Where are our
friends and our neighbors, the holy and the unholy, the civilized and the vile?
The proper answer to this questions stands related to our own
destiny, colors and influences our theology, and the entire trend of our lives! The
correct answer gives strength, confidence, courage and assists towards the spirit of a
"Men and brethren, let me freely speak to you of the
patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this
day. For David is not ascended into the heavens." (Acts 2:29,34)
"And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down
from heaven, even the Son of man." -- John 3:13
For a man to declare himself uninterested in this subject
would be to proclaim himself idiotic -- thoughtless. If the ordinary affairs of this
present life, food, raiment, finance, politics, etc., which concern us but for a few
years, are deemed worthy of thought, study, how much more concern should we have in
respect to the eternal future of ourselves and neighbors and mankind in general?
Of course, so important a question has had the most profound
study, ever since the reign of Sin and Death began six thousand years ago. By this time
the subject should be threadbare. The entire world should be so thoroughly informed
respecting this question that there would be nothing new to say and nobody curious to
hear. But the large audiences of intelligent, thoughtful people which come to hear, and
which listen with breathless interest to what we have to say, imply that after all the
study the subject has had, but few are thoroughly satisfied with their conclusions.
The Agnostic Answers
Before presenting what we claim is the Scriptural and only
satisfactory answer to our query, we think it but proper respect to the intelligence and
thought of our day and of past centuries to make general inquiries on the subject and have
before our minds the most profound thoughts of the most astute thinkers of our race. We
cannot, however, go into this matter elaborately and give lengthy quotations. We must
content ourselves with brief, synoptical answers, which will be stated kindly and
truthfully, and with a desire not to offend anybody, however much we may disagree with his
conclusions. We recognize the right of every man to do his own thinking and to reach his
own conclusions, whether these agree with our conceptions or not.
We begin our examination by asking our agnostic friends, who boast
of their untrammeled freedom of thought, "What say you, Free-thinkers, in reply to
our query, 'Where are the dead?'" Their answer is, "We do not know. We would
like to believe in a future life, but we have no proof of it. Lacking the evidences, our
conclusion is that man dies as does the brute beast. If our conclusion disappoints your
expectations in respect to having joy for the saints, it certainly should be comforting to
all as respects the vast majority of our race, who certainly would be much better off
perished like the brute beast than to be preserved in torture, as the majority
We thank our agnostic friends for the courteous reply, but feel
that the answer is not satisfactory, either to our heads or to our hearts; which cry out
that there must, or should be, a future life; that the Creator made man with powers of
mind and heart so superior to the brute that his pre-eminence in the Divine plan should be
expected. Furthermore, the brevity of the present life, its tears, its sorrows, its
experiences, its lessons, will nearly all be valueless, useless, unless there be a future
life -- an opportunity for making use of these lessons. We must look further for some more
satisfactory answer to our question.
The Heathen Answer to
Since three-fourths of the world are heathen, the weight of
numbers implies that they next should be asked for their solution to the question -- Where
are the dead? Heathenism gives two general answers:
(1) Prominent are those which hold to Transmigration. These reply
to us, "Our view is that when a man dies, he does not die, but merely changes his
form. His future estate will correspond to his present living and give him either a higher
or a lower position. We believe that we lived on earth before, perhaps as cats, dogs,
mice, elephants, or whatnot, and that if the present life has been wisely used, we may
reappear as men of nobler talents, as philosophers, etc.; but if, as usual, life has been
misspent, at death we will be remanded to some lower form of being -- an elephant or a
worm, perhaps. It is because of this belief that we are so careful in respect to our
treatment of the lower animals and refuse to eat meat of any kind. Were we to tramp
ruthlessly on the worm, our punishment might be a form in which we ourselves should be
treated ruthlessly after the change which we call death."
(2) The other large class of heathen believe in a spirit world
with happy hunting grounds for the good and a hell of different torments for the wicked.
We are told that when people seem to die, they really become more alive than ever; and
that the very minute they cross the river Styx they go to the realms of either the blessed
or the ever doomed, and there are steps or degrees of punishment and reward. We inquire,
"Where did you receive these views?" The answer is, "They have been with us
for a long, long time. We know not where they came from. Our learned men have handed them
down to us as truths, and we have accepted them as such."
But heathenism's answer is not satisfactory to our heads and
hearts. We must look further. We must not trust to speculation. We must look for divine
revelation; the message from Him with whom we have to do -- our Creator.
The Catholic Answer
to Our Question
Turning from heathenism we address our question to that informed
one-fourth of the world's population known as Christendom. We say, "Christendom, What
is your answer to the question?" The reply is, "We are divided in our opinion,
more than two-thirds of us holding the Catholic and nearly one-third the general
Protestant view." Let us hear the Catholic view (Greek and Roman) first then, because
age, as well as numbers, suggests such precedence.
"Catholic friends, Give us, please, the results of your
labors and studies, the conclusions of your ablest thinkers and theologians, in respect to
the revelation which you claim to have from God on this subject: Where are the dead? We
will hear you thoughtfully, patiently, unbiasedly." Our Catholic friends respond:
"Our teachings are very explicit along the lines of your question. We have canvassed
the subject from every standpoint in the light of divine revelation. Our conclusion and
teaching are that when anyone dies, he goes to one of three places: first, the saintly, of
whom we claim there are but a few, go immediately to the presence of God, to heaven. These
are referred to by our Lord, saying, "Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come
after me, cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27) Those who faithfully bear the cross
are the "little flock," the "elect." Respecting these Jesus says,
"Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life, and few there be
that find it." (Matt. 7:14) These saintly do not include our clergy, not even our
bishops, cardinals and popes; for you will find that when any of these die, it is a custom
of the church that masses be said for the repose of their souls. We would not say masses
for any we believe to be in heaven, because there surely is repose for every soul;
neither would we say masses for them if we believed them to be in eternal hell, for masses
could not avail them there. We might remark, however, that we do not teach that many go to
the eternal hell. It is our teaching that only incorrigible heretics -- persons who have
had a full knowledge of Catholic doctrines and who have willfully and deliberately opposed
them -- these alone meet the awful, hopeless fate.
Millions to Purgatory
"The dead in general, according to our teaching, pass
immediately to purgatory, which is, as the name indicates, a place of purgation from sin,
a place of penances, sorrows, woes, anguish indeed, but not hopeless. The period of
confinement here may be centuries or thousands of years, according to the deserts of the
individual and the alleviations granted. If you would know more particularly the Catholic
teaching on this subject, we refer you to the writings of one of our great Catholics, the
noted poet Dante, a loyal Catholic, at one time an abbot, who died in a monastery with the
full rites of the church. Dante's poem, "Inferno," graphically describes the
tortures of purgatory, as we understand the matter. You can procure at almost any library
an illustrated copy of this great Catholic poem. Dore, the artist, was also a prominent
Catholic and he portrayed Dante's poem vividly and truthfully. The illustrations show the
torments of purgatory vividly -- how the demons chase some until they leap over precipices
into boiling water. They ply others with fiery darts. Others are burned with heads
downward; others with feet downward in pits. Some are bitten by serpents. Still others are
frozen. We advise that you see Dante's work, "Inferno," because it gives our
Catholic view of the proper answer to your question, Where are the dead? The vast majority
are in purgatory. The billions of the heathen are there; because ignorance does not save,
does not qualify for the heavenly condition. All who enter heaven must previously have
been fitted and prepared in a manner impossible to the heathen. Millions of Protestants
are there. They could not enter heaven, except through the portals of the Catholic church;
neither would God deem them worthy of eternal hell, because their rejection of Catholicism
was due to the confession of faith under which they were born and environed. Nearly all
Catholics go to purgatory also, because, notwithstanding the good offices of our church,
our holy water, confessions, masses, holy candles, and consecrated burying ground,
nevertheless, not having attained to saintship of character, they would be excluded from
heaven until the distressing experiences of purgatory would prepare their hearts for
heaven. We hold, however, that for the reason stated, Catholics will not need to remain as
long in purgatory as will the Protestants and the heathen."
We can thank our Catholic friends for so kind a statement of their
case. We will not ask them where their purgatory is, nor how they obtain the details of
information respecting it, because such questions might offend them, and we have no desire
to offend. We merely wish for their ripest, clearest, maturest thought respecting our
question. We regret to say that the answer is not all that we might have hoped for in
clearness and reasonableness and scripturalness. Our hearts are heavy with the thought
that our poor race, by reason of original sin, is already, as the apostle says, a
"groaning creation," and the present life of a few years is full of trouble. It
is saddening, discouraging to all of us, to think that when present trials and
difficulties are past, of being obliged, even for centuries (not to mention eternity), to
have such awful experiences as Dante portrays, even though those centuries of anguish
would purge us and fit us for the Divine presence of heavenly glory. It may seem strange
to some theologians, but it is nevertheless true, that the answer of Catholicism to our
question is not much better than the answer of heathendom. Neither our heads nor our
hearts are yet satisfied. It cannot be wrong to look further for something more
Answer to Our Question
Many of us in times past have been inclined to boast a little of
Protestant "breadth of mind," "intelligence," "education,"
etc. May we not reasonably expect from Protestants a clear, logical, satisfactory answer
to our question? Having found all the other answers unsatisfactory, and having now come to
the one-twelfth portion of our race which has had most advantage every way, we might
reasonably expect to find in its answer the quintessence of wisdom and proof from every
quarter and from every age. But what do we find, dear friends? We find the very reverse!
We find that the voice of Protestantism as a whole (barring numerically insignificant
denominations) giving the most absurd answer to my question that could be conceived -- an
answer which is put to shame by the Catholics, the heathen and the agnostics. Is not this
marvelous? Can this be? It is written, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend"
(Prov. 27:6). Bear with me, therefore, while I expose to you the weaknesses of our
position as Protestants; not with a view to our vexation and shame, but with the
thought that our intelligent investigation of the subject can be turned to our advantage
and enable us to know the Truth and to lift the true, Divine standards before the people,
to the intent that we and all may come to clearer views of our heavenly Father's
character, purposes and future dealings with our race.
Permit us as gently as possible to touch this sore spot. The
removal of the bandages and the cleansing of the sore may cause us pain, but the
investigation should be helpful, nevertheless. We got our name, Protestants, from the fact
that our intelligent and well-meaning forefathers, who were Catholics, thought that they
discovered inconsistencies and unscripturalness in Catholic doctrines in which they had
been reared. They protested against these, and hence came the name Protestants. We cannot
defend all that they did to their enemies nor all that their enemies did to them.
One of their points of protest was that our forefathers could find
nothing of purgatory anywhere on earth, nor any declaration respecting it in the Bible.
With a simplicity that is certainly marvelous to us, they concluded that they would merely
pick up their views of purgatory and throw them away forever. This left them heaven and
hell, into one of which, they said, every member of the race must go at death and there
spend his eternity. Quite evidently these well-meaning forefathers of ours were not as
long-headed, far-sighted and logical as we might have expected them to be, when they did
not perceive the difficulty into which they were walking. Rather we should say, perhaps,
that they did see something of the difficulty, but viewed matters differently from what we
do. The theory of Calvin and Knox prevailed at that time amongst Protestants and led each
denomination to hope that it was God's "elect" (Titus 1:1) and that it would
constitute the "little flock" (Luke 12:32) who would go to heaven, while all the
remainder of mankind would be consigned to an eternity of hellish torture.
No longer does either Catholic or Protestant pray,
"God bless me and my wife,
My son John and his wife,
Us four and no more."
Both Catholics and Protestants, looking back to that period which
we often term the "dark ages," have reason to give thanks to God for the
anointing of the eyes of our understanding, which enables us, we believe, to think more
logically than our forefathers. Even those of us reared under the doctrine of
predestination have lost the idea that the heathen were passed by because they were
predestined to damnation; instead, those who accepted the Westminster confession of faith
are today the most zealous in the preaching of the Gospel amongst the heathen by
missionary effort. We are glad of this. It is a sign that our hearts are in truer and
nobler condition, even though our heads have not yet gotten into proper adjustment with
our hearts; and we still look at crooked doctrines and endeavor to imagine them altogether
Theoretically Protestant doctrines stand with the Bible and with
Catholics and declare that heaven is a place of perfection; that there can be no change to
any who enter there; hence, that all trial, all refinement, all chiseling, all polishing
of character must be accomplished in advance of an entrance into the abode of the saints.
In a word, we agree that only the saints will ever enter there, the "pure in
heart" (Matt. 5:8), the "overcomers" (1 John 4:4), the "little
flock" (Luke 12:32), who now walk in the footsteps of Jesus. What about the remainder
of mankind? Ah! there is difficulty. Our larger hearts will not consent that all except
the saints must spend an eternity of torture, though this is the logic of our creeds. Our
hearts protest, saying that three-fourths of humanity today are heathen and that fully
that proportion of humanity altogether have never heard of God and the terms of salvation.
The Best of People
Our creeds perplex us; for, as our hearts will not permit us to
think of these poor creatures going to an eternity of misery, neither will our heads
permit us to say that they are fit for heaven. Indeed it would be at variance not only
with the Scripture, but also with reason itself, to suppose heaven with three-fourths of
its inhabitants unregenerate in every sense of the word. Our forefathers merely spoiled
things for us when they threw away purgatory and kept the remainder of the arrangement. If
we must object to purgatory as being unscriptural, must we not equally object to the
eternal torment of all the families of the earth as being unscriptural, especially when
the Bible declares that "all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen.
28:14) through Christ -- blessed with a knowledge of the Truth and opportunity to come
into heart harmony with God and attain everlasting life through Christ. I believe that it
is necessary to press this point of the unreasonableness of the eternal torment doctrine.
Nevertheless, I will remind you of what our prominent Protestant theories are on the
(1) The Calvinistic thought is that divine wisdom and power
planned for mankind in advance -- knew of the fall of man in advance, and prepared
therefor by the creating of a great place called hell and the manning of it with
fire-proof devils for the torment of the race -- all except the "little flock"
(Luke 12:32), the "elect" (Titus 1:1). Love and justice were left out of this
(2) The other prominent Protestant theory, the Armenian, held
today probably by the majority, insists that both love and justice created the world and
arranged the torment, and that wisdom and power were not consulted; hence that God has
gotten into difficulty, while endeavoring to do justly and lovingly by his creatures;
because lacking in power to render the needed aid.
The entire difficulty, dear friends, is that, in our reasoning on
the subject, we have merely asked the opinions of men and have not sought the Word of the
Let us consider the clear, plain, reasonable, just, loving and
wise program of our heavenly Father. It has been so long overlooked, so long buried under
the rubbish of human tradition of the "dark ages" that today "Truth is
stranger than fiction." Well did our Lord through the prophet declare:
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." -- Isa. 55:9.
What Say the Scriptures?
All of the foregoing theories, be it noticed, are based upon the
assumption that death does not mean death -- that to die is to become more alive than
before death. In Eden it was God who declared to our first parents, "Thou shalt
surely die" (Gen. 2:17). It was Satan who declared, "Ye shall not surely
die (Gen 3:4). Notice that the heathen, as well as the Christians, have accepted Satan's
lie and correspondingly rejected God's truth. Do they not all agree with the serpent's
statement, "Ye shall not surely die"? Do they not all claim that the dead are
alive -- much more alive than before they died? This, dear friends, has been our common
point of mistake. We have followed the wrong teacher, the one of whom our Lord said,
"He abode not in the Truth," and that he is the father of lies. -- John 8:44.
These false doctrines have prevailed amongst the heathen for many,
many centuries, but they gained an ascendancy in the church of Christ during the
"dark ages" and had much to do with producing the darkness thereof. If our
forefathers had believed God's testimony, "Thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17),
there would have been no room for the introduction of prayers for the dead, masses for
their sins, frightful thoughts respecting their torture. The scriptures agree from first
to last that "the dead know not anything" (Ecc. 9:5) and that "His sons
come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not
of them" (Job 14:21). It is the scriptures that tell us where the dead are and their
condition; that they are experiencing neither joy nor sorrow, pleasure nor suffering; that
they will have no knowledge of anything done under the sun until their awakening in the
resurrection. Remember the wise man's words, "Do with thy might what thy hand findeth
to do, for there is neither wisdom nor knowledge nor device in (sheol) the grave, whither
thou goest." (Ecc. 9:10) Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament it is
written of both the good and the bad that they fell asleep in death. The apostle speaks of
those who "sleep in Jesus," (1 Thes. 4:14) and of those who have "fallen
asleep in Christ" (1 Cor. 15:18) who, he declares, are perished, if there be
no resurrection of the dead. Could they perish in heaven or in purgatory or in a hell of
torment? Assuredly no one so teaches. They are already in a perished condition in the
tomb; and the perishing would be absolute, complete, unless a resurrection be provided for
their deliverance from the power of death. Hence we read, "God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life."
In a word, then, the Bible teaching is that man was made superior
to all the brute creation -- in the image and likeness of his Creator; that he possessed
life in a perfect degree in Eden and might have retained it by full obedience. But in his
trial, his testing, he failed and came under the death sentence. "In the day that
thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die." (Gen. 2:17) There the dying began, which,
after nine hundred and thirty years, brought father Adam to the tomb and involved all of
his children in his weaknesses and death sentence. He died in the very day, which the
Apostle Peter explains was not a twenty-four hour day but a thousand-year day, saying,
"One day is with the Lord as a thousand years." (2 Peter 3:8) During six of
these great days the death sentence has brought man down in some respects to the level of
the brute and left him without hope of future life, except as God might take compassion
upon him and bring him some relief. This was hinted at in the statement that the seed of
the woman should bruise the serpent's head. It was yet further elaborated to Abraham
saying, "In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be
blessed." -- Gen. 28:14.
Death, Not Torment, the
Note well the mistake made in assuming eternal torment the wages
of original sin, when the scriptures explicitly declare that "The wages of sin is
death" -- not eternal torment. (Rom. 6:23) We search the Genesis account of man's
fall and the sentence imposed, but find no suggestion of a future punishment, but merely
of a death penalty. Repeating it the second time the Lord said, "Dust thou art, and
unto dust shalt thou return." (Gen. 3:19) But he said not a word respecting devils,
fire and torment. How, then, did the Adversary deceive our fathers during the "dark
ages" with his errors, which the apostle styles "doctrines of devils" (1
Tim. 4:1)? Note the fact that none of the prophecies mention any other than a death
penalty for sin. Note that the New Testament likewise declares the same. St. Paul, who
wrote more than one-half of the New Testament, and who assures us that he did not shun to
declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), says not a word about torment. On the
contrary, discussing this very matter of sin and its penalty, he says, "Wherefore, as
by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all
men, for that all have sinned." (Rom. 5:12) Note that it was not eternal torment
that passed upon one man nor upon all men, but death. If some one suggests that death
would not be a sufficient penalty for sin, all we would need to do would be to point him
to the facts and thus prove his suggestion illogical. For the sin of disobedience Adam
lost his paradisaic home -- lost eternal life and divine fellowship, and instead got
sickness, pain, sorrow, death. Additionally the billions and billions of his posterity,
disinherited so far as the blessings are concerned, have inherited weaknesses, mental,
moral and physical, and are, as the apostle declares, "A groaning creation." --
God's Penalty a Just One
Let no one think the death penalty unjust and too severe.
