And Jesus said, ‘Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life.’ It includes freedom from guilt. Accordingly, the Saviour declares the believer ‘hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.’ Agreeably to which Paul adds,  ‘As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.’ Another element is love to God. Jesus taught that to keep God’s commands was to ‘enter into life,’ and that the two great commandments are love to God and our neighbour. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.’ And, ‘He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.’ It is to be under the purifying and felicitating influence of the Spirit of Christ. ‘For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’

Manifestly the death from which Christ redeems is not non-existence, but a certain conscious, sentient, moral state; and the life in Christ is not existence, but humanity restored to holy and blissful union with God. Eternal life is this for ever continued and expanded in the inheritance of the saints in light. How mistaken then to contend that the only alternative to this life-state is non-existence! It would be as reasonable to contend that the unbelievers of our Lord’s day were at the same time non-existence because they not the life which He offered them. They had been without Christian life, as too many have now, proving the life was not existence, but a state of existence. The one is the effect of His work as Creator; the other of His work as Redeemer. Hence the relation of creature to Creator remains, when that of redeemed to Redeemer ceases or is rejected. The life eternal in Christ is begun on earth and consummated in heaven; the second or eternal death is the perpetuation of the Christless state, chosen and commenced in time. Christ did not die to restore man to existence, but to life. The departed wicked have not Christian life while awaiting the judgment; yet most annihiationists would hesitate to affirm that they have no being; showing there may be loss of life  without loss of existence. Understand ‘life’ to mean existence, and ‘perdition’ to mean non-existence in the third chapter of John, and we should read, ‘God so loved the world that He His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not cease to be, but should have everlasting existence.’ Could bathos be more complete?

[…]

The essential notion of Mediator presupposes the existence of two parties (God and man in this case) between whom He mediates. Hence, mediation is not the basis of the existence of either party, but is superinduced upon it.If existence, in the strict meaning of the word, were procured by the redeeming work of Christ, then to be out of Christ would be nothing less than absolute non-existence [!] Yet, at this moment, how many men exist who are out of Christ! “

(pp.216-238)

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8 thoughts on “Life in Christ Only [An Excerpt from For Ever: An Essay on Eternal Punishment]

  1. fuddybuddy says:

    Riddle’s argument begs the question. His entire argument hinges upon the notion that we accept that the word life be understood as meaning existence in the third chapter of John’s gospel. Have you looked at John 3 recently, Hiram? The word life is used only 3 times, and in every instance we find that the Greek word zoe is used, corresponding to the word “eternal life.” Jesus is not talking about immortality in John 3, Hiram! And I know of no gospel believer holding to conditional immortality that believes Jesus is talking about immortality in John 3. Rather, He is talking about eternal life. Unfortunately, Riddle does not understand this, because he thinks eternal life does mean immortality. He confuses it for something it isn’t. I’m sorry, Hiram, but this argument is really dreadful.

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  2. fuddybuddy says:

    Riddle begs the question, Hiram. And I have to say, I’m rather surprised you fell for such a bad argument. Riddle’s entire premise rests upon the notion that eternal life means the same thing as immortality. Have you read John 3 lately, Hiram? The word “life” appears only 3 times in John 3, and in every instance the Greek word zoe is used, corresponding to the phrase, eternal life. Zoe is always used in the New Testament to denote eternal life. Zoe is never used to denote immortality. I know of no gospel believer who holds to conditional immortality who believes that Jesus is talking about immortality in John 3. He isn’t. He’s talking about eternal life. But because Riddle is confused by his Arminianism, and so thinks that eternal life is the same thing as immortality, he interprets Christ’s use of zoe in John 3 as meaning immortality. Again, surprised you fell for such a bad argument.

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  3. hiram says:

    Hey fudbud,

    I don’t think his argument is at all bad :) In the context of his book, Randles (not Riddle ;) ) is addressing what the annihilationists of his day believed. More than that, however, Randles’ argument doesn’t hinge upon his own idea that eternal life means the same things as immortality; rather, it hinges upon the fact that this is what the annihilationists of his day believed. And it isn’t only those annihilationists of the late 1800s that believed such foolishness, but there are annihilationists today who would go so far as to identify eternal life as immortality. If you think that it is absurd to identify eternal life as immortality, then take it up with the annihilationists who propagate such insanity.

