The Doctrine of Endless Punishment by W.G.T. Shedd

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This is a standard work on the subject of hell and punishment of the wicked by one of the great theologians at the end of the nineteenth century. After giving the reader a bit of historical background on the subject Shedd develops a two-prong argument to prove that punishment for the wicked is endless. First, he uses a biblical argument, tracing the meaning and use of words such as Sheol, Hades, Gehanna, and everlasting. Shedd then argues rationally, seeking to show that eternal punishment of the damned makes sense both to God and man.

This helpful study ushers the reader into the heart of the issues, most of which have not changed substantially over the last one hundred years. That Shedd believes in endless punishment is certain, the form that punishment takes is not addressed. That is, whether the author takes a literal or metaphorically view of hell is never discussed, which to me seemed odd in a book by this title. Some areas of interest include: Shedd’s strong support for a one compartment Sheol (or Hades) in the Old Testament (pp.62-74); his defense against the idea that Christ ever descended into Hades (pp.69-74); an excellent discussion of the word and meaning of “everlasting” in Scripture; a short but solid polemic in support of infant salvation. More disturbing was his view that some unevangelized people will nevertheless be saved (pp.109-114) and that far more humans will spend eternity in heaven than in hell (pp. 114-115,159).

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