God could have blotted out Adam, the sinner, thus fulfilling the sentence. He could have
blotted out the race instantly. But would we have preferred that? Assuredly not. Life is
sweet, even amidst pain and suffering. Besides, it is the divine purpose that present
trials and experiences shall prove useful as disciplines; to prepare us for a wiser course
than father Adam took, when we shall be privileged to have a further individual trial. Our
race would have been without hope of future existence, just as agnosticism claims, had it
not been for divine compassion and the work of redemption.
Notice again why our Lord died for our redemption and see
in that another evidence of the penalty. If the penalty against us had been eternal
torment, our redemption from it would have cost our Lord that price. He would have been
obliged to suffer eternal torment, the just for the unjust. But eternal torment was not
the penalty; hence Jesus did not pay that penalty for us. Death was the penalty and hence
"Christ died for our sins." "He by the grace of God" tasted
"death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). Whoever could pay Adam's penalty could
settle with divine justice for the sins of the whole world, because Adam alone had been
tried -- Adam alone had been condemned. We, his children, were involved through him.
Behold the wisdom and the economy of our Creator. The scriptures assure us that he
condemned the whole world for one man's disobedience, in order that he might have mercy
upon all through the obedience of another -- Christ. We were condemned to death without
our consent or knowledge. We were redeemed from death without our consent or knowledge.
Some one may inquire, "Are we, therefore, without
responsibility? Will there be no individual penalty upon us for individual wrong
doings?" We answer, "A just recompense of reward" (Heb 2:2) will be meted
out to all. But our eternal destiny can be settled only by ourselves, by our individual
acceptance or rejection of the grace of God. The scriptures clearly inform us that every
sin, in proportion to its willfulness, brings a measure of degradation which involves
"stripes," chastisements, corrections to regain the lost standing. (Luke
12:47,48) Thus the more mean and more wicked a man or woman may be, the greater will be
his or her disadvantages in the resurrection time, and the more he will then have to
overcome to get back to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed by Christ.
"And the Dead
At his first advent our Lord's miracles foreshadowed the great
work which he, with his glorified Church, will accomplish for the world during the
Millennium -- then all the sick, lame, blind and deaf will be revived and, if obedient,
will be brought ultimately to full perfection. The disobedient will be destroyed in the
Second death. The most notable miracle which our Lord performed was the awakening of
Lazarus, his friend. Jesus was gone several days when Lazarus took sick and, of course,
knew about the matter. Nevertheless Martha and Mary sent him a special message, saying,
"Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." (John 11:3) They knew of Jesus'
power to heal, even by the word of his mouth. They had faith that if he could help
strangers, he would surely be glad to assist his friend. But Jesus remained where he was
and allowed Lazarus to die and a rude shock to come to the dear sisters. Then he said to
his disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." (John 11:11) Then, coming down to
their comprehension, he added, "Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I
was not there." -- John 11:14,15.
He was glad to let his friend fall asleep in death because
it would provide a special opportunity for a special miracle. Then, with his disciples, he
began the three-days' journey to Bethany. We cannot blame the sorrowing sisters that they
felt hurt that the Messiah should apparently neglect their interests. They knew that he
had the power to relieve them. Martha's gentle reproof was, "Lord, if thou hadst been
here, my brother had not died. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha
saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
(John 11:21,23,24) Notice that our Lord did not say, "Thy brother is not dead; thy
brother is more alive than he ever was; he is in heaven or in purgatory." Nothing of
the kind! Purgatory had not yet been invented, and he knew nothing of it. And as for
heaven our Lord's testimony is, in our text, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but
he that came down from heaven." Martha was also well informed. The errors of the
"dark ages" had not yet supplanted the truth. Her hope for her brother was the
Scriptural one -- that he would rise in the resurrection, in the last day, the Millennial
day, the seventh of the great thousand-year days from creation.
Our Lord explained that the power of resurrection was vested in
himself, that he was there with her, and could give relief to them without waiting. Martha
told our Lord that it was too late, that putrefaction had set in by this time. But Jesus
insisted on seeing the tomb and when he arrived at it, he said, "Lazarus, come
forth." And we read, "He that was dead came forth." (John 11:43,44) Mark
well that it was not the living that came forth, but that Lazarus was really dead. Mark
well that he was not called from heaven nor from purgatory.
Are in Their Graves"
What Jesus did for Lazarus he intimated he would ultimately do for
Adam and his entire race. Note his words: "The hour is coming, in the which all that
are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." (John 5:28,29) Does
this astonish us? If so, the reason is not far to seek. It is because we have gotten so
far away from the teachings of the Bible -- so fully immersed in the "doctrines of
devils" (1 Tim. 4:1), so fully to believe in the serpent's lie, "Ye shall not
surely die" (Gen. 3:4) -- so blinded to the Lord's declaration, "Thou shalt
surely die" (Gen. 2:17), and "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
The remainder of John 5:29 explains that there will be two general
classes of the dead to come forth. The first, those who have had their trial and who have
passed it successfully; the second, all the remainder of mankind who have thus far failed
to have divine approval. The approved will come forth from the tomb unto a resurrection of
life -- perfection. The disapproved will come forth unto a resurrection of judgment (see
Revised Version). The coming forth is one thing. The resurrection is another. The apostle
explains that they will come forth, "every man in his own order." (1 Cor. 15:23)
On thus being awakened the privilege will be theirs of rising, up, up, up out of present
degradation, mental, moral, physical, to the glorious perfection which father Adam enjoyed
in the image and likeness of his Creator. The uplifting or resurrection work St. Peter
refers to as the "restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of
all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21).
Not Universalism Either
Nor does this mean universal everlasting life, for the scriptures
declare that such as refuse to profit by the glorious opportunities of the Millennium,
such as refuse to be uplifted to perfection, shall be destroyed from amongst the people in
the Second death -- "They shall be as though they had not been." (Obadiah 16)
Our Lord entered the synagogue at Capernaum and, being asked to read the lesson, chose
Isaiah, the sixty-first chapter. He read respecting himself and his work -- that a part of
it would be to open the prison doors and set at liberty the captives. We are well aware
that our Lord did not open any of the literal prisons, such as John the Baptist was
confined in. He made no effort to succor him. The prison-house which Christ will open is
the great prison-house, the tomb, which holds billions of our race. At this second advent
our Lord will open this great prison-house and allow all the prisoners to come forth, just
as truly as he did in the example -- in the case of Lazarus. Nor will he call them from
heaven, purgatory and hell, but, just as he declared,"Lazarus, come forth,"
"all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth" (John
Where Are the Dead?(2)
My dear friends, you had before your minds the answers to our
question from the highest to the lowest earthly authorities. None of them was
satisfactory. Now you have heard the testimony of God's Word -- the divine declaration as
to "Where are the dead?" Harkening to the voice from heaven we are assured that
they are really dead and that all their hopes as respects the future are centered, first
upon the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus, accomplished at Calvary, and secondly, upon
the work or resurrection which, at his second advent, he is to accomplish for those whom
he redeemed. If perchance you have a shade of disappointment as respects a saintly brother
or sister, father or mother or child who you hoped was already in heaven, then as a
consolation look at the other side of the question -- behold how many of your loved ones,
kith and kin, friends and foes and neighbors, according to your theory and all the
prevalent theories, have been suffering untellable woe since their death and would be
suffering similarly for long centuries to come -- consider the relief of mind and heart
you get from the knowledge of the truth: that they are not alive anywhere, but simply
dead, or more poetically, they are "Asleep in Jesus," in the sense that he is
their Redeemer, in whom all their hopes of a future awakening reside.
Present Your Bodies
Just a closing word! Our subject would lack a proper finish if we
did not explain scripturally why God has delayed the world's blessing, the resurrection,
nearly two thousand years since the death of Jesus. The reason is such a glorious one! It
must appeal to every true Christian heart and make it glad. It is this:
God purposed the selection of the Church before the blessing of
resurrection should go to the world. This Church is called sometimes "the body of
Christ" (1 Cor. 12:27), which is the church of which Jesus is the head (Eph. 5:23).
Again it is styled "The Bride -- the Lamb's Wife" (Rev. 21:9). Ever since
Pentecost the heavenly Father has been drawing believers to Jesus' side. After having been
justified through faith in the precious blood, they have been invited to become Jesus'
disciples, his followers, to walk in his steps, to lay down their lives in the Father's
service, as Jesus did, and to develop in their hearts the fruits and graces of the holy
Spirit to such a degree that they might be called copies of God's dear Son.
The promise to these is not the resurrection of restitution
promised to the world during the Millennium. On the contrary, these have a "heavenly
calling" (Heb. 3:1). After their consecration they are begotten of the holy Spirit
and then instructed in the school of Christ and submitted to trials and disciplines in
various ways, for the purpose of chiseling ad polishing their characters as New Creatures.
These are a "little flock" (Luke 12:32), gathered one here and one there;
"saints" (Rom. 1:7) from all denominations and from outside of all
denominations, for "the Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Tim. 2:19). When the
predestined number of the "elect" (Titus 1:1) shall have been selected and
polished, the present age will end. Our Lord will come in second advent glory and power.
His elect Bride will constitute the First Resurrection class, from earthly to heavenly
nature, "changed in a moment," for "flesh and blood cannot inherit
the Kingdom of God." -- 1 Cor. 15:50-52.
Then will come the holy, invisible Millennial Kingdom and the
binding of Satan and the destruction of his unholy, invisible kingdom, and the setting
loose of agencies for the enlightening and uplifting of the whole race.
Those of you who are already the Lord's consecrated saints, lift
up your heads and realize more fully than ever before the glorious fullness of the
heavenly calling, of which you have been made partakers. To others who have the hearing
ear and appreciate this high calling we way, Permit the love of God and of Christ to
constrain you (2 Cor. 5:14) and become disciples indeed of Jesus, laying aside every
weight and every besetting sin, and entering the race and pressing with vigor to its end
and crown of glory! (Heb. 12:1)
Say the Scriptures Concerning Hell?
"To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according
to this word, it is because there is no light in them." -- Isa. 8:20
A correct understanding of this subject has become almost a
necessity to Christian steadfastness. For centuries it has been the teaching of
"orthodoxy," of all shades, that God, before creating man, had created a great
abyss of fire and terrors, capable of containing all the billions of the human family,
which he purposed to bring into being; that this abyss He had named "hell"; and
that all of the promises and threatenings of the Bible were designed to deter as many as
possible (a "little flock") from such wrong-doing as would make this awful place
their perpetual home.
As knowledge increases and superstitions fade, this monstrous view
of the divine arrangement and character is losing its force; and thinking people cannot
but disbelieve the legend, which used to be illustrated on the church walls in the highest
degree of art and realism, samples of which are still to be seen in Europe. Some now claim
that the place is literal, but the fire symbolic, etc., while others repudiate the
doctrine of "hell" in every sense and degree. While glad to see superstitions
fail, and truer ideas of the great, and wise, and just, and loving Creator prevail, we are
alarmed to notice that the tendency with all who abandon this long revered doctrine is
toward doubt, skepticism, infidelity. Why should this be the case, when the mind is merely
being delivered from an error -- do you ask? Because Christian people have so long been
taught that the foundation for this awful blasphemy against God's character and government
is deep-laid, and firmly fixed, in the Word of God -- the Bible -- and, consequently, to
whatever degree that belief in "hell" is shaken, to that extent their faith in
the Bible as the revelation of the true God, is shaken also -- so that those who have
dropped their belief in a "hell," of some kind of endless torment, are often
open infidels, and scoffers at God's Word.
Guided by the Lord's providence to a realization that the Bible
has been slandered, as well as its divine Author, and that, rightly understood, it teaches
nothing on this subject derogatory to God's character nor to an intelligent reason, we
will attempt to lay bare the Scripture teaching on this subject, that thereby faith in God
and His Word may be re-established, in the hearts of His people, on a better, a reasonable
foundation. Indeed, it is our opinion that whoever shall hereby find that his false view
rested upon human misconception and misinterpretations, will, at the same time, learn to
trust hereafter less to his own and other men's imaginings, and, by faith, to grasp more
firmly the Word of God, which is able to make wise unto salvation.
That the advocates of the doctrine of eternal torment have little
or no faith in it is very manifest from the fact that it has no power over their course of
action. While all the denominations of Christendom sustain the doctrine that eternal
torment and endless, hopeless despair will constitute the punishment of the wicked, they
are mostly quite at ease in allowing the wicked to take their course, while they pursue
the even tenor of their way. Chiming bells and pealing organs, artistic choirs, and costly
edifices, and upholstered pews, and polished oratory which more and more avoids any
reference to this alarming theme, afford rest and entertainment to fashionable
congregations that gather on the Lord's day and are known to the world as churches of
Christ and representatives of his doctrines. But they seem little concerned about the
eternal welfare of the multitudes, or even of themselves and their own families, though
one would naturally presume that with such awful possibilities in view they would
be almost frantic in their efforts to rescue the perishing.
The plain inference is that they do not believe it. The only class
of people that to any degree show their faith in it by their words is the Salvation Army;
and these are the subjects of ridicule from almost all other Christians because they are
somewhat consistent with their belief. Yet their peculiar, and often absurd, methods, so
strikingly in contrast with those of the Lord, of whom it was written, "He shall not
cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street" (Isa. 42:2), are
very mild compared with what might be expected if they were fully convinced of their
doctrine. We cannot imagine how sincere believers of this terrible doctrine go from day to
day about the ordinary affairs of life, or meet quietly in elegance every Sunday to hear
an essay from the pulpit on the peculiar subjects often advertised. Could they do so while
really believing all the time that fellow mortals are dying at the rate of one hundred a
minute, and entering
"That lone land of deep despair," where
"No God regards their bitter prayer"?
If they really believed this, few saints could complacently
sit there and think of those hurrying every moment into that awful state described by that
good, well-meaning, but greatly deluded man, Isaac Watts (whose own heart was immeasurable
warmer and larger than that he ascribed to the great Jehovah), when he wrote the hymn --
"Tempests of angry fire shall roll
To blast the rebel worm,
And beat upon the naked soul
In one eternal storm."
People often become frantic with grief when friends have been
caught in some terrible catastrophe, as a fire, or a wreck, though they know they will
soon be relieved by death. Yet they pretend to believe that God is less loving than
themselves, and that He can look with indifference, if not with delight, at billions of
His creatures enduring an eternity of torture far more terrible, which He prepares for
them and prevents any escape from forever. Not only so, but they expect that they will get
literally into Abraham's bosom, and will then look across the guilt and see and hear the
agonies of the multitudes (some of whom they now love and weep over); and they imagine
that they will be so changed and become so like their present idea of God, so hardened
against al pity, and so barren of love and sympathy, that they will delight in such a God
and in such a plan.
It is wonderful that otherwise sensible men and women, who love
their fellows, and who establish hospital, orphanages, asylums, and societies for the
prevention of cruelty even to the brute creation, are so unbalanced mentally that they can
believe and subscribe to such a doctrine, and yet be so indifferent about investigating
Only one exception can we think of -- those who hold the
ultra-Calvanistic doctrine; who believe that God has decreed it thus, that all the efforts
they could put forth could not alter the result with a single person; and that all the
prayers they could offer would not change one iota of the awful plan they believe God has
marked out for His and their eternal pleasure. These indeed could sit still so far as
effort for their fellows is concerned. But why sing the praises of such a scheme for the
damnation of their neighbors whom God has told them to love as themselves? Why not rather
begin to doubt this "doctrine of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1), this blasphemy against
the great God, hatched in the "dark ages," when a crafty priesthood taught that
it is right to do evil that good may result.
The doctrine of eternal torment was undoubtedly introduced by
Papacy to induce pagans to join her and support her system. It flourished at the same time
that bull fights and gladiatorial contests were the public amusements most enjoyed; when
the Crusades were called "holy wars," and when men and women were called
"heretics" and were often slaughtered for thinking or speaking contrary to the
teachings of the Papacy; at a time when the sun of gospel truth was obscure; when the Word
of God had fallen into disuse and was prohibited to be read by any but the clergy, whose
love of their neighbors was often shown in torturing "heretics" to induce them
to recant and deny their faith and their Bibles -- to save them, if possible, they
explained, from the more awful future of "heretics" -- eternal torture. They did
not borrow this doctrine from the heathen, for no heathen people in the world have a
doctrine so cruel, so fiendish and so unjust. Find it, whoever can, and show it up in all
its blackness, that if possible it may be shown that the essence of barbarism, malice,
hate and ungodliness has not been exclusively appropriated by those whom God has most
highly favored with light from every quarter, and to whom He has committed the only oracle
-- His Word. Oh, the shame and confusion that will cover the faces of may, even good men,
who verily thought that they did God service while propagating this blasphemous doctrine,
when they awake in the resurrection to learn of the love and justice of God, and when they
come to know that the Bible does not teach this God-dishonoring, love-extinguishing,
truth-beclouding, saint-hindering, sinner-hardening, "damnable heresy" of
eternal torment. -- 2 Peter 2:1.
But we repeat that, in the light and moral development of this
day, sensible people do not believe this doctrine. However, since they think that the
Bible teaches it, every step they progress in real intelligence and brotherly kindness,
which hinders belief in eternal torment, is in most cases a step away from God's Word,
which is falsely accused of being the authority for this teaching. Hence the second crop
of evil fruit, which the devil's engraftment of this error is producing, is skepticism.
The intelligent, honest thinkers are thus driven from the Bible into vain philosophies and
sciences, falsely so-called, and into infidelity. Nor do the "worldly" really
believe this doctrine, nor is it a restraint to crime, for convicts and the less educated
are the firmest believers in it.
But, says one, Has not the error done some good? Have not many
been brought into the churches by the preaching of this doctrine in the past?
No error ever did real good, but always harm. Those whom error
brings into a church, and whom the truth would not move, are an injury to the church. The
thousands terrorized, but not at heart converted, which this doctrine forced into Papacy,
and which swelled her numbers and her wealth, diluted what little truth was held before,
and mingled it with their unholy sentiments and errors, so that, to meet the changed
conditions of things, the clergy found it needful to add error to error, and resorted to
methods, forms, etc., not taught in the scriptures and useless to the truly converted whom
the truth controls. Among these were pictures, images, beads, vestments, candles, grand
cathedrals, altars, etc., to help the unconverted heathen to a form of godliness more
nearly corresponding to their former heathen worship, but lacking all the power of vital
The heathen were not benefited, for they were still heathen in
God's sight, but deluded into aping what they did not understand or do from the heart.
They were added "tares" to choke the "wheat," without being profited
themselves. The Lord tells who sowed the seed of this enormous crop. (Matt. 13:39) The
same is true of those who assume the name "Christian" today, who are not really
at heart converted by the truth, but merely frightened by the error, or allured by
promised earthly advantages of a social or business kind. Such add nothing to the true
Church; by their ideas and manners become stumbling blocks to the truly consecrated, and
by their inability to digest the truth, the real food of the saints, they lead even the
few true pastors to defraud the true "sheep" (Matt. 25:33) in order to satisfy
the demands of these "goats" for something pleasing to their unconverted tastes.
