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Theological Book Reviews – The Doctrine of Endless Punishment
Reviewed by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon
The Doctrine of Endless Punishment
by W. G. T. Shedd
The Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA: 1990.
201 Pages, Hardback.
What will men and women do without Jesus Christ? If they do not turn, they will burn. Though the doctrine of eternal punishment is not popular, it is nonetheless true. Jesus Christ taught extensively on the subject, and it comprised 13% of his teaching overall (only 3% was on heaven!). Judgment and justice and punishment are weight and important matters. Shedd’s book covers the doctrine from one end of the biblical record to the philosophical aspects of the debate; from observing the words used for hell grammatically, to expounding and applying the doctrine practically. He expounds the teaching on divine judgment and sets it in the context of Christian history as well as the Biblical. Shedd believed the strongest and most persuasive arguments for the doctrine were the teachings of Christ, which he covers extensively. He also deals cogently with the objections to the doctrine, those who may disbelieve hell or believe in some type of annihilationism escaping the torments of hell, or in a universalism which does away with hell all together.
He divides the book into three sections: Chapter 1 – The History of the Doctrine; Chapter 2 – The Biblical Argument; and Chapter 3 – The Rational Argument. He demonstrates through citing historians and the early fathers of the church that the doctrines was prominent. Then he moves through the teaching of the bible, Old Testament and New Testament with an emphasis on the Redeemer who knew of the doctrine so well. Then he covers the rational arguments against the doctrine, showing that the objections are speculative rather than biblical.
Overall, this is an excellent treatment of the doctrine and well worth the reader’s time to excite the need to witness to a lost and dying world. The friends, neighbors, work associates and the like are in a perilous situation – they are on their way to hell treasuring up more and more wrath for the day of judgment. How will this book affect us? If it is merely an exercise in doctrine, then it will be of little use. If it is an exercise in doctrine then a meditation of that doctrine to warm the heart with a zeal to witness, then it will have done its work.
“There is not a passage in the Old testament that asserts, or in any way suggests, that the light of the Divine countenance, and the blessedness of communion with God, are enjoyed in Sheol.”
“The denial of endless punishment is usually associated with the denial of those tenants which are logically and closely connected with it – such as original sin, vicarious atonement, and regeneration..”
“The common opinion in the Ancient church was, that the future punishment of the impenitent wicked is endless.”
“The dogmatic bearings of Universalism are not to be overlooked. The rejection of the doctrine of Endless Punishment cuts the ground from under the gospel. Salvation supposes a prior damnation. He who denies that he deserves eternal death cannot be saved from it so long as he persists in his denial.”