Despite J.D. Faust’s claim that exclusion is represented in the writings of the early church fathers, I have not been able to date KE[1. KE is an abbreviation for “Kingdom Exclusion.”] before the 20th century. (For the purposes of this discussion, it appears I must disregard the Catholic Church’s teaching on purgatory, which Faust and other Protestant exclusionists argue is a corruption of the scriptures. If we include purgatory, exclusion dates very many centuries earlier.) Several figures in the 19th century hint at it, perhaps, but I have not found explicit statements to that effect (particularly ones that can be confirmed by historians).
My research shows, fairly convincingly, that KE emerges from dispensationalism, which was introduced early in the 19th century by Darby. But, as near as I can tell, Watchman Nee is the earliest to propose that “exclusion” involves temporary judgment by fire in the millennial kingdom. Here, an important distinction must be made. The scriptures do propose “salvation” by fire (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-15), but not exclusion. It is a Christian’s work that will be tested. “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (vs. 15). KE amplifies the text, positing that Christians themselves will be tried by fire. Faust speaks of a fiery rod; Arlen L. Chitwood suggests the hurt of the second death (he is vague about what that means); and, Nee argues that some Christians will be cast into the lake of fire temporarily.
The Lord shows us that if Christians tolerate sin, they will suffer either the casting into the eternal fire with both hands and both feet, or the entering into life with one hand or one foot. This shows us clearly that there are those who deal with their sins and lusts in this age and who will enter into the kingdom with one hand or one foot. There are also those who will leave their lusts unchecked and will be cast into the eternal fire. The fire is an eternal fire, but it does not say that they will remain in the eternal fire forever. What the Lord Jesus did not say is as significant as what He did say. If a person has become a Christian but his hands or feet sin all the time, he will suffer the punishment of the eternal fire in the kingdom of the heavens. He will not suffer this punishment eternally, but will suffer it only in the age of the kingdom. — Gospel of God (online source, chpt. 24)[2. This online text is formatted in such a way as to necessitate the use of chapter links on the lower, left corner.]
It appears that Chitwood borrows from Nee on this point. “An inheritance in the kingdom is in view; and saved individuals, even though disinherited, will never be cast into the lake of fire to suffer the same consequences which the unsaved will one day suffer in this place” (Salvation of the Soul, pp. 94-95). It might seem Chitwood says Christians will never be cast into the lake of fire, but he qualifies that statement. He adds, “to suffer the same consequences.” Grammatically, he is saying that some Christians will find themselves in the lake of fire, but not to suffer the same consequences. Nee appears to make a similar distinction: some Christians will be cast into eternal flames, but not eternally.
However one reads those passages, it remains that Nee is the earliest to propose that negative judgment involves the lake of fire.
It is of interest to the publisher of this site if any other reference to such a thing can be found at any earlier point. Please feel free to add comments.
© 2009, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.