No: in no way has this error accomplished good except in the sense that God is able to
make even the wrath of man to praise Him. So also He will overrule this evil thing
eventually to serve His purposes. When by and by all men (during the Millennium) shall
come to see through this great deception by which Satan has blinded the world to God's
true character, it will perhaps awaken in them a warmer, stronger love for God.
Seeing, then, the unreasonableness of man's view, let us lay aside
human opinions and theories and come to the Word of God, the only authority on the
subject, remembering that
"God is his own interpreter
and He will make it plain."
an English Word
In the first place bear in mind that the Old Testament scriptures
were written in the Hebrew language, and the New Testament in the Greek. The word
"hell" is an English word sometimes selected by the translators of the English
Bible to express the sense of the Hebrew word sheol and the Greek words, hades,
tartaroo and gehenna -- sometimes rendered "grave" and
The word "hell" in old English usage, before Papal
theologians picked it up and gave it a new and special significance to suit their own
purposes, simply meant to conceal, to hide, to cover; hence the
concealed, hidden or covered place. In old English literature records
may be found of the helling of potatoes -- putting potatoes into pits; and of the helling
of a house -- covering or thatching it. The word hell was therefore properly used
synonymously with the words "grave" and "pit," to translate the word sheol
and hades as signifying the secret or hidden condition of death. However, the
same spirit which was willing to twist the word to terrorize the ignorant is willing still
to perpetuate the error, presumably saying, "Let us do evil that good may
If the translators of the Revised Version Bible had been
thoroughly disentangled from the Papal error, and thoroughly honest, they would have done
more to help the English student than merely to substitute the Hebrew word sheol
and the Greek word hades as they have done. They should have translated the words.
But they were evidently afraid to tell the truth, and ashamed to tell the lie; and so gave
us sheol and hades untranslated, and permitted the inference that these
words mean the same as the word "hell" has become perverted to mean. Their
course, while it for a time shields themselves, dishonors God and the Bible, which the
common people still suppose teaches a "hell" of torment in the words sheol
and hades. Yet anyone can see that if it was proper to translate the word
thirty-one times "grave" and three times "pit," it could not have been
improper to so translate it in every other instance.
A peculiarity to be observed in comparing these cases, as we will
do shortly, is that in those texts where the torment idea would be an absurdity the
translators of the King James' version have used the words "grave" or
"pit"; while in all other cases they have used the word "hell"; and
the reader, long schooled in the Papal idea of torment, reads the word "hell"
and thinks of it as signifying a place of torment, instead of the grave, the hidden or
covered place or condition. For example, compare Job 14:13 with Psalms 86:13. The former
reads "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave (sheol), etc." while the
latter reads "Thou has delivered my soul from the lowest hell (sheol)."
The Hebrew word being the same in both cases, there is no reason why the same word
"grave" should not be used in both. But how absurd it would have been for Job to
pray to God to hide him in a hell of eternal torture! The English reader would have asked
questions and the secret would have gotten out speedily.
While the translators of the Reformation times are somewhat
excusable for their mental bias in this matter, as they were just breaking away from the
old Papal system, our modern translators, specially those of the recent Revised Version,
are not entitled to any such consideration. Theological professors and pastors of
congregations consider that they are justified in following the course of the revisers in
not explaining the meaning of either the Hebrew or Greek words sheol or hades,
and by their use of the words they also give their confiding flocks to understand that a
place of torture, a lake of fire, is meant. While attributing to the ignorant only the
best motives, it is manifestly only duplicity and cowardice which induces educated men,
who know the truth on this subject, to prefer to continue to teach the error
But not all ministers know of the errors of the translators and
deliberately cover and hide those errors from the people. Many, indeed, do not know of
them, having merely accepted, without investigation, the theories of their seminary
professors. It is the professors and learned ones who are most blameworthy. These have
kept back the truth about "hell" for several reasons. First, there is evidently
a sort of understanding or etiquette among them, that if they wish to maintain their
standing in the "profession" they "must not tell tales out of school,"
i.e., they must not divulge professional secrets to the "common people," the
laity. Second, they all fear that to let it be known that they have been teaching an
unscriptural doctrine for years would break down the popular respect and reverence for the
clergy, the denominations and the theological schools, and unsettle confidence in their
wisdom. And, oh, how much depends upon confidence and reverence for men, when God's Word
is so generally ignored! Third, they know that many of the members of their sects are not
constrained by "the love of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:14), but merely by the fear of
hell, and they see clearly, therefore, that to let the truth be known now would soon cut
loose the names and the dollars of many in their flocks; and this, to those who
"desire to make a fair show in the flesh" (Gal. 6:12) would seem to be a great
But what will be the judgment of God, whose character and plan are
traduced by the blasphemous doctrine which these untranslated words help to support? Will
the Chief Shepherd commend these unfaithful servants? Will he justify their course? Will
he call these his beloved friends, and make known to them his further plans (John 15:15),
that they may misrepresent them also to preserve their own dignity and reverence? Will he
continue to send forth "things new and old" (Matt. 13:52), "meat in due
season" (Matt. 24:45), to the household of faith, by the hand of the unfaithful
servants? No, such shall not continue to be his mouthpiece or to shepherd his flock.
(Ezek. 34:9,10) He will choose instead, as at the first advent, from among the laity --
"the common people" -- mouthpieces, and will give them words which none of the
chief priests shall be able to gainsay or resist. (Luke 21:15) And, as foretold, "the
wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be
hid." -- Isa. 29:9-19
in the Old Testament
The word "hell" occurs thirty-one times in the Old
Testament and in every instance it is "sheol" in the Hebrew. It does not mean a
lake of fire and brimstone, nor anything at all resembling that thought: not in the
slightest degree! Quite the reverse: instead of a place of blazing fire, it is
described in the context as a state of "darkness" (Job 10:21); instead of a
place where shrieks and groans are heard, it is described in the context as a place of
"silence" (Psalms 115:17); instead of representing in any sense pain and
suffering, or remorse, the context describes it as a place or condition of forgetfulness
(Psalms 88:11,12). "There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge . . . in the grave [sheol]
whither thou goest." -- Ecc. 9:10.
The meaning of sheol is "the hidden state,"
as applied to man's condition in death, in and beyond which all is hidden, except to the
eye of faith; hence, by proper and close association, the word was often used in the sense
of grave -- the tomb, the hidden place, or place beyond which only those who
have the enlightened eye of understanding can see resurrection, restitution of being. And
be it particularly noted that this identical word sheol is translated
"grave" thirty-one times and "pit" three times in our common version
by the same translators -- more times than it is translated "hell."
Twice, where it is translated "hell," it seemed so absurd, according to the
present accepted meaning of the English word "hell," that scholars have felt it
necessary to explain in the margin of modern Bibles, that is means grave. (Isa.
14:9 and Jonah 2:2) In the latter case, the hidden state, or grave, was the belly of the
fish in which Jonah was buried alive, and from which he cried to God.
All Texts in
Which "Sheol" Is Translated "Hell"
(1) Amos 9:2. -- "Though they dig into hell, thence
shall mine hand take them." [A figurative expression; but certainly pits of the earth
are the only hells men dig into.]
(2) Psalms 16:10. -- "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell;
neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." [This refers to our
Lord's three days in the tomb. -- Acts 2:31; Acts 3:15.]
(3, 4) Psalms 18:5 and 2 Samuel 22:6 margin. -- "The cords of
hell compassed me about." [A figure in which trouble is represented as
hastening one to the tomb.]
(5) Psalms 55:15. -- "Let them go down quick into hell"
--margin, "the grave."
(6) Psalms 9:17. -- "The wicked shall be turned into hell,
and all the nations that forget God." This text will be treated later, under a
(7) Psalms 86:13. -- "Thou hast delivered my soul from the
lowest hell" -- margin, "the grave."
(8) Psalms 116:3. -- "The sorrows of death compassed me, and
the pains of hell gat hold upon me." [Sickness and trouble are the figurative
hands of the grave to grasp us.]
(9) Psalms 139:8. -- "If I make my bed in hell,
behold, thou art there." [God's power is unlimited; even over those in the tomb. He
can and will exert it and bring forth all that are in the graves. -- John 5:28]
(10) Deuteronomy 32:22. -- "For a fire is kindled in mine
anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell." [A figurative representation of
the destruction, the utter ruin of Israel as a nation -- "wrath . . . to the
uttermost," as the apostle called it, God's anger burning that nation to the
"lowest deep," as Leeser here translates the word sheol. -- 1
(11) Job 11:8. -- "It [God's wisdom] is as high as heaven;
what canst thou do? deeper than hell [than any pit]; what canst thou know?"
(12) Job 26:6. -- "Hell [the tomb] is naked before
him, and destruction hath no covering."
(13) Proverbs 5:5. -- "Her feet go down to death; her steps
take hold on hell [i.e., lead to the grave]."
(14) Proverbs 7:27. -- "Her house is the way to hell
[the grave], going down to the chambers of death."
(15) Proverbs 9:18. -- "He knoweth not that the dead are
there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell." [Here the harlot's
guests are represented as dead, diseased, or dying, and many of the victims of sensuality
in premature graves from diseases which also hurry off their posterity to the tomb.]
(16) Proverbs 15:11. -- "Hell and destruction are
before the LORD." [Here the grave is associated with destruction and
not with a life of torment.]
(17) Proverbs 15:24. -- "The way of life is above to the
wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." [This illustrates the hope of
resurrection from the tomb.]
(18) Proverbs 23:14. -- "Thou shalt beat him with the rod,
and shall deliver his soul from hell" [i.e., wise correction will save a child
from vicious ways which lead to premature death, and may also possibly prepare him to
escape the "Second death"].
(19) Proverbs 27:20. -- "Hell [the grave] and
destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
(20) Isaiah 5:14. -- "Therefore hell hath enlarged
herself, and opened her mouth without measure." [Here the grave is a symbol of
(21, 22) Isaiah 14:9,15. -- "Hell [margin, grave] from
beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming." "Thou shalt be brought
down to hell" [the grave -- so rendered in verse 11].
(23) Isaiah 57:9. -- "And didst debase thyself even unto hell."
[Here figurative of deep degradation.]
(24, 25) Ezekiel 31:15-17. -- "In the day when he went down
to the grave. . . . I made the nations to shake at the sound of his fall, when I cast him
down to hell with them that descend into the pit. . . . They also went down into
hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword." [Figurative and prophetic
description of the fall of Babylon into destruction, silence, the grave.]
(26) Ezekiel 32:21. -- "The strong among the mighty shall
speak to him out of the midst of hell with them that help him." [A
continuation of the same figure representing Egypt's overthrow as a nation to join Babylon
in destruction -- buried.]
(27) Ezekiel 32:27. -- "And they shall not lie with the
mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, which are gone down to hell with their
weapons of war: and they have laid their swords under their heads, but their iniquities
shall be upon their bones, though they were the terror of the mighty in the land of the
living." [The grave is the only "hell" where fallen ones are buried and lie
with their weapons of war under their heads.]
(28) Habakkuk 2:5. -- "Who enlargeth his desire as hell
[the grave], and as death, and cannot be satisfied."
(29) Jonah 2:1,2. -- "Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God
out of the fish's belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and
he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice." [The
belly of the fish was for a time his grave -- see margin.]
(30, 31) Isaiah 28:15,18. -- "Because ye have said, We have
made a covenant with death, and with hell [the grave] are we at agreement; when the
overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies
our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: Therefore, thus saith the Lord, . .
. Your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell [the
grave] shall not stand." [God thus declares that the present prevalent idea, by which
death and the grave are represented as friends, rather than enemies, shall cease; and men
shall learn that death is the wages of sin, and that it is in Satan's power (Rom.
6:23; Heb. 2:14) and not an angel sent by God.]
Other Texts Where "Sheol" Occurs --Rendered "Grave" and
Genesis 37:35. -- "I will go down into the grave unto
Genesis 42:38. -- "Then shall ye bring down my gray hairs
with sorrow to the grave." [See also the same expression 44:29,31. The
translators did not like to send God's servant, Jacob, to hell simply because his
sons were evil.]
1 Samuel 2:6. -- "The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he
bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up."
1 Kings 2:6,9. -- "Let not his hoar head go down to the grave
in peace. . . . His hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood."
Job 7:9. -- "He that goeth down to the grave."
Job 14:13. -- "O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave,
that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me
a set time, and remember me [resurrect me]!"
Job 17:13. -- "If I wait, the grave is mine house: I
have made my bed in the darkness." [Job waits for resurrection -- "in the
Job 17:16. -- "They shall go down to the bars of the pit
[grave], when our rest together is in the dust."
Job 21:13. -- "They spend their days in wealth, and in a
moment go down to the grave."
Job 24:19,20. -- "Drought and heat consume the snow waters:
so doth the grave those which have sinned." [All have sinned, hence
"Death passed upon all men," and all go down to the grave. But all have
been redeemed by "the precious blood of Christ"; hence all shall be awakened and
come forth again in God's due time -- "in the morning," Rom. 5:12,18,19.]
Psalms 6:5. -- "In death there is no remembrance of thee: in
the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
Psalms 30:3. -- "O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from
the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit."
[This passage expresses gratitude for recovery from danger of death.]
Psalms 31:17. -- "Let the wicked be ashamed, let them be
silent in the grave."
Psalms 49:14,15, margin. -- "Like sheep they are laid in the grave;
death shall feed on them; and the upright [the saints -- Dan. 7:27] shall have dominion
over them in the morning [the Millennial morning]; and their beauty shall consume, the grave
being an habitation to every one of them. But God will redeem my soul from the power of
Psalms 88:3. -- "My life draweth nigh unto the grave."
Psalms 89:48. -- "Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of
Psalms 141:7. -- "Our bones are scattered at the grave's
Proverbs 1:12. -- "Let us swallow them up alive as the
grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit" [i.e., as an earthquake, as
in Num. 16:30-33].
Proverbs 30:15,16. -- "Four things say not, It is enough: the
Ecclesiastes 9:10. -- "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do
it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the
grave, whither thou goest."
Song of Solomon 8:6. -- "Jealousy is cruel as the grave."
Isaiah 14:11. -- "Thy pomp is brought down to the grave."
Isaiah 38:10. -- "I shall go to the gates of the grave:
I am deprived of the residue of my years."
Isaiah 38:18. -- "The grave cannot praise thee, death
cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth."
Numbers 16:30-33. -- "If . . . they go down quick into the pit;
then ye shall understand. . . . The ground clave asunder that was under them: and the
earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that
appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went
down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the
Ezekiel 31:15. -- "In the day when he went down to the
Hosea 13:14. -- "I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be
thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." [The Lord did not ransom
any from a place of fire and torment, for there is no such place; but he did ransom all
mankind from the grave, from death, the penalty brought upon all by Adam's
sin, as this verse declares.]
The above list includes every instance of the use of the English
word "hell" and the Hebrew word sheol in the Old Testament. From this
examination it must be evident to all readers that God's revelations for four thousand
years contain not a single hint of a "hell" such as the word is now understood
in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the Greek word hades corresponds
exactly to the Hebrew word sheol. As proof see the quotations of the apostles from
the Old Testament in which they render it hades. For instance, Acts 2:27,
"Thou wilt not leave my soul in hades," is a quotation from Psalms 16:10,
"Thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol." And in 1 Cor. 15:54,55,
"Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave [hades],
where is thy victory?" is an allusion to Isaiah 25:8, "He will swallow up death
in victory," and to Hosea 13:14, "O death, I will be thy plagues; O sheol,
I will be thy destruction."
From the Greek Word "Hades"
Matthew 11:23. -- "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted
unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell." Luke 10:15 -- "Shalt be
thrust down to hell." [In privileges of knowledge and opportunity the city was
highly favored or, figuratively, "exalted unto heaven"; but because of misuse of
God's favors, it would be debased, or, figuratively, cast down to hades,
overthrown, destroyed. It is now so thoroughly buried in oblivion, that even the
site where it stood is a matter of dispute. Capernaum is certainly destroyed,
thrust down to hades.]
Luke 16:23. -- "In hell he lift[ed] up his eyes, being
in torments." [A parabolic figure explained further along, under a separate heading.]
Revelation 6:8. -- "And behold a pale horse: and his name
that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him." [Symbol of destruction
or the grave.]
Matthew 16:18. -- "Upon this rock I will build my church; and
the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." [Although bitter and
relentless persecution, even unto death, should afflict the Church during the Gospel age,
it should never prevail to her utter extermination; and eventually, by her resurrection,
accomplished by her Lord, the Church will prevail over hades -- the tomb.]
"Hell" (Hades) and Resurrected from "Hell"
(Hades) -- (Acts 2:1, 14, 22-31)
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come . . . Peter . .
. lifted up his voice, and said . . . Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of
Nazareth, a man approved of God among you . . . being delivered by the determinate counsel
and foreknowledge of God ['He was delivered for our offenses'], ye have taken and by
wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains
[or bands] of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it [for the
Word of Jehovah had previously declared his resurrection]. For David speaketh concerning
him [personating or speaking for him], 'I [Christ] foresaw the Lord [Jehovah] always
before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my
heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because
thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades, the tomb, the state of death],
neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou [Jehovah] hast made known
to me [Christ] the ways of life.'"
Here our Lord, as personified by the prophet David, expresses his
faith in Jehovah's promise of a resurrection and in the full and glorious accomplishment
of Jehovah's plan through him, and rejoices in the prospect. Peter then proceeds, saying:
"Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the
patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this
day [so that this prophecy could not have referred to himself personally; for David's soul
was left in "hell" -- [hades, the tomb, the state of death -- and his
flesh did see corruption]. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with
an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up
Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before [prophetically] spake of the
resurrection of Christ [out of "hell" -- hades, the tomb -- to which he must go
for our offenses], that his soul was not left in hell [hades -- the
death state], neither his flesh did see corruption."
Thus Peter presents a strong, logical argument, based on the words
of the prophet David -- showing first, that Christ, who was delivered by God for our
offenses, went to "hell," the grave, the condition of death, destruction (Psalms
16:10); and, second, that according to promise he had been delivered from hell, the
grave, death, destruction by a resurrection -- a raising up to life; being created
again, the same identical being, yet more glorious and exalted even to "the express
image of his [the Father's] person." (Heb. 1:3) And now "that same Jesus"
(Acts 2:36), in his subsequent revelation to the Church, declares:
"I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive
forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell [hades, the grave] and of
death." -- Rev. 1:18.
Amen! Amen! our hearts respond; for in his resurrection we see the
glorious outcome of the whole plan of Jehovah to be accomplished through the power of the
Resurrected One who now holds the keys of the tomb and of death and in due time will
release all the prisoners who are, therefore, called the "prisoners of hope."
(Zech. 9:12; Luke 4:18) No craft or cunning can by any possible device wrest these
scriptures entire and pervert them to the support of that monstrous and blasphemous
Papal tradition of eternal torment. Had that been our penalty, Christ, to be our vicarious
sacrifice, must still, and to all eternity, endure such torment, which no one will claim.
