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Old 06-10-2010, 11:17 AM
702 posts, read 829,150 times
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This is long, but since the attacks on the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment continue on this board, I feel the need to post it...

One of the clearest proofs of eternal punishment is found in the words of Jesus Himself about Judas Iscariot:

“The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24, NASB)

To say that it would have been good for Judas if he had not been born is a very strong statement. As such, the “woe” that man faced must have been quite horrific. Thus, this statement logically militates against two popular ideas held by those who oppose the doctrine of eternal punishment: annihilation and future remedial punishment. Jesus’ words rule out the idea of annihilation because that is the very state of nonexistence that he says would have been good for Judas. His words prevent the idea of future remedial punishment because having never been born could not be regarded as better than a remedial chastening that would eventually lead to eternal blessedness. Since Judas Iscariot’s fate cannot be annihilation or remedial punishment, it must be eternal punishment.

One objection that has been raised is that when Jesus said, "good for him," the "him" was referring to his own person, so that we would have: "It would have been good for Jesus if that man had not been born." According to this view, Christ meant that if Judas had never been born, he (Christ) would not have had to endure the anguish in Gethsemane and the subsequent agonies of the crucifixion.

Let’s see how the pronoun “him” is used in the Greek:

ὁ μὲν υἱὸς τοῦἀνθρώπου ὑπάγει καθὼς γέγραπται περὶ αὐτοῦ οὐαὶ δὲ τῷἀνθρώπῳἐκείνῳ δι' οὗὁ υἱὸς τοῦἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται· καλὸν ἦν ατ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη ὁἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος

The boldfaced word in the Greek above is the pronoun "him." This third person masculine pronoun is in the dative singular case. Being in the dative case, it means “for him” or “to him.” Concerning that last part of the verse, this is a more literal translation, though the word order is awkward: "Good was for him if not was born that man."

Those who say that Christ was speaking about what was good for himself point to this pronoun, claiming that its antecedent could be Christ. The mere use of the pronoun, however, is not enough to prove that Christ meant this. We must not content ourselves with what the text could say but rather what it does say. In order to determine this, when the Greek text is not conclusive, we need to examine both the immediate and broad contexts. When we do, we will clearly see two things: 1) This interpretation goes against the logical flow of the passage (immediate context), and 2) this interpretation has Christ saying something about himself that is highly inconsistent with statements he made of himself in other places in the New Testament (broad context).

First, regarding the immediate context, the passage in the NASB in full reads as follows:

20Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples.
21As they were eating, He said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me."
22Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, "Surely not I, Lord?"
23And He answered, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.
24"The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born."
25And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself."

The thrust of this passage is the betrayal that Christ was to face and its consequences for the betrayer. That is the point of the passage. What might have been good for Christ is not in consideration in this text. Therefore, to insist that it is, is to argue from silence. Moreover, to claim this is to say that Christ shifted gears in the middle of his talk, first speaking of the woe that would come to Judas, then abruptly changing the subject to speak of what was good for himself, and then abruptly switching back to speak of Judas. This goes against the logical flow of the text. The statement, “It would have been good for that man if he had not been born,” follows immediately upon the heels of the previous one, “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” The “woe” is described and expanded upon in the very next sentence. Therefore, the idea that Christ was referring to himself are attempting to force an interpretation on the text that does not belong there. Only someone who first wants the passage to say this would interpret it this way.

Secondly, looking at the broader context of the Bible, this interpretation cannot stand because it would not have mattered to Christ whether Judas was nonexistent or not, since he would have had to endure the cross no matter what. It was God's will that this should happen. Thus, even if Judas had never been born, God would have definitely used some other means to bring Christ to the anguish and suffering of the cross. The agonies that Christ faced were inevitable, and he knew it well. He knew that the very reason for his coming into the world was to give up his life for sinful people:

"The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28, NASB)

In light of this, he would not have said that Judas' nonexistence would have been good for his own sake. It would be like a condemned criminal on his way to the electric chair, saying, “It would be good for me if that electric chair did not exist.” This would be a ridiculous statement because even if the governing authorities didn’t have the electric chair, they would carry out his death sentence in some other way. The man is doomed to die, and so he will die no matter what. So it was with Christ: Even if Judas had never been born, God would have sovereignly created some other sure means whereby Christ should be betrayed.

The only sensible interpretation is that Judas' nonexistence would have been good for Judas, and that because of the woe that Christ referred to earlier in the same sentence.

Speaking of this “woe,” some have suggested that it referred merely to Judas’ inner anguish over the judgment he would face, or perhaps some other subjective anguish because of his betrayal of the Lord. But no matter how intense such inner suffering might be, it could never make nonexistence good for him if he would one day be saved after all. Even if he had to face the most horrible subjective anguish or future judgment before reaching salvation, he would still end up one day in eternal blessedness. Having never been born, however, would mean that he would miss out on this everlasting blessedness, eternal glory, eternal fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and all the other myriad, indescribable joys of being in heaven forever. Therefore, in this view nonexistence could not have been good for him.

In addition, the grammar of the passage demands that the woe be interpreted as objective. The phrase, “but woe to that man” is “οὐαὶ δὲ τνθρώπ ἐκείνῳ.” The phrase, “the man,” which is boldfaced above, is in the singular dative, indicating not what is inside the man but rather what will be to that man. It is a woe that will happen to him, not in him.
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