A consideration of the words used in the Greek New Testament.
In the preceding papers of this series we have submitted to a careful
examination some of the words most frequently used in the Hebrew
Scriptures to denote or to describe the end of the unsaved. We now
would direct the reader to the New Testament, and the examination of
the words used therein in the teaching, warning, or demonstration ofthe wages of sin.
Apollumi.- This word is translated in the A.V. as follows: "Destroy,"
23 times; "lose," 21 times; "be destroyed," 3 times; "be lost," 10
times; "be marred," once; "die," once; and "perish," 33 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" (John vi. 27). "They shall perish,
but Thou remainest" (Heb. i. 11). None can fail to see that the word
perish in these passages is the opposite of enduring or remaining. By
what system of contrarieties 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? Dean
Alford is responsible for the following statement:
"A canon of interpretation which should be constantly borne in mind is
that a figurative sense of words is never admissible except when
required by the context."
To this all will heartily agree who believe that God's Word is His
revelation, and to this we seek to adhere. When we read in Heb.
31, "By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed
not," we do not understand the word "perish" to signify living in agonyor remorse, but that Rahab was saved from the fate which awaited the
inhabitants of the city of Jericho. Let God be true, though it makes
every man a liar. Let Scripture tell us what "perishing" in Heb.
"And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and
woman, young and old, 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. vi.
Here inspired comment is absolutely opposite to the orthodox teaching
concerning this word "perish."
In Luke vi. 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 Matt. xii. will
show, further, that the Lord used as an illustration the case of savingthe life of an animal. In Luke
xvii. 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 ix. 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 iii. 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 plain gospel spoken in solemn earnestness by the Lord Jesus
Himself. He says that there are two alternatives before men, the one
life everlasting, the other perishing, utter destruction (Heb.
xi., Josh. vi.), and from this doom He came to save those who believed in
Him. Hence we read in Luke xix. 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 xv., and in the "lost" sheep of the house of Israel in Matt. x.
The fragments left over after the miraculous feeding of the five
thousand were gathered so that nothing should be "lost" (John vi. 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, that therefore the plain, primary meaning of the word must be
ignored and the secondary derived meaning be understood in such clear,
solemn passages as John iii. 16, &c.
Notice the way in which the Lord uses the word in Matt. x. 28. "Fear
not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but
rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul 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, which is the second death, 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 xii. 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 Matt. v. 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 Matt. x. 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 iii. 16. In I
Cor. i. 18 we read, "For the preaching of the cross is to them who are
perishing - foolishness, but unto them who are being saved - unto us it
is the power of God." It is the same word (translated "lost" in
in 2 Cor. iv. 3, "If our gospel is veiled, to them who are perishing itis veiled."
Yet again in I Cor. xv. 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? Doesit mean that believers, apart from the resurrection of Christ, are at
this moment 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. Praise be to God for this
blessed hope. 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.
We have yet further evidence as to the meaning of this word apollumi by
considering the inspired interpretation of the word Apollyon (Rev. ix.
11), which is a derivative of apollumi. The passage gives us the
Hebrew equivalent of apollumi, it is the word Abaddon, from
we considered on page 8 of this Volume. 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 Rev. ix. 11 the locusts, whose king is
definitely withheld from destroying or killing (their normal work), and
are only permitted to torment men for five months, after which
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 as given
by Liddell and Scott:
"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 ii. 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 destruction consistently (the word "pernicious" in
verse 2 is not apoleia in the best Greek MSS. and is rendered
"lascivious doings" in R.V.). In Pet. iii. 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
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. vii. 13, 14). The context
immediately continues, "Beware of false prophets," which connects thispassage with its inspired exposition in 2 Pet. ii. 3. In John
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 Thess. ii. 3. Again the word occurs
in Acts viii. 20, "Thy money go with thee to destruction." In Rom. ix.
22 we read of "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." The apostle
uses the word twice in Philippians, "token of perdition"
(i. 28), and
"whose end is destruction" (iii. 19). In I Tim. vi. 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 unreasonable to say continually that men
will perish or be destroyed if they are, in fact, to be kept alive in
suffering, and that 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
article. The subject of the soul, its nature and immortality, is
discussed at great length by Plato in the Phaedon, 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 Phaedon 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 the Phaedon:-
"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
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
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 public
school head master:
"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. [WAGES OF SIN - PART