But death was our penalty, and "Christ died for our sins," and "also for
the sins of the whole world." -- 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 2:2.
Revelation 20:13,14. -- "And the sea gave up the dead which
were in it; and death and hell [the grave] delivered up the dead which were in
them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell
[the grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the Second death." The lake of
fire is the symbol of final and everlasting destruction. Death and hell [the
grave] both go into it. There shall be no more death; "the last enemy that shall be
destroyed is death." -- 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4.
Occurrences of the Word "Hell"
Having examined the word sheol, the only word in the Old
Testament rendered "hell," and the word hades, most frequently in the New
Testament rendered "hell," we now notice every remaining instance in Scripture
of the English word "hell." In the New Testament two other words are rendered
"hell": namely, Gehenna and tartaroo, which we will consider in
the order named.
This word occurs in the following passages -- in all twelve times:
Matt. 5:22,29,30; Matt. 10:28; Matt. 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6.
It is the Grecian mode of spelling the Hebrew words which are translated "Valley of
Hinnom." This valley lay just outside the city of Jerusalem and served the purpose of
sewer and garbage burner to that city. The offal, garbage, etc., were emptied there, and
fires were kept continually burning to consume utterly all things deposited
therein, brimstone being added to assist combustion and insure complete destruction. But
no living thing was ever permitted to be cast into Gehenna. The Jews were not
allowed to torture any creature.
When we consider that in the people of Israel God was giving us
object lessons illustrating his dealings and plans, present and future, we should expect
that this Valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna, would also play its part in illustrating
things future. We know that Israel's priesthood and temple illustrated the Royal
Priesthood, the Christian Church as it will be, the true Temple of God; and we know that
their chief city was a figure of the New Jerusalem, the seat of kingdom power and center
of authority -- the city (government) of the Great King, Immanuel. We remember, too, that
Christ's government is represented in the book of Revelation (21:10-27) under the figure
of a city -- the New Jerusalem. There, after describing the class permitted to enter the
privileges and blessings of that Kingdom -- the honorable and glorious, and all who have
right to the trees of life -- we find it also declared that there shall not enter into
it anything that defileth, or that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; but only such
as the Lamb shall write as worthy of life. This city, which thus will represent the entire
saved world in the end of the Millennium, was typified in the earthly city, Jerusalem; and
the defiling, the abominable, etc., the class unworthy of life everlasting, who do not
enter in, were represented by the refuse and the filthy, lifeless carcasses cast into
Gehenna outside the city -- whose utter destruction was thus symbolized, the Second
death. Accordingly, we find it stated that those not found worthy of life are to be cast
into the "lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15) -- fire here, as everywhere, being used as
a symbol of destruction, and the symbol, lake of fire, being drawn from the same Gehenna
or Valley of Hinnom.
Therefore, while Gehenna served a useful purpose to the city of
Jerusalem as a place for garbage burning, it, like the city itself, was typical, and
illustrated the future dealings of God in refusing and committing to destruction all the
impure elements, thus preventing them from defiling the holy city, the New Jerusalem,
after the trial of the Millennial age of judgment shall have fully proved them and
separated with unerring accuracy the "sheep" from the "goats."
So, then, Gehenna was a type or illustration of the Second
death -- final and complete destruction, from which there can be no recovery; for after
that, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins," but only "fiery
indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." -- Heb. 10:26,27.
Let us remember that Israel, for the purpose of being used as
types of God's future dealing with the race, was typically treated as though the ransom
had been given before they left Egypt, though only a typical lamb had been slain. When
Jerusalem was built and the temple -- representative of the true Temple, the Church and
the true Kingdom as it will be established by Christ in the Millennium -- that people
typified the world in the Millennial age. Their priests represented the glorified Royal
Priesthood, and their Law and its demands of perfect obedience represented the law and
condition under the New Covenant, to be brought into operation for the blessing of all the
obedient, and for the condemnation of all who, when granted fullest opportunity, will not
heartily submit to the righteous ruling and laws of the Great King.
Seeing, then, that Israel's polity, condition, etc., prefigured
those of the world in the coming age, how appropriate that we should find the Valley or
abyss, Gehenna, a figure of the Second death, the utter destruction in the coming
age of all that is unworthy of preservation; and how aptly, too, is the symbol, "lake
of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20) drawn from this same Gehenna, or
Valley of Hinnom, burning continually with brimstone. The expression, "burning with
brimstone," adds force to the symbol "fire," to express the utter and
irrevocable destructiveness of the Second death; for burning brimstone is the most deadly
agent known. How reasonable, too, to expect that Israel would have courts and judges
resembling or prefiguring the judgments of the next age; and that the sentence of those
(figurative) courts of that (figurative) people under those (figurative) laws to that
(figurative) abyss, outside the (figurative) city, would largely correspond to the (real)
sentences of the (real) court and judges in the next age. If these points are kept in
mind, they will greatly assist us in understanding the words of our Lord in reference to Gehenna;
for, though the literal valley just at hand was named and referred to, yet his words carry
with them lessons concerning the future age and the antitypical Gehenna -- the
in Danger of Gehenna (Matt. 5:21,22)
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, 'Thou
shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be amenable to the judges:' but I say unto
you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall [future, under
the regulations of the real Kingdom] be amenable to the judges; and whosoever shall say to
his brother, 'Raca' [villain] shall be in danger of the high council; but whosoever shall
say, 'Thou fool,' shall be in danger of hell [Gehenna] fire."
To understand these references to council and judges and Gehenna,
all should know something of Jewish regulations. The "Court of Judges" consisted
of seven men (or twenty-three -- the number is in dispute), who had power to judge some
classes of crimes. The High Council, or Sanhedrin, consisted of seventy-one men of
recognized learning and ability. This constituted the highest court of the Jews, and its
supervision was over the gravest offenses. The most serious sentence was death; but
certain very obnoxious criminals were subjected to an indignity after death, being refused
burial and cast with the carcasses of dogs, the city refuse, etc., into Gehenna, there to
be consumed. The object of this burning in Gehenna was to make the crime and the
criminal detestable in the eyes of the people, and signified that the culprit was a
hopeless case. It must be remembered that Israel hoped for a resurrection from the tomb,
and hence they were particular in caring for the corpses of their dead. Not realizing
fully God's power, they apparently thought he needed their assistance to that extent.
(Exod. 13:19; Heb. 11:22; Acts 7:15,16) Hence the destruction of the body in Gehenna
after death (figuratively) implied the loss of hope of future life by a resurrection. Thus
to such Gehenna represented the Second death in the same figurative way that they
as a people represented or illustrated a future order of things under the New Covenant.
Notice that our Lord, in the above words, pointed out to them that
their construction of the Law, severe though it was, was far below the real import of that
Law, as it shall be interpreted under the real Kingdom and Judges, which theirs only
typified. He shows that the command of their Law, "Thou shalt not kill," reached
much farther than they supposed; that malicious anger and vituperation "shall
be" considered a violation of God's Law under the New Covenant; and that such as,
under the favorable conditions of that new age, will not reform so thoroughly as to fully
observe God's Law will be counted worthy of that which the Gehenna near them
typified -- the Second death. However, the strict severity of that Law will be enforced
only in proportion as the discipline, advantages and assistance of that age, enabling each
to comply with its laws, shall be disregarded. The same thought is continued in:
"Ye have heard," etc., "but I say unto you . . . it
is better for thee to lose one of thy members, than that thy whole body should be cast
Here again the operation of God's Law under the New Covenant is
contrasted with its operation under the Old or Jewish Covenant, and the lesson of self
control is urged by the statement that it is far more profitable that men should refuse to
gratify depraved desires (though they be dear to them as a right eye, and apparently
indispensable as a right hand) than that they should gratify these, and lose, in the
Second death, the future life provided through the atonement for all who will return to
perfection, holiness and God.
These expressions of our Lord not only serve to show us the perfection
(Rom. 7:12) of God's Law, and how fully it will be defined and enforced in the Millennium,
but they served as a lesson to the Jews also, who previously saw through Moses' commands
only the crude exterior of the Law of God. Since they found it difficult in their fallen
state to keep inviolate even the surface significance of the Law, they must now see the
impossibility of their keeping the finer meaning of the Law revealed by Christ. Had they
understood and received his teaching fully, they would have cried out, Alas! if God judges
us thus, by the very thoughts and intents of the heart, we are all unclean, all undone,
and can hope for naught but condemnation to Gehenna (to utter destruction,
as brute beasts). They would have cried, "Show us a greater Priesthood than that of
Aaron, a High Priest and Teacher able fully to appreciate the Law and able fully to
appreciate and sympathize with our fallen state and inherited weaknesses, and let him
offer for us 'better sacrifices,' and apply to us the needed greater forgiveness of sin,
and let him as a Great Physician heal us and restore us, so that we can obey the
perfect Law of God from our hearts." Then they would have found Christ.
But this lesson they did not learn, for the ears of their
understanding were "dull of hearing" (Matt. 13:15); hence they knew not that God
had already prepared the very priest and sacrifice and teacher and physician they needed,
who in due time redeemed those under the typical Law, as well as all not under it, and who
also "in due time" (1 Tim. 2:6), shortly, will begin his restoring work --
restoring sight to the blind eyes of their understanding, and hearing to their deaf ears.
Then the "vail shall be taken away" (2 Cor. 3:16) -- the vail of ignorance,
pride and human wisdom, which Satan now uses to blind the world to God's true law and true
plan of salvation in Christ.
And not only did our Lord's teaching here show the Law of the New
Covenant, and teach the Jew a lesson, but it is of benefit to the Gospel Church also. In
proportion as we learn the exactness of God's Law, and what would constitute the
perfection under its requirements, we see that our Redeemer was perfect, and that we,
totally unable to commend ourselves to God as keepers of that Law, can find acceptance
with the Father only in the merit of our Redeemer, while none can be of that
"Body" (Col. 1:18), covered by the robe of his righteousness, except the
consecrated who endeavor to do only those things well pleasing to God, which include the
avoidance of sin to the extent of ability. Yet their acceptability with God rests not in
their perfection, but upon the perfection of Christ so long as they abide in him. These,
nevertheless, are benefited by a clear insight into the perfect Law of God, even though
they are not dependent on the perfect keeping of it. They delight to do God's will to the
extent of their ability, and the better they know His perfect Law, the better they are
able to rule themselves and to conform to it. So, then, to us also the Lord's words have a
lesson of value.
The point, however, to be specially noticed here is that Gehenna,
which the Jews knew, and of which our Lord spoke to them, was not a lake of fire to be
kept burning to all eternity, into which all would be cast who get "angry with a
brother" and call him a "fool." No; the Jews gathered no such extreme idea
from the Lord's words. The eternal torment theory was unknown to them. It had no place in
their theology, as will be shown. It is a comparatively modern invention, coming down, as
we have shown, from Papacy -- the great apostasy.
The point is that Gehenna symbolizes the Second death --
utter, complete and everlasting destruction. This is clearly shown by its being contrasted
with life as its opposite. "It is better for thee to enter into life
halt or maimed, than otherwise to be cast into Gehenna" (Matt. 18:8). It is
better that you should deny yourselves sinful gratifications than that you should lose all
future life, and perish in the Second death.
Destroy Both Soul and Body in Gehenna
(Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5)
"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill
the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell
Here our Lord pointed out to his followers the great cause they
had for courage and bravery under the most trying circumstances. They were to expect
persecution, and to have all manner of evil spoken against them falsely, for his sake, and
for the sake of the "good tidings" (Luke 2:10) of which he made them the
ministers and heralds; yea, the time would come that whosoever would kill them would think
that he did God a service. (John 16:2) Their consolation of reward for this was to be
received, not in the present life, but in the life to come. They were assured, and they
believed, that he had come to give his life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28), and that all
in their graves must in consequence, in due time, hear the Deliverer's voice and come
forth (John 5:28,29), either to reward (if their trial had been passed in this life
successfully), future trial, or judgment, as must be the case with the great majority who
do not, in this present life, come to the necessary knowledge and opportunity essential to
a complete trial.
Under present conditions men are able to kill our bodies, but
nothing that they can do will affect our future being (soul) (Matt. 10:28), which God has
promised shall be revived or restored by His power in the resurrection day -- the
Millennial age. Our revived souls will have new bodies (spiritual or natural -- "to
every 'seed' his own [kind of] body" -- 1 Cor. 15:38), and these none will have
liberty to kill. God alone has power to destroy utterly -- soul and body. He
alone, therefore, should be feared, and the opposition of men even to the death is not to
be feared, if thereby we gain divine approval. Our Lord's bidding, then, is, Fear not them
which can terminate the present (dying) life in these poor, dying bodies. Care little for
it, its food, its clothing, its pleasures, in comparison with that future existence or
being which God has provided for you, and which, if secured, may be your portion forever.
Fear not the threats, or looks, or acts of men, whose power can extend no farther than the
present existence; who can harm and kill these bodies, but can do no more. Rather have
respect and deference to God, with whom are the issues of life everlasting -- fear
him who is able to destroy in Gehenna, the Second death, both the
present dying existence and all hope of future existence.
Undying Worms and
(Matt. 18:8, 9; Mark 9:43-48)
Here it is conclusively shown that Gehenna as a figure
represents the Second death -- the utter destruction which must ensue in the case of all
who, after having fully received the opportunities of a future being or existence through
our Lord's sacrifice, prove themselves unworthy of God's gift, and refuse to accept it, by
refusing obedience to His just requirements. For it does not say that God will preserve
soul or body in Gehenna, but that in it He can and will "destroy" both.
Thus we are taught that any who are condemned to the Second death are hopelessly and
forever blotted out of existence. Since these two passages refer to the same discourse, we
quote from Mark -- remarking that verses 44 and 46, and part of 45, are not found in the
oldest Greek MSS., though verse 48, which reads the same, is in all manuscripts. We quote
the text as found in these ancient and reliable MSS.
"If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee
to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Gehenna, into the fire
that never shall be quenched: And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for
thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into Gehenna. And if
thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the Kingdom of
God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into Gehenna: Where the worm
dieth not and the fire is not quenched." (Mark 9:43,45,47,48)
After reading the above, all must agree with the prophet that our
Lord opened his mouth in figures and obscure sayings. (Psalms 78:2; Matt. 13:35) No one
for a moment supposes that our Lord advised the people to mutilate their bodies by cutting
off their limbs, or gouging out their eyes. Nor does he mean us to understand that the
injuries and disfigurements of the present life will continue beyond the grave, when we
shall "enter into life." The Jews, whom the Lord addressed, having no conception
of a place of everlasting torment, and who knew the word Gehenna to refer to the
valley outside their city, which was not a place of torment, nor a place where any living
thing was cast, but a place for the utter destruction of whatever might be cast into it,
recognizing the Lord's expression regarding limbs and eyes to be figurative, knew that
Gehenna also was used in the same figurative sense, to symbolize utter destruction.
The Lord meant simply this: The future life, which God has
provided for redeemed man, is of inestimable value, and it will richly pay you to make any
sacrifice to receive and enjoy that life. Should it even cost an eye, a hand or a foot, so
that to all eternity you would be obliged to endure the loss of these, yet life would be
cheap at even such a cost. That would be better far than to retain your members and lose
all in Gehenna. Doubtless, too, the hearers drew the lesson as applicable to all
the affairs of life, and understood the Master to mean that it would richly repay them to
deny themselves many comforts, pleasures and tastes, dear to them as a right hand,
precious as an eye, and serviceable as a foot, rather than by gratification to forfeit the
life to come and be utterly destroyed in Gehenna
-- the Second death.
But what about the undying worms and the unquenchable fire?
In the literal Gehenna, which is the basis of our Lord's
illustration, the bodies of animals, etc, frequently fell upon ledges of rocks and not
into the fire kept burning below. Thus exposed, these would breed worms and be destroyed
by them, as completely and as surely as those which burned. No one was allowed to disturb
the contents of this valley; hence the worm and the fire together completed the work of destruction
-- the fire was not quenched and the worms died not. This would not imply a never-ending
fire, nor everlasting worms. The thought is that the worms did not die off and leave the
carcasses there, but continued and completed the work of destruction. So with the fire: it
was not quenched, it burned on until all was consumed. Just so if a house were ablaze and
the fire could not be controlled or quenched, but burned until the building was destroyed,
we might properly call such an "unquenchable fire."
Our Lord wished to impress the thought of the completeness and
finality of the Second death, symbolized in Gehenna. All who go into the Second
death will be thoroughly and completely and forever destroyed; no ransom will ever again
be given for any (Rom. 6:9); for none worthy of life will be cast into the Second death,
or lake of fire, but only those who love unrighteousness after coming to the knowledge of
Not only in the above instances is the Second death pointedly
illustrated by Gehenna, but it is evident that the same Teacher used the same
figure to represent the same thing in the symbols of Revelation -- though there it is not
called Gehenna, but a "lake of fire."
The same valley was once before used as a basis of a discourse by
the Prophet Isaiah. (Isa. 66:24) Though he gives it no name, he describes it; and all
should notice that he speaks, not as some with false ideas might expect, of billions alive
in flames and torture, but of the carcasses of those who transgressed against the
Lord, who are thus represented as utterly destroyed in the Second death.
The two preceding verses show the time when this prophecy will be
fulfilled, and it is in perfect harmony with the symbols of Revelation: it appertains to
the new dispensation, the Millennium, the "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter
3:13) condition of things. Then all the righteous will see the justice as well as the
wisdom of the utter destruction of the incorrigible, willful enemies of righteousness, as
it is written: "They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh" (Isa. 66:24).
Matthew 23:15, 33
The class here addressed was not the heathen who had no knowledge
of the truth, nor the lowest and most ignorant of the Jewish nation, but the scribes and
Pharisees, outwardly the most religious, and the leaders and teachers of the people. To
these our Lord said, "How can ye escape the judgment of the Gehenna?"
(Diaglott translation) These men were hypocritical; they were not true to their
convictions. Abundant testimony of the truth had been borne to them, but they refused to
accept it, and endeavored to counteract its influence and to discourage the people from
accepting it. And in thus resisting the holy spirit of light and truth, they were
hardening their hearts against the very agency which God designed for their blessing.
Hence they were wickedly resisting his grace, and such a course, if pursued, must
eventually end in condemnation to the Second death, Gehenna. Every step in the
direction of willful blindness and opposition to the Truth makes return more difficult,
and makes the wrongdoer more and more of the character which God abhors, and which the
Second death is intended to utterly destroy. The scribes and Pharisees were progressing
rapidly in that course: hence the warning inquiry of our Lord, "How can ye
escape?" etc. The sense is this -- Although you boast of your piety, you will surely
be destroyed in Gehenna, unless you change your course.
Set on Fire of
Gehenna (James 3:6)
"So [important] is the tongue among our members, that it
defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and [or when] it is set
on fire of Gehenna."