    Randles’ Arminianism doesn’t come into play in this particular passage of his book, so far as I can see. Instead, in the context of what he has written he has faithfully presented the arguments of the annihilationists with whom he dealt. And his address is, moreover, still very relevant.

    Additionally, Randles doesn’t commit any logical fallacy in the passage I quoted, so I’m not sure how it is a “bad” or “dreadful” argument. Do you think that he has committed some logical fallacy or another, thereby invalidating his argument?

    -h.

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  4. hiram says:

    Consider your own blog, David where annihilationist Mark McCulley writes:

    “We were not born immortal. Eternal life is not natural. The Lord Jesus gives His elect immortality, life without probation and death, and this is only because Jesus died for their sins on the cross. All those for whom Christ did not die will perish.”

    [http://lucidmarbles.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/lets-get-real-about-the-soul/]

    Is he not clearly saying that immortality and eternal life are the same thing?

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  5. fuddybuddy says:

    No, Mark is not saying eternal life and immortality is the same thing. And that is what I am getting at. People like Randle are confused. The don’t understand the argument. Mark is arguing that only those with eternal life shall receive immortality. Eternal life is not natural. Everyone is not born with the guarantee of immortality attached. Although I would doubt that Randle would disagree about eternal life not being natural, it is obvious that he does not believe the promise of immortality is contingent on eternal life. If you have not eternal life, then you have not immortality. That is what Randle disagrees with. In his estimation, you have immortality even if you don’t have eternal life. The problem is, he cannot support this with Scripture. John 3 is not about immortality. John 6 however, is.

    John 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

    Still think Randle’s Arminianism is not getting in the way?

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  6. markmcculley says:

    You wrote: “Manifestly the death from which Christ redeems is not non-existence, but a certain conscious, sentient, moral state; and the life in Christ is not existence, but humanity restored to holy and blissful union with God” Manifestly, your “manifestly” is not so obvious to those who disagree. You have a false alternative between “but conscious, sentient, moral” and your double negative (“not non-existence”). Why not say that eternal life (John 5:25, have passed from death to life) includes both existence and also certain “qualitative” privileges?

    But your rhetorical questions seem to assume that your readers agree with you and that it is your task merely to bring the agreement to their minds. What is death if it’s not non-existence? And how does life in misery become death?

    So tell me, do you think rebels against God will never bow the knee and thus will be able to always sin with success against God?

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  7. hiram says:

    Mark, I technically wrote the blog. However, the original author is Marshall Randles not me. It is his argument, not mine. But I don’t see any logical errors in his reasoning.

    Now regarding your comments:

    I think Randles has already established that life is not existence, it is a state of existence. Adam was existent prior to having God breathe into his nostrils. However, Adam was neither alive nor dead.

    This is, btw, a quotation from a 400+ page book. There’s more to the context, so if you link to the book you can give a full-on assault of his writing if you want.

    As for the rest…

    “But your rhetorical questions seem to assume that your readers agree with you and that it is your task merely to bring the agreement to their minds.”

    They are not my rhetorical questions.

    ” What is death if it’s not non-existence?”

    Death is a spiritual and moral state. It is not anywhere identified in scripture as non-existence.

    “And how does life in misery become death?”

    You are assuming that existence and life are synonymous. They are not.

    “So tell me, do you think rebels against God will never bow the knee and thus will be able to always sin with success against God?”

    This is another loaded question, Mark.

    Rebels sin and will always sin. They cannot do otherwise unless God sovereignly changes their hearts and grants them repentance and faith.

    Rebels do not sin with success, that is an unscriptural statement. Rebels sin in this life, abusing the good gifts that God has given to all men. They are heaping up wrath for themselves. There is no such thing as sinners who succeed against God. Neither in this life, nor in the next will anyone gain the upperhand over God.

    Every knee shall bow, but what do you mean by asking if I believe this? Is it the case that only believers and those who will be annihilated bow the knee? Will a rebel bow the knee to God willingly? He is a slave to sin and cannot be anything but a slave to sin. If anyone who is not regenerate bows the knee to Christ, even his bowing of the knee is sin and rebellion. He is forced by the omnipotence of God to bow.

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