Here, in strong, symbolic language, the apostle points out the
great and bad influence of an evil tongue -- a tongue set on fire (figuratively) by Gehenna
(figuratively). For a tongue to be set on fire of Gehenna signifies that it is set
going in evil by a perverse disposition, self-willed, selfish, hateful, malicious, the
sort of disposition which, in spite of knowledge and opportunity, unless controlled and
reformed, will be counted worthy to be destroyed -- the class for whom the
"Second death," the real "lake of fire," the real Gehenna, is
intended. One in that attitude may by his tongue kindle a great fire, a destructive
disturbance, which, wherever it has contact, will work evil in the entire course of
nature. A few malicious words often arouse all the evil passions of the speaker, engender
the same in others and react upon the first. And continuance in such an evil course
finally corrupts the entire man, and brings him under sentence as utterly unworthy of
The Greek word tartaroo occurs but once in the scriptures
and is translated hell. It is found in 2 Peter 2:4, which reads thus:
"God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them]
down to hell [tartaroo], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be
reserved unto judgment."
Having examined all other words rendered "hell" in the
Bible, and all the texts in which they occur, we conclude the examination with this text,
which is the only one in which the word tartaroo occurs. In the above quotation,
all the words shown in italic type are translated from the one Greek work tartaroo.
Evidently the translators were at a loss to know how to translate the word, but concluded
they knew where the evil angels ought to be, and so they made bold to put them into
"hell," though it took five words to twist the idea into the shape they had
pre-determined it must take.
The word tartaroo, used by Peter, very closely resembles tartarus,
a word used in Grecian mythology as the name for a dark abyss or prison. But
tartaroo seems to refer more to an act than to a place. The fall of the angels who
sinned was from honor and dignity, into dishonor and condemnation, and the thought seems
to be -- "God spared not the angels who sinned, but degraded them, and
delivered them into chains of darkness."
This certainly agrees with the facts known to us through other
scriptures; for these fallen spirits frequented the earth in the days of our Lord and the
apostles. Hence they were not down in some place, but "down" in the sense of
being degraded from former honor and liberty, and restrained under darkness, as by a
chain. Whenever these fallen spirits, in spiritualistic seances, manifest their powers
through mediums, pretending to be certain dead human beings, they must always do their
work in the dark, because darkness is the chain by which they are bound until the great
Millennial day of judgment. Whether this implies that in the immediate future they will be
able to materialize in daylight is difficult to determine. If so, it would greatly
increase Satan's power to blind and deceive for a short season -- until the Sun of
Righteousness has fully risen and Satan is fully bound.
Thus we close our investigation of the Bible use of the word
"hell." Thank God, we find no such place of everlasting torture as the creeds
and hymn-books and many pulpits erroneously teach. Yet we have found a "hell," sheol,
hades, to which all our race were condemned on account of Adam's sin, and from which
all are redeemed by our Lord's death; and that "hell" is the tomb -- the death
condition. And we find another "hell" (Gehenna -- the Second death --
utter destruction) brought to our attention as the final penalty upon all who, after being
redeemed and brought to the full knowledge of the truth, and to full ability to
obey it, shall yet choose death by choosing a course of opposition to God and
righteousness. And our hearts say, Amen! True and righteous are thy ways, thou King of
nations! Who shall not venerate thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art entirely
holy. And all nations shall come and worship before thee, because thy righteous dealings
are made manifest. -- Rev. 15:3,4.
of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)
The great difficulty with many in reading this Scripture is that,
though they regard it as a parable, they reason on it and draw conclusions from it as
though it were a literal statement. To regard it as a literal statement involves several
absurdities: for instance, that the rich man went to "hell" because he had
enjoyed many earthly blessings and gave nothing but crumbs to Lazarus. Not a word is said
about his wickedness. Again, Lazarus was blessed, not because he was a sincere child of
God, full of faith and trust, not because he was good, but simply because he was poor and
sick. If this be interpreted literally, the only logical lesson to be drawn from it is
that unless we are poor beggars full of sores, we will never enter into future bliss; and
that if now we wear any fine linen and purple, and have plenty to eat every day, we are
sure of future torment. Again, the coveted place of favor is "Abraham's bosom";
and if the whole statement be literal, the bosom must also be literal, and it surely would
not hold very many of earth's millions of sick and poor.
But why consider absurdities? As a parable, it is easy of
interpretation. In a parable the thing said is never the thing meant. We know this from
our Lord's own explanations of his parables. When he said "wheat," he meant
"children of the kingdom"; when he said "tares," he meant "the
children of the devil"; when he said "reapers," his servants were to be
understood, etc. (Matthew 13) The same classes were represented by different symbols in
different parables. Thus the "wheat" of one parable correspond to the
"faithful servants" and the "wise virgins" of others. (Matt. 25:2) So
in this parable, the "rich man" represents a class, and
"Lazarus" represents another class.
In attempting to expound a parable such as this, an explanation of
which the Lord does not furnish us, modesty in expressing our opinion regarding it is
certainly appropriate. We therefore offer the following explanation without any attempt to
force our views upon the reader, except so far as his own truth-enlightened judgment may
commend them as in accord with God's Word and plan. To our understanding Abraham
represented God, and the "rich man" represented the Jewish nation. At the time
of the utterance of the parable, and for a long time previous, the Jews had "fared
sumptuously every day" -- being the especial recipients of God's favors. As Paul
says: "What advantage then hath the Jews? . . . Much every way: chiefly, because that
unto them were committed the oracles of God [Law and Prophecy}." (Rom. 3:1,2) The
promises to Abraham and David and their organization as a typical Kingdom of God invested
that people with royalty, as represented by the rich man's "purple." The typical
sacrifices of the Law constituted them, in a typical sense, a holy (righteous) nation
represented by the rich man's "fine linen" -- symbolic of righteousness. -- Rev.
Lazarus represented the outcasts from divine favor under the Law,
who, sin-sick, hungered and thirsted after righteousness. "Publicans and
sinners" (Matt. 9:10) of Israel, seeking a better life, and truth-hungry Gentiles who
were feeling after God (Acts 17:27) constituted the Lazarus class. These, at the time of
the utterance of this parable, were entirely destitute of those special divine blessings
which Israel enjoyed. They lay at the gate of the rich man. No rich promises of royalty
were theirs; not even typically were they cleansed; but, in moral sickness, pollution and
sin, they were companions of "dogs." Dogs were regarded as detestable creatures
in those days, and the typically clean Jew called the outsiders "heathen" and
"dogs," and would never eat with them, nor marry, nor have any dealings with
them. -- John 4:9.
As to how these ate of the "crumbs" of divine favor
which fell from Israel's table of bounties, the Lord's words to the Syro-Phenician woman
give us a key. He said to this Gentile woman -- "It is not meet [proper] to take the
children's [Israelites'] bread, and to cast it to dogs [Gentiles]"; and she answered,
"Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters'
table." (Matt. 15:22,26,27) Jesus healed her daughter, thus giving the desired crumb
But there came a great dispensational change in Israel's history
when as a nation they rejected and crucified the Son of God. Then their typical
righteousness ceased -- then the promise of royalty ceased to be theirs, and the Kingdom
was taken from them to be give to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof -- the Gospel
Church, "an holy nation, a peculiar people." (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:7,9; Matt.
21:43) Thus the "rich man" died to all these special advantages, and soon
he (the Jewish nation ) found himself in a cast-off condition -- in tribulation and
affliction. In such condition that nation has suffered from that day to this.
Lazarus also died: The condition of the humble Gentiles and the
God-seeking "outcasts" of Israel underwent a great change, being carried by the
angels (messengers -- apostles, etc.) to Abraham's bosom. Abraham is represented as the
father of the faithful, and receives all the children of faith, who are thus recognized as
the heirs of all the promises made to Abraham; for the children of the flesh are not the
children of God, "but the children of the promise are counted for the seed"
(Rom. 9:8) (children of Abraham); "thy seed which is Christ" -- and "if ye
be Christ's, then are ye [believers] Abraham's seed [children], and heirs according to the
[Abrahamic] promise." -- Gal. 3:16,29.
Yes, the termination of the condition of things then existing was
well illustrated by the figure, death -- the dissolution of the Jewish polity and the
withdrawal of the favors which Israel had so long enjoyed. There they were cast off and
have since been shown "no favor," while the poor Gentiles, who before had been
"aliens from the commonwealth [the polity] of Israel, and strangers from the covenant
of promise [up to this time given to Israel only], having no hope, and without God in the
world," were then "made nigh by the blood of Christ," and reconciled to
God. -- Eph. 2:12,13.
To the symbolisms of death and burial used to illustrate the
dissolution of Israel and their burial or hiding among the other nations, our Lord added a
further figure -- "In hell [hades, the grave] he lifted up his eyes, being in
torments, and seeth Abraham afar off," etc. The dead cannot lift up their eyes, nor
see either near or far, nor converse; for it is distinctly stated, "There is no work,
nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave"; and the dead are
described as those who "go down into silence." (Ecc. 9:10; Psalms 115:17)
But the Lord wished to show that great sufferings or "torments" would be added
to the Jews as a nation after the national dissolution and burial amongst the other
peoples dead in trespasses and sins; and that they would plead in vain for release and
comfort at the hand of the formerly despised Lazarus class. -- Deut. 28:15-68.
And history has borne out this parabolic prophecy. For nineteen
hundred years the Jews have not only been in distress of mind over their casting out from
the favor of God and the loss of their temple and other necessaries to the offering of
their sacrifices, but they have been relentlessly persecuted by all classes, including
professed Christians. It was from the latter that the Jews have expected mercy, as
expressed in the parable -- "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in
water, and cool my tongue"; but the great gulf fixed between them hinders that.
Nevertheless, God still recognizes the relationship established in his covenant with them
and addresses them as children of the covenant. (Verse 25) These "torments" have
been the penalties attached to the violation of their covenant, and were as certain to be
visited upon them as the blessings promised for obedience. -- See Leviticus 26; Zech.
The "great gulf fixed" represents the wide difference
between the Gospel Church and the Jew -- the former enjoying free grace, joy, comfort and
peace, as true sons of God, and the latter holding to the Law, which condemns and
torments. Prejudice, pride and error from the Jewish side form the bulwarks of this gulf
which hinder the Jew from coming into the condition of true sons of God by accepting
Christ and the gospel of his grace. The bulwark of this gulf which hinders true sons of
God from going to the Jew -- under the bondage of the Law -- is their knowledge that by
the deeds of the Law none can be justified before God, and that if any man keep the Law
(put himself under it to try to commend himself to God by reason of obedience to it),
Christ shall profit him nothing. (Gal. 5:2-4) So, then, we who are of the Lazarus class
should not attempt to mix the Law and the Gospel, knowing that they cannot be mixed, and
that we can do no good to those who still cling to the Law and reject the sacrifice for
sins given by our Lord. And they, not seeing the change of dispensation which took place,
argue that to deny the Law as the power to save would be to deny all the past history of
their race, and to deny all of God's special dealings with the "fathers,"
(promises and dealings which through pride and selfishness they failed rightly to
apprehend and use); hence they cannot come over to the bosom of Abraham, into the true
rest and peace -- the portion of all the true children of faith. -- John 8:30; Rom. 4:16;
True, a few Jews probably came into the Christian faith all the
way down the Gospel age, but so few as to be ignored in a parable which represented the
Jewish people as a whole. As at the first, the rich man represented the orthodox Jews, and
not the "outcasts of Israel" (Isa. 56:8), so down to the close of the parable he
continues to represent a similar class, and hence does not represent such Jews as have
renounced the Law Covenant and embraced Christianity, or such as have become infidels.
The plea of the "rich man" for the sending of
"Lazarus" to his five brethren we interpret as follows:
The people of Judea, at the time of our Lord's utterance of this
parable, were repeatedly referred to as "Israel," "the lost sheep of the
house of Israel," "cities of Israel" (Matt. 8:10; 10:6,23), because all of
the tribes were represented there; but actually the majority of the people were of the two
tribes, Judah and Benjamin, but few of the ten tribes having returned from Babylon under
Cyrus' general permission. (Gen. 47:2) If the nation of the Jews (chiefly two
tribes) were represented in the one "rich man," it would be a harmony of numbers
to understand the "five brethren" to represent the ten tribes chiefly
scattered abroad. The request relative to them was doubtless introduced to show that all special
favor of God ceased to all Israel (the ten tribes, as well as to the two more directly
addressed). It seems to us evident that Israel only was meant, for no other nation than
Israel had "Moses and the prophets" as instructors (verse 29). The majority of
the ten tribes had so far disregarded Moses and the prophets that they did not return to
the land of promise, but preferred to dwell among idolaters; and hence it would be useless
to attempt further communication with them, even by one from the dead -- the figuratively
dead, but now figuratively risen, Lazarus class. -- Eph. 2:5
Though the parable mentions no bridging of this "great
gulf," other portions of Scripture indicate that it was to be "fixed" only
throughout the Gospel age, and that at its close the "rich man," having received
the measurement of punishment for his sins, will walk out of his fiery troubles over the
bridge of God's promises yet unfulfilled to that nation.
Though for centuries the Jews have been bitterly persecuted by
pagans, Mohammedans and professed Christians, they are now gradually rising to political
freedom and influence; and although much of "Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7) is
just at hand, yet as a people they will be very prominent among the nations in the
beginning of the Millennium. The "vail" (2 Cor. 3:13-16) of prejudice still
exists, but it will be gradually taken away as the light of the Millennial morning dawns;
nor should we be surprised to hear of great awakenings among the Jews, and many coming to
acknowledge Christ. They will thus leave their hadean state (national death) and
torment, and come, the first of the nations, to be blessed by the true seed of Abraham,
which is Christ, Head and Body. Their bulwark of race prejudice and pride is falling in
some places, and the humble, the poor in spirit, are beginning already to look upon him
whom they have pierced, and to inquire, Is not this the Christ? And as they look the Lord
pours upon them the spirit of favor and supplication (Zech. 12:10). Therefore, "Speak
ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her appointed time is
accomplished" -- Isa. 40:1,2, margin.
In a word, this parable seems to teach precisely what Paul
explained in Romans 11:19-32. Because of unbelief the natural branches were broken off and
the wild branches grafted into the Abrahamic root-promise. The parable leaves the Jews in
their trouble, and does not refer to their final restoration to favor -- doubtless because
it was not pertinent to the feature of the subject treated; but Paul assures us that when
the fulness of the Gentiles -- the full number from among the Gentiles necessary to make
up the Bride of Christ -- is come in, they [natural Israel] shall obtain mercy through
your [the Church's] mercy. (Rom. 11:31) He assures us that this is God's covenant with
fleshly Israel (who lost the higher spiritual promises, but are still the possessors of
certain earthly promises), to become the chief nation of earth. In proof of this
statement, he quotes from the prophets, saying: The deliverer shall come out of Zion [the
glorified Church], and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob [the fleshly seed]. As
concerning the Gospel [high calling], they are enemies [cast off] for your sakes; but as
touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For God hath concluded
them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches, both
of the wisdom and knowledge of God! -- Rom. 11:26,28,32,33.
of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46)
"These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the
righteous into life eternal."
While the scriptures, as we have shown, do not teach the
blasphemous doctrine of everlasting torment, they do most emphatically teach the
everlasting punishment of the wicked, the class represented in the parable as
"goats." Let us examine the parable, and then the sentence pronounced at its
It has been truly said that "Order is heaven's first
law"; yet few, we think, have realized how emphatically this is true. In glancing
back over the plan of the ages, there is nothing which gives such conclusive evidence of a
Divine Director as the order observed in all its parts.
God has had definite and stated times and seasons for every part
of his work; and in the end of each of these seasons there has been a finishing up of its
work and a clearing off of the rubbish, preparatory to the beginning of the new work of
the dispensation to follow. Thus in the end of the Jewish age order is observed -- a
harvesting and complete separation of the "wheat" class from the
"chaff" (Matt. 3:12), and an entire rejection of the latter class from God's
favor. With the few judged worthy in the end of that age, a new age -- the Gospel age --
began. And now we find ourselves amidst the closing scenes, the "harvest," of
this age: the "wheat" and the "tares" (Matt. 13:25), which have grown
together during this age, are being separated. With the former class, of which our Lord
Jesus is the Head, a new age is about to be inaugurated, and these "wheat" are
to reign as kings and priests in that new dispensation, while the "tare" element
is judged as utterly unworthy of that favor.
While observing this order with reference to the Jewish age and
the one just closing, our Lord informs us through the parable under consideration that the
same order will be observed with reference to the age to follow this Gospel age.
The harvest of the Jewish age was likened to the separation of
wheat from chaff; the harvest of this age to the separation of wheat from tares; and the
harvest of the Millennial age to the separation of sheep from the goats. (Matt. 25:32)
That the parable of the sheep and the goats refers to the
Millennial age is clearly indicated in verses 31 and 32 -- "When the son of
man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he
sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he
shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the
goats." As in the present age every act of those on trial (the Church) goes to make a
part of that character which, in due time, will determine the final decision of the Judge
in our case, so will it be with the world (the "nations") in the age to come. As
in the present age the trial of the majority of the individual members of the Church ends,
and the decision of their case is reached, long before the end of the age (2 Tim. 4:7,8),
so under the Millennial reign the decision of some individual cases will be reached long
before the end of the age (Isa. 65:20); but in each age there is a "harvest" or
general separating time in the end of the age.
In the dawn of the Millennial age, after the "time of
trouble" (Dan. 12:1), there will be a gathering of the living nations before Christ,
and, in their appointed time and order, the dead of all nations shall be called to appear
before the judgment seat of Christ -- not to receive an immediate sentence, but to receive
a fair and impartial individual trial (Ezek. 18:2-4,19,20) under the most favorable
circumstances, the result of which trial will be a final sentence, as worthy or unworthy
of everlasting life.
The scene of this parable, therefore, is laid after the time of
trouble, when the nations shall have been subdued, Satan bound (Rev. 20:1,2) and the
authority of Christ's kingdom established. Ere this, the Bride of Christ (the overcoming
Church) will have been seated with him in his throne of spiritual power and will have
taken part in executing the judgments of the great day of wrath. Then the Son of man and
his Bride, the glorified Church, will be revealed and be seen by men, with the eyes of
their understanding and shall "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their
Father." -- Matt. 13:43.
Here is the new Jerusalem as John saw it (Revelation 21),
"the holy city [symbol of government] . . . coming down from God out of
heaven." During the time of trouble it will be coming down, and before the end of it,
it will have touched the earth. This is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands
(but by the power of God), and it will then have become a great mountain (kingdom),
filling the whole earth (Dan. 2:35), its coming having broken to pieces the evil kingdoms
of the prince of darkness. -- Dan. 2:34,35.
Here is that glorious city (government), prepared as a bride
adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2), and early in the dawn of the Millennium the nations
will begin to walk in the light of it. (Verse 24) These may bring their glory and honor
into it, but "there shall in no wise enter into it [or become a part of it] anything
that defileth," etc. (Verse 27) Here, from the midst of the throne, proceeds a pure
river of water of life (truth unmixed with error), and the Spirit and the Bride say, Come,
and take it freely. (Rev. 22:17) Here begins the world's probation, the world's great
judgment day -- a thousand years.
But even in this favored time of blessing and healing of the
nations, when Satan is bound, evil restrained, mankind in process of release from the
grasp of death, and when the knowledge of the Lord fills the earth, two classes will be
developed, which our Lord here likens to sheep and goats. These, he tells us, he will
separate. The sheep class -- those who are meek, teachable and willing to be led, shall,
during the Millennial age, be gathered at the Judge's right hand -- symbol of his approval
and favor; but the goat class, self-willed and stubborn, always climbing on the rocks --
seeking prominence and approval among men -- and feeding on miserable refuse, while the
sheep graze in the right pastures of the Truth furnished by the Good Shepherd -- these are
gathered to the Judge's left hand, the opposite of the position of favor -- as subjects of
his disfavor and condemnation.
This work of separating sheep and goats will require all of the
Millennial age for its accomplishment. During that age, each individual, as he comes
gradually to a knowledge of God and his will, takes his place at the right hand of favor
or the left hand of disfavor, according as he improves or misimproves the opportunities of
that golden age. By the end of that age, all the world of mankind will have
arranged themselves, as shown in the parable, into two classes.
The end of that age will be the end of the world's trial or
judgment, and then final disposition will be made of the two classes. The reward of this
"sheep" class will be granted them because, during the age of trial and
discipline, they cultivated and manifested the beautiful character of love, which Paul
describes as the fulfilling of the Law of God. (Rom. 13:10) They will have manifested it
to each other in their times of sorest need; and what they will have done for one another
the Lord will count as done unto him, counting them all as his brethren -- children of
God, though they will be of the human nature, while he is of the divine.
The condemnation of the "goat" class is shown to be for
the lack of this spirit of love. Under the same favorable circumstances as the
"sheep," they willfully resist the molding influence of the Lord's discipline,
and harden their hearts. The goodness of God does not lead them to true repentance but,
like Pharaoh, they take advantage of His goodness and do evil. The "goats" who
will not have developed the element of love, the Law of God's being and Kingdom, will be
counted unworthy of everlasting life, and will be destroyed; while the "sheep,"
who will have developed God-likeness (love) and who will have exhibited it in their
characters, are to be installed as the subordinate rulers of earth for future ages.
In the end of the Millennial age, in the final adjustment of human
affairs, Christ thus addresses his sheep: "Come, ye blessed . . . inherit the kingdom
prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
It is manifest the "sheep" here addressed, at the close
of the Millennium, are not the sheep of the Gospel age, the Gospel Church, but those
"other sheep" to whom the Lord referred in John 10:16. And the Kingdom prepared
for them in the divine plan from the foundation of the world is not the Kingdom prepared
for the Gospel Church. The Church will receive her Kingdom at the beginning of the
Millennium; but this is the Kingdom prepared for the "sheep" of the Millennial
age. Their Kingdom will be the dominion of earth which was originally given to Adam, but
which was lost through sin, and which is again to be restored when man is brought to
perfection, and so made fit to receive and enjoy it. That dominion will not be a dominion
of some of the race over others, but a joint dominion, in which every man will be a king,
and all will have equal rights and privileges in appropriating and enjoying every earthly
good. It will be a sovereign people -- a great and grand republic on a basis of perfect
righteousness, wherein the rights of every man will be conserved; because the golden rule
will be inscribed on every heart, and every man will love his neighbor as himself. The
dominion of all will be over the whole earth, and all its rich and bountiful stores of
blessing. (Gen. 1:28; Psalms 8:5-8) The Kingdom of the world, to be given to the perfected
and worthy ones of the redeemed race at the close of the Millennium, is clearly
distinguished from all others by being called the Kingdom prepared for them "from the
foundation of the world," the earth having been made to be the everlasting home and
Kingdom of perfect men. But the Kingdom bestowed upon Christ, of which the Church, his
"Bride," becomes joint-heir, is a spiritual kingdom, "far above angels,
principalities and powers," and it also shall "have no end" -- Christ's
Millennial Kingdom, which will end, being merely a beginning of Christ's power and
rule. (1 Cor. 15:25-28) This endless heavenly, spiritual Kingdom was prepared long before
the earth was founded -- its inception being recognized in Christ, "the beginning of
the creation of God." It was intended for Christ Jesus, the First Begotten; but even
the Church, his Bride and joint-heir, was chosen or designed also, in him before the
foundation of the world. -- Eph. 1:4.
The Kingdom or rule of earth, is the Kingdom that has been in
preparation for mankind from the foundation of the world. It was expedient
that man should suffer six thousand years under the dominion of evil, to learn its
inevitable results of misery and death, in order by contrast to prove the justice, wisdom
and goodness of God's law of love. Then it will require the seventh thousand-year, under
the reign of Christ, to restore him from ruin and death, to the perfect condition, thereby
fitting him to "inherit the kingdom prepared for [him] from the foundation of the
That Kingdom, in which all will be kings, will be one grand,
universal republic, whose stability and blessed influence will be assured by the
perfection of its every citizen, a result now much desired, but an impossibility because
of sin. The Kingdom of Christ during the Millennium will be, on the contrary, a theocracy,
which will rule the world (during the period of its imperfection and restoration) without
regard to its consent or approval.
The brethren of the Gospel Church are not the only
"brethren" of Christ. All who at that time will have been restored to perfection
will be recognized as sons of God -- sons in the same sense that Adam was a son of God
(Luke 3:38 -- human sons). And all of God's sons, whether on the human, the
angelic or the divine plane, are brethren. Our Lord's love for these, his human
brethren, is here expressed. As the world now has the opportunity to minister to those who
are shortly to be the divine sons of God, and brethren of Christ, so they will have
abundant opportunity during the age to come to minister to (each other) the human
The dead nations when again brought into existence will need food,
raiment and shelter. However great may have been their possessions in this life, death
will have brought all to a common level: the infant and the man of mature years, the
millionaire and the pauper, the learned and the unlearned, the cultured and the ignorant
and degraded: all will have an abundant opportunity for the exercise of benevolence, and
thus they will be privileged to be co-workers with God. We are here reminded of the
illustration given in the case of Lazarus: Jesus only awakened him from death, and then
were the rejoicing friends permitted to loose him from his grave clothes and to clothe and
Further, these are said to be "sick" and "in
prison" (more properly, under ward or watch). The grave is the great prison where the
millions of humanity have been held in unconscious captivity; but when released from the
grave, the restoration to perfection is not to be an instantaneous work. Being not yet
perfect, they may properly be termed sick, and under ward; not dead, neither
are they yet perfected in life: and any condition between those two may be properly
symbolized by sickness. And they will continue to be under watch or ward until made well
-- physically, mentally and morally perfect. During that time there will be abundant
opportunity for mutual helpfulness, sympathy, instruction and encouragement and any
failure to assist will mark a lack of the Lord's spirit of love.
Since all mankind will not be raised at once, but gradually,
during the thousand years, each new group will find an army of helpers in those who will
have preceded it. The love and benevolence which men will then show to each other (the
brethren of Christ) the King will count as shown to him. No great deeds are assigned as
the ground for the honors and favors conferred upon the righteous; they will have simply
come into harmony with God's law of love and proved it by their works. "Love is the
fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10), and "God is love." So, when man is
restored again to the image of God -- "very good" -- man also will be a
living expression of love.
"Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of
the world" does not signify a rule independent of the divine law and supremacy: for
although God gave earth's dominion to man at first, and designs restoring it to him when
He has prepared him for the great trust, we are not to suppose that God intends man to
rule it otherwise than as under, or in harmony with, His supreme law. "Thy will be
done in earth as in heaven," must forever be the principle of government. Man
henceforth will rule his dominion in harmony with the law of heaven -- delighting
continually to do His will in whose favor is life, and at whose "right hand
[condition of favor] there are pleasures forevermore." (Psalms 16:11) Oh, who would
not say, "Haste ye along, ages of glory!" and give glory and honor to Him whose
loving plans are blossoming into such fullness of blessing?
Let us now examine the message to those on the left --
"Depart from me, ye cursed" (condemned) -- condemned as unfit vessels for the
glory and honor of life, who would not yield to the molding and shaping influences of
divine love. When these "brethren" were hungry and thirsty, or naked, sick, and
in prison, ye ministered not to their necessities, thus continually proving yourselves out
of harmony with the heavenly city (Kingdom); for "there shall in no wise enter into
it anything that defileth" (Rev. 21:27). The decision or sentence regarding this
class is -- "Depart from me . . . into everlasting fire [symbol of
destruction], prepared for the devil and his angels." Elsewhere we read without
symbol that Christ will "destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil" (Heb. 2:14)
"And these [the 'goats'] shall go away into everlasting
[Greek aionios -- lasting] punishment: but the righteous into life eternal [Greek aionios
-- lasting]." The punishment will be as lasting as the reward. Both will be
The everlastingness of the punishment being thus established, only
one point is left open for discussion; namely, the nature of the punishment. Take your
Concordance and search out what saith the great Judge regarding the punishment of willful
sinners who despise and reject all His blessed provisions for them through Christ. What do
you find? Does God there say
-- All sinners shall live in torture forever? No; we find not a
single text where life in any condition is promised to that class.
God's declarations assure us that ultimately He will have a clean
universe, free from the blight of sin and sinners -- because "All the wicked will he
destroy." -- Psalms 145:20.
But while we do not find one verse of the Bible saying that this
class can have life in torment, or in any other condition, we do find numerous
passages teaching the reverse. Of these we give a few merely as samples -- "The wages
of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"
(Ezek. 18:4,20). "The wicked shall perish" (Psalms 37:20). "Yet a little
while, and the wicked shall not be" (Psalms 37:10). Thus God has told us plainly the
nature of the everlasting punishment of the wicked -- that it will be death, destruction.
The false ideas of God's plan of dealing with the incorrigible,
taught ever since the great "falling away" (2 Thes. 2:3), which culminated in
Papacy, and instilled into our minds from childhood, are alone responsible for the view
generally held, that the everlasting punishment provided for willful sinners is a
life of torment. This view is held, notwithstanding the many clear statements of God's
Word that their punishment is to be death. Here Paul states very explicitly what
the punishment is to be. Speaking of the same Millennial day, and of the same class, who,
despite all the favorable opportunities and the fullness of knowledge then, will not come
into harmony with Christ, and hence will "know not God" (2 Thes. 1:8) in the
true sense and "obey not," he says -- "Who shall be punished."
Ah, yes, but how punished? He tells us how: They "shall be punished with everlasting
destruction [a destruction from which there shall be no recovery, no redemption or
resurrection -- Heb. 10:26-29] from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his
power." (2 Thes. 1:9) This destruction is represented in the parable as the
everlasting "fire" prepared for the devil and his angels; it is the lake
of fire and brimstone, which is the Second death (Rev. 20:14), into which the
"goat" class of this parable are sent. -- Matt. 25:41.
Thus the meaning and reasonableness of this statement concerning
everlasting punishment are readily seen when looked at from the correct standpoint. The
fire of the parable, by which the punishment (destruction) is to be accomplished, will not
be literal fire, for the "fire" is as much a symbol as the "sheep" and
"goats" are symbols. Fire here, as elsewhere, symbolizes destruction, and not in
any sense preservation.
We might well leave this subject here, and consider that we have
fully shown that the everlasting punishment of the "goat" class will be
destruction; but we direct attention to one other point which clinches the truth upon this
subject. We refer to the Greek work kolasin, translated "punishment," in
verse 46. This word has not in it the remotest idea of torment. Its primary signification
is to cut off, or prune, or lop off, as in the pruning of trees; and a secondary
meaning is to restrain. The wicked will be everlastingly restrained, cut off from
life in the Second death. Illustrations of the use of kolasin can easily be had
from Greek classical writings. The Greek word for "torment" is basanos, a
word totally unrelated to the word kolasin.
Kolasin, the word used in Matthew 25:46, occurs in but one other
place in the Bible, viz., 1 John 4:18, where it is improperly rendered "torment"
in the common version, whereas it should read, "Fear hath restraint." Those who
possess a copy of Young's Analytical Concordance will see from it (page 995) that the
definition of the word kolasin is "pruning, restraining, restraint." The
author of the Emphatic Diaglott, after translating kolasin in Matthew 25:46 by the
words "cutting off," says in a footnote:
The Common Version, and many modern ones, render kolasin
aionioon, everlasting punishment, conveying the idea, as generally interpreted, of basinos,
torment. Kolasin in its various forms only occurs in three other places in the New
Testament: Acts 4:21; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:18. It is derived from kolazoo, which
signifies, 1. To cut off; as lopping off branches of trees, to prune. 2. To
restrain, to repress. The Greeks write -- 'The charioteer restrains [kolazei]
his fiery steeds.' 3. To chastize, to punish. To cut off an individual from life,
or society, or even to restrain, is esteemed as punishment; -- hence has arisen
this third metaphorical use of the word. The primary signification has been adopted [in
the Diaglott], because it agrees better with the second member of the sentence, thus
preserving the force and beauty of the antithesis. The righteous go to life, the
wicked to the cutting off from life, or death. See 2 Thes. 1:9."
Now consider carefully the text, and note the antithesis, the
contrast, shown between the reward of the "sheep" and the reward of the
"goats," which the correct idea of kolasin gives -- the one class goes
into everlasting life, while the other is everlastingly cut off from life --
forever restrained in death. And this exactly agrees with what the scriptures
everywhere else declare concerning the wages or penalty of willful sin.
Consider for a moment the words of verse 41: "Depart from me,
ye cursed [once redeemed by Christ from the Adamic curse or condemnation to death, but now
condemned or cursed, as worthy of the Second death, by the One who redeemed them from the
first curse], into everlasting fire [symbol of everlasting destruction],
prepared for the devil and his messengers [servants]."
Remember that this is the final sentence at the close of the final
trial -- at the close of the Millennium; and that none will then be servants of
Satan ignorantly or unwillingly, as so many now are; for the great Deliverer, Christ, will
remove outside temptations, and provide assistance toward self-improvement, which will
enable all who will to overcome inherent weaknesses and to attain perfection. These
"goats," who love evil and serve Satan, are the messengers ("angels")
of Satan. For these and Satan and for no others, God has prepared Second death -- the
everlasting destruction. Fire will come from God out of heaven and consume them.
Consuming fire and devouring fire all can appreciate, unless their eyes are holden by
false doctrine and prejudice. No one ever knew of a preserving fire; and as fire
never preserves, but always consumes, God uses it as a symbol of utter destruction.
-- Rev. 20:9.
Lake of Fire and Brimstone which Is the Second
Death" (Rev. 19:20; 20:10,14,15; 21:8)
"The lake of fire and brimstone" is several times
mentioned in the book of Revelation, which all Christians admit to be a book of symbols.
However, they generally think and speak of this particular symbol as a literal statement
giving strong support to the torment doctrine, notwithstanding the fact that the symbol is
clearly defined as meaning the Second death: "And death and hell were cast into the lake
of fire. This is the Second death," etc. (Rev.20:14) It is
sometimes spoken of as "a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev. 19:20), the
element brimstone being mentioned to intensify the symbol of destruction, the Second
death; burning brimstone being one of the most deadly elements known. It is destructive to
all forms of life.
The symbolism of this lake of fire is further shown by the fact
that the symbolic "beast" and the symbolic "false prophet," and death
and hell [hades], as well as the devil and his followers, are destroyed in it. --
Rev. 19:20; 20:10,14,15; 21:8.
This destruction or death is called the Second death in
contradistinction to the first or Adamic death, and not to signify that everything which
goes into it dies a second time. For instance, death (the first or Adamic death), and hades,
the grave, are to be cast into it -- this work will require the entire Millennium to
accomplish it; and in no sense will they ever have been destroyed before. So also
"the devil," "the beast," and the "false prophet," (Rev.
20:10) will never have been destroyed before.
From the first, or Adamic death, a resurrection has been provided.
All that are in their graves shall therefore come forth. The Revelator prophetically
declares: "The sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [hades,
the grave] delivered up the dead which were in them. . . . And I saw the dead, small and
great, stand before God; and the books were opened." (Rev. 20:13,12) It was in view
of God's plan for redeeming the race from Adamic death that in both the Old and New
Testaments it is called a "sleep" (Psalms 13:3; John 11:12-14). In
Israel's history of the good and the wicked it is repeatedly stated that they "slept
with their fathers." The apostles used the same symbol, and our Lord also. But no
such symbol is used in reference to the Second death. On the contrary, the strongest
figures of total and utter destruction are used to symbolize it; viz., "fire
and brimstone" (Rev. 20:10); because that will be a destruction from which there will
be no recovery.
Blessed thought! The Adamic death (which claimed the whole race
for the sin of their progenitor) shall be forever swallowed up, and shall cease in this
Second death into which it is to be cast by the great Redeemer who bought the whole world
with the sacrifice of himself. Thus God tells us through the prophet, "I will ransom
them from the power of the grave [sheol]; I will redeem them from death. . . . O
grave [sheol], I will be thy destruction." (Hosea 13:14) The first or Adamic
death shall no longer have liberty or power over men, as it has had for the past six
thousand years; no longer shall any die for Adam's sin. (Rom. 5:12; Jer. 31:29,30; Ezek.
18:2) Thenceforth the New Covenant, sealed with the precious blood, shall be in force, and
only willful transgressions will be counted as sin and punished with the wages of
sin -- death -- the Second death. Thus will the Adamic death be cast into and swallowed up
by the Second death.
And hades and sheol -- the dark, secret condition,
the grave, which in the present time speaks to us of a hope of future life by God's
resurrection power in Christ -- shall be no more; for the Second death will devour no
being fit for life -- none for whom there remains a shadow of hope, but such only as, by
the unerring Judge, have been fully, impartially and individually found worthy of destruction.
And Satan, that lying tempter who deceived and ruined the race, and who, with persistent
energy and cunning, has sought continually to thwart the purpose of God for our salvation
through Christ, and with him all who are of his spirit, "his angels" (Rev.
12:9), shall be destroyed, and shall never awake from death to trouble the world
again. Here he is said to be cast into "the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:10) -- the
Second death; and Paul in Hebrews 2:14, referring to the same thing, calls it destruction
-- that he might destroy death, and "him that had the power of death, that is,
the devil." And "the beast and the false prophet," the great false systems
which have long oppressed and misled nominal Christendom, shall never escape from it.
These systems are said to be cast "alive" (that is, while they are still
organized and operative) into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. -- Rev. 19:20;
The great time of trouble, the Lord's judgment, which will utterly
destroy these systems, will undoubtedly cause great social, financial and religious
difficulty and pain to all those identified with these deceived and deceiving systems,
before they are utterly destroyed. These systems will be cast in, destroyed, at the
beginning of the Millennium, while Satan's destruction is reserved until its close, when
all the "goats" shall have been separated from the "sheep," and they
shall perish with Satan in the Second death, as "his angels" (Rev. 12:9),
messengers or servants. None of those abominable characters among men, who, knowing the
truth, yet love unrighteousness -- none of "the fearful, and unbelieving" (Rev.
21:8) -- those who will not trust God after all the manifestations of his grace afforded
during the Millennial reign of Christ; nor the abominable, who, at heart are murderers and
whore-mongers and sorcerers and idolaters and liars; none of these shall escape from the
Second death, to defile the earth again. All such, after a full and abundant opportunity
for reformation, will be judged unworthy of life, and will be forever cut off in the
Second death, symbolized by the lake of fire and brimstone.
Several prophetic pen pictures of the Millennial age and its work,
in chapter 20 and 21 of Revelation, clearly show the object and result of that age of
trial in harmony with the remainder of the scriptures already noted.
Chapter 20, verse 2, 4 and 11, with verses 1, 2, 10, and 11 of
chapter 21, show the beginning of that Age of Judgment, and the restraining of blinding
errors and misleading systems. The "beast" and the "false prophet" are
the chief symbols, and represent the organizations or systems of error which, together,
constitute "Babylon." This judgment against the "thrones" of the
present time, and against "the beast and the false prophet" systems follows
speedily upon the introduction of the Millennial judgment reign. The thrones of the
present dominion of earth will be "cast down," and the dominion transferred to
the great Prophet, Priest, King and Judge, "whose right it is." (Compare Dan.
7:14,22; Ezek. 21:27) Then the systems of error will be speedily judged worthy of destruction,
"the lake of fire," "the Second death." -- Rev. 19:20.
Thus the second destruction (or death) begins quite early
in the new judgment; it begins with the false systems, symbolized by the beast, the false
prophet, etc., but it will not reach the world of mankind, as individuals, until they have
first had full trial, with full opportunity to choose life and live forever. Chapters
20:12,13 and 21:3-7 indicate the blessed favorable trial in which all both dead and living
(except the Church, who, with Jesus Christ, are kings, priests, joint-heirs and judges)
will be brought to a full knowledge of the truth, relieved from sorrow and pain and freed
from every blinding error and prejudice, and tried "according to their works."
The grand outcome of that trial will be a clean universe. As the
Revelator expresses it, "Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth .
. . heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth
upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever." (Rev. 5:13) But this result will be
accomplished in harmony with all God's dealings past and present, which have always
recognized man's freedom of will to choose good or evil, life or death.
We cannot doubt then that in the close of the Millennial age, God
will again for a "little season" (Rev. 20:3) permit evil to triumph, in order
thereby to test His creatures (who will by that time have become thoroughly acquainted
with both good and evil, and the consequence of each, and will have had His justice and
love fully demonstrated to them), that those who finally prefer and choose evil may be cut
off -- destroyed. Thus God will for all eternity remove all who do not love righteousness
and hate iniquity.
We read, regarding that testing, that Satan will endeavor to lead
astray all mankind, whose numbers will then be as the sand of the sea for multitude; but
that many of them will follow Satan's evil example and choose evil and disobedience, with
past experience before them, and unhampered by present weaknesses and blinding influences,
we need not suppose. However, when God does not tell us either the number or the
proportion of those to be found worthy of life, and those to be judged worthy of death
(the Second death), we may not dogmatize. Of one thing we may be confident: God willeth
not the death of the wicked, but would that all should turn to him and live (Ezek. 18:32);
and no one will be destroyed in that "lake of fire and brimstone" (figurative of
utter destruction -- Gehenna) who is worthy of life, whose living longer would be a
blessing to himself or to others in harmony with righteousness.
Utter and hopeless destruction is intended only for willful
evil doers, who, like Satan, in pride of heart and rebellion against God, will love
and do evil notwithstanding the manifestations of God's disapproval, and notwithstanding
their experience with its penalties. Seemingly the goodness and love of God in the
provision of a ransom, a restitution, and another opportunity of life for man, instead of
leading all to an abhorrence of sin, will lead some to suppose that God is too loving to
cut them off in the Second death, or that if he did so he would give them other, and yet
other future opportunities. Building thus upon a supposed weakness in the divine
character, these may be led to try to take advantage of the grace (favor) of God, as a
license for willful sin. But they shall go no further, for their folly shall be made
manifest. Their utter destruction will prove to the righteous the harmony and perfect
balance of justice, wisdom, love and power in the Divine Ruler.
The true character of the goat class is portrayed: The fearful and
unbelieving [who will not trust God], the abominable, murderers [brother-haters],
whore-mongers, sorcerers, idolaters [such as misappropriate and misuse divine favors, who
give to self or any other creature or thing that service and honor which belong to God],
and all "liars -- whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" [in a word, all who do not
love the truth and seek it, and at any cost defend and hold it] "shall have their
part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone [Gehenna, symbol of utter
destruction], which is the Second death." Such company would be repulsive to any
honest, upright being. It is hard to tolerate them now, when we can sympathize with them,
knowing that such dispositions are now in great measure the result of inherited weakness
of the flesh. We are moved to a measure of sympathy by the remembrance that in our own
cases, often, when we would do good, evil is present with us. But in the close of the
Millennial judgment, when the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall have given every advantage
and opportunity of knowledge and ability, this class will be an abhorrence and detestation
to all who are in harmony with the King of Glory. And the righteous will be glad when, the
trial being ended, the gift of life (Rom. 6:23) of which these shall have proved
themselves unworthy, shall be taken from them, and when the corrupters of the earth, and
all their work and influence, shall be destroyed.
Devil, the Beast and the False Prophet Tormented
Revelation 20:9 tells of the destruction of those individuals who
join with Satan in the last rebellion; and verse 15 tells of that same destruction in
other words, using the symbol "lake of fire." They are devoured or consumed
in fire. This being the case, the torment of verse 10 cannot refer to these human
beings who are consumed, destroyed. Hence the question narrows down to this, Will
Satan and a false prophet and a beast be tortured forever? and does this verse so teach?
In God's own words, "All the wicked will he destroy"
(Psalms 145:20). Concerning Satan, the arch enemy of God and man, God expressly advises us
that he will be destroyed, and not preserved in any sense or condition. -- Heb. 2:14.
The beast and false prophet systems, which during the
Gospel age have deceived and led astray, will be cast into a great, consuming trouble in
the close of this Gospel age. The torment of those systems will be aionion, i.e.,
lasting. It will continue as long as they last, until they are utterly consumed. So
also the system of error which will suddenly manifest itself at the end of the Millennial
age and lead the "goats" to destruction, will be consumed. (Rev. 20:7-10) That
deceiving system (not specified as to kind, but merely called Satan, after its instigator)
will be cast into the same sort of trouble and destruction, in the end of the Millennial
age, as the beast and false prophet systems are now being cast into it, in the end of the
Revelation 19:3, speaking of one of these systems, says: "Her
smoke rose up for ever and ever." That is to say, the remembrance
("smoke") of the destruction of these systems of deception and error will
be lasting, the lesson will never be forgotten -- as smoke, which continues to ascend
after a destructive fire, is testimony that the fire has done its work. -- See also Isa.
Of Revelation 14:9-11 we remark, incidentally, that all will at
once concede that if a literal worshipping of a beast and image were meant in verse
9, then few, if any, in civilized lands are liable to the penalty of verse 11; and if the
beast and his image and worship and wine and cup are symbols, so also are the torments
and smoke and fire and brimstone.
The casting of death and the grave into utter destruction, the
Second death, during the Millennial age, is a part of the utter destruction which will
include every improper, injurious and useless thing. (Isa. 11:9; Psalms 101:5-8) The
Second death, the sentence of that individual trial, will be final; it will never be
destroyed. And let all the lovers of righteousness say, Amen; for to destroy the Second
death, to remove the sentence of that just and impartial trial, would be to let loose
again not only Satan, but all who love and practice wrong and deception, and who dishonor
the Lord with their evil institutions -- to oppose, offend and endeavor to overthrow those
who love and desire to serve him and enjoy his favor. We rejoice that there is no danger
of this, but that divine justice unites with divine wisdom, love and power, to bring in
everlasting righteousness on a permanent basis.
Turned Into Hell
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and the nations
that forget God." -- Psalms 9:17.
This statement of the Lord recorded by the Psalmist we find
without any qualification whatever, and we must accept it as a positive fact. If the
claims of "Orthodoxy" respecting hell were true, this would be, indeed, a
But let us substitute the true meaning of the word sheol,
and our text will read: "The wicked shall be turned into the condition of
death, and all the nations that forget God." This we believe; but next, who are
the wicked? In one sense all men are wicked, in that all are violators of God's law; but
in the fullest sense the wicked are those who, with full knowledge of the exceeding
sinfulness of sin, and the remedy provided for their recovery from its baneful effects, willfully
persist in sin.
As yet few -- only consecrated believers -- have come to a true
knowledge of God. The world knows Him not, and the nations cannot forget God until they
are first brought to a knowledge of Him. The consecrated have been enlightened, led of the
Spirit through faith to understand the deep and hidden things of God, which reveal the
glory of God's character, but which, though expressed in His Word, appear only as
foolishness to the world.
As we have hitherto seen, this will not be so in the age to come,
for then "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover
the sea." (Isa. 11:9) Much that we now receive by faith will then be demonstrated to
the world. When he who has ransomed man from the power of the grave (Hosea 13:14) begins
to gather his purchased possessions back from the prison-house of death (Isa. 61:1), when
the sleepers are awakened under the genial rays of the Sun of Righteousness, they will not
be slow to realize the truth of the hitherto seemingly idle talk, that Jesus Christ, by
the grace of God, tasted death for every man. (Heb. 2:9)
We have also seen that the gradual ascent of the King's highway of
holiness (Isa. 35:8) in that age will be possible to all, and comparatively easy, because
all the stones -- stumblingblocks, errors, etc. -- will have been gathered out, and
straight paths made for their feet. It is in that age that this text applies. Those who
ignore the favoring circumstances of that age, and will not be obedient to the righteous
Judge or Ruler -- Christ -- will truly be the wicked. And every loyal subject of the
Kingdom of God will approve the righteous judgment which turns such an one again
into sheol -- the condition of death. Such an one would be unworthy of life; and,
were he permitted to live, his life would be a curse to himself and to the rest of
mankind, and a blemish on the work of God.
This will be the Second death from which there will be no
resurrection. Having been ransomed from the grave (sheol) by the sacrifice of Christ, if
they die again on account of their own sin, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for
sins." (Heb. 10:26) "Christ . . . dieth no more; death hath no more dominion
over him." (Rom. 6:9) The Second death should be dreaded and shunned by all, since it
is to be the end of existence to all those deemed unworthy of life. But in it there can be
no suffering. Unlike Adamic death, it is the extinction of life.
It is because through sin mankind had become subject to death (sheol,
hades) that Christ Jesus came to deliver us and save us from death. (1 John 3:8; Heb.
2:14) Death is a cessation of existence, the absence of life. There is no difference
between the conditions in the Adamic and Second deaths, but there is hope of a
release from the first, while from the second there will be no release, no return to life.
The first death sentence passed upon all on account of Adam's sin, while the Second death
can be incurred only by willful, individual sin.
That the application of our text belongs to the coming age is
evident, for both saints and sinners go into sheol or hades now. This
scripture indicates that, in the time when it applies, only the wicked shall go
there. And the nations that forgot God must be nations that have known him, else they
could not forget him; and never yet have the nations been brought to that knowledge, nor
will they be until the coming time, when the knowledge of the LORD shall fill the whole
earth, and none shall need to say unto his neighbor, Know thou the LORD, for all shall
know him, from the least to the greatest of them. -- Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:34.
The Hebrew word goi, rendered "nations" in this
verse, is elsewhere used by Jeremiah and rendered "heathen,"
"Gentiles," and "people." (Jer. 10:2,25; 16:19) The thought seems to
be any who do not become God's covenant people, even though they be not openly wicked.
The nations (Gentiles, all who under that full knowledge do not become Israelites indeed)
who are forgetful or negligent of God's favors enjoyed, and of their duties and
obligations to Him, shall share the fate of the willfully "wicked," and
be cast into the Second death.
In further proof of this, we find that the Hebrew word shub,
which in our text is translated "turned," signifies turned back, as to a
previous place or condition. Those referred to in this text either have been in sheol
or are liable to enter it, but being redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, will be
brought out of sheol. If then they are wicked, they, and all who forget God, shall be turned
back or returned to sheol.
Jews Believe in Everlasting Torment?
Noting that we teach that the doctrine of everlasting torment was
engrafted upon the doctrines of the Christian church during the period of the apostasy,
the great falling away which culminated in Papacy, some have inquired whether it does not
seem, according to the works of Josephus, that this doctrine was firmly held by the Jews;
and, if so, they ask, does it not seem evident that the early Christians, being largely
converts from Judaism, brought this doctrine with them, in the very outstart of
No; the doctrine of everlasting torment sprang naturally from the
doctrine of human immortality, which as a philosophic question was first promulgated in
anything like the present form by the Platonic school of Grecian philosophy. These first
affirmed that each man contained a fragment of deity, and that this would prevent him from
ever dying. This foundation laid, it was as easy to describe a place for evil-doers as for
well-doers. But to the credit of those heathen philosophers be it recorded that they
failed to develop, or at least to manifest, that depth of degradation from benevolence and
reason and pity necessary to paint, by word and pen and brush, such details of horrors and
agonies as were soon incorporated into their doctrine, and a belief thereof declared
"necessary to salvation" in the professed church of Christ.
To appreciate the case, it is necessary to remember that, when the
Christian church was established, Greece stood at the head of intelligence and
civilization. Alexander the Great had conquered the world, and had spread respect for
Greece everywhere; and though, from a military point of view, Rome had taken her place, it
was otherwise in literature. For centuries, Grecian philosophers and philosophies led the
intellectual world, and impregnated and affected everything. It became customary for
philosophers and teachers of other theories to claim that their systems and theories were
nearly the same as those of the Grecians, and to endeavor to remove differences between
their old theories and the popular Grecian views. And some sought to make capital by
claiming that their system embraced all the good points of Platonism with others which
Plato did not see.
Of this class were the teachers in the Christian church in the
second, third and fourth centuries. Conceding the popularly accepted correctness of the
philosophers, they claimed that the same good features of philosophy were found in
Christ's teachings, and that he was one of the greatest philosophers, etc. Thus a blending
of Platonism and Christianity took place. This became the more pronounced as kings and
emperors began to scrutinize religious teachings, and to favor those most likely to awe
the people and make them law-abiding. While heathen teachers were truckling to such
imperial scrutiny, and teaching an everlasting punishment for those who violated the laws
of the emperors (who ruled as divinely appointed), we cannot suppose otherwise than that
the ambitious characters in the church at that time, who were seeking to displace
heathenism and to become the dominant religious power instead, would make prominent such
doctrines as would in the eyes of the emperors seem to have an equal hold upon the fears
and prejudices of the people. And what could be more to the purpose than the doctrine of
the endless torment of the refractory?
The same motives evidently operated with Josephus when writing
concerning the belief of the Jews. His works should be read as apologies for Judaism, and
as efforts to exalt that nation in the eyes of Rome and the world. It should be remembered
that the Jews had the reputation of being a very rebellious people, very unwilling to be
ruled even by the Caesars. They were hoping, in harmony with God's promises, to become the
chief nation. Many rebellious outbreaks had occurred among them, and their peculiar
religion, different from all others, came in for its share of blame for favoring too much
the spirit of liberty.
Josephus had an object in writing his two principal works,
"Antiquities" and "Wars of the Jews." He wrote them in the Greek
language while living at Rome, where he was the friend and guest successively of the Roman
emperors Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, and where he was in constant contact with the
Grecian philosophers. These books were written for the purpose of showing off the Jewish
people, their courage, laws, ethics, etc., to the best advantage before the Grecian
philosophers and Roman dignitaries. This object is covertly admitted in his preface to his
"Antiquities," in which he says:
"I have undertaken the present work as thinking it will
appear to all the Greeks worthy of their study. . . . Those that read my book may wonder
that my discourse of laws and historical facts contain so much of philosophy. . . .
However, those that have a mind to know the reasons of everything may find here a very
curious philosophical theory."
In a word, as a shrewd man who himself had become imbued with the
spirit of the Grecian philosophers then prevailing, Josephus drew from "the law and
the prophets" (Acts 13:15), and from the traditions of the elders and the theories of
the various sects of the Jews, all he could find that in the most remote degree would tend
First, that the Jewish religion was not far behind popular Grecian
philosophy; but that somewhat analogous theories had been drawn form Moses' Law,
and held by some Jews, long before the Grecian philosophers broached them.
Secondly, that it was not their religious ideas which made the
Jews as a people hard to control or "rebellious," as all liberty-lovers were
esteemed by the Caesars. Hence he attempts to prove, at a time when virtue was esteemed to
consist mainly in submission, that Moses' Law "taught first of all that God is the
Father and LORD of all things, and bestows a happy life upon those that follow him, but
plunges such as do not walk in the paths of virtue into inevitable miseries." And it
is in support of this idea, and for such purposes, evidently, that Josephus, after saying:
"There are three philosophical sects among the Jews; first, the Pharisees; second,
the Sadducees; and third, the Essenes," proceeds to give an account of their three
theories; especially detailing any features which resembled Grecian philosophy. And
because the last and least, the Essenes, most resembled the doctrines of the Stoics and
leading Grecian theories, Josephus devotes nearly ten times as much space to their views
as to the views of both Sadducees and Pharisees combined. And yet the Essenes were so
insignificant a sect that the New Testament does not even mention them, while Josephus
himself admits they were few. Whatever views they held, therefore, on any subject, cannot
be claimed as having Jewish sanction, when the vast majority of Jews held contrary
opinions. The very fact that our Lord and the apostles did not refer to them is good
evidence that the Essenes' philosophy by no means represented the Jewish ideas. This small
sect probably grew up late and probably absorbed from Grecian philosophy its ideas
concerning immortality and the everlasting torment of the nonvirtuous. It should be
remembered that Josephus was not born until three years after our Lord's crucifixion, and
that he published his "Wars" A.D. 75, and "Antiquities" A.D. 93 -- at
a time when he and other Jews, like all the rest of the world, were eagerly swallowing
Grecian philosophy and science, falsely so called, against which Paul warned the Church --
Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20.
Josephus directed special attention to the Essenes because it
suited his object to do so. He admits that the Sadducees, next to the largest body of
Jewish people, did not believe in human immortality. And of the Pharisees' views he makes
a blind statement calculated to mislead, as follows: "They also believe that souls
have an immortal vigor in them [this might be understood to mean that the Pharisees
did not believe as the Sadducees that death ended all existence, but believed in a vigor
or life beyond the grave -- by a resurrection of the dead], and that under the earth there
will be rewards and punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in
this life; and that the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison [death -- not
torture], but that the former [the virtuous] shall have power to revive and live again."
Is it not apparent that Josephus has whittled and stretched the
views of the Pharisees, as much as his elastic conscience would allow, to show a harmony
between them and the philosophies of Greece? Paul, who had been a Pharisee, contradicts
Josephus. While Josephus says they believed "that only the virtuous would revive and
live again," Paul, on the contrary, says: "[I] have hope toward God, which they
themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just
and the unjust." -- Acts 24:15.
We have no hesitancy about accepting the testimony of the inspired
Apostle Paul, not only in regard to what the Jews believed, but also as to what he and the
early Church believed; and we repeat, that the theory of the everlasting torment of
the wicked, based upon the theory that the human soul cannot die, is contrary to both the
Old and the New Testament teachings, and was introduced among Jews and Christians by
Grecian philosophers. Thank God for the purer philosophy of the scriptures, which teaches
that the death of the soul (being) is the penalty of sin (Ezek. 18:20); that all souls
condemned through Adam's sin were redeemed by Christ's soul (Isa. 53:10), and that only
for willful, individual sin will any die the Second death -- an everlasting punishment,
but not an everlasting torment.
Choose Life That Ye May
"I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and
evil. I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life,
that both thou and thy seed may live." -- Deut. 30:15,19.
We come now to the consideration of other Scripture statements in
harmony with the conclusion set forth in the preceding articles.
The words here quoted are from Moses to Israel. To appreciate them
we must remember that Israel as a people, and all their covenants, sacrifices, etc., had a
God knew that they could not obtain life by keeping the Law, no
matter how much they would choose to do so, because they, like all others of the
fallen race, were weak, depraved through the effect of the "sour grape" of sin
which Adam had eaten, and which his children had continued to eat. (Jer. 31:29) Thus, as
Paul declares, the law given to Israel could not give them life because of the weakness or
depravity of their fallen nature -- Rom. 8:3; Heb. 7:19; 10:1-10.
Nevertheless, God foresaw a benefit to them from even an
unsuccessful attempt to live perfectly: namely, that it would develop them, as well as
show them the need of the better sacrifice (the ransom which our Lord Jesus gave)
and a greater deliverer than Moses. And with all this their trial furnished a
pattern or shadow of the individual trial insured to the whole world (which Israel
typified) and secured by the better sacrifices for sin, which were there prefigured, to be
accomplished by the great prophet of whom Moses was but a type.
Thus seeing that the trial for life or death presented to Israel
was but typical of the individual trial of the whole world, and its issues of life and
death (of eternal life or the Second death), may help some to see that the great
thousand-year-day of trial, of which our Lord Jesus has been appointed the Judge, contains
the two issues, life and death. All will then be called upon to decide, under that most
favorable opportunity, for righteousness and life or sin and death, and a choice must be
made. And, although there will be rewards and "stripes" according to the deeds
of the present life, as well as according to their conduct under that trial (John 3:19;
Matt. 10:42; 11:20-24), the verdict in the end will be in harmony with the choice
expressed by the conduct of each during that age of trial.
The second trial, its sentence and its result, are also shown in
the words of Moses quoted by Peter (Acts 3:22,23): "A Prophet shall the Lord your God
raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things
whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul [being],
which will not hear [obey] that Prophet [and thus choose life] shall be destroyed from
among the people." In few words this calls attention to the world's great trial, yet
future. It shows the great Prophet or Teacher raised up by God to give a new judgment or
trial to the condemned race which he has redeemed from the condemnation which came upon it
through its progenitor, Adam. It shows, too, the conditions of eternal life to be
righteous obedience, and that with the close of that trial some will be judged worthy of
that life and some worthy of destruction -- the Second death.
Our Lord Jesus, having redeemed all by his perfect and precious
sacrifice, is the Head of this great Prophet; and during the Gospel age God has been
selecting the members of this Body, who, with Christ Jesus, shall be God's agents in
judging the world. Together they will be that Great Prophet or Teacher promised. "Do
ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" -- 1 Cor. 6:2
The first trial of mankind only, and hence its penalty or curse,
the first death, was only upon man. But the second trial is to be much more comprehensive.
It will not only be the trial of fallen and imperfect mankind, but it will include every
other thing and principle and being out of harmony with Jehovah. "God shall bring
every work into judgment, with every secret thing." (Ecc. 12:14)
The "judgment to come" (Acts 24:25) will include the
judgment to condemnation of all false systems -- civil, social and religious. These
will be judged, condemned and banished early in the Millennial day, with the light of
truth causing them to come into disrepute and therefore to pass away. This judgment comes
first, in order that the trial of man may proceed unhindered by error, prejudice, etc. It
will also include the trial of "the angels that sinned" (2 Peter 2:4) -- those
angels "which kept not their first estate" (Jude 6) of purity and obedience to
God. Thus it is written by the apostle of the members of the Body of the great Prophet and
High Priest, who is to be Judge of all -- "Know ye not that we [the saints] shall
judge angels?" -- 1 Cor. 6:3.
This being the case, the condemnation of the Millennial trial
(destruction, Second death) will cover a wider range of offenders than the penalty or
curse for the sin of Adam, which "passed upon all men" (Rom. 5:12). In a
word, the destruction at the close of the trial will be the utter destruction of every
being and every thing which will not glorify God and be of use and blessing
to His general creation.
In the preceding pages we briefly show the extreme penalty for
willful sin. Adam's penalty, which involved his entire race, was of this sort; and only as
the result of Christ's death as our ransom from that penalty of that willful sin, is any
forgiveness of it subsequent sins possible.
Forgivable sins are those which result from weaknesses incurred
through that one Adamic sin which Christ settled once for all. They are such as are not
willful, but are committed through ignorance or weaknesses of the flesh. God stands
pledged to forgive all such sins upon our repentance in the name and merit of Christ's
Unpardonable sins, sins which cannot be forgiven, are such as are
willfully done. As the penalty of the first willful sin was death -- extinction of being
-- so death is the penalty of every willful sin against full knowledge and ability to
choose and to do the right. This is called Second death, in distinction from the first or
Adamic penalty, from which Christ's ransom sacrifice will release all mankind.
The "sin unto [Second] death," for the forgiveness of
which the apostle declares it is useless to pray (1 John 5:16), is not only a willful sin
but a sin against clear knowledge; a sin for which no adequate excuse can be found.
Because it is a sin against clear knowledge or enlightenment in holiness, it is called the
"sin against the holy Spirit" (Matt. 12:31,32), for which there is no
But there are other partly-willful sins, which are, therefore,
partially unpardonable. In such the temptations within and without (all of which are
directly or indirectly results of the fall) have a share -- the will consenting under the
pressure of the temptation or because of the weakness. The Lord alone knows how to
properly estimate our responsibilities and guilt in such cases. But to the true child of
God there is but one proper course to take -- repentance and an appeal for mercy in the
name and merit of Christ, the great sacrifice for sin. The Lord will forgive such a
penitent, in the sense of restoring him to his favor; but he will be made to suffer
"stripes" (Luke 12:47,48) for the sin, in proportion as God sees it to have been
Not infrequently a conscientious person realizes that he has
committed sin, and that it had some willfulness in it. He properly feels condemned, guilty
before God; realizing his own guilt and forgetting the fountain for sin and uncleanness,
opened by God for our weak, fallen race, he falls into a state of sadness, believing that
he has committed the sin unto death. Such wander in deserts drear, until they find the
cleansing fountain. Let such remember, however, that the very facts of their sorrow for
sin and their desire to return to divine favor are proofs that they have not committed the
sin unto death; for the apostle declares that those who commit sin of this sort cannot be
renewed unto repentance. (Heb. 6:6) Penitents, then, may always feel confident that their
sins were in part, at least, results of the fall, and hence not only death, but requiring
forgiveness and stripes.
Such is the wonderful provision of God, through Christ, for the
acceptance of every soul which, forsaking sin and the love of it, seeks righteousness and
life through him who is "the way," as well as "the truth and the
life." Thus all, whether naturally stronger or weaker, have an equal opportunity to
gain everlasting life as well as to gain the great prize of joint-heirship with Christ.
While the scriptures teach that the present Gospel age is the
Church's Judgment-day or period of trial, and that the world's Judgment-day or time of
trial will be the Millennial age, it is, nevertheless, a reasonable question to ask, To
what extent will those who are not of the consecrated Church be held responsible, in the
Millennial age, for their misdeeds, of cruelty, dishonesty and immorality, of the present
time? And to what extent will those of the same class then be rewarded for present efforts
to live moral and benevolent lives?
These are important questions, especially to the world; and well
would it be for them if they could realize their importance and profit thereby. They are
important also to the Church, because of our interest in the world, and because of our
desire to understand and teach correctly our Father's plans.
We have learned that the sacrifice of Christ secures for all
mankind, however vile, an awakening from death, and the privilege of thereafter coming to
perfection, and, if they will, of living forever. "There shall be a resurrection of
the dead, both of the just and the unjust." (Acts 24:15) The object of their being
again brought into existence will be to give them a favorable opportunity to secure
everlasting life, on the conditions which God requires -- obedience to His righteous will.
We have no intimation whatsoever in the scriptures that, when awakened, the moral
condition of men will have changed, but we have much, in both reason and revelation, to
show that as they went into death weak and depraved so they will come out of it. As there
is "no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave" (Ecc. 9:10),
they will have learned nothing; and since they were sinners and unworthy of life and
divine favor when they died, they will still be unworthy; and as they have received
neither full rewards nor full punishments for the deeds of the present life, it is evident
that just such a time of awakening as God has promised during the Millennium is necessary
-- for rewarding, and punishing, and giving to all mankind the opportunity for eternal
life secured by Christ's great ransom-sacrifice.
While, strictly speaking, the world is not now on trial; that is,
the present is not the time for its full and complete trial, yet men are not now, nor have
they ever been, entirely without light and ability, for the use of which they are
accountable. In the darkest days of the world's history, and in the deepest degradation of
savage life, there has always been at least a measure of the light of conscience pointing
more or less directly to righteousness and virtue. That the deeds of the present life have
much to do with the future, Paul taught very clearly when, before Felix, he reasoned of
justice and self-government, in view of the judgment to come, so that Felix trembled. --
Acts 24:25, Diaglott.
At the first advent of our Lord, an increased measure of light
came to men, and to that extent increased their responsibility, as he said: "This is
the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than
light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) For those evil deeds committed
against the light possessed, whether of conscience or of revelation, men will have to give
an account, and will receive, in their day of judgment, a just recompense of reward. (Heb.
2:2) And, likewise, to the extent of their effort to live righteously, they will receive
their reward in the day of trial. -- Matt. 10:42
If men would consider what even reason discerns, that a time of
reckoning, of judgment, is coming, that God will not forever permit evil to triumph, and
that in some way He will punish evil-doers, it would undoubtedly save them many sorrows
and chastisements in the age to come. Said the prophet, "Woe unto them that seek deep
to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who
seeth us? and who knoweth us?" (Isa. 29:15) Behold, "The eyes of the LORD are in
every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3); and "God shall bring
every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be
evil." (Ecc. 12:14) He "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and
will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." -- 1 Cor. 4:5.
The age of Christ's reign will be a time of just judgment; and
though it will be an age of golden opportunities to all, it will be a time of severe
discipline, trial and punishment to many. That the judgment will be fair and impartial,
and with due consideration for the circumstances and the opportunities of each individual,
is also assured -- by the character of the Judge (the Christ -- John 5:22; 1 Cor. 6:2), by
his perfect knowledge, by his unwavering justice and goodness, by his divine power and by
his great love as shown in his sacrifice to redeem men from death, that they might enjoy
the privilege of this favorable, individual trial.
The varied circumstances and opportunities of men, in this and
past ages, indicate that a just judgment will recognize differences in the degree of
individual responsibility, which will also necessitate differences in the Lord's future
dealings with them. And this reasonable deduction we find clearly confirmed by the
scriptures. The Judge has been, and still is, taking minute cognizance of men's actions
and words (Prov. 5:21), although they have been entirely unaware of it; and he declares
that "Every idle [pernicious, injurious or malicious] word that men shall speak, they
shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36); and that even a cup
of cold water, given to one of his little ones, because he is Christ's, shall in nowise
lose its reward. (Matt. 10:42) The context shows that the "pernicious" words to
which Jesus referred were words of willful and malicious opposition spoken against
manifest light. (Matt. 12:24,31,32) He also affirmed that it would be more tolerable for
Tyre, Sidon and Sodom in the day of judgment than for Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum,
which had much greater advantages of light and opportunity. -- Matt. 11:20-24.
In the very nature of things, we can see that the punishments of
that age will be in proportion to past guilt. Every sin indulged, and every evil
propensity cultivated, hardens the heart and makes the way back to purity and virtue more
difficult. Consequently, sins willfully indulged now, will require punishment and
discipline in the age to come; and the more deeply the soul is dyed in willing sin, the
more severe will be the measures required to correct it. As a wise parent would punish a
wayward child, so Christ will punish the wicked for their good.
His punishments will always be administered in justice, tempered
with mercy, and relieved by his approval and reward to those who are rightly exercised
thereby. And it will only be when punishments, instructions and encouragements fail, in
short, when love and mercy have done all that wisdom can approve (which is all that could
be asked), that any will meet the final punishment which his case demands -- the Second
None of the world will meet that penalty until they have first had
all the blessed opportunities of the age to come. And while this is true of the world, the
same principle applies now to the consecrated children of God in this our judgment (trial)
day. We now receive God's favors (through faith), while the world will receive them in the
next age, viz., instruction, assistance, encouragement, discipline and punishment.
"For what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without
chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons."
Therefore, when we receive grievous chastisement, we should accept it as from a loving
Father for our correction, not forgetting "the exhortation which speaketh unto you as
unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou
are rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom
he receiveth." -- Heb. 12:4-13.
How just and equal are God's ways! Read carefully the rules of the
coming age -- Jer. 31:29-34 and Ezek. 18:20-32. They prove to us, beyond the possibility
of a doubt, the sincerity and reality of all His professions of love to men: "As I
live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the
wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye
die?" -- Ezek. 33:11.
All who in this life repent of sin, and, as the term repentance
implies, begin and continue the work of reformation to the best of their ability, will
form character which will be a benefit to them in the age to come; when awakened in the
resurrection age, they will be to that extent advanced towards perfection, and their
progress will be more rapid and easy; while with others it will be more slow, tedious and
difficult. This is implied in the word of our Lord (John 5:28,29): "The hour is
coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come
forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life [those whose trial is past,
and who were judged worthy of life, will be raised perfect -- the faithful of past ages to
perfect human life, the overcomers of the Gospel age to perfect life as divine beings];
and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment (Diaglott)."
These are awakened to judgment -- to receive a course of discipline and correction -- as
the necessary means for their perfecting, or, otherwise, their condemnation to the Second
The man who, in this life, by fraud and injustice, accumulated and
hoarded great wealth, which was scattered to the winds when he was laid in the dust, will
doubtless awake to lament his loss, and bewail his poverty and his utter inability under
the new order of things to repeat unlawful measures to accumulate a fortune. With many it
will be a severe chastisement and a bitter experience to overcome the propensities to
avarice, selfishness, pride, ambition and idleness, fostered and pampered for years in the
present life. Occasionally we see an illustration of this form of punishment now, when a
man of great wealth suddenly loses all, and the haughty spirit of himself and family must
We are told that some shall awake to shame and age-lasting
contempt. (Dan. 12:2) And who can doubt that, when every secret thing is brought into
judgment (Ecc. 12:14), and the dark side of many a character that now stands measurably
approved among men is then made known, many a face will blush and hide itself in
confusion? When the man who steals is required to refund the stolen property to its
rightful owner, with the addition of twenty percent interest, and the man who deceives,
falsely accuses or otherwise wrongs his neighbor, is required to acknowledge his crimes
and so far as possible to repair damages, on peril of eternal loss of life, will not this
be retributive justice? Note the clear statement of this in God's typical dealings with
Israel, whom he made to represent the world -- 1 Cor. 10:11; Lev. 6:1-7. See also Tabernacle
Shadows, page 99.
As we are thus permitted to look into the perfect plan of God, how
forcibly we are reminded of His word through the prophet Isaiah, "Judgment also will
I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet." (Isa. 28:17) We also see the
wholesome influence of such discipline. Parents, in disciplining their children, realize
the imperative necessity of making their punishments proportionate to the character of the
offenses; and so in God's government: great punishments following great offenses are not
greater than is necessary to establish justice and to effect great moral reforms.
Seeing that the Lord will thus equitably adjust human affairs in
his own due time, we can afford to endure hardness for the present, and resist evil with
good, even at the cost of present disadvantages. Therefore, "Recompense to no man
evil for evil." "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
-- Rom. 12:17-19; Phil. 2:5.
The present order of things will not always continue: a time of
reckoning is coming. The just Judge of all the earth says, "Vengeance is mine, I will
repay" (Rom. 12:19), and the Apostle Peter adds, "The Lord knoweth how to
deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment
to be punished." (2 Peter 2:9) And, as we have seen, those punishments will be
adapted to the nature of the offenses, and the benevolent object in view -- man's
permanent establishment in righteousness.
Other scriptures corroborative of this view of future rewards and
punishments are as follows: 2 Samuel 3:39; Matt. 16:27; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalms 19:11; Psalms
91:8; Prov. 11:18; Isa. 40:10; 49:4; Matt. 5:12; 10:41,42; Luke 6:35; Rev. 22:12; Rom.
Let Honesty and Truth
Having demonstrated that neither the Bible nor reason offers the
slightest support to the doctrine that eternal torment is the penalty for sin, we note the
fact that the various church creeds, and confessions, and hymn-books, and theological
treatises, are its only supports; and that under the increasing light of our day, and the
consequent emancipation of reason, belief in this horrible, fiendish doctrine of the
"dark ages" is fast dying out. But alas! this is not because Christian people
generally are zealous for the truth of God's Word and for His character, and willing to
destroy their grim creed-idols. Ah no! they still bow before their admitted falsities;
they still pledge themselves to their defense, and spend time and money for their support,
though at heart ashamed of them, and privately denying them.
The general influence of all this is to cause the honest-hearted
of the world to despise Christianity and the Bible, and to make hypocrites and
semi-infidels of nominal Christians. Because the nominal church clings to this old
blasphemy, and falsely presents its own error as the teaching of the Bible, the Word of
God, though still nominally reverenced, is being practically repudiated. Thus the Bible,
the great anchor of truth and liberty, is being cut loose from, by the very ones who, if
not deceived regarding its teachings, would be held and blessed by it.
The general effect, not far distant, will be, first open
infidelity, then anarchy. For much, very much, of this, lukewarm Christians, both in
pulpits and pews, who know or ought to know better, are responsible. Many such are willing
to compromise the truth, to slander God's character, and to stultify and deceive
themselves, for the sake of peace, or ease, or present earthly advantage. And any
minister, who, by uttering a word for an unpopular truth, will risk the loss of his
stipend and his reputation for being "established" in the bog of error, is
considered a bold man, even though he ignominiously withhold his name from his published
If professed Christians would be honest with themselves and true
to God, they would soon learn that "their fear toward God is taught by the precepts
of men." (Isa. 29:13) If all would decide to let God be true, though it should prove
every man a liar (Rom. 3:4), and show all human creeds to be imperfect and misleading,
there would be a great creed-smashing work done very shortly. Then the Bible would be
studied and appreciated as never before; and its testimony that the wages of sin is death
(extinction), would be recognized as a "just recompense of reward."
We have given foregoing but a mere suggestion of the light now
shining in "due season" for the "household of faith." We invite
correspondence from all who "hunger and thirst after right." We have free
tracts, and books to loan to the poor in spirit who are poor also in purse.